Friday, June 22, 2018

Author Spotlight: Belinda Missen


This week we welcome Belinda Missen to Killing Time Blog. She has some amazing news she wants to share with us. 

Belinda, welcome and please share with our readers your amazing news, 
Books have always been a part of my life. From a young age, the best thing ever was the Scholastic Book Fair, or the monthly book club orders. I read everything I could get my hands on, often snaffling Dad's library card on weekends to check out more books than I could possibly read. I wrote when I was a teenager – mostly stuff that would classify as fanfic, or really melodramatic 'romance'. It was terrible, and I put it away in an attempt to be an adult and get a 'proper' job (whatever they are).

In 2013, I quit my job on the spot and started writing. It was the best thing I ever did. What started as fanfic became full blown stories with colourful characters and exotic destinations. I released my first self-published book, Red, in April 2015. Five more books followed – about one every six months – until, in November 2017, I signed a contract with HQDigitalUK (HarperCollins).  They optioned to publish a new book I'd written and submitted to them, as well as taking on all of my self-published works. 

Wow Belinda that is HUUUUUUUGE news. Congratulations and we all look forward to watching you grow as an author. 

How long have you been writing, and how did you become involved in writing?
I feel like I've been writing forever, and that I'll keep writing for as long as I possibly can. I love the ability to create worlds, to see characters come to life on page (and inside my head), and sharing them with those who want to read my work. It's a constant thrill.

I guess I became involved in writing because I wanted more stories. Writing my own became something I did to keep myself occupied as a young teenager. At least when I ran out of books to read, I had my own there to spill out onto the page.

What are you working on at the moment? I've just finished copy edits for A Recipe for Disaster. Next up is a rewrite of Red. I'm also hoping to start writing another book in between the rewrites.

Did you have any goals with writing, and if so, how well do you feel you’ve achieved them? What do you hope to achieve in the future? Originally, my five year plan was to get an agent in 2017, and workshop a book until it was ready to submit in late 2018. I kind of bypassed all of that by signing with HQ, so I need to reassess. One of the things on my 'hitlist' is to write a screenplay. If SunnyMarch were to buy/opt/produce it, that would be all my five year plans written off in one fell swoop.

How long does it take you to write a book? About six weeks – if the inspiration is good.

What are the hardest parts of being an author for you? I'm my own boss, so the motivation to keep going. That can be particularly hard if faced with 'writer's block'.

What do you enjoy most about being an author? In complete contrast to the above answer, I love that autonomy. I'm my own boss, and answer only to my publisher – which is amazing.

Do you have a spot where you like to write? In my office, door shut, music up, and world drowned out. Having said that, if ideas strike on the train, or on a trip, or walking around anywhere besides the office, I'm glad for the note function on my phone. Large chunks of Red were written on mobile phone .

Besides writing, what do you love doing?
Family history, genealogy. I can get lost for days and weeks researching the tiniest detail, record, or an obscure person who's popped up on my family tree. I think it's incredible to know where I've come from, and to see just how much other people have influenced my life – whether I'd ever met them or not.

What books or authors have had the most influence on you as an author? There are a few, I think. One of the first books I binge read was Jurassic Park, by Michael Crichton. I was eleven years old at the time, and I remember thinking how wonderful it was. Judy Blume was another favourite as a young reader. In the last few years, I would say Lindsey Kelk, Mhairi McFarlane, and Christina Lauren have been huge influences. I think it was January 2016, I binge read all of Christina Lauren's books, and I could see a huge improvement in my writing afterwards. There's a lot to be learned about the craft of writing from all three of those authors.

What did you find most useful when you were learning to write and expanding your skills? Reading. So much reading. I'm still a voracious reader, and often lament that I don't have enough time to both read and write. I can't do audiobooks, so that makes it hard.

What are your thoughts about ebooks vs. print books? I am a traditionalist – I do love a good paperback, except that add massive weight to luggage allowances (you should see what I've picked up in London this time). EBooks have a place for me in that, if I'm not sure about a book, then I'll grab an e-copy first. If I love it, then I'll grab a print.

What are your thoughts about self-publishing vs traditional publishing? Both is good. What works for one doesn't always work for the other. Me? I'm not great at blowing my own trumpet, so I've always failed at the marketing side of self publishing, but I can see how other authors have thrived from it. They're both equally valid, and both hard work.

How often do you write, and how do you find or make time to write? Daily. I start writing at about ten in the morning, stop for dinner when my husband gets home from work. We eat, we chat, we catch up, and I'm often back in the office from about ten p.m to midnight, maybe later. It depends on the story.

Do you plan your whole book out in advance, or just let it flow? What does your writing process look like? It's a little bit of both for me. Originally, I didn't like plotlining, because I'd find I'd become bored a I wrote, because who wants spoilers? Not me. However, I now use cue cards – scenes ideas I've had, and I slot them in where they best fit in the story. So, it's a plot line, but it's flexible.

What's a typical working day like for you? When and where do you write? I write in my office, surrounded by books and Marvel trinkets. There's lots of coffee, pyjamas, swearing, and being distracted by the internet.

Do you ever get Writer’s Block? If so, how do you deal with it? I'm not sure if it's writer's block, of if I'm just letting myself be distracted by the internet.

Do you read your own reviews? If so, how do you deal with bad reviews? I used to. Not anymore. You can't please everyone. I just like to hear from people who enjoyed my book, to make contact with them, and to have a good time.

Other than reviews, do you hear from your readers? What kinds of things do they say? The most amazing contact I had was when I first released Red. I was contacted by a reader who *loved* the story, and were so moved they wrote me a letter and sent me a candle. It was absolutely wonder. I keep that tacked up on my corkboard for whenever I feel like a bit of a fraud.

What are some ways in which you promote your books? What have you found most or least effective? I'm probably not the best one to ask about promotion. I suck at it.

How easy or hard do you think it is it to make a living as an author?
To make a living? I hope it's achievable, but it's such a huge market now, so we'll see.

What advice would you give to someone aspiring to be an author? Keep reading. Read all the things, read all the genres, read for fun, and read for learning the craft. And write. Write the garbage as well as the good stuff.

Tell us a random fact about yourself I'm currently sitting in an Airbnb in Dagenham. It's a lot of fun. That's not really a 'fact', though, is it? Not about me. Fun fact: I would be chuffed to write a film for Hallmark. Because why the hell not? (Amanda note: Me too, I want to write a Christmas special)

Thank you again for dropping to share you news with us.  How can readers find out more about your and your books?

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Author Spotlight: Matt Leyshon


It has been a few weeks since I have done one of my author spotlights and this week I am pleased to introduce you all to ex-pat Matt Leyshon. Matt recently wrote an amazing book Jack the Ripper: Live and Uncut that he will tell us a little about in a moment, but first I must let you all know that the book is currently unavailable as he has some HUUUUUUUGE news coming soon about an update and a wider audience reach. So WATCH THIS SPACE! 

Tell us about yourself and your books!
I was born and raised in Sydney, Australia, in a suburb called Liverpool. I had always enjoyed writing from an early age but had never extended that passion to the level of a completed novel. 

I moved to the USA in 2004 and have been here since. I have lived in Florida the whole time, (Tampa now), and have a lovely wife and two gorgeous children. I often refer to them as “the greatest story I have”.

My one book at this point, Jack the Ripper: Live and UnCut, is a thriller. My books, (yes a series is being developed), tell of a concept of using time travel to solve cold cases. The book was written with both sides of the fence in mind. Jack the Ripper fans, even the hard core ones, will enjoy the level of historical detail and its accuracy, but it will also entertain readers that are new to the case. I basically wanted to write a decent Jack the Ripper tale but at its core is a fast paced thriller. A whole lot going on, both inside and outside of Whitechapel.

How long have you been writing, and how did you become involved in writing?
I guess the first time I wrote a story and received encouragement to tell stories was when I was six years old. My first grade teacher liked a story I wrote about someone who eats chicken sandwiches with ghosts in a haunted house. Writing has always been a passion I have harboured but never fully embraced. My efforts on this novel, and to become a proper author, are approaching the two and a half year mark, so I would say that is how long I have been writing.

The catalyst for committing to writing was an online tutorial I did called “Masterclass”, a website that has celebrities teach in their given specialty. Mine was conducted by James Patterson and the topic was thriller writing. It was very educational and it was also the kick up the ass that I needed. Another huge incentive was that Patterson was running a competition for his class members; submit a hook, synopsis and sample chapter for a potential novel. The winner got to write their book with James Patterson. I came up with three submissions, one of which was the book I wrote. So that was the original source of inspiration. I didn’t submit it however as it was something I really wanted for myself. The day I heard I did not win his competition was one of the happiest days of my life. I immediately began working on my book, “Jack the Ripper: Live and UnCut”.



What are you working on at the moment?
I am currently one hundred pages deep into the next Carl Axford adventure. It’s working title is “Cult Following: A Carl Axford Mystery”. I have 90% of the story outlined and am finalizing the plot and continuing my research. This book will suggest that several deaths of famous musicians, that were deemed accidental or unsolved, will be linked to a common cause. There is also a present day target. This will also see a lot of expansion on the original concepts in the first book and I am already taking them to new potential, which is always exciting as an author. There are also some sub plots that more or less play out over an arc in the series, so some subplots that were begun in the first instalment will see progress in the next.

I can also say I already broke my promise to write the book in proper sequence, and have written the last chapter of the book. I couldn’t help it. The inspiration came and I had to put it into words while the moment was there. What I can say is that anyone who reads Jack the Ripper: Live and UnCut is going to be grinning from ear to ear when they finish Cult Following.

I have also been thinking about writing a book that is autobiographical. My son was diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum at two and a half , and I wanted to document our journey from birth, to diagnosis, through to where we are today. The working title is Spectrumhood and I really want to tell our story, especially from a father’s perspective. The most valuable information we have been given is from people who walk in our shoes. I wanted to pay that forward. Mrs Leyshon wants me to continue with the Axford series though, so I’m working on that primarily, but Spectrumhood will see publication one day.

Did you have any goals with writing, and if so, how well do you feel you’ve achieved them?  What do you hope to achieve in the future?
As a first time author I think my goals would be consistent with others like me. Some of it is a balance of low expectations, combined with the pipedreams of being a NYT Best Seller.
When I wrote it I simply wanted a book that people would enjoy to read. I hadn’t expected any traction within the Ripper Community as I know how much they like to discuss books with facts and that Ripper fiction has not always represented the case, or Jack, well. As a first time author I had some doubts that my book would be liked but I was proud of what I had written.

The response has been truly overwhelming so far. While sales are nowhere near the “best seller” range, the critical reception has been off the charts. Across the Amazon sites I have nearly 30 reviews to date and only one of them was not a 5 star review. That reader still enjoyed the book. What was even more encouraging is that Ripper publication were unanimous with their praise. They didn’t just like it, they loved it! Naturally I was happy to update my cover and include some quotes from them on the back. I was also invited to appear on Rippercast as one of five authors to discuss Jack the Ripper fiction. My book had been out for less than a month when that invitation came. I have also appeared at Rippercon as a panellist to discuss Jack the Ripper in Fiction. The fact my book received such a warm welcome, to the point of embrace, is incredibly satisfying. For me, this is the demographic that is the most likely to criticize my work so I feel confident all readers will enjoy it.

Finding representation from a literary agent has been difficult as my decision to self-publish in order to solicit feedback has cost the book dearly. But, I am proud to say that I beat the self-published hex and have secured a literary agent. I am extremely happy and excited about moving forward with an agent on the next level. In order to do this I now have to remove the book from publication. A shame, as it had gained terrific traction, but this is what I wanted for the book so an action I have no problem following through with. I have appreciated all of the support and great feedback the book has received. It was a big part in peeking my agent’s interest.

How long does it take you to write a book?
From commencing first chapter, to completion of first draft, Live and UnCut took me sixteen months to write, but that did include a three month break. Being immersed in my research and story was something I would often describe as “going down a dark rabbit hole”. Some people love that rabbit hole, many live in it. I didn’t want that for myself nor may family. My wife and children went on a road trip in which I wrote 180 pages in 10 days. I love them dearly, but man…..I get so much done when I’m on my own!


What are the hardest parts of being an author for you?
Finding the time to do it for sure. My books involve a lot of research so getting the time to do it all is tough. I am a stickler for detail though and want therefore shoulder the burden of research with the realistic approach that its for a good cause. This also has to fit in with a life of being a software techie, father and husband.

What do you enjoy most about being an author?
When you complete the plot for a book and it all fits nicely. I outline my books so I know some chapters I will be looking forward to a lot as well, and obviously with Jack the Ripper you kind of know some things that are coming but I love the challenge of making it fresh and making the reader feel like they have been put right there. My book turns the creep factor up to eleven, the intention is to freak the reader out, not gross them out. On balance I don’t sugar coat what he did either.

One evening I wrote a chapter I had been eager to write for 6 months. I wrote through till 1:30am, but could not fall asleep until 5:00am due to being full of so much adrenaline. I thought, if my readers could feel a tenth of how I did, reading this material, then I would be happy. Subsequently I have heard that people who have read the book have had it keep them up some nights. I actually like that. I didn’t want the premise to set a scene that was gory, I wanted it to be eerie. Gory is disposable, creepy remains with you.

Do you have a spot where you like to write?
I write at a desk in my living room. Typically I just like to write where it is quiet and where I have a decent sized monitor. I finished the book while staying, alone, at a beach condo on the water. I could get used to that.

Besides writing, what do you love doing?
I love my kids and try to be a good dad for them as well as try to be a good husband. As for me I am a huge movie buff as well as a sports fanatic….at least for some sports. I miss the accessibility of some Australia sports as American tv doesn’t cover them with the same enthusiasm. I try to watch my beloved Wests Tigers whenever I can though.

What books or authors have had the most influence on you as an author?
I have several, and all for different reasons”

Martin Cruz Smith – Writes so beautifully and with great philosophy. His Arkady Renko novels are all masterpieces and he is so quotable with his description of places or people. Also the way he shows his main character evolves through his various stories but also how Russia changes along with him. He is literary God to me. I can easily pick up a Renko and read it.

James Patterson – James is the ultimate page turner. Usually when you read a Patterson you make short work of it, mostly because you don’t want to put his book down. One thing he said that I loved was when he tells a story he doesn’t want to hear somebody say “that’s great” he would rather hear somebody say “I’d like to read more”. That is Patterson in a nutshell and he is the master of stories that propel forward and at a quick pace.
Ben Elton – I love Elton as I have been a fan of his humour for decades. When he branched out from television and wrote novels I have enjoyed not only every story he writes but also his variety. He has written satires, murder-who dunnits, thrillers and always has great social commentary in every novel. He also has great humour in his books which is expected given what he gave to tv viewers.

Dan Brown – I love the Langdon series. What impresses me so much about Dan Brown, when I first read Angels and Demons, was that this book would make a terrific movie. I have felt that way about all of the Langdons. Needless to say I was very happy to hear that they were doing exactly that, and have done with three of them. When reading Brown you truly picture a scene playing out in your head. What I also like is Brown doesn’t dwell on getting to know the hero. Robert Langdon is a likeable hero but we don’t connect with him necessarily. We do become invested in his adventure though and want to see him succeed and it is through the journey that we learn little bits about Landon. I also appreciate that in those books it is Langdon’s talent that ultimately helps him progress through a mystery. The story is moved forward by what he knows and what he is good at. I like that a lot. I also like that Brown is not afraid of tackling a topic that knows will court controversy. He researches his books well, weaves history into a great story, but one that is ultimately fiction. Brown on his own admission concedes that these are stories……..not preachings to base a belief structure on.

Very honorable mentions are Edgar Allen Poe and William Shakespeare. Both capture the drama of horror or tragedy so profoundly. Their work has been the template for everybody that followed them.

What did you find most useful when you were learning to write and expanding your skills? 
Definitely the importance of having an outline, for me it was massive. There were some chapters that I didn’t get to write for months and I was relieved that I had placed a lot of relevant information in there and not have to research it again.

While writing the story I did develop other characters and device plots that were not in my outline, so I went back and added them in. An outline is a great tool, sometimes your best friend, but its completion should never signify the end of creativity for your story. It should be a balance of structure and spontaneity.

What are your thoughts about ebooks vs. print books?
Always preferred print books myself, but I can definitely relate to why people prefer eBooks. For personal reading I prefer paperback or hard covers, if I’m purchasing books for research I will predominantly go with eBooks mostly on the convenience of the delivery but also I usually buy a lot of books and it’s tough keeping them all on my desk.

What are your thoughts about self-publishing vs traditional publishing?
It’s down to the author. My preference is the traditional route, but the market is so saturated now it’s very hard to break through. As a first timer I wasn’t sure I had a decent book, so I opted to self-publish, in order to seek feedback (validation). Once I saw the reaction was great, especially from professionals in the industry, I sought to query agents. Sadly the phrase “self-published” pretty much condemns your book to instant rejection, at least in the US it does. Thankfully I found an agent that saw past that.

I see benefits of both. Self-publishing does offer you more freedom to promote it, it gives you creative license over the story, but it is all truly down to you. In spite of it all I do prefer the traditional route as I believe it is the route more likely to lead to being an author full time.

How often do you write, and how do you find or make time to write?
I try to put something in every day, whether it’s writing, research or outlining. How much time is subject to different factors, mostly when my kids are asleep. The majority of my book was written between 10:00pm and 2:00am.

Do you plan your whole book out in advance, or just let it flow? What does your writing process look like?
I outline most of it, especially if I have to include research notes, or develop plot lines or twists. Coming back to those months later is very handy. I normally establish “plot beads” which are chunks of the narrative or twists in plot, the major things. I then work on a way of threading them together. Cult Following will have a thread that involves multiple ciphers. I’m glad I locked the details of that away prior to writing it. When it comes to completing those chapters I’ll be golden.

What's a typical working day like for you? When and where do you write?
9:00 - 6:00 Work as a Solutions Architect
6:00 – 8:00 Have dinner, hang with the kids
10:00 – After insomniac daughter finally goes to sleep begin writing.

Do you ever get Writer’s Block? If so, how do you deal with it?
I did, once during Live and UnCut. I had hit one of the most critical parts of the book but realised I had a lot of research to do if I wanted to portray the next few chapters how I wold have wanted. The first chapter I had written in the book was chapter 37, which covered the Eddowes murder. So I picked up from there and wrote through to the end. I then had a 15 chapter gap to fill. Strangely, I didn’t fill the gap from chapter 22 through to 37, but went from 34-37, 31-34 and so on. Writing in the gap was like the movie Memento in a way.

Do you read your own reviews? If so, how do you deal with bad reviews?
Yes I do, because feedback is very important. If it’s positive feedback, you not only learn what you’ve done right but you also feel validated in the effort, research and risk you put into to producing the book. If it’s negative, you learn from that also in order to improve and put out a better product. You’re not going to make everybody happy but sometimes praise or criticism should definitely be noted. You have your own instincts but your readers voices should guide you a little as well.

Fortunately for me the story has received no bad reviews. I have received 5 stars, across the board, with the exception of one 3 star review from a reader, which was still complimentary. I did however receive criticism for the original cover. It seemed like a good idea at the time as I wanted something that got a reader’s attention but it was too confrontational and did not represent the story inside. The cover was doing the book a disservice and there was no lack of people willing to let me now. I owned all of it though and sought out a new cover that represented a mainstream thriller, still included Jack to a minor extent and show my main character’s purpose. I think the new cover got it right this time. 

The feedback is a lot more positive.

It was not my artist’s fault, he delivered what I had asked and in hindsight I did not make the best call there.

I guess this all leads to an answer of I do listen to both criticism and praise.

Other than reviews, do you hear from your readers? What kinds of things do they say?
Yes! I LOVE talking to my readers. A: I love hearing their feedback and discussing what they loved about the story. What plot twists they enjoyed the most. I also like to impart some stories behind the book. There are some cool research stories to be told along with some others that may give up spoilers.

I make myself completely available to readers and encourage them to reach out. Whether that is somebody who knew me before reading it and was surprised by what they read, or a sceptic who doesn’t like Ripper Fiction or time travel fiction but loved the book. A convert is my favourite reader as I know they did not approach the book with enthusiasm but came out on the other side a fan is terrific. I recently had somebody, I had never met, post on Facebook “Better be good, just purchased.” Later that first day they had added to their post that they had done nothing all morning except read my book. She is now a FB Friend, we talk regularly, and she recently described the book as her “favourite read of 2018”. As an author you have to love hearing that your work won somebody over like that.

The big thing for me is I want to hear why people came across the book and where that has progressed to. Some readers knew me personally, some love reading Jack the Ripper books. What I enjoy hearing after the book has been read is that they love the characters, the ideas, and that they will be back for more. They are saying they enjoyed your story and want to hear more. The sense of obligation is gone. I need to get Cult Following completed as there are a many readers wanting to see what happens next. Unfortunately, now that I am beginning along the traditional route, it will be difficult to gain any new readers/fans, but readers are now encouraged to lend their copy out to their family and friends.

What are some ways in which you promote your books?  What have you found most or least effective?
Various ways. I have done a couple of book signings in stores and intend to get that going again. I use Social Media but I am yet to see the influence it can be. It can translate to presence but not necessarily sales. Maybe that does come later, we’ll see. A good example is I ran a Facebook Promo and accidentally selected it to run on Instagram instead. I received nearly 2,000 likes for my picture but If there were sales from it I don’t think it would have been more than 2-3 books. I have a lot to learn in this area though and am trying to educate myself better.

I was invited on Rippercast, the main Jack the Ripper related podcast as a guest panellist to discuss Jack the Ripper Fiction. I was also invited to Rippercon, the Jack the Ripper Conference in the US. Again, I appeared as a panellist to discuss Jack the Ripper in fiction. I will also be appearing at a few more conventions, speaking on panels and trying to promote the book and myself further. My book has been nominated for several awards. Fingers crossed I do well in one or two of those as being an “award winner” suggests distinction from the pack.

I have created a website and am starting to channel everything through there. At first I didn’t have enough happening to create a decent amount of content. Now I think I do and with the website will also come a newsletter. The website also played a critical part in escalating intrigue from my agent.

How easy or hard do you think it is it to make a living as an author?
Speaking for myself, it’s hard. I think that would apply to any Indie Author. Attracting a reader base is one thing but another issue is that promoting your book comes at a cost most of the time. People charge ridiculous fees to simply review your book. A review should never cost more than the price of the book and the expense to ship it to them. Others charge money to promote it, critique it, proof-read it. If you want to enter your book into an awards contest, there is typically a fee, if you want it to progress through various channels you pay membership fees. For an Indie Author there are a lot of overheads. We’ll see what the future holds now that all of that is about to change.

What advice would you give to someone aspiring to be an author?
Do it! Being an author is all about wanting to tell the stories you have inside you and if you feel you have a story to share then get typing. The most important thing is if you believe in your story then believe in yourself.

What I will say as well is it’s a long road, with hard work. Very few authors strike jackpot with their first book and seeking representation is a battle you need to prepare for. If you want this, there are thousands, millions even, that feel it as well. You have to think about what makes you different, what makes your story better, and fight the good fight using that arsenal. If you wish to find an agent I have had many people tell me it’s a marathon, not a sprint, and that’s true. I ran the sprint and wished I had taken the path with greater resistance. Finding an agent takes time. Authors who find an agent in less than 30 rejections are the exception, not the rule. Many of the great authors were rejected many times. Even when you find an agent, they take the same fight you fought to publishers, so finding an agent is getting to first base, it’s not running into home plate.

For all the work and frustrations there is so much good stuff. Hearing from somebody that they loved your book is a beautiful thing. Being an author is like golf basically….there are a lot of times the shots don’t go your way and you become frustrated to the pointed you want to break a club in half. Then you have a couple of moments that make up for all of that. In the end you say to yourself, “maybe I’ll come back for another round”.

Tell us a random fact about yourself
Random eh…….ok. I eat price tags. I love eating price tags, and I love how they taste. A lot of new ones have holograms and other shit, but the old fashion peel away ones! Yeah….I love those. It’s a habit I never grew out of :)

 How can readers find out more about you: (Fb, Goodreads, website links and such)

Twitter:  @mleyshonauth
YouTube (Promotions Clips)
Trailer Clip - 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DKtKNMu_J-U&t
Critical Reception Promo Clip 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MaW9jEtdqIM&t

Monday, May 21, 2018

Author Spotlight: Karen Carlisle


Karen J Carlisle is an imagineer and writer of steampunk,

Victorian mysteries and fantasy.


She was short-listed in Australian Literature Review’s 2013 Murder/Mystery Short Story Competition and published her first novella, Doctor Jack & Other Tales, in 2015. Her short story, Hunted, featured in the Adelaide Fringe exhibition, ‘A Trail of Tales’.

Karen lives in Adelaide with her family and the ghost of her ancient Devon Rex cat.

She’s always loved dark chocolate and rarely refuses a cup of tea.

Welcome Karen once again to Killing Time Blog. This is your second visit here and I was so happy to have you back again.

How long have you been writing, and how did you become involved in writing?
I used to write Doctor Who stories as a child. I wanted to be part of the adventure.

I won a school poetry prize when I was nine, wrote some angsty teen poetry in the 70s and my first SF/comedy novel in grade 12 (on a typewriter with carbon paper) - because I didn’t like the ending of some of the books I read.

I wrote again in the mid 90s (mainly D&D articles for an Australian roleplaying magazine). I started again in 2012 - as therapy following workplace anxiety (and now diagnosed as PTSD). Finally I had returned to my bliss (except I don’t call it that when elbow-deep in rewrites with a deadline looming).

What are you working on at the moment?

‘Aunt Enid: Protector Extraordinaire’ is the first of ‘The Aunt Enid Mysteries’, set in modern Adelaide. The rest is… spoilers.

Did you have any goals with writing, and if so, how well do you feel you’ve achieved them?
Keep writing. I can’t go back to my old career. It’s not good for my health. I need to get all these stories out of my head and share them with others.

I’m still working on it.

What do you hope to achieve in the future?
I’m trying to find the balance between my health and writing. That is my current goal - and see if I can pull off two books a year…

How long does it take you to write a book?
Up to a year currently. Aunt Enid will end up about the six month mark.

What are the hardest parts of being an author for you?
Staring at a blank page and the fear of failing.

What do you enjoy most about being an author?
I love using words. I love creating worlds (I’ve been doing world building since DMing Dungeons and Dragons, back in the 70s.) I also love making book trailers (I also wanted to be a director or cinematographer when I was a kid).

Do you have a spot where you like to write?
I have several spots I like to write. I often sit at my ‘sewing table’ in the front sun room, with a view of the garden. I have a standing desk (for back health). Sometimes I pop to the local library, or write in the back garden, or even in the car at school pick up.

Besides writing, what do you love doing?
Photography, video work, playing D&D with friends, drawing, costuming, steampunk, and much more.

What books or authors have had the most influence on you as an author?
Agatha Christie, JRR Tolkein, Arthur Conan Doyle, HG Wells, Gail Carriger, Jim Butcher… shall I go on?

What did you find most useful when you were learning to write and expanding your skills?
I’ve done some local WEA courses on writing. We’re fortunate to have a good local teacher who has worked with publishing houses as an editor, is a writer and a professional teacher.

Jim Butcher and other authors also several talks on youTube, from various conventions he has spoken at.

I also find it valuable being a member of a critiquing writing group, with some lovely (and honest) people.

What are your thoughts about ebooks vs. print books?
Personally, I prefer print. They don’t need power, they are more comfortable for me to hold. I love the smell, the covers, and I find I can concentrate on the story more. I do own some myself.
I have a love/hate/hate relationship with technology. I use it because I have to. It’s great when it works, but…

However, many people love eBooks. I always publish my books in both print and digital formats so people can choose their own preference.

What are your thoughts about self-publishing vs traditional publishing?
I self publish because I can control the end product. I love doing the cover art (I also wanted to be an artist when I left school… and an astronaut… and…) and making booktrailers. I get to do all things! I can also control deadlines, which is important to me; it helps with my anxiety. I don’t have to work to someone else’s deadline. At the moment this is a mental health priority.

I hope to do the ‘hybrid’ publishing thing one day. It would be nice to have someone do some of the marketing and organising for me on occasion.

How often do you write, and how do you find or make time to write?
I had an unscheduled paid work cessation. I had planned to write part-time for at least five years and then transition to full-time writing. Well, that didn’t happen!

So, I now write full-time and am still trying to find a balance. Too many stories. Not enough time.
I try to write almost every day. Currently I take some ‘off days’ then write like mad for weeks on end, up to sixteen plus hours for five to seven days (especially when I have a deadline). Then, I crash and burn for a few weeks. One day I’ll actually do the ‘write five days and have a weekend off’ thing.
I actually work longer hours now than when I was in a paid job.

Do you plan your whole book out in advance, or just let it flow? What does your writing process look like? I used to be a full-on pantser! But I needed more stability. I’m now a plotter-pantser.

An idea will strike (often sparked by a picture, a song, a title, something someone said…) and I’ll scribble down bits. If I think there’s a longer story there, I assign it a box (literally) and put any related inspirations or writing in that box. I may have an instant idea of the main story points and ending or they may wheedle their way into my brain, or the story box, over time. Eventually I have the bones of a story.

I tried planning out every scene once. I stressed out, feeling I couldn’t deviate. I’ve modified the process now. I write specific points on sticky notes, pop them on the cupboard door in the sun room.

I dive into research until the settings, time or character headspace oozes from my pores, then I let it all sink in for a while. (this can take a week or a month. My fantasy work-in-progress has been in the ‘pop it in in the box and let it cogitate’ step for years now. )

I then work on the scenes or chapters related to each note. This gives me the flexibility to move them around (or scrap them) as the story changes and evolves. The most important thing is to know the ending, and ask ‘what would the character do?’/ ‘what are they thinking?’

I also use sticky notes along the way, if I remember an important point three chapters later, or something lurking in the back of my mind pops into the story. If I need to put a ‘gun in the room’, so to speak, then a sticky note goes into the earlier manuscript to remind me in final rewrites.

Every few chapters I do new ‘story line notes’ and more things get added to the bones for the final story (like a snowflake growing).

There’s a family joke: when I’m staring out the window, they say ‘leave mum alone, she’s writing’, which is absolutely true. Stories often mull in my head on the ‘procrastinating’ or ‘time off days’. My brain is always sifting through different story permeations and ‘what ifs’.

What's a typical working day like for you? When and where do you write?
Wake up. (do my PTSD therapy if I’m able, ten minutes on the stepper for endorphins). Cup of tea (perhaps some chocolate if I’ve had a bad night). I try to start writing or research at 9.30 to 10.00 am. I’m supposed to break for lunch, but often I get distracted until school pick up. I take a break, catch up on my favourite TV show (I’ve just finished re-watching all the Miss Marple in order) or watch a movie (so 60-90 minutes break) and then try to finish up the writing. If I’m having a bad health day, this goes out the window. I usually get a second wind about 11.00 pm and sometimes wake up in the middle of the night to scribble in the notebook by the bed.

In reality, I aim for minimum of four hours writing a day.

Do you ever get Writer’s Block? If so, how do you deal with it?
My writers’ block is more procrastination, usually at the start of a new story or chapter. The blank page is my bane. I often know what I want to write but the fear sets in…

I switch to either a different story or something artistic and concentrate on cover or poster design or scripting the next book trailer and working out stills and shots I will need. (at least it’s constructive procrastination) On bad days, I just chill, let my brain recover and catch up on reading or movies. I even have a divers’ notebook in the shower. Relaxing seems to jog things.

Do you read your own reviews? If so, how do you deal with bad reviews?
Unless someone emails me a review, I stumble over reviews. The worst review I had was someone emailed me about: I didn’t think it was that bad. The (male) reviewer just didn’t seem to understand the motivation of a (female) character and mansplained how she should have reacted in the situation in question and obviously hadn’t followed the character arc to its conclusion. Oh, well.

The way I look at it is, no one can please everyone. I’m just happy to get comparisons to Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes (mentioned a few times) in independent reviews… (and not get trolled). That makes up for most things.

Other than reviews, do you hear from your readers? What kinds of things do they say? I get readers contacting me on FB, twitter and chatting to me at conventions. I get fans emailing me to ask what costumes a character would wear so they can cosplay them (squee!) or ‘when’s the next book coming out?’ and (best of all) dragging their friends (literally) up to my table and saying ‘you have to buy this book!’ (Waves at Tilly- my first con fan!)

What are some ways in which you promote your books? What have you found most or least effective? I do interviews (like this one), guest blog posts, book trailers (on my youtube channel) and webpage. I’ve done talks for local heritage groups, SF and book groups and would love to do talks for schools. I do local steampunk and pop culture conventions. I also have a live chat, via Patreon, and a monthly newsletter for those who want to know more.

I find the most effective is talking and engaging with readers.

Least effective? Facebook ads. I tried it. I get more regular organic reach than when I paid for it.

How easy or hard do you think it is it to make a living as an author? Did you know the average author’s wage in Australia is only $12,500? And yet people still want free stuff.

What advice would you give to someone aspiring to be an author? 1. Keep your day job
2. You need to actually write stuff.
3. Beware vanity presses.
4. Never stop learning.
5. Write what you love because you’re going to be in this for the looooong haul.

Tell us a random fact about yourself My father was part native Canadian.
I’ve been a Doctor Who fan since I was 4 (1969) You do the maths. J

Thank you for dropping by Karen, this has been an amazing insight into your writing and your practices. How and where can readers find out more about you and your amazing stories:
  • Website: www.karenjcarlisle.com 
  • Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KarenJCarlisle/ 
  • Twitter: https://twitter.com/kjcarlisle 
  • Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/KarenJCarlisle 
  • Patreon page: https://www.patreon.com/KarenJCarlisle

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Author interview - Speculative Fiction author Avril Sabine

Please welcome Avril Sabine to the blog. 

Avril Sabine is an Australian author who lives on acreage in South East Queensland. She writes mostly young adult and children’s speculative fiction, but has been known to dabble in other genres. She has been writing since she was a young child and wanted to be an author the moment she realised someone wrote the books she loved to read.

Can you tell us a bit about you as an author?
I've been writing nearly all my life and wanted to be an author the moment I realised someone wrote the words I loved to read. I wasn't old enough to attend school and didn't know the person who wrote books was called an author, but I knew that was what I wanted to do with my life.

What are the hardest parts of being an author?
The most difficult thing for me about being an author is finding the time to write the stories for all the ideas I have. There's no way I can write all of them in one lifetime. This makes it very difficult sometimes when it comes to choosing which idea to write next as I want to write them all.

What do you enjoy most about being an author?
I love finding out what is going to happen in my stories. I don't plot or plan. I'm discovering the story the same way a reader does the first time they read one of my books. As a reader and a writer that is one of the aspects I most love about being an author.

What authors/books have had an influence on your writing?
Fairytales have had the most influence on me as a writer as I was reading a book of fairytales when I realised I wanted to be an author.

Do you ever get Writer’s Block? If so, how do you deal with it? Do you believe there is such a thing?
I never get writer's block. There are times my characters don't want to cooperate and then I realise I'm trying to make them act out of character. I tend to go back to the start of each story when I reach about halfway and read it through, keeping myself immersed in that world and the story I'm telling.

Do you have a particular place that you like to write?
I write anywhere and at any time. I even write while doing housework, using a voice to text program. There have been times when I've been so drawn into a story that I'll miss out on sleep because I need to find out what happens next.

Do you have a favourite time of day to write?
Time of day or night isn't important to me when it comes to writing. Nor are my surrounding or noise level. If there is a story I need to write, all else is irrelevant.

How do you like to reach your readers? 

I connect with my readers online and at events. I have a mailing list readers can sign up to so they can regularly receive exclusive news about new covers and what is coming out next. I think it's important to share that sort of information with my loyal readers first.

Can you tell us about your latest book? (is it part of a series, genre)
Since my latest book is constantly changing due to putting out a title every month, I'll talk instead about my writing in general. I have several ongoing series that I put out a book a year in. These are stand alone series. When I put out a continuing series I like to release it in a short time frame. Mainly because I hate waiting years to find out what happens so I don't think it's fair to make my readers suffer something I myself dislike.

How long did it take you to write the book?
When it comes to writing, I tend to write the first draft fairly quickly. Two to six weeks on average for a 50-60,000 word novel. It's the editing that takes time. Or research if it's a book I need to do some research for. On average, a book can take me anywhere from six months to three years to write, taking into account research, first draft and edits. I don't work on only one book during that time. I often have thirty or more books on the go at various stages of the process, but I only focus on one book at a time. When I finish a stage, I set it aside and work on something else to gain some perspective before returning to it. Or while I wait for it to return from my editors.

Do you have a favourite character/topic in your work?
In every single book I have characters I love. Quite often several and even at times the ones that aren't in the least bit loveable. There are of course the characters I love to hate as well. A great villain can often be extremely important, depending of course on the type of story being written.

What was your process? Did you plot out the entire book, or just let the storyline flow? Do you write in chronological order?I never plot. Frequently I don't know how the book is going to end. I start with an idea or character and go from there. I also write out of order sometimes. If a scene is extremely vivid in my mind I will write it, even if I haven't reached that scene in the book yet. That tends to make me want to get the scenes before it written quickly as I want to see how the events unfold that led up to that scene.


Do you have plans for further instalments?
I have my series that I've been releasing something in each year. Realms Of The Fae, Demon Hunters, Rosie's Rangers, Fairytales Retold, Myths And Legends Retold and Plea Of The Damned. I plan to continue releasing books in these series as well as a mixture of other books each year.

Do you have a plan for your next book?
I have a document full of ideas and I know I'll never have the chance to write all of them. Even if I wrote twenty books a year and lived to be one hundred and twenty I still wouldn't be able to write every idea. Other than my series, I choose the ideas that won't leave me alone. The ones that wake me at night and insist I write the story. The characters who remain in my thoughts and the stories that are the most vivid to me. Sometimes this is a difficult choice to make, as it can be more than one idea that insists on being written.

Ebooks vs Physical books? Do you have a preference when reading?
I like both ebooks and physical books. Ebooks are great for carrying around with you. How else can you take a library with you everywhere you go and not break your back? My house seems to be full of books, everywhere you look. I've had visitors tell me they feel like they're visiting a library.

Self-publishing vs traditional publishing? What are your thoughts? Do you feel that the industry is changing?There are pros and cons to both and it really depends on what an author is looking for as to which option is best for them. After knocking back several publishing contracts that weren't suitable for me I decided to publish independently. There are so many aspects of it that I enjoy including having final say in covers, editors and my publishing timeline.

And finally, what advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Aspiring authors should read well-written stories and write regularly. It might seem simple, but it's good to start with the basics. In life it's just as important to learn how to crawl, as it is to learn how to run.

How can readers find out more about you: 

Website: http://www.avrilsabine.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/avril.sabine

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AvrilSabine

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/author/avrilsabine

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7432722.Avril_Sabine

Thank you so much for dropping by Avril. 

If you'd you like to be interviewed for this blog, please email me at amanda@amandahoward.com.au

Until next time,

Cheers, 

Amanda

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Author Interview Jennifer Burge, author of The Devil Wears Clogs


Happy New year Everyone. I really hope you have had a great time away from the hustle and bustle. Had time to rejuvenate and get started on those new plans for 2017.

I am continuing with the hugely popular interviews of authors across the globe and this week I invited Jennifer Burge for an interview on Killing Time Blog.


Jennifer Burge understands the challenges of life abroad. Having documented the pitfalls of taking her career from the United States to Europe in her first memoir, The Devil Wears Clogs, it’s hard to imagine she would be confounded by the complexity of another foreign culture—yet that is exactly the case. Her understanding of Asian tradition is a mirage appearing and disappearing with each new interaction.

Moving to Singapore when the rigidity of European life began to wear on her seemed to be the perfect solution. A sophisticated modern condo in the heart of a developing nation was the answer to her prayers—or so she thought. The entrance of the Global Financial Crisis compounded the already-challenging international job search to an unprecedented level. Living in her fourth country without her professional status or a peer network leaves Jennifer to question her identity. Solo travel across Asia allows her to create an authentic one.

Can you tell us a bit about you as an author?
I’ve always had an interest in writing, but for years that took second place to my number one addiction which is traveling. In order to finance my aspirations of world travel, I worked as an IT project manager and consultant for nearly 20 years. Assignments during that time took me to ten different countries with me taking up residence in five of them.

In 2012, I made the leap from corporate rat-racer to full-time author because I wanted to write about what it truly means to have an overseas career. It is rarely as glamorous as it sounds and it is NOT for the faint of hearts.

During the past few years, I have become an active member of the Queensland Writer’s Centre and the Australian Society of Authors which helped enormously in understanding an industry in which I was a complete foreigner. The Devil Wears Clogs, about life in Europe, was first published in 2014 and Singapore Salvation, on life in Asia, entered the world in late 2015.

What are the hardest part of being an author?
Sitting down and doing the work! As I mentioned, I am travel-obsessed, which means I have an aversion to sitting still. A quick look at my blog is proof positive. Other than that, I think writing memoir is a very tricky business. You have to be careful writing about the people and events in your life while being honest—sometimes brutally honest—and that is far from easy.

What do you enjoy most about being an author
When I sit down to write about a particular event, the telling of it rarely goes as I expect. The story takes me where it wants me to go and I am honestly just the channel. It might sound odd, but there is a certain sort of magic that shows up when I am in the flow. It is a feeling that cannot be duplicated.

What authors/books have had an influence on your writing?
Joan Didion, Mary Karr, Jeanette Walls, Caitlin Moran—all excellent female memoirists & non-fiction authors.

Do you ever get Writer’s Block? If so, how do you deal with it? Do you believe there is such a thing?Only when writing about something that bores me. If I’m excited by the story, it doesn’t happen to me.

Do you have a particular place that you like to write? My home office in a bushy suburb north of Brisbane is perfect. I watch the birds and my own personal rain forest. It’s the first place I’ve ever had where I can truly sit and think with zero distraction and for me, I require silence. Others can write with music blaring, but I’m not one of those people.

Do you have a favourite time of day to write?Afternoons. In the mornings, my mind is simmering on something and by the afternoon, it’s ready to be served.

How do you like to reach your readers?
Social media, author talks, blogs, book tours---you name it, I do it. I think it’s the only way to truly discover what works for you. There is so much “advice” out there that you have to find your method in the madness.

Can you tell us about your latest book? 
Singapore Salvation is the second in a set of three books about work and life abroad. It is the sequel to The Devil Wears Clogs. In 2017, the final installment about life in Australia will be published.

How long did it take you to write the book?Singapore Salvation took two years to write. The Devil Wears Clogs, my first book, took six. On average, I am only ready to write about what has happened about seven years after it happens. That’s how long it takes me to gain enough perspective on these situations to make sense of my part of the equation.

Do you have a favourite character/topic in your work?

I call these books my ‘How NOT to Live Abroad’ guides as I basically share all the mistakes I’ve made in not understanding other cultures. When I left the United States for work in Germany in 2001, we didn’t have all this information about other nations and cultures at our fingertips as we do today. We still had analog internet! When I was looking for any sort of book that would tell me what my life and career would look like in another country, I was unable to find it. That’s why I’m writing these now.

What was your process? Did you plot out the entire book, or just let the storyline flow? Do you write in chronological order?
Luckily, digital cameras DID come into the world not long after I began my global misadventures, so I have an incredible archive of photos. As they are arranged by date, this helps provide the outline for the story as well as the basis for a lot of my setting description.

Once I have outlined, including the story arc, then I fill in the content.

Do you have plans for further instalments? The Python in My Driveway is my working title for the book about Australia that I am currently working on. For an American, a five foot snake in the driveway on a trip to the mailbox is far from a “normal” occurrence!

Do you have a plan for your next book? Too many to count!

Ebooks vs Physical books? Do you have a preference when reading?
I read both. When traveling I tend to read ebooks and at home I often read physical books.

Self-publishing vs traditional publishing? What are your thoughts? Do you feel that the industry is changing?I started with a publisher and switched to self-publishing. I have never worked harder, but I have never had more fun at work. I think you have to truly evaluate how much time you are willing to put into activities that aren’t writing/editing. If you don’t have an entrepreneurial spirit—do not self- publish.

And finally, what advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Don’t give up. If you love it, stick with it no matter what. If you don’t love it, this game probably isn’t for you.

If you'd like to know more about Jennifer's work, you can find her here:

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/worldwiseJen/ (author Page)
               https://www.facebook.com/SingaporeSalvation/ (book page)
               https://www.facebook.com/devilwearsclogs/ (book page)
Twitter: @jenniferburge
Instagram: @jen_burge