Author Interview: Shakeil Kanish

We all want to be next. The next superstar, the next star athlete, the next social media darling, the next intellectual prodigy. There’s this belief that excellence means worth, and that to be special is to be worthwhile.

Shakeil Kanish knows something about excellence. He wrote an excellent book with his co-author, Larissa Mandeville. He also knows something about the ordinary: a self-described ordinary gay boy, horror movie lover, and LGBTQ+ author. 

But sometimes, ordinary is exactly what the world needs. Sometimes, ordinary is magic.

(You can read my review of The Sigil here.)

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m just your everyday lover of karaoke and horror movies! An LGBTQ+ member who just wants to write amazing novels for people like me so that I can see myself in books. I work for the AF and am super proud to serve my country while also serving up some amazing novels! And I just hope it can only go uphill from here! 

Tell us about your novel, The Sigil.

It’s a story about a gay boy trying to find his place in the world after his brothers mysterious death, and just kind of accepting that you can be just as big a hero being normal. You don’t need fancy powers or magic. 

What is your favorite novel, and has it inspired how you write? How?

I really always loved A Wrinkle in Time. I don’t know what it was but something about just it being a normal everyday kind of day and then bam they’re just thrown into this crazy world with a crazy antagonist… it just always got me super hyped and it def inspired me to want to write my own novels. 

What are some key takeaways you’re hoping readers get from your book?

I hope they finally get to see an LGBTQ+ character and a POC being the forefront of novels growing up. We didn’t have enough of those so I really wanted to do that for myself and others who wanted that too. I want them to just see themselves in some of the characters and kinda of show that anyone can be a hero. 

What is different about your novel?

I think the characters are very unique. Nova is so brash. I think some people will think she’s over the top but she’s based on a real person I know so it’s important to know people of all shapes and sizes exist and not everyone has to be this quiet, like every other girl cliche. I think the twist at the end is pretty out of left field so I hope readers really enjoy that I LOVE twist endings. 

What are your plans for future novels?

So The Sigil is a duology so I’m actually working on the sequel as we speak so keep an eye out for that . 

What inspires you to write?

Just wanting to tell a story and hoping that even one person wants to listen is more than enough to keep me going. 

What do you enjoy about publishing, and what do you struggle with?

Getting to work and collaborate with other people and just making your novel the best it can be is super exciting and fun! As far as struggles just creatively sometimes we are not on the same wavelength so finding that balance is super important . 

What has been your greatest struggle writing, and how would you inspire other writers to overcome it?

Probably just writing in general sitting down and actually putting words to paper is SO hard as any writer knows but sometimes you just gotta power through! 

How can we purchase your book? 

It’ll be available on Amazon and the 3 Furies Press website!

Author Interview: C.C. Luckey

I collect quirky authors like some people collect seashells.

Cory Doctorow. TJ Klune. Erin Morgenstern. Robin Sloan. Jenny Lawson. Those are the New York Times Bestselling big names of course, but there are many indie authors I count amongst them.

They’re like beach finds to me, from hours combing the sandy shores of bookstores, online book reviews, social media, and word of mouth. When I find an author I like, I follow their work, often reading outside my comfort genres, just to get another taste of their prose and stories.

When I read Kana the Stray, I had the feeling I was uncovering more than just a moment, but something that would alter the landscape of my reading journey for more than just one book. Like finding an intact conch shell—a beachcombers dream. In other words, C.C. Luckey, whether you like it or not: you’ve been added to my collection.

So needless to say, I felt quite lucky (sorry, couldn’t help it, it’s just the one I swear) that I got the chance to interview Luckey to talk about their writing journey and their future stories.

(And if you haven’t yet, you can read my review for Kana the Stray here.)

Tell us a bit about yourself.
I live near the ocean in Long Beach, California, and I have a few different hobbies. I play accordion in a rock band, go hiking one or two days a week, and collect oddities. But my true passion is writing, and my books mean everything to me.

Tell us about your novel.
Kana the Stray is a story about a young woman who lives on the streets of Chicago, but is pulled into another world populated entirely by talking animals. To survive, she must quickly learn about politics, become self-sufficient, and endure living in the wild without help—all skills which are new to her. The book is a new twist on animal fantasy for adults, with a hefty dose of science fiction and epic adventure thrown in.

What is your favorite novel, and has it inspired how you write? How?
My favorite book is a fairly obscure novel called The Book of the Dun Cow. It was written in the late 1970s by a pastor named Walter Wangerin Jr., and borrows some characters and ideas from Chaucer’s fable of Chaunticleer. It is technically biblical fiction, which is not normally an interest of mine, but when I read Dun Cow it just spoke to me. The story follows a rooster who leads his flock in a horrific war against an ultimate evil which lives inside the earth, and along with its sequel, The Book of Sorrows, it’s the most beautifully sad story I have ever read. Wangerin’s tale was definitely an inspiration for Kana the Stray.

What are some key takeaways you’re hoping readers will get from your book?
I write primarily to entertain, but there are a few other important ideas in Kana, such as accepting one’s true self and persevering in the face of unfamiliar challenges. In a way, it is also an environmental disaster precautionary tale. But the most important theme, other than the pure joy of exploring a new world, is that family can be chosen. Family is whoever is most important to you, whether they are related to you or not. And a chosen family will always bring you happiness, even in the most difficult times.

What is different about your novel?
I’ve been told I write in a more classical style, ignoring current trends and tropes. I’m not sure whether that’s good or bad from most readers’ perspectives, but it’s what I enjoy. All four of my books encompass realistic “low” fantasy supported by science fiction ideas while focusing on complex and relatable characters, who are often somewhat damaged. Kana is flawed. She doesn’t always make the right decisions. Her friends are flawed, too. But all that matters in the end is the bond they form with each other, and doing the best they can in a dangerous world.

What are your plans for future novels?
I am currently working on my first series! I have three historic fantasy books planned for release in late 2021 and early 2022. The series is about a late Victorian circus traveling across the United States, and has a divination theme, including both tarot and astrology.

What inspires you to write?
I’ve always been greedy with my life. I’ve never quite been comfortable with the fact that I get only one. There is so much in the world to enjoy, to explore. As long as I keep writing, I can live a hundred lives, have a thousand adventures, and—hopefully—bring some other people along with me.

What do you enjoy about publishing, and what do you struggle with?
I enjoy nearly everything about publishing, from developing loose story concepts to screening the final edits. I think the hardest part is getting feedback from people. Even readers who really love your story often forget to tell you!

What has been your greatest struggle writing, and how would you inspire other writers to overcome it?
Much of my work doesn’t fit well into currently popular genres. I tend to hold story and originality over market demands, which makes it harder to reach people who I know would love my work if they found out about it. The feedback I have received from my readers has been incredibly positive, so I know my work has merit. What matters most for me, and for all other writers, is to just keep writing. Keep setting new books free into the world, and never quit.

How can we purchase your book?
Paperback and eBook versions of all my books can be found on Amazon. My eBooks are also available on Kobo and many other similar sites, and my paperbacks are also available on bookshop.org. My website is www.ccluckey.com, where you can find links to my Amazon listings and a contact form to email me directly or sign up for my newsletter.

Author Interview: Ash Knight

Sometimes, authors seem to come fully formed out of the aether, landing on Earth as some sort of gospel prophet ready to disseminate their work to the disheveled masses. There was a lot less holy talk and more steamy sex scenes, but this is the kind of story you get hearing about the book and success of Ash Knight.

Despite being someone who self-proclaimed didn’t like to read until later in life (as you can read more about below,) Knight was nominated for Best Debut Novel for Stay in the Goodreads Member’s Choice awards in 2020, and their novel is a #WritingCommunity favorite on Twitter. You don’t have to talk with her long to know why- she’s earnest, down-to-earth, and writes like someone who’s been doing it their whole life. What’s not to love?

I was happy to interview Knight below. You can also read my book review of Stay here.

Tell us a bit about yourself. 

I’m a wife and a mother of twin boys.  One of them has ASD.  I grew up hating to read, never enjoying books at all.  When I was 30 a good friend of mine gave me a book to read and then more and more and I  couldn’t stop reading, which eventually led me to writing.

Tell us about your novel, Stay.  

I wanted to write a story that wasn’t just about sex or some random meaningless made up characters.  I had this character in my head that was very loosely based on an adult version of me, my son with ASD, my parents, and just the inner me with a loud voice.  The character wouldn’t leave me alone and it turned into a story that I couldn’t let go of, which ended up being Stay.  In the end, Joe had to be male and his love interest would have to be male.  So I did some research, asked questions, made so many amazing gay friends along the way, and discovered a new world ourside of what I had grown up with.  So, in the end, this story about an autistic character ended up also, hopefully, showing the world that there’s hope for love for everyone no matter their background, sex, history, etc and there can also be a happy ever after.

What is your favorite novel, and has it inspired how you write? How? 

The novel that really impacted and affected me was The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.  I felt like my entire world opened up when I read that book.  It broke through so many boundaries that I had in my head about what a novel should be.  There were pages of handwritten drawings and writings mixed in with the text and the love that just bled from the pages was incredibly profound.  It changed me and the way I saw books and the meaning behind individual words and how much impact they can have.

What are some key takeaways you’re hoping readers get from your book?  

I sincerely hope that a bit of the stigma around ASD is lessened because every single person diagnosed is different.  There is always hope for a ‘typical’ future for everyone with ASD.  I also want the world to see that two men can find love together, mean everything to each other, and be happy.  They can live happily ever after and should have the right to do so.  I hope the casual way my characters just both happen to be men comes across to show how casual we should feel about it in our own lives.

It sounds like you went great lengths to normalize ASD and gay relationships in your novel. Did you anticipate, or have you received any criticism because of your choices?

I didn’t really anticipate having readers at all to be completely honest, so it didn’t really occur to me to have criticism as far as writing my characters went, but yes, I have had some reviews indicating that I should have done some research on Autism before writing a book about its characteristics and struggles.  The truth is, there is no one box when it comes to Autism Spectrum Disorder.  I wrote Joe based upon what I see in my son.  He’s charming, hilarious, and emotional.  He is concerned for others, and he picks up banter from conversations and movies, etc, so he’s able to interact in a socially appropriate setting from time to time. 

On the other end of the spectrum, have you felt support from both the ASD and LGBTQ+ community now that the book is out there?

I have read many emotional reviews about family members of a child with ASD that have thanked me for giving them hope.  That has meant the world to me, because that is exactly what my purpose was in writing Joe’s character.  I have had so much support from the LGBTQIA+ community it’s been unreal and I’ve been so humbled by it.  Starting this story of these two men getting to know each other through more than just words and conversation was scary, as a cishet woman, but I wouldn’t have written Joe and Madden’s story if I didn’t have the support and assistance of those in the gay community to ensure I was giving their relationship a genuine feel.

What is different about your novel? 

I hope it’s the way my story is so character driven.  I have such a sense of my characters that I can picture how they sit, where they sit, what they look like when they’re happy, nervous, sad, excited, embarrassed, etc.  I know their tells, and I try so hard to be descriptive enough that it feels like you’re right there in the room with them.

What are your plans for future novels?  

I am just about to release a New Adult Romance novel about a man and woman that went to high school together and meet again in college.  The female character has been through a rough time and has shied away from social situations, but when her old friend sees her on campus, she can’t seem to turn him down.

What inspires you to write? 

My characters in my head tell me their stories and they so strongly need to get out of my head, I just have to write them down.  I also am a strong believer in love.  Specifically that everyone is worthy of love in their life.

What do you enjoy about publishing, and what do you struggle with? 

Editing is the worst for me.  I just want to write and be done.  I get to the point where I feel like I’ve memorized every page and I just can’t read it anymore.  I’m also too impatient to let it sit too long, lol.

Do you see yourself pursuing traditional publishing in the future, or continuing to self-publish primarily?

I feel like it’s a dream come true to be traditionally published by anyone who wants to succeed in their writing career, assuming they end up on the NYT Best Sellers List.  I feel like marketing and promoting yourself is difficult, and if there was someone who could take some of that burden off, that would be amazing, but most of it would still be on my shoulders anyway, so I’m happy for now self-publishing as I am.  I’m happy to get my stories out into the world on my schedule.

What has been your greatest struggle writing, and how would you inspire other writers to overcome it? 

I think my greatest struggle is patience.  Once I feel done, I just want to publish it.  I don’t want to wait for editing and beta reading and editing, etc.  It’s just really not my strong suit.

How can we purchase your book?  

Stay is available on Amazon only, but I’m offering signed paperback copies on my website as well, at https://ash-knight.com

Author Interview: Leia Talon

There’s no doubt about it: the fantasy genre is saturated. There’s a lot of great authors doing great things. In some ways it’s hard to stand out or make a mark in a genre that attracts such modern giants as the traditional-minded Brandon Sanderson and innovative V.E. Schwab.

There is simply no more room for great writers. What we need is the innovative, the unusual, the standouts.

What Leia Talon is doing with their Roots and Stars series, and The World Tree Chronicles universe, tests the bounds of fantasy as a genre and format. We need writers like Talon to reinvent genres, and fiction as a whole, to bring back the excitement for literature that brought so many of us to the world.

I was excited to hear about Talon’s future plans, their process, and some of the inspiration around The World Tree Chronicles.

(You can also read my review of Shelta’s Songbook here.)

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m a lifelong dreamer, musician, and poet living in the mountains of British Columbia, where nature soothes me and sparks my imagination. I adore my kids and my cats. Also, I believe in faeries. And dragons. And staying optimistic in the face of chaos.

Tell us about Shelta’s Songbook and the series.

Shelta’s Songbook gives an intimate glimpse into the mind of Shelta Raine, the main character in the Roots and Stars series of novels that are coming out next year. 

With poetry, short stories, and love letters from an immortal, Shelta’s Songbook is a delicious appetizer to the upcoming fantasy romance saga. I love the perspective of the Keeper of Lost Souls and Stories, and though he doesn’t come into the novels until book two of Roots and Stars, I’m so excited for people to find out who he is!

Here’s the summary for Falling Through the Weaving, book one of Roots and Stars:

A mother whose music bridges worlds has a child loved by three fathers.

A Scottish spymaster.

A mountain man hunted by outlaws.

A Viking demigod with the secrets of dragons.

To be a family they must pay Time’s price:

Love.

Grieve.

Surrender.

Fight.

What is your favorite novel, and has it inspired how you write? How?

So many favorites. The Fionavar Tapestry, by Guy Gavriel Kay, had a big impact on me because it took legends and pulled them into a new story, rewriting old myths into something new. Outlander was another that inspired me to write romance. The Roots and Stars series will appeal to fans of Diana Gabaldon, though the time travel comes with alternate histories and dragons.

My current favorite indie novel is Cambiare by Avery Ames, which is one of the best stories I’ve read set in the realm of faerie.

What are some key takeaways you’re hoping readers get from your book?

Hope. Inspiration. A sense of adventure without going anywhere, complete with longing and love and a reminder that even when we feel broken, our scars make us stronger.

What is different about your book?

One of the things that makes Shelta’s Songbook special is that the Keeper of Lost Souls and Stories collects poems and short stories that Shelta has lost as she’s traveled through time. He has this role of witness, but there’s something sacred about his duty. Her writing sets his immortal soul aflame in the best possible way.

What are your plans for future novels?

The World Tree Chronicles is the overarching universe for Shelta’s Songbook and the upcoming novels. I’m currently getting the Roots and Stars duology read for release early in 2021, starting with Falling Through the Weaving, where time-traveling musician Shelta must trust three men who share the same soul, and plunge so far into the past that dragons still exist.

The second duology set in the same world is called Dragons and Gods, and follows the adventures of Shelta’s children as they deal with the fallout of their mother’s actions, and ancient mistakes of the gods that have catastrophic consequences.

I also have two other fantasies and a sci-fi novel waiting in the wings. I can’t wait to get back to those, but the World Tree Chronicles are so much fun! I’m excited to have them published and coming to life in readers’ imaginations.

What inspires you to write?

I think stories are one of the greatest gifts in life. Whether it’s a book, a movie, a series—storytelling is a joy to me. Also, my characters demand their stories be written, so I’m not sure I have much of a choice in the matter. 😉

What do you enjoy about publishing, and what do you struggle with?

Hmmm… I love picking out cover art, and sharing my story with readers. It’s a lot of fun to connect with people who have enjoyed my books. 

The actual process of publishing has a lot of details that can be challenging, and take a lot of time that I’d rather spend writing, but such is the nature of the beast.

What has been your greatest struggle writing, and how would you inspire other writers to overcome it?

You know, sometimes words are hard. Whether I’m running into a wall in a first draft, or slogging through a difficult edit, there are definitely times where I have to push myself to keep going, or take a break and come back with fresh eyes. 

I think it’s important to give yourself permission to switch gears and do something else when you need to. And if you’re starting to burn out, rest. Binge watch a series if you want, or paint, or spend more time in nature. Maybe all of the above. I’ve learned how much it helps to ease off the pressure and come back to it with renewed energy.

How can we purchase your book?

Shelta’s Songbook eBook: https://books2read.com/sheltassongbook

Shelta’s Songbook paperback: https://books2read.com/sheltaspaper

Pre-order Falling Through the Weaving: https://bit.ly/fallingEB

Sign up to Leia Talon’s newsletter for exclusive poems and new releases: https://leiatalon.com/newsletter

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LeiaTalon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/leiatalon

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/leiatalon/

Author Interview: John R. Gordon

(Author photo courtesy Baharei Husseini)

As an author, I always have my eyes wide open to better learn from those that came before me. It’s been almost two and a half years since I started earnestly dabbling in comic writing, thinking it would be a good skill alongside my art, not knowing that hobby would save me when my art failed. But that is no time at all when it comes to writing, and I have so much to learn from those who have tread this path longer than I.

I cherish these experiences for the treasures they are. Reading Hark and interviewing John R Gordon has been one of those experiences where the best thing I can do is sit and listen, knowing that I’m being gifted knowledge and wisdom that will make me not only a better writer, but a better person.

I hope you all get as much out of this interview as I did, and if you haven’t yet, you can read my review of Gordon’s Hark here.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m a writer, publisher and artist; I’m 56 and live in London, England. Hark is my eighth novel and set in the USA. Drapetomania, my seventh, an epic of same-gender love in the antebellum south, won me the Ferro-Grumley Award for Best LGBTQ Fiction in 2019. My earlier novels are all set in London, where I’ve lived for more than 30 years, but recently I’ve been excavating my early deep fascination with American – especially African-American – culture, and so am working on a third US-based novel, Mother of Serpents (about which I say a little more below.)

I’ve also written for film and TV. My best known thing is writing and script-editing on Patrik-Ian Polk’s landmark gay African-American series, Noah’s Arc (we did a one-off Covid special just a couple of months ago, reuniting the cast a decade on). For my work on the film screenplay I received a NAACP Image Award nomination. My oddest job was writing the autobiography of black gay pornstar Bobby Blake – for which – 12 years along – I just received a royalty check of $40.89.

In 2011 legendary film- and theatre-maker Rikki Beadle-Blair & I founded Team Angelica Publishing, a queer-of-colour-centric small press, and have edited and brought out award-winning books by black, queer and trans authors, including Diriye Osman, Roz Kaveney and Chike Edozien.

Tell us about your novel, Hark.

Hark begins the night the statue of a Confederate colonel is torn down in the centre of a dying, opioid-scarred and racially divided Southern town: it’s the night two wild teenagers meet and start to fall in love. White blue-collar/underclass Cleve is broke and drifting into criminality; black, bourgeois Roe is alienated and rebellious. They say opposites attract, and who could be more opposite than Cleve and Roe?

When Cleve finds himself, at age 17, home alone for the first time in his life, he summons the courage to invite Roe to stay over. The young men’s relationship looks set to move to another level when they are interrupted by Hark, a mysterious black vagrant who seems to possess supernatural powers, and who takes them on a strange and troubling journey into the past.

Hark is a touching, vividly contemporary coming of age story; a compelling, fast-paced and ultimately hopeful tale of teenage gay interracial love; and shows us how necessary it is to confront the evils of our shared history, however painful it may be to do so.

What is your favorite novel, and has it inspired how you write? How?

It’s really impossible to choose just one! When I didn’t really know myself, or I suppose accept myself, I was inspired by fantasy: Tolkien, Mervyn Peake, H.P. Lovecraft, and had occasional stabs at extremely derivative tale-telling. This would have been when I was 15 or 16, and was very haphazard. At school we – how unlikely is this? – studied Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, and that certainly inspired me with its fever-dreamily intense use of language and the Southern Gothic idiom, as I think he did artists as different from each other as Nick Cave and Toni Morrison (both of whom I’m a fan of).

At 17 or 18 I came across James Baldwin, and he became my literary idol: in his novel of interracial Greenwich Village bohemia, Another Country, he showed me that you didn’t have to run away from writing about exactly what mattered to you: you could write what you wanted – what you needed to – head on. The issues and history he engaged with sent me reading rizomatically – following small hints and connections – names referenced unexplained; historical threads – and I gave myself an autodidact’s version of a course in African-American studies, finding inspiration in Richard Wright, Chester Himes, Amiri Baraka, radicals like Angela Davis, Malcolm X and George Jackson, and a myriad of others less well known. These writers enabled me to construct a notion, as a gay man, of radical art and representation. At that time – the late ’70s – there really wasn’t anything much that one could call Queer Theory, so I found a model of radicalism – or many radicalisms, as there was much clashing and disagreement between them (sometimes violently so) – through Civil Rights and Black Power era African-American thought and writing.

My own bohemian novel (my least known one), Colour Scheme, attempts to heal the narrative wound of Another Country – the death of the initial protagonist, Rufus, by suicide. In Colour Scheme my own depressed protagonist chooses to live. 

While my slavery days novel, Drapetomania, is carefully grounded in historical reality, certainly the power and clarity of Lord of the Rings as epic storytelling was an inspiration and a touchstone.

What are some key takeaways you’re hoping readers get from your book?

I hope they’ll be charmed by my teenage protagonists, Roe and Cleve, & their budding romance; be moved by Hark’s quest and journey to right some of the wrongs of history (around the crime of lynching); and see that understanding and love between people of different races (or perhaps one should say ‘people raced as different’) can grow through confronting the past and its consequences in the present: that it is clearsightedness, not colorblindess, that is needed now.

What is different about your novel?

I kind of wrote Hark in part against the (hugely successful) YA novel Simon vs The Homo Sapien Agenda (filmed as Love, Simon.) That book – a teen romance set in the Deep South, uses an interracial reveal as a twist, then entirely fails to explore the complexity of that situation. I pointedly reverse this. I explore the dynamics and history informing love in that context, and also explore it both from the (blue-collar) white character and the (middle-class) black character: we see each through the other’s eyes. I particularly didn’t want (black) Roe to be an externally-observed narrative object, there for (white) Cleve’s growth – which is, as you know, a common cliché in white-centered ‘liberal’ narratives, ironically or paradoxically validated by the ‘write [only] what you know’ discourse. In a way the ‘twist’ of Hark is that it’s as much Roe’s tale as Cleve’s, even though it opens with Cleve’s thoughts about things.

Hark himself is an extremely unusual ‘is he mad or supernatural’ character, who both embodies and resists America’s haunting history of racial violence, and draws Cleve and Roe into a quest in which they must confront the way history continues into the present. ‘The past isn’t even past,’ as Faulkner said. Even there he’s not a ‘magical negro’, as his quest is essentially selfish, and Cleve and Roe risk becoming casualties as they get dragged along with him: he doesn’t intend them to learn anything from being with him. Yet I think we also somehow like Hark, and care about his struggle. He is, fundamentally, good-hearted, as I think the book itself is.

All of these themes are explored in a fast-moving tale that has (I hope) a light touch to it.

What are your plans for future novels?

I’m working on two next novels at the same time, which isn’t very practical. One is more in the slipstream of Hark – a novel of the uncanny where a gay couple, one black, one white, & their young mixed-race son relocate from Brooklyn to an old house in upstate Maine. There creepy things start to happen. It’s got touches of King & Lovecraft to it, but is also inspired by black friends who’ve had psychotic episodes. It’s called Mother of Serpents. Then I’ve begun a satirical, semi-journalistic novel about chasing grants & funding in the arts in London, & how the Covid pandemic bursts into that world & turns everything upside down. It’s timely, but perhaps too painful to really dive into now – & of course can’t be finished until there’s some sense of an ‘after’ the pandemic. It’s called (after the Funkadelic track) Standing On The Verge Of Getting It On. Beyond those I want to write another historical novel set in slavery times, this time with a British-Caribbean setting: Hurricano. But that’ll require acres of research, as Drapetomania did, and much deep thought.

What inspires you to write?

On a broad note, to mark and celebrate the lives of – often underclass and otherwise marginal – Black gay men; & to treat those lives with the same degree of literary seriousness (insofar as I have the ability) as cisthet white middle-class lives are treated. Otherwise each novel has its own unique key – an image, a phrase, a concept. I wrote my antebellum epic Drapetomania because I was haunted by the image of an enslaved Black man at the boundary fence of a plantation by moonlight, about to (attempt to) run to freedom. Faggamuffin had two keys – the particular vitriolic homophobia in Jamaica then (& not a huge amount’s changed since, alas); & the idea of a man so closeted he would rather go to jail for rape (of a woman) than alibi himself by coming out as gay. Souljah was inspired by the images of teenage boy soldiers waving AK-47s at roadblocks in Liberia while wearing looted wigs and wedding dresses during the civil war there, & thoughts I had about the collapse of social norms and resultant fluidity of identity. In a sense Souljah became a tale about faith: Stanlake, the protagonist’s traditional African spirit beliefs (I find inspiration in Vodoun & related belief systems); his mother Poppy’s staunch Christianity (distorted by her encounters with a corrupt Nigerian preacher); and the militant nihilistic atheism of the youths who threaten him and his mother.

More recently I’ve thought more consciously about the power and pleasure of doing things with words. Each novel must have a voice, and must (in a readable way) experiment with doing something different with language and register. Drapetomania had to have an African-Americanness of prose rhythm and at points idiom, as well as portray a recognizably C19th idiolect (derived from slave narratives & also novels such as Huckleberry Finn) – while still being legible to the modern reader. So now I feel quite consciously that each book should be a kind of new landscape of words, and express a new form of consciousness.

What do you enjoy about publishing, and what do you struggle with?

Seeing the book become a physical artifact – hopefully with a wonderful cover – is an incredible feeling, & allows you to say both ‘my work is finished’ & ‘other people can see & hopefully be moved by this work now.’ Then of course promotion is a struggle. Like most writers, I would think, I’m quite personally diffident, so find it difficult to bang on about my work. Other people saying you’re a genius is wonderful; saying it about yourself means you likely have a personality disorder.

As an editor, the real achievement is to fall sufficiently in sync with an author and his/her style to be able to offer thoughts & adjustments that seem to them to have come out of their own head. To me that’s an aspect of the function of writer as spirit medium, channeling other voices.

What has been your greatest struggle writing, and how would you inspire other writers to overcome it?

I write about very uncommercial subjects, though I think I write accessibly, so getting my work published & noticed is difficult – tho the new technology means lots of smaller presses have sprung up (Team Angelica, turns out to have been an early adopter of those possibilities). There’s a liberation in being realistic – I mean, I don’t expect Hark to outsell Harry Potter, and if I don’t earn much from it that’s okay, however tempting it is to look at outliers like Fifty Shades of Grey as somehow replicable.

In terms of the actual writing, I think the tough thing is to start, keep on going, finish & then rewrite till you’re totally sick of it – then rewrite one more time. Then stop. You’ve done the best your talent & wisdom allow. There is no perfect. Then try and get it out there. In the meantime try to start something else, so if any given book does get taken up, what you do next doesn’t depend on its reception. Ralph Ellison was essentially paralyzed by Invisible Man’s becoming ‘the best (US) novel since WWII’ for sixty years.

I very much write alone, and consider my novels that free space where I can express what matters to me, without interruption or comment from, or judgement by, others. So I only have people – & then only a few trusted readers – read a book when it’s basically done. I’m able to self-edit, which most writers seem unable to do – I can ‘slay my darlings’ as I think Orwell put it, and take a detached view of my own prose – the more so with greater experience, of course. Probably my TV and film writing has made me more pragmatic and less sentimental about my own work than someone who only wrote literary prose would be. However, I know many people find writers’ groups and the like valuable in creating a sense of community for those whose work is solitary – though I would find the risk of self-censorship and need for – or at least temptation to seek – group approval off-putting.

For myself I try and keep in rapport with writers who inspire me, both through their prose and through reading interviews, letters and biographies. Ralph Ellison bitching to Chester Himes about Richard Wright reminds one that, though yes, they were geniuses, they were people too: they were not Olympian and so categorically beyond anything you or I could attempt to do. Keeping in rapport with one’s literary forebears – the ancestors in the temple – is also a reminder of the importance of fiction as myth-building, as sacred quest, and of writers as bearers of a particularly valuable flame of human truth and spirit. We all need ways to tell ourselves that what we do, all alone and perhaps not feeling in any way valued or validated, is nonetheless important to humanity, and that’s my way of doings so. In African cosmology the ancestors are seen as constantly present to the living, and I find that a heartening creative worldview.

If I were offering one line of practical advice, I would say: whenever you come to a narrative difficulty of any sort whatsoever, ask yourself always, ‘What would really happen in this situation/at this moment?’ and write that. If something feels true to life, the reader will keep on reading.

How can we purchase your book?

If you’re in London, there are (should still be) signed copies in legendary indie bookstore Gay’s the Word, in Marchmont Street, in Bloomsbury. It’s orderable through Barnes & Noble and Waterstones and other chains. And worldwide, of course, there’s Amazon.

Author Interview: K.J. Brookes

Harry Potter defined the genre of magical boarding schools for generations to come, instilling a love of reading into young minds and cementing a lasting love in the hearts of Millennials. Because of this, it’s hard for an author to dip their toes in the boarding school genre in fantasy without being compared to and measured against Rowling and the beast of a story she created.

But with Tom Woolberson and the School for Watchers, rather than attempt to recreate the success of a brand that’s still active, K.J. Brookes approaches a magical boarding school from a completely different direction.

For one, the main character is already dead. 

I also don’t remember Hogwarts being set in Heaven.

With such an unusual premise, and with the backing of SRL Publishing (who I’ve already had good reading experiences with, see my Cherrington Academy review) I had to read it for myself. I was also lucky enough to snag some time from the author to chat about the series, his writing inspirations, and get the low-down on future releases.

(You can also read my review of Tom Woolberson and the School for Watchers here.)

Tell us a bit about yourself:

I’m 34 and I live in Perth with my Wife and our dog, George. When I’m not working I like to read and watch television. Right now I’m reading A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway and watching The Haunting of Bly Manor on Netflix.

Tell us about your novel/series:

The Tom Woolberson series is about a fifteen-year-old boy who’s killed when a passenger plane crashes into his house. Now good and dead, he finds himself at St Michael’s School for Watchers (a school run by angels for the descendants of Michael).

What is your favourite novel and has it inspired you to write? How?

My favourite novel is IT by Stephen King. It was in fact this novel which inspired me to write in the first place and you will find references to IT in my novel, Tom Woolberson. It was Stephen King’s profound sense of place that captured me and inspired me to create my own world and build my own characters in it.

What are some key takeaways you’re hoping readers take from the book?

In Tom Woolberson there’s a lot of learning (biblical, historical or otherwise). I’m hoping that whoever reads my novel might learn a thing or two and remember where they first learned it.

With a book focused on learning, what sort of research was involved in your process, and was that something you enjoyed or dreaded?

A lot of it was stuff I’d picked up over the years, but the biblical stuff, I’m not ashamed to say, I researched diligently on the internet. I’ve never really been a super religious person but I found it interesting researching biblical passages and people/beings featured in the bible to form the basis for my characters. The book also teaches about history as there’s some notable people from the past, as professors at the school.

What is different about your novel?

While there’s been books about boarding schools before (the most obvious being Harry Potter), I don’t think there’s ever been one set in Heaven.

 What are your plans for future novels?

I want to write a 2nd and 3rd Tom Woolberson book. I also plan to write more in other genres as well. One of my favourite genres to write in is the thriller genre. My new book, Little Dark One, will be released next year.

Is there anything more you can tell us about your new book, Little Dark One?

I’d say it’s the polar opposite of Tom Woolberson and I definitely wouldn’t recommend it to the same reader base. It’s dark, bleak and a little untoward, exploring topics some people might find offensive. It’s being published, again with SRL, summer 2021.

What is it about thrillers that makes you enjoy writing them so much?

Real life is a lot easier to write than fantasy because I’ve lived it. With fantasy you don’t just have to create the characters but also the world that they live in and the rules that govern that world, and that was the case with Tom Woolberson. Thrillers, on the other hand, are quick and exciting and that’s exactly how I like to write them.

What inspires you to write?

Good books and good movies.

What do you enjoy about publishing? And what do you struggle with?

The part I enjoy most about publishing is working with artists and the publisher to create the image for the front cover. The part I struggle with is proofreading (so many typos!)

What has been your greatest struggle writing and how would you inspire others to overcome it?

My greatest struggle is lack of inspiration. When I’m inspired I can write for hours, even days on end. When the inspiration runs out so does the writing. To overcome this, I put away the laptop and pick up a book. I would encourage others to do the same.

You mention reading as a cure for inspiration blocks. Are there certain books or genres that you find particularly helpful?

Lately I’ve found myself turning to the classics for inspiration: Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Salinger and Shirley Jackson to name a few. When an author has defined their own style and it comes across in their writing I find that inspirational. It’s not always about the story for me but more about their choice of words and how they structure sentences. I know that sounds boring but I’m always on the lookout for the perfect sentence and I tend to come across it much more in the classics than I do in modern literature. Some of the books topping bestsellers lists these days I find too formulaic and contrived without any real skill or heart.

How can we purchase your book?

You can find Tom Woolberson on Amazon, Waterstones and Barnes and Noble.

Author Interview: Rory Michaelson

There’s something about average that scares us. We try everything and anything to be considered above it, when most of us will spend our lives at average, just above, or just below.

It’s for this reason that I found the premise of Lesser Known Monsters so intriguing—a world where being the chosen one isn’t a good thing to begin with, and on top of that, the chosen one is as un-exciting as… well, myself.

It takes guts to eschew time-old traditions of heroes, anti-heroes and all form of the ‘above’ or ‘below’ to choose the middle ground as the place to set your sights for a character, so I was excited to talk to Rory Michaelson about their debut novel and about their future writing goals.

(If you haven’t yet, you can also read my full review of Lesser Known Monsters here.)

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m pretty socially awkward and introverted, some people might think I’m quiet, but most of the time I’m just not sure what I’m supposed to say. I grew up in a small village with a profound lack of diversity. I love taking that first sip of coffee of the day. I usually prefer salty snacks over sweet but will murder any cookie. I prefer silence to sound but will settle for music if quiet can’t be found. Sometimes I make things rhyme by accident. I’m scared of spiders, moths, and the slow march toward my inevitable and disappointing death. This is getting weird, let’s do another question.

 

Tell us about your novel.

Lesser Known Monsters is about Oscar, who is spectacularly average at best. He is dragged into the scaly underbelly of London, which he discovers is full of strange and mysterious monsters. It seems that Oscars life is in danger, and his fate is somehow linked to that of the world. Lucky for him, Oscars friends are braver and smarter than him, and at least one particularly handsome monster seems keen to help. Lesser Known Monsters is a contemporary own voices Queer Dark Fantasy, paranormal m/m romance, and above all the story of a strong and diverse found family coming together to save each other, and the world.

 

What is your favorite novel, and has it inspired how you write? How?

Has anyone ever just answered with one book? Can you imagine?!

Like many fantasy fans, I grew up all Jordan, Pullman, and Tolkien. It’s a funny thing, being captured by worlds but utterly failing to find any trace of your identity within them. It wasn’t until I read the Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb that I began to find more relatable characters. That was when I became a voracious reader. Now I chew through tonnes of indie and mainstream books. They’re not all queer, but lots are (and why not, it’s about time!). VE Schwab (Shades of Magic), Fonda Lee (The Greenbone Saga), and Leigh Bardugo (The Six of Crows duology) are incredible authors with brilliant world building, diverse characters, and a sense of fun that has really shaped the kind of stories I want to both read and tell. From an indie perspective, Halo Scot’s debut (Edge of the Beach) really broke the mold and challenged so many conventions it was utterly inspiring. Dean Cole released a beautiful and haunting story this year that I loved (Chasing Ghosts), and Ash Knight managed to pull me into the romance world with her brilliant debut (Stay). Something all these authors have in common is that they focus on their characters first, reading them is really teaching me a lot about digging into my own characters.

 

What are some key takeaways you’re hoping readers get from your book?

Life is scary and overwhelming, and it’s okay to need help or let people know you are just doing your best to hold on when things are hard. Using your voice and saying what it is you want is sometimes the only power you have but can also be the most powerful thing to do. There’s a lot more things I want people to get out of it, mostly just having fun, but I won’t say anymore because if I retain a little mystery and anyone tells me they got some significant message I didn’t realize, I can nod sagely and pretend it was entirely intentional.

 

What is different about your novel?

Writing a main character who isn’t a hero feels refreshing. Oscar and his friends’ journey is messy and fantastical, but punctuated with familiar issues like doubt, and betrayal of trust. Although most of the characters are queer, that queerness isn’t an obstacle or conflict for them in the story. It may be an obstacle for others, but every character enters the story fully realized and embracing their identity. Writing a new adult story with queer characters sometimes really feels like young adult story, because there are generations of us a decade behind because the world isn’t geared toward us, and the literary world is no exception. So many of us grew up completely unrepresented in the stories that we loved, and I was starving for it. I really wanted to write for that very specific version of myself, and portray a time when we are really coming into our own and there’s that kind of flailing vulnerability, but with a supernatural edge.

 

You describe your main character, Oscar, as not a hero. What made you want to write a main character that was ‘average’?

I wanted to make Oscar profoundly human; that way, when I drop him into a world of terrible and powerful monsters it really gives me an opportunity to explore how it changes him. Having a main character who is vulnerable, anxious, cowardly, and indecisive really let me give him room to grow. It was also interesting to see how his presence impacted and changed ancient and powerful monsters, and maybe get them to show some vulnerability too. Lesser Known Monsters is about Oscar’s growth as a person as much as it is things that go bump in the night, and I’m hoping really that it’s that grounded journey that helps people invest and relate to the story.

 

What are your plans for future novels?

A first draft for a sequel to Lesser Known Monsters aggressively tore its way out of me at the beginning of summer. Literally just used my body to unravel itself in a few days. I’m still resting it now, considering where things would go from there. Other than that, I’m sitting on a story about steampunk sky pirates with superpowers that I’m dying to get out of my system.

 

What inspires you to write?

Writing is a superpower; it doesn’t matter how objectively good at it you are. It gives us the ability to time travel, and create worlds and people that feel real. We can unpick real events and fragment things that might have subconsciously confounded us for decades. For me, writing is a kind of therapy. Inside my head is a very loud place, and sometimes when I’m writing, all of the distractions and errant thoughts slide into place and point in the same direction, if only for a moment. Is that what euphoria is?

 

You describe your writing almost as a kind of therapy. This seems to be a common thread for many of the authors I’ve interviewed—and myself included. What kind of advice would you give to someone who’s struggling that may want to try writing as a way to process their emotions?

I find the creative process very nourishing and it’s not really something that I get access to anywhere else in my life. When you’re letting thoughts and ideas flow out of you I think it’s only natural to unearth darker things too. You can start to pull threads that unravel things that are difficult to handle, so it’s important to  have support systems in place. When we start writing we don’t want to share anything with anyone, but once those floodgates have been opened suddenly we feel strangely obliged to share everything. Writing with honesty can be visceral and cathartic, but you don’t need to share everything in its raw form — or even at all. You might want to break things up to use in your work, keep them private, or get rid of them altogether. Some words are written to be destroyed.

 

What do you enjoy about publishing, and what do you struggle with?

Writing a draft is probably my favourite thing. It’s raw and primal, and you can get that really lust drunk feeling for the story that is coming out of you. I struggle with pretty much everything else. Editing, particularly, does not come naturally to me due to issues with my attention span and focus. Since finishing Lesser Known Monsters, navigating promotions and distribution has also been tricky. I’ve been very fortunate to have an excellent support network, and fantastic editor (Charlie Knight).

 

I won’t ask where you get your ideas from (unless you want to answer that!) but you mention that the drafting process is your favorite part of writing. Do you plan out your story in advance (plotter) or figure things out as you go (discovery writer)?

I wish I could tell you where I got my ideas from because that might help me chase them. Strangely, Lesser Known Monsters started with the title just popping into my head, and I reverse engineered the story backward from there. When I first started writing, I over-planned. I had spreadsheets mapping every part of the story. The problem with that was that by the time I had planned so thoroughly I had told myself the story already, making it difficult for myself to find the motivation to actually write the draft. Now I tend to outline major points and discovery write in-between. Usually scenes play out in my head like movies whilst I’m doing mundane things. The most important stage for me is resting that first draft, as it gives time for me to season it with cool scenes and fun dialogue that I didn’t think of on the first pass, and get all the foreshadowing in place.

 

What has been your greatest struggle writing, and how would you inspire other writers to overcome it?

Myself. The expectations, and limitations I set for myself. The impact that I let my perception of other people’s opinions have over my pursuit of storytelling. I remember writing a little when I was a teenager, and I was quickly overwhelmed by those “who would ever read what you have to say?” feelings. It took me until I was in my thirties to learn to ignore my own bullshit and just let the stories inside me come out. I had to embrace that writing those stories for myself was still valid and important, and soon after that I realized that telling those stories for myself was precisely what made them special. Don’t ever let self-doubt be the reason you aren’t doing something you want to do.

 

How can we purchase your book

Lesser Known Monsters will be released on Halloween and is available from Amazon. For people living in the UK, if you are interested in a signed addition feel free to contact me directly via Twitter. Special pre-order promotions will be available, check for details on my website rorymichaelson.com!

Author Interview: Nick Askew

There are a lot of fantasy writers in the world, a lot of them untapped talent that are trying to make their mark in a publishing industry where being an outlier isn’t always to your advantage. There’s a lot of pressure to recreate a success story that came before you while simultaneously not having too risky of a premise. It would have been easy for Nick Askew to tread the same footsteps before him without placing his own mark along the way.

I for one am thankful he hasn’t succumbed to the pressure to abandon his niche. Askew’s fiction is as unfamiliar as it is iconic, a mix of fantasy, science fiction, and horror that is unique to his own stylistic choices. Reading Ensoulment left my mind reeling with the twists and turns, and left me counting down the days for the sequel. You can read my review of the book here, but suffice to say, it’s a wild ride.

I was fortunate that Askew took the time to speak with me about his history and future work. Spoiler alert, there’s more to come from his trilogy, and soon, but in the meantime, here’s a lowdown of what to expect in the future from this trailblazer.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Nick Askew and I grew up in Colorado. I attended the University of Colorado where I earned a bachelor’s degree in Journalism. I worked in related fields, as well as many other odd jobs before discovering my true passion for creative writing.

Tell us about your novel.

My novel is an epic fantasy that takes place in another world after my main character, Andrew, dies in ours. There he has to set out on a quest to find the other half of his soul, all while trying to reunite a princess with her lost prince. To Andrew, it all seems like a familiar fairy tale, but he soon learns that nothing is as it seems and there are dark forces that are working against him to destroy reality itself.

What is your favorite novel, and has it inspired how you write? How?

My favorite novel is The Fires of Heaven, but the whole Wheel of Time series is my favorite as a whole. It inspired me in so many ways but I loved how he told the story through many different POV’s. It taught me that to have a well-rounded story you have to show it through many different eyes and that even the most insignificant appearing character has a role and a story to be told.

You mention you love the Wheel of Time series because it showcases multiple POVs. Can we expect the same from Ensoulment? If so, what were some of the challenges and advantages of working with multiple POVs?

Yes Ensoulment is being told from several different points of view. The biggest challenge that I encountered in telling my story this way is finding each characters unique voice. I wanted to make sure that each one was distinct and that they stood out from one another, so that just by hearing their voice the reader would easily be able to tell whose POV that chapter was from. 

What are some key takeaways you’re hoping readers get from your book?

My novel is filled with many different characters, many who happen to belong to the LGBTQ community. I am hoping that readers will be able to see themselves in any of the characters and will come to realize that we are all just people. That we all love, and are sad, and have joy and happiness and that deep down, despite our differences, we are all the same. 

What is different about your novel?

My novel is different in that it is a genre-bending trip that contains many surprises.  On the surface it is a fantasy epic, but it also contains many elements of sci-fi, horror, and romance as well as many twist and turns that I think will catch many readers by surprise.

What are your plans for future novels?

Currently I am working on editing the second book in the Ensoulment Trilogy and about to start writing the third.  The first one comes out on September 28, and I plan on releasing the second at the end of October and the third at the end of November.

What inspires you to write?

I am inspired to write because I want to be a positive voice in the world. Right now there are so many negative things happening and it is such a trying time for everyone. I want to create something in the world that brings joy and happiness to people, and ultimately I want readers to realize that there is more that unites us as people than divides us.

What do you enjoy about publishing, and what do you struggle with?

I love being able to publish books at my own pace, which can pretty much streamline that process and make it go much faster. On the flip side, the part that I struggle with the most is marketing and advertising. I am naturally a pretty introverted person, so for me to advertise both myself and my book has really been a struggle, though I am making quite the effort on Twitter and other social media platforms.

You mention you enjoy how streamlined self-publishing is but struggle with the promotion. Do you see yourself trying traditional publishing in the future?

I think at some point in the future I would like to try the traditional publishing route. I think a lot of factors would have to line up, and I know that finding an agent can be a difficult task, but it’s definitely something I would be interested in some day. 

What has been your greatest struggle writing, and how would you inspire other writers to overcome it?

My greatest struggle has been focusing. Right now the world is in such a terrible place and with everything going on, it is often hard to keep my focus on the creative aspects of my life. I hope to inspire people and show them that despite how destructive things feel right now, that you can create something beautiful and put something joyful out into the world.

You mention that because of the current world situation you’ve had trouble focusing. Is there anything you’ve found helpful that you can share with fellow writers or readers that may be struggling too?

As far as keeping focus during the current environment my advice to other writers would be to just keep your head down as much as possible and just focus on writing, writing and more writing! 

How can we purchase your book?

My book is available for pre-order in ebook format right now on Amazon exclusively.  It will also be available in paperback format on Amazon on my release date of September 28, 2020.

Author Interview: Kathleen Sullivan

There are some parts of life that are unavoidable. To love is to someday lose, as Kathleen Sullivan had to learn the hard way early on. Grief and Self-Care is her offering to loss, a guidebook to self-compassion during one of the hardest experiences we will ever go through as human beings. While Sullivan herself recognizes that the book can’t make the pain go away (nor should it), it can make the time and process gentler on the griever. 

A short book that is strategic in its brevity for the scattered minds of grievers, this book is an important one that shouldn’t be overlooked from your library. But to fully understand why, it’s important to dig deeper into its history.

Thank you to Kathleen Sullivan for ‘sitting down’ with me to chat about her book, her future publications, and the history around this little gem that I’m certain will go on to change lives.

(If you haven’t yet, you can check out my book review of Grief and Self-Care.)

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am originally from Boston, MA. I moved to Pittsburgh, PA a year after my father died in hopes of getting back into the swing of a “normal” life again. As a 28-year-old, I have experienced more grief than the average person does in their lifetime. Instead of letting the depression run my life, I decided to take everything I know & continue to learn to help others through their grief and loss.

Tell us about your book, Grief & Self Care.

Grief & Self Care shares my personal story of loss as well as several proven self-care techniques that can make your journey through grief a little less difficult. I wrote this book because when I was going through the height of my grief after my dad died, I realized there wasn’t much information out there about how to care for yourself through grief. So I put some information out there in hopes that it will make someone else’s journey a little less difficult. It covers topics like journaling, pets, professional help, and even has a section about what not to say to someone who is grieving. 

What is your favorite book, and has it inspired how you write? How?

My favorite book is Suicidal by Jesse Bering. This book is about why we kill ourselves. It is a tough read but I highly recommend it. It is brutally honest, eye-opening, and informative. This book has inspired me to always continue to put information out there that answers questions and helps the people who need answers. It also inspires me to write about the taboo because although it may be taboo for one person, someone else may be desperately needing the information you possess. 

What are some key takeaways you’re hoping readers get from your book?

The main take-away I want readers to get from my book is that it is okay to slow down and take care of yourself. Take all the time YOU need to grieve, not what your company policy says and not what someone else has told you. Grief is unique to everyone, put yourself first. 

I have unfortunately experienced my own grief journey in relation to my late wife, and one of the things that was always explained in grief counseling despite it’s debate are the five stages of grief as noted by Kubler-Ross. Do you have your own opinions formed on those stages, or other described stages (as there are many alternate theories)?

This is such a great question. Not known to too many people, there are actually six stages denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance, and meaning. I certainly believe that every grieving individual goes through these feelings and emotions but I am not a fan of the word stages. It insinuates that you have to go through them in sequential order and then people start to overthink why they aren’t at a different stage yet. I look at the “stages” as a guide, a person can expect to experience these six things but could possibly only experience a few of them.

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross was spot on that an individual goes through these feelings however, I think it could have been better described and shown that it varies per person, etc. I personally was struck with anger first, never really touched bargaining, then hit denial and meaning, and then once I found meaning is when I started to accept my father’s loss.

What is different about your book?

Grief and Self-Care is different based on the basis behind the book. It is based solely on self-care techniques to make it through the grieving process naturally. Never once does it suggest medication as a route, as I personally do not find the benefit of medications. The source of succeeding is empowerment and personal strength which is more powerful than any medication out there.

In her book Resilient Grieving by Lucy Hone, she describes the ‘grief reaction’ versus the ‘grief response.’ The reaction being how you react to the grief (sorrow, sadness, depression) and the response being at a later date where you decide what to do with your grief moving forward. How do you feel about this explanation, and how do you think self-care ties into how we can move forward with grief?

I think that Lucky Hone was spot on with her explanation. Self-care is crucial to the grief reaction as well as the grief response in its own way. When the reaction first smacks you in the face, it is imperative that you take a step back from your “normal” life and take the time to process the loss. An example of not doing this would be when someone decides to “throw themselves into work”. That is the opposite of self-care and you are just ignoring the loss. With the grief response, putting self-care at the top of your list of things to do can really make a difference in how the grief affects your life after the loss. Meaning, when you finally go back to work, you can actually focus on your work and get the job done without being heavily distracted.

What are your plans for future books?

I wrote a grief journal that includes writing prompts a couple of weeks after the release of Grief & Self Care. I plan to continue writing about grief in hopes to spread awareness and teach others that it is okay to let yourself feel whatever feelings surround their grief.

What inspires you to write?

My love for helping others is what inspires me to write. I am also an aunt to two beautiful kids back home in Boston and I want them to learn to grow up in a world that is a little bit kinder than the one we live in now. I grew up in a family that values philanthropy & that is a large part of who I am today. I live to help make other peoples lives a little bit easier.

What do you enjoy about publishing, and what do you struggle with?

The most enjoyable thing about publishing is seeing my work actually help people. Even if it is constructive criticism I value it immensely. The biggest struggle with publishing my book is marketing it, however I have touched into my creative side a little bit more and have some exciting things up my sleeve to try.

What has been your greatest struggle writing, and how would you inspire other writers to overcome it?

Grief is a large topic, there are thousands of different things you can talk about when it comes to grief. My greatest struggle writing is narrowing it down and making my books short enough that it isn’t a struggle to read. In today’s society people are always on the move and moving at faster speeds than ever before, the last thing I want is someone to not purchase my book because it is too long for them to read, they don’t have enough “time”. So I do my best to organize my thoughts and leave the “filler” out. I would rather have a bunch of shorter books highly concentrated on the specific topic than a large book that has a lot of “stuff” in it. In order to overcome this, I suggest a lot of organizing, brainstorming and outlining throughout the whole writing process.

How can we purchase your book?

You can purchase Grief and Self-Care on Amazon. It is available in paperback and kindle.

 

Author Interview: Shaun Holt

Keeping Creed caught me off guard. A novel as much about family connection as it is about an action hero and romance, it’s a wonderful combination of light and serious that you can’t help but get immersed in.

Having interviewed him, I can see how his down to earth attitude and authenticity make a writer that speaks to readers and makes for an entertaining story—and honestly, don’t we all need that in our lives?

(If you haven’t yet, you can check out my book review of Keeping Creed.)

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m a writer, reader, gamer, YouTube browser, and spend most of my free time having one-sided conversations with my pet parakeet, Snowflake. I enjoy road trips, but lately that’s mostly been weekend trips to Vegas, where I catch some shows and gamble about $30 on the roulette tables.

Tell us about your novel, Keeping Creed.

Keeping Creed was my attempt to write a book about an action hero that female readers might enjoy reading. Rather than focusing on his job in counter-terrorism, the attention is on his family, and relationships. The book started due to my inability to make the plot of a Trevor Knight book work, so I began to think maybe this book isn’t meant to be a Trevor Knight novel. That got me started on creating this character, Samuel Creed. Many characters in the series have become my favorites since then, and there’s a lot planned for them.

What is your favorite novel, and has it inspired how you write? How?

Well my personal favorite book is “The City of Dreaming Books” by Walter Moers, a brilliant German writer and illustrator. I think it’s the greatest thing ever written in the history of humanity, and that’s not an exaggeration. As for the book that had the most influence on me, that would probably be “Atlantis Found” by Clive Cussler. I didn’t get into reading until high school, when I was apparently no longer able to fake it in book reports, so I picked up “Atlantis Found” from the library, almost at random. I fell in love with the Dirk Pitt books, read all of them within a year, and that strongly influenced my writing. The Trevor Knight series in particular is a tribute to Cussler’s novels.

What are some key takeaways you’re hoping readers get from your books? 

The main thing for commercial fiction is that it should be entertaining, so that’s my main goal. It doesn’t matter whether readers are happy, sad, mad, whatever, so long as they have a reaction. I don’t really write anything to make readers laugh or cry, because I’m not sure what’s funny, in fact my humor seems to be really hit-or-miss to people. If I enjoy it, I keep it; I write novels that I would enjoy reading.

What is different about your novels?

I think the biggest thing is that I don’t take books too seriously. I like to have fun with them and have fun with readers, so hopefully that bleeds out onto the page. A lot of the humor in my books is very tongue-in-cheek, some of it may be obvious, other parts more subtle, but I definitely like to play around in my writing.

What are your plans for future novels?

“Keeping Strong”, the second book in the Samuel Creed series, is closest to publication, maybe a year away. I’m wrestling with “Ottoman Destiny”, which will be the fourth book in the Trevor Knight series. After that, I might go off to do an all-new romance novel set in Savannah, Georgia, then it’s likely back to the Trevor Knight and Samuel Creed series.

What inspires you to write?

My dream to be a published author began in fourth grade, but it took about twenty years to fulfill that dream. Really the biggest thing that keeps me going is enjoying the characters I’ve created, wanting to find out what happens next with them, and also enjoying going to new places, trying out different genres, and developing as a writer.

What do you enjoy about publishing, and what do you struggle with?

Brainstorming and plotting novels are pretty fun times, the first pen to paper (or fingers to keys) are thrilling as well, but then it can be a grind. I’ve found the first two drafts of novels tend to be the most difficult, because there’s really three books there – the book you meant to write, the book you actually wrote, and the book you should write. It can be aggravating trying to figure out which way to go with it, and it’s not always clear if you’re heading in the right direction or not. Once the writing part is more or less done, I love, love, love editing, which seems to make me an anomaly among writers, who often say they hate editing. To me, that’s where you really start to make a novel shine. But the absolute best moment is holding your published novel for the first time. It makes all the months of work feel worth it.

What has been your greatest struggle writing, and how would you inspire other writers to overcome it?

The biggest struggle for me is procrastination. I don’t think it’s motivation or writer’s block, so much, because I typically know what I want to write, but it’s difficult to actually start, to put in the hours, when I’d rather just take a nap, watch a movie, or play a video game (or oh yes, check twitter, the greatest siren of them all). We live in a golden age of distractions. I don’t have any words of wisdom on how to overcome it, because I haven’t found a way myself. Baby steps is all I’d say. If all you can do is write four hundred words a week, at least that’s something. Keep doing it, and one of these weeks you’ll write a few thousand words, and then maybe you’ll get on a roll. 

How can we purchase your books?

The easiest way is to go to amazon.com/author/shaunholt

There is another Shaun Holt who has published books on Amazon, a doctor of some kind I think, I’d like to meet him one day, maybe he’s an evil clone of me (or maybe I’m the evil clone). Either way, so long as one of us sells books, we’re living the dream.