Inlandia Literary Journeys: Interview (VIDEO)

Inlandia Literary Journeys is a video series produced by the Inlandia Institute and The Press-Enterprise. Watch the interview below, then go a little bit below-er and read how it came about.

HIGHLIGHTS:

@ 3:29 I discuss independent publishing

@7:40 I discuss the genesis of Inside the Outside

@ 14:49 I read Chapter 18 of Inside the Outside: "The Inland Empire"

In 2006, Heyday Books of Berkeley published Inlandia: a Literary Journey Through California’s Inland Empire, which is a wonderful anthology that showcases poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and other literature about the Inland Empire. I picked up a copy of the book in 2007, while I was working on the first draft of Inside the Outside. As a lifelong resident of the Inland Empire, I was overwhelmed and inspired by the rich literary history of the community. I decided that I also wanted to contribute to the history of Inland Empire literature, so I wrote "Inland Empire," which became Chapter 18 of Inside the Outside.

I had no publishing deal in place and wasn't sure if Inside the Outside would ever see the light of day. I liked to imagine, however, that not only would my book one day be published, but the folks behind Inlandia would discover my love letter to the Inland Empire inside of it.

In 2007, the Riverside Public Library and Heyday Books worked together to create the Inlandia Institute, as an offshoot of Inlandia's success. The Inlandia Institute endeavors to recognize, support, and expand literary activity in the Inland Empire with the goal of deepening people’s awareness, understanding, and appreciation of this unique, complex and creatively vibrant area. They envision "an inclusive and collaborative enterprise that promotes writers with a regional voice and that stimulates a greater awareness of the area’s diverse literary, artistic, and cultural heritage."

For the last two and a half years, since publishing Inside the Outside, I've worked very hard to ingrain myself within the literary community of the Inland Empire. A large part of that effort has always been fueled by the initial inspiration I got from Inlandia, so I was thrilled when my friend and fellow author, James Brown, told me that Cati Porter of the Inlandia Institute asked him to put us in touch. Cati is an acclaimed Riverside poet and editor, as well as the Executive Director of the Inlandia Institute.

She told me they were planning a Self-Published Authors Faire and asked if I'd be the keynote speaker. I couldn't say yes fast enough. A few weeks after Cati and I spoke over the phone, we met in person for the first time at an author eventin September 2013 at the Norman F. Feldheym Central Library in San Bernardino. That was the last time we spoke, until about a week ago, when she sent me an email to update me on the progress of the Self-Published Authors Faire, as well as invite me to do an interview for Inlandia Literary Journeys.

So, on Tuesday morning, at around 10:30am, I arrived at The Press-Enterprise headquarters. I was about a half-hour early, so I sat in my car and read a couple of comic books (Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8 and Batman: The Court of Owls, if you're curious), until it was time to go inside. Soon thereafter, I found myself sitting down with Cati Porter, John Bender, and  Orlando Ramirez in the Inlandia Literary Journeys studio.

It was such a terrific honor and I look forward to collaborating with the Inlandia Institute for years to come.

10 Questions for… Jake Aurelian

Jake Aurelian is an award-winning author with several books under his belt, most recently Living Well is the Best Revenge: D.B. Cooper & The G-Heist Gang & The Missing Two Million and We Leave With Our Guns Out!: A Festival of Photography and Fiction. Since graduating from the University of Illinois in 2000, Jake has since taught English and media at the college level, while also penning over 500 articles on pop culture.

Jake's collection of gritty, quirky short fiction, Dead Wrestlers, Broken Necks & The Women Who Screwed Me Over: A Main Event of Photography and Fiction was a Finalist in the 2012 Next Generation Indie Book Awards; it was also the Runner-Up in the 2012 Hollywood Book Festival.

It was because of the Hollywood Book Festival (which I was also taking part in) that Jake and I came to know each other. Being that we both grew up enamored with profesional wrestling, we got along like a couple of kids at recess. Without further ado, here are 10 questions for Jake Aurelian...

1. What would you like readers to know about Living Well is the Best Revenge: D.B. Cooper & The G-Heist Gang & The Missing Two Million?

'Living Well is the Best Revenge' is crime fiction told in a true crime/non-fiction style—the story of five criminals, a daring armored car heist and the subsequent search for the missing, pilfered money. I consider 'Living Well is the Best Revenge' to be my personal masterpiece; it allowed me to utilize the first-person narration in a rare way, taking it to a new and unexpected level.

2. What would you like readers to know about We Leave With Our Guns Out!: A Festival of Photography and Fiction?

For those who read my first collection of short fiction, 'Dead Wrestlers, Broken Necks & The Women Who Screwed Me Over: A Main Event of Photography and Fiction,' I believe 'We Leave With Our Guns Out!' serves as a makeshift sequel of sorts; for those unfamiliar with my work, 'We Leave With Our Guns Out!' stands on its own as an eclectic collection of short fiction (horror, war, sci-fi, literary, bad romance and crime) with a gritty, raw, hard-edged narrative and biting humor.

3. Who are some writers that have affected your storytelling sensibilities?

It may seem strange, but I really don’t have any specific fiction authors who served as writing influences. I always wanted to be a writer and I always wanted to discover my voice independently without any outside influence, so, unless I was being forced to read literature for, say, a college class, I avoided reading fiction. I wanted my voice to be distinct, unique and my own, and even subconsciously, I didn’t want any author’s style or voice to play a part in establishing my own. That said, I’ve always been an avid reader of non-fiction—history (Hollywood, Civil War, Russian), biographies (esoteric figures in history), true crime (Black Dahlia, Jack the Ripper)—and, more than any specific one author, the overall non-fiction genre has most influenced my fiction writing.

4.  Professional wrestling tends to be a common theme in your fiction. Why is that?

Yes, pro wrestling, and pop culture in general, are common references in my work. Regarding pro wrestling, I think many of us who grew up in the 1980s and 90s certainly have, in some way or another, a soft spot for pro wrestling; there was an emotional connection between performer and viewer and something really special about that time period that hasn’t been duplicated. As a writer, I enjoy dropping pop culture references (be it pro wrestling or otherwise) into my texts. I believe such references make a connection with certain readers through the sharing of collective pasts.

5. What methods and strategies have you employed in order to promote both yourself as an author, as well as your books?

After writing and publishing a book, a new job begins—a beast called marketing, which has certainly been a learning experience for me. I reach out to local media, promote the books on my website, my Amazon author page, and the usual online tools, such as Facebook and GoodReads. I love the interaction with readers and receiving their feedback, and I am deeply touched and blessed with the support and positive feedback for my work.

6. Writing a book is such a complex exercise that I imagine no two authors do it exactly the same. Can you summarize your process for me?

I work in a meticulous fashion; when an idea is generated, I initially take a few notes and mill over the idea for weeks, sometimes months, before actually sitting down to write— and I write until completion. After a rough version of the story is finished, I always do extensive editing and re-writing (usually while working on additional pieces) before actually sending off to my editor. The writing process that occurred with  my novel 'Living Well is the Best Revenge' was quite different because, unlike spending a few days on a short story, it was a lengthy piece written in a long, 30-day burst of creativity wherein I did little but write.

7. What drove you to write your latest book Living Well is the Best Revenge?

I conceived 'Living Well is the Best Revenge' in March of 2012 (during a road trip to a book signing) and took sporadic notes with the idea of writing the story at some point in the future. I had firm direction for the beginning and end with everything in between pretty iffy (I didn’t even have a title!). 'Living Well is the Best Revenge' certainly exemplifies my aforementioned love of non-fiction, and it was an absolute joy to write. The somewhat clichéd phrase “It wrote itself” certainly applies. The events, the quotes, the characters—everything—just flowed and fell together as if I were relaying factual events versus creating fictional ones. I’ve never encountered a writing experience such as this. It was a special period of my life.

8. Where do you see your writing career five years from now?

I don’t want to be rich or famous, I have no real desire for either, but I would like, in five years (if not sooner) to have my work accepted on the mainstream level and produce a steady income. Someone recently asked me: “Do you have a benefactor?” They was surprised when my answer was no. I have been dedicating my life—working full-time—to fulfill this dream. I live meagerly, sacrifice a lot (personally and professionally) and struggle at times without having a benefactor and/or extravagant dollar advance from a major publisher. I do all my own marketing, I fund all costs associated with my books, and therefore, it takes a while to make a profit.

9. What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on an autobiography with a wrestling icon from the 1980s and 90s (who, for the purposes of privacy, I can't yet name). He's one of my childhood heroes, so this is unquestionably a dream come true and somewhat surreal. Helping this legendary performer  publish the story of his unique and amazing life will be a true honor, and if someone told me as a child that I’d eventually be working with this guy, I would’ve never believed it. Likewise, I’ve had a few additional offers for co-authoring wrestling autobiographies, and, while at this point, I have no idea if my involvement in any of these books will ever come to fruition, simply being considered is special. 

10. What advice would you give to an aspiring author who hopes to see their work published one day?

With a wide array of publishing tools currently available to aspiring authors, there is no better time for writers to pursue publishing. The stigma of self-publishing is gone, and there is most certainly a market for independent authors to find and build an audience. But, with that said, with so many others competing for attention along with the marketing, it’s not going to be easy. Take your product seriously and professionally, and stay strong during the frustrating times. If you have the love of the written word engrained in your soul, never surrender those dreams, despite the proverbial roadblocks. Never allow the criticism or negativity of others regarding your writing or chosen career path to dissuade you from pursuing what you love.

I’d like to thank Jake Aurelian for spending some time here on Inside Martin. If you’d like to learn more about Jake and his work, check out his website Pinfalls. You can also connect with Jake on Twitter and GoodReads. Buy Jake's books on Amazon:

10 Questions for... Emma Archer (NSFW)

Emma Archer is an erotica writer who is equal parts brilliant, hilarious, and filthy. She has also earned the honor of being the first interview on Inside Martin that requires a NSFW label. Normally, for those of you familiar with the "10 Questions for..." series, this is where I would give some background info on Emma and perhaps a synopsis of her career. But, seeing how this interview is already breaking new ground, I decided instead to share a letter directly from the author herself:

Dearest Reader/Masturbator:

I know how it is when you’re horny. Delving the deepest recesses of the Internet for that singular picture, video clip, or story that will bring you to your fall. The one-handed elation you feel upon finding that perfect gem of Onanistic joy. The heady moment of release, the Cheshire-cat grin of your afterglow. The inevitable WTF moment as you rush to hide all evidence of your perversion.

I’ve been there. Hand in my pants, fingers cramping, multiple tabs open, thanking Zuul for the gift of private browsing. And I, too, have finished my business only to look at my computer screen with a mix of satisfaction, contrition, and alarm. There are rough, dark neighborhoods in the cities of our sexual salaciousness; sometimes you walk the well-lit streets of simple fucking, sometimes… you need a guide.

I want to be that guide. Truth be told, I’ve fallen in lust with you, dear reader, with your private proclivities and hidden hankerings. Whatever your kink, as long as it’s between consenting adults, I am all in. I want to be the wanton wind beneath your wings, the fevered filth that floats your boat. When there’s only one set of footprints in the sand, I want it to be because I was riding your back, flogging your ardor like the beast that it is.

Sincerely,

E.A.

So, without further ado, here are 10 questions for Emma Archer...

1. What would you like readers to know about your writing?

I’ve always been fascinated by people's sex lives, I have a natural sexual empathy that tends to make me a bit of a chameleon in bed. I top, I bottom, I can be a blushing innocent, or wanton whore. Sex is my favorite thing. To do, to talk about, to write about. I love it, can't get enough of it. I was lucky to be raised without a lot of the shame surrounding sexuality, and whenever I've had a particular fantasy, I've done my best to make it a reality. I’m a carnal creator, in bed and on the page. Writing erotica means I finally get to put this dubious gift to work. I get to be part of the solution, I get to contribute to the complexity of human desire. I get to make you come, make you squirm.

2. Who are some writers that have affected your storytelling sensibilities? 

When I was ten years old, I bought a box of books from a yard sale for a quarter. It turned out to be full of erotic novels, many of them by VC Andrews. That was an educational summer; I read My Sweet Audrina fourteen times. That book had it all: spanking, masturbation, incest, rape, bondage, anal sex, gang bangs—it was fan-fucking-tastic.

I had an extremely sheltered childhood, very little television, no junk food, I wasn’t even allowed to leave our cul-de-sac to ride my bike. I was a total innocent. VC Andrews (and Anne Rice and Stephen King and Clive Barker and all the other authors I read way too young) awakened in me a life-long appetite for all things taboo.

I also read the book Jaws that same summer, from that same box of books. And there was this section where the main female character is not wearing underwear and she’s thinking about how wet her pussy is, and how much she wants Hooper to fuck her. I’ll never forget the moment when my mother walked in and saw me completely engrossed, turning pages with wide eyes and asked, “What’s that you’re reading?”

“A shark book,” I answered, and that was it. She just nodded and left the room. From then on, books became my secret world, my oasis. I really enjoy writing erotica for the Kindle because it makes me feel like I’m offering that same deliciously secret world to someone else. Hopefully they aren’t ten.

3. At this point in your career, you’ve focused on short stories. Do you have any plans to write a novel?

I’ve written two fiction novels, and they’re both crap. I say that with all the love a mother can have for her wayward children. They were learning experiences, and in all likelihood, I’ll go back and try to fix them someday. I like writing novels, I like world building, and I think I have a knack for interesting characters, but the simple immediacy of erotica really appeals to me right now.

4. What methods and strategies have you employed in order to promote both yourself as an author, as well stories?

I did my research before I started writing erotica. I figured out which genres were underrepresented, and how best to maximize my consumer base. In every story, I include a link to another story. I always write in different elements of kink, so that I get five customers instead of one.

Early on, I was reluctant to tell people my pen name. I was embarrassed, worried they'd think I was deranged. Then a friend of mine said to me (at a party where everyone was pestering me for a link to my “whore stories”), “What’s your intention with this erotica? Do you want to sell books?”

I had been writing fiction for five years at that point, and had made almost no money doing it. I told him I absolutely wanted to sell books.

He said, “There are at least twenty people here clamoring to buy your writing, and you are telling them ‘No.’” I realized he was right. I told everyone there my pen name, and several of them bought stories and proceeded to read them OUT LOUD at the party. It was my trial by fire. I came out, and I’ve stayed out. Now I tell everyone my pen name, and sell quite a few books.

5. Were you a fan of erotic literature before you started writing it?

I was, although I tend to be more of a visually stimulated person. I never liked romance novels, and tended to skip ahead to the sex, but erotica has always appealed to me. I love Anaïs Nin, and will read and re-read pretty much anything by her. And I like Song of Solomon, which is not exactly erotica, per se, but there's an appreciation in it for the human form, for love, for beauty, and adoration that has inspired me to write sex in a meaningful way.

6. As an erotica writer, do you find yourself drawing from real life experiences or are your stories mostly fantasy?

Okay, here’s where things get tricky. After reading one of my (Adult! Consensual!) pseudo-incest stories, I had a well-intentioned friend call me and say, “Did something happen to you as a child?”

No. It didn’t.

I am a fiction writer, I write fiction. Do I often draw upon a particularly promiscuous and sordid personal history when I write that fiction? You bet your sweet cherry, I do. I gave my first blowjob when I was thirteen (to a nice Mormon boy, no less), probably thanks in no small part to that box of yard sale smut. I hit the ground running, and it’s been all downhill from there.

Many of the things I write about, I’ve tried. I’ve been happily, erotically, non-monogamously married for over a decade, you don’t get that far without getting weird. Or, at least, we didn’t.

7. My “friend” is a big fan and owns all of your stories and he wanted me to ask you who the gal on your book covers is?

Yeah. That’s my bum. I didn't want to spend money on stock photos, so I've been just using myself as a model. If you think the covers look like amateur crap I do with my phone camera and MS Paint, well, that’s exactly right.

8. Where do you see your writing career five years from now?

I hope in five years, I’m supporting my family completely with porn, and that I’ve revised and published at least one non-smut book.

9. What are you currently working on?

I’m about halfway through the fourth story in my Juniper series, and I’m putting the final touches on a commissioned piece I’m doing for a nice Indian couple.

10. What advice would you give to an aspiring author who hopes to see their work published one day?

My advice: don't you dare be ashamed of wanting to be a writer. I know, it’s a little embarrassing. That’s the difficult thing about being an artist (if you'll allow me to abscond with the term for a moment), that feeling of mortification you have for wanting to share your talent with the world.

Get over it.

Write and write and write, and let people read what you wrote. If it sucks (and it will, oh, God, will it ever), write some more until sucks a little less. It took about four years of writing shit before I finally found my voice and started to feel like I had a right to put a pen to the page. Now, I spend my days coming up with synonyms for the word “wiener.” So, there ya go.

If you managed to read that whole interview without blushing, then good on you.  And, more importantly, you should probably be reading Emma's erotic fiction, so what're you waiting for?! Go to her Amazon Author page, where you can find all of her brilliant, literary filth. If you'd like to sample Emma in 140 characters or less, then follow her on Twitter. While you're at it, visit her hilarious blog,  Fearless, Motherfuckers. Leave her a comment and tell her Martin sent you.

10 Questions for... Paula Priamos

Paula Priamos was born and raised in Southern California, where she lives with her husband, James Brown, author of the acclaimed memoirs The Los Angeles Diaries and This River. After her parents divorced and her mother and siblings moved to the South, Priamos decided to stay with her larger-than-life Greek defense attorney father.

Her father's mysterious death propelled Priamos into an investigation of the shady deals and characters that led to his disbarment, which ultimately led her to write her debut memoir The Shyster's Daughter. It's a searing detective noir memoir that paints a vivid portrait of a Greek American family caught up in the scandal-obsessed, drug-addicted culture of California in the closing decades of the twentieth century.

So, without further ado, here are 10 questions for Paula Priamos.

1. What would you like readers to know about The Shyster’s Daughter?

I wrote The Shyster’s Daughter because I was haunted by the phone call my father placed to me the night before he died.  It was as if he knew something bad was going to happen to him.  The book investigates those last few hours of his life and it also became an investigation into his career as a criminal defense attorney.

I structured the book to read like a novel because I think memoirs get a bad rap for being bloated, expository and self-important.  That’s not the type of book I wanted to write.  I wanted my book to be entertaining, and I used fictional techniques like plot, setting and dialogue to make my story move.

2. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I was in the second grade when I decided to become a writer.  My teacher assigned us to keep a journal about day-to-day events and I asked permission if I could write a story about an orphaned girl who inherited her own 7-UP factory.  She had a ton of adventures in her factory like fighting off thieves trying to steal her secret formulas.  At the end of the year, my teacher ran off copies and gave them to the rest of the class for summer reading.

3. Who are some writers that have affected your storytelling sensibilities?

Hemingway has influenced me with his conciseness and rhythm. Jeanette Walls’ memoir The Glass Castle was inspirational because it’s not a victim’s story.  And, of course, my husband James Brown has always encouraged me to tell a story of consequence.

4. With regards to your own writing, what are the pros and cons of having a husband who is also an accomplished author?

A big pro to having an accomplished author for a spouse is that he understands the solitary struggles of a writer.  He gives me room to rant, to write and he also is a great reader of my work.  We are straight with each other about our writing in its rawest stages even if it isn’t something either of us wants to hear.

The con about having a writer for a husband is that I lived in his shadow for quite a while.  I’m younger, his former student, and it was hard getting people we both knew in the writing world to take me seriously.  Eventually, though, a lot of them were left with very little choice.  I wasn’t going away. I have my own stories to tell and I was going to be a writer whether I was married or single.  Once I started publishing in places like the New York Timesthe Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times Magazine the stigma of being an older author’s younger second wife wore off.

5. Writing a book is such a complex exercise that I imagine no two authors do it exactly the same. Can you summarize your process for me?

My process is hand writing first, starting off old school with a notebook and a pencil before coming to the computer.  I love to wake up early and write when the house is quiet and before the stresses and chaos of everyday living interrupt me.  But I write just about anywhere so I carry around a notebook with me at all times.

6. What drove you to write The Shyster’s Daughter?

The mysterious way my father died and the need to find out what happened to him are what initially drove me to write The Shyster’s Daughter. But it is also my story – what it was like growing up being raised by a successful Greek criminal defense attorney who had a conflicting set of morals.  There is also a lot of Greek culture and Greek curse words.  My father had a temper.  He was tough like the time I write in the book when he took on two burglars we caught coming out of our home one night.  He took a swing at one of them and chased both of them, who were half his age, into some bushes down the street where they hid like cowards.  But he was also one of the funniest people I’ve ever met.  I wanted to capture his character and how it’s shaped mine.

7. What methods and strategies have you employed in order to promote both yourself as an author, as well The Shyster’s Daughter?

I’m teaming up with a couple of different writers for reading events. I have a publicist who is active in getting the word out about my book and I myself do what I can to help spread the word using Facebook, my own website, as well as my own big mouth.

8. Where do you see your writing career five years from now?

I see myself as both a memoirist and novelist.

9. What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on a literary thriller about crimes of passion.

10 . What advice would you give to an aspiring author who hopes to see their work published one day?

Be open to revision.  Don’t become one of those writers who can’t take suggestions on improving your work.  Be confident in your writing.  Know when a work is finished.  It’s an exciting time in publishing where the Internet has opened the market for writers to either publish in New York or with independent literary presses who tend to take more risks, taking on less politically correct writing, and there is also self-publishing.  Nothing is black and white anymore.

And there you have it. I’d like to thank Paula Priamos for taking some time to hang out on Inside Martin. If you’d like to learn more about Priamos and her writing, you can visit her official website Paula Priamos: Opinionated Writer....

10 Questions for... Gianna Perada

Gianna Perada is a dark fiction writer who, before becoming a novelist, worked for several years as a copy editor and book layout designer for small publishing houses and independent authors.

Growing up in North Beach during the late-70s/early-80s, Gianna fell in love with writing at the precocious age of seven, when her mother bought her a diary  for Christmas. Gianna used her diary to pen short stories with dark undertones, influenced by two of her favorite TV shows, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour and The Twilight Zone, as well as her favorite author, Edgar Allen Poe.

I had the good fortune of meeting Gianna in May of 2012 at the awards ceremony for the San Francisco Book Festival, where her debut novel, Blood Life, was being honored. We got along like old pals, talking about writing and publishing and vampires, among other things. We've stayed in contact since the ceremony in San Francisco and I'm very pleased to consider her both a friend and ally.  So, without further ado, here are 10 questions Gianna Perada.

1. What would you like readers to know about Blood Life?

Originally entitled Vrykolakas, which is an archaic Greek term for vampire, Blood Life is a book I initially completed close to 15 years ago. I had serious issues with letting it go. It was an enormous part of my soul. I’ve revised and downright rewritten it countless times since, never really ready to call it done. This was my way of truly finishing it. I have a huge file of rejection letters from queries I’ve sent out over the years. I did eventually land a New York agent at one point somewhere in the middle, but after doing more work than he ever did with it in two years’ time, I terminated our contract and decided to continue myself.

2. Who are some writers that have affected your storytelling sensibilities? 

Oh, so many have fueled my inner fire! Anne Rice is definitely at the top of the list. Others include Poppy Z. Brite, Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Anne Bishop, Anaïs Nin and Pauline Réage.

3. As of this interview, your book as been honored in both the San Francisco Book Festival and the New York Book Festival. Has this newfound notoriety affected your writing? 

I don’t think it’s affected my writing per se, but it has definitely motivated me to keep writing. Every author is insecure about their first born; I don’t care what they say. And I don’t care if they’re published by a big house or self-published. All of them have reservations and anxiety at some point: How will it be received? Should I really say that? Will people understand what I’m trying to get across? Will readers be forgiving of any slights in the text? What happens when I get my first one-star review? It seems like these two little awards, which are huge to me, lessened those insecurities. I definitely feel like I won’t be quite as affected by any negative reviews or strong/harsh critiquing I receive.

4. What methods and strategies have you employed in order to promote both yourself as an author, as well Blood Life?

I created a Facebook Fan Page; I placed a very targeted ad to help build a following there (which was surprisingly affordable and nicely aimed at the right audience since I set all the filters carefully). I joined Twitter which I was totally against, being a Facebook whore, and taught myself how to use it because it looked like Chinese to me. I set up my first live book signing, which doubled as a local book release party, at my favorite local indy bookstore: Copperfield’s Bookstore in Petaluma, CA. I just signed up with Amazon’s KDP Select program; I have a love/hate relationship with it, but I decided to give it a go.

5. Writing a book is such a complex exercise that I imagine no two authors do it exactly the same. Can you summarize your process for me?

I do not outline my work. Instead, I have a few works-in-progress, or books that I’ve sat down and started writing from the beginning. Depending on the mood I’m in, I pull up a given file, sit at my keyboard, and channel the muse. Then my fingers start moving on their own and I just go with it. That is always how it is. Half the time, I go back and read what I’ve written and decide if I’m elated or disgusted and then act accordingly.

6. What separates Blood Life from the slew of other vampire novels currently on the market?

Well, the easy (maybe egotistical) answer is that I feel it is bringing vampires back around to how they were originally perceived: as manipulative predators. And mine are not sippers; they tear humans apart and drink to the very last drop. Also, I threw in witches for good measure, and the interbreeding of the two races: the Combined. New, unique, and wildly conflicted, with a Goddess of their own. It also feels like there are a zillion YA vampire stories popping up everywhere; my book is NC-17.

7. What drove you to write Blood Life?

Blood Life began as a short story I went home and started writing directly following an incident at my JC Creative Writing class. The professor, a horrible bitch that was fired the following year for having too many complaints filed against her, gave us a writing assignment and instructed the class to choose any topic we wanted. She said it just like that, too, and people ooh’d and ahh’d about it. The point was to cite references used in the paper to other writers and their respective works. So… I chose vampires as my topic and cited authors such as Montague Summers (who wrote some non-fiction on the topic back in the day) and well-known fiction authors on the subject like Anne Rice and Bram Stoker. During the oral presentation, I had the class going strong! It was great. They were very much into it and asking a million questions which I answered to the best of my ability regarding vampire lore both in fiction and non-fiction. When the class ended, the teacher asked me to stay after class. When everyone was gone, she said, “I’m giving you a D on your assignment.” I asked why and she said, “Because I didn’t like your topic. I felt it was totally inappropriate and not at all what I asked you to do.” Confused and irritated after clearly doing so well, and exactly what she instructed, I flipped her off (making sure she understood my gesture by promptly telling her to fuck off), ripped my paper out of her hand, and left that class never to return. But, lucky me, because Blood Life may not have happened at all if it hadn’t been for that incident. Come to think of it, I should hunt her down and send her a copy with a little thank-you note.

8. Where do you see your writing career five years from now?

I see myself writing a minimum of one book per year, so five years from now I should be on my fifth story! Also, hopefully with a movie contract behind me because Blood Life is such a candidate for the big screen! Oh, and also a big backing publisher paying me fat advances so I can write full time. If I get that, I’ll easily give ‘em two books a year. Happily. Bring it!

9. What are you currently working on?

I am currently working on a book called Devendra, which is a prequel to Blood Life.

10. What advice would you give to an aspiring author who hopes to see their work published one day? 

Keep writing no matter what! And have as many eyes that you trust look it over to offer feedback so you can fine-tune your craft. Don’t be afraid to say things you wouldn’t normally say in life, and never, under any circumstances, sell yourself out for fear that the world won’t accept you. They will. You’d be surprised. Your niche will come to you. Dare to be different! And READ READ READ. Reading nurtures a writer’s soul like nothing else. We all learn from each other and I love that.

And there you have it. I’d like to thank Gianna Perada for taking some time to hang out on Inside Martin. If you’d like to learn more about Gianna and her writing, you can visit Gianna Perada: Official Website. You can also connect with her on Twitter, as well as Facebook.

Inside the Outside: Globetrotter

Back in the summer of 2011, when I was a few deep breaths and a mouse click away from publishing my debut novel, Inside the Outside, I found myself consumed with insecurity.

What if nobody cared about my book?

I worried that I was setting my novel off into a big, loud, busy world, where it would get lost amongst all the hustle and bustle of life and cars and jobs and sports and movies and Facebook and Justin Bieber.

When, during it's first week of publication, Inside the Outside made it into Amazon.com's Bestseller List, I felt like I was in the middle of a dream. When it started collecting overwhelmingly positive reviews from readers and reviewers alike, I felt like I needed to pinch myself.  And when Exciting Writing named it the best indie book of 2011, I felt like things couldn't get much better.

So when, just a few days ago, Mauro Corso, an Italian journalist, writer and actor, gave Inside the Outside it's first foreign language review on his website Attore e Scrittore, I felt, perhaps, the most gratifying sense of accomplishment since it's initial publication.

And it's not so much what Corso said about my book (though he was very complimentary of it), but what his review represented. Where once I feared that nobody would care about or even notice my book, it is now traveling to parts of the world where I've never been myself, being discovered and enjoyed by readers who speak languages I might never understand.

Corso, in addition to writing a review of Inside the Outside, asked if I would do an interview, which I was only too happy to do. Below you will find the links to both the review and the interview (in English and in Italian).

REVIEW: Scrivere di Canibalismo

INTERVIEW [ITALIAN]: Intervista a Martin Lastrapes, Autore di Inside the Outside

INTERVIEW [ENGLISH]: Interview with Martin Lastrapes, Author of Inside the Outside

10 Questions for… Will Entrekin

Will Entrekin is a Pittsburgh-based writer and the founder and director of Exciting Press, an independent publisher of digital literature.

He and I first became acquainted in the summer of 2011 when I published my first novel, Inside the Outside, and was seeking ways to help bring attention to it. Will was tremendously generous both in his praise of the novel, but also in using his various promotional platforms to help shine a light on it. But not only is Will a great guy, he's also an outstanding writer, as evidenced by his most recent novel, The Prodigal Hour (which I wrote about HERE).

Born and raised in New Jersey, Entrekin studied fiction and screenwriting at the University of Southern California’s Master’s in Professional Writing program with best-selling authors Rachel Resnick, John Rechy, and Janet Fitch and filmmakers including Irvin Kershner, Syd Field, and Coleman Hough. He wrote The Prodigal Hour with the guidance of Shelly Lowenkopf and Sid Stebel, an author Ray Bradbury called “The greatest writing teacher ever,” and received the 2007 Ruth Cohen Fellowship, as well as a 2008 lectureship position teaching composition.

As both a writer and a publisher, Will is pretty busy these days, but I managed to pin him down long enough for the following interview. So, without further ado, here are 10 questions for Will Entrekin:

1. What would you like readers to know about The Prodigal Hour?

It’s an action-adventure novel about time travel and September 11th. Chance Sowin, a young survivor of those tragic events, moves back home hoping for a new beginning and ultimately gets way more than he imagined. It’s about faith and loss and grief and love, but I think mostly it’s about that hope that when you encounter a life-changing or world-changing moment, you realize that it’s not about right or wrong but rather about doing the best you can.

I wrote it at USC, with the guidance of Irvin Kershner (The Empire Strikes Back) and Janet Fitch (White Oleander). It’s only five bucks, and it’s in the Kindle Lending Library, so if you have Amazon Prime you can borrow it free.

2. Who are some writers that have affected your storytelling sensibilities?

I grew up on Stephen King and Dean Koontz, then discovered Neil Gaiman, Shakespeare, and Fitzgerald in college. I can’t forget Marvel writers Scott Lobdell and Fabian Nicieza, nor whoever was writing The Hardy Boys back when my grandmother used to give me those novels for Christmas and my birthday every year. Also, Madeline L’Engle, Quantum Leap’s Donald Bellisario, Jim Henson, Rachel Resnick, Janet Fitch, Sid Stebel, Syd Field, and Shelly Lowenkopf.

3. Religion and science play out as primary themes in The Prodigal Hour. Does this particular juxtaposition of ideas come from a personal place?

Probably. I was raised Catholic but left the faith in high school. Then a Jesuit college offered me a scholarship, so I went there to study pre-med. While there, I took a theology course with a Jesuit priest who was also a Zen roshi . . . I have a lot in common with Chance Sowin, one of the protagonists of The Prodigal Hour, in terms of that formative background.

I think Chance is going through a much deeper crisis of faith than I ever did, though. Both Chance and I moved back to New Jersey homes shortly after September 11th, but my family was there to help me. Not only does someone murder Chance’s father in the opening chapter, but his mother’s long since deceased, and then his house explodes, so he’s a homeless orphan; Chance had thought he’d survived the worst of it, only to have the rug pulled out from under him. That’s a really tough position for him to be in, and a lot of the action of the second act comes from that place of losing faith but seeking something to believe in anyway, and wanting all those questions that inevitably come up answered. Why do bad things happen to good people? What’s “God’s Will”? Those sorts of questions. Not saying the novel answers them, but I think it explores the mindset of a person asking them. Chance seeks a lot of things: closure, faith, truth, love, action, family, security . . .

4. What methods and strategies have you employed in order to promote both yourself as an author, as well The Prodigal Hour?

Ah, yes. Promotion. Hard question. Because I think the most important aspect of promoting--and the aspect most likely to be skipped in much of the promotion I’ve seen--is writing a good book. I use Twitter a lot, and I play with pricing and make teasers for my books, but to be honest, I’ve lately been trying to move away from the mindset that equates sales with success. I think a lot of people get caught up in how many units they can move, how much traffic they can drive, all those sorts of things. When I was teaching at USC, one of the most common composition essays we encountered was called the well-wrought void; it was, technically, a fine essay, and seemed to be competent, but when you got down to it there was nothing of substance.

I think the most effective promotion an author can have is to produce a solid body of work. The Prodigal Hour is my most recent novel, but I’ve got several different short stories, essays, and collections--as well as another novel, Meets Girl--all available, and I haven’t sold as many books as John Locke or Amanda Hocking or James Patterson (yet?), but I’ve gotten really nice emails from readers and great reviews, and I’m damned proud of what I’ve got out there. I’m only just getting started.

5. Writing a book is such a complex exercise that I imagine no two authors do it exactly the same. Can you summarize your process for me?

Well, it’s different every time. I finished the first draft of The Prodigal Hour in December 2000, a full eleven years before I published it. I rewrote it a bunch of times, and then I went to USC and rewrote it again. Twice. While at USC, I studied with Syd Field, a famous screenwriting teacher, and I adapted the novel into a screenplay with Irvin Kershner, and I think that was most effective in breaking me out of old habits and forcing me to throw out everything but the story I was trying to tell.

It’s still different every time out, but I know, after studying with Syd, I tend to think of stories in terms of either 3-act or 5-act structure (I think most people who believe in “4-act structure” are just mistaking a mid-point plot event for an act break, which it’s not). Sometimes I outline for structure; I had to with The Prodigal Hour, for example, because by the time I got fifteen chapters in, I was juggling no fewer than four separate timelines, so I had to not only figure out where the characters were in each one but also how the timelines affected each other, and then make those effects subtle rather than totally explicit. It’s very tightly plotted in that regard. As a for example, Race and Leonard can’t get a view of Chance and Cassie’s timeline until Cassie activates her time machine.

And I’d tell you more, but spoilers.

6. Having studied fiction and screenwriting at the Master of Professional Writing Program at USC program under some impressive authors, such as Janet Fitch and Rachel Resnick, what part of that experience most influenced The Prodigal Hour?

I wouldn’t have been able to write The Prodigal Hour successfully if not for USC, and there was no single part of my entire experience in LA that didn’t affect the work. As I wrote the screenplay, I started to get a better feel for structure, plot, and pacing, and started to write a good book, but then taking an advanced workshop with Janet and really paying attention to language just took my work and the book to a whole other level. Rachel helped me to really explore more things and take greater chances. Sid Stebel was my thesis advisor, and I honestly hope I grow up to be like him; puckish and insightful and a great teacher and writer.

I think I can mark the screenwriting workshop with Syd, where I studied structure, and the fiction workshop with Janet, where I studied language, as the ones that were most important for me as a writer. Going back to your second question, I feel like the books I grew up reading gave me access to talent, but my experience at USC and those two classes in particular finally helped me realize my real potential as a writer. There’s a glimmer of potential in my collection, but now I feel like I’m operating on a whole different level.

7. What drove you to write The Prodigal Hour?

Wanting to tell the best time travel story ever. I grew up watching Quantum Leap, and thinking about paradoxes and alternate realities. I’ve always been fascinated by those ideas. Like the Age of Apocalypse storyline in the X-Men comics that came out when I was in high school. And I just kept wanting to tell the story of the ultimate time travel paradox.

It wasn’t until Hurricane Katrina that I realized I had to ground the story more firmly, and it wasn’t until that moment that I realized September 11th was its foundation. By that point, I hadn’t yet written about what I’d seen that day, but writing about those experiences helped me understand what was going on in The Prodigal Hour story. Why someone would want to use a time machine, and what would be so life-changing as to consider that the chance to make a difference might be more important than life itself.

8. Where do you see your writing career five years from now?

I want to have an Amazon author page I’m ludicrously proud of, and I want to be some part of helping other authors have exactly the same thing. I’m not sure I think of writing as a career; there’s little in the way of security or stability in it, and most writers never actually make their living from it, anyway. I’m pretty sure Shakespeare sold real estate, for example. Which isn’t to say I think of writing as a calling or a higher purpose or really anything besides a means to tell the stories I want to tell. My sincerest hope, I think, would be that in five years, I’ll have had some hand in helping many, many readers find new stories they love.

9. What are you currently working on?

Specifically, I tend not to talk much about projects while I’m working on them. In a general sense, I’m working on a few different projects, mostly shorter work like stories, essays, poetry, and even a couple of novellas and a couple of projects not easily classifiable.

But what I’m really working on is major news, specifically that over the summer I completed the paperwork and established Exciting Press as an independent digital publisher. I never really thought of anything I was doing as “self-publishing”; I always just saw it as using any and all tools available to get people reading stories, and now I’ll be working with other authors in a similar capacity.

Late last year, legal paperwork out of the way, Exciting Press signed bestselling Australian author Nick Earls to a major 16-book deal (the press release was for a dozen, but there were four still in the works at the time). I spent the time after Thanksgiving readying six titles, and we have several more on the way to roll out in the spring and summer. Nick’s one of my favorite authors, and I’m terrifically pleased to be helping him get his backlist to Kindle, Nook, and the iBookstore. He’s been a joy to work with.

10. What advice would you give to an aspiring author who hopes to see their work published one day?

Stop aspiring.

Forget about hoping to see your work published and concentrate solely on writing the most amazing, stunning, jaw-dropping book you possibly can. Amazon and Kindle have made publishing far more simple, and from word processing to layout to photo editing, there’s free software somewhere that can help. So nowadays, anyone can publish, just like anyone can write.

Which is all the more reason you have to do it well. Focus on story and craft. Understand plot mechanics and character development. Read screenplays with great dialogue and listen to people around you so you know what conversation sounds like. Learn coding and design so you’re not just slapping an amateur cover on a badly laid-out e-book. Hire an editor, and when you do so, hire a real editor, with real qualifications as an editor. It’s tempting to just go to your friend who reads a lot and knows the difference between “its” and “it’s,” but there’s a lot more to editing than fixing apostrophes and comma splices.

Stop aspiring and write something you believe in, and feel confident about standing behind it, and then do so.

And there you have it. I'd like to thank Will Entrekin for taking some time to hang out on Inside Martin. If you'd like to learn more about Will and his writing, you can visit Exciting Writing. You can also connect with Will on Twitter, as well as Facebook.

10 Questions for… Luke Romyn

Luke Romyn, the best-selling author of Blacklisted and The Dark Path, spent over seventeen years working in the security industry. From door work in some of Australia's roughest pubs and clubs to protecting Mickey Mouse and the Disney crew from the overzealous jaws of tenacious toddlers, Luke has worked throughout Australia and internationally in a vast array of roles. He's done close protection for UK celebrities in Fiji and chased feral pigs and snakes out of the jungle film sets on Steven Spielberg and Tom Hank's HBO minseries, The Pacific. Luke utilized his experiences to fuel his own expansive imagination and began writing fiction. His first book, The Dark Path, swiftly became a #1 best seller and was voted in the Top Ten Horror novels of 2009. Blacklisted is his second novel, published in 2011.

So, without further ado, here are 10 questions for Luke Romyn.

1. What would you like readers to know about Blacklisted?

Blacklisted is like no other novel I have written before or since. A lot of my other writing, such as The Dark Path, involves supernatural or otherworldly themes incorporated into our world. But Blacklisted is a pure action-thriller about a young man who, due to instances from his past, becomes a vigilante. After numerous killings, he is finally captured by police and faces the death penalty, but is broken out by a mysterious group working for the government who plan to use killers like Mike to track down a terrorist mastermind.

2. Who are some writers that have affected your storytelling sensibilities?

David Gemmell is one of my all time favorite authors. It’s kinda strange since he wrote predominantly heroic fantasy and I have never written anything along those lines. Stephen King’s scope of imagination is unparalleled and Dean Koontz is a recent idol of mine simply because he introduces a subtle genius into his writing which is difficult at first to identify, and is such much more powerful to the reader as a result. On the completely odd end of the scale is my love for JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series. I have no plans for writing anything remotely similar to this, but it will reign supreme as one of my favorites of all time.

My writing is my own, and my stories come from within me. Every writer has within them a power to control, albeit for only a short time, the imagination of another person, and this to me is stronger than wearing a cape and tights.

3. Has the 18 years you spent in the security industry had any effect on your writing?

Absolutely! I have seen things which normal people could not possibly imagine. My nightclub bouncing alone has allowed me to see violence on a scale few would ever think occurred in modern society. Bashings, stabbings and shootings have all happened right before my eyes, usually with me trying to grab and restrain those doing the deeds. Experiencing the fear of these situations first-hand and translating it to words in a story is something you cannot fake or imagine.

I’ve worked internationally doing various things, from reality TV shows to protecting strippers on tour, and such a life gives you a certain perspective on things. Perceptions break down and the line between good and bad becomes more jagged whereas another author might see it as straight. I have known good people who have done bad things and vice-versa. And the end result is that life seems far from black and white.

4. What methods and strategies have you employed in order to promote both yourself as an author, as well as Blacklisted?

Everything and anything. I think the most important instrument any new author has these days is social media. I reach out to a large audience predominantly on Twitter, where I have over 150,000 followers. Facebook is also important, but you interact with your followers on a completely different level, and so it is important to adjust what you post.

Interviews, such as this one, are vital to reach out on a different level so that readers can understand a different side of you as an author. Live radio interviews, while nerve-wracking, are a great way to connect with those who are so used to simply reading your words. All in all it’s not just about promoting a book, it’s about promoting yourself…hopefully.

5. Writing a book is such a complex exercise that I imagine no two authors do it exactly the same. Can you summarize your process for me?

I have an extremely complex writing procedure few could ever possibly understand. I sit down… drum roll… and I write. Usually in that order, too.

Jokes aside, I am as uncomplicated a writer as you could ever find. My stories seem to flow—sometimes pour—from me of their own volition. Quite often I will just have to let go as the ideas come to me and just try to keep up with my typing, going back later to fix mistakes lest I lose track of the storyline and fail to get it back. I don’t plan my books out as some people do, I simply write what comes to me depending on the situation. It’s what works best for me.

6. At what point in your life did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

I think it was always there, lurking in the shadows of my subconscious, waiting for a moment to emerge and surprise the hell out of all those around me.

7. What drove you to write Blacklisted?

It started off as a short story about an angry and suicidal young man saved by the friendship of a stranger. When I finished, however, I wanted to know more about what had happened to him, how he had progressed beyond the limits of my story. And so I continued on, expanding upon the life of Mike Swanson and throwing his life around in ways I had never originally imagined.

He became a killer who became a government agent who became a hero. Cool.

8. Where do you see your writing career five years from now?

Right now I’m just trying to make a name for myself as an author of books which drag readers into another existence—the world of my characters—and allow them to escape reality for a short time. The ultimate goal is to earn enough money from writing books that I can quit security and concentrate on it fulltime, but for now I’m simply focusing on getting more books out to the people who matter—my readers.

9. What are you currently working on?

I’ve had to take a short break from writing to release some of the books which I’ve been stockpiling. I have another four books completed which I plan on getting out there over the next couple of years. It’s frustrating since my love will always remain with writing, but I simply have to accept that editing and polishing are part of the process. I work with a fantastic team who really help me get the best possible product out there in a tremendously short amount of time.

10. What advice would you give to an aspiring author who hopes to see their work published one day?

Focus on one thing at a time. People often put the cart before the horse and think they should try to get deals before their book is even written. You cannot sell something that doesn’t exist; it’s that simple. If you want to write a book, shut up and write a book. Writing the thing is easy, everything afterwards is what will kill you.

Don’t get me wrong, writing is the most incredible thing I can imagine, but I constantly hear from people who think they have the greatest idea for a novel ever—often wanting me to write it for them—and yet they never do anything about it. The only way a book gets written is that someone sits down and writes it. No book ever got published because someone wished really hard about it.

Another thing: be confident in yourself. Writing is like putting your soul into words, so be prepared for the pain that comes with the rejections that always, always happen. Whether they are rejections from agents, publishers or readers, they all hurt like you cannot imagine. Self-confidence is the only thing that will see you through; think of it as a shield against a forest fire.

And never quit. You haven’t failed until you give up.

And there you have it. I'd like to thank Luke Romyn for being so generous with his time. If you want to learn more about Luke, you can visit LukeRomyn.com. You can also connect with Luke on Facebook and Twitter.

Feature This! (GUEST POST)

A few months ago, I was approached by Jose Oliver De Castro, a college student and contributor to his school's newspaper and magazine. He wanted to interview me for a feature article in the newspaper and I, obviously, was more than happy to comply. Along the way, Jose's editor decided to make the interview part of the magazine. Jose was excited, but he had his reservations. He worried that the story would get dropped, since not everything makes the final cut. I told him that if it did get dropped, I'd publish it myself on Inside Martin. Well, the fact that we've gotten this far should tell you how the story ends. So, for your reading pleasure, I present to you...

FEATURE THIS!: An Interview with Novelist Martin Lastrapes

By Jose Oliver De Castro

“I’m a vegetarian and, as a vegetarian, I was fascinated with the idea of cannibalism.”

This was just one of the ideas that Martin Lastrapes, 34, had in mind when writing his debut novel, Inside the Outsidewhich tells the story of a young girl named Timber Marlow who grows up as a cannibal in a cult in the San Bernardino Mountains. When she is about 14 or 15 years old, she manages to escape the cult into the mainstream society, where she tries to assimilate.  For Lastrapes, Inside the Outside is his dark and twisted version of the coming of age story.

“I always thought of it as a metaphor for growing up. When you grow up you live in a relatively small place. You start off with your house, eventually your house turns into your block and your neighborhood,” Lastrapes said. “At some point you have to leave that small isolated corner of the world that was your own and discover the world is bigger than you realized and there are different people that you have to encounter.”

While writing Inside the Outside, Lastrapes used the metaphor with Timber Marlow in mind.

“I took it to the extreme in a relatively dark book,” Lastrapes said, “where instead of growing up in a neighborhood, she grew up in a cult of cannibals.”

Upon its release, the book reached #3 on Amazon’s Top 100 Hot New Releases in Horror.

“There was actually a certain point where I was even ahead of Stephen King, which was very exciting,” Lastrapes said. “It’s been an exciting time and I’m sort of blown away by both the initial success of the book and also the reception of the book.”

Lastrapes was born on December 9, 1977, in the city of Orange and was raised in Rancho Cucamonga, California.  After graduating from Alta Loma High School in 1996, he attended Chaffey College, Cal State Fullerton, and Cal State San Bernardino. While at Cal State San Bernardino, Lastrapes met James Brown, a creative writing professor and acclaimed author of The Los Angeles Dairies and This River.

“The time when I met James Brown is really when I got serious and focused about my career as a writer,” Lastrapes said.

Brown described Lastrapes as a serious, determined student when they first crossed paths in the classroom years ago. As Brown’s student, Lastrapes made it easy for him as a professor.

“I’d like to flatter myself that I helped improve his already strong writing,” Brown said, “but all I can really take credit for is encouraging an already talented writer.”

In 1996, during his first year in college, Lastrapes took his first English course with S. Kay Murphy, author of Tainted Legacy: The Story of Alleged Serial Killer Bertha Gifford. It was Murphy who Lastrapes credits with being the first teacher to take notice of his writing and encourage him to pursue it.

“Martin’s essays were far and above the writing level of the rest of the class,” Murphy said. “I enjoyed his casual yet fluid writing style, and often wrote notes in the margins of his papers about his writing ability.”

Growing up, Lastrapes' first significant creative influence was his older brother, Greg, a filmmaker and musician.  As a kid, Lastrapes watched his brother perform on stage at the Roxy Theater in Hollywood, while also making many television appearances as an actor and singer. Greg made it a point to tap into his brother’s creativity early on.

“Since the day that Martin could read, we have been collaborating,” Greg said. “I always work him into whatever project I've got cooking, and that has included writing projects.”

While Lastrapes had many creative interests growing up, from comic books to movies, it was his discovery of creative writing that lit a fire inside of him.

“Writing became the ideal medium to sort of exercise my creativity,” Lastrapes said. “I fell in love with it when I was 18 and we have had a passionate love affair for the last 15 years.”

For the next 15 years, Lastrapes is looking ahead as he evolves and develops as a writer.

“I’m definitely not done growing and I plan on getting better,” Lastrapes said, “otherwise it would just be boring if this were the end of the road.”

10 Questions for… Eric Kaldor

Eric Kaldor has lived an interesting life to say the very least.  While starting out in the mailroom of an ad agency as a young man, he was eventually hired as a production assistant on the soap opera As The World Turns. Eric later ended up in California and began to write for shows such as The Incredible Hulk and Kojak, for which he was nominated for an Emmy. He also started an affair with the wife of a Hollywood mogul, who, upon finding out, had Eric “Hollywood blacklisted.” Unable to write, he started selling drugs to the stars, movers, and shakers in Hollywood. Along the way, he became a cocaine and quaaludes addict, and with his girlfriend, they frequented orgies in LA.

Kaldor tied himself to a bed, kicked drugs, and suffered organ failure, but remarkably recovered. He began to write again and became an actor. He's been featured in Hollywoodland, ER, House and numerous commercials. His stories have helped him write Downward Facing Dog, a self-deprecating, tragic, black-comic novel about his life. Downward Facing Dog, which, as of now is still in-progress, can be read (and listened to via podcast) in serial form on Eric's website.  So, without further ado, here are 10 questions for Eric Kaldor.

1. What would you like readers to know about Downward Facing Dog?

I want readers to know my novel Downward Facing Dog is XXX rated, but so was my life. I hope readers will find it amusing at times, enlightening at timesand sometimes cringe worthy. I hope they will see, despite the graphic descriptions, that I have been totally honest.

2. Who are some writers that have affected your storytelling sensibilities?

Henry Miller. He taught me you could be honest when writing about sex.  He also had a unique and I think truthful take on America.

Nathaniel West. He wrote the quintessential novel about Hollywood, The Day of The Locusts.  He also writes the most beautifully crafted sentences.  He died very young. If he had lived I am convinced he would have become America's most honored and important writer of the last century.

Ernest Hemmingway.  When I read him as a kid I got weepy...he was so great. After reading his short stories  I knew what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to be a writer.

3. How does writing a novel differ from writing for television?

When you write a novel you're on your own. It's all yoursboth the good and the bad stuff. In TV you're dealing with preconceived characters. You're second guessed by story editors and producers. Sometimes they get it right. Most often they don't because your work goes through too many hands. In a novel the hands and voice are yours

4. As a kid I was a big, big, big fan of The Incredible Hulk. I don’t actually have a question here, I was just geeking out a bit. I would, however, love to hear some tidbits from your experience writing for the show?

I have blogged about writing for The Hulk. One of the conondrums on that show was how to get Bill Bixby back in clothes after he ripped them apart when he became the Hulk. The problem was never solved to anybody's real satisfaction. He just reappeared in his civvies and we let it go at that.

5. Are you still “blacklisted” from writing in Hollywood?

No, I've outlived the black list, but I can't get script work because of my age. Recently I was a recipient of a nice class action settlement because I couldn't get work becasue of ageism.  Hooray for The Writer's Guild.

6. Has you ability as a writer played any part in your development as an actor?

Writing has certainly helped my acting. I have never taken a dramatic class. Being a writer, I know what the original creator of the script was going for and all I try to do is give it back to him.

7. What drove you to write Downward Facing Dog?

A writer writes and in this time of my life I wanted to live a record of my turbulent existence...with all the warts and all the good stuff. I wanted Downward Facing Dog to be interesting, funny, scatalogical and, above all, honest. I also wanted it to be a cautionary tale and I hope Downward Facing Dog gets me some good karma...I sorely need it.

8. Do you watch much TV anymore and, if so, what, in your opinion, are some of the best written shows on TV?

I mainly watch movies and news on TV. I find commercial TV maddening with all the interruptions when they are sellling us stuff or pimping for upcoming shows. But I love The Daily Show and most things Larry David does.

9. What are you currently working on?

I am currently writing the last chapters of Downward Facing Dog. I'm also writing a book proposal and blogs on my site.

10. Having had such a colorful and varied career, is there any one achievement you could point to that makes you the most proud?

It's strange, because while I'm proud of some of my writing, especially Downward Facing Dog, what I am most proud of is an athletic event. In the course of my sports career in TV, I raced the winner of The Olympic Downhill.  I won. Okay, I happened to beat the winner of the Women's Downhill, but I'm proud of it anyway.

And there you have it. I'd like to thank Eric Kaldor for being so generous with his time. If you want to learn more about Eric, you can visit EricKaldor.com. You can also connect with Eric on Facebook and on Twitter.

10 Questions for… David Dunwoody

David Dunwoody is in the midst of a flourishing writing career, with a number of novels and short stories out in the world, including Empire: A Zombie Novel and Unbound and Other Tales.  His most recent novel, Empire's End: A Zombie Novel, was published earlier this year and, in the midst of an otherwise busy schedule, he was kind enough to take some time out for an interview.  So, without any further ado, here are 10 questions for David Dunwoody:

1. What would you like readers to know about Empire’s End: A Zombie Novel?

Empire’s End is the sequel to the novel Empire. It was written in 2008 (shortly after the first edition of Empire saw print) and follows the Grim Reaper in a “post-post-apocalyptic” world in which the dead have been thrashing the crap out of the living for 100+ years. The Reaper finds himself tangling with classic zombies as well as zombies who’ve become more animalistic and developed a sort of pack order – plus one zombie whose driving force is tied to Death himself.

2. Who are some writers that have affected your storytelling sensibilities? 

Certainly Lovecraft and Barker – Lovecraft with his masterful conveyance of indescribable, unknowable horror, and Barker with his rich characters and beautiful prose. I think both of them are also groundbreakers in terms of developing very original mythos replete with iconic monsters. Other favorites include King and Matheson. Though he’s a filmmaker, David Cronenberg’s philosophy of horror as a genre of confrontation rather than escapism rings very true to me.

3. What is it about zombies that inspired you to write your series of books, Empire and Empire’s End?

I’ve always liked zombies, but I didn’t know I loved them until I wrote a submission for Permuted Press’s first publication, The Undead. I say this a lot, but I really do think Romero has given us the last great monster archetype, and it’s one with endless potential. I enjoy thinking of new ways to use the walking dead while trying to preserve their classic roots. To think that, just 13 years before I was born, a monster was created which already stands next to old-world terrors like the vampire and werewolf and will endure down through the ages – it’s very cool to be alive at the dawn of the dead.

4. What methods and strategies have you employed in order to promote both yourself as an author, as well Empire’s End: A Zombie Novel?

There’re the standard social-networking tools, as well as forums and blogs – interviews have certainly been a great help, and there are always good folks with blogs or shows looking for writers to talk with. I try not to spam and to occasionally mention something other than my books on FB and Twitter. That can be hard when I’m pretty shy and spend most of my time either writing or watching frog videos on YouTube, but most people seem to like frogs. At conventions I’ve had Empire stickers and even a 6.5-foot standee where folks could put their head in place of the Reaper’s, but in the end I think just chatting with people and sharing your mutual love of horror and reading goes a long way. Being genuine and being accessible. In this day and age we can make ourselves easily accessible to readers all over the globe, and that’s an awesome thing.

5. Writing a book is such a complex exercise that I imagine no two authors do it exactly the same. Can you summarize your process for me?

As an idea first takes off, it starts with very disjointed note-taking – muttering into a tape recorder at 4 AM, scribbling on notepads and whiteboards and receipts, then finally transferring it all to  the computer and beginning to form a plot outline and character profiles. From there I’ll usually end up going back to the whiteboards to lay out the specifics of whatever chapters I’m doing that week. I like to pretend I’m a mathematician or something with these three whiteboards along the wall, solving complex equations. When I’m working on a novel I write 1 or 2 chapters every day. After the first few chapters I’ll force myself to stop second-guessing and rewriting, telling myself that’ll come later. When I’m done with the first draft I leave it alone for at least a few weeks (sometimes much longer, depending on deadlines or lack thereof) before diving into revisions. I hate going back and picking through spontaneity with a scalpel and magnifying glass, but I know it’ll be worth it in the long run.

6. Your first novel, Empire, was picked up and re-released by Simon and Schuster. How did that deal come about?

It was part of a deal in which S&S acquired J.L. Bourne’s Day by Day Armageddon – as part of the arrangement they agreed to pick up several other books that had done well for Permuted. The whole thing and how it just dropped into my lap one day is still a little unreal for me. I’ll always be grateful to John Bourne and Jacob Kier at Permuted for it.

7. What drove you to write Empire’s End: A Zombie Novel?

When I finished Empire I knew the story wasn’t done, though I didn’t have the entire sequel plotted out. I knew that the Reaper’s arc had really just begun with the changes he’d gone through at the end of the first book. With that and a few other things I’d alluded to, such as Eviscerato and his zombified circus troupe, I started setting the stage for what I hoped would be an epic conclusion to the story begun in Empire.

8. Where do you see your writing career five years from now?

I certainly hope to have a few more novels out there, and I’d really like to be able to do more appearances per year than I’ve been able to do in the past. I don’t have a detailed set of goals, though –I’m having a great time right now and I love being a part of this community on both the professional side and the reader side. I’m not putting much pressure on myself at the moment. Of course, that may change tomorrow. I’m a flip-flopper.

9. What are you currently working on?

Permuted will be releasing a post-apocalyptic novel called The Harvest Cycle in the not-too-distant future. It’s very different from my zombie fare and I’m excited to get it out there. Right now I’m mostly working on short stories for different anthologies. I completed a non-apocalyptic novel this past spring and will be diving back into that sometime soon.

10. What advice would you give to an aspiring author who hopes to see their work published one day?

We’re lucky to have so many resources- and so many markets – at our fingertips today. I can’t imagine what it must have been like before the Web. I use Duotrope.com to look for anthology calls, as well as the Permuted Press and Twisted Library Press forums. These communities also offer peer critique groups where you can workshop your stuff. One thing I can’t emphasize enough is not only to welcome criticism but to seek it. Trust me, it never gets easier, whether awaiting a yay or nay from a publisher to whom you’ve submitted, or awaiting line edits on a work you’ve sold. Rejection and criticism are part of the game and it always causes apprehension, but it makes it so much more rewarding when you succeed and it’s the only way to get better. You just have to get used to the idea that butterflies will be living in your stomach for the rest of your life. Eat bugs so they don’t starve. I don’t even know if butterflies feed on bugs but there’s only one way to find out, and that’s by you eating bugs.

And there you have it. I'd like to thank David Dunwoody for being so generous with his time. If you want to learn more about him, you can visit David Dunwoody.com. You can also check out Dunwoody's  Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

10 Questions For... Karen Woodward

I recently had the good fortune to get to know Karen Woodward, author of Until Death, which is a fantasy novel about a teenage girl who lives amongst a society of witches, but has no supernatural powers of her own. Aside from being an up-and-coming author, Woodward is also a huge fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and most every conversation we have invariably turns into a geeky discussion about Buffy or Angel or the Joss Whedon Universe in general.

So, without further ado, here are 10 questions for Karen Woodward:

1. Your novel, Until Death, is a fantasy novel, which, in some form or fashion, was inspired by Joss Whedon (creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer). Can you tell me a little more about your book and how Whedon's body of work inspired your storytelling sensibilities? 

I think of Until Death as a modern folk tale. The story follows Darla, a headstrong 18 year old girl who thinks she knows what she wants most in life. At the beginning of the tale Darla's deepest wish, to be able to work magic, becomes reality and her life as she knows it is destroyed. For a while she despairs but then, in true Buffy fashion, she figures out how to put the pieces of her life back togetheryes, they might not fit quite right and perhaps a bit of duct tape is involved, but she sets things right in the end. Mostly.

Whedon's Buffy inspired me to create the character of Darla because...well, let's face it, Buffy is different. She wasn't the tortured hero. Yes, sure, she went through periods of angstwe are talking about teenagersbut what she wanted most in life was to be normal. In the world I set Until Death in, being able to use magic is normal, so this is Darla's deepest desire as well. But that's not all. Sure, Buffy had the help of her friends, the Scooby's, but in the end she was alone and she surmounted whatever Big Bad was trying to bring her down through her own inner strength and resourcefulness. Translation: She didn't need rescuing. This is a trait Darla shares as well. Yes, she would love help but when it doesn't come she is, somehow, able to face the challenge and, in her own quirky way, come out more-or-less on top. Also, although Buffy was a hero she wasn't perfect. I don't think she strove for that. Darla doesn't either.

Oh, and one more thing. Buffy and Darla both have a sense of humor (think sushi pajamas). I'm not saying that I've come closeI don't think anyone couldto capturing Whedon's quirky sense of humor, but I hope that I've avoided taking things too seriously.

2. One of the reasons I like the horror/sci-fi/fantasy genres is their ample ability to house metaphors that both reflect and pararel the human experience. I get the impression that Darla's story of wanting to feel normal in a world full of magic has some deeper metaphorical meanings.  Can you expound on this idea? 

Growing up, my family and friends believed in magic, in the supernatural, in angels and demons and fairies. Like Kim Harrison, I'm more the scientific type. That said, I have always adored fairy stories, folk tales, the ancient Greek myths and, more recently, urban fantasy. I have often thought it would be lovely if my friends and family were proven right and there were fairies and all the rest of it. Until Death grew from that germ of an idea. Perhaps that also explains some of the feelings of alienation I give Darla. I read somewhere that one's first book is autobiographical, perhaps that's true in my case.

3. For both traditionally published authors and independent authors, promoting one's book can be one of the most challenging parts of the publishing process. Talk about what methods and strategies you've employed in order to promote both yourself as an author and as well your novel Until Death?

Everyone is different, but I blog and tweet. I'm also on Facebook and Google+.

Every day I publish a blog post and include a link to it in a tweet. I also curate links and tweet about six links a day. The links are to  articles I think provide good information to indie writers, or are thought provoking, or some combination of the two.

I don't know whether any of this helps me sell my book. Blogging has become an end in itself. I am grateful for the advice and support of my fellow writers and I do what I can to pass that along.

4. Writing a novel is such a complex exercise that I imagine no two authors do it exactly the same. Can you summarize your process for me?

I dream of the day when I get to the point of having a process! I think I'm a bit like a model-T in the wintertime: A lot of false starts and stalling. Until Death was written over a period of two years mainly because I didn't work on it for a year. I put it away because the plot had become an overgrown jungle and I couldn't figure which plants to cut down and which to leave.

My critique group helped me; simply knowing that I would be handing my manuscript off to these generous, intelligent, readers made me able to look at my manuscript in a new way. In a sense, it let me see it objectively, or at least more objectively than I had been able to previously. It was just what I needed. Also, my critique partners gave me excellent feedback on which parts felt slow, where I was explaining too much, etc. And, most of all, they gave me encouragement.

But, as much as I have a process, here's what I do, or try to do. The first draft is all about me and the story. I'm not critical. I allow myself to make mistakes and develop plot lines that might not go anywhere. I don't judge myself. During the second draft I read what I've got and make decisions about what the story is, what the themes are, etc. I also think about other people, my critique group, and I put on my editors hat. The third draft is mostly clean-up. My readers will have noticed the occasional logical lapse, or too much of an info dump, or events that need more explaining. That's it!

5. Can you sum up the journey of getting your book published?

I think my journey to getting Until Death published would read a bit like The Pilgrim's Progress! After I decided to self-publish, the journey became more straight-forward. It started around the time I began infrequently reading Joe Konrath's blog. I hadn't seriously considered self-publication before then because I was confusing it with vanity publishing. Joe set me straight and I began reading the blogs of authors who were self-publishing, authors such as Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch.  These blogs, Dean's especially, helped give me the courage to put my work out there.

6. What drove you to write this particular book?

I have an image of banshee's flying behind me, clawing at my hair, screaming, “Write Until Death!”

*Sigh*

I guess as a writer having a bizarre imagination is an asset…or at least that's what I'm telling myself.

That's an interesting question. It reminds me of the debate around whether stories exist independently of the writer and the main job of the writer is to uncover them, like an archeologist uncovering the bones of a long dead critter (Stephen King is like this, see On Writing), or whether the author creates the story out of thin air. This dichotomy reminds me of another one, that between pantsers and plotters, the people who just dive in and start writing and those who create an outline, plan out all the events, and so on, and only when they know what they're going to write, do they embark on the task of bringing the first draft of their story to life.

Until Death sort of staggered into existence like a drunken frat boy on his way home from an all-nighter. Perhaps that is the way of all first novels, I'm not sure. My second novel, and the second book in my Death series, seems to be following in the way of its parent, weaving its way into existence in fits and starts. I see a scene here and there and they sit inside me, incubating, until I wake up at 2 am possessed with an idea and mad with a desire for a pad of paper and a pen—both of which are, of course, missing. But it's coming together (knock on wood).

7. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life, which would it be? Why?

Tough choice, I'd have to say J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. If I'm not allowed the entire series then I'd chose The Fellowship of the Ring. Why? Tolkien was a gifted writer, but I love the ideas he introduced and how he introduced them. His books inspire the imagination.

8. What are some tools you use to help promote and market your book?

Twitter Counter - Helps me gauge how quickly I am growing my Twitter following.

Topsy Analytics - Shows me how many times my tweets were mentioned and retweeted.

TweetReach - Another tool to represent the size of my audience.

Klout - Fun and very addictive. Gives you a score that represents the totality of your social activity on the web.

Google Analytics - If I had to choose just one tool, it would be Google Analytics. Gives you an idea of how many folks visit your blog every month, every week, every day, every second. Addictive.

Hootsuite - I don't know what I would do without Hootsuite. I lets me schedule my tweets and I like its flexibility.

Where I've hung my virtual shingle:

Karen Woodward: A Blog About Writing

Twitter

Facebook

Google+

9. What advice would you give to an aspiring author who hope to see their work published one day?

I have found Heinlein's Rules enormously useful.

  1. You must write.
  2. Finish what you start.
  3. You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order.
  4. You must put your story on the market.
  5. You must keep it on the market until it has sold.

I like Robert J. Sawyer's sixth rule: Start working on something else.

Now if only I could take my own advice!

10. If you could only watch one episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer for the rest of your life, which would it be?

Okay, this one is easy. Season 5, Episode 12: "Checkpoint." Best. Speech. Ever.

And there you have it. I'd like to thank Karen Woodward for being so generous with her time. If you want to learn more about her, you can visit Karen Woodward: A Blog About Writing. You can also check out Woodward's  Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

Inside the Outside: Blog Tour 2011

So, I'm so excited to announce the inaugural blog tour of Inside the Outside.  If you're not familiar, a blog tour is, essentially, a cyber book tour.  I'll be making seven stops over the next two weeks.

UPDATE (8/20/2011): The Blog Tour is complete! Click the links below to read all the interviews and guest posts:

MONDAY, AUGUST 8:

The Black Abyss  - Interview

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WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 10:

The Word - Guest Post: "Creating the Illusion of Flesh and Blood on the Page"

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Wednesday, AUGUST 10:

Ginger Nuts of Horror - Interview

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FRIDAY, AUGUST 12:

Exciting Writing - Interview

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MONDAY, AUGUST 15:

Book Den - Guest Post: "One Author’s Attempt to Write a Likable Killer"

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WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 17:

The Coffee Stained Manuscript - Guest Post: "The Benefits of Being an Independent Publisher "

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MONDAY, AUGUST 22:

Alive on the Shelves - Guest Post: "What Inspires a Writer to Tell a Story?"