10 Questions For... Matthew Rowe

Usually when I write a bio to lead into one of my "10 Questions for..." interviews, I'll request some info from the interview subject, while doing my own research to round things out.  Well, Matthew Rowe is an interesting bird, so I've decided to let him tell you about himself in his own words:

Matthew Rowe is a recently three-dimensional philosopher of space-time with an unhealthy habit of showing strangers his pussy(cat) on the Internet. He likes innuendo, leading people astray and cookies. When he’s not condemning souls to hell for all eternity he enjoys shouting at small children and defending Earth from extremely polite extraterrestrial threats. He escaped from the UK and hid amongst the terrible disasters of Japan, on March 11, 2011, where he feels relatively safe. He hopes mankind can invent cyborg parts before his arms drop off. Behold his glory, puny mortals!

He's also the author of the novel Better off Dead and the short story collection Not All of Them About Zombies. So, without further ado, here are 10 questions for Matthew Rowe...

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1. What would you like readers to know about Better Off Dead?

It’s an antidote to a plague that only got worse while I was making it. It’s also cheap and awesome. You’ll never read another book like it. It’s a motivational guidebook for the slacker generation. It’s an intellectual exploration of how much pressure it takes for a man’s head to pop. It explains why penguins can’t fly. It solves world hunger. It also would make an awesome movie.

2. What drove you to write Better Off Dead?

Vampires. We were on our way to this party, but the dude hosting it got staked by a slayer so we all had to scarper. I was left with an evening of naff all to do, so I wrote a book. That night. A whole book. That's a lie. It was vampires though. I got bored of them always being portrayed as either mindless monsters or lost lonely souls gothing up the place with their emo feelings and scented candles, and this was before sparkling vampires came along! Oh Satan! My book is about vampires who enjoy having superpowers and being free of the mortal coil. Of course, they still have their problems, otherwise I wouldn’t have a book, but if they think, “Hey, you know what would be really cool? Jumping off this building, landing on my face and eating the paramedic that comes along to save me. That would be pretty cool,” they do it, because they can. They don’t write poems about their woman who drowned two hundred years ago while trying to wipe tears with a handkerchief at the thought of a sad kitten and they absolutely do not sparkle. Ever.

3. What would you like readers to know about your short story collection Not All of Them About Zombies?

It's not what you expect. If there is only one thing people will ever say about my work (apart from, “Urgh! What is this shit?”) it’ll be that I play with expectations. The title is not a lie, but it implies a certain something, and each of the stories within plays with your expectations of the main concept. If anyone ever predicts the endings of my stories I’ll buy them a Ferrari…cake.

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

Douglas Adams taught me straight away that writing should be fun. Is there a single moment in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy where immense amounts of fun are not being had? I don’t think so. I think that was the first grown up’s novel that I read. I then migrated to Pratchett’s Discworld and learned that stories could be a complex observation of human culture, and I liked watching humans because I was a shy child. I think they shaped upwards of 80% of my sensibilities, those writers. I don’t really write comedy though. I just can’t imagine life without some laughs.

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

I’ve done a lot of different things, but, judging by my bank account, none of them have been successful. I love the writing, I really do, but a writer has to be his own marketing agent nowadays and I am terrible at that – I don’t understand people at all. They behave nothing like characters. However, I’ve got the Twitter account, I’ve got the blog (even though I have struggled with deciding exactly what to do with it, much like a cat might approach an electronic mouse), I did some readings on YouTube, I got features in the local paper and interviewed on the radio. I really don’t know how to do it well though, so don’t go asking me for advice. One thing I am loving recently though is Vine, an app from Twitter where you post six seconds of looping video. I've been experimenting with ways that a writer can use such a thing.

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?

Generally, it normally starts while I am watching a movie or something on TV. A plot device or character goes in a completely different direction to what I want him to and so I reach into the TV, pull out the screenwriter and shake him yelling “No! It would have been so much better if you did it like this!” And I keep doing that until he agrees to let me rewrite it for him and all the women love me and all the dogs have fat little puppies and the universe is blissful again. In other words, I usually see some cliche that triggers a "what if" question in my head-mush and I write it down. Usually, it's a character trait or a plot twist. I then brainstorm about what kind of message I can give. This is normally clear as I want to stand against the cliche that annoyed me in the first place, but sometimes deeper messages develop and the story flows from that.

I’ll then make a character for it, asking "Why are they how they are?" and building the world up around this central, initial, unchangeable idea until I have a whole backstory and story arc for them. Then I build up supporting characters as needed and usually these characters change the main plot a little, so I tweak. The tweaking continues as I write, which can happen from any time really, but normally I have a whole novel outline done before I get 10,000 words into the novel. During the actual writing I’ll separate it into chapters – even if I eventually decide the book doesn’t need chapters later – and I choose where I want my characters to be at the start and end of each chapter. Then I just write until I get to that point each time. Also, I go back and edit previous chapters whenever I need more time to think about the current section. So usually I have a very polished beginning, but the end of the novel is usually much rougher! It gets polished eventually.

7. Has living and teaching English in Japan affected your writing?

I’ve not been influenced by the culture, by being an outsider in a strange land, nor do I have to get out all my angst from being stared at by homogeneous peoples by furiously banging at a keyboard. I’ve actually been motivated by my students. I work in public schools, so most students don’t give a flying simian about English. However, a lot of them have been impressed by the fact that I write novels and stories.

Many of them, especially those who like English, and who I adore because obviously they are superior people, have expressed a desire to read my work. In that respect, I’ve felt bad because my novel is so full of slang and my own twisted ways of speaking that non-native speakers would struggle to find any meaning. Plus some of the short stories are a little adult. I don’t mean a dwarf. I mean, I’m not shy about swearing and my birds do my bees all over the page…occasionally.  So, they have motivated me to write something they can read and enjoy, but more generally, seeing how hard some of them try with English makes me feel guilty for being so lazy with my writing. I really want to make stories that my students would be proud to say “my teacher wrote this” without the awkward "… but don’t look at page 52."

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

I think in five years I might have two or even three new novels out, another compilation of shorts and I might even have earned enough in sales to pass Amazon’s limit to actually transfer earnings to my bank account. On that day, I shall buy a new bookcase with my earnings, and then lament at the waste of money as I will only have ebooks and my iPad/Kindle will look pretty lonely there on its own. I’ll have a writing career, but I won’t be successful, because I can’t market myself. Such a thing is as foreign to me as driving a taxi is to a newt with General Anxiety Disorder. I’ll be happy though, because I’ll be writing.

9. What are you currently working on?

I’m just perfecting that ending on my SF comedy No Technobabble Please, We’re Earthlings! which has proved to be as troublesome as Justin Beiber’s singing career is to my eardrums. I hope to get that published first thing next year. I’m also in the late planning, early first draft stages of my next novel, The Damsel. It’s a reverse of the usual "Chosen One" stories. So its a "Bugger off, we didn't want you" story, I suppose. I think its a world first in that respect. When a world of superpowered citizens cries out for a hero, the only normal girl puts on a mask.

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

Just do it (sponsored by Nike). You’ve got no excuses anymore. Anyone can publish anything, and it's not damaging to your career if you don’t go the traditional publishing route. That I wouldn’t recommend anyway. I wasted eight years chasing a publishing contract when I should have jumped on the self-publishing wagon as soon as it emerged from its stable like a terrified lamb. What is harmful to your career is if you publish something before it is ready. Make sure your work is the best it can be before you send it out into the world. It’s not like your child. It’s not going to eat all the snack food, get fat, make your basement smell bad and have you labelled as a terrible person by all society if you don’t get it out of your house by a certain age. Write it, edit it, edit it again, edit it some more and then pay some professional people to keep editing it until you are crying from all the pages you’ve had to lose (or whatever best serves the story). I may or may not have made such a mistake in the past. Stop judging me!

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If you’d like to learn more about Matthew Rowe and his work, you can check out his website, Matt Cannot Write. You can also check him out on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

10 Questions for... Laila Lucent

I first became aware of Laila Lucent, author of The Yoga Stripper: A Las Vegas Memoir of Sex, Drugs and Namaste, a few weeks when back I was listening to Penn's Sunday School, which is the podcast of Penn Jillette (who is, of course, one half of the iconic magic duo Penn & Teller)Lucent grew up in rural Ohio, before taking off to Brazil when she was 16 to be a high school exchange student for a year.

She studied at The Ohio State University and, upon graduating, she headed to Las Vegas where she decided to be professionally topless. Since publishing her memoir, Lucent has moved to Los Angeles where, along with teaching yoga (certified to teach Envision Yoga and Vinyasa Flow), she is pursuing a career as a television writer.

Without further ado, here are 10 questions for Laila Lucent...

1. What would you like readers to know about The Yoga Stripper?

'The Yoga Stripper' is an inside look at my two years working at the best strip club in Las Vegas, and probably the most famous strip club in the world, the Spearmint Rhino. The book is 100% true (unless it's my parents asking), really funny and has a lot of heart. The take away message of 'The Yoga Stripper' is that women are so much more powerful and so much more in control than most of them realize, and that everyone should have sex with the damn lights on!

2. What drove you to write The Yoga Stripper?

Honestly, I just always wanted to try working as a stripper. And I was right. It was awesome! I figured writing a book about stripping would make me appear more responsible than I actually am. Also, I met some of the most amazing women of my life working at Spearmint Rhino, and I wanted the world to know that they exist. 'The Yoga Stripper' was written for them.

3. How did you end being interviewed on Penn's Sunday School?

Penn Jillette has been such a terrific influence on my life. I can't even begin to explain how much he's meant to me, how much he's taught me, and how many disgusting jokes he's told me. Through weird coincidence, Penn's wonderful wife, Emily, was one of my very first friends in Las Vegas. Through Emily, I became friends with Penn (lucky girl, I know), and I started going to his weekly Movie Night at his really awesome house, The Slammer. Every week, a group of us (sometimes I was the only girl) got together and ate really terrible food, watched and made fun of a movie together. Everyone at Movie Night knew I was writing a book, and when I finally got it out, Penn was wonderful enough to have me on Penn's Sunday School to promote it.

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

I love Ken Kesey, author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. In fact, my stripper name was Kesey. I'm working towards getting employed as a television writer, and I really admire the careers of Tina Fey and Mindy Kaling. Hopefully, I'll get to meet them one day. Also, anyone who is serious about writing a worthwhile story should read 'Story: Style, Structure, Substance, and the Principles of Screenwriting' by Robert McKee.

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

I still have a long way to go on this. I've been really slacking on marketing (which is at least as important as what you've written for book sales). I started a Twitter account and I badgered my friends on Facebook to buy my book. I gave copies of 'The Yoga Stripper' away at Improv Vegas's weekly gathering of comedy kids, and at my going away party to all of my friends. Amazon's KDP Select program has definitely helped boost sales. And finally, I recommend reading and applying the advice of the book How to Make, Market and Sell Ebooks by Jason Matthews. He has amazingly useful (and free) marketing advice.

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?

You just gotta write. I know there are a million distractions and excuses, but you just gotta write or, unfortunately, you're not a writer. I'd go to the coffee shop down the street from my apartment and purposefully deprive myself of the Internet. I figured out my theme, and then I sorted through all of my crazy Vegas stories to figure out which ones best made the point I wanted to make. Thanks to stripping, I had my weeks free, and that gave me the time I needed to grind it out. The editing was the hardest part. I started with the big stuff, cutting out entire chapters, and then I got down to the minutia (ie. "Is 'awhile' one word or two? Better Google it.")

7. Do you find there to be any underlining similarities between yoga, stripping, and writing?

Those are the three things that I can convince people to pay me to do. Yay! And they're all things that I get a big kick out of. They've all helped shape me into the person I am today. I love all three.

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

I'll be writing for a hit television show in L.A., poised to become a head writer on the next show I work on. Or I'll be rereading this article and crying myself to sleep while lamenting what a miserable idiot failure I am. It might not work out how I want it to, but that'll be okay, too, because success is but a symptom of the disease. I'm in this game to create art that makes me feel proud and that I love. Wherever and however I end up doing that, I'll be happy.

9. What are you currently working on?

Penn's Sunday School cohost (and about the coolest guy ever!), Matt Donnelly, informed me that all of his friends writing for television shows have two original pilots written as well as two spec scripts. I have a lot to work on. I'm writing a spec script for the TV show 'Girls' and most likely one for 'The Mindy Project.' Then an original kind of 'Entourage'-esque show about stripping in Las Vegas, and a sitcom about these guys that live together in college.

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

Write a book and publish it. That's all. The only thing stopping you is you. Ding dong, the publishing gate keepers are dead! When I asked him over a year ago if I should try and publish 'The Yoga Stripper' through a traditional publisher or self-publish, Penn told me, "All of the cool kids are self-publishing." Also, if at all possible, get your friends to help you! My friends Lana Hines Strong and Ravi Krishnaney edited my book. Ashley Ellwood Photography staged a cover intervention with me on my original cover. She and Chris Fore Photography designed my amazing cover. My friend, NYT best selling author Larry "Ratso" Sloman, gave me writing advice and helped me to write a better introduction chapter. Be nice to people, and they'll want to help you succeed.

I’d like to thank Laila Lucent for spending some time here on Inside Martin. If you’d like to learn more about Laila and her work, you can check out her website, The Yoga Stripper. You can also check her out on Facebook and follow her on Twitter. Buy The Yoga Stripper: A Las Vegas Memoir of Sex, Drugs, and Namaste on Amazon:

10 Questions for... Andy Elliott

Andy Elliott is the author of the terrific novella Composition,  which felt like something Nick Hornby might write if he were reincarnated as Bret Easton Ellis. The book itself is essentially four independent, but interconnected, stories that come together in the end in a very satisfying Pulp-Ficiton-esque sort of way. Elliott lives and works in Wales, is a graduate of Trinity College, Carmarthen’s MA Creative Writing course, and he has contributed to the New Welsh Review. Without further ado, here are 10 questions for Andy Elliott...

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

It's unsuitable for younger readers. I dislike making sweeping generalisations on behalf of readers, because there might always be exceptions, but my book deals with some very adult themes. Also that it's mercifully short: it's nearer a novella than a novel in terms of length. I would hate someone to pick it up thinking it's a long book and feel shortchanged, so I'd want them to know in advance that it's a quick but satisfying read.

2. The premise for Composition is very unique. How’d you come up with the idea?

There are four intersecting stories at the core of the book and these originated in different ways. For one it was reading a weird detail in a newspaper article and another from sitting down and consciously writing micro-fiction for 2 hours.

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

For any Welsh writer Dylan Thomas' presence is never far away. As well as the obvious contribution he makes to part four of the book, I can hear his cadences in some of the passages throughout. Bret Easton-Ellis taught me to be true to my characters and brave when that meant exposing uncomfortable truths about them. Kafka proved irrefutably that short fiction need not mean insubstantial fiction. Every writer I've read who ever employed symbolism to good effect carries some blame: there's LOTS of symbolism in this book. I fantasise about there being a CliffsNotes.

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

Considering I work in Media & Communications I've been pretty remiss on that front. I have zero costs but also no publicity budget to speak of. I did a run of promotional postcards and I tend to take those with me everywhere in case I get a chance to drop some off somewhere. Literature Wales have been helpful in getting it noticed within Wales; ditto the Bibliobabes on a more international level.

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?

For me writing starts with a concept or even just a weird little detail. Initially it's not a linear process, just something I've made a deal with myself to explore. It's quite playful actually and can seem like something I'm just doing for my own amusement. I can stop writing for days to research and plan until I get things straight in my own head, then it's green for go again. I write best between 10:30pm and 4:00am, which means I've been really unproductive since I started cohabiting, but the bags under my eyes are smaller.

6. Did you have any concerns with how readers would respond to Composition, being that it begins with a taboo subject matter?

Not really, but then I tend to give readers a lot of credit. That said, I know I've asked a lot of them and it's been interesting to see how people have responded. One review noted that the opening chapters made for uncomfortable reading at times and it was only then I realised I've probably lost other readers during those chapters, maybe to their weak stomachs or to assumptions the whole book is going to be like that.

7. What drove you to write Composition?

The Devil made me do it.

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

I'd like to see 'Composition' achieve its potential and for me to know it's been read in significant numbers. I know I need to put as much time into being visible as an author and making my work visible as I do to producing that work. I guess the important thing looking five years ahead is that I've established an audience and I'm not starting from scratch each time I promote new work.

9. What are you currently working on?

It took a lot of work to produce that odd, little book and I'll admit I'm a bit daunted by trying to take on the larger canvas of a full-length novel. I'm just playing with ideas for the moment, some nice short stories are coming from it but nothing I've wanted to explore in a longer form yet.

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

When I was talking to a London agency about 'Composition' they said it would be virtually impossible to place a novella-length book by a first-time author with a mainstream publisher; they wanted a full-length novel and asked if I could bolt another 25,000 words on to the book they'd already seen and liked. I started extending it but it felt dishonest. Yes the book was short, but it was already finished. That experience illustrates the choice any author, aspiring or established, faces, not just when it comes to distribution but each time they sit down to write: what is going to shape your book? Will it be the truth of the story you want to tell or the influence of the market? Both are legitimate, but the existence of a healthy independent publishing sector means right now you can be uncompromising without being unread. I hope that continues and that more writers choose this route; it seems to be how some of the most innovative, original and downright quirky books are finding their way into the world.

I’d like to thank Andy Elliott for spending some time here on Inside Martin. If you’d like to learn more about Andy and his work, you follow him on Twitter. Buy Composition on Amazon:

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... S. Kay Murphy

S. Kay Murphy is a writer, a teacher and, I'm pleased to say, one of my very good friends. She began freelance writing thirty years ago and still contributes to national magazines and newspapers. Some years ago her freelance work was interrupted by the pursuit of information about her great-grandmother, Bertha Gifford, who was rumored to have poisoned more than a dozen individuals in her own community. That resulted in the writing of her first memoir, Tainted Legacy: The Story of Alleged Serial Killer Bertha Gifford.

In July of 2012, Kay published her second memoir, a beautiful and touching book called Lessons I Learned from the Dogs Who Saved Me. If you buy the book for only one reason, let it be this: 100% of the net proceeds from its sales will be donated to animal rescue.

So, without further ado, here are 10 questions for S. Kay Murphy...

 1. What would you like readers to know about Lessons I Learned from the Dogs Who Saved Me?

I wrote this book to honor the dogs who chose to companion with me at various times in my life.  The book is divided into several sections, each one telling the story of a dog or dogs I had throughout my life.  Some of them saved me in a literal sense; Rufus kept me from being assaulted or possibly abducted when I was a teenager.  Ian saved me from a burglar.  And some of them saved me in the psychological sense, rescuing me from deep sadness or giving me a reason to go on living even during a very dark time.

2. What persuaded you to donate all the royalties from Lessons I Learned from the Dogs Who Saved Me to animal rescue?

I have been inspired by several individuals, in particular young Miss Michala Riggle who established www.beatingtobeatautism.org. She started with $7.35, bought some materials, made some bracelets and sold them. Her purpose?  To raise money for research into autism to help her brother Evan who has been diagnosed with autism.  After buying some bracelets from the website one day, the spark of Michala’s passion to help others continued to resonate with me. I was already working on the book and just started thinking about how I could contribute to something I feel passionate about, which is the concept of No More Homeless Pets.

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

James Brown, James Brown, and James Brown.  I went to see Brown once when he was speaking about his memoir, The Los Angeles Diaries.  I'd read the book, and frankly, it set a pretty high bar for me in terms of the quality of the writing. Brown doesn't just tell what happened in his life.  He somehow weaves thoughts, feelings, actions and sensory response into every paragraph, creating an amazing tapestry of description.

During the Q&A at the speaking engagement, I asked him about telling the truth.  At the time, I was working on my memoir, Tainted Legacy: The Story of Alleged Serial Killer Bertha Gifford, and my mother, who figures prominently in the story, was still living at the time. I wanted to tell the truth, but didn't want to alienate her (further than what we'd suffered through all my life). Brown said, "Everyone has their own story. You have to tell yours. For your mother, the story is different. My mother still speaks to me. Yours will still speak to you." A weight lifted, and I went forward with my own project in the most honest way I could. He was right.

4. What methods and strategies have you employed in order to promote both yourself as an author, as well Lessons I Learned from the Dogs Who Saved Me?

Oof, this is the part I hate. I’m a shy, introverted person—almost reclusive (if I didn’t have to go to work every day).  Self-promotion is a beast. So, at this point in time, I’m relying on the theory of reciprocity.  Many years ago I read a book I loved and posted a review of it on Amazon so that others would be drawn to read it.  The author sent me an email to thank me, which made my day and also made me realize how much we need to be mutually supportive of each other (as opposed to being competitive—ick). I’ve tried to encourage and promote as many writers as I’ve had opportunity to, and I’m hoping now some of those folks will, in turn, reach out to their own circle of contacts and say a good word about my work.

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?

Um... yes:

1.  Put your butt in the chair.

2.  Stay there until you've written something—brilliant or shitty, it matters not.

3.  Repeat.

4.  Repeat.

5.  Repeat.

Horror writer Douglas Clegg once said, "I suspect the great American novel will not be written by the best writer in America. I suspect it will be written by someone who writes."  His point was that the biggest dementor (yes, that was Harry Potter reference) we have to overcome is our own self-doubt.  Then we just have to keep writing until we finish things.  Amen.

6. What drove you to write Lessons I Learned from the Dogs Who Saved Me?

I miss my dogs. Living here in the San Gabriel Mountains is idyllic. But, for various reasons, I can’t have a dog here. One summer afternoon, I was culling out from boxes and boxes of photos the ones that were pictures of my dogs, with the intention of putting them in an album.

I organized them chronologically, and as I did, I began to reminisce about how important those canine heroes were in my life and recall how integral they’d been in keeping me sane (and alive). I simply wanted to tell their stories.  As it turns out, the book was the most difficult thing I’ve ever written.  Among other incidents, I write about my step-father’s attempts to molest me.  This is something I’ve never talked to anyone about—ever.  It was hard to relive that time in my life, and I found myself crying often as I wrote. Sometimes, when the emotion became overwhelming, I would have to take a break from the writing for a few days. I was haunted by nightmares while I worked on the book.

7. Lessons I Learned from the Dogs Who Saved Me is your second consecutive memoir, following Tainted Legacy. Is this your genre of choice or do you have plans for writing fiction?

When Mrs. Walton, my fourth grade teacher, told me I could be a writer (and I absolutely without hesitation believed her), I assumed I would grow up to write down the stories I constantly made up in my head.  But… that’s not what happened.  As you know, the story of my great-grandmother, Bertha Gifford, fell into my lap when I discovered she’d been accused of murdering several people.  I never thought I’d write her story, but I’m so glad I did, as it gave my mother some much-needed closure about the alleged crimes.  And then I had the idea for Lessons I Learned from the Dogs Who Saved Me, so I had to do that.  But I have written a bit of fiction.

8. What are you currently working on?

In 2006, I did NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). To those unfamiliar, I encourage you to look it up—and do it!  Just do it!  In 30 days, I wrote a 50,000 word Young Adult novel entitled Ghost Grandma.  When I finished, I put it away for a long time because I assumed it couldn’t possibly be any good (having been written by a nonfiction writer in 30 days).

But every summer, I would take it out and look at it.  Six years later, I still love my characters and my story.  Maybe no one else will love it as I do, but at this point, I’m doing a final edit before I take it to CreateSpace for publication.  I love YA lit and, at this point in my life, read more of it than adult fiction, partly because I’m always looking for good books for my high school students, but also because I simply love what’s out there right now.  (I just finished reading The Fault in Our Stars and Jumpstart the World.  Oh my Buddha, what fabulous novels!)  After Ghost Grandma goes to press, I’ll begin working <gulp> on a YA trilogy I’ve been planning for some time.

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

Right now, major writing projects have to be completed during the ten weeks of summer, as once school starts and I return to my day job, I have little time or energy for such things. But in two years?  Oh my Buddha! I'll be retired from teaching, and finally, after longing for this for decades, I'll be able to be a full-time writer. Booyah! So I’m hopeful that in five years’ time (three years after I retire), I will have produced a substantial body of work and developed a sympathetic and appreciative fan base.

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

See my answer to question #5. Keep writing. And learn your craft. Simply because you enjoy the process doesn't mean that your work meets the standard of what's out there.  (Notice I didn't use the word "good."  What makes "good" writing is subjective.) Learn where the commas go. Learn what syntax is. Learn why "subject/pronoun agreement" is an issue. Make sure your writing is correct and readable. And then write from your heart. Ignore the voice of your own self-doubt. Ignore friends, family members and co-workers who discount, in any way, what you're doing.

Pretend you don't hear them. Shake it off. Go home and write something great—but never, ever share it with people you love until it's in print; you will be too easily influenced by their response, especially if you're looking for approval. Do find someone who is good at editing—preferably someone who is not a part of your social circle—to find the typos and words you left out and the part toward the end where the piece takes a wrong turn. Take his or her criticism to heart—then keep writing, keep writing, keep writing. Writing mediocre drafts and discovering how to make them better is just like a painting a portrait then continuing to work at it until it truly resembles the model. Don't give up. And find other like-minded writers to have coffee with so they can inspire you. And don't hate English teachers! We can't help who we are!

And there you have it. I’d like to thank my friend, S. Kay Murphy, for taking some time to hang out on Inside Martin. If you’d like to learn more about Kay and her writing, visit her blog On Simply Being True. You can also connect with Kay on Twitter, as well as Facebook.

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.

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… Richard Jay Parker

Richard Jay Parker has been a professional TV writer for twenty-two years and started by submitting material to the BBC.  After contributing to a wide variety of TV shows he became a head writer, script editor and then producer.

At the age of thirty he decided he wanted to write a novel and have it published. After ten years of rejection, Parker's debut novel, Stop Me, was picked up for publication by Allison and Busby in 2009.

Since then Stop Me has been nominated for the CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger Award 2010 and has entered four Amazon Top 10 bestseller charts.

So, without any further ado, here are 10 questions for Richard Jay Parker.

1. What would you like readers to know about Stop Me?

Stop Me is a twisty and dark psychological thriller that begins with a chain email that must be forwarded to ten people otherwise a victim will be murdered. It's not a typical cop/serial killer story and, I hope, confounds the reader's expectations. It was nominated for the CWA John Creasey New Blood Dagger Award and, to my surprise, got to #7 on Amazon's Thriller chart as well as #14 in the overall bestsellers.

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

All the authors on my bookshelves - good and bad.  Whether I've admired them or thought I could do better, I expect, like all writers, I'm a product of every book I've read. I think I'm also inspired by movies as much as books.

3. Along with being a novelist, you’ve also written for television. Creatively speaking, how does one genre compare with the other?

I used to write a lot of comedy for television which, outwardly, would appear to have very little to do with writing dark thrillers. But comedy is all about setting up and paying off and that's something you do in thrillers on a grander scale. Writing scripts has also obviously enabled me to refine writing dialogue.

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

I've done the usual signings and library readings. Social media is a fun tool for getting the word out.  Facebook and Twitter are a great way of contacting like-minded readers and writers. The bonus is I've met a lot of good people in the process.

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 started with a number of ideas I wanted to explore and constructed the plot.  However, I gave myself plenty of latitude to go off on a tangent which is exactly what happens to Leo in Stop Me.  I think it's good to give yourself freedom to explore although I know other writers who stick to a more rigid plan.

6. When you’re not writing, what sort of books do you enjoy reading?

I have very eclectic tastes. As well as books with a dark vein, I also enjoy bios. My favourite book this year was Agent Zigzag by Ben Macintyre.

7. What drove you to write Stop Me?

I'd already written a couple of dark thrillers which got close with publishers.I had a handful of ideas for new books but incorporated them all into Stop Me, which was great fun. I think that's the key - with such a difficult path ahead at the end of the writing process you have to make sure you enjoy the work. It should be reward in itself.

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

It would be great to combine my script writing with my novel writing and create a screenplay of one of my books. I'm realistic though and just hope I'm still writing material I enjoy, whatever the project.

9. What are you currently working on?

I've just completed a rewrite of book 2 and am developing some other projects which I hope to put out later this year.

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

I only have one book published so I don't know whether I'm qualified to advise, but I think the one thing that's paid off for me is perseverance.  It's a cliche but it's true.  Make sure the work you submit is the best you can produce and then get it under as many noses as possible.  If it's not being read, it's not going to happen.

And there you have it. I'd like to thank Richard Jay Parker for taking some time to hang out on Inside Martin. If you'd like to learn more about Richard and his novel, Stop Me, you can visit RichardJayParker.com. You can also connect with Richard 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.

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... Melissa Foster

Melissa Foster is quickly becoming a superstar in the literary world, having already published two award-winning novels, Megan’s Way and Chasing Amanda, which firmly established themselves in Amazon's bestseller rankings. She is also the founder of the Women’s Nest, a social and support community for women, and WoMen’s Literary Café, a literary community. Melissa has written for Calgary’s Child Magazine and Women Business Owners Magazine, she hosts an annual Aspiring Authors contest for children, and she has painted and donated several murals to The Hospital for Sick Children in Washington, DC. And, if all of that wasn't enough to keep her busy, Melissa is currently collaborating in the film production of Megan’s Way and is about to release her third novel, Come Back To Me. So, without further ado, here are 10 questions for Melissa Foster.

1. What would you like readers to know about Chasing Amanda?

That it almost ended up in the trash! I had received many inquiries from agents, but none of them picked it up, and I really let that get to me. I began to think that since it was the first manuscript I had written, though not the first published, that perhaps it wasn't worthy. Thank goodness for my good friend, Geraldine Solon, who pushed me to send it to her publisher. Solstice Publishers offered me representation 24 hours later and I am very grateful to both Solstice and Geraldine.

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

I take something from every author that I read, whether it is something I want to learn from and expand my writing to encompass or shy away from, there's always a bit of knowledge to reap. In that regard, I'd say that all authors that I read have helped shape my abilities. However, I really fell in love with Jodi Piccolt and Harlen Coben's writing styles early on (as different as they are). Both touched me with a very "real life" feel. I'm sure that played into the way I shape my characters' emotional journeys.

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

I've done everything from paid advertisements and networking at events to writing articles for publication and cross promoting with other authors. I reach out to readers daily and to other authors, and it's one of the things that I enjoy most about being an author.

4.  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?

For me, writing is a very solitary act. I write when I'm home alone with my radio on and a big glass of water or mug of coffee—don't forget the Skittles or brownies—always something sugary, even if not much of it. I write in a few steps—as detailed in this article, "The Hidden Aspects of Writing." First I write the entire story from start to finish—it's rough, and often way too long, but the general idea is there. Then I go back and work through the story to take out the "fluff." Then, I polish, edit, rewrite, edit, rewrite, edit, edit, rewrite, fight with my editor <sigh>, edit, rewrite, polish, and voilà—a story is born. The one thing that I do that is probably very odd is that I act out scenes as I develop them. I find that crawling into my characters' minds is very important. I need to feel their fear, their emotional roller coaster, in order to parlay it effectively to the page.

5. With two novels under your belt, Megan’s Way and Chasing Amanda, has writing gotten any easier for you?

The actual writing process gets a little speedier, though I'm not sure if easier is the right word. I agonize over every scene and every word. What gets easier is the process of understanding where/when I need to add certain peaks and valleys.

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

I love to write. I would hope that I'm writing with several books under my belt. It would be a dream come true if people knew my books when they heard my name instead of getting a raised eyebrow and feigned knowledge.

7. What drove you to write Chasing Amanda?

I was a runner for many years. When I moved to Boyds, I ran down White Ground Road, the secluded rustic road that is mentioned in the book. There is a portion of the road that is lined with trees on both sides, thick woods during the Spring, and eerily bare during the winter months. While running down White Ground, I began to realize how easily someone could disappear into the woods, and my mind wandered from there. I never ran down White Ground Road again after that day.

8. Can you sum up the journey of getting Chasing Amanda published?

I queried my heart out, received probably twenty-five requests for the manuscript, and none of the agents took the book. At that point I decided that perhaps it wasn't meant to be published. I had recently met an author by the name of Geraldine Solon, now one of my very close friends. We were commiserating about the woes of snagging an agent, and she suggested that I query her publisher. After much pushing from Geraldine (thank you, G!), I agreed. 24 hours later I had an offer of representation. Chasing Amanda sold 30,000 copies in September alone, and now I am repped by the magnificent Jenny Bent of The Bent Agency. I am very blessed to have had a friend to push me, and even more blessed to have readers who enjoy my work (thank you all!).

9. What are you currently working on?

My third book, Come Back To Me, will be released November 1, and we are having an enormous virtual launch party with 35 other talented authors. All books will be 99 cents, including my newest release—for 3 days only. It will be a magnificent event for readers. We're giving away free ebooks, and a one-of-a-kind leather-bound edition of Come Back To Me. Readers can join us Tuesday, November 1 - Thursday, November 3, at  www.womensliterarycafe.com

I'm also working on rewrites to Chasing Amanda for Jenny Bent, and a second suspense novel, Traces of Tara.

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

Hone your craft, and never stop. Learn from everything you can get your hands on. Have a professional edit your work multiple times. The publishing industry is in a state of flux, but that is not something that should stop writers from writing or from querying. Agents are still making deals. Indies are publishing to an enormous audience, and self-publishing is making it's way to the forefront (or perhaps we can say it's already there). Do what your heart tells you to do. If you were meant to write, write. And, finally, learn to market your book. I'm launching WoMen's Literary Cafe as a means to help authors learn to promote and cross promote without spending all of their hard-earned and much needed money. Join the community after November 1st, and grow with us. We're already over 1000 members strong. Alone, you are one, together we are a force to be reckoned with.

Thank you, Martin, for giving me the opportunity to take part in your "10 Questions For..." series. I am happy to chat with readers and book clubs, and look forward to connecting with your commenters.

And there you have it. I'd like to thank Melissa Foster for being so generous with her time. If you want to learn more about her, you can visit MelissaFoster.com. You can also connect with Melissa on Facebook and GoodReads and you can follow her on Twitter.

10 Questions for… Belinda Frisch

As Halloween quickly approaches, I've got a treat for you in the form of an interview with horror author Belinda Frisch. Belinda’s fiction has appeared in Shroud Magazine, Dabblestone Horror, and Tales of Zombie War. She is the author of the horror novel, Dead Spell, as well as the short story compilation, Crisis Hospital: Dark Tales from the Ward, the World, and the Bedside. She is an honorable mention winner in the Writer's Digest 76th Annual Writing Competition and a proud member of the Horror Writer’s Association and New England Horror Writers. And, while she is hard at work on her follow-up novel, Cure, Belinda was kind enough to take out some time out to chat with me. So, without further ado, here are 10 questions for Belinda Frisch.

1. What would you like readers to know about Dead Spell?

Dead Spell is a first novel and I published it independently because it felt like a niche horror novel, not a mass market one. Fiction comes in part from fact and that was the driving force behind this novel. It was a bloodletting of sorts with a main character that hounded me until I put her out there. People that identify with my main character, Harmony, really identify with her. Author Ben Miller was one such person and his review says that I accomplished everything I set out to.

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

I’d say my biggest influences are Anne Rice and Joe Schreiber. Early 90’s Anne Rice brought me to horror. Joe Schreiber brought me back.

3. What do you enjoy most about writing in the horror genre?

Anything goes. That’s a great perk and you can vent anger, frustration, sadness, and hopelessness in a way that you couldn’t in other genres. I like the occasional unhappy ending.

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

Like most indies, I’ve networked like crazy via Facebook, Twitter, and my blog. I’ve built up a decent following and made some excellent friends. As for marketing, Kindle Lovers site has been the most return on the least amount of time spent so far. They have a 20K+ person following and every writer I’ve sent to their site has seen immediate results. Twitter is great, but I’m careful not to over-promote myself and come off like a broken record. Social networking should all be about “look at me.” It should be about get to know me, too.

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?

Dead Spell being my first was a lot of flying by the seat of my pants and throwing everything at it to see what sticks. It was barely organized chaos, really, and I paid the price with extensive revisions before finally shipping it off to my editor, Glen Krisch. I learned a ton writing it and now, my process is MUCH cleaner and more productive.

I start with index cards and I jot down rough notes on the scenes that come immediately to mind. I make character notes and reorganize until the flow feels right. Then, I start writing. I keep notes in a notebook because details are super important to me and I don’t want to miss a single connection as I get further into my work. I keep writing, adding more cards, reorganizing scenes, and adding layers to my characters and my plot as I go. In the end, I should have a knock-out second book.

I started with short stories. I entered some contests and even received honorable mention in one of Writer’s Digest genre short competitions. I came in the top 100 out of over 19,000 entries. That felt great and my prize-winning story, "The Look-Alike," appears in Crisis Hospital. Another of the shorts in Crisis Hospital was published in the venerable Shroud Magazine. Tim Deal, the editor, has a great eye for talent and I was beyond pleased to be accepted alongside such greats as Bram Stoker Award-Winner Kealan Patrick Burke. Do I like shorts better? No. I tend to want to go very deep with my characters and plots. Shorts just don’t offer the freedom to fully do that. I do, however, have a 6,000 word short releasing in the City of Hell Chronicles, Volume 1, in December 2011.

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

In five years, I hope to be publishing both independently and traditionally. Cure, my upcoming novel, is something that has mass-market potential and I’ve received rave reviews from early beta readers. I’ve gone to working a part-time job instead of a full-time one to focus on realizing my life-long dream of being a paid, full-time author.

8. What drove you to write Dead Spell?

I think I answered this with question one, but it was some old demons and a nagging main character that insisted I write DEAD SPELL. I couldn’t let Harmony down.

Honestly, since I went independent, it was not hard at all. I wrote the novel, revised it a million times, and hired an editor because no writer should be without one. I sent the book to him and after successfully revising the manuscript into a solid final draft, I released it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and CreateSpace.

I do have a traditionally published text book, too, so I know what that route looks like by comparison.

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

Oh, where to start. Learn to take criticism. It’s hard when you think you’ve written the perfect short or novel, to hear that it needs work but you’ll never succeed without listening to others’ views on how your work can be better. Success isn’t overnight and, honestly, indie money isn’t great starting out. Write the best story you can, persist, and hone your craft. If you do all of those things and learn from the revision process, you’ll get there. Practice, patience, and persistence. In writing, there are no short cuts to success.

And there you have it. I'd like to thank Belinda Frisch for being so generous with her time. If you want to learn more about her, you can visit Belinda Frisch, Author. You can also connect with Belinda on Facebook and GoodReads and you can follow her on Twitter. She also runs a Facebook page for authors and readers of horror, mysteries, and thrillers, which you can check out HERE.

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... Ben Hatch

Ben Hatch is a British author who has been enjoying a very nice writing career since the publication of his first novel, The Lawnmower Celebrity, in August of 2000. Along with his second novel, The International Gooseberry, and several guidebooks including England with Your FamilyScotland with Your Family and Britain for Free, Hatch has sold over 25,000 books. And, to top it all off, Hatch's latest book, Are We Nearly There Yet?: A Family's 8000 Miles Around Britain in a Vauxhall Astra, has gotten the endorsement of Monty Python's very own John Cleese, who very simply says, "Ben Hatch makes me laugh." So, without any further ado, here are 10 questions for Ben Hatch:

1. What would you like readers to know about Are We Nearly There Yet?: A Family's 8000 Miles Around Britain in a Vauxhall Astra?

It's not only about the funny things kids say (although Tim Brooke-Taylor has called it "Outnumbered in a car") or the horrors of spending five months on the road with two under 4s, although obviously that throws up a fair bit of chaos that provides a sound basis for humour. I'm thinking about my wife's reaction when we were forced to change our son's nappy on a bench outside Eastnor Castle using nothing but a KFC lemon fresh wipe after I lost the key to the roofbox containing his changing bag. It's also about what it's like to be in a young family. How it makes you reflect on your own upbringing, your own parents. My dad happened to be sick when we went on the trip so I think about my childhood quite a lot on our way around Britain. I think long journeys make you thoughtful too even when there are kids in the back arguing over who was first to hit the other round the head with the Corfe Castle activity sheet. Primarily though I wanted to make people laugh.

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

The first writer I fell in love with was JD Salinger. I was obsessed with The Catcher in the Rye for a number of years. I still like to reread it from time to time. My first fictional novel, The Lawnmower Celebrity was partly about a character who couldn't shake off his Holden Caulfield-perspective on the world. I have been through Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh, Hunter S Thompson, and Kingsley and Martin Amis phases. These days I'll lap up anything by Geoff Dyer, Mil Millington, Julian Barnes and Ed Docx.

3. How exactly did you chance upon the opportunity to write a guidebook about a five month, 8,000-mile road trip through Britain?

I was writing a guidebook originally for an American publisher: Frommers. That's how we came to embark on the trip. I got that commission because my wife answered a journalist alert looking for young families prepared to travel. I think normally guidebook writers don't go to the lengths we went to. We wanted to turn it into an adventure though; to see and do everything in Britain. Our daughter was also starting school in September. I'd been her main carer since my wife went back to work after her maternity leave ended and I wasn't looking forward to saying goodbye to her. It was a send off for her then—five months, all of us together every day in a car. No nursery. No tag team parenting. Just us lot. As mad as that seems now, we assumed it would be a piece of cake. The guy who'd commissioned me to write the guidebook was very kind too. He was unhappy at all the things he was having to cut from the guidebook: personal stuff that happened to us—car crashes, the time we almost got blown up going for a nature wee in a field of live ordnance, etc—so he introduced me to Jennifer Barclay at Summerrsdale, who thought it might make a good travel book.

4. What methods and strategies have you employed in order to promote both yourself as an author, as well as Are We Nearly There Yet??

Ten years ago when my first novel was published I didn't do a thing. There was a publicity department at Orion who did all that. They arranged for you to go on the radio and you turned up. They stuck up tube posters. Nowadays you're expected to get a lot more involved in selling your book. I've tweeted about it, facebooked about it. I've sent the book to anyone who I think might like it and be in a position to help promote it. There are just so many books out there—100,000 a year are published in [England]. It means it's very hard to get noticed so you do what you have to do. It does mean you spend less time writing, but that's the price you pay for being able to spend all day in your pyjamas.

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 don't have a process exactly. I've approached each book differently. Maybe that's a problem for me. The key is to get a deal, for me anyway. I realise that now. Once you have a deal you have imeptus and a process will come. After my first two-book deal ended, I decided because I'd had to rush my second novel, The International Gooseberry, that I'd write the third one out of contract. How stupid was that? That way I'd be satisfied with it, I told myself. It took me nine years to write that book. And then it was bloody well rejected. Everyone in publishing had moved on and forgotten who the hell I was. Big mistake. Once you have a deal you just have to work really hard to hand a book in that you're satisfied with on time. Although, saying that, I had no deal for my first book. To write a book out of contract it has to be your first book and you have to be slightly crazy and amazingly single-minded to see it through. I was fired up because my mum had just died. I wanted to write something that would have made her proud of me. That's where that zeal came from for my first novel.

6. While Are We Nearly There Yet? Is nonfiction, you’ve also written fiction, including the comic novel The Lawnmower Celebrity.  How does writing nonfiction compare to writing nonfiction for you?

There's not much difference actually. It's the same process. Characters and a story. Although it did give me sleepless nights during the days after I handed in Are We Nearly There Yet? I felt like I'd given something of myself away (much more than normal) and I was worried because if people didn't like the book they were really saying, this time, that they didn't like me. With fiction you have more distance from what you've written about. You can say, "It's not me, I don't think like that - it's a nasty character I made up," even if you do think a bit like that.

7. What drove you to write Are We Nearly There Yet??

I had the final scene in my mind and it made me cry my eyes out every time I thought of it. I wanted to finish the book to get to that final scene. I wanted everyone else to cry their eyes out when they read it too.

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

Jesus, I have no idea. Hopefully I am still typing away and getting paid just enough to survive to make it worthwhile carrying on. Maybe I'll have jacked it in and become a crane driver. I've also always fancied working on a trawler boat, some job that requires massive padded gloves. That would be good. Although of course then I'd want to write THE book about being a traweler man in massive padded gloves. I don't have a career plan as such. I just want to write good books that make people laugh and think occasionally.

9. What are you currently working on?

I'm working on a novel about the week in a character's life. It's the week before his marriage and his life is starting to unravel as the big occasion draws near. And the by the way it's not based on me Dinah (my wife) if you're reading this—it's just a nasty character I invented. Oh dear, now I have made it sound like me. IT'S NOT ME OK.

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

Stick at it. Make notes on everything. Practice writing. Read a lot. All the obvious stuff. And one other thing—make sure you have an understanding partner. Actually, I'd probably put that number one.

And there you have it. I'd like to thank Ben Hatch for being so generous with his time. If you want to learn more about Ben Hatch, you can follow him on Twitter.

10 Questions For... Brian Moreland

Today is an exciting day here at Inside Martin, as I'm able to help celebrate the e-book release of Dead of Winter from horror author extraordinaire, Brian Moreland. While Moreland has enjoyed a tremendous amount of succes as a horror author, success didn't happen for him overnight. He put in thousands of hours of writing and received a lot of rejections from agents and publishers in the beginning. After initially self-publishing his first novel, Shadows in the Mist, and winning a gold medal for Best Horror novel in the 2007 Independent Publishers Awards, Moreland's novel was picked up by Berkely-Penguin/Putnam for a mass paperback deal and re-released in September 2008. And now horror fans can finally read Moreland's much anticipated second novel, Dead of Winter.  So, without further ado, here are 10 questions for Brian Moreland:

1. What would you like readers to know about Dead of Winter?

My latest horror novel is a historical story based partly on true events and an old Algonquin Indian legend that still haunts the Great Lakes tribes to this day. It’s also a detective mystery and even has a couple of love triangles thrown in for fun. The story takes place near the end of the 19th Century at an isolated fur-trading fort deep in the Ontario wilderness. The main character is Inspector Tom Hatcher, a troubled detective from Montreal who had recently captured an infamous serial killer, Gustav Meraux, known as the Cannery Cannibal. Gustav is Jack-the-the-Ripper meets Hannibal Lecter. Even though the cannibal is behind bars, Tom is still haunted from the case, so he decides to move himself and his rebellious teenage son out to the wilderness. At the beginning of the story, Tom has taken a job at Fort Pendleton to solve a case of strange murders that are happening to the fur traders that involve another cannibal, one more savage than Gustav Meraux. Some predator in the woods surrounding the fort is attacking colonists and spreading a gruesome plague—the victims turn into ravenous cannibals with an unending hunger for human flesh. In Tom’s search for answers, he discovers that the Jesuits know something about this plague. My second main character is Father Xavier, an exorcist from Montreal who is ordered by the Vatican to travel to Ontario to help Tom battle the killer causing the outbreak.

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

Like most horror writers I’ve met, I was first influenced by Stephen King, because his books dominated the horror market when I was growing up and they were popularized even more by the movies based on King’s fiction. One of the first fiction books I read just for fun was Stephen King’s Night Shift. I devoured every one of those short stories and discovered that reading fiction can be even more fun than watching movies. Stephen King taught me how to create a sense of dread in a scene. He would focus on the details of something that spooked him until he had you spooked too. That’s important in horror fiction. Sometimes you need to slow the tempo down and focus on the darkness until the reader is so curious about what’s lurking beyond that curtain of blackness that they can’t stand it any longer. The two other authors who had the greatest impact were Dean Koontz and Robert McCammon. I discovered their books while in college and learning to write my own fiction. Both were masters at creating loveable characters, scary monsters, complex plots, and high-octane action that propels you to keep turning the pages. I badly wanted to write like them. I wanted readers of my novels to feel the same adrenaline that you feel when you read Dean Koontz or Robert McCammon. I studied their novels like they were textbooks on how to write fiction. I dissected them chapter by chapter, paragraph by paragraph, analyzing exactly how they structured a scene to give me the rush of feelings I was feeling. I also studied their prose, the words they used and added to my arsenal of descriptive words. I emulated both their styles in my early writing until I finally developed my own writing voice. Other notable influences were H.P. Lovecraft, Richard Laymon, and Clive Barker. Now, I study every horror author I write. I’m always learning and honing my craft.

3. Your first novel, Shadows in the Mist, was originally self-published, before eventually being picked up by Berkely-Penguin/Putnam for a mass paperback deal. How did that whole deal come about?

I had written a WWII thriller about the Nazis and the occult that I was passionate about getting published. After years of rejections from literary agents and playing the waiting game, I decided to put the destiny of my writing career into my own hands. So I originally self-published my first novel. I literally formed my own small publishing company. I put a lot of effort into producing a book that would compete in the marketplace. I hired a quality editor to help polish my writing and work out any issues with the plot. I hired a top-notch book cover designer and an award winning illustrator, Les Edwards, to paint the cover. Together my team and I produced a book that book stores would stock. I also got it listed on Amazon and BarnesandNoble.com.

My next challenge was that I was an unknown author. So I was persistent about getting the book out to reviewers to expand my audience. I did a small book tour and hired a publicist to get me into newspapers. I also got friends with large email lists to send out email blasts, telling their friends to go out and buy my book. The campaign was a success. Shortly after I launched the book, Shadows in the Mist hit #1 on Amazon.com’s Bestselling Mysteries & Thrillers list. At that time, the DaVinci Code was #4. I believe that was due to aggressive pre-pub marketing and an eye-catching cover. I entered the book in the 2007 Independent Publisher Book Awards. It won a gold medal for Best Horror Novel. All of these successes led to me getting a literary agent and she pitched my book to Berkley/Penguin. They bought the rights and my novel went from being a self-published trade paperback to a mass-market paperback stocked in stores across the nation. Selling my book to a large New York based publisher was my ultimate goal all along. It really changed the game for me.

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

I’m a very aggressive marketer. Unless you are a proven bestseller, publishers will only do so much to promote an author, often no marketing at all. I’m fortunate that my new publisher Samhain Horror is getting me lots of reviews and posting my cover in magazine ads and on horror fan sites. In any case, it is still up to the author to self-promote if you want to have success in the book business. I believe that the key to getting your book noticed is your book cover needs to be seen in several places—blogs, magazines, newspapers, social media sites, and your own website. I’ve contacted well over 50 book reviewers and bloggers to get my book reviewed and to line up interviews. I’ve also lined up a few radio show interviews to reach a wider audience. All that is great for exposure, but books still sell mostly from word of mouth. So, I think it’s most important to make and maintain personal connections with readers and fans. I use many forms of social media, including Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Redroom, and Shelfari. I also attend sci-fi, fantasy, and horror conventions so I can meet readers face to face. Next January, when the paperback version of Dead of Winter releases, I plan to do a local book tour and do several signings at book stores and libraries. It takes awhile to build up a following, but I believe if you are committed to writing quality books and are willing to promote yourself in multiple ways you can have a successful career as an author.

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?

Sure, Martin, I always start with an idea and jot down notes and character sketches. I also love research, so I’ll collect articles and photos surrounding a subject matter that I’m curious about. My first two books have been historical-based, so I’ve read multiple books about the time period. For my first novel, Shadows in the Mist, I read all I could about World War II and the Nazis and the occult. With Dead of Winter, I read all I could about the spiritual monsters of Algonquin Indian legends and about cannibalism, which was prevalent among the isolated tribes and colonies that had to endure long winters with little to no food. When I come upon a story idea based on history, I have a voracious appetite for doing research.

As far the writing process goes, I might write a one-page outline, but generally it all changes once I start writing the story. I definitely do my best writing on the fly. I’m always discovering new details about the characters as I journey along with them. I rarely know how the book is going to end. Sometimes I steer the story, but mostly I allow my characters to completely take over and see where they take the story. There are often plot twists that completely surprise me. After I’ve written a 100 pages or more and I’ve gotten to know my characters, I’ll write a chapter-by-chapter outline so I can have a bird’s-eye view of the story and keep on track of where it’s going. The second act of a novel can go way off course if a writer doesn’t widen the lens every now and then. So after the first 100 pages I continually go back and forth between losing myself in a scene and then reviewing my outline. My outlines are every chapter summarized down to one paragraph. This allows me to observe the flow of the scenes and adjust them for pace and emotional impact. With multiple character subplots happening at the same time, I’m constantly changing the sequence of the scenes so that they build to a climax. I think of my subplots as if they are trains moving down a track toward a catastrophic collision. Outlining helps me get the timing down just right. The outline also helps me work out issues in the story line and smooth out my twists and turns.

The most fun comes after I’ve written the first draft—which is still really rough—and I start the revision phase. I’ll rewrite the book for months, adding more details to scenes, fleshing out my characters, punching up the dialogue, and tightening the action so that the scenes are taut. I also get a lot of new ideas on how to best unfold the mystery. Then I go back to scenes and add details in that set up a revelation or plot twist that happens later on. I’m also a perfectionist when I write. When a character says something or does something I constantly ask myself, does this ring true? Would my character really go into that dark house where the killer is hiding? Would she run from the beast or would she hunker down and fight it? Everything I write must be as believable as I can make it. In the revision stage I’ll rewrite and edit each chapter a dozen times or more until it just flows the way I like it. This extra work has paid off, because the editors of my first two books had very minor changes. I also learned a trick to ratcheting up the tension and pace. In the final 100 pages, as I’m building toward the ultimate climax, I write shorter and shorter scenes that are mostly action.

6. Dead of Winter is being published by Samhain Publishing under the editorial guidance of Don D'Auria. How did you enjoy working them?

Working with Don has been a blast and a dream come true. I’ve always wanted to work with an editor who loves reading horror as much as I do, and Don D’Auria is a true legend who has edited for many of my favorite authors—Brian Keene, Richard Laymon, Ronald Malfi, and Jack Ketchum, to name a few. Don knows horror and I completely trust his opinions when he makes suggestions on how to make my novels even better.

Samhain Publishing has also been wonderful. After I signed my book deal, I was contacted by a Samhain staff member who said he would be my “liaison.” He gave me a warm welcome and said if I had any questions about my contract or the publisher to contact him and he would be more than happy to answer my questions. You don’t get that kind of treatment with large publishers, not unless you’re Stephen King or James Patterson. Samhain treats their authors like members of the family and that’s refreshing.

The editing process with Don went smooth with very little work on my part. It took me less than a day to correct the minor edits that he suggested. I even got to share my ideas for the cover design and was happy with the cover the in-house designers came up with.

7. What drove you to write Dead of Winter?

Complete madness! Seriously, while I was researching for my next novel idea, I came upon an old Indian legend about a mysterious supernatural creature that was a campfire tale spoken among the Algonquin tribes of the Great Lakes region of Canada, Michigan, and Minnesota back in the 1700s and 1800s. Something about this legend struck a chord with me. Then I discovered in my research that many of the tribes believed the creature was real and every winter people would disappear in the woods. The tribes actually migrated to stay out of its hunting grounds. They formed ceremonial dances to keep the evil away. Then as I read more about the legend, I discovered some unexplained cases reported by the Jesuit missionaries and the fur traders who lived among the Indians. All of these historical facts were like catching lightning in a bottle for my imagination. I played around with some plot ideas and a cast of characters and the story formed quite naturally. At first I tried writing half the book in current day and flashing back to scenes from 1870, but the historical chapters were much more interesting and enjoyable to write. After a brainstorming session with my agent, we decided the novel might work best if I set the entire story in 1870. Once I got a firm idea of my cast of characters and created two worlds—one inside Fort Pendleton and the other at Montreal—I had so much fun writing the story that I was driven to keep writing until I reached the end. Writing is easy when the story inspires you. 

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

In five years, I’m a full-time author. I’m writing new fiction daily and publishing more novels, novellas, and short stories. I have at least a dozen novels selling in multiple languages around the world. I’m enjoying a steady residual income from royalties and new book deals. At least a couple of my books have been made into movies. (I dream big.) I attend all the major Horror cons and Comic cons and have fun meeting fans and fellow authors. I also lead at least one writer’s retreat a year to some place exotic like Costa Rica or Santa Fe. My writing career is pure joy because I now have the financial means to write fiction every day for as long as I choose.

9. What are you currently working on?

I’m over 300 pages into my third horror novel, which is currently titled The Devil's Womb. This one is about three brothers who travel up to British Columbia, Canada where their father vanished in a haunted rain forest while on some top-secret expedition. This novel has some wicked monsters in it. Stay tuned for The Devil's Womb some time in 2012. I’m also mentally sketching out a novella that was inspired from this novel, plus I’ve got a list of short story ideas to flesh out. I’ve got plenty of new stories and characters in my head waiting for their turn to come life in a book.

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

Be persistent and never give up. Ignore all rejections. Ignore all the people who tell you you’ll never get published. Ignore critics who pick your writing apart. Ignore your own inner critic and doubting voice. Push through your writer’s block, knowing that you can always get back into the flow. Creativity is abundant, you just have to learn how to tap into the Source. And make time for writing. Treat writing as if it’s your profession even if you’re not getting paid to do it yet. Ask your friends and family to support you and encourage you to keep writing. I’ve had to deal with all these challenges that a writer faces, and you have to be tenacious and persistent and believe in yourself at every roadblock. Think of criticism as feedback and get more than one opinion. If one person says they don’t like something you’ve written, that might just be a difference of opinion. If five people point out the same issue—like I couldn’t connect with your main character—use that information to improve your writing. Keep learning the craft. Read books on how to write, develop characters, edit, get an agent, how to publish, and how to sell and market books. Take writers workshops. Hang out with fellow writers and successful authors and talk about writing and the business of being an author. To reach your publishing goals, you have to want to be a published author more than anything. You have to have passion and drive, and above all, tenacity. Because this is not one of those careers that’s just handed to you. Every author you see who has multiple published books had to work very hard to get where they are. While it does take hard work, time, and devotion, the rewards can be highly rewarding.

And there you have it. I'd like to thank Brian Moreland for being so generous with his time. If you want to learn more about him, you can visit BrianMoreland.com and you can also follow him  on Twitter. For those creative writers out there, you can visit Moreland's blog: Coaching for Writers.

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.

10 Questions for... Cameron Conaway

This is the inaugural post of my new interview series "10 Questions For..." and I'm extremely fortunate to start things off with Cameron Conaway.  Conaway is one of the most interesting writers I've ever had the pleasure of meeting, primarily because of the fascinating dichotomy he embodies, which he writes about in his new book: Caged: Memoirs of a Cage-Fighting Poet. When Conway isn't busy training, you can catch him writing articles about mixed martial arts (MMA) or teaching Shakespeare. And he's also a heck of a nice guy. Conaway is currently studying Muay Thai in Bangkok and was kind enough to take out a little time for an interview. So, without further ado, here are 10 questions for Cameron Conaway:

1. Tell me about Caged: Memoirs of a Cage-Fighting Poet.

It’s a book about the power of then. Much talk is made about how cool the present is, but I’ve learned so much more from the past than I ever could from now or now. Darnit, I can’t keep up! It’s the story of a young boy who struggled, became a professional MMA fighter, then an award-winning poet and somewhere in between blossomed into a simple man. Caged isn’t linear, contains information about MMA training and human performance, nutrition, poetry tactics, gogoplatas and iguanas with their tails ripped off. Melange is a weird word, but it’s a melange. Here’s what the renowned Dinty W. Moore thinks it is:

“Cameron Conaway’s fierce, fearless memoir offers a clear-eyed look at a brutal childhood, an angry father, and a son’s gathering demons. In the end, though, the author carves his way forward through an unlikely combination of mixed martial arts, poetry, and human connection. Brutal and relentless, this book never fails to surprise, and along the way Conaway gives voice and hope to all young men who must learn to grow up and out of their fathers’ footsteps or risk falling into the same hole.”

2. Perhaps the most fascinating thing about Caged for anybody who hasn’t read it would probably be the unique juxtaposition of a cage-fighter who is also a poet. Is there any common ground between cage-fighting and writing?

Too many common grounds! At several points in the book I had to use ultra-tight prose poetry to get the extract of their juices and I found their juices to taste pretty damn similar. MMA is about controlling space, about efficiency of movement, about knowing when to turn it on. This is the same way I’d define poetry. For those MMA fans that think poetry is some sing-songy roses are red stuff – it is no longer. For those poets that think MMA is human cockfighting, actually, poets see details enough to know it’s not.

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

The Beats played a huge role – Ginsberg’s tightness and courage, Kerouac’s uninhibited flow and stream-of-consciousness and Burroughs’s beautiful weirdness. Hemingway’s simplicity. Malcolm Gladwell’s way of thinking beyond the obvious.

4. 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?

Great question! Each book came together differently. Caged grew like some slow cancer over the course of five years through a series of essays with similar threads. Mentors pointed me in the direction of a book – I didn’t see it – but I trusted them and followed their intuition. Until You Make the Shore grew intensely over three months when I was teaching in a juvenile detention center. If I’d hear a story of a girl watching her dad get shot while she hid in the cupboards, I would go home, get in my cupboards with my notebook and imagine it. Bonemeal was primarily a burst as I was deep into Derrick Jensen’s Endgame and William S. Burroughs’s Naked Lunch.

5. While Caged is a book of non-fiction prose, you are also well versed as a poet. If you had to pick one form to write in for the rest of your life, which would it be: Prose or Poetry? Why? 

Wow. I’ve been sitting here for five minutes thinking on this one. Poetry. Prose is great but this ultra-clarity-readability thing often dictates it. Poetry is limitless, can cut straight to the truth of the matter without the extraneous. A single poem can contain pages of prose. Also, my mind dwells on/in small segments and struggles to, say, contain a novel all at once, so my writing tends to reflect this.

6. What inspired you to write Caged?

I was inspired to write Caged once I saw the way disciplined, focused writing was my way of finding understanding, awareness and forgiveness. Reading writing teaches, sure. But I think the lesson missed is how the act of writing teaches. When I write essays I’m often astonished at how much I learned while developing it. That’s what inspired me to write Caged. What inspired me to publish it was my belief (backed by mentors) that it was a unique contribution to the field and had the potential to help others.

7. You also write articles about nutrition and MMA for Sherdog.com, which is the top source for MMA news on the Internet. How did you get involved with that and how satisfying has it been?

I grew up in a small town so I didn’t have an MMA team to train with when I was having my fights. So I tried to control every variable I could in order to make up for it. One of these variables was nutrition.

After high school and college classes I’d go to the library or get online and read everything about human nutrition that I possibly could. I ended up getting pretty good at separating the crap that’s out there (there’s a lot) from the fact. Sherdog Nutrition was a natural fit and I feel honored to be running the column over there. It’s satisfying because I think our country is deep into a health crisis and I feel like I’m doing my part to break it.

8. So much of writing books involves having the foresight to plan for the future, while also having the ability to focus on the moment at hand. With this in mind, where do you see your writing career five years from now?

I think Ellen DeGeneres will bring me in once-a-month to read a poem on her show. Dreamers can dream, eh? In all seriousness, I have no idea. I just believe hard work pays off and usually in unexpected ways so I’m expecting the unexpected.

9. What are you currently working on?

Marketing Caged right now. Due to lawsuit threats from a stepmother I haven’t talked to since I was a little boy (see video here), Tuttle Publishing cancelled my contract for fear that it would take well over $10,000 to fend off her threats. Essentially, she believes any abuse I write about is a “fairy tale” and she also believes that my mother is racist against Chinese Americans and with Tuttle having roots in Asia it would be a discredit to their base to publish me (I guess, because [they imagine] I must be racist against Chinese Americans too). Along with the contract, of course, went the entire marketing team Tuttle had assigned to heavily push the book. So, I’m going grassroots now and that takes more work than I expected. Which is why I’m infinitely grateful for this interview!

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

(1) Read. You’ve got to know the field if you have hopes of contributing something worthwhile to it.

(2) Know your sensitivity. It makes you a writer, but it can also crush you. Be prepared for the latter.

And there you have it. I'd like to thank Cameron Conaway for being so generous with his time. If you want to learn more about him, you can visit Cameron Conaway: Warrior Poet. You can also check out Conaway's  Facebook Fan Page and follow him on Twitter.