Category Archives: Interview Author

Author Interview: Tony Noland talks about “Verbosity’s Vengeance: a Grammarian Adventure Novel”

Tony Noland smiling color 500 x 460

Tony Noland, a poet, self published author, and well-respected member of the Friday Flash internet community graciously agreed to an interview about his upcoming novel,Verbosity’s Vengeance: a Grammarian Adventure Novel.” This is his second interview on the Ganymeder website. Welcome back, Tony.

Thanks, Cathy. It’s good to be back!


First, would you please tell my readers a little about your upcoming novel.

grammarianmainThe book is a superhero science fiction story about the Grammarian, a hero whose powers are all based on grammar and punctuation. Although the concept is a bit tongue-in-cheek and there’s plenty of word nerd humor throughout the book, the Grammarian is a serious superhero, hot on the trail of his arch-nemesis, Professor Verbosity. The Grammarian has to find out what Verbosity’s big plan is and stop it before he can threaten Lexicon City. His job isn’t made any easier by the interference from a grandstanding, second-rate superhero named the Avant Guardian, or by the distraction of an intriguing (and attractive) scientist with a strong interest in superheroes and their technology. If you want a mashup analogy, it’s Batman meets WordGirl meets Thursday Next.

What gave you the initial idea for writing the Grammarian novel? You obviously have a love of the written word, as well as a penchant for punctuation – as illustrated in your lauded ‘Ode to the Semicolon.’ But what gave you the idea of creating a superhero novel centered around wordplay?

This started with a flash fiction story I wrote a few years ago. I’d seen one of the perennial catfights online between grammar proscriptivists (“These are the Formal Rules of Grammar and thou shalt follow them, or else!”) and grammar descriptivists (“People talk the way they talk. Grammar is just an obsolete holdover of the patriarchal hegemony, dude!”). I thought it would be funny to play out a scene where a formal grammarian gets into an actual fight, literally using words as weapons. Of course, in my book, the hero’s use of language is much more complex and nuanced than a dour primary school teacher who wrinkles a nose at every split infinitive. The Grammarian can use the power of vernacular constructions right alongside strict formalism.

I noticed that the novel has a lot of scientific and technical terms, many of which I was unfamiliar with. How accurate would you say your references are in general (taking into account artistic license)?

Where they aren’t outright fabrications (such as the ability to project a string of semicolons to bisect on oncoming plasma wave), I’d say they’re pretty accurate. Self-regenerating nanomesh armor is still science fiction, as is ability to convert intelligence directly into physical strength and reflexes, but the discussions of neuroanatomy, autonomous artificial intelligence and advanced materials science weren’t too far off from reality.

Do you have a scientific or technical background, or was a lot of research involved for those scenes?

I did some research on some of the details, to make sure I got them right. Where they aren’t right, it’s because I made them fit the story better. Having a science background helps to make the real stuff sound exciting and to make the fake stuff sound real or at least plausible.

How did you approach the subject matter, knowing that your grammar would be scrutinized due to the Grammarian’s special abilities?

I’ll admit, this is something that kept me up at night. While I’m pretty good with grammar, I’d never claim to be perfect. Even with all the help I’ve had with this book, I have to assume there’s some lines in it that would warrant someone’s red pen. I’m waiting for that inevitable one star review because the Grammarian used an inconsistent verb tense or misplaced a subtending clause. I’m assuming that any grammatical mistakes anyone else in the book makes won’t be nearly so unforgivable.

As a home-educator, I enjoyed reading this to my son as a fun way for him to learn about grammar. Did you have a particular audience in mind when you wrote this?

Anybody who likes science fiction, superhero action, and funny wordplay is the intended audience. The book doesn’t have any swearing, sex or drugs (harder than alcohol or tobacco), so it would be a good for a YA audience or even younger. I can’t claim it’s a YA book, though, since none of the characters are young adults. However, in his civilian life as Alex Graham, the Grammarian has to negotiate awkard first dates, strained friendships, conflicting ambitions and complicated emotions.

Why did you decide to self-publish? Do you have any advice for others who might wish to pursue this route?

Even as I was finishing Verbosity’s Vengeance, I was on the fence about how to bring this book to the marketplace. I’d self-published a couple of books (anthologies of short stories and poems), so I was familiar with that route. I queried this book for a while and collected my share of rejections from agents and publishers. Ultimately, I decided that since I couldn’t persuade any of them to take a chance on a hero who uses the strength of supple syntax and the power of perfect punctuation, I’d have to carry the ball forward myself. My advice to anyone else is to learn as much as you can about the business side of publishing so you can make informed decisions with your books.

Would you mind sharing your contact details for your blog and social media, as well as where my readers can purchase “Verbosity’s Vengeance: a Grammarian Adventure Novel”?

My blog is http://www.tonynoland.com , and you can find me on Twitter as @TonyNoland, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TonyNolandAuthorPage.

Thank you again, Tony, for agreeing to this interview. It was a pleasure reading your wonderful novel, and I wish you the best of luck!

Thanks for having me, Cathy!

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Author Interview: Helen A. Howell

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Author Helen Howell kindly agreed to an interview about her new ebook, ‘I Know You Know,’ published through Crooked Cat Publishing. She also frequently posts fiction to both Friday Flash and Tuesday Serial via her Helen Scribbles website.

Thank you, Helen, and congratulations on publishing ‘I Know You Know!’ I really enjoyed the book. I was hoping you would share some of your experience both writing and publishing. First of all, have you always wanted to write? If not, what motivated you?

Thanks Catherine and I’m glad you enjoyed reading the novella.

I think I might have liked the idea of writing, but inside I didn’t think I had what it took. But one day in 2010 I came across the BBC website called ‘Lets Write” or something like that and it said just write about anything. So I went for a walk that afternoon and came back and wrote a small piece about it. I sent that piece off to my author friend Scotti who was so encouraging about what I wrote, that it gave me the confidence to carry on. From that point on I embarked on writing Jumping At Shadows – I know quite a leap from not writing to jumping straight into a novel.  I interspersed  this task with writing short stories and then came across Friday Flash.  Writing Flash helped my writing skills improve far more quickly than I could believe.  Since starting out I now have two novellas out, three of my stories in various anthologies, various other pieces in online e-zines and some of my work showcased on blog fests of one sort or another. My story “I AM” won second prize in the people’s choice competition last year, run by The Were Traveler e-zine.  I think what I’m really saying here is don’t doubt yourself, just jump in and have a go. The more you write the better you hopefully become as you learn the skill of writing.

Do you have a writing routine?

I’m afraid I’m very undisciplined, and write all over the place. I write as and when I feel like it and that spans morning, afternoon and evening. Of course household tasks always get in the way. But when I’m not writing I’m thinking about writing. That is I might be thinking about the next chapter or story or micro fiction that I’m in the midst of. So my non writing time is really sorting out plots etc in my head.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Ah now that depends on what I am writing.  Novels etc. I write an outline and then plot each chapter, just the bare skeleton of it so that I know where I am heading. How I get there often surprises me as I often let the writing take me there in its own way.  If I’m writing flash sometimes I have a beginning, middle and end, and an idea how I am going to get there. Other times I just write and see where it leads me.  For example, my Friday Flash micro fiction serial, that is running at the moment, is based on a three word challenge each week. So from one week to the next I have no idea where the story is going. It all depends on the three words but somehow it all seems to hang together. ^_^

How important was word count in your decision to publish and did you find length a factor in marketing your work?

I did have to increase the original story by 6,000 words and was lucky enough to find a publisher that would publish a novella that only stood at 28,000 words. I really think that most stories need to be a fair bit longer. However in the case of I Know You Know, to lengthen it any more, I felt,  would have been to slow it down and lose the impact of the story. If I had not found a publisher willing to publish I would have self published it. Fortunately for me my publisher announced the book as part of a new category especially for shorter stories, called Crooked Cat Tales.

‘I Know You Know’ is your first ebook through Crooked Cat Publishing. How did that come about?

I had a fellow author friend who had had his book published by them and had also read I Know You Know in its original form.  He liked the story so much and felt that Crooked Cat would be interested in it.  So I submitted to them and the rest is history.

The plot of ‘I Know You Know’ is concerned largely with Tarot cards, which I understand is an interest of yours. Can you describe how you became interested in Tarot? How did that interest fuel your writing?

I’ve always been interested in mystical and magical things.  Tarot cards in themselves are not the magic, it’s the reader’s ability to interpret the cards that is the magic. I got my first deck way back in 1970’s – I still have it in its original box.  I studied the cards and became very familiar with them and eventually became a Professional Member of The Tarot Guild of Australia and also a Professional Reader – but I have retired from both the Guild and professional reading now.  I also was the co-author of the blog Tarot Notes Major and Minor which had and I believe still has a large readership.  I retired from being co-author of that blog in 2011 when I decided that I needed to concentrate on my fiction writing more. There’s only so many hours in a day. However I do still ‘Guest Post’ for that blog.

The Story of I Know You Know came about because as a tarot reader I know it is possible to see certain things about a person’s situation. I thought they would make an interesting medium for the story to be based around and one that was easy for me to work with as I have a strong knowledge of the card meanings.  I Know You Know was born from one idea. What if a tarot reader could see in the cards that one of her client’s was a serial killer and what if the serial killer suspected that she knew? How would that all play out?

Could you talk about the process of publishing through a small press like Crooked Cat? How was it different from when you published your first book, ‘Jumping at Shadows?

I think the main difference, at least for me, was the editing process. When you self publish you either employ an editor or put your work out to betas who do a really good job. But with publishing through a small press I got to work one on one with an editor, whose job was to make sure that the story was well rounded and had no plot holes.  I think working with just one person was an easier experience for me. One had the opportunity to go back and discuss certain aspects with their editor. Beta’s do a fabulous job, but more often than not you have three or more people’s perspective on you work and deciding which to follow and which not, can at times be challenging, whereas working with one person whose job is to edit was a really smooth process.

Of course when you go with a publisher they will do the formatting for you and help you choose an appropriate cover that enhances and echoes the story you have written.  But for me I have already self published and am fortunate enough to have a graphic designer as a husband who did my formatting and book cover for Jumping At Shadows – so truly the main difference for me going with a small press was the editing experience and the support given through the whole process.

You’ve also written several serials, which you’ve posted on your website. Could you describe your experiences?

I really like writing serials. I Know You Know started out its life as a serial on my blog.  Writing a serial can help you expand an idea into something more than a flash. One of my Serials Mind Noise started life out as a flash.  I find the whole process of writing something in episodes keeps you writing, it’s a sort of motivation and it’s easy when your word target is anywhere from 500-1300 words at a time.  The serial I’m showing at the moment is written in longer chapters and I just split these chapters up into three or four episodes at a time.

The other thing about writing a serial is that it is a good way to gauge whether you have something that is more viable for publishing. Your readers comments give you a first class eye view of how your story is being received. When all of them say they are enjoying it and can’t wait to see what happens, you know your writing is on the right track.

Do you have any plans to publish your serials or flash fiction in another form?

I think I may publish Wizard once I have finished writing it. Also Mind Noise I feel could be expanded into a novel. Both of these have met with good responses. I have thought about publishing a collection of my ghost stories, already people have said to me if I publish they will buy. Also maybe a collection of my  Gangster Noir Stories which always seem to get a very good review.

Are there things you know now that you didn’t know before, or things you wished you knew when you started?

Oh yes of course!  Things that you learn as you learn the skill of writing,  like how not to use dialogue tags unless absolutely necessary and then if you have to use a tag, just use said to tag that dialogue.  How to not use more words than necessary when writing. Exclamation points, you can always tell a new writer by the amount of exclamation points I think.  Don’t overuse adverbs with ly on the end etc.  All these little rules would have been wonderful to know when I started. ^_^

Something that I wish I had known from the very start is that when you write something of length anyway, put it away for a short while and then come back with fresh eyes and edit, instead of trying to do it straight away. That break allows you to see it all from a different perspective. But like all things one has to learn to do this.

Any advice for writers looking to publish?

I think my only advice is make sure the work that you are submitting has been thoroughly edited and is as polished as it can be.

Please let us know where else we can find your work.

 IKYK-cover.jpg 2
The darkest cards in the tarot deck reveal the darkest side of the man sitting opposite Janice—Mr. Edgar Kipp.
She feigns an inability to read for him, but will he believe her?  His parting words indicate that he knows she knows he’s a serial killer. And he plans to return.
The voice of her dead grandmother urges her to be careful, warning Janice she might be seeing her own future in those foreboding cards.
But Janice doesn’t want to listen. Gran’s dead.
How can she possibly help her?
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I Know you Know is available in both e-book and paperback from Amazon.com and UK. E-books can also be purchased from Crooked Cat Books and Smashwords.
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Master copy Jumping-at-Shadows-cover

My other novella Jumping At Shadows – is available from Smashwords

Once again, thank you for consenting to this interview. I know I’ve enjoyed your fiction online and the new book was just as wonderful. I recommend it for a quick, pleasurable read.

Thank you Catherine for inviting me over, I’ve enjoyed our chat.

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Author Interview: George Sirois

George Sirois, author of several unproduced screenplays, short stories and two novels, as well as a news reporter for 411mania.com, has kindly agreed to discuss his latest book “Excelsior,” a young adult science fiction fantasy.

Excelsior chronicles the hero’s journey of a misanthropic teen who must learn to find the hero within himself.

Thank you for agreeing to this interview. What initially gave you the idea for Excelsior?

When I was a kid, some classmates of mine and I would spend time between assignments coming up with characters inspired by Transformers, G.I. Joe and Star Wars. I lost touch with them around ’88 when my family and I moved from New York to Richmond, Virginia, but I kept refining those characters and giving them some much-needed depth and dimension.

Around ’92, I was in my sophomore year of high school and I wanted to create someone new. After watching the John Boorman film Excalibur, I realized this new character had to be someone with a mythic quality to him. After coming up with a rough backstory, I incorporated elements from Jesus Christ, King Arthur and my childhood hero Optimus Prime. It all seemed to come together pretty well and I used the name Excelsior as my shout-out to my home state of New York. It was also meant to be a shout-out to Stan Lee, who was always my idol.

I understand that Excelsior was a Quarter Finalist in the 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. Also, among your many acknowledgements, you thank Cris Baty (of Nanowrimo). Was Excelsior written during National Novel Writing Month?

Well, yes and no. When I got the book “No Plot? No Problem!” I was introduced to National Novel Writing Month. I loved the concept, I bought into it immediately and I was gung ho to meet that 50,000-word challenge. But there was only one problem. NaNoWriMo takes place in November. That month, I have my wedding anniversary, my wife’s birthday and Thanksgiving. If I said, “Honey, I want to write a book” on top of all that, it was not going to be a happy apartment.

So I decided to do it in June instead, and that was when I discovered the Southern Cross Novel Challenge (www.kiwiwriters.org). They have the same 50,000-word challenge, except they do theirs in June rather than November. I got the month off from writing for 411Mania and threw myself into meeting all of those deadlines. On June 30 at 11:35pm, I wrote The End and had my completed first draft.

The rest of the drafts took almost two years of working with my editor and proofreader to get the book where it is now.

I noticed throughout the novel there were repeated references to Arthurian legends. Have you always been interested in the mythology of King Arthur?

I was always into the imagery of that gleaming sword stuck in the stone, and only the one worthy enough to possess it would release it. When I saw Excalibur in 1992, I fell in love with the story. There are still a lot of details that I’m not as familiar with as I’d like to be, but overall, yes I’ve always been interested in it.

Though this novel contains elements of legend, the story itself is incredibly original science fiction. Did you encounter any obstacles along your path to publishing this book?

Not really when it comes to publishing it. During the initial rewrites, I had my heart set on shopping this story around and finding one of the big guys from New York to put their imprint on it and send it out to any and all bookstores near you.

But there was one big snag in the plan that made me decide to self-publish the book instead, and that was the rest of the universe in which Excelsior lives. If this one got picked up and did badly, then I wouldn’t be able to write any of the other ones since the publisher would own the characters. At least by self-publishing, these stories and these characters that have been with me for so long would still belong to me and the rest of the world would be able to read about them.

Once I made the decision to self-publish, I set up my website and put together a pre-order special where friends, family members and people I knew from Twitter and Facebook could pay $17.95 to reserve their paperback copies. Plus, since they would be putting their money in before the manuscript was even finished, I was able to list everyone’s names in the acknowledgements section in the back of the book. Everyone likes to see their name in print, right? Just a few months after I started this deal, I built up enough money to pay for all of the printing fees with Infinity Publishing and enough to cover everyone’s books. It was my way of getting around the self-publishing stigma. I didn’t pay any money to see my work in print; my customers paid.

In the Afterword, you cited your cousin as the symbolic inspiration for this story. The Afterword actually brought tears to my eyes. Would you care to elaborate here?

Absolutely. Ever since I lost my cousin Matt in 2005, I wanted to honor him in someway in my writing. He had such a difficult life, having to overcome cancer at 2 years old and dealing with constant kidney problems since. But he took it all in stride and he never let any of it interfere with his plans. He became an Eagle Scout, he passed the tests to be a volunteer firefighter and finished his life as an EMT and got engaged a couple months before he left us.

Matt was just an amazing man, he was my personal real-life hero, and one day I was struggling to name my main character in Excelsior. All of a sudden, it popped into my head to call him Matthew Peters, since Matt’s full name was Matthew Peter Henkel.

What other authors do you admire? What books do you think helped you become a better writer and storyteller?

The first book that I have to credit is Chris Baty’s “No Plot? No Problem!” That one gave me the confidence to write a crappy first draft and then watch the book get better and better as time passed.

Do you plan to write a sequel?

Absolutely. I’ve always planned a trilogy for Excelsior. I’ve already set up certain stipulations for the next one. It’s going to be twice the size of the first book, it will go deeper into Excelsior’s mythology and it will introduce the character’s arch-enemy.

What are your current and upcoming projects?

Well, there’s my job as a news poster for 411Mania. I’m also working for my Masters in Communication Arts and every week I work with the Indie Book Collective on whatever is needed. But the main project I am working on now is the rewriting of my first novel From Parts Unknown, which I wrote back in 2002. The goal is to have it finished by the end of October, November at the latest.

Where can readers find you and your work online?

Excelsior is available as a paperback and eBook on Amazon.com, BN.com, Smashwords.com and BuyBooksOnTheWeb.com. The Indie Book Collective’s main page is at www.IndieBookCollective.com, my pop culture news posts can be read every Monday night, Thursday night and Saturday morning at www.411Mania.com and my personal site is ExcelsiorBooks.blogspot.com.

Thank you once again for your time. Excelsior is a wonderful read, and I don’t hesitate to recommend it to science fiction fans of all ages.

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Author Interview: G.P. Ching

GP Ching, author and co-runner of DarkSide Publishing, kindly agreed to an interview today about her Young Adult Paranormal novel – The Soulkeepers.

How long have you been writing? How long have you wanted to be a writer?

I can remember saying I wanted to be a writer in elementary school and definitely showed an interest all through High School. When I went to college, my writing was already good enough to CLEP out of all of the required writing classes. I wrote regularly after that, but I never thought it was possible to make a career out of it.

What first gave you the idea for The Soulkeepers?

Several years ago I was talking to someone about the creation story.  I am Christian so for me the story was of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.  I’d heard this story told hundreds of times as a kid but for some reason that year something new occurred to me.  The Garden of Eden was supposed to be this perfect place, the safest place created by God.  Who let the serpent in? It doesn’t make a lot of sense when you think about.  Why would evil be hanging out right next to the tree of life?

My mind continued down this path and I was awestruck by the number of imperfections our minds have to overlook to make sense of our lives.  We live in a tough world.  Each of us deals with things about ourselves and our world that we wish we could change.  If you have faith, it’s not because everything you’ve been told makes perfect logical sense- it’s because you’ve made sense of the imperfections.

Back then, I had the idea for a story but I didn’t know my character.  As I researched the market, I recognized that YA books seemed to either avoid the issue of God all together or else were very prescriptive about one specific religion.  I wanted my character to be real and I believe that real teenagers are all about questioning. So, I wrote a character who drove the events in my story in the throws of inner turmoil about who he was and if his life had a greater purpose.

I noticed there were several layers throughout the story, internal struggles versus external. Could you explain a little about your technique?

I call the way I write The Circus Method. Every book I write has a minimum of three different stories happening at the same time (like a three ring circus). I try to make one based on intrapersonal conflict, one on interpersonal conflict, and one on a public conflict. Every scene must move one of these plotlines forward or move the character forward.

Did you draw on any real people for inspiration for the characters?

Not really. My husband is half Chinese, half Caucasian and was born on Oahu, Hawaii. When he lived in Hawaii as a kid, he was teased for looking white (the population there is mostly Asian). When he moved to Illinois to marry me, he encountered the opposite as an adult, although in a much more subtle way. So, my husband inspired some of Jacob’s background but his character is completely original.

There were a lot of Biblical references that were important to the plot. How did you go about researching for this book?

The knowledge came through my personal struggles with religious faith. I attended twelve years of Catholic school growing up and lived in a strictly Catholic household. I practiced Catholicism until my first marriage ended in divorce, which is a big Catholic no-no. When the Catholic people in my life were not supportive of my circumstances, I turned away from the faith and went searching. I spent a good amount of time researching Buddhism and Taoism. I also took a non-denominational Bible study. I’ve found peace in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America – a very open minded and welcoming branch of the Christian faith.

I understand that this is the first book of a planned series. How many more books can we expect to see in the series, and can you tell us a little about them?

There are two more for sure. Weaving Destiny, Malini’s story, will be available in about a month. Return to Eden, Dr. Silva & Gideon’s story, will be available Winter 2012. There is room in the story for additional books beyond Return to Eden if readers are still excited about the series at that point.

Do you prefer Young Adult fiction to stories aimed at other age groups?

I love young adult fiction because I feel that novels in the category still focus on story without the crutches of gratuitously detailed sex and violence that seem to drive adult fiction sales. Idealism, escapism, and happy endings are still alive and welcomed by the audience.

What challenges do you find in YA fiction that are different from other types of fiction?

Staying current. I had to research the best way to represent texting and email in the manuscript. Kids don’t look at their watches anymore; they check their phone. Students don’t go to the library to research something; they go to google. Young Adults don’t know who the Lone Ranger was. Because I have a longer history on this Earth, I have to be careful not to use something from the past that young adults won’t connect with.

What authors influenced you?

Sara Gruen, Arthur Golden, Jane Austin, J.K. Rowling, and Diane Setterfield.

You thanked, among others, the #FridayFlash community on Twitter. That’s how I came across your work. How exactly did #FridayFlash contribute to this book’s genesis and publication?

Writing and publishing flash fiction on a weekly basis released me from the submit- wait- rejection/publication spiral. See that spiral is slow and inefficient. By the time you get feedback on a piece, if you get it at all, you’ve moved on to something else. FridayFlash gives you immediate feedback, challenges you to write consistently, and forces you to learn to develop a story with minimal words. Also, reading other’s flash is just as valuable in developing you as a writer as writing your own. Besides building confidence, participation helped me find my writing voice and build my brand before my book was published. One of the things that comes up again and again in reviews is how much story is packed into my pages and I’m sure that style came from what I learned writing flash.

Could you tell us a little bit about DarkSide Publishing?

DarkSide Publishing is an author cooperative. The authors in the cooperative perform the tasks that an e-publisher would perform for you. We format, edit, market and make decisions on cover design together for the purpose of advancing DarkSide and the individual authors. Every DarkSide novel promotes other DarkSide novels in the back, letting readers know about other titles in the cooperative. We have many readers that have read all of our books. The great part is that DarkSide doesn’t take a slice off the top. Each author keeps 100% of their profits.

Would you please let us know where we can find more of your work, twitter feed, etcetera?

www.gpching.com is my personal website. There you can find information on all of my publications.

www.TheSoulkeepersSeries.com is the series website.

www.DarkSidePublishing.com is where you can find all of DarkSide’s titles.

Follow me on Facebook at The Soulkeepers Series Page.

Follow me on twitter at gpching

I’m also on google+.

Thank you for the interview. It’s been a pleasure visiting your blog today!

Thank you, Ms. Ching, both for the interview and the book. I look forward to reading Weaving Destiny in the not too distant future!

 

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Author Interview: Tony Noland

 

 

Author Tony Noland, known by many as author of ‘The Grammarian‘ and the nationally recognized ‘Ode to the Semicolon‘, kindly agreed to an interview about his new book ‘Blood Picnic and other stories.’ For those unfamiliar with his work, he regularly posts to the #FridayFlash meme on Twitter via his blog Landless. His newest project, his recently published book, provides readers with a fine sampling of his writing.

 

How did you get into writing? What motivated you?

 

From 2004-2008 I had a blog that dealt primarily with weight loss and exercise, but also had random posts about life, movies, tech, or whatever I felt like. In 2006, I posted the opening scene of a science fiction novel. I should note that all I had was the opening scene, a fight scene, and a half-baked plot. Some readers really liked the fiction and challenged me to do NaNaWriMo that year. I did, and completed it. That made me realize that writing fiction just takes an idea, some time and some effort. Of course, writing GOOD fiction takes a lot more than that, but we all discover that, right?

 

How do you typically write on any given day? Do you set time aside or write between other activities?

 

I like to write in the mornings. Everything is so quiet at 4:00 a.m., I can let the coffee take hold and sink into whatever story I’m working on. However, I don’t write every day, and I don’t have a set schedule. Writing has to be fit in the spaces around work, family, etc.

 

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

 

By nature, I’m a plotter. I like to have a roadmap to guide me as I work on longer pieces. However, in 2009 I made the mistake of doing a long, exhaustively detailed plot structure for NaNoWriMo. Adhering to that ended up sucking the life out of the project by preventing any crazy, last-minute deviations that would have taken the book into unexpected territory. The whole thing became a slog. In 2010 I just worked out the bones of a plot, 10-15 word descriptions of what would happen in each of 15 chapters. That worked much better.

 

Blood Picnic is your first book. What gave you the idea to release an anthology?

 

I started thinking about a flash fiction anthology when I finished up 2010 with “perfect attendance” at FridayFlash for the year. Since completing NaNoWriMo last year, I’ve been working on it as the first draft of a superhero novel, with a working title of “Goodbye Grammarian”. I’ve been fleshing it out, fixing it up and generally making a real book of it. My plan is to have it finished by the end of the year. I’ve been having some trouble with it, though, so I took a break and put together “Blood Picnic”. In a larger sense, I wanted to self-publish a book so I could see what that process was like, what was involved in it.

 

The anthology is divided into sections; Fantasy – Tales of the Heavens, Literary fiction – Tales of the Earth, Horror – Tales of the Moon, Magical realism – Tales of the Sun. What gave you the idea for those divisions?

 

The stories that I’d selected for this anthology ended up falling into these genre categories. It seemed too abrupt to just label the sections as Fantasy, Horror, etc. I noodled around for quite a while with different naming options. North, East, South West? Earth, Air, Fire, Water? These “Tales of…” names came along at some point and they stuck.

 

How did you decide which stories to include? What was your criteria?

 

Of all the stories I’ve put up on my blog for FridayFlash or have had on other sites, I picked the ones that evoked the strongest response in the readers and the ones I liked the best. I reexamined them with a more experienced eye and polished them up all over again. Then I took the comments from my beta reader and did it all over again before finalizing the anthology. Part of that finalization was to take out all the science fiction stories – by far the biggest section – and set them aside for their own anthology, which I’m working on now.

 

The cover for the book is wonderful. I understand you created it yourself. Would you describe how and why you designed your own cover?

 

“Why” is easier than “how”. I did it myself because I didn’t have the resources to pay an artist. Sad, but true. As to “how”, I first researched what made for a good cover, including all the comments on blog posts that discussed horrible covers and why they were so bad. I came up with a cover concept that had a thematic relationship to the title story, “Blood Picnic”, which is about a pulp fiction writer in the 1970s. Then, I pencil-sketched the concept a few times to help the visualization, and did the photo shoot. I set up my old typewriter with a few different props: the pencil, a knife, etc. I took at least forty shots with different kinds of lighting and angles until I got several I liked. Then I shot many more photos to zero in on a keeper. After that, I loaded the final image into GIMP (an open-source Photoshop-equivalent) and got to work on it. When it looked OK, I put the image out on twitter and my blog a few times for comments. Based on the feedback, I kept revising it with more blood spatters, better shadows, enhanced lighting, more dramatic focus lines, etc. I’m pleased with the final result.

 

Could you talk about why you decided to self publish instead of going through a separate publishing company? Maybe you could tell us a little about the process?

 

As it happens, after I tweeted about my idea for this anthology, an independent small press contacted me and expressed some interest in publishing “Blood Picnic”. That was pretty exciting, but unfortunately, the deal eventually fell through. After that, I decided not to wait for a publisher, but to do it myself, as had been my intention all along.

The process of self-publishing an anthology starts with the stories themselves. You write good stories, polish them to make them better, and arrange them so the reader’s attention is grabbed on page 1 and held until the end. Choosing a title involves a lot of second-guessing, and writing a blurb is an exercise in flirtatious restraint. It’s important to not let yourself get tied up with all the decisions, though. One can dither forever over getting something absolutely perfect. Having made the decisions at each point, I moved on to the next step in the process. It’s terribly important to read and follow the formatting guidelines (Smashwords, in my case). Once it’s written well, edited thoroughly, and formatted properly, you upload the book. After that, you wait to see which spelling mistakes you missed and which internal hyperlinks are broken. You fix those and upload again. Lather, rinse, repeat until the book is as perfect as you can reasonably make it. Then you publish it (and wait for the reviewers to point out the lingering typos and grammatical errors you missed!)

 

Are there things you know now that you didn’t know before, or things you wished you knew when you started?

 

I wish I’d known that Microsoft Word inserts hidden bookmarks into the formatting code for long manuscripts. Bastard!

 

Please let us know where we can find your work, twitter feed, etcetera.

 

My writing blog hosts a lot of my fiction. It’s http://www.TonyNoland.com. I’m @TonyNoland on Twitter, and you can find my on Facebook at http://on.fb.me/aSvNy1 My Amazon author page is at http://amzn.to/hWwRP9, and aside from that, check Google.

 

Thank you so much for your time. I know I’ve enjoyed your work in the past, and Blood Picnic was a wonderful read! I highly recommend everyone check it out.

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