Category Archives: Author Interviews

Author Interview – Kristina Schram

No Wasted Ink welcomes Author Kristina Schram, a doctor of Counseling Psychology who writes novels ranging from fantasy to gothic paranormal romance. She is a mother of three and an instructor at workshops for aspiring authors in New Hampshire.

Author Kristina SchramHello, fellow book lovers! My name is Kristina Schram and I write YA, Fantasy, and Paranormal Gothic Romances. I read something every day, usually from two or three books at one time. I enjoy photography, playing basketball, and throwing tomahawk and knife. That last hobby sounds a little strange, I imagine, but it will come in handy if there’s ever a zombie apocalypse.

When and why did you begin writing?

I started writing at a young age, beginning with self-illustrated books about wanting to own a castle. I think every author starts writing because they love reading books and feel the drive to create one themselves. When I was a teenager I kept a journal filled with awful poems and tidbits about who I was in love with, along with my struggles to figure out how to get them to notice me. Nowadays, there are times when I think that if I don’t get all the stuff in my head down on paper, I’ll spiral into madness.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Probably in high school when a short story I wrote was published in a statewide literary magazine for student writers, and which received the Scotty Award for excellence in writing. I didn’t consider myself a writer of books until I finished writing a novel while in graduate school. When you first start writing, it takes a LONG time to complete a book, so to accomplish such a feat really made me feel like I could do this as a career.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

The Prophecies is the first book of four in The Chronicles of Anaedor series. Here’s what it’s about:

When Lavida Mors is sent away to Portal Manor, a mysterious family estate, she unwittingly stumbles across a secret passage to the fantastical and dangerous world of Anaedor. Her misadventure sparks off a series of frightening events, beginning when the enigmatic Frio kidnaps her and her two friends and delivers them into the hands of a malevolent being determined to destroy Lavida. Found guilty for crimes against Anaedor, Lavida and her friends are unfairly imprisoned. To stay alive, Lavida must reveal a secret about herself she has kept hidden her whole life, but in doing so, she could lose everything and everyone dear to her.

What inspired you to write this book?

When I was in graduate school, I was always searching out nature. I grew up in the country, but the university sat smack dab in the middle of a city. Strangely enough, however, in that same city, there was a huge park filled with streams and ravines and rocks and trees. One day, while walking off the beaten path, a strange and rather disturbing thought occurred to me… What if a whole world lived under us and we had no clue they were there, watching and waiting? So basically, being paranoid is how I came up with the idea of a hidden underground world populated by mythical creatures, which I called Anaedor.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I definitely like writing plot-driven books with a lot of mystery, adventure, and drama. At the same time, I love developing unique and realistic characters. In creating these characters, my psychology background, especially the classes I took in abnormal and personality psychology, comes in handy more often than I would have guessed.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

The Prophecies isn’t exactly a unique title, but it’s a major focus in the book. How I came up with my world’s name (Anaedor) is perhaps a little more interesting. The name Anador (which was my original spelling) actually just popped in my head, and I immediately thought I must have heard it before. So I looked up the name and found that Anador was a planet in a Star Wars book. I’ve never read one so I’m not sure how that word wormed its way into my subconscious. I didn’t want to give it up, though, so I added an ‘e’ and kept the name. But there’s more. Just now, I looked up Anador to be sure I had my facts straight and found it spelled Amador, with an M! So I could’ve kept the original spelling. Though now I kind of like the added ‘e’ so maybe it was meant to be.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

All my books have messages in them because I remember how much I liked learning from the books I read as a kid and how much these messages influenced my development. For the Anaedor series, I was hoping to help people become more aware of how easy it is to judge and fear others because they’re different. I was always one of those, shall we say, unusual, kids myself. In writing about Anaedor, I wanted to convey to young people that being different should be celebrated and can lead to wonderful things!

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

In writing fantasy, you do make up a lot of your world. However, I don’t think any writer can escape the influences of their own life. I often borrow bits and pieces of interesting people that I see in real life and use these morsels to create unique characters. I also love everything British, an obsession that shapes how many of my Anaedorian characters speak and act.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

Discovering C.S. Lewis was a huge factor in my becoming an avid reader. Reading The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe was an experience I had never yet encountered—so mythical and magical and full of wonder—that I couldn’t help but be bowled over! Reading The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett was also a game changer for me. I was having a bad day when I came across the book and sympathized with Mary Lennox because she was lonely, like myself. Her persistence still inspires me to keep going even when everything looks dark and bleak.

If you had to choose, is there a writer you would consider a mentor? Why?

I’m not sure I can consider any of the authors that I love as mentors since I’ll never be able to meet them, but here’s my wish list if I could: Jane Austen, because she has an amazing insight into human nature; Daphne du Maurier, because she’s great at building gothic suspense; and William Shakespeare, for his awe-inspiring ability to turn a phrase.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

Hive Collective designed my book cover. I felt they best captured both the mystery and intrigue of The Prophecies.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Don’t let rejections or roadblocks stop you. Be persistent. Every writer has faced these obstacles, so you’re not alone. In terms of publishing, there will be times when you’ll feel lost and overwhelmed. Again, don’t give up. Most importantly, never look at any project as a whole. Break it up into pieces, take baby steps. Otherwise, you will go screaming into the night.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Dear readers, you’ve been so awesome and supportive over the years, and I’d just like to say a heartfelt thank you! I promise to do my best to keep writing good works that not only entertain, but also educate (in a fun way). And if I ever get my castle, you’re invited to visit!

The Prophecies Book CoverKristina Schram
New Hampshire

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Publisher: Hive Collective

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Author Interview: Adam Gillrie

It is with great pleasure that No Wasted Ink introduces science fiction author Adam Gillrie.

Author Adam GillrieMy name is Adam Gillrie. I am the least terrible writer you will hear about today. I have a wonderful wife, four kids and a fifth on the way. I live in Sunny Florida, I have a very lazy horse and an extensive knowledge of modern day firearms (research purposes only).

When and why did you begin writing?

There are always two camps of writers. Those that are inspired by a good book and those inspired by a bad one. I’m in the bad one camp.
I can’t put a book down once I start it. Even when I know five pages in, it’s a disaster. I find myself getting more and more upset when a great idea or character is being lead through a formulaic disaster of a book. Nothing sends me faster to my computer to write than a terrible movie or a bad book.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

In my heart I’ve been a writer since I published my first book to the School Library at age 6. In reality I told very few people that I’m a writer until my first book was published. I have had wonderful jobs in promising fields but kept finding myself drawn back to writing. In reality I never saw myself doing anything else. I am happiest banging away in front of a computer telling one of the hundreds of stories trapped in my head.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

My current book Silent Intrusion took three years to write and edit the last time I wrote it. I wanted a universal story that connected all the alien abduction stories in a uniform pattern. Something that brought it all together. To give you an idea how long this book has been under construction, I typed the last page of the first draft minutes before my brother called me to watch a movie trailer for a movie called Independence Day.

Nothing was more frustrating than seeing what I thought were my best ideas already on the big screen. I sat back down threw out the draft I had and started writing a new version of the story focusing on the Men In Black aspect.

Needless to say Men In Black was released after I finished the second draft. Will Smith just has it in for me. I was frustrated and shelved the book for a number of years. To be fair, although Independence Day had some neat similarities to my book it wasn’t the same story, and Men In Black was also very different. Then three years later I decided to try again. By now I knew the book series incredibly well and decided that it needed something more, humor.

Everyone does scary aliens, but not many people write a good story that is generally funny at the same time. (Don’t say Men In Black this is different) So I locked myself in a hotel room for months and wrote Silent Intrusion for the last time, and it’s funny.

What inspired you to write this book?

The need to let my characters outside of my head. I’ve carried them inside for long enough, it’s time for the rest of the world to meet them. Also I have a childhood dream of world domination and being adored by millions is a big part of that.

Do you have a specific writing style?

Being homeschooled sometimes I don’t fully understand the question, so I’m going to answer this question twice. Something I was able to do in homeschooling, “thank’s mom!”

Answer 1: I do, I try to write with absolute minimalism. I hate reading a book where they talk about the colors of a field for twenty pages. My attitude is if it doesn’t make the story better it’s out. I’d rather have a shorter book that covers the story that needs to be told than a longer book with a strange singing fairy guy in the middle (guess that Lord of the Rings character I’m referencing for a bonus point).

Answer 2: How I write is unique. I wish I was one of those writers that could get it right the first draft but I end up rewriting hundreds of pages throughout the process. I’ve taken to writing the beginning and end and figuring out how to get the characters there after. I may write ten pages for every page that makes it into the final book. So if you thought those pages were bad, let me tell you there are nine others that are much worse.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

Surprisingly it’s been the title I’ve wanted to use from the beginning. It also happened to be available. It’s a subtle attack (intrusion) happening quietly (silent). See what I did there?

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

This Author is not an idiot! A secondary message revolves around Breaker’s sacrifice. I want people to know that strangers will give their all to help someone being wronged. There is always hope.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

I pulled a lot from my life. I have four wonderful over opinionated sisters who I have a special bond with. I think often of them when I write a brother sister relationship. I think of my own personal struggles to save those I love, sometimes successfully sometimes not. Despite a great desire to be abducted by aliens as a kid, it never happened. So I was not able to pull from any of those types of experiences.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

J.K. Rowling – She caught me by surprise and took me on a wonderful journey. (Through her books, we are in no way friends, sadly).

Tom Clancy – I was a kid who knew nothing and he taught me how the military worked. It’s not my genre but his influences are all through my writing. I also wrote him a letter on Prodigy once and he wrote me back. I still have it.

Orson Scott Card – Enders game is still my favorite book. I believe he perfectly captured the endless possibilities of a talented child.

C.S. Lewis – What a great message of good. C.S. Lewis shaped much of my child hood with his books.

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

This is a hard one. I feel that I’ve pulled a lot from other writers. One indirect help was Brandon Mull. A friend of the family I peppered him with questions on publishing and writing for years before he had his successes.

Hugh Howey did an incredible job with Wool. I originally intended on combining the first three books of Silent Intrusion into one large volume but after reading his 60 page book. I recognized people would appreciate a book now and a book later, instead of me waiting another three years to get the other two books done. Also he’s successful, which is great and another reason I want him as a mentor.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

I have a great Illustrator in Christopher Hayes and some of his work is on my site, but for the cover I did my own photography and Photoshop work. It was right after I completed the cover that I hired Christopher so I would never have to do that again.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Two pieces of advice. The usual is to get a good editor. You’ll learn more from them than any English class you’ve ever taken.
The second is to spend as much time mapping out the structure of your book as you do writing it.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

I’m sorry. I mean, Book 2 is coming along nicely and I promise a few things are resolved. As a writer a short note from a fan who liked the book is absolutely a day maker. It’s why we write books in the first place, to feed our ego. Well besides trying to prove everyone we know wrong.

Silent Intrusion Book CoverAdam Gillrie
Tampa, Florida

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Book: Silent Intrusion
Publisher: Iron Rod Publishing

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Author Interview: Elizabeth Watasin

Elizabeth Watasin is the acclaimed author of the Gothic steampunk series The Dark Victorian, The Elle Black Penny Dreads, and the creator/artist of the indie comics series Charm School, which was nominated for a Gaylactic Spectrum Award. She lives in Los Angeles with her black cat named Draw, busy bringing readers uncanny heroines in shilling shockers, epic fantasy adventures, and paranormal detective tales. It is a real pleasure to introduce her here on No Wasted Ink.

Elizabeth Watasin_Author PhotoHello everyone, and thank you to No Wasted Ink for having me. My name is Elizabeth Watasin and I’m a workaholic.

When and why did you begin writing?

I started with comic strips in high school. I was working up to sequential storytelling and gag writing was the way to begin, which are 2-4 panel strips. From there I progressed to comic books. But I happened to injure my hands at one point in my career and had to figure out how to continue storytelling. Learning to write long fiction was the result.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Strangely enough, that would be after publishing my third book. There’s a saying in traditional 2D animation, that you don’t know how to really draw until you’ve drawn 1000 feet of animation (that’s 16-24 drawings per foot). Though I’ve been writing for a while, whether it was comic book scripts or other novels in progress, I didn’t feel accomplished until I’d more novels under my belt.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

Sundark: An Elle Black Penny Dread is about an unconventional Victorian housewife and psychic detective, Elle Black, living in an 1880 supernatural and mechanical London. She must solve why guests are disappearing in a notorious mechanical hotel that rotates its floors and towers, the Sundark, and uses her telekinetic abilities to do so.

What inspired you to write this book?

The pure fun of doing Victorian pulp fiction was what inspired me–the opportunity to play with uncanny, two-fisted heroines, horror elements, and discover how to do neat, mystery twists. I’m not overtly melodramatic in my storytelling, but I’d love to emulate the lurid penny bloods and gothic novels of the 19th century, as well as the tradition of female sleuth mysteries.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I’m very clear and hopefully concise when I write. I place an emphasis on settings, so that the reader can be immersed in a memorable, cinematic environment or theatrical moment. I like every word to count. I self-edit very much. I can be eloquent at times but I do yearn for a storytelling voice that just pours forth, clearly and beautifully. That would be something to come, eventually.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

Sundark” is a play on “sun” and “dark”, naturally. It was meant to be a placeholder title representing core symbolism in the story. When Elle visits the Sundark, she finds that it’s full of alchemic symbols, the “black sun” or “dark sun” representing transformation and such. The more I used the word “Sundark”, the more it seemed to fulfill the “pulp fiction” feel.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Yes, but I try to be subtle about it. Elle is a sapphist; by our modern terms, a lesbian. And she’s in a very happy, contractual marriage with the love of her life, another woman. So here’s this 1880 London housewife in an unconventional marriage and dedicated to maintaining a perfect, Victorian home. She’s very frank about her marriage, even when people aren’t sure what to make of it. Though female marriage existed in British history, from the 1850′s to the 1880s, I’m taking that fact further into alternate history. I’m establishing events that would invalidate our criminalizing what would be labeled ‘homosexuality’, a word invented during the 1890′s. You can read more about female marriages in the book, “Between Women: Friendship, Desire, and Marriage in Victorian England”, by Sharon Marcus.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Not that I know of. What’s fun about writing speculative fiction is exploring what could have been and making brave things happen that are not as fun to do in real life. In storytelling, I can make such things funnier so they’re easier to endure; endearing, so that we may value them. Thought-provoking so that we can see our lives from a different understanding. I love heroic stories and exploring the mythic possibilities. This gives readers something to hold on to.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

Oh, that’s hard to say, so I’ll just pick who comes to mind, right now. Shakespeare because he was so astute and so true; Virginia Woolf for the clarity. Agatha Christie for being so clever. Ray Bradbury for pointing at us like the Electric Man and saying, “Live!”.

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

I’ve had plenty of mentors in my art career; often what I was told while watching them draw would follow me to my desk and echo in my head as I worked. But with writing I never had that person. Writing novels is remarkably solitary. I guess if one were in a bull pen or working in-house on publications, you can get those elder guides whose words follow you as your career grows. But back to your question, who would I pick? The screenwriter, Katherine Fugate. She knows what I want to know, about women, about people. About delivering The Story. She knows the heart of things. I want that in my stories.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

Let me say first that I usually illustrate the covers, and you can still see mine (if I’ve not changed it yet), on the paperback version of Sundark. But I do know that my style looks too much like graphic novel work, and that may mislead people who look at the thumbnail on Amazon and other online venues. So I’m experimenting with photo covers. Dara England was suggest to me and she’s a solid, versatile professional digital artist. I’m very picky and critical of my own work, but when Dara does her thing I only have to make minimal directions, and that’s a nice change. She did a splendid job with Sundark, I couldn’t be happier.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Write, write, write. Never mind anyone else, what they say or what they want or what they think you should be doing. Be selfish. The more you write the better you get, and if you didn’t quite write anything today, just be sure to, tomorrow.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Thank you for reading my books, and thank you for reading my future books. Not only do I hope you enjoy them but I hope they give you something to comfort or enrich your life.

Sundark Book CoverElizabeth Watasin
Los Angeles, CA

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Sundark: An Elle Black Penny Dread
publisher: A-Girl Studio
e-book cover artist: Dara England

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Author Interview: Christopher Andrews

I met Christopher and his lovely family at a Los Angeles Literary Convention where he had a table to promote his latest line of books. We fell to chatting and I extended an invitation to him to join us here on No Wasted Ink to tell us more about his life as a writer and about his upcoming books. I hope you’ll enjoy his interview.

Author Christopher AndrewsMy name is Christopher Andrews. I’m an author, actor, screenwriter, occasional fan-film enthusiast, and a stay-at-home Dad. I grew up in Oklahoma but have spent most of my adult life in Southern California. I currently live in California with my wife, Yvonne Isaak-Andrews, our beautiful daughter, Arianna, and our Pug, PJ.

When and why did you begin writing?

Writing as a career was a natural extension of my childhood. When I was 7 years old, my 2nd grade teacher had us do a project where we folded three sheets of notebook paper in half and turned it into a 10-page custom comic book. Most of my schoolmates wrote one sentence, perhaps two, across the top of each page and filled the rest with a drawing. I, however, wrote so much prose that on some pages I had difficulty squeezing in the artwork.

After that, I was always writing something in one form or another. I kept up the custom comic book habit well into college. I co-wrote a stage play for our 5th grade talent show; I co-wrote Humorous Duet material for Drama contest all through high school. I wrote home “movies” for my brother and me to perform. I started typing in 6th grade and wrote many short works (several of which would now be considered “fan fiction,” though I didn’t know the term at the time). I filled blank diary books with all kinds of stories.

Finally, when I was 14 years old — two days after my 14th birthday, in fact — a friend told me that he was working on a novel (which, funny enough, was the origin story for a character he had created for my longest-running custom comic book series) and asked if I would help him write it. The project eventually gravitated over to my work entirely, and I finished it — my first full-length novel — when I was 18 years old.

So when you ask “why” I began writing, I suppose the simplest answer is: I cannot fathom life without writing.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I suppose I first consciously thought of myself as “a writer” in 6th grade, when I wrote a novella (in one of those blank diary books) called Demon. It was the first thing I’d written that was not based on something else (the aforementioned comic books, though technically original stories and characters, were set in the Marvel universe). As an adult, I typed up Demon and, purely for nostalgia, had a private mass-media paperback printed of it.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

My latest novel is Paranormals: We Are Not Alone, the second novel in my Paranormals series. Very fitting to this interview, Paranormals is my adult adaptation of those custom comic books I talked about.

Paranormals deals with the aftermath of a celestial event dubbed the White Flash, which caused a small-but-slowly-growing percentage of the population to develop superhuman abilities. The first book took place five years after the White Flash; We Are Not Alone takes place one year after that.

The second book sees the main characters from the first continuing to adapt to their changed world. The newest development is the arrival of an extraterrestrial race (the first book mentioned that S.E.T.I. began detecting interstellar signals shortly after the White Flash). We also learn a bit more about what exactly the White Flash was.

What inspired you to write this book?

From the beginning, I intended Paranormals to be an ongoing series. Along with my supernatural Triumvirate series, I plan to return to both of them again and again. Of my eight published books thus far, five of them belong to either Triumvirate or Paranormals.

For Paranormals: We Are Not Alone specifically, things are coming full circle. As the series evolved from my childhood comic book stories, We Are Not Alone evolved from that first novel I wrote during my teen years. We Are Not Alone is, in some ways, an unofficial sequel to that unpublished book.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I am often told that my writing is very “visual,” that my various novels could very easily translate to the screen (no surprise that I’ve written two novelizations of movies). Funny enough, when my screenplays are critiqued, the number one comment is that the prose descriptions are too verbose, like reading a book.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

Given the extraterrestrial spin of Paranormals: We Are Not Alone, its subtitle felt the most appropriate — the human characters might have superpowers, but their minds are still appropriately blown by the historic revelation when they realize aliens are among us. It was only a month or so after the hardback was published that a friend pointed out that “We Are Not Alone” was one of the taglines for Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I had not consciously remembered that, but it’s still so fitting, I wouldn’t have changed it.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

My Paranormals series is aimed at pure reading enjoyment. Have fun! (Though I must admit that the series does revere heroism and the strong not taking advantage of the weak, which could easily be taken as the series’ “message.”)

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Not beyond being based on my childhood comic book adventures. Now, the first Triumvirate novel, Pandora’s Game, is another matter entirely …

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

I am a huge fan of Isaac Asimov, Richard Matheson, Stephen King, and Peter David. They each have their own unique voice — Asimov was delightfully cerebral; Matheson made the fantastic feel grounded; King brings an earthiness to anything from the pain of divorce to a visit from the devil; David injects humor without making it distracting — but (with the arguable exception of King) they also keep it simple. They show that their stories can be exciting and enthralling without the prose containing so many adjectives they run off the page and out the door.

If you had to choose, is there a writer you would consider a mentor? Why?

If we’re talking about “mentors,” I’d probably have to go with Stephen King because of his excellent book On Writing, which was half autobiography, half writing class. I didn’t agree with every single bit of advice he had to offer, but I often find myself running my own drafts through a quasi-On Writing filter.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

I designed my own cover. I’ve actually designed all of my own covers — except for my novelization of Dream Parlor, which is adapted from the movie’s poster. However, my publisher treats my covers as separate agreements from my books themselves. They’ve made it very clear that they retain the rights to opt for another designer’s work. I turn in my manuscript, and then I submit my cover art. So far, they’ve accepted mine each time.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

In this, I can only echo Stephen King’s own advice: Read, read, read! Pick your favorite genre(s), the kinds of books you want to write, and read. Read every single day.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

I just want to thank them for allowing me to have this career. If it weren’t for my readers, I wouldn’t be able to stay home with my daughter. I appreciate your ongoing support!

Paranormals - We are Not Alone Book CoverChristopher Andrews
Los Angeles, CA

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Publisher: Rising Star Visionary Press
Cover Artist: Christopher Andrews

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Author Interview: Emma Jane Holloway

Being a fan of steampunk novels, I am always glad to meet other writers of the genre. I am pleased to welcome Emma Jane Holloway, a published author under the Del Rey label, here on No Wasted Ink.

Author Emma Jane HollowayI’m Emma Jane Holloway, recovering shortbread addict and dedicated scribbler. I have an honors degree in English literature and a job in finance. I live in the Pacific Northwest in a 1911 house crammed with books, musical instruments, half-finished sewing projects, and a very bossy cat. When I’m not working or writing, I enjoy researching historical recipes and trying to recreate them for the modern kitchen. Results have been known to vary, but no test subjects have perished yet.

When and why did you begin writing?

Writers write—I’m not sure there is a why. I’ve always made up stories, but began to think about publication long after I’d finished quite a few novels. I sent my work out without seriously thinking anyone would want to publish it. When I got the call from an editor wanting to buy my book, I was flummoxed. Happy, but vaguely confused. I knew nothing about the industry or what I was supposed to do next. (Answer: write a lot more.)

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

A Study in Ashes is the third book and finale of the mystery/adventure Baskerville Affair Series. The main character is Evelina Cooper, the niece of Sherlock Holmes, and she is caught between a world of magic and a taste for rational detection. What is the Baskerville Affair? It is a Victorian-set steampunk fantasy that involves magic, a prince, automatons, sorcerers, sundry pirates, talking mice, a large mechanical caterpillar, castles, ballrooms and murder. And, yes, Holmes and Watson. There is some romance and a talking airship, though the two are not necessarily related.

What inspired you to write this book?

I was writing a short story about my main character—I wanted to tell a Holmes story from a young woman’s perspective—and it grew and became more complex. I put it away for a while and when I came back to it, it had grown tentacles and was roaring about my brain in airships. Some characters can’t be trusted on their own—they get unruly and start writing the book when I’m not looking!

Do you have a specific writing style?

I adapt somewhat to the material I’m working on. A Study in Ashes is written more or less in my natural style, but without modern slang. I don’t deliberately try to sound old-fashioned even though it’s set in the Victorian era.

I do use multiple points of view and a number of subplots and character arcs, so the stories are very layered. I’ve tried to create a well-rounded steampunk world with enough detail to sink into, although I’ve been careful that the characters stay front and center rather than the technology. Although some machines in these novels have speaking parts, I refuse to let a discussion of gears and springs take over the proceedings.

I do note with some irony that a few of the mechanical characters have received more comments than the rest. The comic relief always wins!

How did you come up with the title of this book?

All three titles in the series are a play on the Sherlock Holmes novel, A Study in Scarlet. My titles were invented over dinner and beer at a friend’s house. Beer and food play a significant role in my artistic flow, as does hanging around with friends talking about writing. It’s much more fun than actually putting my backside in a chair and working.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

My main character is caught between the fabulous and magical world of her father’s circus family and the rational, genteel world of her mother’s people—the Holmes family. Evelina’s character arc is about combining the two. Along the way she discovers her inherited magical powers, and she has to decide how she means to use them.

Like reflections in a mirror, each of the other players in the story faces his or her own dark side at different points in the tale—and this might happen literally, metaphorically, or magically. Some pass the test. Some stumble and redeem themselves. Some fail—with interesting consequences. While the outer conflict of political upheaval moves in lock step with the main character’s inner struggle, the other character arcs weave within the larger story of revolution and war. Add steampunk armies, magic and things that go boom and splat. Mayhem all around.

If there is a message, I guess it is something about the need to confront that dark part of ourselves, and to be fearless about it. It might just be our greatest strength.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Honestly, I think anything an author encounters goes into the primordial soup of our imagination. I don’t deliberately recreate people or events. I wish I did though—the sequence with the mechanical squid destroying a Wager opera would have rocked. Sadly, that was just wishful thinking from my years as a classical music reviewer.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

I’ve always read widely and fantasy has been my go-to when reading strictly for myself. Growing up, I read Lloyd Alexander, C.S. Lewis, Alan Garner, Susan Cooper and all the other wonderful writers who explored myth and heroism. I spent more time in those stories than the so-called real world. I think writing for me is an extension of that deep need to escape math class (which doesn’t explain why my day job is in finance).

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

My book is published by Del Rey and they designed the covers for the series. They asked for a lot of input to get the feel of them right—and they did a fabulous job! I especially like the way the covers get darker as the situation of the characters becomes more precarious.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

There’s a huge rush to get published, and I think that hurts a lot of beginning writers. Be patient with yourself. No one expects a pianist to play a concerto three weeks after sitting down at the keys for the first time. Novelists take time to develop their chops, too.

I think I was lucky in my lack of ambition early on. That is, I wasn’t in a rush to get into print, so I had the leisure to finish a story and then come back to it later. Often my reaction was “ye gods, what drivel!” I was still learning, and that’s totally okay. Time, practice, and learning to self-critique are incredibly important. So is having a critique group, if you can find good people. Do what you need to do for however long it takes to get confident in your skills and enjoy that learning process. Don’t let other people’s timetables get in the way.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

My aim in life is to keep you up all night turning pages. I refuse to bypass any cheap trick or tawdry device to achieve that end.

A Study in Ashes Book CoverEmma Jane Holloway
Pacific Northwest, USA

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