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Author Interview: Eli Nixon

I asked Eli how he would describe himself as a writer and he replied: I like to make bad things happen to good characters, and I like to do it in places that don’t exist in this world. Sounds like a science fiction writer to me! Please welcome Eli Nixon to No Wasted Ink.

Author Eli NixonWell, my name is Eli Nixon. I live in North Carolina with my wife and five-year-old daughter and a dog and the world’s smallest flock of one chicken (that nobody can seem to find) and a garden that somehow grows rocks and I love all of it. I spent a few years in Costa Rica pretending to learn Spanish while actually learning how to surf. I try to keep things simple, and as a result there’s not a lot to me. My joy comes from the little things I have and, of course, writing.

When and why did you begin writing?

When I was a kid I’d always scribble down these little stories, and I was a ravenous reader, so I think it’s always sort of been there, just waiting for me to acknowledge it. I actually began trying to make money writing as a copywriter for website content. I was working in a call center at the time, hated it, and had a ton of free time, so I started doing that in the evenings. I think it was about a month later that I quit the call center and started writing full time. Not fiction, right, but sales material and product descriptions. But I think that paved the way for getting back into my childhood fantasies of fiction.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

When I stopped writing copy, ha ha. I think it was when I first self-published a collection of short stories on Amazon (under a pseudonym, of course. Nobody was ever going to know I wrote that). But the first sale of that Kindle book sort of drove it home: I can do this. I’d called myself a writer before that whenever someone asked the ubiquitous “So, what do you do?” but after that I sort of believed it myself. It was slow going, but now I’m working Son of Tesla, the first book in a trilogy about Nikola Tesla returning from another dimension to enslave humanity, and although my ideas haven’t gotten any better, I feel better about referring to myself as a writer.

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

It’s a futuristic story about a drug addict in a world where a plague killed all the animals about a decade previously. He goes outside one morning, and there’s a parrot on his front porch. It tells him he’s going to die unless he kills a specific list of people. It’s called Pretty Bird.

What inspired you to write this book?

I walked out my front door one day and thought, what if all the animals were gone, and there was a parrot here telling me I was about to die? That’s essentially it.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I’ll admit to being sort of a leech. The writing style of whatever I happen to be reading at the time tends to seep into my writing. I can’t give any specific examples for Pretty Bird, but for a portion of the novel I’m writing now, Son of Tesla, I was reading Kathy Reichs’s Bones to Ashes. Her writing style is often short and punctuated, and some of that got into the middle chapters of Tesla.

Other than that, I’m a sucker for poetic prose, metaphors, similes, and hyperbole, for better or for worse (i.e. “The sun hung over the horizon like a bruised tangerine, limp and cheerless.”). It doesn’t always work, but I like writing it, and I’ll probably stick with it for awhile. So if you’re planning to read my books, sorry in advance.

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

For awhile the working title was simply “Parrot.” A lot of the other story elements came about during the writing process, and at some point the phrase “pretty bird” popped into my head. It’s a cheery phrase, and I went with it as a title because it belied the rather dark atmosphere of the story and, along with the cover design, it gave a hint of some plot elements without giving away anything terribly important. I wanted it to be a title (and cover) that you could look at after finishing the story and going “Ah, well that makes sense now.” Whether or not that worked, I can’t say.

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

Don’t do drugs, ha ha. No, I think if there was a single message, it would be to be careful with technology. The story’s not anti-tech, because I feel that technological advancements are very important to our culture, but just to consider the possibilities of what any given technology can achieve. If it helps sick people, gives a cancer patient more opportunities for treatment, awesome. If it dampens the spirit of a person or population or even an animal, just be aware that it can do that. Don’t stop creating it, but be careful with it. Nuclear technology is probably one of the most important achievements we’ve made the past century, but it’s also mind-numbingly tragic when used as a weapon. I say understand the bad because that’s the only way you can avoid it. That’s one of the big themes in Son of Tesla, too.

I also don’t like anonymity in corporations, but that’s just a small part of the story.

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

I think everything is. No, I’ve never been a drug addict in the future who has to kill people because a parrot told him to. But locations, sure. Mannerisms, yes. Descriptions of characters? Absolutely. Some are amalgamations, some I’ll just pull up a photo of someone I know and describe them. If my friends ever knew I was watching the way they stuck out their tongue a little when they were thinking, or sort of scrunched their nose sideways, or put a certain inflection in the way they said “dinner,” I think they’d lynch me in the town square.

A good example of this is Lazarus, a character in Pretty Bird. He has a very distinct way of talking. I got that from a friend I’ve known since elementary school, and he has no idea. Nothing else about Lazarus mirrors this guy, but all of his dialogue comes out the way I think I’d transcribe this friend talking about his day at work. It’s…sneaky, sure, but there’s inspiration all around you if you want to be the asshole that finds it.

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

Life? Jack Kerouac (not a good thing), Hunter Thompson (arguably a worse thing), and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The first two lived their lives with pure, unrestrained freedom, and while I haven’t necessarily followed the specifics of what they did, I try to live each day with that encompassing sense of moving forward. There’s always something new; life is short, and I don’t want to sit in a rocker on my front porch and watch it drive by.

As for the third, the Sherlock Holmes stories force you to look past the obvious for the subtle details. That’s never a bad habit, writer or not.

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

Well, Stephen King’s On Writing was a huge inspiration for me to start writing fiction again, but I’ve never met a writer in real life, so I can’t say I’ve had a mentor, per se. I’d say that the books I grew up on as a kid – Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, Tom Sawyer by the incomparable Twain, and a neverending supply of Stephen King novels filched from my big brother’s room – shaped my fascination with what could be done with the written word. These guys took something that every child learns in school, grammar, spelling, punctuation, they took these tools and they used them to craft stories and characters that can never die. Except the Stephen King ones, where most of the characters seem to die in the first few chapters.

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

I designed it myself for the dual reason that A) I have a fatal attraction to doing everything myself, and B) I can’t afford a designer or illustrator anyway, so that was just how it had to be. The weird thing is, I made the cover before I knew how the story was going to progress, and some of the random design elements I chose ended up in the story. You never know what’s going to get you there.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Think about the “what if’s.” If you’re writing a sci-fi novel, or a horror novel, or adventure or romance or anything besides literary fiction, chances are what happens to your characters isn’t something that’s ever happened to you. The exception to that may be romance, but I skimmed my wife’s copy of 50 Shade of Grey and I have my doubts, Ms. James.

And when I say the “what if’s,” I mean what could happen? There are opportunities for that every day. If you’re driving to the store for a gallon of milk and you see a stray dog beside the road, hey, what if that dog lives its life running in front of cars to cause accidents because it feeds on death? What if you stopped, brought it home, and suddenly everything you ever wanted started happening to you? It’s about seeing something different in what’s in front of you. So many of my stories have started with that simple question: What if this happened?

Besides that, I’ll just echo King: Read, read, and read. Never stop reading. And don’t start drinking until you’ve written at least 500 words.

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

Just start writing. It doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad, just stick those fingers on a keyboard, close Facebook, and string some words into a sentence. Then string those sentences into a paragraph, then a chapter, and before you know it, those tiny, insignificant words are going to become a book. Maybe the book sucks. That’s okay. Write another one. Each time, it’ll get better.

Book Cover Pretty BirdEli Nixon
Mocksville, North Carolina

Pretty Bird

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Author Interview: Eileen Schuh

I asked Eileen how she might describe herself as a writer. Her response was: I am a writer of powerful psychological thrillers, luring readers into the action and then compelling them to ponder. Please welcome science fiction author Eileen Schuh to No Wasted Ink.

Author Eileen SchuhI was born Eileen Fairbrother in the small prairie town of Tofield, Alberta Canada. I now live in the County of St. Paul in Alberta’s northern boreal forests and write under my married name, Eileen Schuh.

At the age when most are planning their retirement, I launched my writing career with my debut novel, THE TRAZ, the first in my young adult BackTracker series. Flicking through the pages of a book with my name on the cover as the author, was the fulfillment of a life-long dream. With half a century of stories pent up inside me, THE TRAZ was quickly followed by my first adult Sci-Fi and just 4 short years later, I have 6 published books to my credit.

When and why did you begin writing?

I wanted to write novels since I learned to read, which was before I started school. I was raised on a small dirt farm with no conveniences and little entertainment. Reading opened the world to me; I was mesmerized by the magic of the written word and by the power stories had over me. I wanted to wield that power.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I’ve been a writer since the age of four. I have letters I wrote to my mom when I was in Grade I. I was very homesick when I was sent off to school (which was about a two-hour bus ride each day, one way). Mom told me when I got homesick to write her a letter. She kept some of them. Throughout my school years, I excelled at reading and writing and won many competitions. When I was in Grade 8, one of my short stories was published in the Wee Wisdom Magazine for Children.

I eventually got my Journalism Diploma and off-and-on throughout my child-rearing years, I plied my trade as a journalist, editor and feature writer. I also dabbled a bit in creative writing. However, with little uninterrupted time to hone my skills, I was never able to bring those early stories to fruition.

Eventually, with my children all successfully reared and on their own and the family business financially secure, I got to pursue the dream of being a novelist,

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

My latest release is my second adult Sci-Fi, a little near-future romance, entitled DISPASSIONATE LIES.

What inspired you to write this book?

I’m really worried about the inherent insecurities in the World Wide Web. We seem too dependent on a technology few understand. The internet is a more powerful tool than the atomic bomb, yet we don’t know who is controlling it. I let my imagination run wild as to what might happen in the near future if the web were to collapse, hoping society might take note and do something to strengthen internet security.

I realized that the shortfalls of cyberspace might be a dry topic to most readers so I decided I ought to spice my story up a bit. I had been told sex sells, so my original intention was to make my novel a bit steamy. However, my muses (as they often do) played a trick on me and my young heroine turned out to be a member of what the media in the year 2035 dubbed the ‘eunuch generation’—a generation of females born infertile and without libido.

Of course, the forbidden relationship is always the most alluring and I found a way to get around my muses.

Do you have a specific writing style?

My novels, whether gritty contemporary novels for teens (like my BackTracker Series) or science fiction for adults, are marketed as psychological thrillers. It is my firm belief that the most exciting and interesting things in life occur in people’s minds and hearts. I try to write my novels with a lesson for those readers who want one, and pure adventure and thrills for those seeking entertainment.

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

I actually crowd-sourced the title on my facebook author page. Without telling my fans anything about the book, I asked which of four titles (all related to the novel) would make them most likely to pick up a book and read the back cover copy. DISPASSIONATE LIES got the most votes. Dispassion of course refers my heroine’s asexuality and lies…well, you’ll have to read the novel.

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

I really want people to not only consider the pitfalls of cyberspace, but also the environmental and biological risks inherent in our pharmacology industry. Perhaps the biggest message, though is: We ought to be more worried about who’s developing the quantum computer than who has weapons of mass destruction; quantum computing is where power of unprecedented strength will lie in the near future.

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

Very much so. I have an entire section at the back of the novel with links to news and science headlines supporting the premises explored in my story. DISPASSIONATE LIES is eerily realistic. Take note.

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

Jay Williams’ Danny Dunn series of children’s Sci-Fi got me hooked on that genre back in middle grade. Williams took science out of the boring textbooks and classrooms and made it fun and relevant. He made the possibilities for the future intriguing. His stories stayed with me and now I want to make today’s science fun and exciting for adults.

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

I give much credit of my success to best-selling Canadian author, Cheryl Kaye Tardif, who has helped me immensely for many years, with everything from establishing my website to participating in the social networks, to believing in my work. When the time was right she also, through her company Imajin Books, became one of my publishers. My other publisher, Carol Hightshoe from WolfSinger Publications, is also an author and gave my science fiction dreams their voice.

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

Lee Barlow Kuruganti is the cover artist for DISPASSIONATE LIES. Sci-Fi covers are notorious distinct with their digital other-world auras. Although the sexy lady on the cover surprised me utterly, I quickly came to accept that Kuruganti had done an excellent job. She incorporated many of my suggestions such as the sodium streetlamp lighting and the code markings. As is somewhat standard in the industry for traditionally published novels, my publisher chose the cover artist but did ask me for input on the design.

Lee Kuruganti’s claim to fame is that she won the competition to design the 2008 Hugo Award statue base. I feel quite honoured to have had her design the cover of my novel.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

I frequently lament the decades of writing I lost to raising kids and undertaking other major life adventures but I understand now why that was exactly the right path to follow. I urge all those for whom writing is an obsessive passion to ensure that they sacrifice their keyboards to live fully and abundantly and to not be unhappy doing so. As intriguing as the imaginary world of words is, reality is infinitesimally more rewarding and important. LIVE IT!

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

Please, please leave me a review. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just saying if you liked it or not and why. Not only do I thrive on feedback but research shows reviews, good, bad, or indifferent, attract readers and I want everyone in the world to read DISPASSIONATE LIES.

Dispassionate Lies Book CoverEileen Schuh
St. Paul, Alberta, Canada

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DISPASSIONATE LIES

Cover Artist: Lee Barlow Kuruganti
Publisher: WolfSinger Publications

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Wendy Van Camp featured on CHANGES Vlog Series

Changes Vlog

On January 7, 2015, I was interviewed by Sally Ember, Ed.D. on her YouTube video series entitled CHANGES. This is an hour long freeform conversation between authors and the host that range on a variety of subjects. Our conversation was about science fiction books, literary conventions, steampunk as a genre and a little about myself as an artisan jeweler and author.

I hope you will join me on CHANGES and enjoy the program.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U-OOvBXtGRM

Author Interview: Jamie Maltman

I’m a big fan of historical fiction and when it gets mixed in with a good dose of fantasy, all the better! Please welcome Jamie Maltman, author and podcaster, to No Wasted Ink.

Author Jamie MaltmanI’m Jamie Maltman, from the Toronto area in Canada. When I’m not writing or consulting from home, I’m playing some kind of games (board-, video-, computer- or sports) with my wife and two young sons, or spending altogether too much time talking online about my beloved Toronto Raptors. We love to travel, but are keeping it closer to home while the boys are young.

I’m always reading at least one book, and if I don’t read someone else’s fiction before bed each night, my own ideas won’t let me sleep.

When and why did you begin writing?

Originally? When I was 4 or 5 I started to write my stories down. I typed, illustrated and bound my first little fantasy book around grade 2. I wrote a lot in high school, subverting English assignments to become fiction writing whenever possible, including the start of a novel I might revisit someday.

I started again after my son was born and I started reading to him, and wanting to share not just the stories of others, but my own. The non-kid stories took over soon afterward, and I don’t intend to ever stop.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Fall of 2011, when I made real progress on my first book, by writing daily for weeks at a time. Finishing the first draft of a complete novel probably sealed it.

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

Brush With Darkness is the first in my historically-inspired fantasy series, Arts Reborn, set in a world reminiscent of the classical Mediterranean, where people believe in myths and gods, but haven’t seen any actual magic in a thousand years.

Simon Baroba is a new legionary in the Pazian army, more talented in logistics and cartography than war. Shadush, Grand Thane of the Scentari, awakens dark elemental magic, and thirsts for revenge over the Pazians that stole his people’s land. When Simon meets Elysia, the intriguing young sculptress who creates works of incredible beauty, she opens his mind to a whole new way of looking at the world, and the threat it faces. Simon must explore his buried creative Talents in order to play his part in defending the Republic from destruction.

It’s about the characters and how their personal worlds are impacted by this return of magic, and how that fits into the wider world. The events kicked off in the first book keep escalating over the course of the series, with book 2: Blood of the Water releasing summer 2014, and book 3 scheduled for the fall.

What inspired you to write this book?

I love history, and the Classical Mediterranean is one of my favorite periods. I had been considering some historical fiction ideas for a while, with a lot of research and picking out interesting setting points for that world. At the time, and completely unrelated, I started telling my very young son a story about a child being bored in school and doodling, but then finding out his doodling had power. The ideas began to collide, and I had just finished reading some books by Guy Gavriel Kay, where he borrows heavily from real history without putting words in the mouths of actual historical figures. Everything came together and the book started writing itself.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I prefer to stay close to my individual character viewpoints so they can experience the world through their thoughts and perceptions. I try to be lean on description, but my readers seem to appreciate the details that are on the page. I definitely keep things moving forward.

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

Any possible reading of the title ends up being valid. Simon is a painter, and he’ll have to explore that magic in order to face the evil threat to his nation. But he also narrowly escapes that darkness early on in both dreams and reality.

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

The potential for greatness when people pursue their innate talents. There are other themes lurking under the surface that will be fleshed out more as the series goes on, but I won’t be pointing them out just yet.

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

Not me, but people who have been discouraged from pursuing their art at some point in their life. There are too many I know, but more and more are finding ways to come back to it later in life.

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

I started reading C.S. Lewis’ Narnia and Tolkien’s Middle Earth when I was 3-5 years old, and they instilled my life-long love of fantasy.

Colleen McCullough (Masters of Rome) and James Clavell (Asian Saga) were the first two historical fiction authors who inspired me to look to the past for incredible stories.

Umberto Eco both inspired and terrified me with how much esoteric knowledge you can pack into one book, while delivering an amazing story.

Guy Gavriel Kay, Steven Erikson, and R Scott Bakker are all Canadian writers of fantasy who have created incredible worlds with their own living history, sometimes based on our own, and others as deep and rich as if they were real.

More recently, Neil Gaiman inspires with everything about his work, including his incredible audiobook narration. I hope to do the same someday.

And while I was never a Stephen King or horror fan growing up, reading his On Writing inspired me to actually pursue this crazy calling. And to read and enjoy his non-horror books.

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

I had a brief mentorship experience with a local writer, Richard Scarsbrook (The Monkeyface Chronicles), who was writer-in-residence at my community library right when I was getting more. After attending his classes, he sat down to read my first few chapters with me. His combination of positive and constructive feedback spurred me onward to finish the book and ultimately publish it.

In the SFF world, Brandon Sanderson is one writer I’d love to have as a mentor, since he’s both a great writer and a fantastic teacher. Or Patrick Rothfuss. Every time I listen to him talk about writing, I’m blown away.

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

Keri Knutson from Alchemy Book Designs. I saw some of her work from a post on the Kobo Writing Life Blog, checked out her pre-made covers, and saw her portfolio, so I e-mailed her and soon after we were working together. I’ve loved what she’s done so far, and I get lots of compliments on my cover.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Write something, anything, all the way through to the end. If you can’t get through your current project, write something shorter first. Completing something, anything, will give you the confidence to write the next thing, or the bigger thing.

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

Thank you for reading, and I love to hear from you! I look forward to sharing more stories in this world, and many more. I’m only getting started. Please join me for a weekly chat about what we are reading and topics related to reading on To Be Read Podcast, I am the co-host of the show and would love to hear from you!

Brush with Darkness Book CoverJamie Maltman
Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada

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Published by Testudo Press

Cover Design: Keri Knutson, Alchemy Book Covers

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50 Days of Indie: Wendy Van Camp

The Curate's Brother on Amazon

My book “The Curate’s Brother: A Jane Austen Variation of Persuasion” is featured as number 48 of Cheryllynn Dyess’s 50 Days of Indie Authors promotion. Cheryllyn has been interviewed here on No Wasted Ink. Please visit her interview if you haven’t already and gain an introduction to her as an author.

Day 48 of 50 days of Indie….featuring Wendy Van Camp