Author Interview: Muriel Stockdale

Author Muriel Stockdale is an intrepid creative adventurer inviting everyone to appreciate diverse views and ideas in her art, theater, film, and writing. Please welcome her to No Wasted Ink.

Author Muriel StockdaleMy name is Muriel Stockdale, for over 40 years I was a costume designer for film, TV, theatre, opera and more for shows like Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women, TV shows like Law and Order, Ghost Writer and Guiding Light. I also taught many designers some are now Emmy, Tony and Oscar winners at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts Graduate School for Design. I have worked with the Muppets designing and building costumes. Since 2003 I turned toward art and writing, made a short film about spirituality in New York and started a group to support artists looking to create works that uplift their audiences. Currently, I focus on writing and art. My work can be seen at http://www.murielstockdale.com.

When and why did you begin writing?

I have always been writing and collecting stories and ideas so in 2000 when I decided to change my career I took a screenwriting class and produced my second script. My first I wrote by myself; I should have gotten help first.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

For me, writing was always very difficult until I took that scriptwriting class and discovered that writing is very much like painting and it is something I can keep working on and improving as a process. Also using a computer makes the process so much easier than a typewriter or a pencil and paper. Writing was hard for me in the beginning; it didn’t come naturally like drawing, painting and understanding complex clothing. So, when I began to feel successful in my written expression I could really appreciate the work done. Now writing is a joy.

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

My debut novel is a science fiction called Gabriel Born; it is based on my award-winning script Gabriel’s Flight. The story is of a female geneticist, Sheila Jensen, who is desperate to invent a genetic cure so she defies rules against combining human and animal DNA. She stirs outrage, which leads her fiancé and boss, Philip Ohl, to blame her for the illegal and immoral work, destroying her career. Still, Sheila is motivated; her rare nerve disorder will kill her. She engineers her last ovum in the hopes of creating a transferrable cure. Risking her life, she bears the child, but when he grows he is not what she expected.

What inspired you to write this book?

I wanted to write a story that would allow the audience to feel like they were flying. Often, when I dream, I feel like I am flying and I love that feeling. Many times in that state I teach people how to fly. So that was my first compelling thought. I do not really know how the story grew from there it just kind of happened.

Although I did set some ground rules for myself. I wanted to write science fiction that did not assume we must get to our future by way of apocalypse or dystopia. I did not want any of my characters attempting to use weapons to solve problems. I did not want an over present oppressive governing body. I did not want the story to be dependent on spaceships and future tech, though I did imagine the future of medicine a bit. But most importantly, I wanted to imagine what might happen to us as humans consciously if we start changing our physical attributes and tinkering with our DNA. Is there an unseen aspect to our being that we might become more aware of?

Do you have a specific writing style?

For this story, I made a conscious choice to write the novel in a manner that would feel as though the reader is watching a film. I was criticized for this but I feel that in this fast-paced, entertainment flooded world there is room for written works that move through our awareness in a more visual and fast-paced manner.

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

The original title for the film script was Gabriel’s Flight, referring both to the wings the child develops and the escape that he and his mother attempt. When I completed the book I researched the title and discovered another science fiction novel with that title so to avoid confusion I changed it. Gabriel Born may imply that this is the first in a series and it may be.

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

The message that I try to suggest is that we are not just this physical form that we are far greater. I also suggest that we are in control of our destiny for better or worse we can change our form and our consciousness if we choose too.

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

The experiences in the book are based on my dreams of flying.

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

Lately, I have delighted in Diana Gabaldon’s writing, I love her rich descriptive style.

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

I don’t really have a mentor or a style, I am too much of a rebel and a do it yourselfer. I prefer to muddle through new projects I tackle and find my own way in. Then I may take some lessons to discover industry standards. Although in the process of generating this first book I wish I had known a great many things about the business aspect of the process first.

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

The current updated cover was designed by Dart Frog Books.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Just write. But also go to writing conferences, marketing conferences and learn about the business of your book at the same time before deciding to publish. I discovered after a wealth of resources that I wish I had known of first like the Writer’s Digest Pitching Conferences and courses. I regret that I didn’t know much more about editing and marketing.

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

Please let me know what you think of the book, write a review or contact me through my website or Good Reads.

Gabriel Born Book CoverMuriel Stockdale
New York City

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Gabriel Born

Cover Artist: Dart Frog Books

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No Wasted Ink Writers Links

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Welcome to another edition of my longest running post series, the writer’s links!  Each Monday I share with you articles about the craft of writing, science fiction, fantasy, or (drumroll) fountain pens!  This week has plenty of writing tips for you to view plus a retrospective on the late great Stan Lee.  RIP.

EDITING YOUR WRITING

You Know Nothing, Jon Snow

SF in Israel

It’s Not the Artificial Intelligences We Should Be Fearing

A Publisher Might Approach YOU: Four Stupid Mistakes to Avoid

Pyrography: For Those Who Need Fire to Create Their Art

How Many Viewpoint Characters in Your Novel?

Erroneous Code in Fiction

STAN LEE (1922-2018)

How to Choose Your Story’s Plot Points

No Wasted Ink Writers Links

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Welcome to another Monday of No Wasted Ink writers links.  Each week I highlight ten articles about the craft of writing that I personally found to be interesting or enlightening.  I hope you enjoy them too!

Scum and Villainy Shines Despite Flaws

Create Killer Twists: Learn How to Redeem Your Villain

The Making of a Fable

How To Create & Write An Arch-Nemesis

How to Make an Awesome Book Trailer (And why you should!)

You are the Magic

Tips for Crafting Language

Writing Craft: How to Control Your Story’s Pace

Radical Revision: When The Going Gets Tough, Writers Get Radical

A Year On Paper

Author Interview: Tim Susman

I met Author Tim Susman at WorldCon in San Jose.  I think you’ll agree he is an interesting author with a good story to tell.  Please welcome him to No Wasted Ink.

Author Tim SusmanHi! I’m Tim Susman, a gay male American writer (he/him) currently living in the San Francisco Bay Area with my two partners and our dog. I studied business and engineering in college before moving on to zoology in graduate school and then starting a career as a database systems consultant that led to jobs as a product manager and a project manager. After being laid off in 2010 I took up writing full time and have been doing that ever since.

When and why did you begin writing?

In college, a friend of mine asked me to come up with a story for a birthday present she wanted to give me. I think in retrospect she just wanted a couple of paragraphs because when I presented her with a full-blown story she didn’t know what to do with it. The college SF magazine did, and I joined the SF club that fall. I read voraciously as a child, and I think I started writing because I wanted to tell my own versions of the stories I’d loved best.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Probably when that first story was published in my college magazine. Seeing something in print with my name on it, hearing that other people liked the story and wanted me to write more, made me feel confident about calling myself a writer. It would be almost twenty more years before I’d call myself an author, though.

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

My latest book is “The Demon and the Fox,” the second book in the series “The Calatians.” Set in 1815 in an America with magic colleges that is still a British colony, the protagonist, Kip, is the first in a race of magically created animal-people (Calatians) to become a sorcerer himself. In “Demon,” he searches for the perpetrator of a mysterious attack that killed many of America’s best sorcerers. While on this task, revolutionary sentiment grows around him, but even though his people are subject to prejudice and abuse, he worries that he’ll lose his opportunities to become a sorcerer if he turns against the British Empire. If he can solve this mystery, though, he’ll be a hero and much more secure.

What inspired you to write this book?

I had been thinking about parental responsibility, and wanted to explore it through several lenses: first, through Kip’s relationship with his own father; second, through the relationship between the Calatians and the humans who created them; third, through the relationship between the colonies and the Empire that founded them. Each of these relationships in the books takes a different view of the responsibilities a creator or parent owes to their children.

From an aesthetic point of view, I love writing in historical eras, and I love writing about animal-people. I have wanted to write a magic book for a long time, but worried that my engineering background would make my magic too “science-y.” I worked for a while to come up with a magic system that felt magic to me.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I focus more on character interaction and dialogue than on lengthy descriptive passages, but I also like to play around with different styles.

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

Kip is an animal-person with the traits of a fox, and the first in the series is called “The Tower and the Fox,” so I wanted the rest of the series to be thematically linked. In this book, a demon is responsible for the attack, but Kip also summons a demon to help him in his search and begins to learn more about their world, so I wanted the title to focus on the demon as well as our protagonist.

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

Mostly what I discussed above: to think about our responsibilities to those who depend on us, or those over whom we have power.

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

Generally no, although everyone in my life creeps into my books in one way or another.

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

Ray Bradbury’s lyricism was an early influence. Madeleine L’Engle and Susan Cooper’s very personal stories of fantastic magic have stayed with me ever since I discovered them at an early age. Kij Johnson’s beautiful language and emotion were inspiring. David Mitchell’s imaginative and meaningful stories are some of my current favorites. Kazuo Ishiguro’s grasp of the human experience is something I strive to approach in my own work.

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

Laura Garabedian is a friend of mine and a fantastically talented artist. I’ve admired her fantasy illustrations for years and was delighted to have the chance to work professionally with her.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

I have this paraphrased quotation on my desk from William Faulkner: “Don’t bother being better than others. Be better than yourself.”

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

Just a very heartfelt thank you.

The Demon and the Fox Book CoverTim Susman
Mountain View, CA

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The Demon and the Fox

Cover Artist: Laura Garabedian
Publisher: Argyll Productions

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