Category Archives: Author Interviews

Author Interview: Kai Wai Cheah

Author Kai Wai Cheah is Singapore’s first Hugo and Dragon Award nominated writer.  I am quite honored to include him among our featured authors here on No Wasted Ink.

Author kai wai cheahI’m a Hugo and Dragon Award nominated writer from Singapore, writing under the names Kai Wai Cheah and Kit Sun Cheah. While specializing in fantasy and science fiction, my personal writing preferences lean towards lean, dynamic and authentic, combining the finest traits of modern fiction and pulp stories from the early 20th century. I’m also a member of the PulpRev movement, which seeks to revolutionize fiction by gleaning lessons from the pulp masters of the past. Other than writing, I also enjoy reading, movies and gaming, and practice the Filipino martial art of Pekiti Tirsia Kali.

When and why did you begin writing?

I began writing at 12 years old because I was bored.

As a child, I was a bookworm. I routinely devoured books much more advanced for my age. Physics, biology and chemistry encyclopedias; folklore, myths and fairy tales (not the watered-down versions for modern children; but stories of good and evil and horror and bloodshed); books about the military, war, firearms and technology. I started reading adult novels in primary school, and never looked back.

One December morning, I found myself with nothing to do. The Primary School Leaving Examination was over; I was just killing time waiting for the results and my secondary school posting. I’d already read every book I had in the library. I decided I could write a book of my own. I fired up my computer, grabbed research material, and wrote the opening chapter of what would become a 300-page military science fiction epic.

The novel was also utterly terrible, but I kept writing and never looked back.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Shortly after beginning work on my novel, I decided it was something I wanted to do as a career. I began referring to myself as a writer at the age of 13, soon after completing the first draft of my first novel.

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

My latest published novel is titled Hammer of the Witches, the second novel of the Covenant Chronicles. The story follows deniable operator Luke Landon, who is tasked with investigating international vigilante network Hexenhammer to determine if it were responsible for a major terrorist attack on a refugee camp. However, he quickly discovers a conspiracy that will stop at nothing to rule the world. And behind that conspiracy is the Unmaker, a fallen angel who aims to drag all souls into the Void.

The Covenant Chronicles is one part spy thriller, one part dark fantasy, one part military science fiction, set in a world where magic and daimons exist, but not gods… until they awake.

What inspired you to write this book?

Like all my stories, inspiration came from many sources. The first major source came from the thriller authors I read in my youth: Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlum, Daniel Silva, Greg Hurwitz and Stephen Hunter. Harry Turtledove showed me the possibilities that lay in the genre of alternate history, while Jim Butcher influenced my approach to worldbuilding and writing, and John Ringo introduced me to military science fiction. The physics-based magic of Larry Correia’s Grimnoir trilogy was a significant influence on the magic system of this series — but I also stole ideas from Dishonored, Final Fantasy, and Alan Wake.

Do you have a specific writing style?

My writing style varies a lot. I find that it morphs to fit the kind of story I’m writing. The Covenant Chronicles series trends towards dark and introspective, with bouts of high-octane action; my upcoming A Song of Karma series is a little lighter and contains poetry; another story I’m working on focuses heavily on atmospherics and senses and technology. Other things like structure, dialogue, formatting also morph to fit them.

For the Covenant Chronicles, I’d like to think of it as what would happen if Tom Clancy and Larry Correia collaborated to write a futuristic urban fantasy series with strong espionage and counterterrorism elements.

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

Hexenhammer quite literally means ‘Hammer of the Witches’.

It’s also a reference to how the group (and Luke Landon) sees themselves: a hammer to crush the (metaphorical) witches threatening civilization.

A pity I couldn’t include a literal hammering, but that can wait for Book 4.

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

The entire series is a shadow war between good and evil — but the dividing line between the two quickly becomes blurred. To navigate these treacherous waters, and to keep his soul (and the souls of others) from falling into Hell, Luke Landon must develop a moral compass and stand true to his principles. I would like readers to understand the value of having firm ethical principles, of refusing to compromise with evil, and to understand that all actions have long-term repercussions.

A secondary message is that evil outcomes can arise from actions motivated by good intentions — and that good outcomes can also flow from evil actions.

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

No, but I drew many plot elements and technologies from current affairs and modern-day developments. These include the European migrant crisis, quantum computing, brain implants, fake news, and more.

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

Everyone I mentioned above as inspirations. They bring different strengths to the table: prose, plotting, characters, research, worldbuilding, and more. I study their stories to improve my own.

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

I don’t have any mentors. However, I am studying the business practices of Silver Empire, Chris Kennedy, Nick Cole, and Jason Anspach. Marketing is one of my weaknesses. I think these authors and publishers have an excellent grasp of marketing, and there is much to learn from them in this regard.

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

Scott Vigil. I didn’t select the illustrator; Castalia House did.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Write. Don’t stop until you’re done. Then, write some more. This is the secret to achieving your writing goals, whatever they may be.

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

Thank you for reading my books. Please look out for my upcoming stories Hollow City and Dungeon Samurai.

Hammer of the WitchesKai Wai Cheah
Singapore

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Hammer of the Witches

Cover Artist: Scott Vigil
Publisher: Castalia House

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Author Interview: Eileen Sharp

Author Eileen Sharp is a writer of inspiring fantasy who gets to the heart of what makes magic so appealing–the idea that we are extraordinary in some way, waiting to be discovered. Please welcome her to No Wasted Ink.

Author Eileen SharpA well-known psychology professor once said that creative people find their identities later than anyone else. Growing up I lived on both the east and west coasts so I developed a love for moving on and going to new places. It’s not escape exactly, maybe the cousin to escapism. I just really love the feeling that I’m opening a new chapter. After high school, I studied Journalism in college but decided to devote myself to my growing family after I got married. It was a good investment! My children are my best friends now and my grandchildren are these wonderous, funny beings that light my world.

After struggling so much to find my niche in the world I have grown fond of tarot cards, the magic 8-ball, fortune cookies and anything that will tell me my destiny–accuracy is not as important as being entertaining!

When and why did you begin writing?

I started writing when I was encouraged by my 7th grade English teacher, Mrs. Warner. If I finished my work early I was allowed to write short stories and she would give them back to me the next day to tell me how great they were. Who wouldn’t thrive after that kind of affirmation! I’d always loved reading, but after that, I loved writing.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

From the moment I wrote my first short story in middle school. After that, I paid attention to how stories are told and how many stories surround me every day. I’m a fiction writer but no matter how wild my imagination I’ve always found real life to be much more startling, engaging and unpredictable. If fiction manages to compete with real life then that is quite an accomplishment.

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

Cypher is in a science fiction setting but it’s really about a teenage boy with no memories of his past who doesn’t belong to anyone and has no home to call his own. A family with an only daughter adopts him and he becomes a part of their lives. Although he’s made peace with not having a past when his new family is threatened his ordinary identity begins to crack to reveal an extraordinary secret. It’s the story of a brother and sister and the power of loyalty.

What inspired you to write this book?

Just exploring loneliness, and what it would be like to not know you are and how love can change everything. No one is so strong that they don’t yearn for a place to belong.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I’m a concise writer but I also like to reveal honest emotions. I’ve always had a fascination for how different our emotions are in real life than how they are portrayed in most stories. There’s no soaring musical score in the background when your life crumbles or dramatic lighting when you meet your first love but it’s all still so powerful and overwhelming. Some of the most heart-wrenching moments in my life were experienced in complete silence. There were no words. Which isn’t to say I don’t think people talk to each other in those circumstances, but it’s usually not elegant at all. Few people spout poetry in their defining moments unless they’re Churchill or Maya Angelou. The rest of us just blurt things out but we really mean them–deeply. I like to capture the power of that authenticity when I can.

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

It describes Joshua–not only his situation but his secret past.

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

I didn’t write with a message in mind but if there’s a theme it’s that we all need to feel like we belong, and we all feel something when we see loneliness in someone else.

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

They weren’t based on real experiences but maybe similar emotions–hopefully universal ones that most people can relate to. Certainly family ties–that realization you have when you’ve been away from your family for a long time and when you reunite you suddenly realize how much more complete you are with them than you are with anyone else.

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

The most influential writer for me has always been Lloyd Alexander and close behind him is Madeline L’Engle. Lloyd Alexander had such a sweet, gentle warmth in his books–they just radiated wisdom, love and the idea that everyone is extraordinary, no matter who you are. I remember as a thirteen-year-old finishing the last book in the High King series and just laying there on my bed looking up at the ceiling, absolutely dazzled. I still am. I love those books! Madeline L’Engle made me feel the same way. I loved her worlds and her characters and the message. I think really good writing doesn’t intimidate you as a writer it makes you want to join them. If there’s a club for people who can make the world brighter, make someone else feel heroic, then I want to be in it.

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

I think my fellow indie writers are all my mentors because they persevere, they succeed, they keep going. Julianne Whicker, in particular, is my hero. She shares her life and her work and her process and that has really inspired me. I hope to catch up to her someday!

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

I worked with my graphic designer daughter on this cover–she’s got a killer instinct for design and she’s an extraordinarily skilled photographer. It was a really fun collaboration.

Do you have any advice for other writers?
Yeah, I don’t think I know enough to give anyone else advice but if anyone wants it I would say keep moving forward. The universe can’t open up for you if you don’t give it a try.

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

I love my readers! Thank you for being on this journey with me and I’m so excited for what’s ahead!

CYPHERFINALCOVEREileen Sharp
Idaho Falls, Idaho

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Cypher

Cover Artist: Lindsay Larsen

 

Author Interview: Seth Ring

Author Seth Ring is an up and coming science fiction writer.  I am pleased to feature him here on No Wasted Ink.

Author Seth RingMy name is Seth Ring, I’m a writer based out of Pennsylvania, in the USA. I’m married and have two children. No pets right now, though I have ambitions to get a cat. I try to send my wife cute cat pictures whenever I can but no luck so far. I grew up moving around a lot and spent a good amount of the first half of my life overseas, in Ghana, West Africa. I also grew up without a TV, so for entertainment, I read constantly. I have a day job that supports my family and have only recently started releasing my writing into the world for other people.

When I started writing I released all of my stories as serial web novels for people to read for free. Around September of 2018, I transitioned to Patreon where I have a growing community of supporters who are interested in exploring the world of Nova Terra with me and the characters of my books. Rather than wait until my books are completely done, I post as I write to get feedback on how things are going. My patrons also get to contribute to the story by helping me decide how things will turn out.

When and why did you begin writing?

I began writing about three years ago as a way to help deal with my depression. As much as it might sound like it, I am in no way a tortured artist. Instead, I find that my stories come from a place of joy and deep gratefulness for what I have. The power of a story to transport the reader to a different, magical world is one that I find deeply satisfying. I try, as much as is possible, to produce that in my own writing. Writing, for me, has been a process of showing the hope that I feel. Our world can often look and feel broken, but there is hope in it and I want to share that with other people.

Ever since I was little I’ve loved exploring stories with other people and my writing is really just an extension of that.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I first considered myself a writer when people started discussing what a character was feeling in a story that I had put out on the internet. I had uploaded it on a whim, not expecting anything in particular, but a number of comments made me realize that the characters were good enough that people were able to invest. If a writer can create a character that people care about, then they are a writer in my head.

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

This past December (2018) I released the first book in the Nova Terra series, Nova Terra: Titan. It is part of the GameLit subgenre of Science Fiction and revolves around Xavier Lee, a young man with disabilities who is sent to live inside a virtual reality game called Nova Terra. As with all stories, the main character embarks on a journey of discovery to figure out his place in this world. The game’s setting is fantasy, so it is a fun blend of future tech and swinging swords. In my opinion, the most fun part of the story is the interactions between Thorn and the other players that he meets in Nova Terra.

I am also currently getting close to finishing Book #2 in the series and have already posted up through Chapter #23 on my Patreon. I don’t have a release date for Book #2 yet, but it should be coming out in the spring.

What inspired you to write this book?

A google search. I had been watching a documentary on the strongest men in the world and ran across the name of Robert Wadlow, who is considered the tallest man to have lived. Because of my background, I started wondering how a computer would treat someone that tall in a full-immersion virtual reality game. The rest wrote itself.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I find my descriptions tend to be short and to the point, not littered with extra words. I try, as much as possible, to show that the characters are real people, who react in real ways to their world. Last, I believe strongly that language should be evocative, bringing the feelings of the characters from the page into the mind of the reader.

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

Picking Nova Terra: Titan as my title was not intentional or even particularly well thought out. Instead, I had intended for this book to be a short story and was planning a series about the world that would be written with different main characters. I labeled the original manuscript Nova Terra: Titan to indicate who the main character is. Then, instead of moving on to a different story, my main character kept having more adventures. I plan on keeping the first two words for the next books so they will be titled Nova Terra: [something].

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

If I could convey one thing through my stories, it would be that no matter what your experiences, no matter how dark the world might seem, there is hope. Hope for life, hope for improvement, hope that things can be better. In a way, I feel that books naturally draw us into a different world where we can see the world clearly, where we can see the hope. Often in life, it is really hard to see through the fog created by our experiences and feelings. I just want to reassure my readers that there is life on the other side of that cloud. In Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor E. Frankl tells us that humans need a purpose to live and that without it we face nothing but oblivion. Hope is the vehicle that carries us from the present toward that purpose.

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

Partially. I wish I could answer with a resounding yes, but sadly, the technology for full-immersion VR does not yet exist. Maybe someday. However, it is important to realize that there is little fundamental difference in the human experience. We all suffer to varying degrees. We all have to deal with disappointment, with broken relationships, with difficult challenges. The emotion that my character’s feel is real in the sense that I have felt it before. I think that is what allows us to resonate with them and to understand their choices.

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

Growing up I read a lot of Louis L’amour and Georgette Heyer, two drastically different writers. Louis L’amour was a pulp western writer who was known for his short, clipped, action-focused writing and the way he showed the character of his heroes and villains rather than telling it. Very different from Louis L’amour, Georgette Heyer wrote the most wonderful Regency Romances. In fact, many credit Heyer for popularizing the genre. Heyer had a particular knack for writing out conversation that revealed the inner workings of her character’s minds without being obvious. Add to that my adoration of G. K. Chesterton’s ability to invoke feeling through language and you have my three biggest influences.

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

Absolutely, though writing is not something that he does full time. My father has always encouraged me to write the truth which was highly influential in how my writing style has developed. We can write difficult things, so long as they are true things. We can show the world for what it is, so long as we do not distort it for our own agenda. We can write about darkness so long as we show that light exists as well.

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

Originally, the cover for my book was put together by someone on one of the sites that I was using to post my book. However, they had used some images that were not available for reuse, so I took the cover to Fiverr and a lovely lady from Germany recreated it for me at a great price.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Write every day. Come join the #5amWritersClub on twitter. If you have to work at 5 am, get up an hour earlier. Don’t worry about crafting something perfect, instead, write something silly. Write something that brings a smile to your face. Write something that sparks joy in you. If you enjoy it, you’ll do it. If you enjoy it, someone else will as well. Practice hard, practice often, and as you do your craft will get better and better.

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

I can’t stress how appreciative I am of their continued support. Especially those that have joined me on Patreon to explore Nova Terra. We’re having a lot of fun and it is adding a dimension of enjoyment to my writing that I never imagined could exist when I started writing.

New Terra - Titan Book CoverSeth Ring
Lancaster, PA

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Nova Terra: Titan

Cover Artist: GermanCreative

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Author Interview: Ian Hugh McAllister

Author Ian McAllister is a careful and calculating writer, which is why it takes so long to complete a project. He is currently engaged in a campaign to bring back real science-fiction, the science-based non-fantasy genre of such writers as Hal Clement.  Please welcome my friend and up and coming author to No Wasted Ink.

author ian hugh mcallisterHi Wendy, I am Ian Hugh McAllister, the ‘Hugh’ is only included in my author name to distinguish from the other Ian McAllister (the wolf books etc). I am a 58-year old early retired English ATC controller, originally from the Liverpool area. I’m also a lifetime airliner nut, and a keen traveller. I have lived in Dorset, close to England’s Jurassic Coast for nearly 35 years with my wife Simone. We have a grown up son.

When and why did you begin writing?

I have always written for pleasure, but it got real when I was encouraged to write a biography of my grandmother in 2011. Hilda James was Britain’s first female swimming superstar in 1920. The resulting book, Lost Olympics, was successful in that it saw Hilda posthumously inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 2016. As she was the first celebrity to be taken on by the Cunard Line, I also started receiving invitations to join the cruise ship entertainment speaker circuit, and talk about her life and times.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I think that came with the publication of my first sci-fi novel To Visit Earth. The biography was an in-depth research project, and the book was pretty much an assembly job. Creating my own fiction is what I had always wanted to do.

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

To Visit Earth centres around the closest Earth-approach by a comet in recorded history, some time in the not so distant future. The eventual result finds lunar geologist Lucy Grappelli injured and trapped in a crashed exploration vehicle, over 1000km from the established moon base and beyond all possible help. It’s a survival story with what I have been told is a worthy twist.

What inspired you to write this book?

I am a fan of the harder side of science fiction, having been brought up on it by my parents. I do read widely in all variations of sci-fi and fantasy, but hard sci-fi is very much my thing. 50 years on from reading my first science fiction, I have finally put my money where my mouth is and tried to prove I can publish something original.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I think I am developing one. I am an admin with a busy writers/authors group on Facebook (10 Minute Novelists), and I firmly believe we are told to follow far too many rules in our writing. This is leading to a loss of individuality in styles. A good example is the sweeping “show don’t tell”. Now with sci-fi of course, a certain amount of world-building, exposition, and even info-dumping is acceptable. I personally like a 50/50 approach to “show don’t tell.”

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

This is another area that causes a lot of discussion in the writing group, and I have a stock answer. The expression “To Visit Earth” jumped out at me as I wrote the book. It is a short statement that is repeated in the text, but becomes a revelation, and pivotal to the story.

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

Now, I don’t want to drop a spoiler so I will have to be careful. I could say never discount the possibility of help from unexpected sources.

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

This is a great question, and comes under another writing guide, “write what you know.” Suffice to say that I have had 35 years of experience of all points on the management spectrum. Several ex-colleagues and friends from ATC have named certain poor unfortunates, still desperately trying to manage sections of the business, as role-models for my management team in the book. If I was American I’d be taking the 5th, I believe you call it. However, I do retain that wonderful get-out clause, “No character in this work is intended to resemble any person, either living or dead… yada yada,” while making that evil Blofeld chuckle!

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

My first strong influences were the great pulp writers of the 1950s, I grew up with an entire bookcase of Galaxy and Astounding as my tool for visiting the universe. These had been amassed by the parents as they partied their way through Liverpool University in the early 1950s. Eventually, I settled on the Heinlein juvenile series (Have Spacesuit Will Travel retains a place in my all-time top 10 books). Isaac Asimov, Theodore Sturgeon, James Blish, ah, many of the greats.

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

Definitely. I firmly believe that Hal Clement has shaped my aspirations. I have read and re-read all his books. The novel Mission Of Gravity and its associated works (later published as the collection “Heavy Planet“) is for me a seminal piece of hard sci-fi. Clement went as far as to publish a paper postulating the possibility of a planet such as his Mesklin. Would that I could produce something a quarter as good.

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

A young 10 Minute Novelists member and friend, Jonas Meyes-Steger designed the cover, using a few written notes I sent him. Jonas is disabled, and currently finishing a self-financed university course. While many of us aspired to write and be published, Jonas dreamed of becoming a commissioning editor. I don’t think it’s a matter of record yet, but remember that name. That’s all I’m allowed to say.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Join a writing community. Read. Yes, in fact, read, read, read, and then read some more. Read in the genre you want to write, but extend your sphere of knowledge into all sorts of other places.

Then, when you are ready to write, learn the rules; Grammar, syntax, how to string a coherent sentence together. Recognise different styles, there are a lot.

Then, while knowing all that stuff, write. Remember, there are no hard and fast rules really. If there were, reading would be deadly dull. So break the rules if you want to, but break them well, and with reason.

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

I’m working on a sequel. I originally set out to write a heavyweight, stand-alone novel, but that’s what happens when you start to enjoy it. Don’t hold your breath, To Visit Earth took 20 years from original idea to published book! No, seriously, I have accountability partners nipping at my heels. I need to stick my neck out and say – 2021/Remnant Planet!

to visit earth book coverIan Hugh McAllister
Broadstone, Dorset, England

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To Visit Earth

Cover Artist: Jonas Mayes-Steger
Publisher: Cloaked Press

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Author Interview: Mary E Lowd

Author Mary E. Lowd is a science-fiction and furry writer in Oregon. She’s had five novels and more than one hundred short stories published, and her fiction has won an Ursa Major Award and two Cóyotl Awards. Please welcome her to No Wasted Ink.

Author Mary LowdMary E. Lowd grew up in Oregon, surrounded by gray skies, green trees, and imaginary animals of every kind. She went to an engineering college in Southern California (too sunny) and then spent six years living in Seattle (too gray) before returning to Oregon (just right!). She lives in a house hidden behind a rose garden with her husband, daughter, son, a bevy of cats and dogs, and the occasional fish. She spends her time in coffee shops, drinking chai and writing about all the imaginary animals.

When and why did you begin writing?

My mother wrote down stories I told her before I could even read. I remember her sitting at the computer and typing, while I played with tiny toys and told her stories about them. As I got older, I learned to write the stories down myself, and I remember filling sheet after sheet of paper — the kind with the giant lines on them in elementary school — with a loopily scrawled story about polar bears escaping from a zoo. By middle school, I was typing my stories, and the blank space of a Word document was my favorite place to be because I could fill it with talking animals, wonderful worlds, and anything else I wanted.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I wrote a poem about a bird soaring through the sky — only four lines long and nothing remarkable — in fourth or fifth grade. Somehow, that was the moment I decided, and bizarrely, I never changed my mind. I never even doubted that writing fiction was what I wanted to do with my life until nearly two decades later after I’d already self-published my first novel, “Otters In Space,” and was struggling to find readers for it. The doubt was short-lived — a couple of hours, but it was an intense and terrifying experience. I’d known who I was and what I wanted to do since I was ten. No matter what else has happened in my life, I’ve always had that commitment to anchor me.

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

My latest novel, “The Snake’s Song,” is a fantasy adventure story about a squirrel searching deep underground for the lost celestial treasures. She faces danger — including ghost moles, sorcerer crabs, and a mysterious leontaur — and finds new friends (and maybe herself!) along the way.

What inspired you to write this book?

A local writer I knew, Matthew Lowes, created a card game called Dungeon Solitaire. The game is a cross between a D&D campaign and solitaire, and it’s best played with a custom deck of tarot cards with art by Josephe Vandel. I had already been using tarot cards as writing prompts for my flash fiction stories. So when I learned about this game and learned that a local group of writers were writing related novels, it seemed like a perfect fit. The only rules for the tie-in novels were that they had to be inspired by the game and feature descent into a labyrinth. The result has been a wide variety of novels, in settings ranging from a post-apocalyptic future to the modern-day Congo to the afterlife itself.

Do you have a specific writing style?

It’s hard to see my own writing style because it’s the filter through which I look at the world. I like to think that I bring a mix of light, absurdist humor to straightforward, practical prose that’s not afraid to reflect reality, even when it gets a little dark. I rarely write poetry for poetry’s sake, because I’m more interested in conveying ideas and insight, telling the story, than building castles out of words. That said, some ideas are inherently lyrical and deserve to have their beauty conveyed.

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

“The Snake’s Song” is about a squirrel getting drawn away from her day-to-day life in the trees and into a dangerous adventure underground by the song of a snake. Literally. So, the title felt right, and it sounded beautiful. That said, I’ve accidentally called it “The Squirrel’s Song” many, many times.

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

The main character Witch-Hazel faces hardships, events beyond her control, and terrifying trials — but she keeps going; she doesn’t give up hope; she keeps questing. I hope she can be a friend to people who need a tenacious squirrel adventurer in their lives to help them keep going.

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

There are always pieces of myself and my life in the characters I write, even if they’re only pieces of speculation and imagination, daydreams that I’ve had. However, I think “The Snake’s Song” reflects my own life less than any of my other novels, because I specifically wrote it as an escape, a chance to try something different.

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

Ursula K. LeGuin for her depth of insight; Jane Austen for her cleverness; Connie Willis for her clear prose; and Douglas Adams for his humor.

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

My friend Nina Kiriki Hoffman is a science-fiction, fantasy, and YA author. We met through our critique group, the Wordos, and over the last few years, I’ve spent countless hours at coffee shops with her, writing fiction. She has a way of treating writing like both a serious career and a fun pastime at once — or maybe just a way of life. I admire her greatly and have learned a great deal about how to be a writer just by spending time with her. Also, her fiction is amazing — it combines delightful magic and fantasy with personable, deeply believable characters.

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

Every novel in the Labyrinth of Souls series has cover art by Josephe Vandel, taken from one of the tarot cards in the Dungeon Solitaire deck. I chose the sun card for “The Snake’s Song,” because it was the brightest, happiest looking card in the whole deck, and I knew my novel — an adventure featuring a plucky squirrel — would likely be the lightest novel in the whole dark fantasy series. Also, the sunflower imagery in the sun card figures heavily in the story.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Find ways to enjoy what you do. Writing can be really hard, and the rewards can be far removed from the work that leads to them. So, if you can find ways to enjoy the process, find happiness in the work, then it will all be so much better. That sounds vague, so let me offer some concrete examples — my writing group gives chocolate for short story rejections; a friend and I reward each other with tiny toys for writing a thousand words in one sitting; when I did NaNoWriMo last year, I got myself an advent calendar and opened a door for every 2000 words, meaning I had to reach 50,000 — a full novel — to make my way through the whole calendar. All of that might seem silly, but it keeps writing fun and helps build up the habit of writing regularly and writing a lot. When I’m in the habit of writing, then it’s easier to write the stories I really care about.

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

Vote.

the snake song book coverMary E. Lowd
Eugene, Oregon

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The Snake’s Song

Cover Artist: Josephe Vandel 
Publisher: ShadowSpinners Press

AMAZON
BARNES & NOBLE
SMASHWORDS