Tag Archives: author

Author Interview: Katie Taylor

With fifteen professionally produced book titles under her belt, Author Katie J Taylor is an experienced pro.  I am delighted to introduce her here on No Wasted Ink.

Author K.J

My name is Katie J Taylor, and I was born in Canberra, Australia in 1986. I have a Master’s Degree in Information Studies and when I’m not writing I work as an archivist. I love movies and have a ridiculously huge collection of soundtracks, and I also enjoy drawing and various crafts – I sew custom-designed plush toys for fun and occasionally take commissions.

When and why did you begin writing?

In Primary School, when I was quite young. We were often given class work writing short stories and poems and such, and I took to it right away. I had a fascination with expressing things I’d felt and experienced through little poems and the like. I remember once when I was upset because the bullies had had a go at me, I sat down and wrote a poem about it and that made me feel better. I didn’t start trying to write novels until was about thirteen, though.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I think it was when I was in my mid teens and had decided I wanted to be published more than anything. Then it stopped being a hobby and became a calling and lifelong ambition.

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

The Price of Magic is set in a world where the sick and handicapped have magical powers. The worse the affliction, the more powerful the magic. The protagonist, Pip, is a chirpy undersized boy with a crippled leg. He isn’t particularly powerful, but he has a gift other mages like himself lack: the ability to truly listen to another person. When he meets Seress, one of the most powerful mages in the world, Pip must find a way to help her through her crippling depression in order to save magic from being destroyed forever.

What inspired you to write this book?
I was having a bit of a rough time, suffering from severe anxiety – a problem which troubles me from time to time but had never been so bad before. I did the sensible thing and went to see a therapist, and while I was waiting for my next appointment I started to feel angry and resentful. True, I had the ability to create things many can’t, but why did I have to be such a screwup? It occurred to me then that most artists are screwups or sick in one way or another; some of us suffer from chronic illnesses (myself included), some of us are bipolar, some of us are depressed – the list goes on. I came up with the idea for The Price of Magic right there and then. The magic in the series is analogous for art and creativity, and in some ways this is my most personal work to date.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I write in a very straightforward manner and avoid flowery language or overly elaborate description. I also keep my dialogue relatively straightforward and without any frills – characters only use fancy language when they’re making speeches, which doesn’t happen often, and often not even then. I suspect my style is influenced by a lot of the English novels I read when I was younger.

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

Simple enough! The theme of the story is how art (or magic) always comes with a price. This is one of the rare titles I was able to nail on the first try.

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

I avoid putting overt messages in anything I write, so any messages that are in there emerge naturally and it sometimes takes me a while to figure out what they are. True, I started out with a very definite theme, but I had no particular “lesson” in mind. I deliberately treated all the characters as even-handedly as possible; I have nothing but contempt for the cliché of the “noble retard” or the “inspirational sick/crippled person”. As someone who is mentally, shall we say different from other people, I just want to be treated like a human being and I’m sure the rest of us feel the same. If there is a message here at all, it’s that no matter what your difficulties in life, you still have something to contribute, and you are still a person no matter how strange and abnormal you and others may think.

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

I have Asperger’s Syndrome which wasn’t diagnosed until I was 16, so I’m pretty familiar with feeling like an outsider too weird and “stupid” to fit in. Pip, the protagonist, isn’t an Aspie but he has something of the excitement and curiosity I had about the world around me when I was a child (before I became bitter and cynical, hahah). When it comes to Seress, I drew on experiences I’ve had in dealing with severely depressed people, which is why I didn’t sugercoat it. Having depression is terrible, but it takes almost as much of a toll on the sufferer’s loved ones. Hence Pip is seen slowly succumbing to sadness after trying to cheer Seress up eventually exhausts him. But I wanted to emphasise that Seress isn’t just “the depressed character” – she’s a very nice, kind-hearted and intelligent woman who happens to be sick.

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

William Horwood is a big one. His Duncton Wood series has been a lifelong favourite of mine, and his themes of spirituality, redemption and the mysteries of the past always fascinated me. J.K.Rowling is an inspirational figure to me as a person because in the face of everything she has always stayed classy and has refused to let wealth and success change her. I really enjoyed Harry Potter as well. When I was younger I was a massive Discworld fan, which is where I got my interest in deconstructing and subverting genre tropes.

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

The illustrator and cover design were chosen by the publisher.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

I could rattle off a few platitudes about how you should write every day, etc. etc. but instead, I’ll say this: Publishing is hard. Incredibly, ridiculously, painfully, I-want-to-jump-off-a-bridge-in-frustration hard. Therefore, if you want to be happy in your chosen profession, make it about the writing and to heck with money and success, because for most of us there will never be any. If it makes you happy, that’s great. If it makes other people happy as well, that’s even better! After over a decade in the business, it’s all I truly care about now.

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

All I have to say to them is in my books. What I myself have to say in person is really not that important.

Price of Magic CoverK.J.Taylor
Canberra, ACT

FACEBOOK
TWITTER

The Price of Magic

Cover Artist: Sabrina RG Raven
Publisher: Black Phoenix

AMAZON

Author Interview: Joshua Grasso

Joshua Grasso is a professor of English at East Central University and the author of three books on Amazon: The Winged Turban, The Astrologer’s Portrait, and The Count of the Living Death. He is also a fellow member of the Fantasy and Science Fiction Network.  Please welcome him here on No Wasted Ink.

author-joshua-grassoHello—my name is Joshua Grasso, and I’m currently an Associate Professor of English at East Central University, a small university in Oklahoma. My day job consists of teaching all those wonderful classes that are the genesis of every science fiction and fantasy book out there—British Literature, World Literature, Shakespeare, Gothic Literature, and every once in a while, a class on Superheroes as Lit. As a teacher, I try to do the same thing I do in my books: introduce students to a new, exciting world that has (seemingly) always existed, and invite them to start exploring themselves, using language, art, and logic as their guide. I think some of the greatest adventures in history actually started in the classroom, by a writer, or an explorer, or simply a dreamer who caught wind of something unique from a lecture, or a discussion, or a reading assignment. That’s where my journey began, anyway—as a first-year college student in a drafty classroom.

When and why did you begin writing?

As an English major in college, I was inspired by all the works I read, particularly the works set in ancient worlds and languages: Homer, Shakespeare, Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, etc. These works seemed vitally alive to me, yet also quite incomplete; there were ‘holes’ and gaps in the narratives that seemed to invite a future writer to fill in. They provided the perfect introduction to my own world and ideas.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

In 1995, I entered a one-act play writing contest at my college and surprisingly won (I had never won anything writing-wise, and I haven’t won much since!). The grand prize was a full production of my little play, but as luck would have it, this occurred just weeks before the Oklahoma City bombing (April 1995). Since we were in Oklahoma, that became the focus of everyone’s life and the production became largely forgotten—and was finally just half-performed for one evening. Still, it was a starting point, though I quickly realized my talent did not lie in writing plays (I typically just stuck my characters in a room and set them arguing at each other; I learned that you should probably change scenes once in a while).

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

My most recent book, The Winged Turban (2015), is a fantasy novel with a slight Gothic influence set in a Europe-that-never-was. A young woman is married into a strange family and packed away into an ancient estate, where she uncovers a strange old portrait that was never there before, and at least one person is fairly certain is a portrait of her (though it’s well over 200 years old).
What inspired you to write this book?

The cover of the book features a famous 15th century painting by Rogier Van der Weyden, The Woman with a Winged Turban. This is a painting I often use in my classes when teaching the late medieval period, and I’ve always been captivated by it: the painting and the woman. One day, while teaching, I began having a conversation with myself, wondering who she really was, and how I could build a story around it. Those rough ideas slowly blossomed into a full-fledged novel about a year later. The painting—slightly changed—is actually described in the book, so if you know it (or have memorized the cover) you’ll realize immediately what I’m talking about.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I think so, but that’s a dangerous thing to try to nail down. I used to be very verbose, flowery, and full of asides. I’ve tried to cut that down, but even today, I like sentences that flow from specific word use and sentence structures. I love long sentences, too, and I’m not afraid of using semicolons, colons, ellipses, or parenthesis (even though an agent once warned me that writers stopped using them ages ago!). I don’t like writing that is too obvious or clipped. I think writing should be like a ball of yarn: the more you read, the more tangled up you get in the narrative, and just when you think you’ve gotten loose—ah, another tangle! The writing should be clear and readable, but not easy or obvious. It should make you read, re-read, and think a little. That’s what I hope my style does—makes you re-read, not out of confusion (well, once or twice) but for the sheer enjoyment of a sentence or idea.

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

Ha, this one was easy: I just stole it from the title of the painting. I loved the phrase “winged turban.” It’s just a style of medieval fashion, but it sounds so mysterious, and most people have no ideas what a winged turban is, anyway. You have to read to find out. And then you’re like, “oh, it’s just her headgear.”

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

Messages are tricky: a good novel has more than one, and none of them are just bobbing on the surface. Though I would hate to spell any of them out (and there are probably some I’m not even aware of), I did want to stress the idea that the “villain” is rarely a true villain in the sense that we find in movies and old novels. A villain is often just the person who has different goals and desires than you, and is more driven in achieving them. The ‘villain’ in this book is not very evil at all, just desperate to do what she thinks is the ultimate right thing, even if some sacrifices need to be made. And most of the ‘heroes’ agree with her…up to a point.

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

No, this is all from my own imagination, books I’ve read, and themes I enjoy reading about. That’s the beauty of writing for me: nothing is autobiographical (other than the ideas/aesthetics), and I can completely immerse myself in characters, worlds, and journeys that are a complete expansion or negation of my own. I don’t want to see myself anywhere in the book if I can help it!

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

The biggest influences on my writing are typically (with a few exceptions) British, very old, and usually mentioned as “classics”: Austen, Coleridge, Shakespeare, Chaucer, Wilde, Mary Shelley, Voltaire, Tolkein, White, and the extensive works of “Anonymous” (particularly Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, etc). For me, a great story has to be coupled with powerful and beautiful language, and the pre-20th century world seemed more at peace with this. After WWI, beauty in writing seemed somewhat naive or improper, so writers adopted a more clipped, terse style of writing which gets to the point but (often) without flair or beauty. I think writing should be beautiful, so that you can fall in love with a single sentence, and only later understand how that sentence fits into the puzzle of the entire piece. I also like works where the narrator is him/herself a character, and writers like Chaucer, Austen, and Wilde were masters at this. After all, if someone is talking, why make him/her anonymous? Give him/her life and a voice, even if the ultimate identity remains mysterious.

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

Since I’m also a professor, I learned the most from the writers I wrote about and ended up teaching, figures like Daniel Defoe, Henry Fielding, and Jane Austen. Analyzing their works as a scholar, and then figuring out how to teach them to (largely) bored undergraduates, really makes you appreciate how they work as writers and as books. That has to rub off on you as a writer yourself, and I picked up a lot of Austenisms in my writing, some of which I edited out, but others I kept as a badge of pride. No shame in sounding like one of the greatest masters of prose in the English language!

Do you have any advice for other writers?

The only thing I’ve truly learned about writing is to be devoted to it. Don’t do it by halves. By that I mean make writing (not being a writer, or acting like a writer, but actually writing) your entire life. Write every day until it becomes second nature. Read every day without fail. Find the connections between different authors and try out their techniques. Set goals and come as close as you can to accomplishing them. But most of all, write. If you don’t like writing, there’s no reason to become a writer. And if you do, then get to it!

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

Remember that I’m poor and I can’t afford to pay fancy editors to go over my work. It’s just me and some friends and students. So if you find a typo, tell me about it before you post a 1-star review! I promise to fix it! You can’t believe how hard it is to find every single typo or missing word in a 90 thousand-word manuscript even after reading it five or six times in several different mediums. But other than that, I hope you enjoy the book!

book-cover-the-winged-turbanJoshua Grasso
Ada, OK

FACEBOOK
TWITTER
GOODREADS
AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE

The Winged Turban

AMAZON

 

Author Interview Laura Woodswalker

Author Laura Woodswalker is a nature and science-obsessed nerd who believes that writing, art, and music are true expressions of the transcendent.  I am pleased to welcome her to No Wasted Ink.

author-laura-woodswalkerMy name is Laura Woodswalker. I ‘m a retired cat lady who has raised 3 children, worked various nursing and graphics jobs, and written several books to save my sanity. Music, art and writing have always been my favorite time-wasters. In addition to writing books, I produce electronic music and visual arts. I also perform at the electro-music festival in NY state. Between projects, I also do weaving and various DIY crafts.

When and why did you begin writing?

When I was 12, I became obsessed with the Incas and wrote a novel about them. But my writing has often been episodic, in response to difficult times in my life. I wrote my first SF novel in the late 70s when my bluegrass band broke up. After my divorce, I wrote a 200K novel about the Khazars.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I don’t really. I don’t have this ironclad compulsion to write all the time—only when I get an idea that forces me to write it.

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

TESLA’S SIGNAL is a historical science fiction novel based on the life of electrical genius Nikola Tesla, who gave us the world’s electrical system. In 1899, while experimenting with high-frequency currents, Tesla believed he had received a signal from an extraterrestrial civilization.

This inspired me to write about an alien visitation in the early 1900s. The invaders try to recruit Tesla for their conquest of Earth. After he escapes them, he is the only human with the scientific know-how to counter their mind-control frequency devices. The authorities, meanwhile, blame him for the aliens’ devastation and hunt him as a public enemy. Nikola and his colleague Clara are the only ones who can save the world!

What inspired you to write this book?

When I read Tesla’s biography, I saw that his life was “a science fiction story that practically wrote itself.” I did not feel qualified to write a SF novel about an electrical genius…but I felt as if Tesla had grabbed me by the throat and demanded I write his story.

Do you have a specific writing style?

When readers enter our world, they are blind, deaf and crippled. They depend on us to take them everywhere. So I don’t like to distract them with too much ‘show-don’t-tell’. At the same time, I prefer to tell a story rather than make my readers wallow in suffering. Conversation and human interaction are the backbone of a compelling scene. Also, I like to throw a bit of humor into my dramatic scenes.

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

It was a no-brainer…although the signal was actually something that Tesla received, rather than one which he sent.

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

On the surface, my novel is a classic adventure story. But there are deeper levels in which I explore the soul of a lonely genius who finds love and transcendence. The message is how my characters overcome their fears and temptations, find courage and love, and the willingness to sacrifice themselves for humanity.

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

The character Clara, a Yiddish immigrant who becomes Tesla’s colleague, is very much drawn from the culture of my immigrant grandparents. Much of the novel is set in New York City, where my grandparents lived. When my characters must flee to a remote location, I put them in the mountains of Central Pennsylvania where I grew up. They meet a professor who can help them—and he is based on my father, an engineering professor.

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

Zenna Henderson, my #1 favorite author, wrote about “The People”–telepathic aliens whose ancestors crash-landed in the southwest in the 1800s. The stories depict their attempts fit in with normal Earthlings, without losing their unique gifts and differences. How could this theme not resonate with a lonely high-school outcast? Likewise, my other favorite author, Clifford Simak, wrote about “mutants” who tried to save the world while facing persecution. With my ethnic background, I could certainly relate to this. My favorite science fiction theme has always been the noble mutant, alien, and the gifted outcast.

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

In the 80s I discovered Marion Zimmer Bradley and the Darkover conventions. This subculture was my gateway to SF cons and meeting other writers. I then discovered the Philadelphia SF Writers Workshop. I attended this sometimes grueling workshop for many years. One could not ask for a better writers’ boot camp. After critiquing and being critiqued for many years, I learned how to hear an editor’s voice inside my head.

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

I designed my own cover. I was an art major with a degree in computer graphics, so I felt that if I hired someone else I would be wasting my education.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Take the advice with a grain of salt. The main point in writing is “variety”. Vary your sentences, types of scenes, styles. Readers have short attention spans. Also, transcend your ego. It is going to get hurt; that’s part of the process.

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

This is a stand-alone novel, but the companion volume TESLA’S FREQUENCY should be out in a few months.

book-cover-teslas-signalLaura Woodswalker
Phoenixville PA

FACEBOOK
TWITTER
GOODREADS

Tesla’s Signal

AMAZON

Author Interview: H. L. Burke

H. L. Burke is a writer of eclectic fantasy for young adults and children. She is also a semi-professional dragon keeper. Please welcome her to No Wasted Ink.

author-h-l-burkeMy name is Heidi, but I write as H. L. Burke because, while I appreciate that my mom likes classic children’s books about Swiss goatgirls, I really don’t think Heidi is a great name for a fantasy author. Just way too cute. Can’t go wrong with initials, right? I’m a part time writer, full-time mother, and military wife. My two young daughters and my gigantic orange cat argue about whose slave I am, and our German Shepherd never listens to me. I drink a lot of coffee.

When and why did you begin writing?

I’m a talker, and writing is like talking, just a little slower. I wrote short stories even before I could write, dictating to my mom, then illustrating them in crayon.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I took ownership of the title at a really young age. When it was the late 90s and all my friends got hotmail accounts, I had a mailing list of people who I’d send short stories to. I won a few small contests, and my peer group generally thought of me as “the writer.” Then there was a point that I stopped … but I always felt guilty about it, like I was letting down people who I knew in high school because I wasn’t writing any more, so eventually (after about maybe a five year break) I kicked myself in the pants and started again. That was about four years ago.

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

My most recent book has the current title of Coiled. It is a fairy tale retelling based on an obscure French fairy tale called The Green Serpent which is in turn heavily influenced by Cupid and Psyche. It’s about a prince who turns into a giant snake whenever someone looks at him, so he befriends a princess with her own curse that has twisted her appearance to make her grotesque and courts her in darkness … of course, there’s a vengeful god who isn’t too happy about this and a quest that involves Gorgons and even a dragon. The book was recently picked up by Uncommon Universes Press and is due for June 2017 release.

My published book is Nyssa Glass and the House of Mirrors, a steampunk adventure. It was released in 2016.

What inspired you to write you published book?

The idea writing Nyssa Glass and the House of Mirrors was to reverse engineer a “puzzle game.” One of my favorite ways to relax is with a good puzzle/adventure game, and a lot of them have a similar premise: the protagonist (played by you) is trapped somewhere and has to navigate their way out while solving a mystery or putting together a story. So I worked backward from that and thought about a reason a person might have to break INTO some place and the sort of challenges they might face. Then I wondered who their companion would be, and what if there were killer robots … I loved coming up with the premise for this book and once the setting and the challenges were decided, I think it was probably the most effortless story I’ve ever written (helps that it’s a novella).

Do you have a specific writing style?

Conversational. I tend to be very to the point. I like each little detail to carry a lot of weight, so while I’m not a minimalist, I do tend towards sparser prose. I like things simple and sincere.

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

My idea for Nyssa has always been that she’s reminiscent of a serial adventure heroine. Sort of a female Indiana Jones but trained as a cat burglar rather than an archaeologist, so having her name be the title was a given. The House of Mirrors refers to the primary antagonist. While Nyssa does face some human baddies, the thing that really has it out for her is the house itself. It has booby traps and killer robot sentries. The “creepy mansion” set the mood for the piece, and I wanted to put that in front of the reader from the get go. 

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

There is one that I cannot discuss without getting into spoilers, but it involves how different people deal with situations out of their control, whether with acceptance or anger. Also, throughout the series, there’s an underlying current of Nyssa trying to redeem herself from past sins and also of finding one’s family in people who are willing to love you in spite of your past.

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

Nyssa is a lot like I imagine my young daughter will be when she grows up, sarcastic and smart but with a soft-center that would like to trust and which feels deeply for other people. The funny thing is I didn’t make the connection until after I’d written her. I think that’s one reason she appeals to me so much.

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

I am a big time fan of J. R. R. Tolkien. He’s the only author I really obsess over, in that I’ve read biographies about him and collect books written about him as well as books written by him … but he’s kind of such a massive figure in fantasy that it’s almost a given. My personal writing style is more influenced by more modern YA Fantasy authors, specifically like Shannon Hale and Gail Carson Levine or Patricia Wrede, the ones I grew up reading. I love their fresh take on fairy tales.

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

I’m such an impossible student that any writer I chose would probably get really annoyed with me and it would totally ruin our (admittedly hypothetical) relationship. Seriously. Can I just have tea with Neil Gaiman instead? I really would like to have tea with Neil Gaiman.

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

I used my friend Jennifer for Nyssa. However, since I’m going with a publisher for my new book Coiled, they will be providing an in-house cover designer. For my other books, I started working with Jennifer because we’ve known each other since our days on a Tolkien Fan Forum … and we are both mothers of young children trying to balance creative-life with all that motherhood entails, so it was easy to work with her. I probably will continue to use her for my self-published projects.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Never ask permission to make art. I see a lot of hesitant new writers wanting to know “am I any good?” (the answer is usually, “probably not yet, but you have to keep trying.”) or “is this idea worth writing?” (impossible to know until it has been written) or other versions of trying to get the approval of others before they begin. Just begin. Then get your work torn apart by a good critique group and start over … rinse and repeat until you rise from the ashes as a Mythical Writer Beast!

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

Hey there! Theodore the Dragon says hi! (they’ll get that)

 

book-cover-nyssa-glassH. L. Burke
Oceanside, CA

FACEBOOK

INSTAGRAM

TWITTER

GOODREADS
Nyssa Glass and the House of Mirrors

Cover Artist: Jennifer White

PURCHASE