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Author Interview: John Meszaros

Author John Meszaros loves mixing together his interests in natural history, world cultures and mythology to create worlds that feel like they live and thrive on their own, apart from the narrow story of the protagonists. I’m pleased to introduce him here on No Wasted Ink.

Author John MeszarosI’m John Meszaros. I’ve worked in science education all my life, at zoos, aquariums, natural history museums, and currently a planetarium. I love natural sciences, particularly paleontology, astronomy, and marine biology. I collect books, plants, and fossils and am well on my way to transforming my house into a combination library/green house/wizard’s laboratory. I’m a big fan of cryptids and folklore and I currently run a blog about “official” state cryptids. I’m also an illustrator, and I love to weave my art together with my writing.

When and why did you begin writing?

Like many authors, I’ve been writing since I was a kid. But I first really started taking my writing seriously in college when I began submitting sword and sorcery stories to magazines.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Definitely when I started submitting stories. I mean, packaging and mailing all those manuscripts (this was just before email submissions became widespread) and collecting rejection letters really got me into the mindset of being a serious writer. That’s also when I started really analyzing the works I read from other authors to figure out how to improve my own craft.

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

My first novel is a dark fantasy set in a world based on medieval Japan. It’s about a young woman who becomes a fire-controlling demigod against her will, and her efforts to learnt to control her powers. I’ve always loved Japanese mythology and monsters, and incorporated an abundance of ghosts, yokai, magic and other supernatural happenings into my book.

What inspired you to write this book?

For the first part of my writing career I wrote short stories. I really wanted to try my hand at writing a full novel with lots of world-building. I grew up watching a lot of anime, and that sparked an interest in Japanese culture and history. I couldn’t find much fantasy fiction with a Japanese setting (though that’s thankfully changed in recent years), so I decided to write my own.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I actually didn’t discover my writing style until after I wrote this book. I have a very episodic style that comes from my experience writing short stories. My books usually have a single overarching plot driving the character’s long-term goals, but they run through many semi self-contained adventures in the process of getting there. I struggled with this style for a long time, trying to smooth it out and write in the more conventional way that you’re “supposed” to write a novel. But I realized eventually that this was the method that was true to me, regardless of what other authors and editors thought I should do.

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

I didn’t have a name for my book until the last draft. By the end I found that the underworld of Yomi played a huge role in the book. All of the conflict in the story sprang from the machinations of beings hailing from this realm, so “At Yomi’s Gate” was a very fitting reflection of that.

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

At Yomi’s Gate isn’t really a hard moral story, but a major theme of the plot is about the main character, Sakura, dealing with her own fear and anger and learning to turn that rage away from hurting other people and focus it on protecting those she cares about.

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

There are kernels of my personality and life experiences in each of the five main characters. They each have different aspects of my own emotions, creativity and curiosity, around which I’ve hung other personality traits to make them their own individuals. In particular, one of the main characters, Fumito, is a scroll painter and artist, and I share his love for collecting and telling stories.

On a more concrete level, several scenes in the underworld that are visually inspired by the time I visited the Dazu Buddhist rock carving grotto in China.

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

Ursula LeGuin has been my biggest influence. I love her stories about finding balance. Her use of Taoist philosophy has greatly influenced my own work.

I’ve also been heavily influenced by China Mieville’s weird fiction. My own settings, characters and creatures can get bizarre, and seeing how he handles odd settings helped me figure out how to ground my own stuff.

The early 20th century author Harold Lamb has also been a big influence. He wrote tons of pulp adventure fiction based in meticulously-researched historical settings, particularly Central Asia. I’ve tried to put the same level of care and research into my own world-building that he put into his.

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

Again, definitely Ursula LeGuin. Her works taught me a lot about incorporating theme and meaning into a story without turning it into a bland morality fable. Her books taught me about accepting both the bad and good sides of oneself, and that one must learn how to incorporate them together into a whole. That idea directly runs through At Yomi’s Gate, especially in Sakura’s character arc.

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

The cover was illustrated by Matthew Meyer. His style is based on old Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock prints, particularly of monsters called yokai. I love that look and really wanted my cover to look like a print you might find at a vendor’s stall in old Tokyo. Meyer was really the only person I wanted to illustrate my cover, and I’m still glad I went with him.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

The most important thing about writing is to find the style that works best for you. There are tons of classes and how-to books that tell you that their way is the “correct” way to write. And sure, if one of those methods resonates with you, then use it. But don’t get stuck thinking that you have to find the one perfect system for writing, because none of them work for everyone. Furthermore, it might take you a while to figure out what method is right for you. I wrote for ten years before I finally found the most productive system for me.

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

My current works-in-progress are combining my passions for art and writing, so hopefully fans of my illustrations will enjoy seeing them mingle with my written words, and vice versa.

At Yomi's Gate Book CoverJohn Meszaros
Connecticut

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At Yomi’s Gate

Cover Artist: Matthew Meyer

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No Wasted Ink Writers Links

No Wasted Ink Writers Links

After a short hiatus, the top ten writing link posts have returned to No Wasted Ink. This week I attempted to focus on writing tips, but there were too many recent obits to ignor. I wanted to call to attention Phyllis Eisenstein, one of my favorite fantasy authors who passed away recently. I am a graduate of the James Gunn Science Fiction Workshop and had the pleasure to hear Mr. Gunn explain his method of intuitive brainstorming that was one of the best lectures I’ve heard on the subject. RIP to both these fine authors.

Sync Scrivener With Android Devices For Writing On The Go


Before Home Video, Science-Fiction Fans Worked Harder to Keep Fandom Alive


7 Writing Lessons Learned in 2020


In a Writing Slump? Try a Little Exercise!


Navigating the Parallel but Uneven Ecosystems of Traditional Publishing and Self-Publishing


Phyllis Eisenstein (1946-2020)


In Memoriam – James Gunn


Introduction to the ATU Tale Types


Revision Search Patterns


On Using Humor in Fiction

Author Interview: R.M. Olson

R.M. Olson is the author of the Ungovernable series. She promises she hasn’t done all the things she writes about. Honest.  Please welcome her to No Wasted Ink.

Author Ruth OlsenMy name is R.M. Olson. I’m a Canadian, a lawyer, an author, and the mother of four kiddos. I love to travel, and I admit, I’m a bit of an adrenaline junkie–I’ve jumped off the highest bungee jump in the world, trekked across mountains in pouring summer storms, gone cage diving with great white sharks, and maybe most frightening of all, taken all four of my kids on a three-day backcountry camping trip all by myself. I’m an unrepentant bookworm, and always have been. I love corny jokes, campfires, and hot tea, preferably all together. Autumn is my favorite time of year, and I’ll never get tired of the sight and smell of leaves the colour of sunshine against a grey autumn sky.

When and why did you begin writing?

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. I think my first completed work was when I was about six. I’d heard my parents talking about Shakespeare’s tragedies and decided it couldn’t be that difficult. And it wasn’t. I killed off my MC and his entire family and all his friends in the course of about three pages. Not sure even the Bard beat that record.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Only about five years ago, honestly. Although I’ve been writing my whole life, that was when I first started taking it seriously–working intentionally on my craft, querying, and putting in a sustained daily effort to writing.

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

Well, I write fairly quickly, so my current WIP changes on a regular basis. But I can tell you a bit about my series. I’m currently finishing up a space opera science fiction series that follows the adventures of a motley group of ex-cons and their mysterious leader. It’s called The Ungovernable, and it’s a sort of Ocean’s Eleven meets Firefly, with all my favourite tropes–laser guns, smugglers, explosions, heists, jailbreaks, deep-space casinos, carnivorous plants, political intrigue, and most of all, a fumbling, ridiculous, and ultimately loveable found-family crew.

What inspired you to write this book?

I’m a sucker for clever heists, and for sprawling space adventures, enemies-to-friends, groups of clever misfits who love each other in spite of their quirks or even because of them, and lots of action. I’d just finished watching Ocean’s Eight yet again and I thought, why not do something like that, but in space? And so The Ungovernable was born.

Do you have a specific writing style?

My style tends to be fairly fast-paced–lots of action, snappy dialogue, never too long between something exciting happening, but ultimately character-focused. There’s usually romance, but it’s usually slow-burn. One of my beta readers left a comment once that sums up my style pretty well, I think. She commented, “I was expecting sexytimes, and instead I got a near death experience!” And that basically says everything there is to say about how I write.

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

Ha ha, it wasn’t easy. I spent a lot of time consulting with friends about it. But ultimately, the series title, The Ungovernable, is the name of the crew’s ship, and the title of each book is based off a hacker/computer term, since hacking plays a big part in the plots. The titles of the released and upcoming books are Zero Day Threat, Jailbreak, Time Bomb, Insider Threat, Blacklist, Trojan Horse, Blue Team, Attack Path, and Threat Agent. You get a point for each of the terms you can identify without looking them up!

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

Honestly, as much as these books are all about the action, their real message is friendship–about learning to love people for who they are, and learning to be loved for who you are. About the kind of friendship that means they see you at your ugliest, and your weakest, and your stupidest and most awkward–and they love you anyways.

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

Well–there’s a lot of me in Jez. I’m also ADHD and bi, and I certainly had a lot of the same feelings of alienation and not fitting in as she has throughout the series because of those things. And I, too, have managed to stumble into a group of friends who I could count on at any time and for anything. And the world itself is based in large part on places I’ve traveled–a year or so before I started this series, I traveled across Siberia on the Trans-Siberian railway, and I fell in love with the mix of cultures and the complex history of that area of the world. A lot of that found its way into the world I created for these books.

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

I’ve always loved Terry Pratchett. I love his ability to make you think while making you laugh, and to portray the ugliness in the world while still believing that people are basically good. I love Neil Geiman and Harper Lee for much the same reason. And while I only wish I could compare my writing to any of theirs, I hope that at least I can manage, in my own awkward way, to convey a similar message.

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

Hmmm. That’s a tough one. If I had to pick, I think I’d go back to Sir Terry. There is so much about his writing that I’ve loved and studied, and he deeply inspires the way I write and the things I chose to write about to this day.

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

The first three covers were designed by Jesh Studios. He’s a fantastic artist, and was able to put down on paper what I had in my head for these characters. I loved every one of his covers, but because of unforeseen circumstances, he was unable to complete the covers after book three. I switched to KDS Cover Concepts, because I was looking for someone who could work in a similar style, and I’ve absolutely loved her work. I’d highly recommend her.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Just keep writing–don’t let rejection discourage you. It’s part of the process, and it forces you to improve. I thought I’d be ready to publish when I wrote my first book. But looking back, I’m so glad that book wasn’t published. My writing has improved and deepened so much since then. I have several manuscripts and short stories that I submitted to agents and publications that were rejected over and over. But each time I re-wrote them, or wrote something new, I got a little bit better. And as much as it was frustrating at the time, that was when I really started to hone my craft–when people stopped praising me and were honest enough to tell me I needed to improve.

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

First, a heart-felt thank you for reading. I’d be a writer no matter what, but I couldn’t be an author without you. So thank you for letting me live my dream. And I hope that somehow, my crazy crew of misfits has brightened your day, made a rough week a little better, or maybe showed you that you don’t need to change who you are in order to be loved. You just need to find your people. And they’re out there, whoever you are–even if you’re an irritating ADHD ex-smuggler pilot with a penchant for getting into trouble. ❤

The UngovernableR.M. Olson
Calgary Alberta, Canada

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Cover Artist: Jesh Art Studio ( https://jeshartstudio.com/)

All my books are only available on Amazon. Here’s a link in the US store to the series page:

And here are universal links for the four books that are currently released (although I can update this again before the interview goes live, as there will likely be another one or two out by then.)
Zero Day Threat
https://www.bklnk.com/B088C4FYPN
Jailbreak
https://www.bklnk.com/B0883Z4L3W
Time Bomb
https://www.bklnk.com/B088F6756J
Insider Threat
https://www.bklnk.com/B08F76MC75

Author Interview: Rick Graham

Author Rick Graham has just the right amount of madness to attempt to build an expansive science fiction universe, but enough stubbornness to stick with it when it gets tough. Please welcome him to No Wasted Ink.

Author Rick GrahamHey everyone! I’m R. E. Graham, but you can call me Rick. From being a husband, father of 2 (with another arriving in December 2020), full-time small business owner, and more, there is no shortage of plates to keep spinning. Yet, I wouldn’t trade it for all the money in the world.

When and why did you begin writing?

I have wanted to be an author for a very long time. However, I lacked the confidence to even attempt it over ten years ago. Finally, I got the courage to take a chance and give it a shot. There were some bumpy roads for a while, but I now get to work on something that is a dream for so many others. One of the best things about being an author is to give life to the stories that are burning within me to be told.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Honestly, I didn’t consider myself a writer until somewhere around my third novel’s release. By then I had written some not-so-great non-fiction books (my first attempts into writing), short stories, and then three novels. For whatever reason, I still didn’t think of myself as an author, not deep down. It sounds strange in a way, but it took a while for me to catch on.

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

I am building a vast SciFi brand with many stories still to be told. Honestly, I’m already moving on to the fourth in a series within the Revelations Universe, but my last release was “Revelations: Spectre”. It is a revenge story about an ex-bounty hunter who was the deadliest warrior in the ‘verse. One day he suddenly leaves it all behind and just wants to live a normal life. However, after a tragic incident (no spoilers!) he comes out of retirement to get his revenge. I describe the main character, Gideon Adama, as John Wick mixed with Boba Fett. There is a lot of fast-paced action, but there is also a great deal of universe building seeded here and there. While this story is a stand-alone novel, it fits within the larger context of Revelations.

What inspired you to write this book?

I was in the middle of my Kingdom of Sand series and was feeling a bit burned out creatively. After getting some serious inspiration, a story began to form in my head without much effort. I was so excited about it I just had to tell it. Currently, it is one of my best sellers, so I am very glad I followed my instinct on that one.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I do. When I am working on a project I am focused on telling it in such a way that the reader has enough detail of what’s around them, but what matters most are the characters. I want the story to flow well between action and dialogue, with the intention that each of the characters feels like a real person.

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

It isn’t as glamorous as some of my other projects, it just went off of the name of the nickname of the main character.

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

Spectre is connected to the Revelations Universe as a whole. It shows one perspective in a sea of others. Each with their own desires, aspirations, fears, pain, and more. Some elements are hinted at, to add threads that will be connected later on.

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

The process for my novel covers is probably a bit different than most other authors. I hire an illustrator to create an original illustration making sure that it is designed in such a way that it can be used for a book cover. My wife then takes the image and creates the book cover. We chose this process so that I would have clean artwork that I could use in other ways such as social media posts, promotional images, or other options down the road.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Absolutely. Both of these points are both easy to say but extremely tough to follow. The first is that you need to take small steps. Don’t try and write a novel if you’ve never written anything before. I would instead recommend that you invest the time in writing a short story. This allows you to go through many of the same steps that a novel will, just on a much smaller and easier to achieve scale. Completing a short story will give you confidence to try a larger project, and then another, until you’re ready to tackle a full-sized novel.

The second piece of advice I would say is that you should be careful not to compare your works to those who are huge successes. They got to where they are from a multitude of factors. What matters here and now is that you write. Marketing, building your reader community, email lists, and all of that comes once you have a book to sell. Focus on first things first.

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

Revelations is just getting started! Currently we are sitting at five novels, with another on the way soon. More are lined up behind that, not counting additional releases for our table-top game, Revelations: Skirmish, and so much more. There is no shortage of Revelations content to come.

Spectre Book CoverR. E. Graham
Seminole, Florida

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Revelations: Spectre

Cover Artist: Ozaakhmad

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Author Interview: Chrys Cymri

I asked Author Chrys Cymri to describe herself and I was told: I live with a small parrot because I can’t afford a dragon.  Fair enough!  Please welcome her to No Wasted Ink.

Author Chrys CymriPriest by day, writer at odd times of the day and night, I live with a small green parrot called Tilly because the upkeep for a dragon is beyond my current budget. Plus I’m responsible for making good any flame damage to church property. I love ‘Doctor Who’, landscape photography, single malt whisky, and my job, in no particular order. When I’m not looking after a small parish church in the Midlands (England) I like to go on far flung adventures to places like Peru, New Zealand, and North Korea.

When and why did you begin writing?

I still have the first short story I wrote when I was around seven years, based on a dream I’d had. The idea that I could capture something in writing fascinated me, and I didn’t stop writing from that moment on. It was just something I did.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I’ve never had a moment when I considered myself a writer. I just wrote. If I don’t write, the characters pound against the inside of my head until I get them out.

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

I’ve just finished the ninth and last book in my contemporary fantasy series. Penny White, the main character, is a full time Church of England priest whose life changes forever when she stumbles across a dying dragon who asks for the last rites. This is her first introduction to the magical world of Daear, which is parallel to our own and can only be entered through ‘thin places’. Along the way, she changes from being a somewhat lonely young widow to falling in love with a dragon and developing a new family around her. Penny loves science fiction, ‘Doctor Who’ in particular, and drinks a little too much single malt whisky.

What inspired you to write this book?

The first scene of the first book, when Penny stops at the side of the road and stumbles over a dying dragon’s tail, came to me in a flash. As the story revealed itself to me, I found myself writing humour as well as about loss and loneliness. I’ve particularly enjoyed the long character arcs which a nine book series has allowed me. Everyone develops over the course of the novels, perhaps most dramatically the main dragon character, Raven. He changes from a James Dean type person to someone who will stand by Penny no matter what happens.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I don’t like writing long descriptions. My focus is on the characters. I also like to make sure that the sound different when they talk, even as real people do, rather than sound all the same.

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

All of the Penny White books are ‘Penny White and…’. So in order, these are ‘The Temptation of Dragons’, ‘The Cult of Unicorns’, ‘The Marriage of Gyphons’, ‘The Vengeance of Snails’, ‘The Vexation of Vampires’, ‘The Nest of Nessies’, ‘The Weariness of Were-Wolves’, ‘The Business of Bees’, and ‘The Humility of Humans’.

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

That diversity is wonderful and to be embraced, not feared. Penny is inclusive (except she doesn’t like unicorns that much) and that’s the outlook of the series. I’ve spent quite a bit of time thinking through and portraying different cultures for the various magical creatures in the books.

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

Penny’s encounters in her church derive from events that have happened to me or to colleagues of mine. Of course, I’m very careful to have changed things so that no confidences have been betrayed. Some of the characters are based off people I know, like the dragon Bishop Aeron, who was inspired by my own bishop. (He knows this and is quite pleased!)

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

Three authors in particular taught me the wonder of story telling. The first was Susan Cooper, with her children’s fantasy series ‘The Dark is Rising’. I loved the magic and the weaving of British myths and tales into the stories. Second was ‘The Riddle of Stars’ trilogy by Patricia McKillip. Her use of language is extraordinary. Finally, the ‘All Creatures Great and Small’ books by James Herriot, with their close attention to human experiences and daily life.

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

Patricia McKillip. My heart rose and sank throughout ‘The Riddle of Stars’ trilogy, and I cried at the end of the third book. I was only fifteen years old, and had no idea that a fantasy tale could affect me in that way.

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

Anna Crosswell from Cover Couture. She was able to take my ideas and do something better with them than I could ever have hoped for. There is a common theme to all nine covers which ties them together as a series.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

You have to be willing to write for the writing’s sake alone. Very few of us will be able to make a full time living as an author. But along the way you’ll develop a group of dedicated fans, and their appreciative emails will keep you going.

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

Thank you for the emails I receive about how much you love Penny’s world. And I’m amazed that, time and again, it’s Clyde, the carnivorous, hymn-singing snail, who is your favourite character in the series! I was certain it would be the darkly handsome dragon, Raven.

Temptation of DragonsChrys Cymri
Northampton, England

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Cover Artist: Cover Couture

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