Tag Archives: fantasy

Author Interview: S. Faxon

Author S. Faxon is a fantasy author who writes stories full of political intrigue.  Please welcome her to No Wasted Ink.

Author S. FaxonI’ve been writing since I was eight years old. My first story came out of my third-grade writing assignment and it was called, “Three Cool Cats.” It was about three cats who poisoned their oppressive dog dictator to secure their freedom. I’ve been writing ever since.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

As long as I can remember. I finished writing my first novel when I was eleven and I think I was calling myself a writer well before that. Writing is a part of my soul. It’s a compulsion that I almost can’t control. I never stop thinking about my stories and I feel like I have to get them out and onto the page.

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

My current books, The Animal Court, and her sequel, Foreign & Domestic Affairs, are fantasy novels full of political intrigue. The Animal Court is about a country on the verge of collapse and one woman’s fight to save the kingdom she loves. The sequel takes place twenty years later and demonstrates what happens when having ultimate power begins to consume everything you do.

What inspired you to write this book?

I initially started writing the first draft of The Animal Court when I was a senior in high school. I had been addicted to reading the classics, but one story that really influenced The Animal Court was Hamlet. I started writing The Animal Court when I was sitting on the bleachers of my high school not engaging in my P.E. class. I came up with the sequel, Foreign & Domestic while bored out of my mind on a car ride driving down the 5 from northern California to San Diego. Plotted the entire story in my mind on that trip, but it evolved dramatically as I actually wrote it.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I’ve been told that I have a “classic” writing style. The biggest influencers on my writing are Mary Shelly, Kate Chopin, Charles Dickens, Shakespeare, so I tend to emulate their descriptive styles, much to the chagrin of my editors.

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

Many characters within The Animal Court are likened to members within the animal kingdom, in terms of their mannerisms and they’re all in this political game, a court, so it just made sense. The original title was, Feasts and Follies of the Animal Court, which I realized was way too long and sounded like a children’s book. For Foreign & Domestic Affairs, I was in the middle of attaining my Masters in Government and Politics, with a certificate in International Law, so the phrase “foreign and domestic affairs” was used almost daily in my world. The issues that are facing the king and queen in the sequel, are coming from both the foreign and domestic angles and indeed, with temptations abounding affairs is the name of the game.

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

In The Animal Court, the message would be if you see something that’s bothering you, to take a stand for what you believe in no matter the odds that are stacked against you. For Foreign & Domestic Affairs, it’s to never lose sight of what’s truly important in your life. Though in a fantasy setting, Foreign & Domestic Affairs features a couple who are so consumed with their work that they lose sight of their family and their relationship, which leads to all sorts of issues.

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

Not these pieces. I do have other novels that are based on real-life occurrences, but this one was primarily out of the whims of my imagination. There are matters that happened in global history that inspired this book, but not in my personal life.

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

J.K. Rowling and Barbara Kingsolver are some of the most influential writers in my life. J.K. Rowling gave us a story that many people didn’t believe in when she was initially querying, but she didn’t give up and now her books gave us characters that we remember when we are confronted with darkness. If she’d given up, where would we be without Harry Potter? I love Barbara Kingsolver’s books because they confront social justice issues and that’s something I hope to convey in my books, though many of them are in a fantasy setting.

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

Tamara Merrill has become a major mentor in my writing career. She’s helped to open my eyes to many avenues of marketing, which is an enormous component of a writing career that many of us authors struggle with. She’s inspired me in so many ways, including my decision to make book trailers for other authors and to become a social media strategist, so I’m eternally grateful to call her my mentor and friend.

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

I actually designed the covers of my books. I have several years of experience in graphic design and I studied hundreds of covers in my genre, as well as other genres, before designing the covers for The Animal Court and Foreign & Domestic Affairs. With all of the research that I did, designing covers is a service that I am now providing to other authors.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Never give up, never stop writing. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you you’re not a writer or that you’re not an author. If you have a story in your heart that you want to share, you’re an author. If you don’t think your writing is strong enough, find a writing group that’ll help you to develop your craft. Being a writer is a gift, do whatever it takes to nourish it and to help it grow. Don’t wait until you’re retired to write your book. Make the time and do it.

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

I hope that my stories provide you with similar escapes that they provided me.

Animal CourtS. Faxon

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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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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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Author Interview: Jeannie Wycherley

Losing herself in an imaginary world is quite possibly the best thing that has ever happened to Author Jeannie Wycherley. She  can travel far and wide with an array of wonderful people and creatures and when it gets interesting, she can share it with everyone else. Bliss!  Please welcome Jeannie to No Wasted Ink.

I’m Jeannie Wycherley. I live by the sea in East Devon in the south-west of the UK. Over the years I’ve worked as an academic, a waitress, a library assistant and as a stage manager. I have a doctorate in modern and contemporary British social history. I run a seaside gift shop with my husband (or try to at the moment, things are not great). I have two dogs that I love above all creatures and I’m fanatical about forests and wildlife.

When and why did you begin writing?

I always loved to write but I lost the urge when I started working. I was busy, I was young, I had a life. Then in 2010, during counselling for a bout of depression, I uncovered my desperate need for creativity. I started to fiddle with words again and wrote a play that was performed by a local theatre company. I then found an online virtual writing bootcamp in June 2012 with a group called Urban Writers. I loved it! There were lots of exercises to do, something everyday, and by the end of the month I had a long short story that I was quite proud of. After that I began to write every day. It became a habit. I submitted short stories everywhere and gathered quite a collection.

I took part in the Six-Month Novel challenge, again with Urban Writers, and produced my first novel. It has never seen the light of day, but I proved I could do it.

I was made redundant in September 2012 and over the next few years, I balanced freelance copywriting work and working in our gift shop with my creative writing.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Relatively recently! I published two novels, Crone (2017) and Beyond the Veil (2018) but felt like an impostor. It wasn’t until I started to work on my Wonky Inn series (first published September 2018), when the writing and the characters totally consumed me, that I realised I was a proper writer. Now I drive my husband mad because I don’t talk about anything else. He’s currently in the process of getting a proofreading qualification so he can help me out!

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

It’s called The Municipality of Lost Souls and, put simply, it’s a ghost story where some dead sailors want vengeance for their wrongful deaths. But it’s far more complex. It’s about greed, power and manipulation, love, lust and loss. It’s about the way we treat others. It has shades of Jamaica Inn and The Old Curiosity Shop and The Woman in White about it.

What inspired you to write this book?

It started life as a short story, published by the Society for Misfit Stories. It was a story that would not let me go. I knew there was far more to it, but the complexity of it put me off. It requires quite an ensemble of characters and that proved difficult to balance at times. I take much inspiration from the landscape around me. The town of Durscombe—a fictional name—is based on Sidmouth, where I live. I wanted to write about the power of the sea and have this kaleidoscope of people’s lives unfold in front of a tempestuous, glowering backdrop.

Do you have a specific writing style?

People have often remarked how immersive my descriptions are, that reading my work, whether it’s dark fantasy or cozy mystery, is a little like going to the cinema. They can see the world through my eyes.

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

I have absolutely no idea! It just popped into my head. I have had some criticism for it, because of its length, but to me, The Municipality of Lost Souls, has a whole different meaning to Lost Souls. It adds place, context, era and specificity. There are so many lost souls in this book, but the most important ones, are in the town.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Yes, but it’s not spelled out. Part of me wants readers to understand what drove me to produce this story, but not everyone will. I’m perfectly happy if they read it and enjoy it without getting ‘it’, though.

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

I’m getting on. I’ve seen a lot. I’ve experienced a lot. I’ve observed a lot. I’m ravenous for people-watching. Obviously, this is a historical fantasy novel, so it’s not true to life, but I’ve used my experience as a historian to add flesh to the bones. I like my characters to be flawed. This bunch certainly are!

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

So many. I drew on my love of Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins for The Municipality of Lost Souls. I love their use of language. Both of these writers have wonderful villains too. Dastardly! I have several Dickensian type villains in this novel. I would add Elizabeth Gaskell and Edith Wharton to that list too. Gaskell is my favourite author of all time. She has a gentle touch, but she really packed a punch when it came to unpicking the social issues of the day.

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

The beautiful cover was designed by Anika Willmanns of Ravenborn Covers. She does the most magnificent work. I wanted something ghostly and tempestuous and I wanted to show vulnerability. I think Anika did an amazing job.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Commit! And believe in yourself.

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

Thanks so much for reading! I can never quite get over the fact that people actually read my words! I’ve never been happier and it’s entirely down to people like you!

Lost Souls Book CoverJeannie Wycherley
Sidmouth, East Devon, UK

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Author Interview: Bonita Gutierrez and Camilla Ochlan

When I invited the writing team and  co-founders of Empyream Press how they would describe themselves.  Bonita and Camila  replied: We write urban fantasy on the brink.  Please welcome this dynamic duo to No Wasted Ink.

Hi, Wendy. Thank you for allowing us to share our work with your readers. We’re Bonita Gutierrez and Camilla Ochlan, co-founders of Empyrean Press.

We first met each other in college in a production of Three Penny Opera. And after college (ahem…many years later), we reconnected in Los Angeles. It was during this time that we really got to know each other. We discovered that we were kindred fangirls, sharing a love of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Supernatural. Deeply layered characters, biting humor, and devastating consequences are our kind of storytelling. So naturally, we wanted to work together.

Flash forward eight years, and we’re knee-deep in our third book in The Werewolf Whisperer series (There are three novellas as well).

When and why did you begin writing?

Camilla: I’ve wanted to be a writer as long as I can remember.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Bonita: Though I always had stories in my head, I never thought about writing as a career. I was always more interested in acting. On stage, in front of the camera, that’s where my heart resided. It wasn’t until my screenwriter husband encouraged me to write my own scripts and get my own work out into the world that I entertained the idea of becoming a writer. But I don’t think I actually considered myself a writer until midway through writing our second novel, The Alpha & Omega: Book 2 of The Werewolf Whisperer. I knew we had an exciting story, and the fact that I’d helped breathe life into it, made me realize that I was actually good at this writing thing. That’s when I started calling myself an author.

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

Under our Empyrean Press banner, we are finishing the third main novel in our Werewolf Whisperer series — BLOOD & BONES. We’re damn excited about this story.

Our girls Lucy and Xochi have been on quite a ride. BLOOD & BONES brings this part of their journey to a shocking conclusion. Lots of devastating consequences. But Lucy and Xochi’s story is far from over. They still have a lot of roads to travel. Be on the lookout for BLOOD & BONES in the late fall.

What inspired you to write this book?

Bonita: Camilla’s inspiration for THE WEREWOLF WHISPERER came on the set of her short film, Dog Breath. The story forming in her head involved a “werewolf apocalypse” and a cop whose special knack for training dogs turns into a bizarre knack for commanding werewolves. I thought it was an awesome idea.

Originally, THE WEREWOLF WHISPERER was conceived as a web series. We even wrote the first thirteen episodes of season one. We had every intention of shooting the series, but as the Werewolf Whisperer world grew, so did the budget. As is often the case in show biz, our imaginations had exceeded our means. But we didn’t let that get in our way. We had a story to tell, so we got to work translating the web series into a novel series.

Do you have a specific writing style?

Since our background is in theater, film and television, our writing leans toward the cinematic — visual and action-packed. We are both very interested in exploring the inner journeys of our main characters, unwinding psychology, letting them grow.

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

Camilla: THE WEREWOLF WHISPERER just popped into my head. It was as if it had always been.

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

Evolve or die.

But really, we just want to tell a good story. So, when we hear things like this from readers: “non-stop, action packed”, “a thrill ride”, “unexpected, not your typical werewolf story”, “destined to be a classic”, “really cinematic” — we feel like we’ve done our job.

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

Bonita: There’s something of both of us in all our books. That being said, Xochitl Magaña is mostly based on me. I’m a person of mixed race, and that informs a big part Xochi’s character. So, peppering the story with a bit of my life experience was a no-brainer.

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

Bonita: Writers of all mediums (film, television, comics, books) have influenced me at one point or another. I’m especially drawn to writers who create deeply flawed characters. I love anti-heroes. Humans are imperfect creatures. It’s what makes us interesting.

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

Camilla: Ray Bradbury. His poetry hits me right in the heart. His stories are unforgettable.

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

Our covers are designed by Christian Bentulan of Covers by Christian. For marketing purposes, we needed our covers to say “Urban Fantasy,” and an author friend of ours recommended Christian to us. But our title page’s art was designed by Bonita’s cousin, Richard “Rico” Rodriguez. The concept mashes the work of Frank Frazetta with DaVinci’s Vitruvian Man. We call it our “Vitruvian Wolf.”

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Bonita: Write and keep writing until you finish the story. It doesn’t matter if it’s good or not. Writing is re-writing and re-writing and re-writing.

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

We work to push our storytelling to a deeper level, more real, more psychological. We see greater possibilities in the urban fantasy genre – beyond the expected and comfortable.
We want our books to shred the usual tropes and leave them huddled in the corner crying for mommy.

Camilla Ochlan & Bonita GutierrezWerewolf Whisperer
Los Angeles, California

THE WEREWOLF WHISPERER

Cover Artist: Christian Bentulan
Publisher:  Empyrean Press

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