Tag Archives: fantasy

Author Interview: Christopher Paniccia

I met Author Christopher Paniccia at WorldCon and found him to be an interesting author.  Please welcome him here to No Wasted Ink.

Author Christopher PanicciaWhen and Why did you start writing?

As a young man, I brought a journal with me wherever I went. Having an outlet for this type of creativity allowed me to stay balanced and focus. I grew up with severe ADHD. Artwork and Writing were my saving grace.

As to why I started writing I have always been an avid reader and storyteller. Stories come to me naturally as I visualize them in my head before writing them down.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I believe I was six or seven and my teacher gave me a blank hardcover book and asked me to write her a story! Having that book in my hand showing others what I wrote gave me goosebumps! That excitement continues to this day when the proof for each new novel arrives.

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

My latest series is a Fantasy Series based on Ancient Aliens. My grandfather was in the Navy during WWII and left me a footlocker full of WWII articles. One day searching through the footlocker I stumbled across an old leather-bound journal. Inside the journal were handwritten pages. I could not read the writing as it was in German. I brought the journal to a friend of mine for translation. The journal chronicles the Nazi expedition to Antarctica in 1938 in search of the ancient alien civilization of Rainbow City. This became the premise for this ten book series. Book one, Heaven’s Gate introduces the magical journal to a boy whose destiny is shrouded in mystery. Book two, Rise about to be released shows the rise of the reptilian people hoping to crush the humans on earth and the rise of two unknowing people with the power to combat the evil that arises on earth.

What inspired you to write this book?

This book/series is extremely personal for me. I grew up with my grandfather sharing stories of the Depression and WWII. Finding the journal created a great jumping off point for the whole series. The more I researched the journal and Antarctica, the more I found I could put into multiple books. Ancient Aliens is a hot topic and adding a realistic component to a fantasy book only makes it more believable.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I would say not so much a style as rather I focus on writing the story the way I want to tell the story. Some critics view this as I am not worried about grammar and the like. To those I say read the story. Enjoy the story. Editing is very much a fluid thing and even the best editors miss things.

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

The title should shadow the book. Rise gives much insight into the book in just one word. As a fantasy/sci-fi author I am constantly world building. In Rise, the reader is able to read about the rise of two civilizations at once.

Is there a message in the book you want readers to grasp?

Not so much a lesson as wanting folks to open their minds to what is happening in the world around them. Many people just go about their lives and never question anything.

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

This book is very much a personal journey. As a military member and having a proud military tradition in my family these experiences only add to a very exciting topic. The journal being real adds so much to the story that many read it and question if the story is fantasy at all.

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

Tolkien is the father of world building and gave me the parameters. George R. R. Martin is the Master World Builder I look to most as a contemporary. What is most inspiring for me is the lengths these authors go to bring a real world to the page.

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

I do not have one writer as a mentor but rather a group of writers. The Association of Rhode Island Authors has taken me under their wing and helped me to fly. Having the support of many professional authors has allowed me to flourish.

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

I am the designer for all my covers with the help of my nephew Andrew Paniccia. He does all the photoshop work and I design the covers. We chose to do this so we could work together.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Write, write, and more writing!! Seems simple but it is so true! Also, I have found the best writers are the best readers. Practice your craft.

Do you have anything specific you want to share with your readers?

As a writer and illustrator I see the story visually in my head before I put it to paper. This allows for each reader to create the images of the story in their heads while reading.

rise book coverChristopher Paniccia
North Providence, RI


Rise, Book Two of the Haven Series

Publisher: Gridiron Publishing


Author Interview: Tim Susman

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

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

When and why did you begin writing?

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

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

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

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

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

What inspired you to write this book?

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

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

Do you have a specific writing style?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you have any advice for other writers?

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

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

Just a very heartfelt thank you.

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


The Demon and the Fox

Cover Artist: Laura Garabedian
Publisher: Argyll Productions


Author Interview: David H Reiss

I met Author David H Reiss at WorldCon in San Jose.  He had a great table and an interesting story.  I am delighted to feature him here on No Wasted Ink.

Author David ReissMy name is David Reiss, author and sci-fi/fantasy fan. While growing up, I was that weird kid with my nose in a book and my head in the clouds. I was the table-top role-playing game geek, the comic-book nerd, the story-teller, and the dreamer.

Fortunately, I haven’t changed much.

Most of my hobbies revolve around exploring the skills and crafts that I’ve read about in fiction, ranging from primitive stone-age technology to modern robotics. I’ve forged medieval armor and built replica lightsabers, programmed autonomous drones and knapped an arrowhead from flint, started fires by rubbing sticks together and started fires with lasers. I’ve fought with swords, picked locks, taken combat-driving courses, jumped from bridges, and studied a half-dozen martial arts. And I’m mediocre at all these things.

But I’m having fun, and that’s what counts.

When and why did you begin writing?

The first part is a difficult question to answer. I may as well have been born with a pen in my hand because I certainly have no childhood memories from before I started writing. I was a socially awkward, lonely, depressed kid and I had difficulties interacting with my peers; at a very young age, reading became my preferred method for escaping from reality. I disappeared into fantastical worlds of fiction…where dragons and space-ships flew, where brave heroes proudly faced unbeatable odds, and where friendships born under adversity became lifelong bonds. Fiction made sense to me in a way that the real world did not…and thus writing fiction became a means for me to make sense of the world.

As I matured, my focus shifted to honing my craft – to establishing effective communication, to wordsmithing, to coherent plotting, to theme, and to character growth arcs. But my process of writing is still, at some level, one of therapeutic self-evaluation.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

When I was ten or eleven, I stumbled across the red-boxed Dungeons and Dragon basic rules and pored through the contents. I didn’t have anyone to play with at first, but even so the mental shift was jarring; I suddenly realized that stories weren’t just something to be consumed…they were something that could be SHARED. Prior to that moment, I’d primarily considered myself to be a reader who happened to write. After that, I was a writer.

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

I’m currently working on a trilogy that falls within the difficult-to-categorize sub-genre of superheroic prose and follows the adventures of one of the world’s most feared supervillains…the notorious Doctor Fid. While there is plenty of action to propel the plotlines forward, much of the focus is placed upon the protagonist’s personal evolution: his history and motivations, his moral strengths and tragic flaws, his grief and his spectacularly bad coping mechanisms. The novels are as much about Doctor Fid’s humanity as they are about his actions.

What inspired you to write this book?

In a weird way, this series happened by accident.

I was experiencing some difficulties while writing a science-fiction novel and decided to write a short story to clear my head. With the recent explosion of comic-book themed cinematic blockbusters and television shows, I thought that a superhero story might make for a fun little project.

But, here’s the thing: from a fairly young age, I’d been fascinated by antagonists and their motivations. I’d wanted to know more about Smaug’s, about all pain and loss that must surely have shaped the dragon into the greedy wyrm that had claimed the Lonely Mountain. Years before Andrew Lloyd Weber’s musical, I wrote stories about the tragic childhood of the boy who would grow up to be the Phantom of the Opera. Etc., etc. And as I started jotting down notes for my superhero story, I found myself becoming enthralled with the villain.

Instead of a light romp, I ended up writing a deep dive into the mind of a villain: a non-linear stream-of-consciousness piece in a style informed by the works of Faulkner and Vonnegut. It was chewy and technically well-written…but it wasn’t enjoyable. So, I tore it apart, poked and prodded until I eventually realized that I’d unearthed the bones of something much larger than a short story.

All this occurred at about the same time that I acquired some new software that helped me to better organize my thought and writings. And so…even though the vast majority of my prior projects have been ‘traditional’ sci-fi or fantasy, my first actually-completed novels ended up being superheroic prose.

Do you have a specific writing style?

Yes, and no. I have a ‘default’ writing style, but I often make a conscious effort to alter my delivery depending on the project that I’m working on. So…The Chronicles of Fid has a specific voice that I’m attempting to maintain, which will likely be different than the narrative style that I use when I eventually finish my sci-fi novel, The Floating Cities, or my planned fantasy epic.

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

The protagonist in these stories is ultimately a tragic figure, haunted by guilt and grief; it is only when he starts making connections to others that he slowly regains his own humanity. So, I guess that if there is any one thing that I want my readers to take away from these novels, it is this: If you’re hurting, don’t try to go it alone.

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

Lois McMaster Bujold, because Miles Vorkosigan is such a brilliant, flawed and nuanced protagonist that I am constantly inspired to look deeper when creating characters of my own. And as a short, awkward guy who struggled for years with constant crippling back pain, it was inspiring to read about a hero who wasn’t six foot two and didn’t solve every problem with a punch to the jaw. Wits and forward momentum made for a far more compelling hero.

Mercedes Lackey, for writing The Last Herald Mage. Also, for being incredibly kind, gracious and supportive when I happened to visit her in person a few decades ago.

Finally, Spider Robinson. I read Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon at a time in my life when I desperately needed to. It saved my life, and completely changed my conception of who I wanted to be and what I wanted from life. In between all the terrible puns and shaggy dog stories and in-jokes, he managed to make me believe in humanity.

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

The cover for my first novel was illustrated by Hampton Lamoureoux from TS95 Studios; I’d reached out to several artists, and of all those who responded he was the one who sounded most enthusiastic about the project. This style of cover doesn’t really play to his strengths, but he did an excellent job and I’m very happy with his work.

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to work together for subsequent novels. I created the cover for Behind Distant Stars myself.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Read outside your preferred genre(s)! Your own narrative voice will evolve as you gather exposure to different styles and patterns.

Spend time studying marketing and salesmanship. Even if you go the traditional publishing route, many publishers are now expecting for new authors to do a lot of their own promotion. Writing a great book is only the first step…the hard work starts after you type ‘The End’.

Don’t give up. Not every project will succeed. You’ll make mistakes. You’ll get rejection letters and you’ll get bad reviews. Life ‘ll knock you down. Learn from every setback and then get back to work; I promise that it’ll get better.

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

I do!

First, I’ve recently discovered that my debut novel, Fid’s Crusade, has been selected as a finalist for the 2018 BookLife Prize; to celebrate, I’ve decided to make the eBook available for free for the dates between 11/5/18 and 11/9/18.

Second, I would like to tell my readers that my web page has a ‘contact me’ webform, and I would love to hear from them all!

Finally…I want to thank each and every one of them. I hope that they’ve enjoyed reading my work as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it.

Behind_Distant_Stars_Book CoverDavid H. Reiss
San Jose, CA


Behind Distant Stars
Book Two in the Chronicles of Fid


Author Interview: Joseph Malik

Author Joseph Malik writes fantasy thrillers at a level of detail and accuracy that has readers asking him how to get there. He is a member of SFWA. Please welcome him to No Wasted Ink.

Author Joseph MalikMy name is Joseph Malik. I’m a fantasy author and a soldier in the United States Army. I was raised on the Blackfeet Reservation in northern Montana. I live in Washington State. I’m married, no kids, two dogs.

When and why did you begin writing?

My mother wrote romance novels on contract for one of the big publishing houses when I was a kid. I think I started writing stories when I was five or six. I wrote my first full-length novel in high school, about 400 pages.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I don’t think there was ever a point when I didn’t consider myself a writer. I used to write short stories in the margins of my textbooks in grade school during class.

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

My current book is called The New Magic. It’s the sequel to my debut novel, Dragon’s Trail, which exploded last year. It was a Kindle Top 100 bestseller in four countries last year and has sold over 10,000 copies, receiving mainstream critical acclaim.

The books are fantasy technothrillers, epic fantasy novels whose plots hinge on intensely researched technical details. Think The Hunt for Red October but for knights in armor instead of nuclear submarines. The New Magic introduces a theme that we see in a lot of technothrillers, using our humanity to overcome a looming technological disaster. The New Magic is a sequel, but I wrote it to stand alone, with the first book functioning as a prequel/origin story if readers discover them that way.

The New Magic is a gritty fantasy written for adults, with graphic violence, sex, and profanity, but there are no scenes of sexual violence and no sexual violence in any of the female characters’ backstories. I engineered it out of the society when I did my worldbuilding. The rape trope is lazy writing, it’s dismissive, and it needs to be culled from fantasy.

Do you have a specific writing style?

Most definitely. My books are epic fantasy but written in the style of modern action thrillers. I write in omniscient third with a moderately opaque narrator. It’s an older style that hardly anyone uses anymore, but I love the way it tells the story. It marries up with fantasy beautifully.

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

“The New Magic” is a reference from the previous book; these books are portal fantasies featuring people from Earth who end up in another world. “The New Magic” is the locals’ name for technology.

Also, in The New Magic, a sorceress resorts to very old, forbidden magic in order to combat the influx of technology and level the field; the old magic is so old that it’s been forgotten, so it’s effectively new again. The further I get into the series, the more self-referential the titles become.

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

Almost everything is based on events in my own life.

I did the majority of the worldbuilding for these books hands-on, taking several years while I was learning how to write to also learn swordsmanship (foil and saber in college, then rapier and eventually greatsword), horsemanship, blacksmithing, martial arts (boxing and judo), mountaineering, traditional archery. I built a fully-functional conlang (constructed language) and taught myself to speak and write it, I traveled to Europe to pace off castles and ruins, and much more. I served in Special Operations in the U.S. military, which afforded me the opportunity to learn a lot of really cool things that most other authors just don’t get their hands on: austere medicine, improvised weapons, how to track a man through the desert.

I think one reason that Dragon’s Trail sold so well, and why there’s such a buzz about The New Magic, is that nearly all of the mundane details in the fantasy world of this series are functional. They may not be historically accurate—the heroes didn’t travel in time, after all—but they all make sense and nothing is hand-waved; everything short of the magic would really work, from the phases of the moon, to the economy, to the splinters in the floors. This level of authenticity and believability appeals to the fantasy reader who has a level of knowledge about some type of arcana resident in fantasy tropes; say, a reader who competes in fencing, or studied medieval history, or owns a horse.

The flip side to this, though, is that the unprecedented level of technical accuracy, coupled with my background in Special Operations and intelligence, has spawned emails and messages from readers who seem convinced that I was part of some kind of Black Ops program that explores other worlds. My inbox is an adventure. There is such a thing as being too accurate with your worldbuilding. I get asked where the portal is more often than you’d think.

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

Harlan Ellison and his entire raised-middle-finger attitude. I think that, especially now that I’ve been at this for a while, I enjoy the stories about him more than his actual writing. Tom Clancy, for getting things so right that he got in trouble for it. Douglas Adams, whose Hitchhiker’s Guide series transformed my way of looking at the world when I was younger.

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

The cover for The New Magic was designed by Lynn Stevenson. She was a colleague of my wife’s; my wife is a business development consultant for tech firms. I originally bought a pre-made cover for Dragon’s Trail that needed some tweaking, and my wife recommended Lynn, who did a masterful job. When I wanted to use elements of the Dragon’s Trail cover as a series brand, I went back to Lynn, and she put together the cover for The New Magic.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Craft trumps everything. Nothing else will do as much for you as time behind the keyboard or with your nose in a book, tearing words apart late into the night to see how they work.

My debut novel sold spectacularly and continues to sell well, but I’d been writing fantasy novels for the better part of 30 years, trying to get traditionally published, before I released it. It was probably my tenth or twelfth completed novel, and none of the others would have done nearly as well. Most of them were terrible. And the early things you write are going to be terrible. They just are. It takes years and sometimes decades to find your voice. That’s hard to hear, especially for young writers in this day and age of instant gratification and becoming YouTube famous; everybody wants to be a successful author and get an Oprah Book Club sticker the day after they type THE END for the first time, but that’s not how this works. You don’t go buy a violin and then audition for an orchestra in six months. This is that. Study. Practice. It will pay off, but it takes longer than you think.

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

Thank you. Every one of you. This has been amazing, and there’s much more to come.
TNM R SMJoseph Malik
Tacoma, WA


The New Magic

Cover artist: Lynn Stevenson
Published by Oxblood Books

Images, excerpts, and novel aesthetics: #TheNewMagic

Author Interview: Alma Alexander

Author Alma Alexander writes stories which are roadmaps to places people never knew existed but always believed had to be there.  Please welcome her to No Wasted Ink.

Author Alma AlexanderMy name is Alma Alexander, and I am a writer. I taught myself to read before age 4 (because my mother wouldn’t re-read a favourite book to me, so I just picked it up and started reading for myself…) and I haven’t stopped reading since. My house is built of books (sometimes quite literally – I have an entire room all of whose walls and every available vertical surface of which is covered in bookshelves with (sometimes triple stacked) books. When not reading, I am writing; when not writing, I do gold embroidery (that’s the opulent stuff, with silk and gold and pearls) and I run around taking photographs of beautiful skies and other things. When not doing that, I sleep and I dream – and when I wake, I often make stories out of the dreams that visited me in the night.

When and why did you begin writing?

I didn’t “begin writing”. I always wrote. Since I knew how. I wrote my first poem aged 5 – first novel aged 9 – first GOOD novel aged 11 – and I currently have more than 3 million words in print. It’s always been a core part of me – I didn’t choose it, it chose me, and I’ve been its handmaiden all my life.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

See above. You could say, when I won my first writing award aged 12. You could say, when I published my first word. You could say, when I was nominated for a major national writing award or two. You could say, when I published my first dozen novels. All if it is true, and none of it is. I have never “considered myself a writer”. I AM one. That is different.

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

There are currently several projects on the go, but I am generally uncomfortable talking about the projects I am currently in the process of writing – simply because I am an organic writer in the worst way and I don’t necessarily KNOW what is going to happen next in any given story. The next published works that are coming out are a reissue of “Midnight at Spanish Gardens”, which I call my Novel of ‘Choice’ and what it means to make one (and there are ALWAYS consequences…) originally published to very high reader approval and involvement but now re-edited, re-covered, and re-issued for a new readership – and a brand new book, a short story collection under the name “Untranslatable” which is going to be a very special book indeed (the conceit being that there are words in multiple foreign languages which mean thing that it takes sentences, even paragraphs, to describe in English – there is simply no equivalent single-word concept. And sometimes the best way to understand these words… is through stories. That should be out in time for Christmas 2018.

Do you have a specific writing style?

No. Although I’ve been accused (jokingly but still…) of having swallowed a dictionary when I was a baby. I DO like language, and I write lush; in my household my husband (also a wordsmith) it has been posited that he writes like Hemingway and I write like Steinbeck. I tend to write very strong female protagonists, sometimes multiples ones in the same book (as in “Secrets of Jin-shei”. But my writing “style” as such changes with every book – and I never write the same book twice.

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

I don’t write novels with “messages” as such – but if there is one, then it might be encapsulated in the prayer my Simonis makes in “Empress”: Give me the life I am meant to live. Take that as a guiding principle, and you’ll inevitably end up gravitating to the things that you want, the things that are meant for you. This doesn’t mean that you will always be happy, or even that you are guaranteed a “happily ever after” ending (I don’t really believe in those…) It does mean that you will live a life that matters. I can hardly do better than that.

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

Some. “Midnight at Spanish Gardens” includes things that I do have direct experience of, yes – the ‘Spanish Gardens’ of the title used to be a real place, one I frequented when I was at University, the description of it in the book is pretty much exactly what the real place looked like, and some of the events described as taking place there really did occur. But that’s the least “fantastical” of my fantasies – and in many of the others, the events of which I write are tied into a fantasy milieu where real-life experiences as I or my contemporaries would know them would seem direly out of place.. I’m sure I do some distilling in my own mind and some stuff can inevitably be traced back to things I may not have even consciously been aware of when writing the story – but I don’t regurgitate reality. If I occasionally reimagine it, that would be plenty.

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

Oh, lawks-a-mercy, this question is never answerable. Tolkien. Le Guin. Guy Gavriel Kay. Roger Zelazny. Sharon Penman. Rebecca du Maurier. Howard Spring. Ivo Andric. Mary Doria Russell. Matt Ruff. Mary Stewart. Spider Robinson. Octavia Butler. They have all taught me things – about how to build worlds, how to understand people, how to think when wearing a different mind, how to speak, how to act, what is ethical and what is moral and how far would I go to remain those things. That is not an exhaustive or a final list. You might say my answer to that question is Yes, writers have influenced my life hugely and they continue to do so. And they all bring different things I find inspiring.

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

My grandfather started me off in the love of language – a poet, he started me reading poetry when I was almost too young to comprehend it. But it left a lasting mark, and maybe it’s the reason I write so poetically even today. No, I don’t have a ‘mentor’. But in one writing workshop I was fortunate enough to attend, the last one that Roger Zelazny did before he died, Zelazny asked me two questions. How long had I been writing? (and I said, forever) and Did I read or write a lot of poetry? (And I had admitted that I did). And he said to me, “It shows. You have a voice all of your own. Nobody else will ever write like this.” I take those words as something uttered by a master to an acolyte. If you want to call that a mentorship – although it is encapsulated in a single sentence – there it is.

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

This might be changing in today’s publishing culture but I still belong to the generation which, when published, did not “choose” their cover artists and have no direct links or contacts with them, even, in most cases. For something like “Empress” I did commission the cover myself – from Hugo-Award-winning artist Elizabeth Leggett – because I love her work, and she and I worked together on a concept that I had for the cover. For my Book View Café-published novel “AbductiCon”, a humorous science fiction novel about science fiction conventions, the cover designer was… myself. But more often than not authors are presented with a cover during the publication process, and have to hope we like it…

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Read. Read FIRST. Read before you write a single word yourself. Writers who begin by saying that they don’t have time to read… have not done the training required to write. Read first. Read EVERYTHING. And learn from all of it, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Learn about what kind of person, what kind of WRITER, you want to be.

Book Cover EmpressAlma Alexander
Bellingham, WA