Tag Archives: writer

Author Interview: Joshua Grasso

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

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

When and why did you begin writing?

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

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

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

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

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

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

Do you have a specific writing style?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you have any advice for other writers?

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

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

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

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

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The Winged Turban

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No Wasted Ink Writer’s Links

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Good Monday to you all!  This week’s writer’s links focus on general writing tips, science fiction books and a little about writing poetry.  Pour yourself your favorite beverage and have a seat.  Time for some interesting articles, at least in my opinion!

Immersive POV

Handwriting

2016 Locus Recommended Reading List

An Assignment from W.H. Auden’s 1956 Poetry Class

CRISPR-Cas: Editing Life in Science Fiction

How to Outline a Series of Bestselling Books

Unpacking the “Character-Driven” Story—How to Make Your Story Sizzle

Pacing and Momentum in Revision

The Joy of Writing Whatever the Heck You Want

How to Write With a Teen Voice

Author Interview Laura Woodswalker

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

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

When and why did you begin writing?

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

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

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

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

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

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

What inspired you to write this book?

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

Do you have a specific writing style?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you have any advice for other writers?

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

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

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

book-cover-teslas-signalLaura Woodswalker
Phoenixville PA

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Author Interview: Angela Horst

Fantasy novels are particular favorites of mine to read, which makes introducing a new fantasy author to you a delight for me. Angela Horst is a local author and one that I believe you will like. Please welcome her to No Wasted Ink.

author-angela-horstHello! My name is Angela Horst and I’m a stay-at-home mother to an energetic, sometimes impish five-year-old. I’m an avid reader, gamer, and all-around geek. I worked at Blizzard Entertainment, a gaming company, before quitting to start my life as a mom. My husband worked there as well (he actually gave me the interview for the job!), and after getting to know one another, moving to Austin, and moving back to California, we eventually got married.

I tend to write and read in the fantasy genre. My favorite book of all time is The Last Unicorn by Peter S Beagle, though I do delve into other genres like Stephen King once in awhile.

When and why did you begin writing?

I began writing consistently in high school. Having a free period and study times, I found myself with the time to daydream and be creative. I read voraciously, sometimes under my desk during class (which is probably why I’m not the best at math). Reading gave me the motivation to write. It helped me to escape, and the ideas that other authors had would inspire me to make my own stories.

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

The Nightmare Exterminator is a bit of an oddity. I’d call it magical realism, but there is also a pinch of paranormal, fantasy, and a good helping of humor. Noah Clifton has the ability to enter nightmares and rid them from a dreamer’s sleep – for the right price. His sidekick is a surly gnome named Guinness, and together they piece together clues in order to find out about Noah’s life before exterminating nightmares. Before he was even human.
What inspired you to write this book?

Funny enough, it was a dream! I had a vague sense of a man and gnome who defeated nightmares, and I used that skeleton to world-build around them.

Do you have a specific writing style?

For some unknown reason, it’s hard for me not to write as a first-person male. I can sneak in deeper thoughts with first person, and perhaps I write as male because I’m a tomboy? Whatever the reason, it does come with a drawback. It’s hard for me to get out of my comfort zone, though I do try to on some occasions as a challenge.

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

Not one that I thought about while writing. Noah is a jaded smart-alec who isn’t fond of human interaction at the beginning of the book. He is sarcastic and sees only the negative. By the end, this has lifted, and he is able to focus on enjoying life. If there is a message, I suppose it would be: don’t let life pass you by and live it to the fullest.

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

Peter S Beagle has influenced my writing the most. He has my whimsicality and while this is not as prominent in The Nightmare Exterminator, I’ve grown to write in his style of flowery, descriptive writing. He is inspiring in that there are so many ideas and talent in one man. I met him at a book convention when I was young, and I’ve loved his books ever since.

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

If not Mr. Beagle, I would say Brandon Sanderson. This man has a way with world-building that is second to none. I am a terrible world-builder. I’m good with details and scenes, but world-building is not my strong point. Mr. Sanderson can do it in his sleep. His book, Mistborn, has inspired me to be more aware of an over-arcing story and epic storyline when writing my own books.
Do you have any advice for other writers?

Never stop reading. Reading is the best tool for a writer. Words, worlds, even sentence structure can cause inspiration. Have an idea that’s sparked from another author’s writing? Write it! Of course, make it your own. Add the flourishes that make you you. Tap into that creativity and let your muse do its job.

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

I appreciate any eyes I can get on my novel, and I wanted to thank Wendy Van Camp for allowing me this interview on No Wasted Ink. I wish nothing more than a reader of my novel to realize it’s 2 AM when they look up from their tablet. I want to take you on a journey, to escape the real world if even for a moment to show you my pride and joy. And hey, maybe you’ll dream about Noah and his companions when you fall asleep. Maybe they’ll come along during a nightmare and do what they do best.

Thank you, Angela.  It is always my pleasure to help fellow authors.

the-nightmare-exterminator-book-coverAngela Horst

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The Nightmare Exterminator

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