Friday, May 28, 2010

Fresh Voice: Bethany Harper!

"we do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit." - E.E. Cummings

Welcome to the latest edition of Fresh Voices. We are delighted to share with you the winsome yet spooky voice of Bethany Harper.
What is your ultimate writing goal?

I want to be able to walk into Barnes & Noble/Hastings/Borders/Whatever and be able to buy my own book.

Why do you write?

I write because it's fun. I enjoy watching words spill across the screen, the sounds of keys clicking. I like the way pen feels when it meets paper. I love the chunking sound of a typewriter. The part I love the most is leaving Oklahoma, leaving my living room (or my
bedroom or school or wherever my body happens to be) and going somewhere else.

Your writing style is sweetly gothic. It reminds me of whispering in the dark with my sister, or making up ghost stories with my friends. Have you worked to achieve that voice or is it just a natural style for you?

I have never really worked on a specific voice as much as I've worked on being consistent and clear. The work published on my blog (so far) has been stuff I've done quickly, with no editing, so it's probably as close to my natural voice as you can get.

Who are your favorite authors and why do you like them?

I love Stephen King. I find the characters he writes fascinating, and I love how all of his books seem to exist in the same universe-characters mentioned in one off that were the stars of other stories. I also owe him a debt of companionship, as I do to everyone I read.

What most attracts you to the life of a writer?

One of my many crafts is crochet. I've been doing it as long as I've been writing. I've never been sophisticated with my crochet, but building something stitch by stitch, row by row, and having something completed and recognizable at the end is wonderfully satisfying.

I feel the same way about writing. Sentences start with letters and words, stringing the sentences together makes paragraphs. Before you know it you've gone through a gallon of tea and there's this story. It needs some work (doesn't it always?), but the shape is there, the form.

It's the difference between buying a handmade blanket and making the blanket. Some people love handmade blankets, love the way they feel, but don't possess the talent (or the drive to learn the talent) to make them. Some people see a handmade blanket and want to do it. I'm the latter.

If you couldn't be a writer but knew you were guaranteed success at a different career, what would you choose?

I crochet and sew as well, and doing that (one or the other) for a living would be nifty.

If you had to describe your writing in one word, what would that word be?


What's the best writing advice you've ever gotten?

Stephen King's On Writing became something of a Bible of Writing to me, and there's a quote in there about criticism that I try to keep to heart. "If you write (or paint or dance or sculpt or sing, I suppose), someone will try to make you feel lousy about it, that's all." It's especially worth remembering in the age of the Internet, where the trolls breed and lurk. They will deliberately be cruel, and they will hurt you. Write anyway.

Bethany Harper is short, has pink hair, lives in Oklahoma, and has a house full of animals-- 3 cats, 2 dogs, 3 gerbils. She's been voted 'most likely to turn into a crazy cat lady' at work. She crochets, sews, writes, program, games, reads, and spends the rest of her time working, going to school, or sleeping. You can find her online at Twitter (@MartianBethany) or on her blog.
Thank you for reading this edition of Fresh Voices. Feel free to follow the Fresh Voices list on Twitter or nominate yourself or another author as a Fresh Voice.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Blooming Author: Ashley M. Christman!

“Success means having the courage, the determination, and the will to
become the person you believe you were meant to be.” ~ George Sheehan

Ashley M. Christman is an urban fantasy writer whose book, The Witching
Hour, will be available from Lyrical Press November, 2010.

Tell us about The Witching Hour. What is it about and where will it be available?

Here’s the blurb:
Lucky Sands is anything but. His wife is cheating on him, his job sucks, and when she walks out on him and dies in a car crash, the only thing he can think of is drowning himself in cheap booze and cheaper sex. But when he finds his childhood friend Tuesday Peters working in a brothel, his luck
takes a steep downward dive after he finds out her twin sister is dead...and that Wednesday's death was no accident. Together Lucky and Tuesday embark on a search for answers, plagued by spirits and deities alike. Every clue along their path points not just to the truth of Wednesday's murder, but to divine machinations that prove everything Lucky knows about life to be wrong--and
prove there's no such thing as luck. Only fate...and the madness of the gods.

The Witching Hour will be available November 22, 2010 in ebook version at the Lyrical Press Website, Amazon, Barnes and, Fictionwise, Sony, Mobipocket, etc. We still don’t know about a print run yet, if it goes to print, the answer will be wherever books are sold.

What were your inspirations for The Witching Hour? What sorts of thing inspire you as a writer in general?

For The Witching Hour, I was inspired mostly because of my extensive research and knowledge of various pantheons and mythology. My inspiration in general can come from a number of places. It can come from a piece of music—I find that classical pieces inspire me the most, or a conversation
with someone. Sometimes, I’ll see a picture or think of a location and a character’s voice will come to me. That’s when I know that I have to write (my characters have a way of screaming in my head until I release them by writing their story).

What is your writing process? How do you approach a story, do you start with outlines or something else?
A process would mean there is some method to my madness ~laughs~.  My process is a simple one. If I’m in front of my computer, I’ll just start typing, see where the voice in my head (yes, I am referring to my muse. I have enough problems without other voices) takes me. Once I have an idea, I’ll usually write a crude working pitch. Its three lines that tell me who are the main characters, what’s going on, what’s the problem.  From there I create a very basic outline. I have to say that my outlines are usually only chapter outlines. Now that I am working on more complex plots, I have a board where I pin up my plot points, characters, etc…so I remember to fill in all the holes.

Where did you work when writing The Witching Hour? Do you think it was the optimal writing environment for you?

I literally wrote everywhere. I would write in my cubicle, the car, the coffee shop. Anytime I had any downtime I was writing. I’m finding that doesn’t work for me anymore—at least for revisions. I now make quiet time where I set up candles, incense and a can of  Red Bull (as you can see in
one of the pictures on my site) on my dining room table and work there. Now that we’re moving to the upper Midwest from the lovely western coast (I am going to miss the sunlight) one of the priorities was a room of my own. I find that the quiet time with the atmosphere helps me focus better, and thus
craft better tales.

So to answer the question, the environment I used initially for The Witching Hour, not optimal for me. I found that I really do need a room of my own and that is something that every writer needs to discover on their own. On a side note, I still have a fantasy of me being a broody writer with a cup of
coffee in a chic Parisian café. I can dream, right?

Tell us about your "story of getting published." How long did you submit before you were accepted? How did it feel to get accepted?

Goodness. That’s a long story, do you have all night. ~Chuckles~. I literally submitted hundreds of times between the five-six manuscripts I submitted prior to getting the yes. It was a long process. When I was subbing The Witching Hours, I had gotten a lot of personalized rejections rather than forms with the whole “we like it, but…”. I think those hurt the most, although I couldn’t help but find humor in one that basically said, “we like it, don’t change a thing, but we won’t publish it because the
heroine starts off as a prostitute”. I was like, people start off doing a lot of things, but it doesn’t define them.

When I finally got my golden ticket, the magical letter that every subbing writer hopes to get, I was ecstatic, excited, elated, more words that begin with “e” ~laughs~. It was an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment. It felt like I had done something right or maybe just gotten really lucky. I read
the letter several times. I kept waiting for a second one to come my way saying “sorry we made a mistake”. I don’t think there are really any words to describe the range of emotions I went through. When I finally signed the contract, I still couldn’t believe it. It didn’t really sink in that this was happening until I saw my name on my publisher’s website as one of their authors and my books title there as well.

What are the publicity plans you have coming up?
I am planning a virtual book tour and some readings at the moment. I also will be doing signed bookplates, so anyone that buys the book and wants a book plate can request one. Promotion is an on-going thing and as I come up with ideas, I add it to my marketing plan. And of course, the best type of publicity is to write another book.

You may also enjoy some of Ashley's previous work, such as the Rose Brown series. 
Midnight Rose: The first novel in the Rose Brown Series, this novel introduces Rose, a natural born witch, who takes a job at a fetish fashion wear company, not knowing that her entire life is about to change.  
Tiger Lily: When Rose Brown is summoned back to the small Texas town she came from, she discovers family secrets that will alter the course of her life forever. Throw in a psychotic serial killing vampire, and you have yourself a party.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Fresh Voices: Interview with Adrien-Luc Sanders

Welcome to the latest edition of Fresh Voices. We are delighted to share with you the crisp and recherché voice of Adrien-Luc Sanders.

1. What is your ultimate writing goal?
Wow, you'd think this would be the easiest one to answer. I used to be able to glibly trip off, "To be a full-time writer!" Well, now I'm a full-time business writer (and fiction editor), but that was never really my goal. And although I'd love to be a published YA fiction writer, I don't think that would satisfy the goal either--as any published writer can tell you it's not exactly a profitable full-time job. Plus while it would be nice to be published...I think what would bring me the most satisfaction is to finish every story I've got brewing in my head. I have so many ideas that the hardest part for me is following through on all of them, but I think if I looked back in 50 years I'd be more satisfied with finishing two dozen stories than publishing just one. So that's my goal: to follow through on all my unfinished stories, while striving to improve my writing skills with each one. If one happens to get published it's a nice bonus, but considering the odds in the publishing industry I'd like to think my goal is more attainable. Does that mean I'm going to stop trying to get published? Heck no. But finishing the work is more important.

2. Why do you write?
I write because I enjoy the emotional reaction that good storytelling evokes--and because I'm too impatient to draw. I used to think I'd be a graphic artist, even tried putting together a comic, but I draw very, very slowly. In the time it takes me to draw one multi-page scene I can write five chapters, and frankly I'm a better writer than artist. So I write, hoping that when I share these stories they'll draw a strong reaction from the reader. I love to imagine stories and situations that evoke emotions and tangible response, whether it's a startled burst of laughter, the soft hitch of a heartbroken breath, or the white-straining knuckles of adrenaline and excitement. If I succeed in conveying that to a reader, in drawing that from them, then I'm happy.

3. Your writing style is elegant. Have you worked to achieve that voice or is it just a natural style for you?
My writing? Elegant? Since I've never tried for elegance, I guess you could say it's natural--though it feels like hubris to claim something like that. I do struggle to progress my writing and improve overall, though I'm seeking more lean, effective prose that's concise while still remaining evocative. I think my style has grown from a complex combination of factors: the variety of things I read as a child (including the encyclopedia), the broader range of things I continue to read in my adult life, critiques from friend and professionals, my life experiences with various storytelling styles from different languages and cultures, and the influences of various English instructors starting at the grade level and moving through college. It's as natural as any process of evolution could be, but I wouldn't say it's self-generated, if that makes sense.

4. Who are your favorite authors and why do you like them?
Oh dear - how much space do I have here, again? I love so many authors in so many genres, but for the sake of brevity I'll pick just three. Four? Five? Okay, three.

Diane Duane: Her Young Wizards series is one of my childhood favorites, and one of those that still stands the test of time even when reading from an adult perspective. Her prose practically effervesces; there's a joy in her writing that sweeps you up and carries you along. You can tell she loves her stories, her worlds, and her characters, and her wordcraft is beautiful: clean, yet so vivid and compelling. There's a breathless wonder there that captures the imagination of youth without dumbing down the story in the slightest.

C.S. Friedman: Her dark portrayals of antiheros and the gray area between good and evil are amazing. While her writing can be a bit heavier, she delivers descriptions that border on the tactile, rhythm and sound combining for something lush and decadent that makes her books a thrill to read. Her worlds are well-crafted, just familiar enough to be comfortable while alien enough to intrigue, with unique spins on old tropes that reinvent them as new. I love her dialogue, her characterization--even when I hate the characters. I hate them as people with traits I despise, not as poorly-fleshed-out characters. They're very real, and even when I loathe them I love them.

And now I can't pick between Julian May, Charles de Lint, and Richard Adams. Er. Problem. Well...Julian May is one who uses the English language beautifully, creating intelligent yet immersive prose in complex science fiction worlds that provide dramatic tension without venturing into space opera (though I do love a good space opera). Charles de Lint's stories of the Animal People and the world beneath the world we know have always pulled at my part-Native heartstrings; and he creates a very strong mythic voice that combines ethnic mysticism and folklore with gritty urban realism. He grabs your heart and holds it in Jack Daw's beak, or Coyote's trickster jaws. As for Richard Adams...while many might groan to find him on the required reading list for school, I enjoy the intricacies of his world-building and cultures. Maia in particular has an exotic flavor that combines political intrigue with diverse cultures to create a colorful and powerful world.

That was three, right? ~shifty eyes~ Oh, hush, I'm allowed to break a self-imposed limit. Stop looking at me like that.

5. What most attracts you to the life of a writer?
The glamorous image of me as a long-haired Bohemian boy, sitting out on my balcony with my laptop, a cigarette, and a martini, pondering word choice while studying the glittering lights of the city below. Um. No? It doesn't work that way? What? That's never going to happen and I'm out of my mind? Oh. Okay. Well, for a more realistic answer: it's sure as heck not the money or the work hours. I sleep so little that it's becoming a running joke on Twitter. I can't easily say what's so compelling about this, which is kind of pathetic for someone who's supposed to have a talent for words. I think the only way I can explain it is this: writing is the only thing I do in my life where the frustration makes me happy. I could be stomping around the house at 3 a.m., snarling about how this stupid sentence just won't work or the blasted character isn't developed enough...but despite the eyestrain, raging headache, and exhaustion, I'm in my element and wouldn't want to do anything else. That's what makes it so attractive. It's a job and a life where even the difficulties are enjoyable, and you don't find that in many other places. But ask a professional athlete why they keep pushing themselves, why they keep running or lifting or whatever even when their bodies scream and their lungs threaten to burst; they'll tell you because even the pain is part of the joy of it. For me it's the same with writing and the writer's life.

6. If you couldn't be a writer but knew you were guaranteed success at a different career, what would you choose?
Nanoscience. My interest in nanotechnology originally rose from reading science fiction, which led me to get into computer engineering in college...which led me back to writing. If it came full-circle again, I'd definitely go back into computing--even if nanoscience is venturing more into biology than technology these days.

7. If you had to describe your writing in one word, what would that word be?
Here we run into that hubris issue again. I don't know if it's really possible for me to objectively describe my own writing, and would feel arrogant choosing a word with a positive connotation. If I had to settle on one, though...I'd say "primitive." Take that in whatever context you will.

8. What's the best writing advice you've ever gotten?
My freshman university English professor said, "Learn the rules, then break them the best way you know how." I think that applies not just to writing, but to everything. Learn the foundations; learn the right way to do things, so you have a solid base to stand on as you explore ways to break the rules and create something better than pure convention. When you have a strong grasp of the tenets of good writing, you'll know how to bend those laws to your will in ways that are unique, innovative, and compelling without crossing that fine line into disaster.

I'm still working on that part, but I'll let you know if I ever get there.

Adrien-Luc Sanders is a New Orleans transplant currently living in Chicago with one man and one cat, who both make enough mess for two. Or two dozen. A freelance writer and editor, Adrien works for companies such as Lyrical Press and, while harboring daydreams of publishing YA fiction that brings ethnic and LGBT characters into the mainstream spotlight. He finds his own name entirely pretentious, has a secret love of romance novels, freaks out every time he finds another grey hair, and tries to convince himself that 1. they're silver, and 2. going grey at 30 makes a writer look "distinguished." (Really. Let him have his illusions.) He pretends to be professional on his blog, while acting like a total cynical spaz on Twitter. As he's writing this, his cat is trying to chew off his toes.

September 7, 2012 Update: Adri's first book From the Ashes (Fires of Redemption)was released today! Grab your Kindle copy now! Only $2.99!

Archive of comments from original post at Thoughts That Get Stuck In My Head:
  1. Thanks for interviewing Adri! It's really fun to learn more about him and his thoughts on the writing life. The way he described his favorite writers was beautiful and inspiring.

  2. I think that writing goal is perfect. I'd like to achieve that as well, though I think we're both doomed to die with an unfinished story running around our heads.

    Very good interview!

  3. I'm officially keeping this quote:
    "Writing is the only thing I do in my life where the frustration makes me happy."
    ~Adrien-Luc Sanders

    ;)It just explains so much.