My 5 Favorite Character Types

Tropes or not, I can’t get enough of these characters (when they’re done well)…

The Character Whose Bark is Worse Than His/Her Bite 

Why? Grumpy people used to scare me when I was younger. I was delighted to find out that a lot of them are softies on the inside. This discovery never gets old for me. 😀

Examples:

P.L. Travers from Saving Mr. Banks. She’s pretty prickly, but it gets me every time she yells at them for turning Mr. Banks into a monster.

The Doctor from Voyager. He is one of my favorite Star Trek characters ever. Snobby, smug, critical, grumpy, but has a good heart.

The Obviously-Hurting Character Who Acts Tough 

Nobody likes jerks. It’s easy to dismiss them and not try to understand them. But people don’t act out of a vacuum. This character type can be easily romanticized. There’s not much romantic about it, but these guys are interesting and complex.

Example: (Why could I only think of one? I know there are more! Maybe I’m thinking of real life. I’ve met so many people like this in real life!!haha)

Jim Hawkins from Treasure Planet. He’s an adrenaline junkie and he tries to act tough, but deep down inside he’s insecure and wounded because his father left him.

The Quiet, Gentle Character with Hidden Strengths 

They fight their battles bravely, but rarely get the credit they deserve. I firmly maintain that kindness and gentleness are superpowers.

Examples:

Sergeant Lipton from Band of Brothers. Quiet, humble, and understated he does his duty faithfully and holds the loyalty and respect of all the men.

Cinderella from the 2015 release of Cinderella. I love how they made her strong in her kindness. She chooses to stay in her home and be kind to her step mothers and step sisters in honor of her parents.

The Leader Who Faces His/Her Duty Without Shirking

It’s easy to run away from problems, avoid them, pawn them off to others, or try to manipulate them. I love the leaders who face their demons boldly, sacrifice for those under them, and show the best that humanity has to offer.

Examples:

Aragorn from The Lord of the Rings. He patiently pursues his destiny as the heir of Gondor. He serves Frodo and the Fellowship humbly and willingly. He knows how to lead and how to sacrifice.

Captain Winters from Band of Brothers. Maybe not super impressive at first glance, he proves a very competent commanding officer. When he is promoted he struggles with his position because he’d rather be with his men at the front.

Captain Janeway from Star Trek: Voyager. She’s unflinchingly brave. She commands confidently, is fiercely protective of her crew, and is always willing to lay down her life for others.

The Reformed Bad Guy, Who Feels Guilty for His/Her Past 

I shouldn’t take pleasure in other peoples’ guilt. If you haven’t noticed already, I like complicated characters. Plus it’s nice to know that people can be redeemed. And something in me relates to the theme that we’re haunted by our mistakes. Plus, there’s often a refreshing humility to these characters.

Examples:

Black Widow from a million Marvel movies, but especially Avengers I and II. She likes fighting for the good guys. She believes in the cause of good. She always carries the burdens of her past, but they help her make the right decisions (for the most part).

Edmund Pevensie from The Chronicles of Narnia. He betrays his brother and sisters and Aslan, but receives forgiveness. That’s why he is able to extend forgiveness to Eustace in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (one of my favorite scenes in the entire series!).

Do you guys know of other characters who fit these categories? What characters would you love to see more of?

Have I written any of these characters, you ask? Why yes, yes I have. And if you can correctly categorize my characters in the comment section, I’ll send you a virtual cookie!

Indie Author Interview #5 Bethany Jennings

I found Bethany Jennings through her hashtag game #WIPjoy and soon started hearing about her short story Threadbare. The premise piqued my curiosity and I decided to dive in. I’m so glad I did! The story is moving, genuine, and engaging. I immediately connected with the themes, almost as if this story was sparked from conversations I’ve had with my friends! I immediately hunted down the wonderful Miss Jennings and she was gracious enough to give me this beautiful, encouraging interview!

Hello, Bethany! Introduce yourself:  
Hello! I’m a writer of science-fiction and fantasy (usually for YA readers), a freelance editor, and sometimes a graphic designer. I’m also a homemaker and the mom of four kids under the age of seven. No, I don’t get much sleep. 😉

Where did the inspiration for Threadbare come from? 

 
Last summer I was forced to put away a story I’d been working on for over a decade – which was one of the most painful things I’ve ever done. There was the very natural grief at “shelving” a long-term dream, of course, but on top of that, I was plunged into loads of uncertainty, self-doubt, and the realization of how that project and my long-term goals as an author had become hidden idols in my life. I struggled with all this for months; every time I thought I’d gotten past my issues, I’d find a deeper complication to work through. I began to think of myself as having “tangles” from which God was gently helping me free.
One day I thought, “What if there was a girl literally trapped in tangles?” And Threadbare was born. I didn’t really expect to even finish the story!  I considered it a way to process my own struggle, and at one point I thought I was going to stop writing it because I didn’t think it was helping me move forward. But ultimately God brought me through to the end of my own tangles, and that healing was what enabled me to actually finish Threadbare. I’m so grateful! He not only gently taught me and helped me through my pain, but He also confirmed my calling as an author by letting me turn my struggle into a story that stands on its own and can encourage others! Threadbare is a testament to His goodness in every way. 🙂
 


I’ve seen some of your other fans begging for a full-length novel. Is that likely to happen? If not, are you working on any new projects? 
 
At this time, I don’t plan to write any full-length novels…but I do have ideas for more short stories about some of the other characters. *mysterious wink* And my current project is a fantasy short story, titled Dragon Lyric. It’s very different from Threadbare, delving into my darker, more hard-hitting side as an author.
 


Can you tell us anything more about the interesting world you created in Threadbare? Any fun facts that you had to leave out?
One of Bess’s teammates used to be a Drifter… I may delve into that in a future story… 😀
 


I understand you are also a freelance editor. What is it that you love most about editing other authors’ work?
 
I love cleaning up prose! Making sentences smoother and snappier – while maintaining the author’s voice – is something I really enjoy. And actually, even more than editing, I enjoy helping authors write the blurbs (back cover descriptions) for their books.

 Have you read any great indie books lately that you’d recommend?

 
I highly recommend “The Girl Who Could See” by Kara Swanson! – a YA sci-fi/urban fantasy novella that releases on June 1st. That story grabbed me by the heart, and is in some ways similar to my own work, with strong themes of hidden realities.

 What is one piece of advice you’d give to aspiring indie authors? 

 
Be rigorous about making your books professional and polished – editing and cover art can be expensive, and sometimes the editing feedback is hard to hear, but it’s all worth it to make your book really shine. 🙂 And becoming “known” as an author is a long and difficult process; have patience with that, and expect that you’ll need to publish quite a few stories before your readership starts to really grow.

 What are three tools you use as an indie author (or that you’d recommend)? 

I LOVE using Pixabay (a database for free and 100% copyright-free pictures) and Canva (a free online photo editing site) to make graphics for quotes or promotions. Those are very handy tools. And I recommend good writing blogs like writeinsideout.com or helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com, to learn more about your craft and find good troubleshooting tips.
Thank you so much for interviewing me!
Thank you, Bethany! The world needs more of your work, so keep writing!
To learn more about Bethany Jennings, go check out her website and follow her on Twitter: @simmeringmind
And I go read Threadbare! Right now!

Why Your Setting is Not Made Up of Adjectives

This is a throwback post, originally published about a year ago. 

Gasp. What?! What about all of those writing workshops where we stuffed one hundred adjectives into every sentence?

I am not saying there is no value in learning how to be descriptive and expand your vocabulary. But you can describe every single detail of a scene and still lose your reader. Why is that?

Continue reading “Why Your Setting is Not Made Up of Adjectives”

Indie Author Interview #4 Katelyn Buxton

Meet Katelyn Buxton! So one of the things I love about the indie writing community is that everybody is at different places in their writing journey, and I get to learn from them all!

It takes boldness to put your work out there. If I had put my 15-year-old story about a lighthouse on the internet, I probably would have gotten a lot of feedback and grown a lot faster. Instead, I buried it away, along with all of my work until this year.

The other trap I fell into was constant rewriting. Granted, my work needed it. But I didn’t see myself really grow until I pushed forward on a new project. That’s when I was able to go back and really revise well. So I salute Katelyn for charging ahead in her series. I am excited to follow along and watch her grow as an author! Her first book Branwen’s Quest is a fun YA fantasy adventure with themes of redemption and forgiveness. Elements in it reminded me of The Chronicles of Narnia.

Me: What inspired you to write?
Katelyn: It was actually a history assignment in eighth grade that got me started writing stories. Before that, I hated writing. The assignment called for me to write the first chapter of a story with a cliffhanger—after that first chapter, it wasn’t just my family that wanted to know more—I wanted to know what happened next too, so I wrote the next chapter. And the next, and the next, until it was done. After that first, short 10-chapter story about an anthropomorphic mouse named Matthias, I found I had enjoyed writing it so much that I wrote a sequel. The rest is history—I had fallen hopelessly in love with writing.

Me: Can you name a couple authors that have influenced you?
Katelyn: Brian Jacques with his Redwall fantasy series about mice first and foremost, (note the subject of my very first story), but I’d also have to say Lois Walfrid Johnson with her Viking Quest series, and Arnold Ytreeide.

Me: Tell us about your Warriors of Aralan series.
Katelyn: The Warriors of Aralan series begins with Branwen’s Quest, which was originally supposed to be a standalone—so in other words, I never intended it to be a series at all. In the end, it turned out a lot like my history-assignment story—I wrote Branwen’s Quest, and then found I had to have a sequel. After that, I thought it should at least be a trilogy, and then God got hold of my writing with book four, and it really took off. Currently I’ve written nine books to the series, with six published, and the seventh on the way. They’re fantasy, leaning towards a more historically accurate dark ages, featuring real people with real problems, and after book four, real faith. Life’s messy—it isn’t always easy—and I hope readers can see that reflected in my stories.

Me: When did you start this series?

Katelyn: I started the Warriors of Aralan series five years ago, when I was fifteen. It seems a little strange to think that I’ve been writing the same series for five years, but I have.


Me:  How have you seen yourself improve as an author?

Katelyn: There’s a quote by Ernest Hemingway, “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master,” but I’ve seen myself improve so much from my early years of writing, and even from Branwen’s Quest to book nine of the Warriors of Aralan series. Writing is a learning process, so I think I’ll always be learning more every time I open up a new document, but characterization and writing authentic dialogue is an area I’ve worked hard to improve since beginning.


Me: What is an area you still need to improve in as an author?
Katelyn: Writing is so much about finding the balance in things. The balance between realistic emotion, and going overboard. The balance between writing in my faith authentically and thumping people over the head with the Bible. The balance between injecting myself into each and every character, and making them too much the same in the process. Finding the balance in things is always something I could use improvement in.

Me: What are you working on right now?
Katelyn: Currently I am working on editing Warriors of Aralan #7, and hoping to publish it soon.

Me: Is it important to read your books in order or can readers jump in anywhere?
Katelyn: To a certain extent, yes, it is necessary to read them in order. Other than the beginning, book four is a fairly decent place to start, since it signals a kind of “new beginning,” by moving on to Branwen’s children’s generation. But if you’re like me and like things in order, Branwen’s Quest is the best place to start.

Me: What sets your writing/books apart? Tell us what is unique about them?
Katelyn: Well, first of all, I believe in writing honestly. I don’t go into the gory details (whatever the case may be), because I also believe in family-friendliness, but I do try to truthfully deal with the hard things as they come up. I’ll have to admit, I didn’t always write this way, but God put it on my heart to begin during the writing of Warriors of Aralan book four.
As for my writing style, it’s kind of a mishmash of the three authors I mentioned previously, but over the years I feel I’ve developed my own voice through it. The Warriors of Aralan series is also unique for a fantasy series in the respect that there’s very little “magic” (Branwen’s Quest is the only one that bears any of it), and there’s only one race—humans.

Me: What are three tools you use as an indie author?
Katelyn: I use Canva for making my eBook covers and blog graphics, Mailchimp for my author newsletter, and Weebly for my website/blog. Becoming an indie author means learning to use a lot of programs and sites that I never would have otherwise.

Me: Have you read any good indie books lately?
Katelyn: Unfortunately, I do not read many indie books, but I have several on my TBR list that I need to get to and support my fellow authors.

Thanks so much Katelyn!
Go check out her work: Branwen’s Quest and the rest of the series is available on amazon!
Or find out more about her on her website.
And don’t forget to follow her on twitter!

An Open Letter About My Book “Out of Darkness”

Oh, the joys of the internet! I tend to be a private person. I’m not much of a sharer in my day-to-day life, even with friends I trust. So you can imagine how guarded I tend to be on the internet. But then I remember that I actually published two books which arguably bare my soul. Talk about vulnerability. So if I’ve put my work out for the world to see, I might as well dissect it a little bit so people understand my message clearly, right?

Some people are attracted to my debut novel, Out of Darkness because it looks ‘dark.’ But I know that others shy away from it. I’m okay with that. I know that not everybody will like it or understand it and I have to accept that. But I also wanted to put a clear statement out so that people don’t misunderstand what I represent.

My intention is not to glorify violence. 

There is a lot of that going on these days and I don’t like it. I will turn a program off or stop reading a book if I think that’s what it is doing. But simply depicting violence is not the same as glorifying it. Sometimes violence is just an honest part of the story. Even in that case, I don’t think it’s necessary to go into graphic detail. But sometimes violence is an analogy for something more. In The Lord of the Rings, we recognize that the gory battles are symbolic for the battle of good against evil in this world. Tolkien may not describe them in gory detail, but that’s what they are and there is no getting around that. But he uses them masterfully as a backdrop to get his messages of hope across.

I did not grow up in America. I grew up in a place where violence was very real. And by the age of six, I understood the atrocities men commit against each other. So I hope no one ever accuses me of taking violence lightly. Now you’re all thinking that Out of Darkness is a bloody war saga. It really isn’t, I promise! But there is some violence (non-graphic) and there are definitely some scenes on the dark side. But they only exist to amplify the light at the end (thus the title!).

I also want to add that, like Tolkien, the fighting and the struggles are symbolic of very real emotional battles that I have experienced. It would be too real to write the actual account. And so I created this science-fiction-parable of sorts to convey the emotional equivalent and show how hope can still come out of brokenness. 

It’s interesting…I started working at a behavioral treatment center for at-risk teenagers after I wrote this book. These were girls who had been abused, traumatized, and cast off by the world. They were victimized by people they trusted and eventually learned to victimize themselves. It was heartbreaking. I spent two years de-escalating them, telling them they didn’t have to be victims, encouraging their talents and skills, and trying to help them see the world through a different lens.

And that’s when I realized I really needed to publish this book. Because there is so much content out there that is sending all the wrong messages: you are a victim of your circumstances, bad choices don’t have consequences, rebellion for rebellion’s sake is cool, and “you only live once” so make stupid decisions. Most adults dismiss it as “entertainment.” But believe me when I tell you that teenagers are hearing and seeing these messages and they are acting out on them.

So I wrote this book to answer questions in my own heart:

-Am I a victim of my circumstances?

-When people make decisions that affect my life (which I have no control over), can I still find a way to be my own person?

But in truth, I published it for all of the girls I worked with, who I still dream about, and who I pray every day are not lying dead somewhere.

If you made it this far, thank you for listening! I know that many of you are writers and authors trying to put positive messages out into a dark world and I salute you for that! Let’s keep fighting together.

Click here to find out more about the actual plot of the book.

If you’d like to start a conversation, leave a comment below, or feel free to e-mail me: ebdawsonwriting@gmail.com

Sincerely,

Beth Dawson

Indie Author Interview #3 Nate Philbrick

I stumbled upon Where the Woods Grow Wild a couple months ago and was unexpectedly delighted by it. I had just begun my foray into the indie author world and this book will always stand out to me as an example of how good indie fic can be. It’s a clean, light-hearted tale full of imagination. I felt like a kid exploring Narnia again! Needless to say, I am very excited for the sequel. So I hunted Mr. Nate Philbrick down to answer some of my questions:
Me: What does your creative process look like? (Are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you have a daily routine?)
Philbrick: I’d say I’m 75% plotter and 25% pantser. So I’m a plontser. Yep. I’m that guy plontsing around with a mug of coffee. I love outlines, and I need to know all the steps I need to take before I start writing. That being said, when it comes to individual scenes, I prefer to let those grow organically if that makes sense. And even my scene-by-scene outline is subject to change at any given moment.
Me: From start to finish, could you estimate how long it took to write “Where the Woods Grow Wild”?
Philbrick: The first draft took about four months, but the idea-to-publication process took a year almost to the day.
Me: Can you name three books that have impacted you?
Philbrick: Yeah! Tears of a Dragon (Bryan Davis) really shaped the way I saw life as a teenager. A Monster Calls (Patrick Ness) turned me into a puddle on the floor, and The Book Thief was pretty boring but it sure impacted my toe that one time I dropped it.
Me: What are three tools you use as an indie author?
Whenever I’m writing/planning/editing, I almost always have Scrivener open, a physical notebook on the desk beside me, and color coded pens because those make me feel fancy. However, when I’m proofreading or marketing I make good use of a tissue box and a punching bag.
Me: Have you read any great indie books lately?
Philbrick: To be perfectly honest, I don’t read indie books as much as I’d like to. However, I recently beta-read a short story/novella by Rachel Lester, which I won’t say anything about except that the ending punched me in the gut and I can’t wait for her to publish it.
Me: What area do you need to grow in as an author and what steps are you taking to get there?
Philbrick: If I want my career to keep growing, I really need to eliminate those months between projects during which I just can’t seem to get into gear. Once I get the ball rolling I’m fine, but I typically struggle in those in-between stages.
Me: If you had to branch out into another genre, what would it be?
Philbrick: Oh boy. I don’t know if I’d ever be able to write anything but fantasy, but if I had to give it a shot, I’d probably go for historical fiction (I’d say sci-fi just to stay speculative, but let’s be honest; I’m too dumb to write technology beyond “he pushed the shiny thing and they all died.”
Me: What are you working on right now? 
Philbrick: I’m about 2/3 of the way through the first draft of Where the Woods Grow in Flames, the sequel to Where the Woods Grow Wild.
Me: What can we look forward to in the next book? (And is there a tentative release date?)

Philbrick: Readers of Where the Woods Grow Wild can look forward to a whole lot more snark from the original cast of characters, as well as some new (yet familiar) additions that I’ve had a blast fleshing out (let’s just say Percy and Mr. Stump both get a lot more stage time.)

I don’t have a specific release date yet, but my goal is to get it out this summer.
Me: It looks like you are a Star Wars fan. Pick a favorite film and a favorite character!
Philbrick: I’m a huge Star Wars fan! Star Wars: Rebels is actually my favorite chapter in the saga, but that’s not a film, so I’m going to have to go with Rogue One and/or Revenge of the Sith. My favorite Star Wars character is Ahsoka Tano, hands down.
So there you have it, folks! Want more of Nate Philbrick? Go check out his blog. Follow him on twitter. And if you haven’t yet, pick up a copy of Where the Woods Grow Wild

5 Keys to Writing Stories Full of Feels

You may think this is a strange topic. But “feels” in books is a legitimate trend. When I first started writing I had no concept of what “feels” were and very little interest in writing them. For some reason I wanted my writing to be high, intellectual, and dry. I wanted to move the readers with emotion–but a distant, dignified emotion. In other words, I didn’t really know what I was doing.

Granted, most authors write to evoke emotions in their readers. Some aim too high and it turns out sappy. Some aim too low and settle for an exciting plot with no meat. Many misjudge the expectations and timing. My breakthrough came when I realized I needed to be more vulnerable in my writing. My characters were too perfect, or their struggles were unrelatable, or I wouldn’t let them be real people.

So what are feels, and how do you write them into your book? Well, here’s my simple definition: unlocking the reader’s deepest sympathies. But how do you do this?

Setting up Expectations– You need the reader to invest in the story personally. One way to do this is to set up their expectations ahead of time. There is something about the human mind that recognizes patterns and appreciates familiarity. If you have listened to classical music at all, you may know that the composer often puts echoes and pieces of the main theme into the music early on. That way, when the grand climax comes and the main theme is played, the audience has already heard hints of it and it will invoke a more emotional response.

Not only that. But you want to get the reader’s imagination working for you. Yes, it’s fun to surprise the reader and there is a time for that. But it’s even more fun to get the reader to say, “I knew it!” That makes them take ownership of the plotting process. This means a lot of work for you. You have to give them just enough clues and hints to lead them down the right direction without being painfully obvious. Subtlety is key. Don’t rush through all of your introduction and rising action. Take the time to sprinkle plenty of foreshadowing, hints, and implications. Make the reader guess which ones will be fulfilled.

Timing– This one is huge and can be pretty difficult to pull off perfectly. This is the one that I probably labor over the most. The trouble with this guy is that as an author, I am immediately biased, especially when I am working on my third draft. The action plays out very different when you are on your first read, versus your third read. So it can be tricky to look back and try and guess exactly where the reader’s emotions are at any particular point. But I would say, the more you write, the more confident you will be in this aspect. It will start to come more instinctively. Although this one can particularly hard to pull off right, it is my favorite. That’s why my first book Out of Darkness, has a non-linear plot. I set it up so that the MC’s emotional climax is revealed directly before the action climax of the book, even though it takes place some time before.

Authenticity– This one surprised me a little. I wouldn’t have started writing if I didn’t have very personal things to express. But I wrapped them under layers of science fiction. And I have to add that it is incredibly different to create characters that feel like real people at all times. Dialogue seems easy at first. After all, you are the author! You know what each character is thinking at all times. The trouble is that real life is not like that. People speak without knowing what the other person is going to say. It can be difficult to mimic that in dialogue. That is why dialogue so often fails, and poor dialogue is one of the biggest reasons readers put a book down. My writing improved by leaps and bounds after I worked a high-conflict job for eighteen months. I saw how people really respond when they are emotional, angry, or afraid. And it has allowed me to infuse my characters with real motivations and honest reactions.

Reader Gratification– This one is semi-controversial. There is still that school of thought out there that insists the reader is your enemy and you cannot give them what they want. Maybe this is appropriate for some genres (I really don’t know). I can see it earning you the reader’s respect. But I don’t think it’s going to earn you any feels. In a sense, reader gratification is exactly what gives the “feels.” You set up the reader’s expectations, you create an emotional connection with the characters, you take the reader on a heart-pounding journey where they are afraid everything is going to fall apart, and then you come in with the gratification.

Now, it’s important to remember that this doesn’t always mean happily ever after, or everything turns out fine. Sometimes it means you make them cry over what could have been. But there has to be meaning in the choices you make. Readers are going to reel from the senseless death of a loved character in a similar way they might reel from bad news in real life. Life is full of bad news and tragedy and it’s hard to always find the meaning in it. If you are aiming for “feels” you have to put meaning in your story for your readers. Give them closure. Give them something to hold onto!

Round it Out– The best stories have a combination of feels. Don’t center all of your feels on one relationship, or one plot revelation. If you set up a plethora of subplots and sub-conflicts, and you handle them well, then by the end of the story you have a whole smorgasbord to choose from! You can make eight turn out well and have two end sadly and still leave your reader on a high note. And you know what? They will probably love that even more than happy endings across the board because it feels like real life. One of the very best ways to earn reader trust and loyalty is to successfully navigate them through sorrow.

So there’s a glimpse into writing a story with plenty of feels. Do you guys have any thoughts?

Indie Author Interview #2 J.E. Purrazzi

 J.E. Purrazzi’s prequel novella Revelation was just released on April 23rd!
I got to read it ahead of time and was intrigued by the worldbuilding, the technology, and the questions raised in this book.
Luckily I snagged an interview with her and I appreciated her genuine answers. I hope you will too!
Me: So, “Revelation” is the prequel to an entire trilogy? What do you hope readers will get out of this novella?

Purrazzi: Revelation is a prequel novella to a Biopunk post-apocalyptic trilogy. There are some functional things it needs to do as the first in a series, such as setting up a pretty complicated world and introducing some major concepts. In all my work I try to marry the best of classic fiction (character development and strong themes), with the best of modern fiction (an addictive, fast pace). What I really hope readers will be able to take away is an excitement for the world that leaves them wanting more, while not making them feel like the story went unfinished.

Me: What is your work similar to? Who do you think will like it?
Purrazzi: Readers so far have found similarities in my work to a few well-known Sci-Fi stories. The Malfunction Trilogy has been compared to Hugh Howey’s “Wool”, Orson Scott Card’s “Ender’s Game”, and the Sci-Fi movie trilogy “The Matrix”. It’s hard to judge the flavor of your own writing. My aim is to get the reader into the character’s head with an immersive style and draw out some deep questions to chew on while keeping a good pace. My hope is that it can be enjoyed both by readers who just want entertainment as well as by people who want to think a bit longer on the themes that I’ve highlighted.
Me: What are the themes and messages in this trilogy? And can you talk about them without giving anything away?
Purrazzi: When it comes to writing the two things that I lean on more heavily than anything else is “Theme” and “Character Building”. So, yes, there are a lot of themes in the trilogy. While I do want readers to be able to draw things out for themselves, (and each book does have a slightly different emphasis) I will not make it a secret that these books are, for me, about the value of human life. From the beginning, writing these have been a way for me to work out some of the pain that my family has suffered from the loss of my unborn step-children. It is a loss that is deeply felt by me, my husband, and the mother of the children. It may seem like an odd thing for me to be mourning over, but unless you have lost children, you will never understand the impact that has on a person. While it is different for me, the effect the loss has had on my husband has been felt in our marriage, especially as we haven’t been able to have any of our own children.
Of course, there are other causes that have been laid heavily on me while writing this, including my sorrow over human trafficking, and the effect of walking through my mother’s cancer with my family. All these things work well with the themes that the biopunk sub-genre naturally highlights with bioethics.
While all these things did impact the story, my greatest hope is not to “preach” to my readers, but to ask questions and then trust them to find the truth for themselves.
All that being said, Revelation is, at its root, a story about an abandoned boy and how his pain drives him to interact with the harsh world around him.
Me: What does your creative process look like? (Are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you have a daily routine?)
Purrazzi: I am somewhere between a plotter and a pantser. My creative process can pretty much be summed up in two words: “day dreaming”. It usually starts with two things: a vague impression of a character and the beginning concept of the climax. From there, I start to flesh out the character in my mind and put him into the climax, always asking the question “Why?” If at any point, I can’t find an answer for that question, I file that idea away. Maybe I will fold it into another story later, maybe it will be lost. 
Eventually, I start telling myself the story, starting with the scenes with the most emotion. When I drive, when I am falling asleep, whenever I have a free moment I think through every word choice. Over and Over and Over, I patch holes and grow my characters and world. Sometimes I make notes, or do research, or watch a movie or read a book to get ideas, but eventually, I have something formed enough that I can start writing it down. Everything else I just invent as it comes out. By then, there isn’t much I haven’t “written” in my head a hundred times.
Me: Tell us more about you. Why do you write?
Purrazzi: I am an introvert, a cynic, an artist and I like to also imagine that I’m an intellectual. I have a million and one interests, among them reading, fish keeping, fine art and I love to consume as much information as I can find. Pretty much on anything, except for math. I grew up overseas, on a small Island country that most people have never heard of. I am starting to settle into life in America, but Papua New Guinea will always be home. I don’t think I will ever stop dreaming of it and waking up feeling just a bit more empty. I firmly believe heaven will have a little piece of PNG for me.
I write for a lot of reasons. The first being, I love to read. I love teaching and telling stories, and writing gives me a way to do that without losing anyone’s attention. It’s also helped me overcome panic attacks and depression that have been sneaking in here and there (as is common with us introverts).
Me: What are three tools you use as an indie author?
Purrazzi: My top three tools: YouTube. You can find so much on there, for research, writing and story craft, or even just for music. I have been watching a lot of surgeries on there lately. It’s as gross as it sounds but when Malfunction comes out, you will see why.
The Story Grid. This is one of the best resources I’ve ever been introduced to. There is a book, a podcast, and countless articles as well as a method for self-editing your novel that is super immersive.
Finally: podcasts. Most of the podcasts I listen to are either for research purposes of for the marketing side of writing. When it comes to self-publishing you can’t just be a good writer, you also have to know what you are doing when it comes to selling the book. I listen to at least an hour and a half of podcasts on my drive to work every day. In my mind, you can never do too much research to prepare for anything. If I stop learning, I might as well stop writing too, because that will mean I’ve lost interest.
Me: Have you read any great indie books lately?
Purrazzi: I’ve been reading some great books lately. Currently, I’m reading “Out of Darkness” by our own E.B. Dawson, and a book called Minutia by Steve Evens. Both are really fast paced, very intelligent, and have great premises. I also just started reading an ARC by one of my personal favorite self-published authors and a close friend and mentor, Sarah K. L. Wilson. This book is called “Lighting Strikes Twice” and is the sequel to her fantasy novel “The Teeth of the Gods”. I also just blew through “The Jenkins Cycle Trilogy” by John L. Monk. They are a bit on the darker side, so you want to be careful if you are squeamish (Think Paranormal “Punisher” with a lot of humor) but they are great.
Me: What area do you need to grow in as an author and what steps are you taking to get there?
Purrazzi: I can’t write romance for anything. I’m not a romantic person at heart. In that way, my poor husband and I are not matched well because he is 100% a “touch” love. I hate snuggling and romantic gestures make me uncomfortable. I am doing my best to work on that aspect of writing, but I naturally write family-love and friendship-love easier. I also struggle writing female leads. I have no clue as to why.
I think the biggest area where I need to grow is just in marketing and publishing. It is my first time and I have a lot to learn.
Me: If you had to branch out into another genre, what would it be?
Purrazzi: Historic Fiction, no question. Right now I gave myself a good broad category with Speculative Fiction. I have the first drafts of my Sci-Fi trilogy done as well as a fantasy book which will be released next year, after edits, and a Paranormal Thriller short story serial. That is a broad stretch of genres right there. My first love has always been Historic Fiction, though. I have a million ideas that I want to play around with. What is keeping me back is just the sheer amount of research that goes into it. I don’t want to jump into that until I have the time to do it right and keep my sanity. I do intend to play around in the “non-fiction” sandbox as well.
Me: What can we look forward to in the next book? (And is there a tentative release date?)
Purrazzi: I am currently in the middle of the fourth draft of Malfunction. My intention is to release it by the end of July, with the remaining books releasing every three months. Of course, I want to provide you all with the very best books I can write, so if I feel like I need more time, I’ll possibly move it to every six months.
If you enjoyed Revelation, Malfunction is going to be a real treat for you! Cowl will be back, but you will also be introduced to some new characters. One new point of view character is Menrva, who is Cowl’s childhood friend and probably has more of “me” in her than any character I’ve ever written. We will also get to climb into Bas’ point of view. Unlike Revelation, this story is mostly about Bas, and we will get a lot of questions answered about his past and his purpose. Also, if the idea of the Wreckers has peaked your interest, we will get to see the monsters up close and personal.
Expect a blistering pace, some emotional reveals, and a couple twists and turns that will knock you off your feet. Expect a lot more running and shooting.
You can learn more about J.E. Purrazzi on her website: http://www.jillanepurrazzi.com
Grab a copy of Revelation! http://www.jillanepurrazzi.com/books
Or follow her on social media!
@J23hawkE
Thanks again, Jill!

Storytelling vs Plotting

Do you know anyone really good at storytelling? I’m not talking about writing a novel, but just telling a story to a group of friends. Some people have natural instincts about what will keep their audience engaged. They know what information to leave out until the last minute. They know what to emphasize and when to use hyperbole. In high school I was not this person. My personal stories were uninteresting. But after a good deal of observation, I’m proud to tell you that I have learned how to make my own odd adventures entertaining to other people. Why is this important?

It has come to my attention recently that plotting and storytelling are two very different things. Some authors plot their novels. (For the purpose of this blog post, “plotting” refers to a very structured outline method). Other authors tell stories. Now, I’m not going to come right out and say that one method is better than another. But I prefer one method to another.

I know authors who plot vigorously and are quite successful. They know all the elements that a story needs and they insert them strategically into their story to yield the best outcome. This is probably the smart and safe way to write books. When you count on proven methods and statistics of what readers like, you are a bit more assured of gaining a following. But there is also such a thing as a wild story, that does not heed the rules and yet still manages to entertain. I tend to gravitate toward the unpredictable, the emotional, and even the unbalanced. It’s like the difference between traditional and abstract art. If you follow the rules for traditional painting, and you practice a great deal, you can be pretty confident that you will portray the scene you are painting, and viewers will appreciate it.

I am not much of a plotter. I follow the tones and colors of my story. That doesn’t mean I don’t care about plot. My stories often include intricate plot. But I focus on the emotional journey of the characters. I write by instinct. And this instinct has been painfully developed over the past fifteen years. I love it when I find it in other authors too.

What about you? Do you have a preference between plotting and storytelling? Can you tell the difference? Sometimes I read a book or watch a movie and I can almost see the outline the writer used. (I hate that)

Indie Author Interview #1 Kyle Robert Shultz

I’ve had my eye on The Beast of Talesend for a while now. But I only recently got around to reading it. I enjoyed it so much that I just had to feature it on my blog and author Kyle Robert Shultz was kind enough to give me an interview!

For those of you who haven’t read it, it’s set in the post-magic world of fairytales. The protagonist Nick Beasley is a private detective who makes a living from disproving anything that appears magical. But his neat little worldview is shaken when he is hired to help retrieve a magic artifact. I don’t want to give away any more, but this book is full of action and a whole lot of fun! You can read my review of it on Goodreads here. Let’s get to the interview!

Me: What does your creative process look like? (Are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you have a daily routine?)

KRS: My process is a mix between plotting and pantsing. I lean more toward the plotting end of the spectrum–I don’t begin writing a story until I have at least a rough idea of the major plot points and know how it’s going to end. But I try not to plan things too meticulously, as sometimes ideas occur to me while I’m drafting which are better than what I have in my outline. I like to leave some wiggle-room. I don’t exactly have a daily routine, as my work schedule tends to be unpredictable, but I’ve found bullet journaling to be a big help in keeping track of all my tasks and projects.

Me: From start to finish, could you estimate how long it took to write “The Beast of Talesend”?

KRS: About six months…not counting the three months I spent thinking that it was an irredeemable mess that should never see the light of day. I shoved it away in a dark corner of my Dropbox after finishing the first draft and tried to switch to other projects, but I just couldn’t get the characters or the premise out of my head. Then I tried to “fix” it by re-writing it from scratch, and ended up losing all the charm of the first version. Finally, I took the original draft, made minimal edits, and published it. So far, I haven’t been sorry. Here’s hoping future books come a little more easily.

Me: Can you name three books that have impacted you?

KRS: The Magician’s Nephew may not be everyone’s favorite Chronicle of Narnia, but it’s definitely mine. It was the book that sparked my love for speculative fiction in the first place, and introduced me to higher concepts of the genre (like the multiverse) which eventually became a part of my own writing. The books of P.G. Wodehouse, such as Right Ho, Jeeves, have been a major influence on my writing style. In the nonfiction realm, James Scott Bell’s Plot and Structure is my favorite craft resource. It helps authors find the logic of their stories without stifling their spontaneity.

Me: What are three tools you use as an indie author?

KRS: Like many other authors, I don’t think I could do without Scrivener. It’s definitely the best writing software out there. I use it for my blog posts and newsletters in addition to my fiction. The website One Stop For Writers, with its many thesauri and story-planning tools, is an extremely helpful resource I’ve discovered recently. I also rely heavily on Adobe Photoshop for designing my book covers.

Me: Have you read any great indie books lately?

KRS: I’m currently reading Beggar Magic by H.L. Burke–it’s fantastic. Great characters and an enthralling magic system. I’ve been fortunate enough to beta-read her upcoming fairy-tale novel Coiled as well. That’s definitely one to watch out for; it’s probably the best work of its kind that I’ve ever read. Another indie gem I’ve been enjoying is Marc Secchia’s Dragonfriend. His worldbuilding and description are breathtaking.

Me: What area do you need to grow in as an author and what steps are you taking to get there?

KRS: I’ve been told by a number of people that I need to spend more time and effort on descriptions. Lately I’ve paid close attention to how other writers handle this in the books I read. It’s easy for me to get too eager as I write and jump ahead to the action while skipping details, but if I get myself in the right headspace by reading a well-written book, it helps me to do better in this area.

Me: If you had to branch out into another genre, what would it be?

KRS: I have a number of genres on my author’s bucket list, though they’re all more or less subgenres of speculative fiction. I’d like to tackle superhero stories at some point; I have an idea for an unusual twist on the genre that might generate some interest. I’d also love to try my hand at something in the space-opera realm. I don’t really feel inspired to write anything without sci-fi or fantasy overtones. I wouldn’t be able to commit to creating a story set squarely in the real world.

Me: What are you working on right now?

KRS: The Stroke of Eleven, a sequel to The Beast of Talesend and a very unusual take on the tale of Cinderella. It’s all outlined, and it’s currently my Camp NaNoWriMo project…though I’m severely behind on my word count at present, so we’ll have to see how that goes. 🙂 I’m also planning some spin-off stories set in the Beaumont and Beasley universe. I have a novella prequel to The Beast of Talesend in the first draft stage, and some companion short stories outlined.

Me: What can we look forward to in the next book?

KRS: More magic, more monsters, and quite a bit of timey-wimeyness. 🙂 The Stroke of Eleven deals directly with the fallout of The Beast of Talesend while telling a whole new story at the same time. There’s another creepy old castle involved, but it’s very different from the one in the first book. A dark secret behind the story of Cinderella is revealed, and some other characters from classic tales make surprise appearances…not to mention a mysterious stranger whose identity will come as an unpleasant shock to Nick and Cordelia.

Me: I know you are a Doctor Who fan. Which Doctor and Companion is your favorite and why?

KRS: On TV, definitely the Tenth Doctor and Donna Noble. There’s just nothing like their hilarious, heartwarming chemistry. But I’d have to say my all-time favorite Doctor/companion team is the one featured in Big Finish Productions’ Doom Coalition audio series: the Eighth Doctor, Liv Chenka, and Helen Sinclair. They have a very unique dynamic and deal with a fascinating mix of story elements and characters from both the classic and new series of Doctor Who.

Go check out this amazing book on Amazon! Or go learn more about the author on his website: www.kylerobertshultz.com

Thanks again, Kyle!