Category Archives: Artist Interviews

Bill Roorbach—Award-winning Author, Educator, Musician, Father, and Naturalist

I met Bill on Facebook. He’s unique, pragmatic, wryly funny, and shares lots of mushroom pics amongst his politics. Oh yeah, he’s also a pretty talented writer. He’s always surprising me, in his books, online, and here in his interview. Read about his process and creativity; then read his books. You’re welcome.

 

Tell me about your writing process—schedule, environment, strategies / techniques, inspirations material and abstract—and if this process differs based on genre / format (I know you write fiction and non-fiction, novels and short stories, essays and memoirs). Also, I think you’re a pantser, yes?

My process shifts from project to project and even within projects. Right now I’m working on a new novel and just finding small blocks of time to operate in, sometimes five or six a day, at any time, like waiting for my daughter at ballet class, just out in the car with the laptop tapping away. I do have a studio and when things get serious I sit out there with the skunks. I do a lot of daydreaming and side reading and more and more social media, unfortunately, or fortunately, I’m not sure which. Politics has clouded my brain, as well, but we can’t sit idly by. I had to look up pantser. I am not a pantser, but draft multiply and give myself all the time in the world.

 

Walk me through your publishing process from final draft to final product, including who does what, how it differs for fiction and non-fiction, and what marketing you are expected to do as the author.

I hand in the draft, then start something new or return to something else in progress. Meanwhile, whatever editor reads it, usually too slowly for my taste, and comes back with notes. I attend to the notes fairly quickly when possible, send the pages back in and return to the new project. Usually at that point the old project is accepted. Next come copyedits, possibly a legal reading, then first-pass galleys, second-pass galleys, all while a cover is being designed at the publisher’s, and jacket copy being written, a publicity campaign designed, book tour scheduled, all that stuff, which I have little to do with except approval or disapproval. The book comes out, the tour starts, I go on TV and radio, all the while finding those little blocks of time to work on the new project.

 

Describe your support system online and IRL; who are your biggest cheerleaders?

I don’t know if I have such a support system. I use social media to announce a new book. That helps. But the publicity department at publisher or magazine has the job of cheerleading, though I do wave my pom-poms.

 

 

I too have an interesting background of employment (including llama care) giving me insight for specific storylines. How has your background prepared you for your writing career, and how does your life influence your art and vice versa?

Experience is probably nine-tenths of the game when it comes to fiction. Nonfiction is the experience. I remember consciously living an interesting life back there in my twenties, and forgiving myself all sorts of wasted hours. I find I still want my life to be my art, and vice versa. But so much of life is sleeping, and so much more doing stuff you’d rather not.

What do you love most about your creativity?

It’s nice to be able to do things, from building my houses to collecting mushrooms to napping properly. I want to be able to do everything I do reasonably well. This had led to a lot of hobbies, and as I get older, less and less time to pursue them. But in the end I’m hoping it all adds up to one big art project, my life.

Connect with Bill:

Website

Blog

Amazon

Twitter

Facebook

Goodreads

Instagram

 

Chuck Amadori—Comic Book Creator

 

I met Chuck through Brian Barr, another natural storyteller, on Facebook. Ya really gotta know how to use Facebook to meet wonderful artists. Chuck has given a beautiful interview, and I’ve interspersed his brilliant work throughout his responses. Enjoy!

 

 

Tell me about your work process, including schedule, environment, materials, and inspirations, and walk me through a collaborative project—timeline and contributions—who does what when.

My work process varies project to project. With my creator owned titles, the front end of the project has me very involved with outlining, plotting, world-building and scripting. Then I hand the script off to the artist who then submits layouts/roughs, and finally the penciled/inked pages. The next step brings the page to a flatter who gets the page ready to send to the colorist. The final step is where I letter the page. I’m one of those writers who likes to letter my own creator owned titles. Lettering my own writing gives me the chance to improve the flow based on the nuances the art team brings to the project. Scheduling for such a project always depends on my finances, since every one of my creator owned titles is funded out of pocket from my day job (or shared expense if collaboration). No kickstarters. No patreon. And the unfortunate truth of Indie Comics is that sales will not pay for but a fraction of the money spent paying the art/coloring teams.

My collaborations have followed a similar process. For the Empress collaboration with the prolific AF Brian Barr, we alternated 4 issue arcs that each ended setting up the other writer’s arc. It’s been a real rewarding collaboration and we’re always on the same page creatively, which helps our separate ideas blend and mesh together seamlessly. My other major collaboration was the Western Trilogy (Snake, Bang Bang Lucita and Xibalba) with colorist Nimesh Morarji. Again, another great collaboration that if it we had the funds to continue, would have seen the release of 15 + issues between the three titles and a crossover title called Viperous Vixens (which have all already been scripted).

 

In what ways do you acquire work, and how do you come to collaborate? Talk about how a finished product comes together and becomes available for purchase.

When I decided to make comics, I just started making comics. It’s like they say, if you want to do it, then start doing it. However, I had a slight advantage over some other upstarts, because I had a background in filmmaking/screenwriting. Nevertheless, there are so many resources out there that if you’re really serious about making comics you can learn how to, and only by making them will you learn and hone you skill. You’ll always be your own worst critic. I know my first few scripts are so clunky compared to how I would write them now. Luckily, being my own letterer has allowed me to fix any of the issues. As a letterer, I found the best way to get experience was to letter other creator friends’ books and do some freelance lettering gigs. For one thing, it made me appreciate the importance of pith in comic book dialogue. Saying more with less words is essential. Let the image tell the story too!


To get a title released as an Indie Creator, you first need to put the book together using the professional standards (resolution, page size, safe zones etc). If you want to submit digitally to ComiXology, it’s essential to make sure there aren’t any errors. They will reject a book for an error or an unprofessional finish. Best thing about being alive today in the Indie Creator world—you don’t need a publisher to make your book available digitally… and there are ways to have it available in print. My books are all on a Print On Demand (POD) site called Indy Planet. They will accept submissions via the ka-blam printing service.

Describe your support system online and IRL; who are your biggest cheerleaders?

If there is anything I can say about the Indie Comic online community that I’ve associated with, it’s that they are amazing. I’ve never seen such a supportive community. And now with social media, there are ways to meet and collaborate with people all over the world.

My biggest cheerleaders seem to be fellow creators (shocking, I know). Some in particular have been very encouraging and supportive. There are places to meet other creators, like the ICC on Facebook. I have a nephew who is a HUGE fan. I mean really HUGE fan. He acts like I would if I met my favorite writer. He likes to have deep discussions about the characters and he notices the right things and even tries speculating where the story is going. Very cool to have that kind of engagement from a young reader.

How has your background prepared you for this career; how does your art influence your life and vice versa?

I’ve always been a storyteller at heart. Though the medium has varied (screenwriting, short stories, etc.), writing comics has been my favorite. With comics, you have the ability to bring anything you can imagine to life… unlike screenwriting, which limits you to budget and practicality.

What do you love most about your creativity?

I don’t really appreciate my own creativity on a project until I can see the finished product. And as I’m sure most comic creators will say, there’s nothing more satisfying than holding a print copy of your finished book. Then psychologically it becomes something real. I love working with my art teams. I’ve been lucky to have artists that can take the scripted elements and make them better on the page.

Connect with Chuck:

Twitter

Twitter

Facebook

Goodreads

ComiXology

IndyPlanet

Instagram

Julie Cantrell—Award-winning NYT & USA Today Bestselling Novelist, Literacy Advocate, and Public Speaker

I met Julie in Bloom, the readers group for Tall Poppy authors. She exudes positivity and encourages everyone to be their best selves, enlightening us with her expertise and wisdom. Listen to her TEDx talk: Know Thyself: Two Questions That Will Change Your Life. Julie is a ray of sunshine through the clouds. Her novels take on tough issues, focusing on relationships and communication, with unconditional compassion. If you’re Christian, you’ll appreciate that her faith is woven throughout her novels and her children’s books. I believe Julie lives her faith.

 

Elaborate upon your writing process.

My process has been different for each book. When my children were younger, I wrote while they were sleeping, never wanting to miss a moment of motherhood. I have had various stages of my writing life, usually squeezing the work into the wee hours of the morning before I would start my hectic day as mother, teacher, speech-language pathologist, organic farmer, etc. Now, I am grateful to be writing and editing full-time. My children are grown, and the entire process is much less intense. I tend to go with the flow and let the creative dance take me where it pleases.

 

Describe your publishing process, including your publishing team.

Oh, goodness. I could write an entire book explaining the countless people involved in getting a story from an author’s brain to a reader’s hands. It truly is an incredibly complex process, and I learn something new about it every day.

 

Tell me about your support system and how you came to be a Tall Poppy.

I’m incredibly honored to be a part of the Tall Poppy Writers. As female authors, we cheer one another through the many hurdles involved in publishing, always eager to elevate one another’s work and to lift our voices as a united tribe. Since daring to publish my first books, I have found most authors to be extremely supportive and encouraging at every turn. It’s been a wonderful career, and the best part about it has been the positive relationships I have been blessed to form with writers and readers alike. Fabulous people at every turn.

It’s wonderful how you use your author platform as a medium to serve others through education, disseminating information and raising awareness for social issues. Explain the intertwining of your life, advocacy, and writing.

Thank you, Lael. I do believe in the healing power of story, and I try to give voice to those whose truths have been silenced or shamed. I don’t shy away from difficult topics, but I also believe a “spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down,” and I try never to be voyeuristic or profane.

My work has tackled tricky issues such as domestic violence, sexual assault, mental illness, suicide, human trafficking, etc. I have been inspired by the many positive reader responses I have received through the years, the conversations my stories have sparked in book club meetings, and the impact these fictional tales have had on the lives of many.

I am passionate about encouraging others to live the life they were born to live, to establish healthy relationships, and to know the difference between “love” and abuse. If my stories help people heal, find freedom, or love one another, then I am grateful to play a small part of that process.

 

 

What do you love most about your creativity?

As a very young girl, I learned to rely on writing as my way of processing the world around me. I can’t imagine my life without a creative outlet. I spend hours every day reading and writing. It’s just part of my very being. Aside from writing, I also enjoy painting, gardening, creating music, and taking part in other creative activities. While I’m not very good at doing any of them, I never allow my limited abilities stop me from enjoying the creative process.


Honestly, I believe we have each been given creative tools to help guide our emotional and spiritual development. These tools help us manage anxiety, establish greater levels of empathy for others, and develop a broader understanding of our place in this miraculous universe.

 

 

I encourage everyone to create something every single day. Whether it’s a meal, a photograph, a song, a piece of furniture , a quilt, or a story… offer something new to this world that no one else can offer. Explore your talents and see where your gifts will take you. I dare you!

 

 

Connect with Julie:

Website

Amazon Author Page

Barnes & Noble

Goodreads

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

Pinterest

Kelly Simmons—Authoress of Thrillers / Mysteries

 

I met Kelly in Bloom, the Tall Poppy author collective readers’ page on Facebook. She’s friendly, frank, and a talented writer. Here’s my review of One More Day. Take a peek into her magic making, which turns out to be quite pragmatic. I’m so pleased to share her process and work with readers.

 

 

 

 

Describe your writing process, including schedule, environment, and inspirations material and intangible. What’s in your office? What’s in your head?

Oh, my head is a very dangerous place! Hahaha. I don’t have a physical office; our house is not that big. I tend to take over coffee tables with laptop, books for research, books for blurbing, books to be sent for marketing purposes. I don’t need a room, a view, a special pen, a desk. I can write on a train, at a café, or at someone else’s dining room table. I put in the hours wherever I am, and am not precious about conditions, ever.

 

Walk me through your publishing process, elaborating upon marketing and what you as the author do to promote your book. What surprised you about the process? What surprised you about your marketing responsibility? Honestly, not much has surprised me, because I work in marketing, and I was part of a vast writers’ community before publication, and I was warned! So all the things that may overwhelm others–build a website, participate in social media, book your own signings, etc.–none of that fazes me. I guess what surprised me though, was the lack of enthusiasm from a lot of bookstores and libraries. In many cases, no one gives a sh—t about your book. Doesn’t matter how big your publisher is, how many great reviews you got, or even if you wrote it in their library. If you’re not famous, many people just don’t care. They don’t want to put you on a panel, they don’t want to do an event, they don’t want your bookmarks, they’re like, meh. There are too many writers, traditionally published and self-published, and they are inundated, and they don’t care. That being said, some booksellers are wildly supportive. You have to focus on the positives, yet be prepared for the negatives. And not take any of it personally. The business, and the internet, have created a world where being an author is not that special anymore. Everybody’s an author.

 

Tell me about your support system online—how you became a Tall Poppy—and IRL, expounding upon the Liars Club and other organizations to which you contribute. Who are your biggest cheerleaders? Well, The Liars Club is an author support and mentoring group. It’s published writers helping the unpublished, and guiding them to resources. We run free monthly networking meetings in I think, at last count, maybe 15 cities across the U.S. We also run a weekly podcast, and interview all kinds of people related to the business, which is super fun. And The Tall Poppies are an author marketing collective, and that’s about marketing savvy and selling books in innovative ways. That’s about readers, and adding value. I also have a ton of writer friends from literary magazines, colleges, workshops, and writers’ conferences, who write in lots of different modalities–and I value those friendships dearly. When young writers say to me, what’s the first step? I always say, find community. Writing is lonely, and publishing is tough. You need drinking companions.

 

 

I think you are maybe on your third or fourth career; how have previous positions prepared you for the writing life. How does your writing influence your life?

I started out in journalism and swiftly made a switch to advertising, for financial reasons. I still work in advertising, for financial reasons haha, and weirdly, when you get published, there’s a sudden entrée to writing articles and essays, so there’s always a tad of journalism here and there. The deadlines and editing abilities from both advertising and journalism are excellent warm-ups for publishing. You just get on with it. You put your ass in a chair. You slash whole paragraphs and chapters to make something fit a space. You don’t wait for inspiration; it’s due tomorrow!

One More Day in Turkish

 

 

What do you love most about your creativity? I just enjoy making things. I always have. I liked art projects and high-concept things in school. I like to knit. I like to refinish furniture. My dad went to architecture school and built the house I grew up in; I know I get it from him. It’s satisfying to hold that book in your hand, just like woodworking or anything else. I’m a whittler!

 

 

Connect with Kelly:

kellysimmonsbooks.com

Amazon Author Page

Goodreads

Facebook

Twitter

Susan Bishop Crispell—Tall Poppy Author of Magical Realism

 

When I inquired after authors of speculative fiction / magical realism in Tall Poppy Authors’ Facebook group Bloom, I was given Susan’s name. She immediately sent me her books to review and graciously agreed to an interview. Susan is unique in many ways and I’m excited to share her peek-behind-the-scenes magic with readers.

 

Describe your writing process—schedule, environment, strategies / techniques, and inspirations. What is in your office? Who is in your head? What are tricks that keep you writing?

Once I have the spark of an idea I’m excited to write, I brainstorm the characters, their motivation and stakes, and what their overall arc will be. I usually know the opening lines of the story before I sit down to draft, which helps set the tone for everything to come. Then I write up a full outline (I use Scrivener to plot out each chapter and scene description) and export the outline so I can put it in a workable format in Word. This outline changes a dozen or so times as I write, because I learn more about the characters as I’m drafting, but I can’t write without it!

My actual butt-in-chair-hands-on-keys writing process usually involves me getting up at 5:30 AM and writing for an hour and a half before working my day job. Some days, it’s all about fitting in writing time where I can. I try for 1,000 words a day and use Writeometer (a phone app) to track my progress and force myself to focus for 25-minute stretches. In the evenings, if I haven’t hit my word count, I write until I do. I also have playlists specific to each manuscript; I write and listen to that mix while I’m writing. Sometimes, I’ll listen to one song on repeat if it’s really connecting with the scene I’m working on, but most of the time, it’s just the whole playlist running quietly in the background to give my story a solid emotional base.

Detail the publishing process from final draft to final product, who does what along the way, and exactly what you contribute as the author to marketing your novels.

Each publishing house has their own intricacies, but I think they all follow the same overall process. Here’s how things went for me at St. Martin’s Press. After I sold my first book The Secret Ingredient of Wishes to St. Martin’s/Thomas Dunne Books, I received an edit letter and initial round of edits, developmental edits, from my fabulous editor, Kat Brzozowski. These were focused on overall character, plot, and pacing. Kat didn’t want any major structural changes, so it wasn’t as intense as it could have been. I worked through those comments in track changes in Word and replied to all of her comments within the document so she could clearly see the changes when I sent it back to her.

Next came line edits. In this round of editing, Kat made suggestions and changes at the sentence level to help with clarity and word choice and flow, and I updated the manuscript as needed based on those notes. From there, the book went to the copyeditor, who went through the book with a fine-tooth comb, marking inconsistencies (for example, a character said something on page 10 but something on page 200 seemed to contradict it), places where I used the same word within a short span, questioning confusing/unclear sentences, and generally cleaning up anything that was out of place. After copy edits, I received my first pass pages, the typeset/designed book printed out for hardcopy edits. (At this point, it’s the last chance to make any changes to a book.) The production team incorporated my changes into the designed text and sent it off to the proofreader, who sent me a handful of final questions/clarifications before it was out of my hands for good.

With all the edits complete, it was time to shift the focus to marketing. The design team created a cover I adore. The only input I had was to tell them up front I wanted a pie on the cover (since the book involves magical, secret-keeping pie!). I’m sure they did a few mock ups of different ideas before deciding on the final one, but I did not see anything until the final cover. I worked with the marketing team to write a few articles that they placed with blogs and websites as part of a blog tour around my release date, and they designed bookmarks and social media teasers for me to use as well. They also hosted two 100-book giveaways on Goodreads, which got my book out there to bloggers, reviewers, and readers and generated buzz ahead of launch. Outside of their efforts, I hosted giveaways and created my own graphics to promote the book online and set up a local book signing.

For the marketing of my second book, Dreaming in Chocolate, I took a little more control and hired an outside PR company to help me. They worked with my internal team at St. Martin’s to coordinate reviews, placement of essays I wrote, and sending review copies to bloggers and readers.

Tell me about your support system online and IRL, including how you came to be a Tall Poppy (which is amazing to me!). Who are your biggest cheerleaders?

Writing is such a solitary activity, but being a writer is so much about the community! I have a small group of critique partners (CPs) who I’ve been connected with for about five years. We share our work, help each other through writing slumps, and cheer each other on. We’ve become very close friends over the years and I can’t imagine writing without them helping me through it.

Another group I am grateful for is the Pitch Wars community. For those who don’t know, Pitch Wars is a mentoring program, started by Brenda Drake, that matches unagented writers with more writers who are a little farther down the publishing path. I was selected as a mentee by the lovely Karma Brown in 2014, and she was instrumental in helping me turn The Secret Ingredient of Wishes into something an agent (and eventually an editor) would love. We spent two months tearing the manuscript apart and rebuilding it. I learned so much from her, it was literally life changing. Now, I’m about to start my third year of being a mentor and cannot wait to be able to help another writer on their writing journey.

Karma is also how I became a Tall Poppy. She was a Poppy at the time and though I had heard of them, I didn’t really know much about the group or the writers who made it up. But I was so impressed with this group of women whose main goal was to lift up and promote other women writers. It’s part social group, part marketing collective. And it’s 100% amazing. The industry knowledge within the group makes going through the ups and downs of publishing so much easier to understand. And these ladies are fiercely supportive, personally and professionally. It’s such an honor to be a part of this group and know that I’m not alone in all of this publishing life!

And our Facebook group, Bloom, is such a delight. We get to interact with readers, get to know them, and let them get to know us. We’ve made so many friendships within that group, and it’s incredible how the members of Bloom seem to love the community as much as we do.

How does your life influence your art and vice versa, and how did magic enter your stories? How are food and magic connected for you?

It’s impossible for me to write and not put some part of me on the page. Sometimes I do it deliberately, picking a friend’s last name to use for a character or having a barbecue festival occur in the story because I grew up in Tennessee with beef barbecue and sweet, tomato-based sauce but now live in Eastern North Carolina where it’s all pork and vinegar-based sauce. And other times, I don’t even mean to, but then I read back through I find hints of my life sprinkled throughout.

German translation of “The Secret Ingredient of Wishes”

As for the magic, I love the idea that there could be magic in the real world. And in a world that is so dark at times, I wanted an escape. I wanted to be someplace that was quirky and whimsical and full of awe. The magic is also a way for me to help my characters find themselves and their way home, where or whatever home may be. It offers a strange obstacle for them to go up against in pursuit of their true selves. And it’s a little bit of wish fulfillment for me because I get to play with the rules of the real world and see what life could be like if someone could make wishes come true just by thinking about them or making hot chocolate that predict the future! Combining food with magic just seemed to fit. They work so well together and writing about food is a lot of fun because it’s something everyone can relate to. We all have our comfort foods and meals that are part of the fabric of our families and lives. Food might be a basic necessity of life, but it’s also deeply connected to emotions, which help make my stories come to life.

What do you love most about your creativity?

I love that my creativity is always there, beneath the surface of my thoughts. It’s always watching and listening and soaking in what’s going on around me, and then suddenly one day it offers up a story idea that I am so in love with I can’t wait to start writing. That’s not to say, writing is always a breeze and I never get blocked, because I definitely do. And those days, I wonder if maybe everything I’ve done has just been a fluke. But I can almost always find my way back into the story or character after giving my creativity a chance to refuel itself.

Connect with Susan:

Website: http://www.susanbishopcrispell.com/
Blog: https://susanbishopcrispell.wordpress.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/SBCrispell
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorSusanBishopCrispell
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/sbcrispell/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sbcrispell/

Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/Susan-Bishop-Crispell/e/B00HX8MEDI

Goodreads author page: https://www.goodreads.com/SBCrispell

Angela Slatter—Award-winning Fantasy Author

I became familiar with Angela through her short story collections, which I believe are brilliant. Then I found her on Facebook and she is super nice. So, after fangirling like crazy, I asked her for an interview, and a new favorite author of mine is on my little blog. If you love speculative fiction, fairytales (think Grimm, not Disney), and suspenseful horror, read Angela Slatter’s work, which can be find on her website, Goodreads, and Amazon (links below). She launches now Restoration, the third book in her urban fantasy series starring Verity Fassbinder.

Tell me about your writing process: schedule, environment, inspirations abstract and material, and strategies, techniques, nuances, secrets, or magic spells. How does this differ for creating a novel versus short stories?

I always need to have an image or a line or a character…sometimes I don’t know what the story is going to be, but I do have a really strong image or action in mind, so I’ll start writing from there. I don’t “push” at it, just let the words roll out and give me some idea of what might be happening with this character or in this place, or the consequences of this act. Sometimes I know exactly what will happen in the story, and I’ll just write the whole thing in a day or twoalas, that’s pretty rare!

I have a bunch of notebooks I scribble ideas into, also post-its, and occasionally cocktail napkins with rambling notations slightly smudged by whiskey. I have a desktop in the office, but I also carry the laptop around the house; sometimes I write by the pool; sometimes I sit in front of the television, ignore the program, and just write (but those are times when I kind of want “white noise”). Sometimes I write to music, but that’s generally if a project’s been inspired by song lyrics or a tune.

When I’m writing a novel, there’s a lot more planning required—I have a spreadsheet that I use to get myself to the turning points in the story. They’re always just suggestions (like the Pirates’ Code), but they give me goalposts to write towards, and they can and generally do change depending on how the story progresses. Short stories—I always just have a rough idea of a three act structure, but I don’t worry too much about that in the first draft—I just brainvomit it out, and then the editing phase is where everything gets made “pretty” and logical.

Alas, I have no magical spells, but I do have some figurines on my desk that are my guardians: one Roman centurion, an elephant, the Goddess Bast, and a faun’s head. Plus, pinned over my desk are poems and sayings that are meaningful to me, a photo of my mum and I when I was about one, and a card from my mentee…so I guess those are my objects of comfort that I like to have around when I write.

 

 

Walk me through the publishing process from final draft to final product, including publishing team and what you do to market your books as the author. What is the difference in publishing a short story collection?

Well, collections such as Winter Children and Other Chilling Tales and A Feast of Sorrows, and the new (as yet unannounced) Best Stories of Angela Slatter, have generally come together when I’ve got a body of stories that have been published only once, and I write a couple more new unpublished ones, then I approach a nice small press and see if they’re interested. So far I’ve been very lucky.

With Sourdough and Other Stories and The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings, they are both mostly new stories with a couple of reprints in them. I was lucky enough to have had Tartarus Press pick up two stories for their Strange Tales anthologies, so when I finished putting Sourdough together, I approached Rosalie Parker to see if she and Ray were interested in the collection; fortunately they were! Same thing with Bitterwood, and they are waiting very patiently for the third mosaic in the series, The Tallow-Wife and Other Tales.

With The Girl with No Hands and Other Tales, the publisher at Ticonderoga approached me to see if I’d like to put together a mostly reprint collection. That came out about a week after Sourdough. The other two collections that I’ve written, Midnight and Moonshine and The Female Factory with Lisa L. Hannett, came about because we had been throwing around Norse-inflicted stories for M&M and had approached Ticonderoga about publishing that collection; The Female Factory came about because the editor at Twelfth Planet Press asked if we’d contribute to her Twelve Planets mini-collection series.

Basically, because I made my name with short stories at the start of my career, and some won awards, I was in a position where publishers often approached me.

Novels are different— if you’re working with a large publishing house; it helps if you’ve got an agent to make representations on your behalf. I was fortunate that Jo Fletcher of Jo Fletcher Books had already published some of my short fiction in anthologies by Stephen Jones. She knew what I could do and was interested to see how my writing translated to longer form, and she waited patiently to find out! I’m fortunate in her as an editor, as she’s got such a broad range of experience and knowledge, so she generally gets what I’m trying to do and suggests the best ways forward.

Describe your support system—online and IRL; who are your biggest cheerleaders?

My family are always there for me, whether it’s to listen to me cry, or to listen to good news. My friend Lisa L. Hannett always has the pompoms out, and my beta readers Peter M. Ball and Alan Baxter are great sounding boards. And Kathleen Jennings, my frequent illustrator, is also a terrific person to talk to as she’s very calm. My housemates and their dogs look after me, and make sure I’m fed and watered regularly, and other friends make sure I leave the house at regular intervals, so I remember how to put on trousers the right way and talk to other human beings!

 

I’ve also got a fantastic group of readers and reviewers who seem to enjoy what I do, and on the difficult days, it can really help just to find a sweet tweet about how much they’re enjoying one of my books, especially the days when I decide I’m a terrible writer and decide to sit under the desk, rocking back and forth, and eating a packet of TimTams.

 

 

 

How does your life influence your work and vice versa, and how do speculative elements drive your stories? I love your short stories’ unique connections to fairytales and Grimm-esque ambience. What draws you to the darkness?

I was at the Bendigo Writers Festival this weekend just gone and that question about darkness came up a lot! My mother used to read me fairy tales, and they were the proper old Grimm ones, so they made a lasting impression. And my father was a police officer, and he used to leave his police journals around, which had reports of murder investigations and autopsy photos in them, and as I was a voracious reader from a young age, I saw a lot of interesting things! I have always been obsessed with true crime, and reading crime novels is what I do as a “break” from my usual genres. But I read it so much I think that it bleeds through into everything I write, subtly or otherwise.

 

I’m fascinated by things that go bump in the night, things that we don’t expect and can’t explain…I guess I’m just the sort of person who’s going to take the darker path in the woods (but I am also smart enough to pack a very sharp axe)…

 

What do you love most about your creativity?

I love that I can escape from whatever is going on in the world that’s bothering me, for a while at least. It gives me a bit of respite where I can sort things out, take a breather, and work out some solutions rather than feeling panicked or pressured all the time. I love that I get to create worlds, that I am making stories other people are loving. I especially love that I get to be part of a long line of fairy talers, that I have had stories handed on to me—I will re-work them to my own tastes, and then I’ll pass them on to someone new, who will continue to pass them on and transform them. That makes me happy.

 

Connect with Angela and purchase books:

Kimberly Brock—Award-winning Author, Literacy Educator, and Founder of Tinderbox Writers Retreat

 

I met Kimberly through Bloom, the Facebook group for Tall Poppy writers and their readers. If you’re looking for reading material, this author collective has writers of many genres and styles. Since I love speculative fiction, I asked Kimberly for an interview and she graciously agreed to share a little peek into the magic that is writing. Enjoy! And join Bloom if you’d love to a part of a community of stories and supportive human beings.

 

Describe your writing process—schedule, environment, inspirations—and everything you do as an author beyond writing.

Almost always, I start with a place, because setting is so important in my writing, and a problem. I love the peculiar or unexplained. Outliers and underdogs are always my favorite characters and often a voice comes to me with a line or two of dialogue or narrative that will send me off to learn that person’s story. In fiction and in real life, I can’t stand not knowing why. I’m a bloodhound for the whole story.

In terms of my writing day, I’m not a morning person, so I usually work during the late morning and through lunch while my kids are in school. When I’m drafting a story, I can write through the day without realizing the hours have passed. I love research and I have to be careful I don’t get lost in it. I often go through many drafts of a novel before I find the real heart of what I’m trying to say and that means it takes me quite a while to complete a book. Luckily, I have an agent who encourages me to dig deep and likes being part of my process.

When I’m not writing–and trust me, I’m always writing–I spend my time with my family. I have three children–a daughter who is entering college this fall, a son who is a rising senior in high school, and a second son who is entering fifth grade. We have two dogs–a cairn terrier and a rescue dachshund. My husband and I love to cook and travel, and our favorite spots to visit are Savannah, Georgia, Charleston, South Carolina, and the occasional trip to the Pacific Northwest, where we lived early in our marriage. We’ve been to France a few times and lately we’ve been talking a lot about Cornwall and Wales. Maybe someday!

Walk me through the publishing process from final draft to final product, everyone involved, and what you do yourself to promote your new books.

I think my experience in publishing is pretty typical. I spent many years at work on multiple manuscripts, submitting queries to agents and entering contests. I was very lucky to sign with an agent, but I sold my first novel on my own to a small press and it was a lovely experience. My editor and I and a copy editor worked together to get the book in the best shape possible before it went to press.

After the novel was in the world, I went to work making use of all the networking I’d done over the years prior to publishing–relationships I fostered with generous book bloggers and fellow writers–and I sought out every way I could find to put the book in front of as many readers as possible. The novel won the Georgia Author of the Year award, and I went on a book tour across the southeastern US and visited as many independent bookstores as I could. They are the fairy godmothers of authors and readers!

You are a member of the Tall Poppies author collective. Tell me how that happened and about your support system online and IRL; who are your biggest cheerleaders?

A few years ago, Orly Konig invited me to lead a workshop for the Women’s Fiction Writer’s Association’s first retreat. Over that weekend, I learned about the Tall Poppies from author Kathryn Craft and got excited about the group. I had lunch with Amy Impellizerri before we left the airport and I absolutely adored her, too. I was delighted when they invited me to be a part of this inspiring group of women authors. They are absolutely my support system online AND IRL!

Patti Callahan Henry and Amy Nathan have been longtime supporters and friends. Outside of Poppies, Allison Law, Joshilyn Jackson, Sally Kilpatrick, Nicki Salcedo, Heather Bell Adams, Gina Heron, Reta Hampton, Shari Smith, Marybeth Whalen and Ariel Lawhon have encouraged me so much along the way. Emily Carpenter and MJ Pullen know where all the bodies are buried. There are so many more! I know I’m leaving so many people out.

The short stories on your website evoke your Southern Gothic style; they are a wonderful introduction to your writing. How does your life influence your art—and vice versa, and how did speculative elements find their way into your storytelling?

Thanks! The short stories are like little treats for myself that I hope readers enjoy. In them, I allow myself to just play with the magical elements that I love in my favorite stories. My novels aren’t so heavy with magical elements, although they are most definitely present. I love the inexplicable.

I think my world view comes through in my writing and my choice to always force characters to examine what they think they believe and especially what they are willing to accept without concrete evidence. I like to challenge black and white ideas and I’m interested in what exists in the gray areas. I grew up and have lived most of my adult life in the South where ghosts and spirits, religion and superstition are a part of everyday conversation. I’m a very intuitive person. I think I could hardly write anything else.

What do you love most about your creativity?

Over the years, I’ve heard so many writers lament a loss of creativity in their lives. I don’t adhere to that idea. I believe that people are inherently creative by nature. Like any other natural ability, we have to be healthy in other areas of our lives in order to function at our best and creativity is no different. There are months when my creativity seems dormant, but it’s easy to know why if I look at other areas of my life–my physical or psychological health.

The most amazing thing I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older is that the answer to reviving my creativity is engaging in creativity. It’s self-healing. The more I allow myself to be freely creative, the more my physical and psychological health also improve. If I neglect my creativity, everything else goes downhill with it. It’s imperative for a full life.

I started the Tinderbox Writers Workshops, which led to an annual retreat, based on these ideas and my own experiences. Every year, writers meet on the South Carolina coast for a week of inspiration, friendship, writing and transformation. It’s one of my favorite things and truly the most rewarding part of my writing journey.

FORTUNE’S KEY. I contributed a short story to a new collection this February. The best part – all proceeds of the ebook sales for the anthology A CUP OF LOVE, go to First Book, a children’s literacy charity. ONLY $2.99! Give a little love, get a little love! And I’d love to know what you think of Phoebe and Henry!

Connect with Kimberly:

Website

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

Goodreads

Amazon

Bookbub

 

Sullivan Suad—Comic Artist

 

 

I met Sullivan through a writerly Facebook friend who hires him to illustrate his stories. His work is fantastic, so I asked him for an interview. He graciously agreed, and here I can share his work with you and offer a peek behind the scenes at his artistic process.

 

 

Describe your artistic process—schedule, materials, studio, and inspirations.

Let’s start with inspiration—my inspiration comes from everything I’ve read that I’ve seen and lived. It comes from all that. The comic gave me everything, gave me my work, gave my culture, gave the taste for reading; the comic led me to like various things. Although my family did not encourage me much, the first time I won a comic, I found it fascinating. I thought, “This is what I want to do.” While other kids said they wanted to be doctors, lawyers, or football players, I said I wanted to work for Marvel drawing Spider-Man. HAHAHA!!! My studio is my bedroom. Here I work and develop everything. The materials I use are conventional—I am still learning to adapt to the use of technologies. The creative process comes when the script itself arrives; you read and begin to internalize the scenes. So I do. I imagine it and play it all on paper soon.

 

Tell me about your support system, online and in real life.

I can say that who supports me in my work, both in real life and online, is my teammate Zilson Costa. It has been a few years since we started an excellent partnership, and this has paid us good results. Our production chain begins when the client sends us the script, and it comes to me that I make only the pencil sketch. After I do the drawing, I send it to Zilson, who puts in the ink.

 

How do you obtain clients, and is all your work specific to clients?

I already have some specific clients, others are by indication. But I am always divulging my portfolio to get new jobs.

How does your life influence your art and vice versa?

I counted on the influence of several friends, also comic book fans–who were an incentive for me to gradually learn everything as a self-taught artist. The inspiration came from Marvel and DC Comics.

 

What do you love most about your creativity?

It may seem heresy on my part, but I love my profession, because it is like playing a little god. You create, give a life to a character, and lead a whole universe of possibilities—it is something incredible. I wanted to finish here and leave a positive message about all this: Never stop studying, the market is always changing and you need to update. If you do not practice every day, you will surely miss an opportunity for someone who practices every day. As for the financial part, those who work with comics can earn as well as any other professional in another area. It only depends on it, not only as a drawer, but as a person who knows how to take advantage of the opportunities; after all if you follow a career for the status of that money always, there would not be so many lawyers changing branches. The beginning is always complicated, no matter the area or profession. You will grate, you will work double, and you will receive little. But if you sneak in and keep on evolving your work, believe me—there’s never going to be a lack of opportunity and money can be interesting.

 

Connect with Sullivan

Facebook

Google+

Goodreads Author page

 

Zilson Costa—Freelance Comic Artist and Illustrator

I met Zilson Costa through an author Facebook friend, who hires him as an illustrator. I’d asked about the work, because it’s so bold and detailed, almost jumping from the page. Fortunately, Zilson agreed to an interview, so here are his words and his work:

 

 

 

Carolina Daemonic 2 Back Cover Suad n- Zilson

 

Describe your artistic process. When do you draw? What materials do you use? Do you have a dedicated studio? What are your inspirations?

I draw every day. I do this since childhood, but since 2012, I work as a comics professional in Brazil and the United States. I use pencil, paper, and my interactive pen tablet display to make inks and colors. I do this in my own studio, in my house. My main inspirations are the comics of John Buscema, Jack Kirby and the dynamism of the 90’s.

 

Through what avenues do you obtain commercial work?

Most of the work I do is through e-mails and social media networks, when I contact authors and vice versa.

Also, I create my own characters. I publish my own comics with the characters Skull-Man and Brazilian Legion of Super-Heroes, and in August, I will publish the comics inspired by my own band, Evil Machines.

 

Sharkman by Suád n- Zilson

 

 

Tell me about your support system, online and in real life. Who are your biggest cheerleaders?

In fact, my wife and friends have always supported me in my work.

 

 

 

childrencover-2

 

How does your life influence your art and vice versa?

I try to put in my work what I like. I like harmony, clarity and try to pass this on in my work. But I also really like superheroes. My art influences my life when I teach drawing techniques to my elementary school students and I see them growing as people. This is very rewarding.

 

 

Brutal Bazaar Cover colors

 

 

What do you love most about your creativity?

Like drawing, coloring, composing songs, playing my guitar… A lot of stuff.

 

 

 

 

Links and Bio:

Website

About Zilson

Facebook

 

Zilson Costa has been a comic book author since 1996, a founding member of the RHQ Factor group. Born in São Luís, Maranhão, Brazil, he created the character Skull-Man and his entire universe based on experiences and people from school age. He works as a comic book professional since 2012 for American publishers, webcomics, and Brazilian authors. His first work for the US market was the story “The Origin of Shazrath” by the publisher Argo Comics. He holds an academic degree in Plastic Arts from the Federal University of Maranhão and teaches the art discipline at municipal schools in São Luís and São José de Ribamar. He is also a guitar player and founding member of the heavy metal band Evil Machines.

Paula D. Ashe—Educator and Writer

 

 

I met Paula through a writerly friend on Facebook. One story of hers and I’m hooked. She graciously agreed to an interview. As a horror fan, I’m delighted to share her work.

 

 

Describe your writing process: schedule, medium, environment, strategies / techniques, and inspirations mental, emotional, and material.

So, I used to be one of those writers who thought she had the luxury of waiting until she was in a certain setting, in a certain mood, with the certainty of uninterrupted hours available, before she could write anything. Then that writer never wrote anything, so now I write whenever I can, provided I’m mentally able to do so. My most recent short story publication was “Exile in Extremis” in the anthology Visions from the Void by Burdizzo Books. I wrote the bulk of the first draft of that story on my phone.

I wish I could tell you I have a schedule, I really do. I will someday.

It’s sweet that you think I have strategies and techniques. I mean, I’m sure I have them, I just am not self-reflective enough as a writer to know what they are.

Inspirations are abundant. I never run out of story ideas, I run out of the energy to tell them. I tend to write about the worst of humanity so, never a paucity of material, you know? Emotionally, I’m inspired by real-life stories that make me hurt. And like any sensitive/damaged person, I experience a pleasurable frisson from exploring that pain. So…a story like “All the Hellish Cruelties of Heaven,” which is about an immortal witch who falls in love with a serial killer (the story is much cooler than I’m making it sound), gave me the chance to play around with figuring out why people—or at least I—have such a fascination with humans who wantonly destroy other humans. It also gave me the opportunity to incrementally articulate the belief system / mythology that has been pocketed in most of my fiction without much fanfare.

Talk me through the publishing process from final draft to final product and selling—who’s involved, what they do, and how much you contribute, especially to marketing.

So the process is basically like this (a flowchart would work exceptionally well here):

– An editor invites me to sub something.

– I review the guidelines, especially the deadline, because I am the slowest writer on planet Earth.

– I scan my ‘stories in progress’ folder, to see if there’s anything I’m working in that fits the anthology’s theme. Rarely do things match up.

– I cogitate.

– I write. I’m sure this is supposed to be more exciting, but it’s just not. But it’s also the most exciting part.

– I inevitably miss the deadline because I’m me.

– I ask for an extension and am usually granted one (read: several).

– I submit the final draft, knowing it’s the final draft only because I’ve prodded that exposed nerve of a tale until it’s a bloodied pulp. All that’s left is the thrill of knowing the story will (likely) go on to intrigue and/or hurt other people. I honestly have no idea why I’m like this and I don’t want to know.

– Rarely, edits are requested. When they are, I generally comply. It’s the only benefit of being the slowest writer on Earth; I tend to do a thorough job of proofreading.

– Publication day! I post about it on social media, predominately Facebook. I’m really terrible at marketing.

– I let the editors ask for reviews because I feel weird asking people to review my work. If they want to read it and review it, they will. This is also why no one knows who I am..????‍♀️

Who’s your support system, online and IRL? Does it shift as you progress from writing to publishing to marketing?

First of all, my wife is amazingly supportive throughout the process. I’m in several FB writing groups that offer support—Colors in Darkness and Ladies of Horror, and individually: Chris Ropes, Brian Barr, Crystal Connor, Suzi Madron, Eden Royce, and Christine Sutton, to name a dear few (I’m forgetting so many people and I’m sorry).

How does your writing influence your life and vice versa? Did this change when you became a mother?

So, I am a maudlin MF (I don’t know if I can curse in this interview…). I have…a multitude of mental illnesses—have had them since adolescence. My worldview is reflective of that. I write terrible stories about terrible people doing terrible things because…that’s how I have (by degrees) experienced the world. Now it’s not all been horrible, but the stuff that lingers…skews towards the dark. So, I love horror. I write horror, I read horror, I watch horror movies, I listen to true horror and true crime podcasts, I listen to dark and violent music (I listen to all sorts of music but there’s a theme here, yeah?).

I am a writer of the ‘nothing is off limits, provided there’s a reason’ variety. I’ve written about childhood sexual abuse, incest, necrophilia (all in one story!), serial killers, hate crimes, infanticide, mutilation, matricide, racism, patricide, ableism, religious cults, genocide, misogyny, xenophobia, etc. However, since my son was born, if I have a story where something…bad…happens to an infant or small child, my brain immediately substitutes him as that infant or small child. So, I have a sequel to “All the Hellish Cruelties of Heaven” in the works titled, “All the Heavenly Mercies of Hell” and something…bad…happens to an infant in that story, and although I’ve had most of the full story in my head for years, I just can’t bring myself to write it.

But I’ll have to.

 

What do you love most about your creativity?

I rarely meet an idea I don’t like. I mean, there are plenty of half-started stories that I’ve abandoned for one reason or another, but there’s always some part of it I can appreciate. For that reason I save everything I write, because it often will work its way into another, more promising tale.

Author Extra: Write a flash fiction piece right now! 50 words, ma’am!

Someday she’ll remember. Now there’s only waiting. For what, she also can’t remember. This dim, cold, aching place has no secrets. Others like her—more patient, smarter—hidden in apartments with devoted lovers. She dosed there in the hall. Alone. Paralyzing pain.

Now she sits. Forgotten and forgetting.

 

Connect with Paula:

Facebook

Twitter

Goodreads Author page

Amazon Author page

 

 

A small selection showcasing her talent:

7Magpies anthology

The Witness

Aspects of Emptiness