Category Archives: Artist Interviews

Jenny Jaeckel—Author and Illustrator

Jenny Jaeckel is the author of House of Rougeaux, her debut novel, which made Bitch Media’s 25 Must Read Books of 2018 list. Her previous titles include For the Love of Meat: Nine Illustrated Stories and Siberiak: My Cold War Adventure on the River Ob. In 2016, Jaeckel published the graphic memoir Spot 12: Five Months in the Neonatal ICU, which was the winner of the 2017 Next Generation Indie Book Awards and a 2016 finalist in the Foreword Indies Book Awards. She has worked as a translator, an editor, a Spanish teacher, a graphic arts teacher, and an illustrator. Jaeckel is currently working on her second novel, yet to be named, a continuation of the Rougeaux family epic.

And she agreed to be on my little blogblogblog! If you haven’t read House of Rougeaux, I recommend you remedy that as soon as possible—must be ready for the sequel. Links to connect with Jenny and purchase her books follow the interview.

Tell me about your writing process, the mechanics of it, schedule, strategies to keep you going, where you write, research procedures, and what inspirations surround you or motivate you.

Wow, where to start… All the aspects of the process, whether internal or external are quite varied. As a writer, I have to have a whole mental “team” going on: the passionate one, the researcher, the emotional digger/investigator, the critic, the cheerleader, the scheduler, etc. etc. My biggest inspirations are my favorite books, the ones I love with all my heart and soul, and have made me want to be a writer in the first place. I always aspire to those literary heroes. They function like my North Star. I may be down in my clunky little rowboat, with my one broken oar, paddling furiously and getting nowhere, but when I look up, at least I know where I’m trying to go. J.D. Salinger, Toni Morrison, Merce Rodoreda, Eduardo Galeano, and Edith Wharton are some that I return to again and again.

Tell me about the publishing process, including your publishing team, and your responsibilities as the author.

One of the most key parts of the process for me is working with my editor, Neesa Sonoquie. When I first showed her the manuscript for House of Rougeaux, I thought it was in pretty good shape. I’d already gotten some feedback from readers I trusted and done a lot of revising. But I had not worked with Neesa before. She absolutely demolished it. I’d sent off a book and got back confetti. It was humbling, but it turned out to be a transcendent moment. The revision process transformed the book and made me grow tremendously as a writer.

I am currently in such a moment again, because Neesa has just demolished a draft of my next book—a coming-of-age/love story that will be finished before the House of Rougeaux sequel (I’m still working on a first draft of the Rougeaux sequel.) What a good editor does is see the book you are trying to write inside the draft, which is full of wrong detours and other flaws. The demolition is all about cutting the crap so you can get to the true heart of the matter. It’s challenging but very exciting.

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

I don’t exactly have a cheerleading squad, but I have a small group of friends and acquaintances who have, at one time or another, said, or written some very wonderful things about how my work has touched them. When I get this in an email, for example, I print it out and put in on the wall by my bed, where I have a little collection, and when I get discouraged, I read them over and over. I also talk pretty regularly with three writer friends of mine. Though we all deal in different genres, the process and the struggle are the same, and being able to engage in that mutual support is essential. My lovely family is very supportive too. My partner and child give me regular feedback on my blog posts and written interviews (like right this second).

I know you’ve written about a difficult time in your life through a graphic memoir as part of coping and healing. In what other ways has your life influenced your art and vice versa? How do you choose your subject matter?

Art and life have a complete interface for me, like body and mind, or heads and tails sides of a coin. My first three books were all memoirs, the next two pure fiction, so while my relationships to all those topics varied, it was all deeply personal. When writing memoir, it has been much easier for me to see the therapeutic aspects of storytelling. Curiously though, putting key chunks of my life into these packages called books has made me identify with the stories less, as if these events happened to a human, and that human just happened to be me. It’s very liberating.

With fiction, though I’ve been exploring lives that couldn’t be more different from my own, every choice I make, and the ways I try to connect with my characters and get to know them, has everything to do with who I am. At the moment, working on this coming-of-age/love story, I am blending autobiography and fiction for the first time, and the process is extremely strange. I have to get to know the protagonist, for example, as the fictional person she is, but she is also so like a young version of myself that it’s a real mind-bender.

What do you love most about your creativity?

I am grateful to creativity for being the force that animates me. I think without it I’d be a lifeless hulk, a Frankenstein’s Monster pre-electrification, misshapen and covered in scars and moldy clothes (but smaller). I was lucky that as a child I was encouraged in art (so many are discouraged or even shamed for their efforts,) and lucky that since then I’ve had countless opportunities to grow creatively. Creativity takes infinite forms, I think it’s our birthright as human beings, and I think the more we can bring it to all aspects of our lives the better off we are. Once I heard the singer Krishna Das say in an interview that his music was how he stayed alive. He didn’t say music was his bliss and all that, he said it was how he literally stayed alive. I really appreciated that. It’s survival. Creativity is not the icing on the cake, it’s the cake itself.

Connect with Jenny:

website

Twitter

Amazon author page

Goodreads

Instagram

Brian Barnett—Multi-Media Artist and Designer

Brian Barnett is a Central Florida artist and designer who specializes in fine line abstract ink and pencil drawings, painting and other mediums. He is also  the SO of my high school friend, and though I only know him online, he’s friendly and interesting, and his work is astonishing. I have to share it. After learning about him, follow the links at the end to contact Brian, scope out more of his work, and purchase pieces.

Tell me about your artistic process, from ideation to finished product, including medium / material, schedule, environment, and inspirations tangible and abstract.

The process for my art can take a second or be meticulously planned for weeks months or even years. For example, if I’m working with pens, the process is almost instant. I don’t have a pre-planned route or image I am seeking when I create using the pens; it’s just free and letting the ink flow as it wants to create the images. But if I’m working on a sculpture, I may have thought and planned it for months, looking through the bins of mixed media for that certain piece that make it perfect. I don’t have a preferred medium. I tend to draw mostly as it is most accessibleof my mediums at any time. I prefer lately to work with my hands, sculpting or building creations, with my next step being woodcarving and the eventual goal of teaching myself and being able to carve my wife’s face out of wood or sculpt from clay. I’m constantly challenging myself with new mediums.

How do you find buyers—short-term and long-term strategies and venues; do you create art from your own vision and / or commission art?

When it comes to selling my art, it’s just not the goal. I do markets and online sales, hang in local galleries. and sometimes I post randoms for sale, but when I found this talent, I didn’t find it for fortune. I found it for sanity. I am always honored to sell a piece. To me, it means that person liked something that came from inside of me enough to spend money on it and hang it in their house. To me, that’s amazing. To me, it means I touched them; they connected with the image or the sculpture. That’s a priceless payday for an artist to see the viewer connect. I have done and am available for commissions—I love to work with a client to reach the perfect piece.

 

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

Support systems, hmm. That’s an interesting one. I have two support systems online and in real life. Earlier in the interview, I said I found art for my sanity—this is very true. I am a recovered addict and alcoholic for almost 14 years now. I found art as a great filler and escape from life, and the things that make the mind go astray. So, when it comes to my support, my art is my release that allows the people who support me to connect to me in a way they wouldn’t have been able to before. If it weren’t for the Orlando art community’s support, and that of my family and friends, I couldn’t have as much joy on this mission of art as I do.

How does your life influence your art and vice versa?

My art influences my life for sure,. My world and the people in it are filled with canvasses and sculptures and the artists that made them. I’m always in the mix of what’s going on in town, and art is truthfully my air. My art is influenced by the past lives I’ve lived, the people I’ve been, and the things I’ve seen n this 47-year mission around the sun. I hide imagery in my linework, with lots of little stories in many of those pieces. I find art a very healthy way to deal with life now and the recovery from the ones I lived.

 

What do you love most about your creativity?

The thing I love most about my creativity is where it has taken me, the people I’ve met. The things I get to do and be all because I choose to make art, its almost unfair to those that don’t. I found a community of people from all walks of life, and all races and orientations, with one common core bond—ART! These people are my people, and I hope that once you’ve finished this interview, and checked out my art, you’ll also become one of the amazing folks in my circle of life.

Connect with Brian:

 

Facebook

Instagram

Twitter

Orlando Slice

Heather Webb—International Bestselling Author of Historical Fiction

Tall Poppy author Heather Webb’s works have been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Entertainment Weekly and more, as well as received national starred reviews. In 2015, Rodin’s Lover was selected as a Goodreads Top Pick, and in 2017, Last Christmas in Paris became a Globe & Mail bestseller and was also shortlisted for the 2018 Women’s Fiction Writers Association STAR Award. When not writing, you may find Heather collecting cookbooks or looking for excuses to travel. She lives in New England with her family and one feisty rabbit.

Describe your writing process, including schedule, environment, strategies / techniques, and inspirations abstract and material.

My daily process changes based on the needs of my household, but I try to sit down at least 3 (but hope for 6!) hours per day to write, edit, plot, or research. Sometimes that means I’m just picking at one paragraph and moving things around, if I’m feeling stuck that day. I do, however, try to aim for 1,000 words per day and 5,000 words per week if I’m in the drafting phase. If I’m editing, it depends entirely on the draft. If it’s a second or third draft, I’m still doing a lot of overhauling and layering, which means I move fairly slowly. Later drafts move much faster once the bigger elements of the story and characters are in place.

I tend to work at Starbucks, my kitchen table, or at my desk, but it’s in my bedroom due to space restrictions so I don’t have a devoted office space, unfortunately. One day! It’s on my bucket list.

Walk me through your publishing process, from final draft to final product, explaining who on your team does what, and what marketing you do as the author. Elaborate upon going international, winning awards, and public speaking, please.

Publishing is a tricky and dangerous process. Ha! Just kidding. Each of my books is very different, including many of the team members who work on them, so I’ll keep this simple. Each book is in process for about a year once it leaves your desk from multiple rounds of edits, to cover design, to marketing and sales materials so the book you read that hits the shelf has been finished for at least a year. If it took awhile to find a publishing home, it may be much older than that, and chances are, the author is either working on something else entirely or may even have another entire novel completed. In terms of marketing, authors do as much as they can to help promote, but at the end of the day, we don’t move the needle all that much unless we’re a very big name. It’s the incredible sales teams behind us, book placement in physical stores, and ads and promotions with online retailers.

Tell me about your support system—online and IRL—and how that may shift during the progress from idea to launch. Who are your biggest cheerleaders?

My biggest cheerleaders (beyond my family!) are my critique partners. They read early drafts and deliver feedback that is sometimes painful but always helpful. I can’t imagine where I’d be without them. I also happen to love them dearly as people. I have to give a shout out to some of my favorite organizations who have been incredibly supportive as well: the Writer Unboxed community, Tall Poppy Writers, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, Historical Novel Society, and the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. I feel incredibly blessed by my community. My colleagues are wonderfully talented, supportive people, and if I started listing names, I’d never finish. The writing community is truly special and unique that way.

Did I read that you had a dream about Josephine, inspiring you to change your career from high school teacher to author? I find that astonishing! How does your life influence your art / work and vice versa? Where does research fit in, and do you have assistance?

I did have a dream about her! It didn’t make me quit teaching, however. I resigned because I was expecting my second child and daycare would have eaten my entire teaching salary. (Pathetic, right?) So I made the choice to stay home with my babes. Before I resigned, however, I did have a persistent dream about Josephine, and I knew very little about her, so it was quite odd. I decided to check out a biography to learn about her and I fell in love instantly. I hadn’t even finished that first biography when I told my husband I was going to write a book. He looked at me like I was from another planet. So whether or not I resigned, I was going to write a book, damn it!

As for research and assistance, I wish I had an assistant! I’m on my own, but I do love it. I try as often as possible to visit locations in person, utilize primary source material, and when necessary, I reach out to experts in certain fields.

What do you love most about your creativity? (You may shamelessly plug your editorial services here as well!)

Indulging my creative side fills me with a kind of peace I can’t attain anywhere else. There’s something about going into your head and letting it riot with ideas and thoughts and dreams. I love the act of doing it as much as the end product, whether it be writing, cooking, or doing fun projects with my kids. Though at times, I have to admit writing can be frustrating when things aren’t working. But this is all part of the growing and expanding and trying new things. The challenge. We writers relish that part of the process on some level or why bother? Living a creative life feels like a gift and I definitely don’t want to waste it.

Hazel Gaynor, Heather Webb

Author Extra: What’s your next book?

Here’s a little blurb on my next book, Meet Me in Monaco, set to the backdrop of Grace Kelly’s wedding in 1956. It releases in July 2019, and I’ve co-written it with author Hazel Gaynor. We hope to have a cover soon!

Keynote:

Set in the 1950s against the backdrop of Grace Kelly’s whirlwind romance and glamourous wedding to Prince Rainier of Monaco, New York Times bestselling author Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb take the reader on an evocative sun-drenched journey along the Côte d’Azur in this page-turning novel of passion, fate and second-chances.

Description:

Movie stars and paparazzi flock to Cannes for the glamorous film festival, but Grace Kelly, the biggest star of all, wants only to escape from the flash-bulbs. When struggling perfumer Sophie Duval shelters Miss Kelly in her boutique, fending off a persistent British press photographer, James Henderson, a bond is forged between the two women and sets in motion a chain of events that stretches across thirty years of friendship, love and tragedy.

James Henderson cannot forget his brief encounter with Sophie Duval. Despite his guilt at being away from his daughter, he takes an assignment to cover the wedding of the century, sailing with Grace Kelly’s wedding party on the SS Constitution from New York. In Monaco, as wedding fever soars and passions and tempers escalate, James and Sophie—like Princess Grace—must ultimately decide what they are prepared to give up for love.

Connect with Heather:

Website

Twitter

Facebook (Heather Webb, Author)

Instagram

Diane Chamberlain—New York Times, USA Today, and Sunday Times Bestselling Author

I met Diane in person at a book signing in Topsail Beach at Quarter Moon Books. In my overzealous fangirling, I crashed a book club photo and had to be gently shooed away. I’ve been her most awkward fan since, and she’s been the most gracious literary star. I show up for each new book’s signing / reading like a middle-aged stalker who looks so innocent (muahaha), and Diane keeps smiling and signing my new books. If only she could write super fast; I know I will love each new story. I was fortunate to receive an early copy of The Dream Daughtermy review—coming out October 2.

Tell me about your writing process—any tricks / nuances to keep you on track, inspirations material or abstract, where you write (Topsail!) and when.

I usually write either in my Raleigh area sunroom or at my condo on Topsail Island. I generally have a year to write a book. The first few months, I think about my idea and start doing research, often visiting the area where the story takes place. I begin picturing scenes and putting them on post it notes that I move around on a big presentation board until I like the arc of the story, thus creating an outline. At the same time, I think about my characters, specifically what type of person will have the hardest time dealing with whatever dilemma I’ve come up with for the story. If there is no personal struggle, there is no story. I think about which characters will have a point of view in the story and will they have a first person or third person point of view and will I write the story in present or past tense. I sometimes look on the internet for pictures of people who make me think of my characters. I find this a huge help in creating characters who feel very real to me and hopefully to my readers. These are all decisions I make before I start writing.

Finally, I start writing about 6 months before my deadline. I usually listen to movie soundtracks as I write because I like the emotional ups and downs of the music. I’m always doing research as I write. Also, I listen to my characters because they frequently go astray from my outline and I’ve learned to pay attention to them. I write three to five drafts. Finally, often a bit late, I turn in the book. That’s where my dynamite editor comes in. She reads the book, looking at the big picture. What works and what doesn’t? She makes many suggestions, sometimes requiring a big change in the book. I’ve learned to listen to her, and I rewrite. And perhaps rewrite yet again.

Lead me through your publishing process, as in who does what when, and your marketing responsibilities (book tours! What else?).

Here’s how it works. First I write a book. Then I have an agent who is responsible for finding the publisher she thinks will do the best job with that book. She is also responsible for negotiating the contract with that publisher. You can see in my answer above some of the work the editor does with regard to my book. The publisher then, of course, publishes the book. If the publisher feels strongly that they can make the book a bestseller, they will give it a lot of advertising and other support before and during publication. My publisher for the last six books, St. Martins Press, does a great deal of promotion for me. I try to hold up my end by keeping up with social media (which I enjoy), giving interviews, touring to speak to groups and do book signings, where I get to meet my readers, the best part of the process!

Before the Storm series

Describe your support system: groups online and IRL (MKA, another favorite author of mine)—your biggest cheerleaders…

My biggest supporter is my significant other, John. He’s a photographer and understands the creative process and doesn’t complain that once a year, as deadline nears, I disappear from real life into my imagination, 24/7. Aside from him, I have many local writer friends who I get together with often. And then I have my “official group.” We call ourselves The Weymouth Seven because we originally met up at the Weymouth mansion in Southern Pines, NC, where authors are invited to work for up to two weeks each year. Now we usually meet up on Topsail Island. You’re right that Mary Kay Andrews is a big part of our group. She’s our ringleader, the one who keeps us on track during the week that we meet. Other members are mystery writer Margaret Maron, historical mystery writer, Sarah Shaber, horror and thriller writer Alexandra Sokoloff, and mystery writers, Brenda Witchger and Katy Munger. We have fun but we work hard at the same time.

Keeper of the Light series

You’ve always had touches of history in your novels. Recently, you’ve opened up to historical fiction, and now sci-fi / fantasy with your latest book about time travel. How did this come about; in what ways do your life and work influence each other, and how did your previous profession prepare you for fiction writing? Also talk about secrets, their importance to you and your work, and what kind of secrets you like best to weave into your stories.

When I heard about the eugenics (forced sterilization) program in North Carolina, I knew I had to write about it. That meant setting the story during the years of the program, so I selected 1960 and thus wrote my first novel (Necessary Lies) with a totally historical setting and I found I really enjoyed it. Two books later, I decided I wanted to write about the 1944 polio outbreak in Hickory, NC during which the town built a functioning polio hospital in 54 hours (The Stolen Marriage). So I would say, if the idea that comes to me is historical, I will happily write it, but I am still perfectly happy writing contemporary books as well.

When it comes to The Dream Daughter, that is a whole different subject! For years, I had the idea that’s central in The Dream Daughter: a woman is told that her unborn baby will die, but she learns that if she’s willing to take a huge risk and travel to the future, her baby could very well live. I put this idea off for years because it is so unlike my other books, but finally, I talked to my editor and she gave me the go-ahead. The book was tremendous fun to write and the early reviews have been amazing. I’m grateful to readers who dislike time travel for giving this book a try because it’s still “vintage Diane Chamberlain” and people seem to be loving it.

I think your question about my previous profession (clinical social work) and secrets actually go together. I worked in hospitals and then in a private psychotherapy practice with adolescents and their families, and one thing I learned is how destructive secrets can be in a family. I was fascinated by that topic, so it often appears in my stories.

 

 

What do you love most about your creativity?

I’m very grateful for my imagination. It got me into tons of trouble as a kid, but now pays off. I might be stopped at a traffic light and see a woman pushing a baby carriage across the street and within 30 seconds, I imagine a car hitting them, and the police discover it was on purpose and there was a connection between the woman and the driver, or maybe even between the baby and the driver . . . it’s exhausting having a brain like this, but it often pays off in the end if it means I can entertain my readers.

 

 

Connect with Diane:

Website

Amazon

Goodreads

Twitter

Facebook

Book series in order of publication

Wikipedia

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: