Category Archives: Storyteller Showcase

Linda Niehoff—Author and Photographer

Linda Niehoff is a portrait photographer by accident and chronic notebook scribbler by choice. Her flash fiction has appeared in numerous publications both online and in print. She lives in a small Kansas town where she is probably right now looking outside to study the light or watching an old episode of Scooby Doo.

Describe your creative process—schedule, environment, inspirations, etc.—compare and contrast writing with shooting.

I write daily—almost without exception, though I’ve grown a little lax in the last few years and will occasionally take a day off. This means I write on holidays, weekends, and while on vacation. I’ve written in hotel lobbies, waiting rooms, moving cars, trains, planes, surrounded by crumpled up wrapping paper. And I don’t do that out of some weird puritanical discipline. I do it because I love it. I do some of my best thinking, analyzing, and daydreaming on the page with a pen in hand. For me, writing is a blanket fort I build daily and climb inside.

Read Like Magic Waiting in TriQuarterly

Photography (even though it’s my money-maker) is like a bratty kid brother who doesn’t eat vegetables, who doesn’t take a bath when he’s supposed to. I never had the dreams for photography that I’ve had for writing, and so I’ve always had an ease with it. Much of what I shoot is done on my phone. I like the idea of keeping it a game. Of fooling around. When I shoot clients, I use my big expensive camera, but I’ve dreamed of doing an entire photo shoot with just my phone! I think that’d be so fun to try! I’m also in love with instant photography and have a (growing) collection of Polaroid and toy cameras. I love the hazy, nostalgic look of instant film.

Read Elsewhere in WhiskeyPaper

I’m mostly a morning writer (I like to make sure it actually gets done!) though sometimes I squeeze it into other areas like late afternoon or late at night. And I almost always shoot in the golden hour when the light is low and slanted and mellow. (I could shoot early mornings, but that’s writing time!)

I’m interested in the same types of themes in both writing and photography. I love old timey. I love nostalgia. I love graveyards and the woods and tiny towns with silver water towers and old run-down motels. I love places that feel haunted with old, imperfect memories. Things that are slightly unkempt and almost forgotten. And I love that shadowed time that’s halfway between light and dark.

Read Rock Creek in New South Journal

I love writing and photography because they are the same, and they are opposite. One is words and one is wordless. But writing is, hopefully, painting a picture, and photography is , hopefully, telling a story. It’s all about the story. That’s the key for me and why I love both so much.

Tell me how the final products—stories or photos—reach the consumer, including marketing.

Mostly online! When I shoot for clients, I use an online gallery or I share images I take on social media. The stories I’ve had published have mostly been in online venues—though a few were print only. As for marketing, I’m a big believer in just sharing what you’re doing. My entire photography business was built simply because when I first joined Facebook, I uploaded pictures I took. People started asking me if I’d do portraits for them. Or asked if they could buy things I’d posted. I’ve always loved photography and would be taking pictures regardless of whether or not I made money from it. But Facebook is what got it started as a business.

Initially, I was a lot shyer when it came to writing, and a lot of people didn’t even know I wrote. It was easy to share pictures. You could just upload something to Facebook and have instant feedback. I wanted a similar experience for writing, so I decided to start a blog. I figured it’d be an easy way to get used to having people read my words. And it did help. I got more confident about sharing my work and submitting it for publication.

Read We Do Not Need Wings in Pea River Journal

I really do think that if you put yourself out there and share what you’re doing, you’ll find your people. And most people, when they love what you’re doing, want to help you—by hiring you or buying or sharing your work. Probably I could be way more successful if I took out ads or ran specials or really worked at marketing or even indie published some of my writing. But for where I am in life right now, this works.

Talk about your support system online and IRL, especially your biggest cheerleaders.

First and foremost, I’m very lucky to have been raised by an artist and a physicist. My mom taught me to love words and layers and symbolism. My dad taught me to love the mystery of it all and to dream. They were my first cheerleaders.

Read The Way of Things Now in SmokeLong Quarterly

And now, I’m also lucky to have married someone that has never once questioned why—even in motel rooms on roadtrips or at home on holidays—the very first thing I do is write. He’s made sure that regardless of any success or failure (99% of what I work on won’t ever be published—so much of it is either practice or first drafts or just for me) I have the time and space to get writing done. And he’s helped me guard it. My kids (who are older now) are the same way.

Read When You Carry Him Home in Necessary Fiction

I also have a great writing group that I met online almost 5 years ago in a writing workshop. We all stayed writing together after the workshop and have stayed in touch both online and in real life. I’ve gained a couple of really close friends through that. It helps to have others sharing in the same struggles and (hopefully joys and successes) as you.

How does life influence your creative work and vice versa?

Sometimes this is a danger zone. Because for me, it’s too easy to let my self-worth get tied up in something I’ve created. There’s always a natural ebb and flow and there are always days where the work is easy and days where the work is hard. I fail often in separating how I feel about myself based on how the work is going, but I’m trying to improve! Even so, everything I do is setting up for the creative work—how I spend my time and how much I schedule all revolves around leaving enough space to make stories and art. And often, places I go and things I do are done with an eye toward asking myself, “How would I write about/photograph this?” I’m always looking for an opportunity to be inspired.

What do you love most about your creativity?

With creativity, I’m never bored. Everywhere I go, I’m watching the light and shadows, I’m framing something in my mind. Now that phones have cameras, it’s easy to snap quick pictures and edit them on the fly. But even before that (or if I’m without my phone), I am always looking at the picture of something. How it could be framed. And I love that. I love being an audience of one and finding secret moments that maybe everyone else has passed by.

Read It Wasn’t Supposed to Snow in Literary Orphans

But stories are the same way. Sometimes I’ll see a stand of trees against a purple fading sky and think, why does that make my heart ache? And I know only a story will answer the question. So I start casting about for character to go into the darkening trees. To turn it into a story and answer it for me.

Writing and shooting are a way to stay inside moment just a little bit longer. A way to hold onto something that is, every second, slipping away. It’s finding something to fall in love with. To swoon over. That’s why I love creativity; it makes the ordinary important. It makes everything you see a possibility. And when you have that inside you (and I truly believe we all do in some form or another), it’s like having the best stories and the best photographs with you all the time.

Connect with Linda:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/lindaniehoff

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lindaniehoff

Blog: www.thewrittenpicture.typepad.com

Photography website: www.lindaniehoffphotography.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kckenlin/

Tal Garmiza—Poetry, Words

Photographer: Idan Aslan

Tal Garmiza is an Israeli artist who creates in two different fields—writing poetry & dance. She started dancing when she was 4 and wrote her first poem when she was 9, and the world of creation feels like an extension of her ever since.

In the past few months she is exploring new platforms in which she can make her art more accessible to people, and one of them is ‘speaking’ her poems and recording them.

Loose translation:
Some Space on a Blank Page
Tal Garmiza

Tell me about your writing and video process: schedule, environment, equipment, software, inspirations, etc.

Oh, it is hard to set a schedule for writing; if only it was that easy. Sometimes you have 10 different ideas per day and in others none. But, when you start publishing either written or recorded poems—and you do need to have high quality poems to publish in fixed times—you learn to search for ideas and poems in ways that inspire you: a word, sentences that people say, thoughts that go through your mind, dance (all kinds of sports are great for clear mind and creativity) or even music you love.

I will later on talk about my ‘theory’ of where you can ‘find’ poems, but the inspiration for me when I ‘speak out’ my poems comes from the words of the poem. They tell me how the poem should be read out, where to have a pause, where to be determined. Before the video was created, it was a written poem with words, telling a unique story of time and place, and of me.

Technically, the very first thing you need to do in order to record is to get a good video camera with a microphone and stand. It’s time to step away from you cell phones—the result just won’t be good enough. I can only advise you to film videos with a bright background around you, standing up, in a place where the viewer can understand your words, and always do a few shots because you never know which one might be the magical one!

For editing, every simple movie editing software could work, because you need to remember that your goal is to get the message through and not be a video photographer.

I make sure that I film and publish one poem in Hebrew and one in English per week.

Walk me through your publishing process from written to spoken product, and marketing that you do as the artist.

I publish in a few different platforms: I publish written poetry in Hebrew & English via Facebook and Instagram. These are two platforms in which I publish almost everything I write. When I choose poems for a poetry book (I published a first poetry book in Hebrew two years ago) and for open calls, I choose the ones I feel have a story that shines out from within them. When I record videos, I choose again, because now I must choose poems that make sense when you speak them out and publish on my Facebook page, Instagram and YouTube.

The technological world we live in today allows us to publish our creation in various accessible ways, which is great. Having said that—because you can find so many things online today, you need to make sure that your creation stands out, that you know your own voice, and that you have a professional product to give your audience, within understandable limitations of course.

If you work with social media—decide on fixed days on which you publish new things; apply for open calls; read your stuff on poetry nights—do everything you can to make sure that your creations don’t stay in the drawer; and if you can afford to fund this—consult with social media experts and do some promotion. In the marketing department, all of us artists need some help 

Talk about your support system online and IRL, especially your biggest cheerleaders.

My parents are by far the biggest supporters I have! They come to every poetry event and every dance performance, and they never told me that my dreams are too crazy, or that creating is a waste of time. After every event they ask me: So what will you be presenting next? It’s a huge drive to create.

My friends are also amazing cheerleaders and you might be surprised, but the cheerleaders will appear as you keep pushing forward your art, believe in it and stand behind it. Remember that poetry touches very sensitive human feelings, so some people will read and watch everything and won’t say a thing; and some will come to you quietly one day and will say: ‘I follow what you do and that last poem—I felt it.’

How does life influence your poetry and vice versa? Your presentation is intense, riveting; how did you come to the decision to produce spoke word poetry?

I feel that poems already exist in the world. As a poet, what you need to do before you write them, is to find them; and they wait inside and outside and between people, in the moments between the moments, on the way home, late at night, in the questions that are waiting to be asked and between the lines. They are waiting to be revealed and to be written. I can say that, weirdly enough, I write many of my poems on the bus on the way to somewhere.

I use a clean language, but with very accessible down to earth words, and I feel that with time I came to realize that fewer words sometimes say much more. Since my first language is Hebrew, it definitely takes more effort in English, but I think it’s the same in every language.

I wanted people to start making the connection between my words and the person standing behind it—I was ready. I wanted to reach more people that might be in need of some poems and the need for someone else to speak their emotions and their experiences for them. I knew that this would be a good reach out to them. The right poem at the right times makes you feel that somewhere out there there’s someone who understands you. It’s happening to others as well.

I believe that poetry should be spread out to people, because a poem in a very few words contains so much of the human experience, that it might just remind us things about ourselves and about the world that we almost forgot.

What do you love most about your creativity?

Its very existence.

Connect with Tal:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/talpoetry/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCN3brcgXEIjosMVF1Evn3jg

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/talgarmiza/

Mary Wallace—Author of The Praetorian Saga

Mary is the author of The Praetorian Saga, a highly rated romantic sci-fi series. She’s a sucker for romance in stories and believes that any good story needs some love thrown in. Prior to her writing career, she had lots of jobs she wasn’t cut out for, the most infamous of which was airport security. When asked why she didn’t enjoy that job, she’ll tell you, “Those guys have no sense of humor.” Mary lives on the Alabama Gulf Coast with her husband and sons, two fat lapdogs, and a cat she’s convinced is part velociraptor.

Tell me about your writing process: schedule, environment, inspirations, maintaining character integrity through a series, etc.

I work a full-time day job, so writing is a second career for me right now. I also have two kids still at home, a few pets, and a husband. So, I keep pretty busy. I’m somewhat terrible with schedules, but over the last year or so I’ve managed to come up with something that works for me. I generally wake up at 5am, regardless of what time I have to be at the day job. I get myself dressed and ready for work and write until it’s time to leave for work. I try to write again in the evenings after the house quiets down for the night, usually from about 9pm-11pm. The weekends are for family time.

I have a home office that’s full of my books, tarot cards, Funko pop figures, and a photo board of friends and family. I have a massive desk that’s forever cluttered with anything and everything. I like to listen to music while I write, but I keep the volume low so I won’t get too distracted and start singing along.

I believe inspiration is everywhere, if you look for it. Music is one of my biggest inspirations. Sometimes I can imagine a scene or short story out of a song lyric and sometimes that can become a whole book. Sometimes I can plot out a whole book series from a random side character in a TV series. It’s about allowing your mind to get a little carried away, I think. Basically, the things I used to get in trouble for in elementary school.

I’m kind of a sucker for a story that rips your heart out, at least a little. I prefer happy endings, but I need my characters to struggle a little along the way. I try to write stories I’d want to read, so that’s definitely reflected in the things I write. When it comes to a series, you kind of go into it knowing that your characters are going to change along the way. Or, they should, if you’re doing it right. Not who they are at their core, but as they learn and grow throughout their journey, they adapt and change somewhat. I keep a file on every character I write and add to them along the way. I always want to make sure that whatever I put my characters through, their reactions and interactions make sense to who they are. I also lean toward character-driven plots, so it’s really important to keep who these people are firmly in my mind as I go.

Walk me through your publishing process from “final” draft to final product, including who does what when, and marketing that you do as the author. Do you market the series as a whole with each new book? Will there be more in the series, or do you start a new one?

So, this is my least favorite part of being an indie author. The part that comes after the writing part is over. I’ll reiterate what I’ve said before, which is that when I started this whole thing, I had no idea what went into writing and publishing a book. I’m still learning and trying to improve as I go. Every day I’m finding things I’m doing wrong or not doing enough. I jumped into this thing head first and I’m slowly figuring out how to swim. That said, I’ll share what I do.

I try to start promoting the book a couple months before release date. I share the blurb, cover, excerpts, etc on my social media sites. I try to mix it up from Twitter to Facebook to Instagram. Not every social media site has the same type of reader and it’s important to understand that when you’re making posts.

I market the series as a whole as well as individual books within the series. Obviously, I want to bring in new readers, but I also want my established readers to keep coming back. I’m constantly learning which ads work on which platforms and which don’t. This seems to change frequently and I’m always playing catch-up.

I have a cover artist who designs all my covers based on a bit of input from me. Once the book is formatted and I know a page count, I have the cover commissioned and I do a cover reveal in my newsletter, including a link to the pre-order. I always do pre-orders for a new book. I try to have those go live around two months before the release date.

As for more Praetorian books, I never say never. For now, Bree and Declan’s story is finished. I feel like I gave them their due and wrapped their story up nicely. I’ve thought about coming back to the Praetorian world sometime down the road, but I’d have to have the right story to tell. Right now, I’m in the beginning stages of a whole new story set in a dystopian America. I’m pretty excited about it. I don’t know yet how many books it will be.

Talk about your support system online and IRL, especially your biggest cheerleaders.

I consider myself really lucky when it comes to support. Writing is kind of a solo job and it can be isolating if you let it. You spend hours on end alone with nothing but the stories in your head to keep you company. It helps to have others in your life who understand that and who have your back, so to speak. I have several friends who are also writers. They’re always down for a plotting session or to help me bounce ideas around, even if I’ve never met some of them in real life. They’re always there to encourage me when they get a text at midnight or 6am saying, “This is all shit and I’ll never finish this book. Shoot me now.” They’re the ones who keep me pointed in the right direction.

My husband has probably been my biggest source of support. After more than 20 years together, he gets me better than anyone and he knows how important writing is to me. He’s always understanding when I tell him I need to write at night instead of watching a movie or catching up on our Netflix list. He never judges me when I take my laptop on trips to run errands so I can peck away while he drives. He’s a quiet guy, so he’s never going to be the one shouting things from the rooftops, but he always shares anything he sees about one of my books on social media. It’s his quiet way of showing his support, but it never fails to make me smile.

How does life influence your writing and vice versa?

The thing about creating things is that if you care at all about it, you’re going to put part of yourself into it. It’s hard for me to stand back and point out specific elements without delving too deeply into my own history and life. I write characters who have experienced real tragedy and loss and come out the other side. That’s probably because it’s something I’m familiar with. I don’t think I know how to write a character who’s never had anything bad happen to them. Could be a fun challenge, I suppose.

Since I started writing, I think I’ve become more open and honest with myself and the people around me. I’ve told this story before, but I kept the fact that I was writing a book a complete secret until a couple of months before the first book was set to release. When someone asked me about the book directly, I was terrified. I stumbled over my words, turned bright red and wanted to run from the room. Now, nearly two years since the first book’s release, that’s gone away and I’ve gotten to a place where I’m comfortable talking about my writing. With that comfort, I think I’ve become at peace in my own skin when I didn’t realize I wasn’t before. It’s going to sound cheesy, but I feel like I’ve found what I was supposed to be doing all along. I’m proud of myself and happy with what I’ve done so far, though I know I have a long way to go.

What do you love most about your creativity? What prompted you to write a series?

I think the thing I love most about having a creative mind is that it’s never boring. I don’t remember ever being bored as a child. Part of that was because I loved books from a young age and spent most of my time reading them. Because of that love for stories, I wanted to create stories of my own. I’ve always been a daydreamer. As a kid, it got me into trouble because I’d get lost in my head instead of paying attention to whatever it was I was supposed to be doing. As an adult, that still happens sometimes, but I’ve gotten better at muti-tasking. Or maybe I’ve gotten better at pretending I know what’s going on while I’m lost in my own head. I’m not sure.

When I first began writing The Praetorian Saga, I had no idea if I had enough story for a book, let alone a series. I had a vague idea of a scene with a girl running down a dark street. That’s it. Somehow I got four books out of it. That makes it sound much easier than it actually was, I know. I think somewhere along the way, I realized that I had more story than one book would allow. Originally, I’d planned for a three-book series. I thought I could tell the story I needed to tell within that structure, but after I’d finished the first draft of the second book, I realized that there was a lot missing. There was a lot of character development, but not as much propelling the story along (character-driven writer, remember?) So, I cut out the back half of that book, made a lot of revisions, and wrote a whole new ending that drew back into the larger series plot. What that meant was that I’d basically added another book to the series. So, it came out to four. That suited me fine, because as a reader I prefer longer series to standalone books. It didn’t make things any easier when I was fighting my way through the fourth book, cursing my past self who thought it was a good idea to add another book to the series.

Connect with Mary:

Website

Amazon author page

Twitter

Facebook

PA O’Neil—Storyteller and Short Story Author

Originally from Southern California, P.A. O’Neil, spent her teen years in a small town in Washington State. Her Mexican and Irish heritage has provided a lifetime of inspiration, as well as compassion for others, which comes through in her stories. She understands what it means to be in the minority as well as the majority and has always given voice to the underdog. She lives in Olympia, Washington, with her husband and two grown children nearby. Her life is full of love from family and friends from around the world, and this love is reflected in her writing.

Tell me about your writing process: schedule, environment, inspirations, decision to focus on short stories, etc.

I’m a genuine sloth in the morning, so my writing is best done between 11:00 am and 5:00 pm. I do have a part-time job outside the home with a varied schedule, so I don’t often have the availability to write every day. I like to think of my writing as an actual profession, which means you must take days off in order to stay fresh. I don’t write on the weekends in deference to my husband, who prefers my attention be away from the computer.

I’ve always been a storyteller, writing off and on since I was a child. In college, I wrote and produced a radio play. I thoroughly enjoyed that, which makes me think I might’ve been born about forty years too late. The greatest inspiration comes from vivid dreams; I’ll keep notes and do my best to fit the premise into a workable plot. I did this in August of 2016 when I found myself unemployed for the second time in two years. I thought I could either sit on the couch and watch old movies, or I could sit at the computer and write out a story, which turned out to be a novel called, “Finding Jane.”

The story did not turn out half-bad and was praised by those who read it, but of course, it was extremely raw, being compared to “a beautiful runway model with nothing to wear.” Thanks to Facebook, I connected with people who were in groups I belonged to; they were published authors, and I asked where I should go from there. They put me onto Facebook pages that were writing oriented, and with the help of a friend who has since also become my editor, fourteen months after I typed END on my novel, my first short story was published in an anthology. It was called, “Sara Hemming, Psychic Redecorator.” Since then, my short stories have been accepted for publication in over thirty publications, both online and in paperback.

I enjoyed writing my novel but have since found a preference in writing short stories, flash fiction, and even drabbles. The challenge of making every word count and having a purpose is fulfilling to both the writer and the reader. I want to take readers, drop them into a scene that’s already in motion, make them care about the characters, given them a plausible conclusion, yet leave them turning the page at the end wanting to know more. That’s what I believe makes for a good short story.

Walk me through your publishing process from submission to marketing.

The process for submission was something I had to learn for myself. I watched other Facebook group members comment about how they did it, what worked, and what didn’t, and put together a submission letter that I thought would meet the criteria for a standard submission. Some worked, and some didn’t, but what did work gave me the idea to create a template that I use for each submission. It is always being refined but helps to keep the project running smoothly. I even wrote an essay that was printed on the Writers Unite! Worldwide webpage, “The Submission Process for a Short Story or What I Wish Someone Had Taught Me.” I have shared it often on my own Facebook professional page so others can find relief when wondering how to go about making a submission. To have your work bounced by the submission editor because of a technicality in your letter, before the story has ever been read, is an avoidable shame.

I have used Submittable, Duotrope, and Submission Finder, along with word- of-mouth to find submission calls. As a way of keeping track of submissions for individual stories, I made another template which lists the basic information [story name, word count, date written, editor] as well as information about the publication [name, publisher, editor, closing date, payment, reprints, etc.]. This way when I submit it, I have the date of contact (to and from) and even publication date if accepted. It suits me as far as efficiency because it tells the history of each story towards publication.

So far, my advertising has all been through Facebook pages. I do have an Amazon author page that I refer to, but I have yet to pay for an advertisement. That may change if I get more involved in the publication process of some of these anthologies or my own collection.

Talk about your support system online and IRL, especially your biggest cheerleaders.

I have absolutely the best of friends in the virtual world thanks to the Facebook groups I have joined in the past three years. They’re from all over the world and are always willing to help, encourage, and even give solace when needed. My sister though has been my strongest supporter since day one. Yes, she laughed when I told her I had written a novel and wanted to write professionally—I would’ve laughed too, but she has become my sounding board and official record keeper as she has all of my original manuscripts in hard copy. My kids have been supportive in a, “yeah, yeah, whatever you say, Mom,” kind of way. My son though gave me a book for Christmas about how make money as a self-publisher, so I guess he’s coming around. My husband acts as if he has no interest, but I have learned from his co-workers, he does speak proudly of my accomplishments.

I do have to thank Facebook, because it has allowed for me to connect with friends and relatives who are always there to cheer when the next story get published. I have the best coworkers, who are proud of my accomplishments, and some of them are writers themselves, so we always give encouragement.

How does life influence your writing and vice versa?

In as much as life influences my dreams, actions and events oftentimes spark my imagination enough to write a story about it. My story, “The Obelisk,” is one of these, whereas “Pink and Gray Ash” came from a true story as told by a friend of a friend of the man who died.

What do you love most about your creativity?

I joke about needing to write to “silence the voices in my head,” but really, it’s being able to arrange my thoughts in way that can entertain, or possibly even enlighten, the reader enough. I want them to be glad they took the time to read my story.

Connect with O’Neil:

Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B07BF2D8SP

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/p.a.oneil.storyteller/

Dete Meserve—Best-selling, Award-winning Novelist and Film/TV Producer

Dete Meserve is an accomplished creator and producer of independent movies and award-winning television shows as well as a best-selling and award-winning novelist. As a key member of the executive team at Wind Dancer Films, Meserve has been one of the industry’s major players in independent film and television production. She currently oversees worldwide business and creative properties for the film development, finance, and production company that has generated over $4 billion in revenue from its properties, which include hit television series Roseanne and Home Improvement and feature films including What Women Want (Mel Gibson), Where The Heart Is (Natalie Portman), Bernie (Jack Black), What Men Want (Taraji P. Henson) and Good Sam (Netflix).

Meserve is also leading the company’s growing kids and family brands, including the PBS KIDS series Ready Jet Go!, created by Craig Bartlett (Hey Arnold!, Dinosaur Train) with Meserve as Executive Producer, the stop motion series “Storywoods” with Lil Buddy Studios and Head Writer Carin Greenberg, and Not A Box, the animated TV series based on the award-winning book by Antoinette Portis.

Meserve has produced numerous films and TV series and her list of credits span award-winning television series such as Home Improvement and Saint George with George Lopez (Executive Producer) as well as hit movies What Men Want, the award-winning comedy Bernie (Executive Producer), The Keeping Room (Executive Producer), What Women Want (Executive Producer) and Good Sam (Producer).

Meserve is also the author of the best-selling and multi-award-winning novel, Good Sam, as well as its sequel Perfectly Good Crime, which won the Living Now Book Awards for “books that change the world,” and the international bestseller The Space Between (July 2018). Meserve adapted her first novel, Good Sam, into a screenplay and produced it as a Netflix Original Film starring Tiya Sircar (The Good Place). The film was released worldwide in May 2019. Her book, Random Acts of Kindness, co-written with award-winning journalist Rachel Greco, was published in March 2019. Meserve is at work on a fifth book entitled The Good Stranger for Amazon Publishing/Lake Union (Spring 2020).

She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and three children.

Tell me about your writing process: schedule, environment, inspirations, etc.; and how you balance your careers of producer and author.

I write whenever I can! My job as a producer and CEO of a studio takes up much of my daylight hours, so I have to find writing time at night after my family’s asleep or on weekends when my family is busy with other things. When I’m on deadline to deliver a manuscript, I have to set aside specific time to write—often in the daylight hours—but other things in life invariably interfere and suddenly my three-hour block of writing time gets reduced to, say, ninety minutes. It can be frustrating, but I keep juggling and shifting to make it happen. I know my priorities and family always comes first.

Hod did you “found” your Random Acts of Kindness stories, and what is it like to co-author?

After posting literally thousands of stories about the good things people do for others, I wanted to write a book to capture some of the best stories and looking through a very specific lens: how were the givers changed by helping others? Since these were true stories, I wanted to collaborate with a journalist who had the right sensitivity and sensibility for these “softer” stories. I read an article about a woman who was given a new van by a stranger and loved the poignant way journalist Rachel Greco approached the story, so I called her and told her I wanted to write a book of these stories. I was overjoyed when she said yes. Initially we didn’t meet in person because I’m based in Hollywood and she’s in East Lansing, Michigan. Instead, we’d regularly get together for calls to talk through what stories we’d seen that had resonated with us and which ones might be good candidates for the book. We had tremendous resources to draw from: thousands of stories on my Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/GoodSamBook and countless others that readers were sending in. We wanted to make sure the book reflected all kinds of givers: rich, poor, age nine-year-old to ninety-nine, city folk and people who lived in rural communities, bikers and fraternity boys. Our idea was not to reprint what others had already written. Instead, Rachel spoke with the people in the stories and we developed a chapter from there. I have to say those hours working with Rachel were some of the brightest for me because I knew we were both doing something we were meant to do.

Walk me through your publishing process from “final” draft to final product, including who does what when, and marketing that you do as the author. As you wrote Good Sam, did you imagine the story as a film? Are you planning to take your other novels to the big screen?

When I wrote Good Sam I never imagined it would become a film. I only set out to tell a story where we’re searching for someone doing extraordinary good and exploring how looking for that kind of person actually changes all of us. I wanted to explore the reasons why people do good things. From the countless stories told about murders and violence, we already know why people commit crimes but how often do we stop to think about why we help others and why some put their lives on the line so that others can live? Maybe thinking about that will allow us to become our better selves. There are moments when I still can’t believe it’s a Netflix Original Film, even though I wrote the screenplay and was a producer on the film. It still feels joyously unreal.

When I begin writing, I like to have lots of time for what I call “play.” This is when I’m writing ideas into a notebook, doing research, playing around with an idea, discovering the characters. It’s truly the most carefree and easy part of writing. Then there becomes a point where the story starts to form: I hear snippets of character dialogue, I can see scenes of what’s happening, and I’m beginning to have an inkling of what themes I want to explore. That’s when I start a draft which I title: Things I’m Seeing. If ideas start flowing, then I know I’m ready to write the manuscript. Otherwise, I stop and go back to “playing” and researching until I’m ready to begin.

Once the manuscript is finished, I like to send to beta readers before sending to the publisher but the deadlines on the last novel were so tight that no one but me had read it before I sent it in. That was a nail biter of a process for me. After that, the editor will send me notes and I’ll make revisions addressing notes until we all get a draft we’re all happy with. Then off to copy editing and proof reading all while writing ideas for marketing, working on the cover with designers, thinking about book club questions, writing acknowledgments, etc. It’s a huge wonderful process to bring a book to life and I’m always grateful for the privilege of doing it and for the talented and committed people around me who make it possible.

I’m adapting some of my other novels to the screen. I’m particularly intrigued by SVOD platforms like Netflix because they allow you as a creator to reach massive audiences around the world, which is very rewarding. But, for me, all ideas begin with story. It’s only after you know the story that you can ask: Where is the best place—what is the best way—to tell that story? A novel? A TV series? A movie? I’m open to wherever that leads me.

Talk about your support system online and IRL, especially your biggest cheerleaders.

My readers are the best! Truly. Every day I wake up to countless stories about good people that they’ve shared on my social media platforms or sent to me via messenger or email. They are wonderful supporters of my writing, sharing their recommendations through reviews and talking about the books online. When I have moments where a current novel I’m writing is difficult, I take a peek at what people are saying—their reviews, comments on posts, the emails and letters they send me—and I’m reminded how fortunate I am to have such loving, thoughtful, kind readers in my life. I feel like I know many of them even though we’ve never met in person. I never take that for granted and try to respond to every reader. That can be difficult to juggle when I’m already working long days, but it’s important to me to connect with readers.

In real life, my husband and family are the best support system. I often begin work early in the morning and my husband brings me a chai latte and a breakfast so I can keep working. My daughter Lauren patiently listens to me, read scenes aloud, and gives me feedback. And my older sons are incredibly understanding when I run off after dinner to get back to writing. And I’m fortunate to write in the beautiful Southern California light, which is partly why much of my writing is optimistic and hopeful.

How does life influence your writing and vice versa, especially the response to Random Acts of Kindness and the Good Sam film? How has your background in film prepared you for a writing career?

Sometimes my workdays can get intense—disappointments, failures, surprises, gut-wrenching events that steal my breath away. I try to channel that into my writing. Even if what I’m writing about has nothing to do with what’s happening in real life, I find a way to convey the complex emotions that come with working with others all day long. People often ask me how I can write such optimistic stories when I work in the rough and tumble world of Hollywood. But the truth is, that’s why I started writing stories where Kate Bradley seeks out people doing good, without ulterior motive. I honestly questioned if such people existed, so I sent Kate Bradley on that exploration. And along the way, I discovered that good people are everywhere – you just have to look past those who are getting all the attention for bad stuff and you’ll see them everywhere. All the time.

What do you love most about your creativity?

I love that creativity allows me to follow my passions and curiosity. I’m interested in so many things, so writing allows me to bring all those things together. I’m always researching and learning new things in order to accomplish a novel. I’ve learned a lot about journalism, firefighting, Russian linguistics, opera, online videogames, and security systems from writing the Kate Bradley mysteries. And when I wrote The Space Between, I immersed myself in astronomy, a little physics, and secret codes. I also learn a lot about people—the way we think, how we make decisions, the way we interact with others, how we acquire belief systems.

What I didn’t expect—and which is always a wonderful surprise for me—is that my explorations are embraced by so many and become meaningful to others too. That connection with readers—when they say they’ve experienced the same feelings as my characters have—is priceless. Writing is a way to share the human experience and makes me realize that I’m not alone in the things I love, wonder about, question or struggle with. That is a gift of a lifetime.

Connect with Dete:

Website: www.DeteMeserve.com

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35122165-good-sam

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/dete-meserve

Facebook: www.facebook.com/GoodSamBook

Twitter: @DeteMeserve

Instagram: @DeteMeserve

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Dete-Meserve/e/B00JH4RLQQ

Audible: https://www.audible.com/author/Dete-Meserve/B00JH4RLQQ

Audiobooks: https://www.audiobooks.com/browse/author/189881/dete-meserve

Wind Dancer Films: www.winddancer.com

IMDB: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm2072611/

G. Allen Wilbanks – Horror/Fantasy/Sci-fi Author

G. Allen Wilbanks is a retired police officer living in Northern California. For twenty-five years he wrote collision and crime reports during the day to pay the bills, and short fiction during his off-time to stay sane. In 2016, he retired from real life to devote his full attention to fantasy. He has published two short story collections, and the novel, When Darkness Comes. His short stories have appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Deep Magic, The Talisman and dozens of other magazines and anthologies all over the world.

Tell me about your writing process: schedule, environment, inspirations, black magick spells, etc.

I live on five acres of property in a rural neighborhood, so I spend most of my day isolated from other people. I’m okay with that, though, because it gives me time to write with minimum distractions. I’m also a bit of a hermit if I’m being honest. I like the isolation. Most of my days look pretty similar. I wake up in the morning about 7 AM to say goodbye to my wife as she heads out the door to go to work. I start my morning with a four or five mile walk through the pastures and farmlands surrounding my home while I listen to audiobooks (since I rarely have to time to sit and read a book anymore). Back home, I work in my yard tending the garden and fruit trees for a couple hours (still listening to a book), and then about 11 o’clock I settle into my den to write. My wife gets home about 6 PM each day and usually finds me at my desk still working on whatever WIP I’ve chosen for that day.

Walk me through your publishing process, from “final” draft to final product, and marketing strategies.

I have published three books: two collections of short stories and one novel. I published each of them through CreateSpace (which has since been bought out by KDP Select). The software was very user-friendly and made the process as simple as possible for a newbie like myself. There is software for making your own cover and creating your own layout for the cover of the book, but I would actually recommend reaching out to a professional cover artist or designer. It makes a world of difference and your book will look much more appealing to a potential reading audience.

Marketing is the hard part. I am a bit of an introvert and am much more comfortable writing stories than trying to convince others to buy them. This is still an area I am working on improving. If you are publishing traditionally, there are usually people working for the publishers who are responsible for marketing, but if you are an indie writer like me, you need to get the word out on your own. Social media is the key to attracting readers. It is more than just telling people you have a book for sale; you need to get people interested in you personally first—then they might get curious enough to purchase what you have written. Building a following is a slow, gradual process. I wish I could give you some secret or tip to sell a million books, but I haven’t figured it out myself just yet.

Talk about your support system online and IRL, especially your biggest cheerleaders.

My biggest supporter in my writing is my best friend and fellow writer, Wes Blalock. Our paths have paralleled each other’s in many ways. We both had careers in law enforcement before focusing on writing full time. Although we tend to write in different genres, we beta read much of each other’s manuscripts, offer editing advice, and encourage one another with our projects. We have even attended writing events together.

Online, I have joined several writing groups on Facebook and have connected with writers all over the world on Twitter. I find I get to know people a little better and interact more with them on Facebook, but the groups you join are important. Many of them are looking for people to sell books and writing services to rather than provide support and help. Choose carefully. Look for the groups that support one another, share publishing opportunities, and offer advice when you have serious questions about the process of writing or publishing.

How does life, and career in law enforcement, influence your writing and vice versa?

While I was working in law enforcement, much of my writing was very dark. It focused on human cruelty and personal suffering. My ideas frequently came from real life incidents I had investigated, then I would twist the tale to give it a more suspenseful feel or add supernatural elements. Writing was cathartic for me then, it helped me process all the ugliness and violence I dealt with in my job. Now that I’m retired, I still love writing horror stories, but I have found myself moving more into the realms of dark fantasy and surrealism. I guess as my life has become less chaotic, so has my storytelling.

What do you love most about your creativity?

When I was working as a police officer, writing was one of the ways that I dealt with stress. Writing (and reading) short stories helped me deal with some of the harder emotional aspects of my job in a healthier way than drinking or trying to ignore them. Creating a story allowed me to decompress and to process my feelings.

Although I am no longer dealing with the same level of stress in my life, writing is still a great outlet. I take pieces of dreams, ideas, and feelings and try to create something complete and wonderful out of them. I keep notebooks all around the house because I never know when a thought or somebody’s comment might trigger a new story idea. I absolutely love seeing a published final version of a story that started out as just a bunch of fragments of ideas and emotions. It is even more rewarding when I hear from someone who enjoyed reading something I created, but that is not the main reason I write. I think even if I never published another piece, I would continue to write just for the peace and enjoyment it brings me.

Connect with Wilbanks :

Website: https://gallenwilbanks.com/

Blog: http://deepdarkthoughts.com/home/

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/G.-Allen-Wilbanks/e/B07GM6C9KD

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/gallenwilbanks/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/gallenwilbanks

Brittany Ramsey—Digital and Graphic Artist

Brittany started exploring digital illustration at age 13, experimenting with Photoshop at home for a few hours a day. She completed a multimedia program in high school (10th grade) for 3D Modeling and Animation, attended Johnson County Community College for Animation in Overland Park, Kansas, earning her degree in 2013. She moved to Colorado in 2014 to finish her degree at The Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design in Game Art in Lakewood, Colorado, graduating in 2018. She has been doing freelance digital illustration, 3D art, and graphic design since 2005.

Acacia Twitch banner
Architectural sketch

Tell me about your artistic process: schedule, environment, materials / tools / programs, inspirations, styles, etc.

A lot of my process depends on the project; typically, I like to brainstorm with thumbnail sketches of illustrations and designs first to give me an idea of direction. I also like to at that time come up with a couple different color palettes and collect reference images. The programs that I utilize most often are Adobe Photoshop and Autodesk Maya (for 3D work). My style ranges from photorealism to portraiture to more folksy-stylized work for illustrations.

Bear Necessities
Boo Cappy

Walk me through your commission, sales, and marketing strategies.

For commissions, a lot of the time I do not have a per hour structure. I tend to commission per the job while factoring in cost of time, materials (if traditional media), and of course the complexity of the project commissioned. A lot of my business is word of mouth and through social media.

Cardinal watercolor
Dark Knight

Talk about your support system online and IRL, especially your biggest cheerleaders.

My biggest cheerleaders have been my friends. Initially my family didn’t think that going into art as a career would be a good field to jump into, but over time digital art has only blown up! Especially in the entertainment and animation fields of work, technical artists are always needed. My mother was always a champion of the arts, and strongly encouraged me to do what I wanted and chase my dreams of working in game development despite what anyone else said.

Devon Disney style
Lavender Twilight

How does life influence your art and vice versa?

Life has strongly influenced my art, mostly through flora and fauna. I have always been an avid fan of realism, but fantasy has been my biggest influence. There are so many strange plants, animals and environments on the Earth to reference from that all of it has been a big inspiration for me to create “new” types of them that would exist in fantasy.

Prairie fire
Saleen S73D model

What do you love most about your creativity?

What I love most about my creativity is the way it lets me put a bit of “me” out there in the world. I don’t aim to be a super famous artist but its more than worth it to have just one single person tell me that my work inspired them in any way. Most artists, myself included, tend to be more solitary, so it’s a good format to “speak” to your audience without actually speaking. It gives me a way to communicate visually and express myself in a language that everyone can understand, with colors, shapes, and lines.

Connect with Brittany:

https://facebook.com/brittanyramseyart

https://www.instagram.com/brittanyramseyart/

Caitlin Cording—Short Story Author and YA Novelist

Caitlin Cording wants to live in a world where love letters are always handwritten, ice cream vans come round in the winter, and watching funny cat videos online every day is a legal requirement.

From the foot-swelling world of retail, to the back-aching world of call centres, Caitlin has worked a variety of jobs. She began her writing carer by posting her work on Wattpad under a pseudonym. Now having had a number of short stories published within anthologies and literary magazines, as well as securing a first place within an international competition, she is working on her debut novel for young adults.

Describe your writing process: schedule, environment, inspirations, etc.

I write the first two drafts of anything in my voice, then I channel the character whose POV it is, and rewrite it using their voice (far more interesting.) My debut novel is written from the POV of a 15-year-old pickpocket/graffiti artist from south London and, boy am I having fun with it!

In terms of environment, I began writing at a time when my commute to work and back took a total of four hours each day. I’d sit in bus stops in December with trembling hands and numb fingers, jabbing out flash fictions on my Smartphone. Nowadays, I prefer to write indoors (usually while sitting on my sofa sipping coffee.)

As far as inspiration goes, I’m afraid my answer is cliché: books, music and art. There’s just something about appreciating another artist’s work that makes my creative juices spit and sizzle!

Tell me your submission and marketing strategies.

At the moment I’m focusing on my debut novel, so I’ve been a tad neglectful on the marketing front lately, but usually I book blog on Instagram and shout about my new publications on my Facebook page. I also have an email list and make a point of mentioning my publications to everyone I meet, and by mention I mean, I snatch their phone from them, bring up the links and force them to read out loud! 🤣

In terms of submissions, I always make a point of reading the magazine/anthology to determine whether my style/stories are a good fit for the publication. I also double-check the guidelines, find out the name of the editor-in-chief to address the submission to, oh, and make sure I personalize every cover letter.

Talk about your support system online and IRL, especially your biggest cheerleaders.

Oh wow, there are so many!

I love my real life writers group, especially our monthly open mic nights! I’m also a big fan of the Fiction Writing, Writers Helping Writers, and Inner Circle Writers Facebook

Groups—they’re the platforms through which I’ve met some of my greatest beta readers.

I’ve been lucky enough to converse with many best-selling authors online too, but I have to say, author of On a Scale of One to Ten,Ceylan Scott gave me a massive boost of confidence when she gave me a fantastic review of my short story, “The Art of Deception.”

A little while ago, Redixon Photography asked to interview me regarding my short story, “No Regrets,” which was a great honor. http://www.roguesportal.com/caitlin-cording-interview-one-of-those-writersofintagram/

But most of all, I’d say my biggest cheerleaders are my readers, particularly the ones who regularly reviewed my earliest work on Wattpad. They are the people who gave me belief in myself to persue this career.

How does life influence your writing and vice versa?

I suffered a lot of abuse as a child/teenager; I was in foster care and have spent time in psychiatric wards. I now volunteer at a homeless shelter and work with young people in foster care. All that stuff has shaped who I am as a writer. I like to get down and dirty, expose taboos, and be bold when talking about the nitty, gritty subjects.

What do you love most about your creativity?

It’s a great excuse to get crazy and writing is cathartic!

Connect with Caitlin:

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

Brian Paone—Author, Editor, & Publishing Company Owner (Scout Media)

Brian Paone was born and raised in the Salem, Massachusetts area. Brian has, thus far, published five novels: Dreams Are Unfinished Thoughts—a memoir about being friends with a drug-addicted rock star; Welcome to Parkview—a macabre cerebral-horror novel; Yours Truly, 2095—a time-travel romance novel (which was suggested for a Hugo Award, though it did not make the finalists); and Moonlight City Drive Part 1 & 2—a supernatural crime-noir detective trilogy (with Part 3 coming in 2021).

Brian currently lives in Monterey, CA with his wife—a US Naval Officer—and their four children. He is a retired police officer and worked in law enforcement for sixteen years from 2002 – 2018.

Tell me about your writing process: schedule, environment, inspirations, etc.

I’ve published 4 novels, and my typical day during the writing of each book was totally different from each other.

When I was writing my first book, Dreams Are Unfinished Thoughts, I was in the middle of moving from MA to GA, changing police departments, and recording an album with my band, Transpose. So, a typical day would be: getting everything done first for the move, switching jobs, the recording studio, and whatever time was left at night: working on the book. We also didn’t have any kids yet.

With my second novel, Welcome to Parkview, my wife had been deployed to Djibouti and I was working full time at the police department in GA, and we had 2 kids now. So, I was alone without my wife, with 2 toddlers, and working full time. My day would be: getting the kids to day-care, go work fighting crime for 8 hours, picking the kids up and doing whatever household chores I had to do (laundry, cleaning, grocery shopping etc.), feeding the kids dinner and putting them to bed around 6:30, then I would work out for an hour, and then I would work on Welcome to Parkview after I showered until whenever I passed out at my laptop.

With my third novel, Yours Truly. 2095, the Navy had sent us to Japan for the next 4 years. I had to take a leave of absence at the police department, and we moved the family there. I did not get a job right away, as my wife wanted me to be the stay at home parent during our time in Japan (I did eventually become a Criminal Justice professor for the college on base, but that’s irrelevant to the book.) We moved in November 2011 and by January 2012 I was itching to write. For the first time, I had the TIME to write, and not having to worry about a new job, moving, or wiping poopy diapers. So, in February 2012, I started my outline, and writing the book was my full-time job for a while. We sent our 2 kids to Japanese Kindergarten (called a Yochien in Japan) and they were gone Monday through Friday from 9:00 to 4:00. I would bring them to the bus stop, wave goodbye, go back up into our apartment, and write until the bus brought them back. It was the first time I could write without distractions, and the first time I was writing not being dead-tired at night after putting in a full day.

Moonlight City Drive (2017, my 4th novel) was the first book where I had a legit writing office. When we moved from Japan to North Carolina, one of the stipulations my wife had on finding a new house was that it would have a writing office for me. One with doors. And a writing desk. And I could decorate it any way I wanted. So that novel was written, for the first time, in a closed-off environment from the distractions of the outside world (and that includes the kids, TV, and normal household noise.) Moonlight City Drive 2 (2019) and my WIP (release schedule Jan 2020) were/are being written here in Monterey, CA where we live now. I have a writing office, but it does not have doors that can keep the outside word, well, outside. So, it’s been slightly more daunting to write while we’ve been here. We are moving to Virginia in April, and it appears I should have a proper writing office again there (a room with doors, halleluiah). So what I have learned is that I can certainly write in a space that is not segregated from the rest of the house, but I am far more productive when I have a written office where there is a piece of glass or a slab of wood separating me from the real world.

Walk me through your publishing process from “final” draft to final product, including who does what when, and marketing that you do as the author.

Every author must find what works for them, so this is less a “how to” answer and more of a “what I do” answer. I start with a super loose outline. My outline may only plot points A, D, G etc because I like to pants points B, C, E, F, H etc. After some semblance of an outline is finished, I write only 2 drafts. First draft is off the cuff, using the outline as a road map. Second draft is my polishing and rewrite any scenes that aren’t working. Then it goes to my editor, Denise Barker. What I receive back is the 3rd and final draft. Then Kari Holloway starts formatting it for publishing, while Amy Hunter and/or Kyle Lechner work on the book cover and any chapter heading illustrations that will be included. After it’s published, I will run some pretty hefty ads on Facebook (targeting very specific audiences) and Amazon.

Talk about your support system online and IRL, especially your biggest cheerleaders.

The Facebook group that I founded in 2016, Fiction Writing, even though is 90k+ members now, we still have a “small community” feel, and I’d like to think we are ALL in each other’s corners. However, my wife is my #1 fan but my biggest critic.

How does life influence your writing and vice versa, including founding and maintaining a publishing company and a Facebook writers group?

I would say music influences my writing more than life. Writing is my escape, and even though I write about very human things, I tend to completely remove myself from real life when I write. My publishing company, Scout Media, has been around since 2013, and we were told by many people that we were going to fail and wouldn’t survive. Funny because almost everyone who said that have closed their doors and no longer exist as presses. I run the company the same way I treat my family: respectful, nurturing, and wanting the best for all parties involved.

What do you love most about your creativity?I love being able to take a few lines of lyric from a favorite song and watch an entire rt or chapter of a novel grow from it.

I love being able to take a few lines of lyric from a favorite song and watch an entire short story or chapter of a novel grow from it.

Author Extra: I know you’re reticent to discuss it, but we’d all like to hear about your DeLorean! You’re the only person I know who owns one, and I followed her progress on the way to her new home. Plus, as a Gen X, I love that movie and MJF.

Ha! Yep, it’s been a lifelong dream of mine, and after about 15 years of serious and hardcore searching, I found one for sale in Michigan, within my price range. The day will live in infamy. It was January 31, 2019. My wife had come home from work and was brushing her teeth, getting ready for bed. I explained I had found a DeLorean for sale in MI, and her reply was that if I had enough money in my book royalty account to pay for it, then make the call in the morning. And I did. So, for all of you out there who have your sights set on a lifelong dream, just know that little ol’ me was able to pay CASH for a 1981 DeLorean with only 17,500 miles on it, 100% from book royalty money from the previous 2 years of sales.

Connect with Brian:

www.BrianPaone.com

www.facebook.com/BrianPaonesNovels

author.to/BrianPaone

Jack Rollins—Author

Jack Rollins was born and raised among the twisting cobbled streets and lanes, ruined forts and rolling moors of rural Northumberland, England in 1980. He is the author of the horror novel The Cabinet of Doctor Blessing, the novella The Séance and a range of short , dark fiction tales. Jack lives in Newcastle, England.

Tell me about your writing process: schedule, environment, inspirations, magick spells, etc.

I have no hard and fast rules when it comes to writing. I’m not one of those 1,000 words a day writers. I wish I was, but life gets in the way. I have bills to pay and my writing won’t yet cover them, and I have children, who wait for nobody and nothing. I think, in fact, hearing some writers talk about their daily word counts actually puts me off writing in some ways—as though I needed to wait until I was in a position to hit that target before I could consider myself a ‘proper writer.’ The truth is, that perfect set of circumstances may never land for me.

So I write whenever and wherever I can. Lately I have been feeling really inspired and energized, and working in my shop enables me plenty of time between customers, to plan, plot, prepare, and ultimately piece together my current work-in-progress. And yes, it can be annoying if I get on a roll and have to stop because a delivery of new stock has to be checked and merchandised, but I have to get on with it and come back to the story because by the time my working day has finished, you can guarantee I’ll be sprawled across my couch, not in any fit state to write another word.

Walk me through your publishing process from “final” draft to final product, including who does what when, and marketing strategies.

I have a few trusted individuals, who are writers, to whom I send my work. One of these writers has known me almost twenty years as I sit here. He knows my style, knows how I say what I want to say, and he especially can help me get to the core of what I’m looking to bring out for the reader.

Once it looks as though we can’t thrash anything more out of the book, then it’s time to put it together. In the case of physical copies of the book, I have learned a great deal over the years about typesetting and formatting a novel properly to ensure a quality product—well laid out and comfortable on the eyes—is produced. The story could be the best thing ever written, but if the typesetting is awful, then who will take the time to read it?

In terms of marketing, I’ve enjoyed some online book launch parties. I found them effective ways of engaging with some readers, but right now, my aim is to be more prolific. I need more stories out there now. I need to reward the loyalty of the readers who have stayed with me, and if I’m able to do that, then hopefully, new readers will join the fold.

I’m not foolish enough to believe it’s some Field of Dreams’ “Write it and they will come” situation. But right now at this stage of my career, with the lengthy break I’ve had between finished projects, I feel the important thing is to look after the readers I’ve already gained. They are, after all, looking out for me.

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

In real life, I know I have the support of my brothers and parents. They like to know that I’m being creative even if what I write doesn’t always appeal to them.

And I need to be honest here, Lael. I haven’t needed a lot of support with the creativity because up until recently, I’ve been fighting battles that completely took me away from my writing. So when I decided enough was enough, and I needed to get back to my old self now that life is settling down again, the first thing I did was write a blog post, almost a letter of apology to the readers who had enjoyed what I’d written previously. And the response I got from that post, in terms of comments, Facebook messages, text messages and all the rest of it, was really uplifting in one sense, and a kick in the balls in another. Uplifting because it was great to know that people are out there rooting for me, and will still get excited when I produce the next piece of work. A kick in the balls because I knew I had to live up to them. That, as a writer, if I do nothing to entertain these loyal readers, then I don’t deserve to have them in my corner. All of that reinforced the positive changes I had made in my life, and I resolved to make creativity a major part of my life once more. Those readers, some of them are individuals I’ve met, or exchanged messages and emails with over time, and that means something to me. My creative output is what connects me to them and because I want to keep that connection to these people who are important to me, I’d better create something to refresh and strengthen our bond.

Beyond that, there is one particular writer in the horror field, and I don’t know if I should name him here. He’s carved out a reputation and persona as one who just doesn’t give a fiddler’s fuck about anything, a bit of a Monster, a bit of a Sick Bastard. But what I came to know about him is, he really is a very caring person, he just doesn’t make a big show of doing it publicly. In my darkest times, periodically I’d get a message from him like, “You said this on Facebook, but I can tell something’s not right.” And I didn’t know how the hell he could read the situation, given I had only met him twice at that time he first called it. But he got it and it turns out he can spot your dark thoughts from 500 miles away, because he’s had them all. All of them and more. And deeper, and for longer. And so every now and then we drop each other a message or a quick call, and I just hope some of those times I give him even one percent of the courage and support he gives me.

What brought you to horror, and how does life influence your writing and vice versa?

As a teenager, when I discovered that I wanted to write fiction, it wasn’t necessarily horror that I wanted to write. I knocked out childish Tarantino-influenced gangster stories and a couple of futuristic tales that did really have their roots in horror. There were just stories and characters swimming around in my head; one of those stories is in fact being reconstructed in my current work-in -progress, and it wasn’t until I read some James Herbert novels that I realized what I was writing would sit in the horror section at W. H. Smith’s. Now I suppose we would think of that particular story more as urban fantasy, but it opened my mind to the fact that the horror genre was vast and has many alleys and corners with a million different types of story scattered throughout.

The horror that I try to capture for my readers is a deep feeling of unease. I remember my ex-partner’s mother reading Doctor Blessing’s Curse (the first part of The Cabinet of Doctor Blessing) and she said she had to put it down. There was nothing gory in there to offend her—not really, anyway. But what she described to me as being her issue was something else entirely. Doctor Blessing’s reaction to the creature he discovers, his almost paternal protection of it, made the most profound impression on her and left her really quite unnerved. Job done then. That’s a real reaction, triggered by something completely fictional and weird. So I think to take those fantastical elements, and handle them with real emotion, can elicit the best response from a reader. I’m not so much frightened by things in life, but I can find myself with a deep sense of unease about this situation, that person, this area, that mindset, or whatever. And we’re all built with very similar instincts hardwired into our bodies, aren’t we? The old fight-or-flight survival instinct. So if I can pluck the strings that set my nerves off just right, there’s a fair to good chance it could get a reaction from you.

Then on the other hand, there is one fun way that my fiction has influenced my life. I opened a business with one of my brothers a few years ago, selling geek merch and comics and all that. We called the business Carsun’s Bazaar, which is the name of the main character’s geek merch and headshop in my current work-in-progress. Carsun’s Bazaar in real life is almost entirely gone now, but I can see a way to bring some part of it back, yet that’s something for the future.

What do you love most about your creativity?

I have a vivid and active imagination, and that creative nature comes in handy, especially as I have two young sons. When we break out the action figures and play together, we get to play out these blockbuster plots that would put those DC movies to shame. If we’re drawing or painting, I can help set a little idea off that the boys can run away with and make their own. And then, for myself, creativity is I suppose an emotional outlet. Right now, the outlet feels great; I’m processing the vast changes I’ve undergone in my life over the past year or so, and now I get to hopefully take all the emotional experience and redirect it into something satisfying that will hopefully entertain others. Problem is, the pendulum swings both ways and the creative, productive heights never last as long as I would love for them to… and then comes the sickening feeling as I hit the apex and feel all that potential energy shift right before I swing in the opposite direction…

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