Friday, June 24, 2016

Interview With Author Cindy Dorminy

I had the recent opportunity to interview author Cindy Dorminy.  In this interview we talk about her debut novel, Tuned Into You, and her journey to becoming a published author.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.   
Author Cindy Dorminy
   I was born in Texas, grew up in Georgia and now call Nashville, TN home. For the past 20+ years, I’ve worked at a major university medical center as a research coordinator. Writing is a major part of my day job, but it is far from creative. 
   Early in our marriage, my husband decided he wanted to join a band. He suggested that since he might be gone a lot on the weekends, I should find a hobby. I was in the process of learning more about the American Civil War and an idea for a novel grabbed me. I worked on that novel for the next several years. It got some attention, but it’s been shelved. Maybe someday, I’ll dust it off and see if there is any interest.  I put writing on hold when I had my daughter because there are only so many hours in the day. I even enrolled in nursing school a few years ago. I had a ‘come to Jesus’ moment and decided I missed creative writing, so I withdrew from school and delved back into writing novels. I have no regrets.

What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
   My debut YA novel is called Tuned Into You. I guess the inspiration came from a slew of ‘what if’ questions back and forth with some writer friends of mine. It grew from that. I know that sounds so dull, but it’s the truth.
Available Now

How would you categorize your book?
My novel is Young Adult Contemporary Romance.

Introduce us to your book's lead protagonists.
   Lydia is a feisty preacher’s kid (the youngest of four). She’s a kick-butt fast-pitch softball pitcher.  Many preacher’s kids have the reputation that they are wild and crazy, so classmates have this opinion of her. But she is nothing like that. She’s completely focused on getting a softball scholarship to her dream college when she meets Abe. He’s Nashville Teen Idol winner and has been on tour living the dream for the past year. He can’t seem to stay out of trouble and fame has worn him out. He’s decided to take the summer off to chill and let all the rumors about him die down. Throwing a party on his family farm and getting arrested alongside Lydia isn’t part of the plan.
   Tuned Into You is an enemies to friends to lovers story with family drama thrown in there. It’s sweet and hopefully the reader will think there are some funny moments.

How did the book come to be titled?
   The entire time I was writing the book, the title was Second Base since Lydia was a softball player. I pitched it to agents and publishers and even some twitter contests under this title with some interest. It wasn’t until I met Kelly Ann Hopkins online and received a query critique from her that the title changed. She thought my title didn’t capture the true essence of the story and suggested the title change. Thanks Kelly!

Tell us more about the cover design.  How involved were you with creating the cover?

   The cover is awesome. Anita Carroll has the Midas touch! (BookFish Books and I love every cover she has designed and each time another cover reveal was announced, I would think, ‘I can’t wait to see what she has in store for me.’ I threw out some ideas to her and some sample pictures and she ran with it. I am so happy with it. Anita rocks!

Tell us something about your book that isn't mentioned in the synopsis.

   My main male character is a singer songwriter, so one way he tries to get Lydia to forgive him is to write a song for her. (I know… sigh!) The lyrics I wrote were terrible. I mean awful doesn’t come close to how bad they were. Thank goodness I live with a songwriter and he helped me out. It sounds so much better. Thanks, Mick!

Give us a summary of your book in a tweet. 

Abe may be a hotshot on stage, but it’s gonna take more than a perfect pitch to win over Lydia.

How much of your experience is in your book/series?

   My of my best friends growing up was a preacher’s kid / softball player. Some of her personality came into play when I was creating Lydia.

Describe your writing process.
   I’m old school. I love writing in a notebook first and then transcribing it into Scrivener. If you haven’t used that program, check it out. It’s very powerful. After I write a few chapters, I’ll ‘compile’ them into a Word document to print. I know, I kill a lot of trees, but I love to take red and blue pens and go to town with editing. I guess I type so fast, if I go straight from mind to laptop, it sounds like a third grader wrote it.

Describe your writing environment.
   It’s hard to find lots of uninterrupted time to write. Working full time, laundry, exercise, having a kid, a dog, a husband, a house, a yard….. you get the picture. There’s always something that has to be done. I do a lot of writing on my lunch breaks at work (especially when the students are gone for summer break – yay). In the spring / summer months,  I will sit out on my screened-in porch and write until I have no daylight left. My writing buddy (Daisy Mae) keeps me company.

How much research did you put into your book?
   Since I live in Nashville, I know the area quite well, so I didn’t have to do much research into the ‘world.’ And the same goes for the music business. My husband is a musician – need I say more? One of my best friends growing up was a feisty, tomboy preacher’s kid. A lot of her personality went into creating Lydia. I’m extremely allergic to horses so I had to rely on my friend Jen Buynitzky who grew up surrounded by horses. She gave me the details on colic!

What are your hobbies, interests outside of writing?
   Outside of reading and writing, I love to workout. I was a competitive bodybuilder back in the 80s and even though I haven’t competed in decades, I still train pretty hard. My husband and I work out most mornings (5 AM) in our gym at home. I also love to garden, but I don’t think I’m very good at it. I love taking my dog, Daisy Mae for walks. Camping is a family interest. I love photography, but again, I don’t think I’m very good at it.

What is the best advice received as an author? 
   Writing a book is a lot like being pregnant. Everyone is eager to give you advice. Most of the writing advice I received was so helpful, it’s really hard to tease out one as being the best. I guess if I had to, I would say that so many authors stressed the importance of having great cover art. I think Anita Carroll knocked it out of the park with Tuned Into You!

What is the harshest criticism? 
   The harshest criticism I think I’ve received was for my adult contemporary novel. An editor said, he thought the story was boring. Ouch! I’m not sure if I’d rather receive a form letter or no letter at all. That rejection hurt. I got another after having full manuscript. The agent just didn’t like the story. Stick a knife in my heart and twist it.

What advice might you give aspiring authors?
   No story will appeal to everyone. If you have a story to tell, tell it. There are others out there that will want to read it. Also, there is not only one way to the prize. There is the agent route, there is going straight to publishers (which is what I did). There are small presses and larger ones. There is traditional publishing and there is indie publishing. All are legitimate avenues for an author. Don’t be too focused on one way because a path may be opening up right in front of your eyes and you certainly don’t want to miss it.

What types of genres do you read now for pleasure?
   I read a wide variety of genres. Chic-lit, dystopian, some sci-fi, MG, YA, NA, adult. I’m not a fan of paranormal, but I’ve found some to be quite good. I love characters that won’t let me get a good night’s sleep until I finish the book and stay with me for a long time after ‘the end.’ Authors like Tracie Bannister, Jennifer Peel, Melanie Marks, Anna Katmore, Monique McDonell, and Cassie Mae are masters of that. If I could write half as good as they do, I’d consider myself a great writer.

What is next for you?
   I just finished a YA novel that I think is different from others out there right now. It’s a cross between If I stay / It’s a Wonderful Life and The Breakfast Club. It’s in the editing phase right now and can’t wait to get that out there for the world to see.
   I’m also working on another book with the characters from Tuned. (West and Camille’s story), but it is in such a pathetic draft form, I wouldn’t dare even share the plot yet. I have an adult contemporary romance I’ve been submitting also.
   And, I have five screenplays I wrote several years ago I would love to convert to novels. I don’t have enough hours in the day to get all my ideas down on paper. It’s such a wonderful problem to have.

Back Cover Blurb

A summer party is the last place Lydia Flowers wants to be. Beer pong? Stupid, foot-wrecking shoes? Random hookups? No thanks. Lydia would rather be in her cleats practicing her bat handling skills.

Enter Abe Fischer, the Nashville Teen Idol superstar. He’s a lip-syncing party animal with a short fuse; or at least that’s what the tabloids say. Except, Abe turns out to be nothing like the guy Lydia’s read about online. He’s sweet, and the way he talks to his horse…sigh. 

Then life throws Lydia and Abe a curveball. They are wrongfully arrested for destruction of property. Their choices? Either work on the Fischer Farm for the summer earning nothing more than blisters and a sunburn, or have the arrest go on their records, which would ruin Lydia’s shot at a softball scholarship. It’s a no-brainer. Lydia picks up a pitchfork, pulls out the SPF 40, and prepares for the worst two months of her life.

When the press gets wind of a big secret Abe’s family has been keeping, things become even more complicated. Now Lydia has another choice to make: stick around for Abe’s messed-up life in the spotlight, or go for the scholarship of her dreams.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Interview With Author RR Willica

I had the pleasure of recently interviewing fantasy author R.R. Willica. In this interview we talk about her newest release, Darkness Falling: Shadow of the Seekerthe second book in her Darkness Falling Trilogy. She also shares with us her journey as a writer undertaking this project and her future writing plans.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.  

I've been writing and storytelling since childhood but completed my first full-length novel manuscript when I was thirteen. I started writing Darkness Falling when I was seventeen in 1997. When I'm not writing I like playing video games and watching movies or TV shows. I'm also a wife and mother and work full time as a receptionist.

What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?

The latest book is called Darkness Falling: Shadow of the Seeker and it's the second book in my Darkness Falling Trilogy. I originally intended for Darkness Falling to be a single manuscript but it was far too long and complex. I decided to revise it and cut it into a trilogy for my author debut.

The original inspiration was based on an idea I had about magic and science and how they function as a duality in ways to explain the natural world. The book is about the idea of balance in multiple aspects; good and evil, light and dark, male and female, weak and powerful. It also discusses how those things must be in balance and the scales must not tip too far one way or the other otherwise there is oppression and destruction.

I also got a lot of inspiration from video games such as the Final Fantasy series but from many other games as well.
R.R. Willica's New Release
How would you categorize your book?

It is categorized on Amazon as Fantasy Science-Fiction > Dystopian but it is more of a Modern Epic Dystopian Fantasy with some Science-Fiction elements.

Introduce us to your series characters.

Impyra is the protagonist. She is 22 years old and has lived her entire life as a slave to the Empire and in recent years the concubine to the crown prince. She also has special powers, which are technically forbidden. When we first meet her she is a little off balance because she has never been free to make her own choices in her life. Sometimes she is fierce and other times timid, just trying to get a feel for herself.

Brosen is the main character and is 21 years old. He is an Enforcer; a type of soldier / police officer for the Empire. The Enforcers are also slaves but they have greater freedom. They are highly trained from early childhood to be loyal, but when he meets Impyra he chooses to help her because he is tired of the injustices he witnesses in the world.

How does the title relate to the story?

Darkness Falling is a play on words that it represents oncoming evil, but it also plays on the duality in the idea that there is hope that the evil can be overthrown, or "cast down."

The first book is subtitled Soldiers and Slaves because it explores the idea that in the world of the story, people are either soldiers or slaves, either by choice or through circumstances outside of their control. Every character in the book can be seen as either of these two aspects, sometimes both.

The second book is subtitled Shadow of the Seeker and that plays directly on an object within the series of antagonistic importance and how it is looming over the situation.

Tell us more about the cover design.
Book One Available Now

For Soldiers and Slaves I had a friend, Allix Styers, and she came up with the original design of the cover. We lost contact and shortly after I realized I wanted to change the subtitle (it was a slight change but important,) and also my husband and I decided that the original font used was too generic. Unfortunately, she had disappeared so I taught myself to use Gimp and remade the cover. It's a little different; the colors are darker and the building is bigger, but it's the same concept. I credit her for the design of the first book.

For Shadow of the Seeker, I decided that it was better to rely on myself. We had a blizzard so I took my husband's sword outside and took pictures of it in the snow. I come from a family of artists. I draw a little but writing is my primary art. I think I did a pretty good job for my skill level. 

The font I found at 1001 fonts and is by Vic Fieger.

Describe your writing process.

I am not a pantser or a plotter. I write with what I call "disorganized organization." In my head my stories are all plotted out in advance, but I don't write an outline. I do, however, put in a lot of work for world building such as drawing maps, writing out historical timelines, figuring out years, inventions, and birthdays, and distances between locations. Much of this world building happens while I write, however; and the story itself plays like a movie in my mind. I can fast forward, rewind, and pause as needed. I have a knack for chronological order, although I did test myself a great deal because Darkness Falling gets stretched over three time zones across the planet where the story takes place.

I also type everything. I never have a "notebook" stage. My mind moves pretty quickly and I'm not able to keep up by handwriting.

Describe your writing environment.

I mostly write at home. My desk is in an office next to my husband. We often chat while I write. The kids are around, too. It's noisy in my house. Sometimes I use music to help me focus but not always.

How much research did you put into your series?

I did some research about helicopters, a good amount of research about how long it takes to travel from point a to point b via ship and helicopter. I also did some research about motorcycles that can run on snow and certain types of damage an axle can take for a battle scene.

What is the best advice and the harshest criticism you have received as an author?

The best advice I've ever received is not to give your readers a textbook. Just because you're excited about your world building doesn't mean everyone wants to sit through paragraphs full of imaginary history lessons. It's actually the harshest criticism I ever received, but it made me look at my writing and really be honest with myself. It forced me to grow and get better, and it reminded me that I will continue to grow the more I write.

What advice might you give aspiring authors?

My advice to aspiring writers is that the world of writing is hard. Traditional publishing is hard to get into, but indie writing is not "the easy way out." Just because your published somewhere doesn't mean anyone will read your work. Both paths require a lot of work and perseverance. You also have to be ready for someone to say something harsh, and to learn the difference between constructive criticism and taking things personally.

What kind of books did you read as a child? How did the genres or authors influence your writing?

As a young child I loved fairytales and a lot of books and fantasy, but I didn't always love fantasy books. I was not a fan of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, for example. It didn't feel fantastic enough for me. That may seem odd, but it's the truth. I also never got into the "teen" books of my era. The Babysitters Club and Sweet Valley High didn't appeal to me, but my mother wouldn't let me read Sweet Valley High anyway. She wanted me to think about more than just boys.

Instead I read Stephen King's The Eyes of the Dragon at 11 years old and after that went straight into The Hobbit, the Shannara series, Katheryn Kerr, Margaret Wise and Tracy Hickman, Douglas Adams, and Tad Williams. All of them influenced me, but especially Tolkein. I was enthralled by the idea of writing a new language and even tried to write my own. It didn't work out. Later I was inspired by Terry Pratchett. When he died it was a big epiphany for me that I needed to get my writing out into the world and I decided to publish as an indie author.

What types of books or genres do you read for pleasure?

I read across genres today. I'm more likely to gravitate toward fantasy or fantasy comedy but if a book sounds good I'll read it. I also like supporting indie authors so I've been reading a lot by indie authors right now. 

What is next for you?

Next I'm going to finish the Darkness Falling Trilogy with Book Three which will hopefully be out in the winter. After that I'm planning to continue writing. I currently have an epic fantasy comedy, a comedy YA zombie story, a modern fantasy comedy, and then more traditional fantasy books all partially written. I think I have 9 total just waiting their turn. I expect that number to grow. I also may someday revisit the world of Darkness Falling but set the books in different eras in history.

You can find R.R. Willica at the following places:

Twitter:  @RRWillica

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Interview With Author Philip Brown

I had the wonderful opportunity to interview author Philip Brown. In this interview he talks about Light Runner, the first book in his YA fantasy trilogy.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Author Philip Brown
I’m a high school English teacher, writer, husband, father, frozen yogurt enthusiast, book lover, Leo, rock ‘n’ roll fan for life.

What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
My book is titled Light Runner, and the book was inspired by the many strong, resilient young people I have known, kids who’ve had to dig down deep to overcome long odds. I’ve also been inspired by lots of women—including my own sisters—who’ve succeeded.

How would you categorize your book?
Light Runner is a young adult contemporary fantasy, but it’s also received glowing reviews from adult readers. It is the first book in a three book series.

Introduce us to the main character of your series.  What is it about this character that appeals to you as a writer?

The main character in Light Runner is 16 year-old Dara, a skateboarding, manga-reading, green hair-streaked teenager whose mother was recently murdered. When a powerful healing armband falls into her hands and her father disappears, she has to run for her life. I wanted to create a female protagonist who is an underdog and does not realize her own power because she’s never had to tap it. But when events propel her into action, she is forced to call upon her own hidden resources to survive. I loved writing about Dara because I got to dig down deep to uncover hidden layers of her character that were a surprise to both of us.
Available Now
How did the book come to be titled and how does it relate to the story?

The publisher and I selected the title Light Runner from a list I came up with. The armband in the story—called a Jyotisha—radiates light when it heals wounds. The main character, Dara, is on the run, trying to protect this armband from others who want to take it from her. “Runner” also has a double meaning of messenger.

How involved were you with creating the cover?
The publisher has their own in-house design artist, and she created the cover, for which I also had approval.

Tell us something about your book that isn't mentioned in the synopsis.

Dara has to fly beneath the radar, and she hides out by becoming part of the burgeoning homeless population in Los Angeles. Surviving on the streets—with a magic bracelet—is a big part of the story. In writing the book, I researched homelessness and teen runaways—an eye-opening experience.

Give us a summary of your book in a tweet.
A teenage girl…a powerful healing armband…a man who won’t stop until it’s his. #Light Runner

How much of your experience is in your book?
Lots. I drew upon my experience as a teenager and also as someone who’s lived close to the streets for a time in my life. I drove a taxicab, and that gave me a feel for the streets and street life. Mainly, though, I drew upon my own experience of being a survivor, knowing first-hand what it takes to pull through adversity.

Describe your writing process.
I get up at 4:00 every morning to write for a couple of hours. I’m a slow, pain-staking writer—but I stick with it. I’m learning to do more outlining, but my natural tendency is to do “headlight writing,” meaning I look as far ahead in the story as a pair of headlights on a dark highway. I do know where it’s going, how it will end, have different scenes and characters mapped out. But I find that the act of writing is where much of the story is created. Also, feedback is very important for me, and I have a regular critique group of beta readers who look at everything I write and give me strong feedback—not always positive and sometimes pointing me in plot directions I could not see myself.

Describe your writing environment.
Total quiet in the early morning darkness. A small desk with a computer and a bulletin board stuck with a bunch of 3 x 5 cards that lay out scenes and story connections. And coffee. Lots of coffee.

How much research did you put into your book?
A lot of the research came out of my own life. In a previous incarnation, I drove a taxicab (pre-Uber) on the streets of L.A. and Hollywood, which gave me a feel for street life at night. I also lived close to that side of life myself. But when it came to other things, I had to do a lot of research on skateboarding, homelessness, homeless shelters, and how to to do a remote TV broadcast. In Book 2, there’s a scene where Dara and Diego ride the L.A. Metro. I went downtown and rode the same route so I could describe it. There’s nothing better for a writer than being there and experiencing it.

What are your interests outside of writing? Do any of these activities find their way into your

I love astrology and have written a couple of astrology books. Cosmic Trends was published by Llewellyn Worldwide, and was a finalist for the Coalition of Visionary Resources award. It's about the astrology of cultural trends - music, fashion, movies, science. I've also studied Vedic astrology and Tarot, and some find their way into Light Runner.

What is the best advice received as an author?

The best writing advice I ever received is to read a lot of good books, and that is the advice I would pass on to any aspiring writers. Absorb good writing. Make it part of your bloodstream. Read lots of books in a wide variety of genres, not just the one in which you want to write.

What is the harshest criticism you have received?

Like a lot of writers and artists, I am thin-skinned and sensitive to criticism—so, to me, all criticism seems harsh. Perhaps the harshest criticism is silence, someone who reads my work and says nothing. That’s especially hard because then I don’t know if the story worked—or not. And if not, what missed the mark. If I want to grow and develop as a writer, I feel it is important for me to learn, and in order to do that I have to take in criticism and use it to improve my writing. I try to be teachable. I’ve seen writers flee from any suggestions for improvement because they just want their work to be admired and nothing more. If I want to be a good writer, I need to learn the craft of writing. That takes a lot of hard work and listening to the suggestions of others.

What kinds of books did you read as a child and did they influence the kind of books you write today?
I read everything: fantasy, mystery, biography, sports bios. I especially loved The Wizard of Oz series—not just the first book that was the basis for the movie, although that’s a great story. I loved the Nancy Drew series, and my original concept when I started writing a book was “Nancy Drew on a skateboard” which evolved into something quite different. I also loved stores about underdogs. A writer named Howard Fast wrote a lot of this type of story, and I enjoyed his books. I didn’t really have a favorite genre, although for quite some time I was obsessed with sci-fi. I think a lot of those genres worked their way into the type of writing I do today.

What specific authors or books influenced what you write today?
Mythology is a big influence, and in Light Runner, I drew upon the myth of the wounded healer. I’ve been influenced by so many writers, both old and new. I love Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and dystopian lit like The Hunger Games (but also Brave New World and 1984). I actually love the thriller genre and try to learn about intense plotting from those books. Charles Dickens’ original characters and Jane Austen’s masking of character—not that I’m in their league, or even close—have been influential. I read a lot of books and find myself influenced to some degree by everything I read. Some TV shows have very good writing. They have to hook the viewer fast and keep your attention.

What types of books or genres do you read now for pleasure?
For pleasure I like thrillers, spies, private eyes, Dan Brown. I like to read books where the story carries me along and I don’t have to do too much heavy lifting.  It takes a lot of skill to write a believable plot that moves. I also like books that bring to life a real world I know nothing about. The Boys in the Boat did that, as did Michael Lewis’ The Big Short.

What is next for you?
I’m finishing the sequel to Light Runner—and then I’ll start on Book 3.

You can connect with Philip at the following places: