Interview with Author Kristy Centeno

Deliverance.Ebook

Today, we have the pleasure of chatting with author Kristy Centeno, who recently had her latest YA/NA paranormal romance released, Deliverance. In addition to being the author of the Secrets of the Moon saga and Keeper Witches series, and now, Deliverance, Kristy is a wife and mother to five children, and she holds down a day job, as well. This interview will kick off her book blog tour for the book with Full Moon Bites author promotions, so let’s give her a good send off.

Kaye: Your most recent paranormal romance released is Deliverance, and I hear it has received some great reviews. Would you like to tell us a little about it?

Kristy: Deliverance depicts the story of a young man who has been imprisoned in an Institute his entire life. Created in a lab, he has no clues as to what he is. Only that he’s not human. Tired of a life of suffering, he escapes to seek the assistance of a man that can help permanently free him and the other prisoners from his creator’s clutches. To do so, he requires the assistance of a young woman—one that will come to challenge everything he believed his enemies to be.

Deliverance delves into the paranormal, with a hint of romance, and some mystery thrown in as well. It took me a year to complete this project and enjoyed every minute of the process. Tiger wasn’t an easy character to develop as he isn’t quite your average hero. He’s both fierce and vulnerable. Strong yet weak. A potential killer yet innocent. As readers go through the story, they’ll better understand what I mean.

Kaye: Deliverance is listed under both YA and NA paranormal romance. Would you talk a little about what the difference in these two genre categories are?

Kristy: Young adult is basically geared more toward the teenage audience with coming of age scenarios that help shape the young character’s future, personality, or outlook in life. The main characters are usually in their teens, experiencing, learning, experimenting things for the first time.

New Adult, however, portrays characters that are a bit older and perhaps, a tad more mature. Think college age adults who undergo a series of scenarios that might have more of an impact on their lives than it would a younger person. They might have to deal with things that might not be an issue for someone in their teens.

Kaye: You are currently working on a sequel to Deliverance. Any hints as to what might be in store for your readers there?

Kristy: There is a bit more background story for some of the main characters as well as information on how the Legion works. It gives some insight on what Gerard’s next plans for the main characters were. And, of course, another mystery unfolds. One that will flip Tiger and Kristina’s worlds upside down.

Kaye: You have a large family, including five children. What are your secrets for juggling writing with family?

Kristy: Between my day job and my five children, finding time to write isn’t always easy. To be honest, even when I find time, I struggle between heading off to bed early to get some rest or get the next chapter completed. My days are full, but I try to make the best of what time I do have.

Most days, I get some writing done after the kiddies head off to bed. It’s nice and quiet. Not having anyone vying for my attention provides me with at least one to two hours of uninterrupted writing.

Basically, the way I work around my schedule is by tending to the kids first, house second, and then my writing. If the kids need something or the house is unorganized I can’t concentrate on my writing either so when I sit down to write, no matter what time of the day it is, I have to make sure that my to-do list is complete. Then and only then can I devote my full attention to those that live in my head.

Kaye: What is the one thing you hope to teach your children?

Kristy: There’s so much I wish to teach my children that I could go on forever naming each. But one thing that’s important for me is that they learn how to love themselves first and everyone else second. With so many issues about body shaming and public ridicule for being different, I don’t want my kiddies to feel as if they have to be like everyone else just to fit in the crowd. I always tell them that it’s okay to be different and there’s nothing wrong with being a little weird.

Kaye: You have two blogs dedicated to author promotions and writing. Would you like to tell us how they came about and what one might find there? How do you come up with enough content to keep them both active?

Kristy: When I was first published, I realized right away that one of the most difficult things to do as an author was, and still is, promoting. I had to develop an online presence and that took time. Fortunately for me, I found a network of authors that were willing to lend a hand when it came to promoting my work, offering advice, and some constructive criticism when needed.

While I was establishing an online presence, I found many new authors that like me, struggled to promote their work and would benefit from the same kind of help I received when I first got started. Thus, the idea was born to create not one but two blogs where I could assist anyone that needed it.

It didn’t take long at all for my inbox to start to fill up with requests from authors all over the States, Canada, and even the UK. I keep a calendar to track which author I’m hosting on what day due to the sheer volume of requests. Many of the authors I’ve worked with over the years also help cross promote my work on their sites/blogs, which is fantastic. Plus, I get to learn about new authors and their fabulous work that I’d probably have a difficult time locating if I didn’t hear from them directly.

Now, I also host blog tours for various book blogging companies as well. It’s something that I’ve come to enjoy over the years and continue to do as a hobby.

Kaye: What’s something most readers would never guess about you?

Kristy: I’m a bit of an introvert. Most people don’t believe this because I’m generally outgoing. Though at first I’m a bit shy, once I’m comfortable with someone I tend to talk a lot more and joke around. But I prefer the comfort of my own home as opposed to going out.

Kaye: What is the biggest challenge of being a writer?

Kristy: Aside from getting published and struggling with promoting your work once it’s published, I’d say one huge challenge is overcoming the dreaded writer’s block.

Kaye: Would you share the story of your own publishing journey?

Kristy: My story isn’t that different from most authors. At least, I don’t think. I must have queried close to thirty agencies that first year, receiving nothing but rejection after rejection. It was very disappointing, not to mention it really made me suffer through periods where I had serious self-doubt about my work and myself as a writer.

I didn’t understand that even if your first manuscript isn’t the best, you tend to improve overtime. I wasn’t in that state of mind though. I considered quitting before I even got started. That was until I heard a positive response from a publisher that was interested in reading the full manuscript of the first book I ever submitted.

They decided to pass, but that rejection ended up helping so much. When they got back to me, they were kind enough to say where my strengths lay and where and what I needed to improve. I took their advice to heart and worked on my manuscript some more. It wasn’t perfect by any means, but it read a lot better. When I submitted it again to another publisher, I was once more asked for a full manuscript. Three months later I was offered a contract. I was elated!

From there it has been easier but I’m still learning. I’m sure there’s still so much room for growth and I don’t mind. I love evolving my skills and developing my voice as I go along. With every publisher and every editor I work with, I learn something new. I learn where I have to improve and what areas I should focus on. It’s a never-ending cycle but one I don’t mind repeating.

Kaye: What’s the best piece of advice you were ever given?

Kristy: “No matter how hard life knocks you down, you better get right back up again and plow through. Life will never stop trying to knock you off your feet so don’t ever stop getting right back up again.”

Kaye: You are fortunate enough to have found a publisher for your books. How much non-writing work, (marketing & promotion, illustrations & book covers, etc…), do you do yourself for your books?

Kristy: Fortunately, the book covers are taken care of by the publisher. However, I do most of the marketing for my book. I organized takeovers, hire book blog companies, spread the word via social media, send emails, etc.

One of my publishers does quite a bit in terms of spreading the word about our books. They have put our books in local libraries, they send out newsletters with interviews, guest posts, etc. and we occasionally do author takeovers and Facebook events as well.

Kaye: What strategies and promotional tools work best to sell books for you, as far as marketing goes?

Kristy: It’s hit or miss with marketing to be honest. I have found that when I book a tour via a book blogging company, some will do extremely well and I immediately see an increase in sales. While there are other times when there’s barely a difference. However, I’ve found that when I do character interviews, guest posts, or giveaways my book does well and there’s a lot of online activity, which is great.

I prefer to schedule release tour weeks in advance to get the release off to a good start. Usually, this is when I see the most impact when it comes to sells as well as reviews. Giveaways do very well too so I have tend to partake in them more and more nowadays than I used to. Especially if I’m giving out a signed copy of one of my books. People respond positively to that.

Deliverance Banner

I want to thank Kristy for joining us here, on Writing to be Read, and for sharing a little bit about herself and her paranormal romance, Deliverance. You can purchase Deliverance on Amazon, iTunes, B&N, Inktera, and Createspace.

To find out more about Kristy, or her books:

Her Website: https://booksbycenteno.com/

Blog: http://therightbook4u.blogspot.com/

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Kristy-Centeno/e/B00BR7KQ4U

Goodreads Author Page:

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6580510.Kristy_Centeno

Or check her out on social media:

Facebook

Twitter

Google+

Pintrest

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Interview with “The Best Seller”author Dina Rae

dins

Today, we have with us, the science fiction author of the conspiracy thriller, The Best Seller, Dina Rae. She’s tried both the traditional publishing and self-publishing routes, and her latest novel, The Best Seller, was recently released by Solstice Publishing. With this interview, we kick off her book blog tour with Full Moon Bites author promotions.

Kaye: Your latest science fiction conspiracy thriller, The Best Seller: Book 1 of 2 was recently released. It is the tale of a writer’s dream come true, turned nightmare. Would you like to talk about that? Tell us what it’s all about.

Dina: I thought it would be interesting to write about a Stephen King-like author who doesn’t write his work, but records it from extraterrestrials.  I once listened to a podcast that talked about automatic writing that comes from the Akashic record and thought it would play well in a novel.  Of course, the author doesn’t live happily ever after.  That would make for a short, boring book.  There’s a reason for it as you read on.  My next novel, The Sequel, gets more into it.

Kaye: You’re a wife and mother in addition to being a writer. What are your secrets for juggling writing with family?

Dina: I also work full-time as a teacher and coach, so yes, it’s a lot to juggle!  I bring a notebook with me at all times.  When I am waiting at the dentist, it’s time to write; when I am waiting for noodles to boil, it’s time to write; when I am at a choir concert or softball game; it’s time to write…  You can always find time to do the things you love to do.  I wish I was that determined when it comes to working out!  I have found that the most productive people on the planet are the ones who have no time.  Ask the busiest person you know to do something and it’s done!

Kaye: What is the one thing you hope to teach your children?

Dina: Great question!  I want them to be good people, but also know that it is okay to mess up.  It’s okay to take a risk and fail.  Learning from mistakes is not just a lesson, but a way to live your life.  I want them to understand the value of a dollar.  So many young people start out their lives in massive debt from college.  Life’s expenses cause more debt.  My college-aged daughters decided to attend junior college and work as a way to keep expenses down.  They might just graduate debt free.  They both have friends who already are in massive debt and have yet to graduate.

bestseller (1)

Kaye: Your books are filled with conspiracies and intrigue. A lot of your books don’t fit neatly into a genre category or subcategory. How do you describe your books?

Dina: I love a good conspiracy-left-wing, right-wing, alien, HAARP, contrails, 911, apocalypse, bring it on!  All of my books take kernels of popular conspiracies and then build stories around them.  The Best Seller delves into how the government not only knows about extraterrestrials, but partners up with them to maintain power.  Of course, a humongous conspiracy always has a few that go rogue which messes up the plan.  I also take the Roswell incident and fill in the blanks about how our government found a spaceship and aliens in New Mexico back in 1947.  In The Sequel, The Best Seller’s second volume, there is a great deal of conspiracy about Hitler and his Nazis.

Kaye: You do a lot of research in order to write about things you haven’t ever seen and places you’ve never been? What are some of the strangest things you’ve ever had to research for your books?

Dina: In The Sequel, I spent a great deal of time researching races of aliens.  David Icke’s name popped a few million times.  Very, very strange.  He believes a Reptillian race lives on earth among us.  They shapeshift into key figures of the elite circle.  These Reptillians prepare for New World Order.  I loved it!  He is very sincere in his beliefs as are the many who follow him.

Kaye: Are you a plotter or a pantser? Why?

Dina: I am a total pantser for the first half of the book.  I start plotting later on, and then go back to change everything!  I tend to work better without an outline.

Kaye: You’ve made some pretty awesome book trailers, which do a good job of capturing readers’ attention, but how effective have they been as far as selling books goes?

Dina: Thanks so much!  The truth is the trailers do not generate a lot of hits.  They are something that I will keep doing anyway.  I think that I get most of my sales from interviews of bloggers and radio hosts.  I also will have selling spurts after a great review from a review blog.

Kaye: If writing suddenly made you rich and famous, what would you do?

Dina:  I would love to find out!  I have everything that I want in a middle-class capacity.  Extra money would mean lots of traveling.

Kaye: What’s the most fun part of writing a novel? What’s the least fun part?

Dina: Most fun-I oddly love to research.  I also love putting the pieces together for the story-it’s like a puzzle.  Yes, I am a geek!  Least fun-editing and constantly promoting.

Kaye: What did your road to publication look like? How did you get to where you are today?

Dina: My first book was The Last Degree.  My publisher was not entirely on the up and up.  I didn’t know any better.  I pulled the manuscript and canceled the contract.  The book is now up on Amazon as self-published.  My second book and third books, Halo of the Damned and Halo of the Nephilim, had much smoother rides.  They were published by Damnation Books.  They recently sold the business to another publisher, Caliburn Books.  The Best Seller was picked up by Solstice Publishing and they have been great.  The got back to me right away after my query.  I signed and then they gave me a cover.  While it was being edited, I started promoting the book.

My advice to new writers is this-check out Preditors and Editors.  They keep tabs on the publishing world.  Also know that not everyone is legit.

Kaye: Is there anything unique or unusual about your writing process?

Dina: Not really, but I do like to write longhand.  I like to buy cool looking journals to write in.

Kaye: What is the strangest inspiration for a story you’ve ever had?

Dina: It’s certainly not an original idea, but genetic modifications, cloning, CRISP-R, and gene therapy scare the hell out of me.  Fear of the future inspires me.  I don’t see the progress, I see the pitfalls.

Kaye: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Dina: I love to play tennis and walk my two dogs.  My husband and I also love to go to flea markets for fun.

Kaye: What is the biggest challenge of being a writer for you?

Dina: There are so many challenges.  Advertising is so expensive.  Authors have to be more creative in their promotions.  There is a lot of trial and error.

Kaye: If you could have lunch with any author, alive or dead, who would it be?  Why?

Dina: Jesus Christ/God because I believe they wrote the Bible.  Meeting them would mean I made it into Heaven.  On a less divine note, I would love to talk to Shakespeare (or Queen Elizabeth as some conspiracy theories claim is the real author of all of those plays).  I want to know how it feels to have so many of your phrases used in today’s language.  I would want to know how he feels about modern literature.

Thanks so much for interviewing me!  Great questions!

I want to thank you, Dina, for sharing with myself and my readers a small glimpse into your life and your writing. I’m sure The Best Seller will be… a best seller, and I’m pleased to be able to help kick off your tour.

You can follow Dina here:

@haloofthedamned
Blog: http://www.dinaraeswritestuff.blogspot.com/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30286767-the-best-seller

Facebook

 

See Her Book Trailers Here:

The Best Seller: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQER8wJmaf8
The Last Degree: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nkbg6Yy8UKU
Halo of the Damned: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4p89LXZNxOs

 

Dina is also hosting a give away for 2 signed paperbacks of The Best Seller, and 2 Amazon $10.00 gift cards. You can enter the give away here:

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/873c06d2357/?

 

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It’s All in the Packaging: Interview with Writer, Poet and Cover Designer, Dawn Leslie Mullan

 

They say you can’t judge a book by it’s cover, but we do all the time. So, when sales for Delilah was faltering, I decided to change it up. Actually, I ran into an awesome cover designer, who came up with a great cover for not only Delilah, but one for Last Call, too. Subsequently, the sales for Delilah went up some. The new cover just came out for Last Call, so it remains to be seen if it will have the same effect, but I’m anticipating some positive results. It all goes to show just how important it is to find the right cover designer for your work. If you don’t believe a book cover can make a difference, take a look at the original cover for Last Call, below and compare with the new one, above:

Last Call Cover

Today I am fortunate to be able to interview my awesome cover designer, DL Mullen of Sonoran Dawn Studios, so I can share with my readers just what a talented cover designer this lady really is. And she’s so much more. Also a writer and poet,  Dawn Leslie Mullan spends a lot of time getting creative.

Kaye: In addition to being an accomplished poet, you have your own design company, Sonoran Dawn Studios. How did you get into cover art design?

Dawn: I got into cover design because I knew that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. People are attracted to book covers as well as read tag lines and brief synopses to make their decisions about purchases. Since I have had my digital art shown across the country in various exhibits and at conventions, the creation of my own cover art was a natural fit. Sonoran Dawn Studios is the intuitive progression from an artist and writer to designer and publisher.

 

Kaye: You’ve self-published two books of nature poetry, Effloresce, and Rain: Monsoon in the Desert and two books of dark poetry, Memoirs of a Psychotic Painting Elephant, and The Descent. Would you share the story of your own publishing journey?

Dawn: My publishing journey is much like many other writers’ careers. I have been writing since my formative years, but the confidence to write for publication did not happen until higher education. When I was exposed to literature and professors who understood the dynamics in literary context, my world expanded a thousand-fold. I was no longer in this cocoon of sensory deprivation. The experience allowed me to dream.

As I grew older my dreams also grew, but some obstacles were thrown in my way. I became disabled by Environmental Illness, so the future book tour I had envisioned for myself was replaced by severe reactions to an array of chemicals and molds. A collapsed immune system does not a national book tour make. With the help of natural doctors, nutrition, and lots of bed rest, I have been able to balance my disabilities with my goals. I began my website, Undawnted, to feature my writing. Later, I created Sonoran Dawn Studios to publish what I produced with the dream of helping other writers accomplish their goals of publications in the future.

Just because life happened while I was making other plans does not mean I still cannot fulfill my life’s purpose.  Creativity is more than a hobby; creativity also brings about choices through true authentic problem-solving. As a testament to my originality and perseverance, my publishing journey has become a triumph over adversity.

 

Kaye: Would you publish through Lulu again? Why or why not?

Dawn: Yes, I love publishing through Lulu. The ebooks I can disseminate are endless. I am researching beyond Lulu for other Print on Demand services to see what the best modality for my print books may be. I want to make sure my readers are taken care of, while not being intrusive or creating confusion. I do foresee my ebooks finding their way into print sometime in 2019.

 

Kaye: What is the single most important quality in a poem for you?

Dawn: The most important quality in a poem is based in the five W’s of journalism. What, where, why, when, and how. What image is the reader left with at the end? Where has the poem taken the reader? Why would this poem be important to the reader later on in life?  When will the poem reoccur in the memory of the reader long after the poem is read? How does the poem leave an indelible mark in the emotions of its audience?

Anyone can write a poem. The best poems are the ones that linger in the recesses of a reader’s mind. To stir there, be forgotten until an emotion brings up images of the poem that can only be satisfied by reading the poem again. Poetry is more than words and rhymes; poetry is the exercise in conveying emotions through imagery.

So, what do you see when you write?

 

Kaye: Where do your poetic inspirations come from?

Dawn: Everywhere. That is where my inspiration comes from. I am in awe of this world and our universe. I keep a child’s naïveté and wonderment lurking around every corner of my imagination. I view circumstances with that innocence as if I am seeing lightning, touching a cat, hearing a siren, or feeling the sun for the first time. Every time.

That juxtaposition allows me to combine youthful honesty, integrity, and virtue with the aged heartbreak, candor, and wisdom. No emotion is off limits to experience inside my soul. Every creative dimension is then available to express whether that would be in the forms of poetry or prose.

Inspiration is everywhere… you just have to feel it.

 

Kaye: What’s your favorite social media site for promotion? Why?

Dawn: None of them really are my favorites for any kind of promotion but I go where my audience travels. Social media is the ghetto harbors of the internet. Our creativity and objectivity are trapped in programmed cages that reverberate and sometimes crescendo our own confirmation bias. Social ghettos like their city namesakes limit opportunities for those individuals seeking advancement and relegate people into an inferior stasis with poor resources and tyrannical mismanagement.

I’d rather own my own website away from social media, but finances impede that dream at this moment. So I am stuck in the ghettos of Facebook, Google plus, and Blogger. I hope someday people realize how confining social media is so we can return to a time of free expression.

Won’t you join me?

 

Kaye: You are a creative person, writing award winning poetry and designing some pretty awesome cover art, etc… Were you creative as a child?

Dawn: Thank you. I have always had an active imagination. My formative years began in solitude, but after my family moved to the west coast, we ran a daycare, and so there was no shortage of company.

The lack of companionship, however, is a different matter. I knew I was atypical from other children of my age. I observed. I understood far beyond my years. I intellectualized, but I also empathized.

Creative maturity has given me the ability to recognize those evocative reactions and morph the feelings into a seasoned response. Empathy is a strong connection to other people and their plight, the trick is to find a positive way to express myself through art, writing, and problem-solving to avoid the pitfalls of negativity.

That is why so many creative people are depressed and feel rejected by society: improper context of sensory stimuli. Creative people need to step outside of a given situation and see all the moving parts. The ability to walk in another’s shoes is a gift, but when that gift creates blinders to the other parts of life, that is where creativity can destroy instead of uplift.

I had to find that balance. I had to find my own wisdom. Meditation and energy work are beneficial. A balanced perspective is everything.  I had to learn that being a creative child did not mean I had to be an explosive, renegade adult… that is what my characters are for!

Let your imagination work for you. Be calm, cool, and collected with your interactions with the world. Allow your creativity be the solution.

Make your characters say and do what society frowns upon. In creativity, you are free. In living imagination, you are the creator.

So design a better reality to inspire change: one person can make a difference.

 

Kaye: How would you describe yourself in three words?

Dawn: Innovative. Dynamic. Trendsetter.

 

Kaye: What’s the best piece of advice you were ever given?

Dawn: I really have no idea. Maybe it was: don’t play in traffic? Or, don’t stick your fingers in the light socket? I do not believe I have ever been given a lot of advice.

I have always been a self-starter. I am a person who walks forward in life. There have been some obvious setbacks, but I set short- and long- term goals. Whatever is attainable, I achieve. Whatever does not work for me, I change to fit my new timeline.

So I do not believe my life has been about being advised as much as it has been about who can keep up with me.

 

Kaye: You’ve had many poems published and won awards for quite a few. What is the biggest challenge in being a poet?

Dawn: The biggest challenge in being a poet, or an artist in general, is discovering new ways to compete with myself. How can I outdo my last creation? Achieve a better response? Create something thought-provoking or truly distinctive?

As a writer, I challenge my own status quo. I am in competition with no other person but myself. So the creative balance I endeavor to maintain has helped me restructure my point of view. I strive for self-betterment to take my writing to the next level.

This fresh perspective allows me to mature as a writer as well as be a cheerleader for other authors. When I removed the ego-driven, quantity over quality focus from my writing career, I discovered how the release from those negative aspects took my creativity to new heights.

I spent more time creating than worry about the industry, agents, publishing houses, and other writers. I could then help others without feeling jealous or anxious or petty. I could be happy for other writer’s successes because those writers were never in direct competition with me. That is an illusion I had to shed.

Once I realized that each person has their own goals and life path to fulfill, then I understood the dynamics with which creativity really springs: inside my own internal genesis.

People on a parallel career path weave branches from the same tree on which my creativity sprouts. Each branch is different from the others and reflects the health of the common root. If we do not tend to our roots, fertilize the soil, and water regularly, then the tree will falter in a coming storm. Angst ruins everyone’s creative efforts. So why bother with it?

That is a summation of the writing craft and our individual responsibility within our community. We must become the best writer we can be and also give a helping hand to another writer regardless of his or her success. Wisdom is in the balance.

Of course that also frees me from the cookie cutter manufactured industry standards I see dominating the writing craft. So watch out world! I don’t have a compass. I don’t have a quota system. I am following my own branch that is reaching for the stars.

And, everyone can change their stars.

 

Kaye: What advice do you have for aspiring writers and poets?

Dawn: Writers need about ten years to season well, marinate in their own juices. Raw writers tend to give their hearts but when constructively critiqued, lose their minds. So I advise aspiring writers to go in search of criticism, negative criticism. Take courses for a community college certificate or degree in creative writing. Go out and join your local Professional Writer’s Group. Seek out people who will guide and help you without sparing your feelings. Those people are gems.

When you receive constructive advice, use it. Correct your writing and erode your ego. Writing is not about dissecting words and mincing phrases, but about dismantling your hubris.

Once a writer can get out of their own way, their writing takes on a profound quality. Stillness. Wisdom. Maturity.

One should always know and understand their craft through hard work and education. One should also write from the heart. Writing from the ego only speaks to other egos. When a writer writes from the heart, their story resonates at varying degrees within their audience and their writing is called: literature. Then a writer can build a loyal readership and just not simply have hapless followers.

On that same note: never believe your own press. I have had forum critique comments like: that was the best poem I have ever read! Only to look a few comments down and read: I really didn’t think your poem was all that great.

You just have to laugh.

When a writer has been through the crucible of their own development, then a writer can discover their weaknesses and strengths. Until that level of discernment is achieved, a writer is not ready to meet the world. The world is full of wolves ready to take your money and tell you whatever you want to hear.

An educated, informed, and mature writer can espy the wolves, escape the traps, and only do what is right for their needs.

So become the writer you have always wanted to become. No one else can do it but you. What are you waiting for?

 

Kaye: What time of day do you prefer to do your writing?

Dawn: Any time is fine. I write during the day or night. I do like night though when I really have to concentrate and do not want to be disturbed. No phones. No television. No distractions.

I do write when the muse descends. When I first began writing as a hobby, I would wake up from a dead sleep to jot down notes or a poem. My mind was active during my dream state. Now with my own creative structure, I find myself less inclined to be so impulsive. I write until I am done with that scene and I move on to another activity.

I also rotate from art to poetry to nonfiction, and then fiction writing. It is very noticeable trend on my personal social media status. Those breaks help avoid creative lulls and downright boredom. Writing for me is a metamorphosis of the psyche more than it is a time and place.

 

Kaye: You’ve had to face some huge obstacles to get to where you are now. Would you like to talk about them?

Dawn: Which obstacles? Chronic illness, abandonment, or near death experiences? My life has run the gambit, but direct participation in life events is what writing is all about. When I go through a challenge, I meet the impediment head on. There is no sense in hiding from life.

Do whatever you have to do short of hurting yourself or others; I do not abide by those types of negative expressions, but if you must throw your shoes or scream out the window, then do it. Then learn from your interaction with the world so you can check your emotions to respond with a healthy regard to life instead of having meltdown reactions to it.

The more you deal with life’s ills; the more those issues become underwhelming. Oh, the car broke down in triple digit heat… that problem interfered with my day but not unexpected given the circumstances. If you structure your life with good planning, sensible organization, and attainable goals, then you can respond to the world from a point of important but not urgent. So when the car breaks down, everything else takes care of itself, and you do not feel overwhelmed… just slightly irked.

With my brain inflammation and neurological issues, I have had some unflattering behavioral repercussions. In a short amount of time, I have learned what my body needs to combat this inflammation so I can deal with life as it comes. For my emotions, I write to express my discontent with research, citations, and good ole-fashioned sarcasm. My awareness blog for my neighborhood news can be incendiary at times, educational and informative at others, but entertaining to thousands of people a month.

So huge obstacles are what you make out of them. I find that I must navigate in a sea of challenges that most people would just give up and let a shark eat them. I am not like most people. I will take your shark, fry him up for dinner, and raise you: writing and publishing careers!

It comes down to simplicity: you can spend your life saying: oh crap, not again. Or, looking at challenges from a different point of view: at least my toaster oven still works.

Well what did you expect? I react to microwaves.

 

Kaye: Which poet, dead or alive, would you love to have lunch with? Why?

Dawn: Just one? I kind of do this exercise with my poetry. I call my brand of talking with the creative masters as response poetry. I take a poem from Poe, Dickinson, and then write a response. Upon Reading Edgar Allan Poe is a literary take on many of his works. Death Responds to Emily Dickinson is the Grim Reaper’s rebuttal to her I Could Not Stop for Death.

If I had to pick between the two, I would like to sit down with Poe. Not because it’s “Poe,” but because Edgar was a literary critic in his time and quite combative with his contemporaries, which I find entertaining as well as educational.

What were Edgar’s pet peeves in writing? How did his critics respond to his opinions? Did his critics give constructive criticism to Edgar’s work or did they just attack out of ego-driven defensiveness?

As writers and critics, we can learn from the advice, mistakes, and behaviors from our forefathers, and foremothers. If you do not know the past, you are doomed to repeat it. Art and writing, much like society, cannot go forward always repaving the roads of the past. We must create new exits onto the roads less traveled by. The best way is to learn from the master artists, poets, and writers from their works to their own personal views of the craft itself.

On your journey, is your road already built or are you walking in a forest that has no name?

 

Kaye: What’s something most readers would never guess about you?

Dawn: I am overeducated.

Seriously, I have never met a topic I did not like or want to know more about. I do have six college degrees including a Master of Arts in Teaching and Learning with Technology. I have degrees ranging from general studies, foci in biology and geology, emphasis and focus in history and biology, and organizational management. I was also working on creative writing, marketing, computer science, and publication creation before I became disabled.

I was an active community member. I have lectured and had speaking engagements about technology, art, and the role of girls in our technotronic era. I have paneled at science fiction conventions. I have exhibited and won awards for my digital art. I have ghost hunted as a history major and aspiring medium. I have experience in film and stage. In addition, I have a background in medicine for about a decade as a family member’s caretaker.

My greatest achievements have not been the cords, ribbons, or degrees. Although I am grateful for the honors I have earned in their formation of my character as well as giving me the skills to navigate our ever-changing, technological world, I am interested in more intangible achievements at present. I am on a spiritual path to investigate the human condition. I seek to answer the mysteries of our universe and impart that wisdom onto others.

With that said, I feel my greatest achievement is leaving a creative and educational legacy. My illness precludes me from having offspring, but with management of my health, I have endeavored to become the person I have always wanted to be. I am a work in progress. I can be grumpy and irritable at times, but I am more patient and charitable than anything else.

I guess that comes from living a life less traveled by. I have shrugged off convention for a spiritual road on the superhighway of life. I may be in the slow lane, but I am not obsessed with the destination. The journey is my classroom and I am an enthusiastic student.

Will you like to hitch a ride?

 

Kaye: What is the one thing that is the most unusual or unique thing you’ve done so far?

Dawn: Strange is what I do. I combine real life scenarios in my creative works to give the contrived a reality check. When a reader experiences my characters and their challenges some of those obstacles may be rooted in my own life. I will not tell which is which, what fun is that?, but I will say that creative writing allows me the indulgence to work out some past issues in a positive and productive manner.

So the most unusual or unique quality to my writing is that I use creative fiction and nonfiction as my camp counselors.

Have a problem? Fantasy about justice? Do not have the energy to bury a body in a remote location? Then you need to become a writer. You have innovative ideas, a spark of madness, and a tinge of laziness that comes with sitting down at a computer to let your fingers do the trash talking.

Shovel, anyone?

Thank you Dawn, for joining us today and sharing your unique take on life, and writing, and shoveling. And thank you for allowing me to use you for the purposes of illustrating the important role cover art is in the sale of your book. You could write a masterpiece, but no one will ever know it if they never crack the cover to read the words inside.

We Need Your Help!

This post came at a good time, because today Dawn and I have some exciting news to share. The cover art for Delilah has made it to round two in the Joandisalovebooks Summer Loving Book Cover EVENT 2017. This is great news because it is a really great cover, but we can’t do it alone. The winner in each genre category will receive a great marketing package, which would be great for the promotion of Delilah.

We need your votes, so we can win first prize in the western genre category. You can find more information on how to place your vote at Sonoran Dawn Studios, where Dawn has been kind enough to lay out step by step instructions for you. So, if you are a follower of Writing to be Read, a fan of Delilah, or someone who has just discovered Kaye Lynne Booth author, please take a few moments to clink on the link and cast your votes for us. It will be greatly appreciated.

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Interview with Author Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil

I’m happy today to be interviewing Amy Cecil, author of the Knights of Silence MC romance series, as a part of her blog tour surrounding the release of Book 2 in the series, Ice on Fire. (See my four quill review of Ice on Fire.) Amy is married, and she and her husband have three dogs and a horse. She is also the self-published author of four novels. She writes both historical and contemporary romance.

Kaye: Your new release, Ice on Fire, is the second book in your Knights of Silence MC Would you like to tell us about the contemporary romance series, and how Ice on Fire fits into it?

Amy: The Knights of Silence MC series is my pride and joy.  It is my first attempt to write my own characters, develop them and subsequently fall in love with them.  And, it’s in a genre that is totally different than what I started in. It has been a challenge for me and the result is a product that is all my own. That makes me a very proud writer. The series right now is going to consist of four books, but who knows, that may change.  Ice, the first in the series was published in September.  I am currently working on book 3 in the series, Celtic Dragon, and I am hoping on a spring 2018 release.

Kaye: You wrote your first novel in thirty days and went on to be a two time NaNoWriMo winner, in 2015 and 2016, where contestants are challenged to write a novel in a month’s time. What is the secret to writing a novel length work in thirty days?

Amy: NaNoWriMo requires 50,000 words in 30 days to win.  That’s seems pretty tough to do, but if you break it down, it’s not so bad. I divide the 50,000 by 30 and come up with my daily goal.  It’s 1,666 words a day.  Doesn’t sound so overwhelming when you break it down.  And then the hard part is to adhere to that goal.  Some days I will write more, other days I will write less, but by the 15th of the month, you can bet I will make sure there is 25,000 words written and that I am on track.  And then periodically throughout the month, I make sure I am still on track.  NaNoWriMo does this for you and it is really helpful.

Kaye: Today many independent or small press authors are using what are called street teams to spread the word about their books. Could you explain what your street team does and how you go about building a street team?

Amy: When I first started writing, I never knew what a street team was, until my PA’s Alicia Freeman and Michelle Cates told me I needed one.  These girls are amazing and built my team to over 400 members in just a few months.  This is where I can talk with my fans and actually let them share in the writing process.  They have not only shared my books and teasers, they have contributed in many ways to my books.  They are a great group to bounce ideas off of and they are always there to support me when I am doing an author takeover event.  I’d be lost without them.

Kaye: What are some of the differences between writing historical romance and contemporary romance?

Amy: From a writer’s perspective, the biggest difference is how they talk.  Historical romance is more formal, more polite.  Things are very proper and liberties are not common.  Contemporary is more relaxed and casual.  They are less formal in the way they speak and you can use contractions.  That’s a big no no in historical writing.  Also, you can take liberties with your characters that you would normally have to be careful within a historical romance.  Because I write Jane Austen Fan Fiction, I have to be conscious of keeping my characters the way Jane Austen created them.

Kaye: What do you see as the pros and cons of independent, or self-publishing?

Amy: When I first started writing, I went the traditional route.  I sent my manuscript to several publishers and of course, was turned down by all of them.  Discouraged, but not ready to give up, I learned that I could self-publish.  Since then, I have self-published four novels.  I’m not sure what I would do now if a publisher wanted to publish one of my books.  I really like the freedom I have to write what I want and when I want.  I have no deadlines.  The hardest part of self-publishing and requires the most amount of work is PR.  Getting your name out there is difficult if you don’t have a publishing house or an agent behind you.  But I have found two great PA’s, Alicia Freeman and Michelle Cates.  They not only help me promote my works on social media, they all put together an amazing street team for me.

Kaye: Where does the title come in the writing process for you? How do you decide the titles for your books?

Amy: My titles usually come first. I don’t have any special formula to specific way I do.  Some just come to me, some have been suggested by friends and the latest one, Ice on Fire came from my husband.

Ice on Fire

Kaye: What’s the most fun part of writing a novel? What’s the least fun part?

Amy: I would have to say that my favorite part of writing a novel is coming up with the initial story line.  Creating the characters and just watching it all play out.  My least favorite part is the editing.  I know, it has to be done.  But it is always a struggle for me.  Luckily, I have an amazing editor Carl Augsburger of Creative Digital Studios who makes this process a little less agonizing for me.

Kaye: What’s your favorite way to get exercise?

Amy: I walk my dogs – I have three of them.

Kaye: Besides writing, what are your favorite things to do?

Amy: My husband is in the Air Force, so I spend a lot of time at home alone.  I work full-time for a home improvement company.  Also, I have three rescue dogs and a horse that keep me busy.  I enjoy other creative hobbies as well like painting and basket weaving.

Kaye: Where do you get your cover art?

Amy: Ellie Augsburger of Creative Digital Studios designs my covers.  We use stock photos and get most of them from Adobe Stock.  I’m not sure what other resources she uses.

Kaye: What’s your favorite social media site for promotion? Why?

Amy: I guess I would have to say Facebook.  I use it the most because I am most familiar with it.  I really want to expand my social media reach, but I guess that will come with time.

Kaye: What’s the best piece of advice you were ever given?

Amy: “Write your own.” These were the exact words from my best friend who encouraged me to write my own story.  I’m so glad I took her advice.

Kaye: What time of day do you prefer to do your writing?

Amy: I really don’t have a specific time of day to write. Usually it seems to be when the ideas hit me.  I don’t write everyday, but that doesn’t mean I am not working on my books.  I spend a lot of time doing research.

I want to thank Amy for joining us here, on Writing to be Read, and sharing some interesting facts about herself and her writing. You can find each of Amy Cecil’s books here:

getBook.at/ICEonFIREbyAmyCecil

getBook.at/ICEbyAmyCecil

getBook.at/ARoyalDispositionbyAmyCecil

getBook.at/RelentlessConsiderationsbyAmyCecil

 

Follow Amy:

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

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/authoramycecil

Twitter: https://twitter.com/acecil65

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/author/amycecil

Website: http://acecil65.wix.com/amycecil

 

Learn more about Amy’s Amazing Street Girls:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/201903646918497/

 

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Interview with independent author Dan Alatorre

Dan Alatorre

Today, I have have a real treat for you on Writing to be Read. My interview today is with a very funny guy, who is a successful independent author. He’s a family man, with a background in business, so book marketing and promotion is just another part of the  job for him. He’s got two books which have both been recently released, Poggibonsi: An Italian Misadventure? and The Navigators, which we will learn more about right here.

Dan has so much to share with us that I’m going to structure this interview a bit differently than I have on interviews in the past. The first part will allow us to get to know Dan a little as a person. The second part will delve into his marketing knowledge, followed up with the last section which will probe into his writing techniques, what writing means to him and questions on craft. So, without further ado, let me introduce to you, independent author Dan Alatorre.

Kaye: You are a family man, Dan. What are your secrets for juggling writing with family?

Dan: I think if you are a writer you need to prepare yourself for the inevitable “you spend too much time on the computer” conversation/argument.

That’s just how it works.

So, my recommendation is, give work its proper due and give family its proper due and give writing its proper due. How you balance that is, you have to decide whether or not spending time with your young children is important or not. (Answer: IT IS.)

When my daughter goes to her dance class or a Girl Scout Daisies Troop meeting, that’s writing time for me. When she’s going to one of her little girlfriends’ birthday parties, that’s writing time for me. However, I make pizza from scratch every Friday afternoon for my family and that’s family time. I don’t write then. When she was younger, I would write after she went to bed at 8 PM, but often that is time that should be spent with the spouse. Adult time.

Me, I get up at 4:30 in the morning to write for a few hours. That’s how I manage it. I also watch very few TV shows, and the ones I watch are all recorded so I can skip all the commercials. In other words, I utilize a lot of time saving devices but I am also thinking about my stories pretty much all the time, so when I sit down to write I’m ready to let loose. If we are at Busch Gardens and I get a good idea, I will excuse myself for a moment and tell the idea into my phone – and then get right back to the family. So they lose me for a minute or two but I got my idea captured.

And I’m not talking about being there half-hearted – you need to be there 100% for your kids especially when they’re young. But there’s always two minutes here and there if you have a great story idea. Nobody’s going to complain about that. What they complain about is when you take all that family time for your writing and then keep doing things like excusing yourself at Busch Gardens. That’s not gonna fly.

Now, with all that said, every spouse of a writer is going to understand occasionally you are in the zone and you just have to keep going. Whether that is getting up early or working late or whatever for a few days or a week, they get it. They can see it on your face and every time you talk to them you are excited about it. I’m just saying, if you are willing to give them what they need, they will give you what you need. Be generous with them and then be very selfish when you need to be. That also works.

Kaye: A lot of your stories come from your own experience as a parent, things you learned from your daughter, Savvy, and they make us laugh. Do you have a knack for finding the humorous side of things to use in your stories, or is it something you have to work at?

Dan: Both. (I hate when you offer somebody a choice and they choose both things, but in this case it’s really true.) I’m a funny guy. I have a knack for finding the funny things in life, and that’s rampant in certain characters in my stories. Sam in Poggibonsi is a scream – she steals the show. In Savvy stories, my daughter does.

I’ve always had a good sense of humor and I have always been able to make people laugh. When I was a child – I have six brothers and sisters – so around the dinner table it was tough to compete for mom and dad’s attention. Cracking a joke or being able to slip in a funny comment was a way to bring the house down and get a little recognition. I was not a class clown in school, though! Okay, maybe a little. But I was the guy who would do a stand-up routine at the variety show or write stuff for the newspaper.

Before I started writing a blog, I was putting stories on Facebook for my wife’s friends and my friends. I would put a post up at five in the morning and by dinner time there would be 100 comments saying how I made everybody cry before they went to work! Other times they would be a bunch of comments saying how hilarious that story was and that I should write a book. Eventually I listened to them.

But the subject matter of those early stories was my daughter – and anybody who spends five minutes around little kids either decides they’re a pain in the ass or they are amazing and brilliant and hilarious. I fit into that second category. My daughter cracks me up and now that she knows she can, she has her routines that she does that bust me up every single time. So she inherited a funny bone from me and from her mother. My wife is very funny, too.

Kaye: What is the one thing you hope to teach your children?

Dan: It’s a little early to try to teach them this particular lesson, but I have been fortunate enough to come from a large family so my nieces and nephews have gone through college and are making their way in the world. The advice I give to them as young adults is: pursue your passion. Whatever gives you joy in life, do that for a living. Don’t worry about the money, because if you hate your job you will be spending your money on being happy. If you do what you love, you can get by and a lot less money.

Nobody listens, but that’s the advice I give.

At her young age, my daughter enjoys ideas of being a fashion designer and a singer and a writer. Right now she can keep all those thoughts in her head. When it gets closer to the time when she actually has to decide, I hope I am able to be behind her 100% in whatever she chooses. And I hope she chooses with her heart as much as with her head. I work with too many new authors who are 35 and 45 and 55 finally started writing, when they wanted to do it their whole lives. I think we need to follow our passions much earlier in life. I’m not sure Americans foster that in our children.

Kaye: How would you describe yourself in three words?

Dan: Hmmm… only three?

Intense. Hilarious. Smart.

But I think not in that order. I think if you asked three or four people who have read my stories, like three or four of my critique partners that I use all the time, they would say smart and then funny and then prolific or something. I don’t know if they would go with intense.

Kaye: What did your road to publication look like?

Dan: Bumpy.

I found an agent through a friend and the agent kind of started doing things along the traditional path of publication, which is known to move at a glacially slow pace. I came from the business world of Fortune 500 companies, and business moves fast. If you say you’re going to read something in six weeks, I need to be able to call you at six weeks plus one day and get your thoughts on it.

Traditional publishing doesn’t work that way. They they say six weeks, and then you call after six weeks and they say they need another six weeks. That’s why books take two years to come out. I’m not saying my way is better, I’m just saying after being exposed to that type of a slow process, I realized it was not for me. I have no problem working on a project for two years and polishing it, I just have zero patience for giving someone your finished product, a book that is ready to go – and letting them sit on it for two years.

So the agent and I parted ways and I have not really considered going traditional since then, but I am not adverse to it. It is good for certain stories and it is not good for really unique or groundbreaking stories. That may change, but right now that’s the case and that’s been the case for a few years. I don’t really see it changing, but I do see the role of traditional publisher changing. In my mind, they have to get quicker. To Kill A Mockingbird doesn’t come across their desk every day, but then again maybe it does. There sludge piles are so big they’d never know. They’re never getting to a lot of the good stuff, and since the majority of trad books don’t earn back their advance, I’d say their selection process sucks and their competency level is questionable at best.

Kaye: With your background in business, it seems like promotion and marketing are pretty second nature for you. In fact, we found each other because you were looking for authors to swap interviews with, because you know that interviews are good marketing tools. What was the most fun interview you’ve ever done? Why?

Dan: I did an interview with Kathleen Townsend that was just hilarious. That was probably my best written interview prior to this one, but it was done for a different reason. I was just trying to make her laugh and her readers laugh. In this interview, I’m trying to cull a little more in depth because your readership skews different from hers. I hope authors understand interviews are certainly done to sell books, but sometimes they’re done to educate and sometimes they’re done to entertain. The best ones are a combination of all those things.

Anyway, one of the best interviews I ever did was when Jenny and Allison interviewed me for the release of The Navigators. We set up a three-way video call that we recorded. That was really a lot of fun.

The interview that hands-down was the funniest interview I ever did was interviewing the author of the bestseller The Fourth Descendant for a trilogy she was releasing called Project Renovatio. We probably spent two hours doing the interview and we probably laughed hysterically for one hour and 50 minutes of it. The 10 minutes when we weren’t laughing is most of what we used for the interview. The other 90% was just a hilarious good time. We became great friends – we were good friends before that interview but we were great friends after that interview. It was just nonstop laughter. Completely unusable, and it wasn’t outtakes, it was just making jokes and laughing.

One of my great joys in life is I can go to that interview if I’m having a crappy day and I can look at the outtakes and within 10 minutes I’m laughing my butt off. There’s a snippet of it on YouTube. Most of the time she (the interviewee) is laughing and wiping her mascara out of her eyes because she’s laughing her so hard she’s crying. Great interview.

Kaye: What’s your favorite social media site for promotion?

Dan: Specifically for promotion? Probably Facebook, and in that, Facebook ads. It depends on what you’re trying to do. New authors need to build an author platform, and Facebook is really good for helping do that, but there are a million ways to waste your money when you are trying to pay for advertising.

Probably for every good add source I paid for, I have paid for 10 bad ones. My advice to people is this: track everything. Look at your reports every day and when you run an ad try to the best of your ability to only run one ad with one promoter at a time. If you run five ads on Mother’s Day and do well, how do you know which one sold all the books? You don’t. If you run your ads one at a time and track your results, you will. Then you can replicate your success, if it’s replicate-able.

That’s not always possible, but to the extent that it’s possible please try to track your results. Quit giving to the people who don’t give you results.

Kaye: What do you do for cover art? DIY, or hired out, or cookie cutter prefab?

Dan: I had the great pleasure of working with Perry Elizabeth for many of my early book covers. Perry designed a number one bestseller for me, as well as designing a number one bestseller for a friend’s debut novel. She designed maybe six of my first seven book covers. She’s brilliant. She has a gift.

Like many things (I came from a business background having gone to the president circle with two different Fortune 500 companies) and in that world the saying “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it,” doesn’t apply. They would say, “If it’s not broke, fix it so it’s even better.” Something like that. Maybe I should’ve paid more attention in all those meetings.

Anyway, when you have good success you have to look if you can make bigger success. Sometimes the answer is yes and sometimes the answer is no. In the case with Perry, she is very devout in her religion, and I knew some of the risqué subject matters in my stories would not be something she would appreciate her name being associated with. So I had to take it upon myself to find other people to work with for those. I can’t put one of my partners in that position, you know? So I had to put other titles with other artists – and I am very fortunate they’ve done a terrific job, too! Look at how eye catching The Navigators cover is. That’s all part of it, making your book stand out. I’ve been very fortunate to work with so many skilled people.

Now, I have on occasion tried to design my own book cover or to buy an image and work with that, and I have had some decent success with it. But here’s a tip for new authors: even if I know exactly what I want the cover to look like, I still roll it out on my fans.

How did I find cover designers? I joined author groups and asked everybody for referrals. I looked at books I liked and saw who did the covers. I shopped. You can spend hundreds of dollars (and occasionally under a hundred) on covers that look as good as ones that cost thousands, and usually for new authors money is in short supply.

For example, The Navigators I bid it out. I didn’t really know what the cover should look like, so I gave a brief synopsis to three or four cover artists, and then I posted their mock-up results on my Facebook page so my friends could vote. One cover jumped to the front, hands down – and that’s the one I went with. And it was very successful.

With Poggibonsi, I pretty much knew what I wanted from the get go. I wanted to portray sex and humor in a single image that could potentially be iconic. If you ever saw the poster for the movie M*A*S*H, or Jaws, or The Godfather, we know that when something is a hit it tends to own that image. And with Poggibonsi, I knew that the cover would convey very simply and easily a large portion of what the story was about. Additionally, like the name Arnold Schwarzenegger, Poggibonsi is not easy to say or read or pronounce. My thinking was what Arnold said: it’s hard to say but once people hear it they can’t forget it. And I think that’s the case with this title, too.

Poggi cover FINAL

Kaye: Poggibonsi: An Italian Misadventure just came out last month. What can you tell us about it?

Dan: Poggi jumped into the cold cruel world on April 20, and it’s burning up the charts! I’m so happy. Poggibonsi is without a doubt my funniest book I have ever written. It’s going to do amazing because it’s just knock-down drag-out funny as hell.

In the story, I take on so many things that are just absolutely not funny! Infidelity, death, getting fired, you name it. And in the process I make you laugh at every single step. Some of the characters are the funniest people you’re ever going to meet, and one in particular absolutely steals the show. On the other side, it is in insanely romantic romance story! And it’s hard to make a romance that’s really romantic while also being funny, but I think I threaded the needle pretty well on this one.

Kaye: What is the strangest inspiration for a story you’ve ever had?

Dan: Hmm. Strangest.

Hmmm…

I was talking to an author friend of mine the other day and I was explaining to her that she was very creative in setting up a new world or a situation that is different from our current existence. I, on the other hand, have taken things that we are all very familiar with and looked at them from a very, very different view point. I’ve never tried to create a fantasy world like she has. So my complement to her was how creative she is at that, and she’s great storyteller in addition. My complement to myself was that I can take things that everybody knows and all of a sudden they are questioning everything about it and laughing their butts off or crying their eyes out or being scared to death of these things that they already knew.

Now, as far as the strangest places I’ve drawn inspiration, if you start with the premise that I have pretty much dealt with the world as we know it, then the inspiration has been unique insights on things that are common place.

So, my inspiration has come from everywhere, which doesn’t help anybody who’s reading this to figure out what inspires me, but I am inspired by the same things that I find humor in. The common situation or as Alfred Hitchcock used to do to Cary Grant, taking an ordinary man and putting him in extraordinary circumstances. Having an ordinary situation with ordinary people become somehow extraordinary. Taking your life as you know it and turning it on its head and giving you a roller coaster ride but doing it in such a way that you like the characters and  you’re rooting for people to succeed – and at the same time, with my stories nothing is what it seems. All of a sudden you have skated out over the thin ice and there are there you are being blindsided by things you didn’t know were coming.

In Poggibonsi, you think a certain situation can’t get any worse, and it gets so, so, so much worse, and people are sending me emails saying, “I did not see that coming!” They love the roller coaster ride. I try to give them a good one every time.

Kaye: Did you always want to be a writer?

Dan: I think so, yes. My direction in life was to create a career and then do the writing in your spare time. That’s probably how most people do it and that’s what I would recommend, too. As long as you make time for everything, you’ll be okay. If you don’t make time for everything, you’ll be very frustrated that you’re not doing your writing – so make time for everything!

But like I said, I went to work in business before I started writing in earnest, and once I started writing in earnest I didn’t want to do anything else.

Kaye: Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Dan: I am absolutely a plotter, but let me explain.

Before I really start writing a story, I will percolate on it for a while to get some ideas going. Before I start writing in earnest, I am throwing ideas into a folder. Once I sit down I have a beginning, a middle, and an end. The that’s my outline –  sometimes nothing more than that.

But just because I have AN ending does not mean that is the way the story ends. It simply means that that’s the direction I’m heading in; that’s the way I intend to go. If I get a better ending, I am absolutely taking the story there, but if I don’t come up with something better, this is the destination I’m going to end up at.

That gives you the best of both worlds. You can be as free and crazy as you want and you still have a path to get you back on track. Or, if you really find some new destination, you go there.

But it’s been my experience that probably 75% of the books that never gets finished by the writers don’t get finished because they got excited, they started writing, they had a couple of good ideas – and then they ran out of steam. Jim Patterson – yes I call James Patterson “Jim” – said it’s better to spend an extra month on the outline then it is to start the story not know where you’re going with it.

Having a goal and having a destination, that will help you finish your story. I think 90% of writers block and unfinished stories happens because of the lack of an outline.

But again, it is not locking you in a cage, it is simply directing your creativity. Having an outline does not stifle your creativity, it directs it.

Kaye: What’s the best piece of advice you were ever given?

Dan: I wrote a blog post once where I put like 20 memes in it and then I explained what each of them had meant to me at different periods. One of them was Hemingway saying write every day. Every day, get up and bite the nail. That’s so important because the more you work at something the better you get at it, so don’t stop.

The other was something along lines of, “Every great story is this: nothing is as it seems.”

I thought the simplicity of that second one was overstated. Like almost like it’s too simple so it’s stupid. And then all the sudden I read it like a second or third time and I was like oh my God it’s brilliant.

So those two are good. The best one is: the reader is your willing accomplice. On that one, if you set a realistic world and you work hard to make a good story, the reader will go along with you. As long as you do a good job, you can do whatever you want. And once you do it well, you can play the reader like a piano. You have the power and they want to go on the ride. Willing accomplice.

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Kaye: The Navigators also came out recently. Would you like to tell us a little about that one?

Dan: Gosh, I’m so proud of Navs. The Navigators is a great story involving time travel. Five graduate students in paleontology accidentally discover a strange machine, and right off the bat they have to figure out what it is they discovered. As they conclude it’s a time machine, each of them has a different idea of how they should use it – so there’s immediate conflict. There is a lot going on with the characters in the story. Pretty much nothing is what it seems, so there is intrigue at multiple levels, plus it’s a real page turner. People who start reading this book have reported back that they are just unable to put it down. I’m very proud of that. It’s a real home run.

Kaye: How do you decide the titles for your books? Where does the title come in the process for you?

Dan: Man, titles are hard! They shouldn’t be, but they are.

Originally, Poggi was going to be called something like “My Italian Assistant”, but that all had too much of a schlocky 80s sex romp feel. This is not that. This is a story that goes deep in everything it pursues. The humor is outrageously funny. The romance is deeply passionate. You will laugh and you will cry and your heart will break. As a result, it deserves its own unique word.

Now, I’m not a fool. I gave it a pretty simple subtitle to explain what was going on. But most of my critique partners said I couldn’t call it that. Well, after they got used to reading a few chapters and calling it by its name, they were cool with it – and they wanted me to keep the tile as Poggibonsi.

So you have a unique title and a unique cover for a unique story. That’s either going to be a home run or a complete strike out. Right now if I can convince people to start reading it at all, they end up loving it. There are so many toys twists in surprises and absolutely hysterical moments, really some unforgettable stuff and some unforgettable characters, it’s a rare treat that readers around the world are loving.

With Savvy stories, I kicked around a lot of ideas and I was told many times not to use that title. To me, it was a double entendre. Savvy stories are stories about Savvy, which is the nickname of my daughter Savannah. I also gush about how smart and amazing children are, so savvy stories also means stories about people who are street smart. Which is probably the wrong way to describe infants and toddlers, but you get the idea.

The Navigators really required a different formula. I was writing the story and I was calling it The Fantastic Five as its working title – which is just awful – and everybody who saw it kept saying, “You can’t call it that! Find something else.”

The reason it was the “fantastic five” was because they were five characters and each did something kinda fantastic. I knew that would never be the final title but I just couldn’t think of anything good. I was just stumped. It happens.

Anyway, I was in the middle of a scene and the characters were debating about flying the time machine somewhere, and one of the characters said they were thinking about it all wrong. He said, “We’re not really driving it, we just are setting the destinations and the times.”

So the first character said, “Oh, so we are the navigators?”

Again, there is a double meaning to that.

The time machine is something they really haven’t figured out when they start testing it so they are putting in longitude and latitude and a time, and letting the device take them on an adventure. It also refers to the young lady in the story who is kind of drifting along doing the things that people probably wanted her to be doing as opposed to choosing her own life. So she too is also not a pilot yet. She’s not making the decisions yet. In the story, she ends up becoming the main character and really growing into a leadership role.

That was important because I have a young daughter, and it’s kind of a projection of her where she might be 15 years in the future.

Many of my stories are written on multiple levels. I had one beta reader asked me if a certain scene was a metaphor for the guy’s marriage. It was. Other scenes were reflections of other things, too. There’s only a little bit of that (and a little goes a long way) but when somebody discovers it, it’s like a brilliant flash of joyful light to me.

The Water Castle and An Angel On Her Shoulder came about in similar fashion. The water castle is the way a young child refers to a landmark that the story kind of takes place around. And “an angel on her shoulder” is a remark that a doctor says about the child who got diagnosed with a rare but potentially fatal heart condition in my paranormal thriller.

So, I guess when I need to come up with a title, I have my characters express it in dialogue! There you go. That’s my secret. Have a character open your mouth and hope a title pops out.

Kaye: What is the single most important quality in a novel for you?

Dan: I have to care about the characters. There are a lot of different ways to achieve that, but readers are kind of generous. They will give you a little while to make them care about a character, but you have to make them care. If you don’t, nothing else matters.

In The Navigators, I thought about starting the book at the landslide where one of the characters almost gets killed. Aside from it being some obvious action, I knew in my heart that we just wouldn’t care if somebody got killed because the readers hadn’t gotten to know anybody yet.

By contrast, in An Angel On Her Shoulder, it starts with an action scene where the wife is beginning to wonder if her husband and child have been accidentally killed, and the chapter ends with her being frantic – asking that question – but we don’t know.

Because I have the wife being concerned about her young daughter, and because I have her emotions jumping from she doesn’t know what’s going on to “Oh my god what’s going on?” – and all the people around her are saying “Oh my god look at all the blood, there’s no way somebody could survive that,” she is getting more and more frantic…

The reader cares because the character cares. She is really getting frantic and she is really nervous and we can’t help but be empathetic and then therefore we care also.

Then I’m really mean. I jump into a flashback that took place several decades before, and you have to float through that for a few chapters – so that you kind of forget about the frantic scene –  and then we end up right back in that opening scene a few minutes before it happens. I know flashbacks are persona non grata, but I got to tell you, this is an amazing roller coaster ride that readers love! The way I played it, it was a stroke of genius if I do say so myself. I love that story.

Kaye: Which author, dead or alive, would you love to have lunch with?

Dan: Mark Twain, because he was very, very funny and very, very smart and apparently liked to drink. I just think sitting down and having lunch with him would involve lots of drinks and lots of laughs, and I’m not sure there’s a better lunch than that.

Hopefully one day some kid will say they want to have lunch with me, and I will fly to where they live and we will go get hammered and have the most awesome lunch ever.

Kaye: Have you ever had places that you travel to end up in your books?

Dan: Kind of. When I was going to Italy for a vacation I kept telling myself I knew I’d find a story there. And I loved Venice and I loved Rome – I loved everywhere we went in Italy. Gelato is amazing, the pizza is amazing, the women are amazing, the art and the architecture is amazing. Italy is amazing.

And I was really trying to force it. I was really saying okay, is this story? Is that a story?

It doesn’t work that way. On the plane ride home I got the idea of a man going on a business trip to Italy so I could explain a lot of the things I saw through his eyes, and then I wanted it to be a romance but I wanted it to be a comedy, too. There’s lots of things to find funny about traveling, but the romance was going to be an unconventional one, and from that little spark, I said there’s the story.

Many of the people who read it have told me I made the country of Italy into a great character in the story, and that is very high praise. I have an Italian translator who I have worked with translating my other books and she read it and she love the way I depicted her country, so I am absolutely satisfied with how that story came out. It’s an absolute home run on every level.

Kaye: What is the hardest part of being a writer?

Dan: Many people, most in fact, struggle with being able to finish their first story. They want to fine-tune it forever and they are afraid of publishing it. Whatever it is, they struggle to get the first one done. Once they get the first one born, they realize what a huge weight has been lifted off of them and they become much more at ease with writing and everything else. Unfortunately, just as many people suffer from the opposite affliction, which is thinking something is a masterpiece. What it really needs a lot of work, and they publish it too soon.

That’s not a very helpful answer, is it? But it explains this: the hardest part is knowing when the story is ready. The people who release it too soon don’t know when it’s ready, and the people who polish it forever don’t know when it’s ready.

How do you figure it out? You write what needs to be said, you give it to trusted critique partners who will tell you the things you said that did not need to be said, and then you trim out the stuff that doesn’t need to be there – and release it.

Then start writing your next one. After you do this a few times you will not be afraid to release a story and you won’t be afraid to take input from people who have your best interest at heart. You’ll have a thicker skin and a bunch of other things. That’s when you – most of you – will become really good writers. A few people do it on the first shot; most don’t.

If I could give you one thing, it would be not just confidence but enough confidence. Tell your story and don’t be afraid to be passionate and to be emotional and to really put your soul on the page. Expose yourself. Writing is the equivalent of standing naked on a stage, prepared to be laughed at and humiliated – and doing it anyway.

Write from your heart and don’t hold anything back. Not the pain, not the love, not the fear, not anything. When you put it on the page from your heart, the reader get it. They connect. The more personal you make it to yourself, the more universally understood it is. That’s where too many authors make their mistake. They don’t open up and let it pour. They write the words but they don’t write the heart. They tell a good story when they have a great one within them. They hold back because they’re afraid of what people might say or might think, or that their mom right read it or that their friend might hate it or whatever. When you can let go of that and stand naked on the stage, that is where the great stuff comes from. You may fail miserably, but you will have given it your all. That’s confidence. I wish I could give you enough of that to make you put your soul on the page. When you do, you will be greatly rewarded for it.

I want to thank Dan for joining us today and sharing his knowledge and experience with us. I couldn’t help but chuckle as I went over your answers. It’s been a lot of fun. To learn more about Dan and his books, drop by his blog.

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Spreading the News

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Being a newly published author is a big deal. At least it is to me. Now that I have a book to promote, that’s where I’ve been spending a lot of my time. After all, I want to send my book off right. So, for the past few weeks, that’s all you’ve heard from me, talk about Delilah.

I’ve learned that promoting my book is even more work than I had anticipated, which is not to say that I’m not relishing every bit of it, even though I moan and groan about most marketing activities. I’ve promoted my heart out, appealed to readers for reviews, applied for a Goodreads author page, (next, I have to figure out how to do the same on Amazon), contacted people about release parties, and I’m doing an author interview with Dan Alatorre.

You can read my author profile, which includes that interview on Dan’s blog today, so I hope you all will check it out. You can read my author profile here. And don’t forget stop in here and read my interview with Dan, which will be posted here on Writing to be Read next Monday.