Interview with author DeAnna Knippling

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This week, I’m interviewing Colorado freelance writer, editor, author and book designer, DeAnna Knippling. I first met DeAnna through the Pike’s Peak Writers when I was still serving as the Southern Colorado Literature Examiner. What struck me about her was her enthusiasm and willingness to help where ever she can. She treats her writing as a business and goes at it with a high degree of professionalism, yet she is personable and willing to share what she’s learned from her own writing experiences.

DeAnna Knippling writes science fiction, fantasy, horror, crime, and mystery for adults under her own name; adventurous and weird fiction for middle-grade (8-12 year old) kids under the pseudonym De Kenyon; and various thriller and suspense fiction for her ghostwriting clients under various and non-disclosable names. Her latest book, Alice’s Adventures in Underland:  The Queen of Stilled Hearts, combines two of her favorite topics–zombies and Lewis Carroll.  It’s the story of a tame zombie who told a little girl named Alice a story that got them both in more trouble than they could handle. Her short fiction has appeared in Black Static, Penumbra, Crossed Genres, Three-Lobed Burning Eye, and more.

Kaye: You created Wonderland Press to get your books out there. What all is involved in creating a press for your work and what are the advantages of doing so? I mean, why would an author do this rather than just throwing their book out on Amazon or Smashwords?

DeAnna: This isn’t one of the fun answers.  It’s stupid easy to make a “press.”  It involves no special equipment.  You look online, make sure nobody else has one of that name in your state, register a business name with your state or county (look up, “How to register a business name in [name of state]”), and Bob’s your uncle.  You might want to get more complex with an LLC or something–but I recommend leaving that for later, unless you already have experience doing that.  I am, of course not a lawyer and can’t give legal advice.  When you want to start looking at an LLC or corporation, I believe, is when you start having to worry about taxes and tax brackets.

I set up my press, “Wonderland Press,” because some publishing sites back in the day didn’t want you to publish books under multiple pen names under the same account without having a publisher name.  Then I realized that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with multiple blogs for my pen names, and moved the names to the same website (for now).  However, things are changing, and I may need to move back to multiple websites, mailing lists, etc.  The thing about business is that everything changes based on the scale of what you’re doing and how much time has passed since you set things up.  It seems like it’s more important to stick to a couple of core principles (bring customers back to a location you can control rather than social media–that kind of thing) and stay flexible in the details than it is to get wrapped up in questions like, “Should I set up a small press?”
Kaye: A lot of your books don’t fit neatly into a genre category or subcategory. How do you describe your books?
DeAnna: I’ve struggled with genre categories since I started publishing.  Part of the reason for that is that my subconscious loves to smash incongruous things together.  For example, I love puns and double entendres–two ways of seeing meaning at the same time–and I love stories that are really two things that don’t really go together being put together (like cowboys in space–Firefly).  The kinds of stories that I tend to write are kind of the opposite of sitting firmly within a genre and therefore being easy to describe.
I’m both looking into ways to get around this (by sneaking more solidly into genres) and finding out what parts of my genres I’m missing out on.  I recently finished up what I call “my cheesy ’80s genre novel.”  When I did the research to try to find out where to put it, I found that…it actually fits pretty solidly into the current Occult subgenre of Horror.  I keep trying to tell myself there’s nothing wrong with writing what feels cheesy (I certainly read it), but sometimes it takes a while for me to learn the obvious.
To actually answer your question?  Since I can’t copy my competitors, I describe my books by putting on the silliest movie announcer voice I can come up with and reading the blurbs out loud.  The more mock-serious the better.  Somehow it works.
Kaye: What’s the most fun part of writing a novel or a story? What’s the least fun part?
DeAnna: Most fun:  The fun parts. Least fun:  The parts that stick the fun parts together.
I get really bored at the least fun parts.  I think that’s where the books I write start getting weird.  If I plan a book, then I plan something at least a little bit more genre-specific than what actually comes out.  But then I get bored and jump the tracks.  I feel like writing a book is a process of going “Ooooh, shiny” over and over until I step into the circle of rope hidden under the leaves in the jungle, and the ending jerks me upside down into the air.
I wish it were that quick to write the end–it’s the slowest part of the book for me as I wrap up all the shinies that I’ve picked up throughout the plot–but that’s what it feels like.
Kaye: If your writing suddenly made you rich and famous, what would you do?
DeAnna: More of the same.  My major goal in life is to allow my wonderful spouse to become a pool boy at our eccentric castle in the mountains.  Travel more.  At least, I say those things.  Probably I’d still just begrudge the time I wasn’t reading or writing.  I’d go to exotic locations and just read a book.
Kaye: Why do you think some writers sell well, and others don’t?
DeAnna: Probably that stuff I mentioned about genre.  A lot of writers will look at a successful writer’s book and go, “What a terrible writer!  Why do they sell?!?”
But here’s my experience (based on ghostwriting so much):
The stuff that I’m forced to write to genre by my clients sells a lot better than the stuff I write for myself.
Granted, you still need to know what you’re doing.  But writing a book isn’t just about pretty sentences–it’s about making the constant readers happy, feeding their addictions.  The answer to why some books are massive successes when others aren’t is often, “Because they can see the forest for the trees–and you can’t.”  Cold but true.
Kaye: Any advice for upcoming authors who are trying to get a foot in the door?

DeAnna: Just keep working.  Everybody’s in a hurry to succeed.  Success!  Millions!  Riches!  Fame! But, in the end, it comes back to the basics.  Did you read?  Did you write?  Did you learn something?  Did you talk to other people in the writing community?

“A foot in the door” is just the feeling that the universe owes you something, or that you can sneak something past somebody.  “How do I cut in line past the people who have been working their asses off for years?” And the only answers are:  Write a good story, network, value your readers, don’t be stupid about genre, work your ass off, don’t fail on purpose.  That last one is pretty significant.  I’ve seen a lot of people give up or just put things off until they’re “ready.”  The hell with waiting for “ready.”  If you’re going to do that, you’ve already failed, because this is a bootstrap industry–nobody gets the magic green light.  Even people who are going traditional start out by hustling for publishers and agents.  Make someone else tell you no.  Make them tell you no a lot.
I want to thank DeAnna for joining us here on Writing to be Read, and for sharing her knowledge with us. If you’d like to learn more about Deanna or her books, her website and blog are at www.WonderlandPress.com.  You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Welcome Jeff Bowles to “Writing to be Read”

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Last week we had our first guest post from the newest addition to the Writing to be Read team, author Jeff Bowles, who will be sharing his Pep Talk to keep writers inspired and motivated, the first Wednesday of every month. I’m excited to have him join my team, and I think you readers will be too, after you learn a little about him.
I had the good fortune to attend the same graduate program with Jeff, and I have to tell you, he is an extremely talented young man. His stories different and often don’t fit neatly into a particular genre, although I think most that I’ve read can be called speculative fiction.
For his thesis, Jeff came up with an epic idea for an Armageddon story, where a gigantic God and Satan have a  physical battle and destroy most of Earth in the process. His thesis proposal was probably an inch thick, and the story outline was very complex. All of his cohorts said, “It will be really hard to pull off, but if anyone can do it, you can, Jeff.” I heard this time and time again. Hey did pull it off, and he ended up with an awesome novel.
Since then I’ve gotten to know Jeff and I learned that he’s a madman when it comes to writing, and you never know what he’ll come up with next. But, whatever he writes, you can be assured that he will put you in the story, and even if his characters are lightning bolts, he will suspend your disbelief and make you care what happens to them.
In addition to his M.F.A. in Creative Writing, Jeff has publishing credits for many short stories, including a collection of short stories, Godling and Other Paint Stories, which he published himself. His second short story collection, Fear and Loathing in Las Cruces, will be released on March 28, keep an eye out here for a review). In addition to his Pep Talk here, Jeff’s wisdom and talent can be found on his own blog, God Complex. (You can also find some of Jeff’s opinions on the publishing industry in my interview with Jeff for my publishing series, The Pros and Cons of Traditional vs. Independent vs. Self-Publishing.) But, the best way to get to know about Jeff is to ask questions. So that’s just what I did. I hope you enjoy the resulting interview, below.

Kaye: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Jeff: I’ve kind of only ever had two passions in my life, music and writing. I wrote my first story when I was about ten years old, which also happens to be the age I wrote my first song. When I got older and met my wife, I realized being a musician wouldn’t be conducive to family life, what with touring and recording and the general pressures of the business. So at that time I decided to settle on my writing, and I haven’t looked back since. Good choice. You can write a song any old time you want. Short story tales are forever.

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

Jeff: Let’s see … Probably the couple of comic scripts I sold to English comic book press FutureQuake. I’ve written everything from short stories, novelettes and novellas, to full-length novels, screenplays, newspaper articles, nonfiction, a bit of ghost writing, you name it. I found being diverse and far-reaching was way better than narrowing in on one small niche. At this point I could take a stab at anything, any time. Very helpful if you actually want to make a little money, and who doesn’t?

Kaye: You seem to have a bit of a preoccupation with God, which has certainly shown up in a lot of your writing. Can you tell us what that is all about?

Jeff: Ha ha, well I think I just found it to be the largest, most expansive concept in existence, right? I mean, I try to tackle topics and themes that are gargantuan in relation to small, fragile beings like you and I. That sort of thing has always appealed to me, so God was a natural extension, one most people have a strong gut reaction to in one way or another. My newer work–including my latest short story collection, dropping on March 28–has very little to do with God or gods or anything of that nature. I was also on a personal quest for God for many years, I suppose. I was raised agnostic, so my whole life I was searching for a reason to believe and worship, and corny as that might sound. Writing about Him always seemed like a good outlet for my spiritual curiosity.

Kaye: How many of your stories have been based on God to some extent, or featured God?

Jeff: Quite a few, actually. If not the Almighty Himself, I’ve tinkered with super beings, celestials, demigods, and everything in between. Most writers are timid about concepts. I go for the biggest, largest, hugest.

Kaye: Your thesis novel involves God, and Satan, too. Would you like to tell us a little about your novel?

Jeff: Sure. Body of Heaven, Body of Darkness is a contemporary horror fantasy. Harold Math watches in terror as God and Satan, each ten miles tall, beat each other to death in the rural desert of Nevada. Booze and anxiety become his life, until a strange, supernatural boy in a red cape causes a terrible car wreck that kills his fiancé and unborn son. The world slips into chaos as the deaths of the two immense beings herald national disasters and the destruction of the city of Los Angeles. A horrifying hell-beast emerges in the chaos and begins terrorizing the country, even as Harold reunites with an old flame and tries to put back together the shattered pieces of his life. At last, the boy in the cape reveals himself to Harold as the all-knowing Will of the Universe. He’s chosen him and three others to destroy this contamination before it spreads.

 

Kaye: In addition to being a very talented writer, you are an artist, as well? You did the cover for Godling, right?

Jeff: I did. Just sort of produced it on the fly. I don’t have any training or know-how really. Plenty of talent to spare though, I guess. This is my humble face. Can’t you tell? 😀
Kaye: Your stories are very unusual, your descriptions vivid. How do ideas and images develop into stories for you?
 Jeff: Well they don’t just come, that’s for sure. Most of the time I have to kind of open myself up to the universe, if you will. If I’m actively looking for ideas, working to make it happen, they often occur to me. Thing about really unique story ideas is that first blush versions of them are usually tame and have the potential of having been done before. I like to take a concept and cook it a while before I ever hit the page with it. A lot of the unusual nature of my work has come from a need to be myself. Twists and turns develop in the actual plotting. It’s hard work trying to sell stuff no one’s ever seen before, but so worth it when you do.

Kaye: You’ve had quite a few things published, including a comic book. How did that come about? Did you do the artwork for that? Or was it collaboration? Tell us about the process in either case?

Jeff: No, I didn’t do the artwork. I wrote the script and submitted it to the publisher just like you’d do with any short story. They accepted it and paired me with an artist. I got to see his work evolve over the course of several months, and it was always rewarding to check out what true artistic talent could do with my material. I couldn’t draw like that if you paid me. Writing a comic book script, though, it’s something I urge a lot of science fiction and fantasy authors to try out. Very cool, very challenging medium to work in.

Kaye: Other than God, what kinds of things of things influence your writing?
 Jeff: Movies, video games, life in general. I sort of belong to a generation that’s grown up on 24-hour media and all-encompassing entertainment options. It’s no wonder my stories are fast and loaded with concepts. I don’t think I ever intend my work to come out unusual for the sake of being unusual. Maybe it’s an attention deficit thing. I get bored with stories very easily.

 

Kaye: What are your favorite genres to read? To write?

Jeff: Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror are my bread and butter. I like to read and write nonfiction and more literary work as well, but my home and my love will always be speculative stuff. It’s what I was raised on, so it’s the most natural thing in the world for me. Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Marvel and DC, all these mega-nerd story types and franchises, I probably dream the stuff at this point.

Kaye: What is the biggest challenge for you when writing short fiction?  Or when tackling a novel-length work? How about when writing comic books?

Jeff: For short fiction there’s always a push and pull between expressing myself fully, telling an engrossing story, and making something concise and fully realized with a limited word count. Novels are tricky because they’re a marathon, a long-haul project, though I find the actual writing to be easier than short form on a day-to-day basis. Comic book scripts are another beast altogether. Kind of the ultimate test of a writer’s mettle when it comes to precision and execution. Highly recommend writers try it out at some point. Probably learn a thing or two in the process. Sometimes it pays to be a mad scientist with your writing. Take no prisoners! Hold nothing back!

 

Kaye: Which is your favorite type of writing? Short fiction? Novels? Comic Books?

 Jeff: I’ve produced way more short fiction than just about anything else, though I find I don’t like reading it all that much. Books and comics, those are my favorite forms of entertainment, though movies and video games are also very important to my storytelling diet.
Kaye: Is there anything unique or unusual about your writing process?
 Jeff: No, I don’t think there is. I don’t have any cute tricks or rituals. It’s a simple equation, really: apply ass to seat and type until something’s done. There’s no accounting for hard work, and the writers who make something of themselves rarely do so without a ton of discipline and a healthy work ethic. You’ve got to write on even when you don’t want to. Especially when you don’t want to.
Kaye: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
 Jeff: Game. Did I mention video games? Oh, I did? 😀

 

Kaye: Any advice for aspiring writers?

Jeff: Absolutely. NEVER GIVE UP!

 

You’ll probably find people in your life will try to dissuade you, or in the very least, that they’ll lack enthusiasm for your work, your calling, until you’ve been at it long enough you finally start to see results. You can’t let that get to you. Apply ass to seat and type until something’s done. Writers are a funny breed few people understand, and sometimes we become crotchety and bitter. But the truth is if you’re going to do this thing, you’ve got to stay focused and disciplined. Much like writing a novel, this job is a marathon. Many very famous authors had to work their butts off for years, if not decades, before people finally took them seriously. I will say it again. NEVER GIVE UP! PROMISE!

 

So, now you know a little about Jeff Bowles, which is good, because you should know who is giving you a writing Pep Talk. I hope you’ll join us every first Wednesday to read what morsels of writing wisdom Jeff has to offer. And I hope that now you’re as excited as I am to have him join the Writing to be Read team.

Interested in Jeff’s writing? Check out his latest short story collection, Godling and Other Paint Stories: https://www.amazon.com/Godling-Other-Paint-Stories-Bowles-ebook/dp/B01LDUJYHU

Twitter: @JeffBowlesLives

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jeffryanbowles

Tumblr: http://authorjeffbowles.tumblr.com

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/JeffBowles/e/B01L7GXCU0/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1479453494

YouTube’s Jeff Bowles Central: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC6uMxedp3VxxUCS4zn3ulgQ

 

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Bringing in the New Year Write

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It’s 2017!  Where does the time go? It seems like just yesterday that I was venturing forth to start Writing to be Read on Today.com. Most of you won’t remember. It was supposed to be a site that would monetize my blog, so without a clue as to what I should write about, I jumped right in. I wrote about all kinds of things and at the end of every post I published one of my poems, in order to cover the full scope of the literary world, or something like that. That was in 2010, seven years ago. Wow! Unfortunately, several months later Today.com folded and the sight just disappeared, along with all the writing I had done there. In a panic, I found WordPress and re-created my blog here.

Since then it has be remodeled several times until it is what you see here today. As I said in my Looking Back on 2016 post last week, this past year has been a good one for Writing to be Read as it has grown in popularity. So to start the new year out, I’d like to take a closer look at what I hope to accomplish with the blog this year. In last weeks post I mentioned a few ideas I wanted to see come to fruition: author and screenwriter profiles, more screenwriting content, coverage of more writing events, and guest posts by authors, screenwriters and other industry professionals. That is the shape I foresee for Writing to be Read.

But, you know, this blog wouldn’t be anywhere without you, the reader. Watching my statistics, it’s you that determines what content I create. It’s you that make the number of followers climb, you who increase my page views. With this in mind, I know I can’t move forward without asking you what content you would like to see here in the coming year. Are there topics of interest you’d like to learn more about? Do you have questions you’d like to have answered through one of my posts? And while we’re at it, who would you like to see profiled or interviewed? What books or movies would you like to see reviewed? What topics would you like to see investigated? What events would you like to see covered? What kinds of things will keep you coming back for more?

Another goal I hope to accomplish is to continue to increase my following and have more reader interaction through comments. I appreciate every reader I have gained over the years. Some of you, I have come to think of as friends as well as readers. I also welcome new readers. If you are here for the first time, or maybe you’ve been here before but you haven’t subscribed to email or followed on WordPress yet, please do so before you click on the next website. I make no money off Writing to be Read. My only reward is to watch my followers grow and know I am being read. Subscribe, follow, leave a comment to let me know you were here, or do all three. With your help, we can make 2017 the best year ever for Writing to be Read.

 


Who is Robin Conley?

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It occurred to me that although I introduced Robin Conley as my cohort in the M.F.A. program when she first began doing guest posts for Writing to be Read, I really didn’t give a lot of information about my friend and former cohort, who happens to be a very talented writer with a sharp eye for what does, or doesn’t, make a story work.

When she was introduced in my M.F.A. cohort at Western State of Colorado University, there was one amazing thing about her which stuck in my mind. She had challenged herself and her writing abilities by writing a short story a day for a year, and called it Project 365. Not only did she challenge herself, but she took it public. She got the idea as an undergraduate at Western Michigan University in 2010. Robin explains how Project 365 came about,

“ …we were reading a book of plays called 365 Plays/365 Days by Suzan-Lori Parks… her work inspired me to try something like it for myself to help me push myself to write every day, and to try new styles of writing. There weren’t any rules except that I had to write a complete story every day… as long or as short as necessary to tell the story, but the purpose… was trying something new. I played with genres, new characters, new styles (minimalism, surrealism, literary vs. genre, etc.) In order to keep myself on track, I started a twitter account (@Jminspirations) at the same time and a blog, and forced myself to post every story on the blog and then put a link on my twitter account.”

I found this to be amazing. Talk about inspirational. Wow!

At the time, that’s how I thought of her, the amazing girl who did the short story challenge. But over the past four years, I’ve gotten to know her better and she’s become a good friend to me, and in a way, she’s become my writing partner. We are working together in some of our writing endeavors, including her guest posts here. Through our Etsy store, Writing the World, we offer critiquing and proofreading services. Robin does guest posts for us, besides writing for her own blog. In addition to her own writing, she currently does writing for hire, volunteers as a script reader, and is teaching a couple of classes in screenwriting. (I think she may do some babysitting, too.) Besides being skilled at the craft, she’s smart and witty, and a she has a wonderful sense of humor.

I wanted my readers to know a little bit about Robin, so you’ll have a better idea of who you’re getting your weekly writing tips from. There’s no better way to tell you about her than to let her say it in her own words. The post runs a bit long, but Robin’s answers were so good, I couldn’t bring myself to cut much of them. I’m hoping after reading the following interview, you’ll be able to see a little bit of what I see in Robin, who I’ve come to know and consider a friend.

Kaye: We’ve already talked some about Project 365. How has that writing experience helped shape your writing career?

Robin: Project 365 was a strange part of my life that really pushed me to be a better writer. Every time I thought I wouldn’t be able to come up with a story idea, I somehow found one. It was stressful, and there were a lot of days where I wanted to do anything but write. Sticking with it taught me more about my writing than anything else I’ve done. By the final few months, I’d learned a lot about my process and my writing and I learned how to write no matter what else was going on.

So far, at least 2 of the stories have sprung into novels, and there are at least a dozen others that I also plan to turn into novels when I have the time. Many others I’ve revised and am working on sending out to publishers in hopes of finding a home for them. Of course, there are several that are just pretty crappy and probably won’t be used for anything other than as a “learn from my mistake” sort of thing, but that’s to be expected when doing so much in such a short time.

Kaye: What works have come out of the 365 stories?

Robin: One of my favorite stories that sprung from the 365 challenge is my Tour Guide that was part of my thesis novel, Labyrinth of the Dead, which I wrote for the MFA program. The world she is a part of was a pre-existing place I’d written about before, but the Tour Guide was a new character that I decided to play with while doing the challenge. She works in the underworld as a guide for the newly dead and leads them through the orientation process, so to speak.

Another story that came from the challenge has become a mystery novel, Indecision Killed the Cat. It’s about an anxiety-riddle woman who believes her troubled brother is missing, but no one believes her because of his past history of running off, and her irrational and unreliable way of thinking.

Kaye: In what way, if any has the challenge helped bring you to the point you’re at now?

Robin: Doing the challenge helped me grow more confident in my own writing. It let me explore genres and stories that I had been thinking about, but hadn’t tried writing in.

One of my main goals with the challenge was to help me focus. Before the challenge, I often found it hard to work on longer projects because I had so many ideas in my head and I felt overwhelmed by them or distracted… Now when I go to write I know exactly what I need to do in order to get started, where before I’d waste a lot of time. It really helped me be the writer I am today.

Kaye: What kinds of things influence your writing?

Robin: I’m influenced by everything. I love learning how things in the world work: people, jobs, cultures, nature… I love learning and I love watching how things are interconnected. When I write, it’s all about taking little details and connecting them in such a way that they tell a story. Every part of my life, every little thing I’ve interacted with every day, helps me tell stories.

Sometimes the smallest thing can inspire a story for me because it’s all about perspective. The way someone holds a beer bottle can be significant and inspiring. I know, it sounds silly and dramatic, but it’s true. It may inspire me because of the attitude, or the way the person is interacting with the bottle. Are they gesturing with it like it’s an extension of themselves? Or do they carry it like it’s nothing more than object? These kind of small details can make me start to wonder about a person, and before I know it, I’m no longer thinking about that person, I’m thinking about a character. Every character has a story, and I love finding out what it is. So once I have a glimmer, I have to delve deeper. Essentially, the answer to where stories come from for me, is simple: they come from curiosity. I want to know more, so I write until I find my answers.

Kaye: What’s your favorite genre to read? To write?

Robin: About 60% are books recommended to me by friends or family. I have several people who pretty much give me everything they read because they know I like to check out all types of stories as research for writing. If someone I know wanted to read it, I’m curious to see it for myself. My preferred genres are the classics, urban fantasy, horror, and anything involving zombies. In general, though, I’ll pick up any book that either has a character or plot that catches my attention, and I usually read several books at once. Right now I’m currently reading:

  • David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
  • 21st Century Dead Edited by Christopher Golden
  • House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski
  • The Tools of Screenwriting by David Howard & Edward Mabley

In writing, I seem to lean toward telling stories that involve some form of fantasy, or something involving horror or supernatural elements. While these types of stories are my favorite, I end up writing in a wide variety of genres because what usually draws me to wanting to write a story is the character or a particular conflict. I like to follow the story and take it wherever it leads me instead of trying to focus too much on one genre or style.

Kaye: Like me, you hold a duel M.F.A. in Creative Writing, with emphasis in both genre fiction and screenwriting. What prompted you to spend the extra year to add that additional screenwriting emphasis?

Robin: I love telling stories, and I love absorbing stories in any form (movies, music, oral storytelling, plays, books, etc.) When I took my out of concentration course for the fiction program I decided to take Screenwriting because it would help me expand my ability to tell stories. The more mediums I am familiar with, the more options I have when I choose to tell a story. Plus, when I took the Screenwriting class I just really fell in love with the visual format and wanted to know more, so I decided to add the extra year in order to learn as much as I possibly could about screenwriting before I graduated.

Kaye: What is the biggest challenge for you when writing short fiction?  Or when tackling a novel length work? • What is your biggest challenge when writing a screenplay? • Have you ever played with poetry?

Robin: Short Fiction – condensing the story. I love getting lost in characters and worlds, and finding a short story is often hard for me. I really have to force myself to focus on one small part of the story and make it matter, without getting lost in the bigger story.

Novels – I think I most struggle with the outlining and preparing to write stage. I hate the pre-writing stuff and always want to just get started, but I find that the pre-writing really helps me write faster and clearer so I force myself to do it.

Screenwriting – During my first drafts I really focus on the plot and getting that to work on the page first, which means my protagonist’s personality often gets lost even though I know it well. Future drafts are often all about bringing that personality out and fixing character stuff, which is a slow and tedious process for me.

Poetry – It was my first foray into writing. It was awful stuff that will hopefully never see the light of day again. These days I simply appreciate poetry and admire those who have the skill. It’s not my strong suit.

Kaye: Which is your favorite type of writing? Short fiction, genre fiction, or screenwriting?

Robin: I’m kind of torn on this these days, because I love the visual format of screenwriting, but I also adore getting lost in the world of a novel. I think for me, which is my favorite really depends on what story I’m working on at the given moment and which medium it seems to fit best.

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

Robin: The main thing I can think of is that in my first draft I really focus on getting my plot down first and writing the motions of the story, while drawing character out comes second. I know my characters in advance before writing, but they don’t always come out on the page well in the first draft since I’m focused on plot. Doing it this way helps me write faster, and gets the plot all out on the page so I can look at it and see what is and isn’t working, because sometimes you can’t tell until it’s written.

I look at it as being similar to drawing. First you do a rough sketch to plan the drawing (outline), then maybe you do the structure of the drawing in black and white (plot), and then you go through and add color (character and finer details). Writing this way lets me really focus on my plots and make sure they are logically sound before I really delve into bringing out the character elements and some of the smaller details that help bring a story to life. The key, though, is knowing your characters really well first so they fit the plot.

Kaye: We’re offering some proofreading and critiquing through the Etsy store. What’s your worst pet peeve when reading or critiquing a book or story?

Robin: 1. When the author writes a character doing something for the sake of getting the plot to go where the author needs it to go, rather than staying true to the characters.

2. When critiquing and someone sends me something that is clearly a first draft and I can tell they haven’t read it over. It’s one thing if we’ve talked about sending the first draft for some specific reason, but it’s another to send something to someone asking for a critique when you haven’t even done a basic revision pass. You may only get one critique, so don’t waste it by sending something that is filled with mistakes you could catch on your own!

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

Robin: I have a lot of random hobbies and like learning new things, so what I’m up to is constantly changing. Lately I’ve been teaching myself to knit, and relearning some Spanish. In general, I love reading, movies, anything involving animals or nature, traveling, and photography.

That’s it, folks. I hope this interview has given you a better idea of who Robin Conley is, and instilled confidence when she offers writing advice. If you have questions for Robin, leave a comment to this post.

Robin Conley offers great writing advice most Wednesdays on Writing to be Read. If you just can’t wait until next week to find out more, you can pop into her blog, Author the World, for more tips, or a weekly writing prompt.


Cynthia Vespia is an author at heart

Printed by permission of the author

There’s more to writing than just putting a pen to paper or typing out words on the keyboard, and no one knows this better than author Cynthia Vespia. She writes short stories and novels, does the artwork for her book covers and successfully promotes her work with video trailers that she creates. Her most recent accomplishment has made an award-winning video editor of her, when she received a New Covey Most Artistic book trailer award for the creation of her video trailer for her Demon Hunter Saga. In addition, she shares her knowledge with others through her fledgling advertising company, with ambitions to teach online workshops in book advertising.
For Cynthia Vespia, it is all about writing. Since she was a child of eight, she has wanted to be a writer, “It’s the only thing I’ve known I’m good at. If I was going to do anything else it would have to remain on the creative side.” Although she has been successful in many things in her life, writing has remained her first love; her passion, if you will. Today she is currently watching that dream come to fruition before her eyes. To date, she has worked as a journalist and promotional writer, and produced several short stories, in addition to her books. She has published three novels; Demon Hunter:Saga, Life, Death and Back, and Theater of Pain.

One of her greatest inspirations has been author Dean Koontz, who she refers to as her “literary hero”,

     “It was Dean who pushed me from just writing short stories to saying ‘I want to write novels.’

     I read his novel INTENSITY in highschool and from there I was hooked. Dean writes in a way

     that keeps the pace moving from cover to cover. I’d like my writing to flow in such a way.

     And he also writes his characters with flaws that make them real but makes them loveable.

     Dean’s a master at drawing out emotion. When I finished Odd Thomas I actually cried…”
Her writing does emulate the work of Dean Koontz in many ways. Costa, her protagonist in her book, Demon Hunter: Saga, is an example of a strong young character searching for his own identity; a character that sticks in your mind and stays with you long after you have finished the book. She sees a little of herself in all of her characters, as she believes every author does. With Costa, she says that she drew from her martial arts training to write his training sessions to learn the skills needed to become a demon hunter. Her storylines intrigue and capture the imagination, hooking readers and reeling them in.

Like Koontz, much of her works carry dark themes, as well. Cynthia was even fortunate enough to have an opportunity to meet her “literary hero” in person, reinforcing her enthusiasm for writing,

     “When I met Dean he spoke about how he never uses an outline, he doesn’t even do a

     character breakdown. I tried his method on my next book and it brought me back to

      the fun of writing. Everything seemed to just flow with much more creative freedom…

      I was very fortunate to have met him…”
In fact, it sounds as if Cynthia’s method of developing a story may not have been far off from that of Koontz, even before she met him,

     “I never sit down and actively look for a story idea. Some sort of topic will appeal to me

      in a way that will spark a story idea; I’ll flush it out a bit, and then start the story. Right

      now I’ve got a folder full of ideas that I need to get to and the “sparks” just keep coming.

      I can’t keep up with my own imagination!”

Her character driven stories are well written and quite entertaining. When asked what she develops first, character or plot, Vespia said,

      “More often than not I get the overall idea for the story and then develop the characters

      around that. There have been some  instances where a character comes to me first. For

      instance, I’m about to start work on a series where it was the character…actually just the

     character name…who started me off on the journey.”
Her characters are indeed memorable. Her character driven stories are well written and quite entertaining, with memorable characters that make readers believe. Savvy Authors: Writers Helping Writers says, “Today Cynthia writes suspense fiction with savagely powerful characters and strong storylines designed to stir the adrenaline.” In her Demon Hunter: Saga, Costa is a young man searching for his true identity and learning what his own strengths and weaknesses are. His two friends and his father are strong characters that are developed well, with strengths and weaknesses of their own. Death is a character that won’t soon be forgotten in Death’s Grand Design, a lighthearted short story presented from the point of view of a reluctant Grim Reaper that is sure to stir a chuckle.

Earlier this year she began her own advertising business, The Original Cyn Advertising, that places emphasizes on promotional materials for writers including book cover design, banners, logos and book trailers. She also plans to offer an online book marketing workshop through her The Original Cyn website, to share her expertise with fellow authors. Vespia offers advice to new writers that she once received herself,
     “…’write for the wastebasket.’…What this advice tells me is to relax when writing. It is

     called a first draft for a reason. It doesn’t have to be perfect, you’re going to throw out

     or rework, most of it anyway, so just relax and let it flow naturally. I would also say learn

     everything you can about the business, the ins and outs of not just writing but how the

     publishing scene works…You are your own best sales force…”

It seems that Cynthia will be successful in whatever way she chooses to express her creativity. Whether developing characters and story lines, creating book covers and video trailers, or marketing books, writing will always be at the heart of what Cynthia Vespia does. The fact that she does all these things so well makes her a perfect fit for her life’s dream; the role of author.


Author Tim Baker recommends publishing independently

" Many of the places I enjoy visiting are (coincidentally) the same places Ike and the rest of my characters frequent!"

Independent author Tim Baker has published four novels, under his own personal brand, Blindogg Books, and has at least three more in the making. He published his first book, Living the Dream, in 2009: a story about a kid-napping plot that takes some crazy twists and turns along the way. Since then, he has published Water Hazard, where a stolen set of CDs leads the unwitting hero into more mayhem than he ever imagined; No Good Deed, in which an embezzlement scheme drags unsuspecting characters into the mix to combine forces and outwit the bad guys; and Backseat to Justice, where an effort to find a murderer leads to a web of intrigue that is full of surprises. In fact, all of his books hold surprises in store, making readers feel as if they are on a literary roller coaster at times.
For Tim Baker, writing is a way of life, or as he puts it, “That first novel was a long and arduous process but the dam had burst and I couldn’t hold back the flood. Now I’ve gotten to the point where I am always writing in my head.” His delightful stories begin with “what ifs”, not unlike bestselling author Stephen King (Danse Macbre). Baker’s imagination, however, may not be as bizarre as King’s. Tim likes his readers to feel as if the situations in his stories could possibly happen to them, which he feels is crucial in having them relate to his stories.

“The one key factor I strive to maintain is something I call “the real-life” factor. In a nutshell it works like this…sometimes our lives can be seriously altered by a seemingly insignificant event. A guy forgets to set his alarm clock…the next morning he wakes up late and he’s driving to work but his normal coffee shop has a line a mile long at the drive-thru. He’s running late so he goes to a different one. While he’s there he gets caught up in a hold-up and gets himself shot. All because he forgot to set his alarm clock.”

Tim would recommend becoming an independent author, (what some refer to as self-publishing), for writers trying to get published, as long as they realize that becoming an independent author is a lot of work, with no high paying advances, and no high powered marketing firm to tell the world about your book.

“It’s all on you – and believe me, it’s a full time job. If there’s somebody reading this who thinks they have a book inside them, I say write it…but understand that writing it is only the beginning. Once it is written, edited, re-written, re-edited and re-written again, then formatted and printed – the real work starts. Promoting it.”

When he is not actually writing, he is promoting his work, as all independent authors must. Baker says that he spends countless hours on spreading the word and generating sales. He has reached out successfully to readers through newspaper articles, blog-talk radio and personal appearances, but about 85% of his advertising is done through social media.

“Unless you have a large marketing firm behind you (which is rare) social networking is your bread and butter. You can potentially reach millions of people for practically free. I would say that for every hour I spend writing I spend two hours promoting myself one way or another.”

In addition to the time he spends on writing and promoting his work, Tim holds down a day job in civil engineering and donates time to a local charity, Christmas Come True (www.christmascometrue.org ), that provides Christmas to needy families that are unable to provide Christmas for themselves. He cherishes leisure time, when he can ride his motorcycle along the Florida coast and frequent all the places where his characters hang out. Tim is also interested in martial arts and is a wiffle ball champion, as well as being a huge animal lover.
Tim’s love for animals is apparent in his Facebook “Likes”, which include books about dogs, animal rescue resource pages, animal oriented non-profit organizations, dogs trained to surf with individuals with disabilities, Misty the Dog and Friends, Guiding Eyes for the Blind. In fact, in the 90’s Tim Baker raised Labrador retriever pups to be used as guide dogs for the blind, which may have a lot to do with him calling his brand Blindogg Books, and half the proceeds from his e-book, Back Seat to Justice, will be donated to a non-profit animal rescue organization, Golden Hugs Rescue Inc., (http://www.goldenhuggs.org/index.htm ). Though he considers himself to be “primarily a dog person”, he currently has two cats, Philbert and Blaise.
One might wonder how Tim finds time for all of these things, but somehow he does. His next book, Pump It Up, is due to be out this coming summer and promises to be as fast paced and exciting as all of his previous books, and delves into the realm of black market silicone treatments. He is also planning two others: Unfinished Business, which will explore the connection between this existence and the one beyond death; and Full Circle, which deals with “karma, fate and the forces of the universe.”

As a final thought, Tim would like to add,

“Thank you offering me the opportunity to discuss my work. For anybody who might have more questions, I am more than happy to answer them. I enjoy meeting new readers and exchanging thoughts and ideas – so feel free to connect with me on Facebook, start a discussion, email me – whatever. You’ll get a response from me (not an intern or a flunky) I promise.”