Links used above:
I had the chance to interview my good writer friend Deb E. I’ve known her for quite some time, and she’s been more than amazing to me. Whether it’s giving me constructive criticism on my work, or just hanging around my blog, I know I can count on her. Deb’s debut novel, “Healer’s Touch,” is set to be released at the end of the month (just 9 days away!), and it looks pretty great. Here’s a little info:
For Llew to heal, something must die.
For Llew, a young pickpocket living as a boy on the streets of a wild mining town, the real problems begin when she survives the gallows. Forced to run, she persuades a group of fighters escorting a young girl to her wedding to let her travel with them. On the journey Llew faces hostile tribesmen, desperate bandits and, the enmity of her own companions should they find out who and what she is: a girl, a fugitive, and a feared Healer. One of the fighters, Jonas, possesses superhuman prowess as a warrior, and carries the knife with the power to ‘kill the unkillable’; the knife that can kill Llew. Despite being of races at war for centuries, they are drawn to one another.
During the journey, they encounter Braph the magician, Jonas’ half-brother and potential nemesis. He pursues them as they journey across the sea to the continent of Phyos and just when Llew finally feels safe, he abducts her. Now he will take what is most precious to him: her blood.
Healer’s Touch is a fast-paced mix of fantasy, steampunk and Wild West adventure – and even a dash of romance!
I’m really looking forward to reading this! Anyway, take it away, Deb!
Where were you born and where do you call home?
Born: Lower Hutt, New Zealand. Home: Dunedin, New Zealand.
What is the name of your most recent book and if you had to sum it up in 30 or less words, what would you say?
My first book to be released (and therefore most recent!) is called “Healer’s Touch”. To sum up: It’s the tale of a girl with the power to heal, and a man uniquely equipped to kill, a story of acceptance of oneself and others.
If you gave one of your characters an opportunity to speak for themselves, what would they say?
Llew would say something like: “Really?! You have to keep doing this to me? I am sick and tired of all the crap you keep putting me through. Wait till I get my hands on you! You sick, twisted…!” (puts her back in the box) Yeah, something like that.
Do you have plans for a new book? Is this book part of a series?
Yes and yes. “Healer’s Touch” is book one of a series, so I am currently working on book two, currently titled “Warrior’s Touch”.
Do you prefer ebooks, paperbacks or hardcover?
I really like the convenience and lower pricing of ebooks.
What book would you like to read again?
I’m looking forward to revisiting Brent Weeks’ “The Black Prism”. It’s the most recent read in which I really felt a connection with any of the characters and was pulled along by the story. That’s what I look for any time I pick up a book.
What book are you currently reading and in what format (ebook/paperback/hardcover)?
Currently reading (and nearly finished) “London Darkness: Infernal Inventions” by Christopher Stocking (yes, this one!), in ebook format.
Who designed the cover of your book?
Well, the design was a collaborative effort between myself and my publisher, Kristell Ink. The illustration was done by: Matt Donnici. You can find him on Deviant Art at: http://mattdonnici.deviantart.com/
Do you buy a book by the cover?
I have done. But these days I tend to read reviews before committing my money.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Three pieces of advice: Read. Write. Finish.
Did you have a favorite toy as a child?
I had a black toy horse that I called “Black Magic” way before the America’s Cup boat came into existence… I had him for years. And when his mane and tail got warn and started to fall out, I replaced them with cotton… Think he actually looks better now. Yep, I still have him.
Any pets that you would like to tell us about, share a pic?
I got a dog during my high school years. His name was Griffin and he was a Cairn Terrier. He was with me through my final school year, through going flatting (renting a house with “room-mates”, or “flatties”), through meeting my husband, entering the real world of working, buying a new house, being pregnant… He didn’t quite make it to the “having a child” part… I mean, he was here physically, but mentally he was pretty well gone by then. Fact is, he was with me through some of my biggest life changes to date. We had fourteen years together. More than two years have passed now and I still miss him.
White wine or red?
Either! Anything, except beer is good with me!
Coffee or tea?
So you like to cook? Do you have a favorite food?
I make a pretty mean spinach curry – Chicken Sagwala
Vanilla or chocolate ice-cream?
What do you normally eat for breakfast, of do you skip it and get straight to work?
Porridge with cinnamon, banana & blueberries!
Sleep in or get up early?
I wish I could sleep in… I have a toddler.
Laptop or desktop for writing?
It varies. I am lucky enough to have a tablet PC at my disposal. More often than not I sit at the kitchen table. But I do have the option to handwrite on it and have been known to lie in the sun doing just that. Typing is faster, though.
Where and when do you prefer to do your writing?
If I can, I really like going down to the university and setting up in one of the libraries. The studious atmosphere really helps me focus.
Your thoughts on receiving book reviews – the good and the bad –
I love receiving criticism when I’m still writing – that’s how I improve, right? That’s how I know where I need to push myself.
After it’s published… I’m really nervous about the negative reviews. Ultimately, though, reviews are how we get readers (hopefully), so I’m all for them… if they’re positive (o:
Do you have a day job as well?
Yep. I’m lucky to be a mum to a toddler (2yrs, 4mths as I type this). He keeps me very busy – and busier by the day. I also work a part-time job compiling information about building electrical systems and light-fittings and stuff… riveting. The great thing about “real work” is that you actually get to have thoughts of your own, so I get a small window to think about writing without the pressure to be achieving my word-count, as I do during my “writing time”, aka “Toddler snooze time”.
Do you ever experience writer’s block? If so, how do you combat it?
Not so much “block” as confusion… sometimes so much is trying to go on all at once in my story, it can take a bit of work to tease events apart and spread them out. Or, like at the moment, something just doesn’t feel right and I’m not 100% certain what it is… Makes progress slow, but not impossible.
Outliner or pantster?
A bit of both. I like having a plan, but I know I can’t predict exactly how characters will react until I’m in the moment, so I expect some seat-of-the-pants writing…
Where is one place in the world that you would really love to visit someday?
Scotland. Would love to see my roots. And Canada – and see Our Lady Peace LIVE! Of course, I’d love to fly them over to this side of the globe, too…
List 3 of your favorite movies?
“Videot From UHF”
“A Pyromaniac’s Love Story”
What is a movie or TV show that you watched just recently and really enjoyed?
Most recently really enjoyed TV show would be “Sons of Anarchy”, season five. Really brutal viewing, but really good!
Where can your readers stalk you?
My blog: http://deberelene.com
My facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/deberelene
My Goodreads author page: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6576139.Deb_E_Howell
Is your book in Print, ebook or both? It will be in both.
I don’t know my Amazon, B&N, etc links, yet… Keep an eye on any of the above links to find out when they go live!
My good friend Deb was kind enough to throw some questions at me in exchange for their answers. I always love being interviewed. It’s always so much fun. Check it out at the link above, and be here tomorrow to read my interview with Deb!
To kick off Steampunk Saturday-the new weekly column before my next steampunk book is released-we have a wonderful interview with steampunk writer Steven Bell. Steven is one of my favorite bloggers, and I consider him a close personal writing friend. He creates wonderful steampunk worlds, and I’m very excited to have him here.
1. What is the first piece of steampunk you read?
2. Was that the piece that inspired you to write in the steampunk genre? If not what was it? If so, why?
In part it was. It is the one that showed me a steampunk America, and exposed me fully to the notion of an Alternate History. Where things are similar but slightly different. For example in ‘Boneshaker’ the Civil War is still raging many years after 1865.
My first attempt at writing something in the Steampunk genre is an unfinished novel I titled: Plague Lights. Which is more gaslight than steampunk. To be clear: Gaslight is more fantasy based (Elves, Orcs, magic etc..) and not necessarily taking place on Earth. That took a lot of influence from the webcomic: Clockworks (http://www.shawntionary.com/clockworks) The art style was fantastic and so different from what I was used to seeing.
After mulling over the ending to ‘Plague Lights’ and failing to come up with anything I wrote a short story as sort of a love letter to Harrisburg PA. Technically the story was a flop. It was said by the commenters that the story has great characters, great description but lacks a cohesive plot. I took that pretty hard. I loved what I had written so much, but I had to agree in terms of a plot it was really, really weak.
3. What is your favorite element of the steampunk genre?
I really love the fact that at its core, the Steampunk genre is a melting pot of genres. There is no real right or wrong element. You can put technological marvels next to a horse drawn carriage, or have a rogue magician causing problems.
I am a fairly unstructured writer and I do not like boundaries in what I write. So here is this genre that allows me to put science in next to magic, maybe a bit of sleuthing to boot. Or stand it all on its head and have an Orc savaging a trainload of engineers on their way to school. It is as flexible as the writer needs it to be.
4. If you could live in any steampunk world, which would it be?
I am not too sure which world I would choose. There are a lot of great worlds out there. Cherie Priest’s Clockwork Century is a favorite because the Northwest (Seattle Wa etc) is close to me through family ties and spending summers out there as a child. Though it is fraught with peril. George Mann’s England (Newbury and Hobbes Investigations) is pretty thrilling place too.
5. What specific steampunk image do you find especially inspiring?
The airship. Just because there are as many airships as there are worlds of Steampunk. They are all different, all floating by some means or another and all stylish as Hell. Just google: steampunk airship to see what I mean.
6. What is your favorite steampunk piece you’ve written? Feel free to post a link to it.
My favorite steampunk piece that I have written? Wait, I write? Dang, that explains all those pens. All kidding aside, hard choice… I think I am going to say it is one of my background short stories concerning Ignatius St. Eligius, my main protagonist. I would say either To Use a Gun No More (http://talesfromxira.wordpress.com/steampunk-adventures/to-use-a-gun-no-more/ ) or Emancipar ( http://talesfromxira.wordpress.com/steampunk-adventures/emancipar/ ) <- Which was incidentally inspired by Chris Stocking’s western short story: https://mentalsweatshop.wordpress.com/shorts/blood-on-my-hands/ Oh, but not the bit about the Jorongo. That’s all mine.
7. Final question: What is your favorite steampunk item, and why?
The Automaton or Automata, without a doubt. The potential for them as characters came from the webcomic Penny Arcade, which ran two multi-part storylines: http://penny-arcade.com/comic/2009/06/12 – Automata and http://penny-arcade.com/comic/2010/07/23 – Blood and Oil. I am so taken with them that I started outlining and preluding a future tale in my Steampunk world where the Automatons are independent and used by the U.S. Marshalls in 1920 as investigators. Of course I head off into the weeds as I plan on including clockwork dragons, super villian, a real dragon and Singapore as the backdrop.
Thanks for the opportunity to flap my fingers about Steampunk. It is such a wonderful genre to work in and read.
Thank you so much, Steven! Be sure to check out Steven’s blog at http://www.talesfromxira.wordpress.com
As writers we must be observant, perceptive, and we must question everything. Why does someone act a certain way? Is it their past? Perhaps this is the first time they’ve ever acted in a certain manner. What was their childhood like? What were their friends and family like? Did they have any pets? Have they lost any loved ones? How old were they? How old was the deceased when they passed? Along with many others that make people who they are.
If we don’t ask questions such as these, we end up with characters that readers don’t find interesting, and they can’t relate to. People’s past is what makes them unique; what gives them personality, and what makes them flawed. Now, of course, readers don’t always want to know every minuscule detail of every character. That can get boring and throw the story off track. I mean, who really cares if the character had a bunny for two weeks when he or she was six. Unless, of course, that has caused them to develop an unhealthy attachment to bunnies.
What I’m getting at here is that writers need to be observant. I’ve always had the idea of doing character studies. I want to go to a public place–likely a coffee shop, or someplace where you’ll find all types of people–and ask random people questions about their past. Of course, I would tell them I’m a writer, and I don’t need their full name or anything of the sort. I don’t want to make them uncomfortable. But, sometimes I wonder what makes people who they are today? What struggles did they have to go through to get to where they are? Did the lawyer have to pay his or her own way through law school? Did he or she have wealthy parents? Did he or she have to go door to door selling knives? Did he or she have to sell drugs? (ironic, no?) There are endless possibilities as to what struggles people have had to face in the past that shape who they are?
And, if I’m not able to ask questions, I like to just sit and watch people. How do people react to certain situations? Does the person who cuts off someone in traffic seem to be in an emergency situation? Is he or she late for work? Does the person who got cut off react in a certain unusual manner? What about the man and woman walking down the sidewalk? Are they dating? married? engaged? Are they both employed? Do they live together? Do they seem generally happy? Perhaps they’re brother and sister.
What do you think? Do you study people? Do you watch watch? Do you think it’s necessary to watch other people to construct three-dimensional characters? What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever seen or heard while watching people?
I had the idea to interview some of the characters from what I write. I think this will be a fun way to look into each character individually and see who they really are. The interviews will take place during their lives either in, or before the story they are a part of. Enjoy!
I set out for the evening looking to talk a bit, but spend more time listening. I didn’t have anyone particular in mind, but I knew whoever I picked would have some story to tell, or so I hoped. I kept my black notebook in my back pocket, amd twirled a quill pen between my fingers as I walked. The night was mostly clear, and the clock tower, frequently known as “Big Ben” was nearing midnight.
As I walked, I spotted a gnome walking in my direction. He had eagerness to his step, as if he had some place to be. He tossed what looked like a small package into the air and caught it again as he walked. He was the first person I spotted, so I knew I had to stop him.
“Excuse me,” I said politely with a smile.
The gnome stopped and stared at me, almost as if I had just awakened him from a daze. “What is it?” he asked. His tone was harsh. “I’m in a bit of a hurry.”
“Would you mind if I asked you a few quick questions?” I asked. “It’ll only take but a moment.”
“Actually, I do mind,” the gnome snapped. He shoved passed me and stomped down the sidewalk.
“Wait!” I called after him.
The gnome stopped again and whirled around. “What in the blazes do you want? I told you I’m in a hurry.”
“I assure you it will only take a minute or two.”
The gnome looked at the package in his hand and stuffed it into one of his many pockets, and approached me. “Well?” he said irritably. “Get on with it then.”
I slid the notebook out of my back pocket and flipped the leather cover off the blank first page. I felt such an eagerness to fill the page with words. I flipped a small, circular cover off of the built-in ink well at the top left corner of my notebook and dipped the sharp point of my quill pen into it.
“Firstly, what is your name?” I asked.
The gnome grumbled. “Wendell Reed.”
I scribbled his name down on the blank page. I received a feeling of satisfaction now that the blank page finally contained some writing. “Where are you off to on this fine evening?”
“Like that’s any of your business.”
I stared at Wendell. “Where are you off to?” I repeated.
“You sure seem to be thick headed. What does it matter to you? Are you from the post?”
Wendell eyed me carefully. “If you must know, I’m on my way to a friend’s. His birthday is in just a few minutes. I really don’t intend on being late, either.”
“Are you an inventor?” I asked as I wrote down his response.
The gnome paused, seemingly caught off guard. “Indeed I am. Say, you’re not from the League of Inventors are you? Ryker wouldn’t like me talking to you.”
“Are you on your way to meet your friend Ryker?”
“Perceptive, aren’t you.”
“I assure you I’m not from the League. Does Ryker not care for the League?”
Wendell looked at me for a moment. “Ah, right,” I said. “Why else wouldn’t he like you talking to members from the League? Why don’t you work for the League? What does Ryker have against them?”
“Bloody hell, I don’t know. I tried to get him to join but he wouldn’t hear a word of it. He always mumbles something about his mum.”
“Does he not like to talk about her?” I asked.
“Certainly not. He had a pretty rough childhood. Or so I imagine. He doesn’t like to talk about it.”
“I see. Would you be able to take me to your friend? I would love to ask him some questions as well.”
Wendell snorted. “I don’t think so.” He looked up at the clock tower. “Bloody hell, I’m going to be late. Er, well, early, but late. Are we about finished?”
“Absolutely not,” I said. “But I don’t wish to hold you back from your engagement.”
Wendell grumbled and ran down the street into the darkness.
I wrote down a few more notes, mainly of Wendell’s features and a few further questions. “Until we meet again,” I said softly, and closed my notebook.
Carrie was raised in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado Springs. When her parents divorced and she was diagnosed with degenerative Rheumatoid Arthritis at the age of 14, the need to write developed in the days that she was kept from school. She attended the University of Colorado, majoring in English Literature. Her honors thesis “Addiction, Narcissism, and Psychopathology in Wuthering Heights,” examines Brontë’s motivations, pre-Freudian thought, current psychological practice, and asking if Wuthering Heights is the love story that the literary world has portrayed. She loves reading Shakespeare, Christopher Moore, Toni Morrison, Rilke, Wordsworth, Austen, and Romantic period literature. She is working on her second novel, Empire, and still resides in Colorado Springs with her husband and two young children.
Her blog – Dare I Eat a Peach
(From her website, http://www.carrienyman.com)
Who are your inspirations and idols? Who inspires you to write?
I have several favorite authors and musicians that are particularly inspiring to me like Toni Morrison, Austen, Neruda, Pat Conroy, Tennyson, Tom DeLonge, and Colin Meloy; however, I think I would most like to be like C.S. Lewis who wrote both remarkable fiction and nonfiction.
Surely the Rocky Mountains can be a beautiful, inspiring place. Do you find your location inspires or influences your writing?
My next book takes place in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, which is not only a beautiful backdrop, but the only home that I’ve ever really known. My entire life seems to have been spent on a 90 mile stretch of Colorado highway.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
When I was 10, I won the school’s poetry contest. I won another at 14, and a major one at 19. When I was 20, one of my poems was published in an anthology. I didn’t ever think that I could make a living at it (how many creative writing majors did I know in college who professed that they were the next Wordsworth? tons…). My plan was (and still is) to earn my doctorate in English Lit and teach at a university. So, I think I’ve always known that writing was my strong point and I loved doing it.
I’ve never delved too much into historical fiction. What aspects of it made you decide to write about it in Why Aren’t You Sweet Like Me??
My novel is based on the stories that my grandmother told me when I was growing up. When I turned 25, Honey let me have the letters that my grandfather wrote to her before and during WWII, and so I was able to recreate the narrative from both perspectives. I was intimately connected with this story and had very vivid ideas of how things played out; it’s truly the history of the war that shaped their relationship and (by default) my family. The historical elements of this type of fiction seem to draw the reader in because it can establish a connection beyond character development and setting.
How different is it switching from historical fiction (Why Aren’t You Sweet Like Me??), to YA fantasy (Empire)?
I think my voices for Why Aren’t You Sweet Like Me?? had to be altered from what I initially anticipated because the diction and slang are so different. EMPIRE is set in the near future, and so the teenage speech is closer to my natural voice. The research element is still there; however, it’s just a different era.
You recently had your first book signing—Describe that experience.
It was ridiculously rewarding. All the hard work and creativity put into this crazy idea actually came back to me. I had a lot of people who doubted my abilities, and I probably would have been just as incredulous of a friend’s resolve had they told me that they were going to write a novel. I had entire families coming up to me, telling me how much my work meant to them, that they couldn’t put it down (my exact goal!) and that they just had to tell me. I can’t imagine a more pure sense of satisfaction than I felt at the signing.
Favorite movie and actor(ess)—Go.
“A River Runs Through It.” Daniel Craig.
What’s your favorite book and/or genre to read?
I am a Romantic/Victorian period student. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read Pride and Prejudice or Wuthering Heights.
What’s the best writing advice you’ve received so far?
Don Maass’ The Fire in Fiction helped me to see that a villain is far more intimidating if he is right. This helped me to understand antagonists more and not simply hating them for the fact that I’m supposed to. Sympathize with the devil, make him righteous, and you can terrify your audience.
Thanks again for taking the time for this interview. Do you have any parting words for the readers?
Everyone gets bad feedback. You can’t please everyone, but if you remain true to your ideas and create a whole new world in your work, then everything will fall into place. You may even find yourself thanking them for driving you on in your darkest moments, pushing you to be better. Don’t write for others, but keep in mind that others will be reading it. Dedicate your work to those you love. Honor them through art.
This is an old, but good video by the author of one of my favorite books, The Book Thief. It’s a short video, but he talks about his inspiration for the book, and provides a little bit of insight for writers.