Interview With Author – Sean Gibson

Interview with an author

 Hello All!

I have to admit – this is one of my most precious interviews! Sean Gibson, the author of The Camelot Shadow is probably the funniest and most interesting writer I have met. If you haven’t had a chance to pick this book yet – please do! You can see my review here. He has also written The Chronicle of Heloise & Grimple and The Strange Task Before Me: Being an Excerpt from the Journal of William J. Upton (Camelot Shadow #0.5).

 

When did you realize that you wanted to become a writer?

Just last Tuesday—it was all very sudden. I’m kidding, of course. I realized I wanted to be a writer when I discovered Bob Salvatore’s Dark Elf Trilogy 25 years ago (I’m dating myself with that revelation, I suppose, though at least if I’m dating myself, I know I won’t get turned down…well, I probably won’t get turned down; I do have SOME standards, though, so it’s entirely possible I might reject me).

I’d always been an avid reader, but that was the first time I was consciously aware of books shaping my worldview and inspiring me to think about my approach to life in a different way. I thought it would be pretty fantastic if I could someday do for a reader what Salvatore did for me (and what numerous other writers have done since): entertain, inspire, and provoke thought.

 

Where do you get your ideas from?

Ritually sacrificing stuffed bunnies and ripe mangoes to the goddess Buhlschitt in exchange for inspiration. Isn’t that how everyone gets ideas?

What are you currently working on?

I’m just finishing the first draft of a book tentatively titled THE PART ABOUT THE DRAGON WAS (MOSTLY) TRUE (though I suspect the title will change). It’s a prequel of sorts to THE CHRONICLE OF HELOISE & GRIMPLE, albeit written as a cohesive narrative as opposed to a serialized adventure as its predecessor was. It’s a fantasy homage/parody that’s part Hobbit, part Behind the Music with the joke cadence of a Tina Fey show.

 

Where did you get your idea for The Camelot Shadow?

The scene that opens Chapter 1—an older man, sitting in a well-worn leather chair in a magnificent library late at night, a book in his lap and a glass of Scotch by his side—popped into my head unbidden one night when I was trying to fall asleep. I was in college at the time and far more concerned with midterms and naked quad streaking than writing books, so I didn’t do anything about it immediately. Every so often, though, I would think about that scene. The details were so clear in my head—I could practically smell the chair leather and feel the vellum pages within the books. Eventually, I started asking myself who the man was, why he was so melancholy, how he’d amassed all those wonderful books, and why it seemed as though this quiet moment was just the calm before the storm. As I answered those questions, I realized I had a story I had to tell.

It’s funny—when I finished writing the book, I was convinced that was it. I’d told those characters’ tale and it was onto the next thing. But, after a while, I started thinking about them again—what happened after the story ended, and even what had come before. I missed hanging out in that world and writing in that ornate Victorianish style. What can I say? I like my prose like I like my Little Mermaid villains—over the top and incredibly purple.

So, having released a prequel short (THE STRANGE TASK BEFORE ME: BEING AN EXCERPT FROM THE JOURNAL OF WILLIAM J. UPTON), I’ve begun plotting a couple of sequels. It’s safe to say that we haven’t seen the last of these characters—well, except for those who met rather final fates in THE CAMELOT SHADOW. 

What does your writing process look like?

 Mostly it involves trying not to get carsick while typing in the backseat of a stranger’s car, as I chronicle here: 

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

  I like to slip in an occasional joke or phrase that only a couple of close friends will catch. A few characters in THE CAMELOT SHADOW are named for close friends, too. And sometimes I’ll work in a Ghostbusters quote, which sharp-eyed GB obsessives will catch. Oh, and if you take the first letter of every sentence in THE CAMELOT SHADOW, you will discover a riddle that, if you can solve it, will lead you to an ancient pirate treasure worth eleventy-billion dollars.

What is your favorite book of all times?

Let me complicate a very straightforward question by saying that I’m ruling ineligible for my response any book that’s part of a series. “That seems unduly draconian, Big Nose,” you might opine, and you would certainly be justified in holding that opinion, both about my exclusion of series books and the proportions of my proboscis. That said, the reason for that exclusion is that I find it impossible to judge a book in a series solely on its own merit; it is inextricably bound up with and linked to the events that happen in the other books in the series, events that inform your response to the book upon first read and shade your memory and perception of it after you’ve read subsequent volumes. For example, I would probably say that GOBLET OF FIRE is my favorite Harry Potter book, but perhaps my love for that book is, at least in part, a result of the buildup to it in the preceding three books and knowing the impact that Voldemort’s return at the story’s end will have on future tales.

(Should I have marked that as a spoiler? I feel like that one’s pretty fair game at this point. Voldemort always comes back, people.)

With that in mind, then, I’ll limit the pool of potential candidates to stand-alone books, and while it’s still an exceedingly difficult choice, if forced to select a single tome, I would say Bram Stoker’s DRACULA.

I first encountered DRACULA as a precocious second grader. While I wouldn’t recommend that most 8-year-olds read a book that’s likely to give them nightmares, if not force them into years of therapy (or, at least, force them to look up every other word), I was hooked from the get-go by a book whose style and plot resonated from page one. For whatever reason, the ornate language, shiver-inducing slow-burn buildup, and terrifying prospect of one of fiction’s most fascinating villains appealed to me so much that, 10 years later, I would make Victorian lit the primary focus of my collegiate career as an English literature major (though, to be fair, the subsequently read works of Dickens and Conan Doyle played a significant role in that decision).

Sure, the book is laden with Victorian melodrama and weird psychosexual shenanigans, but I love that stuff (well, the Victorian melodrama, at least). I’d be hard pressed to think of another single book that pulled me so fully and completely into its world and left me breathless at its conclusion.

 

What is your favorite fictional character and why?

That’s a little bit like asking which is my favorite piece of macaroni in a bowl of macaroni and cheese—I have whole mouthfuls of favorite fictional characters (which is a weird thing to say, maybe). If I was forced to answer the question lest I be denied mac and cheese in perpetuity, I would say Drizzt Do’Urden from R.A. Salvatore’s Dark Elf books. Dark elves are typically evil, sadistic, and very unlikely to bake cookies for new neighbors. Drizzt, however, has a good heart, and he fights his way to the surface world in an effort to live a life that’s true to his values. What I love most about Drizzt isn’t that he’s noble, brave, and very good at killing orcs (though I do enjoy all of those things)—it’s that he’s always asking questions about the world around him and is unflinching in examining his own actions and beliefs in the service of becoming a better person. I aspire to have Drizzt’s courage and commitment to self-improvement and facing the uncomfortable truths we all have to confront within ourselves from time to time.

Sean, thank you very much for deciding to do this interview with me. It was really an honor and I greatly appreciate it!

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Interview With Author – Michael Kott

 Hello All!

I had the honor and opportunity to have an interview with Michael Kott – the author of Piasa, Cryptid and LifeShift. I have had the chance to read Piasa (read my review) and Cryptid (read my review)  so far, and LifeShift is on my TBR list.

When did you realise that you wanted to become a writer?

   I considered it at times but got serious when writing with my daughter.  After going to the Naval Academy  and serving her retired time in the Navy, she was attempting to pursue an acting career in Hollywood. She needed something to fill her time there and asked if I wanted to help her write a book about what it was like for a girl to go to the Naval Academy. This was in the early 2000s. She quit Hollywood because she could not see that lifestyle but as she followed her husband from station to station, we continued, via the internet, to continue write. While she was in Memphis, Tennessee, she had the idea of us getting together somewhere in between where I live (Chicago area) and Memphis. Looking at a map we decided on Alton, Illinois, where we found a nice Bread & Breakfast House to rent.  There I was introduced to the Piasa legend and I began writing about that.  Finally, Krystee, tired of the inability of agents to place her novel and finding herself about to have her first child, told me she was giving up writing. I continued.

 

Where do you get your ideas from?

   Our stay in Alton sparked the Piasa novel and an interest in Cryptozoology. That led to Cryptid.  Those stories are in my website blog. Cryptid contains a setup for a third novel but at present I don’t know if I want to continue them.  Most of my ideas of stories originate in the form of dreams, Usually I try to write based on the dream but it leads somewhere else. Both LifeShift and Moonglimmer started that way, as separate novels, but later merged into one idea. Many scenes are based on personal experiences, especially those in LifeShift and the currently being written, Shadow Lake.

 

Where did you get your idea for Piasa?

    I covered this above, but failed to mention that I was actually aware of this obscure legend even  before and it was instrumental in my suggesting Alton as our meeting place. I was looking up something else on the early internet and somehow came across the early pictograph which is said to be the Piasa. That sparked an interest and I gathered many stories of it, many which seemed to have now disappeared off the internet.  I was aware of a museum in Alton which had featured the Piasa myth in an exhibit, and when I found it was very close to a bed & breakfast, I suggested that as a place to stay. I have pictures of the trip (everything in Alton has changed) if you want to see them. The story started with just the Mike and Pamela characters until someone suggested it would be a good YA tale. Enter Sara Marshall.

How do you deal with a writer’s block?

   I’ve never had writer’s block, I more get Writer’s Interference. That is other things interfering with the process.  With those I let them run their course.

 

What does your writing process look like?

     I usually write in the morning’s, but sometime’s it runs all day. If Something changes, I go back and rewrite immediately. Everyone says to finish first but I can’t do that. Sometimes I switch stories when changes have put my intended outline in jeopardy.  When a story is well on its way I’ll seek someone to read it and give me feedback. Lately that’s been my editor. Being self-published, I don’t have some army of people at some publishers to fall back on. I seek out readers and I have a trusted editor in California. She is very honest with me and gives me critical feedback. When we agree a story is finished, I hire a cover creator and at the same time send it off to my formatter to create a print ready version and e-book. From there it goes to both CreateSpace and Ingram Spark.

 

How do you select the names for your characters?

   I thumb through a Baby names book I got when Krystee was having her first child. When I get an inspiration there, I use it. Sometimes I come across names I like and use them. This is for first names. For last names, I keep old graduation ceremony handouts and look for a last name that goes well with the selected first name. Real scientific, Huh?

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

   I love this question.  My secrets are that some scenes of my fictional stories are in actuality based on facts or beliefs. Sometimes they come out in the news and I worry people will think I put them in because i saw them on the news.  In LifeShift, Alex has a dream where he is living  on Mars and meets with a girl at the shore of and ocean. This was originally written about 2004-5. Two years ago, about 2015, an article appeared saying that science now believes that Mars was one day home to oceans of water. My story was based on a personal dream.  Way back when I first wrote Piasa, I included the entire scene with an escaped tiger. Several years after that scene was written a news story appeared out of Texas about an escaped tiger.

If you had to choose, Piasa or Cryptid, and why?

     Piasa because it was my first. The story line of Cryptid was a substitute as it was originally supposed to be about the Tasmanian Tiger. However, some stupid movie came out with like, killer Tasmanian Tigers, so I abandoned that as a Cryptid I would write about. There continue to be stories out of Tasmania and mainland Australia regarding sightings of thylacines, so maybe I’ll reconsider. I would need to go to Tasmania though so I can write about it.

Mike, thank you very much for taking the time to do this with me! I greatly appreciate it!

Interview With Jay DiNitto, Author Of Pale Blue Scratch

First of all, Jay DiNitto, thank you for taking your time to do this interview with me!

 Jay DiNitto is the author of Pale Blue Scratch, a wonderful story about a nun and her apprentice, and how they try to make a time-travel machine work.

You can download and read Pale Blue Scracth for free here.

 

Jay DiNitto, author, writer, interview, pale blue scratch , book books review, blog, diary of difference diaryofdifference

Where do you get your ideas from?

Most of the time, I get ideas from other stories, either from books, movies, or games. I don’t do this in the sense of stealing ideas wholesale, but most story ideas come from exploring how I would write a story or character different after consuming other stories.

 

Where did you get your idea for Pale Blue Scratch?

I was toying with the premise of an odd couple-type pair of sleuths trying to track down a scientist in trouble, where one of the sleuths really believes the scientist’s work is legitimate but the other sleuth doesn’t. Some of that was inspired by the Sherlock Holmes stories.

I also wanted to incorporate the philosophical idea of our senses being almost-infallible sources of knowledge. What if it clashes with scientific or practical knowledge? How is that reconciled?

I liked the idea of using religious figures as central characters, where they aren’t the scheming Big Bad or the abusive authority figure that fired up the rebellious protagonist. I took cues from what Umberto Eco did in The Name of the Rose, and The Father Dowling Mysteries (yes, I watched those). The “two guys” motif was too close to Holmes, so I changed the sex of one of them. At first it was a monk and a teenage girl, but that pairing was too unrealistic for me, so I switched them to a nun and teenager on his way to manhood. Also, I switched their personalities: the religious/teacher figure is the wild risk-taker while the teenager is the bookish, play-by-the-rules type. Their personalities are unusual but they aren’t out of control; I think too many fiction writers are careless with human behaviour and really go crazy with basically rewriting the human psyche.

I was reading a lot of anarchist writings (and watching Firefly) and came up with the “contractual society” setting. How would it work if there were no nation-state? How would roads, law enforcement, or laws themselves, work? I have interests in alternate history and alternate technology settings, so that played into the plot.

 

How do you deal with a writer’s block?

I don’t, really. I normally don’t force myself to write; I do it when I’m ready. I work full time and have a wife and kids, so that’s enough of a “block” as it is. One trick I’ve learned, regarding books, is to stop a writing session in the middle of a scene I particularly enjoy, so I have some motivation to return to it soon.

 

What does your writing process look like?

I’m middle-aged, but a young writer, and I don’t have a professional schedule, but I can describe the process for my new project (we’ll call it Project X).

I played around with premises a lot. Since so much has been addressed before and I want to make sure I’m writing about something that hasn’t been overdone. Once the premise is there, I’ll have some scene ideas, bits of dialogue, or philosophies I want to represent that go along with the premise. I like Elisabeth’s character, so Project X is another book with her in it.

For Project X, I wanted to have a society that mirrored the kind of society the ancient Hebrews lived in, in Old Testament times, so there’s a lot that has to go along with accommodating that plot point. From all those ideas I form a coherent chain of events, which eventually become chapters. From there, I’ll write summaries for each chapter before I start the actual first draft.

The biggest hurdle, especially with Project X, is determining who knows what, and when they know it. There’s lots of secrets and manipulations, so keeping characters in the dark and slowly revealing things to them takes a lot of organising.

 

How do you select the names for your characters?

Honestly, I don’t spend a huge amount of time on character names or their significance. For Pale Blue Scratch, Elisabeth takes on her religious order’s name, so a great part of her character and profession reflects that. Other than that, I normally don’t attach too much significance to names unless the story demands it.

 

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

Not particularly, but in Pale Blue Scratch there are a few references to the game Chrono Trigger, which is also about time travel (though actual time travel isn’t a big part of the book). If you’re familiar with the game you’d be able to spot them.

 

You can find my review of Pale Blue Scratch HERE!