I began walking in my short lunchtime break last year and this is a poem I wrote after one particularly enjoyable one. Yesterday was my first lunchtime walk this year, as winter’s grip is slowly easing. (Fingers crossed). My car’s display stated +2 and although the wind was initially cold as I began to walk, on my way back I could feel the warmth of the sun.
Buffed by the breeze Dancing above the rippling water Wings flutter and glide Darting back and forth Juicy morsels to eat on the wing I sit enjoying the show with ease
Sunshine on my face New leaves jiggle and flash Branches bend Pollen releases for some that’s sneezes Tiny blooms appear above the grass Bathing in the warm embrace
Opportunist waterfowl spy my bread Stand with pleading eyes Grateful for the crumbs given with pleasure Brown, green and white feathered friends For this delightful repose Before enclosed in stale office air instead
My photo from the walk described above, obviously not the current situation as we are still under snow!
The definition of a short story is a piece of prose fiction that can be read in one sitting. Short stories originally emerged from traditional oral storytelling in the 17th century. In terms of word count they are usually under 7,500 words, however this word count can vary. Due to the diversity of short story content it is not easy to characterize them, they may differ between genres, countries, eras, and commentators. They feature a small cast of characters and focus on a self-contained incident using plot, resonance, literary techniques or other dynamic components but not in as much depth as a novel.
Short stories are considered, by many, as an apprenticeship form preceding more lengthy works, however they are a crafted form in their own right. Short story writers usually publish their narratives within a collection as part of an artistic or personal expression form.
This concentrated form of narrative can be theorized through traditional elements, such as exposition, complication, crisis, climax and resolution although not all follow this pattern. For instance, modern short stories start in the middle of the action and do not include exposition. Slightly longer works do include climax, crisis or a turning point but many do end abruptly or are left ‘open’ and can or cannot have a moral or practical lesson.
Have you written short stories? Is that how you started writing?
Do you find the short prose form enables you to ‘refresh’ your Muse when immerse in larger works?
I have a steampunk story (7700 words) that I am hoping to find a venue for, whether in an anthology or some other publication. So if you have a lead please share it.
My publisher has a couple of awesome short story authors published. Karen Probert and Barbie-Jo Smith. Karen’s characterizations and attention to detail is incredible and Barbie-Jo has the most humorous tales. http://www.dreamwritepublishing.ca/catalog/books
Energize mostly, I think. I can write for very long periods and get a lot of the story down in a single writing session. Of course, at other times as well I can spend hours trying to work something out and at the end of the process have only completed a short paragraph, so it does vary. It can be exhausting at times but I’ve been writing for many hours in the day and well into the night for many years now, so I guess I’ve got used to the fatigue.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Probably the very complex plots and themes that I include in many of the novels. There always seem to be very intricate issues to resolve as the story takes shape or at the end once the main plot has been completed. It’s my own fault of course since I do tend to write about time travel, parallel universes, alternate realities and that kind of thing. Any of the novels without those elements have usually been written more quickly, if I recall correctly. However, the very complicated storylines are often what I prefer to write, so this particular brand of kryptonite will probably be with me for some time to come.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
Not really. I’d probably consider it if I wanted to write and publish in a radically different genre, such as horror, romance, or thrillers for adults, for example, although that can be a tricky proposition if your main genre is books for children and young adults. After all, even if it were supposed to be a secret, the true identity of the author would probably get out somehow. I have written eight guides for aspiring writers that are for adults rather than young readers, but these aren’t under a pseudonym.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I’m friends with many authors, both here in Calgary, elsewhere in Canada, and around the world. I’m also the founder of Children’s Writers and Illustrators on Facebook, which now has around 8,000 members. I’m not sure if any of them have influenced my writing, but some of them have been a great help with things such as marketing and promotion, working with ebooks, and self-publishing.
Do you want each book to stand alone, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
Some of the published novels have had sequel potential but I was usually too busy with the next project to explore that potential fully. The most recent novels, such as the Flashback series and the Shadowzone series, have been trilogies, and I’ll probably continue in that direction. I’m also working periodically on more adventures in the land of Koronada, which features in The Sphere of Septimus, published in 2014, and two sequels to Future Imperfect, which came out in 2016.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
I would say either the writing course I took years ago with the Institute of Children’s Literature, which started the ball rolling, or Guerrilla Marketing for Writers, a book I bought to learn more about sales and marketing when I first became a published author. The book appeared before self-publishing, ebooks, and social media were well established but at the time it provided invaluable advice.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
That’s an interesting question, but apart from listening to bedtime stories as a child I’d probably have to say comic books, which I read all the time when I was growing up. Although they were of course filled with illustrations, the stories, particularly in Marvel Comics, were so good and often had such elaborate and grandiose themes, often spread over several issues.
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
I wish I had an answer to this one, but I can’t think of a novel that would fit this description, my apologies.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
A dog of some kind, I think. I’ve had both dogs and cats throughout my life but have valued dogs as companions for many years and will most likely always have one or more in my life.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
I don’t have any full finished books that haven’t been published yet and the only partially finished novel is the current work in progress. I do however have many files of varying sizes with reasonably formed story ideas, crammed with notes, ideas, and full or partial outlines, along with other documents containing just a vague story idea and so on.
What does literary success look like to you?
It’s always a great feeling when people enjoy my work and tell me that, especially in person. I’ve met people in their late teens or early twenties that read one or more of my books when they were younger and it’s wonderful to think that I had some kind of an impact on their lives when they were growing up.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
It depends on the book. For the time travel novels, I’ve had to conduct extensive historical research in the time period in which the story is set. The Sorcerer’s Letterbox involved extensive research into medieval England, the Tower of London, Richard III, the Wars of the Roses, and the mystery of the Princes in the Tower. The Heretic’s Tomb involved research into both the Black Death and medieval medicine. For The Doomsday Mask, I investigated the legend of Atlantis and the many theories about where it might have been located, if it existed. The current novel I’m working on takes place in the turbulent period at the end of the English Civil War in the late 1640s, so at the moment I’m researching that time period and the trial of Charles I. I don’t really research before I begin a historical novel since I have a history degree, so I’m already familiar with most of the historical eras that I’m interested in featuring in stories. However, once the novel is in the process of being written I spend quite a lot of time doing research and making sure that everything is accurate.
How many hours a day/week do you write?
I don’t really keep track but I write all the time so that encompasses much of the day and the week. This isn’t always on novels as I often edit books for other authors, write nonfiction books and articles, create content for the business market for websites, social media and other online locations, and prepare workshops and lesson plans.
How do you select the names of your characters?
For the young characters in the novels, I have a list of names I like that I think would be a good fit for a novel. For adult characters, such as the lead villain of the story, I just seem to be able to think of a name that works.
What was your hardest scene to write?
I can’t think of a particular scene from a novel, but the toughest writing I’ve had to do so far has probably been for the Flashback or Shadowzone books, mainly because the plots were so complicated.
Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them?
I have many story ideas for adults but the best thing about writing for young adults is that it allows me to write about the kinds of things that used to fascinate me when I was growing up. And of course, the stories can be very imaginative if they’re for younger readers, which makes writing them so much fun. My first novel, The Alchemist’s Portrait, was published in 2003 and I began writing on a serious basis a few years before that. When my children were small, I starting reading children’s books again for the first time in many years. This made me wonder if I could write stories of my own. I started thinking that I should write fairy tales and picture books for younger children but after reading the first three Harry Potter novels, I realized that I wanted to write for the age group that those books are aimed at. I wasn’t interested in writing about the same things, such as magic, wizards, and imaginary creatures, and instead focused on themes that I was interested in, such as science fiction, fantasy, time travel, history, comic books, ancient mysteries and civilizations, superheroes, other dimensions, and the paranormal.
How long have you been writing?
The first novel came out in 2003 and I began writing seriously a few years before that.
What inspires you?
Ideas can come from anywhere and everywhere. Out walking the dog, in the car, something in a conversation, a newspaper story, a billboard, an item on the evening news, books, historical events, other people’s stories, movies, or something out of the blue. I often find myself wondering ‘what if?’ Sometimes the challenge is to stop having ideas. Some may never be used, but I try to record as many as I can. I never know when they might fit in with a story I’m writing. Even ideas that don’t seem to work right away may provide a spark of inspiration in the future.
How do you find or make time to write?
I don’t have a problem finding time to write since I’ve been doing this full time now for many years. I do struggle to find time to work on my own novels at times, since I’m so busy editing those written by other authors or I’m working on something to do with marketing or a project for a corporate client.
What projects are you working on at the present?
I’ve just published the second part of The Children’s Writer’s Guide, which like the first book provides tips and advice for all authors, not just for those that write for children and young adults. The third part of the Flashback trilogy will be published in the spring and I have a few edits to do for that one. The current novel project is the one about the English Civil War, which I’m hoping to get finished by the end of the summer. I’m also working on several children’s nonfiction books for educational publishers over the coming months.
What do your plans for future projects include?
I have many ideas for future projects and hope to be able to publish all the novels over the next few years.
Share a link to your author website.
You can learn more about me and my work on my website at www.simon-rose.com or online at the following social media sites:
Simon is a regular presenter at conferences and festivals, and served as a juror for the Governor General’s Literary Awards for Children’s Literature, the Saskatchewan Book Awards, the Parsec Awards and the Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic. He is the founder of Children’s Authors and Illustrators on Facebook and was the Assistant Regional Advisor for SCBWI Western Canada.
Apart from the above, Simon also offers a wide variety of presentations, workshops and author in residence programs for schools and libraries, covering such topics as the writing process, editing and revision, where ideas come from and how writers turn them into stories, character development, historical fiction and historical research, story structure, the publishing world and more. He works as a creative writing instructor throughout the year, is an instructor for adults with the University of Calgary, Mount Royal University and Chinook Learning Services. And offers a variety of online workshops for both children and adults, including editing, writing workshops and coaching, plus copy writing services for the business community.
To be honest this was an easy prompt for me as the character written about, Petal Soft, is one from my children’s chapter book.
Petal Soft flew in and out of the long grass in the meadow, stopping occasionally to inspect a flower, one here, and one there. Her fairy wings glistened in the sunshine. She was looking for the perfect hat. The snowdrop hat she wore was tattered and worn now and it was time to replace it. With the warmth of spring sunshine and gentle showers the meadow grew lush. The green grass was dotted with all the colours of the rainbow by beautiful flowers opening their petals to the sky.
Should she choose yellow, which was a bright cheerful colour or red to be more dramatic at the fairy dance? As she flew back and forth, Petal Soft considered each flower and its colour carefully. The dance was a special one not only to celebrate spring but also to mingle with fairies from far and wide. Petal wanted to meet a certain fairy whose magic was said to be more powerful than any other. If Petal could learn just one of those extraordinary spells she would be so happy.
Along the edge of the meadow grazing contently stood three deer, they glanced up as Petal passed by but were not alarmed. She smiled and flew forward and gasped in surprise when she saw the most beautiful flower. It was a woodland orchid almost hidden in the shade of a birch tree. Its soft cream colour was splashed with bright pink it was perfect.
Bowing low, Petal asked the flower if she could take it. A whisper of wind was the only answer needed. Plucking the flower from the stem, Petal turned the petals this way and that appreciating their beauty.
On the night of the dance, Petal Soft adorned her head with the stunning orchid and wore a cream dress so as not to detract from its beauty. When she flew into the gathering place all heads turned to admire her hat.
She met the elder that night and became her apprentice learning special spells all because her orchid hat was the most beautiful.
Hi, Mandy, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself and your background? I am originally from England but moved to Canada ten years ago. This is the third continent; I have lived on, as I was born in South Africa. The sharp contrasts in culture, weather, landscape and experience have left traces in my soul that I draw upon for my writing. My lifelong interest in the natural world and fairy folklore, influence my writing style and some of the subjects I cover. Although, I have been creative my whole life, delving into paint, clay, textiles, and everything in between, it was not until I moved to Canada that I ‘found’ writing. It seems bizarre that I never tried writing as a creative outlet before, but I am now making up for lost time. My first book was published in 2011 and to date, I have four others published with two more launching in 2018!
Discuss your newest book. My novel, The Twesome Loop, starts its journey in the late 1990’s English countryside, where several characters make seemingly unrelated choices to travel to Italy. Melissa is fleeing a loveless marriage, Gerald wants to find his soul mate, Brett is motivated by greed and Nancy’s insatiable lust drives her. They are drawn not only by the beauty and life of Italy, but by an unexplained inner longing. Each is unaware that a pact made generations before, links their souls to each other and the beautiful villa they will stay in. A parallel story takes the reader to 1874, where a young woman’s happiness is sacrificed for her father’s ambition. Unable to resist she suffers at her older husbands hands until his brother offers a way to escape.
The story came about because I have been fascinated with reincarnation for decades and it was a way to incorporate it into a narrative. I also love England and Italy and enjoyed featuring both places. Sounds amazing!
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated? When I came to Canada I promised myself a creative outlet. My children were older and did not need constant attention so I wanted to find something for me, not just for my creativity but also to meet new people in our new country. During our first library trip, a regular Saturday occurrence, I browsed the many leaflets displayed for local clubs and picked up a handful. As we left I saw a notice board promoting a writing group the following Tuesday. I sorted out the leaflet read the information and decided to attend. The first meeting was nerve racking – new people, new place, and new craft. I listened and stayed quiet for a couple of meetings then braved reading a brief story. The surprise ending had everyone gasp and that’s the moment I was hooked.
What are your current projects? Oh wow! This is going to be a list.
YA novella, Creature Hunt on Planet Toaria – publishing spring 2018 – chapter header illustrations to decide upon & complete.
Adult speculative fiction, Life in Slake Patch – final editing & revisions -publishing fall 2018
Adult western romance, Willow Tree Tears – final editing & revisions 2019
Adult suspense/thriller, The Giving Thief – final editing & revisions 2019
Sequel to adult romance novella, The Rython Kingdom – writing narrative 2019
Finding a steam-punk anthology for my short story, The Toymaker
Freelance work – ghost writing a business book
A lot to look forward to in the next year. Good luck. 🙂
What books have most influenced your life most? I would have to say, I have been a compulsive reader my whole life and there are far too many books to mention. I loved magical themes, stories of the natural world and a broad spectrum of genres. However, I am a huge Stephen King fan, his skillful story telling is masterful and awe inspiring. King is such an inspiration to many, myself included. He is a great mentor, even if he is not aware of it.
What inspired you to write your first book? My first book was a children’s picture book, Rumble’s First Scare, so not a complicated or long narrative! It came about when I wrote a story prompted by a word prompt on my writing group’s website. The theme was Halloween but I didn’t want to write the usual ‘someone gets scared by something’ so wrote from the point of view of a young monster on his first scare. My friend and fellow writing group member, Linda persuaded me to publish it. And that was the start.
Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special? This is a difficult question in the case of The Twesome Loop as there are four main characters whose lives are impacted by the discovery of their past lives. (see above question). The novel, Life in Slake Patch is set in an alternative future under matriarchal law. The sexes live in separate compounds and only have weekly visits. My main POV character is Evan – a young man living the life unchanged for generations. He becomes the vehicle for change, while fighting a band of dissents, holding a secret book and becoming married.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp? In The Twesome Loop, I want my readers to see love can be a powerful thing across time but also that love can overcome religion, traditions and oppression. This is a good message, especially with Valentine’s day just a few days passed.
Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your most recent book? For The Twesome Loop, I see Liam Hemsworth and Camilla Belle as the love torn lovers.
What made you decide to sit down and actually start something? Once I began writing short responses to word prompts, it soon became a flood of ideas crowding my mind. The more I wrote the longer the narratives and the more I became obsessed.
Do you write full-time or part-time? Unfortunately only part-time – I have a full time job as well as a freelance writing business. I also have roles as secretary for the local writer’s foundation and president of the local arts & culture council.
What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book? To actually finish it, I wrote the first draft during a NaNoWriMo in 2010. It was revised and edited, put away and the process repeated seven times. I loved the story but the complication of two time periods and multiple characters back and forth across time took some careful plotting and continuity. NaNoWriMo is a daunting task within itself, but the complexities of your work make it twice as. That also means twice as rewarding.
What is the easiest thing about writing? Sitting down and typing while the story unfolds on the page – I am a free flow writer, so do not plot prior to writing. I let the narrative and characters carry me on a journey.
What book are you reading now? I have just finished Sleeping Beauties and started 11/22/63 – yes I know both Stephen King and I don’t usually read them back to back but they were Christmas gifts. I will have to check out Sleeping Beauties, it’s one I haven’t heard of.
What is one random thing about you? I used to sit in graveyards cleaning the gravestones as a youth. I find graveyards so peaceful and think it is a respectable job, cleaning gravestones.
What is your preferred medium of writing? Pen and paper or strictly tablet and computer? Most of my writing is on my laptop although I do jot down short stories in notebooks when an idea hits me.
What does your writing process look like? An idea will come to me, whether from a news story, an overheard dialogue, or even a photo and it sparks a character or setting in my mind. As I have said before, I let the story flow through me and even when it diverts in a direction I was not expecting I just go with it. I can sit and write, when left alone, for hours. Sometimes I listen to classical music but mostly in silence. It is my happy place.
How important are names to you in your books? I try to make sure the names reflect the character’s traits, time period and their place in the narrative.
Did you make any marketing mistakes or is there anything you would avoid in future? I am spasmodic in my promotion and need to be more organized in avenues of advertising and target marketing.
What is your favorite book and why? You will find this interesting as it is not a Stephen King book. I love and re-read on a regular basis a book called Ferney by James Long. It centers on a young woman and an old man who are the reincarnations of past lives. It is a fabulously written book and the story totally mesmerizing.
Do you have any advice for other writers? Find a writing group who supports and encourages you and where you can receive constructive critique. Like the Authors Helping Authors Beyond Marketing (New budding group on Facebook).
What do you like to do when you’re not writing? Apart from the day job – freelance projects, event planning for both non-profit organizations, traveling to book events and attending local author readings.
From where do you gain your inspiration? It is a common answer from writers – everywhere and everything but I have found unusual news stories, fairy folklore and the natural world to be my main sources of inspiration. I’ve been waiting to plug this in because I found it to be my favorite cover of one of your books!
What would you say are the main advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing against being published or the other way around? As I am published through a small publishing company, I cannot comment on self-publishing. I will say that a smaller publisher enables me to have more control over the process, the design and look of the books and it is a far more personal service.
How do you market your books? I am prolific on social media, I have a blog where my books are featured, and my publisher’s website has all my titles. I regularly attend author readings and local and provincial literary events. My books are in the local libraries and independent book stores.
Would you or do you use a PR agency? Funny you should ask I have just had discussions with a PR company this week. It is a new venture for me.
Do you have any advice for other authors on how to market their books? Start local and build from there – try not to conquer the world in one go. Gauge how much you want to market and where and focus on that, spreading yourself too thin only exhausts you and leaves no time to write.
What part of your writing time do you devote to marketing your book? I would say writing is 60% and marketing 40% – it is the writing I enjoy and if people read my stories now or in the future that is my reward.
What do you do to get book reviews? How successful has your quest for reviews been so far?
I do not openly request book reviews apart from the occasional meme share on social media. When people buy my books I do request a review. I am keen to see what this PR company can do on this subject. Watch this space.
Any amusing story about marketing books that happened to you? When I was promoting The Twesome Loop I did entice readers by mentioning that it contained ‘spicy bits’ – several purchasers remarked on this strategy saying it was the reason they wanted to read it.
Which social network worked best for you? I find Facebook, twitter and Goodreads all have on par success for me. My blog seems to be the place readers and writers visit a great deal.
Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why? Without a doubt I would love to spend time with my literary hero, Stephen King. He is a skillful writer but also a fascinating personality, to sit down with him would be a dream come true. I would like to find out what makes the man tick.
If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why? I would be honored to have written Ferney. It is the ultimate reincarnation story.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers? Don’t be afraid to try new styles, don’t restrict yourself to one genre explore them all. Let the story flow and do not edit as you go but later on once the narrative is finished.
How can readers discover more about you and you work? I am all over social media: