At this time of year there is a multitude of events which could fill our calendars. The chance to meet readers in person and to sell books for Christmas gifts is a pleasure. Explaining how our stories developed, what we know about the characters and their journey and how we hope the story transports our readers is a special opportunity.
Even if sales are slow, you have reached readers you would not otherwise have met and that is worth your time. On the flip side you may have the opposite ‘problem’ and run out of books to sell. This is where a business card with your links on it are a bonus. Hand them out and let people know your books are available at other places, such as bookstores, libraries and online. You might not get that immediate sale, but there is potential for sales another time.
With so many events on the same weekends, it is difficult to know which one(s) to attend. It is a lottery of sorts. Even if an event doesn’t have super traffic, it is still an opportunity to connect with other authors and artisans. The bonus being you pick up some individually crafted items, rather than from a box store or retail.
I was so happy to find a ladder planter for my deck and a beautiful Xmas decoration at the last event I attended.
Even though I am in the throws of the November writing challenge – National Novel Writing Month and as I write have surpassed the 37,000 mark, I do still read. This is for the Goodreads reading Challenge! Seems like there challenges all the way around at the moment, revolving around the written word.
This is my new total for book reading for 2022. I know some people have vastly larger numbers, and some less. It is not the number we are chasing, but the joy of reading stories. As you know I have an eclectic taste and read a variety of genres. You will see that of the five books in the illustration only one is a big name – my hero, of course, Stephen King. I will read his latest book before anything else once it is available. The other book are all from authors who live in Alberta. These are my contemporaries and I am always keen to read their work, but also support them by purchasing their books.
I will be adding to this list with my current read. An author whom I connected with through Facebook. I have interviewed her on this blog a couple of times too.
What have you read this month? What book are you most excited to read next?
It is my pleasure to welcome back a fellow author to my blog. Verna has been here before, but today we celebrate her newest novel, The Bastard Sorceress.
Since your last interview, how has your writing life changed? I’ve learned to go with the flow. I’ve survived and found new publishers for my fantasy novels when my previous publishers stopped publishing. It’s happened to me more than once too! But I’ve been lucky to find new publishers willing to take me on. It’s a tough business, and small presses suffer the most. Other than that, I’m still a mad writer who drinks pots of tea and keeps a package of emergency cookies on hand when I create my tales. I’m focused in details of story, world, and characters. I put together book bibles for each novel that are very detailed about every aspect of story, world, and people in in. I still have plans on becoming the next princess of heroic fantasy. Just give me time.
What have you learned about your craft of writing? I learned I have a knack for three things-creating good dialogue, great characters, and giving my characters good names. It’s a gift I’m grateful for.
Would you ever write in another genre? I love fantasy, but would love to dive into science fiction, especially some space opera.
What inspired you to write about Sabine Fable in your latest novel? A new character I’ve never done before. I love my heroines, and they always lead my tales. With Sabine Fable, I wanted to explore a character who suffered a rough home life and poverty, but was determined to rise above what society dictated. I added real human elements in this tale of magic, and created flesh and blood characters with more depth.
What characteristics does she have that make her a force to be reckoned with? A tough upbringing can make a tough character. Her heart is good, but she is fierce and protective of those she loves. She does not trust easily. She champions the underdog because she is one of them. Her family once had magic, but mage fever took that away. She was a bastard, and judged for her low birth. Magic is currency in her world, and mages rule. Even humble charm caste has respect. She had none. Sabine is hungry for more than magic. She wants justice and to be treated with respect. She wants people to see her. And yet she would never betray a friend or family member for what she desires.
Which author would you most like to meet and why? There are so many! Many of my favorites have passed (Ray Bradbury, Tanith Lee, Robert E. Howard, Patricia McKillip). Neil Gaiman is one of many on my list. I did have the joy of meeting Tanya Huff (so awesome), Kevin J., Anderson, and the great Larry Niven at conventions. I would love to meet Jennifer Roberson someday. At least she is my Facebook friend. As are you, Mandy.
With several series of books, are you planning more? Yes, but with publishers rising and falling around me over the years, I plan to be more careful. Even if I plan a series, I will do each novel as a stand-alone. I am working on the second novel to Bardess of Rhulon, called War Poet. But I am writing my novels from that perspective.
Has a movie or TV show inspired any of your stories? Some of the actors in favorite shows or movies I may be inspired by. Some of my characters are drawn from well-known actors.
What aspect of writing do you like the most? The power to create my own worlds and stories. Yes, I am a goddess who rules her worlds.
Where can readers find your books? Amazon has all my novels, available in both print and Kindle. My books are also on Barnes& Noble online. And my new publisher (for Bardess of Rhulon & The Bastard Sorceress) TANSTAAFL Press.
Verna McKinnon is a fantasy author of adventurous heroines. She is the author of the novels, The Bastard Sorceress, The Bardess of Rhulon, Gate of Souls & Tree of Bones. Fantasy is her genre of choice, though she has some science fiction in the works. Check in with her at her website. You can also read some of her previously published short stories at her website http:// vernamckinnon.com. Stay in touch by subscribing to email list at http://vernamckinnon.com/newsletter.html for her quarterly newsletter for news & updates. Follow Verna on Instagram @ vernamckinnon.author & Facebook for the latest on her writing life as a fantasy author, animal lover, and how she stays sane despite the odds. Chocolate helps.
I had a great deal of fun last Saturday at an author fair hosted by Spruce Grove library. Not only did I meet new writers and authors, but lots of readers. It is the best part of in-person events to actually talk to people interested in my stories.
It was a successful day book sales-wise and the library also purchased one book. I will donate a couple more too, as the more libraries have my books on their shelves the better. If you request one of my books, at your local library they will get it in for you.
There were young contest winners at the event as well, which is always encouraging as we need new voices to create stories and poems for future generations. Our brain is the same as any other muscle it needs to be exercised and what better way than to create something from our imagination.
I am continuing with book three of The Delphic Murders trilogy – Killers Match within the National Novel Writing Month challenge and as I write this have a total just over eleven thousand words. The characters are leading me down an exciting path.
My next event is this coming Saturday at Daisy Chain Book Co, Edmonton. Five authors, including me will be available for a meet and greet and will be happy to sign our books for you or Christmas gifts for your family and friends.
What drew you to horror and paranormal themes in your stories?
The main reason is that horror is so fun to write! Remember telling ghost stories at slumber parties to spook your friends, until you’re all squealing with fear and laughter and don’t want to go to the bathroom alone? It’s an adventure! Horror gets the adrenaline pumping and the nerves tingling, and I love trying to craft a story that does that for others.
Secondly, I’m a catastrophic thinker. Probably because I’m a mom, but we can’t go anywhere without me thinking, “Okay, what’s the worst thing that could happen here? How could we all die?” I’ve tried to write other genres but that type of thinking turns a sweet romantic scene into an axe-murderer horror.
Thirdly, I find that Horror provides us with the ability to explore and process real-life trauma whether in a monster-as-metaphor sense or just through actual real-life scenarios. I think that’s the beauty of the genre for me.
2. Are there elements you feel are required in this genre?
Anticipation. Survival. Mystery.
No matter what the threat is—supernatural, alien, slasher—the reader needs to feel a sense of anticipation. Suspense needs to build scene after scene.
There also needs to be real stakes. People could die, vanish into the void, etc. Horror isn’t scary if nothing bad actually happens to people.
We also fear what we don’t know, so there needs to be a sense of mystery about the threat and the events taking place. That’s actually one of the hardest parts of reading or writing horror. In the ending, when the monster becomes known, it can feel like a bit of a letdown. Once we know what we face, it’s not quite as scary. Michael wears a mask for a reason.
3. Where do you find your ideas?
I spent my teen years in a small town that, like most small towns, was full of urban legends and ghosts. Probably because there wasn’t much to do there but go out into the boonies and scare ourselves. A lot of my writing is based on those stories and experiences, just in a very exaggerated way.
I’m also a total fraidy-cat. Driving down the road at night, I can get freaked out by something on the side of the road only for it be an electrical box. Moments like that will wind up in a story, though it won’t be an electrical box in the end!
4. Why is Halloween so special to you?
My daughter and I were talking about this just the other day and she said it’s her favorite holiday because you never outgrow the magic of Halloween. Which is very true! We all outgrow Santa, Easter is a drag after a few years, but no matter what age you are, spooks and haunts and killers can still scare you. And there’s just something in the air at fall! A spooky, creepy feeling in the change of weather and the crackling of leaves and the days getting shorter. The world feels different, like anything could happen. It’s a good time to light some candles, watch a scary movie, and cuddle up at home.
5. Can you tell us a little about The Prisoner of Stewartville – its inception and creation.
My mom started a job in HR for the Federal prisons here in Arizona when I was twelve. Soon after, we attended a Company Day picnic at the actual prison, and I’ll never forget how weird it was to be barbecuing hot dogs and playing tag while prisoners walked along the perimeter of the fence twenty yards away. Little pitchers also have big ears and over time I picked up on bits and pieces of work conversations that were horrifying. Later we moved to a much smaller town where prison did feel like a larger part of our everyday life and when I visited there again a few years ago, I just knew I had to write about it. Of course, the actual town was nowhere near as bad as Stewartville, but that’s the fun of horror!
6. Where is your special writing space?
I write on my phone, so anywhere and everywhere. On the couch while we watch TV, in bed, out on the patio, while I’m waiting in the school pick up line. In the middle of cooking, if a great idea for a scene comes to me.
7. Which authors have influenced you the most?
Oh wow, so many. The other day my husband and I actually stumbled on the movie Communion with Christopher Walken and almost simultaneously we both freaked out, like, “Omigod! I remember reading that book as a kid! It was terrifying!” And then we had a long conversation about the books we had to hide when we went to bed like Amityville Horror, It.
Having read all my life, the list went back a long way. I mean, my writing is still influenced by the Sweet Valley Twins Halloween specials I read as a kid. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, R.L Stine’s Fear Street. Stephen King. One of my absolute favorite literary ghost stories is Toni Morrison’s Beloved and I do hope my stories have some of that literary element to where reality can feel just as impactful as the supernatural.
That’s the great thing about good horror, though. It all influences you.
8. Are you working on a new project? Can you reveal anything about it?
I’m currently working on a companion novel to Prisoners of Stewartville. I can reveal that the POV is that of a minor character in the last book, and that we’ll see what happened to a fan favorite whose fate wasn’t shown at the end of the original.
9. Do you prefer to write a stand-a-lone novel or a series? Why?
I realized recently that I like to tell stories that happen within the Stewartville universe. Devil’s Dip, a short story of mine that appeared in Midnight in the Graveyard anthology, was about a character who had grown up in Stewartville, though the story itself didn’t take place there.
10. How can readers find you?
I’m not as good about social media as I should be, but I do post occasionally on Twitter at @ShannonNova3 !
Shannon Felton lives in Buckeye, Arizona with her husband, their four children, and three dogs. The Prisoners of Stewartville is her debut novella. Follow her on Twitter @ShannonNova3
P.S. You can find Shannon’s stories in several anthologies as well.