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Author Interview – Verna McKinnon

January 29, 2019
mandyevebarnett


AuthorInterview

verna

What inspired your latest novel?

The Bardess of Rhulon began with the idea of a female Dwarf heroine. There are very few Dwarven heroines in fantasy tales, which makes my story unique. Usually, fantasy dwarf stories are all about manly, dwarves, armored with battle-axes, downing buckets of ale as they braid their long beards. I wanted to expand on a fantasy story where Dwarven culture was more developed and rounded. Then when I had her name, Rose Greenleaf, the story began to unfold.            

bardness

How did you come up with the title?

That was tough, because for the few years as I drafted my novel and made changes, I just called it Rose Greenleaf. When Prince Culain Ironheart, who employs her as his official bard, he calls her Bardess. In my Dwarven society, this was an ancient title for female bards, which is rare now. Her Rose’s world, a proper young girl marries, has babies, bakes pies, and stays home. Rose is incapable of this. This drives her mother nuts. Her nature is wild and her talent as a bard is impressive. Since Rose is from the country of Rhulon, I finally titled my novel, The Bardess of Rhulon.     

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Love your children, but let them grow and become the person they want to be. For women everywhere, you must also rise to become the person you want to be. I love creating tales with interesting heroines. That is my brand and my purpose as an author…to create tales where heroines rule. We need heroines now, more than ever.

 

How much of the book is realistic?

Well, this is a fantasy set in a secondary world. There is magic and magical creatures. What is realistic is the viewpoint of my society structures, customs, and everyday issues. I incorporated themes that people of this world can relate to-arranged marriages, family problems, slavers who kidnap innocents and the law (my rangers) who infiltrate and save people, prejudice, mother and daughter conflict, political issues, and religious strife when faith becomes fanatical. The list goes on. That is what makes my tale realistic-when you add in the real things every society experiences. It is also about learning who you are and who you should try to be.

bards

Are your characters based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

I wish I knew these people, but they spring from my imagination in full bloom. If I could escape to a world with magic, I would already be there!

Where can readers find you on social media and do you have a blog?

Website: http://vernamckinnon.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/verna.mckinnon

Twitter: https://twitter.com/VernaBard2015

Blog: http://vernamckinnon.blogspot.com/

Do you have plans or ideas for your next book? Is it a sequel or a stand alone?

This will be a trilogy. I know how Rose Greenleaf’s adventures and how her tale ends. The tentative titles for the next two books are The Rhapsodé Curse and The Sun Blade.

Of the characters you have created or envisioned, which is your favorite & why?

So hard, so hard….I love them all. Rose Greenleaf, Belenus Ayecroft, her old bard teacher, Red Meg Sparrow, Skullcap Axton, and Prince Culain Ironheart. I even have a fondness for the sly changeling, Crimson, and Beleth, the Goblin Queen.

I must admit Rose Greenleaf is my favorite. She is everything we should be! She is brave, honest, determined, and talented. She takes risks to achieve her dreams. It brings her some regret, but also maturity. She is not a princess in a tower awaiting rescue. Rose fought for everything based on her own merits and talent against all odds. A Dwarven maiden with an old lute and singing skill braved a journey of adventure and danger.

Do you favor one type of genre or do you dabble in more than one?

I’m a fantasy girl. I do some science fiction, and have a novel planned (with a heroine lead of course). As a reader, I love reading fantasy of all kinds, science fiction, and even mystery. My writing talent is for fantasy.

Do you plan your stories, or are you a seat of the pants style writer?

I plan a lot for my novels. From creating basic story, characters, world, races, politics, and religion. All of my novels have a compendium. It is very detailed. Rose’s compendium is 40 pages long, with details on world, cultures, characters, everything. I do not do chapter outlines. I just know where I want to go.

What is your best marketing tip?

I wish I had more knowledge to share. I am still stumbling, finding ways to make it work. Use social media wisely. Make sure you research any media promotions, but it can help a little. Use Canvas to create your own ads for Twitter and FB. Pray a lot.

Do you find social media a great tool or a hindrance?

It can be both, but it is a long learning process.

OPTIONAL QUESTIONS

What do you enjoy most about writing?

Creating new characters and stories!

Who is your best supporter/mentor/encourager?

My husband, Rick Hipps, is my best mentor/supporter.

Where is your favorite writing space?

My writing desk at home with all my inspirational images and books.

If you could meet one favorite author, who would it be and why?

Some of my favorites are sadly gone. David Eddings, Tanith Lee, Ray Bradbury, Robert E. Howard. They created fantastic images and rich characters in their tales. I am reading new talents now, so I hope to have new ones to look up to soon.

If you could live anywhere in the world – where would it be?

Ireland. I am of Irish heritage and drawn there.

Do you see writing as a career?

If I ever make enough money at it, I’ll let you know.

Do you nibble as you write? If so what’s your favorite snack food?

Chocolate!!! Cookies are good writing companions. Which is why I have to do extra cardio. And lots of coffee or tea.

What reward do you give yourself for making a deadline?

Shopping and adding to my book collection.

Bio:

Verna McKinnon is a writer of fantasy and lover of all things joyous and geeky. She writes obsessively and drinks coffee. Fantasy author of heroines. She is the author of fantasy novels The Bardess of Rhulon, Gate of Souls & Tree of Bones. Fantasy is her genre of choice. You can read her blog and updates, plus some of her previously published short stories at her website http://vernamckinnon.com. Follow Verna on Twitter & Facebook for the latest on her life as a poor, published, but proud indie fantasy author.  

 

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Ask A Question Thursday

January 24, 2019
mandyevebarnett


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Thank you to everyone who has joined in this month’s conversation on genre. We have indeed covered all aspects of genre from writing it to marketing it.

Today’s question is: How much of your ‘personality should you put into your narrative? In other words do you, or should you, utilize family memories, personal history or ‘local’ knowledge to create a realistic tale?

Some genres may not readily seem to avail themselves to personal input but even sci-fi or fantasy has interactions where you need to think what reaction a character would have in that situation.

I am excited to read your thoughts on this question. Please click on the post headings & then scroll to the comment section.

over to you

 

Last week’s responses:

biancarowena
As a ‘pantser’ I tent to write whatever I feel and see in my mind’s eye, then edit later. This makes for a lot of editing, as compared to planners. I know how time consuming reconstructing a story can be. So I’d personally recommend knowing your genre before writing the story, and sticking to it. Publishers what to know how to categorize your story. It’s not to limit you but to help them know who your target audience is. They know which genre is in demand and are looking for specific things. If your genre is too vague or you don’t stick to one then your book is less marketable, in a publisher’s view. I think for the sake of not having to rewrite your entire story (if your genre is not clear or shifts), it’s best to know your genre before delving in, and sticking to it.

Janet Wees

When I was writing my book I was calling it historical fiction as it was based on a true story but with some fictionalizing. When it was accepted for publication, my publisher changed it to non-fiction, based on a true story. What happens with that in bookstores (not the independents), is that the book is shelved with research, resource, history and since my name begins with W it is on the bottom shelf near the floor and is crowded out by the other larger resource books. Browsers never see it, and anyone looking for it has a difficult time finding it. The next time I write a book I am using my maiden name that begins with M.

Gerri Bowen

I tend to follow formula and am happy doing so. However, if well written, the unexpected can work well. But if not handled with care, can be a book you want to toss into a wall.

A. C. Cockerill

Hi Mandy, I start with the genre and adjust if the story shifts. Cheers, Ashley

Author Interview – Yvonne Rediger

January 22, 2019
mandyevebarnett


AuthorInterview

Yvonne Rediger

What inspired your latest novel?

Death and Cupcakes is a combination of cozy mystery, with a touch of romance, humour and yep, baking.                                        

How did you come up with the title?

Death and Cupcakes just came to me when I was writing Jane Westcott’s background.

Death and Cupcakes

Is there a message in your novels that you want readers to grasp?

Yes, don’t wait for happiness to come to you. No one is going to give it to you, so take charge of your life, and find it. And, don’t let your past haunt you.

How much of the book is realistic?

There really is a Musgrave Landing on Salt Spring Island. However, the place only has a handful of homes and a boat dock, but no ferry. The geography is correct, and we do have many small towns and villages serviced by ferries which also have a cafe located close to the wharf.

Are your characters based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

No, my characters are made up, although I will use a name from a friend or family member. In this novel, the female RCMP officer in Death and Cupcakes is a composite of several officers I’ve met in Duncan, at Coffee with a Cop and my great aunt, who passed away a short while ago. Auntie Lea rode a Honda Gold Wing, could handle a snow machine. She ran the farm, raised a family, and had a big heart. I always told her I wanted to grow up to be just like her.

Where can readers find you on social media and do you have a blog?

I have a Facebook Author and website, and am active on social media.

Website: http:/www.yvonnerediger.com

Facebook Page: Yvonne Rediger – Author

Twitter: @blackyvy, Instagram: @blackyvy50

Do you have plans or ideas for your next book? Is it a sequel or a stand alone?

Certainly, Death and Cupcakes is book one of the Musgrave Landing Mysteries. Book two is my work in progress, Fun with Funerals.

Of the characters you have created or envisioned, which is your favorite & why?

Arlie Birch is my favorite character in this novel. He is over sixty-five and says and does exactly as he pleases, so he adds humor to the book. He also has a heart of gold.

hell cat
Do you favor one type of genre or do you dabble in more than one?

I write another series, VIC Shapeshifters, Urban Fantasy / Paranormal Romance set on Vancouver Island. These books also have a mystery element as well as magic and romance. Hell Cat is book two of this series and was just released in December too, just after Death and Cupcakes. It starts out in Edmonton and ends up on Vancouver Island.

Trusting the Wolf, book three is set to release in summer of 2019.

Do you plan your stories, or are you a seat of the pants style writer?

I am a planner/pantser. Once I have the outline completed and broken down into the chapters, I am off and running. Sometimes a better idea will come along and I will go back to the beginning of the novel to incorporate it.

What is your best marketing tip?

Youtube book trailers. I made one for each new book which was released in December.

Hell Cat – https://youtu.be/EDjWI5i-UTw

Death and Cupcakes – https://youtu.be/CRPWtaso8ac

Not only were these fun to create, but now I have a succinct method of sharing the gist of the stories on different platforms.

Do you find social media a great tool or a hindrance?

Social media can be both. I don’t blog more than once or twice a month. I don’t seem to find the time. Snippets from the books, release dates, and fun stuff are found mostly on my Facebook Author page.

OPTIONAL QUESTIONS

What do you enjoy most about writing?

The puzzle solving. Characters and plot, making all the pieces fit together.

What age did you start writing stories/poems?

I wrote my first fan fiction short stories when I was eleven. Star Trek was a favourite.

Has your genre changed or stayed the same?

I keep adding new ones. I started writing romance, then paranormal and urban fantasy. Later, romantic suspense and now cozy mysteries.

What genre are you currently reading?

Tanya Huff, A Peace Divided

Do you read for pleasure or research or both?

Both, I love learning new things, especially history or the origin of a subject. If it’s wrapped in a good story, all the better.

Who is your best supporter/mentor/encourager?

My biggest supporters are my husband and children and their spouses. My daughter, her husband, and my son have provided background detail in a number of books with regard to their expertise. My daughter-in-law actually painted the cover for Hell Cat. My sister is the creator of the cozy art in the book trailers. The rest of my family is always supportive too.

As for mentors, I have many wonderful people in my writing and author groups who are generous with their time and advice. I’ve also learned a lot from some great editors.

Where is your favorite writing space?

In winter, I have a wicker rocking chair and ottoman in the dining room facing a big window which overlooks the mountains. In summer, my backyard patio is my favourite.

Do you belong to a writing group? If so which one?

Yes, VIRA on Vancouver Island, we have over sixty members and meet monthly. Each September we put on a full day workshop with an invited facilitator. We’ve had Shannon Mayer, Susan Wiggs, this year, Eileen Cook. I am also a member of several groups on Facebook. I also help out at the Cowichan Valley Writers, for new writers, by sharing my experience and teach a workshop or two.

If you could meet one favorite author, who would it be and why?

Linwood Barclay, I love his sense of humor. I’ve used GoodReads Ask the Author, to ask him questions and permission to use his name in Death and Cupcakes. He agreed and was very supportive.

If you could live anywhere in the world – where would it be?

Right where I am.

Do you see writing as a career?

I’ve been full time at it since 2015, written six books in that time. Four are published, two more coming this year.

Do you nibble as you write? If so what’s your favorite snack food?

Nope, even my coffee gets cold when I’m writing. Now when I’m editing, that is a whole other thing. Cookies, I am a sucker for homemade cookies.

What reward do you give yourself for making a deadline?

Dinner out at one of our favorite restaurants, like The Shipyard, Friday night, because there is live music and dancing after dinner.

Thank you for having guest on your blog Mandy!

More books from Yvonne.

 

Ask A Question Thursday

January 17, 2019
mandyevebarnett


ask-a-question-logo-300x150

The initial question was: Should you pick the genre before beginning your story or figure out what genre it is after you have written it?

(Look at the bottom of this post for the continuing query – Are genre formulas a myth?)

Last week’s responses:

I always have a vague idea of what the genre is going to be before I start a piece but if the inspiration takes me somewhere else then I don’t try and steer back because the characters lead the story.

Kristen Lamb 

Genre is essential for those who want to write professionally, for an income and for a living. For those who are having fun simply writing? No, doesn’t matter. For those who are new and learning? Not as huge of a deal but starting to be important. Those who want to be experimental and maybe want to win awards? Meh.

Yet, for anyone who want to be PAID for their books (code for product), genre is our lighthouse to keep us from smashing on the rocks.

The entire point of genre is so the author can locate and cultivate fans who will BUY his/her books…which they (readers) will also be able to locate because they will know where the book is shelved or what genre it’s listed under.

If no one has any idea WTH a book is, where to shelve it, or how to describe it? That’s bad.

If the book gets into a bookstore, then where do they put it? “General Fiction.” Okay. Sucky but okay.

But, since most people discover and buy books online, what keywords would you attach? Genre will matter BIG.

What other product/service/ business would be so indeterminate and hope to have any commercial success?

“You know, I am going to open a restaurant and just cook what I feel like and the ingredients just tell me what to do.” Um, have fun storming the castle. Rock on!

But marketing and advertising will now be a total nightmare. Good luck finding those who will eat a place no one can accurately describe.

Same with books.

Not impossible but adds a TON of unnecessary work when authors already have a ton to do as is.

I think a MAJOR misconception is genre somehow locks us into formulaic writing, which is patently false.

First of all, yes there are formulaic genres. Write a category sweet romance and there is a strict formula because these publishers know their readers and what they want.

And, since romance brings in BILLIONS and makes up over 70% of all books sold? Probably a good idea to listen to the guidelines.

Beyond that, genres can be melded and we (as writers) can get creative much like musicians who create fusions of sound, juxtaposing different types of music for a wholly unique sound (I.e. old gospel hymns influencing heavy metal).

Yet, the musicians KNOW music before playing around and reinventing new sounds.

Similarly, we should know and understand genre expectations. They exist for a reason.

Genres help us identify who is most likely to buy our book (which in the new paradigm we need to know no matter which way we publish).

Secondly, genres have rules and we break the rules at our own peril.

Breaking rules is fine. I do it all the time. But I know the rules BEFORE I break them.

For instance, there used to be a rule that one couldn’t mix POVs. If you began in first you had to stay there. If you began in third, you stayed there.

But WHY did the rule exist? Namely to stave off confusion. YET, Jefferson Parker (genius he is) wanted the audience to gain a closer psychic distance with the antagonist to make them more attached and thus more conflicted about him being apprehended/stopped.

So he wrote the antagonist in close first and the MC protagonist in third to make the reader psychologically struggle at a whole new level. Jeff knew genre, the rules, the constraints, THEN he bent them to do something never done.

Thirdly, genre is primarily for readers. It helps them find what they are looking for. When we don’t want to put a genre on our work because it ‘limits the muse’ or whatever, it is like asking our audience to go grocery shopping and buy canned goods with no labels and just trust it will be yummy.

Genres help readers have SOME idea of what they are getting. If we mislabel, there can be consequences.

Years ago, I had a client who believed she had a romance (but obviously hadn’t studied genre rules/expectations).

She self-published and got SLAYED in reviews, and panicked and sobbing, hired me to help. I took one look and knew the problem.

Yes, her writing was good and so was the story, but in her book…guy and gal didn’t end up together in the end.

In romance, (back then) you needed an HEA (Happily Ever After) which has loosened up to an HFN (Happily For Now) but the couple still has to end up together.

Without that? NOT a romance. She had a Women’s Fiction. She got a new cover, relaunched, slated in the correct genre and BOOM. Sales and great reviews.

In this instance, we had a case of completely different audience with different expectations.

When we slot a book in the wrong genre it’s like serving someone Tofurkey and trying to tell them it’s actually turkey. They are going to HATE it because the basis for comparison is TURKEY not vegan meat substitutes.

It’s like a bad bait-and-switch that ticks off readers.

Then, genre is going to give guideposts to word count. How LONG is the book roughly supposed to be?

Audiences in certain genres have preferences. Epic high fantasy readers give no figs about reading a 180,000 word book. Someone who likes cozy mysteries? No. Like 65K. Sure, feel free to write a 180,000 word cozy mystery but no one who loves that genre is likely to buy.

As far as considering genre ahead of time? I don’t understand how an author can’t do this, at least loosely. Stories are for the audience, not us. Unless we only want to sell a book to ourselves.

And this isn’t me saying “write for the market’ because that sort of “writing for the market” is when you, say, love writing Jane Austen historical romances and decide, instead, to write a techno-thriller because the genre is hot at the moment…and yet you can’t use your printer without tech support and are so bored by military fiction you want to kill yourself…but you write it because it is HOT.

Just no.

But beyond that, looking at genre is a FANTASTIC resource to understand our readers, who they are, what they want and not only give them what they want…but also slip in something they never knew they wanted until they read your book!

***This is why agents need to know genre. They have to have ammo to SELL our manuscript for the most BANK. If they can’t articulate what it IS, who is going to buy it? No one. Bye, Felicia.

Back to process. To me, failing to even roughly determine genre ahead of time is madness. I’ve done it (when I was a n00b) and it sucks and I have the scars to prove how dumb this was (for me).

My time is valuable. Without determining some broad strokes regarding genre, that is a formula for revision HELL. To be retro-fitting the Space Station for a hot tub.

It will make SEO and keywords a BEAST. Ultimately, it’s just a recipe for heavy drinking and ugly crying.

Just because we choose a genre in the beginning doesn’t mean we can’t get creative and blend or even veer at an angle toward a kissing-cousin genre (I.e. suspense can become a thriller).

In the end, writers can do whatever works for them and sells a lot of books. Yet—after fifteen years in this business professionally—I’ve found that, more often than not, writers who eschew genre rarely finish the book.

Or, if they do, revisions are like a trip to the fifth circle of hell which is why it takes FOREVER for them to ‘finish.’ Often, they can’t get traditionally published and so they self-pub and the books don’t sell (and there are reasons for that).

Look at authors making bank, traditionally and nontraditionally published. They KNOW their genre and audience and they WRITE FOR THEM…even the literary folks (*nod to Fredrik Backman*).

Anyway, long response but there ya go. My two cents…okay twenty bucks. Best of luck to everyone.

I’d say knowing at least a basic genre before you start writing is important. Maybe you know you want to write a romance, but figure out as you’re going along it’ll be an erotic romance. Okay, fine. But you can’t just start spewing words without knowing your characters, the plot, what genre, etc. You can’t sit down and just start typing without knowing some form of topic of what you’re writing. It’ll just turn into a mess that way.

over to you

So let’s look at this from a slightly different angle.

If you are writing in a particular genre do you ‘conform’ to the preconceived format of that genre? If romance – fall in love, difficulties arise, opposing feeling, loss of love, surprise event, and falling back into deep everlasting love? OR Sci-fi – the hero has to fight an enemy, the struggle is real and looks overwhelming, battles and fights, a glimpse of hope and the final defeat?

Do you want to conform to formula writing? Would you rather break the mold? Is it a myth that genres have formulas?

With a specific genre there is a better chance your book will be put into the genre bookshelf as opposed to a general fiction slot as Kristen mentioned.

Is this good marketing?

Does it restrict your creativity?

 

Author Interview – Anita Kushwaha

January 15, 2019
mandyevebarnett


AuthorInterview

kushwaha portrait

What inspired your latest novel?

I lost a loved one to suicide and felt that there were so many misconceptions—or plain lack of knowledge—about what survivors experience, I wanted to shed light and give voice this loss like no other. The book also examines the cultural complexities that come with this kind of loss, as the characters of East Indian descent. Writing the book was also a way for me to process my grief and transmute the pain into something artful, hopeful.

How did you come up with the title?

SIDE BY SIDE refers first and foremost to the closeness of the relationship between the siblings in the novel, Kavita and Sunil. But it also refers to the themes examined in the novel, such as love and grief, loss and healing, self-destruction and self-discovery, universal experiences that often occur side by side.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

If the book is about anything, it’s empathy. The protagonist in the novel, Kavita, encounters ignorance and shame in many parts of her life after her brother’s death. But when she finally meets someone who treats her with empathy and she learns to give that empathy to herself, and later to others, her healing journey truly begins.

Where can readers find you on social media and do you have a blog?

Readers can find me on:

Twitter: @MsAnitaKushwaha

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MsAnitaKushwaha

And at my blog: anitakushwaha.wordpress.com

Do you have plans or ideas for your next book? Is it a sequel or a stand alone?

My next book, CAUGHT IN A LIE, will be published by HarperCollins. It’s a mother-daughter story told in alternate timelines that delves into identity, belonging, and the cultural pressures placed upon women.

sbs_cover

Of the characters you have created or envisioned, which is your favorite & why?

My favourite character in SIDE BY SIDE is Hawthorn, whom Kavita befriends at a bereavement group meeting in the third part of the book. To me, he is empathy. He is definitely the most aspirational character I’ve ever written. I wish I was more like him and I wish I knew more people like him too.

 


Do you plan your stories, or are you a seat of the pants style writer?

A bit of both, actually. I like having a skeleton outline, so I have some idea of where I’m going with the story. How I get there, though, is always a great surprise!

Do you find social media a great tool or a hindrance?

Depends on the day! I often find it distracting. But it’s wonderful to be able to connect with people and share what you’re going through. One of my new year’s resolutions is to be more active and engaged online. When things get busy, though, I definitely slack off. So, I’m trying to be more consistent with it. I guess social media has the potential to be both a great tool and a hindrance. Boundaries are important!

Bio:

Anita Kushwaha grew up in Aylmer, Quebec. She holds an M.A. and Ph.D. in Human Geography from Carleton University and is a graduate of the Creative Writing Program at the Humber School for Writers. She is the author of a novella, The Escape Artist (Quattro Books, 2015). Her novel, CAUGHT IN A LIE, will be published by HarperCollins Canada in 2020. She lives in Ottawa.

SIDE BY SIDE Synopsis:

Kavita Gupta is a woman in transition. When her troubled older brother, Sunil, disappears, she does everything in her power to find him, convinced that she can save him. Ten days later, the police arrive at her door to inform her that Sunil’s body has been found. Her world is devastated. She finds herself in crisis mode, trying to keep the pieces of her life from falling apart even more. As she tries to cope with her loss, the support system around her begins to unravel. Her parents’ uneasy marriage seems more precarious. Her health is failing as her unprocessed trauma develops into more sinister conditions. Her marriage suffers as her husband is unable to relate to her loss. She bears her burden alone, but after hitting her lowest point, she knows she needs to find a better way of coping. Desperate for connection, she reaches out to a bereavement group, where she meets Hawthorn, a free-spirited young man with whom she discovers a deep connection through pain. After being blindsided by a devastating marital betrayal, she wonders if a fresh start is possible in the wake of tragedy. Will she escape her problems and start over? Or will she face the challenges of rebuilding the life she already has? Side by Side is a story about loss, growth and the search for meaning in the wake of tragedy, illuminated through one woman’s journey from harm to care.

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