Does writing energize or exhaust you? Depends on more easy the ideas and writing is flowing. If everything is flowing nicely and i’m forming an idea that makes me proud, writing gives me a powerful high that makes me super bubbly. If I’m having a hard time, like when you’re trying so hard just to write ANYTHING because you’re trying to power through a block. That digs at my soul.
What is your writing Kryptonite? Getting distracted by TV or movies.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym? Not at the moment.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer? I’ve connected with a lot of authors online but I haven’t connected to any of them outside of that. The ones I’ve met online have helped in so many ways. They have given me a like-minded community to bounce ideas off of and give feedback. Some of them were my beta readers for Beyond the Code.
Do you want each book to stand alone, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book? I have some book ideas that are going to develop into expansive series but for the most part they stand on their own.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer? I am still very new on the writer scene so I haven’t made much of any money yet. Fingers crossed.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power? From an early age, language and writing always gave me an outlet for my crazy imagination. It was a great way to bring my thoughts into the world and helped me sort out a lot of my feelings.
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel? To Kill a Mockingbird. A lot of people I talk to don’t like it but I thought it was a very thought provoking read.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal? A fox. I love foxes
10. How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have? I have a bunch of story ideas and a couple of them I have started writing but Beyond the Code was actually the first book I wrote fully.
11. What does literary success look like to you? Seeing my book on the shelf at a bookstore.
12. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book? I am a thorough planner when it comes to my books. I plan out all the events in order for the book, do all the research necessary, and start writing. I try my best to make it as authentic as possible.
13. How many hours a day/week do you write? As much as I can but life gets in the way a bit more than I would prefer.
14. How do you select the names of your characters? Sometimes the name just comes to me when I’m making the character but most of the time I use a baby naming book.
15. What was your hardest scene to write? Emotionally, there’s a scene in the book I’m writing now that deals with a character letting go of a future that she can’t have. But there was another scene in Beyond the Code where there was a lot of characters involved in a fight scene and keeping track of all of them was pretty difficult.
16. Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them? So far, I’ve just been writing urban fantasy. I chose it because I love the idea of putting extraordinary things in the mundane world.
17. How long have you been writing? I started writing short stories when I was around 10 and have been doing that off and on throughout my teen years and started seriously putting myself into it when I move out.
18. What inspires you? Anime, comic books, and movies.
19. How do you find or make time to write? Sometimes you just have to put aside things you enjoy to get the words out. It can be hard but sometimes I have to be my own hard ass boss.
20. What projects are you working on at the present? Right now, I am working on a sequel to Beyond the Code.
21. What do your plans for future projects include? Trying to make Beyond the Code successful and get the sequel published.
Kelsey Rae Barthel grew up in the quiet town of Hay Lakes in Alberta, a sleepy place of only 500 people. Living in such a calm setting gave her a lot of spare time to imagine grand adventures of magic and danger, inspired by the comic books and anime she enjoyed. Upon graduating high school, Kelsey moved to Edmonton and eventually began working in the business of airline cargo, but she never stopped imagining those adventures. Beyond the Code is her first novel.
Both. It exhausts me when I’m working on something long or complex but also energizes me when I have an idea I want to explore.
2. What is your writing Kryptonite?
Sometimes I get bogged down and want to quit writing that story, or that part of the story, because nothing is going right. I just have to wait, because the characters will work it out by themselves in my head and then I can go back to it.
3. Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
I had 1 poem published under a pseudonym to protect a person who might have been offended by it. The publisher knew my real name and why I chose to do it this way. In all other cases I’ve used my real name.
4. What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I have many writer friends both inside the Writers Foundation of Strathcona County and outside of it. They inspire me to carry on by understanding the pitfalls and frustrations, by helping me improve my stories and by continuing to listen and share their expertise.
5. Do you want each book to stand alone, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
Each of my 3 books, ‘Fragments of Lives’, ‘Colouring Our Lives’ and ‘Bloodlines’ stands alone. Even my contributions to magazines, periodicals, compilation books and even a workbook I co-authored are separate from all the others.
6. What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
Money well spent has gone for art work for covers, editing and publishing assistance. These are things I cannot do myself and finding the right person or people to do it for me was worth every penny.
7. What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
As a child I was allowed to read whenever and wherever I was. And to read anything that took my fancy. The stories fed what my mother told me was my ‘overactive imagination’. I knew at a young age that words had power as the stories affected me.
8. As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
I have 2 spirit animals, neither of them specifically for me as a writer but both could be. The 2 diverse creatures are the she-wolf and the California Grey Whale. Both have tenacity, a lifelong affinity for protecting and caring for family and a gentleness within their peer group. When attacked or threatened they both can become aggressive in defending their family’s safety and their territorial boundaries. I have neither a mascot nor an avatar – both would be out of character for me.
9. How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
I am not working, at the moment, on any one story or book. I have hundreds of as yet unpublished stories but most of them will remain that way as they would require a great deal of work to come to fruition. Rather than take part in NaNoWriMo I’ve challenged myself the either start or complete a story each day in November. So far this is happening.
10. What does literary success look like to you?
Literary success for me is to have my stories read and appreciated. I’d like to have more of my books in libraries and have an audience farther away from where I live.
11. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
My latest book, ‘Bloodlines’ took a lot of research. I didn’t know that when I began it as I thought it was just going to be a short story. I started researching possible migration routes for the ancestors of the main female character, Hannah, and ran into a roadblock as I discovered that she could not be of gypsy origins as I had thought. That started a whole process of figuring out where her ancestors could have come from and led to several new characters needing to be introduced. By the time that story was ready to publish it was long enough to be a book on its own and I knew more about Chile, anthropology, bats, volcano cloud storms, old maps and other things than I ever intended to know. I did some of this research online and some using old maps. I enjoyed it but it took me thousands of hours during which I discarded most of what I learned as it was not applicable to this story.
12. How many hours a day/week do you write?
I have no set schedule but normally write early in the day while it is quiet and I am rested. I am easily distracted so need quiet and calmness to write.
13. How do you select the names of your characters?
The names of characters are really important. Quite often the first character’s name will just come into my head and I start with that. Names need to be evocative of the time period of the story, the age of the character, the geographical region they come from and somehow give the reader a sense of who they are as well as how they fit into the story. If a writer gets this wrong it upsets the balance of the story.
14. What was your hardest scene to write?
Endings are always hardest for me. It’s difficult to have set a tone of time, place and characters and then round it all up to complete what you’ve written about them. After reading my short stories people often ask “What happened next?” but I don’t know the answer as for me the story has ended.
15. Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them?
I only write about people who could be real but aren’t. The settings are close to what most of us experience and the people who inhabit the spaces could be neighbours. Real life is fascinating and I enjoy portraying it in a new way, often with twist which is how real life usually happens.
16. How long have you been writing?
Many, many years – I think I took my first creative writing class about 25 years ago although I had attempted writing prior to that. Then I joined a small writers group, albeit one not really suited to me, before finding a group which were helpful and encouraging.
17. What inspires you?
There is inspiration in many things, a beautiful view of mountains or the ocean, an overheard piece of random conversation, a news story, someone’s outfit, a dream I’ve had, and any number of other things in normal life.
18. How do you find or make time to write?
For me there is little problem with time. I’m retired from a day job so can plan my time to allow me to do most of the things I want to do. I can write both on a computer or by hand if I’m on a plane or a passenger in a car or alone in my home. I’m never without pen and paper.
19. What projects are you working on at the present?
Just trying to get a few small stories prepared for a monthly newsletter I submit things to as well as one to read at a writers Christmas party. Having just published ‘Bloodlines’ I have no deadline looming.
20. What do your plans for future projects include?
I’m in that space where I haven’t planned the next phase of my writing. I’m hoping that one or more of the stories I’m writing in November will be worth pursuing and turns into something I can share with others in the new year.
21. Share a link to your author website.
I don’t have a personal website but am part of the website of the Writers Foundation of Strathcona County (WFSC).
When I began writing, I used to spend a lot of time using a site called, Espresso Story, where the stories were 25 words or less. It helped me define a story in a few words until I felt able to increase my word count and descriptions.
Here are a few examples.
The stick flew My dog pounced And collided with him That’s how we met My love and I
Trapped but guilty to move on Loving but alone in a crowd Sleeping but horror in her dreams Smiling but crying within
Free of her kidnapper She fled the horrific basement Running along a darkened road Through torrential rain The driver never saw her
Tantrum: But I want it!!!! You’ll get it alright
Karma: We knew each other from before, Have loved in the present, Now to guarantee our future.
Boat Trip: The boat tips, Water seeps in, No land in sight, Help!
Mathematical fiction is a genre of creative fictional work, where mathematics and mathematicians play important roles. It is defined as any work “containing mathematics or mathematicians” but the form and the medium of the work is not important as it can still be treated as mathematical fiction. This genre can be in the form of short stories, novels or plays; comic books; films, videos, or audios.
The oldest extant work of mathematical fiction is The Birds, a comedy by the Ancient Greek playwright Aristophanes, which was performed in 414 BC. One of the earliest, more modern works in this genre is Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions by schoolmaster, Edwin Abbott Abbott in 1884.
The genre of mathematical fiction may have existed since ancient times, but was only recently rediscovered as a genre of literature. It has become a growing body of literature attracting a growing body of readers. For example, Abbot’s Flatland spawned a sequel in the 21st century: a novel titled Flatterland by Ian Stewart and published in 2001.
The genre is not seen as a ‘popular’ one, however there are numerous novels, short stories etc. that are under this genre. Take a look at the Goodreads list, I think you will be surprised. https://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/math-fiction
I get very energized during the initial stages – planning, researching, outlining – and during the actual writing in extended bursts where I’ll write for six or eight hours a day for a week or more… then I tend to burn out and fizzle for a few days until I recharge. I find it’s the same through the editing process, go-go-go and then crawl back up out of the dirt.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Day job nonsense. Netflix. I get obsessive about new shows I like, and I’ll be locked out of doing almost anything else if I start a show and don’t finish the story. I’ll binge 3 or 4 seasons in a week. My kids, because there’s nothing I’d rather do than hang out with them.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
I have, actually. In a few cases where anthologies needed additional stories and I already had one placed, or I’d had a story printed somewhere and they didn’t want to have me show up in multiple issues too close to each other. Grady Cole, that’s me. There’s been a few others. I also try to use those alternate identities to explore other writing styles and genres. The last thing I’d want is for a Grady Cole story to read exactly like an Axel Howerton story. It’s old hat for me, though. When I was an entertainment journalist, I had a secret identity as the masked luchador Ramone, who would write nonsensical columns on z-movies and film weird short films that morphed into DVD reviews.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
Some of my very best friends are other writers. At this point, I don’t have many friends or acquaintances that aren’t part of the writing community. Scott S. Phillips is practically my brother, even though we’ve never met face-to-face. It was immensely helpful to both of us, struggling through the indie forests. He had been a screenwriter and filmmaker, whereas I had been a journalist. We have very similar interests and backgrounds and tastes, and our work tends to be pretty complimentary, so we can tip each other off to opportunities that would suit us. It also makes it really easy to work together. One of the first collections either of us were published in was dreamed up by the two of us complaining about our awful day jobs. Scott took it to one of our mentors – the legendary Bob Vardeman – and ended up co-editing the book. Later on, I ended up including Scott in my anthologies Tall Tales of the Weird West and It’s a Weird Winter Wonderland. We’ve also been very supportive of each other’s work – sharing and promoting – as well as tossing ideas around. The other most influential is probably Robert Bose, my partner in Coffin Hop Press. Rob and I met through the local writing community, attending the same conferences, etc. and eventually, Rob had submitted to one of my anthologies. I really liked his story and his style, and in the process of editing his story, and working on promotion for the book, I found out about his short story collection, which I also loved. I ended up publishing Fishing with the Devil, and in the process of working on that book, Rob proved to have a lot of insights and great ideas for the press. I liked his ideas so much, in fact, that we partnered up, and in the months since, Coffin Hop Press has grown by leaps and bounds.
Do you want each book to stand alone, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
I do sometimes play with the idea of crossing over stories and novels, trying to tie everything together a’ la Stephen King. All of my novels up to now have been conceived and written as individual tales, but after they came out people began asking about “the next one”. My first novel Hot Sinatra, the publisher was angling for additional books to improve the salability, despite the tidy ending I’d designed. I kind of rankled at that, but at the same time, I’ve written 5 or 6 spin-off short stories in that universe that were published in various places, so now I have a couple of additional novels planned. That’s what a lot of readers want and expect now, serial storytelling. I think it’s both because of things like Netflix and the “Golden Age” of television storytelling, and because, with the current glut of ebook product and the rising cost of print books, people want to invest in something that’s going to give them a prolonged bang for their precious buck. I don’t blame them a bit. Fortunately, my second novel Furr lent itself more to the idea of a continuing story, and the publisher wanted to explore a couple of the secondary characters that they really liked. That idea turned into a new series that kicks off with my next novel Demon Days. So now I actually am planning out an extensive extended universe with connections to the previous book and at least three books scheduled in the series, probably four or five.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
Going to the local writing convention, When Words Collide. I made more connections, met more fellow writers, learned more, and opened my mind to so many more avenues in the writing world, than I have at any other time in my career, and it usually costs about $50 for three days.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
When I was very young, I would spend my weeks with my elderly grandparents, while my parents worked. They had all of these musty old books in the basement, and all of these odd piecemeal books upstairs next to their matching recliners. I don’t remember seeing them read them, but I was always endlessly fascinated by them, forever picking them up and leafing through them. There was just something about words on a page. My grandma always told people that I taught myself to read at the age of three with those books, which I’m sure is a hearty exaggeration, but I do remember being able to read before I started kindergarten, and sitting in the middle of their living room, cross-legged on the carpet, flipping through these massive tomes on Jacques Cousteau, or Strange Stories, Amazing Facts. I would read Emily Dickinson and Robert Service and try to remember the poems so I could tell them to myself later, as if I was telling the story to someone else. I was a weird kid, I guess.
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
One of them is Sock, by Penn Jillette. Yes, that Penn Jillette, of Penn & Teller. I came across it in the bookstore and just thought it was a cool cover, so I picked it up. The idea of a cop talking to his sock monkey made me buy it. It was so damned good, and so unlike anything else I’d been reading. Later on, one of my first writer friends, a guy named Scott Duran, turned out to also be a fan. He worked in a bookstore in Las Vegas and had some sketchy dude come in to sell an autographed copy. We started out conjecturing about the sketchy dude, and then we both wrote stories about it – just for fun. He ended up sending me that copy, and then another. So, now I have two autographed copies, and my original dog-eared copy. I still almost never come across anybody who has heard of, or remembers that book, which is a shame. I’d like to imagine that it doesn’t bother Penn too much that his literary career didn’t take off, but I know it would have hurt if it was me. I hope I meet the man someday, just to let him know how much it influenced a couple of schlubs like us.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
This is the second interview lately that’s asked this, which is cool. I’ll stick to the same answer: David Blowynch, it’s like a Chimera of David Bowie and Lynch. A Chimera with outstanding hair. The patron God of subtext and style.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
At least four. Nine, if you count the ones I’m actively in planning stages/various levels of completion on.
What does literary success look like to you?
Enough money coming in to write full-time. Praise enough to feel confident in that next idea. At best? A based-on show with an after-show show hosted by Chris Hardwick.
12. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
Depends on the subject matter and the concepts behind the book. I don’t waste a lot of time with mundane research on details like gun makes and models, or the correct flight path for a 747 arriving at LaGuardia at 3:07 am on a Wednesday in October with high winds and a low-pressure system. If I’m doing research, it’s because I’m trying to stay true to concepts and history that may matter to certain groups. If I’m using an ancient religion, or a small local indigenous group, like the Ktunaxa (Kootenay) tribe I mention in Furr, I tend to spend a lot more energy making sure I get things right. That being said, when I do research on cultures and history and more esoteric and occult topics, I tend to get sucked way way down the rabbit hole. I may spend months accumulating references and seeking out obscure books, and then have all of that lead to one bloody sentence in the finished book. It’s more about me understanding the way the world I’m creating was influenced by humanity, than fact-checking, really.
How many hours a day/week do you write?
When I’m in the thick of it, if I’m lucky enough to get the time, I write in blocks of 8 or 10 hours a day on weekends, maybe an hour or two every day through the week. Like most non-King/Patterson/etc writers, I have a day job. I have a wife, and kids, and all the usual accoutrements of adulthood. I also run a publishing press in there too, so time is at a premium, but I’ll lock myself away when needs be.
How do you select the names of your characters?
It depends on the project. Sometimes there’s meaning behind them, sometimes there’s just a name I like, like Jules. Sometimes it’s attached to some awful joke I can’t let go of. The Ktunaxa character in Furr is named Bob Dylan, entirely so I could have a conversation where someone asks him about it, and he calmly retorts that “maybe he’s named after me. I’ve been Bob Dylan longer than him. His name’s Zimmerman.” The hired thugs/sex performers in Hot Sinatra and the accompanying stories are named Manlove and Kickerdick, names I stole from Scott Phillips on a dare, since he couldn’t figure out where to use them. Most of the time it’s one of the more entertaining parts of the process, other times you have to change that name five times because everything that sounds right as a first name with “Montrose” ends up too close to the other character names.
What was your hardest scene to write?
I don’t know that I could single one out. There have been a lot of them that were hard to write because I may not have quite had a handle on the emotion of the scene, or where it fit in the grander scheme of the story. There were certainly ones that were emotionally draining. My last novel, Con Morte, is a good example of that. Writing such a dark and troubled character from a first person pov tends to get to me, especially over an intense period of writing for eight or nine hours. Consequently, the end of that book took a lot out of me, because it was a struggle to bring that character back up into the light and try to find some kind of redemption after being lost in such a dark mind for so long.
Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them?
When I first started writing fiction again, and trying to publish, I naturally trended towards horror, just because that’s what I had been steeped in during my last years as an entertainment journalist. I was the go-to guy for indie genre filmmakers, and spent a lot of time watching b-movie horror – slashers, alien invasions, body horror. At the same time, I was mainlining a lot of vintage crime and hard-boiled detective fiction, especially Raymond Chandler and Dashiel Hammett. So, my short fiction was mostly horror, but my first novel was a crime homage to hard-boiled detectives. Eventually I moved more into the crime arena, just because that’s what I was getting known for after that first book was a finalist for the Arthur Ellis Award (Best First Novel from the Crime Writers of Canada). Despite that, I’ve always continued to experiment with genres. I may be known as “the noir guy” in my own neck of the woods, but I’ve since written sci-fi western, urban fantasy, magical realism, whatever strikes my fancy. To me, it’s all about exploring different ways to tell stories about human beings, and the relationships between them, so I don’t see a huge difference between a hardcore noir thriller, and a romantic fable, so long as the characters are realistic and relatable, and their relationships and struggles are genuine.
How long have you been writing?
Like most of us say, “since I could hold a crayon”. I remember publishing comic books and chapbooks of poetry in grade two or three. Poems like “Life is like a bowlful of Cherry Pez”. My first article was published around age 11 or 12. Since then, I’ve always been at it, in one way or another. I’ve only been seriously writing fiction with the active intent of getting it published since 2011 or 2012. I wasted a lot of years on self-doubt and empty excuses for avoidance.
What inspires you?
Life. Music. The idea that we can create worlds and explore our own humanity through the interplay of our creations. That we can maybe find answers to the really big questions, and the really important, seemingly minuscule ones, in our own minds – if we dig deep enough.
How do you find or make time to write?
Like everyone else out there, my time is at a premium. Between the everyday responsibilities: the day job, the kids – just maintaining life – it is sometimes hard to find the time. I’m lucky that I have a supportive family, especially my wife, who is equally creative and driven about her own projects, who trades off with me as much as possible on the day-to-day stuff. That way, when I need to take eight hours a day over the weekend, or get up at 4 am for a few weeks, it takes the edge off and allows me to focus on my work.
What projects are you working on at the present?
Demon Days, the first book in the Furr spin-off series, is in final edits right now. That should be coming out in the next couple of months from Tyche Press. Then I have four or five more of those to finish in the next couple of years. I also have two more Mossimo Cole books to follow up Hot Sinatra, which I’d like to have finished before I get the rights back on the first book. There’s also three other crime novels (maybe novellas), a post-apocalyptic steampunky sci-fi novel I’ve been working on, a literary-satire historical novel about the birth of the Northwest Mounted Police and the whiskey runners in early Canada, and probably three or four other things I’m forgetting.
What do your plans for future projects include?
All of the above, and then some. Hopefully, some small measure of success and a wider audience along with that. I’m also putting a lot of my energy into my publishing company, which I hope will prove to be a success and keep growing over the next few years (and a long-time after *fingers crossed*) and eventually allow me the extra freedom I need to transition from my exciting day job in industrial repair sales to a life that revolves entirely around writing and publishing. In the end, I just really hope this can occupy and provide for me throughout the rest of my life, and maybe leave some small legacy for my kids and grand-kids to be proud of.
Axel Howerton is a former entertainment journalist, and the Arthur Ellis Award nominated author of the detective caper Hot Sinatra; the modern gothic fairytale Furr; the zombie novella Living Dead at Zigfreid & Roy; and the noir fable Con Morte. His forthcoming “Wolf & Devil” urban fantasy series for Tyche Books kicks off with “Demon Days” in February 2018.
When he’s not on-duty as a “purveyor of literary badassery” and “hometown anti-hero”, Axel wanders the foothills of Southern Alberta with his two brilliant sons, and a wife that is way out of his league.