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Creative Edge – Author Interview – Kathrin Hutson

May 28, 2020
mandyevebarnett


Author Photo 2

What attracted you to write Fantasy/Sci-fi? Did you choose it or the other way around?

I’ve always had a soft spot for Fantasy and Sci-fi, because that’s what I grew up reading, for the most part. I still read a little bit of almost everything, but these two genres captured my heart even more when I started writing in them. I’m not sure which one of us did the choosing, but I’d say we make a pretty great pair when all things are said and done.

My favorite part about writing Fantasy is the fact that I can take what I like from reality, get rid of everything else (within sub-genre tropes, of course), and replace it with something completely new, magical, dark, mysterious, and complicated enough that it provides a rich world yet simple enough that I can keep it all straight in my head. Sci-fi is a bit harder. For me, it requires a lot more research too, which I really just don’t enjoy. But it’s not enough of a pain to keep me from writing it. And that’s the part I like about it—plus the fact that I can change a few things (particularly with Dystopian Sci-Fi) about reality and augment them, so to speak, to create the types of stories that reflect what’s happening in the world while putting my own special spin on it.

What inspires you to write your stories? Where does inspiration come from?

Literally everything. Sometimes I get a spark from a dream or a movie clip, a song, a conversation with my kid. Sometimes I read a book that touches on an idea and then I start thinking about how I could expand upon it and make it my own. Sometimes, when I’m at the crossroads of taking a story down one road or the other, I’ll pick one, and the other one gets turned into a different story. Sometimes I keep writing without any inspiration at all, and the story inspires itself.

Do you prefer to write a series rather than a stand-a-lone novel?

All of my series so far were originally intended to be standalone novels. Until I got to what I thought was the end and realized I just wasn’t finished. The Blue Helix series, though, is the only series where each book can be read on its own without having read the previous books in the series. But I think they’re better if they’re read in order 😉

Right now, I’m almost finished with the first book in an actually planned series of five and a quarter of the way through another planned trilogy. That’s definitely a different process, and I’m excited to see how the results of planning series ahead of time differ from… well, not planning it at all.

Are you a plotter or a panster?

I’m a plantser—I do both. I used to be all pantser all the way until I started ghostwriting fiction in addition to writing my own stories. Then I started writing up beats for contracted novels, and I discovered that there’s definition something to be said for writing a loose “summary” of 5-10k words (depending on books length) before I dive into the writing the actual story. I don’t get stuck with where I’m headed, and that helps me write a lot faster. Somehow, though, I’ve never quite been able to stomach chapter-by-chapter outlines or intense character sketches before writing the book. In my mind, there is such a thing as doing too much work before the fun begins. If my plotting gets any more detailed than a few thousand words of beats, I lose interest. 80% of the fun is surprising myself with how to fill in all the blank space after finishing the beats. It’s like a giant puzzle that I get to create and fit together at the same time.

Can you tell us about your newest book? The characters and their journey.

static

My newest book, Sleepwater Static, is the second book in my LGBTQ Dystopian Sci-Fi Blue Helix series. This was a monster of a book to write and tackle, just like its prequel, because there was so much I wanted to say through the characters’ journey and the continuing storyline in general. And there was much potential for saying the right thing in the wrong way that I really had to pay attention to how I was writing the story and especially how I was representing different minority groups and marginalized communities through this huge cast of characters.

Beat

Sleepwater Beat focused on Leo Tieffler as the main character, and Sleepwater Static focuses on Bernadette Manney—a seventy-one-year-old white woman from South Carolina who fits a sort of “tough and uncrackable matriarch” role within the group of people called Sleepwater with the storytelling ability of “spinning a beat”. Bernadette really fascinated me in the first book, and she was the perfect character to dive into for the second in order to approach the other sociopolitical topics I wanted to explore while still making this a fantastic story with characters readers had already come to love and a whole cast of new ones.

Bernadette grew up in the South, found her independence and her freedom through standing up for what she believed in, created a family with the man she loved despite racial tensions and facing discrimination from her own family and so many others within her home state. In this book, we learn about who she was before Sleepwater was formed, how and why Sleepwater was formed, and the ways in which she’s been trying for twenty years to redeem herself after an unforgivable yet inevitable mistake drove her away from her past, her partner, and her child. This book is meant as a sort of “breath of fresh air” on the surface, where the characters stop to go into hiding and regroup (plus one Sleepwater member needs somewhere to give birth to her child that isn’t in the back of a van), and they all end up learning more about the past while trying to fight for the future. I can’t wait to hear what people think of this book, and I’m so excited to start diving into Book 3 when the time comes.

What age did you start writing?

I started writing on my tenth birthday. When I discovered that I could create a story, a situation, a relationship, or an outcome to be absolutely whatever I wanted to be, I just couldn’t stop.

Where do you write? Can you describe your writing space?

I write in my home office. I’ve had four home offices in four different homes since I started my Indie career in 2015. It’s a requirement for every new house we move into (obviously, there have been many), and it will continue to be that way for as long as I’m living in a house with an ability to keep writing.

I have a standing desk and a heavy-duty “sit in my chair all day” cushion for my office chair. Bookshelves stuffed to the brim to the point that they’ve spilled into piles on the floor, my desk, and on and in my cabinets. My office is actually the only room in the house that’s been fully “decorated”, because my husband and I have intersecting tastes, but everything he doesn’t like, I put in my office! It’s also the only room in the house where no one else but the author is allowed to enter. No dogs, no three-year-old, no husband. Okay, fictional characters may make an appearance, but I draw the line with physical bodies. I like bright colors and clashing patterns and hanging art on the wall (my own or created by friends). More often than not, it’s a complete mess, but at least I know where everything is.

What has been the highlight of your writing career so far?

I’d say the highlight so far has been writing the Blue Helix series. Sleepwater Beat got such a phenomenal response, and it really blew me away. It made me an international bestselling author, got me on live television, has been the topic of more radio-show and podcast and blog interviews than I can count, and was both an award-winning Sci-Fi Finalist in the 2019 International Book Awards and a Literary Titan Gold Award Winner this last April.

Sleepwater Static is heading very much in the same direction, and I have really high hopes for the second book in the Blue Helix series too.

Who is your favorite author and why?

It’s not just one (is it ever just one?). My list includes: Stephen King, Jacqueline Carey, George R. R. Martin, Diana Gabaldon, Neil Gaiman, Cormac McCarthy, William Gibson, and John Irving. With these favorites, I get to cover a wide range of brilliance in so many different elements of good storytelling—characterization, world-building, rich plots, expansive landscapes and history, phenomenal relationships, twists and turns, grit, beauty, humor, surreal parallels to reality… this second list goes on and on. Overall, I love these authors because even when I haven’t read them for quite some time, I find myself thinking about their books, characters, and worlds with a nostalgic longing to return. That, to me, is what makes great fiction.

Who is your most loyal supporter?

Hands down that’s my husband. Without this guy, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m with my writing right now—which is writing 60+ hours a week and absolutely loving every minute of it. And there’s the added bonus that my work as a full-time writer of fiction supports our family of three with a single income. It’s pretty much a dream come true.

He hasn’t actually read any of my books all the way through. But he knows how much I love what I do and has facilitated my ability to keep writing since the very beginning, all the way up to the point where he was able to stop working so he could be a stay-at-home dad and do more of what he wants to do during the day. So yes, it’s been a win-win for everyone. And he never misses an opportunity to tell people what I do for a living and give them my card (yes, I have business cards) with a well-timed, “Check out her books. You’ll love them.”

Where can we find you on social media?

I’m most active on my Facebook page: http://facebook.com/kathrinhutsonfiction

And you can also find me here: http://instagram.com/kathrinhutsonfiction; http://twitter.com/exquisitelydark

Do you have a blog/website?

I sure do! I just had my website completely revamped and am in love with what it’s become. This was very recent, and I wasn’t much of a blogger on my author site, but I’ve written a few things on this new site that are more “reflections of life as a writer” and are not, in fact, fiction. But I’ll be building on that. You can find almost everything else about me and my books on my site: http://kathrinhutsonfiction.com

Bio:

International Bestselling Author Kathrin Hutson has been writing Dark Fantasy, Sci-Fi, and LGBTQ Speculative Fiction since 2000. With her wildly messed-up heroes, excruciating circumstances, impossible decisions, and Happily Never Afters, she’s a firm believer in piling on the intense action, showing a little character skin, and never skimping on violent means to bloody ends.

In addition to writing her own dark and enchanting fiction, Kathrin spends the other half of her time as a fiction ghostwriter of almost every genre, as Fiction Co-Editor for Burlington’s Mud Season Review, and as Director of TopShelf Interviews for TopShelf Magazine. She is a member of both the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and the Horror Writers Association. Kathrin lives in Vermont with her husband, their young daughter, and their two dogs, Sadie and Brucewillis.

For updates on new releases, exclusive deals, and dark surprises you won’t find anywhere else, sign up to Kathrin’s newsletter at kathrinhutsonfiction.com/subscribe.

Author@kathrinhutsonfiction.com

kathrinhutsonfiction.com

Facebook.com/kathrinhutsonfiction

Twitter: @ExquisitelyDark

Instagram: @KathrinHutsonFiction

 

Creative Edge

Author Toolbox – 8 Lockdown Tips for Writers in COVID19

May 21, 2020
mandyevebarnett


book on a white wooden table

Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

We are all feeling the repercussions of isolation, social distancing and lack of ‘normal’. It has affected everyone in a multitude of ways. For writers, who are normally ‘isolated’  in their writing life, there has been a change in atmosphere, inspiration, alone time and creativity. (Or lack thereof).

Whatever your normal routine, be it the impact of family at home, remote working arrangements or lack of access to resources, we can adjust.

Nano Blog and Social Media Hop2

Here are a few tips to try (or not):

  1. One of the best options I have found is a virtual writing time. A group of us ‘meet’ on Sunday’s for a couple of hours. And although for the most part, it is a silent meeting, knowing we are connected helps with motivation and makes us accountable. We share what we will be writing at the beginning of the meeting and then summarize what we achieved at the end.
  2. Outside time – this is vitally important to refresh the mind and body. It can be a walk, a bicycle ride and a hike. Whatever, works best for you within the confines of the social distancing parameters.
  3. Writing space changes. It sounds odd but even a reorganization, a new arrangement of objects, a vase of flowers – can make all the difference. Maybe write in a different area of the house.
  4. Reserve writing time. Make a commitment to write for a certain amount of time each day. As we all have favourite times of day to be creative – this can be before everyone gets up, when they are all asleep or maybe a time when you can be alone in the house. Don’t add to your stress by putting a word count on this time. It can be to write, of course, but also to plot, edit, note down new story ideas or even read some research.
  5. Enter a contest. This idea will either spur you on or not. To create something new can be a good way to engage your Muse. Even if you decide not to submit your work, it is a great way to spark your creativity.
  6. Online writing workshops. There are now lots of options for online workshops and courses. Maybe it’s time to hone your skills? I enjoy the monthly creative workshops my local writing group organizes. They are held on the last Saturday of each month. (Link here for May’s workshop: https://www.wfscsherwoodpark.com/event-details/creative-writing-workshop-online-3 )
  7. Writing prompts are also a great way to refresh the writing brain. There are a lot of sites and books available on the internet. Try a few, whether they are images, word collections or story starters. You never know where they might take you. Again my local writing group has prompts every Saturday, if you want to try. Link: https://www.wfscsherwoodpark.com/our-blog

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What have you found to help your writing during COVID19?

 

Wordsmiths Collective Thursday – 16 Weird & Strange Habits of Writers

May 14, 2020
mandyevebarnett


type writer imagine

The strange habits of some famous authors has always interested me. I cannot lay claim to anything this weird, mores the pity. Maybe I can cultivate something? Are you willing to share your ‘strange’ habit?

1. Demosthenes

The ancient Greek writer shaved half his head. Ensuring that by looking so idiotic, he would stay home and work, instead of facing ridicule in public.

2. Henrik Ibsen

The A Doll’s House playwright hung a huge oil painting of his greatest rival on his study wall. Inspiring him to strive to better his enemies.

3. Franz Kafka – Too Much Cake

Kafka allowed himself to eat a whole pineapple upside down cake when he finished a story. He did not share any of it!

4. Mary Shelley – Pet Snake

Shelley’s pet 23-foot-long boa constrictor was housed in her writing studio. With the snake wrapped around her shoulders she would write until the snake became restless and began to squeeze, then she stopped writing for the day.

5. Agatha Christie – Ate apples in the bath.

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6. Isabel Allende – starts every book on the same day January 8.

7. John Steinbeck – needed two dozen sharpened pencils.

8. Patricia Highsmith – ate eggs and bacon for every meal.

9. Virginia Woolf – wrote at a standing desk.

10. Charles Dickens – slept facing north.

11. Dan Brown – hanging upside down inversion therapy for writer’s block.

12. Victor Hugo – wrote without clothes so he could not leave the house to met a deadline.

13. Francine Prose – writes facing a wall to limit distractions.

14. Truman Capote – never started or finish writing on a Friday. 

15. Anthony Burgess – use random words from opening a page in a dictionary to complete a descriptive passage.

16. Lewis Carroll – wrote in purple ink.

typewriter 1

 

Bibliophile Collective Tuesday – How is Your Goodreads Challenge 2020 Going? And in other news…snow!

May 12, 2020
mandyevebarnett


So how is your Goodreads Reading Challenge going so far this year? I am one book behind schedule unfortunately. So I am determined to catch up this week.

My book order came in so I added three more books to my TBR pile. Excited to read them all. It will be interesting to read Tom Hanks – the author! And of course The Heirloom and Maybe in Another Life are reincarnation stories – my favorite. 

Of course it will be hard to leave the world of this beautifully written book. You will have to wait for my review.

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Talking of book reviews have you managed to read every book you have read this year?

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I keep my reviews on Goodreads (sometimes Amazon too) so you are welcome to take a look. https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6477059.Mandy_Eve_Barnett

Editing of my steampunk novel, the Commodore’s Gift did stall for a while but after some great feedback on a particular fight scene, I am back on track. As with most people lock-down tends to be a dreadful de-motivator. The virtual writing group I belong to helps with the motivation for sure.

Excerpt: this is the fight scene – feedback is welcome (constructive critique)

They picked up sticks and began circling each other. Owena watched her brother’s movements and eye direction as Galen had taught her and thrust forward. The stick found its mark on Benjamin’s bicep. He looked surprised. Thrust at her successfully landing a tap on her thigh. His arm swung around for another thrust but Owena anticipated his move. She dodged to the left. Swinging around she managed to get behind Benjamin. He shifted his stance in a quick turn to face her, his stick held high. She blocked its downward movement. She held her stick in both hands above her head. Using his momentum, she twisted their sticks to one side towards the ground. Then quickly drew hers upward to his neck. Benjamin pulled back. He brought his stick up to counter attack. Owena twisted around him, taking hold of the other end of her stick to clasp it to his neck from behind. He gasped and tried to turn but she pulled tighter making him cry out. Sensing his surrender she stood back, poised to attack again. She drew in several quick deep breathes. Benjamin looked at her wide-eyed and slowly shook his head.

Other News

In other news, I did get some lovely plants for my deck, including a chive plant from a friend, several herbs and a couple of tomato plants. This cheered me up a lot. I can now start to think about the front planters. Alberta has experienced a ‘late’ spring!

Update: As I write this on Sunday 10th May it is SNOWING!!!!! WHY!

plants

I was also treated for Mother’s Day to a lovely self care package. So it will be foot and face masks, a glass of wine and enjoying the aroma of fresh flowers this week.

How was your Mother’s Day? 

care

 

Author Interview – Alison Neuman – Children’s Series – Book Launch

May 10, 2020
mandyevebarnett


Alison Neuman

 

home

 

  1. Please tell us the story behind your new book, Home.

My new book is the bookend of the Friends and Family series about Fluffy the cat and Levi the mouse. This book in the series was more challenging to write than the others because the series was written for my mom, and she passed away two years ago. My mom was my hero, and my best friend. She always provided me with a sense of security and home. As a family, we shared a love of reading, and my mom made sure, whether I was staying in the hospital or at home, that the routine of reading to me before bed was a constant.

As an adult, my mom’s macular degeneration made reading a challenge so I would read out loud to her. Then as her dementia progressed, she found a renewed passion for children’s literature. This series was based on a childhood pet of my mom’s and has a diverse character, which I wish I had to identify with when I was a child. Despite dementia stealing my mom’s words, the smile on her face and her reaching out to grab and hold Don’t Eat Family communicated her love and appreciation.

Mom would’ve wanted me to finish the series despite the fact that during the writing process and now the launch of Home, she would not be here in person. My illustrator, Katherine Restouiex, who also knew my mom, made the human character a cartoon version of her. While writing this last book in the series, memories mom and I shared and the lessons that she taught me were reminders that she will always be with me.

  1. As the third in the series, does it complete the series?

Yes, Home completes the Friends and Family series.

  1. How did you come up with the idea for the series?

My inspiration for this series came from a childhood cat Mom had and the fact that cats and mice don’t usually get along. This series was an exploration into each character’s ability to make their own decisions based on who they want to be and not who they are told to be by society. I wanted my characters to travel through the world with kindness, respect, and a belief in the goodness of people.

  1. Can you tell us about the characters and how you created them?

The character of Fluffy is based on a grey Persian cat that my mom had as a child. The character Levi is based on some of the strong and independent individuals I have met who experience disability. Maybe even a little part of myself is in the character of Levi.

Dont Eat

  1. In Don’t Eat Family what is the message you wanted to convey?

The main messages that I was trying to convey in the book Don’t Eat Family were that, just like Fluffy and her decision to be friends with Levi versus be a mouser as some cats are, you could be who you are and not give in to peer pressure. Also, individuals experiencing a disability may experience challenges but have other abilities and should not be judged by the way they get around in the world.

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  1. In Help from Friends do the characters follow on from the first book?

Yes, the characters in Friends and Family continue along the journey to find their way home, a journey that started in the first book.

  1. Did you start out planning a series, or did the story and characters dictate more stories?

No, I didn’t start outlining a series, but the characters and the story dictated more books because their adventures required more pages than I wanted to squeeze into one book.

  1. Tell us about your writing life – what other books/plays have you written?

I have written the following

Books:

Ice Rose – A young Adult Spy Novel

Searching for Normal: A Memoir

Don’t Eat Family

On Ne Manage Pas La Famille

Help From Friends

Home

Plays:

Searching

The Sunset Syndrome

In Progress:

Book – Hindsight

  1. Do you only write fiction?

No, I also write creative nonfiction.

Alison’s website:

http://www.alisonneuman.ca/?fbclid=IwAR2_bjRPr3grdeLMeyR6Jv1JjZE0bLKB6nq7X0mOralPynATNr43q-M1YGo

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