Featured Author of the Month…S.T. Cameron

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I would like to introduce to you my featured author of the month, S.T. Cameron.  Author of  ”Grimm End“ , which I have reviewed here: “Grimm End“!  Check out my amazing interview with him!

S.T. Cameron is a computer programmer turned writer who currently lives in Moorhead, Minnesota just across the river from Fargo, North Dakota with his wife, Kay. “We are fortunate in that our two daughters, their husbands and our four awesome grandchildren live nearby.”

When not writing, S.T. Cameron often found listening to audiobooks, reading to his grandchildren or “playing with toys meant for three-year-olds.”

 

 
When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?

I’ve written stories, plays and screenplays ever since I can remember but I never had the confidence to try to get them published. In 2006, I found out about National Novel Writing Month and participated in it producing more than 50,000 words of a novel called Grimm End.

Over the next six years, Grimm End changed and expanded. In 2012, I decided that I would finish the book and publish it. From May to October, I published each chapter of the book on my website as I finished it and in December, 2012, Grimm End appeared on Amazon.com.

Tell us a little bit about your first book or the first book in the series.

Grimm End is the story of seventeen-year-old Sara Cross and her family. She is desperately trying to keep her family from drifting away from each other several years after her father disappeared.

Her already crumbling world is turned upside down when a evil creature attacks her family and they are forced to take refuge with her great-grandfather who she thought had died long ago.

They are thrust into a world of shape shifters, magic wielders and the living dead. As her family is threatened and attacked, she and her brothers must find a way to band together to survive.

How did you choose the genre you write in?

I wanted to write a horror story that included many of the classic monsters of the old horror movies like Dracula, the Mummy, Frankenstein, the Wolf Man and Night of the Living Dead.

Although vampires never made it into the book, you’ll find many of the other classic monsters in one form or another in there.

What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write?

There are many parts of the book that I enjoyed writing but the one that stands out to me is the Tarot card reading that occurs early in the book.

I like how the telling of Madame Zella’s vision weaves in with the card reading and leads up to the turning of the last card.

Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?

All of the creatures and events are obviously purely imagination. The story of Sara and the importance of family to her is partially out of personal experience as I grew up in a dysfunctional family.

Family is important to me and so that theme became an important part of this book.

Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?

In my teenage years, the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien spurred my fascination with the fantasy genre. The Foundation trilogy by Isaac Asimov got me interested in science fiction.

More recently, the Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman inspired me to finally finish my first novel and get started on the next one.

Do you ever experience writers block?

Whenever I find that I have trouble writing a chapter or scene, it’s usually not because I am blocked. It’s usually because that chapter or scene has a problem that prevents it from working as envisioned. Once I identify that problem and fix it, the writing continues on without a problem.

Is there an author that you would really like to meet?

There are three that I’d like to meet; Neil Gaiman who wrote the Graveyard Book and has an awesome storytelling style; John Scalzi who wrote the science fiction series Old Man’s War and can wrap up a story inside a series of puzzles; and Stephen King who wrote so many awesome stories and just knows so much about writing.

Will you have a new book coming out soon? If so, can you tell us about it?

I recently released the second book in my middle-grade adventure series, Young Explorers and the Phantom Express. It follows CJ Kask, an eleven-year-old boy (who also appears as a 100+ year-old man in Grimm End) and his friends as they investigate why a train that crashed 30 years earlier keeps returning to haunt a small town.

Next up for me is the second book in the Grimm End series, Grimm End: the Curse of the Werebear. It will continue the story started in Grimm End with a focus on Daniel as he is accused of the murders of several people around Shadow Bluffs while he is changed into bear form.

If you could go back and do it all over again, is there any aspect of your first novel or getting it published that you would change?

I enjoyed writing Grimm End and while there is always some tweaking that could be done with any book, I don’t think I would change anything with the story.

The one thing that I would change is that I would have had more confidence in my writing and finished the book back in 2006 and not waited until 2012 to publish it.

Do you have any advise to give to aspiring writers?

The advice that I have for aspiring writers can be found many places on the Internet because it is absolutely true.

You should write as much as possible, finish what you write and get it out to readers. Then, start over on your next project.

By not doing this, Grimm End sat on my computer for 6 years. By doing this, I’ve written three novels in a year.

Is there anything you would like to say to your readers and fans?

Thank you. I appreciate each and every one of my readers and enjoy hearing your reactions to my books. I hope you keep reading and telling others about them.

 

-Once again thank you S.T. Cameron for the wonderful chance to get to know you and don’t forget to check out his books!!!!

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Featured Author of the Month…Rachael Hanel

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I would like to introduce to you my featured author of the month, Rachael Hanel.  Author of  “We’ll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down” , which I have reviewed here: “We’ll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down“!  Check out my amazing interview with her!

Rachael is a lifelong Minnesotan—she lives 25 miles from where she grew up. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and history, and a master’s degree in history. She has worked several jobs over the years—newspaper reporter and copy editor, freelance writer, adjunct professor (of English, history, humanities, and journalism) and university curriculum manager. She now teach mass media at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

 

Sierra: When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?

 

Rachael: I wrote the first piece that appears in the book in 2000. I had a first draft by 2005. Then it took several revisions to get it into the form you see today. I did the last revisions in 2012 after it was accepted for publication by the University of Minnesota Press.

 

Sierra: Tell us a little bit about your first book or the first book in the series.

 

Rachael: My book, We’ll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down: Memoir of a Gravedigger’s Daughter, draws upon my experiences growing up with a dad who worked as a gravedigger. My dad and mom also mowed and maintained cemeteries, so I spent a great deal of time in graveyards. This upbringing helped to shape my perspective on mortality and death, and the book explores the stories of tragedies and accidents that echoed out of our cemeteries. I also write about the losses my grandparents endured. Toward the end of my book, I write about my father’s unexpected death when I was 15 years old. Only then did I realize that while I knew a lot about death and how people died, I knew very little about grief.

 

Sierra: How did you choose the genre you write in?

 

Rachael: The genre chose me! From a very young age I wanted to be a journalist, so I’ve always written in the nonfiction genre. Making up stories never appealed to me. I was always more fascinated by people’s real lives.

 

Sierra: What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write?

 

Rachael: Because of my journalism background, I was much more comfortable and more enjoyed writing the stories of others. My book is filled with stories of particular gravestones and also the stories of my grandparents. I’m not as comfortable writing about myself, so chapters that are closely focused on me and my immediate family were more difficult to write.

 

 

Sierra: Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?

 

Rachael: It’s all real! But you have to remember that memoir is one person’s version of the truth. We all see life in different ways. My book represents the way that I viewed my childhood and adolescence. I never made up anything or chose to represent something as happening differently just for story’s sake.

 

 

Sierra: Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?

 

Rachael: As a child, my favorite book was Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson. I even write about this book in my own book. Even though it’s a work of fiction, the story of a young boy experiencing the death of a close friend felt very real to me. Now as an adult who is a writer fan of true stories, my favorite book is Fun Home by Alison Bechdel. I read a lot of memoir and I find Fun Home to be the most perfectly structured memoir I’ve ever read. The book was a great help to me as I was organizing my own memoir.

 

Sierra: Do you ever experience writers block?

 

Rachael: My biggest challenge is not necessarily staring at a blank screen, but finding the time to write in the first place. Once I sit down at my computer the words generally flow. I attribute this to my journalism career; in journalism, you can’t use writer’s block as an excuse! You have to write something, anything, to meet deadline! But sometimes I feel like I have to be in just the “right mood” to write, and that’s a big mistake because if you wait for the right mood, it will never come! I need to get better about sitting down to write whether I feel like it or not.

 

Sierra: Is there an author that you would really like to meet?

 

Rachael: I’m pretty good about meeting authors that I want to meet! I try to make that happen as often as possible by going to readings. But meeting the real “celebrity” authors is a challenge I would like to tackle! Someone like Stephen King comes to mind, or Chuck Klosterman.

 

Sierra: Will you have a new book coming out soon? If so, can you tell us about it?

 

Rachael: I do not have any new books planned for any time soon. I am still writing, mostly essays, so we’ll see if something comes of that!

 

Sierra: If you could go back and do it all over again, is there any aspect of your first novel or getting it published that you would change?

 

Rachael: I’m actually so pleased the way that everything turned out. While I was working on the book, I wished that the process would move along more quickly. But in hindsight, everything worked out for a reason. I revised so many times to make the book as good as it could get. With memoir especially, it takes time. I was constantly growing and reflecting and learning as I was writing about myself. The book, had it been published three or five years ago, would be much, much different (and I think not as good) as the version you see now.

 

Sierra: Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

 

Rachael: Stick with it! If you feel like you have a story that needs to get out, it will find its way out into the world. There were times when I wanted to give up, but the story wouldn’t let me. I knew I had something to say, and I needed to stick with it to see it to fruition. Really listen to your gut and instinct and let that guide you.

 

Sierra: Is there anything you would like to say to your readers and fans?

 

Rachael: I so appreciate hearing from people! The best gift you can give an author is telling people about a book if you like it. This can occur through word-of-mouth, but it also can occur by posting a short review (or even a simple rating) on Goodreads, Amazon, or any site that accepts reviews. I try to do this in practice myself.

 

Thank you so much!!

hanel

Featured Author of the Month…Paul Richardson

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I would like to introduce to you my featured author of the month, Paul Richardson.  Author of  “The Wrong Door” , which I have reviewed here: “The Wrong Door“!   Paul is a writer, editor and publisher. He grew up in California, went to school in the Midwest, worked in Russia for a few years, and now lives in Vermont with his wife. He runs a niche publishing business that puts out a bimonthly magazine on Russia, a literary quarterly of Russian fiction and non-fiction, and translates and publishes Russian authors in English. He likes to run, cook, read, watch movies and spend time with family, not necessarily in that order. Check out my interview with him!  Thank you again Paul for sharing your wonderful story with me!

 

Sierra: When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?

Paul: I have been writing non-fiction since I was in high school, journalism mainly, and decided about ten years ago to write a novel as a challenge to myself and as an eventual Christmas present for my children, who were then 11.

 

Sierra: Tell us a little bit about your first book or the first book in the series.

Paul: The Wrong Door is an adventure fantasy aimed at young adults. So it has lots of unusual adventures, though sadly no dragons or vampires. Mostly it’s about a pair of young kids who walk through the wrong door and as a result are swept up in an adventure in a parallel universe – one they are uniquely qualified to save, even though they are just a couple of kids.

 

Sierra: How did you choose the genre you write in?

Paul: It was the fact that my children – my intended audience – were caught up in fantasy fiction at the time. It seemed a way to connect with them and what they were interested in.

 

Sierra: What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write?

Paul: Starting out is always the most fun. So I like the first chapter of both of the Wrong books best, because you are setting the stage, the characters are flummoxed, and you’re really not sure where this is going to go, but it is definitely going someplace strange.

 

Sierra: Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?

Paul: Purely imagination. But certainly the way the second book (The Wrong Time) ends up in Russia is a reflection of personal experience or interest. I’ve been studying and writing about Russia for nearly 30 years… And my adult novel, Russian Rules, definitely draws on personal experience. All three books also certainly share a theme of exploring how accidents force otherwise un-remarkable people to do remarkable things. But of course there’s nothing original in that. It’s a storytelling theme as old as humankind.

 

Sierra: Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?

Paul: Cat’s Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut. I just love and embrace his quixotic view of the universe, of the absurdity of the human condition.

 

Sierra: Do you ever experience writers block?

Paul: Mostly I experience an inability to block out time to write. Occasionally, especially when writing the first book in the Wrong series, I would find that I had written the characters into a corner, and it took me some time to figure out how to write them out of it. Kind of like Harold and his purple crayon. Running helped. I would go for a long run and it would help me focus and think sideways about things (it also, actually, led to a book on running – Running is Flying – that Rodale published in 2012, so that was an unexpected bonus).

 

Sierra: Is there an author that you would really like to meet?

Paul: I think Neal Stephenson would be a really interesting person. He has an amazing breadth of knowledge. Alan Furst too.

 

Sierra: Will you have a new book coming out soon? If so, can you tell us about it?

Paul: Not soon. My next book is rather challenging and is taking some time to crack. It takes place mainly in Russia past and present and deals with espionage, donning other cultural skins, and altering the course of history. I wish I had more time to spend on it, but putting out magazines and publishing the books of Russian authors keeps me pretty busy…

 

Sierra: If you could go back and do it all over again, is there any aspect of your first novel or getting it published that you would change?

Paul: Not really.

 

Sierra: Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

Paul: I really don’t feel I am in any position to give advice as a write. But as an editor I will say that too few people understand the importance of good punctuation.

 

Sierra: Is there anything you would like to say to your readers and fans?

Paul: Kids, call home…

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We’ll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down: A Memoir of a Gravedigger’s Daughter By Rachael Hanel

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Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

 

I would like to thank the author, Rachael Hanel for sending me her book.  Keep an eye out as she will be a featured author of the month!

This book had my life written all over it.  My parents own a monument company and growing up, I spent a lot of time in cemeteries since I was too young to stay at home.  Rachael’s story is a bit different from mine though.  Her dad actually dug the graves where as my dad places the memorial in the cemeteries.  Needless to say, I felt well connected to this book.  You don’t meet a lot of people who can share the “I grew up running around cemeteries playing” story.  Like her, I would pose for pictures in the cemetery, maybe even on an interesting monument, just for fun.  Even when my parents would take me camping, where would we pull over to have lunch?  A cemetery.  In her book Rachael tells about her life and how her dad, being a gravedigger, affects their lives and others.  As a result, Rachael grew up surrounded by death; playing in cemeteries and attending wakes in her small Minnesota town of Waseca. She thought she knew what death was and knew there was nothing to be afraid of. But personal tragedy leads her to realize that death and grief are not the same things at all. This book is her personal journey to understanding death and grief through the stories of the residents of Waseca, both living and dead, and her own family’s journey through grief.

For those of you who do not live strange lives like Rachael and I,  you must check out this book.  There is something for everyone to take away from her story and will leave you to pondering.  A very enjoyable ‘real-life’ read!!