My Ten-Acre Wilderness: A Misfit Girl’s Quest for Home by Jodi L. Auborn + Author Interview

 

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Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

I would first like to thank the author for sharing her story with me and taking the time for an interview as well!  Author Jodi Auborn opens up a piece of her life to us in her book “My Ten-Acre Wilderness”.  A piece of her life that shaped her into who she is today, put into words with a few photographs along the way.

In her book, Jodi claims that she knew she was an unusual child, one who had dreams of owning a horse to call her own and living out in the wilderness.  This is what drew me to her story.  I think many children growing up had the same hopes and dreams, Jodi on the other hand got to live some of them.

When she is around ten years old, Jodi’s parents build their very own log cabin in the Adirondack forest.  Her story follows as she explores her new home and the trails around it.  She shares with us her experiences with many pets, which I loved as I love animals as well!  As well as a few hardships she faced along the way.

Her story made me look back at my memories from my childhood and reflect on them.  Camping trips, being outdoors, vacations….only she puts her memories into words to share with readers.  The book isn’t long, which makes it a nice read and her way of writing is fantastic!  You get a glimpse into her childhood as well a reflect upon on your own past and what has shaped us to become who we are today.

Jodi also has published a children’s chapter book as well called “Matthais: The Ghost of Salvation Point” among a few others, find out more on her website: http://www.jodilauborn.webs.com

Available on Amazon – My Ten-Acre Wilderness: A Misfit Girl’s Quest for Home by Jodi L. Auborn

author-interview

Sierra:  Tell us a little about yourself?

Jodi: Well, I’m single, and live in a small town in eastern upstate New York, settled in a valley between the Adirondack Mountains and Lake Champlain. In the summers I work at a New York State campground, and at an apple-packing house during the winter. I love all types of pets, but currently just have a yellow tomcat and a white Appaloosa horse. Horses have been a big part of my life since my dad bought me my first one at age twelve.

I’ve played the guitar for years (not great, but I try), and also took up the ukulele a few years ago. My other hobbies include drawing and making crafts, cross-stitch sewing, designing houses, flower gardening, photography, and reading. Living and growing up in the Adirondack region has also given me a love for camping and hiking, canoeing and sailing. In fact, I work at the same campground where my parents had taken me for several childhood vacations.

 

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

Jodi: I was already writing (or at least making up) stories and poems by the time I was in elementary school. As I young child, I shocked my mother when I drew gory illustrations of a war that I imagined between noble unicorns and evil dragons. In third grade, a Christmas creative writing assignment prompted me to write a preachy short story called “The Little Tree Learns About Jesus,” in which a sad and rejected Christmas tree learns about the birth of Jesus, which makes him happy. (My mom thought it was wonderful and has kept it to this day, but rereading that story makes me cringe. However, the teacher liked it so much that she read it out loud to the class…in a public school, no less.) A few years later, I started writing a story about a boy who ran away with his horse and stowaway little brother, and always made up dramas that I acted out with my My Little Ponies.

I started writing my first book, “Stormwind of the North Country,” when I was ten years old. I got the idea from a strange dream I had one night. I recorded the dream into a notebook, but soon it inspired a long story that became the first draft of a book! I continued to write it, off and on, for over twenty years, and went through seven or eight drafts. I was in my early thirties when it was published in 2009. And the vision that I saw in the dream remains in Chapter Three, “Tragedy and Hope.”

 

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

Jodi: “Stormwind of the North Country” begins as a horse story in which a teenage girl, Kat, struggles to rescue Stormwind, her favorite horse at her neighbor’s stable. Stormwind and the other horses are being abused and neglected by their cruel owner, and when Kat hears that Stormwind is getting shipped to the slaughterhouse, she knows that she must act fast!

Meanwhile, her widowed father invites his long-distance girlfriend to spend the summer at their farmhouse in the Adirondack Mountains. Kat and her younger brother discover that the conniving woman secretly schemes to steal their valuable property so her family’s land-development company can build condos on it. When their father doesn’t believe them, Kat decides to run away into the wilderness with Stormwind and her dog. There, she befriends a fellow runaway, and their lives become intertwined in a way that brings all the aspects of the story together.

Over the years, it grew from a simple horse story for little girls to a tale of outdoor adventure and survival, friendship and love, and the importance of being true to yourself and your beliefs. It contains violence and themes of child- and animal abuse, but finally comes to a happy and hopeful ending.

 

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

Jodi: My books are Middle-Grade and the “younger” end of Young Adult. It just seems to me like an interesting time in everyone’s life when you’re old enough to do things on your own, but still free to do “kid” stuff. My story ideas just naturally grow out of my own experiences, dreams, and wishes. “Adult” issues really don’t interest me. I’m like a ten-year-old kid at heart. ☺

 

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

Jodi: In “My Ten-Acre Wilderness,” my favorite chapter was “Sally,” when my childhood wish for a horse came true. The summer that I described in that chapter seemed like such a magical time. It was a turning point in my life, and in the book.

In “Stormwind of the North Country,” I’ve always liked the last chapter, “An Eventful Picnic,” when the main character, Kat’s, friend is attacked by one of the villains and Kat must ride for help on her horse. The chapter also introduces Jake, who became such a favorite character of mine that I made him the hero of the sequel!

 

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

Jodi: Everything in my memoir, “My Ten-Acre Wilderness,” really happened to me, but my three novels are purely imagination. However, the settings in “Stormwind of the North Country” and its sequel are based on real places that I knew and loved. Some parts of my life also made it into the story, such as my childhood and teenage adventures in the woods.

 

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

Jodi: Growing up: any and all horse books! Although, the horse vs. truck accident scene in “The Horse Whisperer” still creeps me out, since I’ve always ridden my horse(s) along the road.

As an adult: “Heaven,” by Randy Alcorn. It’s a fascinating look at what the Bible says about the afterlife and eternity. It made me unafraid of death and excited about the future!

 

Sierra: Do you ever experience writers block?

Jodi: All the time. My imagination is always working, thinking up the most exciting plots and conversations, but unfortunately, it’s during the times when I can’t write them down. Then when I sit down to write, everything goes blank.

 

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

Jodi: I would have liked to have met Anne LaBastille, who had written several memoirs about her life in a remote cabin that she had built with her friends on an Adirondack lake. She seemed like she would have been an interesting person to talk to. Unfortunately, she died several years ago.

 

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

Jodi:  At this time (2019), I’m working on rewriting and republishing “Stormwind” and its sequel, “Secrets of the North Country.” After that, I’m planning a dystopian novel about an orphaned brother and sister who are searching for their long-lost older sister, while on the run from the government that murdered their parents. They are taken in by a band of “rebels:” un-brainwashed people who were banished by the government. The rebels lead a hard and primitive (but free) life outside the official “communities” to which most people are confined. But the siblings’ pursuers want them dead…and they don’t know who they can trust.

 

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?

Jodi: After years of submitting “Stormwind” to publishers and agents with no success, I was thrilled when it was finally accepted by (the now defunct) Publish America. I didn’t know about their bad reputation at the time. However, I never had any problems with them, except for the fact that they priced the books outrageously high. I’m grateful that they published my first three books, which gave me a local fan base and moderate success selling at book and craft fairs, but if I had known more about self-publishing, I wouldn’t have gone with them.

I had heard of CreateSpace, but mistakenly believed that they charged thousands of dollars to print books. After I learned that there was a big difference between “vanity” and Indie publishing, I decided to go for it with my fourth book, “Matthias: The Ghost of Salvation Point.” I’m glad that I did, since Publish America went out of business shortly after. It turned out to be a good thing, though, since it gave me the opportunity to revise and improve each book and charge a reasonable amount for them. That’s why I’m rewriting my first two novels, and plan to print them (and any future books) through CreateSpace/Amazon KDP. (Although I wouldn’t turn down a contract from a legitimate, big-time publisher! ☺)

 

 

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

Jodi: Never give up on what you really want to do! Write what you’re passionate about, even if it’s not what’s popular at the time. Never lose faith in yourself and your book. Research publishers and agents to make sure they’re reputable. And whether you decide to self-publish or try to get accepted by a traditional publisher, always PROOFREAD, PROOFREAD, PROOFREAD before you send out your work!

 

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

Jodi: Thank you to everyone who has read and/or bought my books! I hope you enjoyed the stories. For more information about me and my books, you can visit my website at http://www.jodilauborn.webs.com.

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A Hundred Fires in Cuba by John Thorndike + Interview

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Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

I would first like to thank the author, John Thorndike for the opportunity to review his book A Hundred Fires in Cuba!

John takes us to Cuba in the 1950’s into the mind of Claire, a photojournalist who finds herself in a love triangle between a Cuban business man and the father of her child, Camilo Cienfuegos, who also happens to be one of Castro’s head commanders.  Claire met Camilo while he was in New York working as a cook and fell instantly in love.  Not long after, Camilo is deported back to Cuba and Claire never hears from him again.  Her fear is that he has died in Fidel’s invasion of the island.  Claire also discovers she is pregnant with the child of a man she thinks she will never see again.

Claire marries a wealthy Cuban businessman and moves to Havana with her two-year-old daughter, only to discover that her first love is not only still alive, he’s now head of the Cuban Army.  She cannot believe it.  Soon Claire finds herself right in the middle of the chaos and danger, in hopes of finding him.  As the story unfolds, you will find that love never dies, even in the darkest of times.   It was interesting to read about a side of history that I may not typically be familiar with, and John Thorndike’s account of Clare and Camilo is all too real and heartbreaking at times.

This story has just enough depth to it, that I almost had to read it in one sitting but unfortunately sleep got the best of me.  It has a pinch of romance but not like what you find in other stories.  It’s a well rounded, interesting and enjoyable read.

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John Thorndike

Tell us a little about yourself?

John: My first real job, after the Peace Corps, was farming. I started out raising chickens on a backcountry farm in Chile, then moved to Athens, Ohio and grew vegetables, which I sold at the local supermarket and farmers’ market. My house still sits beside a field that once held 2500 tomato plants, along with peppers, squash and a dozen other crops. I loved farming, but the profit was slim. Today, the organic vegetables I grew would bring a better price, but in the late seventies I actually took down my Organic Produce sign, because it made people suspicious. Full of bugs, some of them thought. Eventually I left farming behind and started building houses. I still own several of these, and rent them out.

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

John:  I always wrote. I started in high school and wrote in college. (A few years ago I stumbled across a couple of my early short stories: rather embarrassing.) I wrote during the winters when I had a break from my crops, and found more free time as my son grew up: I was a single father from the time he was three. When he turned thirteen we moved to Colorado, and I stayed out West for a dozen years, first in Boulder, then in Santa Fe, NM. In those years I wrote full-time.

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

John: My first novel, Anna Delaney’s Child, is a book about loss. My mother died early, at 57, and year after year I missed her. Then, a woman I was in love with left me, and those two miseries drove me to start a book about the worst loss I could imagine, the death of one’s child. It’s something that all parents fear, I’m sure. I made the boy in the novel nine, the same age my son was when I started making notes for the book. After a while, of course, the story went off on its own path, quite independent of my mother, my lover or my son. This is what books do, and one reason we write them.

How did you choose the genre you write in?

John: I don’t think I have a genre. I’ve published two memoirs and three novels, and the most recent of these, A Hundred Fires in Cuba, is historical fiction. “Literary fiction” might be my category—but are books in any genre non-literary? That sounds insulting, and I resist such labels. Like most authors, I write the story I want to tell, as well as I can. It’s true that I don’t toss off a book. Each one takes years, mainly because I keep rewriting until I can read every paragraph, every sentence without a hitch. Perhaps that’s my genre: Books Endlessly Revised.

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

John: For my current book, the opening. But as often happens, that kept changing. The beginning was first set in the kitchen of the Waldorf Astoria, where Clare and Camilo meet. Though my first impulse with a manuscript is to follow a strict chronology, I don’t stay with that long. I want to come in at a moment when the tension rises, and I was drawn to the day that Clare—now married to someone else, because she believes that Camilo has died—sits alone in her husband’s car outside Havana, listening to a broadcast from Fidel Castro’s rebel station. That’s when she learns that Camilo, her first love and the father of her child, is not only still alive, he’s one of Fidel’s top comandantes. From that moment, her life must change.

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

John: The division between these two seems thin to me. After all, isn’t our imagination founded on what we’ve experienced? Novels are a stew of things we’ve known and things we’ve made up. Memoirs are the same, because our memory is never exact. When I quote a conversation from thirty years ago I do my best, but I doubt that I’m recalling the words precisely. There are memoirs—I’m thinking of Mary Karr—seen from the eyes of a five-year-old, and surely that leads to a mix of fact and fiction. We try to evoke the essence of a scene, of a character, but the line between real life and imagination seems increasingly blurred to me.

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

John: Justine, by Lawrence Durrell. My mother gave me a Faber & Faber paperback of the book—the first volume of Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet—when I was nineteen, complete with her penciled notes in the margin. It was a way of confiding in me, of letting me see something of her passionate nature—which in her life with my father was pretty much kept under a cloak. The heart of Justine is an affair, set in Egypt in the nineteen thirties and forties. I read the book, and the others in the quartet, eight or nine times. I read it again last year. I think my mother wanted to show me that there’s a world beneath the daily one we live in, a world of emotion and obsession, of strange dreamers, misfits and powerful women, of people for whom sex and love are more vital than anything else.

Do you ever experience writers block?

John: Not for long. On the other hand, I have to overcome a kind of block every time I sit down to write. How hard it can be to get started in the morning—or afternoon, or at night, whenever I begin. It helps if I write every day. If I take Sunday off, it’s harder on Monday. If I take a month or two off, it can take me days to get the flywheel turning again. Then I’m fine. Almost always, I begin by reading what I wrote the day before, or the week before. Or I turn back to the beginning. I’ll go over the start of a book fifty times before I’m done. If I’m stumped, if I don’t know what comes next, I go back to the first paragraph, and slowly the flywheel starts to move. Those first few revolutions are the most difficult, but then I start to cruise. Soon the words are pouring out as I shotgun whole paragraphs, coming up with material I’ll be correcting later, over and over. I no longer fight any of this, it’s just my way.

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

John: Yes, but he died three years ago. James Salter’s Light Years is the book of books for me. I’ve kept a copy between my mattress and headboard for twenty years. That’s another way I get the flywheel turning: I pick up Salter’s book, sometimes at random, and read a page or a chapter. As Richard Ford says, “Sentence for sentence, Salter is the master.” Light Years is written with a nostalgia that steadily grips me. “Her life was like a single, well-spent hour…. The days were cut from a quarry that would never be emptied.” Of course they will be emptied, and people will die—but not as long as I reread the book. I did try to meet Salter. My editor wrote his wife, and a friend of my father’s was close to him, but no go. He lived part of the year on Long Island, and died in Sag Harbor at 90, in the gym, working out. My mother owned a house in Sag Harbor—bought in 1961 for $8,000!—and it’s there my next book will be set. Meanwhile, I read Light Years the way I eat and drink and breathe: endlessly.

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

John: The new one, A Hundred Fires in Cuba, is out now. Here’s the description from the back cover: “In the spring of 1956, a young American photographer falls in love with a Cuban line cook at New York’s Waldorf Astoria. They have a ten-week affair which ends when Immigration arrests and deports him, and by then Clare Miller is pregnant. Few Americans know the name Camilo Cienfuegos. All Cubans do. In real life he was the most charismatic of Fidel Castro’s commanders—until his small plane vanished only months after Fidel came to power. In A Hundred Fires in Cuba, Clare must choose between the stable Cuban businessman she has married and her first love, Camilo. Though a true revolutionary, Camilo likes to dance and drink. He likes women, and too many women like him. His courage is legendary, but when he comes to visit Clare he’s afraid of his own daughter and her moods. Clare worries that he’ll never make a good parent, but she cannot resist him.”

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?

John: Hey, I got it published! People liked it, I started going to writers’ colonies, gave up most of my magazine articles, buckled down to the next one. No, that all worked out fine.

Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

John: Only, I’m afraid, the same clichés you’ve read many times. But here’s the one I try to follow myself: Write the book you want to, the one that’s closest to your heart. Follow your true focus. Shakespeare’s Polonius gave us the greatest clichéd advice of all, because it’s the most vital: to thine own self be true.

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

John: Aren’t books great? Don’t we love to read? We have ebooks now, and audibles, but they’re still books. My father read endlessly, my mother as well, my brother, my son—and now my grandchildren, who both love to climb into a book. Sure, they play some video games, but they’re fully engaged with books. Everyone in my family has always had it: a simple taste for reading.

Author Interview… Jonathan Janz, author of “Wolf Land” + Giveaway

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“One of the best writers in modern horror to come along in the last decade. Janz is one of my new favorites.” –Brian Keene, best-selling author

 

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Thank you so much for hosting me today! I’m a husband, dad, teacher, and writer. My wife and three kids are extraordinary, and I love both of my professions. That might be a dull answer, but it’s the truth.

 

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

 

I took my first crack at writing after I got into a near-fatal car crash during my senior year in high school. The book was horrid. I took my second shot at it when I was twenty-six. That book was less awful, but it still wasn’t good. About seven years ago, I got serious about writing, and though I finished the book (it was called STARLIGHT), no one wanted to publish it. That’s because even though it was better than anything I’d written at that point, it still wasn’t good. So I rewrote it seven more times. In the mean time, I wrote another book called THE SORROWS, which sold in 2011. Then, the one first one sold, as well, this time under the name HOUSE OF SKIN. Since then, things have been growing steadily.

 

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

 

THE SORROWS was a Gothic horror novel that showed both the influence of Peter Straub and Richard Laymon. Though that’s a strange combination, I think it worked really well for the book. The novel is about a pair of horror movie music composers who travel to a haunted island in the Pacific to find inspiration for the horror film they’re scoring. Readers seemed to dig it at any rate, so I wrote a sequel called CASTLE OF SORROWS of which I’m also very proud.

I also have another pseudo-series called SAVAGE SPECIES. That book is one of my most popular ones; it’s a brutal survival thriller along the lines of the film THE DESCENT. Since people enjoyed it so much, I wrote a prequel of sorts called CHILDREN OF THE DARK that’ll be published in early 2016 by Sinister Grin Press.

 

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

 

This will undoubtedly sound cheesy, but I’d say that horror chose me. I grew up between an old graveyard and a deep, dark woods, and I spent my childhood terrified of the spirits and monsters that I was convinced resided in those shadowy realms. I write in other genres, but horror will always be my favorite.

 

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

 

In my most recent novel WOLF LAND, I loved writing the werewolf transformation scenes because they were uniquely compatible with my “approach.” Essentially, I love to subside into the background and allow my characters to seize control of the story, which means the books kind of write themselves. What more natural a scene to write then, than a transformation scene in which an irresistible impulse grabs hold of a character and changes him/her into something else? As liberating as most of my writing feels, those transformation scenes flowed so rapidly out of my fingertips that I could scarcely keep up with the words. There’s one scene in particular in the bathroom of a drive-in movie theatre that exploded onto the keyboard as violently as the blood exploded onto the cinderblock walls of the bathroom. WOLF LAND was a total blast to write.

 

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

 

Tons of both. I forget who said this, but someone once called a writer “a person on whom nothing is lost.” I like to think I’m that way, watching the world closely, storing away details, and then allowing them to gush forth onto the page. At the same time, there are things I write that have no connection to anything I’ve ever done, seen, or heard. So yeah…both.

 

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

 

Stephen King’s THE TOMMYKNOCKERS made of me a reader and a writer back when I was an adolescent, so that one will always have a special place in my heart. A recent book that influenced me was Gillian Flynn’s DARK PLACES. I loved how bold she was and how willing she was to follow her characters into their most depraved thoughts and behaviors. She has a great deal of guts, and I deeply admire that.

 

Sierra: Do you ever experience writers block?

 

Not yet, though I’ve heard enough about it to know how real it is for some writers. Personally, my only problem is having so many ideas and so little time to write them that I get frustrated at having to place wonderful projects on the backburner.

 

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

 

Stephen King. I would kill to meet Stephen King. Okay, maybe not kill, but I’d at least maim. I’ve met many of my writing heroes, but King is the one who showed me the way and is the single most important influence on my writing life. He can have no idea how much influence he’s had on the world, nor could I ever repay the debt I owe him. But I’d still love to meet him.

 

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

 

I have three coming out in 2016 (and maybe more). The first will be CHILDREN OF THE DARK in March. I’m really jazzed about that one because it’s my first “coming of age” book, and one that I think blends tenderness and savagery really interestingly. The second is EXORCIST FALLS, which is a novel-length sequel to an extremely successful novella called EXORCIST ROAD. The third will be an updated, improved version of a novella called WITCHING HOUR THEATRE, which was the first thing I ever got published.

 

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?

 

Not really, because I’m thankful for the way it has all happened. If I did go back and change anything it would be spending less time on query letters and worrying about breaking arbitrary writing rules, and spending more time on studying books the way I do now. Reading and examining a story by one of my favorite writers teaches me far more than any other method I’ve tried.

 

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

 

Yes. While talent matters, and while there are a great many factors involved in writing, nothing is as important as persistence. I met F. Paul Wilson this summer, and one thing he said really resonated with me. He had a great quote about it, but rather than butchering it, I’ll just paraphrase him: “Everybody wants to succeed, but most writers don’t have the discipline to actually do it and stick to it.” I think that’s the biggest divider; there are tens of thousands—maybe even millions—of people with the talent to write. But the vast majority of those will never succeed because they simply don’t have the discipline, the humility, and the stomach to do it. If I could give any advice, I’d say to disabuse yourself of the notion that you’re owed anything by editors, agents, or readers and that you have to work your tail off consistently for a long time to earn your success. That might not be sexy advice, but I believe it’s true, and knowing that, you can buckle down and do the work. For me, it’s a reassuring thought because I love working for what I get. It makes success that much more rewarding.

 

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

 

Jonathan: I am truly grateful for your support, and it means the world to me that you take the time to read my books. I work tirelessly to craft the best stories I can, but that effort wouldn’t matter without readers. So thank you. I deeply appreciate you!

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Purchase Links

Amazon

http://www.amazon.com/Wolf-Land-Jonathan-Janz/dp/1619231166

Barnes & Noble

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/wolf-land-jonathan-janz/1122266491

Samhain

https://www.samhainpublishing.com/book/5624/wolf-land

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Giveaway!!!

Enter to win ONE (1) print copy signed by Jonathan Janz of WOLF LAND! Click the link to enter. There are several things you can do to get multiple entries each day. Forward any questions to Erin Al-Mehairi, publicist, at hookofabook@hotmail.com.

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/share-code/MjMxYWEzMGI1ZDE2MGYyYTgzYjk4NzVhYzhmMTdmOjI2/?

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Click on the book to see my review!

Author Interview…Brian Kirk, author of “We Are Monsters” + Giveaway

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Well, aside from writing fiction, I’m a father of five-year-old identical twin boys: the rarest form of human offspring (a very technical term for kids). Only fraternal twins are hereditary; identical twins are a random anomaly. So it came as quite a surprise. In fact, the first thing I did when I found out was Google search the phrase, “The best thing about having twins.” I needed a pep talk.

Actually, it turns out I didn’t. We were blessed with wonderful boys. Raising them has been a special privilege.

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author-interview

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

 

Reading and writing have been the two things I’ve enjoyed above all else for as long as I can remember. In fact, I’d say that learning how to read is one of my favorite memories. I’ll never forget begging my teacher to let me take my lesson book home to show my parents what I had learned. What I had unlocked. Because that’s how it felt, as though I had broken some kind of seal. One that allowed me access to all the stories in the world.

 

And I realized I had somewhat of a talent for telling stories early on, as students started looking forward to hearing my stories read aloud in class. My English teachers all encouraged my writing, and I won a poetry contest in 5th grade from a homework assignment that my teacher submitted on my behalf.

I took a brief detour after college when I set out to start my “big career” in advertising. But the urge to tell stories never left, and I soon returned to writing in the evenings and weekends, or whenever the bosses weren’t around. At some point I started submitting my work for publication and, after accruing a massive stack of rejections, finally sold one. Then another. After a while I decided to quit my full time job at the ad agency to work freelance and write a book. That’s how We Are Monsters came about.

 

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

 

We Are Monsters is a story about a brilliant, yet troubled psychiatrist named Alex Drexler who is working to create a cure for schizophrenia. At first, the drug he creates shows great promise in alleviating his patient’s symptoms. It appears to return schizophrenics to their former selves. But (as one may expect) something goes wrong. Unforeseen side effects begin to emerge, forcing prior traumas to the surface, setting inner demons free. His medicine may help heal the schizophrenic mind, but it also expands it, and the monsters it releases could be more dangerous than the disease.

 

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

 

I’d say it chose me. Since as early as I can remember, my imagination has always veered into dark places. Which is strange, as I’m generally a cheerful and optimistic person. In fact, most authors of dark fiction are. Conversely, many comedians tend to be somber and depressive. There seems to be some counterbalancing agent at play. Maybe we’re so cheerful because we exorcise our demons, and comedians are depressive because they export all their joy.

 

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

 

My favorite part was writing, “The End.” I’m not sure anything beats that feeling. My favorite chapter was probably the first chapter, which I actually wrote last. This was my first novel-length work of fiction, and I was intimidated by the scope of the project heading into chapter one. Despite having already written and published several short stories, I found that I had inflated the importance of writing a book so much that it suddenly seemed insurmountable. I had made it a seminal moment in my life, setting the nonexistent stakes unreasonably high. And so I started out tentatively, on shaky knees that were threatening to buckle under the weight of such a heavy load.

Rather than give in to this early desperation, however, I just kept going. I was struggling with the first chapter, so I skipped it, and started writing the second one. This one began to flow better. My word count increased, and I fell into a rhythm as the story started to take form. By the time I finished the first draft, I had a clear idea of the story I was trying to write and was able to return to the beginning and write the first chapter with the confidence that eluded me when I started out.

 

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

 

We Are Monsters takes a close look at the world of mental illness. This is not only a subject I find fascinating, it’s an issue I personally face, having dealt with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) my whole life, a condition that, for me, produces chronic anxiety, physical tics, negative thought loops, and bouts of depression.

While I conducted a great deal of research to understand the mindset of someone suffering from a psychotic disorder, such as schizophrenia, I was able to pull from my personal experience in dealing with panic attacks and so forth when describing what certain characters were going through.

Nice to turn those delirious nights where you irrationally think you’re going to die into something positive!

 

 

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

 

While I read broadly, and have been inspired by a spectrum of authors, the biggest influence has been Stephen King, who I was fortunate to meet a few years ago. I literally ran into him at the entrance of a hotel in Atlanta. I was so stunned that, without thinking, I reached out, took his hand and said, “Mr. King.” Equally stunned, he shook it. If I were thinking clearly I would have left it at that. But I wasn’t, so I started to blab, “I’m an aspiring horror writer who has published a few short stories and just started writing my first novel. I owe all my inspiration to you.” More gratuitous praise followed, I’m sure.

He received the praise graciously, untangled himself from my grasp, and started to stroll away before a crowd could form (it was just the two of us). Then he stopped and turned. “Hey,” he said, catching my eye. “Good luck with your work.”

Not story, not book. But work. That was a fine moment.

 

Sierra: Do you ever experience writers block?

 

I’ve experienced times when I felt like it was more difficult to write than others, and/or that my writing was not as fluid or precise. I feel like there are ebbs and flows in all things. The best pitcher in the major leagues can throw a no-hitter one day and not find the strike zone the next. That’s why showing up every day whether you feel like it or not is so important. You never know when you’ll have your best stuff.

When I’m blocked for longer than a week or so I find that it’s usually because I’m trying too hard, or because I’ve allowed for my inner critic to become too loud. Trace it back, and the blockage is often caused by fear. The best remedy for that, in my opinion, is to try and express whatever it is you’re trying to say as plainly as possible, without worrying about the outcome or quality of prose. Turn your mind off and open your heart and sooner or later the blockage breaks and the words begin to flow.

 

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

 

While I enjoyed meeting Stephen King, as described a couple of questions ago, I prefer to let an author speak through their work. We often paint a picture of what we think a certain person is like, especially someone we idolize, when the reality may be quite different, which can be disappointing. I’d hate to have an unpleasant encounter with an author taint the way I view his or her work.

I think it would be cool to meet Helen Keller, though. Writing can be so hard with all of today’s modern conveniences. I’d love to hear her talk about overcoming obstacles and the power of perseverance.

 

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

 

I have a new short story titled Picking Splinters From a Sex Slave coming out in the anthology, Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories, alongside two of my idols: Clive Barker and Neil Gaiman. When one of the editors, Doug Murano, announced the story he said, “This is the kind of story that starts book burning parties,” which leads me to believe the story works. I’m honored to be part of this project, and can’t wait for the anthology to come out.

In addition, I am currently working on the second book in a trilogy of dark sci-fi thrillers. The first book is complete and currently in the hands of a literary agent whom I’ve recently signed with. We are putting the final touches on the book and plan to submit it to publishers early next year.

 

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?

Ah, hindsight…

No, to be honest I’m pleased with the way things have gone so far, and feel very fortunate for the opportunities afforded me. I’m happy to have worked with one of the legendary horror editors in the industry, Don D’Auria. I’m blown away by the praise the book has received from authors whom I’ve long admired like Brian Keene, Mercedes M. Yardley, Jonathan Moore, and John F.D. Taff. And I’m thrilled by the generous reviews and kind feedback I’ve received from readers.

While there may be some structural changes I’d make to the book through the lens of additional experience, that would negate the clumsy rawness that comes with a debut novel.

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

 

First, don’t listen to me, as I don’t know shit. But, if forced, I’d say the following:

Never settle for something that feels safe. Always strive to surprise yourself. Try and make yourself laugh, gross yourself out, make yourself mad. Write stuff you’d never want your parents to read, then send it out. Write what you fear is way too strange or personal to be published and then make it as good as it can be. Know that everyone secretly believes their work sucks but they keep doing it anyway. Rebel against your inner critic.

 

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

 

To anyone who has read, or is considering reading my debut novel, We Are Monsters, I would love to say, “Thank You!” I hope it was, or will be, a great ride.

In addition, I would love to connect with folks through one of the following channels. Don’t worry. I only kill my characters.

Brian Kirk

Twitter

Facebook

Goodreads

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Click the rafflecopter link below and enter to win a $25 Amazon gift card from Brian Kirk! You can perform several tasks for entering each day here or at each stop that posts the giveaway link. Best of luck!

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Purchase Links

Amazon

http://www.amazon.com/We-Are-Monsters-Brian-Kirk/dp/1619229803/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

Barnes & Noble

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/we-are-monsters-brian-kirk/1121694935?ean=9781619229808

Samhain

https://www.samhainpublishing.com/book/5494/we-are-monsters

 

Author Interview…Jason Parent, author of “Seeing Evil”

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There’s not much to tell, really. I work, I read, I write, I go to the gym, and I dream of eating IHOP pancakes. I wish I could tell you I also work for the CIA cracking encoded messages while racing Lamborghinis down narrow mountain roads to lavish villas where I host the world’s biggest shuffleboard tournaments where losing could mean your life. Well, I could tell you that, but it wouldn’t be true. My real life just isn’t that interesting. I have a dog. And I suck at shuffleboard.

 

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

 

Jason:  I first started writing in middle school, but none of that could be taking seriously. I tried again in college, and that couldn’t be taken seriously either. Then came law school, where I wrote an as yet unpublished novel on summer vacations (and during boring classes). Hopefully, someday, that will be taken somewhat seriously. Ah, life’s too short to take me too seriously. I tried that once. Didn’t work out.

 

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

 

Jason:  To date, I’ve written five novels, I’m deep into my sixth, and I have several novellas and novelettes in my possession. I have only published two of those novels at this time and am in no rush to publish the rest (though two are out for consideration). I start with that because although I have not written any series, my first novel (written, unpublished), my second novel (What Hides Within), and my fourth novel (Seeing Evil) feature a recurring character. They are all completely stand-alone books and are genre mashers in different way. Whereas What Hides Within is a horror/mystery/dark comedy mix, Seeing Evil is more horror/psychological/supernatural thriller mix. I think my readers have come to expect one thing from me at least: what I write will be dark and, I hope, always enjoyable.

 

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

 

Jason:  I don’t. I kind of let the story and characters decide for me. For example, Seeing Evil definitely as some horror elements to it, but primarily we have a detective, a killer, and two kids stuck in the middle. To me, that screams for action, for dangerous situations, for kids in trouble, and (if I’ve done my job right) for readers needing to turn the page to see if they get out of it. Fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat thriller. Then again, most of my horror works also thrillers, so maybe I am defining my genre after all. Horror-thriller, with a reasonable helping of mystery and dark comedy.

Oh yeah… and then there’s the science fiction…

 

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

 

Jason:  For Seeing Evil, the ending. It contains a sentiment not often found in my work, but somehow seemed fitting here. Other than that, I thought the third chapter worked, a particularly horrendous bullying scene told from the victim’s perspective. It was horrible, but I think holds a mirror to society. I hope I manage to shock readers with the action depicted, but more so with its susceptibility to reenactment.

 

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

 

Jason:  Yes, what happens to Jimmy in the above-mentioned scene happen to someone I went to school with. Seeing Evil also addresses the issue of gun violence in schools, a topic that unfortunately appears in the news all-too-often these days. Little scenes here and there, bits of dialogue, etc. sometimes are pulled from personal experiences.

 

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

 

Jason:  On one novelette, I straight out tried to emulate Poe. I want people to say it sounds like Poe, to have sort of a fond recollection of their times spent reading Poe when they read my story. I am no Poe and don’t claim to rival his greatness or even his last bowel movement’s greatness, but he has influenced me in my desire to write, and I hope to honor his memory by paying homage to him.

 

Sierra: Do you ever experience writers block?

 

Jason:  On a story, yes. Usually at the halfway mark. But there is always another work to work on or a later scene to address. I never have the sort of writer’s block where I have nothing to write.

 

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

 

Jason:  Well, Poe would have been nice. Meeting him now would be creepy, like something out of his stories. King would also be amazing to meet. I grew up reading his books, so he pretty much defined modern horror for me. The body of work he has produced is just unbelievable – hit after hit after hit. He’s definitely the King.

 

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

 

Jason:  I should have a new novelette coming out very soon. It is a horror/dark fantasy tale that deals with Scottish folklore, but turns it into something completely Jason Parent. I can’t wait for my readers to get their hands on this one!

 

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?

 

Jason:  Yes. I think I would like to re-cover What Hides Within and fix some minor pesky issues that have bothered me since publication. Reviews of the book are many and have mostly been great, and I thank all reviewers (good and bad) for them. I lucked out in that the book has achieved success despite those minor issues, but for my own perfectionist peace of mind, I want them fixed and plan to fix them.

 

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

 

Jason:  Find a support group of editors, proofreaders, beta readers, critical reviewers, etc, that you trust. Rely on them. Be there for them too, so they may rely on you. There are good and bad people in all walks of life. Find the good ones. Be a good one.

 

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

 

Jason:  Yes. I may not have the most readers, but I certainly have the best. Those who have followed me since the beginning and those who have joined since, I value your feedback and criticism and will do my best never to publish anything that does not meet (and hopefully exceed) your expectations. I thank you for your support and hope that you will always feel free to contact me for any reason you wish at any of my social media sites.

And thank you, Sierra, for including me on A Simple Taste for Reading! I hope your fans have found this entertaining.

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Click on the book to read my review!

 

 

Author Interview…Glenn Rolfe, author of “Blood & Rain” + Giveaway!

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I ‘m a father of 3, loving husband, and a horror writer with a rock-n-roll heart. When I’m not busy giving readers the creeps, I like to make people laugh. I have a hard time being serious and this makes my wife all the more amazing for putting up with me.

author-interview

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

Glenn: I started writing in May of 2011. I finished that story (which was the original draft of Blood and Rain) in late August of that year. It was an amazing feeling. It feels good each time you get to write THE END.

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

Glenn: Blood and Rain is about a small town Maine sheriff, Joe Fischer, who runs into a bunch of wild killings at the hands of a beast. He quickly realizes that it’s a monster and is successful in putting an end to it—or so he thought! Seven years later, more killings done in the same grisly manner happen under a full moon. Sheriff Fischer’s worst nightmare is happening. He’s held secrets from those who trust him most, now he must decide what is best for the town and his teenage daughter.

One Night can–and will–change it all

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

Glenn: I’ve always enjoyed spooky stories over anything else. When I was a kid, my favorites were the Bunnicula stories.  As an adult, I fell for the Leisure Book Horror line and Rice and King. When I started writing, that’s what I wanted to do.

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

Glenn: I really enjoyed the werewolf attacks. Maybe that makes me strange, but I made sure to go for it.

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

Glenn: I’ve thrown in names and pieces of all sorts of places and people I’m familiar with. As a writer, that just happens. There’s probably a little bit of me in each of these characters.
Sierra: Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?

Glenn: Reading King is always a lesson in how good storytelling should be done. He makes everything seem interesting. That part also tends to kill new writers who try to copy it. Not everyone can write interesting backgrounds and side treks.

Sierra: Do you ever experience writers block?

Glenn: Not yet. I have too many crazy thoughts.

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

Glenn: That’s a funny one. I interact quite often online with two of them, but I’d love to chill out and hang with Ronald Malfi and Brian Moreland.

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

Glenn: The next project is a novella called, Things We Fear. It is supposed to be out in March of 2016.

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?

Glenn: No. I like where I am and that wouldn’t be the same if I didn’t walk the path I chose.

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

Glenn: Take your story one line at a time. Have faith that the story will tell you where it wants to go (and who it wants to kill). Take your time between drafts. Let the story percolate a bit. Know that not everyone is going to love your story, so make sure that YOU do. I’d avoid self-publishing unless you already have an audience. Once you land with a publisher, don’t be afraid to try to land more work with a different publisher. It’s never safe to have all of your eggs in one basket.

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

Glenn: Thanks for reading my work. Thanks for telling your friends. And thanks for being honest with me when something doesn’t work for you. I appreciate your time and your voice.

Stay tuned for much more of my madness!

bood and rain

Click on the book cover to read my review!

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Purchase Links

Amazon

http://www.amazon.com/Blood-Rain-Glenn-Rolfe/dp/1619229854/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1443335652&sr=8-1&keywords=blood+and+rain

Barnes & Noble

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/blood-and-rain-glenn-rolfe/1122198363?ean=9781619229853#productInfoTabs

Samhain

https://www.samhainpublishing.com/book/5587/blood-and-rain

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Giveaway!!!

For a chance to win a print copy of Glenn Rolfe’s short story collection, Slush, or a chance to win your choice of any of his titles in e-book format, go to the link below for the Rafflecopter sign-up. Good luck! The print copy is only good for those in the United States. Questions can be referred to Erin Al-Mehairi, publicist, at hookofabook(at)hotmail(dot)com.

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Author Interview…Hunter Shea, author of “The Dover Demon”

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A trip Hunter Shea made to the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine two years ago sparked the idea for THE DOVER DEMON. While he was there, he met famed cryptozoologist, Loren Coleman and talked about creatures he’s personally investigated. It turns out, he was the man on the scene in Dover, MA in the late 70s when the uber strange biped was spotted by several people over the course of two nights in April, Hunter reported. He also gave it its name, Dover Demon.

author-interview

First, thanks for having me here. It’s good to get out of my cage every once in a while. I’m a writer, husband, father and full time monster man. I live just outside of NYC, which is why a lot of my books take place down here (just like Stephen King is all over the Maine map – we know the horrors lurking within our home states). I do have a day job where I’m the director of a global company. I absolutely love writing and still can’t believe there are books out there with my name on the spine. I read a ton of books and watch movies all the time. Thanks to Netflix, my wife and I do a lot of binge watching. Right now, we’re in the middle of Breaking Bad. I share my home with 2 cats – one who is more like a dog. If I won the lottery today, I’d either dive into full time archaeology or become The Dude from The Big Lebowski.

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

Hunter: I dabbled with stories and poems all through grade school and high school, but I didn’t get really serious about writing until the mid-90s. A close friend was working on a book of his own and he inspired me to try my hand. I started with awful short stories, then a really bad novella, and back to stories. Only after I’d practiced my butt off did I try to write a novel. It was, of all things, a romantic comedy. I believe I wrote and finished it in 1998. I recently re-read it and though it has flaws, it’s actually pretty funny and touching. Getting to The End was such a milestone for me. I proved to myself that I could do it, and I started to learn the cadence of novel writing.

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

Hunter: My first published book with an honest to God legit publisher was Forest of Shadows. It’s a novel about ghosts and a man who lost his wife in her sleep the same day they won a big lottery. I set it in Alaska because I’d always wanted to go there. This was my way to live in Alaska for a while, at least in my mind. It was meant to be a one-and-done book, but readers asked for more and I had an idea for one of the characters that I just had to try out. The next books in the series were Sinister Entity and Island of the Forbidden. They’re very unique takes on haunting and interactions with the dead. I hope to write another one next year.

My current book is right in line with my obsession over cryptids. The Dover Demon takes the real story of a strange creature spotted in 1977 and turns it upside down.

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

Hunter: I grew up addicted to horror, so it was a no brainer that I was going to write horror. Seriously, no one who knew me growing up is surprised that I do what I do. J

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

Hunter: In The Dover Demon, I loved the bond between the father Sam and his son, Nicky. The man ended a lucrative career so he could be with his son more, even buying a comic book shop together. I lost my own father a couple of years ago. This was my way of reuniting us.

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

Hunter: The Dover Demon was an actual bizarre creature spotted by 6 teens over the course of 2 nights in the town of Dover, MA in 1977. It truly scared the bejeezus out of them and was investigated by the police, MUFON, cryptozoolgists, you name it. Some people thought, later on when the concept became more ubiquitous, that it was an alien. Most thought it was some kind of strange creature or animal, though one that could walk on its hind legs and had a humanoid face with enormous, black eyes. The accounts, when you consider the time it was spotted, are chilling.

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

Hunter: It’s probably cliché by now, but Stephen King was an enormous influence. I looked forward to his books and movies like they were Christmas and my birthday wrapped up in one. Reading him led me down paths to exploring other authors like Lovecraft, M.R.James, Wilke Collins and modern masters like Clive Barker and Robert McCammon.

Sierra: Do you ever experience writers block?

Hunter: So far, no. I think if I sat back too long and got lazy about writing, I’d find it hard to jump start my brain. I haven’t taken my foot off the pedal for the past 10 years, so I haven’t hit that roadblock yet. I hope I never do.

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

Hunter: Going to conventions since about 2000, I’ve met so many of my literary heroes like Jack Ketchum and Joe R. Lansdale. If I could sit at a bar with one author, I would pick Robert McCammon. When I read his stuff, I wonder why I even try, it’s so good. And he’s had a very interesting history with publishing and writing horror, some of it great, some terrible. I want to hear his war stories, get into his head, learn his process. Oh, and hopefully get rip-roaring drunk while we swap tales.

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

Hunter: It was a crazy summer, with 2 books coming out within a month of each other (Tortures of the Damned and The Dover Demon). My next book, I Kill In Peace, will be out April, 2016 through Samhain. It’s a nasty little novella that takes some scary leaps of faith.

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?

Hunter: No way. I didn’t take the traditional approach, but somehow, it worked. I wrote it for one publisher and editor in mind, and I sent it to them only. No querying agents, no shopping it around. If they didn’t want it, I was either done altogether or would write another for them and see what happened. I’m proof that miracles do come out of the slush pile. And it’s led to book deals with 4 other publishers over the past 5 years.

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

Hunter: Read. Read until your eyes are sore. Learn the music of writing. If you want to write genre fiction, make sure you read the best that genre has to offer. Get familiar with the authors, publishers, editors and agents who live in that world. When you sit down to write, keep at it until you finish and don’t be afraid to send you manuscript into the world.

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

Hunter: Thank you all so much for the support you’ve given me. I really couldn’t do this without you. I know my publishers wouldn’t let me keep plugging along if you didn’t buy my books. J I’ve written 4 books in 2015, so there’s a lot of scary new stuff coming your way. You can follow along at www.huntershea.com. I’m also doing something new with my latest book. As I write it, I’m sharing what’s going on with it daily. I’m posting updates on Twitter with the hashtag, #HunterWrites. If you’ve ever wondered what goes in to writing a novel, this is your chance to experience the daily grind.

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