CAROL HANSEN & MATT LANDE, Author, Singer - Interview

Today I’m welcoming back two previous interviewees (seems to be a theme this week!), author Carol Hansen and musician Matt Lande. Carol and Matt are “merging word and song” for a Kickstarter project that, if funded, will bring out a book, an album, and an EP of songs based on the book, as well as helping to defray production costs on two music videos. Carol’s book is DarkStar, which she chatted with me about several months ago. Matt’s album is Welcome Home The Child; we discussed Matt’s music several months back as well. The EP is three new songs by Matt based on the novel, as you’ll see in the interview below:

Carol Hansen

Carol Hansen

ANTHONY: Hello again, Carol and Matt! I’ve interviewed you each individually, so this combined interview should be fun.

CAROL AND MATT: Hi Anthony! Thank you so much for chatting with us again.

ANTHONY: Tell us how this project came to be.

CAROL: Well, when I was writing, DarkStar, one of my goals was to have a song written for my book and possibly a music video made for that song. Getting a book noticed is incredibly tough and I thought that this would be a great marketing tool to help get exposure for DarkStar. The idea was always in the back of my mind, so when Matt and I began following each other on Twitter, and I saw that he was a musician, I checked out his links. The minute I heard his voice, I knew that he had the sound I was looking for. I contacted him to see if he would be interested in reading DarkStar and writing a song for it. He said that he wasn’t opposed to the idea but, with his time schedule, he didn’t know how long it would take him to read a whole book, as he was working on his solo acoustic album at the time. So, I sent him a twenty nine page synopsis to read that would give him the gist of the story, but he decided he wanted to read the whole novel. Matt takes his music very serious and he said he didn’t want to miss anything. I thought that was awesome.
So, he read my book and initially, I had asked him to write one DarkStar song but in the process, he was inspired to write three!

Matt Lande

Matt Lande

Our correspondence with each other made us realize that we have a fun and unique opportunity to join forces and work together so we came up with our project; Music…when word and song collide. It’s awesome, as an author and a musician, to come together and make something amazingly different!

ANTHONY: Can you give us some examples of how Matt reinterpreted words from the book to create the songs?

CAROL: Sure! Here’s a couple:

DarkStar quotes that inspired the DarkStar song:

Alec hugged me tightly, and I pressed my face into his shoulder, allowing me to smell his masculine scent on the sweater he was wearing. Sobs escaped my throat as I felt the relief of finally being in his arms. All I cared about right now was being with him. Alec saved me. He didn’t let me die on the cold and snowy mountain.

After a moment of sobbing and sniffles, he put his finger under my chin and lifting my face up, captured my eyes. His were the same color as the day I met him.

                “You are safe now,” he whispered. “I will never let you be in harm’s way again.”


“I know this is crazy and complicated, but I will get through this…we will get through this. There is nothing to worry about now.” Alec drew me in close. I could feel the beating of our hearts, thumping in unison, two as one. Relief overcame me, but I wondered if it was premature as, at the same time, in the back of my mind the anxiety of the unknown future lingered.               

“I love you, Amrie,” he whispered in my ear. “You truly are my Darkstar.”

DarkStar song lyrics:

My darling star, I’ll hold you within my arms,

When worlds apart, I’m with you, you’re safe from harm.


Most would fall and fallen they have, the might ones, but they’re not us

My perfect star, my brilliant angel, suspended there, I pull you in


DarkStar quotes that inspired the duet, It’s in the Way We Are:

 “Why do you do that to me, Alec?” I asked quivering.

                “Do what?”

                “Look at me like that. You captivate me with your eyes to the point that I can’t even breathe or think. Do you do that on purpose?”

                “I don’t know what you are talking about. You think my eyes captivate you? Why, I think that is absolutely absurd,” he grinned.

                “Well they do and I can’t believe you don’t know it.”

                “Actually, I do,” he confessed. “Sometimes I feel that way when I look into my mother’s eyes. They seem to hold me as if in a trance. Often I feel like that is how she gets me to do some of the things she wants me to do —enthralls me with her eyes.”

                “Is that what you are doing to me?” I asked suspiciously.

                “I didn’t think I was,” Alec said shrugging his shoulders. “But could I?”

                “Could you what? Get me to do what you want me to just by looking into your eyes?”

                He stepped closer to me and the longer our eyes locked the more mesmerized I became. I almost felt as if I was in another world, watching the iridescent colors flicker as I gleamed into crystal glass swirling with delicate color.


 I noticed that Alec’s eyes were a deep, dark blue, darker than I had ever seen them. “Please, Alec,” I sobbed. “You can help him. I know you can. I know what you can do…please.”

 My pleading drew me into his space, his mystical eyes and their undeniable power. His pupils gripped me as emotion swelled in his chest, heavily breathing, nostril’s flaring.

“Please.” I whispered.

                Staring with rapt attention, the intensity of his eyes began changing, motion swirling intricate patterns, power emerging.


It’s in the Way We are Lyrics:

It’s in the way you rescue me

You are the current pulling me

It’s with the pause in time we make

Say it’s alright here

It’s alright


When the world slows down

And our hearts race

I can feel the sound

I can feel you breathing

When I drink you in

It’s in the way we are


The third song is a short acoustic song, Amrie.

 At this point, Matt has already recorded our three DarkStar songs, as well as ten songs for his acoustic album, “Welcome Home the Child,” (which, can I just tell you how amazing they are!) The first part of our project is getting all of these songs into the studio to have the DarkStar songs made into a 3 song EP– that will be marketed with my novel, and his ten songs made into an album. The rest of the project will involve going to Logan, Utah, the location of DarkStar, where we will be doing music videos for two of the three songs and printing DarkStar novels.

Our goal is to do combined DarkStar/Welcome Home the Child concerts and book signings. AND…the coolest thing ever…Matt has agreed to do a full DarkStar album!! Sweet!! We already have ideas for more songs, so if we can get the funding for this project, we will be in a good position to work on the full album.

 ANTHONY: Matt, what was it about Carol’s story that inspired you to create music based on it?

 MATT: I wasn’t sure what to expect when taking on the job to write music for DarkStar. I also couldn’t fathom reading an entire novel cover to cover. lol! Turns out that I became inspired more than ever and instead of only writing one song for the book as Carol asked, I ended up writing three. I think my inspiration was the mix of getting to know Carol as a person, what the book means to her and then the story of love and fantasy that DarkStar portrays. It kept me wanting to read more…that’s saying a lot because my attention span is such as a goldfish.

 ANTHONY:  Carol, what is it about Matt’s music that drew you to him as a source for creating music inspired by your characters?

 CAROL: The first time I heard Matt’s voice was when I followed his links and he was singing, “Walking with Ghosts,” on his You Tube video. I was instantly intrigued because he had this magical, mystical sound and it’s exactly what I wanted for my song. Matt has a very unique voice and when you combine it with his amazing talent for writing and playing guitar; you can’t help but be captivated.

DarkStar is about a guy, Alec, from England who finds out he is destined to be a wizard, and he doesn’t want to be. He is tormented because the powers of the wizardry are being forced upon him and when he meets a girl named, Amrie, both of their worlds change. She has mysterious dreams and as his magical world intertwines with hers, they get lost in a plot of mystery, romance, intrigue and a mystical connection. I knew, instantly, that Matt was the one I wanted to write my DarkStar song, but I soon realized that he could also play the part of, Alec. I tease him about it, telling him he will be my, Alec in our DarkStar movie. He definitely could be because he fits Alec’s description to a tee. Coincidence? Personally, I don’t think so:) Everything has just fallen into place for us…like it was meant to be. That’s why we’ve joined forces, because what we have is an amazingly unique opportunity and we are working really hard to make it happen.)

 ANTHONY: Matt, you’re also in the midst of creating your own album. How do you balance the two projects, make sure each gets equal attention, etc.?

 MATT:  How do I balance anything!? I have no idea. I have a dangerous balancing act.  So many things going on. I think I get a mad drive when it comes to music and entertainment. I love the feeling when you pick up the guitar, something comes over you and a song is born. From that point, I’m itching to record and produce it. Once I get rolling, it’s kinda hard to stop me and miraculously, eventually, it all comes together.

 ANTHONY: Carol, has Matt’s music influenced the way you’ve written the characters in the sequels versus the way you wrote them in the original story?

 CAROL:  It’s interesting that you ask that because it definitely has. Having Matt write the songs for DarkStar gave me a different perspective of my story. He took a whole novel and described three different aspects of it in just a few words…a musical synopsis, if you will. When writing, I have this vision in my head of who each character is and it’s quite easy to become repetitive with them. Matt’s words opened up a new picture for me and a different feel for what others are seeing–compared to what I’m writing. I have also learned a lot from Matt. He has a way of putting such deep emotion into his lyrics and it’s made me want to explore more deeply the way my characters, especially, Alec and Amrie, view each other.

 ANTHONY: Matt, I know you’ve done fundraising before, on Indiegogo and other places. What sets the Kickstarter project apart from your other efforts? Why should folks who have donated to you in the past donate again for this project?

 MATT: We thought it would be a good idea to do Kickstarter because we really need to accomplish our goal in a timely manner. Even though we won’t get the funding unless the full $5000 is raised, the site is more well-known than indiegogo, so we are taking the chance. All of the pledges from indiegogo campaigns were used to purchase recording equipment which I’ve used to lay down nearly all the acoustic guitars, lead vocals, and backing vocals for “Welcome Home the Child” as well as for the DarkStar EP. There’s still a ways to go, but if we reach this goal through Kickstarter, we’ll knock everything out of the park. I believe I have some of the best fans and that’s simply why we’ve gotten this far.

 ANTHONY: Okay, let’s talk about the Kickstarter incentives. I know folks can click through on the link and see what you’re offering in return for the donation, but tell me a bit about each incentive and why you chose them.

 CAROL: One thing we like about Kickstarter is that we are able to give something in return to those who support us. We are grateful for every single pledge because each one puts us closer to making our project a reality and without them, it just won’t happen.

 First and foremost, we give, Thank You’s, both privately and publically, because we are so appreciative to our backers and we want them to know it. Along with those, everyone gets a virtual hug. Who wouldn’t want one of those? LolJ


 Our incentives are a reflection of exactly what our project is and everything is personalized and very personal to us:

~Pre-released DarkStar and Welcome Home the Child CD’s and digital downloads

~DarkStar novel pre-released Wizard novel & bookmarks

~A guitar and hand written lyrics

~An original DarkStar manuscript and exclusive DarkStar Jewelry

~Exclusive connections with us through phone and in house concert and book signing

~Contact and knowing just exactly how our project is advancing

~Plus more added, “cool stuff” as Matt says

 ANTHONY: Last but not least, what is the final deadline for the Kickstarter?

 CAROL: The reason we are on Kickstarter is…the age old problem….MONEY! Matt and I have both had some personal struggles and setbacks the past few years that has made it really tough for us financially, so the fact that we have come this far, by financing our individual projects, is really quite remarkable. We are both working extremely hard to share our talents, but there hits a point where sometimes you have to, in all your humility, ask for help. That’s the point we are at. We are both extremely independent and it is hard for us to have to rely on others.

 We are approaching our deadline quickly. Our project will end on March 29th at 8:36 a.m. so we are beginning to stress a bit. We haven’t even reached half of our financial goal and we’re past the half way point in our time limit, so we feel an urgency to get the word out about our project and hope that everyone will be willing to offer, even just a little bit toward making this a reality for us. We like helping others, also, and welcome the opportunity to return the favor and help any of you when you are in need.

 We are so appreciative to Anthony for helping us out by doing this interview and want to thank him! He really does all of us an unselfish service by doing all the interviews he does to give exposure to so many creative and interesting people.

 THANK YOU, Anthony for all you do! Most sincerely!!

ANTHONY: You’re welcome!

So, folks, here’s the link to  Carol and Matt’s Kickstarter. I hope you’ll consider sending even just a few bucks their way. And remember, with Kickstarter, they don’t get your money if the project isn’t fully-funded, so please consider spreading the word!


SEANAN McGUIRE - Author Interview

This week I welcome the lovely and talented, and occasionally just a little bit — okay, occasionally a lot — scary Seanan McGuire.

Seanan McGuire

Seanan McGuire

Seanan is the author of the October Daye series of urban fantasies, the first seven of which have been purchased by DAW Books; the InCryptidseries of urban fantasies, the first two of which have been purchased by DAW Books; and the Newsflesh trilogy, published by Orbit under the pseudonym “Mira Grant.” She’s working on several other books, just to make sure she never runs out of things to edit. Her short fiction has appeared in multiple anthologies, and she was a 2010 Universe Author for The Edge of Propinquity. Seanan was the winner of the 2010 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and her novel Feed was named as one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of 2010. In her spare time, Seanan writes and records original music. She has three CDs currently available (see the Albums page for additional details). She is also a cartoonist, and draws an irregularly posted autobiographical web comic, “With Friends Like These…”.

ANTHONY: Seanan, thanks for taking the time out of your absolutely insane writing schedule to chat with me. How many different series do you have running at the moment?

SEANAN: It’s either three or four (or possibly five, depending on how you count), it’s hard to say–I have one series on the way out, the Newsflesh books as Mira, but I still have one book yet to be published.  At the same time, I’m working on the next Mira Grant project, which isn’t even properly announced yet.  So the number is sort of squiggly.

ANTHONY: Do you find any significant differences in your work ethic or habits from one series to another?

SEANAN:  Nope.  I am a very efficient little Halloween girl, and I approach everything with the same set of checklists, research habits, and absolutely rigorous schedules.  It’s how my brain naturally functions.  Now, I do tend to listen to different music depending on what I’m doing, but that’s all part of setting the proper mood.

 ANTHONY: Let’s talk about your newest series, INCRYPTID. Where are we at the beginning of the series and who are the main characters, both heroic and villainous?

SEANAN:  At the beginning of the series we’re following Verity Price, the latest in a long line of cryptozoologists, as she undertakes her journeyman studies in Manhattan and tries to get to know the local cryptid community.  Her family–now the Prices, formerly the Healys–split off from an organization called the Covenant of St. George about four generations ago.  The Covenant hunts monsters.  The Prices protect them.  Conflict is inevitable.

 Verity’s family currently consists of her parents, Kevin and Evelyn, her siblings, Alexander and Antimony, her Aunt Jane and Uncle Ted and their kids (Arthur and Elsinore), and assorted grandparents.  She also has her adopted cousin, Sarah Zellaby, a telepathic mathematician who looks human but actually evolved from a species of parasitic wasp.  It’s complicated.  I am super excited.

 ANTHONY:  Fantasy, horror and SF seem to move in ways — we’ve been riding the vampire/werewolf/zombie wave for a while, angels seem to have peaked recently … cryptids seem to be the upcoming thing. In a world that seems to grow smaller and more interconnected by the day, with less unexplored/”dark” places to capture our imagination, why do you think the concept of cryptids is more interesting than ever? I mean, we even have shows like “Bigfoot Hunters” on cable television, “reality” rather than scripted dramas.

SEANAN:  Because the smaller the world gets, the more things we’re discovering in the shadows.  Twenty years ago, the giant squid was barely a real thing, and now it’s not even the biggest thing in the ocean.  Ten years ago, we were just discovering that the tree lobster–a stick insect the size of your hand–wasn’t extinct.  Every time we say “that’s it, we know everything,” we find something else.  Cryptids represent a mystery that might actually be something we can solve.  And they’re a part of our cultural makeup.  No matter where you go, there are cryptids, ghoulies and ghosties and long-legged beasties, and things that go bump in the night.

Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire

Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire

ANTHONY: Without risking any spoilers, what can we expect for Verity Price and the rest of the characters moving forward?

SEANAN:  You know.  Stuff.  More books, hopefully.  I’ve finished the second volume, Midnight Blue-Light Special, and I’m itching to get to work on the third.  There are talking mice.  The usual.

ANTHONY: One question I always hate to get is “which of your characters is your favorite?” (Followed quickly by “Who would win in a fight…”) So I won’t ask you either of those, but it’s natural to want to compare all of your strong female leads. So: what do you admire most about Toby, Verity, etc.?

SEANAN:  Toby has more than her fair share of stubborn.  She could be stubborn on an Olympic level, and once she says she’ll do something, she will.  Not.  Give.  Up.  Verity is fearless when she’s defending her friends or the people (and cryptids) she cares about, and while she knows she’s mortal, she really doesn’t give a shit.  Velveteen is more powerful than she thinks she is.  And Rose Marshall is all about doing the right thing, no matter how much she whines.

ANTHONY:  The Field Guide to Cryptids on your site really whetted my interest in the book, perhaps moreso than reading the descriptive blurb on various bookstore websites. Who did the illustrations, and will we be seeing those in the book itself?

SEANAN:  The Field Guide illustrations were done by the amazing Kory Bing, who is just incredible to work with, and does a fabulous web comic called “Skin Deep” that you should totally check out.  I’m so excited to be working with her, and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.  The illustrations won’t be in the book; it’s not that kind of book.  But maybe we’ll do a picture book or something somewhere down the line…

ANTHONY:  How much fun was it cataloging and categorizing the various extant and extinct Cryptids of North America?

 SEANAN:  So much fun.  Sooooooo much fun.  And there’s so much more to come.

 ANTHONY:  And my usual closing question: What is your favorite book, and what would you say to someone who hasn’t read it to convince them that they should?

My favorite book in the whole history of all the books ever written, ever, is IT by Stephen King.  And you should read it because every twenty-seven years Pennywise the Dancing Clown kills a bunch of people, and now that it’s 2012, the twenty-seven year cycle is starting again, and you want to know how not to wind up on his dance card.

You  can follow Seanan on Twitter as @seananmcguire. You can become a Fan of hers on Goodreads. You  can friend her on Facebook,  follow her adventures on her livejournal and check out all of her books on her own website.

CAROL HANSEN, Author - Interview

This week, I chat with author Carol Hansen.

Carol Hansen

Carol Hansen

From her blog: Carol J. Hansen has always had a passion for reading and her intrigue with the mystical aspects of life, whether real or fantasy, are what motivated her to write DarkStar, her first novel. Setting and accomplishing goals are a big part of Carol’s life and DarkStar is the result of her latest goal. The strength in her story comes from her understanding of what the youth like and how they think. Raising three children, being active with and observing the youth for many years gives her an advantage as she has the ability to combine her knowledge with a vivid imagination and come up with a believable fantasy laced with mystery, gripping drama and an unforgettable love story. Carol has worked in the cosmetology industry as a stylist, educator and salon owner for many years and enjoys it immensely. She loves traveling and anything that has to do with the outdoors, especially camping and riding four wheelers. The most important aspect of her life is her family and she resides in Utah with her husband and has three married children and five beautiful grandchildren.

Dark Star by Carol Hansen

Dark Star by Carol Hansen

Darkstar is the story of an ancient obligation, a reluctant wizard who despises having it forced upon him, a mystical romance full of passion, mystery and intrigue and a conflicting power struggle haunting two magical brothers. DarkStar is the first novel of a trilogy and the epic will continue in the much anticipated; Wizard.

ANTHONY: Hi Carol! Thanks for sitting down to chat with me for a little while. Tell me a bit about the process of writing DarkStar. Where did the idea for the book come from?

CAROL: When I was in high school my friends and I had nicknames and a symbol. A special friend gave me the name of DarkStar and my symbol was the moon and star. I have carried the name in my heart and collected moon/star symbols for years. I always thought that it would be an awesome basis for a story or a movie, but little did I know that I would be the one writing the book!

With the title, “DarkStar,” I knew the genre would be fantasy and I chose the storyline to be about a wizard, not because of the popularity of them, but because my friend’s nickname was Wizard. It just felt right.

I’ve always been an avid reader and have written a few things for my family but it’s crazy how DarkStar came about–because I really wasn’t planning on writing this particular book. I actually had another one in my head at the time. I was going through a tough time in my life and one night I couldn’t sleep. While sitting in the dark thinking about everything and what direction I wanted my life to go, for some reason, DarkStar popped into my head and I remember thinking that maybe I should try writing a book. I knew that there was a huge fan base for the fantasy genre (because I was one of them) so I decided, “What do I have to lose?” So, I got a pad of paper, started writing and, well, the rest is history…DarkStar was released on April 1 of this year. (No April fools either)

ANTHONY: How long did it take to go from your original idea to a finished manuscript?

CAROL: The night I began DarkStar was the first of July, 2008. My manuscript was written by October but the editing and re-writing took until spring 2009. Since I was new in this crazy literary world, I had no clue where to even begin and I learned that you can waste a lot of precious time trying to figure everything out. Of course, I’m sure you never figure everything out because things are changing too fast. It’s all part of an ongoing process and I’m learning so much. I know there are a lot of things I will do differently with “Wizard,” the second book in the sequel– because of what I have learned.

We’re so lucky to have the internet and so many channels we can turn to for information and help. It has given me a whole new appreciation for authors from the past. How in the world did they write without all the technological advancements we have today? I bow to them.

ANTHONY: You’ve got quite a bit going on at the center of the novel. A reluctant hero who just wants his life to be normal. Deadly sibling rivalry. Family commitment and honor. Forbidden love. How did you keep all these strands organized as you wrote? Are you a detailed outliner or a “see where the characters take me” kind of writer?

CAROL: It’s interesting how easy it was for me to keep all of the strands in my book organized, especially because this be my first novel. I am, by nature, an organized person, I have to be with everything I’m involved in, but as a writer, I think I’m a little of both. I’m definitely not a detailed outliner, knowing the specifics of everything; I don’t know how you could be with this type of a book. A good analogy; it’s like raising a child, you bring them into the world and give them a direction and a path to follow, but once they leave, even with your guidance, they’re gonna decide what’s going to happen. While writing DarkStar, I knew some of the things that I wanted to happen and some that “needed” to happen but then, (like a child) unexpectedly a character goes and does something that is totally unexpected and you have to stop and re-group. You pretty much have to go back and adjust the story so that everything will fit. It’s really kinda cool when it happens.

I chose the Cache Valley in Utah as one of the settings for DarkStar, knowing I needed somewhere magical and mystical for Alec to experience the events that were going to take place. Since I’m acquainted with that area, I was aware of the locations certain things would happen. In that aspect, I did have an outline but I wasn’t sure of the sequence until the story was being written. I actually visited the sites and wrote while I was there so my characters were familiar with them and so I had an accurate picture in my mind.

ANTHONY: Tell me a bit about writing your two central characters, Alex and Amrie. How did they develop in your mind, and did they change at all once they were on the page?

CAROL: I love Alec and Amrie. It is an amazing experience exploring characters and selecting the distinct qualities and characteristics that make them each unique individuals. I am amazed at how personal it is and how protective you become of them–and I am very protective of Alec and Amrie. I knew that as I developed them, since they were both dealing with their own struggles in two very different parts of the world, they would have to have compatible personalities and something amazing that would bring them together.

DarkStar is written from both Alec and Amrie’s perspective. Alec is being forced into a magical world where he detests becoming a wizard. Amrie is a very strong, independent girl who is mature beyond her years and the caretaker of everyone she cares about. Their worlds intertwine as she curiously witnesses his struggles with peculiar powers and they find comfort and strength in each other as they try to figure out the strange but definite connection that bonds them together.

My favorite subject to write is Alec. I love helping him try to figure everything out and I especially like creating the communication between him and his wizard grandfather.

Alec and Amrie didn’t change once written, they only became stronger.

ANTHONY: You’ve already announced that DarkStar is the first in a trilogy, and that the second book, Wizard, is on its way to completion. Do you have the full details of all three books plotted out, or are you allowing the story to grow and change?

CAROL: The story will definitely grow and change. Once again, I am aware of certain things that I want to happen but nothing is set in stone. As DarkStar developed, I became aware of characters that I will introduce in Wizard and I’m in the process of exploring and developing them now. I’ve been a bit reluctant though, because I have to step into the “dark side” for some of them and it’s not my favorite place to be. I am very happy with the way Wizard is progressing. DarkStar is a “can’t put down” book and leaves you wanting the story to continue so I want to make sure that all my readers will be as intrigued with Wizard. My final book in the sequel, The Mysticryss, is already forming in my mind. With all of the different directions I could take and the individual character stories I could expand on, I could very well write more than three books, but I do believe I will try to keep it as a trilogy. I have other story ideas emerging and I can only keep so many characters in my head at once. Lol

ANTHONY: You self-published DarkStar through CreateSpace. Tell me a bit about that experience and process.

CAROL: Once I had my novel to where I felt comfortable with it, I began researching and querying agents, trying to be patient as I learned the process of attempting to find someone to represent me and my novel. Needless to say, it was very disheartening. I also researched every form of publishing and at one point, considered putting DarkStar out exclusively as an e-book. I connected with an amazing graphic artist, Liviu Peicu, who took the images from my head and designed my beautiful cover. I personally setup the interior of my book in e-book form and was ready to submit–but it just didn’t feel right. I knew I wanted DarkStar as an e-book, but it was important for me to have an actual hard copy in hand also. That’s when I reverted back to researching and querying again. I was accepted by a couple publishers but turned down their offers after reading their contracts and as much as I would have loved to publish the traditional way, I knew the chances were more than slim. Things are changing so fast in the literary world and with the technological advances, even agents and publishers are changing their strategy. E-books and self-publish are the wave of the future so that’s the direction I chose. I decided to sign with CreateSpace because they are an Amazon company. My experience with them has been awesome and because I already had my cover designed and my interior set up–the process was quicker. CreateSpace offers many services, anything from editing to trailers–and everything in between but, of course, it comes with a price. They actually designed a second cover for me because they wanted me to have two to choose from, but I went with my original cover. Once I submitted my manuscript, they put it into the files used to print my book. At that point, they sent me a digital proof on which I could request changes or approve it. Once approved, they printed my first soft cover book, (so cool to receive that first book!) and once I approved the book….it was ready to print!! It took about three weeks beyond that to have the files set up to make DarkStar available as an e-book on Amazon and all the extended distributions channels. I’ve been very happy with my decision to self-publish and would highly recommend CreateSpace. 

ANTHONY: You also connected with singer-songwriter Matt Lande and he’s created special music (three songs so far) for the book. How has that process been, and where and when will people be able to hear the songs Matt created based on the novel?

CAROL: One of my goals when I wrote DarkStar, was to have a song written and hopefully, made into a music video as part of my marketing stradegy. I was so excited when Matt Lande agreed to read DarkStar and write a song for it. What’s cool, though, is that in the process of reading it, he was inspired to write two additional songs! I recently received the lyrics to all three songs and that guy is seriously amazing! He wrote the original “DarkStar” song, an acoustic song called “Amrie” and a beautiful duet, “It’s In the Way We Are.”

Next summer, we will be going to where DarkStar takes place, Logan, Utah and Matt will make the music video in some of the locations in the book….so cool!

Matt is in the process of recording his second album, an acoustic called, “Welcome Home the Child.” I feel so fortunate that he took time out of his busy schedule to read, DarkStar and write three songs or me. He writes, arranges, produces and records all of his own music…so multi-talented!

Joining forces with Matt has been an amazing experience. This joint venture has proven lucrative for both of us as we are promoting each other along with our own projects.

Matt is scheduled to do an acoustic concert on February, 15, 2012 in the Eccles Theatre on the Snow College campus in Ephraim, Utah. He will be promoting his new album, “Welcome Home the Child,” and will debut our “DarkStar” songs! We have our fingers crossed that the recording will be done so the music will all be available at that point. You can follow my blog; for updates and information on my venture with both DarkStar and Matt Lande. I am extremely excited to see what we can do with this!

ANTHONY: And my usual final question: What is your favorite book, and what would you say to someone who hasn’t read it to convince them that they should?

CAROL: Other than the scriptures, it’s hard for me to pinpoint a certain book because there are so many that I enjoy, but when I think of a favorite, it’s more an author. When I was in high school, I loved Victoria Holt books because they introduced me to castles on the mysterious moors of England and when I pondered where to begin DarkStar….that’s where it began….in a castle on the moors of England. Her books go back as far as 1960 when she released, “Mistress of Mellyn” and have given readers many years of enjoyable reading. I still love to get lost in one of her books.

ANTHONY: Thanks again, Carol, and good luck with the book and the sequels!

You can follow Carol on Twitter as @DarkStarDreamer, find her on Facebook, visit the book’s website and Carol’s blog, and order the book from CreateSpace or on Amazon.

ANDREW P. MAYER, Author - Interview

This week my guest is Andrew P. Mayer, author of the steampunk-meets-superheroics trilogy THE SOCIETY OF STEAM.

Andrew P. Mayer

Andrew P. Mayer

Andrew Mayer was born on the tiny island of Manhattan, and is still fascinated by their strange customs and simple ways. When he’s not writing new stories he works as a videogame designer and digital entertainment consultant. Over the years he has has created numerous concepts, characters, and worlds including the original Dogz and Catz digital pets. These days he resides in Oakland, CA where he spends too much time on the internet, and not enough time playing his ukulele. (from the author’s website)

ANTHONY:  Andrew, thanks for taking the time to chat with me.

ANDREW:  Thanks for having me!

ANTHONY: With The Falling Machine, the first book in The Society of Steam trilogy, you were described as basically the closest thing we’ve got to “What if the Silver Age of Comics happened in the 1800s?”  Did praise like that (Clay and Susan Griffiths even compared you to Stan Lee) put any pressure on you during the writing of the second book?

ANDREW:  Writing on the second book had been completed by the time the first one came out. Between January and May it seemed like everything was happening almost at the same time, with copy edits, and whatnot. It was all a blur to me, especially since I’d never published a novel before.

But the pressure on the third has been huge. I definitely read my reviews, and as a game developer I’m always trying to figure out how I can respond to my audience.

A lot of writers say you should ignore all that, but it’s interesting when you find someone has a criticism of your work that you find yourself agreeing with, and it makes me want to respond.

Ultimately though, it’s all about finishing.

Hearts of Smoke and Steam (Society of Steam, Book 2)

Hearts of Smoke and Steam (Society of Steam, Book 2)

ANTHONY:  Hearts of Smoke and Steam, the second book, is now available. Where does the action pick up in relation to the end of the first book?

ANDREW:  It starts out a few months after the events of Book One, with Sarah Stanton trying to pull together her life and figuring out how to rebuild the Automaton after she’s run away. Unfortunately for her the consequences of looking to find someone who could rebuild Tom have left her more vulnerable than she realizes.

ANTHONY:  From the way The Falling Machine ended, it was pretty clear that Society of Steam is a fully intentional trilogy, rather than what Jay Lake recently described as an accidental one (where a book does so well, the publisher says, “let’s give the public a couple more”). Was your publisher on board from the beginning for a first book that ended with a cliffhanger, or was there any discussion of making it work as a stand-alone just in case sales weren’t good enough to support a sequel?

ANDREW:  It’s funny but I get a lot of people complaining about the cliffhanger. For me it seems thematically clean—Sarah has made a journey. But I can see why some folks are upset that it ended the way it did…

The series was originally intended as two novels. Honestly I had never completed one before I started, so there was some hubris in thinking I’d even be able to write two. But then, near the end of 2010 I called Lou and asked if we could do a third one, as I’d written four fifths of the novel, and had only just reached the big battle at the end. He was all for it, and lo, a trilogy was born!


ANTHONY:  Did you take any kind of break between writing books one and two? And if so, did you work on anything else in between?

ANDREW:  I took a sort of break. I had fully intended to work on some other things during that time, but my life as I knew it was sort of collapsing, so that ended up taking a lot of my time. I did manage to start putting a plan together for what I wanted to do next, and I’m hoping to start working on those things the moment book three is wrapped up!

The Falling Machine (Society of Steam, Book 1)

The Falling Machine (Society of Steam, Book 1)

ANTHONY:  I’ve described The Falling Machine to friends as a mystery with two detectives: Sarah Stanton has the more straightforward search for Dennis Darby’s killer, and then there’s the Sleuth’s back-alley attempt to pull the bigger picture together. Does Hearts of Smoke and Stone have a similar structure?

ANDREW:  Hearts trades in the detective mystery for more of an action/romance plot. In the first book Sarah was looking for trouble, and in the second book she’s found it!

But there are some similarities. I’d say that Anubis picks up the baton that the Sleuth drops in book one, and he gives us some insights into the Children of Eschaton.

ANTHONY:  Speaking of The Sleuth, I absolutely adored the little glimpses we got of the relationship between him and Dennis Darby.  Is there any chance we’ll see their history developed throughout the second and third books?

ANDREW:  You’re not the only one who has told me that he wants to see more of them. We do get some more glimpses into their past, but not to the same degree. It really becomes the tale of the next generation going forwards.

That said, I’m not done with Darby and Wickham yet. With a little luck, I’ll be putting out more of their adventures before the end of 2012.

 ANTHONY:  How long do you anticipate it will take to complete the final chapter? And will that be it for these characters and this fun world you’ve created? Or is there the possibility of more stories beyond the trilogy?

ANDREW:  Forever? No, wait… Two or three months.
I’m writing furiously, but the story has been wanting to grow even as I’m heading towards the finish line, so I’ve needed to replot a little bit to get it to where I want it.

The goal now is to get a draft down as soon as possible and have the manuscript in the my editor’s hands sometime in March.

As for more: yes, definitely.

ANTHONY:  That makes this reader very happy.  In general, what is your writing process like? And how, if at all, has it changed over the course of the books?

ANDREW:  Outline, write-write-write, revise outline, write-write-write, revise outline, etc until done. That worked really well for the first two books, but I experimented with some different tools and methods when I started book 3, mostly because I wanted to see if I could improve things a bit. After a few months I realized that it wasn’t working out for me, and I went back to my previous process.

I also think that getting a good ending demands that I replot. I always want to be expanding, and at some point to get to the end you need to start drilling down. It’s been an interesting challenge.

ANTHONY:  It seems you’re rising to that challenge, though! Now for my usual closing question: What is your favorite book, and what would you say to someone who has never read it to convince them that they should?

ANDREW:  One book I absolutely love is Anthony Burgess’ “A Clockwork Orange.” It takes you into a believable near-future and at the same time casts a burning light onto our own culture. That’s something I think that all great sci-fi should do.

It’s not an easy story to read because the protagonist is basically a monster. But understanding why such a terrible creature can be sympathetic is one of the joys of the book.

I also adore the way Burgess unapologetically played with language and idiom, and I always tried to put a little of that into my work. In the society of steam I think it’s there with the accents, and the cadence that I use with the Automaton.

ANTHONY: “Clockwork” has been sitting on my TBR pile for a while now. I’ll have to get to it and see if I recognize any of Burgess’ influence on you. Thanks again for agreeing to be interviewed, Andrew!

You can read more about Andrew Mayer and the Society of Steam (including an excerpt from THE FALLING MACHINE) on You can also follow Andrew on Twitter as @AndrewMayer, and he has an author page on Facebookas well. In fact, The Society of Steam has a page of their own on Facebook!

DANIEL VANDERWEFF, Webcomics - Interview

This week, Rambling On welcomes the mysterious and deadly webcomic secret ninja known as Mr. V to our intervie…

Wait, hold on, that’s not right. Let’s try that again.

This week, Rambling On welcomes the funny and not-at-all-deadly Daniel Vanderwerff to our interview table. Daniel is the writer-artist behind SCHOOL SPIRIT, a very family-friendly webcomic about a group of Australian kids whose primary school (elementary/grade school to our American readers) just happens to be right next to a cemetery full of very active spirits (not ghosts, thank-you-very-much). Being a primary school teacher himself, Daniel (“Mr. V” to his students) has a keen sense of the types of adventures these kids would get up to, especially if they were friends with the dearly departed. The tone of the strip is usually light and often filled with visual and verbal puns, but Daniel’s not afraid to touch on more serious subject matter if it’s appropriate to the characters (a recent arc, for example, dealt with a student coming to terms with the fact that she might really be a bully without intending to be one).

Here’s a couple of samples:

Casper and Cody meet Wendy

Casper and Cody meet Wendy

Wendy the Spirit gets to know Grace better.

Wendy the Spirit gets to know Grace better.

Okay, on with the interview!

Anthony: Hi Daniel. Thanks for agreeing to “sit down” for this international email interview!

Daniel: No worries. Thank you for the opportunity to have a quiet chin-wag with you about it, and for considering School Spirit worthy of your time as a reader.

A: This past week, School Spirit hit a landmark 1,000 strips. Some nationally syndicated print strips here in America don’t get that far, so congratulations. When you started the webcomic, did you think you’d still be working on it 1,000 strips later? Was there ever a point where you thought you might give it up?

D: Some nationally syndicated print strips in America might not get this far, but I bet you Sydney to a brick that they made more money! But that’s not why School Spirit’s here. No, I didn’t think back in late 2003 when I first drew Casper and the kids for the first few times that I’d end up reaching 1000 (and more) strips without a break seven or so years later. When the idea of making a webcomic was first brought up to me (considering I hadn’t actually READ one yet until after I had started making one…) I scoffed and said ‘I’m a teacher! I don’t have time for rubbish like this!’ And… yeah. He we are, 1000 regular strips later.
I can’t really say, though, that there was ever a point where I thought I might pack it all in. It was never meant to be a job and I never expected to make a crust from it (although getting a few bucks back every now and then for it wouldn’t be passed up!), so in that regard it’s never been more than a hobby. There HAVE been times when keeping it running was taxing, but you get second winds every now and then, tie it all up with wire, so to speak, and keep the show on the road.

A: I won’t ask who your favorite character is, because that’s like asking you to choose your favorite student or favorite child. Instead, I’ll ask which of the student characters you feel has drifted into the background over the years, and why you think that might have happened. (Lynn Johnston, the creator of the print comic FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE tells the story of suddenly realizing a supporting character had virtually disappeared from the story, and then going to figure out why.)

D: Most of them, from time to time, if I’m honest. While she’s not a student character, Mavis the busdriver went over a year without popping up, which I only realised when a reader brought it up. Davey Jones, Brylcreem, Chastity and her two shadows have all dropped off the radar from time to time, but I don’t really think any of them have come close to disappearing. Davey is probably the closest, but he still pops his head in every now and then and occasionally gets a more prominent front row seat. The football match and some of the schoolyard cricket scenes are ones that come to mind for him.

The reason for things like this tend to be because they were only intended to be background colour to the principal characters, and therefore the stories didn’t always allow them appropriate spots to pop their faces in. Over 1000 strips though, each of the kids has had their chance to take centre stage and show their character.

A: Occasionally (and I’m thinking mostly of the year-end strips) it feels like the kids know they’re in a comic-strip. I can’t recall that you’ve ever directly addressed the issue, but I have wondered about it. Is this purposeful? Are they aware they’re fictional characters or when they look at the reader, is it more like they’re looking at a camera crew filming a documentary? Or am I just analyzing those occasional “oh, not this joke again” panels too hard?

D: Ah, the fourth wall. It’s a terrible, terrible mistake making your characters break that fourth wall and register the presence of the audience, isn’t it? Too bad. I don’t really agree with that. If it’s a serious story, then yes, it’s not usually a good idea. But this is a story about a bunch of kids doing kid stuff. Also, it started as a primary school musical production I was writing for the kids to perform. Most of the school plays (the fun ones!) I’ve seen have some sort of interaction with the audience and share the jokes with them, so School Spirit as a play was littered with audience references and interaction. I just adapted those sorts of little inside jokes between the characters and their audience into the strip.

So yes, it is purposeful that the kids are still only very occasionally glancing in the audience’s direction as though silently asking if they got the joke too. I’m not entirely sure they realise they’re in a comic strip (there is one strip very early where they appear to understand this, but that is one of the strips I recognise as a mistake now looking back), but then perhaps the documentary idea is closer to the mark. I just like to remind readers that what they are reading is, in fact, just a comic strip, and nothing more than that. Have a laugh and hopefully learn to love the kids along with me, but they’re in on the jokes from time to time as well. It’s not that they’re intelligent enough to work it all out, it’s probably more that they’re just filled with flat out kid cunning!

A: The main focus of the strip continues to be “the big three” of Casper, Cody and Grace, with Wendy the Spirit coming and going. Can you talk a little bit about the dynamic between these four characters, and how it has changed over the years?

D: Actually, the Big Three are Casper, Cody and Wendy, although I can understand how you include Grace in that number. Casper is the ‘every man’ of the strip. I suppose he’s the straight man of all the kids and tends to learn about the strip and the setting along with the reader (especially in the first year or so of the strip) whereas Cody was more his comic foil. These two were the invisible nobodies than no one really noticed or bothered about, and that is why they could see and hear Wendy, the young spirit in the cemetery next door. This was the original seed of the whole strip. Since then though, they’ve all grown and developed and the dynamics are somewhat more muddled now. Grace was their third monkey back at school, but Wendy was their third monkey everywhere else. Particularly over these last 100 strips, Grace has grown and developed much further (and it was not before time, it must be admitted), and it actually ended up being her interactions with Wendy that have been the underlying story for the last year. Now, Wendy has distinct relationships with both the two boys, and Grace, that are completely separate, which I think has given the strip an important change of pace and focus now.

A: The supporting cast has grown from occasional foils for the main three kids to characters with their own storylines that occasionally take center stage. What happens when you get that “a-ha” moment that a character is ready to carry a storyline (or, for that matter, when a background character is ready to gain a name and a best friend)?

D: I love working from time to time with the background kids, although they really stopped being background kids quite early on. They have all featured in their own storylines over the history of the strip. There are still original intentions for some of the characters that haven’t eventuated yet, purely because the time isn’t right for it just yet. Casper’s continuing wish to have Chastity register his existence is one plot point that still hasn’t resolved itself, although from time to time it does reappear and develop further.

I think the real reason the supporting cast have developed over the years is because it gave the main three kids a chance to have a break. It also allowed me to work with other stories and ideas that just wouldn’t work with Casper and Cody. Those two can’t carry the stories that Chastity and her girls can, or those that Brylcreem and Davey Jones can. They’re different kids which means different views and behaviours. They’re also important parts for the colour of the School Spirit world. I don’t think the strip would be anywhere near as rich in colour and warmth as I hope it is if those supporting cast characters had stayed in the background.

Oh, and I know exactly what point you are talking about when you speak of a background character getting a name and a best mate! Those two younger boys did just pop up as background kids for one strip only, but the moment I put words in his mouth (because he was the kid in the front of the group – and who knows whether I put the words in his mouth or he just said them to me himself!), I knew he was staying. As I mentioned with the recent stories with Grace and Wendy, the appearance of Jackson and Didj so suddenly at the start of 2010 gave the strip a breath of fresh air and I think again just added to the colour of the strip. I’m really glad those two kids walked onto the page and refused to bugger off! I really like them!

A: There seems to be a perception that comics like yours, in which the characters don’t age despite regularly celebrating annual holidays and end-of-school and so on, are not as heavily plotted as the more “real-time” comics are. Two questions: one, why do you think that perception exists, and two, how far ahead do you plot the goings-on of School Spirit?

D: I think it could be just as simple as people want a reason to justify not wanting to read certain genres. Every June School Spirit runs a birthday week, and every year it runs an End Of Year Series. None of these strips are part of the counted number or the main stories. None of the kids in the real strips have had birthdays or aged yet, although they have spoken about things like Easter more than once which could be seen as ‘not aging’. Other than that, School Spirit is just as much a ‘real-time’ comic as your common graphic novel set up. If there are stand alone jokes in School Spirit’s archive, they’re written into storylines that all tend to follow on and build form each other as the archive progresses.

As for planning ahead, there is very little actually written down. There are three major story themes waiting to start at this point, but they could well only appear after another 250 to 500 strips yet. I know what ‘main plots’ I want particular kids to feature in, but I also don’t want those plots to flood the strip for lengthy periods. Instead, the kids not featured in those strips tend to interrupt the stories with their own shorter ones every now and then. It just keeps my work a bit more fresh and breaks up the main plots a bit. To be honest, I rarely even script out each storyline! I usually have an ending in mind, an idea of how it can start, and then just fill the gaps as I go along, letting it grow naturally as I work on them. Many would probably think it lazy or unprofessional, but I’m still here, eh?

A: You include a page of Australian slang to help us foreigners understand the kids better. What I find humorous is that I rarely need to consult it — almost every slang word makes sense in context. Have you seen your international audience grow over the years, or has it remained consistent?

D: I honestly couldn’t say. I don’t think I’ve seen my audience grow much over the last few years at all. It seems to have stayed quite, well, stagnant! It’s never been a strong crowd pulling strip, but it has held onto a fairly quiet yet loyal little group. It doesn’t feature what I consider ‘internet humour’ or the cliches I feel many use and abuse, but I also don’t want to weaken what the characters have made for me by bringing cheap laughs in just to drag in an audience that didn’t appreciate it already. Internationally though, the audience seems to be predominantly American or British, although there do seem to be regular readers from Canada and Germany as well. One or two. I have had complaints that it isn’t in English, or that I’ve spelled words incorrectly (by the way, up above you spelled the word centre wrong, you American language killer!). Actually, I’ve even had people accuse me of pretending to be Australian just to have a hook, because no one in the world really talks like these kids do. I just laugh at stuff like that. I say g’day, I say struth, I say ‘Are you fair dinkum? Give us a captain’s at that, it looks a right corker!’ and ‘Avagooweegend’. I enjoy using Australian slang and lingo as well. It’s part of my character and it’s part of School Spirit’s character.

A: As you mentioned earlier, School Spirit started out conceptually as a musical and was actually performed. Did you record the musical’s performances, and what are the chances that you’ll someday add a music page to the site and let us hear the songs you wrote?

D: Yes. School Spirit: The Musical was performed back in 2004 by a group of grade five and six students. It ran for an hour and a half, was in two acts, and featured twelve original songs with each of the speaking parts having at least a verse if not an entire song to sing. I have a CD with the recorded show on it somewhere, but I’d have to dig around for the songs. I don’t have them recorded with lyrics though, just the music, so if they did appear on the site in the future, they’d have to be there alongside the written lyrics.

Many of the songs were littered with references and homages to various Australian bands and songs, too, which probably isn’t surprising if you’ve read the strip and understand how Australian I have tried to make it!

It was fantastic to see my characters walking and talking in live action, and the kids gave those characters I draw on paper different aspects and behaviours I could never have given them. Also, I highly doubt there’s another webcomic in the vast internet world that is actually also a musical production, eh?

A: There was recently a case in the US where a teacher who was also an author received negative attention from parents because the teacher’s books were not suitable for her students, despite the teacher writing under a pen name and never bringing her books up in class or in the school at all. Since you are a teacher as well as the creator of a web-comic about a school, what kind of comments or feedback have you gotten from students, parents, and other faculty over the years?

D: To be honest, very few people I work with know School Spirit exists, and I don’t think any of them read it anyway. To be fair, I don’t really advertise the fact to everyone I meet. It’s a hobby, and amazingly, there are many, many people out there in the real world who don’t give two shakes about things like webcomics. I have had kids read it and pop up from time to time, but their attention moves on quickly too. The main reactions I’ve had to School Spirit came when it was being performed. A parent took offense to the story featuring ghosts and didn’t want her daughter to take part. Her reason was because she believed in God and School Spirit was evil and featured characters who had come back from the dead. When I asked ‘isn’t that what Jesus did?’ she dropped the argument! The kid still didn’t take part. But other than that, there have been no negative reactions. If you can find something offensive in School Spirit, then really, you’re looking at it far too seriously!

A: Other than the odd way you spell things like ‘behaviour’ and ‘colour,’ I can’t think of anything offensive in School Spirit. haha Now for my usual closing question: What is your favorite book and what would you say to recommend it to someone who hasn’t read it yet?

D: Easy. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. It’s just a beautiful, tragic, warm and simplistically honest story. I recently bought myself a little Jack Russell pup and he was always going to be named Jem. I just absolutely adore the book, and to me it’s not about the slavery or the court case or the right or wrongs of the racism undertones. It’s a story about the innocent and magic of childhood and the relationship between a man and his children, and to me, Jem is one of the greatest literary heroes ever put to paper. It’s one of the world’s true masterpieces.

A: This has been a fun interview. Hopefully, it’ll bring more readership to a webcomic I absolutely love. Thanks again, Mr. V., for your time… and here’s hoping we see another 1,000 School Spirit strips!

D: I’m not promising anything, but I don’t intend to pull up stumps on it just yet. I still enjoy the company of the kids, and I just hope there are some out there who feel likewise. Cheers.

* * * * * * *

Don’t forget you can also “Like” School Spirit on Facebook, and follow @_schoolspirit_ on Twitter for news.

CHRISTIE YANT, Author - Interview

This week, I sit down to chat with author and blogger Christie Yant.

Christie Yant

Christie Yant

Christie Yant is a science fiction and fantasy writer, Assistant Editor for Lightspeed Magazine, occasional narrator for StarShipSofa, and co-blogger at, a website for new, nearly new, and newly-pro writers. Her fiction can be found in the magazine Crossed Genres and the anthologies The Way of the Wizard and Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2011, both from Prime Books. She lives on the central coast of California with her two amazing daughters, her husband, and assorted four-legged nuisances.

ANTHONY: Hi, Christie! Thanks for dropping by!

CHRISTIE: Thank you for having me!

ANTHONY: So your short story “The Magician and the Maid and Other Stories” has appeared in two major anthologies, THE WAY OF THE WIZARD and YEAR’S BEST SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY 2011, and it was honorably mentioned in YEAR’S BEST SCIENCE FICTION: TWENTY-EIGHTH ANNUAL COLLECTION. When you were writing it, did you envision such a fantastic year for the story?

CHRISTIE: Never. The thing about that story that still blows my mind is that it was my first sale ever. I mean, to even sell something to an editor of JJA’s caliber (he was just an editor to me then, albeit one I minioned for—now he’s also my husband!) was more than I ever expected. I thought it would sit in the slush pile for a month and then get a nice rejection back, and then figure out who to send it to next—the same thing I’d been doing for seven straight years at that point. Instead I clicked “send,” went to sleep, and found the acceptance in my inbox when I woke up. For it to be picked up for Horton’s Year’s Best later in the year was unbelievable, and that Dozois even noticed it–and for extra geek cred, it was even run on io9! No, I couldn’t possibly have even hoped for any of that.

ANTHONY: You’ve talked in other interviews about the origins of the story concept. Talk to me a bit about story execution — how long did it take to go from concept to a draft you were ready to submit to an editor?

CHRISTIE: I started it in July of 2009. I wrote that opening scene, not really knowing where it was going, but I liked the voice of it a lot. Over the next few months I pushed myself to get it done as part of an application for Clarion, but it was a very difficult story for me to write. Initially I only wrote the part of the story set in our world in the present day; it just wasn’t coming together, so as an exercise I decided to write the fairy tale part as back story. It took a while for me to realize that the fairy tale actually belonged in the story itself. Then it took even longer for me to figure out how to combine the two pieces into an effective whole.

I sent it both to Clarion and to JJA’s slush pile at the same time, the moment it was done, on February 21, 2010. So from concept to submission, it was seven months! It was time well spent, though. I learned so much while writing that story about voice, structure, and tension. (P.S.—I didn’t get into Clarion! Its success since has taken the sting out of that particular rejection.)

ANTHONY: I recently had an early-draft reader point out my tendency to digress within a short story, introducing little bits that don’t advance the plot and often slow the pace. Since short stories usually rely on fast and steady progression, did you ever feel with “The Magician” that you were moving down the wrong track or that you were introducing tangents that were diluting the story?

CHRISTIE: In this particular case it was a story that I needed to grow, rather than prune. The big breakthrough for me was in writing that back story and realizing that it needed to be part of the whole. Also the warehouse scene, which brings the Magic Mirror more fully into place, didn’t exist until the final draft. I think in recent years I’ve ended up underwriting rather than overwriting—this particular story would have been totally hollow if I hadn’t expanded it, and it wouldn’t have succeeded.

ANTHONY: Jay Lake often talks about an author’s “sphere of control” in terms of story length. Where would you say your “sphere” lies? Do you feel more comfortable in short story length, or are they a stepping stone to novels?

CHRISTIE: You have asked the question I have been wrestling with for a couple of years now. I have concluded that I am not—at least right now—a novelist. I love the short form. I have novels written, I have others plotted, but when it comes down to it I don’t feel that I can do the same thing with novels that I can do with short stories. I just don’t get excited about my novel-length tales as I do about my shorts. That may change as I grow as a writer and (I hope) get more stories out there. But for right now, under 10,000 words is where it’s at for me.

ANTHONY: You recently wrote on the Inkpunks website about structure and how that affects the telling of a story. I don’t want you to repeat the whole theory when readers can follow the link to that post, but can you summarize it for us, and talk a bit about how that idea influenced “The Magician?”

CHRISTIE: I’m not entirely sure where I got the idea to apply structure the way that I do. I looked back at some of the books on my shelf and I can’t find examples of anyone doing it quite this way. I may have picked it up in a workshop or something in years past, or possibly it came from my own brain. The approach that I take is to visualize the shape of the story, and establish the patterns in it. I apply a visualized shape/pattern to both the narrative structure (length of story and scenes, for instance) and the thematic structure (what the story is about).

Where that really came into play in the “Magician and the Maid” was in making the two parts of the story work together. I had to alternate them, but I had to find the natural beats to leave one and go to the other, and I had to balance them in a particular way. I created a pattern or rhythm that kept the reader in our world longer than in the fairy tale. You can see the visual example I gave over at the Inkpunks site. A lot of people seemed interested in this approach, so I’ll probably do a follow-up post soon.

ANTHONY: Who would you say are currently the biggest influences on your writing?

CHRISTIE: Gaiman–always and forever Gaiman. I like to credit Douglas Adams with making me a reader and Neil Gaiman with making me a writer. His work in comics and his short stories have spoken to me in ways that no other author’s work has—though at one point I nearly quit writing because of something he wrote!

Inspired by the work I was seeing come out of DC’s Vertigo line, I initially set out to write comics. I love the way that the comics medium merges storytelling and visual art, and combined they have the potential to have such a magnified impact on the reader. I wanted to be a part of that, so I put my time into learning to write comics scripts, with the goal of some day writing for DC.

That was my plan right up until I read Gaiman and McKean’s graphic novel Signal to Noise. I read the book, closed it, set it down, and thought, “Well, never mind, it’s already been done.” I decided that I would not write comics because the pinnacle had already been reached–there was nothing I could ever do that could even approach what they had done in that book.

My spectacularly irrational response to being confronted with great art was to spend a week feeling empty, directionless and sad, casting injured glances at the book and sniffling. At the end of that week, though, I knew I couldn’t really stop writing. So I picked myself up and started learning how to write short stories instead.

ANTHONY: You’re a part of the Inkpunks group. Can you tell me about the group’s genesis and goals?

CHRISTIE: Inkpunks was Sandra Wickham’s brain child. We were just a bunch of friends who had met at various conventions and on Twitter. When we first met we were all right on the cusp of making our first sale, going to Clarion, getting internships with editors, etc. Writing is such a tough gig—the rejections just go on for long, and there’s always more to learn. It can be really discouraging. Sandra pointed out to us that we were really lucky to have each other to get us through the rough spots and keep us going, and she suggested that we share that spirit with other writers in the form of a group blog.

I’ll admit that I was skeptical at first! I wasn’t sure that we, collectively, had the kind of experience and knowledge yet that we would need for such a project. Well, I’ve been eating crow since about the third month! The blog has really reached a lot of people, and many writers and editors more experienced than we are have contributed guest posts. It’s been an astonishing success, and I can’t express how grateful I am to be a part of such a thoughtful and good-spirited group of people.

ANTHONY: Will we be seeing any more of your fiction popping up in the near future?

CHRISTIE: I just sold a story to Daily Science Fiction called “This Rough Magic.” I’m not sure yet when it will be arriving in inboxes or appearing on their website, but I’ll let you know as soon as I hear!

ANTHONY: Back to that “structure idea” for a moment — have you ever started to write a story to a specific structure and then realized it wasn’t working? If so, did you abandon the idea of structure completely, pick out a different structure, or abandon the story?

CHRISTIE: I haven’t abandoned a story in a long time—I would much rather just try to find a new approach and make it work. The story I’m working on right now has gone through a couple of different permutations, and I like the structure I’m working in now, but the story itself still isn’t quite coming together. I’ll have to find some other exercise to make it work.

ANTHONY: How do your stories most often start? Do you start with an image, a piece of dialogue, a character?

CHRISTIE: For the past couple of years I’ve started with a vague idea (a story about a person forced out of her fairy tale and into our world, for instance) and then a line or two of inner monologue from the POV character.

ANTHONY: My usual final question: What is your favorite book, and what would you say to someone who hasn’t read it to convince them that they should?

CHRISTIE: I only get one? Oh man, that’s hard. I’d say probably “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency,” by Douglas Adams. Adams is of course known for the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, which is a totally absurd romp. Dirk Gently is just as funny, just as good-natured, but much more cohesive. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve read it.

However I’m also going to chime in with a non-fiction book as well, also by Adams, and that’s “Last Chance to See.” Because it’s a big, absurd world, and we need to remember that it doesn’t belong only to us.

You can follow Christie on Twitter as Inkhaven, find her on her own website, and check out the Inkpunks website as well.