Sunday, May 27, 2012

An Interview with Kristen Taber - YA Fantasy

 Kristen Taber
YA Fantasy Fiction

     Welcome readers! We're glad you were able to join us today and we think you'll be glad you did. A special treat awaits for those who love fantasy worlds! We’ve crossed into Ærenden. This war-torn land still has several peaceful locations that remain untouched by battle. Among them, a favorite hiding place of one of the characters, which he’s gracefully allowed us to use.
     We lounge on two flat rocks on the shore of a clear lake. Majestic mountains surround us, proud sentinels stretching tall into the mid-day sky. A few clouds dot the horizon. Among them, birds flit, enjoying the calming warmth of a graceful sun and the playful touch of a gentle breeze. It is here we can talk, enjoying the beauty of the ancient land.
     Find a spot on a warm rock and let's get started. For those wanting to be in the drawing to win a Kindle copy of the book, be sure to leave a comment when you're finished reading! 

Reader’s Haven: 
Kristen, this is a beautiful place, wow! Welcome to our Haven and thank you for allowing us to come here with you. Tell us a bit about yourself.

Kristen:  I’ve always held the philosophy that life is meant to be explored. As a result, I’ll try almost anything at least once (so long as it won’t kill me and it’s legal, of course). I’ve eaten grasshopper tacos (didn’t care for them) and curried lamb brains (better than you’d think), taken a trapeze class (and I’m terrified of heights!), backpacked through Europe (highly recommended), and achieved wine certification. Exploring keeps my life interesting, as well as my characters’ lives, since I sometimes give them my favorite memories.

Reader’s Haven:  Wow! That's a diverse background and one that allows you to add so much more to your characters. What made you want to become a writer?

Kristen: I don’t mean to give the “expected” answer, but I’m honestly a writer because I can’t not write. Even before I knew the alphabet, I created stories. I told them to my neighborhood playmates, made my dolls act them out, and kept boring days interesting by drawing pictures of people I created. Once I learned to write, the transition came naturally and I haven’t stopped since. It’s only recently, after encouragement from people who’ve read my books, that I decided to publish.

Reader’s Haven:  Please share a bit about your new release, Ærenden: The Child Returns, without giving away any spoilers.

Kristen:  Ærenden: The Child Returns is the first book in a five-part YA Fantasy series that follows the adventures of 17-year-old Meaghan, and her best friend and love interest, Nick. When monsters attack and kill Meaghan’s parents, she and Nick barely escape with their lives. On the run, Meaghan soon discovers everything she knew about her past was a lie designed by Nick and her parents to protect her. The truth catapults Meaghan into a new world she never imagined existed, filled with perils too impossible to believe. Ultimately, though, it’s not her past but her future she must learn to accept if she hopes to survive. 

About Book One:  
Red-eyed creatures have brutally murdered seventeen-year-old Meaghan’s parents. After nearly sharing their fate, she escapes with her best friend, Nick, who confesses the creatures, known as Mardróch, came from another world. And so did she.
Afraid to face her parents’ killers again, Meaghan follows Nick into the kingdom of Ærenden. Their journey leads them across war-torn lands and through hazardous wilderness. Vines have the ability to attack. Monkeys freeze their victims with a gaze. Men create bombs from thin air. Even Meaghan’s gift of empathy proves to be a dangerous power she cannot control.
But control becomes the least of her problems when the Mardróch begin targeting her. As she and Nick race for the safety of his village, she discovers he knows the reason they want her. And his secret may cost Meaghan her life.

Reader’s Haven:  How exciting and a different premise for story. Do you write under a pen name?

Kristen:  I do, although I didn’t choose it to hide my real name, but to honor my grandfather, who originally instilled in me the importance of storytelling.

Reader’s Haven:
What types of hero or heroine do you like best?

Kristen:  Real ones. I’m not a fan of people who are thrown into a dangerous situation and suddenly know how to fight when they’ve never picked up a sword before. I understand fiction bends the truth, but it still needs to be believable for me. Heroes and heroines should be people who step up to bad situations, despite their problems, despite sometimes not wanting to do what’s right—all while making human mistakes and adjusting to a steep learning curve. 

Reader’s Haven: Tell us about a typical day in your life as a writer.

Kristen:  Like most writers, I have a full-time job, so when I’m writing a novel, I get up early to work out, go to work, come home and write until midnight (or sometimes 2am if I’m on a roll), then get up and repeat the process the next day. On weekends, I write 10 to 12 hours a day, which helps me become engrossed in larger or more intense scenes. Fortunately, my husband has been wonderful in this process or I’d be eating frozen meals and living in a mess! I tend to forget the world exists during the time it takes me to write a first draft (typically 3 to 7 weeks). When I’m working on the publishing end of things, my evenings and weekend time switches to formatting, working with a graphic artist, and editing. No one ever said writing was glamorous.

Reader’s Haven: Do your books have a common theme or are they all different?

Kristen:  My books cover different genres and different topics, but I try to include one theme in all of them: None of us can do anything alone. No matter what troubles we face or successes we earn, the people we love (friends and family) are part of that process; they’re needed for support, feedback, and to give us a swift kick when necessary. We rely on each other and I try to portray the importance of those relationships in my books.

Reader’s Haven:  How long does it take you to write and then edit a story?

Kristen:  It takes about a year, start to finish, for each novel. This includes everything from outlining to approving the last proof. I’m sure the process would be shorter if I focused solely on one project (and didn’t work full-time), but I tend to do a mix of things at once. I wrote the first three novels in the Ærenden series over the course of seven months, then focused on editing/publishing the first (Ærenden: The Child Returns), switched to editing the first book in my contemporary romance series, and am now back to finishing the YA. I bounce around based on deadlines, interest, and energy levels. I also believe in setting a book aside for a while so I can catch more errors when I come back to it. Providing my readers with an excellent product is top priority for me.

Reader’s Haven:
  Do you have to be alone to write?

Kristen:  It depends. When I’m facing a block, I’ll go to a coffee or tea shop to work. The background noise helps put me in a “writer’s trance” and usually gets me back on track. When I’m already engrossed in my story, I need complete silence and a compact space or I get distracted. For those days, I have a desk setup at my house. My husband calls it the “Hobbit Hole” because it fits into a 3x4 area (maybe smaller).

Reader’s Haven:
  How do you go about naming characters?

Kristen:  Some character names come to me right away; others need research. Historically, I’ve used baby name sites, as well as foreign language dictionaries (such as Gaelic and Latin) to find names/words that reflect a character’s traits and personality. I pick a name from there or invent a variation of a name or word I like. The Mardróch, my monsters in the Ærenden series, took about a week to name and came from a mix of this process and a character from Swedish folklore.
Reader’s Haven: Is it easier to write about the characters if you find pictures of them before you write or do you write then find character pictures?

Kristen:  Characters usually come to me when I’m doing something unrelated to writing, like cleaning, working out, or sleeping. From that point, their faces are constantly in my head. I don’t draw them (they’d look like stick figures) or find pictures of them, but they’re still present for me when I write.

Reader’s Haven:
 How do you pick locations for your stories?

Kristen:  It depends on the story. For some books, visiting a place will trigger a scene. A trip to San Diego helped me detail a large part of one of my romance novels, for instance. But for my fantasy series, the kingdom of Ærenden is entirely my invention, so I have the pleasure of creating locations as I go (based on a map I’ve already structured). At times, these locations reflect real places, but more often than not, they exist first in my mind.

Excerpt of A Child Returns:

A little more than thirty minutes later, Nick opened his door to find Meaghan standing on his landing, holding a plate of muffins. Heat rose from the muffins in wisps, casting the smell of sweet strawberries and bitter rhubarb into the air. His stomach would have rumbled, if his anxiety at the sight of her had not silenced his hunger.
“I wasn’t expecting you,” he said.
“Don’t think I’m not still mad,” she told him. “But I thought we should talk. I brought breakfast.”
“I see.” Nick chuckled, feeling relieved. Meaghan might be mad still, but she had come, which meant her anger would dissolve in time. He stepped aside, letting her into the apartment, then tucked his hands into his pockets and waited.
After a moment, Meaghan cleared her throat. “Mom and I had a long discussion. It, um,” she dropped her eyes to the plate in her hands. “It seems I was being childish.”
“Maybe you were,” he said, and then held up a hand when her head snapped up, her heated gaze locking on him. “But you’re entitled. I’m not exactly the easiest person to be around.”
Meaghan sighed and set the muffins down on the coffee table. “That’s the thing. You’re not as difficult as you think, but you’re aloof. I don’t understand why.”
“You will when you see me next.”
“When will that be?”
“Soon,” he responded. She stiffened and he brought his hands to her shoulders. “I’d tell you if I knew, Meaghan, but I promise it won’t be long.”
“Meg,” she corrected, and he knew she had forgiven him. He drew her close, and then pressed his cheek to the top of her head when she relaxed in his arms. The next time they met, she would know his secret and their relationship would change, but for now, in this moment, the stillness of the friendship bonding them brought peace. 
He wanted to etch the feeling into his memory, but he did not get the chance. Meaghan tensed, and then jerked from his arms, her wide eyes seeking the house over his shoulder.
“There’s something wrong,” she whispered. She shivered and he gripped her shoulders once more. “There’s so much,” she gasped. Tears spilled down her cheeks. “Pain,” she continued, though Nick could tell she struggled to form her words. Her eyes refocused on him. “It feels so real.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Me neither.” She shook her head as if to clear it. “It hurts, but it’s foreign. It’s like a dream.”
Nick’s heart hammered when he realized what she meant. “No,” he murmured. “It can’t be.”
“Nick…” Meaghan began, but her voice faded as her eyes found the house again. Her face turned white. Her hands trembled, and Nick grasped them between his own. Closing his eyes, he bowed his head to focus.
“We have to help them,” she insisted. “We have to hurry.”
Her hands disappeared from his. He felt her brush past him and opened his eyes in time to loop an arm around her waist, preventing her from escaping the apartment. “Don’t,” he said. “We can’t go in there without knowing what we’re facing.”
“I have to.” She pushed against him, but he did not release his hold. She reacted to a drive she could not control and as much as he worried he might hurt her, he tightened his grip to protect her. “Something’s wrong,” she said. “Please, Nick. I can’t—”
“Be quiet,” he commanded, his sharp tone silencing her. He shut his eyes and focused again. When he found what he feared most, his eyes popped open in panic. “This isn’t happening. I would’ve sensed them before now.”
Rather than respond, he grabbed her hand and yanked her toward the door. He had no time to explain. He had to save her life, even if it meant bringing her straight into danger.
They fled from the apartment, down the stairs and across the yard. Meaghan was certain she would have collapsed if Nick had not been pulling her along behind him. She felt weak and useless, overwhelmed by pain she could not understand. She ached from it. She forced herself to breathe, to think, though her lungs followed the direction better than her brain. She registered the cold air, the grass as it passed under her feet, but she did not notice when Nick abruptly halted until she bumped into his back. Letting go of her hand, he bowed his head as he had in the apartment, then cracked open the back door to the house.
“Is it safe?” she asked.
“They aren’t in the kitchen,” he responded. “We have to take the chance.”
“What chance?” She grabbed his arm. “Nick—”
He finished opening the door and Meaghan’s grip weakened, the remainder of her words forgotten. The pristine kitchen her mother treasured looked to have exploded. Colorful mixing bowls and apothecary jars, once stacked on display, lay in shards on the counters, joined by dented pots and pans that used to hang from the ceiling. Drawers gaped open, yanked from their homes, and the refrigerator and cabinets stood empty, their contents strewn across the floor.
A scream came from the living room followed by a series of crashes. Pain surged through Meaghan and she froze, one foot over the threshold.
Nick turned to look at her. “There’s no time to stop,” he said, and then hardened his tone when she did not move. “Meg!”
She snapped her eyes to his and obeyed. Half-way through the kitchen, he slowed his pace as heavy footsteps thundered from above. He held his finger to his lips and she nodded. She followed him into the living room, freezing once more when she saw the horror that greeted them.
Furniture, upended and broken into pieces, shared the carpet with pages torn from their bindings, cast aside like large snowflakes. Deep grooves in the walls bled drywall and wood splinters. And every figurine her mother had collected had been shattered, turned into pale shards and dust. This was no longer her home, but a nightmare ripped from her worst dreams.
A groan came from the far side of the room and Meaghan turned her head toward it. A man sat on one side of the couch, his body slumped halfway toward the floor. His legs and arms hung at odd angles, and tears in his pants and shirt revealed deep gashes in his skin. Blood poured from a wound in his head, flowing over a face she refused to believe belonged to her father. It sank in places where his bones had collapsed, giving him a hollowed look. She felt sick. Covering her mouth, she sought her father’s eyes. They appeared empty, nearly black.
“This isn’t real,” she whispered. She squeezed her eyes shut. “It’s only a dream. I have to wake up.”
Another groan came from the couch, drawing her attention back to her father. He moved his lips and Nick ran to him, leaning close to hear. After a few seconds, Nick took something from her father’s pocket, then moved to the center of the floor. Lifting a loose floorboard, he pulled a backpack from beneath it.
Meaghan commanded her body to move, turning to her left to pick up the hallway phone. Before she could call for an ambulance, her attention fell on the stairs. Her mother lay stretched across the landing, her unseeing eyes staring toward the ceiling, her back and neck bent at odd angles. Meaghan choked on the scream trapped inside her throat.
“Meg,” Nick called to her from across the room. He kept his voice low. “We need to get your father out of here. You have to help me carry him.”
She tried to obey him, but her feet refused to budge. She dug her fingernails into her palms, gritting her teeth with the sharp pain, but she still could not believe any of this was real.
“You can’t,” her father’s voice croaked. “You have to leave me here. You have to protect Meg.”
“Now,” her father insisted. His head rose and Meaghan saw a flash of authority return to his eyes. Nick nodded and she stared at him in horror.
“I won’t leave him here,” she said.
“We have to. You’re in danger. Once you’re safe, I’ll return—”
“I won’t go,” she insisted. “I refuse to leave him in the house with whoever did this.”
“We don’t have—”
“No!” she yelled, and then slapped her hand over her mouth, too late to muffle the noise. The footsteps upstairs quickened.
“Meg,” her father spoke again and her eyes filled with tears. His voice was no more than a whisper. “Trust Nick. He’ll keep you safe.”
She nodded, and then shook as her father gathered his last breath. The footsteps reached the top of the stairs. Her father shuddered into stillness, but she had no time to mourn before Nick grabbed her hand and yanked her out the front door.
Cold air bit her face. Black clouds gathered overhead, shadowing the day in darkness. A gust of wind whipped leaves across the yard, building small funnel clouds, but she ignored them. She focused on the back of Nick’s head, then on her car when she realized they would need it to escape. They had nearly reached the driveway before she remembered she did not have her keys. She skidded to a stop. Turning back toward the house, she caught her breath when she saw their pursuers exiting the front door.
There were three of them, each taller than the last. Dark brown cloaks covered them from head to foot and they all carried heavy wood clubs stained with blood. They moved with an unnatural speed and disjointed grace, as if they floated instead of touching the ground. A putrid, rotting scent emanated from them in waves. It rolled Meaghan’s stomach, pitching her breakfast mid-way up her throat before she controlled the reaction. Nick grabbed her arm and pulled her toward her parents’ SUV.
“The keys,” she gasped, daring a glance behind her. The creatures grew closer. “We don’t—”
“I have them. James gave them to me. Get in the car.”
She heard a beep as Nick deactivated the alarm. She ran to the passenger side. Yanking open the door, she slid into the seat while he turned the key.
Releasing the parking brake, Nick threw the transmission into reverse, and then stomped on the gas pedal. The SUV squealed down the driveway seconds before their pursuers reached them. At the road, Nick yanked the wheel, spinning the car onto the blacktop so it pointed toward the highway, then shifted into drive, and gunned the engine once more.
A thud echoed through the vehicle as one of the creatures jumped onto the roof, gripping the edges of the car with long, skeletal fingers that gave the illusion of skin suctioned to bone. Meaghan screamed and tore her eyes from the creature.
“Hold on to something,” Nick told her. “I’m going to try to shake him.”
She grabbed the door handle with both hands and Nick accelerated again, swerving left and then right before taking a sharp corner at full speed. The creature still held. It inched across the car, moving down the windshield so Meaghan saw his face. The monster staring back at her appeared worse than any of the horrors she had seen in her nightmares. His eyes shone crimson red, pools of blood sunken into ashen skin. His mouth appeared to be no more than a black hole filled with fibrous webbing. A mass of disfigured scar tissue filled the space where his nose should have been. He lifted his fists, then brought them back down, pounding on the window in an attempt to break it.
“Put your seatbelt on,” Nick commanded. Heeding his warning, she clicked her belt into place and he slammed on the brakes. The monster flew from the SUV, landing on a car parked in the street. A burglar alarm blared an incessant, alternating pitch that drew neighbors into their yards.
Nick’s maneuver halted one pursuer, but the other two had not given up. From the side mirror, Meaghan could see them gaining speed. Nick jammed his foot onto the gas pedal again and headed north, as fast as the roads would allow.
Meaghan kept her eyes glued to the mirror, watching the creatures fade into specks of brown until Nick turned onto the highway. He seemed relieved, but she could not shake her fear.
“They’re gone for now,” Nick assured her after she had checked the mirror for the fifth time in the same number of seconds. “They’re powerful, but they’re not very bright.”
“They’re not very…” she echoed, her voice trailing off when she realized the underlying meaning of his words. She shook her head. “You can’t possibly know anything about those things. They aren’t real. They can’t be. None of this is real.”
Nick set his jaw, and for a brief second his eyes met hers before he turned them back to the road. “It’s real, Meg. I wish it wasn’t, but it is. The creatures are Mardróch. Now get some sleep. You’ve been up all night and we have a long drive ahead of us. We can talk when we get there.”
Sleep was the furthest thing from her mind. She wanted to scream, to run. She wanted to shake Nick and break him out of whatever spell held him firm and emotionless beside her. She wanted to wake, but the pain she had felt when she saw her mother on the stairs, heard her father take his last breath, still ripped through her and she knew this nightmare would never be over.
Only Nick could decipher what had happened, but his white knuckles on the steering wheel and hard gaze on the highway told her there would be no conversation. He remained focused on escape.
Meaghan opted to do the same. Closing her eyes, she let tears ease her into a dreamless abyss.

Reader’s Haven:  Anything else you want to say?

Kristen: I’d like to extend a huge thank you to An Avid Reader’s Haven for interviewing me and to the Reader’s Haven readers for taking the time to check out my interview and my new release, Ærenden: The Child Returns. It’s always a pleasure sharing quality time with fellow book enthusiasts!

Contest:  Up for grabs is a Kindle copy of the e-book to one lucky commenter! Be sure to leave your email in the the comment so we can reach you. Good luck!
Update: Ærenden: The Child Returns is free for Amazon Prime Members until midnight tonight, 5/30/12. 

Author Interview with Marie-Thérèse Browne

Marie-Therese Browne
A Daughter's Tale

About Marie-Thérèse Browne

‘Olga – A Daughter’s Tale’ is my first book and was written as a result of genealogical research into my mother’s past, her family and their history and culture. What I discovered filled me with such admiration for my mother, I wanted future generations of my family to know about her.  That’s why I wrote ‘Olga – A Daughter’s Tale’.

Written in the form of diary entries and letters, Olga – A Daughter’s Tale is based on a true story about cruelty, revenge and jealousy inflicted on an innocent young woman and about moral courage, dignity, resilience and, in particular, love.  It is the  story of a remarkable woman, who because of circumstances, made a choice, which resulted in her losing contact with her beloved family in Jamaica, until nearly half a century later, when her past caught up with her.

Reader's Haven: Marie, welcome to our Haven. We're glad to be able to share you with our readers this week. Tell us a bit about yourself?

Marie:  I was born in London during the war and grew up in a town called Brighton on the south-east coast of England where I lived on and off most of my life. I’ve two sons, one of whom lives in Boston in the US and the other lives in Sydney, Australia.  After the death of my mother five years ago I emigrated to Sydney.  Olga – A Daughter’s Tale is my first book and although I’ve always enjoyed writing I never seriously considered writing until my mother nearly died in 1994. 

Reader's Haven: What made you want to become a writer?

Marie: I realised that had my mother died in 1994 so to would the chance for me to find out about her family in Jamaica and who my father was, information she had refused to tell me whenever I asked so I decided to find out for myself.   What I found out filled me with such admiration for her that I decided to write a book about my discoveries so that future generations of our family would know about her.  And then a couple of years later I wanted everyone to know about her!

Reader's Haven: Do you write under a pen name?

Marie: I was christened Marie-Thérèse Browne and, although my married name is Campbell, my book is such a personal account about my mother it felt right to pen it under the name she christened me with, so I did.   

Reader's Haven:  Olga: A Daughter's Tale is based on your mother's life and family history.  How did she feel about you writing this?

Marie: Initially, Mum wasn’t happy about the idea of me writing her story.  In fact she was horrified, particularly since she’d spent so many years avoiding telling me anything about her past.  Once I’d made contact with her family she became more open about her life and childhood in Jamaica.  Also what happened to her in London during the war. I think she realised it was very important to me to know about my heritage and that’s why she finally relented.  Mum never actually saw a copy of the book – she died just before I finished it and in a way I’m glad she didn’t read it because I think it would have made her very sad and resurrected bad memories.  

Reader's Haven: How long did it take you to research your mother's life?  What was the most interesting thing you learned during your research?

Marie: Once I’d traced Mum’s sisters in Jamaica, which was very quick, I went to visit them in Jamaica.  Unfortunately, by that time my Mum had a serious heart condition and her doctor wouldn’t let her travel. It was such a memorable meeting, not only for me but for them too I believe. They gave me lots of information about their lives and their relationships with each other as well as telling me about my grandmother, Becky and Aunt Lucy.  Once I was back home I got more information from Mum and I thought the story cried out to be written.  So I decided to research the history of Jamaica and it’s culture – and that was a revelation to me!

The most interesting thing I learned about was how much obeah, which is a form of witchcraft, was practiced in Jamaica by everyone - white, coloured and black Jamaicans, even though it was illegal, including my family! 

Reader's Haven: What do you feel was the easiest part of writing Olga: A Daughter's Tale?  What was the most difficult?

Marie: Because I’d researched the history of Jamaica, her folklore and culture and spoken to Mum’s sisters, I had quite a lot of information.  I’d found the voice - the diaries and letters, so it was easy.  The most difficult part for me was being confronted with a piece of my history that I had knew nothing about.  I don’t want to sound enigmatic, but I also don’t want to have to be specific here as I’d like the readers to discover for themselves what I’m referring to.

Reader's Haven: How long does it take you to write and then edit a story?
Marie: Once the research was done, the writing and editing only took about six months.  The research took the longest time.
Reader's Haven: What's one piece of advice you would give aspiring authors?

Marie: Discipline!  I devised a timetable for writing and stuck to it because when I didn’t I found getting back into the habit difficult.

Reader's Haven: What do you hope your readers come away after reading your book?

Marie: I’d like them to come away with the thought that ‘Olga – A Daughter’s Tale’ was a great human interest story and have a certain admiration for Olga.  Particularly since it emanated as the result of researching my family’s history and culture, something that we all have.  I hope it will encourage others to delve into their family history - let’s face it – every family has a story!  

Reader's Haven: Do you plan to write and/or publish any more books?

Marie: Yes. The plan is that the second book will take up the story from where ‘Olga – A Daughter’s Tale’ finished.  I have  in fact just started to write it but, because I work full time, I don’t expect that it will be finished until the end of the year. 

Readers can find me on the following sites:

CONTEST:  One signed copy of my book (posted to USA, Europe or UK only) and 2 e-copies for two runners up! Leave a comment to let me know you stopped by along with your email address, so we can easily contact the winners.

Reader's Haven:  Marie, thank you for visiting with us this week! 

Olga – A Daughter’s Tale
by Marie-Thérèse Browne

In 1994, my mother, Carmen Browne, was admitted to the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton, seriously ill.  As she slowly recovered, I realized that, had she died, so too would the chance of my finding out about her past, her family in Jamaica and, of particular importance to me, who my father was, information she had resolutely refused to share with me.  So, I decided to find out for myself.

My first discovery was that my mother’s real name was Olga Browney, born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica and one of eleven children from a close-knit, coloured Catholic family.  A kind, naïve and gentle girl, my mother arrived in London in 1939, to stay with a malevolent, alcoholic aunt and intending to stay for only six months.  However, world events, personal tragedy and malicious intent all combined to prevent her from returning home to Kingston.                

Olga - A Daughter's Tale is about the cruelty, revenge and jealousy inflicted on an innocent young woman as well as moral courage, dignity, resilience and in particular, love.  It is the story of a remarkable woman, who because of circumstances, made a choice which resulted in her losing contact with her beloved family in Jamaica.  Until nearly half a century later when her past caught up with her.

Be sure to leave a comment to be in the drawing!

Thank you for stopping in to read!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Meet Katie Salidas - Paranormal Romance Author

Congratulations to DonnaS for winning her choice of the Immortalis Series and swag goodies from Katie!

Katie Salidas
Paranormal Romance

Gather 'round! Louise and Deanna here...Thank you for joining us this week on the college campus at Bohemian College. I can't believe how many students are hurrying between classes! We have a special treat for you. We're going to join Katie inside at the crowded, bustling Café Copioh (from book 1 and 2) in the Immortalis series, the Bohemian college café. Let's follow our guide through the throng of students and join our guest author. We're so excited and so is Katie's series!

Ah, there she is over there signing books for a group of fans! Come on, grab your drinks and meet us at the table.

Reader’s Haven:  Tell us a bit about yourself .

Katie:  Well, first of all, thanks so much for having me here this week. Hi!! I’m Katie “pantser” writer extraordinaire. LOL. Yes, you heard it right. I write by the seat of my pants. Half the time I don’t know where a story is heading until I write it. In a way it makes writing just as fun as reading. Of course, on the other hand, it can be very frustrating when you write yourself into a corner, but that’s the only way I can do it.  It’s also the reason I write Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy, Erotica, and Non-Fiction Self-Help books.
      I am Super Mom!
   Endowed with special powers and abilities, beyond those of mortal women,  I can get the munchkin off to gymnastics, cheerleading, Girl Scouts, and swim lessons.  I can put hot food on the table for dinner while assisting with homework, baths, and bedtime… And, I still find time to keep the hubby happy (nudge nudge wink wink). I can do all of this and still have time to write my novels.
     Sorry… I can’t even write that with a straight face.
     Lies all lies.
   Here’s the reality. I’m a sleep-deprived, overworked, mom who just doesn’t know the meaning of the word balance. I try so hard to do it all, (be super mom, wife, & author) and at the end of the day I fall face forward into the couch.
     Yes, you read that right, I tend to sleep on the couch. It’s a point of frustration for my hubby and a thing of comedy for my daughter. Imagine waking up to your little child yelling, “Mom slept on the couch again!!!”
     Because being supermom (or trying to) means a lot of time devoted to family, writing is often done when said family is peacefully snoozing away. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve fallen asleep with my laptop, on the couch. It just happens. Then, bright and early at 7am either my hubby (on his way to work) or my daughter (getting ready for school) wakes me up.
     Writing is my passion. It’s a part of me. More than just a hobby, it’s a compulsion. I have to do it. If I don’t do at least one writing related thing each day I get cranky.
     Hopefully, my passion can be your entertainment!

Reader’s Haven:  Whew! Okay, we're exhausted already! What made you want to become a writer?

Katie:  It was really not a conscious decision. I’ve always written things. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t jotting something down in a notebook. The publishing, however, was a conscious decision and one that really made me nervous. It’s one thing to write stories for yourself, but letting others read and review really takes courage. Though I have been writing since forever, I only drummed up the courage recently, as in the last 3 years.

Reader’s Haven: We have to give kudos to the cover artist! Wow! We love it! Congrats on such a wonderful cover, Katie. Please share a bit about your new release, Soulstone, without giving away any spoilers.

Katie:  Thank you so much! I love the cover, too. Soulstone is book 4 in my Immortalis Series. When we last left off, Lysander’s spirit was trapped inside of a large blood red crystal. Now it’s up to Alyssa to try and figure out a way to free him and return him to his body before it’s too late.

Reader’s Haven:  That's a tempting pre-cursor to the story for anyone who loves paranormal. Do you write under a pen name?

Katie:  Nope. Not yet at least. I have considered one for my Erotic titles but as of yet, I am just publishing under my real name.

Reader’s Haven:
 What types of hero or heroine do you like best?

Katie:  I like a heroine that I can relate to. By that I mean I want someone who is real. They have real flaws and real problems. They are not perfect, nor are they indestructible. I want them to be someone that I could be friends with. No Mary Sue’s and no Superwomen.

Reader’s Haven:  Tell us about a typical day in your life as a writer.

Katie:  I’m a write at home Mom. Basically that means I am sleep deprived and generally write while my kids are sleeping. A typical day for me starts between 6-7am when the kids get up. I get my first chance to boot up the computer when the baby goes down for his first nap between 10-11. If I’m lucky, there is another nap around 2pm. After that, my next chance to write happens sometime after 9pm when the kids go to bed. From there, I work on writing or writing related activities until midnight or so. It’s really not a lot of time so I have to make it work.

Reader’s Haven: Do your books have a common theme or are they all different?

Katie: The Immortalis Series is comprised of 4 books so far, though each stands on its own, they are all connected. They all follow a rookie vampire as she stumbles through the new world she’s been initiated into.   

Reader’s Haven:  How long does it take you to write and then edit a story?

Katie:  That’s a hard question to answer because every story I’ve written has taken a different amount of time. The first book in the Immortalis series took me 5 years to write and then have edited. Book 2 was easier for me to write. That one only took 6 months to write and edit. Book three took around 6 months as well, however book 4 was almost a full year. It all depends on how much time I have, if my critiquing group has time to read, and of course my, editor has time to work on it too. 

Reader’s Haven:
 Do you have to be alone to write?

Katie: Yes. Absolutely. People distract me. I need to be alone and I need music on while I write. Anything else is too distracting.

Reader’s Haven:
 How do you go about naming characters?

Katie:  I go to and look up the nationality of the character, then I find a name I connect with.   

Reader’s Haven:   Is it easier to write about the characters if you find pictures of them before you write or do you write then find character pictures?

Katie:  I have a general idea of what features I want them to have, then I search for pictures of people who fit the description and use them for inspiration. So, it’s a little of both.

Reader’s Haven:
 How do you pick locations for your stories?

Katie:  I like to pick places I know and have been to. I want to capture as much realism as I can. I know readers appreciate it, especially if they have been to the same place. They have told me they could really “see” it while reading and felt they were there with the characters.
      Witches, Werewolves, and Vampires... Oh My! Add a mystical stone and a few disembodied spirits, and you have the latest, and most exciting installment of the Immortalis series, Soulstone!

Book 4 in the Immortalis series:

It's a desperate time for rookie vampire Alyssa, and her sanity is hanging by a slender thread. Her clan is still reeling from the monumental battle with Aniketos; a battle that claimed the body of Lysander, her sire and lover, and trapped his spirit in a mysterious crystal. A Soulstone.
Unfortunately, no amount of magic has been able to release Lysander's spirit, and the stone is starting to fade. Weeks of effort have proved futile. Her clan, the Peregrinus, have all but given up hope. Only Alyssa still believes her lover can be released. In despair, Alyssa begs the help of the local witch coven, and unwittingly exposes the supernaturals of Boston to unwanted attention from the Acta Sanctorum.
The Saints converge on the city and begin their cleansing crusade to rid the world of all things "Unnatural." In the middle of an all-out war, but no closer to a solution to the dying stone, Alyssa is left with an unenviable choice: save her mate, or save her clan.

Contest:  Random winner from comments - be sure to leave your email addy so Katie can contact the winner. (Readers choice) one e-copy of any of the Immortalis Series books.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Author Interview with Donna Crowe, Murder/Suspense Author

Congratulations To Sheila Deeth!
Sheila won a signed copy of A Darkly Hidden Truth.

 Donna Fletcher Crowe
Murder/Suspense Author

     Thank you for joining us and if you love murder/suspense, you won't be disappointed in the series by Donna Fletcher Crowe this week. She's also holding a contest with the drawing on Saturday so be sure to leave her a comment or question at the end!

     We're having an afternoon tea with Donna, her classic English scones with clotted cream and two kinds of jam, cucumber sandwiches, fruit salad and tiny cakes. The tea will be her favorite Yorkshire Gold and you can have it with milk and sugar. One lump or two? Come on, let's be seated and chat with Donna!

Reader’s Haven:  Donna, we're delighted that we could be here with you all week. Welcome to our Haven! Our readers are anxious to hear more! Tell us a bit about yourself  that our readers might not know.

Donna:  Thank you for joining me for tea! Where shall I begin? I was an only child growing up on a farm so I had to make my own entertainment— that usually meant reading or telling myself stories. I often say I grew up watching television in my head in the days before we had television.
Also, I was my father’s son, so I grew up on horseback and became Miss Rodeo Idaho and runner-up for Miss Rodeo America.
Reader’s Haven:  Wow, Deanna lives in the Pacific Northwest, so hello to a fellow Idahoian! What made you want to become a writer?
Donna:  Ironically, like most writers, I wanted to write because I loved to read. The fact is, though, that the demands of a writing life are such that one really has to fight to find time to read. I do manage it, of course, but not nearly as much as I would like to.
Reader’s Haven:  Please share a bit about your new release A DARKLY HIDDEN TRUTH, the Monastery Murders, 2, without giving away any spoilers.
Donna:  In A VERY PRIVATE GRAVE, the first book in this series, Felicity, a thoroughly modern young American woman, rather to her own surprise, has gone to study theology in a monastery in remote Yorkshire. After she finds her favorite monk brutally murdered and her church history lecturer Father Antony covered in his blood she and Antony spend the rest of the book chasing and being chased by murderers across northern England.
     It’s little wonder then, that when, in A DARKLY HIDDEN TRUTH, Antony asks for Felicity’s help to find a valuable stolen icon she declines. Forcefully. after all, she’s off to become a nun. Then her impossible mother turns up unannounced. And a dear friend turns up murdered.
     Felicity and Antony are once again launched on an adventure. This time from the busy streets of London to the soggy marshes of the Norfolk Broads. Felicity learns the wisdom of holy women from today and ages past and Antony explores the arcane rites of the Knights Hospitaller but what good will any of that do them if Felicity can’t save Antony’s life?
Reader’s Haven:  Deanna loves anything set in England and Louise loves the murder/suspense stories! This sounds intriguing. Do you write under a pen name?
Donna:  Absolutely not! One has to work far too hard for a bit of recognition to hide. I included my maiden name Fletcher when I realized there are two other Donna Crows just in my own acquaintance. And now Amazon gets me mixed up with the romance writer Donna Fletcher, so one really can’t win.
Reader’s Haven:  Oh my! That’s not good to get things mixed up with another author! What types of hero or heroine do you like best?
Donna:  I like them to be strong, kind and intelligent with just enough quirks to make them interesting. I also think it’s essential that the hero and heroine balance each other's personalities. Felicity and Antony are a good example. They are both brilliant and care passionately. Felicity, however, is rash and headstrong while Antony is much quieter and insists on thinking things through. This, of course, means they can drive each other crazy at times, but in the end they learn to appreciate the other’s qualities.
Reader’s Haven:  Readers love to hear what we do on a daily basis. Tell us about a typical day in your life as a writer.
Donna:  Oh, I love my days— especially those rare ones that run according to plan. My husband Stan and I have breakfast on our own, mine in my office with my devotional reading. Then I spend about an hour on social media and promotion before I get stuck into my day’s work. When I’m in the writing mode (as opposed to research, editing, etc.) My goal is to write 5 pages a day.
      It’s lovely when I can have that done by 3:00 when everything stops at our house for tea. We started this long ago when the children came in from school as a relaxing time to share our day and a nutritious snack. Now we often have a friend over at that time. Then I might go back to my desk or, best of all, work in my garden.
     Evenings belong to my husband. After dinner we put our feet up and watch TV— either a favorite British mystery or an old movie.
Reader’s Haven:  Do your books have a common theme or are they all different?
Donna:  Each book has its own theme but, inevitably, there will be a theme to one’s body of work because the writer’s interests and passions will come though. All of my books deal with British history in some way, even if I’m writing a contemporary murder mystery or an Idaho family pioneer saga. I think one of the themes that come through is the importance of heritage and tradition. I believe there is so much of great value to be gained from the past and I'm afraid that we are in danger of losing much of it in the frantic pace of modern life.
Reader’s Haven:  How long does it take you to write and then edit a story?
Donna: Well, that depends on the story. GLASTONBURY my Arthurian grail search epic that covers 1500 years of English history took me three years of writing and most of a lifetime of research. Normally, though I can do a couple of books in a year. Often, however, the research and planning will take at least as long as the writing and editing, if not longer. And then there’s the promotion. . .
Reader’s Haven:  Do you have to be alone to write?
Donna: Oh, yes! I’m laughing because just yesterday my husband and I were talking about traveling to visit our children (spread from Los Angeles to Boston and from Calgary to Kentucky). Stan said I could take a laptop and write along the way. “No,” I said, “I could not.”
Reader’s Haven:  How do you go about naming characters?
Donna:  Good question, I’m not quite sure. I tend to choose classic names that I really like for my hero and heroine. Place names are often helpful in choosing surnames for minor characters.
Reader’s Haven: Is it easier to write about the characters if you find pictures of them before you write or do you write then find character pictures?
Donna:  Sometimes I use a composite of the personalities of people I know for developing characters, but usually I just see them in my head.
Reader’s Haven: How do you pick locations for your stories?
Donna: One of my goals as a writer is to give my readers a “You are there” experience. Therefore, background is one of the most important elements of a story for me. I try never to write about a place I haven’t visited. The historic characters I’m dealing with dictate a lot of my settings, but sometimes I choose a setting just because it’s a place I want to visit.
Reader’s Haven:  Where can readers find you on the web?
Donna: Please visit my website. You can see videos for both of the Monastery Murders there, find pictures from my research trips, read about my other books and even visit my rose garden. Click the little orange B button in the menu to visit my blog “Deeds of Darkness; Deeds of Light.”
     I would love to have you follow me on Facebook
     And Twitter:!/DonnaFletcherCr

Contest:  Be sure to leave a comment with your e-mail address. At the end of the week I’ll select one winner to receive a free, signed print copy of A DARKLY HIDDEN TRUTH— but remember, you must include your e-mail or I can’t contact you to tell you that you’ve won!

Thank you all for joining us. We hope you add Donna's books to your e-readers or book shelves! Please visit her sites, watch her book trailers, and follow her...and don't forget to leave a comment to be in the drawing....include your email addy!

 A Very Private Grave