Thursday, June 28, 2012

10 Questions: With Mark Beyer

This is by far the hardest set of interview questions I've compiled thus far in my 10 Question series. Hard on me, the interviewer, that is. Until now it was fairly easy coming up with questions. I don't have a list of stock questions (except for #10, which is always the same). So what made this interview different? What made it so hard to come up with nine questions?

The subject matter. And by that I mean Mark Beyer.

My first step in generating questions is to review the interviewee's blog, website, or bio. We typically exchange an email or two from which I glean a general sense of the direction I want to take. Mark Beyer's blog entangled me in a seemingly endless wealth of information about writing. About story. No matter how hard I tried, I could not stop drilling deeper. Every this is the last click became the next to the last click.

Simply put, I was captivated by his obvious love of the written word and by his easy manner of expressing it.

 Mark Beyer, Author


I’m a Chicago native and former NYer and FLA-er. And from early on, I’ve held a strong passion for Europe, where I now reside. My life is both exciting (travel) and quite boring (I write/read from morning to night), but it works for my temperament. As I have held various jobs to do with writing, publishing, and education, I’ve been able to meet some amazing people that have fit well into my stories. They might recognize themselves, but I doubt they’d admit to it ;-)
So what about those questions I came up with? Let's see how well I did.
#1: You clearly have a love of literature. How did that start for you?

Oddly enough, this began with the “Curious George” children’s book series. That little monkey was into everything, and I felt akin to his eagerness to know — but know through story (both real and fictional) not just “information.” This is why textbooks bored me to death at school; I achieved far more “learning” by reading outside of the classroom, both in fiction and non-fiction (particularly biography). Then, as a freshman in high school, we were assigned Edith Wharton’s “Ethan Frome” which struck me as an entirely unsentimental way to write about love, tragedy, and human relationships. I was hooked on that method.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Day James Fenimore Cooper Saved My Life

Though the exact date escapes me, I'm certain it was in the early '90s. I was a couple years shy of thirty. I lived in the same place I live now, though at the time it was secluded. Except for the view down my driveway, all I could see in any direction was trees.

And I liked it that way.

Somewhere along the way I had bought a hammock and tied it up between two trees out at the edge of my front yard. It was a cheap hammock -- the kind where the strings are so small they cut into your skin if you relax shirtless -- but it served its  purpose.

There I lay, engrossed in the muse of The Pioneers. Apparently Mark Twain didn't care for Cooper's style of writing, but then I never really cared for Twain's, so I never sought his opinion on the matter. Cooper's way of detailing a scene, showing rather than telling, fit the scene I found myself in on that particular afternoon perfectly. A storm was brewing off over my left shoulder as I lay there reading. The wind had picked up. Dark clouds slowly invaded the blue sky way off in the distance beyond the paperback propped against my chest.

I remember thinking it was a perfect day for lounging. It was spring, and the woods were just coming to life again after another mild North Mississippi winter (we rarely have snow). Birds flitted overhead, darting from limb to limb, or limb to ground and back up again. Occasionally I caught sight of a hawk soaring high overhead, likely focusing his keen eye on the lake that was just down the hill from where I lay.

Thunder rumbled off in the distance. The wind picked up and stirred the leaves overhead. It took a significant amount of wind to penetrate the dense woods around me, but I soon began to feel the coolness that precedes a good spring storm.

Monday, June 25, 2012

10 Questions: With Anya Johnson

Anya Johnson, Book Blogger

I'm a science fiction and fantasy book blogger, computer science PhD grad student and all around nerd. I read fiction to feed my creativity and open my mind to new ideas as well as to escape the dull moments of life for a while. I also find that the epic stories of science fiction and fantasy often inspire me to try just a little bit harder back in the real world, and try to keep reading even when class work and research bogs me down. I hope to apply my education to saving the world myself someday ;-).
#1: How did you get started as a book blogger?
I was sitting in class one day and started thinking about what I could start a blog about (computer organization tends to lead to daydreaming...). I had been meaning to start blogging because it is a good way to keep writing, but I had no idea what I knew enough about to actually write consistently week after week on. Then it occurred to me, the one hobby that has stuck with me my whole life: books! I always have a book I'm working on, and have a large back log of books I have read previously that I could write about, so it seemed perfect. In addition, I had very few people around me who read as passionately as I did, so it would be a relief to actually be able to tell others about the books I loved so much.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

10 Questions: With Maryanne Mackenzie Wells

Bio:  Maryanne Mackenzie Wells is a Texas attorney turned ficiton writer. She lives, works, dreams, and writes in the Texas Panhandle. Through her current fiction series, the Undead Bar Association, Maryanne chronicles the squirmy gray place in life where the law and supernatural collide. When she's not busy writing, Maryanne applies her legal and business knowledge to solving problems in the corporate world. Occasionally, Maryanne shakes off her pen name and appears in a local theater production or ballet. Her last name, Wells, was inspired by her role in a theatrical production of Dracula.

#1:  First things first. You have a new novel,  Matriculated Death,  set for June, 20, 2012 release. Tell us about it.

Matriculated Death contains two novellas, Black Letter Law and Corpus delicti. Students at a Texas law school stumble on a mystery in the library. It pulls them into the middle of a war between powerful undead factions. In the second story, the students really gel as a team. They defeat a zombie plot at the law school, and officially form the Undead Bar Association. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Discovering Characters

Writers never know when an idea for a new character will strike. Sometimes we struggle to pull one from our imagination. Sometimes they are inspired by real people.

Last week my day job (I'm a programmer for an automation firm) took me and a co-worker to Toledo, Ohio. That's a twelve hour drive from Tupelo, Mississippi. Thursday was a hectic day trying to get the job completed in time to get home for Father's Day (which we managed to do). All hope of working on my novel went out the window when the minor changes we were supposed to make turned into a substantial rewrite of their application. I was fretting that I would not have time to connect with my readers, or work on my new blog still in its infancy.

Nothing seemed out of the ordinary about the people we met at our customer's facility. It was a lab and they appeared to be your run of the mill technical staff. Educated and polite. Friendly. We had two primary contacts: one was a very clean-cut young man who was clearly into physical fitness. The other was a bit older, tall, and mild-mannered. I had envisioned him being comfortably in the middle class with a wife and kids and a nice home.

It was late afternoon when my co-worker lamented the fact that he had to leave his gun at home because Ohio doesn't recognize his Mississippi conceal-carry permit. We had been cautioned not to be out after dark because the neighborhood around our hotel was not in the best part of the city.

"Ask him," the younger of the two said, hitching his thumb at the tall one, in response to my co-worker's question about the Ohio carry permit.

The tall one flashed a devious smile. "I don't register anything," he said. "They'll take all those when the time comes."


Saturday, June 16, 2012

10 Questions: With Ashley Barron

Ashley Barron, Author

Bio:  I’m a tea-drinking, book-loving, road trip-admiring writer of love.

 #1: You've just released your first novel, Ava. How has reaching that milestone changed you as a writer?

Thanks for having me here today, Carl!

Publishing my first novel, living the creative process all the way through one complete cycle, has increased the speed of my writing. A first novel has so much attached to it—hopes, emotions, learning curves—which drop out of the picture as soon as that novel is published.

Writing the second novel, ‘Bonner,’ is coming along smoothly, and is happening about eight times faster than it took me to write ‘Ava.’ I am able to focus on the work in a way that allows for clarity and speed. The self-doubt, the “Can I really accomplish this?” fear is gone.

The fact that my second novel is a sequel is helpful, too.

Monday, June 11, 2012

10 Questions: With Idgie

Idgie, Book Reviewer / E-zine Editor

Bio: (Written by Idgie)
Idgie is a somewhat sloppy editor and proud parent of Dew on the Kudzu, an online E-zine that celebrates the Southern Written Word through book reviews and short stories. Book reviewer, occasional author on her own site, Southern humorist at heart.
Idgie was a nickname slapped on me years ago by a publicist and I have to admit it's stuck well enough that if you yell it in a crowd, I'll turn around without blinking.
#1:  What is Dew on the Kudzu and how did it get started?

The Dew started in 2005 and I’m very proud of it.  It started because I had a blog where I would whine that Southerners got the short stick with all the jokes aimed at them and I was tired of it.  Why couldn’t we appreciate the South more?  I was finally told by a reader to stop whining and do something about it myself.  So, after a little thought and a contest for the name, I did just that!

The Dew began as an all encompassing magazine: reviews, stories, recipes, events, places to visit, etc.  It continued in that vein for several years before finally evolving into a straight writing/book site.  Today I like to remind everyone that this site is not possible without the contribution of all of those wonderful short stories and the publicists/authors who share their books with me.  This is not MY magazine, but a shared effort.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

10 Questions

I was tilling my garden yesterday, pondering how I could make my blog more interesting, when an idea hit me. I can interview other authors. At first I almost brushed it off, because there are lots of great blogs out there already with very good author interviews.

I've personally learned a lot from them. Writers have this basic urge to reveal their secrets of success to the competition. Writers enjoy helping writers.

But what about readers? I don't think I've ever seen a "reader" interview. As an author, now that other writers have helped me through the self-publishing process, I want to know more about readers. Not just my readers, but readers in general. I want to know how to make them my readers.

What about the people who operate indie bookstores? Wouldn't it be helpful to know what they think? How they select books?

I was beginning to think I was onto something. All sorts of industry-related fields came to mind. Very soon I was coming up with questions, imagined responses, and, of course, a list of people I would like to interview first.

I pitched my idea to two fellow authors whom I have a lot of respect for. Ashley Barron and Suzan Tisdale. Both have successful blogs. Both do author interviews. Both are really good writers. More importantly, I knew I could trust them to give me good advice.

They did not disappoint. Ashley, in fact, made my head hurt with all the things she gave me to think about.

Do you have a question you'd like me to ask an author? Do you know someone interesting who might agree to an interview (possibly yourself)? I would really, really, like to interview an accountant who has specific knowledge of the things authors need to do to keep on the good side of the IRS. Do you know an agent who represents self-published authors? Do you know a reader who might be interested in answering a few questions.

10 Questions. That's the name I've chosen for this little experiment.

I've created an email account dedicated to this venture. Please feel free to contact me with ideas and suggestions. If you would like to be interviewed, tell me why.

The email address is:

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

My Delusion

My most selfish dream, the one that's me and all me, is that people will be reading my novels a hundred years from now. I first knew I wanted that when I was a kid. Since then I've had this Jekyll and Hyde battle within myself over whether or not such a thing is possible.

Jekyll assures me I can achieve my goal if I work hard and don't let others dissuade me. Hyde laughs at the notion that a total nobody like me can even fathom such a thing.

When I read classics I wonder if the authors had any idea how long their writings would survive. I wonder if they stood in their front yards as children with all kinds of things tumbling about inside their heads, wishing they knew how to recreate those things on paper. I wonder if they felt oddly out of place no matter where they happened to be.

Jekyll reminds me of all the wonderful comments I've had from readers who have read my short stories and novel. Hyde snickers, because he knows they are just being nice to me. He points to my sales chart with a sanctimonious grin. The proof is in the pudding, he loves to say.

I'm working on my second novel, not because the first one has been a smashing success, but because I still have things tumbling about inside my head that I need to recreate on paper. When I stop writing I have nightmares. Hellish nightmares. More hellish than the ones I have when I do write.

Thank you for believing in me, Dr. Jekyll. Shut the hell up, Mr. Hyde.