Category Archives: Author Interview

Author Interview: Eliza Maxwell


Grave Tender cover

 

I had the pleasure several months ago of reading The Grave Tender by Eliza Maxwell, an extremely powerful debut novel. Ms. Maxwell will be joining our Mystery Readers meeting next Saturday in Georgetown, so I asked her if she would mind answering a few questions for me:

 

Eliza Maxwell photo

 

How long have you been writing?

For as long as I can remember, in some form or other.  But if I’m honest, my first true love was reading, not writing.  Reading anything and everything I could get my hands on.  From my Dad’s Louis L’amour and Stephen King paperbacks to my Mom’s dog-eared romance novels, I was hooked from the very beginning.

Writing came about as an experiment, almost.  A little like an alcoholic that decides to try out home brewing.  Because, why not, right?  I was, and still am, looking for just the right concoction.  The one I can’t put down.  Then I share, and hope there may be a few fellow readers out there that like it too.

What was your reaction when you made your first sale?

As a decades long smoker, I finally managed quitting for what I hope was the last time this past summer.  The first two weeks was rough.  I was antsy, irritable, agitated, and I couldn’t keep my hands occupied enough.  I wasn’t fun to be around, to say the least.  At one point I overheard my husband mumbling about a rabies shot for women, but when I called him out, his only response was, “I said your hair looks nice, babe.”  Smart guy.

Making the first sale?  Awesome.  No doubt.  The time between making the first sale and the point when the reviews start to trickle in?  That part felt pretty much the same as nicotine withdrawal.  It’s a wonder my husband still speaks to me.

Where you do get your inspiration?

Inspiration… Hmm.  That’s a tricky one.  To me, drama and story come from secrets.  From mood.  From the dark, deep parts of the heart that we all know are there, but most don’t care to look at too closely.  And somewhere in my head, all of that is intertwined with east Texas and pine trees and riverbanks meant for bare feet.  Trying to separate those, for me, is like trying to unwhisk the eggs from the milk.  It can’t be done.

Whatever takes me to those places is inspiration.  Certain music.  Bluegrass, zydeco.  A spring afternoon in the sun, listening to the birds.  But especially the stories.  You know the ones.  The weird ones that you hear over iced tea on a wraparound porch.  Like the one about the abandoned cabin down the road with iron bars on the windows.  How the old man just couldn’t face the place after that tragedy with his son… Bless his heart.

Those stories, the ones that seem to pepper small towns and quiet places like the seasoning in a good stew, those are the purest form of inspiration for me.  I can’t seem to help dwelling on things that are probably best left alone.

Have you found it difficult to market your work? Any tips for things that worked?

Marketing.  The dreaded, despised mystery of marketing.  All I can speak to is what I’ve tried myself.  Upon launch, I did a blog tour, and connected with some amazing book bloggers.  The tour did little for sales, but I did get a nice boost in reviews.  Some good, some bad, and that was just fine with me.  Expecting everyone to like your book is a bit like expecting the holidays at the in-laws to be drama free.  It ain’t gonna happen.

But the boost in reviews helped to land a Bookbub ad.  And Bookbub knows how to sell some books.

Do you enjoy interacting with fans, or are you an introvert? Do you get much fan mail?

I absolutely love interacting with fans on a personal basis like email, or a book club meeting.  I am, however, a down-to-the-bone introvert.  Social media is an amazing tool that I’ve seen many use masterfully, and though I’ve tried it out, it’ll  never be something I do well.  And that’s a shame.

In spite of that, I really do adore hearing from readers.  There’s nothing that quite compares to it.

What has been your most challenging project to date?

My biggest challenge was, and still is, book number 2.  The first time around, I had no expectations.  Not of myself, and not of the characters.  Number 2 is proving to be my problem child.

What are your other hobbies and interests?

I love anything that involves creating something with my hands.  Within that framework, it’s all fair game.  I paint, I cook, I occasionally build things, and I put more enthusiasm than skill into all sorts of home improvement projects.  I try, sometimes more successfully than others, to keep my family clean and fed.  And in between it all, I read as much as I possibly can.

What does the future hold for you?

My hope is that the future holds all the hours one could need to turn two small children into functioning human-ish creatures, rather than sociopathic cat burglars.  When I’m not setting aside funds for future bail money, my hope is to be able to sink into another character’s secrets and fears as they unfold on the page in front of me.

Not asking too much… I hope.

What advice do you have for new writers…or just those of us not as accomplished as you are? 😉

It feels presumptuous to give advice when I still have so much to learn.  But I don’t mind passing along some words of wisdom from those more successful and talented than myself that I’ve found helpful.

To paraphrase the imitable Chuck Wendig, writers write.  So do it.  I take that to mean, for better or worse, show up and write something.  Anything.  You can always fix it later.

And my favorite piece of advice, from Elmore Leonard: Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

Where can readers find you?

I’m on Facebook, and you can follow me on Bookbub for updates on when the next book will be ready to go, but if you really want to reach out, email me at theelizamaxwell@gmail.com.  I’d sincerely love to hear from you.

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Here is the book blurb if you are interested in seeing more:

 

Hadley Dixon was ten years old when her life changed forever.  Since those few tragic weeks, she’s tried to keep the past buried, but old bones have a way of rising up. Grown now, Hadley can’t hide any longer.

 

And if anyone is going to be in or near Georgetown, Texas Saturday March 12th at 2:00 pm, the Mystery Readers will be meeting upstairs at the Library. You are welcome to join us to hear Eliza speak about her book and her career in general. 🙂

Writer Interview: Katie Magnusson

SHA_finaljpeg_med

 

Today, I have the pleasure of sharing an interview with Katie Magnusson, one of the authors in Mocha Memoirs Press’s new Paranormal Sherlock Holmes anthology, An Improbable Truth.  Here is what she has to say for herself and her story. 🙂

 

How long have you been writing?
I wrote stories for myself all through high school and college, sometimes quick flash fiction, other times whole books, but only in the past two or three years did I start to think that maybe I could actually use all these ideas in my head, that someone else would find them interesting.

 

What was your reaction when you made your first sale?
I think I may have sat in front of the computer for a moment and said, “Holy f***.”

 

Where you do get your inspiration?
Much of it comes from other stories. I see things I like in other characters and wonder what would happen if _________________, fill in the blank… and then sort of go from there. For example, in my short story “Sherlock Holmes and the Hungry Ghost,” I had the premise of a paranormal/horror mystery to work within as part of an anthology. Paranormal mysteries have been done, so often, and often with the same character types, Holmes vs Dracula and such, I wanted to do something a little different. So, the first thing that came to mind was a ghost story. I didn’t want to do vampires or monsters, I wanted something simple and haunting. Haunting, hey, what if Holmes isn’t investigating a haunting, what if he’s the one being haunted? Why would a ghost haunt him? Is a ghost really haunting him? If not, is it in his mind? The story progressed very quickly from “Holmes vs Ghost” to “Holmes vs Inner Demons” with a horror story flare. And honestly, there are few things as terrifying as the things we hide from inside ourselves, as cliché as that sounds.

 

Have you found it difficult to market your work? Any tips for things that worked?
To be perfectly honest, this is the first story I’ve successfully published. It worked though, so I guess the advice I can give would be to keep up on what people are looking for. Don’t discount smaller, independent markets, and ultimately don’t be afraid to just get your stuff out there.

 

Do you enjoy interacting with fans, or are you an introvert? Do you get much fan mail?
If I had fans, I think I would love to interact with them. [So be sure any let Katie know if you read and like her story! — Rie]

 

What has been your most challenging project to date?
I’ve had a series of short stories in the works for years that I’m now trying to polish and publish as a book series. Cyberpunkish Sherlockiana, I suppose would be the way to describe them. Can you tell I like Sherlock Holmes? It’s a challenging project just because it’s the biggest thing I’ve ever done, I’ve been doing it for so long, and it’s going to be hard to finally say, “I’m finished,” instead of “Wait, let me fix that…”

 

Have you always been a fan of Sherlock Holmes?
I got into Sherlock Holmes about six years ago. I tried reading The Hound of the Baskervilles when I was a kid, but I didn’t really like the story. I don’t know if I was just too young to appreciate the descriptions of the gloomy landscape of the moors, or if it was diving into a Sherlock Holmes book that actually features very little Holmes, but whatever the reason, I never really gave the character much thought after that. Much, much later I saw The Complete Sherlock Holmes at a used bookstore, and bought it completely on a whim. Took it home, opened it up, and was instantly hooked. I’m certain that had I started with the short stories as a child instead, I would have liked it a lot more. As it was, I became somewhat obsessed, quickly devouring pastiche and media, everything I could find. Still do, clearly.

 

What was your favorite original story?
“The Adventure of Silver Blaze” immediately comes to mind, for the line about the curious incident with the dog in the nighttime if nothing else (“The dog did nothing in the night-time.” “That’s what was the curious incident.”). Also “The Adventure of the Speckled Band”, “The Adventure of the Copper Beeches”, and “The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist” feature suspenseful plots with women who have a sensible head on their shoulders, and delightfully colorful confrontations between the villains and Holmes. “The Adventure of the Three Garridebs” is amazing for the single moment when Sherlock Holmes finally lets the walls down and we get that glimpse of the great heart along with the great mind… but I could go on like this for ages. You asked for one story, I just listed five. Such is fandom.

 

Did you stick to the canon characters or invent a new companion?
For this story, there isn’t any companion present. As a general rule, I don’t think a new companion should be introduced unless there’s a good reason for it, and I didn’t have a reason. Initially, Watson was going to be a presence, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that not only did he not belong in this story, but it was essential that he be absent.

 

What are your other hobbies and interests?
I dabble in cosplay, perfumery, puppetry, online and tabletop gaming, painting… working with my hands and escapism, essentially.

 

What does the future hold for you?
Hopefully more writing, and hopefully some of it will be published.

 

What advice do you have for new writers…or just those of us not as accomplished as you are? 😉
One bit of advice for when you’re stuck – write fanfiction. Seriously, it’s a great, entertaining exercise. Write about your favorite show, write about your own characters, it doesn’t matter. It’s good to keep the gears moving, and maybe you’ll uncover an idea you didn’t know you had.

 

Where can readers find you?
Send a tweet to @mrskatem, or look up kaelma on tumblr.

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Six years ago, Katie Magnusson picked up a copy of The Complete Sherlock Holmes on a whim, and promptly devoured it. After picking the pages from her teeth, she sought out other sources of Sherlockiana, and discovered the often delightful world of pastiche. She has a particular taste for cross-genre tales, and is thrilled to be included in a paranormal Holmes anthology.
Katie lives in Wisconsin with an eccentric philosopher husband, and their cherubic Viking-ninja son.

 

Excerpt from “Sherlock Holmes and the Hungry Ghost” by Katie Magnusson:

 
The next few days were mundane. Holmes occupied himself with a chemical synthesis, finished updating his scrapbook, played concertos by Tchaikovsky, Mendelssohn and Paganini, and read every news publication in London. Twice.

 
His mind raced, an overworked engine threatening to break itself apart at any moment. He hadn’t eaten all day. He couldn’t. He was exhausted, but he couldn’t sleep. He had to do something. Anything. Everything. By God, what he wouldn’t give for a puzzle to walk through the door, for some crime to be committed! A horrible murder, a theft, blackmail, an encoded message, just give him work!

 
In a fit of exasperation, he pulled open his desk drawer. The case and bottle lay there, where he’d shut them away, out of sight. His hand trembled as he reached for the bottle, stopping just as his fingers brushed the surface. He took a breath and closed the drawer. The only way to know the damage done to his mind was to resist. He had to provide a consistent, controlled environment to assess his faculties, and so he would suffer through the boredom of existence.

 
Holmes tossed some pillows onto the floor, sitting down with his legs tucked up underneath him. He relit his pipe and closed his eyes, hoping he could manage to calm his mind at least for a moment. Just one moment’s reprieve was all he wanted…

 
He opened his eyes, lying on the floor. He’d fallen asleep. His body had finally rebelled and forced upon him the rest he sorely needed, much to his amused chagrin. He stood slowly, stretching his long limbs, and beheld his correspondence scattered across the room.

 

The jackknife that usually held it in place on the mantel was gone.
He turned, scanning the room. The knife was easy to spot, embedded in the opposite wall from the fireplace. He didn’t remember throwing it there.

 
“You’re going mad.”

 
“Who’s there?” He looked around and saw no one. He was alone.

 
“They’ll leave you–”

 
“Where are you?”

 
“–just like everyone else.”

 
It was a woman’s voice, and it seemed to come from everywhere at once. She laughed as he searched, and a tingling feeling crept across his skin as if an insect were crawling down his spine.

 
His head felt as if his skull was being hollowed out with a red hot poker. His chest was tight. He couldn’t breathe. “Voices that aren’t there…” he wondered aloud. Could the damage to his mind be so great?

 
“No. I refuse to believe it,” he pressed his hands to his ears as the woman laughed again, taunting, though it did nothing to dull the sound. “I am sane! If I were not, then I would not recognize my decline! These experiences have nothing to do with the cocaine,” he stalked over to the knife in the wall, yanking it out and firmly sticking it back in its proper place in the mantel, “I refuse to believe it,” he said again, softer, slowly absorbing the significance of his statement. “If I am not mad, then what is going on?”

 
You can also find An Improbable Truth in these locations:

Mocha Memoirs Store
Paperback on Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Smashwords

Author Interview: Steven R. Southard

Steven R. Southard

 

Today’s blog post is an interview with my fellow Hides the Dark Tower author and Avast Ye, Airships contributor Steven R. Southard.

I asked Steven to tell us a little about himself, and his work in Hides the Dark Tower:

How long have you been writing? About a quarter century. Sadly, over half of that was spent toying with a novel that will now never escape from its desk drawer…fortunately. I choose to file those years under ‘learning my craft,’ rather than ‘wasting my time.’

 

What was your reaction when you made your first sale?  Do you mean before or after somersaulting, climbing on the roof and belting out a primal scream of joy? After that initial reaction, I calmly and professionally e-mailed the editor my thanks. Then, in a dignified manner, I informed my wife how positively giddy and ecstatic I was, and then obtained at least one beer from the fridge.

 

Where you do get your inspiration? The most believable answer is that a tiny, hovering muse (who is visible only to me, and takes the form of a Greek goddess), whispers ideas in my ear. The less believable answer involves the supernatural, and such crazy notions as letting my mind wander while mowing the lawn, taking a shower, or waiting behind the wheel for the light to change.

 

Have you found it difficult to market your work? Any tips for things that worked? Let me put it this way—I’ve gotten top grades in high school, graduated from an elite service academy with a degree in engineering, wooed and married a very desirable woman, served in the submarine force, and raised three children to adulthood.  All were child’s play compared to marketing my fiction.  I have no tips, but am anxious to learn.

 

Do you enjoy interacting with fans, or are you an introvert? Do you get much fan mail? I’ve had fun at writing conferences, speaking on panels and doing readings and book signings. I’m not especially introverted, so I find that sort of thing enjoyable. However, to call the folks who listened to me ‘fans’ might be presumptuous. Let’s call them ‘people who got lost while looking for a well-known author and stumbled on me instead.’ I do get plenty of spam mail—gigabytes of it. Oh, you said fan mail. Um, not really so much.

 

What has been your most challenging project to date? Every story is a challenge, but I’d have to say “Ripper’s Ring” was the most challenging, especially in terms of research. I had to learn about both Jack the Ripper and Plato’s Ring of Gyges, and crank out an entertaining tale from what I’d learned.

 

What are your other hobbies and interests? As if I have time, after writing! In truth, I enjoy reading. And there’s the day job, which holds my interest until I can get back to writing fiction.

 

How did you come to write “Ancient Spin” for Hides the Dark Tower? I wrote it for a contest that asked for five hundred words inspired by a picture of the Tower of Babel. Didn’t win the contest, but when I saw the call from Pole to Pole Publishing for submissions of tower stories, I refined and lengthened “Ancient Spin” a bit. It’s my alternate take on the biblical Babel story.

 

What does the future hold for you? A rocketing rise to celebrity-level fame, and Midas-like wealth, all as a result of my fiction. Actually, those probably are fiction. I’m still writing alternate history stories for my series What Man Hath Wrought for Gypsy Shadow Publishing. I’ll write for anthologies that interest me from time to time. I have some other short story series in mind, and will write novels at some point.

 

What advice do you have for new writers…or just those of us not as accomplished as you are? 😉  (1) write stuff, (2) learn and hone your craft any way you can (reading, participating in a critique group, etc.), (3) submit your best stuff, (4) keep submitting your stuff until you get published, (5) do some marketing on your website, social media, and conferences, and (6) repeat all above steps with better and better stuff.

 

Where can readers find you?  I’d rather they find my books, which are available on Amazon, at Gypsy Shadow Publishing, and are linked to at my website and Goodreads. If readers want to find out more about me (for some reason), they can catch me on Twitter or Facebook

 

Thanks for joining us, Steven!