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Steve Harrison, Galaxy of Authors

Steve Harrison, Galaxy of Authors

Steve Harrison

‘Every major literary work began with a blank page, so all writers begin each story on an equal footing with every great writer who ever lived.’

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In the beginning…tell me what made you decide to start writing?

I wish I knew. I was in my late twenties and working in a boring office job when an idea occurred to me for a science fiction story. I quickly wrote it, looked up some magazine addresses and posted it off. It was accepted and I became addicted!

Are there any authors or artists who influence(d) you?

I was hooked from an early age on CS Forester’s Hornblower novels, which led me on to Dudley Pope, Alexander Kent and Patrick O’Brien, to whom a couple of people have kindly compared my writing style. Their novels certainly had a heavy influence on my published novel, TimeStorm. Other contemporary influences are Stephen King, Bernard Cornwell and Lee Child.

Tell me about your book.

Hornblower meets Jack Reacher

TimeStorm follows a British convict ship en route to Australia in 1795 as it miraculously survives a strange storm and limps into Sydney, where the convicts rebel and escape. But the year is now 2017…

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

I have one other finished book, the first of a proposed YA science fiction adventure series, called Blurred Vision, currently out with an agent, and I am halfway through a crime thriller.

Indie, or traditionally published – and why?

Traditional. I decided I would only publish if someone independent was willing to invest cash in my work. It took many years to sell TimeStorm, but I have no regrets and it was very satisfying when I signed a contract.

It’s said that to write well, you need to read a lot. What do you think?

I don’t know if that’s true. For me, I read far more than I write and can’t imagine doing anything else. But, like all generalised statements about writing, I don’t think there are any limits to creativity or how a writer approaches or produces their work.

Tell me what you feel the worst, and the best, aspects of being an author are, and why.

The best thing is living in a fictional world while writing. I find it very therapeutic to step outside the real world on a regular basis. The worst thing for me is actually starting to write, as I am a terrible procrastinator.

Are you a plotter, or a pantser? What do you think of the opposite approach?

I’ve tried both and I’m a ‘kinda’ pantser these days, in that I don’t make any written notes. My ideas form in my mind and I run them through a process similar to watching a movie. It’s as though I see the story broadly from a high aerial shot and as the story comes together I slowly zoom in on the detail. Eventually, I have a completed ‘movie’ version of the story in my head and I write what I ‘see.’ I don’t have an opinion on other methods as the best one is the method that works for you or the particular work at hand.

What are you writing at the moment?

A crime thriller about a serial killer and the human organ trafficking trade.

What’s your opinion on the belief that indie books are badly edited and lower quality than traditionally published?

Overall, I share that belief, though I have read several excellent self-published novels by authors who went the extra mile to hire highly professional editors, proof readers and cover artists to ensure their work was as good as any novel published by the majors. Traditionally published novels go through a rigorous process before being released and it’s easy to see from the first few pages of any novel if these processes are lacking. I like to read the preview pages of novels on Amazon and I see a lot of work that appears rushed and would have benefitted from additional editing.

If you could go back to the start of your writing career, what is the one piece of advice you’d give yourself?

None. If I have any writing ability today it’s because of all the mistakes I made along the way and I wouldn’t want my younger self to avoid any of them. I was quite stubborn and suspicious of writing advice (I still am!) and often tried to prove it wrong, particularly when people said ‘you must’ or ‘you can’t.’

Do you listen to music when you write, and if so, what do you like?

I try to match music to my writing, so for TimeStorm, an epic and violent adventure, I listened to a lot of music by movie trailer specialists, Two Steps from Hell. Writing my current thriller, I am alternating between the wonderful TV soundtracks for Westworld and The Handmaid’s Tale during suspenseful moments and the soulful songs by Cigarettes After Sex in the quieter sections. I become obsessive when I hook into great music.

Tell me three unique things about you.

1) I spent 10 years trying to break into screenwriting and almost sold a Pixar-esque animated screenplay to Fox (a very exciting couple of weeks!). The script was also nominated for an Australian Writer’s Guild (Awgie) award.

2) I was a movie and extra here in Australia in the late nineties and early noughties and appeared in The Matrix, Moulin Rouge and Mission Impossible II, among many others. My left shoulder is prominent for more than 10 seconds in the racecourse scene in MI2!

3) I was partnered with a young Hugh Jackman in the chorus of a 1989 amateur musical production of Paint Your Wagon. It is widely understood among the rest of the cast that I made Hugh look and sound so good he became a major international star…

Steve, thank you for participating in Galaxy of Authors!

Robert Lee Beers, Galaxy of Authors

Robert Lee Beers, Galaxy of Authors

Robert Lee Beers

‘I haven’t a clue.’

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In the beginning…tell me what made you decide to start writing?

I started in elementary school because it was fun and most of the things the teachers had me doing wasn’t.

Are there any authors or artists who influence(d) you?

Have you got room to list several hundred pages of names? Every author I read has influenced me to some degree. Off the top of my head I was say Heinlein, Campbell, Pratchett, DeChancie, Byrn, Foster, Eddings, McCaffrey, Stevenson, Dickens, Tolstoy…

Tell me about your series.

The funniest Supernatural Mystery series on the planet.

The Tony Mandolin Mysteries are an urban / noir fantasy series set in current San Francisco. As with most of the classic PI books, it is first person, told with much the same inflection found in Rex Stout’s Nero Wolf mysteries, except Stout didn’t have vampires, fairies, trolls and wizards in his cast.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

None, actually. I am currently writing three and all are due to be published.

What’s your opinion on the practice of ‘banning’ books?

It is an evil, and it presupposes that parents should set aside their responsibility to the state. Frankly, it is part of a very real slippery slope that has manifested in far too many countries. I’d rather ban those who suggest book banning.

Tell me about a principal character in your book(s). What makes them memorable?

Let’s go with the primary guest star in the Tony Mandolin series, one Franklin Amadeus Jackson, Frankie to his friends. Frankie, portrayed superbly by the masterful Elliot Dash in the Graphic Audio audio books, is nearly 7 feet tall, weighs over 300 pounds and was a raging drag queen in the first book. He is also a gourmet cook, a crack shot, inhumanly strong. A pop culture sponge with a chameleonic personality. He has also saved Tony’s life a dozen times over in the series so far.

It’s said that to write well, you need to read a lot. What do you think?

It’s true. The best writers have always been prolific readers. In reading you learn what to do and what not to do, if you have the capability of learning such things. Not all do, but then, not everyone can swim. I’m one of those.

Tell me what you feel the worst, and the best, aspects of being an author are, and why.

The worst is the constant rejection, and the best is being accepted. Even the top-selling authors in the world experience this. You can have a thousand five-star reviews on a book and that single one-star is all you can think about. Beyond that, it is the creation process itself. Finishing a paragraph or a section of a story that just WORKS, all caps are intended, is one of the most satisfying feeling there is. Having to delete a couple of pages because you just read it and it is crap and you know it, is the other side of that coin.

Are you a plotter, or a pantser? What do you think of the opposite approach?

I do both. My outlines are a series of words and phrases that tell me where I want to go. But more often than not, the characters or the story itself refuses direction, and I’ve learned to listen to the voices.

What are you writing at the moment?

A Scottish historical novel set in the time of the ‘45 right after the battle of Culloden dealing with the aftermaths of the Jacobite Uprising. It is called The Tartan and I should be finished with it in about two months.

What’s your opinion on the belief that indie books are badly edited and lower quality than traditionally published?

When I stop finding traditionally published books full of typos and continuity errors I’ll tell you.

What is your favourite genre to write, and why?

Fantasy. I like the freedom of imagination it allows.

If you could, would you live in the world you’ve created? Why / why not?

Not on your life. I’d mouth off to a troll and wind up a pink smear on the ground.

If you could go back to the start of your writing career, what is the one piece of advice you’d give yourself?

Do not waste all that time trying to find an agent.

Do you listen to music when you write, and if so, what do you like?

I prefer instrumental. There is a YouTube playlist titled Epic Pirate Music which is my favorite.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

That I was actually very good at it.

Robert, thank you for participating in Galaxy of Authors!

Rick Partlow, Galaxy of Authors

Rick Partlow, Galaxy of Authors

Rick Partlow

‘I began writing novels for publication because there weren’t enough novels being written in those genres that I wanted to read.’

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In the beginning…tell me what made you decide to start writing?

I’ve been writing since I was a kid, and it’s always been a desire to tell the stories I wanted to hear that no one else was telling.  As an adult, I began writing novels for publication because there weren’t enough novels being written in those genres that I wanted to read.

Are there any authors or artists who influence(d) you?

The first and always the most influential was Robert Heinlein. His juvenile novels introduced me to SF as a child and I still reread them all periodically. After that, William Gibson and his cyberpunk novels and Walter Jon Williams were also big influences on me when I was younger.

Tell me about your book / series.

I have four series in all.

The first was a military SF trilogy called “Duty, Honor, Planet:” i. Duty Honor Planet  ii. Honor Bound  iii. The Line of Duty

This series is about a pair of young military intelligence officers who wind up rising quickly through the ranks as they confront what initially appears to be an alien invasion but winds up being a conspiracy rooted deep in the fabric of their society.

The remaining series all take place in the universe of the Human Commonwealth, and they share a common history but focus on different characters and situations.

The “Birthright” series focuses on Caleb Mitchell, born into a society of pacifist technological simplists on a religious agro-colony.  He winds up a biologically-enhanced Glory Boy commando fighting against the alien Tahni in a war that has dragged on for decades.

Glory Boy is a prequel that deals with his time in the military and service during the war.

Following that is the “Birthright” trilogy: i. Birthright ii. Northwest Passage iii. Enemy of My Enemy

The trilogy deals with Caleb and his friends, family and former Glory Boy teammates as they deal with a Corporate Council conspiracy to gain control of ancient alien technology.

After that is the “Recon” series, which is centers on Randall Munroe, the son and heir of a Corporate Council scion who abandons that life and changes his identity to enlist in the Recon Marines during the war with the Tahni in the first book. The rest of the series deals with his experience as a mercenary after the war, working initially for and then against the Corporate Council. i. Recon: A War to the Knife ii. Recon: A Wolf in the Fold iii. Recon: A Battle for the Gods iv. Recon: A Fight to the Death

My latest series began with a prequel that takes place during the war with the Tahni, a book called Last Flight of the Acheron, which tells the story of Sandi Hollande, the black-sheep daughter of a high-ranking Fleet Admiral, and Ash Carpenter, who chose the military over life as a low-level criminal in the Trans-Angeles slums.  They form a close friendship in the Academy and wind up serving together in a new command of small, fast-attack starships

I am currently working on the first book in the series about them taking place after the war, called Tales of the Acheron.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

None.  All the books I completed are published.  I have about a dozen books with maybe 10-20,000 words done on them that I abandoned at that point, but I might go back and finish a couple of them.

What’s your opinion on the practice of ‘banning’ books?

Banning by who?  By governments?  In that case, I’m totally against it.  If you mean anything else by the term, I would need it clarified.

Tell me about a principal character in your book(s). What makes them memorable?

Caleb Mitchell of Glory Boy and the “Birthright” series is memorable in that he goes from being a boy brought up in an insulated, pacifist, religious society far away from more advanced civilization to willingly becoming a high-tech commando, and in doing so is willing to be exiled and shunned by his own people.  He repeatedly has to leave, perhaps forever, the home and people he loves in order to protect them.

Indie, or traditionally published – and why?

I tried to get traditionally published back in the mid to late 1990s.  I had an agent and she was shopping the first “Duty, Honor, Planet” and “Birthright” novels.  It didn’t work out and I basically gave up on writing for publication.  Then self-publishing on Amazon became a thing and once I put those books out as e-books for Kindle and sold 30,000 copies the first year, I never even considered submitting a book to a traditional publisher again.

It’s said that to write well, you need to read a lot. What do you think?

I totally agree.  I read almost compulsively when I was a kid and I still try to read as much as I have time for.  It’s more difficult now, since writing takes up so much of my time.  But what I read as a child and a young adult shaped the writer I am now.

Tell me what you feel the worst, and the best, aspects of being an author are, and why.

The best part is not having any set hours.  The worst part is also not having any set hours.  I write what feels like every spare moment and I do it till I reach my word count goal for the day and if that’s 1AM, then it’s 1AM.  I’m my own boss, but my boss is a slave-driving jerk.

Are you a plotter, or a pantser? What do you think of the opposite approach?

I used to be mostly a pantser until last year, when I made a total conversion to plotter.  Prior to last year, I would plot maybe a chapter or three ahead at the most and generally let my characters guide me.  I still love doing that, and think it’s a much more fun and fulfilling way to write, but it takes way too long.  I averaged a book a year pantsing and they were invariably over 120,000 words each.  With tight, high-detail plotting, I can finish a 70-80,000 word book in a month and a half or less.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

Sometimes, I’ll name a set of characters after something specific, like NFL QBs from the early 2000s or a cast of actors from a certain film.

Tell me about one favourite hobby or pastime that isn’t writing or reading.

I have spent far too much money and a lot of time pursuing wildlife photography.  I’ve been to the Yellowstone/Grand Teton area 17 times since 2006.

What are you writing at the moment?

I’m writing book number one in my new “Tales of the Acheron” space opera series.  It’s about two former war hero Fleet pilots who wind up on the run from the law, the Pirate World cartels and a vengeful bounty hunter.

What’s your opinion on the belief that indie books are badly edited and lower quality than traditionally published?

I think that a certain percentage of ALL books, indie or traditionally published, are badly edited and low quality.  There are just MORE indie books than traditional ones so you get to see more of them.  I think the most badly written and badly edited ones never get read by anyone anyway.  But I’ve found typos and editing mistakes in books by Tom Clancy and Stephen King.

What is your favourite genre to write, and why?

Science fiction in general and military SF and/or space opera in particular.

If you could, would you live in the world you’ve created? Why / why not?

I’d definitely live in my Commonwealth universe. It has its drawbacks, but it’s wild and wide open and has some cool worlds in it, like Demeter, where they’ve established a huge nature preserve for re-engineered extinct mammals.

If you could go back to the start of your writing career, what is the one piece of advice you’d give yourself?

I would have kept writing after the first two books, so that when the time came that I self published on Amazon and had amazing initial success, I could have followed it up with sequels immediately and not taken a year to get the first one out and lost all that momentum.

Do you listen to music when you write, and if so, what do you like?

Sometimes.  It varies, but I find Awesome Mix Volume 1 from the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie is very inspiring.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

How easy it is to write once you’ve established good writing habits and gotten practice at them.

Tell me three unique things about you.

1) I still have my wisdom teeth, my tonsils and my appendix.

2) I’ve been to all but 4 US states, but only two foreign countries.

3) I’ve run two marathons.

Rick, thank you for participating in Galaxy of Authors!

Richard H Stephens, Galaxy of Authors

Richard H Stephens, Galaxy of Authors

Richard H. Stephens

‘Durned elf.’

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In the beginning…tell me what made you decide to start writing?

During the school summer break, when I was nine years old, I found the long summer days dragging out and becoming boring. One sweltering afternoon, while my best friend and I were reading Hardy Boy books, we had an epiphany. We thought, “We could write one of these.” And so, I did.

Are there any authors or artists who influence(d) you?

Definitely. Obviously, Franklin W. Dixon in the beginning, but it was Stephen R. Donaldson and Terry Brooks who were the catalyst to my love of Fantasy.

Tell me about your book.

A forgotten hero, scorned by a kingdom for the death of their queen, is called back to duty, but he fears that should he re-enter the fray, he may end up killing them all.

Soul Forge, is an epic fantasy about an embittered warrior, Silurian Mintaka, who has secluded himself away from society for fear of unleashing his vengeance upon a disillusioned people.

An old man reaches through his darkness, and convinces him the people’s need outweighs his loathing of them. Befriending a few eccentric characters along the way, Silurian Mintaka and company face a whirlwind of drastic choices, that once made, may lead them down a path of no return.

Embarking upon the greatest journey of their lives, they travel the uncharted waters of the Niad Ocean; not across, but beneath, on a fool’s errand to recover the lost enchantment of his fabled blade.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Several. My earlier stuff, sci-fi, and other genres will forever remain in a box. My focus going forward is the series, Soul Forge, due for release at the end of 2017, and its sequel, The 13 Eyes of Helleden is scheduled for spring 2018.

What’s your opinion on the practice of ‘banning’ books?

I am not well versed on this subject, but I think it is a tough call in this day and age. Unless it can be 100% considered hate literature, how can we judge someone else’s content? Just because I believe one thing, doesn’t mean you must also. Those decisions are best left to those people wishing to spend their energies on this matter.

Tell me about a principal character in your book(s). What makes them memorable?

We first meet Silurian Mintaka in Of Trolls and Evil Things (Published Nov 1, 2017) The book is about him and his sister, who find themselves orphaned and trying to survive the hostile environment of a seedy city, and the dangerous mountain wilderness surrounding it. The book illustrates that no matter how bad things get, Silurian’s good character always brightly shines through. Even faced with starvation and being beaten, he finds a way to walk the high road.

In Soul Forge, the reader finds this same person, a disgruntled, angry person who hates the people of the kingdom almost as much as they hate him. In the intervening dark years between Of Trolls and Evil Things and Soul Forge, life has managed to beat down this once morally upstanding citizen. After rising to the status of King’s Champion, a series of events spin the lives of Silurian,and those around him out of control, stripping everything he has, and everything he loves, away from him. Silurian’s need to discover those responsible for murdering his family and abducting his sister, finally breaks him. The epic fantasy series, Soul Forge is a journey of self discovery for his once beautiful, forgotten soul.

Indie, or traditionally published – and why?

Either. I decided to go Indie after a meeting with an Agent who asked to see more of Soul Forge, and then never got back to me. That is the frustrating part with traditional publishing. Especially after someone pointedly requests more information. How hard is it to fire off a quick email stating they aren’t interested?

It’s said that to write well, you need to read a lot. What do you think?

For sure. Reading is a writer’s lecture hall.

Tell me what you feel the worst, and the best, aspects of being an author are, and why.

The best: holding your work in your hands after it has been published. The worst? Hearing people complain about the price of a $2.99 e-book that took months or years to write, edit polish, and proof, and will provide hours of enjoyment and you will have forever, while these same people sip on their $5.99 coffee, that took five minutes to make, and will be consumed ten minutes later. Really? Come on, people.

Are you a plotter, or a pantser? What do you think of the opposite approach?

Oh, I am a total pantser. I can’t be bothered world building, or plotting, or whatever those organized people do. I sit down in front of the keyboard and simply make my character put one foot in front of the other. That’s all the work I need to do. From that point on, I just follow the character out the door into his or her world. I get to see the land unfold before their eyes at the same time they do. I get to feel their emotions, go through their hardships, when they do. If there’s a babbling brook up ahead, I’ll know it when we round the next bend.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

Absolutely. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.

Tell me about one favourite hobby or pastime that isn’t writing or reading.

Playing sports. Soccer, hockey, hiking, biking, kayaking, whatever.

What are you writing at the moment?

Soul Forge is nearly through its editing stage, then it’s off to my wonderful Beta readers. The 13 Eyes of Helleden has been idling over the lastcopuple of months as my main goal has been the publishing of The Royal Tournament, released in September, and now,Of Trolls and evil Things, scheduled for Nov 1.

What’s your opinion on the belief that indie books are badly edited and lower quality than traditionally published?

I believe there is some truth to that. There is a belief amongst some writers that they need to get as much out there as quickly as possible, and if their works are riddled with errors, oh well. I know. I have seen it said many times in different writing groups I follow. Sad really. There are also many authors who don’t have the resources to pay for a good editor, or quality cover art, and that, too, is unfortunate. You can’t tell me people don’t judge a book by its cover. Of course they do. That’s what gets the book noticed on the shelf, unless you are already familiar with the author. If an author wants to be noticed, the cover art and their polished work will ultimately be the deciding factor on whether they are continually successful or not.

What is your favourite genre to write, and why?

Fantasy. If I want to write in a purple tree, you can’t gainsay me. You have never been to my world. I like science fiction as well, but I am not technically knowledgeable, so I would be ripped a second one by those who would rather spend all their energy dissecting a story’s legitimacy than enjoying the ride.

If you could, would you live in the world you’ve created? Why / why not?

No. I like my modern conveniences.

Do you listen to music when you write, and if so, what do you like?

Yes. I listen to a variety of different music, depending on the mood of the story that I am writing at the time. Generally, I listen to heavy metal, alternative rock, and epic music. The song, Stand Up and Fight, by Turisas, would be the theme song for Soul Forge, if it ever became a movie.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

How easy it is to actually publish a book. I lost a little hair, but not nearly as much as I had anticipated.

Tell me three unique things about you.

1) Although I write about swords and fighting, I am squeamish when it come to looking at blood and cuts.

2) I am a terrible speaker.

3) I have one ear larger than the other. (My kids call me Nemo!)

Richard, thank you for participating in Galaxy of Authors!

Richard L Pastore, Galaxy of Authors

Richard L Pastore, Galaxy of Authors

Richard L. Pastore

‘Making the world a better place, one manipulated smile at a time.’

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In the beginning…tell me what made you decide to start writing?

It’s difficult to say, since I never made a conscious decision to be a writer. I’m not even sure I have yet. However, I’ve always had a creative mind, but often lack the skills to realize those thoughts. My artistic skills seemed to stall at poorly drawn stick figures, and I had little to no exposure to musical instruments. Working with clay or wood – hilarious failures – but I had a lot of fun. But writing seemed to work. Both of my parents were readers, especially my mother, and encouraged me to be one as well. So it wasn’t a huge leap to begin expressing myself through my own stories. Although, I must admit, my first effort, Two Fish, Three Fish, Yellow Fish, Green Fish might have been too derivative of another author’s work.

Are there any authors or artists who influence(d) you?

Oh my yes. Probably too many to list, but some, of course, had greater impact than others. Early on, Agatha Christie delighted me. Via school, I read many classics: Dickens, Twain, the Brontes, Melville, Graves, T.H. White, etc. Enjoying most everything. I eventually stumbled into Sci-Fi and Fantasy courtesy of Ray Bradbury, who I will always maintain is a phenomenal writer. So yes, I hit my teenage years with healthy nerdish doses of Tolkien and Asimov. However, in that genre, writers like Zelazny and LeGuin truly captured my imagination. As an adult, Richard Russo and Christopher Moore delight me with every book they publish. And I must give mention to Stephen Brust who heavily influenced my book. I thanked him in a personal email last year, and will gladly thank him forever. In effect, he taught me that there are creative ways you can turn the world upside-down and make a good story out of it.

Tell me about your book.

Heaven, Hell and Earth humorously collide as the devil Mephistopheles and his assistant JR attempt to outmaneuver an obsessed angel, a power-hungry devil, and an amoral employee; all while entertaining old friends, new friends, and a would-be assassin.

For this comedy, like many authors before me, I’ve borrowed the character of Mephistopheles (thank you Misters Marlowe and Goethe). Mephistopheles, as hinted by Marlowe, disliked his soul-trading role; so I decided to push the tale a few more steps down the road. After a few millennium, he has devised a plan to once-and-for-all extricate himself from it. This plan involves a little bit of magic, a lot of manipulation and reliance on a somewhat unpredictable, hyperactive assistant. Success will free him from this responsibility while failure could result in Armageddon, which would seriously hamper his leisure time.

I’ve provided enough twists and turns in Mephistopheles overly complex plot to keep the reader engaged while providing a few crumbs for thought on the nature of good and evil, mortality, humanity, as well as our reliance on preconceived notions.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

I’m currently working (early phase) on 3, probably going to shelve one. Over the years, I’ve only written short stories and essays mostly for friends. Some I’ve accidentally lost to time, which doesn’t bother me as they were mainly temporary creative experiments allowing me to play around with some ideas. Writing, for me and up until this point, has been a side-hobby – and expressive outlet. But as I enter another phase in my life, I feel it’s time to embrace it more fully. Although I still have a massive mortgage to pay and have a full-time plus job to do that.

What’s your opinion on the practice of ‘banning’ books?

Those two words should never go together. No matter how I try to look at it, the underlying concept is faulty and the execution nearly impossible to accomplish.

Books are ideas. You can’t ban ideas. They can be recreated by anyone at any time and can also be spread by many channels other than books. You might as well ban thinking and talking while you’re at it. Certainly, we may be appalled by some, but then it’s up to us to create alternative, compelling ideas/books.

I have seen how many people have felt a need to ‘protect’ others from objectionable material. But that shouldn’t be their responsibility, or role. Each person should have free will to decide and if bad decisions are being made, the faults lie elsewhere. I also understand the special case regarding children, but I feel that should remain in the sphere of parent/child relationships. My own parents set clear boundaries for behaviors as every parent should. But any parent that thinks society as a whole should agree and comply with their arbitrary placement of boundaries is overreaching.

Tell me about a principal character in your book. What makes them memorable?

For this book, I’ll have to pluralize that question to “characters”.

The two main characters are Mephistopheles and JR Wolfe – as I like to label them – two mischievous miscreants. Despite that, they are both well-meaning and, I hope to the reader, lovable. What makes them memorable is the interplay between them. While having some attribute overlap, they are opposites in many ways and that helps create some great situations and dialog that is a joy to write.

Indie, or traditionally published – and why?

This book started as an experiment – a bucket list item if you will. So I never had the intention of starting a full career as a writer. Indie publishing has come a long way from what it was when I was younger. You no longer need an outlay of large sums and guarantees of selling X books. There are positive and negative aspects to this one-button, open to everyone and anything method that’s available now, but, for me, the timing couldn’t be more perfect.

I was able to focus on crafting a book and then follow a few short steps to making that a reality.  Of course the downside is that I don’t have a marketing machine behind me, but again, this wasn’t a career goal and I’m not looking for my work to financially support me. I sincerely wanted to have the experience of writing a novel and having someone enjoy reading it. Considering the feedback I’ve gotten and the requests for more, I feel (hope) I have accomplished that.

Given my goal and situation, I’m not sure I can help anyone who is starting a career in writing decent advice as to which direction to take, and even if you opt to go as I did and self-publish, there are still a number of options to choose through.

It’s said that to write well, you need to read a lot. What do you think?

I couldn’t agree more with that statement. Read, read, read. It will open your mind to a variety of styles and possibilities as well as keeping your writing ‘muscles’ in shape. If you decide to reread a favorite book, take the time to look at it as a fellow author. Look at sentence and paragraph structure, consider how characters are portrayed, study the way the plot is developed and reflect on how dialog is handled.

However, having said all of that, when I am deep into writing, I avoid reading other authors, especially when it comes to comedy (I may even avoid television comedies as well). This is because I want to avoid being influenced and allow my own voice and style to come out. Once I start editing, though, I’m okay with it.

Tell me what you feel the worst, and the best, aspects of being an author are, and why.

I can readily tell you the worst, because it was a new experience for me: insecurity.  Business writing is a large part of my professional career and having worked in the corporate world for almost 35 years, I have a ready sense as to how good or bad my work output is in any given document. However, creative writing is much different. In fact, I think that’s the key – creation. I have a sense that all people who are involved in artistic creation must feel this. How well you destroy something is pretty easy to measure (it’s gone), but how well you create something, especially something with mostly subjective measures is exceedingly difficult to gauge.  And that leads to insecurity. But, you are creating as well and there’s a certain amount of joy and catharsis that comes from that. Before long you are both loving what you’ve done, then thinking it’s absolute garbage and then back to loving it and so on.

The flipside comes from people’s responses to your work. I mean, sure we all enjoy people saying how much they like it, etc., but for me, writing comedy, there is one important measure. If I am told that at some point during my book, a person has almost involuntarily chuckled out loud; well then I feel like I’ve done my work in this world. It’s an amazing feeling.

Are you a plotter, or a pantser? What do you think of the opposite approach?

My gosh, I think I’m both, but probably lean towards pantser. I always begin with a vague, mostly nonverbal idea of where the book needs to start and where it needs to go. There are some very clear scenes that come out of that with a very distinct flow. This allows me to construct a high-level outline. Then I begin to layout major chapters. But there are always gaps in that outline. Not all of the milestones are clearly set. While writing, I will find myself jumping from place to place to write the clearer sections so I can get a better view of what I need to do to tie them together. As a result, I’ve created subplots, characters and situations on the spot. It’s like that with my dialog as well. Snippets will occur to me months before I’m at that point of writing, but it isn’t until I start to write it that I can tell exactly what my characters are going to say and why. And, yes, once I’m deep into writing, the characters may end up saying and doing things that have me changing large chunks of my initial layout.

Which approach is best? I’m all for whatever works for you, the writer. But I do feel that the pantser approach is easiest when you are most familiar with your characters. You can let the leash go, as it were.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

I wouldn’t write if I couldn’t. I truly revel in doing this, although I wouldn’t call them ‘secrets’. I can give one example from the book – there are more, but I’m not telling. There is an object mentioned in two sections of the book. It’s a 3500 year old figurine of an anthropomorphized cow. The fun thing is, it actually exists and sits in a museum. On occasion, I’ll drop in a line from a song I’m listening to, not that I would ever, ever expect anyone to get that, but it’s kind of fun to do. I was listening to Hollow Moon by AWOLNATION, and at one point the singer says “You’re all still here.” At that very point I had Mephistopheles turn around and say exactly that. Fun with writing.

Tell me about one favourite hobby or pastime that isn’t writing or reading.

Food! Gardening, nutrition, history of food, cooking – all of it, I can discuss forever. Needless to say, my friends love dropping in for a bite to eat.

What are you writing at the moment?

As I mentioned, I’ve got three book concepts I’m sketching out and writing parts to. None of them are a sequel to this one – that will come next. I want to develop these three and then probably put the weakest one aside. One is a sort-of prequel to my book involving events at the Garden of Eden. Another is a paranormal fiction that is coming out a bit more serious than I had planned. In the third one, I’m looking back on a Greek myth (favorite reading as a child) and recasting it as a comedy. I have had to slow down appreciably this summer, mainly because of work demands and dealing with a family issue, but I’ve recently taken the reins back up.

What’s your opinion on the belief that indie books are badly edited and lower quality than traditionally published?

It’s true and I’ll throw my own book into that mix, but only because we’re saying it at a general level of “overall as compared to those from a publishing house”. There are two reasons for this:

1.  As I indicated earlier, anyone can publish anything now. I have a friend whose brother publishes garbage ‘how-to books’ (basically pamphlet size things with boiler-plate information) simply on the theory that if you put out hundreds and only make fifty cents on one copy of each, it will still bring in money. There are no controls for that kind of thing and it skews the answer to this question.

2. And closer to home, an Indie author often doesn’t have the financial resources to hire an editor (from copy editor on up), while publishing houses supply those services. I was fortunate enough to have a friend who provided developmental, and some substantive, editing at an extremely affordable price for me. But I really wish I could have afforded a copy editor and/or proofreader.

What is your favourite genre to write, and why?

Comedy and fantasy. I enjoy the former because it feels more natural to me and I actually have fun rereading some of the things I’ve written (and I know, that sounds egocentric). Fantasy is a great genre to write in because you can express so much whether it’s blatant or veiled. There is the burden of world-building or internal consistency to contend with but I find the freedom extremely rewarding. I also enjoy taking known elements or characters and reimagining them. To do so, you need to do your homework and have a good understanding of them.

If you could, would you live in the world you’ve created? Why / why not?

I definitely would. Firstly, it’s a lot like the one we’re in now and, overall, I really like this world. Secondly, it leaves open the possibility for other existences beyond this one. It’s not something I go into very much in the book, but there is a Heaven and there is a Hell and both aren’t so bad.

If you could go back to the start of your writing career, what is the one piece of advice you’d give yourself?

Take more time editing your first book. I know it’s exciting and you can’t wait to be able to share it, but take the time.

Do you listen to music when you write, and if so, what do you like?

Yes, not always, but often. I tend to switch back and forth between classical, alternative (rock), and big band/blues from the 30s and 40s – all depending on the mood I’m setting in what I’m writing. As I mentioned earlier, a few drops may fall into the prose.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

I never believed I could write anything novel-length. It had been all short stories and essays. It was difficult at spots and early on I remember looking at the word count (only 25,000? But I’m almost finished with the story!) and by the end, with the help of my friend, needing to cut about 15-20,000 words out. I was floored.

Tell me three unique things about you.

Let’s see…

1) My middle name is Louis, but actually I was middle-named after my grandfather Luciano(Americanized) who, was originally named Lucifer (before being Italianized). It turns out that in the tiny town he grew up in the name retained its original meaning and did not have the standard Christian annotations associated with it (I believe there was even a monastery there named after a monk named Lucifer, but that also changed names in the last 50 years or so).

2). I was born 6 weeks early and as a result I don’t shed tears. I have them, but they drain into my sinuses if I cry or chop onions. The tear wells didn’t form correctly.

3) I’ve got around 5 patents in User Interface design sitting out there somewhere from when I worked at AT&T.

Richard, thank you for participating in Galaxy of Authors!

Raquel Byrnes, Galaxy of Authors

Raquel Byrnes, Galaxy of Authors

Raquel Byrnes

‘So come with me, where dreams are born, and time is never planned.’ ~J.M. Barrie (Peter Pan: The Fairy Tales)

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In the beginning…tell me what made you decide to start writing?

I think I was six or seven when I saw the Nutcracker Ballet with my parents and being absolutely shocked that you could be a girl with pink silk slippers and still go on adventures.  I remember wanting to have adventures of my own and started making them up and eventually writing them in notebook after notebook while growing up.

Are there any authors or artists who influence(d) you?

The authors I read early on as a teen really did leave a mark on my psyche. Philip K. Dick, Matheson, Asimov for sure. I had a deep love affair with Poe during my goth years in high school. Lovecraft was a fascination for a while as well. I loved both science fiction and fantasy and that hasn’t changed. I still read and write both.

Tell me about your book.

Sometimes heroes are born ladies…

Tremblers is thetale of Charlotte Blackburn, a debutante living in post calamitous Manhattan. She’s a daughter of the new society that sprang up after a series of devastating quakes nearly decimated all of North America. Technology, specifically steam tech and mechanica, are all that protect the citizens from the terrors outside the domes. The Peaceful Union is a reformed Untied States made up of 13 ruthless governors that rule what is left of America with an iron fist.  Charlotte’s  father, a chemist, discovers the cause of a terrible sickness that is spreading across the nation creating monsters out of men, but there are powers that want to hide the truth and keep the cure to themselves. When he is abducted, Charlotte is thrust into a world of secret societies, ruthless lawmen, and unfathomable danger as she tries to save her father and stop the disease from spreading.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Oh my gosh…at least a dozen. I have books halfway done, books in the throes of first chapters, and an entire series that is complete, but hidden away. I have novellas and flash fiction tucked in there somewhere also.

What’s your opinion on the practice of ‘banning’ books?

I don’t like anybody making decisions for me for anything.

Tell me about a principal character in your book(s). What makes them memorable?

Charlotte Blackburn is the heroine of the story and she is memorable because she is SO not qualified for what she must do. She’s a debutante in a cloistered and safe community who lives under the protection of electric Tesla domes that keep out the ash and poisonous gasses of their ruined landscape. She has no idea what is outside of her safe world or how to deal with it. She is a relatively normal person thrust into a situation that requires extraordinary resilience and bravery.  Everything she was taught in becoming a lady is of no use and she has to rely on instinct and guts to get her through. I find those types of rise to the challenge characters so interesting.

Indie, or traditionally published – and why?

I am a little fuzzy on that, actually. When I was sending out queries and going to conferences years ago, indie publishers were simply small publishers, not self-publishers. I still find people debating on which name to use. I met an acquisitions editor for a small publisher at a conference. They ended up offering a contract on my first three books so that is how I ended up on the traditional side of things.  I’ve met traditional authors that moved to self publishing and vise versa. It’s so fluid nowadays. More and more though, I am hearing of hybrid authors that use the best of both worlds to connect with other book lovers.

It’s said that to write well, you need to read a lot. What do you think?

I think that is absolutely true. I have learned so much about what works for me as a reader and what throws me out of the fictional world by reading. Good books, great books, books that are very different than what you write. Its important to look at writing through the eyes of a reader.

Tell me what you feel the worst, and the best, aspects of being an author are, and why.

I think the best part of being an author is bringing my imagination to life and being able to share in those experiences with others. The worst part is the snack pounds. I am forever running off the things I munch on during my writing sessions.

Are you a plotter, or a pantser? What do you think of the opposite approach?

I am 100% a plotter. I have outlines, charts, mind maps, character questionnaires, etc. I feel it frees me up to explore if I know I won’t leave out important beats. Pantsers fascinate me. My critique partner is one and she weaves the most amazing, detailed Regency romances with this method. It works for her, but the thought of whittling down a book that is one hundred and fifty thousand words is terrifying to me.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

Oh definitely, all the time! I have names for side characters, boats, pets, even place that hold meaning for people who have read all my books. I throw in references to characters and happenings from other books and even hint at what happens after the book ends.  I love leaving surprises for my best book buddies.

Tell me about one favourite hobby or pastime that isn’t writing or reading.

I have always loved astronomy. I’m an avid sky watcher and often have get togethers to watch meteor showers or what not.  There’s a campground near my home that is next to an observatory. That is one of my favorite places. No lights or fire are allowed after nightfall and all around you are people on RV’s with telescopes pointing tracking lasers at the sky.  People wander from site to site talking, sharing food, and talking space.  Truly a great community.

What are you writing at the moment?

I’m working on a Gunpowder Fantasy set in the Civil War with monsters and magic. I’m having the time of my life!

What’s your opinion on the belief that indie books are badly edited and lower quality than traditionally published?

Perhaps at the very beginning when the industry was just starting out that may have been true. There just wasn’t the support networks and industry resources out there for the average author. But as indie publishing has come into its own, the quality out there has skyrocketed. Some of my favorite authors are completely self-reliant from concept to cover art and the products are amazing.

What is your favourite genre to write, and why?

I would have to say adventure/thriller. I just seem to gravitate towards that first love. I will always be Clara, fighting against the Mouse King’s Army in a little pink dress.

If you could, would you live in the world you’ve created? Why / why not?

I’m not sure I would survive them. The post calamity steampunk world of The Tremblers is definitely a dangerous place, but I think I would try it if given the chance. There is so much about the spirit of innovation and wonder during that time that is so appealing.

If you could go back to the start of your writing career, what is the one piece of advice you’d give yourself?

I would tell myself to stop trying to beat some imaginary clock to publication and just enjoy the process of writing and learning and getting to know the industry. I was so stressed about the business side early on in my career for no reason. Don’t try to understand EVERYTHING about publishing all at once… learn what you need to, when you need to know it.

Do you listen to music when you write, and if so, what do you like?

I make playlists for each book with soundracks, classical music, mellow beats…anything without lyrics. I find a great piece for an airship battle or a monster chase and I play it on repeat while I write the scene. I find it really works for me.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

I guess how hard it is to decide when you’re done tinkering. I never feel finished with a story. Never.

Tell me three unique things about you.

Let’s see…

1) I did karate for 5 years as a teenager. No help to me now, but it was fun at the time.

2) I am a real scaredy cat and can only watch horror movies with someone else…even though I write monsters and mayhem.

3) I am a natural introvert and quiet at parties, but if you have a seat next to me we’ll talk for hours.

Raquel, thank you for participating in Galaxy of Authors!

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