Release Day Blitz & Author Interview
Rayna Kingston and Helena Lancaster released their book Hearts on Fire: The Story of Vlad the Impaler and the Women He Loved, and they took some time out of their busy schedules to answer some questions for their readers. Check out what these lovely ladies had to say:
Q: What motivated the two of you to write a book together? And why this particular book?
Helena: We’ve known each other since 2008 and over periods of being in and out of touch, we eventually became best friends. Rayna is the kind of best friend everyone has always wanted. I moved in with her and her daughter in 2012 and they’ve become my family. We were just talking one day about Vlad and it ended up sparking this idea for a book. We had no idea then that discussing our personal thoughts on the death of his first wife and rumors of another lover he had before, during, and after her would end up turning into this at the time. It has been a wonderful experience though to take someone that historically infamous and create this captivating story about an unknown side to the man. Plus, the whole always making him a vampire can get rather old. We wanted to tell a story of the real man behind all of the legends.
Rayna: A random conversation spawned a book we are both very proud of.
Q: Have you always known that you wanted to be a writer or was it a recent development?
Helena: I’ve written most of my life. I’ve always enjoyed it and no matter what other career goals and dreams I’ve pondered, writer was always a part of it. So having a writing career to me is essentially fulfilling a dream I’ve had since I was probably seven. The decision however to focus my future, education, and career goals on writing has definitely been more recent. I do have to say Rayna had a big part in making me “see the light” so to speak by telling me I was insane to pursue anything else.
Rayna: This is very recent for me! I never had the dream to be a writer like Helena has. Even though I have written in some for or fashion for over 20 years, it was for purely cathartic. Just a way for me to release my inner demons and feel better for a time.
Q: What’s next up for your writing career?
Helena: After Hearts on Fire: The Story of Vlad the Impaler and the Women He Loved releases, Rayna and I will be hard at work on the next book in The Passion of the Dragon Saga. I will also, be releasing my second collection of poetry to be titled Phoenix from the Ashes: Poetry from Personal Struggle, Rebirth, and Triumph this November. My first poetry collection Behind the Mask was released on February 15, 2015. I have some other novel projects in development for the future as well.
Rayna: For me, I will be focusing on book 2 of The Passion of the Dragon Series. I have another book idea that I have been toying around with for a few years, but that is way down the road. I know that I will have a poetry anthology coming out in the next year or so.
Q: What or who has influenced your writing both in style and content?
Helena: My influences as far as writers go would have to be Sylvia Plath, Edgar Allan Poe, Laurell K Hamilton, Nora Roberts, JK Rowling, George R.R. Martin, Kim Harrison, J.R.R. Tolkein and Philippa Gregory. History, mythology, lore, dreams, and even music influence me, as well. I’m a bit of an eccentric super nerd to be honest so there are many things out there that end up sparking some crazy idea in my head that I am dying to turn into a full-fledged story.
Rayna: I really don’t have any direct influences for my writing. I have writers and poets whose works I love to read. For that it would be Edgar Allan Poe, Chelsea Cain, Nora Roberts, Charles Baudelaire, and Patricia Cornwell to name a few. My writing comes from within, I guess.
Q: When you have down time and all you have is a world full of possibilities and yourself, what is your favorite thing to do?
Helena: If I had absolutely nothing to do, I would read! I rarely get to read just because I want to these days. I’ll be honest it kind of sucks sometimes. I’m behind in my favorite book series and my reading list is just getting longer and longer.
Rayna: I have to agree with Helena. I would read. Between work, homework, and writing, reading is the last thing I get to do. I miss being able to fall into someone’s imaginary world and live among their characters for a time.
Q: Do you have a soundtrack playing in your head (or for real) as you write? If so, what kind of music are you listening to? If not, what gets you through the writing process (silence, your partner, your cat whispering to you… just covering all the bases here)?
Helena: I typically write to music. It does help me focus and I can see emotions in my characters through it. My typical writing playlist is bands like Within Temptation, Evanescence, Delain, Epica, Nightwish, Depeche Mode, Kamelot, Lacuna Coil, the Goo Goo Dolls, and quite a few others. I have a big preference for symphonic rock, progressive rock, techno, and synth pop. My taste is pretty varied. Plus, if I have headphones in I’m not driving Rayna nuts by my inability to not talk! However, there are times when the headphones come out and discussing what we are writing or where the story is going with each other really helps.
Rayna: I do not usually write to music. I do better writing to sounds around me. But when I do write to music, the genre is usually rock/metal. I have a playlist on my computer of bands like the 69 Eyes, Alestorm, Breaking Benjamin, Muse, Godsmack, HIM, Motley Crue, The Cure, 3 Doors Down, Turisas, The Rasmus, KISS, and so many more. While I am grateful for Helena’s headphones, since what I may hear in a conversation could accidently end up in my writing, there are those times we need to discuss what is happening in the book.
Q: Five years from now: you’re a well-known, best-selling author, what’s the name of your hot new release?
Helena and Rayna: Our best guess is that would be Volume Six of The Passion of the Dragon Saga that we don’t have a title for as of yet.
Q: What was the toughest part of the writing process so far?
Rayna: The toughest part has to have been the arguments Helena and I got into as we were writing. There were many times we could not agree on how a scene was going or where it needed to go. The phrase “I’m done” was said way more than once.
Helena: The fights were hell, but I’m grateful we got through them.
Q: While we’re on the subject, what was the easiest part of the writing process?
Rayna: Oh the easiest part was how the book just flowed out of us! We sat down and wrote out a time line for what we wanted to accomplish with the book and before we knew it, we had 90% of the book written. Our poor cover artist, Erin, was told she had until April to finish our cover. Since the book came out so fast, she had to finish the cover much earlier than planned.
Helena: I agree with, Rayna, it was definitely actually writing the book. We would send our pieces back and forth, as we wrote them, causing us both to get completely engrossed in the story. There were nights when we would have to stop to go to bed and we would be telling each other, “ok you have to write that next section ASAP because I’m dying of anticipation!” I think the second easiest was creating the characters. They came out almost as if they were a part of us already.
Q: If you could say one thing to your future fans, right now, before they even get to read your book, what would it be?
Rayna: We really hope they enjoy our book! I never expected to become a published writer. So I say, chase your dreams. What could be just a hair brained idea could turn into a dream you never knew you had. And don’t let anyone judge you for the dreams you do have.
Helena: We hope you enjoy the book as much as Rayna and I enjoyed writing it! Your dreams can come true so don’t ever let them go because you or anyone says that you can’t. Dreams are worth going after. There will be people out there that will try to squash them and turn you in a different direction but never let them. Go after them and do what you love to do because you live your life, no one else lives it for you, and you should do what makes you happy with it.
If you would like to learn more about Rayna, Helena, or the book, you can track them down here:
Author & Publisher links:
Publisher link: www.kclpublishing.com
Publisher Blog: http://kclpublishing.tumblr.com
Rayna Kingston Twitter: http://twitter.com/rayna_kingston
Rayna Kingston Blog: http://raynakingston.tumblr.com
Rayna Kingston Goodreads
Helena Lancaster Goodreads
Helena Lancaster Twitter: http://twitter.com/helenalwrites
Helena Lancaster Blog: http://helenalwrites.tumblr.com
Like most "mages" his age, Quinn's got no car, no money, isn't keeping up on his spells, and wants desperately to get the girl. And not just any girl—Emma, a promising alchemist (and lover of rock music) who happens to be Quinn's best friend.
And entirely oblivious to his affections.
Don't worry. Quinn has a plan. Because if Emma wants to study alchemy abroad, she needs one of the rarest metaphysikal artifacts in existence: a solistone. And it costs a whole lot more than a summer's worth of paychecks. But if Quinn can just get his hands on one—even if he has to make it himself—maybe he'll get that chance to show Emma he's more than "just a buddy."
But where does a mage barely out of high school even begin?
Chock full of strange creatures, mystifying spells, small town mystery, and even a tour bus of old ladies, Quinn's quest is a quirky, summertime adventure with a fantasy twist that will make him wish “getting the girl” was his biggest problem.
I have a horrible time writing reviews without giving things away. So, I want to say this, I LOVED the story! When this book comes out this summer, you need to do yourself a favor and grab a copy, then thank me later. :)
The number one rule of thumb in writing is to "write what you know." It was very clear in just reading the first couple chapters that the author put a lot of himself, and his own world into this story, because his descriptions of the environment, the essence of the time, all of it helps to pull you into the story and hold you captive. This is the kind of writing that is often times missing from the paranormal genre. Everyone wants to go bigger, badder, sexier with their novels. Mikel brought it all back down to Earth, stripped away the flash and fanciness, and told the story with authentic characters (people you might actually know), amazing scenery, and a whole lot of heart. Of course, there's a whole lot of paranormal too! ;)
Okay, I've literally had to use the backspace key far too many times to avoid saying things I shouldn't about the story. Instead of ruining things for you, I am going to introduce you to the author of this fabulous book, and let you get a quick peek inside that brain of his.
Q: How long have you been working on Coming of Mage? and what inspired the story?
A: I started Mage about two years ago. It actually started as an entry for a short story contest, focusing on lampshading tropes of fantasy. Quests, mentors, sacred objects and all that. I abandoned the contest gimmicks but the original ideas stayed. And then I thought, Why don't I tackle angsty 80s flicks while I'm at it?
Inspiration definitely came from where I was living. I had just moved to the North Shore of Minnesota and just instantly fell in love. Suddenly I wanted every book I ever wrote to be set there. So peaceful and serene--an unusual destination for a city kid like myself. In a way, I was living a fish-out-of-water story and I wanted to tell that, but--everything's better with wizards, right?
Trust me when I say, his love of the place shows in his writing. I've never had a reason to want to go to the North Shore until I read this book! It looked absolutely stunning as described in those pages.)
Q: The story is set in the 1980's, is there any particular reason you chose that time period?
A: Everyone asks this! Apparently 'duh' isn't a suitable answer, so here's the real lowdown: I love the 80s. I was born in them and grew up in them but I wish I could've really enjoyed them, you know? I dig all that retro stuff--cassette tapes, gaudy headphones, Ghostbusters--so maybe writing about the 80s is just my way of going back in time, a la Marty McFly.
Additionally, I have this firm belief that the best Young Adult adventures take place in the 80s. Whether it was the lack of technology or the adventuresome spirit, kids in the 80s really took matters into their own hands. If The Goonies happened today, Mikey would've just called somebody on his cell phone and Mouth would've Instagrammed the pirate ship. And don't get me started on Data...
(He just preached to the choir a little bit! The Goonies is one of my all time Favorites.)
Q: I had to laugh when I read that Quinn's prized possession was an "Heroic Autobot Bumblebee" transformer, because I know of your love for all things Transformers from your Facebook/Twitter posts. Clearly, this is a part of yourself you put in the book, how much of yourself do you feel you actually put into the character of Quinn, or the other characters, for that matter?
A: Yeah, really, disclaimer: if you follow me on Twitter you will find out more than you ever wanted to know about Transformers.
Quinn and I are pretty much the same person. I don't have his powers (obviously) but I definitely have all his hang-ups. Likes, dislikes, Star Wars obsession--it's all there. Quinn lost his mother at the same age I lost mine--that was definitely a very real world emotion that I wanted to interject in this fantasy setting. You have all this power--all this life--but some things you can't change; and Quinn has to deal with that as much as I do. And, actually, the Transformer is a nod to the last Christmas present my mom gave me before she passed away: a little yellow Transformer which is still the pride of my collection.
Q: While we're talking a little about Transformers, what are your thoughts on the 4th movie installment coming out?
A: The only bad Transformer movie is the one that doesn't get made. I say bring it on. The storylines are a little weak in the movies but, at the end of the day, it's still cars turning into robots up on the screen. Can't you really go wrong with that?
(Nope, can't argue with you there.)
Q: If you were a character in your story, what abilities would you have? Would you be a Mage? have an affinity for Alchemy?
A: You know, Alchemy is so awesome and I had a lot of fun thinking up spells for Quinn to learn, but I really got into Tristan's character--the magus. A magus is like the middle of the spectrum between a mage and an alchemist. They have a little more power than an alchemist, but not quite a mage, and they can only manipulate their element (which in Tristan's case is plants.) I think being a magus would be the safest bet for me--I need limits!
Q: If you could be given the choice to live your current reality or within the world you created for Coming of Mage, which would you chose and why?
A: Uh, have magic powers in the 80s? Gee, let me think. In all seriousness, though, I think I have a pretty good thing going on in this reality. I might like to visit Quinn, but his world is bound to have some hardships. It's not dystopian or anything, but I can imagine some real big problems arising in a world where the prejudice stems from what kind of magic you use.
Q: Coming of Mage will be available this summer, what do you have planned after its release (future books, etc)?
A: You know, I have some fun events in the pipeline--that's the best part about writing a YA fantasy, right? I get to do the really out-there creative stuff. I bet John Grisham doesn't get to have "Magic Rock Painting" stands at his book signings. As far as the books go, if Mage is a hit--fingers crossed!--I definitely have some sequels planned. Mage is essentially Quinn's memoir of an unforgettable summer, but that's really a microcosm of the world he lives in. The sequels will deal with the road ahead of Quinn, not his Memory Lane. After all, nobody escapes a summer like his without consequences.
(Well, now, I am super excited for the future!)
Q: What type of books do you like to read, and which authors inspire you and your writing? How do they inspire you (imagination, technique, etc)?
A: 'You are what you eat' is also really true with books. Not that I eat books, that'd be weird, but I think you get where I'm going with this. I'm constantly scouring the shelves for really inventive YA and Middle Grade books. I think there's something really unique in a genre that you can use to teach life lessons but also have these over-the-top settings. Too cool. And the more paranormal the better.
Consistently, though, I find myself reading Matthew Stover and Joe Meno. They're definitely not YA, but they each have a really unique voice in storytelling. I read Dean Koontz because the flow and pacing of his novels borders on miraculous. Jeffery Deaver I study for plot twists. And--this may shock you--I read a crazy amount of Star Wars novels.
(Star Wars you say? No way, really? hahaha)
Q: What is the most exciting thing that has happened to you as a result of your writing career, thus far?
A: The easy answer of course is to say the "actually being published" part. When I was in college, I knew I would be published. Arrogantly so. But after I graduated and accepted my position as 'Head Ice Cream Scooper' at a popular ice cream franchise, I started to have my doubts. It's nice to feel believed in again.
But here and now in the thick of it, the most exciting thing is thinking that people in the world that I don't even know are going to be reading my book. As a writer, everyone you show your work to in the early years is someone close to you in some way--so how do you know if you're really doing a good job? It's hard to talk pacing with your grandma when she's thought of you as a superhero since the day you were born.
Having said that, I am super excited for my grandma to read my book. She never doubted.
Q: What is the most important lesson you have learned during the writing process?
A: Humility. Not every idea you have is gold. Story and character has to come first. Use that Cut/Paste function; just because you don't use it now, doesn't mean you can't use it somewhere else later.
Q: If you weren't a writer, and you could make a living at any job you wanted, what would your dream job be?
A: Oh, man, the dream job question. Luckily, I've prepared for this. Again, I hope your sitting down for this revelation: I would design Transformers. How I relax is drawing Transformers and making sure all the parts have somewhere to go. Form follows function. Like when a kid draws me a Transformers picture, I have to fight the urge to be, like, Yeah, right, where did that arm come from? I get pretty into it.
I also met a guy on Twitter who was a 'Brand Guardian' for Transformers at Hasbro. Made sure the integrity of the Transformers was being carried throughout the new shows, toys, etc. That would be a cool job.
And if Paranormal Investigation was more lucrative, I'd be all over it.
Q: Just for Fun - You're being taken to a desert island where you must learn to survive on your own for a certain length of time before you can come back to civilization. Aside from the clothes you are wearing, you are given the option to chose 3 items to bring with you to either aid in your survival or offer sentimental comfort. What would you bring?
A: Uh, you know I moved to extreme northern Minnesota, right? That's pretty much how it went down! But I suppose I would bring a samurai sword, my little yellow Transformer, and a copy of James and the Giant Peach.
I want to thank Mikel Andrews for taking the time to answer a few questions. I hope everyone enjoyed getting to know him a little better. His book, Coming of Mage, is set for release in June 2013 by Northstar Press.
For more info about Mikel and his book check out these links:
Coming of Mage on Facebook
Mikel on Facebook
Mikel on Twitter
John is a long, tall Texan (very, very tall) born and raised in Fort Worth, Texas. Educated at Grinnell College in the great state of Iowa, he considers Iowa his second home state, and keeps on good terms with both by eating barbecue AND corn. When he's not watching way too much sci-fi/fantasy TV or reading similar books (or working, obviously), you can usually find him reading the news or playing video games. John currently lives in Austin, Texas, where he works as a lawyer and author.
I'd like to welcome John back to Moonlit Dreams and thank him for taking the time to stop by and answer a few questions for me. I first met John via Twitter when he was slinging his latest fantasy legal thriller Atticus for the Undead. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, reviewed it HERE, and thought and interview with the author would just be icing on the already yummy cake. So here we go...
CHRISTINE: Everyone has their own story. How did you stumble into a writing career?
JOHN: Well, I'd been making serial short fiction and running RPGs for years. And then I noticed that for several weeks in a row, the episode plots on one of my favorite shows were very similar to things I'd just done in the serial I was working on at the time. So I thought, "Huh, maybe I can play in the big leagues."
As everyone knows, the economy is awful, so I figured I had nothing to lose.
CHRISTINE: What would you say inspires you the most when you are developing a new story line?
JOHN: I once heard another writer say that, when you're a writer, everything is inspiration. That's basically how I feel -- the most random things will inspire me. Like the book I released last month, Atticus for the Undead, came to me when I was reading Seanan McGuire's novel Feed, which is about the politics of a post-zombie-apocalypse world. And then I thought, "Next thing you know, they'll be putting one on trial or something… Hey! That's it!"
CHRISTINE: What are the best and worst parts of establishing your own writing career?
JOHN: The best part has been connecting with other writers. If you want to meet a group of people who will restore your faith in humanity really quickly, talk to some writers -- they really are an extraordinarily friendly, welcoming, helpful group of people. For example, when I was writing Atticus, I reached out to a couple of published (or soon-to-be-published) authors and asked if they'd read the book and say something on their websites if they liked it.
One of them, Angela Scott (author of soon-to-be-released Wanted: Dead or Undead, by the way) not only took time out of her own writing projects to read the book, but also wrote me a very long, detailed e-mail with her comments on the book (most of them were gushing, which was a huge boost to my ego), and then she did a blog post about it on release day. Pretty extraordinary stuff, and she's far from the only one.
I've even been able to talk to some of my fiction-making heroes -- for instance, Jane Espenson, a screenwriter who currently writes for Once Upon A Time. When she answered one of my Tweets for the first time, I don't think I came off of Cloud Nine for a week.
The hardest part has been building my platform. I didn't go into this with any illusions that it would be easy, but even so, I've been struck by how hard it is to get people to notice that you exist. Some days I'll have sixty or even a hundred visitors on the blog, but not sell a single book. I guess it's a good thing I have a healthy ego, or at least a hard head.
CHRISTINE: Some people outline their books, some don't ... tell us about your writing process - how do you get from idea to completed novel?
JOHN: I definitely don't -- or I do, but only in a very general way. One of my biggest flaws as a writer is that I tend to get ahead of myself -- I get caught up in whatever idea I'm excited about that day, and am in such a rush to take it to the exciting conclusion that I leave the audience behind. A lot of times, I end up leaving things like believability behind, too. The problem with detailed outlines is that it gets hard to write point six if you get to point five and realize that there's no way the main character would behave the way you thought he would when you wrote the outline.
So I come up with the broad strokes at the outset, and then write chapter by chapter. After each chapter, I have my trusty team of beta readers review what I've written and get detailed feedback on whether I'm hitting the desired emotional notes, whether the characters feel believable, stuff like that. This also makes the editing process a lot easier because, by the time I get to the end, I know I'm not going to need to re-write whole scenes -- I've already re-written them, often multiple times.
CHRISTINE: Were you inspired to write by a particular author. If so, who and why?
JOHN: I was inspired to write by a screenwriter, actually -- Joss Whedon. I think his work has taught me more about the craft of fiction than any other single writer. If I have even a tenth of his talent at the end of my writing career, I'll be very happy.
CHRISTINE: What is your educational background?
JOHN: I was a Bachelor's in political science, followed by a law degree. I loved fantasy the whole time. So now I write fantasy books about lawyers. Go figure.
CHRISTINE: When did you start writing and what inspired the attempt?
JOHN: I started writing as soon as I got my first computer, way back in middle school.
CHRISTINE: Why did you choose to write in the fantasy genre?
JOHN: Because I think that with fantasy you have more opportunity than maybe any other genre to love the story you're telling, because literally anything is possible. You can mix gritty, serious themes with wacky, outlandish touches and make the reader believe it. I mean, really (SPOILER ALERT), what other genre would let you write about a capital murder trial and have one of the characters turn someone into a frog in the middle of the book?
CHRISTINE: Do you feel that people don't take you as seriously because you write fantasy?
JOHN: People who read fantasy take me seriously. That's what I care about.
CHRISTINE: What is your secret to finding that perfect blend between fantasy and reality?
JOHN: I'll quote Joss Whedon. "The two things that matter the most to me in the work that I do: Emotional resonance and rocket launchers." That sums it up. The fangs and the claws and the magic talismans and the steampunk pirate ships are all window dressing. If the beating heart of your story isn't something that resonates with your readers' real lives and feelings and experiences, then your story probably isn't going to get very far.
CHRISTINE: On that note, let us all take a moment to bow down to Joss Whedon before continuing on. :)
CHRISTINE: Alright, now that we've paid our respects... What is plot development like for you? Do you start out with the ending and work your way back in order to figure out how to string the plot twists along or do you have some other method to your madness?
JOHN: I work out my characters first. My plot is always centered around developing the characters, so I use the backstories I've created for them and the psychological needs I've identified for them to create the plot twists.
CHRISTINE: Tell us about Atticus for the Undead. How long did it take to write? What was your inspiration for the book?
JOHN: Atticus grew out of the fact that I'd been wanting to write a legal thriller for a long time. I'm a lawyer in the day job, so it seemed like the logical thing for me to do. But I didn't have an idea that inspired me until I was reading Feed. After that, the jump from the campaign trail to the courtroom was easy to make.
Once I had the idea, I threw the whole book together in about 3 months time. There was very little research involved, believe it or not -- I've kept the most random bits of legal trivia in my head from law school and my practice experience so far, so I just found ways to throw them in.
CHRISTINE: Do you have plans to release more books in the near future? If so, tell us about what you have in the works.
JOHN: The book I can talk about is The Void, Book 2 in The Weaver Saga. (Incidentally, as I write this, book 1 is free here with coupon code BY83E.) It picks up about three months after Weaver left off, and basically deals with the psychological consequences of the first book while also advancing the overall plot. The three main characters -- Alex, Moira, and James -- all lost something in the events of Weaver. The Void is about them dealing with that while also fending off the zombie apocalypse. Pesky thing, that.
There are some other things in the works, but they're all classified at the moment.
CHRISTINE: If you could live within the pages of your book, would you? Why or why not?
JOHN: Oh, probably not. I'm a pretty mean God -- I wouldn't want my fate dictated by me.
CHRISTINE: Are you a dog or a cat person?
JOHN: Both! My father is a life-long dog lover and he passed the trait on to me. Cats are the big tragedy of my life -- I'm crazy about them, but I'm also horribly allergic to them. I think they're my worst allergy.
If I could get one wish from a genie, it would be to be able to spend long periods around cats and still be able to breathe.
CHRISTINE: One final question, and this is probably the most important... Do you suffer from delusions of grandeur - I mean - are you secretly planning on taking over the world (like the rest of the writers out there)?
JOHN: Now, the question is, would I tell you if I was?
CHRISTINE: John just happens to be the first person to ever answer that question here who knows how to keep a secret! ;) Now we know who the real contender for world domination is!
FOLLOW JOHN ONLINE!
Google+: As himself
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