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Let’s Chat

Let’s Chat with Piper Milton

piper-miltonWHAT WAS YOUR INSPIRATION FOR STORY

The idea to write Clementine and Claudia came from a dream I had about forbidden love set in the early part of the twentieth century. I awoke and was unable to get it out of my mind. The dream was short but it was  the magnetism, between the man and woman, who neither spoke or touched, which affected me.  One day I put pen to paper and never stopped. It was like reading a book I couldn’t put down. 

DO YOU SEE YOURSELF WRITING MORE HISTORICAL ROMANCE OR WOULD YOU LIKE TO WRITE IN OTHER GENRES                                                                         I am in the process of  putting the finishing touches to another historical romance, and have plans to write at least  one more, which  is already in the planning stage. Therefore, for the foreseeable future, it’s

I am in the process of  putting the finishing touches to another historical romance, and have plans to write at least  one more, which  is already in the planning stage. Therefore, for the foreseeable future, it’s fair to say historical fiction is my genre. 

WHAT HAS BEEN THE BEST PART OF BRINGING THIS BOOK TO LIFE

The best part of bringing Clementine and Claudia to life was the creation of the characters. They became very real to me. I loved them all, despite their flaws and spending time with them was an utter joy. It was also a visual experience;  the  scenes  playing in my head like a movie screen. 

DO YOU HAVE A PLAN WHEN YOU START WRITING OR DO YOU JUST FOLLOW YOUR MUSE

Not a plan, more an idea from the dream of  a sensible man and woman falling madly in love  in an impossible  situation; an overwhelming love that causes them to act uncharacteristically. I found that as the  characters developed they more or less dictated the storyline. The setting greatly helped too for war brings out the best and the worst in people.   

WERE  YOU FAMILIAR WITH WW1 TIME PERIOD OR DID YOU HAVE TO DO MUCH RESEARCH. WHERE AND HOW DID YOU RESEARCH

I’ve always been drawn to WW1 and being a time of great social change, it seemed  the perfect backdrop for the story. Several members of my family were involved in it,  including my grandmother who  was a VAD and my  father-in-law whose  distinguished flying career I loosely based Piers upon. As for locations, I am blessed to  live in Dorset, a county in the south of England, and  being naturally familiar with landmarks and towns there was no contest when deciding the setting for the home scenes. France is but a short hop over the English Channel and I made a  couple of trips  to Etaples and Le Touquet to get the feel of the place. Apart from that, I read everything I could get my hands on about the war and the more I read, the more real  my characters  became. 

THERE WAS ONE CHARACTER I REALLY DISLIKED. DO YOU FEEL A PERSONAL CONNECTION TO YOUR CHARACTERS AND IS IT HARD TO WRITE ABOUT BAD STUFF HAPPENING TO THEM

I felt each one’s  pain and joy and I definitely shed a few tears at certain points. I don’t expect every character to be loved, but as their creator, they are all very close to my heart. There’s probably a little bit of me in them all. We are all one.  

WHAT IS THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT ASPECT YOU WOULD LIKE YOUR READERS TO WALK AWAY WITH AFTER READING THIS BOOK

I would like to feel I  managed to suspend the reader’s disbelief and allowed them to escape from their everyday lives for a while, as many books have for me, especially at difficult moments in my life. Also, to consider a moment the changes that have taken place in the last century and wonder how they would have coped living at such a time.  

WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON NEXT

My next book is another story of forbidden love, with far-reaching consequences. Unlike Clementine and Claudia, it starts shortly before the war and is set completely in England. The idea for it  developed after a friend told me a story about a member of her family which happened in WW1. I was intrigued and it also meant I was able to continue my research in areas that have become more of a fascination than just an interest.

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR NEW WRITERS

Over the years I’ve read many authors’ advice to new writers. The two that stay in my mind are ‘don’t give up’ and ‘ write about things you know’. I would like to add, read aloud what you write. It’s always helped me and you’ll know immediately if it needs reworking. Your ear will tell you so. If you’ve someone whom you can read to, so much the better. I use my husband and he’s not shy about  telling me what he thinks, good or bad!  And, last but not least, do use adjectives sparingly.  As they say, less is more! 

WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO FOLLOW YOU THROUGH SOCIAL MEDIA

on twitter @pipermilton1 or my publisher, @silvertailbooks

Find this book at Amazon & Barnes & Noble

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Let’s Chat with Amy Saunders

  1. 41cbzufdysl-_ux250_What is your latest book about?

Marked is about a teen who’s learning to live with her emerging powers and some big revelations about her family that has permanently altered her life. On top of that, she’s dealing with some new threats that will play a role in the bigger story developing.

  1. Tell us a little about your two series; The Belinda & Bennet Mysteries and The Birthright Series

The Belinda & Bennett Mysteries is a lighthearted cozy mystery series revolving around the misadventures of amateur sleuth Belinda Kittridge and her boyfriend, Bennett Tate. The Birthright is a YA sci-fi series revolving around Rosamund Brandt and her developing powers and family’s secrets.

  1. Is it difficult to switch back and forth from writing cozy mysteries and the YA?

It can be challenging for a few reasons. But switching from an adult perspective to a teen perspective can be hard at times. Especially when it comes to independence. With Belinda, I can have her go and do whatever, whenever. With Rosamund, I have to get creative sometimes. I need her to take certain steps and do things on her own, but in real life, it probably wouldn’t happen that way. So I’ve learned to be inventive when adults get in the way of the story.

  1. What was the inspiration for The Birthright Series?

Initially, I had this family in mind and I knew they had some secret. I joked with my sister that they were aliens, but before I knew it I decided that they really were aliens. It intrigued me that there might be all these aliens living on earth, just blending in with humans. And I wondered what might happen to them. At the same time, I love the idea of legends and ancestry you can trace back thousands of years. Rosamund’s family presented an opportunity to explore that and I took it.

  1. Do you see a definite end to this series?

Yes. From the start, I knew I wanted it to have a definite end, and I liked the idea of doing five books.

  1. What are your writing strengths?

I’ve always felt I shine when it comes to character development. (Obviously, readers might disagree with me!) But that’s one of my favorite things about writing is working on the characters and their relationships with each other. And I love writing dialogue. But that really should be a strength considering how much I like to talk…

  1. What other ways do you showcase your creativity?

Graphic design is my other main creative outlet. It’s a nice break from all the writing (and reading) I do. And I love to bake and experiment with new recipes.

  1. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

By my early teens. Before that, I was constantly writing something, but by the time the whole concept of work and deciding what to do when I got older came around, I knew it had to be writing. I started out wanting to be in magazine journalism, but then I ended up working as a freelance copywriter for a while. It took some time, but when I realized novel writing could be more than just a side thing, I went for it.

  1. Are you a pantser or a plotter?

At this stage, I’m a bit of both. Initially, I was a pantser all the way. As I’ve grown, I’ve developed my own way of blending the two methods that work with how I approach things but is frankly more effective than how I used to work.

  1. Where do you hope your writing career will take you?

Honestly, I’m kind of happy getting to do what I love to do, which I didn’t think would be practical when I was younger. But my heart was always with fiction writing and I’m delighted I get to pursue it as more than just a hobby!

 

You can find more info about Amy by checking her site, Amazon, and  Twitter.

Let’s Chat with H.J. Blenkinsop

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1. What motivated/ inspired you to write this story? I was inspired to write Kitty Tweddle and the Wishing Well after a series of real events that occurred while I was living in an Edinburgh basement as a Doctoral student. For a start – there was a well in the basement and it did flood while I lived there. The old well was still visible on the bottom of the garden wall, and the homeowners believed the underground stream feeding the well flowed under the house. During a long and rainy summer, the water table rose and the basement flooded!
2. Do you see yourself in Kitty? I don’t see myself in Kitty. Rather, she is the young girl I wish I had been, filled with quiet confidence and a strong sense of self-value. She’s the kind of role model I would like young girls to get to know. A few years back, a colleague and I worked on a project called the Cult of Hotness. We explored the phenomenon of ‘hotness’ in western society. Our findings were grim indeed. Not only does a woman’s worth appear to be tied to her perceived ‘hotness’ as opposed to her intelligence, creativity, contribution or even beauty, but this emphasis on hotness begins long before puberty. Pink princess culture, our research indicated, is a precursor to hotness culture, priming young girls to emphasize physical appearance and a very narrow definition of attractiveness. We were horrified! I wanted to do something back then to help turn the tide. It wasn’t until years later when my Edinburgh basement flooded that the idea clicked into place. Create a protagonist that young girls will want to know. Create a cool girl who is everything pink princess culture isn’t. But also a girl who is real and has feelings, who makes mistakes and has to fix them.Someone readers can identify with. That’s how the idea for Kitty Tweddle was born.
3. Did you create the world for this story as you went or in advance and what research did you do?  
Although Kitty Tweddle and the Wishing Well is a fictional story and the village of Dribble is a made up name, the setting is very real. It’s a lovely neighborhood just outside Edinburgh in Scotland. My descriptions of the house, the street, the library and even the little graveyard are based on what I saw. The three cats really do live in the neighborhood and I did meet Roger in the library, sitting on a black chair in the junior fiction section. The librarians told me he would sneak in on warm summer days when they left the back door open. Even the bit about the library being built over the church foundations is true. It’s all real. It all exists. I simply described what I saw and then added some extra characters like the gargoyles, the night stealers and the bogeyman. And they might have been there too, hiding in the shadows, who knows?
4. What do you hope to accomplish with your story?  
I hope that Kitty Tweddle and the Wishing Well will entertain and keep readers turning the page. If it gets people reading and makes them happy, I’ll call it a job well done. And if her character inspires girls to be creative, to trust themselves, to really value themselves, even when they get it wrong or make mistakes, to get back up and keep going, I’d call that a win.
5. What practical applications could be used in a classroom if using this story as a class read?  The practical application of Kitty Tweddle and the Wishing Well as a class read is simply to engage students enough to keep them turning the page, to get them reading. I was a poor reader as a youngster. I found the books written for my age group boring and patronizing. So I didn’t read. As a writer, I wanted to craft a story that my younger self wouldn’t have been able to put down. To do that, I borrowed many of the devices I noticed in adult fiction and wrote a story that was mysterious, filled with twists and turns, plenty of cliffhangers and surprising characters. A book that would inspire young readers, not patronize them. Then, I made sure it was age appropriate.
6. What motivates you to write?   The stories in my mind motivate me. They want to be out of my head. The best I can do is wrangle them into some kind of order and let them loose. Make no mistake, it’s not easy. I wouldn’t want anyone to think these well-formed characters and stories tumble out of my head and onto the page – they don’t. It’s messy work, writing…
7. What books/ authors do you like to read?  I love page-turners with a magical or supernatural bent – Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman and James Rollins spring to mind. I absolutely loved The Lord of the Rings and read it long before the films came out. I’m also a huge Harry Potter fan. When the last book was published, my flatmate had it pre-ordered from Amazon. I almost missed the post woman knocking on the door and had to chase her up the street in my pajamas! She took one look at me in my bare feet and red tartan pj’s and knew I must be after Harry Potter. Her mailbag was full of them!
8. Which author/ book character would you like to meet someday?  Granny Weatherwax. She’s the scary, wise and practical witch in Terry Pratchett’s books. I’d love to sit and have a cup of tea and a chat with her. Although I think I’d be quaking in my boots if I did, because Granny Weatherwax can see through everyone. She sees who’s really there, not who we pretend to be. That’s scary.
9. What is the first book you ever read?  Well, like I said earlier, I didn’t read much as a kid. I found kids books boring. But one day I was up in the attic. It was a scuttle type of access with a tiny trapdoor and you needed a long set of ladders to get in. It was freezing up there and only used for deep storage like Christmas decorations and old stuff that no one wanted to throw away. My dad must have left the ladders set up for some reason so I got up there and found a box of books, old paperbacks. Not kids stories, books for grown-ups. I picked up a fat, well-thumbed book and started reading. Remember, I wasn’t a reader, not at all. Anyway, I couldn’t put this book down. My fingers were getting cold and I could see my breath so I took it down from the attic and into my room. I read this doorstopper of a book in about two days. I can’t remember the name, but I think is was some Jacki Collins novel. I was eleven.
10. If you could only have five books on your bookshelf, which ones would they be and why?  This is tough. I am an avid reader and five books are not enough! I usually have at least three on the go at once. One fiction, one non-fiction, and a wild card… I’ll list my most recent five reads instead.

  1. Hogfather by Terry Pratchett. It’s a story about the origins of Yule or Christmas. Sort of… Santa Claus goes missing and DEATH has to take over or Christmas will be canceled… Pratchett’s books are the only ones I have ever read more than once. They’re hilarious and I love the way he twists folklore. Pure genius.
  2. The Gates by John Connolly. A fantastically clever middle grade book. Demons are coming in through the next door neighbor’s basement and only one small boy and his dog can stop all Hell from breaking loose. I think I might actually read this one again someday.
  3. Giants, Monsters and Dragons: An Encyclopedia of Folklore, Legend, and Myth by Carol Rose. I have a lot of books on folklore. A lot. But this is the most recent addition to my bookshelf.
  4. Nine Lives: The Folklore of Cats by Katherine Briggs. There’s a wealth of feline folklore in this book and as that’s what I blog about the most – catlore – I refer to this book often. Just for the record, black cats are very lucky.
  5. The Earthsea Trilogy by Ursula K. LeGuin. I’m on book three right now.

HJ Blenkinsop Ph.D. writes books for girls with gumption and is the author of Kitty Tweddle and the Wishing Well. When she’s not cooking up strange tales, HJ dabbles in soap making and potion mixing. She also blogs about folklore, cats and the bizarre at HJBlenkinsop.com. Find her on Twitter here: @hjblenkinsop

 


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Let’s Chat with Whitney L. Grady

whitneyauthorshotI met Whitney at North Carolina Book ‘Em. Her enthusiasm was contagious. Her passion for not only writing but also teaching makes this former educator very happy. I enjoyed reading her book, I am Currency, and I have the rest of the series in my reading queue for the summer.

As a former teacher myself, I saw so many teaching points/topics in this book. Did you write it with that in mind? Have you tried teaching some of this in your own class? 
Absolutely! As a former middle school English teacher, I wanted to write books that could be cross-curricular (there are so many lessons that could come from the novels and could span different subjects such as science, English, history, etc.). I have taken a break from the classroom while I have been focusing on writing so I haven’t taught them yet, but I have worked with classroom teachers on curriculum for the books are there are curriculum guides on my website.

How did the idea for this book develop? 
The I Am Currency series was born from one single tag line (one that came to me in the middle of the night that I scribbled down on the paper beside my bed to save for the morning): Knowledge is power…but what if it were currency?
I immediately knew I wanted the main character, Nevel, to have a sort of realistic superpower. This is how he got his photographic memory. I also knew I wanted adventure and a lot of action… and so the story was born in a chase across the Australian Outback.

You mention many classic books throughout the story. Why did you choose the books you chose? 
I make many references to classic literature in the books in the hopes that readers will consider reading those works (If the classics are in Nevel’s library, perhaps that could bump them up a few notches on the cool list?! I know it may be a stretch, but certainly worth the try!) I was an English major and I just have a soft spot for the classics (which you may find me re-reading at any time).

How long did it take from idea to publication? What is the biggest lesson you have learned in this process? 
I would say about 18 months. It’s a long process. It can be a “hurry up and wait process”. It is so exciting when you get that first book contract and you want to tell the world…but if you do, you have to tell the world to wait about a year and a half before they will see it. The biggest lesson I have learned is that you can never do too much editing/proofing (It will drive you bonkers if you catch a typo after publication).

What ideas do you have for your next series? 
I have been working on a middle-grade novel with a female character as the lead. It is totally different but has been a fun distraction when I needed to take a break from IAC.

How do you balance writing with the other demands in your life? 
Remember the old I Love Lucy episode when she is working in the chocolate factory and the belt goes faster and faster and she ends up in a chaotic mess? Often, this would be the best example of my attempt at balancing it all. J  Like most moms, some days I am organized and have everything working like clockwork…other days, it’s a chaotic mess!

In one of the posts on your blog, you talk about being a free-range kid. How do those experiences influence what and how you write? 
I grew up in rural Virginia where we spent summers barefoot with grass stains on our knees. It was ideal. My mother was a wonderful gardener and had a children’s garden for us. Every plant in that garden did something; the lamb’s ears felt like stuffed animals, the snapdragons turned into puppets, the balloon leaves filled with air, and the other plants were full of scents and tastes that were unforgettable. We were truly free-range kids who roamed and played and discovered the world around us and I am positive it played a huge role in my story-telling. If I have writer’s block these days, a day with my own kids out in nature is usually the perfect cure.

What are the unique challenges with writing YA Lit? 
I taught middle school for many years so it is not difficult for me to write for young adults. Plus, I think I am still a young adult at heart. The challenge is always authenticity. In any writing I do, I want to give the reader a real and true experience –nothing false or contrived.

What is the last book you read and why did you choose that? 
I try not to read in my genre when I am in the writing mode so as not to influence my writing. The last book I read was The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman and I loved it and was completely absorbed in it; read it in two days. Great story, impressive first novel.

If you could only have five books on your bookshelf, which five would they be?
Oh, you don’t know how hard this is for me to answer! I have shelves and shelves and love them all, hence the library in the mind theme in my novels… If I had to choose, they would have to be: Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree, One of my antique books with a collection of classic poetry – Fireside PoetsThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee.