Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Interview with Stephen Blackmoore

Hi everyone! Today we welcome Stephen Blackmoore to the blog today, to talk about writing, zombies, and his latest book, BROKEN SOULS. BROKEN SOULS, the sequel to one of my all time favorite books, DEAD THINGS, released to a store, virtual or brick, near you yesterday. Blackmoore's also written some other amazing books. You really can't go wrong. Check it out on Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, and other places of your choosing. 
Without further ado, I give you the interview!  
Describe yourself in one tweet:

I AM SPARTACUS! If Spartacus were a slightly doughy, over 40 writer who walks into walls a lot.

Where did you get the idea for DEAD THINGS, the first book in the series? 

It really came from a couple of things. I had a snippet of dialog I wrote years ago about a guy infested by ghosts. I sat on it for a long time and nothing came of it. Years later I was going through a folder on my hard drive and ran into it and I had just rewatched MEMENTO with Guy Pearce. The two of those came together in my head and that's where the character of Eric Carter came from. From there I re-read a piece from my novel CITY OF THE LOST, which is a stand-alone that takes place in the same world before DEAD THINGS occurs that cemented the whole thing for me and things sort of unfolded from there. 

On a scale of one to ten, with one being the sound of soft rain on your windshield, and ten being cage match with an angry grizzly bear covered in bees, how difficult was it for you to write the sequel?

Mmm. Six-ish? I knew pretty much what I wanted to do with it after I wrote DEAD THINGS. The trick for me was figuring out how much to call back to DEAD THINGS in BROKEN SOULS. It drives me nuts when I accidentally pick up a book later in a series and realize too late that I haven't read the first one and then I'm lost. If there's enough detail in it to let me move forward it's fine, but if there isn't and I can't figure out what's going on it drive me nuts.  

So I wanted to make sure I had enough to let a reader get into the story quickly without having to depend too much on having read DEAD THINGS. No idea if I pulled it off, of course. Guess we'll see.
For anyone out there about to write a sequel, do you have any advice?

Reread your previous book. I know that sounds like a no-brainer, but it can really help a lot.

There were quite a few times while writing BROKEN SOULS where I got stuck and found the solution was something I had already laid the groundwork for in DEAD THINGS. In fact there are some things I found that I set up in CITY OF THE LOST. Going through those can not only help solve problems but it can also help you keep from screwing yourself. I had a scene in BROKEN SOULS at one point that I got quite a ways through and realized almost too late that if I kept going it would contradict something I had said in DEAD THINGS. 

I know some people who swear by a series bible, and I think that's useful, but it won't help solve all of those problems. 

This is actually a brilliant idea. A series bible helps, but there's lots of little things you throw out into a novel that can sometimes trip you up. 
What is your favorite paragraph in BROKEN SOULS? 

That's a tough one. I don't know that there's a single paragraph, but I do have a favorite scene. I don't want to spoil things, but there's a scene at the La Brea Tar Pits where Eric finally gets the truth of what's going on and it really screws with his head. I particularly enjoyed writing that one.

One of my favorite things about the series is the wonderful gritty L.A. vibe. I started reading DEAD THINGS expecting the neutral urban fantasy setting, but was quickly blown away at how you mashed up horror and noir. Was this intentional at all? Did you go into the book wanting to write something different, or did it come out organically as you were writing the story?

It was intentional.  Noir and horror are pretty closely related, I think and I wanted to write something that really brought in Los Angeles as a setting. I really didn't want this to be a generic UF, but still wanted to play with the tropes. As much as I knew how I tried to tilt them all to one side to, hopefully, keep them interesting and put a different spin on them.

It makes me really happy, for some reason, to hear it was intentional. I love urban fantasy as a genre, but the settings can be generic, and setting to me is very important. DEAD THINGS really did take the standard tropes and twist them on the head, so the stuff I love about the genre is there, but still felt fresh and new.
Your main character, Eric Carter, is a necromancer. I’ve read tons of books about death magic that gloss over what someone with those sorts of powers would actually experience. Which is why when I read DEAD THINGS, and saw how you focused on Eric’s grief and isolation, I was pumping my fist into the air shouting, “Yessss!”. Was it hard to write from this perspective? 

It was easy in that I think I understand the character well enough to be able to express how he's feeling, which isn't always a straightforward thing, but hard in that, well, writing about grief is always hard. We don't like to look at it and it's certainly brought up some things for me that I wasn't expecting.

I think as a character Carter's not done grieving, particularly because so much of what's gone wrong for him is his own fault. That's something I hope to explore more in the next book. I see him as having a perspective on death that actually makes it harder for him to grieve. He's constantly surrounded by reminders of what's on the other side and it isn't pretty. Every day he sees tragedy after tragedy and he never gets a break from it. It wears on him. 

One of the things about grief, and we've all run into this at some point in our lives, is that it requires a certain amount of stillness. You have to be able to think about it and face it. And Carter doesn't get that chance. 

That is a wonderful point, and one that I hadn't considered yet. *makes notes* And there is something wonderfully awful reading about a character making bad decisions and then trying to climb out of that mess by making worse decisions.
What does your typical writing schedule look like?

Weekends and evenings.  I have a full time day job and so I have to wedge writing in wherever I can. It's easy to get overextended and I'm running into that right now, actually.

While writing, what do you struggle with the most? 

Time more than anything. Even full time writers struggle with this, so I'm nobody special. And I don't know that having more time would necessarily help. I'd probably just piss it away on videogames. 

Is there any one book or author you feel inspires you the most?

I think there's a group of writers who really do that for me. Chuck Wendig, Kevin Hearne, Jaye Wells, Karina Cooper, Richard Kadrey, Tobias Buckell, Kat Richardson, and that's just who I can think of right off the top of my head. For some of them it's their prose, some of them it's their plotting, all of them it's their work ethic. I feel like a slacker next to these people.

If someone asked me to make a list of my favorite authors, that would be a good start to that list.
Is there a third book in the series planned? Please say yes. 

There is! I'm working on it now, actually. I'm playing with about half a dozen different titles at the moment, so I'm not sure which one's going to stick. After that, who knows? Hopefully my publisher will want more books. I have at least two more planned and would love to keep writing them.

You hear that? Everyone go out and buy ten copies each so he gets a contract for more books. 

You’re rather hilarious on Twitter with your fake horoscopes. How do you divine such wisdom? Pig’s blood? Aeromancy?

I dance naked in the moonlight and am showered by divine wisdom. That may actually just be the sprinklers in the backyard.

And most importantly, during the inevitable zombie apocalypse, what is your survival plan?

Who says I'm going to survive? If we're being swarmed by the undead I'm switching sides.
Or Plan B, since I plan on learning the ancient art of necromancy, is I'll keep you as a pet zombie writer. Mwhahaha!
Thanks so much for stopping by! 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Interview with Delilah S. Dawson

Hi everyone! I'm really excited to welcome Delilah to my website to talk about her newest release, SERVANTS OF THE STORM. Ever since I read the blurb and saw the cover for this book, I've been excited to get my hands on this book. I'm already halfway through it, and it's so so so so so so good.

You can buy it at Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, and other book stores of your choosing.
Without further ado, here's Delilah.

*Edited to add: I am so sorry this didn't post first thing this morning like I had it scheduled. I have no idea what went wrong, and I didn't get to my computer until just now because basically everything from leaky faucets to toddlers refusing to nap happened today.

Describe yourself in one tweet: 

Author, geek, centaur. Takes writing srsly. Does not take self srsly. Likes cake & boots. Corybantic, fierce, introverted. Butt= won't quit.

What is your favorite paragraph in SERVANTS OF THE STORM? 

Honestly? I have no idea. I gave away my last ARC and am waiting for my author copies to be delivered. ;) I really love the creepy dream scene, which was the first scene I wrote in the book.

Where did the idea for SERVANTS OF THE STORM come from

This: I saw these pics of Six Flags New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and had to write about it. Dovey herself came from an ad flier from Ulta. Add in my husband's stories about growing up in Savannah plus demons, and you've got it.

SERVANTS OF THE STORM has a dark tone to it—demons, dead best friends, hurricanes—than even your Blud series, which has an occasional satisfying dark bent to it. Was it difficult to separate yourself from the grief and loss (I assume) Dovey feels? How did you juggle writing an emotionally heavy book with real life? 

Experience. ;) I had an emotionally rough childhood and learned to lock those memories up and focus on the good parts. I also have a very dark playlist that I used every time I was writing or editing Servants, and I conditioned myself to be in that world when I heard the music. Once the music was off, the darkness lifted. Of course, now, when I hear Saturnalia by The Gutter Twins, I immediately feel precarious and vulnerable and bleak.

I have since listening to this entire album and guys, it's moody dark goodness.
Did you do anything different to prepare for writing a YA Southern Gothic (read certain books, watch certain movies) since your other books are romance/steampunk? 

I write whatever idea obsesses me and completely immerse myself in that world. I did take a few research trips, including visits to Savannah cemeteries and some great horse-drawn carriage tours with my brother-in-law, The Dread Pirate Robert. I don't actually use movies to help me get into book worlds, although I do watch Pride and Prejudice a lot when writing Blud and Firefly when trying to make characters more complex.

Do you have any tips for people writing Southern Gothic/Gothic horror? 

If you're not intimately familiar with the setting, go there and *feel* it. I originally wanted to write about New Orleans and Katrina, but I'd never been to New Orleans and didn't want to dishonor anyone who'd lived through a real hurricane. So I moved the story to Savannah, where my husband is from, and mined him (and our visits there) for setting details. The alley where Dovey takes her trash is the alley behind the house where he grew up. Paper Moon Cafe was a real coffee shop that my husband took me to in the 90s. The smell and feel of Savannah, the way the heat sits on you and the trees go skeletal with moss like a scarf-- that's very real, and you can't write those details unless you've experienced them. Picking a dark place like Savannah helps. :)

Did you find it difficult to get into that creepy, atmospheric mind set while writing or did it come naturally? 

Very naturally. I'm a creepy girl, and Savannah is a creepy place. I feel quite at home in cemeteries.

I’ve read that you enjoy reading horror, one of my favorite genres. Any horror recommendations? 

I need to read current horror books more widely, but I started reading Stephen King when I was 11 or so, and it influenced me heavily. I did blurb ASK ME by Kimberly Pauley, which is a fun YA that has forever scared me away from Florida forests. And I recently bought ROT AND RUIN by Jonathan Maberry, so I need to get on that.

I know you occasionally post your Spotify playlist for your novels. Are there any specific bands or songs that you feel encompasses SERVANTS best

There is a playlist for SERVANTS, but the core of it is the Saturnalia album by The Gutter Twins. I have never listened to music so bleak and dark and powerful. It feels like walls crumbling, to me.

(Whenever I hear Florence and the Machine’s What the Water Gave Me, I get the same sort of feels the cover for SERVANTS OF THE STORM gives me: drowning, watery graves, swampy isolation, unquiet spirits.) 

Aw, yay! That's so cool! I need to listen...

You are extremely good at world building, both in creating worlds and rendering them without going too short or too long. Did you read books on world building, or was it all trial and error? If you were to give aspiring writers three pieces of advice for efficient world building, what would it be? 

I've always been an avid reader, and world building came relatively naturally to me. My first books were actually flawed in that the worlds were rich and specific, while the characters were flat and almost cardboard cut-outs. I teach a class on world building for LitReactor ( that includes lots of tips and a first chapter critique. But if I had to choose only three pieces of advice, I would say:
1. Your world must be internally consistent, which means environment must gel with religion, science, society. It has to make sense.
2. Your world must challenge your characters; it can't be too easy.
3. Maximize details to draw your world in text instead of purple prose. When I see a big paragraph that starts with, "The hills were…" I tune out. If you're bored writing or reading it, your readers will be bored. 
(Delilah also teaches a kick-ass class on world building here, if you want to find out more) 

Ha! Thanks!

When you have a new idea, is there a certain process you use to tease the idea into a novel, or do you just let it simmer until you feel like you have enough to start writing?

I don't start writing until I know the world and main character, the beginning of the story, the instigating factor that changes things, the climax, and the ending. So when I have an idea, I write it down in my notebook and cogitate on it. If it obsesses me, I start building a playlist. Once I have all those things and can't wait a single second longer, that's when I start writing.

I think most beginners start writing before they know enough about their character and world, and that's how you end up with a first chapter that's a solid info dump, where the character wakes up, looks in a mirror to describe their physicality, meditates on what's wrong with their life, stares out the window and describes what they see, etc. Your story should have plot from page one, and that plot should raise questions that draw the reader along.

What does your typical writing schedule look like? 

First draft = manic, sleepless, write as fast as possible, straight through. Edits = driven, grouchy, eats trash, stays up late. Line edits = studious, thoughtful, measured. Basically, when I'm obsessed, I'm obsessed. I have two small children and a husband who works at home, so I write whenever I can.

While writing, what do you struggle with the most? 

Honestly, I struggle more with promo than writing. Writing is my escape, and I tend to ignore real life in favor of immersing myself in the next shiny.

Is there any one book or author you feel inspires you the most? 

Stephen King's ON WRITING was the book that took me from "I'd like to write a book" to I CAN DO THIS. The way that he tears down his own first and second draft to smooth out the prose is fascinating. It was my game changer.

I was super-duper over the moon excited to see you announce a fourth Blud book. Can you give us any details about that or would you have to kill us?

Look at the last paragraph of Wicked as They Come and extrapolate. ;) Loooooots of Criminy. And thanks! I can't wait to write it!

More Criminy! I am over the moon with joy!

And most importantly, during the inevitable zombie apocalypse, what is your survival plan?

Find the nearest drugstore and stockpile all the Synthroid. I have thyroid disease and am more worried about that than hordes of undead.

Thanks so much for having me!

Thanks for coming and chatting with us, Delilah! I'm going back to reading SERVANTS OF THE STORM.