Author Interview: Hannah Mills

Hannah MillsHi everyone! Sorry to be a bit late with today’s post. I had a lot of school to do and didn’t turn on the computer because I didn’t want to get distracted. Anyway, here’s an interview with author Hannah Mills, who also happens to be a good friend of mine. Enjoy!

What gave you the idea for Plague of Darkness?
The idea came from the character of Teague. I liked him so much that before I was even halfway through “Called”, I decided that I simply had to explore Teague’s backstory and give him his own book.

What was the hardest part of writing this book?
Honestly, I think the most difficult part about the writing of this book was keeping it consistent with what he shared of his past in Called. If you can avoid writing books out-of-order, do! It’s a lot harder than one would realize.

What is one personal lesson you learned from writing this book?
Strength of will. I’ve always been a stubborn person, but Teague has a stronger will than I do, and helped me realize how strong and resilient one can be under incredible pressures.

What have been the pros and cons of self-publishing?
The biggest pro has been getting to do my own cover designs. The cons are that right now, I don’t have the know-how or time to really market my books.

Are you working on any new books?
Yes! I am currently working on Hosanna House, a contemporary novel. It’s going through a lot of editing after placing 2nd in a novel contest. I’m really excited about it, and can’t wait to share it with the world.

Is there anything else you would like to share with readers?
Readers, have high standards. Don’t settle for poor writing. Some amazing books are out there, and well worth your time. Writers, keep reading– and read high quality fiction and non-fiction. If you are not a good reader, chances are you won’t be a good writer. And also, be patient with yourself. It’s neat to look back at my old writings and see how much I’ve improved. It just takes time, practice, and a willingness to learn.

Thanks for the interview Hannah!

Author Interview: J. Grace Pennington

J Grace PenningtonThe next author in our lineup of homeschooled authors is J. Grace Pennington, author of Never which I reviewed last Friday. Please join me today in welcoming her for an interview.

How did you chose the story line for Never? What was your inspiration?
It started out as many of my novel ideas do–with a smattering of various disconnected elements that I wanted to get into one story together. I had the idea of the “never” theme, the idea of the mystery, the mines, the western setting, and some other things, and I pulled them together into a single plot with a lot of planning and a little inspiration from some favorite books and movies.

How much research did you do for this story?
Not very much! The element I researched most was probably the mines. I looked up everything I could find in our encyclopedias about coal mining, and talked to some people I knew who had visited or toured old coal mines. Other than that I just researched small elements as they came into the story. Firearms, sleepwear, tobacco usage, etc. Just enough to keep the story fairly period-accurate.

What message would you like readers to take away from this book?
Basically to never give up. Life is often hard, even if most of us don’t have to get worked half to death in a torturous coal mine. Things are tough, bad things happen, and sometimes we feel an awful lot like just letting go of what’s right. But we have a Source of strength that will never fail us, and so we can choose to hold to our principles no matter what the cost. That’s what I wanted to show. Hope in the midst of darkness.

Tell us about your experience with self-publishing. Why did you chose to self-publish?
Self-publishing is definitely a lot of work! I choose it because it offers a lot more control. Everything stays in the hands of the author, which is ideal in many ways, it just requires lots and lots of work. With this, my second book, I had someone to help me with part of the process, a designer who formatted it, designed the cover, and helped me proofread. That made it significantly less hard, even though it was still fairly stressful. I definitely recommend getting help if you can, even if it costs you something, but keeping the control in your own hands seems wise to me, if at all possible.

Are you working on any new books?
Yes! Right now I’m working on the next few books in my young adult science-fiction series “Firmament.” The second book will hopefully be out later this year, and the third book is about halfway finished, while the fourth is just past the outlining stage. I also have another book, “Implant,” which I hope to publish later in the year.

Is there anything else you would like to share with readers?
They say to write what you know. Some people interpret this to mean you can only write about the lifestyle that you live, and experiences similar to those you’ve actually been through, but I don’t think that’s the case. While I’ve never lived in the Old West, never solved a murder mystery, and never once been coal mining, I think I did write what I know in this story. I may not have experienced mining, but I’ve experienced darkness. I may not know mystery-solving, but I do know fear. I may not have had to survive through torture and starvation, but I have had to cling to hope when I felt weak and hopeless inside. I think these are things we can all relate to, on some level. And I hope that readers are able to take something away from it that can help them on their journeys.

Thank you for having me on your blog, Leah!

Thank you for joining us, Grace! If anyone has questions for Grace about Never, writing, self-publishing, her other books, etc. feel free to leave them in the comments section!

Author Interview: Molly Evangeline

Molly EvangelineLast Friday I reviewed The Pirate Daughter’s Promise. If you haven’t already done so, go comment on that post for your chance to win a free copy of the book. Today, author Molly Evangeline is here for an interview. Please join me in welcoming her.

What gave you the idea for The Pirate Daughter’s Promise?
All I used to write were horse stories until I saw The Fellowship of the Ring as a teenager. That was the first step that started me in the direction of writing action/adventure type stories. A year later, I saw the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie for my fifteenth birthday and fell in love with the idea of pirates and sailing. The plot for The Pirate Daughter’s Promise developed shortly after that.

How long did it take for you to write this book?
I wrote the first three or four chapters as the story was developing, but hit a snag and set it aside for about three years. My love for pirate stories resurfaced again with the second Pirates of the Caribbean movie so I pulled the story back out. Once I got into it, I wrote the remaining chapters in about two and a half weeks.

Tell us about your self-publishing experience. What has been the best and hardest thing about self-publishing?
It took a long time to really settle into self/indie publishing. When I first chose to self-publish The Pirate Daughter’s Promise it was because I had no idea how to get into traditional publishing and I was impatient. Now it’s a decided choice, and I don’t think I’d ever choose traditional publishing even if it was offered to me. The best thing about it is the control and the potential to actually make a living off it. I am a very do-it-yourself type of person. I typically spend over a year actually writing a book, and when I put that much effort into something, I want to see it to the end so I know I’ll be 100% happy with it. And the fact is, if you’re trying to do this as your job, indie publishing is much more profitable than traditional publishing, but it all depends on your ability to market and sell books. That’s where the hardest part comes in. Marketing is something you have to work very hard at, especially if it’s not something you’re good at. It takes a lot of time and effort that you would much rather spend on the actual writing process. But, if you’re doing what you love, it’s all worth it in the end.

What person has influenced your writing the most?
Definitely my mom. She is a writer too, and if she had not been writing while I was young, I may never have tried it myself. It was also her decision to homeschool me that played a huge part in where I am now. All that extra time I had to devote to writing, and imagining, and improving my skills was invaluable. A homeschool lifestyle also gave me the DIY attitude I needed to pursue self-publishing and setting up my own indie publishing company. I also have to point to J.R.R. Tolkien as the second most influential person in my writing. Discovering The Lord of the Rings when I was thirteen was a turning point for me. That’s the first time I realized writing was what I wanted to do with my life, and his stories still have a huge effect on what I like to write today.

Are you working on any new stories?
I am right in the middle of writing a new young adult fantasy series called Ilyon Chronicles. It’s the biggest project I’ve ever undertaken. It will be six books (unless something drastic happens along the way and a seventh book pops up). I started the first book, which turned out to be the longest book I’ve ever written, in June 2011, and I am now just about finished with book two. It’s set in a medieval/ancient Rome type setting with a tyrannical government and dealing with some issues we have now in modern society, so it’s full of action/adventure as well as many spiritual, emotional, and physical struggles. I’ve never been so close to or related so much to my characters as I have this group. I’m only a third of the way through the series and I’ve already laughed and cried and experienced incredible highs and lows with them.

Is there anything else you would like to share with readers?
I am beyond excited to share Ilyon Chronicles. I have a ton of work to do before that can happen, but every day I’m working hard to get there. There’s something special about this story. The things God has been showing me and the way He’s guiding me through all the little details is amazing. This story is so far above anything I’ve ever done before, and I can hardly wait to see what readers think and what God does with it. I’ve already set up a website for it, http://www.ilyonchronicles.com, and have an active Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/ilyonchronicles. I try to keep it updated often with where I am in writing the series, and occasionally post little snippets of the story.

Thanks for the interview, Molly! Readers, do you have thoughts or questions about anything Molly said?

Author Interview: Chuck Black

On Monday I posted a review and giveaway of Sir Bentley and Holbrook Court. Tomorrow is the last day to enter the drawing to win a signed copy of Sir Bentley, so make sure you leave a comment on the giveaway post!

Enjoy today’s interview with author Chuck Black.

How long has it been since you started writing the Kingdom books?
I began writing the Kingdom Series books in 1999. I started with Kingdom’s Edge, the third book in the series. My inspiration for writing that first book was to find a way to help my children get excited about their faith, and to help them understand the spiritual warfare that the Bible talks about so often. The story of Jesus was the best place to start. All of the other books, including the Knights of Arrethtrae, flow out of Kingdom’s Edge.

Do you have a favorite book out of the Kingdom Series or Knights of Arrethrae Series?
That is a difficult question to answer. I like different books for different reasons. Kingdom’s Edge because it was my first and purest work. It felt as though God specifically gave it to me to write. Beyond that I don’t think I could pick one of the Kingdom Series books over the other. For the Knights of Arrethtrae series, it would probably be a toss-up between Sir Dalton and Sir Quinlan with the other four coming in a close second :).

Tell us about your journey from self-publishing to traditional publishing.
I self-published four of the Kingdom Series books because I did not want to take the long and usually unfruitful path to traditional publishing. We stumbled into a market in the homeschool community with the books that gave us an indication that there was a real need for a series of wholesome, exciting, Christian novels. After five years of watching the interest and the sales double each year, I came to a place where I was exhausted and could not keep up with the growing demand for the books. That is when I asked God to really bless the books, if it were within His will to do so. A few months later, Multnomah Publishing signed on for the books and we expanded the series from four to six books. Once those proved to be successful, I signed another contract with Multnomah for the Knights of Arrethtrae series. It has been an unusual journey all testifying to God’s hand working it all out.

What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?
I would encourage aspiring authors to read a lot and to learn the techniques of their favorite authors. For example, how does the author develop the characters, is the story plot driven or character driven, how does he handle dialog, and how much detail is necessary to make a scene feel real. I would also recommend getting the book Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King. It is an excellent resource for beginning writers. Finally, I recommend practicing your writing and having people give you honest and objective feedback. Before I decided to print 500 copies of Kingdom’s Edge, I printed five copies under a pen name. I then asked people for feedback. Be prepared for both the positive and the negative feedback and then adjust. Constructive criticism is the best tool for learning, if the receiver is willing to accept it.

Do you have any new books in the works?
Actually, I just signed a contract for a trilogy with Waterbrook Multnomah. I can’t give too much a way but it will be a modern-day spiritual warfare series. I’m excited about it, and I pray that God will use it to inspire people to serve Him with all heart, soul, mind, and strength!

Is there anything else you would like to share with readers?
The central theme of all of my books is this…God is looking for hearts that are completely devoted to Him so that he might strongly support them (2 Chronicles 16:9). Find your passion for God through the talents and abilities He has given you and then say “yes” to the call and the adventure He has waiting for you. It will be the thrill of a lifetime…I guarantee it!

My website is www.KingdomSeries.com and if anyone would like to write to me, I can be reached at kingdom[at]perfect-praise.com. Thank you for the chance to share my heart with your readers.

Thank you for this wonderful interview, Mr. Black!

Author Interview: Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Why did you choose tell “Jefferson’s Sons” through the eyes of three characters?
This was mostly a decision based on structure. As I did the research for this book, the time frame kept expanding. I could see how the world in which Beverly spent his early years, at Monticello during the relative stillness of Jefferson’s Presidency, was very different from that in which Maddy grew up, after Jefferson’s retirement, when visitors flocked to the farm. I wanted to contrast those differences. But I also really, really, wanted to tell what I saw as the natural end of the story–that horrifying auction after Jefferson’s death–and, by that point, Beverly is long gone, and Maddy fully grown. Peter Fossett actually left a written account of his childhood at Monticello, a terrific first-person source for those final years. To start where I wanted to start, I had to be in Beverly’s voice–he’s really the only one old enough to carry the story–and at the end, I had to be in Peter’s voice, as he’s the only one left.

Theoretically I could have stayed with just those two, but there’s another problem: I wanted this book to reach middle school audiences. To do that, I have to keep a certain level of innocence in the discourse. Some of the topics we cover would be viewed and discussed very differently by adult narrators, and the minute I slide into an adult point-of-view I run the danger of losing of either being untruthful to the history, or writing something inappropriate for a fifth-grader to read. When I split the narrative three ways, so that each voice begins at around age 7 and continues into early teens (a bit younger for Peter), I could cover the ground I wanted to cover, and still write the book I wanted to write.

Please note that if this hadn’t been based so strongly on historical facts I wouldn’t have done it this way. If it were straight fiction–I was making all this up–I’d have used one narrator and a much shorter time frame. Easier on everyone. But the biggest strength of the book is that is very much based on fact.

Do you have a favorite scene in this book?
Hmm. I’d have to go with the ending–very hard to write, and it’s certainly not the happiest scene, but I was really pleased with how I got it in the end. I think it has a rhythm that suits the action.

What was one of the most unexpected facts or stories you uncovered while researching for “Jefferson’s Sons”?
There are simply tons of good stories, many of which couldn’t make it into the book. For example, Joe Fossett’s older brother Daniel, who is very briefly mentioned as having been sold away why Joe was a small boy, actually bought Wormley Hughes at the auction. He bought him for a dollar and gave him his freedom. Where Daniel had been living and how he gained his own freedom are completely unknown–from a historical point of view, he appears, then disappears again.

Part way through my research, the historians at Monticello found evidence that Patsy Fossett gained her freedom as an adult–she comes up in Census records in 1830, in Cincinnati, which is where many of the Fossetts were living, including Joe and Edith. Prior to a few years ago, she was “lost” from a historical point of view–no one knew what had happened to her.

Do you have plans for another historical fiction?
I’m in the middle of a book set in England during World War II. It features wholly fictional characters, more like my book Weaver’s Daughter than Jefferson’s Sons.

What advice would you give to a person trying to become a fiction writer?
Read everything you can. Especially read writers you admire. Write, but don’t be too eager for publication–publication is really hard, and rejection is really discouraging, and at the start you just need to write for yourself, nobody else. Forget “write what you know.” Write what you want to read.

Is there anything else you would like to share with readers?
I’m really pleased at how many people are reading and responding to Jefferson’s Sons. It’s been a really good journey. Thanks for inviting me onto your blog, and for caring about my book.

Thank you for joining us on this blog! I’m looking forward to reading your new books in the future.

Visit Kimberly Brubaker Bradley’s Website
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