Tag Archives: writer interview

J Matthew McKern in the HOT SEAT

Yes, that’s right, folks. It’s time for another scorching  HOT SEAT interview. Today’s victim willing participant is J Matthew McKern, otherwise known as Matt. Matt is very special to me. He designed the cover for my first novel, The Big Smoke, capturing the essence of the story in a way I could have only dreamed. So I figured, what better way to pay him back than by burning his toosh! 😀

Let’s get started… 

J Matt McKern

Gday, Matt!

What genre(s) do you write, Matt?

Young adult & middle grade. 

Tell us about your current WIP, I Didn’t Go Looking for Trouble, in 25 words or fewer! 

A road trip adventure starring a sixteen-year-old picker and a six-inch-tall sprite trying to save the family home from being repossessed by the bank.

[CJ: Haha, sounds like fun! However, compound adjectives such as ‘sixteen-year-old’ are not one word, which means you’ve used 28 words. Guess I’ll let you off this time… ;)]

Well, I could have said that it’s about Willy Storey, a girl with an independent spirit. All her life, all she’s known is antiques. Every summer since her mother died, Willy has traveled the midwest with her father buying antiques to resell at the family store. When the bank comes after their family home after Willy’s father is disabled in an accident, Willy takes matters into her own hands. She goes out on the road in her dad’s beat up old pickup truck to try to save the family business. But it’s going to take more than luck to succeed, it’s going to take a little bit of magic. Visiting small town midwest, Willy discovers something else that catches her by surprise, a devoted friend who might be able to lead her to treasure rumored to be hidden in a picture frame somewhere in Iowa.

[CJ: Yes, that would have been way more than 25 words!]

Most of us write part time. How do you spend your time when you’re not writing?

In my day job, I’m an Art Director, creating publications for the healthcare market. 16+ years now!

[CJ: So you’ve been in  your current job for the same length of time your main character has been alive. Don’t worry, that doesn’t make you old or anything… :P]

Tell us a little about your writing process.

I begin with a scenario and strong characters. I definitely plot things out well in advance, but I find myself deviating from the path on a regular basis. One way or another, it’s all about the journey. 

[CJ: Sounds a bit like my process, actually!]

Coming from a fine-arts background, I believe I possess a very visual sensibility. I’m sure this will lead me into world-building projects in the not-too-distant future. But it’s the characters that engage me. Taking them apart and putting them back together again is what keeps me up late and wakes me early in the morning. It is my hope that the resulting combination results in stories that are impossible to put down. 

Who or what are your biggest writing inspirations?

My golfing and fishing partner, Patrick Carman, is right up there. It’s definitely a plus to know someone who’s lighting the way. Going way back, Steven King was key to showing how to flesh out a world. For quirky characters, I’d say John Irving’s work was an inspiration. In the world of middle-grade fiction, Ingrid Law has been a recent favorite.   

[CJ: You lost me at golf. ;)]

What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a writer?

Finding time to do it all without short-changing my family. I love to write on vacations, which has both upsides and downsides.

[CJ: Ah, yes. I know the feeling of not wanting to short-change the family. Especially now I have a bambino!]

Time for the HOT SEAT questions!

Hot Seat

*Insert scary music here*

If you were given a glimpse of the future and knew nobody would ever read your writing, would you continue to write?

I would. I’m definitely one of those people for whom creative endeavors are a way of life. 

Finish this sentence from Willy Storey’s perspective:

Willy: Something from my past that I’ve had trouble getting over is… the death of my mother, though I suppose in some ways I’ve always tried to pick up where she left off, trying to keep things from falling apart.

[CJ: Aww. Very sad…]

Now finish the same sentence from your own perspective.

Matt: Something from my past that I’ve had trouble getting over is… the fact that my college professors failed to even attempt to illustrate the synergy between creativity and business.

[CJ: Okay… I’m intrigued. Why does that still bother you?]

Well, most of the blame should fall squarely upon my shoulders, but if I could go back and do it all again, I’d double-major. At the time, I felt what I’d describe as a cultural difference that I wouldn’t even imagine trying to bridge. If you’re talented and creative, don’t assume that someone will be there to provide a path to financial viability. You should learn at least a little about how to manage your own career. [Stepping down from soap box]

[CJ: Haha. Soap boxes are always welcome. Just make sure it doesn’t get too close to the HOT SEAT or it might catch fire! 😉 ]

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If you’d like to hear more from Matt, check out his website or like him on Facebook

I Didn't Go Looking For Trouble cover

Available now!

If you’d like a turn in the HOT SEAT, let me know in the comments and I’ll schedule you in for a buttocks burning. 😀

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A shining spotlight, a bumpdate and a Goodreads giveaway of The Big Smoke!

A shining spotlight… 

The wonderful Juliana Haygert has been kind enough to shine her author spotlight my way. Have you ever wondered what my nicknames are? Or maybe you’d like to know what I’m working on now? All is revealed in Juliana’s Author Spotlight!

Bumpdate 

It’s been a while since I’ve provided you with a bumpdate (read: pregnancy update), and seeing as I had my baby shower on the weekend, I figured now was the perfect time! I’m now 32.5 weeks pregnant and feeling a lot less mobile than usual. I had a wonderful baby shower on the weekend and have exactly 16 days of work left before I go on maternity leave (not that I’m counting ;)).

My ankles are swollen, I’ve been getting heaps of practice contractions, and I only have to walk 100 metres to feel like I’ve climbed a mountain, but all in all, everything is going really well. Can’t wait to meet our little girl!

A Goodreads giveaway!

On my travels throughout the blogosphere, I’ve heard many indie publishers say that Goodreads giveaways have helped them gain exposure for their books and generate excitement. So I figured: sounds awesome, I’ll jump on the bandwagon and give it a try!

This means I’m giving away two paperback copies of The Big Smoke to two lucky Goodreads members. If you’re keen to read The Big Smoke but haven’t had a chance yet,  make sure you enter the giveaway by 14 December (it’s free!).

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Big Smoke by Cally Jackson

The Big Smoke

by Cally Jackson

Giveaway ends December 14, 2012.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

How about you?

What’s happening in your world? Have you ever won a book from a Goodreads giveaway? Have you ever run one? What was your experience? Do share! 🙂

P.S. Next Tuesday will be one month since I launched The Big Smoke into the world. To mark the occasion, I’ll give you an update on what I’ve learnt so far since launching – no holds barred! Stay tuned…

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Filed under Competitions, Personal, The Big Smoke, Writer interview, Writing

Nick Earls interviews me about new adult fiction; Mental Health Monday; and writing from the perspective of the opposite sex

Tonight’s post is the finale of my blog tour for The Big Smoke, and let me assure you, it ends with a bang!

STOP ELEVEN

Stop eleven was an unexpected, but extremely welcome, detour from my scheduled route. I received an email over the weekend from one of my all-time favourite authors, Nick Earls, to see if I’d be interested in answering a few questions about New Adult fiction on his blog. Naturally, I agreed! Here’s a taste of the post…

Away from the internet, the NA market is still in its infancy in terms of connecting books with buyers (in my opinion, at least). There’s a strong opportunity to establish a relationship between NA authors and universities/colleges because so many students in higher education are part of the NA target market, but I don’t believe this has been explored much at all yet.  Read more…

STOP TWELVE

In my twelfth stop, I’ve been interviewed about The Big Smoke by Laura Diamond as part of her Mental Health Monday series. Want a preview? Here you go!

What’s your technique for drawing out authentic emotions in your characters?

I don’t know if my technique is anything ground breaking – it mainly involves taking my hands off the keyboard, closing my eyes and imagining what it would be like to be in the situation my character is experiencing. What would it feel like? What thoughts would be running through your head? What would you notice about your surroundings? Read more…

LUCKY STOP THIRTEEN

In my thirteen and final stop, I’m guest posting over at Arlee Bird’s Tossing it Out about writing from the perspective of the opposite sex and whether or not that’s a good idea.

Here’s a taste for you:

When I decided to re-write my New Adult novel, The Big Smoke, so that it was told from the first-person perspective of my two main characters, I knew it would be challenging for me (a 29-year-old woman) to create a realistic and engaging teen male voice. Seb, my main male character, is 17 at the beginning of The Big Smoke and comes from a different background to me, but I was determined to get into his head somehow and use his words to tell the story. Read more…
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SIGNING OFF (FOR NOW)
Thanks for following me around the blogosphere! Hope you’ve enjoyed my guest posts and interviews about all things The Big Smoke. 🙂
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Filed under blog tour, New Adult fiction, Nick Earls, The Big Smoke, Writing, Writing craft

Does romance equal happiness in fiction? Plus two interviews with two Lauras!

STOP EIGHT

In the eighth stop of my blog tour, I’m guest posting over at The Eagle’s Aerial Perspective about whether romance equals happiness in fiction (and whether it should). Here’s a taste of the post…

I’m a sucker for a good romance. Twilight is one of my favourite books and movies like Ten Things I Hate About You never fail to make me smile. But as much as I love stories like these, they make me slightly uncomfortable. Why? Because they seem to equate romance with happiness, and I’m not sure that’s a great message, particularly for young (and new) adults. Read more…

STOP NINE

In my ninth stop, I’ve answered all of Laura J Moss‘s burning questions about self publishing, including why I decided to self publish, what factors I had to consider, how I chose my publishing mediums and what advice I’d give to people considering self publishing for themselves. Want a preview? Here you go!

Be aware that you will need to commit a great deal of time to the [self publishing] process to do it justice. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my self-publishing journey (except for the 2 a.m. crisis!), but it has consumed a LOT of my time and energy. You need to be prepared to not only be the author, but to also be the typesetter, the proofreader, the accountant, the distributor, the publicist… and the list goes on. Read more…

STOP TEN

And in my tenth stop, it’s my turn to answer Laura Howard’s famous six questions over at Finding Bliss. I’ve revealed my top three favourite books (for now), my editing process for The Big Smoke and my inspiration for writing. Here’s a little sample for you:

When it comes to editing, focus on the macro issues first – look at the forest rather than the trees. With earlier iterations of The Big Smoke (then Entwined, before I decided to completely re-write it), I spent countless hours perfecting the prose of certain scenes, only to decide later that the entire chapter needed to go. Read more…

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Blog tour stop number 5 and the winner of The Year I Turned 18 Blogfest!

Blog tour

In the fifth stop of my blog tour, I’m been interviewed by Melissa Maygrove. Here’s a taste of the interview…

Do you have a favorite character or a favorite scene?

This is a tricky one because I have a lot of favourites. As much as I love my main female character, Ceara, she’s a little too much like me (worries way too much), so I think my main male character, Seb, wins out. He’s a bit hopeless at times but his heart’s in the right place, and he’s quite funny. I laugh at all his jokes – we must have the same sense of humour. 😉
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To read the rest of the interview, head on over to Melissa’s blog.

Blogfest wrap-up and winner announcement

Thank you to everyone who participated in my blogfest, The Year I Turned 18. I really enjoyed reading all of your entries and hearing about your eighteenth years. There was so much variety: round-the-world trips, marriage, fights with close friends, beginning to live a Jewish life and many more fascinating experiences. If you missed any of the entries, I’ve included the links below for easy reference.

What Else is Possible?

The Warrior Muse

Teresa Coltrin

Trisha @ WORD+STUFF

Anything Imagined

Pivot Coaching

Rachel Morgan

Clare Dugmore Writes

Words from Sonobe

Cally Jackson Writes

Carrie-Annes Magick Theatre

Write Here, Write Now

Charitys Writing Journey

Paper, Ink and Coffee

Martin Knox

Each blogfest participant (except for me) went into the draw to win a $20 Amazon voucher, and I’m sure you’re all waiting with bated breath to see who took out the prize. I shall keep you in suspense no longer. The winner is…

Rachel Morgan!

I haven’t contacted her to tell her that she won yet because I thought it might be fun to see how long it takes for her to discover the news herself. So do me a favour and don’t tell her! 😀

Once again, thanks to everyone who participated and to everyone who visited and commented on the blogfest participants’ entries!

And don’t forget to check out Melissa Maygrove’s interview with me!

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Filed under blog tour, Blogfests, Competitions, The Big Smoke

India Drummond in the HOT SEAT

It’s a bit awkward watching a grown woman cry. India Drummond tries to pull herself together, but she’s just too frightened. Oh well, no sympathy from me. She got herself into this situation. Welcome to the HOT SEAT!

India Drummond

Gday, India!

Let’s get started. What genre(s) do you write?

Mostly urban fantasy, but my books also stray into “epic fantasy” territory as well. They have a splash of murder and romance to boot! 

Tell us about your recently published book, ENEMY OF THE FAE (Caledonia Fae, Book 3), in 25 words or less.

With a young, inexperienced monarch on the Caledonian throne and traitorous plots implicating those nearest Queen Eilidh, unrest is rife in the kingdom.

Most of us write part time. How do you spend your time when you’re not writing?

Writing is my full-time job. I also do freelance cover design from time to time, but all the many tasks associated with publishing books take up nearly all my time, so I accept a few jobs here and there, but don’t actively seek out new clients. When I’m not working, I’m spending time with my family and enjoying living in Scotland, the most beautiful place on earth.

[CJ: Sounds awesome! Living the dream… ;)] 

Tell us a little about your writing process.

I begin with a one paragraph statement about the main conflict in the book, then I expand that to 2-3 paragraphs about each third of the book. In the first third, I set up the characters and conflict, but by the end of that third, the main character needs to be in trouble. In the second third, the trouble gets doubled, until by the end of that section, I’m not sure how to get them out of it. Then the last third is for resolution. After I get this finished, I write a detailed outline that is usually about 4000-5000 words where I divide that general outline into chapters, and detail what needs to happen in each one. Then I start writing!

After I finish a draft, I muck around and polish until I’m happy with it, then I send to beta readers. After another round of self-editing, I send it to my professional editor. I take her suggestions and edit and polish again, then I listen to the book using Kindle’s text-to-speech feature to help me catch any lingering errors.

It’s a lot of work, but it’s the only way I’ve found to produce as polished a product as I can.

[CJ: Sounds very thorough. I found your post about how to choose a freelance editor extremely helpful. :)]

Who or what are your biggest writing inspirations?

I’m constantly inspired by things I see every day. I love watching strangers and thinking about their lives, their secrets and dreams.

[CJ: Yep, I’m a people watcher too.]

What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a writer?

Without a doubt it’s getting through the initial period of learning, struggling, rejection, starting over. So often, writers face a long battle of trial by fire, working to catch a break in a difficult industry. It took me a long time to find success, and it’s so hard to continue to plug away in a situation where I just wasn’t sure it was ever going to happen for me.

[CJ: Congratulations for breaking through! :)]

Time for the HOT SEAT questions!

Hot Seat

*Insert scary music here*

Have you ever considered giving up writing? Why? What made you continue?

I started writing fiction in university, and it took me a long time to find my voice and the style and genre that I enjoyed the most. But I worked hard all along the way to get published. At one point, I had an epic fantasy novel that an agent was looking over. She asked for more pages, then more, then finally the entire manuscript, but each step took months, and I was constantly getting emails from her saying “Oh sorry, I haven’t gotten around to it, but I love the book and I need a few more weeks.” Finally after nearly a year of giving her an exclusive look, she wrote and said the book wasn’t for her, but she recommended this book doctor who was a personal friend, and he only wanted about a thousand pounds for reading the book and giving me a one-page report. I was devastated and felt like my trust had been broken. I quit writing for a couple of years, having decided that the entire industry was crooked.

[CJ: That would have been a very disheartening experience.]

In the end, though, I came back to it and wrote a different book altogether, and this one was picked up by a small publishing house. A lot had changed since I first started submitting though. I decided self-publishing was a smarter way to go for me, so when I started my next series (Caledonia Fae), I intended from the beginning to self-publish it. It was with this series that I finally found the success I’d been dreaming about for so many years.

[CJ: Hooray! :-)]

Finish this sentence from your character’s perspective: I’m embarrassed to admit this, but…

… I loved him from the beginning, but I couldn’t tell him because he was human.

[CJ: Ooooh eeee!]

Now finish the same sentence from your perspective: I’m embarrassed to admit this, but… 

I don’t usually admit to things that embarrass me! [CJ: yeah, but this is what the HOT SEAT is all about! :D] But… most people think I’m very confident, and in some ways I am, but I have a horrible fear of new situations, especially ones in which I don’t know anyone else who will be there. I don’t mind public speaking or talking to strangers… it’s more about going into a situation where I don’t know what is going to happen or what will be expected of me.

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More about Enemy of the Fae (Caledonia Fae, Book 3):

With a young, inexperienced monarch on the Caledonian throne and traitorous plots implicating those nearest Queen Eilidh, unrest is rife in the kingdom. She must sift through the intrigues and lies to survive, all while trying to discover which of her trusted companions hates her enough to commit mass murder.

Pressures threaten to overcome the young ruler, and to protect Quinton Munro, her bonded druid, she must send him away. His journey becomes a mission when he stumbles on an ancient truth that will shake the foundations of the entire faerie realm. Confronted by infinite danger and the promise of limitless power, Munro faces the most difficult choices of his life. Will he hide the truth to preserve stability in the faerie kingdoms or embrace the promise of his true druid heritage?

One friend will die because of that truth, one friend’s betrayal will cause irreparable scars, and the once tightly-knit band of druids will learn that not all magic is benevolent.

If that’s whet your appetite, you can buy Enemy of the Fae from Amazon. Or, start at the beginning of the series with Blood Faerie.

If you’d like to hear more from India, check out her website, follow her on Twitter or like her on Facebook.

Are you tough enough for the HOT SEAT? Let me know in the comments and I’ll schedule you in for a buttocks burning. 😀

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Nancy Adams in the HOT SEAT

Nancy Adams loves fairy tales, mysteries and fantasy, but as she approaches the HOT SEAT she soon realises there’s nothing fantastic about it. Nay, it’s an absolute mystery why she volunteered to sit in the flaming seat!
(Yes, I’m being very lame tonight! :-D)

pompei girl

Gday Nancy's online persona!

Let’s get started. What genre(s) do you write, Nancy?

I mostly write mystery, though lately I’ve begun experimenting with fantasy elements as well. My first serious efforts were historical mysteries and my current WIP is an urban fantasy/suspense set in Paris.  “Saint Nick and the Fir Tree” is primarily a little fantasy/fairy tale, but there is also a little hint of a murder mystery twist at the end.

[CJ: Ooh, I like the sound of the urban fantasy set in Paris!]

Tell us about your latest short story, Saint Nick and the Fir Tree,  in 25 words or less.

Saint Nick and his new Tree friend go out on the town, but a freak snowstorm brings their festivities to an unexpected conclusion.

Saint Nick is a short story for the holidays that I’ve just published. It’s available in both ebook and paperback formats. The paperback includes a couple of cute color illustrations by two very talented artist friends.

[CJ: Sounds like fun. Tell us more.]

It’s the day after Christmas, and Saint Nick’s on vacation. His first stop is the little town of Greenwood, where he sees what looks like a fir tree. The fir tree is really a yew that’s pruned in the shape of a Christmas tree, and it’s based on a real yew bush in our own backyard. In the story, the Christmas-tree shaped yew prefers to think of itself as a fir tree. Yews mean sadness, death, and funeral wreaths; fir trees mean Christmas. No contest!

Saint Nick invites the Tree on a little adventure that takes them from the local movie house (showing Miracle on 34th Street—what else?) to a diner, a tavern, and finally a long walk where they get lost in the snow-covered woods and Saint Nick literally stumbles on a big surprise.

Most of us write part time. How do you spend your time when you’re not writing?

I work full time, and when I’m not writing I love to read to relax. I do some occasional gardening, but not as much as I would like.

[CJ: My husband is the gardener in our family. I like to sit back and admire his handiwork. :-)]

Tell us a little about your writing process.

I began writing seriously about twelve years ago, and attended a mystery convention where I had an interview with an agent. I was very excited by her interest in the story and sent her the full manuscript, only to be told some months later that it very much needed an editor. That was the start of a long apprenticeship that got a great boost when I joined Sisters in Crime, an organization for mystery writers, and became part of their “Guppy” (i.e., “Great UnPublished”) chapter. Guppy friends, critique partners, and information was enormously helpful for my formation as a writer.

[CJ: I love the sound of Guppy. Sounds like an awesome group.]

They are!

The process has changed some over the years, but I always start a new manuscript as what’s called a “pantser,” as in “by-the-seat-of-your-pants.” In practice that means that I start with a scene or idea, but have no idea where it’s going to go. I discover the story’s path by sitting down to write the beginning. Typically that takes me only so far and then I have to stop and do some more organized kinds of brainstorming. 

[CJ: My last four HOT SEAT victims interviewees have all been pantsers. Who knew there were so many out there! :)]

Who or what are your biggest writing inspirations?

Oddly enough none of my major inspirations are mystery writers, though that is the genre I read the most. The Canadian author Robertson Davies is probably my biggest inspiration. His works aren’t fantasy in the strict sense of the word, but nonetheless they are magical. The novels are quick, compelling reads, but they also harbor depths. He was interested in Jungian psychology and also in religion, but there is nothing “heavy” about his stories. They are light as air, yet full of substance. Comedies in the sense that Shakespeare’s The Tempest is a comedy. If you don’t know him, start with either “The Rebel Angels” or “Fifth Business,” both wonderful, absolutely magical works. I bet you’ll become a fan!

[CJ: I haven’t read any of Robertson Davies, so thanks for the recommendations!]

What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a writer?

Working full-time, without a doubt. It’s hard for me to switch in and out of writing mode. I try to write new scenes on weekends—I’m only fresh and able to do this first thing in the morning, as a rule—and then revise during the weekend. It’s frustrating to lose that momentum every Monday.

[CJ: Trying to write around full time work is definitely tough. Does your work involve writing at all or does it use a completely different skill set?]

I’m a catalog librarian, which means I’m responsible for the book records library patrons see in the catalog. It’s helped me develop a sharp eye for proofreading.

Right. Enough of the niceties. Time for the HOT SEAT questions!

Hot Seat

*Insert scary music here*

If you could no longer write, would you channel your creativity into a different artform? If so, what?  

<shudders> A truly horrible prospect! I love to sing. Of course that’s not the same as creating something, but I definitely couldn’t compose music. And singing gives you a wonderful feeling of vitality. But please, let’s not dwell on such a ghastly thought!

Finish this sentence from your character’s perspective: Something most people don’t know about me is…

By “most people,” I assume you’re referring to humans? Some of my best friends are human, but most of them don’t realize how much trees and other plants think and feel. Take me, for instance. I can quote all kinds of stories and poetry. I’m thankful that Aunt Nancy and my previous caretaker, Jack, always appreciated me and took the time to read me stories and poems they know I’ll like.

[CJ: Awww. How lovely!]

Now finish the same sentence from your perspective. I used to be a radio DJ. Back in college I majored in music and at the time our little campus radio station was the only place on the dial where you could listen to classical music and jazz. It was fun deciding which LPs I would take for a spin on any given day.

[CJ: Oh the power. That’s so much cooler than the jobs I had when I was at uni! :)]

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Hooray! Very fitting to have a Christmas-focused HOT SEAT as my last one for the year! If you’d like to hear more from Nancy, check out her website or follow her on Twitter

If you’d like a turn in the HOT SEAT in 2012, let me know in the comments and I’ll schedule you in for a buttocks burning. 😀

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