Author’s Spotlight: Samuel M. Hallam Interview

Samuel M. Hallam, author of Haunted Souls

1. First, introduce yourself a bit. What is your name (or pen name) and where are you from?

My name is Samuel M. Hallam and I am originally from Lincolnshire in the U.K.

2. Next, tell us a bit about your most recent work. Is this your first published book? What is it about and what genre would you classify it as?

My recent work is called Haunted Souls and is my debut novel. It’s the second piece I’ve had published (I had a short called All Hail The Coral Queen! which was picked up in May 2022). It’s a ghost story of sorts and plays into the classic tropes of ghosts and haunted houses, covering centuries of history and horror, all centred around a manor house, flitting between 1995 and 2018, and the years prior.

3. Tell us a bit about your main character; what are they like, how did they come about, and what are some of their strengths and weaknesses?

The main character in Haunted Souls is January Miller. We first meet her as a young girl and as an adult. They are a strong female lead I think and suffered quite a bit. I can’t really remember how they came about. I think I wanted a strong lead character who had an unusual first name to make them stand out. January is a lovely name and is not one you see every day and part of me just clicked with it. In terms of strengths, they are quite a resilient character, determined and curious. Weaknesses – we don’t see a bit of her life, and sometimes I feel I could have explored the missing years.

4. What was your hardest scene to write in this (or any) book?

Without giving too much away, there were a few hard scenes but one I found really difficult emotionally was a funeral scene. It hit me really hard as I was writing it and I had to watch something funny and light-hearted as I wrote the scene. Sometimes when you write emotionally charged scenes, you need to find something to balance it out.

5. Did you go the traditional route when publishing your book or did you choose to self-publish?

Self-publishing was my goal the entire time. As much as I might have liked to have approached a traditional publisher over this one, I sort of wanted to stand on my own two feet as it was my debut. I had a bit of help with sorting the Kindle element, but this time it was on my own. I might go the traditional route with future stories.

6. What would you say is the most difficult part of your writing journey and what advice would you give to other writers?

The most difficult part for me personally is editing and formatting. I am pretty useless when it came to the Kindle Direct Publishing element so got some help (massive thank you to Aiden Merchant). It’s not the most user-friendly thing in the world and I needed that help. As for advice to others? Have fun and don’t be afraid to explore new worlds. Whether it is short stories, novelettes, novellas, novels or a series then have fun! That and if you have an idea, don’t be afraid to let it run. It could take you in an unexpected, but exciting direction.

7. Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

Mild spoilers here for Haunted Souls. In Chapter 9, which is set in 1913, we meet Aloysius Benavidez and Grace Harding. There are hints that these two have been together (in a partnership) for a good few years. At the moment, I have plans for a trilogy involving Aloysius and Grace exploring “hauntings” in the U.K. with Aloysius trying to expose them as fake, and Grace being more open to the idea that there really is ghosts. I have the first story’s outline written and I will get round to exploring this world soon. Just wait and see.

As for other connections, I’m not sure. There’s a number of doors that are potentially opened by Haunted Souls. We’ll see.

8. What are some of your favourite authors and books and what inspired you to become a writer in the first place?

In terms of favourite authors, I have a range really. Barker, Herbert, King, Christie, Gaiman… There’s so many household names who I admire and look up to and see how they’ve done it, to try and help build up my own writing skills. But then again, I run the Indie Horror Book Club and I have fund so many great authors via the Book Club and there’s so many great self-published authors out there that I would strongly suggest reading. I’m not going to list them all as we’d be here for a long long time, but there’s so many wonderful self-published/indie authors out there.

In terms of what inspired me to write, I’m not entirely sure. I think from a young age I have always wanted to write and I have sort of rediscovered that love of writing during 2020 onwards.

9. What would you say has been the best way to market your books?

I am not sure. I just sort of do weekly posts on Instagram in the lead up to the release of Haunted Souls and try and share people’s posts about it.

10. Are there any tropes, clichés, or writing styles that you dislike and, if so, what are they and why?

I’m not big on cosmological horrors. Sometimes it’s a bit too wordy for me, but there is good authors in that subgenre.

11. Do you read reviews of your book and, if so, how do you handle negative feedback?

I have been keeping an eye on reviews for Haunted Souls, mostly positive. I’ve been trying to see if there’s recurring faults and anything I could like take forward in terms of my writing.

12. What are some of your quirks as a writer? Do you like to plot everything out or do you prefer to just “wing it” and see where the story takes you? Do you listen to music when writing and, if so, what do you listen to?

I have been called “offbeat” before but I like that. I have a tendency to write major plot outlines. For Haunted Souls I wrote a 2500+ plot outline to help keep me on track. For most novellas and novels I do write major outlines so I can follow the path so to speak and get it all written. I find it helps, and as I go along with the story, I gradually delete the plan.

13. What is the best advice you’ve ever had when it comes to writing and what advice would you give to new writers?

There’s a Stephen King quote which I quite like which he tells any potential author to read a lot. Honestly, that one is a good piece of advice. Reading a lot teaches you tips and tricks about how others have done it and how you can do it.

As for my advice, like I said earlier. Have fun and don’t be afraid to explore new worlds.

14. What’s next for you? Are you currently working on any new books or stories?

Like I said earlier, I have the Aloysius and Grace series/trilogy (I need a better title) that I am working on. Aside from that I have four big projects on the horizon. Weathering the Storm is a sort of weather/folk horror/cult/fantasy horror that is my main focus for the moment. It’s a novella and I have a plan for it. Have You Seen This Martian? will be my next novel I think and is a sci-fi/horror story set on Mars in the not so distant future. Tales From the Green Chair is a collection of shorts I have written. Some new, some old, all by me. Then lastly, I have a top-secret project which I can’t say much about but it’s something new, something fun. There’s more to come but that’s major next steps.

15. Finally, feel free to plug your social media, website, and links to Amazon, GoodReads, and other relevant sites below, and detail any current offers available for your book/s:

If you’d like to be featured in an interview, please check out the interview submissions page to submit your answers.

Author’s Spotlight: Kassidy VanGundy Interview

Kassidy VanGundy, author of Cursed Fate

– First, introduce yourself a bit. What is your name (or pen name) and where are you from?

My name is Kassidy VanGundy and I’m an author! I’m originally from South Bend, Indiana (USA) but for the past couple of years I’ve been living in Boston, MA.

 Next, tell us a bit about your most recent work. Is this your first published book? What is it about and what genre would you classify it as?

My most recent published work is my first book, Cursed Fate. It’s a Dark Fantasy story that follows an 18-year-old named Vincent who is trying to reconnect with his lost magical ancestry and find his missing father. He has to travel to another realm inspired by the geography, plants, and animals of Madagascar and meet princesses with extraordinary powers and supernatural animal companions along the way. I intended it to be an edgy YA book, but I think adults will enjoy it as well. I’m currently working on the sequel as we speak!

– Tell us a bit about your main character; what are they like, how did they come about, and what are some of their strengths and weaknesses?

Vincent starts of as a lonely, handsome, privileged, rich kid with a lot of anger in him. He feels like he is constantly misunderstood and constantly craves a close family connection. His mother is rarely in his life anymore and his father is completely absent, so he is left to be raised by his maid. However, he quickly learns that he can’t trust anything from his previous life once he sets out on his new journey. Eventually he learns to be more compassionate, patient, and kind once he meets people just as tormented as him. He heals through humor and sass, which I hope others can relate to. I modeled him after my younger brother and my angsty teenage self.

– What was your hardest scene to write in this (or any) book?

Endings are very hard for me in general, as I tend to procrastinate finishing a book. It’s kind of an emotional process for me, but I’m not sure why. There are also a couple of scenes in the book that turned out a lot darker than I originally intended them to be. Chapter 6 comes to mind in particular, which involves the death of a parent, and another one in which someone is held down and forced to swallow grass. I don’t want to give away too much about these scenes, but I realized after I wrote them that they were more personal to me and what I’ve been through in my life than I’d like to admit. But I assume that happens for a lot of creatives when they make art.

– Did you go the traditional route when publishing your book or did you choose to self-publish?

So I’m actually published through Ukiyoto Publishing, which is a small traditional publisher based out of Ontario. They’ve been very helpful for a brand-new author like myself who didn’t have a lot of knowledge about publishing prior to this book. I plan on submitting the sequel to them as well, but for future projects I’m toying with the idea of querying to larger publishers and agents.

– What would you say is the most difficult part of your writing journey and what advice would you give to other writers?

I know I struggle with imposter syndrome sometimes, especially when book sales aren’t going super well or I’m having a hard time hitting my daily writing quota. It’s easy to see people online who you think are doing better than you and get discouraged, but you can’t give up! I’m someone who is getting back into writing after years of going to school for a completely different field, so if I can do it, you can do it! It’s good to connect with other authors because you eventually find that we’re all in the same boat one way or another. As long as you’re making personal progress for yourself, you’re doing alright.

– Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

Cursed Fate and its sequel, Cursed Descent, are obviously connected, and one day in the future I think it would be interesting to write a prequel from the villain’s perspective. However, before then I would like to do a couple of one-shot projects that have been on the backburner for quite some time just to get some variety in my portfolio. My strongest ideas right now are a murder mystery noir based in a cyberpunk dystopian future where the main characters are the last real boyband in an industry comprised solely of holograms and synthesized music, and a Lovecraftian horror set in the Midwest where the main character is a widowed grandmother. I like both of them and I’m unsure which one I’ll work on first!

– What would you say has been the best way to market your books?

Honestly, I love Instagram. I don’t have a very big following, but some of my biggest supporters are on that platform. People have ordered my book because they like my page and my smaller chunks of writing content. Some people just follow me because I post my word count every now and then and it motivates them to get writing too! Either way, it’s the best community building tool out there in my opinion. I’m hoping to translate this following to my YouTube channel (Kutiefly) and my Tiktok, but right now I’m happy with Instagram.

– Are there any tropes, clichés, or writing styles that you dislike and, if so, what are they and why?

My pet peeve is OBVIOUS self-insert characters, or if the entire book is an apparent ego trip for the author. Of course, good writing comes from writing what you know or basing stories on things that have a personal significance to you, but if you don’t add anything else, you’ll lose the reader because they don’t have anything to grab onto. Art is therapy, but once you release it onto the world, it is no longer about you. I think a lot of creatives struggle with this concept or let their egos get in the way of having a story naturally evolve into something more than what they originally intended.

–  Do you read reviews of your book and, if so, how do you handle negative feedback?

I do read reviews and luckily, I haven’t had to deal with too much negative feedback. I’m still a small author, so I know that may change over time or if my books get more popular, but right now I’m still in the first-year honeymoon phase. Honestly, everyone is allowed to have an opinion on books, and if I read anything especially nasty, I’ll probably cry into my stuffed animals or laugh and be like “same bestie” because sometimes my insecurities pick on me before any haters can.

–  What are some of your quirks as a writer? Do you like to plot everything out or do you prefer to just “wing it” and see where the story takes you? Do you listen to music when writing and, if so, what do you listen to?

So I tend to have a loose outline for the plot of a project but I leave plenty of wiggle room to wing it. Whenever I’m stuck on the choreography of a scene or whatever, it helps to sketch it out in a notebook so I can get a better look at what’s going on in my head. Likewise, I tend to keep a dev diary (thanks to my husband’s suggestion as a software engineer) where I take notes after every writing session. I just reflect on how I’m feeling, what I’m excited about, what is frustrating me in the moment, what I need to work on next time, etc. so that I can keep track of my word count and not get lost in a side quest. This has helped me a lot because with my mental health sometimes it’s very easy for me to lose focus if I’m feeling overwhelmed. I also listen to music when I write because both of us work from home and things can get very noisy on our city street. I almost exclusively listen to pop music when I write because it is upbeat and motivational, and kinda quirky like me!

–  What is the best advice you’ve ever had when it comes to writing and what advice would you give to new writers?

Writing is a practice, a verb. It requires repetition to get better, like any other sport or art, so try to write a little bit everyday if you can. You can cycle through projects if that helps, but as long as you’re making writing a habit, you’ll be fine. All good writing takes time, so make sure you’re dedicating enough time to it.

– What’s next for you? Are you currently working on any new books or stories?

I’m currently finishing the first draft of Cursed Descent, the sequel to Cursed Fate. I’m planning on spending the entire month of July editing it before sending it off to readers/editors. With this timeline, hopefully it will be out during the end of Summer or early Fall, but I’ll let you know as the time comes.

– Finally, feel free to plug your social media, website, and links to Amazon, GoodReads, and other relevant sites below, and detail any current offers available for your book/s:

If you’d like to be featured in an interview, please check out the interview submissions page to submit your answers.

Author’s Spotlight: Alana K. Drex and A.W. Mason

Alana K. Drex and A.W. Mason, authors of The Scampering

1. First, introduce yourself a bit. What is your name (or pen name) and where are you from?

Alana: Alana K. Drex is a pen name and I’m from Missouri.

Mason: My name is A.W. Mason and I write everything from horror/terror/suspense to weird/experimental/contemporary fiction and hail from the Sunshine State (Florida).

2. Next, tell us a bit about your most recent work. Is this your first published book? What is it about and what genre would you classify it as?

Alana: My most recent work was a collaboration with A. W. Mason that resulted in The Scampering. It originated after I was devastated over hitting a squirrel. We had been looking for a subject to collaborate on and Mason said, “Let’s go with that.”

This is my second published short story. So, it is about Melinda who thinks it is her mission to eradicate squirrels because of her very personal vendetta with the poor furry things. I would definitely call it ‘Absurd Horror’. Mason and I wanted it to be outlandishly fun, but horrific.

Mason: The Scampering is an extreme horror story and really the brain hild of Alana. It’s my first standalone story and my first published collab as well. It’s a gory revenge tale with a bit of insanity sprinkled in.

3. Tell us a bit about your main character; what are they like, how did they come about, and what are some of their strengths and weaknesses?

Alana: Melinda is a widow who is on a mission. Her strength is culinary arts (you can find one of her favorite recipes at the end of the story) Her weakness is definitely letting bitterness consume her.

Mason: Alana did a wonderful job coming up with Melinda. She’s a bit eccentric and “distracted” by past traumas.

4. What was your hardest scene to write in this (or any) book?

Alana: I don’t know what it says about me, but this story is one of the few that just flowed from my brain to the keyboard. It was a fun, wild ride to be in the mind of such an unstable person. I really let myself explore some dark places, it was so much fun!

Mason: With this being a collab, Alana and I went back and forth on parts of the story until we had it all fleshed out. But the most difficult scene for me in any writing is when the author needs to make sure the reader can still suspend their own beliefs.

5. Did you go the traditional route when publishing your book or did you choose to self-publish?

Alana: We self-published this one. Thank you, Mason for handling the formatting and everything it took to release it out into the wild!

Mason: We chose to self-publish. We can control most of the creative process and the revenue coming in which we are donating to the Animal Welfare Institute.

6. What would you say is the most difficult part of your writing journey and what advice would you give to other writers?

Alana: So, for me, ideas pop up all the time, but it is hard for me to stick with something past the 50% mark of completion. I always want to keep starting new projects — I really have to make myself focus. I’ve learned it helps to have a place to store new story ideas, while continuing on my current WIP.

Mason: The most difficult part of the writing journey for me is seeing a clear picture in your head of what the story is that you’d like to write and getting that vision on paper with words. Sometimes I’m my own worst enemy when it comes to not getting what my mind is thinking on paper and my projects stall. My advice to other writers is to just write, get something down on paper because you’re going to work back through it when you’re editing anyway. A rough draft or first draft is always perfect because all it’s meant to be is just that, a rough draft.

7. Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

Alana: All my stories (I have several completed that are unpublished as of this interview) are unconnected. Maybe in the future I will play around with connecting worlds.

Mason: A good story will stand on its own regardless of connections. However, I am very much a fan of world building and cross-overs; most of my stories in my first book A Haunt of Travels connect in one way or another.

8. What are some of your favourite authors and books and what inspired you to become a writer in the first place?

Alana: I loved Christopher Pike and R.L. Stine as a kid. As an adult it has been the many different horror styles put forth by authors like Stephen King to Joyce Carol Oates to Ronald Malfi to Richard Laymon, and so many more. I think I was inspired to write because I have always been one that enjoyed writing in notebooks. So to write actual stories, I basically just become the character(s) and write for them. I like learning about them as they’re written.

Mason: It’s probably cliché to say these days but Stephen King is a big reason why I write. I started reading him at a pretty impressionable age and the horror genre really appealed to me because you can peel it back like an onion and explore so many different real-world themes and issues. Joe Hill is quite good at that as well. Later on, I grew to enjoy the writing styles of Chuck Palahniuk, David Sedaris and Carl Hiaasen.

9. What would you say has been the best way to market your books?

Alana: I really haven’t done marketing so far. I’m pretty new to this thing. I enjoy sharing through Instagram, where I’ve been fortunate to be a part of the bookstagram community. I’m a reader first. Writer second. That’s not to say my writing comes second, but I think that without being a reader first, my writing would never be the quality it is. Writing is a craft, and I have the many authors whose books I’ve enjoyed over the years to thank for teaching me things like structuring my ideas into readable stories.

Mason: As far as marketing goes, I am a terrible self-promoter. Thankfully I have a good group of folks on Instagram in the book community that I have developed friendships with because of posting about current reads and neat editions of books we find. Within that community, there are so many wonderful indie authors and reviewers who are great at supporting each other and promoting each other’s work.

10. Are there any tropes, clichés, or writing styles that you dislike and, if so, what are they and why?

Alana: I read a variety of things and I’m not picky.  The only style I can think off the top of my head that’s hard to read is when things are too redundant. Sometimes less is more.

Mason: I’m fine with most tropes, I’d never want to discourage anyone from writing what they love even if some folks bash on the topic. The only thing I try to stay away from are adverbs. As King once said, “The road to hell is paved with adverbs!”

11. Do you read reviews of your book and, if so, how do you handle negative feedback?

Alana: I’ve been enjoying reading the reviews. I know those negative ones are coming. But so far, I’m new to this scene, and that has yet to happen. I know it will. I’ll remind myself how fun the story was to write and try to shove it out of my mind. Easy to say for me now, huh?

Mason: I read reviews for my work. I think it’s an important part of growing as a writer, seeing the criticisms and using them as tools to better your craft. I can understand how some negative reviews can be sensitive to some authors. It’s like, “Hey this is my baby, I’ve poured my heart and soul and blood, sweat and tears into this thing. How dare you not like it!” But writers have to realize that your work isn’t meant for everybody and never will be. I had a 1-star review left on Amazon that said none of my stories had endings, and they weren’t all that wrong. I do keep some stories ambiguous and leave it up to the reader. As a reader myself, I enjoy that style of writing.

12. What are some of your quirks as a writer? Do you like to plot everything out or do you prefer to just “wing it” and see where the story takes you? Do you listen to music when writing and, if so, what do you listen to?

Alana: I wing it for the most part. I am working on a novel currently and as I go, I type side notes in Scrivener (thanks Billy Ray Middleton Jr for the recommendation). Since it is the most involved story I’m writing to date, those little side notes will help remind me where to go with the story. I would say I wrote the first 10K words of my current novel in progress without any side notes. I love to wing it as much as I can and be surprised, too. Music can be inspiring — the novel I’m working on has a growing playlist.

Mason: My writing process is usually born from a thought or an idea like, “What happens if this were to occur?” and I start from there. I rarely ever outline, it’s too rigid of a structure to me for creativity, but I’ll make story notes when I need to keep continuity in check. When writing, I typically shut the door behind me and type away in silence. I’m distracted easily. But while editing, I’ll put a record on and lately it’s been Coheed and Cambria or The Wipers.

13. What is the best advice you’ve ever had when it comes to writing and what advice would you give to new writers?

Alana: Billy Ray Middleton Jr (@billyraymiddletonjr) told me to just write, write, write whatever because you can always go back later and delete some things. This has really kept my projects alive and I’ve only had to delete a little bit.

Mason: The best advice I’ve ever received, and the advice I give other writers (which I think is universal writing advice) is to just write. Put down words on the page. Don’t limit yourself or your ideas. Don’t beat yourself up if it’s only a couple hundred words you can come up with. Don’t think that you have to write every day. That may seem undisciplined but it’s what works for me and gives me the freedom and flexibility to create at my own pace.

14. What’s next for you? Are you currently working on any new books or stories?

Alana: I’m working on a Gothic Horror novel set in 1899. But before that I hope to release Volume 1 of my Holiday Horror short story collection this Fall. And then follow that in Spring 2023 with Volume 2.

Mason: Next, I have a novella that I’m in the final stages of formatting and reviewing. It’s a weird fiction story called The Cleanup Crew and it’s about a society that doesn’t recognize death.

15. Finally, feel free to plug your social media, website, and links to Amazon, GoodReads, and other relevant sites below, and detail any current offers available for your book/s:

If you’d like to be featured in an interview, please check out the interview submissions page to submit your answers.

Author’s Spotlight: The Reyes Incident

Author: Briana Morgan
Genre: Horror
Publication Date: 30 April 2022
Pages: 150
Available As: Paperback and e-book

The Synopsis:
A local legend gone haywire.

A small-town cop.

An impossible eyewitness testimony.

Which is easier to believe—that killer mermaids exist, or that one person is worth risking everything for?

The Review:
The Reyes Incident is the latest release from the terrific Briana Morgan; it’s the tale of Sergeant Andrea “Andie” McCollum, who is reassigned by her superior (who also happens to be her father) to test her mettle on cracking a homicide case involving Olivia “Liv” Reyes. The book alternates between Andie and Liv’s perspectives, with a few email interludes between Andie and other police officers and Chief Roger Alameda, as Andie interviews Liv regarding the fates of her four friends and Liv tells a surreal story of monsters and murder. Both characters are at least bisexual, with Andie being in a troubled same-sex marriage that’s on the verge of total breakdown, and much of the book’s focus is on Andie finding solace in her work and getting closer to not just the case, but the Liv as well. Liv used to be the camera operator for her and her friends, Alex Dang and brothers Ben and Ryan Jenkins, who worked on a YouTube channel where they explored urban environments, local legends, and forbidden areas. Liv used to date Ryan, and the two have a frosty relationship since their break up and Liv heading off to film school, and she’s hurt to find that the group have effectively replaced her in the intervening years with the good-looking Claire Thibodeaux, but can’t resist taking Alex up on his offer to explore an abandoned military bunker in the middle of the supposedly haunted Dawsonville forest.

Much of Liv’s narration is geared towards giving background on the group and her regrets about losing touch with them, and her criticism of Claire’s lack of intuition regarding camera footage for the venture, as well as her pondering her own conflicting feelings towards her former friends. However, a far greater concern rears its head when the group encounter three cannibalistic and sadistic mermaids (Harper, Sidney, and Molly) within the bunker; the sirens captivate them with their appearance and hypnotic words and song and lure them deeper into the facility where they toy with them, attacking at random and tearing them apart one at a time, with a particular focus on the males in the group. In the present day, Liv is a shellshocked and traumatised woman who is only comfortable confiding in Andie, but she’s also the prime suspect in the case since all anyone else knows is that four people are missing and she showed up at the police station covered in their blood. While Chief Alameda cautions Andie on getting too close to Liv and the case, and even tries bringing in a fellow officer to help keep things impartial, Andie is captivated by Liv’s story and sympathetic to her plight, and goes out of her way to coax more of the story out from her. In it, Liv tells a harrowing tale of her and her rapidly dwindling group of friends as they desperately tried to get to safety, fashion a means to fight back, and even bargain with the sirens for safe passage out of there.

Briana’s description of the killer mermaids’ bloodlust and aggression was a particular highlight for me; Harper, in particular, takes a perverse pleasure in feasting upon her prey and their only concern is keeping their hunger satiated, though there’s an undercurrent of patriarchal backlash woven into their surprisingly tragic backstory, which touches upon inhuman scientific experimentation on otherwise innocent creatures. These aren’t your Disney-fied mermaids, either; they’re far more in-line with the sirens of Greek literature that lured in sailors with their song and feasted upon them, and are depicted as both beautiful and horrific creatures. There’s a lot of mystery surrounding them, which I love, and Briana only vaguely touches upon how they came to be and even weaves a subtle suggestion that Liv could just be telling a fantastical and horrific story to cover her own actions. With a brisk pace and a nice variation between the chapters, The Reyes Incident was a great little read; I found it enjoyable and engaging thanks to the way Briana describes her main characters and their complex feelings and relationships, and was particularly taken by the more monstrous and gory aspects of the story. I rarely say this, but The Reyes Incident was a book I had trouble putting down as I kept wanting to read another chapter to see what happened next; Briana builds tension and dread in a very effective way and I kept waiting to see how the mermaids were going to strike and eviscerate their victims next, and Briana delivered every time in this regard. The squeamish need not apply here, but I absolutely loved it and Briana only sweetened the deal with an ending that leaves plenty of room for reader interpretation.

My Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Fantastic

If you’re interested in checking out The Reyes Incident, and to learn more about Briana Morgan and her journey as an author, visit the links at the top of the page.

Author’s Spotlight: R.S. Green Interview

R. S. Green, author of F%#k it! Why not?!

1. First, introduce yourself a bit. What is your name (or pen name) and where are you from?

R.S. Green. Half Scottish/half Yorkshireman currently living near Hull.

2. Next, tell us a bit about your most recent work. Is this your first published book? What is it about and what genre would you classify it as?

I released my debut poetry collection, F%#k it! Why not?!, a few weeks ago. It’s raising money for the mental health charity, MIND and is about mental health, grief, abuse, love, nature and family.

3. Tell us a bit about your main character; what are they like, how did they come about, and what are some of their strengths and weaknesses?

N/A.

4. What was your hardest scene to write in this (or any) book?

Quite open so no poems were hard to write.

5. Did you go the traditional route when publishing your book or did you choose to self-publish?

Self-publish through KDP.

6. What would you say is the most difficult part of your writing journey and what advice would you give to other writers?

Picking what poems to include. ‘Write, write and keep writing, daily’.

7. Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

I have three books planned called my F%#k it! trilogy.

8. What are some of your favourite authors and books and what inspired you to become a writer in the first place?

C. S. Lewis, Benjamin Zephaniah, Maya Angelou, Steinbeck, Hosseini, Milligan…too many.

9. What would you say has been the best way to market your books?

Instagram via generous followers and local radio.

10. Are there any tropes, clichés, or writing styles that you dislike and, if so, what are they and why?

Romance. Enemies to lovers. Poetry that is intentionally unclear.

11. Do you read reviews of your book and, if so, how do you handle negative feedback?

I do and with an open mind.

12. What are some of your quirks as a writer? Do you like to plot everything out or do you prefer to just “wing it” and see where the story takes you? Do you listen to music when writing and, if so, what do you listen to?

I have to catch some poems before they run out my mind. Some I half write then leave for days, weeks or months. Others I start and they kind of write themselves.

13. What is the best advice you’ve ever had when it comes to writing and what advice would you give to new writers?

Trust your gut and ‘follow your bliss’ and it’s a cliché but ‘write about what you know’….and don’t try to copy others.

14. What’s next for you? Are you currently working on any new books or stories?

I’m releasing my poetry books two and three next year, two to raise money for The Samaritans and three to raise money for the NSPCC.

15. Finally, feel free to plug your social media, website, and links to Amazon, GoodReads, and other relevant sites below, and detail any current offers available for your book/s:

If you’d like to be featured in an interview, please check out the interview submissions page to submit your answers.

Author’s Spotlight: Brianna Malotke Interview

Brianna Malotke, author of numerous short stories and poetry pieces.

1. First, introduce yourself a bit. What is your name (or pen name) and where are you from?

Brianna Malotke, I’m from Ohio but somehow keep moving west as time passes. In my free time I typically read for fun, drink way too much coffee, and try to fit in as much boxing as possible.

2. Next, tell us a bit about your most recent work. Is this your first published book? What is it about and what genre would you classify it as?

My most accepted work is a short story titled Breaking Bread. It’s included in the anthology Their Ghoulish Reputation: An Anthology of Folk-Horror, from Dark Lake Publishing, LLP. My folk horror story is inspired by the tales of Baba Yaga.

3. Tell us a bit about your main character; what are they like, how did they come about, and what are some of their strengths and weaknesses?

For this story my main character is a strong woman who is willing to risk everything for the chance of freedom and the life she dreams of having on her own.

4. What was your hardest scene to write in this (or any) book?

Not for this story, but my hardest scene I’ve written was a different anthology I’m in. My main writing form is poetry and in one of my pieces for Under Her Skin: A Women in Horror Collection, I had written a piece that involved the death of a mother. The timing was not the best since I had lost someone in my family. But I do think that the intertwining of my very real and recent experience had provided me with the ability to put myself in the character’s shoes and write my poem, Lilies Left for Mom.

5. Did you go the traditional route when publishing your book or did you choose to self-publish?

I have recently had my book pitch accepted by a publisher. I was a little overwhelmed with the self-publishing process while also working full time and trying to continue to submit short stories elsewhere. I had decided to continue to submit my manuscript to publishers while I worked on other things. I am happy to say that one has accepted and my very own debut horror poetry collection will be released in 2023!

6. What would you say is the most difficult part of your writing journey and what advice would you give to other writers?

I would say the most difficult part is just the waiting that comes with it. You have to wait for places to get back to you about submissions and it can be a little daunting. My advice would be to stay organized, don’t be afraid to query when they suggest it, and to reach out to other writers. Within the horror writing community everyone has been very friendly and happy to help. There are tons of writing groups you can join that range in providing feedback on stories to just posting submission calls.

7. Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

My horror poetry collection is inspired by deadly historic fashion trends. The list of inspiration is certainly never-ending, but this will be a standalone collection.

8. What are some of your favourite authors and books and what inspired you to become a writer in the first place?

We’ve Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson is one of my favorite go-to horror books. Between that and growing up with the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, it’s no wonder I ventured into the horror genre.

9. What would you say has been the best way to market your books?

At the moment I think it’s a combination of using Instagram and being in the various writing groups on Facebook.

10. Are there any tropes, clichés, or writing styles that you dislike and, if so, what are they and why?

I’m not a huge fan of the whole “clumsy and super sexualized straight female” character in horror. I just feel like it’s overused. If it works for the story then great, but I want more variety. Give me variety of sexuality, give me female strength, and give me more femme serial killers.

11. Do you read reviews of your book and, if so, how do you handle negative feedback?

Yes, I like reading how the book affected people and what they thought. Depending on the negative bits, they’re sometimes amusing to read why exactly the reader didn’t like it. One anthology I’m in the negative reviews were all about the illustrations and how they were just wildly different than the front cover.

12. What are some of your quirks as a writer? Do you like to plot everything out or do you prefer to just “wing it” and see where the story takes you? Do you listen to music when writing and, if so, what do you listen to?

I don’t plot everything out, sometimes I’ll make different versions to see which way the story went and which route I liked the best. As far as quirks, I do make moldboards for my main characters and my overall vibe of my story. This comes from my background as a Costume Designer and how would design a play. It’s really helpful to create backstories and descriptions. I also listen to music when writing. I’m one of those people who desperately need background noise to focus on a task. Depending on my mood, my playlists range from combinations of Orville Peck and Florence + The Machine to My Chemical Romance and AFI.

13. What is the best advice you’ve ever had when it comes to writing and what advice would you give to new writers?

When I participated in the Horror Writers Association’s Mentor Program, my mentor gave some advice about not being afraid to start over. He said it’s okay to rework scenes, to start completely over, to put it away and come back. It was very helpful to just hear from someone else that it’s okay to just let go over a plot, not to feel the need to force it if you’re not sure of it. So, for all the new writers, don’t be afraid to chuck everything out the window and start again.

14. What’s next for you? Are you currently working on any new books or stories?

I’m currently finishing my debut poetry collection. With its release next year, I will then focus on my next big idea (which will hopefully be split into multiple books). Other than that, I have a lot of individual horror poems and short stories coming out in different anthologies over the next year. I typically share everything on social media and update my author website as books get release dates.

15. Finally, feel free to plug your social media, website, and links to Amazon, GoodReads, and other relevant sites below, and detail any current offers available for your book/s:

If you’d like to be featured in an interview, please check out the interview submissions page to submit your answers.

Author’s Spotlight: Ijiraq: Journeys of the Immortal – Book Two

Author: Joel Thomas Feldman
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy
Publication Date: 27 February 2022
Pages: 283
Available As: Paperback and e-book

The Synopsis:
Following the events of Ash: Journeys of the Immortal—Book One (ibid, 2020) Sam is now 14 and nearly two years removed from her encounter with the phoenix Ash. A visit to her mother’s ancestral home in the far reaches of northern British Columbia forces her to grow up faster than she should as she comes face-to-face with legendary creatures once thought to be only myths and learns several revelations about her late mom…and about her.

Unsure of who she is anymore, Sam is introduced to her grandmother, the chief of the Tahltan tribe. With hopes of finding answers, Sam is left with only more questions. Now, she must help her newfound tribe which is under attack from the Ijiraq: vile, shape-shifting monsters which prey on children to maintain their immortality. Can Sam find herself while also saving her people? What of the revelation that she is the prophesied savior—the Raven-Wolf Queen?

The Review:
Ijiraq is a young adult, fantasy book comprised of twenty-two chapters, a prologue, and a handy glossary at the back that helps with pronouncing some of the Inuit words and explaining the etymology behind many of the terminology used in the book. It’s the second book in Feldman’s Journeys of the Immortal series and it’s probably highly recommended that you check out the first book, Ash, before tackling Ijiraq as Feldman’s characters make numerous references to the events of that book so Ijiraq is probably a lot more enjoyable once you’ve followed Sam’s original journey and gotten some understanding of the nature of her character, the relationships she has, and the powers she possesses. At the same time, Ijiraq is very much its own story and, from what I can tell, goes down a very different path compared to Ash so it’s not impossible to enjoy it one its own merits (I haven’t read Ash, after all) but the mentions of Ash’s events do raise a lot of questions if you haven’t read that book. A couple of years after her fateful encounter with a phoenix known as Ash, Sam finds herself struggling at school; everyone thinks of her as a bit of a freak because of her unpredictable mystical abilities, which allow her to project and read minds, heal minor wounds, and conjure balls of energy through sheer force of will. Still confused as to what her powers really mean, and struggling with the onset of her womanhood, Sam is mentored in exploring her abilities by her friend, Mick, and supported by her father, Jack.

Though he’s clearly devoted to his daughter, Jack is reluctant to interrupt her childhood and schooling but realises that she’s fast approaching an age and an intellect where she needs to learn more about herself and her heritage, so he decides to take her on a long road trip to British Columbia so she can meet her grandmother, Rose, the head of the Tahltan tribe. Although she’s sad to leave behind her few friends and her boyfriend, Tommy, (and easily bored by the long drive), Sam is excited to connect with her mother’s side of the family; having lost her beloved mother, Nan, presumably in the last book, Sam is excited to learn that her mother also had special powers to control the elements and such. She quickly overcomes her annoyance at having this information kept from her by Jack once she meets Nan and learns mother about her culture. Since he comes from a different tribe, and many of the Tahltan blame Jack for Nan’s death, Rose is instrumental in Sam and Jack being accepted by the tribe. Though Sam readily absorbs herself in the culture and is eager to hear stories of her mother, Jack finds himself ostracised by many and Sam also has to deal with a burgeoning rivalry with Maddie, a girl of similar age and ability who becomes jealous of Sam since they’re both prophesised to one day lead the tribe. Thanks to encouragement from Rose and exploring the region, Sam finds new aspects of her abilities; they can be both useful (ploughing snow from roads), helpful (she heals an injured deer, and other badly or mortally wounded powers), or destructive (her energy balls can kill with extreme efficiency). Using them physically drains her, and Sam finds herself unconscious quite often throughout the book due to taxing her limits, but her magical abilities only grow as she encounters the supernatural creatures that live alongside the Tahltan.

Chief among these are the titular Ijiraq; when Sam and Jack first encounter one of these monstrous horned beasts, they mistake it for a wendigo but it turns out that they’re a very different supernatural race that have long terrorised the Tahltan tribe and humankind. Natural shapeshifters, the Ijiraq often take the form of crows to cross vast distances and intimidate and spy on their prey, but they can also assume other forms, such as humans and other animals. Exceptionally long-lived and brutish creatures, the Ijiraq live out in the forests beyond the Tahltan camp and lure children to their camp so they can consume them. Decades ago, the Tahltan managed to broker a shaky truce with the Ijiraq which stated that they wouldn’t take any of their children in exchange for a sacrifice of one every ninety years, and both Sam and Maddie are feared to be the one to be sacrificed to the Ijiraq in a bizarre ritual where they’ll absorb their magical energy and lifeforce to sustain themselves. Rose, however, has no intention of sacrificing any of their children, but diplomatic relations between the Tahltan and the Ijiraq become strained due to Sam’s ever-growing magic, which grows and changes over the course of the book. The Ijiraq are easily the best and most fascinating aspect of the book, for me; while I can only guess at the pronunciation of their race, they are far from simply being mindless beasts and have a whole language, intelligence, and society comprised of genders, children, and built on experiences of oppression and hardship. A proud race who are simply trying to take what was promised to them, the Ijiraq represent a formidable force that the Tahltan cannot hope to oppose, resulting in a lot of back-and-forth diplomacy, subterfuge, and strained attempts to keep the peace and avoid all-out war. Conflict between the two tribes becomes inevitable, however, due to Maddie’s jealousy and other factors, meaning that Sam finds herself at the centre of a battle between these two peoples as she comes to realise that her destiny lies far beyond anything she could ever initially imagine.

While I don’t normally read young adult fantasy fiction, Ijiraq was a pretty enthralling read;Feldman is at his best when delving into the lore and mysticism of the Tahltan tribe and the background of the Ijiraq, with the book ending on a tantalising cliff-hanger that promises to offer yet more information regarding this. The Ijiraq are a visually interesting supernatural race, resembling anthropomorphic stags, to a degree, and sporting glowing red eyes and superior vision as well as diverse shapeshifting abilities. They’re also far bigger and far stronger than that Tahltan, who are a simple people living a simple life who put all their trust and faith in Rose’s wisdom and abilities. Sam’s arrival definitely shakes things up for the tribe, and ruffles more than a few feathers in both camps, and she very quickly develops a devotion to her grandmother and her tribe based on her lingering desire to be closer to her deceased mother. Unfortunately, this was a bit of a downside for me as I wasn’t a big fan of Sam at times; while she’s mostly a friendly and level-headed young girl, she’s still a teenager so she’s often a whiny, pouty little brat and her perspective on things is very narrow compared to more experienced characters like Nan. Feldman does doe a great job of capturing these parts of her personality, and they do make her a more well-rounded character, but she does step over the line into being a Mary Sue very quickly; her magical powers are just naturally better than others, she’s able to quickly (or naturally) learn new abilities, and she steps into her prophesised role with a sense of duty that is beyond her years. In many ways, she’s grown beyond even her father, who is mostly just in awe of her powers and supportive of her even when the odds are stacked against them and, more often than not, things work out for her even when she’s volunteering to sacrifice herself for her newfound people simply because she’s able to convince, threaten, or magic her way out of situations.

Still, while I struggled a little to connect to Sam and the first few chapters were difficult to get into without having read Ash, there was a lot to enjoy in Ijiraq once Sam and Jack meet up with the Tahltan tribe. The mystery and intrigue surrounding the tribe and their complex relationship with the Ijiraq is very engaging and makes you question the motives of seemingly benevolent characters, the presentation of the Ijiraq is striking and framed very much as a horror piece in the first instance, and delving deeper into their background goes a long way to realising why they are the way they are and fleshing them out into something more than just flesh-hungry monsters. Although I went into Ijiraq with no knowledge of Inuit beliefs, lifestyle, or folklore and just a general interest in supernatural creatures like wendigos, vampires, and werewolves, I found the concept very engaging and enjoyed Feldman’s descriptions of both Tahltan traditions and lifestyle and the origins of the Ijiraq. Overall, those who have read and enjoy Ash will probably find a lot to like in Ijiraq since it delves deeper into another side of Sam’s life that I presume wasn’t explored all that much in the first book; many of the characters who I assume featured in Ash are pushed aside here, however, in favour of spending time with the Tahltan tribe, but I’m sure that’s all in service of expanding upon Sam’s character. And, while I didn’t care for her at times, she does experience a fair amount of growth here as her concerns grow beyond her small-town life and her own insecurities to encompass the welfare of an entire people. Fans of fantasy stories, folklore, and coming-of-age tales will probably also find a lot to enjoy here, and I’m interested to see where Feldman takes Sam in the next book, but I absolutely do think it’s best to familiarise yourself with Ash first so you can get the most out of this striking little tale.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

If you’re interested in checking out Ijiraq, and to learn more about Joel Thomas Feldman and his journey as an author, visit the links at the top of the page.

Author’s Spotlight: Hailey Sawyer Interview

Hailey Sawyer, author of Kenji and Yuki: A Japanese Tale

– First, introduce yourself a bit. What is your name (or pen name) and where are you from?

Hello everyone. My name is Hailey Sawyer and I was born and raised in the state of Rhode Island. Small in size, but big in character that state.

Next, tell us a bit about your most recent work. Is this your first published book? What is it about and what genre would you classify it as?

So, my latest work is actually my self-published debut novel titled Kenji and Yuki: A Japanese Tale. I’d tell you what it’s all about, but I think the blurb will do a better job explaining it:

Meet Yuki Sakamoto.

Sixteen, easily distracted, and a runaway. Coping with the loss of her grandma seems like a mountain she struggles to climb. She hasn’t even had the courage to visit the family grave she’s buried in.

After a series of misadventures, she meets another girl in an abandoned house one night.

That girl?

Kenjiro Furukawa.

Seventeen, wired when not on her meds, and resident of the house. The dark strikes fear into her heart. She has a nightlight in almost every room of the house.

As the days pass, their connection and feelings for each other strengthen through conversations, stories, and outings. But can these experiences help them rise above their struggles?

Kenji and Yuki: A Japanese Tale falls under quite a few genres and classifications. It’s a Young Adult, Coming of Age, Contemporary, LGBTQ+ Romance story. If you like character driven stories, slow burn romances, or Japanese culture, then I think you’ll really enjoy it.

Tell us a bit about your main character; what are they like, how did they come about, and what are some of their strengths and weaknesses?

Kenji and Yuki: A Japanese Tale is told from the perspective of sixteen-year-old Yuki Sakamoto who hails from Sasebo, Japan. What defines Yuki as a character is her deep sense of compassion for others, her superb cooking skills, and her exceptional passion for and knowledge on insects and science, as well as being a bit of a rambler, easily distracted, occasionally impulsive, having a fear of snakes and an inability to cope with the loss of her grandma.

– Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

That is a very interesting question. With Kenji and Yuki: A Japanese Tale, I intended it to be a standalone novel. However, I am open to writing a sequel. But only if two conditions are met. One, there’s enough demand for a sequel. Two, I can come up with an idea for a sequel that’s not just a repeat of the original but not so different from the original that it might as well not have any connection to it.

– What are some of your favourite authors and books and what inspired you to become a writer in the first place?

Due to my nature as a bookworm, I have come to love so many books and authors over the years. But, for the sake of keeping this answer under an eon long, I’ll only be listing the books and authors that I’ll come back to time and time again no questions asked.

In terms of authors, Rick Riordan, Kiyhiko Azuma, J.D Salinger, and Yoshitoki Oima definitely rank very highly with me.

When it comes to books, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, The Evil Wizard Smallbone, Demon Slayer Volume 1, A Silent Voice Volume 1, and the Azumanga Daioh omnibus are where it’s at.

Unfortunately, I don’t recall the exact reason why I even began writing in the first place. But here’s what I do know. I started when I was a little kid and it was something that I had a ball doing and decided to continue for years to come.

Are there any tropes, clichés, or writing styles that you dislike and, if so, what are they and why?

Oh, you bet I do.

So, one trope that I just can’t stand is “The Third Act Misunderstanding”. Most of the time, I feel like it’s used out of obligation, as if the writer is just using it because that’s what other stories do rather than because it’s a natural progression in their story. It makes things feel forced, stops the story dead in its tracks, and the number of stories I’ve seen where the characters don’t make up in the end is virtually zero.

There’s also the cliché where one character says, “As you know” or some variation to another character before delivering exposition. I think what gets me about it is that the character who is being given the exposition is a character that should already know it. Now, that wouldn’t be so bad if there was an in-universe reason given for why they needed to hear it again, but ninety-nine point nine percent of the time, there’s nothing.

I also don’t like the kind of writing style where the author tries to shove in as many large words or buzzwords as possible for no other reason than to show off. It doesn’t add anything to the story or characters and it just makes the reading experience unnecessarily annoying.

– What are some of your quirks as a writer? Do you like to plot everything out or do you prefer to just “wing it” and see where the story takes you? Do you listen to music when writing and, if so, what do you listen to?

When it comes to plotting things out, yes. I’m absolutely the kind of person that does that when writing stories. I create character sheets, plot outlines, and so on and so forth. In my experience, I feel like plotting things out just makes the writing process a heck of a lot easier.

I do listen to music and sound effects when writing. With music, I feel that it helps me capture or get into a specific mood. With sound effects, they help me gain a better understanding of how something sounds in order to describe it accurately.

As an example, during the development of Kenji and Yuki: A Japanese Tale, there were quite a few tear-jerking songs I listened to while writing the more emotional scenes. These included (but weren’t limited to): “Oogway Ascends” from Kung Fu Panda (Stevenson and Osborne, 2008), Neverland Orchestra’s version of a Mary Poppins (Stevenson, 1964), song called “Feed the Birds”, and “Baby Mine” from Dumbo (Sharpsteen, et al, 1941).

– What’s next for you? Are you currently working on any new books or stories?

Funny you should ask that because I’m actually working on a new novel right now. It’s called I’m Pursuing a Monster. At this point, it’s in the very early stages of development. You can find more information about it on my website, but in short, it’s basically Animorphs (Applegate and Grant, 1996 to 2001) meets Dexter (Lindsay, 2004 to 2015).

– Finally, feel free to plug your social media, website, and links to Amazon, GoodReads, and other relevant sites below, and detail any current offers available for your book/s:

If you want to visit my site, I have a page where you can sign up for my email list, which will allow you to get updates about my work and what-not before anyone else.

If you’d like to be featured in an interview, please check out the interview submissions page to submit your answers.

Author’s Spotlight: Austin Miller Interview

Austin Miller, author of Pholos Reborn and Centauromachy

1. First, introduce yourself a bit. What is your name (or pen name) and where are you from?

Hello! My name is Austin Miller, though most of my fans know me through my pen name, “absman420”. I’m from Upstate New York but reside in Washington, DC with my husband and three dogs.

2. Next, tell us a bit about your most recent work. Is this your first published book? What is it about and what genre would you classify it as?

Recently (February 22), I published my second novel, Centauromachy (Pholus Reborn Book 2). I would classify it as a light-hearted, gay, erotic fantasy-adventure novel — or is that too niche?

3. Tell us a bit about your main character; what are they like, how did they come about, and what are some of their strengths and weaknesses?

The novel follows Red, a young man taking his time going nowhere, who is transformed into the centaur Pholus, the not-so-famous enemy of Heracles, whose story gives us the moral “don’t shoot yourself in the foot.” Through the course of the books, as Red creates his new centaur herd and experiences battle, he becomes a good leader.

4. What was your hardest scene to write in this (or any) book?

The two biggies: sex and death. I say sex only because the actual mechanics of it aren’t terribly interesting to write, and can really only go so far. Writing erotica has really taught me the “music” of writing, developing themes, building toward climaxes, surprise key changes and transitions — sex scenes are really about imagery. And writing death scenes is hard only because I’m a sentimentalist. I cry every time.

5. Did you go the traditional route when publishing your book or did you choose to self-publish?

I chose to self-publish. I know that what I write is a very niche thing and don’t know what publishers would think of it, or the marketability of it. More, I want to keep control of the content and produce it at my own pace. I have “sold out” before, turned what I loved into a job, but it always comes with a cost, and often that cost is creative freedom.

6. What would you say is the most difficult part of your writing journey and what advice would you give to other writers?

This may sound strange. For me, the hardest part of my journey was admitting I wrote erotica to the public at large. I’d been writing short stories as “absman420” for nearly thirty years before I self-published. I was proud of my first novel and wanted to share it with family and friends, requiring a second “coming out” for me as an erotic writer. And just like my sexual coming out, the hype was greater than the event. If anybody objected, or has been uncomfortable, they’ve not voiced that to me (though I’m constantly trying to imagine my mom at her book club…)

7. Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

It just so happens that my first two novels are connected — and I’m writing a third — but it wasn’t my intent to write centaur books only. I have an unrelated novel “in the oven” and I’m considering publishing a short-story compilation.

8. What are some of your favourite authors and books and what inspired you to become a writer in the first place?

I’d say my top three influences are: Tom Robbins, whose use of language and imagery is playful and brilliant; John Irving, whose characters exist only for the page, their unique eccentricities perfect for their plot function; and, believe it or not, Stephen King, who knows how to make a reader turn the page.

9. What would you say has been the best way to market your books?

I have become a shameless marketer. I figured, if I didn’t promote my books, no one would. So I became this relentless, unapologetic P.T. Barnum type. I have shouted, I have shamed, I have paid, I have pandered — anything and everything. My friends are sick of me talking about my books… but I don’t care! But honestly, one of the things that has worked the best for me has been commissioning online artists to realize characters or scenes. It’s relatively inexpensive, they post the finished product to their page, so you add their internet reach to your own, and you get an awesome piece of art out of it. Win-win.

10. Are there any tropes, clichés, or writing styles that you dislike and, if so, what are they and why?

There’s not a lot that I actively avoid — I’m not a fan of gore, in any form. I think part of the fun of writing is taking a trope or a cliché and turning it on its head.

11. Do you read reviews of your book and, if so, how do you handle negative feedback?

Someone said to me one time that “if you believe the good reviews, you have to believe the bad ones, too”. When I wrote short stories online, the feedback was immediate — many threads of conversation about this or that in the story — good and bad, opinions are opinions. Since writing novels, feedback is rare, limited to what people post on Amazon or GoodReads, and then, people only write reviews when they really like it or really hate it. I miss the feedback, but I do enjoy reviews of any sort.

12. What are some of your quirks as a writer? Do you like to plot everything out or do you prefer to just “wing it” and see where the story takes you? Do you listen to music when writing and, if so, what do you listen to?

I’ve worked both as a plotter and a winger — both work equally well for me, though I prefer to write toward “landmarks” rather than follow a tight plot. In my first novel, Pholus Reborn, everything was plotted — it was over-plotted. I had pages and pages of arcs and diagrams. But I think that’s because Pholus started as a short-story that I expanded, whereas Centauromachy was just me winging it, knowing where we were going to end up, but allowing the characters to inform me of the path. It was a fun experiment and I believe paid off in the end (the wedding/battle sequence in Centauromachy was plotted in my normal fashion, however. It was too big to do otherwise.) I can’t have music on while I write — it distracts me — however, I have the TV on in the background, which I can easily ignore.

13. What is the best advice you’ve ever had when it comes to writing and what advice would you give to new writers?

The three pieces of advice that I’ve remembered most: 1) Don’t Be Afraid to Make a Mark on the Page/Writing is Re-writing. Staring at a blank page can be daunting — just start writing and edit later; 2) Start as Deep into the Story as Possible. Fill us in as we go along. Often the beginning isn’t the best place to start; 3) The Writer’s Best Friend is the Waste Bin. If it’s terrible, no one has to know. Throw it away and start again.

14. What’s next for you? Are you currently working on any new books or stories?

Since publishing my second novel, I’ve written a few short stories that were on the back burner. I’ve started the first few pages of my third novel in the centaur series, because I “see” this opening scene, so I’m putting it on paper. I’ve loosely plotted the novel, but don’t know if I’m ready to write it yet. In the meantime, I’m debating publishing an anthology of short stories. You know, quick and dirty.

15. Finally, feel free to plug your social media, website, and links to Amazon, GoodReads, and other relevant sites below, and detail any current offers available for your book/s:

If you’d like to be featured in an interview, please check out the interview submissions page to submit your answers.

Author’s Spotlight: Anthony Taylor Interview

Anthony Taylor, author of She Wants to Play and She Wants to Play Again

1. First, introduce yourself a bit. What is your name (or pen name) and where are you from?

My name is Anthony Taylor, and I’m from Canton, OH aka the Hall of Fame City.

2. Next, tell us a bit about your most recent work. Is this your first published book? What is it about and what genre would you classify it as?

My most recent work is entitled She Wants To Play Again, which is the sequel to my first novel, She Wants To Play. It’s a slasher horror with an LGBT lead that surrounds the protagonist, Theo Rose.

3. Tell us a bit about your main character; what are they like, how did they come about, and what are some of their strengths and weaknesses?

Theo Rose is an average man that’s struggling with himself as well as carrying a horrible secret for over a decade. My idea behind this character was based upon myself and my struggles with myself throughout the years. More in the sequel, Theo battles himself to accept the inevitable between him and his partner while coping with the loss of his friends. Despite dealing with problems internally, he still gives a lot of himself to protect those he loves.

4. What was your hardest scene to write in this (or any) book?

The hardest scene to write was Theo’s final goodbye to a character he loved unconditionally. I place myself in scenes to get into the mind of characters and this scene broke my heart.

5. Did you go the traditional route when publishing your book or did you choose to self-publish?

I attempted the traditional route for publishing, but like most authors, I was denied. I decided upon going the independent route, yet I still try.

6. What would you say is the most difficult part of your writing journey and what advice would you give to other writers?

The most difficult part of the writing journey for me is getting those thoughts onto paper. I have a lot of ideas that I want to share with the world. My advice to authors is to always write with your heart. Anyone can write words onto paper or type them, but it’s the heart that allows you to make others feel.

7. Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

I would like most of my books to stand on their own; however, my current works will be as a trilogy.

8. What are some of your favourite authors and books and what inspired you to become a writer in the first place?

My mother has always been an avid reader and her favorite author is Stephen King. I began reading his work at a younger age and wanted to be like him. I do enjoy Dean Koontz as well as Agatha Christie.

9. What would you say has been the best way to market your books?

Surprisingly, TikTok has been beneficial for me. There are a lot of readers on that platform (authors, too) that are searching for their next book. I’ve also made some author friends from TikTok. Hey, Harriet!

10. Are there any tropes, clichés, or writing styles that you dislike and, if so, what are they and why?

There aren’t many tropes/clichés that I avoid when reading a book (or writing). I do dislike the “woman can’t do anything until a man arrives in her life” trope.

11. Do you read reviews of your book and, if so, how do you handle negative feedback?

I would be lying if I said I didn’t! When it comes to negative reviews, I listen to what the reviewer states they didn’t like and try fixing it the next time around, but I also tell myself that not everyone is going to enjoy your book. Well-known authors have one-star reviews, too. Just keep writing.

12. What are some of your quirks as a writer? Do you like to plot everything out or do you prefer to just “wing it” and see where the story takes you? Do you listen to music when writing and, if so, what do you listen to?

I’m an extremely chaotic writer and “wing it.” I admire those who plot out their books (and sometimes I do toward the end). Whenever I’m writing, I get myself some coffee (or wine at night) and begin the process with some classical music in the background. I have a Spotify playlist for the occasion.

13. What is the best advice you’ve ever had when it comes to writing and what advice would you give to new writers?

A teacher once told me, “Write what’s in your heart.” She knew I had a gift when I was in her eighth-grade class and it help inspire me to continue what I loved doing. My advice to new writers: “Take. Your. Time.” There isn’t a deadline nor do you have to rush, especially if you’re publishing independently. Also, always edit. If you think you’re done editing, you’re not.

14. What’s next for you? Are you currently working on any new books or stories?

After my second book was published, I decided to take a small break and think of new ideas for future work. I’m currently creating characters for a short story compendium.

15. Finally, feel free to plug your social media, website, and links to Amazon, GoodReads, and other relevant sites below, and detail any current offers available for your book/s:

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