Author’s Spotlight: J.M. McKenzie Interview

J.M. McKenzie, author of Wait for Me and Trident Edge

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

I write under the pen name J.M. McKenzie. I’m Scottish but live in the UK Midlands.

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’m the author of Wait for Me and Trident Edge, which are both set in the UK after a bio terror attack and tell the story of an ordinary woman on an extraordinary journey to survive and get home in a world that has changed forever and is now dangerous and unpredictable. My genre is zombie apocalypse.

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?

Lisa, my main character, is introverted and analytical. She is not your typical machete wielding, gun toting, alpha male zombie apocalypse survivor. I wanted to write a story about how an ordinary woman would react and behave in an apocalyptic scenario.

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

The hardest scene to write was a chapter in the first book involving an evil and violent group of survivors. The scene did not feature in the first draft but was added after feedback from Beta readers – against my better judgment.

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

After dipping my toe into the lottery of traditional publishing I decided to self-publish and have no regrets about my decision. I have more control over my content, a bigger share of my royalties and people are reading and enjoying my books!

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

I think the most difficult part of my writing journey was getting the first book finished. It was a slog, a constant battle with confidence and self-belief and a steep learning curve. I’ve very much been on a roll since then.

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?

The first two books are a series. Trident Edge is set six months after Wait for Me and is a continuation of Lisa’s story. My current work-in-progress, Amenti Rising, is a stand-alone story about a different group of survivors in a different location but in the same zombie apocalypse.

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

I read a lot in many different genres. A few of my favourite non-horror authors include Margaret Atwood, Donna Tart and Emily St. John Mandel. In the horror genre I like Stephen King and Paul Tremblay. In the zombie genre I like M.R. Carey, Chris Philbrook, Rhiannon Frater, Sarah Lyons Fleming, Mira Grant, Max Brooks and Carrie Ryan. I love all of their books but a few stand outs are Alias Grace, A Secret History, Station Eleven, The Stand, Survivor Song, The Girl with all the Gifts and Adrian’s Undead Diaries … I could go on but I’ll stop here.

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

I have done most of my marketing on social media, Facebook and Twitter in the main. Just starting to have a go on Instagram. This year I’m going to come off KUP and try a Book Bub ad!

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

I don’t like the fact that many zombie apocalypse books are so macho with lots of guns and very big knives and people who adapt to extreme violence so easily and quickly- real life is not like that and neither are my books!

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

I read all my reviews and use the best ones for marketing purposes. Generally they have been positive but I’ve had an occasional negative comment. I don’t take it to heart- you can’t please all of the people all of the time. Sometimes I even agree with them. Reference “evil” scene in Wait for Me. I’ll follow my own judgement in the future!

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 write in silence. I hate being interrupted! When I get into the zone I can write for hours without a break. I used to be a “pantser” but I have plotted out every scene in Amenti Rising and am loving the process. I think the book will be all the better for it!

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 best advice I got as a writer was from Chris Philbrook, author of Adrian’s Undead Diaries. He said that whoever you are and whatever you write there will always be someone out there who loves your book.

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

I’m currently 40K words into Amenti Rising and I think it’s going to be a corker! I already have the cover!

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: Ambrose Stolliker Interview

Ambrose Stolliker, author of The Strange Nighttime Journey of Father Stephen Marlowe and others

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

My name is Ambrose Stolliker. I grew up in the New York Metro area but have lived in the Seattle area for the last twenty-three years.

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?

The Strange Nighttime Journey of Father Stephen Marlowe is a supernatural horror novel and was released by indie publishing house Muddy Paw Press in late May 2022. Here’s the back of the book summary:

In the year since his brother, Chris, committed suicide, Father Stephen Marlowe has not been able to pick up the pieces. He is racked with guilt over what he believes was his part in Chris’ death and his once-meteoric rise through the Catholic Church in New York City has come to an ignominious end. Haunted by disturbing dreams of his brother suffering in a hellish underworld, Marlowe is at the breaking point. At the behest of his superiors, he goes to St. Michael the Archangel Church in the Bronx to seek counsel from a mysterious priest who specializes in helping spiritually troubled clergy. There, as he reluctantly attempts to make confession and unburden his soul, the church is rocked by a powerful earthquake. The confessional disintegrates, the floor crumbles away beneath him, and Marlowe is plunged into a world both wondrous and terrifying where he must fight to save his brother’s immortal soul.

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?

Father Stephen Marlowe is a Roman Catholic priest who serves as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Church in Queens, N.Y. When we first meet Father Marlowe, he is in a profound state of spiritual crisis and is doubting his ability to continue on in his vocation as a priest. Deep down, Marlowe is a good and decent man, but he has his failings, one of which is an imperfect understanding of what it means to love unconditionally.

In earlier iterations of the story, Marlowe was portrayed as a much younger man, a priest fresh out of seminary who sees the world in very black and white terms and with a confidence he probably has not earned. As I developed the story through subsequent drafts, I felt like he needed to be an older, perhaps middle-aged man who has been beaten down by the harshness of the outside world and weighed down by the guilt and shame associated with what he sees as his own failings. I felt that in order for him to be a more compelling character readers would empathize with, he needed to be in a dark place when the story opens so he can evolve into a different and, hopefully, wiser and more hopeful person by the time his journey ends.

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

That’s a tough question. There are a lot of scenes in the book that contribute to Father Marlowe’s character arc, but I’d say my favorite one is the opening scene. The story begins with Marlowe arriving on a pediatric cancer ward in New York City so he can administer Last Rites to a young girl dying of cancer. I’ve heard some readers describe the scene as “an emotional gut punch” that sets the stage for the central conflict of the story, which is Marlowe’s profound crisis of faith. By the time the scene ends, it is very clear that Marlowe no longer believes in God and the only course of action he can see is to leave the priesthood for good.

The scene was difficult to write, not only because of the emotional impact of trying to portray the death of an innocent child, but because there’s a fine line between drama and melodrama. I probably put the scene through at least three drafts before I was satisfied with it, though, like most writers, I’m NEVER completely satisfied with anything I write.

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

I went the traditional route. The Strange Nighttime Journey of Father Stephen Marlowe was submitted to around thirty or forty literary agents, and didn’t get a single sniff. Not one. After a while, I began to suspect it MIGHT be because, as a novel, it IS on the short side at only 47,000 words. That’s just a guess though. It’s such a subjective business as all writers know, so perhaps the premise just didn’t resonate with the agents I targeted.

In any case, I eventually gave up on trying to secure an agent and instead began submitting it to independent and small horror presses. At first, it was tough going, but, eventually, I had a press ask for the full manuscript. My hopes were dashed when, several weeks later, they told me they enjoyed it but they wouldn’t take it on. I remained undeterred, however, and continued to submit it.

Then, one day last summer, Tyler Hauth, founder of Muddy Paw Press, called me on the phone and told me he had read half of the novel and he wanted to publish it. I was really caught off guard because no publisher or editor had ever taken the time to actually pick up the phone and call me about anything I’d written. We had a great conversation and, as we talked about the story, it was very clear Tyler understood what I was trying to say. He was a great editor and his feedback really helped make the story better, especially in terms of pacing. He’s been a great partner and I highly encourage all horror writers who don’t have traditional agent representation to give small presses a chance. These indie houses are much more likely to take on stories that don’t fit into the mainstream of what sells and what doesn’t sell. So, a short novel like Father Marlowe probably had a better chance with the indie presses than the traditional big publishers.

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

This should not come as a surprise to anyone who has been writing and trying to get published for a while, but the hardest part is dealing with the rejection.

For my part, I feel like my career as a newspaper reporter and magazine journalist trained me for the constant rejection from editors, agents and publishers. To be honest, it never really phased me enough to make me think about giving up on a career as a fiction writer. That said, I did, of course, have moments of doubt, especially in the years before I landed my first publishing credit (a short horror story entitled Ghosts of Annapurna, which was published in Ghostlight Magazine around 2010.) They say getting that first writing credit is the toughest nut to crack, and it is, but I just always kind of believed my stories were pretty good and there was an audience out there for them somewhere, I just had to find it.

So, I guess if I have one piece of advice to writers, it would be, if you really love to write, don’t ever give up. The only way you can fail is if you stop writing. And, of course, practice your craft as often as possible by writing on a regular basis and by reading both within and outside of your chosen genre.

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?

As of today, I’ve published more than a dozen short horror stories, two horror novellas and one horror novel. None of them are connected. That said, the ending of The Strange Nighttime Journey of Father Stephen Marlowe makes it clear that his story is just beginning, and there MAY be more stories to come. I haven’t thought of a new story for Stephen yet, but if there’s one out there for him, I’ll find it and write it.

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

I read a lot of different types of fiction and nonfiction. On the fiction side, I tend to read a lot of horror, obviously. I’m a huge fan of Edgar Allan Poe, Ambrose Bierce, H.P. Lovecraft, Richard Matheson, Ray Bradbury, Shirley Jackson, William Peter Blatty, Susan Hill, Clive Barker, Dan Simmons, Thomas Ligotti, and Stephen King. On the more contemporary front, I’ve very much enjoyed the books of Stephen Graham Jones, Paul Trembley, Brian Keene, John Langan, and V Castro.

I am also a big fan of fantasy. My favorite all-time book is The Crystal Cave by Lady Mary Stewart, who died a few years ago. That book, more than any other, inspired me to become a fiction writer. Her vivid use of language and innovative re-telling of the Arthurian legend through Merlin’s eyes was captivating. Marion Zimmer Bradley, George R.R. Martin and J.R.R. Tolkien are also favorites of mine.

I also LOVE good historical fiction – the work of John Jakes (the North & South trilogy), Sharon Kay Penman (Norman, Welsh and Scottish history), Herman Wouk (The Winds of War and War and Remembrance) are among the best historical fiction writers out there.

On the non-fiction front, I read a great deal about American history, especially the Civil War and WWII. Bruce Catton and William Shirer come to mind. I also love the history of baseball, especially the so-called “golden age” of baseball of the 1920s-60s, so Roger Kahn (The Boys of Summer), Doris Kearns Goodwin (Wait Till Next Year) and David Halbestrom, who we just lost as well (Summer of ’49 and October 1964 are two of his best) also sit on my shelf. The history of Negro League baseball has also become a passion of mine, and I have excellent biographies of Satchel Page, Josh Gibson and many other African-American greats who never got to play in the big leagues that I’ve voraciously consumed over the years.

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

This is the toughest aspect of getting published. Once your book is out there, it’s incredibly difficult to rise above all the noise and get your book noticed. I’m a digital marketer in my day job, so I know how challenging it can be to make your voice heard.

Most of the success I’ve seen has been in engaging directly with book bloggers and reviewers on social media and finding podcasts that will give indie authors an opportunity to come on their shows and talk about their books. It’s a time consuming and somewhat thankless job, but you have to do it. Book signings are fun and I’ve done a few over the course of my three books getting released. It’s a great way to get out there and talk to readers at local bookstores.

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

Not particularly. The thing is, it’s all already been written before. There aren’t really any purely original stories to tell. What makes your story worthwhile is your personal spin on tropes and clichés we’ve all seen countless times before. As a writer, you just have to try and find a way to make those tropes and clichés your own, and you do that, I think, by injecting some of yourself into every story you write. There’s only one you – only one – and that is what makes your stories unique.

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

I read all of them. Again, maybe my career as a journalist prepared me for harsh feedback, but, in my humble opinion, there is only one appropriate response to a negative review: Thanks for taking the time to read my work. That’s it. The bottom line is this – reviews are subjective and you can’t take it personally. I don’t see any upside to responding to negative reviews. Just move on to the next thing. You’re never going to write something that EVERYONE likes. It’s just not going to happen.

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 rarely “wing” it. In most cases, I know the rough outlines of the beginning, middle and ending of my stories. I do often get stuck because I don’t know always know the answer to “and then what happened”, but I just write through it until I get the characters where they need to go.

Do I listen to music while I write? Never. It’s too distracting. I need quiet.

The only quirk I can think of is that, on occasion, I’ll have a glass of whiskey while I write, but those occasions are few and far between.

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

Again, just don’t ever give up. And write for yourself, not what you think the market wants.

Also, when I was a English Literature and Creative Writing student back in the mid-nineties, I learned pretty quickly that you really have to be judicious about what feedback you listen to when you’re working on something. Again, it’s all incredibly subjective, and the honest to God truth is that there isn’t really anyone out there who knows what you’re trying to say or the best way to say it better than you do. You have to trust your instincts as a writer.

So, when I see writers on social media saying they have a dozen beta readers on their current work in progress, I have to wonder how much true value they get out of that. I have three or four beta readers, people I have known for many years, that I trust, and that’s it. And I don’t even act on all of their feedback. They’re there as a sounding board. That’s it.

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

I am just about to wrap up a collection of a dozen or so short horror stories (okay, one is actually now heading into novella/novel territory) set just before, during and after the U.S. Civil War. I feel like these are some of the best stories I’ve ever written and I hope they find an audience.

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:

This is so kind of you! Thank you so very much for giving an indie author like me the chance to pontificate and share my experience with other writers.

Thank you again, Dr. K! You’re wonderful!

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

Author’s Spotlight: Aborted Justice

Author: H. Everend
Genre: Thriller
Publication Date: 24 August 2022
Pages: 22
Available As: e-book

The Synopsis:
Maya Wenthold has two choices: carry out an unviable pregnancy only for it to kill her or cross state lines to obtain a medically necessary abortion. She is in a race against time, challenges and obstacles. Will she make it or is time not on her side?

The Review:
For fifty years, Roe v. Wade gave millions of women across the United States the choice to carry their pregnancies to term or to opt for an abortion, the latter option often being necessary in life-threatening situations such as ectopic pregnancies and the ruling offering some solace to victims of rape or incestual abuse. Now, I don’t really “do” politics; I find political debate tedious and often causes more resentment and arguments and I generally regard all politicians as lying, deceitful scumbags but I know right from wrong, so when I heard that Roe v. Wade had been overturned on 24 June 2022, thereby taking away a woman’s fundamental right to choose, I was both angered and confused by the decision. Now, the decision lies with the individual states, with some refusing to act even if it means saving the mother’s life and others imprisoning women who try to seek out an abortion, whether legal or otherwise. Suffice it to say that the whole thing has been a massive step back for women’s rights and has caused a great deal of controversy and debate, especially across social media, and I’d wager even now there are some people reading my pro-choice views on the subject and flipping out. Frankly, that’s too bad; a woman’s body is her own and everyone should have the right to choose rather than being forced to give birth, suffer, or even die due to some insane governmental ruling.

Thankfully, there are organisations out there that offer support for women in this position, and that’s where Aborted Justice comes into play. To even read H. Everend’s latest short story, you need to make a donation of any kind to NARAL, a pro-choice foundation seeking to better educate the masses on the benefits of offering women a choice about their own lives and bodies. I know the author and I know how strongly she feels about this issue, and I’ve seen many in the writing community rally against the decision and seek to raise awareness through their writing, and Aborted Justice definitely highlights just how dire this situation can be. The story of Maya Wenthold, the victim of sexual assault from her partner, Aborted Justice jumps between two time frames: the “present”, where Maya is imprisoned and at the mercy of ignorant and sadistic pro-life guards, and the past, stretching back about three weeks ago, which charts her discovery of her pregnancy and attempts to save her life. Maya is one of the rare women to be stricken by an “ectopic pregnancy”, a frankly terrifying prospect where the fertilised egg implants itself outside of the womb, usually in one of the fallopian tubes. Since the foetus is outside of the womb, it cannot be carried to term, but the overturning of Roe v. Wade now regards these life-threatening incidents as being legitimate pregnancies, meaning that Maya cannot have the proto-baby removed without the hospitals facing legal action and herself being arrested.

With her mother staunchly pro-life and the medical and legal system giving her no choice, and even regarding her as a whore or having tampered with the embryo to cause it to become non-viable, Maya faces a race against time to get across the border and into New Mexico to have the egg removed before the pseudo-pregnancy kills her. Much of the narrative focuses on Maya’s panic and abject terror and being refused life-saving treatment and her reaction to pro-lifers, who look at her and her kind with a mixture of disgust and even hatred. Male figures such as the twisted Officer Alan Drex treat her cruelly, denying her the benefit of a doctor to relieve the agonising pain caused by her pregnancy, but there are some notably reprehensible pro-life women in the text as well, with their opinions on the matter seemingly routed in a holier-than-thou religious attitude that never fails to disgust in its ignorance. The author’s descriptions of Maya’s rising panic as time runs short and her reaction to the pain caused by her pregnancy are startling; in her cell, Maya is tormented by the constant dripping of blood and slowly loses her grip on reality as she’s left to suffer in agony.

It is the aim of Aborted Justice to show a macabre reflection on current affairs in the United States; though a work of fiction, the story’s events are all-too-real and the author helpfully provides information regarding Roe v. Wade and organisations that can help, such as NARAL. Its subject matter is intentionally disturbing and the story never once tries to sugar coat the cruelty and lack of empathy shown to Maya regarding her position; no doctors dare interfere with her pregnancy for fear of being sued or shut down, and her only choice is to seek out a mercenary, of sorts, to try and get help and support outside of America. Every action she takes is regarded as a criminal act, and in some states this is entirely accurate, meaning women are forced to either carry unwanted pregnancies to term or left either to die or to take matters into their own hands, which could result in them being prosecuted simply for wanting to have a choice in what happens with their bodies. The story is a short, sharp read that perfectly captures the gravity of this harrowing situation but, if you’re pro-choice or easily “triggered” by harrowing scenes and depictions of pregnancy and the maltreatment of women, Aborted Justice probably isn’t for you. You should read it anyway, though. You absolutely should donate to NARAL and oppose this nonsensical ruling regardless of your religion or political mindset because this issue is about knowing the difference between right and wrong and recognising that a society where women are left to die rather than remove a non-viable or unwanted pregnancy isn’t really the safest environment to live.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

If you’re interested in checking out Aborted Justice, donate to NARAL, and to learn more about H. Everend and her journey as an author, visit the links at the top of the page.

Author’s Spotlight: Chris Jones Interview

Chris Jones, author of the Mean Lou Green series of flash fiction

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

My pen name is Chris Jones and I’m from Massachusetts USA. Maybe once I become famous I’ll be forced to reveal my true name…

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 just released the first three volumes of a brand new style of fiction. Each volume has ten separate super-short flash fiction stories about the same characters. This series is called Mean Lou Green: Only Outlaws are Free, and it’s a raucous, untamed Wild West pulp fiction series. It’s only digital right now, but once I have six volumes I’ll release them together in paperback.

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?

Mean Lou Green is a rambling gunslinger who turned to bounty hunting after his family met a grisly end. He’s on a quest to reach the Pacific and dip his dead son’s silver dollar into the salt water to fulfill a promise he made to his wife, but his lifestyle and fears about what comes after that keep him running in circles, jumping from one hair-raising adventure to the next.

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

I wrote a scene/story about Lou getting a bullet dug out of his guts without anesthetic by a local sawbones. I did a lot of research about Civil War era medicine and amputations, and that was a horrifying process… Made me thankful to have all my limbs intact!

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

Self-publishing. Both because I’m too small at the moment to work through a publisher and because I like to have complete creative freedom over my writing, distribution, marketing, and everything else… Especially since my work isn’t exactly PC or made for the masses.

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

Writing consistently every day. A quote by Faulkner I always keep in mind is: “I only write when I’m inspired. Luckily, inspiration hits at 9am sharp every morning.”

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’ll be writing in all different settings and genres so the series will be disconnected, but I’ll be writing many volumes in each series. I want my readers to know that whether it’s cowboys, pirates, Vikings, or knights, they’re in for an action-packed fun ride.

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

Robert E. Howard’s Conan is a huge inspiration. Raymond Chandler’s pulp novels are the best and set the standard for my style. It’s a bit cliché, but I didn’t decide to become a writer… I’ve actually run from it my whole life, but I’ve always known since I wrote my first story about sea-raiders ransacking a medieval village when I was around eight or nine that it was what I was born to do. I wrestle back and forth with it, but in the end, it feels like my inescapable fate.

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

I’ll let you know once I’m a bestseller 😉

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

I don’t like long, difficult writing that I have to slog through. I quoted Faulkner earlier, but his books are actually the worst I’ve ever (not) read. I like fast, fun, and easy. If I wanted verbose intellectual meanderings and cumbersome vocab (like that) I’d read a textbook instead.

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

Yes, the negative ones are actually the most valuable, especially if they’re from someone you know. I’ve made enormous improvements in my writing after getting negative feedback. Positive feedback is a little hit of pleasure, but negative feedback is a GOLDMINE.

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 tried plotting and failed… Tried again and again, failed… I can’t do it. It’s not how my brain works. That’s why I’m developing a completely new style of fiction around the way I write. I get a quick idea, then I sit down and hammer away at the keyboard while the story tells itself in my head. I never plan events, endings, characters, nothing. I just let the story unfold in my mind and try to put it down accurately on paper. I think that’s what gives my writing such a light and wild feel. I rarely go back and edit storylines, rarely spend much time polishing. I let the story tell itself. I’ll never write a Game of Thrones, and that’s just fine by me!

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

I think it’s crucial to prioritize execution and not try to be the next Cormac McCarthy. Writers often get caught up in trying to put out some grand Shakespearean masterpiece and agonize over every little detail, and 9/10 times it never even gets released. I try to live by the Pareto Principle and focus on action, speed, and RELEASING my work, even if it’s only 80% perfect. There will be plenty of time later to edit and release second editions. An imperfect work that gets released is infinitely better than a “masterpiece” that you never hit the Send button on. You’ll keep learning and improving as long as you’re releasing and getting feedback, and eventually the masterpieces will flow out effortlessly. Everything is all about just building up that momentum and never letting it die.

To put it very bluntly: Perfectionists never get anything DONE.

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

I’m slamming out as many of these short volumes as I possibly can, across all different settings and genres. I’m starting a new pirate series now. Adventure and conquest on the high seas. I plan to completely revolutionize the modern fiction and entertainment industry and bring back the epic, fun, heroic tales from the 20th century, in a format specifically designed for modern readers who are losing their taste (and attention spans) for long-form.

I’ll soon be bringing on other writers, as well as artists and designers and storytellers of all kinds. Together we will spearhead a new era of entertainment and make fiction great again.

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:

Right now I’m most active on Instagram as I’m growing my new business. I post lots of art and cool graphics that I like to create an awesome and aesthetic atmosphere on my page.

You can check out my work at my website. It goes to my Gumroad store for now, where you can download my various flash-fiction volumes for dirt cheap. Mean Lou Green Vol. 1 is FREE, so anyone can check it out and see if they dig my style. They’re formatted super clean for mobile, PC, or e-reader so you’ll be able to read them easily.

You can also snag the first three volumes of Mean Lou Green on Amazon (Kindle only). Each volume is $1 on Amazon since I can’t make it free there.

So if you like lightning-fast stories, high adventure, and pulse-pounding action, then strap in for a wild ride with Chris Jones Pulp Fiction Empire.

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

Author’s Spotlight: Connection Lost and Other Dark Stories

Author: Gillian Church
Genre: Horror Anthology
Publication Date: 13 August 2022
Pages: 32
Available As: e-book

The Synopsis:
A collection of three dark short stories:

  • In Connection Lost, a grieving mother hides a memento from her husband.
  • I’ll Poison Your Dreams features a surprising wedding gift from a bride’s estranged sister.
  • Bergamot and Blood features a husband reaching out to his wife after ten years.

The Review:
Anyone who follows my Instagram or is a regular visitor to my website should be more than a little familiar with Gillian Church; through her main Instagram account and her alternative account, Horror Prompts, she posts regular drabble, writing, and monthly challenges for authors and I have been a participant in these on a semi-regular basis. Gillian’s contributions to the writing community cannot be understated; she has a real knack for bringing people together, inspiring writing, and encouraging authors and it’s a real pleasure to finally see her work in print and to see her take the spotlight. Although I’m no stranger to reading anthologies, Connection Lost and Other Dark Stories is my first time actually reviewing one; however, based on my method of reviewing horror anthology movies, I believe the best way to tackle this is to talk a little bit about each short story and then give some overall thoughts.

First up is the title piece of the novella, Connection Lost, a harrowing and haunting tale of a grieving mother, Katie, who’s struggling to move past the death of her baby, Micah. Her toxic and abusive husband, Derek, certainly doesn’t help matters; his solution to their loss is to move on from it, forcing them to literally move to a new place and constantly using loaded language that sounds like he’s not blaming her for Micah’s death but at the same time is absolutely implying that he thinks she should’ve been more attentive. What really gets his back up, though, is Katie’s insistence on watching recordings from Micah’s baby monitors; he flew into a rage at her growing obsession with watching the footage, insisting that all she was doing was staring at a black screen and refusing to acknowledge the loss and move on, but Katie’s fascination with the baby monitors takes a disturbing, supernatural turn in this short opening tale. I definitely feel like Gillian captures the pain of child loss in this piece, as well as fantastically relating the struggle of being in such an oppressive and abusive relationship. There’s definitely a sense that all of these factors, coupled with friends and family trying to convince Katie to see just how bad Derek is, may have caused her to snap and imagine seeing things on the monitor, and this reading is just as justifiable as the more vert supernatural tones when she starts seeing and hearing past events played back to her through the footage that motivate her to finally take action. Gillian starts off strong with this one and Connection Lost definitely sets the tone of this collection.

Next up is I’ll Poison Your Dreams, a piece centred around estranged sisters Mary and Anna. Although close when they were younger, the two haven’t spoken or seen each other for some time, not since Anna cheated with Mary’s boyfriend, Christopher, and then went and married him. The two are recently married and enjoying their happiness but Anna is touched when her sister sends her a beautiful wedding gift: a set of exquisite emerald green bed sheets and a note seemingly indicating that she wishes to bury the hatchet. The tale jumps back and forth between relating the dispute between the two sisters and how Anna quickly moved on from her guilt thanks to Mary isolating and removing herself from her and the family, and the present day where she and Christopher slowly start to suffer from a debilitating sickness. Stricken by agonising headaches and drained from a near-constant fever, the two initially believe their symptoms are due to mosquito bites but, when Christopher’s condition improves during a work trip, it seems that there’s something far more sinister going on. This was a darkly morbid little tale of revenge and spite; I loved seeing Anna justify her actions and wash over them with a gloss of selfishness and self-righteousness, and Gillian really builds a sense of mystique around Mary as she’s physically absent for much of the story but always looming in the background. Probably the most cerebral tale in the collection, this one reminded me of similar cursed tales seen in The Outer Limits (1963 to 1965; 1995 to 2002) and Thinner (Bachman, 1984).

We end with Bergamot and Blood, in which widowed wife Nora is startled to find a letter from her long-dead husband on her pillow. For Nora, this is especially troubling as she has first-hand knowledge of Craig’s death, and yet her wedding ring is contained within the envelope and his familiar cologne is all over the bedroom. Having lived her entire life believing that the universe and fate are not only on her side but actually encouraging her to make bold and macabre life decisions, Nora suddenly feels a sense of dread as the wheel of fate turns against her and Craig returns to her in the most gruesome of ways. This was easily the most pure horror of the three stories, in my opinion; Gillian spends the majority of Bergamot and Blood building tension regarding Nora’s reaction to the letter and her recollection of Craig’s death, before paying off this build-up with a pretty ghastly ending. In the short time we spend with Nora, it’s pretty clear that she’s quite a reprehensible and twisted person, but Craig’s note, his promise to reunite with her and forgive her even in death, shake her to her core and ensure that she pays for her brutality in the most fitting of ways.

In the end, Connection Lost and Other Dark Stories is a great little read; featuring three short, snappy horror tales, it’s a fun way to pass an hour or so and really shows the range and imagination of Gillian’s writing. There are some common themes throughout the three tales – such as family, relationships, loss, and revenge – that really tie the whole thing together. Gillian makes fantastic use of her words to build a sense of character and context in as little time as possible, utilising clever and varied techniques (from flashbacks to recorded footage) to quickly allow her readers to latch on to each short’s characters. I personally dislike it when I read reviews of short stories that criticise them for being “too short”, so I will avoid that here; for me, Connection Lost and Other Dark Stories was exactly the kind of palette cleanser I needed between longer works and I am fully confident that we’ll see more from Gillian in the future so I am more than happy to recommend this one to fans of hers or the horror genre.

My Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Great Stuff

If you’re interested in checking out Connection Lost and Other Dark Stories, and to learn more about Gillian and her journey as an author, visit the links at the top of the page.

Author’s Spotlight: Kerry E.B. Black Interview

Kerry E.B. Black, author of Spring of Spirits, Carousel of Nightmares, and other short stories

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

Hi. And thank you for conducting these interviews! My name is Kerry E.B. Black, and I am a writer living in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, PA USA.

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 recently published book is a YA paranormal thriller called Spring of Spirits. It’s the second in a series that follows Casey, a shy college freshman at Ol’NorEastern U, where an Autumn Equinox awakening ceremony changed the participants in subtle ways – and might have released something murderous.

The main character, Casey, bears a lot of burdens. Her home life leaves much to be desired, yet she does all she can to help there. She works and attends school. She’s a hard worker who also faced mental health issues. She’s someone to admire, truly.

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?

How she came about? I have many friends in different special needs communities. They’ve served as partial models for Casey.

Later this year. I’m releasing a book of scary poetry called Poetic Nightmares (my already released collections of short scares are named Carousel of Nightmares, Herd of Mightmares, and Fairy Herds and Mythscapes). I adore reading and writing short fiction, with its encapsulated experiences. Often in my busy life, I haven’t enough time. So I appreciate intoxicating, brief interludes.

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

I’m working on a novella that’s stymied me because I dread the latest scene. It’s set in the ambiguous past, when midwives and herbalists we’re persecuted as witches. This particular herbalist lead character has cerebral palsy – and a surprising relationship with another character in the story. I hope to finish it before the end of the year.

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

I work with a dear woman named Deb Sanchez at Tree Shadow Press to publish most of my work. She’s a one woman hybrid press dynamo, and I love her!

Terry M. West curates a magazine called Weirdsmith, and I was honored to be a featured author for his volume five. Those two stories remain the goriest I’ve ever written. Otherwise, a number of amazing lit mags and anthologies have kindly published some of my stories.

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

Imposter Syndrome cripples. It kept me from writing for far too long. Life’s short, and tomorrow is not promised, or so common sense tells us. So, write if you want to, tell stories and leave a mark. Not everyone will enjoy your work, but don’t allow that to stop you. Write what you enjoy.

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?

Good question. Many of my stories come from a shared universe. I sometimes have a character in a story refer to another character or experience from a different story, so although the stories stand alone, they often contain “Easter Eggs.”

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

Some of my favorite authors include C.S. Lewis, Neil Gaiman, Shirley Jackson, Stephen King, Joe Hill, Alice Hoffman, Grady Hendrix, Gwendolyn Kiste, Edgar A. Poe, Holly Black, and Cynthia Pelayo. But there are so many more! I think my mom inspired me to write. I started early with ghost stories I’d write and illustrate and share with underclassmen at my elementary school. Through writing, I am marginally more eloquent than my normal, tongue-tied and awkward self.

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

I am not sure about the best way to market my books. My Twitter following is largest, but I think I have more actual engagement on Instagram.

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

I am not a fan of erotica or extreme gore.

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

I do read reviews and try to look at anything negative constructively. That’s not to say it doesn’t sting, but I try to turn it into a learning experience. As Hemingway explained, we’re all learning as we go. There’s something magical about always striving to be better.

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 always know the beginning and the end of my stories. The action has to progress toward that conclusion. For longer works, I know plot points that must be reached. The business of getting there is often something of a mystery to me, though.

I don’t usually pay attention to the world around me when I write. I tune everything out by necessity, I suppose. My house is tiny and overly populated, and thus noisy and distracting.

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

Join writing groups. Support your fellow writers and listen to their suggestions about your writing. Objective opinions are invaluable.

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

I am always writing. Even when I don’t write things down, my mind seizes and elaborates on ideas. I’ve that novella to complete. I use submission calls for publications I admire as muses for short works. I write a drabble weekly for https://www.carrotranch.com.

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:

Thank you again for conducting this interview! I’ve boosted your offer of interviews on my Instagram (where I discovered it.)

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

Author’s Spotlight: Elmwood

Author: N. T. Morris
Genre: Horror / Suspense
Publication Date: 1 October 2021
Pages: 265
Available As: Paperback, hardback, and e-book

The Synopsis:
Horrific nightmares have plagued Aidan ever since he discovered the body at the side of the road. The sleepless nights and his constant mood swings have begun to put a strain on his marriage. In a bid to reconnect, Aidan and his wife, Laura, decide to leave the city behind them for the Lake House. A Victorian home, nestled at the edge of the forest that surrounds the picturesque town of Elmwood.

But every town has its secrets.

Since its founding, people in Elmwood have mysteriously gone missing. Locals, tourists, and people just passing through have vanished with no explanation. Then, one night, Aidan hears it… a dark, unnatural voice calling out to him, summoning him to the woods.

The Review:
They say you should never judge a book by its cover. I’ve always found this to be a pretty daft saying. After all, that’s where the blurb is that tells you what the book’s about! Anyway, they may say this, but I absolutely judged Elmwood but its cover. The striking image of a slick yellow raincoat, a dark empty void where the face should be, against a dark and ominous forest and under the grinning visage of the full moon appealed to me almost as much as the Stephen King-esque font. Suffice it to say that, after seeing Elmwood crop up on my Instagram on a consistent basis, I knew that I had to find time to add it to me reading list and it definitely doesn’t disappoint.

Elmwood follows married couple Aiden and Laura Crain, who are still very much in love and in quite a physical and amicable relationship despite having been through some strife in their marriage. Things haven’t been right, however, since Aiden discovered Emily’s broken, headless body in the middle of the road; he’s been plagued by nightmares ever since, ones so strong that he’s been sleeping as little as possible to stave off the wild night terrors. Although he appreciates Laura’s patience, love, and understanding, Aiden has taken to hiding the true extent of his suffering from her so as not to worry her, which includes having private breakdowns and resorting to pills to numb the pain, but he’s more than willing to getaway from the busy and dangerous city for a few days in rural Elmwood.

Once in the small town, Aiden begins to feel his spirits lifted; the picturesque, quaint little town makes an instant impression on him and they being to rekindle their spark in the lovely Lake House. However, all too soon, things start to appear a little suspicious in Elmwood; some of the inhabitants are unnervingly rude, there’s an unexplained number of missing persons, and Aiden hears rumours and folktales about how the Lake House and its neighbouring woods are thought to be haunted. Although neither of them put much stock in this, Aiden’s nightmares increase in their intensity; he sees dark shapes stalking him, has vivid dreams of daydreaming out to the dark forest and stumbling across a trench full of dead bodies, and hears an ominous voice calling to him from the darkness. It gets so bad that he starts smoking again, and his paranoia and fear only deteriorate further when Laura messes about with a Ouija board and finds the mysterious and macabre diaries of the disturbed Nicolas Wright in a hidden room in the attic.

When Aiden tries to get help from the local police department, he finds them less than enthusiastic, which only exacerbates his desperation, and things come to a head following a dangerous car crash that sees Laura abducted by mysterious, robed individuals wearing animal skulls over their heads! Yes, Elmwood is a little bit of everything: it’s a murder mystery, a supernatural thriller, a story of grief and loss, and there’s a shadowy cult seemingly behind everything and targeting Aiden to appease some dark and ancient ritual out in the forest! N. T. Morris does a really good job of setting the scene and establishing his characters; focusing primarily on Aiden and Laura is a fantastic way of keeping things grounded and focused and Morris’s characterisations shine all the more thanks to him depicting well-rounded and logical main characters. I liked that they were both supportive and still had a bit of spark in their lives, despite the horrifying events that come to surround them, and it really made Aiden’s desperate search for Laura and frustration with the lack of co-operation from Elmwood’s finest all the more palpable.

Elmwood is, primarily, a psychological, supernatural thriller but that doesn’t mean it’s lacking in visceral horror. We’ve got decapitated corpses, eldritch symbols carved into flesh, gruesome imagery of blood and wounds during Aiden’s many nightmares and dazed jaunts into the forest, mass graves filled with rotting bodies, and some pretty startling and effective scares. The Lake House itself becomes almost a living character at times, with basement doors creaking open, strange noises, and a number of tangible presences looming around every dark corner, to say nothing of the dark and looming forest and its devilish whispers. By the end, N. T. Morris really ramps up the terror as the macabre cult comes to the forefront and the book descends into a nightmarish sequence of human sacrifices, bloody murder, and a veritable orgy of gore. For me, this all landed really well; I enjoyed the escalating sense of tension, horror, and mystery and Elmwood had me gripped throughout.

My Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Great Stuff

If you’re interested in checking out Elmwood, and to learn more about N. T. Morris and his journey as an author, visit the links at the top of the page.

Author’s Spotlight: Lynda McKinney Lambert Interview

Lynda McKinney Lambert, author of Songs for the Pilgrimage, First Snow, and others

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

Lynda McKinney Lambert, Ellwood City, Pennsylvania. I am a retired professor of Fine Art and Humanities, Geneva College, Beaver Falls, PA. I retired in 2007, after sight loss. I am currently writing full time, now that I am retired from my teaching career at the college. I balance my days between writing and making art in my studio though the use of adaptive technologies for the blind.

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 newest book is Songs for the Pilgrimage (DLD Books, 2021). This is a collection of poetry, journal entries, reflections, and non-fiction memoirs. The work in this book spans a period of writing from 1988 to 2021. I began writing poetry while working on My BFA degree in painting in the mid to late 80s.

Eventually, I spent an entire year in 2020 reading through my journals from 1988 to 2020. I developed this book over the year of exploring my art and writing history through my journals and memories. Themes are travel, dance, music, art, history, nature, faith

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

Three of my five published books were created by DLD Books, Denver, Colorado. The three books edited and designed by this team are:

Walking by Inner Vision: Stories & Poems, 2017
Star Signs: New and Selected Poems, 2019
Songs for the Pilgrimage, 2021.

My chapbook, First Snow, was published by Finishing Line Press and is a collection of thirty wintry-themed poems, 2020.

My first book is Concerti: Psalms for the Pilgrimage (Kota Press, 2002).

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

My writing journey evolved naturally because I earned three degrees in Fine Art and English. My academic work was at different universities over eleven years, Writing papers and doing research is a significant part of that training. I loved writing about art, artists, art history, poetry, and poets.

As for advice, I’d say to cultivate patience. Never be in a rush to get your book done. Instead, allow the manuscript and your thoughts to mature during the writing process. Keep in mind that you want your collection of writings to be a cohesive body of work. I think of this as a work of art because it is art.

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

As I worked on my MA in English degree, my focus was poetry. My final project was focused on three poets who wrote during three different periods: John Donne, Willian Carlos Williams, Robert Bly,

I also studied the beat poets and abstract expressionist artists. My favorite art is German Expressionism and American Abstract Expressionists.

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

I don’t read reviews very often. I think the best reviews are by editors who specialize in non-fiction and poetry. I appreciate the honest and thoughtful consideration by people who have read my books. Unfortunately, negative remarks are typically left by people who are not knowledgeable about non-fiction, memoir, or art.

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

I write a blog, Walking by Inner Vision. I published articles three mornings a week at 7 a.m. Monday is “Poem: From the Professor’s Journal.” That is a poem and the backstory of the poem Wednesday is “Garden Songs,” my little poems inspired by my gardens and nature. Friday is “The Evergreen Journal,” a series of memoirs. I’ll do fifty for this year. I think these will be collected and turned into a book in 2023.

– 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:

I invite visitors to stop by and let me know what you think about any comments or advice I have offered on this interview. Thank you for this opportunity to share my writing life with all of you today.

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

Author’s Spotlight: John Ryland Interview

John Ryland, author of Peripheral, The Man With No Eyes, Souls Harbor, and more

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

My name is John Ryland. I like to write short stories and novels that tend to hang out in the dark corners of society where weird stuff happens.

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 latest novel is Peripheral, a horror thriller about a young woman who finds herself in a shadow world after hitting her head in a fall. Aided by a young girl she’s seen all her life and thought a ghost, she learns that she was dragged into this side world known as the Peripheral that exists at the fringes of our world in an eternal state of limbo. Time passes, but its inhabitants never sleep, eat, or enjoy any aspects of their old selves. The demon that drug her to this place did so to enjoy all the vices that our world has to offer, ie: drugs, alcohol, sex, and even good food. Unfortunately, they do this to excess and eventually ruin the physical body. Now she must find a way to regain her body and defeat the powerful, centuries-old demon before it’s too late.

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?

Camille powers is a stay at home wife and enjoys her life. She is tenacious, strong, and adaptable. Unfortunately, she is also stubborn and takes too many chances, especially with the demon.

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

The hardest scene to write in Peripheral was the confrontation when the demon (who possesses Camille’s body) attacks her husband, Bo. Hopelessly outgunned, Bo gets the hell beaten out of him when he stands up to the demon, but also must endure a powerful psychological battle between who he sees as his wife, but knows she is a demon. Getting the fear, anger, desperation, and pain just right took several rewrites.

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

Peripheral and another novel (The Man with No Eyes) were traditionally published, but I did self-publish two novels and a collection of short stories prior to their publication. For me, there have been good and bad on each track.

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

I think one of the most difficult things to get used to are rejections and the disappointment that comes with them. I’ve had hundreds of rejections and they still hurt, but not as much. The best advice I could give is twofold. Write what you want to write. It’s your book. If everyone wrote like the authors who are successful now, nothing new would ever happen. Even the “greats” were unknown authors once upon a time. The back half of that is to never give up. Never give up honing your craft, and never give up pushing it into the faces of publishers, agents, and readers. If you don’t advocate for yourself, no one will.

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?

All of my books are stand-alone novels, but like others authors, most take place in a fictitious county in Alabama.

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

Being from the south, I was enthralled by southern writers like Capote, Harper Lee, Hemingway, and such. It made me think that some kid from Alabama might have a chance. I read To Kill A Mockingbird in seventh grade and fell in love with the idea of books set in the south.

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

The best way to advertise books is always a mystery. I’ve run ads and promotions with mixed results. I think connecting with people helps sell books. You’re selling yourself as much as the book.

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

I don’t like the “it was all a dream” troupe. I think a writer employs it as a last result when they’ve written themselves into a corner and can’t come up with an ending. Personally, one of my favorites is just to leave people hanging. It is what it is. People can then build their own conclusion in their minds, plus it leaves the door open for a possible sequel.

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

I always read reviews, but sometimes wish I didn’t. I realize that it’s a person’s opinion, but sometimes I think they miss the premise of the book. I usually brood about bad reviews for a day or so then I dismiss them. People have a right to not like my work. I realize it’s not for everyone. I like to come up with original plots, sometimes that is hard for people to grasp, thus, they miss some of the larger themes.

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 prefer to “wing it”. I’m 100% pantser. The story unfolds before me like a road, and I follow it. I have a general feel for what I want, but the characters run the show. Of course, this sometimes requires a lot of work on the first pass to smooth plot holes etc. but it’s fun to write. It’s like reading a book while also writing a book. When I’m working and it’s going good, all I need is a keyboard and my reading glasses. I don’t need music, silence, or anything. Actually, I wrote my first published novel, Souls Harbor, sitting at the dining room table while kids played and watched TV. Now I have an office and a desk, but the kids and the dog still come in and visit.

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

Up next is a long novella entitled The Unkindness of Ravens, which should be out this fall. It’s the story of an emotionally troubled young girl who follows a raven into the woods and finds the dead body of a kid. one of the tag lines I’ve been using is: “It’s not exactly finders’ keepers, but it’s not completely different either.”

14. 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:

You can find all my buy links, sign up for my blog and monthly newsletters, see all the newest details, and check out poetry corner on my website.

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

Author’s Spotlight: Sean Stevens Interview

Sean Stevens author of The Gift of Life III and various other poetry

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

Sean Stevens. Worcester, Massachusetts.

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?

The Gift Of Life III is a poetry book. I have self-published four books in total with my fifth book coming out on October 4th.

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?

My poetry covers a range of topics including mental health, nature, love and much more.

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

The hardest part of my books is really connecting with the reader. As a poet I want to generate emotions with my words. This can be difficult at times.

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

I chose to self publish to maintain my creative integrity. I work with poetry editors who critique me more than I feel a traditional publisher would.

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

Marketing. Having a concise strategy of tactics can be very daunting at times. My suggestion to other writers is to be true to yourself, find your niche and most importantly generate an audience prior to publishing.

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 Gift Of Life series plays off of each other. My other books are stand alone. I find connecting a series a books creates interest especially if the reader can read the books in succession.

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

Robert Frost is by far my favorite author. I first read his work in Elementary school. He inspired me with his love for nature. I took that with me and to this day Immerse myself in nature.

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

So far Twitter has been my most successful avenue. With Covid protocols the last few years its been tough getting out to do book signings and in person promotions.

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

I like originality. For example, the number of vampire books I come across is amazing. I’m sure each one of them could be amazing but I like to think outside the box.

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

I do. I have received all good reviews of my work until recently when I received a one-star review. Sadly, they didn’t leave any comments. I do believe that honest reviews are important. What better way to improve your craft than by accepting constructive criticism.

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 a glass of wine before I write. I also write exclusively at nighttime as that’s when I feel most inspired. I do occasionally listen to music while I write. Most of the music I listen to has a poetry theme such as Jim Morrison or Bob Dylan.

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 best advice I received was to attack your audience. Find out where they are so you can connect with them and create a fan base. This is very important to be successful when self-publishing.

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

I am currently working on an autobiography that is set to be released next year. I may send out queries and go the traditional route here.

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.