Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Author Interview - Sophie and Chris Brousseau

 

Sophie and Chris Brousseau form the husband and wife writing team behind Maple Lion Fiction. Together they have published five novellas which have now been released as a full-length novel: Isle of Chaos. Sophie honed her writing skills working in behavioural science research and Chris developed his storytelling prowess over the past decade working in video games. They each bring their own unique experience to the table, but it was their shared love of regaling others with a good story and quirky humour that inspired them to venture into the world of fiction writing together.

Genre: Dark, Humorous, Action & Adventure



Q&A:

Q1: What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?

Chris: Isle of Chaos: Golden Age Tales is the name of the book, and what inspired it is a little bit of a story…

In 2011 I noticed a severe lack of good pirate themed movies, books, tv series as well as video games and I’ve always loved pirates. The chaos, the fun, the lawlessness of it has always attracted me, so I decided that I would write some sort of pirate novel. Around the same time Game of Thrones aired and I was hooked. I loved the multi character, dark themed semi-fantasy styled tv show, so I thought I’d go down that road with the book and that’s it, that’s how it started. I had written a few characters, written about 20,000 words or so and then I put the whole thing on pause and for some reason never went back to it.

Sophie: Many years later we met in Australia, got married and decided we wanted to work on a project together. We both think very similarly, and I had been writing research papers, so I’d got used to writing professionally but certainly not fiction. It was all very new to me. When Chris mentioned the draft and the pirate world I jumped at the chance! I’ve always loved pirates. I read the draft of what he had written all those years ago, killed off a couple of characters, wrote a second draft, then a third… and the rest is what’s out in the world today.

Chris: As for the story itself, what inspired it was a love of drama. The idea of things happening to the characters where the audience or reader knows how bad something is going to turn out, but the characters don’t. In Isle of Chaos there are six main characters and each one accidentally causes problems for another, but they have no idea they are doing so.

Sophie: Yes, everything has a knock-on effect and it makes for an exciting story.

Q2: What are five words that describe your writing process?

Chris: Research, planning, plotting, re-writing, crying.

Sophie: Coffee, scattered, structured, fidgety, immersive.

Q3: What authors, or books have influenced you?

Chris: We aren’t actually avid readers, certainly not ‘bookworms’ TV shows have actually influenced me more, shows like Breaking Bad, Seinfeld and the Sopranos. 

Sophie: It’s true. Neither of us are ‘bookworms’ more TV viewers, our writing is very dialogue heavy, non-traditional some might say. We do read, just not the amount people might assume.

Chris: I love action packed writing. I’m a fan of Joe Abercrombie’s books, specifically the First Law trilogy as well as the new ones from that same world.

Sophie: For me, Stephen King and Clive Cussler through to Enid Blyton have all influenced my writing style. Though recently I’ve been getting more into contemporary and that may influence future works.

Q4: What do you need in your writing space to help you stay focused? 

 Chris: Music for me, and a keyboard and screen.

Sophie: Coffee, water and ideally my double screen desk set up. I’m not a fan of working on the couch or somewhere romantic like a coffee shop. No work is getting done there for me!

Q5. What, to you, are the most important elements of good writing?

Chris: Strong and interesting characters and a good story, people can overlook a lot if you have those two first things.

Sophie: Agreed. I think you want to be able to connect with those characters quickly too, otherwise the interest is lost. 



Q6: What is the best advice you have ever heard?

Chris: Nobody knows what they’re doing, not even the pro’s and personally after working in some of the top video game companies I know that is the truth. You just gotta do your best, forget the rest!

Sophie: Try your best given the circumstances. It’s sort of simple, but I apply it to all aspects of my life. I spent a lot of time in my life striving for perfection and it was actually stifling, so now I reflect on things and ask myself that.

Q7: What is your favourite genre to read?

Chris: I’m open the any genre really as long as the writing is to my style, so no long descriptions. I don’t want to have someone explain to me what a wall looks like for two paragraphs.  No offense to those that do, some people really like that style, I’ve had a few friends tell me that our style is good, but too fast paced for them. It’s just a personal preference.

Sophie: I’ll give most things try, I typically lean towards darker subject matter or humorous or both! I don’t tend to read fantasy, hardcore horror or straight up romance, but that’s about it.

Q8: What comes first for you — the plot or the characters — and why?

Sophie: This is a Chris question; he handles the plot and first draft…

Chris: Loose plot first, I want a story where this kind of thing happens. Then the characters to fit the scene. As for why? I don’t actually know, stories are usually sold as more of an event, so it’s like, hey remember when this thing happened? Remember when we went to the ice cream shop, and someone dropped their ice cream and found a golden coin which led them to buried treasure? Remember when the cruise ship got overtaken by pirates? Etc. That usually gets them into the story, but then they fall in love with the characters and remember the characters if they are good after. So, I suppose that’s how I think of stories as well, interesting plot first, then make them fall in love with the characters.

Q9: What are you working on now?

Chris: I’m working on our second detective novel, just the first draft, I’m in the research, plotting and character creation phase.

Sophie: Chris likes to stay one book ahead! I’m about to jump into our first detective book which explores the origin story of one of our characters from Isle of Chaos, Jane Hatch. Turns out she was a pirate turned detective in her early days. Should be a fun one!

Q10: What are you currently reading?

Chris: Headphones and Heartaches by Wesley Parker, I’m just about to start it, I’ve read his first one and it was amazing so looking forward to this one.

Sophie: I have two on the go. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig and Diary of a Shy Backpacker (part three) by Bruce Spydar.

To find out more about Sophie and Chris Brousseau of Maple Lion Fiction follow the links below:

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Writing About What You Know

 We have all heard the adage that a writer should write about what they know. I have always felt like the saying should be altered to say: "Write about what intrigues you". However, for the latest story I have been working on I have taken the advice to write what you know to heart when I am writing the setting for this new Urban Fantasy. I thought I would introduce you to a few of the settings I have been dreaming about so often lately. 


Melbourne


The beginning of my story takes place in my beloved home city, Melbourne. I have travelled to many places and I have never quite found a place like it. I feel like this part of the story is a love letter to the gardens, buildings and people of the city; the kind-heartedness of the locals, the safety you feel when walking around. Writing about a place I love and miss made beginning the story so much easier for me. 

The Mountains


Just outside Melbourne you will find winding, forested mountains. My grandparents lived there and I always loved visiting. There is something about the mountain air that refreshes me, washing away the air and stress from the city. Much of my story takes place in a fictionalised version of the mountain township my grandparents lived in. As I write I can smell the leaf litter and snow on the air. I never thought I would add such a personal place to my stories, but it has been a really lovely experience. 


Bars and Pubs

My husband used to be in a band, so throughout the past decade or so I have visited many of Melbourne's music venues, from the sticky-floored band rooms out the back, to the sticky-floored bars out the front. I have sat on bar stools, crates, broken and torn lounges across so many dimly lit bars that I simply had to have a scene that took place at a gig. This scene was not originally part of my original plot outline, and once it was written it completely changed the trajectory of the story. I am so glad I went with my gut on this one, and it was great to be able to write an amalgamation of all the hours I have spent watching noisy bands I know nothing about. 

So, tell me. Do you enjoy reading about real places that the author obviously loves, or would you rather read about new places that spring out of the author's imagination? I think I like a little bit of both.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Author Interview - Erica J. Kingdom

 

Always having a book to hand, Erica J. Kingdom (they/them) is convinced that they are from a fantasy realm. They started writing when studying for their GCSEs, in addition to being an English teacher in training. Their works can be found in journals such as The Paper Crane and Honeyfire Lit. When they embark on a larger project, they love writing about challenging topics such as revenge and the importance of responsibility within society. When Erica isn't writing, they love to take walks through the local forests and casually plays the piano.


Their favourite books are those that present adventure, explore the complexities of the human condition and let them delve into the millions of worlds that stories have to offer.

Genre: Dark Fantasy

Q&A:

Q1: What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?

The Burning Throne is my latest piece of work. There wasn’t really a specific event in my life that inspired it, but mostly there was a myriad of influences - mainly from Derek Landy’s Demon Road books, which are some of my favourite. The characters within it were mostly taking elements from my own life and dramatising them.

A certain character, Nate, is somewhat loosely based on me as a teenager, having gone through many revisions to make it more dramatized. After all, I do not condone murder or killing.

Q2: What are five words that describe your writing process?

Random. Ordered. Chaotic. Silent. Aggressive typing.

This is mostly because my writing processes are very weird for my various projects. For longer works I tend to either write with music or without, smaller ones I tend not to. I do plan some of my longer projects and not my shorter ones. And the aggressive typing ends up being a feature of all my projects - as I’m told I’m an aggressive typist, whatever that means. Basically, I type really fast. That said, apparently Queer people type really fast, so I fit that stereotype.

Q3: What authors, or books have influenced you?

Derek Landy and V.E Schwab are my main influences as of late. Derek Landy was the first author I really got into seven years ago (god I feel old) and Schwab has been a more recent influence in terms of descriptive writing. I particularly love Schwab’s book, Our Dark Duet.

Q4: What do you need in your writing space to help you stay focused?

I find that an abundance of tea works best. I also need silence if I’m writing a really long scene. If I’m bored, podcasts tend to work really well for me, honestly, so there’s that. But really, my laptop, phone or tablet and then motivation are key cornerstones of my writing space.

I find that motivation is best gotten if you make a to-do list the day before. A tip from me is to try and clear as much of your to-do list as you can. Also take self-care days, they’re super important. I know that I don’t have enough of them, which is something I’m trying to work on in the second half of the year (as I’m writing this, we’re still in 2021).   

Q5. What, to you, are the most important elements of good writing?

Writing, as this question says, is completely subjective. Honestly, for me, there is a lot of characterisation that I need. Good writing comes from a few places. Personally, the narrative voice needs to be good, otherwise I lose interest. The world needs to be well built and everything needs to be engaging.

Q6: What is the best advice you have ever heard?

Derek Landy once told me that “sometimes you create the character and then the world”. It was something that I used in my university personal statement. Also, I use that advice when creating my books, thinking about the character and then the world that I’m building them around.

Q7: What is your favourite genre to read?

Fantasy.

Q8: What comes first for you — the plot or the characters — and why?

For me, I find that the characters and plot come together. Plotting the character arc tends to give me the plot of the book. Otherwise the danger is that the plot will move the character and not the other way around.

If we are taking a character like Nate (from my book The Burning Throne), I had his arc of responsibility throughout the novel planned from the start. I needed to work with Erica’s role (no, she’s not a self-insert) within the book a little bit more to get it right. By this point, though, she was an integral character to the plot.

Q9: What are you working on now?

A lot of what I’m working with at the moment is the second instalment of The Burning Throne. More details for that will be coming soon. Hint: it involves a TV, a man cloaked in black and a bunch of voice notes. And a lot of letters.

Q10: What are you currently reading?

The Monsters We Deserve by Marcus Sedgwick

To find out more about Erica J. Kingdom, check out the links below:

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Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Author Interview - Mandi Oyster

 

Mandi Oyster lives in Southwest Iowa on her very own forest reserve with her husband, two kids, four cats, and two chinchillas. She is sure that fairies, unicorns, goblins, dragons, and other mythological creatures live in those woods, and she hopes to one day see them. By day, she works for a local print shop. At night, she dreams up worlds and adventures to share with her readers. Mandi writes YA Fantasy, and her latest novel, Book 7 of the Dacia Wolf series, Dacia Wolf & the Phouka’s Curse, is coming soon.


Q&A:

 Q1: What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?

My books are all in the same series. The latest is Dacia Wolf & the Wings of Change. I was inspired to write the first book, Dacia Wolf & the Prophecy, after reading the first three Harry Potter books in one weekend. After reading them, I kept having a scene play in my head, over and over again until I wrote it down. Once I did, the rest of the book came out. That original scene was wiped out in edits, but I’m glad it came to me. If it hadn’t, I wouldn’t be working on book 7, Dacia Wolf & the Phouka’s Curse now.

Q2: What are five words that describe your writing process?

I don’t know why, but questions like this are always really hard for me to answer.

Impromptu. Daily. Chaotic. Important. Satisfying.

Q3: What authors, or books have influenced you?

J.K. Rowling’s books made me want to write after years of not wanting to. J.R.R. Tolkien wrote the best world-building ever. Becca Fitzpatrick writes exceptional body language. John Flanagan is great at writing a long series. Janet Evanovich’s books for their humor. Cassandra Clare, Holly Black, Melissa Marr, and Sarah J. Maas for memorable characters. M.H. Woodscourt, C.T. Ortega, Alexis Johnson, Ava Cates, and Kristin Ward for writing outstanding indie books.

 Q4: What do you need in your writing space to help you stay focused? 

Either a computer or a pen and paper. Sometimes, it will look like I’m not focused, but I’m a pantser, so I stare off into space a lot.

Q5. What, to you, are the most important elements of good writing?

You have to have a plot, but no matter how great your plot is, if your characters aren’t well-written, your story will fail. It’s also important that you find your own voice. There are so many “rules” to writing, but if everyone followed them, books would sound like they were written by robots.

Q6: What is the best advice you have ever heard?

Write every day. You can’t edit a blank page.

Q7: What is your favourite genre to read?

Fantasy. I like to deal with problems that don’t really exist. You can learn something from what the characters are going through, but you don’t have to worry about coming across them in your own life. I prefer young adult because I listen to people talk like sailors all day at work. I don’t need to read it, too.

Q8: What comes first for you — the plot or the characters — and why?

Like I said before, if your characters aren’t realistic, it doesn’t matter how great the plot is. People won’t get behind it.

Q9: What are you working on now?

I’m close to 60,000 words into book 7 in the Dacia Wolf series, and I need to hurry up and finish it because I have readers waiting to see what happens next.

Q10: What are you currently reading?

Legends of Astraea, by Sophia Alessandrini.

Keep reading for a sneak preview of 
Dacia Wolf & the Phouka’s Curse:

Nathan sauntered across the rocky outcrop toward me. There was something about him that, despite his size, made him seem friendly instead of intimidating. He took in my measure, smiling when his cornflower blue eyes met mine. “I can see why Liam stayed.”

Heat burned my cheeks, and I imagined my whole face was scarlet. 

Before I could think of anything to say in response, Nathan was continuing, “A beautiful girl who hangs with demons and dragons”—he held out his hand, waiting for me to take it—“the excitement must be unending.”

To find out more about Mandi Oyster, follow the links below:


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