Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Author Interview: Amena Jamali

Amena Jamali is a double-alumna of the University of Dallas with degrees in politics and cybersecurity. She is an active member of her religious community, her university circle, and professional groups that advance the talents of womxn cyber professionals. She is passionate about serious and respectful discussions in politics and hopes to inspire a different sort of thinking about community and political engagement.

When Amena isn't unfolding the story of her written universe, you can find her fully immersed in her quirky sense of humor (inherited from her father!) and talking superheroes with even the most committed DC and Marvel fans. She enjoys embroidery, reading fantasy books, watching action movies, and long conversations with good friends.

Genre: Fantasy, Epic

Q&A

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

My latest book is The Resonant Bell, and it is actually inspired by my first book, The Bell Tolling. While writing that story, I grew fascinated by what was occurring behind the scenes, in the minds of side characters, and elsewhere in my world. All of that came together in the form of The Resonant Bell.

Q2: What is a significant way your book has changed since the first draft? 

One way that it has changed is expanding from a casual, throwaway sort of project, a glorified collection of bonus chapters, into a set of stories with defined narratives of their own.

Q3: What authors, or books have influenced you?

I would point to a number of books: The Lord of Rings and Beowulf for fantasy itself, Eragon by Christopher Paolini and Bella at Midnight by Diane Stanley for the construction of multiple perspectives, and The Chronicles of Narnia for spirituality and the depiction of deep philosophical ideas in literature. My philosophical ideas (and challenges) are drawn in part from Plato’s Republic, Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics and Politics, Thucydides’ The Peloponnesian War, and Machiavelli’s The Prince.

Q4: What is your schedule like when you’re writing a book?

I do not actually write to a set schedule. I have a list of chapters or publishing or marketing tasks I would like to complete each week, and I do my best to accomplish them. Because of the demands of faith, family, or work, I may not meet those commitments, but they still keep me oriented towards my goal. I do usually write more productively in the early mornings or very late nights 

Q5: What advice would you give to a writer working on their first book?

Respect your own style! There is a lot of advice about writing ‘best practices’ and guidelines that writers absolutely must follow, and they do have elements of truth to them. But all stories, including the words in which those stories are expressed, are ultimately about the soul of the writer, and sacrificing that deep connection in order to check a list of boxes just because you are told to do so will do nothing to satisfy your spirit. The works of literature most revered through the centuries have often been innovative or even rebellious against the existing dogma of writing at the time. So be true to yourself and choose writing supports who understand what you are trying to say, are excited for your stories, and are willing to build you up rather than break you down.

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

The best pieces of writing advice I have ever read or heard were to not think that bigger words make for better writing and to not think that passive voice has no place in great literature.

Q7: How do you celebrate when you finish your book? 

I eat ice cream and chocolate and tell all of my closest friends! I also go back and read my own writing or talk to my characters about how I hope they enjoyed the way I told their stories. If I have an opportunity, I might also spend an evening watching The Lord of the Rings.

Q8: What do you think is the best way to improve writing skills?

The best way to improve is to write and to subsequently critically evaluate your own work. I should add here that I think writing a story, versus merely addressing prompts, is more effective because the thread of the narrative gives you motivation to continue trying. A subsequent evaluation helps you be honest about what needs to improve and what needs to remain the same – essentially, that is the opportunity to determine what you want your style to be. A good writer reads a lot of books, but a great writer knows what the combination of techniques that is best for their story and their soul.

Q9: What are you working on now?

Since finishing The Resonant Bell, I have started drafting the next book of my series and outlining another side project, a romantic fantasy that continues the story of two characters from The Resonant Bell.

Q10: What are you currently reading?

I am currently dividing my reading time between romantic fantasies – I need some context for my romantic fantasy side project – and doing some nonfiction research to build the intellectual foundation for my next book.

Keep reading for an excerpt from The Resonant Bell

“If we commit to it, we must be prepared for war. There will be no freedom without war.”

“Then let us commit,” Belona replied. “We must have that freedom. At any cost.”

I swallowed. “At any cost, my love? Would it not be better if I left Jurisso behind, abdicating my title to you, and joined with only my own name and the friends who chose to come with me? I fear to bring any more retaliation upon our neighbors.”

Belona cupped my bearded chin with her strong fingers and angled my head so that my gaze met hers, without disturbing Dorona’s grip. “In any age but this,” she spoke, “that would be wise counsel, Ciro. But in this age, we cannot do less than devote everything we have to his cause. We cannot act with half a heart.”

“Even if the war takes us from Dorona?” I asked, deeply troubled, even our baby’s playful tugs on my beard failing to evoke a smile.

She smiled mirthlessly. “Rather the war for freedom takes us from her than the soldiers take her from us.”

To find out more about Amena Jamali, check out the social media links below:

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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Author Interview - Khalid Uddin


I am New Jersey, U.S., based writer and high school English teacher. I’m currently writing the Drowned Realm Series. The first book, Rise of the Red Harbinger, was published in 2017 and the second, Ghosts of Ashur, was released on May 15th, 2022. Aside from that, I’m a husband to a wonderful wife and father to two beautiful/demonic girls.

 Genre: Epic Fantasy

 Q&A

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

 The Ghosts of Ashur is my latest book, which is the second instalment of my Drowned Realm Series. The first book in the series is Rise of the RedHarbinger. It’s a fantasy series inspired by my own experiences, as well as by other works and fantasy series, such as Lord of the Rings and The Wheel of Time.

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

Outlines, character-driven, soundtracks, slow, calculated

Q3: What authors, or books have influenced you?

I was originally inspired by Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time, and then similarly by J. R. R. Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings and George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. I’ve also found some great inspiration in Brandon Sanderson and Pierce Brown.

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

I’m pretty simple when it comes to that. I need my laptop, a notebook and pencil, my book’s world map for reference, and my phone and headphones. Usually as long as I have music, I can stay focused.

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

Planning is definitely one of them. I understand that there are “planners” and “pantsers”, but no matter which one you are, you still have to have some things worked out in advance. Good Pantsers still know their characters and worlds well enough that they can trust those things to take the story where it goes. Stories and writing are so much more rich when a writer has taken the time to build a world as in-depth as possible.

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

Just write. Honestly, the only regret I have about writing is that I didn’t follow this advice. It took me forever to start the actual writing process and I wish I had done so sooner. I think I was afraid to start, and the truth of it is that you can’t be a good or bad writer if you never start writing.

Q7: What is your favourite genre to read?

It’s probably obvious, but fantasy is my favourite. Fantasy is what unlocked my imagination and inspired me to write my own series, and I love that the only limits of the genre are the author’s imagination. It’s nice to be able to read and not worry about the story being realistic.

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

Characters. Interesting characters with dimension can make any story interesting. If you flesh out a character enough, they tell the story for you. One of my favourite parts of my own writing process is that there have been numerous times in which my characters have dictated the course of the story. Literally, in the moment, I’ve realised that a character wouldn’t do something the way I originally planned, and it makes the story so much better for it.

Q9: What are you working on now?

I’ve just sent my editor and publisher the final draft of my second book, The Ghosts of Ashur, and once they look it over for the last time, it should be all set for publication. We’re targeting a May 15th release for it.

Q10: What are you currently reading?

I just started The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie. I picked it up years ago and just never got around to it. Now that I have some time to read, hopefully I can finish it.

Keep reading for an exerpt from Chapter 2 of TheGhosts of AshurBook 2 of The DrownedRealm Series

One of the Jinn struck Baltaszar from behind, knocking him face-first into the hard ground. His eyes were tearing from what was sure to be a broken nose. Before he could muster the strength to push himself off the ground, one of the Jinn pulled him up to his feet. He opened himself to his manifestation and summoned a flame to each hand. He had no idea how the flames would help him, but it was the only thing he could think to do. Baltaszar swivelled his neck as his attackers drew closer. He threw his flames at two of them, only to see the fires disappear against their skin. He summoned a ring of fire around himself, thanking Lincan for making him impervious to his own fire. The Jinn drew closer, stepping right through the circle of flames.

On two feet, they stood more than twice his size. On four, they were slightly less intimidating, but still the size of horses. Their thick pale skin was off-putting, especially with the earthy colours always shifting. Jinn generally could only be seen if they wanted to be. Baltaszar wished, at this moment, that he couldn’t see them. It would have been less terrifying to be attacked by invisible creatures than to be surrounded by the grotesqueness of the Jinn, knowing they wanted to hurt him, and perhaps kill him.

Another Jinn advanced towards him and punched at his chest. Baltaszar attempted to shield himself with his right arm, but the blow shattered the bones in his forearm, which then slammed into his ribs, likely cracking some in the process. Baltaszar doubled over and then fell to his knees. He sucked at the air and grasped his broken arm. He labored to breathe and bent forward to put his forehead to the ground. If the Jinn planned to kill him, he could not do much to stop them. A warm foot pushed him flatly to the ground, and Baltaszar screamed at the pressure on his nose, arm, and ribs.

Find out more about Khalid Uddin by following the social media links below

Podcast: Mr Write Now

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Amazon Author Page

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Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Author Interview - Colleen Young

Colleen is an author of contemporary new adult and women’s romance. She writes stories with strong characters who are doing their best and finding love along the way. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her hiking a mountain or enjoying a Manhattan while getting overly competitive in any board game. In a previous life, she was a pilot and pledged a fraternity, giving her upfront access to write the Taking Flight Trilogy. She lives in Florida with her three children & husband.

Genre: Contemporary New Adult & Women’s Fiction

Q&A

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

Our Heart, it’s actually a novelette but it’s my latest release. I was inspired by a prompt with my critique partners. It grew from there.

Q2: When you’re writing an emotional or difficult scene, how do you set the mood?

It doesn’t take much to get into the mood. My emotional scenes usually end up with me in tears.

Q3: What authors, or books have influenced you?

I’m obsessed with Penny Reid’s Winston Brothers series, I have no idea how she can create such complex characters and story arcs. Growing up I enjoyed R.L. Stein and then Tess Garrison.

Q4: When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve always had a passion for it but didn’t realize it was something I could do anything with, so I went a totally different route and became a pilot. I had my eureka moment in 2014 and started writing like a crazy woman.

Q5: What advice would you give to a writer working on their first book?

Finish it. Find a community of writers and see if a few of them can look it over and tell them to be brutally honest (because if they aren’t then the random troll on the internet is going to break your fragile heart into pieces). Then look at your work from a new lens and rewrite it again until even if it gets trolled you can still say to yourself, “Yep, but I still love it even if they didn’t”. At that time start to ask non-writers to read it, if they love it, you’re golden. But most importantly love it. Love every stinking moment of creating something from nothing.

Q6: What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

That the characters take on a personality of their own.

Q7: What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

When my two-year-old dropped a cup of milk and said “oh sh*t!” Wait, is that not what you meant? Just kidding, when I was in elementary school and watched peers do things because someone talked them into it.

Q8: What was the first book that made you cry?

The Notebook or A Walk to Remember, I can’t remember but those were some of my first romantic reads and I bawled my eyes out.

Q9: What are you working on now?

BeMy Last, which is a stand-alone/follow-up to my 2018 book All’s Wright in Love & Lies and will be my 7th full-length novel.

Q10: What are you currently reading?

I just finished The Paper Palace and have mixed feelings about it… 

Connect with Colleen Young by following the social media links below, and keep reading to find out more about Our Heart.

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Amazon Author Page
Website



Our Heart: A Workplace Romance Novelette

Three years ago, Shelly met Grant.
Three years ago, Shelly fell in love with Grant.
But how does Grant feel about Shelly?
And if Grant finds out the truth about Shelly’s feelings, how will it affect their working relationship?

Three years ago, Grant met Shelly.
Three years ago, Grant fell in love with Shelly.
Will Grant finally get the courage to tell her how he feels?

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Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Author Interview - Eleana Moriarty

Elena Moriarty is a writer and poet grown locally in Brisbane, Australia. She lives to be buried beneath piles of plot ideas and character descriptions. When she isn’t writing, she loves buying glittery things from Etsy, watering her excessive number of house plants and singing karaoke alone in her living room.

Genre: Fantasy Fiction

 Q&A

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

The Hunt of the Halfling is my debut novel – it’s actually inspired by a collection of novels I read during my teenage years that featured lots of magic, power, and status. It originally had a very different plot, but I really wanted to write something with all the magic realism of many popular books but with my own take on it. I was inspired by great authors like Maggie Stiefvater and Cassandra Clare, and thought if they could write something, why couldn’t I?

Q2: What advice would you give to help others create plotlines?

Honestly – I’m such a pantser that I usually have no idea where a book is going until I’ve written one. But when I do manage to collect myself enough to get it together and plot, my best idea is to talk and record yourself brainstorming ideas. Sometimes just reading out to yourself what motivates the characters helps you form an idea on what they want to achieve. I also tend to use music to sway my feelings on how a scene will progress, as well as photographic websites like Pinterest to help make a scene mood board.

Q3: What authors, or books have influenced you?

As I mentioned earlier, I’m super influenced by the works of Maggie Stiefvater and Cassandra Clare. I’m also a fan of Claudia Gray’s works. But other books such as The Sky Is Everywhere, In The After, The Nightshade Series, The Slated Series, and The Fallen Series have all influenced me in one way or another.

Q4: What is your schedule like when you’re writing a book?

I work a full time job, so whenever I have time around then, I’m probably writing. I aim to write a chapter at a time of whatever work I’m working on, and if I go over, great. But if I don’t, or I switch my time between a few works at once, then I still feel accomplished. I try not to get too caught up in making things be done by certain timeframes as unless I actually have a deadline imposed by external pressures, I want to enjoy my writing. 

Q5: Does writing energize or exhaust you? Or both?

Definitely both. On some days I find myself able to type at the speed of sound, and then others I can’t think of how to continue a scene I was once so passionate about. It really depends on how the work is shaping. I often tend to get stuck in the middle of a scene, leave it, then come back and wonder how to finish it, get unmotivated, and switch WIP’s. But I tend to break out of that at some point, it just takes me a little nudge to get there.

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

Write for yourself, not for others.

Q7: How do you come up with character names for your stories?

Nameberry, Pinterest, baby name websites and playing around with other names to make different spellings/pronunciations.

Q8: What do you think is the best way to improve writing skills?

Just keep writing and reading. If you don’t read you won’t understand structure and pace and tone, and those three can be key to forming a novel (or whatever kind of project you may be working on). Also writing and giving that work to someone else to read, even if it’s just a few pages, means you can get feedback on how that work is shaping. And if that frightens you, just read out loud as you type. Makes you think about things a lot more quickly than reading it back later.

Q9: What are you working on now?

I usually have around 20 rough works in progress at one stage. Currently I’m focused on a faerie x mortal romance. It’s only at 55,000ish words.

Q10: What are you currently reading?

I haven’t had time to read much, but I am reading A Court of Thorns and Roses. I’ve never finished it and have only gotten about a third of the way through once before, so I’m really hoping to finish it and move into the following books since everyone raves out it!

Connect with Elena Moriarty by following the social media links below. Keep reading to find out more about The Hunt of the Halfling.

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Goodreads

Website

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Tabitha is a typical teenager with hopes and dreams who is living an ordinary life. That is, until one fateful Halloween night, she meets two strange young men. And her whole world changes. Everything Tabitha once knew about herself is a lie.

On the hunt for answers about her past, Tabitha must adjust to life amongst 'The Fabled'. Werewolves, faeries, vampires and warlocks - they actually exist! But they live hidden among humans and Tabitha must learn to trust what she has never known.

As if navigating through adolescence isn't enough, Tabitha must manage her warring emotions when dealing with Felix. With his silver eyes and sharp wit, Felix leaves Tabitha with more questions than answers. Should she trust him? Or is he using her to quench his particular thirst?

In Elena Moriarty's debut novel, 'The Hunt of the Halfling', Book 1 in her Crimson Tale series, magic, humour, and teenage angst merge into a story about one girl's quest to discover herself.

But will she like what she finds?

The Hunt of the Halfling is available in paperback and ebook.

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