Angie Azur is a YA Sci-fi Writer.
Writer for PALEO Magazine.
Former Intern at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
SCBWI & COWG Member.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wyndano's Cloak: Interview with Award winning author: A.R. Silverberry

Wyndano's Cloak captured me with the very first sentence: The warning whispered in the leaves, rustling in a windless dawn. Right away I needed to know WHAT WARNING? A.R. Silverberry goes on to create an intriguing new world filled with magic of good and evil, princesses and princes, maids and cooks. But as a girl, who longed to be a princess one day, I found myself wanting to be the young maid who captured the princes fancy only to be outwitted, or so it would seem, by an evil so great almost none can stop it...almost none.

This story reaches into the very soul of the young girl, or like me, young at heart. We all have gifts, but we must believe in ourselves to bring them to their greatest heights. We all have the power to save someone, to befriend the unfriended and to forgive the unforgivable. Read Wyndano's Cloak and you too will believe.

A.R. Silverberry is a gracious writer and new to novel publication, but not new to understanding the human spirit. As a psychologist, he helps people everyday to better understand themselves and the worlds they live in. I believe we create these worlds, just like he created the new, magical world Aerdem. And with the right tools, by way of reading books, talking with friends or seeking professional advice, we will all create magical, loving worlds. 

Below are the 20 questions I posed to the author:

1. Please describe your book in five words.

In one word: Empowerment. In five words: Magic too dangerous to use.

2. How did you pick which characters would have magic/super powers?

Great question! Naryfel, my villain, needed superhuman powers so the level of threat to the heroine would be dire. Naryfel uses the dark arts, and commands ghouls, geists, and sniffers with sinister cunning. And I used her ability to shapeshift to increase mystery and intrigue. To heighten the reader’s perception of her power, Yalp, Aerdem’s mage, struggles to make his magic work. And Medlara, a friendly earth spirit, has powers that don’t go outside her valley. If Yalp and Medlara can’t stop Naryfel, what hope is there for three ordinary girls, far from their home, with little more to be bring than courage and the will to succeed.

3. Which character is most like you? Which one is least like you?

I’m most like Jen. She’s dogged, never gives up, and has a big heart. But she’s also a natural athlete, something I’m not. I’m least like Naryfel, who has fairly stripped herself of humanity.

4. What time do you eat breakfast in the morning? What do you eat?

I’m a psychologist, and see my clients in the afternoon and evening. The mornings are mine! I write until about 9:30 or 10 AM, and then I eat oatmeal; rarely anything else.

5. Are any of your characters replicas of people from school?

No. They are unique individuals. I will borrow traits, mannerisms, or speech patterns from people I’ve encountered. Some are well known to me, but others may be fleeting encounters. The character is usually fully born by the end of the first draft. Then they are real to me. I know how they will respond to any situation.

6. What was your favorite book as a kid?

The Hobbit sent me to the moon. Then I had to get my hands on The Trilogy. In those days, it wasn’t widely available, so I had to wait until I was in high school. When I was younger, a babysitter read the Oz books to me, and I loved those.

7. What made you want to write this book?

The environment and economy are just a few of the unprecedented challenges facing children today. As a child psychologist, I've listened to the fears and longings young people express about their future. I wanted to write a story that helps them feel capable of facing our complex and sometimes frightening world.

My hope is that Wyndano's Cloak delivers a message of encouragement for young people to believe in themselves and trust the treasures they carry inside.

8. If someone said, "Your book changed my life!" what part would he/she be referring to?

The transformation that the characters go through, expanding beyond limitations imposed by self or others.

9.     Do you picture anyone famous when  you think of characters?

I often make characters real for me with photos of people who capture qualities I'm looking for. The photos are often of actors or models. Long before Twilight, a photo of Kristen Stewart, taken from Catch That Kid, was taped to my wall. The expression on her face captured Jen's worry and fierce intensity. I consider Pet my strongest character. Ironically, I didn't have or need a photo; I just knew her, and honestly, I’m not sure where she came from. But I sure heard her snarky voice in my head!

Would your family understand you better by reading this book?

Anyone would understand me better by reading it, like how I feel about loyalty, how to treat and care for others.

11. Which chapter is your favorite?

Chapter ten. I paused there to fill in some back-story about Jen growing up in the Plain World, a dreary place bereft of magic. I used vignette writing to characterize her, and also to set up the depth of her yearning to rise above her circumstances. The chapter came quickly, which is probably why it works!

12. What do you like most about writing?

Creativity is the juice of life for me. If I wasn’t writing, I’d be painting or playing music, but I’d be doing something creative.

13. Do you have a favorite place/spot when you write?

My laptop stand overlooks my  patio. I like to look out at nature. One section of the room is devoted to  writing. Pictures are taped to the walls. Sometimes, I’ll put up a long piece  of butcher paper and map out the plot so I can see it at a glance. But my best  ideas come while walking. I bring a notepad with me and write down snippets of  dialogue or description as they arise. A lot of notebooks have piled up over  the years!

14. If you could create a  fantasy world to live in – what would it be  called?


15. Where do you believe your ideas come from? Life experience? A moment in time? A photo? Or some other source?

Anywhere and everywhere. The  trick is to recognize them and catch them when they come. If you don’t write  them down after the first minute, they’re usually lost. Hence the  notepad!

   The brain has an interesting capacity to find relationships between things. Say you have a problem figuring out what your character is going to do; the problem is rolling around the back of your mind. One day, you see a dog chasing a bird, and pow! That’s what your looking for. The dog bounding, a look of enthusiasm and pure joy on its face. And if your character just happens to be the villain, that look has a dark and sinister undertone.

16. What author would you most recommend to your audience?

Current: Laini Taylor.  Past:  Shakespeare.

17. How many rejections did you get before you found your publisher? Agent?

I stopped counting!

18. If you could do it all over again, would you change anything in your  book?

My father, a very wise man when it came to creativity, had a wonderful saying: "It takes two people to paint a picture. One to paint it, and another to stand behind with a hammer and bonk the painter over the head when it was done." Something can be overworked, and there comes a point when continuing to mess with it will ruin the painting. So sure, there are lots of things I might change, but there comes a point when  you just move on to the next book and do things differently there. Elizabeth George (Anthony Award, Agatha Award, France's Le  Grand Prix de Literature Policiere), gives her books three drafts!

19. How can my blog readers help you to be an even bigger success?

Read Wyndano’s Cloak. Spread the word if you enjoy it: Recommend it to  your friends and family, "Like" my FB fan page (,  and follow me on Twitter (!/arsilverberry).  And don’t hesitate to contact me. I love hearing from readers, and can be reached via my website, <> .

20. What are you working on now?
I don’t like to say too much about something in progress, because so much can change! I’ll say this. It’s an allegory about life set in a mythic past.


Friday, August 5, 2011

Eric Elfman - Genius Writing Coach

Okay - So I've racked up 6 rejections on REDWOOD BLOOD. I know that's not a lot and in fact two of them were very nice, personal rejections. One actually asked me to send other work. Those are good signs on the road to publication. But still, I am a perfectionist and so 6 rejections got me revising. Or so I thought.

I knew I needed to go deeper and not just redo some lines and change choice words. I needed something, something big, something different, something I could not see for myself. My critique group had already done their job, and helped me greatly, so I decided to get a new set of eyes to read my first few chapters. It had to be someone I admired, someone I liked personally, and someone who got my way of writing. I am not flowery. I am not emotional. I am strong and to the point.

I sat, gazing out of my office window, thinking about this. I knew I had met someone a few months ago -- what was his name? He was cool. He led one of the critique groups at Big Sur. He was brutally honest, which I admire. And his name popped into my head - ERIC ELFMAN. I emailed him. He remembered me. Good.

I explained my situation, that I had 6 rejections, 2 very personal. I attached those in my email. He agreed for a small fee to check out my first 4 chapters. I sent them and waited. I got a quick email back that he had received them, but he was working with another writer and would be getting back to me within two weeks.

I kept writing in the meantime - tweaking, revising (so I thought). Then I got an email asking when he could call me to go over my chapters. Anytime, I answered. We set up a time for the next day. And when he called, I jumped for the phone.

On the line, Eric is just as funny, just as brutally honest and just as brilliant. We chatted, and by that I mean, he pretty much spoke and I devoured for over 2 1/2 hours. I took notes - 11 hand written pages in total. And I learned A LOT! When I thought I was revising, I was merely tapping the surface with my fingernail. I hadn't really gotten in there. I hadn't really amped things up.

We finished the call on a positive note. The plot peaked his interest. He's into some of the characters, but where I thought I had explosions, I needed to add nuclear missiles. I took a deep breath. I really thought it could have gone two ways. One - OMG this is ready for publication! or Two - this sucks, so hang it up. But it went a Third way: this is good, but not great - it needs to be great - you can make it great - do the work!!

I've been doing the work this past month. I have been really revising for the first time. I have switched from 3rd person to 1st. I have deleted whole scenes. I have written side pages about each character just so I know them better. I have added bombs, missiles, and sneak explosions. I am doing the work and getting closer.

Eric's honesty and suggestions have pushed me to be a better writer. Here are a few of his tips in the hopes that it helps you become a better writer too:

  • Ground your real world more solidly: use smells, food, clothes
  • MG needs to be contemporary - need to see computers, cell phones, etc
  • Justify why your MC is thinking about things
  • Escalate scenes of tension (you might think they're already amped up, but you can spike them.)
  • Milk your action moments
  • Slow down creepy parts so the reader gets creeped out
  • No jumping into other characters - unless you've established this early on
  • Don't go too academic - be sure every description is from your MC's POV
  • Always keep things happening - moving forward - no dull scenes

Now I've seen similar tips in writer's magazines as well as other blogs - but what Eric did was take each of my scenes and explain what was or wasn't working using these points. It was like having an editor with great ideas helping me write. 

I am so thankful. I am so glad I had the extra bucks to invest in his critique. And I so recommend him to you if you think you are ready to send your ms out to agents/publishers. 

Here is his contact website:

Good luck and keep moving forward.