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

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Interview with Christine Ashworth: Author of DEMON SOUL

I met Christine at another wonderful SCBWI writer's conference. She stood out to me not only because of her bright, red hair, but she had her book jacket made into bookmarks. So clever! We've stayed in touch via Facebook and Twitter. 

Christine is my kind of gal. She can talk about zombies, demons, and magic along with cooking and wine. She's funny and witty too. She's the whole package. Once you know her, you know that she's writing her way to success. 

Below are the questions I asked Christine:

1.    We met at a SCBWI writer's conference. Why do you attend them?
I love conferences. The energy put out by writers, the energy put out by the editors and agents, the smell of desperation in the air...oh no wait, that was the smell of coffee in the air, that's right! But seriously, I adore conferences. It may seem like you hear the same advice over and over - but sometimes it's that one-trillionth repetition that makes it click, that gives me that aha! moment. I love to learn. I'm ALWAYS learning.

2.    The cover of DEMON SOUL is electrifying. How many jackets did you see before this one was chosen? Did you get a say?

Thanks so much! I love it, too. If I had spoken up right away, I might have made a very slight change or two - but I was just so enthralled with my first cover that I gave it the okay. Apparently there were other covers before this one, but my editor nixed them before I saw them.

3.    With all the vampire hype out there right now, and agents/publishers saying they "don't want to see anything with a vamp", what do you think made your story get published?

My vampires aren't the main characters. They're the bad guys, all the way. Regarding why it got picked, I was incredibly lucky - I did an online pitch to Crescent Moon Press that included a 3 line pitch and the first 100 words. Heather Howland, the Acquiring Editor for Crescent Moon Press at that time, hated my pitch but she loved my first hundred words. She asked to see the first chapter; that evening she asked me to send her the full manuscript. But truthfully, if you write an unforgettable vampire novel, it will sell. You just have to find the right person to buy it.

4.    What draws you to write about demons and the other side? 

 It's less work. No, I didn't totally mean that - but, say, in historical romance which I absolutely love to read, there's so much RESEARCH to do. Writing paranormal books means I can make things up MY way, and no one can say I'm wrong. Of course, I try to keep the "real" as realistic as possible; my books are set in the Santa Monica area of Los Angeles, so I'm pretty careful about streets and such. That's one kind of research I really don't mind!

5.    Have you ever seen a ghost? A demon? An angel?  

I've met people that I would swear were angels on earth; likewise, I've met some truly evil people who could be described as demonic. I've never actually seen a ghost, but I've been in the presence of one a couple of times. They were family members, so their presence was comforting.

6.    Describe your book in 5 words. 

 "Know yourself, and you'll prevail."  Okay, that really describes Gabriel's journey, but there you go.

7.    What time do you wake and what do you eat for breakfast?  

I get up at the ungodly hour of 5:30am now that I have a day job again. For breakfast I either splurge on an egg, toast, and tomatoes, or I'll have yogurt and granola. Or oatmeal (yum!). Or a protein shake, if I'm really running late.

8.    Where did the name Gabriel Caine come from?  

Um, really good question. The name "Caine" came from one summer of unemployment when I watched an awful lot of "CSI-MIAMI",  and I really liked the name Horatio Caine. So I swiped the Caine from there. Gabriel was originally Rafael; I took a lot of flak about that name, which apparently has been used to death. So I finally switched it to Gabriel, being another "angelic" type of name.

9.    How many sales on your book have been ebooks vs. actual paper books?  

I have no idea!

10. Who is your biggest cheerleader?  

My husband, hands down. He's been urging me to write for 34 years; I finally got around to it 11 years ago.

11. What made you believe in yourself as a writer?

 My father is a writer, and so was my brother. I have a glib way with words; I used to love essay tests in history because I'd write reams. I'm convinced that I got an "A" in that class because the teacher didn't want to read my writing. Plus, having my dad around all day, selling books, writing constantly, while intimidating in a way was also very empowering. Especially when my brother started to sell, too.

12. Why did you write this book?  

I had just written a dark, urban fantasy. I wanted to keep a bit of the dark, but focus more on the romance. However, I didn't want to write the typical vampire or werewolf book. I wanted something different, so I chose tribreds - men with demon/human blood in them, with the gifts - and the traps - that come with it.

13. Is this your first novel you ever wrote? If not, how many others did you attempt before this one took over?

I've written 11 novels; this one was book 8. I've written two YA contemporary novels, and I'm working on DEMON HUNT, which is Gabriel's oldest brother's story. I've done probably 50 partials; stories that are waiting for me to get back to them.

14. How do you choose your characters? Friends you have now? Foes? Family members?

I don't. They kind of choose me. For instance, one of the characteristics of the Caine family is that they have ALL the bloodlines inside them, so they all look different - Gregor, the oldest brother, is black as night. Justin the middle brother looks Jamaican, with dreadlocks, and loves to surf. Kellan is slightly Native American looking, but with blond hair and tanned skin; and then there's Gabriel, with black hair and white, white skin.  What makes them noticeably brothers is in the set of their eyes, the breadth of their shoulders, their absurd sense of needing to "fix" things and protect those they love, and their height - all of them are 6'3" or taller.

15. Which character represents you, the writer, the most? Why?  

Magdalena de la Cruz. Not because of her curves or her height - I'd kill for both - but rather for her rich emotions. I'm the emotional type!

16. Do you have a preferred place to write? Coffee shop? Office? Car? 

 I love to write first drafts in my local Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf with my trusty MacBook. They have a "Time Out" corner, just big enough for a chair, a table, and it's right near an outlet. Give me my cup of coffee and my combo bagel with cream cheese, let me plug in my iPod, and I'm gone into the world.

However, when I revise and edit, I prefer to do it at home on my bigger screen. I do a lot of starts and stops when I revise, so being at home means I can find reasons not to write - do laundry, clean the kitchen, polish the ceiling - you know, typical avoidance behavior.

17. How can my blog readers help you to become an even bigger success?

Hey, Christmas is coming up - books make GREAT presents, lol!  Oh yeah, and feel free to stalk me on twitter @CCAshworth and at my website at . I blog about inexpensive wines on most Fridays, and keep folks up to date on where on the interwebs I'm roaming.

18. What is your favorite drink? Coffee? Tea? Water? Wine?  

Depends on the time of day. First thing in the morning? Coffee. After I'm done writing for the night? A glass of wine, please! Waking up in the middle of the night, I need water.  Of course, you can offer me a glass of chilly champagne at any time of the day, and I won't turn you down!

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

 Ah, that's a good one. I can't choose just one author. If you like historical romances, then you'll LOVE Jennifer Haymore. She's brilliant. 

For category romance, I really like Charlene Sands and Carol Ericson.

Lynne Marshall has a terrific new book out about an older, mis-matched couple - it's called ONE FOR THE ROAD. 

And a new face on the urban fantasy front is Darynda Jones, whose FIRST GRAVE ON THE LEFT is totally hysterical.  And of course, all my fellow writers at Crescent Moon Press are tops!

20. What word best describes you?  


21. Which character is least like you in your book?  

 Justin. He's so calm and cool; I'm not that way at all. Unless there's a huge emergency - then I'm cool as a cucumber, and fall apart after its all over.

22. If your book became a movie, what actors would play the main roles?

I'd love to see Carey Mulligan as Rose. Justin Chambers would be fantastic as Gabriel...not sure about the rest!

23. Who is the most proud of you?  

My daddy. Every time I call him, he says to me, "Is this my best-selling-author-daughter Chrissy?" I adore him!  (By the way, he's got a new book out, too - it's called Seal Team: North Korea Blowup, and his name is Chet Cunningham. I'm SO darned proud of him!)

24. What are your next projects? Current release dates? Titles?  

I'm working on DEMON HUNT, and  the third book in the series, which doesn't have a title yet; hopefully both books will be out next year.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Interview with Kate Avery Ellison: Author of The Curse Girl

Starting my own Twitter account was not high on my things-to-do list. With a book in revision, a SCBWI conference to help run, and agents to query, time is my most valued commodity. But I'm glad I did. I've met some wonderful and interesting new friends there, including Kate Ellison, author of The Curse Girl

I put a call out for interviews and she was the first to respond. I am so delighted she did. Right from the start her main character, Bee, draws you in. You want to know, you demand to know more! The writing is crisp, to the point, yet Kate weaves deep description all around you. 

I am only a few chapters in, but I can't stop reading and I love that about a book!!! Thank you Kate. You are the reason I read. You are the reason I write. 

Summary of The Curse Girl:
When Bee is imprisoned in a magical, cursed house because of her father's selfish choices, she has just one plan... escape! But in order to leave, she must solve a riddle and help her fellow prisoners break the curse that binds them all. And thanks to Will, the bitter young master of the house, the whole curse-breaking thing is proving difficult.

Will wants nothing to do with Bee or her help, and he certainly isn't planning on falling in love with her. But he might have underestimated just how determined, clever, and irresistible this Curse Girl can be.

Below are the questions I asked this talented young writer:

1.    We met through Twitter. How have you used it to promote your work?

I mostly use Twitter to interact with friends/writers/readers, although I do occasionally tweet about my books. I've definitely found some great promotional opportunities (like book bloggers) through it, and I always tweet about new releases, sales, and other news. It's a great tool for any author and a great way to spread information quickly.

2.    The Curse Girl is dedicated to Nikki. Who is she? 

Nikki is one of my best friends, and she is my "ideal reader." Essentially, I write my books with her in mind. If she likes the book, I know I've succeeded.

3.    The line, "I sat silent and immobile, a statue, a paper doll, a frozen thing of stone" is very powerful. What made you write it? 

I really wanted to convey the idea of numbness as that place beyond fear--she's on this horrible drive to the house of the beast, and there's no turning back, and she's being pushed to the very edge of her emotional limits.

4.    What made you write about this daughter and father?

Parent-child relationships fascinate me. They are so rich with nuances of both love and hurt. I'm especially interested in betrayal, and exploring that.

I do feel like I should add that I have an incredibly good relationship with my own father (who likes to joke that I was expressing some deep-seated rage at him for casting the father in such a terrible light!)

5.    The imagery you create in the first paragraphs really grips the reader. How did you write those scenes? Did you walk on gravel? Stand in front of a ghastly house? 

Sometimes I find a bunch of pictures to help my imagination while I'm writing, and sometimes I make an effort to experience a setting firsthand, but with this story it was just all in my head.

6.    Describe your book in 5 words.

If I can use five unconnected words, then "intrigue, magic, romance, enchantment, and forgiveness." If they have to be a sentence, then "Can Bee break the curse?" :)

7. How are you choosing to promote sales? Internet? Facebook? Book signings? And which one is working the best?

I mainly use the Internet, and I've seen the most success there. I don't use Facebook much personally, although I have had my book featured by a few Kindle-related Facebook accounts, like Kindle Lovers and Kindle on the Cheap, and I've seen some fantastic results with those promotional opportunities.

I participate on KindleBoards, in internet blogfests, giveaways on LibraryThing, and I've sent review copies to book blogs and written guest posts. I probably see the best results from being featured on websites, whether it's a popular book blogger or a book recommendation site like the Frugal E-Reader. Word-of-mouth is a great way to get the word out, too.

8. What made you believe in yourself as a writer?

The first time I wrote something that made someone cry.

9. How many revisions did this novel go through? 

Only two (which is a very low number for me). Usually I do between 3-4 revisions.

10. Did you ever want to give up?

Many times, and some days I still want to give up. Writing can be lonely, and I think everyone has those days where they feel like a hack. I keep a file of writer quotes by the greats, from Hemingway to Mark Twain to Anne Lamott--quotes where they're talking about how terrible their first drafts are or how many times they had to rewrite something. Stuff like that really encourages me, because it shows me I'm not alone.

11. Do you have a preferred place to write? Coffee shop? Office? Car?

I have a hard time writing in public places like coffee shops because I tend to pay attention to the people around me instead of the page in front of me, so I usually write at home. My favorite writing place at home is on the couch in my living room. It's beautiful in there. I have a ceiling-to-floor bookcase and big windows that let in tons of light.

12. How can my blog readers help you to become an even bigger success?

If they read my book and like it, add it to your Goodreads page or recommend it to friends! Word-of-mouth is the best way for a book to catch fire.

13. If someone said, "Your book changed my life." What would they be referring to?

Maybe the central theme, which is about love, hate, and forgiveness. I tried to convey the idea of how hatred can fester inside like a wound and cause more pain for both the hater and the person they hate. Love is a difficult choice, but it brings healing.

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

Two, actually. Robin McKinley is a huge influence on me personally, and she's one of my favorite fantasy writers. I'm also a huge fan of Maureen Johnson. She always has the perfect blend of humor and intensity.

15. What word best describes you?

Quirky . . . but that's mostly just a euphemism for "weird."

16. If your book became a movie, what actors would play the main roles?

I love casting my books! For The Curse Girl, I always pictured Caterina Scorscene (SyFy's Alice) as Bee... she has a strong, understated beauty to her. Will would be played by Blake Lee (Parks and Rec), and Rose would be played by Molly Quinn (Castle). They're all kind of lesser-known actors, and I like that.

17. Who is the most proud of you?

My husband, parents and siblings! They are always bragging about me in ways I don't deserve.

18. Where do your cats hang out when you are writing?

My silly kitties hang out wherever I do, because they are both little furballs of clingy neediness. If I'm in the living room, they sit on the couch with me or on the chairs beside it. If I'm in my office, they sit in the other office chairs or climb in my lap. They are very concerned about being left out of the action.

19. What are your next projects? Current release dates? Titles?

Right now I'm working on several things. I am writing a companion novel to The Curse Girl that's set in the same modern alternate universe/fairy tale world, starring different characters. It's kind of a loose retelling of Sleeping Beauty, but I really go off-script with it. It's more the story about Sleeping Beauty's sister and her attempts to break the sleeping curse. 

I'm in the process of revising a paranormal/mystery story (titled Nocturne) as well, and I'm working on a zombie novel. Hopefully both the companion novel (no title yet) and Nocturne will be available early next year.