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

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Interview with Shevi Arnold: Why My Love Life Sucks: The Legend of Gilbert the Fixer

 I met Shevi via Facebook. I checked out her blog, and reached out for an interview. She's had an interesting life. She pulls from that when she writes. And, she's funny! I liked her right away, and you will too.

Below are the questions I asked her:

   1.     How did having an orthodox rabbi father influence your writing?
It did influence my writing in so many ways, but my dad isn’t exactly what you’d expect, so the influence probably isn’t at all what you’d think it is. My dad loves comedy, for example. He once took his congregation to the movies to see M.A.S.H., and he laughed harder than anyone. Being a middle child of six kids makes you kind of invisible, so I liked standing out by collecting funny things I heard on T.V., which I would later share at the dinner table on Shabbat. I loved making my dad laugh.

   2.     What words of advice did your Mother give you about writing that made a huge difference to you?
Earn a teacher’s certificate so you’ll have something to fall back on. I tried teaching for three months, and the stress just about killed me. It taught me that falling back is not an option. If you want to write—write!

   3.     Why write?
Because it’s the most fun thing you can possibly do. You can’t control everything in the real world, but you can in a story. Not every story has a happy ending in the real world, but you can give it one in your head. When I was little, I used to make up stories with tiny figurines, blocks, Legos and Tinker Toys. I did it because it was fun, and now I still do it, because it’s still fun.   

   4.     How many books have you written, and which one is your favorite?
I’ve written seven novels and 40 picture books, but so far I’ve only published three of the novels, with a fourth coming out soon. I have two favorites: Toren the Teller’s Tale and Why My Love Life Sucks, book one in The Legend of Gilbert the Fixer. Toren is about the magic of storytelling, and I consider it my magnum opus. I’ve been writing it in my head since I was 16 or 17. Why My Love Life Sucks, on the other hand, introduces my funniest character. I love Gilbert Garfinkle— literally to death. I just love spending time with him, taking me with him in my mind everywhere I go. He makes me laugh.

   5.     Describe your writing in 5 words:

   Funny, science-fantasy, geek fiction

   6.     What time do you get up and what do you eat for breakfast?
   My internal clock is messed up, so when I get up varies. My favorite breakfast is homemade gluten-free, non-dairy, no-sugar-added blueberry pancakes with sugar-free chocolate almond milk. (I have stomach problems that limit what I can eat.)

   7.     Who/What are you reading right now?
Your questions…and my answers. Just kidding. What am I reading right now . . . ? (goes to check) Oh, yeah, I recently bought a couple of calendars. One has Dave Barry classics, and the other has dialogue fromThe Office. The second one is really funny. And I’m going through this huge stack of comic-strip collections I bought myself as a Hanukkah present.

   8.     What do you like best: Writing or Drawing?
I prefer writing to drawing. I feel I get closer to my vision in writing than I do when I draw. If you’re a writer-illustrator, you’re probably nodding your head right now. I think most visual artists are tough on themselves. We all want to be Van Gogh or Rembrandt, but of course we’re not. I also don’t have the patience to work on one piece of art for more than a day, but I can spend an entire year editing a novel without getting bored of it. Still, I love projects that involve both. Toren the Teller’s Tale, for example, has illustrated chapter headings.

   9.     Explain to others how you write humor. What makes you laugh? 
  Writing humor is easy. It’s all about surprise. Just set up an expectation and then go against it.

Have you ever seen When Harry Met Sally? There’s a scene at the end when Sally tells Harry she really, really hates him, and you can tell by the way she’s saying it that she means she really, really loves him. Now that is hysterically funny! We all know the expectation. It’s a love story, and we know she loves him. But she doesn’t say, “I love you.” She says the opposite of that, and when she does, the smile on his face tells you he knows what that really means. That is brilliant comedy.
Lots of things make me laugh. The Princess Bride is my favorite movie, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is my favorite book, and The Big Bang Theory is my favorite TV show currently on the air.  I love standup comedy and comic strips. I will laugh at almost anything funny provided it has the element of surprise, although I don’t like humor based on cruelty, embarrassment, or…certain bodily functions. (They make me sick to my already weak stomach.)

 10. What's the deepest thought you ever had about art? Why do we need art in our lives?

   Toren the Teller’s Tale is about the magic of stories, which means my deepest thought about art is over 500 pages long. In short, though, it’s that—if the Many Worlds theory of physics is true— we don’t make up stories, because our stories already exist somewhere out in space. Many scientist today actually believe that. All we do as storytellers is act as a spyglass into those worlds, letting our audiences see other parts of the universe as they really are. Kind of cool, isn’t it?
As to why we need art in our lives, art shows us possibilities. It opens up our worlds and gives us options we might have never realized existed otherwise. For example, a teenage girl who reads Toren the Teller’s Tale might discover that she too has a story worth telling. Or someone who reads The Legend of Gilbert the Fixer might discover that he has it within himself to fix the world.

  11. Who is your biggest cheerleader?
It depends on the book. A member of my former critique group is Toren’s biggest fan; my husband is a strong supporter of the anti-bullying message of Dan Quixote: Boy of Nuevo Jersey; and my daughter isGilbert the Fixer’s biggest fan. She knows some of the stories of the books that will come later in the series, because she demanded to know.

  12. You list 8 previous jobs on your website, which one was your favorite and why?
I loved being an editorial cartoonist, because I got to express myself in words and drawings while making people laugh; but I also loved being an arts-and-entertainment writer, because I got to see shows I enjoyed and write about them for a living; and I loved being a consumer columnist, because I knew I was helping people make smarter shopping choices. I think every paying job I’ve had in newspapers and magazines has been a pleasure. I couldn’t pick one favorite.   

  13. Who else influenced you with your writing?
Pretty much every storyteller whose work I’ve absorbed has influenced who I am as a writer, no matter the medium and regardless of whether I did or didn’t like their work. Sometimes, I feel I learn more from stories I don’t like than from ones I do. When I don’t like something, I feel a need to fix it. Some of the best stories can come from that. Ride of Your Life, for example, was inspired by a real life tragedy: the Great Adventure Haunted Castle fire that killed eight teenagers in 1984. I wanted to give it a happy ending, and Ride of Your Life—the story of teenage ghosts who meet and fall in love in an amusement park—was the result.

  14. Do you belong to any writer's associations? If yes, which ones and why?
I belong to the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI). The first agent I ever talked to in an effort to sell my novels suggested it. It’s a great organization. I found my critique group through the SCBWI, and I’ve attended several SCBWI workshops and conferences where I’ve had my work critiqued by agents and editors. SCBWI members are some of the nicest, most supportive people on earth. If you write for children or teens, I highly recommend it.

   15. What do you think about critique groups?
I used to moderate a critique group, so I guess I’m biased. I think they can be great, provided you’re in the right group for you. My group, FantasyWeavers, was—and is—wonderful. I moderated the group for about eight years, but eventually it got to the point where if one member said I needed to make a scene funnier, someone else said I needed to make it less funny. At that point, I realized the group wasn’t giving me anything I couldn’t give myself, so I stepped down and gave another writer a chance to be the moderator. She’s doing a great job, and I now have more time to devote to my own writing and editing.    

  16. Give 3 quick pieces of advice for newbie writers/illustrators:
1. Take apart every story—whether it’s in a book, a TV show, an article, an illustration, or even a song—and try to work out how each part makes you feel and why. Do you feel the story has too much or too little exposition? How do you feel about the main character? As a reader, did you feel rewarded or cheated by the way the story ended? Apply what you’ve learned to your own work.

2. Don’t aim to get it perfect; aim to get it done. You can edit a badly written page, but you can’t edit any empty one.

3. Humor makes everything better, and the secret to humor is surprise. If you find the next thing in your story is obvious, don’t write it. Instead write the opposite of that, and then work out a way it makes sense.

  17. Where do you go to get a great cup of Joe or an amazing cup of Tea in your town?
Dunkin Donuts. We have several nice coffee houses, but Dunkin Donuts still has the best. I don’t know about tea.

  18. You listen to music when you write. Why? How does it help you?
Three reasons:
First, the right music sets a mood. Between writing sessions, I love listening to songs that fit my characters or certain scenes. It helps bring the story to life in my mind.
Second, it’s white noise, so it helps prevent other noises from distracting me.
Third, it can help keep my internal editor in check when I’m writing a first draft. My internal editor is great, but if I let it, it would scream, “Hey, you missed something back there,” every other sentence. Listening to music drowns it out. I usually prefer soundtracks while I’m writing or editing, because music with words can be distracting.

   19. Why do you enter writer's contests? How have they helped your goals?
The way I see it, why not enter a writing competition? Winning third-place in SmartWriter’s W.I.N. (Write It Now) contest in the YA category—which was judged by Alex Flinn, the author of Beastly andCloaked—won a lot of positive attention for my entry, Ride of Your Life. Seven out of the ten agents I sent it to asked for the full manuscript. I think if I hadn’t decided to go indie, I could have sold it to a traditional publisher. Getting to the quarter-finals of the ABNA (Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award) gave readers a chance to check out the first chapters of Why My Love Life Sucks, which brought me a few new fans. If you have something to submit and you can go in without expectations, do it. You won’t know how well you’ll do until you try.

  20. What one word best describes you?

  21. Any big news?
I am as excited as a tech geek with a new gadget to announce that I have just finished the final edits of Why My Love Life Sucks and will be indie publishing it soon. Expect to see it in Amazon, BN and other online retailers in February.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Interview with Robert Ruisi: Author of I Done it Yeah, I did it!

I met Robert via Facebook. I reached out for an interview because I loved his children's books and their illustrations. 

Robert's a big kid! And who better to write for children? He's also pretty darn interesting too. With 70 books done, and still trucking along, you will learn a ton from him!! Please check out his site at the end of this interview for more information.

Below are the questions I asked him:

 1.    Describe your writing in 5 words: 

  Not sure, unedited!

 2.    You say to cherish the smaller things in life. What things do you appreciate? 

  Oh, mine fills books, but to give a glimpse; the smile on a child’s face when we see something for the first time. The laughing in halls as they race down to see who is really going to win, or the look in a dogs eye that wants to join in on all of the fun. Those are only a small few of the smaller things that I appreciate.  

 3.    Why write? 

  I am driven to write. I have no clue no rhyme or reason to something comes over me and I just have to write almost as if someone hits me on the head and says take this down, RIGHT NOW!

 4.    How many books have you written and in what genres? 

  65 books for kids, 1 YA The Three Letters, and 4 others; The Panhandler Diaries, The Unknown Stories, Dancing into the Fog, and last The Hitchhiker. 

  Seventy in all, not all of the children’s stories are published yet it takes time doing the illustrations, but little by little they will be.

 5.    You write about serious topics that kids go through, like adoption. How did you research for this book? 

  Most of my stories are not as serious as “The Green Book.” That strikes a serious note because I myself was adopted and we do have identity issues. And others? 

  Researching a child’s mind is rather easy I just have to open mine up! We might put on bigger shoes and great big clothes but just under the surface there is that little kid just waiting and wanting to come out to play.

 6.    Which book is your favorite and why? 

  Honestly, I could not begin to tell you which one is my favorite. Each story has something to say in its own little way.

 7.    Do you belong to any writer's associations? If so, which ones and why? 

  No, actually I do not belong to any but I know that most should. Birds of a feather do perform best when they flock together.

 8.    What time do you get up and what do you eat for breakfast? 

   I normally wake up around 3 AM have no idea why, and rarely do I eat breakfast.

  9.    Who is your biggest cheerleader? 

  That is a hard one to answer I could say my daughters or my grandchildren but I think the biggest cheerleader is someone that leaves a review.

 10. What do you think about the publishing world today? 

  You do not want to get me started here. It has its good points and it has its bad points. There are still too many predators floating about taking advantage of the unsuspecting writer. 

   A publisher’s job is to sell and print books. Sell being a keyword. If a publisher is not marketing the correct way it is hurts the writers that they bring aboard. 

  There are two very important areas that a writer should check before jumping aboard with a publisher; what is their reputation and what are they going to do for me? Promises are easily thrown into the air. They are only baited hooks.  

 11. How has self-publishing opened or closed doors for creative people?

   I think self-publishing is key, today. I suggest to do that first and then look for a good agent and publisher; they can open the rest of the doors to a writer.

 12. Do you use a professional editor? 

   I do with some stories but not the children’s. Humbly said, I have a line waiting to do them!

 13. Where's the best place to get a great cup of Joe or Tea in your town? 

  My oldest daughters’ house, she makes the best!

 14. What is your writing process like? How do you begin? 

   I don’t have a process. I am almost forced to write. It’s like having a brick thrown at your head with a “write this down or else!” attached to the brick.

 15. Are you a linear writer? Or do you jump all over? 

   Linear I guess best fits the question. I can’t stop writing until a story is done. Weird process I go through with one stories I was up for days…five plus and still could not sleep until it was completed.

 16. Who was the best influence on you, in your past, for writing? A teacher? Parent? Sibling?

   My mommy! She raised me you know, and if I said anything else she’d swat me right side the head. lol

 17. What one word best describes you? 

  Oh I should not answer this one! I am a bit of a child myself and you would not want me to get too carried away with what I might say!

 18. What is your hope for your writing in the future? 

  Only that it is enjoyed.

 19. How do you promote your books? Which way do you believe is the best? 

   I cannot answer this one but I am working on it for every author.

 20. Give 3 great pointers for newbie writers: 

  Write with your heart if you have to sit down and figure out what you are going to write stop. Let yourself be driven by your heart to write!

 21. Any big news? 

  Yes actually I do. I am not sure if you should use this or not… January 26th 9:40:28 PM est time at Bookmark it now!!

  This is where authors, publishers and others in the literary community can share their services and sell books making 100% of their sales! Now that is amazing.

  Book-Spot opens to the public February 10, 2013 at 12:22:46 AM New York time

The next book being released is The Unknown Stories it is for the mature YA readers I was shocked when I was told that it was very poeish!  

Humble Thanks,
Robert Ruisi - author of the "I done did it. Yeah, I did!" series

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Eavesdropping : It's your job!

The number one rule when a writer is out and about is: EAVESDROP

And make sure you have a notebook, or device to write conversations down!

eavesdrop |ˈēvzˌdräp|verb ( eavesdrops, eavesdropping ,eavesdropped no obj. ]secretly listen to a conversation: she opened the window just enough to eavesdrop on the conversation outside.DERIVATIVESeavesdropper nounORIGIN early 17th cent.back-formation fromeavesdropper (late Middle English)a person who listens from under the eaves, from the obsolete nouneavesdrop the ground onto which water drips from the eaves, probably from Old Norse upsardropi, fromups eaves + dropi a drop.
__________________________________________The saying that life is much more fantastic and unbelievable than fiction is often true. All you need to do is listen to conversations around you to believe it. People, not just children, say the funniest, oddest, and most disturbing things. And, I have the evidence.

Here is a list of odd sentences that I have overheard from random citizens:
1. "My dad always said we got Dubois, where's Dugirls?"
2. "She was green from a migraine headache."

3. "You can use big words in picture books, but they have to float off the tongue."

4. "I am just wild. I mean, maybe I'll have two dinners tonight."

5. "A poem should be like a sturdy toaster, you should be able to take it apart and put it back together and it should still function."

6. "Does sex in brackets work for you?"

7. "Laid off, so there could be x opportunities out there for me."

8. "For all I know he's a slob that kicks holes in the walls and raises goats in his living room."
9. "Daddy threw my poppin doll. Bam! He does not like my little doll cause he threw him. And, I laid on him and cried. He would not like it if I threw something of his."
10. "She hung her head as if the stem of it were broken."
11. "Yes, for Dick I will do anything."
12. "This espresso is yuck! It's garbage! This is garbage!"
13. "What happened? His back is all red. Did you hit him?" - "No. I didn't hit him, Mommy. And, I didn't step on him either."
14. "As long as my line gets wet, I'm content." (in reference to fishing)
15. "He's metrosexual in a tough guy way."
16. "That's so sorority chic of you!"
17. "I was always curious of death."
18. "Words are just words, you give them power."
19. "Why is it when you call a woman a slut, she gets so offended?"
20. "I don't like the woods, they are spooky."- "Tiger woods, I presume."- "No the woods woods."
21. "It's a good thing a keyboard doesn't run out of ink."
22. "I know I'm not gay, but I don't want to kiss a girl."
23. "Getting sick of this script." - "Never mind, I like this script again."
24. "OMG today was so awesome. I got a great deal on a mani/pedi and rockstar parking at the mall."
25. "No matter how hard you try to stay ahead of technology, they always get you."
_______________________________________As you can tell from some of the odd, funny, and plain disturbing bits of conversations, people are great at coming up with odd groupings of words. My favorite all time sentence is #8: That was from a man in his 40's sitting with a co-worker in an Olive Garden back East. I had to write that down!So, pay attention when you are out there. Write down what you hear. You may just get the first line of your next novel.
Write~On Angie

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Interview with Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy: Author of Romance Novels

 I met Lee Ann via Facebook. The titles of her romance novels caught my eye, as well as some of the pictures. Wink. Wink. 

Lee Ann's been writing for some time, and she's got some pointers to reveal. She'll also be the first person to tell you, it takes time, it takes persistence, and it takes love of craft. 

Below are the questions I asked her:

1. How many books have you written and been published?

At the end of 2012, I had twenty-nine.  Length ranges from full-length novels of 70-80K to some novellas and shorts.  I also have seven contracts (so far) in place for 2013 with my first release coming January 17.  I have a release each month January through May at this time.

2. How long did it take you before you got your first book deal?

It took years.  I've written most of my life and although I managed to collect a variety of credits, my long term goal was always to write fiction, especially novels.  When my twin daughters were toddlers, I decided to get serious about writing novels.  I wrote several and then began to submit about six years ago.  I've been published as an author for two and my daughters will be seventeen in February 2013.

3. Describe your writing in 5 words:

For me, it's reading intensified.

4. What time do you get up and what do you eat for breakfast?

I get up early - somewhere between 4 and 5 am most days.  I either eat oatmeal or a toasted bagel with cream cheese.  I might occasionally cook some sausage or add an egg.

5. Why romance? Where do you get your ideas?

I've always read a little bit of every genre but when I started writing fiction, I realized I wrote love stories so my focus shifted toward romance.  

My ideas come from any and everywhere.  In The Shadow of War came from living where Camp Crowder, the real "Camp Swampy" from Mort Walker's Beetle Bailey comic strip is set.  Some of my other historical romances have roots in my grandparents' stories.  Sometimes I just begin with an image.

6. What is your writing process like? Do you use an outline? Do you write main points down? Or, do you just write?

When I begin, I know where the story begins and how it will end.  Sometimes I will outline or jot down key points.  Most of what happens between beginning and end just happens - I let the story unfold as it comes.

7. Do you use a writer's program, like Scrivener or Final Draft? If so, which one and why? If no, do you think you will try one in the future?

I never have - probably won't.  The reason is so far, the way I write works for me and if it works, why change it?

8. Where do you go for a great cup of Joe/Tea in your town?

Green Forest Family Restaurant.

9. What is your favorite quote?

It's handed down from my grandfather to my father and to me - There is no such thing as can't because you can do anything if you put your mind toward it.

10. What genre (contemporary, historical, paranormal) is the most challenging for you to write, and why?

I love writing historicals because I am an absolute stickler for accuracy.  My degree is dual in history and English so I am adamant about making sure everything is correct.  And that takes time and effort.

11. Where are you weakest in your writing, and how have you strengthened it?

Punctuation - my commas have been so out of control but I'm learning, thanks to some wonderful editors (including Dawn Lyons) to put them where they belong.

12. Are there any teachers in your past that helped you to become the writer you are today?

There are several.  The first is my high school English teacher, Gary Sims.  He encouraged me to write when I was a somewhat shy, a bit of rebel teenager who identified with the characters from SE Hinton'sThe Outsiders.  He praised my writing and encouraged me. I dedicated one of my novels to his memory. 

So did Dr. Lanny Ackiss, one of my professors at Missouri Southern State College.  He's the first person who told me I had the potential to really become a writer but it was up to me if I did or not.

13. Who is your biggest cheerleader?

I have a whole team - husband and family, a huge cast of cousins, a lot of people from my hometown (St. Joseph, MO).  My dad, who died in 2009 before any of my books were out was my biggest cheerleader, always.

14. What time of day do you write? Where/When do you find the time with 3 kids, a husband, and a dog?

I write all around the clock.  Sometimes I write late at night when the house is quiet. I was up doing edits at 2:30 am this morning.  On an average day, I usually write in the morning after they all head off to work/school...and then sometimes I go back to it later.

15. Have your children read any of your books? If no, why? If yes, what was their reaction?

My teenage daughters have - they like them but I think some of the sex embarrasses them.  My son, age 12, read one of my tamer ones.  

16. What do you think about the publishing world today? Will eBooks take over real books? Should everyone go out and publish something?

I think the publishing world is in a transition period.  I think eBooks are gaining but many people still love print.  I read both but I love my e-reader because I can carry around a lot of books in one device.  

I don't think everyone should rush out and publish.  I love to give new authors a try but some of the self-pubbed stuff I read needs so much editing.  Once in awhile, though, to be fair I run across a beautiful work.  If you don't have the heart and soul to give writing everything you've got, better stick to the day job.

17. You mention being born in a small town where outlaws lived and died. How does this affect your writing?

I'm from St. Joseph, Missouri.  History is so rich in my hometown.  St. Joe is best known for the place where the Pony Express began and outlaw Jesse James met his death at the hands of a friend but there's much more.  

Local history is full of outlaws, prostitutes, exciting events, and history that was made.  And yes, it affects my writing very much.  

Guy's Angel is set in St. Joe circa 1925, in the old neighborhood, not of my generation but my parents and grandparents.  My 1930's historical, Dust Bowl Dreams includes a sojourn for the hero in St. Joe.  My upcoming contemporary novel, Urban Renewal (March 3, Champagne Books) is set in St.Joe.  

I listened to the old people tell their stories and absorbed a lot of history.  And for my sins, I'm related to some of the most flamboyant local figures including well=known madam and bordello operator, Lizzie King.

18. How do you promote your books? And, which way works the best?

I promote with social networking, on my blogs, by guest blogging. I've done local/regional television and radio.  I do Blog Talk radio.  If I could know without doubt what works best, I could share it and make a million!

19. Please give 3 points of advice for newbie writers:

1. Write on a regular basis even if it's fifteen minutes a day.  

2. Don't give up but don't be afraid to learn and improve. 

3. Be prepared to work long and hard to make the dream come true.

20. Do you belong to any writer's associations? If so, which ones and why?

I am a member of Missouri Writers Guild, which is a professional writers' group in my home state. Publication is required to become a member. 

I also belong to the regional group Ozark Writers League and also to Romance Writers of America.  I belong to them for the valuable networking, the information I can glean from the various publications and conferences, and to stay up with the industry.

21. What one word best describes you?


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

Take time to read of one my works - and afterward, express their honest opinion.  Take a moment to rate the work at Amazon or Barnes and Noble or All Romance Ebooks or Good Read.  Reader feedback is one of the most valuable things a writer can gain.

23. Do you belong to a critique group? If so, why? If no, why?

I have - in fact, a girlfriend (she's more of an editor than a writer these days) I went to college with and I started one in the small town where I now live (Neosho, MO) at the local junior college.  It eventually fizzled out.  Now I have several beta readers I trust and use.

24. What is your blog about?

A Page In The Life is just that - a little slice of everyday life.  I write about everything from my writing to holidays to family.  Rebel Writer: Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy is a showcase for my Rebel Ink Press titles.  And the other blog, Author in The House, is to showcase other authors.

25. Any big news?

Now that we're into 2013 I am proud to announce I am part of something new with Rebel Ink Press - the Rebel Elite 2013 team.  There are seventeen - I think - of us and it's an accomplishment to be named as one.