Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Interview with Jordan S. Keller YA Sci-Fi Trilogy: Ashes Over Avalon

 

YA  Alert!

Interview with traditionally published 

Sci-Fi Superhero Trilogy Author

Jordan S. Keller

Ashes Over Avalon




Hello Readers,


I've been wanting to get another YA author on Teazurs for some time. I write both YA and MG and sometimes dabble in PBs, too. I love all KidLit books and promote them to my audience. But since I've been revising a middle-grade this past year, I've been focusing my reading and interviews there.


Well, I'm glad to change it up and cheerlead this YA Sci-Fi writer onto more success!


She's got 5-star reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. Check this superhero trilogy out—you won't be disappointed! I can't wait to read mine.




Hello, Jodan,

Thank you for being on Teazurs blog.


What initially sparked your interest in storytelling and writing?


I’ve always loved stories. As a kid, my parents and grandparents would tell me stories from their lives, and I loved listening to them. It’s what sent me on a journalism path in college—to hear more stories from more people. It was third grade when I started writing my own fictional stories, and I remember I had a notebook on me at all times to continue my “novels.” 

 

How did your background in print and radio journalism influence your approach to writing fiction?

Writing for a newspaper is so different than writing fiction. You are only concerned with the facts of the event and there is no room for flowery prose, character insights, or the drama that makes fiction so much fun. Journalism taught me to know what was most important to include in my fiction works, the who, what, when, where, and why, while also giving me appreciation for the more flowery prose. When I couldn’t write the fun things for work, I really made sure to include them in my books.   


Can you share a bit about your writing process? Do you have any rituals or routines? Or anything you keep on your writing desk?

Music is a huge factor in my writing process. I can write just about anywhere as long as I have music playing.


Each project has its own playlist

that acts as a soundtrack for the book

and helps keep the mood

and character voice consistent.


I love it when I find a song that perfectly matches a moment or feeling in the book.


If you'd like to hear the music used to create these books click here: Widlfire & Burnout




What inspired the creation of Abigail Turner and the superhero trilogy?

Abigail Turner is based on a Dungeons and Dragons character I played for almost two years after college. When we finished the game, I wasn’t ready to let her go, so I started writing scenes from the game and that turned into placing the character into different genres and worlds, and the superhero world stuck with me. Before I knew it, I had written over 30-thousand words and had a decent story structure. I never set out to write a novel with her or the world, but after seeing I could write that much, I decided to give it an actual try. 


How do you balance the elements of action, romance, and introspection in your storytelling?

At first, there was no balance. The first drafts of Wildfire were all action. I read a lot of comics and I mirrored the novel off of their fast pace and quick scene changes. Balancing the romance was easy once I started paying attention to how romance was done in some of my favorite books, and the introspection took the longest to work out.



There was a point

where I was going line by line

and jotting in the margins what Abigail

was feeling and thinking.


I only incorporated the notes that moved the story or character forward.   



What challenges did you face while writing the trilogy, and how did you overcome them? 

Originally, Wildfire was a standalone book and it wasn’t until I met my agent that we decided to turn it into a trilogy. The biggest challenge I faced was coming up with the next parts. I was so happy to write a happy ending for Abigail that knowing I had to jeopardize it for the next books was a mental hurdle for sure. I kept telling myself that she’d still have a happy ending… In book three. 


Another challenge I faced was keeping my motivation. There were a lot of times when I felt I wasn’t a skilled enough writer to capture what was in my head. Thankfully, I have a very supportive writing group that kept pushing me forward.



Are you a plotter or pantser? Please explain how you organize your novels. 


I’m a pantser through and through. I try to have a to-do list before I get started that includes a few important scenes that I shouldn’t forget, but I usually lose it halfway through the first draft. I like seeing where the story wants to go on its own. I know in draft 2 I can organize it and add in the proper foreshadowing so I try not to worry too much in the beginning. 


If I gave you a megaphone and the whole world would listen, what one sentence would you shout?


“Write your book!” 


In this journey, I’ve met many writers who felt they couldn’t find success and stopped writing their books. If you have a story in your mind, you should write it down. 



Can you tell us about the significance of the setting, San Arbor, in the series?

The setting in the Ashes Over Avalon trilogy is based on my hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio. There are a lot of downtown fixtures that make an appearance in book 2, Burnout, and I always think of the Great American Tower when I’m writing about the Hero Relief Center headquarters. I changed all the names though so that San Arbor could be any midwestern city. The name San Arbor was a spin on the name of a band I was listening to while writing the early drafts.  


What themes or messages do you hope readers take away from your books?

A major theme in Ashes Over Avalon that I hope readers will embrace is not giving up on a dream. Abigail’s dream was to become a hero, and even when it feels impossible, she doesn’t give up fighting for it. 


What role does the blog play in your writing journey, and do you plan to revive it in the future?

My blog is a fun place for me to play with ideas that might not make it into a long-form like a novel. As a writer, I don’t want to limit myself to just one form of writing, so having a place to share shorter forms of fiction is freeing. I also love being able to share writing advice that I’ve picked up through my writing group. If it can help just one person then I’m doing my job.


How did you decide between traditional publishing and self-publishing, and what advice do you have for authors considering both routes?

After querying Wildfire to agents for about two months without any success, I gave myself a deadline. If I hadn’t signed with an agent within the 12 months, I would self-publish. It was month 11 of my deadline when I met my agent, and after 83 rejections and several manuscript rewrites.




For authors considering both routes,

my advice is to figure out why you’re writing

and what is most important to you.


Self-publishing gives the author a lot more freedom with their finished product but without the guiding hand of an agent/publisher. Traditional publishing, on the other hand, offers more support in the release, but you may be asked to change parts of your book to make it more marketable. This is, of course, just what I’ve experienced in my own life. 


What kind of research did you undertake to ensure authenticity in portraying superhero dynamics and society? Did you come up with your own superhero rules or follow those already in place in society?

Thankfully, I’d done a ton of research before simply with how much superhero media I was naturally consuming. I’m an avid comic reader, and the employees at my local comic shop were always recommending new stories to me. I’ve always been interested in corporate-owned superheroes because I believe it’s how America would handle superheroes so I knew a lot of how I wanted the world to look before going in. It was difficult to make sure the superheroes didn’t overpower the police force and become the only law of the city, so knowing what rules the heroes had to follow was important. 


Abigail Turner faces moral dilemmas throughout the trilogy. How do you approach writing morally complex characters and situations?

I took a lot of what I’ve experienced personally and from experiences that people have shared with me. When writing characters, I find that keeping them truthful to an actual moment in my life keeps them grounded and helps their motivations feel real. 




Can you share any anecdotes or experiences from your time co-running The Central Cincinnati Fiction Writers Group? Do you recommend to new writers to find a writing group, and why or why not?

(We’ve updated our name to The Queen City Fiction Writers—thank you for reminding me I need to update that on my website!) 

If I could give new writers one piece of advice, it would be to join a writing group. Writing can be lonely, but being a writer shouldn’t be, and having a support system of people on the same journey is so helpful.


We all write in different styles and genres,

and exposing yourself to that is great

because you learn stuff

you didn’t know you didn’t know.


It’s also good to be able to share the early stages of a project and find out what’s not working before you get too far into it. The most important thing about the writing group is that we trust each other. If someone gives me “negative” feedback I know it’s not coming from an ill-place. They want to make sure my book is as good as it can be and we always state why we felt there was a problem and a solution to fix it. 

How do you incorporate feedback and critiques into your writing process? What would you tell newbie writers about getting critiques and altering their manuscripts?

 I follow the rule that if one person says something, then it’s their personal preference. But if two or more people say something, then it should be something to address.

Ultimately, it’s the author’s book and their choice but sometimes it can be hard to remove yourself from the words without a few people pointing it out. To all writers getting critique, especially if it’s your first time, you need to have thick skin. If someone says they don’t like something about your work, it doesn’t mean they don’t like you. And your work will not be for everyone, so some people’s critique will sound harsh or not make much sense because your book wasn’t for them to begin with. 




The trilogy explores the relationship between Abigail and Cinder. What inspired their dynamic, and how did it evolve as you wrote?

I knew I wanted to write a fun, enemies-to-lovers story, so I needed the love interest to be the opposite of Abigail. Plus, what romance would be complete without a bad boy? Everything that Abigail stood for, Cinder was against. The dynamic was interesting because I needed to make sure that they could still fall in love (and not just lust) despite their differences. When you start peeling back the layers of Cinder and why he believes what he believes, you can see his side of things and how he isn’t totally incorrect. 

How do you balance writing with other aspects of your life, such as family and pets? How do you unwind? What helps you stay strong and mentally fit for writing?

I never give myself an unrealistic writing goal. I’ve been doing a 500 word a weekday sort of thin when I’m drafting something new, and it’s amazing how quickly those 500 words can add up. I usually do this on my lunch break or at home after dinner when I’ve already blocked out a little time for me. Thankfully after a walk, my pets are pretty content to lay by my feet while I work. To stay fit while writing, I’ll always have a book with me. I try to read a chapter after a long writing sprint to refill my creative well.  


What's next for you after completing the superhero trilogy? Any new projects on the horizon?

I am so excited to announce that I’ve been working on a standalone science fiction young adult novel about kindness and forgiveness in a world that knows neither. We’re still a while before it’s published, but I love it and hope my readers do too. 



Are there any authors or books that have particularly influenced your writing style or storytelling approach?

There are three main authors that inspire me and my work. Maggie Stiefvater, her Raven Cycle books taught me about voice, Mindee Arnett, I learned so much about sentence structure and how to describe things in the moment without it feeling like an information dump, and Kristen Simmons, who is so inspiring to listen to at author talks.

How do you stay motivated and creative during the writing process, especially when facing challenges or writer's block?

It sounds counterproductive, but I always have two projects going on at once, so if I feel like I’m burning out on one, I have the second one to fall back on. It helps avoid writers block because usually I can figure out what was blocking me in project A while writing in project B. Plus, there’s nothing a dog walk can’t fix. I think I’ve solved all my plot holes while walking my dog and recording voice memos on my phone, so I don’t forget.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers who are just starting their own writing journeys?

Find yourself a writing group, or someone you trust to give you honest feedback, and finish your novel. No matter how far away that end goal is, you will get there and you will be so glad you did. 


How can my readers support you in your writing journey?

There are no book signings set at the moment, but when book 3 of the Ashes Over Avalon trilogy releases later this year you can find all of the event information on my Instagram or facebook, both under Jordan S. Keller Author. Following on Instagram is the best way to stay connected with me and my journey. I try to post updates on my current projects, publishing news, writing advice, and of course all sorts of puppy pictures.   

Awesome, Jordan! Thank you so much for this amazing interview. You shared some great advice for new writers and, actually, all writers. I can't wait to get your books. Female superhero - check. Opposites attract - check. Corporate America - check. You had me at female superhero - and then you just kept getting me excited to read your work!

And if you'd like to support Jordan on her writing journey - follow her on Instagram, where she shares more news and writing tips.


And as always, if you'd like to be interviewed - send me an email or message me on Instagram.

Write~on

Angie









Friday, April 5, 2024

Interview with Lindsay Flanagan Author of Anna Grey and the Constellation




KidLit Interview with 

Lindsay Flanagan


Author of 

AnnaGrey

and the Constellation


Welcome back, readers, writers, and illustrators! Today, we have Lindsay Flanagan with her middle-grade novel, AnnaGrey and the Constellation. She's enjoying a writing frenzy with multiple books coming out soon - interestingly related to AnnaGrey. 

Read her interview to find out more! And you might just learn how to leave your own trail of stars...


Hello, Lindsay,

What inspired you to write "AnnaGrey and the Constellation" and delve into the world of middle-grade fantasy? 


It began with a few different things. One, my daughter, who at the time was 5, came home from kindergarten in tears, saying that a boy had called her "weird." This broke my heart, but it also spurred me into action--and, since... 


the pen is mightier than the sword... 


and all that, I decided to write a story about a girl who is different from everyone around her, but it was those attributes that made her unique and powerful. 

The other inspiration came from a friend whom I always used to send unicorn stickers on Messenger. She told me I needed to write a story about the unicorn. Challenge accepted! Even though my unicorn became an aeobanach (because I wanted her to be more unique), the magical idea of unicorns is still there.




The Laéth Realm sounds like a fascinating setting. How did you create this magical world?


When I was a kid, we lived near big fields that had a grove of trees at the edge. My sister and I, along with all the neighborhood kids, would go play in the trees after school and in the summer. I always had a big imagination, and I just knew that there was a gate that would lead me to a magical world. I never found it, but I still fervently believe it exists, so I decided it to bring it to life in my stories.


If I gave you a megaphone and the whole world would listen, what one sentence would you shout? 


This comes from my book: 


"You should be you, brave, wonderful you, 

and run with it. Because when you run, 

you leave a trail of stars." 


Ok, that's two sentences, but you can't have one without the other!


AnnaGrey possesses a night-vision ability and encounters the mystical aeobanach creature. What inspired these magical elements, and how do they shape AnnaGrey's quest? 


I wanted her to have something that people could physically see that made her different. But I also wanted her to be able to see that it was a source of power. The fact that she can see in the dark is part of her power, but her true power comes from accepting who she truly is.




Which character or characters represent you, the author, in the book? 


I definitely think I'm like AnnaGrey. Although, I wish I was as brave as her! I always thought my red hair made me stand out. I got called names and was told red hair was ugly, but finally, one day, I decided to embrace it as part of what set me apart and made me different from most of the other girls at school.


"AnnaGrey and the Constellation" explores themes of friendship, bravery, and self-discovery. Why do you believe these themes are important for young readers? 


I think it's so important for kids to be able to discover who they are. They should be able to journey down all different paths to determine what they love, what they're good at, and what they want to end up being as adults. Without these opportunities, they might be put in roles that don't fit their souls. 

Friendship is always important because I don't think anyone truly wants to be or feel alone in the world. Knowing there are people who support you and are maybe going through similar things can be inspirational and uplifting.


Your upcoming book, "Little Red Wraith," is a young adult fantasy companion to the AnnaGrey series. Can you give us a glimpse into this story and how it connects to AnnaGrey's adventures? 


I am so excited for this book to be released. The story takes place sixteen years before AnnaGrey's adventure. It answers many of the questions that AnnaGrey (and readers!).) has about her parents.




As an editor, how does your experience in editing influence your writing process, and vice versa? 


Being a developmental and substantive editor has taught me more about story and prose than I think I learned, earning both my degrees! I mean, I had the foundation in classes, of course, but putting them into practice in other people's work has helped me see how my own stories can be better. Sometimes, though, I do find it hard to take off my editor hat while I'm writing. I am constantly chanting, 


"You can fix it later. You can fix it later!"


"The Forsaken" is a diverse collection of poetry, short stories, creative prose, and photography. What inspired you to compile this collection, and how do you approach different creative mediums? 


Thank you for asking about this! This collection of poetry, short stories, creative prose, and photographs was created over the span of more than 20 years. It's a collection of the best of my work that has shaped me into the author and editor I am today. I wanted to share the creative work I've done to show how much I've been changed as a person because of the art I've created.



What advice do you have for aspiring authors and editors who are looking to break into the world of publishing? 

Read widely in your genre, study writing craft books (there is always something to learn!), and network with other authors. It's so important to be invested in yourself, and you do that by being invested in your community.



Can you share any memorable experiences from a writing event, particularly interactions with young readers or aspiring writers?  


A few weeks ago, I was at a gaming conference as a vendor. I didn't expect to sell a lot of books, but I was happy to be there and to interact with the conference attendees. A young girl was drawn to my table by my book cover (and it really is so gorgeous, thanks to my amazing illustrator, Victoria Marble) and wanted to read it. Her parents weren't sure about buying it because they weren't sure she'd read it. But, they relented and bought the book. She came back in the afternoon and told me...


...she was already on chapter seven 

and was loving it. 


She thanked me for writing the book--and that is the best compliment and reward I've received from a reader. She was grateful I had shared my story with the world. I may have been in tears as she walked away.


"AnnaGrey and the Constellation" is the first book in The Laéth Realm Adventures series. What can readers expect from the next two books, "AnnaGrey and the Red Fox Girls" and "AnnaGrey and the War of the Crowes"? 


You'll see AnnaGrey embrace her destiny, meet new creatures in the realm, and have fun adventures. In Red Fox Girls, she's on a pirate ship for some time!




What motivates you to write stories that empower girls to embrace their unique traits and weave their own spells into the world? 


I think that, like many girls, I was made to believe, by the religion I was raised in, that women are subservient to men. But it still happens today that a woman's most redeeming quality is her looks or her ability to have and raise children. While I don't discount those roles (I am a mother, and it's my most precious role in the world), I want my girls to see that there are so many things about them besides their beauty and their bodies. They have brains and kind hearts and passions that can lead them to any magical world--including the one we live in.


How do you handle feedback and critiques, both as an author and an editor? 


Feedback and criticism can be difficult to take. But I am lucky in that I have selected beta readers and editors who I know have my stories' best interests at heart. They know how hard I work on these books, but they aren't afraid to tell me where it's lacking or to ask questions that force me to re-examine the work. Writing is hard. :)


In "AnnaGrey and the Constellation," AnnaGrey is tasked with convincing the bully, Cross Silverstone, to accompany her to the magical realm. What themes do you explore through their dynamic relationship? 


This is a complicated relationship! Both Grey and Cross must face jealousy, fear, anger, and hurt as they navigate a world where they are thrust together. They have to forgive and ask for forgiveness in order to save the kingdom. 

I wrote the first chapter of the book from Cross Silverstone's point-of-view to give readers (and myself) a better idea of Cross's background and how it shaped him into the bully he became. 

You can pick that chapter up for free here! https://authorlindsayflanagan.com/reader-magnet-copy-copy/




What do you hope readers take away from your books, particularly in terms of embracing their uniqueness and finding their own magic within? 


I hope readers close the book and realize they have so many qualities about them that make them unique and magical, that they matter in this world (and the magical ones), and that there is a place for them to leave their marks. I hope they know that, like AnnaGrey, they'll make mistakes as they go through life, but it's how they'll learn to cope with life.

 

What are your future writing plans beyond The Laéth Realm Adventures series, and do you have any other projects in the works? 


I have three additional books planned in the series. You mentioned AnnaGrey and the War of the Crowes, which comes after AnnaGrey and the Red Fox Girls. Two more books in the companion series will be coming out, too: Ashes, Ashes Falling Down, and Of Phoenixes and Falcons.


Finally, where can my readers find you next, and how can they best support you and your books? 


You can find me on my website (authorlindsayflanagan.com) or on Instagram (@lindsayflanaganbooksandpics). 

I'm taking the summer to spend time with my daughters and write, but I'm scheduled to be at FanX Salt Lake City in September 2024. You can sign up for my newsletter for updates and upcoming events!


Awesome, Lindsay! Thank you for sharing your thoughts on writing and on being brave. I was also taught women were second to men....absolutely NOT TRUE. I call them WrongTeachings. I am so proud that you are using your writer's voice to tell not only the world but also your daughters that the truth is we are all beautiful, all equal, and all needed for the world to become a happier and lovely place to live. 



Thanks for being on Teazurs Blog and if any of you readers are ready to be interviewed...reach out. Write~on, Angie