Joe Vampire and Author Steven Luna


Who is Steven Luna?  That is the question I was asking myself after doing my initial research for this interview.  Not much is said about the man behind Joe Vampire, and I was determined to find out.  Although some of these questions are like the ones I usually ask some of my authors, I like to change them around a bit, and whittle them with my chisel to fit the author I am interviewing.

This week, when I received the answers to my questions, I found myself literally laughing out loud.  Steven Luna, is funny, however, I tend to believe that behind every “funny guy” lives a heart of gold.  Steven Luna is one of them.

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The Interview

How would you describe yourself with 5 words using the letters J, F and C?

Jovial, jackass, fun, creative, cooperative

When and why did you begin writing?  

I’ve always been language-minded, and I started writing poetry and simple stuff in grade school.  I moved on to short stories – horrible short stories – in high school.  And all along, I worked on illustrated story books that I hoped to publish for children.  But I didn’t really get the hang of writing a full-on novel-sized story until about eight years ago.  Once it clicked, I realized I have no choice but to write.  I write something every day, even if it’s just a few lines.  I write in my head all day long.  It’s totally a state of being for me.  It is me.  And I love it.

Do you have a specific writing style? 

Prior to Joe Vampire, I wrote only for middle-grade readers, and everything had an element of fantasy or magical realism.  I didn’t know if I could manage writing for grown-ups without having it sound awkward.  Then Joe came along, and I figured out a method for doing it, which really has carried into other stories.  So if I had to call it a style, I think I’d go with “sarcastic dude-lit”, since my main characters tend to be snarky, honest, contemporary guys stuck in complicated situations and handling them with humor and heart.

Tell us about your book Joe Vampire and Who is Joe Vampire, really? 

Joe Vampire is about a regular guy just getting back in the swing of things after a bad break-up.  Through a misunderstanding on a group date, he ends up becoming a vampire and ultimately decides to blog about the truth of it, to tell the world that nobody sparkles and girls don’t clamor to hang with you once this happens.  It’s not a traditional vampire novel…it’s really not a vampire novel at all.  It’s just a story about a good guy who gets dealt a bad hand, and who’s determined not to let it keep him from having a happy life – even as everything starts falling apart for him.  And Joe himself is the “everydude”: Joe Anyone, Joe Average.  Joe Vampire.  He’s honest to a fault, and a little too sensitive at times.  He considers himself a people pleaser, but he also tends to call out the bullies and try to knock them down a peg or two.

I asked Mr. Luna to compare himself to Joe Vampire:

Joe Vampire loves to keep a low profile and hide in the crowd compared to Steven Luna who loves to open his big mouth and make a fool of himself whenever possible.

What are your current projects and latest news ? 

I just finished writing Joe’s sequel, Joe Vampire 2: The Afterlife.  It’s with some beta readers right now and will soon be turned into my awesome publisher Booktrope for editing.  But first, we’re gearing up for the Booktrope re-launch of the first Joe Vampire sometime mid-summer.  He’ll be in paperback for the first time.  And I’m throwing down notes for a story about a rock star alien abductee.  Totally different stuff, but just as much fun to write as Joe.  Hopefully as much fun to read, too.

I see you have a new cover for Joe Vampire tell us about it? (feel free to plug your friend LOL)

Ha! A friend of mine named Ryan Ashbaugh plays the role of Joe Vampire on the new cover.  Ryan’s a really cool guy who had thrown in some plastic fangs and slapped on a set of Ray Bans for a Joe Vampire release party I had at work back in February.  He was a great fit for the part, so I asked him if he’d be willing to star on the new cover.  Another friend, the lovely Shannon Motley, agreed to play Chloe working away in the background.  I think they’re just the new blood Joe needed (that’s probably a pun).

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing, and how do you keep it so witty? 

The most challenging aspect of writing for me – especially when writing Joe – is to separate his voice from mine.  A lot of what he says is based on real-life occurrences, and it’s easy to start sounding like Steven Luna when I have him rattle off one of his philosophies or smart remarks.  He is not me, and I am not him, but we’re very similar.  This makes it really easy to just roll with whatever he’s talking about at the moment.  And thank you for considering what I write to be “witty”!  That sort of sharp-tongued, sarcastic patter is sort of a second language for me.  If we were to have a conversation, you’d hear a lot of JoeSpeak from my side of things.

What inspires you? 

As far as writing is concerned, I’m inspired by the psychology of people and how it plays into their interactions with others around them.  I love flawed characters – reading them, writing them and watching them work their way out of big situations.  As far as life in general, I’m inspired every time I see someone with a dream to follow and the determination to let nothing stand in their way in making it come true.   That never fails to push me to work harder to make mine come true – and I love putting that same energy into trying to help others achieve theirs as well.

What do you do when you are NOT writing? 

I’m hanging with my wife and kids, each of us saying and doing completely ridiculous things in an attempt to be funnier than anyone else.  It’s great exercise for when I get back to writing.  I’m a big movie fan, and I’m usually in front of a screen somewhere, digging into whatever DVDs I can wrangle up.  I usually try not to read while I’m writing – out of superstition, mostly – so I’ll catch up on all the great stuff being pushed by indie and small-press authors.  And I like naps.  Like, a lot.  Good stuff.

Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

The book – which actually began as a character blog – was very much intended as satire, and was originally meant to be much less literary than it ended up.  But as I wrote Joe and figured out his motivation, he emerged as a very likable and relatable character – very real.  As the surrounding characters interacted with him more and more, they become grounded in reality as well.  And then the book became something more than a satire; it became a real novel with a genuine story, sweeter and more touching overall than I thought it would be.  The humor was always intended, but the emotional depth it ended up having was a pleasant surprise.  So I think what I learned from all of it is that no matter what your plan is, and regardless of what you think you’re trying to do when you tell a story, you should always be open to letting it unfold and seeing where it takes you.  It might be cooler than the one you planned on writing.

Do you have any advice for new writers young and old? 

Jump in.  Write every day – something, anything: a sentence, an idea, an image.  Just write.  Read everything – EVERYTHING – you can get your hands on, and study what a story actually looks like, and sounds like, and feels like.  Eventually, it’ll become ingrained in your creative process, and you’ll be able to create better stories because of it.  Let others read your work and keep an open mind to their critiques; they are your audience, and you want them to get what you’re trying to say.  Don’t be afraid to self-publish; electronic media has made it ridiculously possible for you to turn your story into a book all on your own.  Be ready to push your work to the world.  It’s not going to sell itself.  And, most importantly: keep your sense of fun.  If you’re not writing because you love to write, then why are you writing at all?

Fun Questions: 

What would I find in your refrigerator right now?

Leftover enchilada casserole; grapefruit and orange juice; a can of ReddiWhip with a clogged top;  many, many bottles of flavored coffee creamer.  And a boatload of vegetables.  I think there must have been a sale…

If you had to give yourself a “theme song” what would it be and why? 

Not that it’s a particular favorite, but “Joker” by Steve Miller Band seems to sum up my personality.  There’s rarely a moment when you’ll get a proper answer from me without some sort of smart-alek stuff preceding it.  It’s sort of bred in my DNA.  I just go with it these days.  Makes for good book material.

How do you compare apples and oranges, truthfully? 

It’s all about the juice, kids.  It’s all about the juice.  (I have no idea what that means. I’m happy with my answer, though.)

Who is your favorite super hero and why? 

Superman, hands down.  He was the template for all the other superheroes, and he knows the right thing to do and doesn’t waver from it.  He’s about the only unflawed character I can accept.  He might want to rethink the red Speedo thing by now…I guess that’s kind of a flaw, huh?

Favorite pizza toppings?

Thai chicken, especially whatever the magical sauce they put under the toppings is.  That stuff can make you see into the future.  It’s incredible.

Where to purchase your book Joe Vampire? 

Amazon   Barnes and Noble

Steven Luna was relatively quiet when he was born; that all changed once helearned to speak. Now? Good luck getting him to shut up. He’s also known for not giving straight answers, but those around him are accustomed to ignoring him anyway, so it all works out.  He’s currently writing another book…really, though, aren’t we all?

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kFind Steven Luna and his work on:

Amazon  *  Facebook  *  Twitter  *  GoodReads  *  Barnes&Noble

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Tomorrow, Friday June 29th, is the launch of my new website.  

Yes Muse In The Valley is moving!  

There will be giveaways! You can find the prizes HERE.  So be sure to log on to https://bestisyettocome.wordpress.com and I will provide the detour.   You can also follow my FACEBOOK page for the play by play.  Looking forward to seeing you!

Until tomorrow!

I Say Goodbye, and I Say Hello!


This will be my last personal post here at https://bestisyettocome.wordpress.com.  Friday I am switching over to a “secret” location.  A blog with my own domain, a more personal and sacred place which better reflects my readers and the work I have done.
Don’t you worry, I will Tweet, Facebook, and even come to this address Friday to redirect you to the new site.  I will keep this blog open for a year, since Pattie Lee, the lovely woman behind all the work on the new place, has imported all my archives to the website I call my sanctuary.

THANK YOU PATTIE!!!!

Pattie Lee, find her blog here, is one of the most kind-hearted, funny, loving, and hard-working women I have met online.  I, Kim Larocque, thank Pattie with all my heart.  Not only has she put up with me fooling around at the new site, to then later have to clean up my mess, she has guided me throughout this whole experience.  She even made a personal tutorial through ADOBE to show me the ropes of html and all those codes I have no clue about.  I message her at least once or twice a day with a question and she always happily answers me.  Pattie generously gifted me the new site and domain.  I am grateful for her love and support throughout this transition.

It’s all about moving forward!

Speaking about transitions, I honestly feel a bit nostalgic writing this last personal post.   It is not really about saying goodbye to you, my readers…. we will all meet on the new site, however, it’s about  leaving this comfortable place which began to feel like a cozy pair of old shoes you never want to throw out.  Getting out there, out of my comfort zone, and truly saying hello to something completely new and quite scary, is truly symbolic of embracing my new self, my new life, and my new friends.  Furthermore, to witness and experience all the new “zones” which have come up in my writing.  The dream interpretations, the articles, the guest posts, and now as J.M. Richardson, author of The Twenty-Nine,  has recently honored me with the title:  Literary Blogger.  Really?  I am so excited!

BUT There is one more post to come tomorrow.  It is Author of the Week Thursdays!

I interviewed Steven Luna, author of Joe Vampire.  You really do not want to miss this post, as I laughed my head off just reading the answers to his questions.  Yes, there is some really serious stuff in this interview, however, I love Steven’s sense of humor and I am sure you will appreciate it too, plus you get to discover a super awesome vampire like no other!

So no goodbyes, we will meet Friday June 29th on secretdomain.com (hahaha).  The launch will be shared on Twitter, Facebook, and here.  So be sure to follow me on one or all of those sites.

In the meantime, GO check out what Muse In The Valley’s contributors have to give away  for the Launch Party:  

Launch Party GIVEAWAYS

Love and blessed light!

The Twenty-Nine – J.M. Richardson


If you look at J.M. Richardson’s profile picture the first thing you notice is his smile. It screams gentleness with a touch of wittyness and whimsy.  However, there is MORE to him than his picture.  J.M. Richardson is the author of The Twenty-Nine and the up-and-coming book The Apocalypse Mechanism – August 2012.

The Twenty-Nine described by Glenda Bixler:  “A remarkable tale of the potentiality–the reality of our future!”

So humor and whimsy aside, The Twenty Nine is a serious book written by a serious author. Thus, I am very excited to introduce you Mr. Richardson today as Muse In The Valley‘s Author of the Week:

The Interview

What 5 words describe you best?

Educator, writer, husband, father, (boy, this fifth one kills ya) intellectual

Tell us your latest news?

I have two events/signings coming up this summer: one at the Barnes and Noble in Sundance Square in Fort Worth, TX on July 21 at 1 PM, and one on August 18 at the Franklinton, LA library. I will be signing copies of The Twenty-Nine, but also promoting my upcoming August release, The Apocalypse Mechanism.

When and why did you begin writing?

Oh, I think I wrote my first poem in about first grade, and I also remember trying to write a “novel” at the age of about 12. It was a little western bound in brown construction paper that I had frayed along the edges to make it look old…and…western… I’ve wrote poetry and short stories competitively in high school. I tried to start a couple of novels in college, but I did not start serious writing until about six years ago when I began writing The Apocalypse Mechanism. I came to love writing more than I ever knew I could. It’s therapy for me. Helps me release inner frustrations and demons.


What inspired you to write your first book?

The Twenty-Nine is my first published book, but not the first I wrote. It’s inspired by political turmoil that is very much in the news every day. It’s also inspired by Rick Perry, the governor of Texas–a former candidate for President of the United States, who once mentioned that Texas should secede. But the first book I wrote, The Apocalypse Mechanism, is inspired by my love of ancient theology and the connections of those old Middle Eastern religions. It’s also inspired by my fascination with the sophistication of ancient technology.


Do you have a specific writing style?

Kind of. It’s always sort of morphing. I love description, almost to the painfully slow stuff that Steinbeck wrote. But not everyone likes that. Some abhor it. My novels have some deep, slow moments, and I use a lot of description there. But other parts are more fast-paced adventure, and so I cut back on the description and let it flow along. So I use a hybrid of literary fictional word-painting and the pace of an action novel.

Who inspired your main character, Derek, describe him a little?

Derek, to me, is the same kid as millions of other young men that come from broken homes, impoverished, but hard-working families, and an ever-increasingly difficult American economy to live in.  He grows up in rust-belt Cleveland, where his mother was laid off, his father was a dead-beat, and he was just doing what he could to take care of he and his mother.  His mother’s sick, and they have no health insurance, so he ditches the mechanic job for a military career, hoping to make a better living.  he has no idea he’s about to fight in the second American civil war.  Overall, though, he’s a good kid.  He’s a born leader; has a good head on his shoulders.  He’s a little damaged, and we all are, as he comes from a rough family life.  Just striving to find his place in the world.

Give us a blurb about your book The Twenty-Nine, why the title?

Counter-productive partisan politics in Washington have begun to cross the line, and some leaders take drastic measures.  Twenty-nine states out of the fifty secede as they did in 1860, and form a new country called The Republic of America.  Soon, the Republic and the US begin down a path into civil war–American killing American in burning US cities.  


What books have most influenced your life?

I don’t know that I could say that a specific book has ever really influenced my life. I could name several books I like. I love Fahrenheit 451 and Anne Rice‘s Queen of the Damned. I’m a fan of Steinbeck and Stephen King, but I can’t say that there was a book that made me say, “Hey…wow…I’m a changed man.”


If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

Anne Rice, and it’s not a vampire thing.  I was way into vampires before this recent mainstream Twilight, True Blood, and Vampire Diaries era.  I love Anne Rice’s writing and her style.  I love the complexity of her stories, and how, though it’s supernatural, it all seem to make so much sense.  It’s all so plausible.  I love her darkness.  And it doesn’t hurt that she’s from New Orleans, which is the area I grew up in.


What are your current projects?

Well, The Twenty-Nine got published before The Apocalypse Mechanism, so I had to put the sequel to that, a book I call The Barataria Key, aside to write the sequel to The Twenty-Nine. I’m currently at about 75,000 words with that book, which is called A Line in the Sand, for now at least.


What do you do when you are NOT writing?

Well, I’m a teacher, and I still need the day job for now, so aside from summer and holidays, I’m doing that. I have a wife and two young daughters, so I spend a lot of family time. I play guitar, I like to watch football and baseball. I’m a lover of good beers and enjoy deep intellectual, political, and social discussions. Oh, and I like long walks on the beach…and puppies…


If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

Nope, it was pretty air-tight. The Apocalypse Mechanism is going through edits right now, and I’m pretty sure, since it was my first and written quite some time back, that I will be changing a good bit about that one. I don’t know that I could name any specifics at the moment, but they’ll come to me once I get into editing mode.


Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

Maybe not from writing the book, but I definitely learned a lot from the process of finding a publisher. This industry is cold and cut-throat. It’s so difficult to get the attention of ANYONE that will take you seriously. I think it’s cool that the e-book revolution has inspired so many new, fresh publishers to pop up and challenge the big New York and London publishers. At the same time, the ease of just anyone being able to upload a manuscript to Amazon and Barnes and Noble has flooded the market, and publishers have had to become more selective than ever. This industry is crazy.


Do you have any advice for other writers?

Writing is art. So when you hear anyone say that a book was “poorly written” or that some one doesn’t know how to write, don’t listen. That’s like a Monet fan telling Pablo Picasso that his portraits of people were terrible and that it looked like a Kindergartener did them. There is not definition of good art, and there is no definition of good writing. These people sit on their high horses like sentinels, standing watch for “different” styles of writing, ready to defend the language like some holy relic. When it comes down to it, every reader likes a certain type of writing, and rather than say they didn’t care for a book, they pass judgment on it as being a badly written book. So take constructive criticism for what it is, and learn from it, but when it comes to just plain criticism, let it roll off of you.

If you had to give yourself a “theme song” what would it be and why?

The Walyon Jennings song from the Dukes of Hazzard. I grew up in the deep south–southeast Louisiana–and despite the fact that I really don’t listen to a lot of country music or have a pickup truck with a gun rack, there is a part of me that is a fun-loving, light-hearted country boy just floating through this life.


Name three items which need to be with you at all times?

My cell phone, my keys, and my wallet–pretty simple.


What would we find in your junk drawer right now?

Beer coozies, batteries, random buttons and screws, and a million drawings my five-year-old have done because I haven’t had a moment when she wasn’t looking to get rid of some of her masterpieces to make room for the twenty she will draw tomorrow.

Hulk, Spider Man or Iron Man?  Why?

Iron Man. Not only is he virtually indestructible and cool-looking, but he’s also, underneath…what’s the line from The Avengers…a genius, billionaire, philanthropist, playboy.


If aliens landed in front of you and, in exchange for anything you desire, offered you any position on their planet, what would you want?

To be the most popular best-selling author in the galaxy.

If someone wrote about in the newspaper, on the front page, what would the headline say?

Man’s head explodes due to too much thinking!

Where to we go to buy The Twenty-Nine?

Amazon  Barnes and Noble and just about any website that sells books.

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J.M. Richardson is a native of southeast Louisiana where he studied education and social sciences, earning his degree from Louisiana State University.  He has been writing for leisure nearly all of his  life, wrote competitively in high school, and had intensive writing coursework in college.   He now resides in the Fort Worth, TX, area with his wife and two daughters where he teaches geography, history, and sociology. ( source:  Winter Goose Publishing )

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Find Joshua on:

Facebook  *  Twitter

I want to thank J.M. Richardson for this delightful interview.  Please come back to Muse In The Valley in August when The Apocalypse Mechanism comes out.  It will be my pleasure.

If you are an author and wish to be interviewed here please contact me at:

 kim.larocque@sympatico.ca

Where The Butterflies Go – Heather Grace Stewart


“The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.”  ~Rabindranath Tagore

Butterflies have been my “sign” lately.  I have them everywhere:  On my windows, as jewelry, on shirts, as stickers, letter stationary on my journals and even clothes.  Just the other day I received a free box of kleenex from my local grocery store, and on it, YES butterflies.  When my friend was shopping for her first house a few months ago, she showed me the one they put an offer on,  and on the front door’s glass window, there were 4 butterflies etched in the glass.  I told her it was a sign she would get the house.  One butterfly for each child (there were 4 going from biggest to smallest).  She’s moving in next weekend!  Also,  My children have recently made me Mother’s day cards and gifts with butterflies on it. Show’s they know their mama.

Last week , when Heather Grace Stewart ,-a fellow Montrealer, author and poet, approached me about the release of her book Where The Butterflies Go, on Kindle, I had to say YES!!  On March 29th, Heather graciously answered a few questions for Muse In The Valley, she was my 2nd Author Of the Week, which in fact became a weekly event due to the enormous success of the interviews.    ( You can read our interview here.)

Where The Butterflies Go is now on Kindle for $2.99 with half the proceeds going to UNICEF!

However, for 3 days only:

Thursday June 21st, Friday June 22nd, Saturday June 23rd it will be free!

You can get it through Amazon.com just click here!

Natasha head reviews Where The Butterflies Go, she writes:

“The first part of the collection, aptly entitled Pain, takes the world face on. Heather’s words trigger sadness, loss and incomprehension, but, these very same words, also inspire hope. This is, in itself, a testament to the quality and strength of her craftsmanship.  The poem ‘Golden Days’, stands out strongly for me.  It’s final lines, looking back to the release of the collection from now, almost rings of prophecy…..

There are dark clouds/Across this Canadian sky

The second part of the book, simply entitled Growth is where you can really see the voice of the poet evolve. The questions that so many of us have; the where, the why of this world, tackled head on with no fear and honest pen.”

~Natasha Head, for The River Review

FREE stuff is always fun, if I had a Kindle I would be right on it!  So go, get Where The Butterflies Go while they are free of charge, and share this WONDERFUL NEWS with your friends.

Love and light


His Own Good Sword – Amanda McCrina


You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write.  ~Saul Bellow

Introducing Historical Fiction writer Amanda McCrina.   In this interview, Amanda talks about her new book, His Own Good Sword.  She also discusses, her love for books, and future projects.

Reading note:  Sorry for the change in fonts.  WordPress will not let me change them for some reason.  I know it changes the overall look, however, this is the best I can do.  Thanks and happy reading!  – Kim

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Her online bio describes Amanda as:

“…a full-time university student, majoring in history and minoring in political science. She now attends the University of West Georgia, but she also studied for two years at Geneva College, outside of Pittsburgh, PA, and for one semester in Rome, Italy. She has a particular interest in twentieth-century warfare–the World Wars, the Cold War, the Spanish Civil War–as well as a love of ancient Roman history…. She loves film and film culture. She worked as a 35mm projectionist for over two years, until the booth went fully digital in 2011… and  She’s still a Star Wars fangirl at heart (Han shot first).” (source:  writing.fly-casual.net )

Our Interview:

If you were an animal which one would give us a good description of you?

I’d probably be a turtle. I’ve always been quiet, shy, and something of a homebody. It takes a while for me to come out of my shell. Of course, being a turtle could mean I’m a nunchuck-wielding ninja, too.

Tell us your latest news and about your book: His Own Good Sword:

His Own Good Sword is the story of a young soldier who’s forced to choose between doing his duty and obeying his conscience. It’s a historical fantasy in the vein of Guy Gavriel Kay or Lian Hearn–the setting is an imaginary world, but one that deliberately evokes real-world history. In this case, the world of the novel is heavily inspired by ancient Rome. I’m currently hosting a giveaway of the book on my website. I’m also scribbling away madly at the sequel, which is forthcoming from Winter Goose in August 2013.

When and why did you begin writing?

I’ve been writing for fun since I was a kid, and writing with the intention of being published for about five years. I think I began writing mostly because I love reading. I love being transported to different times and places as I read. It’s that same joy that drives me to write.


Why attracts you to historical fiction?


I love historical fiction because I’m fascinated by the past–or, more precisely, what we don’t know about the past. We know the dates and the facts, but we don’t always know much about the people involved, and we have a tendency to forget they were just as human as we are. We don’t always know what they were thinking or feeling. We don’t always really know what their motivations were, or their inner struggles, or their hopes, or their fears. I love historical fiction because it can read between the lines of “fact.”


What is your favorite moment in History?


That’s hard. I have lots of favorite historical moments. But the one I find the most fascinating is probably Europe in the summer of 1914–Europe right on the brink of the First World War. I think it’s one of the most pivotal moments in history. Of course Europe, and the world in general, had seen some drastic changes prior to 1914, but the Great War was the end of the world as we knew it, so to speak. Before the Great War, warfare had essentially remained unchanged for millennia. Suddenly, in the span of just a few years, it was scientific, mechanized, deadly on a huge scale. There’d never been anything like it before, and I think we’re still dealing with its repercussions today. The summer of 1914 fascinates me because it’s the meeting of the old and the new.


Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

I didn’t really set out to write His Own Good Sword with a deliberate message. I dislike “preachiness” in fiction. I had some characters in my head and mostly I just wanted to tell a good story.That being said, I wanted it to be a story with some substance. I think there is a driving question behind the narrative: what happens when doing the right thing only plays into the hand of those who don’t share your set of scruples?


What books have most influenced your life most?

There are so many books that have influenced and inspired me. The Bible is first and foremost. Beowulf has fired my imagination for years, and Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings gave me an enduring love for fantasy. Hemingway’s bleak, beautiful A Farewell to Arms is my all-time-favorite book.

What book are you reading now?

I tend to have around five books going at the same time. I just finished Christine Hinwood’s The Returning, and look forward to starting Elizabeth Wein’s Code Name Verity. I currently have two nonfiction books in the rotation: Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin by Timothy Snyder, and Soldiers & Ghosts: A History of Battle in Classical Antiquity by J. E. Lendon. I’m also currently rereading Stephen Ambrose’s Band of Brothers, a long-time favorite.


What are your current projects?

Apart from working on the sequel to His Own Good Sword, I’m rather sporadically plotting a straight-up historical-fiction novel, a science-fiction novel, and a fairy-tale retelling. It remains to be seen whether any of these will ever see the light of day.


What do you do when you are NOT writing?

I’m in my senior year at the University of West Georgia, studying history and political science. I also work at a cinema, and I do some freelance graphic design work on the side.


Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

For me, writing has always been linked to reading. I started writing out of a conscious desire to emulate my favorite books and writers. I grew up with Marguerite Henry’s books, and my first writing projects all invariably had to do with horses or cats. I devoured the Dear America and Royal Diaries series, and for a while I was obsessed with writing fictional diaries of historical figures. In fact, Dear America is probably responsible for turning me on to historical fiction in the first place.


What was the hardest part of writing your book?

I’m the world’s worst procrastinator–or best procrastinator, depending on how you look at it. In general, the hardest thing was making myself sit down, shut off my inner critic, and write.More specifically, though, I had (and still have) a hard time with action scenes. I avoided writing them as long as I could, until there were big holes all through my narrative (usually accompanied by a parenthetical note to myself: insert epic battle scene here).


Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

His Own Good Sword is my first completed novel, and it’s definitely been a learning experience. I’ve learned so much about the writing process and the publication process both. I’ve learned a lot about myself, too.My favorite writing quote comes from Gustave Flaubert: “The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.” Writing forces you to confront your own presuppositions about the way the world works–even if you’re writing fiction, even if you’re writing fantasy fiction. Writing is a way to engage and understand the world around you. I never really looked at it that way until I wrote this novel.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Read, and read widely. Read in your genre and outside your genre. Read what’s selling, but don’t let it compromise your own vision. Fads change. Good writing is always in style.

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Hockey eh?  Who do your cheer for?

I cheered for the Thrashers until the move. Now I root for our local ECHL team, the Gladiators, and keep on hoping that maybe the Jets will do so badly that Winnipeg will decide they don’t want them after all and send them home.


Name three items which need to be with you at all times?

A notebook, a pencil, and a cup of strong coffee with cream.


How can we purchase your book?  

His Own Good Sword is available in paperback from Barnes & Noble and Amazon. Look for the ebook release soon!

Thank you Amanda for sharing your thoughts with us here in the valley of muse!  Come back anytime!

For you readers out there:  Check out Amanda’s book!!

Reach Amanda!  Goodreads * Twitter * Facebook * Website

If you are an author and with to be interviewed for Muse In The Valley, send me an email:   kim.larocque@sympatico.ca

Prismatic – Sarah Elle Emm


I am  pleased to introduce you to Sarah Elle Emm, author of the new book Prismatic published by Winter Goose Publishing.  Her first book, Marrying Missy, is also featured here.    Young-Adult Fantasy & Women’s Fiction Author,  Sarah describes her challenges as a writer, and gives us a prismatic look at the life of a writer.

Like me, you will get a sense of Sarah’s gentle humor and insightful personality as you read on.  I want to thank her for taking the time, in between unpacking boxes, to give me this interview today.  

Describe your life in a “headline” re: news of magazine:

Sarah Elle Emm’s young-adult fantasy PRISMATIC, now available in E-books and Paperback

Tell us your latest news?

Book one, Prismatic, from the Harmony Run Series was just released in paperback and e-books by Winter Goose Publishing.  The Barnes & Noble book signing for Prismatic is this Saturday, June 9th, from 2-3:30 p.m. at Barnes & Noble Booksellers of Evansville, Indiana.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I felt compelled to write from an early age.  When I sat down at Mom’s typewriter to write my first story at age seven, I felt at home and knew that writing was going to be one of the secrets to my happiness.  Even though I didn’t get that first story finished right away, I couldn’t ignore the need to create with words and wrote some poems as a kid.  Mom gave me a travel journal on our first trip to Germany when I was twelve-years-old, and I guess the journal entries confirmed that I needed to write to feel complete.  When I was twenty-two-years old, I decided to start writing short stories and novels in addition to those journal entries.  Even though I couldn’t tell the world about how I was feeling, I knew it was true.  I was a writer, and it was only a matter of time before I would be sharing my stories.

What inspired you to write your first book Marrying Missy?

Marrying Missy is about an unlikely friendship, women hurting themselves to look a certain way, betrayal, prejudice, judging people, overcoming the negative things some of us are taught by the people who have raised us, marriage, and the chance of change and love.  It is set in Atlanta in the spring time during the wedding planning of Missy.  It’s a fast-paced, fun, easy read, and at the same time has some important messages for people to think about.  A lifetime of internal conflict and low self-esteem inspired me to have Missy hate herself so much.  At first glance, it would appear that Missy hates the world around her, but once you get further into the story, you will see that Missy hates herself.  Lots of people hate themselves.  Everywhere I have lived and traveled, I have met women, some worse than others, who struggle with self-esteem and body issues.  I have daughters and nieces now, and I wanted to go ahead and put some thoughts out there about the consequences of negative behavior and getting caught up in the need for material excess.  Life is hard enough.  Let’s stop picking on ourselves, ladies.  You are worth it.  We are worth it.  I am worth it.  Prejudice is another important theme in this book.  Missy is a fictional character, based off of a multitude of experiences and hundreds of people I have met around the globe.  Prejudice is very real, it does not exist within one race or culture alone, and it simply disturbs me.  I might be purple.  You might be green.  Does one color make you better than another color?  No.  I might be broke.  You might have a billion dollars in your bank account.  Does that mean one of us is better than the other?  No.  Believe it or not, we all have hearts beating on the inside.  I don’t see the need to judge each other by the physical and material aspects.  Last time I checked, most people say that it’s our hearts that matter.  Let’s be nice to ourselves and one another, shall we?

Do you have a specific writing style?

Well, I have written in a few different genres.  I have written chick lit, romantic suspense, and now young-adult fantasy.  I think anyone who has read one of my books would agree that there is a common thread with everything I write including a romance or love story, even if it’s secondary to the main story.  I had fun with Marrying Missy, writing the main character’s voice, (the character Tate,) in first person in a chick lit voice, but I intentionally wrote in third person for the other characters’ view points to kind of mix things up.  I thought multiple view points added some depth to the story, but I still wanted Tate to be in first person.  I got into the three different genres being a fan of reading them.  A definite consistent in my writing would be that my chapters are on the short side, so my readers can pick up the book, come and go, and still have time to read an entire chapter at once.

Your latest book Prismatic, just came out.  Tell us about it?

First off, here is the synopsis…

Rare glimpses of birds are the only reminder of the freedoms Rain Hawkins once had.  Now segregated into a mixed-race zone within the United Zones of the Authority, under tyrannical rule of President Nicks, Rain is forced to endure the bleak conditions set upon her.  The possibility of a way out arises when Rain discovers an organized resistance called The Freedom Front, and learns that she, along with many other multi-racial people, has special abilities.  Determined to overcome her situation, Rain sets out on a mission with the resistance that will fill her life with wonder, romance, and the undying hope for a better world.

Prismatic was partially intended for a Twilight type of audience.  Don’t get me wrong.  There are no vampires or werewolves, but there is a teen romance between main characters, Rain and Jabari, vital to this series, and I was writing it for readers who can appreciate the crazy hormones and feelings that a first love or crush can involve.  Prismatic is unique in that the cast is very diverse, and the stars of the show, if you will, are mostly multi-racial teenagers.  The story takes place in the year 2050 and follows seventeen-year-old Rain Hawkins as she embarks on a mission against a tyrannical government, discovers her special abilities, risks her life on a daily basis, and even discovers love in her terrifyingly bleak circumstances.

What were the challenges having your books published?

I spent a few years attempting to get a literary agent to give me a chance.  I spent a lot of time researching how to write the perfect query letter, trying different approaches, and using every tip I could from agentquery.com and publishing books.  It was frustrating, but I made myself keep writing through it all.  When I began my blog, My Name is Sarah, to share my journey and random stories about my life, I got instant feedback from readers.  I wasn’t even published, and I was entertaining and connecting with readers.  That’s when I realized it didn’t matter if an agent ever gave me a chance.  Shortly after my blog began to grow, I received the first positive email from a publisher.  They wanted to look at Marrying Missy.  I was excited beyond words for once in my life.  The long road to publication was worth every bump.

What books have most influenced your life most?

The first time I recall being completely transported into the pages of a book was when I was a little girl reading a Trixie Belden mystery, The Secret of the Mansion by Julie Campbell.  All of a sudden, I was in awe of story-telling, and I felt the desire to write grow stronger.  That was an important moment for me.  The seed was planted.  Trixie was real to me.  I could picture her in my mind and visualize her story.  I wanted to do that.  I loved reading The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy because they comforted me during some difficult times.  I was inspired to go after my dreams, regardless of how tiny they were, after I read Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom.  It made me want to be a better person.  It made me want to believe in a better world.  If Mr. Mandela could survive, overcome, and change the world after the hell he went through, anything could be possible.  At least that’s how he made me feel.  I recommend everyone read his story.  It’s important.

What book are you reading now?

I like to support indie authors and small presses when I can, so my list usually includes some of those titles.  To be honest, I am moving right now, so I haven’t read a page for at least a week.  On my Kindle app for my cell phone now, I am reading Pearls, by Lisa Mills.  Her cover got my attention.  I just started it, but so far, I am enjoying it very much.  Next up on my to-read list is Stella Stafford’sDid Anyone Die?  I think it is going to be an entertaining read.

What are your current projects?

I am finishing the Harmony Run Series.  The sequel to Prismatic, is called Opalescent, and is set for a February 2013 release.  I am having a romantic suspense I wrote edited, marketing my books, and keeping up with my blog.  Keep in mind, I am doing all of this while keeping up with my preschoolers, (one is getting ready to begin Kindergarten,) being a wife, and oh yeah, moving from Indiana to Florida.  I am currently living out of a suitcase and will be driving to my new home after my Prismatic book signing this weekend.  Regardless of my projects, I have one main goal:  I want to be the best mother I can be.  I am so blessed to have an amazing mother, and I want to try and be the best mom I can for my kids.

Who are your cheerleaders?

These days?  I have a lot of them.  Mom, my brother, Sam, my sister, Coleen, my husband, Charles, my mother-in-law, Muriel, and her sister, Faye, my Grandpa, Grandma, Dad, and of course, my best friend, Sonja.  This group of people are telling everyone about my latest release and being truly supportive.  Before I got published?  Well, not everyone knew my secret.  My mother was my first cheerleader.  She reassured me for nearly a decade that I could, in fact, write, and that I should never, ever stop writing.  My husband jumped on board team Sarah as soon as I told him that I was finishing my first book, one that I had started writing years before I met him.  He was very supportive from the moment he found out he had married an in-the-closet-writer.  I remember the first time he read an excerpt from a book I had written, and he said, “Wow.  You are a writer.”  Sam, Coleen, and Mom have been cracking me up with their theories about what will happen in book two, Opalescent, of this new series.  They are cheering me on and all slightly irritated they have to wait until February to see what happens next.  I have my bag of secrets, the notes, outlines, and details for the entire series in my brother’s spare room right now, and I swear he has looked at that bag with some intensity and too much curiosity a few times.  My sister is trying to trick me into revealing the details, but it’s not happening, Coleen!  All of my cheerleaders will have to wait until the official release of Opalescent.  Sorry, guys.  😉

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

Well, as of now…no.  I really like Prismatic.  It’s my baby that started with a dream I had.  It doesn’t get any better than that.  Of course, it was just released so there haven’t been a lot of reviews yet, and it is bit of a controversial story.  You never know what people might say once word gets out about a futuristic, racially segregated world with multi-racial kids standing up to resist their tyrannical government.  I might be wishing I had written a Mary Poppin’s type of novel before long.  Ha, ha, ha…

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

I love Nora Roberts because she continuously delivers a solid, well-developed, heart-warming story.  I can depend on her to tell a story I will enjoy.  She never disappoints.  I also love the FBI thriller series by Catherine Coulter.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

I would just say that it’s best to remember who you are writing for and that you can’t please everyone.  Write what you like to read, but more importantly, write for you.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

I have a book giveaway once a month on my blog and Facebook fan page.  All you have to do is join the blog, My Name is Sarah, and ‘like’ my Facebook page, Sarah Elle Emm, and you are entered in the free book drawing.  I would also love for everyone to know about the Prismatic book signing this Saturday, June 9th from 2-3:30 p.m. at 624 S. Green River Road in my hometown of Evansville, Indiana.  It’s my last stop before I hit the road for southern Florida, where the next chapter begins.

Fun questions:

If you had to give yourself a “theme song” what would it be and why?

That’s easy.  SheDaisy’s, “Lucky 4 You (Tonight I’m Just Me.)”  Ha.  First off, I have a small list of country songs I like, and this is one of them.  It’s funny.  She’s talking about her supposed multiple personalities her ex says she has, but she tells him he’s lucky tonight, “It’s just me.”  It makes me laugh.  I can relate to moods, emotions, or hormones, whatever it is, influencing my daily decisions.  No, I don’t actually have multiple personalities, but sometimes I have to struggle to keep the calm, collected exterior in place that the world sees.  I have moods I guess in place of multiple personalities.  There is the crazy Sarah who just needs some chocolate, the stressed out Sarah who needs to blast reggae, rock, or blues from her speakers and dance her troubles away, the Sarah who needs to attack the treadmill to exercise the inner demons, and of course, the Sarah who needs to pour her heart onto the blank computer screen and write a fiction story.  That Sarah is kind of crazier than the rest.  She will laugh or shout out periodically, “Yes!” when a chapter suddenly clicks and it turned out the way she wanted.  You should listen to that song right now, (after this interview.)  It makes me smile.  🙂

Name three items which need to be with you at all times?

Cell phone, (for it’s phone but also because I like to listen to the music I have stored on it wherever I am,) favorite ink pen, paper of any kind

What would we find in your junk drawer right now?

I moved out of my house and am living in a suitcase for five more days, so technically, I have no junk drawer at the moment.  In my temporary junk drawer, (a backpack at my brother’s house,) you will find post it notes and my eye-glass cleaner.  (I only wear my contacts in public.  I am blind and prefer my glasses at home.)  You will also find a lovely scented lotion, an I-pod, and a small purse with coins only.  Change is my junk drawer thing.  My husband leaves a trail of coins wherever he goes, and I collect them.  I made $175 off of coins I wrapped last week.  It was a tedious process but somehow rewarding.  My husband had to laugh after he recovered from the shock of my cash-in.  Yep, I will keep saving those pennies.  You can count on it.

Who is your favorite super hero and why?

I guess I am a product of the eighties because the answer is She-Ra: Princess of Power.  I saw the cartoon when I was a kid.  She-Ra is the alter ego of Princess Adora and He-Man’s sister.  Her powers were cool…incredible strength, speed, she was acrobatic.  She preferred to outsmart her adversaries instead of using violence.  When I am trying to motivate myself to do something I am afraid of or overwhelmed by, the words, “I am She-Ra!” pop into my mind.  I can do it.  I am She-Ra.  Well, at least I am going to keep telling myself that.

How can we purchase your books?

Marrying Missy and Prismatic are in paperback and e-books at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com.

Sarah Elle Emm, a native of Evansville, Indiana and graduate of The University of Evansville, has lived in Germany, England, Mexico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and traveled extensively beyond.  Her love of travel, great fiction stories that you can escape into, and multicultural experience have all shaped her stories.  Sarah currently resides in Florida with her Chef husband and their children.  When she’s not walking the plank of her daughters’ imaginary pirate ship, she is writing. (source:  sarahelleemm.com)

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Follow Sarah  on any of these social websites:

 

Blog  *  Twitter  *  Facebook  *  Website *

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Yann Martel – Author


“I must say a word about fear. It is life’s only true opponent. Only fear can defeat life. It is a clever, treacherous adversary, how well I know. It has no decency, respects no law or convention, shows no mercy. It goes for your weakest spot, which it finds with unnerving ease. It begins in your mind, always … so you must fight hard to express it. You must fight hard to shine the light of words upon it. Because if you don’t, if your fear becomes a wordless darkness that you avoid, perhaps even manage to forget, you open yourself to further attacks of fear because you never truly fought the opponent who defeated you.”  ~ Yann MartelLife of Pi

Today’s Author of the Week is a bit different. Since I did not have an interview which I conducted, I decided to go with the author of the latest book I read and fell in love with:  Yann Martel, author of Life of Pi.

Life of Pi tells the story of a 16-year-old boy’s survival, after being cast on a lifeboat when the cargo ship his family was on sank into the Pacific.  Written like no other book I have read before, Yann Martel’s style and story telling allowed me to truly expand my love for reading, because reading his book was like taking a walk in a totally different part of the world.  I am now enlightened and inspired.

About Yann Martel

Yann Martel is a Canadian author best known for the Man Booker Prize– winning novel Life of Pi.

Martel was born on June 25th 1963 in Salamanca, Spain, the son of Nicole Perron and Emile Martel. His parents were French-Canadian. His father was posted as a diplomat for the Canadian government at the time of his birth. He was raised in Costa Rica, France, Mexico, and Canada. As an adolescent he attended high school at Trinity College School, a boarding school in Port HopeOntario.

As an adult, Martel has spent time in Iran, Turkey and India. After studying philosophy at Trent University, in Peterborough, Ontario, and doing various odd jobs -tree planting, dishwashing, working as a security guard,  Martel spent 13 months in India visiting masjids, churches, temples and zoos, and spent two years reading religious texts and castaway stories. His first published fictional work, Seven Stories, appeared in 1993.

In addition to Life of Pi, Martel is the prize-winning author ofThe Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios, a collection of short stories, and of Self, a novel, both published internationally. Yann has been living from his writing since the age of 27. He divides his time between yoga, writing and volunteering in a palliative care unit. Yann Martel lives in Montreal with his wife and children.

 

A few questions from here and there

When asked on an online chat interview how long it took to write the Life of Pi, Yann answers: 

“I did research for six months in India, practical research, then I read on zoos, animal psychology, religions and castaway stories for about a year and a half back in Canada.Then I wrote the thing out. Took me about 1 1/2 years to get to a draft. So 4 years in all. But I loved every minute.”

A question I often ask to the Authors I interview:  Do you have a particular writing routine?

“I have no particular routine. When I’m actually writing, as opposed to researching, I sort of write all day, in a quite inefficient way, mind you, but all day. Which doesn’t mean that I write much. A good day will mean half a page. But I’m in no rush, so I don’t mind my slow pace.” 

When asked:  “When did you decide to become a writer, how did you take that first step?”

“I’d say writing chose me rather than the other way around. It was really the last thing on my list, the only thing that worked for me, that gave me a sense of meaning. I started writing in 2nd year university, when I hadn’t a clue where I was going in life. I wrote a dreadful play, truly something  God awful, but I loved creating, I loved creating a stage and peopling it and giving things to say and do.”

In an interview with BookBrowse, Yann was asked this question, which I think rocks (the Q & the A)

Why the three religions in your book?

“The three religions because I wanted to discuss faith, not organized religion, so wanted to relativize organized religion by having Pi practice three. I would have like PI to be a Jew, too, to practice Judaism, but there are two religions that are explicitly incompatible: Christianity and Judaism. Where one begins, the other ends, according to Christians, and where one endures, the other strays, according to Jews.”

Yann continues to say that he IS a religious person.. in his words:

“.. in a very broad way, and riven with doubts, which is what keeps faith alive, I believe.  I go to mass every Sunday, but love going to mosques too. Muslims pray in a beautiful way.”

People connect with the book in such a personal way because…

 “..(1)  it’s a great yarn, and (2), it goes deep, talks about spirituality in a real, serious, concrete way, untainted by cynicism.

Last but not least, Yann gives his tips to aspiring authors:

“Get it down on the page. Work hard. And then let go. Ask yourself why you want to write. You have to be clear about that.”

If you have not yet read Life of Pi, I highly recommend it.  The book made me think, it made me shudder, it made me cheer Pi Patel on!  I wanted him to survive, to come back, to tell his story, and in the end… he surely did!

Sources:

FictionAddiction.net

WikipediA

GoodReads

BookBrowse

If you are an author, and you wish to be interviewed, please send me your press info, bio and website at kim.larocque@sympatico.ca

My son is actively looking for sponsors to get him to camp this summer.  Summer camp is something William looks forward to every year and it is so good for his self-esteem.  This year I am on sick leave (due to my depression diagnosis), and being a single parent family, you can imagine I cannot put up the whole amount.  Anything you can give would be greatly appreciated.  I’ll even throw in a Dream Interpretation whenever you have a dream!!    Here is a link :

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