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!

The Divine Pumpkin – Interview with Hemmie Martin


Writing became such a process of discovery that I couldn’t wait to get to work in the morning:  I wanted to know what I was going to say.  ~Sharon O’Brien

Over the past couple of months, I have met many new authors, and I find doing these interviews very inspiring and informative.  So much energy and passion goes into writing, and I have learned, when I read these interviews, that it takes great determination from the day the process starts, the editing, and finally the book release.  Most author’s with new books rely on self-promotion as a tool to get their book out there.

Please welcome Hemmie Martin to Muse In The Valley with open arms. She just released her book The Divine Pumpkin published by Winter Goose Publishing  on May 16th.  Hemmie writes Contemporary Woman’s fiction, and is currently writing her second novel.

Using your initials H & M, describe yourself in 6 words.

Happy, human, habit-forming, musical, mis-trusting & mildly amusing.

In what part of our world do you live?

England

What do you do when not writing?

I love reading, cooking, listening to music and having coffee with friends.

Where does your creativity come from? 

I believe it comes from being an only child. I would make up games and stories to amuse myself and my dolls.

Can you tell us about any challenges getting you book published? 

Rejections are part of the process and most days I took them in my stride. Writing the synopsis and query letter also presented challenges in their own right. Working with an Editor was liberating, but the process of editing itself was challenging towards the end. I also experienced lack of confidence in myself and my work at times – and I still do!

Would you change anything about your experience?

I wouldn’t change a thing as everything I experienced helped to forge my identity as a writer – even the rejections! I would say that even my periodic lack of confidence ensures that I never become big-headed or over-confident about my abilities.

Can you tell us about your upcoming book? 

‘The Divine Pumpkin’ is about Forensic Nurse Paloma Parker who seems to have her life in order. She is a successful career woman who is intelligent and confident in her abilities, but she just can’t seem to have a meaningful romantic relationship. Her newest patient, an incarcerated juvenile named Ella, has a connection to her that is fully realized when Paloma’s family secret is revealed.  As Ella yearns for inner peace and Paloma searches for love, these two women may just hold the key to each other’s very different kinds of freedom.

Can you share a little of your current work with us, a snippet?

I am currently working on another novel, ‘Over You’, which follows a group of mis-matched people who all have some kind psychological trauma or pain to overcome. It tells of the support they can offer one another, but also the games people play to meet their own needs.

What inspired you to write ‘The Divine Pumpkin’?

I worked as a Forensic Nurse on a Youth Offending Team, which was a fascinating career. I came across many interesting and yet sad cases involving young people. I sometimes experienced internal conflict over how I felt about the offenders, as even though they’d committed offences, they were still young adolescents. ‘The Divine Pumpkin’ explores this area, although the work is fiction and does not relate to one particular offender.

What are your future projects? 

I already have a second novel with Winter Goose Publishing, called ‘Attic of the Mind’, which is due for publication in Feb 2013.

Do you have a “writing ritual”? 

I prefer to write once all my chores are completed, as I find working surrounded by mess doesn’t allow the words to flow. I drink plenty of coffee in the mornings, then earl grey tea in the afternoons. I like something to chew on as I type, preferable jelly beans. I find that my mind can be more alert mid afternoon, but as my daughter’s return from school and college, it’s not the most family friendly time to write. If there is too much noise around me I listen to music on my iPod. Currently I’m loving the Seahorses.

If we were to snoop in your ‘junk drawer’ what would we find? 

You’d find a box with the teeth my daughters ‘gave’ the tooth fairy. Lipsticks, all various shades of brown, skin care samples and empty bottles of perfume. I have a torch there in case of a power cut, and nail files as I like to keep my nails short. I don’t like the clicking sound long nails make on a keyboard.

Do you have anything you wish to share with aspiring authors? Any advice? 

I attend writing conferences and subscribed to two writing magazines which I read religiously. I enter writing competitions and pay for a critique of my work so I could see where I need to improve. I am also an avid reader. A writer needs to be a reader; to drink in the words of others to stimulate the mind – not to plagiarise!

How can we purchase your book? 

I am published by Winter Goose Publishing, and my book can be found on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. It is available in paperback and ebook.

Hemmie Martin spent most of her professional life as a Community Nurse for people with learning disabilities, a Family Planning Nurse, and a Forensic Nurse working with young offenders. She spent six years living in the south of France, and currently lives in Essex with her husband, two teenage daughters, one house rabbit, and two guinea pigs.

Carry On Dancing – Heather Grace Stewart


I am happy to introduce to you Heather Grace Stewart, Canadian Poet.  This week, I asked Heather if she would accept an interview for my blog and she graciously accepted.  Just last night Heather found out that her book Carry On Dancing is currently #2 in bestselling Canadian Poetry on Amazon.ca.  Congratulations!

About Heather Grace

Heather Grace Stewart is the author of two poetry collections, ‘Leap,’ and ‘Where the Butterflies Go,’ and two non-fiction books for youth. Her third collection, ‘Carry On Dancing,” is published by Winter Goose Publishing, which was made available in March 2012. A member of the Professional Writers Association of Canada and the League of Canadian Poets, she lives with her family in Montreal, Canada.

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An interesting fact: 

“Heather wrote her first poem at age five, inspired by falling down a lot while trying to figure skate. At the Arena was published in her school newsletter. (ref:  Winter Goose Publishing)

The Interview

Describe yourself in 5 words

Bubbly, creative, passionate, adventurous, spirited

How did you come to live your passion?

It’s been a lifelong process, and I am still growing every day.

I knew I wanted to be a writer from the time I was a young child. I loved writing poems and short stories for Mrs. Nash’s grade 2 class. I thought journalism was the route for me, and I did love working at a paper and for magazines, but I felt I wasn’t able to be as creative as I wanted to. In 1999 I decided to forge ahead on my own, with my freelance writing  and editing business, Graceful Publications. By working from home as a freelance journalist, I found I had more time to try creative writing projects on the side,  and that’s how my poetry books were published. Last year it became an official publishing company too, with the release of my first children’s book, The Groovy Granny, which I wrote with our then-five-year old daughter, who illustrated the poems. I still write and take photos for magazines, but I’m focusing on creating books right now, because it’s what I most love to do.

That was the technical answer to how it all came to be, but the process of deciding that I deserve to do what I love every day was a long one. I don’t think it was until my  friend and mentor died of a brain tumor when I was 24 that I realized, truly realized, that I wanted to live every day as if it were my last. Now, I can’t throw my caution with money or my own health or anything out the window, as if I may die tomorrow,  but I do try to treat each day like it could be my last. I try to leap at unique opportunities (like working for myself). I try to learn something new or try something new every day. I try to send friends snail mail and surprises and if they call, I call  right back so I won’t forget. If I catch myself losing my patience with my daughter, I’ll go apologize to her a few minutes later, so she knows parents aren’t perfect. I sometimes forget and slip back into taking days for granted, but it’s almost a way of life for me now, and I think it has made a great difference.

What do you do when you are not writing?

I love to play with my daughter and husband. We do a lot of gardening and flea-marketing in the summer, but we kind of hibernate in winter. We toboggan some times, but our daughter likes creative games like playing ‘spa’ – soaking my feet in a bowl of sea salts by the fire! – and I am just fine with that! In my own free time, I love to inline skate, take photos, scrapbook, cartoon, and I just love walking along a  beach,looking for pretty shells, sand dollars, and other tiny miracles.

Where does your creativity come from?

For me, it’s a bit like a natural water cycle. There’s the source, which is inside my heart and soul and mind, always ready to be tapped into, and a constantly flowing stream, but that can get interrupted by dams – like my own laziness or self doubt or just a really rotten week. But when  it’s flowing, the water or my creative work eventually moves up and is spread out into the clouds, until it all returns to the earth as rain, and, the cycle continues.

What book struck you as a child and why?

A friend gave me a hard cover copy of The Neverending Story for my 11th birthday. I remember pouring over it many times, especially up in my tree fort. I liked the story line -the boy was bullied but he managed to overcome that – and I loved how the real world was written in green ink and the fantasy world was in red ink. It was magical; and that’s how I think books should be.

What is the last book you absolutely couldn’t put down?

“Safe Haven” by Nicholas Sparks. When I am writing poetry, I try to stay away from poetry, because I want to do completely my own thing, so right now, I’m reading quick-read-fluff-fiction. I do enjoy autobiographies and there’s a series of books by physicist Michio Kaku about the physics of the future and the physics of parallel worlds that I’m finding so fascinating, but with my recent book release I’ve been in need of very easy, mentally easy you know? reads at night, to just unwind. Safe Haven was predictable in its characterization and how the  story was resolved – by now we all know what to expect from Sparks – but the plot was a little more mysterious and darker than his usual work. I liked that. I love studying his work, because I’d like to try writing a romance novel one day. One day!

Who inspires you?

My parents and grandparents inspire me – they’re just damned good  people. My daughter and husband make me laugh, and that always inspires my work. I’m inspired as a writer by so many poets ~ Frost, Thoreau, Sara Teasdale, Mary Oliver ~ but mainly by people who took/are taking brave stands: Terry Fox, Rosa Parks, our war veterans, the single parents of 911 babies. Their stories remind me not to be a wimp when I’m having troubles writing a piece, or achieving any kind of goal. I think of them and I say to myself, Suck it Up, Buttercup!

Can you tell us about your new book?

Carry On Dancing is out in bookstores and on Amazon.com and bn.com now! It’s a book of poetry that I wrote in the last year and a half. It’s a mixture of poems about the world we live in – the world of Twitter and war and tsunamis and money-hungry marketers – set against our private worlds – those of our loves, our loss, our partnerships – and how we can balance both worlds and carry on dancing, through it all.

Where did the inspiration for the book cover come from?

I took that shot on our daughter’s fifth birthday. We’d just made this colourful tutu for her together after school (it was really easy- from a kit! I’m a poet, not a seamstress) and as she put it on and started twirling around, I started snapping away. I have such happy memories from that day.

What are your future projects

I have a lot of projects in the works. I have an illustrator finishing up my children’s bed time story; I’m working on my next book of poems but I’m going to take my time at that one, and I’m thinking about writing a novel. I’m also open to opportunities that come my way.

5 things you would like to accomplish in the next 5 years.

Gosh, can we just do the next five minutes? I’m trying to live in the moment more. I do have goals, but having just realized the biggest one – getting a poetry book published by a publisher before I hit 40 (I’m 40 on April 11!) I don’t want to push myself. I’m in coasting mode: sit back, enjoy the ride and the view, and see what comes my way. I just want to be a good wife, mother, friend, daughter, and to continue writing, and living with passion.

Do you have anything you wish to share with aspiring writers? Any advice?

Write what you know. Write from your heart. Don’t over edit. Don’t second-guess yourself. Volunteer. Be persistent. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

How can we purchase  a copy of your Book?

Carry On Dancing is now available on Amazon.com, bn.com and signed copies are also available from me, via Paypal, by writing writer@hgrace.com

Click here to all my books on Amazon and my children’s book:  The Groovy Granny

This is my new web site :  http://heathergracestewart.me

This is my blog:   http://heathergracestewart.com

Thanks so much for chatting with me today, Kim!
Heather

Thank you Heather!  Such a pleasure getting to know you more.. and a fellow Montrealer to boot!  We should do coffee soon!  Congrats on being no 2 NOW!!  at Amazon.ca!!

You can also follow Heather Grace Stewart on Facebook 

Hope you enjoyed your stay,

Kim