Take Five With...Archives

Take Five With...Nicole MacDonald

I got a little make that a lot, sidetracked with the A-Z Blogging Challenge and haven’t done a Take Five With… interview in a while. This week Nicole MacDonald, author of The Arrival is my guest at the Depot. Here goes…

Tell us a little about The Arrival and how you came up with the plot.
The Arrival is the unintentional journey that four women make to find their soulmates. And it was inspired by meeting my own 'soulmate' at 18. For an independent young woman I can honestly say it was the last thing on my mind and I fought rather hard against it. Love, however, persevered and at some point I simply had to accept what really is the best thing in my life. And for a somewhat egotistical Leo, that's saying something. So I decided to 'rewrite' my history the way I'd wanted it to happen. And that's what The Arrival began as… then I kinda let my imagination loose and had one heck of a good time with it *grin*  

The Arrival is the first in a trilogy. What happens in the next story?
Well The Arrival is my first full length story period. Prior to this I'd just written English essays so I had no idea when I plotted The Arrival that there was absolutely no way it'd squeeze into one book… or two (I tried, I really did!). It was one hell of a shock to discover I'd actually written a 'novel length' piece and I was only up to one of my major plot points. So books two and three are direct continuations of the story. Book Two, Awakening, is when some major truths are revealed and life as the girls know it, is turned upside down. The threat from the South still exists and only gets stronger as the entire realm begins to prepare for a war, which will not only threaten the girls existence, but everyone on Sytas.

Your books are free on Smashwords for a limited time. What is the thought behind that?
It (hopefully) creates a larger audience. I write because I love it. Yes it'd be fantastic to earn a living off it and I sincerely hope I will one day. But in the interim I want people to read and enjoy The Arrival. If they do enjoy it then the chance of them wanting to read Book Two is far greater. And as I'm not relying on the income it's really not too much of a gamble at this stage.

What is the most challenging aspect of Indie publishing?
That word. Indie. A matter of pride for those who've had the guts to do it and often a term of derision from so many others. Indie doesn't equal bad but at the same time, I've read my fill of books that I can't recommend. It's very much like American Idol in that I just wish people were more honest with each other (politely!) and themselves. Everyone has a voice, but not everyone can sing well. Most people can write, not so many can write well.

When is your next book scheduled for release and is there anything you will do differently in terms of promotion when it comes out?
I intend Awakening to be available in December. And that's as close a date as I can give *grin*. Promotion wise I'd love to do a blog tour and hopefully have people tweeting/facebooking/blogging in support of it.

What would be your biggest dream come true in terms of your writing?
To be able to write fulltime. And if we're talking BIGGEST dream then I'd love to see The BirthRight Trilogy on the big screen ;p With the special effects by Weta (naturally). Weta is the NZ company that did the special effects for Lord of The Rings as well as many other incredible blockbusters. 

Are people big on books in New Zealand and are they buying a lot of ebooks on that side of the world?
There are tons of avid readers in New Zealand, but at a regular price of $35 books are a luxury. There are libraries everywhere though and I believe as e-reader prices drop more and more, people will change to them. You can buy quite a few e-books for $35!

What is your writing environment like and what is your working style?
At home I have my own room which I share with our three furbabies. For some reason they always invade my room over Glenn's. Otherwise wherever I decide to drag my battered old Toshiba notebook. I do love to write at Borders (we get to keep ours in NZ!!) in the cafĂ© where I can people watch too.  

In book one I wrote pretty much in order. This time round (having experienced re-writing ;p) I'm writing whatever scenes occur to me then working on slotting them into the plot.

Do you believe in outlining?
Yes, absolutely. It doesn't have to be hugely detailed but I want to know the gist of the beginning, middle and end. Then I let loose.

Do you prefer to write longhand, on a typewriter, or on a computer?
Longhand on the computer or laptop. If we go to our cabin in the bush then I'll begrudgingly write by hand but I try to plan to do editing up there, my laptop battery only works for a couple of hours and is waaayy too heavy to lug on a two hour trek.

What is your goal as a writer?
To write stories people love to read and read again!

As stated in the interview, Nicole has been gracious enough to offer her work free on Smashwords. Apart from The Arrival, (Fantasy/Paranormal) she has also produced a novella, A Wet and Wild Night (Erotica/Action/Adventure).  If you want to support her writing habit, you can also download the book from Amazon. I know I will soon cuz I don't want my eyeballs to bleed from reading off my computer screen and I so wanna read it on my new Kindle. 

Feel free to share any questions, comments or thoughts you have for Nicole.


Take Five With...Molly Ringle

This week’s author is Molly Ringle, who has a talent for creating sympathetic characters. The Ghost Downstairs was a different and interesting read for me as it was the first time I was reading a romance novel with this unique storyline. All the while, I was rooting hard for Lina, the main character, to win her guy, even if he belonged to another realm.  Let’s just say the situation turned ominous and that kept me reading until I was satisfied the outcome was the one I hoped for.  Molly’s settings for her stories are diverse, which leads into the first question.

How or why did you choose Scotland as the setting for a novel?

The short answer: I love it there! It's enchanting. And an enchanting setting is the best for any novel, in my opinion.

The long answer: I became an Anglophile (or rather, entire British-Isles-ophile) sometime in college, probably from reading the Bronte sisters and E.M. Forster, and listening to The Cure and The Beatles, and so on. It's a common enough fondness for Americans, especially those who have British ancestry. Then I actually went there with my parents and younger sister when I was 20, and the obsession went full-blown. I was almost in tears when we left, despite it being only a ten-day and very touristy visit. I knew I had to go back. So I did, when I graduated from college.

I arrived in London on my own in the fall of 1996, and made my plans for my three-month work-abroad stay. I somewhat arbitrarily decided that Edinburgh would be where I'd settle and find work, so I took the train up to there and did just that. I had an internet acquaintance in the Edinburgh area already, which helped, but also Scotland seemed more exotic than England--and if I was going to have a work-abroad experience in the UK, I might as well take the more exotic option, right? I'm very glad I did, though of course now I also want to spend more time in many other areas of the British Isles and get to know them equally well.

In any case, I later used my impressions of being a young American living in Edinburgh to write 'What Scotland Taught Me'--adding a lot more teen angst into the mix for dramatic effect, of course!

What do you think of current publishing trends?

I'm quite stoked that the e-book revolution seems finally to be here, at long last. I got e-published for the first time in 2002, and believe me, the world was NOT ready then. Nobody I talked to understood how you would go about reading a book on a screen, or why you would want to. I settled back and bided my time, and watched my e-publishers go under, one after the other. But I honestly believed e-books had a future, so I signed on with another e-pub when I had a manuscript ready (with The Wild Rose Press, who do also put their full-length novels into print, which I admit sweetened the deal).

Then around last year, more and more people started talking about getting Kindles and Nooks, and reading books on their iPhones. I credit the iPhone/iPod Touch with people getting so comfortable reading electronic text in longer form, actually. People came to love their little devices so much, they were willing to bring books onto them. I think it's great. Sure, I'd still love to have Penguin or Random House print my books on gorgeous acid-free paper by the million some day. But if they never do business with me and I get a million downloads instead, I'll be perfectly happy.

What advice would you give newly published writers?

Being someone that people can easily work with is going to get you a long way. Yes, you do need to have a handle on grammar, plot, and dialogue, and all that. But having a great book isn't going to open many doors for you if you're unwilling to consider editing suggestions, unreliable about doing your work, and/or generally unable to come across like a sane human being.

Eccentricity has its place in the literary world, but on the whole, editors and agents want their authors to act professional, which means being mature and respectful. All too often you hear the advice, "What you need most of all is to have written a great book," and that's certainly part of the recipe, but I thought I'd shine some light on the other part today, just for variety.

What kind of books do you read? Do they influence your writing in any way?

I read mostly novels, and a little nonfiction if the subject interests me. The novels are of every sort--young adult, adult, commercial, literary, contemporary, classic, genre, non-genre. I like to keep my fiction palate wide and varied, and I definitely think (and hope!) this variety influences my writing. Even if I'm writing within a genre (such as romance), I like to bring the influence of other areas of knowledge into it, so that it won't just read like a cookie-cutter story. I can't resist throwing in a touch of the literary, or a whiff of the paranormal, or a fun fact about history.

What are you working on now?

I'm frequently told I have a hand for comedy and should write more of it, so I'm finishing up a novella that's got a strong humor angle. Basically, the ghost of a young woman shows up and tries to throw a living woman and man together, with specific and often sappy or bizarre requirements for how the courtship should go. (If they don't obey, she throws poltergeist-like fits, so they fall into line pretty fast.) It's romance, but at the same time it pokes fun at the romance genre. Does that make it meta-romance? In any case, I hope I'll be able to announce the release of that one soon! Beyond that, I have more "serious" novels about star-crossed lovers, guardian angels, and Greek gods among my files, all awaiting my revision time. I have no problem coming up with new project ideas, only with finding time to write them. 
Molly Ringle has been writing fiction for over twenty years, and her stories always include love and humor, as well as the occasional touch of tragedy and/or the paranormal. Molly lives in Seattle with her husband and kids, and worships fragrances and chocolate. Visit her at http://www.mollyringle.com

Do share your comments and/or questions with Molly. One lucky follower who comments will win an e-book of their choice.  The winner will be announced on Saturday, April 2, 2011. 


Doralynn Kennedy

Doralynn Kennedy’s Sleeping With Skeletons has been described by Long and Short Reviews as an ‘edge of your seat’, ‘nail biting’, ‘heart racing’, ‘roller coaster ride’ kind of read. I haven’t read Skeletons yet, simply because I was holding out for a Kindle, which is almost in my grasp. As soon as I’m done reading, I’ll post my own review over at The Readers’ Suite.  Those of you who like romantic suspense will no doubt enjoy Doralynn’s debut novel. Now on to the good stuff.

1.    How did you start writing?

I owe that to my 8th and 9th grade English teacher, Mr. McIntyre. He is the teacher who made the biggest impact on what direction my life would take. At the beginning of each school year, he gave his students contracts. We entered into an agreement that was based on what grade we would like to earn. He gave us the option of making an A, B, or C in his class. Each grade placed different demands on us. 

I wanted an A. One of the things I had to do to earn that 'A' was write several short stories. It was then that I discovered I could write. Much to my amazement, he started reading those tales to the class. It was thrilling for me to hear my fellow students laughing at all of my jokes and cheering my characters on to their ridiculous end. One day I turned in a story, and he shook his head and gave it back. "I know what you're capable of, and you can do better than that. Never do anything less than your best." It was the best piece of advice any teacher ever gave me. I've been writing ever since then.

2.    How has your background influenced your writing?
My background has had a huge impact on what I write. I tend to write what I know, so I have a lot of law enforcement and military characters in my books... since I have a background in the military and law enforcement.

3.    Any particular reason you chose Ireland for your setting?
My family hails from Ireland, though not recently. Ireland is my family's past though. I've always loved Ireland, so placing Margaret there seemed like a good plan, especially since she wanted to feel closer to the mother she lost as a child -- and her mother's childhood home was Ireland.
4.    Where do you see yourself in five years in terms of your writing and do you see yourself branching into any other genre?
I imagine that in five years I'll still be writing. Hopefully, I'll have found an agent by then. I like to joke that it's easier to get to the moon without a rocket or find the Loch Ness Monster than it is to find an agent.
I like to write a lot of different genres. Originally Sleeping With Skeletons was a thriller, but in order to get it published, I needed to change it to romantic suspense. It wasn't too hard to do. I needed to include some additional scenes between Margaret and Aidan. I also had to cut out some of the more violent action sequences in the book. But I do love to write thrillers and mysteries. I enjoy writing romance as well, and my current work in progress is a paranormal romance.

5.       What do you think of current publishing trends?
They scare me a little. I don't like e-books. They hurt my eyes. And I just love the feel of a book in my hand, the smell of paper. Plus, I just can't snuggle up with an e-reader the same way I can with a book. But, it looks like the writing is on the wall, and e-books are here to stay. Many books will never see print publishing. They'll have a lot of readers, but they'll lose a lot of readers too.

Doralynn served as a Military Police woman in the Army. She mostly worked law enforcement, but she was also attached to the Personnel Security Division, PSD. They provided security for high-ranking officers. At one point, her team also provided residential security for the CIA Station Chief in Frankfurt, Germany. She mostly worked uniform, but she has also done some undercover. Among other things, her Military Occupational Specialty and training included crime scene investigation, counterterrorism, bomb threats, and hostage situations. She has traveled extensively inside and outside of the U.S..

She owns a job service, and writes part time from her home in Colorado. 
Visit her at http://doralynn.net/

Feel free to leave any comments and/or questions you may have for Doralynn. One lucky follower who comments will win a copy (e-book version) of Sleeping With Skeletons.  The winner will be announced on Saturday, March 19, 2011.

Take Five With Sybil Nelson

Welcome and thanks for stopping by to help me kick off the Take Five With... series.

Today, we have Sybil Nelson, a prolific Young Adult fiction writer whom I met online several years ago. In that time, she has produced amazing work, which has drawn positive reviews.  My favourite character she’s written to date is Priscilla, a feisty seventh grader with superpowers and ‘baby twin brothers who could scare the sin off of Satan’.  That said, I'll jump in with my first question.

1.       What led you to write in the genre that you do and at what point did you realize your writing was good enough for publication?
I was a high school teacher for 9 years and I constantly got ideas for stories from my students. So it was only natural that I started writing YA.
As to publication, you never really know for sure, but when you hit different milestones you realize you're close. For example, when I got an agent, I knew I had to be somewhat good. When I sold the movie option to my book that was further validation. And now, every single review I get reinforces the fact that I'm good enough.
2.       Do you have any writing rituals?
I don't really like to use outlines to write my books but I do like to put myself on a word count schedule. When I'm in writing mode, I'll give myself a goal like 60k words in two months and then I do whatever I have to in order to stick to that. One thing that helps me personally is red wine and dark chocolate M&M's. Mmmm, the perfect writing treat.
3.       How do you find time to write, considering your hectic schedule and how long does it take you to write a novel?
I don't have time to write. I make time to write. I always carry a notebook with me in order to jot down notes and when it's time to write, no matter how tired I am, I grab another cup of coffee and put words to paper.
On average, I’d say it takes me about two months to write a first draft. But the editing process could take years.
4.       What is the next project in the pipeline?
Books 2-4 of the Priscilla the Great series are complete and I'm currently taking notes on Book 5. I'm thinking about saving that for my Nano project this year, but who knows.
 5.    What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned as a writer?
Patience. Many new authors think they written the world’s next bestseller after they've finished the first draft of their first book. I know I did. But it takes patience to hone your craft and to then break into publishing. I have by no means had that breakout success yet, but I'm building momentum and I know I will get there soon. I just have to have a little patience.
Sybil Nelson lives in Charleston, South Carolina with her husband and two children. She is currently earning her Ph.D. in Biostatistics from the Medical University of South Carolina and has completed ten Young Adult novels. She also writes under the pen name Leslie DuBois.
Feel free to leave any comments and/or questions you may have for Sybil. One lucky follower who comments will win an e-book of his/her choice from those shown above.  The winner will be announced on Saturday, March 5, 2011.

Starting on March 1, look out for books by some talented authors. 

I'll be asking five questions of each writer, and will post an interview every other week. I plan to have some cool giveaways with each interview, so stay tuned...

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