Author Interviews

  1. Smashwords (29 January 2016)
  2. Mercedes Fox Books (6 February 2016)
  3. Renee Writes (11 November 2016)
  4. The World of the Blue Bell Trilogy (5 December 2016)
  5. Book Raider (11 December 2016)
  6. BlogTalk Radio – Back Porch Writer (9 February 2017)
  7. Jonuel Negron (11 December 2016)
  8. Writers and Authors (2 May 2017)
  9. Book Raider (3 May 2017)
  10. Deal Sharing Aunt (4 May 2017)

 

Smashwords (29 January 2016)

  • Question: What do your fans mean to you?
    Answer: Fans (i.e., readers who enjoy my books) are my only true measure of success as an author. Although I write books I would like to read, I enjoy seeing them in print, and the occasional royalty checks are all very nice, books need readers. I would much rather have happy readers than fame or royalties.
  • Question: Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
    Answer: I can’t remember the first story I ever read, especially as my mother read to me from before I could even talk and I learned to read early. What I mostly remember is that I read huge amounts of science fiction in high school (some 70+ books my freshman year). My three favorite authors were the three grand masters: Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and Robert Heinlein. I also read a lot of Asimov’s popular science books and we corresponded quite a few times. I was also greatly influenced by the Tolkien Trilogy. I must have read it 20 times. In fact, I liked it so much that when I spend a year going to school at Ludwig Maximillian University in Munich my Junior Year in college, it was the only English-language book I took with me.
  • Question: Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
    Answer: I wrote lots of science fiction short stories as a teenager and when an undergraduate. Some I thought were real good (at least based on the idea and plot twists), whereas quite a few were pretty abysmal. I can’t remember the first one.
  • Question: What are you working on now?
    Answer: I am currently working on the second book in my Hell Holes series, Hell Holes: Demons on the Dalton. It follows the surviving characters from the first book on their trip down Alaska’s Dalton Highway, one of the most dangerous roads in the world, even when you’re not being chased by an army of invading demons. Whereas the first book was written from the viewpoint of Dr. Jack Oswald, a geologist and the team’s leader, the second book is being written from the viewpoint of Dr. Angela Menendez, his climatologist wife. I am just finishing the next to the last chapter, and have just finished collaborating with the artist on the cover of this second book.
  • Question: What will you be working on next?
    Answer: As soon as Hell Holes: Demons on the Dalton is put to bed, I will begin working on the third book in the series, Hell Holes: To Hell And Back. This book will be written from the viewpoint of Aileen O’Shannon, a sorceress from the Tutores Contra Infernum, an ancient and secret (at least up until the demon invasion) order formed to protect humanity from demons. It will tell the story of humanity’s first attack on the demon’s home world, hence the title.
  • Question: Describe your desk.
    Answer: Cluttered with piles that threaten to unleash avalanches if I don’t go through them every 2-3 months. I write on my laptop, but have it in a dock so that I can have a better keyboard. I have a plant to my right and a large glass container with 20-30 of my magic wands to my left. On the wall in front of my, I have a signed Lindsy Sterling poster (check her out on YouTube if you haven’t heard her music before) and a couple of German woodcarvings. Standing in the corner to my right are my sword, staff, spear, and a 16th century pike from a Swiss castle. On my left is a bookshelf full of science fiction books (quite a few I got signed at science fiction conventions) and science books, especially on the brain and consciousness.
  • Question: What is your writing process?
    Answer: I try to write an hour or two every day. I start with a concept, genre, basic plot, and list of characters. My current books involve a lot of travel from place to place, and that drives a lot of the action. I actually spend a great deal of time researching on the Internet to ensure that I get the non-fiction parts of my paranormal/fantasy/science fiction novels right. For example, I did a great deal of research on the North Slope of Alaska for Hell Holes: What Lurks Below. I also had a lot of help from a University of Alaska geology professor. For Hell Holes: Demons on the Dalton, I am heavily relying on Google Maps, calling and talking to someone at the Trucker’s Cafe in Coldfoot, and I am getting great support from a former USAF helicopter pilot who works at the company that makes the military helicopters that are important in the second book.
  • Question: What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
    Answer: That depends on whether I am writing one of my technical books in software and system engineering or writing fiction (typically paranormal, fantasy, and science fiction). In the first case, the joy is the capturing of practical lessons learned that system and software engineers can use to produce better systems. With fiction, it is totally different. The joy of writing fiction is actually the joy of discovery. I typically start with a very general concept, genre, characters, and a general sequence of events. The discovery comes in filling in the details. The situation and the characters’ personas dictate roughly how they will act and react, but when I am writing and in the zone, I don’t so much decide what happens next so much as read the story as I write it. Thus, I often don’t know what is going to happen until it does, and I discover it as if I were reading another author’s book for the very first time. That is why I sometimes tell my family and friends that I can’t wait to get back to writing so that I can find out what happens next.
  • Question: When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
    Answer: I spend the work week working as a principle engineer at the Software Engineering Institute, where I help the US Government acquire large, complex software-intensive systems. Although I spend much of the rest of my time writing, I also spend a great deal of time reading work-related technical books, articles, and papers. I also read one or two novels a week. Currently, I am binging on young-adult paranormal and fantasy, especially by female authors. Anytime left over is spent crafting magic wands that I sale on my wand shop’s website and Etsy. Occasionally, I find the need to sleep and eat, but those are low on my priority list.
  • Question: How do you discover the ebooks you read?
    Answer: I really really like BookBub. I find that practically every day, they show me at least one interesting book I can “buy” for free on Amazon. I’ve tried several other sites that send me book notifications, but I find that BookBub is much more on target with my interests. Definitely check them out if you don’t already know about them.
  • Question: What is your e-reading device of choice?
    Answer: My favorites are iPad and Kindle Fire. I like the Kindle from a price standpoint, but my iPad is much more powerful and versatile (e.g., I can get my corporate email on my iPad but the Fire is not supported).

 

Mercedes Fox Books (6 February 2016)

  • Question: Why do you write?
    Answer: I write my technical software and system engineering books to share the lessons I’ve learned Hell Holes Vol 1 Front Coverworking on software and system development projects. I write fiction because I love both reading and writing fiction.
  • Question: When did you decide to become a writer?
    Answer: I wrote a lot of science fiction short stories, some good and some terrible, when I was in high school, but never managed to get anything published. As a part of my job as a software expert, I do a lot of technical writing including reports, articles, conference papers, and software books. Although they are quite different from my fiction, all of that writing has improved my writing ability and speed. For the last decade or so, I’ve finally returned to writing fiction, but this time books and novellas rather than short stories.
  • Question: What genre are your books?
    Answer: My fiction tends to be paranormal, fantasy, or science fiction, and my most recent book, Hell Holes: What Lurks Below, is a mixture of all three combined with action/adventure, science fact, and a dash of horror.
  • Question: What draws you to this genre?
    Answer: I love science fiction because it takes me to fantastic futures that could conceivably exist. Although I have a strong science background and a scientific worldview, I also love paranormal and fantasy because they take me to fantastic worlds that don’t exist, but could be amazingly cool if they did. Sometimes, I enjoy merging the two because of the resulting juxtapositions and clashes of worldviews.
  • Question: How long does it usually take you to complete a book?
    Answer: Books typically take me one and a half to two years to write, although I do have two books (one juvenile fiction and one technical) that I’ve been working on for over a decade so far. My books would be done a lot faster if I were a full time author rather than just writing in the evening and one weekends.
  • Question: Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?
    Answer: My wife is a night owl while I am an early riser. I usually can put half a day in on writing each Saturday and Sunday morning. I write for a few hours most evenings. Sometimes, I even write for a quarter hour during my lunch breaks at work or for an hour after work when I wait for the rush hour traffic to disperse.
  • Question: Do you listen to music or watch TV/movie while you write?
    Answer: I can’t imagine writing while watching TV; I would never be able to get anything done. I do listen to soft instrumental background music, but I can’t listen to singing because the lyrics conflict with the words I am writing. Typically, I listen to epic music on YouTube and contemporary music on Pandora. For example, I like Lindsey Stirling and similar artists.
  • Question: What have you written?
    Answer: I have written seven books in software and systems engineering covering topics such as requirements engineering, architecture engineering, process engineering, design methods, and testing. I can even letigimately call myself a lexicographer, having compiled a 500+ page software dictionary. My two published fiction books are Magical Wands: A Cornucopia of Wand Lore and Hell Holes: What Lurks Below. I am currently finishing the second book in the Hell Holes series, Hell Holes: Demons on the Dalton, which I hope to complete in the next couple of months. I also hope to finish a juvenile fantasy titled The Treasure of Hawthorn House before the end of summer.
  • Question: Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just seeing where an idea takes you?
    Answer: I always have a basic plot, a description of each chapter (even if it is only in my head), and descriptions of my characters before I start any serious writing. On the other hand, I often don’t know what’s going to happen in an individual scene or chapter until I write it. One reasons I continue writing fiction is that I want to find out what happens next.
  • Question: How do you market your books?
    Answer: I never did anything to market my technical books or my wand lore book, and the sales suffered because of that. But with Hell Holes, I am working very hard on marketing. Mark Coker, the man behind Smashwords has written several excellent and free books, and the Internet is full of presentations and articles on book marketing. I intend to do just about everything, but I’m naturally picking the low hanging fruit first by starting with the easy and cheapest marketing approaches.
  • Question: Do you find promoting your books challenging or enjoyable?
    Answer: Having an excellent full-time job greatly limits the time I have available for both writing and marketing. Promoting my books is very challenging and takes a lot of time away from writing. Of course, not being a highly successful full-time author, I can’t afford to hire an agent, publicist, and marketing firm. I am still trying to discover the right mix between writing and promoting.
  • Question: Any advice for aspiring authors?
    Answer: Because writing is a skill that, like any other skill, improves with practice, write as much as you can. Also, read as much as you can, especially in the same or similar genres as those you write. Don’t give up, especially when you get rejections and bad reviews. Instead, learn from them what you can and then move on.
  • Question: Where do your ideas come from?
    Answer: From all over. For example, do you remember in the first Harry Potter book and movie when Harry receives the list of textbooks he needs and when he enters Flourish and Blots and sees all those amazing books? I immediately thought, boy I would love to read some of them. I hoped that JK Rowling would write some, but the ones she eventually wrote were short little books for charity and nothing like the books Harry and the other students would study. Since no one else wrote one, I wrote one for myself, and Magical Wands, A Cornucopia of Wand Lore was born. MF: I do remember that scene well. I’m a Harry Potter nerd. I too would love to see those made into books.
    Another example is the genesis of my Hell Holes series. I read quite a few popular science magazines, and a couple of summers ago, I read that people discovered these huge holes in the frozen tundra of northern Siberia. Scientists have proposed several explanations, but none of them has yet adequately explained what caused the holes and where the dirt that filled them has gone. What if suddenly, thousands of such holes were discovered above the Arctic Circle? The oil companies of Alaska’s North Slope would surely hire scientists to research them and determine if they posed a risk to the Trans-Alaska pipeline or the numerous oil wells and pipelines that feed into it. What if these holes were a portals enabling the invasion of our world by terrible creatures. And so, I began writing Hell Holes: What Lurks Below.
  • Question: What is the hardest thing about writing?
    Answer: Finding the time to write as much as I would like.
  • Question: What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?
    Answer: Among other things, Hell Holes: Demons on the Dalton involves the US military response to the demon invasion. I have had to do a lot of research in how the military would respond. What vehicles and weapons would be used? What would be the ranks of the relevant characters? I try to make the nonfiction parts of my fiction as realistic as possible, and this is not easy when, for example, I do not have direct military experience. For example, I have had to learn about the available aircraft including capacity and range, the local Alaskan landing strips, and numerous other facts that are touched on in the books. I try to get expert input. I had help from a geology professor on the first Hell Holes book, while I have a former Pave Hawk helicopter pilot helping me with the second book.
  • Question: What do you do to get book reviews?
    Answer: For the first Hell Holes book, I have contacted roughly 60 different book review websites and bloggers over the last three weeks. I have not yet reached the point where I have felt it was worth several hundred dollars to pay for major reviews.
  • Question: How successful has your quest for reviews been so far?
    Answer: So far, I have heard from maybe 20% of those I have contacted, and roughly half of those have agreed to review the book. Of those, two reviews have been completed and I am waiting on the others.
  • Question: What is the current book you are promoting?
    Answer: Hell Holes: What Lurks Below.
  • Question: You mentioned you’re writing a new story. How about a teaser?
    Answer: Hell Holes: Demons on the Dalton takes up were Hell Holes, What Lurks Below ends. The three survivors from the first book flee down the Dalton Highway, one of the most dangerous roads in the world, being chased by hellhounds, gargoyles, imps, and devils from the invading demon army. While the first book is written from the point of view of Dr. Jack Oswald, the geologist leader of the ill-fated team, the second book is written from the viewpoint of Dr. Angela Menendez, his climatologist wife.
  • Question: What is your next project?
    Answer: Writing Hell Holes: To Hell and Back, completing The Treasure of Hawthorn House, or both simultaneously. I am also reformatting my wand lore book so that it can be translated into multiple ebook formats.
  • Question: If there was one thing you could do to change the world, what would it be?
    Answer: Completely eliminate a major new infectious disease as has been done with Smallpox. If I were a billionaire, I would pick a germ to make extinct and then fund its eradication.
  • Question: How do you write your books? Laptop, by hand, software?
    Answer: I can’t imagine writing my books by hand. I’ve been using computers since the late 1970’s, and I would be lost without them. For example, I do a lot of iterating and rewriting and that’s only practical using a computer. I also do a lot of on-line research, so that’s another reason why I write using my computers. I use Microsoft Word on either my desktop or my laptop, which I have plugged into a docking station so that I can use a full-sized keyboard. Since I learned about how to format a Word document so that it can be translated into all major ebook formats (I use Smashwords and really like them), I use the show/hide button so that I can see all of my formatting as I type.
  • Question: What do you think of traditional publishing vs. self-publishing?
    Answer: Being an indie author has great advantages over traditional publishing, especially with regard to ebooks. The level of control and the ability to continually improve your books is critically important. Also with a traditional publisher, if your physical books aren’t immediately highly successful, they don’t survive more than a few weeks before they are removed from bookstore shelves and sent back. Having tried both approaches, I will start each book as an indie ebook.
  • Question: Would you say there is a stigma to being self-published?
    Answer: The stigma is rapidly fading, and I don’t worry about it anymore.
  • Question: Tell us something unique about you.
    Answer: I’m not exactly unique, but I do make unique, one-of-a-kind, handcrafted magic wands that incorporate actual gemstones.

 

Renee Writes (11 November 2016)

  • Question: Why did you decide to be a writer?
    Answer: I always loved writing. Back in high school, I read literally hundreds of science fiction books, often had story ideas, and wrote lots of short stories. Once I had a decade of experience developing software, I started writing system and software engineering books based on what I learned working on real projects and eventually published seven. More recently, I started writing fiction again.
  • Question: Do you have a “day job”? If so, what do you do?
    Answer: I work as a system and software engineer at the Software Engineering Institute, a Federal Research and Development Center. I help the United States Government acquire large complex software-reliant systems.
  • Question: What genres do you write?
    Answer: I primarily write modern paranormal fantasy, apocalyptic science fiction, action and adventure novels. I also write software and system engineering technical books.
  • Question: What inspires you to write?
    Answer: I often get my ideas from the latest advances in science and technology.
  • Question: What authors/books have most influenced you?
    Answer: I was greatly influenced by the science fiction Grand Masters: Asimov, Clarke, and Heinlein. I also read the works of Tolkien many times.
  • Question: If you could choose an author to be your mentor, who would it be?
    Answer: That’s a hard question. I read the works of dozens and dozens of authors and would find it hard to concentrate on any one author. For example, when preparing to write the second book in my Hell Holes series (which is told from the first person point of view of a strong female character), I read a very large number of books by female authors having strong female lead characters.
  • Question: When did you first consider yourself an author?
    Answer: For nonfiction, after my first technical book was published and I had a physical copy in my hands. For my novels, when I started getting multiple positive reviews from people I did not know (i.e., when I could legitimately say that I has beginning to have fans).
  • Question: What is the biggest obstacle you face as an author and what do you do to overcome it?
    Answer: There are two obstacles: finding time to write when I have a full-time day job and marketing as an indie author. Since I enjoy writing so much, the first obstacle is more of an annoyance than a hindrance. I spend a lot of time using social media, trying to get reviews in book blogs, and developing connections with other authors.
  • Question: What is the best compliment you’ve ever received as an author?
    Answer: I received the following Amazon Review: “This novel follows on from the first novel, Hell Holes – What Lurks Below and is, again, written in journal form but this time by Dr. Angela Menendez, the wife of the author of the first journal. She follows on more-or-less where the last account ended, and it’s amazing that a book written by the same author (Donald Firesmith) can fool one into thinking that it’s written by a completely different person. Such is the strength of the writing that the new “author” (Dr. Menendez) shines through and her personality & writing style is quite different to that of the other journal’s surrogate author, her fictional husband.”
  • Question: What do you enjoy doing aside from writing?
    Answer: Reading, obviously. I can imagine being a writer without being an avid reader. I also make unique, hand-crafted magic wands from various woods and gemstones, which ties in with my book, Magical Wands: A Cornucopia of Wand Lore.
  • Question: What book or series do you enjoy reading over and over again?
    Answer: The Tolkien Trilogy never grows old. In fact, it was the one book in English that I took with me when I spent a year abroad studying at Ludwig Maximillian University in Munich. Interestingly, I often listen to the German language audio books when making long solo car trips.
  • Question: How many books do you have on your “to read” list? What are some of them?
    Answer: I have at least 50 books that I have downloaded onto my Kindle Fire and not yet started. I typically read two books simultaneously, and finish most within a week. Most are paranormal fantasy books by new female indie authors.
  • Question: What made you decide to self-publish?
    Answer: I got tired of my traditional publishers not doing an adequate job of marketing the books. I also really appreciate the ability to put out updated editions anytime I want without waiting for the publisher to sell enough thousands of copies to ensure their profit.
  • Question: How long does it take you to write a book?
    Answer: I typically take 9 months to complete the first edition and another couple months of rewrites, copy editing, and beta readers.
  • Question: Do you write about real life experiences, or does everything come from your imagination?
    Answer: To the extent possible, I make as much of my non-paranormal content as real as possible. I feel it makes the paranormal fantasy and science fiction aspects of the books more believable. For example, Hell Holes 2: Demons on the Dalton involved a trip to Alaska and the Dalton Highway, a visit to Eielson Air Force Base including all of the locations in book 2 and book 3. I used Google and Google Maps Street View extensively and had three major military advisors on the military aspects of the book.
  • Question: Have you ever gotten an idea for a story from something really bizarre? Tell us about it.
    Answer: The Hell Hole series was triggered by the actual discovery in 2014 of several mysterious huge holes in the frozen tundra of northern Siberia. I asked myself what would happen if several hundred such holes instantly appeared all around the Arctic Circle.
  • Question: What are you working on now?
    Answer: I am about one-fourth of the way through writing the initial draft of Hell Holes 3: To Hell and Back.

 

The World of the Blue Bell Trilogy (5 December 2016)

  • Question: Are you a full time author or do you have another job as well and if so how do either or these fit in with writing time?
    Answer: During the week, I work as a principal engineer at the Software Engineering Institute, a Federally Funded Research and Development Center, where I help the US Government acquire software-reliant systems. That leaves evenings and weekend mornings before the family wakes up for writing.
  • Question: Do you write on your novel daily or do you try to have days off?
    Answer: I would love to write every day, but reality rears its ugly head and so I only work on my books about 5 days a week, and at least one of those days is devoted to marketing.
  • Question: Do you go back to published books and want to change them in any way?
    Answer: Back in the 1980s, I learned that no one writes software without bugs in it. Thus, one always has to go back, uncover defects, and make fixes and improvements. The same is true with books. I find that even after professional editing, a group of beta readers, and my own obsessive rewriting, people still find potential improvements and just plain mistakes. One of the reasons I stopped using professional publishers and became an indie author is that it (together with on-demand printing and ebooks) enables me to make improvements whenever I want.
    Currently, I am working on writing Hell Holes 3: To Hell and Back, and I hope that no one discovers a problem or makes a recommendation that would require significant rework on the first two Hell Holes books.
  • Question: Can you give us a little insight into any fantasy characters in your latest book?
    Answer: The fantasy characters in my Hell Holes series are various types of high demons (humanoids such as devils and imps) and low demons (beasts such as gargoyles and hellhounds). Given that demons are stronger than humans, impervious to fire, and their wounds magically heal within at most a few minutes, they are relatively fearless when attacking humans. Given that devils can glamour humans into looking human, they feel that humans are stupid and gullible. Finally, the demons have a warrior culture based on conquest and slavery that makes them feel that humans are totally beneath them, unworthy of compassion, and useful only as slaves or food. They enjoy torturing their victims, believing that terror makes the flesh taste better (“Fear is the best sauce.”).
  • Question: Is your the world in your book like earth or is it a fantasy world?
    Answer: My current book series takes place at the current time on Earth, but in the third book, my human characters must travel to an alien world to stop an alien invasion. Because the aliens are demons with dark magical powers, the demon homeplanet is my current fantasy world.
  • Question: What is the time period setting of your latest book?
    Answer: While my science fiction short stories were usually significantly in the future, my books tend to be set in either the present or the very near future. I believe that this founding in current reality makes the fantastic parts of the book more believable.
  • Question: Do you prefer to write as a series or one off books?
    Answer: I like to write both one-off books and series, but I think I prefer series, although that may be because I am currently writing the third book in a series. A good book often provides such a rich background and such interesting characters that it literally cries out to be the start of a series.
  • Question: Do you like to use lots of subplots or do you think just confuses?
    Answer: I am incredibly impressed (and not a little intimidated) by authors who can weave several subplots together into a unified whole that ties up all of the loose ends in the final book. For example, I just finished reading The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker, and I was struck by the way she tied the Jewish and Syrian subplots together at the end.
  • Question: How do you think you would feel if you received a really bad review that seemed justified?
    Answer: I hope that after a very short bout of anger and depression (I’m only human, after all) that it would motivate me to both fix the offending book and improve my future writing.
  • Question: Do you think all readers should do reviews to help the writers improve?
    Answer: Reviews are absolutely critical for several reasons, especially for indie authors. For example, it is very difficult for an author to promote his or her books without 20-50 Amazon reviews. Reviews also critical for helping readers decide whether to buy and read the book. Lastly, a good review helps the author know what the reviewer liked, and just as importantly, what they didn’t like.

    A wise author will carefully consider a reviewer’s constructive criticism as an opportunity to improve the book or the author’s writing in general. That said and knowing just how much work is involved in writing, I hate giving books review rankings of only one or two stars. Instead, I often contact the authors directly with specific issues, especially typos, grammar, and word usage as well as if I feel the book truly deserves only one or two stars.
    Luckily, I rarely have to do that because I almost never complete reading such disappointing books and refuse to write a review if I haven’t read the entire book.

  • Question: When you receive reviews, do you find yourself influenced to make changes?
    Answer: Absolutely. I have made significant changes and improvements to Hell Holes: What Lurks Below based on constructive criticism from reviewers. However, to be valuable, a good review has to be specific. One-line reviews (“I really loved it.” or “I hated it.”) may affect my ego, but they don’t improve the book. It’s a little like telling a parent that their child is beautiful or ugly; neither changes how the child looks.

 

Book Raider (11 December 2016)

  • Question: Are you a full time author or do you have another job as well and if so how do either or these fit in with writing time?
    Answer: During the week, I work as a principal engineer at the Software Engineering Institute, a Federally Funded Research and Development Center, where I help the US Government acquire software-reliant systems. That leaves evenings and weekend mornings before the family wakes up for writing.
  • Question: Do you write on your novel daily or do you try to have days off?
    Answer: I would love to write every day, but reality rears its ugly head and so I only work on my books about 5 days a week, and at least one of those days is devoted to marketing.
  • Question: Do you go back to published books and want to change them in any way?
    Answer: Back in the 1980s, I learned that no one writes software without bugs in it. Thus, one always has to go back, uncover defects, and make fixes and improvements. The same is true with books. I find that even after professional editing, a group of beta readers, and my own obsessive rewriting, people still find potential improvements and just plain mistakes. One of the reasons I stopped using professional publishers and became an indie author is that it (together with on-demand printing and ebooks) enables me to make improvements whenever I want. Currently, I am working on writing Hell Holes 3: To Hell and Back, and I hope that no one discovers a problem or makes a recommendation that would require significant rework on the first two Hell Holes books.
  • Question: Can you give us a little insight into any fantasy characters in your latest book?
    Answer: The fantasy characters in my Hell Holes series are various types of high demons (humanoids such as devils and imps) and low demons (beasts such as gargoyles and hellhounds). Given that demons are stronger than humans, impervious to fire, and their wounds magically heal within at most a few minutes, they are relatively fearless when attacking humans. Given that devils can glamour humans into looking human, they feel that humans are stupid and gullible. Finally, the demons have a warrior culture based on conquest and slavery that makes them feel that humans are totally beneath them, unworthy of compassion, and useful only as slaves or food. They enjoy torturing their victims, believing that terror makes the flesh taste better (“Fear is the best sauce.”).
  • Question: Is your the world in your book like earth or is it a fantasy world?
    Answer: My current book series takes place at the current time on Earth, but in the third book, my human characters must travel to an alien world to stop an alien invasion. Because the aliens are demons with dark magical powers, the demon homeplanet is my current fantasy world.
  • Question: What is the time period setting of your latest book?
    Answer: While my science fiction short stories were usually significantly in the future, my books tend to be set in either the present or the very near future. I believe that this founding in current reality makes the fantastic parts of the book more believable.
  • Question: Do you prefer to write as a series or one off books?
    Answer: I like to write both one-off books and series, but I think I prefer series, although that may be because I am currently writing the third book in a series. A good book often provides such a rich background and such interesting characters that it literally cries out to be the start of a series.
  • Question: Do you like to use lots of subplots or do you think just confuses?
    Answer: I am incredibly impressed (and not a little intimidated) by authors who can weave several subplots together into a unified whole that ties up all of the loose ends in the final book. For example, I just finished reading The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker, and I was struck by the way she tied the Jewish and Syrian subplots together at the end.
  • Question: How do you think you would feel if you received a really bad review that seemed justified?
    Answer: I hope that after a very short bout of anger and depression (I’m only human, after all) that it would motivate me to both fix the offending book and improve my future writing.
  • Question: Do you think all readers should do reviews to help the writers improve?
    Answer: Reviews are absolutely critical for several reasons, especially for indie authors. For example, it is very difficult for an author to promote his or her books without 20-50 Amazon reviews. Reviews also critical for helping readers decide whether to buy and read the book. Lastly, a good review helps the author know what the reviewer liked, and just as importantly, what they didn’t like. A wise author will carefully consider a reviewer’s constructive criticism as an opportunity to improve the book or the author’s writing in general. That said and knowing just how much work is involved in writing, I hate giving books review rankings of only one or two stars. Instead, I often contact the authors directly with specific issues, especially typos, grammar, and word usage as well as if I feel the book truly deserves only one or two stars. Luckily, I rarely have to do that because I almost never complete reading such disappointing books and refuse to write a review if I haven’t read the entire book.
  • Question: When you receive reviews, do you find yourself influenced to make changes?
    Answer: Absolutely. I have made significant changes and improvements to Hell Holes: What Lurks Below based on constructive criticism from reviewers. However, to be valuable, a good review has to be specific. One-line reviews (“I really loved it.” or “I hated it.”) may affect my ego, but they don’t improve the book. It’s a little like telling a parent that their child is beautiful or ugly; neither changes how the child looks.

 

BlogTalk Radio – Back Porch Writer (9 February 2017)

 

Jonuel Negron – Interview with Horror Author Donald Firesmith (17 February 2017)

In this article we have an exclusive interview with Horror Author Donald Firesmith, Author of the Hell Holes series. Let’s get this interview started.

  • Question: What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
    Answer: My Hell Hole series of modern paranormal fantasy, apocalyptic science fiction, horror, action and adventure novels takes place in Alaska in Fairbanks, along the Dalton Highway that runs up to Deadhorse, and at Eielson Air Force Base. Last summer, I traveled from my home in Pittsburgh to Fairbanks, where I spent one day at Eielson touring all of the relevant locations in the second and third book including “The Vault” where classified planning meeting would take place. I rented a car and drove up the Dalton to the Yukon River and past the location of scene that became the inspiration of book two’s cover, and toured a tunnel in the permafrost, which is central to book 3.
  • Question: What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
    Answer: As I mentioned in the first question, I heavily research the settings of my books. Although I couldn’t afford the time to drive the entire Dalton Highway in person, I did drive it using Google Map’s street view. I extensively researched the military hardware and have had three experienced military advisors who have answered numerous questions and made story suggestions. The main character in my first book is a petroleum geologist from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, so I had an actual geology professor there provide significant input.
  • Question: Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
    Answer: Right now, I’m concentrating on my Hell Holes series. The first three books follow sequentially, though written from the first person point of view of different characters. Hell Holes 4: A Slave in Hell will be a prequel that intersects at the end with Hell Holes 3: To Hell and Back.
  • Question: What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
    Answer: Without a doubt, paying for two editors for each book. No matter how good you think your manuscript is, there are always defects to delete and things that can be improved.
  • Question: How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
    Answer: I am in the middle of Hell Holes 3 and only have the basic plot and characters of Hell Holes 4. I also have a young adult fantasy, The Treasure of Hawthorne House, about the family of witches next door that is 90% done.

 

Writers and Authors (2 May 2017)

  • Question: What genre do you write and why?
    Answer: I write in a mix of three different subgenres of speculative fiction (i.e., apocalyptic science fiction, modern paranormal fantasy, and horror) with a bit of action/adventure thrown into the mix. I write in these genres because I write the types of stories that I personally love to read. Eventually, I hope to do a steampunk book because that is another of my favorite subgenres.
  • Question: Tell us about your latest book.
    Answer: My most recent book, Hell Holes: Demons on the Dalton, is book 2 in my Hell Holes trilogy. In the first book, Hell Holes: What Lurks Below, an oil company hires a team of scientists to study one of the hundreds of huge holes that mysteriously appeared overnight in the frozen tundra north of the Arctic Circle. When an invading horde of demons flood out of the holes, the team is forced to flee to the mothballed Pump Station 2 along the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. In book 2, the three survivors from the first book are chased south down the treacherous Dalton Highway towards the relative safety of Fairbanks. This includes geologist Dr. Jack Oswald, climatologist Dr. Angela Menendez – Jack’s wife and colleague, and the beautiful Aileen O’Shannon, a 1,400-year-old demon hunter who had posed as a young photojournalist to join the research team. I am currently writing the third book in the series, Hell Holes: To Hell and Back.
  • Question: How was this book published? (traditional, small press, self pub, etcc…) Why did you choose that particular publishing route?
    Answer: While my six technical books have all been published by traditional major publishers, I am a proud indie author and publish my fiction under my personal imprint Magical Wand Press. With the advent of print on demand (POD), ebooks, and distributors such as Amazon’s CreateSpace, Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), Smashwords, IngramSpark, and InstaFreebie, it has become almost trivially easy to self-publish. This way, I have far more artistic control. I am able to make changes anytime that I want, and I can have fixes and improvements out in just a few days.
  • Question: What marketing methods are you using to promote your book?
    Answer: I’m actually using quite a few with blog tours probably being the most effective single approach. However, I find that one really has to use a lot of different marketing approaches if you want to see your book claw its way up to near the top of one of Amazon’s subgenre-specific top 100 best seller lists. I’ve captured what I’ve learned over the last couple of years in a new book I’ve titled Free and Low-Cost Marketing for Indie Authors. The book manuscript is about 90% done, and until the book is finalized and launched, you can download a free current draft copy from my author’s website (http://donaldfiresmith.com/free-and-low-cost-book-marketing-for-indie-authors/).
  • Question: Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with the bad or good ones?
    Answer: I read each and every review, both the good and the bad. Few readers realize just how important reviews are, not just to help prospective readers decide which books to read but also to use authors, especially indie authors like me. A good review does not merely summarize the book; that’s what book blurbs are for. The best reviews say what the reader specifically liked and didn’t like, which can help an author write better books (and fix mistakes that somehow made it past the editors and beta readers). Actually, intentionally negative reviews aren’t the hardest ones for me to take, because they often have something to teach me. It is the occasional review that is inconsistent with itself that bothers me the most. I get very frustrated when all of the text is highly positive, but the star rating is only 3 stars, which Amazon considers to be a critical (i.e., negative) review.
  • Question: What formats is the book available in?
    Answer: Paperback and three ebook formats: mobi (Kindle), epub (Nook), and pdf.
  • Question: Where can people find out more about you and your writing?
    Answer: Please check out my official author website (http://donaldfiresmith.com), and you can also subscribe to my free monthly newsletter, Firesmith’s Speculative Fiction Newsletter.
  • Question: Do you believe in writers block?
    Answer: I’ve never really suffered traditional writer’s block, per se. I do have days when a chronic illness leaves me physically or emotionally unable to enjoy writing or even force myself to write. But usually, my problem is finding sufficient time to write.
  • Question: How do you research your books?
    Answer: First and foremost, it’s the Internet and my favourite search engine, Google. It’s amazing what you can find in the way of textual information and images. For Hell Holes: Demons on the Dalton, I also used Google Maps street view to virtually drive the part of the Dalton Highway that I had not been able to visit in person. Part of the action takes place at Eielson Air Force Base, and I got the base historian to give me a tour of all of the relevant parts of the base that are used in the Hell Holes trilogy including even “The Vault” where classified planning meetings take place. I also had three military advisors who helped me get the military aspects right, and a University of Alaska Fairbanks geology professor helped with the geology aspects and set up a tour of a tunnel through the permafrost. Finally, a person who works at the Coldfoot Inn helped me get certain aspects of Coldfoot correct. To me, it is very important to nail the real parts of my books, because I believe a solid grounding in reality helps readers suspend disbelief when it comes to the fantasy/science fiction parts of the books.
  • Question: What is your work in progress? Tell us about it.
    Answer: The Hollywood producers, Michael Chamoy and Nat Mundel, just acquired the shopping rights to my Hell Holes trilogy with the ultimate aim of making a major feature film. They are hiring a writer for the script and film treatment, and I am busy producing a Hell Holes Cheat Sheet to help them understand the books’ characters, the different types of demons, and Hell – the demons’ homeworld. Mike also gave me two great recommendations that will make the script more marketable and also improve the books. So the other thing I am currently doing is making some significant improvements to my first two Hell Holes books to make them consistent with the script.
  •  

    Book Raider (3 May 2017)

    • Question: Are you a full-time author, or do you have another job as well, and if so how do either of these fit in with writing time?
      Answer: I have a full-time job as a system and software engineer helping the US Government acquire large, complex, software-intensive systems. That restricts my writing to evenings and weekend mornings.
    • Question: Do you write on your novel daily, or do you try to have days off?
      Answer: I work on one of the two books that I’m currently writing at least 4 days a week. I also spend some time each week marketing my books.
    • Question: Do you go back to published books and want to change them in any way?
      Answer: One of the great advantages of being an indie author is that I can go back and make improvements and fix mistakes without having to wait forever for a traditional publisher to approve a new edition. Also, by using Amazon’s CreateSpace print on demand (POD) for paperbacks and using Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) and Smashwords for ebooks, I can make changes and have them show up in the books in anywhere from a couple of days to less than two weeks. I therefore fix all mistakes that readers notify me of and make major improvements if I believe they are worth the time and effort.
    • Question: What do you think is the most effective marketing for your books?
      Answer: The right book blog tours can do wonders. However, no single marketing approach is adequate by itself. That’s why I literally use dozens of marketing techniques. By the way, one of the two books I am currently writing is Free and Low-Cost Marketing for Indie Authors, and you and your readers can download a free copy of the current draft (roughly 85% done) from my author website between now and when the final manuscript is completed.
    • Question: Did you write as a child, or did you come into your talent as an adult?
      Answer: While I wrote science fiction short stories as a teenager, I didn’t have sufficient experience and practice to be a successful author. It was only after I had written 7 technical books and innumerable technical papers and articles that I had practiced the craft of writing enough to become a sufficiently good writer to be a novelist.
    • Question: Is your the world in your book like Earth, or is it a fantasy world?
      Answer: The first three of my Hell Holes books take place in present-day Alaska. Hell Holes 4: A Slave on Hell will be a prequel that starts approximately 20 years ago and merges with Hell Holes 3: To Hell and Back near the end of that book.
    • Question: Do you prefer to write as a series or one off books?
      Answer: I like series, which enable me to build off the earlier books, reusing characters and locations. A good series creates a world in which many stories can be told.
    • Question: Do you like to use lots of subplots, or do you think just confuses?
      Answer: I don’t tend to use subplots, which can slow down the action. Books with lots of subplots are also much harder to write, both because you have to avoid inconsistencies and subplots can limit your freedom to tell your main story.
    • Question: Can you tell us a little about your protagonist and your antagonist and how they relate to each other?
      Answer: My Hell Holes trilogy haves three main protagonists, and each book is written from the first person viewpoint of one of them. They are (1) Dr. Jack Oswald, a petroleum geologist who teaches at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, (2) Dr. Angela Menendez, a climatologist also at the UAF and the wife of Dr. Oswald, and (3) Aileen O’Shannon, a 1,400-year-old demon hunter originally from Ireland. They are being attacked and chased by an invading army of demons: devils, imps, gargoyles, and hellhounds. It is not until book 3 that we even hear about the main antagonist, the queen of the demons, and not until the prequel that we get to actually see her.
    • Question: How do you think you would feel if you received a really bad review that seemed justified?
      Answer: My first thought would be, Damn, now I have to go back and potentially invest a lot of time making extensive revisions, and that will prevent me from writing new books. Luckily, such reviews are extremely rare. The key is to view all critical reviews as incentives to make improvements rather than as a personal attacks.
    • Question: Do you think all readers should do reviews to help the writers improve?
      Answer: You certainly can’t force readers to leave reviews, but a well-written review is very valuable to both potential readers and authors, especially indie authors such as myself who are responsible for our own marketing. Good book reviews are a great marketing tool and often provide valuable information that can be used to improve your current and future books.
    • Question: When you receive reviews, do you find yourself influenced to make changes?
      Answer: I love reviews that explicitly mention what the reviewer liked and didn’t like; they can definitely improve both my existing books and future writing.​

     

    Deal Sharing Aunt (4 May 2017)

    • Question: How long does it take you to write a book?
      Answer: Most books take from one to two years to take from an idea to a published book? I’ve been working on and of on some books for roughly a decade.
    • Question: What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
      Answer: I primarily write a couple of hours in the evening during the work week and during the mornings on weekends.
    • Question: What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
      Answer: I write both speculative fiction (science fiction, paranormal, fantasy, and horror) and technical books (system and software engineering).
    • Question: How do books get published?
      Answer: My technical books were all published by major traditional publishers. I am proud to be an indie author with my own imprint for my fiction and non-engineering non-fiction books.
    • Question: Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
      Answer: Depends on the book and type of book. My technical books are based on what I’ve learned over the years as a software and system engineer. My wand book was writing because (other than small works for charity) JK Rolling never wrote any of the books we heard about in the Harry Potter books that I wanted to read. My Hell Holes series came when I learned about the mysterious giant holes that were found in the permafrost of Northern Siberia a few summers ago. I thought, what if there were thousands all north of the Arctic Circle instead of a handful and what if they all occurred overnight?
    • Question: When did you write your first book and how old were you?
      Answer: I had my first technical book published in 1993 when I was 41 years old. I published my first fiction book when I was in my late 50s.
    • Question: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
      Answer: I make and sell hand-crafted magic wands out of woods and gemstones.
    • Question: What does your family think of your writing?
      Answer: They are very supportive. My wife is especially understanding considering how much time I spend writing.
    • Question: What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
      My third Hell Holes book will involve a nuclear bomb. I was surprised by just how much one can learn via the Internet.
    • Question: How many books have you written? Which is your favorite? I have written 7 technical books and three fiction books (so far). Probably Hell Holes 1: What Lurks Below, because it was my first successful novel. The positive reviews by strangers help convince me that I was a real novelist.
    • Question: Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?
      Invest money in a professional editor and use lots of beta readers. You can never spot all of the mistakes you’ve made on your own, no matter how many times you go over your books.
    • Question: Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
      Answer: I would love to hear more from my readers. So far, it is primarily via their book reviews. I do interact a fair amount with a few other authors who have read my book. I welcome anyone who reads this interview to feel free to contact me via my author website or via my Facebook Page
    • Question: Do you like to create books for adults?
      Answer: Yes. While I very much enjoy reading young adult books, I like writing books with adult characters because I can relate to them, being one myself.
    • Question: What do you think makes a good story?
      Answer: A good three-part plot (initial setup of characters and conflict, a series of increasingly difficult unsuccessful attempts at resolving the conflict, and resolution of the conflict), interesting believable characters you care about, and interesting and memorable dialog, environments, and scenes).
    • Question: As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
      Answer: I wanted to be a scientist. I minored in physics as an undergraduate, and still read tons of popular science books in all fields.
    • Question: What would you like my readers to know?
      Answer: My books, especially my Hell Holes series, fits into many of the subgenres of speculative fiction: apocalyptic science fiction, modern paranormal fantasy, and horror. As a relatively new and unknown author who is just beginning to develop a fan base, I hope that this interview will convince them to give my books a try.

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