Heather Hayden Interview and Announcement

You all remember Heather Hayden, whom I interviewed way back in October. Click here to read Heather’s previous interview! (opens in a new tab) Today I’m hosting Heather for another interview! This time she has a very special announcement for us!

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Though a part-time editor by day, Heather Hayden’s not-so-secret identity is that of a writer—at night she pours heart and soul into science fiction and fantasy novels. In March 2015 she published her first novella, Augment, a YA science fiction story filled with excitement, danger, and the strength of friendship. She immediately began work on its sequel, Upgrade, which continues the adventures of Viki, a girl who loves to run, and her friend Halle, an AI. You can learn more about Heather and her stories through her blog and her Twitter, both of which consist of equal amounts of writerly things and random stuff she’s interested in.

C: Welcome back to my blog, Heather! Let’s get right down to it, what’s your announcement for us today?

H: Thanks for having me, Corinne! I’m here to announce my writer’s group’s fairy tale anthology, From the Stories of Old. We’ve been working hard on it for the past five months or so, and are very excited to release it on December 7th. (That’s today!)

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In this international collection, new life is given to fairy tales, both classic and obscure.

Mythical creatures put the fairy in Fairy Tale. Mermaids, selkies, and ocean guardians experience the best and worst of humanity; sisters encounter an unusually friendly bear; a brave bride meets a silly goose; and a spinner of gold sets the record straight.

Urban fantasies modernize classics: a Frenchman learns the truth about magic, his past, and his girlfriend; a girl sets out to find love but receives a curse; and today’s naughty list makes Old Saint Nick not-so-jolly.

New worlds bring a fresh sense of wonder! In the future, a young woman fights for her people and herself; a bastard son finds acceptance in a world ruled by women; and a farmer’s wits win the heart of a frosty king.

Discover unexpected twists on old favorites, and fall in love with new tales and worlds to explore!

C: Wow, that’s so exciting! I’m very excited to collaborate with you on this project. You own the publishing company, Rowanwood Publishing, LLC, is that right?

H: That’s correct! My sister Heidi and I started it about a year and a half ago, when I published Augment. I did a lot of research on micropublishing (actually did a residency on it as I was still in college at the time), and we determined that a partnership would be the best way to go about creating a name under which to publish our stories.

Rowanwood’s motto is “Two Sisters, Many Stories, One Dream.” This is quoted straight from the website: We want to share the products of our imaginations with the world, and we want to have complete control over the process through which our stories are released.

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Heidi designed the logo, I took care of the paperwork, and our wonderful mother helped us sort out the taxes last year. This year, I’ll be learning how to do taxes on my own.

Rowanwood will be releasing From The Stories of Old, as the ISBNs I’m donating to the anthology are in Rowanwood’s name. However, we’ve sorted out the contract and all proceeds from the anthology’s sale will be going to the authors, the illustrator, and toward future anthologies. Our website is located at http://rowanwoodpublishing.com/ if you’re interested in learning more.

C: And I’ve also heard that your sister, Heidi Hayden, is doing the illustrations for the book, as well? How long has your sister been into art?

H: Yes, she is! She’s loved art since she was a kid. Now she’s a senior at the Maine College of Art, majoring in illustration. She plans to write and illustrate children’s books when she graduates.

When she heard my writer’s group was putting together an anthology, she was very excited as she loves fairy tales! She offered to create a black-and-white ink illustration for each of the stories, and has done an amazing job. Everyone’s so delighted to see their work illustrated, and it definitely adds a nice, old-timey touch to the anthology, as anthologies such as the Grimm Brothers’ often included illustrations.

Here is one of the illustrations from the anthology:

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C: Wow, your sister is so talented! Does she have a website or portfolio where my readers can see more of her work?

H: Absolutely! Her website is http://haydenillustration.wix.com/maine and she’s got examples of both paintings and soft sculptures up. You should definitely check it out!

C: Of course! That’s next on my to-do list, after we’re finished here. 🙂

Your sister is so talented! Props to both of you for putting forth the extra effort to help us get this anthology out there! What fairy tale or myth did you decide to adapt and what inspired you to choose that one?

H: It took me a while to decide what I was going to retell. I have several retellings of various fairy tales that I wrote years ago, but I wanted to write something new.

Eventually, I settled on the selkie myth. In part it was because I’d recently discussed selkies with a friend of mine, and in part because those myths tend to be very similar to each other (though male and female selkies have distinct archetypal stories related to them). I wanted to put a new twist on the myth, and from the oceans of my imagination, Beneath His Skin was born.

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C: The selkie myth? I’ve never heard of that one before. Are there any major differences between your version and the original myth?

H: Well, there are two original versions. A female selkie always has her skin stolen by a fisherman or other passerby, and is forced to live with the man, have his children, etc., until she finds her skin and can return to her sea home. Male selkies, on the other hand, are best known for their tendency to seduce human females.

As someone who likes to focus more on friendship than romantic love in her stories, I wanted to do something different with Beneath His Skin. At times it was difficult to evoke the emotions in my readers that I wanted, but with each draft the story developed further, and I love the end result. Hopefully the readers do as well!

C: Oh, I think I’ve heard of the female selkie myth, although I didn’t know it was called a selkie. The only versions of the tale I’ve seen depict the “selkie” as an angel from Heaven whose celestial robes were stolen by a fisherman. What was the hardest part about writing the story?

H: Trying to portray my male protagonist in an innocent light. A lot of readers didn’t like the first draft because they felt he was being a pervert–which was never my intent! The friendship between him and the girl he meets is meant to be sweet and completely platonic–they’re both young and simply enjoy spending time together. I revised and revised and revised until I was certain that was how their relationship would come across, and even checked in with some of the readers of the late drafts to be certain I’d corrected that issue.

C: I liked reading your story because I’m really into swimming and so I really identified with the selkie and how he always seemed to be drawn back to the ocean. Are you also a swimmer? Do you prefer the beach or the pool?

H: Beach! I can’t stand chlorine, or even fresh water anymore. I grew up summering by the ocean, and there’s something about that scent of salty breeze that always makes me feel at peace. I love diving in when it’s hot out and just floating, or swimming around watching lobsters and crabs and flounders and other sea life.

I drew a lot on my memories of the ocean to describe both the beach the selkie first visits, as well as his connection to the ocean.

C: When did you realize that you wanted to be a writer, and what did you want to do before you discovered your passion for storytelling?

H: When I wrote my first novel in 2007, at the age of fourteen, I realized that this was something I loved to do. I’d dabbled in it before, but that was the moment when I realized that being a writer was my dream.

Before that, I wanted to work with computers, or write programs, or being a veterinarian, or work with horses, or even go to space someday! It depends how far back you go; my childhood was spent bouncing from idea to idea until that first shiny plotbunny showed up on my doorstep.

C: Curse those shiny plot bunnies, lol! 😀 What about projects aside from the anthology? What kinds of stuff are you working on?

H: Currently I’m working on Upgrade, the long-awaited sequel to Augment. I’m hoping to release it early next year.

I also have two fairy tale novelizations in progress, one based on Beauty and the Beast and the other on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Oh, and there’s a fantasy trilogy involving demons and magic (and even a smidgen of romance!) that I’ve been working on for about three years now…

I like being able to bounce between projects. That way I can let a story sit, or dodge writer’s block by focusing on something else for a bit.

C: Do you have any strange writing quirks? I know I do!

I can’t write by hand very easily. It’s so much slower than typing that I get frustrated, and then I write too fast and I can’t decipher the words afterwards.

I also often listen to music when I write, and sometimes I train myself to a certain song or album–to the point that hearing the music makes me want to work on a particular story. There’s actually a Christmas song, Mannheim Steamroller’s “Above the Northern Lights”, that still makes me want to work on Feather of a Raven, even though I wrote that novel years ago and will probably never pull it out again (it’s one of my first novels.)

C: I do the same thing with music, too! Certain songs put me in the mood to work on a certain story, even if I haven’t taken out that story in months!

How about when you’re not writing? What do you do?

H: I love to read, first of all! Don’t get me started on favorite authors… Just give me fantasy and science fiction with plenty of action!

I also enjoy baking–I grew up making everything from scratch because of some allergies in my family, and then at college one of my housemates was gluten-free.

And I love gaming–Minecraft, MMORPGs, Magic… The list goes on. I recently got my own copy of Coup, which is this awesome card game–now I just need to find people to play it with!

When I’m not doing things inside, I enjoy swimming and running, and going on hikes or walks with friends. 🙂

Oh, and my day job is editing, although it’s far less rewarding than writing my own stories. But it pays the bills and gives me free time for gaming and writing.

C: That card game sounds awesome! I’ll definitely play it with you sometime.

Time for some rapid fire questions! Favorite genre to read?

H: Fantasy or science fiction!

C: To write?

H: Fantasy or science fiction!

C: Favorite writing snack and/or beverage?

H: Chocolate! And I love most fruit juices!

C: Mac or PC?

H: PC FOR LIFE!

C: Me too. 🙂 Favorite writing spot?

H: Wrapped in a cozy, fluffy blanket with my laptop on my lap, usually in bed.

C: Sweet or salty?

H: Depends on my mood… Salty today!

C: Disney or Ghibli?

H: GHIBLI.

C: Of course. Don’t tell Alyson! 😀 Coffee or tea?

H: TEA. Although I do like coffee, provided it’s no less than 50% cream, 10% sugar, and 40% coffee.

C: And finally, if there was a mechanism of some sort that allowed you to learn any language without having to actively study it, which language would you choose and why?

H: Japanese. I really, really, really want to learn that language, but it’s a struggle learning on my own and I haven’t gotten very far yet. I’d love to be able to speak to friends in Japanese, and I’d also like to be able to read manga in its original language!

C: You should definitely learn it! That way we can talk to each other in Japanese and Kristen and the others won’t understand what we’re saying. xD

Thank you so much for stopping by my blog today, Heather!

Don’t forget to read Beneath His Skin and other fantastical fairy tales in the Just-Us League Anthology, available today! Right now!

Go get it!

Why are you still here? Go get your copy already!

Order your paperback or Kindle version on Amazon!

And don’t forget to join us for our launch party! It starts this Saturday, December 10! We’ll be answering questions from our readers and giving away free copies of our book!

Join us at our launch party!

Hope to see you there!

 

Heather Hayden Interview

Today I am interviewing Heather Hayden, author of Augment.

Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?

I’m almost completely a pantser. Other than a few vague ideas and maybe a very light outline that includes a couple relevant scenes, I just sit down and write the story. When it’s done, I’ll begin the editing process, at which point I’ll write out timelines and plotlines and figure out what needs tweaking or fixing. There are a few occasions where I’ve tried to do more heavy outlining before writing, but I’ve found I either get bored or my characters wander off in a completely different direction that renders my plot outline useless. So I think pantser is the best title for me—I love the thrill of discovering my story as I write it.

What has surprised you most about your current work-in-progress?

For starters, I was surprised when the idea popped into my head. I originally planned for Augment to be standalone, but as I was reaching the end of the editing process, an idea for a sequel popped into my head. So now I’m writing Upgrade, and though I had a vague plan for what would take place, the story—especially the characters—took a different direction than I was expecting. I guess that shouldn’t surprise me too much, since that’s what usually ends up happening!

Without spoilers, is there any part you regret writing but is integral to the plot?

Yes. There’s a character that I have gone back and forth about, trying to decide whether to kill or not. That’s always a difficult prospect for me—killing a character, because it’s so final. This tends to happen to my favorite characters in books I read, which makes it even harder. But it’s also one of the ways fiction reflects real life. There aren’t always second chances for bad guys, or happily ever afters for good guys. Sometimes, that’s what the story needs, but it’s still hard. Honestly, I’m still not quite sure if I’m happy with my decision, but ultimately I had to make that choice.

Do you write full-time or part-time?

At the moment, sort of part-time. I say sort of, because I have a job online that is basically part-time, but ranges from being full-time for a few days to being nothing for a few weeks (it depends on the work available.) So my writing has to come second for now—if there’s work available I need to do that first. I look forward to when I’ll be able to write full-time.

Have you written works in collaboration with other writers, and if so: why did you decide to collaborate and did it affect your sales?

I’m currently working on an anthology of fairy tale retellings with some other authors I know from my writing group. They’re really awesome people and I’m looking forward to learning from the experience. We were inspired by other authors who have done collaborations, and it’s my hope that the anthology will help get our names out there for people to discover. *grins and high fives you for being one of those awesome authors*

Thank you so much for allowing me to interview you, Heather, and for calling me awesome. 🙂 *high fives you back*

Please be sure to follow her on Twitter and read her blog. And don’t forget to pick up a copy of Augment on Amazon today!

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Though a part-time editor by day, Heather Hayden’s not-so-secret identity is that of a writer—at night she pours heart and soul into science fiction and fantasy novels. In March 2015 she published her first novella, Augment, a YA science fiction story filled with excitement, danger, and the strength of friendship. She immediately began work on its sequel, Upgrade, which continues the adventures of Viki, a girl who loves to run, and her friend Halle, an AI. You can learn more about Heather and her stories through her blog and her Twitter, both of which consist of equal amounts of writerly things and random stuff she’s interested in.

Lynn Miller Interview

In keeping with the spirit of the Word Blog Tour, this month I am interviewing Lynn Miller, author of The Witch’s Pride.

What are your ambitions for your writing career?

I want to tell stories as long as I am able. I want to tell stories of love and all the mushy stuff without being mushy. I want my readers to remember my books as “thought provoking after the fact.” I want that rush of pre-order sales. I want loyal fans. And I won’t deny it, I’d like to make a living as well.

Does your book use any references to mythology or real-world folklore, or does it contain its own folklore?

It’s kind of a mixed bag. I’ve merged pantheons together. I liked the idea that every system probably got it right, just from different perspectives. That’s the foundation of my worldbuilding. The idea was to make the fantastical seem almost plausible.

Do you write on a typewriter, computer, dictate or longhand?

I draft on my laptop. I outline longhand with sticky tabs, transfer that to Scrivener using the same colour coding system. Then I go chapter by chapter. Rough draft, first draft send to Word. Spelling and Grammar check. Text to voice. Then post for critique. Go back to outline check the next chapter and start the whole process over.

Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reins?

Hijack is such a strong word and makes me feel like the victim. LOL But yes, my characters will say something, completely in character, and suddenly the story will veer off in a different direction. That causes a lot of grey hairs because I need to toggle between seeing where it leads and forcing them to go where I need them to go.

What genre do you consider your books? Have you considered writing in another genre?

I consider the Sons of Rebellion to be Paranormal Romance. Though, technically I describe it as an urban fantasy/family drama with a strong romantic sub-plot. Doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as easily. Originally I did consider it as an urban fantasy series but using romance to describe it was far too convenient.

Thank you so much for joining me this month, Lynn! If you’re interested in learning more about Lynn Miller, you can follow her on Twitter at @lynnmillerfic or visit her website at https://lynnmiller.co.za/.

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Lynn Miller lives in Johannesburg, South Africa. Her love for storytelling started before she was able read or write but she only found the time to pursue this lifelong passion once she sold her software business. Her magical tales weave the blurred grey between good and evil with love, family and friendship.

When she’s not writing, you can find her curled up with a cup of coffee and her Kindle. She has always enjoyed both Romance and Urban Fantasy, and she writes in the genre that encompasses both: Paranormal Romance.  She’s an outdoorsy city girl – comfortable at a campsite with her family or enjoying cocktails with her girlfriends.

 

September goals

I did absolutely nothing the entire month of August. Well, aside from moving to another country and starting a new job…

But the month of August sort of just flew by without me doing much of anything. So I’ve decided to set twenty different goals for the month of September so that I don’t waste the entire month again. At the end of the month, I’ll write another blog post discussing whether or not I achieved these goals. Not all these goals have to do with writing, but all of these are things I’d like to achieve by the end of September.

  1. Review all the crits that have been staring at me on the homepage of Scribophile – On the writing website Scribophile, I recently received a lot of critiques on my posted writing, but I have yet to review them and implement the feedback into the respective pieces. By the end of September, I want to review every single critique that I haven’t looked at yet as well as begin the new habit of reviewing any crit I’ve received within 24 hours of receiving it.
  2. Reply to my eight unread PMs – On Scribophile, I have eight unread personal messages (PMs) that I need to respond to. The people who sent me the messages know that I recently moved to Japan and started a new job, but the newest one is from a week ago, so I’d like to respond to all of them by the end of September, or maybe even the first week or so. In addition, I want to start the new habit of responding to PMs within 24 hours of receiving them.
  3. Read another book for my reading challenge. – I have four more books to read for my challenge, so during the month of September, I’d like to finish at least one more book so that I’m a bit closer to finishing the challenge.
  4. Write at least one blog post for my Japan blog each week (four total) – I’ve been in Japan an entire month and the blog I started that is dedicated to documenting my Japan adventures is completely blank, lol. So I’m going to go way back in time and write blog posts or post videos at least once a week talking about various adventures I’ve had in Japanland. And I’d also like to make it a habit to update that blog a bit more regularly–shall we say two posts a month on that baby? My job keeps me so busy, after all!
  5. Organize the most amazing outdoor session for English camp. – As a part of the Iwaki ALTs, I’m going to be helping out with the English Immersion Camp in October. All twenty of us are organizing a one-night two-day camp for a select group of junior high school students in the area, and the camp will be held entirely in English. The campers are going to be Japanese junior high school students, so you can imagine how interesting that’s going to be. I’m one of three ALTs in charge of the outdoor session, which is essentially a thirty-minute exercise session first thing the second morning before breakfast to wake up the students and get them back in the English mood. The session will be a challenging one to plan because the students will be sleepy and not wanting to participate in things like Red Rover and hopscotch. But we’ll do our best.:) Technically, this goal won’t be achieved until the camp actually happens in mid=October, but by the end of September, we should have the session all planned out and ready to go.
  6. Find and buy new sneakers. – This goal is already halfway finished. The sneakers I’ve been wearing have started to fall apart because I’m walking literally everywhere I go (and I’m walking a lot, lol) so I want to get a new pair. I saw some today when I went shopping – I didn’t try them on or buy them, but perhaps next weekend, I shall go back to that shop and try on the sneakers. Today, I was in a bit of a hurry to get groceries and get back home, so I didn’t buy them.
  7. Find a buy a bike – I don’t have a bike, and I want one. Especially because for one of my schools, I have to walk thirty minutes up a hill to get there. A bike would cut that time in half, maybe. This goal is also halfway finished. I was shopping for a baby shower present for a friend who’s about to have a baby and I saw a bike I really really liked. Except that since I don’t have a car and you can’t take bikes on buses here, I’d have to bike it back to my house, and it’s been raining constantly here. We had a typhoon the other day that was so bad that school got canceled. But I’d like to get a bike sometime this month so it’ll be easier to go to the grocery store and to school and stuff.
  8. Eat more fruits and vegetables – I’ve been rather bad about eating healthy foods. I’ve been eating out a lot with my friends and getting takeout a lot and eating junk food. So in September, I want to make it a habit of getting more fruits and vegetables in my diet.
  9. Critique at least one thing per week – I have four different novels I’m reading on Scribophile and critiquing. Writing a critique actually takes a bit of time, so I’m aiming for one chapter per week, although I’m also going to give myself a bonus goal of critiquing two chapters per week.
  10. Set up my Wi-fi router – I finally have Internet at my apartment, but right now, I’ve only got it set up to use the broadband connection, so I have to keep my laptop plugged in to the modem, and it’s a big pain in the ass because I keep tripping over the wires and the modem keeps coming unplugged. So I want to set up my Wi-fi router so that I can maybe use my computer in bed or something – right now I have it set up at my dining room table and it’s not very comfortable.
  11. Get to level seventeen in Pokemon Go. – I’m at level sixteen right now, so I can pretty much predict that I will accomplish this goal this month.
  12. Hatch at least four eggs in Pokemon Go. – Since hatching eggs require walking and therefore you get exercise, I’m justified in setting this goal. I’ve even done the math. Four eggs a month means I’d have to walk twenty kilometers, which works out to be .8 km per day, which is about how far I walk to school every day. Hatch eggs, ho!
  13. Send my brother a birthday present. – My brother’s birthday is in September, so one goal I have this month is to send him a birthday present.
  14. Get a birthday present for my friend who has a birthday in September – I have a fellow ALT here in Japan who also has a birthday this month, so I’m making another goal to be getting him a present or something, too.
  15. Stop falling asleep without taking off my glasses – I have a bad habit of falling asleep with my glasses on. I’m making it a goal this month to not to this.
  16. Continue to drink at least one liter of water every day – I’ve estimated the amount of water I drink every day to be about one liter. I have 500 ml water bottles and I wind up drinking two of them every day, so I want to keep drinking water and staying hydrated.
  17. Brainstorm with at least three other JETs about their teaching goals and what kinds of expectations I should set for my students. – I’ve been thinking recently about what goals I want to set for myself as a teacher and what goals I want to set for my students. What do I want my students to take away from my classes? I’ve come up with a few different things I want for myself and my students, and this month, I’d like to talk to at least three other ALTs about how they go about setting goals for themselves and their students. In addition, I’d like to maybe talk to some of my homeroom teachers and ask what they would like for their students to get out of English class.
  18. Get my book ready for the first set of beta readers. – This one is self-explanatory. I want to get my book polished up enough to be able to recruit some beta readers and start working on publication.
  19. Get one of the teachers at school to show me how to use the school printer. – I’ve been in Japan for a month now, but I’ve only been working at school for two weeks. Apparently my school has a printer but I don’t know where it is or if I’m allowed to use it. So sometime this month (maybe even this week) I’d like to get someone at school to show me where the printer is. Every time I remember that I haven’t yet asked if I’m allowed to use it, there’s no one around to ask.
  20. Call my parents at least once a week. – I’ve been so busy, and I haven’t really felt very homesick lately, that I haven’t talked to my parents much. This weekend, they’re going on a camping trip, so my dad called me on Friday while I was at work. I was able to talk to them on Friday after my work day was over, but I do want to talk to them more often. So I’m going to make it a point to call them at least once a week just to check in and say hi.

And that’s it for my goals this month. At the end of the month, I’ll check back here to see if I’ve accomplished them and also make new goals for October. 乙女

Lesa McKee Interview

Today I had an opportunity to interview Lesa McKee, author of Operation Space Cats: The Rescue Mission.

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What advice would you give to your younger self?

Start writing NOW!!! Silly girl. We could have been doing this a looong time ago!

What do you think of book trailers? And will you create one for your own book(s)?

I love the idea of them. If I can afford it (and I can get the trailer of my dreams), then I just may do that.

What is your favorite movie and why?

I’m not a big movie person, so my list is short. That said, I have to split this into two categories, LOL. Comedy and romance. Father of the Bride wins for comedy and Pride & Prejudice wins for romance.

Do you know your characters from the start of a book, or do they develop as you go?

Most of the time my character’s are a bit of a mystery to me at the beginning. I like it that way as half the fun of writing is learning more about them. I love it when they surprise me!

Does your main character have any favorite sayings?

Yes. My main cat, Tebbs likes to say “Whirling whiskers!”

Thank you so much, Lesa, for letting me interview you today.

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Be sure to visit her website, follow her blog, like her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter and Pinterest. Also be sure to pick up a copy of Operation Space Cats on Amazon today!

Lesa McKee grew up at her grandmother’s knee, listening to the French folktales her animated Grandma Ida shared. A love of stories was born and her imagination took off!

She’s now living her dream as a Christian Indie writer of feel-good fiction, including a short story series of far-out space cats, titled ‘Operation Space Cats’. These purrific feline adventures are filled with faith, friendship & fun!

Every month, I will be interviewing a different indie author here on The Pink Notebook. Check back on September 4 for my next interview with Lynn Miller!

Keeper of the Lost Cities review

Book seven in my reading challenge was Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger. This book falls under the category “Book recommended by sibling, spouse, child, or BFF.” I don’t have children or a spouse, and my brother was busy with grad school, so I asked my friend Kristen to recommend me a book for this category, and she chose Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger.

Keeper of the Lost Cities

Twelve-year-old Sophie Foster has always been able to hear other peoples’ thoughts. She’s never been able to explain this strange ability of hers, until she meets Fritz, a strange boy who appears out of nowhere and also has the power to read minds. He takes her to Everglade, an Elf city and says that she’s actually an Elf! If she remains with her human family, she’ll be in grave danger, so in the blink of an eye, she has to give up everything she’s ever known in the human world. But it seems as if she’s finally found somewhere she belongs, and where her power doesn’t exclude her but is accepted. But memories have been stored in her mind, and the more she remembers, the harder she must work to discover the truth about her past, before the wrong person does.

Keeper of the Lost Cities is a YA fantasy with a plucky female protagonist that I couldn’t put down. At times, I felt like there were too many characters introduced and I couldn’t keep track of them all, but I was able to relate to Sophie the most. Like her, I have always felt that I don’t fit in very well with other people, and as such, I was rooting for her the entire time.

I would give this book four out of five stars, mostly because at some points, I felt the pacing was a bit rushed and there were a lot of characters introduced, but I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for a good urban fantasy read. KotLC is the first book in a series, and I’m rather tempted to rush out to the library and find the next book in the series so I can read more.

Another Interview With Kristen

Today, I got a chance to interview Kristen Kooistra, author of Heart of the Winterland and my good friend.
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If your protagonist was transported to this world, what would she think?

She’d probably crawl under the nearest piece of furniture and hide. Cali’s not used to people, and putting her in a place with a lot of people and all the modern conveniences, I think she’d lose her mind.

What motivated you to want to be an author?

It’s one of those things that’s been on my bucket list forever. I always wanted to put one of my stories on paper and share it with the world. It was just never the right time before and then suddenly it was. I tried again and this time it clicked and I stuck with it.

What was your biggest challenge in writing Heart of the Winterland? What would you do differently, if given the opportunity?

Editing, for sure. There were other challenges, but rereading the same thing over and over and over is BORING. It’d get old doing that for recreational purposes, but doing it while looking for things to fix or improve is so much worse.

If I was doing something differently, I’d get a paper copy sooner in the process. Much easier to read, and you can curl up with it anywhere instead of being stuck at a computer. I also take in information a lot better when it’s on paper, so things jumped out at me instead of me staring with glazed eyes at the screen.

What inspired you to write your book, Heart of the Winterland?

Before my oldest was born, I got into online gaming. After a bit of this and that, I settled on an MMORPG where I started a guild and met a lot of people. I was intrigued by the idea of taking the people I met and putting them in a fantasy story, or rather, creating characters from those people.

By the end, some characters barely represented their doppelgangers and I’d got hooked on the story aspect as well. I feel that by using real people as an inspiration, that my characters have a lot of depth to them.

And as a fun bonus, even though I no longer game, I get to have something special when I read the story because I can be like oh, there’s so and so! And it reminds of me of the good things during my gaming stage.

Do you draw from any of your life experiences when you write?

Oh, most definitely. I’m a people watcher and knowing what makes people tick helps me fashion a character that’s believable. Some pieces are things I’ve directly experienced, and some are simply ones I’ve observed.

One of my favorite lines in HotW is, “People aren’t one-sided, Cali. They’re like diamonds, lots of different facets. Just because you’re looking at a different side, doesn’t mean it’s not the same jewel.”

That line spawned from a real life conversation between me and a family member. The essence of the conversation was, “Just because someone is acting differently than you’ve ever seen, doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve changed. Sometimes you’re just seeing another facet to who they are.”

And at some point in the conversation, I blurted out a similar line to the one above and later thought “I have to work that in somewhere.”

You have three kids, so you must not have much time to yourself to write. Do you have any advice for other writers out there with kids or day jobs? How do you juggle your family with your writing?

Advice is hard, encouragement is easier. Every parent has a different situation and what works for one won’t necessarily work for others. I have three kids but lots of people have more or less. I get to stay at home, I have a husband in the picture who helps, etc. Parents with kids in school have more free time, but parents who have kids with disabilities struggle with things I do not.

So I can say, “Don’t give up. Find your open spaces, the pieces of time that are allotted to things you can do without.” I tend to give up my sleep time to write. There’s never more or less time in a day, only how we choose to manage it. If you honestly can’t find any time to write, or maybe just very little(and I have those months), then chances are you have more important things to you that you’re spending your time on. That’s not a bad thing, nothing to feel guilty about. It just means there’s more than one important thing in your life.

I’m taking the summer off writing because I have other important things I want to focus my time on for awhile(that and my 7 month old doesn’t sleep through the night and giving up sleep is no longer working.) So I definitely understand.

In a perfect situation, I juggle writing and family by staying up after everyone is in bed to write. With my baby being a buttmunch and waking me up 4 times a night, I’m squeezing moments into the day, but it’s hard. I told a friend last week that I struggle with feeling selfish. Like I’m taking time away from my kids and keeping the house clean for them, and using it to do something that’s not as important. Writing is important to me, but not as important as my husband and kids. So I do struggle at times with “am I doing the right thing?”

Thank you, Kristen, for indulging me in another interview.

Don’t forget to order Kristen’s book, Heart of the Winterland, available in paperback and e-book on Amazon right now! And be sure to follow her on all her social media.

Also check out my previous interview with Kristen to learn more about her and her book!

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About Kristen

Kristen Kooistra fell in love with reading at a young age and never resurfaced. She loved solving mysteries, riding across the prairie, and sailing on the open sea. But her favorite books were those that held the fantastical. So when the time came for her to seriously approach publishing a book, it had to be fantasy!

Living in Michigan(her own winterland) with her husband, three kids, and two cats, she has lots of free time . . . Okay, so more like she squeezes in writing time late at night when only the cats are awake to pester her.

“Heart of the Winterland” is Kristen’s first novel, and though it started as a whim, it grew into so much more and has inspired a sequel(in progress), “Heart of the Sorceress”.

Tucked into a quiet countryside, Kristen spends most of her time being Mommy. She loves spending time with her family and hopes that her writing will entertain and inspire them as well.

Besides writing, Kristen enjoys reading(of course!), chatting with her writer’s group, sewing, swimming, gardening, and cooking(please no baking!). She’s also developed a fondness for water gun fights with her three year old. Actually, she’s found that most everything become a lot more fun with little kids.