Author Interview: Toni Kief

Hi everyone! Today I’m chatting with Toni Kief, author of the Mildred Unchained mystery/humor series of books.
Welcome, Toni!

Thank you, Mr Squirrel!

What inspired you to write?

I didn’t start writing until I was sixty years old. I was in metaphysical group that was closing and James Johnson said, “I want to write more.” I’m not sure where the answer came from, but I said “If you write I’ll write.” Now ten years later we have a total of eight published books between us, and that doesn’t include the cookbooks we never published.

What’s your favourite thing that you have written?

Of all my 200 short stories and 5 books. My favorite project is Mildred In Disguise With Diamonds. The first in the Mildred Unchained trilogy. Mildred Petrie is 71, widowed and broke. She walks to the casino, and they offer a job working in security undercover.  She isn’t your usual crime fighter and I’d love to hang out with her.

Mildred sounds great! What’s your favourite thing that someone else has written?

This is tough, I was just talking to my grandson about books I remember years after reading. Some of the books I remember the most may not really be a favorite. Probably The Color Purple by Alice Walker.

What’s the best book you’ve read this year?

I have been reading an odd mix of Indie books the past four years. I’d have to say the best this year is The Immortality Cure, by Tori Centanni.

What are you working on writing now?

I’m working on a historical fiction about my 8x great grandmother, Susanna Jackson/White/Winslow who was on the Mayflower in 1620.

Oh, that sounds fascinating!

It is!

Do you have a favourite food or drink that helps you write?

I have a reward system to encourage my writing. If I write well and move forward, I get the English Breakfast tea that my friend brought to me from London. If I don’t accomplish much, I get the 2 for $5 sale stuff from the Safeway store.

Who designs your book covers?

I use Heather McIntyre with Cover & Layout for all of my covers. I give her my ideas and then she does something so much better.

What’s your favourite kind of music?

Back in the 1960s I was deep into folk and protest music. When everyone was buying the Beatles, I was listening to Sam Cooke and Mel Carter. I’ve always skirted the crowd.

Forest, country, beach or city?

Forests are utterly amazing. I used to plant a tree a month when I had property. Ideally, I would like a place in the forest on a lake near a small town where I know the stories of the people sitting on the other side of the bar.

That sounds lovely. A forest, on a lake… *sigh*
Ah. Where was I? Right. Here we go!
What’s the best vacation you’ve had?

I went to Italy with an acquaintance. I brought her a book and she read the same People Magazine the entire flight. As it turned out I let her shop one afternoon, and every other hour I dragged her to museums, archeological sites and the Vatican.

What is your pet hate?

Frogs, and I don’t know why. I must have seen one with a knife when I was a baby.

Have you ever built it into a character or used it in your writing?

No, it is a silly enough hate it would make a character unbelievable.

What’s your favourite TV show?

I am forever dedicated to The Daily Show, as a one time political activist and a progressive nothing beats the news and humor.

What movie can you watch over and over again?

I don’t tend to rewatch movies or reread books. I am embarrassed to say that I’ve seen Grease seven times, but that was accidental: it was on in front of my face.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I have wanted to be an archeologist since I was eleven. Might explain why I was a rock hound for years.

What’s your favourite season? Why?

No question about it, Spring. That is the season that is all hope and new flowers.

Who are your three greatest literary inspirations?

I have a crush on Ernest Hemingway, I’ve met Maya Angleou and she was an amazing talent, spirit and warrior.  For number three, Tony Hillerman. I bought a book on tape (that long ago) for a 3,500 mile trip hoping my son would like it. I ended up buying all of his books twice.

What’s your favourite quote, ever?  

Oscar Wilde, “I’m to old to know everything.”

Name three people you admire, and give reasons.

#1 Malala Yousafzai so young, brave and brilliant. Being shot in the face didn’t stop her.  
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for bringing civil rights issues to the forefront and using non-violence, and eloquence to fight for rights.
Third, would be Mary Wollstonecraft a trail blazer for equal rights and education for women in 1792.  Oh and Shirley Chisholm, and… and I’ll stick with the first three.

What would you like people to know about being an Indie author?

The writing is the joy, editing the equalizer and marketing the battle. Remember commas are ninjas that creep around into the night trying to make you look bad.

Name two things in life that you wish were easier.

Getting a good education and cleaning the oven.

That’s one of the great things about being a squirrel: no oven to clean!
Where can we follow you on social media?

I have a website and an Amazon author page where you can find all my books. I’m also on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for being here with me today, Toni.

I’ve enjoyed our chat! Thank you!

Author Interview: Timothy Moonlight

Greetings! Today I’m chatting with author Timothy Moonlight about life as a writer and his upcoming new release, a thriller titled ‘The Last Word’.
Welcome, Timothy!

Thank you, Book Squirrel. I’m delighted to be here!

Great! Why don’t you start by telling us what inspired you to write?

For me, writing is an internal drive. I wrote my first novel when I was 15, but never did anything with it afterward. However, from that point on in my life, I knew my purpose. My about page goes into a lot more detail, but this has been a life-long journey for me.
Now, that I’m actually writing again after so many years, I will never go back to a place of inactivity. We can accomplish so much in our lives if we apply ourselves. It took me finally getting fed up with not pursuing my dream and avoiding activities that were non-productive in my life to begin this journey. When I finally put my foot down and said “enough”, then I began to make progress.

What’s your favorite thing you have written?

This is a hard one and several things come to mind. There are several poems I have written in the past, “Journey”, “A Child’s Plea”, “Clinging”, and “Next to You” immediately come to mind.
As far as blog posts on my website, my favorite is “Leap of Faith”.
The Last Word, my novel, has a ton of scenes that I enjoy. What makes writing beautiful is that it comes from the heart. When you really write something that resonates with you, you’re really showing a little bit of yourself. Expressing your thoughts, sharing your emotions, or even a memory, can make a powerful impact on readers.

What’s your favorite thing that someone else has written?

Seize the Night by Dean Koontz holds a dear place in my heart. The writing is superb and he is a masterful writer. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it, but you’ll have to start with Fear Nothing, since it is a sequel to that book. I think the setting has makes a serious impact throughout the novel along with the characters. It’s an overall great story.

What are you working on writing now?

My next novel will revisit the second book I began to write in college, but couldn’t finish due to a full-time job along with my class load. So, there is a ton of history between the origin of the story and where I’ll actually go with it. I wouldn’t say that too much will change between what I’d envisioned back then and what I think of the idea now, but you never know. When I’m writing, I find myself adding to the story in ways that make sense. A thriving, engaging plot means the world to me and it has to resonate with the reader. My first mission in writing is always to think about the reader. Will they enjoy this? Does it resonate? Those types of questions are very important for me to answer.

Do you have a favorite food or drink that helps you write?

It’s not so much food or drink, although I am very partial to Dr. Pepper, lol. Really, it’s instrumental music. It has to be able to match the setting of the book, the tone of the story. That may not make sense, since it is a highly subjective experience, but I do enjoy great tunes when I’m writing. They just have to be instrumental. I can’t have people speaking in my ear, breaking my concentration.

Oh, I’m right with you about the great tunes! What’s your favorite kind of music?

I will always be a fan of 90s pop/alternative rock, and I have never left those years. I also love music by the late Robert Miles.

Forest, country, beach, or city?

I’m a beach and country person. I like the slower pace in life. I have lived in a big city before and the traffic is just crazy. Traffic where I live now is continually getting worse. More and more people moving here. I live just North of Atlanta, Georgia in the United States.

What movie can you watch over and over again?

Is it wrong to have two? The Illusionist and Interstellar. I can watch these over and over again, however, I don’t resonate with the ending of Interstellar. It’s a great film though, perfect score, and most of the movie is so massive. I truly felt like I was in outer space throughout the film. I’m always eagerly anticipating more Christopher Nolan movies!

What would you like people to know about being an Indie author?

Just because the publishing world has changed with the ability to self-publish doesn’t mean there isn’t a ton of hard work involved. You are responsible for everything. This is fine with me, but know this up front. Not only do you need a great story, you need an editor, you need to be completely dedicated to your craft and continually making yourself better. I spend hours each week learning grammar again. Yes, starting over is hard, but you have to better yourself continually. However, I love it. I love most things about this business. You are the writing team, you are the marketing team, you are everything. When you need help, be certain to ask. There are plenty of people who are willing to help along the way. Most importantly, do it only if you love it. You have to love what you do in life. If you’re in a career that you don’t enjoy, then you are wasting your time and doing a disservice to yourself. You only have one life and time is the most precious commodity. Find what you are passionate about in life and do it with all your heart and your life will be full of life and color.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A writer. It’s taken a long time, over two decades, to go after my dream, but I’m finally doing what I’m passionate about. When I know that I’ve touched someone with what I’ve written, then that makes everything worth it. I want to touch lives with my writing. I want people to be excited when they know I’ve got something else coming out. Their excitement is my excitement!

In what genre would The Last Word be classified?

The Last Word is a technology-driven thriller riddled with mystery.

Oh, that sounds good! What is the main plot of the book?

It revolves around the life of Claire Bigsby right after her father’s death. In her struggle with grief and other intense situations she faces within the book, the reader is drawn into an intriguing web of constant suspicion.

How did you come up with the idea for the novel?

This novel was borne out of my own personal loss of my father in 2011. It’s interesting because when I started writing The Last Word, I had no idea my own sense of loss would enshroud the book, but if you look hard enough, anyone who knows me will be able to see that, in a way, the story chronicles my own bout with grief. Anyone who has lost a loved one, someone who is irreplaceable in their life, will be able to identify with what Claire is going through in the book. The story doesn’t stay in a bleak mood as you will recognize after the characters are introduced.

Why do you think people read thrillers?

People don’t read books to feel depressed. People read thrillers because they want to see how others deal with tragedy and situations that they wouldn’t want to be in themselves, but they sure don’t mind reading about in other people’s lives. It’s part of the element of seeing someone overcome impossible odds. The mystery involved in the novel helps solidify its ability to grip you, to startle you, and it keeps you turning the pages. One of the goals behind my writing is to keep you wondering, keep you reading, and maybe even keep you up at night. I can remember a substitute teacher from 2nd grade who used to have a “story-time” with us at some point in the day. She told us scary stories! Lol I used to go home and spend half my night awake because of what she described. Now, I hope I don’t have that type of effect on readers, but I have to say, those types of interactions in my life have helped shape my own stories.

Describe the pace of the book?

Have you ever read a book where you’ve invested a portion of time only to find yourself going through the motions in drudgery? “Come on already, when will this thing pick up!” is what I usually say if I pick up a book like that. That is definitely not this book. All stories have to produce an environment where the reader is invested in the characters. Beyond those formed connections, the book takes off and becomes a page-burner. I would hazard to say that some people will read it in one sitting.

What does it take to create a compelling character?

It takes a little bit of you, someone you have a connection with in some realm of life. For us in this novel, it’s Claire, a woman who has lost her father – a good and decent man who she loved fiercely. When you have a connection with someone, you are drawn to them like a magnet. You suddenly want to see them succeed in their quest. You care about their well-being and you want them to overcome the obstacles that they face. When you see characters in stories overcome their difficulties, it speaks to us, deep down inside that maybe we can overcome our own obstacles in this life as well. Claire isn’t the only person in the story that you care about and as for the rest my lips are sealed.

Why do you write thriller/mystery fiction?

Honestly? It’s why I’m on the planet. It has been my passion, my drive, my dream for so long. I’ve known for years, years, that I am supposed to be an author churning out thriller fiction, but I let too many other things get in my way when I was younger. When I was 15, I wrote a novel. It took me a year to finish it. Then, as I started college, I started another novel, but between classwork, and my job, I didn’t have time to write. My dream of becoming an author was drifting high above me, like a balloon I had accidentally let go and was now out of reach. Time goes on, no matter if you’re on track with your own personal destiny or not. If too much time goes by and you’re not accomplishing the dreams you have in your life, they can begin to fade. Then, almost like a form of depression, you only think about the time you’ve wasted and that isn’t good. You need to think about what you can still accomplish and not just think about it, but act on it. That’s why I have motivational content on my blog.

What does the writing process look like for you?

Great question! It is a jumbled mess! Lol, but it’s a lot of fun. I work a full-time job like most writers and like most writers sometimes you come home and you’re tired, but you have to write! Writing has never been a chore to me. It’s really about having a goal and sticking with it. A word to a sentence to a paragraph to a page that eventually turns into a novel. I don’t know everything that will happen in the novel before I’m done with it. Some items I know I want to happen in the book, but a large portion of The Last Word wasn’t written to a specific plan until after the 40% mark. Other things just fell into place and as I’m sure other writers will agree, some things I changed during the course of the book.

What is the story behind your branding logo?

The logo of a writer’s silhouette against the moon is a picture of someone who started late in life, during the moonlight phase of their existence. It’s a picture of my life. Notice though that I’m writing in that picture, I’m finally doing what I was born to do on this Earth, it just took me a while to get here. I’m here doing what I love now and I’m here to stay.

You mentioned earlier about your motivational blog? Tell me about that and what other content do you have on it?

My website is www.motivationbymoonlight.com. It’s my author site where people can read some of my content, but also a place where people can read motivational content that I wish I had access to when I was a kid, teenager, or early 20s. There is a wealth of knowledge out there, but what I have come away with in life as far as happiness is this: Do what you love. Do something your passionate about. Find a way to turn what you love into a profession. We spend the majority of our lives working. Why would you do something you dislike most of your life? Some of the things you’ll read there is common sense, some of it will provoke you to take action. You’ll also find some poetry I have written, some from decades ago, some from mere weeks ago. Also, you’ll discover I chronicle my journey with my novel when I’m writing one. I expect that I will continue to do that. It’s fun telling people about the adventure you’re on. They can see your process and how things are moving along. I will never give spoilers about any of the content.

Where do you get inspiration for your stories?

I used to wake up in the middle of the night with ideas for novels. I expect that will come back to me as long as I keep myself engaged in the process. That didn’t happen with The Last Word. Truth be told, I didn’t know what I had until it was almost half-way completed. I believe in the future of my writing I will have more of an outline, but I’ll also keep an open mind with regards to the characters and try to give them a will of their own. If you want your story to take an unexpected turn, then let them make the decisions.

What about writing a novel do you enjoy the most?

All of it. Writing a novel takes patience, dedication, and strategy. I have always done well with these elements. I enjoy thinking through situations and how different scenarios play out. I love to plan surprises for my fans with at least one big “I never saw that coming!” moment. I believe The Last Word delivers this excitement several times.

What is the most challenging part of writing a novel?

Like most writers, I would say ensuring your plot lasts. The middle of a novel can be terrifying to writers. This is because they may not have the content to carry a novel to the end. Haven’t we all read novels where there is a lot of filler? I never want to do that. I may take some time in the beginning to introduce you to the characters and their world, but when that has been completed – look out, the thriller train is chugging down the track. All aboard! If the train doesn’t have the steam to get moving, then my book isn’t ready for release.

How have you grown as a writer in this process?

The short answer is leaps and bounds. One thing that I have grown plenty in are the relationships that I have formed with people. I love my editor, Debra Kastner. We discuss things. If something needs to change, I change it. Like I have stated on my blog before, “I am an impartial judge, holding an ax and pen instead of a gavel, not beholden to the cries of my own personal creativity.” I’ve embraced more fully the patience inside me. You can’t rush a high-quality product. You have to take your time, gain perspective, and see other points of view, all while staying true to who you are. I will continue to learn every day and hope to only increase in the quality of my novels. Above all else, I want my fans to be thoroughly pleased when they reach the end.

Brilliant! Thanks for your thoughtful and interesting answers, Timothy. It’s been great having you here today.

Thank you for having me.

‘The Last Word’ will be available at a special promotional price until August 23rd.

Follow Timothy Moonlight on social media:

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | INSTAGRAM | TWITTER

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Author Interview: Maria Riegger

Book Squirrel chats with Maria Riegger, author of legal thrillers and the new release non-fiction book, Your Scorpio Child: A Guide for Parents.

Today I’m chatting with Maria Riegger, author of legal thrillers and the new release non-fiction book, Your Scorpio Child: A Guide for Parents.

Hi Maria, welcome!

Thank you, Book Squirrel. You’re looking handsome today.

Oh Maria, flattery will get you everywhere. Tell me, what inspired you to write?

Oh man. Where to begin? I’ve been reading and writing stories since I was around six years old. Reading and daydreaming have always been escape mechanisms for me, especially when dealing with traumatic events. My daydreaming got to the point where I had so many stories in my head that I had to get them out by writing them.
It’s also a creative outlet for me. I enjoy my day job (as a bank regulatory attorney), but it does not satisfy my need to create as much as fiction writing does. As far as inspiration, it’s all around us. You just have to live.

What’s the best book you’ve read this year?

The Lines We Cross (the second book in the Jeb Shaw series) by S.A. Bailey is a well-written, page-turning thriller where the author pulls no punches. It’s reminiscent of the movie Taken and is a refreshing, realistic change from much of the fiction I have read recently.

Your book titled ‘Your Scorpio Child’ was released today. Why don’t you tell us about it?

Scorpio is the most misunderstood and enigmatic of all the signs in the zodiac. Much has been written about Scorpio men and women. However, the Scorpio child remains elusive, mostly because Scorpio children do not usually say what is on their mind. Scorpio children are dramatic, suspicious, manipulative, and can seriously try parents’ patience. They are also sensitive, intuitive, and loyal. The key to having the relationship with your Scorpio child that you want lies in knowing how to handle their innate characteristics. My hope is that other parents of Scorpio children will find the information in this book useful.

Available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

That sounds fascinating! What are you working on writing now?

I am working on my next nonfiction book, Your Gemini Child: He’s Not Crazy, He’s Just Always in his Head, which is a parenting guide for parents of Gemini children. After that, I’ll be finishing my first novel in the Sabrina and Tex series, which is a Western/sci-fi series.

Do you have a favourite food or drink that helps you write?

Coffee. I can’t work without it. It’s my only real vice.

Who designs your book covers?

I select the images I would like and I have a graphic designer that I use consistently (his company is pixelstudio on fiverr.com.). He is prompt and fantastic! He designed my company logo as well.

What’s your favourite kind of music?

This is tricky because I love most genres. Probably hard rock, since I grew up listening to Bon Jovi, Journey, and the likes. When I’m editing, I listen to EDM.

Forest, country, beach or city?

This is tough. I prefer to be isolated from people, and I’ll take any environment where I can do that. I love all the cultural opportunities that a city offers, but hate the crowds and noise. I’ll pick an isolated beach. Listening to the surf is relaxing and the salt water exfoliates your skin 🙂

What movie can you watch over and over again?

Lost in Translation. The idea of two random people feeling lost and finding a connection deeply resonates with me. Plus, I’ve loved Bill Murray in everything I have seen him in!

What’s your favourite season? Why?

Autumn. It’s dreary enough that people stay indoors and I can take a walk without feeling hemmed in by crowds, but it’s not cold enough that my teeth are chattering! And the autumn colors are gorgeous!

Who are your three greatest literary inspirations?

Ken Follett, because he researches before writing his novels and because he is a master at suspense and the spy thriller (Eye of the Needle is my favorite thriller of all time).

Patricia Cornwell because her first Kay Scarpetta book, Postmortem, basically gave rise to the entire true crime and forensic files industry, including books and television shows; and because of her thorough research on Jack the Ripper, which is amazing.

Anne Rice, because her Vampire Chronicles were the first books I absolutely fell in love with, because I love a good vampire story, and because Lestat is an irreverent upstart who flouts the rules and makes his own path, which I can relate to.

What would you like people to know about being an Indie author?

It takes an incredible amount of work to produce a high-quality book. It’s not only about the writing, but about editing, proofreading, finding quality contractors, promotion services, marketing, blogging, maintaining your author website, etc. It takes a huge amount of time and resources. Not all indie books are written or edited well (that is the unfortunate truth); however, many of them are, so please do not discount a book or an author merely because they are self-published. Many of us are indie authors because we do not want to waste our time querying multiple agents and publishing companies. We just to write.

That’s really good advice. I read a lot of excellent Indie books.
Finally, Maria, where can readers find your books?

My books are all available on Amazon and listed on Goodreads.

Thanks for being here and talking with me today.

It’s been a pleasure! Thank you!

Author Interview: Greg Alldredge

Welcome to another great author interview! Today I’m chatting with Greg Alldredge, author of science fiction, steampunk and dark fantasy books that are excellent reading.
Welcome, Greg!

Thank you, Book Squirrel. I’m very happy to be here.

What inspired you to write?

For the longest time I had stories in my head. I thought I could tell a good story, and I thought  people might like to read what I thought about things. Finally I took the time to finish the first one, and the ideas kept coming. I will keep writing as long as I keep having ideas.

What’s your favourite thing that you have written?

That is like asking a parent which is their favorite child. I like the Helena Brandywine series, They keep selling at a good clip so it seems others like them too. I still have a soft spot for my first “Lights in the Night.” It is hard to market but I love the story.

I’ve read both of those and really enjoyed them.

Thank you! I hope you left a review?

I always do!
Tell us, Greg, what’s your favourite thing that someone else has written?

I have so many favorite books. Most of Alistair MacLean’s work I still enjoy.

What are you working on writing now?

So many… when an idea strikes I need to work on it for a while to get it out of my head. I am working on an Urban Fantasy set in Boston and a Middle Grade reader set in the Pacific Northwest. Both are in their infancy. I love this time of the writing process, I never know if my ideas will gel until I write the first few chapters.

Do you have a favourite food or drink that helps you write?

Coffee… loads of coffee.

Who designs your book covers? They always look fantastic.

Ryn Katryn, Digital Art Group can be found on Facebook.

What’s your favourite kind of music?

Just about anything…

Forest, country, beach or city?

Depends on my mood, all the above at different times. I am currently living in a small seaside city on an island in the Northern part of Vietnam.

What’s the best vacation you’ve had?

Currently my wife and I are tying to live out of suitcases for the next two years or so. We will travel from one city to another and write about our experiences.

That sounds hard to beat! What is your pet hate?

Hypocrisy.

Oh yeah! I hate that, too. Have you ever built it into a character or used it in your writing?

Always.

What’s your favourite season? Why?

Summer, we are both tired of the cold. The next two years we are going to bounce north and south of the equator to stay in summer. If we are successful we might keep doing it as long as possible.

What would you like people to know about being an Indie author?

Like many things in life writing takes risk. Indies take on the vast majority of risk straight on the shoulders. It is hard to work on a project and let it loose upon the world to see if it will fly or sink like a lead balloon.

Name two things in life that you wish were easier.

Selling books and finding people to read your books.

You’d be surprised how many authors mention those things.

No, I wouldn’t!

You got me. You’re right.
Tell us, Greg, where can readers find your books?

Most of my books are widely available, but most people find them on Amazon.

And where can we find you on social media?

I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Thanks for being here today, Greg. It’s been great talking with you.

Thanks for having me! It’s been fun.

Author Interview: Alan Vandervoort

Book Squirrel chats with novelist Alan Vandervoort.

Today we extend a warm welcome to novelist Alan Vandervoort.

Thanks, Book Squirrel, it’s great to be here with you!

What inspired you to write, Alan?

Stories and thoughts bounce around in your head, pleading to be expressed in the form of ink on paper or letters on a computer screen. Wanting to be a writer pales in comparison to having to be a writer.

What’s your favorite thing that someone else has written?

Dakota – A Spiritual Geography by Kathleen Norris

It inspired a technique in writing I want to use: location as a main character.

What’s the best book you’ve read this year?

Can’t stop at one. I read three kinds of books:

  1. How to become a better writer: Save the Cat by Blake Snyder
  2. Indie friends to learn, enjoy, and write reviews: 100 Wild Mushrooms by Eva Pasco
  3. Favorite genre – history: Goodbye, Sarajevo by Hana Schofield and Atha Reid

What are you working on now?

My second novel, Key Largo Summer – the story of two young people, each with a personal challenge, overcoming difficulties together in a threatened area of beauty. Publication is planned for February.

Do you have a favorite food or drink that helps you write?

Coffee, coffee, coffee. Any coffee lover will understand.

What’s your favorite TV show?

Band of Brothers – a brilliant mini-series on the European theater of World War II. The story has significance in history and is important for the personal connection. A relative was killed in the Battle of the Bulge.

What movie can you watch over and over again?

True Grit – both versions. Also read the book. It’s a period piece with well-developed, interesting characters and plenty of action.

Who are your three greatest literary inspirations?

Jeannie Richards – her extensive research, storytelling, and all she does for the indie community.

Oh! I’ve read her books! She’s a great writer! Who else?

Ernest Hemingway – more of a student than a fan – style over story.
Edgar Allen Poe – represents something I consider in writing – you don’t have to believe anything, but you must explore everything.

What’s your favorite quote ever?

“Follow the compass, study the charts, and pray for fair winds.”

Know where you’re going, do the work to get there, and be prepared for things out of your control.

What would you like people to know about being an indie author?

I’ve noticed a lot of criticism about authors who do not use traditional publishers – questioning their intelligence and the quality of their work. I’ve also read many book by indie authors – the quality is there! In my opinion, there are three main reasons to go indie: desire for total control, become established as a published author, and impatience. I’m guilty of all three.

Where can we find your book?

Sandhills – A Novel is available at Book Locker, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Great! And where can we find you on social media?

I’m on Facebook and I have a website at www.alanvandervoort.com

Fantastic! Thanks for being here today, Alan!

Thank you for having me, Book Squirrel. Bye for now.

Author Interview: Stefan Vucak

Book Squirrel chats with Stefan Vučak, author of science fiction and political drama novels.

Today we welcome Stefan Vučak, an Indie author from Melbourne, Australia, who has written eight Shadow Gods Saga sci-fi novels and six contemporary political drama books.

Welcome, Stefan! It’s great to have you here.

Thank you, Book Squirrel.

Why don’t you start by telling us what inspired you to write?

I always wanted to write. Well, not exactly always, but ever since I came across an illustrated book of Jules Verne’s ‘20,000 Leagues Under the Sea’, the printed word fueled my imagination. In high school and university, I breezed through essay and writing assignments, truly puzzled why some of my classmates struggled. Books, of course, particularly science fiction, got my ideas factory churning. If others could write short stories and novels, so could I. I first turned my hand to writing short stories. I yearned for the day when people would walk past a bookstore and see my books on display. Vanity? Perhaps, but the fire burning deep within me that urged me to write, also compelled me to share the products of my imagination. Regrettably, just making my way in the world, I could not indulge my passion. I had to find a way to live and support myself. Hence my IT career, but that fire never went out, although I did allow it to die down a bit, frustrated at not being able to find a publisher. Publishing is a savage game, as I came to learn, and publishers are not keen to publish my books just because I wanted to see them in bookstores.

What’s your favourite thing that you have written?

This is like asking a father who is his favourite child! I like to think that all my books have something for readers. For science fiction lovers, I have a soft spot for ‘Immortal in Shadow’, part of the Shadow Gods Saga. For those into contemporary political drama/thrillers, ‘Strike for Honor’ will get them turning pages.

What’s the best book you’ve read this year?

Wow, that is a hard one, as I have gone through lots of books this year. However, the one that has caught my attention is Andy Weir’s ‘Artemis’. Yes, he is the one who wrote ‘The Martian’. I love the book and the movie. In ‘Artemis’, Jasmine Bashara is a very smart girl who cannot decide on a career, so she spends her time smuggling for her Moon base customers. She gets caught up in a very dangerous deal that would bring her a lot of money, provided she doesn’t get caught. Andy Weir tells his story with an engaging blend of interesting characters and compelling science.

What are you working on writing now?

Actually, I just finished ‘Lifeliners’. It began as an idea for a short story on a long flight from Europe to Melbourne, Australia, my home. I always have my notebook handy, never knowing when inspiration would strike. Tired of browsing through inflight entertainment, I began jotting down notes to flesh out a story about an emerging new human able to draw energy from someone by touching them. Birthrates in Western countries had been falling for a while, accompanied by growing sterility. A product of our high-pressure technological lifestyle and high density urban living, explained the pundits. Nature decided that lifeliners were the answer who would over time replace the ‘normals’. As expected, this development was not received well by the general population, and governments everywhere began to blame lifeliners for failure of bad economic policies, introducing draconian laws to curtail their rights and freedoms.

That sounds really interesting! You didn’t write the whole book on the plane, did you?

Well, I wrote the short story, posted it on my website, and I thought I was done with it. Time to finish what was then my latest book project ‘Legitimate Power’. Once I had it published, I began reviewing ideas for a new book – and kept coming back to the lifeliners story. It was one thing to write a short story, but fleshing it out into a full-length novel was not something I had in mind, wanting to write another contemporary political drama/thriller. But the bug had bitten me and lifeliners began to haunt my days. The only way I would have peace was to write the damned book.

Do you have a favourite food or drink that helps you write?

When I knuckle down and put on my writing hat, I don’t pour sand into the creative machinery by indulging in wine or spirits. Once I have new material in the computer and get on with editing, I allow myself a tumbler of nice bourbon. With a particularly good section of writing behind me, I may have more than one tumbler.

Who designs your book covers?

I use Laura Shinn’s services for my ebook and print covers. She does a great job without charging too much. She is very sensitive to my needs and is prepared to make changes.

What’s your favourite kind of music?

Being a nerdy sort of person, I like classical stuff, particularly when editing and proofreading, or reviewing someone’s book. I have a fondness for Austrian and Bavarian folk music. South American folk music is enchanting and allows my mind to soar.

What’s the best vacation you’ve had?

I love to travel! It broadens my horizons and lets me see not only diverse landscapes, but allows me to observe different cultures and how people live. I would rate my trip to South America as one of my top list experiences. The trip took me from Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Argentina, ending in Rio de Jeneiro. I experienced deserts, the Amazon jungle, Lake Titicaca, the Uyuni Salt Flats, and had a chance to stroll along the Copacabana beach.

*singing* At the Copa… Copacabana… oh. Sorry about that.

That’s okay.

I’m a highly impressionable squirrel. 

Barry Manilow, though?

Anything disco, really.
Now… where were we? Ah yes! What’s your favourite TV show?

These days, TV shows leave me unmoved. How many CSI variations are there, four? It is all about crime, reality shows, and cooking programs. Give me a break! There is too much reliance on computer special effects, which sacrifice genuine plotting and characterization. I believe that some of the TV shows from years gone by like Colombo and The West Wing will stand the test of time when others will quietly fade away.

What movie can you watch over and over again?

Ah, movies … I cannot say there is one special movie I could watch forever, as I like a number of them across many genres. If I had to pick a sci-fi movie, I would say that ‘Avatar’ has something special, and I have seen it lots of times. ‘Kelly’s Heroes’, a WWII movie, is eminently watchable, as is ‘The Enemy Below’. The black-and-white version of ‘Jane Eyre’ with Orson Wells and Joan Fontaine gets me moody and thoughtful. If any of your readers like westerns, ‘From Hell to Texas’ is memorable.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I have always been interested in technology, astronomy, sociology … the bookworm stuff. I loved physics, although the math part wasn’t all that enjoyable. However, chemistry was something I absorbed through my skin, and was set to make it my career. About to finish high school, computers were an expanding field, and it was something I found fascinating. When it came time to choose my university major, I went into computer science, and I never regretted my career choice, but I have not lost my interest in chemistry.

What’s your favourite season? Why?

I love the Aussie summer, but I think our autumn has some of the nicest weather. It is still warm, and the days are clear without the hot northerly winds. It is a good time of the year for long walks, games of golf … and writing. I write the year around, but autumn has something extra in the air that stimulates the creative process.

What would you like people to know about being an Indie author?

If there is one thing I learned over the years as a writer, if anyone is contemplating taking this on seriously, he or she should be prepared to spend many lonely hours with a pencil and paper, and sitting behind a computer screen. There will be disappointments, frustration, angst … and moments of sheer exhilaration and satisfaction when the words flow and the creative process produces something wonderful. Writing is a gift, but it can also be a curse. However, once bitten with the urge to create, there is no cure.

These days, it is easy to self-publish, and outlets like Amazon and Smashwords are replete with good books. Unfortunately, they are also full of amateurish efforts, which has contributed to a negative reputation of ebooks. Most authors dream of finding an agent and being published by a traditional publisher. I have those thoughts myself. However, traditional publishers rarely take up new writers, always keeping an eye on the bottom line. They are running a business to make money, not cater to hopeful authors. It is tough, but that is the hard reality. Another tough reality is the ongoing need to market and promote my books. As I mentioned in one of my Tweets, ‘Writing fills my soul, and marketing empties it’.

Where can we find your books?

You can visit my website or find my books on Amazon.  

Where can readers follow you on social media?

I’m on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Thanks for being here today, Stefan!

Thanks for having me!

Author Interview: Tim Walker

Book Squirrel chats with historical fiction author, Tim Walker.

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What Inspired you to write?

I have previously been a journalist but only turned my hand to creative writing in 2013 as a response to being grounded with health problems. Whilst undergoing cancer treatment I did an online creative writing course and started writing short stories during my recovery. By July 2015 I was ready to self-publish my first book of short stories, Thames Valley Tales. To me, this will forever be my survival book.

What´s your favourite thing that you’ve written? 

In 2013 I had an idea to combine my love of history with a creative writing project. After visiting the site of a former Roman town in southern England, I sketched out a rough plan for a book series that connected the end of Roman Britain to the start of the Arthurian legend. After three years of researching and writing, A Light in the Dark Ages three-book series is now complete. Having launched book three, Uther´s Destiny, in March 2018, I then went back to book one, Abandoned, and extensively re-wrote it, adding in new chapters and characters that more closely link it to book two, Ambrosius: Last of the Romans.

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Abandoned, second edition, was lanched in July 2018. Now complete, this series is something I count as a major life achievement.   

What´s your favourite book that you´ve recently read?

A favourite book I´ve read recently is John Grisham´s, Camino Island. He has an easy-going style I admire and it is a skillfully-constructed thriller that´s a perfect holiday read. After finishing, I sketched out the main plot strands to get an insight into how he introduces sub-plot and peripheral characters. The copy I´ve read was autographed by the author at the recent Harrogate Crime Writer´s Festival, where he spoke for an hour (interviewed by Lee Childs) on his method and approach to creative writing. Fascinating.

What´s your favourite TV series?

My favourite TV series is ´Homeland´. I love a good political thriller and this series is so well written and acted it sizzles. After my heath battles, I found myself identifying with main character, Carrie, who struggles to manage living with a serious health condition whilst juggling home life with the demands of her job. Superb.

What film have you recently enjoyed and why?

A film I really, and unexpectedly, enjoyed was ´La La Land´. I usually watch action, adventure and thrilers, but was ambushed by the charm, cleverness and excellent acting in this worthy oscar winner. I recently watched it again on DVD to analyse what I liked about it the first time – it´s pure, magical, movie escapism at its best but with a bitter-sweet sting in the tale, with superb central performances from Gosling and Stone – recommended!

What did you want to be when you were a child?

I would pay little attention in the classroom, counting down the minutes until I could get outside and play football. Sport and mischief were my passions. I wanted to be a football (soccer) player!

What do you like about being an indie author?

I like the control of all aspects of the process. In previous jobs I have gainsed experience of researching, writing, editing, production, design, printing, marketing and sales. A little knowledge in these areas combines well to give me control of creating something from start to finish, but without the stress of deadlines. I work at my own pace, and have often fitted it in around clinic and hospital visits. It helps keep my morale up, and if I´m feeling tired or unwell then I leave it for a day or two. Also, I buy in services like cover design, proofreading and copyediting to ensure it is to a standard that satisfies me. Once launched, if it sells and generates favourable reviews then great, but if not, then that´s fine too – the enjoyment is in the creative process.

Name two things in life that you wish were easier.

Relationships and filling in forms.

What´s your favourite season?

Spring. I´m ready for renewal after the long, cold, wet and dark British winter. The sight and sound of lambs frolicking in the field behind my flat are the reward for surviving another winter. After staring my flimsy mortality in the face and just about pulling-through, Spring reminds me that life always finds a way.

What´s your favourite colour?
Why, green of course!

To learn more about Tim Walker and his books, visit his website or follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Also, don’t forget to grab your copies of A Light in the Dark Ages book series!
Abandoned      Ambrosius      Uther´s Destiny