Interview with Award Winning Author C.S. O’Kelly

C.S. O'Kelly BRAG

I’d like to welcome Award Winning Author C.S. O’Kelly today. Born to a loving mother with little money, but an abundance of imagination she shared with C. S. during long walks, bike rides before helmets, and nightly readings from mountains of books.  Stories of giants and elves, mythical beasts and powerful maidens filled the world of C. S. from the earliest of memories.

After finishing graduate school, C. S. O’Kelly sold off all five possessions, purchased a 1974 Ford 19-foot motorhome and went north. After ten years in SE Alaska, C. S. landed in warmer climes on a small ranch in Northern California where crafting stories and story worlds seemed as natural as raising organic free range chickens (named after Stars Wars characters) for eggs only.

To this day, C. S. travels the world, but always comes back to the small ranch with a home built with C. S.’s own hands near San Francisco, California. The philosophy that we enter the world with innate, powerful and beautiful imaginations is the core for all of C. S. O’Kelly’s works and a belief that permeates all things C. S

Hello, C.S.! How did you discover indieBRAG?

First off it’s a pleasure meeting you, Stephanie and thank you for giving another independent author a medium to highlight their work. indieBRAG was highly recommended to me by our talented editing team and has a great reputation in the indie publishing realm.

A pleasure, C.S.!

Please tell me about your children’s book, The Adventures of Gracie & MonkeyBear.

The Adventures of Gracie & MonkeyBear

It’s ‘Book 1’ in a picture book series about a friendship between a young girl, Gracie and her dog, MonkeyBear. Through the power of imagination and kindness, they travel to adventurous, far off places, helping those in need along the way.

Tell me a little about the relationship between Gracie & MonkeyBear.

They are the best of friends and the closest of family. Gracie is a bold and fearless adventurer while MonkeyBear is a brilliant scientist and inventor. Each is a different side of the same coin and when together… anything is possible!

What is an example of the adventure they take by finding portals to new worlds?

Gracie & MonkeyBear hear a mother whale calling for help from their wading pool in the backyard. MonkeyBear designs a submarine out of odds & ends lying around and together, they build the sub and launch it into the wading pool and are off to help the whale.

What was the inspiration for your story?

Watching my Niece playing with my Bernese Mountain Dog, Seamus (nickname: MonkeyBear) in the backyard. She was only 5 at the time, but would ‘put a bubble’ over his head as if he were carrying on a conversation with her. She has a boundless imagination and MonkeyBear adores her. I grabbed a notepad and sketched out the first few scenes of what became, Book 1 of The Adventures of Gracie & MonkeyBear series.

How did you get into writing children’s books?

I worked with youth programs all through college in the summers and whenever I was working with the younger kids, they clamored for ‘storytelling’ time, so I spent many hours reading the best picture books from all the greats. Many years later, I stumbled upon works by Illustrator, Jordy Farrell; I knew it was time to give Gracie & MonkeyBear life. Book 1: Summer is our teams’ first book.

Who designed your book cover?

The wondrous, Arial Light took my loosely bound concept of creating a cover similar to those of the early adventure novels by Jack London and Jules Verne.  Arial created a cover that harkens back to the daring times of the past when the potential of adventure seemed on every horizon.

Where can readers buy your book?

Amazon, Barnes and Noble, ask for it at their local bookstore, Signed Author Special Edition from the Gracie & MonkeyBear website.

What is up next for you?

The Adventures of Gracie & MonkeyBear, Book 2: Winter is coming out late October 2017 and I am also working on a picture book series with Illustrator/designer Arial Light at the helm that is going to be fantastically unusual! Of course…

Thank you, C.S.!

LINKS:

Gracie & MonkeyBear Website

Purchase on Amazon

Kirkus Best Books of 2016

Gracie & MonkeyBear on Instagram

Gracie & MonkeyBear on Facebook

Gracie & MonkeyBear on Storytime Station and More

A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview C.S. O’Kelly who is the author of, Gracie & MonkeyBear, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion ®, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Gracie & MonkeyBear, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

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Interview with Award Winning Author Vicky Adin

Vicky Adin BRAG

I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Vicky Adin today. Vicky is captivated by the 19th Century pioneers who undertook hazardous journeys to find a better life in New Zealand. The women especially, needed strength of mind as well as body to survive, let alone flourish in a strange, new land. As a genealogist in love with history, these immigrants and their ancestors drive her stories.

Vicky lives in Auckland, New Zealand. She holds a Master degree with Honours in English and Education. Three words sum up her passion in life: family, history and language. She has combined her skills to write poignant novels that weave family and history together, inspired by real people, with real experiences in a way that makes the past come alive.

When not writing you will find her reading historical novels, family sagas and contemporary women’s stories, caravanning or cruising with her husband, or spending time with her children and grandchildren. She also likes walking and gardening.

How did you discover indieBRAG?

I first heard about IndieBRAG through author Linda Gillard as several of her books have won this award. I was impressed with her books, so I went searching to find the criteria hoping that my novels might qualify. I was delighted to find they did.

Linda Gillard’s B.R.A.G. Medallions

Please tell me about your book, The Girl from County Clare.

The Girl From County Clare new cover BRAG

Although Brigid loves her home and family, she is torn. If she stays, she is another mouth to feed in a land plagued by starvation and poverty. If she leaves, she will never see any of them again. Heartbroken, Brigid boards the ship that will take her to a new life in Australia.

Brigid must learn to conquer her fears and overcome the stigma of being a servant, a female and Irish if she is to fulfill her dream. A new start in New Zealand offers hope – until the day the man who seeks her downfall finds her.

***

This story is loosely based on the true story of my husband’s maternal great-grandmother. I’m a genealogist and while researching her history I realised she had a fantastic story to tell. First, there was the long journey by one of the first steam/sail ships to Australia. On board, she meets new people and learns a lot about how they behave. She endures shipboard life, survives the storms and arrives in Brisbane stronger for the experience. Then she learns about life in Queensland and what people expected in a harsh new landscape, followed by a move to New Zealand where life is more egalitarian and forgiving.

I had to get inventive and give Brigid a useful occupation which provided both opportunity and hope. In real life, she was a domestic servant with little excitement in her every day routines, but the basic facts of her story and the actual events that happened during that time form the background to this novel.

What is one challenges of bigotry that Brigid faces?

Being poor, Irish and Catholic were all marks against girls in the 19th century. Proving yourself as good as the next and better than some took determination and spirit, all of which Brigid had in bucket loads.

In an endeaour to populate Queensland faster, The Domestic Servant scheme was introduced and many young poor Irish took the opportunity to escape starvation and search for a new life. It wasn’t always better.

Having a skill set Brigid apart, and Irish lace is famous for its intricacies and beauty.

What are her strengths?

Brigid’s skill as a lace-maker attracts the attention in the first place. Everyone wants a piece of lace that is made just for them, but her innate good nature is what draws people to her overall. Her ability to relate to people and her moral inner strength and determination means people lean on her. She never lets them down.

What inspired you to write a story during the 19th Century?

That period is significant in history because New Zealand is such a young country. Settlers didn’t start arriving until the 1840’s and by the 1850’s the European population still only stood at around 28000. After the Land Wars with the Maori in the 1860’s immigrants began to arrive in their thousands. The period between 1880 and the turn of the century was, in essence, the birth of a new nation. There are hundreds of fascinating stories of those times that are worth sharing.

What made you choose New Zealand where she sets up a home. 

Because it’s true, but she didn’t live in Auckland. She lived in the Taranaki region – and because I live in New Zealand. This country is stunningly beautiful with an absorbing evolution. The people who came here came of their own free will in search of a better life. They worked hard, and developed a ‘can do’ attitude long before such a thing was heard of or became popular. They made do with what they had and developed something from nothing and by doing that often became world leaders in new ideas. I believe that history should be kept alive.

What is some of the research that went into writing this story? 

 I spend a lot of time reading old newspapers. They provide an incredible insight into what happened, what people thought about those events and how they coped when things didn’t go according to plan. They would be my number one source, although I do use the Archives, online resources and the library when I want to back up my knowledge. My family history research also tells me a lot about how people lived. Old photos show what the houses and people looked like and what they wore, and the country is filled with amateur historians willing to share their knowledge.

How long did it take to write this book and what was your process? 

It takes me about a year to write a book, although many of the original ideas have been festering for a long while. Again, family history research brings up occupations most people know little about – an artist’s model, an author, Brigid is a lace-maker. My only male protagonist is a soldier who becomes a pacifist. In my current novel, Gwenna, she is a sugar boiler. I usually have to explain what a sugar boiler is. She makes sweets and creates a confectionery business.

I gather some facts that include a few unusual twists and turns and start to write. As I write, I research that what I’m describing is relevant and available at that time. I read the newspapers and include events that happened around that time which my characters could have been involved in – and if they weren’t involved, they would have known about it. I build a real life based on real events around the bones of real people. The love, they laugh, they cry, they grieve and they leave something of themselves behind at the end of every story.

Where can readers buy your book? 

Amazon
Website

Author links:

Blog

Facebook

Linkedin

goodreads

Pinterest


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A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Vicky Adin who is the author of, The Girl from County Clare, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion ®, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, The Girl from County Clare, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

 

Interview with Award Winning Author Loren Walker

Loren Walker - six

I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Loren Walker today. Loren is originally from Ontario, Canada, Loren Walker now works and lives in Rhode Island. She earned a Master of Arts in Literature, focus in poetry, from Rhode Island College. Her poems have appeared in QU Journal, the West
Texas Literary Review, and the anthologies Routes and Frequency Writers City and Sea. In 2016, she dove into the world of publishing through her company Octopus & Elephant Books. Her debut publication, the fantasy-sci-fi novel EKO, was a BRAG Medallion Honoree, shortlisted for the Half the World Global Literari Award, and was selected as a Shelf Unbound 2016 Notable Indie.

How did you discover indieBRAG?

I learned about indieBRAG online, while researching award competitions that were open to self-publishing work. It was one of the first competitions I submitted EKO to, and I’m glad I found it!

Please tell me about your book, EKO.

The story follows Sydel, a medical apprentice with psychic abilities (called EKO), and a trio of estranged siblings, Phaira, Cohen and Renzo, who are tasked with the girl’s protection, and then her rescue, from malevolent forces. EKO is what I call “tech fantasy,” in that it takes places on another world, Osha, but there’s flying ships and other technology, plus fast-paced action, a little detective work, sibling rivalry, and a touch of romance. As one of the six siblings, I’ve always been drawn to stories that delve into the natural drama between brothers and sisters. I’m also a big advocate for the promotion of complex female protagonists in genre fiction; I want to see strong women who aren’t just tough and serious, but also funny, sexy, silly, and human, and I strove to create then in EKO. Overall, EKP will appeal to fans of paranormal, fantasy, and science fiction, comic books and anime, world-building, fast-paced action, and psychic phenomena.

What was the inspiration of your premise and how did you come to write fantasy?

I’ve written stories since I was a little girl: fairies and space battles and superheroes, very fantastical. But when I went to university and started creative writing classes, genre fiction wasn’t considered to be “real writing,” and was deeply discouraged. I was young and impressionable; I felt ashamed of my love of SSF, and didn’t write anything but poetry for many years. I am happy to say, though, that I’ve since realized that I adore fantasy and science-fiction. I love to write it, and its’ not “lesser” to me or millions of others out there. As far as inspiration for EKO, while sifting through screenplays, stories and sketchbooks from high school and college, I began to pull out characters and ideas that still resonated. I thought it be interesting to mash all these different ideas together in a single setting and see what happened in the course of a short story. But the ideas kept coming, and I fell in love with these reborn characters, and a novel (and sequel) were developed over the course of a year.

EKO

Tell me about your main character’s strengths and weaknesses.

There are two main characters in EKO: Sydel and Phaira. Both appears as total opposites; Sydel is small, shy, naïve to the world, while Phaira is tall, powerful, and the warrior among her siblings. But Sydel is unwavering in her beliefs; she may look traditionally feminine and not so strong, but she holds herself to high morals, and she never, ever backs down from them. Ever! She’s a real pain at times, but she will always do what is good and what is right, no matter the cost, and in many ways, she’s the toughest of them all. And Phaira: I’m proud of her layers, how she’s this brash ex-soldier/special ops expert who bickers with her brothers, struggles with addictive behavior, but she can also be warm, joking, protective, and vulnerable.

How did you decide on the title for your book?

Originally, when this was going to be a standalone book, the tentative title was Mobius Loop, in reference to patterns repeating, same old mistakes, which is a major theme in the story. But everything changed as the story progressed, and it seemed natural to title the books after the “abilities” that characters in this story possess, instead. There are four ‘powers’ (and four books) in this series: Eko, Nadi, Insynn…and I’m not saying that the fourth is yet. That will be revealed soon!

Who designed your book cover?

Deranged Doctor Designs do all my book covers. They’re fast, inexpensive, and easy to work with. Special shout outs to my girls Kim and Darja!

How much time did you take to write this story and what was your process?

The first draft of EKO took a year; editing EKO took two more, because I was still sorting out this world I’d created, and solidifying details.

Now that I know the world and my people, the process is quicker. And my process is snippets of time at a computer, writing ideas in a notebook, thinking about story-lines while I’m driving. It’s whenever I can get a spare moment. I work several different jobs. I have a young son, and finding the time to do any of this is always a challenge. But I always try to do something to move forward every day, even if it’s just thinking about the storyline and where I want to go with it.

Have you written other books? What are you currently working on now?

EKO was the first book I ever finished. The sequel, NADI, was released in March 2017, and the third book in the series, INSYNN, will be out in September 2017. The fourth and final book of the series will be released in March 2018; I’m =finishing the final draft now. I’m also releasing a poetry chapbook, DISLOCATION, a compilation of poems and illustrations about traveling in Japan with my mother. I workshop actively on WATTpad.

Where can readers buy your book, EKO?

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Barrington Books Retold 
Books on the Square

Other links:

Official Website
Twitter Handle: lorenwalker99
Instagram: lorenwalkerauthor
Wattpad Profile
Goodreads Profile 

A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Loren Walker who is the author of, EKO, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion ®, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, EKO, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

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Interview with Award Winning Author Kandi M. Siegel

Kandie S BRAG

I’d like to welcome multi award winning author Kandi M. Siegel today. Kandi graduated from University of Central Florida is 2006 earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education and was also certified in Special Education.  She received the Editor’s Choice Award for outstanding achievement in poetry by the National Library of Poetry in 1997.  She has been a member of the Space Coast Writer’s Guild since 2012. In 2008, Ms. Siegel was hurt on the job while working with special education and was unable to continue her job.  Her love for children brought her back to her earlier career of storytelling.  She finds writing books for children and meeting people at book signings a very rewarding experience.

Hello, Kandi! Please tell me how you discovered indieBRAG.

Hello Stephanie, My editor of My Summer Triumph was actually the one who suggested I submit my book to IndieBrag and I was so honored when I found out that the book won the BRAG Medallion Award.

Tell me a little about your book, My Summer Triumph.

My Summer Triumph is based on a true life experience from when I first went to overnight camp.  All of the actual events in the story really did happen to me, though some of them were exaggerated a bit to make for a better story.

My Summer Triumph

What are Kalia’s strengths?

Kaila is a good person with a huge caring heart, which may have been one of her biggest downfalls as she was an easy target for being bullied.  She knew right from wrong, however, she wanted so much to fit in with everyone that she was easily lured into bad situations.  Her true strengths really didn’t come into play until the end of the story when Kaila’s dancing lessons gave her the encouragement she needed to be the center of attention, in a positive way.

What is an example of how Shayna helps her?

Shayna was always very positive towards Kaila.  She would encourage her to stand up to the bully, Mean Michelle.  Shayna even came up with a way for Kaila to get even with Mean Michelle, but unfortunately it backfired and on Kaila.  Shayna’s biggest plus was when she loaned Kaila some of her clothes to wear to the camp social, which made Kaila feel a whole lot better as her clothes were not exactly the most stylish in comparison to everyone else’s.

Your premise has a strong message, what would you say to encourage readers to read your book?

My Summer Triumph is a book that should encourage all young adults to be proud of who they  are and to stand strong and never give up.  The reader should learn from Kaila’s mistakes such as she knew it was wrong to smoke yet instead of walking away, she let the girls talk her into trying a cigarette.  Bullying is unfortunately a big part of today’s society, but if everyone joined forces to stand up to these bullies, rather than watching someone get made fun of, maybe we could wipe out bullying once and for all.

How did you get into writing young adult books?

I have been writing children stories since I was in elementary school.  My teachers all told me I had a very creative imagination and that I would make a good story teller someday.  I started keeping all my stories in a box and little by little, I am building on each story to turn them into actual books.

What is your writing process?

When I am about to write a story, first I jot notes.  I make an outline of the different chapters and what I want to write about in each one.  I list all the characters I am going to use in the book and I decide how each one is going to look and what their names will be. I keep the outline close by to use as a guide.

What advice would you give to inspiring writers to write in this genre?

Advice I would give to inspiring writers is to create a story where the reader can actually imagine him or herself in the book.  Make the sounds, scenes and characters come alive by the way you describe them.  For example, if you are writing about a cherry pie, don’t just say cherry pie, but rather exclaim that it is a sweet, juicy cherry pie.  By describing the pie in depth, it makes the reader able to actually taste it.

What is next for you?

I am currently working on a series of books, something I actually started writing in the third grade but never really did anything with the stories until now.  The main character is the same in all the books with a lesson to be learned from each story.

Where can readers buy your book?

My Summer Triumph is sold on Amazon in paperback form and on kindle.  Here is the link:  Amazon

Be sure to stay tune for my next interview with Kandi about her latest B.R.A.G. Medallion coming soon!  

Author Website

A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Kandi M. Siegel who is the author of, My Summer Triumph, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion ®, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, My Summer Triumph, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

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Interview with Award Winning Author Al E. Boy

Al Boy BRAG

I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Al E. Boy today to Layered Pages. Al E. Boy is an English teacher, originally from Canada, but currently residing in Seoul, South Korea.

Through almost 40 years as a Santa Claus, Al E. Boy developed quite a repertoire of tales to explain and answer the many questions children ask about Santa, the North Pole, his reindeer, and his friends, the elves.

It was this collection of tales which prompted him to begin writing The Adventures of Fawn. Through the young daughter of legendary reindeer Comet and Vixen, he’s been able to weave an exciting, colorful, imaginative world which will delight readers of all ages!

How did you get into writing children stories?

I’d always toyed with the idea. But my 40 years experience as a ‘Santa’…and the repertoire of stories I developed to answers children’s queries about Santa Claus, the North Pole, the reindeer and elves…among other things…prompted me to think of a way to put it all into story form…for generations to read.

Tell me about your book, ‘Til the Last Snowflake Falls.

While Fawn is indeed a young reindeer…she is actually a composite of any child growing up. She has an attitude, she can be stubborn, she can (at times) refuse to listen, and she doesn’t really understand anything at all about life. She wants to be free to do what she wants to do, she wants friends, she wants to explore the world outside the confines of her home, and see what she is capable of. And…she fails to appreciate her parent’s warnings the there are many dangers out there…dangers she is unprepared for…incapable of…handling. She begins sneaking out of Santa’s Village each day in search of friends, fun and excitement. She makes friends readily enough, but also encounters many unexpected situations and dangers. In the end…the citizens of Santa’s Village all pull together to bring about a happy conclusion.

I’m happy to be able to say ‘Til the Last Snowflake Falls’ was chosen as an indieB.R.A.G. Honoree in April 2017.

Til the Last Snowflake Falls

How did you come to write about Fawn-a young daughter of legendary reindeer?

Fawn is…more a less…a character I’ve invented/employed to tell my many stories and explanations about Santa Claus, the North Pole, the reindeer and elves. In my books…the Santa Claus mythos is tweaked and played with a tad…to better explain how it all came to be…and how it all works. I thought making her the daughter of legendary reindeer Comet and Vixen would make her easy to relate to.

Is there a message in your story that you hope readers will grasp?

I’m happy to say that everyone who has read or reviewed the books so far have all commented on the themes of friendship, love, trust, commitment and responsibility, parental love, community, and the naivety of youth. These are the important elements or themes to Fawn’s adventures.

How did you choose your setting and period of your story?

 Fawn’s tales (thus far) all happen in the final months of 1849. I wanted a time period sans electricity and modern transportation, instant communications, the comforts we take for granted in the 21st century…. and…I also needed it to be some 20 years or so after the writing of C. Clement Moore’s “A Visit From St. Nick”.

Are there illustrations in your story? If so, who was your designer?

Yes, there are illustrations in my books. I have one illustration at the conclusion of each chapter. I am the illustrator.

If someone were to get into writing children stories, what advice would you give them?

First…let your imagination run wild. If your set up ‘constructs’ beforehand…you’ll limit your…and your story’s potential

Secondly…even if you REALLY love a particular line, saying, or expression…you must be prepared to discard it…if necessary…for the good of the story. Something might be cute…and you love it….and it sounds oh-so-funny…but if it seems forced…or contrived…or doesn’t really fit the scene or dialogue…it will detract from the tale.

Third…write, write, edit, write, edit, write, edit, write…it’s kind of like polishing a car. Don’t stop until the whole tale is a thing of beauty that shines and attracts readers instantly

Fourth…if you give your work to people to read…make sure they’ll give you honest criticism. It’s absolutely no good…and not very constructive…to have everyone who reads it politely say, “It’s really good!” or, “Good job!” NO!!!!! You want them to give you some negative feedback. You need to know where there were typos…where something didn’t ring true…where it kind of dragged on…where it was terribly confusing…where there was a plot hole you didn’t quite realize was there, etc.

How long did it take to work on your story and publish it?

‘Til the Last Snowflake Falls…the first book in ‘The Adventures of Fawn’, actually began as a 4,000-word short story. I wrote it in the early spring of 2014. In late July, I got another idea for another story featuring the same character. This story was some 35,000 words in length. Quiet a disparity between the two. I decided to ‘marry’ the two. Of course….the whole thing grew into something much larger from there. A bit of Chapter 2, and a good deal of Chapter 4 are all that remain of the original short story.

I published it eight months after the short story was conceived.

What is up next for you?

I am currently working on Book 4 of ‘The Adventures of Fawn’.

Where can readers purchase your book?

The entire series of ‘The Adventures of Fawn’is available in e-book form on Amazon Kindle E-books.

AL Boy santa clause BRAG

Mr. Boy not only hopes you enjoy these tales, but make reading them part of your Christmas traditions, as well.

Book 1-Amazon

Book 2- Amazon

Book 3-Amazon

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Goodreads

Website

A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Al E. Boy who is the author of, ‘Til the Last Snowflake Falls, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion ®, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, ‘Til the Last Snowflake Falls, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

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Interview with Award Winning Author Pete Tarsi

Pete Tarsi

I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G Medallion Honoree Pete Tarsi today to talk with me about his young adult book, Flipping the Scaleswrites books that he hopes his daughters will enjoy. Two down, and so far, so good.

Pete graduated from MIT with a degree in Creative Writing and Physics, and he considers himself fortunate that he gets to do both. When he’s not writing, he can be found teaching high school science, directing theatre, or spending time with his three lovely daughters. He grew up in a small town north of Boston and still lives in Massachusetts.

Pete, how did you get into writing Young Adult books?

I’ve been a high school teacher for over twenty years at a school that has a short silent reading period every day. I often ask my students what they’re reading, and some of the stories they like sounded interesting, so I started reading them. I find the plots and themes easier and more fun to relate to because they’re often universal–everyone is a teenager at one point. And I find the characters more compelling because teens aren’t fully formed yet, so they make mistakes, but in good YA fiction, they learn from them. I’ve always enjoyed writing, and I’m around teens daily, writing YA books just made sense.

Tell me about your book, Flipping the Scales?

Meredith and Marina’s lives have been flipped upside down.

When the translucent skirt that straight-A-student Meredith finds hidden on the beach gets wet, it transforms her legs into a mermaid tail. Despite the evidence in front of her, she insists that becoming a mythical creature isn’t scientifically possible.

Marina is allowed to experience one day per moon cycle among the humans. After hiding her tail on the beach that morning, she takes her first timid steps on land. When she returns at sunset to find it missing, she is left stranded and alone.

For the first time in her life, Meredith doesn’t have all the answers. As she searches for a way to return to normal before the next full moon, she makes waves among the school of mermaids. Meanwhile, Marina uncovers information about her past, and for the first time in her life, she must stand on her own two feet and take the lead on her own adventure.

As Meredith senses her human side slipping away, a forbidden way to change back entices her. But it comes with a consequence: Marina wouldn’t be able to return to the ocean.

Flipping the Scales BRAG

How did you come to write this story?

I have three daughters, and they’re big fans of mermaids. I’m a fan of fantasy stories, particularly contemporary fantasy that takes place in the real world with one extraordinary element added. In my case, it’s the existence of mermaids who can venture onto land once a month. I thought it would be fun to take these two characters and put them literally out of their element. No one wants to read a story about someone just going through his/her daily life; we want to read what they do when they’re faced with something unexpected. In this case, what could be more unexpected than turning into a mermaid? Or learning that you’re a mermaid who’s stranded on land with your tail?

Is there a message in your story you want your readers to grasp?

Open your mind. Step out of your comfort zone every now and then to experience new things.

Who was your book cover designer?

The absolutely fabulous Tatiana Vila

If someone were to get into writing young adult stories, what advice would you give them?

Make sure you understand teens. I’m fortunate because I’ve been a high school teacher for over twenty years, so I’m quite familiar with how they talk and behave. I also enlist a couple of them–ones that are good, trustworthy students–beta read my books, specifically with the intent of telling me where I have teen-speak and attitudes correct or not. Make sure to have teen characters that are smart and can make mistakes, but don’t treat them the way adults often incorrectly interpret them.

How long did it take to work on your story and publish it?

I wrote the first draft of this story in a month and a half during the summer of 2013, while I was participating in Camp NaNoWriMo that July. After revising it, I spent about a year querying literary agents, trying to go the traditionally published route. Though a few agents replied favorably–giving positive comments about the characters, dialogue, and the mysterious set-up in the first chapter–I was told that stories about mermaids were a tough sell at the time. After that year, I explored self-publishing options, and in November 2014, the book was available.

 What was your writing process for this story?

I had the story’s main idea about a girl and a mermaid switching places for a few years before I started writing. A friend of mine was participating in NaNoWriMo that summer and coerced me to do it with her so we could motivate each other. At the start of that month, all I had was the basic premise; I really wasn’t sure who the characters were or where the story would end, but I started anyway. I figured that if I gave them some basic personality traits that were exactly opposite the situation they’d find themselves in, it would be more interesting. So Meredith (the girl) is scientifically inclined and not one to believe she could become a fantastic creature, and Marina (the mermaid) was timid about visiting land. I was able to write the first few chapters up to and shortly after their switch, but I still wasn’t sure of the ending.

Then one night, about a week or so later, I woke up in the middle of the night with the ending of the book. I spent a few hours plotting all the events that would need to happen to build to that ending. I typically don’t write without knowing my ending, but this book was an exception to help my friend. Once I had it all plotted, the writing was fast and easy.

The book has dual protagonists who are separated most of the time, and their halves of the story are told mostly in alternating chapters. I’d write three or four with one character, then write three or four with the other, and then I assembled the story. After it was done, I let some trusted friends read it to give me revision advice. I still do that now, but my pool of beta readers has expanded to include other indie writers that I’ve since networked with.

What is up next for you?

I published the sequel, Skipping the Scales, in July 2016, and I’m currently working on the final part of the trilogy, Tripping the Scales. Beyond that, I have many projects in various stages of completion.

Where can readers purchase your book?

Paperback and eBook editions can be purchased at

AmazonBarnes & NobleApple iStoreKobo

A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Pete Tarsi who is the author of, FLIPPING THE SCALES, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion ®, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, FLIPPING THE SCALES, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

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Interview with Award Winning Author Mike Kilroy

Mike Kilroy BRAG II

I’d like to welcome back award winning author Mike Kilroy to Layered Pages. Mike has been an award-winning journalist for more than twenty years. He first developed his love for writing when he was 8 and sculpted a story for a school projected called “The Venusians.” He has turned that passion cultivated at an early age into a successful and award-winning writing career.

His first novel, the post-apocalyptic fright-fest “Nine Meals” was recognized as one of the top indie books with several awards, including the B.R.A.G. Medallion, and reached No. 32 on the Top 100 Best Sellers list in Amazon’s Kindle store.

Kilroy currently lives in Pittsburgh with his wife Dahn, dog Fumble, two cats named Milo and Dexter and has twenty-four devices that can connect to the Internet.

Hi, Mike! It’s good to have you visiting with me again at Layered Pages! Congrats on the another B.R.A.G. Medallion! Before we talk about your book, Uncanny Valley, please tell me what you like most about writing Science Fiction?

Thank you. It’s an honor to be chosen again as a B.R.A.G. Medallion recipient. To me, there’s nothing quite like writing science fiction. I’ve dabbled in other genres, but science fiction is where my creative juices really flow. As a science-fiction writer, you have so much power. You can have your characters and the reader experience things they could never do in reality. It’s the ultimate form of escapism. And robots! Can’t forget the robots!

Do you think Science Fiction plays an important role in our society? Please explain why or why not. 

I think it does. People are always fascinated with the future as much as they are with the past. What’s the world going to be like in 20 years? Thirty years? Forty years? As science-fiction writers we can explore that and offer our own take on what’s to come. Most of the time it’s bleak, however. In Uncanny Valley, I tried to paint a future that isn’t all bleak, but not the most awesome place to be, either. I believe the future in Uncanny Valley is conceivable.

When writing science fiction, I think it is important to have elements of both fact and fiction. What are your thoughts on that and how do you blend the two? (This question might blend in with the previous one, Mike.)

I try to meld elements of fact with the fiction. I did quite a bit of research on Artificial Intelligence and robotics before I dove into Uncanny Valley. The technology that already exists is amazing. It won’t be long, I believe, before a real-life Addis is walking around. But you also have to stretch reality a bit. There’s no way around that.

Uncanny Valley BRAG

Why do you think Science fiction is so obsessed with the future rather than the present?

Because the future is yet to be written. It is full of so many possibilities and is ripe for storytelling. besides, who doesn’t want to take a swing at predicting what the world and society will be like in the future? The future is interesting.

Please tell me a little about your book, Uncanny Valley.

It’s really about three very flawed characters. One just so happens to be an android, but he may be the most human of all of them. Really, it’s about each of them wanting to find peace in a world that is losing its grasp on it because of the strain of social forces caused by a new face of android beings, who are basically slaves. It’s also an exploration of just how much can one human — or one android — take before he/she decides enough is enough.

What was the inspiration behind writing this story?

A key scene of the book came to me at 3 a.m. on night. I rolled over and typed a loose, very rough scene and then let that percolate for a while into a story. I wanted to explore the notion that these androids, who look very different and are shunned because of it, are just like humans, trying to find a place in the world. I think that’s very relatable.

Your character, Addis fascinates me. Tell me a little about him and a human trait he has.

He’s really a boy trapped in an android man’s body. When you first meet him in the book, he’s 10 and he very much acts like a 10-year-old when it comes to how he questions the world. He’s just then becoming aware of the injustices he experiences on an almost daily basis. He has a guide in Renae, a human girl who was disfigured in an accident, to be human, but she’s really a bad tutor, as the reader comes to discover. Addis is much different at the end of the book as he is at the beginning. Certain events shape him — some for the good, some for the bad. I think he’s the most interesting character in any of my novels.

If anything can be learned from your story, what would it be?

That we all have scars. Each character in the book has deep ones — not always physical — and each deals with them differently.

What are you working on next?

I just finished the second Uncanny Valley book of the trilogy. It is available now HERE

I am working on the third and final volume now. It should be out this summer or fall.
Where can readers buy your book

HERE

Readers can also visit my website to check out my other books.

Find out more about Kilroy by following him on Twitter @KilroyWasHere7, joining his Facebook fan page at KilroyAuthor7

A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Mike Kilroy who is the author of, Uncanny Valley, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion ®, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Uncanny Valley, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

indiebrag-team-member