Interview with Abi Ketner and Missy Kalicicki, Authors of “Branded”

Abi Ketner and Missy Kalicicki are the authors of the booming new novel, Branded. Here is what they have to say on reading, team writing, and books in general.

1) What inspired you to become an author?   

It was actually a joke at first. We used to meet up once a month and talk about books that we had read. At that time, we were on a dystopian kick and with every book, there was always something that bothered us. Or something we would have done differently. So joking around I said to Missy, the only way we would be 100% happy with a book, was if we wrote one ourselves. And honestly it still feels weird to the both of us to call ourselves authors.

2) Where did you first get the idea for “Branded”? How did you decide to incorporate the seven deadly sins?

I (Abi) came up with the premise over a month or so of different thoughts. I was running and listening to music and just letting my brain wonder. It was like taking pieces here and there and stirring it in a pot. I thought about the Scarlet Letter and how she was humiliated publicly, just by the “A” she has to wear around her neck. I remember thinking about how awful prison would be without and guards. I was trying to come up with another way to humiliate humans that would be visible to the human race. That’s when I thought about the 7 deadly sins, I googled the deadly sins and colors. And sure enough, they existed. I decided to call the jail without walls “the Hole”. After these few ideas, I wrote the first chapter and sent it to Missy. I was so nervous and I was shocked that she loved it. After that we worked together and correlated the rest of Branded. It started with a few ideas and blew up from there.

3) What are the benefits to team-writing? Are there any drawbacks?

No, we don’t have any drawbacks at all. The most popular question people ask us? What’s it like to write together. And here’s our answer. It’s incredible. We each have ideas, and are comfortable allowing the other person to write them. We never get bored because if one of us has a writer’s block, the other person can pick up and keep writing. We continually sharpen each other’s skills. Sometimes, I read something Abi wrote and I’m blown away. It forces us to be better and to keep pushing the boundaries.

There are times we have to be critical of each other’s writing, but it’s not personal. And we understand that. It’s for our shared dream of being successful. We both want our books to be enjoyed. We both want readers to stay up all night and think about it after it’s finished.

I remember reading an article, early on, about how writing together with another author causes loss of friendship, backbiting, and turmoil. This simply, hasn’t been our experience. I’m very comfortable handing over a scene I’ve written to Abi and allowing her to change all the dialogue. Seeing it from another perspective, helps me gain insight into how my writing might look to another person’s eyes. And sometimes, Abi sends me something she’s written and I change sections of it. It’s all part of the process. We trust each other when it comes to adding and editing things. In the end, our styles mesh. And more importantly, we mesh.

4) You just recently became officially published. How does it feel to have your work recognized by an agent?

Unreal. We still can’t believe this happened to us. Neither of us were authors before we wrote Branded. We are still in complete shock. We will break down when we walk into a book store and see Branded on the shelf. All we can say is believe in yourself and keep fighting. If we can make it, anyone can… if you work hard enough and take advice to help improve yourself and your story.

5) In what ways do you relate to Lexi Hamilton?

In so many ways, Lexi, is a mix between the both of us. We wanted her to be as real and realistic as possible. She has flaws, fears and real life struggles.

6) Do you have any advice for aspiring authors/writers?

Stick with it. Believe in it. Find a good editor. Find reputable bloggers that will give you an honest opinion & believe in your book! Ask other authors for advice when you need it. The indie community is very supportive if you just ASK. It won’t be easy, and it’s definitely a long process, but it’s worth the effort when you can say you wrote a book!!!

7) What are your favorite books and/or authors?

The Fault In Our Stars

The Hunger Games & Catching Fire

Divergent & Insurgent

Twilight, New moon and Eclipse

Continue reading

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Interview with Jennifer Parr, Author of “Tortuous Shadows”

Jennifer Parr is the author of  the enthralling novel Tortuous Shadows. This is what she has to say on reading, writing, and being a independent author.

What inspired you to become an author?

Growing up, I never had the desire to write, though I’ve always been a creative person, but that all changed when I started reading the Twilight saga some four years ago. I’d finish one book and start writing my own version of its sequel in my mind. I was hooked instantly.

How did you first get the idea for Tortuous Shadows?

Trying to fall asleep, believe it or not. I was sick and it was one of those nights that sleep was too distant a thing to achieve, and I just started thinking about a set of twins and what kind of life they would have if they were the first twins ever born and what would cause a thing like that to happen. I immediately had the names Aria and Aaron and it was like I already knew everything about them. I already loved them.

In what ways do you relate to Aria Morgan?

Aria is such a shy, inverted person when she’s around people she doesn’t know, which is me to a tee. If you know me, really know me, then I can be myself, just like Aria. She knows who she is, but she keeps her true self hidden, shining only for those who really embrace her, those who love her.

What are the benefits of being an independent (indie) author? Are there any major drawbacks?

Honestly, I haven’t found many benefits of being an indie author, aside from the fact that I decide my own deadlines. My life has been hectic the last ten months or so since I moved from California, and if I had been stressed with deadlines I probably would have cracked. Then again, my second book would have been published by now, but hey, what can you do? The major drawback in my opinion is a lack of guidance. Everything I’ve done has been on my own accord, without any support from an agent, editor, publisher, anything. It’s been difficult, but I believe that one day I’ll find the agent that’s right for me.

Do you have any other series in the works in addition to the Avalon Valley books?

I do, actually. It’s a sci/fi adult series that I am very excited about. I wrote the first book The Purifier rather quickly, inspired by the freedom I found in writing with fewer restrictions (being that the Avalon Valley series is set in an older type of setting, before modern technology). It’s set in New York and the main character is a guy, and I found it very entertaining to write from the male perspective.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors/writers?

Just keep writing. If you love it, do it. It doesn’t matter how bad it is when you start out. The more you write, the more you grow. If you learn to push yourself and rethink the way you arrange words, you can discover that there is beauty hidden within you that you never thought you had.

And last but not least, what are you favorite books and/or authors?

My favorite author is Maggie Stiefvater, who brought us the beautiful and haunting Scorpio Races, a standalone novel about deadly water horses and the brave riders who back them every November for the even deadlier Scorpio Races. This novel is so near and dear to my heart, as is the author – I’d probably die if I ever met her. 🙂

 

Thanks Jennifer!

Happy Reading,

Kayla

Interview with Jaime Guerard, Author of “Awaken”

Jamie Guerard is the author of Awaken, a fantastic novel full of mystery, romance, and suspense. This is what she has to say on reading, writing, and everything literary!!

 

Hi Jaime! Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions.

Hi Kayla, I would like to first say thank you for hosting this interview! Your support means the world to me!

 

What inspired you to become an author?

Wow…how do I answer this question? I know a lot of people say they were inspired by reading or they always knew that they wanted to be an author, but for me, Awaken came to me right after I read the Twilight Series! I was drawn to the writing style and the emotion, characters and how a book can suck you into another world. It was then that I knew writing stories and creating a fictional world was something I was destined to do.

How did you first get the idea for “Awaken”?

Oh I love this question because I remember the exact day/hour it came, as if it was yesterday! It was October 14, 2008 when the entire Awaken Series (all three books) filled my head with mystery, suspense, love and a storyline that just had to be told! I’m not sure why it came. I’d been searching for my “purpose” in life and at the time I was a stay-at-home mom that didn’t do much but provide every waking day to the care of my family. But I knew there was more for me! So the next month (September 2008) I sat down at my computer and started to write!

In what ways do you relate to Bre Davis?

I think the main trait that I have (that Bre struggles with throughout the series) is faith in the unknown. What I mean by this; Bre has so many obstacles in her life that force her to trust in herself. She has to have faith that, even when the odds are stacked against her she has the strength and power to overcome anything. She has to believe everything will turn out okay even in the bad times. So many times in my life when I didn’t know what was going to happen, and it didn’t seem like things would get better, I had to believe that everything happens for a reason.

What is your writing strategy?

My writing strategy is a little different than most authors. Some authors have word counts per day that they want to achieve, others have storyboards so they can visualize how their story needs to flow and what needs to happen. For me, I write when the chapter comes to me. When I started writing Awaken I already knew the major scenes that needed to happen in the novel and the elements (between each character) that needed to take place. So from there I would work up to those big scenes and only wrote when I was inspired (which was most of the time).

What is the best part of being an independent (indie) author?

There are a lot of things to be thankful for in this industry, but if I had to choose one it would be the connections I’ve made with other indie authors! There’s no way I could’ve done this and published my novel without the help and support of my fellow authors. I love you all!

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors/writers?

My advice for aspiring authors is to sit down and get your thoughts out of your head and don’t worry about making your MS perfect.  Editing will happen later! When I first started writing Awaken I was taking a lot of time trying to edit my MS. I would spend months on one chapter and it wasn’t getting me anywhere. But one day my husband gave me some great advice and that was to just write it out and then go back and edit. I’m so glad I listened to him because Awaken probably still would’ve been unfinished.

Do you have any favorite books and/or authors that you would recommend?

Some of my favorite novels are: Twilight Saga by Stephanie Meyer, Divergent Series by Veronica Roth, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Colins, Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers, Bitter Angel by Megan Hand, Branded by Abi Ketner and Missy Kalicicki (to name a few).

 

Thanks again Jaime!!!

Happy Reading,

Kayla

Why Do We Relate So Well To Fictional Characters?

In our modern world, it isn’t difficult to find a fictional figure to fall in love with. Whether it’s a book or a movie, we as humans seem to find it easy to connect to a made-up character. Why is this? Why can we feel such a bond with someone who isn’t even real? The answer lies within the human brain.

The main reason is empathy. Empathy is the ability to understand and share feelings with someone else. This is directly related to common experience and our aptness to comprehend emotion. Howard Sklar, a researcher from the University of Helsinki theorizes that because we are witnessing the character’s life from a personal perspective – whether in the first person or the third person omniscient – we can claim their experiences and emotions as our own, making them relatable. Doctor Pinchas Noy claims that there are three basic components to empathy.

The first component is a sensitivity to other people’s sentiments. The ability to “read” the emotions of someone else creates a strong understanding between humans. The same idea goes for fictional beings. Even though they are just words on a page or figures on a screen, our access to their thoughts and feelings gives us a sense of “knowing” them. We can relate to what they’re going through, just like real people. The experience is even more intense when other readers or viewers have a similar connection to the character, because it forms a sense of community.

The second component is the particular perceptual mode. This is usually the way we receive the information, such as through reading or viewing, but it can also be the way it stimulates our brains. Descriptive words, for example, stimulate our creativity. The tone of the work also plays a major part in this. By presenting the audience with an emotional scene, such as a death or a romantic venture, the author or producer is attempting to pull on your heartstrings. After all, the more emotionally relatable the story is, the better it sells. Take John Green’s The Fault In Our Stars, for example. The novel has only been published for two years now, and yet over 10.7 million copies have already been sold. It is available in forty-six languages. The official trailer for the film has been viewed more than nineteen million times, and on the premier weekend in theaters, The Fault In Our Stars made over 48.2 million dollars.  Why is this book so drastically different from any other love story or great tragedy? Many think that it’s because it is realistic in our world today. Cancer is a disease that so many people have been affected by, and the love story is so pure that it’s impossible not to get emotionally involved. I personally witnessed an entire theater not just crying, but sobbing over a fictional character death, myself included, because the characters were so beautifully created to represent real people.

The third component is our tendency to project our own personality into someone else. We subconsciously try to change people to replicate ourselves. As we cannot alter a written character, we look for the pieces of their mannerisms that we can relate to. Some characters have a wide range of emotions, and are easy for everyone to identify with. Others… not so much. The feelings of love, hate, worry, and fear that a character instills also determines our ability and willingness to find a piece of ourselves in them. You rarely ever find someone who is a hardcore fan of a loathsome villain, because they do not want to be associated with the feelings that character presents. They may admire some of the characteristics of that figure, but they tend not to come out and say it.

The beginning of relatable works began during and after the Renaissance. The development of Humanism, or the belief that man is important, lit the way for novels that displayed human emotion and everything that comes with it. War, death, and destruction, yes, but also peace, love, and hope. These are the things that keep humanity moving along. Without someone to show us how to hold onto our beliefs, we would be an extremely depressed society. Humanity in itself tends to sway to the negative side of the spectrum. We read books and watch movies because we admire the strength of the characters and their ability to get up and keep going even when all seems lost. We aspire to be like these figures, and so we find anything we can to identify with in their personality to prove that it’s possible to reach our goals.

Now,  this does not mean that in any way are the most admirable figures of fiction perfect. In fact, it is their flaws that are what really connects us to them. By displaying their “humanness”, it simulates what we typically see from people such as political candidates, or even actors. The “I’m just like you, so you should admire me” ploy. Granted, it makes no difference to a fictional being whether or not you like them, but it means the world to the author or producer. As aforementioned, the things that we can emotionally connect to sell better. Why write a book or create a movie that no one will enjoy? It’s a waste of time and money. So they work hard to make the characters as believable as possible. Even if the concept of the work is completely out of this world, you will notice that at minimum, the main persona exhibits exceedingly human qualities. Spock from Star Trek is a perfect example. His species, the Vulcans, are supposed to be incapable of emotion and rely only on hard facts. Spock, however, was given a human mother for the sole purpose of relatability. Countless times do we witness Spock going through an emotional dilemma, however subtle it may be. If he were just a sterile, dull, intelligent creature, viewers might get bored of him, or even annoyed at his presence. But because we can connect to his hardships, he has easily become one of the most recognizable figures in the film industry.

Our tendency to relate to fictional characters all leads back to human empathy. Our ability and desire to affix ourselves to others that we can look up to is what allows us to connect to the emotions of a cognitively created figure. Now, if we could only begin to transition that same admiration to real people… humanity might finally learn to respect one another for our individual flaws and contributions to the world.

 

 

Happy Reading,

Kayla

Up-and-Coming Author Interviews!!!!

author interviews

Over the next few weeks, I will be posting interviews from Up-and-Coming authors, including:

Abi Ketner and Missy Kalicicki: Branded

Jennifer Parr: Tortuous Shadows

Jamie Guerard: Awaken

Myunique C. Green: Bloodlines: Everything That Glitters

B.H. Parker: Mark Of The Corripian 

Lindsay Cummings: The Murder Complex

 

Stay Tuned, and Happy Reading!

Kayla

A Case of Writer’s Block

I’ve got a case of writer’s block
And I can tell you it’s the worst

My imaginary friends won’t talk to me
And I’m starting to think they’ve left

What came yesterday so easily
Seems to now have me trapped

For I’ve fell into a plot hole
To which there seems to be no escape

– An original (…interesting…) poem by me!!

….. so this is what I come up with during writer’s block……..