Meet Author Derek Milman

Author Interview

Meet Derek Milman.

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Derek Milman has worked as a playwright, screenwriter, film school teacher, DJ, and underground humor magazine publisher. A classically trained actor, he has performed on stages across the country and appeared in numerous TV shows, commercials, and films. Derek currently resides in Brooklyn, New York.
 
Social media.
Twitter: @DerekMilman. IG: @DerekMilman. Website: derekmilman.com
Here’s the interview!

Wow. Your writing journay started young from age 8 to 14 when you caught your first big break with a profile in the NYT. Did you always know you’d become published someday? What made you keep trying?

Oh no, no no I did not. No idea. Plus, I should emphasize the quality of my writing at 8 years old was questionable. No one was going around saying: “this dude is an 8-year-old Cormac McCarthy, watch out.” I would write intensely for periods of my life and then I would stop. I started out as a playwright, out of college, but I wasn’t much of a playwright, I think. I went to grad school for acting and just stopped writing for a few years. I think I needed a break. I started writing YA a few years ago because I had a story idea I couldn’t shake, and felt maybe I had developed my voice, and actually had stuff to say. Fiction freed me in a way; I wasn’t constrained as much by the structure of writing works for film, or the stage. There was lots of rejection at first. It was a long road for me.

I also have to ask… did you keep any of your underground humor magazine? Will it ever see the light of day again?

I was told recently one of my younger brother’s friends, this kid I grew up with, had a copy, and he showed my brother and my sister-in-law. I wasn’t there. Apparently it was all wrapped up in plastic and protective paper like it was the dead sea scrolls. Maybe he thought it would be worth something one day? Maybe it will! Some people say it was THE WORLD’S FIRST ZINE. Who am I to argue with that? I think my parents maybe kept a few copies–in storage somewhere or something, wherever people’s parents store things.

I think it is safe to say your experience in acting shaped your debut novel Scream All Night? Primarily since Scream All Night is about a young actor struggling with his past. Did anything that happened in real life make its way into the novel in some way?

Oh, absolutely, more than people could ever guess. Definitely meeting certain writers and directors while working on TV shows, or in plays. Most are fine, actually. A few are bullies. But I guess a lot of what seeped into my novel was my time at Yale Drama; we were living a very unnatural existence–this extended family constantly performing for each other, pretending to be other people. It was a strange, insular world that no one can really understand unless you’ve been through the experience yourself. The infamous Yale Cabaret, where we’d meet once a week to regroup and perform for each other in this underground theater, definitely helped inspire the Crepuscular Dusk scene in Scream All Night–although if you haven’t read the book yet you probably have no idea what I’m talking about.

Don’t laugh… because you probably get asked this a lot. But, what is your favorite element of B-horror and cult films?

Probably the sheer weirdness factor of cult films, and how things could fail on all cylinders, but at the same time there was a group of people–the investors, the producers, the creatives, who all agreed this was a good idea. I think that’s pretty fascinating. Maybe it’s just collective hope. But some of these low budget films are beautiful in their own right. Night of the Living Dead, which is a quintessential B-horror, pretty much changed the world. No one had heard of zombies before. Nothing was the same after Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which I think is a work of art.

Let’s finish with something fun. If Dario Heyward found himself stuck on an island for a month what would he smuggle with him?

Dario’s most valuable possession at the beginning of the novel is a smashed iPhone 6. He doesn’t have a cell phone plan, but he downloads Miles Davis records. He’s really into jazz, and Miles. So I’ll go with that.

Is there anything else you’d like to share or say?

People keep asking me if Scream All Night is scary, if it’s actually a horror novel. Nope! The backdrop of the story takes place at a B-horror movie studio, but the story is really a dark comedy. There are creepy elements here and there (how could there not be?), but the beating heart of the story is Dario (my MC) and his relationship with what’s left of his family, his family legacy, and the people he once loved and lost, with everyone living in unnatural seclusion, in a place that really shouldn’t exist, but somehow still does.
Thank you Derek for stopping by A New Look On Books!
Keep an eye out for Scream All Night coming out next month!

Getting to Know Rebecca Ross

Author Interview

Meet Rebecca Ross.

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Rebecca Ross grew up in Georgia, where she continues to reside with her husband, lively dog and endless piles of books. She received her bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Georgia. In the past she has worked at a Colorado dude ranch, as a school librarian, and as a live-time captionist for a college. The Queen’s Rising is her debut, out February 6, 2018 from HarperTeen.

Social Media Links:
Website: http://www.rebeccarossauthor.com
Twitter: @_RebeccaRoss
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/beccajross/
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/rebeccajross/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RebeccaRossAuthor/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14926516.Rebecca_Ross

 

Here’s the interview!

I am inspired by your story of the dread questions and later decisions (and failures!) surrounding being an English major. What would you say to someone who is currently dealing with that same struggle of following their dreams vs being practical?
This question totally makes me smile. And I’m so happy to hear my story is inspiring! The first thing I would say would be this: You can do anything and you can do nothing with an English degree. It is whatever you desire to make of it, which is honestly quite powerful in my opinion. Yes, a lot of “practical” people will be skeptical when you say you’re studying English. But when you graduate with a degree in English, you’ll not only have grammar skills that are above average, but you’ll also be trained as a critical thinker with sharp communication skills. You’ll also have the knowledge to see the world in many different ways. Which is pretty much what everyone puts on their resume when seeking a job, right? 🙂 All of this to say…if you want a creative career, you need grit and you need to be prepared to work another job until you get there. If that doesn’t daunt you and all you desire to do is read and talk about books in college, go for English. Why waste 4 years of your life and your money studying something you are not passionate about?

 

What was the hardest decision you had to make when finding your voice and returning to your writing after being away from it for a considerable length of time?
I think the hardest thing (in the beginning) was making writing part of my daily routine. I was working a full-time job that was somewhat taxing—I came home drained from looking at a computer screen all day—so it was challenging to make myself sit down after dinner and continue looking at a computer screen (I type very fast, hence why I prefer computers over drafting by hand). Finding that discipline was hard at first, but I swiftly found that consistency was key for me: the more words I had flowing, the easier it was to keep going day after day. I found that finishing projects really helped me hone my voice. I wrote several short stories before TQR, and I had one full length fantasy idea that I was whittling away at (a story I have since discarded, but it was good in showing me what sort of discipline was required to write a full length novel). I think a writer truly learns their voice in the editing process, which you get to after finishing something. Editing gives you the chance to really weigh every single word you’ve thrown on the page, as well as gives you the time to focus deeply on your character arcs.
Passion and blood. Did you struggle at any point in The Queen’s Rising when writing your characters and their fight against what side – passion or blood – to be loyal to?
I actually did not struggle with it—I’ve always known what the ultimate outcome was going to be. But it is interesting when I look back at my earlier drafts of the story. Brienna’s conflict wasn’t nearly as emotional and intense as it is now, so that was something I had to really delve into with each round of edits.
What is your favorite scene (without spoilers of course) in The Queen’s Rising? If you can’t say exactly, or can’t pick, tease us with something from the book!
Ah, my favorite scene is absolutely a spoiler. And you’ll probably know what it is when you get to it. So, let me give a little teaser. I am a shameless sucker for slow burning romances, as a reader and as a writer. I like to build friendships that slowly edge into something more, the sort of romance that sneaks up on you. TQR definitely features this sort of thing.
Why do you feel self-discover so important in YA literature?
I think it’s because teens experience so many different things at this time in their life. They’re going through a lot of “firsts” as well as making decisions that can potentially impact their lives later down the road. Who am I, where have I come from, and where am I going are three things that I thought of a lot when I was teen. All three of those questions help us discover who we are, which resonates with readers at any age. I think that is why YA lit is so powerful, and why it’s not just teens who enjoy these books. I’m 30 years old, and I feel like YA books have made me feel and experience countless things that adult books haven’t.
Is there anything else you’d like to share or say?
Thank you so much for the interview, Rae! I’m so excited to share this book with the world, and I really am so thankful for all of the bloggers who have reached out to me on social media with kind words and beautiful pictures. As an author, nothing compares to hearing from readers!

 

Thank you Rebecca for stopping by A New Look On Books!

Stay tuned for the release of The Queen’s Rising next month!

Meet Susanne Lambdin

Author Interview

Meet Susanne Lambdin.

 

Susanne Lambdin is the author of the Dead Hearts Novels and The Realm of Magic trilogy. She received a screen credit for writing past of ST:TNG, Season 4, Eps. 76 “Family”, which focused on the storyline of Wesley Crusher meeting his father, Jack Crusher, on the holodeck when he turned eighteen years of age. Majoring in Professional Writing at the University of Oklahoma, she worked at Paramount Pictures for eight years before turning to Kansas to focus on writing fiction. Currently, she has seven published novels, with another eight novels to be released this next year.

Her love for fantasy, sci-fi and the supernatural started at a young age when she read Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” and she is an avid movie buff and reader. Her favorite authors include Edgar Rice Burroughs, Anne Rice, J.K. Rowlings, and Frank Yerby. Her top films are “Jaws” and “Star Wars: A New Hope”, which she claims have solid storylines and characters that allowed her imagination to flow in her early writing years. She wrote Star Trek fanfiction in the 80s, along with many historical romances which were extremely popular in that decade; however, her preference is writing fantasy/supernatural novels with a horror and romance elements, along with strong female characters. She can be found at numerous comic cons throughout the United States, offering panels on “How to Write a Novel”, the “Cure for Writer’s Block,” and frequently speaks her mind on podcasts, which can be found on YouTube.

Follow her on Facebook under Susanne Lambdin or Dead Hearts Novels. On Twitter or Instagram under Susanne Lambdin. She has three websites:

Susannelambdin.com

Deadheartsnovel.com

The-Realm-of-Magic.com

 

Onto the interview!

Susanne Lambdin, author of the Dead Hearts series and The Realm of Magic trilogy to date, has taken on the task of answering a few questions about how she started out, why she went to L.A., and how many actors she has met (with humorous consequences):

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
At the age of 8, my older brother Sterling was writing his first novel. I thought to myself, well, if Sterling can write a novel, I could too. He gave me a notepad and a pen, and I wrote a 250 page novel called ‘The Lion of Arcadia’ based on my love for C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series. I still have the novel, though I haven’t read it in ages but distinctly remember writing a romance scene. At that age, I now wonder what I thought was romantic and need to look, as I was already reading all the dime store novels my parents hid behind the classics like Dickens on their bookshelves. When my parents learned what I was reading, they were both furious and impressed. Since then, I have written a novel a year, and most of those will never be published, unless I decide to brush off the dust and get down to serious work.

What was your first published novel?
‘Morbid Hearts,’ the first book in the Dead Hearts series, written in 2012, is something I felt proud enough to publish. I started out as an Indie and now have a publisher. Most of my novels were historical romances. However, I decided I’m happiest writing in the fantasy/supernatural genres for young adults. While the covers on Dead Hearts depict zombies and readers assume it’s only about the undead, that’s far too simple an explanation for this series. I have created a world that includes myths from Atlantis, ancient Egypt and Greece, to time-travel, to demons and angels, to monster lore. Since I needed a challenge, I added an extra genre per book in order to be more creative with the story.

What was your first professional job?
Actually, I was a student at the University of Oklahoma when a rich couple who wanted me to write a movie script based on their idea about the medical profession approached me. I charged the couple $3,000, rewrote it several times, and decided I wanted to write both novels and scripts. After I graduated, I worked at the county courthouse as a bailiff for two years, and during this time, I learned that Star Trek: The Next Generation was about to go into production. I decided to sell my horses, pack my bags, and move to Los Angeles to write for the show.

Tell us about what happened in Los Angeles. Did you write for Star Trek: TNG?
Within six months, I landed a job at Paramount Pictures. At that time, people considered folks from Kansas hard workers and I ended up working for the president of motion pictures. Four months later, I wrote a script about Wesley Crusher and walked into producer Michael Pillar’s office, without an appointment mind you, and walked right up to his desk. He looked up at me, astonished, and I slammed the script down, saying, “If you’re looking for a good script for Wesley, this is it.” I turned around and walked out. Pillar called the next day and said, “You have big balls coming in here like that. Come back and let’s talk.” I did precisely this…I don’t think many young writers ever pulled a stunt like that but, hey, it worked!

Did you sell this particular script to the show?
No, but I was asked back several times to pitch story ideas. I eventually met a young man named Bryon Stewart, the mailroom boy, who told me that his father had recently died and it gave me the idea to write another script about Wesley Crusher meeting his dad on the holodeck when he turned 18 years of age. Bryon was a whiz when it came to technology and tek-talk. We worked together on the dialogue, since he had something personal to say to his own father. I hope you realize it seemed like fate, since I loved Patrick Stewart and wanted to write for the TV show because he was Captain Picard. We took the script to Ron Moore who gave it to Pillar and they ended up buying ‘The Wish’. This was turned into Season 4, Eps. 76 ‘Family.’ Our part is the story about Wesley who received a recorded message from Jack Crusher on his 18th birthday. In our script, the holodeck Jack Crusher was interactive and their conversations were wonderful but not featured in the TV show. Still, we both received a screen credit and carved our names into Star Trek history.

Who is your favorite Star Trek Captain?

This is not a simple answer.

The funny thing is in college I had a poster of Captain Kirk on the wall in my bedroom. I wrote fanfiction when it wasn’t fanfiction. I met William Shatner several times but remember being in the sound room, watching composer Jerry Goldsmith conducting the orchestra, laying down the soundtrack to Star Trek 5. Shatner came in with two young women, stared at me, and I asked if he wanted me to move off the couch. He merely nodded. He did this five more times, as more people entered the sound booth, until eventually, I lost my temper and shouted, “I’m not here for you, I’m here for Jerry Goldsmith.” I marched out and ended up getting into a fight with the president’s number one secretary, ended up fired, then rehired by someone else. While I was lamenting outside a stage about Shatner with a woman named Jane, she kept going on about how much she loved Shatner, while I said many rude things, only to notice he was standing right behind her, grinning. When I told Jane that Shatner was right behind her, she took one look at him and ran off crying, and he laughed at me. It was funny.
However, Captain Kirk is not my favorite captain. At the time I worked at Paramount, I was Captain Picard. However, I had met Patrick Stewart and he asked me to write him a script with a romance. I didn’t write precisely what he wanted and he ended up throwing the script at me on the bridge in front of Gates McFadden. It was my turn to run off crying. A few weeks later, Patrick Stewart was on the Jay Leno Show and he asked if anyone had ever written a script where he had to wear a wig. Now you know why the script was launched at my head; I’d done this very thing. The incident was mentioned and Patrick admitted he’d been in a bad mood that day.
Therefore, I have to say that I love Captain Benjamin Sisko. I’m a fan of Deep Space Nine, and actually submitted several scripts to the show but had to move back home before anything came to fruition due to the premature death of my beloved brother. I thought Ron Moore created something special with the space station and the relationship between Sisko and his nemesis Gul Dukat. Dukat is my favorite villain. The back-story between Bajor and Cardassia was full of myths and legends, offering so much more than people realize, which is why it’s special.

Who is your favorite villain?
Since we’re talking about Star Trek, I’ll stick with it and admit I recently wrote an epic novel that I posted on Star Trek Fanfiction in honor of Gul Dukat. He’s a marvelous villain, able to do acts of kindness, yet always bent on gaining power. He’s selfish, arrogant, conceited, yet vulnerable, especially when it came to his daughter and Major Kira. A villain who is able to expression their emotions and even love people, despite doing horrible things, is interesting to me. Had Dukat’s life taken a different turn, he might have ended up a hero, though he was the opposite side of the coin he shared with Sisko. For fun, I wrote an epic Dukat fanfiction that I recently posted on the Star Trek Fanfiction site to show what might happen if someone stepped in to turn him away from his path of self-destruction.

You have time to write fanfiction?
This was an old story that I rewrote and it grew into something fabulous. It was a break from my serious fiction, and I admit my heroine singing ‘These Boots are Made for Walking’ at Quark’s, in front of Dukat and Damar, is one of my favorite scenes. Fanfiction is a great way to hone your craft and to make contact with people who love the same thing that you do.

What else are you working on?
I have six more novels to publish in Dead Hearts that are in various stages of editing. The third book in The Realm of Magic will able be out soon. I have a new sci-fi series that I’m working on, along with a Gothic paranormal romance (it’s in homage to the late actor Peter Cushing), so I have many projects active at the same time.

Who is your publisher?
Chris Kennedy. He is a wonderful man, publisher, and writes military sci-fi. Dead Hearts and The Realm of Magic are published under Theogony Publishing based in Virginia.

Is it better to have a publisher or publish independently?
Both ways are great. I see no reason why any writer should suffer rejection and waste years trying to find an agent or publisher. As long as an Indie author takes the time to write something marvelous and hire editors to polish their story, they should publish their own stories. I don’t think the public looks down on someone who publishes through a small press or with Create Space through Amazon.com. I recommend self-publishing and getting out there in person to sell your books.

I recently heard an interview with you talking to students from Health High School in Health, Ohio about fame. Do you care to explain what you said to the students?
First, I said that if they want to be writers because they want to be rich and famous to find another career. Writing should be about the love of the craft, the journey itself, and creating your novel. Being famous is a matter of perspective. You only have to impress yourself. If you write a good story, then you should want to be read, and if you make money – great. If you only want to write to make money, which people do, I think it’s the wrong reason to write. Writing should be a passion, a personal calling, and whether or not you become famous or rich is beside the point. I think you should write because you want to be read and to entertain people who love to read. It’s a symbiotic relationship, one cannot exist without the other, and touching the life of one person is success.
Someone recently told me to keep writing. It was a friend from Colorado and he told me that he had an unhappy childhood. He didn’t have friends and he spent most of his time reading. He read ‘Morbid Hearts’, and he told me that during the hours he read the book, he was in his own little world and he was happy. When he told me that a writer only has to touch the life of one person to make a difference, it really struck a chord and confirmed the reason why I write.

 

Have you met any other actors and have other stories that you’d like to share with us?
A couple of years ago at Crypticon in K.C., actor Derek Mears walked over and introduced himself. He has a long list of credits, he’s usually a villain or a monster, and currently he’s been on ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ Derek is a humble, kind man. He saw my table, all my novels, and he took the time to bestow his wisdom. He told me that all artists are part of one big family. It’s the same mindset that you only have to touch the life of one other person to be a success, and you should never judge yourself by someone else’s success or think you are less talented because you are not famous. He made a big impression on me.
Recently, at Wizard World in Austin, I noticed a pigeon in the convention hall that refused to go outside. I took the time with a bag full of cookies to coax the bird outside. It followed the trail of crumbs. At that moment, actor Michael Cudlitz, who played Sgt. Abraham Ford on TWD, walked out the door and spotted me. Embarrassed, I said, ‘This is my good deed for the day.” He laughed and said in the deep voice of his, “The road to hell is paved in good intentions,” and climbed into the waiting vehicle. The bird flew outside and I returned to my table. Not a minute later, the security guard walked up to me and told me that he’d worked there for two years and the pigeon always returned to the scene of the crime. In fact, the pigeon had returned to eat the rest of the crumbs inside the convention hall. I could only laugh.

How do you handle writer’s block?
It really doesn’t exist. You, the writer, can always write. If you’re stuck on a scene, it’s not you who can’t write, it’s your character who doesn’t want to do what you want them to do. When you write, your characters come to life and direct the story, the plot, and do things you don’t expect. Simply change something, either tell that part of the story through someone else’s eyes or change the location, but change something. If this doesn’t help, stop writing that particular scene and move on to something else in the story. Once your creative juices are flowing, you will find it much easier to return and write that pesky scene. Other authors will hash and slash their way through a difficult scene and force it out, only to then rewrite it later. There’s no reason to be in mental anguish when it comes to writing. Clear your head. Think of something different and start writing. The cure for writer’s block, in short, is writing something else that is fun to write. Let your characters help you accomplish this goal and stop making excuses not to write. Period.

Do you have any parting words for aspiring authors?
Don’t be in a rush to be published (and that means – don’t write to be rich and famous). If you want to be a writer, I assume you intend to write for the rest of your life. Take your time. Learn how to write, write a story and finish it, then hire a good editor. So many writers find it difficult to finish the story and spend their time editing and nitpicking on a chapter. I met a woman recently who had done this very thing for fifteen years without success. I told her to stop what she was doing and to finish the story. It sounds like an easy thing to do, and it is, but not if in the back of your mind, you are stressed about being published.
Stop worrying about whether your story is good enough . Write because you love to write. Share your stories because you want to be read. The rest will come with in time. Enjoy writing and have fun. If it’s not fun, if you don’t love the journey of writing a novel, and maybe you should find something else to do. Believe me…it’s a lonely world being a writer. You spend most of your time with your characters, so you’d better love writing because you are sacrificing a great deal to do this. Look, no one wants to be more successful than you do, but it takes time, effort, and hard work.
My motto comes from the movie ‘The Outlaw Josey Wales’ – ‘endeavor to persevere.’ Don’t give up your dream to write or to be published. Develop armor to protect your feelings. Don’t cry when someone doesn’t like your story. Don’t get mad when you’re rejected. You have to try and try again. Each time you write a novel you become a better writer. If you stop, years go by, and you haven’t written, it’s never too later to start again. Dream big and go for it. The only person stopping you is yourself, which means, it is never too late to write a new story, my friend.

 

Phew. What an interview!

Thank you Susanne for stopping by A New Look On Books! It was a pleasure.

 

 

Love Zombies? Mythology? Gods vs Gods? An approaching apocalypse?

Check out Susanne’s Dead Heart series and get ready!