Author Interview: Melissa Bashardoust

Author Interview

Meet Melissa Bashardoust.

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The Interview.

Hi Melissa! Thanks for joining us today. Tell us a little about yourself.
From my bio (excuse the third person):
Melissa Bashardoust received her degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley, where she rediscovered her love for creative writing, children’s literature, and fairy tales and their retellings. She currently lives in Southern California with a cat named Alice and more copies of Jane Eyre than she probably needs. Girls Made of Snow and Glass is her first novel. Her second novel, She Was and She Was Not: A Fairy Tale, will be released in spring 2020.

Author website: http://www.melissabashardoust.com

Prior to your rediscovery of writing, children’s literature, and fairy tales, had you been writing? Considering writing?
Definitely! I’ve been writing since childhood. I would always throw myself into creative writing assignments in school, and as a kid, I wrote stories that usually involved something supernatural, like witches or fairies or ghosts. I fell out of the habit a bit in high school apart from class assignments, but writing has always been a part of me, and so it was just waiting for me to come home to it again.
Was there a line in either of your novels that you really wanted to have but ultimately had to cut? If not, what is one of your favorite lines from either novel?
I actually think everything I’ve cut was cut for a good reason, so I’d love to share a favorite line from my upcoming novel, She Was and She Was Not:
“She had read enough stories to know that the princess and the monster were never the same. She had been alone long enough to know which one she was.”
What is it about that Jane Eyre that requires “more copies” than you probably need?
Since Jane Eyre has been around for so long, there are SO many beautiful copies that I sometimes can’t help myself from acquiring no matter how many I already have. I read Jane Eyre because it was assigned in high school, but it ended up becoming my absolute favorite book. I was captivated with it from the beginning and found the entire experience to be an amazing emotional rollercoaster.

I love the gothic drama of it all, but it’s Jane herself—her resilience and inner strength, her journey of learning to love and respect herself, her struggle to find the balance between her emotions and her conscience, and to find companionship while maintaining her independence and individuality—that resonates the most with me, no matter how many years pass. I still find wisdom in Jane Eyre that applies at different times of my life, and so I feel like I can never have too many copies!
Do you have any writing quirks that amuse or annoy you?
I love that moment while writing when you’re trying to figure out if something is physically possible, or how to describe a certain movement just right, so you find yourself acting it out in front of your laptop while hoping that no one walks by at that moment to see you swinging your arms around like a fool.
Tell us about your experience from writing to publishing, Girls Made of Snow and Glass.
When I started writing Girls Made of Snow and Glass, I had just set aside a different novel that I had unsuccessfully queried for a while. I was actually working on something else when the idea for a Snow White retelling came to me, and so at first, I thought of Girls Made of Snow and Glass as just a potential future project to come back to one day—but the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to write it, so I gave in and let it take over my brain full time.

The first draft was very different from what it ended up becoming—I hadn’t realized I wanted to do alternating POVs yet, and the magical elements were very minor, among other things—but a few drafts later, I began the querying process. As I’m sure any writer will tell you, there are a lot of ups and downs while querying, so I was thrilled when my agent, Meredith Kaffel Simonoff, offered to represent me—when we spoke on the phone, I knew she understood what I wanted this novel to be.

After some more revision, we went out on submission to different editors, including Sarah Barley at Flatiron, where I found my publishing home. I’ve learned so much since I first started drafting this novel, not just about writing and plotting, but also about patience and resilience.
What of Persian/Zoroastrian mythology inspired you for your upcoming novel, She Was and She Was Not: A Fairy Tale?
I had been wanting to write something related to Sleeping Beauty and was trying to figure out what kind of world I wanted to set this story in. I had played around with the idea of contemporary settings, but having recently read a little about Persian myth and the Shahnameh (a Persian epic about kings both real and mythical), I kept thinking about what a Sleeping Beauty story set in Ancient Persia might look like. In particular, there’s already this dichotomy of “good” and “bad” supernatural creatures that seemed to fit with the benevolent and malevolent fairies at the beginning of Sleeping Beauty. That was the spark of She Was and She Was Not, and over time, I found other ways to weave together Sleeping Beauty and figures from Persian myth, including a demon king, a pari (the Persian equivalent of a fairy), and a mythical bird called the simorgh.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with the readers today?
I’m so grateful to everyone who’s read and reviewed and shared Girls Made of Snow and Glass, and I’m excited to set She Was and She Was Not loose on the world in 2020!

 

Author Interview: Malayna Evans

Author Interview

Meet Malayna Evans.

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Social Media Links:
Website: http://malaynaevans.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Malayna
IG: https://www.instagram.com/malaynaevans/
GR: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17571369.Malayna_Evans

 

The Interview.

Hi Malayna! Thanks for joining us today. Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a single, working mom. I live just outside of Chicago with my two kids and a lovable but loud rescue dog. I grew up in the mountains of Utah and spent my childhood climbing, skiing, reading Sci-Fi, and finding trouble. Many years later, I earned a Ph.D. in ancient Egyptian history from the University of Chicago. I’ve used that education to craft a middle grade, time-travel series set in ancient Egypt. Jagger Jones and the Mummy’s Ankh is book one. With my book on the shelves and books two and three in the works, it’s exciting to chat with book supporters like yourself, so thanks for having me.

What has been your favorite bookish memory as a fan and then as an author?
My most vivid book memory is mourning Gandolph. I must have been in middle school when I read The Lord of the Rings, and when the wizard died I cried for days. I’m not sure why my big sister, who’d given me the books, didn’t pat me on the back and tell me it would all work out in the end. But then again, maybe my joy when he came back in a subsequent book was worth the pain.
As an author, my favorite memory so far is telling my kids the book was going to be published. This manuscript was a family affair—my two little people inspired the Jagger and Aria characters and we spent a fair number of dinners discussing plot twists and character arcs. So the day we learned Jagger was going to be a real life book was a very good day at my house.

If someone asked you to describe Egypt in three sentences, what would you say?
What we think of as ancient Egyptian history lasted for thousands of years—the length of time between the pyramids being built and Cleopatra dying is greater than the time period between the time of Christ and today.
Ancient Egypt really is as fantastical as it’s made out to be in books and movies, and it’s not just mummies and the mysteries of the pyramids but the culture and daily life and religious beliefs as well.
Ancient Egypt contributed to the systems we take for granted today, like our calendar and writing system, for example.

What was it about the middle grade reader level that spoke to you as a writer?
In part, I think my interest in having a conversation with middle grader readers about my favorite topic, ancient Egypt, stems from the fact that middle grade shaped me, perhaps more than any other period in my life. My passion for reading, fantasy, and interest in the different ways people could just be in the world, depending on when/where/who they were born to, started in middle grade.

When brainstorming for your debut, Jagger Jones and the Mummy’s Ankh, did you already know you wanted it to be a series?
Yes! I had an ancient Egyptian blessing in mind early in the process. Ankh, wedja seneb, which means (may you have) life, prosperity and health. I thought life, prosperity and health would make good book themes. So I set out to examine the concepts, one per book, from an ancient and modern perspective. So in book one, it’s not the princess’s life Jagger has to save, but her afterlife. Book two looks at prosperity (wedja) and book three considers health (seneb). I think the very different meanings these ideas held for ancient people is pretty fascinating and I hope it comes across in the series … in a fun, adventurous way with mummies and killer scorpions.

What is something you wish you could ask any of your characters?
Jagger and his little sister, Aria, are extremely well travelled. She’s an adventurous spirit so she loves that about their life, although he resents it. I’d love to ask Aria your question below—where, and when, would she travel if she could go anywhere, anytime. By the end of book one I know the answer—she’d go back and visit her ancient Egyptian friends again. But I have no idea what she’d say prior to that, although Jagger would no doubt choose ancient Egypt—it’s his favorite subject—if he was forced to make a choice and his bedroom with deep dish pizza was out of the running.

If you could live in one area, in one timeperiod, for the day, where are you headed?
Oh I’d definitely head to the Amarna Period, which is when/where this book is set. It’s the most bizarre periods in ancient Egyptian history. The pharaoh, Akhenaten, tried to replace the traditional gods and goddesses with a single god, the sun disk, the Aten. He moved the court to the middle of nowhere, developed an artistic style that departs dramatically from the rather static canon of Egyptian art, and basically upended culture in all sorts of big and small ways. As an ancient historian, it can be hard to get a beat on who the rulers we study were as people—the documents they left behind tell us about their building programs, wars they won, etc. but not who they were. But occasionally, an ancient actor stands out. I’d love to go spy on Akhenaten’s court. I wouldn’t want to stay long, but maybe a one week vaca in ancient Amarna? Yeah, that would do the trick nicely.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with the readers today?
Just a thanks, especially to all those readers who’ve bought or read the book, extra thanks to those who’ve left reviews. It’s a surreal feeling having people spend time with your book and I don’t take it for granted. I hope there are a few kids out there who see themselves in my characters, or figure out that ancient history is fascinating, or just enjoy the adventure. That would make my little writer heart very happy!

 

Thank you for your time Malayna!

Jagger Jones and the Mummy’s Ankh is out now.

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Guest Post: “AN INDIE AUTHOR’S JOURNEY: I’m A Small Fish in A Big Pond” by Donna L. Martin

Guest Post, Writing

donnaMeet Donna L. Martin.

International best selling, award-winning author, Donna L Martin, has been writing since she was eight years old. She is a 4th Degree Black Belt in TaeKwonDo by day and a ‘ninja’ writer of children’s picture books, chapter books, young adult novels and inspirational essays by night. Donna is a BOOK NOOK REVIEWS host providing the latest book reviews on all genres of children’s books, and the host of WRITERLY WISDOM, a resource series for writers. Donna is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and Children’s Book Insider. She is a lover of dark chocolate, going to the beach and adding to her growing book collection. Donna’s latest book, LUNADAR: Homeward Bound (a YA fantasy), is now available in ebook and print form from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and other online retailers.

Social sites:
Website: www.storycatcherpublishing.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/donasdays
Twitter: www.twitter.com/donasdays

 

I can also be found on Instagram, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.

The Guest Post.

AN INDIE AUTHOR’S JOURNEY: I’m A Small Fish in A Big Pond

Thanks, Rae, for inviting me to chat about my journey to becoming a self-published author.

 

I’ve been writing for almost fifty years, but only professionally since 2010. That was when I received my first traditional book contract for a picture book I wrote the year before. I’ve had a total of four books traditionally published so far, including “My Journey, My Journal” just released this past year.

Then why pursue self-publishing, you may wonder? In one word…

 

POWER

 

Now, I don’t mean the type of power that steps on the rights and feelings of others.

I mean…

 

POWER to create my own brand of books. I write picture books, historical fiction chapter books, young adult fantasy books, and inspirational essays. Last year I created my own publishing house, Story Catcher Publishing (http://www.storycatcherpublsihing.com) where I can now release my stories without having to wait to see if a publisher is willing to offer me a contract.

POWER to give back to this incredible writing community. Now that I have my own publishing company, I am in the process of creating my annual Star Catcher Contest, hopefully starting this year. This contest will offer young writers, ages 10-18 years old, a chance to become published authors, when they might otherwise never become published.

POWER to choose my own destiny! It took me almost a year to research and determine who would become my business partners when it came to marketing and distribution. My first book from Story Catcher Publishing is my young adult fantasy novel, LUNADAR: Homeward Bound which can be found on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and other online retailers

 

There’s a lot to be said for self-publishing. But it’s not for everyone. If you have been tossing around the idea of publishing your own stories, there are a few questions you might want to ask yourself…

  • Are you ready to invest the time researching your various publishing options?
  • If your story needs illustration, are you qualified to create the drawings? If not, do you know how to find a professional illustrator?
  • Do you have a marketing plan in place? This usually begins way before your book is even written.
  • Do you have what it takes to be writer, editor, publisher, distributor, promoter, and overall salesman? Self-publishing means you must wear ALL the hats, not just one or two.
  • Do you have the money to invest in your book’s publishing future?

 

Becoming an author is a crap shoot. Whether you go the traditional path or self-publish, there is no guarantee you will sell a ton of books or see your name on the NY best seller list. Over ONE MILLION books were published in 2017 with probably just as many last year.

But as a self-published author, I get to choose when to share my stories with the world. I may release a small fish into a big publishing pond, but they’re MY fish and in a pond of MY choice and I can live with that…

 

Thank you Donna for sharing!

LUNADAR: Homeward Bound, Donna’s latest release, is out now!

 

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Interview with Author Victoria Browne

Author Interview

Meet Victoria Browne.

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I was born and raised in south London. As a child, I would dream of becoming a writer but sadly dyslexia hindered this dream. ​Dyslexia for a creative writer is a cruel disability. I carried a vocabulary in my head that did not match my spelling ability.

At the age of twenty-five, I sought help, determined to learn to spell. I worked on developing my memory with a therapist, which helped me go back to the basics that I’d missed as school. Toward the end of my program, my therapist asked me to write a diary to help develop my reading and writing skills. I explained that I did not like writing diaries but had written some romantic scenes. My therapist suggested building a beginning and an end to one of the scenes I had written. This was the birth of my first book, Gut Feeling. I wanted my friends and family to read my work, and so I researched. This is how I discovered the world of self-publishing.

Being a dyslexic in the world of creative writing will always leave you vulnerable to harsh criticism. Though I never gave up on my abilities, only proud of them.

With a great deal of determination, I progressed to where I am today, living in Los Angeles, California with my Husband and rescue dog Tango. ​I spend my days as a, writer’s motivation coach, an author, and personal fitness coach.

In my spare time I enjoy Thai Boxing, and I like to drink copious amounts of champagne, whenever possible.   ​

Social media links:
http://www.vixbrowneauthor.com/
https://www.instagram.com/vixbrowneauthor/
https://twitter.com/
https://www.facebook.com/VixBrowne/

 

The Interview.

What is your favorite social media outlet to connect with readers?

Instagram. I like it because it’s visual, but you can also use it like a blog to connect with users on a different level.

How do you think social media reflects readership?

Twitter is where I go for my new, Instagram for blogs and pictures, and Facebook for what’s going on in my town—along with junk media. They are the modern newspaper and magazine.

When writing elements of romance, are there certain tropes you like and or tend to avoid?

I try to avoid all clichés, though if it fits, and feels good it’s not an issue for me.

Did you have a different writing process for your short story Slip compared to your other full length works?

Not really. I like to have a plot written out for any length book I write. The difference with my short story “Slip,” is that the elements of the characters lives are based on the real lives of my mother and auntie. I had the idea for my story years ago, but as I sat down to write the plot I remembered a conflict my mum had with her sister. And so, I called my mother and asked if she wouldn’t mind me using their story as material for a book. I wanted to add real sole to my short story, and I hope I achieved this. I enjoyed talking to my mother about her childhood memories, and it was a different process adding real-life to fiction life.

I’m sure you’re asked this a lot… but… do you have a favorite of the books you published?

Slip, for the reasons above. It was nice working with my mother. And Gut Feeling because of where it came from. However, I do really like the story line of “Third Time Lucky – Notting Hill Gossip.”

(For my American readers. In England, we say “Third time lucky” instead of “Third time is a charm.”)

Writing coach, personal fitness coach, and author. How do you balance your work life and your writing life?

When I was in the world of finance with a 9 to 5 it was harder! However, now I am a personal trainer it is easy. Most clients like to see me before they go to work, after work, or weekends. So, during the day I am able to write, and coach. I also find that my writers like to schedule calls later in the evening after they have written or if they have a writing blocks. I basically work all the time, yet it all somehow fits in to my life!

What would you say to a child you, or a child in general, who has dyslexia but dreams of writing?

Talk to someone, tell them you need help. Do not be embarrassed of your abilities, and never think you cannot become an author because your dyslexic. You can do anything you set your mind to.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with the readers today?

I would like to thank them for taking the time to read my Q&A. And, I’d like to thank you for asking such fun questions.

 

Thank you

Vix Browne

What a fun interview!

Check out Browne’s social media links to get to know more about her and her books.

Say Hello to Amy Trueblood

Author Interview

Meet Amy Trueblood.

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A devotee of reading and writing from a very young age, Amy Trueblood grew up surrounded by books. As the youngest of five children, she spent most of her time trying to find a quiet place to curl up with her favorite stories. After stints working in entertainment and advertising, she began writing her first manuscript and never looked back. Her debut novel, NOTHING BUT SKY will be published March 27, 2018 by Flux.

Social Media Links:

Website . Facebook . Instagram . Tumblr . Twitter

 

Onto the interview!

I love the slogan of “A wink, A smile, and A Happily Ever After.” How do you approach the cliched issue of writing a happily ever after ending and why do you think happily ever afters are important?

In my opinion, if you’re writing a story of hope there always has to be a “Happily Ever After,” but I never give it to my characters easily. I put them through a lot of pain and heartbreak before we get to that conclusion. In my mind, a “Happily Ever After” is not clichéd if the characters earn it.

 

Congrats on your debut novel, Nothing But Sky, releasing next year! What was your inspiration behind the creation of daredevil Grace Lafferty?

In the early 1920s there were many pilots who took to the skies in war surplus planes. Most of the time men received most of the notoriety. If you look closer at this time period though, you’ll discover many women were also part of this “Barnstorming” era. I wanted to bring these women’s stories to light via my fictional character, Grace.

 

Did you run into any surprising roadblocks while writing Nothing But Sky?

When you choose to writer historical fiction there can be many roadblocks. I think the biggest one was making sure everything was period authentic. Just when I would get into the groove of writing a scene, I would come across a word or a situation and I would have to stop and research it to make sure it was accurate for the time period. For example, there was a scene where I wanted to use the word “pizazz”, but as I discovered via research that word was not readily used until the late 1930s so I had to find another word.

 

Why historical fiction? 

There are so many undiscovered stories about amazing women in history and the female wing walker during the “Barnstorming” era was one I wanted to explore. These women risked their lives on a daily basis and I wanted to call attention to their skill and bravery.

I see you have a degree in journalism after snooping on your About page. Did your degree in journalism influence you to write historical fiction?

Actually no, but it did affect my interest in writing fiction. In journalism, there is no gray area. When you write a newspaper article everything is black and white—as it should be. But if you have a creative mind, your prose tends to wander in a different direction and that was something I wanted to explore.

My journalism degree usually rears its head during the drafting process as I tend to write very thin first drafts. I pay for this during the revision process as I usually have to add more setting details, as well as additional visual and sensory cues. A first draft for me may hover around 55,000 words, but by the time I’m done with a manuscript it usually ends up around 80,000 words.

 

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

I’m thrilled that YA historical is slowly but surely gaining a foothold in young adult literature. I hope this book will not be seen as purely a historical work, but as a universal story of a girl chasing after her dream. It’s the reason why I wrote this as part of my dedication: “And for little girls everywhere…no matter what people say, never be afraid to chase your dreams.”

Thank you for the opportunity to tell you a little more about Grace and NOTHING BUT SKY. I hope your readers will pick up the book and enjoy her journey.

 

Thank you Amy for stopping by A New Look On Books and Happy Book Birthday!

Nothing But Sky is out today!

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!