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RothIrene S. Roth is an academic and freelance writer for teens, tweens and kids. She has written over 500 book reviews and 1,000 online articles on different topics for teens, tweens, and about the craft of writing. She also teaches workshops on writing and craft at Savvy Authors. She lives in Stratford, Ontario with her husband and cat. Visit her at https://irenesroth.wordpress.com/

ABOUT HER BOOK

In Seasons of Empowerment for Adolescent Girls, Ms. Roth argues that there are four seasons of empowerment for adolescent girls. Sadly no adolescent girl can simply wake up one day, snap her fingers, and be empowered to tackle the world and all the forces that exist inside and outside. Becoming empowered to be who we are can be truly difficult. This book consists of a step-by-step guide to help adolescent girls achieve self-improvement.

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Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book Seasons of Empowerment for Adolescent Girls. What was your inspiration for it?

A: With this book, I want to inspire adolescent girls to get on the path of self-empowerment that will make the stronger and much more able to deal with the difficult years of adolescence.

Q: How was your creative process like during the writing of this book and how long did it take you to complete it? Did you face any bumps along the way?

A: I wrote the first draft of this book quickly. Then I went back and make some modifications. I didn’t have any bumps along the way at all, except I wanted to make sure that the book was written in a voice that was applicable to teens.

Seasons of AdolescentsQ: Do you experience anxiety before sitting down to write? If yes, how do you handle it?

A: No, I never experience any anxiety. I guess I am a lucky writer.

Q: What is your writing schedule like and how do you balance it with your other work and family time?

A: My writing schedule is quite heavy: I write for 5 hours most days, and I teach and research in between times. I guess you can call me a writer and teacher. I slot my family and work life outside of these times. I always have.

Q: How do you define success?

A: For me success is defined as doing what you truly love. If you love writing and you can write quite a bit, you are successful and lucky.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers whose spouses or partners don’t support their dreams of becoming an author?

A: I would talk to them directly about it, and then I would still schedule my writing time and write. Sometimes you just have to do what is most important for you, without the permission of your family, especially if they don’t understand you as a writer.

Q: George Orwell once wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Do you agree?

A: Despite the fact that I believe that writing is hard work, I have never believed that it is like a painful illness. That is too negative a connotation. However, writing does involve self-understanding and self-respect. And these can be hard to cultivate in a way that is open and honest.

Q: Anything else you’d like to tell my readers?

A: Always pursue your dreams, otherwise you won’t like your life or yourself.

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blackwellThe Blackwell Family Secret: The Guardians of Sin is book 1 in Jonathan L. Ferrara’s YA urban fantasy series. I must say this was a thoroughly enjoyable read, and I can’t wait to read the sequel.

After his parents are killed by a demon, sixteen-year-old Nicholas Blackwell is put under the protection of the Vatican and sent to a boarding school surrounded by a deep forest: St. Christopher’s Academy, complete with iron gates, gargoyle statues, and gateposts that leer at him. As his life is in danger, this is the only place where he can be kept safe. One night he ventures into the woods and a serpent tricks him into eating the forbidden fruit, with disastrous consequences–for the Guardians of the Seven Deadly Sins have been unleashed, and now Nicholas must go into the City of Demons and defeat the Princes of Hell, and in the process discover his family secret, one that could change the entire world…A daunting task for a teen, even if he happens to be the school’s cockiest leader of mischief.

I loved the book. Nicholas is a charming protagonist, cleaver, arrogant, yet brave and selfless at times. Ferrara’s world, inspired by Biblical tales, of course, is elaborate and imaginative. I especially loved his focus on the Seven Deadly Sins–what they are, where they came from, etc. Angels and demons are intertwined with fantasy elements, and the whole concept of good and evil is explored.

There’s romance, action, adventure, and mystery. It is also a bit dark at times, which I enjoyed. Ferrara is a talented writer, his prose smooth and his dialogue witty. The pace was excellent and the story kept moving forward with increasing tension until the very satisfying ending that left me hungry for book 2. Recommended!

Find out more on Amazon.

My review was originally published in Blogcritics.

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blackwell

The Blackwell Family Secret:
THE GUARDIANS OF SINS
by Jonathan L. Ferrara
URBAN FANTASY, Young Adult
5.5×8.5, 224 pages
Publication date: December 5, 2014
$15.95 trade paperback, ISBN 978-1-940076-19-5
$5.95 E-book, ISBN 978-1-940076-20-1
Publisher: Dragonwell Publishing
Distribution: Ingram Book Company
www.dragonwellpublishing.com / AMAZON

Nicholas Blackwell has no idea he is supposed to fulfill a destiny. All he knows is that he draws trouble like a magnet. Orphaned at eleven when two demonic men killed his parents, he copes with the strict rules of his new home, St. Christopher’s academy, unaware that he has been the real target for the killers and that his guardian angel has saved him in the nick of time. And now, his problems are only beginning when a mysterious serpent lures him into the woods and tricks him into a demonic ritual that will unleash the Seven Deadly Sins to destroy the humankind. Nicholas has no choice but to correct his mistake–or die trying. Aided by Amy, a shy but determined girl who seems to know more about his task than she should, Nicholas’s quest is to travel into the City of Demonio and defeat the Seven Guardians of Sin. To succeed, he must confront demons, monsters, and lost souls, learn the mysteries of the Chapel of Dreams, discover the true meaning of friendship and love, and face the darkest secret of all: the Blackwell Family Secret.

“The Blackwell Family Secret: the Guardians of Sin” is a debut young adult urban fantasy adventure with a Christian theme.

About the author:

unnamed copyJonathan L. Ferrara was born in San Pedro, California to an Italian fisherman and a mother from New York. Growing up with one older brother, Jonathan had several hobbies: finding the best hiding spots to jump out and scare his mother, discovering new fantasy book series, and imagining outrageous, whimsical worlds full of magic. He is now happily married, residing in California in the City of Angels. He has two wonderful children-his dog Koda and cat Merlin.

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Look for my review of this book soon!

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESA native of Honeoye, New York, Andrew Cratsley lives in North Carolina. Keepers of Runes and the Tower of Shadows is his debut novel. Cratsley is a lifelong fan of fantasy books, films, and RPG-style gaming.  A champion of literacy issues and proud supporter of the World Literacy Foundation, Cratsley will donate a portion of the proceeds from Keepers of Runes and the Tower of Shadows to the World Literacy Foundation’s fight against illiteracy.

Twitter: @Mortiscet / www.keeperofrunes.com

https://www.facebook.com/andy.cratsley?fref=ts

Interview

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Keepers of Runes and the Tower of Shadows. What was your inspiration for it?

A: I can’t point to specifics, but I would blame a life long obsession with fantasy in the form of movies, books, and RPG’s.

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist.

A: Corinth is a young elf who obsesses with righting the injustices of the world, but like many so young; he must learn himself and the full reality of the world around him. His 3 companions share his depth and face similar transformations throughout the series.

Q: How was your creative process like during the writing of this book and how long did it take you to complete it? Did you face any bumps along the way?

A: The road is treacherous and painful, but is equally rewarding to complete. It’s an exciting journey interrupted by many writer’s blockades.

Q: How do you keep your narrative exciting throughout the creation of a novel?

A: Concise writing and appropriate word choice is what I value most. Adding unnecessary content makes a work read like a weather forecast.

Q: Do you experience anxiety before sitting down to write? If yes, how do you handle it?

A: Not at all. I’m excited and eager to see what my efforts will create. Not all days are fruitful, but the good ones are amazing.

frontcover_444x664Q: What is your writing schedule like and how do you balance it with your other work and family time?

A: I’m still figuring all of that out, but the vampire in me releases my creativity after sunset. I don’t why I was born with this internal clock, but it works.

Q: How do you define success?

A: Success is a state of mind, not a list of assets.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers whose spouses or partners don’t support their dreams of becoming an author?

A: Life should be about achieving happiness and our first step is to figure out what is truly important. This is often difficult to figure out, but you should realize your passions and cultivate them.

Q: George Orwell once wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Do you agree?

A: It does take a certain obsession to follow through with such a task. I think something unique drives each of us authors, and the desire to finish what I started is fueling my obsession.

Q:  Anything else you’d like to tell my readers?

A: Thank you for taking the time to get to know me, and of course my work. I hope you enjoy, because the story has only begun!

About the Book

An extraordinary coming-of-age fantasy tale written by a dynamic new voice in the world of fantasy, Keepers of Runes and the Tower of Shadows has garnered high advance praise.  Kirkus Reviews notes that Cratsley “believably and authentically develop[s] his characters” and calls the book a “promising debut.”  In a Clarion Review, ForeWord Reviews reports that Keepers of Runes and the Tower of Shadows “has all the color, imagination, and drama one might expect from the genre as well as emotional depth.”  Moreover, the review states that the book’s “fast pace and gaming-style characteristics may appeal to more reluctant readers and inspire future fantasy enthusiasts.”

About Keepers of Runes and the Tower of Shadows:  At 120 years old, Corinth is young by elf standards.  But even as a young elf, Corinth is haunted by his sordid past. When he emerges from his solitude within the eternal forest around Enzlintine, Corinth is sent away to quell the troubled region plagued by Khalid, the Lord of Conquest.  But this will be a journey like no other. Corinth bands together with two curious companions—the human ranger Aventis and the oh-so-spirited Nadine—until the trio is captured by an insidious necromancer, Mortiscet. A vile dark elf who forces the group to help his daughter Rieka find a mysterious object, Mortiscet thrusts the group into increasingly dangerous circumstances. Can Rieka escape the clutches of her wicked and overbearing patriarch?  And what will happen when the group launches towards a frigid wasteland in search of the bane of the evil that stalks them?  On this perilous journey, they’ll have to battle assassins, ominous creatures and the forces of Khalid. Expect the unexpected—because sometimes, the best intentions come from the darkest recesses of the heart…

A splendid and magical tale with a captivating storyline, extraordinary characters and a plot brimming with action, intrigue and adventure, Keepers of Runes and the Tower of Shadows is a fascinating read that captivates from page one. Resplendent with characters that come to life within the novel’s pages, Keepers of Runes and the Tower of Shadows is a beautifully-written, imaginative, and inventive tale.  With its strong central female characters, Keepers of Runes and the Tower of Shadows offers a refreshing diversion from fantasy tales that focus largely on male protagonists and male supporting characters.

A mesmerizing work of fantasy geared towards young adults, Keepers of Runes and the Tower of Shadows will also appeal to adult readers of fantasy, as well as fans of such fantasy classics such as The Lord of the Rings or the Harry Potter series.  According to Pacific Book Review, Keepers of Runes and the Tower of Shadows has aspects to entice most any reader, whether lover of fantasy or not…. readers of fantasy will delight in Cratsley’s work.”

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Please welcome my special guest, debut fantasy YA author D.W. Raleigh! His novel, Shiloh’s True Nature, has just been published by Hobbes End Publishing

D.W. Raleigh was born in the Delaware Valley and has spent most of his life in that region. He has attended multiple colleges and universities collecting several Doug Raleigh Picdegrees, including an M.A. in Philosophy. After toiling away for many years in various unfulfilling jobs, he began to realize that what he really wanted to do was write. Scribbling down ideas and little short stories he eventually came up with something he wanted to share with the world. Thus, Shiloh’s True Nature was born. D.W. currently resides in Newark, Delaware with his longtime love, Judy, and their two cats, Lovie and Cheepie.

In this interview, the author talks about his inspiration for the book, his creative process, writer’s anxiety, and the meaning of success, among other things. 

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Shiloh’s True Nature. What was your inspiration for it?

A: Several years ago, I was compiling a list of mythological concepts I found interesting in hopes it would inspire me to write something.  In my research, I came across two books from the late Joseph Campbell; The Power Of Myth & The Hero With A Thousand Faces.  These works really inspired me and provided a blueprint for successful storytelling.

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist.

A: Shiloh Williams is highly inquisitive…in good and bad ways.  His thirst for knowledge and an understanding of his environment is admirable.  However, he also finds himself in dangerous situations because of his need to know.

Q: What was your creative process like during the writing of this book and how long did it take you to complete it? Did you face any bumps along the way?

A: I think it took a couple of years to outline and then another couple to write and refine it.  I don’t really know how others construct their novels, but I have a very specific building process.  I create a short outline with the basic story structure.  I then continue adding things until I am able to form chapters.  The process goes on and on until the entire book is completely outlined.  In the case of STN, it went on until the outline was about 50,000 words.  So, when I sat down to write the book, I converted the 50,000 word outline into a 90-100,000 word novel.

shiloQ: How do you keep your narrative exciting throughout the creation of a novel?

A: I do so by keeping that goal in mind.  As I was outlining the book, I made sure each chapter had specific, relevant goals and ended in such a way as to make the reader want to continue reading.  Was I successful? I think so, but only time will tell.

Q: Do you experience anxiety before sitting down to write? If yes, how do you handle it?

A: No, I don’t experience anxiety…it’s more like what you feel like when you were a kid and had to do your homework.  It’s just hard to get started sometimes…you know you need to do it and you want to, but there are so many other things you could be doing.  I usually combat the feeling by reading the last few paragraphs of what I last wrote.  By the time I get to where I left off, I’m where I need to be mentally.

Q: What is your writing schedule like and how do you balance it with your other work and family time?

A: I have no set writing schedule.  I write when the mood strikes.  Otherwise, if I force myself, I end up not liking what I’ve written.

Q: How do you define success?

A: The minimum definition of success for me will be to make a living from my writing.  I am proud of the fact that I’ve created something that has been published…and I certainly won’t consider it or myself a failure if it doesn’t sell millions of copies, but it would be nice if it did.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers whose spouses or partners don’t support their dreams of becoming an author?

A: It’s tough to deal with a negative situation like a lack of support.  I mean, you have to follow your dreams, but you also have to weigh your priorities and be realistic.  For example, if you and your significant other have a two person business and you decide to abandon that commitment to pursue an author’s life, you’re being irresponsible.  On the other hand, if you’re not in that type of commitment and your significant other doesn’t support you, I think you need to seriously examine your relationship.  Ask yourself, or better yet ask your significant other, how they would feel if you didn’t support their endeavors.

Q: George Orwell once wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Do you agree?

A: No, I do not agree.  Given Orwell’s works, particularly Animal Farm and 1984, I could see him saying such a thing.  However, he makes the process sound more arduous than pleasurable.  I am driven to write, but it provides me with tremendous satisfaction.  I’m happy when I put together a great paragraph or chapter…I’m elated when the work takes the shape I intended.  There’s no darkness, or compulsion, or negativity of any sort for me.

Q:  Anything else you’d like to tell my readers?

A:  I’d like to thank them for their support and hope they’ll all pick up a copy of Shiloh’s True Nature.  The novel can be found at hobbesendpublishing.com or amazon.com

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ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: Shiloh’s True Nature

Genre: YA/Fantasy

Author: D.W. Raleigh

Publisher: Hobbes End Publishing

When 12 year-old farm boy Shiloh Williams is sent to stay with his estranged grandfather, he discovers a mysterious new world inhabited by ‘Movers’. The Movers live in symbiotic harmony with one another, except one extremely powerful Mover who has stolen the town’s most precious artifact, the Eternal Flame. Shiloh investigates his supernatural surroundings, makes new friends, and begins to think of the town as home. However, just as soon as he starts to fit in, he realizes his newfound happiness is about to come to an abrupt end. One decision and one extreme consequence are all that remain.

Amazon Paperback Kindle 

Hobbes End Publishing / Author Page / Facebook

 

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Karai MadillA chronic “head in the cloudser” K. Madill lives in a rickety house on a well treed street in British Columbia, Canada.  When she’s not hanging out with her best equine friend in the woods she can be found trying to stay upright on her roller skates or mediating the affairs of her various furred and feathered friends that rule the aforementioned rickety house. 

K. Madill’s website: kmadill.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/K-Madill/161159890706088

Twitter: https://twitter.com/KaraiMadill1  

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20643483-the-stolen-herd

About the book

Mandamus is only a foal when his herd is captured by the terrible Rakhana Army. Rescued and raised in secrecy, he knows nothing of his heritage until a dreadful incident in the woods brings him to the attention of the Forest council – and everyone else. Sent away for his own protection, he is determined to seek help on behalf of the many animals who have gone missing from the forest, including his own family.

With the help of a troubled man and a stout-hearted bat, can Mandamus save his fellow creatures before it’s too late?

Purchase on Amazon

Interview

Would you call yourself a born writer?  

Storyteller, yes…writer, no.  I’ve been making up stories for as long as I can remember. I used to try and get my pets to act out parts I’d written for them. Talk about bedlam!  None of them were trained. We all had creative differences.  Needless to say, I gave up on being a playwright and turned to short stories and then novels.  The Stolen Herd is my first book and, let me tell you, writing it was like being lost in the wilderness.   I had no idea where I was going or what I was doing.

What was your inspiration for The Stolen Herd?

I clearly saw my main character, Mandamus, standing before me one day. He had this really troubled look on his face. The Stolen Herd was carved out of a stack of notes that took me about three years to create. The novel itself took six years, but that’s because a whole lot of life happened during that time.

What themes do you like to explore in your writing?

Ohhh, this is my favorite question! I began the series to write about animal rights, equality for human beings and environmentalism.  Yeah, nothing too heavy there!

How long did it take you to complete the novel?

Six years. I’m a relentless planner/rewriter/agonizer.

Are you disciplined? Describe a typical writing day.

I can be disciplined but only if I have a deadline, seriously – I’m terrible at keeping up a writing routine.  Truthfully, I’m terrible at keeping up any kind of routine. A good writing day will find me putting in about 10 hours of work, broken up by taking care of my horse, ferrets, dogs, cats, turtles and fish. That’s on a weekend. During the week, I do all of that, plus work a full time job, so I don’t get lots of scribe time. I have no writing space at my house so sometimes I’m reduced to finding the nearest closet and scribbling madly in there for an hour or two.

What did you find most challenging about writing this book?

I think stripping layers off of myself was hard.  I chose Mandamus to be raised by another herd and I’m adopted so, you know…some of it is quite personal.  Some of the great qualities my characters have come from me and, unfortunately, some of the nasty traits do as well.

What do you love most about being an author?

Love most? Hmmm…let’s see. Living in a different world, not being able to relate to most people? Not being able to hold my own at a party where people are discussing mortgage rates or the deficit because I’m too busy thinking about how a grizzly bear, a cougar and a man could break a tribe of Yeti out of prison? Those are the definite downsides.   I suppose what I love best is being able to write that nonsense down and share it with people who are drawn to that sort of thing.

Where can we find you on the web?

kmadill.com

or on Facebook under K. Madill

Pump Up Your Book and K. Madill are teaming up to give away a $25 Amazon Gift Card!

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ABOUT THE BOOK

 

For two decades Tyler Gibbons has been keeping a secret from his family. At the tender age of sixteen, Tyler embarks on a student exchange program. Sent to the Andean city of Ambato, Ecuador, he finds daily adventure as he tries to fit in at school, connect with his host family, and navigate through a world of beaches, volcanoes, and jungles. But tucked deep inside this year are events so profound, so unexpected, they forever shape the man he will become.
Now, 25 years later, his mother pulls these soaring tales from her son, exposing, for the first time, the source of a deep unhappiness. While these memories contain the wounds of an unresolved past, they also possess the power to heal his painful present.
Thoughtfully crafted and boldly told, Tyler’s journey takes the reader on a wild South American adventure, while illuminating a mother’s unyielding power to heal her child.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

 
Randy’s Website / Goodreads / Twitter

A performer, playwright, and producer Randy founded The Beggars Group in 1999. During the following decade he produced over two dozen productions including; The Expatriates, Do It!, and Theadora, She Bitch of Byzantium.

Plays he’s written include; New Year’s Resolutions, Homlessness Homosexuals and Heretics, Testing Average, Kill The President, Armor of Wills, and The Dwelling.

Randy is currently completing his novel careful, which will be released in May 2014.
 

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Soon from Twilight Times Books!

LuthiersApprentice_med

Niccolò Paganini (1782-1840), one of the greatest violinists who ever lived and rumored to have made a pact with the devil, has somehow transferred unique powers to another…

When violinists around the world mysteriously vanish, 16-year-old Emma Braun takes notice.  But when her beloved violin teacher disappears… Emma takes charge. With Sherlock Holmes fanatic, not to mention gorgeous Corey Fletcher, Emma discovers a parallel world ruled by an ex-violinist turned evil sorceress who wants to rule the music world on her own terms.

But why are only men violinists captured and not women? What is the connection between Emma’s family, the sorceress, and the infamous Niccolò Paganini?

Emma must unravel the mystery in order to save her teacher from the fatal destiny that awaits him. And undo the curse that torments her family—before evil wins and she becomes the next luthier’s apprentice…

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XGeneration 7

Title: XGeneration: You Don’t Know Me
Genre: YA Science Fiction/Coming of Age
Author: Brad Magnarella
Publisher: Brad Magnarella
Language: English

In the fall of 1984, Cold War tensions between Washington and Moscow are close to breaking.

But in sleepy Gainesville, Florida, fourteen-year-old Janis Graystone is mainly worried about starting high school, earning a spot on the varsity soccer team, and keeping her older sister from running her life. And then there are her nighttime experiences. Experiences where she awakens in her backyard—out of her body—with the disturbing sense that someone is watching her.

For Scott Spruel, the start of high school means the chance to start over. And he’s willing to ditch everything—computer hacking, Dungeons & Dragons marathons, even his comic book collection (well, except for his X-Men)—if it means getting closer to Janis, the secret love of his life. But will Scott’s past be so easy to shed. And what about the eerie delay on his telephone, a delay he senses through powers he is only beginning to understand?

Welcome to the gripping new series, XGeneration: part The X-Files, part Freaks and Geeks, and totally ’80s.

Rated 16+ for language.

Purchase your copy at AMAZON for 99 cents during his book blast!

About the Author

Brad Magnarella 7

Brad Magnarella grew up in North Central Florida. As a boy he discovered Marvel Comics, text-based gaming, Bruce Springsteen, and Stephen King, roughly in that order. The prize, however, was a creek that wound through his neighborhood, providing him and his friends a wooded sanctuary in which to lose themselves, while discovering natural Florida.

A graduate of the University of Florida and American University, Brad has long aspired to write the kind of fiction that colored his childhood. His books include The Prisoner and the Sun trilogy and the first in his new young adult series, XGeneration.

Brad lives in Washington, D.C. When he’s not writing, he’s somewhat hard to find.

His latest book is XGeneration 1: You Don’t Know Me.

Sign up to Brad’s mailing list for new releases: http://bit.ly/bdmlist.

Connect & Socialize with Brad!

FACEBOOK

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Pump Up Your Book and Brad Magnarella are teaming up to give you a chance to win a $25 Amazon Gift Card!

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Joe Sergi photo

Joe Sergi lives outside of Washington, DC with his wife and daughter. Joe is an attorney and a Haller Award winning author who has written articles, novels, short stories, and comic books in the horror, sci-fi, and young adult genres. Joe is the creator of the Sky Girl series of novels and the editor of Great Zombies in History. His first novel, Sky Girl and the Superheroic Legacy was selected Best of 2010 by the New PODler Review. Joe is a life-long comic fan who regularly writes on the history of comics and censorship for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. A complete list of Joe’s titles is available at www.JoeSergi.net. When not writing, Joe works as a Senior Litigation Counsel in an unnamed US government agency and is a member of the adjunct faculty at George Mason University School of Law.

Would you call yourself a born writer? 

I think it’s fair to say that I was a born storyteller (much to my parents’ and teachers’ chagrin). As a child, I spent a lot of my time in imaginary worlds with imaginary friends and fantastic creatures. Luckily, I had teachers and parents that encouraged this behavior. My parents tell me that they used to get notes about my vivid imagination. Some of my earliest memories including laying in the back seat of my parents’ car during long road trips creating comic books based on my favorite Saturday morning cartoons or writing the screenplay for a Star Wars inspired opus, complete with the marriage of Luke and Leah (I had even cast the movie with neighborhood kids when we finally realized that none of us owned a movie camera.) In high school, I often annoyed teachers by taking the most mundane assignment and giving them a unique twist. (For a career fair assignment on employment advancement, I outlined the steps that could be employed by the President to manipulate the Constitution to create a monarchy.) In college, I was once accused of plagiarism because “a business major could not possibly be this creative.” In law school, I wrote articles and edited scholarly journals and magazines. In college and law school, I found an outlet for my creativity through standup comedy and acting. As an adult, I decided that I wanted to be a litigator. Many people think this is because a trial attorney is just a story teller with the judge or jury as the audience (nonfiction of course).Currently, I work as a senior litigation counsel for a government agency. As a litigator, you could say I have been a professional non-fiction writer for decades (and quite frankly earn much more per word than I will probably ever make writing fiction.)

What was your inspiration for Sky Girl?

I think it is fair to say that the entire Sky Girl trilogy was conceived in a comic’s podcast forum project and born out of a father’s love for his daughter.

Let me explain. The Comic Geek Speak Podcast is made up of a bunch of great guys that love comics. I have listened to them and appeared on their show for several years and am still an active member of their forums. It was on those forums that I learned about a proposed prose anthology, which would be written by the listeners of the podcast. I wrote a story called the Return of PowerBoy, a story about a middle aged accountant, who may or may not be a superhero. (The anthology was never produced and the story was later featured in A Thousand Faces, the Quarterly Journal of Superhuman Fiction where it won the Haller for Best Writer in 2010.) The story was a very dark tale of what happens when a super villain wins. One of the very minor characters was the accountant’s four-year-old daughter, CeeCee.

Sometimes writers don’t create their characters, they channel them and that’s what happened with CeeCee. After the story was finished, I kept coming back to that little girl. What kind of life would she live, would she develop her father’s powers, and what would she do if she did? Well, CeeCee became DeDe, and the character of Sky Girl was born.

By this time, I had a daughter of my own. And I can’t help but think that this is what converted the very dark Powerboy story into the light hearted story of Sky Girl. As a proud geek daddy, I wanted to share my hobby with my daughter and looked for characters to inspire her. Sadly, I found very few. With a couple of exceptions, most of the female characters from early comics were merely eye candy fawning with unrequited love over the male protagonist or were relegated to the role of guest star (or even hostage) in their own books. Even the few that started as everywoman characters (like Kitty Pryde or Cassie Sandsmark) rapidly developed into über pin-up babes in the 1990s and 2000s. Thankfully, things have gotten a lot better for the modern female comics character, but the industry still has a long way to go. Female characters should have the same chance to grow, develop, and overcome adversity as male characters do. DeDe is a strong teenager and not defined by the men in her life. The series is really about DeDe’s journey to find herself and become Sky Girl. She makes a lot of good decisions, but she also makes some bad and selfish ones. But, at the end of the day she hopefully ends up in the right place. I hope she inspires my daughter to make good decisions.

At the end of the day, Sky Girl and the Superheroic Adventures, and the character of Sky Girl is the culmination of reading far too many great comics, finding far too few strong female characters and loving my daughter just enough.

What themes do you like to explore in your writing?Sky-Girl-Front-Cover

Sky Girl and the Superheroic Adventures is a fun story that I hope entertains. At a deeper level, it is about taking responsibility and growing up. I hope DeDe will serve as a role model. She is independent and strong and knows what she wants. But, she is also responsible and knows what she has to do. How she handles that, tell a lot about her character.

My intention was to have Sky Girl represent a strong female character who always tries to do the right thing. She isn’t perfect. She makes mistakes. But, she learns from her mistakes and, most importantly, she never gives up. In Sky Girl and the Superheroic Adventures, Sky Girl has to deal with some heavy emotional things like the death of her father, the fact that her mother is moving on with another man, and the ever-changing relationships around her. But, just because she allows herself to be emotionally open and vulnerable, that doesn’t mean she is weak. Dealing with adversity makes her that much stronger when she triumphs over it.

How long did it take you to complete the novel? 

I had a pretty unique writing process when I did Sky Girl. I write all of my first drafts on my Blackberry as emails, which I send to myself and edit later. (I do the same thing on my iPhone and iPad now, with a lot more corrections thanks to the autocorrect feature and fat fingers.) It is a habit I developed during standing room only commutes to an old job and frequent travel on my current job. I can pretty much tune out the world when I write. Sometimes I listen to music, other times I sit quietly, and still others I stand on a crowded bus, train, ferry, monorail, or on a really long line for a theme park attraction. Later I look at these emails and I do my final editing. I should add that I always like to listen to movie and television soundtracks (usually very late at night/early morning). I have a very large collection, which runs the gamut from classic to anime to horror to science fiction. I can always find something to put me in the mood. For example, in the fight scenes in Sky Girl and the Superheroic Legacy, I remember listening to The Mummy Returns, Van Helsing, Superman Returns and King Arthur (I would add the Avengers if I was writing it today). Those scores really create the heroic mood. The score from Dracula or the Exorcist can always inspire horror (and is really creepy in the morning). Alias and the Mission Impossible scores are great for suspense.

Of course, the harder part of the work (and the biggest delay) was the submission process. Right out of the gate I got numerous three chapter and full book requests from several publishers and agents. However, always at the last level, the book would be rejected because 1) it should be written as a graphic novel, 2) the target audience for superhero prose fiction is too small. More specifically, that the there is no audience for superheroine fiction, which is like saying “girls don’t read comics.” (This is clearly not true and sexist in my mind.) 3) My platform wasn’t big enough. Numerous publishers suggested I self-publish the book, which was a route I didn’t want to go. The few offers I got were from publishers that were on the Predators and Editors lists (or should have been). As I will get into, I think I ended up making the wrong choice and learned from it. But, I am grateful that the first publisher was willing to take a chance on the book because I know there is a Sky Girl audience out there.

So, to answer the question, conservatively it took 3 years for each book to come out.

Are you disciplined? Describe a typical writing day.

I’m not sure there is anything such as a typical day. There are two major philosophies that I have adopted for my writing. The first comes from Ray Bradbury, who I had the privilege of meeting at San Diego ComicCon before he died. I asked him if he had any advice for writers. He said the best thing a writer can do is write. The second philosophy comes from Stephen King (in On Writing and not told to me in person), who said something like, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time to write.”

So, I try to read and write all the time. I get the majority of it done when no one is awake. I’m one of those people that doesn’t sleep very much. I get a couple of hours a night. That leaves a lot of time when no one is around. I used to watch a lot of television infomercials. Now, I use that time more productively and write. At the very least, I have to try to write creatively every day (I also write for my day job, but it is a very different structure). I don’t hold myself to minimum page limits or time limits when I write fiction. Instead, I try to set aside 5am to 7am to write every day and see how much I can do.

So with that philosophy in mind, I will go through today. I got up at 4:30 am and read some chapters in Marty Sklar’s new book, Dream it! Do it! Then, I edited some interviews I wrote last night for the Sky Girl book tour. Next, I started this interview, wrote a comics script, and did some research for my nonfiction book before my daughter got up for school. I dropped her off and, on the way to work, I listened to the audio book for Michael Schumacher’s Will Eisner: A Dreamer’s Life in Comics. I heard something that sparked an idea for a CBLDF article, so I sent myself an email with the idea after pulling in my office parking lot (don’t text and drive it’s  a bad idea). During my lunch hour, I did some research for my potential CBLDF article, updated my website, and answered some writing related emails. After work, I listened to the audiobook for David Walter Smith’s In the Shadow of the Matterhorn. (I frequently listen to up to 5 audiobooks at a time, which is while I love Audible). After I got home, I finished this interview, attended to a Comics Experience lecture by Andy Schmidt on working for the Big Two, outlined my ideas for the CBLDF article, reviewed my research on my nonfiction book, read Rise of the First Lanterns, and did some work I brought home from the office. It is now 1:45am and I am finally going to bed. The alarm is set for 4:30 and then I can start all over tomorrow. I’m lucky, there are some nights I get so engrossed that I inadvertently pull all- nighters.

Admittedly, there are times that it is very hard to fit in the writing. My position as a Senior Litigation Counsel is more than a full-time job. Add on to that I still try to take comic classes and do workshops with Comics Experience (which I highly recommend by the way), and the fact that I have an eight-year-old daughter (and a wife that travels for a living), and time gets pretty tight. When I’m traveling, I do the majority of my writing on commutes or while waiting.

What did you find most challenging about writing this book?

The hardest part of writing Sky Girl, or really any work of fiction, is the editing–especially if you decide to cut something. For example, in the original draft, Dianne (DeDe’s mom) had remarried and DeDe had a little brother. Because of this, I had a completely different role for Michael Valjorge–he was going to be a school janitor that DeDe and Jason tried to avoid while they tested DeDe’s powers. In early edits, it became apparent that these extra characters only complicated the plot and didn’t add anything. So, they were cut from the novel and Valjorge came in as the boyfriend.

Another thing that causes a problem for me is motivation to edit. I write because I have stories to tell. Far too frequently, I get the story on paper and that satisfies the need to get it out. So, I have to force myself to edit and then edit and then edit. If this occurs, I have to put it aside until the muse calls me back to it. Of course, that’s easier to do when you aren’t on deadline. However, if something is due, I just struggle through it and hope for the best. The other thing that occurs when you put your work aside for months is that you may lose the connection to the characters. This happened in a recent story I did called “The Tube” (in Indie Comics Horror #2 available in comic shops now). By the time I got back to the story, I had to rework the main character (from a school girl to a secretary) because I didn’t feel her anymore. I liked the way it turned out, but the original version was very different.

What do you love most about being an author?

While it is true that a writer is anyone who writes, it’s pretty cool that I can look at my shelf and see all the books I’ve written on my shelf and say, “I made those.” To know that after I am gone future generations will have the ability to see my imagination is pretty awesome. But, by far, the best thing about being a writer would have to be the readers. I mean sure, authors are a pretty dedicated lot, who provide entertainment. But at the end of the day, I write for me—because I have a story to tell. I would write if no one ever read it. (For evidence of this, you should look at the sales figures for some of my earlier work). Readers on the other hand, have no such compulsion. They spend their valuable time and money on someone else’s work. There are a lot of great books out there by some amazing authors (living and dead). As a result, these people don’t need to take a chance on me (or any other unknown), but they do. I really appreciate that. So, the most rewarding part of being a writer is a no brainer. It is the people. I love going to conventions and meeting people to tell them about my books. I love the people that take the time to read my books and just come by and say hello and tell me they liked it. I just finished two days at Baltimore ComicCon. I am exhausted, worn out, and have no voice. But, you know what? I would not have traded that experience. I got to meet some great people and introduce them to my book. Some of them bought it and some of them didn’t. Nothing is more rewarding than someone coming up to me at a show and telling me that they really loved my book, or that it is their daughter’s favorite book, or that they made (or had someone make them) a Sky Girl costume for Halloween or a ComicCon. At my last comic con, two little girls told me that Sky Girl was their favorite book and they can’t wait for the third book. These people tell me their theories and guess at what will happen next. It is humbling. If you want to know a secret, book festivals and comic conventions aren’t that lucrative for me (I rarely ever make my table cost). But, writing is pretty solitary, so the chance to meet people is priceless.

To these people, I say “Thank you!”

There is a second, less tangible benefit of being a writer and that is the moment when you realize that your characters have come to life. For example, a major character doesn’t make it through the current book. I never intended for this event to occur. But, when I wrote that part of the story, I realized that there was no other way the tale could be told. Someone once said that a writer doesn’t tell stories, they discover them. When that happens, it is a great feeling.

Where can we find you on the web?

My author site is www.joesergi.net; Sky Girl can be found at www.SkyGirlNovel.com, and the official site for Great Zombies in History is www.GreatZombiesinHistory.com; my monthly articles can be found at www.cbldf.org.

Thanks for having me. For those interested, Sky Girl is available at all online booksellers and can be ordered in brick and mortar shops and chains. It is also available directly from the publisher at www.martinsisterspublishing.com. I will also have copies and be signing the book at some upcoming show appearances, some of which include: The Collingswood Book Festival (October 5), New York ComicCon (October 10-13), and the Festival of the Book (October 19).

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