What do the reviewers over at Once Upon a YA Book think of Deep Green?:
Quote from the review:
"The author addresses prejudice, abuse, and relationships with men in a way that makes it easy for the target audience to relate to... Her courage and spirit are uplifting. This is a beautiful story and is well written. As a teacher of middle grade students, I would encourage teenage girls to read this adventure."
*Use the promo code 20EPdb14 at check out for 25% off your entire e-book order! That got me thinking: Who is your favorite strong female character in a Young Adult book or YA-appropriate book?
I think my favorite would be Kit from Elizabeth George Speare's The Witch of Blackbird Pond. She does the right thing and supports decent people, regardless of how it makes people hate (and want to kill) her. It is one thing to fight for your own survival, and even to fight for your family... those things are natural. It is above and beyond to risk your life to fight for others simply because it is the right thing to do.
We're kicking off the long weekend with a thriller! Welcome Luke Ahearn to The Happy Book Reviewer! Luke is the author of the new zombie apocalypse novel, Euphoria Z.
In Euphoria Z, civilization shuts down as the dead fills the streets. They feel only pleasure and never pain. The few who remain unaffected struggle to survive, unaware that things are about to get unbelievably worse. Cooper is among the few survivors of a conspiracy to depopulate the world. One week ago, college was his biggest concern. Now he is on a perilous journey to find his sister. But zombies aren't the only threat he faces. In this nightmarish reality, the living can be far more dangerous.
Where did you get the idea for Euphoria Z?
Ahearn: I started with a normal zombie story, knowing I would change it and make it mine as I went. I read some article about people taking Viagra and Ecstasy in clubs and that gave me that idea right there. The rest evolves.
What was the
most difficult thing about writing this book?
Ahearn: Second-guessing myself. Writing is rewriting, but at some point, you have to stop and move your work to the next phase so it can get out there. I've come up with a process that works for me. It seems a bit tight and mechanical from the outside, but it’s geared toward eradicating any chance I have of second-guessing myself or getting hung up on minutia. Each one of those two issues will paralyze my writing progress. Writing to me is like riding a bike; if I go too slowly, I fall down.
So what is this process of yours? Ahearn: 1. I write the first draft quickly, focusing on the big picture elements of the story, the basic shapes or rough sketch of the novel. I only rewrite at this point if it is absolutely necessary to the logic of the story. I often leave notes to myself to develop a part I know needs more work but I don't want to tackle at the moment I am plowing past it. I need to do a posting on the different marks and things I do to navigate the manuscript quickly.
2. I then do a shaping pass, where I tighten and smooth things out, but even then, I stop myself from hashing over the same sentence or paragraph trying to make it perfect. As long as it’s clear what I mean, it doesn't matter how rough or imperfect it is. Not only does this keep me going, but it allows my subconscious to work through the problem.
During this phase if I get stuck I stop immediately and either walk away or jump to a different thing to work on. I believe strongly in the power of the subconscious. I always leave things hanging that I can't figure out quickly. If there’s nothing else to move onto in the writing (and there usually is), I just walk away. It’s actually faster for me to stop trying to solve the problem consciously and let my subconscious tackle it. It always works, and I am often stunned by the answer that comes. I don't feel like I am the person writing the book when answers come to me that way. It’s truly a magical experience. It’s as if the characters are telling me what they came up with.
I think too many writers accept the notion of writer’s block and stop at the first sign of resistance. I say the prose is your b****, run that sh** down, and keep going. You'll have a chance to drive by later and finish the job.
3. After the shaping pass, which can be the most complex to me as I am tackling timelines and world logic, etc. I start the polish pass. I usually pick some hard date or goal to start finalizing things into a first draft. The polish draft is like that final run through the hotel room before you leave. At this point everything should be mostly in place and I am looking for the few parts little parts that escaped my attention the first few passes. These are little snags, little errors.
4. Then it’s off to the readers, and they send back insightful comments, questions, and point out flaws. I incorporate things, fix things, etc. During the wait I start on the cover art and the marketing.
5. Finally it’s off to the editor to fix mechanical errors. After I get it back from the editor, the book is probably as good as it can be. To work on it any more, I feel, would either make things worse or at best, just change it into a different book. The next step in improvement would be a significant jump in time and money.
Well, that's my process. Hope it helps you.
Very interesting! I love how other authors shape their process (someday I'll outline my writing process too!). So, there's a big warning that comes with this book on amazon and along with any review I've seen that it is absolutely for adults only. With this kind of stuff floating in your head, does your own writing give you nightmares?
Ahearn: (laughing) No. The warning was put in by my editor but the book is apparently not that bad. My head is a really peaceful place in reality.
If you could be sucked into any novel, I'm guessing it wouldn't be this one! So, which would it be?
Ahearn: Jurassic Park, crazy I know.
Is there a book have you read that that you wish you
Ahearn: Seriously, Jurassic Park.
Okay, so you would live it and then write it as a memoir! What advice would you give to someone just starting out as a writer?
Ahearn: Read a lot and learn to like the process of writing. There is a ton of information out there but it really comes down to writing a lot to get your writing stamina up and develop your voice. Also, tune out the critics and doom and gloom crowd.
I noticed you dedicated your book to someone named Cooper? Is your main character named after someone in your own life?
Ahearn: Yes, my son is Cooper. I started the book as a way to be connected to him.
I had a feeling it might be your son! So, are you working
on a next book?
Ahearn: Oh yeah, the next Euphoria book. I am thrilled that readers are already asking for it. And a sword and sorcery novel, the first of a series entitled Dark Deeds and Black Magics. The Prequel entitled Originsis already available. I am working on a thriller I hope to have done by October 2014.
Thanks for kicking on the holiday weekend here at The Happy Book Reviewer with your zombie thriller! Readers looking for some scary summer reading can find
Euphoria Z at:
Jackson Pearce is the author of nine novels, including Tsarina (her latest). Tsarina is set in Imperial Russia swirling with rebellion.The Reds are gaining
ground, and the loyal Whites struggle to hold Saint Petersburg. But Natalya
isn’t afraid. Wrapped in fur and tucked inside her lavish home, she feels safe.
Alexei Romanov, heir to the Russian throne and her first love, has told her a
secret: Hidden within the Winter Palace lies a Faberge Egg enchanted by the
mystic Rasputin. With it, the Romanovs will never fall from power. The Reds
will never take the country. And one day, Alexei will ascend the throne and
Natalya will be beside him— the tsarina of Russia. But when the Reds raid
the Winter Palace, the egg vanishes and the Romanovs are captured. Natalya must
find the egg to save Alexei, her way of life, and her royal future. To do so,
she’s forced to ally herself with the enemy— a young Red named Leo who wants
the egg for his own purposes. But as they brave a war-battered landscape of
snow and magic, Natalya realizes that the world isn’t as simple as it seemed
back in Saint Petersburg. Nothing– not friends, not politics, and not love– are
as clear as Red and White.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer? Pearce: I’ve always
wanted to be a writer—there was a brief stint where I wanted to be a
veterinarian, but then my grandmother told me that sometimes I’d have to
euthanize animals, so I quickly dropped that prospect. I started writing stories when I was about ten years old
because the library didn’t have the sort of books that I wanted to read and,
being a sort of arrogant kid, I decided I’d simply have to write them myself.
My first story was about a little orphan girl who found a variety of adorable
animals and had secret magical powers. I had big plans for her to save the
world from an evil monster, but I threw in the towel after about ten pages! I started writing with the idea of getting my work published
when I was in high school; I sold my first book when I was twenty-two.
Where do you get your inspiration? Pearce: It’s hard to
pinpoint exactly where inspiration comes from. I know I get my inspiration from
everything—sometimes seemingly meaningless things will inspire a whole novel. I
just finished writing a historical fantasy that was inspired by something I saw
on Antiques Roadshow years ago; it
took a while for the idea to percolate into a full length book. I got the idea
for Sisters Red when two ideas slammed into one another—one was an idea of a
hardcore, tough Little Red Riding Hood, and one was an idea for a book about
sisterhood. I have no idea where I got the idea for Sweetly from! It just came
to me while I was driving one day, out of the blue.
Why do you write for young adults? Pearce: Because I love reading young adult books. The thread that most young
adult books have in common is a “coming of age” story. I think I identify more
with coming of age tales—stories where the characters are figuring out what,
who, and how they want to be—because I feel like I’m still “coming of age” (and
that feeling shows no signs of letting up).
What advice do you have for young authors? Pearce: I think that
there is a huge amount of pressure on young people these days to go to college
and get a “stable” job. To take every AP class their school offers and finish
college in three years, to start contributing to a 401k plan early, and to
avoid taking risks. And while all those things are certainly nice and have their
place, I also think it’s important for teenagers to know that you can be whatever it is you want to be.
If you want to be a writer, a singer, an acrobat, it is totally possible. There
is someone out there willing to pay you to be all of those things. You might
have to work ridiculously hard and eat Ramen noodles for a little while, but it
is possible. Don’t give up!
Book critic's review of Deep Green at A Little Something To Chew On:
"Deep Green held my attention from the moment I began reading...Deep intrigue and intense plot are carefully weaved throughout the story...I see similar qualities to the Life of Pi, as Haddad adds intellectual reflection and discussion from her main characters, and is why I would recommend this book to an audience beyond YA..."
A big welcome to D. W. Smith! Smith started as a screenwriter for the movies REPLICANT and ASSASSIN'S CODE. His first novel is just out, the adventure/thriller/comedy Whiskey Tango: A Whole Nuther Kind of Spy Novel.
I had the honor of doing a beta read of Whiskey Tango. It made think of a Blue Collar Comedy Tour guy meets James Bond meets Superman. Wesley Trueblood is a good-hearted, albeit underachieving, country-boy who finds himself with super-human strength after a mysterious incident. It’s not long before Uncle Sam comes knocking, asking for his help. Wes has to decide if he'll get off the couch and burn a few calories for God and country.
Wesley Trueblood is a complete good ol' boy from the South, and you're a Southern California native. How did you get in the mindset of someone who grew up in such a different part of the country?
Smith:Fortunately my family originated in Texas and Oklahoma (some actually coming from England before the 1800s) so I grew up hearing southern accents and can readily slip into one myself. So I think that helped me to think with his voice even though I put the character in Tennessee.
Was it difficult to find a balance between being authentic and not stereotyping?
Smith: I hope I succeeded there. That is always the aim. I think dialog is one of my stronger skills.
I guess that makes sense, since screenwriting is so dependent on being able to write dialogue. Any trick to it?
Smith: It's a combination of trying to inhabit a character (something I learned while doing some sketch comedy at the LA Connection) and listening in on real conversations you might overhear, and remembering them. Good dialog writers have that ability. Quentin Tarantino said that he picked up his style from that (he picked up a lot while spending a night in jail) and also just aping Elmore Leonard, who probably did the same thing. When I write dialog I try to "act" with the other characters and acting is mostly RE-acting. I found that simply listening to that the other person said, and reacting to it, is crucial on stage and while writing dialog.
What was the most difficult thing about writing Whiskey Tango?
Smith: I'm much more in love with the idea of "having written" than "writing" so for me getting my butt in the chair to do the work is the toughest part. I started when my first daughter was very young, so that hindered my ability to find time, but I think it also enriched the scenes between Wesley and his little girl which I think come off rather nicely.
Absolutely! I think that was one of my first impressions: that the father-daughter relationship was very real. Oh, and also that Whiskey Tango is full of gorgeous women, to rival any James Bond novel. Was writing up all those beautiful women the most fun part of writing the book?
Smith: Actually, yeah. I think that was the most fun. James Bond does sort of live the ultimate male fantasy and I wanted to explore that, but I wanted my character to be a good and likable family guy at the same time. So to avoid a Don Draper situation I had him separate from his wife at the onset of the story. Women are the most beautiful thing in the universe (at least that I know of) so I tried to depict those thoughts on the page.
I'm not saying if Wes survives the ordeal, or if he saves the world, or anything like that but... will there be a sequel?
Smith: I am working on a follow-up. What I'm aiming for is something like a movie that is followed up by a serial TV show. So a full-length book initially followed by shorter adventures a la "episodes." I started as a screenwriter so that is the way I think, and I wanted Whiskey Tango to read like a movie. The ultimate goal would be to see these stories realized on screens both big and small.
Is that what are you currently working on, or are you focusing on more screenwriting?
Smith: I'm juggling the new Whiskey Tango story with a polish draft of a screenplay that I wrote with Matt Orlando (writer-director of A Resurrection). And probably will write another screenplay that is a revenge tale that will take place mostly in Mexico. I got away from screenwriting for a while because it's so disappointing to spend such a long time working on something and then look for one buyer. With novels there are billions of potential buyers. And a good-selling book has a much better chance of becoming a movie. Screenwriter Michael Tolkin wrote The Player as a screenplay and it did not sell, so he adapted it into a novel, which did sell, and then he sold the screenplay afterward. I'm sort of taking a page from his book as it were.
I know you're big into reading books on your smartphone, which is why you chose to publish this as an e-book. So tell me, is there a book you've read that that you wish you had written (for the value of the book, not just because it made a billion dollars)?
Smith: I was recently completely blown away by Jack Finney's Time and Again which is the favorite time-travel novel of many big authors including Stephen King. I have written time travel before in screenplay format and know about its trappings. Time and Again is a master work in any genre. The ending does get nauseatingly preachy but it's not enough to put a dent in the overall experience. Stephen King was obviously using Finney's book as a template on how to put the reader into the period he travels to. The detail is impeccable and I've never seen a more clever use of illustrations and old photographs as appear in Finney's book.
If you could be magically sucked into any novel, which would it be?
Smith: This will sound weird, but it's the same struggle that Wesley grapples with in Whiskey Tango. My lazy half wants to be in A Brave New World.
Well, it isn't 1984, but... REALLY?!
Smith:I said it would sound weird! But the world created by Huxley in that story actually sounds pretty good. Constant entertainment, no hard work, and casual sex with beautiful women. But that is a world where no one really grows up. So I'd probably be hard on myself and jump into Atlas Shrugged. That is an all-too-often misunderstood story about living up to one's potential and being free to succeed and fail on one's own merit. Liberty vs. Security. I think it's Liberty that makes humans grow up, prolonged security means you never grow up. I wanted to grow up, it's why I became a dad. So... Atlas Shrugged.
And if you were sucked into Whiskey Tango, and you drank the mysterious water, how would you fare? Would you stick with the government, or stay on the couch?
Smith: I think my last speech sums that up. Wesley ultimately does take the harder road. And it's what I hope I would do. He wants his daughter to be proud of who he is. I do too. So you gotta get up off that couch, you can always stop in to visit it on Sunday.
Thank you so much for taking the time for an interview!
You may also follow D.W. Smith's website here. new adventure books, new zombie books, new james bond -like books, new southern books, author interview, indie publishing, self-published author interviews
“I’ve never been lonely. I’ve felt suicidal. I’ve been depressed. I’ve felt awful, awful beyond all, but I never felt that one other person could enter that room and cure what was bothering me…In other words, loneliness is something I’ve never been bothered with because I’ve always had this terrible itch for solitude.”
“Let me tell you this: if you meet a loner, no matter what they tell you, it’s not because they enjoy solitude. It’s because they have tried to blend into the world before, and people continue to disappoint them.”
“Strange how one person can saturate a room with vitality, with excitement. Then there are others, and this dame was one of them, who can drain off energy and joy, can suck pleasure dry and get no sustenance from it. Such people spread a grayness in the air about them.”
— ― John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley: In Search of America
Today we're welcoming Andrew Stanek to The Happy Book Reviewer. Andrew is the author of the new fantasy novel Empire.
Empire is about a small boy, Kean, who becomes entangled with a plot to kill the Emperor after a chance encounter with an Imperial Prince.
Tell me how you came up with the idea for Empire.
Stanek:I almost don't know myself. For a long time, since long before I've ever started writing, I've had an idea for a story about a boy who accidentally kills a prince. I've written many different iterations of this novel over the years but I've never been satisfied with any of them. A few months ago, I started writing a historical fiction piece about a Holy Roman prince who falls in love with a Hungarian princess, and I realized I could combine the two ideas.
Where does Empire take place? Was it difficult to build a fictional place or was it more freeing than just setting it in, say, medieval England?
Stanek: Empire takes place in a fictionalized Empire in a sort of analog of medieval Germany. I'd say my fictional Empire was a much easier, and yes, a much more freeing setting than something like medieval England. One of the great problems I have with historical settings is that there are always a million details that I'll never be able to get quite right, and doubts are always niggling at the back of my mind that I've missed something or messed something up. I'd say a more fictional setting frees me from all that.
Is Kean a younger version of yourself, or very different from you?
Stanek:That's a very good question. I wonder about it myself. I don't think Kean is a younger version of me. His life experiences and personality are quite different from mine, but he shares the uncertainty I had as a child.
What was the most difficult thing about writing this book?
Stanek: Telling people about it! I must have spent much more time worrying about whether anyone would read my book than I did writing it.
Oh, I know all about that! There was this great article in Publisher's Weekly last summer by Ellen Potter talking about this new publishing paradigm where "introverted authors are regularly called upon to... shout from every social media rooftop. Books are such quiet things--created in silence, read in silence--yet publishing a book has become a very noisy business."
(Potter, E. (2013, July 12). When Books Get Noisy: Writing is no longer a vocation for the shy. Publisher's Weekly.
Stanek: In terms of actual writing, I had trouble with the female characters in Empire. I worried furiously about them - I was terrified I might slip into stereotypes.
And lastly, I tried to meet a self-imposed deadline of one month to write the first draft. I very nearly didn't make it because Empire turned out to be much longer than I expected.
One month! Geez, you're ambitious! So, what was the most fun part?
Stanek: Writing the ending! Seeing everything come together was great fun.
Is Empire a stand-alone book, or will it become a series?
Stanek: It's designed to become a series. On the last page, I've got a note saying to look out for the sequel, which I've preemptively titled Empire: Lonely Road - though maybe I'm getting ahead of myself.
What are you currently working on?
Stanek: Mainly, I'm trying to get the word out about Empire and I'm outlining the aforementioned sequel.
You recently completed college. If a college or high school literature class were reading Empiresome day, what themes would the teacher hope his/her students picked up on from your book?
Stanek: That's a tough one. Academic literature classes tend to spend a lot of time searching for deep meaning, but Empire is just for fun. I think it does have themes of social acceptance and egalitarianism, but nothing central. I will say that I think, as a writer, I don't need a positive message, but I am under obligation not to have a negative one. Empire's themes reflect that view.
Writers also love to read. I know you enjoy historical fiction, fantasy, and mystery. Is there a book have you read that that you wish you had written?
Stanek: I don't think so because I wouldn't take any book away from its author! I've read and loved lots of books, but as good as they might be, they're just not mine.
And since your book is fantasy, I can ask you this one... If you could be magically sucked into any novel, which would it be? Would you be yourself, or would you take the place of one of the existing characters?
Stanek:Not Empire, I can say that much! I'd be very much out of place. But if I had to choose a novel (and I couldn't give the usual answer of Harry Potter and going to Hogwarts), I think I'd choose the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and I'd go as myself. I think life would be a riot.
Well, a riot only if you got off of Earth before it is demolished for a hyperspace bypass! Otherwise, it would be a very short story. Thank you so much for taking the time for an interview!