Paranormal Headliner: David K. Hulegaard and a Giveaway!

Today I’m welcoming fellow author David K. Hulegaard to the blog, and he’s got a special treat for you! (Read all the way to the end for more details on that.)  In addition to writing about spooky things, David is also a paranormal investigator (how cool is that??)! 

A Little Bit about David

David K. Hulegaard is an author and student of film and music. He developed an extensive imagination at an early age while burying his nose into a mixture of R.L. Stine books and literary classics.

With an established professional background in the real world of category management, consultation and marketing, he felt unable to quench his thirst for creativity. This led to the release of his debut novel in October 2010.

He currently lives in Oregon City with his fiancée, where there is never a shortage of inspiration. Citing a variety of influences, he loves to dabble within many different genres and settings to tell a story. 

You currently live in Oregon.  What’s your favorite thing about living there?

David: In general, the Pacific Northwest is quite remarkable. We get a bad rap because of all the rain, but when you grow up here, you don’t even really notice. That’s not to say that we don’t love our sun. There are many sights and sounds to experience here, so we like it when the weather cooperates. 🙂

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

David: I was quoted in my 6th grade yearbook as saying that I wanted to be “the greatest baseball player to ever walk the face of the earth.” Needless to say, I didn’t make it. Ha!

What do you do to unwind and relax?

David: I like to go for walks when it’s nice outside, or just cuddle up with my fiancée and catch up on our Netflix queue. I’ve also been known to play a video game or two, but that’s my dirty little secret.

Share one thing about yourself that not a lot of people know about you.

David: I am an accomplished singer/songwriter.

You’ve mentioned that you are also a paranormal investigator. When did you start that work? How many different sites have you investigated? What’s the scariest thing that’s ever happened to you?  

David: I’ve been obsessed with the paranormal since my first experience as a child. It wasn’t until 2004 that I even knew there were people that investigated it. I did my first investigation in 2008 and have been on a couple dozen cases since then.

The scariest thing that’s ever happened to me on an investigation wasn’t even paranormal, funny enough. My team was in a dimly lit basement doing an EVP session when we started hearing these loud rumbles. It sounded like furniture being moved around, which was one of the claims. It gave us a good startle. Much to our surprise, however, the noise turned out to be the snoring of a member that had dozed off. We had a good laugh about it later, but it was pretty intense at the time. We recommended that she see a doctor. 🙂

David on Writing

You are currently in the middle of a series. What are you enjoying most about writing about the same characters over the course of several books?

David: The evolution of their personalities, hands down. When you’re writing a series, you need to allow time for your characters to fully gestate. It was important to me for my protagonist, Miller Brinkman, to not be a “super hero.” He needed to be imperfect. He needed to make mistakes. I want the reader to identify with him and say, “That’s what I would have done in his situation.”

As the series moves on, Miller starts to change and adapt. He’s been through something traumatic, and he didn’t come out the other side unscathed.

You’ve mentioned that you write in multiple genres. What do you like (or not like) about each of them?

David: There are unspoken rules for each genre, and it’s challenging as a writer to learn them. More often than not you’re forced into learning the hard way. You take your lumps and move on, knowing next time what to do and what not to do.

In Science-Fiction, you have to provide an ample amount of description because the reader can’t see what’s inside your head. You have to paint the picture for them. It’s imperative that your narrator is active, but transparent.

In literary fiction, description is still important, but it’s the relationships between the characters and the dialogue that propels the story. Your job is to tap into the heart of a story and put it on display for the reader to connect to emotionally.

If I’m being honest, my style of writing borrows bits and pieces of the rules from several genres. I don’t follow an exact template. In the end, I believe that’s what makes my stories stand out. A reader may come in looking for a spooky ghost story, but find themselves emotionally invested by the end. I’ve been told more than once by a reader that I’ve brought them to tears. That’s when I know I’ve done my job.

What is it about writing that brings you back to the page for more?

David: In my mind there is no greater thrill than the process of creation. I imagine anyone with an artist’s heart would tell you the same. My head is filled with stories that I hope to be able to entertainment people with, and that desire is always enough to bring me back to the keyboard.

How do you decide on the titles of your books?

David: That’s a good question! For me, I enjoy giving my books subtle titles that may not mean anything at face value to the reader, but as they progress through the story it clicks. In particular, “Noble” has a double meaning. It’s a definable word that can be applied as a trait of my protagonist, but then as you read the book, you discover that it has another purpose. MUWAH HA HA HA!

Are any of your characters based on people that you’ve known, or situations in your books things you’ve encountered in real life?

David: 99% of what I write is inspired by real life. People I’ve met, places I’ve been, behaviors I’ve seen, thoughts I’ve had. After reading one of my books, my mom usually calls to “check in” on me. J The other 1% is entirely imagination, usually stemming from some crazy dream I had and can remember just enough to scribble down when I wake up.

What is your writing process- do you plot/plan or do you write from the seat of your pants?

David: I first create an outline and insert all of the plot elements that I currently have. Next, I look for ways to branch out from those points and expand the story. Once I have an outline ready and begin working on the book, I’d say about another third of the book just comes to me as I write. That’s the beauty of writing, really. You can’t force it. You just have to open up your mind and let the ideas come to you.

How much research do you do for each of your projects?

David: It depends on the type of book that I’m writing, but every book requires at least some research. The “Noble” trilogy begins in the late 1940’s and required a ton of research. I would think of things that I wanted to have happen in the story, then research whether or not my idea agreed with the technology available at the time. I was surprised by some of the things that did exist back then. It made telling my story much easier than I imagined!

The book that I am currently working on has required a lot of research into the life of pioneers in the late 1800s. It has been quite extensive and exhausting, but absolutely fascinating.

What do you think it is about your writing or your stories that resonates with your readers?

David: I often get told that my books are “easy reads.” At first, I thought that was an insult. Ha! It’s true that my books aren’t necessarily going to cause anyone to strain their brains, but that’s what I think allows readers to enjoy them. My books won’t require you to put them down while you go grab a dictionary. Personally, I think that’s distracting because it removes you from the story. Instead, I rely on just good old-fashioned storytelling and hope that’s enough to entertain the reader. I try to write the way I would tell you a story through live conversation. I think that makes them more personal because the reader is hearing “me,” not some pseudo-intellectual version of me that I couldn’t live up to in person.

What is the hardest part of writing for you?

David: Staying motivated can be tough at times. The ever-looming fear of writer’s block can also shake my confidence and slow me down. At the end of the day, I know that this is what I want to do, and I press forward. The only thing that can stop me is me, and I refuse to let that happen.

What advice would you give to writers just starting out?

David: Read. Read lots. Focus first on developing a compelling story. Do you have likable and/or relatable characters? Does your lead character have enough opposition? Does your story have a hook? Do you know how it will end? Who are you writing this book for? You need to be able to answer these questions before you’re ready. 

Don’t listen to pretentious authors that claim to know the “rules of writing.” If they had it all figured out, they’d be famous. You will learn the technical aspect of writing as you progress. All you need concern yourself with is finding an editor. Behind every good writer is a great editor. An editor will show you the ropes and teach you a few tricks to sharpen your writing skills. Don’t let fear be a deterrent. Have confidence, have patience, and just let the words flow through your pen.

What is your favorite supernatural character to write (I think you’ve written all of them-lol!)?

David: I’m writing her right now, and she’s not happy. 🙂

What are you currently working on?

David: I’m working on a book titled “Hopestill.” It’s about Lorne Abernethy, a man that grows tired of the increasing crime rate within his hometown, so he moves to a quiet town that he remembers from his childhood. It’s a picturesque example of small town life, and he loves it. People wave when they pass each other by. Cars stop to let pedestrians cross the street. Waitresses put a hand on your shoulder and call you “darlin’” as they take your order. Unfortunately for Lorne, looks are deceiving. The woods outside his new house carry a dark secret; an old Pioneer legend that the locals refuse to talk about. Lorne’s life takes a dramatic turn after he begins to see the woman in white around town.

You recently went back and did a major overhaul on Noble. A lot of authors would probably be afraid of doing something like that after releasing a book. What do you think are the pros of doing something like that?  Any cons?

David: To me, it was something that I absolutely had to do. When I had gotten about halfway through writing the sequel, it became obvious how much I had improved as a writer since publishing the first book. We’re talking, like, leaps and bounds. My beta readers actually asked me if I was sure that I had written this new book. Ha!

I wanted my “Noble” trilogy to be taken seriously, and I knew for that to happen that the quality of the first book needed to match its sequel (“Noble: Bloodlines”). So, I took three months “off” and hired a new editor to help me clean “Noble” up and make it suitable for re-release. It took a lot of time and effort, but I am so proud of the finished product.

Luckily for me, “Noble’s” sales had been relatively low, so replacing the original with a second edition could be done quietly without upsetting anyone. Reviewers of the original were kind, saying that it was a great book in need of better editing, which is exactly what I did. I contacted each of those people personally and sent them a free updated version of the book as a way of saying, “Thanks for sticking with me.”

David’s Paranormal Perspectives

How would you define the paranormal genre?

David: I worry sometimes that there is a misconception about what “paranormal” means. The genre is quite vast, though I’ve found that most people tend only to think of it as vampire and werewolf romance novels. That’s a shame because there are so many great books that fall under the paranormal label and get ignored.

How you feel about the boom of paranormal fiction recently?

David: I think it’s great! Of course the success of anything inspires a lot of “me too’s,” but that’s when you have to put it into the hands of the reader and let them decide what’s good and what’s imitation. A shining spotlight on the genre is a great opportunity for any author hoping to get some exposure.

What scares you?

David: I love those tense moments during a scary scene when you think something is going to happen, but then it doesn’t. The character walks toward a closed door at the end of the hall. The violins swell to a crescendo as her hand reaches for the knob. The hair on the back of your neck rises as she twists and inches the door open. Then… silence. There’s nothing there, yet you remain on edge. That, my friends, is how you capture fear.

What is your favorite paranormal book?

David: Oh, so many for me to choose from. I don’t think I could narrow it down to one. Lately I’ve been reading Joshua Unruh and William Vitka. Joshua has a brilliant series starring a character named Hob Lesatz. It’s very Dresden Files-esque and I love it. I beg him monthly for a new installment. 🙂

What is your favorite paranormal movie?

David: Do I lose points if I tell you it’s “Ghostbusters?” I know it’s not scary, but it’s a classic. It takes a lot to scare me, so I’m often disappointed by my movie selections, but some of those Japanese films from the early 2000s did some permanent damage to my mind’s eye. Can anyone truly ever get over that creepy scene where the girl comes crawling out of the TV set? 🙂

What do you think draws people to this type of fiction?

David: I once met a psychic that asked me if I thought I was “sensitive.” I told him no. He said, “You must be at least a little bit sensitive, otherwise you wouldn’t be interested to the paranormal in the first place.” In retrospect, I think he’s right, and that’s probably true for just about any paranormal enthusiast. Something ignites a person’s interest in the paranormal, be it a personal experience, or just a general curiosity about the unknown.

I think it’s great that our society has evolved enough to the point where we can discuss these things intelligently without being thought of as crazy. Well, I’ll let you read my books first before you decide whether or not I’m crazy. 🙂

Connect with David

Official website: http://davidhulegaard.com

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/author/dkhulegaard

Twitter: @HulegaardBooks

A Special Treat: Win an Autographed Paperback copy of The Jumper

Entering to win is easy! Just leave a comment for David below. I will pick one random winner on Friday, May 11th.

Thanks for stopping by David!

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Paranormal Headliner: Tunku Halim

Today I’m bring some international flair to the Paranormal Book Beat in the form on my latest Paranormal Headliner, Tunku Halim.

Tunku has published two novels and five collections of short stories, the latest being 44 Cemetery Road and Gravedigger’s Kiss. His novel, Dark Demon Rising, was nominated for the 1999 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award while his second novel. Vermillion Eye, was a study text at The National University of Singapore.

Welcome Tunku!

A Little Bit about Tunku

Tunku lives in Australia but is a frequent visitor to his country of birth, Malaysia. He is a lawyer turned writer. He is interested in real estate design and development.

Recently his stories “Biggest Baddest Bomoh” and “Keramat” have respectively appeared in The Apex Book of World SF (Apex Publications) and Exotic Gothic 3 (Ash-Tree Press) whilst his essay on Margot Livesey’s Eva Moves the Furniture was published in Twenty-First-Century Gothic: Great Gothic Novels Since 2000 (The Scarecrow Press). His latest tale “In the Village of Setang” is soon to be published in Exotic Gothic 4 (PS Publishing).

He also writes non-fiction, including A Children’s History of Malaysia and History of Malaysia – A Children’s Encyclopedia.

You are my first international Paranormal Headliner! Can you tell us a bit about the places that you’ve lived and what you liked best about them?

Tunku: I was born in Malaysia but was sent off to a boarding school in England at 13. I’ve been living in Australia for almost 20 years, 10 in Sydney and 10 in Hobart, Tasmania. I love the gothic atmosphere in so many English towns and villages. The natural scenery in Australia, especially Tasmania, is stunning. The social scene in Malaysia is great. Good food and lots of friends and relatives who love discussing about ghosts and ghouls!

What do you do to unwind and relax?

Tunku: I used to be into Karate, but now I do Yoga. I recently have taken up oil painting and drawing.

Tunku on Writing

What is it about writing that brings you back to the page for more?

Tunku: I suppose there’s a yearning to share something, to tell a tale, to explore an idea and to create something.

What were the key influences for your books?

Tunku: Being born in Malaysia, its myths and legends are very important. I also like to think that there’s a hidden world behind our day-to-day one, this is what’s drawn out in my writing. Of course, I love Stephen King too!

Are any of your characters based on people that you’ve known, or situations in your books things you’ve encountered in real life?

Tunku: Yes and yes. But I wouldn’t want to go into any details. Trade secret …

What is your writing process- do you plot/plan or do you write from the seat of your pants?

Tunku: I write organically. I start out with a scene, a character or an idea and I see where that takes me. Staring out with a well-formed plot would be too uninteresting for me and removes the pleasure of the unknown journey before me.

How much research do you do for each of your projects?

Tunku: Very little. Most of the research is in the head!

What is the hardest part of writing for you?

Tunku: Getting started on a story.

What advice would you give to writers just starting out?

Tunku: Write as much as possible. Don’t worry about the quality of what you’re written. Find out about the writer’s craft from books and courses. Writing is like playing the piano, the more you write the better you get at it.

What are you current working on?

Tunku: A short story for an anthology called “Exotic Gothic 5” (edited by Danel Olson).

Tunku’s Paranormal Perspectives

Do you identify more with the horror genre or the paranormal (or both)?

Tunku: I started off as a horror writer but gradually the desire to strike fear into the heart of the reader became less and less important. I certainly use elements of horror but without the blood and gore. I wrote what can be called a paranormal romance novella several years back called “Juriah’s Song” but it was well before the Twilight novels
became such a hit. I think I’m more comfortable with the phrase “Gothic fiction” or “dark fantasy”. It allows me to soar anywhere on these old bat wings.

How you feel about the boom of paranormal fiction recently?

Tunku: There’s too much of it and this will lead to its eventual demise. This is what happened to the horror boom in the 1980s. Good fiction will always stay with us though.

What scares you?

Tunku: Horror movies. Humanity’s stupidity.

What do you think draws people to this type of fiction?

Tunku: We all believe that if we find the perfect man/woman then we’ll finally be happy. I don’t believe anyone has found that perfect person. So many romances have been crushed. The paranormal romance novel implicitly recognizes this and so takes it to one extreme. The perfect partner has to “super human”, a vampire, a werewolf … but with a heart of gold.

Connect with Tunku:

http://tunkuhalim.com
http://tunkuhalim.wordpress.com

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Paranormal Headliner: Matt Posner

Today I’m welcoming the author and Dean of the School of the Ages– “America’s Greatest School of Magic”! This delightful YA series is being released in five parts through 2015. Matt also writes poetry, literary and genre fiction, and is gearing up to release a non-fiction book geared toward teens in May. Welcome Matt!

A Little About Matt

Matt Posner is a writer and public school teacher from New York City. Originally from Miami, Florida, he has been happily married to Julie for twelve years.

You currently live in NYC.  What’s your favorite thing about the city?

Matt: New York City is a multicultural place. The mix of nationalities, ethnicities, and cultures makes it more complex and more in the spirit of America than any other place I have lived. I like other places where I’ve been for other reasons – I like small-town life also – but if I’m going to live in a big city, then let it be one where there are many different types of people to meet, all blended together.

Also, NYC is full of museums and restaurants. I like to see great art and to tell my students to see it; and I appreciate the variety of restaurants. You can find me at Museum of Modern Art especially.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Matt: I decided when I was twelve to be a writer. I started writing fiction then. I figured, sort of vaguely, that I would be a teacher also, because I liked to impart knowledge.  Alas, I didn’t have the expectation then, because my generation had a different energy, that teaching would be so substantially about disciplining and controlling kids who would so fiercely resist being taught. Overall my plan from about age twelve was to be a full-time novelist. I haven’t reached that one as yet, and so long as I have a union job, I don’t think I will leave teaching. You just don’t leave union jobs – we trade-unionists are beacons of hope for Americans, demonstrating as we do how working lives in the United States should really be. The American worker is always getting screwed by the employer. Not as easy to mess up union workers through no fault of their own.

What do you do to unwind and relax?

Matt: My wife and I watch movies and TV. A lot of cooking channel, mainly competitions (Chopped, Sweet Genius, Top Chef, Next Iron Chef, etc.) and fix-the-restaurant shows (Kitchen Nightmares, Restaurant: Impossible, Restaurant Stakeout) and sci-fi/fantasy (Star Trek, Doctor Who, Warehouse 13, Eureka) and paranormal shows (currently Paranormal State). We also like foreign movies. I read, of course, but a lot of that is work these days, since I accept for review far more books than I can keep up with.

I used to be an active gamer, involved daily with role-playing and collectible card games, but those days are over, although I still think about my amazing former hobbies.

Share one thing about yourself that not a lot of people know about you.

Matt: I was a high school wrestler. I wasn’t very good, but I spent two years hanging with the team and wrestling JV in order to prove to myself that I could be more than just a bookworm. I never have been athletic, but I took on the toughest challenge imaginable in amateur sports because I was attracted to it and I wanted to be a more complex and capable person.

You’ve mentioned that you are also a musician. What instruments do you play (or have played)?  

Matt: I’m a percussionist, one hundred percent self-taught. My parents are musicians, and I inherited musical talent from them. I’ve never had a percussion lesson, and as a result I don’t have the skills to work a drum kit, but I have good musical impulses and I use them in performing. In my group I am also a voice performer, which means that I offer expressive renditions of poetry I have written. For music, I also now use the iPad with good musical apps such as ThumbJam and Animoog.

Matt on Writing

I’m going to ask you a very obvious question. Reading your reviews, I saw the name “Harry Potter” come up a lot. What makes your books different from that series?

Matt: If I had the last many years to do over, I would not start a series I would then have to defend from the accusation of being like Harry Potter. I was writing about wizards and magicians long before J.K. Rowling did; she just got into print first. The similarities are that I am writing about a magic boarding school, and that there is a British girl in the book. But half that boarding school is Chasidic Jews direct from Brooklyn! My books are American in flavor, multicultural, with real history, beliefs, and religion included. The first book, The Ghost in the Crystal, deals extensively with Jewish themes. Although these don’t go away, I explore other cultures and other aspects of history as the series continues, with strong interest in Asian India.  I use real places in New York, and in later books, real places in other parts of the world.

My magic system is much more like the real-world paranormal. Most of the magic is mental, and the kids get their powers through meditation and through knowledge of the European tradition of Hermeticism/Occultism. Their powers look a lot like powers attributed to historical mystics and magicians, ranging from John Dee to Gurdjieff. Ghosts (I have lots of ghosts) behave a little more like ghosts than Rowling’s, who behave like Disney cartoons.

I think J.K. Rowling’s message is primarily about sacrifice and is fundamentally a Christian message. Her books constitute a giant Church of England version of C.S. Lewis, it could be argued, with Harry dying and being reborn in the same fashion as Jesus, sacrificing himself out of Love to protect others. I find this a relatively rancid theme. “Good people must sacrifice themselves to fight against evil; courage is the greatest virtue.”  Yeah, yeah. After all that inventiveness and all that world-building she did, and her ultimate inability to sort it out properly so that she just dumps all her characters into the climax because she can’t bear to part with them, and kills some of them off meaninglessly just because it would be unrealistic not to… After all that, we get in the end the same old message of Christian virtue that may have been drilled into her in church hymns when she was an impressionable youth.

Something more sophisticated is needed now. We are living in a global culture, and we must reach for universal themes. What is common to all humanity? What is a view of reality that crosses national, ethnic, religious boundaries? How can we empower young people to solve problems rather than saddle them with another batch of stiff-upper-lip twaddle about responsibilities imposed upon them by an obsolescent social framework? I do believe in social responsibility, of course; I’m a teacher, after all. But I don’t think kids are inspired to it by Rowling’s message. Sacrificing yourself for others is admirable, of course; it’s her heavy-handedness I’m complaining about.

You’ve written in a few different genres over the years. What do you like (or not like) about each of them?

Matt: I will write in any genre that appeals to me and that I think I can handle. My goal is to build myself as a brand and I don’t think I need to limit myself to one category of output in order to do that. Young adult fantasy is my primary genre now because I’m moved by it and I enjoy writing it. I like the ability to combine the world I live in with mythical and paranormal elements. In a sense I’m writing about the world I’d like to live in. I’d like to live in a world full of ghosts and psychic powers and time slips and UFOs and cryptids. I can’t dwell there, since my actual world is full of curriculum mapping and counseling memos and teen pregnancy and traffic jams, but my characters can live in that wonderful world that I long for. Like most writers, I write what I want to read.

My next book, Teen Guide to Sex and Relationships, coming in May and co-authored with Jess C. Scott, is my first published nonfiction, but imparting nonfictional content is what I do daily as a teacher, so it’s far from new territory. Jess and I (she’s a wonderful, cool, nonconformist author who specializes in relationship-based erotica) give advice to teens about sexuality and emotions, speaking like older, caring, experienced friends. Our beta readers like it so far; I think kids will as well.

I did a poetry/photography book, Vampire Poet, because poetry and photography are hobbies and I wanted to share what I had done with them. Poetry is not a commercially viable form, but it appeals to me because of the ability to pack a lot of power into a small and digestible unit.

I have written literary fiction, which you can find in some of my anthologies (With Love; With Love: After Dark; and of course the top-selling Kindle All-Stars:  Resistance Front) but genre fiction is more natural for me. Epic fantasy was my genre of choice as a young man, and I will return to it eventually, perhaps once School of the Ages has run its course. In a recent anthology, The Evil Within, I took on genre horror, and I plan to write some more of it also. I read Stephen King’s book Danse Macabre as a teenager, which describes how to do it, and I essentially will write horror the way King describes there. Blood and mutilation aren’t a natural form of expression for me, but I can do them, I figure.

What is it about writing that brings you back to the page for more?

Matt: The story isn’t finished yet. The characters haven’t been brought to the place where I can leave them alone. They haven’t been explored to their inner reaches, their hearts bared entirely. They haven’t settled their conflicts. That just has to be done if it can be done.

How do you decide on the titles of your books?

Matt: My book titles are full of expressive powerful nouns, and they carry a certain amount of mystery. The Ghost in the Crystal as a title is like Tolkien’s The Two Towers; it can be explained more than one way. There is a crystal, but who is the ghost? It seems to be the villainous dead heretic who gets young apprentice Simon in trouble, but by the end, you will see that title in a new light. Level Three’s Dream, my second novel, has the word ‘dream’, which has been proven mighty by Neil Gaiman and others before, and again there is more than one meaning, since we have dreams both when awake and when asleep. Is the dream of Level Three (who is an autistic teen) the hundred-page Alice in Wonderland fantasy realm that occupies the later part of the story? Or is it something he aches for every day of his life? Book three, coming this summer, is The War Against Love. War? Love? Obviously, that’s a winning combination!

My titles are all written intuitively; usually they just emerge in my mind, with only slight tweaks to follow. However, these are the qualities that I find in my titles after I make them.

Are any of your characters based on people that you’ve known, or situations in your books things you’ve encountered in real life?

Matt: All my characters are aspects of me, even the villains. They are of course inspired, are of course sometimes riffs on people and characters I’ve loved before, but I can only fill out their emotional and intellectual profiles with content from my own personality. I use real-life places a lot, in New York and elsewhere, and as the series progresses, I will increasingly convert a lot of my European vacation spots into sites for the teen wizards to have adventures. Book four has big chunks in India, too, where I have been once and will go again soon.

What is your writing process- do you plot/plan or do you write from the seat of your pants?

Matt: I work from notes. I write outlines but I violate them when I get better ideas. I write scenes in the order I feel like, not in the order they will appear in the book. I always write multiple projects at once, and in the past I have written multiple books in my series at once. In doing this, I recall the strategy of Isaac Asimov, who wrote a novel and a nonfiction book at the same time, switching whenever he felt stuck.  But Asimov was a full-time writer; I’m part-time, so things develop relatively slowly. I have long gaps between sessions of writing on a novel while doing other projects. I sometimes get jealous of my more prolific buddies in the business. My projects percolate a lot, and my job leaches away my writing time.

How much research do you do for each of your projects?

Matt: My research is ongoing. I read nonfiction a lot to keep on top of ideas and events, principally The New Yorker magazine which has a broad range of subjects. I always draw on my background knowledge, which has been enlarged by years of being scholarly by nature, and I look stuff up online, often mid-sentence, as it comes up. When I write in my notebook, I leave gaps or notes to look things up later, and I do that research when I’m typing up my notebook. Sometimes though I may lose track of where I got my information. In The Ghost in the Crystal, Leah Ritz uses an Aramaic magic formula “Havaya tseva-ot” to fight against evil spirits. I couldn’t now tell you where I got that from, or how much, if at all, I changed the wording.

I also research by travelling. All my vacations are working vacations as I gather knowledge of places I can put my characters in. I’m going on vacation in April to Budapest, Vienna, and Prague, and I’m sure I will use all three locations in the future. Prague is already in The War Against Love.

What do you think it is about your writing or your stories that resonates with your readers?

Matt: My readers relate to my teenagers who feel like real teenagers to them. They aren’t digital natives like the kids I see in the classroom – they are more like the teenagers I grew up with – but they have strong feelings, tender hearts, insecurities, mixtures of bravado and anxiety, things you expect in good kids who are trying to find themselves.

What is the hardest part of writing for you?

Matt: I spent seven years blocked, largely because I was going through a bad time in life, but now I’m not blocked anymore, and I can write any time I have time to write. The hardest part of writing for me now is clock time:  carving out enough hours in the day to expand myself mentally and emotionally so that I can be creative. I so often have to shift to being practical that the practical and creative are always in opposition, and I often feel guilty being creative. “How am I supposed to write when I didn’t deal with that call I was supposed to make?” I do a lot of thinking while commuting, and that’s productive, but thinking is only one stage of the process and I need to spend more time on the other stages.

What advice would you give to writers just starting out?

1)    Get a well-paid career to sustain you while you write. Financial services looks good.

2)    Learn these skills:  digital book formatting, social networking, marketing, investing.

3)    Fuck literary agents.

What is your favorite supernatural character to write?

Matt: I like to write about magicians/wizards and I like to write about ghosts/spirits. I love elementals also. I have a vampire in Level Three’s Dream, but he is an energy vampire, not an undead vampire, and primarily he’s a magician.

Separate from School of the Ages, I have some work about zombies I am presently niggling at, inspired by my love for the Resident Evil movies and the work of some great zombie authors I’ve met, such as Mainak Dhar. I am not presently drawn to write about undead vampires, werewolves, shifters, or fairies. When I do, though, I will do my damnedest to make it different than anyone has ever read before.

What are you current working on?

Matt: Teen Guide to Sex and Relationships, with Jess C. Scott, is going into final drafting next month. Jess and I are talking about writing two other books together after this one is done. My next solo book is The War Against Love, the third book of School of the Ages, coming out this summer. I will be publishing some short stories this year. I’m working on a School of the Ages story now which I will publish as a teaser for War Against Love and probably give away through amazon prime. The working title is “Sara Ghost.”

Matt’s Paranormal Perspectives

How would you define the paranormal genre?

Matt: There exist many traditions of storytelling that react to human experience by creating mirrors of it full of events and experiences that aren’t replicated in daily life. You look in the mirror and you see a vampire, a reflection of your emotional life but not your physical life. You read a book about a vampire or a person who deals with vampires, and on a deep level, you feel the echoes of that non-daily experience as ways to clarify, by allegory or analogy, that turmoil and those traumas with which you must actually deal.

How you feel about the boom of paranormal fiction recently?

Matt: I’m going to sound like a teacher and a scholar as I answer this.

Popular culture trends in horror and supernatural fiction are reactions to popular fear. The paranormal genre puts a more comfortable face on darkness. It is partly psychotherapy, but mainly escapism. The darkness we actually face in the world is a darkness of purely human sickness, ranging from religious fanaticism (terrorists and Taliban, the Republican war on women) to economic ruin (epidemic of foreclosure, income gap, the corporate takeover of the American government). I’d much rather think about a vampire or a werewolf, even a really nasty one, then think about Mahmoud Ahmedinejad or Rick Santorum.

Why do young adults in particular like the paranormal? I think most teens feel that they are somehow different from the ordinary, or fear that they are. These feelings can harmlessly be managed by the creation of paranormal alter-egos. For me, when I was growing up, it was wizard characters, like Belgarion in the work of David Eddings, who grew up and grew to power, as my own Simon, Goldberry, and Mermelstein are doing in School of the Ages. For teens today, it’s Edward and Bella or it’s Sookie Stackhouse. I would have been into them if I were the right age. Similarly, dystopian fiction like Hunger Games is an exaggerated version of the dismal disempowered cultural landscape today’s kids find themselves in.

What scares you?

Matt: Poverty scares me. I don’t want to be poor. There is so little humanity in being poor, and so little fairness in it.

What is your favorite paranormal book?

Matt: The Occult by Colin Wilson, along with its sequels, has profoundly shaped my world-view. Mysteries, Poltergeist!, Beyond the Occult – Wilson’s nonfiction books about the paranormal are just incredible.

What is your favorite paranormal movie?

Matt: As soon as I answer this, I will think of another one I should have listed. Let’s go with The Mothman Prophecies for today. As far as TV paranormal, I really like the first and third seasons of True Blood although I find the sex a little overstated. For a lighter touch, how about Beetlejuice?

Connect With Matt/School of the Ages

Website: http://schooloftheages.webs.com/

Twitter: www.twitter.com/schooloftheages

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Paranormal Headliner: G.R. Yeates

Do I have a treat for you all today! G.R. Yeates is joining us for a little sit-down, and he writes….Horror.  With a capital H. Sure you’ll find some flavors of the paranormal in his books, but G.R. is going after the dark with gusto- which I think is awesome. (You are all familiar with my weakness for B-rated horror flicks, right?)  So without further ado, let’s hear from the man himself.

A Little About G.R.

G.R. Yeates has been published in the Dark Continents anthology, Phobophobia and has been accepted into the Horror for Good anthology coming soon from Cutting Block Press. He is the author of the critically-acclaimed Vetala Cycle, a trilogy of vampiric horror novels set in World War I. The first two volumes, The Eyes of the Dead and Shapes in the Mist, are available now and the third and final installment, Hell’s Teeth, was just released in March. Expect more, much more, from this writer in 2012.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

G.R.: As a child, I wanted to be a painter but I never developed a talent for it so I decided, and I remember this very clearly, that I wanted to learn how to paint with words – and that’s how my path to becoming a writer began.

What do you do to unwind and relax?

G.R.: I’m not good at either to be honest – recently I would actually say writing short stories. After six years of writing and revising novel-length manuscripts, writing self-contained pieces of a few thousand words feels like a break.

G.R. on Writing

What is it about writing that brings you back to the page for more?

G.R.: It started out being something I enjoyed and then became a means of catharsis when I was a teenager and in a number of situations where there was no real way for me to express and feel better about certain things. In that respect, my writing has become like a diary, journal and even a form of confession for me.

How did you come up with the title for your books?

G.R.: The titles always come first, otherwise I don’t know what I’ll be writing about. As to where the titles come from, I don’t know, they occur at the right time, they come to me when I need them.

Are any of your characters based on people that you’ve known, or situations in your book things you’ve encountered in real life?

G.R.: I think they are all amalgamations. A writer can only capture so much of reality when they set a story down and even then it is filtered through their own perception of people and events so what you get a reflection and a distorted one at that.

Your vampire trilogy set in WWI looks amazing!  What drew you to wanting to write a series of stories in that time period?

G.R.: I developed an interest in the First World War as a teenager after reading Wilfred Owen’s poem, Dulce et Decorum est. It just presented itself as something else that would make my first books stand out when I decided I wanted to write horror and place vampires in a more unique setting. To date, I’m only aware of a couple of horror films set during this era, The Awakening and Deathwatch, as well as a few stories, Minos or Rhadamanthus by Reggie Oliver and A Question of Obeying Orders by Mark Samuels. All of which I recommend, by the way.

How much research do you find yourself doing for each of your novels?

G.R.: I overdid it with the research for The Eyes of the Dead, six months of reading I did for that one, but it paid off as I was then able to just do quick skims for the next two books. I’ve been complimented on the thorough detail of my books, which has pleased me a great deal because as much hard work as writing is, spending all those months researching would feel like a waste if people didn’t pick up on it.

You have a lengthy list of upcoming titles- how do you keep all of those stories straight as you plan your next novel?

G.R.: Fairly easily because most of them have been written and planned out to one extent or another. I started researching The Eyes of the Dead in 2006 and in 2008, I signed with an agent and up until we parted ways in early 2011, I just kept on writing. The three novellas that I will be releasing in the next few months are all derived from novel-length manuscripts that I drafted whilst I was waiting for that traditional publishing break that never came.

Are you a “pantser” or a “plotter”?

G.R.: A pantser – I use minimal notes and guidelines and just follow my muse. I probably hit more blind corners and dirty curves than those who plan extensively but I still get there in the end.

What is the hardest part of writing for you?

G.R.: The midway slog – being halfway through a novel and knowing you have another half to go. At those times, it’s just a case of exercising discipline and keeping on with the writing until you reach that point where you feel all the threads of the story drawing together and tying up for the climax and coda.

What advice would you give to writers just starting out?

G.R.: Work as hard at what you do as much as you love it. Make sure you get a great editor and proofreaders if you can. Get a great cover artist who can realise the concepts you have in your head. And never be over-awed by anyone – respect is something earned and that goes for those you meet and work with as much as it does for you.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

G.R.: To be honest, I’m not sure. I tend to just sit down and write and write until I’m done. I don’t have any quirky rituals – unless you count ensuring I have something caffeine-rich to drink near at hand.

What is your favorite supernatural creature to write and why?

G.R.: Well, I would say it’s creatures that are truly alien to us. Writers like Lovecraft are a big influence on me because they were able to come up with creatures that were beyond our world and what we understand. That sense of the alien, the cosmic and the illimitable has always fascinated me far more than more conventional ‘evil’ monsters and I hope I’ve managed to tap some of that into the Vetala.

G.R.’s Paranormal Perspectives

Do you identify more with the horror genre or the paranormal (or both)?

G.R.: I would say horror, without a doubt. One of the reasons I decided to self-publish was so that I could call my work horror rather than labelling it as paranormal thriller or dark urban fantasy, for example. None of these definitions sum up what I write, for me, as effectively as the H-word.

How do you feel about the boom of paranormal fiction recently?

G.R.: One of the writers who I really admire is Alexandra Sokoloff – her stories walk the dividing line between paranormal and horror very adeptly and she has a knack for unsettling nightmarish imagery, particularly certain scenes in her novel, The Price. I would also recommend any writer who is struggling with structure and planning to read Alex’s blog, the Dark Salon. It’s a great source of information.

What scares you?

G.R.: An abstract sense of abandonment – that’s just based on the last panic attack I had where I thought I was trapped in a waking nightmare and about to die.

What is your favorite paranormal book?

G.R.: I would say, at the moment, it is Thomas Ligotti’s Teatro Grottesco. A collection of short stories that radically rewrote what I considered horror to be and what I could and should look to achieve in the genre as a writer. It was the most revolutionary thing I had read since H.P. Lovecraft’s The Outsider when I was a teenager.

What is your favorite paranormal movie?

G.R.: This one changes but it is usually only a change between a handful of films – these being Ridley Scott’s Alien, F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu and John Carpenter’s The Thing. Actually, I will include Werner Herzog’s remake of Nosferatu in there as well – a beautiful homage to my favourite era of cinema, German Expressionism.

What do you think draws people to this type of fiction?

G.R.: I think on the most basic level, people enjoy a good scare and to be entertained by something that is of the darkness rather than the light. On more complex levels, you get into the different aspects the genre has and how it unsettles us through gore, ghosts, psychological aberrance and cosmic horror, where we see our true insignificance in comparison to the stars that will burn and the black holes that will continue to yawn millennia after we are gone.

Connect with G.R.:

Website: http://www.gryeates.co.uk

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/gryeates666

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/_gryeates_

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4874291.G_R_Yeates

Librarything: http://www.librarything.com/profile/gryeates

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/gryeates666/

Thanks for visiting G.R.! 

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Paranormal Headliner: Scarlett Rugers

I’m welcoming a special guest today: Scarlett Rugers!  Scarlett is not on an author, but a talented graphic designer. (She designed all of my book covers.) What I love about what she shares below is that she is able to give us a fiction vs. non-fiction writing perspective. (Plus, she shares her name with my favorite literary character.)  Let’s jump in!

A Little About Scarlett

You hail from Melbourne, Australia. For someone who has never visited there, what are some interesting and fun facts that you can share?

Scarlett: Melbourne is the most liveable city in the world! And when they say you get four seasons in one day here, that’s true. You could pack for summer but end up with a week of rain. We have amazing coffee, and a huge NaNoWriMo gathering! Five years ago NaNo meet ups were only about 10 people. Now days It’s massive, and they meet throughout the year. Sydney is the capital of Australia, but it should be Melbourne- as all Melbournian’s know!

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Scarlett: When I realised where books came from- that people just like me wrote them- that’s when I knew I wanted to be a writer. I used to draw and illustrate all the time but I quickly switched to words and that became my passion since I was 8!

What do you do to unwind and relax?

Scarlett: I do what I love- writing and design. I do design professionally, but on the weekends and at night will end up working on my own projects. I prop myself in front of the TV, set up my laptop and put on a good flick!

Scarlett on Writing

What is it about writing that brings you back to the page for more?

Scarlett: The itch. That compulsive addiction. There’s not much else to it. I’d say my love of words, my passion for story telling but when you get right down to it, it’s down and dirty addiction. I’m compelled to return to the page and write. Ideas nag at me, plot lines pull at me. I’m struck down by visions I have to extract.

Do you have a preference for writing fiction or non-fiction?

Scarlett: Fiction is my main stream but I get the feeling I’ll be moving in to non-fiction in the future. The more writing I do the more my stories develop ties to ongoing current events in the world.

What is the hardest part of writing for you?

Scarlett: Finding time for it. Doing it isn’t the issue for me, but I’m a workaholic. My new years resolution is to have weekends and I’ve been following that, which is great. But I still find myself working 16-18 hours a day.

What advice would you give to writers just starting out?

Scarlett: Write. Read and write and write and write. Write what you love. Do not give a shit what anyone else thinks- just write. I started out writing just scenes. I was obsessed with romance books so I used to write those scenes where the main character and the love interest confesses their love to each other, or kisses for the first time. Those rush of emotion scenes. Then after I wrote about a thousand of those I wrote stories, start to finish. Then when I had a few years of that I began writing chapters. And I didn’t follow anyone else’s advice, I just wrote.

People who want to be writers, talk about writing and whinge about never having time and think about plots and work out characters. Writers write.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk? 

Scarlett: I write quickly. I finished NaNoWriMo (50,000 words) in two and a half days. When I write I go bulk. I sit myself down and write for hours, as opposed to a little a day. I’d say that’s my only real interesting quirk, if I have one at all.

Scarlett’s Paranormal Perspectives

Given the topic of your current book, what do you think sets first lines of paranormal novels apart from other genres?

Scarlett: The most used format for paranormal novels is starting in amidst tension. Not so much action but inner or outer tension. Often it immediately explains to the reader that there’s vampires, or werewolves, or magic involved. It exposes the genre of the book a lot faster than the majority of other genres, besides I’d say science fiction or romance.

You’ve mentioned on your website that you are working on a fiction work that “dark retelling of the Wizard of Oz”. What more can you tell us about that?

Scarlett: A few years ago I redesigned the Wizard of Oz poster. The poster was the beginning and I realized I had something good to work on. This is the poster design for it: http://scarlettarcher.deviantart.com/art/Project-Brief-2-movie-poster-Wizard-of-Oz-166161605. Here is the synopsis: “The Great and Power Oz is a myth, a legend, in the city of Emerald. Everyone knows someone who has been hunted by him, everyone knows someone that could be him.

Dorothy Gale arrives in Emerald after her plane is forced to make an emergency landing at a city in the middle of novel, and after a while realises that there is something very unusual and unsafe about the city. The only way she can get a ticket home is to buy one off Oz, the man who runs the black market, alone and in secret. On the way she meets Mr Scarecrow, Mr Tin Man and Mr Lion who all need something from the wizard.”

A vast amount of research is required. I’m doing my best to rewrite it in my own voice while respecting and honouring the lessons, the structure, the format of the Hero’s Journey and reflecting the current state of politics around the world.

As a reader, do you have a favorite paranormal creature that you enjoy reading about?

Scarlett: I love ghost stories. I’m not big on werewolves and vampires but when it comes to paranormal activity and spooks and poltergeist and that sort of fiction I dig it!

What scares you?

Scarlett: Bugs! I’m not scared of them in general but things like sleeping outside where they could crawl on me and in to my mouth and all those sorts of things. And creaks and groans in the middle of the night. I’m effective at convincing myself there’s someone in the house and then I lie there frozen until I’m so tired I finally fall asleep!

Connect with Scarlett

Scarlett Rugers (writing as Scarlett Archer) has just released a book 1001 First Lines which is now available at Amazon. You can purchase a paperback, .lit, .epub, .mobi and PDF versions here: http://www.1001firstlines.wordpress.com.

She has been writing for over fifteen years, completed over eleven novels, and her main drive is in speculative fiction or its contrasting opposite romantic comedic novels. She has a passion for studying the art of story telling and is a grand lover of movies. Her focus in work is book cover designs which enables her to put all her energy in to the area she loves most- literature.

You can get in touch with Scarlett about getting a book cover designed for you for the super affordable price of $50! But there’s only 30 places for $50 and they’re running out fast! Check it out at http://www.booksat.scarlettrugers.com

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