Monday, March 30, 2015

Querying Author Interview: Rachel Stevenson

Happy Monday, all! Today's querying author is:

Rachel Stevenson

Twitter: @whatshewrote

How long have you been writing?
Ever since I could write, I wrote in chapter form. I started with crayons in composition books and on stapled construction paper, and finished my first "full-length" chapter book at around age 8. It was about the Winter Olympics and was around 10k words long. I still have it :D

What inspired the project you’re currently querying?
I actually don't know. I had a picture in my head of an angry girl loaded down with katanas and a sad past, walking wilderness with a sibling. This picture eventually blossomed into the complex YA historical fantasy The Red and the Scarlet is now, set in 1811 on a fictional continent. But different elements of the story were inspired by historical events such as the Comet of 1811, the Luddite Revolt, the Battle of Borodino, the recent Japan tsunami, the Trail of Tears... just to name a few things.

What’s your elevator pitch for the project you’re currently querying?
I'm trying to polish it more, but currently it is this: 
Les Mis meets Mulan: In 1811, 18-year-old mercenary Fyr seeks revenge on a controversial politician. If he arrests her, or steals her heart, her desperate warnings of supernatural invasion will be silenced, and the last of her people will vanish.

What are you working on in the meantime to keep yourself from checking your email every three seconds?
Well, I used to be really bad about email checking, but that was when I was querying a different project. Now that I've shifted my focus, I've gotten a little less antsy, but I'm working on three different WIPs at once, and they are all rather attention demanding :D

What are three books that have shaped you as a writer?
Can I name five? :D War and Peace, 100 Cupboards, The Dark is Rising, Johnny Tremain, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

Are you a plotter or a pantser or an all-of-the-above-er? What is your writing process?
Plotter, totally. But a flexible plotter. I come up with an idea, I write down the characters (having fully-developed characters is very important to me), I jot down a series of plot sequence ideas, and later a synopsis.  I always limit the amount of WIPs I work on at one time, and even then I focus on one in particular. I handwrite the first draft, type the second, and then edit that document to bits until I am satisfied :D And all along, I draw concept art and act out some of the scenes.

What advice would you give to a writer about to take the plunge into querying?
1. Expect rejection, but remember it's a subjective business. I was rejected once simply because my book was in 3rd instead of 1st person! 
2. Do. Your. Research. It will save you and the agent a lot of time and trouble. 
3. Keep your rejection letters. They make good motivation and will help you keep track of who to query next!

How do you take your caffeine?
I actually don't, LOL. Caffeine and I do not mix. But I do enjoy decaf lattes, Earl Grey tea, and chocolate milk.

Thanks so much for taking part, Rachel! Best of luck with The Red and the Scarlet—it sounds amazing!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Indie Author & Illustrator: Danielle Pajak

Hi everyone! Now introducing another new blog series that will run every Friday, indefinitely: interviews with self-published & small-press-published authors! If you or someone you know is interested in taking part, please feel free to contact me via email or twitter.

Our first indie author is also an amazingly talented illustrator! The lovely Danielle Pajak recently self-published her graphic novel Elijah.

Danielle Pajak ~ Elijah: A Graphic Novel

Facebook for Elijah: A Graphic

How long have you been writing/creating graphic novels?
Elijah is my first graphic novel, so not very long, but it is the first of many to come. I wouldn't exactly describe myself as a storyteller, but telling a story through images really appeals to me. As an illustrator and concept artist, this is essentially what I am doing anyway, telling a story of character or theme through imagery, rather than words. Though the graphic novel is a combination of the two worlds, images and words, I think it is an underrated medium that is lost in conventional thinking about what Western graphic novels are supposed to look like. One image can say so much, one picture convey a plethora of ideas. I see the graphic novel as a whole as being a piece of art in of itself. As you would paint one picture, choosing the appropriate colors, mood, lighting, contours, etc, so each page becomes a contour of concepts, each panel a pencil stroke of ideas. I see every part of the graphic novel as a canvas, a canvas where you can paint a story and make it come to life through symbols, shapes, colors, textures, and pencil marks. I hope to be able to create unique works of art in my graphic novels, and break the mold of what is considered the successful and desirable graphic novel. 

What’s the most rewarding thing about going indie?
Independence. That is why I always choose to go the indie route, even though it is a lot of work and takes diligence. It is worth the hard work to be able to make your own choices, having complete control in every aspect of your artwork. You can do new things, experiment, and try out unconventional ideas without being hindered by anyone's expectations. It is nice to have that freedom. And with the growth of the Internet in our culture, I think going indie is becoming a more and more successful and viable route every day. 

What inspired Elijah?
Well, Elijah is basically an adaptation. The story is from the Bible, 1 Kings 18, where Elijah, a prophet in the country of Israel, challenges the false religious prophets to a contest to see whose God is the one true God in Israel. I have always been inspired by the stories of the Old Testament prophets, and the great miracles they did. It is like reading about Gandalfs, Merlins, and Obiwans, that lone, mysterious, and magical benefactor of wisdom and guidance, who’s kind of crazy, but does wonderful and powerful things. I love that. There is also such strong symbolism and imagery in the Old Testament, and whenever I read it, it becomes vivid and alive. Originally, I had imagined the 1 Kings 18 story as a kind of tongue-in-cheek web comic, strangely enough. However, that idea, though amusing, didn’t really satisfy the need of expression of the images I saw in my mind. Thus, the idea to do a graphic novel came about. The second thing that also really inspired me was Japanese Art. I find myself continually drawn to the organic minimalism and conceptual expression of their art, whether it be in Anime, Manga, or individual artists of the past and present. From Katsushika Hokusai (Mount Fuji Seen Below a Wave at Kanagawa) to Yoshitaka Amano (Vampire Hunter D, Final Fantasy) to Shinichirō Watanabe's Cowboy Bebop to Tsugumi Obha's Death Note, I love the the ethereal movement, profound simplicity, symbolic emphasis, and atmospheric imagery of the Japanese canvas. The Japanese influence is very prevalent within Elijah.

What’s the blurb for Elijah?
A graphic novel adaptation of 1 Kings 18. Elijah the Tishbite, prophet to the Lord God of Israel, challenges the religious complacency of his countrymen and the false religion of his country's government in a contest that brings a devastating and glorious encounter with the Divine.

We wants it, precious! Where can we buy Elijah?
Haha, yes. You can purchase it on at

What project are you working on now?
Currently I am working on an original story idea for another graphic novel. I’ve talked quite a bit about my early concepts and ideas for this graphic novel on my blog. I even have a few concept pieces of characters and ideas on there as well, which I explain more in depth. It is going to be calledInfinity’s End and it is a science fiction story about a physicist who becomes obsessed with finding the end of the Universe. I am currently quite entrenched in scientific research, most especially Quantum Mechanics, and I want to incorporate the microscopic world of subatomic particles into the story. I am just at the very beginnings of this story, but I would describe it as a very conceptual and abstract piece.  

What are three books that have shaped you as a writer/artist?
There are so many books and authors that inspire me, but as a graphic novelist, I would say that movies/tv shows are the most influential because imagery is really my medium. So, the three things that have shaped me and my ideas and how I view graphic novels are Christopher Nolan’s Inception, Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain, and Japanese storytelling/art, i.e. Anime and Manga (as I've mentioned previously). It was The Fountain that really spurred and inspired me to become a graphic novelist in the first place, and I actually don’t even really like the film, haha. I thought the film could have been so much more than it was, and I think it was this apparent lack that I saw in The Fountain that inspired me want to make graphic novels. It is a very cinematically beautiful film, though.

Are you a plotter or a pantser or an all-of-the-above-er? What is your writing/creating process?
Oh, I am definitely a plotter, in both outlining my graphic novel stories and in how I create my artwork. I always have an idea of the goal of my piece and I try to understand and quantify every aspect of my artistic choices, i.e. color, medium, symbols, etc. I do my best to make everything have a purpose as to why it is there, and in order for me to keep that consistent and cohesive, I need to have an internal (or sometimes external) outline in my mind’s eye to which I always refer back to while creating. I don’t usually like things left up to chance, it makes me uncomfortable, though it does happen. Haha. It is the way of being an artist. You can’t control everything; but that doesn't keep me from trying.

What advice would you give to a writer/artist about to take the plunge into indie publishing?
Plan, Research, and Make Content. Going the indie publishing route you are essentially your own boss, so you need to have the long term goal, where you want to go, and then you need to research how you are going to get there; most importantly of all, though, create-write-do. If you don’t have any work, no amount of planning or research will be of worth to you. Oh, and have lots and lots of patience. You are going to need it.

How do you take your caffeine?
Tea. Hot. I am definitely a tea addict! Speaking of which… *runs off to make some tea*

Thank you so much for participating in the interview series, Danielle! Best of luck as you promote Elijah!


Danielle Pajak has been drawing since she was 5 years old, her earliest memory was of free hand copying images from a pack of game cards, and at one point she had her heart set on becoming a Disney animator. Twenty years later, her love for Disney hasn't died, but has blossomed into a love for movie concept art. She loves looking at the beautiful renderings that make up the "think tank" of a film, whether it is a full feature or an animation. Images, with all of their visual diversity of color, texture, and line, are the canvas on which ideas are expressed and concepts communicated. Danielle hopes to one day be a part of that world of filmmaking, to bring innovative and affecting ideas through her art to the big screen and beyond.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Thursday, Thursday

So I wanted to write this really deep and intricate post about second-world fantasies and how I think they're super awesome, but the brain is not cooperating, and so you get an almost-the-end-of-the-week update post instead (lucky you!).

I'm super excited about my new interview series! I've got querying author interviews lined up through April 27th! I still have some openings for self-published and/or small-press-published authors on Fridays, so if you or anyone you know fit into the category, drop me a line on email or Twitter and I'll send you the interview questions!

I had a lovely time in California visiting with my new baby niece (her name is Sabriel and she is AWESOME), my bro and sis-in-law, and my sister, who lives in Iowa, which is way too far away from me and WHY HAVEN'T THEY INVENTED TELEPORTATION YET???

I haven't gotten a ton of writing done since then, even though I've been back a whole week, but I have done a little. Currently I'm floundering a bit in the middle of my revision (surprise, surprise—middles are the absolute worst!!). I kind of went off on a tangent about Bach and Chopin and music history and I have to figure out how to wind my way back around to the main storyline and decide how much of that rabbit trail to keep. It was definitely fun to write, but I want to make sure it actually adds to the story. I do think I'm managing to make my MC and enchanted creature bond a bit more, so that's good! Pretty sure if I can PUSH through these next three chapters, it ought to be fairly smooth sailing to the end. But we shall see!

All righty, I'll leave you with that extremely exciting blog post. Look forward to an Indie Author Interview with writer/illustrator Danielle Pajak tomorrow, and a Querying Author Interview with Rachel Stevenson on Monday.

Until then, happy (almost) weekend, all!! Write gloriously.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Querying Author Interview: Lana Wood Johnson

Hi all! Starting today, I'm introducing a new Monday blog series that will continue indefinitely: interviews with querying authors! We're a hard-working bunch, and I want to share the love as much as possible. If you're interested in taking part, please feel free to contact me via email or Twitter. Thanks, everyone!

Our first querying author is:

Lana Wood Johnson

Twitter: @muliebris

How long have you been writing?
This is a complicated question! 

I've been writing characters for twenty years. Before that, I created some pretty terrible poetry that I'm hoping has been lost to time.

I've only been writing novels for the last six years, but for most of that time it was this thing I was kind of doing but not really. It's only been in the last two years that I've decided to really make this my thing.

What inspired the project you’re currently querying?
This is a rough one for NECESSITY, because it's not one thing, it's a whole bunch of factors. 

One aspect comes from wanting to set a story not only in the small town my entire family came from, but also on the farm my grandparents still live on. 

It started out as a book about witches, but it became a book about Norse Mythology after watching the first Thor movie. Their mythology and the original myths are so different, I wanted to play with the source material in my own way. So I started thinking about what the Nine Worlds would be like if they hadn't stopped evolving just like our Midgard hasn't stopped evolving.

What’s your elevator pitch for the project you’re currently querying?
THE RAVEN BOYS meets ABC's Once Upon a Time. 17yo Mel just started Ragnarok, but her bigger problem is the Norn who needs Mel's future to save everyone else's.

What are you working on in the meantime to keep yourself from checking your email every three seconds?
I've just thrown myself into a new WIP that I'm crazy excited about. It's tangentially in the same universe as NECESSITY, but set on Vanaheim (where Grandma and Uncle Chief in the NECESSITY come from) instead of Midgard (our earth). 

It's another strange blend of inspirations because there's not a lot in the original source about Vanaheim. So I borrowed inspiration from Baltic Myth.

I'm referring to it as the Floating Spy Circus and it's a High Fantasy.

What are three books that have shaped you as a writer?
Roger Zelazny's THE CHRONICLES OF AMBER, because if I hadn't read it and fallen in love with that world, I never would have joined the MUSH which means I never would have even considered the possibility that I could ever become a writer. (Dara rules, Corwin drools!)

Patricia A. McKillip's THE FORGOTTEN BEASTS OF ELD, because it was the first story I read that made me realize that sometimes the danger is in messing with the woman who just wants to be left alone.

Tamora Pierce's ALANNA: THE FIRST ADVENTURE, because it's my own personal reminder of how important representation is. I realize I can see myself in a lot of other stories, but finding a heroine that had a name even remotely close to mine made me so excited I read the story a thousand times. It makes me want to write characters that reflect those who don't often see themselves in many stories.

Are you a plotter or a pantser or an all-of-the-above-er? What is your writing process?
I like the term "Gardener" that GRRM uses. 

I build the world. I'm responsible for the backstory. I find a few character seeds that I want to plant. But what actually grows is often very different from what I imagine will grow. 

This leads me to tear the whole thing down and start over sometimes, but it also leads to more organic and character driven stories.

What advice would you give to a writer about to take the plunge into querying?
Rejections are perfectly fine. We're seeking a WILDLY enthusiastic business partner on spec. That means putting yourself and your product out there. Anyone less than wildly enthusiastic, or invested any less than a business partner is not worth the energy.

Learn as much as you can from the process. This is a marathon, not a sprint. If you get the perfect agent with your very first query, that's astounding, but it's okay if you don't. Likely you'll need to write a thousand queries, and learn about hundreds of agents, and figure out who you are and what your book is really about before you'll get any traction.

How do you take your caffeine?
Within limits! I only get one (MAYBE two) doses a day. Usually it's a cup of french press with lots of cream and sugar. In a pinch, a couple sticks of Maxim Mocha will do. On days when I'm particularly indulgent it takes the form of a Lavender Miel from the nearby fancy coffee shop, or a Caramel Macchiato from Starbucks when I'm in a hurry. 

My ultimate favorite is a Thai or Vietnamese Iced Coffee. (As I said, lots of cream and sugar!) 

That said, I love a good tea, though typically I stick with tisanes or Rooibos since they work well with my one dose a day.

Thank you so much for taking part in the interview series, Lana! Wishing you all the best as you query NECESSITY.

Happy writing!!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Reading and Writing and Pitching, oh my!

Good afternoon, my lovelies!

It's been a semi-eventful couple of weeks since my last post.

Firstly, and possibly MOST exciting, I pre-ordered The Winner's Crime, and my amazing indie bookshop called me up FIVE DAYS before it's technical release to tell me it had come in! So I managed to score the bestest book of 2015 early!

Reading at a tea shop in Flagstaff 
Five days early!!
I had a busy weekend (went up to Flagstaff with the hubby and found SNOW and wore SWEATERS and it was so so lovely) and only managed to read in snatches and pieces, but finished on March 3rd with my heart shattered and my mind blown and a major book hangover.

I cannot WAIT for book 3 but I have to, alas.

In the meantime, I kind of had to make up an ending in my head so I would be okay with the horrendous cliffhanger.

IT WAS REALLY SERIOUS, YOU GUYS. My word. But the book as a whole was exquisite and beautiful and heart-pounding and frustrating and shocking and AMAZING. I can't wait to reread it when I've recovered a little. And then maybe I'll be able to write a proper review. For now all I have to say is: READ THIS SERIES. You won't regret it (okay, you WILL, but only because it's just that heart-wrenching).

I'm still revising revising revising, and making fairly good progress with my fairytale retelling. My word count has swelled now to 74,688, and will probably grow even more by the time I'm done. I've had to add another whole chapter; now I have 24 instead of 23. Currently I'm in chapter 11, so nearly halfway. Struggling to build the relationship between my main character and an enchanted creature right now… I think I'm slowly getting there!

My self-inflicted finish date is April 23rd—I want to get this thing off to beta readers before my husband and I leave on our trip back east. I think I can do it!

Participated in the Twitter pitch contest PitMad yesterday and got……… nothin'! But that's okay. My book seems to be more of a traditional querying type creature than a contest one (I've certainly garnered more attention querying than I have in the spatter of contests I've entered over the last few months!). And in any case, it led me to develop what might be my favorite pitch for THE WHALE AND THE TREE of all time:
Talia was supposed to become empress—NOT get banished from her homeland, betrothed to a random boy, and drawn into the mythical saga of nine gods and an immortal tree.

So there you have it! What do you think?

Hope you all have a fabulous weekend! I'm off to see my new little niece on Sunday. Can't wait.

Happy writing! :-)