Posted in Blog Tour, Interview

Author Interview with Lissa Bryan – Part 3

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Lissa Bryan is the author of the dystopian trilogy, The End of All Things. Check out parts 1 and 2 of her interview. 

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Did you learn anything new with this book?

I learn something new, writing-wise, with each book. I still overuse adverbs to an almost criminal extent and my grammar is uneven at best, but I’m getting better. It’s slowed my writing pace quite a bit because I now stop to consider each line as I write it. They always advise you not to edit as you write, but I can’t help it. It’s almost an automatic reflex after having to go back and rewrite paragraphs so many times.

Research-wise, I learned a lot, as I do with each book in this series. Some of it has probably landed me on a Homeland Security watch list, and a lot of it I’ll probably never use, such as how to skin a ‘gator, but hey, it’s always good to learn new things, right?

If you had it all to do over again, would you change anything about the series? 

The End of All Things was never intended to be a series. I meant for it to be one book and I told my editor I thought I could do it in less than 80,000 words. I had “written” it in my head, so I was estimating based on how long it felt in my mind. I was off by a mile. When I crossed the 65k mark, I realized I wasn’t even near the half-way point in the story. So, I ended the first book at what seemed like a good spot and figured I’d do a sequel. But I had other things I wanted to write in the meantime. That was a mistake, too. I should have dived right into writing the sequel.

After I finished writing the second half, I realized I wasn’t really done with these characters. Carly and Justin were clamoring in my mind, insisting there was more to their story. And so I wrote the third volume to complete their arc, though I still hear Justin time to time, telling me what he’s up to.

If I were writing it today, planning it out as a series from the beginning, there might be a smoother transition, and a more even tone, but in the end, I learned a lot from the experience, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

What were the challenges in bringing TEOAL to life?

There were a lot of challenges. First was in the amount of research it required. I had to think about how every aspect of life would be affected by the end of modern technology, and how my characters could overcome the challenges it would present. That wasn’t easy. I’d be typing along and suddenly it would occur to me, “Hey, would that still work?” and off I’d have to go to see how these modern conveniences function and whether some of them would be able to operate without human intervention.

Psychologically, it takes you to a dark place to imagine the end of the world. It’s a world in which something like 99% of the population has died, meaning I’m writing a world in which I’m likely dead, along with everyone I love. It’s a world in which my loved ones who need modern medical technology wouldn’t survive. It’s a lawless world where the strong exploit and prey upon the weak.

That’s one of the reasons I admire Carly so much. She’s able to see the best in human kind, and she’s determined that the world they rebuild is going to be even better than the one before. She refuses to let the darkness win.

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Stay tuned for more about The End of All Things!

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Posted in Interview

Author Interview with Lissa Bryan – Part 2

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Lissa Bryan is the author of the dystopian trilogy, The End of All Things. Check out Part 1 of her interview here

Is there a message in the series you want your readers to take away with them when they’ve finished? 

I guess the message is that the human spirit is an incredible thing. We’re capable of surviving terrible traumas, of coming together in the most horrific circumstances. I’ve always been amazed at the powerful stories that emerge after disasters of people risking everything to help others, of people coming together to face challenges, to overcome darkness together. We humans are capable of incredible things–beautiful things. We’re also capable of great cruelty, but again and again throughout history, we see the best of the human spirit conquering in the end.

I don’t know if I was faced with the same circumstances that I would do as well as Carly does. When Justin finds her in the first book, she’s in a deep state of shock. She’s just watched the world end, after all. But under that frightened, bewildered exterior, she has a core of steel, and she emerges strong and determined to rebuild an even better world than the one before. That’s the kind of human spirit I wanted to celebrate in these books.

Love, too, plays a huge role in this. Not only the love that grows between Carly and Justin, but the love the characters have for their families and friends, the love that binds their community together. Justin starts out as a cynic about love, but he learns to see it as one of the essential things that holds people together when everything else has fallen apart.

“That’s what you never understood. I didn’t understand it myself until I met Carly, but now I see it. I’ve asked myself why humans deserve a chance to survive. Maybe nature intended us to die out, and we were just a sad remnant waiting for time to finish the job. After all, what makes us any more special than the millions of other species that have fallen by the wayside? But then I realized what it was. The one thing we had that made us superior to every other species. The thing that made us worthy of survival. Love, Lewis. It was love. From it stems every good thing human beings have ever done. Every work of art, every poem, every hospital, every law that codified compassion. It’s interesting. The very thing you despise as weakness is the one thing that makes our species worthy of continuing.”

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Stay tuned for more from Lissa!

Posted in Blog Tour, Interview

Author Interview with Lissa Bryan – Part 1

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Enjoy the following interview with Lissa Bryanauthor of the dystopian trilogy The End of All Things.

Where did you come up with the titles?

The titles of all three novels come from The Lord of the Rings, which is the last movie my heroine, Carly, watches with her father before he dies of the pandemic virus sweeping around the world. In Tolkien’s saga, his characters are going on a long journey with a heavy burden–so are mine. In both stories, the characters are irrevocably changed by their experiences.

The title of the first novel, and of the series itself, comes from a line that Frodo says to Sam: “I’m glad you could be here with me, Sam. Here, at the end of all things.” The second one comes from a line in The Fellowship of the Ring, about Sam and Frodo crossing the border into Mordor, into “the land of the Shadow,” and the final title comes from something Sam says to Frodo in The Two Towers (in this case, the movie, but not the book). Sam says that sometimes you don’t want to know what happens to characters after the end of the story–how could everything turn out well, after they had endured so much? But Sam has faith the sun will be brighter in the end, after the shadows have gone.

Who designed the covers?

My publisher has the authors collaborate with artists to design their own covers, which is awesome, a freedom and control many publishers don’t offer. After I finished the editing process for The End of All Things, I was assigned an artist, but I still didn’t have a clue what I wanted. It was a difficult process for me because I’m more attuned to words than I am to images, and so trying to pick one that encapsulated the story was very difficult. I tried searching stock photo sites for post-apocalyptic images, and came away very discouraged. (Apparently in a post-apocalyptic world, gun-toting girls will wear gasmasks with bikinis and miniskirts). I couldn’t find anything I liked, but my publisher’s emails were getting more insistent on the subject. My book needed a cover before it could be finalized for production.

One evening, I was browsing through a friend’s vacation photos when I found it, the exact image I wanted for my cover, what I had been looking for all along, but had been unable to visually articulate. It was a picture her daughter had snapped while they were driving through a long tunnel. As soon as I saw it, I got excited. My artist, Jada D’Lee (who has gone on to design quite a few awesome covers for other authors) was able to take the photo and re-work it into a gritty piece of modern art that perfectly conceptualized the mood I was going for. That’s why I decided to use it as the cover for the whole series in the compendium edition.

Jada also did the cover for the second volume, Land of the Shadow. What I liked about this was that the image shows the growth Carly has experienced so far. In the image, she’s taking the lead. The third cover was done by Jennifer McGuire, and shows Carly and Justin as partners, headed toward that sunlit place where the shadows have melted away.

Did you travel much for research?

I did do some traveling for these books, but mostly so I could explore abandoned locations to see how places would look after just a few years of neglect. I was surprised at how quickly things fell apart without regular maintenance and nature took over. I traveled to small, dying ghost towns , and then to Detroit so I could see how quickly boarded up and abandoned properties decay.

The locations I didn’t physically travel to, I scouted with Google Street View. I “walked” every step of Carly and Justin’s journey with them because I wanted to describe their surroundings accurately. I’m sort of pedantic that way–I want to know if my characters would really be walking uphill or downhill in a certain spot. Some locations I fictionalized, but in others, I’d actually search for vacation photos online so I could describe the color of the carpet in a location correctly.

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Stay tuned for more interview questions with Lissa Bryan! 

Posted in 5 Stars, Interview

Interview with Author Katharine Grubb!

I had the great pleasure of receiving an ARC of Katharine Grubb’s upcoming release, Soulless Creatures. Let me just tell you, I absolutely loved it! A full-length review is cooking up even as I type. While it’s finishing up, I thought I would share some more information about this fantastic author. Below you’ll find information about her and all three of her books before you arrive at the main attraction: an interview she graciously allowed me to conduct! You won’t want to miss this!

The Books

51fsy4dp1oL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Falling For Your Madness

Eccentric literature professor David approaches Laura for an unconventional, intentional, rule-filled courtship filled with poetry, flowers and bottom-less cups of tea. Laura is smitten by his humor, charm and British accent. Dating David is challenging, convicting and sometimes frustrating. There is a reason why David is bound by the laws of chivalry, both body and soul and when Laura discovers what it is, she must decide. Is David worth it? Or is he completely mad? Falling For Your Madness is a romantic comedy about ladies, gentlemen, and the power of words.

Published: November 17, 2012

Click here to purchase!

51L07NjJixL__SX321_BO1,204,203,200_Write a Novel in Ten Minutes a Day

Would you like to write but have no spare time?

The Ten-Minute Novel will help you sculpt a full-length piece of creative writing in just ten minutes a day. Starting with a daily practical exercise, it will help you manage your writing schedule within this time frame and help you bring your novel to life. You will be able to clarify your vision and review your time commitments, as well as understand your own abilities. Learning to observe the world around you, write quickly and tap into your unique voice will help you to create all the elements of your story and, by the time you’ve finished all the exercises, you’ll have created something beautiful.
Published: September 29, 2015
Click here to preorder!

51C+ZA3L1NL__SX319_BO1,204,203,200_Soulless Creatures

Working-class future leader Roy Castleberry and pampered over-thinker Jonathan Campbell are 18-year-old freshmen at the University of Oklahoma who think they know everything. Roy thinks Jonathan could succeed in wooing Abby if he stopped obsessing over Walden. Jonathan thinks Roy could learn to be self-actualized if he’d stop flirting with every girl he meets. They make a wager: if Roy can prove that he has some poetic thought, some inner life, A SOUL, then Jonathan will give him the car he got for graduation. Roy takes the bet because he thinks this is the easiest game he’s ever played. Roy spends the rest of the school year proving the existence of his soul, competing against Jonathan for Abby’s attention, dodging RAs who are curious about the fake ID ring in his room and dealing with his past. For Roy and Jonathan, college life in 1986 is richer, (both experientially and financially) than either of them expected.

Click here to preorder!

The Author

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Katharine Grubb was born in northeastern Oklahoma. She was raised in the Tulsa suburbs, attended the University of Oklahoma, taught school, wrote stories and then shocked everyone by moving to Boston, Massachusetts to be with a man she had been e-mailing for nine months. She married that man, and with him had five boisterous children. Nowadays, she still lives in Massachusetts, homeschools her children, bakes bread, does a ridiculous amounts of laundry and sets her timer to write stories in ten minute increments. She believes in this so much she created a Facebook group for it (10 Minute Novelists) and she runs a website for the group: http://www.10minutenovelists.com. Her favorite type of books to read and write are quirky, imaginative tales of romance, faith and humor.

The Interview

First thing’s first: are you a plotter or a pantser?

Both. The pantsing is a critical part of the gold mining. But I would be stupid to stop there. I often stop and organize my thought, make incomplete outlines of what should happen next or what points need to be revealed in a chapter. If I didn’t have the brain spew that comes out of pantsing, then I wouldn’t have the raw material to create the outline.

What does your writing process look like?

My writing process is a big mess. I’ve found that no two stories come together the same way. I’ve also found that if you start out with an idea and say, “All I have to do is ABC and I’ll get my novel,” it doesn’t always work. (Even though I say almost the opposite in my writing book. Shh. Don’t tell.)

I do know that pantsing an idea or an impression or a characterization or an exchange of dialogue can produce GOLD! I think I wrote over 120K on Soulless Creatures before I realized it was about Jonathan proving that Roy had a soul. Once I saw that, everything changed.

How important are names to you? Do you choose character names based on meaning or sound, or do you choose names you like?

Names are important, but not in the way that you’d think. Often I just pull a name out of my head as a placeholder until I come up with something better. I don’t like symbols to be too obvious, with the exception of David Arthur Julius Bowles. If anything, I want something to sound right. If you hear the name Roy Castleberry, it sounds like he could be from a small town in Oklahoma. The short answer is, I lean toward the names I like but I play around with them until they’re perfect.

What was your inspiration for this particular story, Soulless Creatures?

I think it took me well over a year to connect all the pieces for this story. I often start with One Obnoxious Man. In this case it was Roy. I think about what kind of man he would be and why I would like to hang out with him. I play games like Roy does and I wanted to incorporate that into his character, but he had to have an organic place to play a lot of games, like a college campus. When I read Walden back in high school, I thought that to have a modern student follow in Thoreau’s footsteps would be fun, so that was Jonathan’s basis. Then I wrote what I knew: the University of Oklahoma in the ’80s. Abby was the last piece of the puzzle, and the most challenging storyline to write. I write better men than women, don’t know why exactly.

I think I played around with these characters for months before it all came together. At one point, the story was going to be a 20 year long saga about how they had grown up. I’m glad I cut it.

What’s in the works now?

I’m in the fuzzy beginning phase of a story, where I have these shiny beads and I don’t know how to string them together. I’d love to write a novel that takes place in Central Massachusetts (where I now live) and I think I’d like to have senior citizens be my focus (as opposed to college students), and I think I want a mystery, and if I could figure out a basic story, I’d like to do some crazy stuff with structure. This is not a fun place to be. I like it better when I know where I’m going.

But as for non-fiction, I have plans to write more books for writers. I’m beginning the research on good marketing. I’d love to write a practical book that explains why we should be generous and rethink our position on sales. I’m only going to write if the research backs me up and I can make it a practical, helpful kind of book.

Do you read your reviews? If so, do you respond to them, good or bad, and do you have advice on how to deal with the bad?

I DO read my reviews, but only the 4 and 5 star ones. If I see that I have a 1 or 2 star one (and I DO have them), I’ve just decided that it’s not worth ruining my day over. I don’t know if you know this, but I’m a sensitive type, and sometimes I tear up a little. It’s better for everyone around me if I just ignore the bad reviews. I know I’ve done my best and the majority of my readers love my books, and that’s all that matters. My advice to writers who can’t handle bad reviews? SIUB! That stands for SUCK IT UP, BUTTERCUP! Do not respond. Do not let it bother you. Move on.

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Be on the lookout for my review of Soulless Creatures in the next few days, and pick up a copy of your own on August 15. You won’t regret it!