Monthly Archives: September 2013

A conversation with Anne Charnock

To end this week, I’ve got something a bit special. Please welcome author Anne Charnock, who also self-published her work, A Calculated Life, and was picked up by 47North.  We had a chat about writing, publishing and who we’d like to see play our lead characters in TV/movies. 

 

Anne: You’re currently working on two books, Steve, and I wondered how you organize your writing schedule – do you flit from one book to the other? And how do you avoid getting confused?

 

Steve: I write one and do the plot stuff for the other. Sometimes I don’t feel like writing so I work on the book’s plot. So, I’m writing my novella and plotting out book 4. When the novella is done, I’ll write book 4 and plot out either book 5 or my new shiny idea.

I used to use a notebook for each book, but I’ve started (as of yesterday) using index cards and a white board, so we’ll see how that goes for making things easier.

So, how do you juggle ideas for new books while writing?

 

Anne: I’m juggling lots of ideas for short stories at the moment. I’m writing two – jumping between them on roughly alternate days. They’re quite short so it’s not really a problem. But one thing I find helpful is to write each story in a different font – it instantly shifts my mindset. Last night, when I was dropping off to sleep, I imagined a conversation that would slot into one my short stories so I typed that up before breakfast today and I’ll try to polish the whole story this evening. A second novel is starting to take shape but I’m not forcing it just yet. I’m hoping the short stories will help to crystallize things. My first novel started out as a short story.

I’ve had to do quite a bit of research for these stories, which I’ve loved doing. How about you? What kind of research do you need for your novels?

 

Steve: A different font? That’s a great idea, I should try that.

I love research, it’s one of the most fun parts of being a writer. I’ve had to research a lot of mythology and monsters/characters that are contained within them. Then there’s weaponry, cars, historical details for cities and countries, clothes and far too many things to remember. I once had to phone the fire department in the UK and ask how to start a fire without making it look like it’s been deliberate. Once I explained to the very nice man that I wasn’t a crazy person, he was quite happy to explain. I did something similar with BMW and how to steal a Z4. Sometimes I think I’m trying to make myself into a master criminal.

So, what’s your favourite piece of research that you’ve done so far? Do you spend a lot of time researching before you get to the book, or do you do it as you go along?

 

Anne: I can’t tell you my best bit of research, which involved a trip to San Diego, because it would act as a spoiler for the novel!

 

Steve: Yeah, don’t spoil anything.

 

Anne: I do love the research element. I launched into writing A Calculated Life on the back of several conversations with neuroscientists. I allowed other research to feed into the story along the way and I’m now an expert (ahem) on stick insects, bee-keeping, growing citrus, even Medieval sculpture. Not as exciting as your research, Steve. But when a bit of research steers my story in a new direction or adds depth, that’s when I jump up and down, alone in my little study.  So sad.

 

Steve: My research wasn’t so much exciting as it was lucky no one decided to send a few coppers round to have a chat.

 

Anne: Well, at least you’d get some writing done in your quiet police cell.

One thing we have in common, Steve, is that we both self-published our work before we signed contracts with 47North. It was an easy decision for me but I wondered if it was more difficult for you. What difference does it make to you now that you have a publisher?

 

Steve: Actually it wasn’t a difficult decision at all. Speaking to the people who worked at 47North and seeing their enthusiasm for my work, sort of decided for me. The fact that they were willing to back my writing and help promote it, allowing me more time to actually write, was a pretty big factor too. That’s the big difference between being an Indie or self-published writer and not – you have that backing of something big behind you. There are people who bat for you, who want you to do well. Now, yes, if you do well, they do well, but their desire to see you succeed is a great thing. That said, I can still self-publish or publish other work with someone else, so not much has changed in that respect.

I currently write Urban Fantasy, but I have plans for a steampunk series and I’d like to do some SF and historical stuff. Do you have any plans to change your genre? Do you have a hankering to sink your teeth into something new and shiny?

 

Anne: Interesting question! How much should I reveal? I’m certainly going to use the short stories to stick my elbows out. My novel is a near-future dystopia set in the corporate world in England. So I’m now playing around with far-future and other-world scenarios. But I’m also looking at how to site historical stories alongside these futurist excursions, and I have a few ideas about that.

In addition… I’m messing about with the form of my stories. Some are very short. I’ve just this morning completed the first draft of a short story that’s written solely as dialogue: a conversation between two sisters walking along a beach. I’m writing several of these ‘conversations’ set in different places, different eras. I like that idea of continuity. In fact, my outline for these short stories is often very simple – a single sentence about the scenario/setting plus a single sentence of dialogue.

Do you have a particular way of bringing an idea into the open, of getting started?

 

Steve: I couldn’t do that with the short stories and conversations, my brain would just force me to keep going.

I don’t really have one set way. What tends to happen is something will come to me and then my brain will be like a dog with a bone. For example, I had an idea last week for a fantasy/SF/steampunk story. The entity of my idea was humanoid-animals. Within a few days I’d fleshed out the world, a few characters and had a rough idea of the beginning of the story. Once I start, I don’t seem to be able to stop until I’ve done something with it. Which is great when I’m working on what I’m meant to be working on, but when that new shiny idea pops up, it can put a spanner in the works as it demands to be thought about.

It’s probably why when I get round to writing the stories, I have a pretty good idea of characters/world and story. I know how it’ll end and will have a good idea of what I want to happen during the book, although it’s not set in stone.

Do you know what happens in your books before you start writing? Or are you a ‘as you go’ kind of writer?

 

Anne: Like you, nothing is set in stone. I’m definitely an ‘as you go’ writer. I knew my main character pretty well before I started my novel and I wrote, for my own background purposes, a description of what was going on in the world. Straight away I had an opening scene, and I set off. That opening scene is no longer at the beginning! I knew fairly early how I wanted to end the story but I didn’t map the book, chapter by chapter. I started another short story today – thought I knew where I was heading, and after two paragraphs I found myself veering off. I reckon each sentence is dictated by the previous one.

On another subject… while I was jogging at the weekend I envisaged a complete opening sequence for a movie, based on my novel. I was so excited I actually ran faster than humanly possible. So, to bring this conversation to a close… have you considered who might play the lead role in the movie of your book? Have you seen a movie and thought “That’s the perfect actor?”

 

Steve: Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever pictured one person as Nate. It changes quite often. Anthony Starr from Banshee is quite Nate-esque, as is Charlie Hunnam from Sons of Anarchy. Also, he’s British, which helps. I think both of those men have done excellent fight scenes and are quite capable of acting as a badass, but can also do the witty/more down-to-earth side of Nate too.

Who would you pick for yours then?

 

Anne: I can see it – Starr and Hunnam fighting for the role of Nate!

As for my main character Jayna… Hmm, I know the actor needs to portray Jayna’s slow transition from being ‘unknowing’, almost innocent, to a more animated character, without going totally overboard (so maybe we should chose our directors, too). From past films, I liked Audrey Tautou in Amelie (but she’s French) and the cool look of Uma Thurman in Gattaca. But among today’s rising stars, I think Carey Mulligan, if available, could make a good stab at the role (see An Education). And I’m intrigued by a Canadian actor coming to BBC3 soon – Tatiana Maslany in the SF series Orphan Black (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01ftyjj). She plays multiple roles in each episode so she’d cope with anything.

Well, that’s an upbeat note to end on!

 

 

Anne Charnock’s writing career began in journalism and her articles appeared in The Guardian and New Scientist. Anne reviews fiction for the online magazine Strange Horizons and contributes book recommendations to The Huffington Post. She splits her time between London and Chester and, whenever possible, she and her husband Garry take off in their little campervan (unless one of their two sons has borrowed it), travelling as far as the Anti-Atlas Mountains in southern Morocco.

A Calculated Life http://www.amazon.com/A-Calculated-Life-ebook/dp/B00DWFCA30

Website http://www.annecharnock.com

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

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

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100th Post – Blog Stop Post 2 and Competition Results

Yep you read the title right, I’ve now done 100 posts since I started this blog 18 months ago. Now, I know why most of you are here, to find out who got to win the competition, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

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First, I want to give you all the details of the many blogs I’ve been lucky enough to post on in the last week. There’s quite a bit, but hopefully some of them will be of use to someone out there.

 

First up is Kelsey’s Book Corner, who not only has a guest post about Beta readers, but also a competition where you can win a signed copy of both books.

 

I have a guest post on John Jackson Miller’s blog, titled Han Shot First. It’s about Star Wars and my love of the less moral characters.

 

Bea’s Book Nook has a post from me about never giving up on that dream to be published, or indeed to be successful at it.

 

I’m on Natalie Westgate‘s blog talking about how I always wanted to be an author. There’s also a chance to win a signed copy of the book there too.

 

In The Pages of a Good Book, has a guest post about my love of research.

 

A guest post on K.L Schwengel‘s blog is all about going from Indie writer to Traditional writer.

 

Angela Addams has me on her blog talking about whether you should start your writing career trying to go for a traditional contract or not.

 

R. Mac Wheeler has a spotlight on both Hellequin Books.

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And now for the competition results.

 

The three winners, all of which will get a signed copy of either book, and the chance to name a character in book 4, Prison of Hope, are:

 

Kyle Felis Key

Zoe Mountain

Scott Hollander

 

Each of those 3 have 10 days to let me know what their 2 names will be, and I will pick the one I like the best. I’ll announce the winner in a fortnight. As I said before: No real people, no funny names and I reserve the right to tell all 3 of them to pick again if I don’t like any. I’m mean like that.

 

I’m excited to see what you guys choose.

 

An Interview With John Jackson Miller

 

Today I’m proud to introduce fellow 47North writer, Star Wars scribe and all-round talented individual, John Jackson Miller.

 

1. So, why don’t you tell us all a bit about yourself?

John Jackson Miller: I’m a writer who’s spent the last couple of decades strip-mining my childhood, so to speak! I worked in the comics industry for many years as a trade magazine editor (and continue my historical research on my Comichron site – http://www.comichron.com). For the last decade I’ve also been writing comics and prose, for franchises from Star Wars and Indiana Jones to Conan and The Simpsons.

Along those lines, I have a few books that are out this summer. The big one is Del Rey’s Star Wars: Kenobi, my first prose hardcover, which follows the early days of Obi-Wan Kenobi during his sojourn on Tatooine. On the comics side, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic Omnibus Vol. 1 has just released, which collects the first chunk of the five-year comics series I wrote for Dark Horse Comics.

The other prose book is one of my own: Overdraft – The Orion Offensive, my first creator-owned project, which I did for 47North. I’m really excited about that one.

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 2. Can you tell us a bit more about your book? Where did the idea come from? How long did it take to write?

John Jackson Miller: The short plug for Overdraft is that it’s aliens and armored mercenaries taking on Wall Street! Really, it’s a fun story that plugs into a number of the themes that I enjoyed writing about in licensed work. It’s set in the 22nd Century, when mankind has reached the stars and entered into galactic commerce; naturally, greed is soon to follow. Overdraft follows what happens when a conniving stock trader accidentally bankrupts his interstellar expedition from his desktop; the mercenaries, deciding they’re not going to go into unemployment, drag him to the frontier to get their money back, one dangerous planet at a time.

It’s space opera with some satirical overtones, partially inspired by the London Whale and some other high-finance disasters; it made for a good springboard to get our fish out of water and into the galactic soup, fighting for his life. It’s also got a fun system of space transport, which is really more akin to the golden age of rail travel.

It took about three months to write, once I got started on it.

 

 3. How did signing with 47North come about?

John Jackson Miller: The acquisitions editor, David Pomerico, had been assistant editor on a short story project I did at Del Rey, Star Wars: Lost Tribe of the Sith. It was being released as a collected print edition in the summer of 2012 when I spoke with David about possibly doing a short story series for 47North. He suggested that I craft it into a Kindle Serial, and that’s what happened — the serial was released every two weeks from April to July 2013. It’s now available in its completed Kindle and physical book form. (http://amzn.to/overdraft1)

 

4. What has been your favourite part of your writing/publishing experience? The scariest?

John Jackson Miller: I’ve written over a million words for comics and prose works over the last decade, but this was a bit of a new experience: unlike my novels like Star Wars: Kenobi, this is set in a sandbox that’s all my own. So I needed to construct rules and a history for my world. It was fun work, but also a bit intimidating as you realize how much there is to think through. Things like what the medical system is like in your future world are things you don’t normally think of when working out a plot, but they tend to become important when you’re writing.

I think the other challenging thing was in writing the story, which was being released serially while I was writing it. I’m pretty fast, but life gets in the way sometimes, or it certainly tries to. You just have to focus and keep writing!

 

5.  What is your writing process? Do you follow a regular routine?

John Jackson Miller: It’s not regular enough, is the problem! I was moonlighting for my first several years in the business and I continue to look on evenings and weekends as prime writing time, even though I have been writing full time and really should be setting a different schedule. I just seem to find that handling the business part of things tends to slop over from morning into the afternoons a lot, and that it’s really in the evening hours when I don’t have to worry about e-mails coming in from anyone.

I also have started using noise-canceling headphones, which are really helpful when gutting out a long scene. It’s funny – I was trained to work in a noisy newsroom, but really have trouble doing fiction when there’s noise about.

 

6. Do you have a favourite scene from the book?

John Jackson Miller: Overdraft throws the stock trader into all kinds of crazy situations – but one of my favorites is his first encounter with an actual alien. His translation system has assigned this bizarre looking creature the persona and voice of a 1950s stewardess, and he’s struggling to reconcile the voice with the gruesome sight of the alien – all without offending his potential customer. It doesn’t work out very well, to say the least. That becomes a pattern for him!

Readers can get a taste of the world in a prequel short story I wrote – “Human Error” – which has a similar odd predicament: our mercenaries accidentally get shipped the wrong species’ armor and have to cope! (http://amzn.to/overdraft0)

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7.  Do you have any other projects in the pipeline?

John Jackson Miller: I have a Star Trek novella, Star Trek: Titan – Absent Enemies releasing from Simon & Schuster in early 2014. It’s my first foray into the Trek universe and it’s a lot of fun, following the adventures of William Riker on his new command.

I also have a Conan story in the November issue of Robert E. Howard’s Savage Sword from Dark Horse Comics. It’s my first trip into that world, as well, and it reunites me with Philip Tan, one of my artists from my Iron Man run of comics.

I am working on some more Overdraft-related material, as well as some other projects; I hope to continue with Star Wars as well. Folks can find out about my upcoming work at http://www.farawaypress.com and on Twitter at @jjmfaraway.

 

 8.  Do you have any advice for other writers?

John Jackson Miller: Never stop writing, and always write for publication somewhere, even if it’s just for your own blog. Every word should have a destination, an intended reader. You’re in business to communicate, so make sure there’s someone – anyone – on the receiving end. That’s better practice than “writing for yourself.”

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And now for a few fun questions.

 

1. What skills do you possess that would help you survive a zombie apocalypse?

John Jackson Miller: Zero, zip, and nada. I did establish that the rakghouls, the zombies from the Knights of the Old Republic series, were the result of Sith magic; my one contribution to zombie lore in the Star Wars universe. But outside of fixing continuity, my skills are lacking!

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2. You can be any comic book superhero – Who would you be?

John Jackson Miller: I was glad to get to write Iron Man for a year as he was really the character I liked the most – he didn’t have to be in shape, he let the suit do the work!

 

3. As you’re a Star Wars writer, I’d regret not asking this. So, are there any Star Wars characters you’ve never written but would like to? And who is the favourite one you’ve written so far?

John Jackson Miller: Ben Kenobi is really the first character from the movies that I’ve gotten to write at length about; obviously, he was a lot of fun. I’ve always thought Lando Calrissian would be fun to write about – he’s a scoundrel with style, you’ve got to love that. Within my own personal pantheon, probably Gryph, the conniving con artist from my Knights of the Old Republic comics, comes closest to having Lando’s cleverness.

 

Thanks to John for taking part.

You can find his blog here.

Twitter here.

And his Author Central page on Amazon here.

 

Blog Stop Post 1

Yeah, I know, you don’t hear anything from me in a few weeks and then you get posts every day.  I promise i’ll be more timely in a few weeks.

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But at the moment, I just wanted to take a second to post some more links for people to go to. I’ve done a few fun interviews and guest posts and figured a few people might be interested in reading my ramblings.

 

First up: Books, Books and More Books have a guest post of mine where I discuss character. They also have a giveaway where people can win a copy of each book.

The incredibly patient (because I forgot to send her what I said I was going to) Lesley Smith has a look at Crimes Against Magic and Born of Hatred.

 

The very  talented Melissa Olson interviews me about writing and my books.

 

The equally talented Richard Ellis Preston Jr has an interview with me too.

 

That’s it for today. I’ll be doing a few of these and if you get time you really should go have a read as they were fun to do. Remember if you re-tweet or share my twitter and FB status’ about my books, your name goes in a hat to win the chance to name your own character in book 4! Only 1 week left.

 

Before I go, thanks to everyone for making yesterday’s launch day, an awesome day all round.

Release Day

So today is the day that the 47North editions of Crimes Against Magic and Born of Hatred are finally released. This is hopefully the start of a whole new episode of great things to happen. However, I have been asked a few questions about the editions and figured I’d answer them all here.

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Is there anything different from the old versions?

 

Short answer, yes. Long answer: Crimes Against Magic has some considerable changes to parts of the book, it reads better for it too. Born of Hatred has a lot less changes, but still a few. Think of them this way, these are my directors cut versions. Basically these are better than the versions that were out. It’s up to you whether you’re happy with what you’ve read, or you want the updated version.

 

If I already own them, do I need to re-buy them.

 

Yes. They’re new editions, so in essence a new version of the book.

 

When will book 4 be out?

 

No idea. Ask me again in 6 months and you’ll probably have a different answer. But considering I’ve not started writing it yet beyond notes and the opening few chapters, probably a little while.

 

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Also, here’s a few places you should go visit as I start my trip around the web.

 

Roberta Oliver Trahan is hosting a spotlight on my two books.

 

Liz Wilkins, not only had an interview with me, but also a review of Born of Hatred.

 

Alex Bledsoe has a guest post by me about how I chose the flashback times I used in both books.

 

That’s it for now. I’ll be posting all of the upcoming blog tour stuff I’ve got going, if you have time go check them out.

The Hellequin Re-launch Competition

As I’m sure some of you know, my first 2 books, Crimes Against Magic and Born of Hatred will be re-released with new covers and content on 17th September.

When I published Crimes Against Magic last April, I didn’t really have anything to give away, so when I published Born of Hatred last December, I had a competition to win a Lego Nate.

Everyone loved Lego Nate.

Well, I was trying to figure out what would be the best thing to give away for the relaunch of the first 2 books by 47North, and I think I came up with something

So, we’re going to have a competition where 1 lucky winner, will get something cool.

Over the next few weeks (the competition will run for 2 weeks), I will post status’s about the books and this competition, for every person who re-tweets or shares these messages, their name will go into hat.

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You can share and re-tweet as often as you like, and each time you do, you get a new name in the hat, meaning your chances of winning increase.

So, what’s the prize?

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You will get to name a character for use in book 4, Prison of Hope.

In fact, I will draw 3 names from the hat and each person gives me 2 names. The one I like the best wins the competition and also gets their own name in the book’s acknowledgements.

However, all 3 people I pick will win signed copies of either Crimes Against Magic or Born of Hatred (your choice).

Now before we start there are some rules:

  1. It can’t be a real person. So no George Clooney or Eva Green.
  2. It has to be a real name. While I’m sure you can come up with some very funny names, none of them are ones I’m going to fit in the book.
  3. I reserve the right to say I don’t like anyone’s name and ask everyone to re-do them.

So, there you go, the chance to name your very own character just for sharing or re-tweeting my posts about my blog or books on Facebook and Twitter.

One last thing, if you click on the link below to re-tweet or share this, please make a comment on the blog so I can track you. Cheers.

Good luck.