Interview with Garden Valley author, Philip Arnold

Philip Arnold lives in Garden Valley and is the author of the middle grade novel, Suicide Plunge.

How long have you been a teacher? And what subject do you teach?

I have taught for 27 years, from 3rd grade through 8th grade. I currently teach 6-7-8th grade History and English at Garden Valley School.

What inspired you to write this book?

I had written and published about a dozen stories for outdoor magazines and had come to a dead-end there, so I decided to write a book.

How much of an inspiration were your kids?

They were a tremendous inspiration. I gave each of my 8th grade English students a copy of the rough draft of my book. We went through it page by page to spot my errors and add elements that they thought would be relevant to young adults. It was a great project because they were so in to it. They would come in every day full of ideas and angles of how to make the book better. We would discuss any potential changes as a class, although I had the final say. We focused on making this a book that the reader could easily picture in their mind as they read it. That is an important aspect of the creative writing that I teach.

Do you have any other projects you’re working on right now?

I’d love to say I am writing the sequel to Suicide Plunge, but I have yet to come up with an idea that is as good as the original. So my next book is still evolving.
Is the Suicide Plunge an actual race? Or a race based loosely on a real horse race?

It is based loosely on the “Suicide Race” a native American horse race that is run every August in Omak, Washington.
I, being a horse gal, noticed you had a lot of, what seemed to be, firsthand knowledge of racing and ranch work. Do you have a lot of experience in these areas? Or did you just do your homework?

I know a little about horses and ranch life but that only went so far. Luckily for me, there are a lot of horse savvy people here in Garden Valley. I had two students and one teacher in particular I went to for any questions I had about horses.

You’ve written two endings to your story. Personally, I prefer the one that’s in the physical book to the Kindle version. Why did you choose to write the ending both ways and which do you prefer?

I had always intended to have the main character die in the end. But when my youngest daughter was typing up the draft and got to the end where he died, she hated it. So I gave in to her and wrote an alternate ending which she loved. Ironically, I ended up liking the alternate ending better too.
When you’re not writing, what would we find you doing?

I do love teaching which takes up most of my time. When I have spare time though, I like doing anything outdoors. I am very lucky to be able to live in Garden Valley where I hunt, fish, snowmobile, hike and just enjoy the outdoors.
Last book you read?

Wild Men, Wild Alaska: An Alaskan Guide’s Story by Robert McElveen

Favorite holiday ritual or tradition?

EVERY year on the day before Christmas break, I sit down with my students and we all watch the movie, “A Christmas Story.” I have yet to have a student who disliked it.

An interview with the BRILLIANT Marissa Meyer

Book Addicts – So you’re my first author interview so this is good—you’re nice and friendly

Marissa Meyer – *Laughs*

BA – Great smile so I’m not that nervous

MM – I’m going to give really tough answers, like one word answers

BA – So I did my homework and did a lot of research on other interviews you’ve done so I’m trying to to ask a lot of repeat questions so they may be “unique”.

MM – Okay, because repeat questions, I can roll those off

BA – I know! You probably have canned responses—here you go, copy, paste.

MMWhere did I get the idea? Oh, boy

BA – One interesting thing I read about you is that you is that you murder house plants

MM – Oh, gosh

BA – So do I!

MM – Is that really on the internet?

BA – Yes, it is.

MMLaughs

BA – I saw that, and I was like, a kindred spirit. I cannot keep a house plant alive

MM – It’s terrible, it’s like I always read the tags and they say, Hey, they’re really easy to take care of, and I’m like, No. Like Lucky Bamboo, supposedly you can’t kill it. Oh, watch me.

BA – Your book is, in my opinion, a huge success. Did you ever think that it was going to get this big? And really quickly, too.

MMReally quickly. Um…yes and no. There would be times, because obviously I’m in love with the book, and I’m in love with the series, so there would be day’s I’d be like, Yes! I have something really great going on here, and if I could just get a chance then it could get huge. And then there were days when I’d be writing and I’d be, This is terrible! And No one’s going to like this, and I’m crazy. So it would go back and forth. Everyone always dreams about being, you know, a success and being able to quite their day job and be a fulltime writer, and the idea that it could happen – especially so quickly – no, I didn’t expect it.

BA – Still pinching yourself?

MM – A little bit

BA – So was it any reflection—your querying process – was that any reflection of the success you’re having now?

MM – Yeah, my querying process went really fast. I queried about a dozen or so agents and had offers from three

BA – That’s awesome

MM – That took about two months and then I ended up signing with the first agent that I queried, so, she was my dream agent. I was so excited that she wanted me. And then she and I worked on the submission package for about two weeks and she went out with it on a Friday, and we had our first offer on Monday.

BA – Wow! So you queried with a pretty polished manuscript—like they want.

MM – Yeah, it was very polished, and I also, at that point, had a draft written of book two and three and then book four outlined. And we were able to go to them with the first fifty pages of book two and then really detailed synopses of what was going to happen in the rest of the series.

BA – It’s awesome timing, because right now fairy tales are so big—TV, books, Movies—talk about perfect timing. And the thing I really like about your book, is that you can tell that it is Cinderella, but it’s so…more creative and broad—

MM – Thank you!

BA – You’re welcome. It’s very awesome. And your characters are amazing. There’s not one character that is just a surface character or one-dimensional—to me, anyway, they all seem so 3D. They’re real people. Even Pearl, even though she doesn’t have that big of a role, when she is in there, she really is larger than life. And they’re all like that.

MM – Thank you.

BA – You’re welcome. So, do you do that intentionally, or is that subconscious that you do that? Is it important for you to have big characters like that?

MM – It’s very important. And I find that some characters come very easily. Cinder hasn’t changed that much from the first draft, I always had a really clear idea of who she was. But then other characters, I’ll be writing the first draft, and maybe not really focusing on this, it’s not really a essential part of the plot and I just kind of stick them in there, and later in revisions I have to stop and think, Who is this person really? What do they want out of life? What is their motivation in this chapter? And really make sure that’s coming through.

BA – It does come through really, really well. I’m excited to see the other books knowing that they’re going to be that much and more. So book two, Scarlet, does it pick up where this one left off? I know if focuses on a different character, but is it in a difference province? Is it a different story? Do we still learn more about Cinder?

MM – It will continue Cinder’s story. Scarlet takes on two kind of parallel plots. So on one side, you will be seeing Cinder as she tries to escape the Queen and tries to learn more about her past, and then you’ll also meet Scarlet, and she lives in France on a little farm that’s owned by her grandmother. And at the start of the book, her grandmother has disappeared, and nobody knows what’s happened to her. And so she is trying to find out what’s happened to her grandmother and the only person who has any information is a street fighter who goes by Wolf. So, that’s kind of my Little Red Riding Hood story.

BAVery cool. So the cover of Scarlet has the red cape and the cover of Cinder has the red shoe, so is red—cheesy question—is red a theme color for all the covers then?

MM – I assume so, that was kind of my design team at MacMillan does all that, but I think that’s the plan. Which I love. I can’t wait to see them all when they’re all done.

BA – It’s great because they’re all subdued and then there’s this pop. So do you have much say in the cover designs?

MM – Not really. The usually send me kind of an early draft, for me to look at, and I loved all of the covers so I haven’t had much criticism.

BA – I’ve been trying to see if there’s any buzz about a movie for this and haven’t been able to find anything. Do you know anything, or can you say anything?

MM – I can say that we’re in negotiations.

BA – *Gasp* That’s exciting! And I’m glad, because this will make a great movie, in my opinion.

MM – Thank you!

BA – It’s one of those things where your characters are so detailed and your setting is just amazing, that you can see everything playing out.

MM – I would love to see this made into a movie. I have all my fingers crossed and the studio that we’re talking to seems very enthusiastic about it and it seems like they really do want to go forward and make it. A lot of times when a book gets optioned for film rights, that doesn’t really mean very much. Maybe 1% of those will go on to be made into movies. So I’m trying not to get my hopes up too much, but like I said, they seem really enthusiastic about it.

BA – Is there any timeframe of when you’ll know one way or the other?

MM – Hopefully we’ll be able to make the announcement that the rights have sold soon-ish. But, if it were to go forward, probably not for another year or two before we could say, “Yes! It’s being made into a movie.”

BA – But that’s exciting that it has interest out there. Congratulations. Things are going really well, so that’s awesome. After the Lunar Chronicles—there’s going to be four—do you have other ideas for other books you want to get out there?

MM – Yeah, we actually just recently pitched two new ideas to the publisher. And they liked them both.

BA – Awesome, so we’ll be getting a lot more great books from you. That’s exciting.

MM – They’re both YA but not Sci-fi. One of them is kind of a fantasy, and the other—I don’t know what to call it—urban fantasy maybe, or horror.

BA – Interesting. So what do you love most about writing for YA?

MM – The fans! The readers are just so great and, I haven’t written for adult, but I’ve talked to adult writers, and you can tell there’s a difference between the interactions that you have. Teenagers just get so excited—

BA – So passionate about everything.

MM – So passionate. And if they love a book, they just want to tell everyone they know, they want to force it onto people, “You have to read this!” and I feel that you kind of get a camaraderie with the readers.

BA – Almost like an instant family, friendship.

MM – Yeah!

BA – What does your writing process look like? Are you a pantser or an outliner?

MM – I’m an outliner. In a big way. I usually, if I get an idea, I’ll spend a few months just kind of letting it sit in my head and think about what the big story idea will be, what the characters might be like; and then once I have an idea of what the story will look like, I’ll start penciling out scene ideas—almost like a puzzle. What should come first? And how do I get them from Point A to Point B. And at the end, hopefully I have an outline. Something that looks like a story and makes sense.

BA – So then, do you work better in a quiet environment, a chaotic environment?

MM – You know, either. I write a lot at home, I have a home office. But then, I love going to cafes and restaurants for the change of scenery. I used to have an hour and a half commute each way, and I would take the bus, and I had no problem writing on the bus.

BA – Pretty adaptable. So, editing, then: on paper or on screen?

MM – Screen. I have a problem wasting paper printing out this 400 page manuscript is not good for the environment. But obviously, then, we’ll get a paper copy of the manuscript for copyedits from the publisher and so that was nice to see it on paper. You inevitably catch things on paper that you’d never catch on a computer screen.

BA – So, fun questions. I saw that you have three cats. What are their names?

MM – Alexandria Josephine. We call her Cali. Blackland Rockwell the Third; Blackie. And Stormous-Enormous.

BA – I like that one.

MM – What are your cat’s names?

BA – We have Kitty—it’s not creative at all, but that was his name when we got him. We call him Handsome. Then we have Katie—or Princess, and then we have one that kind of adopted us, he’s a stray, and we named him Merlin because I was on a BBC Merlin kick at the time he came around.

MM – Nice. So his is the most creative.

BA – It’s funny because you always start out with the really boring names – Blackie is black, Cali’s a calico, Stormy’s grey—and then the complex names kind of grow out of those.

BA – Out of their personalities. Cat’s are great. So, on Facebook, I saw your photos of ComiCon. Was that a good time for you? Was that your first time there?

MM – It was my first time. It was fun, but it was rather overwhelming. There’s so much to see and so much to do, and I feel like you kind of need the initial trip to ComiCon to get your bearings. And now, when I go back. I’ll be able to plan.

BA – Did you have a favorite panel while you were there?

MM – Joss Whedon. And I missed his big Firefly panel because I had a big panel the same time as the Firefly panel

BA – That would have been awesome.

MM – But we did later get to go see Joss Whedon speaking.

BA – Two more quick questions for you. The best YA book that you’ve recently read, besides your own.

MMMonstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama. I just finished it last week, and it’s a mermaid book. But it was so a-typical. It was almost like a murder mystery thriller. Very dark, beautifully written.

BA – I’ll have to try that, because I’ve tried reading some mermaid books, thinking, “Oooh! Yay!” and then they’ve fallen short. So that will be exciting.

MM – Yeah, this one excelled.

BA – If you could co-write a book with any author, alive or dead, who would it be and what would it be titled?

MM – I can start and say that I think I would be a horrible co-author. I’m like super controlling and kind of neurotic about stuff sometimes. So I think it’d have to be someone I didn’t care if I stayed friends with or not. Let’s just go with J.K. Rowling, because she’s amazing in every way. And it would be great just to be able to work with her. And obviously we’d make like, eight billion dollars.

BA – Of course! And what would the title be?

MM – *laughs* I don’t know.

BA – Okay, last question. What’s your favorite song on the radio right now?

MM – The Shins, Simple Song. I’m addicted to it.

BA – Thank you so very much, this was fun, and I appreciate it.

MM – Thank you! I appreciate it, too.

BA – It’s amazing, because I finished reading the book for a second time just moments before I walked in, and it’s amazing all the clues I’m picking up this time around. You’re a very talented writer and it’s a privilege to get to meet you and read your book.

MM – Thank you!

This was one of the best interviews that I’ve gotten to do. Marissa is such a fun person with a great personality and a bubbly laugh and smile. Not only is she a talented writer, but friendly and outgoing, too. Here’s a link to her website and the Goodreads page of her book.

Jack of all trades: Boise author Josh Gross

Interview with Boise Author, Josh Gross (Edited for space)

(August 24, 2012, Dawson Taylor Coffee – neutral territory)

 

photo from: http://ow.ly/dnPps

 When you first asked us to review it [your book] I saw that it was a collection of short stories and I never really never got into short stories just because, for me, I never thought there was enough to get into, but actually, short story writers are very talented because you have to get all of that in there, you have to get the bang of the character in the story right away—

–And you have to start over every time.

Yeah exactly, and you don’t have that many pages to get everything across to your reader and get them hooked.  So good job, I’m converted. I enjoy short stories, because it’s a nice little window–snapshot–into someone’s life without getting committed for 300 pages.

Yeah, it’s good because it’s nice and nonthreatening. You can pick up a couple when you feel like it, and you don’t feel like you’re locked into a book. It wasn’t like I had a giant ambition to pursue short stories over everything else; but—I have some completed manuscripts, or novels, it’s just that this was the material that was most publishable at the time.

So, over what time span did all of these get written?

The first big batch of them I wrote in the summer of 2004/2005 I think, because I had—or maybe it was 2005—I can’t remember—because I had this really great job as the editor of the college newspaper and it paid of the summer but we didn’t have to publish over the summer which was nice so basically I just had a free check to do nothing—which I’m not saying that’s that not something that should be amended, but I had a lot of free time to work on stuff. I initially published them as a zine (something similar to being published at Kinko’s), ran off about 100’s copies and sold those, about 120 pages, I think it had nine stories. I did all the illustrations myself—they were much cruder. And then the rest of them were sort of plunked in over time. After that there was a two year time before I moved here to Boise, and during that time I finished off a number of the stories that were in that book, finished off two novel manuscripts, full length play, two screenplays—I had a lot of free time then.

Wow, so you’re all over the place, then. I noticed that quite a few of your stories have already been published in different magazines and have won a number of awards, so is that how the collection got started? Sort of The Best Of?

Yeah, I started with more and then cut some out because they weren’t good enough. I initially was sending this to publishers but they aren’t’ that interested in short story collections from unknown authors, they want you to have a bestselling novel, first.

There’s obviously a trick to writing short fiction well; how do you make sure you’re writing a good compelling short story?

I don’t know if it’s really any different from writing a novel, it’s just—stories have a certain length that they naturally go to and the problems usually come when you try to make it shorter or longer than it needs to be. I mean, there’s nothing worse than a short story written to novel length or a novel compressed into a short story. These are just stories that ended where they naturally fell. I have stories that are longer, but these ones are just where they naturally settled. If there was room to expand them, I probably would. Some of them are only two or three pages long, but that’s the natural length of the story, but if you mutilate it by trying to stretch it out…

Yeah, there were a couple that were longer, and I was like, ‘Oh, man, these are longer compared to the other ones’ and then I started reading them and they were over like that.

Yeah, some are like novellas and others are like blips, and I like that.

Tell me more about your other projects you have.

When I moved here I had a stack of stuff this high that I’d built up when I wasn’t really doing much, and my idea was, build up a big stock of material and start going through it. I have a short novel that I’d written that my friend was going to put out on one of his publishing imprints, but for whatever reasons it ended up taking too long so he just gave it back to me, so I have that done and ready to go. I could upload that to Amazon tomorrow, but I wanted one thing at a time. And I have another novel that I need some pretty serious redrafting that’s about a rock band and I wanted to go back and record an album to go with it.

Cool, that’s actually trending, even with physical books, and also to include song lists.

Yeah, well, this would actually be recording songs as the band described them in the book; I sort of have this side project going on. There’s that and then I had a play that was put on earlier in the year at the Linen Building for a couple of days, and it was a big success and it goes with enough other plays and scripts that I’ve written that I’m also  going to compile a collection of scripts. I have one more that I want to put through the workshop process and get produced before then, and that’s probably going to be sometime next year, maybe. And then I have the one mega project which I sort of fear going back to, and that’s a memoir I wrote about my time in youth prison. And that is the first thing I ever really wrote, and it’s a “train wreck wrapped in a cluster[omitted] tied in a Celtic knot”

That’s a great little blurb for the front of the book.

But that needs a lot of reworking, but I think that it’s a great story. But it’s going to take a lot of time and emotional energy, so I wanted to get some of this other stuff first. And I’m also working on a musical puppet show that’s going go on Halloween for a couple days. It’s going to all be put on through Homegrown Theatre which is who I worked with for the play in the spring.

And the puppet show, it’s for adults, right, not for children?

Yeah, it’s called the Ritual killing of the Musical

Very promising, I’m liking that.

Yeah, well, it’s a Halloween show, so, it’s gonna be a little…and then, what else is going on? The film version of that [The Dog House] is coming out in the fall.

So you’re a musician too, then. Qhat do you play, or do you do everything? It’s kind of sounding like you’re a Jack of All Trades.

Um, yeah, a little bit. I was a drummer in a band here called The Ratings Battle—a loud rock and roll band. Originally called the Northend Snugglers, but we had to change it. A lot of guys don’t like that, apparently.

[Me, laughing] The Northend Snugglers.

I thought that was hysterical.

Yeah, that was awesome.

Our new guitar player just shipped out to basic training so it’s on hiatus now. I also play drums for a kid named Bridgeport. He’s an acoustic act but I’ve played with him a couple of times. I have three or four different solo projects depending on how you define them. One of them is a ukulele heavy metal cover project—

That is a very…eclectic…mix.

And then I did a EP with that, and a ukulele, accordion, bass, and drums. And then there’s a version of that that performs as a trio. And then there’s sort of indie rock one man act, and then I have a new one that’s sort of a one man DJ mixes with a guitar and a drum machine and a looping petal.

Is any of your music available in iTunes?

Lots of it

Under Josh Gross?

Um, I’ll send you some links because it’s over the place.

So, the two stories I like the most in here are The Dog House, because that was the first one I read. And the entire time I’m reading it, I’m thinking, I can’t believe this guy is doing this, he’s freaking psychotic! But I could totally see someone who’s obsessed with their new dog doing that. And then the end was just awesome. And the other one was One Friday in April.

The thing I think I really like about your stories is that they’re not all funny, there are some serious moments, but then also the fact that you have this story itself that’s about some main secret, then within that secret you have a couple other secrets going on which are very subtle. So, when you’re doing that, is it intentional, or is it just a natural development of writing the story?

I do a lot of that stuff intentionally, because you don’t want to be too heavy handed with that, you don’t want it to be too obvious, but you want the reader to figure it out on their own so that they become an active participant in the story. I don’t want to say ‘show don’t tell’ because that’s such a clichéd thing to say, but I feel like a really good story, you should feel like an active participant and sometimes that’s instilling that sense of mystery and of figuring things out for yourself. And it’s backfired a lot. A lot of the times I’ve put things in there and people are like, ‘I totally didn’t get that’.

So which do you prefer writing? Do you prefer your novel length, screenplays, short fiction?

I jump around a lot. It’s whatever I’m in the mood for. And if I get bored, I’ll move on to something else. There’s nothing there that says if you wrote novels you can’t write scripts. If you write screenplays you can’t write songs. I like writing books that are really daunting and exhausting. I like writing songs that really purge.

So are any of these derived from real life experiences?

So many.

Really?

Well, I tell people, a lot of times, my method of coming up with stories, is I get some crazy idea of something I should do and then I’ll go, ‘That’s a terrible idea, don’t do that! You’ll get arrested.’ And then I’ll go and write a story about it. Like The Dog House, for example. I adopted a dog and he was in the pound because a couple had gotten divorced and I was really angry. This was the best dog in the history of dogs and I was really angry that someone would give up a dog like this; I wanted to find them and yell at them, but I couldn’t, so they end up more like a thought experiment.

You have a lot of different points of view that a lot of people never think about, like One Friday in April, people never think about an abortion for the guy’s point of view.

No, they don’t.

And so, reading that, I was like, ‘Wow, the guy’s going through all of this too, not just the girl.’ Do you have any favorites in here? Or are they all near and dear to your heart?

Dog House is definitely one of my favorites. I feel like I’m onto something really good when I feel like I’m getting away with something, It’s almost like, good writing is like mischief and you’re thinking, ‘I can’t believe this is actually coming out!’ And I felt that way the entire time writing The Dog House, and I loved that. I just became aggressively more farcical. I do think that One Friday in April is one of the best things I’ve ever written, only because it kind of a third rail topic, and it’s especially a third rail topic because it’s never covered from that perspective, so I feel like that was an important story to write.

Then the last one, Debate is a Many Splendored Thing, is actually, probably my favorite one. The perspective for me was really fun, where so much of it was not so ‘action happens’ but compressed moments, trying to unravel. That was a lot of fun for me. I seem to have a thing for really damaged people, and I did a lot of competitive debate in college and there’s this unbelievable collection of…there are people who read that story and say, ‘Oh, that’s really interesting and cool.’ And then there are debaters who can read that story and go, ‘Oh, God, I’ve been there.’ A lot of those are little anecdotes that I took from the world of international competitive debate.

How long did you do debate for?

All of my life but officially, the last two years of college.

Are there any skills you picked up in debate that you think helped you with your writing? I mean, obviously to craft good arguments and to do a lot of research, but are there any other skills that you picked up in debate that transferred well to your writing?

I think just a clear narrative. It’s one of those things where good commutation plays across all forms. You need to have sort of proper elements in place in order to create a compelling narrative that conveys what you need to convey in a way that keeps people interested and moves around between different fields.

An academic debate round is one person comes up, says something, someone else responds and says something else which turns everything in a completely different direction, the next person comes up and responds to that, in a way that turns everything on its head and finally brings everything to this climactic finale that leaves us saying, how do I possibly choose between these two sides? I mean, to me, that’s dramatic structure. That’s your first scene. Someone steps on stage and says, ‘I’m going to kill my wife’ and your character comes in and goes, ‘Oh, but your wife is already planning to kill you.’ And suddenly everything turns around; it’s exactly the same structure. Maybe some of the details of the conventions of how you lay it out are different, but the concepts are the same.

As long as you give good material of substance delivered in a compelling way that translates across.

So, fun questions: favorite TV show currently on the air?

I don’t actually have a TV so—

–Okay, then, of all time.

The Daily Show [with JonStewart], Battlestar Galactica (new), Star Trek: The Next Generation, The X-Files.

(I request a high five at the mention of The X-Files, my all-time FAVORITE series )

I’m big on robots and spaceships.

Do you watch Doctor Who at all?

I don’t. I don’t watch British television.

(Then we go on to get into a geeky conversation about TV shows. If you want to hear it all, I’ll get it to you).

What is your favorite song of all time? And I will make you narrow it down to one. And it could be at this particular moment [your favorite song].

Can we come back to this one?

Yes. What’s the last book that you read?

Oh, it’s one I read for a review. It’s called, Forget About Today, it’s sort of a self-help book based of the career of Bob Dylan. I’m not going to say that it’s a great book.

Is it interesting?

It is…interesting, but a lot of it is sort of…I would never expect a self-help book off the career of Bob Dylan.

It says in the back [of your book] that you like to create trouble around Boise in your free time; so what does that include?

Oh, generally a trouble maker. I’m a little more honest than most people. It’s not malicious. I think it’s ruder to tell people you like their band when you don’t.  Read any of the comments on the stories that I write and you’ll get an idea about the kind of trouble maker, I guess.

If you could co-author a book with any author, alive or dead, who would it be and what would it be called?

Well, I have a title to a book but I haven’t figured out what the book is about yet, I’m going to have to think about this for a second. Okay, the title is, Death Rides A Pogo Stick, and I don’t know what it’s about yet, but I know with a title like that, you can’t go wrong. It would probably be Douglas Adams, John Kennedy Toole, or there’s a science fiction writer in Austin who I have identified more closely with than any other writer, ever—Bradley Denton. I picked up a book of his called Buddy Holly is Alive and Well Again in Jupiter […] I laughed, I cried. There’s no one else ever who’s written about rock and roll so eloquently. In a way that I feel is a strange and magical book.

I would say him, but I don’t want to meet him because I’m so afraid of putting people on a pedestal. I had a very bad experience with Vanilla Ice, and I never recovered, so…

I’m still struggling over this song one. [long pause] Ke$ha and her cover of Bob Dylan’s Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.  It’s on YouTube. It’s a very, very moving rendition. Sometimes I think my theme song is by Weird Al Yankovic, I’ll Be Mellow When I’m Dead.

You’d mentioned that the first short story in Secrets & Lies was made into a film, can you tell me more about that?

The Dog House was made into a film by a Boston-based filmmaker named Kimberly Rideout, who I was part of a filmmaking collective with, alongside a bunch of the crew from Coraline, in Portland before I moved here. She bought the rights for the story during the run-up to its publication, and shot it as her senior thesis for film school at Boston University. Her adapted screenplay won a $5,000 grant from the Adrienne Shelley (director of Waitress) Foundation, which was good because animal actors are absurdly expensive. It’s also a fairly prestigious award.

The film is currently being scored and color-corrected and will hopefully be hitting the festival circuit this fall. This is what the poster looks like. There’s some more info about it here.

The film adaptation is especially exciting for me because a short film I wrote, The Lost Van Gogh, made the rounds on the festival circuit last year, even won the Audience Choice Award at the Tulsa International Film Festival. So I’m hoping to keep that trend going.

Congrats, that’s awesome, and thanks so much for your time, I appreciate you coming out.

Anytime.

Whew! So, if you stuck with me, that’s a six page interview. Josh and I sat down and chatted for over half an hour that day, but he’s a funny, talented guy. If you get the opportunity, pick up some of his songs and read his book, Secrets & Lies. I’ve included some links to his work below. Enjoy!

The link to buy Secret & Lies

http://www.amazon.com/Josh-Gross/e/B008SM3DGU

The video for Josh’s ukulele/accordion project (officially being released at the 208 Video Show at Neurolux for Sept. First Thursday.)

http://youtu.be/1LfdcfBW_nw

Another ukulele video

http://youtu.be/RSqNV2DajME

The solo looping project

http://youtu.be/152ZAgiCi70

The Ratings Battle (formerly The North End Snugglers)

http://www.reverbnation.com/theratingsbattle

Bridgeport (the other band I occasionally plays drums for)

http://youtu.be/B5mbu6GTygA

Some previous bands.

http://www.tinglefinger.com/tf-002-superhellamegaepic.html

http://www.tinglefinger.com/tf-008-deadly-death-maelstrom-of-death.html

http://www.tinglefinger.com/tf-004-the-cark-ass-goat-dx.html

A standup comedy video

http://youtu.be/mp_2ehcz7pg

A fabulous interview with author Julie Blackstone

First comment:  Cool cover. 

Thanks!  I was so, so, happy when my designer sent it to me.  It is exactly the look and feel I wanted.

You have two names, Juliana Stone for your paranormal romances and an alter ego who calls herself Julie Blackstone and writes YA. Which do you go by the majority of the time?

Well, I’ve been published as Juliana Stone since my first book was released in 2010.  I’ve not written 7 paranormals, two futuristic novels, and I’ve got a new contemporary romance coming out next year as well.  (I love writing J) When I decided to write young adult and pursue it aggressively, I decided to utilized a second author name, simply because my adult books aren’t for teens and I wouldn’t want anyone to be confused as to what they’re buying. 

In the future I’d like to divide my time equally as I totally enjoyed the difference between the two types of books.

Okay, so you mentioned to me in an email your original “motivation” for writing Ravyn’s Fall and I laughed a bit, thinking it was perfect. Can you explain a little bit about that?

Sure! I have a daughter who reads voraciously and I was determined to write something that she could read and share with her friends.  I honestly didn’t know how much I’d enjoy it and I’m glad I tried my hand at young adult.

Besides wanting to write a book that your daughter could read, how did Ravyn’s Fall come about? Was it always something scratching at the inside of your head, or was it a deliberate project?

The idea came from one line that didn’t even make it into the book.  “I thought falling to earth would hurt.”  The idea of a girl falling from heaven came to me and then the title…the idea changed a bit from the original but once I fleshed it out, the story kind of flowed.

I noticed the name of the book is the same as your son’s band (which is way cool, btw. LOVED Heartless). Any special reason you went that route? And since they share a name, are they going to have anything to do with the books?

Well, I’m a pretty proud Mama!  My kids band stole the name.  I’ll be honest!  I’d written the book about 3 years ago and at the time I believe they were called A Million Pennies, which I thought was a cool name, but they dropped it and adopted Ravyn’s Fall and just this past spring Ravyn’s Fall made it to the top 200 on Canada’s Got Talent! So we’re kind of sharing now, but that’s okay.  I got my son to write the original music for the book trailer and I think he did an awesome job.  But, that’s about the extent of their involvement with this project.  If anyone is interested, check out their music on facebook and you can find them on twitter as well!

Two part question: I loved your spin on demons and angels—that the angels aren’t necessarily all good and the demons aren’t necessarily all bad.  Zeke puts it best when he says that they’re basically the same, they just live in different zip codes. Why did you choose to go that route? And, where does your view of angels & demons originate? How did it morph into the meld you have in this book?

I’ve always been sort of ambiguous when it comes to religion and I totally believe every single one of us has the potential to be good or bad.  I look at it almost like racism.  Creatures from the upper realm don’t understand those from below…they’re different and so they don’t like them….and vice versa.  BUT they each need the other to survive so to speak. I love this concept and use it in my adult paranormal series as well, The League of Guardians.  Different world, but basically the same idea.  WE all need each other to survive…it parallels the human world of today.  It’s just kind of sad that so many people are blind to this and sadly, I do believe that (especially in the past) religion kind of perpetuated this myth.

Poor Ravyn.  It seems that wherever she goes death and destruction follow. She even calls herself at one point a harbinger of death. Is this a key part of who she is, or is she just having a killer streak of bad luck?

A lot happens in this first book and sure, she feels like her life is sucking…she doesn’t know who she can trust and she’s afraid to trust because nothing she’s believed in has been true.  Her life has been a lie. We’ll find out more about her as the series continues, but I can tell you she’s got balls, she’s not afraid to take chances.  And, well, she does have a hellhound!

And Zeke, did you have anyone in particular in mind when you wrote his character? What’s his deal anyway…I know we’d all like to believe that he truly does care for Ravyn and that in some cosmic, mixed up way, they’re destined for each other, but right now he’s so hot and cold. Is that going to change? Soon? Like, in book two???

Zeke’s already struggling with his growing feelings for Ravyn, but it’s hard for him.  She represents redemption, or what could be redemption for him.  A happy ending so to speak but at the end of book one he knows he can’t sacrifice her.  The question is, what will he do when things heat up? When his feelings grow as does the danger and the fact that his ultimate prize isn’t one he wants to claim?  I can also say Dragon might be giving him a run for his money in book 2.

As for who did I write him after….I had a picture of Steven Strait from The Covenant on my computer and uh, I’d look at it a lot!

Besides the obvious, how does writing a YA book differ from your normal books? Do you have a different process? Do you have to get into the “zone” before writing for YA when you’ve been writing your normal paranormal romances?

The process is the same for me.  I love disappearing into my words and I sit down and just write.  I don’t like any noise, no music…nothing. I sit, have some munchies on hand and write.  The cool thing about YA, is I get to focus more on that whole ‘first love’ thing and the sweetness of it.  The intensity of it.

How many books will be in the series?

There will be three books.  The second is titled, Ravyn’s Grace, the third Ravyn’s Creed (which might change).

This next question is solely of a selfish nature: How’s your progress coming on Ravyn’s Grace and when can I read it? I NEED to know what happens next!

LOL I’m glad you’re enjoying it!  I plan to have Ravyn’s Grace available for purchase in the fall. October.  I’m working on it at the same time I’m writing my second adult contemporary romance but that’s the plan right now.

What does your writing process look like in general? Are you an outliner or a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pantser?

I’m a total pantser.  I do have a clear vision of the beginning, middle and end….but everything else is organic and flows when I sit down to write.  I think that’s why I find it all so exciting…I’m finding out where these characters are going and what they’re doing as I write.  It’s a lot of fun and not for everyone but for now, for me, it works.

Do you prefer to edit on a computer screen or on paper?

I do everything on my computer.  I’ve never used paper and pen though I have a few friends who do their entire first draft on paper.  I edit as I write and subsequently, my first draft is very clean.  I usually do a once over and then send it to my critique partner.

I just wanted to comment on the fact that you wove so much mystery and “OMG, that did NOT just happen!” moments into the story, that it pulled along so well. I was disappointed when I finished it in only a day and was left with nothing else to read while camping. So, great job. Oh, and I love Joe. He’s probably my favorite supporting character.

Joe just kind of came to me and I love him dearly. I wish I had my very own personal hellhound.

And now….for some fun questions:

Where do you call home? If you could call anywhere else home, where would that be?

I live in Canada and love it here!  I suppose if I could call anywhere else home it would be New Zealand.  I fell in love with that country while watching The Lord of the Rings.

E-reader or a good old fashioned book?

If you’d have asked me that a year ago I would have said BOOK, but, I bought an e-reader last summer and I love it.  I’ve read more in the past year than in a long time and I love everything about it.

Favorite current TV show?

Okay, I have a 3-way tie between The Vampire Diaries, Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead.  All of them are shows I HAVE TO WATCH OR I’LL BE IN A REALLY BAD MOOD. And I watch all of them with a few girlfriends so it’s more of an event.  I was really into True Blood for a while, but I’m finding it meh this year.

Best YA book you’ve last read (besides your own, of course)?

I’ve read a lot of really good ones, but the ones on my keeper shelves are, The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, I loved Simone Elkeles Return to Paradise and Leaving Paradise and I really enjoyed the Mortal Instruments.

If you could co-write any type of book with any author (alive or dead) who would it be and what would the book be titled?

I’d co-write a book of poetry with Jim Morrison and we’d call it, On The Other Side.

Thank you so much for your time! Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Thanks for having me, this has been fun!

Interview with Northwest Author, Terry Hughes

I had the pleasure of interviewing northwest author, Terry Hughes. He wrote Burning Paradise which I reviewed on Book Addicts. Burning Paradise is a fascinating look into the world of fire fighting.

1. Tell us about yourself.

Most of my professional career was in construction.  I was a carpenter, then a builder, a developer and then a building designer.  I live in Spokane, but I grew up moving to many locations, including several stops around the world.  My father was a Marine Corps pilot, a FAA pilot, and finally a sub-contractor for the CIA.  The most interesting place we lived was Cairo, Egypt, when I was a sophomore in college where I attended the American University of Cairo.  I studied Middle Eastern history and taught classes in English as a Second Language.  I graduated from UC Santa Barbara where I obtained a degree in History.

2. How did you find your way to being an author?

Believe it or not, I began writing at the age of eight, turning out short, short stories about Charlie the June Bug.  My mother and grandmother loved them, and with their encouragement I continued writing and reading.  In high school, I decided to become a writer and took typing classes and started to pay attention during English classes.  After graduation, I realized I needed to get out into the real world and got a job on a fishing boat in Alaska, which I turned into my first unpublished novel, Fall Run.  This takes place during the momentous year of 1968 which brought us Vietnam, rioting in American streets and assassinations of political leaders.

3. Are you a full-time writer or do you have another profession?

My profession of building designer is on the recession rocks, so I have quite a bit of time to write.  I also produce a television series for Community Minded TV on my monthly seminars entitled The Art of Writing.  I also write magazine articles.

4. Is Burning Paradise your first/only book?

It is my only published book.  I have several manuscripts finished or in progress and am currently working on a non-fiction work about the Spokane Police Department’s homicide of an innocent man.

5. Could Burning Paradise be a fictionalized biography of your life?

No, it is not.  Although it takes place in Santa Barbara when I was a volunteer fire chief, and the story is about a serial arsonist.  If you’re a friend of a writer, watch out, because we are always looking for real-life characters.  I purposefully take the city bus to eavesdrop on conversations.  I also go into a dive bar and study characters.

6. Do you write other genres besides mystery?

Action-adventure, crime novels and non-fiction.

7. With the advent of e-books and indie companies, there are many more opportunities for the aspiring writer. What is your thoughts on it?

Anyone can be published on e-books now, but, e-books has turned the publishing world upside down, with houses shrinking in size and publishing fewer books.

8. What advice would you give an unpublished writer in choosing a publisher?

Go local.  Get to know your regional publisher and attend their events.  Discover if your genre interests them.

9. What is a normal working day like for you?

I begin my days with marketing, social networking, setting up signings.  Today’s writer does his own marketing.  I also conduct interviews for my current project.  I try to write every day.  If I don’t, I lose my momentum.

10. What’s the story behind the story? What inspired you to write this book?

As I said earlier, I was a volunteer fire chief in Santa Barbara and one afternoon in June of 1991  I was driving home up San Marcos Pass when I saw a plume of smoke explode into the sky, and I phoned it in to 911.  A horrendous fire resulted with almost five hundred homes destroyed and three lives lost.  A few weeks later an arson investigator showed up at my door and interviewed me about my observations.  I was flattered thinking I could help him, but I later learned that I was the first one to report the fire and because I was a volunteer fire fighter, I was a suspect.  I had never heard of an arson investigator, so I began to read as much about it as I could.

11. What do you read in your leisure time?

Right now I’m reading a non-fiction history book about the US Naval battles in the Pacific during World War II.  For fiction I’m currently reading Paul Lefcourt’s The Deal, a comedy about Hollywood and screenplay writing.

12. On the blog I recently asked “If you were to be stranded on a deserted island, what three books would you take with you?”  Would you give us your choices?

Anything by Stephen Ambrose, but preferably Undaunted Courage about the Lewis and Clark Expedition.  Any of Elmore Leonard’s latest crime fiction.  I’d probably pick Be Cool.  And, of course any of James Lee Burke’s Dave Rolbicheaux mysteries.

13.  Why is Burning Paradise relevant to the readers in Idaho and Utah?

Burning Paradise is relevant to all regions which suffer from wildland fires.  The season started early this year, and promises to bring some major burns.  Just look at the catastrophe New Mexico is undergoing.  Also, it is important for wildland residents to understand fire and fire prevention.  Plus, all residents should support all of their firefighters, whether Federal, State, local or volunteer.

14. You mentioned you are currently working on a non-fiction manuscript.  Could you tell us more about it?

The working title is A Dark Blue Shield.  On the evening of March 18th in Spokane, a mentally disabled man, Otto Zehm, was mistakenly identified as stealing money from an ATM machine.  Otto, a few minutes later, walked into a convenience store to buy a 2-liter bottle of Pepsi and a Snickers bar.  He was suddenly rushed by a Spokane police officer, Karl Thompson.  Otto, a paranoid schizophrenic, recognized Officer Thompson as the police officer who had taken pleasure in bullying him from time to time.  Thompson ordered Otto to drop the soda bottle, and Otto responded, “Why?” Thompson began to beat Otto with his baton with thirteen blows to his head, neck and shoulders, and Tasered him three times.  Other officers arrived on scene and three of them killed Otto Zehm and the Spokane Police Department collected the video evidence of the incident and buried it out of public view.  It took the Department of Justice and the FBI to come in and indict Thompson before a grand jury, and Thompson was convicted of using excessive force and lying to cover up the truth.  He is scheduled to be sentenced soon.  This incident of police corruption and brutality is endemic and widespread throughout the country, and all citizens need to understand this.