Posts Tagged ‘interview’

Pour inaugurer la version française de “Veronika Asks”, Fanny Joly, auteur (entre autres) de “Marion” et “Hotel Bordemer”, a accepté de répondre à mes questions, dans la joie et la bonne humeur… comme à son habitude 🙂
Interview in French, dating back to 2006.

Bonjour Fanny ! Ravie de vous accueillir chez « Veronika Asks » ! Merci d’avoir accepté d’être la première interviewée. Pourriez-vous vous présenter aux lecteurs ?
Bonjour. Merci de m’accueillir ainsi, je suis très honorée. Donc, je suis écrivain, j’ai 51 ans et je gagne ma vie avec ma plume depuis l’âge de 16 ans. Mon 1er livre jeunesse est sorti en 1986 et j’en ai publié beaucoup depuis. Plus de deux cent…

Vous intéressez-vous à l’Astrologie ? De quel signe êtes-vous ? Correspondez vous aux caractéristiques de ce signe ?
Non, je ne m’intéresse pas à l’astrologie. Si un horoscope me tombe sous le nez je le lis parfois mais pas toujours. Je suis sagittaire.

Comment (et surtout quand) avez–vous commencé à écrire ?
D’abord j’ai toujours beaucoup lu, dévoré. Etant jeune, mes vacances commençaient par aller vendre mes livres scolaires chez Gibert et acheter des romans avec l’argent ( privilège que mes parents m’accordaient)… A mes yeux lire et écrire sont un même besoin sous deux formes, comme manger (lire) et cuisiner (écrire). A part ça, j’ai commencé à écrire un peu par hasard. Quand j’avais 16 ans, donc, ma soeur qui a 20 ans de plus que moi et qui s’ennuyait dans le métier d’avocate, m’a confié qu’elle avait envie de faire du theâtre, de faire rire. Je l’ai aidée à écrire des sketches, de façon très naturelle, très joyeuse.

Comment êtes-vous arrivée à publier votre premier livre ?
Mon 1er livre publié (chez Centurion devenu depuis Bayard Edition), MARCEAU BONAPPÉTIT était un album, épuisé aujourd’hui. Je l’avais co-écrit avec une amie médecin. C’est elle qui s’est battue pour convaincre un éditeur après s’être fait jeter par plusieurs. Je n’aurais peut-être pas eu ce courage. J’ai eu de la chance, chez cet éditeur travaillait Jacqueline Kerguenno qui se trouvait être aussi l’une des créatrices de J’Aime Lire. On a sympathisé. Elle m’a poussée : « pourquoi n’essayez-vous pas d’écrire un J’Aime Lire ? » et c’est parti…

Comment travaillez-vous ? Avez-vous parfois le syndrome de la « page blanche » ? Si oui, que faites-vous ?
Je travaille cinq à six heures par jour, tous les jours sans exception… J’aime être bien concentrée. Je n’ai pas peur de la page blanche, jamais. Je fais des brouillons, des monstres, des recherches, des plans, des synopsis, sans me censurer. Je m’attends à ce que les débuts soient nuls. Ils le sont. C’est à force de retravailler que j’arrive à me trouver un peu moins nulle. Je suis habituée. Ce fonctionnement demande du temps. Il ne faut jamais se laisser prendre à la gorge par le délai. Mon angoisse se situe plutôt là…

Auriez-vous un conseil pour ceux qui souhaitent écrire (et se faire publier) ?
Lire. Acheter des cahiers de brouillons. Et ne jamais s’impatienter.

Le feuilleton Marion, qui est publié dans Je Bouquine, a un grand succès auprès des jeunes. Comment est née Marion ?
Un peu par hasard. En tout cas pas comme un personnage de série. C’est l’enthousiasme des lecteurs qui a fait de Marion une « récurrente » (le 11ème tome sort en octobre). En 1994, ayant publié une dizaine de J’Aime Lire, j’ai été contactée par Jacqueline Cohen, qui s’occupait de Je Bouquine à l’époque. « Tu n’aurais pas envie d’essayer d’écrire pour les plus grands ? » Et c’est parti. Rebelote (cf plus haut).

Pouvez-vous nous en dire un peu plus sur les prochaines aventures de Marion (va-t-elle enfin réussir à attirer l’attention de Félix ?) ?
Dans les prochains mois, Marion va… faire des expériences capillaires, jouer du théâtre classique, manger du curry, avoir la fièvre, rire, pleurer, voyager et déclencher pas mal de catastrophes, comme d’habitude… (J’écris en ce moment l’épisode de janvier 2007) Côté Félix, il va se passer des tas de choses bien sûr… Mais pas « eau de rose & prince charmant ». Sinon ce ne serait pas Marion. Ni moi.

Laquelle de vos histoires préférez-vous et avez-vous le plus de plaisir à retrouver ?
Toutes. Mes histoires sont comme mes enfants. J’y mets mon cœur en entier.

Vous dites aussi écrire pour le théâtre (les one woman shows de Sylvie Joly, par exemple) et la télévision. Quelles sont les différences entre l’écriture d’un scénario et d’un roman ?
Dans l’écriture scénaristique, le style compte moins… Seuls les dialogues seront perceptibles par le public. Le reste est utilitaire, transitoire. Péripéties d’abord. Dans un roman, tout compte. Un auteur de talent peut faire dix pages sur un rien. Ou même cent.

Ne voudriez-vous pas essayer d’autres genres ? Écrire pour les adultes, par exemple ?
Vous ne croyez pas si bien dire… Mon 1er roman adulte sort en octobre. Il s’appelle LA VIE COMME EVA. Il m’a été commandé par… une de mes éditrices jeunesse qui est passée « dans la cour des grands » chez Intervista. Ça m’a donné bien du travail, bien des doutes. Catel m’a fait le grand plaisir d’accepter d’illustrer ce texte. 250 pages de texte et 18 dessins Noir et Blanc.

Vos romans sont publiés en 14 langues. Lesquelles ? Suivez-vous toutes les sorties de tous vos livres (dans toutes les langues) ?
Je ne tiens pas la liste mais comme ça de mémoire : anglais, allemand, grec, italien, coréen, espagnol, portugais, polonais, hébreu…

Quels sont vos projets pour cette année ?
Partir en vacances (après-demain)… Des vacances studieuses puisque je dois rendre un épisode de Marion le 15 août, un texte chez Hachette image le 4 septembre, à nouveau Marion le 15 septembre, le 7ème épisode d’une BD historique que je co-écris un mois sur deux dans J’aime Lire : SUZIE et GODEFROY vers le 20 septembre, le 10ème tome de ma série DROLE D’ECOLE chez Pocket le 30 septembre. Après, hé bien je suivrai la sortie de mon roman adulte et puis… on verra.

Et maintenant la-question-qui-n’a-pas-vraiment-de-rapport-avec-les-livres-mais-qu’on-aime-quand-même : vous venez de trouver 100€. Qu’allez vous en faire ? Sans trop réfléchir…
J’achèterai sans doute des livres ou des disques ! C’est mon principal poste de dépense… A moins que mes enfants ne me les piquent avant !

“J’aime…”

Série télé : Je ne regarde pas la télé. Je n’ai jamais regardé une série ni un film en entier.
Livre :
Je dirais plutôt : auteurs. Comment citer tous ceux que j’aime ? Balzac, Maupassant, Zola, Mauriac, Marcel Aymé, Roald Dahl, Alison Lurie, Elisabeth Taylor, Jean Paul Dubois, Jean Echenoz, Weyergans, Ludmilla Oulitskaïa, Anita Brookner, Alice Munro, Magda Szabo… Je m’arrête mais je pourrais continuer…
Film :
Un de mes films préférés : RETOUR A HOWARDS END de James Ivory.
Musique :
Du jazz, piano, saxo, voix…
Ville :
Paris.
Endroit pour écrire :
Un lit et une paire de boules Quiès.
Dicton, mot, proverbe :
« Je m’empresse de rire de tout de peur d’être obligé d’en pleurer » Beaumarchais.

“Pile ou Face?”

Samedi soir. Sortir ou lire un livre ? Lire un livre.
En vacances. Plage ou Montagnes ?
Plage.
Au cinéma. Drame ou Comédie ?
Comédie.
Ville ou campagne ?
Ville.
Timide ou communicative ?
Communicative.
Sérieuse ou rigolote ?
Rigolote, j’espère.
Voyageuse ou pas ?
Voyageuse.

Merci Fanny!
Le site officiel de Fanny Joly: http://www.fannyjoly.com

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Garden gnomes need love too. Today, I get the chance to interview director, writer and voice actor Kelly Asbury. Kelly answers my questions about his new baby “Gnomeo and Juliet”, movie-making, Ventriloquism…and much more.

On… Kelly Asbury:

Welcome on Veronika Asks, Kelly! Thank you for being my interviewee. You’re a director, writer, voice actor and illustrator. Did you achieve everything you wanted to or is there something else you’d like to try?
I’d like to keep doing it all again and get better with each try!

Which animated movie made you want to become involved in this industry?
I saw Disney’s SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARVES when I was about 7-years-old and that was that.

Which one of the movies you worked on is your favorite?
I”ve enjoyed them all to a large degree, but, as of now, GNOMEO AND JULIET is my favorite!

In most animated movies, the hero often gets help from a fairy godmother. Do you have a fairy godmother? 🙂
My high school art teacher Mrs. Minnie McMillan is as close to a fairy godmother as I’ve ever come.


On “Gnomeo and Juliet”:

“Gnomeo and Juliet” is “an epic tale on a tiny scale”. The making of the movie too, must have been epic. Could you share your best and “worst” “Gnomeo & Juliet” memories?
My best memories are too many to mention here, but suffice it to say that I loved working with all the brilliantly talented artists and technicians I had the priviledge to be surrounded by. My worst memory is when it was all over and we had to say “goodbye for now.” It was like parting with family.

Fairytales often teach us valuable life lessons. What about “Gnomeo and Juliet”? Is there a moral behind the fun?
Don’t judge a gnome by the color of his hat!

Are there other classics you’d enjoy “gnoming”?
Been there, gnomed that.


On Animation and Movie-Making:

You’ve worked on amazing animated movies such as “The Little Mermaid”, “Shrek”, “Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron”, “Beauty and the Beast”… What do a storyboard artist, assistant art director, story artist and director do exactly?
A storyboard artist works closely with the director to tell the story in still drawings, much like a comic strip. The storyboards serve as the blueprint from which the entire movie is planned. An assistant art director helps the production designer and art director develop and design the look of the movie from the environments to the colors and lighting for a given scene. A director oversees and shepherds all the creative decisions from the start to the finish of production.

What is the difference between a “good story” and a “story worth turning into a movie”?
All stories are worth turning into a movie and all stories are only as good as the teller.

Once an idea is born, how is an animated movie made? Could you briefly describe the movie-making process, taking your new baby “Gnomeo and Juliet” as an example?
Idea + script + storyboards + editing + many revisions + designs + voices + animation + surfacing + color + sound + sound mixing + final print = animated movie. A process of usually no less than 4 years.

I’ve heard it will soon be possible to “revive” dead actors thanks to the new technologies. Does that mean it will soon be possible to see new movies with those long-gone stars? How far do you think special effets may go?
I think the sky is the limit, but the stories have to be good and the characters have to be engaging or none of it’s worth a hill of beans.


On “Dummy Days”:

You wrote a non-fiction book titled “Dummy Days: America’s Favorite Ventriloquists from Radio and Early TV”. How and when did your passion for this incredible art form start? Have you ever considered becoming a ventriloquist yourself?
I was given a toy ventriloquist dummy as a kid and never was very good at actually being a ventriloquist. Still, I’ve always loved puppets and magic and those interests remained into my adulthood. After searching for a good book on the history of ventriloquists, I became frustrated and decided to write one myself.

Who is your favorite ventriloquist? And the greatest dummy of all-time?
My favorite ventriloquist is my good friend Mr. Jimmy Nelson, who’s famous for those old 1960s Nestle’s Quik commercials featuring his dummy Danny O’Day and the singing dog, Farfel. The most famous ventriloquist dummy of all time is Edgar Bergen’s Charlie McCarthy, who, in the 1930s and 40s was as popular as Mickey Mouse.

Do you think there’s room for another Golden Age of Ventriloquism?
There’s room for anything!


My…

Hero: Walt Disney
Favorite Animated Movie:
DUMBO
Favorite Animated Character:
Mickey Mouse
Favorite Actor/Actress:
Marlon Brando/Meryl Streep
Motto:
There’s always something new to learn.
Dream:
I’m living it
Favorite Food:
Fried Chicken
Favorite City:
Los Angeles, CA
Favorite Music:
Anything that makes me want to sing along.
Hobby:
Deep sleep

Bonus Question: You’ve found $100. How will you use that money?
I’d first try hard to find out who lost it, in the hopes of getting it back to them. If that failed I’d throw a KFC block party.

Thank you, Kelly!

You can follow Kelly Asbury on Twitter: http://twitter.com/KellyAsbury
…and discover “Gnomeo and Juliet”: http://www.gnomeoandjuliet.com

Dr. Stephen M. Thompson answers my questions about lucid dreaming, the Chagos Islands and his novel “Coma Story”. When fiction meets History.

Good morning Stephen, welcome on “Veronika Asks”! Could you please briefly introduce yourself? Then, if you could describe yourself – and Coma Story – with three adjectives…

Thanks for having me. My name is Stephen, I’m a working author who lives in St. Peters, Missouri. I got drifted from Singapore to the U.S. just before the millennium bug.

Me: Creative, Motivated, Kind

My book: Humorous, Shocking, Enlightening

In your novel Coma Story, coma survivor Aldan Foy and Diego Garcia native Tarzan conspire to get back the Chagos Islands – without rioting and violence. What sparked the idea for Coma Story? Why did you base your novel on the Diego Garcia depopulation?

Let me give a real brief blurb first. Coma Story is an alternate history fiction based on a recent unfortunate event, i.e. the merciless depopulation of Diego Garcia Island (once part of Mauritius) by the British to help the U.S. build a massive military base. Aldan Foy, when in coma, gets into the habit of lucid dreaming. Along with his native friend Tarzan, he finds a way to get back the islands from the superpowers – without a fight.

However, he wakes up after four years and realizes nothing’s changed. Then he starts recollecting his dreams. Coma “recovery” was the main theme with which I started the book. Lucid dreaming followed as an after thought. Integrating the plight of the Chagossian people was kind of a miracles bold idea, as I stumbled upon their unthinkable history during a non-related research. Though it’s a dark subject, the novel is very inspirational at many levels and fun to read – or at least that’s the feedback I have been receiving.

Why lucid dreaming?

Good question. But tell me, what would one do in coma when trapped in his or her non-responsive body, but then aware of what’s happening around? Hypothetically, all that one could do is dream. To add a clever element, I inserted the scientifically proved concept of lucid dreaming into the story. Believe me, I spent countless hours reading about lucid dreaming, which is indeed a fascinating subject. I just fell down the rabbit hole, I guess.

Your descriptions are very colorful; you seem to know a lot about the life and story of the Chagossians. Could you describe “the making of” Coma Story? Did you make researches? Did you travel to Mauritius?

That’s a question I have been asked a lot and I take it as a compliment. No, I did not had the opportunity to visit Mauritius nor had the privilege to meet a single Chagos islander so far. However, as I started writing I reached out to various organizations, that had been working on many spectrum of the Chagos situation. Though my research progression was not easy, I was lucky to get in touch with some awesome people from various sectors – military, social activists, politicians and service groups. Then again, Internet and local libraries were great assets as well. Since this is a sensitive subject from a military perspective (then again, it’s about real people who are still suffering), I had to go through strange challenges in finding middle ground. No wonder, it took two years to complete Coma Story.

You say Coma Story is “in no way an attempt at a definitive history of the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) deportation during the Cold War nor a catalyst for any anti-base”. What is it, in that case? What is the purpose of the novel?

I would like to emphasize that Coma Story is not only about exposing BIOT events. It’s also about coma recovery and lucid dreaming – told in an approachable and balanced style. In terms of BIOT the purpose is simple: help mainstream discover the story of the Chagos Islands and do something for the displaced people.

You seem to share a lot of things with Aldan. Did you base any character of Coma Story on real people?

Yes, to some extent. Many sub-events or small part of a character are in fact based on real inspirational folks I know. For example, I had put in an occurrence about at-risk school programs, which is something I have personally been involved with for a few years now, as I am an advocate for preventing high school dropout situation. Tarzan’s childhood accident recovery account is a real – and moving – event in the life of a good friend of mine, who is now a successful movie star. In many aspects, Coma Story was fun and interesting for me to write. It was sometimes difficult having a life outside the book.

You’re an IT techie; how did you come to writing? Can you remember the first story you’ve ever written?

I started writing because I had to. I took up technical writing at my first job – documenting software features and compiling training materials. Subsequently, I started writing a lot. Then came dissertations, technical papers, online journals, collaborative blogs, wiki biographies and one fine day – books.

Can you tell us more about your first book “Land of Opportunity Forever”?

Sure. It’s a non-fiction book where I discuss social issues in the U.S. and its links to superpower status sustainability. Land of Opportunity Forever not only fetched me couple of awards but established me a as a social and current affairs author.

What is a typical working day for Stephen Thompson?

When I write, I actually spend most of my time researching with Internet and end up actually writing for a couple of hours. In any case my working day is usually not that organized, so let’s not even go there.

Finally, an off-topic question: you’ve found 100$, how will you use that money?

I would buy a bunch of copies of Land of Opportunity Forever and give them for free to teenagers at my book events and speaking engagements.

What are you working on right now? What about your plans?

Well, there are a couple of inspirational people, whom I am familiar with, I’d love to write biographies of. But it seems to be an extremely daunting task for now. So am sticking to my previous life’s profession and it’s going to be business book series; starting with Customer Service. I am not under any contact though.

Would you like to add something, Stephen?

I would like to thank you for this opportunity. I certainly enjoyed the interview.


“My Favorite…”

Author & Book: So many! It’s really hard for me to pick one.
Movie & TV Show: IRT Deadliest Roads
Food: Thai and ice-creams
City: I am not a big fan of cities in general, but I would have to say my favorite is Amstelveen, Holland.
My Idol: My parents
Music: Abba, 90’s and I love all kinds of Indian music.
Hobby: Golf and car shows
Place to write: Home
Motto: Get your parents dream for you and follow their dream.

“Tea or Coffee?”

Tea or Coffee? Tea of-course, with cream and sugar.
Saturday night. Disco & Restaurant or Home, Books & DVDs? Restaurant or at home.
Going on holidays. Beach or Mountains? None, though I can handle both.
Sleepy Little Town or Crazy Megalopolis? Crazy because we currently live in a kind of sleepy town. Both suit me.
Pick a DVD: Comedy or Drama? Whatever by daughter gets as I am not allowed to pick.
Like To Travel or Hate to Move? Like to travel and learning new things.
Sport Lover or Couch Potato? Proud to be a Couch Potato, though I do like to golf.
Leader or Follower? I would follow only if I trust.
Shy or Easy-going? I’m very easy-going.
Serious or Funny? Combination of both, but maybe a bit more funny.

Thank you Stephen!
You can learn more about Dr. Stephen M. Thompson and his books at: www.ComaStory.com


“Coma Story” review by Veronika Asks

Have you ever wondered what the Diego Garcia depopulation is? What do you know about the lives of the Chagossians, forced out of their island?

In “Coma Story”, Aldan Foy gets the opportunity to meet the victims of the Diego Garcia depopulation and get a glimpse of the destinies of the Chagossians. With the help of Diego Garcia native Tarzan, Aldan conspires to get back the Chagos Islands – without rioting and violence! And, as surprising as it may sound, the pacific fighters win…until Aldan emerges from coma and realizes his incredible project and victory were a lucid dream.

Stephen Thompson’s “Coma Story” helps shed some light on the Diego Garcia depopulation and introduces the reader to a wide range of colorful and sympathetic characters (my personal favorite is Tarzan). The novel gives us the opportunity to learn more about this historical event and travel to Mauritius and Diego Garcia with Aldan and Tarzan. An interesting read for those who want to know more about lucid dreaming – and fight every day, whatever it takes.

Acclaimed author Anne Fine talks about writing, editing and getting published. The Carnegie Medal winner shares her views on the publishing market, book competitions and movie adaptations.

Dear Anne, thank you for visiting me on “Veronika Asks”! If you could describe yourself – and your books – with three adjectives…
Me: Impatient, curious, restless
My books: Cruel, funny, unsettling

What are you working on right now?
A comedy for children of 8-11 – the third in my Mountfield Family Series (following on from The More the Merrier, and Eating Things on Sticks).

How did you come to writing? Can you remember the first story you’ve ever written?
At Northampton High School for Girls, in the upper thirds, I and my best friend Gillian wrote a book called Agatha the Witch. We took turns to write chapters in a French Vocabulary book, and the English teacher allowed us to read each episode out on Monday mornings at the beginning of our lesson. Alas, the book has been lost, and I can remember nothing of the story.

How did you break into the publishing world? How much time did you spend looking for an agent or publisher?
I didn’t even know about agents. I sent my first book off to two publishers. The first sent it back saying they did not publish children’s books (clearly, I’d never heard of the Writers’ and Artists’ Year Book, either). The second sent a really positive letter, regretting that my book wasn’t quite right for their list. I thought she was just being polite, and threw the typescript under my bed. Two years later I fished it out to submit it for the Guardian/Puffin Kestrel Award, and was runner up after Jan Mark. Both our careers started with that prize because, at the prize ceremony, the agent Gina Pollinger asked if she could represent me. She sold the book to Methuen Children’s Books a few months later. So I am a huge fan of competitions.

Your views on the evolution of the publishing market: was it easier – or, on the contrary, more difficult – to get published in the 80’s and 90’s? What do you think of ebooks? Are paperbacks meant to die?
I truly have no idea about the first book – though I do believe that a really, really first rate first book will still finally find a publisher. But I do guess that since established novelists are finding it harder and harder to get almost automatic publication of further works, it must be more difficult than ever to find a first publisher. It’s obvious that ebooks are storming away (tellingly, this year I took a flight from Manchester to Los Angeles, on which most readers had printed books; then a further flight up to Seattle on which the majority of readers were reading from screens). I don’t for a moment think paperbacks will die. But I do suspect they will turn much more into Print on Demand, because of the total collapse of the range in bookshops.

Authors often complain about editors “butchering” their manuscripts. What about you? Do you have complaints or did you get used to it?
When I was much younger, I had a copy editor for my third book (The Stone Menagerie) whose plan was clearly to rewrite my book in the way she herself would have written it. Luckily the commissioning editor took my side. I take enormous care to edit myself as well as I can before I submit anything, and so my in-house editors tend to go very easy, and I appreciate their input as it usually airbrushes out mistakes and infelicities and therefore improves the book. Currently I am delighted with the skills of the editors in all of the publishing houses I use (that, I admit, is unusual; but it is true. I don’t know if I’m currently just lucky). I do hear horror stories. On the other hand, I read so many books that seem to me to cry out for stricter editing that I might be on the publisher’s side more often than many of my author friends might imagine….

Do you pay attention to bad reviews? How do you handle criticism?
If it’s dishonest (misquoting, axe-grinding etc), stupid (e.g. “I did not like this book because I did not like anyone in it”) or wrong (“Children don’t want to read about this sort of thing”) then I have learned to ignore it. If it puts a finger on a real weakness in your book that you yourself were trying to pretend wasn’t there, it really hurts. Since they are so much longer and can therefore be more thoughtful, I tend to find the foreign reviews – particularly of my adult novels – well worth reading and often useful.

Did you improve your writing skills (attending classes or reading special books)?
No. But I did have superb English teachers at school. And I do read a lot of excellent novels.

What is a typical working day for Anne Fine?
Wake up. Make tea. Back to bed. Press ahead (pencil and rubber). Drain teapot. Get up. Breakfast. Walk dog. Type up earlier scribblings on computer. Correct, correct, correct. Quick lunch. Walk dog. Do office work. Read in bath. Supper. Walk dog. Go to bed.
A typical ‘event’ day is just alarm clocks, trains, rain, clockwatching, heavy bag carrying, more trains. (Grim.)

Could you describe “the making of a novel”?
Not really. Before I start, I have a sort of vision of what the book will be like. The instant I begin, the work seems to depart entirely from my mental template. I struggle through. Surprisingly, at the end, I can often look back and the book mirrors my original intention far more than I would have thought possible.

Do you have writing secrets or tips for aspiring authors?
Guess the maximum length of the book. Keep a chart of thousands of words written (like a child’s chart of days to the end of term). It takes so long to finish a book that it is encouraging to cross the stages to the end off one by one. It reminds you the task is finite.

You are a fellow of the “Royal Society of Literature”. What was your reaction? Did you use Byron’s pen or Dickens’ quill to inscribe your name on the official roll?
I took it as a tremendous compliment. I used Byron’s pen.

Do you have a favorite book among your own works?
Of the adult novels I love Raking the Ashes best. And for the books for younger  people, it’s a toss up between How To Write Really Badly and Up on Cloud Nine (both for personal, rather than literary reasons).

The famous movie “Mrs. Doubtfire” is based on your satirical novel ‘Madame Doubtfire”. Were you involved in the making of the movie?
Not at all. I don’t really like working with other people much, so I left the whole thing to the film makers. All I asked was that they would not make the children bratty, and they did indulge me in that.

Are you satisfied with the result?
If a book has paid off your mortgage, it’s rude to criticize – especially if you yourself chose to have nothing to do with it. Let’s just say it’s not the film I would have made. The tone and the circumstances of the book are very different. Essentially, the filmmakers paid for the ‘ex-husband dressing up as his own children’s nanny’ idea – and a few of my jokes (And if I’d made the film, probably no one would ever have heard of it).

Finally, my favorite off-topic question: you’ve found £100, how will you use that money?
Half to Sight Savers (I dread, absolutely dread, perhaps one day not being able to read). And half going out for dinner.

What about your plans?
As usual, I plan to take a few weeks off, go on holiday with Richard, lounge on a beach, etc etc. As usual, I have started another comedy for young children.

“My Favorite…”

Author: Tolstoy
Book: Middlemarch
Movie & TV Show: McCabe and Mrs Miller. Have I Got News for You
Food: Avocados
City: Melbourne
Music: Bach
Hobby: Reading
Place to write: Bed
Motto: Never trouble trouble till trouble troubles you.
Idol: Andrew Carnegie

“Tea or Coffee?”

Tea or Coffee? Tea (except mid morning, when coffee).
Saturday night. Disco & Restaurant or Home, Books & DVDs? Disco & Restaurant
Going on holidays. Beach or Mountains? Beach
Sleepy Little Town or Crazy Megapolis? I say megapolis because I already live in a sleepy little town and really, really fancy a change.
Pick a DVD: Comedy or Drama? Comedy
Like To Travel or Hate to Move? Hate to move.
Sport Lover or Couch Potato? Couch potato
Leader or Follower? Well, I’m bossy. So Leader, I suppose (though I’d hate to have to do it).
Shy or Easy-going? Easy-going.
Serious or Funny? Strangely, serious. But I’ll fall in love with anyone who can make me laugh.

Thank you, Anne!
Anne Fine’s official website: http://annefine.co.uk/

Kelley ArmstrongBest-selling author Kelley Armstrong answers my questions about writing, werewolves and the Women of the Otherworld and tells us more about her upcoming books…

Hi Kelley, thank you for being on “Veronika Asks” for the October special! First, would you please introduce yourself to our readers? How would you describe yourself in three words?
I’m the author of the “Women of the Otherworld” paranormal suspense series, “Darkest Powers”  YA urban fantasy trilogy, and the Nadia Stafford crime series.  I grew up in Ontario, Canada, where I still live with my family.  A former computer programmer, I’ve now escaped my corporate cubicle and hope never to return.
How would I describe myself in three words?  Averse to normality.

“Frostbitten”, the tenth novel in the “Women of the Otherworld” series is on stores this month. Can you tell us more about it?
It returns to my first and most popular heroine, werewolf Elena Michaels.  Together with her husband, she goes to Alaska to warn a young werewolf that he’s in trouble…and gets into a whole lot of trouble herself.

Can we have a few tiny spoilers about the 11th “Otherworld” book? Some hints, maybe…
It’s done, so I can give a few hints <grin>  The narrator is Savannah Levine, who has grown up over the course of the series, having first appeared in Stolen at the age of 12.  In book 11 (Waking the Witch) she’s 21 and gets her first investigation.

And in December 2009 comes out “Angelic”, a short novella (in limited edition!)… What is it about, why a novella and why in limited edition?
I don’t get a lot of opportunity to publish novellas and I have a lot of ideas that just aren’t novel length.  The requests I get are for anthologies where they want a specific theme, meaning I can’t use one of my ideas!  With Subterranean Press, I get the chance to write about anything I want–in this case, it’s an Eve Levine story.  They do a fancy hardcover edition with four original full-colour illustrations, which is why it’s a limited edition. I did a short story for them last year and was thrilled with the result.

Why did you choose to write about witches, vampires and werewolves? How was the “Otherworld” series born?
I love writing paranormal fiction.  I’ve been fascinated by the supernatural since childhood.  When Bitten sold, the plan was to follow up with another stand-alone supernatural thriller.  Then my publishers suggested turning it into a series.  I loved the idea, but couldn’t imagine a whole series on Elena so I introduced other supernatural types in Stolen.

You’re now a New York Times bestselling author. Do you remember how it all started? Can you tell us more about your “Want my book published” quest?
I’ve been writing all my life.  In my twenties I started working on novels, and would sporadically send out query letters and sample chapters, but never got anything more than a form letter rejection. When I finished Bitten, I had an instructor look at it, to see how well I was progressing.  He offered to recommend it to an agent, and things happened very quickly from there.  Within a couple of months I went from being unpublished to having multiple book contracts.  So it was a long empty road, with a very quick stop at the end!

How do you explain such a success? Why do you think paranormal novels are so popular nowadays?
I wish I knew! I’ve heard many theories floated, but I suspect it’s just the cyclical nature of the medium.  Paranormal books come into fashion, then fade out, and after they’ve been gone a while, people are hungry for them again.

How do you work? Do you have a few rituals or habits that help you?
I don’t really have any rituals or habits.  That’s a necessity for me.  With a full household of husband, kids and pets, I need to be able to jump into writing at a moment’s notice.  If I could only write at certain times, under certain circumstances, I’d be in big trouble.  My basic routine is to start when they kids go to school and work (writing, editing, outlining, etc) until they come home, then get things like business done after dinner and on weekends.  It’s not a regular 9-to-5, Monday-to-Friday job–I can say that much!

What do you think is the perfect “paranormal fiction” cocktail?
I’m not sure there is one.  I know what works for me as a reader–fast-pacing, high action, humour, light romance and good world-building.

If you had a magic wand, how would you use it?
That’s one of those questions that requires a big answer, like the kind they give in beauty pageants.  Bring world peace, end world hunger…

I see there’s a Role Playing Game devoted to the “Otherworld”. If you could live in the “Otherworld”, who would you be?
Which character? None. LOL  There’s not one of my characters I’d trade lives with.  Now, if you forced me to become one, I’d pick Elena, mainly because we share a lot of superficial qualities–same age, similar educational background, Canadian, married, kids.

Is there a book you wish you’d written?
Oh, there are lots!  At least a few times a year, I pick up a book and think “I wish I could write like that.”  I know my strengths and weaknesses as a writer, and I envy anyone whose strengths are my weaknesses.

What are you working on right now?
I just finished my fourth young adult novel, and I’m currently proofreading the third–The Reckoning–which comes out in May.

Do you want to add something (or perhaps wish a happy Halloween to our readers? While we’re at it, do you celebrate it and how?)?
Yes, a huge Happy Halloween to all.  It’s always been a favourite holiday of mine.  I used to decorate my parents’ house with a front yard cemetery, tableau in the garage etc.  Unfortunately, where I live now, we’re lucky to get one trick-or-treater a year–it’s a rural area and religiously conservative (many kids don’t go out for Halloween)

Finally, the “Nothing-to-do-with-books-question”: you’ve found $100, how will you use your newly acquired money?
Books of course!


“Favorite…”

Author & Book: Richard Adams, Watership Down
Movie & TV show: The Princess Bride, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Food: Cheesecake
City: Montreal
Music: Just regular top-forties rock/pop
Hobby: Reading!
Place to write: Curled up in a recliner
Quote or Motto: Mae West quote: When choosing between two evils, I always like to try the one I’ve never tried before.


“Tea or Coffee?”

Tea or Coffee? Coffee.
Saturday night. Disco & Restaurant or Home, Books & DVDs? Home with books and DVDs
Going on holidays. Beach or Mountains? Mountains
Sleepy Little Town or Crazy Megapolis? Hmmm, prefer rural life, but if it had to be urban, I’d go with the big city
Pick a DVD: Comedy or Weepy Drama? Not really keen on either…
Like To Travel or Hate to Move? Both.  I like travelling for business/pleasure, but I don’t like moving permanently
Sport Lover or Couch Potato? Couch potato
Leader or Follower? Leader (I’m bossy)
Shy or Easy-going? Shy
Serious or Funny? Both

Thank you, Kelley!
You can learn more about Kelley Armstrong and her books at http://kelleyarmstrong.com/

Rachel CaineBest-selling author Rachel Caine answers my questions about vampires, music and Halloween memories and tells us more about her upcoming books & scary urban legends…

Hi Rachel, welcome on “Veronika Asks” for the October special! Would you please say a few words about yourself?
Thanks for having me here, Veronika! I’m very honored.
About myself: a former editor (and current bestselling author!) has described me as “the most together crazy person you’ll ever meet.” That pretty much sums me up, I think. I’ve been writing professionally since 1991, and I started writing when I was 14 years old, mostly stories for my friends. I still have a day job, and I write about a million words a year on my own books and stories. That pretty much sums me up.

How would you describe yourself (then your books) with three words?
Me: crazy, meet normal
My books: normal, meet crazy

You’re Taurus, aren’t you? It is written in the stars that they are usually patient and warmhearted, but also possessive and inflexible. Did the stars get their facts straight about you? Are you a typical Bull?
Hmmm, half right? I think I’m pretty patient (mostly) and warmhearted (mostly), but I’m really not very possessive, and I don’t think too many people would think of me as inflexible. Unless Gumby is inflexible.

Can you tell us more about your “Morganville Vampires” series? “Fade Out”, book seven in the series, will be out in November 09. Can you spill a few secrets? How many books can we expect in the series?
Secrets … Oh, we still have a few of those in Morganville, for sure! And Claire & Co. are about to trip right over one of them, in the form of Kim, Eve’s new friend. Kim’s not new to Morganville, but she is new to our little group of friends, and she brings a whole new kind of crazy to the mix. For one thing, she maybe kind of still has a crush on Shane. For another, she’s got her own plan on how to get out of Morganville — and it won’t be pretty. Currently the publisher has agreed to nine books in the series, but I’m hoping that we’ll continue on even past that. Can’t swear to it, though.

Nowadays, many authors write about vampires, werewolves, shapeshifters. Why did you pick vampires? Do you think they are now a part of Pop Culture?
I started writing vampires back in the old Anne Rice days, so I’m sort of a holdover, you know? But vampires have been part of the literary and stage scene since the late 1800s, so in a sense they’ve been around a whole lot longer than many people realize. And part of the reason is that they’re so adaptable. Vampires used to represent the unknown, death, decay — real horror. By the time Dracula was written, vampires were more about how the Victorians viewed sex and lust. By the 1970s they were starting to become more of the dark, brooding hero that’s become so popular — but vampires split off into even more of a horror vein too. By the 1980s you could find good guy AND bad guy vampires side by side on the shelves. These days, the romantic vampire is still more popular, but I kind of enjoy playing with the bad-guy vampires, too. 🙂

So to sum up … ah, yes. I think vampires are here to stay.

How do you work? Do you have some rituals or habits that help you?
I have to have music. Headphones, preferably, and I tend to put together custom playlists for each book that helps me get through the rough patches. I like to write early in the mornings, and luckily, my local Starbucks opens at 5:30, so I hit that before I go in to my office at 8:30. On weekends, I work at writing until noon, maybe longer if I’m on a tight deadline.

You’ve been a musician before you started writing books (Rachel played with legends Peter Nero and Henry Mancini, to name a few). Why did you switch to writing?
Both writing and music are really, really time consuming as part-time occupations … and I just didn’t have enough time to be good at both of them. I didn’t really want to compromise what I loved, so I decided to give up the music and go with the writing. Seemed like a bad choice at first, but I think I might have done okay with it. 🙂

Was the road to the publishing house quick and easy or long and tiring?
Er … can it be both? Because it really was. I got very lucky and published my first four books pretty easily, but then things got a little hard. I hadn’t really sold a lot of copies, so I had to rethink what I was doing and figure out a better way to do it. I went through three publishers before I started really having success, with the Weather Warden novels.

If you could give only one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?
Be patient. This isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon; you’ll have setbacks, and lots of days it’ll seem like there’s no reason to get up in the morning. But if you’re dedicated, luck may find you!

I’ve read that you returned to a full-time job in 2008. You’re “Director of Corporate Communications for a large multinational company”. How can you cope with a full-time job and several novels a year (I count five of them for 2009!)? What is the secret?
Becoming REALLY boring. Seriously. I get up, I write, I go to work, I go home, I return email, and I rinse and repeat. Every once in a while I have to sleep in and get 8 whole hours of sleep, but normally I’m squeaking by on 6 or so, which is not a thing I recommend as a lifestyle.

The secret really is to have an understand family AND an understanding company to work for. Because it really takes both for this to work.

If you had a magic wand or if a genie granted you three wishes, what would you wish for? If you could be turned into a fantasy character, who would you be?
Funny you should ask that, since I write about genies (or Djinn) in two of my series! I think I’d wish to be aging in reverse, like Benjamin Button. Because by the time I got to my hottie years, I’d actually know what to do with them. Either that, or world peace. But probably that first thing.

If you could trade places with anybody for one day, who would that be?
That would really depend on the day! But most days, I think I’m pretty happy where I am. I like visiting other people, but I wouldn’t want to be them!

Do you celebrate Halloween and if you do, how? Do you have a best/worst memory related to Halloween you’d like to share?
Best Halloween ever was working in a big haunted house, with lots of secret passages; I got to dress up and be a ghost and scare people. I like BEING scared a whole lot less. That brings me to my worst Halloween memory, when I got taken on a horror ride at an amusement park and ended up hysterical. They had to shut down the ride to take me off. EMBARRASSING!

I’ve heard you just love movies. Can you advise us a few good Halloween flicks?
ALIEN and ALIENS still scare me. Oh, and THE RING. For good vampire films, how about BLADE and LET THE RIGHT ONE IN … I love them for entirely different reasons.

Talking about that, do you have some favourite Halloween-themed books?
Shirley Jackson’s HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE. And Stephen King’s SALEM’S LOT.

What are you working on right now?
I’m finishing up Book 8 of the Morganville Vampires series, KISS OF DEATH! I also have a short story to do soon.

Do you want to add something, Rachel?
I get a lot of questions about whether Morganville will ever become a film or TV show; I can tell you that it’s been optioned by a producer, and we’re working on it, but it’s never a sure thing. Keep your fingers crossed!

Simply can’t do without the “Nothing-to-do-with-books-question”: you’ve found $100, how will you use your newly acquired money?
Give $15 to five different people. And have lunch.


“Favorite…”

Author & Book: Roger Zelazny’s Amber series
Movies: Silverado
TV shows: Firefly
Food: Indian food
City: London
Music: Blues rock, baby. Joe Bonamassa!
Hobbies: Uh … does email count?
Place to write: Coffee shop
Quote or Motto: “No matter where you go … there you are.” Buckaroo Banzai.

“Tea or Coffee?”

Tea or Coffee? COFFEEEEEEEEEE. Preferably, mocha.
Saturday night. Disco & Restaurant or Home, Books & DVDs? Home, Books & DVDs!
Going on holidays. Beach or Mountains? Mountains!
Sleepy Little Town or Crazy Megapolis? Crazy Megapolis all the way, baby.
Pick a DVD: Comedy or Weepy Drama? Argh. Can’t things blow up? Probably weepy drama, then.
Like To Travel or Hate to Move? Love to travel!
Sport Lover or Couch Potato? Couch potato, sadly
Leader or Follower? Depends on the movement. 🙂
Shy or Easy-going? Can’t be too shy in this business!
Serious or Funny? Yes.

Thank you, Rachel!
You can learn more about Rachel Caine and her books at http://www.rachelcaine.com

Rachel’s Reading List for Halloween
Stephen King’s SALEM’S LOT
Shirley Jackson’s HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE

Laurie Faria StolarzAcclaimed author (“Blue is for Nightmares” and “Deadly Little Lies” series) Laurie Faria Stolarz answers my questions about Wicca, Salem and writing and tells us more about her upcoming books & scary urban legends…

Hi Laurie, welcome to “Veronika Asks” for the October special! Would you please say a few words about yourself? Could you describe yourself (then your books) with three words?
I’m laid back, motivated, and perceptive.  For my books: suspenseful, humorous, romantic.

“Deadly Little Lies” will be out in November 2009. Can you reveal a few spoilers about those little lies (tell the truth!)?
There are so many lies in DEADLY LITTLE LIES.  Just when you think you know who’s telling the truth, you find out that person might be lying.  I’m really excited about the release.  I think fans of DEADLY LITTLE SECRET will be pleased with this latest installment of the TOUCH SERIES.  There are tons of twists and turns and a romantic triangle develops.

You wrote the bestselling series “Blue is for Nightmares”. Can you pitch it in a few lines, to spark the interest of those who haven’t read it yet?
The BLUE IS FOR NIGHTMARES SERIES centers around Stacey Brown, a 16-year-old hereditary Witch who experiences premonitions about the fate of herself and her friends.  She uses folk magic as a way to bring those premonitions to fruition, so she can stop the impending danger before it’s too late.

The graphic novel “Black is for Beginnings” is in bookstores since September 2009. What can we except from Stacey and her friends in this new addition to the series? Will there be another book?
When my editor approached me with the idea of writing a graphic novel, I was very intrigued because it gave me the opportunity to not only try something new, but to really picture the book as a movie.  I have a background in screenwriting and wrote BLACK IS FOR BEGINNINGS in screenplay format, adding in ideas for illustrations and sidebars.  It was an absolute thrill to write, and to have the opportunity to work with an illustrator for these characters and situations I’d created.  BLACK IS FOR BEGINNINGS does not take the place of a regular prose novel in the series.  It is a companion piece, complimenting the entire series as a whole.  It picks up where RED IS FOR REMEMBRANCE left off, and also shows some fan-favorite scenes from the entire series.  As for another book in the series, I’m not sure yet.  I’m open to the idea, so we’ll see.  A spin-off or companion series could also be fun.

You were born in Salem (who doesn’t know about the Salem Witch Trials?). Is there a connection between your hometown and your writing?
Yes and no.  I first started BLUE IS FOR NIGHTMARES in an adolescent fiction writing workshop in graduate school.  I knew I wanted to write a mystery/thriller. I loved suspense novels as a young adult and I really wanted to write something that would have appealed to me at that age, adding in elements of humor, romance, and drama. When I started the novel, I had no idea I would delve into the world of magic and witchcraft – that is until I did a free-writing exercise in my workshop class.  I wrote a scene in which Stacey, my main character, was meditating in front of a blue candle. Students in my class suggested that since Stacey had a candle, and since I’m originally from Salem, I make her a practicing Wiccan.

A very predictable question for an author writing about magic: do you believe in magic, witches and supernatural powers?
Having been raised in Salem, MA, and having done a lot of research on Witchcraft, I do have a lot of respect for the Wiccan religion.  Growing up, it was really no big deal to have practicing Wiccans in class with you in school.  They’re normal people, with normal jobs, who go about their normal lives.  It’s a major religion in Salem, and people take it very seriously.  I think Salem’s biggest influence on me is that I’m open to that.  But, no, I am not a Witch and do not practice magic, though I do love home remedies and lighting an occasional soy candle.

When did you start writing? Was the road to the publishing house quick and easy or long and tiring?
I tried selling my first novel BLUE IS FOR NIGHTMARES for over two years before I finally found an editor who was willing to work with me.  That editor, Megan Atwood, though no longer at Llewellyn Publications, was really excited about the project and so I knew I was in good hands.

Finding a suitable agent or editor is a full-time pursuit and luckily I didn’t give up – even 50 rejection letters later.  When I was trying to sell, I kept a log detailing to whom I had sent my work, what exactly I had sent (i.e. a query letter, sample pages, the full manuscript), how long he or she had kept it, and what the outcome was.

My favorite rejection letter came from an editor who said: “While this is an interesting project, I do not feel it is strong enough to compete in today’s competitive young adult market.” That same young adult novel (Blue is for Nightmares) has sold over 150,000 copies, was named a Reluctant Reader Quick Pick through the American Library Association, a Popular Paperback, was nominated for YALSA’s Top Ten Teen pick list, and has been translated into a dozen different languages.  When I speak to young people and aspiring writers, I always tell them this story, that if I had stopped persevering, I may never have been able to enjoy the success of my work.

How do you work? Do you have some rituals or habits? What about the writer’s block?
I don’t have any rituals or habits, except that when I’m on deadline, I write at least 10 pages per week.

As for writer’s block, I don’t allow myself to get it.  Whenever I get stuck in my writing, I grab a notebook and pen, and get away from the computer.  I start taking notes on my work in progress – where I am in my story, what I know for sure, and where I need to be.  I remind myself of my main character’s motivations and obstacles, and try to think of new and interesting ways to throw my reader off track.

Catastrophe scenario: imagine you wake up tomorrow and find out you’re not an author anymore. What will you do?
I love health and nutrition.  I think I might go back to school to become out a holistic nutritionist.  I’d also take a trip to Maui.

If you had a faerie in a bottle granting you three wishes, what would you ask for?
To end suffering, poverty, and intolerance.

Do you know a scary urban legend you’d like to share?
Yes, when I was writing PROJECT 17, I did a ton of research on the former Danvers State Hospital, the abandoned mental institution on which the novel is based.  When I was in high school, the hospital would get broken into on a regular basis.  Kids would go up there at night, searching for adventure.  The hospital, now mostly condos, is rumored to have been haunted as a result of all the suffering that went on there.  The hospital was also built on the land where Judge Hathorne’s, (the judge for the Salem Witch Trials), house had been.  I spoke with a psychic claiming to have gone to Danvers to do a séance shortly after it’d been closed down.  According to her, when she climbed the main steps of the Kirkbride Building, she got violently ill, completely disturbed by what she’d sensed.

If you could trade places with anybody for one day, who would that be?
Seriously?  My cat.  She sleeps for most of the day, stops for a little playtime, eats really well, and gets lots of attention.

Do you celebrate Halloween? If you do, how? Can you remember your best/worst Halloween memory? Who would go as this year?
Yes, I celebrate by taking my kids trick-o’-treating.  We hit the retirement home first, and then make our way around the neighborhood.  We decorate the house with faux-cobwebs, spiders, a black cauldron that gives off fog, and jack-o’-lanterns.  We also play scary music that blares out the windows, so passersby can hear.  My worst Halloween story?  I spent the evening in Salem – it’s like Mardi Gras in Salem on Halloween.  Some guy wearing a Michael Myers hockey mask (from the movie Halloween) followed me all over the city.  He never said a word and I couldn’t get away from him.

Could you advise some good Halloween-themed reads for those who want to feel All Hallow’s Eve magic during whole October?
Anything by Stephen King.

What are you working on next? Do you wish to add something, Laurie?
I’m currently working on DEADLY LITTLE GAME, the third book in the TOUCH SERIES.  I’m also working on DO YOU SEE, the third book in the Amanda Project.

I’d like to also inform readers about the contest I’m currently running, the winner of which could have their creative writing critiqued by my editor.

BLACK IS FOR BEGINNINGS CONTEST – DEADLINE OCTOBER 15TH

1.  Go get yourself a copy of BLACK IS FOR BEGINNINGS.
2.  Read it.
3.  Come up with a playlist of at least 10 songs based on BLACK IS FOR BEGINNINGS. The songs can be of any music genre and of any time period you feel is most suitable (feel free to mix things up).  Send the list, along with a brief explanation for each song, as to why you think it’s a good fit for the book, to: lauriestolarz@yahoo.com.  Winning entries will reflect an understanding of the book’s themes, characters, issues, scenes, and overall story.  The winning playlist will appear on my site, along with your first name.

FORMAT: Your entries should appear like this:  “Name of Song” by “Artist.”  I chose this song because it reminds me of the scene where Stacey blah, blah, blah…
DEADLINE: Midnight, EST, October 15, 2009.
NOTIFICATION: Winners will be notified no later than November 1st, 2009.
PRIZE: The winner of the contest will get to have up to ten pages of his or her creative writing, (12-point font, double-spaced, standard margins), critiqued by Brian Farrey, my amazing and talented acquisitions editor at Llewellyn/Flux Publications (the publisher of my BLUE IS FOR NIGHTMARES series).
ALTERNATE PRIZE: If you are not a creative writer and would prefer an alternate prize, my publisher is having some BLACK IS FOR BEGINNINGS apparel made up (we’re thinking it might be a T-shirt or sweatshirt – details coming soon).  It’ll have a graphic from “BLACK” on there, and if you’d like I can autograph it for you.

TOUCH SERIES CONTEST COMING SOON

Also, I will be announcing a TOUCH SERIES contest very soon, the winner of which will get a minor character in DEADLY LITTLE GAME, the third book in the TOUCH SERIES named after him or her.  Details coming soon, so please keep checking my website: www.lauriestolarz.com

And here comes the “Nothing-to-do-with-books-question” I’ve been asking for three years: you’ve found $100, how will you use your newly acquired money?
I’d use it toward a day at the spa. It’s been way too long since I’ve treated myself to a seaweed wrap and massage.

“Favorite…”

Author & Book: Can’t pick just one, but one of my favorite books of all time is The Awakening by Kate Chopin.  As for what I’m reading at the moment, I’m currently on an Ellen Hopkins spree.
Movies: Never Been Kissed, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Juno, Green Card, Once, The Devil Wears Prada, Bridget Jones Diary, Thelma & Louise, Mean Girls, Moonstruck, Clueless, Under the Tuscan Sun, and anything with John Cusack.
TV shows: The Hills, The City, Real Housewives of (wherever), The Real World, America’s Next Top Model, and Supernatural.
Food: Indian food – onion chutney, curried vegetables, and kashmir bread. I also love cheeseless pizza from Bertucci’s.
City: Paris.
Music: Fergie, James Blunt, Tori Amos, Sting, Sarah MacLachlin, Gwen Stefani, Black-eyed Peas, Gavin Rossdale
Hobbies: Walking, napping, cooking, shopping, interior decorating.
Place to write in:  My office.
Quote or Motto: Perseverance is key.

“Tea or Coffee?”

Tea or Coffee? Coffee.  Bold and black.
Saturday night. Disco & Restaurant or Home, Books & DVDs? Restaurant with friends.
Going on holidays. Beach or Mountains? Beach.
Sleepy Little Town or Crazy Megapolis? Crazy Megapolis.
Pick a DVD: Comedy or Weepy Drama? Depends on my mood.
Like To Travel or Hate to Move? Like to travel.
Sport Lover or Couch Potato? Wannabe couch potato who does dance-aerobics, yoga, Pilates, and plays tennis.  I do love my potato time, though.
Leader or Follower? Leader.
Shy or Easy-going? Easy-going.
Serious or Funny? Both.

Thank you, Laurie!
You can learn more about Laurie Faria Stolarz and her books at http://www.lauriestolarz.com

Laurie’s Reading List for Halloween
Anything by Stephen King.

Darren ShanBest-selling horror author (think about the “Saga of Darren Shan” or “Demonata” series) Darren Shan answers my questions about vampires, horror and writing – and tells us more about his upcoming movie…

Hi Darren, thank you for visiting me on “Veronika Asks” for the October special! Would you please introduce yourself to our readers? How would you describe yourself (then your works) with three words?
I’m the author of horror books for teenagers (primarily) and adults (previously as D B Shan, although they are to be rebranded as Darren Shan books from this point forward). My books are on sale in close to 40 countries around the world, and have sold somewhere in the region of 13 million copies, give or take.

Me — light, happy, genial.
My books — dark, twisted, demented.

“Hell’s Heroes”, the tenth book in the “Demonata” series, is out this month (October 2009). Can you share a few spoilers (what is the “Demonata” series about, by the way)?
The Demonata is a ten book series about demons. The backdrop to the overall story is that there is a parallel universe to ours, populated entirely by demons. They have been biting away at humanity for thousands of years, but are now posied to break through and wipe us out. Three teenagers have the power to stop them. Sounds cliched and straightforward, doesn’t it? But trust me, it isn’t! Hell’s Heroes is the final book in the series, when everything hits the fan!

“The Vampire’s Assistant”, (a movie blending the first three books of “The Saga of Darren Shan” together), is due to be released on October 23, 2009. Have you already seen it and were you fully involved in the project?
I wasn’t involved in the film in any real way. I did read through the script just before they started shooting, and made some suggestions, a few of which they heeded, but for the most part this is writer-director Paul Weitz’s baby, a re-imagining and re-invention of the story told in the books. It makes all sorts of major changes, so it isn’t a fiathful adaptation, but I have seen it and I do like it. As much as they changed, it keeps the dark, twisted, freakish elements of the books, which for me was the most important thing.

You said you started writing when you were fourteen years old. Were you already writing horror, fantasy and dark comedies then? Why did you pick the horror genre?
Yes, my work has almost always been focused on matters dark and grisly, although I have written some lighter books in my time. I didn’t pick the horror genre — it’s just what I was naturally drawn to. I always think it’s a matter of simple tastes. Some people like steak, some prefer pork. Some people like romance, some prefer horror.

Why do you think people are so fond of horror stories? How do you explain your success?
I think for the same reason they like roller coasters — it’s scary, but safe. We get a buzz from being scared, an adrenalin rush. As long as that happens in a safe, controlled environment, that can be hugely enjoyable.

Do you plan on writing something non-horror related? Or, to say it another way, if you had to choose between writing in another genre or not at all, what would you pick?
I’ve written all sorts of books, many of which have yet to see print. Fantasy and sci-fi themes crop up in most of them, but I’ve written some straight-up thrillers too, a direction I might be exploring a bit further in my adult books over the next few years.

I understood, from online articles (and your Wikipedia page, for that matter), that your first books weren’t really successful. What made you start over, write a new book, send it again, in one word: fight?
I didn’t actually start over. I spend an average of 2 to 3 years working on any one book, but I juggle several books around at the same time. So, I might work on a first draft of a book this month, the third draft of a different book next month, and the final draft of yet another book the month after that. My first book to be published was for adults. It picked up some decent reviews, but didn’t sell very well. But I’d already written and sold the first few of my vampire books for children while waiting for it to be published, so it wasn’t a case of failing with one type of book and then trying another — both were created during the same time period. My children’s book took off — my adult books didn’t. Although they’ve sold significantly better since they were republished recently!

You said you own thousands of films. Which movies can we find in Darren Shan’s collection?
Just about everything. I have over 4000 films in my collection, from short silent films made around the turn of the 20th century, to classic Hollywood productions of the 30s and 40s, to modern blockbusters, to foreign-language films, to… I’m not too fond of true-life made-for-TV dramas, but I’ll give just about anything else a go.

How do you work? Do you have special rituals or habits that help you? Is the writer’s block a problem?
I’ve never had writer’s block, though some books certainly do come easier than others. An idea can come from anywhere. I’ll play around with it until I’m ready to start writing (that can be anything from a couple of days to several years), then jot down a brief synopsis of the book. Then I’ll usually break it down into chapters, to give myself a firm starting point. Then I sit down at my PC and write an average of 10 pages a day until the first draft is finished. After that, I’ll usually leave it alone for several months, go and work on other books. Then I’ll do an edit, leave it for a while, work on other books, return and do another edit, etc. I’ll usually do at least 6 or 7 edits of a book before I’m happy with it.

If you could be a hero or a creature from one of your books, who would you be? For that matter, if you had to choose, would you be an Evil Fighter or a Dark Creature?
Well, my first series for kids, The Saga of Darren Shan, was based on a character who shared my name, and who might indeed (if you read the series all the way to the end) actually BE me, so in a way I already AM a hero from my books! 🙂

If you had a special power, what would it be and why?
The power to eat as much as I liked and never put on any weight!

What about your projects?
Next up is a one-off fantasy book called The Thin Executioner. Then a four-book series about Mr Crepsley, the main adult vampire from my vampire series, telling his back-story.

Do you want to add something (or perhaps wish a happy Halloween to our readers? And while we’re at it, do you celebrate it and how?)?
I’ll be celebrating Halloween in Orlando this year, and checking out their Cirque Du Freak scare zone in the Uuniversal Halloween Horror Nights theme park — I’m intrigued to see what it will be like!

And of course, I can’t do without the “Nothing-to-do-with-books-question”: you’ve found $100, how will you use your newly acquired money?
Buy some more films, probably!


“Favorite…”

Author & Book: Stephen King. The Secret Garden.
Movie & TV show: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly. Boys From The Blackstuff.
Food: Sweet & Sour chicken.
City: London.
Music: Pixies.
Hobby: Collecting art.
Place to write: My office.
Quote or Motto: Don’t let the bastards grind you down!!


“Tea or Coffee?”

Tea or Coffee? Neither — I’m a hot chocolate man!
Saturday night. Disco & Restaurant or Home, Books & DVDs? Usually home, watching a movie.
Going on holidays. Beach or Mountains? Mountains.
Sleepy Little Town or Crazy Megapolis? Both — I live in the countryside in Ireland, but have a flat at the heart of London, and I love bouncing about between the two.
Pick a DVD: Comedy or Weepy Drama? Either, depending on my mood.
Like To Travel or Hate to Move? Love travelling, except when I’m in the middle of a first draft of a book, when I barely even stick my nose outside my front door.
Sport Lover or Couch Potato? I like watching soccer, but I don’t play any sports.
Leader or Follower? Leader.
Shy or Easy-going? Shy.
Serious or Funny? Seriously funny!!

Thank you, Darren!
You can learn more about Darren Shan and his books at http://www.darrenshan.com

Darren’s Reading List for Halloween
“Salem’s Lot” by Stephen King.
“The Books Of Blood” by Clive Barker.
“Let The Right One In” by John Ajvide Lindqvist.

Bertrice SmallBestselling and award-winning romance author Bertrice Small answers my questions about the romance genre and market and tells me more about her novels & favorites…

Hello Bertrice, thank you for taking the time to answer my questions! At first, a little bit of Astrology: you’re Sagittarius, aren’t you? The stars say they are usually intellectual and honest, but also careless and restless. Do you think you’re a typical Archer?

Yes, I am a Sagittarius.  We are outspoken creatures and say exactly what we think.  We are said to be intellectual, and we don’t tolerate fools easily. However we are loyal to those who are loyal to us. We like to travel, but we travel as much in our heads as we do in the world around us.  Careless is not a word I’ve ever heard used in relation to a Sagittarius.  Some of my best friends share this sign with me, notably Kathryn Falk, the founder and CEO of RT Book Reviews, Morgan Llywelyn, the best-selling author who is my anam cara, and author Virginia Henley.

Your latest book, “The Border Lord and the Lady”, will be published in October 2009. What is it about? Can you share a few secrets? Will there be another book in the “Border Chronicles” series?

The series known as “The Border Chronicles” has been distinguished not by a single family, but rather by 2 things. The Border country of Scotland, and the families who lived in it.  Book 4, THE BORDER LORD AND THE LADY is set in the early years of James I of Scotland, 15th century, and the book opens in 1424. I have a lovely video trailer on my website at www.BertriceSmall.com right now that gives you just a hint of the story.  Enough, I hope, to encourage people to purchase the book.  James I returned to Scotland after being held captive in England since his boyhood.  He returns with an English wife, Lady Joan Beaufort, and the young queen brings with her Lady Cicely Bowen, a girl with whom she has been raised.  Cicely is our heroine.  Desired by 2 men, a powerful Gordon laird, and a rough Border laird, she is kidnapped by the latter when the Gordons block his every attempt to court Cicely.  But of course with a Bertrice Small novel you can’t expect the usual storyline.  I love to twist and turn my plot before getting to that happy ending.  And yes, there will be 2 more books in “The Border Chronicles.”

How and when did you start writing? What sparked the idea for “The Kadin”, your first novel? Finally, why the romance genre?
I wrote my first novel in rhyme when I was 13.  It was about an Inca princess who threw herself from the heights of Macchu Picchu rather than succumb to the advances of an evil Spanish conquistador.  LOL!  High drama for a little girl in convent school.  But I had been writing poetry since I was 7.  When I was in college I became friends with a girl from Turkey whose grandmother had  been in the harem of the last Ottoman sultan.  She had grown up with the tales her grandmother told, and since I had had a very close relationship with my own Irish grandmother, we shared the tales of our different ethnic heritages. That sparked my interest in Ottoman Turkey, and when I learned that the mother of Suleiman the Magnificent (also known as the Lawgiver) was a Western European by birth, and in her old age had been called Hafise, the wise one, I knew I had to write her story.  Since nothing else was known about her I did my research, and then let my imagination run wild.  However back when I wrote THE KADIN, the Romance genre as we know it today didn’t exist.  I wrote a Historical novel in the mold of Anya Seton, Taylor Caldwell, Jan Westcott, Frank Yerby.  I spent at least 2 years writing the novel, and another year re-writing it.

You said “The Kadin” sold very quickly. How many publishers did you send it to before hitting the right one? Is there a secret? Would you have carried on with your writing if it hadn’t sold that easily (let’s say, if it was unsold after two or three years)?
THE KADIN was sold to the first publisher it was given to, and that was G.P. Putnam’s Sons, a hardcover house.  It was February 1973.  However 6 months later the editor on the book, and the publisher got into a quarrel.  Long story short, he fired her, and cancelled the contracts on the three books on which she working.  My then agent loved the book, and believed it was a hardcover.  The original paperback novel was just coming into prominence then.  He insisted on taking THE KADIN to every hardcover house in the U.S. of A. at the time, and there were a lot of them.  They all said the same thing.  Unknown author. Too risky.  Finally 2 years later he did what I had been advising ever since we had lost the Putnam’s deal.  He took it to Nancy Coffey at Avon Books, and she bought it immediately.  And while he hauled the manuscript about, yes, I continued to write.  I finished LOVE WILD AND FAIR which was published the same year as THE KADIN.  If you’re a writer, you write.

What do you think makes a good romance novel? Could you share a piece of advice with aspiring (romance and non romance) authors?
The Romance genre is so varied today.  I think what makes a good novel in any genre is good writing, a story that keeps you turning the pages, and sympathetic characters that you can root for, or hate.  My only advice to aspiring writers is to believe in your work, but be willing to accept criticism, and act on it if the criticism is valid.  If it isn’t just keep going straight ahead.  There is no magic formula I regret to say.

A very strange thing happens to the romance genre: it’s always criticised for being samey and boring (not literature, some people say) and some romance author say they nearly have to “apologize” for writing it when asked about their job. But, at the same time, millions of copies are sold every year. What can you say about it? Would you try a different genre or will you stick with romance forever?
I write Romance in 3 sub-genres.  Historical, where I made my reputation. Fantasy which I very much enjoy because I can do as I please without the restraints of Planet Earth’s history; and I write Erotic Contemporary, my least favorite because I am not really a 20th or 21st century person.  I am proud to be considered one of the Romance genres “pioneers”.  I’ve never denied my genre. Those who bleat about real literature don’t get it.  These days literature is  divided into 2 catagories.  Fiction and non-fiction.  And fiction is divided into 2 sections.  Literary fiction which deals with serious or scholarly subject matter, and popular commercial fiction such as mystery, romance, thrillers, etc.  I find it interesting that romance, written predominently by the female of the species get criticized but the other fiction genres which are either all or half written by the male of the species is not. Hmmmm.  Can you spell jealousy?  After all we authors in the romance genre sell more books than all the other popular commercial fiction genres combined.  And yes, I will always write in the romance genre as long as my publishers want Bertrice Small novels.

Some authors like to write in Starbucks, others only handwrite. How do you work? Do you have some rituals or habits? What is a typical working day for Bertrice Small? What about the writer’s block?
I began writing with a clipboard, a yellow-lined legal pad and a BicClic ballpoint pen.  I switched to a typewriter half-way through UNCONQUERED when I realized my flow would go even faster.  I switched to a computer about 10 years ago  when I could no longer get ribbons for my IBM Quietwriter 7.  The PC I work on isn’t connected to the internet.  Too many hackers for my taste.  I work 6 days a week from about 9:30 a.m. in the morning until about 7 p.m. in the evening with a break for dinner about 2 p.m.  I work about 50 weeks out of a year.  I’ve been fortunate in that I write steadily with some days slower than others, and other days so fast I can barely keep up.  3 pages a day, 50 weeks a year, will give you 936 written pages, enough for 2 or 3 novels.

Your books frequently appear on the New York Best-Seller list, you won countless awards and have millions of fans from all around the globe. Does being a famous novelist make it easier to work with publishers & editors? Or are you still constantly challenged?
I regret to disappoint.  Despite my many accomplishments I am not a celebrity or anywhere near famous.  I’m just a successful working author of popular commercial fiction, genre: romance.  The only real perk I get is the courtesy of having a minor bit of input on my cover which are very important to me.  I let my agent, Ethan Ellenberg, handle the publishers and any problems that may arise. I’ve always had a good working relationship with my editors over the years.

What do you like most in writing a romance novel?
What I like most about writing – and it could be any genre – is the ability to earn my living doing what I love best.

Would you like to see your books on screen? Or maybe a TV series (Bertrice Small’s Romances, for instance)? Why do you think there are so few movie adaptations of romance novels?
I would love to see my work on film, but only if it was done right.  A big “if” in Hollywood.  “The O’Malley Saga” and “Skye’s Legacy” series along with “The World of Hetar would make great television series.  But few movies or television series are made specifically for women.  And with historicals and fantasy there is the problem of transposing the fiction into a screenplay, and the expense of mounting such a production which is why I don’t think I’ll ever see one of my books done in that media format.

You’ve been writing romance novels since 1978. Do you think the readership evolved in any way since (were there more romance lovers before or did their number increase over the last years)?
I think the evolving of the romance genre into so many and varied sub-genres has brought more readers into our sphere.  Readers who had never before read a historical but who have read my fantasies or erotic contemporaries are then curious, and will check out my historicals.   But readers have their specific likes and dislikes.  The bigger the genre has become the more readers we have garnered, and we have kept our readers which is why the genre thrives.

Which other romance author would you recommend? Is there a book you wish you’d written?
I love the authors I grew up with in the 1950s and 1960s.  Anya Seton. Jan Westcott. Sergeanne Golon (the French husband/wife team who write the Angelique series). Taylor Caldwell.  Among today’s authors in this genre I am fond of Shirlee Busbee, Jennifer Blake, Roberta Gellis, Thea Divine and Barbara Bretton.  I’m also a huge Harry Potter fan.  Is there a book published that I wish I had written?  No.

If you weren’t a writer, who would you be?
Someone high up in a creative position in the television industry.

If you had a faerie in a bottle granting you three wishes, what would you ask for?
More time. Good health. And success for my son, Thomas.

And here is the famous “Nothing-to-do-with-books-question”: you’ve found $100, how will you use your newly acquired money?
Put it in the church poor box.

What are you working on right now? What’s next on your “to do” list?
I’ve just begun the next book in “The Border Chronicles”, THE BORDER VIXEN. The manuscript is due in spring of 2010 for publication in October 2010.


“Favorite…”

Author & Book: One of my favorite books is “Katherine” by Anya Seton, but I also adore the first 5 books in the “Angelique” series by Sergeanne Golon.
Movies & TV shows: “Casablanca” with Humphrey Bogart, “A Lion In Winter” with Katherine Hepburn, “Cleopatra” with Vivian Leigh and Claude Rains. “Stargate”
Food: Rare beef, good cheese, and chocolate
City: New York and Venice
Music: Mozart, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and Broadway Show Tunes.
Place to write: My office
Hobby: My garden
Quote or Motto: I don’t really have one


“Tea or Coffee?”

Tea or Coffee? Tea with cream and sugar
Saturday night. Disco & Restaurant or Home, Books & DVDs? Home
Going on holidays. Beach or Mountains? I live on the Eastern End of Long Island which is surrounded by the sea on 3 sides, but I also like the Adirondacks and Catskill mountains.
Sleepy Little Town or Crazy Megalopolis? Moved out of New York City almost 34 years ago.  Would never go back. Love my small town America.
Pick a DVD: Comedy or Weepy Drama? Like old historicals like “Robin Hood” with Errol Flynn, or comedies like “Tootsie” or a weepy drama like “The Best of Everything” or “Marjorie Morningstar”.  I’ve got eclectic tastes.
Like To Travel or Hate to Move? Used to love traveling.  Now content to stay put.
Sport Lover or Couch Potato? Couch potato without a doubt.
Leader or Follower? Leader
Shy or Easy-going? Easy-going
Serious or Funny? Both serious and funny, but maybe a bit more serious.

Thank you, Bertrice!
You can learn more about Bertrice Small and her books at www.BertriceSmall.com

Kim KiyosakiBusinesswoman Kim Kiyosaki answers a couple of questions about “Rich Woman” for Veronika Asks on her live chat session on Facebook (you can also find there a link to the transcript)!

Hi Kim, I’m asking a few questions for my online magazine “Veronika Asks”: would you please say a few words about yourself (and your book “Rich Woman”) for those who don’t know you?
I wrote Rich Woman several years ago because as I traveled the world I saw more and more women with the same issues around money. Unfortunately many women don’t pay attention to their financial life until they have a “wake up call” – death of a spouse, divorce, illness. The purpose behind Rich Woman is to educate and encourage women to take charge of their financial life and not depend upon a husband, family member or government for their financial well-being. It’s not so much about managing your money, but about how to grow your money to be financially secure, and ideally, financially independent.

Do you have a role model you look up to when talking about money and business (real person or fictional character)? Somebody we should take example on too?
I have coaches or mentors in many areas of my life – business, investing, fitness, personal development. The value of a coach is that he or she holds me accountable to do what I say I’m going to do to get the results that I want. That’s why we offer Rich Woman coaching – sometimes you just need a kick in the butt.

Thank you, Kim!
Read the full transcript at http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=126043283866&ref=mf
You can learn more about Kim Kiyosaki and her book at http://richwoman.com