Author Spotlight: Richard Bradford

This month, I am featuring Texas author Richard Bradford.  We met while doing a signing together at the BYU Bookstore earlier this year.  His debut novel, “Seventh Earth” was selling like crazy and looks like a great read!  I plan on getting my hands on a copy soon myself.  

W  What inspired you to become a writer? 
– I first fell in love with writing when I took a creative writing class my senior year of high school. Previous to that I really had no interest in writing. However, once I was given the freedom to let loose and allow my creative juices to flow, I realized that I loved writing. Writing allowed me this unique chance to express myself and escape into new fantastic worlds. I find an inexplicable amount of satisfaction in writing.
2.      Do you do any other type of writing besides novel writing?  
—   I am in the process of writing several short stories, the first of which I am entering in an upcoming contest. I prefer writing novels, but sometimes I get the urge to write from ideas that just aren’t expansive enough to fill hundreds pages. In those cases I often craft the ideas into short stories. My plan is to have a section on my website that I can display my short stories along with short story submissions from other authors and readers.
3.      How do you deal with rejection? What advice would you give others? 
R   Rejection is never easy. I think rejection is one of the most difficult things about being a new writer. But any writer looking to be published needs to understand that no matter how good your story may be, no matter how perfectly written your novel is, there are going to be rejections. And you also need to understand that a rejection is not necessarily a reflection of your work. My advice to writers in dealing with rejection is not to give up. If you are passionate about writing then find a way. Don’t allow some snooty New York agent with a Masters in English Lit, who spends their Tuesday mornings sipping cappuccino in the Village decide your fate as a writer. Find a way to make it happen. Start a blog, go to publisher’s conferences, join writer’s groups, write short stories you can submit to contests or share online, network with other authors, self publish your book. Just find a way to make it happen and then write a book on all the hoops you had to jump through to make it happen. My point is, don’t give up on your dream and don’t let someone else decide your fate for you. There are too many wonderful books out there that never made it to print because some agent said ‘no’ and some author believed them.
4.      As an author how do you interact with the community? 
   I  I spend quite a bit of my spare time interacting with my community. I think this is an important part about being an  author, as you get a chance to help other writers and get your name out among readers. I have put on several free creative writing workshops for both kids and adults through the local public libraries. These workshops are fairly easy to put on and are quite a bit of fun for myself and the attendees. I love sharing my writing experiences with others and helping them to develop their writing.  I have also had the privilege of speaking at several local high schools. I find that English teachers and the librarians at the schools are usually more than happy to have an author come and speak. I have done these for groups as small as 10 and as large as several hundred.    
5.      What is your revision process like? Do you do most of it yourself, or do you enlist many others?
      My revision process starts with my wife. Luckily I have a wife who is an avid reader of the genre I write in. She is great at helping me figure out areas that need more polishing or areas where the story is lagging. She is great at giving me that first level of review that I can use to begin my revision process. Another revision trick that I have found is to use college students majoring in English. These students will look over your work, give you great advice and come cheap. These students often look at this as a resume builder so they will often review your work for a fraction of the price of a professional editor. You can find these students by reaching out to English professors at a local college, putting up flyers on campus, putting an ad online or by placing an ad in the school’s paper.   
6.      Do have an ideal writing environment? 
      I do have an ideal writing environment. But my ideal environment changes based upon what I am writing. I am the type of writer that likes to try and feel the same emotions and experience the same thing my characters feel. This can be hard when you are writing sci-fi or fantasy but it can be done. For example, if I am writing a scene that takes place in a forest, I like to take my laptop and head out to the woods. This allows me to experience firsthand the sound of the birds, the feel of the grass on my feet or the texture of the bark on the trees. If I am writing something dark and mysterious I will turn out the lights in the house and crawl into a dark corner and write. Whatever it is that I am writing, my ideal environment is to take myself as close both mentally and physically as possible to what I am writing about. I think this helps bring legitimacy and believability to my writing. I want my readers to feel like they are there, to be able to picture the trees, feel the wind on their face, hear the sounds of the waves crashing against the jagged rocks. 
7.      Do you like to follow trends when you write, or do you think it’s best not to “jump on the bandwagon?” 
      I don’t like to think of myself as a follower of trends. For example, I tried to stay as far away from vampires and werewolves in my book, Seventh Earth, as possible. There is a certain satisfaction that I think can be gained by finding and developing relatively unique ideas. I also think that it can bring more credibility to you as a writer if you’re not perceived as a trend follower.    
8.      What advice can you give new authors about the business end of being an author? For example, what makes a good book signing
      A good book signing starts and finishes with an engaging author. If you just sit back at the table and wait for others to come by you will miss out on many sales and many great marketing opportunities. I once did a book signing at a store that was really lacking in foot traffic. The signing took place on Easter weekend in a college town so many of the residence were gone. Instead of sitting at the signing table waiting for the occasional customer to walk by, I went out and found customers in the store. I had a handful of book marks and walked around handing them out. I was able to get several sales from that. Many authors are introverts and would rather sit in a room and write. That is okay for when you are writing. But you need to be willing to switch gears and market as well. You have to be willing to put yourself out there and engage people.  As a new author your chances of success will be much higher if you are out there setting up book signings, talking to librarians about doing workshops, handing out bookmarks to strangers, etc.  
9.      Are you planning on making this book a series? How long do you envision it? 
      There are three books in this series. I am currently working on the second book and hope to have it completed by the end of this year. The third book will probably be released the following year. After that I don’t have any plans to continue the series.
10.  Is there anything else you’d like to tell your adoring fans? 
     I would like to thank all those who have read my book. I am overwhelmed by the wonderful support and great comments from fans of Seventh Earth. I wrote the book not knowing what to expect from readers. It has been great to see that so many not only enjoy the book but are passionate about it.    

Jewel is a Gem

This month, I will be highlighting author Jewel Adams.  I had the chance to interview her and will be reviewing her story “Tears of Heaven” later this month. 

  1. Who are your writing heroes – authors have inspired you?
I have many, but my top two are Anne Perry and Richard Paul Evans
  1. When did you decide to become an author?
When I first moved to Utah in 1989. I met an author who suggested I write a book. I had never thought about it before then, so I decided to give it a try. My first YA romance was published and I was hooked.
  1. In your latest e-book, “Tears of Heaven”, you take the readers to Sweden and Russia. You seem to have a pretty good handle on those places. Have you been to those places? Are you a world traveler?
I get to travel with my husband for work sometimes. He is a sound engineer for the LDS church and frequently travels out of the country. He did a stake conference broadcast in Stockholm a few years back and I was privileged to go. While there, we visited Italy. Tears of Heaven sprung from my time in Sweden, and Of Blessings and Dreams, a new e-book set to come out in June, is a rewrite that came to me in Venice and is set there.
  1. You told me that your husband helps you by designing covers for your e-books. In what other ways does your husband support your writing career?
He’s so great about my writing. He gives me the space I need in order to write. He also talks to his coworkers about my books and sells quite a few of them for me. His belief in me and my writing never wavers and I appreciate him more than I can say.
  1. Do you ever listen to music when you write, or do you need silence?
I don’t listen to it while I’m writing, but depending on the kind of book I’m working, I do have certain types of music that put me in writing mode for that particular book. I just started a new project and because it is so different from my other books, I burned a muse CD that I listen to before I work on it. I even entitled the CD Muse Music:-)
  1. Do you have any advice for authors that would like to publish e-books?
Well, I consider every e-book I write just as important as a printed book because so much of my heart and soul goes into them, and I market them the same as well. Always remember that should you decide to publish e-books, they aren’t just e-books. They truly are just as important, and you can still reach many readers with them. If you have a story you really want to get out there and can’t find a publisher, or even if you just choose to go the e-book route all together, then do it. You have something to say and this is definitely the way to make your voice heard.
  1. What are you future writing plans? Are there other projects in the works?
Right now I’m putting the finishing touches on an romance e-book I’m releasing in June, and I’m also working on a contemporary romance that is kind of different for me because it leans a little toward the paranormal. I’ve enjoyed working on it.
  1. Do you have anything else you would like to say to your throngs of adoring fans?
I really appreciate all the support I get from readers and I hope I can keep producing work my fans love. After all, you are the reason I keep writing:-)

Author Spotlight for June: Berin Stephens

1.      What made you decide to write Sci-Fi and Fantasy (and all combinations thereof)?
            A: Sci-fi and fantasy have been my two favorite genres for a long time. When I was a kid, I started off on books like the Hardy Boys and loved them. Then I discovered The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien. It opened up my eyes to a whole new aspect of reading. Shortly after that, my brother introduced me to Lucky Star and the Pirates of the Asteroids by Isaac Asimov which expanded my horizons into sci-fi.
            Recently, I made a list of all my favorite books, movies and TV shows. The common thread in all of them was sci-fi, fantasy, comedy and adventure. So, naturally, when I took to writing I ended up combining all four.
2.      At what point in your life did you decide to write books?
            A: It was fairly early in life. In fact, I think The Hobbit is what inspired me to want to create stories like that.
            When I was a teenager and into my early twenties, I tried to write several novels but failed. I did have several teachers along the way who kept encouraging me and letting me know that I had a gift for writing. Unfortunately, life took over and my writing got put aside for college and then trying to keep the bills paid.
            It started back up for me about five years ago when my teenage daughter started writing novels. Being a father of a teenage girl was a little awkward, so I tried to think of something that we could do together. I then blew the dust off my old writing desires and decided to do a NaNoWriMo with her one year. That way, we could bond by commiserating about the experience. In the process, I ended up with the beginnings of a half-way interesting book that later evolved into The Dragon War Relic. The habits I learned doing NaNoWriMo have taught me how to budget my time better so that I can now write on a regular basis.
3.      You tied in music with your first book with “The Havoc Stomp”.  Do you plan to incorporate songs into your upcoming works?
            A: I hope to, but I’m not sure. “The Havoc Stomp” just came to me one day without much effort. I also wrote a theme song called “Galactic Journeys” (which is a spoof of the Star Trek theme) that also just came to me one day.
            Of course, “The Havoc Stomp” is the theme song to a fictitious video game called Havoc (spoofing Halo). In book 2, The Scepter of the Ancients, the video game the characters are addicted to is called Master of Funk (spoofing Guitar Hero and Rock Band). With a title like that, there has to be some music, but the inspiration hasn’t struck yet. I want to come up with some instrumental funk tunes that are kind of a cross between “Jungle Boogie” and “Pick up the Pieces.”
4.      When I think of funny sci-fi, I often think of the works of Douglas Adams.  Are you a fan of his works?
            A: Yes. I thoroughly enjoy Adams’ tongue-in-cheek humor. I’ve also been a fan of Robert Asprin’s Mythadventures series. I like books that make me laugh.
5.      Science Fiction and Fantasy is a field that easily falls victim to cliché.  What do you do as an author to avoid falling into this pitfall?
            A: I jump in with both feet. I sometimes describe The Dragon War Relic as being so full of cliché that it’s original. I purposely bring up the clichés and then make fun of them. Also, the clichés can be used to set up expectations in the reader that can be disrupted later.
            For example, ever since Tolkien, elves have been these tall, noble warriors. Well, before that, most elves were only three feet tall and mischievous, kind of like the ones Santa has. I decided to go back to the original short type of elf, but they do have Tolkien-elf envy.
6.      Do you have a writing schedule?  Are you a morning writer or a night writer?  (Not to be confused with a Knight Rider) Do you keep yourself to a certain word count every day?
            A: I always wanted a car that could drive itself and talk.
            As far as writing goes, I do much better in the morning. Fortunately, I teach music lessons in the afternoon so most of my mornings are free to write. The only problem is that I also practice music better in the morning.
            When I’m writing from scratch, I shoot for a chapter a day. My chapters usually end up being about 1600 words. This is a habit I learned from NaNoWriMo, which dictates 1667 words a day in order to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. On days that my muse cooperates, I’ll sometimes do two or three chapters.
7.        What are your writing plans for the future?  Any thoughts about crossing over to other genres?
            A: I am currently polishing book 2, The Scepter of the Ancients. I hope to get two more books started this summer. I don’t have any overarching plans for the series since I’m thinking of this as more like a serial.
            I don’t know if I’ll jump into other genres, but I might combine other genres into what I do. I’ve had a crazy idea to have my characters, Jared and Doug, get in some kind of time accident and end up in the old west. I may also do something that is either pure fantasy or pure sci-fi. I’ve always wanted to do an epic fantasy.
            I am starting a series of short stories that are pure fantasy. The main character is kind of like a medieval Stainless Steel Rat (the Harry Harrison sci-fi character). I’m not sure how far I’ll go with those stories, but they’re fun to write.
8.      Anything else you want to say to your throngs of adoring fans?
            A: All three of them? Anyway, my main goal is to write books that are good, clean fun. I’m not trying to change the world or anything (yet, though world conquest might still be on my agenda). There are plenty of other books that have serious stories, so mine are for those times when you want a good laugh. Laughter is good therapy.
Check back next week for my review of his book “The Dragon War Relic.” 

April Author Spotlight: Frank L. Cole

From now on, I’m going to try to spotlight different authors I am discovering, hopefully about once a month.  I’ll try to review at least on of the authors books and have an author interview.  As well, you will find a picture of the author on the blog’s sidebar linked to their blog or website.  I know I’ve heard about many great authors by word of mouth, and so consider these my personal recommendations.

This month I’m starting out with Frank L. Cole.  I’ve already reviewed both of his books-here are the links to those reviews on my blog:

I also had the chance to interview Frank so you all can get to know him better.  Without further ado, the interview: 
1.      We’re you an imaginative kid? Do you write/tell stories growing up? I think I qualified as an imaginative kid. I started actually writing stories down in grade school. Of course, I was lucky enough to go to a somewhat unique elementary school and live in a neighborhood where out of the ordinary situations happened. It was bound to make its way into my writing.
2.      Are any of your quirky characters based on people you knew in grade school? If so, I sure hope it wasn’t Whiz. A lot of the characters from my stories are based on actual people. Luinda “The Manatee” really existed, as did Ms. Borfish. Mr. Buse was my 6th grade teacher (though his name was changed slightly.) Fibber is a guy I know today and Whiz, unfortunately, holds a special place in my heart. Don’t we all have those moments where we wished we wore rubber pants?
3.      Do you have specific plans for the Hashbrown series, like how many books you’d like to write? I’m thinking of writing at least 4 maybe more. The third one is finished and I’ll be turning it in really soon. I think it’s my best one yet. Do you have plans for any other projects? I’ve written another novel for the older middle grade crowd. It’s called The Guardians of the Tebah Stick and it is by far my most thrilling manuscript. Hopefully I’ll have some news about that book really soon (fingers crossed.)
4.      When did you decide you wanted to write books? I think it was around nine years ago when I decided to take a stab at writing for publication. Like I said before, I’ve always written and told stories, but it wasn’t until after I was married and my first son was on the way when I decided children’s books would be a fun adventure. I really had no idea what I was sinking my teeth into, but it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
5.      Is there a certain place and time that helps you write? There’s really not a specific time I need to write, although it has to be quiet and I have to be all by myself in the room. If I have a lot of distractions nothing productive happens. I’m pretty quirky when it comes to writing. Doors have to be closed (including closets), the lights have to be dim, and I need to be wearing socks. Yep socks. I can’t write with cold feet. Can you? Do you set goals to help you write? I usually set a word count, like 2,000 words or something like that, but that doesn’t always mean I’m writing quality stuff. Still, I have to have a goal to keep me motivated.
6.      If they made your books into a movie, who would you want to play the main characters? Oh boy. Unfortunately, the perfect matches for my characters have all grown up and would have a difficult time playing convincing 5th graders. Other than a few unique characters that own visually strange qualities, there really aren’t too many descriptions of my characters that would single out any one actor in particular. My son, Jackson, would make a pretty good Hashbrown once he’s aged a bit.
7.      It sounds like you like to do school visits. Could you share with us one of your favorite experiences visiting a school? I really enjoyed my visit to St John the Baptist Elementary. I was up on a stage in the junior high auditorium and all the seats were filled with excited kids. I think I performed my best and it was a really fun presentation. There were a few schools where I had a blast afterwards when about thirty kids came up and had me sign their hands and scraps of paper. That really made my day.
8.      Is there anything else you would like to tell your throngs of adoring fans? Seriously, thank you for even reading Hashbrown’s Adventures. They’ve been fun to write and I never dreamed they could actually be published. The fact kids are reading them and somewhat enjoying them is very flattering. Stay tuned for more wackiness with Hashbrown. I’ll try to keep him out of too much mischief… yeah right!