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Have you been wondering what some of your favorite authors are up to these days? We were, too! So we reached out to them and asked. We will be sharing their responses here every week. Check back on Thursdays to hear from a different Texas author.

 

Tonia Ransom


What surprises you the most about writing?
The thing that surprises me most about writing is how some stories just flow and others are like pulling teeth one at a time. Both can end up equally great; it doesn’t seem to matter how hard the writing is when it comes to a story being “successful”, but boy do I wish I could find the path toward stories that just flow!

If you were to change genres for a bit, what genre would you like to try? Why?
I have always written horror, and I love reading horror most of all, but if I were to switch to another fiction genre, I would try romance. I love a good romance, especially one with supernatural elements. If you’d count non-fiction as a genre, I’d tackle that before romance, though. By training and education, I’m a librarian, so research is my happy place. Writing an entire book that requires in-depth research? Yes, please!

What’s the strangest thing you’ve researched while writing a story?
I once had to figure out if a humanoid (like a  vampire) could drink a human body dry of blood. Turns out, you can’t! The volume of our stomachs is just too small to hold the entire blood volume of a human being. Your stomach would burst or you’d vomit first, so vampires have to have some sort of magical power to drink a body dry.

Is there something you wish we’d asked you? Please answer that question!
What is your favorite medium for storytelling?
That’s a tough question, but one I love to think about. I love telling stories via audio, but I think my favorite medium is via Twitter. It’s like telling stories in a graphic format with photos. Each tweet is a panel, and as a bonus, you get to interact with your audience in real time as you tell the story! You can read my stories by checking out my Moments on Twitter.

Where can readers go to learn more about you and your work?
You can visit toniaransom.com, or check me out on Twitter (@missdefying)! I’m also on Podchaser whereyou can see which podcasts I’ve been a guest on and which ones I’ve voice acted for!

 Photo of author Tonia Ransom

 

Previous Interviews

Carol Beth Anderson

Varsha Bajaj

H.W. Brands 

Rachel Caine

Nicky Drayden

Tanya Estes

Stephen Harrigan

P.J. Hoover

Joe R. Lansdale

Jenny Lawson

Jennifer Mathieu

Lara Prescott

Cynthia Leitich Smith

Liara Tamani

Jodi Thomas

Sherry Thomas

Martha Wells

 

 

Liara Tamani

What makes a good story?
Believable characters on an interesting journey. I don’t necessarily have to love a character. I just want to find them interesting and authentic. Great dialogue (both exterior and interior) helps with this. And of course the tension created by what the main character wants and the challenges that stand in the way of them getting it keeps people engaged with the story. 

What advice do you wish someone had shared with you when you started writing?
Just be yourself. When I first started writing, I tried on many different voices that weren’t true to who I was. Eventually, I relaxed into myself and found my style. You don’t have to pretend to be anyone else. You can write in whatever style feels natural to you. You can write about people in your neighborhood or things you’re interested in. Give the world a perspective that’s true to you. 

What’s your favorite thing you’ve read in the past year?
The Book of Delights by Ross Gay.

Book cover for All The Thingd We Never Knew

Tell us about your latest book. 
All the Things We Never Knew is a love story that centers on the lives of two Houston-area high school basketball players named Carli and Rex. The book alternates between their perspectives, so readers will get to know them both and see both sides of their first love, which is super messy and complicated, but also really tender and sweet. But the book is not only a story of romantic love, but also familial love, the love between friends, and self-love.

Where can readers go to learn more about you?
You can visit my webpage: www.liaratamani.com or find me on social media (I’m most active on Instagram) with the handle @liaratamani. 

Headshot of author Liara Tamani

 

 

Tanya Estes

What surprises you the most about writing?
What surprises me the most about writing is that it can be really hard one day and super easy the next. You just have to push through the hard parts for the reward of the easy days.

If you were to change genres for a bit, what genre would you like to try? Why?
I have always wanted to try horror, particularly gothic horror. I'm intrigued by atmosphere and how our minds can make things more frightening. Gross out horror does nothing for me.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve researched while writing a story?
The strangest thing I've researched would likely be Sandra West, the woman I did my most recent podcast episode about. She is buried in San Antonio, in a lace nightgown in the front seat of her 1964 Ferrari.

Dia de los Muertos inspired promo for Tales from the Moon Tower

Is there something you wish we’d asked you? Please answer that question!
What are some of your favorite books NOT in your genre?
I really love "Year of Wonders," by Geraldine Brooks, which is a novel about a medieval village that sequestered themselves during the black plague when it struck their village, instead of fleeing like most people, to prevent the spread of the disease even at their own risk. I also love "We Have Always Lived in the Castle," by Shirley Jackson. Anything by Neil Gaiman, but especially his Sandman graphic novel series and "The Graveyard Book." My favorite romance novel is "Widow of Rose House," by Diana Biller, which is a ghost story and a romance novel all in one fun package!

Where can readers go to learn more about you and your work?
You can listen to my podcast, Tales from the Moon Tower, on SoundCloud, iTunes, Stitcher and Spreaker, or visit my website, www.talesfromthemoontower.com. I’m also on Facebook and Instagram.

Headshot of Tanya Estes

 

Jennifer Mathieu

What makes a good story?
For me, it all starts with characters. I struggle with plot but characters (usually!) come very naturally to me. It's like they are instantly born inside my mind. Without characters that a reader can connect with in some way, the story can't mean much. At least not in my mind! 

Is there an artist or genre of music that you listen to while writing?
I typically find songs that I play over and over on repeat while I write. Sometimes they connect with the book. For example, when I was writing MOXIE I listened to Riot Grrrl music. But sometimes they are simply songs that evoke a certain mood or feeling I'm trying to capture. I listen to the song or songs over and over until it's almost hypnotic. I find it very helpful for my writing. For the book I'm working on right now, BAD GIRLS NEVER SAY DIE, I listened to several songs by a Canadian band called Alvvays.

What’s your favorite thing you’ve read in the past year?
I recently read a wonderful book called THE GUEST BOOK by Sarah Blake. It's a work of literary fiction for adults that spans several decades in the life of a wealthy American family and the people who come into its circle. Such a gorgeous, satisfying book about so many big things, and I definitely cried at the end!

Is there something you wish we’d asked you? Please answer that question!
I wish you asked me why I still teach high school English! A lot of readers are confused as to why I don't write full-time. At this point, I could probably afford to do so, but I love teaching teenagers. It keeps me grounded. My teaching and writing careers are very intertwined. It would be hard to give up either one.

Where can readers go to learn more about you and your work?

They can go to jennifermathieu.com or find me on Twitter (@jenmathieu), Instagram (@authorjenmathieu), and Facebook (writerjeniifermathieu).

 Headshot of author Jennifer Mathieu

 

H. W. Brands

H.W. Brands is professor at the University of Texas at Austin. He has written more 30 books on U.S. History, most recently Dreams of El Dorado: A History of the American West.

What does your writing space look like?

It looks like wherever I happen to be. I write on a laptop that goes where I go.

Do you have specific snacks that help fuel your writing?

I never eat while writing. I wouldn't eat while building a cabinet or giving a lecture, so I don't eat while writing.

How do you recharge and keep creative while sheltering-in-place?

I start a new writing project. It requires me to learn and think.

Where can readers go to learn more about you and your work?

Amazon, YouTube, Twitter

 Headshot of author H.W. Brands

 

Jodi Thomas

Thanks for inviting me over for a visit.  I'd love to sit down and have a chat.

What is something you wish your readers knew about you?

All the facts about me are on my website at jodithomas.com, but something very few people know about me is that English was my worst subject. I'm a storyteller, not a grammarian.

Thanks to a learning problem, I didn't read until after the fourth grade. It took me another four years to start loving reading. 

When people say they don't like to read, I tell them they just haven't found the right books.  

My life has been so much richer thanks to books. Thanks Mrs. Dickerson for changing my world. (fourth grade teacher)

 

Is there an artist or genre of music that you listen to while writing?

I'm a little bit country. I start every morning of this 'house arrest' with an old Roy Orbison song Only the Lonely.  If you haven't heard it for years, pull it up and dance with me. 

I don't know why, but in this time of being alone, it makes me smile.

In truth, I'm not lonely, I'm surrounded by my characters.  If I get tired of them, I just kill them off.

 

How do you recharge and stay creative while sheltering-in-place. 

Take a walk through my day with me.

I've set up a few work stations. Move from one to the other.

My desk up in the trees where I write.

Working in the world's smallest backyard.

Taxes in the dining room.

Sleeping.

Walking in the evening.

And last a movie at night.

That's my day.

 

Is there something you wish we’d asked you? Please answer that question!

Do you ever get burned out after 50 books?

NO. I will never have time to write all the books I'd like to write.  I wrote 22 historicals and loved it then I turned a corner and found another road with writing Texas stories happening today. I've met a great many wonderful people in 30 years in this writing business.  Some of them are real and some are in my head.

I want the people in my books to become so real that my readers worry about them even after the book ends.  One lady told me that she wanted to send a few of my characters Christmas Cards every year.

By the way, I don't send readers on a journey.  I'm going along with them when I write.

 

Where can readers go to learn more about you and your work?

Thanks so much for asking me to visit with your readers. I've loved answering your questions.

My new Honey Creek series will begin with BREAKFAST AT THE HONEY CREEK CAFE. It was released Tuesday, May 26, and I am excited to introduce you to my characters in the small town of Honey Creek, Texas.

You can find me on my social media:
  • Facebook: JodiThomasAuthor
  • Twitter:@jodithomas
  • Instagram:@jodithomasauthor

Sign up for my Online Newsletter: http;//www.jodithomas.com

You can also find my personal book recommendations in "Down Home Reads with Jodi Thomas" in each new issue of The Pioneer Woman Magazine.

 

 

Stephen Harrigan

 What makes a good story?

Some sort of suspense probably, either explicit or implied. Something that you as a reader sense has yet to be revealed, and which keeps you turning the pages.  A good story puts you in the hands of a writer who seems to know what he or she is doing. This is often an illusion, of course. When I start a new book, I’m often flying blind, forgetting the rules I thought I had learned. You have to painstakingly win back your authority as a storyteller every time. 

What does your writing space look like?

I have a fairly commodious office in the backyard, so my daily commute is about forty steps.  I have a desktop computer, lots of bookshelves, and for decor things like a mammoth tooth, a bust of Willie Nelson by my sculptor friend Clete Shields, a Starship Troopers poster (don’t ask) and a drawing of me by one of my daughters when she was a kid that has been miraculously hanging by the same piece of Scotch tape for 25 years. 

 What’s the strangest thing you’ve researched while writing a story?

 I’ve had some pretty strange experiences as a reporter. I once visited a courtroom where a custody battle for a chimpanzee was underway. I stood next to Denton Cooley as he performed open heart surgery. I was nearly killed in a runaway dogsled accident in the Canadian Arctic. And once while diving off an island in Borneo I looked up and saw a thousand or more hammerhead sharks swimming above me, backlit against the sky. Oh, and there was the time I was writing about the nature of darkness when I found myself deep in a lightless cave that turned out to be near a construction site. I was freaked out enough after two hours of utter darkness, but when the dynamite started to go off, I decided it was time to get out of there. 

 Is there something you wish we’d asked you? Please answer that question!

You didn’t ask what I’m working on now, and I’m glad, because it’s hard to explain and I’m tired of trying. 

 Where can readers go to learn more about you and your work?

www.stephenharrigan.com

 Author Stepehn Harrigan sitting at a desk

 

Sherry Thomas

What does your writing space look like?

 This past winter my writing space has more than anything else been the love seat in our living room. My husband acquired an electric blanket and when he was at work during the day—back in the Jurassic, pre-COVID-19 age!—I would put the blanket on the loveseat, prop it up nicely with a cushion or two, turn it on and go to work. Ah, so warm and comfortable. On colder days I’d even put a duvet on top of myself!

Do you have a favorite character you’ve written? If so, who and why? If not, is there a character you wish you’d written?

I have trouble picking favorites, so I’ll say that I’ve really enjoyed writing the characters in the Lady Sherlock books, my Victorian-set, gender-bending mystery series featuring Charlotte Holmes, who solves cases under the nom de guerre of Sherlock Holmes.

One the reasons I enjoy writing Charlotte Holmes & Co is because of the feeling of closeness and community these characters bring to the page, when they are together. And another reason is how well readers have responded to them.  They worry about the characters’ safety, their strength, their romantic investments. And that, for the writer, is really the best fuel to keep writing.

Book Cover for A Study in Scarlet Women

How do you recharge and stay creative while sheltering-in-place/during this pandemic?

I had an actual deadline and that was very helpful! I had so much revision that needed to get done that I had little time for news or for much of the outside world at all. That really helped me to focus.  

But even otherwise I only consume enough news to know what action I should take. 

Is there something you wish we’d asked you? Please answer that question!

Lol, the question I wish folks would ask has always been, “What’s the best way to send you a large amount of cash?” :D

Where can readers go to learn more about you and your work?

My website is SherryThomas.com. The Lady Sherlock series also has its own website at LadySherlockBooks.com

 Author Sherry Thomas

 

P.J. Hoover

What does your writing space look like?

Fun question! My writing space is filled with my favorite things. First off, it's pretty organized. And it's definitely not cluttered. I like to have everything just where it should be with no excess. When my "stack of papers" starts to build up, I have to take a few minutes to go through it and deal with stuff. As for decorations, on my desk, I have a couple Smurfs, Wall-E, a Battlestar Galactica Cylon, a lucky cat, a Star Trek Gorn, and some Rubik's Cubes. On the walls I have fan art my son made me for my first book license plates from my 1989 Jeep that say "ATHENA J" and my certificate for when I tested into my kung fu 4th degree black belt.

I think a writing space should make you happy and inspire you. Different things will work for different people, which is kind of awesome.

What advice do you wish someone had shared with you when you started writing?

My best advice would be to maintain something in your life that you are in control of. With creative writing, so much of our “happiness” and “success” depends on people’s opinion of your work. Does an agent love it enough to represent it? Does an editor love it enough to acquire it? Do readers love it enough to buy it? Many of these things we have very little control over. So keep something in your life that you do have control over. As a hard worker, I want my hard work to pay off. I also crave the hopeful news of selling a book to a publisher, but I can’t hinge my entire happiness on it. Build a deck. Foster a dog. Start a blog. Whatever it is, be in control.

How do you recharge and stay creative while sheltering-in-place/during this pandemic?

Stay busy. Start projects (and finish them, too). Explore fun hobbies. Paint something. Fix something. Exercise. Chat with friends. There are so many things we can do to stay recharged and creative, and if we do that, we're going to come out of this so much better off.

Is there something you wish we’d asked you? Please answer that question!

Sure! I wish you'd asked me about my newest book which just came out! Homer's Excellent Adventure is aimed at Rick Riordan fans and can be described as Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure meets The Odyssey. It's a fun fast-paced read with all sorts of mythology packed in.

Homers Excellent Adventure book cover

Homer is about to fail out of school unless he can come up with a story. An epic story. Oh, and it needs to be written in Dactylic Hexameter. No big deal . . . except Homer has no idea what that is. Also Homer is horrible at writing, so he's pretty much out of luck. But the Greek god Hermes has a story that needs a storyteller, and with a trick of immortal magic, he sends Homer and his best friend Dory back to the end of the Trojan War. They meet up with the Greek hero Odysseus along with an entire crew of smelly sailors and set off on a journey filled with scary monsters, angry gods, and a very hungry cyclops.

You can watch a really fun video chat about the book here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Yi9jRAMhmc

Where can readers go to learn more about you and your work?
My website:  http://www.pjhoover.com

 Hoover headshot

 

Carol Beth Anderson

What is something you wish your readers knew about you?

I've always needed some sort of creative outlet. Writing has popped up in various ways throughout my life, but I've had plenty of other creative obsessions, such as acting, crocheting/knitting, and baking sourdough. (I'm baking a lot of sourdough during this stay-at-home time!)

Do you have a favorite character you’ve written? If so, who and why? If not, is there a character you wish you’d written?

My two favorites are both in the series I'm currently writing. I'll only tell you about one of them. (I'd have to give Book 2 spoilers to tell you about the second one!) I love a character named Krey. He's smart and caring and funny, but he's got real flaws...his temper being one of them. I've enjoyed learning about Enneagram personality typing, and I've used it in creating characters in this series. Krey is an 8, which is the most aggressive personality type. 8s can come on really strong...and they can also change the world in big, positive ways. My husband is an 8. Maybe that's why I'm so attached to Krey!

Book covers for Carol Beth Anderson's works

What advice do you wish someone had shared with you when you started writing?

Growth is the goal. I want perfection and success out of the gate, but life doesn't work that way. I'm trying to shift my point of view so that I can see growth as the biggest measure of success, rather than striving for some unreachable, ever-changing bar. 

How do you recharge and stay creative while sheltering-in-place/during this pandemic?

Reading is a really important way for me to recharge. Spending time with my family and (remotely) with friends is important too. Getting back to a regular writing schedule has also helped me feel more normal during this abnormal time.

What’s your favorite thing you’ve read in the past year?

I can't narrow it down to just one! I finished Brent Weeks's Lightbringer series a couple of months back, and it's some of the most incredible fantasy I've ever read. The magical system is detailed and fascinating. (His audiobooks are also phenomenal.) I'm currently reading the last book of Michael J. Sullivan's series, Legends of the First Empire. He's my other favorite author, and this series has probably been the best of his fantasy books...though they're all amazing. His characters always hook me; I'm so attached to them!

Where can readers go to learn more about you and your work?

 Photo of author Carol Beth Anderson

 

Lara Prescott

What does your writing space look like?

I work from a tiny shed that has been converted into a writing studio--complete with A.C. for the Texas heat and a window to look at the birds who visit my backyard! Inside is a small wooden secretary desk, a comfy reading chair, candles, and a few objects I hope will inspire me.

What advice do you wish someone had shared with you when you started writing?

That as a writer you will face many rejections along the way, but it's rejection that will make you work harder and the victories taste sweeter.

What’s your favorite thing you’ve read in the past year?

I absolutely loved Maria Reva's debut linked short story collection Good Citizens Need Not Fear.  

Is there something you wish we’d asked you? Please answer that question!

Ha! Maybe what I'm reading now to pass the time? I just finished Lily King's new novel Writers & Lovers, which really captures the essence of what it feels like to be a struggling writer trying to make it. 

Where can readers go to learn more about you and your work?

LaraPrescott.com

Author Lara Prescott in a black shirt and gray slacks

 

Nicky Drayden

What does your writing space look like?

In a word, messy! I thrive in chaos, and my desk definitely shows it. I've got piles of drafts, bins of swag, a stack of journals, and various knickknacks and trinkets I've collected over the years, including a functioning BB8, a dik-dik mug, shells and candy Christmas ornaments, and a picture of my old college roommate's goldfish for some reason.

What advice do you wish someone had shared with you when you started writing?

Well, I wish I had a better idea of the differences between what a writer is vs what an author is. Writers write. Authors have written a thing and have to deal with the work of putting it out into the world. (And you can be both a writer and an author!) There is a lot of non-writing work for authors, and I wish someone had outlined that better for me so I could have gone into this career with clearer expectations. A writer getting into the publishing industry is like hopping onto a treadmill going at full speed. And just when you think you've got the hang of it, they start throwing live sharks at you.

How do you recharge and stay creative while sheltering-in-place/during this pandemic?

It's tough! Yesterday, I gave a mango seed a makeover, if that tells you anything. I'm just now starting to find the mental energy to start thinking about being creative again. I've got a couple fun projects planned though, so hopefully, those will provide a low-stress outlet for me to get some writing done. 

What are you working on now?

I'm currently working on (or will be as soon as my brain cells return to functioning) a sequel to Escaping Exodus, a space opera set aboard a sentient space-faring beast the size of a small moon. I'm really excited to be returning to this world and all of the visceral environments. The characters have aged a few years and are dealing with deeper and darker problems now, and the stakes get higher as conflict brews and threatens to bring about an all-out war.

Escaping Exodus Cover

Where can readers go to learn more about you and your work?

Check me out at nickydrayden.com for more info, and feel free to join my newsletter to get my infrequent ramblings as well as info on giveaways and book announcements.

 Drayden headshot


Jenny Lawson

What advice do you wish someone had shared with you when you started writing?

Write for yourself.  That way even if no one else ever sees it you'll have it for you.  And when you write for yourself you tend to be more honest and authentic and less guarded so technically it works out for everyone.

What does your writing space look like?

It's...a bit insane.  I converted the dining room to my office so there aren't any doors to keep the cats and dog out and they are all over my desk.  A giant, old, broken taxidermied bear dressed as a supreme court (Ruth Bader Ginsbear) is propped up beside my desk.  My walls are full of dolls that most people think are super creepy but I love them.  The wall behind me is all books (color coded because I'm weird) and my floor currently has 6 giant stacks of books to be read.  My desktop is covered with the book I'm currently working on.  We're at the stage of copy editing and I owe whoever copy-edited this a dozen drinks because I'm sure I've driven them to alcoholism at this point.

How do you recharge and stay creative while sheltering-in-place/during this pandemic?

Reading.  I sometimes struggle with reading because I have anxiety disorder and it can make it hard to concentrate but I started a book club (The Fantastic Strangelings Book Club) so now I have to read a bunch of advanced copies so I can pick good books and in a way it's really saved me.  Forcing myself to read lets me escape from myself and from the world and it gives you such an amazing break, if only for an hour at a time.

 Is there something you wish we’d asked you? Please answer that question!

I see a lot of people struggling because they think they should be using this pandemic time to get a million things done and write a book and learn eight languages and that's AMAZING if you can do that, but it is hard as hell to focus during times like these so if you try to write a book and fail right now, know that even professional authors are struggling at the moment so not being able to write is not a sign that you shouldn't ever write a book.  It's okay to take a break.  It's okay to try again later.  Don't let the pressure get to you.  Sometimes just surviving from day to day is a victory.

Where can readers go to learn more about you and your work?

I have a blog at thebloggess.com and I've written three books.  Well, two books and coloring book.  But I think that counts. 

Black and white photo of author Jenny Lawson with curlers in her hair while holding a white hair dryer


Varsha Bajaj

What does your writing space look like?

I use a desktop, which sits on a gray desk. It’s by a big window, which overlooks the oak tree in my front yard. Squirrels race up and down the tree, sometimes providing welcome distraction. I also have a fairy sculpture on my desk who watches over me.

Do you have a favorite character you’ve written? If so, who and why? If not, is there a character you wish you’d written?

That’s a tough question. My favorite character is a toss up between Karina Chopra and Chris Daniels, my protagonists from Count Me In. I love Karina because she is spunky and has a lot of courage. I love Chris because he is a very good friend and stands by Karina. He also has the best sense of humor.

How do you recharge and stay creative while sheltering-in-place/during this pandemic?

I’ve been walking, while keeping a safe distance from others. It helps that I walk in the mornings when there’s hardly anyone around. I’ve also been baking cookies (chocolate chip), watching Netflix and playing Banana gram with my family.

Is there something you wish we’d asked you? Please answer that question!

Are you managing to work during these difficult times?

I am trying to be productive and write, which is hard right now with all the anxiety. Creating art though makes me feel a little less scared.

So many of you are distance learning right now. Keep at it even if it seems impossible.

Where can readers go to learn more about you and your work?

You can go to www.varshabajaj.com to learn more about me and my books.

 

 

Martha Wells

What does your writing space look like?

For the past few years I’ve done my writing at home, usually in my bedroom. I write on a laptop, and using the bed as a desk makes it easier to spread out research materials, and it also gives my cats a place to sleep while I’m working, so they won’t try to get on my keyboard. When I still had my day job, I wrote during lunch and on breaks in a tiny office stuffed with computer equipment, with a very loud air-cleaner right over my head, or at home after work in my living room.

What advice do you wish someone had shared with you when you started writing?

I wish I had known what a long hard road it was going to be. My first novel was published in 1993, and since then I’ve had more than twenty science fiction and fantasy books published, including a Star Wars novel, and most of that time I still had to have a day job. People see depictions of writers in the movies or TV as rich people working in mountain cabins or fancy offices, while in reality most writers, probably 90%, don’t make enough money from their writing to support themselves or their families. Writers and artists are freelancers, and publishers don’t give you insurance benefits or retirement accounts or anything that you would get from a regular employer. Writing is a job that you only do if you love it, and I do love it, but I wish had understood how hard it was going to be to succeed.

What’s your favorite thing you’ve read in the past year? 

So far this year it’s probably the short novella “The Empress of Salt and Fortune” by Nghi Vo. It’s a fantasy set in a world based on Imperial China, and the story is about an exiled imprisoned empress. It’s an epic story in a short format and I really enjoyed it. I also just read The City We Became  by N.K.Jemisin, and loved it. 

Is there something you wish we’d asked you? Please answer that question!

My next novel is coming out on May 5. It’s Network Effect, a sequel to The Murderbot Diaries novella series. I worked very hard on it and  I hope people enjoy it!

Where can readers go to learn more about you and your work?

My website is www.marthawells.com

 

 

Cynthia Leitich Smith

 What does your writing space look like?

It depends! Officially, I have an office decorated in framed, original children's picture book illustrations. An interior by Joy Fisher Hein from Miss Lady Bird's Wildflowers by Kathi Appelt; Kurt Cyrus's cover of Buddy: The Story of Buddy Holly by Anne Bustard; an interior by Vera Rosenberry from The Bug Cemetery by Frances Hill; and an interior by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu from my own debut book, Jingle Dancer. There's also a 1950s-inspired desk set, a daybed that I use as a worktable, and a big denim chair for reading and editing.

A desk in a corner of a room near a window with white walls and some framed art above it

Right now, though, I'm answering these questions downstairs on the love seat in my living room. That allows me to use my TV to turn on a YouTube live stream of the moon jellyfish at Monterey Bay Aquarium. Every now and then, I catch a glimpse of the jellies out of the corner of my eye, and I find that deeply peaceful.

Long haired chihuahua with dark fur and light brown spots over its eyes (like eyebrows) on a red cushion

Meanwhile, Gnocchi—my long-haired Chihuahua—watches on a padded bench out the front window for other dogs to bark at. Her peacefulness comes and goes. I adopted her from Austin Pets Alive! last year after researching a short story for The Hero Next Door, edited by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich. It's set in Old West Austin and centered on a girl who volunteers to walk shelter dogs and ends up placing one in a forever home with her cranky landlady.

Book cover for The Hero Next Door featuring yellow text on pale blue background

It might interest readers that last month I went on a writing retreat here in Austin, staying at a historic bed-and-breakfast off of West Sixth Street with Kekla Magoon. Readers may know Kekla from The Summer of Styx Malone, Light It Up, How It Went Down or her popular Robyn Hoodlum series.

She is my co-author of The Blue Stars, a forthcoming middle grade, graphic novel series, which will be illustrated by Molly Murakami. Book one is already in the illustration stage, and we had a wonderful time working together on book two. Our writing process involved a lot of brainstorming, laughter and snacks!

 What is something you wish your readers knew about you?

I have a collection of fairy doors in my condo. My work in progress features fairies, and I like the magic and whimsy that they bring to my home. I've been posting photos of them to my Instagram this week.

What advice do you wish someone had shared with you when you started writing?

Books are all about connecting hearts and minds. Don't worry about literary "perfection," an unhealthy and impossible goal. Both within and beyond of the pages of books, story is what binds and raises up humanity. By choosing to write for young readers, you're already serving the most important audience and helping to foster hope for the future.

How do you recharge and stay creative while sheltering-in-place/during this pandemic?

I'm dancing to the soundtrack from "Xanadu." I'm sending notes of encouragement to fellow writers. I'm becoming more courageous with my cooking—trying new recipes and experimenting with whatever ingredients are available.

Is there something you wish we'd asked you? Please answer that question!

Something new and exciting: I am now the author-curator of the Heartdrum imprint at HarperCollins. We'll be bringing more Native and First Nations literary voices and visions to kids and teens. Our emphasis is on contemporary stories that engage young readers and celebrate the full range of our Indigenous humanity. Our upcoming releases include a sophomore, middle grade novel by Christine Day, the author of I Can Make This Promise, and a humorous and heart felt chapter book series by Dawn Quigley, the author of Apple in the Middle.

Logo featuring a feather in a circle with the word Heartdrum below it

Where can readers go to learn more about you and your work?

I'm online at: https://cynthialeitichsmith.com/ If you check the pull down menu, you'll also find tons of resources for readers and writers of books for young readers. 

Rachel Caine

What does your writing space look like?

I’ve attached a photo of this too ... but basically, I have a comfy recliner I’m working in right now in my living room with a swivel table, a lap desk, a super cool rainbow-shimmer keyboard, and an iPad as my screen on an adjustable stand. Pretty basic, but it does everything I need right now! Plus good ergonomics, in that I have no strain on my neck, back, shoulders, elbows or wrists. (Good ergonomics for writers are a specialty of mine!)

In some ways, lockdown hasn’t affected my life much at all ... I’ve been kind of under house arrest since September (2019) when I started chemotherapy for an aggressive cancer (soft tissue sarcoma). I was already having to take extreme precautions to avoid crowds and infections, so this is just more of the same except I can’t even go pick up groceries now, and have to rely on the kindness of friends to keep us supplied. 

But the bonus is: more writing time!

Caine workspace

 

 What advice do you wish someone had shared with you when you started writing?

I wish someone had advised me that a writing career is a long, long, long road with many ups and downs. I thought in the beginning that getting my book published was my goal ... and it was! But as soon as that happens, you need a new goal. A bigger one. And you have to keep chasing the next goal, because if you stop moving, you’ll lose your way. It’s not a straight path to success; there are lots of off-ramps that go nowhere, and lots of times you have to backtrack and reroute and try another direction. And when you get to success, you still have to figure out what the next goal is and how to sustain success. So ... I wish someone had advised me to have patience and persistence most of all. This is a game of inches and precision, and you will have setbacks and mistakes. It’s okay. Just keep going.

Photo of author Rachel Caine

 

How do you recharge and stay creative while sheltering-in-place/during this pandemic?

Like I said above ... it’s a bit of “more of the same” for me right now, but what I have to do is get up every day with a plan of what I need to accomplish. Some days it isn’t possible, depending on how I feel; right now, I’m battling some extreme fatigue due to anemia (because of chemo treatments). So if I can’t do what I planned, I give myself permission to nap, play a video game, watch TV. I take a vacation day. Then get back to work the next day. 

I have a hard minimum of 500 words a day to write, and usually even if I’m very, very tired I can make that small number. My upper limit is 3000 words a day; if I hit that, I get to quit early and do something fun.

Goals are critical, I think!

 Is there something you wish we’d asked you? Please answer that question!

Would I like to do a giveaway of some books? OF COURSE I WOULD! I’d be happy for you to pick up to 10 winners to receive their choice of:

  • Book 1 of the Stillhouse Lake series (adult thriller)
  • Book 1 of The Great Library series (SF YA, but fun for ages 14 and up)
  • Book 1 of The Honors series (SF YA, again fun for ages 14 and up)
  • Book  1 of the Morganville Vampires series (YA, ages 14 and up)
  • Prince of Shadows, a standalone period retelling of Romeo and Juliet (YA, ages 14 and up)

This offer is open to US residents only. Each winner will receive either a print copy or eBook directly from the author.

The giveaway has now ended. Winners will be notified via e-mail.

Where can readers go to learn more about you or your work?

My website at rachelcaine.com is always a good place! Or they can contact me directly at rachel@rachelcaine.com.

Book covers for Honor Lost, Sword and Pen, and Bitter Falls

 

Joe R. Lansdale

What does your writing space look like?
My writing space is loosely but not messily organized. There are a few small piles, but the space is over 1200 feet and has lots of bookshelves filled with books. My desk is in a corner so I can look down a short hallway into the den where I have a couch and TV for movies. I love to write and read and watch films.

What advice do you wish someone had shared with you when you started writing?
That there is no such thing as the muse, or rather you're it. You don't wait on the muse, you get up and go do it. You provided the muse. I work almost every day, and the only time I don't is if something unusual comes up.

How do you recharge and stay creative while sheltering-in-place/during this pandemic?
Life, books, family, film, teaching martial arts, they all recharge me.

Where can readers keep up with you and your work?
www.joerlansdale.com, I have a fan page on Facebook, as well as a twitter account under my name.

 

Updated 7/16/2020