Interview with K.A. Laity

For today’s interview, we managed to catch up with author KA Laity. With a bibliography the length of your arm, Kate took a few moments to share her thoughts on writing and the business.

Award winning author, KA Laity.

Award winning author, KA Laity.

He2etic: What is the writing process like for you? If you were to describe the process in what word, what would it be?

Kate: The word would be busy!

I am always working on a lot of projects at the same time because I have the kind of brain that jumps around so this is my way of making the most of natural tendencies.

I wrote my first published novel while I was also writing my PhD dissertation, so it becomes a habit.

Also I write under [cough] four names so I keep really busy. And I’m still not good at saying ‘no’ to friends who have cool ideas. >_<

He2etic: What kind of music do you listen to while you write?

Kate: I listen to a lot of radio lately (BBC 4 Extra mostly) but music varies with the project. Since I’ve been writing crime it’s given free rein to my obsession with The Fall (which I’ve written about at length) and also pinched some titles from their music as well. There’s something both evocative and hypnotic to their music. And awesome lyrics — they always spark ideas.

“Submitting works trying to find those like minds takes up way too much time. It’s such a joy when you find them.”

 

He2etic: Who are your favourite characters amongst both those you’ve written, and by other authors?

À La Mort Subite, by K.A. Laity.

À La Mort Subite, by K.A. Laity.

Kate: I love Jane Eyre! She’s great: passionate yet firm in her beliefs. She doesn’t care what anyone else thinks but she will not tarnish her principles.

Of my own, hmmm — I do love James Draygo who is the narrator of my current novel White Rabbit because he’s full of lackadaisical humour and self-deceit. I kind of wish I were more literally kick-ass like Chastity Flame but hey, that’s why we write. I kind of adore Alice and Lizzie from The Mangrove Legacy because they still make me laugh far too much.

He2etic: What are your strongest influences when it comes to character creation?

Kate: I have to hear the voices — once I have that, it’s easy to pick up the story and write no matter where I’ve left it, whether it was an hour ago or a matter of days. I’m not one to spend a lot of time in prep — I mash out an outline and then run in most cases — but it’s useless beginning until I can hear that voice. I tend to enjoy first person narratives because of that.

“Don’t get hung up on the ‘do and don’t’ advice. Write your story — as in begin something and, more importantly, finish it.”

 

He2etic: Are there any dream characters or settings you want to write about? Such as in other franchises?

Kate: I’m thinking about writing a Midian story as Clive Barker has put out a call; since Clive was responsible for my first real publication, I am always grateful to him and I’ve always been a big fan of his writing. I want to write a story set in India, so that gives me an excuse to try to get someone to pay for me to travel there. I’m a big fan of making other people pay for my travel.

Noir Carnival, from Fox Spirit Books

Noir Carnival, from Fox Spirit Books

He2etic: What are your favourite drinks, both alcoholic and not? Do you occasionally partake while writing?

Kate: I’m partial to a really good beer, so not surprisingly my latest noir, À La Mort Subite takes place in Belgium, the home of the finest beers in the world. In a pinch, Guinness will always do, though it really doesn’t taste as sweet as it does in Ireland (a friend who’s a taster for Guinness confirms the truth of this!).

I’m partial to a good martini (a real one, none of that unnecessary ‘updating’ of the classic, though it can be vodka or gin). But honestly, the fluid that runs in my veins is mostly made of tea — strong, black and bitter like my heart. I am eternally grateful to my sweetie for bringing it to me while I write. We call him the tea fairy. 🙂 That’s love.

He2etic: If you could cast anyone to play the roles of main characters in your work, who would you pick?

Kate: Oh, can I have Jason Statham play Draygo? The movie would need to have a lot more martial arts than the book then, because he mostly gets beat up a lot — or it it could be a new direction for Statham. Of course I bet Tom Hiddleston would do wonders with the role and look great all scruffy. I’d love to have Tilda Swinton play Ro Parker from Owl Stretching — a bisexual accidental shaman. She could do justice to the role!

Weird Noir, from Fox Spirit Books

Weird Noir, from Fox Spirit Books

He2etic: Do you have any long term projects for writing? For example, do you intend to someday spin your own franchise or complete a long novel series?

Kate: I have the beginnings of a franchise in Chastity Flame (working on the third novel now) and I am trying to do more crime consistently, but I have tons of ideas and I want to make as many of them manifest as possible. I have a few publishers who like my stuff and work well with, so that saves a lot of time. Submitting works trying to find those like minds takes up way too much time. It’s such a joy when you find them.

He2etic: Are there any novels you would consider required reading? Are there any movies or television series that inspire your work?

Kate: Oh far too many! I’m a medievalist so I think people should read all the things I neglected for far too long. When I finally read Beowulf, Njal’s Saga and The Tain in one semester, it changed everything, so I recommend that. Films? Go watch all of Aki Kaurismäki’s films! Television-wise, I’m a big fan of Buffy as a show that grew and changed in interesting ways. I just caught up belatedly on Life on Mars which was a lot of fun.

Owl Stretching, by K.A. Laity

Owl Stretching, by K.A. Laity

He2etic: What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Kate: Don’t get hung up on the “do and don’t” advice. Write your story — as in begin something and, more importantly, finish it. Research to figure out where to send it, send it and get on with something new. Repeat ad infinitum. Persist: more people than ever are writing and publishing. You may never find the monetary success that you dream of, but you will write the stories in your head and find readers. That’s richness. People tend to disparage creativity that doesn’t ‘pay off’ but it always pays off; this is our true nature — creating.

K.A. Laity would also like to give a huge thanks to her cover artist, SL Johnson for her fine work.

For more, follow the @BLBolthole on Twitter for updates, articles and more. This blog’s art was crafted by Manuel Mesones, and you can check out his portfolio.

Interview with Sarah Cawkwell

Author Sarah Cawkwell found some time in her crazy busy schedule to talk about the writing process.

Author. Mother. Secret hetwoman. Sarah Cawkwell.

Author. Mother. Secret hetwoman. Sarah Cawkwell.

He2etic: What is the writing process like for you? If you were to describe the process in one word, what would it be?

Sarah: One word… hmm. It’d be a toss-up between ‘exhilarating’, ‘frustrating’ and ‘fun’. Because it’s all three of these things at once.

For me, the writing process consists largely of finding time to do any at all around a full-time job and running a full-time family.

The life of the full-time writer is not mine, alas, and so I have to find those spare hours in a day that already could do with having twenty seven in it!

 

“Flaws. I like characters to have believable flaws. I can’t bear Perfect Heroes.”

 

He2etic: What kind of music do you listen to while you write?

Sarah: Anything without lyrics. Usually, I tune in and turn on to Streaming Soundtracks or listen to film music. If I listen to something with lyrics, I end up accidentally typing them in.

He2etic: Who are your favourite characters amongst both those you’ve written, and by other authors?

Sarah: I have quite a few favourite characters in literature in general. In my own stuff, the hapless hero Gilrain, from The Ballad of Gilrain in the Tales from the Nun and Dragon anthology published by Fox Spirit is probably at the top of the list. Correlan, the Techmarine from The Gildar Rift is also rather fun to write, being decidedly sarcastic.

The Gildar Rift, by Sarah Cawkwell

The Gildar Rift, by Sarah Cawkwell

I love Garro and James Swallow’s Garro audio dramas are utterly wonderful.

He2etic: What are your strongest influences when it comes to character creation?

Sarah: Flaws. I like characters to have believable flaws. I can’t bear Perfect Heroes. Where’s the scope for learning? Where’s the room for improvement?

I like to at least try to create characters people care about. Even if it’s just to say ‘I hate him. I hope he dies in a gory manner whilst people point and laugh.’

He2etic: Are there any dream characters or settings you want to write about? Not just those in the Warhammer universes, but in other franchises or even of your own make?

Sarah: Star Wars. I’d love to write something in the Star Wars EU. I’ve been a huge Star Wars fan since the age of about seven years old and it’s never quite gone away. I have written a few little stories in the Doctor Who universe as well.

“My advice is to read anything and everything, particularly if it requires you to step outside your usual genre comfort zone!”

 

He2etic: What are your favourite drinks, both alcoholic and not? Do you occasionally partake while writing?

Sarah: I’m not much of a one for alcohol. Generally if I go out anywhere, I drive, so I don’t drink at all. If I do, it’s usually wine of some description. (I prefer red over white, and for a change of pace, I *love* real ales).

Valkia the Bloody, by Sarah Cawkwell

Valkia the Bloody, by Sarah Cawkwell

He2etic: What is it about Warhammer and its 40k brother that you love the most?

Sarah: The hopelessness of it all. The lack of happy endings.

The background itself is so richly detailed and utterly enjoyable to work within that I frequently feel remarkably honoured to be allowed to build my tiny sandcastles in the Black Library sandbox.

He2etic: If you could cast anyone to play the roles of main characters in your work, who would you pick?

Sarah: Nobody. Absolutely nobody.

I really don’t like the idea of casting people from my books. Weird, perhaps? Yes. But I much, much prefer the pictures I have in my head as to how people look. There’s nothing worse than seeing a film adaptation of a book and going ‘but that’s not how xxxx looks in my head!’ It’d be so horribly disappointing.

He2etic: Do you have any long term projects for writing? For example, do you intend to someday spin your own franchise or complete a long novel series?

Sarah: I have a few ‘back burner’ projects going on in my own universes, but I only add to them when I have yet another half hour in my by-now thirty hour days.

He2etic: Are there any novels you would consider required reading?

Sarah: I have a few favourite books that I consider to have great re-read value. They are The Three Musketeers, by Alexandre Dumas (my favourite book of all time), The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon, Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins, American Gods by Neil Gaiman… actually, my advice is to read anything and everything, particularly if it requires you to step outside your usual genre comfort zone!

Tales of the Nun & Dragon, from Fox Spirit Books

Tales of the Nun & Dragon, from Fox Spirit Books

He2etic: Are you working on a new novel for the Black Library? More Silver Skulls perhaps?

Sarah: As ever, I’m not allowed to discuss Current Projects [tm]. Suffice it to say that something of a silver nature may be floating somewhere in the system…

He2etic: On writing Space Marines, what runs through your head when you have moments where a Marine interacts with a human? What defines the dynamic for you?

Sarah: Awe. Absolute, incredible awe. If it was me meeting a Space Marine, I’d be completely blown away by the majesty of them.

He2etic: Do you find yourself preferring to write in Warhammer or 40k more? And why? Or what aspects do you prefer about either universe from a writing standpoint?

Sarah: I have no real preference. As a long-time fantasy reader, I think that WHF gets a massively raw deal in terms of readership. There’s some pretty quality stuff in that universe, but it gets shoved aside in favour of the big lads.

Follow the @BLBolthole on Twitter for updates, articles and more. This blog’s art was crafted by Manuel Mesones, and you can check out his portfolio.

Interview with Fox Spirit Books

I admit, it took some work to get this fox out of her den. But today, we’ve managed to land an interview with Adele Wearing, hetwoman* of Fox Spirit Books. Fresh off the release of their new anthology Piracy, Adele is here today to discuss some tips and details from the angle of a publisher.

Crafty Adele of Fox Spirit Books.

Crafty Adele of Fox Spirit Books.

He2etic: I usually start with a qualifier. Can you tell us how many years experience you’ve had, what you’ve published and what publishing companies/free lance work you’ve done?

Adele: Ah, the CV.

Okay, let’s be honest. The reason the people who like me, like me is because I can easily be persuaded to jump feet first into something I have no knowledge about just for fun. So I started Fox Spirit last May with the following credentials… I am a professional project manager, I ran a review website successfully for about four years, and I really, really, really like books and stuff.

When you work in project management, you learn that the secret of doing something well is often finding the right people to do stuff that you can’t do and then we all, you know, do stuff. All the books are listed on the website, but we’ve published novels, novellas, anthologies and one non-fiction in our first year.

 

“How can I stand in front of a buyer and say ‘I am proud of this book, I believe in this story’ if at the back of my mind I know it didn’t entertain me?”

 

He2etic: What are story ideas that are just too common? Stuff that, even if well written, is pending rejecting just because it’s overdone?

Oasis by Joan De La Hoya

Oasis by Joan De La Hoya

Adele: None. Seriously, what’s original anymore? It’s all about a new twist or a new voice. Zombies have been done to rotting corpsified death? Not so much. In Oasis, Joan De La Haye finds a new perspective and freshens it up.

He2etic: What’s your opinion on the value of literary clichés versus something that’s too original (ie, kind of out there)?  Any advice on striking a balance?

Adele: Fox Spirit is all about what’s a little unusual. I’m not sure there is such a thing as ‘too out there’ but at the end of the day, you will always be dealing with someone else’s taste and preferences. I am not going to publish a story I don’t enjoy. How can I stand in front of a buyer and say ‘I am proud of this book, I believe in this story’ if at the back of my mind I know it didn’t entertain me?

A commissioning editor at the big five will have to stand up for a book in front of the marketing department and sell the book to them before they will even consider trying to sell it to the public. All I can tell you is any editor, even one who has the freedom to publish whatever they want, should be asking themselves ‘Could I argue for this book/story/author if I had to?’

 

“Send it to someone who is willing to be rude to your face, edit it again.”

 

My advice to everyone is keep writing what you want to write, keep honing your work and keep pitching. If you are good AND lucky (no doubt timing and luck have their part to play), you will get picked up.

If not, you might still get valuable feedback. If you decide to self publish, use an editor who doesn’t care if they hurt your feelings and make sure you get the story as good as you can.

He2etic: What’s the single biggest mistake most budding authors make in your opinion?

Adele: Hmm, my advice. Certainly not the first to say it and I won’t be the last. Don’t be an ass. Be respectful, follow the submission guidelines. If a publisher says they don’t publish X or they only want Y, you are not the exception to that. It’s really that simple.

Spares by Alec McQuay

Spares by Alec McQuay

Your manuscript may be ten years of your work, the bearing of your soul, the greatest thing ever written, but while writing is a creative act, publishing is a business. If you turned up anywhere else and asked for a job that wasn’t being advertised and wasn’t needed, you’d get no where. Which actually leads on to another point. Your query letter is a job application, treat it seriously.

The very lovely Jon Weir once made this point about reviewers, when you are asking a publisher to send you free stuff on the off-chance you like it and get around to telling people you have to give them a bit of background.

As a reviewer, I sent proper formal printed letters to publishers to ask to be on their lists. I treated it like a covering letter and CV. As a writer you should take your approach no less seriously. In fact somewhere in UBVE#1, Lee Harris covers query letters and how not to do it.

 

“Your manuscript may be ten years of your work, the bearing of your soul, the greatest thing ever written, but while writing is a creative act, publishing is a business.”

 

He2etic: Some of our readers are actually working on their first novel. Do you have any advice to offer them?

Piracy, the first of the Fox Pocket Series

Piracy, the first of the Fox Pocket Series

Adele: Hmm, I’m sure my writers would have better advice than I do, but from what I understand the best process is along the lines of: Write it, finish it, put it aside. Read it again. Edit it again. Send it to someone who is willing to be rude to your face, edit it again.

Then put it aside and start another one. Chances are when you’ve been through that process with the second one, you go back to the first you’ll be glad you didn’t send it out. Of course all this is based on what I hear from the author side of things.

He2etic: What are your favourite stories from Fox Spirit?

Adele: Oh, it’s a total cop out I know, but I love them all. I feel emotionally invested in everything I publish so I really can’t pick. Sorry. I love the variety we’ve done and the fun we’ve all had. 🙂

He2etic: Finally, any general tips or suggestions for getting ahead?

Adele: Ah if I had those, I would be rich. Sorry, it’s hard work, ability and a dose of good luck. 😉

So there you have it folks! And be sure to keep an eye out for the rest of Fox Spirit’s new flash fiction series, Fox Pockets! Coming over the next few months, and available on Lulu.

If you enjoyed this article, be sure to follow the @BLBolthole on Twitter for updates, articles and news about upcoming releases. The author can be followed @He2etic, or on his blog.

*- Ask Sarah Cawkwell. Or just read her book.