Sunday, November 27, 2011

[Interview_2] Mark Adam Kaplan

Mark Adam Kaplan is a school teacher, a novelist and a screenwriter.

His first novel, A Thousand Beauties, was published by BeWrite Books in 2009. His second novel, Down, has just been picked up by Bewrite Books, and will be released soon.

In this interview, Mark Kaplan talks about his first picture book, Monsters Do Ugly Things.

How would you describe Monsters Do Ugly Things?

Monsters Do Ugly Things contains 36 illustrations about all things monstrous. It is a satire of social norms and common behaviors. Most of all, it's fun.

It is about inappropriate social behavior. Our monsters pick their noses, eat when they talk, make messes, etc. They also do 'pretty' things, like have friends, and share.

How did you come up with the idea for the book?

This book has been gestating in my mind for years. After the birth of my children, it just gelled. But the book is nothing without Glenn Scano's brilliant illustrations. I'd written the book and it sat in a drawer for a long time. Then I found one of Glenn's old pieces, an etched mirror, that I'd bought from a crafts show. The minute I thought of Glenn for this book, all the lights went on.

The book began even simpler than it ended up. Glenn's art inspired me to expand on the original idea. The book grew organically from our work together.

I wrote the book fairly quickly, then worked with Glenn's illustrations to hone the idea and craft the entire piece. Glenn worked every day, 12 hours a day for 10 months, stopping only for bodily functions and doctor's visits.

Where and when was the book published?

Monsters Do Ugly Things was published on November 15, 2011. Several issues (on the publisher's side) pulled the book from the shelves for a few days. Then it reappeared, all issues resolved.

We had been rejected form about a dozen agents and a handful of publishers. When we investigated self-publishing, we discovered how expensive it would be to print out high-gloss, hard cover books. Add that to my constantly seeing women baby sit their kids while shopping by stuffing an iPhone in their faces... it just made sense to go eBook. But we found there were no established outlets for new Children's eBooks. ePublishing houses also did little or no promotion for the books they published. It didn't make a lot of sense to give the lion's share of the profits to a company that wasn't really working for it.

One big disadvantage is that we have to market the book ourselves. Neither Glenn nor I are marketing experts. Because we are selling a picture book, many people want a hard cover to read at night with their children, and are thrown by the fact that we aren't offering one. But the future is electronic, and many people I know let their children play with their iPad. Why not have something specific, safe, and fun to give the kids to look through?

Which aspects of the work you put into the book did you find most difficult?

The most difficult part of this was preparing the book for ePublication. Glenn spent hundreds of hours tweaking the illustrations and the text, adjusting the coloring and the sizes, formatting the files and refining the edges

My favorite part was opening the files to see Glenn's artwork. Glenn's favorite part was creating the monsters. We spent more time laughing than doing just about anything else. We've known each other for 35 years, but this is the first project we've ever done together. We plan to do many more.

What sets Monsters Do Ugly Things apart from the other things you've written?

I normally write American tragedies, screenplays, avante garde plays. This is my first picture book, and is an entirely different world than I am used to building.

The book is similar to my others works only in as much as it is a different view of a somewhat accepted part of our society.

What will your next book be about?

We are working on Monsters Grow Up, a sequel to this one.

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Saturday, November 5, 2011

[Interview_2] Tahlia Newland

Tahlia Newland writes young adult and adult urban fantasy.

Her books include The Drorgon Slayer’s Choice (Catapult Press, 2011); A Matter of Perception (Catapult Press, 2011) and Realm Hunter (Catapult Press, forthcoming 2012).

Newland is giving away a limited number of ebook copies of her short paranormal romance, The Drorgon Slayer’s Choice while the e-book version of her anthology of urban fantasy & magical realism, A Matter of Perception is available at the special release price of 99c until November 14. On the November 15 the price for A Matter of Perception goes up to $1.99.

In this interview, Tahlia Newland talks about A Matter of Perception:

How would you describe your latest anthology?

A Matter of Perception is an unusual collection of urban fantasy and magical realism that will make you wonder what’s real and what’s not. The stories are thematically linked by various supernatural beings, a touch of romance, a bit of humour, and a smidgen of philosophy. There are gods, aliens, ghosts in the service of sirens, sorcerers who battle each other with magical light, a dream of a future past, a pair of rose-coloured glasses and Norris.


Yeah, he’s a really sweet, shy, rather pedantic guy who would like to be a knight in shining armour.

How long did it take you to write the stories that appear in this anthology?

I’m a very creative person. Ideas fly around my mind all the time. I wrote these stories just to try some of them out, but it wasn’t until about a year afterwards that I thought about publishing them. I worked on these and other short stories for about three months initially ... writing, revising or editing every day. I sent some of them into competitions and to magazines, and one got to the semi finals in a big competition, but they’re really different.

It took another three weeks to get feedback, fine edit them and prepare them for publication.

The anthology was published by Catapult Press on November 2, 2011 and is available on Amazon, Smashwords & will soon be in other major outlets.

Catapult Press is the publishing arm of Centrepiece Productions, a company owned by myself and my husband. We set up the publishing side to publish my shorter books while my agent still chases a print deal from traditional publishers for my longer works. The advantage is that I have control over all facets of the production. The downside is that I have responsibility for all facets of production. I’m handling it by being very organised and allotting just a few tasks to do each day.

Which aspects of the work you put into the book did you find most difficult?

I hadn’t written short stories before, so it was a new game for me.

The hardest thing is finding a really snappy story and giving it a bit of a twist at the end.

Which aspects of the work did you enjoy most?

I didn’t have much trouble with the stories in A Matter of Perception. They came easily. It was just the right time, I guess.

I like finding great endings and several people commented on the clever and often humorous, or tragic endings in the stories, so I’m happy about that. I also love great characters and there are some good ones in this collection. Norris is my favourite. He’s terribly lovable.

What sets A Matter of Perception apart from other things you've written?

All my writing has unusual ideas and a mix of humour, action and romance. All my themes encourage readers to look more closely at the nature of their world, their mind and their perception.

A Matter of Perception is the only collection of short stories I’ve ever written.

What will your next book be about?

Realm Hunter is coming out in December.

The book revolves around Nadima, a philosophy student, who becomes infatuated with Aarod, a handsome shadow slayer. Their relationship jeopardises the success of an important mission in the hidden realm where he lives. When Aarod’s master orders him to leave the mundane world for ever, Nadima is determined to penetrate the veil between the worlds and follow him. But will he be waiting?

How many books have you written so far?

The Drorgon Slayer’s Choice(Catapult Press, 2011). Are you willing to stake your future on a butterfly’s shampoo preferences?" Julia’s not sure. She knows that relationships made in heaven can end up in hell, but if she can avoid having her memory wiped, she just might end up with a god of her own.

A Matter of Perception (Catapult Press, 2011). Do you see what I see? Take a bunch of supernatural beings, a battle of magical light, a mysterious hole in the pavement, a dream of a future past and a pair of rose-coloured glasses, mix them with a little romance and a smidgen of philosophy and you might be left wondering if it isn’t all just a matter of perception. This thought-provoking collection of urban fantasy and magical realism stories includes "The Drorgon Slayer’s Choice" and "The Boneyard", a semi finalist in the Aussiecon 4 Make Ready fantasy/scfi competition of 2010.


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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

[Interview] Fungisayi Sasa

Zimbabwean poet and author Fungisayi Sasa lives in Milton Keynes.

She is the author of the children’s book, The Search for the Perfect Head (Eloquent Books, 2008).

One of her short stories was published in the anthology, Writing Free (Weaver Press, 2011) while her poems have appeared in places that include the Poetry International Web and Spilt Milk Magazine.

In this interview, Fungisayi Sasa talks about her concerns as a writer:

When did you start writing?

My dad unwittingly led me to writing during my early childhood years. He was very firm about studying and, as children, we weren't allowed to watch television during the week. And he would often take us to the local library.

At first, I didn't like these visits to the library because reading felt like work to me. But eventually I started enjoying it and through reading, my passion for writing grew and I started writing poems and short stories about my family and the annoying things they would have done to me. Instead of ranting and raving at them when they made me angry, I would write a story about them or write an angry poem. Writing was therapeutic.

When I was in Zimbabwe, writing was simply a hobby, I didn't think I could go anywhere with it. Even though I read many books, my mind didn't grasp the concept that I could be a writer.

When the political situation in Zimbabwe forced my family to flee to the United Kingdom, I found loads of career opportunities that included writing. I studied creative writing at the University of Bedfordshire and with guidance and support from my lecturers, I sharpened my skills. I gained the confidence to send my work out and I found that the thing with writing and becoming published is that you have to push and persevere.

I used to spend hours trawling websites and writing down their details, sending work by post or e-mail - hoping that somebody would be interested. I even used to write work specifically tailored for particular magazines and websites. I sent my work out to so many places and received so many rejections but I didn't let this deter me. I was motivated because I knew that my work was of a suitable standard. If I was asked to make changes, I would.

Have your experiences influenced your writing in any way?

My personal experiences are everything when it comes to my writing.

Some of my characters have my personal traits. They talk the way I do.

My writing flows more easily if it comes from my own personal perspective. For example, in the short story, “Eyes On”, which was published in Writing Free, the idea of stalking came from the fact that when I am on Facebook, I cannot randomly go on a person's profile and check out what they are doing because, to me, it feels like I am stalking them.

However, it would also appear that one of the wonders of modern technology and social networking sites is they appear to have normalised stalking to such an extent that we are not disturbed when we are followed around. It is probably because of this 'miracle' that the main character in “Eyes On”, isn't alarmed when he realises that he is being followed.

What are the most difficult aspects?

Starting writing anything is always difficult. The first sentence is always important to me. It has to make the right impact. If it doesn't, I can't continue.

I can write three pages but if the first sentence of the story or book isn't quite right, I will delete it all.

I don't start writing until the sentence sounds right in my mind. And while I wait for that, I plot the story in my mind and concentrate on characterization.

The moments I enjoy most come after I have finished the work because while I am writing, I can't quite see the piece as a whole. The great thing about finishing a piece is that I can dive back into it and start editing and tweaking it.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

Is every word relevant and important? This is what I keep asking myself. This is because as I write I can see a word repeated over and over again. When I see this happening, I remember the time, in my primary school, when my Grade 4 teacher said, “So, then and got are barred from society.” And there was this picture of a man behind bars and that phrase was written underneath.

I usually overcome repetitions like these by reading my work out aloud. If the writing flows well and each word sounds right, I am happy. If not, I tweak it a little bit.

Also, sometimes, motivating myself to write is really difficult. Some days I look at the computer and I think, “No, not yet..” It's not writer's block because the ideas are there, always buzzing in my mind.

What will you write about next?

Baboons … I am working on a re-write of a children's book that I completed sometime ago. I am doing this because I realised the story would work better if it was about humans. I am not saying the baboons evolve into humans, but that when I first wrote the story, I could see humans in my mind but I forced the story into being one about animals.

This conversation was first published by The Zimbabwean

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