IT’S TELEVISION TUESDAY!!!
A Successful Cross-Genre Launch with Chris Fox
What do you think about writing cross-genre? Tell us in the comments!!
When did you know you wanted to be an audiobook narrator?
Well, I kind of fell into audiobooks in 2014 and haven’t looked back since. I’ve been a professional performer (actor/singer/dancer/VO) for over 20 years but in 2006 I got hurt in a stunt show and had to retire due to a disabling pain disorder called Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy aka CRPS. I’ve always been an avid reader and during my recovery I read about 8-12 books a week. I went back to college and got a degree in Game Art and Design and was a game designer for Disney Interactive for a couple of years After the layoffs, I had to figure out what I should do next as I can no longer dance, etc. anymore and my husband suggested I look into audiobooks. He’s brilliant and I researched it, set up my equipment, studied with coaches and have enjoyed every minute of it!!
How do you manage to avoid burn-out? What do you do to maintain your enthusiasm for narrating?
That is a great question, but narration can be tedious. Especially because you have to learn a ton of tech and engineering besides just speaking into the mic. It’s important to take lots of small breaks. Especially because it’s not good to be sitting or standing for too long. Because of my disability, I have to narrate sitting down, so it’s important for me to stretch or lay down every once in a while. Also, it can be hard to maintain your enthusiasm because, yes, I have a wicked cool job that I LOVE, but sometimes it’s hard to get into the emotions of the book. But I remind myself that I’m so blessed to do what I do; to have authors and publishers who believe and trust in me to bring their book to life and I don’t take that honor lightly. If I’m struggling or just not feeling it, I’ll step away, play some video games or watch TV or go for a walk and then come back fresh and get back to work!! As long as I hit my deadline, my daily schedule is flexible.
What about this title compelled you to audition as narrator?
Well first, I LOVE Michelle Madow’s work. That was a definite first draw for me as I’ve been a fan of hers for a while and have read some of her books already. What I love about the Transcend Time Saga Series is not just some fun characters and the love story, but I was intrigued by the time travel aspect of it and I’m a huge Jane Austen and Regency Era fan so to be able to be a part of that world and bring those scenarios and characters to life was really fun and fulfilling. I also love anything that has a mystical, supernatural or paranormal slant to it and I loved how Michelle merged the normalcy of teenage issues – boys, relationships, school – and beautifully worked in this fun mythos of time travel and reincarnation.
How closely do you prefer to work with authors?
Before I being recording the book, I like to work very close with the authors if they are available. After I read the book, I’ll send any questions I might have to the author if I need clarification and then I’ll also ask them to provide me with a character sheet that describes all of the characters that are most important to them so I can get an idea of what they were thinking about for them. Their quirks, age, vocal preferences, etc. However, since my job as the narrator is to be the producer and director, after the first fifteen minutes has been approved, I will not take acting or directing notes. So it’s important for me to make sure that I have as much as I can beforehand and hopefully leave a lasting impression with the author that their book, their “baby” is in good hands and that I will give it the best that I have to make sure the audiobook, which is now “our baby” is excite the listeners.
Who are your “accent inspirations”?
When I’m going to be doing accents, I don’t really have a person I’m inspired by. I just try to do as much research as I can to get the accent correct. If it’s RP British in the Regency Era, then I’ll watch a lot of Jane Austen or Downton Abbey. It’s it needs to be really Cockney like someone from Essex, then I’ll find shows like “The Only Way is Essex”. I’ve looked a lot on YouTube, but I also work with some amazing coaches to help me get the accent just right. (PJ Ochlan and Joel Froomkin are amazing!)
Audible Best Selling Narrator, Andrea Emmes was born in Hollywood, FL and grew up in both Tennessee and Rhode Island, started her career in musical theater. Cutting her teeth at The Trinity Arts Center in Rhode Island, Andrea eventually made her way to Orlando and began her eclectic career singing/dancing in various shows at Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, Pirates’ Dinner Adventure, performing as a magician’s assistant, headlining on the Las Vegas Strip and touring Los Angeles as an L.A. Award winning artist with her album, “I’m On My Way”.
Having worked in tv, film and video games, Andrea, a total Book Nerd, now enjoys narrating audiobooks at her home studio in San Jose, California.
Her wide range of character voices and dynamic/emotionally invested performances has reviewers and listeners alike commenting on how she effortlessly pulls listeners in, and has versatility and charisma.
Jon Land is the USA Today bestselling author of the 38 novels, including seven titles in the critically acclaimed Caitlin Strong series: Strong Enough to Die, Strong Justice, Strong at the Break, Strong Vengeance, Strong Rain Falling (winner of the 2014 International Book Award and 2013 USA Best Book Award for Mystery-Suspense) and Strong Darkness (winner of the 2014 USA Books Best Book Award and the 2015 International Book Award for Thriller). Caitlin Strong returns this October in Strong Light of Day, to be followed by Darkness Rising, his sci-fi collaboration with Heather Graham coming from Forge in June of 2016. Jon is a 1979 graduate of Brown University, lives in Providence, Rhode Island and can be found on the Web at jonlandbooks.com or on Twitter @jondland.
Tell us about the decision to write a thriller with a female lead.
Well, confession time here, starting this series was as much a marketing decision as a creative one. I owe the whole concept to the head of mass market sales for Tor/Forge Publishing going back about a decade. At a meeting where we were discussing trends in publishing, he raised the point that thrillers were the most popular genre and 70% of books were bought by women. Yet nobody at the table could name a single female thriller hero. Mystery, yes. But a female Jack Reacher? Uh-uh. So then and there I piped in with “What about a female Texas Ranger?” And in that moment Caitlin was born.
What do you appreciate about the Texas Rangers?
So many things! First and foremost, they are the most famous and legendary lawmen in American history. The only frontier body out of the Old West to still be around today—and not just around, they’re still operating pretty much as they always have. They’re still gunfighters by reputation, even if they never have draw their weapon. They still command the same respect they always have and have built wondrously on the folklore of their forebears. All those great stories of the likes of Bill McDonald, Jack Hayes, Frank Hamer, Manuel “Lone Wolf” Gonzaulles, and so many more. You see so many male thriller heroes who are ex Special Forces, Navy SEALs, or something like that. Since women can’t service in active duty for special ops, making Caitlin Strong a Texas Ranger was the next best thing.
Did you do any travel related research?
You can never do enough. I get to Texas twice a year and base scenes on where I visit. So you’ll see a lot of Midland in STRONG LIGHT OF DAY, a lot of Houston in STRONG COLD DEAD, and a ton of Austin in STRONG TO THE BONE which comes out December 5. I’m a whiz when it comes to Google searches and, another confession, I write about a ton of places in Texas that I’ve never been to.
What’s your process with research? Is there a method to the madness?
That’s a great question because it comes down to process. The method to my madness is not really having a method. I don’t outline and am very spontaneous in my writing, figuring if I don’t know what’s going to happen next, the reader can’t possibly know. So I don’t necessarily know what research I need to do before I start a book. I’ll actually do the bulk of it in the midst of the writing. If I need to know something as specific as the kind of tree you might find a body under in Laramie. Or what that tree smells like. Or what diner Caitlin might in when she visits this town or that. Attention to detail is crucial but the real trick is knowing how much not to say so the reader is left with the impression that I’ve been there, mostly because I don’t give them enough to figure out that I haven’t.
How do you view Caitlin Strong among all the characters you’ve created over the years?
Easily the best and most fun I’ve ever written. I have so much faith in all of them, meaning I let them do the heavy lifting when it comes to figuring out the plot—or, better stated, my characters are also my collaborators. The reason I can take the risk of being so spontaneous, of literally not knowing exactly where I’m going or how I’m going to get there, is because I trust my character can sketch out the roadmap for me. They write their own dialogue, they make their own decisions, they make their own mistakes. Some of the best scenes I’ve written in this series, I can’t even tell you where they came from.
What are the stakes and do they affect Caitlin personally?
As far as STRONG TO THE BONE goes, it’s the most personal of any book in the series because we learn for the first time that Caitlin was raped 18 years before when she was in college. The man was never caught. He just disappeared. And now he’s back, his DNA showing up in another victim of sexual assault. So Caitlin, all grown up and a Texas Ranger now, has a chance to slay her greatest dragon. Which brings us to the question of whether she really wants to, because she’s afraid catching him will strip her of the edge that defines who she is. As you can see, there are often aren’t easy answers in this series!
Is it difficult writing a female lead?
Not really, because she’s so real to me, as are all of my characters. I’ve written serial killers and terrorists, when I’m not either of those. I’ve written Israelis, Palestinians, teenagers, along with blind, deaf and people suffering from other disabilities. And I’m none of those things either. Well, breaking news, you can add to that list the fat that I’m not a woman. Storytelling springs not from the conscious mind but from the imagination, where anything is possible. The key to being a great storyteller is to able to recapture the magic of role playing that children do. I think that’s why so many love books as a adults: because it makes them feel like kids again, the way I feel when I’m writing.
How have readers responded to her thus far?
Beyond anything I ever could have imagined. She doesn’t have the sales of the Jack Reacher books, but I honestly believe she compares very favorably to Lee Child’s iconic hero. The thing about those books, and the ones featuring Caitlin, is they’re both essentially modern day Westerns. The storytelling, at its heart, is very basic: Somebody good willing to do anything it takes to stop somebody bad from doing something really wrong. That’s the crucial element of this series and any great thriller, as well as why readers have responded to Caitlin as positively as they have: she isn’t just about solving crimes, she’s about preventing something much worse from happening. That’s what makes a true hero.
PLEASE WELCOME LAUREN SAPALA
Lauren Sapala is a writing coach who specializes in coaching introverted, intuitive writers. She founded the WriteCity writing groups in Seattle and San Francisco and currently blogs about writing and creativity at www.laurensapala.com.
My fellow creative friend on the east coast just released another book August 29, 2017. Check it out!
“A voice that was strong and cruel came from somewhere deep within me. When the voice split away and talked to me all by itself I started calling her Lo…She’d watched me at my lowest points and saved up a thousand slights, a million minor offenses. She forgave nothing, and now she wanted revenge.”
Leah is an alcoholic. She’s antisocial, self-destructive, and deeply damaged. She’s also battling a voice in her head she calls Lo, who wants to take over her body. Lo is everything Leah isn’t—beautiful, charming, confident, and ruthless in her desires. She commandeers Leah’s will whenever Leah gets too drunk, and acts as her escort through the rainy Seattle underworld.
As a misfit bibliophile, Leah’s conception of reality has never been rock solid, but as she spirals deeper into addiction the “real world” of bars, bikers, dealers, and addicts slowly dissolves into Lo’s dark vision. As Lo steadily tightens her hold, Leah prepares to make one last bid for survival, knowing her only chance is to transcend Lo’s terrifying drive toward death.
In the beginning you addressed this book to your Uncle John. Who was he to you, and what impact did he have on your life?
My Uncle John is my dad’s identical twin brother. One of the issues I explore in the book is the death of my younger brother, which occurred when he was six years old and I was eight. My younger brother battled leukemia for three years before his death and my Uncle John was the one who drove us to his chemotherapy appointments two hours away, each month. My uncle had a bad hip, so being in the car for long periods of time like this wasn’t ideal. But he did it anyway. I have always carried that memory of my uncle soldiering on through the physical and emotional difficulty of ferrying us back and forth to those appointments. I watched his example and learned from it. That’s why I say in the dedication that he taught me that “the only way out is through.” It’s a well known saying that means, “the only way to get through it is to get through it.” My Uncle John always got through things, he didn’t run away from them. This is a lesson that the narrator of the book, Leah, needs to learn.
*What does the “shadow” represent from the title of your book?
The “shadow” refers to the shadow self, that psychological dark side that exists in each of us, but normally remains buried in the subconscious. The narrator, Leah, is a normally introverted, bookish type of person who doesn’t know how to express her true self, or how to express her real needs. When she gets drunk, her shadow self comes roaring to the surface, the wildly extroverted, aggressive, domineering personality who has absolutely no awareness of anyone else’s needs other than her own.
For those who are interested in MBTI, I’m an INFJ personality type, so my shadow side is an ESTP. However, because our shadow side usually stays hidden in our subconscious, it also stays relatively undeveloped. A personality expert I love said that using your conscious side is like signing your name with your dominant hand—it’s smooth and fluid from using it so much. But using your shadow side is like trying to sign your name with your left foot—everything comes out distorted and barely recognizable because that part of you hardly ever sees the light of day.
When Leah gets drunk she goes into her shadow side and becomes Lo and, consequently, everything in her comes out as distorted and barely recognizable. It’s definitely a Jekyll-and-Hyde type of situation.
*What does the “Lo” represent?
Lo is the personality that Leah, the narrator of the book, becomes when she gets drunk. I was an alcoholic for many years and this book is based on my experiences during that time. To this day, I’m fascinated by the personality changes that people undergo due to addiction. It’s quite common to hear people say that a family member is the most loving, compassionate person when sober, but when they’re drunk or high it’s the complete opposite. And of course, people do things when intoxicated that they would never do sober, like lie, cheat, and steal. I find this so intriguing and so I wanted to explore how that process worked for me when I was an active alcoholic.
I also believe that, as a society, we use a lot of different addictions to lower consciousness on a regular basis— that is, to make ourselves less alert, less empathetic, less compassionate, less emotionally sensitive. Alcohol and drugs are obvious choices, but we also use things like shopping, sex, the internet, gossip, an oversaturation of news and media, exercise, and food. In my book, Leah is just one extreme example of someone who systematically and purposefully tries to lower her consciousness whenever she can (through alcohol) because she doesn’t want to deal with her emotionally painful past, or her energetically sensitive present.
*There are two very interesting quotes at the front of the book. Can you describe what they mean to you?
The first quote actually comes from one of my clients, a writer named Ritu Kaushal. She has a blog called Walking through Transitions (http://www.walkingthroughtransitions.com) which is just fantastic. I was reading some of her work and stumbled across that quote from her and it hit me like a bolt of lightning. Especially the last few lines:
Maybe, that’s what hurt does. It cuts us into different people. There are some parts with their gaping holes that break off from the core, and then they roam inside us, reminding us of our own poverty.
I thought, “Yes! Ah-ha! That’s EXACTLY the way I felt during all those dark years when I was drinking!” Ritu very graciously let me use the quote from her and I am so grateful because it’s just perfect.
The second quote is from Jean Genet:
Worse than not realizing the dreams of your youth, would be to have been young and never dreamed at all.
He’s one of my very favorite writers, and that quote from him sums up how I felt about those years. They were dark and difficult, but I’m so glad they happened and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. As painful as that time was, I still saw it all through my writer’s imagination (my “dreaming eyes”) and I treasure those experiences.
*After suffering some hardship you turned to books. What led you in that direction?
Oh, I’ve always been a book nut. In fact, that was something I really wanted to emphasize in this memoir/novel. Because of some painful experiences in her childhood, Leah has a lot of trouble connecting with people. She feels separate from everyone all the time. One of the main ways she relates to the world and figures out how to navigate life is through books. For example, there’s one instance in the book where Leah meets this couple who run a nightclub together. She immediately compares them to characters out of a Fitzgerald novel and wonders to herself if she should “plan” to feel about them the same way she felt about those characters. This is extremely dysfunctional—but that’s actually how I was at that time. I had no idea how to even have spontaneous emotions toward people because I was so guarded and shut down. So, I often categorized people as characters from books I had read, and then treated them accordingly.
Leah (who is obviously me as a character) does this all through the novel too. She becomes involved with a guy who reminds her of Prince Myshkin from Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot and so she instantly puts herself in the role of the tragic female character of that novel to support that fantasy. At the end of the book Leah flees her disastrous life in Seattle to start over in San Francisco, and the only way she can process that decision is by comparing herself to Anna Karenina jumping in front of the train. You’ll see this over and over again throughout the book. Leah is so frightened by “real life” that the only way she can interpret her experience of it is through story.
*What were some challenges writing this book.
Um, wow. I could write ten pages on this. Well, the first draft took me over two years to write. It came out to about 800 pages, and it then took me another nine years to cut and rewrite and revise. I probably rewrote the whole book at least five times. Putting it all together structurally was kind of a nightmare.
Beyond the actual process of writing it, the book contains really, really personal stuff. And a lot of it is super embarrassing. I detail incidents in that book that I hadn’t told my closest friends about. There are sections that are sexually explicit, and other sections that are incredibly emotionally intimate. I was terrified of what people would think of me.
I resolved to bury the manuscript in the backyard and never think about it again at least 20 times. And then I finally published it.
*Name the rewards of writing it.
Ha, I could write ten pages about this too! Well, first of all I felt a huge sense of relief once it was out of my desk drawer and into the world. I do believe that releasing your work into the world is the essential last step in the creative cycle for any writer. If you have a ton of work stuffed away that no one has ever seen, it’s just as mentally unhealthy as it would be if you were a hoarder and living in a house stuffed with piles of newspapers.
Second of all, I made the most unlikely and unexpected connections through the book. Readers messaged me on Facebook and emailed me directly to tell me how strongly the book resonated with them. All the stuff that I was so embarrassed about and was cringing over…well, they loved it. They told me they thought it was hilarious or beautiful or just awesome. That was a really, really cool thing for me to see, that I’m not the only one that’s gone through dark times.
*What is the message you want others to walk away with?
I want others to read this book and know that they don’t have to hide themselves. It’s okay if you have or are currently struggling with addiction, or low self-worth, or messed up stuff from your past. Other people are going through it too. We’re all human and none of us are alone in this. I also hope that people are just plain entertained by the book. Readers have told me that they read it all in one night because they just couldn’t keep from going on to the next chapter, and then the next. I think that’s something every writer wants to hear, that the book you wrote was just actually a lot of fun for people to read.
*Hindsight is 20/20. Put on your hindsight glasses and write a letter to your younger self. What would the letter say? What would you say to Lo?
Well, after living with her myself, I can honestly say there is no telling Lo anything. She is completely ego-based and runs entirely on fear. That’s her role in this life and that’s cool. But I would tell Leah that everything is going to work out, and that everything she’s living through is going to be in a book someday. I think that would have made her very happy.
Don’t miss out on Lauren’s other book, The INFJ Writer
I’m reading this book right now and it’s very intriguing! It’s that kind of book that draws you back into its pages.
After discovering rare gargoyles mysteriously positioned inside an ancient church being restored in the small English town of Atwelle, the architect Don Whitby and a young research historian Margeaux Wood realize that the gargoyles are predicting the bizarre murders that are occurring in the town. Five hundred years earlier when the church is being built, two powerful families in Atwelle are contesting control of the region in the delicate backdrop of King Henry VIII’s dispute with the Pope over the King’s divorce. In the middle of these conflicts, the same bizarre murders are being committed in the town. Two stories of identical macabre murders five hundred years apart ─ One surprising solution in the mystery of the gargoyles and the Atwelle Confession
Where you a reader growing up?
Not so much. The main reason was because of the types of books that I was allowed to read. They weren’t very interesting, well-known, and almost all were religious. I dreaded reading because of this. It wasn’t until I was older that I discovered that not all books were dull and boring.
I remember that when I got my license, I regularly drove to Barnes & Noble to buy books (most in secret). Classics, poetry, non-fiction—I devoured all of them with enthusiasm.
Although I would have loved to read Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia growing up, I think being deprived of good books has made me that much more appreciative of them today. I can’t imagine my life without reading now.
Same here. I’m glad you had a wonderful discovery later in life. Too many great books!
Was there anything in your background that influenced you to write later in life?
Reading the book Chocolat in college. It was the first time I had ever read a book that was filled with magic and whimsy. This launched my obsession with magical realism books, which led to my obsession with books about witches, which led to my obsession with fantasy books.
Nice. Once you read something you like, you’re hooked.
Why did you choose fantasy for a debut novel?
Fantasy is my favorite genre to read because of the limitless possibilities. I love visiting other worlds. I love magic and supernatural entities. I love exploring things that I am afraid of. It seemed only fitting to write in the genre I love most.
Great! Limitless possibilities is fascinating!
What made you move from California to Pennsylvania?
My husband teaches philosophy and got a position at a local university. Prior to PA, we lived in Florida and Colorado.
PA is my favorite place I’ve lived so far though. I absolutely love the seasons, especially fall. I also prefer living in a small country town versus a big bustling city.
Nice. There’s a certain kind of peace out in the countryside.
Describe the decision to write a book after other job opportunities.
Creative writing was my favorite subject in grade school, but once I went to college and began to explore various job opportunities, writing fell by the wayside.
I eventually went on to work in corporate America and was miserable, so I started writing stories again as a way for me to relax from the grind.
It didn’t take me long to spark the passion I had lost for writing. I looked forward to my hobby at every opportunity. After I published my first book, Strange Luck, I knew that I wanted to dedicate my life to writing. Just as Chocolat inspired me, I can only hope that my books will do the same for my readers.
Ohhh. I can totally relate to this.
Who is Daisy Darling and how do you relate to her?
Daisy Darling is a stubborn, quirky girl who wants to be a writer, but things keep getting in the way. She inherits her family’s antique shop, ends up in a mysterious world where her memories are stolen, and then accidentally becomes ringleader for an ancient and evil theater.
Many of Daisy’s quirks are similar to mine, and some of her experiences are based on things that have happened to me.
You can learn more here:
Does she have a mentor that she confides in?
In each book, Daisy has a mentor that helps guide her. In Strange Luck, it was a time-traveling wizard. In The Nightmare Birds, it was a beautiful and immortal performer, but in A Darling Secret, Daisy finally learns how to harness her own strengths and therefore relies only on herself.
I like the progression here.
Tell us about the upcoming release of A Darling Secret.
A Darling Secret is the conclusion to the series, where you’ll learn the fate of your favorite heroes and love-to- hate foes. It’s a little darker than The Nightmare Birds, with lots of occult themes, magic, and psychological games. My favorite! ��
I wanted this book to answer remaining questions and leave the reader with a satisfying sense of completion. I spent a lot of time talking to my readers to find out what they wanted to see happen, which characters they wanted to see more of, and what they liked most about the previous books. I hope my readers will enjoy the result.
Awesome. I love that you seek out feedback from your readers.
What have you learned after writing your third book?
The more you write, the better you become at writing.
Amen to that. It’s simple yet profound.
Do you outline or construct character arcs?
When I write, I don’t plot everything out in advance. I have a very general idea of what I’m going to do and the rest I come up with as I go. For example, I wanted to write a book about a world built using stolen memories. That was the general idea I had for Strange Luck. The rest took form as I wrote. A lot of the time I don’t even know what is going to happen in the story or to my characters, but that’s part of the fun. All the themes I discuss in my books are important to me and are largely based on my own experiences/thoughts, like how we are our memories.
Exploring the plot as you go does sound interesting.
What’s next after the Strange Luck series?
I plan to write a standalone psychological horror novel. Details to come.
Oh, do share when available.
Amie Irene Winters was born and raised in California but now lives and writes in western Pennsylvania. She is the author of the award-winning Strange Luck series.
When not writing, she can be found hiking with her dog, baking desserts, or breaking a sweat in kickboxing class.
To learn more about Amie and her books, visit amieirenewinters.com.
❤ Books. Reviews. Geekery. ❤
Sharon Loves Books: books are my bag
Freelance writer, blogger, novelist
Newest Information about Podbean Podcasting
Let's talk reviews, recommendations, all things books
A community of writers for a community of readers!
A Blog For Book Lovers by A Book Lover!
Each night I travel the world, I live in the minds of killers and walk at the side of heros.
Submit your work for FULL FEEDBACK, plus get it performed/showcased at the monthly festival.
Monthly Festival : Turn your book into a movie and get it seen by 1000s of people. Or garner FULL FEEDBACK from publishers on your novel and help your next draft. Or get a transcript video of your novel performed by professional actors.
Books, books and more books!