Interview with Lottie Morgan – The Calico Cat by Amanda James

I’m sitting on the high terrace of the Living Space bar at The Watergate Bay Hotel near Newquay. The view is stunning from this advantaged position and I watch the Atlantic breakers crashing on the yellow beaches while the seabirds wheel above, calling to the wind. From the restaurant, the smell of seafood, French fries and garlic mingle with the blackcurrant tones of my wine and my stomach is rumbling. Through the open doors hurrying through the bar, I spy Lottie. She’s the protagonist in my book The Calico Cat. Lottie’s slipping her light denim jacket off and as she comes outside, her long chestnut-brown hair lifts on the breeze as she walks. As she sees me, her lively green eyes light up and her smile reflects mine as she hurries over to my table. She looks self-assured as ever, but happier than she once did. She’s come a long way, and that makes me happy.

‘Hi Lottie, how are you?’ I say giving her a quick hug.

‘I’m good, thanks. Really good.’ She smiles again and sits opposite. ‘I suppose you might even say I’m fantastic.’

‘You look it. Now, can I get you a glass of wine or shall we order lunch first?’

Lottie picks up the menu and scans it the delicious food on offer, and then back to me with a mischievous twinkle. ‘Hmm, I’m starving. Let’s order first.’

I laugh. Lottie always comes straight to the point, no prevaricating for her, similar to me in that way. A waitress comes over and we select the same lunch dish too. Locally caught crab salad, and fries. We order a plate of olives and fresh bread to share, then wait for the waitress to bring our drinks. Lottie leans back in her seat, straightens her colourful summer dress and says, ‘How’s stuff with you then, Mandy?’

Lu always uses Mandy rather than Amanda. ‘I’m great thanks. Life is treating me well. But I’ve really missed you of course. It’s been a while. And, would you mind answering a few questions, so the readers of The Calico Cat can get to know you a little more?’

‘I expect so. Hope they’re not too tricky.’

‘No, I promise. Okay, first question, how old are you?’

Lottie rolls her eyes and a smile tugs at the corner of her mouth. ‘You know the answer to that, you gave me life after all.’

The waitress sets down our drinks and the olive plate and I pop one into my mouth.

‘I did indeed,’ I say with difficulty as the olive’s intent on sliding down my throat. ‘But then I know all the answers. The readers don’t though.’

‘I’ve just turned twenty-nine.’

‘And what do you do for a living?

‘I used to be a teacher but that wasn’t working out for me.’ Lottie grins and crunches an olive. ‘But now I’m an artist and run my own gallery, just along the coast a bit at Mawgan Porth.’

‘How’s that going?’

‘We are so busy, I had to rope my mum in to cover for me today while I came.’ Lottie tears some crusty bread, dips it in olive oil and takes a big bite. ‘I like busy though.’

‘Your Mum?’ I’m shocked about this. While Lottie and her mum seem to be building bridges, I wouldn’t have thought she’d have been entrusted with Lottie’s business.

Lottie frowns then gives a little laugh. ‘When I say Mum, I mean Louisa.’

Realisation dawns and I say, ‘Oh of course, yes.’ I won’t explain further as I don’t want to give too much away if you’re going to read the book. I take a sip of wine. ‘You sound happy, are you?’

Lottie swallows and gives me a huge smile. ‘I have never been happier. I’m quite certain of that. You know me, I analyse everything to within an inch of its life, and I have come up with Lottie Morgan is definitely happy. Caleb is a big reason she is.’

‘Ah yes, the lovely Caleb. Couldn’t say the same a year or so ago though, eh?

A dark cloud slips behind her eyes. ‘No.’

I feel guilty for dragging up the past, but if readers are to know Lottie, we must visit it. ‘If you’re okay to, would you mind if we went back to your childhood for a bit?’

A deep sigh. ‘I guess not. All that stuff’s all behind me now…so why dwell on it?’

I take a sip of wine and plunge straight in. ‘I won’t dwell – just a bit of background.  You and your mum didn’t get on, as a result of something she and your father kept from you, is that right?’

Lottie wrests her hair from the wind and look out over the ocean. ‘Yes. My parents kept a big fat secret from me and then came and bit us all on the arse when I turned thirteen. I reacted in a way in which I thought was understandable, but Mother blamed me. Said I was cruel, wilful and unruly. She said I was ungrateful, odd…her penance. As a consequence, I felt rejected by my parents, Mother mainly, but Dad had to take some blame. He’s always been a weak man, let Mother trample all over him. I decided that I wanted to be as different from them as humanly possible. Different from most people, actually.’

I nod and give her an encouraging smile. ‘What do you mean by different?’

‘Well, because of the big fat secret, I really didn’t know who the hell I was anymore. Everything I had ever knows was false. I was false. Unloved, unwanted. Or so it seemed back then.’ Lottie dabs at her mouth with a napkin and stares at her glass. ‘I didn’t want to be false, I wanted to be real, true to who I was. So I spoke my mind, even if it hurt others. I said exactly what I thought – still do. I don’t do anything anymore that makes me feel trapped, unhappy. Life’s too short. My grandmother Gwendoline taught me that.’

‘Yes, she was your saviour, wasn’t she?’ I put my hand on her arm.

She looks at me and nods. ‘God yes. I couldn’t have got through without her. She left me the money in her will to be able to change my life…’ She tails off and picks up more bread but doesn’t eat.

I’m worried that I’m pushing her too far, so move away slightly. ‘Your mum always resented the fact that she never left anything to her in the will, didn’t she?’ I tear off some bread and dip it in oil. She copies me and gets oil on the tip of her nose. I point it out and we laugh. The misery lifts and she washes the mouthful down.

‘Yep. Serves her right, I say. Gwendoline had the measure of her daughter and no mistake.’

‘Let’s talk about your walking trip now. You set off around the South Coast Path around Cornwall with Caleb, your colleague from school, and met lots of interesting people along the way didn’t you?

She gives me a withering look and yawns. ‘You know I did, you wrote the story. This interview is a bit daft really. Can we talk about you for a change? I never really got to know much about your life.’

‘Er, perhaps another time. Humour me.’

‘Okay. Yes. That experience made me realise who I truly was, and the people I met on the journey helped me understand the true meaning of friendship and love.’

‘Caleb became very special to you, didn’t he?’ I make space on the table for the waitress to put down our crab salads.

‘He certainly did. Once, we were on the path and I—’

I hold up my hand. ‘No, don’t mention more. In fact, I think we have enough now to give readers a flavour of who you are and what your story is about.’

Lottie shrugs her shoulders and sprinkles cracked-black pepper onto her food. ‘Make your mind up, Mandy. First you want the low-down, then you want me to stop.’

‘That’s because the story’s just waiting to be discovered. No point in giving the game away before the readers have even opened the first page is there?’ I smile and pour salad dressing.

‘Right,’ she says a little stiffly, loading her fork. ‘Shall I fill you in with what I’ve been up to recently or what?’

‘Best not, because that might give too much away too,’ I say hoping she’s not going to get in a strop. ‘Let’s go eat this and then go inside for another drink. The readers won’t hear us there. I’d love to hear all your news.’

Lottie grins. ‘Now you’re talking.’

We tuck in and Lottie says she feels like we’re in one of her paintings because the scene is so colourful and vibrant. I totally get what she means and feel I’m so lucky to have created someone like her. I say as much.

‘Luck has nothing to do with it. I knew you were the writer I needed to give me life and crept into your subconscious at 4.am demanding to have my story written, remember?’ Lottie’s eyes dance with amusement. ‘You had to jot the bare bones down before I’d let you sleep again.’

I nod and smile. ‘I remember it well, Lottie.’

She raises her glass. ‘Good. I call the shots and don’t forget it.’

As if I ever could…

Author Interview: Amber Elby

Alright everyone, I want to take a minute to thank Mrs. Elby for being so kind and patient with me on posting this.

I have been out of order these last two weeks and have had this post drafted, but never finished. We moved last week and every post that has gone up had been previously scheduled to do so. (Sidenote: If you have emailed me via the contact form, I have seen it. Please bear with me.)

I have truly had a blast working with Mrs. Elby and getting the opportunity to read and review her novel, Cauldron’s Bubble. I am so blessed that she wanted to work with me further and I hope this post gives y’all a deeper insight into both the novel and the author!

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Q: Okay, I am going to start with a kind of generic question here, what inspired you to write Cauldron’s Bubble?

Amber: I taught English at the Liberal Arts and Science Academy in Austin ten years ago, where I had to introduce students to The Odyssey, Beowulf, and Macbeth.  Students had previously read the Percy Jackson series and Grendel, which both served as bridge texts to the first two works, but they had read nothing to help prepare them for Shakespeare.  Once I realized this need, I combined it with unanswered questions within some of Shakespeare’s most commonly-taught plays to create Cauldron’s Bubble.

Q: Do Dreng and Alda (Cauldron’s Bubble’s main characters) take on qualities/characteristics of people you have interacted with in life? Your own children, maybe previous students, or even strangers?

Amber: Dreng is based on my husband.  I had trouble creating a young male character because my writing perspective is so tight and contains a lot of free indirect discourse, so I had to ask him many questions about his thoughts and concerns.  I started dating my husband when we were seventeen, so I could also compare his descriptions of internal angst with how I perceived him, which is why Alda is often unaware of his insecurities.  Alda is based on my two daughters, and I even combined their names to create hers.  I was never brave when I was young and would have much rather gone to the library than explore the countryside, but my daughters are curious and fearless and have never been told that they are incapable of doing anything.  My oldest is a self-taught climber who has scaled many tall trees and steep rock faces, which is why Alda can climb, and my youngest knows a lot about fairies, which becomes important in the sequel.

Q: What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write in Cauldron’s Bubble and why?

Amber: The scenes with Hamlet sucked out part of my soul, but I think I ultimately enjoyed them the most.  I rewrote them more than any other section (probably 40+ times) because I wanted to make sure that he was, as one of my friends said, Hamlety enough.  He’s one of the greatest literary characters ever created and is somewhat cryptic, so I had to latch onto an interpretation and then update Shakespeare’s language while still maintaining enough of the original play to avoid offending his fan base.  In contrast, the witches’ dialogue was by far the easiest to write.

Q: What made you decide to leave teaching and become an author?

Amber: I still teach year-round at a local community college.  If I ever decide to quit, it will be because of the time I have to spend grading assignments, which is easily five hours each week per course in addition to in-class instruction.  I write so many comments on papers that I have to wear a wrist brace, so it is most definitely not enjoyable.  That said, I did spend many more hours grading when I taught high school, so I have the deepest respect for high school English teachers.

Q: Did you learn anything from writing this book and what was it?

Amber: This question is something of a conundrum.  Do I say that I didn’t learn anything because I already knew everything, or do I look perhaps unqualified and say that I learned a lot in order to have something to talk about here?  Hmmm, I guess I’ll give a specific example: I read a lot about Grand Ledge’s history in order to create that setting.  It is my hometown, but it is nothing now like it was in Alda’s time, over a hundred years ago.  Back then it was a resort destination with luxury hotels and “high tech” amusements.  There was a rollercoaster that connected two of the Seven Islands, and I found a wonderful postcard of it online.  I also learned that there was an indoor rollerskating rink, which is not in my novel but will be mentioned in a future one.  The city flooded repeatedly, so everything had to be rebuilt every few years.  When people started buying cars after World War II instead of taking trains and trolleys, the city lost its popularity because everyone flocked to the Great Lakes instead, so nearly everything from the resort area was torn down before I was born.

Q: As a blogger, there are all kinds of unrealistic writing prompts one can find online for us to ask in these interviews. What has been the worst thing or hardest question to answer that someone has asked you (please, don’t say this question) and how did you handle it?

Amber: I’m always somewhat annoyed when people ask, “Which character is based on you?”  I don’t like the assumption that I write myself into my fiction, but I’m also aware that the characters are born of me in a way.  I usually say something along the lines of “um, I made them all up, so… all of them.”  I’ve only been asked this question in conversation, thankfully, and not in an actual interview (that I remember at least).

Q: Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

Amber: Yes, and thank you for being the first person to ask this!  One of my favorite little allusions is the phrase “sudden valley,” which I used to describe the landscape of the moors.  I borrowed this phrase from the name of a failed real estate venture in Arrested Development, one of my favorite television series.  There are also three poems directly quoted in the novel: the first is by Emily Dickinson, the second by Emily Brontë, and the third is from The Lady of Shalott by Tennyson.  I also included a hidden poem, “Bubbles” by Carl Sandburg, in the final pages with the dialogue “rainbows on their curves” and “flicker out.”  I could not quote the final poem directly because it was anachronistic and written after the action of the story, but I wanted to include it anyway because it is so simple and lovely.  The entire poem goes “Two bubbles found they had rainbows on their curves./  They flickered out saying:/  ‘It was worth being a bubble, just to have held that rainbow thirty seconds.’”

Q: What can we expect from the next installment in the Netherfeld Trilogy, Double Double Toil, which is to be released October 1st?

Amber: There are fairies and sea-maids (what Shakespeare called mermaids) and combat.  Dreng finally gets a sword, and Caliban takes on a more prominent role in the story.  We also get to meet more of Shakespeare’s characters, including Ophelia from Hamlet and Titania, Oberon, Puck, and others from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  There are elements from Othello and Romeo and Juliet, too.

Q: What is your preferred method to have readers get in touch with or follow you (i.e., website, personal blog, Facebook page, here on Goodreads, etc.) and link(s)?

Amber: I am most active on Twitter (@amberelby), but I also have a website with links to my other social media: http://www.amberelby.com.  Please always feel free to say hi!

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Q&A with Author Adrienne Young

Alright loves! This Q&A was sent to me by the lovely Brittani Hilles. I did not personally interview Adrienne Young, but do not let that disappoint though.

I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I got reading over this, especially the last question here because I HAD NO IDEA!! Keep reading to find out…

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1. What inspired SKY IN THE DEEP? How did the idea and Eelyn come to you? Do you have any favorite Viking stories?

The sibling betrayal was definitely the first inspiration for this story. I was driving in the pouring rain on this country road and that first scene just hit me – Eelyn, seeing her brother on the battlefield after thinking that he was dead for five years. I pulled over on the side of the road and scribbled a million notes on an old envelope. I was immediately hooked to the idea and I wanted to know what had happened. I started writing that first chapter and I just never stopped.

2. What type of research did you do for your characters and world-building? What languages did you study to implement the languages that the Aska and the Riki speak? What was the strangest thing you had to research for this book?

I did a ton of research for this story. I actually really love to research things so it was a lot of fun. A lot of it was stuff like clothing, landscape, weapons, food, etc. But I did a lot of research into Norse mythology as well to build a foundation for this world. The language used is Old Norse, but it’s a dead language so studying it was really difficult. There is a lot of controversy about it among scholars and there’s no real way to fully understand it, so I just did my best based on my own investigation. I’m definitely not an expert! The weirdest thing I had to research was how to tear out someone’s eyeball. Yuck.

3. What was your writing process like for SKY IN THE DEEP?

Complete and utter obsession. When I draft, I get really buried in the world and I don’t really come up for air until I get to the end. I write as much as I can and limit my intake of other influencers that could mess with my mindset. I don’t watch TV or movies or listen to music that’s not on my playlist, and I kind of don’t have a social life until it’s done.

4. What was your hardest scene to write? What was the easiest?

I really didn’t struggle to get this story on the page the way I have with other books so I really don’t know what the hardest scene to write was. But the easiest was the first chapter. I wrote it so fast and it just clicked in so perfectly.

5. Which of your characters are you the most like? Who was your favorite to write

Eelyn! We have so much in common and she really inspires me. But I think Halvard was the most fun to write. I really, really love him.

6. Do you have a soundtrack for SKY IN THE DEEP? Can you share a couple songs? What would Eelyn’s favorite song be?

Yes! Music plays a HUGE role in my writing process and I have a playlist for every project. The ones I probably listened to the most while drafting SKY are To the Hills by Laurel, Bare by Wildes, and Rise Up – Reprise by Foxes. But a link to the whole playlist is on my site!

7. What books have inspired you to write? What books are you looking forward to reading thisyear?

The ones that inspired me to write are nothing like my books. One of the most influential ones for me was A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, because the human element is so beautiful and the author explores so many things in that book that really took my breath away. I wanted to write stories that went deep like that, but I love fantasy so I try to it within that realm.

8. Any advice on querying? Or writing advice for aspiring writers?

Querying – do not just sign with any agent who will take you. Make a dream agent list of qualified agents who have good reputations and make consistent sales. Query them. If they don’t bite, then write another book that they might want. Believe me when I say it is worth waiting for the right agent!

9. Any details about the companion novel?

I can’t say anything about the companion novel yet! But I’m hoping that we can start talking about it soon because I am really excited about it!

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SKY IN THE DEEP
By Adrienne Young
Published by Wednesday Books
**On Sale April 24, 2018**
Hardcover | $17.99

ISBN: 9781250168450| Ebook ISBN: 9781250168474
For more information or to set up an interview with the author, contact: Brittani Hilles at brittani.hilles@stmartins.com or 646-307-5558

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Author Interview: Hannah Carmack

Alright everyone! Today we have the lovely Hannah Carmack on the blog. She was one of the first authors that I have had the pleasure of working with. She is an amazing soul, such a joy to work with, and truly an inspiration.

Hannah is the author of Seven-Sided Spy and Take Your Medicine (links are at the bottom) and you can find my review of Take Your Medicine here.

She has agreed to be the guinea pig for my FIRST author interview. She was also my first Guest Post so I am so appreciative of her. I know I have said it a million times but I don’t think I can ever truly get my point across on that.

Without further ado, here is my interview with Hannah Carmack!

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(Q): What inspired you to write Take You Medicine?

Hannah: The press I was working with at the time, Nine Star Press, put out a call for queer fairytale retellings. I had a bunch of ideas for a bunch of different fairytales -Bluebeard included,- but I’d just gotten done writing Seven-Sided Spy, which is a bit of a downer. So I decided to write the complete opposite, something blissful and full of happy.

(Q): How did you decide on the theme of Alice in Wonderland?

Hannah: I was hooked on the idea of the Queen of Hearts as a surgeon. It’d been in my mind for years, so when I finally saw a chance to use it, I jumped at it.

(Q): If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Hannah: I’d probably tell her to not doubt herself so much. I still get a bunch of anxiety and doubt about writing from time to time, but when I was a kid it was rampant.

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(Q): As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?

Hannah: Probably some kind of spazzy bird. I am always working on my manuscript, whether it be brainstorming, daydreaming, or actually writing. I try to hit 1k a day and 5k on the weekends.

(Q): Was there a specific scene that did not make it in the final, published draft of Take Your Medicine that you wish hadn’t of been edit out?

Hannah: Surprisingly not! With Take Your Medicine being a novella there wasn’t any pressure to minimize the word count since it was already fairly short.

(Q): What was the hardest scene to write, either in Take Your Medicine or Seven-Sided Spy?

Hannah: I think in terms of technicality the opening chapter of Seven-Sided Spy has been worked on for years and years, and even in its published form I’m not happy with it. In terms of emotional difficulty I think a majority of the deaths in Seven-Sided Spy were hard on me,  especially the first MAJOR death. You’ll know it when you see it.

(Q): Who is your favorite author, or any authors who are an inspiration to you and your work?

Hannah: I love M.T. Anderson. I think he is so versatile and funny in his writing, while also being incredibly smart. In terms of inspiration, I think a lot of the writing in The Wicked + The Divine helped define my college-writing years.

(Q): What advice do you have for writers who are struggling with their first novels?

Hannah: Get to work. Do nothing and nothing gets done.

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About Hannah Carmack

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Hannah Carmack is a recent graduate of Northern Illinois University. She enjoys volunteer work and spends most of her time with the organization STEM Read, connecting authors and reluctant readers through hands-on STEM activities. Her debut novel Seven-Sided Spy was released January 2018.

Goodreads • Website • Instagram

 

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Seven-Sided Spy  • Take Your Medicine

Links to Purchase Take Your Medicine

Amazon • NineStar Press

Links to Purchase Seven-Sided Spy

Amazon • NineStar Press


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Casting Call! Kind of…

As part of my personal blogging goals in 2018, I am looking for authors who are wanting to participate in author interviews and/or guest posts! I am here to help YOU!

If you take a look around my site, you will see that I have an ever expanding section of book reviews. I am wanting to expand my content further and what better way to that than a direct line to the people who make my blog relevant!

We will get you all set up here on Beyond the Stars!

Head on over to my contact page and fill out my form. It goes directly to my email where we can get started ASAP on setting up questions specifically for you and/or brainstorming topics for your guest post.

Hope to hear from you soon!