Author Interview: E. A. Copen

Author Interview: E. A. Copen

Hello My Lovelies,

Today, I’m going to introduce you to my new friend author E. A. Copen and her latest work Beasts of Babylon. It’s not often you get to read a horror western novel with a female protagonist and this one is definitely worth checking out. It has a 4.9 star average rating at Amazon.

Author Interview:

  1. What makes your protagonist different from the industry standard or genre standard?

Anastasia Thorne, like most of my protagonists, is a parent. She lost her children when they were murdered, but the whole book is about her avenging their deaths. Another thing that makes her different is that she’s a woman. Westerns traditionally have a male lead, but I really wanted to write a strong female lead, especially after reading about Calamity Jane.

  1. What’s your favorite paranormal creature and why?

The Phoenix. The legend about it dying in fire to be reborn is empowering to me. It says to me that there’s always hope. Just because your flame has burnt out, it’s only temporary and you’ll rise better, stronger, once its been restored.

  1. Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?

There’s a balance there somewhere. Readers don’t want to read the same things over and over, but if you change too much it can be jarring. I think originality comes from how you approach a subject, even if it’s a trope that’s been used a thousand times before.

  1. Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

I write books about people who push outside their comfort zones and challenge perceptions. I hope that everything I write represents that part of my author brand. Many of my books are connected, but Beasts of Babylon isn’t connected to my other series. There will be more books in this world, however.

  1. If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Don’t throw away those old drafts. You’re going to need them someday.

  1. How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

It changed everything! With my first book, I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t know how to market, how to find an audience or define the genre of a book. I just wrote what I wanted to read and put it out there, expecting it would sell itself. There are certain genre rules I broke that I wish I hadn’t at times. Other times, I’m really happy I did break those rules. If I had to go back and do it all again, though, I don’t think I would change anything. I would spend more time advertising before I launched the series, however.

  1. What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

My covers, of course. Covers sell books. Great covers sell more books. They’re worth investing in.

  1. How do you balance making demands on the reader with taking care of the reader?

This is especially important when writing mysteries. I have to sprinkle clues throughout each book in such a way that if the reader guesses the answer correctly, it doesn’t feel cheap. It should feel rewarding, even if you guess the outcome right away. I do this basically by making sure to spread the clues out and leaving key information out, or keeping it ambiguous. Just when I hope you think you’ve got it figured out, it’s my job to present to you an alternative suspect or make you question your guesses.

  1. How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Dozens? Probably at least thirty. I wrote a lot of terrible books before I had one I thought was worth publishing. Of the published books I have out, many also have a really terrible first draft that’s vastly different from the published version. Sometimes I don’t finish these really bad first drafts because I realize how bad they are.

  1. What does literary success look like to you?

Literary success would be making enough as an author that I could travel to conventions and meet fans whenever I wasn’t writing.

  1. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

There’s a lot of research that goes into writing paranormal novels. I have to learn all the lore I can whenever I use a new monster. Often, that means watching dozens of films and reading five or six books. It takes anywhere from two weeks to three months for me to prepare to write a novel.

  1. Have you read anything that made you think differently about fiction?

Yes! Believe it or not, I used to hate anything paranormal. I said I’d never read it, never write in it, never wanted anything to do with it. To me, paranormal meant Twilight, which I hated. Vampires have always kind of freaked me out, so I don’t find anything romantic about them. I also had an unparalleled hatred of wizards and magic using characters. I hated that they could use their magic to get out of any situation. It felt like cheating to me.

Then, I read The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. It was totally different from anything I’d ever read before, and suddenly I couldn’t get enough fiction about wizards, werewolves, scary vampires, or mysteries with paranormal elements. In less than a year, I’d read every paranormal mystery people recommended to me. I needed more. That’s how I wound up writing my own.

  1. How do you select the names of your characters?

They’re all different. Anastasia Thorne’s name came to me in a dream. Judah Black’s name is in homage to a conversation out of Reservoir Dogs, and Sal’s name came about while listening to Johnny Cash’s Boy Named Sue. I have characters whose names were inspired by Scooby-Doo, and other characters whose name came from a list generator. It really all depends.

  1. What was your hardest scene to write?

The hardest scene I ever wrote is in Beasts of Babylon and I almost took it out. It’s a flashback detailing how Anastasia’s children were murdered in front of her. I found it so shocking that I wrote this scene, that I almost didn’t finish the book. I was really upset that my mind took me there in such detail to watch a toddler die. Losing one of my children is my biggest fear, especially being in a situation where I’d be helpless to save them. Writing that was like facing that fear. It really did scare me. I agonized over whether to leave it in or take it out, but decided it should stay in when I shifted the focus of the book from simply being a paranormal western to being a horror western. Stephen King says write what scares you and that’s exactly what I did.

  1. How long on average does it take you to write a book?

It varies a lot. The fastest full-length novel I’ve ever written was finished in just 15 days. The longest was probably the forthcoming novel of the Judah Black series, Playing with Fire which took 10 months to write. It isn’t the length that makes a difference. It’s often the subject matter. Playing with Fire is a government conspiracy book that deals with abuse in a religious setting, something I endured as a child. Revisiting those memories can be tough, but I feel it’s also important to do so.

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If you’re looking for a horror novel to enjoy on Halloween, go check out E. A. Copen’s Beasts of Babylon. It’s available here.

Until next time,

V. L.

 

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headshot-1Today’s Ninja Writers author interview is with Vicki Williamson. Her debut mystery novel Finding Poppies is available on Amazon here.

What makes your protagonist different from the industry standard?

I think this is an interesting question, however, I’m not sure I know what the industry standard is. What the norm for the industry is … It seems as if the modern industry standard for a female protagonist is ‘strong’ but again, that can mean many things.

My main character, Ellen Thompson, is strong, so she’s not truly different from the standard, but she’s strong in a variety of ways. The most enduring reach of her strength comes out in her intelligence and her ability to govern her emotions. Throughout her adventure in Finding Poppies, it is necessary for Ellen to get in the head of a man she’s tracking. To figure out and understand clues he’s left for someone else. Even when faced with tragedy, she is able to think.

Tell us about your book(s).

My first novel is titled Finding Poppies. It’s a thriller about a woman, Ellen Thompson, who finds a clue to a lost art treasure. Her calm, normal life is disrupted when she decides to follow the clue. She travels to exotic locations and begins a relationship with a police detective who gives her aid. There’s adventure, danger and a little bit of romance with a few twists and turns.

Does writing energize or exhaust you?

Both. When everything is flowing and I’m right with my characters, writing is like a great high. I love it when writing is as if I’m reading a wonderful book that I can’t put down – I can’t wait to find out what’s going to happen. And then there are the times where writing is like pulling teeth. When I must force the words to come, knowing most of them will probably be terrible. For me, both are part of the process.

Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?

I have to say yes to this, as I’m one of those folks who don’t feel emotions deeply. I’ve always been way more logical than emotional. Maybe that’s why I get such a thrill when I write a scene and it causes a true visceral reaction.

What does literary success look like to you?

To me, literary success happens every time I have someone tell me how much they enjoyed my story.

What’s the best way to market your books?

I’ve had the best success with face to face interaction with readers. Book store signings, expos, etc. Social media, I believe, is the best friend of the indie author and reaches a much larger audience but the one on one is so much more gratifying. I love to visit with potential readers and from their side, it allows them to meet me and have a person to put with the name.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

I do extensive – EXTENSIVE research for my books. I spend more time researching places, subjects, lore, etc. then I do in actual writing. Not all the research comes out in the books but the knowledge helps me to write a better scene. I don’t spend much time prior to beginning a book, but I’m researching all through the process of writing. I write completely organically, so I may not know what I want to research until I’m moving on to the next scene.

bookcoverimageWhat did you edit out of this book?

I tried to edit out all unnecessary content. By this I mean words and sometimes complete scenes. If it didn’t move the plot forward, it got cut. After my first draft, I cut ~500 ‘thats’ from my manuscript.

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

I read ALL my reviews. I’m happy to say, so far, the clear majority of them have been good and they’re always wonderful to read. As I said, that’s success for me. For the not so positive ones … they upset me. I liken it to someone telling you your baby’s ugly. I process them. Attempt to understand where the reader is coming from. Curse them under my breath. Tell myself you can’t please everyone and by the next day, I’m back writing.

Does your family support your career as a writer?

Completely. My husband told me for years I should write a book and I always laughed at him. I’d tell him, “I’m a reader – not a writer.” Then one day, I realized I had a story in me. My first book, FP is dedicated not only to my husband, Mark who has always believed in me, but also to my brother, Brian who after reading the short story, which I would turn into my novel, told me it was a great outline to a novel and to dazzle him. These two men have been instrumental in this journey I’ve decided to take.

How long on average does it take you to write a book?

The first draft of FP took me five months and then another eight months for rewrites, editing, cover, etc. One thing I learned was the writing of a novel is the tip of the iceberg. The lion’s share of the creative portion is in the creation of the story, but the work is just beginning with the end of the rough draft.

I just finished the first draft of my current work in process. It has taken me nine months to finish. Not only was this book just harder to figure out but I spent time and energy in the marketing of FP and not all my thoughts were on the WIP.

Do you believe in writer’s block?

Writer’s block … not really. There are plenty of times when I just didn’t feel like writing or allowed myself to become distracted by the internet or other things. And I’ve had times when I just didn’t know what to write – when the research wasn’t digging up the correct connections. Even then, I know if I sit down, relax and write, the words will come. Some are sure to be crap but some will be worth keeping.

 

My second Ninja Writer author interview for the giveaway blog hop is with Chris Ledbetter.

author-pic-3Chris Ledbetter grew up in Durham, NC before moving to Charlottesville, VA in 11th grade. After high school, he attended Hampton University where he promptly “walked-on” to the best drum line in the CIAA. And, without any prior percussion experience. He carried the bass drum for four years, something his back is not very happy about now.

After a change of heart and major, he enrolled in Old Dominion University and earned his degree in Business Administration. He’s worked in various managerial and marketing capacities throughout his life. While teaching high school for six years in Culpeper, VA, he taught business management, business law, marketing, and sports marketing, and also coached football.

He’s a proud member of SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) and a strong supporter of the Need for Diverse Books. As a self-described, young reluctant reader, he writes young adult stories specifically to reach other reluctant readers.
He now lives in Wilmington, NC with his family, including three cats.

What is the one thing you can’t write without?

Actually I have two things I can’t write without, Soundfuel and Skittles. Sound fuel has an amazing collection of instrumental music for a variety of story situations and moods. And Skittles are just the best!

What is the first book that made you cry?

Admittedly, I get more emotional watching movies than reading books. But I will say that the first and only book that made me cry was a book (unpublished as yet) by Tracy Clark named Chalk Houses. Hopefully, this powerful book will make it to print soon.

Does writing energize or exhaust you?

Writing absolutely energizes me. Sometimes life just gets to be too much by half. Writing (and reading) allows me to sink into new worlds and gain new friends and escape the world around me.

Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?

Certainly, but I think it depends on the genre in which someone writes. If you write mysteries or thrillers, perhaps you may not need emotions as much, but you still need some because you have to create an emotional connection between the reader and the main character. I think romances probably require a deeper emotional well.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

Before I begin a book, I typically sketch out all of the characters first. I do end up doing a tonne of research, but that usually comes during the writing and it could be about all sorts of things. On my latest book, The Sky Throne that is due in 2017, I researched everything from geography and topography of Greece and its islands, types of flowering plants on Crete, methods of bleaching one’s hair in ancient Greece, and Greek mythology family trees to quantum physics and the properties of cosmic dust.

d1Tell us about your book(s). 

Drawn and Inked comprise a YA contemporary fantasy duology with a side order of romance. Set in my hometown of Wilmington, NC, they’re fast paced reads that entwine art, gaming, and southern social dynamics.
Drawn is available here, Inked is available here.

The Sky Throne is coming in April 2017. It’s X-Men meets Greek mythology. For updates come over to my website.

If you’d like to see the other authors in the blog hop you can find the master list here.

 

This is the first of a series of author interviews with my fellow Ninja Writers as part of our SF/F giveaway and blog hop. Today’s victim is Paige Tyler. She’s taking part in this week’s giveaway available here.

paige-tyler2 Paige Tyler is a New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author of sexy, romantic suspense and paranormal romance. She and her very own military hero (also known as her husband) live on the beautiful Florida coast with their adorable fur baby (also known as their dog). Paige graduated with a degree in education, but decided to pursue her passion and write books about hunky alpha males and the kick-butt heroines who fall in love with them.

What inspires you?

P.F. Chang’s Spicy Chicken! Hubby (who’s my writing partner) and I get all of our best ideas at PF Chang’s. We’ll sit in a booth at our local PF Chang’s for hours bouncing ideas back and forth over a big plate of the stuff. The people there know us and tend to leave us alone to work. I’ve been angling for an endorsement deal with PF Chang’s for years now, but so far no luck. 🙂

What makes your protagonist different from the industry standard or genre standard?

My heroine, Cree Forest, is a fox shifter, so she’s already kick-butt. But to take that up a notch, she’s been guarding the hero (without his knowledge), John Loughlin, former CIA and current director of the Department of Covert Ops, to make sure he’s safe. While the hero can definitely take care of himself in a fight, he doesn’t have claws, fangs, and Cree’s other shifter abilities, which make her so effective. You don’t usually see kick-butt heroines like her in most paranormal romantic suspense books, which is why she’s so different.

Tell us about your books. 

I have two paranormal romantic suspense series, both featuring shifters.

paige-tylerThe X-OPS Series revolves around the Department of Covert Operations, a secret organization within the Department of Homeland Security. They get impossible missions done by pairing the very best soldiers, law enforcement officers, and spies together with shifters—humans that possess special animal attributes in their DNA.

My other series is called SWAT (Special Wolf Alpha Team). If you haven’t figured it out from the name, it’s about a SWAT team made up of sixteen hunky alpha wolf shifters. Think hot guys in tactical gear with claws and you get the picture!

You can check them out here!

What’s your favorite paranormal creature and why?

Shifters because there’s something so inherently sexy and dangerous about them!

If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?

I’d have a no-kill animal shelter so I could rescue every homeless animal!

If you’d love to meet the other authors in the blog hop you can find them here.