Author Interview – Aimee Davis

If you’re a regular reader here, you’ll remember that a while ago I read and reviewed ‘The Wheel Mages’ by Aimee Davis – and if you didn’t see that, you can go read it here -and I was so stoked about the book that I asked the author herself if she would be interested in doing an author interview for here.

She said yes, and we had quite an interesting discussion – just a few of the things that came up throughout were how difficult it is to kill your own characters, the wonderful delight that is ‘Malec’, and possible spin-offs.

Lets begin!

(all headings are mine, but the gifs and other images are sourced from Google Images)

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What was the initial inspiration behind ‘The Wheel Mages?’ What was the one thing which got you started on the writing and planning of the book?

Innocuous as it may seem, this is a doozy of question to start out with. The Wheel Mages came to life in a behavioral health facility (which is really a euphemism for a mental hospital). I’d self-committed for a host of reasons, but I’m pretty confident the intake paperwork read ‘suicidal ideation’. I was in an incredibly dark place, but while I was in the hospital, I had time to clear my head. I wouldn’t say that environment is particularly therapeutic, but it certainly shakes things up and makes you confront the truth of yourself. In a hospital like that there isn’t a ton to do to occupy your time. They take away your electronics – cell phones, Kindle, tablets, iPads, whatever. There is one TV shared by all the patients (I think there were maybe 15 people in my unit). You’re only allowed to use the phone for short periods of time. You can only have visitors on certain days for about an hour. There are therapy sessions and meetings with doctors, of course, but you find yourself with a lot of free time. That environment also stirs up a lot of emotion. For me, reconnecting with my emotions was what I needed, and that’s how The Wheel Mages came into existence. When the book came to life in my head, it wasn’t as much a series of events as it was a series of emotions. Alena started to take shape in my mind as a symbol of determination, of strength. She sort of helped drag me through this very difficult time in my life. In my first draft of the manuscript, the first sentence literally reads, “I took a deep breath and let it out slowly.” Obviously, during the editing process this was revised because wow – what a terrible hook, but at the time I wrote it, that’s exactly what I needed to do. Breathe, in and out. I was in a terribly vulnerable place, where I needed strength from somewhere – anywhere, and my brain responded by giving me this vision of Alena, standing tall, chin lifted, breathing slowly. She was afraid, but she was strong. That’s what I needed to be.

 

As for planning… I wish I could tell you there was a plan, but there really wasn’t. I have never been a plotter (this used to drive my writing professors crazy!)

 

How hard was it to give Nikolai that ending that you did? I know when I write, I can’t bear to do anything bad to my favourite characters. I just can’t.

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Ugh… it was terrible. I think every writer (with maybe the exception of George R R Martin and perhaps Shakespeare) struggles with hurting his/her characters. When I first started writing, I couldn’t bear hurting any of my characters, not even the bad guys. Everyone in my early manuscripts is not only redeemable but also redeemed. I avoided having to truly hurt anyone that way, but that’s just not reality. I had a professor in college who used to challenge me to dig deep into my characters’ heads, I mean DEEP, she’d ask me to figure out what they ate for breakfast, what kind of shoes they liked to wear, really learn to love them, then kill them. As silly as it may sound, it helped me learn to “do what needs to be done” so to speak.

It was still extremely difficult though. Actually, in my first draft, the ending is a lot more detatched. When you read it you can tell I was avoiding the inevitable. It sort of reads… and then some stuff happened, the end! That made the editing harder than the writing, because it wasn’t until the editing that I really dove into the details and the emotion and forced myself to experience that right along with Alena. It really was not fun. Nor was the backlash from my beta readers! I think I told you this, but I have one beta reader who still hasn’t forgiven me and will just randomly yell at me over that ending in the middle of a critique.

 

Do you have a writing process? Like, certain things you do when you’re writing, or things you eat/drink during? I want to hear all about the process, because I know it’s different for everyone. Do you write any of it by hand, or is it all on the computer?

 

Ah yes – process – the mystical thing. So much ink has been spilled on this topic, but you’re absolutely right, process is different for every writer. My process is probably considered somewhat unhealthy, to be perfectly frank. I definitely don’t have writing habits that would make one of those “10 healthy writing habits” articles I see all the time. First of all, I don’t write every day. That’s something you hear frequently in writing circles – you must write every day. I don’t. I write a lot, but some days I just don’t feel like it, and I don’t force myself. I also don’t adhere to those “word count goals”. For me, they’re silly. If I don’t have 3,000 words in me, then I don’t have 3,000 words in me that day. I hate to sound trite, but I really do consider writing art, and art isn’t quantifiable. I’m not pumping out words to be the next big thing or publish all the books as quickly as possible, I’m writing to be the best version of myself. If I’m forcing myself to do it to fit into some box, then I’m not being authentic and it’s not enjoyable. If writing wasn’t enjoyable to me anymore… what a terrible thought. So I don’t force it. I write when I’m inspired, as cliche as it sounds. I’m fortunate to be inspired quite a bit, so it works out.

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When I’m writing, I also tend to write until I can’t think straight anymore. That’s another traditionally unhealthy habit. Hemingway famously said to stop when you know what will happen next, that way you’re never stuck. It’s good advice, but I don’t take it. I write until I’m completely drained. My process is very “binge-y”. And when I’m “in the zone” I basically tune out the rest of the world. Sometimes I’ll go days without eating, though I never go without coffee. Coffee is my lifeblood when I’m writing. Those two things – not eating and drinking way too much coffee are unhealthy in general. I’m not kind to my body most of the time, so if you can write another way, I recommend doing that. My process is definitely not a model to follow.

 

One thing I do recommend, however, is writing by hand. I write absolutely everything by hand. My entire first draft is written by hand, then transcribed onto the computer. My edits are done by hand after I’ve printed drafts. Writing by hand is out of fashion, but it comes highly recommended from me. I tend to be long-winded (I bet you couldn’t tell), and writing by hand helps me curb that tendency, because it slows me down. I have to think more about each letter, each word. I also like682-11 to write by hand because I do a ton of writing in the bathtub (also cliche, I know), and it’s easier to have a legal pad in the bath than a laptop. Sometimes I listen to music, but it depends on my mood and what kind of scene I’m writing. Sometimes I need complete silence. The one thing I can’t do, though, is write with a TV on in the background. The sound of people speaking is incredibly jarring to me when I’m writing, to the point it’s almost painful. I also have a terrible habit of becoming incredibly cranky when people interrupt me when I’m writing, so it’s probably good I live alone!

How long would you say it takes you to write your first draft out – before you transcribe it onto the computer?

I swear one of these drafts I’m going to keep track of that, because I get asked this often enough to wonder myself! I would estimate it’s about 3 months of work, and I have no idea how many hours. Lots. Lots and lots of hours. Hundreds.

Would you class Changing Tides as a young adult novel, or more middle grade, or leaning towards adult? In other words, will you ever include some slightly more explicit scenes in your books? I’m thinking somewhere along the line of Sarah J Maas’ books where sex is heavily implied, and beautifully described, but it’s not erotica or pornographic.

Ah, this is another really great question, and one that will require a few confessions on my part. First, I was extremely late to the Maas train. I hadn’t actually read any of her work until after The Wheel Mages came out and a couple people compared it to her. Obviously, I was intrigued, so I picked up the first book of each series and proceeded to consume every one of her books within about 6 days. Love her. She lives in the county over from mine, too, so maybe there’s something in the water, I don’t know.

The other thing I have to confess is I didn’t actually realize there was this newish subcategory of YA called “New Adult” until my editor suggested I consider reclassifying The Wheel Mages as YA/NA. That said, the way she described it to me, is basically the classification has less to do with the content (although content can push you over the edge) than it does to do with the voice of the character and the character’s age. Alena is 18 in The Wheel Mages. At the start of The Blood Mage, three years have gone by, so she’s 21. This puts me firmly in the older YA/NA classification all by itself, without regard to content.

With regard to content, sexually explicit/suggestive content is something I’ve been researching a lot lately. This subject is rapidly developing in YA, and I’m excited to develop with it. Like we were just discussing when it comes to labels though, I think the thought behind content goes back to remaining true to your world and your characters. There can’t be sex just for the sake of sex, it has to be authentic to your characters. At the same time, there can’t not be sex just because you don’t want to “go for it” in your writing. I think an author’s job is to be unafraid when it comes giphy2to displaying truth, but every character’s truth is different. Without revealing too much, I will say that readers will see this discussion play out in The Blood Mage. Something else they’ll see is an issue I feel is extremely critical not just to the audience, but to this period in history, and that’s the issue of consent. I’ll also just go ahead and tease the fact that my editor is a member of the Romance Writers of America, and I’m really looking forward to working with her on this book.

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Going now to the LGBTQ+ characters, are you planning on having any same-sex relationships take central stage in future books? Two characters with a relationship that fans can really, really ship – like Cassandra Clare’s Magnus and Alec?

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I just have to say, I love Magnus and Alec. What a great coupling, seriously well done on Clare’s part. Magnus especially is such a well-developed personality, I adore him. That aside, the answer is absolutely yes. Readers will see a same-sex coupling in The Blood Mage front and center, in the first few paragraphs of the book, actually. They’re a pair I’m super excited about, and I hope readers will be excited about them too. They literally came to me in a dream. I sprung out of bed at 3 o’clock in the morning and ran to the other room to jot down notes because I didn’t want to forget anything.

Speaking of Magnus though, in the books he specifically says that he’s bisexual – he actually uses the word, which is rare since a lot of authors (and people) avoid that particular label/term. Do you think this is an important thing, and do you think you’ll have any canon bisexual characters in your books that use the word bisexual to describe themselves?

That’s a really interesting question, and it’s one I haven’t put a ton of thought into, to be completely honest. Because the Changing Tides series is set in a time and place that’s sort of modeled after the Victorian period (loosely, at least), labels aren’t something I’ve had to put a ton of thought into. Obviously, the exploration of relationships and sexuality is something that appears throughout my work, but I’ve largely been able to avoid label issues due to the nature of the world. The Trade Nations aren’t exactly enlightened, nor is the Sanctum.

I do think though, that if it’s authentic to your world, you shouldn’t skirt around an issue just because you might be afraid it’ll turn someone off or scare away readers or whatever other reason authors might have for shying away from particular issues or terms. You need to be true to your characters and your world. Otherwise, why are you writing? For Clare, I think Magnus calling himself bisexual is extremely authentic. Clare’s Shadowhunter world is essentially present day, and labels are part of our world. For the word bisexual to be dodged would be kind of strange, I’d think, because here, in the present day, we have a word for Magnus’ sexuality, but that’s a somewhat recent development in terms of history. The term bisexual wasn’t used in its modern sense until the early 160217ad3a9da7eeadce3bcf2e8bd015f890s. And even then it wasn’t used colloquially, but was primarily relegated to academia, so for it to appear in a world like the world of the Trade Nations would be almost anachronistic. Anachronisms are particularly jarring for me as a reader and a lover of history, so I try to avoid them in my writing as much as possible. You’ll also notice I don’t use labels like “girlfriend” and “boyfriend” either, because they didn’t come about until after WWI. Instead, I default to the older “lover”. I think the main thing to remember is that when you’re writing, you’re not ticking off boxes, you’re creating a world, and that world has rules, and social norms, and customs, and cultures, and you have to always have those in the back of your mind.

Hm…I realize I haven’t really answered your question precisely, but it made me think so I might have gone a bit off tangent. Straight answer: I think it’s important to call a character what he or she would call him or herself, regardless of how it might be received or how it might make you feel. Also, there will be (are) characters in my upcoming books who are bisexual (look for the third book and the new series for them), but based on the world, they probably won’t use that label to describe themselves. I actually almost wish it was true to my world, because it would be easier to use our more precise modern language. The word bisexual doesn’t make me uncomfortable at all, but the word lover sure does!

Did you ever have your own version of Nikolai? Someone who took you and helped you for the better, someone you look up to?

You know that saying that women tend to fall for men like their fathers? I think that’s at least a little true for me, and Nikolai is a bit of a reflection of that. I’m not saying Nikolai is in any way based off my father – weird – but he does have some qualities I admire in a man which I’m sure I admire because I see them in my dad. Nikolai is, in my mind, a consummate protector, and that’s something my dad is too. I’m my dad’s only child, and he’s incredibly protective of me. In a dad, that’s great, but in a partner, I think it’s much more complicated, and I try to touch on that a little bit in the book.

 

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Have you any plans for a sequel at the moment? What’s happening on that front?

Absolutely! The Wheel Mages is the first book in a trilogy. The whole trilogy is already drafted, and Book Two, The Blood Mage, is due to my editor on Monday actually. The editing process is longer than the writing process or has been for me thus far. My content editor, Katie, will see the entire book at least twice and certain scenes more than that before it’s passed off to my copy editor. So that process goes something like:  Katie reads it and provides “big picture” feedback. She’ll look for plot holes and character development issues, she’ll tell me what’s paced funny, what needs development, what is too developed, things of that nature. Then she’ll send it back to me to make changes. I’ll make changes based on her suggestions, and she’ll see it again and provide additional feedback and let me know if I’m o2016-01-28-1454001267-3939501-20081203_redpensn the right track, so to speak. That will go on back and forth for a few months, then when it’s at a point we’re both happy with, I’ll send it to the copy editor, who will look at it for the minutia. The copy editor is the one with the red pen. She’ll fix grammar and redundancy, tell me if certain phrases don’t make sense or seem to be out of character for the voice of the character, the kind of line by line finishing touches stuff. After that, the book will be ready for formatting, which is a nightmare of a process I dread.

Anyway, while the book is with the editors, I’ll work with my graphic designer on cover art and new promo material and eventually, many months down the road, these pieces will all fall into my lap (or really, my hard drive) and I’ll fit them together to create a book. I’m hoping this will happen sometime in late June or early July. Then we’ll start all over again!

I’m also currently working on a completely different series still in the Sanctum universe but set several centuries before Alena’s time, which I’m really excited about as well. I don’t want to reveal too much about it, but I’ll tell you it’s written in third person close (which is actually my preferred POV), not first person, and there’s a princess.

Is there any characters in particular from ‘The Wheel Mages’ that you think would do good in their own spin off series? Like how Maria V Snyder has spin off series’ for smaller characters from her original Study series. I know I’d love to see a series about Celine in particular.

Yeah, actually, I was recently contemplating what a spinoff might look like for Celine. She’ll be back for The Blood Mage, but there’s this three-year gap between the books in which she has quite an interesting back story that I know and is hinted at in the next book but I would love to explore more, maybe even in standalone or novella form. Genevieve, too, has a crazy three years in between books which one of my betas is extremely insistent I explore further, and may happen in long-short form.

The one thing I will tell you you won’t see though, that has been requested, and I’m sort of opposed to, is Nikolai pre-Alena. I don’t know if my heart could bear it, nor do I think there’s enough conflict in his past to make for a very interesting spinoff.

What do you see for yourself in say, ten years time? What do you imagine you’ll be doing then? Will you be like J.K Rowling or Cassandra Clare, and still be releasing material for this world you’ve created in Changing Tides, or will you have wrapped up this series and into a new one?

If I ever become like J.K. Rowling or Cassandra Clare in terms of success… I’m grinning like an idiot. That’s quite a big dream.

Oh, sorry, you meant in terms of what world I’ll be working in, right? In that case, I have two more series in the works for the world of the Sanctum right now, so I’ll be there for awhile. That doesn’t mean that will be the only world I’ll be set in though, because there are plenty of other ideas running around in the attic.

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Now, let’s let everyone else have a chance to get to know you a little better – I’m going to ask you a string of random questions (like, really random) and you just answer them, okay?

The last three shows on your Netflix watched list?

“The Propaganda Game”, “Winter on Fire”, “WWII and the Man of Steel” (I might have mentioned I’m a bit of a history nerd)

Your favourite song at the moment?

This one is tough because it depends on my mood what genre of music I even listen to, but at this exact moment I’m super into Sia’s “The Greatest”. It’s like my girl power anthem helping me through this last push of edits. Katy Perry’s “Rise” gets credit for this same period during the process for The Wheel Mages.

Main celebrity crush of the moment?

Hands down Trevor Noah. I have not crushed on a celebrity so hard since I was 18 and in love with Shannon Leto from 30 Seconds to Mars.

Favourite colour?

Blue, specifically Carolina blue.

What would your last meal alive be?

Probably some combination of battered cheese fries and Panera broccoli cheddar soup. I’m not ashamed to admit I have a love affair with cheese.

Guilty pleasures?

Eating copious amounts of cheese.

If you could trade places with one of your own characters, who would it be?

Yikes, that’s tough because I’m not particularly kind to my characters. This question feels a bit like karma! Probably Lukas though, you’ll meet him in the next book.

Early bird or night owl?

Night owl for sure, although I don’t sleep much at all to be honest

Cake or pie?

Pie, definitely. I don’t actually like cake, which apparently makes me weird.

Ross or Rachel?

Ross. I’m a total geek. I relate.

America or UK?

Well, I AM American, but things are kinda crazy here right now, and I like being able to reach Europe so easily, so I feel like I have to go with U.K. Plus, the accent is lovely.

Books or movies?

Books, obvi.

Washing dishes, or doing laundry?

These are both equally terrible and go in the “put off as long as humanly possible” category. But because I hate folding more than most everything, I will say dishes.

Personal chef or personal fitness trainer?

Chef, definitely. Working out is something I also put in the “put off as long as humanly possible” category.

Spicy or mild?

Spicy!!! All the hot sauce and peppers please!

Kittens or puppies?

I love both but I’ve fostered both and kittens are vastly easier to take care of,  so kittens.

Favourite Disney movie?

So hard to choose, but probably Frozen. “Let it Go” is another anthem song for me.

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Thank you so much, Aimee, for this interview – I love how much of an insight I got into you, and your writing, and the whole Changing Tides series.

If you want to see more of Aimee, you can follow her on any of her social media:

Twitter | Goodreads | Blog

And if you want to read ‘The Wheel Mages’ for yourself, you can click on either of these links here:

Goodreads | Amazon UK

Happy reading!

Book Review – The Wheel Mages

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Title: The Wheel Mages (Changing Tides #1) (Kindle book)

Author: Aimee Davis

Synopsis: Alena Kozlov is one of the last of a dying kind. As the first water mage to be inducted into the Sanctum in over fifty years, she has the opportunity to help the old order destroy a band of rebel mages who threaten the principles the Sanctum is founded upon.

Blinded by loyalty to the Sanctum and love for her master, Alena and three other mages set out to investigate the rebels, but the more she discovers, the less she understands.

Confronted with hard truths about the Sanctum she once believed in and the corruption she sees within it, Alena must make one of the most difficult decisions of her life: follow the path she’s trained for or leave the Sanctum behind.

Whatever the answer, she knows one thing for sure—the old Sanctum saying is true: It is a rocky road she must travel.

Rating: 5 stars

Review: I got this book straight from the author herself, and oh wow, I have so many feelings about it. I’m still reeling from what happened. Oh I know! Lets express my feelings in gifs!

When I started it:

 

 

Halfway Through Reading It:

 

When I finished it:

 

 

Okay, so lets begin actually putting these feelings into words.

When we first meet the main character – Alena – she’s finishing her mage training with her mentor Nikolai, and on her way to the mage headquarters, otherwise known as the Sanctum. When they get there, we meet another mentor-student pair; Catalina, and her sullen student Felipe. From there, everything snowballs out of control.

 

This book is just the perfect mix of all my favourite fantasy novels – the relationship between Alena and Nikolai reminds me of Maerad and Cadvan from Alison Croggon’s Pellinor series, and the constant twists and turns is very similar to Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass series. Is it hard to tell I have a particular taste in books?

 

These mages were the magical world’s equivalent of royalty.

 

32d8b457cc5ce97cf92529b3389c7c6cThe whole way through though, I was flipping back and forth between what guy I wanted Alena to end up with – why did you have to make it so hard? Making me choose between the charismatic Felipe, and the absolutely darling Nikolai? Evil. Pure evil.

 

His pleading eyes shattered the fragile walls I’d tried to construct around my feelings for him.

I glanced at Nikolai again, at his high cheekbones, kind green eyes, messy brown hair, and broad muscular body.

 

The world building was exquisite, and the characters’ developments were written so well, that I just want to go back and read it all over again. The best thing though, is that everyone makes questionable decisions, and nobody’s either pure good or pure evil. Everyone has darkness in them, in real life and in this, and I appreciate that.

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Another important aspect I loved about this is that Aimee Davis effortlessly weaved in the existence of same-sex relationships into the story. That was especially nice to read about, since a lot of other fantasy books sidestep the subject with a few exceptions. It wasn’t made a big deal about, but it also wasn’t swept under the rug either. Props for that.

 

He’d said his father had sent Isabelle away because she liked girls.

 

“I wouldn’t expect your master to speak ill of the Sanctum, but there are unwritten rules. One of those rules is that they don’t train mages with my… proclivities.

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Overall, this is an incredible book, and I’m so thankful to the author for emailing me and bringing my attention to this magical world. I’m definitely going to be looking forward to reading more of her stuff when it’s published. If you like high fantasy, and magic, and men who are equally as attractive and sweet as each other, this is something you just have to read.

 

Blogger Interview – Husband And Husband

 

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I’m so excited for this feature – this was inspired from my blog spotlight posts, where I write a bit about different blogs that I love, and now I’m going to actually interview the bloggers themselves. Naturally, there was only ever one choice for the first blogger interview; the first bloggers whom I ever followed during my early days as a baby blogger. This is Aaron and Jonathan, who blog over at Husband And Husband!

The answers in green will be Aaron’s answers, and Jonathan’s will be in blue, so you can tell who is who. Enjoy.

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How did your blogging story start? What motivated you to start blogging in the first place? Did you have a blog before this one?

It actually began with Jonathan. I’ll let him get into the details…but when we decided to actually do the blog it just CLICKED. Everything that has been great in our lives has always been when we’re together, or collaborating.

After my first novel got published, my publisher urged me to start a blog. It really didn’t seem like something I was interested in. Don’t get me wrong, I love writing, but I love to write stories and I didn’t think I would enjoy writing for a blog. So, I started my own blog, but it didn’t click. I toyed with it for a little, but nothing ever came from it. I always wanted to do something creative with Aaron, something we could share together as husbands. That’s how our blog started and we fell in love with it.

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What’s your favourite part about blogging?

My favorite part about blogging is meeting all of the other bloggers in the blogosphere. Living in Los Angeles is amazing because you get to meet all of these diverse people and make friends from all walks of life, but blogging brings that to a whole new level! 

All the awesome people we’ve meet! There are so many really cool people out there and some of them Aaron and I have actually helped and made a difference in their lives. That’s my favorite thing by far.

Is there any downsides that you have found through your own blogging experience?

Time, time, time. If I could blog/create all day, I would love to.

There just isn’t enough time in the day! I work 40 hours a week, write novels around 30-40 hours a week, and then blog whenever I can squeeze in some time. I wish I could take a pill that would allow me to skip sleeping all together so that I would have more time in the day. 🙂

A while ago, you started a fun comic based on the Wizard Of Oz – Dustin In Oz. Will that be coming back any time soon?

I think Dustin In Oz is great! I can’t take any credit for it. Aaron is the mastermind behind the story. I have to say though, I’m extra excited for Aaron’s next Husband & Husband comic series. It’s going to be incredible. 

I heart Dustin! He’s one of our creative love children and I enjoy paving his journey down the rainbow road. I initially started scheduling Dustin of Oz as a spin-off to our regular weekly comic, Husband&Husband. The plan was to release a full episode 15 pages every other month or so. D of Oz started in September, and again released a few pages at the end of November. I would like to release another full lump of episodes preferably before we head to vacation in February,but it all depends on if I can get far enough ahead on our weekly comic.:D

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(P.S if you want to see the other comics belonging to these awesome bloggers, then go here. Click it. CLICK IT!)

Are either of you working on anything new at the moment?

Oh man…there is NOT enough time in the day. I can’t even begin to list the comic stories I have in my head that are itching to come to life! Maybe one day I’ll be able to make enough to stay home and work on comics all day…that’s the dream! As for a new project that is getting near-ready to release…I’ve been working on my first fantasy/magical realism comic and I CANNOT wait to share the details. What I can share right now…is that is involves witches, covens, and coming of age. looking to release in February/March.

I’m super busy! I have the sequel to my first novel under review with my publisher, another book about to start editing, and I’m working on another book that I’m really excited for. I’m planning on sharing the first five chapters with our readers very soon(a week or two).

Which social media do you find yourselves using the most often?

Our Facebook page, Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram get the most love. Oh! And Tapastic. 🙂

Ditto to Aaron’s answer

Is there any blogs you read regularly?

Jonathan is the master of the blog, I mostly manage our social media accounts. But I love to read all blogs I come across when hanging out in BlogLand  😀

Well, for starters, we love Shih Tzu Book Reviews! I also love cadburypom.wordpress.com (book reviewer) and vinnieh.wordpress.com (movie reviewer)! 

Aw, thank you! Now it’s time for the quickfire question round. Ready…set….go!

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Image c/o whoever made it. I found it on Google Images.

Batman or Superman?
Batman!
Superman!!!
Coffee or tea?
Tea—caffeine free
COFFEE!!
Dark chocolate or white chocolate?
White chocolate
DARK chocolate
DC or Marvel?
DC…no Marvel…no DC!
DC DC DC DC
Tattoos or piercings?
Tattoos, but love ’em both
Tattoos!!!!
Chinese takeout or Indian?
CHINESE
CHINESE
Morning or night?
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Night
Night
Go-to comfort food?
Mongolian BBQ, Pozole, Wingstop.
Cookies, pizza, Chinese food.
Pet peeves?
Rude/People with no manners/Entitlement.
Mean people, internet trolls, people who feel entitled–spoiled brats! 
Dream lazy day?
Blanket forts, video games, chinese take-out, and painting.
Spending the day with Aaron, watching a new television series, popcorn and candy in my lap, Aaron on my side, dog on the other side, cat behind me.
Dream vacation?
London
Even though we’ve already been there before, London will always been my dream vacation. Aaron and I have a spot there–actually not in London, but close. We call it our “Somewhere Only We Know.” It’s our favorite place in the world.

That’s the end. A huge thank you to Aaron and Jonathan for being so great and doing this interview. I have had so much fun reading your answers, and basically you both are #relationshipgoals.

If you’re a blogger out there, and you want to be featured on either this or my blog spotlight feature posts, then either send me an email at shihtzubookreviews@gmail.com or on Twitter @shihtzureviews.

All the contact info for Jonathan and Aaron is on the blog spotlight post I did, so go look at that….here!

Happy reading!

When We Were Blog Tour – With Alexandra Diaz

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I am so thrilled to be doing this – the blog tour for Alexandra Diaz’s amazing book When We Were! This is my first book blog tour, so I’m epicly psyched to get this going.

First of all, thank you SO much to the nice people at Paper Lantern Lit publishing for putting me on this blog tour – it’s an amazing opportunity, and I love it.

In case you’ve been totally living under a rock, here’s some info on both the book, and the fabulous author herself:

The Author:

Alexandra Diaz grew up bilingual in Puerto Rico and various U.S states. Thanks to an overactive imagination, she’s always loved creating stories and ‘what-if’ scenarios. She got her MA in Writing for Young People from Bath Spa University in Bath, England, and is the author of five young adult and middle grade novels. When she’s not writing, she gets paid to walk dogs, teach creative writing, web edit, and parade in costume on stilts; sadly, other things she enjoys – travelling, eating ice cream, and circus aerials – don’t pay. Visit her on Twitter, on Facebook, or at http://www.alexandra-diaz.com.

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The Book Itself:

No one messes with Whitney Blaire or her friends, which is why she can’t help but let it slip that someone spotted Tara’s boyfriend making out with one of the guy cheerleaders.

Even after spending hours training for her marathon, down-to-earth Tara can’t outrun the rumors about the boyfriend she thought was perfect.

Pinkie, the rock and “Big Sister” of their inseparable group, just wants things to stay exactly the way they are…

…but that’s not possible when new-girl Riley arrives in school and changes everything.

Suddenly Tara starts to feel things she’s never felt before—for anyone—while Whitney Blaire tries to convince her that this new girl is Trouble. Meanwhile, Pinkie’s world begins to crumble as she begins to suspect that the friends she depends on are not the girls she thought she knew. Can friendship survive when all the rules are broken?

I actually read this for ARC August, so go check out my review here, before you read the interview I did with the author herself (as well as a fun fictional dinner party game).

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1) Which writers influence your work?
For this novel, I was influenced by Jaclyn Moriarty, Ann Brashares, and though you’d never guess, J.K. Rowling.

2) Where did the inspiration for When We Were come from? Did you draw on any personal experiences for this book?
It started off with the idea that Brent Staple had done something bad and then snowballed from there. I wanted three characters and the challenge of writing from three POVs. Most of the novel is not taken from personal experience, but there are some indirect issues that are drawn from real life, particularly the question/obsession of why someone hasn’t returned my phone call

3) I absolutely love the cover for the book, by the way. Was there any other cover concepts you considered?

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There were a few other options. I considered one with three girls with their backs to the camera and arms around each other, but even from the back view, I couldn’t get over the fact that they didn’t “look” like my girls (Tara in a sundress? Never!). My agent and editor really liked this one with the rose, and I do like the more
“serious” tone it gives.

4)A lot of authors write themselves into their novels as characters –  Which character would you consider to be the most like you?
There is a little of me in everyone, but Pinkie is the one who is probably closest internally though most people wouldn’t guess; my mind is always replaying events and obsessing about what I said and how they other person is interpreting it. Physically, I’m more like Tara in terms of being active and fit, though the idea of going running is a bit laughable. And Whitney Blaire has a lot of emotional issues I can relate to, especially her need to get away. So yes, if you were to put all three girls together, you’d have someone a lot like me. Scary thought!

5) There’s a lot of different issues addressed in the novel – What was the hardest part of When We Were to write?
There are a lot of issues and that was something that appealed to me–that each girl had things to go through. The hardest part was understanding the Brent and Tara relationship and her feelings about what he did, especially when she later becomes attracted to a girl. I talked it over with my Bath writers’ group (who helped me all through the writing process), explaining that I didn’t understand the psychology and they helped me see that it came down to betrayal. The who of Brent’s fling was irrelevant, it was the fact that he had done that made it so hard for Tara and for me to convey.

6) If you could go back in time, what advice would you give to your younger self?
Don’t sweat the small stuff. What at one point might have been desperately important, turns out to be irrelevant. And, you can’t change the past, but you can take what you learned in the past to better effect the future.

7) Which famous person, living or dead, would you like to meet and why?
This changes on a regular bases, but today I’m going with the director Gurinder Chadha. She’s the person I’d like to direct my “movies” because we have a similar sense of humor and I love how I can relate to her characters. I see myself in her characters, I want to be like them, and live their lives, something about them just resonates inside. That, in turn, is what I try to recreate in my characters and hope readers feel a similar compassion with them as I do.

8) If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. There are a lot of things that weren’t wrapped up the way I would have liked and things that I was left, even at the end of the book, not understanding. What happened to Umbridge? Were Ron and Hermione never once concerned about Pigwidgeon and Crookshanks? What didn’t Harry just snap the Elder Wand and be done with it? And don’t get me started on how I would remake the movies!

9) What advice would you give to aspiring writers in this day and age?
Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do it. If writing is your passion, go for it. Accept criticism, don’t be afraid to revise, attend writers workshops/classes, and be the best writer you can be!

10) What songs did you listen to while writing this book? Any particular artists who inspired you to write?
This novel was written several years ago and I honestly can’t think of any songs that inspired me. I like to write in silence. I also was living in Bath and I didn’t have a car (which means I didn’t listen to the radio). If I played music, it would have been on the iTunes shuffle and nothing stands out to my recollection. However, I promise to have answers to this question with future books!

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Now i figured, we could do something called the Literary Dinner Party tag. In this tag, you’re hosting  a dinner party. You can invite any character you want, but there are 10 different categories you need to fill, and there are only room for 11 people:

1. One character who can cook/likes to cook: Big Ma (Caroline Logan)
2. One character who has money to fund the party: Mr. Carrisford aka The Indian Gentleman
3. One character who might cause a scene: Max, especially if it’s a night where he wears his wolf costume and lets the wild rumpus start
4. One character who is funny/amusing: The BFG
5. One character who is super social/popular: Todd Wilkins
6. One villain: Darth Vader
7. One couple – doesn’t have to be romantic: Anna and St Clair
8. One hero/heroine: Charlotte Doyle
9. One underappreciated character: Luna Lovegood
10. One character of your own choosing:  Martha Speaks

Again, thank you very very much to all involved for letting me be a part of this blog tour, and I hope to do it again in future.

Happy reading!

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Q&A With Kate Scelsa – Author of ‘Fans of The Impossible Life’

I am so thrilled to have this special post – a while back, I reviewed Kate Scelsa’s upcoming book ‘Fans of the Impossible Life’, and since I loved it so much, I got into touch with the author herself, and she agreed to do this Q&A with me! Yay! Check out the questions and her answers below:

  • What was the inspiration for ‘Fans of The Impossible Life’? What do you think was the jumping-off point for the writing?

It was a few different things, and I really circled around all of them while I was working on it. My original inspiration was the book and the BBC miniseries of “Brideshead Revisited” by Evelyn Waugh. I had a dream about Waugh’s character Sebastian, and in my dream he liked to steal things. Then as I worked on the book I started to understand why that character was so important to me – the ways in which he reminded me of people from my own adolescence, of parts of myself, and of some old emotions that I needed to work through. As I revised I found that each of the characters and their struggles took on very different meanings for me depending on what was going on in my own life in that moment.

  • When you were writing this, did you have any particular songs that you listened to? A ‘Fans’ playlist, so to speak?

Yes yes yes! I used music to get into the right mindset almost every day when I sat down to write FANS. And different drafts of the book had different albums that helped me. The first couple of drafts it was Orba Squara’s album “The Trouble with Flying.” Then it was the Diamond Rings album “Special Affections.” Fiona Apple’s “The Idler Wheel…” got me through those final re-writes. And Tegan and Sara’s song “Closer” is the unofficial theme song of FANS.

3) If your characters from the novel all came to life, which would you be most excited to meet and which would you not want to meet?

Oooh I like this question. I would be pretty excited to meet Mira, since I put a lot of myself into her. I would want to sit down and have a heart to heart. I’d love to hang out with any of main my characters. But if I had to pick, I would probably rather not meet Talia. I have a lot of love for her, but she’s definitely exhausting.

4) Which of your characters do you identify most with, on a personal level?

Mira, for sure. And she was the hardest for me to write for a long time, because I think I was avoiding facing what I was really meant to face with her. I had so many drafts where she was coming off as unlikeable and I couldn’t figure it out. I had to go pretty deep and dredge some stuff up to get her to open up to me. But all three of them definitely have parts of me in them.

5) ‘Fans of The Impossible Life’ deals with a lot of serious issues like sexuality, drugs, and depression. Was it hard for you to write any part of the novel?

I think writing about depression is very tricky. It’s a hard thing to describe because it’s so internal, and it doesn’t always have a clear cause and effect. So I would say that I found it challenging to find a way to write about depression that felt authentic and really communicated what I was trying to say about it.

In writing about sexuality, it was just important to me to really look at how each character felt about their own sexuality and what their journey was with that. But I love writing about that kind of thing.

6) If the book was to be a movie, who would be your celebrity choices to play the three main characters?

They’re so young! I wouldn’t even know who actors that young are! (I guess I’m showing my age here.)

7) Has writing always been something you’ve wanted to do?

Writing has always been a part of my life in some way, but it was only about ten years ago, when I was struggling with my own sense of self and direction and finding my own voice, that I came to understand how important it is to me. Writing has saved me in moments when it literally felt like nothing else could. To me it is magic.

8) What would you say is your favourite genre to read?

This is a tough one. I don’t think I could pick! When I’m not in the middle of writing my own stuff I like to catch up on YA. But when I’m writing I tend to stick to non-fiction and essays so I don’t distract myself with other people’s stories. I’ll even avoid movies sometimes when I’m really in the middle of something, because I’m trying to stay in the flow of my own work and to always be listening to what’s coming next, and I find other fiction can really disrupt that.

9) Reading ‘Fans’, I was heavily reminded of books like John Green’s ‘Looking For Alaska’ and Stephen Chbosky’s ‘Perks Of Being A Wallflower’ – What are your favourite YA books right now?

I loved Sarah McCarry’s “About A Girl” which just came out this summer. “I’ll Give You the Sun” by Jandy Nelson is a truly remarkable book. I also loved “The Distance Between Lost and Found” by my fellow ’15 debut Kathryn Holmes. And I can’t wait for Julie Murphy’s “Dumplin’!”

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10) If all fictional characters in the world came to life for just one day, who would you want to go on a date with?

Margot Tenenbaum

11) Aside from writing, what else do you like to do in your free time?

I go to a lot of theater. I was in a theater company for eleven years, and a lot of my friends make very cool theater in New York.

12) What would you say is your ultimate guilty pleasure?

Shopping in thrift stores. I have a very large, very full closet. This does not stop me from buying more things.

Now, I decided to have a game of Would You Rather, but with questions more geared for book lovers.

  • WYR read only trilogies OR just stand-alones?

Stand-alones

  • WYR only have paperback books OR only hardbacks?

Hardbacks

  • WYR read only five pages a day OR 5 books a week?

Five pages a day

  • WYR live in a world with only e-books OR only audiobooks?

Only e-books

  • WYR read only the first page of a book OR only the last page?

Last page

  • WYR get locked in a library OR a bookstore?

Bookstore

  •  WYR love a book that everyone hates OR hate a book everyone loves?

Love a book that everyone hates.

Thank you so much, Kate, for taking the time to do this with me. For all you book lovers out there, ‘Fans of the Impossible Life’ comes out September 8, so you better put it in your calendars, because this book is seriously a must-read this year.

Goodreads

Kate’s website

Her Twitter

Her Tumblr

My review of ‘Fans’

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  • WYR bring only 1 book on a 12-hour flight OR bring an e-reader with only 10% battery life left?

1 book

Q&A with Gus Li!

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If you remember, a little while ago, I posted a book review of the book ‘Fox-Hat and Neko’ by August Li, where I was basically raving my praise of it. Well, not long after I posted the review, I got into contact with the author – a really awesome dude by the way – and he agreed to do this Q&A with me!

1) ‘Fox-Hat and Neko’ is quite a long book – in just one

sentence, how would you describe ‘Fox-Hat and Neko?’

If something’s wrong in the world, fight to fix it.

2) How did you formulate this story? What was the inspiration for it?

My friend had a fox hat she would wear pretty much all the time. She got the nickname Fox-Hat for a while. It all started there. The rest just kind of came.

3) The characters in the book are so well written, and fully
developed. Did you draw on anyone in real life for any of the
characters?

Not any one person, but all characters are pieced together from people the writer has met in some capacity. They’re bits of traits I have admired (or not) that stem from their experiences. Because of the lives they’ve lived up until this point, they all perceive the world and their situation in a slightly different way, and when it’s combined, it allows them something like the whole picture. I really don’t like perfect characters, and I don’t believe anyone, not even the most heroic person, is completely without selfishness, or fear, or some other flaw. I find it more inspiring when they can shine in spite of their shortcomings. I needed a group of people who, despite differences and occasionally passionate disagreement, could complement each other’s attitudes and skills, but without losing their individual goals and desires.

4) I know that whenever I’m writing, I always come back to it
after a while, and I always want to change at least half a dozen
things about the plot. If you could go back and change one thing about
the book, what would you change?

It probably wouldn’t be a change for the better, but I always want to dig deeper into the characters and dissect how their past experiences color their current motives and opinions. What forces combined to shape them into their current forms? It’s a fine balancing act to include enough to make them relatable without dragging down the action of the story. Some of the secondary characters—Kazu and Wish, especially—grew on me as I was working, and I found I’d like to explore them further. Maybe in a sequel some day.

5) Which character from the book do you feel you identify with the most?

As an artist, it’s easy to identify with Chou: artistic integrity versus commercial success. I also think the act of creation is as close as most people can get to magic (though I still hold out a little bit of hope that there are real mages and spirits around). But creative people in all fields can sort of shape things from their will. One thing about Chou that I really admire is her special brand of courage; she shows it can sometimes take more bravery to be kind than to be aggressive, that there’s more than one way to fight against injustice. Not that she won’t get her hands dirty if she has to!

Another thing I have felt is Ayumu’s desire to sort of remain invisible—to avoid the responsibility and work that come with drawing attention to yourself, but then reaching a point where it’s unbearable to hide away and let bad things continue to happen without speaking up.

6) If the characters from any of your books came to life, which
would you be most afraid of meeting, and which would you be dying to
meet?

Afraid? Kazuo *shudder* He’s an example of a person who’s survived because he’s earned it. Still, I would be morbidly curious, and, probably as Neko did, would pay for that curiosity. He’s awfully pretty, too, and I have a shallow streak.

The character I’d most like to meet might be surprising. Fox-Hat and Neko would both be fun to hang out with (also scary), but the character I would most like to sit down and have a conversation with would be Mrs. Chen. She has seen and experienced a great deal of life and would have a lot of wisdom to impart.


Quickfire Round:

1) Morning, noon, or night?

Night all the way.

2) The last book you read?

Currently reading Blue On Black by Carole Cummings.

3) If you could go anywhere in the world for a holiday, where would you go?

I’m afflicted with chronic wanderlust, so anywhere I haven’t been yet. I’m gradually ticking countries off my list, but there’s still a lot more to see. But to answer honestly, Japan, always.

4) Pet peeves?

Closed-mindedness. Intolerance. Indifference to the struggles of others.

5) Most embarrassing childhood memory?

Not sure if this is embarrassing or just kind of gross, but it’s one of my most vivid memories. I think I was five or six, and I was at my grandparents’ house. Obviously I was too young to be allowed a knife, but I wanted to carve a boat to put in a small stream, so I took one from the kitchen. Predictably, I cut my hand very deeply. I was so afraid I was going to get in trouble that I hid in the bathroom and put my hand under warm water… which encouraged it to bleed even faster. Luckily I was found, because that would have been a heck of an embarrassing way to die.

6) How old were you when you were in love for the first time?

Well, I love my family and my pets, so I guess whenever I was old enough to realize I loved my parents?

7) Favourite author?

It depends on what I’m in the mood to read, but a few who have influenced me are Mercedes Lackey, Robert Jordan, Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Kenneth Grahame, Peter S. Beagle, Richard Adams, Ursula K. Le Guin, Diana Wynne Jones… this could become a long list. I’ll stop.

8) Favourite book?
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

9) Favourite colour?
That’s a tough one as an artist, but I like fall colours like rust-red, orange, gold, and burgundy. Especially against a grey sky. It makes them so vibrant in comparison.
10) Favourite song of the moment?

I’ve been listening to gothy things like The Cure and Nick Cave while I work on Fox-Hat and Crow. “Beloved” by VNV Nation is probably my favourite ever song. Haha, I’m old.

11) Have you ever found that you don’t have enough bookshelf space?

Yes. I collect all kinds of books, graphic novels, and manga. I go to a lot of conventions and never come home empty-handed (even though I should). I have a three-bedroom house to myself, and it’s still a problem.

12) If you could meet any celebrity – dead or alive – who would you choose?

Lord Byron, an attractive and intelligent guy who liked to have a good time.


Again, thanks for doing this – my first author interview!

It’s been a pleasure. Thanks so much for having me!

So, yeah. That happened. ‘Fox-Hat and Neko’ is available to buy here, or on Amazon, and below are the links to contact Gus if you want them.

His Facebook

Twitter