Author Interview with P.A. O’Neil

Dragon Soul Press sat down to interview P.A. O’Neil, an author of fantasy and horror.


1. What inspired you to start writing?

I’ve wanted to be a story teller since I was a child. In high school, I had the opportunity to take a Creative Writing class and I knew I was hooked, unfortunately, an experience in college turned me off not only writing but sharing any of my stories with others. Forty-years went by and when I had the time, I wrote a novel based off of a vivid dream. When I woke up, I knew I had to finish the story.

Mostly, I write because I need to give voice the characters in my head that haunt me until they being released on paper.

Actually, both of the above answers are correct, I just find the second one more intriguing.

2. What comes first, the plot or characters?

Unless given a prompt, it most often is the characters. One of my recent stories was written because one day I woke up knowing I had to write a story about “Moses Busbee.” I had no idea what that would be, just a nagging memory. When the opportunity came to write a science-fiction story, I used the opportunity to put Moses’s to rest by using him as the central character.

3. What time of the day do you usually write?

When my husband was working, I used the afternoon to write, but never on the weekends as that what his time. Now that he is retired, I write whenever I can because he considers everyday a weekend! Seriously though, it still is afternoon, just not as many hours anymore. I confess, I do miss it.

4. What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

That would have to be inspiration for stories. I mentioned before how dreams were a major influence, but my dedication comes from my Muse. There are times when I have to, not just need to write. The story demands to be written and I chalk that up to my imagined Muse. She is a real task master with a mean spirit, no slacking here—yet there are times when she takes off for short holidays, sometimes up to three months. She returns ready to work, so I should too.

5. Do you research for your books?

Yes, research is necessary for the plausibility of the story. They say you should, “write about what you know,” well you’re not going to know it with some factual research. It doesn’t have to be deep, just enough that if someone familiar with the setting or activity would shake their head in agreement. Even fantasy needs to have something tangible for the reader to relate to.

6. How do you handle literary criticism?

Much better than I did several years ago. When I first started, I received a rejection letter from a submission editor who must’ve had a difficult day, because she really took it out on me. A simple, no thank you it’s not our type of story would’ve sufficed. It put me off writing anything for several weeks. I submitted the story elsewhere several times, each being rejected, so I retooled it, made it sharper, still nothing. Then I remember the first comment by the editor, “I don’t like the title.” So, I changed the title and it got picked up right away.

The lesson I have learned from this experience is professional writing is a small business and should be treated and respected as such. If my story is rejected, I consider it not a put-down of me, or my work, but not making a sale to that customer that day. I always return with a thank you note to the publisher for letting me know of their consideration and I wish them luck, thus leaving on a good note. Also, as evidenced in the above paragraph, if a story keeps being rejected, go back to what these rejections might have in common. It could just mean they were right all along.

7. How do you deal with emotional impact of a book (on yourself) as you are writing the story?

My novel, Finding Jane, has yet to be edited, so I can only speak to my collection of short stories, Witness Testimony and Other Tales. Some of the stories were based on firsthand experiences, some on imagined ones. There are a couple of stories that were heartbreaking to write, but these stories had to be told—not just for my sake, but for the sake of who they were written for.

An example of this was “Letters from Jenni.” I had read an in-depth article about using DNA to identify the perpetrators from years past in deaths of children from my area. In this article, there was a photo of one of the girls, the last ever known to be taken. It was a summer afternoon with children and mothers surrounding a kitchen table at lunch time. Everyone was laughing and smiling, but this girl, was staring at the camera as if she knew it would be of photo of so many lasts. I felt compelled to give voice to this child. That photo still haunts me today.

8. Describe your perfect book hero or heroine.

It’s probably silly, but Dr. John H. Watson, is my favorite hero. I envy his relationship with Sherlock Holmes and his dedication to that friendship. Holmes, by his own admission, was a hard person to live with, but it wasn’t faithfulness he was looking for in a friend and companion (he could’ve had that with a dog) but someone willing to be a brother, a sounding wall, a confessor, and at times a savior. The Watson portrayed in the movies is far from the man in the books. There is no way a military officer, a doctor, and a successful writer could be as incompetent as they made him out to be. Besides, a man of Holmes’s personality would most not likely want to attach himself to someone that incompetent.

9. What was your favorite part, and your least favorite part, of the publishing journey?

The least favorite part is finding the time to devote myself to writing whatever story that needs to be written. For health reasons, I don’t write in the evenings, so that window seems to be getting smaller and smaller each day.

The favorite part, it even beats seeing the story in print, is when I type End. It’s done, the demon has been released. Yes, I know there is still rewrites and edits to come but nothing beats the satisfaction of that first completion.

10. Where can readers learn more about you?

On Facebook, Goodreads, and Amazon.

Author Interview with Steven Bruce

Dragon Soul Press took a moment to interview Steven Bruce, an author of poetry and horror.


1. What inspired you to start writing?

The inspiration came from needing something to pull me out of a quiet life of desperation. I was between unemployment and warehouse jobs while living in a run-down apartment block.

Steven Bruce
(Photo courtesy of Steven Bruce)

Then one night, I recalled hearing Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart in primary school. And I thought, what if I wrote horror stories. So I got out of bed, switched my old computer on, and, in total ignorance of the craft, spent the night writing. By the time the sun came up, I had written my first horror story.

From there, I never looked back.

2. When did you first consider yourself a writer?

At the very beginning, before I typed the first letter of the first word of the first sentence of my first story.

Before you can convince others of what you are, you have to convince yourself.

3. What is the most difficult part about writing for you?

I find perfectionism during the editing process hampers my output. From time to time, I also suffer from procrastination.

4. Is writing your full-time career? Or would you like it to be?

Yes, I write full-time. Although, I also moonlight as an editor and proofreader.

Thankfully, I’ve learned to live a spartan lifestyle, so I don’t need large sums of money to survive. I can be content with a cup of coffee with a good book in the morning and, in the evening, my wife’s tuna pasta with a film.

I think putting an artist in a nine-to-five, dead-end job is comparable to strapping them in a straightjacket. Not to say that I’m an artist, but I’m definitely an artist type.

5. If you had to describe yourself in three words, what would they be?

Creative, diligent, and sexy.

Disclaimer: The three words above are chosen solely by my wife, who may be slightly biased.

6. Are you working on anything at the present you would like to share with your readers about?

At the moment, I’m working on a second poetry collection titled Caffeine. It’s a collection of poems that delves into what keeps us awake at night. It’s an intimate collection which I hope reaches out into the familiar.

It will be available to buy in August of this year.

It’s my departure from poetry. At least for now. I want to focus more on writing fiction.

7. Who is your favorite author and why?

It’s always challenging to pick a single favourite when there are so many authors I admire.

I often return to the works of Raymond Carver, Ernest Hemingway, Anton Chekhov, and Franz Kafka, to name a few.

However, if I had to pick one, it would be Ernest Hemingway for his brevity.

8. What famous author do you wish would be your mentor?

For poetry, Ezra Pound.

For fiction, Gordon Lish.

9. What do you like to do when you are not writing?

When I’m not writing, I like to visit art galleries, museums, parks, and cafés. I also enjoy reading and going on long weekend walks around Barcelona with Gosia (my wife).

10. Where can readers learn more about you?

The best place would be through my website, LinkedIn, Goodreads, and Amazon.

Why You Should Keep Improving Your Skills #3

In life, everything is constantly changing. This applies to books and their current trending genres. One week, fairies are topping the charts, but the next, Greek goddesses have taken over. Depending what genre those examples delve in, the writing is different. Gone are the days when Tolkien’s style of writing was popular. Now, stories told from a First Person POV and leaning heavily towards romance are selling the best. Those two elements can be applied to any setting and genre, but only if you know how to execute it.

Reading in your genre is the best way to see what readers are looking for. As the saying goes, readers want to read the same exact thing, but with minor changes and some originality. Once they pick up a book by you, they expect the others to be similarly written.

If you’re expecting to sell a lot of books, it’s best to stick with the current writing styles of authors topping the charts. It’s a personal decision to attempt getting a book into all of the current trends. Sliding into even one of them will drastically boost your ratings and get the attention of new readers.

At this point, you may be getting a bit defensive at the fact you should improve your skills. There is a vast difference between style and skill. Style is the art of the storytelling. Your style may always be changing or you may have nailed it down earlier on. The skill is the execution of the writing and should always be improving.

In order to succeed, your writing skills will need to constantly be advanced. There’s not enough room for the famous “show, don’t tell” speech here, but you can find our previous articles for reference: Pitfalls to Avoid: Showing vs. Telling and Show, Don’t Tell.

Continued from
Why You Still Need an Editor After Multiple Books

Why You Still Need an Editor After Multiple Books #2

A question that often comes up for seasoned authors: “do I still need an editor? I have x number of books under my belt now. Surely I can self-edit to save money and time.

Famous authors like J.K. Rowling, R.A. Salvatore, Stephen King, etc. still use their editors. Why? They’ve written multiple books and have been writing for years. Shouldn’t they be self-sufficient by now?

Writing a book and editing a book is not the same thing. That’s why an extensive process has been created for publishing. Yes, your work will definitely improve over the years if you continue honing your skills and pay attention to some of the things your editors suggest. There will still be mistakes that another pair of eyes need to catch.

You may be thinking at this point of the article that “It’s okay. I’ll have my best friend or family member read over it and it’ll provide a professional result.” This is often not the case. Even someone who reads books extensively or has an actual college degree in English won’t be able to catch all of the mistakes. Degrees are a piece of paper awarded to someone who completes courses. It doesn’t show their experience or dedication to the work.

Normally, there are three stages to editing: Structural/Developmental, Line Editing, Copy Editing. Laid out like that, it looks easy, but it’s far from simple. A manuscript is normally read through and edited a minimum of five times. Professionals who have studied current genres, story structures, sentence structures, etc. are worth having edit your story and getting it to a traditional publishing level, whether you are attempting that route or self-publishing. Readers expect professionalism and will stop reading after finding mistakes in the book.

But that’s okay. I’ve already established a reader base.” It’s extremely easy to lose readers once they realize your future books are not up to par with the others. The more books you release, the better they are expected to become. Not the opposite.

Continued from
Why You Shouldn’t Withdraw Your Submission Early

To be continued in a later blog post called
Why You Should Keep Improving Your Skills…

Why You Shouldn’t Withdraw Your Submission Early #1

After being in the business for so long, one ends up seeing multiple dreams being squashed or coming true. One of the worst things is getting in your own way and causing everything to crash and burn. This has occurred many times and as such, has warranted this article.

Many publishers have the option of manuscript and anthology submissions. When someone submits to both outlets and one gets rejected, the automatic response is to withdraw all submissions from that publisher. This is the wrong way to do things. Just because one thing was rejected does not mean everything will be.

There are so many possibilities as to why it was refused. Some of the most common reasons is it needed more editing or that story didn’t fit in that particular anthology. No matter the reason, none is cause to withdraw all of your submissions. More often than not, the publisher is planning on accepting one even though another was rejected.

The reason many authors are not successful with traditional publishing is because they don’t follow submission guidelines and once refused, they automatically give up. “Self-publishing is such an easier way to go” has been a saying going around writing communities. It may be easier, but you will never have the same opportunities that traditional publishing gives. And so, the story that was rejected due to poor editing is uploaded for self-publishing without further improvement and gets nowhere with sales.

The worst of all is that, more often than not, the author never continues improving their writing. Critique is the most important way to continue honing your writing skills. If you think you’re already the best and have nothing further to improve, then you’re already in the wrong mindset.

To be continued in a later blog post called
Why You Still Need an Editor After Multiple Books