Author Interview with S.O. Green

With the upcoming release of Dragon Soul Press’ Lethal Impact anthology, DSP interviewed Author S.O. Green featured within.


 

  1. Have you always wanted to be a writer?

I’ve always wanted to write. That, to me, was more important than being a writer. I wrote fan fiction as a way to flirt with my girlfriend (actually, I still do) and as a way to hone my craft. It was only two years ago that I started looking at professional writing, and only this year that I started to take it seriously. So here I am.

  1. Describe your writing process.

I usually start with a concept or a theme. That’s why I love Dragon Soul Press anthologies. The themes are always so strong. Once I have a theme, I brainstorm a premise using some of my favourite character archetypes. Then I write out the plot as it comes to me, fix up the holes and improve the flow before starting to write. I add layers as I go and always allow room for growth but I’m a planner at heart. I try not to research anything until the story is written because I prefer to focus on character and drama rather than detail. Once it’s written, I let my girlfriend take an axe to it.

  1. How do you come up with the titles to your stories?

The title is the very last thing I decide on. Early drafts are always entitled things like ‘The Demon Story’ or ‘Reign of Queens Story’. When I finish, I look back through and see if I can find a phrase that describes the entire piece. My latest story for Dragon Soul Press is named ‘Eve’s Apple’, after the main character’s love of apples. That quirk wasn’t even in the original plan but, once I started writing, it became important pretty quickly.

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

I do all my writing on an Alphasmart Neo. It’s basically a keyboard with a calculator screen. No games, no internet, no nothing. There are no distractions. It’s the main reason why my output is so high. I’ve typed over half a million words since the start of 2020 and it’s great because I used to really struggle with my output. Oh, and there’s also usually a redhead in my stories somewhere.

  1. How do you handle writer’s block?

Honestly, I try to just not get it. I start every day with a little writing. Something rough with low stakes so I can just let it flow. It might never see the light of day. On the other hand, it might also be the first draft of something. If I get blocked on a specific project, I try to approach it from a different angle – a new point of view, a new character or a new starting point. My experience of writer’s block is less about the writing and more about motivation.

  1. Where do you draw inspiration from?

I tend to say the empty spaces. I read; I watch TV; I play video games. My stories come from the spaces between stories. ‘What if?’ scenarios or events I felt should have happened but didn’t. ‘Eve’s Apple’, was based on the question, ‘what if a main character knew they were an android all their life?’ You can find the answer in the upcoming Lethal Impact anthology.

  1. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Mainly, I search for new ways to make plants delicious and learn to kill people with my bare hands. I play a lot of video games – classic survival horror, epic open world and twee farm simulators tend to be my favourites. I try to read a lot too. I’ve found some brilliant indie authors since the start of the year whose work I adore, like Carrie Gessner and Dan Trudeau. I also have a job but who cares about that?

  1. What are you currently working on?

My current project is for Dragon Soul Press’s Fairytale Dragons anthology. Really, I’ve been spoiled for choice with DSP’s catalogue of submission calls. They’ve recently added a call for steampunk as well so I’m going to be very busy over the next few months. I usually try to have a few projects on the go at once so I can flit between them and keep my motivation up. Short fiction is a fever I can’t sweat out, but I have a novel I’m revising for self-publishing and a novella that is under consideration with a publisher as well. I like to keep busy.

  1. If you could travel to any fictional world, where would you go?

Frank Baum’s Oz. The characters are all so nice and it really is a paradise. Baum’s descriptions of it were always so beautiful and it feels like anything might be possible there. Guilt-free, plant-based chicken dinners grow on trees. Ozma of Oz is also one of the first transgender characters in Western literature, having spent her formative years as a boy named Tip. Reading his original canon recently, I was amazed at how relevant the series still is. On the other hand, I don’t think they’d appreciate my work there, being of a significantly more cheerful disposition.

  1. Where can readers learn more about you?

I update Amazon and Goodreads whenever something new comes out. There’s also my blog, where I review what I read and tease out issues that interest me. I’m also there for the banter on Twitter and Facebook.

At some point, I’ll grow into them all and they’ll look pretty and professional. Until then, enjoy the chaos.

Do’s and Don’ts of World-building

If you’re writing either a fantasy story or a sci-fi one, there is no getting around the world-building. It’s pretty much essential to your genre. World-building occurs when your story’s world deviates from the “rules” of present world that we occupy. So even if your story isn’t set in an entirely different planet, but it’s got a little dusting of magic thrown in, guess what? You’ve entered the realm of world-building. And that requires us to begin looking for and providing explanations for why our fantasy world functions the way it does. 

When it comes to the art of world-building, there are certain things we need to keep in mind. Even though world-building does break the rules of our present space, there still is a certain way of creating your fantasy or sci-fi world so that it reads coherently and doesn’t come off as a big hot mess to your readers. 

So, if you’re grappling with how to create an alternate reality in which your world is set, here are some common mistakes you might want to avoid making:

Spending too much time world-building: There is such a thing as spending too much time building your world. While you do need to build up your world and explain the whys and hows, what you don’t want is to get so wrapped up in creating the world that your book reads more like a history lesson than a story. The way I like to do things is I like to create the entire world separate of the story – complete with a history and a language if there is one – and then just pick and drop in the bits that are relevant to the story. I don’t know how many are familiar with Hemingway’s Iceberg Theory, but it’s the theory of omission. There is only 5% of the story on the surface while the rest of it is underwater. And if the writing is clear and concise, then the reader can infer the other 95% of the story. It kind of works like a show, don’t tell sort of idea. But basically, I like to look at world-building with almost the same lens as the Iceberg Theory. If you know the world well enough yourself, you really only need to show the reader the relevant parts while the rest is left underwater. That is why I’ll list out everything about my world ahead of time, but just include what is relevant to the plot. 

Including things that are never used: This sort of touches back to my first point. It’s okay to build an entire family tree for yourself, but unless it’s a vital part of the plot, don’t include it in the book. Same with language. Unless there is a major plot point around an alien language there is no need to include an alphabet or launch into an explanation of the grammatical rules surrounding a certain language. A simple clue that there is another language in the world – like referring to a “common tongue” or a character noting that another character has the accent of a certain tribe – is more than inclusion enough. Don’t over explain something, especially if it’s a part of the world that doesn’t warrant an explanation in the first place. 

Not planning ahead: While there is no time like the present, getting a little ahead of yourself doesn’t hurt when you are world-building. Particularly if you’re creating a series. You want to have somewhat of a long-term grasp of your world. It helps to cut down on future plot holes. 

Lack of conflict: Let’s face it, perfect worlds are boring. Our current world is a festering cornucopia of social, political, and environmental problems the world over. But that is what makes our lives interesting – we all have our own personal struggles to overcome. We’re our own heroes or heroines in the stories of our lives, and we can thank the conflicts we face for that. Your fantasy or sci-fi world should also hold conflicts that affect or influence your characters. That is what is needed to start them on their heroes’ journey. Don’t create a perfect world, create a flawed one and watch the fun unfold. 

Creating a world that has been done before: Yes, we’re all prone to being inspired by other books or movies or TV shows that we’ve enjoyed. But the last thing you want to do is be charged with derivative copyright infringement for creating a carbon copy of a world that has already appeared in another work of fiction. Of course, just because someone has already written a book about a group of students attending a magical school, or someone else has a world in which cars fly, that doesn’t mean you can’t still write your own story. What it means is that if you’re going to have a world of flying cars, or a story about students attending a magic school, you need to put your own spin on it and make your world as uniquely you as possible. 

Breaking your own rules: Readers of sci-fi or fantasy are willing to suspend their belief. But they won’t forgive the writer for breaking their own rules. So, when you are creating your world, be sure to pay attention to the rules that you’re setting in place. If you are creating a world in which witches only discover their magic powers at the age of 14, but then suddenly you’ve got witches practicing magic and spells at 5 years old, your readers are going to be confused and upset by these plot holes. That is why as the writer and the “god” of your world, you need to pay attention to the rules that you have set forth. Don’t break your own rules. It creates a lot of plot holes and angry readers. 

Author Interview with Peter VanGelderen

Dragon Soul Press sat down with Author Peter VanGelderen, who has featured in DSP’s Reign of Queens and the upcoming Lethal Impact anthology.


1. Have you always wanted to be a writer?

I actually realized I wanted to be a writer later in life, after college actually. I originally wanted to pursue a career as a therapist and that’s what I went to school for. Prior to grad school, I ended up doing some revaluation, and I started writing to try it out as a new hobby. Within a week I was in love with the process and its been my passion ever since. I did attempt to write a fourth Lord of the Rings book when I was a kid, but it didn’t go so well.

2. What books or authors have most influenced your own writing?

I’ve gotten influence from many authors. George R. R. Martin and the Game of Thrones series was an inspiration in terms of character writing as well as cultivating peril and suspense. I’ve also been influenced by N. K. Jemisin, especially when it comes to narrative perspectives. Those are the two big ones, but countless others have surely been involved in the formulation of my own style.

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

I would actually prefer two, sort of a devil-and-angel-on-the-shoulder situation. On one, I’d want Douglas Adams for crafting one-liners and nuggets of witty wisdom. On the other, J. R. R. Tolkien, as he’d have insight on extensive world-building and detail-oriented writing. Plus, I think it’d be pretty great to hear them debate all day. 

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

I am a sucker for an animal companion and all media that include one, so I love to add animal friends big and small to any story I can. Whether or not the animal is a typical pet, a massive lizard monster, or anything in between, doesn’t matter. I will almost always give them the personality of a dog or cat, though, especially if they are a giant lizard monster.

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

When not writing, usually during my evenings, I often turn my brain off with video games. After spending all day writing narratives, I prefer to do something not so narrative-heavy. That way I can just let reflexes and chaotic whims take over so I can relax. I do usually watch plenty of shows and read books before bed, though. Other than that, I am often petting my cat or playing DnD.

6. How many books have you written? Which is your favourite?

As of right now, I only have one completed book. It doesn’t have a name yet, one hasn’t come to me, but it features a massive expedition into a giant area of wild and dangerous nature. I’m very much looking forward to getting it published at some point, but I’m not sure how long that process will take. I have begun another and have been working on it for a few months, but it’s still very much in the beginning phases.

7. Where do you draw inspiration from?

I draw any inspiration I can from anything around me. Naturally, I take inspiration from any book I read, and building on that, any show or movie I watch. Games, songs, and musicals also are fair game. I’ve certainly watched my cat interact with the world and used it to describe animal behavior, it’s the same with my parents’ dogs and any other animal I see. Sometimes, I’ll take the few bits and pieces from my weird dreams that make sense and try to utilize them. I find that the variety helps a lot with keeping things interesting.

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

Goofy, Caring, Kind. (This was given by my girlfriend, as this one actually stumped me a little)

9. Who is the author you most admire in your genre?

Once again, I’m breaking the rules a little bit and including two. First off is J. R. R. Tolkien, as his work ethic and ability to build a massively complex world from scratch. That’s an amount of drive that I can only hope to achieve. Another important one is N. K. Jemisin, who isn’t afraid to be heavy-handed when including real issues that society needs to address. Her portrayal of oppression comes from a true knowledge of real-world problems and she has no fear when it comes to shining a giant, blazing light on subjects many others may only dance around.

10. Where can readers learn more about you?

The best place to get info about me is on my author Facebook page, @PeterVanGelderenBooks. On there I have all my basic info, as well as links to my published works.

Writing Likable Characters

We all want our readers to be invested in our stories. When a reader invests in your story, they are investing in a continued journey with you as a writer. Besides having someone thoroughly enjoy the work that you put so much effort into, having an invested reader can lead to great opportunities such as representation and publication if you’re seeking a more traditional means of publishing, or a loyal fan-base and more clout on social media if you’ve chosen to go with self-publication. Either way, only good things can come for you and your book if you have invested readers. 

But what is the key to success to capturing the hearts of readers? One of the easiest ways to get a reader completely on board with your book is to create likable and relatable characters. Think of all the books that you personally like – how many of them can you honestly say you like them for reasons other than the characters? Sure, the Harry Potter series is cool and JK Rowling outdid herself when she created the wizarding world, but if you stripped all the magic away, you’d be left with only the characters. And that was truly the heart of the books. It was Harry, Hermoine, and Ron that stole our hearts and made us want to keep reading. You can try to counter argue, but deep down you know it’s true. Take any story of any genre and strip away the fantastical settings, the plot twists, the romances, etc. and you’ll see that it’s the characters that are always at the heart of all our beloved books. 

But what is it about certain main characters that resonate with us and make us feel invested in their stories? All these beloved main characters and side characters that we love to discuss at length with friends, cosplay at events, or make fanart for; the one thing that they all have in common is their likability and relatability. So how do you go about creating characters that people like and want to follow?

Here are some tips:

Vulnerability– giving your character a vulnerability is one of the easiest ways to get your character to resonate with readers. This vulnerability can either be a physical one like a handicap or an emotional one. Either way, seeing a character struggle with their own weaknesses, hopes, limitations, or fears is always a way to get readers to see themselves in a character. 

Backstory– kind of lining up a bit with the vulnerability point is backstory. Introducing a why for the character’s actions or thoughts is always a way to make them seem relatable. And looking to their backstory is a good place to start. This is particularly helpful if you want to write an antagonist that is well-rounded and not just a straight up A-hole. Sometimes some of the best villains have some of the saddest or complicated backstories. Take the most recent Joker film. This is a perfect example of a well-rounded villain. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a bad guy, but getting to see his origins definitely helps us better understand his motivations. And in doing so we end up feeling bad for him – something that ends up making him more relatable in our eyes.  

Failure– letting your main character fail isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It can definitely help the relatability of a character. We’ve all faced failure within our own lives. We all love an underdog story with the odds stacked against them. Let your character fail and make a courageous comeback. Their resilience will speak volumes with readers because we’ve all been there. 

Morals– most for the heroes of our stories making them be nice helps a bit. We want to think of characters as being generally nice. Characters that show kindness, generosity, or selflessness are generally seen as “good” and you want your characters to be good. No one likes a character that will kick a puppy and laugh. Of course, steer clear of making them a goodie-two-shoes. Some character flaws do make them more “human.” Also, don’t be afraid of giving your villains some morals too. Just because you have a supervillain who wants to destroy the world doesn’t mean that they can’t have a moment of selflessness. How many times do we end up liking villains after they end up redeeming themselves by showing a selfless side to them? Think Shadow Weaver’s sacrifice of herself to save Adora and Catra in Netflix’s She-ra. Personally, I shed a tear at that.

Humor– whether they’re self-deprecating, snarky, or just plain silly, giving your characters some sort of sense of humor makes them relatable to readers. We all love to laugh. It’s the next universal language besides love. So, it only stands to reason that readers would gravitate towards characters that have a funny side to them. And so long as their humor is true to the character’s personality, it will resonate with audiences.

Self-Awareness– let’s face it, flawed characters are the best characters. But the key to a good flawed character is that they’ve got enough self-awareness to be able to say sorry once in a while for their shortcomings. Giving your characters, particularly your heroes and heroines, a moment of “yeah I know I’m an A-hole sometimes but I’m trying” can definitely help readers cut them some slack for some of their more morally questionable actions. 

Fear and Pain– having a character be motivated by their fear or their pain can definitely make them relatable to readers. How many of us in our everyday lives are motivated to action by pain and fear? That 20-page college paper we’ve all written the night before it’s due was definitely written on pure motivation from fear of failure and a painful lack of sleep. Having characters move through plot points based off their fear and pain will definitely make them relatable. After all, nothing is more human in this life than feeling pain and fear, which is why our characters must feel these things too. 

Author Interview with Crystal Liechty

After hearing about her new release, Dragon Soul Press sat down with Author Crystal Liechty to interview her about First: Get Caught.



1. What inspired you to start writing?
My mother was a writer so I grew up writing. I’m not sure when I started or if I’ll ever stop. It’s just what I do. What inspired this particular book? Definitely my love of Korean dramas. They know how to do romance in ways that really pull you in and make you care about the characters. I tried to study that out, see how they did it, and replicate that in First: Get Caught.

2. What is the most difficult part about writing for you?
Finding time. I homeschool three kids, volunteer in my community, work from home, take care of my house. It’s near impossible to find quiet snippets of time where I can just sink into my own imagination and play there a bit.

3. Where do you get your inspiration?
I listen to music. Read poetry. Watch Korean dramas. Talk through plot ideas with friends. Write, decide it’s terrible, and try again.

4. What is the future for the characters? Will there be a sequel?
Yes! This is the first book in a series and each new book will follow the love story of a new character in Abigail’s friend group. The second book will be Hannah’s love story.

5. What do you hope your readers take away from this book?
Honestly, I try not to think too deeply about stuff like that because it paralyzes me. All I want is for readers to enjoy the book. Laugh a bit, get caught up in the love story, and just have a good time reading.

6. What was the highlight of writing this book?
I had so much fun watching Ben fall in love with Abigail because of who she is, not what she looks like. I really tried to build their relationship around more than the initial physical attraction (though obviously that initial attraction is a big deal since Abigail’s obsession with Ben’s looks is what starts the whole thing).

7. How many plot ideas are just waiting to be written? Can you tell us about one?
So many! As I mention earlier, I’m working on book 2 in the series. Hannah, Abigail’s best friend, will have to overcome her paralyzing fear of singing in public to perform in the school’s talent show in order to help a friend. And of course, she’ll find love along the way.

8. Who is your favorite author and why?
This is like asking me to pick a favorite child! There are so many amazing authors, that I wouldn’t know where to begin. But the author I’ve read over and over and over would be Jane Austen. Probably a cliché answer, but the lady knew her stuff. She was a genius. There’s no getting around it.

9. What do you like to do when you are not writing?
Naps. Naps are my favorite thing. I also study TaeKwonDo, do archery, try to paint like Bob Ross, and play with my kids.

10. If your book was to be made into a movie, who are the celebrities that would star in it?
Ben was highly inspired by the Korean actor, Lee Won-keun! I think if she were a little younger, Karen Gillan would make a perfect Abigail.

11. Where can readers learn more about you?

Please follow me on my Facebook author page!

If you like comics, you can also follow my Educating Mom comic, in which I make fun of the trials of being a homeschooling mom.