Author Interview with J.C. Murray

Dragon Soul Press sat down to interview J.C. Murray, an author of the Dragons & Heroines anthology.


1. Have you always wanted to be a writer?

If you had asked me when I was 12, I would have said yes. Back then I wrote what amounted to Black Beauty and Animorphs fan fiction and scribbled comics starring my siblings and me.

Something painfully practical took over down the road, and I majored in biology and worked in other fields. I returned to writing by accident. I got into table-top role-playing games, and found myself writing more character backstory and setting lore than I could use in a lifetime. Around 2018, I realized they were stories, and started quietly writing just for fun. In 2020, 3 months before the world turned upside down, I started taking it more seriously.

2. How do you come up with the titles to your books?

I loathe picking titles. I never feel confident they capture the idea in my head, or aren’t cliche. I write most stories with placeholder titles like “sad robot story” and invent a label only after the piece is finished by playing with ideas until something sticks.

3. Is there lots to do before you drive in and start writing the story?

Very much so, I outline. I can’t write until I know which dots to connect. I find the degree to which the writing community pushes the plotter-vs-pantser debate interesting. From listening to or reading author interviews, it seems that each writer’s process is unique, and the amount of pre-planning truly is a spectrum.

I pre-plan major plot points, but all the juicy details in between flow once I get started. So, I think the writer I am today is 70% plotter.

4. How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

I am very much at the beginning of my writing journey. I have one complete unpublished manuscript written in 2020, queried in 2021. I am revising my second fantasy manuscript inspired by the Bronze Age collapse about misfits on an adventure surviving the fallout of a crumbling empire. I will start querying that one in early 2022. I’ve written about a dozen short stories, of which Yasmine Learns to Fly is the second published.

Picking a favorite is so hard! They are all so different. If I had to choose, my favorite is the unpublished short story I affectionately think of as “Casablanca with Mer-folk.”

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

I am 90% sure I plan to take 2022 off from novels to focus on craft through short stories. Hopefully genre lit mag fans see my name pop up here and there before too long.

I’m leaving the door cracked open for a novel idea to sink its claws in and refuse to let go.

6. Who is your favorite author and why?

The last author I read, usually.

But, seriously, right now I am obsessed with Evan Winter (The Burning series).

Winter’s books are so intense. He writes clean, invisible prose about flawed people stuck in impossible situations. The Rage of Dragons is a masterclass of both crafting and conveying a magic system so the reader deeply feels the cost of accessing that power. Plus, dragons and demons!

7. Share something your readers wouldn’t know about you.

I’ve hiked the first 100 miles or so of the Appalachian trail. I would love to go back and through-hike it one day.

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

Wesley Chu. I recently enjoyed his Lives of Tao series. I find his brand of action-humor refreshing, unique, and yet somehow attainable. As a person with a career jumping back into writing in my late 20’s, I find his career arc (from I.S. technician to stuntman to author) relatable. Ok, not the Hollywood stuntman part, but for everything else, I’d love to pick his brain over a cup of coffee. How to balance writing and a day job, how to keep improving, etc.

9. How many bookshelves are in your house?

Six, all bursting. My wife is a painter, so she organizes the books on the main three in the living room by color.

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

I deeply respect  N.K. Jemisin (The Broken Earth trilogy, The City We Became).

Jemisin’s writing is just so powerful. It’s beautiful at the line-level. She’s mastered hidden worldbuilding. She plays with stakes so well – her books are both deeply personal and capture that epic feeling we expect from fantasy adventures. On top of all that, she’s going to leave your mind a pile of mush as you chew on what you read for days after closing the last page.

She’s pushing boundaries in more ways than one.

11. Where can readers learn more about you?

The best place to chit-chat with me is on Twitter.

I blog about books I’ve read and general writerly thoughts on my website every Tuesday.

If you’re into that, you can see my blog posts interspersed with memes over on the Murray’s Bookshelf Facebook page or on Tumblr.

Author Interview with Emily S. Hurricane

We had a chance to interview an author in the Love At First Sip anthology. The collection provides a drink recipe in front of the short story associated with it.


  1. What inspired you to start writing?

You know, I don’t even remember! I have been writing for as long as I can remember. I wrote a lot of fan fiction when I was a kid for various JRPGs, so a lot of my early original stories were warriors in fantasy or science fiction worlds. I also did a lot of online roleplaying back then. I’m totally aging myself, but back on proboards, I’d spend hours with other users creating characters and worlds and then RPing our characters. So as far back as I can remember, I’ve always been writing.

  1. What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?

Two things: proper grammar, and engaging characters. There can be literally nothing happening in a story, but if the characters are interesting and engaging, then I am sold! I am a reader of many genres and styles, but what is most memorable to me is always certain characters and their inner workings and struggles. World building and act structure and everything else that goes into a story are important, but if I don’t care about the characters, the book falls flat for me. And of course, you know, it’s got to be readable.

  1. Is there lots to do before you drive in and start writing the story?

I’m a bit of a pantser, so I do most of my non-writing part of writing a story as I go. When I have a fresh plot bunny hop its way into my head, I tend to let it percolate for a while in there to take shape. It’s almost always a character, desperate to tell their story, so I let them talk to me for a bit. Sometimes I’ll make a few notes before I jump in, but often I like to get to know my character(s) before I try to plan where the story is going to take them, so I tend to just start writing.

I use Notion for all of my outlining and character sheets and planning and word count tracking, so I do set up a blank page for a fresh project. Any notes go in there, and then as I start writing, I create tables as I need them to track characters, potential plot points, outlining, etc.

  1. Who is your favorite author and why?

I know this is totally cliché, but Stephen King is my very favorite. Aside from the fact that he’s incredibly versatile, he’s got this subtle style that I adore. Even some of his novels that aren’t outwardly HEY I’M SCARY just have this underlying sense of dread (for example, Duma Key) throughout and I don’t even realize I’m creeped out until I finish reading. He also has such talent for so many different facets of genre, with more boundary-pushing work like the Dark Tower series. He just does whatever TF he wants, and I admire that so much.

(Close runner-ups for favorite, though: Chuck Palahniuk and Margaret Atwood. Gotta shout them out too!)

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

Time! There is just never enough time. I work from home as a freelance writer and editor, while also taking care of two small children and my husband who works outside of the home full time. Juggling all of this and also trying to do basic things like sleep is very challenging. I love a challenge, but some days it’s harder than others to fit everything in, so it can be stressful. But I love writing too much to ever do anything else with my life. It’s 100% worth the blood, sweat, and tears I put into it!

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

I don’t think I have any interesting writing quirks! I’m kinda basic when it comes to writing. I like to have coffee and munchies and relish the silence—when I can work without Peppa Pig or My Little Pony in the background, it’s so nice!

  1. How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

Too many! My muse has no focus for genre, and because I enjoy reading in so many, I enjoy writing in them all too. I’ve got a ton of erotica shorts in various niches, a historical western romance trilogy, a dystopian werewolf series, horror anthologies, a fantasy/sci-fi series, some contemporary serials, dark romance serials, and most recently, I curated and participated in two anthologies, one erotica and one clean romance.

It’s so hard to say which is my favorite…I loved writing them all for different reasons. I think I’m most proud of Joy, which is a literary novella that currently lives on Wattpad. I originally wrote it for the Open Novella Contest, where it won a few accolades. Eventually I plan to let it breathe and flesh it out some, outside of the constraints of the contest. But I don’t think I can properly choose a favorite out of my books.

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

I’m currently serializing a dark paranormal romance on Radish Fiction called Her Tyrant Alpha, and I’m having a blast with it! It’s a spin-off companion book to my Bloodlines series (which is dystopian werewolf with a bit of steam, but not romance), and the main character, Ashelin, has pretty much zero boundaries. It’s been a super fun ride exploring all of her inner workings, and also building more werewolf lore into the Bloodlines universe.

  1. What advice would you give a new writer, someone just starting out?

I get asked this a lot, and my answer is always to just write! Write as much as you can. Even if you think it sucks. Hell, even if other people think it sucks. Don’t stop! Write every day. Even if you can only manage a sentence because you have no time, don’t go a single day without writing. Tapping that creative keg takes working the writing muscle, and you have to work it out every single day. It might be hard for a bit, but all good things are, and if you stick with it, it will get easier, and you will get better at it!

Sub-advice: don’t be afraid of criticism! Don’t let it get you down, and don’t let it stop you. If the criticism is useful, take what you need out of it to learn, and discard the rest, and keep writing. Always be writing!

Sub-sub-advice: track your word count. Even if you only write three words in one day. Use a notebook or a spreadsheet or a calendar, but record your daily word counts somewhere. This gives you accountability to make sure that word count isn’t at zero, but also you can watch yourself improve over time. And I promise you will improve!

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

When I’m not writing or playing with my kiddos, I am either reading, baking, or crocheting. And usually two out of three at the same time, haha! If I’m going to be busy with my hands then I’ll queue up an audiobook so I can still read even if I’m puttering in the kitchen or playing with yarn.

I’ve been known to enjoy video games too, but with work and small children it’s harder to carve out time to really get lost in a game. I do enjoy building stuff in Minecraft with my daughter, though. Anything creative!

  1. Where can readers learn more about you?

The easiest way to find me is at www.emilyshurricane.com! I keep it up to date with all of my book listings, and if you click the Social Media tab you can find all of my socials everywhere across the internet (including my Discord server!).

Author Interview with E.A. Robins

Dragon Soul Press interviews E.A. Robins, one of the authors featured in Spirit.


1. When did you start writing?

I’ve always written. Not always well, obviously, but it’s something I’ve always done. When I was a child, I’d write stories and illustrate them, staple them together and show my parents. When I was a teenager I wrote/created an excess of personal journals. And, when I went to university, I majored in a writing field.

2. How do you handle writer’s block?

Honestly, I just keep writing. Eventually, you find a way through the problem. The answer is there, you’ve just got to keep working until it becomes evident. I’ve often likened writing to painting, which is also something I enjoy. In painting, the first layer is never the final picture. The more you paint (write) the more detail is added, the more precise and lovely the work becomes and more often than not, there are things discovered in the process that were never part of the original concept.

3. What comes first, the plot or characters?

It’s always been characters. A story is a path, but the character is the one that walks it and if there isn’t something that draws you to that person/creature than it’s hard to be interested in where they are or where they are going.

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

Creating the everyday habit. Not giving up. My background is actually in poetry, which is lightning and flash floods compared to the farming process of prose. For me, short stories and novel length works have been a lesson in patience and perseverance.

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

If the stars had aligned, Ursula K. Le Guin.
There are so many authors I admire, but Le Guin really embodies everything I would like to be become as an author. Her work is genuinely entertaining and transportive while addressing real world political and social issues. It’s story telling with a message without distraction from narrative or style. It’s poetry, and it’s powerful and important.

6. How do you handle literary criticism?

I welcome criticism. The constructive and the deconstructive both allow me to access how others perceive what I create and I find that very useful for growth. It is a process of sifting through what they’ve offered and retaining what might be useful for current or future projects.

7. How much ‘world building’ takes place before you start writing?

This varies, depending on the project and how long it’s been fermenting in my head. Though, in general, I think ‘world building’ is a trap because there is a never ending amount of detail to be created and endless paths down which one might get lost, often willingly. The exercise here is to build only as much as is needed to further narrative.

8. How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

I’ve only written one novel so far, Scion of the Oracle, due to be published sometime this fall (2021). It was written for Of Metal and Magic Publishing’s CORE fantasy world of Soria and was an interesting first project. There were structural constraints, as well as a good bit of in-house research. Meaning, there were a lot of details and history of the established story-verse that I needed to locate and include in my manuscript. It was geeky and fun and I think great practice for my DSP short story, “The Berlin Assignment”, which has a real world historical setting. 

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

Well, I have a full time job, so that tends to keep me pretty busy. I love to travel, but haven’t had the opportunity in about a year due to Covid. I read voraciously. I paint from time to time and sketch when the mood strikes. I like jig-saw puzzles and playing poker. I enjoy adult beverages and Netflix binges. I’m almost always listening to music and I love to drive.

10. Where can readers learn more about you?

Facebook, Instagram, and my website.

Character First Impressions

Apart from our villains, we want our characters to be well-liked by our readers. Every writer wants to believe that at least one of their characters will become a fan favorite. And there are ways of achieving this, but not all the different pointers have to be used all at once. Some of them can just be food for thought.


Show Don’t Tell

A staple of writing, it’s all about the action. Rather than saying, “she is so cool,” show us why this character is so cool. The first impression of a character lasts a lot longer when it is shown through action rather than told through words. 


Establish Empathy or Sympathy

Giving your reader a reason to relate to a character is the fastest way to make a good first impression. People are drawn to characters that reflect themselves, therefore by writing characters that illicit empathy or sympathy from a reader is the best way to create a bond between your reader and your characters. 


Impress the Reader

People are easily impressed by those who are smart, strong, funny, or creative. So if your character has such traits lie creativity, wit, charisma, or proficiency in a certain area of skills, then don’t be afraid to show them off. 


Save the Cat

Save the cat is a writing device used in screenwriting, which is meant to make a character instantly likeable if the first thing they’re shown doing is something good, such as saving a cat. Even if you’re not a screenwriter, you can still employ this in your WIP. 


Establish Mystery or Intrigue

Don’t give us everything right away. Make the reader want to know more by hinting at an interesting backstory or secret that the character might have. Not only will they want to get to know the character more, but they will also stay interested in the story as well. 

Author Interview with Lincoln Reed

Dragon Soul Press took the opportunity to interview Author Lincoln Reed. Thus far, he is a featured author in DSP’s Mistletoes and Mayhem, Imperial Devices, and Valiance.


  1. What was your dream job when you were younger?

Ever since I could walk, I was passionate about baseball, playing every summer and practicing all winter. It was my dream to become a professional baseball player. The closest I came to accomplishing that goal was participating in a professional tryout with the Atlanta Braves organization. I didn’t play professionally, but I did have a fun college baseball career at Taylor University.

  1. Have you always wanted to be a writer?

I’ve wanted to be a writer since the age of six. I have a strong memory of loving books at a young age and wanting to write one of my own.

3. How long have you been writing?

I wrote my first series of short stories at the age of nine, but didn’t develop a serious interest in a writing career until my undergraduate years. I had my first short story acceptance after completing my MFA at Miami University (Ohio). Since then, I’ve completed two full novel manuscripts and have had more than 15 short stories published in various print anthologies and online magazines. I love writing and plan to craft stories for as long as I’m able.

  1. How many plot ideas are just waiting to be written? Can you tell us about one?

I’m always working on new plots. As a writer, I hold the perspective that nothing in life is wasted. Every experience, heartbreak, and adversity can be a source for material or inspiration. I’m currently working on an outline for a novel about one of my characters in the story “Why the Ship Burns” featured in Dragon Soul Press’s Valiance anthology. I love westerns and would love to add my voice to the genre.

  1. Who is your favorite character?

Of all the great characters in literature, it is difficult to choose a favorite. I love J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. The books and films are fantastic. Aragorn and Gandalf are two of my favorite protagonists. I also enjoy any book featuring characters Jack Reacher and Walt Longmire.

6. How do you handle writer’s block?

I adhere to Jack London’s advice on writer’s block. According to London, “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” I may not always know what to write, but I push myself to meet deadlines. Often inspiration comes when I am disciplined in my writing schedule.

  1. How much ‘world building’ takes place before you start writing?

I need to know the main character’s backstory and their motivation before I start writing. I believe it is important for a writer to have an understanding of their character’s journey. When writing about an unfamiliar topic, I do my best to research or speak with people who are informed. As my high school English teacher once told me, “Writer’s write what they know, and then they know more.”

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

I am a vigilant self-editor. During my MFA years, I had a mentor who helped me realize the importance of creating fresh writing. As a result, I often proofread my work aloud, especially the dialogue. I have a strong dislike for echoes and redundancies. As an editor and a professor, I often find writers (myself included) repeating the same word several times in a sentence or paragraph. I’m always encouraging my students to strive for crisp writing and word choice. I believe strong self-editing is crucial for literary success.

9. What is the best part of your day?

The best part of my day is spending time with my wife, Gabby. She’s my best friend. I’m thankful for each day we get to share together.

10. Where can readers learn more about you?

Readers can find more information about me at my website. I can also be found on Twitter.