Interview with Author K.N. Nguyen

Dragon Soul Press had the pleasure of interviewing Author K.N. Nguyen!


Do you believe in writer’s block?

When I first started writing, I did. I first started writing my novel back in high school. I would work on it off and on throughout the years, always unsatisfied with where it was going, and shelving it for years at a time. I blamed writer’s block as the reason why I couldn’t complete the story. The plot and character development would always fizzle out, leaving me with a story that wouldn’t reveal itself to me. In May 2015, I picked up writing again and vowed to stick to it. It took two years, but I managed to finally complete my original idea that I started back in high school.

I think that I was able to complete my book for two reasons: 1) I was disciplined and actually made myself sit down and write every day, and 2) I started looking for mentors to help me stay on track. One of my mentors is my brother-in-law. We worked together to hold each other accountable and provide feedback. Another person who I would consider as a mentor, although I’m not sure if he would consider me a mentee, is another author. The second mentor is a published author who has always held himself open to me and provided advice to my questions. He’s helped me see that writer’s block is not what we think it is. In reality, it’s a mixture of different problems that have been dubbed “writer’s block”. Once I was able to see that it was all in my head, writing has become easier and less of a struggle.

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

I do read my reviews. How I deal with them depends on what stage my piece is in. When I get feedback from beta readers, I take it with a grain of salt and look to see if there is a common theme to the comments that I receive. If I notice that there’s several people asking questions or noting confusion or distaste about a particular section, I look to see if I can polish it further. This has led to me strengthening my characters or scene. As an author, sometimes you are cursed with inside perspective and don’t realize that a passage is unclear or a character is flawed because in your head they are perfect. I’ve had to strip down my babies a number of times until they reached their final form.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

I don’t try to hide secrets, but I do try and like to have a good surprise.

What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?

If I could function without sleep, I would use that extra time to write. I’ve recently experienced a big change in my life and I haven’t been able to write as much as I would like. Between this and my daytime job, I find myself missing my quiet moments to myself where I could go on an adventure in one of my stories.

What is your favorite childhood book?

Oh, this is a difficult one. I would probably say that The Chronicles of Narnia as a whole would be my favorite. That series heavily influenced my earlier writing style.

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

Finding a way to tie in my various deities to my series without overwhelming the reader. My first series is influenced by Mediterranean mythology and has a number of gods. Unlike the Romans and Greeks, I don’t have the luxury of the world knowing about my gods and so I have to be very careful in the way I incorporate them into my story.

How many hours a day do you write?

I used to write up to two hours or three thousand words a day, but things have fallen on the back-burner a bit. I hope to resume my usual routine shortly.

Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?

I don’t know if I would consider it a spiritual practice. I use it more as a therapeutic one. When I picked up writing back in 2015, I used it as a way to decompress from work. I had a horrible habit of taking my work home with me and letting the stress build up. Once I started writing, I found that I was less stressed because I was able to separate my working world and my personal one.

What does literary success look like to you?

This is a good question. To me, it’s finishing a project. It took me seventeen years to finish my debut novel, and I barely did that. As I worked on the book, I found that my universe began to expand and I could see other stories that were waiting to be told. I never thought I would get to that point, and so to have all of these other worlds open up to me is amazing.

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

I have one book (the second in my Fallen series) which is scheduled for release next year. I also have a novella and a couple short stories that I need to finish up in the next year. I’m glad you didn’t ask about how many unfinished story ideas because that would be about ten.

Where can readers learn more about you?

I have two Facebook pages, one for my personal author page and one for my writer’s group page. I also have a page for DragonScript where I attempt to blog and provide updates about all of the writers that have been involved in our anthologies.

Interview with Author Silvana G. Sanchez

Dragon Soul Press had the opportunity to sit down and interview Author Silvana G. Sanchez who is launching the second edition of her series!


 

What does literary success look like to you?

Literary success to me is the ability to reach out to the reader with my words, establishing the magical connection that allows readers to immerse themselves in the worlds of my creation. The complicity between authors and their readers is unique, without it you’ve got nothing. Success in all its forms stems from that first unique bond.

Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?

Perhaps more psychological than spiritual. There is only so much I can store in the archives of my brain. I’ve gone through several emotional hardships in the last couple of years. Losing my first-born son, Iker, and being myself so close to dying definitely reshaped all of my preconceptions and reaffirmed my belief in what’s truly important in life. To this day, I find myself still placing those thoughts and emotions in the right compartments of my heart; writing sometimes is a healthy way to cast them out of my mind and onto the page, where they serve a better purpose… I guess in the end, writing can be healing in a spiritual sense.

What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?

I try not to base characters solely on people I know, but there certainly have been major influences from friends and acquaintances in the building of my characters. If I told you how Ivan Lockhart came to life as the heart of The Unnatural Brethren series, you’d probably call me crazy…and you’d be right, lol. There’s a lot of crazy going on in my writerly mind.

But seriously, I am grateful to have such a rich assortment of personalities amongst my friends, and I owe to them portraying on the page those traits and quirks as honestly as I can.

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

*Insert maddening laughter here* So many! I’m currently working on five projects, shuffling revisions, drafts, and editing between them. Hopefully, you’ll get to see the third installment of the Unnatural Brethren series by the end of this year!

As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?

The dragon is a symbol that has accompanied me for years. In my view, the dragon represents strength, wisdom, and resilience.

I have a dragon tattooed on my back, two dragons actually. Each dragon symbolizes my past and future. Both are entwined emulating the Caduceus symbol, alluding to the fact that I’m also a doctor.

This interview is for Dragon Soul Press, so there you go: Dragons are the best!

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

I don’t know that I am too demanding on my readers, maybe my sole demand would be for them to keep track of the characters and their plotlines –since there are so many.

I take every comment seriously and I listen to my readers’ expectations. Oftentimes, their hopes will meet with the needs of the story, and when they do, it’s exciting to give them that special scene they’ve been waiting for, knowing they’ll be as thrilled as I was when I wrote it.

What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?

It has to be Jane Austen’s Persuasion. The theme is brilliant, how Anne Elliot is persuaded to break off her engagement to Wentworth, only to realize later on she’d made a mistake. Of all of Austen’s works, Persuasion gets the least amount of love. But it’s truly a masterpiece, not only because of how Austen handles the plot but because her narrative style was more mature by then. She expanded the use of Free Indirect Discourse, blending the voice of the narrator and character seamlessly, which immerses the reader in the story. It’s simply wonderful.

How many hours a day do you write?

More than measuring time, I keep track of my daily word count. Lately, my minimum daily word count has been two-thousand words, sometimes I get to five or six-thousand. What’s most important to me is to write every single day, which is easy when you have so many ongoing works in progress like I do, lol.

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

I certainly have. There have been works which have reached best-selling status very quickly, even made it to the television or the silver screen, and by the time I’ve gotten around to reading them, they’ve proven painfully disappointing. I don’t want to start a whole thing about it, so I’ll keep those titles to myself. (It’s not you, J.K. Rowling, just in case you were wondering. It’s not you either, G.R.R. Martin, your books are brilliant!).

Where can readers learn more about you?

You can visit me at my website, Facebook, and Twitter. Looking forward to connecting with you there!

Author Interview with Melinda Kucsera

Dragon Soul Press had the privilege of sitting down to interview Author Melinda Kucsera.


How long have you been writing?

Melinda has been writing fantastic short stories, novels, and books when not being kidnapped by dragons or chased by armies of fictional creatures. (Her characters do, on occasion, rescue her.) She leaves the running of her newsletter to the cast of lovable characters who hog her inbox AND handle all her interviews for her. ❤

Enough about Melinda, it’s us you’re really interested in, her cast of characters! 🙂 Join us every week for a new story by visiting: www.mkucsera.com/welcomecharacters

When Melinda is left alone, she writes mostly about a young man (Sarn) and his adorable son (Ran) who might be one of the characters responding to this interview. They adventure together through a fantastic world full of enchanted people and things and take on all kinds of monsters and mayhem. It’s all in a day’s work when you live steps away from an enchanted forest.

Oh, and, we have a special portal in our cave that connects to your world and gives us exclusive access to our scribe whenever we feel an adventure coming on. You can grab the first four books of the Curse Breaker series here: https://www.books2read.com/b/bP516z

Join us on an adventure now. 

What inspires you?

Well, since I and my fellow cast members are real people living in a real, though, fantastic world, we are Melinda’s inspiration. This is Ran, son of Sarn, the Curse Breaker in the Curse Breaker books.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, I was explaining our reality to you. 😊

Since we only exist when you read us, getting more page time is essential. It’s literally a matter of life and death for us. So, we must make sure our Scribe, Melinda, is continuously inspired.

That’s why there’s a line outside her door full of prospective characters, and each has a story to tell. We must bar the doors, or she’d never get any books done. There are that many stories breaking down her door.

Good thing there’s this handy portal in her apartment. When the queue gets too rambunctious and threatens to break down her door, we spirit her away to our world. Then all Melinda needs to do is write down our adventures as we live them.

Through some alchemical process, books are created from our running amok in fantasy land. You’ll have to ask our Melinda about that process because we have nothing to do with it. Our job is to get that all-important page time, and we’re really good at that.

Who are some of your favorite authors that you feel were influential in your work?

Woah there, hold up a minute. Other people aren’t allowed to influence our Scribe. Melinda’s apartment is a no-influence zone. Seriously. We don’t allow anyone to mess with her process. Somehow, she can see what goes on in our world even when we don’t kidnap her. Chronicling that mayhem doesn’t require any influence except occasionally from us when she does silly things like try to outline our adventures.

No one’s life has ever followed a script exactly, and neither do ours. We do what we’re going to do and trust her to capture it in words. Isn’t that the coolest thing ever?

The cast of her books certainly thinks so, but we might be a tad biased. There’s a book coming out soon that illustrates just how Melinda can see our world, and how characters like me can cross over to your world. It’ll be called Curse Breaker’s Companion: Catch the Scribe (because that’s what we’ll be doing in that book). 

One last thing before I move off this topic. I might have borrowed Melinda’s computer to type up this interview. Don’t tell her about that, okay? She gets upset if we drop in when she’s not home.  

What do you like to read in your free time?

Our Scribe buys the deal of the day on audible most days, so her taste in books ranges wildly from fantasy to science fiction to physics books to lectures on all manner of topics to mysteries, thrillers, true crime and so on. She’ll basically listen to anything that’s not a bodice-ripping romance or a horror story.

I might be a child in a fictional story, but I often borrow her cellphone to keep in touch with readers through Melinda’s social media accounts. So, she doesn’t listen to anything that’s overtly sexual, very scary, or too violent in case I accidentally overhear it. She particularly likes mysteries, hard sci-fi especially when the hard sci-fi is blended with military fiction, and police procedurals. She cannot read enough of those last two.

What projects are you working on at the present?

Melinda’s working on a new series that’s really close to her heart. It’s a mother-daughter fantasy series called Robin of Larkspur. It begins with Hunter’s Night, part of the Rogue Skies: A Limited Edition Science Fiction and Fantasy Boxed Set. Grab it now while it’s on preorder for a buck: https://www.books2read.com/rogueskies then get ready for Rogue Night, the explosive sequel.

Details about Rogue Night can be found here: https://melindakucsera.com/rogue-night/ It will publish around the same time as Hunter’s Night/Rogue Skies, so you won’t have to wait like our editor and our beta readers to find out what happens next. 

Both books feature me as an adorable baby. In Hunter’s Night, I get kidnapped and need a rescue, but Papa needs help to take me back from my supernatural kidnappers. Too bad they also nabbed Robin’s baby because she’s one formidable lady. She and Papa team up in Rogue Night to get me and her daughter back. So do check those books out. 

As of right now, Melinda’s still editing it and dithering about sending it in. It’s darker than what she usually writes, so she’s doing the insecure author thing. Don’t worry. I’ll submit it for her if she procrastinates too long.

I think it’s a great story and she already has the next two episodes planned out, one for each of the next two Dragon Soul Press Anthologies, Lost Love and Reign of Queens

What impact have they had on your writing?

That’s a great question. Hunter’s Night/Rogue Skies and Sealed in Blood had a profound impact actually. Since they had iron-clad word limits, our intrepid Scribe had to learn how to pause our shenanigans.

We did not enjoy being paused. I just have to get that off my chest. It made me all itchy, but it was for a good cause.

Adventures tend to lead to other adventures, which is great for real life but not so great in a book that has an iron-clad word limit. But adventures in real life don’t have limits on length.

So it took our scribe, Melinda, some time and trials to learn how to stop us from haring off on another adventure long enough to end one the book and start another. Of course, we’ve been learning from her too. Just because a book has an end doesn’t mean it’s THE END.

We can always sneak in new scenes and get more page time during the editing rounds because Melinda always leaves a few thousand words in reserve. The cast might be sharpening this skill as we speak. Just don’t tell Melinda. She hasn’t caught on yet.  

Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? (If you write more than one, how do you balance them?)

Melinda didn’t really choose to write fantasy. We chose her to be our Scribe. 😊 We really do kidnap her, and armies of fantastic creatures really do show up at her home and office to demand a story. Usually, a chase ensues because there are a lot of them and only one Melinda, and sometimes, her job requires her to do work that has nothing to do with writing fantasy books.

But our Scribe also needs her exercise to stay fit, right? We ensure she puts plenty of mileage on her much-abused sneakers every day. 😊

So given all of that, what’s a scribe to do but jot down the stories that fall into her lap and publish them? Then everyone wins especially us, her characters. Remember, we only exist when you read us, so getting that all-important page time is a matter of life and death.

What is the hardest part of writing?

Controlling our Newsletter-Dragon. No, I’m serious. Our newsletter subscribers are her horde, and she’s unbelievably demanding when it comes to newsletter stuff. She eats up so much of our Scribe’s time that could be devoted to chronicling our adventures.

The worst part is that we’re stuck in limbo every time the Newsletter-Dragon misbehaves, and she’s been cozying up to the eBook-Dragons that deliver our eBooks to stores!

I know. I see it too. A confrontation is coming between us, Melinda’s characters, and that damned dragon. It draws nearer with every episode of our newsletter. Watch our newsletter for it because that’s where it will play out, and this time, it’ll be a war between us.

You can sign up here to get our weekly adventures in your inbox: http://www.mkucsera.com/welcomecharacters Our dragon will horde your email address. No one will ever lay their hands on it. Not even us, its stars.

Where can readers learn more about you?

 Our website, of course: https://melindakucsera.com/

Check out all our books here: https://melindakucsera.com/the-curse-breaker-saga/

We also have past episodes of our newsletter adventures arranged chronologically here: https://melindakucsera.com/blog/ but our newsletter goes back to 2016. So, fans of it (and its stars) convinced our Scribe to novelize the earliest episodes, so readers don’t have to try to find them.

Since our website is digital and so is our dragon, she regularly messes with it. Those older episodes are there, but they’re not easy to find. Our Scribe has written about 4-5 novel-length adventures for us that took place exclusively in our newsletter over the years.

So, they’re coming to eBook in 2020. No more searching for them. They’ll publish as part of a companion series under the aptly titled, Curse Breaker’s Companion.  Take that you, dragon! Problem solved. 😊

We’re also on social media, but the best way to follow us is to subscribe to our weekly adventures: http://www.mkucsera.com/welcomecharacters

And that’s a wrap. This is Ran, son of Sarn, writing on behalf of the cast and our Scribe, Melinda, signing off. Have a great day!

Why Beta-Readers and Critical Feedback Matters

You finally finished your first draft of that novel! It took you months, maybe years, but you did it! Congratulations, bucko. Treat yourself to a double-shot peppermint mocha with whip cream and chocolate sprinkles.

While your sipping on your eight dollar drink, you crack open your laptop, run your novel through a spellchecker, send it off to an editor, get it back, and then upload your work on Amazon.

You generated interest for your book through your newly minted mailing list, conducted a well-marketed launch party, sent out dozens of ARCs to reviewers, and overall felt a great sense of pride. You buy yourself another mocha.

Until the reviews start coming in…

“This plot made no sense. 1/5 stars.”

“I would give this 0 stars, but Amazon won’t let me. I even begged customer service.”

“Seriously? Reading should be considered an Olympic sport because I just broke world records after reading this crap.”

“I need bleach for my eyes.”

You had planned a whole series with at least six books. You don’t buy yourself a third mocha, but a bottle of whiskey this time and you don’t drink.

One of the activities I like to do when I hear about an “up-and-coming” hot author is read the well-written negative reviews first. Why? Because they point out all the serious problems the book had, but it offended the reader so much they had to give the work 1 or 2 stars. The comment, “I would give this 0 stars, but Amazon won’t let me” is so commonly written, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a meme somewhere.

So, let me ask you? Would you have like to have gotten those negative reviews in the form of feedback instead of actual reviews?

Enter the alpha and beta readers.

There are several types of critiques you’ll need to perform on your work before it’s ready for publication or submission.

The first is self-edit. If you hate the editing process, you need to either endure it or learn to love it. After you finish your work, set it aside. Dragon Soul Press has blogged in the past to set aside your work about two weeks for a full novel. This will give your brain a break from your work, purge your thought processes about your book and then when you go back to it, you have a fresh mindset. You will find a ton of errors. As you read your own work, you realize you may have missed certain elements and issues. Get those fixed.

Another option is to utilize an alpha-reader, but these people are completely optional. Some authors use them quite religiously. I don’t. An alpha-reader is there to critique your work as you write it. You finish Chapter 4, you run it through spell-check and then shoot it off to them. But your overall work is not finished. The alpha-reader helps you with grammar and then checks for things like pacing, characterization, tension, etc. Create a questionnaire for your alphas or allow them to comment directly on your WIP. Then you can go through and address the comments one-by-one to tighten up the story as it comes to light.

After the alpha-reader is the beta-reader. You should always have these people ready in the wings to review your work. After you’ve completed your first draft, ran it through the spellchecker and/or Grammarly, these readers will evaluate your overall story for plot, tension, pacing, POV, characterization, climax, hook, etc. The primary goal of both the alpha and beta-reader is to point out problems. It’s okay to get praise, but if someone reads a full-length novel from you and they found no problems, they didn’t do their job. You’re not that good. I’m not good. Stephen King is not that good! If you write a full-length novel, you should have at least six to a dozen betas reviewing.

As with alphas, you can create a questionnaire for your betas to fill out or allow them to comment directly on your WIP. After you have received all their comments, go through and evaluate them, fixing the errors they’ve pointed out.

Some authors will employ as many as fifty reviewers. That’s great if you can get that many, but expect a lot of work if all of them point out fifty separate things for you to work on. Some authors will also go through a second or third round of beta-readers too and I knew one guy who was working on his fifth round of beta-readers. If you’re a well-established author, a second round would be helpful, but anything else beyond that is likely to put you through analysis-paralysis–a common term among day traders who overthink a situation instead of making the trade.

You will not eliminate every 1-star or 2-star review, but you will mitigate many of them if you utilize proper methods for obtaining feedback.

Happy writing!