Tuesday Talks-Interview with Cortney Manning

Our interview today is with Cortney Manning. She is the fifth contributing author of Five Poisoned Apples. Hi Cortney, tell us a little about yourself and how you were raised.

I am a reader, writer, and teacher. I was raised in a Christian family in Kansas City, Missouri with an older brother and a younger sister. While I have graduated very recently from college with three degrees, I am not done yet! Next year I’ll be heading to Scotland for a Master’s program in Victorian Literature. For now, though, I’m working at a “magical” place in Orlando. I love to travel and have found few things as delicious as afternoon tea (with clotted cream!) in England. In my spare time, I also love to draw.

What’s your favorite genre to read and write. Who’s your favorite author?

When it comes to reading, I absolutely love fantasy, historical fiction, and the classics. The authors of my favorite books are Anne Elisabeth Stengl, Julie Klassen, and Charlotte Bronte.

On the other hand, when I write, I tend to stick to the fantasy genre, though I have experimented a little with steampunk, too.

What age did you realize you loved books? When did you start writing?

For me, reading and writing go hand and hand, and I have loved reading for a long time. Since I was in third grade and I read the American Girl books with my mom, I have been a voracious reader, and each book I read would spark ideas in my head for other stories. It wasn’t until my first year of college, though, that I really started to write out any of my ideas. I contributed several pieces of flash fiction to my college’s yearly anthology of writing, and I’ve entered earlier Rooglewood fairy tale contests, so I was very excited when The Fairest One was selected to be part of the Five Poisoned Apples anthology.

Tell us about this book.

Five Poisoned Apples is an anthology five novellas retelling the classic tale of Snow White.

My novella, The Fairest One, is the tale of Livna, a timid but empathetic princess struggling to balance her need for approval and her desire to help her people. The novella has a bit of romance and a dash of adventure and is set in an ancient Middle Eastern fantasy world with empires, tribes, and magical Dwarven. Here’s a teaser of the story:

Her people look for the prophesied Fairest One – but can Livna find the courage to step out of the shadows and save her nation?

What did you learn about yourself through writing it?

As I wrote The Fairest One, I channeled some of my own feelings.Livna’s fear of failure and letting down those she cares for mirrors my own fears. However, as she learns, fears do not have to hold us back. If we dare to grow, then we can push past those fears and trust God to use our trials and successes to fit his purpose.

Do you normally use an outline for the books you write, or do you just start with a few ideas?

Yes, I typically do think out think out the whole story and outline it first. One of my greatest fears as a writer is to pour too much time and effort into the idea of a story only to discover it will not work or will require a dramatic rehauling. That’s why I prefer to put in the extra effort in advance and then simply polish the story and fill in its gaps. Still, I try to remain open to fresh ideas as I go along rather than sticking strictly to my outline.

Is there a special place you like to write?

I prefer to sit in a quiet spot by myself, often with music playing.

What was something that surprised you in the way this book unfolded?

Buried in the core of my story is the symbolism of a phoenix representing Livna rising above her fear. However, this symbolism was not in my initial draft. In fact, Livna herself was not a particularly vivid or active character. However, during my editing, this symbolism suddenly worked itself in, and, after that, Livna truly came alive for me as a character. I think it was this symbolism which unexpectedly helped me add more depth to the story and highlight Livna’s struggles and successes.

What advice would you give a new author?               

My advice would be to never give up. If writing is something you love, then don’t stop. Whether your story reaches three people or thousands, it’s still valuable. Every story we tell is important and holds more power than we know. Every story has an impact on those who read it.

Even if you write a story that no one else reads, it’s still important to you and your growth as a writer and a person. I know the process of writing and editing The Fairest One has helped me grow as a writer, but so have the stories I wrote which will never be published.

So never give up on writing, not even at times when it seems frustrating and hard. Because it is truly worth it to share your stories with your friends or with the world.

What project are you working on now?

Currently, I am working on edits for another Snow White retelling called Yellow Bright. Like The Fairest One, Yellow Bright is also an adventure-packed fantasy, but it is set in a completely different world and focused on Snow White’s stepmother instead as she encounters a realm of intrigue and magic guarded by a dangerous and beautiful dwarf king.

Where can we find your books?




Tuseday talks-Interview with Rachael Wallen

Today we have the wonderful privilege of speaking with and learning about Rachael Wallen. Hi Rachael, welcome! Tell us a little about yourself and how you were raised.

Growing up two things were constant – a house full of books, and parents who encouraged me to question, learn, and seek to bring God glory in everything I did. Like several of the other authors in this collection, I was also homeschooled. Hailing from a small island nation, I’ve always loved travelling and learning other peoples’ stories.

That sounds like an amazing childhood to me. What’s your favorite genre to read and write. Who’s your favorite author?

 Most definitely Sci-Fi/ Fantasy, although I’m easily sold on historical fiction as well. My long-standing top three authors are Lois McMaster Bujold, Megan Whalen Turner and Elizabeth Wein. As well as writing amazing books that I continue to go back to time and again, they repeatedly provide me with a masterclass in immersive world-building, distinctive characterization and the power of a well-constructed narrative. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting with Ms Whalen Turner and interacting with Ms McMaster Bujold and Ms Wein through their fan portals, and they are amazing people as well as incredible authors.

What age did you realize you loved books? When did you start writing?

My memories of reading to myself, and falling asleep reading, are of about the same vintage of learning to colour, and to ride a tricycle, just something that I’ve always done. I was fortunate to have parents and grandparents who read to me from a very young age, and who encouraged me to enjoy story and rhyme.

Writing followed soon after. At least from the surviving artifacts I’d guess I was four.

Tell us about this book.

Drawing on the gothic fairytale traditions of Snow White and The Red Shoes, Snowbird and the Red Slippers takes place in a near-contemporary Manhattan, where several talented ballerinas compete amid the already challenging conditions of Nutcracker Season. Jeong Hayan has the most to prove – she defected from North Korea as a child, her future forever changed by the scholarship she received.  Moira Speare might have the most to lose – her career and even her soul.

Hayan will need all her quiet courage, the mother’s love and protection sewn into her clothing, and the allies she meets to survive her international debut.

What did you learn about yourself through writing it?

I challenged myself to write a modern setting, not something I’m comfortable with! This story I also made a conscious effort NOT to leave the writing to the last minute, something I tend to do to try and foil my perfectionist tendencies through procrastination. It was still written around full-time shift work, final wedding preparation, and showing my soon-to-be in-laws around my home country. But I learned that I can work without the last minute panic as motivation.

Congratulations on your wedding!
Do you normally use an outline for the books you write, or do you just start with a few ideas?

I need to have a clear image of the first scene worked out in detail, almost visualized like the pre-title scene of a movie, an idea of the major points, and a sense of what would be a good resolution. Then usually multiple pages of research into the world until it’s visible, and a brief list of plot points. Inevitably, a lot of prewriting pondering, and a lot of stopping and pacing while writing.

LoL… That all sounds familiar!
Is there a special place you like to write?

If it’s quiet, with a big enough surface to accumulate laptop, elbows, mugs, half a bar of chocolate, and a blotter pad for scribbling maps, character names, things that might be important later, AND I can walk away and know it will be undisturbed, then I will be quite content.

What was something that surprised you in the way this book unfolded?

I’d always hoped one of the Rooglewood Press Collections would be Snow White, and from the start I knew I was going to write it about the world of ballet. As a child I dreamed of being a dancer, and I thought a lot more would take place onstage, a wish fulfilment tale really, but it was in getting to know these characters, of building a world solely theirs that the story came to life.

By taking myself out of the narrative – I’m but a guest to their culture and experiences – I think it is a lot richer.  I have many people to thank for sharing their lives and cultures with me, who gladly gave me advice, language corrections and research prompts, and I hope there are readers who catch glimpses of themselves in this story.  

What advice would you give a new author?               

You learn from every piece you write, and the more varied your writing, the better!  I was fortunate to take a course in commercial writing – basically how to write short fiction for magazines, articles for the same, screenplays and simple scripts – and later to need to write research proposals and articles for submission to a scientific journal. Word choice, the voice you pick, characters, settings and emphasis placement, with every piece of written communication you’ll hone or figure out new skills.

Critiquing your work, and getting feedback helps with that learning process. Going back and looking at old work. Retelling stories that have been done before. Even if those efforts never get further than your hard-drive, you’ll learn, and the next time it will be better.

What project are you working on now?

I’m editing a Young Adult/New Adult fantasy to hopefully be querying by Easter. The Tithe is a low magic fantasy where skilled craftspeople keep the peace between nations, but a stolen child, two breaks with tradition, and history that can’t be repeated if it remains a secret might be enough to upset the delicate balance.

Where can we find your books?

Five Poisoned Apples is currently available in print and ebook on Amazon

You can interact with me via: blogspot https://rachaelwallen.blogspot.com/ , twitter https://twitter.com/Ewokshoutsfurst  and tumblr https://rachaelwallen.tumblr.com/

I’m currently also running a competition through my social media for readers of Five Poisoned Apples and specifically Snowbird and the Red Slippers.

Tuesday Talks-Interview with Skye Hoffert

Skye Hoffert is with us today. Skye calls herself a dreamer, who always had her nose in a book and her head in the clouds. She says she’s spent more time in Narnia and Middle Earth than in reality. She makes her home in Canada, with her family of ten.  She spends her days writing, painting, and procrastinating. Helloe Skye, Welcome.
Tell us a little about yourself and how you were raised.

I am a scatterbrained introvert who is constantly hiding from people and the world in books, movies, and sketchbooks. I was homeschooled and my parents have never really been very conventional, but they raised us to love God and each other. So it all worked out somehow.

What’s your favorite genre to read and write. Who’s your favorite author?

Fantasy is my favorite, has been since I was a kid. It changes every year, but right now it’s probably Maggie Stiefvater. I love how character focused her stories are. 

What age did you realize you loved books? When did you start writing?

I think I was ten when I realized that I really loved reading. I read The Hobbit and The Chronicles of Narnia, and I was enamored with them and haven’t stopped reading since. I started writing when I was twelve. It was a fantasy story that was a messy homage of sorts, to all my favorite novels.

Tell us about this book.

Falling Snow is about a fae circus. Snow is a circus clown trying to work her way up to a tightrope walker. She is unaware of the dark reality of the world she was raised in. It’s a very different take on Snow White. There’s glamours, fae princes, and fire dancing.

What did you learn about yourself through writing it?

I learned that I always put bits of myself in each of the characters.  

Do you normally use an outline for the books you write, or do you just start with a few ideas?

I try to outline, but mostly I just get a vague idea. Then I usually start visualizing it a bit before I even start to write it. The visuals and aesthetic, are really important to me, and if I can’t envision my story if I feel like the reader won’t be able to either. So in a way I almost use a storyboard instead of an outline.

Is there a special place you like to write?

Not really, just anywhere comfy.

What was something that surprised you in the way this book unfolded?

A lot of it surprised me; I never really know where my stories are going besides a vague idea for the end. I was surprised that this wasn’t really Snow White’s story; it ended up being more Chayse’s story. He’s the Huntsmen character. 

What advice would you give a new author?

Write for yourself.  Learn everything you can about it, and never stop trying to learn more.       

What project are you working on now?

I am working on a sequel for Falling Snow. It’s full of fae courts, politics, and treason

Where can we find your books?


A Second Chance

As those of you know who follow me on social media, I took some pretty hard hits the end of last year. I fell. My phone flew out of my hands and into the parking lot where a car, with perfect timing, promptly ran over it. My phone was shattered.
On the way home I decided what new phone I was going to get; the upgrade of the phone I already had.
I liked my phone.

Arriving home, I went straight for my laptop and punched in the site to order a new phone.

But nothing happened… the screen was blank.
The first wave of panic hit me.
I called for my husband. He could fix it. He can fix anything!

But not this time. My hard-drive had died.

I lost my book.

As I stood looking over my husband’s shoulder, I realized I hadn’t backed up my book. It was lost… or big chunks of it were. I did have some. I don’t always write at home, so I will email finished portions back to myself.

I had won an award for this book last February. But the publishing agent still had some issues with it and wanted some major changes. No surprise. Most books are written and rewritten many times before they are ready to publish. It had taken me nearly a year. I needed to cut out some of my favorite parts and change some of the POV. Anyone who has had to do this knows that it can be hard. I felt like I was killing off a close friend. I would go days without writing as I inwardly rebelled against what needed to be done. Finally, I was almost ready to send it to my editor, Deb, for a final review before taking it back to the publishing agent.
I was so excited!

How could I do this all again?

Was is the operative word there.

It only took a few days to hit another roadblock. I had started trying to piece it back together but soon quit when I saw a big chunk missing from my first chapter. Yes, I had over half of the final rewrite, but it’s the parts I don’t have that have brought me to a full stop.
Soon doubt started running through my head.
How could I do this all again? I was so happy with how my book had turned out. Surprise! The publishing agent had been right after all. But I would never be able to rewrite it again, the way it was.
I had been defeated.

So I quit.

All my old fears were back whispering in my ears.
“You’re not a good writer and your book would never sell. Who are you trying to kid? Remember all those rejection letters you keep getting? It will never publish anyway”
I’ve been beating myself up for weeks for not backing up my book. How could I be so stupid and lazy about something that was this important?
Maybe God was trying to tell me it was trash and I needed to give up while I was ahead.
So I quit.

This morning, as I was going through my email, I came across an article from a blog I follow. The article was called:
Redemption in Your Writing Career by Lymm Blackburn

This article really hit me right where I needed it. It’s about second chances.
The story was relayed about the very public failer of Andy Teasdall at the ACC Championship game. Lynn Blackburn told how the Clemson head coach, Dabo Swinney, gave him a second chance at the Orange Bowl and Teasdall’s pulled off an amazing play that saved the game. But the amazing play would have never worked if it weren’t for the major mess up the game before! You really need to read it for yourself. I put the link above.

Another chance

I failed. I didn’t back up my book. It was inevitable that one day my hard-drive would die and I would lose what was on it. It had happened to me before… with this book even! This book started out years ago as a NaNoWriMo project and I lost my second draft from that. Although that one REALLY needed to be lost… lol.
I was happy with, what I thought, was my final edit.
But maybe this next one will be even better. Maybe, like Teasdall at the Orange Bowl, I just need a second (or third or fourth) chance.

This whole ramble is here to officially announce that I’m back.
I know I need to rewrite over half my book and I know it won’t be the same.

But it will be completed.

It probably won’t be finished before the writing conference in February where the publishing agent I was planning to pitch it to will be present.

But it will be completed.

There’s even a very good possibility that this book will never be picked up by a publisher or be found on the shelf of a bookstore.

But it will be completed.


Tuesday Talks – Interview with Maddie Morrow

All January we will be speaking with the authors of one book: Five Poisoned Apples: A Collection of Snow White Stories. I love fairy-tails and this collection of Snow White stories is wonderful.
Maddie Morrow is one of the authors in this new collection.  Thanks for joining us Maddie. Tell us a little about yourself and how you were raised.

I grew up on a farm in Nebraska. My dad grew crops and raised cattle, so we were always doing something. Stories were a huge part of my life, even then. I have two younger sisters, and we would create characters with my dad and act them out while we were out in the pasture fixing fence, or whatever the job might be. We were cowboys, indians, outlaws. My dad tells great stories so whenever we would have a long trip to take (usually to go check cows) we would beg him to tell us a story. Our favorites were always about cowboys hunting Big Foot in the mountains.

Mom got in on the fun too. When I was little, she always read to us and would bring books on car trips and we would all take turns reading until our voices wore out.

My mom stayed at home and home schooled all three of us, which was great. I loved that and the flexibility it gave me to explore all the crazy topics I was interested in. I did all kinds of stuff. Tumbling, ice skating lessons, music composition class, guitar lessons, 4-H horse shows. We lived in a very small town, so it was always exciting to find those things nearby.

My family and I are all Christians, so growing up my parents tried to keep a supply of good books around that still catered to our tastes and interests. We found out pretty quick that it is hard to find clean fantasy books (at the time. It’s getting better now). That’s one of the reasons I started writing. I took the advice to “Write the book you want to read” pretty literally.

After graduating high school I went to a two year college, then got a job at an eye doctor as a certified para optometric, which is the person who helps people pick out their glasses, takes measurements, does repairs etc.

In 2016 I married my high school crush. He works on his family’s farm/ranch, and we live 15 minutes away from where I grew up. A year later we welcomed our son to the family, I quit my job, and we’ve been trying to figure out this parenting thing ever since.

What’s your favorite genre to read and write. Who’s your favorite author?

This is so hard to narrow down. I think I would have to say my favorite genre to read and write is probably speculative fiction, that way I can keep fantasy, dystopia, and all those other weird and fun stories. But historical comes in a close second for reading, and I’m frequently tempted to write contemporary. My favorite author is Louis L’amour. I read tons of other authors and love them dearly, but I grew up with his westerns, and there are very few that I don’t completely adore

What age did you realize you loved books? When did you start writing?

Judging by the condition my old baby books are in, I’d say I realized I loved books very early. I was always reading something. Writing wasn’t far behind. I remember taping paper into cardboard squares to make my own books, and I wrote sequels to a lot of my favorite kid books. I started thinking I wanted to be a writer when I was probably 12, and actually started learning about how to write and started looking into the business side of it more in depth when I got into high school.

Tell us about this book.

My contribution to the Five Poisoned Apples collection is called Red as Blood. It’s a Snow White retelling, and follows my character, Zaig, as he is hired to assassinate the princess and then starts wrestling with guilt from his past. He decides to take matters into his own hands to save the princess and things start going horribly wrong. He has to hurry and figure out what is happening before everyone he cares about ends up dead. 

What did you learn about yourself through writing it?

I actually learned the most through the editing process, I think. This was my first real attempt at writing since before I got married and there was a huge amount of fear that my writing wasn’t any good, and that I’d still be in the same place I was as a teenager, making mistakes and not knowing how to fix them. When Red a Blood was a winner I was so shocked and excited that people liked it. Working with the team of editors at Rooglewood Press has been great. I’ve loved being able to figure out what my weaknesses are (conveying character emotion) and then actually being able to move forward and overcome those problems. I feel much more confident now with my other projects that I will be able to keep going and do the necessary work of fixing up my messy first drafts.

Do you normally use an outline for the books you write, or do you just start with a few ideas?

I do outline, but it is very sparse. I’m definitely a hybrid plotter/pantser. I don’t start any outline work on a story until I’ve worked out several solid ideas in my mind. Then I just jot down a list of things I know need to happen and go from there.

Is there a special place you like to write?

Anywhere I can. I do a lot of writing at my kitchen table, or else on my phone while I’m playing with my little boy.

What was something that surprised you in the way this book unfolded?

There was nothing that surprised me initially when I wrote it, but I was very surprised in how the editors perceived a few things. They were so in love with a romance thread they had picked up on, that I never intended to be a romance. So that was fun to explore. And the setting came as a surprise to me. The story I submitted took place in a bland, typical fantasy world. When the publisher suggested implementing a more Victorian gas lamp type setting I loved the idea.

What advice would you give a new author?               

Know your work isn’t perfect. Some of the edits and revisions were grueling and heart wrenching, and if I had insisted that the story was fine the way it was, I would have missed out on so many awesome developments that happened. You don’t have to compromise the heart of your story, but always be flexible and honestly look at every suggestion.

What project are you working on now?

I have a YA western dystopia I’m querying at the moment, so while I’m waiting to hear back on that I’ve been writing a story under the working title of Bad Boy. It is a non-magical fantasy involving a criminal who is insulted by the king’s royal advisor, so kidnaps the man’s daughter as payback. I finished the first draft early December so my next step will be to start editing and revisions.

Where can we find your books?

Five Poisoned Apples is available on Amazon. 

And you can check out my blog maddie-morrow.blogspot.com to stay up to date on what is happening with my writing. You’ll find a newsletter signup there that will earn you a free Steampunk Beauty and the Beast novella.