Writer’s Ink: Taryn Noelle Kloeden

highrezheadshotTaryn and I have been writerly sisters-at-heart for quite a while now, ever since she tore apart my Mark of Four in its draft stage at our critique group (with some GREAT suggestions I incorporated into the final product), and ever since I got a chance to peek at an early version of Hex Breaker.

I was so excited when Taryn hired me to edit for her, because not only did I get to PEEK at Hex Breaker, but I got to revel in it. It was so much fun going on this quest with Taryn’s Fenearen characters and watching them grow. So now that Taryn is releasing Hex Breaker to the world for you all to enjoy, too, I jumped at the chance to interview her so you could see some of the thoughts behind this book.

1.) Hardest question first: In three sentences, give us a summary of this 150,000 word book (hahaha!).

Challenge accepted!

When a peace treaty goes awry, an innocent man is cursed to a horrific fate and a nation faces extinction. A young woman away from her home and family for the first time undertakes a perilous quest to break the curse while her people fight to save their country. Featuring: wolf-shifters, demi-gods, prophetic dreams, the undead, epic battles, and a gigantic sea monster.

Editor’s Note: Well done! I’m impressed! 🙂

wolf-2-15684582.) There was a wolf shape-shifter breakout when the Twilight craze hit international shelves years ago, and suddenly, everyone wanted more shape-shifting stories. What is it about Hex Breaker that stands out from the crowd of wolf-shifter stories we’ve seen thus far?

Unlike Twilight or Twilight-esque wolf-shifter stories, Hex Breaker does not take place in a version of the modern world where werewolves exist. It’s not a paranormal story. It’s an epic fantasy more along the genre lines of A Song of Ice and Fire or Lord of the Rings. So while many of my characters transform into wolves, they’re quite distinct from werewolves or other wolf-shifters because their power is rooted in a culture and mythology unique to their world and this story. Also, unlike Twilight, this story is not primarily a romance. There are romantic elements of course, but it’s an epic heroine’s journey first and foremost. Hopefully that means it will appeal to fans of wolf-shifter stories as well as other fantasy readers!

3.) Where did this story begin for you? How long have you worked on it, and how much has it morphed from its original seedling of an idea?

I trace the idea for this world and some of its characters back to imaginary games I made up as a child playing in the woods outside my house. When I got a little older, I wanted to write a story featuring some of my ideas. I loved fantasy books, movies, and legends, so I wanted to write my own version of those. But I was always frustrated that so many of my favorite stories focused on a male hero rescuing their female love and saving the world, so I decided my story would be the opposite. I think my exact thought was, “What if in the Princess Bride, Buttercup had to save Westley instead?” I started writing my story in notebooks at age 13, finished the first draft at 17, let it lie for a few years, then came back, totally revamped it about 35 times, and here we are!

4.) It’s been said that authors put a bit of themselves into every character they create. Which of your characters do you most identify with, and why? If you had to take the place of one of them, which one would you choose?

I definitely think there is something I can identify with in every single one of my characters, even the villains. I probably most relate to Rayna as I think she and I share the flaw of always having to be the best and needing to learn that it’s okay (and sometimes better) to not take everything on yourself. That being said, she and I are also very different. I think Rayna is a lot more decisive than I am. Also, she loves to hunt, and I’m a vegetarian 😉

lettuce-garden-1498912Editor’s Note: I suppose it wouldn’t be quite the same to hunt, say, lettuce. The thrill of capture is somehow less. 😉

I put my characters through so much—I’m not sure I’d want to switch places with any of them! But if I had to choose, I’d probably like to be a Fenearen– just not one of the main ones involved with all the fighting. Maybe I’d be a nice background healer or something?

Editor’s Note: I hear rumors, dear Taryn, that some healers may not have always fared so well in your story. I hope better for you… 😉

5.) Be honest now: how many times did you want to fire your editor when she sent you thirty pages of revisions? *drums fingers impatiently on desk 😉

Haha, never! I happened to have an amazing, insightful editor. I did want to fire my own brain a few times, though…

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6.) According to trusted sources, I’ve heard you based your character, Kellan (appearance-wise, anyway), on Ben Barnes. While I finish dreamily sighing over here, can you tell us what other famous people you based your characters on? Why did you choose their likenesses? And which came first: the character in your mind morphing into a similarity with your model, or a model who then morphed into your characters?

-Sigh- Yes, Ben Barnes (Prince Caspian era to be exact) is 100% how I imagine Kellan. I actually have a whole Pinterest board of character inspirations, if anyone is curious. Most of them I found after having written the characters. One exception is that I have always imagined Markus Seperun as Idris Elba (-double sigh-). Also, my friend’s dog inspired the appearance of Laera, right down to the one blue and one brown eye.

7.) Real-Life Rayna: Rayna is visiting your home. She has just settled onto your living room couch when the phone rings, and you have to take the call. Meanwhile, you have milk-based soup on the hot stove, and bread in the toaster. Cookies are baking in an oven heated at 350 degrees, and your cousin’s baby, who stayed overnight, is sobbing in his crib. He’s exploded out of his diaper, and he’s ultimate-crying-1563194screaming bloody murder. The Fed-Ex guy knocks, and doesn’t just leave a package like normal; he needs a signature. The person on the phone tells you there’s an emergency downtown, and you, as the head of Emergency Services, are needed immediately. You look out the window and see the city skyline imploding before your eyes. The world is ending, and there is no time to do anything, except… Rayna can save it all. But… how? (Have fun!) 😉

Okay, here we go. Rayna has the ability to dream about the future. So let’s say she had one such dream about this insane day. Using our knowledge of what’s to come, we skip the soup and bread and go for nice, non-fiery salad instead (she’d object to the “squirrel food but c’est la vie). We call someone to come babysit and sign for the package (I feel like Channon would be good with kids and he’s always ready to help Rayna out so, done). We leave the cookie dough in the fridge, allowing Rayna and I to preemptively head downtown and figure out if the coming disaster can be prevented. Assuming it can, we save the day, come home, bake the cookies, and celebrate.

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Forced to decide between her happiness and her pack’s safety, Rayna Myana chooses to protect those she loves. But when shattered promises and dark magic collide, no one is safe…

For six hundred years, Fenear, a land where humans can take wolf form, has warred with Maenor, its neighboring kingdom ruled by a ruthless dynasty. The possibility of peace emerges when the Maenoren Overlord, Rhael, enters negotiations with Fenearen leaders Bayne and Silver, but their niece, Rayna, is skeptical. Yet, when Rhael proposes to her to strengthen the alliance, she agrees for the sake of her country, despite her family’s objections and a blossoming romance with her best friend. Suspicion of treachery changes Rayna’s decision, but before she can annul the agreement, powerful forces subdue her with a sinister hex. Separated from her pack with Fenear and everyone she loves in danger, Rayna must escape and travel to a distant realm to break the hex. Only then can she save her best friend and her homeland.

Lines blur between heroism and recklessness, dreams and reality, even life and death, and Rayna risks losing herself along the way

Head over to Amazon and grab your copy today!

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Taryn is a lover of nature and all things furry and feathered. As a graduate student in Anthrozoology with an undergraduate degree in Psychology and Biology, she is dedicating her life to understanding and protecting animals, both human and nonhuman. This zeal for the outdoors combined with a lifelong love affair with fantasy and horror stories led her to create the YA dark fantasy series, The Fenearen Chronicles. The second installment, Twice Blessed, is due out in 2018. Taryn lives in Richmond, Virginia with her prima donna cat, Stella, and personal piano player/boyfriend, Lorenzo.

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Writer’s Ink: Bryen O’Riley

I first met Bryen O’Riley at a meeting of the Shenandoah Valley Christian Writers’ Group and was immediately drawn to her as a fellow fantasy writer. We kicked off a long and glorious friendship that included many scintillating conversations about odds and sundry writing details over late night greasy food, cabbage leaves, and writing strategies.

She’s stopping by my blog to promote her new book, The Gryphon, the second book in her Chronicles of Quat series, releasing on June 2nd. Pull up a comfortable chair in my virtual living room (I call the couch) and listen in!

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1.) Condense your book into three sentences for us.

In The Gryphon, Tad’s captors carry him to the Unknown Lands in the north to face certain death. Rynn is used by the Quatists to calibrate their ultimate weapon against the Fae. Etan is manipulated by the most evil man the world has ever known.

2.) What was the hardest part of writing this book for you? What part did you enjoy the most?

I think the middle book of a trilogy is tricky. *Editor’s note: Hear, hear! This is usually the place where the hero learns his skill and the conflict is set up for the next book, etc. I typically find middle books a bit boring and I really like action in my books so balancing all of that was hard.

The part I enjoyed most is linked to that. In my search for adding something new and fresh to the story in the second book, I introduce an entirely new people and belief system. I enjoyed revealing more complexity to my Science vs. Religion conflict in this second book of the trilogy.

3.) Who is your favorite character from this book, and what makes him/her your favorite?

I like Rynn the best, I think. She is my favourite from the first book too. I like her sacrifices and her struggles. The Gryphon allows the reader to see a little more into her past and her thoughts. It also shows her to have more depth than the first book which mostly focused on her role as a mother.

4.) What specifically do you enjoy about the fantasy genre?

I think, deep inside all of us, is a hero or heroine. Our monotonous existence in this time and place – pushing papers, pushing buttons, pushing strollers – doesn’t allow much chance for heroics and fantasy is a lovely respite into what our world should really look like.

5.) Since we’re such a visual culture: if you could direct your book in an adapted-to-screen version, who would you pick to play the roles, and why?

This is very difficult for me to do since I do not have television (and haven’t for 15 years!) I don’t know most of the new talent so most of these people are a bit older than they should be for the part but it will give my readers an idea…

Tad – Liam Hemsworth

Etan – Chris Hemsworth

Rynn – Catherine Zeta-Jones

Alastar – Bradley Cooper

Mikhail – Kevin Costner

Galen – Chris Pratt

Elisathaya – Alexandra Daddario

Chet – Joseph Gordon-Levitt

6.) Can you describe the process of how you built your story from the seedling of an idea into the fully-fleshed-out book that it is now? What was your original idea? How close is the finished product to it?

The original idea was just to have the conflict center around the belief in Science and the belief in Unseen things. I am a big critic of Science (the methodology itself) and wanted to write a story that focused on people who found Science impossible to believe in. The story itself has changed a bit from my original story which was about a sister and brother who originally discovered the Stone. However, I have written that story down in a prequel short story that I plan to release eventually. The decision to make the trilogy about later in history (2,000 years after the Stone was discovered) was pretty easy—that is where the most conflict in the story was found.

7.) What’s next for you? Another in this series? Or are you embarking on another journey with another series?

I do need to write the third book in this series but I also have a really fun idea for a romance (I write romance under the pen name Aletheia von Gottlieb). Honestly, I will probably work on finishing The Chronicles of Quat series since I have readers waiting for the ending! But on days when I’m not feeling it, I may allow myself to get sidetracked with the romance—sometimes the best thing for me to do when I’m feeling stuck is to work on something else for a bit and then come back.

8.) Quick Answers. Don’t think more than a second about these:

Peanut butter or Nutella? Peanut butter, but Nutella is close behind!

Paperback or ebook? Paperback

Applesauce or fruit cup? Applesauce (if homemade)/fruit cup (if there are no gross fruits — like oranges! — in it)

Rowling or Tolkien? Tolkien

Tea or coffee? Tea

Europe or Caribbean? Europe!

Chicken or beef? Beef

Pride and Prejudice or Jane Eyre? Pride & Prejudice (by a LONG shot!)

Swimming or skiing? Skiing!

9.) Any authors to whom you want to give a shout out? Who has been a part of your journey, an inspiration, so to speak?

I think the person I can credit with encouraging me to get serious about my writing, besides family, was Kay Walsh. She was the first person who looked at my work and said, “This is publishable.” I had always thought I was a decent writer, but who doesn’t think that? It was amazing for me to hear someone else, with such certainty, tell me I was good enough. Then it was she who sent me the information about a contest that fit the very piece she had complimented. I sent the story in and it was chosen. I am so grateful to Kay for her encouragement and support—I do not know if I would be a published novelist today if it weren’t for her.

Gryphon Cover

The mystical power of ancient Belief struggles to reclaim a world threatened by the new and equally powerful Science, while Happenstance and Prophecy manifest, and deliberate Ignorance threatens all.

The Chronicles of Quat trilogy continues as Tad is carried to the Unknown Lands in the north by strange men with even stranger abilities where certain death awaits.  Etan must keep a secret from Alastar, even as the man seems to have a sinister ability to force people to do his will.  Rynn’s captivity on the Isle of Quat reveals the largest threat the world faces—something even Alastar fears.

Some will fail.  Some will fall.  But all will strive.  And in the end, perhaps, the Gryphon will ride upon the wind.

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Bryen read her first fantasy novel, The Eye of the World, at fourteen.  She has voraciously consumed fantasy novels (to heck with sleeping!) ever since.  Bryen is the author of The Chronicles of Quat series.  Visit her blog at www.bryenoriley.blogspot.com.

 

Chatting with Margaret Locke

I recently had the privilege of sitting down with good friend and romance author extraordinaire, Margaret Locke, to chat with her about her brand new release, A Man of Character, hitting the market in just a few short days: May 26, 2015! Besides confirming my deeply held conviction that Margaret is an absolute delight, I also got to delve more deeply into the book that spun itself from her magic fingertips. Come with me to find out more about flights of fancy, happily-ever-afters, and of course, time travel with TARDIS… because why not?

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Tamara: Tell us three of your favorite things about fiction in general.

Margaret: 1. I’m a word geek. I revel in gorgeous phrasings, in language that moves me, in words that make me laugh, reduce me to tears, leave me gnashing my teeth. It boggles my mind that little scratchings on paper (or a screen) can evoke such emotion. When I read, I love to see how authors do it, how they mix and match words to create something brand new, something exhilarating, unexpected, something that arouses authentic feeling in the person consuming those words. It’s so cool that the human race figured out how to do that, how to communicate to others, to people they know and people they’ll never meet, by means of twenty six letters and umpteen thousands of words arranged and rearranged in patterns that tell stories.

2. Fiction transports us not only into different worlds, but into other people’s minds. What other medium can do that? In real life, I can imagine what someone is thinking or feeling, but I won’t ever truly know – I have to trust what the person chooses to tell me. Cleverly written fiction, on the other hand, makes me feels as if I’m right there in the midst of all those brain cells, feeling what those characters are feeling, experiencing those situations exactly as they do. Fiction makes me feel more connected to real people, even when I’m reading about made-up folks, if that makes any sense.

3. Fiction, especially romance, makes the world feel brighter and more predictable than it really is, both of which my anxious little soul finds soothing. When I pick up a romance novel, I know I’ll get that Happily Ever After that so many of us crave in real life. I know that, in the words of A Man of Character’s Eliza James, “No matter what happens—and believe me, some crazy things happen—they will end up together.” And that makes me happy.

Tamara: What first drew you to the insanity that is writing fiction?

Margaret: I’ve always dabbled in language. I wrote (bad) poetry in my teens, short stories in my twenties. But even though I’d vowed as a teen I’d write romance when I grew up, I never seriously pursued that. Not until after I turned forty. Why now? Well, on the practical side, my kids are older and are both in school. I own more of my time now than I have in more than a decade. And I needed something to do.

But on the emotional side, I wanted to write stories to entertain people, to amuse them, to make them happy. Romance novels have always done that for me. And, well, the control freak part of me probably enjoys controlling the whole process a lot more than I want to admit. Mostly, though, it’s just plain fun.

Tamara: If you were trapped in a fictional world that includes giants, superheroes, a dragon or two, and a brooding, dark-haired hero with a tortured past, and you had the option to bring any three things from this world with you, what would those things be and why?

Margaret: Well, Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak, obviously. That way my hero and I could hide away from all those scary things you mentioned and, well, you know… Also, chocolate. Because chocolate is one of life’s necessities, and if the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, we might as well inhale the stuff of the gods. Finally, I’m thinking the TARDIS would be pretty cool. I’ve always wanted to time-travel. What? You’re telling me that cloak and the TARDIS are fictional? I choose not to believe you.

Tamara: Tell me about A Man of Character. Who is the character in the book that resonates with you the most, and why?

Margaret: At the center of A Man of Character is Catherine Schreiber, a thirty-five-year-old bookstore owner who has a rather Eeyorish outlook on life and love. Her best friend, Eliza James, is her happy, bouncy, Tiggerish counterpart. Together, they balance each other out. I want to be Eliza, but in truth there’s more Catherine in me than I’d like to admit. Fear is what keeps Catherine from opening up, what keeps her trapped in her intentionally limited world, and I know fear has done the same thing to me. To see Catherine challenge that fear, to move beyond it, inspires me to believe I can do the same – even though she’s just a fictional character and I, her creator.

Tamara: Do you have any upcoming projects? What will we see next on the market from Margaret Locke?

Margaret: Absolutely. Eliza gets her own story in my next book, A Matter of Time, which, the universe willing, will hit the market in late 2015. My third book, The Demon Duke, is a Regency-set romance that tells the story of a man with an agonizing secret and the shy, young woman who might just be the one to free him from the prison of his own making. And additional members of the Mattersley family, to whom you are introduced in A Man of Character and who feature prominently in A Matter of Time and The Demon Duke, will get stories of their own.  

IMG_0142The perfect fantasy might just be reality.

What would you do if you discovered the men you were dating were fictional characters you’d created long ago?

Thirty-five-year-old Catherine Schreiber has shelved love for good. Keeping her ailing bookstore afloat takes all her time, and she’s perfectly fine with that. So when several men ask her out in short order, she’s not sure what to do…especially since something about them seems eerily familiar.

Caught between fantasy and reality, Cat must decide which—or whom—she wants more.

Blending humor with unusual twists, including a magical manuscript, a computer scientist in shining armor, and even a Regency ball, A Man of Character tells a story not only of love, but also of the lengths we’ll go for friendship, self-discovery, and second chances.


About Margaret:

As a teen, Margaret Locke pledged to write romances when she grew up. Once an adult, however, she figured she ought to be doing grown-up things (such as earning that masters degree in medieval history), not penning steamy love stories. Yeah, whatever. Turning forty cured her of that silly notion. Margaret is now happily ensconced back in the clutches of her first love, this time as an author as well as a reader.  

Margaret lives in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley in Virginia with her fantastic husband, two fab kids, and two fat cats. You can usually find her in front of some sort of screen (electronic or window; she’s come to terms with the fact that she’s not an outdoors person). Please visit her at margaretlocke.com.

My (Slightly Longer Than) Sixty-Seconds Interview

As a result of my win at last week’s Flash! Friday contest, I got a chance to sit down with the fabulous Rebekah Postupak and discuss novels, beta-readers, and split personalities.

Can I just say that the best part of the flash fiction community that I’ve joined is their kind support and encouragement for writers (like me) who are always unsure of their skills? They’re the best people in the world, and I wouldn’t be where I am in my career without them.

If anyone wants a safe place to hone your writing skills, I highly encourage you to come along with me to meet them.

Check out this site: https://flashfriday.wordpress.com/2015/02/19/sixty-seconds-iii-with-tamara-shoemaker/

And then show up on Friday with pen in hand and a vivid imagination, ready to craft a new world from the prompt. 🙂