Saturday, April 17, 2021

Bridget Smith - The IAN Interview

Bridget Smith

Author. Teach for America alum. Management consultant. Dedicated dog-mom. Whether she's inspiring students to love world geography through games, technology, and a sense of humor or helping her clients disaster-proof their businesses, she brings passion, dedication, and excitement to every adventure. As an author her writing deals with the intersection of fantasy, reality, and identity.

Told she would never walk again after a nerve injury; Bridget began writing what would become her debut novel to simply process what she was feeling. However, the story quickly took on a life of its own, and she realized that the power of Alex and Caidy's world could help other people the same way it changed her life.




IAN: Please tell us about your latest book.

Bridget Smith: A Blade knows all, sees all, and tells few.

Warden Alexander Laurent faces returning to a kingdom and a life he left behind long ago. He didn’t expect to see her so soon, or the look on her face—the look he’s responsible for. When he stumbles onto a plot that endangers not only Caidy, but the entire kingdom, Alex takes the burden upon himself to stop it even if it costs him everything.

Lady Caidelene is busy preparing for the fabled Harvest Festival, the most important celebration in Rosemoor Dell, when Alex returns suddenly. She had dreamed of his homecoming, but not like this - it’s like he can barely look at her. As the Festival draws closer, and Alex pulls further away, Caidy is left wondering: did he ever really love her?

Summer Twilight is set in the intricate world of the Mezrani Empire, where not everything is as it seems. Can Alex and Caidy find a way to survive a dangerous plot to destabilize the throne? Or will they find themselves caught in the machinations of the Empire itself; their fates inextricably tied with that of the world?

IAN: Is Summer Twilight published in print, e-book or both?

Bridget Smith:

IAN: Where can we go to buy Summer Twilight?  Barnes and Noble

IAN: Did you use an outline or do you just wing the first draft?

Bridget Smith: When I first sat down with Summer Twilight, it was a single scene: a young man and young woman, riding through a mountain pass. I wanted to understand how they reached that moment, to explore the world they lived in, so I sat down and wrote out the scene. That in turn raised more questions (as good stories ought to), leading me back in time to the events which led these characters to the mountain pass.

Once I got serious about turning these disparate scenes into a story, I sat down and outlined. It was pretty simple; I used a spreadsheet, added in the big milestones I knew were going to happen, and then filled in the details. I wrote “Netflix episode” descriptions of each chapter, 1-2 short sentences which helped remind me what I needed to have happen, but were very light on the details.

IAN: How long did it take to write Summer Twilight?

Bridget Smith: I got the idea for Summer Twilight in 2012 during my senior year of highschool, when I had just been diagnosed with a chronic nerve condition and was facing potentially spending the rest of my life in a wheelchair. Then, it was a way to cope with and process how I was feeling, a kind of creative journaling.

Once I got to college, I got busy and I left Alex and Caidy alone in their world. I focused on other things, content to return to writing only occasionally, to scratch a creative itch. I didn’t actually return to Summer Twilight until 2018, when I was dealing with severe anxiety and needed to rekindle my coping strategies.

It was during this bout I realized I really had a story to tell, and that with a little more structure, it could help other people the way it helped me. When I got serious and outlined Summer Twilight, I wrote the entire narrative in about three months, in between grad classes and working a full time job.

IAN: What do you hope your readers come away with after reading Summer Twilight?

Bridget Smith: I hope readers have a cathartic experience with Summer Twilight. We all face different struggles, we all make mistakes, and we all struggle with Imposter Syndrome. Summer Twilight is the product of my own fears and insecurities, and I think has real power to help you feel less alone.

On a lighter note, it’s also a fun adventure, if you want to leave the seriousness behind and just explore a brand new world with pirates, murder, mystery, and delicious food.

IAN: How is Summer Twilight different from others in your genre?

Bridget Smith: In Summer Twilight, I really tried hard to combine my favorite parts of the fantasy genre. There is rich worldbuilding, a diverse cast of characters, and an adventure tinged with magic and mystery. However, there are two things about Summer Twilight which really set it apart from many modern fantasy novels: the length and the characters.

One of the biggest reasons people don’t read fantasy books are because they’re so long! You’re committing to multiple 500+ page books with complex, intertwining plots. Don’t get me wrong--I love those series. But, it also makes it hard to just flirt with the genre, to get your adventure fix in a fantastical world. So, Summer Twilight is purposely written on the shorter side (about 350 pages total), with bite-sized chapters which shouldn’t take you more than 15 minutes to read, so you can enjoy it in manageable chunks.

Second, I put a truly ridiculous amount of time and energy into making my characters feel like normal people who happen to live in a medieval, magical world. Often in fantasy, characters feel superhuman (or, you know, are!), which is incredible but also not super relatable. It’s hard to connect on a personal level with an all-powerful elf queen who can see the future, or a dragonrider warrior. Alex and Caidy, as well as the other characters in Summer Twilight, are designed to break that mold; they make mistakes, struggle with insecurities, have triumphs and successes, and face failure, just like you and me.

IAN: Name someone outside of your family members who you feel supported you in the creation of your work.

Bridget Smith: I’m so grateful to my fiance for all the love and support he gave me throughout this process. We both love the fantasy genre (Lord of the Rings marathons are an annual occurrence), and we both play Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) together. His worldbuilding in our D&D games actually helped inspire me in my own world! I’m so thankful to have someone in my life who encourages me to be creative, believes in me, and is always up to help me problem solve when my characters just won’t behave.

IAN: Do you see writing as a career?

Bridget Smith: I see writing as something I truly and genuinely love. When I was little I wanted to be an author, but having grown up, I’ve realized that I want to be a lot of things. I love my job, I love the volunteer work I’m able to do, and I love having a writing project to turn to at the end of a long day. Because writing is a passion, it’s something I’ll do as long as I love it--and so far, that shows no sign of ending.

IAN: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

Bridget Smith: I’ve loved writing as long as I can remember. When I was 11, I wrote a 200-page book about unicorns (innovatively titled “The Story of the Unicorns”) which I confidently told my mother I was going to publish. To her credit, she believed in me and supported me instead of laughing me out of the room.

I’ve always written because it helps me. It’s a way I can be creative and express myself without worrying about the bounds of what’s possible and realistic, and a way I can understand how I’m feeling or what I’m dealing with. I consider myself incredibly lucky to have writing as a coping mechanism, particularly given the trials of 2020!

IAN: Do you have any advice for other writers?

Bridget Smith: Write because you love it. Seriously, the minute writing starts feeling like a chore, you should put it down and step away until you’re excited to pick up a pen again (or open the word document. You get it). Loving what you’re doing will always make your product better, and it’ll make you more likely to actually finish your book. Plus, if you choose to publish (which, by the way, you don’t have to do), you’re going to spend a LOT of time talking about your book. If you love it, that’s much, much easier.

IAN: Tell us about your next book or a work in progress. Is it a sequel or a stand-alone?

Bridget Smith: Summer Twilight is the first in a fantasy series following Alex and Caidy as they battle the Freelark threat to Rosemoor Dell….and uncover a far more insidious threat to the throne. The next book in the series will deal with the consequences of the events of Summer Twilight, and explore complex themes of freedom, ethics, and morality.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Farm Boy, City Girl: From Gene to Miss Gina by John "Gene" E. Dawson

 Autobiography, LGBT

Finalist, First Non-Fiction,
 Independent Author Network Book of the Year Awards, 2020

Farm Boy, City Girl: From Gene to Miss Gina details John "Gene" E. Dawson's life growing up in Depression-era Iowa in a poor farming Irish-Catholic family and his adult years spent living on the LGBTQ cultural edge in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and St. Louis. The book offers a rare glimpse into the Mid-20th Century history of both rural Iowa and of LGBTQ individuals in Middle America—told by one who was there.

Part One, Farm Boy 1931-1949: 
Gene recounts his years growing up in the Great Depression, moving with his family from rental farm to rental farm until his parents could afford to purchase their own land and home. Life was difficult and often brutal for anyone during this time, but especially so for a gender-fluid gay child/teenager.

Part Two, Transition and Tragedy 1950-1959:
 Gene initially leaves the farm and begins transitioning into his new life as a gay man in the cities of Cedar Rapids and St. Louis, adopting the "city girl" persona of Gina. But the tragic accidental death of his mother forces him to move back to his family's home in Iowa where he faces gut-wrenching family drama and the loving burden of helping to raise his three younger brothers.

Part Three, City Girl 1960-: Gene returns to Cedar Rapids before finally moving on to live an open, full existence as Miss Gina in St. Louis. Even in the city though, life was quite hard for openly gay men, and Gene recounts multiple harrowing tales involving the brutality of police, gay bar life, and the unsung heroism of Midwestern LGBTQ people—years before the famous Stonewall riot in New York City.

Kindle copies on sale now at

John "Gene" E. Dawson also was known as "Miss Gina" in his younger days. He considered himself a farmer at heart and also worked in factories and as a waiter, beautician, and tax preparer.

In 2019, Gene decided he wanted to get his book published while his health still allowed it. After "Farm Boy, City Girl" was published in April 2020, he enjoyed hearing every comment about it. Sadly, he passed away at age 89 in September 2020.

Monday, September 7, 2020

Philip Yorke the IAN Interview

Philip Yorke writes historical fiction novels and is currently in the process of publishing a five-book series about the English Civil Wars, and the life of Parliamentarian cavalry officer, Francis Hacker.

His first book, Redemption, has received widespread critical acclaim, with one reviewer hailing it as “a well-told tale as close to real life as you’re ever likely to get”.

A former investigative journalist in the UK, Philip has had a life-long interest in history, particularly the events that defined the seventeenth century and anything, and everything, to do with the reigns of Rubert the Bruce and Edward the First.

IAN: Please tell us about your latest book.

Philip Yorke: Rebellion is set in the First English Civil War and tells the story of Francis Hacker, a Captain in the demoralised Parliamentarian army that’s seeking to clip with the wings of King Charles the First.

The bloody war has already been raging for almost a year and forces opposed to Charles are close to defeat. 

In desperation, John Pym and Oliver Cromwell enlist Hacker to spearhead an audacious plot to bring down Charles and restore peace to the ravaged land. 

Courageous and loyal, Francis is drawn into a deadly deceit that may cost him everything he holds most dear…

Rebellion is popular read in the UK, US, Canada, Japan and Australia.

In August 2020, the Historical Novel Society’s Historical Novels Review praised the book, stating: “The first-person, present-tense account is a quiet, simple narrative rich with emotion. Little is known about the real-life Hacker, yet Yorke breathes life into him. Like us all, he has frailties, but dearly loves his family and God. The secret mission, spy and murder episodes may seem like separate interludes in the book; in actuality, they are as intricately and artfully interwoven as a spider’s web and no one is left untouched.”

IAN: Is Rebellion in print, e-book or both?

Philip Yorke: Rebellion can be bought in paperback and e-book formats.

IAN: Where can we go to buy Rebellion?

Philip Yorke: At these stores.

IAN: What inspired you to write Rebellion?

Philip Yorke: A visit to the UK’s National Civil War Museum; it was here that I met Francis Hacker for the first time and learned of his contribution to British history. From the moment I was introduced to his life story, I was hooked.

IAN: Did you use an outline or do you just wing the first draft?

Philip Yorke: I get to know my characters and write from the heart. I do a lot of research, and create ‘quasi outlines’, but I tend to start writing and seldom refer to them. By the time I start tapping away on the keyboard, I usually know where a chapter is heading.

IAN: How long did it take to write Rebellion?

Philip Yorke: Rebellion, which is just over 100,000 words long, took about six months to research and write. It then took a further four months to get everything formatted, proofed and ready for publication.

IAN: Do you have a specific writing style?

Philip Yorke: I write in the first-person. And I try to make the story as authentic as I possibly can. This means I write to a very specific historical timeline, making sure the main threads of the store have credible links to the actual events of the time.

IAN: What do you hope your readers come away with after reading Rebellion?

Philip Yorke: Good question. I want people to understand the complexities of everyday life that enveloped everyone who lived during seventeenth century. It was an incredible time, when faith, the arts and remarkable men and women really started to define the modern world. People did incredible things because of their beliefs. They even died willingly because of the causes they served, refusing to take the easy way out just so they could live longer.

I really think there are some lessons today’s generations could learn from the period.

IAN: How much of Rebellion is realistic?

Philip Yorke: I hope all of it is realistic. The feedback I have received from readers, so far, suggests it is.  I am always on the lookout for feedback, and I seek to learn from it (and apply it to my writing) whenever it is offered.

IAN: If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

Philip Yorke: Without doubt, it would have to be the late and great, Nigel Tranter, a brilliant exponent of the craft of blending historical fact with a wonderful story. His books, in my humble opinion, are ‘unputdownable’! He never sought to be a populist author, preferring instead to be an authentic writer. As a result, his many works are wonderful to read. If you haven’t heard of him, my encouragement is check Nigel Tranter out, particularly his trilogy on Robert the Bruce.

IAN: What book are you reading now?

Philip Yorke: I have just bought Burning the Books by Richard Ovenden. It describes itself as “a history of knowledge under attack”. It covers many instances of literary and ‘thought’ suppression – including the period of the Reformation in England, when Henry VIII’s agents burned many thousands of books produced by monks and Catholics.

IAN: Do you see writing as a career?

Philip Yorke: Most certainly. But I doubt whether I will earn royalties on the scale of JK Rowling!

IAN: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

Philip Yorke: I used to play rugby union, and the team I was a part of appeared regularly in the local, regional and national press. When I was looking for a job, the lady who became my mother-in-law suggested I write to my local paper to see if they would be willing to advise me on how I could become a reporter. The paper’s editor replied to my letter within three days – offering me the position of fulltime ‘rugby writer’. I took it and used to report on the games I actually played in. This was in the late 1980s, and you would never be allowed to do it today. It was as hard, and as easy, as that!

IAN: Do you have to travel much concerning your books?

Philip Yorke: I try to describe the towns and cities my characters live in and frequent as accurately as possible. To this aim, I travel reasonably extensively. Being based in the middle of England – and with the books focused on England – it means I never really have far to go. And I always make sure there is a good tea shop close by, for an ‘emergency’ cream tea!

IAN: Do you have any advice for other writers?

Philip Yorke: Write for you, and not your imagined audience. You need to love your book and be passionate about the characters you have created. If you don’t, how can you expect others to find your work interesting?

Make sure you are thoroughly absorbed in your main character/s. Develop values and a back-story for each of the main people you introduce to the reader. There needs to be depth and personality, not just a name.

Try and make the mundane interesting. At least 80 per cent of a book isn’t that exciting. But if it is well written, even making a cup of coffee can be made to sound interesting.

Make sure your story contains some surprises. If it’s predictable, your readers will quickly lose interest. Writing a plot/storyline is critical in this regard.

Don’t stop! At times, it will be hard working bashing out a few hundred words, never mind several thousand. But persevere. Write regularly and you’ll be surprised at how quickly you can accumulate 50,000 words.

IAN: Tell us about your next book or a work in progress. Is it a sequel or a stand-alone?

Philip Yorke: Redemption – the sequel to Rebellion – is the second novel in the Hacker Chronicles series. It will be published on 11 January 2021, and tells the story of Francis as he seeks to come to terms with the tragic events of 1644.

It is a fast-paced tale of ambition, betrayal, heartbreak, faith and war, all inter-mingled and played out during one of the most turbulent periods in British history – when brother fought against brother in a bid to oust a tyrant King from the English throne.

At its heart is Francis’s determination to gain vengeance against Gustav Holck, a sadistic Royalist mercenary who kills and tortures his victims for pleasure.

But Holck is a formidable foe, and the odds are heavily stacked against Francis as he seeks to bring to justice the man who has caused his own family such grievous pain.

Medea Kalantar the IAN Interview

Medea Kalantar, a multi-award-winning Author, Reiki Master, and Guinness World Record Holder. Inspired to write these books when she became a grandmother, Kalantar's stories are based on her own family, whose members come from many ethnic backgrounds. This unique mix is a perfect recipe-- just like the spices in a honey cake, and why she calls her grandchildren her little Honeycakes.

With all the negativity in the world, Kalantar's series is a much-needed glimmer of hope and positivity. Honeycake books teach children about diversity, kindness, mindfulness, trust, and gratitude. This series will educate and entertain children, for generations to come.

IAN: Please tell us about your latest book.

Medea Kalantar: In the fifth instalment of the delightful Honeycake book series, Nala’s mama and papa are celebrating the birth of their newborn son. But, when baby Luka receives so many presents and all the attention, Nala becomes angry and green with envy.

This book teaches children the importance of gratitude and how to focus on what matters most in life.

Showing gratitude is a great way to find balance in the materialistic culture we live in today.

With the help of her grandmother, Nala learns the importance of gratitude and how being thankful for all the wonderful things she has in her life equips her with a powerful tool to make those icky feelings of jealousy from the “Green-Eyed Monster” disappear.

IAN: Is Counting All My Blessings published in print, e-book or both?

Medea Kalantar: Yes all my books are published in e-book, paperback and hardcover.

IAN: Where can we go to buy Counting All My Blessings?

Medea Kalantar: At these stores.

IAN: What inspired you to start writing?

Medea Kalantar: When I found out I was going to be a Grandma it was a full circle moment for me, so I started to bake a honey cake in honour of my Grandmother. My Bebi taught me how to bake a honey cake when I was a little girl. As I was making the cake, I realized all the different spices the cake had, like cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, vanilla, coffee, brown sugar, and honey. It made me think of all the different ethnic mixes my new grand-baby would have and how they would be just like this honey cake I was baking. The words and stories started to pour out of me.

The fact that I have no formal training as a writer didn’t stop me from trying. I always wanted to write my biography someday, later down the road, because I’ve had so many hardships in my life that I had to overcome. But I never had any intention on writing—especially not a children’s book series. But the universe sent me a sign, and the messages were in me to share, and they simply had to come out. I wrote five books in four days, I couldn’t stop. Clearly the universe had something planned.

IAN: How long have you been writing?

Medea Kalantar: I’ve been writing since October of 2019.

IAN: Who designed the covers?

Medea Kalantar: A very talented illustrated name i Cenizal designed my covers and did all the illustrations for my entire Honeycake Book Series

IAN: What are some things that haven't been done in the children's genre that you hope to introduce through your books?

Medea Kalantar: I don’t feel that there are any books like mine out there. There so many children in the world that have diverse multicultural families like mine, and there still aren’t many books that represent them. With all the negativity around diversity in this day and age, I feel it’s very important to create books with a more positive message to help caregivers teach children to accept others, help children to become more balanced, kind, grateful and honest. Books to help children manage their emotions when things don’t go the way they hoped. I always say there is no such thing as winning or losing, there is only winning. You win when you reach the goal you wanted to achieve or you win by learning a very valuable lesson. It’s all about perspective and how you look at things. Giving children these tools at an early age will help them grow into happy and fulfilled adults that aren’t stressed out, but live in harmony with a healthy mind, body, and spirit.

IAN: What are some of the things you know now that you did not know when you first started writing?

Medea Kalantar: Like I’ve previously stated, I never set out to become a writer, so I had no clue what to do with the stories I’ve written and how I was going to get them published.

The biggest challenge I had to face was, fear: Fear of failure, and fear of the financial impact on my family since I was independently publishing my own books. As I was facing my fears I remembered a quote by the late and great Maya Angelou; “Hope and fear cannot occupy the same space. Invite one to stay.”

So, I released my fears and choose hope. I’m so glad I did because my books have been welcomed with open arms and I’ve received such positive feedback from so many people. The most rewarding experience has been the outpour of messages I’ve been receiving from people around the world. I’m beyond grateful and so happy to see that my books are making a positive impact.

IAN: What do you hope your readers come away with after reading Counting All My Blessings?

Medea Kalantar: After reading Honeycake: Counting All My Blessings, I hope my readers come away with incorporating gratitude in their everyday lives. Most parents have taught their kids the importance of saying thank you by grade school, if not sooner. But how many have truly instructed them in the art of being grateful? You can be grateful for a wide range of “gifts,” everything from nature and good food to good luck or a wonderful opportunity for the people in your life. A sense of gratitude can benefit children (and adults) in a variety of ways. It can decrease stress and has other important emotional health benefits. A person who is grateful tends to spend less time comparing him or herself with others and feeling envious. I also feel that it’s important to showcase that we need to be grateful when things don’t go our way, or when we make a mistake. It’s through those challenges we have to overcome, that we learn our greatest lessons in life. Ultimately gratitude can help adults and children alike, and the best thing parents can do is be a good role model for their children. So, the next time something good — or even not so good — happens, express your appreciation out loud, start a gratitude journal, and start and end your day with what you are grateful for. Everyone will benefit from it.

IAN: What are the other activities apart from writing you like to indulge in your free time?

Medea Kalantar: My favourite activity is spending time with my family, especially with my little grandson Lukenzo who is 18 months old and the inspiration behind my Honeycake Books. Aside from my Reiki practice and writing, I love to dance, go to live theatres, read and travel.

IAN: Do you have any advice for other writers?

Medea Kalantar: The one advice I have for new writers is that you have to be passionate about what you’re writing. If you are, then it will just flow naturally. You won’t be stuck for words. Be authentic and true to yourself. Don’t try to be like someone else, be who you are. That’s what we should all be striving for.

IAN: Tell us about your next book or a work in progress. Is it a sequel or a stand-alone?

Firstly, I would like to say thank you for featuring on IAN and conducting this author interview. I’m so honoured and grateful to be given this platform to discuss the importance and the valuable lessons my books will give families around the world.

I will be taking a break after this book, to focus on a bigger project. I have partnered up with a production company and my Co-Creator Lanette Ware-Bushfield CEO of AWWB Production Inc. is helping me take the Honeycake Book Series and adapting it into a tv series, which is being pitched to major television and animation studios.

I do plan to come back with another 5 books in the Honeycake series, with our heroine Nala and her little brother Luka when they are a little older with books that are geared for middle graders instead or preschoolers.


David Billingsley the IAN Interview

David Billingsley
grew up in Texas and currently resides in Salt Lake City, Utah. He has written three self-published novels and co-authored a Vietnam-era novel with a Vietnam veteran. Full of twists and turns, mystery, romance, and suspense, his three books leave readers guessing until the end. Yet fully dimensional and deep characters, warts and all, are the focus of his stories. When David’s not writing or working his day job, he’s out photographing the landscapes and animals of the West.     

IAN: Please tell us about your latest book.

David Billingsley: The Connection is actually my first manuscript, which lay idle for fifteen years. It tells the story of Sandy McAllister, a radio DJ in the small West Texas town of Dinley. Following the tragic loss of her husband and son, she's carved out a steady, solitary existence. No more deep friendships, no more love, no more loss.

But that carefully scripted life is suddenly disrupted by the appearance of a mysterious drifter. His arrival on a warm summer evening coincides with the eruption of addictive and powerful feelings she cannot control or deny. And she's not the only one. The women of Dinley are attracted to the stranger too, yet the men are driven to such rage upon his appearance, they want him driven out of town or dead.

The bond, the connection, with this stranger threatens to turn Sandy’s life inside out and polarize her town.

And it's not the first time this has happened in Dinley. Part mystery, part romance, part sci-fi, it is a tale like no other.

IAN: Is The Connection published in print, e-book or both?

David Billingsley: Both e-book and print.

IAN: Where can we go to buy The Connection?

David Billingsley: Author Page or through the links from my page here at IAN.

IAN: What inspired you to write The Connection?

David Billingsley: The inspiration for The Connection came from a scene I witnessed in the year 2000. I stood in front of the AM radio station and witnessed a drifter walking down the other side of a two-lane highway in rural West Texas. The potential “what-if” story just hit me.

IAN: Did you use an outline or do you just wing the first draft?

David Billingsley: Both to some extent. I work from a basic outline, yet each of my stories have deviated significantly from the original outline. So, when I do take a new direction in the plot or a character “misbehaves,” I redo the outline. Gives me the freedom to the let the story unfold while having some plan for it.

IAN: How long did it take to write The Connection?

David Billingsley: Altogether, it took almost two decades! (I wrote two other books and co-authored one in that time frame.) I completed the first manuscript in the early 2000s. I set it aside to work on another idea and never came back to it. The final result is my best work, IMO. 

IAN: How did you come up with the title?

David Billingsley: The titles are all simple two-word titles starting with “The.” What few readers realize is that there is a question in these titles. Whose Redemption? What Switch? Which Connection? The answer may not be apparent until the end of the book.

IAN: What do you hope your readers come away with after reading The Connection?

David Billingsley: The simple pleasure of being immersed in another world for a short-time and feeling a bit surprised, though satisfied, at the end of the story. I simply want to write a good book to entertain.

IAN: How is The Connection different from others in your genre?

David Billingsley: I struggle to define the genre of my novels. The three books are a mix of mystery, suspense, and romance, and the last one has a bit of sci-fi mixed in. My books are clearly different from most others that I have read, and not being able to distinctly define my genre has probably hurt me from a selling perspective.

IAN: What books have most influenced your life?

David Billingsley: One book, Lady by Thomas Tryon, really inspired my imagination. It was required reading in my college freshman English literature course (many decades ago). The book is beautifully written but admittedly slow at first. Once you find out Lady Harleigh’s secret, I dare you to put the book down before finishing the final third of it. It made me want to write books full of deeply interesting characters but with some kind of surprise in waiting. It’s not the best book I’ve ever read; yet it’s the first to really influence me. 

IAN: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing

David Billingsley: Time and marketing. My day job still takes up a good chunk of my calendar. Marketing as a self-published author could be a full-time job (and a very different skill than writing). That said, the “writing” part is the least challenging and most satisfying for me.

IAN: Do you have any advice for other writers?

David Billingsley: Write for personal enjoyment and satisfaction. If you are in it for the money, it’s a HUGE uphill battle. After book one, don’t depend on your friends for book sales. 

IAN: Tell us about your next book or a work in progress. Is it a sequel or a stand-alone?

David Billingsley: My next book is untitled. I’m still in the preliminary outline and research part of the process. It will be the first in a series (5 to 7 titles) set in post-Civil War New Mexico in the 1860s. The series will feature a U.S. Army officer and his female companion who solve crimes, similar to the detectives in the modern mystery genre, but featuring a unique environment and deeper characterization. It is an ambitious undertaking. 

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Kenneth Thomas - The IAN Interview

British author from Windsor, home of Windsor Castle. Currently live in the Netherlands, working on the third book in my dystopian, science fiction series, VanWest The Future. The second book, VanWest The Present, is coming out on the 30th of July, 2020.

IAN: Please tell us about your latest book.

Kenneth Thomas: The Past is the first book in the VanWest series, about an Enforcer who lives in a dystopian Earth of the year 3000 and works for an authoritarian ruler called the Universal Council. Tasked with travelling through time to stop a renegade sect, that seeks to change Earth’s past, he comes to learn about his dark origins and his unique ability.

Falling in love with the daughter of its leader, Mad Newton, he returns to the present to face a
difficult choice, whether or not to save her. And be part of the New Beginning.

IAN: Is VanWest The Past published in print, e-book or both?

Kenneth Thomas: Available in both.

IAN: Where can we go to buy VanWest The Past?

IAN: What inspired you to write VanWest The Past?

Kenneth Thomas: The concept for the first book originated in 2012 when green issues such as climate change were slowly becoming more talked about (pre-Greta Thunberg). VanWest, set in the year 3000, is a reflection of a world where we have not protect our home, planet Earth; and looks at the consequences, the effect on society, such as forced migration, food shortages, loss of flora and fauna, authoritative regimes and wealthy individuals (oligarchs) who take advantage.

Beyond that, I wanted to write a book with broad appeal; most importantly, one that was entertaining. Working in the movie industry on blockbuster releases for a couple of years, including 20th Century Fox and MGM Studios, I yearned to create something too that thrilled and got everyone excited. Without a movie studio’s budget, I thought a great way to achieve this was through writing; from a screenplay, it developed into a book.

IAN: How long did it take to write VanWest The Past?

Kenneth Thomas: I wrote the outline of my story in my mid-20s, nearly 8 years ago. With work commitments and trying to get onto (and stay on) the career ladder, I left it until recent year, only returning sporadically in-between, mainly to edit. The first book in the series has a lot of historical fiction, and I wanted to get the details right, whilst having an engaging, fast-flowing books, with a focus on conveying the emotions of the characters and settings.

IAN: Do you have a specific writing style?

Kenneth Thomas: In VanWest, the style is fast-flowing, with quite a bit of dialogue from the characters. I decided to write the first edition in British English (there are a few different grammar and spelling rules to American English). Being British, I felt it was more authentic to write in this style, for the first edition at least.

IAN: How much of the book is realistic?

Kenneth Thomas: I think this 5-star rating from Readers’ Favorite, K.C. Finn, sums it up best:
Excerpt: Author Kenneth Thomas presents a stylish and solidly built science fiction work with plenty for fans of hard sci-fi and dystopia to get their teeth into. There is also a great deal of drama and emotional involvement throughout the plot, which makes for a well-rounded read and helps to place the characters realistically in their fantastical setting. One of the things which I particularly enjoyed about the tale was a blending of new futuristic science fiction with classic sci-fi ideas from the past, which were meshed really well by the 1950s setting. As we visit many familiar places and times in Earth’s recent past, so realism and surrealism blend to perfection: we are in safe hands with a capable narrator who holds the story together well.

IAN: How is your book different from others in your genre?

Kenneth Thomas: Great writer’s voice is one feedback I have received, that my characters are multi-dimensional and that there are multiple leads. This book is an emotional journey as much as anything else, you feel the chapters and the settings, a full range including excitement, suspense, fright, intrigue, happiness. This is not a typical science fiction book.

IAN: Who designed the covers?

Kenneth Thomas: Elementi Studio designed my covers from The Past and The Present. I did an outline sketch and she brought it to life. I dare to say that The Past is the best cover design of 2020. Note the elements, the eye looking at our future dystopian Earth, eye numerals for time-travel to return to the past, hidden secret hint – the eye also relates to a character in the book. Elementi did an amazing job.

IAN: Did you learn anything from writing VanWest The Past and what was it?

Kenneth Thomas: There is a lot of Historical fiction in first book, the Utopians seek to change the past, targeting the creation of CERN, ISS launch, there is also details on British territories and history, as well as technologies, such as power generators.

IAN: Do you have any advice for other writers?

Kenneth Thomas: I’m still learning… If self-publishing, spend the time researching items such as your book cover and look at a few providers. The synopsis and book cover will be amongst the first items your potential reader will look at, so do not rush this.

IAN: What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?

Kenneth Thomas: Two items I spent the most time on, emotion and historic settings. With each chapter, I try to capture the emotion and where applicable build the suspense. You can really read and feel VanWest’s journey, and that of other characters in the book. It seems everyone’s favourite chapters are those set in 1950s Paris, where VanWest moves from the futuristic setting of the year 3000 to travel back in time to stop a renegade sect. I spent a lot of time to get the details and feelings right. I did this also for 1998 Florida.

IAN: Tell us about your next book or a work in progress. Is it a sequel or a stand-alone?

Kenneth Thomas: The Present is the second book in the VanWest series. To defeat the Universal Council, VanWest is made to confront his dark past. Uncovering Mars’s many secrets and the coming together of Earth’s main opposition groups could prove pivotal in defeating the Council’s mighty Space Army. However, success is not what it appears, for there’s a twist that he could not foresee. Out end of July 2020.