Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Tina Tamman: The IAN Interview

Tina Tamman was born in Estonia, which even today is a little-known country. Ever since embarking on her PhD at the University of Glasgow, she has been studying historical links between Estonia and Britain, the country where she’s been living now for 40 years and where for half of this time she worked for the BBC.

IAN: Please tell us about your latest book.

Tina Tamman: “Portrait of a Secret Agent” is a biography with an intelligence officer at its heart. His name is Brian Giffey, a man who has been a real discovery. Not a relation, a mystery man, a womaniser who fell in love with a girl half his age and, surprisingly, stayed true to her. So it is also a love story.

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

Tina Tamman: Available as paperback and as e-book.

IAN: Where can we go to buy your book?

Tina Tamman: At Amazon. www.amzn.to/1n9qn6C  

IAN: What inspired you to write Portrait of a Secret Agent

Tina Tamman: It was by accident that I stumbled across this man, Brian Giffey. The more I learnt about him, the more interesting he became. He’s a true eccentric.

IAN: How long did it take to write Portrait of a Secret Agent?

Tina Tamman: There was a lot of research involved, so it took me 2-3 years. Some of it was spent travelling: Giffey’s private papers, for example, are in Sweden. Also, securing photograph rights and getting copies done took time.

IAN: How did you come up with the title?

Tina Tamman: That was very difficult. I wanted something catchy but truthful as well, since it is a biography. There are so many spy thrillers around and I didn’t want my reader to expect more than I could deliver.

IAN: What do you hope your readers come away with after reading Portrait of a Secret Agent?

Tina Tamman: I hope they will think about secrets, even if briefly. We are all used to Freedom of Information requests but not everybody knows that our secret service is outside the system and no questions of any description are allowed. And so the reader remains in the dark as to why Brian Giffey has not been named in intelligence history even though he died in 1967 and has no living relatives. Is he linked to a scandal that has to be kept secret?

IAN: How much of the book is realistic?

Tina Tamman: It is all based on fact; there are also numerous photographs to illustrate the story.

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

Tina Tamman: Secret agent biographies are not that numerous, although there are a great number of biographies of well-known traitors. What sets my book apart is Brian Giffey’s loyalty to the Crown. There is no reason why the public focus should fall solely on those individuals who betrayed work colleagues. Men like Brian Giffey deserve to be known as well.

IAN: What book are you reading now?

Tina Tamman: Very appropriately I’m reading “The Secret Agent” by Joseph Conrad. Cleverly and beautifully written, it is not really a book about the secret service - it’s a police story.

IAN: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in Portrait of a Secret Agent?
Tina Tamman: I would allow myself to add some imaginary scenes, blend in a little fiction. I also think the title needs changing.

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

Tina Tamman: Having no access to intelligence sources is very frustrating. It limits the field. While a fiction writer can invent, a biographer is not at liberty to do so. However, I cannot see MI6 opening its archives to researchers in my lifetime.

IAN: Did you have to travel much concerning Portrait of a Secret Agent?

Tina Tamman: Travel is an inevitable part of research because archives are dotted all over the place and private papers can be in people’s homes, either in the UK or abroad. Such travel allows thoughts to develop and new questions to arise. All very stimulating.

IAN: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Tina Tamman: Most people have heard of James Bond but the world of intelligence is much more complex, also much more interesting than Bond. The more you know, the more you want to know.

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

Tina Tamman: It will be a venture into fiction. A stand-alone novel, it will be about inheritance. And once again both Estonia and England will come into play, as will history.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Julianne DiBlasi Black: The IAN Interview

Julianne DiBlasi Black is a mom, Buddhist, vegetarian, eclectic playlist-fueled graphic designer, multidiscipline artist and illustrator. Who also writes. Her project Sleep Sweet is gaining national attention as a therapy tool in Children’s hospitals nation-wide including University of Michigan Mott Children's Hospital and the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute in Jacksonville, Florida. Combined with it’s Augmented Reality counterpart - the Spellbound App (multi-platform) the book takes on new dimensions and is shattering the confines of traditional hospital stay with leading-edge momentum.

IAN: Please tell us about Sleep Sweet.

Sleep Sweet is a multi-award winning children’s bedtime book, that has been adapted with Augmented Reality technology to bring viewers a complete multi-sensory experience. It is being used as a therapy tool for calming anxiety and helping to distract young patients in children’s hospitals across the country. 

Viewed alone, the book is full of sweeping and fairytale like illustrations with repetitive almost suggested-mediation style text. But paired with a mobile device and a $0.99 app from Spellbound, viewers hear narration, interact with characters, enjoy ambience noises like running water and crickets and hear a beautiful acoustic guitar melody composed specifically for this book. The end result is magical, and I love getting feedback from hospitals about how it helps the kids get through a difficult process or just plan relax.

IAN: Is Sleep Sweet published in print, e-book or both? 

Yes! Sleep sweet is both printed and available in an e-book version, but I prefer the paper. To me it has more snuggle-into-the-covers appeal. Both the digital and the printed version of the book will work with the app.

IAN: Tell us about the Spellbound App and how it enhances the reading experience.

The Spellbound app uses the mobile device’s camera to recognize the illustration, then the 3D scene appears hovering over the existing page on the device. Users can touch the animals on the screen for reactions, have the book read out-loud or just listen to the original score- a gentle, lullaby looping classical guitar solo that is sure to please any age. 

The Spellbound app was just named on the Top Ten Trends in Reading and Book Apps for Children (Publishing Perspectives, Feb 2, 2017: Publishing Perspectives / Article by Porter Anderson) list and Made Nexus Magazine’s 5 Mind Blowing Augmented Reality Apps article (Jan 31st, 2017, https://nexusconsultancy.co.uk/blog/5-mind-blowing-augmented-reality-apps/?utm_content=buffer17d0b&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer )

IAN: Where can we go to buy Sleep Sweet?

On Amazon.com, CreateSpace.com for direct sales or through me at www.SleepSweet3D.com for signed copies. I would also like to offer the Independent Author Network a discount for checking out my interview - go to createspace.com and enter in the coupon code JEZMRCF5 for a 15% discount on Sleep Sweet!

IAN: Which writers/books inspired you when writing Sleep Sweet?

I’ve always loved the classic bedtime tales like Goodnight Moon and The Busy Spider. While I enjoy all forms of children’s literature, I loved the idea of a book particularly designed for bed time. Something that could cary the reader far away to dream land. The illustration work is more painterly than those titles, more dreamlike and fluid. It is kind of a hybrid of my own fine art style and digital illustration.

IAN: When writing Sleep Sweet did anything stand out as particularly challenging? 

I think creating a succession of events leading from wide awake to fast asleep in the limited time frame of a picture book was the most challenging. The illustrations feature her getting more and more tired, finally falling asleep. It was difficult judging based on reading it aloud, how that would translate when reading it to a child. Too fast and they miss the point and don’t have the time to get relaxed, too long and you’ve become boring to the adult reading it. It was an interesting balancing act.

IAN: How did you come up with the story of Sleep Sweet?

Sleep Sweet is both a ritual my daughter and I share at bed time as well as all the stories I’ve told her about my life and where I want to take her some day. Many of the illustrations are from my own trips to Africa, Panama, Alaska and across the US. The book is a guided meditation, a dream journal and a vision board all at once.

IAN: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.

Fortunately I developed my art circles of friends and cohorts early on and through social media, they have been expanded and brought with me anywhere I find myself. With such an awesome global support network already in place that were used to seeing my work and giving great advice, it was an easy transition to begin showing them my illustration work for the children’s books and then the full books themselves. Some of my closest friends are people I’ve never met, but through creativity and the bond of offering up yourself for review - and of course the marvel of digital relationships - I’m grateful to be well-loved and supported.

IAN: What are your ambitions for your writing career?  Full time?  Part time?

Because I am both an author and illustrator/artist I would love to do both part time, essentially creating a full time creative career. Currently I am working on several YA novels as well as a line of coloring books, but I’m also juggling fine art exhibits so I already stay quite busy with both :)

IAN: When did you decide to become a writer?

I’ve always been interested in short story and poetry, but when my daughter was born, I began creating stories based on our adventures, using her as a model. In the last four years since she was born, I’ve put out ten children’s books, all having something or other to do with our home, her development or silly things we share that other parents can relate to.

IAN: What do you like to do when not writing?

I’m really into hiking and camping, traveling and exploring the natural world. I find most of my inspiration in ancient cultures and the timelessness of the planet so when I have downtime I work to refill that inspirational well and fantasize about my upcoming projects.

IAN: Tell us about your next book or a work in progress?

Because every project has its own ebb and flow, I tend to juggle many at a time. I really invite other authors and artists to connect with me, my contact info is:

IAN:  http://www.independentauthornetwork.com/julianne-black.html

Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/cng0fr



Fineartamerica: http://bit.ly/2gfig9g

Niume : http://bit.ly/2e4r9PK 

Web: http://www.JulianneBlack.com 

Saturday, December 24, 2016

How to Leverage Kindle Unlimited for Marketing Your Books

How to Leverage Kindle Unlimited for Marketing Your Books

How to Leverage Kindle Unlimited for Marketing Your Books
By Amy Harrop

Whether you're an experienced author already racking up sales and new readership, or you're just dipping your toes into the vast waters of the self-publishing industry, the thought of making your books available through Kindle Unlimited (KU) has no doubt crossed your mind.

The real questions is, should you or shouldn't you?

Is there a clear advantage for you, the author, in using this service? Because let's be honest, your main goals are to gain exposure for your work and make a living while doing it.

With this in mind, let's discuss how you can market your books effectively by leveraging the Kindle Unlimited platform, along with the pros and cons of using KU vs a wider distribution strategy.

What is Kindle Unlimited?

If you don't already know, Kindle Unlimited is a subscription-based service offered by Amazon that allows readers (Prime and otherwise) to access their entire inventory of KU books for one low monthly fee.

At under $10 a month, it's easy to see why Kindle Unlimited has gained a reputation as the "Netflix" of books!

But, wait a minute... $10 a month for unlimited access to all of their books!? If you're wondering who makes money with this arrangement other than Amazon, you'd be in good company.

Authors the world over have been scratching their heads and tip-toeing around signing up for Kindle Unlimited because they're not sure about its long-term benefits or potential drawbacks.

The Pros and Cons of Using KU vs. Using Wider Distribution

There are several pros and cons that go along with using KU vs. wider distribution options, or doing the exact opposite.


  • It enhances the reach of your books - Amazon has at least fifty percent market share in the US and UK when it comes to digital book sales. That's VERY significant. Their best-selling Kindle e-readers, tablets and apps, as well as Amazon's amazing ecommerce platform and knack for turning browsers into buyers are what drive this phenomenon. And it's increasing every year.

The bottom line? Having your books featured on Amazon increases the likelihood that they will be found and read by a lot of people.

  • You gain access to Amazon's ecommerce tools - Amazon's team is masterful at getting consumers to buy, and it's no different when they market digital books.

Through their KU program, you gain access to unique promotional tools like their Kindle Countdown Deals and Free Book Promotion, which both help to boost your readership and launch your new titles to success.

  • You earn royalties for ever page read - Unlike traditional books sales where a customer buys your book and you get a one-off payment, with KU authors are paid a small royalty for every page read from each book.

Yes, you probably won't make millions, but every penny does add up.


  • Exclusivity of your book title with KU - You read right. If you decide to promote a book using Kindle Unlimited, you cannot promote that title anywhere else.

You're title is bound to Amazon's KU for 90 day spans, after which, you have the option to renew your contract.

  • Potentially low earnings - Unless you're in the top percentile of book publishers in the Kindle Unlimited program, you shouldn't expect to get hefty royalty checks.

The vast majority of self-published authors find that the potential for earnings per book are much higher on other platforms when compared to KU.

There seems to be more to love about the program than there is to hate it.

But is it wise to put all of your eggs in one basket and have titles exclusive to Amazon's Kindle Unlimited? Is there a point to even signing up if the chance of earning significant royalties are slim?

The Answer: Yes and No, depending on your marketing strategy.

How to Use KU to Sell More Books

We already mentioned that Amazon has the lion's share of the digital book market, but something that you may not know is that their KY customers are no ordinary readers.

The average person who signs up for a subscription service like Kindle Unlimited is best described using one word: Voracious!

Think about it.

Who else would sign up for an unlimited supply of books each and every month? Someone who can't get enough of the written word and who has the potential to turn into a very loyal reader, if given a good reason!

Marketing experts the world over have used the "free offer" angle to hook new users into their products and services for decades. Some examples are, free samples given away at wholesale clubs, free trials of software and free content given away to get new subscribers for email lists.

It's so surprise that this strategy works amazingly well for selling eBooks too, especially if you're newer to the game and haven't made a name for yourself among readers.

If you view Kindle Unlimited as a springboard for launching your self-publishing career it can be a real asset. The key is not to make all of your books available there, but only a few of your absolute best.

And why your best work?

Because, if a reader comes across one of your books you want them to be so excited, spellbound and addicted that they have no choice but to go out and buy additional titles if they want more. How's that for encouragement?

Even a single exceptionally written and presented book offered on the KU platform has the ability to move you from completely unknown to prominent among your target audience, literally overnight.

But what if you're an established self-publisher who already has a significant following?

If you're already well-known and enjoying lucrative digital books sales, Kindle Unlimited may not be an essential aspect to growing your readership (although it can't hurt).

On the other hand, by not publishing at least one title on the platform, you may be missing out on significant marketing potential (don't worry, you can always use a pen name).

Lindsay Buroker, one author earning a full-time income for her work, attributes anywhere from 85-90% of her income to utilizing the Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing and Kindle Unlimited platforms. In contrast, her other book titles spread across seven alternative platforms collectively bring in the remaining 10-15%.

In her case, the math is undeniable.

But the only way to know how it would work for you is to choose some titles, register for your own Amazon KU account and see what happens.

The Perils of Avoiding Wider Distribution

No matter how you feel about Amazon, the fact is that they are one of the major book distributors worldwide. While it may be a grave mistake to leave them out of your plans for marketing and distributing self-published titles, total exclusivity could be equally troublesome.

While it can be very effective, as with most things, there is one caveat to using Kindle Unlimited exclusively for marketing your brand.

While Amazon does have the majority of readers, you are missing out on the millions of readers on other platforms such as Apple's iBookstore, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and more.

For that reason alone, it is never recommended to use any single distribution and promotion strategy. Instead, focus on using KU to promote some of your best books to gain the exposure and new readership that only Amazon can offer and put the rest of your books up for sale on any platform and in any format that will produce sales and profits for your work.

While Kindle Unlimited isn't a good fit for every author, it is worth investigating as part of a multi-strategy book marketing plan.

Check out my blog for more publishing tips. Amy Harrop Blog

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/expert/Amy_Harrop/695929

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Michael Eves Shaffer - The IAN Interview

Michael Eves Shaffer was born on April 1st at one in the morning. Whether the birthday shaped him or he chose that date to represent his life, only the divine really knows. His tastes have always been extremely eclectic as well as his career paths. From his first job as a dishwasher, he went into the Army to become a turbine engine mechanic. After four years, he got out and joined the Army Reserve Military Police. Which immediately deployed for Desert Storm. Returning home, he worked as a bookkeeper for an accounting firm. But adventure still interested him, so rejoined the Army to become a Calvary Scout. Which meant his job was to go behind enemy lines to observe what they were doing. While stationed in Baumholder, Germany, as part of the 4/12 Infantry Brigade, he was deployed to Bosnia. After his time there, he moved fully into civilian life, doing a number of different things before he settled into software engineering.

Currently lives in Youngstown, Ohio, with three cats (Scooter, Tanjay, and Isbit) and an Anatolian Shephard (Fafhrd). He had always been into fantasy and science fiction, a very avid reader since before he got into school. In October of 2014 he finally decided to put together the pieces and parts that had been running through his head. In April of 2015, he published his first book, Firing of the Crucible. His second book followed in June of the 2016, Forging of the Blade. Part of the delay was he had decided that he wanted to add illustrations. After going through a number of artists who said they wanted to be part of the project, he tried his hand at art. Forging shows his first attempts and a month after the released Forging, he re-released Firing with added artwork. 

IAN: Please tell us about your latest book.

M. Shaffer: My latest book is Forging of the Blade.  It’s the second book of the Phoenix Empire series.  In the first book Firing of the Crucible, Earth was seeded with the Awakening Spores and the first 13 Omegas were retrieved.  In Forging of the Blade, they begin their training with their new Aether abilities and work on bringing up as many Sigmas and Omegas as they can.  Not to mention figuring out what place the Terran’s will have in the Dvane Empire once the war is won.

In the book, the reader will be exposed to more of the Dvane language, and not just some of the curse words.  The Dvane language is actually based on a real language:  Enochian. 

IAN: Is Forging of the Blade published in print, e-book or both?

M. Shaffer: It is available in both and also Kindle Unlimited.

IAN: Where can we go to buy Forging of the Blade?

M. Shaffer: Available at Amazon http://bit.ly/2cANKBq

IAN: What inspired you to write Forging of the Blade?

M. Shaffer: The two most powerful words in any language:  What if.  What if almost all the religions and scientists had been right?  What if there was a common thread between all the stories dating back to before we started recording them?  And what if that thread was alien influence?  What sort of influence would it be?  We are an extremely war-like race.  Even among the different species of animals on earth.  Why are we so different than them?  One would think with intelligence we would be more peaceful.  What if the alien race that created us didn’t want us to be?  And what would drive them back to pick us up?

IAN: How did you come up with the title?

M. Shaffer: The idea was that Terrans were created to be a weapon to be wielded by the Dvane Empire.  Terrans were the iron ore.  The Awakening and Call was the Dvane firing the crucible to draw out the steel.  In the second book, Forging of the Blade, the steel is being turned into the weapon needed.

IAN: What do you hope your readers come away with after reading Forging of the Blade?

M. Shaffer: A sense of questioning everything they’ve been told so far.  We, as a society, have gotten into the habit of believing what the talking heads in Washington and on the university “elites” tell us.  We need to break that habit.  I presented a logical and scientifically sound alternative to a lot of the things we take for granted.  Not saying they are right.  Just that they are possible and can’t, at this time, be proven wrong. 

IAN: How is Forging of the Blade different from others in your genre?

M. Shaffer: There are a lot of ways this series is different.  But I think the biggest one that will attract the most people is while I put in some Archetypes in as the initial Omegas, they aren’t the only heroes.  Just like in the real world, a war isn’t won by a single person or even a single band of heroes.  So, while almost all of the action will take place around the first 13 Omegas and 15 Roh, the actions of those around them will have as much or more importance as theirs.  One of the biggest draws for Star Wars was the thought that almost anyone could be a Jedi.  I want to take that a step further and bring focus to the people who not just support the Terrans, but who play their own, separate role in trying to defeat the Easlank.

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

M. Shaffer: Robert Heinlein.  If you haven’t read him, you definitely should.  He was primarily science fiction, but any of his stories could have been put at almost any time, past or present.  He wrote everything from children’s books to things that were very adult oriented.  While his books were great adventures unto themselves, they also had life lessons and, most importantly, hard questions you had to ask yourself.  Made you challenge what you’ve been told and taught. 

IAN: Are there any new authors that have caught your interest?

M. Shaffer: David Webber and John Ringo.  David’s Honor Harrington had a big impact on what I should expect in descriptions of realistic space combat and so heavily influenced how I handle it.  John in how much fun can be had if your main characters have realistic handicaps, mental and emotional, to flesh out characters and make them easier to relate to.

IAN: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.

M. Shaffer: That would definitely be Kristyna Burkel.  She has helped with reading over and many other aspects of the books themselves.  Inspiration, reality checks, and the like.  Also has been a great friend and supporter.

IAN: Who designed the covers?

M. Shaffer: On the second one, me.  I really wanted to go with local artists.  You know, support the artist community.  But when the third one flaked out on me, and pretty much at the last minute, I gave up and taught myself drawing.  The cover isn’t the greatest, but it beats the hell out of most of the “pro” covers out there because it is from a scene in the book.  All my covers are and will be.  One of the thing a hate about new books.  Their covers have nothing to do with the book.  Hell, you’re lucky if they get the genre right!

IAN: What was the hardest part of writing your books? 

M. Shaffer: Deciding where and how to end each book.  There is the urge to end it at the end of an epic battle like most movies do it.  But that is wrong in storytelling.  Obviously, movies have a run-time issue.  You want all the eye-candy you can stick in it with the shortest runtime you can get away with.  Because you want to get it run as many times as you can in the theater.  However, in a book you have an obligation to go over the repercussions of said battle.  And if it’s a series like mine, you really need to set things up for the next book.  And if it’s an epic story like mine, you need to do some set up for the tenth book down the line.

IAN: Do you have any advice for other writers?

M. Shaffer: Yeah.  Don’t.  Leaves more room for me!  Just kidding.  Seriously, though, I can’t think of anything that hasn’t already been said.  Write what you know.  If it doesn’t flow smoothly, then it’s probably not what you should be writing.  Writing should be a passion.  Not something you do just to make money.  It’s an art form.  This isn’t to say you should give your work away or that you should look to get rich off it.  As I said, it’s art, and someone should be willing to pay to enjoy it.  Just that if it’s your primary motivation, you won’t care about the writing.

IAN: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

M. Shaffer: Yes!  Don’t assume you know where my thoughts are going or what my personal views are.  I’m trying to create specific and distinct characters.  They should be relatable but different.  There will be characters who are “heroes” but are generally distasteful people.  They will have character traits that some consider flaws.  But they are just traits.  It goes to the old adage:  Action speaks louder than words.

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

M. Shaffer: One of the biggest challenges was the Dvane language.  It is directly derived from Enochian, an actual language.  It is intrinsic to the narrative.  Many believe that it was the original language all people spoke.  I was having trouble working with it.  Then I finally got one of the few experts on the language to start helping me.  Her name is Patricia Shaffer.  I call her Mom.  Because, well, she is my mom.  But she had a stroke a few years back and had been getting kind of blah about life.  But with these books, getting her involved, I was able to get her really interested in life again.  It was a challenge, but well worth it!

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

M. Shaffer: The third book in the Phoenix Empire series will be coming out the beginning of 2017.  It will be called Qwenching the Blade.  And yes, the spelling is correct.  The Vangart jumps out of the Terran system with a little over 500 Omegas and Sigmas.  And almost immediately into combat!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Joel Hirst-The IAN Interview

Joel D. Hirst is a writer and novelist. Author of the recently released “Lords of Misrule”, he has also written “The Lieutenant of San Porfirio” and its sequel “The Burning of San Porfirio”. He is currently working on “From the Camps”, the saga of a boy from a refugee camp in East Africa. Hirst has worked as an international aid worker for almost two decades, and has been a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. Hirst is a graduate of Brandeis University. He lives in Gilbert, Arizona.

IAN: Please tell us about your latest book.

Joel D. Hirst: “Lords of Misrule” is the story of a young Tuareg boy who is brought into conflict and forced to flee his country of Mali. It is about his journey across the Sahara to become an Islamic Judge (Qadi) and jihadist, before he finds something that changes everything in the dusty libraries of Timbuktu. It is the tale of the making and unmaking of a jihadist.

IAN: Is Lords of Misrule published in print, e-book or both?

Joel D. Hirst: Both.

IAN: Where can we go to buy Lords of Misrule?

IAN: What inspired you to write the book?

Joel D. Hirst: We are in the midst of a dramatic international conversation on the issue of violent Islam, especially as terrorist attacks keep hitting the west and the Islamic State and their atrocities dominate the news cycle. There is a tendency to oversimplify issues and appeal to stereotypes or to simplistic arguments, without recognizing that Islam also has its own history and people their own motivations. Through this novel, I am telling the story of a young Tuareg boy who gets caught up in Jihad, and why. And how he finds his way out of it – and what the consequences are. The novel delves a lot into Islamic tradition, as well as Tuareg/Saharan history. Specifically, it looks at traditions of rational thought in Islam, Aristotelian philosophical traditions that were lost almost 1000 years ago and have not yet been re-discovered, and what would happen if they were. It is a hard story, but an honest one which adds my perspective to some of the ongoing debate.

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

Joel D. Hirst: That’s an interesting conundrum. I try to make an outline, and I usually know where my protagonist ends up at the end of the story before I write it. But when I sit down and start to write, the travails and travels and circumstances for the protagonist sort of write themselves. So I have found that I don’t do too well with a formal outline, just milestones that I want to arrive at and let the story fill itself in as I go along.

IAN: Do you have a specific writing style?

Joel D. Hirst: I use lots of magical realism in my writing. My novels series of “San Porfirio” were Latin American magical realist novels written as dictator novels. “Lords of Misrule” also has magic, this taken from Islamic and pre-Islamic Saharan traditions, which I think you’ll find both interesting but also gives flavor and color to our understanding of different societies. Besides that, “Lords of Misrule” is written in third person limited point of view. It is sweeping, and epic – and holds closely to the flavors and sights and smells of the Sahara.

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

Joel D. Hirst: I hope the book allows readers to reflect on the real reasons why terrorism exists, what some of the motivations could be, and what are some ways that the power of the mind is used to combat violent ideology. The book is not meant to lecture, it is instead meant to give people a look into the mind of a young man who finds himself fighting on the ‘wrong’ side and what he feels about that, and what steps he tries to take to save his soul.

IAN: What books have most influenced your life most?

Joel D. Hirst: More than individual books, authors. My favorite storyteller is W. Somerset Maugham; and it is from him that I learned how to story-tell (I like Moon and Sixpence; I love Of Human Bondage – although I found it immensely sad). I learned magic from Isabel Allende (not all her work I like, and her political leanings annoy me, but Eva Luna is a masterpiece). And Ayn Rand of course was pivotal in my understanding of the individual as the central character in their own story – the fight for freedom and meaning and reason (Atlas Shrugged of course, but I prefer The Fountainhead. That story is a little more honest and tries less hard to be philosophical).

IAN: Do you see writing as a career?

Joel D. Hirst: I would love writing to be a career. It’s a difficult time for new authors, as all writers know. Publishing houses only invest in a ‘sure thing’ and the ‘democratization’ of the publishing world, while a good thing, makes it a little hard to break through into to the general public. These are not complains, just realities. Writers have always faced challenging times to make themselves heard above the fray. This is not new. All that to say, right now I hold a day job, which I do love, but which also allows me the income and experiences to continue to write until one of my novels “makes it”.

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

Joel D. Hirst: I come from a family of educated folks. My father has a PH.D. and my house was always full of books. My brother is a journalist and a writer (non-fiction). So writing, as a natural result of thinking, has been something that I’ve known forever. I started writing fiction after living for 4 years in Venezuela during the apex of Hugo Chavez’s “revolution”, and saw so much there that was novel-worthy and that there was no way to express in non-fiction that I decided to tell a fictional story about what I had seen. The struggles of ordinary people to find meaning in their lives under political project that wanted all of their attention. The desires of the poor to be free from hunger, and the desires of the rich to be free from the poor. An honest story that does not really take a side, necessarily, but that shows why the ideas led to the apocalypse; all of this ended up being “The Lieutenant of San Porfirio”. I followed this up with “The Burning of San Porfirio”, which starts with the collapse of the political project and the death of “El Comandante” and follows the protagonists as they try to re-discover humanity and rebuild their lives after the revolution sputtered out. “A modern day, secular Pilgrim’s Progress” is what it has been called.

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

Joel D. Hirst: I have been blessed with wide travel. I have visited four continents and more than fifty countries; Africa, North Africa, Latin America, and Europe. I have lived for more than thirty years overseas, in some of the hardest places in the world. These travels have made me sensitive; they have made me sad. They have robbed me of my feeling of invincibility and they have made me question a lot of what I believe and was taught. But my interactions with people has given me a deep commitment to their struggles, which is something that comes out in all my writing.

IAN: Who designed the covers?

Joel D. Hirst: The artist for all my novels is Andres Rodriguez, a company called Arghoost Toons. He is Argentina and lives in the southern interior of that country.

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

Joel D. Hirst: Lords of Misrule is my best written (according to my editors), and most challenging, novel. It took me 2 years to research and another year to write. I had to research Islamic thought, philosophy, traditions and history. I also had to learn about Tuareg and Berber history and traditions and then I had to weave those together over the backdrop of an epic Saharan tale. All of this required a lot of reading and talking to Tuaregs and Muslims from different traditions. It helped that I was living in Mali for these years, and so I had direct exposure to so much of the fabric of the novel. And then the book went to an Islamic scholar to make sure it was accurate and respectful, as well as to an Amazigh (Berber) expert to ensure that the traditions of that ancient people were respected. It was a heavy life, and I invite you to pick up a copy and immerse yourself in something foreign, yet enrapturing.

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

Joel D. Hirst: I have finished writing and am currently editing my 4th novel, provisionally titled “From the Camps”. It is the story of a boy’s from a refugee camp in East Africa and his hard journey to manhood, and meaning. It is a story of poverty and of violence – for too many people across Africa, it is their life’s story.

For more information about this author and his books click here > Joel D. Hirst