So, I dropped the ball last week. I'm sure everyone noticed. . . But I missed out on posting a coffee shop talk, and for that I apologize! For those of you that like horror (who doesn't) you'll enjoy this little conversation with Dan Foley, one of the local masters of the genre. So with nothing more, here we go!
Dan the Man, tell us about yourself and what you write.
My genre of choice is horror. That said I should clarify it a bit. It’s not over the top, blood and gore horror, it’s more psychological. I want to disturb the reader, put something out there to make them stop and think.
My latest published book is Wolf’s Tale. It’s a follow-up to my novella, Intruder. Intruder is a ghost story that takes place aboard a nuclear submarine. After writing Intruder I always wondered what happened to Melvin “Wolf” Lobo, one of the main characters. I had given him a back story that was filled with possibilities, so I wrote Wolf’s Tale to see what happened to him after he went back to his home in the bayous of Louisiana.
I’m waiting on word from publishers on two other novels right now, “Alone?” and “Witches”.
I'm sure they'll find a home. I've read parts of Witches and it's creepy as all get out so I'm looking forward to hopefully seeing it in print someday. So you’ve been writing for quite a bit now with an impressive catalog of published work. At this stage in your career, what is something that you have learned that you wish you knew when you first started writing?
Edit, edit, edit . . . and then edit again. No matter how many times you edit your own work you can never catch all the mistakes. Good, critical, Beta readers are an absolute necessity. I now use a minimum of three, more if I can get them.
What has been the most challenging part about writing for you? Is there a piece that was particularly difficult to get through either due to the subject or just seemingly endless revisions?
My greatest challenge came in my first novel, “Death’s Companion”. I had to kill off a character, the teenage son of the main character. It was essential to moving the story forward. The problem was, I really liked the kid. I had to write that scene at least a dozen times to get it right. I had to start with something like “he got killed” and then build on it from there.
So give us a brief overview of your writing process. Outlines yay or nay?
There are two main types of writers, “plotters” and “pantsers”. Plotters work the whole story out and create an outline before writing it. Pantsers, like me, start with an idea and just start writing. Half the fun for me is seeing where the story takes me.
Do you have a tradition for when you finish a project or have a piece accepted? If so, how do you celebrate?
I did in the beginning. My wife and I would go out for dinner. I still do it for a novel, not so much for short stories. I do, however, keep a “brag shelf” in my bookcase that contains a copy of all my published work.
While we can probably agree that they are all equally important, if you had to choose between plot, dialogue, and pacing, what makes or break a piece for you? If a work has amazing dialogue can you overlook a poorly constructed plot?
No. I need all three. Lack of any of them can ruin a good tale. Thankfully, dialogue comes easy for me and the plot develops as I write. My biggest challenge is pacing. I tend to be a minimalist. Once I finish writing a piece I usually have to go back and fill in information I should have given the reader along the way.
What are you currently working on?
Two things, both novels. The first is Toni’s Tale, a follow up to Wolf’s tale. Several of my readers have asked for it. The second is “Fallen Angel”, a story that has been running around in my head for some time. It’s finally demanding to be written.
Yeah, that one made me laugh. Well, if people want to find out more about you they can swing on over to your amazon page https://www.amazon.com/Dan-Foley/e/B00GI1AJO2 and grab one of your masterpieces. Thanks for chatting, Dan. Be easy my friend.
And, for everyone else, I'm sorry I haven't posted everything! There are a few more conversations to go so hang tight and stay with us. Cheers!
Today, I had the pleasure of talking with writer Lynn Vroman whose forthcoming book Into the Hollow will be out later this year. So, Lynn, tell everyone who doesn’t know you a little about yourself and what you’re working on!
Let’s see… Well, I live in the Pocono Mountains with my husband and four awesome kids. Our house is in the woods, where it’s quiet and we get a lot of deer, bear, and turkey roaming our yard. It’s pretty cool. I write mostly young adult. As far as genre, my present focus is realistic contemporary, but I’ve written fantasy too. My forthcoming book will be out later this year with the amazing Owl Hollow Press, and it’s my heart book. Here’s a blurb:
The hollow was the perfect place to hide.
Or so Free’s dad thought. His plan: flee California with Free’s five-year-old brother illegally in tow, hide out in the mountains of West Virginia, make fast cash during ginseng season, then escape to a nicer place where the law can’t find them. Free isn’t thrilled about living in a holler alongside drug dealers and thieves, but she’s willing to do whatever it takes to keep her family safe. Unfortunately, with their father disappearing into the woods with increasing frequency, Free and her brother exist largely alone. Until their neighbor Cole appears with lots of questions.
Cole’s spent his entire life in the holler—and his entire life working out a way to leave his druggie mother and incarcerated brother. As the editor of the school newspaper, he’s an expert at getting to the bottom of a story, and he’s determined to crack Free—who seems un-crack-able.
When the family she was desperate to protect is ripped apart, Free turns to Cole for help, the only person willing. But while her plan escalates, Free can’t deny the pull she feels toward the boy with too many questions—and who holds just as many secrets. As they become closer, she finds that Cole might need her help as much as she needs his.
Sounds intense! Will be adding it to the to-read pile. With the project nearing the final stages, can you give us a brief overview of your writing process?
Oh man, I wish I had a cool story to give that made me sound interesting, but nope. Basically, once I start drafting, I treat it like a job. I give myself a word count goal to hit every day, and I don’t stop until I reach that goal. It’s not fancy, I know, but it’s what works for me. Now, revision is another story. When I’m in editing mode, I’ll start working as soon as I wake up until I go to bed. I usually have to set alarms to get the kids from the bus stop, make dinner, go to work, etc. This is the time when my family has to remind me to brush my teeth, among other things. Gross, I know. But I’m a woman on a mission!
And you want that mission accomplished! So, going back to the beginning then, how much or what do you need to know about a project before you start writing it?
I need to know all the things. 😉 Seriously, though, my focus at the moment is realistic fiction for young adults, and most of what I write comes from personal experience or experiences of those I’m close to. HOWEVER! When I start a new project, I do research on where I set a book, which includes the culture and geography. Also, I do a lot of research on topics I’m writing about, making sure to supplement my personal knowledge and experience with facts. I’ve interviewed professionals, too, to make sure I’m as accurate as possible. In my office, I usually have a bunch of messy, handwritten notes tacked on the wall while I draft. It’s not a very organized way to do things.
But if it works for you that’s all that matters, and clearly it does. Is there something that you’ve learned thus far in your writing career that you wish you knew when you first started writing?
How to social media. I’m still not great at it, but social media is so important in the age we’re in to get the word out about your work. I’m comfortable being the wallflower, in the real world and the digital world. I know it sounds naïve—really, I do—but when I first started out I thought the hardest part was writing/revising the book. Nah. For me it’s the dreaded self-promotion that must be done to get your work noticed.
I’m right along side you with social media, it is by far from my favorite thing. But you’re right, it’s something that needs to be done in order to be successful. Aside from the social media aspect, what has been the most challenging part about writing for you? Is there a piece that was particularly difficult to get through either due to the subject matter or just seemingly endless revisions?
Funny you should ask this since I’m on the last read-through for a project I’ve been working on for almost two years. Getting the story right is such a huge challenge! It’s never fun when you’re told an entire story needs to be rewritten, and it’s even less fun when you realize they’re absolutely right. It’s so daunting when you love a story so much but know something is clearly missing. It takes a lot out you emotionally until you figure it out. It did for me, at least. So many times I wanted to shelve it—or print it out just to watch it burn in the firepit in the back yard.
I promise I’m not playing with a lighter right now. . . Other than lighting things a-blaze, do you have a tradition for when you finish a project or have a piece accepted for publication? How do you celebrate?
Red wine. Lots and lots of red wine. 😉 But isn’t it such a weird happy/sad feeling when you finally finish a project? Happy it’s done but miss the characters?
I get that! I’ve put off finishing things, and not just writing projects but books, and television shows because I don’t want to say goodbye! So, if you had to choose between plot, dialogue, and pacing, what makes or break a piece for you? If a work has amazing dialogue can you overlook a poorly constructed plot?
This is a great question! Okay, so, I’m an editorial intern for a mid-sized publishing house, and after working with this amazing house, I’ve learned a few things. I used to say the most important thing to me was character, and it still is to some extent. I mean, who wants to follow dull characters for 300 pages? What I’ve seen in the last six months is that a writer can have the most complex characters, but if the plot falls apart, the characters aren’t enough to save the book. Here’s the thing, you don’t need to have a highly commercial plot for me to love a book—I adore those quiet plots that hit you right in the heart—but your plot has to come together organically and smoothly. What hooks me are a great voice and clean writing, which includes awesome, natural dialogue. What keeps me reading to the end is a solid plot.
Everything blends together in one cohesive masterpiece. Any projects currently in the works?
Yup! One I’ve worked on for almost two years writing and rewriting… and rewriting (see above). It’s another young adult contemporary that I HOPE has all the major kinks worked out. The subject’s a little heavy, about a girl who deals with the aftermath of her father’s heroin addiction, but I’m finally happy with the final draft. I’ll be sending it to my agent soon, so cross your fingers for me!
Best of luck with it. I’m sure it will find a home. Okay, so rapid fire time. Try to answer these without thinking. First thing that comes to mind.
Definitely coffee. Well, thanks for hanging for a bit. Best of luck with publication and your future projects! Leave us with some places people can get in touch?
You can find me all over the place!
Email: lynn.vroman1 (at) gmail (dot) com
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Lynn Vroman Book News
So I got the chance to chat with Juan Zapata, the writer behind Golden Skies, a science-fiction thrill ride hitting shelves on June 12th. Come get inside his head with me and find out more about his debut novel.
Hey Juan, thanks for taking the time to talk. For those who aren’t familiar with you or your work could you give us a little background on who you are and what you write?
My name is Juan Zapata. I’m a senior at Alabama A&M majoring in Criminal Justice. I lucked out and got a full ride because of my ACT score, not because I’m brilliant. I was born in Mexico and was brought to the U.S. when I was four. I write science fiction, which is funny because I read more fantasy than anything else. My debut novel, Golden Skies, releases June 12th. It’s about a guy named Malik who is trying to free his hometown from his religious, tyrannical father. There’s jetpacks, guns with no recoil, and these cool gloves that shoot energy shields out and blow people through walls. It’s on another planet with 32-hour days, nine days a week – you get the gist.
Sounds like a good time to me. Though, I don’t know how much more coffee and Red Bull I could drink to add another eight hours to the day! With your book releasing soon, what is one thing that you’ve taken away from the editing and publishing process?
One thing I’ve definitely learned is strategic waiting. For example – my publisher, Owl Hollow Press, told me to shush about my cover when I saw it 3 weeks before everyone else. The reason for that is they wanted to hype people up with teasers. Shortly after this, my publisher said to keep my university from officially announcing my novel until pre-orders were available. It was hard to contain my own constant fidgeting and excitement, but I listened, and it’s turned out great. Patience and timing is definitely key when it comes to marketing.
And two of the most difficult things to have so kudos on being able to contain the excitement. If you had to pick someone to play the main character in a film adaptation who would it be?
Hmm. I think Mahesh Jadu would be a good Malik Zzoha. The actor played in the Marco Polo TV series. He looks amazing.
Good pick. So regarding the writing process and how it differs for every writer, can you give us a look into your writing routine?
My writing routine is chronological. I can’t for the life of me start in the middle or the end and work backward or anything like that. I have to feel like I have a solid base under my feet to build on, to get the context of the characters’ emotions and thoughts. To that end, I write a chapter at a time, and then edit that chapter as close to high quality as possible before continuing to the next.
Make sense. One block at a time, right? Now your novel is set to be part of a trilogy. At what point did you know it was going to be more than one novel?
I knew it was going to be a trilogy because the protagonist is meant to reach a specific point in terms of personal achievement. I originally – back in the early, prehistoric drafts – had the end result as the start with the protagonist reminiscing about the past, but I thought it spoiled things too much. I finally knew it would be a trilogy and not a series once I fleshed out the villain for book 2 and his plans.
That revelation must have made planning much easier. Religion plays a factor in Golden Skies, and whether factually based or fictionalized, writing about religion can be a difficult task. How did you go about that part of the process?
I had to be extremely careful to not offend anyone. I really just had to put in enough characteristics into these fictional religions to keep them from being a mirror image of an earthly one as that would be problematic. One can interpret what they will through symbolism, but I couldn’t make it overt. Owl Hollow Press helped me make Golden Skies enjoyable to anyone from any belief system and I definitely thank them for it.
So, assuming you had to hide out on one planet in our solar system, which one would you pick? Gas giants are an acceptable answer!
I pick Neptune because it looks really, really cool. The deep blue of it makes me extremely curious. Like a bug to a lamp.
Alright, next fun question, if you could travel to any period in time where would you go and why?
I would pick the height of the Roman Empire because it would be ******* amazing. I’d probably be a legionnaire or something. Or a politician in the Senate – the lifestyle would be intriguing to say the least.
At this stage of your writing career, what is something that you’ve learned that you wish you knew when you first started out?
I wish I knew about active voice versus passive voice. Like really knew. Showing versus telling as well, staying away from certain words such as “I felt, I saw” (kind of debated, but my mentor rubbed off on me), and incorporating actions to move dialogue forward rather than relying too much on tags.
Understandable. I think for every writer nailing down the craft is an ever evolving process. Do you have a tradition for when you finish a project or have a piece accepted for publication?
I usually just treat myself to a nice dinner and a day of doing nothing but relaxing. Resting on laurels is always nice haha.
Any projects currently in the works?
Right now, I’m just cleaning up (self-editing) Ethereal Horizon (book 2 in The New Order Trilogy) and starting to write the third one. I want to be ahead of schedule to always have breathing room.
A good goal to have. Well, good luck on the revisions. Kill those darlings! Before we wrap-up, rapid fire time. First thing that pops into your head. Ready? Set. Go!
Not a bad set of choices! Thanks for stopping by and hanging out for a bit, was definitely a good chat. If people want to find out more about you or checkout Golden Skies where should they head?
They can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @Zapatathe1
or like my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Zapatathe1/?ref=bookmarks
Or they can visit my website here: