Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Interview with Author Steve Westover

Deirdra: When did you first know you wanted to be an author?
Steve: I had never thought about writing a novel until I woke up one morning a couple of years ago with some characters in my mind. I told my wife about the story and she encouraged me to write it down. I was a bit intimidated because I had never written anything “creative” before and I didn’t know if I could do it. The entire time I was writing this first FBI thriller, Defensive Tactics, I kept wondering if I could really write a novel and if it would be any good. I viewed the whole process as an experiment but I found that I love it.

Deirdra: What was the pathway like for you to get your first book published?
Steve: It was surprisingly easy, which kind of spoiled me a little. After completing the novel I sent it off to three publishers in Utah. I quickly received the dreaded denial letters from two, but then a couple of months later I received an approval from Cedar Fort. I signed the contract in April and the book was printed and released by August. It all happened VERY fast and as a brand new author with no experience in the world of publishing I found that there was a steep learning curve for the marketing and release of the book. The whole thing was very exciting.

Deirdra: Were you ever discouraged along the way? If so, how did you deal with it?
Steve: While I was writing my first book I took many months off during the writing because I was discouraged and I didn’t know how to proceed. Ultimately I realized I just needed to jump back in and start writing again. With my new book, Crater Lake: Battle for Wizard Island, the writing went really fast. I started writing and was submitting the book within 4 months. The discouraging thing this time was getting an acceptance letter to publish. This was really confusing to me because I considered the story to be better than my first, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. I completed extensive edits, shopped the manuscript around to agents and publishers and then was thrilled to once again to get a publishing contract.

Deirdra: Can you tell us a little about your book Crater Lake: Battle for Wizard Island
Steve: Growing up in Oregon I camped in the mountains many times as a scout and loved it. I knew I wanted to write a “camping” story where the kids had to save the day. I started with the question, “What would happen if all of the adults at Crater Lake disappeared?” How would the kids survive? I then did some research and learned the fascinating legends about the mysterious powers surrounding Crater Lake and I decided to use those legends as the explanation for how the adults disappeared. There is much more to Crater Lake than just appears on the surface. An ancient evil lurks beneath and Ethan and his friends must decipher the legends and clues as they gather artifacts to free their parents from the Prison of the Lost. This is a fun fantasy that can also be a little spooky.

Deirdra: Who has made the greatest difference for you as a writer?
Steve: My wife and daughter. From Day 1 my wife has encouraged me and supported me even when I didn’t think I could write a novel. She read as I wrote and gave great feedback that influenced my writing and the story. My 13 year old daughter also played a huge role, particularly with Crater Lake, as she was part of the target audience I was writing for. It was fun to have her beg for the next chapters and it really pushed me to keep writing. She also made great suggestions and it has been a fun, family experience. My wife and daughter also provide the illustrations that are found inside Crater Lake: Battle for Wizard Island, which I think is REALLY cool.

Deirdra: What is your favorite snack to have while you are writing?
Steve: I have a hard time eating when I write because I’d always be licking my fingers which would make my keyboard all sticky. Gross. So honestly, I don’t snack while I write, which is weird because I snack every other moment of the day.

Deirdra: Besides writing what other talents or hobbies do you have?
Steve: I write my own music and play enough piano and guitar to accompany myself when I sing. Unfortunately, I’m not very good. My family’s favorite song, that I’ve written, is called the Pathetic Song. I wrote it in college when I was going through a dry spell getting dates. “Pathetic” is very appropriate and I sing this one with a heavy country twang.

Deirdra: What words of advice do you have for other writers who desire to have their manuscripts become books in print?
Steve: Denial of a manuscript doesn’t always reflect on the quality of the writing or the story. It can be discouraging to get denial after denial, but the real trick is finding a good match between your story and the right publisher or agent. You may have a great story and you may be a fantastic writer, but the publisher may not be looking for your kind of book at the moment. Don’t take it personally. Persevere and don’t be afraid to ask people for help. Seek feedback, listen and develop a plan for success.

Deirdra: What are you working on now?
Steve: I’ve got a few projects going right now. Crater Lake is intended to be the first book of a trilogy which means I have 2 more Crater Lake books to write. I also have a contract on the sequel to Defensive Tactics which is a mixture of FBI thriller and National Treasure type treasure hunt set around LDS church history in Missouri. I have also completed a young adult dystopian novel called The Aborted about a future slave race that is created when the government harvests abortion victims and grows them to serve the Citizens. In this story, the main character learns the truth about who he his, where he came from and what his role is, and decides to fight back.

Deirdra: Where can our readers go to find your books and order them?
Steve: Crater Lake will be released in early March and can be pre-ordered online at Barnes and Noble, Walmart and of course Amazon at this link. http://www.amazon.com/Crater-Lake-Battle-Wizard-Island/dp/1599559609/ref=sr_1_7?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1327076688&sr=1-7
I love interacting with readers on Facebook and on my blog. http://westoversleftovers.blogspot.com/

Deirdra: Any final words you would like to share?
Steve: I just want to say that I love your blog and the opportunity it provides for readers to get to know the authors and learn about their books. Crater Lake: Battle for Wizard Island is a fun fantasy adventure that everyone, from the middle-grade reader right up to mom and dad, can read and enjoy together.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

interview with Author Cheree Alsop


Cheree Alsop is the mother of a beautiful, talented daughter and two amazing twin sons who fill every day with light and laughter. She married her best friend, Michael, who changes lives each day in his Chiropractic clinic. Cheree is currently working as a free-lance writer and mother. She enjoys reading, riding her Ninja motorcycle on warm nights, and rocking her twins while planning her next book. She is also an aspiring drummer and bass player for her husband’s garage band.

Cheree and Michael live in Utah where they rock out, enjoy the outdoors, plan great adventures, and never stop dreaming.

Please check out Cheree’s other books at www.chereealsop.com


Deirdra: When did you first know you wanted to be an author?

Cheree: I grew up on a farm in Delta, Utah, where I learned the value of hard work and the joy of working with animals. I dove into books at a young age and started writing my own books not long after that. I used to read in the trees in our yard and fell in love with the escape books offered and the chance to experience other lives and adventures far beyond my little world. The first book I ever wrote was a Western hand-written in a notebook that I finished when I was fifteen. It wasn’t very good, but it made me realize that I could indeed finish something I started writing, and it showed me the exhilarating experience of developing my own worlds and characters.


Deirdra: What was the pathway like for you to get your first book published?

Cheree: I began collecting rejection letters early on with my writing. I went to writer’s conferences, which I highly recommend to anyone interesting in writing, I pitched to agents, sent queries, and sent manuscripts to both publishers and agents, but the rejections continued to pile up. Despite a few promising letters, I eventually realized that if I wanted to get published, I would have to take matters into my own hands. Self-publishing was the best decision for me because I like having control over my books and seeing what I can make of them. It’s not the easiest path, but it is very rewarding.


Deirdra: Were you ever discouraged along the way? If so, how did you deal with it?

Cheree: As much as I like to say I took every rejection happily, it did get a little frustrating sometimes when I also didn’t hear any reason as to why the books were rejected. Before self-publishing became more streamline, I thought going through an agent and a publisher were my only options, so I kept trying. I just told myself that each rejection got me that much closer to being published, and in a way, it was true!


Deirdra: Where do your ideas come from? How do you know the idea is good enough to write a book about it?

Cheree: I have several pages of ideas in a notebook that I’m just dying to get to! When the right idea strikes, it sits at the back of my mind and pesters me until I at least write down a synopsis so it doesn’t get lost. When I’m caught in the middle of an idea, it’s such a great feeling knowing that it could eventually turn into a book!


Deirdra: Can you tell us a little about your newest book Crimson.

Cheree: The Silver Series is one that I knew I would eventually write. It’s a series about teenage werewolves trying to survive in today’s world. I love putting myself in my characters’ shoes and wondering how it would be to deal with the normal struggles of growing up along with the additional challenges of being a werewolf.

I’ve always been fascinated with wolves in general, and so the transition to writing a werewolf series was a smooth one; though for some reason I was always against the idea. I never wanted to be a cliché writer, and so my werewolf books don’t just center around life as a werewolf. Instead, they focus on the different aspects that being a werewolf might bring with it. Wolves are one of the few animals who chose a mate and stay with them, usually for their entire lifespan. I felt that this offered a deeper side to werewolves that hasn’t been greatly explored. Wolves are also fiercely loyal and are very territorial, which lends to confrontation and self-sacrifice in difficult circumstances.

Crimson is the third book in the series. It’s about a teenage boy named Kaynan who dies in a car accident and awakens a werewolf. Burdened with heavy guilt over his sister’s death in the same accident, Kaynan escapes with a blind girl named Grace who gives him purpose and direction. Kaynan and Grace seek shelter with a pack of werewolves who brave dangerous odds to help them. Kaynan is given the ultimate chance to make up for his poor decisions, but dying again might be the only way to redeem himself.


Deirdra: Do you ever experience a snag in a story, a form of writer's block? If so, how do you deal with it?

Cheree: If I get a snag, I go for a ride on my motorcycle or in a car (depending on the weather). Driving helps clear my mind and I listen to my playlist (if I’m in the car), and it helps refocus my writing.

Deirdra: What kinds of inspiration do you use during your story creation periods?

Cheree: Music is my muse. I create playlists before I write each book. The songs in the playlist capture the emotions I want to reflect in the stories. I might listen to a song a hundred times while I writing one particular scene in the book, and if I read it again and feel the same emotion, I know I’ve captured what I wanted to for that section of the book.


Deirdra: Who has made the greatest difference for you as a writer?

Cheree: My husband has made the greatest difference by far. He reads every book before I release it and helps me to iron out the snags and rough spots so that the final copy is complete and smooth. He gives me ideas when I’m stuck, and he’s the master behind several of my titles! It’s great to have someone so supportive of my writing. He believes in my stories and where they’ll take us, and he’s behind me every step of the way. Several members of my family also read each copy and catch the glaring errors. It’s amazing to have so much support behind my writing.


Deirdra: I know you are a mother to three kids (two of which are young twin boys!) How do you balance your family time and writing time?

Cheree: Robin Hobb, one of my favorite authors, told me once that you never have more time to write than you do right now. At the time I had a newborn baby (she is now 9), and since then the twins (who are now 2). I try to catch time to write every day, even if it’s just for ten minutes. I write when they’re playing or sleeping, and if I don’t get a chance during the day, sometimes I stay up late just to get some ideas down. My biggest goal is to never let an idea get lost and so I try to write when the ideas are flowing the strongest.


Deirdra: What is your favorite snack to have while you are writing?

Cheree: Chocolate, haha. Sometimes if I write at night it’s the only thing that keeps me awake. Thank goodness for chocolate!


Deirdra: Besides writing what other talents or hobbies do you have?

Cheree: I love to ride my motorcycle, I play the bass in my husband’s garage band, and I love to travel. But most of all, I love spending time with my family.


Deirdra: What words of advice do you have for other writers who desire to have their manuscripts become books in print?

Cheree: I would echo Robin Hobb’s words and say that you'll never have more time than you do right now to write- write in all the spare moments. It'll come together eventually, but write whenever you have that gut feeling to do it. Don't let the ideas slip between your fingers. And above all, believe in your dreams. They really do come true.


Deirdra: What are you working on now?

Cheree: I’m currently working on book two of The Shadow Series and editing book four of The Silver Series. There’s also a book about Shifters called Stolen that’s almost ready to be published and will herald a new series of its own.

Deirdra: Where can our readers go to find your books and order them?

Cheree: Please go to my website at www.chereealsop.com The books are available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords, and the links are at my website.

Deirdra: Any final words you would like to share?

Cheree: Thank you very much for the opportunity to be on your website. I greatly appreciate your time and for those that have read this interview. I hope others can enjoy my books the way I enjoy the escape and adventure offered by other authors.

Book Synopsis:



Silver: Silver, book one of the Silver Series, is a coming of age story about a teenage werewolf whose father is murdered. He has to come to terms with his new life, new school, and new friends while trying to prevent more killings. Attempting to make peace with the territory’s pack and falling in love with a werewolf hunter’s daughter make his new situation even more perilous.


Black: Black is about a werewolf raised through the atrocities of a werewolf fighting ring. He is rescued and given the chance at a new life, but haunting reminders of his past follow him as he tries to make a fresh start. He has to confront his dark history in order to protect the girl he loves, or let himself be swept away into the pain and humiliation of the arena once more.


Crimson: Crimson, the third book of the Silver Series, is about a teenage boy who dies in a car accident and awakens a werewolf. Burdened with heavy guilt over his sister’s death in the same accident, Kaynan escapes with a blind girl named Grace who gives him purpose and direction. They seek shelter with a pack of werewolves who brave dangerous odds to help them. Kaynan is given the ultimate chance to make up for his poor decisions, but dying again might be the only way to redeem himself.


Galdoni: “This is the Arena, and here we live to die.” These are the words carved into a holding cell where genetically-altered gladiators, the winged humans called Galdoni, are trained to fight. Kale, rescued by three high school students and nursed back from the brink of death, is given the chance to experience life as a human. When he is captured, he has to use what he learned in the world outside the Academy in order to free the other Galdoni and return to the human girl he loves.



Shadows: Duskies are born in a dangerous world as servants of the lords of light and shadow, but when creatures known as the Sathen threaten all the races, a Duskie named Nexa finds herself caught in the middle of a perilous journey to save her people and unite the races as one. Facing dangerous odds, prejudice, and violence, Nexa finds strength in those around her and, ultimately, love.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Book Review by Nashova

Book Review for Battle for Wizard Island by Steve Westover

Review by: Nashova

Likes:
The description of scenery is beautiful. This is defiantly the strong point of the author’s writing. I felt as if I was standing there at Crater Lake even though I have never been there. The story is very well thought out and kept me reading. I wanted to see where the story was leading. I wanted to see what was going to happen.

Dislikes:
I had a hard time emotionally bonding to the characters because of the lack of character development and depth. I only cared a little about the characters until the end of the book.
There is a lot of jumping around in the story itself. I wish I could read a few chapters in one character point of view before it switches.
There are a few larger words that I thought should be dumbed down for middle grade readers
I didn’t like the fast pace. The characters had little time to interact with each other. I wish I could have seen them become friends and develop their bonds before the end of the book.
It was painfully obvious that the author is not experienced writing this genre. He is a savvy and good author, just not for this target market audience.


Over all thoughts:
I questioned how much actual mythology the author put into the book verses how much of his own created mythology he used. The setting of the book is at Crater Lake, which is an actual place. If the mythology was based on actual Native America lore it would be a lot cooler, but the book doesn’t say. If it was real lore I wish there was a place at the beginning of the book that explained this.

I wish there was a little more back story that explained why all the characters were at Crater Lake.
As the action picks up the descriptions I love get rudimentary, which is understandable due to the ascending darkness that surrounds them.

I would more than likely read the squeal.
I ultimately enjoyed the book, but some parts of the book were not as entertaining.
Rating: 3 ½ Stars

To find out more about Battle for Wizard Island by Steve Westover please visit: