The Innovators #11 with…The Innovators (aka Interview with the Blog)

Now that The Innovators has ten interviews under its belt and has grown a small (but loyal) audience, it has started to take on a life of its own and has requested that the writer interview It this week. Never being one to turn down an interview request, the writer has obliged. So here we go….

Introduce yourself.

Hi! I’m The Innovators, a weekly interview series that focuses on indie creatives. I came into existence a few months back and since then I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing ten incredibly talented artists, including musicians Gerry Weaver and Preston Bell, writer/poet Jared Kane and indie authors Julia DeBarrioz, Eme Savage, Darren Edden, Billy Middleton, Lee Vockins, RJ Jacobs and Eric Woods.

What drives you, Innovators Blog? What inspires you to do this work?

I’m inspired by creativity! I have an affinity for artists, for their art. I think creation is a human superpower (next to love, of course). Art is a balm to all the hurts of humanity and those who create art need to be supported and encouraged in their continuing quests to bring their imaginings to life. It takes a unique sort of courage to share one’s art, to share those thoughts, feelings, ideas that often come from the darkest, quietest parts of one’s soul and offer it up to the rest of the world for comment or criticism. I wish to play a postive role (albeit a small one) in helping artists, particularly indie authors, to gain exposure and confidence in their work and perhaps themselves too. I want them to know that they are supported, they are heard, they are seen, they are important.

What’s the hardest part about being a blog?

Finding readers, finding an audience, for sure, that’s the toughest part! I am just a small platform, with a small voice. Hopefully, over time, more and more people will see my posts and will share it on their platforms and my audience will grow from there. I really want to get the artists I feature out in front of as many eyes as I possibly can.

Upcoming interviews?

Well, I’m excited to have my first indie filmmaker interview coming up next week with Leah Solmaz and after that, two more talented indie authors: CK Shakleton and Patrick D. Kaiser! I am hoping to continue the writer streak into the new year. I think interviews with John Meredith, MG Unger, Jason Rogers, Tanis Justice, Slate Raven, Freddie Ahlin and O.S. Williams would be cool.

Where can readers find you?

They can find me every Wednesday right here on this blog (www.melanie-ever-moore.com) and on Melanie Ever Moore’s Instagram @m.ever.moore and on her Facebook writer’s page: Realign My Stars (speaking of which, she should probably change that name soon. I mean really, it should have been changed to “The Innovators” months ago….)

Thanks, Innovators Blog!!

The Innovators #10 with…author Eric Woods

It takes time, hard work, and patience as an indie,
and we should never give up on something we love.

Introduce yourself and your books.

Hi, my name is Eric Woods. I am an independent multi-genre author who has published three novels: Pummeled (2018), Dragon’s Blood (2019) and Welcome to Oblivion (2020) along with a collection of stage plays (Playing with the Macabre – 2020) which were written between 1997 and 2003. My interest in writing began in third grade when my class was given the assignment of writing a short story. I became hooked on creating fictional worlds ever since.

Tell me about “The Amalgam”

The Amalgam is the universe by which my stories live and breathe, and the ultimate plan is to publish 10 novels within this universe. I also included the play collection as part of The Amalgam, as characters from several of those pieces will pop in from time to time in the novels. The Amalgam was inspired by a couple things – the Stephen King Dark Tower universe and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Both tell multiple tales but they all occur within the same world, there is a supreme antagonist that oversees the chaos, and many stories and characters come together at the end. The Amalgam will culminate with the 10th novel, where many characters from the other stories come together to face off with the primary antagonist of the universe.

You’ve written in both the drama and horror genres. Which do you most prefer to write in? To read? Why?

My dream as a writer has always been to write in the horror and suspense genres. I grew up on 1980’s slasher films and have loved horror movies since I was a kid. In grade school when we were assigned to write short stories in class, I always went with a scary and suspenseful story. It is just what I have always been drawn to. Horror is also my preferred choice when reading, although I have expanded my choices in the last year as I have gotten to know more and more independent authors. With PUMMELED (my first novel), I took a somewhat personal approach and used themes that were personal to me. That book was somewhat of a release for me, but it also shattered a decades long feeling that I couldn’t complete a full-length novel.

Who or what inspires your writing/creativity?

Stephen King is my horror inspiration. I read Pet Sematary in middle school and was hooked after that. I am also fascinated by dreams. Both Welcome to Oblivion and my next novel were initially inspired by dreams. With WTO, I recall a dream of being lost inside a dark, giant mansion and not being able to find my way out. I felt the presence of something following me but saw only a shadow.

You are a great supporter of other indie authors. Tell me what draws you to support other writers and why do you think it’s important to do so?

I do not see other indie authors as competition. I know how hard it is to get noticed as an author. It is not only a challenge just completing the first draft of a story, but the tiresome, never-ending process of editing, revising, and finding others willing to read and give feedback is an intense process. Followed up with the actual publishing procedure, and authors have already put in endless hours just in the hopes of getting a few eyes on their work. Independent authors and artists love their creations, and it is likely that they have been discouraged by others as they hone their craft. If I can help them along the way, that is what I will do.

What is your biggest challenge in being an indie? How do you overcome it (or have you/can you)?

As with any independent author, artist, singer, etc., the challenge is getting people to notice your work. There are literally thousands of independent authors around the world with easier access to self-publish now than ever before. So, the challenge is growing a fanbase who can find your work and take a chance. It is also a challenge being able to put up with rejections and bad reviews. The only way to overcome any challenges is to fight through them and not become too discouraged. It takes time, hard work, and patience as an indie, and we should never give up on something we love.

What is your superpower? What is your writing kryptonite?

I believe my superpower is being able to create unique, entertaining, and chilling stories that leave my readers wanting more. My kryptonite is time. It took me decades to finally break the barrier and finish my first novel, and I write whenever I have free time. But free time is not always the easiest thing to come by. Along with my full-time job, I am also a freelance writer. During the months of March through October, I serve as the tour guide for the local Lincoln Ghost Walk several nights a week.

What are your upcoming projects?

I will publish my 4th novel, Clippings, in March. It is uniquely formatted and not your traditional tale. The chapters are written in various forms of media communication (newspaper articles, blog posts, newscast transcripts, e-mails, etc.). I am even recruiting people who wish to have their images appear in the articles as “characters.” My 5th novel (PUMMELED: Submission) is tentatively scheduled for a Thanksgiving 2021 release. I am still working on the first draft of that one.

Where can readers find you?

At: www.ericwoodsauthor.com on Instagram @eric_woods_author and on Facebook

Thanks Eric!!

The Innovators #9 with…author RJ Jacobs

Clear writing awakens a sense of recognition for me and brings a richer understanding of the lives going on around me.

Introduce yourself and your books.

I’m RJ Jacobs, a psychologist and author in Nashville, Tennessee. I’ve published two novels: And Then You Were Gone (2019) and Somewhere in the Dark, which came out in August. I’ve lived in Nashville since 2003 and see patients as part of a multi-speciality medical practice.

What came first in your life: writing or psychology? 

I actually started out as an English major as an undergraduate at University of Florida, then switched to Psychology in my Sophomore year. Still, I really enjoyed writing and kept on when I had time, usually on breaks. Of course I had no idea how to construct a story when I was starting out but, the early experience in finding a rhythm to my writing and creating a habit of putting words down became really helpful later on. 

How does your role as a psychologist influence your role as a writer? 

Clinical work is always interesting. One thing I can say that’s a real advantage of being a psychologist: the day-to-day is never dull. Stories I hear sometimes stimulate my imagination. I don’t want patients to think I’m transcribing what they say into my novels, because obviously I wouldn’t, but I have to admit some of what I’ve heard has started me thinking, “what if . . .”

How does your role as a writer influence your role as a psychologist?

There’s a psychotherapeutic technique called narrative therapy that essentially helps patients transform difficult experiences by re-imagining them, by seeing contexts differently, and by encouraging greater sense of imagination and creativity in developing outcomes. I’d like to think that being a writer has helped my therapy work by giving me a clearer sense of how to guide a process like that. 

How do you find the time to write novels AND maintain a private practice?  What is your writing/ creative process?

Finding time is one of the biggest challenges. There’s always so much to do! I live with my family which helps balance my perspective but also is a tremendous time commitment. Sometimes, I have to write what I can, or whenever there’s a free moment. There was an evening last year when I wrote in the hallway of my daughter’s middle school while she was cheerleading by using the notes function of my iPhone. You just have to do your best and try to get something accomplished even if it’s minimal progress. Usually the best times for my writing are early in the morning or in the evenings, when my kids do their homework. Sometimes it seems like we each find a quiet space to do our own “homework.”

Besides psychology, what else influences and drives your writing?   Who or what inspires you?

I’m inspired constantly, particularly by contemporary writers who capture American culture in ways that I’ve observed before but had never named in my own mind. Clear writing awakens a sense of recognition for me and brings a richer understanding of the lives going on around me. I had that sense when I read Angie Kim’s novel, Miracle Creek, last year. There were paragraphs in her book I read repeatedly to make sure I was fully taking them in. I’m reading Leave the World Behind, right now, and have a similar feeling. I like reading the work of writers who are simply better than I am. 

Most self-published authors would love to know how you got your books published by a traditional publisher.  Please share your secret!

I lucked out by connecting with an incredible agent, Rachel Ekstrom Courage, who is with Folio Literary Agency. When I was starting out, I didn’t understand the difference between writing and publishing, and she’s helped guide me along the way. 

As a traditionally published novelist, how does your marketing work?  Does your publisher handle it?  Do you?  Or is it a mix of both?  

It’s a mix of both. Working with Crooked Lane has been fantastic. At the same time, I’m always trying to find new ways of marketing the books. There are a lot of books in the world and people have limited time to read, so discoverability is the challenge for most writers. This year has been especially tricky because in-person events have either been cancelled of reimagined in virtual formats. Still, people are continuing to read, which is an advantage writers have over say, filmmakers or musicians. I’m in Nashville, and I know a number of musicians who are having a tough time not being able to play shows. It’s hard, but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and hopefully we’ll all use this time to get better at what we do. 

What is your best advice to struggling writers who want to throw in the towel after receiving yet another rejection letter for their work.

I think the secret is to find a writing process that’s enjoyable and repeat it over and over again. Rejection is part of it, for sure. It’s not personal. Writers do well when they’re able to hear feedback non-defensively and try to incorporate it into their storytelling. 

What do you most want readers to take from your books?  Do you recommend your books to clients or leave them on a table in your office?

I’ve given away a few copies to patients who are interested, but my writing rarely comes up, to be honest. The focus in my office is on the patient and most of the time there’s no reason to get into my ambitions as a writer. 

I hope readers find the stories moving and fun to read at the same time. Enjoyment, I’ve learned this year, is a need

What upcoming projects do you have in the works?  Where can readers find you?

Right now I’m writing a book set in the evacuated Florida Keys following a hurricane. The main character is a former horror movie actress searching for her family. As the story unfolds, she starts to suspect the circumstances resemble the film she starred in. A lot of people are intrigued by horror as a genre, but the book is written as a psychological suspense/thriller novel. In the same way that The Woman in Cabin 10 isn’t about the cruise ship industry, horror films and their conventions provide more of a backdrop for the story. It should be a lot of fun. 

I’m easy to find on my website: RJJacobsauthor.com or on Instagram @rjjacobs75 or on Facebook. 

Thanks, RJ!!

The Innovators #8 with….author/poet Jared Kane

This week, I’m excited to feature my favourite author, Jared Kane. His novels (Decline, Mya and The Underside of Wars) are some of the most thought-provoking and beautifully written books that I have come across since my university days studying English lit. He is also an incredibly talented poet who crafts some of the most profoundly dark and stirring poems found on social media today. Read on to find out more…

Introduce yourself and your work.

I’m Jared Kane, a writer of books, short stories, and poetry. I’ve had poetry published by both online and print publications. My novels are currently self-published, and are regrettably in the corner, unwilling to raise their hands to draw attention to themselves. They don’t want to be noticed at this party because they make the most noise, but because they are the most beautiful and profound thinkers in the group. Sometimes those types stay in the corner and are never discovered.

Explain the significance of your Instagram handle, Whirlpool of Crows.

I went through a couple before I landed on this one, and really, I only stuck with this one because it is how many first found me. It’s four syllables of seventeen of a haiku I wrote: a whirlpool of crows / swirls above, justifying / our murderousness. It also features in my first novel, Decline. And I have it tattooed on my arm.

Your first novel, Decline, reads very much like poetry. Tell me why you were inspired to write it like that and why a nameless/anonymous protagonist?

I wanted Decline to differ from all the other post-apocalyptic/dystopian stories out there. I conceived the story before the glut of post-apocalyptic media hit our shelves and screens, but by the time I finished it, a lot of these stories were already out there. So, I took inspiration from a Salman Rushdie book I read once—I’m not sure if I even liked the actual book that much, but the manner in which he wrote it, it felt like you could pull out any random paragraph, arrange it like a poem, and a beautiful poem it would be. At least, that’s how I felt at the time. So, I set about writing Decline with a different mindset: to couch the story in poetic language.

The nameless protagonist is a bit of a shameless homage to Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. Also, the novel is very “stream of consciousness”, like the reader is inside the narrator’s head, hearing what he hears, and seeing what he sees. I feel like his name would be superfluous, and maybe even colour the reader’s impression of him (everyone knows a John, or a Dave, or a Dominic—maybe less so the latter—and if the narrator was “John”, the reader might see their John’s face or hear their John’s features).

Explain the meaning and significance of the quote “Temporis Destruit Omne – Time Destroys Everything” as it applies to your second novel, Mya.

Temporis Destruit Omne is another one of my tattoos now—I hope there’s no Latin scholars out there who pipe in about how terrible my translation is.

Mya is a very intimate book. Without getting into spoilers, “Time Destroys Everything” guides most of what happens in the narrative. It’s a very intimate belief and feeling of mine: it doesn’t matter what you build, what you create, who you become, it will all crumble to nothing in time.

There is no such thing as history and future, past and present—aside from what your senses are perceiving right this moment (itself an interpretation of the mind), everything else is dust or in a state of either becoming dust. A character in Mya proposes the theory of Eternalism, which is a sort of answer to this philosophy. Eternalism is the belief that past, present, and future all exist at once and are equally real (to put it mildly, this is the nutshell version, and I’m absolutely not an expert). This is reassuring in a way: all those times you had, or wish you’d had, they’re all out there still and possible, even if you will never return to them again.

The Underside of Wars protagonist, Matthew Talbot, is a writer frustrated with the state of the literary world and its inability to appreciate his work or give him his “break.” How much of that comes from your own experience as an indie author?

Underside is maybe my most personal book. This will be a very vulnerable answer.

The main character grapples with a lot of things I do, thinks some things I think, feels some things that I feel. Matthew’s experience does reflect my personal experience to some degree when it comes to personality shortcomings and substance abuse. He’s a bit of a cipher. While Matthew is supremely confident in his abilities, that confidence is so shaky that he’s fundamentally unable to accept being unsuccessful, or for success to look different than he always imagined. I am very confident in my ideas, my writing, and what I’ve created. And it can be very hard to accept being passed over. It’s all the more devastating to accept the possibility that I may never be successful (insofar as I define “success”). If that comes to pass, what else is there? There’s a lot more plot in Matthew’s journey, but those quandaries and principles are pretty central.

You’ve described your three novels as a trilogy. With different characters and storylines, how do they fit in/ mesh together as a trilogy? Do they need to be read in a specific order?

I call them my Apocalypse Trilogy. It’s more like they exist in the same universe, and fall somewhere on the same timeline. There’s no direct connection between them except for some easter eggs in Underside that point to it taking place a certain amount of time after Mya. If there was an order, it would be Mya, Underside, then Decline. They absolutely do not have to be read in that order. Though that’s not a bad order in which to read them. A new reader would probably find the language in Mya and Underside more accessible. Then, hopefully after they’ve read those two, they’d be willing to undertake the challenge of reading Decline.

What role does music play in your creative process? What else inspires your creativity? What bands/artists are currently on your writing playlist?

Music is everything to me. Life without music would be food without taste. I have a psychological dependence on music, sort of the way someone can become addicted to gambling: like a gambler feels a shot of dopamine when they pull the slot lever down, so do I feel a surge of dopamine when I hear the music I love.

I always match up a song with what I’m writing. If it’s a sad moment, I play a sad song. If an action sequence, I play a more aggressive song, and so on. I know some writers have difficulty focusing when they’re listening to music, and especially music with lyrics, but I don’t hear the lyrics. All I hear is mood.

In that regard, I have thousands of songs on my writing playlist—it all depends what type of dopamine hit I need at the time! For example, Decline is a quiet, sad, philosophical post-apocalyptic novel, so my playlist for that book included a lot of Lycia for the quiet, sad moments. For the more heartbreaking moments, the playlist would become more aggressively despondent, like Psyclon Nine’s “Under the Judas Tree”. Mya was very much influenced by songs from Yendri, while Underside is more raw, and had music from Amenra and Black Mare (see Black Mare’s “Ingress to Form”). Right at this moment in the block universe, I’m cycling through those three playlists (I still keep a separate playlist for each book on iTunes) as I write these answers.

What else inspires my creativity? Maybe everything, maybe nothing. I’m usually most inspired when I feel a lugubrious emptiness. It’s a profound need that feels deeply hollow. Ironically, it’s difficult to write at those times, because my mind will conjure up the same words and lines over and over. Instead, I’m most productive during times of (and I’m paraphrasing . . . someone . . . I can’t remember who, and I don’t remember the quote well enough to search it) sober reflection on past inspiration.

I’m sure you’re the cosmic love-child of dead poets. Who do you think they are ? What writing talents have you inherited from each of them?

I love this question. Anything that makes me turn around and consider my bookshelves is welcome. It’s like returning to nature after the city.

I’ll say William Wordsworth and Thomas Hardy, which is starting right at the beginning. From Wordsworth, I gained a sense of wonder at nature and a feeling for romanticism that is much more vast than our current crass concept of “romance”. From Thomas Hardy, I inherited a dark and tragic outlook. One is basically a response to the other. Hardy probably continues to have the most influence on my writing. His books can be one thing for 300 pages, and then deliver a gut punch out of nowhere in the last chapter (or last two pages in the case of The Woodlanders) that makes you completely re-evaluate your feelings about the entire book.

What do you hope readers will take away from your work? Do you prefer they read your novels or your poems or both? If they only read one of your books, which one would you most recommend?

I hope that my work evokes an emotional response from readers. The best books I’ve read, I’ll put down and feel different afterwards. The light will be a different warmth, and everything around me will look a little different than it did before. Sometimes this feeling lasts a few hours, a few days, sometimes it’s forever. I want my writing to land on that spectrum for readers. Honestly, as I veer back to the question of “success” that came up several questions back, that is true success. If I can make a reader feel that way, then let the rest of the chips fall where they may.

If I had to choose, I’d rather my readers read my novels. But I don’t write long-form poetry, so read both! Depending on the reader, they might want to start with Underside or Mya because they may go down easier to start.

Where can readers find you?

Readers can find me on Instagram @whirlpool_of_crows, where I post poems and other blurbs, while The Underside of Wars, Mya and Decline are all available on Amazon.

Thanks, Jared!!

Go check out his books…

The Innovators #6 with….author Darren Edden

Introduce yourself and your books…

Hi, I am Darren Edden, I live in the UK and I write science fiction but also currently working on a thriller and dark fantasy just to broaden my scope.
My debut novel was The Mirror of our Creation, a science fiction novel about a signal received from the orbit of Jupiter and four individuals who come together, all having their own interests in the signal and find themselves making first contact. Whilst this is happening there is also a pandemic sweeping the world (written pre Covid!) and the novel dips into the governments handling this and how this links to the main story spliced with intermittent snapshots of global news. The aliens in this story are not what you expect and soon the intrepid foursome realise humanity is not what all it seems to be…

Why science fiction?  What compels you to write in that genre? Favourite sci-fi book and movie or tv show?

A good question, it all started when I was a child and watched shows like the original Star Trek (repeated by the way), Gerry Anderson and his Captain Scarlet/Thunderbirds creations, The Bionic Man series, all these and much more filled my head with imagination and wonder. I find comfort in the ability to escape reality and create something new and wonderful I can retreat to, its always a blank canvas, a new world, a new universe… I read a lot of science fiction as well as other genres but I don’t have a favourite book, authors yes, George Mann, David Brin, and James Herbert (horror). Favourite film is Bladerunner, it captures a mood of the future that seems tangible and real, as regards TV shows its actually Supernatural and Doctor Who.

Where did the idea for The Mirror of our Creation, with its focus on space and time travel, come from?

This is an interesting question, the idea came from a short story I wrote and published for a short time on Amazon titled The Destiny of Jenny Tutbury. This was about a woman who was visited by travelers from the future to stop her from creating the very thing they used to travel back in time. Once written and published, I found the story intrigued me and I started to plan out what I thought would be a prequel but actually became its own entity with the ending of the book referencing Jenny leading onto the short story.
I have always wanted to write a book about first contact and I wanted it with multiple characters from different backgrounds all living in a not too distant future with subtle advances in technology exist, the pandemic arose as an additional subplot that linked nicely to the main story (not even seeing what was to come in reality). The ending was always in place with the introduction of Jenny at the end to complement the original short story The Destiny of Jenny Tutbury. 
That was when I decided after finishing the first book I would rewrite the short story and turn it into a full-blown novel of its own hence, The Future of the Present Past.

You have some cool extra-terrestrials in the book.  Do you believe in them?

Such a controversial question…yes I do, my version of the aliens was always going to be different. I did not want bug-eyed monsters or the usual stereotype of alien, that was the beauty of my aliens, they were unique and formed part of the twist in the book, maybe touching a little on Arthur C Clarke 2001 but, still different enough. 
The universe is too vast, too wide and too vibrant in colour not to have life elsewhere. I would like to think one day in our future we will be spread enough far and wide to be our own aliens derived from ourselves, now that’s something to think about…

Time-travel is a big theme in your latest book, The Future of the Present Past. What inspired you to focus on that?

I have always been fascinated with time travel and the various concepts that seem to exist, the paradox they cause, and the difference of opinions of what time travel can or cannot do. It is an area that I know has been written again and again so I was mindful I had to approach it differently.
For a while, I have had the title The Future of the Present Past written down with no outlay planned for it and I have always wondered how to use it because it’s a good title. It was only after I had rewritten The Destiny of Jenny Tutbury that I finally found the right use for it. 
Time travel played a huge part in that original short story and I expanded it out even further in the latest book and it was quite hard to keep it grounded and believable whilst not letting the reader get lost between timezones when flipping between characters and places, I didn’t want to write the normal time travel stories, I wanted something fresh and as a writer, I strive to be different using subplots, backstories, etc. and the twists within the story of The future of the Present Past and how it all links with the first book The Mirror of Our Creation is subtle but I think has provided a little bit of uniqueness.

If offered the opportunity to time travel, would you?  If no, why not.  If yes, where and when you go and what would you most like to do once there?

There are so many ways I could answer this as I am a huge fan of Doctor Who, specifically the Russel T Davies years as he brought it back to life with the brilliant Christopher Eccleston and my favourite David Tennant.  I would jump at the chance to time travel and I have always been drawn to the Victorian era for some unknown reason. George Mann provides an excellent alternative Steampunk Britain in the victorian era with his excellent Newbury and Hobbs series of books. It’s the clothes, the scientific discoveries or lack of, the simplistic life without today’s gadgets. Once there I would write and publish, which may not be a good idea as this would create a paradox and….well, maybe I would just travel the world and see it in all its early glory or just hang out with Nikola Tesla.

Who or what inspires your writing?  What advice would you give aspiring indie writers?  

There are two people who inspired me to write: Joss Whedon, with the intricate characterizations he builds into his stories, and Russel T Davies for the way he tells a story and gentle weaves subplots into the main stories. 
As for advice, I self publish because I don’t want to be the next J.K.Rowling or Philip Pullman or even the brilliant and gifted Neil Gaiman, I want to be…Darren Edden and my style of writing. Be original and don’t be afraid to experiment, self publish on platforms like Amazon, it’s free so if it doesn’t work it has only cost you time and not money. Never give up or walk away. I did that and did not lift a pen for five years and have regretted it ever since missing opportunities because my ideas were used by others so you lose the potential to be different and unique.

What do you want readers to take from your work?  Where can readers find you?

Wow that’s a good one to ask, I want readers to be satisfied in what they have read, hopefully I have given them characters to identify with or at least warm towards and a story worth their investment and them wanting to come back for more. 
My work at the moment is exclusive to Amazon and I have made it accessible on Kindle and paperback, moving forward eventually I hope to expand past Amazon and distribute to small independent book shops and sell through my own website but that’s the future.

Thanks Darren!!!

You can find both novels in the Destiny series, The Mirror of Our Creation and The Future of the Present Past on Amazon:

The Innovators #4 with………Author Billy Ray Middleton, Jr

Introduce yourself.

My name is Billy Ray Middleton Jr. I am the author of ‘The Silhouette’ and do a podcast called ‘Blabbercast.’ I also occasionally do Instagram videos/podcasts @ ‘AuthorBillyRay.’

When and why did you start writing?

I started writing around thirteen, mostly thoughts, feels, poems and things of that nature. I liked playing with words and getting things out when I felt the urge. It’s therapeutic to spill your mind on pages.

What role does creativity play in your life?

Creativity is important for me since there are so many things I won’t experience, so in my own worlds I can experience anything I want. Also, I like going outside of the box and creating a unique style of art, whether it be writing or working with video. I enjoy the term ‘Chaotic Beauty.’

Tell me about The Silhouette: who or what inspired the story and characters and why a Lovecraftian romance?

The Silhouette went through many phases over the years, and as most artistic works, it kind of becomes like a child to you. I had an idea for a girl who was physically damaged but still very sweet through her trauma when she could have easily rejected the world that was cruel to her. I asked myself a question, ‘Is love physical more than anything else?’ I wanted to open the door to a curious question of the word ‘Love’. I wanted to put two characters in a situation where they never saw each other, but were right next to each other where only their words and little ticks were on display. Basically, loving someone 100% for only them, the real them, not the external sexual stuff.

The book fell into the Lovecraftian style since it was the best fit for it. I wasn’t thinking about Lovecraft as an inspiration when I wrote it. The book simply fell into it. I’ve always enjoyed the not-knowing aspect of his works and others who do the Lovecraft thing. Our minds do well with blank slates and mysteries.

When and why did your podcast start? Who or what is featured?

In 2013, me and my closest friends started ‘Blabbercast.’ My best friend really wanted to do one and since I can never shut the F up it seemed right up my alley since I talk a lot. I enjoy a Kevin Smith vibe or Howard Stern. I don’t like filters, I know people think different and speak different in private, I always say ‘Let it out. Act like its the glorious 90’s still. This era of fake-ness is lame.’

Who or what inspires your writing?

I actually hated reading since everything was so wordy and never got to the point. So my first inspiration was to try to take some of that out and write more screenplay-like. I like dialogue, and I use it. I like fun and scenes that move, not blabbering on for ten pages about nonsense. The indie books — (yours did this great, Melanie {awe, thanks Billy}) — moved at a perfect pace; I really have enjoyed those reads without the corporate machine behind them F-ing everything up. In fairness I have read some I liked that were mainstream. I love William Peter Blatty, I thought the Exorcist was mind blowing. George R. R. Martin is great as well. I found the Game of Thrones books pretty quick since he moves it quickly or makes scenes, at the very least, interesting.

Any writing quirks?

I don’t have many quirks. I never have had writers block, I just have the ‘I don’t like it’ thing and I never write to just write, I need it be acceptable to me, and then hopefully a lot of people enjoy it, but I need to enjoy it and have fun, whatever happens after that is meant to be or not.

Best advice for other indie authors?

My best advice is to have fun. Ignore all the BS writing rules. They don’t exist. Period. Have good grammar and ‘Do you’ as they say. Don’t be put in a box. Don’t worry about reviews so much either. I found most people review poorly and are hypocritical. If their favorite author wrote something incognito and they were told it was an indie author, they would be extra harsh on it. The look on their face when they found out it was their favorite author? Mind blown! LOL Obviously reviews are important as is people’s opinions. I just feel people in the literary world are too constrictive. That doesn’t work on me.

What is your spirit animal?

A dog. I don’t know if my explanation will fit in with the spirit animal thing, but when I see a puppy my heart sings. My black heart turns red, and I smile and must pet it. I love them. Their loyalty is far superior to humans and it is true unconditional love.

Favourite author and book?

George R. R. Martin – A Song of Ice and Fire, It’s just such a massive accomplishment and I had so much fun reading those for two-months. His dialogue is just so good, and the imagery is fantastic.

What are your upcoming projects?

The newest novel is on the way. The Nicest Parts of Hell – I am not giving too much away. All I can say is I am going to some strange places. Rockstars, psycho’s, serial killers, and blood and love. A lovely Friday night.

Thanks Billy! Check out The Silhouette on Amazon. A highly recommended read that I really enjoyed!!

The Innovators #3 with…….

Julia DeBarrioz, author

I’m excited to kick off the indie author interviews with the multi-talented Julia DeBarrioz, author of the fantastic Dakota del Toro series, artist and super supporter of other indies!

Introduce yourself.  When did you start writing and inspired you to keep writing?  Tell me about your books.

 Hi, I’m Julia! ::waves::

 I’ve been writing since I was a kid. I was an only child who lived in a rural area with no other children around, so I entertained myself by telling stories and re-telling stories I knew. I cut my teeth writing fanfiction, and finished my first novel when I was 12-13. (It was horrible, LOL). I have to write. Writing is how I process emotions and understand the world, and if I have a story kicking around my head that I don’t have time to sit down and work on I get twitchy and cranky. At the moment I’m writing the Dakota del Toro series. It’s urban fantasy set in New Mexico featuring a woman who is a bounty hunter for supernatural creatures. She finds missing women who have been taken by the monsters on the side, and she gets mixed up in a vampire revolution, as well as romantically entangled with the comandante. Oops!

Where did Dakota Del Toro come from (who or what inspired you to create her) and why is she the central character of your books? Dakota has been with me since I was a teenager, and maybe I can blame a goth cowgirl stage I haven’t really ever outgrown, LOL. I loved vampire stories with a strong female lead, but I wanted to read a story about a character who could both kick ass and embrace her femininity. Maybe that sounds stupid now, but back then those things were presented as mutually exclusive, and it was frustrating. I set the books in New Mexico because, well, I love it there, and I guess it’s a bit of vicarious living on my part. I’ve always been fascinated by Spanish/Latinx culture. I’ve travelled in Spain and Latin America, and I have a tiny bit of Spanish heritage on both my mother’s and father’s sides. Writing Dakota and her supporting characters has been a fun way of connecting with that.

You deal with some big social issues in the books (marginalization and abuse of women).  Tell me why that theme plays such a big role in the series.  There are two things that really scare me: bears, and the patriarchy. We’ve come a long way as far as women’s rights, but you still don’t have to look far to find stories in the news about abuse that happens in this country, and women with brown skin get the worst of it. Google ICE assault allegations, the results are horrifying, and Native American women face violence at staggeringly disproportionate rates compared to other demographics.  America seems like a safe, happy place to live on its shiny surface, but there is a dark underbelly that frankly, should not exist. It makes me angry, and I guess I don’t know what else to do about it except write my stories, try to raise awareness, and vote for people who I hope will actually give a shit.

Why vampires and werewolves?  Who is your favourite literary vampire?  Favourite actor to play a vampire?  Would they make a good Diego de Gama?  If no, then who would play him best on the big screen?  And Dakota? I think I have to blame my dad, who raised me on campy vampire movies. I’ve just always liked that medium. My favourite literary vampire would have to be Lestat, the Brat Prince. Alexander Skarsgård played a pretty excellent vampire in True Blood. I don’t think he’d really work for Diego, LOL. Even though they’re actually musicians, I think Maluma and Rosalía would make for awesome casting for Diego and Dakota.

How do you use social media as an indie author?  Best advice you can give to new indie?  Best money ever spent on or for your writing (an app, a subscription, a workshop, etc)?

 Like anyone else, I guess, I try to use social media to keep people updated and find new readers. I’m not a huge fan of Facebook and I’m terrible at updating on Twitter, but I do enjoy the community on Instagram.

 My best advice to a new indie author might be to watch your wordcount. When you’re starting out and trying to convince people to give you a chance, don’t hit them over the head with a 700 page tome. No one will wade through that. I feel qualified to say this because I made this mistake years and years ago, and it took a lot of work to remedy. The best money I’ve spent for my writing would have to be on book review services. Getting honest reviews might be the hardest part of being an indie, and having access to a pool of reviewers who are willing to go that extra mile after reading are worth their weight in gold.

Tell me about the process/decision to create your own covers?  What is the inspiration behind the designs/colours / theme?  Do you create or sell other artwork not related to the book covers? 

 I guess I’m double cursed, being a writer and an artist, ha. I’m a printmaker at heart, and I think that’s probably reflected in my covers. I have a degree in fine art, and I guess I always wanted to design my own. I know my covers are very different from other books in my genre, but I wanted to evoke a mix of the Spanish and Indigenous folk art of the Southwest, as well as 1960s revolution art. I do make other art besides book covers. I draw, I paint, and recently I’ve gotten into pyrography (wood burning). I’m not very good at collecting money for my work though, LOL, I seem to always be giving it away. I like to make people happy.

You find yourself stuck in a bomb shelter for an indeterminate time.  What one fictional character do you hope to be there with you?  What two movies will you watch and which three books do you want to have?

 Oh dear. What a 2020 question. I would have Jack Sparrow in the room, because I think he’d be pretty entertaining. We would watch Pirates of the Caribbean and The Mask of Zorro, and I would want to have Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry, Still Life With Woodpecker by Tom Robbins, and He Shall Thunder by Elizabeth Peters. I never get tired of reading those books.

What’s next for Dakota and Diego?  Any other new projects in the works?

 I have several more books planned for Dakota and Diego, though I do intend to make it a closed series. I am trying to release the next book this winter, and there will probably be 7-8 books when all is said and done. I also have some spin-offs planned. I want to tell Eduardo the bandit’s story in 1860s California, and I’m branching out into contemporary western romance with a new release coming this November. It’s called Evangeline Goes West. Look for it on Amazon. 😀

Julia DeBarrioz
Indie Author
juliadebarrioz.com
Amazon.com
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The Innovators {episode 2} with…

Preston Bell

singer/songwriter/guitarist

Outside the Shadows

I’m excited to be doing the second installment of The Innovators with my Instagram friend Preston from Outside the Shadows! I’m a fan of his music (and his voice! seriously, one of my top five favourite vocalists to listen to) and he’s a fan of my Insta stories, lol.

Walking in the Dark, The Part of Me and Passing Me By are some of my favourite OTS tunes on my Spotify playlist (you can check them with the Spotify player at the end of this post)……

Introduce yourself.  Tell me about the band and your new single “So Much More” coming out soon – new album to follow??

I’m Preston & I am the singer, songwriter & guitarist for Outside the Shadows. The band currently consists of Tyler Medley on bass & background vocals & Steven Jones on drums. I started this band in 2013 with our original drummer Marty. Marty & I wrote the first two albums together lyrically & I handled the musical parts. Our upcoming single So Much More is one of our heavier songs we’ve written as a band. Tyler actually came up with the main riff for this song & I worked in all of the lyrics & other music for it. It is one of my favorite songs we’ve ever written. This song is about someone who has been verbally abused & bullied throughout life but in this song we get to express how much greater this world is with them in it & how to destroy their words with the pain & move on from it.

There is an album in the works. Is this album a deluxe edition of an album or a whole new album? We shall share soon 😉

What or who influenced you to pursue a career in music? 

I was influenced at a young age watching the musicians at my church play. At that age all I knew was contemporary Christian music. From there I learned drums & began filling in sometimes at church. I went to a Christian music store where I found a band that was covered in tats & had dreadlocks & I was like ‘who are these dudes & what kinda music is this going to be?’ lol. This band I speak is the legendary P.O.D & it was their album Satellite. It was the first hard rock / metal album I ever owned. I was blown away by the guitars & the heavier style vocals & so began my path as a vocalist & my path to learning guitars. All together I play guitar, bass, & drums & occasionally I’ll use a keyboard for effects when recording new music.

What is your creative process for writing songs? Who / what inspires your music?

My creative process is simple. I write a lot of lyrics and the songs that have come to me lyrically have been around for 10+ years & just now made it to music. I always have riffs running through my head that I built upon & usually will have lyrics already written that will work with it or some songs are written lyrics & music together at the same time. So many things inspire my music, mostly my love for heavy music. Heavy music in general just does something for me in a way that most things can’t. Heavy music can bring for me something, that while being heavy, also soothes the soul. There is so much passion in a lot of heavy music. Bands like Demon Hunter & Killswitch Engage just know how to make music heavy & beautiful at the same time. These bands inspire me in so many ways along with hard rockers like Skillet, Red, & P.O.D. If you’ve noticed in a lot of my heavier songs, such as Division, I try to blend those two musical elements along with punk rock & make it kinda my own sound. I know I fit in with certain bands & genres but I try my best to stand out.

You identify your music as Christian Rock.  How does your faith impact / influence your music?

My faith impacts my writing in so many ways. No matter what I’m writing about, whether it be good or bad, always comes down to how my faith in God always gets me through everything. He is always there any time I ever need him so all of my songs end up being about how God always pulls me through. Unless it’s songs like Surrender. Surrender is a simple praise to God above for all that He does in my life. He is an amazing God. The greatest gift of all is son Jesus & the gift of salvation He gave us if we just believe. It’s truly the most beautiful gift ever.

You find yourself on a deserted island with a fictional character – what three songs or albums are you listening to?  And who / what is listening with you?

If I was on a deserted island I would wanna spend it with Shawn Spencer from the show Psych. He reminds me a ton of myself as far as his character, comedy, & just his overall personality. The three albums I would take are Where do we go from here by Pillar, Hearts of the Innocent by Kutless, & Collide by Skillet. I believe those three albums are perfectly made. No bad songs at all & I could listen to them everyday, all day & never lose interest.

What are your thoughts about the state of the music industry today?  What would you change about the music industry if you could?

My thoughts on the music industry now: I think the industry is crap, I think record labels in general have sunk some of the most incredibly talented bands we’ve ever come to know such as Sent by Ravens & many others. I’m blessed enough to be on a label that worked with me on a contract that lets me govern myself musically but helps me get my music to places I can’t. The music industry also tries to tell you how to look & how to sound. That doesn’t work for me. If I can’t sound like Outside the Shadows then I’m out. I will sell out to no one except for Christ, of course. I think now with digital & social being as available to artists & bands as it is, bands should definitely govern themselves for sure or find a manager or label that will agree to help you like mine does but let you run the show like my label does.

How do you use social media to promote your band?  How much do you think it will influence the future of music, especially now with COVID?

I use social media a lot for promoting my band. I believe nowadays it is the best outlet for promotion of music. I think with this pandemic social media is great because you can do lives and shows and still reach your audience. It’s an amazing thing to have, I think, a fantastic tool 😉

What do you most want listeners to take away from your music?

I want listeners to take away positivity from my music. I hope when someone hears my music it can in some way make their life better and they can relate to what I’ve experienced in my own life and how I’ve dealt with certain dark times I’ve been through. Not only do I want to bring people a great sounding product always, but I want it to be a life changing situation. I want God to use the music He gives me to be an outlet for people who struggle with things in life.