Let me pencil in this new year…..

I’m not going to hop aboard the “let’s get excited for the new year” train. In fact, I feel better just penciling the next year into my life at this point. We all know that January 1st thru who knows when will still look and feel very much like 2020 – and I’m actually an optimist! I do hope, though, that at some point in 2021 we can all let out our collective breath because I sure feel like I’ve been holding mine all year.

Like most people, I just scraped through the year. No big accomplishments (I had three book projects planned and none came to fruition). I had to close down my photography studio twice and suffered financially. I endured the parental horrors of online schooling twice this year with all three of my kids and will be going into the new year doing more of the same.

Still, I am hopeful that things will turn around at some point in the new year for me, for you, for everyone – and sooner than later.

My few 2021 plans include: blogging more, reading more, reviewing more, writing more, doing more yoga, spending more time with my kids and family, and just continuing to put my energies towards those things in my life that fulfill me – those things that are ‘ink-worthy’ in my books.

For now, I am grateful to have this platform, to have some readers, some followers and I hope to connect with all of you at some point in the new year!

The Innovators #12 with…filmmaker/writer Leah Solmaz

“Everyone has the ability and capability to do anything. It takes self-belief and patience. That goes hand-in-hand with living your truth. Always create with yourself in mind. Create what you want then if people resonate with it… bonus!”

Introduce yourself.

Hello guys, girls, non-bines, I am Leah Solmaz. I’m primarily an actress, filmmaker, and writer, but I dabble in a lot of other creative activities too. I am currently based in Lichfield, Staffordshire but I’m originally from Birmingham, West Midlands, UK. I lived in County Cavan, Ireland for 9 years and completed the majority of my schooling there. Having lived in both a large, bustling city and a small, country village seemingly in the middle of nowhere, it has definitely given me a broad perspective on life. I’ve definitely experienced the best of both worlds, so to speak and I think it’s helped ground me as a person.

Tell me about your Theosight digital series.

‘Theosight’ is a UK based, comedy, horror, web series that we hope to make sometime next year. I’m the writer, producer, and I also act in it. 

The logline: “Theo’s a skeptic. Riley’s optimistic. Shaun’s dead.”

We released the pilot episode on Halloween which sets up the premise for the series. It was directed and shot by my good friend, Matthew Wood, and stars the amazing Kiah Reeves (The House of Screaming Death, 2017) as Riley, Alex Bourne (writer and director of Clownface, 2019) as Shaun, and myself as Theo. The cast of the pilot also features Lewis Clift (BBC’s Doctors), Craig Godwin aka Fingaz MC, Roger David Francis (The House of Screaming Death), and the very lovely Debbie Brannon as Peg … my favourite characters, in all honesty. Behind the scenes, we had Farhaan S. Sadiq on sound, the brilliant Hans Michael Anselmo Hess composed the music, and we were very lucky to feature the song ‘My Reflection’ by the American/Canadian rock band DeBendetta.

The premise is very much this … Theo, is a grouchy, skeptical woman who discovers she is, in fact, psychic after a strange man follows her home from work one night. That man is Shaun. Shaun is dead. Theo’s charmingly optimistic, roommate, Riley, then comes up with the bright idea to set up a Supernatural Private Investigation service. With the help of a rag-tag bunch of friends they do just that and open themselves up to a world of monsters, ghouls, and demons.
It is very much an ode to one of my favourite, childhood films, ‘The Monster Squad’, and also pays homage to TV shows such as ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’, ‘Charmed’, and ‘Scooby Doo’ … believe it or not. I love the fact that in each of those, the main character could never have succeeded without the help of their comrades. 
We genuinely hope people will enjoy it once it’s made and we’ve already received some great feedback from the pilot which you can totally check out for free here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YAJCND9EcLw
You can also find and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Where did the idea for your novel Nexus: Book One come from? Any plans for Book Two (or another novel)?

So 5 years ago, or it could be 6, in all honesty, but we’ll stick to 5, I had this crazy idea to write and illustrate a dark-fantasy graphic novel. I’m a huge lover of comic books and graphic novels and being in my naïve, mid-twenties I thought to myself … I can do that. Throw in work and other commitments, I found it hard to find time to sit down and actually draw. I’d written half a script for it and planned out thirty to forty pages’ worth of panels but that’s as far as I ever got with it.
The story, as it is now, is very different from how I intended for the graphic novel. Initially, the character of Brianna, was going to be a police detective and Dax, was an unlucky guy who had found himself entangled with some dark characters. There was going to inevitably be a splash of the supernatural in there, but yeah it’s definitely not the same story as I originally planned.
So, having realized just how much time a graphic novel was going to take, and taking from my primary love of filmmaking I then (again rather naively) thought I could turn it into a feature film. I got halfway with the script and realized in order to make it, I’d need a ridiculous budget and I wasn’t willing to change any of it to ensure it could be made cost-effectively.
It was very much put on the back burner until the summer of 2018 which is coincidentally the same time that I came up with the idea for ‘Theosight’. I’d sustained a back injury that meant I actually couldn’t work for 5 months. In being such a creative person, I needed something to take my mind off of the fact that I could barely hobble from my bed to the lounge and back again. 
I stumbled (maybe literally) upon a lot of my old notebooks and came across the graphic novel script for Nexus. I bought a new notebook and whether or not it was painkiller induced, I decided to change everything about the story. I’d always written short stories growing up and I’d always had the itch to write a book so it just clicked. It meant I could tell the story I wanted to without compromising elements for a feature film and the words seemed to flow easier and quicker than sitting down and drawing. It was gloriously serendipitous. I just started writing. Chapter one. Chapter two … three, four … before I knew it I’d made my way to chapter seven.
I was feeling extremely nostalgic being holed up in a small, city apartment and the physical limitations I was experiencing at the time, I’d sort of found myself longing for the open countryside of Ireland so that greatly influenced the world-building side of things and definitely shaped the premise of transporting Brianna from the mundane to the fantastical. For those months, I very much lived vicariously through Brianna, hence turning her into a waitress … I have that on my work resume. 
For anyone with a keen eye, you can very much identify the influences of the book. I definitely drew from ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and also from ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ but I also have a fascination with the occult and demonology and the concept of angels and devils battling each other for our immortal souls. Nexus is very much an amalgamation of those elements.
It wasn’t until meeting the fantastic, horror writing twins C L Raven, who worked on a feature film I was acting in, Clownface, that I decided to self-publish and they played a huge part in getting Nexus: Book One made. I will forever love them for that. 
I am currently working on the sequel and can honestly say that it’ll be bigger, better, and darker than the first book. 

What challenges do you face as both an indie author and filmmaker?  What specific advantages do you have being involved in both creative realms?

My biggest challenge being indie in both fields is and has been working a day job. I would love to get to the point of replacing the day job with either field. That is definitely the goal but I guess the pros of my current circumstances is valuing time. 
Another pro of being indie is also having creative control. Especially in regards to the writing side of things. With film, if we’re looking at the behind the scenes side of things, you haven’t got to jump through massive hoops in order to make a film, which if you were looking for a larger, more mainstream studio or production company to get a film made, you certainly would which runs the risk of changing the initial story you want to tell. The downside of that is the scheduling side of things, and organizing shoot days to suit everyone involved but it makes it so much easier to have a great cast and crew. So far, I’ve been lucky in the fact that everyone I’ve worked with, in front of or behind the camera has been truly amazing. 
The same applies for self-publishing I’ve found. It’s always good to run your manuscript past an editor to see if there are elements that don’t work but ultimately, it’s your call at the end of the day. With writing a book, bar working with an editor or artist, I do enjoy the working alone aspect which makes the whole process of it very therapeutic. The final product is definitely rewarding. It’s almost an extension of yourself and I think most authors feel a sense of pride and ecstasy in realizing that. 
Working in film, you learn the show don’t tell aspect which has helped in writing Nexus and as an actor, its helped me hone dialogue that is supposed to be spoken. I do tend to read aloud a piece of dialogue to make sure it sounds authentic to a character. Authentic dialogue makes it easier for the audience, film or book, to relate to a character. 

Who or what inspires your creativity?

Life inspires me, as cliche as that sounds. People, places, and very much the unknown of it all too. I’m big into spiritualism, philosophy, psychology, and I enjoy learning about ancient cultures. Literally anything and everything. As gloomy as life may seem at times it’s also so awesome. I think we just have to look a bit harder at times but it’s there. Magic is everywhere. 

Twenty years down the road, what do you want people to take away from your body of creative work? 

I’d like to inspire others to take up whatever creative field they want to pursue. Nothing is impossible. Everyone has the ability and capability to do anything. It takes self-belief and patience. That goes hand in hand with living your truth. Always create with yourself in mind. Create what you want then if people resonate with it… bonus! The fun is very much in the creative stage. Another thing I’d like to inspire in people is to support and promote each other. Creativity is not a competition. It’s a game and like most games the more people the more fun there is to be had. Right? Can I trademark that line? 

What are your upcoming projects?

I have a few feature films lined up, in front of and behind the camera. Advent: A Christmas Anthology, in which I act and I believe it’ll be released around this time next year. Shock Value: Body Horror which is another anthology-style film. I’ll be teaming up with Alex Bourne for one of the stories in that. We are also collaborating on a separate feature and hopefully begin the pre-production stage sometime next year. 
We will be launching a crowd funder sometime in the spring to help get Theosight made. 
I have a couple of short films, acting-wise too. The Other, which is a dramatic piece directed by Will Bradshaw. The second short, I don’t think I can reveal too much about it as of yet but I’m looking forward to working with some familiar faces on that one, from Advent and Clownface. 
In between all of that I’d really like to focus more on my store and fingers crossed, design an awesome collection. I’ll also be finishing Nexus: Book Two and hopefully publishing it mid to late next year.
I say hopefully and fingers crossed to all of that considering this year’s unprecedented guest. 

Where can readers/viewers find you and your work?

Well if anyone is looking for an off-the-wall, dark-fantasy, adventure book then they can find Nexus: Book One here: https://www.azonlinks.com/1656109433

Or follow me on social media

Twitter … https://www.twitter.com/leahsolmaz

 Instagram … https://www.instagram.com/leahsolmaz

Facebook … https://www.facebook.com/theonly.leah...

LinkedIn … https://www.linkedin.com/in/leah-solmaz-4844121aa/

For everything else check out my website…https://www.leahsolmaz.com/

Thank you, Leah!! Be sure to check out her work AND her Author/Filmmaker Series of interviews (which I was honoured to be a part of and then, in turn, was inspired to start The Innovators!)

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 #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…