Tag Archives: young authors

Warrior Girl by Matt Lazar and Amanda Thomas

Authors Matt Lazar and Amanda Thomas released their young adult novel, Warrior Girl, last October. I chatted briefly with the authors to uncover the story behind their intriguing and unusual tale of a young woman’s coming of age under difficult circumstances.

CK: Warrior Girl is about a young Korean woman, Sun Hi, who attends Oxford and faces not only culture shock, but also a number of obstacles to her success and happiness, including a fiercely competitive academic rival and a hostile flatmate. She finds refuge in an online game called World of Warcraft (WOW). Is there something in your experience that inspired you to write the book? What gave birth to Sun Hi’s story?

ML: When I was in college (Dartmouth), I had a Korean roommate who was really into World of Warcraft. He introduced me to the massively multiplayer online game (MMO) genre. I learned that WOW wasn’t really a game in that it was absorbing enough that it could become as real to someone as their “real life.”

Part of what makes Sun Hi unique is that she’s the only protagonist I can think of who plays WOW–it was important to me to write a story that shows how playing a game like WOW impacts a person’s real life.

CK: I was a little surprised by the book’s title, as Sun Hi is actually rather timid and sensitive throughout much of the book, not bold and aggressive. What is it about her that makes her a warrior in your eyes?

AT: Yes, I think that despite her timid nature she shows great strength in overcoming the problems that she has. When everything is against her she keeps going and of course she is a formidable warrior on WOW. She is a multi-layered and resilient person who looks fragile on the outside and has a steely determination inside.

CK: Playing WOW is much more than passing time for the characters—I was really struck by how the game impacts Sun Hi’s vision of herself. It seemed to be an important factor in her growing self-confidence. There’s a lot of criticism of such games in the media—a lot of discussion about how they can trigger violence. Your book seems to suggest otherwise. Do you believe that these games can have a positive impact on young people?

AT: I think they can and I would hasten to say that our portrayal of the game and those who play it is neither an endorsement nor a condemnation of such games. They exist and people play them. Our interest was in exploring how this kind of gaming can affect the confidence of a person, in this case Sun Hi, who is otherwise virtually friendless and lacking in any other resource.

CK: Obviously, not everyone has the experience of attending university in a culture that is foreign to them. Yet some experiences the book depicts would seem to be universal. What aspects of your novel do you think young readers will identify with?

AT: I suppose that even if a student goes to university in their own country it can be a daunting time at first, and for the shy or those lacking in confidence a difficult time. I suppose it would be good if young people saw Sun Hi’s struggle and thought that they, with less of a mountain to climb, had the possibility to shine.

ML: Warrior Girl is really a love story with twists and bumps–none of the characters escape unscathed. I think young readers will identify with this.

CK: What sorts of messages do you hope readers will take away from your book?

AT: I suppose that perseverance and goodness will always triumph over evil.

ML: I hope readers come away with a feeling that getting to know someone from a different background can be fun and exciting. We wanted Warrior Girl to be a fun read that’s accessible to all kinds of people. Many of Warrior Girl’s fans have never played WOW.

CK: Studious Sun Hi finds herself in the unlikely position of being the cox for the Oxford rowing team. Your descriptions of rowing culture seemed very realistic to me, as if it were very familiar to you, and I have to ask if you have related personal experience or it’s just a case of excellent research.

AT: The research was exhaustive although it was research that was a pleasure to do!

CK: Tell me about your history as writers and what has influenced you. Is Warrior Girl your first book?

AT: No, I have ghostwritten many books for clients on subjects as diverse as kidnapping to a romantic novel set around Islamic finance! I love to write and in particular enjoy an element of intrigue.

ML: Warrior Girl is my first novel. My first book was my master’s thesis, An Oral History of the Cleveland Browns.

CK: Now that the book is finished, do you have other books in the works? Are they in the same vein as Warrior Girl? Can you tell me anything about them?

ML: I am developing a sequel to Warrior Girl.

AT: I am continuing with my ghostwriting work and looking forward to the day that I have the time to write something else for myself! I am working on a series of books on heavy horses for a client at the moment as well as an account of a British woman who opened a chain of massage parlours in Australia.

To read reviews of Warrior Girl or to purchase the book, click here.



New Book Release: Liberation by Robert Jennings

Liberation Cover Art

I’m delighted to announce that just in time for the end of the world, author Robert Jennings has released his post-apocalyptic science fiction novel, Liberation. I caught up with the amiable and talented Mr. Jennings to ask him all about his novel and the writing life. I hope you have as much fun reading this as I did interviewing him.

CK: As we all know, the world’s coming to an end on December 21st, so we may as well not bother to buy Christmas presents. In view of this, your science fiction novel, Liberation, is very timely–an apocalypse occurs on 12/21/12 in which the world is overrun by green-skinned creatures called orcs, and only small groups of people manage to survive. Apart from the impending end of the world, can you tell me what else inspired you to write this particular story?

RJ: I first heard about the Mayan end-of-the-world “prediction” shortly after Y2K disappointed us. I think that was what first got me thinking about the story, and the reason for the date of the invasion in the book. I’ve always loved post-apocalyptic stories. It’s fascinating to see how different storytellers portray the aftermath. Plus, I’ve always been a small-town boy. I like the atmosphere and the camaraderie, and I really wanted to portray that as much as I could. And I played a ridiculous amount of Dungeons & Dragons in my youth. I always liked the orcs.

CK: One thing I really love about Liberation is the protagonist. I found it refreshing that John Potter is an Everyman with whom we can all identify, not a superhero. In battling the orcs, he demonstrates courage and devotion to his people, as well as a sense of humour. Are there particular people in your life—or characters in literature—who inspired your protagonist?

RJ: That’s very kind of you to say. What I was looking for out of John was exactly that Everyman feel. I like to imagine that the choices John makes in the book are what most of us would choose, given the circumstances. Of course, after getting feedback from readers in the early stages, I realized that I put a lot more of myself into John than I had intended. People kept telling me, “That’s a ridiculous decision. Nobody would ever do that!” As for his inspirations, I drew a lot from Richard Cypher in Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series. I loved the down-to-earth feel of the character, even after he learns that he is, for all intents and purposes, a superhero.

CK: The book’s about an invasion that very nearly wipes out the human race, but it’s about much more. What do you see as some of the core ideas of the book?

RJ: The main one, I think, is family–and the lengths to which we would go to make sure they’re safe. In that regard, I really identified with John. I can’t imagine anything that I wouldn’t do for my kids. That’s one of the things that made the book really fun to write.

CK: The citizens of New Lamar, which the book centres on, have adapted to their devastated world by developing skills, such as blacksmithing, that are largely obsolete in Western society. They are also a remarkably cohesive group of people. How do you think present-day humans would cope in such a post-apocalyptic society? Would we do as well as the people of New Lamar?

RJ: That is a question that I’ve given way more thought to than is probably healthy. In fact, I may have started calling myself a writer in order to justify the inordinate amount of time I spend thinking up end-of-the-world scenarios. I think, of course, that it would go pretty badly for a good while, but eventually the people who survived would pick up and rebuild. I think that’s part of human nature. We’re always looking to make things better for ourselves and those around us. That, or we’ll all end up killing each other over canned beans.

CK: What would you like readers of your book to take away from it?

RJ: Honestly, just entertainment. When I sat down to write the book, I didn’t have any lofty goal in mind, aside from “Let’s see how this plays out.” If someone finds a message there that resonates with them, awesome, but it wasn’t intentional. If the book entertains you for a couple of days (or hours, if you’re my daughter), then I’ve accomplished everything I’ve set out to do.

CK: You work with another writer, Thomas Clark. Most people think of writing as quite a solitary pursuit. What’s it like to collaborate with Thomas, and what are the two of you working on right now?

RJ: It’s interesting, to say the least. Tommy has been my best friend since before he could even read, so working with him is great. He’s an incredible storyteller, and he has a shrewd eye for plot holes. I think that putting the words themselves to paper is something that is best done alone, but I couldn’t imagine having put this book together without Tommy’s help. Incidentally, he did the cover, which I think is fantastic.

Right now, we’re working on his first book. The working title is Rogue’s Phoenix, and it’s the beginning of an epic fantasy series in a world of his creation. The world is populated by people who fall through rifts from other worlds and are forced to try to make the best of it. It’s been incredibly fun to collaborate on, and it should be ready for release first quarter of next year.

CK: Can you tell me a little about your history as a writer? How did you get started? What keeps you going?

Well, here comes the clichéd “I’ve been a writer since all the way forever ago.” Which is true, to an extent. I’ve always loved writing, but I had never really considered it as a career choice. I liked robots and spaceships too much. The story for Liberation has been bouncing around in my head for about ten years. I even tried getting it down on paper once, but it was horrible. So, I shelved it until about five years ago, when I was deployed to Baghdad with the US Air Force. It was also about this time that I started working with Tommy on Rogue’s Phoenix. I had a little free time on my hands, and the story poured out in about two months. Then came the incredibly fun process of submitting the manuscript to agents and publishers, only to get rejected time and time again. So, again I shelved it. I was glad that it was written, but didn’t really have any plans to do anything with it, since it obviously wasn’t good enough to publish. Earlier this year, I got laid off from my job and my wife was like, “Why don’t I go to work while you focus on your writing.” That was when it first really clicked for me that I might be able to actually be an author. And that’s also what keeps me going. If my wife believed in me enough to risk financial ruin, I must have something going for me.

CK: Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

RJ: Don’t give up. If you aren’t accepted by an agent or a publisher, don’t be discouraged. Publishing is changing, and you don’t need them anymore. You can do it all yourself if you feel inclined. Except editing. For that, you need Caroline. A caveat, though, is that you’d better have a strong manuscript. Editors can help, but it’s ultimately up to you to write a good story.

CK: Now that Liberation is finished, what’s next for you?

RJ: That’s a good question, only because there are so many things on my plate that it’s hard to keep them separated. Priority zero is Rogue’s Phoenix. We’ve got to get that one ready for publication before the end of March. I would like to have the sequel to Liberation done (yes, there’s a sequel–isn’t there always?) by the end of June, and the book that I wrote last month for NaNoWriMo is tentatively scheduled for September, but it’ll be a side project while we’re working on the second Rogue’s Phoenix book. And then I’m going to Disneyland.

Liberation is now available as an e-book on Amazon. And if you’re so inclined, you can chat with Robert Jennings and Thomas Clark on their Facebook page.


New Book Release: The Infinite Knowledge of J.T. Badgley by Tiana Warner

Tiana Warner has just released her first novel, The Infinite Knowledge of J.T. Badgley. The 23-year-old author hails from Abbotsford, BC, and works as a software developer. Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of working with the gracious Tiana on her book, a young adult science fiction novel. But The Infinite Knowledge is really so much more than this genre label suggests. I thoroughly enjoyed chatting with Tiana about her book, and hope you will enjoy our interview.

CK: What was it that prompted you to start writing The Infinite Knowledge of J.T. Badgley in the first place, and how long did it take you to write the book?

TW: I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. When I was 5 I would write stories and staple the pages together and sell them to relatives. I started writing The Infinite Knowledge near the end of high school, when we studied classics like Gulliver’s Travels and 1984. I knew then that I wanted to write a book with a purpose—so I started with the topics I feel passionate about, and everything else followed. It took me six years because of university, but in the end I’m glad I was patient.

CK: In the book, the unsuspecting protagonist Jake (J.T.) plummets via a portal through space and lands on the planet Zielaarde, a planet very like our own in some ways. Through your portrayal of Zielaarde, what kinds of things were you trying to say about Earth and its inhabitants?

TW: I want the reader to interpret much of it for themselves, but I will say that I had a fun time exploring certain contemporary issues. Some of these issues are more light-hearted, while others I take more seriously and feel strongly about. The inhabitants of Zielaarde often reflect the way we humans regard the environment, technology, and each other.

CK: The book is an excellent read—it’s dramatic and suspenseful, and I wasn’t sure how it would end until it actually did end. As well, it’s often funny—the reactions the Ziels (inhabitants of Zielaarde) and Jake have to each other were quite amusing. But the book is also very thought-provoking and serious. Ultimately, what thoughts or impressions did you hope to leave readers with?

TW: I hope readers come away thinking about said contemporary issues, but I also hope they think about their own roles and abilities in this world. The book is primarily written for teens, so when I was writing it I wanted make sure I avoided telling the reader what to think, and focused on simply provoking them into thinking. Jake faces the same identity-crisis problems that so many teens face around the time of their high school graduations, and he’s at an age where he starts to gain awareness and scepticism of philosophy and religion. He is forced to gain a stronger sense of self in the book, and I hope Jake’s self-exploration also encourages such thinking in the reader.

CK: One thing I enjoyed about the book was your ability to really get inside Jake’s  experience. He suffers immensely, and the reader is keenly aware of his every thought, sensation, and emotion. Was it difficult to write in this intense sort of way?

TW: It certainly took more than one draft before I was able to fully portray Jake’s thoughts and emotions. It takes a lot of focus and imagination to pretend you’re an entirely different person in an entirely different place, and then to describe exactly how you feel and what you’re thinking at that moment. I find that it helps to imagine a situation using all of the senses.

It’s interesting when you’ve been pouring out the deep thoughts and emotions of a character for years, and then it comes time to actually let other people read it. It feels too personal, like they’re about to read into part of your soul. I guess that’s how you know you’ve really put everything into a character.

CK: Tell me about your fascination with astronomy and how you’ve brought this into the book.

TW: It’s funny, because when I was a kid I hated learning about space. I was afraid of it and tried to avoid thinking about it, because I couldn’t understand how space and time were even possible. I still can’t understand it. I guess writing this book was a way to overcome that. I pushed my own fear and uncertainty onto Jake. When you pick a topic that you feel very strongly about—whether that feeling is of love or hate or obsession or fear—you write about it more passionately. What strengthened the passion was when I decided to take an introductory astronomy class in my last year of university. It was without a doubt one of the most interesting classes I’ve taken, and also a very sobering one because it makes you realize how small we are in such a vast universe. By the time that class was done I had already written most of The Infinite Knowledge, but I was still able to apply some of the science I learned to the story. It’s fun inventing concepts when you write science fiction, but what’s more fun is when you can relate your made-up concepts to real science.

CK: Your love of animals was really obvious to me in the way you portrayed certain creatures in the book. Can you tell me a bit about this love, and how it informs the book?

TW: There’s never been a time in my life where I’ve been without a pet, and I think a dog will always be my perfect companion. It takes owning a dog or a horse to really understand the bond you can have with one. As Betty White once said, “Animals don’t lie. Animals don’t criticize. If animals have moody days, they handle them better than humans do.” I tried to portray such human-animal friendships in a couple of ways in the book. An important, loyal character doesn’t always need to be a person.

CK: Which writers do you like to read, and which have been most influential on your work?

TW: My favourite author of all time has to be J. K. Rowling. I’m a Harry Potter superfan. In general, I tend to enjoy a wide variety of books and authors, although I mostly find myself reading YA. I wouldn’t say any one writer has influenced my work, though. Everyone has a writing style and I tried to distinguish my own, as well.

CK: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

TW: I think a person has to have a certain level of obsessive passion in order to write a full novel, so my advice is “Don’t hold back.” The best part of writing—and especially sci-fi—is that you get the freedom to create whatever you want to create. It’s your book and you control everything inside of it, so do what you want with it! Immerse yourself in your book’s world. Tape outlines and photos and maps to your walls, write down ideas in your cell phone as they come to you, make a playlist that inspires your characters, get those Crayola window crayons and write inspiration on your mirror—whatever it takes for your book to materialize. Then, when you write your first draft, don’t even pause to think about the format or spelling errors. Just let those creative juices fly, and do your editing later.

CK: Are you currently working on another novel? If so, can you tell us anything about it?

TW: I’ve been harbouring an idea for about a year, but haven’t had the chance to give it a good go. I’m very excited about it. It’s different from The Infinite Knowledge, however, and has a more mature theme. That’s all I’m going to say, since I’m still outlining the plot at this point! I’m also trying to convince a friend of a friend to let me write a story based on his very interesting life.

For more information about Tiana Warner and The Infinite Knowledge of J.T. Badgley, please see the author’s website: http://www.tianawarner.com.



In Praise of Young Authors

When you reach a certain age, it’s all too easy to become a little bit crotchety on the subject of the younger generation. The transition to curmudgeonliness happens not long after a moment of awakening, such as when a store clerk at a cosmetic counter suggests you purchase an anti-aging serum, or when a young person mentions a bit of slang you have never even heard of–even though you’re an editor and thought you were conversant with all the latest usage. Your relative oldness stands out in dramatic relief at such moments. You can no longer pass yourself off as young, nor can you pretend to truly understand the young. The gulf between you and the younger generation seems vast and insurmountable, which paves the way for becoming a critical such-and-such.

To the most curmudgeonly among us, young people are inevitably rude, lazy, undisciplined, distracted, and illiterate. But come now, are they really? I confess to being at a certain disadvantage when it comes to the subject of the young, as I don’t have children of my own, and I spend much of my time around other middle-aged people, many of whom are also childless. But what I can tell you is that none of those adjectives even remotely apply to some of the young authors who have crossed my path recently.

One author I worked with earlier this year is still in high school, while another recently graduated from university. Both have written sizeable and ambitious novels in the fantasy and science fiction genres. Both are respectful, gracious, and generally delightful to deal with. And as far as literacy is concerned, both have very successfully absorbed the fundamentals of spelling, grammar, and punctuation, which speaks well for both them and the educational system. But more than that, it’s as if they’ve already read all those books I’ve been reading about how to write good fiction and have even memorized the rules–they really know how to structure a novel. And doing so seems to come very naturally to them. Perhaps it’s not so much that they’ve read about the rules as that they’ve already read a lot of fiction in their young lives and have absorbed it at such a deep level that they instinctively know how to write it.

That anyone so young manages to write a novel, let alone a good one, astonishes me. Beyond their obvious literary ability, these young authors have ambition, patience, and discipline in spades–not to mention a buoyant optimism to carry them through the long process of writing and publishing their work. Looking back at my much younger self, I know I wasn’t half as impressive as they are. I certainly wish them well, and I can’t wait to see where their writing will take them.