Author Corner–Johnny Worthen

E: Hey, Johnny!  Welcome to Erindipity!  Take a seat, have a beverage.  I realize it’s no Blog Mansion, but I do what I can.  Charlie!  Don’t be rude.  Greet our guest.

Unintelligible corpsy sounds.

J: I have a Charlie, too. Well, bits of one anyway.

E: You’ve just had a novel release from Omnium Gatherum Media, BEATRYSEL.  I can’t wait to get some time to actually read it.  Tell us a little bit about it and what inspired you to write it.

J: BEATRYSEL is the tale of a demon, created by her Magus lover, rent from him but seeking return. It is the tale of the Magus who made her and lost himself in the act. It is a tale of jilted lovers, betrayals and loss; power and Magick. It explores modern occult theory as practiced today and the manifest power of love made real.

BEATRYSEL arose from a distinct moment in my life. First I couldn’t find modern occultism treated accurately or sympathetically in fiction. Having studied it for years and understanding its potential, I wanted to incorporate that belief system into a story with like-minded characters.

Then there was the issue of love and a hate, betrayal and affection. BEATRYSEL was born at a time in my life when my friends were all hit with a plague of divorces about the same time. It was frightening and contagious. I watched best friends suffer pain and anguish like I’d never thought possible. The raw emotion took on an almost living form and it was an easy step for me to visualize it just that way, as a spirit. And thus, I made BEATRYSEL.

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E: This is your debut novel.  What has been the best part of the experience and what has been the most terrifying part for you?

J: Seeing it done has been the best part of it. I started my writing career late. Then I made the mistake of seeking publication in the traditional way of having a great book and seeking an agent. That way lies madness. Thus, I got an even later start. Once I went straight to publishers and editors I got picked up in short order and for multiple titles and have kicked myself ever since.

And so finally, after trying to get published for so long, seeing my book in print was a life-affirming event, an unparalleled thrill. But now, of course, it’s out there. And anyone can see it. That’s the terrifying part right there. I’m exposed. Or rather, my baby is exposed and there’s nothing I can do now. It’s like sending a kid to college, really. I know because I did that this year too. I’m all worry and powerlessness now. I can only hope that I did a good enough job that my baby can succeed on its own.

E: You’re also in the process of releasing another novel.  Well done, Sir!  What is the title and what can you tell us about it?

J: “Eleanor is a modest girl, unremarkable but extraordinary, young but old, malleable but fixed. She is scared and confused. She is a liar and a thief. Eleanor is not what she appears to be.”

ELEANOR begins a young adult paranormal trilogy. It’s a story about a young girl growing up as inconspicuously as possible in a small Wyoming town.

ELEANOR is a very different book and very different experience than BEATRYSEL. Where BEATRYSEL is terrifying, ELEANOR is emotional; where love drives people to madness in BEATRYSEL, it redeems them in ELEANOR.

E: Today is also the cover reveal.  Well, don’t just sit there!  Show it to us, man!  How did you choose this cover?

J: The cover reveal is early. My publisher’s catalog is set far in advance. ELEANOR will not be released for months still. I’m looking at the summer in fact. That’s alright though. Eleanor is patient.

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E: How was the process for this new book different from the first one?  Did you learn anything from the first book that made it easier with this new one?

J: I was more disciplined with ELEANOR. I wrote BEATRYSEL before I made writing a career and so it was took years to write. With ELEANOR, I made it my life’s work to see the story through and worked diligently and straight on until the third book was done. It was intense but wonderful.

I tend not to censor myself in regard to theme and language in my stories, and knowing I wanted ELEANOR to be for young adults I struggled for a while on how to “dumb it down,” so to speak. Then I realized the only change I needed to make was to curtail my potty mouth. Young adults are more than capable of handling the big themes of love and change, fear, belonging and loneliness, life and death as are adults, perhaps more so. Once I realized this, I was free to write ELEANOR as she needed to be written.

I should say that I am not a fan of books that drag it into a series whether you like it or not. Therefor, ELEANOR, the first book in the series is actually a complete stand-alone title. The next two in the series continue the story, and I encourage you to read those too, but the first book, ELEANOR is thematically and structurally complete. 

I’m not sure why I felt I needed to mention that.

E: What are you currently working on?

J: I’m in edits with another literary horror called WHAT IMMORTAL HAND and I’m shopping a mystery thriller called THE BRAND DEMAND. As of today, I am 15,000 words into a book I know only as XANDER, a near future dystopia of haves and have-nots inspired by my recent readings of THE HUNGER GAMES, and Howard Zinn’s A PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES.

E: Do you have any upcoming events, book signings, etc., that you’d like to share with us?

J: I wish I did. I’ll be at Wordharvest, The 2013 Tony Hillerman Writer’s Conference in Santa Fe from the 7th to the 10th of this month. After that, I’m back in hermit mode. I’ll be lining up book signings for BEATRYSEL but I haven’t yet. I’ll have to wait until Spring for ELEANOR events. I’ll keep you posted.

You can find Johnny on his blog, his website, on Facebook, and on Goodreads.

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Guest Post–Lehua Parker

Author Lehua Parker stopped by today to talk about her Middle Grade/Young Adult series, The Niuhi Shark Saga.  You can find her previous interview on the blog here.

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When Pidgin Doesn’t Fly

It should’ve been obvious that when I intentionally wrote a series set in Hawaii with  dialogue in colloquial Hawaiian Pidgin English for MG/YA boys who don’t like to read, it was going to be a tough sell. Not only does my target audience not know I exist, they aren’t even looking.

It’s enough to make publishers and publicists resort to chucking bottles of gin and cases of cigarettes into volcanos as bribes to temperamental fire goddesses to help a sister out.

Sometimes it’s hard to get noticed.

The Niuhi Shark Saga was acquired by Jolly Fish Press (JFP) as a five book arc with the understanding that a new title would emerge from the womb ready to publish every nine months to a year. JFP is a brand-spanking-new traditional publisher ready to play midwife to the next blockbuster. Book 1, One Boy, No Water, was published in September 2012, the last of the three titles in JFP’s debut year. 2014, year three, will see eighteen.

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Like most beginnings, it’s been a journey filled with growing pains. Based in Utah, JFP did get a few books stocked at local Barnes & Noble bookstores, hosted a few book signings, set-up a blog tour, created a book trailer, submitted One Boy, No Water for an American Book Award, and technically, the Niuhi Shark Saga is available world-wide. But inherently magical promises of catalog distribution aside, my core target audience is still in the middle of the Pacific ocean several thousands of miles away.

It all looked easier on paper.

On my own the best I could do was send a few copies to Hawaiian school libraries and folks back home that I thought might like it enough to recommend it to friends. Overworked, underappreciated,  and focused on their next titles, JFP’s attention was elsewhere. To be fair, this kind of debut author/publisher experience isn’t unusual regardless of whether you’re with a new small press or NY Big 6. Go forth and harness the power of social marketing, I was told.

Like a good soldier, I spent almost two years social media marketing like mad, building relationships with readers with smart phones and Facebook accounts, blogging about Hawaiian culture, books, and how I often felt like a fish out of water living so far from my island home. I met a lot of amazing people and had a few opportunities come my way, but it was soon painfully obvious that while having a social media platform is an essential connection with fans, if you’re unknown it’s not the mechanism for creating an MG/YA fanbase. Any school interest I raised left educators scratching their heads because outside of Hawaii, Pidgin has no place to roost.

When I heard from other ex-pat Hawaiians that their kids asked parents and grandparents to read the Pidgin parts to them, that kids stumbled over common Pidgin words and phrases, and worse, that some gave up, I knew I had to make a change. Adults who didn’t speak Pidgin had no problem; they easily got into Pidgin’s rhythms and figured out meaning from context. The kids who were stronger readers stuck with it, liking the characters and plot, eagerly begging me for the next in the series.

It wasn’t the story. It was the language.

When I wrote book 2, One Shark, No Swim, I cut most of the Pidgin. There’re a few words and phrases sprinkled throughout the dialogue, but nothing like what was in One Boy, No Water. JFP is publishing One Shark, No Swim on September 21, 2013. Early reviewers like it; almost no one misses the Pidgin.

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I do, a little. After all, it was the I-hate-reading kid who seldom saw his authentic island lifestyle or characters like himself in the media that I was reaching out to with the series. But while I dream for a living, I’m pretty practical at my core.

While I was beating the bushes trying to figure out how to market the Niuhi Shark Saga on a shoestring, JFP was busily working like beavers in a log jam to even out the kinks in their distribution channels. They recently inked a deal with IPG, leading to new and improved marketing plans that include re-launching their backlist starting in January 2014.

You gotta love the can-do attitude of start-ups. Never underestimate the transformative power of espresso and interns.

With new distribution in place, JFP is giving me another chance to get it right. One Boy, No Water is getting a second edition make-over with English that sparkles with propriety and nary a da kine or get plenny fish in sight.

After its Pidgin-ectomy, the Niuhi Shark Saga will still be a series set in authentic Hawaii with people who do more than tend bars and wear something other than Hollywood’s coconut bras and cellophane grass skirts. Perhaps unburdened by Pidgin the story of a boy who’s allergic to water and sharks that walk among men will finally soar high enough that reluctant readers surfing at Waimea Bay will notice. As any fisherman will tell you, it’s all about the bait.

***

Lehua Parker is originally from Hawaii and a graduate of The Kamehameha Schools and Brigham Young University. In addition to writing award-winning short fiction, poetry, and plays, she is the author of the Pacific literature MG/YA series the Niuhi Shark Saga published by Jolly Fish Press. One Boy, No Water and One Shark, No Swim are available now, book 3, One Fight, No Fist will be published in 2014.

So far Lehua has been a live television director, a school teacher, a courseware manager, an instructional designer, a sports coach, a theater critic, a SCUBA instructor, a playwright, a web designer, a book editor, a mother, and a wife. She currently lives in Utah with her husband, two children, three cats, two dogs, six horses, and assorted chickens. During the snowy Utah winters she dreams about the beach.

You can find Lehua on her website, Facebook, Twitter, or on the Niuhi Shark Saga website.

Recommend It Monday–The Perpetual Motion Machine Club by Sue Lange

I received The Perpetual Motion Machine Club by Sue Lange as a review copy.  This is a Young Adult Science Fiction novel.  Overall, it was an enjoyable read.

The book started out a little bit slow for me.  It took me a couple of chapters before I really got hooked on it, but once Lange got into the Perpetual Motion Machines, I was hooked.  Elsa is fantastic.  I loved the layers Lange added to that character.  She wants to be different, and that comes with consequences, but she accepts them all (some she handles better than others) and ends up making a difference.  She’s very intelligent, but she’s not always very smart which can be frustrating for some people.  I think it accurately describes a sophomore aged teen.  I also appreciate all of the ways Lange lets Elsa down throughout the story.  The romance plot with Jimmy was a little predictable, but I didn’t really mind that so much because Jimmy was a pretty great kid.  It helped to highlight Elsa’s personal growth when she came to that realization for herself.  The world Lange builds takes the clique dynamic and feeds it steroids.  Most teens feel like high school is life or death, but Lange almost makes that feeling a reality by forcing that dynamic out of the friendship sphere and making it into a career sphere.  Being in the “right circle” now has far greater importance because it can affect where, or if, you attend college and whether you get sponsored or not.  The corporate sponsorship gets to be overwhelming pretty early into the story, but I’m ok with that because I imagine living inside of that atmosphere would be overwhelming.  I think it’s another way to help relate to the characters.

There were a couple of flaws for me.  The most serious one is the lack of an established time.  The story is set in the future, but there is no real marker for me how far into the future it is.  Some moments make it seem like it’s only a decade or so, but others make it seem like it’s much further into the future.  That fluidity of time makes it hard to feel grounded in the story.  Another involves Penn State.  Elsa has a Penn State sweatshirt that she wears all the time.  For her birthday, Jimmy makes her a beret in Penn State’s colors.  The book tells us the hat was blue/yellow and those are not their school colors.  Their colors are blue/white.  This last one is a personal pet peeve of mine, so I’ll mention it since I’ve ranted about it on here before, but “conversate” appears in the novel.  You either converse or you have a conversation.  Is it minor?  Yep.  Like I said, though, it’s a personal thing with me so I’m mentioning it.  It only appears the one time, so unless you are as particular as I am, you probably won’t even notice it’s in there.

I don’t know much about Perpetual Motion Machines, but those sections were the stars for me.  I think it let us see Elsa in a slightly different way than at any other time during the novel.  Plus, the machines themselves were fascinating.  I wish I could have visited Elsa’s FutureWorld display because I think it would have been amazing.

I enjoyed this book.  Is it perfect?  No.  That said, it’s a damn entertaining read.  I plan on passing it along to my 14 year old son to see his take on it.  There’s enough science and math thrown in that I think he’ll enjoy it, too.