Monday, December 20, 2010

Susan Bischoff: Interview and Giveaway

Hey everyone!  Susan Bischoff was cool enough to swing by ParaYourNormal for an interview and giveaway.  Read on and find out how to win a signed print copy of her superhero awesome-packed book, Hush Money.

In your bio it says you’re married to your high school sweetheart, which to me is like a storybook romance.  Does the relationship with your husband have any influence on the romance in Hush Money?
That’s an interesting one to think about, and I’d have to say yes. A lot of people tend to be dismissive of young love: Oh, you can’t possibly know what you want. I can’t do that, and I think that because I, personally, am inclined to take it more seriously, because I believe, that gives me an edge in writing it. Also, I guess the fact that my high school relationship ended up continuing to be so important helps me better remember what it was like, including how painfully awkward it is when young people are dancing around revealing their feelings for each other. 

You are so the opposite of Marco.  Who or what did you reference to create such a menacing villain?
First let me say that it’s a comfort to know you think I’m not evil. I’m really kind of taken aback by readers’ visceral responses to Marco. A lot of people love to hate him. That’s awesome. I actually don’t have a secret nemesis on whom I based Marco’s character so…I don’t know. Maybe that means he really is just another side of me.
Marco needs to feel bigger and more important than he is. Making others feel small gives him that sense of power that he craves. And that is pretty typical bully material. But Joss is right, he’s not the usual big, dumb, as seen on TV bully either. Because Joss really needed a nemesis who would force her into action, and someone who could stand up to what she’s been holding back. So while I had the general idea of his role in the story, a lot of Marco was just stuff that came off the cuff. It was just: what’s the worst thing he can do/say and still remain believable as a teen character?

The sales on Hush Money have been going very well for you.  For those readers out there that are working on their own paranormal fiction, what advice can you give them on marketing?
I am TOTALLY one of those introverted writers who was terrified I wouldn’t be able to do the marketing. Don’t get hung up thinking that marketing is beyond you. It’s not.
Write a good book. Don’t put something out there unless you believe it was good enough for NY. If you do that, your marketing job will be a lot easier.
Get reviews. One thing I did early on was to give away a lot of review copies. I gave away around 30 copies in a Goodreads event during the book’s second week of release. People took them because I had good art, an intriguing premise, and the first few pages didn’t suck. So that goes back to putting out a good book. Plus, you know, free. I would have given away 100 and not been overly pained by it, because I wanted to establish credibility through reviews as soon as possible.
I’ve got a series on my blog about things I did at the outset that I think helped me get established and sell books. If you poke around at, the whole thing is categorized under “Increasing Kindle Rank.”
For the other platform building stuff, I highly recommend Kristen Lamb’s book, We Are Not Alone, A Writer’s Guide to Social Media. It is an easy to read, witty, For Dummies level introduction to what writers need to be doing social media-wise. I recommend running out and buying that BEFORE publishing your book, if at all possible, although I did read it after mine was out.

Reading Hush Money gives me the sense that there is a much bigger story to tell.  Is there an endgame for The Talent Chronicles or will this series go on for the duration of your career?
Um…sort of? Yes, there is a much bigger story to tell, I do have things I want to bring out, and I have a sense of where it’s going. But nothing’s set in stone. The Talent world is pretty large and well-populated with characters and story ideas, so I can probably write here happily as long as it has readers.

Plotter or pantser?
Oh you know it, I’m a plotter. All. The. Way.

Was there a scene that came up while you were writing that wasn’t in the plot? 

I think what most noticeably changed from the original outline to the final story was what happened at Kat’s party. It was a bit of a blank spot as far as I knew something would happen that would cause a shift in Joss. As I wrote my way toward it, it was obvious that the lame high school party BS I had planned wasn’t good enough. I had written a character who was very much grounded in the way she was raised, to stay on the sidelines. I needed something that would actually force her out of that, figuring that if she was pushed past her boundary once, it would be that much easier for me to keep pushing her in the second half of the story. It was my fab critique partner, Kait Nolan, who suggested bringing in NIAC (the government’s Talent enforcer goons). This scared the crap of me because I had never intended that sort of NIAC vs. Talent confrontation so early in the series. But I didn’t have any other ideas, so I tried it. And the book was so much better for it. 

The book cover is beautiful, who designed it?
Thank you very much. That was Robin Ludwig, RLDprint dot com, a very talented graphic designer.

So how does that work?  Do you have a vision or do you just tell the artist that you need a cover and he/she takes over?

I had a vision that was way complicated and wasn’t working out. So we talked a lot. I had some things I wanted: like I wanted to have something that would brand my covers as a group, I wanted something that actually related to what was in the book, something that would intrigue, something that would look good at a small size, and I also referenced several covers in my primary genre—the Teen Vampire, um, I mean, Young Adult Paranormal Romance genre to give her an idea what was appropriate. I wanted to fit in and also stand out. Robin pulled all that together for me, because she’s just all that.

I know Buffy the Vampire Slayer was an influence for Hush Money.  The main character is named Joss after all.  What specific episodes or aspects of the show influenced you the most? 
Arg, another good question, meaning I have to think about it. Two elements of Buffy that were on my mind a lot during the writing: how she sometimes really longs to be a normal girl with a normal life, and how she always chooses the hard thing, even when she’s tired, when she’s scared, even when it hurts, even when the people she’s helping won’t know or won’t appreciate her. Buffy always stands up, over and over, because it’s the right thing and that’s what heroes do. Joss doesn’t have a Watcher to tell her it’s her destiny to be a hero, what she’s got is a militantly overprotective dad who’s been training her to play it safe. So if Joss is ever going to be a Big Damn Hero, I felt like she needed to start with this lesson of doing what’s right vs. doing what’s safe.

Susan Bischoff is the author of superhero romance, Hush Money, book one of The Talent Chronicles.  Right now she's hard at work on the follow up, Heroes 'Til Curfew.  

You can keep up with her and all things Talent Chronicles on her blog, twitter, facebook, goodreads and myspace.  If you'd like to get your hands on a copy of Hush Money, it's available for ereaders on Amazon, Amazon UK, Smashwords, Scribd, Kobo, Sony, Barnes & Noble and Borders AU.  Print copies are available on Amazon, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble and CreateSpace.

Now for the giveaway.  Real easy to play.  First, follow this blog and then answer this question in the comments.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?

And that's it!  Don't forget to leave a way for us to contact you. (email, twitter, etc)  The winner will be announced on the next ParaYourNormal radio show.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Interview with Excelsior author George H. Sirois

George was nice enough to stop by and talk to us about his novel Excelsior.  Be sure to check at the end for details on how to win a signed print copyAnd without further ado . . .

In most fiction, the characters are amalgams of different people, but this is not the case with the main character Matthew Peters.  Who is the inspiration for him and why?
Matthew Peters started out as inspired only by my cousin Matthew Peter Henkel. He left us in March of 2005 – one week before his 25th birthday – but despite being at such a young age, he was one of those rare people who accomplished everything that hewanted, including finding the person with whom he wanted to spend the rest of his life.

But the more I wrote, the more I was able to incorporate elements of my youth. In the novel, we see that Matthew had set up a small office for himself in his closet and did much more writing and drawing in class than paying attention, and that was all me. So there’s a bit of an amalgam in Matthew Peters, even though the name suggests it’s only based on my cousin.

Is this story a tribute to him?
Absolutely. While there are a lot of elements that are based on me and my childhood, the subtext is a huge tribute to my cousin. This is a young man who was diagnosed with Wilms Tumor when he was 2. He beat
that and went on to become an Eagle Scout – something only 2 percent of all Boy Scouts achieve – and after that, he passed the tests to become a volunteer firefighter and then he became an EMT for Middletown & Red Bank, NJ. During his time there, he helped keep the peace on the Jersey Shore during 9/11 and he helped deliver a baby. He accomplished all this while being barely over 5 feet tall since the chemo stunted his growth. He was the ultimate example of someone completely unassuming becoming a real hero, the “meek inheriting the earth,” if you will.

Originally, you were going to publish this book the traditional route. What made you decide to go independent?
I’m not ashamed to say it was out of fear. I wasn’t afraid that publishers would turn it down, but I was afraid that it wouldn’t be marketed enough to find an audience. This book is the proverbial tip of the iceberg for me, the beginning of a huge saga of stories, and “Excelsior” is the first part of a trilogy. That trilogy leads to
another series, which leads to another series to bring the whole thing full circle. If this first book were to fail while under a publishing house’s umbrella, I wouldn’t get the chance to continue writing the first trilogy since that publisher would own the character. And I just didn’t feel comfortable relinquishing control of someone I had been developing and re-developing for 18 years.

But I still wanted the book to get out into the world, because I always felt – as I still feel – that this can be a success if enough people know about it. So by setting the book up through Infinity Publishing, I would be able to retain the rights of the story and character, earn decent royalties and just concentrate on writing the book without worrying about the ins-and-outs of the technical side.

How did you raise the finances to fund your book?
I thought about how independent filmmakers raise money for their projects, and how they list the names of all the donors in the Special Thanks To… credit. I thought it would be a great thing for people to have their names in print for them to show their friends and family. So I set up my blog and used that as my headquarters for “Excelsior” while I revised the book with my dear friend and editor JeriAnn Geller. I set up a “Buy It Now” button for PayPal and announced the “Pre-Order Special.” If people paid $17.95, they not only guaranteed their own personalized autographed copy, but they saw their names printed in the back of the

The special became a great success in a lot of ways. The money I raised paid for all of the printing fees for Infinity Publishing, it paid for all of everyone’s copies plus an extra 30, and the connections I made through promoting it on Twitter allowed me to get the eBook setup on Smashwords and Amazon.

The names for the alien races in Excelsior (Denarians and Krunations) are so unusual, how did you come up with them?
I’ve been a Star Trek fan since I was a kid when my Dad taped re-runs of The Original Series that aired at midnight on WPIX-11 in New York. The pilot episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” featured a planet called Deneb IV, and for some reason, that name really resonated with me. So in honor of the show for all of the inspiration it gave me, I gave my planet the name Denab IV, the name tweaked just a little bit, and I called the people on the planet Denarians. The word “Krunations” just popped into my head after creating a neighboring planet that was going to be the main conflict in the original story. But during the development of the story, I did away with the other planet and made both the Denarians and Krunations indigenous to Denab IV.

Excelsior is for the most part, a complete story, but there are some questions left unanswered. What can you tell us, if anything, about the sequel?
There’s a whole lot to Excelsior’s mythology that was held back, and a big part of it is his main adversary, who is alluded to in the book but never mentioned by name. We’re not only going to see the two clash in the sequel, but we’re going to get much deeper into Excelsior’s origins. I want so badly to tell readers about what’s going to happen, and how much darker and more complex the story’s going to get, but I can’t do it justice by just talking about it.

Plotter or pantser?

A bit of both. When I started writing the first draft, I knew how the book would start and I had a feeling of how it was going to end, but it was a real journey for myself to find out how I would get there. The sequel’s going to be plotted out much more intricately since there’s so much more that I want to do with this one.

Was there a scene that came up while you were writing that wasn’t in the plot?
Yes, and it’s one of my favorites. When I first came up with Excelsior’s story, I had envisioned a truly epic moment when the character who would eventually become Matthew Peters puts on Excelsior’s armor and slowly places the helmet on his head. It was to be really special with the film score swelling and everything.

In the novel, Matthew puts the armor on in a bathroom. And not just any bathroom, but the bathroom of Matthew & Jason’s home that used to belong to Matthew’s grandmother so it even has a fuzzy toilet seat
cover. I had no idea it was going to be like that, but once it was in the book, I realized I wouldn’t have written it any other way. It works perfectly for the story I was trying to write.

George H. Sirois is the author YA urban fantasy Excelsior.  It's available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords and Infinity Publishing. If you'd like to learn more about George, you can find him on his blog, 411mania, twitter and facebook.

And as promised, here's the giveaway!
The rules are simple.  First follow this blog.  Then read the first chapter of George's book here.  After that all that's left is to answer George's trivia question.

What do the Denarian hieroglyphics on Acerus' robe translate to read?  

Write your answer in the comments and don't forget to leave your twitter handle, email or someway for us to contact you.  The winner will be announced on the December 13th radio show.