Author Interview: Ken Stark 2.0

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Author Interview: Ken Stark 2.0

I’ve been harassing Ken Stark ever since I learned of Stage 3: Alpha, and it paid off. Ken is back to tell us all about Stage 3: Alpha, what’s in store for the series, and his other project, Arcadia Falls. I hope you enjoy Ken’s interview as much as I have.


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Ken Stark, author of Stage 3 and Stage 3: Alpha


Welcome back, Ken! I appreciate you taking the time to answer some questions for all of us fans, especially with the release of Alpha keeping you busy.


My pleasure, Donna! For the record, you were the first person to interview me after Stage 3, so I can’t imagine anyone I’d rather sit down with after the release of Stage 3: Alpha. My only hope is that you don’t get so rich and famous with your own books that you won’t want to keep the tradition going!


I’m hoping we both become rich and famous and do kooky interviews with each other just to make people wonder about our eccentric lives.


Haha…sounds good to me!


You know how excited I’ve been waiting for Stage 3: Alpha. I can just imagine how excited the rest of your fans are. What can you tell us about Alpha?


All I’ve said so far is that the story is told from a different point of view, but now that it’s out, I can finally say it out loud. Aunt Sarah is alive! And not only is she alive, she is the driving force behind Stage 3: Alpha. The story starts just after the collapse of the hospital, and we follow Sarah as she tries desperately to reunite with her niece, Mackenzie. She knows that she has to survive if she is to have any hope of saving Mack, but she learns pretty quickly that she will have to harden her heart to do so. It is pretty much the opposite trajectory that Mason took in Stage 3, so it should make for an interesting contrast.


I love the direction you took with Stage 3: Alpha. I worried it would be the easy answer, having Mason come and save the day, and I should have known better. The way you start Stage 3 and the way you handle the zombie outbreak is different than the tired storylines we see all too often. I was glad you gave Sarah the space to show why she’s a survivor.


Well, thank you. I figured most people would expect book 2 to be the Continuing Adventures of Mack and Mace, so I wanted to make it clear right from the start that this was Sarah’s story. We saw Mason’s learning curve in understanding this new reality, so it was only right to show Sarah’s as well, and whereas Mason’s education began with a bright spark of hope, Sarah’s is initiated by a personal loss. So though they may have ended up in pretty much the same place, Sarah’s path there was considerably more tragic, giving her an entirely different set of motivations.


I don’t know if I’ve told you this, Ken, but my first horror movie was Night of the Living Dead. I’ve loved zombies ever since. So as I read Stage 3: Alpha one question loomed above all others. How many books are planned for the series? And can your fans convince you to never stop writing them?


I planned the series as a trilogy, but I’m having too much fun to stop at three, so no convincing needed! I’ll keep them coming as long as there’s even one person who enjoys them, myself included. I’m also trying very hard to write each of them as its own story, so hopefully, a reader will be able to come in at book 3 or book 5 and have no less an entertaining story than if they were there from the beginning.


*happy dance* Stage 3: Alpha feels like it could stand alone so I’d say you nailed it, sir. I hope it continues to work for the books to come.


I hope so, too! I love the idea that someone might pick up one of my books and enjoy it, then find out later that there were two or three books preceding that one. It would mean that they enjoyed the characters and the story without knowing all of the background minutiae, so I will have done my job right.


We start the story with Sarah, whom we had heard only mentioned in Stage 3. (By the way, I love Sarah, and she’s a character I wish I could meet.) What can you tell us about Sarah? Where did the inspiration for Sarah come from?


Oh, Sarah…. I love Sarah, too. I desperately wanted to introduce her in Stage 3, but to do so would have required her to be rescued by the big strong hero, and that simply wouldn’t do. Sarah is no damsel in distress. She is as tough and resourceful and as utterly badass as Mason himself, so to truly do Sarah justice, she needed a book of her own.


The character isn’t based on anyone in particular, but she shares some of the best and worst traits with every woman I’ve ever known. She is proud and strong and resilient, and she is most definitely loving and caring, but just like everyone else on Earth, there are times when she is driven by pure, raw emotion. In those moments, we get to see Sarah at her very best and her very worst, so they provide a pretty good insight into what really makes her tick.


One of the things I love about your characters is how real they feel. Sarah doesn’t feel like a sudden superhero, which again, we see all too often. She feels like a character adapting to her surroundings, using what she’s always got by on…brains.



Well, I think the greatest asset anyone can have in any kind of dire situation is plain old common sense. You don’t have to be Einstein, you just have to observe, realize the dangers, and act accordingly. Sarah is smart, sure, but it was common sense that told her how to use what she knows to her best advantage.


I assume once people finish reading this interview they’ll be running off to buy your book. It’s the only logical choice. So where can Stage 3 and Stage 3: Alpha be purchased? Will it be available in ebook and paperback?


Both are on Amazon, and by the time this interview comes out, both should be available as ebooks and paperbacks. If Alpha isn’t in paperback yet, just give it a day or two. As well, Beacon Publishing recently released an audiobook version of Stage 3, which you can find either on Amazon or iTunes. (Inside tip: it’s a LOT cheaper on Amazon. You can combine it with the ebook or add it on later, and it’s still cheaper than iTunes. But you didn’t hear it from me…..Shhh…..)


Already bought my ebook. =) Don’t worry, people. The review is coming.


And I appreciate it! As they say, writers live or die by review, so thank you very much. But since I mentioned the audiobook, let me just give a shout-out to Gregory Peyton and all the fine folks at Beacon Publishing. I had no hand in any of it, but I honestly couldn’t imagine a better actor than Gregory Peyton to bring Hank Mason to life. He was so much like the Mason I heard in my head that I couldn’t quite believe it. He even swore like the voice in my head, so that’s pretty awesome!


When I finally release a novel, I’ll probably happy dance until I collapse. How will you be celebrating the release of Stage 3: Alpha?


Oh, the usual; a heady blend of excitement, pride, satisfaction, and a special kind of gut-wrenching dread. Honestly, I can’t celebrate a book’s release. Even though I know that I’ve done the best I can, once the book is out of my hands and committed, I immediately start to second-guess every aspect of it. Maybe I should have done this, maybe I should have done that…. Eventually, I just have to accept that it is what it is, and readers will either like it or not. But none of that translates into celebration. I guess what I really do to celebrate a book’s release is to jump right into the next thing, hoping to do a better job on the next one than the last.


Man, now I’m thinking I’ll happy dance until I realize the implications… What is this feeling in my guts?


I’m afraid you’d better get used to that feeling. That is the future you feel, unknown and unknowable.


If I promise not to harass you too much, will you tell me if the third Stage 3 novel is in development?


#3 is underway as we speak. I have no idea when it will be done, but it will be done! All I’m willing to say about it right now is that everyone left alive at the end of Alpha will be there, plus we’ll meet a few new friends, a few new enemies, and some that might just straddle the line.


*fist bump* I’m already looking forward to it. You’ve introduced some intriguing characters in Alpha. I can’t wait to see where you take them. There are so many possibilities for this “new” world.


Oh, there are endless possibilities. I’m already several books ahead, plotting all manner of mayhem. Will some old villains re-emerge? Does the virus have anything else up its proverbial sleeve? And just what caused the outbreak in the first place? Only time will tell.


The last time you stopped by and subjected yourself to my questioning, you mentioned another project in the works. What can you tell us about the Arcadia Falls project you’ve been working on?


I’m starting to feel like George R R Martin when I discuss Arcadia Falls. It’s coming, I swear! The book is actually done, but finding time for one final edit has been tough with everything else that’s been going on. In a nutshell, the book is about an unlikely group of friends coming together to battle a long-forgotten evil that’s been plaguing the town of Arcadia Falls. It was written with YA readers in mind, so I’d rate it as PG-13, but there should be plenty of nightmares to go around. No zombies this time, though. In fact, I can truthfully say that the evil in question is something no one’s ever seen before.


I’m excited to read Arcadia Falls. We need new monsters. I love the old ones (zombies, vampires, werewolves, etc.), but there’s nothing like a new monster to keep you peeking under beds and behind doors.


I couldn’t agree more. We can certainly breathe new life into old monsters, but there’s nothing like a brand new horror to really shake things up.


Not that you’re not already busy enough, but any other projects we should keep a lookout for?


After Arcadia Falls, I’ll pour myself back into the world of Stage 3 and see what kind of havoc I can wreak. But don’t be surprised if the odd short story pops up from time to time, either on my website or elsewhere.


Any chance for a short story compilation book?


Maybe one day, but I think I’ll just post them on my website for now. Or maybe throw the occasional one on Amazon and ask for a few pennies for charity.


Two books out, one crazy lady who stalks you for interviews *points to self*, do you feel like a famous author now? Do you feel like a success? Please use details so I can live vicariously through you until my time comes.


Lol! Tell you what, if I ever start to feel like a success, you’ll be the first to know! But maybe that’s the whole point, after all. If we think we’ve arrived at our destination, we stop moving, so maybe it’s better we keep our eyes on the horizon and keep plodding along, one step at a time.


I like that a lot. Always looking upward and onward. I have trouble feeling like a “real” writer. At what point did you feel like, “I’m a real writer”?


I think it’s an incremental thing. The day my first book was accepted by a publisher, the day the book came out, the first review…. I’m not even sure if I feel like a ‘real’ writer yet, but at least I can start to imagine that I might one day.


With a second book under your belt, what advice do you have for writers trying to get words down on a page? Any advice for those trying to get a novel published?


Two excellent questions with very different answers.

Firstly, for anyone struggling to get words on a page, my advice is simple. Stop struggling. Put down whatever’s in your head and worry about making sense of it later. Most of the struggle comes from trying to write like someone or as good as someone, but you have to know that every voice is unique and every view of the world is unique and every writer’s imagination is unique, so why the hell are you setting limits on your own creativity? Maybe what you come up with will be an instant best seller, but even if it never sees the light of day, the work still wasn’t done in vain. You are now a better writer than you were yesterday, and you will be a better writer tomorrow than you are today. So just write! Put one word in front of the other and write!


But now, getting your book published is another thing altogether. If you’re looking to be published traditionally, there are certain protocols that you ignore only at your own peril. Yes, you might stand apart from the crowd by sending in a query letter on a cocktail napkin, but your chances will be much, much better if you follow the rules. A quick online search will show you dozens of publishers looking for unsolicited manuscripts, and each publisher’s website will tell you what they’re looking for and precisely how to submit your work. Any deviation might cause your hard work to be deleted with the stroke of a key, so follow those rules to the letter. The only other advice I can give is to have your book finished and polished before submitting anything, and spend more time than you ever imagined it would take on coming up with an awesome blurb. That blurb is meant to catch readers’ attention, but it might just be what catches the publisher’s attention too, so take your time with it. Seriously. If you have it in a week, take another five to make it better.


As a writer who struggles to put words on the page, I can attest you just have to do it. It’s much easier to fix the words you write than to continue staring at a blank page. I have to admit the publishing advice is solely for my own selfish needs.


I don’t believe you for a second, but sure….


This next question might make you grumble a little bit, but I’m going to ask it anyway. If Ken Stark were a character what three positive traits would he possess? What three negative traits?


A little bit? Sure, okay, a little bit…. But alright, my friend, and only because it’s you. The three positive traits would have to be honesty, integrity and a logical approach to all things. On the negative side, that entirely fictional character would probably be somewhat impatient, a bit of a know-it-all, and might possibly be prone to wanting to go it alone rather than put his life in the hands of others.


Good answer! A character I would read. I need to think of another uncomfortable question for the next interview. Buwhaha!


Have at it, sister. If it’s too uncomfortable, I’ll just lie. Oops! I mean, I’ll ’embellish the character’.


As I learned from my last interview with you, you dig soaking up the summer sun. Any plans for this summer?


As long as we have our usual fantastic Vancouver summer weather, I’ll stay put. I’ll sun myself on a rock like a lizard by day and spend my nights at the keyboard. Actually though, I have so many things going on right now, even the sun might have to take a back seat. But pale and pasty is the new sexy, am I right? Donna, am I right? Donna? Uhh….hello?…….


…Uhm… You’re asking the wrong person. I have two shades…pale and lobster red. I don’t think either rate new or old sexy. Live it up, Ken. Write or edit outside in your favorite little nook.


Yah, you’re right. It was a long winter and I’m not quite thawed out yet.


Anyone following you on Instagram knows you love animals. What critters own you?


Hey, no joke, I gave a granola bar to a sickly-looking rat just yesterday, so I think it’s safe to say that every critter owns me. But I do have one particularly spoiled cat who runs my life. She wandered in as a stray and laid claim to the place, then she spent the next 17 years bending me to her will. She even took over my comfy office chair, but she keeps me company no matter how long I spend at the keyboard, so I think we both consider it a fair trade.


The cartoon-like imagery that produces… =D Animals have a way of squirming their way into our hearts.


Oh, absolutely. It might take years for me to feel close to a human, but anything with four legs is an immediate friend.


One last question… I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before the Syfy network or some other network snags up the rights to Stage 3. When they do, who should play Mason, Mackenzie, and Sarah?


Okay, now we’re entering Fantasyland. Honestly, seeing those characters come alive would be a dream come true, but I’ll bet there are thousands of actors I’ve never heard of who could do them more justice than any mainstream celeb I might suggest. I sometimes have an image of an actor in my head to help with the writing, but in this case I didn’t, so I’m wide open. But tell you what….. turn it into a series or a movie and pay me a gazillion dollars, and I’m pretty sure I’ll be alright with anyone they pick. Pee-wee Herman and Lindsay Lohan? Sure, sounds great!
That’s right, I said it. I’m not proud, but I said it…..


Unknown actors would probably work better. After all, these are just average people trying to survive a world gone mad. I think it would make the characters more believable. I wouldn’t say we’re in Fantasyland just yet. Throw out a few more books and Stage 3 might just be the next Walking Dead or True Blood.


Your lips to Spielberg’s ear, sister. I won’t hold my breath, but it’s nice to dream.


Thank you again for agreeing to another interview, Ken. As always, you’ve been a pleasure to interview.


No, thank you, Donna! It’s always an honour and privilege for me when we get to sit down and talk, and hopefully, you’ll return the favour when you hit the best-seller list. Maybe we’ll even meet on the red carpet one day. I’ll introduce you to Pee-wee. You’ll love him……


Aww, shucks. I better get to writing then. I’ve always been a Pee-wee fan. I’d be happy to meet him. Maybe not go to the movies with him, but meet him sure.


To find out more about Ken Stark:

Author’s Website

Stage 3 on Amazon

Stage 3: Alpha on Amazon

Ken Stark on Instagram

Ken Stark on Facebook



Author Interview: Jay Sandlin

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Author Interview: Jay Sandlin

I hope you’ll enjoy getting to know Jay Sandlin, author of Outbreak Mutiny and creator of The Novel Comics, as much as I have. This fascinating and witty fella has a lot on his plate, but he still agreed to an interview with yours truly. Enjoy!


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Hi, Jay. Thank you for granting me an interview. I’m excited to learn more about you and your novel.


Thank you, it’s a pleasure to talk with you and your readers. I’m excited to let everyone know about The Novel Comics!


I’m sure your fans and those just getting to know you would love to know more about you. Give us the scoop. Who is Jay Sandlin?


I’ve been asking my therapist that for years…Kidding. I’m a small business owner, student, husband, and father. After owning and operating my business for years I felt a tug of emptiness. I still had dreams to realize and wanted to set an example for my son.

I enrolled in the Master’s Program for History in my Alma Mater. I’ll graduate in December with that degree. I also have had a lifelong passion for superheroes and all thinks GEEK. I decided to combine those two passions and make a career out of it.

Thus, the Novel Comics was born. It is a shared universe of superheroes, characters, and events in an alternate timeline I created. My first release, Outbreak Mutiny came out in mid-April and is available exclusively on Amazon in paperback and eBook for just 99 cents.


Wow! Impressive. You’re quite the busy bee. I’m sure your son will be proud.

Some of the best tips come from fellow writers. What tips do you have for new writers?


Write, write, and write. Never let your impatience halt your progress. I was the least patient person on the planet when I started this process. Now I may be in the 80th percentile. You have to recognize it’s a day-to-day process. Then ask yourself, “What am I doing today to reach my goals as a writer?”

Set deadlines for yourself and then don’t beat yourself up when you don’t meet them. In writing everything took longer than I imagined it would.


All great tips for keeping your focus on what matters. Thank you.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer? Did you always want to be a writer?


I always held a deep love for reading. I knew I wanted to be a writer when I was under the playground equipment reading Shadows of the Empire by Steve Perry and the other kids my age were kicking around this rubber ball filled with air. It seemed so pointless. Why were they engaged in this mundane activity when I was entering new worlds in a galaxy far, far away?

It wasn’t long before I was the one creating my own worlds. Of course, I didn’t stay consistent. I needed time to grow and mature before I came back to a childhood love of writing. I stuck with theater for years and that was my creative outlet. Then in 2015 I appeared in three shows back to back: a comedy, musical, and a drama. When they all wrapped I was left filling unfulfilled. After the curtain closed my efforts felt like they had evaporated into a vapor that would only linger in the minds of the few audience members for a few days.

I turned down all requests for auditions after that and still do today. I realized that print could last forever; and through the written word my art could achieve immortality.


An important step forward, realizing your goals and making them happen.

I’m often surprised by what inspires my stories and where those ideas lead. What gave you the idea for Outbreak Mutiny?


At the time I was on a beach trip. I was reading other novels about Superheroes while taking a Master’s course in the Cold War. The history of the Cold War is essentially the history of the 20th century. The course was organized in highly compact blocks of time through the decades of the tumultuous century.

While reading the Superhero novels on my break, I felt like I was in a unique position. I knew everything about Superheroes and was a History buff as well. I decided to combine those factors and insert heroes into the events I was currently studying.

That quickly evolved into an alternate timeline altogether. You’ll recognize some names, places, and events from actual history in Outbreak Mutiny, but as you can see from the reorganized borders in my world things are very, very different:



That’s a wonderful origin story, a great example of writing what you know. I love the use of the map. It really drives home the changes in your world.

Without giving the story away, what can you tell us about Outbreak Mutiny?


The tagline gives away the idea: It’s an alternate history. With superheroes. We all remember the early 20th century saw the Baby Boomers, correct? That was an Outbreak in the American population. It’s also remembered as the “Greatest Generation.”

In my world, they had the Outbreak Babies. These were human beings who manifested superpowers after serious trauma or life threatening accidents. They came to the attention of the world in 1918 when the USS Maine was sunk by an Outbreak Baby with heat vision off the coast of Havana Cuba during the Spanish-American War.

This is a novel, but because of my love of comics I label my chapters as “Issues”. In Issue 0, we find the US on the brink of losing the Outbreak War; the first war fought between nations using beings with superpowers.

It does not go well for the United States.


I love the idea of combining history and superheroes, but I think the merging of the novel and comic really sets your novel apart.

What types of superpowers can we expect to see in Outbreak Mutiny?


Anything is possible! For a handy guide, I created character stats to go with their artwork. I have to thank my friend and fellow host, Ray, on The Naked Porch podcast for giving me the idea and putting these together:


What a great idea! I love these. They remind me of the character cards in some of the tabletop games I’ve played. Just brilliant!

In what ways does Outbreak Mutiny set itself apart from other superhero stories?


That is an answer I would prefer to leave up to readers. I would say it is different because I’ve built a world; not just a story. The Outbreak timeline is another Stream in the vast network of worlds that run parallel but never intersect with one another. Their future looks bleak, and I hope readers get invested in what happens next. I think the greatest strength lies in the characters.


With interesting characters and plot, I’m sure readers will love shouting about their most beloved parts.

Which of your characters is your favorite? Why?


I’m going to cheat and pick two. I love Clockwork. He is the Steampunk Savior and the founder of the Armorer’s Guild. He’s a man operating a Power Suit that he designed himself and built with his vast fortune. It would be like if John D. Rockefeller decided to become Iron Man back in his day. He encouraged his peers to also step up and defend the weak with their ingenuity. They may not all have superpowers like the Outbreak Babies, but with their wealth and intelligence they can do their part. He’s also the stereotypical, corny, superhero. He has catch-phrases and even plays his own theme music through speakers mounted to the armor.

Secondly, I would say Buccaneer. I can’t say much about him. I can tell you he’s a revolutionary with heat vision and doesn’t trust many people. You’ll have to read to find out anything else.


After seeing those character stat sheets, I can see why it’d be hard to pick just one!

As someone who loves worlds created around superheroes, what will I love about your superheroes? What will fans of the genre love about your story?


I would tell people who already love Superheroes to view my world with this in mind: What if superpowers were real? If they were, there would almost certainly have been dictators, leaders, and even Presidents that wanted to manipulate or even weaponized them for their own benefit.

If that were the case, could the world have become the way I wrote it in my fiction? A regime like my villains, the Reich, could just as easily have united behind a charismatic Outbreak Baby like they did Adolph Hitler in the years leading to WWII.

That is why slavery is a major theme. When the powerful control our destinies and guide our fate, freedom is lost for all. The tagline on the book cover jacket states that the choice in my world is clear: “Die free, or live in chains.”

When faced with that choice, what will you choose? What do my characters choose? Let me know what you think, @JSandlinWriter on twitter.


Some thought-provoking questions. I hope readers will head over to Twitter for some fun discussions with Jay.

What is The Novel Comics? And what is in the future for The Novel Comics?


Outbreak Mutiny was the first in the Volume Series. The next release will be Outbreak Mutiny Volume II and will contain the next set of Issues (chapters). I plan to continue those indefinitely as the main series.

In addition, there will be short stories or other collections in the same shared universe under The Novel Comics Anthologies title. That will serve as a method to tell backstories and other tales of characters in the Outbreak world independently of the Volume series. The first I hope will focus on the origin story of Caliente Blu, the heroine from Issue 0. She seems to resonate with many readers, male and female.


It sounds like this world will provide you with a wealth of material for the future. I’m sure fans won’t be disappointed.

When you’re not writing “Alternate Histories with Superheroes,” what do you like to do with your free time?


100% of my free time goes into being the best possible father I can be to my three-year-old son. He is the bright spot of my life and all that is best in me. I am still working towards my Master’s degree and hope to teach online or work as a Guest Lecturer in my free time next year. I’m also working on my Master’s Thesis which I hope to transition into another book. This one will be a nonfiction bit of Oral History based around a series of interviews I conducted with a local WWII veteran, Manhattan Project worker, and NASA employee during the Cold War.


I’m sure your son will love your story as much as your fans!

Several of the authors I’ve interviewed were drawn to other creative pursuits. Are you the creative type? Any painting, woodworking, or other creative endeavors?


Yes, I already mentioned my love of theatre. That calmed down in the last couple of years but I still perform regularly with my friends in the improve troupe The Wickets. Check us out on Facebook at

And as an advocate of geek culture, I like to stay active with movie/book/trailer/comic reviews and regular appearances on podcasts. I am an occasional guest host on The Naked Porch as well with my friends Ray, Chris, and Danielle.


Your workload would wear down any normal human. Perhaps you have a little superhero in you.

What three books are you most likely to recommend to a friend?


I’m glad you specified “friend” because my recommendations to my enemies will be far different. For my friends into fantasy, I recommend the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher; The Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines; Confessions of a D-List Villain by Jim Bernheimer; all STAR WARS, especially Timothy Zahn. I can’t wait to pick up Thrawn this weekend.

For my enemies, I don’t know, you might like Moon People by Dale Courtney.


Haha! Yes, I suppose I didn’t need the “friend”.

Any new projects in the works for fans to keep an eye out for?


Quite a few. I have a series of Children’s Books that will begin in August. They will follow “Little Wolfie” the son of the Big Bad Wolf and the lessons he learns attending new schools and making new friends. My oral history book will also be available this year or the first of next year. I’m wrestling with two titles: “The Sunday Historian” or “Six Pages Per Shot”. You’ll have to contact me on twitter and tell me which title you prefer.

In the meantime, you can find my book on Amazon. Visit me at,, Good Reads, or just come by Twitter and talk any GEEK topic day or night. Thanks for having me and I can’t wait to hear what you all think about Outbreak Mutiny.


Thank you, Jay, for taking the time to answer my questions. It’s been a delight getting to know all about you and The Novel Comics. I can’t wait to finish the book.

Author Interview: H. A. Callum 2.0

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Author Interview: H. A. Callum 2.0

If you’re a fan of H. A. Callum’s then you know the last interview just left us wanting to know more about this wonderful, supportive writer and his new book, Whispers in the Alders. I’m thrilled to bring you the second installment, H. A. Callum 2.0. Enjoy!


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H. A. Callum’s Whispers in the Alders

Welcome back, H.A. I know you’re busy with the release of your first novel, so I appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions.

Hi, Donna! The pleasure’s all mine. I greatly appreciate the time you’ve taken away from your own writing for this interview.


For those who refuse to read the first interview, which they should since it’s incredibly entertaining, tell us about Whispers in the Alders.


Shame on them! Hopefully we’ll get them to go back and read the first to avoid any spoilers! Since there has been more publicity (just a little!) since the first interview, we can give away a bit more as the story of Whispers in the Alders is slowly revealing itself leading up to its release. Whispers in the Alders is more than just the collision of two worlds when Aubrey and Tommy first meet. It reflects society, where we’ve been as a nation socially, where we are now, and how two people can change their places in that social structure, regardless of the emotional cost to them. Whispers in the Alders is a beautiful story about how two misbegotten kids find their escape in the alder stand, and by getting lost in the pages of a book. How many of us can relate to that? I know I can.


I haven’t finished Whispers in the Alders yet, but I’m well on my way. I would have to agree. The characters and storyline have drawn me in from the beginning just by being relatable.

My stories often evolve from a spark or a glimmer of thought leading down a rabbit hole. What was the spark or glimmer of thought that inspired Whispers in the Alders?


The story behind Whispers in the Alders constantly pulled at me until it was given its rightful place on the page, staring back at me, ready to be told to conclusion. Variations of it played out in my imagination for years. Finally, late one night, I found the inspiration and courage to give this story its due. I hope that, as an author, I’ve done justice to Aubrey and Tommy’s story.


Speaking of Aubrey and Tommy, what can you tell us about the stars of the show? Who are Aubrey and Tommy? No spoilers, please.


They are an odd pairing, and it’s hard to say who they are without risking spoilers, because so much of the story is driven by their personalities and their relationship. Aubrey is the daughter of privileged parents, her childhood spent touring the country via countless relocations caused by her father’s corporate position. She’s the new girl in school every year, and her father’s reputation always ushers in her arrival. Finding friends is never easy for Aubrey in the towns that become part of her vagabond childhood. She backs up Tommy, who is the shy, free-spirited boy that spent his days hiding behind a book. He’s also from Alder Ferry’s lower economic class, and the shame of that is apparent in his first encounters with Aubrey.


Most of your fans only have two questions for you, where can we purchase your book? And is it available for pre-order?


Finally! I thought you would never ask! The kindle edition is available now for pre-order on Amazon at: On release day, it will also be available on B&N, iTunes, Kobo, 24 Symbols, and many other online stores.


Many folks love eBooks, but for those who don’t, will there be a paperback or hardcover release coming in the future? If so, when can we expect to see it?


Yes! Paperback will be available for order on May 26th through all online retailers. As of now we are also working to place the paperback in select independent bookstores in the Philadelphia metro region. I also make personal deliveries for signed copies (wink).


I know what I’d do on release day for my book, but what will you be up to May 26th while the rest of us are reading Whispers in the Alders? Any fun festivities planned for the days leading up to and after the release?


I decided against the traditional launch party. In the end, I want to celebrate the release of Whispers in the Alders finally getting into the hands of readers. May 26th is going to be a busy day for me on social media promoting the book, and I plan to cap the day off with a dinner date with my wife whose support has been incredible. The writer’s life takes its toll on everyone whether or not we notice it.

Which isn’t to say there will not be any events! For as much time that goes into writing a novel, why sell its release short?


That sounds like a wonderful way to spend your release day! If I lived closer, I’d say, “Drop off the kids and have a fabulous time!” I’m sure you both deserve the celebration.

I intend to live vicariously through all my friends who get published, so what’s it been like realizing your dream? From words on a page to a novel?


Phenomenal, and challenging! It’s remarkable getting Whispers in the Alders out there, and finally holding the finished book in my hands is a priceless experience. There’s nothing that would stop me from doing this all over again, exactly as it has played out. To quote a line from Whispers in the Alders, “This is why we write.”


“…exactly as it has played out.” Are you sure? Nothing you’d do differently the second time around?


Honestly, no. Some of the best memories I have writing Whispers in the Alders are the many late nights my infant daughter spent snuggled against my chest. She’ll never remember those nights, but I’ll never forget them.


What a beautiful memory! Thank you for sharing it with us.

I asked a mutual friend, C. M. Turner, if there were any questions she’d like you to answer. She gave me one, and I have to agree I’d like to know the answer as well. Is H. A. Callum a planner or a pantser? Do you have the story worked out before pen touches paper? Or do you fly by the seat of your pants and see where the story takes you?


Yes – to both! I’m a planner, but not one who is afraid to let the story dictate the direction it needs to follow with some guidance. Whispers in the Alders had a drastically different ending when I started. Very different. After workshopping a draft of the first chapter at my writer’s group, I decided to outline the first several chapters. It gave the initial guidance I needed as a writer to stay on track, especially with the advice I received from experienced members of my writers group. I still outline in this way: the first several chapters, then outline each chapter prior to writing. As things change, so does the outline.

Writing is a process, and I’ve learned from experience that preparation never fails the writer. I will always be a student of writing, and I know it shows with each new story or poem I commit to paper.


I’m sure C. M. Turner will be just as surprised by that answer as I was.

Now that Whispers in the Alders is on its way to fame, what projects will you be focusing on? Any new books in the works?


Why yes, of course! My next novel is – nearly outlined – since you asked! I’ve begun drafting, and it’s a contemporary literary work. Partially inspired by recent events, it has also inspired a poem which is now out on submission, titled “Snow Ghost: Whitefish, Montana.”


You have a gift with words, my friend. Is there any chance of a poetry book in the future? Or a collection of short stories and flash fiction?


Aww … thank you! How did you know to ask?!?! I have multiple poems and short stories out on submission. Look for them in the next few months. I am considering a poetry collection as well, especially with the overwhelming and positive response to the poetry that I’ve posted on Here’s another hint: Whispers in the Alders features new poetry as well.


After reading your poetry, you’d have to be daft to not put out a poetry collection. You have a gift with words and imagery.

When I’m not writing, I’m drawn to other creative projects. Do you find yourself drawn to other creative forms? If so, which ones?


Let’s just say that other mediums and I don’t get along very well! Running is a great outlet for me to recharge and get the creative juices flowing again. When I have time, cooking is a great way to express my artistic talents. But I think the best thing for me is being around my daughters and letting my imagination walk with theirs. That is what births creativity. Somewhere along the line most of us lose that, and without it we lose inspiration. My advice – stay in tune with your imagination, and never place boundaries on your imagination or the imagination of a child.


I couldn’t agree more. I draw so much from my children. They look at the world in a way many adults have forgotten.

My family and friends can’t wait for me to finally finish a book. How do your family and friends feel about having a published author in their midst?


They are full of love and pride. Everyone knows it’s an accomplishment, and really, how many people even attempt to write a book, let alone send it out to the world to be scrutinized? But here’s the thing: I don’t talk about it unless asked, and I refuse to be “that guy” turning every family event into a book signing. My family’s been great and I adore them for recognizing this milestone. The look in their eyes has said it all. What more could a writer ask for?


Researching for this interview, I read a blog post on your website about the querying process. I know it is the moment I most dread. Any advice for those of us filled with dread?


Don’t dread it. Just do it right – research agents and publishers that are open to submissions in your genre and follow their submission guidelines. You have nothing to fear if you do these two simple things. I spent many evenings querying, and trust me, it takes time. Two or three well-crafted and personalized queries in an evening is huge if you are balancing your writing life with family and work. Keep it personalized to whom you are submitting and professional in tone, then send it off and wait. I read the complaints from other writers about querying, and honestly – not to say that it was easy – for me it was a pleasant experience. I was surprised how many agents and publishers actually took the time to respond to my queries, and some even offered advice – which I considered in my edits and rewrites. In the end, publishing is about people and I hope that my work querying Whispers in the Alders, if anything, worked to develop my future relationships with agents and publishers. Next stop is to attend some of the many writer’s conferences offered in New York City and Philadelphia, pitch my work, and get to know the amazing people involved in the world of books and publishing. The people I’ve met along the way, and the friendships made, are a large part of what has made the publication of Whispers in the Alders so special.

I’m always amazed with the writing community, and Donna, you’ve been a shining example of how we as writers work to support not only our own works, but each other. Thank you again for supporting the upcoming release of Whispers in the Alders!


It’s not easy being a writer, worried if you’re any good and finding the time to get it done. The least we can do for one another is be supportive through the process. I’m honored to have been able to help in any way. Thank you, again, for taking the time to answer my questions. I wish you much success with the release of Whispers in the Alders and in the future.


To find out more about H. A. Callum:


Whispers in the Alders




Blue Deco Publishing

Author Interview: C. M. Turner

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Author Interview: C. M. Turner

C. M. Turner’s book, Where the Ironweed Blooms drew me in as soon as I laid eyes on the cover. I didn’t buy it right away, though, because after looking at the description, I wasn’t sure it was for me. The cover kept making appearances on my timeline, and soon, I found myself adding the book to my Amazon cart for purchase. I’m happy I did. The book was nothing like what I expected. Once I devoured the book, I had to review it.

C. M. Turner has many projects in the works, but she still found time to grant me an interview. I hope you have as much fun getting to know C. M. Turner as I have.


I’m sure your fans are curious about the mysterious C. M. Turner. What can you tell us about yourself? Who is C. M. Turner?


Well, I died this year and lived to tell about it. I’m not sure how many can make that claim. This year also marks the debut of my first book, a dream I’ve had since childhood. I feel like the best is yet to come and I’m looking forward to sharing my next novels with you. Three are complete, one needs a little work – and two are in need of an ending.


Everyone needs a break from time to time. When you’re not writing, how do you like to spend your time?


Some of my free time is spent reading but most of it painting, cooking or gardening. Writing is always my first choice, while painting runs a close second. I consider it another art form in which to tell a story. I paint abstracts. There is something freeing about standing across a room slinging paint onto canvas and watching what forms. Whatever else beckons, I always return to writing. It’s the voice that calls me home. Within its margins of accuracy and realism, I find a kind of balance – that truth all writers pursue.


Every project has its ups and downs. What were your biggest challenges with Where the Ironweed Blooms?


The biggest challenge I faced with Where The Ironweed Blooms was quite simply, fact checking. The story poured from me but the history of the region and the era required hours, if not years of research. I spent years in that region learning its history and as I finessed the book with many rewrites to fit the area, my book and characters grew.


Where the Ironweed Blooms (WTIB) was such a great read. What can we look forward to next? And what can you tell us about your next book?


My next novel is in sharp contrast to WTIB. It’s a young adult novel set on the West Coast during the early sixties, the time period and place I grew up. It deals with personal tragedy – addiction, love, and loss, yet ultimately hope in the end. The main character carries his sorrow well into adulthood as he struggles to free himself from the past. As an adult, he lives on an island in the Pacific Northwest, where he still battles with old demons from adolescence, and the heartbreak that altered his life.


I’ve written some characters I truly love, and I’m sure you have too. Which of your characters is your favorite? Why?


My favorite character is one named, Dande. Her life flowed from me almost as if I’d lived it. I followed her journey from the time she was ten, through her eighties – longer than any other character. I lived every breath of the story alongside her, from the first line of the book to the last. Dande has an ironclad will, despite growing up in the South during a time women had little or no voice. Also a time of racial discord, she is never afraid to speak out over her male counterparts, or defend a cause no matter how contentious or combustible. This makes her my favorite character.


I’m constantly pulling from my life and experiences. Where do you find inspiration for your characters and settings?


I also draw my settings from real life – places familiar to me where I’ve lived at one time or another. Like many authors, my characters are inspired by people I come in contact with on a daily basis – then embellish with traits I instill to suit the role they will play. As I create them, I claim equal credit for the darkness in the villains, as the valor of the heroes. Whether inspired by actual people or my mind, they all share a portion of my DNA.


As I’ve mentioned on my blog before, my grandparents’ storytelling drove me to want to tell stories. What inspired you to become a writer?


My mother was a poet and for as long as I can remember, would tell stories about her family at bedtime. Sometimes she read from storybooks, but I always looked forward to the true accounts. Those are my happiest memory of her; and I’ve shared many glimpses of them in different books throughout the years. My favorites were the stories of her growing up in her uncle’s family home, Monticello, in Cynthiana, Kentucky. The estate was blueprinted and named after Thomas Jefferson’s home in Charlottesville, Virginia – built by her Uncle Tom (Thomas Jefferson Megibben) and destroyed by fire in July 1985. Fortunately, able to visit it beforehand, I was so impressed it inspired what would become Highland House in WTIB.


I have several authors I admire, and I strive to write stories that will make a reader feel the way I do when I finish one of their books. What are your favorite authors and books? Who inspires you to be a better writer?


There are too many to list and it’s difficult to choose favorites. I’d have to say Harper Lee’s, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” tops the list – then Richard Wright’s three novels, read at a most impressionable age; “Black Boy”, “Native Son”, and “The Outsider”. It wasn’t until living in the South during the sixties, that I came to be witness to some of the atrocities portrayed in these books. I also love everything by J. D. Salinger and Edward Albee. More recently, I haven’t been able to get enough of Joyce Carol Oates, John Irving, Albert Camus and Toni Morrison. All inspire me to to write better.


The writing journey is such a great teacher. What has your writing journey taught you?


The important thing this journey has taught me, is everything in my life happened to serve a greater purpose. What seemed tragedies at the time, resulted in books that never would have existed without having those experiences. I have also learned that a writer’s greatest tool is the ability to listen, and if you do, anything can be turned into a story. I’ve had entire books evolve from nothing more than bits and pieces, those things overheard around corners or through open doors – flashes most people probably would have forgotten.


What advice do you have for writers working on their first book? Asking for a friend. . .    😉


My advice for a writer working on their first book, is NEVER GET DISCOURAGED. Writing is like everything in life – there are always going to be naysayers and critics. The hardest thing is not to dwell on an unfavorable opinion, albeit, the neighbor, an editor or prospective publisher. For me, what is most difficult, is taking that opinion and turning it into something constructive. Like most writers, I have thrown myself into a siege of edits and rewrites but have also learned to believe in what I’ve written and stand by it. Eventually, the time comes when a project has been perfected to such a point it must be considered finished – so the best advice I can offer, is knowing when it’s time to let go. It is never too late to start, finish or publish a novel, I’m a great example of that.

Donna, thank you so much for the opportunity to do this interview with you.


A big thank you to you, C. M. Turner for granting me this interview. It was a pleasure to work with you. I wish you much success!

To find C. M. Turner:

Twitter, Smashwords, and Amazon

Pick up Where the Ironweed Blooms for only $2.99 right now on Amazon or Smashwords!


Author Interview: Ken Stark

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Author Interview: Ken Stark

I met Ken Stark on Twitter, a mutual follow back. From the first time I saw a post about his book, Stage 3, he had my interest. I didn’t buy the book right away, though. I had others in line to be read, so I waited. During my wait, I clicked the link and read some fantastic Amazon reviews for the book, which made me want to read Stage 3 even more. I ended up buying the book and loving it, as you can see here in my review. After writing my own glowing Amazon review for Stage 3, I contacted Mr. Stark for an interview, and he granted my request.

Have fun getting to know more about the author Ken Stark!

Q1. When did your love of writing start?

I think I’ve always had it, really. I was forever scribbling things in a notebook, and I was never happier than when a school assignment involved writing a short story, or composing a poem or a speech. In my teens, I actually built up the nerve to submit a few things to prospective publishers, but I was sorely lacking in self-confidence, so it didn’t take too many rejection letters to get me to stop trying. I still kept writing, but from then, it was only for myself.

Q2. When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?

It depends on the season. Summers in Vancouver are great, so one can usually find me outside, soaking up every bit of sunlight I possibly can. The rest of the year, I retreat inside. I hibernate, and I read, I write, I paint, and I’d be embarrassed to admit how many hours I devote to crossword puzzles and sudoku. Honestly though, I could easily spend all day, everyday, writing. I love every minute of the process, from the first line to the finished product. I even enjoy editing, which definitely puts me in the minority. But the way I think of it, life only gives us one crack at things, while in my world, I can tweak and hone and polish every word until everything is just the way I want it.

Q3. Where do you get inspiration for your characters and settings?

I like to use settings that will be familiar to the reader. Everyone knows what the inside of a hospital or a jumbo jet looks like. They are familiar places; mundane, even. But give the familiar a little off-axis tilt, and it can suddenly become a haunted house.

As for characters, I get them from anywhere and everywhere. We spend our lives soaking up information from all around us; friends, family, TV shows, radio, books, movies, social media, the girl at the coffee shop, the guy at the bank….Unless you’re living life like Gilligan, you can’t help but be influenced by hundreds of interactions every day. So when I need a specific character for a certain situation, it’s just a matter of taking a little from column a….. a little from column b…..

Q4. Are there any future projects you’re excited to get started on?

I’m excited about continuing the Stage 3 story, because I love spending my time with those characters, and I don’t like leaving them hanging. Aside from that, I have so many story lines banging around in my head that it’s really a question of which ones come out first. I am primarily a writer of scary tales, but I’ve had a love for science fiction since forever, I’m fascinated by ancient cultures, I enjoy a good conspiracy, and I like a straight-up adventure yarn. If I can find a way to weave all of those together, that will be a fun one to write!

Q5. What resources do you use to write?

I’m not sure that there could be a better resource for a writer than the internet. If I need to know the precise firing rate of a Kalashnikov, or which muscle attaches to the zygomatic process of the maxilla, it’s all a mouse-click away. And as an added benefit, my fingers just so happen to type at the precise speed that my mind thinks, so my computer is my greatest ally. I know what it’s like trying to construct a world with pen and paper, and it’s tremendously frustrating. The confidence that comes with being able to edit at will can’t be overstated. I can hone a piece until it’s exactly the way I want it, which is something I couldn’t have done even twenty years ago.

Q6. Who are your favorite authors?

I grew up with Isaac Asimov and Arthur C Clarke, so they have to tie for first place. After that, and in no particular order; H. G. Wells, Poe, Jules Verne and Arthur Conan Doyle. I’ve read every word these men ever wrote, and more times than I can count. I could probably recite most of their works by heart. As for those authors still on the right side of the grass, I don’t play favourites. I’m a fan of many, but part of the fun is picking a book at random and hearing an entirely different voice.

Q7. What lessons have you learned from your adventures in writing?

The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that no matter how much of your heart you pour into a story, no matter how much you bleed, no matter how much you agonize over every word to get it exactly right; some readers are going to love what you’ve done, some will hate it, and most won’t care one way or the other. You will never please everyone, so don’t write for other people. Even if you are aiming for a ‘target audience’, you’re really only doing it for yourself. If it feels right for the story, let it happen. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. Write what you feel bubbling out of your chest, because ultimately, it’s your world.

Q8. What advice do you have for someone writing their first book?

Just that. Do it. It doesn’t matter if everyone you give your book to thinks it stinks to high heaven. Just do it. Follow your bliss. Have fun, live your dream, and create the world you see in your head. If you send the finished manuscript to a dozen traditional publishers and they don’t happen to have the same vision as you, then it’s their loss. With today’s technology, you can publish it yourself. So do it. Write it, finish it, and either send it in, or do it yourself. I guarantee, someone out there has the same vision as you, and they will absolutely love the world you made.

Q9. If you couldn’t write, what activity would take its place?

Painting, probably. I slap oil on canvas in my spare time, and sometimes it isn’t entirely awful. It’s mostly Bob Ross kind of landscapes, but painting is a great release, and I get to see the end product in hours rather than months. I suppose it’s just another way to create worlds.

Q10. What book will you be releasing next and what can you tell me about it?

The next Stage 3 book is a month or two away, but I’ve just finished something else that I hope will be out soon. A while ago, I asked my best friend’s daughter what she wanted to read. Her response was, “Something scary, with a monster, and some kind of mystery.” So, for her, I wrote ‘Arcadia Falls’. I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but I can say that it is scary, it involves a mystery as old as time, and the monster is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.

A big thank you to Ken Stark for granting me this interview. It was a pleasure to work with you. I wish you much success!

To find Ken Stark:

Website, Twitter, and Amazon Author Page

Pick up Stage 3 for only $2.99 right now on Amazon!

Author Interview: R. R. Willica

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Author Interview: R. R. Willica

I had the great fortune to gain an interview with the witty and intelligent R. R. Willica. I first met R. R. Willica on Twitter and enjoyed the lines she shared. I decided to read her book “Darkness Falling: Soldiers and Slaves“. I loved the book as you can see in my review, so I asked for an interview. R. R. Willica was nice enough to answer a few questions despite working on her second book, “Darkness Falling: Shadow of the Seeker”, which is scheduled to release June 18th.

Let’s get started!

Q1. When did your love of writing start?

R. R. Willica:  I don’t remember the exact age, but I was pretty young, probably between six and eight years old. I was terrible at math, but my teachers always praised my writing. Even before that, though, I had a huge imagination and loved making up stories.

Q2. When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?

R. R. Willica: I’m married and have 3 kids, so I spend time with my family doing things like going to museums or hanging out at home watching movies or television. I like playing video games. My favorite games are RPGs and MMORPGs like WoW, Skyrim, Fallout, Wildstar, and Final Fantasy (both on and offline.) I also work full time as a receptionist.

Q3. Where do you get inspiration for your characters and settings?

R. R. Willica:  I get ideas from everywhere; music, television, pictures, video games, and even just sitting quietly. My brain is always coming up with ideas and it’s up to me to sort them out.

Q4. Are there any future projects you’re excited to get started on?

R. R. Willica: I have a lot of future projects that I’m planning, many of which are already in progress in rough draft stages. I have already began a rough draft of a fantasy comedy, which will be my main focus after Darkness Falling. I also have plans for two other fantasies that are stand alone novels set in two separate worlds. Another projects in the works is a fantasy that is more magical realism on present day Earth, a teen zombie comedy, and two psychological thrillers. Yes, I am crazy, why do you ask?

Q5. What resources do you use to write?

R. R. Willica: I primarily use my computer. I do not like writing by hand, it’s not easy for me. I also often use my phone notepad to type quick scenes or lines when I’m away from my computer. As for writing guidance I read a lot of different blogs, articles, and anything that comes my way. Google is also my friend for research.

Q6. Who are your favorite authors?

R. R. Willica: I have a lot of favorites. For early inspirations I would say J. R. R. Tolkien, Katheryn Kerr, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, and Tadd Williams. I also read a lot of Stephen King as a kid. Later I really enjoyed Douglas Adams and J. K. Rowling, and Jane Austen. Recently I’ve been having fun reading Terry Pratchett and Christopher Moore. Right now I’m reading a lot of indie authors, especially those who are “undiscovered,” like Angela D’Onofrino, Jewel E. Leonard, and D D Sydral, just to name a few. There’s a lot of good work out there to read. (But be warned, I’m a really tough reviewer, so watch out!)

Q7. What lessons have you learned from your adventures in writing?

R. R. Willica: Writing is really hard and you have to keep going. It’s a long road, and you won’t get the feedback you’re looking for the majority of the time. Sometimes it can be really frustrating, but if you keep going it’s worth it. Even if you never become famous or rich, if it’s what you love to do then it’s worth doing. 

Q8. What advice do you have for someone writing their first book?

R. R. Willica: My best advice is to not listen to too much advice. There is a lot of advice out there on what to do and what not to do, but really you need to trust your own instincts. Do what works best for you. Try out other advice, but if it doesn’t work, then don’t worry. “Real writers” come in all shapes, sizes, and mental capacities. It’s hard to get to the end, so don’t allow yourself to become bogged down with too many opinions.

Q9. If you couldn’t write, what activity would take its place?

R. R. Willica: If I couldn’t write I would slowly go into a dark wallowing of despair that I’m not fully aware of, and eventually I would find my way back out into writing again. Actually, I would probably play a lot of video games, that’s what usually happens.

Q10. What can you tell me about “Darkness Falling: Shadow and Seeker”?

R. R. Willica: Shadow of the Seeker starts only a few days after where Soldiers and Slaves ended. If you’ve read the first book, you know it ended rather abruptly and left a lot of questions not only what’s going to happen, but what in the world is actually going on. Shadow of the Seeker is going to answer a lot of those questions and starts to move the characters in new directions. All of this will hopefully set the stage for book three, Secrets of Syerset, and the final conflict. I’m hoping to have book three ready in the Winter of 2017.

A big thank you to R. R. Willica for being so kind as to do this interview. I wish you much success.

To Find R. R. Willica:

Website, Twitter, and Amazon Author Page


Pick up “Darkness  Falling: Soldiers and Slaves” for 99 cents right now!