Writer Wednesday – Nick Valentino

I met this guy a couple years ago at the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville. It’s a mainstream festival, giving just a little of everything and making books a little more accessible to the general public. And there was Nick. It was my first intro into Steampunk – this guy on the midway, and his girlfriend now wife – and I haven’t looked back. I’ve been waiting for his new book for a couple years now, and this interview since the blog opened, but he wanted the two to coincide. Without further ado, here he is.

 

 

 

 

Let’s start with the basics. Who are you?
Tell us (briefly) about you…

My name is Nick Valentino, I live in Gig Harbor Washinton with my wife, Elizabeth. I lived in Nashville, Tennessee my whole life until last year when we moved here. I wrote the steampunk novel, Thomas Riley and now the second book in the series, Thomas Riley and The Maelstrom which are published by ZOVA Books. I’ve also written a bunch of steampunk short stories. The Black Dress which appears in Kerlak Publishing’s Clockwork Spells and Magical Bells anthology, Ten Thousand Years which appears in Echelon Press’ Her Majesty’s Mysterious Conveyance anthology, Engine 316 which appears in Kerlak Publishing’s Dreams of Steam anthology, Bedeviled which appears in Dreams of Steam II and Double Crossed at Gray Raven Mill which appears in Steampunk Tales Issue #7. Currently, I’m working on three projects, the third installment of the Thomas Riley Series, a twisty zombie book called Tribes and a Steampunk Roll Playing Game for the Harsh Realities game company with Elizabeth.

What are your earliest book-related memories?
When I was young I really didn’t like reading much. I remember slogging through summer reading for school until I went to a party and heard some people talking about Weaveworld by Clive Barker. I decided to check it out and from there I fell in love with books and storytelling.
What are your three favorite books?
Ooh, wow… That’s kind of tough. Let’s go with this.
Watership Down by Richard Adams is probably number one. I just love the characters. That story has a lot of memories for me from my childhood and I still relate to it to this day.
The Thief of Always by Clive Barker comes in at number two. I am a slow reader and I finished this book while listening to Tori Amos’ Winter ep over and over in twenty four hours. That’s when I discovered I loved reading to music as it gives everything a “4th dimension”.
Coldheart Canyon again by Clive Barker is number three. It’s an amazingly creepy story full of Hollywood history and old rumors that give haunted houses a new identity.

How many books to do you read at any given time? What are you reading now?
I can only read one book at a time. I’m a shamefully slow reader, clocking in at a sloth-like twenty pages an hour. Right now as terrible as this sounds, I’m still reading my wife’s book, Bound By Blood, (which is under her old name, Elizabeth Darvill) on my Kindle. It’s an awesome action packed story by the way. It was called a “post apocalyptic Underworld” and it really is.

Finish this sentence; when I curl up with a book, I ___
like to lose myself and when I’m done, hours have passed.

To re-read or not to re-read that is the question. 
Absolutely re-read. And re-read again and again and again… until you hate the story.

How likely are you to read a book that’s been recommended to you?

It’s all a time issue with me. I’m very likely to read a book that’s been recommended to me. I love a fresh new story. While there’s so many copycat books out these days, there’s also a cornucopia of vastly original stories. Like everyone, I have a crazy life and my biggest problem that I really need to work on is carving out more time for reading.

How likely are you to recommend a book (that isn’t yours)?
I do it all the time. I often to use my blog for promoting other authors, especially my friends no matter what genre. It’s great fun to help spread the word about some great authors.

What do you look for in a good book?
Clever twists, surprises and characters that I want to be or that I wish I had written.

Why do you write?
I have to be creative. I was in a band for a long time and anyone that knows me, knows that I have to be doing something somewhat creative all the time. I do stencil art from time to time, I like to experiment with fun forms of art (I really want to get into tee shirt making as a hobby). Anyway, I have to be doing something all the time or I get kooky. Once I left the music scene, I channeled my energy into writing, and once I was published, I traveled my butt off for the book. It was a never ending cycle of writing, planning, traveling, promotional material, posters, banners, blog tours, postcards, newsletters, email blasts… the list goes on and on. I’m happiest when I’m perusing something creative and my cornerstone is writing.

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be?
I was a decent baseball player quite some time ago and if I’d gotten the bug, I think I would have tried to do that with more vigor but I became more obsessed with music in those formative years. I guess I’m a bit old for that now so if I wasn’t a writer right now I think I’d be some kind of artist and basically do the same thing I’m doing now just with spray paint and stencils.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
A lot of my inspiration comes from things in my childhood. Movies, stories, my only-child entertaining myself brain. I love things that have a deeper meaning and secret hidden treasures. I like the Samurai/Asian aspect of Star Wars. I love the endless Easter Eggs of the show Lost. I love the raw emotion, the passion and the detail in every Hayao Miyazaki movie. These are things I strive to do in my own work. I want to write with a deeper intent. I want you to feel the characters and I want it all to be rife with secrets so the inquisitive reader can learn and understand more. Almost every character in the Thomas Riley series has secrets hidden in the words. It might be in a name, or a number, you never know. I like to leave little gems that can be discovered with a little research.

What has writing taught you about yourself?
Writing has taught me (or better put, is teaching me) that maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. I can get pretty twisted up in worrying about what I write and how well it’s written but in the end when you open that book and see it in actual print, it’s a wonderful sight and it often feels like I didn’t even write it. It’s a great feeling.

How do the people in your life seem to view your writing career?
They all take it pretty seriously which is nice. I’m a persistent person and I expect a lot of myself and I think that’s how most people in my life see me. So when I do something everyone expects me to hustle as hard as I can no matter what it is. I like being over the top.

Are there any stereotypes about writers that you don’t think are true? 
Haha actually I think most are true although I feel like they most are all good things. Writers seem to be nerdy (in a wonderful way), they are passionate people and they are goal oriented. A lot of writers seem to be generally kind souls and they are often at least slightly introverted. Basically what you get from these stereotypes are shy but super nice people once you get to know them. Of course there is always the flip side to that. There are the arrogant writers, the one that think that since they wrote a book that they are better than others. Sure you’ll meet those people but honestly it’s kind of rare.

What do you see as the biggest challenge today for writers starting out? 
It’s really hard to just say one. I guess it depends on the writer. For some it’s completing a book for others it’s meeting their goals like getting their work published. I guess something that’s universal is getting attention for your work in an environment where there are literally hundreds of thousands of books that come out every year. I guess that’s not really answering the question… For writers starting out I feel like the biggest challenge would be getting the book done and doing well enough to get published. It’s very hard to get the attention of people that will back you and publish your work.

Have you made any writing mistakes that seem obvious in retrospect but weren’t at the time?
Oh man, yes. Too many to name and a lot of them are horribly embarrassing. I was not classically trained as a writer. I graduated college with a History degree so yes I wrote a lot of papers but I was never really taught to write professionally. So

Is there a particular project you would love to be involved with?
I’d actually be excited about just about anything. I guess if I could pick a fantasy I would say write for a Miyazaki movie or a feature film.

How do you deal with your fan base?
My fan base is awesome. Seriously, everyone that seems to like my work or that approaches me at cons has been so incredibly nice and good to me. It’s a great feeling and I’m looking forward to reconnecting with them with the second book.

Anything else we should know?
My second steampunk adventure novel, Thomas Riley and The Maelstrom, came out yesterday on ZOVA Books.
Order signed copies here http://thomasriley.bigcartel.com/
Amazon.com http://www.amazon.com/Thomas-Riley-The-Maelstrom-Volume/dp/0615794742/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1371788096&sr=8-6&keywords=Nick+Valentino
Learn more at these locations:
Blog:
 http://nickvalentino.blogspot.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/#!/hazeltherabbit
Twitter: https://twitter.com/SirThomasRiley
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Writer Wednesday – Kathryn Sullivan

I first met Kathryn at a convention a couple years ago, intrigued by her “Chicks Dig Time Lords” antho.  Since then we’ve run into each other in several places here and there, most recently inside the covers of Clockwork Spells and Magical Bells.  This is her.

Let’s start with the basics. Who are you?
I’m Kathryn Sullivan. Hi!

Tell us (briefly) about you…
I write young adult fantasy and science fiction. I’ve been writing since I was young and had several short stories published before a publisher decided to take a chance on my books. I’m also owned by a large cockatoo.

…and a bit about what you’ve written…
THE CRYSTAL THRONE and TALKING TO TREES are my young adult fantasy books with wizards, elves and talking horses. AGENTS AND ADEPTS is a collection of my short stories – some fantasy, some science fiction – and the talking horses snuck in there as well. I have a short story in CLOCKWORK SPELLS AND MAGICAL BELLS with elves and dwarves, and my children’s picture book, MICHAEL AND THE ELF, was just released by a different publisher.

I’m a big Doctor Who fan and I have a short story in a Doctor Who anthology by Big Finish, an essay in the Hugo-winning CHICKS DIG TIME LORDS and a review in OUTSIDE IN. More information can be found at my website: http://kathrynsullivan.com

…and what you’re working on right now.
I’ve been working on two projects. The first is a YA science fiction book set on a colony planet, and the second is a continuation of my galactic agents series from three short stories in AGENTS AND ADEPTS.

What are your earliest book-related memories?
My family were big readers. There was a bookcase full of books in the bedroom my sister and I shared and my parents expected us to read if we got up early on Saturday. There were shelves of books in our basement – my brother’s collection of Hardy Boys, my sisters’ collection of Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, Judy Bolton and others, my mother’s set of the Oz books and my father’s big collection of science fiction and fantasy. I remember my mother reading the Oz books to my younger sister and I.

I also have fond memories of my public library, which when I was very small was inside the fire station.

What are your three favorite books?
Only three? My three favorite books from my past, the ones which influenced me, are Tolkien’s THE LORD OF THE RINGS, James Schmitz’s AGENT OF VEGA, and James White’s HOSPITAL STATION. Favorite ones I like to revisit are Janet Kagan’s MIRABILE and Diana Wynne Jones’ HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE and YEAR OF THE GRIFFIN.

How many books to do you read at any given time? What are you reading now?
Usually three. Right now I just finished IRON HEARTED VIOLET by Kelly Barnhill, on my Kindle I’m reading THE CROW GOD’S GIRL by Patrice Sarath, and the book beside my bed is WORLDSOUL by Liz Williams.

Finish this sentence; when I curl up with a book, I ___
Lose all track of time.

To re-read or not to re-read that is the question.
And the answer depends on what mood I’m in. When I was in my teens and twenties I would re-read THE LORD OF THE RINGS once a year. Now I might go on a Janet Kagan binge and re-read all her stories. Or I’ll look at the stack of new books waiting-to-be-read and instead re-read all of Lois McMaster Bujold’s Miles series or Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s Liaden universe. Or Diane Duane’s Young Wizard series. Or…

How likely are you to read a book that’s been recommended to you?
Eventually. I’ve got a big stack of books in the to-be-read pile. But it depends on who is doing the recommending and if their taste is similar to mine. I don’t pay any attention to NYT bestsellers.

How likely are you to recommend a book (that isn’t yours)?
Very. I’m usually on panels about new YA books and I’m the one who will bring a list. And I let my local public library know if I’ve found a new author or book they should get.

What do you look for in a good book?
Characters that catch my interest, good world-building and an engaging plot.

Why do you write?
I started writing when I was 14 because the science fiction and fantasy of that time had very few female main characters. I wanted more stories with characters I could identify with. I continue to write because I keep coming up with characters and stories that demand to be told. When characters start stomping around in your head demanding that you tell their stories, believe me, you tell their stories.

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be?
I just retired last year from the job I loved as an academic librarian. I wanted to be a librarian in the moon colony, but that hasn’t happened yet.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
From everything around me. Newspaper or magazine articles might trigger a story idea. I look at the Astronomy Picture of the Day site (http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/astropix.html ) every morning and check a couple of anthropology news sites as those have also been good story triggers. Sometimes just an interesting picture will do it.

What has writing taught you about yourself?
That I need deadlines.

How do the people in your life seem to view your writing career?
Two of my sisters have been freelance artists, so I know they understand how much work it is. I’m sure some of my friends and co-workers probably thought I was very antisocial because I always seemed to be busy when they wanted to do things. But now I have friends who understand there are times when I’m busy and times when I need a break.

Are there any stereotypes about writers that you don’t think are true?
I keep hearing that all writers are rich and that they make a lot of money when a book is published. I’d like it to be true, but, sadly, it’s not.

What do you see as the biggest challenge today for writers starting out?
Patience, persistence, and knowing when you need editing. Self-publishing has become so easy for some that they take no time to make their work the best they can before rushing into print. Some don’t even try sending their work out to publishers. Others try the big traditional presses but not the smaller presses or e-publishers. There are a number of good small presses and e-publishers who are looking for authors.

Have you made any writing mistakes that seem obvious in retrospect but weren’t at the time?
Oh, lots. I sent my first book out when I was fourteen – taught myself how to type, looked up the markets – but neglected to see what the standard manuscript format at the time was. Single-spaced, typed on both sides of the paper – I’m not surprised that one was rejected as quickly as it was.

Is there a particular project you would love to be involved with?
There’s been a few audio and media projects I would have liked to have been involved with. I would have loved to have written a Doctor Who book but I couldn’t think of a book-length idea.

How do you deal with your fan base?
I have a Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/KathrynSullivan.author) and a webpage (http://kathrynsullivan.com) . I also go to several science fiction conventions and young writers conferences during the year. I enjoy talking with fans; they re-energize me to get back to my next story.

Finish this sentence; my fans would be surprised to know ___ about me.
I’m not sure what they’d be surprised by. Maybe that my cockatoo plays catch. She has a great pitching beak and the signal when she wants to play is often her toy landing on the laptop keyboard. Though that’s mentioned on my Facebook page. That along with being a Doctor Who fan, I’m also a big MacGyver and Stargate SG-1 fan. Though recently I’ve been watching more Phineas & Ferb, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, The Legend of Korra and Transformers Prime. It’s probably no surprise that I’m looking forward to THE HOBBIT.

Anything else we should know?
For those who are interested, I have a list of conventions that I’ll be attending on my webpage (http://kathrynsullivan.com/appearances ).

Thank you!

 

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