Writer Wednesday – AshleyRose Sullivan

1. Tell us who you are and a little bit about what you write.
I grew up in Appalachia, going back and forth between Kentucky and North Carolina, and I didn’t have siblings and I moved around a lot so I spent a lot of time on my own. Consequently, I guess, I make up stories. It’s just where my brain goes.

2. What is something that your fans would be surprised to know about you?
Honestly, I can’t imagine. I’m fairly open book–except for the stuff I keep very private. Though I doubt anything I keep private would actually surprise anyone.
3. What made you become a writer?
I couldn’t really help it.
4. Are you a plotter or a pantser?
For long fiction–plotter, always. Short is a mix of the two.
5. What is the biggest mistake that you’ve learned not to make while writing?
Not letting a piece grow cold. I tend to get really excited when I’ve just finished a new piece and want to send it out immediately. Sometimes this has proved successful but most of the time rushing work out to publishers/journals isn’t a great idea. It’s something I’m still working on.
6. What is the last book you finished reading?  What did you think?
I just finished reading The Mistress of Paris by Catherine Hewitt and I was actually a little relieved when I turned the last page. I’d been so riveted by the enthralling story of 19th Century Paris’ most infamous courtesan that I’d lost several nights’ sleep over it.
7. Would you like to pimp a specific project?
Lona Chang! I’ve always loved mysteries and Lona was begging to get caught up in one so I’m excited for this story to exist in the world now, after several years of living with the character privately.
8. Is there a URL or social media account you’d like to share?
…On Adapting One’s Self…
In 2016 I was diagnosed with a condition called Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. Shortly thereafter I began to have debilitating, agonizing pain in my hands. This went on for months while I lost the ability to type for more than ten minutes at a time and, therefore, my most natural method for writing and communicating. (I’ve preferred typing since middle school when my most important friendships and conversations were carried out in chatrooms.) I was bereft. I’d turned in Lona Chang shortly before the problems began and I worried I’d never write another novel.
Now, nearly two years since the problem began, I’ve worked diligently to remedy the cause of the pain (knotted muscles in my neck causing inflammation in the nerves that run to my hands) and in the interim I’ve gone back to my roots as an artist and I’ve begun the slow process of learning animation because it was less painful for me to work a pencil than to type… and really, in the end, I couldn’t not tell stories. I had so many stories building up inside me that I took up a notoriously difficult craft just to get them out.
I’d always been afraid of losing my ability to create but when truly faced with it, like I’d done so many times before when I moved around as a child, always starting over, I adapted. Like a plant which brushes up against an underground obstacle, I just grew in another direction. I think it’s important, for any creators or story tellers or artists out there, to try not to despair in the face of sudden adversity and to continuously search for other avenues to express their creativity. I didn’t truly begin to recover until I’d done that.

Book Review – Darkness With a Chance of Whimsey

TITLE Darkness With a Chance of Whimsey: Ten Years, Ten Stories
AUTHOR RJ Sullivan
FORMAT Paperback

Darkness with a Chance of Whimsey is a collection of ten pieces of fiction mostly already published in various places. As a collection, there isn’t much that ties this together. I mean, you can argue that he pretty much writes in the same genres, but nothing beyond that. Not saying it’s good or bad, but just saying it’s a thing.
Also, each story has an explanation from the author in front of them. I thought that it would annoy me, but I kinda liked it after all, especially since a lot of the notes talked about when and why he wrote the story. And they didn’t really add anything to the understanding of the story, which was nice; if you have to explain your story, you’re doing it wrong.

So about the stories. I’ll say a little, but I don’t want to spoil anything for you… :

The Assurance Salesman – A group of people on a train meet a mysterious stranger with an even more mysterious blue rose.
According to the note, this was his first published story and I can tell. I think that the premise was interesting, but I think that it had some execution issues. I’d like to see it more refined and as part of a longer piece. Solidly 3/5

Fade – College students Spencer and Anna go to her parents house and get caught up in what her dad does for a living.
First of all, Anna is your typical blonde idiot character, and I hated her from just about the first sentence. The stuff with her dad was cool, though, and I thought that this story really had potential. Still, I feel like the execution didn’t quite make it, so I’ll give this one a 4/5.

Able-Bodied – This one was actually interesting. There was a detective who felt like he was being held back by a whiz-kid detective who showed up, gave an answer, disappeared and that was it. It was a really cool setup, and there was a bit of a turn in the story that wasn’t anywhere my head was going at the time. I thought that it ended a little too abruptly, though, and with an info dump to explain it to another character in the story that made it much too long. 3/5.

I Remember Clearly – This was the author’s first piece of flash, and again, I thought it showed. There’s a really interesting premise here. But the author sort of shoved a couple vignettes together and called them a story. It needed a little something else to make it rounded, and I just didn’t see that something. 2/5.

Do Better – More flash. This one has a couple (young adults, maybe?) locked in an old church after a night of… well, you know.
I think the paragraphs need a little work – almost every one of them flipped points of view – but there was a really cool idea here. I really like this one, and if it weren’t for the paragraph breaks, I’d have given it top marks. 4/5.

Grammetiquette 2030 – The story centers around a piece of tech called the Grammetiquette 2030. As it is flash, I’d pretty much ruin the story if I told you what it did. For the story, the author basically showed us the character’s input and the machine’s output.
Um. Okay? I actually wrote in my notes “What is the point of this?” Again, we have another moment of something that had potential without follow through. I like what was done here, but I wanted this to be the catalyst of something bigger and not the entire thing, you know? Maybe flash just isn’t the author’s thing most of the time? 2/5

Inner Strength & Backstage Pass – Okay, I’m rating these two together because they’re both companion stories to his novel series.
Inner Strength is about a little girl kidnapped by a demon. It’s okay, but I feel like the transitions are a little bumpy and the ending was kind of expected.
Backstage Pass is about a superfan and his favorite singer. … The singer was every stupid cliche you’d expect to hear in a country singer, except I’m pretty sure she wasn’t a country singer. It was just annoying. It was a much better written story, though, so at least there’s that.
Incidentally, and the reason I put these together, I haven’t read the novels that these are supposed to be companions of. And based on these stories, I can tell you that there’s a demon, but I can’t even a little bit tell you how they come together. I would assume that you would get it if you’ve read the novels.
Inner Strength – 3/5. Backstage Pass 4/5.

Starter Kit – Poor little Belljy (no, really) had something go wrong with his creatures in a tank. I… I’m torn on this story. I mean, it sort of reads like a story about those sea monkey things that you sent in the order form from the back of a comic book and $1.50 postage and handling, except the names were changed to protect the innocent. I felt like I wanted to like this story, but I just felt like I was missing something. I’ll give it a 4/5

Robot Vampire – Note: I read this before in Michael West’s Vampires Don’t Sparkle anthology, which I gave a 5/5 review to. But I only know this because the author note says so. I really don’t remember the story.
The title probably doesn’t leave much to the imagination here, but I will say that the demon that they talk about is freaking awesome and leave it at that so I don’t spoil everything. The story deals with a Japanese family and has the feel of Japanese fiction. It’s the newest story of the anthology, and by far the best written. You’re supposed to lay out an anthology/collection with your strongest stories at the beginning and end (which doesn’t affect me because I don’t read these books in order ever), and he definitely ended with his best piece. 5/5.

In all, the collection is pretty short – it’s roughly 170 pages and read very quickly. (I read seven of the ten pieces in about 90 minutes the day I opened the book….) I know I have some pretty mixed feelings about some of the stories, but I guess this falls less into the category of a book you’d have to take seriously and more into the category of stuff you’d read as filler or between heavier novels.
He does have several other titles in print and e-Book, including two that tie into this, and I’ll say that while I wouldn’t seek them out, I also wouldn’t be opposed to giving this author another shot, which is a good thing.

I’m torn between the end rating. I think this book knows its place, and that’s a good thing, but it’s not the best out there by an means. Still, the average rating of the individual stories puts this just about at a 4/5, so I’ll agree with that.

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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