Celine Terranova Interview: “I definitely owe a lot to fanfiction”

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Belgium writer and NaNoWriMo veteran Celine Terranova talks me through her fascination with sci-fi and fantasy writing and how fanfiction inspires her writing.

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards sci-fi and fantasy fiction?

I’ve always been a big fan of these two genres, as far as I can remember. Every story that I made up when I was a child had a part of sci-fi or fantasy in it. I was especially fascinated by witches, and I used to ask my mother to bring me books about them from the library (every week!). I was also a big consumer of any sci-fi/fantasy film or TV series that I could find, and it’s left a mark in me.

I think these genres give you a certain kind of freedom that you don’t have otherwise. I can speak about difficult or divisive subjects without being too upfront about it. Genre fiction provides a distance that doesn’t trigger the reader’s inner censor. It’s very powerful!

I started writing for Young Adults mainly because I am fascinated by the changes that we undergo at this age. Many opinions that I have were forged by books I read when I was a teenager, and my dream is to be able to have that kind of influence on young readers too.

What is your background and how did you get in to writing?

I wanted to become a writer since I was a child, but I was advised against pursuing it further because it’s not the kind of job that could pay the bills. In Belgium (where I was born), writing is mostly seen as a hobby and not a serious career. At school I was good at science, so I studied Physics at university, but it was not really my passion.

During school and university, I continued writing with little success. It was not really understood or even accepted by people around me. I was then very lucky to discover the fabulous world of fan fictions. Internet really opened for me opportunities that I didn’t know existed. I wrote and published fan fiction for twelve years, and it helped me understand that writing was my real calling. In my “real life”, I quit working in science, I moved to the UK, and started working in a much more creative industry (theatre).

I definitely owe a lot to fanfiction. It taught me how to discipline myself, how to work with a critique partner, how to deal with feedback from readers and how to craft a proper story. I’ve taken all that experience and I moved to writing my own stories a couple of years ago. It was extremely scary at first (it still is to be honest), but I enjoy creating my own characters and settings!

You write a lot of short stories. What draws you to this style of writing? Do you find the limited word count restricting or freeing?

I started writing short stories because of several challenges that I found online. The first one was the 48h challenge for the SciFi London Festival, where I had to write a story and film myself reading it. Short stories helped me make the transition between writing fanfictions and writing my own worlds. I really enjoy having to build an entire story within a restricted number of words. It helps me try many things that I wouldn’t dare trying in a novel. I definitely find it freeing!

Where do you take your inspiration? Are there any rituals you do to get yourself in the mood for writing?

My biggest ideas always come to me in dreams. I have very vivid dreams and I try to write the most important down, because I know they can lead to a good story. I always have a notebook ready in case I need to write down the details of what I dreamt.

I used to have rituals to put me in the mood for writing, for example I would put a specific playlist on, or sit at a specific table. Now, it has become a routine so I don’t need it anymore. If sometimes I need more motivation, I use a timer to get me started (I write for 30 minutes, then I can get a coffee). Usually by the end of the time, I have forgotten about the incentive and I keep writing.

Why did you choose to participate in NaNoWriMo and how are you finding the challenge?

I participated in NaNoWriMo for the first time two years ago. I had wanted to do it for years, but somehow there was always something happening in November that prevented me to do so. In 2015, I made the decision to take the leap, mainly to improve my English. I wrote a NCIS fanfiction (which I haven’t published yet) and it was a crazy ride! Writing 1667 words per day, every day, when you have to juggle with a full time job, is not easy. I was very surprised to win and it proved to me that I was capable of crafting a long story in another language than French.

Last year, I participated with my first original novel in English. It was much harder than the first year! I had spent months plotting the story, but I was really not sure of myself. I changed the plot right in the middle of the month, and had to fight writer’s block many times. I won the challenge (50K), but it took me another 8 months to complete the first draft (which reached 100K in total).

This year, I’m a NaNo rebel because I’m writing the second draft of the same novel, Healers. The first draft was honestly not very good, but it is a start! I’m much more confident with my abilities now and I have planned this NaNoWriMo more than I have ever done before. The story is very similar but pretty much all the scenes have changed. The only struggle this year is my new job in theatre, that is eating away all my free time. I find the challenge more exhausting than the previous times, but I enjoy very much the support and sense of community on Twitter!

What style of writing do you enjoy reading yourself? Are there any particular authors you admire?

I read a lot of Young Adult sci-fi and fantasy, because that’s what I enjoy to write too. Most recently, I devoured La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman. He is one of my absolute favourite authors and I was lucky to attend his conference in London in October. I find his stories so inspiring, and they had a big impact on me when I was a teenager.

There are plenty of major authors that I admire (J.K. Rowling, Orson Scott-Carr, and Tolkien), but if I had to choose only one it would probably be Pierre Bordage, a French author of several series that I revered as a teenager. His style is still a major influence on what I write.

If you could collaborate with any person, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?

I would love to collaborate with the French writer/actor/producer Alexandre Astier. He writes for TV, which is something I would like to get into one day, and he’s a magician with words. I am a very big fan of his work, his humour and his work ethic. I would probably be very intimidated, but I think it would be a unique experience.

Have you got any projects coming up that you are particularly excited about?

My main project currently is my novel Healers, which is the first book of a Young Adult science fiction series. Otherwise, I have a couple of projects in the pipeline: a zombie apocalypse story, a supernatural crime podcast, and I also recently completed a sci-fi/horror short story called Video Time that I’ve started to send to magazines.

Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to in the future?

I’m definitely looking forward to the follow-up to La Belle Sauvage. I am also eagerly awaiting the next Cormoran Strike book. Other than that, I recently fell in love with a book by Leah Thomas, Because You’ll Never Meet Me, and I can’t wait to see what she writes next.

Anything you’d like to add?

Thank you Hannah for giving me this opportunity to talk about my projects! If you would like to know more, visit my website: celineterranova.com or follow me on Twitter: @CelineTerranova

Thanks for taking the time to speak to me, it’s been fascinating.

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A Death in the Night Review: Another Stylish Modern Novel with the Wit of a Golden Age Classic

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Having already reviewed and enjoyed two of Guy Fraser-Sampson’s Hampstead Murders novels, Miss Christie Regrets and A Whiff of Cyanide, I had high hopes for A Death in the Night, the latest Golden Age style modern crime novel in this intriguing series.

Beginning at a dinner dance set in a fictionalised women’s club that Dorothy L Sayers used to frequent, the novel quickly catapults the reader into a fiendish mystery, as a guest is found dead in her room. Shortly afterwards, it is discovered that she has been wrongly identified and her death incorrectly diagnosed as being from natural causes, giving the detectives, two of whom were at the dance on the night of the murder, an incredibly tough case to crack.

Despite the devastation caused by the revelations of the previous novel, the team remains solid and continues to investigate with the usual flare. Bob Metcalfe remains stoic as ever, Karen Willis as confident and capable and as for the flamboyant and Golden Age obsessed Peter Collins, he is still the most hilarious and riveting character I have read over the past two years.

With physical evidence almost entirely destroyed and suspects aplenty thanks to the evening’s revelry, the team employ a combination of modern technology and old fashioned detection to uncover the culprit.

What I love about these books is how Fraser- Sampson effortlessly combines modern police techniques with antiquated language and characterisation that would not be out of place in a Lord Peter Wimsey or Poirot novel. Everyone has an archaic sort of job, such as the Doctor with her private practice inherited from her father. Despite this, readers are never in any doubt that the novels are set in the present day, and this makes for a fascinating education in how to combine styles when writing Crime Fiction.

In all, A Death in the Night is a riveting novel with enough classic detective novel techniques and references to keep readers on their toes.

Santa’s Little Secret: How to Make Sure Every Book Lover Gets the Gift They Adore This Year

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Secret Santa is always a bit of a minefield- there’s always one person who’s impossible to buy for, and there’s the risk that you’ll just get some piece of tat that you don’t want. This is particularly true of those secret santas that have small budgets, as unless the person really knows you well then you tend to just get edibles or pens.

As such, when I was running the University of Chester’s Literature Society, I invented a really cool way to make sure that everyone gets something they want. I thought I’d share it with you so if you’re all out of inspiration then you can set this up and have a bit of fun!

The idea is that everyone writes their name, alongside the titles of three books that they’d like to receive on a slip of paper. The books should’t be anything new off the bestseller list: usually people pick classics that they’ve never had the chance to read but have always wanted to.

Then the papers all go into a container, all scrunched up, and everyone picks another person’s paper. They then pick one book from the list and buy it for the other person, so the gift is both a surprise and a joy. If the limit is higher then you can get a pretty edition bound in fancy fabric or with cool illustrations, if not then you can grab a second hand copy from a bookshop or Amazon. Either way, everyone’s a winner.

Happy Reading this Christmas!

Donald Allan Interview: “I have been a lifelong lover of books”

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Donald Allan, writer of the New Druids series talks us through his passion for fantasy and how he cultivated this to create an innovative and immensely popular series.

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards fantasy and sci-fi writing?

I have been a lifelong lover of books. Since the days when I would sneak out of class to hide in the library to read books I have wanted to see my own writing on a shelf with my name on it. I was introduced to the Lord of the Rings in grade 5 and it opened up a world I never knew existed. Fantasy and Sci-Fi allows me to travel to strange new worlds, and I adore it. I am naturally drawn to writing fantasy and finally wrote my first novel. A lifelong dream came true and I love being an author. Next to being a father, it is my greatest achievement.

Please tell me more about New Druids series and how it came to be so popular.

The New Druids series is epic Celtic fantasy that examines a world where druids were hidden in society before being wiped out by a church that feared them. The series follows the last druid who has just awoken his powers and is trying to determine how the druids should interact with the world and return the harmony of nature.

My series borrows from the Celtic words for Leaf, Branch, Stalk and Root for my druid ranks and my novels titles: Duilleog, Craobh, Stoc, and Freamhaigh (coming out in 2018). I love my first novel as you would love a first child. How could I not? I have grown as a writer over the past few years and I write much better than I did in my first novel, but it is still a wonderful novel and I won a gold medal from the Dan Poynter’s Global eBook Awards in 2016 for the category Fantasy/Other Worlds.

What is your background and how did you get in to writing professionally?

I am a father, husband, author, and an officer in the Royal Canadian Navy. I am an Information Warfare specialist who specialises in interoperability between Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom and the United States navies. I am also a dog owner who thinks that dogs are the most wonderful animals on the planet. Writing is my passion. I’ve longed to see my name in print since I was old enough to read.

Where do you find your inspiration? Are there any particular places or incidents you draw on when you find yourself with writer’s block?

Inspiration comes from that magically place-somewhere out there beyond the rainbow. Haha! I have no idea where I find my inspiration. I swear that my novels write themselves. But once I know what I want, I flush out a complete outline of my novels before I do anything. I break it down into chapters and scenes and work out timeline issues. I let that soak for a while, then go back, and revisit the plot and sequence. Once I am confident I have it right, I open my laptop and start writing.

Writer’s block for me has been about not writing well. Not about not being able to write. To write well I need any place alone where I can listen to my music. Then I need to simply start. Inspiration will strike me and then it’s all about typing as fast as I can.

If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?

Elizabeth Moon. My favourite trilogy of all time is her The Deed of Paksenarrion. I love her writing style. She’s wonderful and it would be an honour to write with her.

Do you have any projects coming up that you are particularly excited about?

I am deep into NaNoWriMo and using the opportunity to push my fourth novel into full creation. This will be the second last novel in my series and I am excited about where I am in the plot. It’s a great story and I love being able to tell it. I’ve built this world and writing in it gives me such joy.

Many thanks to Donald for your time; you can find out more about him and his work HERE.

Book Adaptations: Should you Read First and Watch Later?

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Recently some friends and I got into a discussion about The Men Who Stare at Goats, a truly hideous film based on an equally hideous book. The book is a depiction of some of the U.S Army’s exploration of the military benefits of holistic techniques, such as the idea that staring at goats could kill them. The film, of the same name, is a fictionalised portrayal of the goat staring project and the sheer absurdity of it.

Much like A Short History of Tractors in Ukraine or Purple Hibiscus, readers expect there to be more to the title of books than first meets the eye; however, with The Men Who Stare at Goats, there is simply a lot of staring at goats, interceded with weird anecdotes about other, equally strange projects that America’s military and secret services have untaken over the years.

When I informed my friends that I have in fact read the book prior to watching the film, they were aghast. Surely, if I knew how dull the subject matter and how dire the execution was already, I was incredibly stupid to waste my time watching the film?

This got me thinking about whether it was better to read the book or watch the film first. As my recent review will testify, I was hugely looking forward to Kenneth Branagh’s recent film adaptation of Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, despite having read the book, therefore already knowing whodunit, which is effectively the point of a crime story.

Despite this, I felt that this does not dampen my enjoyment of the film. Knowing the plot did not change the experience, perhaps because they are different mediums. After all, apart from watching the David Suchet version, I had only ever encountered the story in book form, and even different film adaptations use different cinematic techniques to bring a story to life.

That being said, I do find it difficult to read a book after I have seen it adapted for either film or TV. I find that my imagination automatically strays towards the film’s version of the setting and characters, and I often struggle to accept even minor alterations in plot or characterisation.

As such, personally I believe that books should always be read first, to allow the reader to adjust to the style and characters before they are exposed to the filmmaker’s view of the story. Film and TV are both very visual, whereas with books one tends to visualise depending on how their imagination decodes the words on the pages. I would be interested to hear other people’s opinions on this, and whether you think you should read first, or if you feel that it doesn’t make much of a difference.

 

Pigeon Blood Red Review: An Interesting Gangster Novel With Nothing to Do With Birds

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Despite the frankly ludicrous title, this book is actually an enticing and fascinating thriller with absolutely nothing to do with dead birds (the name refers to the novel’s innovative description of the colour of rubies).

The novel has everything you need in a thriller, from gangsters such as the protagonist, enforcer Richard “Rico” Sanders, a missing jewel belonging to his thuggish boss, a chase around the world and a group of innocent bystanders who get caught in the crossfire.

Then Rico goes and spoils it all by falling in love, and the next thing we know there is a great deal more emotion going around than I like in my thrillers. I prefer more tension and fewer adoring adjectives, although the chase more than makes up for the mushiness and there are some truly tense passages that give the novel an air of suspense.

Author Ed Duncan is a lawyer, and that made this novel even more interesting, as it is not the legal procedural I was expecting. He provides a unique insight into the novel and the reason he enjoyed creating it.

“It’s always been said that you should write what you know. I am a lawyer – as is a pivotal character in the novel who is being pursued by a hit man – and I’m excited to be able to use my legal training creatively as well as professionally.”

Overall a solid thriller, Pigeon Blood Red loses momentum in places, but benefits from evocative description, a wealth of interesting characters and an interesting plot.

Pat Krapf Interview: “What drew me to darker fiction was my fascination with delving into the sinister side of human nature”

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Pat Krapf, author of the Darcy McClain and Bullet series of mysteries, talks me through her work and the journey she made to create it.

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you toward darker fiction?

When I began my career, I worked as a copywriter and technical writer. Writing concise, snappy advertising copy kept me focused on the message. As a technical writer, I wrote and edited operation and service manuals, which helped me hone my organizational and descriptive skills, paying close attention to small details but never losing sight of the big picture.

What drew me to darker fiction was my fascination with delving into the sinister side of human nature. But out of the darkness, there is light—that light being my main character Darcy McClain, who, with help from her giant schnauzer sidekick Bullet, does her best to right the world’s wrongs.

What is your background in writing and how did you get into writing crime fiction?

At age nine I became addicted to the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mysteries and started penning short stories, all the while wondering if I would ever have enough to say to write an entire book. In college, I worked for the school newspaper and wrote a weekly column. After I earned my journalism degree from the University of Oregon, I worked in the aerospace and medical industries, which introduced me to a wealth of scientific and technological data. Intrigued by this knowledge, I’ve used it in my series to do some good, but mostly to weave dark plots.

Tell me about your books and how you came to write and then publish them.

My debut novel in the Darcy McClain and Bullet Thriller Series was Brainwash. The gist, is that what begins as a missing person’s case soon escalates into a dangerous game that places Darcy’s life at stake after she infiltrates the top-secret biotech labs at LANL, where shocking neuroscientific research soon comes to light.

Book two, Gadgets, was also set in New Mexico. The reader is introduced to The Carver—Albuquerque’s most brutal serial killer. Only one person can end his carnage—Darcy McClain. That is, if he doesn’t kill her next.

This year, I released Genocide. Sean Ireland, the first gay presidential candidate in US history, is guaranteed the election—until he’s found dead at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco.

I completed my first novel in 1987. By 2010, I had five completed manuscripts for my thriller series and rough drafts for an additional four. Rather than pursue the traditional route—a very slow process—I decided to self-publish.

Where do you take your inspiration? Are there any rituals you do to get yourself in the mood for writing?

My inspiration comes from nonfiction books, current news stories, and/or firsthand experiences. Many of Darcy’s adventures were at one time also mine. As for the settings in the series, they are global. Like me, Darcy grew up overseas. The series begins in the US, but with book five I will transition to setting the novels abroad. I’m constantly reading or searching for the next theme to my next novel. It’s an ongoing process and inspiration is everywhere. No, I don’t have any rituals because Darcy is constantly calling me back to the computer to continue her adventures with Bullet. My only complaint is that I can’t always shut out real life.

If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?

Robert Ludlum. I started reading Ludlum in 1971 and was captivated by his powerful storytelling. His Bourne series is the inspiration for a future Darcy McClain thriller that will be set in the EU. Posing as a double agent, Darcy finally realizes her dream to become a spy. But at what cost, and to whom?

Have you got any projects coming up that you are particularly excited about?

Yes. Besides being a prolific blogger—I post on a weekly basis—I am polishing the fourth novel in my series—CLON-X. The storyline: while out for a run in Texas, former FBI Special Agent Darcy McClain and her giant schnauzer, Bullet, find a trash bag submerged in a creek. Inside are the pulverized remains of renowned geneticist Dr. Catherine (Cate) Lord, who has been receiving death threats for her alleged research on human cloning. I recently received the cover design for CLON-X and am quite pleased with the outcome.

What new books or writers are you looking forward to later in the year and beyond?

When it comes to reading, I search by topic as opposed to specific authors. For instance, currently I am hooked on spy, espionage, and bioterrorism as subjects for future novels, so I will seek out books on those subjects, and about 75 percent of what I read is nonfiction.

Anything you’d like to add?

If you’d like to know more about me and my books, visit us—Pat, Darcy, and Bullet—at patkrapf.com. Thank you, Hannah, for the opportunity to talk about our thriller series.

Many thanks for your time Pat, it has been fascinating to hear your thoughts.