Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Up Close and Personal with Daniel Carter

Daniel Carter, author of the The G-6 Chronicles, blends sci-fi and fantasy into a web of mystery that just can't be missed. Daniel is not only a writer, but a great manager as well, leading the pack of gracious and helpful writers in a Facebook group that I belong to. I have the pleasure of learning a litte bit more about Daniel, and I hope you enjoy my recent author interview.
Collette: Thank you Daniel for being here today. I'm so happy to be able to learn and share more about your work. Let's start with what age did you start writing?
Daniel: I started writing stories when I was about 12 or 13 years old. Me and my best friend would make up worlds and tell stories with us as characters in them. I didn't take writing seriously until much later in life. I was in my thirties when I decided to get serious and learn how to write novels. Proper form and what the publishers and editors were looking for. Such as point of view, active tenses instead of blah blah blah....OK I won't bore you anymore. =)

You have a long history in the arts. Can you tell us a little about that background?
My first passion had been to be an actor growing up in my teens. I found the thrill of doing plays to be better than any drug or vice this world had to offer. My first play was in high school and it was Diary of Anne Frank. I played Jan Dussell. (not sure of the spelling lol) Pronounced Yan not Jan. =) My hair was painted white because I was supposed to be an old man which caused a white cloud to often appear whenever I moved suddenly. Funny but it was a drama. I also did the musical Damn Yankees and I got to play the coach. The first song I ever sang was a quartet You've Got To Have Heart. I got runner up for my performance by the regional high school committee. Then I did a horrible play in my senior year called David & Lisa which was about 2 mentally disturbed kids who meet in an institution. I played David a neurotic, arrogant, obsessive compulsive boy who had a fear of germs and being touched. My after high school performances were The Word Made Flesh (small production), A Christmas Story (I played King Harrod on a shays lounge holding a mirror. lol) and the last play that I did I played Peter in the musical Through His Eyes a story of Peter after the crucifixion of Christ for an Easter production. I also helped write many scripts and skits over the years for drama teams as well as direct. Ooooh I can't forget that I also sing and play the acoustic & bass guitar. I know you said a little bit but I got carried away. =)

You are definitely multi-talented! Amazing.
When did you decide you wanted to write rather than act?
In my late twenties and early thirties my health had deteriorated. I herniated two discs in my back and was gaining weight at an alarming rate. Without going into all my health issues, and there were many, I was very limited to what I could do physically. I started directing more and helping with scripts and skits but couldn't put the effort into the acting that I really wanted. Now for the big ham that I am this was very difficult for me. However there is always a reason for the way things unfold in our lives if we are willing to look for them. In my mid thirties I began working on stories that included all my passions; Science fiction, fantasy, action, mystery, thrillers a touch of the paranormal.

Were you inspired to write by a situation or person? If so, who and why?
When I started coming up with these stories I'd tell them to my wife as we got in bed at night. She kept on encouraging me to write them down, write them down. When I realized my health wasn't going to allow me to do a lot of the passions I once had, I thought I should follow wifey's advice and look into putting them down on paper/computer. I had so many ideas and a long story line which was something I wasn't use to. I knew how to write a character's lines and how they should interact with each other but to write an entire novel length story was a different ball game all together. So I put my fingers to work and used the internet to learn how to write. I bought books on building plots and characters that were believable. Took me 4 rewrites of my first manuscript but it was well worth the learning.

It's great to have such a supportive spouse. Kudos to your wife!
Where do you get your ideas?
Most writers will tell you that they get things from the world around them and it's true. Every person draws from their personal knowledge however I had a more specific source. The Bible. My desire was to take all the spiritual aspects of what The Bible talks about and make it into a story that is relatable and fantastical all at the same time. Now I'm not talking about writing Bible stories. No I'm talking about the reality of what The Bible contains. Witches, demons, giants, ghosts, walking dead, fallen angels, angelic creatures in heavenly realms beyond what we can see. The first installment of The G-6 Chronicles is based off of Genesis 6 where The Bible talks about fallen angels (Son's of God) taking (possibly by force...ewe) the daughters of men and having an offspring called the Nephilim. They were the mighty men of old The Bible tells us. That doesn't mean they were good men just that they were powerful beings and probably giants. Goliath in The Bible is believed by many scholars to be a Nephilim along with his four other brothers who were even bigger than Goliath. OK getting sidetracked. LOL The ideas are endless and so fascinating to me because there is that plausibility factor.

There are many different paths you can take from that. Very clever, Daniel.
What is your writing process?
My first book I didn't have a writing process. That came once I finished The Unwanted. Each writer may have their own formula but this is what works for me. Once I have an idea for a story I start off with the characters. Who will they be. I create a document and do a profile for each of the main characters and decide what types of personalities they will be. Secondary characters I'll list out if I know them but most of the time I don't know they exist until I start actually writing. I also create a vague outline of what I want the story to accomplish. Here's an example of one of my other book ideas I'm working on:

Main character wakes up to find a strange woman calling out his name from his front porch. She is covered in blood and the police must come to take her away. The main character finds out later that the disturbed woman had killed her husband that night. Obviously the character is shaken to the core but when two more total strangers show up over the next week calling out his name on his property having committed murder the police begin to suspect he is responsible somehow. The man must clear his name and find the connection between these three people before it happens again. Go...
Then I start writing. I got the idea now the story is going to build and will take many turns before it is fully fleshed out but that's how I get started and my process for writing. If a subject needs to be researched I do that as I'm writing so it is fresh in my mind.

Tell me about ‘a day in the life of Daniel’ when you’re writing. What is your normal routine?
My routine has changed from time to time but mainly I do my morning rituals of breakfast, coffee, shower, get dressed. I have to make a comment here. I like to get dressed in comfortable clothes like sweat pants and t-shirt when I write. I need to be comfortable. =) Now here is where maybe I'm a bit different than other writers. Before I start writing I put on my writing music. I have a mix of soundtrack music that is instrumental only. The music is mystical and dramatic sounding and helps get me into the mindset of writing. I see my books as movies and probably always will. Once I've done my emails and checked the websites that I need to monitor I've hopefully woken up enough to start being creative. I put my headsets on with the writing music playing so that I can block out the world around me and I get to work. A little bit of advice I had heard years back was to make sure you stop writing when you know where you are going to start off next. So I'll read a page or two that I wrote the day before and then continue on.

I do the same thing with classical music.
You incorporate science fiction and faith in your stories. How do you balance the two?
One of the main issues often I hear from people is that God and Science don't go together but I disagree. The more I read up and do research on scientific discoveries the more they confirm that God exists and The Bible is true. Having said that my desire for writing The G-6 Chronicles was not to preach to anyone. I personally don't care for Christian books that preach to you in the middle of a story. Just tell me the story, don't preach at me. I'm a Christian and if I want to be preached to I'll buy a book that is meant to teach me on Biblical principles or I'll read The Bible. When I read a fiction story I want a story. Don't try and incorporate into the book your pastor's latest sermon that you found fascinating when your characters are flying through space being chased by aliens. Just tell me the story and let the plot and characters unfold. That has so much more impact to me than worrying about preaching. Lord of the Rings has some great Christian ideology and symbolisms within the stories but there isn't any preaching. Gandalf delivers a king from being possessed just like Christ did throughout The Bible. Fantastic symbolism but Gandalf didn't say to the king, "Now repent of your sins and turn from your wicked ways!" Sorry if I'm venting a bit but I feel passionately about this subject. My books have characters that are Christians and it has characters that aren't Christians. There is prayer that happens in the book but it is relevant to what is happening in the story. There is no preaching just storyline that may reflect how Christian characters may behave.

One of the classes I took in college contrasted and compared the differences between J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Both friends, both traumatized by war, and both Christian. However, it appears as though C.S. Lewis is compared more heavily than J.R.R. Tolkien. I always found that interesting, and it's neat how you mention it too. :)
How did you come up with the idea of The Unwanted?
I needed a foundation story to set up The G-6 Chronicles: The Unwanted Trilogy. From my fascination with Genesis chapter 6 and the Nephilim I did some research on text and theologies behind them. The original text of The Bible hints at the fact that the fallen angels (Sons of God) had taken by force the daughters of men. The question is why would they do this? Angels don't procreate so how did the women give birth to the Nephilim. Genetic manipulation is a prominent thought behind this theory. Satan wanted to taint the blood line of Christ by introducing a half-breed generation into the world. The theory reeks of alien abduction stories I know. Anyways, this led to the whole idea of a modern day experiment where a vengeful genious is performing genetic manipulation on infants in hopes of creating his own hybrid human. Thus The Unwanted was born. Five unwanted genetic experiments that were meant to be killed are saved and raised into these extraordinary children.   

How long did it take you to complete?
The first book took me a year and a half. I rewrote it four times like I had mentioned earlier. The second book Children of Anak I wrote in six months.

What kind of research did you use to develop your story? Plot, setting, etc.
I had to do some research for the different locations that the story progresses through. From Chicago, Oklahoma, LA, Virginia and then New York I wanted to know exactly where my characters were and what their surroundings were. Ranchers were another research topic for me. I did not grow up on a ranch nor have I ever been on one. So I needed to get a clue as to what I was dealing with. The main research was on the Nephilim and genetic manipulation. What is DNA, what degrees would a character need to have in order to know what they are doing. The history of Nephilim was the fun part though. =) Truly fascinating stuff and I could talk about it with you for hours but I'll spare you.

Was it difficult for you to write?
The first book The Unwanted was difficult only in the sense that I was learning and making major mistakes. I almost called it quits on many occasion. Children of Anak was much easier and flowed quickly. It was just a matter of finding time to write since I had a day job at the time.

Can you describe Nick, Leigh, and Janet in a few sentences? What are they like? What do they want? Goals, strengths, weaknesses, etc.
Nick is a sad man. He is so focused on his career that his wife left him. She even blames him for the miscarriage of their child because of the stress from the job. His brokenness goes even deeper than that so he loses himself in work. Throughout the story you'll find his one goal is to close this one case that has become the symbol of his failures.

Leigh's the kind of man you want as a father. Strong and loving, willing to give you the shirt off his back for a complete stranger. He is a private man almost to a fault. His faith and devotion are what keep him strong running the ranch and for Janet and the children. His desire is to help Janet raise these five children so that they can reach their potential and purpose in life.
Janet is a wounded woman. Death has been the haunting factor throughout her life. She has lost everyone she has ever loved in her life other than Uncle Leigh. Her daddy died when she was three and her mamma and aunt died in a car accident together. Years later she lost her husband of only a couple years in a plane crash. Her faith in the world and God is shaken. These five children are the turning point for her. A chance to rebuild a life filled with love and hope as well as a reconciliation with Uncle Leigh.

Who was your favorite character in The Unwanted? Why?  
As an author every character is a part of who you are, an extension of my personality so it's hard to pinpoint one character. But I'll try. Uncle Leigh was probably my favorite character and the closest to who I am. He personifies what I want to be in a man. Strong, caring, able to be a rock for others. He has his faults which I also appreciate. He loses his temper every now and then but he's my favorite in book 1 The Unwanted.

Who was the easiest for you to develop? Why?
Marcus was probably the easiest. He is strong willed and bull headed. All I had to think of was what was it like when I was a teenage boy and amplify it tenfold. lol Marcus is one of the main characters in book 2 Children of Anak and he goes through some pretty interesting things. No spoilers though. =)

Interesting little teaser. :)
Who was the hardest? Why?
Anna was the hardest. I had to get into this girl’s head more so than the other characters. Here is a little girl with wisdom beyond her years who has a direct link to God. She speaks to God all the time and He talks back. She can read every single emotion from the people around her. Her emotions are a rollercoaster at times because of the sensitivity that she has. Then you get into the prophetic dreams and nightmares. This is one complex little girl that is in for a rocky road ahead.

Are any of your characters based on real-life friends or acquaintances?  
I used some names of people I know just for fun but no one in the book is based off of anyone in particular. All the characters are either an extension of my character or quirks that I've seen over the years from interesting people I've met.

Do you ever incorporate yourself into your characters?
As you probably already guessed the answer is yes. All five of the Children are a personality trait of mine that I have expanded upon. Sampson is a big guy and soft spoken. A gentle giant of sorts. Zack is the outgoing "hey look at me" guy. Angie is the fun loving easy going giddy persona. Anna is the sensitive understanding type that sees more than she really wants to. Marcus is the impulsive aggressive side that wants to protect those around me.

Are you still working on the trilogy? If so, what will your future projects entail?
Book 2 Children of Anak is due out soon by my publisher OakTara. We've had a delay due to the re-launch of the trilogy as The G-6 Chronicles: The Unwanted Trilogy. I'm currently working on book 3 Unholy Resurrection and am outlining The G-6 Chronicles: Spirit Walker which will be kind of a prequel to The Unwanted Trilogy of how the group G6 was founded.

Can you give us a glimpse into your next novel in the series, Children of Anak? A little teaser, perhaps?
Hmmm... Well I can tell you that the family has been torn apart. The children are being held at a military facility for testing. Nick's career with the FBI is just about to end but there is a role he will play that will be much more profound. New characters will be introduced. Sean Welken (Spirit Walker) the head of GSIX (Global Security from Interdimensional X's. X's is a term used to describe creatures from the 10 knows dimensions.) will be introduced. Linda Dreamer (Lullaby) who is a Child of Anak is also new. Along with her counterparts Mel (Trammel) & Myriad whom are also Children of Anak. Marcus finds himself lost both emotionally and spiritually. Revenge and lust become one of the main themes for book 2.

Excellent! Sounds intense.
Do you have an expected release date for your follow-up novel?
My publisher has not given me a date yet however it should be out within the next couple months. Hopefully in time for the holidays. =)

Tell me a bit about your cover art. Did you design your own?
The cover art was done by my publisher OakTara's art department but they worked off of my design ideas from book 4 Spirit Walker. I wanted something a bit more mystical looking. The idea of a lone figure standing in the woods had been the concept from the beginning. This new cover design has build upon that concept also.

Ok, switching topics. How about a little about you now? How often do you read?
I read all the time. At bed time I read before I go to sleep. I'm always looking for new fantasy and sci-fi stories. My problem is that I have the attention span of a cocker spaniel...SQUIRL!!!... Sorry... So often the story lines are too slow or even non existent at times. SQUIRL!!!...Sorry again. =)

Which genres are your favorites?
Science fiction and Fantasy are my favorites without a doubt but I'm open to other genres. Urban Fantasy looks interesting and Steam Punk sounds just too cool not to read. lol

Where can we find you online?
Blog: A Christian Man's Perspective  dlcacmp.blogspot.com
Website: www.g6chronicles.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1426531544
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Unwanted-Daniel-L-Carter/dp/1602902232/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1280421389&sr=8-2
Other: Facebook Fan Page http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-G-6-Chronicles-The-Unwanted-Trilogy/123047731058991

Where is The Unwanted available for purchase?

What formats are your book available in?
The Unwanted is now available in both paperback and e-book (Kindle & Nook).

Is there anything else you would like to add?
I just want to say before we end that I am so very grateful that you've asked me here to share with everyone. I've had a blast doing this interview! Thank you! =)

Thank You Daniel! It was my pleasure and I'm happy to have you here. :) 

To enter the September eBook giveaway for a copy of Daniel's book, please visit: http://paradox-theangelsarehere.blogspot.com/p/september-bloggerthon-target-48-winners.html

Friday, August 26, 2011

Simbarashe Talks About Warsongs

At the end of Veronasongs, we see that battle lines have been drawn. Donica has taken a stand again Lauren, and from here on out she pays the price. Join me as Simbarashe and I discuss the sequel to Veronasongs. In Warsongs, the battle is played over a week of drama and change, and we end the story believing that none of the kids in Verona will ever be the same...

So we can’t finish discussing Veronasongs without talking about Warsongs. You mentioned that you wrote this novel first. Tell us a little bit about your writing process for this novel.

I had written the story for Warsongs first, in several different formats over the years, but the actual book as it has been published was written after Veronasongs. Still, I rewrote it 3 times over the course of a year and a half. It was extremely difficult to write because when I originally created this story as a teenager, much of it was fueled from a very dark place. Fourteen years later I’m trying to essentially rewrite this emotional bomb as an adult, contented person. The timeline and the general plot points were easy, but I just couldn’t recreate the tone that I originally had because I didn’t have those demons anymore. My editor suggested after two other efforts to shorten the span of time in the book from two weeks to one, giving it a greater sense of urgency. I think the urgent nature of inevitable tragedy makes up for and adequately replaces negative emotion that was originally there so many years ago.

Warsongs differs from Veronasongs as far as writing style. You mentioned that you were reading Gabriel Garcia Marquez (amazing writer, by the way), so was that intentional for you, a sign of your progression as a writer, or something that just happened due to the story?

Yeah, they’re completely different. Veronasongs was inspired by Marquez. The style of writing for Warsongs is largely unchanged from the original manuscript (Everybody Hates Donica Pine) that I completed back in 2004. In that version, the characters who are being interviewed [in Warsongs] simply take turns narrating the story in first person. Christian and Sara also narrated, but they of course are not interviewed in Warsongs, for a particular reason. I didn’t read so much when I first wrote Donica Pine. I thought that was an innovated way to tell a story back then, but of course I was completely naive in this thought processes. I decided to go back to 3rd person, but from a general 1st person perspective because the original format wasn’t working the way I needed it to work. The interviews were actually the idea of one of my brothers. He’d read the last screenplay I’d written for Donica Pine in 2007 and suggested I use the interviews as a way to insert true 1st person perspective in throughout the events.

Well, I found it a great plot twist, actually. It really helped to show the changes in the character’s lives. Very well done!
Also as you mentioned, Warsongs brings some of the minor characters from Veronasongs into a brighter spotlight. Do you plan to continue that trend in Book 3?

Yes. The third book begins the summer after Warsongs, so there are seniors who graduate and move away, and a couple of younger students step up. A couple of students are dead, obviously. There’s a big section about the soccer player Gina Sloan and her senior season. Christian’s sister Olivia will be a freshman.

Ralph Mills is introduced in Warsongs. He appears to be caught in his own personal battles, but it struck me that he also notices and dislikes what is happening in Verona. Will he take a greater stance in Book 3?

Actually, Ralph Mills was introduced in Veronasongs—he’s the player who embarrasses Verona in their basketball home-opener against Lakeview (the game where Bad Things Happen with Donica in the girls restroom). I can’t spoil anything with Book 3 per se, but his physical role isn’t bigger. There is a working partnership and trust with Daniel Hope that continues to build since Ethan and Marcus and Trae have all moved on. I can tell you though that Ralph Mills represents the social shift that is fast approaching Verona. There’s definitely a distinction with residents in regards to who sees it coming and who doesn’t.

I do remember that scene! I was getting the feeling at the end of Warsongs that Ralph was thinking ‘what am I doing here?’ but was too caught up with his own personal problem to really explore things.

I think everyone in the book suffers with that problem; but Ralph Mills has a slightly different perspective from the others.

Loes is also introduced, and though she doesn’t speak much, she seems to observe what’s happening. She also appears pretty bright. Will she return in Book 3, and if so be more vocal?

Real-Life “Loes” was brilliant. But she’s just a foreign exchange student, so unfortunately her stay in Verona was quite temporary. Does she come back to visit? I haven’t written that far into Book 3 yet, but I’ll find out soon . . .

Ah, the teaser J… At the same time, now I wonder if she fulfilled her need to draw Christian out of his melancholy?

That's a good question. Throughout the book I don't think Christian was melancholy when Loes was around. It was just a matter of taking that next step, out into admitted vulnerability. She was good for him.

Backing up now to Donica, we discussed how she would have regretted what happened that day in the cafeteria in Veronasongs. However, I wonder if things would have changed anyway. Lauren did have to deal with what she saw at Donica’s house, right? It seems only natural that things would have ended up the way they did. What are your thoughts on that?

I don’t think so. Her motives for becoming a war machine are expressed in the creative writing exercise she wrote to her substitute teacher in Veronasongs. Lauren was bright enough to understand that incident at the house wasn’t Donica’s fault. Would it have been awkward though? Yes, I’m sure. But Lauren went to Donica and basically said, “I’m willing to drop this if you’re on my side.” Donica basically said, “I’m not on your side.”

In Veronasongs, there was a greater focus on the teachers in the school. In Warsongs they are noticeably absent or useless. Tell me a little about your motivation for that twist.

When I wrote the story in high school they were completely absent, save for the opening scene with Mr. Dresner and when Ethan and Donica were dragged into the principal’s office. When I was 16 and living in New Mexico I was perpetually devastated and quietly very angry. All of the adults in my life, save for perhaps my stepfather, were noticeably absent or completely useless. Nobody cared. I put that in all caps when Donica was flipping through television channels on a Saturday morning. This was how I felt every Saturday morning back then.

It can be very difficult to grow up alone, especially during those awkward and momentous years.

Yes. I have heard some people speculate that Facebook and the socialisation of the internet have made things much easier for young people. In the first book Donica used telnet; she was the only student with an email address (though I didn't explicitly say this, tech nerds would've figured that out). By Book 2 the kids are still using pagers. The world was beginning to expand with the internet in the late 90s, but it was still very small, especially to the middle of the country and a place like Kansas City in particular.

One person we haven’t mentioned yet is Donica’s brother, Monty (or Sam). I found him to be a very sympathetic character because he seems to have a good heart; he’s just misguided. Would you agree with my conclusion?

Here’s a clue for you: If you really want to know what happens at the end of Warsongs, all you need to do is revisit his personal story in Book 1. There’s a very out-of-place passage in there that very specifically lays out what’s going to happen. Monty is one of those people who looks so weird that you just stay away. Everyone assumes he’s a goth or a metalhead because he wears all black, but all he does is sit in his room listening to The Smashing Pumpkins. He’s more misunderstood than he is misguided, though to be fair, he is certainly that, too. He’s loyal to his friends, he loves Donica and he hates his mother. His life isn’t that complex. He fought cancer but he doesn’t know how to fight other people. No one asked how he reconciled not coming to Donica’s defence when she was in immediate danger on Saturday. It’s just one of those intended but inexplicable things.

I know you covered this briefly in the very end of the book, but tell me why you took out that final chapter from Warsongs.

Kids die. I’ve been told on a few occasions that people like how the book ends on a cliff and Christian’s serenity throughout that moment. The reality is that a gun is still being pointed to his face. Sara’s breakdown can’t be ignored, and out in the parking lot you have two boys deciding if they should still step inside the school building even with the police on the premises. I mean, it’s a BAD day. When the story was two weeks long, there were several parts of several days where things were calm, peaceful even. When everything happens in a week and there’s no chance to stop or breathe and then people show up on Monday with the intentions that they have, I just thought it was too much. Warsongs is plenty violent without me having to write out was was—essentially—the entire reason why the book exists in the first place. (I just realised how ludicrous that sounds. But it’s true.) So I removed that scene, and I removed the final chapter (the next day) because that entire premise has now become Book 3. I can tell you that Book 3 has some intense moments of violence, but they exist specifically in the dreams of the people who experienced the earlier tragedy. So instead of physical violence, it’s more like psychological torture. That being said, Book 3 will not have the dark tone that Warsongs does. Things are more ominous than physically present. There are entirely new challenges that our friends must learn how to deal with.

The lines that were blacked out. Can you tell us if you will include some of that missing information in Book 3?

Not a chance! Those are sealed records and scenes I don’t want to get sued over.

Darn, I had to try though J.

We'll work it out.

Another thing I cannot fail to mention is how so many people do not agree with what happening to Donica, but none stand up and speak for her. Can you say whether or not is has something to do with her obvious anger? Is she perhaps making people afraid of her in Warsongs, or is it more their fear of Lauren?

You know what it is? This is something that happens to everyone, but kids are more susceptible to: the pack mentality. The reality is that nobody really hates Donica at all, but the perception is that because Lauren seems to hate her and her friends seem to hate her, everybody hates her. It’s a de facto hatred. The only character who vocally promotes a pro-hate against Donica movement is Jon. I don’t know if anybody notices, but Jon is the only major character who doesn’t have any direct physical or social contact with Donica in either of the books. Technically, Lauren doesn’t even campaign against, Donica, it’s just that she can’t seeing Christian or any of her other friends associating with her (which she made perfectly clear in the first book when she and Donica broke down over the table invitation). So the great irony is that the only kid who hates this girl for real is also the only kid who’s never spoken to her. Perceived hatred happens all the time. Donica is angry because she’s one of the only two people who understand what’s going on—Sara being the other, and because of Christian they’ll never be friends.

Christian finally begins to make a stand in the end of Warsongs. Is that a hint of what’s to come in Book 3?

That depends on how you think the end of Warsongs really shakes out J

Book 3 is still a work in progress. Any tentative information as to when you might have it ready for release?

It’s almost complete and chunks of it have been going to my editor already so with any luck, next summer.

I can’t wait!

Any teasers about Book 3 that you would like to include?

In keeping tradition with the difference in presentation and writing styles of the first two books, Book 3 will also be different. I can tell you that it is a journal that is written over the course of the next school year. It begins 5 months after Warsongs ends. I can tell you that one of the main three characters that survives will enter into a relationship for the very first time. And I can tell you that the opening passage of Warsongs is an actual passage in Book 3 (the opening passage of Veronasongs was an actually passage in Warsongs, too). Finally, I can tell you that many of the characters have gone through very dramatic personal changes in the 5 months between Warsongs and Book 3.

Well that’s more than I had hoped for. Thank you!

I'm happy to oblige.

Anything else that you would like to add?

I hope that people read Warsongs and choose to share it with others. Specifically, that it opens a new dialogue about the things that tend to torment young people. Bullying, dramatic social changes, the lack of trust that exists between teenagers and adults. The adults are missing from Warsongs because teenagers in generally either feel invincible or helpless. Help itself is generally missing in each instance.

I agree completely. It should be mandatory reading for teens (and parents) everywhere! Thank you so much for answering my questions, Simbarashe. I can’t wait to read Book 3, and I wish you all the greatest success!

And again, here is my review for Warsongs:

After reading Veronasongs, I immediately began the sequel. This story is a gripping, emotional and faster paced read, and it left me with a lump in my throat so large that I couldn't stop speaking about it all evening.

Like the title, this story picks up where Veronasongs left off. However, this time the story is gritty, to the point, and abrupt. The writing itself shows how the attitudes of the characters have changed over the winter break. No longer seeing life through whimsical eyes, Donica, Christian, and the others have now been sucked into a battle worthy of Biblical times. It's an epic and heart-wrenching time in everyone's lives. There are those who see what's going on but do not speak. There are those that are victims of the taunts and cruelties and do not speak, and finally there are those who do speak up and are punished for doing so. From there a bubbling maelstrom of violence begins to overflow and spill over.

While at the end of Veronasongs I was cheering Donica for her actions, I saw what resulted in Warsongs and felt her pain. She is the tragic hero, so misunderstood and unjustifiably despised just because she is who she is. I wanted to scream at the other kids as I went through every page and beg them to put a stop to this, and the administrators of the school are noticeably lacking in this story. When they do appear, they are not helpful. Several times I choked up, and at the end of the story I did bring out the tissues. I had hoped something would happen to prevent it, but as in life sometimes things don't always work out that way.

The story does not just focus on Donica. As others mentioned, there is the second battle in the story, where Ralph has been transferred over. He too picks up a lead spot as someone who has to try to fit in with the white kids, and though he doesn't have a choice either he pays the price for his defection. The story is a hard look at how young kids interrelate and judge one another at a time when hormones can outweigh rational thought. It's a difficult time for many, and this is a good read for all ages - especially for bullies - to perhaps explain why some kids do what they do and how their actions impact others.

Website: http://simbarashe.com

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Simbarashe/e/B004NWFTV6/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0
Facebook: I do have an author page called Simbarashe
Twitter: @simbarashey


Monday, August 22, 2011

Meet Simbarashe, Author of the Matador Series

While working with Patti Roberts on her eBook giveaway, I dropped an email to a fellow writer and Goodreads friend, Simbarashe. During our back and forth communication, I had the pleasure to read the first two books of his series, and I have to say that he really ‘knocked my socks off’. I am proud to be able to share more about this multi-talented, beautiful writer, musician and photographer. Today we'll talk a bit about Veronasongs.

Thank you so much for joining me this week, Simbarashe. I'd like to start with a little bit about you. Who is Simbarashe? 

This is a difficult question to answer, so I'll stick with the facts: I'm 32, I was born in California, and I'm tall. My father was an African diplomat for many years and my mother was a robotics tech. She remarried a teacher. I have spider legs for fingers. I only grow enough facial hair to shave but once a week. When I was 22 it was once every six months. I write a lot, but my writing is inspired through films and music and current events more so than other books.
When did you decide you wanted to write?

As a young person I kept refusing to write. I wanted to be a cinematographer. When I didn't get accepted into any of the film schools I applied to I decided to pursue music after a few years. I was a guitarist in a few bands and enjoyed that immensely. But writing is hard-coded into my DNA. I would never get tired of shooting pictures or playing guitar, but I can write subconsciously. Therein lies the difference.

I understand you write full-time now. Can you tell us a little about your other writings?

I write a column for a website called Starpulse. They allot me the freedom to write whatever I want but my main gig for them is covering New York's Tribeca Film Festival every year. Everything else I write for them is generally about music. I also am working on a project called The Musist (www.themusist.com) which will contain 100 essays about music from the past 30 years in all kinds of contextual subject matters. Did that last part make sense?

Absolutely! It's a great thing to be able to do something that you love.

People should do what they love even if they get paid to do something
else entirely.

Tell me a little bit about your musical background.
I've been playing keyboard since I was about nine and guitar since I was fourteen. I have this uncanny ability to recall the most ridiculous bits of data pertaining to popular music in my lifetime. If it was a hit in the 80s I could tell you the year; if you want to know the record label that put out Madonna's old albums I could tell you the imprint and its parent company. Some people think that I have a photographic memory, but it's really just being able to preserve that information and associate it with everyday life events that have preserved many of my memories so well. If someone asked me what happened in the summer of 94, I would simply recall who had a hit that summer, and I'll know exactly where I was then and what was going on in the world. (Brazil defeated Italy on penalty kicks in Pasadena on my 15th birthday; it was hot outside.)

Where did you come up with the idea for the Matadors series? Were you inspired?

I'd written a short story in high school back in 1996 called Christian and Donica and then turned it into a screenplay entitled Everybody Hates Donica Pine the next year before I graduated. That story is essentially Warsongs (Book 2). I didn't have an inclination to do a series until I'd started writing Veronasongs in the spring of 2008, when I realised that I had a decent prequel to the original story. The original story was written as my way of coping with the death of a classmate. I dealt with my own depression during that time which was quite gnarly; what always astonished me though was how everyone who could help—teachers, administrators, my mother—were completely nonchalant about everything. Either that or they were thought we were bluffing. I’m convinced that kids who actually commit suicide are merely calling that bluff. It's rather infuriating and humiliating at the same time. So does a kid lean towards feeling hopeless or insulted? For me it was the latter, and I suppose that's why I'm still around.

I'm glad you are. The world would have lost a tremendous talent had you not stuck around!

That's very kind of you. The world loses talents on a daily basis rather carelessly. It's the careless part that bothers me.
Veronasongs introduces us for the first time to Donica. Tell me how you developed her. Was she based on anyone you know?
I was 16 when this happened. I originally created her out of thin air because I didn't want anybody to think that I was writing about myself. She's really a composite of two people: a girl that I went steady with one year in high school (she agitated a lot of people), and someone who was absolutely the most uniquely quirky individual I've ever cared about. I gave Donica her mode of dress and sun disease and dedicated the book to her.

Do you ever base your scenes on real-life?

All the time. Most of the scenes in Veronasongs really happened, just in different contexts and not always to the same people.

So it’s all the more personal then?

Each book in the series deals with an different aspect of my experience: Veronasongs is mostly a summary of things that I witnessed and was present for, but rearranged and compressed as fiction. Warsongs is much more of an emotional manifesto, while the third novel (Wintersongs) is completely psychological. They each deal with different timeframes (one semester, one week, one year), but collectively it is an allegory of South Kansas City in the late 90s. So yes.

When you were developing Veronasongs, did you have a favorite character?

My sole goal was to write a book that adequately described Donica's journey over the course of one school semester. She lived with me like an imaginary best friend and we ate breakfast together.

If Donica was sitting with us today after we had finished Veronasongs, what do you think she would say to us?

She would consider the question for 30 quiet seconds and then say that if she could do it all over again, she would've handled that lunch situation with Lauren and Jeanette differently. She still may not have gone to the table. She certainly would've regretted that day.

I was so proud of her at that moment - I can’t even begin to tell you. But, as you say, I’m sure she did regret it. We’ll have to talk more about that when we discuss Book 2.

People have expressed being upset at Jeanette over that scene. I think some people interpreted it as Donica refusing to sell out and Jeanette choosing to sell out, but in reality, it was Donica refusing
to sell out and Jeanette simply being enamored by an invitation; she really had no idea what was going on until it was too late.
Tell us a little about Christian. He is a large player in the story due to the fact that he is very similar to Donica - a male counterpart, so to speak. If he were to be with us at the end of Veronasongs, what would he say?

You will come to find that series is more literally about Christian and more symbolically about Donica. Christian is the sort of kid who doesn't talk because he knows that nobody listens to what he has to say, because everyone takes him for granted. Want to know his opinion? Get an answer from his more popular older brother. Want to know if he’s available Friday night? Ask his quasi-but-not girlfriend. Want to know how he’s feeling? He never gets mad, so it doesn’t matter.  . . . For him it's an even bigger outrage because he's popular. He doesn't even want to be popular; he just wants to be normal and mind his own business. So in that regard, he would have nothing to add to the end of Veronasongs if he were with us. He would simply acknowledge that everything you read was true.

I found Donica’s gift to Christian so tender and poignant, and Christian really appreciates it. Why does he find it so difficult to forgive her? 

That's tricky. I'd say that Christian's soul was violated in the sort of way that made recovery quite painful. It's less about his unwillingness to forgive Donica and more about Crew's need to fiercely protect him when they discover what has happened. Christian and Donica exist with strange and difficult circumstances, though. How do you look a person in the eye who knows everything about you when you didn’t even invite them in?

Very good point, but I wonder if he needed someone like her to force their way in? He’s so closed, but she seems like the perfect person for him to place his trust in. Am I way off here? J

In my original conceptualisation of these characters fifteen years ago, I had scenes where Christian would sneak over to Donica’s house and hide under her bed. They talked all the time, actually. I removed this aspect of their relationship from Warsongs when I decided the moment that Donica was going to fess up about Christian’s novel, and then when my editor recommended that I compress Warsongs from two weeks to just one. It’s one of those things that more makes sense if you’ve read both books.

Did you have a least favorite character?

I didn't have a least favourite character, but writing the relationship between Donica and her mother Margaret was a sombre two and a half days.

Was there any one character that was difficult to develop for you? If so, why?

Antonio, hands down. Real-life Antonio was drop-dead, but-seriously-your-grandmother-just-dropped-dead funny. He said the funniest things I've ever heard with a straight face and bored disposition. He would randomly blurt out Sade or Luther Vandross verses in moments of relative silence. But it was funny. Comedy is extremely difficult for me to write and so his character is the one place where I wish I couldn't done him better justice.

Your characters were very human, and I believe every reader can relate to at least one or two of them throughout the story. Did you base any of them on real people in your life?

For “legal purposes” I will simply say that some of the main characters were inspired by real-life friends and peers that I knew, and I obtained written permission to use their first names. Christian is completely fictitious. For the record, real-life Lauren is quite lovely to be around.

This story also discusses the hierarchy in high school, the different cliques. Did you encounter those when you were in high school?

To varying degrees. I played soccer and basketball, but nobody thought of me an athlete, so there was that. The musicians weren't that popular. In Kansas City (where Verona essentially is), there were only one or two division lines: the athletes, non-athletes, outsiders. That last group was quite small, which was remarkable. In Texas it was FOOTBALL PLAYERS and then BASKETBALL PLAYERS and CHEERLEADERS, rich kids, general population, stoners, and then the outsiders. In New Mexico there were like 15 different circles. There's a scene in the second novel where Ethan walks through the concourse with a new transfer student and he's pointing out all of the different cliques; I was specifically describing my New Mexico high school in that scene.

Who is your target audience for the series? Is there a reason for that?

It was important for me to write a story about young people that older people would care about. Adults care about Romeo and Juliet, and Sixteen Candles, and The Breakfast Club. Somewhere along the way there came this perennial shift where niche YA reading became massive commercial YA reading. I hear older people say all the time that they don't care much about high school stories, and maybe they shouldn't, but these are characters that they should care about for a whole multitude of reasons. The Matadors might be individual books about teenagers, but the series in large has more to do with a social shift that happened in South Kansas City. This is dealt with more in depth by the final two books.

As an adult, I can honestly say that I enjoyed it very much and feel that you have a lot to offer your audience, regardless of age.

Thank you so much! Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude got me writing Veronasongs. I wrote Veronasongs and read that novel at the same time. I’d spend an hour and a half on my commute reading, then the next 4 to 5 hours writing, generally a half of a chapter at a time, and then continue reading for another hour and a half on my way back home. It was the perfect marriage.

Your book is full of hidden meanings in your flowing narrative. What would you want your readers to take away from the story?

Cruelty is a horrible monster.
Amen to that!

Are there any hidden symbols in there that we should keep in mind for the next installment, Warsongs?

Jon's story in particular may not seem relevant to the rest of the Veronasongs, but it's one of the most important chapters in the entire series. Also, there are several characters in Warsongs who become major players who are only briefly mentioned in Veronasongs (I always wonder if anybody notices this). Finally, all there are a few historical current events dropped in the middle of chapters. If you're one of those people who like to piece hidden puzzles together, you can use that information to discover the exact dates that the events in the book take place. Everything is all "the second Wednesday in September" etc, but the story follows the actually 1996 calendar. The football game on Thanksgiving and the first snow of the winter season for example are both historically accurate.

How long did Veronasongs take you to write?

I wrote Veronasongs in 30 days. I didn't have anything else to do.

What is your normal writing process?

I like to separate the thinking process from the writing process. I will spend days, weeks mulling over an idea, and only when I've stabbed at it enough times to have answers to all of the important questions will I sit down to write. This process allows me to write ridiculously fast and I encourage others to at least try it. I believe that writer's block only exists because people concern themselves with thinking too during the time when they want to be writing.
I understand the cover has a lot of meaningful symbolism in it. Would you like to describe that for us?

The cover for Veronasongs was an idea that sort of morphed from a weird place, so I'll tell you the story as it happened. After the book was finished in 2008 and it went into pre-production , I wanted to find a more cost-effective way to get the book to the market, since it would have a direct impact on my royalties. Since the story takes place in Kansas City (I never call it Kansas City, but it is) I went on Flickr and started searching for photos by photographers with Kansas City entered as a keyword along with a few other words. I had a very narrow, specific thing that I wanted, not from the photo so much as the photographer. I happened upon a series of portraits of people by Bliss Katherine. She was from Florida but I surmised traveled to Kansas City on a trip to shoot some of her friends. All of the portraits were set in these earth tones, outdoors with trees and water and tall grass around; it was exactly the mood of the book since it takes place in the autumn. So I contacted her and asked if she'd be interested in submitting a few ideas based on my loose sketches. At the time it wasn't like, "You're going to photograph this cover", but deep down I was hoping it'd work out. Bliss took photos of inanimate objects around her room, girly trinkets and things of the like. We then tried a series of diary portraits. At some point I saw a black and white portrait of a girl's face, and a man covering her mouth with his hand. (if you search for the Warsongs group in Facebook you might find this photo behind the profile pic). So I asked if she could find that girl to recreate something, and she told me that this was a self-portrait.

It was almost like fate. (I don't know if I believe in fate but that's what this was). She looked . . . exactly like Donica Pine, it's quite obvious by the physical description alone. So of course I was excited by this discovery and asked to look at any other self-portraits she may have, all the while I was going through her online portfolio, and I just happened upon it -- this crazy photo of a girl with wild, sprawling hair. It was split top and bottom, her eyes were closed in one of the splits, and she had negative film covering her mouth. Here it is:


I saw this and just thought THAT IS IT. So at that point I sent Bliss some of those excerpts, pertaining to Donica's appearance and attitude. Bliss flat out said that we could use that [original] shot, but it didn't quite feel the mood the book conveyed. I explained to her simply that I wanted it to feel more seasonal. Something autumn-like should cover her mouth, or really, anything that pertained to Donica (the film wouldn't work because Donica wasn't a photographer). So Bliss went away for two or three weeks and then came back with the self-portrait of herself with the autumn leaf over her mouth. That her mouth is covered, this is supposed to symbolize how she never gets to really express herself. People just assume way too much about her. So she remains quiet mainly, and she watches a lot. The expression of her eyes are equally melancholy and defiant. I love everything about that Veronasongs portrait. That's Donica's face.

I do believe in fate at times, so I will just add in here that 'oh boy, that’s amazing'!

I ran across Bliss when she was 19. At 21 she travels all over the country doing professional photo shoots. That’s top shelf.

That's great!

Where can we find you?
Blog: simbarashe.tumblr.com
It's called Simbarashesongs and it is my journal, told through pictures. I would be remiss to call it a photoblog since the photos are what I've seen and the captions are what I was thinking when I captured the images because I want them to be memories.

Website: http://simbarashe.com
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Simbarashe/e/B004NWFTV6/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0
Facebook: I do have an author page called Simbarashe
Twitter: @simbarashey

Where is Veronasongs available for purchase?

Amazon and Barnes and Noble. According to the internet, all over.

What format is Veronasongs available in?

Paperback and Kindle. I don't know if it will move to Nook but I imagine that would be soon.

Next we’ll discuss Warsongs, part two of the three part series. Make sure you read Veronasongs carefully, for the saga continues to a dramatic climax!


PS you can find Bliss Katherine’s work here:
and here
http:// fawneyes.tumblr.com

In closing of this first interview, I would like to share my opinion of Veronasongs:

I was not too sure what to expect when I picked up this book. I mean, who really was Donica? What was she going to offer to the story? Well, as soon as I started reading, I loved her. She is brave, honorable, honest, and every parent's dream. Not only that but she's tough for being small, smart, and oh so clever.  Really, what is there not to like?
Simbarashe’s heroine is a fourteen-year-old girl who is bumped up two years and sent to public school as a junior. Of course there is the initial curiosity in the school, where everyone wants to know who she is and what she does that makes her so special. Even the teachers greedily lap her up, hoping that she will be the next great mind that they have shaped. But human nature soon raises its head, and little Donica, so wise and yet so young, refuses to succumb to that ever-present peer pressure and pays the price for her defection.

No matter what your age, this book is a poetically written and honest portrayal of the social hierarchy of high school and the various ways it impacts student’s lives. It is timeless, in that there will always be popular kids - the jocks, the socialites, and there will always be the less popular kids - the geeks, outcasts, etc. Simbarashe does a lovely job in getting into the psyche of these students, one by one, explaining the reasons for their behavior and why they act as they do. Every sentence has meaning. Every line propels the story forward in a magical and artistic way. He also includes the teachers in his story, a second hierarchy so to speak, where the social ladder is fraught with rumor and innuendo as well as professional jealousy.  We also must not forget the jaded and burnt out teachers, those who have been doing the job so long they have nearly given up all hope in humanity. He captures it all with flowing writing and perfect word choice.

This book is a dense read, full of hidden meaning and symbolism that drives each reader into the character’s life. Whether or not you can sympathize, at least you know why they do the things that they do. I also think that it imparts a valuable lesson to one and all. Stay true to your beliefs and always remain honest in what you do. Simbarashe’s story tells you that there is hope and things will equal out because, no matter what happens, if you remain true to yourself happiness will always find you. I highly recommend this book.