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An Interview with Author Joyce Hertzoff, Part 1

Joyce Hertzoff retired from a profession grounded in fact and science and now uses the power of the pen to write mystery and fantasy stories. Her first novel The Crimson Orb was published in 2014 by Phantasm Books, an imprint of Assent Publishing. Under Two Moons, her second in the series, is forthcoming. Read a complete list of Joyce’s published work on her SWW Author Page. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter, and visit her at and

TheCrimsonOrbWhat is the elevator pitch for your fantasy novel The Crimson Orb?
Searching for her mysteriously missing magic teacher, teenage Nissa’s adventures reveal how little she knows about her world, and how resourceful she can be.

Who is your favorite character in the book?
It has to be Nissa, because she’s the one who grows the most from her experiences. I particularly love the fact that she achieves her dream of learning to sword fight, but also learns that the lessons she disdained—cooking and sewing—could be useful skills as well. In the second book, Under Two Moons, her sewing skills become even more important.

Looking back to the beginning of your writing journey, what do you know now that you wish you’d known then?
One of the things I learned is to stay in the same point of view, at least throughout a chapter. Related to that, I tend to write in first person. There are both advantages and disadvantages to that. The disadvantage is you can’t show anything your first-person protagonist hasn’t experienced themselves. Sometimes someone else has to tell them about it. But the advantage is the writer can take the reader into the thoughts of their protagonist; I don’t always use this as well as I should, especially when it comes to showing emotions and reactions.

You write in both the fantasy and mystery genres for adults and young adults. Which genre presents the most challenges?
The challenges are different. For fantasies, I have to develop a clearly defined new world, while for murder mysteries, I have to decide “whodunit” and find ways to throw suspicion on many of the other characters. And each audience has its expectations that I have to meet. That’s not always easy. The language/words I pick when writing for adults is slightly different for young adults, too.

FortuneCupcakes2Tell us about some of the marketing tie-ins you used for The Crimson Orb. Did you plan these or were they more of an afterthought?
All of my marketing tie-ins were afterthoughts. The fortune cupcakes in the book were created in response to an online prompt. When I looked for a place to launch my book, though, the obvious choice was a bakery that agreed to make fortune cupcakes for me. I also want to fill my book website with more than the usual book synopses and articles about writing. I found photos online that are similar to how I picture my characters, so I added those with brief bios for each. And I have a couple of recipes for some of the strange foods Nissa and her friends found in their travels. I hope to add more in the future.

What is your writing process like?
When I get an idea, I sometimes outline the first few chapters, but once I start writing, and especially after the characters and world are developed, I let my characters lead me where they want. I might do some minor revision as I’m writing, especially if I’m submitting chapters to others to critique, but most of my editing is done after I’ve typed “THE END.” I’ve taken many writing classes in the past few years, including ones on craft, and I apply what I learned as I edit.

What part do beta readers or critique partners play in perfecting your manuscripts?
I love having beta readers and critique partners. Most give me a readers perspective so I know if what I intended is how the story actually comes out. It is important, of course, to know the abilities of the readers and critiquers. Some provide more insight than others.

What advice do you have for writers who are still striving for publication?
Don’t give up. Find publishers who’ve issued books similar to yours. Develop a great query to send them, one that will get their interest enough that they’ll even read your submission. Create a first page that grabs them.

For Part 2 of this interview, published on KL Wagoner’s website, click here.

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. She has a new speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

An Interview with E. H. Hackney

E. H. “Hack” Hackney is a retired engineer turned fantasy writer who lives on the east slopes of the Sandia Mountains of New Mexico. His articles and essays have appeared in East Mountain Living magazine, Albuquerque the Magazine, East Mountain Telegraph, The Independent, and SouthWest Sage. He published his first novel By the Blood, Book One: Revelation in 2013 under the pen name Geoffrey Ganges. You can find Hack on his websites at and, and on Twitter at @ehhackney and Facebook at E. H. Hackney, writer.

By_The_Blood200What is your elevator pitch for By the Blood, Book One: Revelation?
Quint is a wizard and healer—and a dwarf, abandoned by his mother as an infant and tortured by his stunted, distorted body. By accident he discovers that the Torg, an ancient enemy of his people, are returning. While he and his apprentice are drawn into a dangerous quest to find the Torg, Quint begins to discover his own history. As the wizard confronts his origins his world is shaken. He doesn’t know that of all the dangers he faces his own heritage may be the most deadly.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
The biggest challenge was creating this world and making it and the characters believable. It is a fantasy, so there’s magic, but I tried to make everything, including the magic, genuine and rooted in nature. My goal was to set it in a real place you would like to visit, populated with characters and creatures you would want to meet.

What was the most rewarding aspect of writing it?
Regardless of sales and reviews, writing a book is an achievement. That is a reward in itself. Most rewarding is that a number of readers have enjoyed the book and get what I’m trying to do.

Tell us more about how By the Blood came together.
The seed of the novel was the first chapter of the book, which was to be a short story. When I got into it, I realized there was a great deal more to tell. I didn’t know it would be a trilogy until halfway through the book. It took a year and a half to reach a version I was willing to show my first readers. That’s a long time, but I was writing a book and learning how to write a book at the same time (and still am). A little less than a year passed between sending drafts to my first readers to completing the final version.

Some of my characters surprised me along the way. For example, I didn’t know Quint, my main character, had a lopsided walk until I saw him walking in my mind. That’s one of the reasons I don’t develop extensive character profiles beforehand. I don’t really know the characters until I see them in action and involved with other people, even animals.

The development of the story surprised me, too. Once I realized By the Blood was going to be book length, I developed a complete outline down to brief descriptions of each scene. The first half of the book mostly followed the outline, but the last part changed drastically. I tried writing an outline of the second book of the trilogy and failed. Now I don’t feel like I am inventing the story, but that it is being revealed to me as I write.

How has your experience with nonfiction/technical writing helped with your fiction? What did you have to learn in order to write fantasy?
I was an engineer in a previous life and contributed to many proposals to government agencies. Proposals are page limited, so you need to make your words count. The second thing that carried over from my earlier work is to strive for clarity. Regardless of how brilliant your ideas might be, they will be lost on your readers (or proposal reviewers) if they don’t understand them. The one thing I’m learning now is to trust my instincts. As an engineer I planned and worked with reason and logic. I relied mostly on my technical ability. Now, writing fiction, it is hard for me to trust in my creativity (or that I have any).

What are you most happy with in your writing, and what do you struggle with most?
When I think about By the Blood, there are a number of scenes I still feel very good about. There are some scenes with humor that I had fun writing and I hope people get. What I struggle with most is fear of failure—those times when I ask myself, “Who do I think I am, trying to write a book? Who would ever read this drivel?”

Does music play a part in your creative process?
I feel a kinship between music and writing. Sometimes I can see rhythm and tempo in dialog, or in short or long paragraphs, or short vs. long sentences. I can sometimes see theme and variation, one of the foundations of music, in writing—varying words with similar meanings or changing word order.

Why did you decide to use a pen name?
My full name is Ewing Haywood Hackney. There was no form of that name that sounded like a good author’s name to me, especially for a fantasy. I have used the nickname, Hack, for half a century, but that was no help. Geoffrey Ganges sounded like a good name for a fantasy author. Also, I have started two action-adventure books, a young adult novel and a contemporary morality book, and have written several short stories. If I were to publish in another genre, I would want a different pen name, anyhow.

What writing projects are you working on now?
I am 80,000 words into the first draft of Book Two of By the Blood. I am also working on what might be called a self-help book, about how to live life. It is the closest I have come to writing a journal. I doubt if it will ever be published, but if it is, the subtitle will be “Life lessons from seventy years of dumb decisions, most of which seemed like good ideas at the time.”

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. She has a new speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

An Interview with Author S.S. Bazinet

After years of writer’s block, S.S. Bazinet gave in to her creative muse and has been passionately writing ever since. She is the author of the visionary fantasy series The Vampire Reclamation Project. She has also published two other fantasy books, a children’s book, and a self-help book. Stop by her website at to see what she’s up to and read interviews she’s posted with authors like Anne Hillerman, Joseph Badal, Slim Randles, Sarah Baker, and Steve Brewer. Better yet, stop by the snack table at the next SouthWest Writers meeting. She’ll be the bright light at the back of the room encouraging everyone to pursue their dreams.

Arel's_Blood_200When readers turn the last page of one of your books, what do you hope they’ll say about it? I hope that they feel entertained, satisfied and uplifted. One of my readers expressed my desire best in her review when she wrote, “If you’ve ever had nightmares about unspeakable horrors, and you know inexplicably that man’s inhumanity to man is part of your personal history, this book will ultimately give you courage to carry on.”

Give us your elevator pitch for your book series, The Vampire Reclamation Project. This series is a grand journey of the spirit with angels, vampires and everyday people coming together to reclaim lost lives. Resolving issues surrounding love, hate, trust and betrayal, they struggle to find ways to reach for the stars while grounding themselves in brotherhood.

How was writing this series different from your other projects? From the moment I started writing it, I was possessed with a need to tell the story. I wrote for ten and twelve hours a day, sometimes more. I barely slept. Most nights I got maybe four hours of sleep, but I wasn’t tired. I’d get up around 3:00 or 4:00 a.m., write for a while, then take three mile walks. The creative fount I tapped into gave me everything I needed to complete not only the first book, but five more in the series in the year that followed. I’ve since completed a seventh book and have the eighth one waiting to take form.

Where did the inspiration for the story come from? I never planned to write a book about vampires or angels. Instead, I got fed up with having writer’s block. One day I decided to just have fun and not care about writing for anyone but me. That decision seemed to be the permission slip I needed to open the doors to my creativity. When I sat down with pad and pencil, the story flowed out on its own. Yet it contained all the things I felt passionate about. Soon I needed a keyboard to keep up with the torrent of words and feelings that poured forth from my heart and soul. The first book was completed in a little over a month. However, I did about nine edits on the novel before I felt I’d done it justice.

What was the most rewarding aspect of writing Michael’s Blood, the first book in the series? Writing the series gave me an opportunity to purge many deep down, sometimes hidden, fears–the ones I didn’t have the courage to face head on. At times, I doubted my ability to plunge into the depths of pain the story required me to understand and then to give it a voice. When I completed the first six books in the series, I felt a little like my character, Arel. We had both reclaimed large portions of our lives.

What are the challenges in writing a series? The characters keep evolving with each successive book. As they gradually reveal more of their complex natures, it impacts the overall story. That poses a problem when it comes to editing. I usually have to scrap large portions of the original manuscripts.

Which of your books did you enjoy writing the most? I didn’t think I could write a thriller, but my novel In the Care of Wolves surprised me. It started off rather innocently, but quickly demanded that I find a way to express the non-stop action and emotional upheaval that drives the story. When I finished the book, I felt a wonderful sense of pride and achievement.

What first inspired you to become a writer? The inspiration has always come from within, from the “greater” me that doesn’t seem to know anything but possibility and the joy of creation. However, to truly access that part of myself, I have to let go of all my expectations about writing and the story I’m telling. I have to allow whatever wants to come forth, whether it is dark or light, to have a voice. When I do, when I put aside my judgments and criticisms, I experience a true lightness of being.

What do you struggle with most in your writing? One of the fears I still entertain is that I’ve purged so much of my angst–and I’m generally so happy with my life–that I won’t have the ability to write passionate stories anymore. However, I recently started a new novel that soothed my fear. All the depths of feeling within are not only available, but my ability to express emotion is better than ever. What a thrill that is.

Why do you write in the fantasy genre? I love fantasy because I love to create worlds that go beyond the boundaries of the reality we live in. These worlds allow my characters to do whatever they need to do to free themselves from situations and belief systems that have kept them shackled. More than anything, I’d like to be thought of as a writer who helps people to strip away the barriers that keep them from connecting with who they are on a heart and soul level.

Do you have unfinished projects keeping you busy? I’m in the final stages of editing book three of the vampire series. I have another novel, The Madonna Diaries, that’s nearly finished. It’s written with a first person POV. It wasn’t something I planned, but once I realized I’d slipped into first person, I enjoyed it and decided it was right for the story. I recommend that every writer give first person POV a try. It can provide an opportunity to delve deeper into the main character’s view of life.

Which has been more challenging for you—writing or promoting? Promoting has been more of a challenge, but maybe that’s a good thing. I’m overcoming more fears as I learn how to get my creations out in the world. SouthWest Writers has been a blessing in that regard. The organization provides a great environment for writers to grow in knowledge and self-confidence. With these attributes under one’s belt, promoting becomes easier.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know? Writing can be a box with rigid structures that are demanding and restrictive to one’s creative nature. On the other hand, writing can be as fluid as the ink that flows onto the paper. It can become a vehicle that opens up doors to new worlds of possibility and to dreams that have never been expressed. My hope is that every writer who feels the need for more freedom chooses the latter.

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. KL has a new speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

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