Distant Worlds – Welcomes Sam Dogra!

This is the seventeenth outing of a new blog series, as I dabble my toes into the mysterious waters of author interviews!

Having watched so many fantastic interviewers (Tricia Drammeh and her Authors to Watch, AFE Smith (see below), Katrina Jack and her New Authors section and Susan Finlay’s Meet the Author to name a few of the best – please check out their wonderful blogs), I’ve always been a little reluctant to throw my hat into the ring…but here goes!

One of my all-time favourite worldbuilding PC games, is Sid Meier’s ‘Alpha Centauri’. So, in homage to that (and a shameless rip off of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Desert Island Discs’ and AFE Smith’s brilliant blog series Barren Island Books), here is my own author interview series – Distant Worlds.

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The Distant Worlds strand started a few months ago, focusing on fellow fantasy and sci-fi authors from ultra-cool UK publishing house, Grimbold Books and their imprints, Kristell Ink and Tenebris Books – a bunch of uber-talented and whacky characters who I am also proud to call friends. Check out their cool titles while they’re still at bargain prices! hyperurl.co/GrimboldBooks 

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A World Of Their Own – an awesome anthology of fantasy, sci-fi and literary short stories, with ALL profits going to charity!

But now we’re branching out and will be zoning in on an extraordinary group of people, The Alliance of Worldbuilders (AWB), who I am also VERY proud to call close friends.

The AWB – a bunch of uber-talented fantasy and sci-fi writers and artists who met on the HarperCollins writing site, Authonomy, back in 2010. We formed The Alliance of Worldbuilders, a friendly, inclusive and wacky group and our collective friendships have seen us through some very hard times, including the sad loss of one of our own, Lindsey J Parsons. In honour of Lindsey, our dear friend who tragically died in January 2014, the AWB have created an awesome anthology of short stories, which was published in glorious paperback and e-book on 4th September 2015! It makes the perfect prezzie and ALL profits go to charity, the World Literacy Fund, fighting illiteracy around the world, so grab a great book and help a great cause too! Amazon UK & Amazon US

Right, now to our seventeenth author interview, and our fifth AWB member, the Vice Captain (VC) herself, the doctor of chaos and large weapons of mass destruction (she’s soon to be a REAL doctor!), dark paranormal fantasy writer and artist…

Sam Dogra

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Sam, YOU find yourself cast adrift in deep space, your colony pod’s life support is failing, your only chance of survival is a distant habitable world…

What 5 essentials would you choose to help you survive?

Wow, talk about being thrown in the deep end! Well, I’d probably want my medical bag (which I take to work; it has all sorts of useful equipment in it), a water bottle/ container of some kind, my smartphone and its solar powered charger (is that two items?), and my old tent.

What 5 personal items would you salvage from your crashed ship before it explodes?

My paperback copy of Sabriel, a photo of my family, a stash of chocolate/ cake I’d undoubtedly be carrying, my cuddly toy dragon and my sketchbook!

Would you seek life-forms for help or go it alone?

Seek life-forms for sure, I’m definitely not the outdoors type.

What 5 fantasy/sci-fi books would you have to keep with you and why?

Well, Garth Nix’s Sabriel, as aforementioned. It was the first fantasy book I read and it remains my all-time favourite. I’d also take Alison Croggon’s Books of Pellinor (if I’m just allowed one it would be the fourth one, The Singing), as this was the first ‘heavy’ fantasy I actually like [sorry to say I am NOT a fan of Tolkein at all!]. I’d also bring Diana Wynne Jones’ Tough Guide to Fantasy Land, as I love how it makes fun of various fantasy Tropes. I’d then bring along the third book of Julia Golding’s Companions Quartet (The Mines of the Minotaur), as it’s a fantastic look into the relationship between mythical creatures and humans. And last but not least, Bardo by Chris McKenna, a fun-filled adventure exploring the theme of reincarnation and rebirth.

What 5 songs or albums could you not live without?

To be honest I’m not that much of a music fan, and my taste is pretty acquired! I’d be happy with my Japanese Vocaloid songs, and I also quite like the talented violin work of Lindsey Stirling. I also like the work of Hiroyuki Sawano, who does a lot of anime soundtracks.

You are all alone on a distant world with little chance of being rescued…do you choose water, vodka or coca-cola to drown your sorrows?

Could I mix the coca-cola with the vodka? (Absolutely!)

Random comet question: Marmite – love it or loathe it?

I’ve never tried it so…something to add to my lists of regrets?

You have 30 seconds (max 100 words) to tell the alien approaching you about your latest book. Remember this is more pressurised than an elevator pitch – screw up and he’ll eat your brains! Go! 

Crikey, right then! My book follows Eliza, a girl who falls prey to a curse that forces people to fall in love. She’s ‘Bound’ to Ryan, a bounty hunter with secrets of his own. So, Eliza must break her curse, before Ryan finds out they’re Bound and before his past catches up with him. Of course, Eliza gets more than she bargained for. So, as she searches for a cure that’s not guaranteed to work, and has her heart turned inside out with feelings that aren’t her own, she also needs to come to terms with how her choices affect those around her.

How would you choose to spend your time on this distant world?

Well once the basics of food, water and shelter were covered, I’d like to explore, study the wildlife and plants, and perhaps draw them in my sketch book. In between sending transmissions for help, of course!

What 5 things would you miss most about Earth?

Internet! My family too, along with video games, the concept of dessert, and of course my friends.

What 5 things would you NOT miss about Earth?

Mobile phone companies, traffic, bigoted know-it-alls, deadlines, and people who are two-faced.

Time-traveller questions (for Dr. Who fans): What is the one thing you wish you could turn back time and change?

Hmm…nothing immediately springs to mind! Perhaps being more sociable at University and that I’d kept in touch with more people.

If you had the chance again to go on this deep space adventure, would you take it?

To be honest, no! I am firmly on the side of Earth exploration when it comes to whether we should explore space/ home first (and I’ve got a book in the works addressing this topic…)

What 5 indie authors and books you would recommend to any carbon based lifeform – and why?

Hmm…well I’d recommend Bardo by Chris McKenna as above, as it’s so much fun to read. I’d also recommend Simon Wilson’s Yuko Zen is Somewhere Else, which has an adorable quirky style. The Binding Stone by Lisa Gail Green is a great character study involving djinns, and I’d also recommend Thorn by Intisar Knanani, a very well-written take on an old fairytale for when you just want to be swept away. Finally I’d also recommend The Spirit Keeper by Melissa Garrett, an enchanting romance with Native American themes.

What advice can you give to fellow space travellers (writers and readers) out there?

No idea is stupid, but unless you give it structure it can end up that way! So even if you’re one of those ‘write it as it comes’ authors, please do not underestimate the importance of having a framework to maintain consistency.

Before we leave you and blast into another parallel universe, please tell us about yourself and your inspirations!

Sam DograSam in her own words…

I am an (overworked) doctor working for the NHS. I’m in my final year of General Practice training and exams pending I’ll be a fully-fledged GP by next August. In between seeing patients, writing reports, and doing home visits, I dabble in fantasy fiction writing and digital fantasy art, the latter of which you can sample at http://sam241.deviantart.com .

Unlike most other writers, I’m not particularly inspired by books; I take a lot more from video games and Japanese anime (my age is showing 🙂 ). The Binding came about as I was doing my hospital job shadowing (way back in 2011) and was taking some blood samples to the lab. I just saw an image of a girl sitting alone in a dark forest because she had a vulnerable heart, and everything just sprang from there. As a wild guess I’d say the Kingdom Hearts series (video games) was probably the main influence, as well as the anime Romeo x Juliet as I borrowed a few of the aesthetics from there. Not to mention my general dislike of the romance genre and its mistreatment of plot 😉

Sam’s Amazon UK Author Page

Sam’s Amazon US Author Page

Bio:

Sam Dogra is a junior doctor working in the UK, and is currently training to become a General Practitioner. Between reviewing drug charts and X-rays, taking blood, saving lives and getting grilled by consultants, she also writes fantasy fiction and is a fantasy artist. She has co-written ‘Fated: A Timeless Series Companion Novel’ with author Lisa Wiedmeier, and has also published her first novel The Binding, and its sequel, The Parting, with a third book in progress.

She’s widely travelled, and has enjoyed her visits to France, Germany, Norway, Greece, Egypt, Israel, Rhodes, Turkey, Cyprus, Lesvos, India, Dubai, Australia, Canada and Idaho, Washington, New York, Seattle and Alaska, USA. Her other main interest is fantasy art.

In what little spare time she has, Sam also enjoys reading, baking, shopping, watching movies and anime, astrology, video games, collecting cuddly toy animals, and photography.

Additional Links:

Website/ blog: http://indigolightning.blogspot.co.uk

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Chronicles-of-Azaria-Series/229718793739428

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MadDoctorArtist

 Artwork: http://sam241.deviantart.com

The PartingLatest Book Blurb

When your feelings are false, what’s left to believe in?

After the revelation of Ryan’s secret, Eliza is determined to reclaim her lost freedom. Her only hope lies in the Holy Runes—the mysterious symbols linked to the creation of the Binding spell itself. Now with her best friend Adam and the haughty Lady Navinka, Eliza must journey across Azaria to forge a power great enough to break her curse.

The Binding isn’t going down without a fight, though, and the runes aren’t without ill effects of their own. As if that wasn’t enough, a dark cult seeking revenge is out for Eliza, and she must deal with her troubled feelings for Ryan and Adam. Struggling on all fronts just to survive, Eliza’s freedom will be hard-earned, but will the final price be too much to pay?

***

Sam’s other fabulous books!

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Thank you, Sam. Congratulations, you are survivor! A passing medical drone ship has honed in on your distress beacon, you’re going home!!!

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Happy Horizons! 😀 xx

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Distant Worlds – Welcomes Ellen Crosháin!

This is the ninth post of a new blog series, as I dip my toes into the mysterious waters of author interviews!

Having watched so many fantastic interviewers (Tricia Drammeh and her Authors to Watch, AFE Smith (see below), Katrina Jack and her New Authors section and Susan Finlay’s Meet the Author to name a few of the best – please check out their wonderful blogs), I’ve always been a little reluctant to throw my hat into the ring…but here goes!

One of my all-time favourite worldbuilding PC games, is Sid Meier’s ‘Alpha Centauri’. So, in homage to that (and a shameless rip off of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Desert Island Discs’ and AFE Smith’s brilliant blog series Barren Island Books), here is my own author interview series – Distant Worlds.

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To kick off the Distant Worlds strand, over the last few weeks I’ve been focusing on fellow fantasy and sci-fi authors from ultra-cool UK publishing house, Grimbold Books and their imprints, Kristell Ink and Tenebris Books – a bunch of uber talented and whacky characters who I am also proud to call friends.

Grimbold Books were also doing a fabulous ‘Summer Promotion’ from 31st July – 4th August, where ALL of its wonderful titles were priced at only 99p/99c across Amazon platforms. Now, although the promotion is now over, there are still great bargains to be had, so grab yourself something special before the prices go back to normal! Awesome fiction at awesome prices!!!! hyperurl.co/GrimboldBooks 

Right, now to our ninth author interview…wonderful paranormal fantasy writer, the galactically awesome…

Ellen Crosháin

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Ellen, YOU find yourself cast adrift in deep space, your colony pod’s life support is failing, your only chance of survival is a distant habitable world…

What 5 essentials would you choose to help you survive?

Knowing my luck, I’ll have crash-landed on a planet with blistering sunshine. Being Irish, and paler than a vampire, I’d need a sun hat. I’d need a notebook and a pen to record my last piece of artistic genius (giggles), a big bottle of grapefruit squash and some turkey jerky.

What 5 personal items would you salvage from your crashed ship before it explodes?

My favourite wedding photo, a photo of my daughter, a photo of my guinea pigs, my current WIP and Pickle, the teddy bear I made for my little girl.

Would you seek life-forms for help or go it alone?

I’d like to say I’d seek out other life-forms for help but given what I’ve been researching and writing for my current WIP I’d be afraid they might eat me!

What 5 fantasy/sci-fi books would you have to keep with you and why?

  1. Jim Butcher – Ghost Story (The Dresden Files) as I am currently listening to this. I have fallen a little in love with Harry Dresden during my pregnancy. He is a wizard detective and is a really interesting character. He is also a huge nerd and loves things like Star Wars and LOTR.
  2. Neil Gaiman – American Gods. I love, love, love mythology and this novel is just amazing. It takes the traditions of loads of different mythologies and does something new and exciting with them.
  3. J.R.R Tolkien – The Lord of the Rings simply because it tells us that ordinary people can achieve extraordinary things no matter how scary the enemy is.
  4. Jim Butcher – Blood Rites (The Dresden Files). This is probably my favourite of the series. Poor Harry, who is still quite young at this stage, is very easily embarrassed and hasn’t had sex in a while, is asked to investigate some spooky murders on the set of an adult film. This a typical example of Butcher’s ability to balance humour, drama and pathos.
  5. Derek Landy – Skullduggery Pleasant. A skeleton detective, a powerful female protagonist, magic and set in Ireland. Enough said.

What 5 songs or albums could you not live without?

Oh, this is a hard one as I have such eclectic taste. At the moment I am loving Kelly Clarkson’s ‘Invincible’ as it fits Áine my main female character from my current WIP. It’s on repeat as I write. I am a massive fan of musicals as well and my favourite is ‘Phantom of the Opera’ so I’d need that sound track. I love Classical/Baroque music so I’d need my disc that has Vivaldi’s ‘Four seasons’, Pachebel’s ‘Canon in D’ and Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight Sonata’. I love Bon Jovi, especially the 90s stuff so I’d need them and finally my Edith Piaf CD ‘La vie en Rose.’

You are all alone on a distant world with little chance of being rescued…do you choose water, vodka or coca-cola to drown your sorrows?

VODKA…ahem. Sorry, I haven’t had a drink in 9 months. Also vodka is good for cleaning wounds and I am very clumsy so would need to clean wounds.

Random comet question: Ellen, as well as being a phenomenally talented writer, you are also an English teacher and a new mum. How have your experiences of being an English teacher, reading and commenting on so many stories from your pupils as well as being a mum, influenced your own writing? 

I adore teaching English and unsurprisingly creative writing is my favourite thing to do. But there are some issues with teaching it. First off, basic literacy can be a nightmare. Top tip: read to your children. If they cannot read or write they are going to spend their whole school career, and beyond, struggling and having their natural curiosity and joy slowly eroded. Kids also really struggle with being free in their writing. They always ask how long should it be or if they are allowed to have vampires or monkeys or whatever in their story. I always smile and say ‘Do what you want. It’s your story. As long as you follow the basics of literacy, I’m happy.’ Once they get that they can be free with their words (and oy vey, do they need constant reassurance that they are allowed to be, that what they are doing is ok) amazing things happen. Kids have incredible imaginations and are naturally curious and their ideas for stories are often so much better than anything I could come up with. They see things from a new angle that I would not have seen and they have incredible ideas. For example, one year 11 who was struggling to rewrite a fairy story, asked if it had to follow the happily ever after pattern. I said it could be whatever he wanted. He turned Goldilocks and the three bears into a story about a jewel heist. When I see stuff like that, I am inspired to take risks with my own writing and just to try it. For example, Faroust in the sequel to ‘Cruelty’ is radically different to the creature we met in the first book. It might work, it might not but it’s fun seeing where it goes.

As for being a new mum, wow. I am in awe of the little creature who is sleeping in my living room as I type. I never want to stop looking at her, but I really should nap when she does. When I found out I was having a daughter, Áine, my female protagonist, took on a new meaning. I am unashamedly a Feminist, one that believes that Feminism allows a woman to be whatever she wants, from a pageant contestant to a neurologist and I want my daughter to live in a world where fiction represents that you can be both strong and gentle, frightened and protective, angry and powerful, unafraid of emotion and aware of limitations. Hopefully, Áine will be able to balance all of this.

You have 30 seconds (max 100 words) to tell the alien approaching you about your latest book. Remember this is more pressurised than an elevator pitch – screw up and he’ll eat your brains! Go!

Ooh, right. I’m writing the sequel to ’Cruelty’. It’s about 25 years later and Eliza and Cornelius have two children, Áine and Caolán. Life seems pretty good until the Veil tears open and the two children are stolen by the Fae. Why, you ask? Hah, spoilers. But we see the return of Faroust and we wander into the Otherworlds, where we meet the Queens of the two Faerie courts, changelings and a few disgraced High Lords and Ladies of Sidhé along the way. It’s on a much larger scale than ‘Cruelty’ but it fits.

How would you choose to spend your time on this distant world?

I would explore, gathering inspiration, and if the residents are nice and not likely to eat me, I would find out about their experience of life, their traditions and histories.

What 5 things would you miss most about Earth?

My daughter, my husband, my guinea pigs, chocolate, tea.

What 5 things would you NOT miss about Earth?

Rudeness, green peppers, housework, bills, bananas.

Time-traveller questions (for Dr. Who fans): What is the one thing you wish you could turn back time and change?

There is one thing but it would depend on the other person.

If you had the chance again to go on this deep space adventure, would you take it?

Oh yeah. You have to take risks and chances.

What 5 indie authors and books you would recommend to any carbon based lifeform – and why?

All of the Grimboldians! Because we’re doing fantasy our way. We’re an eclectic bunch of talented people who have a wide range of interests and experiences which makes for new and exciting fiction. Here’s my top 5 of our catalogue:

  1. Sammy HK Smith – In Search of Gods and Heroes.
  2. Joanne Hall – The Art of Forgetting
  3. Joanne Hall – The Art of Forgetting: Nomad
  4. Sophie E Tallis – White Mountain
  5. A.J Dalton – Book of Orm

What advice can you give to fellow space travellers (writers and readers) out there?

You have to read. There are so many adventures to be had and things to experience. You can live a thousand lives, experience things you never would do otherwise. Reading makes you a better writer. And don’t stick to just one genre; be brave and jump into something new. You never know how much fun you’ll have!

Before we leave you and blast into another parallel universe, please tell us about yourself, your inspirations and your publishers!

profile-300x300Ellen Crosháin in her own words…

My inspirations are really varied: from Irish mythology to romance novels, horror films to metal music, walking by the sea to lazy Sunday afternoons, I find inspiration in mostly everything in my life. I am interested in everything. I have a really lively imagination and it needs to be fed.

My book, ‘Cruelty’, is published by Kristell Ink, an imprint of Grimbold Books. We really are like a family. Not only are Sammy and Zoe publishers but they are writers too. They are really good at spotting a good idea and nurturing it into something amazing. Their advice is always designed to be helpful. The other Grimbold writers are really supportive as well; we read each other’s books, post reviews, share blogs and work together to get the word about Grimbold out there.

Well, I’m from Northern Ireland but I live in Wales. I teach English for a living at an amazing secondary school but am currently on maternity leave. I live with my lovely husband and my 6 guinea pigs, all of whom are girls. Poor husband is overrun by ladies.

Bio:

Ellen Crosháin grew up in Northern Ireland but despite the fact she has a proper Irish Mammy hailing from Dublin and a Northern Irish father, her accent is so slight, it can only be caught in snatches. She says it makes her work as a spy much easier as no one actually knows where she’s from.

Her love for story telling was cultivated by both her parents as they would spend hours most days reading to her and her three younger siblings. She would spend hours herself entertaining them on the long trips they had to take when her father joined the army and they moved from place to place.

Waterstones

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Cruelty

Book Blurb:

Once a year, in the caves deep below the house, the Family gathers to perform a ritual to appease their god. But Faroust only accepts payment in blood. Eliza MacTir, youngest daughter of a powerful Irish family, was born into fae gentry without the magical gifts that have coursed through the Family’s veins for millennia; she was an outcast from her first breath. Desperate for freedom, Eliza’s flight from rural Ireland is thwarted by the Family’s head of security. The only weapon she has to fight her captor is her own awakening sexuality. Drawn into the world of magic and gods, Eliza must find a way to break free, even if it means breaking the hearts of those she loves, and letting her own turn to stone. Cruelty, it runs in the Family.

***

Thank you, Ellen. Congratulations, you are survivor! A passing science frigate has honed in on your distress beacon, you’re going home!!!

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Happy Horizons! 😀 xx