Author Shakyra Dunn

Name: Shakyra Dunn
Latest Release: The One Left Behind: Magic (Book 1)
Genre: Fantasy; YA

Shakyra Dunn can’t stray away from the impression that there is always an adventure around every corner! When she isn’t playing the role of the Creator, she is marching through the worlds of her favorite video game characters or taking drives around her city to see the sights. Born in Chicago, Illinois, she currently resides in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, striving to experience more than the little town. Read Reviews done by Shakyra here.

CONNECT: Facebook | Twitter | Website


  1. How long have you been writing?

-I have been writing since I was about seven years old, and funny enough, I mostly started off with fanfiction before I knew what fanfiction was! When I turned fourteen and started high school, I went back through these older travesties and decided “Hey, I’m probably a lot better now, I think I’ll try again.” In total, I’ve been writing with the mindset of an author for eight years now!

  1. What kind(s) of writing do you do?

-I try to write whatever I can, but I gear towards fantasy novels and short stories. I’ve also been dabbling in psychological and supernatural stories lately.

  1. What are your goals as a writer, both small and large?

-My goal as a writer has always been to inspire someone else to follow their dreams. As a child, my original goal was medicine, but writing was a talent I had always possessed. As previously stated, when I was a teenager, I looked back at my old works and decided to try again. Plain to say, my mother wasn’t happy when I decided that I wanted to be a writer. But after convincing her, I took the plunge into this messy and amazing field. Through that strive and goal, I feel that no matter what stands before you, you shouldn’t abandon your dreams at any cost. It makes it all worthwhile.

  1. What inspires you?

-I take inspiration from a lot of different places, but I’d have to say that my biggest inspirations come from my experiences. I always try to implement a part of myself in every story that I create.

  1. Have you ever fallen in love with a character? Tell us about this romance.

-Ummm, this is going to be a fun topic… *Giggles* Well, fictional characters that AREN’T mine, I’m madly in love with Zack Fair from Final Fantasy VII. I could make a list on the reasons why, but plain to say… after playing Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII at age sixteen, I was so inspired by his struggle, and his cheerful personality throughout his entire saga. That, and Tetsuya Nomura makes a lot of insanely unrealistically attractive guys, and Zack is definitely one of them. And that game is still one of the only ones to this day that I have played that will never fail to tear out my heartstrings, rearrange them, and then put them in backwards.

-Characters that ARE mine, I’m not certain that I have romantic feelings for any of them, but of all of the characters that I have created, my biggest support in a potential relationship has to go to Relek Paladere. He’s very calm, not nearly as sensitive as his best friend Frayle, but there’s more about him that you’d want to know as you get to understand him. And that’s what makes him so appealing to other people.

  1. How do you find or make time to write?

-I work the graveyard shift, so sometimes it’s hard to try and find the time to write, but a majority of the time I try to have a plan of when to write. I also spend my days off filling in the blanks of what I don’t have established yet.

  1. Do you write more by logic or intuition, or some combination of the two? Summarize your writing process.

-I try to combine both logic and intuition, depending on the situation that I’m in. Usually my writing process these days begins with the voice of a character in my mind, and I jot down whatever spawns. I always have had the habit of creating my characters before the plot, and establishing where they fit into it all. Once the characters have a home, I find that I plan the plot and the sequence of events long before the writing can begin.

  1. Who would play you in your life story?

-Ooh, that’s an interesting question. I’ve never actually considered that. Maybe… Camren Bicondova? Her hair is about as curly as mine is.

  1. What projects are you working on at the moment?

-I’m currently planning out a story called “FML: The Final Lesson.” I’m thinking that it could be the start of a new saga of stories once Left Behind reaches its end.

  1. What process did you go through to get your work published?

-I self-published, so I didn’t have much trouble, but I did go into it pretty blind. The One Left Behind is my first published work, and with what information I had, I haven’t had much success as a whole, but now that I’ve gotten more research and assistance under my belt, I feel more prepared for what steps I can take for marketing my second book!

  1. What is the hardest part of writing for you?

-I would say the hardest part is keeping focus on my stories. I sometimes struggle with my thought process, especially if I’m writing from scratch.

#writing begins with the voice of a #character in my mind. #interview #author #writerslife… Click To Tweet
  1. What do you enjoy most about writing? Share your favorite work.

-The One Left Behind IS my favorite work; I put a lot of heart into crafting this series, and to this day, it is some of my best work. I think what I enjoyed most about creating it, and about writing in general, is giving my characters a voice. I strive for character development in everything that I create, and it is definitely my strongest asset in my work next to dialogue.

  1. If you could have any fictional character(s), living or dead, on your survival team after an apocalypse, who would you choose and why?

-Probably Master Chief from Halo. He could survive any apocalypse on his own.

  1. Which actors would you choose to play the main characters in your story?

I’ve always thought that “The One Left Behind” should be an animated series instead of a movie. I’ve had SOME thoughts for main characters on what I could imagine for a voice cast, and some that I really can’t think up.

-Frayle, for instance, is a hard voice to come up with. He has this slight Irish accent that paves the way whenever he’s nervous or angry, otherwise it’s well hidden, so I don’t know who could pull that off.

-Nova is a serious character in the first novel, even a bit bitchy to say the least, but she’s also regal in some aspects. The first voice I thought up for her, especially after playing Tales of Zestiria, would be Alexis Tipton. She did a phenomenal job as Alisha despite Alisha being kind of pushed to the back-burner as a character, and her role stood out so well.

-Relek, I imagine him to have a younger voice despite him being the more mature half of his duo with Frayle, and I’d have to pass that type of characterization to Michael Johnston, who, funny enough, was also in Tales of Zestiria as Mikleo and has an upcoming role as Ephemera in Kingdom Hearts 2.8, the X story.

-Recca, pretty easy to think of. Maybe it’s just the affinity of fire that he carries, but I ALWAYS hear him with a Travis Willingham tone. Particularly the easygoing voice that Travis can portray, because Recca is rarely ever angry, and kind of strays from the hotheaded type.

-Then there’s other major supporting characters like Curova and Freiya. Curova, I picture a sort of Justin Charles Cowden voice. It’s not too mature, and it seems to blend flawlessly with Curova’s very stoic and almost belittling nature.

  1. What is your favorite escape from day to day living?

-My favorite escape besides writing is definitely being able to curl up with a good book and listen to music. It’s always nice to drown things out.

  1. What are some ways in which you promote your writing? Do you find that these add or detract from your writing time?

-It’s actually difficult to promote your work with a slim following, and it’s even harder to make sales when not a lot of people really know about your book, even when you work with others, send off free e-books, etc. This is a part of why I think that self-publishing the way that I did was more damaging than useful, and it really does eat up a lot of time.

  1. Who are some of your favorite authors? What impact have they had on your writing?

-My biggest inspiration for getting me into writing is Lemony Snicket. It might sound silly, but when I was nine years old and read “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” I practically devoured each book until the series came to an end when I was thirteen. It wasn’t long after that that I wanted to pursue writing for myself. I also loved reading J.D Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye” in high school–it is to this day one of my favorite novels.

  1. Do you know the secret to originality in writing? Would you share it?

-The secret to originality in writing is that there IS no originality in writing. There is always something that will relate to a component of another story. It is just a matter of making these components your own and weaving the threads to your own will.

  1. What are you currently reading? 

-I’m currently reading Carmine Warrior Queen by Alan Janney to prepare for a review of it. I am also reading Adelle Yeung’s “The Cycle of the Six Moons: An Eclipsing Autumn” to prepare for “The Last Winter Moon” coming out next month!

  1. What do you think is the future of reading/writing?

-It’s hard to tell. There’s ever-changing works when we enter this field. We just have to be prepared.

Thank you for your interview today! We wish you success in all your future writing endeavors.

Songwriter Kate MacLean

Our Write Side meets authors from all flavors of life. Today, meet Kate MacLean, a songwriter and poet from Canada.

Click play and listen while you read:

Kate MacLean
Latest Release: North/East/South/West, June 2015
Genre: Singer-Songwriter

Kate MacLean is an uprooted Maritime singer-songwriter, now living in Toronto, Ontario. She released her first album, ‘North/East/South/West’ in 2015. When not performing her own material, she can be found working as a music teacher and as a sideman for several other artists in the city. Kate’s love of songwriting is matched only by her love of salt and vinegar chips, sour candy, baseball, and other things that will surely destroy her teeth before age 30. Her debut album can be heard here:, and you can keep up with her whereabouts & general ramblings here:

  1. How long have you been writing?

I’ve probably only been writing songs for the last 10 years. I remember an especially melancholic day when I was maybe 15 or so, and I took some sad-sack rhymes and minor chords, put ’em together and ended up feeling a lot better after the fact. I think that’s when the songwriting started! In terms of just general creative writing, my first ‘masterpiece’ was written when I was in grade two – it was a sprawling, 45 page epic entitled ‘Help! I’m trapped in Final Fantasy VIII!’. I had written my entire class into it by the end of the story, and my writing has been influenced by people around me ever since!

  1. What kind(s) of writing do you do?

Primarily songwriting and poetry, but every now and then I like to dip my toe into the world of prose. I participated in National Novel Writing Month back in 2014, and I have a comedic novella I hack away at every now and then for kicks!

  1. Why did you choose that particular field or genre?

I was surrounded by music when I was growing up – my father is a piano player, and my mom sings and plays bass. Songwriting felt like a very natural way for me to express things, or to tell a story. I love songwriting because it offers so many opportunities for connection. Even if someone isn’t listening to the lyrics, there can still be something in the melody, the singer’s voice or the chord progression that can resonate with them somehow.

  1. What inspires you?

Oh, everything! Is that a cop-out answer? All the usual stuff: love, loss, hopes, dreams, events, anxieties, a good story, feelings, etc… but also the UNusual stuff! I’m currently working on a song about baseball, and another one about Junior Mints. I was once inspired by a short story that my buddy Tyler wrote about a potato that appeared to have a face. His name was Peaburt, the outlaw potato! (The silly song that came from that can be found here:, along with the original story, here:!)

  1. Where did your love of songwriting come from?

I alluded to my musical upbringing earlier, and part of that involved being surrounded by really, really good songs. I remember my dad coming home late at night and sitting down to play some tunes (much to the chagrin of my very patient mother, who had to get up for work in a few hours), things like ‘Desperado’ and ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’. I still have those melodies attached to memories in my head, and that’s a pretty powerful thing!

  1. How do you find or make time to write?

Songwriting will often happen when I’m supposed to be doing something else…I’m lucky to have a pretty good musical memory, which means that when I come up with stray one-liners while riding my bike, or stumble upon a cool chord progression when learning songs for a gig, they’ll usually stick in the ol’ cranium for a while. Setting aside writing time, however, is a challenge. Like most creatives, I work 7 days a week, trying to pay the bills and keeping my head above water what with teaching, gigging, recording, and, more often than I’d like to admit, dedicated writing time gets pushed aside. During the summer months, I try to write at least a little something (a hook, a stanza, anything really!) every morning.

  1. How do you come up with your song lyrics? Is there a particular source of inspiration that works for you?

It depends on the type of song, and whether or not it is a commissioned piece. For commissioned pieces, the subject material usually comes from the client, and I’ll manufacture inspiration from there! For my own singer-songwriter stuff, I’ll come up with lyrics, as I previously mentioned, based on just about anything. I was a pretty intense bookworm as a kid (and to a certain extent, still am!), so I think narrative and story is very important to me. One of my favourite tunes on the N/E/S/W record is called ‘Beekeepers’, and I came up with those lyrics after imagining a character torn between her dream job at an apiary, and her unfortunately anaphylactic lover. (Beekeepers can be heard here:

  1. How did you get to be where you are in your life today?

Oh, you know – a series of increasingly poor choices? I’m just kidding. When I was 18, I moved from the very small town of Alma, Nova Scotia to the biggest city in Canada – Toronto! Talk about some culture shock. I got my degree in Contemporary Music Performance from Humber College, and then stuck around in the city because I already had a job and some steady gigs coming in.

  1. What projects are you working on at the moment?

Right now I’m finishing up the school year with my teaching job, and getting geared up for festival season with a couple of artists. In addition to that, I’m working away at the follow-up to my 2015 album, the dreaded ‘sophomore album’, which I’ll be calling ‘Feelings, etc.’. I’m also working on a fun passion project covering the songs of local songwriters from Toronto and some from back home in Nova Scotia.

  1.  What process did you go through to get your work published?

Hoo boy! Blood, sweat, tears and self-publication. In order to press an album as an independent artist, there’s a few steps. 1. Write the songs. This is the easy part! 2. Record the songs. Call in a bunch of favours from instrumentalists you trust, and spend endless hours overanalyzing vocal takes in your basement. 3. Mix and Master the album – this is arguably the most important step, as good/bad mixing can make or break a record. 4. Commission artwork, find a graphic designer, pick fonts and layout. Then, finally, you 5. Press the darn thing! Find a printing company you can work with/afford. Choose the option you want, be it physical or digital copies, and then 6. Hope you can sell enough to break even. In addition to this, we have a really great organization in Canada called SOCAN which helps out with royalties. So at some point you have to become a SOCAN member as well!

  1. What is the hardest part of writing for you?

What a fantastic question! I’m going to have to say CONSISTENCY. Consistency, being prolific, and trying to silence my inner editor. I am so envious of the people who can sit down every day and end up writing song after song. I find I can barely make it through a couple of lines before the inner editor pipes up with doubts and criticisms. The ‘write now, edit later’ concept is very hard for me, and it’s a skill I’m still working on.

  1. What do you enjoy most about writing? Share your favorite work.

That moment when you can find the perfect, simple line that still conveys so much. I love that. I also really enjoy hearing that other people get out of my writing – somethings their interpretations are totally different than what I intended, and that can be both enlightening and entertaining. My favourite work… hmm, that changes from day to day, but if I had to choose one, probably this song called ‘West’. ( I had one of those ‘A-ha!’ moments with this one, where everything I wanted to express was coming out eloquently, but simple. A line that I find myself repeating from that tune sometimes is ‘That’s the thing about endings, they let you be free’ – I felt I was able to sum up a lot in that one sentence, reflecting the sentiments of the song, and moreover, the album!

  1. What is the biggest thing people THINK they know about songwriting, that isn’t true?

I think there’s this perception that to be a good songwriter, you have to be a real tortured soul, you know? Sure, it helps – but I don’t think it’s necessarily true. I’m much more productive when I’m on a peak, even if I’m writing about a valley. Another perception is that touring is a huge party! A non-stop bender, if you will! Though the occasional bender is pretty unavoidable, if you’re on a longer haul, you need to preserve some energy and keep it together. I find that 85% of time spent on tours consists of either a) driving or b) waiting around!

  1. What is the most important thing that people DON’T know about songwriting, that they should?

Remember that process I described earlier, where I listed the steps for making an album? Every single artist will go through that to craft a song that most of their audience will end up streaming for free, or basically pennies. It’s a lot of hard work, and if you like an artist, try to support them by going out to a show, or paying for their merchandise. It’s nice to know people care!

  1. For those interested in exploring songwriting where should they start?

Oh, wonderful! I love this question. Start by listening to EVERYTHING. Explore the structure and composition of song – listen, and learn about the parts of a piece: chorus, verse, prechorus, bridge, intros, outros, etc. If you’re not proficient on an instrument, but want to be a songwriter, I would suggest trying to get some basic skills down (piano/guitar tend to be the most common instruments, but heck, if writing on a harp is your thing, do that!), or find someone who IS proficient to write with. Go to local shows. Talk to singers/instrumentalists and songwriters. Decide what you think makes a good song, but be willing to listen to what other people think makes a good song! Take a couple lessons. Most importantly, just write. Be open to whatever comes to you, and enjoy it! It’s definitely not all Eureka moments, but it’s a really great way to express yourself.

  1. What are some ways in which you promote your writing? Do you find that these add or detract from your writing time?

Honestly, I don’t promote my writing enough. My skills lie in the creative zone, and like a lot of creatives I get really shy when it comes to business or promotion. The best way to promote your songs, is, of course, to play gigs. This definitely adds to my writing, as getting a chance to road test tunes and get feedback from a crowd is very valuable.

The best way to #promote your #songs is to play gigs. #author #interview #songwriting #writerslife… Click To Tweet
  1. Who are some of your favorite authors? What impact have they had on your writing?

Jessica Grant, who wrote ‘Come, Thou Tortoise’ (my favourite novel!) did a great job with the unreliable narrator concept. In a way, I think all my songs are told by an unreliable narrator…it’s me! And I am, of course, completely biased. Barbara Kingsolver – the way she writes is so beautiful. I liked ‘Prodigal Summer’ so much that I wrote a song about it! (Can be heard here: Michael Odaatje, Dave Eggers, Terry Fallis and of course, Bill Watterson.

  1. What makes your writing stand out from the crowd?

The self-deprecating (depre-Kate-ing? Just a little pun there for levity, folks) artist in me wants to say ‘Nothing! I’m just another gal, singing about her feelings…’ And though that’s true, I like to believe there’s something charming, or at least candid, about my writing. I write songs that are undeniably person, but have a familiar feeling behind them that other can relate to. I want someone to hear one of my songs and find something to chuckle at in it, but also hear the tune and go ‘Yeah! I’ve been there! I’ve felt that!’.

  1. What are you currently reading? 

I just finished reading ‘How we are Hungry’, a collection of short stories by Dave Eggers. Good read!

  1. What do you think is the future of reading/writing?

Hmm! I may be the wrong person to ask about that as I have never read an e-book, still use a paper calendar and write longhand. I think the future is bright – different, for sure, but bright. A fantastic Canadian songwriter named Hawksley Workman says ‘We will still need a song’, and I think the same can be said about stories. I think there’s always going to be a universal need for stories, so we’ll always need reading/writing in some way, shape or form.

Thank you for you time and answering our questions! Congratulations on your music!

Character Interview: Meet Big Riff

You met Brian Paone a few weeks ago. We decided to introduce you to one of his most loved characters: Big Riff from A Journey of Words.

Name: Big Riff

Occupation: factory worker / aspiring rock-star

Age: 39


1.What do you consider your greatest achievement?
 getting my PHD in astrophysics

2. What is your best physical feature?


My hair after I’ve gotten out of the shower but before I dry it.

3. What is your most treasured possession?


The Rosa Lynn

4. What or who is the greatest love of your life?


A stripper named Kelpie

5. What is your favorite journey?


Roland’s journey through the waste lands.

6. What is your most marked characteristic?


Girls can’t resist when I wink at them from across the room.

7. Define happiness and share your happiest memory.


Happiness is not a fish you can catch. However, anytime I’m alone with Mary, just the two of us, watching Netflix and chilling. Happiest memory was when I auditioned for Strange Avenues; those 60 minutes where I was playing their songs with them in their rehearsal space. I didn’t get the gig, but being there and playing those songs, was the highlight of my life.

8. What is it that you most dislike?


Jello, hotdogs, Limp Bizkit, The Princess Bride, and the color green.

9. What is your greatest fear?


Being stranded in the desert without any water or food or a cell phone. And Scottish people. Terrifying.

10. What is your greatest extravagance?


I installed a $20,000 sound system on the Rosa Lynn. When that ship is rocking, I probably won’t be able to hear you knocking! I pimped that ride, right the hell out!

11. Who do you most despise?


Gerald. Everyone hates Gerald.

12. What is your greatest regret?


Not buying that DeLorean when I had enough money in my checking account.

13. Which talent would you most like to have?


Pottery. Ever since I saw “Ghost” with Patrick Swayze, I always wished I had the steady hands to make pottery like that.

14. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?


I drink too much.

15. What do you most value in your friends?


They drink with me.

16. Who do you most admire?


David Gilmour. I mean, have you HEARD that solo in “Comfortably Numb”??

17. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?


Patience. If we could all just be a little more impatient, I think we could get more things done as a society.

18. Which words or phrases are you known for?


“You don’t have a chance.” and “Yes, Mary. Please don’t hurt me again.”

19. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?


That I never stole that mandolin out of Marty’s car.

20. What is your motto?


“Everyone has their own rock island. Their own little patch of sand…”

What an exciting character Big Riff is! We are so happy we got a chance to interview him.

Meet Big Riff from #AJOW by @ScoutMedia @brianpaone #interview #character #ourwriteside Click To Tweet



Author Andy Peloquin

Not only is Andy Peloquin one of our monthly columnists, but he’s also an author and vlogger. Check out his YouTube page to see his panels in action.

Name: Andy Peloquin
Latest Release: The Last Bucelarii (Book 2): Lament of the Fallen
Genre: Dark fantasy/grimdark

Andy Peloquin–a third culture kid to the core–has loved to read since before he could remember. Sherlock Holmes, the Phantom of the Opera, and Father Brown are just a few of the books that ensnared his imagination as a child.

When he discovered science fiction and fantasy through the pages of writers like Edgar Rice Burroughs, J.R.R Tolkien, and Orson Scott Card, he was immediately hooked and hasn’t looked back since.

Reading—and now writing—is his favorite escape, and it provides him an outlet for his innate creativity. He is an artist; words are his palette.

Links: Amazon | Website | Twitter  | Facebook | YouTube

  1. How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing for close to three years now. I started out writing graphic novel scripts, but quickly branched out into full-length novels. In fact, I could ONLY write full-length works (90k+ words) until this year, when I forayed into short stories.

  1. What kind(s) of writing do you do?

My writing is a bit dark on the surface. It deals with themes like death, loss, violence, murder, betrayal, and the underside of human nature. My stories look at neurological, emotional, and psychological disorders and how they can create monsters from normal people. All of this is presented through the lens of a fantasy world, making these dark concepts even more fascinating for readers!

  1. What are your goals as a writer, both small and large?

My goal is to tell a story that is as real and identifiable as it is fantastic and fictional. You may not think you can identify with a half-demon assassin, but when you realize that he is dealing with “everyman” emotions like the fear of loss, a desire to find his place, and a war with his inner demons, the characters become VERY real. My desire is to bring these stories to life in a way that everyone can relate to them. Of course, being able to tell them in the form of fantasy makes them so much more enjoyable to read.

  1. What inspires you?

I’m a creative person by nature. My mind is always looking for ways to make new and unusual connections between seemingly ordinary things. I’m inspired to tell stories that will showcase how even the simplest of things can have a huge effect on the world around us.

  1. Have you ever fallen in love with a character? Tell us about this romance.

I wouldn’t say “fallen in love”, but I will say that I have no end of fun writing about a bad-ass half-demon killer. Who wouldn’t have a hell of a time telling the story of a near-immortal killer who can pretty much do whatever he wants?

  1. How do you find or make time to write?

Thankfully, I’ve progressed in my career as a freelance copywriter to the point where I can get my work done in the morning. That frees up an hour or so in the afternoon (between chauffeuring my children) to write. I get about 10 hours of writing time per week, at the moment.

  1. Do you write more by logic or intuition, or some combination of the two? Summarize your writing process.

I’ll usually have a story very well thought-out before I sit down to write. I always leave plenty of room for creativity and intuition, but I like to be fairly organized. I won’t have a complete draft of the story–simply a rough outline of where I want it to go. As I write, the details flesh themselves out, so I never have to worry about what comes next.

  1. Who would play you in your life story?

I’d say my personal life story (right now, at least) would be one of the most boring movies ever! Like many writers, it’s an endless struggle (albeit a quiet one) to find the balance between work and life. I’d much rather a movie about my characters!

  1. What projects are you working on at the moment?

I’ve submitted the third book in my half-demon assassin series (The Last Bucelarii) to the publisher, so I’m working to get through the fourth book before starting work on the fifth. However, I’ve just signed a three-book contract for another trilogy–one set in the same world, with the same dark tones, but following a girl sold to the Thieves’ Guild of her city. I need to write two more books before the end of 2017, so that will be consuming most of my time and attention for the immediate future.

  1. What process did you go through to get your work published?

I self-published a book (In the Days: A Tale of the Forgotten Continent) in early 2014, and through that process I realized that I need a team of beta readers, editors, proofreaders, and formatters to help me make my books as good as possible. When writing The Last Bucelarii (Book 1): Blade of the Destroyer, I had it in my mind that I was going to search for a publisher. I finished the book, had it professionally edited and formatted, and had a big book launch in place before I started shopping around for a publisher. All that gave me better leverage, and increased my chances of finding a publisher–which I did, in early 2015.

  1. What is the hardest part of writing for you?

Not having enough time. I wish I could spend more time on it, but it’s a fight to maintain that work-life balance. So I’ve had to limit myself to a certain amount of time so my other important life elements (exercise, kids, etc.) don’t get pushed too far aside. I wish I could spend all day creating and telling stories, but for now, I treasure the time I get.

  1. What do you enjoy most about writing? Share your favorite work.

I love being able to create anything I want! Writing fantasy means I get to create the rules to follow. I can make my characters do anything and go anywhere–all I have to do is dream it up. For me, that’s what makes fantasy the genre of choice.

  1. If you could have any fictional character(s), living or dead, on your survival team after an apocalypse, who would you choose and why?

The Hunter. He may not be much of a team player, but he’s one hell of an ally. Immortal, can heal from anything, susceptible only to iron, he’s pretty much the best protector around.

  1. Which actors would you choose to play the main characters in your story?

I’ve had a hard time thinking who I’d want to play the Hunter in a movie or TV show. He would need to be a serious, somber actor, one with a few years on him. A Jeffrey Dean Morgan type could be good.

  1. What is your favorite escape from day to day living?

Writing. There’s nothing that makes me happier than sitting at my desk with a cup of coffee, a good story line, and an hour or two with nothing to do but bring that story to life!

  1. What are some ways in which you promote your writing? Do you find that these add or detract from your writing time?

I’ve started using Twitter and Facebook more, as well as recording virtual discussion panels to YouTube. They do take up a bit of time, but they’re a lot of fun. Plus, people seem to enjoy them, and I love talking to people.

  1. Who are some of your favorite authors? What impact have they had on your writing?

I’d have to say my two favorite authors are Brandon Sanderson and Scott Lynch. I try to make my characters as intriguing and complex as Scott Lynch, while emulating the writing standard of Brandon Sanderson.

  1. Do you know the secret to originality in writing? Would you share it?

I wouldn’t say there is any ONE secret. However, I will say that telling a story from a new angle is always a great way to go. For example, my The Last Bucelarii series is told from the perspective of a half-demon assassin. Not many books that feature that kind of character as the protagonist (not hero, anti-hero).

  1. What are you currently reading? 

I’m just getting to the end of the last Safehold book by David Weber. Think historical fiction, fantasy, and sci-fi all rolled into one glorious series! I’m also reading a book called Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook by Gary Vaynerchuk. It’s a book on how to be smart with social media and marketing. AMAZING stuff!

  1. What do you think is the future of reading/writing?

I think (and hope) that reading becomes the “cool” thing to do once more. I haven’t played a video game in the last six months because I’m so addicted to both reading and writing. That’s a very strong departure from character for me, but it’s been wonderful to dive headlong into the written word. I believe more and more people will join in the addiction.

Thank you for your time and great answers, Andy! We wish you much success on your writing.

Telling a #story from a new angle is always a great way to go. @andypeloquin @interview… Click To Tweet

Meet Auren of Shadow Stalker by Renee Scattergood

Shadow Stalker is a lengthy fantasy from Renee Scattergood. Her first two books in the series is available on instafreebie. Grab a copy now! Today, we meet the protagonist of her story, Auren.

Name: Auren
Occupation: Shadow Stalker
Age: 18 (at the beginning of the story… it takes place over several years)

1.What do you consider your greatest achievement?

I don’t think I’ve achieved much of anything at this point in my life, unless you consider training to be a shadow stalker and surviving against all odds when the Galvadi Empire has been trying to kill me since my birth to be an achievement. I’ll be happy if I manage to do what I’m meant to do and stop the Galvadi from taking over the entire Serpent Isles and destroying innocent lives.

  1. What is your best physical feature?

I’m not sure. It’s not something I’ve ever thought about. I’ve always been self-conscious of my looks. I grew up on Appolia, an island in the far north and most people there are fair haired and skinned. With my olive complexion and dark hair, I really stood out. But I suppose my height and strength have helped me over the years. I’m certainly not helpless.

  1. What is your most treasured possession?

My books. I don’t own a lot, but I love my books. Oh, and the backpack Kado got for me when I was young. We would go camping every year during the summer months, and I’d take that backpack with me. It’s pretty beat up after years of use, but it’s part of me.

  1. What or who is the greatest love of your life?

Makari, most definitely. We started as enemies as he is the son of Drevin, the emperor of the Galvadi, but we were mean to be together.

  1. What is your favorite journey?

Travelling from Adalasia on the Dark Isle to meet my aunt, uncle and cousins for the first time. My parents were taken from me when I was born, so meeting my family was probably the best thing that ever happened to me, despite the other issues that happened during that visit.

  1. What is your most marked characteristic?

My inability to avoid getting into trouble. I always thought my friend Jade’s bad influence was what had gotten me into trouble so much growing up, but now I’m beginning to believe it’s something I was born with.

  1. Define happiness and share your happiest memory.

Happiness is feeling safe and secure no matter what’s going on around you. I feel like that whenever I’m with Makari. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen as often as I’d like. My happiest memory was meeting my father; something I thought would never happen since I’d spent my life believing he was dead.

  1. What is it that you most dislike?

That’s easy. The Galvadi Empire and everything it stands for.

  1. What is your greatest fear?

My greatest fear is that I won’t be able to do what I’m meant to do. That I won’t stop the Galvadi and that Drevin will turn me into the monster he tells people that I am.

  1. What is your greatest extravagance?

A warm bath and a comfortable bed to sleep it. It doesn’t happen often.

  1. Who do you most despise?

Drevin. I hate that he’s turned against his own people and destroyed many innocent lives, including my own.

  1. What is your greatest regret?

That I will never know my mother. Apparently, I’m just like her, but I haven’t decided if that’s good or bad. It makes me miss her more.

  1. Which talent would you most like to have?

To be able to turn invisible. That would really work in my favor. Sure, I can sort of do that through the shadow world, but it’s limited.

  1. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

My inability to keep my thoughts to myself. It’s part of what often gets me into trouble.

  1. What do you most value in your friends?

My friends are the most loyal people you’d ever meet. I was an outcast growing up, but they didn’t care about my differences. They loved me and accepted me anyway.

  1. Who do you most admire?

My foster father, Kado. He sacrificed a lot to raise and protect me, including giving up his own child.

  1. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Courage, though I’m not sure it’s so much overrated as it is misunderstood. Most people believe courage is the absence of fear. I’ve learned the hard way that those with the most courage also experience the most fear. They just don’t let their fear stop them from doing what needs to be done.

  1. Which words or phrases are you known for?

None that I know of.

  1. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

That’s hard. For a long time I wished I had been born normal. Then there would be no Galvadi Empire or war. I wouldn’t have spent my life in hiding, but I also wouldn’t have met most of the people who became important to me, especially Makari.

  1. What is your motto?

I don’t have one, but if I had to adopt one it would be, “Look before you leap.” It’s something I need to put into practice more, but I probably won’t.


Author Brian Paone

Name: Brian Paone
Latest Release: Yours Truly, 2095
Genre: time-travel romance

Hugo Award Nominated author Brian Paone was born and raised in the Salem, Massachusetts area. Brian has, so far, published three novels: a memoir about being friends with a drug-addicted rock star, Dreams are Unfinished Thoughts; a macabre cerebral-horror novel, Welcome to Parkview; and a time-travel romance novel, Yours Truly, 2095—all three novels are available in paperback, eBook, and audiobook. Along with his three novels, Brian has published two short stories: “Outside of Heaven,” which is featured in the anthology, A Matter of Words, and “The Whaler’s Dues,” which is featured in the anthology, A Journey of Words. Brian is married to a US Navy nurse and has four children. He is also police officer and has been working in law enforcement since 2002. When Brian isn’t writing, he is playing or recording music with his bands. He is also a self-proclaimed roller coaster junkie, a New England Patriots fanatic, and his favorite color is burnt-orange.


  1. How long have you been writing?

In 7th grade, I wrote my first original story called, “The Night is Young,” and brought it into school for everyone to read. My classmates liked it so much they encouraged me to write more. Every weekend throughout 7th and 8th grade I wrote a new story, just for my classmates to read on Monday mornings. My teacher encouraged it so much, she would even go to the front office and photocopy the stories so each student could have their own to take home. I even had a friend start drawing front covers of all my stories, which would be stapled to the front of the printouts. So I think the “in-school popularity and quasi-celebrity” status I received in junior high because of my short stories was what fueled the fiction machine for me.  I still have every story I wrote during those 2 years, EXCEPT that very first one. Someone spilled water on the only copy and the paper disintegrated. . I only wrote short stories from 1988 to 2005. It was then that I began work on my first novel.

  1. What kind(s) of writing do you do?

I write exclusively in a genre called Rock Fiction, which is a sub-genre of Musical Fiction, when a single song, an entire album, or the span of a band/artist’s complete work is turned into fiction, using the literal lyrics to directly create the plotline and story arc, and usually the title of the book/story is taken directly from the song/album that the work is an adaptation of.

  1. What are your goals as a writer, both small and large?

To do justice to the albums that I novelize. I know that dire-hard fans of each of these bands and albums that I adapt buy and read my work, and my goal is to make them happy and not show up at my house with torches, ready to lynch me because I ruined their favorite album. Because that is always a risk with everything I publish.

  1. What inspires you?

Music. Albums that have strong emotion all the way through. If I can’t connect to an album as a listener, how could I ever be motivated to adapt it into a novel/short story?

  1. Have you ever fallen in love with a character? Tell us about this romance.

Allison Tampico, in my second novel Welcome to Parkview. She started off as a child in the beginning of the book, and I grew with her to adulthood by the ending of the novel. She’s the only character that I saw grow up right before my eyes.

  1. How do you find or make time to write?

I’ve published 3 novels, and my typical day during the writing of each book was totally different from each other. When I was writing my first book, Dreams Are Unfinished Thoughts, I was in the middle of moving from MA to GA, changing police departments, and recording an album with my band, Transpose. So a typical day would be: get everything done first for the move, switching jobs, the recording studio, and whatever time was left at night: work on the book. We also didn’t have any kids yet.
With my second novel, Welcome to Parkview, my wife had been deployed to Djibouti and I was working full time at the police department in GA, and we had 2 kids now. So I was alone without my wife, with 2 toddlers, and working full time. The My day would be: get the kids to day-care, go work fighting crime for 8 hours, pick the kids up and do whatever household chores I had to do (laundry, cleaning, grocery shopping etc.), feed the kids dinner and put them to bed around 6:30, then I would work out for an hour, and then I would work on Welcome to Parkview after I showered until whenever I passed out at my laptop.
With Yours Truly. 2095, the Navy had sent us to Japan for the next 4 years. I had to take a leave of absence at the police department, and we moved the family there. I did not get a job right away, as my wife wanted me to be the stay at home parent during our time in Japan (I did eventually become a Criminal Justice professor for the college on base, but that’s irrelevant to the book.) We moved in November, 2011 and by January, 2012 I was itching to write. For the first time, I had the TIME to write, and not having to worry about a new job, moving, or wiping poopy diapers. So, in February, 2012, I started my outline, and writing the book was my full-time job for a while. We sent out 2 kids to Japanese Kindergarten (called a Yochien in Japan) and they were gone Monday through Friday from 9:00 to 4:00. I would bring them to the bus stop, wave goodbye, go back up into our apartment, and write until the bus brought them back. It was the first time I could write without distractions, and the first time I was writing not being dead-tired at night after putting in a full day.
I’ve just started outlining what will be novels 4 and 5, and the process has, again, changed. We have a new baby, and we are back in America, but this time, I have my first office. It’s a room in our house that is designated to strictly writing or creating music. So, I have a room I can go into, shut the door, and disappear, even when the kids are home… which I was never able to do before.

  1. Do you write more by logic or intuition, or some combination of the two? Summarize your writing process.

All 3 books were done a little different from each other. My first book, Dreams Are Unfinished Thoughts, was outlined more in journal format before it went to narrative. My second book, Welcome To Parkview, had no outline. I wrote stream of consciousness and just let the story take itself where it naturally wanted to go. Then when I was finished, I had to go back and almost write it a second time now that I knew how everything played out. With the new book, Yours Truly, 2095, I did the most amount of outline, but it was done on a poster board with different colored Sharpies, tracing the character’s time travel journeys back and forth to make sure none of the lines crossed and created paradoxes that I couldn’t explain. When I was done, I could hold the poster board up and see the whole book in the form of Sharpie lines crisscrossing and making a graft that then needed to be turned into words.

  1. Who would play you in your life story?

Chris Kattan

  1. What projects are you working on at the moment?

I have 3 in progress, all slated for a 2017 release:

  • A short story that I am writing for the anthology, “A Haunting of Words,” is going to be an adaptation of Porcupine Tree’s album, “Fear of a Blank Planet.”
  • One of the two novels that I am currently writing is about the eight months my wife was deployed to Djibouti, Africa, and left me home alone with two toddlers. Tentatively untitled, it’s going to be a comedic-military novel, almost in the style of the film Mr. Mom with Michael Keaton, about the learning curve and craziness that ensued during those months.  Every night I would send her an email, usually quoting song lyrics from our favorite bands at the end. I am compiling all those songs, and will use those specific lyrics to drive the story forward.
  • The other novel that I am writing is an adaptation of Dog Fashion Disco’s “Adultery” album, which is a concept album that is about a private detective, set in a pulp noir setting, who gets dragged into the dirty underground. The great thing about this novel is the reader will not need to have ever heard the album to read the book. None of my novels or short stories have a prerequisite of needing to know the band or album the work is based off of to enjoy or understand the storyline.
  1. What process did you go through to get your work published?

So, I’m kind of a rare case in the manner of how I got published. I never had an agent. So it’s not mandatory or a prerequisite to have an agent to sign a book deal. I landed my first publishing contract because I had self-published my first novel, “Dreams Are Unfinished Thoughts,” and I had built and designed a website strictly for the book. This was BEFORE Createspace, and Smashwords and all those other self-publishing platforms. Back then, you had to find a company who would mass print documents (like a Kinkos) and literally have it pieced together with the plastic spiral binding… no back cover, and pretty much printer paper stock. It was so ghetto that I wish I still had a copy of my “self-published” book just to show you guys (or so I could laugh it.) Anyway, between the website, and constant self-promotion, I sold a little over 1,000 copies of this terribly put together/bounded “book.” (It was really just 320 pages-3 hole punched and kept together with plastic rings.) I couldn’t order them fast enough. I was ordering them 20 at a time, and selling 30 (so I was always behind in my orders. I couldn’t keep up.). What I did RIGHT (if I didn’t do anything else right at all with the way it physically looked) was that I was smart enough to assign an ISBN number to the book before I even sold the first copy. This meant that every single sale was being tracked! Even my Mickey Mouse looking “docu-book” was being tracked sales-wise. Well, after about 8 months of selling hundreds and hundreds of my book from my website and out of garage MC Hammer style, publishing companies started contacting ME! I have never written one query letter in my life. I have never solicited my book to one single publishing company myself. All of a sudden, I had about 3 publishing companies fighting to sign me… and they got into a mini-bid war over my novel. All of this because I had proof of how many units were sold through the ISBN number, and they could also track it themselves. I had no idea, in my wildest dreams that I would sell that many copies of my book… and I never EVER thought that I would be one of those cases where the publishing companies contact me first without having to go through all that stress of dozens of query letters and rejection slips. But looking back at it now, I really truly believe it was because I had created a unique and specific website for the book PRIOR to release, and I had assigned an ISBN number to the book. Without that ISBN number, my book would never ever have gotten on the radar, and I would probably either have quit writing by now, or would have a shoebox full of rejection slips under my bed.

I feel like I write the same was we drive to somewhere we’ve never been, but with GPS on. When you drive somewhere far away, and you are using GPS for each turn, you understand what and when the next “turn” will be, but you have no idea what you are going to be seeing out of your window while you are driving to the next turn. I feel that’s how both of my fictional novels were written. I knew what had to happen, and when, but I even surprised myself at some of the things that I saw out the window while I wrote.

  1. What is the hardest part of writing for you?

The greatest challenge about writing is the first 20,000 words of a new novel. That is really the most critical time where you are figuring out what you are trying to say, and the voice and the tone you are trying to say it in. When I was writing “Yours Truly, 2095” I wrote about 40,000 words and trashed the whole manuscript. It was unorganized and too busy. I was trying to cram a mini-series worth of plot into a single novel. Once I cut back, and started from the beginning again, focused and organized with a single vision, everything fell into place. Some writers will tell you that the editing process is the most frustrating about being an author. I, on the other hand, feel that once my book gets sent to the editing team, all the weight has been taken off my shoulders and now it’s just a series of corrections, approvals, omits, rewrites…. That sounds tough, but when you have a solid editing team that you trust, it’s more like building a puzzle with a few friends where someone is in charge of the corners, and someone is in charge of edges, and someone is in charge of the middle… eventually you all get to the same goal together. Being on a team while editing is easy… being by yourself during those first few drafts when you don’t even know if you’re coming or going… THAT is the hardest part.

The greatest challenge about #writing is the first 20,000 words of a new #novel. #author… Click To Tweet
  1. What do you enjoy most about writing? Share your favorite work.

Because I turn people’s favorite albums into novels or short stories, my favorite part is when a complete stranger leaves a review or contacts me and thanks me for doing a great service to their favorite album.

  1. If you could have any fictional character(s), living or dead, on your survival team after an apocalypse, who would you choose and why?

Cujo. Because I could just sic him on anything that threatened us. On second thought, he might also attack me. So, maybe Christine? Or Pennywise? Or Arnold in Terminator 2?

  1. Which actors would you choose to play the main characters in your story?

For Yours Truly, 2095 I would have Rose Byrne play J0/Julie, Jason Bateman play Jeff, John C Reilly play Bruce, Paul Giamatti play Horace, Ellie Kemper play Rael/Rayleen, and Randy Blazak play Blazak.

  1. What is your favorite escape from day to day living?

Music. And football.

  1. What are some ways in which you promote your writing? Do you find that these add or detract from your writing time?

I am a marketing a promotional machine. Social media presence, swag, book signings, paid advertising, blog tours, giveaways. And I believe that promotion is such a big part of the process, that I consider it “part” of the writing.

  1. Who are some of your favorite authors? What impact have they had on your writing?

Stephen King, Clive Barker, Ernest Hemingway, Sylvia Plath, Jean Auel, however, I only have one favorite author, but many favorite books. Stephen King is my favorite author, and I would say that his influence is all over the place in my second novel, Welcome to Parkview. In fact, some reviews of the novel on Amazon have said things like, “a great combination of Stephen King and the Twilight Zone,” and stuff like that. So I guess, reading every single King novel and short story he has ever commercially published, had some effect on my writing when I wrote that book specifically, since it is a cerebral-horror novel. Some of my favorite books include The Bell Jar, The Great Gatsby, Les Miserables, Pillars of the Earth, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and The Virgin Suicides. I think the emotional breakdown that happens in The Bell Jar and the constant struggle of trying to find out where you actually belong in society that is prevalent in The Great Gatsby and Breakfast at Tiffany’s comes out in all of my writing. In my book, Yours Truly, 2095, the main character wakes up over a hundred years in the future, and has to figure out his place in that time, or he might never get back.

  1. Do you know the secret to originality in writing? Would you share it?

Find a niche that isn’t saturated. Be a big fish in a small pond. The beauty of the genre I write in, is that I will always have a 2 built-in audiences: the fans of the band/album I an adapting, and then the fans of the genre that the story encompasses. For example, Yours Truly, 2095 is a time-travel romance adaptation of Electric Light Orchestra’s album “Time.” So ELO fans are buying the book, AND romance fans are buying the book. The crossover with everything I publish is always two-fold.

  1. What are you currently reading? 

I just finished “Habeas Corpseus” by PR Johnson.

  1. What do you think is the future of reading/writing?

Unedited and poorly written self-publishing novels are killing the industry for the solid, well written self published novels. I think there will be a crest and a revolt against these pieces of drivel. Right now it seems that every 14 year old can release a book into the world, but I think the consumers are going to start to make some noise and there will be some stricter standards put into place to “publish” a book.

Thank you for your time in answering our questions, Brian. We wish you much success in your future endeavors!

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