Friday, September 19, 2014

Interview Friday: Author Dan Willis - Guest Author at the St. George Book Festival in October

Dan Willis wrote his first work of fiction at the tender age of ten and has been creating fantastic tales ever since. Recently he wrote for the long running DragonLance series. his current project is a Steampunk Civil War series entitled, Dragons of the Confederacy, with NYT best-selling author, Tracy Hickman. Willis lives in Utah with his wife and four children.

VS: What do you do to help balance your writing life with your family life?
Dan: I write when my kids are in school & my wife’s at work.  Then, when they all come home, I’ve got dinner ready and we can have family time together.  When I worked and wrote, I’d have to cut down how much writing I did in order to keep my priorities straight.

VS: How long have you been writing?
Dan: I started writing seriously in 2004, left to pursue other interests in 2008 and came back to it in 2011.  I did write in between, but not seriously, I started several books in that time, but I didn’t finish any of them.  Now I do at least two books a year with a max goal of four if I can manage it.

VS: What inspired you to write your book?
Dan: Money.  I hate to burst anyone’s bubble but a producing writer does so to get a paycheck.  Sure guys who write the one book they have in them do it for the passion, and the art, and the storytelling, but I’ve written over a dozen books.  I’m jaded.

That said, writing is one of those things you do because you feel called to it.  I write because I love it. (Let’s be honest, I hate it too.  It’s a lot like being in a codependent relationship).  Every book I’ve written, I’ve gotten better.  Every book I’ve published, my career as a writer has moved forward. 

I’ve been writing a lot of steampunk stories lately (Old Timey Science Fiction).  I did a lot of research about the American Civil War, since it was a time of such massive innovation, really like nothing ever seen before.  I realized that the war of brother against brother was a great setting and cooked up a story of danger and intrigue set against the war as a background.  Some of my best ideas have grown out of research.

VS: What is a typical writing day like for you?
Dan: I have a set time to begin working, usually 10am and I write through till about 3 or 4 or whenever I finish my chapter.  Sometimes chapters come quickly and I’m done in just a couple of hours.  Sometimes by 4 I’ve only got half a chapter and I have to knock off and try again the next day. 

I usually write four days a week with a day for editing and a day to relax, play video games, or watch movies, etc.

VS: Is your family supportive of your writing?
Dan: Usually, though we have our moments.

VS: If this isn’t your first publication, what was the first thing you ever had published?
Dan: My first publication was a short story in a DragonLance Anthology edited by Margaret Weis.  My story was the only humor piece in the book and was pretty well received by those who reviewed the book.  It was titled Lake of Death and followed two, washed up, treasure hunting dark knights, there mentally unstable friend, and a donkey that may or may not be sentient.

VS: Can you share with us a little about your current book(s)?
Dan: Imagine the American Civil war only the south has dragons from Austria and an alchemical formula to bring dead soldiers back to fight again and the north has walking tanks and airships.  In an effort to break the stalemate the war has become, Allan Pinkerton sends unwitting pawn, Braxton Wright, south in an effort to free his secret weapon and super-spy Hattie Lawton from the infamous Castle Thunder prison.

VS: What did you find to be the most challenging part of writing your book(s)?
Dan: Even though this is a fantasy, I wanted to get the history right within the context of the story.  It required a lot of research on real people, places, and battles of the Civil War.  Then there’s the issue of dealing with historical figures, you want to be respectful while still telling a good story.

VS: What part of your book do you feel really stands out to you personally?
Dan: The dragons, of course.  It’s easy to put dragons in a fantasy world, people just accept it, but when you put dragons in the world we all know and love, people wonder how they really work.  Things like what they eat, how they breed, and how they interact with humans become important.  I’m proud of how well the dragons fit into our fictitious Civil War.

VS: If this is a work of fiction, what character is most like you?
Dan: I’d have to say Allen Pinkerton.  Our version of the historical character is the master planer, the spymaster, the man with the plan trying to out-think his foes.  It’s a lot like being a writer.

VS: Do you have any other works in progress? Can you share a little about them?
Dan: I try to keep busy, especially lately.  I’m currently working on a detective noir fantasy (yes, you heard that right) and a new, straight up fantasy novel.

My detective book follows a magically gifted detective in a gritty 1930s Washington DC.  Magic is rare in this alternate world and regulated by the government.  Our hero gets involved in a case when a friend of his is murdered and that leads him up against a madman who’s discovered a new source of magic power, one that could end the world.   The story is titled, Call of the Awakened and it should be out mid next year.

My fantasy book is set in a world that has finally ended a generation spanning warand lapsed into peace.  In this war weary world, Damik Breel is a Sword Walker, a remnant of a powerful magical order, a ronin in search of a patron.  Trouble is, there’s peace and no one wants an expensive retainer only good for fighting.  Damik finally finds a position, attached to the house of a minor king on an outlying island, a position no self-respecting Sword Walker would have taken during wartime.  When Damik swallows his pride and takes the position, he finds that the war may be over, but ambition never sleeps.

VS: What tips can you give writing parents with children at home to help them see publication?
Dan: First of all, the publishing industry is changing.  It’s looking more and more likely that self-publishing is the new writer’s friend.  The tools available to writers to layout and publish e-books and physical books are as good as anything publishers are using.  Just be sure to pay for a good cover, covers still matter.

My best advice would be to do two things, first, get your name out there.  Go to conventions, get to know the people who run them, become a panelist or a guest, and use social media to promote your book and yourself.  Second, don’t quit your day job.  For every writer who makes enough money to stuff their mattress, there’s thousands who make enough to take their family to dinner.  Nothing kills that creative flow like worrying about where the rent money is coming from.

VS: What do you think are the basic ingredients of a good book?
Dan: A good story isn’t as complicated as we authors like to make it sound.  You really only need an interesting character and some conflict.  Make the conflict interesting and impactful and readers will follow along.  That said, it never hurts to have a great villain and a love interest, but you can writer a good story without those things.

VS: What is required for a character to be believable? How do you create yours?
Dan: To be “believable” just means that your audience can relate to your character.  A farm boy on a distant planet in a distant galaxy wielding a sword made of light isn’t all that believable (or scientific) on it’s face.  But how many of us wanted to be Luke Skywalker?  How many of us still pick up an empty wrapping paper tube and chase the kids around going Vvvew, Vvveeew, V-Vew?  (Guilty)  To make a great character, make him sympathetic.  Put him in underserved jeopardy or undeserved pain, make him sleep in a cupboard under the stairs.  Make him (or her) the victim of a real, or even an imagined injustice (you mean I have to do my chores before I go into Toshee’s Station for power converters?).  Do that, and you’re audience will immediately root for your character and like him.

VS: Where can the readers of The Writing Mama find out more about and your writing?
Dan: My website, has all the information about me and what I’m up to.

VS: Is there anything else you would like to share with us about being a “Writing Mama or Dad”?
Dan: Don’t lose your sense of humor.

Learn more about the St. George Festival, Guest Authors and events at

Friday, September 12, 2014

Interview Friday: Dean Hughes, author of 100 books

Dean Hughes has published more than 100 books.  He has written fiction as well as non-fiction for all ages: children, young adults and adults. He is best known for Children of the Promise, a series of historical novels about the World War II.  He and his wife Kathy have three children and nine grandchildren.  They live in Midway, Utah.

VS: What do you do to help balance your writing life with your family life?

Dean: I have always gone about writing as though it’s a regular job.  I write most days, but keep my evenings and weekends free for family time, house-keeping, entertainment and church.  My wife and I have had an empty nest for a long time now, so we do many things together.  In addition, I play some golf, do some amateur photographic work, fly fish and read a lot.

VS: How long have you been writing?
Dean: I published my first book in 1979, so I’ve been putting out books for 35 years, but I was writing long before that.  I learned most of what I know about writing in high school, from a great teacher, but even before that—in junior high—I was saying that I was going to be a writer when I grew up.

VS: What is a typical writing day like for you?
Dean: I used to start every work day at 8:00 a.m.  Sometimes, now, I don’t get going until 9:00, but I often write for six or seven hours and then catch up on correspondence and take care of other such matters late in the day.  These days I try to play golf one day a week, or my wife says, “Come with me, I’m going to run an errand,” and I go.  I used to stay at my computer pretty much all day every day, but hey, I’m supposed to be retired now.

VS: Is your family supportive of your writing?
Dean: When my kids were young, they knew I worked at home, and they respected that.  More than anything, my family thinks I’m no big deal—just a dad who writes for a living.  The reason why they think that is that I’m no big deal—just a dad who writes for a living.

VS: Can you share with us a little about your current book(s)?
Dean: I just finished a trilogy of historical novels about early Mormon history: “Come to Zion.”  The books follow a young couple that joins the LDS Church in England and migrates to Nauvoo, Illinois, and then makes the trek to the west.  I follow the husband through the amazing trek of the Mormon Battalion.  Meanwhile, I tell the story of a young couple that moves to Nauvoo in this era.  I try to show parallels between the challenges of life in any era.

VS: What did you find to be the most challenging part of writing your book(s)?
Dean: Many of my books are works of historical fiction.  I love the research, but at some point, I have to stop reading and start writing.  It’s always tempting to put everything you’ve learned in the book, but that doesn’t work.  The challenges is to remember that I’m writing a novel, not a history book.

VS: What part of your book do you feel really stands out to you personally?
Dean: If I have a talent, it is to create characters.  I try to get in touch with the complexity of any individual I create in a book.  I think my characterization is nuanced, reflecting the fact that no human being can be easily summarized.

VS: What tips can you give writing parents with children at home to help them see publication?
Dean: You have to make time to write—somehow.  That was easy for me.  I was a college professor and could carve out time, and then I wrote full-time.  But I have friends who get up very early or stay up late, write during babies’ naps, or somehow create time somewhere in the day.  It’s not easy, and it may not be worth it.  I wonder at the pain some people put them through.  But if you have stories in your head you really want to tell, you have to find time to write on a regular basis.

VS: What is required for a character to be believable? How do you create yours? (answer only if your book is fiction)
Dean: Before I start to write a book, I write brainstorming notes about my characters.  I ask myself all kinds of questions about the character, so that when I start to write I’m not just inventing as I go. 

VS: What do you feel as parents we need to do to help our children see success?
Dean: Too many people want to get their kids’ books published, and they seem to think of nothing else.  If your child had taken two years of lessons on the violin, you wouldn’t march her up to Salt Lake to audition for the Utah Symphony.  Young people shouldn’t be so eager to publish until they can write something that isn’t comparable to the off-tune screeching of a beginning violin player.

VS: Have you received any awards for your writing?
Dean: I’ve received various awards over the years, but lately I’ve started getting “lifetime achievement” awards.  Does that mean they think my life is over?

VS: Where can the readers of The Writing Mama find out more about and your writing?
Dean: I have an author page of facebook called Dean Hughes, author.  Readers can also Google my name and find a Wikipedia page and other materials.

VS: Is there anything else you would like to share with us about being a “Writing Mama or Dad”?
Dean: I’ve always chosen to write in many different markets.  I write for children, young adults and adults.  I write mostly fiction, but I do some non-fiction.  I’ve written sports books, humor, serious novels for young adults, and historical fiction.  I have always published books intended for LDS readers along with books for a national audience, published in New York.  My agent has often suggested I get a reputation for one kind of book, but that just doesn’t sound like much fun to me.

Dean Hughes will be the Keynote Speaker during the St. George Book Festival. Learn more, see events and sign-up at

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Gates of Atlantis Authors on The Writing Mama Show

Welcome to The World of Ink Network show on Blog Talk Radio. Our goal is to bring informative and entertaining shows to our listners.The mission of the World of Ink Network is to share resources that introduce tips, products and services to help strengthen, support and challenge those who love writing and the written word. The World of Ink Network hopes not only to bring authors, illustrators and publishers together, but also help them reach their readership.

Listen today Aug. 8th to The Writing Mama Show at 12pm Eastern - 11am Central - 10am Mountain - 9am Pacific for a special show with the author of Atlantis middle grade series. Mom's Choice & Award-winning Author Virginia S Grenier will be talking with them about collaberating on a MG book series and their own writing goals and books.

The Gates of Atlantis Authors: Mikey Brooks, Jaclyn Weist, Juli Caldwell, Laura Bustian and Wendy Knight.

About the Series: Middle Grade to Young Adult urban fantasy series about the paranormal creatures willing to risk everything to save the world they love.

These authors will also be at the St. George Book Festival October 24th and 25th. You can learn more about them at the festival at or follow them at

Learn more about our network at
Find great books and articles on our blog or follow us on our Facebook Fanpage!

Come listen to the podcast at