Writing is travelling into the unknown: author Katarina West on her inspiration, the “perfect novel” and more

About the author: Born in Helsinki, Finland, Katarina West lives in an old farmhouse in Chianti with her husband and son, and when not writing, she is fully immersed in the Tuscan country life, from jam-making and olive-oil-picking to tractor maintainence. Witchcraft Couture is her first novel.

About the book: Witchcraft Couture is a dark fantasy steeped in Finnish mythology, a cautionary tale reminiscent of The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, written in the lush style of The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. Here is the review on Tabula Rasa. 
Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
In this interview, Katarina discusses her writing process and inspirations, leaving us with her brilliant concoction of the “perfect novel.”
Why do
you write?
it’s the thing I love most to do, because I don’t know how else to exist, and
because I have done it – in one way or the other – for most of my life. It’s
not the easiest choice for a profession, and in some sense I believe it’s not a
choice at all, but something you just have to do, no matter what. There have
been dark periods and crises during which I decided I will not write any more. But
after a while I was always back writing again.
What do
want readers to take away from your writing?
A possibility
to escape, in the widest and deepest sense of the term, which is something I
appreciate most as a reader. That wonderful feeling when you enter an imaginary
universe, complete with its characters, sensory details, little stories and
emotions, and when you’re inside that world it feels more real than your
everyday life. And after you have finished the novel it still lingers in your
mind, and you keep wondering why the characters acted the way they acted, and
why the end was the way it was, and what must have happened to the characters
after the story ended.
say, “Write what you know.” Do you agree?
Yes and
no. Once I read an interview of Somerset Maugham – who is one of my favourite
authors – and he said something similar, and afterwards I have often tried to
follow that advice, choosing settings and social backgrounds I know well. And
in a sense it is true, that you write best about something that you have
experienced and breathed in your own life. But then there is also the fact that
writing itself is an act of gambling, it’s about closing your eyes and
travelling into the unknown, and going beyond the boundaries of what you
already know.
did you find the inspiration for Witchcraft Couture?
things inspired me. One was the Finnish national epic
Kalevala and the magic tool, Sampo, which plays a leading role in
it. The Sampo has always fascinated me, and already years before I started to
Witchcraft Couture I knew that
one day I would like to write about the Sampo. Another inspiration was my own
life, or actually my writing, and the fact that in the past I suffered from
creative blocks. So I wanted to write about a man – a fashion designer – who
was just as insecure as I was, and destroyed his designs the same way I
destroyed my texts. And then one day he found a magic machine that transformed
even his worst designs into masterpieces. So this was the start, and it
intrigued me.
are your three all-time favourite books and why?
My all-time favourite book is Dostoyevsky’s Notes From Underground, which I read
during a summer holiday when I was about sixteen. I read it several times in a
period of four, five days, first in a haste and devouring each word, and then
slowly, underlining sentences, thinking, studying. It was something I had never
read before; it was like falling in love. That was the first time I realised
how complex fictional characters can be – and once you’ve started journeying on
that road, there’s no turning back. Afterwards I’ve always sought that same
earthquake-like reading experience, but sadly, no other book has ever had quite
the same effect on me – not even Dostoyevsky’s other, more famous novels.

As for the two other all-time favourites… well,
it varies. I have periods when a certain author is my absolute favourite and I
try to read whatever he or she has written. But then that period comes to an
end, I don’t know why, and I find someone else.

I suppose I’m always constructing in my mind the
Perfect Novel. Everything in it is absolutely flawless: its characters have the
warmth of John Irving’s best heroes, its language the intensity of Toni
Morrison’s books, or the sarcasm of Etgar Keret’s stories, or the bubbly
lightness of Sophie Kinsella’s narrative voice, or rich fantasy of Stephen
King’s thrillers… And yes, I could go on forever with this list, because I
really am omnivorous when it comes to reading.

Lovely interview, thanks Katarina! And readers, Witchcraft Couture is available to buy on Amazon. Grab your copy now!
Don’t you love the idea of the Perfect Novel? Mine would have some combination of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman (like Good Omens) with J. K. Rowling’s characters and Stephen King’s genre-defiance. What would be the ingredients to your perfect novel?

Great Summer Reads from Around the World: Guest Post by author Elizabeth Buhmann

Right now, where I am, summer could just be a dream in all the rain. But I do like the recommendations made in this post and can certainly vouch for one. Check out these books and of course, watch out for my review of Lay Death at Her Door by Elizabeth Buhmann! 
Guest Post by Elizabeth Buhmann, Author of Lay
Death at Her Door
(Red Adept Publishing, May 2013)
Thank you, Priya, for having me as a guest on Tabula Rasa!
Since we’re heading into Dog Days, I’m thinking about great beach reads. I love
books set in other countries, especially in the summer, when I am either
traveling or wishing I could travel. I’m partial to mysteries (that’s what I
write), so four of the five books on my list are detective stories.
1. Blessed are the Dead by Malla Nunn is
set in South Africa in 1953, at the height of the Apartheid era. This is a
dark, gritty and well plotted murder mystery in a fascinating geographic,
social and political setting. It’s Malla Nunn’s third book in the Emmanuel
Cooper detective series. I loved all three, and I’m just waiting to pounce on
number four as soon as it comes out next year.
2. If you prefer light and delightful, the Saturday
Big Tent Wedding Party
is a wonderful read. It’s the twelfth book in the
No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series by Scottish author Alexander McCall Smith.
The books are set in Gabarone, Botswana, and the main character is the wise and
charming Precious Ramotswe. The BBC/HBO television series captures the books
perfectly, by the way.
3. I just recently discovered Tana French when an Amazon
reviewer compared her books to mine. In the Woods was great! Tana French
is Irish and her mysteries are set in Dublin. Having been to Dublin, I enjoyed
picturing the setting. The book is dark and psychologically brilliant.
4. I live in Texas, where August is a very hot month! So I
often like to read books about cold places. What could sound colder than
Iceland? I’ve enjoyed every one of Arnaldur Indridason’s Reykjavik detective
stories. Voices was the first one I read, and it’s as good a place as
any to start.
5. Last but not least, I’ll recommend a wonderful book that
is NOT a murder mystery. It’s by one of Priya’s favorite Indian authors.The book
is One
Amazing Thing
, by Chitra Divakaruni, and it is one amazing book. An
earthquake traps a group of people in the basement of an airport, and to while
away the hours waiting to be rescued, they tell stories from their lives. When
the first character began her story, I literally got a chill down my spine.
A bonus great beach read? Try my book! Lay Death at Her Door
(Red Adept Publishing, May 2013) is a stand-alone mystery/suspense novel about
an old murder that comes unsolved when the man who was convicted of it is
exonerated. The story is told from the point of view of the woman on whose
eyewitness testimony the prosecution was based. At the time, she was lying to
protect herself and knew who the real killer was. For twenty years, while an
innocent man sat in prison, she lived with the knowledge that she committed
perjury and was an accessory, however unwilling, to murder. When the book
opens, her life is about to come apart at the seams.
Elizabeth Buhmann is
originally from Virginia, where her first novel is set, and like her main
character, she lived several years abroad while growing up. She graduated magna
cum laude from Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, and has a PhD in
Philosophy from the University of Pittsburgh. For twenty years, she worked for
the Texas Attorney General as a researcher and writer on criminal justice and
crime victim issues. Elizabeth now lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband,
dog, and two chickens. She is an avid gardener, loves murder mysteries, and has
a black sash in Tai Chi.                                                      
Amazon; Goodreads; Website

An Interview with author Hy Conrad of Rally ‘Round the Corpse

About the author: Best known for his work in mysteries, Hy was one of the original writers for the groundbreaking series, Monk.  He worked on the show for all eight seasons, the final two as Co-Executive Producer, and received three Edgar Nominations from the Mystery Writers of America for “Best TV Episode.” In a related project, Hy was Executive Producer and head writer of Little Monk, a series of short films featuring Adrian Monk as a ten-year-old.  His latest TV work was as writer and Consulting Producer for White Collar.
Hy is also the author of hundreds of short stories and ten books of short whodunits, which have been sold around the world in fourteen languages.  Hy’s first full-length comedy/mystery play, Home Exchange, premiered at the Waterfront Playhouse in Key West in May 2012.  He recently authored a humor book called Things Your Dog Doesn’t Want You to Know. Visit the author’s website right here

You can read my review of Rally ‘Round the Corpse. It’s a pretty great book, you can buy it here.
And, I hope you read and enjoy this interview as much as I did!
Thank you, Hy, for this great interview.

1. What inspired you to write Rally ‘Round the Corpse? What led you to the idea of the Abel
Adventures Mystery series? (Also, how long can we expect the series to be?)
Hy: A lot of my early mysteries were created for platforms and
electronic devices that no longer exist, including Clue VCR, a popular game
back in the mid-80s.
When the Internet came around, no one knew what kind of
content would be successful.  I was asked
by Prodigy (an early version of AOL) to write a mystery serial with a different
chapter every day and a different mystery every month.  The result was “Abel Adventures”, with Tom
Abel, a character similar to Amy Abel, who led adventure tours around the world.  This idea always stayed with me, even though
the original stories have been lost to time – and a few computer crashes.
I’m on my way to finishing book two in the series, “If I Die Before the Wake”.  I would love to continue the
concept.  But of course it all depends on
the popularity of the first two.
2. Which are your most memorable writing experiences? On the
other hand, what is your worst experience as a writer?
Hy: One of my favorite experiences, writing or not, was my time
spent on “Monk”.  To be with great, funny writers every day and
churning out a hit TV show…  There’s
nothing better.
My least favorite was when a network, which shall remain
nameless, hired me to turn one of their teenage sitcoms into a TV movie.  Their style was to ignore all my sincere requests
for feedback and then suddenly micromanage. 
“No, that’s not what we wanted. 
What made you think that?”  I
quit, the only time I quit a job, and went to work for “White Collar” instead.
Later I heard from the writer who took my place.  He was put through hell for over a year
before it finally got filmed.
3. Do you have any advice for budding writers, any “five things
to remember” when writing a mystery? What is the biggest mistake, according to
you, that a mystery writer could make?
Hy: Okay.  Five quick
  1. Pay attention to
    logic.  Mystery fans want it to all
    make sense.
  2. Action isn’t as important
    in a book as it is in a movie, e.g. don’t spend ten pages describing a
    fight or a car chase.
  3. Don’t be afraid of atmosphere.  There’s a reason why Swedish mysteries
    are popular.
  4. Give your characters
    different voices.  They shouldn’t
    all talk like you.
  5. As Elmore Leonard said,
    “Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.”  How did Cary Grant get off Mount
    Rushmore at the end of “North by Northwest”?  We don’t know and we don’t care.
The biggest mistake of new writers is to create a detailed
outline before starting.  If your story
has good bones to begin with, it will tell you where to go next.
4. Having written mysteries for a long time, how do you think the
genre has evolved over the years?
Hy: I think the best mysteries are a lot better than they used
to be, with great characters and great atmosphere.  The detectives are darker and the crimes more
imaginative and gruesome.  With the
exception of cozies, it takes itself much more seriously than it used to.
On the other hand, the worst mysteries are a lot worse.  With the advent of self-publishing and e-publishing,
anyone with a murderous thought has a book out there, competing for the same
eyeballs and wallets.  Remember, a free
e-book is not free.  You pay for it with
wasted hours and annoyance.


Check out the blog tour page for more reviews and interviews.

An Interview with author Ilana Waters: The Adventures of Stanley Delacourt

Today you get to know the author of a middle grade fantasy novel The Adventures of Stanley Delacourt, which is a promising start to the Hartlandia series. Here’s an interesting interview with Ilana Waters.

A little about the author: Ilana Waters is a freelance writer who lives in New Jersey.
When not creating content for websites, she can be found working on novels and
short stories—as well as nibbling string cheese. She once pet-sat an electric
eel, and enjoys walking in circles around the park for no particular reason. Ilana is currently writing Book II of the Hartlandia trilogy, due out in 2013.

Thank you so much for this interview, Ilana.
Thank you,
  1. The
    title of the book says “Book 1 of Hartlandia.” Could you tell the readers
    a little about your world? How much research went into creating it?
World-building is
such a funny thing in fantasy literature. Everyone agrees that it’s a crucial
element of the story, but almost no one can agree on how it should be done. My
basic recipe for the world of Hartlandia was to take everything I loved about traditional,
medieval, Tolkien-style settings and put them in a novel.
As you might
imagine, this was quite a task. 😉
Naturally, I didn’t
want to copy anyone else’s world, but construct one with my
own “flavor” and personality. I literally wrote a list of everything I wanted
in “my” world. Castles. Cottages. Magic forests that appear out of nowhere.
Then I considered what I didn’t want (graphic
violence—certainly present in medieval times, but inappropriate for a
children’s novel. It also makes me queasy).
I did a fair amount
of research on the time period, the tools used, and the way people might have
acted. But since I wanted the story to resonate with 21st century
readers, not all of that made it into the final draft.
This took a lot of
rewriting and cutting things out so I didn’t “info dump” on the reader. And I
realized, sadly, that I wouldn’t be able to include everything I
wanted. Pirates. Galleon ships. Epic battles between armies. But that’s okay—it
leaves a few things for Book II and III!
And to add my own
flavor, I made the world a mishmash. It’s what I call “mostly medieval.” But
there are many elements that wouldn’t have existed during that time. Things
like libraries, female apothecaries, public schools, and factories. And Double
Fudge Mocha Latte Very Very Cherry Chunk ice cream. It didn’t exist back then.
But it should have. 
  1. What
    is your favourite thing about writing fiction? Do you write anything other
    than novels, like short stories, flash fiction or poetry? (I would love it
    if you could share with us a poem or story!)
My favorite thing
about writing fiction is going to sound pretty simple: you can do whatever you
want. I especially like the fantasy genre, because you’re not constrained by
reality (as you are in contemporary fiction). Don’t get me wrong—I like
contemporary fiction too. But haven’t you always wanted to live in a world
where you could meet fairies, make up spells, and own a magic sword? I know I
And yes, I write a
lot of things besides novels. Right now I’m working on two novellas—the first I
hope to publish in the beginning of the year. That one also takes place in
Hartlandia, but centuries earlier. You get to meet one of the character’s
ancestors and go on an adventure with him.
I’m also working on
a free (!) short story of Hartlandia (also taking place many years before Stanley).
That should be available in 2013 as well. Hopefully I’ll put out Book II of Stanley in
the same year. Oh, and I have a vampire paranormal romance due in February or
March as well (no joke). Because I thought the world could use one more of
those. ;-P
I’ve been
experimenting with flash fiction as well—it’s so much fun! I can’t believe I
never tried it before. I think everyone should. And poetry, oh yes! There are a
few poems in The Adventures of Stanley Delacourt which turn
out to be more than “just” poems. But of course, your readers will just have to
explore the book to find out more!
I’m afraid I don’t
have any flash fiction that’s polished enough to show you at the moment. However,
here’s a poem I considered for Stanley that was ultimately
left out:
How can you love
something that
How can you water
a flower that
How can you stand
on the tips of your
and try to serve
every need?
How can you hunger
for bread that is
How can you thirst
after poisonous
Why do you run
a race never-ending—
Your efforts worth
 than you
How do you rule
a subject-less
To master yourself
is a story untold.
How can you drop in
a well-water bucket
and come up with
nothing but gold?
  1. Are
    you a reader, too? If you had to pick between reading and writing, which
    would you choose? Okay, easy one, your writing keeps reminding me of Diana
    Wynne Jones. Were there any particular authors or books that influenced
    your writing?
Of course I am a
reader! I don’t think I know a writer who isn’t. And to pick between reading
and writing would be an impossible task. Each informs and inspires the other,
so they’re pretty much fused together.
And thank you for
saying my writing reminded you of Diana Wynne Jones. She is one of my favorite
authors (I even did a
blog post on her
), whose style I do try to emulate. She was a definite
influence. And I mentioned Tolkien earlier, of course. I think Philip Pullman’s
world-building is something I aspire to as well.
Thank you again,
Priya, for having me on your lovely blog!
Doesn’t the book sound like fun? Check out the review tomorrow and until then you can visit the author’s website right here

An Interview with Andi Katsina of Rick & Wylie’s Fantastical, Magical Adventures #1

Today I have an interview with writer Andi Katsina, author of Rick and Wylie’s Fantastical, Magical Adventures; I will post the review within the next few days. But right now, what you have to do is check out this fabulous interview – just three questions, which tell you a lot about the author and give a pretty accurate idea about the awesomeness of the book.

A little about the author:

I’m English, of rich Irish, African descent. Born in the
sound of bow bells, an orphan, I grew up in Manchester, England. Quite a bit
more than forty, I‘m a vegan, though occasionally lapse into vegetarianism.
Throughout my school years I was a champion athlete and
swimmer, going on to become an athletics coach, swimming teacher and youth
leader. After which time I was trained as a Chartered Accountant. Interrupting
my training, I branched out, working freelance as a troubleshooter in the field
of accountancy. Six years of adding and subtracting, was followed by two years
of trading as an international commodities broker. This led me to the sedentary
position of ‘trader in antique, oriental carpets’. It was at this juncture that
I became completely inspired to become a writer.
As a ‘school kid’ I very much enjoyed writing plays in
English, Latin and French. Fortunately for me, writing came naturally. I so, so
like writing stories that give people, especially young people, and people
young at heart, the chance to exercise their own imagination.
I love taking my readers on fantastic journeys. The
enjoyment and taste of adventure my stories give to my readers, warms me

1. There are so many
books out there that promise a wonderful ride into a new world. What makes the
world in your book unique? How would you convince people to read your book?

What makes the world in my book unique? My fantasy world was
created by unbridled imagination, driven by love, determination and endurance.
My fantasy world is real! You can feel it, visit it, travel around in it, touch
it with your mind. Priya, you’ve read my book, so I’m sure you can identify
with this! You can meet my characters, take a journey with them. It’s a world
into which you can happily retreat. It’s also a world that allows you to
unleash your own imagination, a place where you can choose to journey either in
complete safety, or at the mercy of your own exploratory desires. Some of the
people and creatures within my world, if you so wish, can be your protectors.
As magnificent a fantasy kingdom this world is, and I describe it to you in
full colour detail over the course of three books, there are also dark areas,
wicked creatures and nasty people, spawned from evil, areas from which my
readers are normally protected, but areas that the great, great fantasy epics
must provide. I don’t necessarily promise a wonderful ride; I ride motorbikes
and sometimes you can fall off, or they can break down. But I do assure you, my
dear reader, a long lasting experience and unforgettable great journey.
Why should you buy my book? I love the fact that the more my
book becomes known, the more people want to read it. Right now it’s on target
to becoming a bestseller, my first bestseller : ) And it’s already being
translated in Japan. One of the most rewarding aspects of being a writer is to
see your readers grow in number. Still though, I just can’t bring myself to
urge you to buy my book. Instead I would ask that you get to know me, get to
know my work, talk to people who have read the book, and through this I’m sure
you’ll feel that you really want to read my book too: Rick & Wylie’s
Fantastical, Magical Adventures book 1 [Journey to the kingdom]. I care about
my readers, and always appreciate your feedback.

2. They say you
should never ask a horror novelist if he believes in ghosts. I’m going to take
my chances and ask you if you believe in magic. Why did you choose to write

Yes Priya, I absolutely believe in magic! Though I would
like to differentiate the type of magic I believe in with what is commonly
called magic, that being the pretend art of magic, for instance what we see
modern day magicians practicing, clever tricks with a distinct lack of real
magic. Now real magic, the employment of super natural powers, that is
something to behold, and though exceptionally rare, I wholeheartedly believe
it exists. And providing we are sympathetic to Nature, in tune with our
environment, it may be possible to one day witness a feat of magic. I travel a
lot and have come across many cultures and belief systems. I am currently in
Central America, a place where certain indigenous tribes believe that people
can, under certain circumstances take on the guise of an animal. As a child I
spent time in Ireland, and you’d be amazed at how many people claimed to have
seen a Leprechaun or fairy. In China, Nepal, Korea, Taiwan, India and Japan, to
name a few, the list of magical happenings is endless. The people in these
countries also have traditional, religious and or cultural beliefs that some
may say are fanciful, but such overwhelming belief in magic can not be so
easily dismissed. In documents pertaining to Native American peoples, there are
recorded occurrences that seem out and out magical, but occurrences non-the
less. England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland are founded on a hot bed of belief
in real magic, a simple example, the Druids. In Hawaii, where my story is
based, there’s been claims of what we consider magic for at least the past
seven hundred years. I myself have stood inside a rainbow, more than once, and
although it felt magical, being scientifically minded I know there is a rational
explanation. Point being, there are claims by people from all walks of life,
religious beliefs and educational standing, that magic exists, on a global
scale, we can’t all be wrong! Woooohhooooo : )
Why did I choose to write fantasy? Thanks for asking, Priya.
All my life I’ve been surrounded by elements of fantasy. As a child I read
books, the majority of them where made up fanciful stories. I sometimes watched
television, the vast majority of the programmes; made up storylines greatly
departing from reality. One of the major forms of entertainment in our
societies consists of made up stories. Fantasy takes it a few steps further,
for the most part leaving behind the seeming similarity to normal life, opening
the door to mystical, magical, improbable situations. I’ve been blessed with an
exceptionally active imagination, and an understanding of the value of fantasy
in being able to offer people a retreat in which they can exercise their own
imaginations. I love being able to create whole worlds in which we can be
ourselves, but can also experience, explore or observe wondrous  amazing
activities, surrounded by people and creatures that are governed by none of the
restrictions and limitations we are faced with. Other writers may agree with
this, I hope, but I can say with all certainty that for me, having the
wonderful ability to create the most fantastic, amazing worlds and universes
that other people, my readers, can share, is such a beautiful feeling!! I truly
hope you enjoy my stories….

3.  I sometimes write short stories, and I know
many people who write poetry. How different/ difficult is writing a novel in
comparison? What is your bottom-line advice to aspiring authors?

Priya, this is an excellent question! As a writer you
understand much of what’s involved in starting and finishing a written
piece. In reference to the 1st
part of your question, can I compare it to a track race? Writing poetry is
comparable to the 200 metre sprint, a short story, the 400 metre dash, a book,
more like the one mile race. But here’s the thing, to participate in any of
these races requires training, discipline, and dedication, and all of these
races produce champions.
The only differences I can think of at this time is that the
writing process continues a lot longer when writing a novel as opposed to
poetry or short stories, and the written content is much more involved,
complex, for the book. Short stories mirror the construction of a novel, but
fewer words are used to tell the tale. Poetry in no way resembles short, or
full length stories, as one does not need to rely on the context of the whole
to convey the expression of a collection of ideas. The difficulty encountered
in writing a novel, compared to a short story or poem, is that since the
writing process lasts a lot longer, there is more time for the writer to
encounter pitfalls before reaching the finish line; writers block, lack of
material, weak storyline. There is a myriad of factors that can play a part in
preventing one from finishing a novel, but this is exactly were dedication and
discipline will protect the writer from failure, and ensure that the novel is
Advice for aspiring authors, bottom-line; start as you mean
to go on. Let me clarify, if you start writing when you’re not ready, for a
fact you’re not going to finish the piece. And starting a writing project and
not finishing it, especially a first project, is the easiest and most
guaranteed way of bringing one’s writing career to a crashing halt. I should
add here that there’s nothing wrong with starting to work on a writing project
and finding that you can’t get very far forward with it. When this happens you
have to be kind to yourself and also you have to understand what it is that’s
actually happening, for instance, possibly writers block, (writers block can
present itself at any stage, whether you’re scribbling a handful of sentences
or writing a book, if it does happen to you recognise it for what it is),
possibly you don’t have enough information on the subject, (this is more
important to an aspiring writer because falling short of material can be
worrisome to the extent of actually putting you off writing), lots of
possibilities… but a probability is that it’s not enough to put you off
writing, providing you don’t blow it out of proportion, you must accept it for
what it is, a dry patch. If you do experience this, know that it’s all right to
change your project; you’re working on one piece, if the ideas aren’t flowing,
simply put it to one side and start on something else. Under no circumstances
should you let such a blockage be a determining factor. Never, ever, put your
pen down for the wrong reasons! It’s not uncommon for many writers to have more
than one project on the go at any one time. Newby, it really doesn’t have to be
tough : )
Another issue to be taken into full consideration; if you
can write straight off the bat, excellent, otherwise always try and work out in
your head, or on paper, voice recording etc, what it is you want to say. You
need to know your subject matter. If it’s a poem of course you need to know
what it is you want to express. If it’s a short story same thing, if it’s a
book for heavens sake you need to know what the storyline is, I’m not saying
you need to know it from start to finish, rarely is a writer so fortunate to
know the whole story, details an’all, it depends how your thinking process
operates in relation to the material you’re going to write about.
In closing I give to you one of my own mottos, a sentiment
shared by many, and a necessity you will become accustomed with if you do
become a writer, NEVER GIVE UP! Also, rather importantly, don’t ever let the
thought of not having any readers, or not being able to sell your books, short
stories, poems, interfere with becoming a writer. As I’ve said before on many
occasions, being a writer isn’t determined by selling your work, and it’s not
determined by lack of readership. You find your way, you write your story, your
poems, your prose, readers will come, they’re very generous and are always
willing to give you a chance, you write, your readers will come. Good Luck, and
always remember, never give up!
Priya, can I just mention that my motto, by the way, is
offered to everyone, not just aspiring writers. Friends, everybody, whatever in
do in life, sometimes it can be extremely tough, but please don’t be defeated,
and really, for each and everyone of you, NEVER GIVE UP : )
Priya, this is for anyone who really does want to write a
book but doesn’t know how to go about it, my post: How Do I Write A Book by Andi Katsina
Thanks for the great, really thought out responses, Andi. Wow, the last part has inspired me to just start writing, right now! Before I run off to do exactly that, check out the book’s magical website right here!

Waiting For Daybreak Blog Tour – Review and Interview


the book:
by Amanda McNeil, Waiting For Daybreak is a post apocalyptic zombie novel
published in June 2012. 
the author:
is an energetic, masters degree educated, 20-something, happily living in an
attic apartment in Boston with her shelter-adopted cat.  She writes
sci-fi, horror, urban fantasy, literary fiction, and paranormal romance.
 She has previously published short stories and a novella.
is normal?
Frieda has never felt normal.  She feels every
emotion too strongly and lashes out at herself in punishment.  But one day
when she stays home from work too depressed to get out of bed, a virus breaks
out turning her neighbors into flesh-eating, brain-hungry zombies.  As her
survival instinct kicks in keeping her safe from the zombies, Frieda can’t help
but wonder if she now counts as healthy and normal, or is she still abnormal
compared to every other human being who is craving brains?
Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend is the closest I had
ever come to reading a zombie novel. The first half of Waiting For Daybreak
reminded me a lot of it. There is Frieda, our main character: (with her cat
Snuggles) suffering from a mental disorder (which happens to be the reason she
survived this apocalypse), a typical survivor, with a fixed routine and a
lonely life in her apartment. When Freida ventures out of her house (to get medicines for her sick
cat), she meets Mike, another survivor, and the real story starts. 
The book is, on the one hand packed with thrill and
action, and on the other, has a very emotional and thought-provoking side. What I appreciated was, how none of it is overdone: I specially liked the subtlety of the relationship between Mike and Freida. It is commendable, that such short a book about crazy,
brain-eating zombies can seem, in a way, so realistic. It is also great, how
the author has made a person with a Bipolar Disorder seem just quirky, because of the
simple fact that she is surrounded by crazier ‘people’. And that is really the
point of the book isn’t it; the question, what is normal? People often say that
there is no point   in reading science-fiction or fantasy, because it is
of no use to use. But I think, while such a book may not be like a real-life
manual, it does make us question our very beliefs. 
The one thing that I might have had quite a bit of a
problem with is the writing style, which I thought was slightly sloppy in
The ending was abrupt and unexpected, but I guess it made the book different, unique in a way. Also, I would have liked to know a bit more about Mike and his past
life. I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but it does require a little more work. That being said, I had no idea what to expect from a book about zombies, but I loved what I got! Let’s just say, I don’t know if I would recommend it to all the zombie fiction fans out there, but it can be a really good introduction to the genre.

Rating: 3/5
would you describe Waiting for Daybreak in just one line?

A character study wrapped in zombies.
sparked the idea for this novel?

I work as a medical librarian, and I had been reading about fMRI scans of
people with Borderline Personality Disorder showing that their amygdalas are a
different size from those of people without a mental illness. I was
thinking about that while I was walking home from the bus stop (I take public
transit). It happened to be Thanksgiving weekend, and Boston empties
almost completely out as most of the population goes someplace else for the
holiday. The empty streets combined with the fMRI studies made me think:
what if there was a zombie virus to which the mentally ill were immune?  It
just flowed from there.

What part of writing Waiting for Daybreak was the most interesting for you?
I really enjoyed writing the zombie-filled perilous
trek to the MSPCA. It’s where I adopted my own cat from and
reimagining the route as a post-apocalyptic one was incredibly fun.
is the biggest challenge when writing science fiction?
Making it seem plausible. You have to
know enough science to be able to logic it out, as I call it. Is
this a possibility on any level?  People who read sci-fi are
smart. They know when something is more fantastical than
What comes first – plot or characters?
Oh good question!  For me, the plot always
comes first.  Well, I suppose not the entire plot. The basic central
conflict.  Then the characters are formed and drive the rest of the
your characters “borrowed” from real life?
I think the closest to a “borrowed” character is
Frieda’s cat, Snuggles. Although my cat is a tortoiseshell, not
grey, and is not allowed outside. Also, I used to have a downstairs
married couple for neighbors, and they fought all the time, so Frieda’s downstairs
neighbors who she overhears during the outbreak were definitely inspired by
On a more serious note, I’ve had close relationships
with people with diagnosed mental illnesses. So in addition to my
medical/scientific knowledge, I have actual conversations and interactions to
reflect on to say: how would Frieda respond to this? How would Mike? How would
Frieda and Mike interact?

Which authors/books have influenced you the most?
Everything by Margaret Atwood, but especially The
Handmaid’s Tale
. That was the first time I stumbled into scifi
by and about women. It rocked my world.  
I also find myself heavily influenced by Chuck
Palahniuk and Stephen King.
Of course, I’ve been reading the scifi greats my
whole life–Neuromancer, Asimov, etc…  You have to know the past of
the genre to get a feel for the future.
your reading habits changed since you started writing?
Well, I’ve always written, so I’ll answer the
question as since I made the decision to get serious about publishing.
Yes, definitely. It used to be that if I
read a book and didn’t like it or enjoy it I’d say, “Well that sucked” and move
on. Now I sit down and try to figure out why it didn’t work for
me. That helps me know what to avoid in my own writing. I
also do the same for books I love now. You have to actively think
about what you are reading in order to continually improve your writing. 
advice would you give aspiring writers?
First, stop calling yourself an “aspiring writer.”
You either are a writer or you aren’t.  Second, stop stalling and
just do it.  Everyone procrastinates.  Procrastination and
hesitation aren’t signs you can’t write.  They’re signs you’re
nervous and hesitant. Stop being nervous, sit down, and write. No excuses.
Waiting for Daybreak, what’s next?
I have twoish chapters written for my next
novel. It’s a dark fantasy in which the dark gods of Lovecraft fame
have taken over the world and humanity has divided into groups that have vastly
different ideas on how to deal with the problem.  I’m extremely
excited about it because it’s my first book that will be written from multiple

Check out the tour schedule at the author’s blog, to read more reviews, interviews and participate in giveaways!