Thursday, February 16, 2017

Author interviews are a consistent staple of book blogging and writer blogs. But sometimes the questions posed are a little generic, not inviting deeper engagement, or not showcasing well what is most interesting about this author or the book s/he is trying to promote.

With that in mind, I've put together a list of some great interview questions I've been asked by book bloggers or created for guests here--with a bunch of additional new questions sure to get thoughtful and thought-provoking responses.


  1. Tell us a little about your story and the story world you've created.
  2. What are some comparison titles of books or movies similar to this book?
  3. What books, films, and TV shows most inform the aesthetic of this book?
  4. Tell us a little about how this story first came to be. Did it start with an image, a voice, a concept, a dilemma or something else?
  5. What special knowledge or research was required to write this book?
  6. What research methods have been most fruitful for you?
  7. How did you go about developing the setting(s) for this story?
  8. What's the strangest thing you had to do to create this story?
  9. Who are your main characters? Tell as a little about what makes them tick.
  10. If a film were made of your book, who would you cast in the leading roles?
  11. What is something about your hero/ine that only you know?
  12. Which character was most challenging to create? Why?
  13. Are any of your characters based on real people you know? 
  14. Which scene or chapter in the book is your favorite? Why?
  15. Which scene was most difficult to write? Why?
  16. Which scene, character or plotline changed the most from first draft to published book?
  17. What do you hope readers will take away from this story?
  18. Are there particular themes or motifs wrestle with or address in your story(ies)?
  19. How does your faith life/ethical outlook inform your writing?
  20. Were there scenes you ended up cutting you wish you could've kept? Describe them and the decision-making process.
  21. Who are your favorite authors and why?
  22. What book from your childhood has shaped you most as a writer?
  23. If you could choose a book character to be for a day, who would it be and why?
  24. What led you to start writing? 
  25. What life experiences have shaped your writing most?
  26. Were you a young writer, a late bloomer, or something in between? What advice would you give to others who took up writing at a similar life phase?
  27. What aspect of writing have you most improved in over time? What resources helped you most in this area?
  28. What is your writing process like? 
  29. What other projects are in the works?
  30. Have you ever rescuitated a project you'd shelved? What helped it work better the second time around?
  31. What special support people (critiqe partners, writing group, beta readers, editor, agent, author's assistant) do you rely on? How do they help you?
  32. How do you balance the demands of writing with other responsibilities? 
  33. What attracted you to the genre(s) you write in? 
  34. What are some must-read titles in your genre?
  35. What are some trends in your genre that excite you?
  36. What are some elements that are becoming cliche in your genre?
  37. What special challenges did you face making your story stand out from others in the genre?
  38. If you were to genre-hop, which genres would you most like to try writing?
  39. What aspects of your creative process do you enjoy most? Which are most challenging?
  40. Do you prefer writing in silence or to music?
  41. Does this story have a soundtrack? A playlist that inspired you while writing it?
  42. What technologies do you rely on most when writing?
  43. What writing resources have been most helpful to you?
  44. What warm ups do you use to get your writing flowing?
  45. Do you believe in the concept of a muse? What is yours like?
  46. What is the best investment you ever made in your writing?
  47. What's the worst writing/publishing advice anyone ever gave you?
  48. What do you know now that you wish you'd known at the beginning of your writing/publishing journey?
  49. What would you advise young writers trying to build a publishing history or an author platform?
  50. What marketing strategies have borne the most fruit for you? 

Any other questions to add?
Thursday, February 16, 2017 Laurel Garver
Author interviews are a consistent staple of book blogging and writer blogs. But sometimes the questions posed are a little generic, not inviting deeper engagement, or not showcasing well what is most interesting about this author or the book s/he is trying to promote.

With that in mind, I've put together a list of some great interview questions I've been asked by book bloggers or created for guests here--with a bunch of additional new questions sure to get thoughtful and thought-provoking responses.


  1. Tell us a little about your story and the story world you've created.
  2. What are some comparison titles of books or movies similar to this book?
  3. What books, films, and TV shows most inform the aesthetic of this book?
  4. Tell us a little about how this story first came to be. Did it start with an image, a voice, a concept, a dilemma or something else?
  5. What special knowledge or research was required to write this book?
  6. What research methods have been most fruitful for you?
  7. How did you go about developing the setting(s) for this story?
  8. What's the strangest thing you had to do to create this story?
  9. Who are your main characters? Tell as a little about what makes them tick.
  10. If a film were made of your book, who would you cast in the leading roles?
  11. What is something about your hero/ine that only you know?
  12. Which character was most challenging to create? Why?
  13. Are any of your characters based on real people you know? 
  14. Which scene or chapter in the book is your favorite? Why?
  15. Which scene was most difficult to write? Why?
  16. Which scene, character or plotline changed the most from first draft to published book?
  17. What do you hope readers will take away from this story?
  18. Are there particular themes or motifs wrestle with or address in your story(ies)?
  19. How does your faith life/ethical outlook inform your writing?
  20. Were there scenes you ended up cutting you wish you could've kept? Describe them and the decision-making process.
  21. Who are your favorite authors and why?
  22. What book from your childhood has shaped you most as a writer?
  23. If you could choose a book character to be for a day, who would it be and why?
  24. What led you to start writing? 
  25. What life experiences have shaped your writing most?
  26. Were you a young writer, a late bloomer, or something in between? What advice would you give to others who took up writing at a similar life phase?
  27. What aspect of writing have you most improved in over time? What resources helped you most in this area?
  28. What is your writing process like? 
  29. What other projects are in the works?
  30. Have you ever rescuitated a project you'd shelved? What helped it work better the second time around?
  31. What special support people (critiqe partners, writing group, beta readers, editor, agent, author's assistant) do you rely on? How do they help you?
  32. How do you balance the demands of writing with other responsibilities? 
  33. What attracted you to the genre(s) you write in? 
  34. What are some must-read titles in your genre?
  35. What are some trends in your genre that excite you?
  36. What are some elements that are becoming cliche in your genre?
  37. What special challenges did you face making your story stand out from others in the genre?
  38. If you were to genre-hop, which genres would you most like to try writing?
  39. What aspects of your creative process do you enjoy most? Which are most challenging?
  40. Do you prefer writing in silence or to music?
  41. Does this story have a soundtrack? A playlist that inspired you while writing it?
  42. What technologies do you rely on most when writing?
  43. What writing resources have been most helpful to you?
  44. What warm ups do you use to get your writing flowing?
  45. Do you believe in the concept of a muse? What is yours like?
  46. What is the best investment you ever made in your writing?
  47. What's the worst writing/publishing advice anyone ever gave you?
  48. What do you know now that you wish you'd known at the beginning of your writing/publishing journey?
  49. What would you advise young writers trying to build a publishing history or an author platform?
  50. What marketing strategies have borne the most fruit for you? 

Any other questions to add?

Thursday, February 09, 2017

by guest author Jenelle Leanne Schmidt

image by Earl35 for morguefile
Let’s face it, one of the best things about reading fantasy fiction is the big, epic battle sequences we get to participate in from the safety of our own homes and imaginations. Unfortunately, these can often also be one of the most difficult aspects of the story to write.

The first time I set out to write a fantasy novel, I was 19 years old. I sailed through the story and came at long last to the final, climactic battle, the crux of the plot I had been building to for over 300 pages. The stage was set, the stakes were high, and ... I had no idea how to go about actually putting this enormous and important ending into the story. It wasn’t something I had covered in any creative writing class I’d ever taken, nor would it ever be included in the curriculum of any writing class I participated in. A friend of mine told me, “Go re-read the chapter on the Battle of Helm’s Deep in The Two Towers! Tolkien does a fantastic job with this.” So I did. It seemed like helpful advice at the time. And it was a good starting point... unfortunately, the chapter Helm’s Deep is fairly short, and the descriptions of the battle only encompass a handful of paragraphs, interspersed with information on what Aragorn is doing or dialogue between various characters. It wasn’t exactly what I was looking for with regards to a formula for writing a compelling and epic battle sequence.

I read battle scenes in other fantasy novels and sort of fumbled my way along. I would later do a lot of editing and rewriting on that particular portion of the book. Several novels later, I was still wrestling with this question: just how does one go about writing a compelling fight scene?

One day, many years later, I was writing a new story with a scene that involved a sword-battle on a ship. My first inclination was to go through it step-by-step. My main character slashed, took a few steps, parried a blow, ducked under his opponent’s swinging sword, which connected with the main mast and got stuck, giving my MC a chance to whirl out of the way and thrust his own sword at his opponent... I stopped. There was plenty of action, but I was bored writing it, how could I expect a reader to enjoy the experience?

I tried acting it out. My husband helped me with the sequence of events. I talked to friends who had taken fencing classes and were in martial arts. I did research. My grasp of the movements was sound, but translating it onto paper turned it into a choppy mess. It sounded like I was writing choreography for a play, not an intense or exciting battle scene. My husband then suggested a different course. Instead of writing a series of movements and recording all the ducks and blows and parries that an actor has to think through when making a movie like Pirates of the Caribbean, I should try to think through what the battle actually looks like to someone in the midst of it. It is chaos. It is loud. Any participant is rarely going to get the luxury of dueling a single opponent at a time. I scrapped the scene and re-wrote it, this time focusing on the feel of the battle, rather than the actual steps. I detailed the overwhelming clash of sounds and colors, the swirling confusion of trying to determine friend versus foe as the MC made his way through the fray while struggling to survive.

And this time, it worked. For me, the answer came not from telling my readers every step of the choreography, but rather from giving them a sense of what it was like to be there next to the character. In other words, writing a compelling fight sequence meant not writing much about the fighting itself! This might seem a bit counter-intuitive, but it goes back to the age-old “show, don’t tell!” rule. Though sometimes overused, because narrative is still an important aspect of most stories, this is one of those times where it is a good rule. This is one of those wondrous places where the reader’s vast imagination is the author’s best friend. A few tantalizing glimpses and a fantastic use of descriptive adjectives in which to immerse the reader’s senses will go a lot further in developing a gloriously epic battle scene in your reader’s mind than ten pages of “character A swung his sword, while character B raised up his dagger, catching the blade just before it passed through his defenses, then character A spun 360 degrees and....” wouldn’t you agree? I guess Tolkien had it right all along.

About the Author


Jenelle Leanne Schmidt grew up the oldest of four children. Every night before bedtime her father read to her and her siblings, and it was during these times that her love for adventure and fantasy were forged. While she adored the stories of the Lord of the Rings, the Chronicles of Prydain, the Wheel of Time, and the Chronicles of Narnia; it wasn't long before her imagination led her to the creation of a world and story all her own.

Connect with Jenelle: Blog / Facebook / Twitter

About the book


King’s Warrior
Book 1 of The Minstrel's Song

When Dark Warriors invade her country, it is up to Princess Kamarie to seek out the legendary king’s warrior and request his aid. The feisty princess has spent her life dreaming of adventure and is thrilled to be tasked with such a quest. There’s only one thing that can dampen the princess’s excitement: Oraeyn. The squire views his task of protecting the princess on her journey as an inglorious assignment and makes no attempt to hide his disappointment.

Despite a rocky start to their journey – in which Oraeyn throws the obnoxious princess in a river just to get her to call him by name – the travelers soon learn that they must depend upon one another if they are to locate the man they have been sent to find.

The adventure merely begins when they meet Brant: a warrior with a mysterious past. He joins their cause readily, his heart smoldering with a vendetta Kamarie cannot completely understand. But whether she trusts him or not, the hope of their world rests on the steel he wears at his side….

Available at Amazon

Which authors do you emulate when writing battles? How might Jenelle's impressionist technique improve your fight scenes? 
Thursday, February 09, 2017 Laurel Garver
by guest author Jenelle Leanne Schmidt

image by Earl35 for morguefile
Let’s face it, one of the best things about reading fantasy fiction is the big, epic battle sequences we get to participate in from the safety of our own homes and imaginations. Unfortunately, these can often also be one of the most difficult aspects of the story to write.

The first time I set out to write a fantasy novel, I was 19 years old. I sailed through the story and came at long last to the final, climactic battle, the crux of the plot I had been building to for over 300 pages. The stage was set, the stakes were high, and ... I had no idea how to go about actually putting this enormous and important ending into the story. It wasn’t something I had covered in any creative writing class I’d ever taken, nor would it ever be included in the curriculum of any writing class I participated in. A friend of mine told me, “Go re-read the chapter on the Battle of Helm’s Deep in The Two Towers! Tolkien does a fantastic job with this.” So I did. It seemed like helpful advice at the time. And it was a good starting point... unfortunately, the chapter Helm’s Deep is fairly short, and the descriptions of the battle only encompass a handful of paragraphs, interspersed with information on what Aragorn is doing or dialogue between various characters. It wasn’t exactly what I was looking for with regards to a formula for writing a compelling and epic battle sequence.

I read battle scenes in other fantasy novels and sort of fumbled my way along. I would later do a lot of editing and rewriting on that particular portion of the book. Several novels later, I was still wrestling with this question: just how does one go about writing a compelling fight scene?

One day, many years later, I was writing a new story with a scene that involved a sword-battle on a ship. My first inclination was to go through it step-by-step. My main character slashed, took a few steps, parried a blow, ducked under his opponent’s swinging sword, which connected with the main mast and got stuck, giving my MC a chance to whirl out of the way and thrust his own sword at his opponent... I stopped. There was plenty of action, but I was bored writing it, how could I expect a reader to enjoy the experience?

I tried acting it out. My husband helped me with the sequence of events. I talked to friends who had taken fencing classes and were in martial arts. I did research. My grasp of the movements was sound, but translating it onto paper turned it into a choppy mess. It sounded like I was writing choreography for a play, not an intense or exciting battle scene. My husband then suggested a different course. Instead of writing a series of movements and recording all the ducks and blows and parries that an actor has to think through when making a movie like Pirates of the Caribbean, I should try to think through what the battle actually looks like to someone in the midst of it. It is chaos. It is loud. Any participant is rarely going to get the luxury of dueling a single opponent at a time. I scrapped the scene and re-wrote it, this time focusing on the feel of the battle, rather than the actual steps. I detailed the overwhelming clash of sounds and colors, the swirling confusion of trying to determine friend versus foe as the MC made his way through the fray while struggling to survive.

And this time, it worked. For me, the answer came not from telling my readers every step of the choreography, but rather from giving them a sense of what it was like to be there next to the character. In other words, writing a compelling fight sequence meant not writing much about the fighting itself! This might seem a bit counter-intuitive, but it goes back to the age-old “show, don’t tell!” rule. Though sometimes overused, because narrative is still an important aspect of most stories, this is one of those times where it is a good rule. This is one of those wondrous places where the reader’s vast imagination is the author’s best friend. A few tantalizing glimpses and a fantastic use of descriptive adjectives in which to immerse the reader’s senses will go a lot further in developing a gloriously epic battle scene in your reader’s mind than ten pages of “character A swung his sword, while character B raised up his dagger, catching the blade just before it passed through his defenses, then character A spun 360 degrees and....” wouldn’t you agree? I guess Tolkien had it right all along.

About the Author


Jenelle Leanne Schmidt grew up the oldest of four children. Every night before bedtime her father read to her and her siblings, and it was during these times that her love for adventure and fantasy were forged. While she adored the stories of the Lord of the Rings, the Chronicles of Prydain, the Wheel of Time, and the Chronicles of Narnia; it wasn't long before her imagination led her to the creation of a world and story all her own.

Connect with Jenelle: Blog / Facebook / Twitter

About the book


King’s Warrior
Book 1 of The Minstrel's Song

When Dark Warriors invade her country, it is up to Princess Kamarie to seek out the legendary king’s warrior and request his aid. The feisty princess has spent her life dreaming of adventure and is thrilled to be tasked with such a quest. There’s only one thing that can dampen the princess’s excitement: Oraeyn. The squire views his task of protecting the princess on her journey as an inglorious assignment and makes no attempt to hide his disappointment.

Despite a rocky start to their journey – in which Oraeyn throws the obnoxious princess in a river just to get her to call him by name – the travelers soon learn that they must depend upon one another if they are to locate the man they have been sent to find.

The adventure merely begins when they meet Brant: a warrior with a mysterious past. He joins their cause readily, his heart smoldering with a vendetta Kamarie cannot completely understand. But whether she trusts him or not, the hope of their world rests on the steel he wears at his side….

Available at Amazon

Which authors do you emulate when writing battles? How might Jenelle's impressionist technique improve your fight scenes? 

Thursday, February 02, 2017

End scenes with uncertainty more often than resolution
You've heard it over and over--readers, agents and editors love "page turners." So you work hard creating characters that readers will invest in and worry about, engage them in inner and outer conflicts, and lead them through obstacles and opposition. You have the groundwork laid. Now what?

Look at how you exit scenes and chapters. If your scene and chapter endings consistently come to a resolution, you aren't getting the maximum tension potential. First look for ways to introduce the unexpected (setbacks, positive or negative reversals), anticipation (goals, foreshadowing) or uncertainty at scene endings.

Then, consider using the film maker's friend, the jump cut. Interrupt the tense moment. Cut the scene in the middle, at a point where the outcome is unclear. In the next scene, come back post interruption, pick up again later in the time line, or summarize what happened. With chapter breaks, you simply begin the next chapter where you left off.

Splitting scenes over chapter breaks is by far the easiest technique. You'll need to add some scene grounding in the new chapter, but otherwise you likely won't need to do much more to build in suspense.

Keep in mind that any technique, if overdone, will feel gimmicky to the reader. Be sure that you don't split scenes at the end of every single chapter. For variety, use the suspenseful scene-end technique instead, for, say, at least 1/4 of your chapters.

How might better exits from scenes and chapters improve the page-turning tension in your work? What favorite books or authors demonstrate the technique best for you?

image credit: alexfrance for morguefile.com
Thursday, February 02, 2017 Laurel Garver
End scenes with uncertainty more often than resolution
You've heard it over and over--readers, agents and editors love "page turners." So you work hard creating characters that readers will invest in and worry about, engage them in inner and outer conflicts, and lead them through obstacles and opposition. You have the groundwork laid. Now what?

Look at how you exit scenes and chapters. If your scene and chapter endings consistently come to a resolution, you aren't getting the maximum tension potential. First look for ways to introduce the unexpected (setbacks, positive or negative reversals), anticipation (goals, foreshadowing) or uncertainty at scene endings.

Then, consider using the film maker's friend, the jump cut. Interrupt the tense moment. Cut the scene in the middle, at a point where the outcome is unclear. In the next scene, come back post interruption, pick up again later in the time line, or summarize what happened. With chapter breaks, you simply begin the next chapter where you left off.

Splitting scenes over chapter breaks is by far the easiest technique. You'll need to add some scene grounding in the new chapter, but otherwise you likely won't need to do much more to build in suspense.

Keep in mind that any technique, if overdone, will feel gimmicky to the reader. Be sure that you don't split scenes at the end of every single chapter. For variety, use the suspenseful scene-end technique instead, for, say, at least 1/4 of your chapters.

How might better exits from scenes and chapters improve the page-turning tension in your work? What favorite books or authors demonstrate the technique best for you?

image credit: alexfrance for morguefile.com