Monday, April 25, 2016

Author Spotlight: Renee Scattergood, author of the "Shadow Stalker" series

I had the pleasure of meeting Renee Scattergood when I wrote a character interview for her blog.  Curious about her, I took at look at her books and immediately became interested in her Shadow Stalker series.  I liked that she had a female lead with a dark destiny since I have a similar theme in my series.  I didn't know what to expect when I started reading, but I was pleasantly surprised to find an intriguing story that drew me in.  After finishing Part 1 and 2 of her serial, I decided to get to know Renee a little better and ask the questions that were burning in my mind while reading her serial.

Book Genre: Dark Fantasy
Suggested Reading Audience: Young Adult 15+ and Adult
Content Warning: Adult themes and moderately graphic content

Book blubs:
Shadow Stalker Part 1 (Episodes 1 – 6): Auren learns she is destined to enslave the people of her world, and Drevin, emperor of the Galvadi Empire is determined to end her life before it happens. Her foster father, Kado, has sworn to protect her and trains her as a shadow stalker. But her training is cut short, when their people are overrun by the Galvadi Empire. Now she has to find a way to help her people without succumbing to the prophecy.  Click here for my review of Shadow Stalker Part 1 and 2

Shadow Stalker Part 2 (Episodes 7 – 12): Auren is captured by the Galvadi trying to rescue her friend, Jade, and tortured by the man who is supposed to love and protect her. When Makari finally realizes she's not the delohi-saqu as his father claims, he helps her escape, but their plans don't go as expected. Click here for my review of Shadow Stalker Part 1 and 2

What made you decide to become an Author and write a Dark Fantasy series?
I decided to become an author after being told in college I should seriously consider publishing my work by my English instructor. Of course, it took a while to build up my courage enough to show my work to others.

Why did you choose to write Dark Fantasy and what are some of the difficulties associated with the genre?
When I started writing my serial, I wasn't planning on writing dark fantasy. It just turned out that it's what I have in me to write. Mostly because I have this innate need to torture my characters. Not sure if that's a good thing or not. ;)

The difficulty for me is keeping the stories from being too gory or scary. I like them to be dark, but I don't want to limit my readership either. I like to make it dark enough to be dark, but not so dark it freaks out the majority of readers.

What is your favorite book (or episode) that you have written?  What was the hardest part to write?
Wow, this is a good question. My favorite episode would have to be Episode 8: Broken. I loved writing about the change in Makari. It was challenging, but fun at the same time.
The hardest part to write was Cali's death in Part 3. She is one of my favorite characters in the series and killing her was difficult. Unfortunately, her death drove the plot so I had no choice. :(

Who is your favorite character to write for and why?
Cali was definitely one. I'm considering writing a novella about her sometime in the future just so I can write about her again. I also love writing for Makari and I'm planning a novella series about him as well.

What is your writing process?  Do you have the story planned out or does it surprise you as you write it?  Do you write at night, or in the morning?  Do you listen to a play list?
I have a pretty meticulous process. I start with planning out the story, beginning with an overall plot outline and working in steps towards a detailed outline of each scene/chapter. Then I write the rough draft and do my edits before sending it to my editor.
I write any time of the day really. It depends on when I have time. My daughter has ASD and ADHD, and she's homeschooled because of sleep issues and her inability to cope with being in a classroom, so I mostly work around her schedule.

Sometimes I listen to music. It depends on my mood. When I'm not feeling very creative, it helps get me in the writing mood. It also helps filter out distracting noises. But then other times it becomes a distraction. The type of music depends on my mood as well. It varies from orchestral music to symphonic rock.

Having read your Shadow Stalkers series Part 1 & Part 2, I wanted to know how you came up with Auren.  Is she anything like you, or is she based on someone you know?
Believe it or not, Auren was originally a boy (though his name wasn't Auren). He was also older with kids of his own. The story changed a great deal from the original version. Auren came after a friend (who is a published author) read my first draft and suggested I change the main character to a girl since there are not enough female heroes. I liked her suggestion, so I scrapped the whole thing and started from scratch. There is some of me in Auren, but mostly she is a completely fictional creation. My characters develop and grow with the story. I think they seem more real that way.

What was it like creating this extremely vivid and detailed world of the Dark Isle and the Shadow Stalker culture in Part 1?
This is another thing that developed as I wrote the story. When I create the setting and culture, I let the story play out in my mind like a movie and I write what I see and feel (or at least I try to). I wanted the Dark Isle to be a beautiful but harsh environment to reflect the shadow stalkers' rigid way of life.

In Part 2, Auren decides to search for her father, which is very dangerous because of the dark prophesy.  What was it like writing the scenes when she finally meets her father?  
My parents divorced when I was about 11 years old, and when we moved to Florida I didn't see my father for many years. I was definitely a daddy's girl, so I missed my father a lot. When I saw him again, it was very emotional for me. I drew on that when I wrote about Auren meeting her father for the first time.

In Part 2, Auren is forced to endure reconditioning treatments while being held in the reconciliation centers.  How hard was it for you to write the scenes between Auren and Makari?  I personally cried when I read those parts of the book.  What was going through your mind when you wrote these dark, emotional scenes?
I cried too. Don't feel bad. My husband actually stopped what he was doing to check on me, and when he realized why I was crying he had a chuckle over it. Those scenes were very difficult to write. I had to start with just telling the action and slowly add the "showing" in over many rewrites to get through it.

At the end of Part 2, I found it interesting that you summarized some of the final events of the book.  It was a very different writing style since Auren’s journey was captured in “real time” and we experienced her life moment-to-moment.  What was the reason behind the change in writing style from 1st person to 3rd person?
I decided to write the prologues and epilogues in 3rd person to take it out of Auren's point of view and give a hint of what's going on in the rest of the world during that time. Eventually I'd like to write novellas or other serials from other characters' points of view. A lot of people really love Makari, so I'm focusing on him next.

The biggest question of all...when is Part 3 coming out!  What should we expect to see from Auren? 
Well I have been publishing individual episodes for Part 3 already. Episodes 13 through 15 are available for purchase direct from me, and the other episodes are released about every 6 weeks. The 6 episode bundle for Part 3 will be released in November of this year.

I don't want to ruin anything, so to find out what's going on with Auren, you'll have to read the newest episodes.

What would you like your readers to know about you or your books?
I decided to write the serials because I wanted to publish shorter pieces of fiction as a way of getting a feel for the self-publishing industry. At first I wanted to write novels based on the Shadow Stalker world, but I've since decided to stick to writing serials and novellas.

Looking ahead, what can we expect to see from you in the future?  What are you working on?
I've begun work on a new novel series called, A God's Deception. The first book is Defender of the Chosen. I haven't shared any details about this series yet, but if you're interested, you can check out my website and blog.

Author bio: Renee Scattergood lives in Australia with her husband, Nathan, and daughter, Taiya. She has always been a fan of fantasy and was inspired to become a story-teller by George Lucas, but didn't start considering writing down her stories until she reached her late twenties. Now she enjoys writing dark fantasy. She is currently publishing her monthly Shadow Stalker serial, and she has published a prequel novella to the series called, Demon Hunt. She is also working on a new series of novels, A God's Deception. Aside from writing, she loves reading (Fantasy, of course), watching movies with her family, and doing crafts and science experiments with her homeschooled daughter. Visit her site for more information and a free copy of Shadow Stalker Part 1 (Episodes 1 – 6):

Interested in Renee's Shadow Stalker serial, here's how to get them:

Contact Renee:
Renee's Author Spotlight: - a blog where I feature indie and small press authors.

Social Media Links:


Thursday, April 14, 2016

Author Spotlight: Michael Dellert, author of, "The Matter of Manred" series

I had the opportunity to make the acquaintance of Fantasy author, Michael Dellert, at a recent book signing.  When his vivid book covers caught my attention, I had to know more about his novels, Hedge King in Winter and A Merchant's Tale.  He was featured at the Readers' Fantasyland event at the Brains to Books Cyber Convention and presented his books to new fantasy readers.  He is a writer, editor, and writing coach, but today we are going to discuss what motivated him to create these wonderful books.

Book Genre: Fantasy.
Suggested Reading Audience: 13 and up.
Content Warning: Some graphic violence, some strong language.
Book blurb:
Hedge King in Winter:
The King has been crippled! Can the King’s brother Eowain defend the realm against the machinations of their rival cousin?
When his brother is dangerously wounded, young Lord Eowain is faced with a desperate choice between the law, his family, and the good of his kingdom. And when the mysterious Order of the Drymyn, sorcerer-priests with their own occult agenda, pressure him to take the throne, Eowain has to wonder whether there isn’t something darker and more dangerous a-foot. Why should kings far and wide suddenly take an interest in him? What dark powers have awakened in the Kingdom of Droma? How will they threaten the future of his kingdom, the destiny of things yet to come, and even his own soul?

Purchase the Hedge King in Winter! 

A Merchant’s Tale:
Corentin, a young foreign trader of the House Pelan arrives in the uncertain lands of Droma, tasked to deliver a mysterious chest to a far-away sage in a remote corner of the kingdom. Accompanied by his mercenary bodyguard, a native scout, and the young local priest named Adarc, he sets out on a journey that will change his life forever.

A Merchant’s Tale is the second installment in The Matter of Manred series, a new cycle of medieval romances, action adventures, heroic fantasies, mysterious priests, and their dark and forgetful gods.

Purchase A Merchant's Tale!

What made you decide to become an Author and write a book series?
I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a teenager: I took writing classes, served on the board of school literary magazines, studied literature, and practiced, practiced, practiced. I worked in the traditional publishing industry for twenty years so that I could understand the cradle-to-grave process from manuscript to bound book and digital formats. When I was asked during a job interview in 2006 what I really wanted to do with my life, I said, “Start my own publishing company and publish my own books.” (I didn’t get that job, by the way.)

Then about three years ago, some challenges came up in my life and I couldn’t work full-time for about six months. But I needed something to fill my time. I’ve always wanted to be a published writer, but traditional publishing takes too long and there are no guarantees. And here was this world I’d been using as a story sandbox since time out of mind.
So I decided to do something meaningful with those stories and started laying the foundation for that little publishing empire I’d dreamed off. I’ve been investing my retirement savings into it ever since.

Why did you choose to write Fantasy and what are some of the difficulties associated with the genre?
I grew up on sci-fi/fantasy stories from Tolkien, CJ Cherryh, Terry Brooks, Stephen R. Donaldson, Andre Norton, Ursula K. LeGuin and many others, as well as Greek and Roman myths. From a very early age, the genre has always fascinated and enthralled me.

But no doubt, it presents some unique challenges, especially when one’s stories are set on an alternate world, as mine are. The time-period in which the story is set as well as fundamental things like the length of the year, the constellations, the political history, and the social structure, all these have to be taken into consideration. 

More than that, once one knows these things, one has to consider how knowing these things and only these things influences the thoughts, behaviors, and attitudes of the characters.

For example: To a modern person, a case of the flu is a fairly low-impact event: a few days in bed at the mercy of an impersonal virus, with some chicken soup and some TheraFlu, and that’s that.
But to the average citizen of my fantasy world, there’s no TheraFlu, no antibiotics, no modern germ theory. A flu is a potentially deadly assault by other-worldly forces, calling into question one’s life-choices and running the risk of exile from one’s family and friends. It’s a very different kind of mind-set, and this kind of world-building and research can take up a lot of time and energy. One can easily wander off into a rabbit-hole of procrastination, and that’s the real struggle. Keeping oneself focused on the story, and not on the history behind the story.

What is your favorite book you have written?  What was the hardest part to write?
You’re going to make me pick favorites?! But they’re all special little darlings. At least, that’s what I tell them. 

Between us, though, I like A Merchant’s Tale better (of those I’ve published so far). It’s a smaller story than Hedge King in Winter, and a little more intimate in some ways. Hedge King has a lot of great stuff that I like, battles and politics and possibly sinister religious figures, but I feel like I overreached myself for the shorter novella format and sacrificed a bit on character development.

In A Merchant’s Tale, however, I feel like I mixed character and action more successfully. I also featured the setting much more strongly, dramatizing bits of the world-building without overloading the reader with exposition. But the hardest thing about writing it was the pacing of the scenes. I actually flip-flopped several major moments in the story during the last draft because the pacing just wasn’t quite right, and that led to some heavy-duty rewriting.

Who is your favorite character to write for and why?
As much as I love my main characters, sometimes it’s the minor characters that steal my heart. In A Merchant’s Tale, the heroes encounter a young tinker-girl and her dog on their travels. She came out of my head as bold, brash, proud, and plucky, and I just loved her from the minute she opened her mouth. As one of my beta-readers put it, that girl and her dog are a force to be reckoned with. She outdid herself and may have bought herself a larger role in the series.

What is your writing process?  Do you have the story planned out or does it surprise you as you write it?  Do you write at night, or in the morning?  Do you listen to a play list?
I know there’s this whole “plotter vs. pantser” debate, but honestly, I’m a bit of both. I do a lot of planning: number of chapters, overall structure, number of words per scene, number of scenes per character, the timeline, the weather, the terrain, the effects of terrain and weather on character movement and timeline, which damned things and unfortunate events will happen, and on and on.

But what I don’t plan out in advance is how the characters will develop through the story. I know they will develop, but how they handle their personal problems in relation to the story I’ve planned out is always a mystery. And yes, it often surprises me, like how my tinker-girl developed from this early note, “characters meet lone trader on the road,” to become the little scene- and heart-stealer that she is. Or how Corentin’s voice and thoughts developed once I started writing his dialogue in French and then translated it into English, to get the “foreigner” aspect of his character just the way I wanted it.

I like to write in the morning. I’m a creature of habit: rise, coffee, walk with dog, oatmeal over email, then more coffee as I dive into the writing. Developing a habit like this was the best thing I ever did for my writing, because I miss it when it’s not there. And getting my work in before my kids get up and start their day helps me keep the howling monkeys of life from interfering with my work.

I do have a playlist. It’s a very eclectic mix, but Celtic folk rock features heavily, from the Pogues to the Waterboys to the Chieftains and beyond.

I’ve actually been sharing my process on my blog recently, under the tag #13WeekNovel. I have two completed novels waiting in the wings that I wrote using this method, and I’m currently writing another one. The process doesn’t lead to a “good” novel, but it’s great for a first, dirty draft and feeds into the sausage grinder of my thirteen week rewriting process really well. So to complete a first and second draft, my process takes about six months per novel.

Looking ahead, what can we expect to see from you in the future?  What are you working on?
I’m currently re-writing The Romance of Eowain, my third book and the first full-length novel that I’ll be publishing. It continues the story of Hedge King in Winter, but the full-length novel format gives me the space to include both the character development that I felt Hedge King missed, as well as retain the elements of action and adventure that I enjoy. It’s also a stretch for me as a writer, because the primary story line is the romance between the Hedge King and the foreign, head-strong bride that’s been arranged for him. We see the first hint of that relationship at the end of Hedge King, but in Romance of Eowain, I take that hint and crank it up to eleven. On my calendar, the rewrite will be completed in the next few weeks, and then it goes into Production and should hit the shelves in early July.

Beyond that, the novel I’m currently writing is another stretch goal for myself: another romance, but with a female protagonist, and a third person point of view limited to her. It’s a big stretch: Can I write “like a woman”? I don’t know yet, but I think it’s coming along pretty well so far. A beta-reader of the early chapters did tell me, “she sounds like a dude,” so I’ll have to go back and polish that dude-ness out of it, but it’s on my calendar to hit shelves sometime in Autumn 2016.
Still further in the future, I have a completed novel that will publish in early 2017 called Heron’s Cry. It’s the fifth story in my Matter of Manred series, and will finally pull together all the threads that I’ve been introducing in the first four books. It’s already finished, but I’m going to give it one last major rewrite later this year to really fine-tune the interconnected story-lines from the earlier books. All of the major characters will be involved, some new ones will be introduced, some mysteries will be revealed, and we’ll finally have our first major glance at the ultimate villain of the series. And there’s a dragon! I’m really excited for that one.
After that, we’ll have to see. If this writing thing takes off, who knows? Maybe 2-3 more novels per year until the series is finished. I know what stories I want to tell, but we’ll see how the readers respond. Reader feedback makes a huge difference: I love hearing it and trying to imagine how to work ideas from readers into the series.
What would you like your readers to know about you or your books?
I created a big world for the Matter of Manred series, and I have several books planned that are set in this universe. But it’s not a traditional series like, for example, Lord of the Rings. In many ways, the overall structure of the series owes its inspiration to medieval Irish romances: there will be a main “cycle” of stories that follow the major characters through a developing and increasingly malevolent throughline of action, but there will also be a handful of subsidiary stories in the orbit of that main cycle. These subsidiary stories (called remscela in Irish) will follow some secondary characters along subplots that at first seem unrelated, but serve to expand on the setting, introduce secondary characters who will grow in importance through the series, and develop the fundamental threat that is facing this world of mine. Despite the changes that arise as the series progresses, the “ultimate villain” (whom my readers haven’t yet met) will always remain the same and his role will grow and grow. 

To give just one example of how this is already at work in the series: In Hedge King in Winter, some of the main characters are involved in a complicated strategy board game similar to chess. To dramatize that game, the character of Medyr explained its rules and symbolism to his unnamed acolyte. The acolyte’s name was unimportant to the story of Hedge King, but that character was Adarc the Acolyte, one of the main characters in A Merchant’s Tale. The story of Adarc and Corentin in A Merchant’s Tale is set in the Hedge King’s kingdom, but their story is seemingly unrelated to the Hedge King’s troubles except at some key points. These two threads begin to braid together in the forthcoming Romance of Eowain, and we’ll start to see the emergence of a deeper, more sinister threat whose time is yet to come. 

I think it’s really exciting to write like this. While each story is satisfying in its own way, I think the real pay-off is in seeing how all these stories come together over time and what becomes of all my favorite characters. I want to jump in a time-machine and skip to the end to see how it all turns out!

Author bio:
Michael Dellert lives in the Greater New York City area. Following a traditional publishing career spanning nearly two decades, he now works as a freelance writer, editor, publishing consultant, and writing coach. He is also the sole writer, editor, and publisher of the blog MDellertDotCom: Adventures in Indie Publishing. He holds a Master’s Degree in English Language & Literature from Drew University, and a certificate from the Cornell University School of Criticism & Theory (2009). He is the author of two fantasy fiction novellas: Hedge King in Winter and A Merchant’s Tale.

Contact Michael: