13 Sep 2012

Author Interview with Sandy Nathan + Kindle Fire Giveaway (Giveaway not hosted by me)

If you could work with any other author, who would it be and why? 

Diana Gabaldon, author of the Outlander Series, which starts out with the time-traveling nurse from post-WWII meeting the gorgeous Scottish hunk. I love her work. I’ve read the entire Outlander Series twice and am beginning on round # 3. These are 800 page or more novels, and maybe eight of them exist.

I think she’s a wonderful writer. Her historical depictions and research are impeccable. Her characters are beyond memorable, and her locations are compelling. She ranges all over the time span from Revolutionary times to the late 1960s. Also, she’s sold more books than anybody but Stephen King. And she’s smart: she has a PhD and was a scientist. She’s just signed a deal to have Outlander made into a TV mini-series like George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones.

If I worked with her, maybe it would rub off. All of it.

What would be a typical working day for you? When and where do you write? 

So much is involved in the production and marketing of books that “typical” and “normal” and “ordinary” get thrown out the window. I have six books in print now. Writing time has become precious.

I write whenever I can. Knocking out four or five hours of writing every morning would be nice, but my life seldom seems to allow that. I have responsibilities to our family business as well as my writing. My horse and I also have an agreement that I will keep her properly exercised.

Here’s a glimpse into the way I’m forced to write:

Not very long ago, I was wailing away at Mogollon, my visionary thriller about a Native American retreat and the sequel to my first novel, Numenon. I was making great progress rewriting the draft I’ve had on my hard drive for twenty or so years. I’d final broken the writer’s block that had strangled me for years. Not only were the plot threads coming together, material for Mogollon’s sequel was popping into my head.

Then I had to go to New Mexico to work on an exhausting, but necessary, family business venture. I was there almost a month with my husband, working like a mad creature. I had a computer, but no writing time.

In New Mexico, I did complete two very successful “KDP free book days” with Amazon for two of my books, as I noted above. It was fun seeing The Angel arrayed next to George R.R. Martin’s books on the Sci-fi Adventure page. The only difference between us was that he got paid.

To get those results, I didn't just toss off a note to my Facebook friends. I contacted every relevant on-line group, club, discussion thread, my entire 9,700 strong contingent of followers on Twitter, everyone I’d heard of on Facebook, my personal mailing list, and everyone else I knew. It worked, but I couldn’t write while I was doing all the above.

All that time, I was burning to write. A scene from the sequel to Mogollon was banging inside my skull. I thought about it in the shower, going to sleep, and every other moment. I had to write it or explode.

I thought I’d be able to write one afternoon, a draft maybe—anything to give me relief from the creative pressure. Unfortunately, an extremely talkative fix-it person came and would not leave. Sayonara writing time.

Add to all that the fact that I was starting a blog tour and sheets with interview questions had been sent to me from various blogs, I was “a one-armed paper hanger with a fire on the stairs,” as my dad used to say. If I couldn’t write that scene, I felt like my head would blow up.

A few weeks later and back in California, I was able to write the scene. Bliss! It came out exactly the way I imagined it. Apparently, being dammed up for a while doesn’t hurt my prose, only me. The next new scene is forming, as I begin a three-month blog tour requiring a new post almost every day. See you later, writing time. This time, maybe my head will explode.

When I write at home, my computer is in the middle of the family room. This is a really bad place, since everyone hangs out there and they don’t want to be quiet so I can write. So I get crabby. Once I really get into writing, it’s OK. I could write under a railroad track when I’m absorbed.

What is the hardest part of the writing for you? 

Getting the time for it. Once I had the luxury of spending whole days writing. I wrote 26 pages in a day once, a lifetime record. I was burning with creativity. Now marketing and peripheral things take big bites. In addition to the stuff I listed above, I’m trying to get my website spiffed up and create a new website for the Tales from Earth’s End, the series that The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy is part of. That’s my old blog, linked above. I find myself thinking things like, “What’s SEO? Why do I need it?” That’s part of being a modern writer.

I wish I had a week carved out so I could just pound the keys of my keyboard and have fun. I could probably finish the sequel to Numenon: A Tale of Mysticism & Money, my thriller about the richest man on earth meeting a great Native American shaman.

When and why did you first start writing? 

I started writing full time in 1995. Before that, I wrote academically and professionally. I used to write letters and people receiving them would respond, “Oh. That’s so colorful. I feel like I’m there.” I knew I had talent, but didn’t have any idea how much work I needed to do to become an adequate writer, much less a professional one.

I’ve seen published works by people who are hot-shot professionals in some other field, economics, say. It’s terrible writing. To really write, a prospective author has to learn to write. May sound simplistic, but it’s not.

In 1995, I joined a writing group led by a local poet and literature teacher. I was in that group for nine years until it petered out. Then I joined a writing group led by a full professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara. He held a PhD in English Literature and had eight or nine publications from major publishing houses. Most of the people in the group were traditionally published authors.

That group was brisk. The critiques ripped to the core. It was painful to traumatic to be in the group, but I learned more in two years there than nine years of the other group. Hearing twelve people rip my work became hard to take. Now I use a terrific editor who gives as tough critiquing as the professor’s group, it’s just not so hard to take. I’ve worked with her about six years.

The why of my writing is handled in the following questions. It’s a form of healing myself and going deeper into my psyche than I can go any other way.

Note that while I talk about mystical experience and receiving the inspiration for books very quickly, I’ve been working on my writing techniques with pros for seventeen years. My writing ability is something that I’ve worked to attain.

How did you come up with the idea for the book The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy

Here’s the very long answer:

The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy is about a young couple and their friends facing the destruction of all life on earth through a nuclear holocaust. It has been described as follows:

New York City on the Eve of Nuclear Armageddon, Late 22nd Century—Perhaps
Tomorrow morning at 7:35 AM, a nuclear holocaust will destroy the planet. Two people carry the keys to survival: Jeremy Edgarton, a 16-year-old tech genius and revolutionary; and Eliana, the angelic, off-world traveler sent to Earth on a mission to prevent her planet's death.

Join Eliana and Jeremy as they begin a quest to save two doomed planets . . . and find each other.

There’s a story behind the story. I unintentionally practice what I call “literature through disaster.” When something awful happens to me, my subconscious seems to jump in and transform my pain into a book or a series of books. My first novel, Numenon: A Tale of Mysticism & Money, came from the resolution of a very painful personal calamity. A few years ago, another exceptionally painful event occurred. My brother died. He was my beloved baby brother and only sibling. Outwardly, I looked calm, but inside I was screaming with grief.

About three months after my brother died, I had a dream in which a shimmering golden light floated above me as I slept. That light was totally conscious, totally alive, and beautiful in every way. It radiated peace and good will. As I slept, I felt it lower itself upon me. The bliss was indescribable. The light continued to descend until it became me, merging with me fully. I got to feel the inner state of an angel. (Did I tell you I like meditation and spiritual practice and have very dramatic spiritual experiences? I’ve had them most of my life.)

When the experience of golden light faded, a book rattled around in my head. My unconscious mind morphed the angelic presence of the dream into Eliana, the exquisite dancer from another world who comes to Earth to save her planet. She appeared in my mind as a waif materializing on the sidewalk of a New York street in the late 22nd century.

Within four or five days, the major outlines of the book became clear to me. They seem to pop through a membrane separating the known world from the vast inner world of creativity and imagination. The character Jeremy is based on my brother. Jeremy in the book may not be much of a likeness to my real brother, but he is my brother in my soul’s eye. I don’t know where the other characters came from.

I do know the origin of the setting and socio-economic aspects of the book. In The Angel, the world is a police state, civilization has disintegrated, and nuclear Armageddon is on the horizon. It’s not a cheery place, and it shouldn’t be.

At the same time that one part of me was grieving for my brother, another part of my psyche was scared silly over the state of the global economy. For many years, I made my living as an economist. I hold a BA and MA in economics, worked on a PhD, and was economic analyst for Santa Clara County. (That’s the southern part of Silicon Valley in California.) Our economy is in very bad shape. We need to work together to solve the problems or something like what’s depicted in The Angel may happen.

Historical precedent exists. There’s a parallel between the milieu of The Angel and what happened after WWI in Europe. Making a complex story ridiculously simple, Germany lost WWI. The Allies demanded reparations from them for the damage the country did during the war. The Treaty of Versailles granted the Allies the right to collect reparations. They did so and Germany fell apart.

People were starving. Society was falling apart. Toss in the Great Depression and you had an invitation for a dictator and strongman to take over. One did—Adolf Hitler. The rise of Hitler and the Nazi movement occurred in large part because of Germany’s post-WWI economic disaster.

In The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy, the fictitious Tsar Yuri takes over as the world staggers from a massive depression, which begins with the financial melt-down of 2008. The end state of The Angel begins in our time, as the recovery from the current Great Recession stalls.

Do I believe what’s portrayed in the book could actually happen? No. But something like it could. Everything that happens in the book—people disappearing of off the streets, torture, illegal surveillance, the government not telling the truth, hidden military action, and more—is happening somewhere on the globe now.

One of the reviewers said that The Angel occurred in “a future world only heartbeats from our own,” which is why he found it so disturbing.

Are you a big reader? If so, what are you reading now? 

I read all the time. My guilty pleasure is waiting for Pixel of Ink every day and downloading free books. I now have over 400 on my Kindle.

I just finished Backpacked by Catherine Ryan Howard. Hilarious trip that Catherine took across Central America with a friend. She really shouldn’t backpack.

Right now I’m reading Hush by Eises Chayil. I haven’t got totally into it, but it’s about a young Orthodox Jewish girl who sees some horrific thing and can’t talk about it in her community.

Before that, I read The Blasphemer by John Ling. This is a thriller about undercover agents attempting to guard a famous Islamic professor whose latest book has Islamic militants wanting him dead. Super fast paced. I think the author is either from New Zealand. Or Australia. Maybe South Africa. I dunno. Very good book.

Do you have any advice for other aspiring writers?

  1. Learn to write.
  2. I mean really learn to write. I was in two writing groups for a total of eleven years before my first book came out. Despite that, I didn’t really know what I was doing until I . . .
  3. Got a fantastic content editor. I made mistakes in my early books because no one was tough enough to say, “Look, Sandy, it doesn’t work. It’s too long. Needs . . . everything.” My current editor has the editorial skills to rip and shred a manuscript without mercy. She also has the personal skills to tell me what needs to go without devastating me. My writing gets better because I carry my editor in my head saying, “That doesn’t move the action forward.”
  4. Run your book past your content editor a couple more times. I usually do three passes. Do you know what a content editor is? That’s the person I was talking about above. The content editor looks at the overall flow of the manuscript, pacing, plotting, character development, and “removing unnecessary words,” to quote the Chicago Manual of Style.
  5. Get a really good copy editor and proofreader and let them loose on your edited manuscript. The copy editor fixes glitches in English, checks that the character has the same number of kids throughout, that his wife and other characters have the right names. Proofreading concerns spelling, typos, and other glitches.
  6. Maybe give your manuscript two passes with the copy editor and proofreader. Or three. No such thing as too much proofing.

My advice is the same whether you self-publish (do all the work of publishing yourself and finance it) or try to be published traditionally (where you get a literary agent to sign you on. The agent sells your work to a publisher, who publishes it. And you and the agent get paid. Eventually.)

Self-publishing has been looked down upon by traditional publishing forever. “If you’re a good writer, the major publishers will publish your work. If you do it yourself, you’re a lousy writer.”

This attitude is changing somewhat, as some self-publishers sell millions of copies and become fat cats. Here’s a secret: If you do really well self-publishing, agents will come to you. You don’t even have to be a very good writer, you just have to sell.

If you write what’s in your heart, what expresses your values, know how to write, and the manuscript is proofed properly, “They will come.”

They do.

On the other hand, if you self publish, you will work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you decide to self-pub, do it right. Make your eBook something you can be proud of and that reviewers won’t trash. This is a large project. You can look at the blog role on Your Shelf Life, my blog for writers, for resources. All the technical people I use for my books are on it.

That’s my best advice.

About Sandy Nathan:
Sandy Nathan writes to amaze and delight, uplift and inspire, as well as thrill and occasionally terrify. She is known for creating unforgettable characters and putting them in do or die situations. She writes in genres ranging from science fiction, fantasy, and visionary fiction to juvenile nonfiction to spirituality and memoir.
I write for people who like challenging, original work. My reader isn’t satisfied by a worn-out story or predictable plot. I do my best to give my readers what they want.”
Mrs. Nathan’s books have won twenty-two national awards, including multiple awards from oldest, largest, and most prestigious contests for independent publishers. Her books have earned rave critical reviews and customer reviews of close to five-star averages on Amazon. Most are Amazon bestsellers.
Sandy was born in San Francisco, California. She grew up in the hard-driving, achievement orientated corporate culture of Silicon Valley. Sandy holds Master’s Degrees in Economics and Marriage, Family, and Child Counseling. She was a doctoral student at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business and has been an economic analyst, businesswoman, and negotiation coach, as well as author.
Mrs. Nathan lives with her husband on their California ranch. They bred Peruvian Paso horses for almost twenty years. She has three grown children and two grandchildren.
You can visit her website at www.sandynathan.com.
Visit her blogs: http://sandranathan.net and http://yourshelflife.com (blog for writers)  http://talesfromearthsend.com (series blog)
Follow her on Twitter:  www.twitter.com/sandyonathan
To purchase a paperback copy of Sandy Nathan’s The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy at Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/Angel-Brown-eyed-Boy-Sandy-Nathan/dp/0976280906
About The Angel and the Brown-eyed Boy:
Tomorrow morning, a nuclear holocaust will destroy the planet. Two people carry the keys to survival: A teenage boy and an intergalactic traveler.
By the late 22nd century, the Great Recession of the early 2000s has lead to a worldwide police state. A ruined United States barely functions. Government control masks chaos, dissenters are sent to camps, and technology is outlawed. War rages while the authorities proclaim the Great Peace.
Finally it all breaks down. We’re in New York City on the eve of nuclear Armageddon. In the morning, ultimate destructive forces will wipe out all life on earth. Only Jeremy Edgarton, a 16-year-old, tech genius and revolutionary; and Eliana, the angelic, off-world traveler sent to Earth on a mission to prevent her planet’s death, can save the world.  Join Eliana and Jeremy as they begin a quest to save two doomed planets … and find each other.
Winner of Four National Awards:
●        2011 IPPY (Independent Press) Award Gold Medal in Visionary Fiction.
●        2011 Indie Excellence Award in Visionary Fiction (Winner of Catergory)
●        Best Books of 2011, USA Book News:
  1. Winner, New Age Fiction
  2. Finalist Fantasy/Sci-Fi
Book Trailer Code:
Rafflecopter Code for Kindle Fire Giveaway (if your blog doesn’t support this, just tell your readers to leave a comment at your blog, then visit http://www.pumpupyourbook.com/2012/08/28/pump-up-your-book-presents-tales-from-earths-end-virtual-book-publicity-tour-kindle-fire-giveaway/ to fill out the form)

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