Words – Interview with Ron Probst of IHR Studios

INTERVIEW WITH RON PROBST – IHR STUDIOS (October 31, 2015)

Robin: Happy Halloween! Today I am interviewing Ron Probst (who, by the way, Ron Probstis my brother, which makes this an extra-special interview). Ron, hi! I’m excited to be speaking with you about something you love so much.

Ron: Hi.

Robin: Ron is the owner/engineer/do-it-all guy for IHR Studios, his own recording studio. Tell me a little bit about how you started.

Ron: I am a self taught sound engineer. I interned for two years with a studio and a live sound company locally. In time, I started buying equipment for my own home studio. Up until the middle 1980’s the only way to learn audio engineering was on the job as an apprentice. Nowadays there are many four-year BS/BA Degrees in Audio Engineering.  Although many audio engineers do usually have a four-year undergraduate degree, I personally do not have one.

StudioRobin: Not having a degree hasn’t stopped you though. In many fields, especially artistic ones, it is not a degree that necessarily qualifies you, but an innate ability and a strong willingness to learn, hands-on.

Ron: That’s true. For example, in order to be an audio engineer, it is important to possess excellent hearing as well as first-rate ear training. A sound knowledge of music history is a must, and not necessarily something you would learn in school. Understanding style, structure, the changes over the years in both the manner of recording as well as the techniques is imperative. You must have the ability to work long hours and pay absolute attention to even the smallest details. It helps greatly to be a musician of sorts, preferably a musician that knows musical structure and notes. Not theory necessarily, but a grounded understanding of the basics.

Robin: You also need to be personable and a good communicator. As your sister, I may be biased, but I have noticed you possess both qualities. I think that is why musicians enjoy working with you so much. You relate to them and are able to get to the core of what they’re looking for out of your services and what is needed in order to produce the best sound based on the artist’s particular strengths.

Ron: Well, thanks. I have recorded a variety of music, and because of the wide-ranging styles I have had to adapt my approach. I have done both field recording and studio recording. Field recording is more challenging because of the lack of control of acoustics. Some projects become challenging because of talent level and some because of setting. Over the years, I’ve also had to become skilled at the ability to plan detailed events.

Robin: What is the most challenging project you have been involved in?

Ron:  That is difficult to answer. Each project has its own particular challenges. Old St. PaulHowever, I guess the most challenging from a recording standpoint was that of an Americana Group who performed in a two-hundred year old church that didn’t have electricity. We had to run our own in order to make the recording. The performance consisted not only of vocals, guitars, dobro, violin, an upright bass, and a one-hundred-year-old organ, but had a live audience of one hundred and fifteen people.

Robin: Wow. Daunting, but rewarding, I expect?

Ron: Very rewarding and I am truly grateful to have learned to work well under pressure.

Robin: Is there a particular project of which you are most proud?

Ron: Oh, I don’t think I can pick just one. I would say the projects I am most proud of are: Tony Lucca—Rendezvous With The Angels; Rebecca Grayson—Trouble The Water; Sally Jaye and Brian Wright—Old St. Paul’s Church; Ernie Halter—90’s Acoustic Throwback (Mastering); The Halstead Clan—both EP’s; Rick Cline—Must Be This Tall To Ride; and probably the various recordings I have done with a dear friend, Mike Harrington. Certain of these projects had many other involved parties who helped bring them to fruition, and I plan to tell more about these in detail during a future interview.

albumcovers

Robin: Fabulous plan. For now, though, how best would you describe yourself professionally and what you do?

Ron: I am a freelance sound/mastering engineer who works with artists locally or abroad.

Robin: How do you go about doing that?

Ron: I work many times from files sent over the Internet. I also record musicians at my house and at area studios. Due to time-constraints, most recording activities these days take place on the weekends or planned vacations (large project or scheduling conflicts). I charge by the hour or by the song, but I have also done projects solely for the enrichment of the art or as charity.

Robin:  Walk me through a day of recording. I know it depends on the project, but give me a ‘for instance’.

Studio.5Ron: First, I would set up the computer for the type of project I am undertaking. I use Pro Tools HD recording software and have the ability to record 16 tracks simultaneously. Within the program are many different types of “plug-ins” that simulate expensive pieces of equipment. I use these to help create the sound of the recordings during mixing or mastering. I use analog pre amps because they sound much better than digital. The tones are warmer.

If recording a group, I will set up all the microphones and pre amps, running microphone cables, securing them and setting up mic stands with microphones for each particular instrument. In addition, I run lines and lay out headphones, tap test microphones and check that the signal is coming through the headphones. From there when the group arrives I would get all the instruments set up and sound checked. Get the headphone mixes blended for each musician’s taste (what they want to hear in their headphones-priorities). Then title the song – set up Studio.6tempo (click track) and blend that into headphones. Make sure everyone can hear the talkback (that’s me communicating with the artists in their headphones). And start recording! An average day of recording is ten to fourteen hours.

Robin: What about mastering?

studio.4Ron: If mastering, I only work inside the computer. Mastering is taking finished mixes and turning them up to commercial standards and contouring the sound of each song (matching for continuity in volume and texture). The average day for mastering is about eight hours.

Robin: If you had to do over, related to career or education, would you do anything different?

Ron: Everything I have done in life has brought me to here, and I am truly blessed. I suppose I might have pursued an education, for sure, even if it had been a Mass Communications Degree (at the time) or Audio Engineering (post 1983). I would have loved to work in film. I also love theater. Being part of a Broadway production team would be awesome!

Robin: Don’t count yourself out of that yet! It’s matter of putting yourself in the right place at the right time. What advice would you give to someone interested in pursuing a career path in audio engineering?

Ron: Learn as much about the field you are entering as you can and understand the earning potential. Be willing to live with the financial reward of that particular job, as the music industry has changed greatly with the advent of digital technology. Intellectual property has taken a huge financial hit. The movie and gaming industries are following closely on its heels. The double-edged sword of the Digital Age and the internet has yet to be sorted out. My advice would be to pick a facet of audio engineering that has a guaranteed income stream along with a fulfilling job environment. You might want to record music for the art of it or take a chance on something as drastic as reinventing the electro acoustic transducer. J

Robin: Sound advice from a sound engineer.

Ron: I want to finish up by saying I am very thankful for all of those who haveRon Probst2 helped me along the way, most particularly:

James Little, who I interned with for “live” sound and studio recording. We have become the best of friends and I will always be grateful for his mentoring.

Rick Cline, for volunteering to be my very first project. His jazz recording “Must Be This Tall To Ride” is still one of my most treasured recordings.

Marc McManeus, who helped me greatly with the live Americana Church project featuring Sally Jaye and Brian Wright at Old St Paul’s Church in Conover, North Carolina. Without Marc that project would have never been possible.

And of course I would like to thank my adorable wife Linda. Without her devotion, love and support, none of this would have ever been possible.

Robin: And don’t forget her chocolate chip cookies! They’ve opened the door to many an opportunity. Thanks, Ron, for letting me interview you!

To find out more about IHR Studios and Ron’s work, visit below:

https://www.reverbnation.com/ihrstudios

Words – Interview with Author Kathy Kulig

Best Selling Author, Kathy Kulig
Best Selling Author, Kathy Kulig

Robin: Today I am interviewing best-selling author Kathy Kulig. Hi, Kathy, and welcome! I’m so glad to have you here.

Kathy: Hi Robin. Thanks so much for having me!

Robin: You write and are multi-published in erotic paranormal and contemporary romance. For those readers who don’t know, what makes a romance erotic as opposed to spicy?

Kathy: The level of heat in romance book varies and there is a gray area between erotic and spicy. Different authors and publishers may have different definitions. For me, erotic means no closed doors, no euphemisms, and the explicit emotional and physical interaction between the characters is all on the page. Erotic usually has more kink, more straightforward verbiage and more sex scenes. The premise in these stories tends to bring about a sexual relationship quickly between the characters. Most readers who read erotic books expect sex early and frequently. But the important thing is that erotic stories are not just a string of sex scenes with well detailed body parts and stage directions, they are well developed stories and fully developed characters. Sex should never be thrown in without it causing something to change in the story.

Robin: Very well stated, Kathy. I think people who are unfamiliar with the genre don’t realize this. Your stories run the gamut from futuristic steam punk to stories about demons and vampires to members of the CIA. Recently, however, you mentioned that your favorite storyline involved shape shifters. Do you want to talk a little about why?

Kathy: I guess you can say I’m a gypsy writer. I do write in a lot of different genres because I enjoy reading in them too. But I do love shifters and have written a number of them. A couple are out of print right now, but I plan to re-release them with a new series and new books. My other shapeshifter series is my Demons in Exile series. The shifters are based on a Norwegian myth where a person can don any animal skin and change into that animal for a time. There are four books (one short story prequel) in this series.

Robin: You’ve written a series involving political intrigue and a group of operatives who work within the political sphere to protect individuals and the country. How do you research that topic?Kulig.RedTape

Kathy: Red Tape, book 1 in my FLC Case Files series took a lot of time to research. It takes place partly in the White House and I had to get an idea on the layout and then embellish it with a dungeon, secret passages and rooms. I also researched military weapons, foreign governments, CIA, Secret Service and many other things. I managed to contact someone who is retired from the Navy and now works as a merchant marine.

Robin: A lot of work! How does the erotic nature of the tale fit into this type of story?

Kathy: Ha! That’s the fun part. In the story, the First Lady’s Club is a secret organization run by the First Lady that uses blackmail, coercion and undercover sex scandals to manipulate foreign and domestic policies and take down some really bad guys.

Robin: You’re quite accomplished as an author, with a number of novels and novellas under your belt. When can we expect your next book?

Kulig.HisLostMateKathy: Thank you, you’re a doll for saying so. I still have much to learn. I just released His Lost Mate—a paranormal romance—a couple of weeks ago and I plan to release Red Tape Protector, book 2 in my FLC Case File series. It will be out around mid-August.

Robin: You have been published by Ellora’s Cave and also self-published, including anthologies with other authors of erotica. How did these collaborations come about?

Kathy: I was really fortunate to get in on the Spice Box collection last year. That was my first step into self-publishing. Talking with other authors online and at conferences, letting them know I was interested in taking part in a box set helped that opportunity come about. AC James was organizing it and she asked me. An opening came up last minute and I had a book ready so I jumped on the invite. There were sixteen authors in this collection and many were heavy hitters in the romance genre. Their huge mailing lists and fan bases and everyone’s hard work during the release pushed the sales where we hit the New York Times and USA Today lists. I’m in a couple author groups now and we’re working on new collaborative projects into next year. I really like working on these projects. Collaborative groups are like mastermind groups. Authors pool their knowledge, experience and enthusiasm. I’ve learned so much from these groups.

Robin: It seems that erotica is the underlying theme in all your stories, binding them together (excuse the pun) despite the varied settings and characters. Does having such a common theme make it easier for you to find inspiration for your tales, or more difficult to fit the theme into the setting?

Kathy: Some of my stories are hotter than others. My BDSM stories are probably the hottest and they’re pretty tame compared to some BDSM books I’ve read. All my books are very sexy, but they also have a detailed plot. Most have an adventure-type storyline and characters going through a major turning point in their lives. Those are the type of sexy stories I like to read and write. If I were to find a common theme in my books I’d say: The world may be coming to an end, but love will always find a way.

Robin: I love that! Great theme. You have been the interviewee in a number of interviews, eliciting reactions that are occasionally less than positive, almost personal in nature. How have you learned to handle such negativity?

Kathy: With a good sense of humor. Most erotic romance authors get the questions: Are your books autobiographical or have you done all the kinky sex in your books? Usually I answer with: Stephen King writes about serial killers. Would you ask him if he’s killed people to research his books?

Robin: You were also co-author on a non-fiction work, Write to Success, which is described as (taken from your website): Eight New York Times and USA Today bestselling authors share how to build a successful writing career. Write to Success covers all those frequently asked questions every new indie author wonders about self-publishing and has strategies for the advanced self-publisher. How did this come about? Can you tell me a little bit more about the book?Kulig.WritetoSuccess

Kathy: After the Spice Box set hit high on the NYT and USA Today lists, authors and new writers were asking us how we did it. So a number of the authors decided to get together and pool our expertise. This book gives a ton of information with lots of links to references. That reference/resource links page is worth the price of the book alone. We talk about the steps we took to make Spice Box a success. What we did right and not so right. The legal issues authors need to be aware of, as well as how to distribute royalties, cover, formatting, editing, coordinating, promotion, etc. There are also sections that are helpful to newer writers and those not pursuing self-publishing. I think it’s a very valuable reference book.

Robin: And, as I ask everyone, what are your plans for the future?

Kathy: I have a number of projects I’m working on now. I want to finish the FLC Case Files series and finish a four-book shapeshifter series. (Two of the four books are completed.) And I’m working on three box sets that will come out in the next year. Mainly keep writing and learning. I have met the most amazing people through my writing career—writers and readers—and many are my closest friends now.

Robin: Thank you so much for allowing me to interview you. It’s been informative and I look forward to speaking with you again!

Words – Interview with Author Karen Katchur

Karen Katchur
Karen Katchur

Robin: Today I am interviewing author Karen Katchur. Welcome, Karen. Nice to have you with me.

Karen: Hi Robin! Thanks for having me!

Robin: Your debut novel, The Secrets of Lake Road, is due out on August 4th from Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press. Congratulations! I can’t wait to read it. How did it feel when you got the call from your agent that it had sold?

Karen: I was super happy, of course! I waited a long time for that phone call, and all the hard work I’d put in had finally paid off.

Robin: Would you mind sharing with me the process by which you found an agent? And a bit of the process from pitch to representation to publication?

Karen: It took me eight years to sign with an agent. There were many, many rejections along the way, but I kept writing and working on craft. Eventually, I started getting rejections with constructive feedback on my fourth novel. The best thing I did was to listen to that feedback. I worked on revisions for six months, and the day I was ready to query again I happened to get a copy of Writer’s Digest Magazine in the mail. Carly Watters was the featured agent in the Agent Spotlight. She had been on my radar for some time, so I queried her right away. From there, it happened quickly. She requested a partial and then the full manuscript. We talked on the phone, and I signed with her a few days later.

While Carly was busy pitching my novel, I was busy writing my next one. Somewhere in the process and after several rounds of revisions, I fell out of love with it. I couldn’t work on it anymore. We talked about it, and agreed it was time I put the second novel aside. Meanwhile, the first novel wasn’t selling (although we’re still hopeful). Again, we talked and decided to put the first novel aside, too. I didn’t let it deter me. I started writing my third novel, which happened to be, THE SECRETS OF LAKE ROAD. When it was completed, Carly pitched SECRETS. We had an offer within a week or two.

So it took me eight years to sign with an agent, and another two years to get an offer from a publishing house, a total of ten years to publication.

Robin: Tell me about the story. And by the way, I LOVE the cover.

Karen: Thank you! I love the cover too, although I had nothing to do it. It was all SecretsLakeRoadthe design team at Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press. They did a fantastic job.

The story is a suspenseful women’s fiction about the destructive power of secrets. Below is the summary found in the inside jacket copy.

Jo has been hiding the truth about her role in her high school boyfriend’s drowning for sixteen years. Every summer, she drops her children off with her mother at the lakeside community where she spent summers growing up, but cannot bear to stay herself; everything about the lake reminds her of the guilt she feels. For her daughter Caroline, however, the lake is a precious world apart; its familiarity and sameness comforts her every year despite the changes in her life outside its bounds. At twelve years old and caught between childhood and adolescence, she longs to win her mother’s love and doesn’t understand why Jo keeps running away. Then seven-year-old Sara Starr goes missing from the community beach. Rescue workers fail to uncover any sign of her—but instead dredge up the bones Jo hoped would never be discovered, shattering the quiet lakeside community’s tranquility. Caroline was one of the last people to see Sara alive on the beach, and feels responsible for her disappearance. She takes it upon herself to figure out what happened to the little girl. As Caroline searches for Sara, she uncovers the secrets her mother has been hiding, unraveling the very foundation of everything she knows about herself and her family in this riveting novel that is impossible to put down and hard to forget.

asters_and_bluesRobin: You like to set your tales in the Pocono area. What is the reason for that? How and why does the area inspire you?

Karen: I grew up in the Poconos area with its lakes and rivers, streams and trails, and winding mountain roads. It’s got this great mix of beauty and danger, and it really makes for the perfect setting for the kinds of stories I want to tell, part women’s fiction and part mystery/suspense.

Robin: Are you working on your next book? What type of routine do you set yourself for writing?

Karen: I am busy writing the next book. When I’m writing the first draft, I have a 1000 word count a day, Monday through Friday, so 5000 words a week. I take the weekends off from writing to spend time with my family and to let things percolate. I find I need time away to think about the story and characters, or as I refer to it, recovery time. I get my best ideas away from the computer. I keep a notebook handy for each novel, so I can jot down the things I think of while I’m not at my computer.

Once the first draft is written, I take as long as I need to work on revisions, which is usually several more months where I do a lot of re-writing.

Robin: I know we’ve talked about other storylines you’ve come up with, and they’re always quite beyond the ordinary. Where do you get your ideas?

eveningalongthehosensack2TKaren: I tend to build my fiction around an event. The event can be of a personal nature or it can be from something I’ve read or heard about in the news or wherever. For SECRETS, it just happened to be from a personal experience. When I was nine or ten years old, a young teenage boy had drowned. I’d watched them drag the lake for several days until they’d finally pulled his body onto the beach. It was the first dead body I ever saw, and the tragedy of that day had stayed with me. The fear and helplessness I’d felt during that time was what I attempted to capture in Caroline’s character.

Robin: What do you plan or hope to write in the future?

Karen: I love writing what I do which has been called suspenseful women’s fiction, so I hope to keep on doing just that.

Robin: You have several book signings scheduled for the near future. Where and when?

Karen: Yes! Thank you for asking.

Book Launch on August 4th at 6 pm at Moravian Book Shop, Bethlehem, PA

August 6th at 7pm at Open Books Bookstore Elkins Park, PA

August 13th at 6pm at Let’s Play Books! Emmaus, PA.

Robin: I will definitely see you there. I want you to sign my copy of The Secrets of Lake Road! Thank you so much for allowing me to interview you. Perhaps when you have a publication date for your next book we can get back together to talk about that one, too.

Karen: Of course! Thank you so much for having me, Robin! It was fun!

Words – Interview with Author Casey Hagen

Shadow Lake, the inspiration for Casey Hagen's latest work.
Shadow Lake, the inspiration for Casey Hagen’s latest work.

Robin:  Today, I have the pleasure of interviewing author Casey Hagen.  Hi, Casey! Nice to have you here.

Casey: Hi Robin! Thank you for having me here. I’m excited. This is officially my first interview!

Robin:  You are, I believe, as yet unpublished, but you write contemporary romance with a bit of suspense.  When did the writing bug first hit you?

Casey: I had a phenomenal English teacher who turned me on to banned books. I read Lolita and we had a one-on-one book discussion. I told him I was horrified by Humbert’s obsessive love for Dolores. He asked me, “Are you truly horrified by that or horrified that you feel for him despite who and what he ultimately is?” And he was right. I felt for Humbert despite the fact that what he was doing was so wrong. I hated reading. My teacher shifted my direction entirely. I earned my BA in English Literature and made up for all the reading I hadn’t done in high school.

Casey Hagen and her best friend
Casey Hagen and her best friend

When I graduated that teacher told me I should write a book of my own. He knew I liked edgy, controversial, and gritty and believed firmly that I should stick with what I love. I started plotting books with my best friend who was, and has always been an avid romance reader. We would record ourselves coming up with character ideas and scenes. Those cassette tapes lay buried in my closet for at least fifteen years before I dusted them off, struggled to find a cassette player to play them on, and listened to them again. At the time, I had never even read a romance novel, although when my former mother-in-law gave me Debbie Macomber’s This Matter of Marriage, I devoured it and became an avid romance reader ever since.

Robin:  What type of setting do you give most of your stories? Exotic? Small town? Big city?  Based on the name of the novel you mentioned to me, Sunset at Lake Crane, the story takes place at or near a lake. Do you have a specific affinity? Is the location based on somewhere familiar and/or important to you?

Casey: Sunset at Lake Crane is the first of three books I have planned for The Livingston Valley series. Just recently I decided to add a novella to the series that will come out last. It’s a small town setting and the hero lives on Lake Crane. Lake Crane is similar to a lake I loved to visit during my teen years. Every time I wrote, I pictured Shadow Lake in Glover, VT. Last summer, our family all met in Lake Ann, Michigan and that Lake Ann was a close second to Shadow Lake so it also served as inspiration.

Shadow Lake - pretty inspiring, huh?
Shadow Lake – pretty inspiring, huh?

Small towns come naturally to me. I grew up in small towns. I spent most of my time in Walden, Vermont going to one room school houses. Like Little House on the Prairie. Don’t laugh…I’m completely serious! Although, my settings aren’t quite that small, they are similar in size to the town where I attended high school. St. Johnsbury, Vermont has a population around 8000 so I like to stick to that size. It gives me a good frame of reference.

Casey's cover for her novella, Falling in Fiji
Casey’s cover for her novella, Falling in Fiji

I do have a completed novella I plan to release this fall also. It takes place both in a big city and an exotic location. The characters live in San Francisco, but end up taking a trip to Fiji together. That one required a ton of research since I based it on real places. Places I’ve never been to in real life to boot!

Robin:  Where does the suspense aspect come in?

Casey: In Sunset at Lake Crane, my heroine, Erynn is given an assignment to do an in depth interview on a wildly popular, mysterious writer. He writes under a pen name and no one has ever been able to find out a single detail about him. When she comes face to face with him she’s shocked to discover it’s none other than the man she walked away from eight years earlier…

She left, to protect him. Now that she’s forced to return, little clues crop up that lead her to believe whoever blackmailed her is still there and watching. The question is…who is it?

Robin: Where do you find your inspiration for your writing?

Casey: My friend and I used to talk about unlikely couples and how it would be possible to make those relationships work. In this case, I wanted to write a student/teacher romance that didn’t take the safe route of a college student and teacher.  I dance close to the taboo line without really crossing over it. Everything is perfectly legal, between two consenting adults. The issue is, they can’t prove that their relationship developed after graduation so that’s why she takes off.  She doesn’t want to risk his career.

Robin:  You shared with me the news you are pitching to an editor and to an agent at RWA in New York City this July.  How much time have you spent in front of a mirror honing your pitch? Are you nervous at all?

Casey: Ummmm, none. *Casey hangs her head in shame* I quite literally have not written my pitch, logline, synopsis…anything. I need to, but I’ve been so wrapped up in this book and getting it to my editor that everything else has been on the back burner. I’ve also encountered some personal challenges so it looks like the month of July will be for my pitch, *cough* impending panic, and tearing my hair out.  Am I nervous? Actually no. These pitching appointments are more for my practice and experience than about end results.

Robin:  I know you have a plan to self-publish if you are unable to find a home with a traditional or indie publisher.  What timeframe did you give yourself for that decision? What do you feel are the pros and cons of traditional and self-pub?

Casey: You know how to hit with the hard questions! With each passing day, I solidify my decision to self-publish. This is my story, and I plan to do it my way.

Casey's gorgeous cover for Sunset at Lake Crane
Casey’s gorgeous cover for Sunset at Lake Crane

As for a timeline, I want this book and stand-alone novella out by this fall. My goal is to have the rough draft of book two finished by the time I release book one so I can keep the momentum going.

Robin: I recently interviewed a singer/songwriter and asked him about his routine for creating, and he told me he often will write while doing household tasks, such as laundry.  I know I perform a lot of the mental creative process in my car, and then spend the evenings hunkered over my keyboard. How much time do you devote each day to your craft? Do you have a space set up for the sole purpose of writing, or do you type away with your laptop on the kitchen counter while you cook the evening meal?

Casey: First, I’m better at writing in the morning. Early morning. Before my kids can fill my head with a million different things they need me to do for them. I have to write with the TV on. I don’t watch it, but I hear the noise and that works for me. From 6am to 7am I listen to music on my computer as I get going. By 7am…I’m writing and listening to Parking Wars on A&E. At 8am I put it on Hallmark and listen to The Golden Girls. I know, I need help. After that it’s a series of court TV and Dr. Phil playing in the background.

Robin: Lol!

Casey: Those are my best days for writing. Of course, like most writers, I have to earn money too, so I own and operate my own residential cleaning business.  My husband has taken over dinner duties so I work right up until dinner and then after dinner, we all settle in the living room to watch our favorite shows together. I bring my laptop with me and keep it in my lap until we go to bed at night. It’s working for me for right now, but I’m getting my own office.

Ideas strike while I’m cleaning at customer’s houses, particularly during vacuuming. I don’t know what it is about vacuuming, but it’s very zen for me. I carry a small, leather bound notebook in my purse at all times. In one day I came up with three short story ideas and plotted them out, all during vacuuming.

Robin:  Are you currently working on another novel?

Casey: I am. I’m working on Nightfall at Hunter’s Ridge, which is the second story in The Livingston Valley series. In the first book, Erynn’s best friend Kat makes several appearances. Kyle, her love interest in the book is also in book one as sort of a surrogate brother to Erynn. Kyle has had a thing for Kat for quite some time, but she can’t stand him. He’s a cop and she hates cops.

Robin: When you picture the future of your writing career, what do you see?

Casey: I’m easy to please. My financial goal is to replace my cleaning income with writing income. I don’t clean that much so it really shouldn’t be too difficult after a few years. My husband views me as his retirement plan. I don’t like to get my hopes up to high so I’m not disappointed. He thinks I’m going to take off with this, he’s supportive like that!

I want to increase my output. I want to be able to put out four books a year. I don’t want to sacrifice quality to do it. If I can make that happen, I’ll be happy. I need to write. That’s what it all comes down to. If I can make some great friends, earn some fans, and continue to learn and grow, I’ll have achieved all of my goals.

Robin:  Well, thank you, Casey, for taking the time to speak with me.  Good luck at RWA. Let me know how everything works out!

Casey: Thank you so much for interviewing me! And for the well wishes at RWA…I’m going to need all the good mojo I can get since I’m working on my pitch, logline, and synopsis at the eleventh hour!

Words – Interview with Author Kelly Jensen

Chaos Station, by Kelly Jensen and Jenn Burke
Chaos Station, by Kelly Jensen and Jenn Burke

Robin: Today I am interviewing author Kelly Jensen. Welcome, Kelly. It’s nice to have you.

Kelly: Thank you for having me!

Robin: When I write, I use my own name for sweet to sensual romance and the pen name Celia Ashley for the spicier variety. Do you use a pen name?

Kelly: Not at the moment. I write under my own name. When my co-writer (Jenn Burke) and I submitted CHAOS STATION, the first male/male manuscript for both of us, I considered using a pen name simply to separate the book from what I already had published. I’d heard so much about author branding, I thought I should use one name for male/female romance and one for m/m. But I loved CHAOS STATION so much, I wanted my name on the cover. Same went for my co-writer. Also, I only had one previously published title, so it wasn’t as if I already had a brand. 😀

Now that I have four m/m titles listed under my name (with two more to come in June!), I may rethink the pen name if I ever get around to publishing more m/f. It won’t be anything wild, though, and I’d like to have a clear connection to both names, with works by both represented on the one site.

Robin: That makes sense. I know a lot of authors have their pen names as separate tabs on their website menu and gain crossover readership that way. Now, your career writing romance began relatively recently, but you have spent more than a decade reviewing video games. Your first romance, LESS THAN PERFECT, is set in a post-apocalyptic America. Can we assume the setting was influenced by your gaming experience, or is this backdrop something that has always inspired you in your writing, separate and apart from the worlds of video games?

Less Than Perfect by Kelly Jensen
Less Than Perfect by Kelly Jensen

Kelly: I always dreamed of writing science fiction. I read a lot of it, and I love the idea of imagining our future. Tuck a love story in there somewhere and I’m a very happy reader. So when it came to writing my own stories, there is always an element of romance. But science fiction, particularly post-apocalyptic settings, is my first love.

I get some of it from gaming—the Fallout series is one of my favourites, and don’t get me started on the subject of Mass Effect (which is more impending apocalypse, on an inter-galactic scale) or we’ll be here forever. My obsession with post-apocalyptic environments originally stems from fiction, though. As a teenager I devoured books like Earth Abides, Day of the Triffids and Footfall. I could list a hundred books and tell you how each one influenced me, but it’s really a theme in general: new beginnings. To me, that’s what science fiction is all about, whether it’s post-apocalyptic, dystopian or optimistic. It’s us doing something new.

Lonely Shore by Kelly Jensen and Jenn Burke - Book #2 of the Chaos Station series
Lonely Shore by Kelly Jensen and Jenn Burke – Book #2 of the Chaos Station series

Robin: What made you switch from male-female to male-male romance? Was it based on the story you needed to tell, or…?

Kelly: I have other male/female WIPs and I intend to write more of it—with romance as the focus and with romance as an element. Jenn and I have written a fantasy novel together that has a male/female romance tucked into a tale of swords and sorcery. But when considering this project, we really wanted to write two men because there aren’t a lot of stories out there combining science fiction and male/male romance. Essentially, we wrote something we’d like to read. The setting lent itself beautifully to being able to explore a same sex romance without having to consider the constraints of a contemporary romance as well. There is very little prejudice in our world (which is set two hundred years in the future), and being who you are is more important than who you sleep with.

Robin: Do you think you will always write science fiction, or would you consider a different sub-genre?

Kelly: I read really widely, so I’d like to write widely too. I’ve written science fiction, fantasy, and contemporary at this point. I’d also like to try something historical—even though I’m sure the research would kill me—and perhaps even a mystery or suspense. Jenn and I are also fleshing out a light paranormal world.

Robin: On your website, I saw that you and your co-writer for CHAOS STATION, Jenn Burke, are best friends, but does that make the process of writing easier or more difficult? Would you tell me a bit about how your method of co-writing works?

Kelly: I think it makes it both easier and more difficult!

The first thing that applies to co-writing of any sort is you have to check your ego at the door. You’re not going to love every word your co-writer puts down and she’s not going to love every single one of yours. It’s definitely good if you like most of them, though. 😉 Thing is, it’s not a solo project, so you have to learn to compromise, and not to get your knickers in a knot while doing so. Sometimes that’s hard. None of us likes to hear criticism. Thankfully, Jenn and I have the sort of relationship where, for the most part, we can say: “This scene isn’t working for me and here’s why.” Sometimes we’re not that tactful. But we both love these characters and this world. We wrote the story arc together, we built the world together. We’re equally invested in making the series work. So we’re invested in making it work together.

Our method is fairly simple. Both of us write from the point of view of a single character—one of the two “heroes” or “main characters”. We share a third point of view character, taking on writing his scenes when we have a feel for what needs to be accomplished in that scene. When we wrote our first novel together—the fantasy one—we spent a lot of time sending the file back and forth with questions like: “What would your character do here?” A few chapters in, we gained enough confidence writing one another’s characters that we were able to complete an entire scene or chapter without asking for specific direction. Of course, if she has one of my guys making a gesture I don’t think fits, I can change it, and vice versa. Sometimes it’s a word choice. Usually simple things. We’ve been writing together for so long, though, that we know the personality and quirks of every character.

Nuts and bolts—we use One Drive. Sometimes we’ll work in a file together, at the same time. More usually, one of us will write a scene/chapter, then sit back and wait for the other person to write the next scene/chapter. We’ll alternate like that until the book is done. Then we edit the entire book together, leaving one another comments and suggestions.

Robin: Do you have other books planned together? Do you have other books planned on your own?

Kelly: We have so many books planned together. Honestly, we’re going to have to live to be 150 to write them all. We really enjoy world building and writing together, though, and our voices and style are very complimentary.

I also have a number of solo projects that I plan to fit in between the series I’m writing with Jenn. They range from short stories, which I love to write, to complete novels across a few different sub-genres.

Robin: The publishing world has changed so much since my first release (too many years ago to mention, lol). There are so many opportunities for writers now, though conversely, more struggles, too. It’s often difficult to know which path to choose. Are you published via small pub, self-pub, NY pub, or a combination thereof?

Kelly: Small pub. I have titles with Entangled Publishing, Carina Press and Dreamspinner Press. I’ve enjoyed working with all three, and feel small press is a great fit for me. There is more individual attention, and you have the opportunity to really connect with your editor. Small presses also have a strong cadre of loyal fans who eagerly await each new release, which helps with promotion.

Robin: Great to hear! CHAOS STATION was, I believe, released by Carina Press in March of this year. Is there a particular reason you write for each of the three houses? Was it a matter of what the editors at each were looking for at the time you were seeking publication, or something else?

Kelly: We specifically chose Carina Press for the Chaos Station series and were delighted when they opted to contract all five books. We chose them based on their catalog of offerings, which included a good number of both male/male romance and science fiction romance titles.

My submission to Entangled was in response to a call for geeky girl stories. Same with Dreamspinner—my story there was for an anthology call. I would consider both publishers again if I write more short fiction.

Robin: Do you have an upcoming release?

Kelly: I have several!

5/25/15 – LONELY SHORE (Chaos Station, #2) – co-written with Jenn Burke (M/M SFR) 6/1/15 – NEVER TOO LATE (A Daily Dose Anthology) (M/M Contemporary Romance) 6/1/15 – OUT IN THE BLUE (A Never Too Late Story) – My contribution to the anthology also releases individually on the same day June-July – WRONG DIRECTION – I don’t have a firm date for the release of this novella. (M/M NA Contemporary Romance) 10/5/15 – SKIP TRACE (Chaos Station, #3) – co-written with Jenn Burke (M/M SFR)

Robin: That’s an impressive amount of work! Thank you, Kelly for taking the time out from your writing to speak with me. I wish you all the best!

Kelly: Thank you for taking the time to chat. Writers love to talk about their work (as you may know). I hope we have the opportunity to talk again—about your work!

Robin: Thanks, Kelly. I’m sure we will be talking again!

Words – Interview with Tony Lucca

Tony Lucca's latest release
Tony Lucca’s latest release: Tony Lucca

Robin: I have with me today singer/songwriter Tony Lucca.

Welcome, Tony. Thank you for agreeing to let me interview you.

Tony: Certainly, my pleasure!

Robin: You are my first interview for the “Words” segment of my blog, in which I hope to celebrate the singular power of words, from those who write them to those who organize words into a format for others to enjoy. It is my intent to interview authors, songwriters, editors, recording engineers, publishers, poets, visual artists (because, as it is said, a picture is worth a thousand words) and those who aspire to this type of creativity. Speaking of pictures, your most recent tour is called the Paint a Picture Tour. I’m sure most of your fans already know the reason for this, but this particular fan isn’t quite sure if the tour is named after the next to last song on your current release, or if there is more to it than that.

Tony: Well the song itself was actually, at one point, on the chopping block. Basically it’s a bit of a departure from the rest of the rather “rockin’” record. However, my kids really grew attached to the song, having been some of the first listeners of the initial demo. When I told them I didn’t think the song was going to make the record they were quite upset. My son, Liam, said “well then your record’s gonna suck!” I’d like to think he was kidding, but it turns out he was right. The song needed to be on the record. Fans seemed to fall in love with it right away and so to acknowledge my near-mistake, I decided to name the tour after the song.

Robin: Thanks for enlightening me! And thanks to Liam for speaking up. I’ve often been asked at what point the writing bug infected me, so let’s start this interview with that. When in the course of your life did you realize music was your gift and/or your goal?  Was your desire to be a musician obvious to you at a young age, or something you came to recognize later?

Tony: I think I made my first effort to write something as early as 7 or 8. But it wasn’t until I got up in front of a crowd to play some original songs that I realized this was what I was going to do for the rest of my life. Certainly after receiving my first pay check, it became even clearer. I think I was 12.

Robin: I love classical music and, as a writer, I will use the music—a different piece for each story I’m working on—to shoot me straight into the mindset I need to be to write. Do you have a certain routine you use to get into songwriting mode?

Tony: For me it’s more about creating the space, both physically and mentally. Oddly enough, spending a day at home alone, usually while knocking out a few loads of laundry, seems to be when inspiration is a little easier to come by. It becomes part of the pace of things. Pick up the guitar, get a strong melody in my head, brainstorm some ideas, switch out the colors for the whites, make a few drive-bys looking things up on the computer or pulling books off the shelf. It can get fairly intense but usually within a few hours I’ve got something that’s either going to hold up or something I’ll let go of and move on from.

Robin:  [Laughing] Okay, then. I kind of like that image of going through the laundry motions while creating. When I write, I find I perform research first for historical novels, and let the characters develop from the past, and conversely in contemporaries I develop the characters first and let the story grow around them. When you write songs, do you write the words or music first, or does it vary? Also, do you have a preference for the instrument used when putting lyrics into song?

Tony: It always varies. The best songs seem to come all at once. And although I’ve experimented with everything from a simple shaker, to the bass, to the piano, the guitar just seems to be the one I go to most frequently. It’s probably just a convenience thing.

Robin: I can understand that. Plus dragging the piano into the laundry room might be a little unwieldy. On Under the Influence, you give a nod to artists who have influenced you over the years with a cover of each of their songs, including Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, the Rolling Stones, and my particular favorite from my high school years, Led Zeppelin. If you could pick only one, however, which artist or band would you say influenced you most? Would it be one of those from the cd, or someone else entirely?

Tony: Impossible. Sorry.

Robin: Don’t apologize. I don’t think I could choose just one author or event that set me on the path to writing, believe me. After the recent passing of your uncle you made a post on your Facebook page about his influence on you musically, and about the artistic talent of your family in general. Do you want to share a little bit more about that?

Tony: The older I get the more I realize what a blessing it is to be a part of such a wonderfully talented family. Sadly, the bigger the family, the more you have to be prepared, emotionally, when it comes time to say good-bye.

Robin: They live on in our hearts, which is always a comfort, and with you, in your music. How, exactly, would you brand your style of music? Can it be summed up as a particular style? Has it changed over the years?

Tony: It’s always been tough to try to classify myself. I gave up trying years ago. Though being a “guy with a guitar” who plays his own songs technically makes me a singer/songwriter, I feel there’s an inherent soul element to everything I’ve done as well. And with my latest record I was able to incorporate more of the classic rock sound I grew up on.

Robin: Writers are usually somewhat introverted, or at least used to working in a very solitary fashion. As a singer/songwriter, you are often engaged with the public. How important is this to you as a writer? As a performer?

Tony: Boundaries are extremely important, as is the ability to compartmentalize your time and attention. There are times when you need to be reachable, approachable and personable. There are other times when you need to keep it tight, focused and isolated. I feel that for an artist to arrive at something truly inspired, it’s inevitably going to require some degree of solitude and introspection.

Robin: Did you know you had been referred to as a “young Sting”?  How did that make you feel?

Tony: I’m a big Sting fan.

Robin: Me, too. So I guess you’re pleased by the reference. I must confess, I hadn’t seen that previously, even though it’s a reference from a while ago. I smiled when I saw it.  It is obvious to those of us who enjoy your music that each song is inspired by something in your life. Some are rocking and other songs are quite moving. My particular favorites of the latter type are “Bad Guy” (Shotgun) and “Nobody But You” (Rendezvous with the Angels), released at the time when you were a budding family (a quite lovely and engaging family, I might add). On the self-titled Tony Lucca, released early this year—which, to me, is a perfectly balanced compilation of energy and soul—you have a lovely tune called “Sparrow”, which we all know is written about your daughter. Do you feel your music echoes your contentment? Or do you continue to delve into past experiences—as a lot of writers do—for use in your songwriting?

Tony: I’m always amazed at the power of songs and their storytelling magic. And though it’s fun to revisit earlier experiences by playing older songs, it always a bit more fulfilling when you can connect to your most recent set of experiences through your more current material. I know with regards to the new record and current tour, I’m having a great time connecting to the material each night. People can tell when you’re taking pride in what you do and I’m real proud of these songs.

Robin: I had no plans to bring up your stint on The Voice, but I would like to mention your acoustic duet of the Beatles’ “Yesterday” with Adam Levine. You have commented to certain people that you enjoyed that experience immensely. If you could choose someone else, anyone else—whether current or from the past—with whom would you most like to perform a duet today?  Perhaps not just to perform a duet, but to co-write the song for that particular performance?

Tony: I would Love to work with David Crosby. I think he had a way of writing that was so mysterious; honest and cryptic at the same time. Not to mention all the ethereal harmonies he seems to come up with. I feel I could stand to learn a great deal working with him.

Robin: What are your professional plans for the future?

Tony: More writing, recording and touring I suppose. I’ve got a batch of songs that I wrote for some of my Kickstarter backers. The songs were very inspired and came out really nice. I’m really looking forward to getting in to record those. I’ve got ideas of doing a live recording of my 2006 release, Canyon Songs, possibly for the 10-year anniversary. We’ll see.

Robin:  Sounds wonderful!  A live recording of Canyon Songs would be perfect. I look forward to your next project. Thanks again, Tony, for your time!

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I hope you enjoyed this interview with Tony Lucca! To celebrate the release of my novel, Dark Tides, from Lyrical Press today, I will be giving away a gift digital download to three randomly selected readers who comment today.  Thanks for your interest.~Robin