Author Spotlight! with Steven Spellman

Hello Fans, today I have with me a fellow author! Please welcome Steven Spellman, author of such books as The Pruning, Murder Beneath The Mignight Sun, The Virus, and others!

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Chad: Can you tell me a little about yourself?

Steven Spellman: I’m a 37 year old writer living in North Carolina with my beautiful wife and two beautiful daughters. This is how I introduce myself to publishers and it really sums up the totality of my life in this moment. I sit in front of a computer writing or either occasionally transcribing testimony for a few local lawyers in my area from about five o’clock every morning until about ten o’clock at night. It’s a grueling schedule and I wouldn’t know what to do with myself without it.

Chad: Now, I do have some standard questions I like to ask, because they help me understand you better. Can you tell me what your favorite book is, and without too many spoilers, tell me why?

Steven Spellman: The Bible is my favorite book, but not from any sanctimonious reasons on my part. Besides whatever spiritual direction it may offer, if you read it with an open mind you can see that the distant origin of every genre of writing is in there. There are horror stories, fantasy in the form of parables and allusions, what looks like science fiction, YA material. Besides that, I am a writer and I think the Bible is the greatest book ever written. It has changed the world with words and in that, it reminds me to be grateful that God has granted me the talent to manipulate words.

Chad: Who is your biggest supporter? What I mean is, who has always encouraged you to write, even when you feel like you weren’t good enough?

Steven Spellman: No doubt my wife is my biggest supporter. No one else in my family, and I mean literally not a single person, has ever encouraged me to write. To the people who surrounded me growing up writing novels and short stories was akin to space travel in that it was something they knew existed but it wasn’t relevant in any real way to their reality.

Chad: Do you think your school had a lot to do with how you grew as a writer? Were you encouraged?

Steven Spellman: No, I don’t think school had a tremendous influence on my growth as a writer. I didn’t start writing seriously until much later so most of the people in my school didn’t even that I could write. When I was in college, majoring in Computer Science, one of my professors read a few of my essay homework assignments and pulled me to the side and told me that I should quite my major because Computer Science was not what I was supposed to be doing, and instead take up writing full time. She was one of the first professionals in my life to express a real interest in my talent and I cherish that memory to this day.

Chad: Where do you get your ideas from? I know, I know, hard to say! But what do you think?

Steven Spellman: My gift gives me my ideas. I believe God has to enable you do certain things. Hard work is no doubt a very large component of it but I’ve never been able to garner ideas by looking for them. I live life and my brain takes the information I experience, rearranges it, dissects it, and feeds me back story ideas with what remains.

Chad: What is your favorite type of story to read?

Steven Spellman: My favorite type of story to read is a really good coming of age tale or a really pertinent and heart rending autobiography. Life is just so confusing and painful sometimes that it helps me immensely to be constantly reminded that everyone else is experiencing that uphill struggle as well and because of that I always stand to learn a few tricks from someone who’s willing to be brutally honest about their flawed selves.

Chad: What would you say is your strongest writing ability? Is it a wide vocabulary? A deep knowledge of Balinese Monkey Chants?

Steven Spellman: Well, before I answer that let me say that I don’t know what Balinese Monkey Chants are but they sound awesome and I suddenly want to specialize in them. Beyond that, I think my strongest writing ability is my ability to feel at a greater depth. I do possess a wide vocabulary but pure academia can only accomplish so much for the reader when you’re writing fiction. In my books it is not so much depth of character that is my strong suit but rather the depth of the person’s ability to process pain. That is the one thing we all have in common—pain. No one is guaranteed comfort at any given time in their life but every person born is guaranteed discomfort at some point or another. We’re birthed into this world screaming and that’s if we’re healthy. It’s pretty morbid if you think about it too long but it is the reality of being human. I want to take that common chord and run it through a tight sieve until I’m familiar with every strand. That is how I personally am meant to make my modest contribution to the human continuum.

Chad: Let’s get into the meat of you as a writer. Tell me about your most current project. Is it a short story? A novel? Flash fiction perhaps?

(Steven Spelman): This is an exciting question for me right now, because the project I’m working on at the moment is the most ambitious project I’ve ever undertaken. I can’t go into detail like I’d like to about it right now, but I hope to bring together a reality of robots and aliens in a way that I’ve never seen done before. All my other works are traditionally published but I think I might self-publish this one because it is already very close to my heart. I’m not even ready to give the title away yet but I can promise if anyone decides to follow my work you will not be disappointed with my next novel.

Chad: What makes your hero tick? What makes them interesting to you?

Steven Spellman: Different things make my heroes tick depending on the nature of the story they’re in but there is always serious conflict involved and since they are the hero they eventually find their higher resolution but never without war and the wounds that come with it. What makes my heroes interesting to me is the same thing that makes brutally honest autobiographies interesting to me; their wounding maturation from who they are to who they’re supposed to be.

Chad: And we all love a villain. Well, at least I do. Tell me something about the villain that will make me like, or understand them, better.

Steven Spellman: My villains are potential heroes that folded beneath the pressure of their realities. I love villains too and the best villains are like the best heroes; they have stories. When I think of great villains I think of Hannibal Lecter, or Heath Ledger’s Joker, or something along those lines. I like them not because they’re bad but for the reason that they’re bad. They have goals that are just as intense as the heroes, just different executions. Jeffrey Dahmer claimed in an interview that he ate his victims (according to him he thought of them as lovers) because he wanted to keep them with him forever. He didn’t ever want to be separated from them. Isn’t that what marriage promises—till death do us part? Same goal, different execution.

Chad: Can you remember the very first story you ever wrote? Do you ever consider improving on it now that some time has passed?

Steven Spellman: I began writing stories shortly after elementary school. I kept them in an old fashioned notebook that I never shared with anyone. Oddly enough, I don’t remember any of those stories but the first story I do remember was a coming of age project that was very dear to me. Unfortunately, the laptop that I had it on at the time was stolen and I lost about 45,000 words of that unfinished story. I have written another full novel that was basically a better iteration of that story but I still don’t think it’s good enough to present to the world. For this particular story I think I still have about another decade of maturing to go through before I’m ready to pen my masterpiece.

Chad: How do you think writing has changed overall since you were a child?

Steven Spellman: Simple. Literally. My writing has simplified a great deal and for the greater good, no doubt. When I first started writing I wrote only for myself and I think those stories were good but when I aspired to become a professional writer I began to write what I thought would sell. Very bad idea, at least in my case. My stories during that phase had good bones but the writing was too strained, too inauthentic to convey much. It was great though because the experience helped me to resist the tendency to write what I thought someone wanted to hear. My job as a writer is to introduce you to something you want to read, maybe even as a pleasant surprise to yourself, because if you knew everything you wanted to read you would’ve already written it yourself. I think writing in general has followed those same lines

Chad: Do you feel like it’s easier to be published, or perhaps harder?

Steven Spellman: It took me about three years to get published initially and I haven’t had a problem getting published since then, but then, I quit my job to pursue this career. If I had had to juggle a job and a family and try to navigate the rigors of fiction writing as well I’m sure it would’ve taken much much longer. I’m not sure if getting published is harder than it has been at any other time, but I can say that I’m sure it’s not easy in any case unless you know someone who knows someone.

Chad: So, we all have times when our imaginary friends won’t talk to us (writer’s block). How do you deal with it if you are susceptible?

Steven Spellman: Thankfully, I’ve never experienced writer’s block. Not yet, anyway, is my disclaimer. Now, I have experienced many times where what my gift is giving me is subpar or just not really where I want to go with a project but my gift is like me; it always has something to say; it just might not be anything worth saying.

Chad: What is the lesson you have learned about writing that you wish you knew starting out?

Steven Spellman: That’s simple to answer as well. I can sum it up in a quote from Thomas Edison, “Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety nine percent perspiration.” I learned that good writing is overwhelmingly more about work ethic, learning from painfully consistent failure what not to do, than raw talent. That’s why it’s called raw talent. It has to be processed heavily if it’s going to be put to any real use. If I had known that starting out I wouldn’t have been so frustrated when success didn’t come right away … or soon thereafter.

Chad: What is your next project? Do you have any ideas?

Steven Spellman: I have two projects that are finished that I still have to edit and send to one of my publishers and I’ve already talked about the special project I’m working on now, so my next project after that is still a mystery but I can say that it probably won’t be horror or science fiction. My last perhaps half a dozen projects have been horror or science fiction and I feel like I need to clean my pallet before I return to form. I can tell you this, though. My gift will have something to say about it. I can only hope that it’s worth saying …

Steven, your interview was interesting and I learned a lot about you. Thank you for appearing!

 

Steven’s website is available here!

While his Facebook page is available here!

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Author Spotlight! with Justin Herzog!

Hello, and welcome to my author interview with Justin Herzog! Today we are going to get some time to chat with them, and we’ll discuss books, writing process, and other fun things.

 

So I’ll just start off with some questions, and we’ll see where this goes! No pressure of answering wrong, your process is all yours!

 

Chad: Can you tell me a little about yourself?

Justin Herzog: Hi Chad. First let me say thank you so much for having me. My name is Justin Herzog. I’m a Floridian native and fantasy author. My first book, titled First Wave, is a contemporary fantasy novel that combines different aspects of western and eastern mythology on the islands of Hawaii.

Chad: Now, I do have some standard questions I like to ask, because they help me understand you better. Can you tell me what your favorite book is, and without too many spoilers, tell me why?

Justin Herzog: Oh, this is tough. I suppose my favorite book would be The Eye of The World by Robert Jordan. The reason being that it was my first foray into the adult fantasy genre. I tend to find myself rereading it at least every other year or so. My favorite series on the other hand, would undoubtedly be The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. It is an absolutely amazing series that somehow continues to improve year after year.

Chad: Who is your biggest supporter? What I mean is, who has always encouraged you to write, even when you feel like you weren’t good enough?

Justin Herzog: That honor would definitely have to go to my wife, Milena, who has stood by my side these last four years without a word of complaint.

Chad: Do you think your school had a lot to do with how you grew as a writer? Were you encouraged?

Justin Herzog: Yes, but not in the way you might traditionally think. I attended a Christian high school, and the summer before I was scheduled to begin, the head pastor was videotaped in a Daytona Beach strip club. The story made national news, and through a series of subsequent events, the pastor ended up being sentenced to three years in prison for aggravated assault (pistol whipping a man over cocaine). As a result, the school essentially went bankrupt overnight. We had very few teachers, no money for sports or extracurricular actives, and no real curriculum to speak of. Now, from an educational standpoint, this was terrible, but for me personally, I had eight hours a day to kill, and was able to spend the majority of that time reading in the gym, which subsequently helped me in my desire to become a published author.

Chad: Where do you get your ideas from? I know, I know, hard to say! But what do you think?

Justin Herzog: Honestly everywhere. I get ideas from places I visit, from news stories I hear, and from the people I encounter on a day to day basis. For me, ideas are not a problem, it’s finding the right combination to turn them into a proper story.

Chad: What is your favorite type of story to read?

Justin Herzog: Definitely fantasy, regardless of whether it is high, contemporary, or even something along the lines of a supernatural mystery, like Dean Koontz.

Chad: What would you say is your strongest writing ability? Is it a wide vocabulary? A deep knowledge of Balinese Monkey Chants?

Justin Herzog: Well, I definitely believe that writing is a craft, and to that end I design most of my characters using the tags and traits system. I think my strongest ability would be the ability to combine certain ideas or themes that might not go together on the surface and weave them into a coherent tapestry of words.

Chad: Let’s get into the meat of you as a writer. Tell me about your most current project. Is it a short story? A novel? Flash fiction perhaps?

Justin Herzog: My current project is actually a sequel to a separate contemporary fantasy series that I am working on. Tentatively titled Exit Light it follows the adventures of a demonologist living and operating in Miami, Florida.

Chad: What makes your hero tick? What makes them interesting to you?

Justin Herzog: For me, having a strong protagonist is all about ensuring that they are believable. To that end, they need to have a goal, something they are striving towards, and there has to be a reason why they are so determined to continue throughout the story. Doing something because it is the right thing to do only takes a person so far. There has to be a reason why they are personally invested in this outcome.

Chad: And we all love a villain. Well, at least I do. Tell me something about the villain that will make me like, or understand them, better.

Justin Herzog: Here’s the thing about villains. The absolute best villains don’t know that they are the villains. They think they’re in the right, and that everyone else is either too blind or too deluded to see what’s right in front of them. Magneto from the X-men series is a perfect example. In his mind, he’s not the villain. He’s just the only one seeing things clearly for what they are. That is what makes a good villain.

Chad: Can you remember the very first story you ever wrote? Do you ever consider improving on it now that some time has passed?

Justin Herzog: The first story I ever wrote was a mystery series starring a bail enforcement officer. And it was awful. Really bad. Which is why I have no plans to improve on it.

Chad: How do you think writing has changed overall since you were a child?

Justin Herzog: I think it’s gotten better, particularly in the fantasy genre. You look at some of the major authors of that time: Jordan, Eddings, Martin, Salvatore. A lot of authors my age grew up reading those books, and as a result, have been able to decipher and understand the writing craft elements and improve on them.

Chad: Do you feel like it’s easier to be published, or perhaps harder?

Justin Herzog: I definitely think it has gotten harder. The last few years have changed the publishing industry completely, and to a certain degree I’m not sure it has entirely found its footing yet.

Chad: So, we all have times when our imaginary friends won’t talk to us (writer’s block). How do you deal with it if you are susceptible?

Justin Herzog: I honestly don’t buy into writer’s block. I mean, obviously, this is a creative business, but so is music, and I have yet to hear a guitarist or pianist say that they cannot play due to writer’s block. For me, whenever I get stuck, it’s just my brains way of telling me that I made a mistake, usually within the last few chapters, and I need to back up and figure out what it is.

Chad: What is the lesson you have learned about writing that you wish you knew starting out?

Justin Herzog: Writing is a craft. Enthusiasm is wonderful and there is a creative element to it, but ultimately, you need to learn the nuts and bolts of fiction writing in order to have any success.

Chad: What is your next project? Do you have any ideas?

Justin Herzog: I think my next project is going to be a fiction novel (currently untitled) about a photographer in Miami. Thank you so much Chad! I appreciate it.

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Hello Readers, today is #TrendingTriumphTuesday, and the idea behind this is there is so much negativity online these days, I wanted to draw special attention to at least one redeemable story each week so that it might put a little joy in your day.

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Today I decided to take a look at a cool trend on Twitter called “TodayImGrateful”, and it produced some very positive results, for your benefit, take a look at the image below:

So many of these have common trends: Family, Favorite Edible Treats, and different Creative Methods that these people cherish.

Think about what you last ate, and try and remember how you were introduced to it. Is there a story behind that? Or is it so deeply in your soul that you can’t remember how you came to like it?

What about your family? Have you talked to them today? Maybe you should. I encourage you to see the positive today, and be the change you want to see in the world.

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