#GuestPost: Stumbling blocks to writing a long series by Sherryl D. Hancock, author of #WeHo Series @vulpine_press

Hello Readers! Today I’m excited to welcome Sherryl D. Hancock, author of WeHo Series to celebrate release of 16th book in series, Darkness Past, on Books Teacup and Reviews to talk about Stumbling blocks to writing a long series. The series is packed with strong, kick-ass women who deal with real issues and overcome a lot of adversity. Check out this interesting guest post and more about book in this post.

Stumbling blocks to writing a long series:

Writing a long series means never having to say goodbye!

As a writer you fall in love with the characters in your books, and writing interconnected series means you don’t have to stop seeing your characters. When I wrote my first book in what was to become the WeHo series, When Love Wins, I had no intention of writing a series. My character Tyler Hancock was inspired by my wife and her time spent in the United States Air Force. She was negatively affected by the military’s stance on gays in the military (they weren’t allowed!). At that point I just wanted to get that story out there. My second book, When Angels Fall, didn’t have the same characters. It was only when I began visualizing my third, Break in the Storm, that I saw a way to bring back Devin and Skyler from When Angels Fall. Even then, I didn’t really plan a “series.”

One year out of high school, before WeHo ever came about, I accidentally began writing my first series of books. The very first book I wrote from beginning to end was called Building Empires, which turned out to be the first and second book of my MidKnight Blue series. Building Empires was so long I had to split it into two books, when I finally got published many years later! That’s when I fell in love with the main character Midnight Chevalier; I didn’t even know I liked women then! In Midnight I had a strong female character, a woman who took no crap from anyone, and who was tough enough to hold her own against anyone! I found that after writing about her exploits, I didn’t want her story to end! I wanted her to grow, change, live and love! I wanted other characters in the book to grow up, and become their own people.

When I began writing WeHo number four, Turning Tables, I saw how I could bring characters from my other series, MidKnight Blue, into my WeHo universe. Even bringing a supernatural element to the books, using a character I’d previously developed who has the gift of premonitions. I think that’s when the idea of writing a series starring recurring characters and centering them all in West Hollywood (WeHo), California really took hold. Thus, the WeHo series was born!

By the time I started the third Midnight Chevalier story, I realized that I needed to add characters who’d grown up in the previous two books. So I started adding new characters, while developing the ones I already had. Giving them love lives, letting them change and grow as people. As it turned out, the characters changed me too. As I explored the options for their lives, what they could do, how they could find love, I realized what was truly missing in my life: REAL LOVE! Right around the time I started to write the story about Kana Sorbinno meeting the love of her life, a woman, was about the same time I discovered my preference for women. As I explored the gay lifestyle for my characters, I learned more about myself.

It took me another ten years to finally end my marriage to a man, and live the life I’d wanted for so long. That’s when I met my soul mate, and a few years later, finally decided to write a lesbian romance! And we all know what that led to!

Now, you’re probably wondering… I thought she said this was about the stumbling blocks to writing a long series… Well, yes, there are stumbling blocks and that is MANAGING so many characters and trying to keep track of their stories. There are over forty women in the series! With more to come! It’s not always easy to wrangle so many personalities, habits, backgrounds, jobs, cars, and music preferences (if you read the WeHo series you’ll see I’m all about the music and the cars!). It only becomes worse when your publisher moves to audio books! Then the poor narrator has to come up with different intonations for each character.

How do I keep track of all of them? Well, I have a book, and that book has notes from the books, from research on the books. The book also has a list of characters by name, age, the vehicles they drive. I know that probably seems silly if you haven’t read the series, but the cars are featured heavily in many of the “group” scenes! I even have pictures in this book. The pictures are of women that inspire the characters, shots of the cars they drive, random things like an article for an apartment rental in New York, or a picture of the Colonel’s Insignia for Kai Temple in Quid Pro Quo, or a picture of a tattoo one of the characters has. The pictures can be anything I need or want to remember about the character.

The music is a whole other arena! I have so much music downloaded from what the various characters listen to. I have playlists for certain characters, or at the very least a playlist of a type of music. I have a classic rock playlist for when I need to get into the head of Jericho Tehrani (from Turning Tables) when she’s driving her Dodge Challenger Hellcat down the road. I also have a house music playlist for getting into the mind of Memphis McQueen (In Plain Sight)! Music is very important to me and can stir up so many emotions and memories. Many people who have read my series have told me how they discovered Breaking Benjamin, or Linkin Park because they read the names of the songs in the book and downloaded it. I love sharing my passion for music with my readers!

The most important thing about writing a long series, is enjoying the feeling when another book is ready to come out and people are anticipating it! I love seeing the excitement of my readers when I post that a new book in the WeHo series is coming out! It fuels my need to write, even if it means adding another name to the growing list in my book! I am starting a new series, about fire fighters working for Cal Fire here in California…maybe I won’t use the same characters over and over again, but maybe you’ll see characters you know too!

Book Detail:

Darkness Past (WeHo series #16) by Sherryl D. Hancock
Publication Date: June 22, 2020
Publisher: Vulpine Press
Genre: LGBT romance

Sierra Youngblood’s life is in danger. After being threatened and stalked by an old client, Kashena Marshal is assigned as her protection. But Kashena isn’t just any security officer, she’s an old flame that Sierra could never forget.

After years apart they soon discover they still share a spark, despite Sierra now being married to a man with a son. Eventually, she realizes she can’t live without Kashena and chooses to leave her husband. But when Jason turns violent, Kashena is forced to protect Sierra once more.

As the dust starts to settle, could there be yet more Darkness in the Past?

Series detail – https://www.vulpine-press.com/we-ho

About the Author:

Sherryl D. Hancock lives in Sacramento, California, and has been writing since she was a teenager. Sherryl’s bestselling WeHo series deals with a number of important topics, such as abuse and problems with mental health. Sherryl’s books are filled with strong, inspiring women in the hope of helping and inspiring others.

You can find her latest book, Darkness Past, here.


I hope you enjoyed reading this post. Let me know in comments what do you think about this guest post and if you have read any book in this series or are you going to add it to TBR.

Happy Reading!

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Rewritten cover

#GuestPost: Where Do Good Story Ideas Come From? by Tara Gilboy #Rewritten #MiddleGrade #Fantasy @JollyFishPress

Hello Readers! Today I’m pleased to share guest post from Tara Gilboy, as a part of blog tour for Rewritten. Rewritten is Middle Grade Fantasy, second book in Unwritten series. If you missed my review on this book, check it out➡ HERE ⬅.

Guest Post: Where Do Good Story Ideas Come From?

One of the most common questions writers get asked is “where do you get your ideas from?” Often when I hear this question I freeze, because I’m not sure I have a good answer to it. I get ideas for stories all the time; I believe one of the requirements of being an author is to remain forever curious about the world.  Or perhaps writers are all a bit prone to anxiety. One of my professors in graduate school remarked that she thought ideas often come from a writer’s neuroticism. We are always imagining the worst that could happen in any given situation, and then rather than letting our worries develop into severe phobias, we write stories about them.

Recently, I was hiking on a mountain trail near my house, and as the sun started to set, I began imagining all the things that might jump out of the trees just beyond the next ridge. Axe murderers? A bigfoot creature? (Local legends call this creature a ‘zoobie.’) Ghosts? My mind started wandering about what would happen if something did leap out from behind a rock, and suddenly I was making up a story in my head about campers who stumble on a cell phone while hiking a trail, and on the phone is video footage of what happened to its owner…

So ideas are all around us all the time. Getting good ideas for stories is another thing entirely.  Most of the ideas I come up with are terrible, as my writing friends can attest. (Well, who wouldn’t want to read a story about a mountain-dwelling zoobie?)

The idea for Rewritten evolved from a variety of factors. When I finished Unwritten (for those of you unfamiliar with it, it’s a middle grade fantasy about a girl named Gracie who is a character from an unpublished fairy tale, whose parents took her out of the story, and into the real world, as a baby, to save her life), I knew if I wrote a sequel, Gracie would need to go into another story world, but I wasn’t sure what this story world would be. Would she go back to Bondoff, the fairy tale land of her birth? Somewhere else?

As I was struggling with these ideas and working on some other writing projects, I was also performing improv and taking classes at a San Diego comedy theater. A couple of the classes I took were on longform improv. One of the things we talked about was how to perform an improvised full-length play in a particular genre. It could be science fiction, Shakespeare, horror, film noire, musical…. You get the idea. As an exercise in class, we sat down and listed “tropes” for every genre, things that are common to each. For example, in Shakespeare, there are a lot of misunderstandings, mistaken identity, metaphors, love stories, etc. In film noire, there is usually rampant sexism, chain-smoking detectives, and dialogue that uses words like “dame” and “ace.” These lists got me thinking a lot about what genre might provide the highest stakes for Gracie, and it wasn’t long before I zeroed in on gothic horror, which also happens to be one of my favorite genres to read.

I spent a lot of time reading classics like Dracula and Frankenstein and making lists of tropes and clichés. I knew I needed a setting that was very contained, claustrophobic even. I imagined an old manor house, which I named Blackwood Hall. I wanted a creature that haunted the night. I listed spooky imagery like cemeteries, dark woods, shadowy hallways. Even then, though, the book hadn’t taken shape: I was stuck. I kept starting and stopping: even though I knew where Gracie’s journey would take her, I hadn’t figured out yet what that journey meant for her. In other words, I hadn’t figured out what Gracie’s goal was.

It wasn’t until I started delving deep into Gracie’s character, figuring out what her emotional wounds were that she needed to resolve, and thinking carefully about what she wanted (which ended up being about grappling with the events of Unwritten and who she was) that I was able to complete the novel. It was only then that I understood what impact traveling into the world of Blackwood Hall would have on Gracie.

And that brings me back to my point about what makes a good story idea. In order to have an idea that is sufficient to create a whole story, you have to know what your main character wants. This is the through line that will sustain your novel and hold all the events together, so that it feels like a cohesive story. Every time I’ve started a novel that floundered (I’ve written A LOT of partial novels that I abandoned halfway through), it’s because my protagonist didn’t have a strong enough goal. Ideas are all around us, and if you keep your eyes open and your curiosity sharp, you will find them. Once you’ve found your idea, think carefully about what that idea means for the main character. If you’re writing about time-traveling opera singers from outer space, or a town built of cotton candy, or a family of misunderstood mountain monsters, make sure you know what that journey means for your characters. That’s how you turn a random idea into a story readers won’t be able to put down.

Book Details:

Rewritten (Unwritten #2) by Tara Gilboy
Expected publication Date: April 7th 2020
Publisher: North Star Editions/Jolly Fish Press
Genre: Middle Grade / Fantasy

“After learning the truth about her own fairy tale, twelve-year-old Gracie wants nothing more than to move past the terrible things author Gertrude Winters wrote about her and begin a new chapter in the real world. If only things were going as planned. On the run from the evil Queen Cassandra, the characters from Gracie’s story have all been forced to start over, but some of them cannot forget Gracie’s checkered past.

Even worse, Gracie discovers that as long as Cassandra has her magical book, the Vademecum, Gracie’s story is still being written and none of the characters are safe, including her mom and dad. In a desperate attempt to set things right, Gracie finds herself transported into another one of Gertrude’s stories—but this one is a horror story. Can Gracie face her destiny and the wild beast roaming the night, to rewrite her own story?”

Book LinksGoodreads | Jolly Fish Press

Affiliate Links : Book Depository | Amazon (UK) | Amazon (IN) | Amazon (US)


What do you think about the book and post? Have you read this book already or any book in this series? Are you going to add it to TBR?

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#Blitz : Belters by Greg Alldredge @MrAlldredge @Shalini_G26

Hello readers! I’m pleased to be part of blitz tour for Belters by Greg Alldredge, organized by Shalini @Digital Reads Blog Tours. Check out book details and excerpt from this sci-fi in this post.

Synopsis:

While humanity races toward the stars…

…They never expected to find company.

The Earth is dying, fractured by conflict, pollution, and disease. Old divisions make the jump to space. Can they survive?

Life spreads, as the Moon, Mars, and Ceres all become hubs for human expansion. Earth provides an ever-ready source of bodies willing to risk all for space.

For the wheelchair-bound Jacob, a chance to leave proves a no brainer…

… Freedom waits for him. Zero gravity becomes his great equalizer.

All is not bliss. Secretive corporations call the shots. Humankind struggles to find a place in the dark, free of Earth’s influence.

An unexplained gamma-ray burst threatens the delicate balance. Weapon, alien, or terrestrial, the cause must be discovered.

Three unlikely ships join together in an extraordinary interplanetary adventure. All to seek the truth and discover what lies beyond.

Follow humanity as they make a leap to the stars, long before discovering Far Reach Station.

Excerpt:

Two-liter paint cans were lobbed at the front of the car, covering the front windshield and blocking Lea’s view of the gate into the CBD.

Without help, she would be lucky to reach the safety behind the wall. If the sensors on the car were disabled, she would be screwed. No matter how thick the armor, a determined attack would eventually find a way inside.

A series of pops and white plumes of smoke was the only indication help was on the way. Despite the heavy filtration system of the vehicle, she tasted the sting of pepper spray. Guards on the wall covered her approach.

Never to let passengers stress out over the environment, the car increased the oxygen level in the cabin while turning up the volume of the insipid relaxation music. “Remain calm, the situation is under control.” The inane mechanical voice spoke softly to her.

Today wasn’t the day she’d be pulled from the safety of her ride to be murdered in the streets by club-wielding thugs. Though she expected that might be the way she one day would meet her end.

Lea relaxed slightly. The way to the CBD cleared under the rain of teargas canisters. The defenders of the gate moved to suppress the crowd. A line of plexiglass shields and truncheons marched toward the transport.

On the wall, mounted water cannons poised to strike the mob with high-pressure jets of saltwater.

Lea’s celebration proved to be short-lived. An explosion rocked the car. The storefront next to the gate erupted in a flash, shredding protesters and defenders alike before her eyes. Lea could no longer hear the hum of the drive wheels. The ringing in her ears covered all other sounds. The steady ring of automatic fire pummeled the walls of her chariot.

Get Belters now.

Amazon

Author Bio:

Greg Alldredge grew up reading all the excellent Science Fiction and Fantasy of the past decades. He hopes to add his voice, in a small way, to the giants of the genres. He wants to write stories he himself would want to read and hopes to be successful as a storyteller first.

He is currently living out of a suitcase, with his wife Connie and no pets. They travel too much. Please enjoy the journey.

Author social media: Email | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram @greg.alldredge

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What do you think about the book? Have you read this already or any book by the same author?

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#AuthorInterview : Neveah Hor, Author of Love Machine, The Revolution @Neveah92926470 #Romance #fantasy #Historicalromance

Hello Readers! I’m happy to welcome Neveah Hor Author of two romance novels- Love Machine: The guardians wanted something else, The Revolution- for an interview on Books Teacup and Review. Read more about author and her books in this post.

Love Machine: The guardians wanted something else…
Publication Date : February 19th 2020
Genre: fantasy / Romance

Synopsis:

In this year, 2050, among the humans on the streets, there are these very few others. Others who are made in the biggest technology company, AITA (artificial intelligence and technological advancements), what humans call, the guardians. They were crossbreeds of humans and animals which had the highest Intelligent Quotient (IQ)they were created to protect all citizens with their special abilities. However, they had one enemy. The citizens called them the poachers. They are from another company, The Royal AI. This company was the second most advanced company and they wanted all the glory of AITA. To win them over, The Royal AI had to prove themselves worthy and they resolved to hunting down the guardians to kill them all off. They have decided to start off with the head of the guardians, 7 different crossbreeds – Aurelia, Jiwon, Hye Kyo, Lena, Darren, Justin and lastly Richard. Aurelia, the chairwoman and Jiwon, the vice chairwoman. Hye Kyo and Lena, the advisors and the three males, heads of defense. Humans just did not understand one thing… These guardians they so often talk about did not want fame. They wanted something else…

The Revolution
Publication Date : March 28th 2020
Genre : Historical romance

Synopsis:

China invaded London and the twins had to escape with their mother he was with them. They headed for their secret hide out but was found and sent to the concentration camp in China. But just when the emperor wanted to do so, his heart melted when he saw the twins’ beauty. That was when they met their true loves which were adopted by the emperor. But who knew Gump—the emperor’s real son seek his greatest revenge in jealousy, separating the twins from their true loves. Years later, the twins graduated in London and participated in a figure skating competition… 

Neveah Hor, born and raised in Singapore, is the author of Love Machine. She published her first book at the age of thirteen. She likes to write, read and enjoys Ballet. She writes mainly under the genres of Young Adult, Romance and Fantasy. She won several writing contests at the age of nine. She is currently receiving her education in Singapore and lives with her parents and an elder sister. She is just an ordinary teenager who holds a pen and paper as she enters the world of stories. She hopes she could be someone’s favourite author one day. Her passion for writing never fades.

Can you tell readers a little about your books, The Revolution and Love Machine?

Love Machine is a romantic fantasy. It has characters who are crossbreeds who have special abilities. They were in search of a normal life and true love. Love Machine delivers life lessons, a sense of morality and a unique concept of magic and love.

The Revolution is a historical romance. Two twins—Odile and Odette were in London when China invaded London. The twins won several beauty pageants since young and were talented in many things. But everything changed when the war occured. These did not happen in history, it was all made up because I felt that making up history will enable my imagination to go wild. The twins were caught when they did not report at the occupation camp, shipped to China and brought to the emperor and empress of China. However, their looks made the emperor surprised and they became part of the royal family. They met two adopted brothers there—Darren and Justin and soon fell head over heels with each other. The real princess and prince were jealous and planned to make the twins’ lives a living hell. Being part of the royal family wasn’t that easy after all!

Both books are romance. What draws you to that particular genre?

I know it’s definitely shocking to see a thirteen-year-old write romance but hey, here I am writing it! I read many romance novels since young and was inspired to write one. After writing one of them, I realised how I loved to write romance novels. To talk about romantic kisses, sunsets, love triangles, friends to lovers and true love is very intriguing! To me, writing romance is about understanding each partner’s feelings when they fall in love. I haven’t experienced any crushes or anything, because I’m obviously too young for any, but I think romance is not just about dirty stuff, it encompasses a range of strong and positive emotional and mental states, from the most sublime virtue or good habit, the deepest interpersonal affection and to the simplest pleasure. 

How did you come up with the idea for your books? 

I get my inspiration from many images from the internet. My favourite app to get inspiration is Pinterest. For example, the idea of making my characters in Love Machine crossbreeds was from images from Pinterest showing anime characters who are hybrids. I also use my writers notebook to store all my writing inspirations.

What were the key challenges you faced when writing The Revolution and Love Machine?

I had difficulties to start a chapter. Many professional writers say you need a captivating starting line and I was asking myself ‘How?’. It was difficult but I had to get over it. Writing kissing scenes were hard for me too. I have never experienced a kiss so I wouldn’t know how it feels like. The only think I can do is to imagine how my character feels and also learn from other romance authors. It is tough to write a novel because I constantly find myself getting distracted with things around me—my phone, my parents’ voice, my sister’s voice, the volume of the television outside. However, each time I see the progress of my manuscript, I would take a deep breath and start writing again. Additionally, my parents are not supportive of my writing career. You will often hear ‘do not waste your time writing’. I can understand that they feel being an author is a tough job but I love writing, so I write. Writing is a tool for me to get away from my stressful school life.

What type of characters do you love and hate to write? What is your favorite quality in protagonists? Has anyone in real life inspired you to write them?

I like to write about my protagonist and antagonist. I like to put myself in the protagonist’s shoes. I like to write bad things about my antagonist and try to give her some good qualities. In most of my stories, there is a side protagonist. I don’t like to write about my side protagonist because sometimes, I feel like it’s taking over the main lead. Funny… but that’s how I feel. I like protagonists who are sacrificial and loyal, protagonist who face moral dilemmas, protagonists who are hopeless romantic but in the end, finds a true love and protagonists who are relatable. When I write my antagonist, I think of my nemesis in school and use the traits she has to put into my antagonist.

Is there a message in your books that you hope readers will grasp?

I hope that readers who wants to believe in true love, would believe in it. For those who believe in it, I hope they will continue to. 

When writing, do you plot or go with the flow?

I ask myself what is the genre I want to write under. I usually choose romance as the primary genre and then add in another genre as a sub-genre. I write what I want to happen at the start, middle and end in my writer’s notebook. I then start to write and go with the flow. 

How long does it take you to write a book?

It took me about 10 months to finish writing Love Machine and another 2 months to edit, get a book cover, and publish it. 

It was slightly shorter for The Revolution since it’s a shorter story. 

Tell us about your journey to publication. 

At first, I set my mind on finding a publisher to publish my novel. I sent out many query letters. Countless letters. I got about ten rejection letters and some of them just left me on the lurch. Of course, I was upset and it took me a week to get over each rejection letter. I then decided that I should get away with traditional publishing and self-published with KDP. Sure, most bestselling authors are traditional published. But guess what? I don’t need to be one, I don’t need the title of being a bestseller, I have the title of being passionate in writing. 

What are your most favorite and least favorite things about being an author?

My favourite thing about being an author is to see my book live on Amazon. However, when being a self-published author, many reviewers spam you with emails—they want to charge you fees for a review. I feel that authors like me should never ever pay for a review unless it’s a kirkus review!

Do you have any writing rituals?

I have my writer’s notebook next to me, a cup of water and my computer ready. I also have a secret spot in the room next to my seat where I can just place all my writing-related things when I hear my parent’s footsteps nearing my door.

What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?

I would give up my education. I don’t mind actually. If I could focus only on writing, I would. 

What are your favorite literary journals?

Oh many—One Story, Tin House, The Newyorker, A Public Space, What’sUp, The Lowa Review and many more.

What is your favorite childhood book?

To be honest, I did not read when I was younger and I’m guilty of that. However, I like to read the Magic Ballerina series by Darcey Bussel. It’s related to Ballet and it has magic in it. I like Ballet and currently dance it too! 

What is the next project you’re working on?

As Love Machine is book 1 of a trilogy, I’m currently working on Book 2 and is really excited to see the end product—I hope you are too.

When not writing, what do you like to do to relax?

Other than writing, I blog, dance and go on social media. I have a bookish blog and I recommend books there. I love to dance ballet, as well as, the currently trending tiktok dances! I love Instagram really much and get a little too excited when I receive likes, direct messages, comments and follows! 

Can you describe Love Machine in five words?

Futuristic, historical, magical, romantic, relatable

And the last one, top 3 tips for aspiring authors.

Although I’m not an expert, I had love to tell aspiring authors these three things. Believe in yourself, don’t let the title ‘Bestselling’ or ‘Award-winning’ affect you, and write everyday.

How can readers discover more about you and your work?

Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram | Pinterest |

Purchase Links:(Amazon) Love Machine , The Revolution

What do you think about the post? Have you read these book? Are you going to add it to TBR?

Happy Reading!

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#AuthorInterview : Iván Brave, Author of They Lived They Were at Brighton Beach #TLTW #Contemporary #Fiction @ivan_brave #BooksTeacupnReviews

Hello Readers! I’m happy to welcome ván Brave, Author of They Lived They Were at Brighton Beach, for an interview on Books Teacup and Review. Read more about author and his book about Coming of age and artist struggle.

They Lived They Were at Brighton Beach by Iván Brave
Publisher: Self-published
Release date: June 16, 2020 (ebook and paperback)
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Themes: Coming of age, artist struggle

Synopsis:

Amid loss, hope, and despair, They Lived They Were . . . is a story about the power to move on.

It begins with a show at Brighton Beach, New York, where Ilya Gagarin performs a set of original dance music to a crowd of loyal fans. They know him as a rising internet star, only 22 years old, and the resident DJ at one of Brooklyn’s sauciest nightclubs. And yet, at the apex of this performance, a text comes in from his girlfriend who just happened to find his stash of coke and crushed prescription pills. Feeling betrayed for the last time, she leaves him. Deletes him. And goes on to have her own successful career as a blues guitarist.

The rest of the summer becomes a struggle to get her back.

The best way, and the only way Ilya knows how, is to launch the debut EP he has been putting off. Unfortunately for the DJ, the club where he works at teeters on fiscal collapse, plus the security manager is a jerk, blocking his every chance for a release party. Only a has-been, mentor-type DJ, encourages Ilya to finish the project, and share it with the world.

As he works towards his dream, the pressure to succeed, paired with the growing pains of a professional artist, reveals a dark truth: the loss of his mother. Soon, recurring nightmares haunt the DJ, alongside distant childhood memories. Only the power of music, together with an urge to regain his abandoned Russian heritage, both of which are described passionately in his journal, keep him afloat week after week.

Soon, Ilya meets a real life guardian angel. Someone twice his age, and Russian, too: the ethereal yet grounded Julia Levina, a celebrated news anchor with her own troubled past. She inspires him to finish the album and land a date for the launch. By midsummer, her pity turns to empathy, which itself turns into something more. An affair ensues. A smart one, they convince themselves, since it doesn’t implicate her 6 year old child, nor pull Ilya astray from the path he believes will win back his ex-girlfriend’s heart.

Close to the date of the show, however, the DJ suffers a relapse, this time with dire consequences. He isn’t able to finish the album in time for the launch party, which comes and goes, and culminates in even more tragedy. Though things look gloomy, it does serve as the reality check that concludes the misguided affair and ends his substance abuse. But not before one final twist.

“Do you know how Russians say Once Upon a Time?” explains a mysterious meta-character, who has been inserting footnotes the entire story. “. . . Жили были. It translates to They Lived They Were.” Suggesting Ilya might just get his fairy tale ending. Or at least move on.

Iván Brave lives in Bucharest, Romania, where he writes poetry, reviews and novels, as well as promotes language learning in multinational corporations. He graduated from The New School in NYC with an MFA in Creative Writing, after earning a Bachelor in Philosophy from The University of Texas at Austin. Language, multiculturalism, and love, or anything that connects, are the themes dearest to his heart. In addition to winning prizes, such as the Writing Award from The Vera List Center for Arts and Politics, his writings have appeared in literary publications like The American Scholar and The Acentos Review. Iván’s second novel, They Lived They Were at Brighton Beach, is out June 16th 2020.

Can you tell readers a little about your book, They Lived They Were at Brighton Beach? What they can expect from it?

If you’ve ever been dumped, if you’ve ever danced all night to pop music, if you’ve ever tried to create something amazing, or if you’ve ever wanted to make sense of your origin, then this is the book for you. Expect inserts of the protagonist’s journal entries, as well as cuts from his recurring nightmares, as he sails through a summer of loss, hope, and despair. A modern retelling of the Greek tragedy between Orpheus and Eurydice, but set in New York City, the year 2018, and a twist.

How did you come up with the idea for your book?

The first inkling of this novel came to me in a very nebulous and vague form, but one I felt was worth pursuing. For years I had written stories that mixed my native Spanish and English, where the characters resembled those closest to me, and whose stories echoed those in real life. So on January 1st, 2018, driving home from a wild night in Austin, it dawned on me that I should try to write a story unlike anything I had ever done (or lived) before. Rather than factual details, I drew from my interests: electronic music, the Russian language, and Greek Mythology. Thus the first chapter, of a strung-out DJ ambling through Brooklyn boardwalk, was born.

What were the key challenges you faced when writing They Lived They Were at Brighton Beach?

Probably my own frustrations, and limitations, as a writer. It occurred to me the other day that if you want to bake a chocolate cake, the first place to look is the internet. Or better, you call on an experienced family member. Most likely you do both, just to get started, and then see what happens in the mix. For a novel however, you must set out to create something completely new. By definition it should be unlike anything that came before. So that’s a challenge in and of itself. Naturally there are some rules, some worth breaking, yet others unbreakable. And I don’t even mean some magical sequence of plot points, I mean the fact that the novel you work on has to be the best possible book you can create. In other words, you have to go all the way. So this book contains all the tricks, all the ingredients, all the fascinations that I could think of which would take this book from a collection of scattered chapters, to a resounding symphony of ideas. Nevertheless, pertaining to my key challenge, it is this: I aimed high, yet for the majority of writing this book, I felt like what I had to give wasn’t enough. The ending wasn’t coming out right, because I didn’t have a clear idea of it. The middle for a long time felt boring, because I couldn’t imagine anything more exciting. And of course, the beginning was full of typos and begged for endless rewrites, because . . . who knows. After two years, however, what’s done is done. In your hands is something worth sharing.

How long does it take you to write a book?

Because I don’t edit as I write, I can fill 100 pages in a week, and in about a month have a book. That’s usually writing like mad, as they say. If you mean how long did it take to write this book, from start to publish, then it actually took two years. That includes working a job, gradation from school, moving to another country, getting married! But also multiple drafts, and rewrites, each reviewed for feedback. Plus time to set the book aside, and come back to it fresh. Finally, one last go at the manuscript. So two years . . . probably I could have finished it in one year, if I hadn’t stopped, or if I didn’t have a life. But there is something romantic to me about taking a while to really nail a book down, and doing other things with your time. My favorite books took 6-10 years to write, by people who were really passionate about stories, but also had other things to do. My next book, for example, I completed a rough draft in three months but over six years ago, then never touched it again. Once I get back into it, it will probably take me a couple months to rewrite, polish, and then publish . . . will I brag about it taking seven years? You bet! But does it take that long? Technically no, but realistically yes.

Did you outline your book beforehand? Why or why not?

Since I still feel like a novice, I impose a rule on myself of always trying new ways to write. So I’ve done both: written a book with and without an outline beforehand. But the thing is, after a book has been on my desk for so long, when my screws start to come loose a little bit, I will write an outline if there hadn’t been one, or I will completely scratch an earlier outline just to start afresh. I do think outlines are useful, and certainly if a great book didn’t have one to start with, we could write one for it after the fact – because good books follow an internal logic which could be detailed in hierarchy. In any case, I’m a big fan of mind-maps and timelines. So at any given moment there will be scattered sheets of paper with lines going up and down and crisscross on my desk.

What type of characters do you love and hate to write? What is your favorite quality in protagonists? Has anyone in real life inspired you to write them?

Your question is making me think I should start writing characters I hate, if only as a literary practice, to add spice! Usually the characters I write I have a soft spot for. I want my protagonist to succeed. I want my bad guys to have good reasons for what they do. What type of characters do I love to write in general: goofy, witty, imperfect people with something to prove. My favorite quality in a protagonist is someone who against all odds will stand up for what he or she believes in, even at the risk of losing, although I prefer it when they win. As for real life inspiration, almost everyone in my close circle has fallen prey to the pen, #sorrynotsorry. But there is one gentleman in particular, one of the most genuinely weird profound goofy loveable persons I have ever met, who I could write a whole book about.

So the main character is a troubled DJ. Which playlist you think he likes most?

What a great question! I know this might sound a bit freaky . . . surely other writers do the same . . . but I recently saw a commercial by one of the biggest producers of all time, DeadMau5, for an online MasterClass. In it, seeing the artist take off his helmet and give some insights to his technique, I thought, wow, this is something Ilya would go crazy about. Maybe I should pay the $XXX just to learn something! Plus it probably comes with an amazing new mix of experimental, never before heard music. Now, if it’s straight playlist you’re asking about, on YouTube there’s a really good DJ (name: f1rstpers0n) who mixes obscure yet great electronic music, and Ilya would like that the most these days, especially to build his own mixes.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned through writing They Lived They Were at Brighton Beach?

That people don’t fall in love with words, they fall in love with ideas. This hit me hard a few months ago. I was someone obsessed with language (heck, I still am!). To put it metaphorically, language is only the skin of a story. Seductive, sensual, sensitive. But ultimately shallow, superficial, and . . . just one element. To be specific, when I started writing TLTW the story of a DJ, my focus was on language, so I ignored the DJ and only listened to what he said, not so much what he did. Until I realized this, I couldn’t figure out what was not working with the story . . . it was missing action! And actions speak louder than words, as we know. Put another way, it’s like asking a hundred people to tell you the first line of Anna Karenina. You will roughly get the same sentence, although told a little differently. And that’s ok. Because what really matters is the concept, the idea, the truth – which words do best to point at. That’s why my next book has a central idea, and capturing that will be the central aim, while playing with language will be the fun, sexy part of writing, and not so much the focus.

Tell us about your journey to publication.

With the next book, I would like to try the traditional path again. It didn’t work with my first novel published, after four years of trying. So that’s why I went self-publishing. That time so many things went wrong (a few right) however that I decided to give self-publishing one more shot with TLTW. Thus, the journey here has been through Kindle Direct Publishing again. It’s pretty DIY and not that complicated. Once on your KDP account, you click create new book. You fill in the details. You upload the manuscript, checking that all the odd little letters (if you’re using Cyrillic like me) look good, as well as margins. Then you upload the cover, emailing your artist if the bleed doesn’t look good. Then you publish! Or in my case, hit presale. This is the first time doing a presale, meaning the ebook is available for order, but it won’t reach your kindle until the launch date. In a sense it’s strange since my audience prefers paperback, and that cannot be up for presale; but in another sense it’s awesome because I can build the book page in these weeks, before the hard launch in June. <Cough, cough> For example I reach out to awesome blogs like the Teacup and we connect before the launch! 😁

What are your most favorite and least favorite things about being an author?

My favorite thing has to do with feeling like I am accomplishing a deep, earnest desire. The inner most part of me wants to connect and entertain and make others think of things in new ways. It’s like a voice inside of me telling me to speak up. So it’s nice, and fulfilling to show that inner side of me. On the other hand, my least favorite thing about being an author is always feeling like I’m in the early stage of my career. I do not feel like I have improved at all! Yet maybe I should heed that nagging voice, and keep pushing forward, you know? Of course, while being grateful: just the other day I fixed up my website and counted all the blog posts I had. There were so many! Later I went through my old stories on my laptop, and I literally found a story I didn’t remember writing! Meaning, I’ve gotten to a point where I don’t even remember all the things I’ve written. That’s a good thing I guess, if what I want is to feel like I am improving. But anyway . . .

Do you have any writing rituals?

I’m an ardent follower of Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages. So I write three pages long-hand every morning when I first wake up. Also, I like to light tea candles (those small round ones, scent-less) when I am in real need of flow. Often accompanied by incense. Anything that simulates the senses. Food and writing don’t really go well for me, nor does drink. Those I prefer to do, and celebrate, on their own—before or after. Like, I used to write with a glass of wine, or with a cup of tea (sometimes a whole bottle of wine, or a whole pot of tea) but then I realized that if I want to write my hands need to be on the keyboard. Go figure. So, no drinks as part of my ritual. Just consistency.

What is the next project you’re working on?

I’m on the fence, you know. Maybe answering this question will help, or perhaps you might nudge me in the right direction . . . but originally my plan was to pick up that old story from six years ago. That’s because since its conception I feel like I’ve learned a lot about storytelling, plus I want to put some new tricks to use on the page. But another part of me, the part that’s been reading a lot of non-fiction lately, wants to revive a memoir project that’s been collecting dust. The reason for that is I want to write it as a gift to my wife: the story of why I believe we are meant to be. Why would a husband have to write this for this wife? Ask any husband, ask any wife.

When not writing, what do you like to do to relax?

I love to read! Lol. Honestly, it’s so nice to catch up on my pile of books which never seems to get smaller. Aside from books, I really, really, really like YouTube. It could be a certain channel, or just random recommendations. Finally, I really enjoy conversation. Whether it’s over Facetime, or over dinner, I like talking and listening and sharing and learning through conversation. It’s relaxing.

Can you describe They Lived They Were at Brighton Beach in five words?

Artist struggle meets modern love.

And the last one, top 3 tips for aspiring authors.

  1. Accept that life is chaos.
  2. Pay attention.
  3. Go all the way.

How can readers discover more about you and you work?

A brilliant question! The easiest way is on Amazon. But the deepest way, since that’s where I put everything, including bad, awkward, personal writing, is my blog. In the summer I will revamp my Instagram—and then that will be the most fun way to connect.

Website | Blog | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn | Amazon (author page)

Purchase Link:

The Summer Abroad:

Let’s discuss!

What do you think about the book and interview? Have you read this book or any book by the same author? Are you going to add it to TBR?

HAPPY READING!!

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