Today’s Featured Author – Devra Robitaille

Please welcome author Devra Robitaille to my blog. Her book, The Dream Stealers, came out in February.

Interview

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am a retired professional musician and composer; I have had many interesting and exciting phases to my life, I’ve lived in London, Los Angeles and Las Vegas, worked in musical theatre and traveled all around the world.  I have a great family and lots of dogs, I consider myself very lucky to have seen and done so much on this beautiful planet.  As a writer I try to give back now—hopefully, good family values and uplifting spiritual ideas to young readers.

Where were you born and where do you call home?

I was born in London, England and I now live on the Sarasota Bay in Florida’s beautiful Suncoast.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I’ve always been what my daughter would call a “book-nerd” – as a little kid in London I had a window seat high above the street.  I would crawl in between the double glazing and pull the curtains closed behind me, and it would be me and Jane Eyre, or me and Heathcliffe enthralled together in a bubble galloping across the windy moors or dancing a waltz in the candlelight.  So the leap from reader to writer was easy and smooth.  As an adult I have written scripts and musicals, books and articles, even poetry when I was young.

How much of yourself, your personality or your experiences, is in your books?

Honestly, probably more than I think LOL  I try to be outside looking in to the world I create, but I’m sure that just by virtue of me being the writer, the choices that I make for the characters are choices that come from me.  Even if the book is about a puppy dog, which is pretty far away from me, a bit of me will sneak in, how could it not?

Have you started your next project? If so, can you share a little bit about your next book?

Yes, I have almost finished my next book, it’s called “the Henge” and it’s set in the Bronze age.  It’s a rollicking adventure, but more than that I cannot say at the moment (she smiles enigmatically)

Do you write full-time? If so, what is your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?

I go in fits and starts, some days if I am inspired I sit at the computer for ten hours straight, then I might take a few days off to go wander and tarry……I love to kayak, and bike, I live on the water so there are always amazing birds and fish and dolphins and manatees to watch and chat to, but when I am in the throes, so to speak, I am oblivious to everything around me.  I do discipline myself, but I also cut myself some slack as I recognize the need to breathe in as well as out  😊

What is the best thing about being a writer? The worst?

The best thing is being self-sustaining and self-motivating, I love being inspired and being caught up in a whole new magical world of my own creation; the worst thing is having to slog at the computer, especially the busy work, like proof reading and editing and correcting typos and spelling, Oh don’t get me started…..Since I come from England I was educated with British ways of spelling and punctuation, so I have to make sure everything matches.  I do admit I can get grumpy during those times (sheepish grin)

Please tell us about your current release.

My most current book for young adult readers, not the children’s series, is called “The Dream Stealers.”  It’s a fantasy space adventure and It’s a really fun read, if I do say so myself.

Which of your characters is your favorite? Do you dislike any of them?

It’s a “coming of age” story about a young girl and her journey through the universe to find her father.  I’m fond of her because she starts out, as any fifteen-year-old, uncertain and afraid (somewhat snarky too) and as the book progresses she learns self-confidence and some mad skills.  I hope my readers are cheering for her as she stumbles along and matures into a wonderful young woman, captain of her own space crew, and ends up saving us all from the Dream Stealers.  As far as disliking, well the villains of course, but sometimes one can be fond of a bad guy, or at least admire the sheer dastardliness of how his mind works.

Can you tell us a little about the black moment in your book?

There are a series of black moments that are resolved by the characters, I guess my favorite is when my characters’ spaceship falls into a rip in space that is a trap set by said Dream Stealers to suck them into their dark and malevolent planet, the Planet Zott.

Did the story turn out the way you planned from the beginning? If not, what change happened that you didn’t expect?

The story began to almost write me as I went along….the characters seemed to be guiding me to take them to the places they wanted to go, it was an amazing journey of inspiration, as the characters experienced things, I was experiencing all sorts of synchronicities in my life as I wrote.  And in the end, I am proud of how it turned out.  I am planning a sequel, once I am finished with the hundred and twelve balls I am juggling at the moment.

If you could be one of the characters from any of your books, who would it be and why?

I love that question.  I have written a book about Santa called “The Efficiency Claus” It’s a fun hoot of a story with lots of cake and baking as the elves of Santa’s kitchen have to form a resistance movement to save Santa from his own evil Chief of Staff.  I’ve always been fond of Mrs. Blythe who is the head baking elf and I think there’s more than a bit of me in her.

Do you have a specific snack that you have with you when you write?

Well, being British I have a taste for tea, proper tea, not that watery weak kind.  So I have a cup beside me at all times, topped up by my very nice and helpful daughter, Asia. (who will also attest I am grumpy when proof-reading, or if my tea runs out—Tea-poca-lips now!)

Book Blurb

Devin’s thrilling story of courage in the face of ruthless greed and skullduggery begins on Earth. Devin is a fifteen-year-old girl who lives with her scientist father who has invented a laser spaceship, the Traveler, and when he goes for a test run the machine returns without him. Devin bravely sets off to find him and learns how to fly the Traveler, encountering many odd and magical characters en route. She ends up on a breathtakingly beautiful planet called Vega which is the headquarters of the Dream Council, where she meets her guides, Ryan and Olam and finds her father again. She discovers that the universe is threatened by underhanded and dastardly bandits called the Dream Stealers who lurk in the border regions between dreaming and waking, attacking dreamers and stealing their dreams. They sell the dreams on the black market leaving their victims trapped in an agonizing wasteland, mere shadows of themselves. The Dream Council is organizing a resistance movement to vanquish the Dream Stealers and recapture the dreams and return them to the dreamers. To her amazement Devin discovers that she is not an earthling, but an alien with incredible talents and she bravely steps up to play her part. She enrolls in the flying academy on Vega to learn to become a fighter pilot in the reconnaissance squadron and begins her inspiring journey of defiance and victory.

About the Author

London-born Devra is a prolific composer, songwriter and keyboardist, as well as an author of books for kids.  She had a successful career as a professional musician in England, playing keyboards and touring with Mike Oldfield of Tubular Bells fame, before moving to America in the nineties. Devra now lives in Florida with her family on the Sarasota Bay, and is a consummate foodie, baking lovely cakes and deserts. She continues to write and compose for the theatre, but has discovered a new love, writing for children and young adults.

Devra has written five books, the three books in The Muffy Series: Muffy and the Dog Catcher, Muffy’s Florida Adventure and Muffy and the Medicine Cat are a trilogy of funny and heartwarming chapter books for children. And for older readers, The Efficiency Claus, a rollicking Christmas Tale featuring reindeer, elves and cake, as the workers at Santa’s compound fight to free Christmas from Santa’s tyrannical chief of staff, and The Dream Stealers.

You can find out more about Devra on her website.

You can purchase The Dream Stealers on Amazon.

Today’s Featured Author – Marian Thorpe

Today I welcome author Marian Thorpe to my blog. Her latest book, Empire’s Daughter (Empire’s Legacy Book 1) was released last year.

Interview

Tell us a bit about yourself. 

What may come as a surprise to some readers will be my age; I’m nearly 58. I’m married, no kids – two cats, though -and retired after twenty-six years in education, although my original degrees are in plant science.  I’m currently studying archaeology part-time through on-line courses, and I review and edit books as well as write fiction, non-fiction, verse, and two blogs. And I’m a birder.  I think that’s everything!

Please tell us about your current release.

Empire’s Daughter is a coming of age story, set in a world that isn’t quite Britain, in the centuries after the fall of Rome.  Generations before, conflict between the Emperor and the headwomen of the villages led to a divided society: militaristic for the men, pastoral and trades for the women.  Men and women live apart, coming together twice a year at Festival.  But an external threat of invasion leads the Emperor to ask for the help of the women’s villages in repelling the invaders.  Lena, the protagonist of Empire’s Daughter, votes to fight; her partner, Maya, chooses exile instead. Both sets of choices lead the two young women to different paths and different understandings of love, loyalty and loss

Have you started your next project? If so, can you share a little bit about your next book?

I’m working on the next book in the Empire’s Legacy series; this one is titled Empire’s Hostage.  It too takes historical truths about Europe – the Viking incursions into Scotland, the border raids between Scotland and England, the Justinian plague – and weaves them, not historically accurately, into the world created in Empire’s Daughter.

How do you conceive your plot ideas?

My plots are based on history and ‘what if?’ In the case of Empire’s Daughter, that ‘what if’ was: what if, when Rome fell, that message never got to Britain?  What would happen to a last outpost of an Empire who loses contact completely with its centre?  The world of Empire’s Daughter isn’t (quite) Britain, either historically or geographically, but that question was at the heart of its creation.

Do you write full-time? If so, what is your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?

I write more or less full-time now; I retired about a year ago, which allows me this freedom.   Every day is a bit different, because as well as writing Empire’s Hostage, I also have two blogs to write posts for, book reviews to do, editing, plot notes…oh, and my course work in archaeology.  As well, the business of living – house cleaning, shopping, a daily walk – has to fit in there too.  But generally I’m at my laptop by about 8 in the morning, beginning the day with a list of what I’d like to accomplish, and work on-and-off till about 5.  I try not to sit for more than an hour at a time, and when I’m working at home that’s easy, because there is always laundry to put in, or a cupboard to clean, or it’s time for a walk; it’s harder when I work at my writer’s group or at the university library, which I do on weekends when my husband watches soccer almost all day.  I like soccer, but not that much!

Do you outline your books or just start writing?

With Empire’s Daughter I didn’t outline it – it just evolved over ten years. (I was working in a very demanding job during that time so I didn’t have much time to write.)  With its sequel, I mapped out the story arc of the book – but as I write new characters and situations keep appearing, so the outline and the finished story will have significant differences.

What kind of research did you do for this book?

A lot, but only in hindsight. My husband and I travel to Britain frequently – we both hold dual UK and Canadian citizenship and have family in England and Scotland – so the geography was well known to me.  I read a lot of history, so again I was using facts I knew from that reading, and way back in university I’d taken a course (for fun) on Celtic History, so that helped as well.  Towards the end of writing Empire’s Daughter and beginning to think about Empire’s Hostage, my husband and I spent some time on Hadrian’s Wall again; I took a course on the archaeology of Hadrian’s Wall, and read a lot of books about the history of Rome, Britain, and the Viking era.

Did you base any of your characters on real people?

Only one.  The character of Turlo, a major in the Empire’s army, is based almost entirely on Ted Cowan, my Celtic History professor at university and now Emeritus Professor of Scottish History and Literature at the University of Glasgow.  I think he’d appreciate it!

Is there a specific place in the house (or out of the house) that you like to write?

Almost all my focused writing on Empire’s Daughter,  and much of Empire’s Hostage, occurred in a study carrel on the fifth floor of the university I attended; we still live in the area, and as an alumna I have library privileges.  It’s the same study carrel I wrote most of my M.Sc. thesis at thirty years earlier! Now I’m retired I also have joined a writer’s group that meets every Monday morning at a local bookstore-cum-restaurant that reserves the space just for us from 9 – 12.  At home, I write in our library, or in the sun-room, usually with the ‘help’ of one of the cats.

Book Blurb

Empire's Daughter cover“But the world changes. In all the women’s villages of the Empire, this week or next, a soldier like myself will arrive to ask to live in the village, to take up a trade.” Casyn paused, for a breath, a heartbeat. “And to teach you and your daughters to fight.”

With those words, the lives of Lena, fisherwoman of Tirvan village, and her partner Maya change irrevocably. Torn apart by their responses to this request, Maya chooses exile; Lena chooses to stay to defend her village and the Empire, although the rules of the Partition Assembly many generations earlier had divided and circumscribed the lives of men and women. Appointed to leadership, Lena’s concepts of love and loyalty are challenged as she learns the skills of warfare, and, in the aftermath of battle, faces the consequences of her choices. Leaving Tirvan to search for Maya, Lena is drawn into the intrigues and politics of the Empire, forcing her to examine what she most truly believes in.

About the Author 

MarianI am an indie writer of young-adult adventure, short stories, verse and non-fiction nature writing; editor, reviewer, part-time student of archaeology, artist, birder, walker, cook.  I explore landscapes of the past and present, and of the mind, and experiment with how the digital world allows art, writing and knowledge to be shared and disseminated.

I hold an M.Sc. in plant agriculture and a B.Ed. I’ve worked as a university research associate, taught high school science and horticulture for twelve years, and then became a special education coordinator for another fourteen before retiring, specializing in autism education and educational technology.  Birding has taken me to all seven continents, and to places on them most travellers never see.  I live in a tiny hamlet in southern Ontario with my husband and two cats, in a 105 year-old house backing on to a maple swamp.  Writing has been part of my life since early childhood, and I have published sporadically over the last thirty-five years.

You can find out more about Marian on her website or follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

You can purchase Empire’s Daughter on Amazon and Smashwords.

New Release: Tick Tock by Toni Owen Blue

Author Toni Owen Blue just released her children’s book, Tick Tock, last month. This fantasy coming of age story is suitable for those age 10 on up.

Interview

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I think the first time I really considered myself a professional instead of an enthusiastic amateur was when I got my first fan review by email about my first work Double/Cross. Even though I’d been earning money from it and it did very well with shopfront reviews and scores.

I think I just felt rather detached from it, like all those people might have, I don’t know, left reviews on completely the wrong product or something equally ridiculous. Don’t get me wrong, I really appreciate every single person who took the time to express their feelings on shopfront reviews. But there was something incredibly personal about receiving an email about how they felt.

How much of yourself, your personality and experiences are in your books?

I’m lucky enough (or unlucky depending on your perspective) to have had enough happen to me that’s really worth writing about, so quite a few of my own experiences are in my books, so much so that ‘Iris’ which is currently in editing is actually pretty autobiographical.

It really does depend on what I’m writing which parts of me you can see though. For example in Double/Cross I break the fourth wall once in a while and get sarcastic about what’s going on, which I could (and very much enjoyed) doing, as it was a very fun project. The protagonist of Tick-Tock, Vega, shares a few experiences with me, being bullied in school and having trouble with her mother. There’s a bit of me in all my projects really, just different bits.

Have you started your next project? If so can you share a little?

This is a very well timed question as I’ve finished my most recent project just this week, Iris, which I’ve already mentioned is now in editing. It’s a middle grade realistic fiction book that follows young Iris as she struggles with growing up with one abusive and one absent parent.

While that’s going through editing I’m geared up and planning the next project, another interactive fiction like Double/Cross, which I won’t spoil yet, although I will say to keep an eye out for it as I’ll probably be looking for Alpha testers towards the end of this year.

What is the best thing about being a writer? The worst?

I’m going to start with the worst thing about being the writer, because I’ve always liked to finish on high notes, and that is the way people look at writing, it’s one of those things that most people think they could do if they took the time, it’s not really viewed as a job. I think most authors will be familiar with the answer, when you tell people what you do ‘Ah – me too!” only to be told about an avalanche of ideas that have yet to be put on paper. In my mind this is like me claiming to be a doctor because I read ‘A guide to Anatomy’ one time.

As for the best, I imagine it’s the same for many writers, I’m doing what I love, I’ve always wanted to write, and despite the very painful experience of having my rose tinted glasses ripped off my nose when I realized that writers can’t just bury themselves underneath a big pile of books and coffee, I still can’t think of anything in the world I would rather be doing.

Please tell us about your current release

Tick-Tock is a middle-grade fantasy adventure for anyone 10+. It follows Vega, a twelve year old girl who’s living in the scarce village of Coalridge after her families’ exile from the much richer Sunlands. Her Mum devotes her life to the idea of going back to their old home, and Vega can’t find a single friend, aside from her brother.

Vega starts our story as well meaning, but a little spoiled. Hating the situation she’s in, but at the same time not doing anything about it, her brother is the one to bring good fortune her way. But when this blows up in her face and Vega finds herself alone for the first time and has to grow up much faster than she’d like.

What inspired you to write this book?

I think everyone struggles with confidence time to time, especially at a younger age when dealing with self-identification is very new.

I think this is something everyone goes through in their adolescence and then usually again later, namely finding how you can make yourself proud of what you do. That’s something that’s different for everyone and usually it’s something that you do. I’ll use myself as an example, when I was younger I did a lot of Kickboxing, and being good at that was how I got a lot of my self-worth. Looking back on it I don’t think that’s the best way to get your self-worth, because you end up defining yourself through it and that’s not who you are that’s just what you do. I wanted to take Vega and explore taking pride in yourself for who you are, if that’s clear.

I think that’s something that should always be on people’s minds when they think about themselves, even though a lot of the time it isn’t (I’ll be the first one to hold my hand up and say I’m very bad at doing that).

How did you come up with the title?

Titles are difficult for me, and I really wish I could employ someone to be a Title Creator or something because I’ve not improved in the slightest since my first work.

All the Tick-Tock files are saved in my computer as Clockwork. I knew from the start I couldn’t keep that title because I read Philip Pullman’s book by the same name a lot when I was younger and I can’t get it out of my head. Eventually I had to sit and actually come up with a title I could use and thinking about it I realized Tick-Tock was perfect. Mechanical clockwork is something that hangs over Vega like a storm cloud throughout the book, the industry of metal work being the reason for her family’s exile and poor situation, and ultimately it becomes the reason she loses a family member.

Time is also a big factor for Vega, she starts the book with time ticking down till the moment she’ll have to accept her fate and go work in the mines. Later on in the book she finds herself losing time completely and things get very muddled and confusing.

Combining the two ideas turned out to be perfect.

Did you base any of the characters on real people?

My brother was absolutely thrilled to hear that Vega, with her traumatic character arc from slightly spoiled to kind-hearted and considerate was in fact loosely based on him when he was around twelve.

Which character is your favourite? Do you dislike any of them?

I love most of the characters for one reason or another. I love how tenacious Vega is, Rigel’s dependability and good humour. Stia is one of my absolute favourites with her fierce loyalty and Lyra’s confident gut busting made some of my favourite moments.

You’ll note I say most characters, there is one I absolutely despise and that’s Na’ir, he is just everything that makes me angry. I half wish he was real because then I’d be able to go full zombie apocalypse on him with a bat.

Book Blurb

Tick Tock“She saw his body was not a body at all. A bronze plate ran from his collar bone over his chest, stopping where his stomach would have been and giving way to ticking silver cogs, groaning mercilessly as they pumped what looked like clotted black oil.”

Coalridge. The name says it all. It’s a barren wasteland running down the ridge to the little town where the people spend most of their lives deep underground, mining rocks as hard as their heads. Coalridge is where Vega is stuck, even though she’s so different. Exiled with her family from a home she was too young to remember Vega belongs neither here nor there. The one place she knows she doesn’t belong is crawling around in the mines.

The only person who understands is Rigel, her brother. But when the pact that was meant to help their escape goes horribly wrong Vega ends up truly alone for the first time. It’s strange how easy running away is when you have nothing to lose.

About the Author

ToniToni Owen-Blue is a passionate writer of Interactive and Children’s Fiction, with a background in script writing and thrilling chair catalogue articles. She lives with Caspian, her dog, in Sunny England.

Toni’s inspired to write books for children in difficult situations in the hope that one day her books might inspire children the same way she was when she was young and living through a lot of the difficulties that people know exist in the backs of their heads, but don’t like to discuss very much.

On the other hand her Interactive Fiction has always been about having fun. Interactive Fiction is all about being able to influence a story as it unfolds before you, being able to snub the characters who rub you up the wrong way and trying to help those who you think need you.

With a million project possibilities before her Toni can’t get enough of creating both.

You can find more about Toni on her webpage. And you can purchase Tick Tock on Amazon and Amazon UK.