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Saturday, January 14, 2012

An Interview with Indie Superstar Jamie Sedgwick

Accomplished Indie Writer Jamie Sedgwick has graciously given some of his time away from writing to answer a few questions for us. This is the result of an email interview that took place over December.

Jamie’s books have been featured here on Chilli Tween Reads before look for links at the bottom of the interview.

Your stories are quite unique, you seem to be able too mix differentstory elements together with great success (like high fantasy andsteam punk).  Where do you get your ideas and inspiration from?

I’ve been trying to think of a way to answer this question without getting too convoluted, but I don’t think I can. The simple and direct answer is that the books I’ve read and the genres I’ve enjoyed in the past have influenced me. Of course, nothing is ever that simple.

Part of my writing style stems from my slightly ADD personality, which I’ve discussed in my blog. My approach to writing is to do everything in my power to keep the story interesting to me, and hope that my effort pays off for readers as well. A number of reviewers have mentioned that I pack a lot of story into a book -a lot more than most authors do- and hopefully, that makes the stories pack a punch, so to speak. So far, it seems to work.

Before I start writing though, I usually start with the character. When I began writing “The Tinkerer’s Daughter” I had no idea where the story was going to go. I just knew that I had to tell the story of this poor orphaned girl who didn’t have a chance at life. The entire world was against her, but she was pure and dedicated, and a little naive, and because of that she overcame everything the world could throw it her. I knew that the time and setting would be the verge of an industrial revolution, but the political revolution that came with it was completely organic. To be honest, I was probably influenced by Japanese anime more than high fantasy or steampunk, but I followed Breeze and that was where her story took me.

In my newest novel, “Hank Mossberg, Private Ogre,” I thought about the character for several years before I finally wrote the book. I just had this character stuck in my head. He was a big, green hulking figure in a trench coat and fedora, like Mike Hammer or Dick Tracy meets The Incredible Hulk. The character was there, but I didn’t quite know what to do with him for a long time. Eventually that evolved into something simple and unique: A fairy tale murder mystery.

Most of my books are like that, to some extent. They draw on things familiar, but become something new and different in the process.

Your stories do have a universal appeal to them across age groups and sexes but is there a particular reader that you are aiming for when you write?  I know I often misjudge how seemingly more grown up the younger generation are today. They are not the same readers we were when we were young. Enid Blyton's Famous Five is a stark contrast to the Twilight books they read today, how do you stay connected with today's readers?

It’s certainly a different world than it was when I was growing up. I must admit that I have a little extra insight into the young adult mind because I have children, and lots of nieces and nephews. I do pay attention to the books they read, the movies they watch, and the way they interact with each other. And yes, I do keep them in mind when I’m writing some of my novels. Having said that, I’d also have to say that the way we define literature has changed just as much.

When I was kid, there were three sections in the library: Children (Dr.Seuss, etc.), YA (Hardy Boys & Nancy Drew, Where the Red Fern Grows, the Hobbit, etc.) and Adult. At first, I presumed the Adult section of the library was full of terrible and inappropriate things and I avoided it for fear of the consequences. Eventually, when I had exhausted everything in the YA section and I knew Middle Earth and Pern like the back of my hand, I courageously ventured into the Adult section. I half-expected alarm bells to go off and some terrifying library policeman to arrest me. Instead, I just found a bunch more books. I found James Michener, James Clavell, Zane Gray, and Stephen King, along with the rest. And some of them were the same names I’d seen in the YA section!
There was a middle ground there somewhere; a magical place occupied by science fiction and fantasy writers like Tolkien and H.G. Wells and Robert E. Howard, and that was where I always felt the most comfortable. In those days, genre fiction wasn’t for adults, yet it often contained subject matter that was quite mature. I didn’t mind. I’d found my place.

Today, we have a lot more to choose from: Children, Middle Grade, Young Adult, Tween, Teen, and so on. I can’t even remember them all and I couldn’t begin to tell you where one ends and the next begins. I think it started as a marketing tactic, but ultimately it just became a caricature. Today we have women in their twenties and thirties reading so-called YA fiction so voraciously that publishers can’t keep up with demand. And many of the teens I know roll their eyes when the subject comes up. I’ve never met a young adult male who has the slightest interest in sparkly vampires, and yet I’ve worked in office buildings full of women who have families, full-time jobs, and run business who can’t get enough of the subject. So, why is the YA section full of sparkly vampires? Why not the Adult section? Are we pretending, or somehow being politically correct by telling teens they should only be interested in one thing? Or is it just another marketing strategy? Either way, it’s shrewd business.

But regardless of how the market has changed, I think we all still really just want the same thing. We want a pleasant fiction, an exciting story, a temporary escape to a world more interesting than our own. I try to keep that in mind regardless of what age group or genre I’m writing.

Publishing has changed a lot in the last ten years. Where some fantastic writers were overlooked because their content wasn't current, today anyone can publish anything. How do manage as an indie writer in today's market?

In some ways, this new digital marketplace is fantastic, but in others it's extremely challenging. Like many Indie authors, I turned to self-publishing because the industry wasn't interested in my product. When I made that decision, I took on a lot more than just writing. I became a publisher. I formed a small business. I've had to keep track of profits and expenses, purchase and create art for covers, and seek editorial assistance. It's a lot to juggle, but I think the rewards are there for those who tough it out.

Competition has always been stiff. The number of titles at places like has grown exponentially, but so has the market. Thanks to the low cost and instant gratification that comes with e-books, more people are reading now than ever. That translates to a huge opportunity for those of us who never had a chance in the collapsing legacy system.

I see you mention some of the great old masters in writing as influences, greats like H.G Wells, and Julies Verne, whose writing was so far ahead of its time in imaginative content.... What do you think they would be writing about if they were alive today?

I've been thinking about this question for a week and I'm still not sure. It would have been easy if you'd said Tolkien, because that man was so in love with his world that he never wanted to leave it. If J.R.R. Tolkien was still alive, I have no doubt that we'd still be learning about Middle Earth. But H.G. Wells and Jules Verne... that's tough.

In a way, these two authors were really products of their time. They witnessed the industrialization of the world and it sparked their imaginations. That's not to say that their writing was less than brilliant; I consider them both literary geniuses, but in those early days of the genre, science fiction was as much fantasy as science. Some of the things they imagined we still haven't achieved.

I'd have to guess that they would still be pushing the limits. In our modern world, I can imagine Wells and Verne conducting massive amounts of research and then pushing the boundaries of what we understand, much in the way that Michael Crichton did. Having done a little research, I suspect they might have used their persuasive talents in fields outside literature as well, such as politics, though I wouldn't dare speculate about what they might think of our current political landscape.

I too struggled with the H.G.Wells question and finally decided that they would probably writing the exact same stories because as you say, most of it is still sci fi. Aliens haven't invaded, and people don’t run around at 20,000 leagues, and we don’t have time machines.  So final question for you Jamie. What are you currently workign on and when can your fans read it!"

I'm finishing a new novel in the "Hank Mossberg, Private Ogre," series, but I won't be publishing it for a few months. My next release will be "Shadow Born II: Shadow Rising." It's the continuing story of my young adult assassin Gabriel Frost. It's a very exciting sequel that reveals the truth about Gabriel's past and the origin of his special abilities. His friend Jodi develops some unusual powers of her own, and I think the story goes in some very unexpected directions. I wrote it last summer, but I try to keep several months between my first draft and publication. It's too easy to overlook amateurish mistakes on a new work. I find that allowing a few months between the first and final draft lets me see the story differently. I've forgotten many of the details, so when I come back and re-read, it's not so familiar. That's when the mistakes really start to appear and I can see where changes in pacing and plot structure might help the story.

Do you have anything you would like to add in summary? Or say to our readers?

A: I'd like to wrap it up by thanking you first of all, for your patience and generosity in putting all of this together. I'd also like to thank the readers who've taken time out of their lives and money out of their pockets to give my books a chance. When I hear from someone who's loved my stories and passed them onto friends, that's huge. It validates everything that I've been working so hard for. It's tough to be a writer. You spend thousands of hours creating stories that people might never read. You don't know if anyone will like them or if you'll ever make a penny. But you keep writing out of love for the craft and the dream that you just can't let go. Right now, I'm virtually unknown in the publishing world, but when people leave positive feedback, send emails, and comment on my blog, I know that I've succeeded. Regardless of how small my audience, my stories have connected with people and that means a lot.


Thank you Jamie for your thoughtful and candid answers.  I’m sure I speak for all our readers when I say we can’t wait to read Shadow Born II: Shadow Rising. I’m sure we can beg an ARC out of Jamie to give readers a preview before it goes live (wink, wink) or maybe even a giveaway!

Now go and read the reviews of The Tinkerer's Daughter and The Darkling Wind if you haven’t already. Then stop by Jamie's blog to check out his other books. 

Friday, January 13, 2012

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Blurb: Young Katniss Everdeen has survived the dreaded Hunger Games not once, but twice, but even now she can find no relief. In fact, the dangers seem to be escalating: President Snow has declared an all-out war on Katniss, her family, her friends, and all the oppressed people of District 12.

Review by Dale:

Finished the last book in the trilogy and its an impressive finish to an amazing series. I really admire the skills that Collins has displayed in putting this together. It's engaging, its educating its immensely entertaining and its almost one of those books that really makes you think differently about life. In fact for Young Adults it probably is. The first book I ever read like that was John Wyndham's the Chrysalids and there are parallels here with the Hunger Games. I might reread it and post a review so you can all compare.

But back to Mockingjay, and its easy to to point out that Collins manages to maintain her amazing style of keeping every scene buzzing, and forcing you to turn the page to see how things will turn out for Katniss. She has a great talent for building up a scenario and then doing the complete opposite of what you would expect. It almost become a little game of mine as I read. As Katniss would pursue some element of the story I'd try and guess how Collins would twist my expectations around.

And what of the characters themselves? Katniss Everdeen, is she someone you can relate to? I must point out that she looked much younger in the trailers for the Hunger Game's Movie than I had imagined in my head. Same was true for Peeta's character. I think it's great how both those characters developed over the series. And again in ways i didn't expect. Sorry to disappoint you mills and boons die hards, it's not a hands held gazing into your lovers eyes till time turns you into dust kind of book.

I would suggest you read it before Hollywood destroys it.

Highly recommended, 5 stars. Suitable for Ages 14+ (violence)

Format: Hardback
Available from Amazon Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, Book 3)

Link to Download: Here
Price: $9.50c (at time of review)
Pagecount: 390 pp (appx)
Author: Suzanne Collins

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Blurb: Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the annual Hunger Games with fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark. But it was a victory won by defiance of the Capitol and their harsh rules. Katniss and Peeta should be happy. After all, they have just won for themselves and their families a life of safety and plenty. But there are rumors of rebellion among the subjects, and Katniss and Peeta, to their horror, are the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge.

Review by Dale: ***Contains Mild Spoilers***

Fortunately I purchased the Hunger Games as  a box set and didn't have to wait for the sequel to arrive to read it. After allowing a mere 8 hours (to sleep) I plunged into book two. I had to finish it before I came home from holiday so my mum could read it too.

This book picks up just a few weeks after the first book, The Hunger Games (which I reviewed  Here) and again it immediately draws you in to the creepy world of Katniss and Peeta. 

Before starting this book I set about wondering what the author had in store for us. I imagined this book would be about the victory tour and maybe a mentoring of another unlucky candidate. Then in closing, probably a lead into revolution. I wondered how exciting that could be. But the minute Collins mentioned the Quater Quell, I knew we were in for another blood thirsty treat.

The writing is again instantly engaging, the story suitable complex and yet has an easy flow to it. My mum made the same comment that it was very easy to read and yet a throughly complex and compelling story. 

Often it is the case that you can guess where a story is going a few chapters in, and yes it was kind of obvious with the Quater Quell that Katniss would be heading back to the arena. But by the same token it makes you read all the more faster to find out how on earth she gets back out again. And it really comes down to the wire on this one (wink). Carefully twisting and turning the plot and dialoge until bam! 

Now with a cliff hanger the size of Niagara falls I'm rushing back to my favorite reading chair to start the final book, Mockingjay. Look for a review soon.

And again I wasn't disappointed, all the elements were there. The precise ability of Collins to keep every scene an exciting one. No padding, no boring bits. I think there is a lot to learn for other young adult writers like myself here. I guess i'm saying that Suzanne Collins makes me want to be a better writer.

Age 14+
Format: Hardback
Available from: Amazon Catching Fire (The Second Book of the Hunger Games)


Link to Download: Here
Price: $9.50c (at time of review)
Pagecount: 391 pp (appx)
Author: Suzanne Collins

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Blurb: In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before-and survival

Review by Dale:

A Happy New Year to all my followers and with a new year brings some new books. I have chosen The Hunger Games as the first book to read in 2012. I saw a trailer for the movie and was intrigued as to how the 'running man' theme for a young adult story might play out.

First impression, this book is amazing. The author, Suzanne Collins has a brilliant technique in her writing that makes even the most mundane of plot essentials riveting. She maintains the excitement of the story from page to page so that you can't help but read the entire story in one or two sittings. Obviously a lot of thought has gone into the construction of this meticulously crafted story. I really marvelled out how she has constructed her scenes

The story premise itself is also very powerful. The background of a dystopian future full of government control and censorship. The severe oppression of the subjugated peoples of the 12 districts, the 'reaping' of children; some as young as 12 years old. It is a disturbing theme that you know can't have a happy ending. The whole book has that edgy feel that George Orwell's 1984 or Animal Farm had. The scary faceless government watching and listening to everything the workers say and do. People forced to put on a brave face and hide or bury deep down inside themselves their true feelings.

When we are introduced to the other characters; the naive Peeta, the courageous Rue and the horrible Career fighters, we know by the nature of a death-match there is going to be tragic outcomes for these characters.

Since the writing is close first person how do the other characters fair in gaining our empathy and love? Again Collins does a superb job at this even when the character is present for only a small number of scenes. Rue who is barely in the book is mourned profoundly when she passes. How does Collins achieve this empathic connection with the reader in so few pages? Well you will have to read it to find out.

I consider this an awesome book for young readers. While the sentence structures and writing is easy for younger readers to follow the context and themes in the book might be more suitable for readers 14 years and up?

Highly recommended, 5 stars.

Format: Hardback
Available from Amazon The Hunger Games
Link to Download: Here
Price: $9.50c (at time of review)
Pagecount: 374 pp (appx)
Author: Suzanne Collins