Authors & Inspirations: Kate Karyus Quinn

Today I’m excited to have on the blog my friend and fellow author Kate Karyus Quinn! She is the author of the YA novels Another Little Piece, (Don’t You) Forget About Me, and Down with the Shine (which was one of those books where I was ignoring everyone at a family party because I COULD NOT put it down), as well as the adult rom-com The Show Must Go On. Her YA novel in verse, Not Hungry, is out today from West 44 Books. She’s also got some very exciting projects coming up that she’ll be telling us all about. Welcome, Kate!

 

What artist (of any medium) has had the biggest influence on you as a writer?

I honestly have trouble pin-pointing one particular person who influenced me because I’ve always read widely, watched more television than is healthy, and squeezed a few films in between all those books and TV. And I really believe it ALL influences me.

For example, in high school there was a period of time when I was super into watching Lambchop’s Play Along with my little sister. I loved the songs and the silliness and the puppets. And at the same time I was really into rock music and would play my Stone Temple Pilots cassette tape (yes, tape!) over and over that started with, “I am smellin’ like a rose that somebody left me on my birthday deathbed – cause I’m dead and bloated.”

I think my work has that same mixture of humor, darkness, and absurdity.

 

Do you listen to music while you write? Why or why not?

I sometimes do. Most of the time I’m doing ten million things and just don’t think about it.

 

If you do listen to music while writing, share a few songs on your current writing playlist:

I actually have a record player near my desk so I’ll sometimes put on either Carol King “Tapestry” or Bette Midler’s “The Divine Miss M.”

 

Are there any musicians who have had a big impact on your work?

I love musicians who tells stories with their songs. My mom introduced me to Harry Chapin when I was younger and he was a great storyteller. I am also a big fan of Broadway musicals – which are obviously all about combining music and storytelling.

 

What was the last live concert you attended?

My husband got some free tickets to the Arianna Grande concert – so I went with my 9 year old daughter. We ended up leaving early because all the thumping bass made her stomach hurt.

 

What’s the farthest you’ve ever traveled for a concert?

I’ve never really traveled to attend a concert. I’ve gone to NYC to see musicals on Broadway, though. Does that count?

 

Share some of your favorite song lyrics:

Since I mentioned Harry Chapin, these are the beginning lyrics from Dogtown:

Up in Massachusetts There’s a little spit of land.
The men who make the maps, yes, they call the place Cape Ann.
The men who do the fishing call it Gloucester Harbor Sound,
But the women left behind, they call the place Dogtown.

 

Your favorite band is going to write a song based on one of your books. What band is it, and what should the song be about?

Well… I actually have taken most of my book titles from songs. My most recent young adult book DOWN WITH THE SHINE is from a song by the Avett Brothers.

 

What band is on your bucket list to see live?

I really want to see COME FROM AWAY – which is a Broadway musical that’s touring into my town this coming fall. It’s about a group of air travelers all detoured to the same small Canadian town due to 9/11 and how they come together and find meaning out of tragedy. I’ve heard it’s amazing.

 

You are magically going to be granted the ability to be a virtuoso on one instrument. Which do you pick?

Piano. I played as a kid and would love to someday pick it up again.

 

What are your all-time favorite TV shows?

Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Veronica Mars. Schitt’s Creek. The Good Place. Mad Men.

 

What TV shows are you loving lately?

The last thing I binge watched was Derry Girls on Netflix and now I am eagerly waiting for the next season.

 

Is there a TV show that’s had an impact on you as a writer?

Definitely Buffy the Vampire Slayer. My college friends and I were obsessed with it. Even though looking back there are parts that are problematic, I still love the mix of humor and drama and horror.

 

If you got the opportunity to write an episode for one show (past or present) what would it be?

I would love to write an episode of Buffy!

 

If Netflix were to option one of your books for a TV series, which book would you choose, and who would play your main characters?

I would choose my newest book, THE SHOW MUST GO ON, which is a romantic comedy. The main character is a mess of a person, but a very talented stage performer and singer. I think Anna Kendrick would be amazing in that role.

 

What are your all-time favorite movies?

The Joy Luck Club. Billy Elliot. Dirty Dancing. Bridget Jones’s Diary. American Splendor. Run, Lola, Run.

 

Who are your favorite actors/actresses?

Elisabeth Moss is amazing.

 

Which of your books do you think would make a great movie? Is there a book of yours you WOULDN’T want to see as a movie, and why?

I think all of my books would make good movies. I went to film school before I began writing novels and I tend to “see” my books play out in my head.

 

Are you a theatregoer? If so, what was the last play/musical you saw?

I saw Waitress in June and it was AMAZING!

 

What are your top five favorite musicals (if applicable)?

Hamilton

Waitress

A New Brain

Ragtime

Mathilda

 

You can go on a two-week, all-expenses paid writing retreat to the location of your choice. Where would you go, and why?

Oooh, I really want to go to the Outer Banks in North Carolina where they have a beach that is only accessibly by 4×4 and wild horses roam. It seems like such a pretty and remote location for a writing retreat.

 

What was the last book you read?

The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary (it was great!)

 

What’s your favorite book you’ve read recently?

The Mars Room.

 

What are your very favorite kinds of scenes to write?

Dialogue!

 

When you need to recharge your batteries/refill the well as a writer, what forms of media do you most often turn to?

I read mostly. Or watch TV. But mostly I try to catch up on all the books I don’t have time to read.

 

What artistic/creative talents do you have outside of writing?

I’m starting to get into doing some graphic design, but I’m still very much a novice.

 

What artistic/creative talent do you wish you had?

I wish I could draw!

 

Let us know what’s coming up next for you: new books, new projects; what are you working on?

So many things!!

On August 1st NOT HUNGRY a young adult hi-lo book in verse releases. It received a starred review from Kirkus too!

https://www.amazon.com/Not-Hungry-Kate-Karyus-Quinn/dp/1538382695

On August 13th FIRE & FLOOD: Mount Olympus Academy Book 1 releases. This is a co-written paranormal young adult novel and can be pre-ordered right now for only .99

https://www.amazon.com/dp/product/B07VBZ6LSF/

On October 1st PILLAGE & PLAGUE: Mount Olympus Academy Book 2 releases. This is also available for pre-order.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/product/B07VCHK9QW/

Next spring ANTIHERO, a middle grade graphic novel that I’m co-writing with Demitria Lunetta, releases from DC comics. This is a really cool and different direction for me and I’m super excited about it!

 

Kate Karyus Quinn is an avid reader and menthol chapstick addict with a BFA in theater and an MFA in film and television production. She lives in Buffalo, New York with her husband, three children, and one enormous dog.

Find her online at katekaryusquinn.com

Sign up for her newsletter for exclusive content and giveaways! https://tinyurl.com/y9zz4hp6

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Authors & Inspirations: Erin Hahn

Today I’m very excited to welcome YA author Erin Hahn to the blog! Erin’s debut, the gorgeous, swoony country music YA romance You’d Be Mine released from Wednesday Books in April of this year. Erin and I share an editor, so I was lucky enough to get to read an early copy of this wonderful book. Folks, if this one isn’t on your summer TBR pile yet, you’ll want to fix that, stat! The novel follows two young country music artists on the road for their summer tour, and sparks fly between heartthrob Clay Coolidge and daughter of country music royalty Annie Mathers. I laughed, I cried, I definitely swooned over this musical love story! So happy to have you, Erin!

 

What artist (of any medium) has had the biggest influence on you as a writer?

Oh. Good question! Song writers really influence me. Particularly ones that tell stories, like they did back in the 1970’s. I grew up listening to a lot of Harry Chapin, Charlie Daniels, James Taylor and Carol King. When I grew older, I listened to a lot of Counting Crows, Fiona Apple and Something Corporate… songwriters have a way of conveying a story in a lyrical and succinct way and I’ve tried to emulate that in my own writing.

 

Do you listen to music while you write? Why or why not?

Always. Music helps me to evoke certain emotions in my work. I find it easier to slip into a character’s brain when I have music pumping into my earbuds. I’m not much of an outliner, but I do create playlists for my characters and specific scenes when I’m drafting. Sort of like a soundtrack for the book. Music also tends to motivate and move me, physically, as I write. It helps me to match my characters and accurately describe how their bodies are reacting to something. For example, if I am writing something highly emotive, something where a character is furious or anxious or full of adrenaline, it allows me to feel the same and convey that state more perfectly onto the page for the reader.

 

If you do listen to music while writing, share a few songs on your current writing playlist:

Psh. Without context, of course…

  1. Rescue, Lauren Daigle
  2. Let Go, Red
  3. Bullet With Butterfly Wings, Smashing Pumpkins

 

Are there any musicians who have had a big impact on your work?

You’ll find in MORE THAN MAYBE, out in 2020, I talk a lot about Adam Duritz who is the lead singer and song writer of Counting Crows. He’s probably influenced me the most with his music.

 

What was the last live concert you attended?

I saw the Turnpike Troubadours this past winter. We saw them in an underground cavern in Tennessee and it was by far the coolest show I’ve ever been to. Bluegrass in a cave. Nothing better.

 

What’s the farthest you’ve ever traveled for a concert?

Tennessee! It was about an 8 hour drive? Maybe 9?

 

Share some of your favorite song lyrics:

time favorite is “And every time she sneezes/ I believe it’s love and oh Lord/ I’m not ready for this sort of thing.” “Anna Begins”, Counting Crows.

Honorable mention: “Lucy was pretty/ your best friend agreed/ Well, still/ a pretty good year.”  “Pretty Good Year”, Tori Amos

 

Your favorite band is going to write a song based on one of your books. What band is it, and what should the song be about?

I’d die if Kacey Musgraves wrote something for You’d Be Mine.

 

What band is on your bucket list to see live?

Smashing Pumpkins

 

You are magically going to be granted the ability to be a virtuoso on one instrument. Which do you pick?

Easy. Violin. Like Boyd Tinsley of Dave Matthews Band

 

What are your all-time favorite TV shows?

Bones, Once Upon a Time, Criminal Minds, Teen Wolf,  Timeless and BBC Sherlock.

 

What TV shows are you loving lately?

I loved Good Omens! I binged it in one afternoon. Otherwise, I don’t watch a whole lot of TV. When I’m able to, I like to rewatch old episodes of Criminal Minds or Dateline? I’m very boring.

 

Is there a TV show that’s had an impact on you  as a writer?

Not especially. Though I do love slow burn romantic arcs and would love to write a series with a partnership like the one between Booth and Bones that spans several books but has a satisfactory ending!

 

If you got the opportunity to write an episode for one show (past or present) what would it be?

Maybe something funny like New Girl or The Office.

 

If Netflix were to option one of your books for a TV series, which book would you choose, and who would play your main characters?

I would love it if they bought You’d Be Mine! To see those country kids perform on screen would be incredible! I’m not sure who I would cast, but lately I’ve decided that American Idol winner, Laine Hardy sings EXACTLY how I hear Clay Coolidge in my head!

 

What are your all-time favorite movies?

Empire Records, Sweet Home Alabama, While You Were Sleeping and Practical Magic

 

Who are your favorite actors/actresses?

Reese Witherspoon, Sandra Bullock, John Krasinski

 

Is there a movie that’s had a big impact on you as a writer?

Empire Records. My second book, More Than Maybe is 100% inspired by my love of this teen cult classic from the 90s.

 

Which of your books do you think would make a great movie? Is there a book of yours you WOULDN’T want to see as a movie, and why?

More Than Maybe would be pretty great. Super musical, super dramatic, super grand gesture of love at the end to make an audience swoon.

 

Are you a theatregoer? If so, what was the last play/musical you saw?

I wish I was more of one… having kids and living in the middle of nowhere means I see less than I’d like. I took my youngest to see Aladdin on stage in Detroit last winter.

 

What are your top five favorite musicals (if applicable)?

Les Miserables, Hamilton, Wicked, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolored Dreamcoat, Phantom of the Opera

 

Are there any visual artists you’re a big fan of?

I’m super uneducated in visual arts, but I’ve always loved Nighthawks by Edward Hopper. I used to live in Chicago and would visit it at the Art Institute every year.

 

Do you ever draw on visual art in your work?

Not really. I find some very inspiring and beautiful, but it doesn’t affect my writing.

 

Has a place you’ve traveled ever inspired you in your writing?

I always write places I’ve been or lived… I want to be as authentic as possible. Lately I’ve been writing a bunch of concert venues though… because that’s where I spent my youth.

 

You can go on a two-week, all-expenses paid writing retreat to the location of your choice. Where would you go, and why?

Well. I mean. I’d love to write a cozy Irish romance… if anyone wants to send me there for research.

 

Are you a podcast listener? If so, what are some of your favorite podcasts?

I’m trash for true crime podcasts. My good friend and fellow debut, Jenn Dugan got me started on them before my book released as a distraction and I’ve been hooked ever since. I love Crime Junkies and lately devoured Live and Die in LA.

 

What authors have most inspired you in your own work?

Too many to count, but it wasn’t until I read “Confessions of a Shopaholic” by Sophie Kinsella that I thought a career writing romance might be it for me. It was the first time I read a first person POV that sounded like me and it made me want to try it out for myself. I’ve been practicing it ever since!

 

What was the last book you read?

I Wanna Be Where You Are by Kristina Forest. It was lovely!!

 

What’s your favorite book you’ve read recently?

I read Laini Taylor’s Strange the Dreamer and Muse of Nightmares last spring and they rocked my world. Gorgeous world building and bittersweet romance. I haven’t adored a character like Lazlo Strange in a long, long time.

 

What’s a book you’ve loved that you feel more people should be talking about?

I want every person on the planet to read Don’t Date Rosa Santos it’s by newcomer Nina Moreno and it’s basically a Cuban MamaMia meets Practical Magic and I adored the shit out of it.

 

What are your very favorite kinds of scenes to write?

1. Kissing 2. Arguments 3. Kissing after arguments

 

When you need to recharge your batteries/refill the well as a writer, what forms of media do you most often turn to?

When I am spent, I will put on my favorite Ken Burns history documentaries and some needlepoint like I’m a hundred and five years old. I also love to watch Great British Bake-off.

 

What artistic/creative talents do you have outside of writing?

I like to paint signs. That sounds dumb, but I have nice handwiting and a steady hand. I like to doodle. I also danced for 11 years. Classical and modern.

 

What artistic/creative talent do you wish you had?

I wish I could paint. Like really paint. Also, I wish I could play an instrument. I never learned but (Lady Catherine DeBourgh voice) “I’d like to think I’d have been a great proficient.”

 

If you could have a drink/cup of coffee/beverage of choice with any three people alive in the world right now, who would you pick?

I’d love to drink gin and tonics with Reese Witherspoon, Kristin Bell, and Michelle Obama.

 

Let us know what’s coming up next for you: new books, new projects; what are you working on?

I just turned in my finished draft for my sophomore release, out next summer, MORE THAN MAYBE, which is another standalone YA romance about the son of a former British punkrocker who falls in love with an aspiring music journalist. His love song inspired by her accidentally goes viral and they have to navigate their feelings on a public stage, all while working together to save the dive bar they both work at. I’m also working on a spin off of that story, featuring one of the characters in her own love story and a super secret WIP.

 

Hilary Nichols photography

Erin Hahn spent the first half of her life daydreaming in a small town in northern Illinois. She fell in love with words in college when she wrote for the campus paper, covering everything from drag shows to ice fishing and took way too much liberty with a history essay on the bubonic plague.

She started writing her own books when her little sister gave her shade about a country music-themed Twilight fanfic. By day, Erin gets to share her favorite stories with her elementary students. By night, she writes swoons. She married her own YA love interest whom she met on her first day of college and has two kids who are much, much cooler than she ever was at their age. She lives in Michigan, aka the greenest place on earth and has a cat, Gus, who plays fetch.

Website

Updates on my Fourth Novel and COVER REVEAL!

I’m excited to share a few updates about my upcoming fourth novel! Previously titled In the Shadow of Saints, it is now called The Borgia Confessions, and will be released on February 11th, 2020 by St. Martin’s Griffin. You can add it to your Goodreads shelf here. And it is now available for preorder! Click here for all your preorder needs.

 

AND The Borgia Confessions HAS A COVER! I’m so thrilled to share it with you!

I love this cover a whole lot – the woman with her cross necklace captures Maddalena’s vibe perfectly. And the view of Rome at the bottom is just perfect – a bit crumbly with some ruins in the landscape. Rome at this time in history was in some disrepair, to say the least, so I love that this comes across on the cover. Also, as you’ve probably noticed, it is similar in feel and style to my other Italian novels, The Violinist of Venice and The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence. I love that this cover is also a continuation of that “brand” but is still fresh and new.

This beauty was designed by Danielle Fiorella, and I am just SO thrilled with it.

I’m so excited for this book to make its way to all of you! Stay tuned to my social media in the coming months, as there will be giveaways for early copies!

Authors & Inspirations: S. M. Traphagen

Welcome to another edition of Authors & Inspirations! I’m excited to welcome author S. M. Traphagen to the blog. Her first novel, Finding Morgan, a fantasy that puts a new spin on the Arthurian legends, is out now. Read on to learn more about the book and about her inspirations!

 

What artist (of any medium) has had the biggest influence on you as a writer?

Alice Walker, Albert Einstein, and J.K. Rowling. Alice because she has a similar background as mine. Her journey led her to use writing as her tool to effect change and make a difference in the world while still entertaining people. Einstein because his science came from a place of creativity; it transformed the way we view relativity and universal matter, and I’ve always been inspired by his creative process.. J.K. Rowling because her path to success started rough, and she lived by meager means, and yet persevered and made her dreams happen no matter the rejections she got at first. I connected to that and the hard road traveled.

 

Do you listen to music while you write? Why or why not?

Oh yes—not all the time, but when I do its always classical music. And, I’m a huge fan of Claude Debussy and Strauss. Ironically, Debussy features in the novel—Finding Morgan, (just a brief mention), but I must have been listening to him at the time.

 

If you do listen to music while writing, share a few songs on your current writing playlist:

Strauss II, Rossini (The Barber of Seville is one of my favorites), Debussy, Tchaikovsky, Vivaldi (The four seasons: Spring—Allegro); those are off the top of my head. But I also love Jazz and opera music (my absolute favorite is Andrea Bocelli), so I alternate between those three a lot.

 

Are there any musicians who have had a big impact on your work?

Tchaikovsky and Miles Davis. Tchaikovsky because his music moves me to the core. I was also a ballerina for more than twelve years of my life, so his music is in my bones.

 

What was the last live concert you attended?

Oh gosh, um…. It was either Journey or Trans-Siberian Orchestra. My husband took me to see them. The Christmas Canon was the song I walked down the aisle to when we got married.

 

What’s the farthest you’ve ever traveled for a concert?

Pescara, Italy. I saw Irena Grande (Italian rock artist) live, in my early 20s.

 

Share some of your favorite song lyrics:

Katy Perry’s “Rise”, X Ambassador’s “Renegades”, Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing”, Andrea Bocelli’s “Because We Believe” and Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling”. There’s a trend, LOL, if you couldn’t tell. I love songs that motivate me to rise above, keep pushing, and find a way to succeed.

 

Your favorite band is going to write a song based on one of your books. What band is it, and what should the song be about?

Well, it would have to be Blackmore’s Night (a Celtic group), and the song would have to be about mystery, legend, the roots of our past. All I can picture right now are the wheat fields of the English countryside, and the rolling hills of Ireland, LOL.

 

What band is on your bucket list to see live?

Hmmm, that’s a tough one. Maroon 5, Imagine Dragons, and Mumford and Sons for sure.

 

You are magically going to be granted the ability to be a virtuoso on one instrument. Which do you pick?

Hands down, the saxophone. I played clarinet in school, but the sax was my dream.

 

What are your all-time favorite TV shows?

Oh, good question. Charmed—the original, As Time Goes By (I’m a big Brit Com fan), Grimm, The Librarians, Stargate SG-1, Farscape, NCIS, Once Upon a Time, Mad About You, Gilmore Girls and Dukes of Hazzard. Seriously, all of these; I watch these all the time, still to this day.

 

What TV shows are you loving lately?

Hands down Seal Team, The Flash, Supergirl, Expedition Unknown, Madam Secretary, and God Friended Me.

 

Is there a TV show that’s had an impact on you as a writer?

West Wing and Gilmore Girls. The dialogue in those shows—while very different, had a huge impact in how I approach dialogue in a story. I want it to feel fast paced, witty, real. The writers for those shows were top-notch, and the dialogue was always rich, colorful, and had real zing.

 

If you got the opportunity to write an episode for one show (past or present) what would it be?

The Flash—that may surprise some.

 

If Netflix were to option one of your books for a TV series, which book would you choose, and who would play your main characters?

Well, Finding Morgan: A LeFay Trilogy will make a great show, especially when you see books like A Discovery of Witches and Shadow Hunters that were picked up. I love Katie McGrath; I always had an image of her in my head when writing Morgan’s character.

 

What are your all-time favorite movies?

These are so hard to answer. The Mummy, Star Wars (the originals), On the Town, Singing in the Rain, White Christmas, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Top Hat, Breakfast Club, Pretty Woman, Sixteen Candles—am I dating myself here? Harry Potter, any and all of the Avenger/Marvel movies, the Transformers.

 

Who are your favorite actors/actresses?

Past: Ginger Rogers, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Maureen O’Hara (just to name a few). Present: Katie McGrath, Chadwick Boseman, Viola Davis, Mathew Goode, Amy Adams, Benedict Cumberbatch, Margo Robbie, Matt Damon. I’m sure there are more.

 

Is there a movie that’s had a big impact on you as a writer?

Off the top of my head—The Help, Hidden Figures, and Avatar. All these movies held hidden messages; inspiration that allows the viewer to be transformed. As a writer, I remember walking out of Avatar and just saying, “Wow.” The message of our planet, and how we treat the environment, it was hidden, subtle but so powerful and that’s how I want my writing to affect readers.

 

Which of your books do you think would make a great movie? Is there a book of yours you WOULDN’T want to see as a movie, and why?

The LeFay Trilogy—it’s got great adventure and magic; the story is such a great spin on the mythology. And, my romance book: Love on Jay Mountain (not yet out) would make great movies. Love on Jay Mountain I could see as Hallmark movie—I don’t write much romance, but this story was inside me, so I had to write it.

 

Are you a theatregoer? If so, what was the last play/musical you saw?

I saw Momma Mia in Toronto; the Abba music was great. That was a great show.

 

What are your top five favorite musicals?

Top Hat, Singing in the Rain, Sound of Music, On the Town, White Christmas.

 

Do you ever draw on visual art in your work?

Photography is a hobby of mine, so I draw on that for inspiration sometimes.

 

Has a place you’ve traveled ever inspired you in your writing?

Ireland and Italy.

 

You can go on a two-week, all-expenses paid writing retreat to the location of your choice. Where would you go, and why?

It would have to be England and Egypt. There is so much of our world’s history in Egypt; so much archaeology, art. To see and understand this history and culture will benefit my writing and the reader. England because much of the Arthurian legend derives from England—I would love to dig into that history a bit more, learn more about where some of the myths came from. I’ve also always dreamed of doing research at Oxford and the Bodleian for one of my upcoming books.

 

Are you a podcast listener?

Not really.

 

What authors have most inspired you in your own work?

Madeleine L’Engle, Deborah Harkness, Shel Silverstein, and Amanda Hocking.

 

What was the last book you read?

The biography of Mark Twain and The Time Keeper.

 

What’s your favorite book you’ve read recently?

Shannon by Frank Delaney.

 

What’s a book you’ve loved that you feel more people should be talking about?

There are two: The Autobiography of Santa Claus as told by Jeff Guinn, and Shannon by Frank Delaney. The first is such a unique way of sharing real historical events, with the rich traditions of the holiday season and why and how Santa Claus became Santa. The story of Shannon is beautifully told, and really gives a peak into some of the struggles of church and state. Delaney’s description of crossing the ocean via boat to Ireland is so artistically told and descriptive, the words just never leave you.

 

What are your very favorite kinds of scenes to write?

I love writing travel/adventure scenes, and I love writing dialogue. I have to say, writing dream sequences are a challenge for me but I’m getting better.

 

When you need to recharge your batteries/refill the well as a writer, what forms of media do you most often turn to?

Honestly when I need to recharge, I tend to meditate, go cycling and for hikes, and I tend to try and read in genres that aren’t closely related to the genre I am writing in—it helps me get out of my own head. I also love 80s music.

 

What artistic/creative talents do you have outside of writing?

I can sing a bit, I was a ballerina, I can speak some Italian, as I have family from there, but I’m not yet fluent, and I have an orange belt in Krav Maga.

 

What artistic/creative talent do you wish you had?

I wish I could speak multiple languages.

 

If you could have a drink/cup of coffee/beverage of choice with any three people alive in the world right now, who would you pick?

Amal Clooney, Scott Kelly, and J.K. Rowling.

 

Let us know what’s coming up next for you: new books, new projects; what are you working on?

Right now, I’m working on the second book in the LEFAY Trilogy. It will be out in 2020. I will be on the radio, on 1520 AM ESPN on Sunday May 12th talking about my first book in the trilogy, FINDING MORGAN, which is out now. I will also be doing some book club readings at Barnes & Noble, the Buffalo Public Library, and at Birchfield Penney in May and June. I have some upcoming radio appearances nationally for FINDING MORGAN, and will be doing some traveling for appearances and signings for the book as well. So, I’ll be pretty busy.

 

Finding Morgan: A LEFAY Trilogy is a debut novel by author S.M. Traphagen. It is currently available wherever books are sold, including, Amazon, Amazon UK, Amazon CA, Gardner’s, Book Bub, Barnes & Noble (online), Google Books, GoodReads, Book Baby Book Shop, Kobo, and many more. Wholesalers may order from Baker & Taylor, Gardner’s or Ingram.

The Arthurian legend. A desperate young woman. A past she can’t escape.

Growing up, Morgan’s mother was convinced they were descendants of the Arthurian legend—Morgan was convinced her mother was mentally ill. After years of emotional abuse, Morgan flees London for America, leaving her mother and all the insanity behind.

Creating a new life on the New England Coast, Morgan has everything she’s ever wanted—a husband, a home, a child of her own that she adores. But it isn’t long before Morgan starts suffering from the same symptoms as her mother, fearing she now has the same mental illness. Her recent friendship with the enigmatic Irishman Roan McNally isn’t helping matters. Every encounter with him leaves her confused and deeply shaken…a feeling of familiarity and attraction like none she’s ever known. Hiding her symptoms from her husband, Morgan trusts only Roan to be by her side as she tries to untangle the threads of her past. As tragedy strikes, Morgan is forced to leave her old life behind, and all she dreamed of having, to discover who she’s meant to become…

 

S.M. Traphagen is a local author from upstate NY and an Associate Publisher for a regional magazine. Follow S.M. Traphagen at www.smtraphagen.com (sign up for her newsletter and upcoming media appearances), Twitter: Shannon @fictionandfood, or Instagram: @smtraphagen_writelife.

You can contact S.M. Traphagen via her website or her publicist Jackie Mangione at mangionejackie@gmail.com.

Authors & Inspirations: Cass Morris

Welcome to another installment of Authors & Inspirations! Today I am fangirling a bit, as I have fantasy author Cass Morris on the blog. Her debut novel, From Unseen Fire, is a fantasy set in a world based on ancient Rome, and was absolutely one of my favorite books that I read in 2018. That I read it while actually in Rome made for an extra-magical reading experience! The paperback edition of the book will be released on April 2nd and is available for preorder now! Welcome, Cass!

 

What artist (of any medium) has had the biggest influence on you as a writer?

Shakespeare. I worked for the guy for seven years after getting a Master’s degree in Shakespeare studies, so his words are sort of just always floating around in the background noise of my brain. Shakespeare is also the reason I learned as much as I have about rhetoric.

Do you listen to music while you write? Why or why not?

Often! I cannot stand silence, so I always have to have some sort of noise while I’m writing. It can be TV, if it’s something I can halfway tune out, but music is better for concentration. I build playlists for each project, but those are actually better for moodling over the project than for actually writing them. I prefer instrumentals for writing time.

If you do listen to music while writing, share a few songs on your current writing playlist:

Lately I’ve been very big on various Cirque de Soleil soundtracks.

Share some of your favorite song lyrics:

And you can’t fight the tears that ain’t coming

Or the moment of truth in your lies

When everything feels like the movies

Yeah you bleed just to know you’re alive

And I don’t want the world to see me

‘Cause I don’t think that they’d understand

When everything’s meant to be broken

I just want you to know who I am

–The Goo Goo Dolls, “Iris”, one of the best songs ever

You are magically going to be granted the ability to be a virtuoso on one instrument. Which do you pick?

Drums. I always thought I’d make a decent percussionist.

What are your all-time favorite TV shows?

The West Wing, HBO’s Rome, Star Trek: DS9, Star Trek: The Next Generation

What TV shows are you loving lately?

The Magicians

If you got the opportunity to write an episode for one show (past or present) what would it be?

Star Trek. Any Star Trek, really. I think I could’ve written some great DS9 episodes if I hadn’t been in grade school at the time. I would love to write for a new series, twenty years on from the Dominion War… It’s possible I’ve spent a bit of time considering what that might look like. (CBS, have your people call my people). Or I’d love a piece of one of the new Star Wars live-action series that are supposedly in the works. That’s actually been a dream of mine since I was 11. (Disney, you may also call my people).

If Netflix were to option one of your books for a TV series, which book would you choose, and who would play your main characters?

I would be delirious with joy if Netflix wanted to option the Aven Cycle. Sarah Gadon, who’s probably best known for Alias Grace but who I first saw in Belle, is my top pick for Latona. I have some ideas for the rest of the characters, but mostly I’d be invested in making sure the cast was as diverse as it ought to be to reflect the ancient Roman world.

What are your all-time favorite movies?

Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, The Scarlet Pimpernel (1982), The Empire Strikes Back, Anastasia.

Who are your favorite actors/actresses?

Tom Hiddleston and Natalie Dormer

Which of your books do you think would make a great movie? Is there a book of yours you WOULDN’T want to see as a movie, and why?

I think the Aven Cycle would do better serialized. (Netflix, you may also call my people). I tend to think episodically, so the books would break down into seasons and episodes pretty easily, and a TV series would give the room to spin out all the side characters I so adore but sometimes have to trim down for the sake of streamlined narrative.

Are you a theatregoer? If so, what was the last play/musical you saw?

So much yes! As aforementioned, I worked at a Shakespeare theatre for seven years, so I’ve not only seen every single one of his plays more than once, I’ve also seen a lot of work by his contemporaries that doesn’t get performed anywhere else. (Literally. We were first-in-400-years productions for some plays). I also love musicals. My mama and I used to have tickets to the tour that came to Richmond every year, and we hit shows on Broadway as often as we can manage it. Most recently, I saw Richard III and The Man of Mode in the same weekend at the American Shakespeare Center.

What are your top five favorite musicals (if applicable)?

Chess, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Hamilton, Into the Woods, The Secret Garden

Are there any visual artists you’re a big fan of?

Tran Nguyen, who did the cover for From Unseen Fire, is astonishing. I love following her on Instagram (instagram.com/mynameistran) to see her works-in-progress. I’m also a huge fan of Stephanie Pui-Mun Law, who did the art for my favorite tarot deck, Shadowscapes. And then there are a lot of artists from the past whom I adore — Titian’s Venus d’Urbino is my favorite artwork of all time, Bernini was the greatest sculptor who ever lived and I will fight people on that, and there are a lot of neoclassicists I enjoy.

Do you ever draw on visual art in your work?

I do, both as inspiration and as a way of painting the world for the reader. Lawrence Alma-Tadema’s Baths of Caracalla directly inspired From Unseen Fire — those women gossiping at the bath put the Vitelliae sisters into my head. The ancient Romans had so much art in their daily lives, too, that I try to mention in the book. I feel like it helps, to know how brightly painted their statues were, how intricate the mosaics in their floors and fountains, and what different styles of murals and frescos were popular.

Has a place you’ve traveled ever inspired you in your writing?

From Unseen Fire is based on ancient Rome, so obviously I’ve taken a lot of inspiration from Rome and Italy! I went for the first time when I was sixteen, then went back on a research trip a few years ago.

You can go on a two-week, all-expenses paid writing retreat to the location of your choice. Where would you go, and why?

Back to Rome! I could certainly find two weeks’ worth of entertainment. What I’d really like to do is take a research trip around the Mediterranean, starting in Lisbon and working my way around. Come to think of it, though, those would both be more research trips than writing retreats — so just to focus on putting words on the page, I’d hole up in a cozy cottage in Cornwall for two weeks.

Are you a podcast listener? If so, what are some of your favorite podcasts?

Sometimes! I tend to go in fits and starts. The only ones I keep current with are The West Wing Weekly and Disney Story Origins. I loved Mike Duncan’s History of Rome (I was listening to that when I started drafting From Unseen Fire), and I’ve listened to portions of his Revolutions podcast. I also regularly enjoy The British History Podcast, Myths and Legends, Imaginary Worlds, and Spirits Podcast, as well as some NPR podcasts like Hidden Brain and Science Friday.

What authors have most inspired you in your own work?

Jacqueline Carey, Kate Elliott, Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman

What was the last book you read?

Chuck Wendig’s Damn Fine Story

What’s your favorite book you’ve read recently?

I recently devoured Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series and absolutely adored it.

What are your very favorite kinds of scenes to write?

High emotions. People saying incredibly meaningful things at each other, wringing their hearts out, declaring themselves, standing up for themselves.

What artistic/creative talents do you have outside of writing?

I embroider with middling talent, I can carry a tune in a bucket, I act a bit, and I know how to do a lot of 16th-century English and Italian dances.

What artistic/creative talent do you wish you had?

I’d love to be able to draw, and I wish I’d taken up dancing early enough in life to be good at it.

Let us know what’s coming up next for you: new books, new projects; what are you working on?

Book Two of the Aven Cycle is currently with my editor, I’m working on a secondworld fantasy, and I’m putting together a nonfiction book proposal. I also post microfiction, behind-the-page snippets, random historical ramblings, and more over on my Patreon on an ongoing basis.

 

Cass Morris works as a writer and educator in central Virginia and occasionally moonlights as a bookseller in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. She completed her Master of Letters at Mary Baldwin University in 2010, and she earned her undergraduate degree, a BA in English with a minor in history, from the College of William and Mary in 2007. She reads voraciously, wears corsets voluntarily, and will beat you at MarioKart. Her debut novel, From Unseen Fire: Book One of the Aven Cycle, is a Roman-flavored historical fantasy released by DAW Books.

Website: cassmorriswrites.com

Patreon: patreon.com/CassRMorris

Twitter: twitter.com/CassRMorris

Facebook: facebook.com/cassmorriswrites

Instagram: instagram.com/cassrmorris/

Authors & Inspirations: Sandi Van

Today on the blog I’m thrilled to have my friend and fellow Buffalonian, Sandi Van! Her debut YA verse novel, Second in Command, was released last month from West 44 Books. A brief synopsis of the book is below. Welcome, Sandi!

Sixteen-year-old Leo dreams of becoming an Eagle Scout and, someday, a police officer. He makes sure to always do the right thing and be responsible. With his mom deployed and his dad constantly working, Leo is often left in charge of his two younger siblings. Then Leo’s brother, Jack, gets caught up in a dangerous plot that rocks the community. Can Leo keep his promise to stand by his brother no matter what, or will he stand on the side of justice?

 

Do you listen to music while you write? Why or why not?

Yes, I usually listen to music while I write, especially if I’m someplace noisy like a coffee shop or indoor soccer center. It helps me focus. It can also be great if I’m trying to create a certain mood, like if I have to write a heartbreaking scene I’ll loop a really sad song on repeat.

If you do listen to music while writing, share a few songs on your current writing playlist:

Normally I’ll chose a particular artist or genre to stream depending on my mood or the mood of the story. If there’s no wifi available, I’m stuck playing whatever is saved on my laptop, which is mostly techno and electronica songs. I love the beat and energy. Two of my favorites are My Way by Calvin Harris and The Greatest by Sia. I did create a playlist for Second in Command: https://open.spotify.com/user/jcix7v3qr7zd8dhc856jummqb/playlist/2b92iRMAar9paHXFwBAlxx?si=ax1FNX6MR0WYMf7g1gHNSw

What band is on your bucket list to see live?

James. I regret not seeing them live when they were big in the US. They only tour in the UK now it seems, although I did see a date in Greece this summer. That would be a fun trip. I watch their concerts on YouTube sometimes, and Tim Booth is an amazing performer. Unfortunately, my husband hates live music, so we don’t go to many shows. I’m going to Mumford and Sons with some friends in March though, and I’m really excited about that.

What TV shows are you loving lately?

I’m a sucker for This is Us. The writing is beautiful and I have yet to make it through an episode without crying. I also loved Sex Education on Netflix. So smart and funny.

What are your all-time favorite movies?

Real Genius. The Goonies. The Princess Bride. Better off Dead. Everything by John Hughes. Basically, I love 80’s movies.

You can go on a two-week, all-expenses paid writing retreat to the location of your choice. Where would you go, and why?

I used to live on the west coast and we took a road trip down to Oregon and hiked some of the waterfalls off the Columbia River. It was incredibly beautiful and inspiring. I’d love to rent a cabin out there somewhere with a view of a waterfall out my window. Get up in the morning, go for a hike, then come back and write.

What’s your favorite book you’ve read recently?

My son and I read Pax by Sara Pennypacker. It tore me apart; it was so beautiful and sad. I love books like that. My son adored it as well – he’s listened to the audiobook more times than I can count.

What are your very favorite kinds of scenes to write?

Oh, the heart wrenchingly sad ones. They are not easy to write, but I tend to lose myself in them completely and really feel connected to my characters after we’ve gone through a difficult moment together. They are emotionally draining but also very therapeutic.

When you need to recharge your batteries/refill the well as a writer, what forms of media do you most often turn to?

Books. The language of a well written story will often kick start my creative flow. If I’m stuck in a rut, getting into nature or performing menial tasks (like painting a room or cleaning windows) will often help as well.

If you could have a drink/cup of coffee/beverage of choice with any three people alive in the world right now, who would you pick?

First I want to say that if it was someone no longer alive it would be Shirley Jackson. Because she wrote some crazy stuff and I’d love to have been able to pick her brain. Margaret Atwood for sure, and Emma Watson. They are both amazing, smart, trail blazing women and I am totally in love with listening to them talk.

Let us know what’s coming up next for you: new books, new projects; what are you working on?

I’ve been going back and forth between two stories lately. One is an adult novel about a young woman who gets stuck in a snow storm and her experience on the road helps her deal with the guilt of her brother’s death. The other is a major revision to a previously finished novel; that one is YA and it’s about a girl whose father gets deployed during Desert Storm and she’s on a quest to find her mother. I recently had an idea for some changes and am excited to try and weave those into the manuscript.

 

Sandi Van is a writer, counselor, and former special education teacher from Buffalo, NY. Her nonfiction piece, “Labor and Delivery” was featured in Adoptive Families Magazine and her poetry won recognition in the Elmira Star-Gazette and the PennWriters’ In Other Words contest. Sandi is also a proud Navy wife. Her debut verse novel, Second in Command, was inspired by and dedicated to military families facing deployment.

Announcing My Fourth Book, IN THE SHADOW OF SAINTS!

I know I’ve been teasing book 4 quite a bit on social media, so I am SO THRILLED to finally be able to tell you ALL about it! My fourth novel, entitled In the Shadow of Saints, will be coming in Winter 2020 from St. Martin’s Griffin!

Of course, I was always going to write a book about the Borgias 🙂 They’ve been my favorite historical family since I first stumbled on a novel about them as a teenager. They’re often referred to as Italy’s first crime family, and while historically that isn’t really technically true, their story does indeed have all the things that such a moniker suggests: scandal, corruption, politics, shady dealings, wealth, sex, violence, power, murder. It’s rich ground for any storyteller, and I am certainly not the first nor the last to cover it.

My novel, though, does take a bit of a different perspective on the infamous Borgia family. It’s told in alternating points of view, by two different characters: one being Cesare Borgia, the eldest of Rodrigo Borgia’s children, and the second being Maddalena Moretti, a maid who works for the family and is a fictional character of my own invention. My agent has been calling this my “upstairs/downstairs” look at the Borgias, and it is very much that. However, there are several reasons I chose to tell this story from two points of view, and from the points of view of these two characters in particular.

Cesare Borgia (pronounced CHEH-sah-reh – “ce” in Italian is pronounced like “che” in English; think “cello”) is the member of the Borgia family who has always fascinated me the most – perhaps because he was the most brilliant, manipulative, and wicked of the bunch. Most of the novels about the Borgias that I’m aware of usually focus on Lucrezia, as the only sister and most unfairly maligned member of the family. I wanted to really dig into Cesare as a character because, after all, villains don’t tend to start out as villains – they become so over time. I’ve been thinking of Cesare’s portion of this book as his villain origin story, and it was both a lot of fun to write a baddie and at the same time could get rather dark. I definitely drew inspiration from Walter White of Breaking Bad fame when working out Cesare’s character arc: I wanted him to be someone readers would sympathize with and root for in the beginning, then have that sympathy slowly start to erode over the course of the story as his actions become increasingly more awful. It was a challenge that I set myself, and one I embraced eagerly. I’m very pleased with how his character turned out. You all will have to let me know whether I’ve succeeded in my aims!

I had always wanted to write from Cesare’s point of view, but Maddalena’s perspective came about in something of an interesting way. I had written a few chapters from Cesare’s point of view that I showed to my agent at various times – I had actually initially anticipated this being my second book, then my third book (obviously, that didn’t happen). Each time she saw it, she liked what I had so far, but felt like something was missing, and that this project wasn’t quite ready. I agreed with her but didn’t really know where else to go with it, so it continued to sit on the back burner.

Fast forward to the fall of 2016. I had just handed in The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel to my editor and was working on drafting something new. You may have seen me refer to me “sexy opera book” on social media; well, that’s what I was writing, and I was having a blast. It was a book that I was just having a lot of fun writing, and at that point I anticipated that it would be my fourth book, as it was going really well.

Then the 2016 U.S. presidential election happened, and suddenly a fun, sexy book didn’t seem like the thing I should be writing, or the thing I wanted to write just then. I wanted to dig into something darker, something about power and corruption. It seemed like the best way for me to explore all that was to return to the Borgias book. And suddenly I found the missing piece, which had actually been there all along. In college I’d written a short story from the point of view of a maid who becomes involved with Cesare Borgia, and this, I realized, needed to be my second POV in the novel. I needed an outside perspective on this infamous family, someone who was of a completely different socioeconomic class than they, someone who could get entangled with and dragged into their power struggle, so that we might see how an everyday person could be harmed and compromised by the actions of the powerful and also by their potential proximity to that power. It all felt like something important, exciting, relevant, challenging, and interesting to explore.

So I added Maddalena’s POV, and it really was what the book had needed all along. Of course, that didn’t make any of it easier to write. Maddalena is by far the main character who has given me the most difficulty to date: it took me a long time and many rounds of revisions to really get a handle on her voice, to really get to the heart of who she was. She slowly revealed herself to me bit by bit, and as a result she’s a character that I’m really proud of. I hope you all love her like I do.

This is by far the most ambitious book I’ve written to date – I blogged a bit about getting started with it in this post. There were lots of times it felt like it was going to eat me alive. There was so much history to balance, so many tangled politics to keep in mind, dates and timelines to keep straight, lots of plot threads and character arcs to flesh out and bring to completion. I made and wrote from an outline for the first time, which I blogged about in this post.

The title has been another struggle – it had several just on my end before I ever handed it in to my editor, and then she and I changed it a few more times. We had a big Google doc going of title ideas, and would throw them back and forth to each other, but it took us MONTHS to find one we both liked and felt fit well and that the marketing/sales folks at St. Martin’s would go for. I’ve never had this kind of problem with a title before – even if I didn’t have the final title right off the bat, I usually found it without too much trouble – and boy, was it a challenge. This is such a big, sprawling book that it felt difficult to find just one title that encompassed everything, and that fit with both Maddalena and Cesare’s very different characters. I really love In the Shadow of Saints, though – ironically it was a title I first thought of a while ago, but it took me a while to see that it was the best one. I think it’s fitting and contains different layers of meaning that will inform the story as one reads on.

As difficult as writing this book was at times, though, I really did love doing it. I got to write about political dealings (shady and otherwise), a fascinating and large cast of complex characters, war and negotiations, murder, the glory and filth of Renaissance Rome, and a lot of drama that actually happened. So much of that was fun because a lot of it was new for me (especially the politics – I’ve always wanted to write a book that was very “let us sit in this room and plot politics”, and I’ve done it!). And, of course, I got to write about my favorite historical family, and my favorite era of history. I just love writing about Renaissance Italy, and I can promise you that I’m not done doing so.

Because of the many challenges of this book, in some ways perhaps it’s the one I’m most proud of. It’s something different, and it’s definitely my darkest book so far. It’s taken a lot of revision and edits and smoothing over of rough edges, but it is finally the book I always wanted it to be, the book I always knew it could be. A lot of credit goes to my editor as well, for her amazing, spot-on notes and feedback, and always being there for me to bounce ideas off of as I revised. It’s been such an amazing feeling, to keep working at it and see it improve each day. I really believe it’s my best book so far. And I can’t wait for all of you to read it.

As soon as I have a release date, cover, etc., I will be sure to share it all here!