Monday, November 19, 2012

Interview with historical fiction and fantasy author Prue Batten...


Today, in the forum I’m tickled to be talking with one of the hardest-working women in fiction. She not only has a catalog of completed works that is to envy, she also has projects percolating and bouncing off her tongue. So, without further delay, I’d like to introduce my friend Prue Batten.
Tim Greaton: It’s really great to have you here on the forum today, Prue. In a few minutes, we’ll delve into a great bookish discussion about your many projects, both available and soon-to-come. Before that, however, I was hoping we could talk a little bit about what you do with those hours when you’re not writing.
Prue Batten: I farm a wool-growing property in the far south of Australia (an island state called Tasmania) with my husband. We grow superfine wool which is sought after by Chinese woolen mills for the world fashion trade. We are just about to double our sheep numbers as lambs begin to pop out right across the farm.
Tim Greaton: You sound passionate about it.
Prue Batten: It’s tough in a drought, cold in winter, hot as Hades in summer and hurts my muscles when I’m working in the sheepyards or fencing, but it’s a remarkable life which I blog about periodically.
Tim Greaton: I often ask writers if there is a particular place from their past that influences their writing. Your family has deep roots in one location, which gives you an unusual answer to that question, doesn’t it?
Prue Batten: My family has a 90-year-old connection with a tiny coastal village in Tasmania where my grandfather established a seachange home for my grandmother who was ill with cancer at the time. As baby-boomers, my cousins and I lived the life of Swallows and Amazons by the sea and we had sea-legs aboard boats before we could crawl. Everything about the village colours my life now and we have our own little place there called House, which is where I write most comfortably. I guess you could say it still influences me!
Tim Greaton: Our President Teddy Roosevelt was known for having warring interests as both an outdoorsman and as an intellectual. I’ve heard you say something similar. Could you share what you mean by that with us?
Prue Batten: My hobbies might not be exactly unusual, but they are poles apart from each other. I am an embroiderer of the style called stumpwork which dates from the seventeenth century. Absolutely love it even though it tests my eyes to their limits. The art-form gave me inspiration for my first book, “The Stumpwork Robe.” It formed Book One of the continuing “Chronicles of Eirie” and was first published in print in 2008 and is about to be re-issued with a new cover and imprint. It is, of course, available as an e-book.
My other hobby is kayaking. I LOVE kayaking on the ocean near House; it’s my ultimate getaway. I have very little fear of the ocean – except for man-eating white pointer sharks, because as climate change warms the water and as the food chain alters, we are seeing more and more around the coastline.
Tim Greaton: I think most of our forum readers would say that today you have painted vivid pictures with many of your answers. This isn’t the first time you’ve heard that compliment, is it?
Prue Batten: No. I do often have readers describe my stories as unique and immensely pictorial. I like to think that‘s evidence that pushing my imagination to tell the most unusual and special story possible has paid off. Whatever the case, it is a supremely nice thing for readers to say.
Tim Greaton: Are most of your works available or do you have you stashed some away that might someday reach the market?
Prue Batten: No, I spring clean regularly (she grins) so no older stories will see the light of day, but I do have a fantasy work-in-progress for The Chronicles and a historical fiction/historical romance work-in-progress for “The Gisborne Saga.” Hopefully ready for the publisher by December.
Tim Greaton: With such a busy life running the farm, you must have a pretty effective “system” for getting your writing projects done?
Prue Batten: My system? Oh great heavens! It’s very odd. I begin the story on the computer with an opening line and a very rough outline in my head. Then I tend to let the story run its own course. I always take the last line written on any day to bed in the evening and write in long hand if the impetus is there. I also create a style guide which is a list of names - characters, setting etc and its correct spelling in alphabetical order. I also write a character profile for every character, from physical appearance to early life and psyche. And I have a whole printed folio of the fantasy world of Eirie with maps. I have a massive folder for each book with research PDF’s and other research information all filed in plastic sleeves. I have tons of bookmarked detail on the computer and I have my own personal library shelves along with books I borrow from our libraries. I write when I can and consider myself fortunate to get three straight hours let alone a whole day, but my head writes all the time.
Tim Greaton: What is your publishing team like?
Prue Batten: I have two wonderful beta readers—a friend in America and another in Turkey. They are very honest, pull no punches and I value their hard opinion more than anyone else’s, apart from my highly trusted, professional editor. Industry professionals handle the cover graphic designs and print formatting.
Tim Greaton: Our time together has been fascinating, Prue, but I’m willing to bet a lot of our readers are anxious to find out more about your latest novel, “Gisborne: Book of Pawns.” Could you tell us about it?
Prue Batten: “Gisborne: Book of Pawns,” ah, let’s see. The blurb might go like this: “Two people drawn by lust and a lost inheritance in 12th Century England, where status means power and survival depends on how the game is played. Guy of Gisborne, a man of dark secrets, accompanies Ysabel of Moncrieff, a woman of prominence, on a journey that rewrites history.”
Tim Greaton: Though I haven’t yet had a chance to read “Gisborne: Book of Pawns,” I’d like to mention that novelist John Hudspith says, “your storytelling is mesmeric and exact, taking the reader on a spellbinding ride of unpredictable twists and turns.” Now that’s a pretty serious compliment, Prue.
Prue Batten: I’m always honored when readers appreciate my work.
Tim Greaton: What led you to tell this particular story?
Prue Batten: It was originally inspired by the BBC’s rendition of “Robin Hood.” I found the character of Gisborne intriguing - a bitter man for whom life had absolutely no meaning, a man with no self-worth. I decided to take Gisborne far from the familiar canon and set him along another life journey entirely, one that may have fallen his way if the cards had been played differently.
Tim Greaton: Will there be sequels or other stories connected to this one?
Prue Batten: Most definitely if I live long enough. There is at least another book in the Gisborne Saga, perhaps another after that. Gisborne: Book of Knights is 25% written. I also have fourth and fifth book planned for The Chronicles of Eirie and in fact the fourth is 70% done. I love both genres, but perhaps fantasy is more relaxing to write than historical fiction as there are very specific strictures within hist.fict that one must be respectful toward.
Tim Greaton: I know you don’t like to compare your work to other authors, but it has happened. Could you give us a few examples?
Prue Batten: No, you’re right. I don’t like to compare but one Amazon UK reader said he finally found a book he enjoyed more than “Game of Thrones,” which he loved. That book was “A Thousand Glass Flowers,” and his kind review rather shook me…in a nice way, of course. And when I was submitting my first two books of the “Chronicles of Eirie” to a peer review site ( one reviewer called them “A cross between Neil Gaiman’s ‘Stardust’ and John Crowley’s ‘Little Big,’” which I thought was terrific!
Tim Greaton: Which part of your story was the most difficult to write?
Prue Batten: Always the love/sex scenes as I believe in the mantra of “less is more.” At the same time it has to be compelling and acceptable to a wide cross-section of readers.
Tim Greaton: After writing your novel/story, did you wish you could have changed something? Do you think you will address that issue in future sequels?
Prue Batten: Rarely. Although I wondered if I should have changed the title of my fantasy “The Stumpwork Robe” after a woman bought it thinking it was an embroidery book and giving me a one star review for her mistake. I went to secure the link just a moment ago to place here, and it appears it has been removed. I’m glad the mistake was cleared up, and yet it was such a good talking point!
And then some bright sparks have commented on “Gisborne: Book of Pawns” with emphasis on the Pawn (porn). Sigh! Thus making me wonder if I should change that title as well.
Tim Greaton: For what it’s worth, Prue, I think that every author I’ve ever met has second-guessed various aspects of past projects. Now that I’ve dragged you through all the serious stuff, let’s try a couple of fun questions. Let’s say Peter Jackson showed up at your door tomorrow and offered to put one of your stories on the big screen, what kind of a monster would be in the film? And which actor or actress would you have battling it?
Prue Batten: If we are talking my “Chronicles of Eirie” series, there is an array of legendary spirits like the Cabyll Ushtey (a horse that eats people) or the Caointeach who wails as she washes bloody laundry in a stream and thus lets mortals know there will soon be a death. Those are just two, but there are dozens of nasties throughout that series. I’d be thrilled to see Peter’s WETA Workshop work their movie magic on those.
As for actors to play my hero? Oh any divine English actor: Rufus Sewell, Richard Armitage, Damian Lewis and so on. In the historic fiction, Sir Robert Halsham is quite simply a devious and dangerous bastard. Cruel, manipulative … will say no more as it might be seen to be a spoiler. I imagine Damian Lewis as Halsham and Richard Armitage as Gisborne.
Tim Greaton: Okay, everyone loves to answer this one: if you had an unlimited advertising budget, how would you “get the word out” about your latest release?
Prue Batten: In terms of my “Chronicles of Eirie” series, I would take Peter Jackson to the best dinner he has ever eaten. I would ask world famous chef Tetsuya Yakuda to cook Tasmanian food to die for, and I would pay Tets to take Peter on his wonderful boat around the Tasmanian coast. Then, as we sailed and ate, I would say “this is a movie just waiting for your touch.”
In terms of “Gisborne: Book of Pawns,” I would pay as much as Richard Armitage wanted me to pay to his favorite charities if he would just carry the print novel in his arms at every single interview he does!
Tim Greaton: I also often ask authors what they would like to see on their tombstone when they finally go to rest. I know it’s decades and decades away, but what would your answer be?
Prue Batten: Maybe they could print: “Nobody’s Perfect.” But seeing as I want a Viking Funeral or, at the very least, to be cremated and my ashes scattered at sea, I don’t care if there’s no headstone at all!
Tim Greaton: It would be great if you could share your website/blogsite and links to where our audience could directly communicate with you and purchase your stories.
Pure Batten:
Blog: has pages to take readers to details of published books.
Tim Greaton: Thanks for taking the time with me today, Prue. It’s amazing of you to spend the time, which I know can be a challenge with your busy schedule.
Tim, it was delightful. Thank you for making me think about all these wonderful questions, and thanks to all your readers for taking the time to scan the result!
 Gisborne: Book of Pawns (The Gisborne Saga)The Stumpwork Robe (The Chronicles of Eirie)


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Interview with Jeff Dawson, author of the vampire thriller "Occupation"...


Thanks so much, everyone, for your patience. The last couple of months, I had a number of family events and professional to-do items that made it difficult to man my forum post, but I’m excited to be back and to introduce the author of Occupation, one of the most brutal and enthralling vampire novels that I have read in a long while.  Let’s get started J

Tim Greaton: It’s great having you here in the forum, Jeff. You and I could talk for hours about various aspects of crafting stories, but in the interest of everyone else, I probably should take some time to concentrate on your personal history. I especially love how writers can come up from the most unlikely circumstances. I understand your first career didn’t involve a lot of typing. Could you tell us about that?
Jeff Dawson: When I was sixteen, I took a job flipping burgers for $2.15 an hour. Wow! After six months I realized I was doing the same thing every day and only had a measly little paycheck to show for the endless hours of smelling like a Wendy’s burger. Even Lava soap couldn't cut through that wonderful aroma. Did I have a girlfriend back then? Doubtful. So I decided to do something where my toils were rewarded: road construction. Great money, great hours and great fun. Two out of three ain't bad. For the next twenty-five years I was one of those guys on the side of road with a smoke dangling out his mouth barking orders and baking under the fine Texas and Oklahoma summer suns. Yeah, I was the typical road hand. Hot (not in looks), sweaty, hard drinking and woman chasing. Again, four out of five ain't bad.

Tim Greaton: Going back even further, I heard you were injured while making a different kind of art? I assume you remember what I’m talking about.
Jeff Dawson: Yeah, I sure do. Back in junior high and high school, some of my friends and I were making war films. While filming one of those fine masterpieces, I was shot as I attempted to flee over a wooden fence. For realism, we thought it'd be a good idea if I just fell off the fence. How did that work out? Let me think, twenty-five years of pouring concrete. Brain damage could have been a real possibility.
Tim Greaton: In a little bit, we’re going to talk about your fiercely imaginative WWII novel Occupation, which is going to be a lot of fun, but in the meantime I was hoping you could tell us a little bit about a related hobby that you and your sons share.
Jeff Dawson: When I have the space, I have miles of HO (model railroading equipment) boxed up just waiting to be unleashed in the correct environment. To go along with that, my boys and I really enjoy building models from WWII. One son builds the Russian and American vehicles, while my oldest and I work on the German ones. The boys decided early in the game that maybe Dad shouldn’t paint the men. They accused me of giving the soldiers doll eyes. "Fine, you do it then." Our arrangement has worked out pretty well. I take care of the heavy lifting, the big stuff, while my boys handle all of the intricate details.
Tim Greaton: What kinds of books do you read? Are they in the same genres in which you write?

Jeff Dawson: My bookcase is filled with WWII books, mostly non-fiction. Do I have any books on the current genre I'm pursuing? Not a one. If someone would have told me ten years ago I would write a WWII/Vampire thriller, I probably would have shot them. Figuratively speaking.
Tim Greaton: There was a place from your past that you’ll always remember. How do the memories of it influence your life/writing?
Jeff Dawson: In my second book, Love's True Second Chance, I wrote about many wonderful memories and events from high school ‘til July of 2009. I remember hundreds of great places from back then, but if I had to pick the most special place and time it would be in February of 2009. McAlester, Oklahoma was receiving a ton snow one morning, so I woke Debbie up and asked her if she would like to go for a walk. I can still envision us walking in the snow, she in her read peacock coat, me in my OSU jacket. I can still see the love in her eyes. That is a site I will never forget.
Tim Greaton: As a writer who also tends to cross genres probably a little too often, I understand how odd it is to receive different types of feedback on different types of books. What various kinds of reader comments would we find in your email box?
Jeff Dawson: This is where we have to keep clean, right? With the autobiographies, many of the readers thank me for sharing the story of Debbie and me. Most of them have also suffered a tragic loss in their life and others have thanked me for reminding them that love is worth a second chance. Occupation tends to get a completely different response. Most readers thank me for not letting my vampires sparkle in the twilight. The characters in Occupation are blood sucking, emotionless creatures who are stalking an enemy even more vile than themselves.
Do you have a closet or drawer full of old projects? If so, will any of them see the light of day?
Jeff Dawson: Nothing hiding in the closets or drawers that I know of. However, do not despair, it appears a sequel to Occupation is in the works along with a sci/fi novel, a book of poetry/short stories and eulogies and I have one book that is percolating: it revolves around the largest tank battle in the 20th century. Wait a minute, let me open this door. Hm, nothing. I think that's about it.
Tim Greaton: Because we writers tend to start out telling real life stories, I bet you have at least one story you often retell at parties. Would you share one with us?
Jeff Dawson: As a matter of fact, when I was 19 or 20 my father informed me we were going to re-roof the ridge line of the house. Correction, I was going to do the re-roofing, in July, in Oklahoma. Like I wasn’t already getting enough of the cool sun. Nevertheless, I accepted the task and went to work and finished the first two lines in a couple of hours. Climbing off the roof, I popped a top and examined my handy work as did our neighbor. When I asked him what he thought, he took a long drink from his cold Budweiser, smacked his lips and said, "Well dumkopf, I guess if you like snakes for a straight line, looks pretty good. Think I'll go get your dad." Sure enough, it looked like a snake died on the ridge. The rest of the house went much smoother, but every time I saw Mr. Bill he would remind me of my fine craftsmanship. At least the beer was cold.
Tim Greaton: Who was the strangest or most memorable character you ever met in real life?
(Jeff gives me one of those grins. I know something is coming.) Jeff Dawson: Other than myself, no one jumps out.
Tim Greaton: So that’s the way it’s going to be, huh? Let’s try this one: so were there any books or stories—NOT YOURS—that truly impacted your life in a huge way?
(The grin is still there). Jeff Dawson: None that come to mind.

(After threatening to withhold any further caffeine from my smirking guest, I return to our questions.) Tim Greaton: What is your writing “system” like, and how has it evolved over the course of your career?
Jeff Dawson: System? I wake-up. That is number one. Number two, pour a cup-of-coffee. Number three, turn on the computer. Number four? Seriously, I don't have a system. Each day is different. Some days I might crank out 6,000 words while others I blankly stare at the screen and play solitaire. For me, there is no set formula. I have found that whichever genre I'm toying with often dictates how much work I get done in a day.
Tim Greaton: I hear you have a fabulous group of beta readers. Is that true?
Jeff Dawson: You better believe it, and that is especially important since my mind types faster than my fingers. I have about four friends who gladly accept the manuscripts and provide critiques. They don't sugar coat or rave about what a great read it is. They point out the flaws and inconsistencies. However, even they don't catch everything. If I trusted my own instincts, I'd still be learning how to spell "I." Did I get it right?
Tim Greaton: Which author do you model your work after, or do you not see any parallels with past works you’ve read?
Jeff Dawson: It would have to be Bram Stoker. I love the way he transitions his scenes while mixing in the dialogue. He was a true master.
Tim Greaton: Do you think of yourself as a particular type of writer?
Jeff Dawson: You mean other than one who can't spell very well. Seriously, I would classify myself as a WWII novelist. I love the history of WWII. I believe that is why I enjoyed writing the vampire work. I was able to mix in my knowledge of that era in history along with something a little different; evil versus evil.
Tim Greaton: It looks like we’ve managed to circle back to Occupation, a novel which I read and enjoyed. I especially appreciated the obvious author knowledge behind the fiction. You managed to truly make me feel as though I was there in that stark and terrible place. Could you tell us more about the story?
Jeff Dawson: Occupation is about Germany’s invasion of Poland and of Hitler’s attempt to ship off the population to cleanse the lands for German settlers. What the German soldiers don't know is they are stealing the food supply of two warring vampire clans that detest one another. Yet as the Germans keep thinning out the population the clans are forced to make a decision. They can continue to fight amongst each other for the meager souls still inhabiting the land, or they can combine their forces and take on an enemy more vile than themselves. I believe readers will root for the vampires to forge an alliance and rid the country of the current menace. I know I did when I wrote it.
Tim Greaton: What led you to tell this particular story?  
Jeff Dawson: Believe it or not, the idea came from two women. The one who took care of my mom suggested I write a love story about WWII. Not happening. I read "Ratenkrieg and then went to see the movie, "Enemy at the Gates," and was very disappointed. Seriously? A love story in Stalingrad. Ah, no. I called Debbie's oldest daughter and asked her if vampires were still big. That was a big thumbs-up. She also agreed to help write. I spent the next weeks trying to figure out if could actually work: Vampires/WWII. I wrote a preface and let it simmer for a few weeks. Once I figured out how to start chapter 1, the book wrote itself.
Tim Greaton: Which character most resonated with you?
Lord, you want me to relate to one these characters. It would have to be Kirilli Boirarsky. He is the most likeable character I developed. He is the patriarch of the Boirarskys and usually keeps a clear head and open mind as plans are drawn-up and implemented against the SS. Granted he has a lot of flaws (then again, he is a vampire) but is the only one still possessing a human characteristic or two.
Tim Greaton: You mentioned a possible sequel earlier. How is that progressing?
Jeff Dawson: What was the line in the 80's movie with Patrick Swayze:  REFUND!? REFUND!? . Sequel!? Sequel!? I know sequels are a big thing today thanks to Twilight, Hunger Games, Fifty Shades of Grey and so on. Yes, there will be a sequel to Occupation. Why? I left a lot of unanswered issues in the first one. Some were intentional, other were not. In fact, I found out not long ago that there was someone that I—no, excuse me—that the clans never killed. I was shocked. Why is he still alive? I have no idea, but I like the path his character could possibly take. "Very interesting." Thank you Artie Johnson.
Tim Greaton: Do you plan on exploring other realms or even more genres anytime soon?
Jeff Dawson: Other genres and realms? Anything is possible. Film at eleven.
Tim Greaton: Which part of Occupation was the most difficult to write? Why?
Jeff Dawson: That's easy. The chapter entitled "Melding" was the most difficult by far. Why? You try and have two vampires mate while everyone has to watch and not kill each other and yet still make it sensual. I had one reader asked me to demonstrate how Dmitri and Nicole performed one of their acts. I declined, because even as a young man, I couldn't have performed that gymnastic feat.
Tim Greaton: Now that Occupation is complete, do you wish you could have changed something?

 Jeff Dawson: Other than letting a German live who should have died, nothing. There is one chapter (I forget which one) where the characters weren't behaving at all. They were all, and I mean all of them, arguing with each other. Veins were popping, fangs were showing, claws were growing and the whole time I kept telling them to shut-up. They refused to listen. I was not happy to say the least. I fought with both clans for two days until I woke up one morning, woke them up from gigabyte world and told them in no uncertain terms, "I'm in charge and it's time for this foolishness to stop!" It was the first time in a long time Nikoli and Svetlana Romanov backed down. I thought about changing some of that chapter but decided against it. We've all been in fruitless arguments, just waiting for them to end so we could take a break and get a drink. I know I was ready.
Tim Greaton: If you were to be stuck at the top of Mount Everest, which character from Occupation would you want to have with you? Why?
Jeff Dawson: Are you kidding me? My characters would suck me dry and hide the body in Noah's Ark. No thank you. I'll stay at the base camp and let the snow cover me up. But if you want to join them be my guest. I'm sure they would love a little extra rations when the reach the summit. Before you go, leave that bottle of Crown, you won't be needing it.
Tim Greaton: It would be great if you could share your website/blogsite and links to where our audience could directly communicate with you and purchase your stories.
Jeff Dawson: The website/blog can be found at

                         Facebook: Love's True Second Chance, Occupation, Why did Everything Happen.

                         The books are also available at Smashwords and Amazon.        

 Occupation   Love's True Second Chance
Tim Greaton: Thanks for taking the time today, Jeff. I suspect there is an army of readers getting ready to search out copies of your books right now.
Jeff Dawson: I want to thank you, Tim, and all who took the time out of their busy schedules to stop by and say hi or just stop by to take a look. This has been a lot of fun and hope to see you all on the boards, emails or blogs.