Interview with A. C. Williams

This interview is part of the Meg Mitchell & The Secret of the Journal Blog Tour

 

  1. Can you described yourself, say a little about where you’re located or whatever else you feel is basic info.

My name is actually Amy Williams, but I write for young adults under the pen name Kimberly McNeil. I am a transplanted Texan who lives on my family’s farm in Kansas. No animals right now, other than cats and the occasional opossum. I’ve got a degree in journalism from Wichita State University, but my career has been varied, starting in libraries, moving on to copywriting for a marketing team at a plumbing and heating manufacturer, and finally to self-employment through my novel writing and my latest business venture, teaching creative business owners how to use technology.

  1. Can you give us an overview of your work? Where to start?

I’ve been writing seriously since I was 11 years old, but the first time I got published “officially” was for a romantic comedy short story that appeared in the now-defunct True Story magazine in 2012 or so. The first author name I published under was A.C. Williams.

I have three books of devotionals under the name A.C. Williams, and all my adult fiction is also published under that name. I have a space opera trilogy, The Destiny Trilogy, and a romantic comedy, Finding Fireflies.

For Meg Mitchell & The Secret of the Journal, I chose to write under the pen name Kimberly McNeil. First, because I wanted to keep the Lightkeeper series separate from my grittier science fiction titles. Second, and this is the cool reason, Kimberly McNeil is actually a character in the book.

So if you want an urban fantasy adventure on a massive scale, Meg Mitchell & The Secret of the Journal is a great place to start. It’s book one in the Legend of the Lightkeepers series.

But if you want something a little more grown up, any of my titles under A.C. Williams will be great for you. Nameless, Namesake, New Name, or Finding Fireflies is designed more for a grown-up audience.

  1. What genre/genres do you write in and why? Are these the same genres you like to read?

A combination of urban fantasy/space opera is my comfort zone, although I love to weave in variations on other genres as well. So it’s not uncommon to get hints of nearly every genre in my writing. My friends laughingly defined my writing genre as “Kitchen Sink” one time, mainly because I love all kinds of stories. But if I need to nail it down to one, it’ll probably be urban fantasy.

And, yes, I do read urban fantasy. I’m a big Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Dark Tower kind of fan, but I love other genres too. I’m a die hard Jane Austen reader, and I’ve got a soft spot for authors like Louisa May Alcott and Laura Ingalls Wilder. Recently I’m on a huge Craig Johnson kick; his Longmire mystery series just makes me so happy (if Henry Standing Bear were real, I’d want to marry him). And, of course, I adore Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee and Frank Peretti. I just love good stories. It doesn’t matter what genre they fit in.

  1. How did you come to be interested in writing?

Storytelling has always been a part of my life. It just happened. As children, my brother and I would stage epic adventures with our toys. It was My Little Pony and Barbie versus the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the G.I. Joes, and eventually they had to come together to stop the evil advances of the terrifying, self-aware Tonka tractor. Not even exaggerating. And by the time I hit first grade, I’d started writing down our little stories, melding the universes of all my favorite childhood cartoons with Star Trek or Star Wars.

Here’s the real irony, though. I didn’t even realize that writing was a potential career field until I was in fourth grade or so. I guess I just thought books appeared magically. But once my stubborn Scottish brain figured out that it was something I could actually do, I picked it up and ran, and I haven’t looked back yet.

I have to write. I can’t not. It’s how I think. It’s how I feel.

  1. Can you tell us about your latest work? Who is it about? What happens?

Well, the latest published work is currently Meg Mitchell & The Secret of the Journal.

Meg and her brother and sister were raised in an alternate dimension, and one day, Meg discovers her biological father’s journal. In it, she reads about a cousin they didn’t know they had. So she, her siblings, and her adoptive mother return to our world, the Terran Dimension, to search for her long lost cousin. But once they arrive, everything goes wrong, and Meg has to ask prodigy teen detectives Barb and Jim Taylor for help.

My latest Word in Progress is the sequel, Barb Taylor & The Mountain of Fire. As a preview, I can tell you that Barb and Jim Taylor come to visit Meg in the alternate dimension, and they end up in the middle of a war with the native Centaurs.

  1. How do you go about researching for a story? Do you do anything special when you research? Is it all online?

Oh, online. I use the internet for everything. It’s important to find more than one source that has the same information, though. You can’t just trust Wikipedia.

If I’m writing about a local place, I go visit. If I’m writing about a real location that’s within my power to visit, I travel. If I can’t get there in person, I use Google Maps like crazy and walk the streets and sidewalks digitally.

One of the locations you’ll see over and over in the Lightkeepers books is San Francisco. I’ve never been there. I’ve got a trip planned to go visit next year, but until then I make use of Google Maps and local newspaper articles. I look into crime rates, historical buildings, construction projects, weather reports, residential neighborhoods, and the blueprints and floor layouts of homes. Since I haven’t been there in person yet, I have to do the best I can with the resources that are available online.

When it comes to the worlds I make up? Well, the sky’s not even the limit there.

  1. What appeals to you about writing?

I love living in my characters’ skins. I love being able to go on adventures with them, to see the world through their eyes. Many of them are personality types that fascinate me, and it’s fun to get their perspective. And all of my characters have independent thoughts that always make me want to get to know them better. Even the villains.

Confession: I love my villains. I’ve always been fond of bad guys. I’m not sure what that says about me.

  1. What do you find the hardest about being a writer? Which parts drag for you?

Emotion. Writing emotion is very difficult for me. It forces me to go to a place in my own heart where I can’t hide from the way I feel. Personally, I don’t like emotions. I know that they’re necessary, and I know that I need them. But they’re inconvenient. It’s something I’m working on personally, just being honest. I’d much rather hide what I’m feeling than let it out into the open, but I am a Feeler personality type. So the more I do that, the more confused I get. So when I get to an emotional scene, I have to mentally prepare myself to shut off my censors and let my characters do and say what they actually feel.

  1. What is your writing routine? Do you write every day, at a particular time of the day? Is it difficult to discipline yourself?

Because much of my “day job” is writing, I write every day. I just don’t write fiction every day. When I’m on deadline for a novel, I will work on it every day, usually in the morning. But, honestly, I’m the most efficient when I just schedule three days or so and just write from dawn until midnight. It’s like a massive brain dump. But if I can do that, I can finish a 150,000 word novel in two weeks. Of course, I can’t remember how to spell my name when I’m done, but at least I have a new novel.

So, no, it’s not hard to discipline myself to write. But then, I’ve been doing this for a really long time. I finished my first novel (which would become Meg Mitchell & The Secret of the Journal) when I was 11 years old.

  1. How do you put the story together? Do you write an outline? Start writing and edit later? Wait for the muse to strike? Or something in-between?

I have a hybrid sort of process. I’m an outliner, for sure. I like to plan and organize and sort, because my favorite thing to do with a book is to weave subplots and “aha!” moments all the way through the story. And it’s hard to do that on the fly. So I’ll have every chapter outlined before I start, but I leave room for my characters to dictate the action. I’ve learned that if I try to force them to do something they don’t want to do, I’ll stall out. So while I’m definitely an outliner, I also know my characters well enough to allow them the freedom to do what they want.

  1. Who are some of your favorite authors? Books that have influenced you?  

I may repeat some of my answers from question 3 here. Probably the most influential writer from my childhood was Laura Ingalls Wilder. I must have read the Little House books every year for 10 years. They meant a lot to me because my great grandmother came to Kansas in a covered wagon, and I remember her telling me stories about walking alongside it in the prairie grass. So adventures of a pioneer girl with her family really stuck with me.

But after Laura Ingalls Wilder are authors like Frank Peretti, whose kid’s books defined action and thrilling heroics when I was younger, and Ted Dekker, who challenged me to think outside the box. Dekker was a huge encouragement to me as a young writer too, because after reading about his crazy worlds, I realized that people really would read about alternate dimensions and other “weird” stuff. The same is true with J.K. Rowling, Rick Riordan, Marcus Sakey, and so many others.

Finally, I love Shakespeare, as odd as that may sound. The man was a genius when it came to dialog and vocabulary. Jane Austen, too, who had the gift of snark before snark was even a word.

I think I said this before, but most recently my favorite books are the Longmire mysteries by Craig Johnson. That man can write. And even though his novels are technically genre fiction, he has such a literary bent that you can read his words and feel like you’re actually experiencing a brutal Wyoming winter. Brilliant.

  1. Do you have any advice for anyone who wants to be a writer?

Being a writer is one of the most difficult careers you can choose. We open our souls and let our words flow out on to the page. We make ourselves vulnerable by sharing our deepest fears and our darkest secrets. Some people will love it; others will hate it. And, sadly, the world is full of more haters than lovers, so you’ll probably get more criticism than praise. But if you have a purpose and a call that’s bigger than you, it’s easier to endure the naysayers and bullies, because your stories will leave a legacy that will reach people and change hearts long after you’re gone.

So find a purpose that’s bigger than you. And If you want to be a writer, write. You can’t just say “I’m a writer” and spend all day every day watching Netflix or YouTube. Writers have to write. It doesn’t matter if you can only crank out 300 words a day, or if you’re a freak like me and can do 30,000. Writers write. So get busy. ��

See Meg Mitchell and the Secret of the Journal on Amazon

Interview with L. Jagi Lamplighter

The folks involved with the Noblebright boxed set Luminous kindly interviewed me in regards to my participation with the project.

Author Interview with L. Jagi Lamplighter and LUMINOUS Giveaway

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Recently, I was involved with an anthology of Noblebright epic fantasy books called LUMINOUS. A superb bunch of authors collaborated on that project, and today one of them, L. Jagi Lamplighter, is visiting the site for a chat about the Noblebright genre, her book, and other stuff. Speaking of other stuff, before we dive into the interview with LJ, I need to mention that the LUMINOUS project is running a fantastic giveaway. You can win a Lord of the Rings “Not All Who Wander Are Lost” tote bag, a Harry Potter “I Solemnly Swear I’m Up To No Good” journal (perfect for any of my three rascally sons), and some other author stuff. Be sure to check out the end of this post for those details. Anyway, without further ado, let’s chat about Noblebright and fantasy and other things with LJ.

LJ, thanks for stopping by. We obviously want to talk a lot about Noblebright, as that’s becoming quite the burgeoning genre these days, so, first off, what does that term mean to you?

I am a founding member of the Superversive Literary Movement. If subversive is change by undermining from below, then Superversive is change by inspiring from above. I see Noblebright as a companion idea to Superversive stories. Both movements stress heroes, fair play, nobility, bravery, and moral virtue. They offer a tiny spark of light in the darkness, against the overwhelming dark and violent landscape that is today’s popular entertainment.

You’re right on the prevalence of dark entertainment. Entertainment, culture and society in general! We need an antidote. How do you portray the Noblebright ideals in your work in general and the Luminous selection in particular?

Some years ago, my  husband (Author John C. Wright) pointed out that many modern books and TV shows have demons, but almost none of them mention angels and Heaven. (He did not count “angels” who claimed to be on  the side of “God” but basically acted like demons.) They explore darkness but contain very little light. I try to write stories that have moments of brightness as well as darker moments, where wonder and awe bring joy as well as sorrow. This is one of the reason that I so enjoy writing the Books of Unexpected Enlightenment. Dark things happen in these stories, but there are also moments of grace and pure joy—moments that lift the reader out of the ordinary, reminding them that there is something greater—something far better—that occasionally reaches down and touches us transforming our lives.

I don’t know if you’ve finished reading the entire Luminous collection, but do you have a favorite book among them?

I have not read all ten yet, but my favourite so far is Wolfskin. I like the spunk of the girl who wants to be a pirate but who settles for being the apprentice of a witch. I like the subtle way in which the magic works, so that the forest seems to live and pulse around her. The story includes a charming romance, but because of the initial age of the girl , the story is not just a romance but also includes a solid mix of adventure and intrigue. I felt the characters were well drawn, and the magic system was very interesting. The girl had a good heart, which is what leads to her triumph. I really enjoyed the book.

You’ve written quite a few books, among them your Prospero’s Children trilogy based on Shakespeare’s Tempest, as well as the Unexpected Enlightenmenttrilogy. When you’re writing (and reading–though, I suppose there’s quite an overlap between the two perspectives), what’s your favorite sort of character?

I would say that this question depends on whether you mean favourite protagonists or favourite characters in general. For protagonists, I like intelligent and courageous characters who use their wits to solve knotty problems. I love spirited female protagonists, but I am not a fan of fighting women who basically act like pretty men. I want the girl to solve problems the way a real girl could. My heroines tend to have magic and to be able to do things normal people cannot, but it is usually their intelligence, their cleverness, and their willingness to speak to and occasionally trust people others avoid—rather than their power—that saves the day. My main character in the Books of Unexpected Enlightenment, Rachel Griffin, the thirteen-year-old daughter of an English duke, has a perfect memory. This means that she never forgets any clues. This, combined with her courage and fortitude, makes her a character who is a delight to write. I am also a fan of dark, majestic, impressive male characters. Picture Spock, Dr. Doom, Aragorn (book version, not movie), or Snape (movie version, not book.). I love this kind of character—particularly when they are menacing but noble. I try to make sure that the male characters in my stories actually speak and act like men, which is surprisingly rare in YA literature.

Read the rest here.

Interview and Give Away

I am not sure when this giveaway runs through, it may be over, but…

Today I’m excited to welcome Christopher Bunn to the blog as part of the LUMINOUS Blog Hop and Giveaway. Christopher will be chatting with us about writing noblebright fantasy (including what the heck that is), his own contribution to LUMINOUS, and his favorite re-reads.  To wrap it all up, we have an awesome giveaway of a “Not All Those Who Wander…” LOTR tote bag + an “I Solemnly Swear I Am Up To No Good” Harry Potter Journal at the end of the post, plus author swag! So make sure to scroll all the way down. Here we go!

Hi Christopher! To start us off, what is Noblebright to you?

I think I was writing in the Noblebright genre long before I’d ever heard the term. For me, life has to have an ultimate meaning, a hopeful meaning; something bigger and deeper, something beyond humans, outside of our existence and outside of our control. I’ve taken that hope and written it into my stories. I’m not saying my books are all sweetness and unicorns and little fairies wearing bluebells on their heads. On the contrary, light and hope shine all the brighter in the darkness, and there’s plenty of shadow in my books.

How do you portray the Noblebright ideals in your work in general and the Luminous selection in particular?

I write in three genres: fantasy, science fiction and humor. My humor is rather odd and mostly written, I suspect, as a therapy (much cheaper than paying a psychologist).

However, in both fantasy and science fiction, the Noblebright ideals are vital to how I create my heroes. They don’t always make the right choices, but, when the story’s over and done, they’ve always chosen hope, even if it results in loss and pain. That’s a choice that’s always before all of us, even in our everyday lives, and it’s something I want my readers to recognise when they read my stories. If I can create a character that feels familiar to a reader, despite the fantastic trappings of magic and dragons and strange monsters, if they can journey along with that character through a book and start thinking, “Hmm, I hope he makes the right choice–I hope I would make the right choice if I was inside this book,” then hopefully I’m encouraging my readers.

That’s what a lot of great stories are about, isn’t it? Leaving readers with a sense that life can work out, even in the darkest times. Charles Dickens wrote some masterful stories with that thread running through them. One of the best, in my humble opinion, is Tale of Two Cities. Despite the story ending sadly for Sidney Carton, he made a fantastic choice, laying his life down for someone else, and even though he went to the guillotine, his death, oddly enough, leaves you with the sense that here was a man who died well, who died nobly, whose death was full of hope.

That is Noblebright.

My story in the Luminous collection is The Hawk and His Boy. The main character, Jute, is just a rough, young street thief. He doesn’t always make the right choices, but, as the story progresses, he slowly becomes aware of a  world much bigger than what he knew and believed. Ultimately, he learns that there’s much more to life than simply living for himself. That’s a lesson we all need to learn and relearn, every day. I know I certainly do!

Read more…

A Rambling Wreck, with Hans Schantz

The Catholic Geek: A Rambling Wreck, with Hans Schantz 06/25 by We Built That Network | Books Podcasts:

Hans Schantz joins host Declan Finn to discuss Social Justice in Science, and how it relates to his books ‘The Hidden Truth’ and ‘A Rembling Wreck’ 

Dr. Hans G. Schantz is a physicist, an inventor, and a co-founder and CTO of Q-Track Corporation, a supplier of indoor location systems. He wrote the science fiction thriller, The Hidden Truth, a textbook, The Art and Science of Ultrawideband Antennas, and a short history on The Biographies of John Charles Fremont. Hans will be launching A Rambling Wreck, the sequel to The Hidden Truth, at LibertyCon next weekend. Hans lives in Huntsville, Alabama with his wife, and two sets of twins.

Appearing on Catholic Geek Radio and a Confession

Since this is the 1,000th post at SuperversiveSF, I will combine two posts I intended to post separately into one, so that the whole is worthy of such a milestone.

I was interviewed on the Catholic Geek podcast last week, and the interview can now be listened to over at blogtalkradio. We briefly discuss the sad anniversary of 9/11 before moving on to brighter topics, such as superversive fiction, my own literary journey and output, and the hope and beauty I attempt to convey in my work.

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/webuiltthatnetwork/2016/09/11/the-catholic-geek-poetry-and-superversive-sf-with-ben-zwycky

There was one topic I deliberately omitted in the interview that I subsequently realised was worth touching on, so I will cover that below.

A Confession and a Motivation

I would like to expand on something I glossed over in my interview on Catholic Geek Radio, but now that I look back on it, played a much larger part in my motivations as a writer than I realized. It concerns how I moved from one university to another. It is not something I am proud of – instead it is something I am grateful for, since reminding myself of it is an effective defence against pride. This post will involve some painful memories, so please bear with me.

Continue reading

Some “God, Robot” News

Big stuff happening! First, author Jonathan Moeller AND the Injustice Gamer have reviewed “God, Robot”. From Moeller:

I rather liked this anthology.

It’s a play on Isaac Asimov’s famous Three Laws of Robotics: 1.) A robot can’t injure a human being, 2.) A robot must obey orders, so long as it doesn’t conflict with the First Law, and 3.) A robot must protect itself from harm, so long as this doesn’t conflict the first two laws.

…I definitely enjoyed it – I think my favorite stories were the ones featuring the bumbling scientists who lived in terror of their boss, and the final story, when a woman prepares to unleash a long-prepared genocide, but has doubts at the final moment. The best speculative fiction always asks the “what if” question, and this anthology does a good job of that.

From The Injustice Gamer:

To begin our list of infamous acts, the book is not just science fiction, but advocates throughout for Christianity. Theobots are created to assist in churches, the first problem encountered is the problem of logic versus evidence, and the flaws of building a philosophical Christianity without evidence in the way of testimony…

While this anthology only commits the act of treating Christianity not only as serious, but correct, it does so consistently, and with tales to terrify the heart of the Socially Just. In fact, the writing is so scandalous as to cause me to overlook it’s lack of other crimes against Social Justice, though some if it’s authors are crime enough.

Nine of ten fell deeds.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Great stuff!

And last but certainly not least, the “God,  Robot” crew will be appearing on the Catholic Geek radio show TONIGHT at 7:00 PM EST!

This includes authors Anthony Marchetta (me), MJ Marzo, Steve Rzasa, John C. Wright, Josh Young, L. Jagi Lamplighter, and – possibly, if he can make it – Vox Day himself! Unfortunately, EJ Shumak can’t make it, but he’s there in spirit.

Check us out here!

Great stuff!