Posted in Author Spotlight, Authors, Books, New Releases

Author Spotlight: YA Author Jill Van Den Eng

authorspotlightWelcome to the Literary Library Lounge where I interview fellow authors. Today, I am chatting with YA author Jill  Van Den Eng from Appleton, Wisconsin.dsc_2052limitlesslibrarylounge

Thanks for joining us, Jill.  Please take a seat and make yourself comfortable.

How long have you been published? What titles have you published and with which publisher? Have you self-published any titles? Please give details.

gangbanger-001-2My debut YA novel, “Divided Moon,” was published in 2012 by Solstice Publishing. The companion novel to that, “Gangbanger,” was just released November 15, 2016, also by Solstice Publishing.

I have not self published any titles, as I don’t have the time or money to do something like that. I have published in newspapers, periodicals and online sources as a journalist.

Very nice, and congratulations on your new release. As you know, I also publish with Solstice Publishing and also Limitless Publishing. My first book, however, was self-published by Booklocker.com. I’ve also written articles for magazines and online publications.

Tell us a little bit about your books. If you write a series, any upcoming releases or your current work-in-progress. 

I write realistic YA fiction. I like to say they are contemporary, coming of age stories, but have seen “Divided Moon” classified as historical fiction since it is set in the 1990s, as is “Gangbanger.” They are set in the 1990s for a reason (I promise, I am not afraid to write about smart phone technology). Both stories feature main characters who are first generation Hmong in America. They live this divided life in which their immigrant parents want to keep the culture of their homeland and culture alive while their kids grow up in American culture.

I received good reviews for “Divided Moon,” and many say it made them think. The companion novel, “Gangbanger” just hit the street on November 15, 2016, and I am excited to hear what readers think. This story follows Moon’s brother, Ze, and his story as he breaks rank. It was an emotional story to write, that came largely from my gut and knowledge of that bond of friendship that is so strong when you are a teen.

Your series sounds very interesting.

Describe your goals as a writer. What do you hope to achieve in the next few years? What are you planning to do to reach these goals?

I have a lot of stories to write. I do feel like I am an “issue” writer who likes to cast light on things that people may not be aware of or never thought about much. I am pleased when I hear someone say my book made them think or informs them on something they didn’t know existed. I guess that is my goal, bringing forth things we may not otherwise see to better understand the people around us. That is the point of communication.

As a librarian as well as an author, I agree completely. 

What type of reader are you hoping to attract? Who do you believe would be most interested in reading your books?

I don’t have a “type” of reader. I love them all. I wish more people would read my books. Being published by a small press has some disadvantages, one of them being outside of the library market.  I make an effort to donate books to my favorite libraries so more people have the opportunity to read them. Although then I worry and want to check them out a few times so they don’t toss them for taking up too much space.

I know what you mean about small presses having the drawback of limited distribution, although there are some pluses to them, as well. I’m currently seeking wider distribution and formats for my psychological thriller that I am querying with agents. As far as small press books being outside the library market, I somewhat disagree with that. As a librarian who orders books for our fiction and mystery collection, I’m aware that many good, small press books are not ordered by libraries because they are not generally reviewed in library journals such as Booklist and Publisher’s Weekly. However, patrons can request that books not owned by their libraries be purchased. Donating is an option, but not always the best one for an author although exposure is important. 

What advice would you give other authors or those still trying to get published?

Revise, revise, revise. Don’t be afraid or offended by critique. It is so important to see the flaws in your work so that you can improve it. Writing a story is bringing the reader on a journey, you want them to get “lost” in the book, almost in a trance where they can’t put it down. That is what makes reading fun! You can’t get there without a heck of a lot of work on story and prose and generous feedback.

That’s good advice, although you can’t please every reader. I’ve found that editing and revising often take longer than the initial writing which is just a rough draft. 

What particular challenges and struggles did you face before first becoming published?

Like a lot of writers, I would say the biggest challenge in the beginning is the rejection. It is hard to hear no over and over again, but it is part of the process. Even established authors with published stories get rejected. At least the published authors I know. I often take rejections as opportunities to make the work better and I appreciate it when editors and agents offer advice and reasons the story didn’t resonate with them.

That’s very true. I feel the same. 

Have you taken any writing or publishing classes? If so, please provide information about them and if you feel they helped you further your professional skills.

I have taken tons of classes and workshops. I highly recommend the Summer Writer’s Festival at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, as this was a fun place to take a class for a weekend or a week for not much money, and they often have week long or weekend classes that can target what you are writing with good faculty. For those writing for children, I highly recommend joining SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). I have been to regional and national conferences, and they are invaluable for making connections with fellow writers and illustrators, as well as agents and editors.

Yes. Classes and conferences can be extremely helpful for authors especially those connected with professional associations.

What are your hobbies and interests besides writing?

I am a Master Gardener Volunteer, although I feel this is a misnomer. I have done the classwork (and got a 99.5% on my final exam), have a garden, and do the volunteer and education to keep my license, but I feel like a noob. I have some advice, but mostly, I am learning from those around me. My goal is to get to a place where I can truly help others with gardening advice.

Nice.

What do you like most and least about being an author? What is your toughest challenge?

What I like most is my books. I love them all so much! What I like least is marketing. I am still learning about that portion of it, and wish I could give a free copy to everyone, while still making a living off this.

I also find marketing a challenge, and I believe most authors do, as well. They would rather write than promote. Unfortunately, if you can’t sell your books, publishers will no longer back you.

Please list your social media links, website, blog, etc. and include some book cover graphics and author photos if possible.

Blog: www.jillysbookblog.blogspot.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/JillVanDenEng

Twitter: @MoonOverMadison

Instagram: jill.vandeneng

 

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Posted in Author Spotlight, Authors, Books, New Releases

Author Spotlight Steven Lindahl

authorspotlightWelcome to the Literary Library Lounge where I interview fellow authors. Today, I am chatting with  Steven Lindahl from McLeansville, North Carolina.headshotlimitlesslibrarylounge

Thanks for joining me, Steven.  Please take a seat and make yourself comfortable.

How long have you been published? What titles have you published and with which publisher?

My first short story was published in Space and Time – the winter 1984/85 issue. I’ve had a number of other stories published including my story, Clay, which was in Alaska Quarterly Review – Spring/Summer 1989 issue, alongside a special section featuring Grace Paley.

My first novel, Motherless Soul came out in 2009. It was published by All Things That Matter Press. My second novel, White Horse Regressions was published in 2014, also by All Things That Matter Press. Hopatcong Vision Quest is my third novel, but my first with Solstice Publishing.

I’ve also had some experience with the editing side of writing. I was a co-founder and associate editor of The Crescent Review for five years and I’m the current managing editor of Flying South.  Both of these are literary magazines with fiction, poetry, and creative non-fiction. The Crescent is no longer being published, but there are rumors of a comeback. Flying South 2016 just came out recently and is available on Amazon.

It sounds like you’ve been involved in many different areas of writing. I also have experience with editing and have written articles in addition to my novels, the third of which, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, will be published by Solstice this month.

Have you self-published any titles? Please give details.

No. When it comes to choosing a publishing method I like the middle road of small and mid-market publishers, more control and individual attention than writers receive at the big presses, and more input from others than the self-publishing method.

That’s an interesting answer. I self-published my first book with Booklocker.com, but I find traditional publishing is of more interest to me because I get to network with other authors from my publisher, such as you. However, I’m still hoping to publish a book with a large publisher one day. I agree that some of the smaller publishers, such as Solstice, give more attention to their authors, but I’m a librarian, and I’d like to see my work published in more formats such as hardcover, Large Type, and Audio.

Tell us a little bit about your books — what genre you write, if you write a series, any upcoming releases or your current work-in-progress. If you have an upcoming release, please specify the release date.

hopatcong-001My novels are past life mysteries. Hopatcong Vision Quest will be released on Oct 6. The books are part of a series, but they can be read in any order. The only character who is in more than one book is the hypnotist, Glen Wiley. In all the novels a crime has been committed. Glen Wiley is brought in to send people back to past lives they shared to find clues. I use past lives as a device to combine present day stories with historical fiction, much like time travel books, but without the problem of changing the timeline. Motherless Soul is set in the present and during the American Civil War. White Horse Regressions goes back to memories of Victorian England and the Han Dynasty in ancient China. Hopatcong Vision Quest is set at Lake Hopatcong, NJ, during the present time, and at the same location in the 16th century, when it was occupied by the Lenape Native Americans.

In all the books the characters in the present share souls with the characters in the past. Part of the mystery is in determining who is paired with whom.

My next book will be straight historical fiction. I’ve started a novel that takes place in Anglo-Saxon England and Viking era Sweden.

That sounds very interesting and a unique premise for books. In addition to mysteries, I enjoy time travel tales as well as those that involve reincarnation. I remember reading Lady of Hay by Barbara Erskine and finding it extremely intriguing. I imagine your books would be a bit like that.

Describe your goals as a writer. What do you hope to achieve in the next few years? What are you planning to do to reach these goals?

I’d be lying to myself if I didn’t admit that I’d love the money and recognition that comes to writers who are well known, but I prefer to keep my goals to things I can control. So I’ll let fate decide where I’ll be in the next few years, meanwhile my three main goals are:

1. Keep writing, every day. Countless people have said to me that they would love to do what I do if they only had the time. Making the commitment to sit in front of the computer on a regular schedule is the single most important thing a writer can do.

2.  Try to write work that is accessible and interesting, but also as carefully constructed as possible. My critique group and my family are my best critics. My version (bastardization?) of the serenity prayer is as follows:

God, grant me the judgment to accept the revisions I need to change,

Courage to change the words I love,

And wisdom to know when to leave the thing alone.

3, Be the best marketer I can be, without being obnoxious. I didn’t write my books to leave them in a drawer. I want readers who will enjoy my plots and characters and who will think about the issues I raise. They won’t be there unless I get the word out.

Great advice, Steven, and  I love your Serenity Prayer for Writers. I agree completely.

What type of reader are you hoping to attract?  Who do you believe would be most interested in reading your books?

My books appeal to people who enjoy stories that make readers think, but also come with romance and mystery. You don’t need to believe in past lives to like my books, but you do need to be willing to lose yourself in the plot.

Those are exactly the type of readers I’d like to attract. Although my series is a cozy mystery one, I still include themes that have serious aspects. For instance, one of the young characters in my new book has leukemia.

What advice would you give other authors or those still trying to get published?

My advice to other writers, published or not, is to find others with whom you share your love of words and fictional lives: join writers groups, go to open mic sessions, take workshops, read to your family and friends. A community of like-minded people can provide the advice and support you need to step up a level or two. And you might find satisfaction in offering your own support to others.

Yes, I think there’s great benefit to writer’s clubs, associations, and other in-person and online groups that bring writers together.

What particular challenges and struggles did you face before first becoming published?

Like most writers, I received many rejections when first starting out. It was difficult to keep up my confidence at that time.

I think most writers will relate to that.

Have you taken any writing or publishing classes? If so, please provide information about them and if you feel they helped you further your professional skills.

I took some classes years ago, from the continuing education programs at local colleges. I still take workshops when I’m in a position to attend them. Press 53, a publisher out of Winston-Salem, sponsors a “gathering a writers” annually, although they skipped last year. There were a number of great workshops at those events. I’ve gotten a lot from those classes, mostly motivation, but also some hints.

Nice.

What are your hobbies and interests besides writing?

I try to get out on a local lake in my kayak three times a week, during the warm seasons. I also enjoy singing in my church choir and used to be active in local community theater groups. My wife is an artist and I enjoy critiquing her work and touring art galleries and museums when we travel.

Those sound like great ways to take a break from writing.

What do you like most and least about being an author? What is your toughest challenge?

I love talking to readers at the book fairs and my readings. Even if they haven’t read my book, I love talking about the particular historical periods I wrote about or the concept of past life regressions.

My toughest challenge is marketing, especially social media marketing. My inclination is to be a bit of a lurker on Facebook, which is great for keeping up with others, but not so great for keeping others up to date with me.

I’m with you about social media marketing. It’s tough and not always effective. It also take a lot of time away from writing. I try to be as active as I can, but it’s hard to keep up sometimes.

Please list your social media links, website, blog, etc.

Website: http://www.stevelindahl.com/

Blog: www.stevelindahl.blogspot.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/steve.lindahl.3

Twitter: https://twitter.com/lindahlst @lindahlst

Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/Steve-Lindahl/e/B0031GLA5Y/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1463052920&sr=1-1

Goodreads author page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3117087.Steve_Lindahl

Wonderful. Thanks so much for the interview, and best wishes with your new book and those that follow.