Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Author Blog Host: Dynamic Duo Jessica Walsh and Briana Lawrence

Seeking the Storyteller

By Jessica Walsh & Briana Lawrence
I know of the Storyteller, it whispers into the man’s ear, I’ve met him. If you promise not to kill me, I’ll take you to him. 

Alix Andre DeBenit and Randall Fagan are Hunters, part of a hidden network of humans who track and kill the monsters lurking in our world so everyone else can pretend they don’t exist. But when a living shadow mentions someone called the Storyteller, Alix hesitantly decides to learn more. 

They say the Storyteller lives in a massive library full of books that tell every being’s life story. He can read these books, rewrite them and change anything he wants, even if it’s already happened. That’s the power Alix wants, the power to bring his murdered family back and he’s determined to make the Storyteller do it. 

He just has to decide if working with the very creatures he’s supposed to kill is worth it.
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Haven covered his ears as he heard the scream again, this time sounding even more desperate. He didn’t know what the humans were hearing, but to him it sounded like the girl was in physical pain, as if actually being attacked. Did they really hate demons so much as to let something like that continue? “Can’t you just let him calm her down so she stops screaming?” 
Idiot. Don’t draw attention to yourself. His dragon’s voice echoed in his mind as the blond Hunter turned a look of disgust in his direction. 
“You don’t need to be concerned about them. But you can tell us what happened to Xaver.” 
“She’s screaming over there and you’re going to waste time interrogating him?!” Dox’s own voice was nearing the point of hysteria. Haven could see the shadows on the edge of his cell straining, struggling to do something for him, but whatever he was trying they weren’t responding, not able to help. 
Haven. Don’t. 
“This is stupid. I’m not going to sit here and answer questions while she’s screaming.” Haven muttered, closing his hands into loose fists. He could feel the cold sliding down through his arms, swirling in the small space between his fingers as it spun and gained speed. 
Haven! Don’t be so rash! 
“Shut up.” 
Alix frowned, “Who are you talking to?” 
The metal around his wrists was the first to go, cracking from the cold and sliding off his skin like thin sheets of paper. In seconds Haven was moving forward and shoving his hands hard against the two bars in front of him. At the same moment, the gathering balls of ice broke apart, the cold surging up the metal and freezing it to the core in a matter of seconds. The now weakened metal shattered like glass that danced across the floor in sparks and shards. The two Hunters were stunned and Haven used that split second to run across the floor and duck around the one with the gun. Guns took slightly longer than swords to aim and that difference was a blessing to Haven as Alix tried to recover and aim. Haven made it across the room and used a second ball of ice against the lock on the metal door, shattering it in the same way at the bars of his cell. Haven kicked it open and ducked inside as the bullets whizzed past his head, just narrowly missing. 
He found the girl in the cell, curled up in the corner shaking as if she were having a seizure. Her hands were clenched around her head and she had pulled her body into the tightest ball she could make, still screaming and shaking her head back and forth, pleading with whatever she was seeing and hearing to 
Haven stepped toward her and knelt down, forcing his hand to not be so cold as he lightly touched her shoulder, trying to wake her up. 
You stupid boy, look out! 
She moved at the touch, lashing out in his direction. Her eyes never opened but her body reacted, incorporating his touch into her dream as something she didn’t want. A hand and a kick flew in his direction and Haven jumped back out of reach, watching her with wide eyes. He knew the Hunters were probably at the door watching him, aiming their weapons, ready to fire. He knew he was being stupid and would probably get himself killed, but he couldn’t believe that someone would just let her scream like this. 
To think that humans claimed that his kind were the vicious ones. 
Stepping forward again he grabbed Cyn and wrapped his arms around her. There was something wrong with her skin. It felt too dry, almost scaly, and Haven suddenly remembered what Dox had said earlier. The girl had a demon inside of her, one that she could lose control of if she got too worked up. As if responding to his thoughts Cyn began thrashing in his arms, her screams turning louder, the fear shifting into anger. Her voice had a rougher edge to it, an animalistic growl that sounded deadlier with each yell. Haven could feel the ground shifting through the concrete, a soft hint of a rumble brushing against the walls. 
In her dreams she was calling to the roots, begging for them to rescue her from this perceived threat. Haven did the only thing he could think of. He let the cold slide through his body and into hers as he restrained her arms. 
The screaming stopped and the ground stopped shaking. 
For a moment Haven had the horrible thought that he’d killed her, freezing her to death with a single careless thought in an effort to stop whatever she was seeing. However, a quick look at her chest as he loosened his grip revealed her shallow breathing. She was alive, at least, but Haven had given her enough cold for her teeth to start chattering and her lips to turn a tint of blue. He’d given her too much. 

Briana Lawrence (left) & Jessica Walsh (right)

Briana Lawrence –
At the age of nine, like most kids, Briana Lawrence had a dream. She wanted to be the best “WRITTER” in the whole wide world. Her fourth grade class laughed and wondered how one hoped to become a “writer” if they couldn’t even spell the word. Back then her stories were created with crayons and construction paper. As she grew older they progressed into notebooks and colored ink pens of pink, blue, and purple. When she lost her older brother, Glenn Berry, in a car accident, she stopped writing.

Dreams, however, have a funny way of coming back. 

Before she realized it she was grabbing her notebook and pens again. She would write stories that ranged from high school romance to her imagination running wild with the likes of Goku, Vegeta, and the other characters of Dragonball Z. This continued throughout college where she would always end up writing about the space exploits of the pilots of Gundam Wing and other works of fan fiction. Soon she realized that she wanted to do more than that. Her head was full of ideas, full of original characters and worlds that she wanted to share with others.

Thus, she stepped into an English Major with some Women’s Studies on the side.

She graduated Iowa State University in 2006 and moved to Minneapolis with her partner. Here, she tried to get into graduate school, but things didn’t pan out the way she wanted. She ended up working retail, her dream becoming buried by Black Fridays and other busy times of year. Once again, however, that dream returned. She went from immersing herself in geeky fan fiction to actually writing about the geeky things she loved for several anime and video game review sites. However, it was her discovery of National Novel Writing Month that made her go back to creating her own characters and plots. 

Now, here she is, an author in the writing world.
Jessica Walsh –
My life is a flurry of writing, art and creativity. You can usually find me reading a book, scribbling notes in a notebook for future creations, typing on a laptop with music blaring in my ears or buried in my basement watching documentaries and sitting behind a sewing machine.
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember and have boxes of old notebooks in horrible handwriting to prove it. Only recently have I stumbled back into writing and finishing my ideas.
Seeking the Storyteller is the first novel I’ve published; with my partner in crime and life, Briana Lawrence. I also write horror, fantasy, supernatural and occasionally romance pieces which I am currently shopping around through contests and publishers.

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Our main page for books, art, cosplay, and everything:  http://www.sewntogetherreflections.com/

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to ask these two lovely ladies some questions about their writing process, what they like to read, and more. Check it out! 

1. The two of you have a book you have written together, Seeking the Storyteller, as well as books you have written seperately. Tell me a little about why you decided to write books together, and what are some pros and cons to co-writing.
Jessica: We met through writing fanfiction online and writing together has just kind of always been our thing.  We read each other’s work and bounce ideas off of each other, so working together to get things published only seemed natural.  Even on our ‘solo’ works we read each other’s stuff and assist with editing.  What makes Seeking the Storyteller different is that we came up with the plot together, created the characters together and wrote it together, so it’s a very conscious dual effort.
Briana:  I don’t think we’ve really run into any cons that I can think of.  When we hit a point where we don’t agree on something we discuss it, and we make sure to talk about the overall series and not just a single book.  Something that happens in book two can certainly affect what happens in book three, or four, and so on and so on.  So we make sure to discuss everything and map everything out, which I think is a huge pro.  We also have an advantage of working together to get our work out there.  For instance, when we’re at a convention, we divide up our table: half crafts, half books, and we each focus on a section.  Even with getting reviews I tackled Goodreads and Jessica tackled other places and worked on getting interviews.  
It probably helps that this has been a project we’ve been passionate about for years.  This is how we communicated when we were long distance for 5 years, so it’s been building up ever since then.  We’ve been together for 12 years, so we’ve been nurturing this idea for so long that we’re eager to get it out there.
2. What is your inspiration for your books? Do you have different writing styles? Do your writing styles complement one another or are there ever disagreements over plot, etc.?
Jessica: For inspiration, everything.  Honestly everything around me in life and what I watch is inspiration for stories.  The thing I go back to the most, however, is my strange and odd dreams.  If there’s something odd or creepy in my stories, it usually spawned in some way from a vivid image in my dreams.  As for writing styles I tend to prefer to write in first person the best.  For Storyteller, we compromised and decided that second person would fit us best, especially with the amount of characters and how it can’t just be told from one person’s point of view.  
Briana:  I think we do have different writing styles, but I think it helps.  Jessica writes the first draft, then I go in and add the “meat and potatoes,” as she says.  I’ll add a bit more details to flesh out a scene.  Meanwhile, she’s really good and structuring the plot and coming up with great ideas that take the story in a new direction.  I think it’s a good way to work off of one another, even when we’re writing solo projects.  For instance, my two books “Treat Me Kindly” and “Double Hue,” Jessica helped with the ending in BOTH books.  I had them done and she read through it, then came up with something much, much better, I think, something I never even thought of.  
As for inspiration, like Jessica said, everything.  There’s so many things around you to look at and take in, its hard for me not to be inspired by something.  A song.  A hairstyle.  The cats running around chasing each other.  Anything is fair game to inspiration.
3. Would you say that your books are plot driven, or character driven?
Jessica: Hmm, I would say character driven.  While the plot is important, I’d like to think that we’ve created a story about these characters growing and changing in our world.  Characters aren’t static, so we didn’t make them static here.  For example, Alix is one person in Seeking the Storyteller.  By the end of the series (about 7 books later, or so) he’s going to be a very different person, and the reader gets to go along for the ride.
Briana:  I agree.  People change.  They grow and develop overtime, which is exactly what’s going to happen to our characters.  They aren’t going to be the same people they were in the beginning, and some may make changes that end up being bad.  It’s all about learning and growing.  The plot is there, but it’s there to set the stage for what these characters are going to face and how they deal with it.  I feel like characters are what make a story memorable.  Do we remember the plot for Harry Potter?  Sure.  But what do we talk about the most?  Harry Potter himself and the people around him.  That’s what makes the stories so memorable, why there’s a fanbase who still, even with the series being over, gush about it today.  That’s what we want our books to do.  
4. Tell us a bit about your writing process. I know that sounds cliché, but...do you have a specific process or do you write as the mood takes you? Is there a requirement for your writing, such as a quiet location, a certain area of your home or office...? Do you follow an established writing routine?
Jessica: I need a very specific environment to write, or I get distracted and really only end up editing or jotting down ideas.  I either need music with no words that drown out all other distractions in headphones, or a restaurant with a lot of ambient noise that is just enough in the background that I’m not paying attention.  So, as a result, I tend to only write during my breaks at work, or during our writing dates at local restaurants.
Briana:  I can’t write in silence.  I need some sort of noise, but it needs to be noise on my terms, if you will.  Music, or restaurants that aren’t too hectic (writing dates tend to be in the middle of the week instead of the weekend) or even a friend’s house where we get together, write, eat, and talk to one another about what we’re working on.  I usually write in the living room, at least until the office is finished.  I tend to work on writing things during Price is Right, oddly enough.  Ten in the morning and its time for coffee, the Showcase Showdown, and my Chromebook.
5. How long would you say it typically takes you to write a book?
Jessica: Oh man it varies.  Seeking the Storyteller - the first draft - was written in a month, during NaNoWriMo.  But we planned that story for years and all of the editing… I lost track of how long it took.  So maybe two years?  Something like that?
Briana:  It’s because we edit it so much before we decide that it’s ready to try and get published, and we usually let other people read it who don’t have a problem with making suggestions and, well, possibly hurting our feelings.  Editing isn’t for giving your story to that person in your life who flails over everything you do, its time to be brutally honest and point out things that need to be fixed.  We do that with each other, then we let someone else do it, too, not just to get another opinion but because after so much editing you may miss things.
6. How much of your own knowledge and experience is infused into your characters?
Jessica:  A lot, actually.  In my free time I watch a lot of documentaries about other cultures and crime shows and just… everything.  All of that information gets filed in the back of my head and helps me make the characters sound more real, or at least helps me pretend that I know what I’m talking/typing about.
Briana:  Meanwhile I sit here like, “Giggle lets have Zach mention a video game or something,” because I’m such a geek like that.  Though honestly I think all of the characters carry part of our personalities, whether we meant for it to be like that or not.  I think it happens while you write, you know?  You put so much of yourself into creating your works that eventually the characters start to resemble you.  This is especially true with us because we used to roleplay with these characters, so we each had a handful of characters we would be.  
7. Talk a bit about your family and friends. What do they think about your writing? Do you ever use them as models for characters, and if so, do they recognize themselves?
Jessica: Not specifically in Seeking the Storyteller.  I do have a new story I’m in the process of writing right now where all of the characters are ‘inspired’ by real people I grew up with.  I say ‘inspired’ because the characters are wildly different now and it’d be really hard to tell who was who.  But the core is based on that person, so I recognize it.  I’m letting the people I based it on read it, but I’m pretty sure they won’t recognize too much about the characters because they’ve changed so much now.
Briana:  Sometimes small things make it into my books that relate to my friends and family.  In my book, “Treat Me Kindly,” one of the characters has a pretty nice movie collection, and that’s inspired by my friend, Nate, who also helped me with a short story I have published (he gave me a line I ended up using).  So it’s things like that, really.  My friends also buy my work and ask for autographs and everything, it’s pretty great.
As far as their opinions on my writing, my family and friends are pretty supportive.  My mother especially is a huge, huge fan of my work.  She’s read everything I’ve ever written, she even purchased my books as they come out and keeps one in her purse to show off.  She also helped me with my first book “Treat Me Kindly” by giving me some really good tips that I ended up using (Jessica did as well).   My dad isn’t much of a reader, but he really talks up my work and buys it, too.  Jessica’s parents also support our work, her mom actually proofread “Seeking the Storyteller” for us.
8. If you could choose one famous author to learn from (living or dead), to pick their brain and get great writing advice from, who would that be? Would you let them read your books and give you feedback?
Jessica:  Hmmm, that’s a hard one.  I would have to say Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman because I would love to pick their brains on how they created the many and distinct worlds of the Death Gate cycle.  I still remember reading those books and being amazed that two people came up with so many real sounding world and cultures and I try and emulate that in my own books.  I would love to let them read my stuff, but I think I would be very intimidated to hear their thoughts.
Briana:  I feel like I don’t read as much urban supernatural as Jessica does, so I actually end up picking her brain about the stuff she reads.  However, I do remember in college that I got to read a lot of Toni Morrison for one of my classes.  Her stories were so interesting and so unique, I still have the books in my collection.  I wouldn’t even know where to start in the brain picking, but she would be more than welcome to read one of my books.  Granted, I may pass out in fangirl excitement, but she can still read it.
9. What do you like to read? Any authors or books you want to recommend for fans of your work?
Jessica: I love to read urban fantasy, novels where it’s our world but just a little bit different.  I also love authors who take old fantasy ideas and spin them in a new light. My current favorites are Kim Harrison and Jenna Black.
Briana:  Like I said before, Jessica definitely does more reading than I do.  I tend to read manga and comics (Jessica does too but I think I read more manga than she does, I know my collection was much bigger when we moved in together).
10. What will be next for you? What are you working on now?
Jessica:  Currently I’m editing the sequel to Seeking the Storyteller and then it’ll be Briana’s turn to edit it.  I’m also working on my own series centering on characters and stories my friends and I came up with in high school.

Briana:  On top of that I have a holiday gay romance story to edit shortly through Dreamspinner press that should be released in time for Christmas.  I also have a horror short story I want to do and a possible sequel to my first book “Treat Me Kindly.”  The outline is written out already.

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