Sunday, April 20, 2014

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Author Interview: Scott Frey

Scott Frey is the author of The Founder's Find, the first book in a new YA "philosophical fantasy" series called Watchers of Worlds.  Scott recently took time from his writing of the second book in the series to answer questions for Rose City Reader readers.  (And please watch the trailer, below -- it is great!)

How did you come to write The Founder’s Find?

In college I studied philosophy. As I did, I realized two things: 1) some of the most epic and fantastic ideas live in the philosophical canon, and 2) philosophy is dense, challenging reading. I saw a treasure trove of great ideas unintentionally locked away in the jargon of philosophers. I believe these are ideas that should be made accessible to larger audiences (especially young people), and what better way to explore big questions than with a great adventure series?

Can you recommend any other books about philosophy for younger readers or those unfamiliar with the philosophic ideas you explore in your novel?

When you first start reading philosophy it’s a bit like being added to a really long e-mail chain. Jumping in midstream is confusing and potentially incoherent. So, it’s important to read philosophers with the question, “To whom or what is this author responding?” Reading anything in isolation is a recipe for misunderstanding.

With that in mind, I would either start in the beginning with Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates (Anaximander if you’re feeling wild), read something like The Oxford Companion to Philosophy as a survey of everything or just find something you’re especially interested in on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and then go from there. As much as I love Wikipedia when researching other topics, I don’t recommend it for a new philosopher. For your quick queries/questions go to the on-line Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy instead.

As an aside, I recommend people avoid "intro to philosophy" books. The over simplification can be confusing and lead you astray.

What did you learn from writing your book – either about the subject of the book or the writing process – that most surprised you?

I guess I was most shocked by how much I enjoyed the story making process. When I first picked up a pen, in the back of my mind I was thinking, “this is going to be laborious, tedious etc.” I was planning on gutting my way through the first book. It was only a distant hope that I would keep going. But, a few chapters in, I realized how much fun I was having, how free I felt. Pretty soon the question shifted from, “How do I keep going?” to “How do I stop?”

Who are your three (or four or five) favorite authors? Is your own writing influenced by who you read?

Immanuel Kant, Martin Heidegger and George Berkeley. Stylistically they are of no real use to my work, but many of their ideas are fundamental to Watchers of Worlds (especially Berkeley).

What are you reading now?

The Future of the Mind by Michio Kaku and Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.

You have a terrific website and trailer for The Founder’s Find. From an author's perspective, how important are social networking sites and other internet resources to promote your book?

It’s hard to answer this question in any sort of quantitative way. I will say, as a young author, I know my name alone doesn’t widen the eyes of potential readers, which is why I spent extra time on cover design, the website and the video. Well-crafted collateral can certainly build credibility. At a time when people google everything and with all of the great tools for building sites, I feel as though I am doing the bare minimum. That said, the site alone doesn’t drive book sales. Talking to book clubs, book blogs (like Rose City Reader) and doing readings seem to create the largest spikes in actual sales.

What have you learned from self-publishing that you think is the most valuable lesson?

Professional editors are worth what you pay them. Most authors need somebody who is removed from them to objectively evaluate your work and provide criticism. Your friends and family will always be in a somewhat compromised situation when they read your work.

Any tips or hints for authors considering bringing out their own self-published books?

Learn to love criticism. I’ve learned compliments are rarely as helpful as criticism. I always want people to be as blunt with me about my work as they possibly can.

What is the best thing about being a writer?

There is little in life as limitless as a blank page. Each is an opportunity, a dare to make something nobody has seen before. Writers are just explorers with pens.

What’s next? Are you working on your next book?

Yes, The Founder’s Find is the beginning of a series of eight books. I've completed rough drafts for two other books in  the Watchers of Worlds series.

I’ve just begun the editing process for the second, yet-to-be-titled, book in the series. Kade (the protagonist) will be exploring some really beautiful new places and the intensity of his story gets turned up quite a bit. There’s a lot of adventure, danger and self-discovery, as well as Kade’s first romance. The Founder’s Find built Kade’s world and this second book is my first chance to truly play in it.

There isn’t anything set in stone for the release of the second book, but I am hoping it goes to press this autumn.


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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Book Beginning: A Farm Dies Once a Year by Arlo Crawford


Please join me every Friday to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Please remember to include the title of the book and the author's name.

EARLY BIRDS & SLOWPOKES: This weekly post goes up Thursday evening for those who like to get their posts up and linked early on. But feel free to add a link all week.

FACEBOOK: Rose City Reader has a Facebook page where I post about new and favorite books, book events, and other bookish tidbits, as well as link to blog posts. I'd love a "Like" on the page! You can go to the page here to Like it. I am happy to Like you back if you have a blog or professional Facebook page, so please leave a comment with a link and I will find you.

TWITTER, ETC: If you are on Twitter, Google+, or other social media, please post using the hash tag #BookBeginnings. I try to follow all Book  Beginnings participants on whatever interweb sites you are on, so please let me know if I have missed any and I will catch up.



When I was thirty-one years old, I went to spend a summer with my mother on the farm in Pennsylvania where I grew up.
--A Farm Dies Once a Year: A Memoir by Arlo Crawford. The visit Crawfod describes in the opening sentence inspired him to write a memoir about life on a family farm. The Kirkus review recommends it for "aspiring organic farmers" but anyone who has ever fantasized about country life or having a farm will love it. But don't expect only bucolic reminiscences -- the story gets a jolt from the past murder of a neighboring farmer.

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Author Interview: Jessica Null Vealitzek

Jessica Null Vealitzek is the author of the soon-to-be-officially-released novel, The Rooms Are Filled, a coming-of-age story set in the Chicago suburbs of the early 1980s. Jessica took time from her writing to answer some questions for Rose City Reader readers.

How did you come to write The Rooms Are Filled?

The book is loosely based on a story my father told me—his own story of moving from a farm in Minnesota to working-class Franklin Park, Illinois, as a boy. He was bullied at his new school, and his teacher—a rumored lesbian—took him under her wing and really helped him adjust. This teacher was made fun of relentlessly by the kids, even after she died, and my father says it is one of his great regrets in life that he never stuck up for her.

Up until this book, I’d only ever written short stories. I needed a story that I could stay with, that I cared about enough to dedicate a whole novel to. For ten years, ever since first hearing the story from my father, it had stayed with me, so I chose it. And I wasn’t wrong; it was an absolute joy to write this novel.

Wolves play a small but vital role in your novel. Do you have a background in animal biology? Or are you an amateur enthusiast?

Amateur enthusiast, and a passionate one. When I was in high school, I had to write some report and I remember scanning the library catalogues for a subject. At the time, wolves were being reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park after being wiped out in the early 1900s, so there were a lot of articles about that. I had no real interest, but it seemed an easy subject with all the current information available.

I’m glad for my laziness in that instance, because I’ve grown to absolutely love what is a fascinating animal. Wolves are a keystone species—meaning they play a huge role in the health of the wild. They positively affect everything from beavers to birch trees. There are many groups that, for reasons I still don’t completely understand, hate wolves—and that’s not an exaggeration. Some groups out west regard wolves not just as a nuisance, but also as some sort of evil animal that needs to be wiped out. There are also many groups who are doing their best to advocate for wolves, and I fully support them whenever and however I can.

What is your "day job"? How did it lead you to writing fiction?

My day job is caring for my two children, ages 3 and 6. And, interestingly, they did play a huge role in my writing this book. I’d wanted to write one since I was a child, but I kept putting it off. I even went to grad school for creative writing, but then found jobs writing for others—as a reporter, an exhibit writer, a communications director.

It’s no surprise that children changed me, and I began to realize how finite and fleeting life is. I started to question whether I really would ever write a book and achieve this dream that I’d been carrying along with me for years and years. My children helped me see I needed to get going.

Did you know right away, or have an idea, how you were going to end the story? Or did it come to you as you were in the process of writing? 

In real life, my father’s teacher was murdered and the townspeople sort of chalked it up to what happens when you live a “deviant” lifestyle. In my first draft, I followed that storyline but it didn’t feel right. You know how sometimes truth is stranger than fiction? That’s what it felt like. So I changed it, though it’s still not all sunshine and roses for her. But I don’t want to give anything away.

What did you learn from writing your book – either about the subject of the book or the writing process – that most surprised you? 

When I started writing, my goal was fairly simple: write a book. I didn’t put any time limits on myself or any daily writing requirements. I had two very small children and I wanted to make it as easy as possible. I thought about keeping a writing journal—I’d read and enjoyed one of Steinbeck’s—but the thought of writing even more seemed overwhelming and, frankly, needless. I’m surprised now by how much I wish I had one. I have no idea how often I wrote or how long it really took me to write it (and this is the question I’m asked the most); it’s hard to remember all the storyline decisions along the way. It would be fun to be able to relive it through a journal.

Who are your three (or four or five) favorite authors?

It’s hard to pick a favorite author, because my favorite books are all by different authors, and I rarely read the same author twice, except for Steinbeck. Some of my favorite books are To Kill a Mockingbird, The Things They Carried, The Grapes of Wrath, and the Anne of Green Gables children’s books.

What are you reading now? 

Dear Life by Alice Munro and For Whom the Bell Tolls by Hemingway.

What kind of books do you like to read?

My tastes have changed over the years. I used to like longer, drawn-out storytelling. I loved Steinbeck, and I actually don’t want to read him right now because I don’t want to ruin my love for him! Because now I’m more drawn to stark, spare writing and quieter, simpler stories, like those of Denis Johnson, Jim Harrison, and Alice Munro. I hated Hemingway in high school, but I just read The Old Man and the Sea and it jumped to my all-time favorites list.

You have a terrific website, blog, and facebook page. From an author's perspective, how important are social networking sites and other internet resources to promote your book? 

I think online resources are important, especially for unestablished authors, but you have to look at all the options and take only what you’re comfortable with, otherwise you won’t do it well. The blog I created made sense for me, because I love writing about the everyday stories of everyday people. And people have told me they’ve bought my book because they already loved my blog writing. But it only works, I think, if you really love doing it. I don’t love Twitter, so I’m rarely on there.

Do you have any events coming up to promote your book? 

I do, thank you. I have an online Google Hangout scheduled for publication day, April 22. I’ll be in Minneapolis May 2, Denver May 12, Michigan May 21, and Milwaukee May 28. The details are on my web site.

What is the best thing about being a writer? 

Being able to spend time doing what I love, hands down.

What’s next? Are you working on your next book? 

I am, though it’s hard to concentrate in the middle of a book launch. But I have a general outline and several pages on the story of an 18-year-old runaway pregnant girl. I write when I can, when I feel like it. That’s good enough for me right now.


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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Teaser Tuesday: The Founder's Find by Scott Frey

Following the ensuing applause, silence once again came over the auditorium as the dark figure of the Pemich shepherd stepped forward. He threw off his hood and stared out at the young faces, evoking a collective inhale from the firsties at the sight of him.
-- The Founder's Find by Scott Frey.  This teaser gives a pretty good feel for this YA fantasy story, the first book in a new fantasy series called Watchers of Worlds. See the trailer about the creation of The Founder's Find and read more about this enthralling new series on the author's website, here.

The Founder's Find is available in a paperback edition, but the Kindle edition is on super sale right now for only $.99!


This is the story of Kade Mackenzie, a thirteen-year-old boy born into the foster system of Los Angeles and plagued most of his life by seizures and inadequate guardianship. Despite his circumstances Kade has not given up hope that something better lies ahead for him. One day, desperate to leave the confining walls of his foster parent’s apartment, Kade puts his faith in a man promising him a new beginning far, far away. Soon Kade finds himself immersed in a world he could have scarcely imagined to be possible. It is a world of many fascinating beauties, enlivening ideas and deep, dusky mysteries. Not everyone is as they first appear. It is in this new world that Kade Mackenzie will be forced to find who he truly is.

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading, where you can find the official rules for this weekly event.

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