Monday, November 17, 2014

Amanda Hocking talks about expections and possible movies

If you're wondering how to write a New York Times bestseller and become a millionaire, you should probably take Amanda Hocking's advice.
The Austin-based writer went from working as a dishwasher to being employed as a group home worker to writing a series of best-selling novels. Hocking started writing for fun as a child and finished her first book at age 17. It went nowhere, but she kept going. Along the way she started self-publishing e-books (at one point selling 9,000 copies a day), signed a $2 million publishing contract, quit working at the group home and sold film rights to her three-book "Trylle" series.
Hocking is one of 13 local writers who will be attending the Third Annual Celebration of Rochester-Area Authors, which is scheduled from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday at the Rochester Public Library Auditorium.
At most of her appearances, Hocking said potential writers ask her for her recipe for success.
"I do get that question and I tell people to read a lot and research a lot. I think people can never really read enough," Hocking said. "You can always read more than your writing, even if you're writing a lot. Also, do a lot of publishing research because there are so many different opinions and paths you can take right now. One path that works for one person might not work for another. You should do your research and see what path works best for you."
When asked why she has been so successful, Hocking talks about her early "vocal readers."
"A couple people really enjoyed them and kind of through word of mouth everything snowballed from there. As to why people enjoy them in the first place, people seem to like the romance in the book and my romantic leads."
Hocking has published 15 books and has a brand new novel coming out in January. When she first started writing it was a fun diversion from her day job. Now, writing is her career, and her publisher, St. Martin's Press, expects Hocking's books to sell millions of copies.
"I try not to think about it when I'm writing. When I'm outlining and brainstorming I think more about what readers are into and what they're looking to read, want to read," she said.
Hocking's fan base loves her stories of paranormal romance. And while she's not about to leave the genre, she is trying new things within it.
"I try to change it up and push myself and try to look at even similar situations, but from different angles, and approach them in different ways," she said.
Along with writing her next book, Hocking is keeping an eye on the potential film versions of her "Trylle" series. She admitted that she saw the characters on the big screen when she was writing the novels.
"I actually did want the Trylle series turned into movies when I was writing it probably more so than my other books because I think visually it would be a fun thing to watch," she said. "But I also did feel like if it happens, it happens. I'm not going to put my eggs in one basket because I know how finicky the movie industry can be. But I do think it would be fun."

Carrie Mesrobian talks book titles and pretending to be a boy

Regardless of whom she's speaking with or where she's reading, young adult author Carrie Mesrobian always gets asked the same question. "Why did you title your book 'Sex and Violence?'"
Mesrobian's answer: I didn't.
The title "Sex and Violence" came from Mesrobian's editor at Twin Cities publisher Carolrhoda LAB, Andrew Karre.
The title made sense, so Mesrobian signed off on it, and the rest is history. The book has been a critical darling and helped Mesrobian, a writing teacher based in Twin Cities, sell three more books, including "Perfectly Fine White Boy," which was released Oct. 1.
Mesrobian will discuss book titles and more when she appears at 7 p.m. Nov. 17 at the Rochester Public Library. She was invited to speak at the library after she won the Minnesota Book Award for Young Adult Literature for "Sex And Violence."
Despite being published by a small Twin Cities house, "Sex and Violence" has been praised by national best-selling YA authors Andrew Smith ("Grasshopper Jungle") and Gayle Forman ("If I Stay") and was named one of the best books of 2013 by Kirkus Reviews and Publisher's Weekly.
Mesrobian's tour to promote her book has been pretty typical for a first-time author. She has traveled to numerous colleges, festivals and libraries and talked about her two main characters, Evan Carter ("Sex and Violence") and Sean Norwhalt ("Perfectly Fine White Boy"). Mesrobian admits that in the current world of YA, female writers don't typically use male narrators.
"People will always ask me how I can sound like a boy, and how I know how a boy thinks, what a boy talks like and what a boy acts like," she said. "They also asks me why I would want to write from a boy's point of view."
Mesrobian said one key difference in her two books is that Evan has had a lot of sex at the start of "Sex and Violence," while Sean ("Perfectly Fine White Boy") is a virgin on page 1. Both are extremely interested in sex, which Mesrobian said makes the teen characters normal.
"I don't think either of my two protagonists are that far out there in terms of how boys' minds work," she said. "I think my characters are rather normal boys. I just don't think that men really advertise that their brains work that way. In (YA), we just don't see that much of that because people assume the readership of YA is girls, so they don't want to freak girls out that boys are thinking about sex as much as they are."

Monday, November 3, 2014

Lawyer adds writer to his résumé

It took two decades, but Allen Eskens has added a second job — writer — to his career as an attorney. Eskens, a trial lawyer, released his first book, the mystery "The Life We Bury," on Oct. 14. He has been studying creative writing at the University of Iowa Workshop, at the The Loft in Minneapolis, and at Minnesota State University, Mankato, for the past 20 years as he dreamed of publishing his first book.
Eskens has been touring his home state promoting his debut novel.
Despite his profession of 20 years, Eskens said he didn't want to start his literary career with a court drama.
"I decided with my first novel, I didn't want to write a legal thriller. I didn't want my protagonist to be an attorney," said Eskens, who lives in Mankato.
"The Life We Bury" tells the story of Joe Talbert, a college student who, for a class assignment, visits a nursing home. There, he visits with a convicted murderer in his final days. The talk propels Talbert to look into the man's past, which does not make some people happy.
It took Eskens a year to write the book, though the path to publication leads back even longer than that.
"It's been a 20-year journey," he said. "It was something that I worked hard to do. I worked hard to develop my abilities and hone my skills, so that when the time came I would feel that I was ready."
Eskens is currently working on his second book. He hopes to publish four books by 2017. While the next book won't be a sequel, it will include one secondary character from his debut, attorney Max Rooper.
"Being an attorney didn't play a lot in this novel, but it may in future novels," he said.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

My interview with the author of new Cloud Cult biography

Mark Allister will release his latest book, a biography titled "Chasing the Light: The Cloud Cult Story" on Oct. 15. Allister is a Professor of English, Environmental Studies, and American Studies at St. Olaf in Northfield. For those who do not know, Cloud Cult is an experimental rock group from Duluth, Minnesota. 
What drew you to write about Cloud Cult?
Mark: When I first heard about the band, I was strongly attracted to their environmental principles. The more I learned about their personal history, about their young son dying and the grieving that followed and got played out in the music and career, the more interested I became, and the interest grew even more when I learned about Craig Minowa's spiritual seeking. I wouldn't have written about the band if I hadn't liked their music very much -- the orchestral rock, the immense variation, appeals to me. But I didn't imagine writing a book about the band until I had witnessed a few concerts and saw the incredible caring that the band displays toward its fans and the incredible devotion that fans have for the band. I wanted to understand that more. What made Cloud Cult fans so passionate? And beyond that, I began to get interested, just partly for my own life, in questions about why we respond to music as we do.
You said earlier that the band is not just for Cloud Cult fans. What can non-fans take away from it?

Mark: This book will appeal to anyone interested in indie rock or popular music, or  the practices of doing green business. Readers interested in Eastern spirituality or how art can help someone move through grieving might like this book. Here's truly the kernel of what I believe about the audience: Chasing the Light tells the inspiring and compelling story of a band who has lived out its principles in its business, and who has made great art and an affirming story out of loss and hard times -- and therefore it's a book for anyone and everyone. 

How much access to the band did you have during the writing/researching process?

Mark: I met (typically for a long lunch) with the members of the band except for the Minowas, and also former manager Adrian Young, John Burgess (who made a film about them back in 2008), and Jeff Johnson, their tour manager. Craig and Connie Minowa and I exchanged emails -- I typically posed a question or asked them to clarify a subject, and they'd write me back. I didn't meet the Minowas until the book was pretty much done -- I went down to Madison in 2013 for a concert, wanting to write a present-tense "day in the life of an indie band" (opening to the final chapter). That was when I met Craig and Connie.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Kramer talks 'Delivering Death'

Julie Kramer has published six books since she left WCCO in 2001. She was at the Minneapolis-based CBS station for 20 years as a news producer. Her debut novel,"Stalking Susan," came out in 2008. Her mystery novels tend to deal with a fictional TV reporter.
This year, "Delivering Death" was published. She promoted the mystery from Florida to Arizona, but also included stops in Minnesota. Kramer, who grew up in Adams, will be at St. John Lutheran Church in Owatonna at 1 p.m. Thursday.
"I always try to have a lot of Minnesota stuff because I grew up in a small town in Minnesota. This is kind of my home turf," said Kramer, who lives in White Bear Lake.

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Brian Freeman talks about book stops

In recent weeks, best-selling suspense writer Brian Freeman has stopped in La Crescent and Stewartville to talk with readers about his latest book, "A Cold Nowhere."The suspense thriller was a finalist for the Minnesota Book Award this year.

At 7 p.m. Oct. 14, Freeman will stop at the Austin Library for a book reading and Q-and-A about the future adventures of Jonathan Stride, Freeman's protagonist.
Freeman has published 10 novels and his books have been sold and translated in 17 countries. While he tours all over, he always holds events throughout Minnesota.
"I've spent a lot of time in some great small towns through the years," said Freeman, who lives in St. Paul. "For me, that's just a big part of the fun of being a writer. I love the opportunity to chat with the readers and librarians and the booksellers. Writing is such an intense, solitary and introspective kind of profession for me, it's really wonderful to have these kinds of opportunities to go out and talk to people face-to-face."

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Rochester author offers advice on dating dead guys

Signing up for Twitter was a pretty good move for Rochester writer Ann Noser.

Shortly after creating her Twitter account, @annmnoser, Noser entered a Curiosity Quills Press contest she found on the popular social media site. The upstart publishing house, started in 2011, loved Noser's novel, "How To Date Dead Guys," and offered to publish it. On July 15, a book that Noser worked on for 12 years became a reality.