Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Author, Red Tash

Red Tash, a fellow author and friend has a new short story The Wizard Takes a Fitness Class.  She's also about to take a trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, a Universal Studios tour.

So here in my first attempt at an author-to-author interview, Red has been willing to be subjected to my evil mind and strange mind, and to celebrate the moment our theme will be wizards.

Red, thank you for taking the time to talk with me today and doing this interview.
Let start easy… ASL?
Are you saying you want to do the interview in American Sign Language?  No problem.

Did you get that?

Ok that was a pick up line, sorry, it’s the Internet after all.  Lets start a little more professional; how long have you wanted to be an Author before went out took the typewriter by the horns?

I wrote all my life, except for when I didn't.  ;)  I wrote horoscopes for the camp newspaper.  I wrote my own newspaper, complete with comics, for my fourth grade class.  I published my first poem that year.  I was the journalism queen.  And then, because I was one of those kids brow-beaten into studying something “practical,” I didn't write for a very long time, because I was too busy preparing taxes and performing in-depth financial audits.  Fun, huh?

About nine years ago due to what was going on in my life, personally, I started blogging anonymously.  Crazy people were driving me to extremes of stress, anger, and frustration.  At the same time, I had all these personal joys in my life, from becoming a mother.  There was just so much going on “upstairs” that it had to erupt onto the page, because I could no longer contain it all.

From that point, it was a matter of time before I started making blogging friends online.  Several of them did NaNoWriMo, and I had several false starts before I successfully pulled that off.  At the same time, I launched a freelance career.  I wasn't sure which one would “stick.”  Writing fiction has become so fulfilling to me that even though I eventually quit accounting to be a full-time journalist, I doubt I will ever go back to journalism!

What is the largest manuscript you have ever written?
My dark fantasy debut novel This Brilliant Darkness was originally in the neighbhood of 150,000 words.  When I got serious about making it the best book it could be, I ruthlessly edited it.  It's now just under 50k.  A lot of times writers are shocked when I say I cut a hundred grand of verbiage from that book.  I argue that you won't miss it.  The book moves quickly, and it's a wild ride now, instead of a slow meander.  I'm very proud of what I did with This Brilliant Darkness, even if I overwrote and overwrote in the first place.  It taught me a lot about honing my vision.  That Crackling Silence, the sequel, is coming along a lot tighter.

What is your current work? Tell us a little about it? (Elevator pitch) and when we will get our grubby little hands on it?
Well, The Wizard Takes a Fitness Class was just released a mere couple of weeks ago.  It's about a Wizard who finds out the only way he can exorcise his demons is to get out on the dance floor and exercise with them.  It's also the reader-requested follow-up to The Wizard Takes a Holiday, a surprise hit if ever there was one.

Right now both those titles are available on Amazon and Smashwords.  The first Wizard Tale is available everywhere, and the newest Wizard should be on Nook and iTunes, Sony, and the like in a matter of days or weeks.

And, the night you sent me these interview questions, I emailed my editor a YA fantasy about a girl who discovers she's a fairy, only to find she must choose between an allegiance to her troll friend or playing roller derby with the girl she loves.  It's called Troll Or Derby, and I'm super proud of it because I set out to write something that's pure fun, and I feel like I've achieved that.  I hope it will be available before the end of June 2012, but we'll see. 

Ha! Richard Simmons, or should we say Milton Simmons? Your nod to the fitness icon in “The Wizard Takes a Fitness Class” makes me giddy.
It’s getting to that point where I too think I need to take a fitness class myself.
What was the motivation for the story, that moment where you said  “AH-HA! That is a story that must be told.”
Oh, gosh.  Well, I met this very cool artist named Nicholas Caesar during the Coffin Hop blog tour last fall.  Nik has done all kinds of amazing work—I mean, his resume is very impressive, including working on the movie Scream 4.  We just connected, and he said he would like to work together sometime.  In the meantime, he allowed me to use one of his paintings as the cover for the first Wizard story.

At some point, during one of those Facebook thread conversations that you know will come back to haunt you, I was joking with him and some of his buddies that the next wizard story was going to include Richard Simmons.  I wish I could remember the convo word-for-word, but it was one of those little jokes you make that doesn't translate later!

Well, a couple of months ago, a friend of mine demanded that I write a full-length wizard novel.  Mind you, the first Wizard story is only 1500 words long, and I'm presently in the middle of writing about a half-dozen full-length novels.  I just kind of laughed, but once I got to a certain point in editing Troll Or Derby, I realized I was stuck.  I had hit that point in editing when it all sounds like “Mush mush blah, and then she turned to him and said blah blah mush, mush blah.”  Rather than remain in that zone, I wrote something new. 
I sat down and let the Wizard do the talking.  It worked for me last time, and it worked out this time, as well.  Took quite a bit longer to edit, I won't kid you!  But this time, I had great writer/editor friends interested in having a peak and the draft product, so it was just a joy to complete.

Surprised me more than anyone else that the latest Wizard ended up being about regret, pride, and personal demons.  In the past six months, I lost two people who meant a lot to me, and the requisite family implosion that followed played a hand in that, as well, I'm sure.

I really thought I'd just poke a little fun at the wonderfully effervescent, good-natured Simmons, and move on.  But the Wizard had more to say than that.

Your top 5 Wizard books(or series)? I want to see how close your list is to mine.
So tough.  Wow.  I don't know if these rankings are exact, because on any given day...I mean, I was just watching the 70s cartoon version of LOTR this morning!

  1. Harry Potter – “You're a Wizard, Harry!”  Absolutely crammed full of likeable & despicable wizards, each with the potential of greatness within them.  Very meaningful on many levels, and never loses its sense of fun.  My favorite book series of all time.
  2. Lord of the Rings – I went through such a LOTR geek phase.  I really can't say more than that.  It's so embarrassing.  It's like showing someone my naked baby pictures.  But I do adore Gandalf.  I think that on the inside, I'm still dealing with the fact that I thought I'd grow up to be an elf, and I'm really just a hobbit.
  3. The Amulent of Sarakand, and the rest of the Bartimaeus series.  These had a huge  influence on both my Wizard Tales, and my upcoming book, Troll Or Derby.  Although I went back and edited out the 85 footnotes throughout Troll Or Derby that were an homage to Stroud's Bartimaeus asides, I still feel like he's the spiritual godfather to the work I've done since I read his addictive series.  When he twittered me last fall I actually turned to my husband Tim and said “I can die happy now.”  I know Stroud has no idea who I am, but that just made my life.
  4. The Apprentice Adept series by Piers Anthony was huge to me as a kid.  Who can resist a little guy crossing over from a techno-futuristic planet to sword fight with a unicorn?  Matter of fact, I just realized while looking at the cover of Split Infinity, that Neysa was a black unicorn.  And...I unwittingly put a black unicorn in the climax of Troll Or Derby.  Wow.  Funny how the seeds from one world find root in another like that.  (Mr. Anthony was kind enough to answer of mine a few weeks ago, as well.  I love the internet, don't you?)
  5. Mists of Avalon – really more about Morgan Le Fay than about Merlin, but an amazing book about Camelot and Arthurian wizardry, nonetheless.  If you haven't read it, a delightful paradigm shift awaits!

There are so many wizard books I still want to read.  I need more TIME to read.  I feel like it will take me forever get through my “to be read” list.

Your heading out to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, I’m super stoked! I expect pictures! So I’m going to twist the interview to get your mind working on your trip…sqeee! :)

Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore VS Gandalf the Grey
Who wins? Keep in mind, death couldn’t really kill these men.
Oh, man.  What a question.  Well, Dumbledore was mortal, indeed, which I think was one of his more endearing qualities!  Discovering that Gandalf was actually maia, not human, was really cool, but it only served to push him away from us, as readers, in my opinion.  He's dead, no, he's alive, and he's not one of us anymore, he's this horse-riding guy who didn't understand his own nature.  I wish JRRT had given us more to connect with in the reborn Gandalf.

But, I've dodged your question.

I think Santa Claus would whup both their asses, honestly.

If you could take any one character from the Harry Potter Series and put them into your own book, who would you take and why?
Well, if I'm totally honest, I guess I leaned heavily on Dumbledore for the first Wizard story.  His fondness for children, the way he dealt with the troll so benignly—pure Albus.  But when people started asking me who he was, I didn't know how to answer.  It wasn't really Albus.  Who was this guy?  It's been fun finding out, and I look forward to the next story, when we find out even more.

I suppose if I were going to put any of Rowling's characters into one of my books for real, it would probably be Fred Weasley.  I just don't want to live in a world without the gregarious Weasley twins.  I really feel like we need to save Fred.  He represented the joy of living, you know?  He insisted on having fun, on pushing limits, and just following his heart.  I still tear up over that one.

Yeah, definitely Fred.

My follow up to that of course, if there was anyone one character you have created and you could place them lovingly into J. K. Rowling's world of wizard awesomeness who would it be? Can you give a little background on the character for our readers who may not have read your books and why they were lucky enough to get picked? 
Well, when I wrote This Brilliant Darkness, I wanted to create a world that was as escapist as the Wizarding world is, but I wanted it to be for adults.  I wanted an adult protagonist.  So I created a very escapist version of my favorite Indiana town, and put all my characters there. 

Of all my characters, I think perhaps Richard Welletter from This Brilliant Darkness could use with a little legitimate wizarding.  He is the opposite of the Wizard trope as “wise, old man” and he needs a good dosing of courage to face life.  I feel like a trip to Hogwarts would do that for him.  And he's a famous scientist, so he could definitely teach  young wizards and witches a thing or two.

I started to answer this question “Roller Deb,” but I already gave her the fairy realm to discover, so really, that's just as good an alternative to Hogwarts as there ever was.

Second follow up; what house would they be in?
I think Richard would just be a visiting teacher, but if he had to choose a house?  Ravenclaw.

There are a lot of people that have written fan-fiction, and with that a lot of them have written Harry Potter novels. It’s a touchy subject and I’ve heard both sides of it. What is your take on fan-fiction and should there be a place for it?
I think it's cute.  I don't think it's very professional.  I got as close to it with my first Wizard story as I feel comfortable doing.  I don't have a legitimate desire to write characters from some other artist's mind, at all.  As much as I know I will enjoy seeing Hogwarts in person (w00t!), I really need for my own work to be original and uniquely mine.   

There have been many licensed book series, for generations, that have tied into well-known story universes.  Star Wars books.  Star Trek books.  I recall JK Rowling saying in an interview that if someone wanted to write about American wizards, then someone should (it wasn't going to be her).  There's obviously a place for this work, as it sells quite well (or in the case of fan fiction, is read frequently), but that is not where my heart is, as a writer.  Not at this juncture.

Never say never, though.  I have more than one writer friend who writes licensed fiction, and I've known many writers who cut their teeth writing fan fiction.  It's just not for me.

Do you think that Harry Potter really opened the door for the works of YA (Young Adult) that we are seeing now? Do you think it would be as awesome if we didn’t have Harry Potter? I’ve watched a lot of authors that were writing in other genres come to YA and become even more successful than they were before. Kelley Armstrong comes to mind. 
I really am not familiar with Ms. Armstrong, so I can't speak to her success since she started writing YA.  I do see she's working on something with one of my favorites, though: Melissa Marr. 

Honestly, the YA that is so hot right now really seems to have less to do with Harry Potter than it does Twilight, but even Twilight was on the scene later than Melissa Marr's books, or Holly Black's YA series Tithe.

The books that are probably most like Harry Potter, in my opinion, are the Percy Jackson books, the Bartimaeus books, Artemis Fowl...and have you heard of these?  Maybe.  They're best-sellers.  But they're not teen romances.  They're books about young boys having adventures in magical world.  The Golden Compass, as dire a book as that was, on an emotional level, had more in common with Harry Potter than anything that's hot-selling in the YA charts right now.

So, really...I'm not sure there is a correlation at all.  I think the Potter series barely touches on romance, with its heavy-handed themes of right and wrong, whereas these teen books are all about longing, sometime barely touching on morality!

I’m right now working on a YA manuscript, have you thought about writing the field?
Troll Or Derby is a YA fantasy.

Are you in the “pottermore” beta? What do you think of the idea and what it can do for a story?
Pottermore is lovely.  I can't wait until they open the Chamber of Secrets so I'll have something new to try.  I ripped through the first book online in no time.  I don't think it does anything to enhance the story, but it does reward the fans who want to know more about that world.  For instance, all about Minerva McGonagle's marriage.  It's all there.  Good stuff for the ridiculously avid fan like myself.

A few last silly questions:
If the sorting hat was placed on your head, what would it see and what house would you be placed in because of it?
I am a Ravenclaw.  Bigtime.  I don't think the hat would make it onto my head.  It would shout it at me from across the room.

What would your wand be made of?
According to Pottermore it's made of Elm and Phoenix Feather:

Favorite wizard subject and professor?
Making Magical Sweets ala Honeyduke's by Professor I.M. Phat!  ;)  Either that, or Charms.

Thanks for doing this, Rob!  Such fun!

Thank you, and have a safe trip Red! 

Below are Red Tash's books, I've collected the set myself! (Amazon Wizard Takes a Fitness Class - $.99) (Amazon Wizard Takes a Holiday – free) (Amazon This Brilliant Darkness - $2.99)

Non-Amazon links are all here:

Red Tash can be followed at: 


  1. Thanks so much for hosting me, Rob! It was an honor, and a true delight!

  2. PS, No've got to share your top 5 Wizard books now!

    1. Good point, alright Red! I'll roll that up tonight!