Welcome to the six hundred and seventy-fourth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with aquatic adventure novelist H.M. Alder. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello. H.M.
H.M.: Hello Morgen and thanks so much for having me!
Morgen: You’re very welcome. “aquatic adventure novelist” has me intrigued so I’m looking forward to finding out more. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
H.M.: Although I’ve lived from coast to coast I am currently based in southern Nevada near Las Vegas. I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. It wasn’t always something that came easily to me but I’ve forever felt its pull. That being said, I am a newly-published author. My first novel, Tides: The Treasure of Tay, was released this past November and Tides: The Living Jewel will be available this summer.
Morgen: How exciting, and I note a series, always popular with readers (and therefore agents and publishers). You mentioned two novels, do you have others planned? Do you write under a pseudonym?
H.M.: Yes, there are four novels within the “Tides” series, The Treasure of Tay is published, the next edition, The Living Jewel, will be out in conjunction with an event called Mer-Palooza this summer. Part three, The Road to Bimini, will be out this December (2013) with the final instalment, The Lost City, available sometime in the summer of 2014. I do write under a pseudonym. H.M. are the initials of my first and middle name (Heather Michelle) and Alder is a translation of an old family name.
Morgen: You’ve self-published – what lead to you going your own way?
H.M.: Both of my novels were self-published using an organization called Createspace. I was prodded to go with conventional publishing but I wanted to take steps in assuring the rights self-publishing were able to attain for me. I respect publishing houses but have seen the trade-off that comes in securing a contract with them. I’m not opposed to pursuing that option in my future endeavours but I wanted to try for myself and see if I could hold my own in what seems to be an increasingly popular trend.
Morgen: That’s pretty much how I feel. I tried the agent route (eleven via email, four face-to-face at writing conferences) without success. I received two subsequent (direct) publishing offers but they weren’t right for me so I self-published. Will your books all available as eBooks? How involved were you in that process so far? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
H.M: They are through Amazon and I hope to have them available throughout other sites in the coming months. The process was made simple for me. Although I was closely involved in each step along the way to publishing, the deal I had with Createspace has allowed my book to go from manuscript to paperback to eBook seamlessly. And as far as how I read, when I have the time, I’m less of a technical guru and more of an old-fashioned girl that’s comforted by the turning of a page. I do, however, think eBooks are an excellent source for many. Falling into a story at the touch of a button is amazing.
Morgen: Isn’t it great. Most of the people I’ve spoken to still prefer paper but appreciate the choice. Which authors did you read when you were younger and did they shape you as a writer?
H.M.: Absolutely! I remember that when I was in the second grade, believe it or not, I received a set of classic novels…David Copperfield, A Tale of Two Cities, Call of the Wild, to name a few…and I burned thru them within weeks. As I got older I started enjoying the realm of fantasy where authors such as Mercedes Lackey and Jean M. Auel became my inspiration. And even though I’ll never be able to match her tireless works, Nora Roberts was a great escape during my early twenties and to this day occupies an almost obscene space in my collection.
Morgen: <laughs> We’ve talked about your ‘Tides’ series, did you choose the titles / covers of your books?
H.M.: I did. The titles came to me before the books were even started actually. I had this extensive storyline in my mind and upon sitting down and mocking up a really rudimentary outline they came to me. The covers are the creation of my dearest friend RaDean. I gave gentle suggestion and along with reading the manuscripts the covers came to be. She has also designed handfuls of other pieces, exclusively for the series, which can be found on the gallery page of the “Tides” site.
Morgen: I like how she’s captured the text in the lighthouse beam – very clever. What are you working on at the moment / next?
H.M.: Currently I am working on finishing up the last two novels in the series. They are both set to come out within the next year so there’s never a dull moment in keeping to those deadlines.
Morgen: Deadlines keep us moving; NaNoWriMo for example is the best thing to get me writing. Do you manage to write every day, or ever suffer from writer’s block?
H.M.: I write most days but I’m an excellent procrastinator. 🙂 I do try to keep a persistent schedule and work regularly but I do allow myself down days here and there in order to keep up a life. I have to say I’ve been blessed with never having a block. I have had blah moments where the writing isn’t up to par and in those instances I take a break, tweet or occasionally scream. 🙂
Morgen: <laughs> I like to think it’s just our brain’s way of saying we need variation. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
H.M.: Mostly take off running. For the series I had really broad plot ideas and would literally let the story take me where it willed as I went. Putting myself into an A+B=C situation as far as writing goes has never worked for me.
Morgen: I did that for my first novel (a lad lit still in a file which will see light of day eventually) but then the characters took over and it sort of stuck to the plan but I realised I could just let it do its own thing. Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
H.M.: Here I’m going to contradict my blazing attitude about how I write. Ha Ha. I treat my characters gently and I’m very meticulous on my research of what their name might be and why, what the meaning behind it is and where they’re coming from. I get on baby name sites and look up all they have to offer paying close attention to where the name may have derived and what it stands for. Once I have a few favourites I work on their backgrounds and start designing who they really are. I give them strengths as well as faults drawing from those relationships I’ve witnessed / been a part of to give them their human traits.
Morgen: Baby name sites / books are the most popular answer to that question and I certainly use them if I need something a bit different. Sometimes I know I want to start with a certain letter (especially if he or she is a few characters in) so see what choice I have. Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
H.M.: It has become more efficient as time has gone on but it’s never perfect. I’ll write a few pages and then I’ll go back and immediately give it a once over. I like having the sense that the work is fully-formed as I go. For me, it would be overwhelming to free write and go back for all the corrections or amendments at the end of the project.
Morgen: That’s interesting. I do occasional tweaks as I go along but mostly I get it all out then go back (and again… and again…). Do you have to do much research?
H.M.: For “Tides” I had to do a lot of research. Each book centers on a different location and travels everywhere in between along the way. I wanted to be accurate with the geography, culture as well as each characters syntax.
Morgen: It is important to be accurate because there will always be ‘experts’ out there who will only be too happy to point out errors. What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
H.M.: I enjoy all sorts. I mainly write in third person but I truly enjoy first person for the intimacy it can present to a storyline. Second person is rather amusing and is a clever way of gaining insight on a character as they speak to themselves about themselves…to be honest I’ve yet to try it. But never say never.
Morgen: Oh do, it’s great. Well, it’s a Marmite viewpoint (you love it or hate it, most people the latter) but worth trying to know which way you feel. 🙂 Do you write any poetry, non-fiction or short stories?
H.M.: Oh, I’ve written all sorts. Poetry was BIG for me when I was a teenager and I’ve written a few short stories. Non-fiction is about the only thing I’ve yet to try.
Morgen: I say that the only non-fiction I write is about writing but I am thinking of submitting other articles. Not sure what about yet. 🙂 Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
H.M.: Plenty! I’ve been scribbling since before I could even form letters. Ha ha. I have poems and short stories stuffed into folders and binders on my shelves. Works that were fun to do but whose quality is less than stellar.
Morgen: Oh dear. Do you enter competitions?
H.M.: Not yet but there are several I’m looking into.
Morgen: Do you do much marketing for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
H.M.: Self-promotion takes up the bulk of time when I’m not writing. I’ve found being an indie publisher isn’t for the faint of heart or the weak willed. It takes loads of perseverance and I’m constantly pounding the pavement in hopes of publicity leads. I’ve been blessed so far that people seem more than willing to help me do so in most cases.
Morgen: That’s great. The one thing that’s struck me about this industry is how helpful others are. I liken it to learner drivers; we’ve all been there and we know how hard it is to pass. Marketing is usually the answer to the ‘least’ part of my next question. What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
H.M.: My favourite thing about writing is that although it once was a hobby done solely for myself, I now have readers that have joined with me and are really willing the story along for me. I love having interaction with fans of the series; it’s made writing all that more enjoyable. My least favourite part is the persistent feeling that what I’ve written will let the reader down in one way or another. I want to make every moment an exciting or pertinent one so that they truly enjoy the adventure.
Morgen: What a shame. It’s very easy to have self-doubt in your writing so whenever a stranger takes the time to email and say they enjoyed something you’ve written (which does happen to me from time-to-time), it makes the tough times so worth it. 🙂 What advice would you give aspiring writers?
H.M.: Even though I’m sure it’s been said millions of times before, NEVER give up if writing is your true passion. You’ll never forgive yourself for what might have been.
Morgen: Absolutely, and it takes passion to keep going. I have had an interviewee ask that I remove everything I’ve done for him “because he doesn’t need it anymore” (and he deleted his website) which is a shame. Are there any writing-related websites that you find useful?
H.M.: Well I mentioned Createspace before, for the actual editing / publishing process they can’t be beat in my opinion.
Morgen: That’s useful to know because at the moment my novel is eBook only and is set in my home town so I will get it published in paperback at some stage. Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
H.M.: I frequent the World Literary Café. They provide a multitude of resources to draw from for the indie writer. The Independent Author Network is a fantastic organization a writer might affiliate themselves with if they would like to network yet may not have the time. For a minimal fee they provide resources and do the leg work to get you out there on various social sites. I have found that both of these sites have directed a steady flow of traffic to my personal website.
Morgen: I’ve only recently come across WLC but it looks a great site. Where can we find out about you and your writing?
Morgen: I’m sure you do. Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
H.M.: I just would like to extend a sincere Thank You for having me! I greatly appreciate the opportunity!
Morgen: You’re so welcome, H.M. Thank you for joining me today.
I then invited H.M. to provide an extract of her writing and this is from the first novel of the four-part aquatic adventure series, Tides: The Treasure of Tay…
The stars were brighter than Meg had ever seen before as she sat curled up on the back porch of her aunt’s cottage. Once the clouds parted, the sky seemed to shine with such splendour that Meg couldn’t help but be amazed at its glow. She picked up the porcelain mug standing on the table next to her and took a long, slow drink letting its warm, chocolate, flavour coat her throat. She had gone to bed hours before with the others but had woken up feeling restless and after lying awake for almost an hour she decided to get up and get out hoping some fresh air would help.
She looked out over the loch and watched as murky shadows of clouds passing by the moon moved over it in the dim silence, wondering why it was she felt pulled here and knowing now that feeling was undeniable. Even as a young child she’d always sensed it. Her father would tell her tales of his life here, of his connection and at times she could eerily sense his feelings, his longings to be back on the soil of his birth. But she’d always assumed that was normal, the closeness her and her father shared manifesting itself within her. But looking out onto the tranquil land she now knew there was something more to it, something deeper that seemed to be calling to her in the night.
Finishing her cocoa she set it down and pulled her knees into her chest and under the large shawl that wrapped around her. She closed her eyes as random thoughts began to crowd her mind; thoughts of her and Tavin’s experiences, as well as Kindra’s strong feelings of friendship. Meg wondered if Blair could accept these things so easily and join with them in whatever was going to happen next. And what would Nora reveal? Would she prove her suspicions right? The whole thing seemed unreal, but here she was contemplating the idea of going into a possible battle with people, sea people, none the less. The thought made Meg nervously laugh aloud. She squeezed her eyes tighter as she buried her head into her hands and took several deep breaths to calm herself.
A noise from below bolted her upright. Was someone there? Meg could swear she heard movement on the bank below as if someone was advancing slowly upon the pebbles that lined the end of the loch. She leaned forward in her seat and listened again, straining to notice even the slightest sound. But all had gone quiet.
She sat back and shook her head irritated at her own paranoia just as a small series of splashes rippled thru the water in front of her. The noise sent her heart pounding wildly inside her chest. She jumped up, not sure whether to run or to scream. Meg almost couldn’t believe the options she was weighing, only months before it wouldn’t have been a question. She had always been so fearless, diving head first into danger. But something had changed in her. Something had turned her from lion to lamb. In that moment she decided that however foolish it seemed it was time to gain that mentality back. Meg clutched the shawl tightly to herself deciding to stand her ground and face whatever it was.
Another splash and the sound of scurrying focused her attention to a small cluster of rocks jutting out of the earth several yards down the beach. Meg clenched her fists tightly causing her nails to dig in and scrape at her skin. But she barely noticed. All that mattered to her now was finding out what it was that was lurking beyond in the darkness.
She slowly crossed the wooden planks of the porch, pausing slightly on the top step she took a moment to calm herself before stepping down. She reached the bottom and her bare feet met the chill of the damp ground. The rain hadn’t fallen since the morning yet puddles of various sizes still welled up and dotted the ground plentifully. Meg took care to avoid them as she kept her gaze fixed on the water watching for any sign of movement. As she neared the edge of the loch she stopped, waiting for the next sound. Moments passed and Meg looked back at the cottage which now seemed small upon the hill, appearing miles away rather than the short running distance it actually was. She hugged her body beginning to realize the foolishness of her decision of being out in the open and all alone.
She turned back toward the safety of the porch and to the people just beyond it when a low hiss sent her spinning back around. She searched the dark for its origin, her eyes darting in every direction. She began to back up slowly when another, this time louder and with more force, came from behind the rock formation in front of her.
“Who…who’s there?” Meg couldn’t help the slight shake in her voice.
No response came.
“I know that you’re out there. I heard you, show yourself and stop hiding like a coward!” Meg couldn’t believe the taunting she had just given. Was she sure she was ready for whatever might step out and greet her? From the sounds she’d heard it didn’t seem that it would be something all too pleasant or all too tiny. She took another step backward as something caught the corner of her eye, a small ripple along the lochs placid surface. She stopped dead, paralyzed by an overwhelming fear, a fear that made her breath ragged and her head pound.
Meg took a quick glance behind her. She was only feet from the steps of the porch. If she made a run for it she was sure she’d be able to get into the house before anything could get to her. Her throat was dry and she swallowed hard as another ripple sailed over the water. Meg gathered her shawl and began to turn again just as a figure darted out from behind its hiding place and began to advance toward her with bullet-like speed. Meg let out a scream but it was choked back as her throat closed down tight. She watched in horror as the creature aimed itself directly for her. Under the dim light she could make out its grotesque features. A long scaled body with a series of barbed spikes where a dorsal fin should be and a large tail resembling that of a fish cut thru the water like a knife thru melted butter. Its head was mostly submerged. Meg could only see the very top few inches sticking out above the surface where two dark, sunken in eyes met hers with an urgent purpose. Realization came to her in that moment. This was them, the type of being her dreams had warned her about, a person of the sea.
And a synopsis of one of her books and this is of Tides: The Living Jewel…
The adventure continues as the heirs must span the globe in order to find the next of the Margaritari. Journey with them across the seas into the heart of the Living Jewel where the sirens and their minions lie in wait, conjuring up plans for an ultimate ambush. But there are others, those now in league with the heirs, who won’t allow such booty to be seized so easily. There’s much treasure to be had, plenty for all, if each can resist and beware of the call.
Currently H.M. Alder is working steadily on completing the remaining volumes in the Tides series. She lives with her family in rural Nevada but enjoys trips to the ocean visiting places she once lived during her early 20’s and where her love for the sea began.
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