Sunday, 22 December 2013

12 Authors Of Christmas Blog Tour: Interview with Ben Zackheim

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Welcome to the fantastic 12 Authors of Christmas seasonal giveaway and blog tour.
Our busy Book Elves are giving away a total of 30 prizes of books suitable for Middle Grade readers - age roughly 8 to 14 - although a lot of adults enjoy them too!

Who are the Authors on tour?

All these authors are interviewing each other, reviewing each others' books and more in the Giveaway blog tour starting 1st December. Click the links to go to their websites and find out more about them, and check out their books in the InLinkz list below.

S Smith: The Seed Savers series (9th and 18th December)

Julie Grasso: Caramel Cardamom series (11th and 22nd December)


Today I have the pleasure of Interview Ben Zackheim...
Ben is the author of the Shirley Link series.

So Ben...
1. Tell us a little about you.
I'm a former corporate fellow, now reformed. The writing life is my neck of the woods now, and it's been romp so far, let me tell you. I've gone from spreadsheets and status meetings to pirate treasure and elves. My wife and son alternate between loving and hating my new track, depending on how bad the writers block is.

2. How did you come up with ideas for the Shirley Link series
Shirley Link emerged from seething hatred. Healthy, I know! I just do not like the way a lot of modern heroes stumble onto their adventures. Then, many times, they act like they don't want to be inconvenienced by this fantastic journey they're on. Don't get me wrong, I love a lot of stories that have these elements. But I felt compelled to write a series with a young protagonist who loves being in the thick of it, who even thrives on it. I also wanted to write a smart girl, someone who embraces her intellect and doesn't care what other people think about her. So Shirley was born!

3. How long does it take you to craft your stories
The writing is the easy part with Shirley. I can finish a first draft in a week, easily. They aren't very long stories, but they take a lot of thought. Any writer who's done a mystery story knows what a delicate string it is that brings the narrative together. Everything needs to feel correct, read clearly and, of yeah, entertain.
It's the third draft that's the toughest and longest. It's also the most fun for me since that tends to be the draft where I spot opportunities to bring Shirley and her friends to life a little more with dialogue, or their random observations on life.
The Camelot Kids is another series I'm working on. Now THAT is a tough one. It's seven years in the making, and still not complete. I've had a lot of false starts with it where I think it's ready and then realize I'm missing the target in a fundamental way. I think the reason for the rough ride is the intricate plot and the sheer size of the story. It is an epic in every sense of the word.

4. Did you have children beta read the story. If so, how did it change the story?
I did. I'm friends with two girls, 10 and 12. They always get a sneak peek and have comments about what makes sense or what doesn't ring true. They're invaluable. I'm not sure how anyone could write for kids without getting their input first. I recently had a reviewer say she would believe that the author of Shirley Link was once a twelve year old girl. I can reassure her that I never was, but I have my beta readers to thank for the accurate tone. My son, 7, is almost old enough to read Shirley Link himself. I cannot wait to hear his suggestions, though I'm sure there'll be a lot of laser guns and decapitations.
5. Tell us about your next book. Did I hear a whisper it would be set in Italy... He he, I hope there are some pizza references...
The newest Shirley Link book just came out 11/29! Shirley Link & The Black Cat has Shirley grow up a little bit. When a lot of people complain about missing small things, Shirley starts to see a pattern. It becomes clear that there are a lot of small robberies going on in town. A young man who is known for getting into trouble is suspect number one, as far as the police are concerned. But Shirley doesn't buy it. As she uncovers clues, the case turns into a rescue mission where the young man and a stray black cat will need her help to stay free.
The Italian book will definitely happen. I went there this summer. No writer escapes the desire to write about Italy after visiting it.

6. Favourite Middle Grade book
I fall squarely in the Harry Potter camp here. I think Rowling tapped into our souls as deeply as Star Wars did, and affected millions of kids in ways we'll see unfold in the next ten years. The series made children want to read more, write more, draw more, be themselves more. Those delicate years of 8-12 were made easier, or at least clearer, to a whole generation of children (and adults with a strong connection to their formative years). It's rare to be alive when such a large storytelling force moves through our culture and changes everything. I feel privileged to have enjoyed the books with so many kids. I'm also thankful for the great conversation-starter. If you ever find a kid who's hard to reach, Harry Potter is like an On button.
Out of the entire series, I love (and dread) The Half-Blood Prince the most.

7. Chocolate or Caramel ( you know why I am asking)
Since I also train trees in my spare time (and worry that my parents can read my mind), the answer is clearly Caramel.

8. If you could go somewhere in time, where would you go?
Sixth floor, Book Depository, Dallas, Texas, 1963. I'd have a throw-down with Oswald! Take him down with some sloppy, learned-from-TV jujitsu, grab his scope and make sure no one's on the grassy knoll. Pure machismo in all its glory. I hope I haven't horrified everyone...

9. Advice to new and independent authors?
Don't answer questions about time travel.
Also, you are not your audience. It's taken me years to fully grasp that just because I write stories I would like to read does not mean I'm the target audience. Which is good because I'd hate to think that only overweight, middle-aged men who always have one car in the shop are my only readers. So spend some time finding out more about who you want to reach by being honest with yourself about the kind of stories you write. Your writing will improve the more you imagine the audience you're writing for.
If you have questions about who your books appeal to, then try this trick. When you post your next book on Amazon (assuming you do), buy it and then look at the "Thank You for Buying" page. You'll see a list of products that people who bought your books also bought. It can provide some great insights into who is showing interest in your work!
But the best advice I can give to new writers (my fellow independents already know this well) is to limit your time on social networks. Focus! Don't get caught up in the mists of free marketing, as if the right post could catapult your sales. Yes, it's possible, but don't waste your time trying to make it happen. Let it happen naturally. Your time is better spent writing.
Check out Bens other books....




Now Enter the Giveaway!

You could win a prize from one of these authors. Most are offering one or two books from their series: if you've already got the first, they may offer you a different one if you win. The prizes are as detailed on the rafflecopter form.  
Contest runs: December 1st to 23rd, 11:59 pm EST, 2013  
Open: Worldwide  
How to enter: Enter using the Rafflecopter widget below.  
Terms and Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. Winners will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will then have until 28th Dec. to respond. If the winner does not respond in that time, a new draw will take place for a new winner. No cash alternatives to the ebooks offered. Authors may (at their sole discretion) offer a different ebook from that listed if the winner already owns the prize listed. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. This giveaway is sponsored by the authors named and is hosted and managed by Jemima Pett, the Princelings author. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send an email to jemima (dot) pett (at) gmail (dot) com.
 a Rafflecopter giveaway

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