Jon Gibbs (jongibbs) wrote,
Jon Gibbs

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PUDDLE AWARDS: Last month’s top three finalists answer tough questions – part two

Thanks to my ongoing battle with lj-cut, I had to split the interview with last month's top three Puddle finalists with authors  Chris Redding, Jaine Fenn (aka [info]maeve_the_red)
and the eventual winner, E.F.Watkins,into two parts.

If you missed part one you can read it here

Here's the second half:

Tell us about your very first sale.
E.F.Watkins: My very first fiction sale probably was a short story decades ago, and I can’t really remember which it was. (I’ve only published a handful of short stories.) My first novel sale was DD, and I’ll never forget that. I loved writing that book and I shopped it around traditional markets at a time in the ‘90s when everyone said horror was dead and vampires were “over.” (Smart, eh?) Someone with the fledgling publisher Amber Quill Press told me their readers loved vampire books, so I sent them DD and they accepted it. That was a big moment for me, because I’d been trying to get a novel published for so long, and I was particularly proud of that one. After it came out, a couple of readers and even one reviewer said they’d like to know how the two main characters got together, and of course I knew the whole back story, so that’s what moved me to write the prequel.

Jaine Fenn: It was an Aztec alt. history steampunk short story called ‘The Path to the Sun’ which I sold to On Spec in 2001 (and subsequently resold twice). Though it isn’t set in ‘my’ universe it’s a story I still have a soft spot for. 

Chris Redding:
The Drinking Game. I remember it as if it were yesterday. I rec'd the e-mail on my birthday. I screamed. My dh, who was putting the kids to bed, raced to find me. I told him he had to read the e-mail. I wanted to make sure I hadn't read it wrong. Then he almost screamed. We hugged.

Do you belong to a writing/critique group? Why/Why not?
Jaine Fenn: I belong to two: one concentrates on novels, and one on short stories. Personally I think that honest and comprehensive feedback from other writers is essential for improvement, and I have pontificated to this effect on my website recently. 

Chris Redding: I belong to LIberty States Fiction Writers. It is a multi-genre group in NJ. The resouces they have are amazing. All the meetings are podcast so if you miss one, you don't really miss one.
I also have a fabulous critique group. We're friends,but we can say anything to each other. They've kept me from quitting twice. 

E.F.Watkins: I love my critique group! I’ve been going to it for about 10 years, and even though the whole makeup of the group has changed over time, it remains a positive and very helpful experience. It meets weekly but I tend to go biweekly. It’s difficult for any author to be totally objective, and the group functions as a great sounding board. We have both men and women, with a variety of life experiences, and while some catch flaws in logic and continuity, others give great feedback on the emotional content of a scene. In my early drafts, I tend to focus on continuity, believable action and feeding the reader information, rather than on strong emotional reactions. And, not to be sexist, but it’s usually the other women in the group who call me on that! 

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever had?
Chris Redding: Write how you write. I'm a pantser mostly. I have to write that first draft before I can even think about character arcs and all that stuff.

E.F.Watkins: I think the advice that improved my work the most was “Show, don’t tell.” Many beginning writers have a tendency to explain rather than dramatize their character’s personalities and feelings. I envision my characters as actors on a stage or in a movie, and even though there’s some inner monologue, I like to keep them doing something so the scene doesn’t become static. Also, I learned to keep the hero or heroine in the thick of the action as much as possible. I rewrote my latest book, DANU’S CHILDREN, scores of times, but it didn’t work because the hero stayed on the fringes of the exciting stuff. When I finally gave him a murder to solve, and made him do dangerous stuff risking life and limb, the book finally worked. 

Jaine Fenn: That old chestnut: ‘Murder your Darlings’. Some of my writer friends have accused me of taking this a bit too literally, as I’m not afraid to kill off characters, however in the sense in which it’s intended, this is invaluable advice. My early stuff was mawkish and massively overwritten, and I only started to improve once I learnt to cut those excessive internal monologues, overblown descriptions and unnecessary adjectives and adverbs. Initially I kept a file of some of the stuff I’d reluctantly discarded, as that way I could always put it back later – but I soon found I usually didn’t need to.

Where can readers find your work?
E.F.Watkins: Either my Web site or my publisher’s will send you to Amazon, which sells all five of my books. A couple are on Kindle, including the latest, DANU’S CHILDREN. Of course, I sell and autograph them myself at events, and right now DC is on sale at two independent bookstores in Scranton, Pa.—Possibilities and Anthology. They were interested because the book is set in that region.

Jaine Fenn: The first two Hidden Empire books, PRINCIPLES OF ANGELS and CONSORTS OF HEAVEN, are widely available in bookshops in the UK, and are on all the usual websites, though currently they’re only available as imports in the US.
I’ve rather neglected short stories in favour of novels for the last few years, but one of my ‘Angel’ stories is still up for free at ‘Labyrinth Inhabitant’ webzine ( I’ve also put some reprint stories up on AnthologyBuilder ( a site I recommend to any writer who’s had short stories professionally published. 

Chris Redding: Amazon, Borders, Barnes and Noble websites and if you want a download you can get them from Fictionwise.

Aside from Live Journal,where else on the web can you be found?
Jaine: I’m on Twitter and Facebook, as JaineFenn, though I’m something of an inconstant poster. I’ve also got a website where I exercise my megalomania, over at

Chris Redding: All the wrong places. Oh, My blog is: (the extra d is for duh I don't check my spelling) I'm on Facebook, Myspace as Chrisredding author and on Twitter as chrisredding.

E.F.Watkins: My Web site is It has background on all the books, lists where I’ll be appearing next (though I’m still finalizing 2010), my articles on writing and a link to my blog. I’ve just started seriously blogging, so please check it [] out and feel free to add comments!

And thanks again to all who voted for me for the 2009 Meager Puddle of Limelight Award! My dream now is to win the Really Big Puddle of Limelight Award! (“Ocean of Limelight”?)



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