Category Archives: Interview

When All Else Fails, Bring in a Lizard: A Guest Post by Josh Vogt

A Guest Post by Josh Vogt

Enter the Janitor - CoverLast year marked the launch of my urban fantasy series, The Cleaners, with Book #1: Enter the Janitor. The novel focuses on two main characters, Ben and Dani, as they work for a supernatural sanitation company dedicated to protecting the world from magical muck and Corruption (yes, with a capital C).

Now, I’m gonna let you in on a little secret. Gather ‘round close.

Dani used to be boring.

And I don’t mean to beta readers or anything. I mean she bored me. The author. That’s never a good sign. See, I needed a character to act, on some level, as the reader’s proxy into the weird world of the Cleaners, gawking at the absurdity of it, get the strangeness occasionally explained, and generally poking at things while asking, “Does this explode if I touch it?”

Dani did all that, but in such a bland manner, I had to stop almost halfway through the original draft when I started trying to find ways to kill her off. She needed to be a central character! Offing her would basically force me to start from scratch, which I didn’t want to do at all costs. But she, in that incarnation, refused to engage. She had no zest, no zing, zeal, oomph, spice, vigor, vim, liveliness…

*checks the thesaurus*

…or gumption. Let’s end it there, as I’m sure you get the point.

So I tried an old trick: the character interview. I sat down and imagined myself interviewing Dani, asking about her life, her passions, her fears, her neuroses, and any other quirks and tidbits she might be willing to offer.

And, boy, did I discover a lot.

First of all, I discovered her manic-obsessive fear of germs and dirt of all sorts, and how she lugged around gallons of sanitization gel to cope. I discovered her tendency to be a teensy bit foul-mouthed when stressed. I discovered she hated being pushed around and could push back just as hard if tested.

“Anything else?” I asked toward the end.

“I also have a pet lizard,” she replied.

I paused. “A lizard?”

“Yes. He’s a bearded dragon and his name is Tetris and I will rip out the heart of anyone who tries to hurt him. And then probably wash my hands for a month.”

“Why a lizard?”

My imaginary interviewee just grinned. “You’ll have to keep writing about me to find out, won’t you?”

Right then is when Dani came alive for me. Right then is when I became eager to stick her into scenes to see how much she could muck things up…and then do what she could to set things right. Because she had a pet lizard, which seemed so at odd with her original self. It presented a mystery (even a minor one) that I now wanted to unravel—and I started to see how other facets of her character could create personality paradoxes that might be both entertain and intrigue. I’ve since used this “mini-mystery” technique to give other characters extra layers, hinting at more convoluted mindsets and motivations than their surface actions suggest.

Maids of Wrath - Copy - 2Now, since Enter the Janitor came out, readers have told me how they see parts of themselves, their friends, or family members in Dani’s antics. She’s not just a reader vehicle. She resonates for some. She makes others laugh. She’s even made a few people worry for her sanity. And I look forward to finding new ways for her to surprise not only me, but everyone who might’ve grown the slightest bit fond of this spitfire.

So maybe next time you want to liven up a character or scene, don’t follow the old adage of “bring in a man with a gun.”

Bring in a lizard, instead.

Dani’s adventures with the Cleaners continue in Book #2: The Maids of Wrath.

About Josh Vogt:

Author and editor Josh Vogt’s work covers fantasy, science fiction, horror, humor, pulp, and more. His debut fantasy novel is Pathfinder Tales: Forge of Ashes, published alongside his urban fantasy series, The Cleaners, with Enter the Janitor and The Maids of Wrath. He’s an editor at Paizo, a Scribe Award finalist, and a member of both SFWA and the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers. Find him at or on Twitter @JRVogt.

Meet the Fictorians: Gregory D. Little

“Come in, — come in! and know me better, man!” -Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

We’d love for you, our wonderful readers, to get to know us better. That’s why, each month, Kristin Luna will interview a member of The Fictorians. We’ll learn more about each member, such as their writing processes, their work, where they live, and what they prefer to drink on a cold winter’s day. We hope you enjoy this monthly installment of Meet the Fictorians.

Meet the Fictorians:

Gregory D. Little

Kristin Luna (KL): Hi Greg! How are you doing today, and what are you drinking?

Greg Little (GL): Hi Kristin! I’m doing well, though I’m a bit stressed in the way I always get with a looming deadline. At this precise moment I’m drinking an iced, black tea (a mix of iced tea blend and blackberry sage). Unsweet iced tea is my go-to drink, because I like a drink to taste like something and I can drink as much unsweet tea as I want, guilt-free. I also enjoy flavored fizzy water, wine, craft beer and a mixture of my own design I call Cokenade, which is Coke Zero and limeade. Wow. I just realized that I am SUPER pretentious with my beverage choices. Um, next question!

KL: No, not at all! That Cokenade sounds like it should have its own SyFy Channel movie, for real.

So another pressing question: dogs or cats? I have to know.

GL: We have a nine-year-old yellow Lab named Riley (I’ve actually done a Fictorians post about him because he likes to carry his poop bag for us on walks). Both my wife and I are allergic to cats, so that was never really an option, but Riley makes that doubly so. As a puppy he was genuinely curious about cats and wanted to play with them. Two face-clawings later, he shifted to more of a “cat genocide” stance. He’s never actually caught one, thankfully (cats seem to realize he means business and generally retreat), but he would love to. I try not to let this prejudice me toward cats, but there are only so many times you can have your arm nearly pulled out of your socket on a walk before you start to dread the sight of them.

KL: Nothing like a good cat-clawing to the face to learn a lesson. That’s how my cat keeps me in line, anyway.

Where did you go to school and what did you study?

GL: I graduated from Virginia Tech (Go Hokies!) with a bachelors in Aerospace Engineering. If you’ve read my author bio, I call myself a rocket scientist. That’s because when you tell people you are an aerospace engineer, you get one of two reactions: an impressed look or a look that mingles pity and horror. For whatever reason, changing that to “rocket scientist” gets you the impressed reaction a lot more often, so that’s what I go with.

KL: Wow, that’s awesome! So how does your education figure into your writing?

GL: Since science is all about how the physical world works, I like to understand that for the stories I write. For fantasy, I want some sort of logical underpinnings to my magic systems and worldbuilding. That doesn’t mean that every magic system has to have a clearly explained, Brandon Sanderson-esque set of rules, only that I as the author like to have an idea how it works even if I don’t make that clear to the reader. When I tackle science fiction, I feel an obligation to get the science right as much as possible. I try to make any deviations from science deliberate choices to suit the story rather than accidents.

KL: You have one book out right now called Unwilling Souls. What’s it about and what was your inspiration for writing it?

GL: A few years back I wrote a story, “Godbane,” set in a world where the gods were imprisoned inside the hollowed out center of the planet, and a group of blacksmiths had to keep them that way using tools forged of a special metal and empowered by the souls of the dead. The story was about teenage, star-crossed lovers on opposite sides of a social chasm left over after the war that imprisoned the gods.

After finishing the story, I thought it would be interesting if those characters had a daughter together, and then a falling out, after which each became powerful leaders and bitter enemies across that same social divide that had doomed their relationship. Unwilling Souls is the story of their daughter, Selestia (Ses for short). Abandoned by her mother, now a business magnate, and her father, now a terrorist, Ses is training as an apprentice smith at the prison where the gods are kept as the story begins, . An attack on the prison occurs on her sixteenth birthday, an apparent attempt to free the gods. As Ses’s father is the prime suspect, she’s forced to go on the run when the authorities lump her into their suspect list.

This interview is perfectly timed, too. Starting tomorrow, April 1st, it will be featured in a Kobo Next for Less promotional deal, where readers can pick up a Kobo e-copy for 50% off it’s normal price. That deal will last until the 15th of April

KL: Great story! Do you have any other books coming out that we can look forward to?

GL: I do! Unwilling Souls is the first of its series, and the sequel, Ungrateful God, should be out sometime this summer. In fact, the deadline I mentioned before is to deliver the manuscript to my editor, Fictorian Emeritus Joshua Essoe. Work on the cover is nearing completion as well, so things are on track! While Unwilling Souls is a chase story, Ungrateful God is more of a mystery with an explosive final third. I’m quite pleased with how it’s turning out.

KL: As Frank and Evan have mentioned in their interviews, writing a series isn’t easy. Do you have any advice you can share that you discovered while writing a series?

GL: Lots! One in particular applies if you write like I do. I’m mostly a discovery writer. While I have end goals and major waypoints in mind when I set out to write a story, a lot of the stuff between those points is discovered as I go. Sometimes the points themselves shift as things change! If you write in a similar fashion, the fear of hemming yourself in later in a series can be very stressful. While you should definitely plan out enough to avoid major disasters of a painted-into-a-corner variety, don’t sweat the small stuff too much. Little roadblocks of that sort will force you to get creative, resulting in better ideas than the lazy ones that are usually the first to occur to you.

KL: Let’s get more general: when it comes to writing advice, what’s the best you’ve heard?

GL: People will tell you that you have to write every day, or x many words or pages per day, or that you should write in the morning vs. the evening vs. the dead of night. When you get right down to it, most people are advising you to write in exactly the way that works best for them. But people are different. Write in the way that works for you. If writing every day causes you to burn out after a few months, then don’t write every day. If writing once a week causes you to get distracted away by other things, then write more often than that. Whatever keeps you writing regularly and enjoying it, do that thing.

KL: Excellent. So let’s touch on how you came to be a Fictorian. When did you join the Fictorians and why?

GL: I met Evan at World Fantasy Convention 2012 in Toronto and we got along well while hanging out with the other Superstars alums. A few months later he contacted me, asking if I’d be interested in doing a guest post. I did and had a great time. He then followed up with similar requests for two or three more months in a row, and after that I was inducted officially. I joined because it’s just a great group of people and coming up with content on a regular basis forces you to think about the details of writing in ways you might just gloss over otherwise.

KL: And finally, what is your favorite Fictorians post that you’ve written so far?

GL: I hate to say I peaked early, but The Inevitability of Myth, one of my guest-posts, was a lot of fun to write, because it combined my love of storytelling with my fascination over modern neuroscience’s giant leaps into understanding of how the human brain works.


If you have any questions for Greg, please leave a comment below. Thank you for reading!

Meet the Fictorians: Frank Morin

“Come in, — come in! and know me better, man!” -Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

We’d love for you, our wonderful readers, to get to know us better. That’s why, each month, Kristin Luna will interview a member of The Fictorians. We’ll learn more about each member, such as their writing processes, their work, where they live, and what they prefer to drink on a cold winter’s day. We hope you enjoy this monthly installment of Meet the Fictorians.

Meet the Fictorians:

Frank MorinAuthor Frank Morin


Kristin Luna (KL): Hi Frank!

Frank Morin (FM): Kristin, as always, it’s a pleasure.

KL: When did you join the Fictorians?

FM: I was one of the first members of the Fictorians who wasn’t an original founding member. I joined just months after the original group was formed. As soon as I heard about the idea, I saw the brilliance of it and decided I had to become part of it. I’ve never looked back.

KL: Where do you live? Are you inspired by your surroundings when you write?

FM: For most of my life, I lived in New England, but I moved with my family to southern Oregon about five years ago. This is a beautiful part of the country, with a great climate, mountains, rivers, and lots of outdoor activities, which I enjoy. I’m a scoutmaster, so I get to camp and hike and explore more than I would otherwise.

I try to draw inspiration from everything I know, and I definitely look to real environments when developing settings. I’ve traveled some, and hope to travel much more in thefuture. It’s all great fodder for the creative process.

KL: I feel like you’ve been putting out books left and right. I’m really in awe of your productivity. Do you have any words of advice for our readers on that?

FM: Thanks. Last year was a big year. I released three major titles and jumped into indie publishing with both feet. This year, I’m planning on four or five major titles, with some short story publications worked in somewhere too. My books tend to be long – about 150,000 words, so it’s a challenge to release so many.

The most important advice is to write every day. Make a commitment and stick to it. Some days writing is less fun than other days, but when I force myself to sit down and start typing, I can find the fun, even if I lacked motivation to begin with.

I also recommend setting goals that will motivate you to try harder, goals so high they might scare you as much as they motivate. I set the goal to launch eight books last year. Not physically possible, but I tried and I worked like crazy to try to make it. I learned a lot of lessons and got further than I ever could have without setting that stretch goal.

And enjoy the process. I love writing and I often tell people I’m my own biggest fan. That love of story will radiate off the page. It helps me keep going, and readers feel it.

KL: You’re currently working on a new series, The Petralist. Book 2 came out in December of 2015. When is book 3 coming out? Can you give us a quick elevator pitch of the series?

FM: I’ve been releasing books in two series. The Petralist is my YA fantasy series that has been doing quite well. It’s a fun, epic read full of big adventure, big magic, and lots of humor. Book three should be out in May, and it’s shaping up to be even better than the first two.

Set in Stone kicked off the series, introducing Connor and his friends as their remote village became ground zero for an escalating international crisis. In a kingdom where only the nobility are supposed to have special powers, Connor’s secret curse might hold the key to stopping the war and saving his village from destruction.

The other series is the Facetakers, my alternate history fantasy series. It’s been described as Mission Impossible meets Assassin’s Creed. It’s a fast-paced, world-spanning adventure that also delves back in time as opposing forces with superhuman enhancements battle for control over pivotal moments in history to control the power needed to shape the future. Fun stuff.

KL: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from writing a series?

FM: Series are fun, but they definitely offer unique challenges. Each novel needs to push the over-arching storyline forward, but each novel needs to be standalone enough for readers to pick it up and enjoy it, even if they might not have read previous works, or forgotten much of those earlier novels. The other challenge is in making each novel resonate with the series but still remain unique enough that readers don’t think I’m just re-hashing the same old plot ideas I’ve used before.

I’ve tried to learn lessons from failures I’ve seen in other series, and so far the response has been very positive.

KL: What’s your favorite book or short story you’ve written so far?

FM: That’s such a hard question! Each book and story is like a part of me. Perhaps that makes me seem schizophrenic or suffering from a very split personality, but it’s true. Like I mentioned earlier, I’m my own biggest fan, and when I sit down with any of my stories, I get sucked in by them, even though I wrote them.

But if I had to choose, I’d say Set in Stone, book one of the Petralist. That story started as a project with my kids. We tell a lot of stories in our home, and the kids were demanding I give them something epic. So I threw down the challenge: they come up with a magic system, and I’d make up stories using it.

They did, and I did. What started as a fun journey of ad-hoc stories at home became a year-long journey with characters we came to love. Writing novels based off of those verbal adventures was a no-brainer. The books are dramatically different from those early verbal drafts, but some nuggets have remained, and the kids and I love to rediscover them as we read the stories again and again.

KL: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

FM: Life is full, and never boring. I almost never have time for television. I’m a self- employed computer consultant and I try to write as close to full-time as possible. Plus I’m busy with my family and church and community. I’m a scoutmaster of a local Boy Scout troop, and we camp every month. I love outdoor activities, SCUBA, but also reading and playing video games with the kids when I can. I try to be active and enjoy life.

KL: Do you write to music or in silence?

FM: I usually listen to instrumental music when I write. Most often, I listen to Piano Guys radio on Pandora, and other similar stations I’ve been customizing. The music helps free my mind, but I can’t often listen to lyrics because the words distract me.

I’m convinced that “Numb” by Linkin Park would make the perfect theme song for a movie-quality book trailer for Set in Stone. Listen to it after reading the book and you’ll see.

KL: What’s your favorite blog post you’ve written for The Fictorians? I know, there are a ton, but what’s the one you’re most proud of?

FM: Wow. Another impossible question. I don’t think I can pick a single favorite, but there are a couple of contenders I could mention.

One that comes to mind is “Working the Humor Scale” where I discuss different degrees of humor. I’ve explored using humor in my stories, particularly the Petralist novels, and it’s a fun process. With each story or novel, one of the important aspects I look at is where on the humor scale the novel is going to fall.

I’m also a fan of setting stretch goals. I’ve done a couple of posts on the topic, including one in January of this year, but I think the one I’d like to highlight is “Go Big or Stay Home”. Take life by the horns, take a chance, and go for it.


If you have any questions for Frank, please leave a comment below. Thank you for reading!

Meet The Fictorians: Evan Braun

“Come in, — come in! and know me better, man!” -Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

We’d love for you, our wonderful readers, to get to know us better. That’s why, each month, Kristin Luna will interview a member of The Fictorians. We’ll learn more about each member, such as their writing processes, their work, where they live, and what they prefer to drink on a cold winter’s day. We hope you enjoy this monthly installment of Meet the Fictorians.


Meet the Fictorians:

Evan Braun



Kristin Luna (KL): Hi Evan! What are you drinking right now at this moment?

Evan Braun (EB): I am enjoying a cool, refreshing glass of Fresca, which is probably my favourite beverage of all-time. (I say “probably” because I go through phases; next week I might answer Diet Dr. Pepper, but I’ll be wrong. The real answer is Fresca.) While I’m on the subject of Fresca, one of my greatest frustrations in life is that in Canada we only have the original citrus-flavoured variety, whereas in the States you have access to the sweet ambrosia that is Peach Fresca and Black Cherry Fresca. Unfortunately, the folks at Coca-Cola, likely in conjunction with the Government of Canada, have decided we don’t deserve good things.

KL: Maybe Canada and the U.S. should come together and have the Fresca Peace Talks? I think you guys deserve some Peach and Black Cherry Fresca!

So, few people other than the Fictorians know this, but you were our intrepid leader since nearly the beginning. How many years exactly?

EB: The Fictorians started in March 2011 as a loose collective of bloggers. Though I was involved from the start, there was no leader per se. I gradually stepped into a leadership capacity about a year and a half later.

KL: What was it like in the beginning? How was the group The Fictorians formed?

EB: The original group of bloggers met in 2010 at the first annual Superstars Writing Seminar in Pasadena. The idea of forming a writing blog came about while we were nursing drinks at the hotel bar, which I think is how all convention-goers come up with their great ideas. We spent the next year in close communication, forming an accountability email list where we’d make weekly goals and report on our progress to each other. And then, almost exactly one year later, the Fictorians made its debut.

Like I said, there was no leader, and in fact we barely had any organization at all. We had a loose commitment to blog once a month, and to schedule our posts for certain days, but there was nobody to make sure any of this got done. We strived to post three days a week, which I think is a good goal at the start of an endeavour like this.

From there, our numbers grew, people came and went, and now we have a bona fide organizational structure undergirding the whole enterprise.

KL: You already let the cat out of the bag, so I don’t mind reminding everyone that you live in Canada. Do you draw inspiration for your writing from your surroundings?

EB: At this moment I’m looking out my window at a seemingly endless field, flat as three dimensions can produce, covered with at least a foot of snow—three or four feet where the snow has drifted—and the overcast and foreboding skies presage an imminent winter storm poised to dump another foot and a half. Once the snow starts to fall, everything will be white and I won’t be able to distinguish the horizon between ground and sky. Beautiful. And horrible. Definitely a mix of those two.

But do my surroundings inspire me? In a way, yes, I think they do. I’m currently working on a novel about a small colony on Mars, and its population and social structure is quite similar to the small town I actually live in. And of course, on Mars the colonies are isolated and the weather bitterly cold (albeit a lot drier than my prairie reality).

KL: If you couldn’t live in Canada, where would you live?

EB: I guess the easy answer might be… Hawaii?

The only other place I have lived is Huntsville, Alabama, for two and a half years, so I’ve had a good taste of the American south. As much as I enjoyed my time there, and made some of my very best friends, the experience only sweetened my appreciation of home. I guess the point I’m trying to make is that there was a time, when I was younger, when I wished I lived somewhere bigger, better, and busier than the quiet little place I’m from. I don’t feel that way anymore. And it turns out I really like quiet.

Not to make a joke or take this in a cosmic direction, but honestly, how strange and scary and life-changing and inspiring would it be to leave Earth and live on another planet, like Mars? Our generation is almost certainly going to see people do this in our lifetimes, which I think is just mind-boggling. So there you have it. It’s Canada or Mars for me!

KL: I hear you about someplace quiet. And Mars should be reeeeeeally quiet.

You have been busy with your series The Watchers Chronicle. Is the series complete?

EB: Yes, I’m finished that series now. It’s three volumes—The Book of Creation, The City of Darkness, and The Law of Radiance. The third book came out this past spring, and it’s done now. Of course, I reserve the right to go back to it at some point in the future. There are a number of nooks and crannies in that story which haven’t been told yet.

KL: What’s something important you learned about writing and/or about yourself while writing The Watchers Chronicle?

EB: My biggest lesson in writing was that it’s so much harder to finish something than it is to start it and keep it going. While I was writing the third book, I was flooded by one amazing cliffhanger idea after another. It would have been so easy to ramp up the story to an irresistible climax and then defer the endgame for another book—and I imagine I could have kept doing that for quite a number of volumes. Writing a satisfying and definitive ending is hugely difficult.

As for my biggest lesson about being a human being? Well, that would be related to the pains and joys of collaboration (I had a co-author), busting through creative logjams, and working through the difficult and painful process of making compromises.

KL: Speaking of pains and joys, what’s your ideal writing time look like?

EB: In the middle of the night. Being self-employed, I have the freedom to work any hours I choose—and by extension, write for whatever hours I choose. This means I usually get up around noon and go to bed around 4:00 a.m., with my prime writing time happening right at the tail end of that “day.” For me, nothing can beat those quiet, distraction-free hours.

KL: Any words of wisdom you’d like to impart on our readers?

EB: It’s nothing profound. I hear all the time that the one quality that sets really successful people apart from the rest of humanity is dogged determination. You just have to keep going, no matter what. Yes, make changes and adjustments when you hit a roadblock, but never stop. Because getting back up to speed and rebuilding lost momentum is a crushing weight.

KL: Second to last question, I swear, what is your favorite snack? (Crossing my fingers you’ll say Boy Bawang.)

EB: Kristin and I are both partnered to Filipino men, and as such have recently been introduced to the joys of Filipino cuisine. (Except balut, no thank you!) Now, I’m not sure “cuisine” is the appropriate term for a heavily salted deep-fried corn kernel, but anyway, that’s Boy Bawang for you. The best flavours are classic garlic, adobo, and butter.

KL: [Audible stomach growling]

EB: Well, to be honest, while that is the most recent snack to be added to my repertoire, I’m not 100% certain it’s my true favourite. I’ll probably never get over the simple, high-caloric pleasure of eating a bag of Doritos one chip at a time, sucking the last morsel of radioactive-orange nacho cheese into my gaping maw. Sorry, that got a bit gross.

KL: Not gross at all to this Doritos fan! I hope one day I get rich enough or get a really fancy grant or something to sleep on a bed of nacho cheese Doritos. I can just eat my way out of bed every morning, and fall into a crunchy bed every night.

ANYWAY. Final question: what is your favorite Fictorians post that you’ve written so far?

EB: This is an insidious question. Because I don’t recall, at this moment, any one post that I’m especially proud of, I had to go through each of them to refresh my memory. And it turns out I’ve written 67 Fictorian posts to date. So thanks, Kristin.

Well, because I took the time to peruse my entire Fictorians past (it turns out 2013 was a good blogging year for me), I’m going to provide my three favourite posts. Here goes.

3. “It Doesn’t Happen in a Straight Line”, September 2013. Here, I break down the many plateaus of my burgeoning writing career, and what I’ve learned from them.

2. “Making the Science Work: Freedom through Limitation”, March 2013. In this post, I examine the relationship between science reality and storytelling convenience.

1. “Platonic Relationships in Fiction (a.k.a. ‘The Glue’)”, February 2013. I remember struggling mightily to come up with a good blog idea for Romance Month, so I waited until the last minute. And then this came out, and it’s my clear favourite.


If you have any questions for Evan, please leave a comment below. Thank you for reading!