Saturday, September 8, 2012

Interview♥Excerpt♥Epic CONTEST with the AWESOME AD Starrling, Author of Soul Meaning

‘My name is Lucas Soul.
Today, I died again.
This is my fifteenth death in the last four hundred and fifty years.’

The Crovirs and the Bastians. Two races of immortals who have lived side by side with humans for millennia and been engaged in a bloody war since the very dawn of their existence. With the capacity to survive up to sixteen deaths, it was not until the late fourteenth century that they reached an uneasy truce, following a deadly plague that wiped out more than half of their numbers and made the majority of survivors infertile. 

Soul is an outcast of both immortal societies. Born of a Bastian mother and a Crovir father, a half breed whose very existence is abhorred by the two races, he spends the first three hundred and fifty years of his life being chased and killed by the Hunters.

One fall night in Boston, the Hunt starts again, resulting in Soul’s fifteenth death and triggering a chain of events that sends him on the run with Reid Hasley, a former US Marine and his human business partner of ten years. When a lead takes them to Washington DC and a biotechnology company with affiliations to the Crovirs, they cross the Atlantic to Europe, on the trail of a French scientist whose research seems intrinsically linked to the reason why the Hunters are after Soul again.

From Paris to Prague, their search for answers will lead them deep into the immortal societies and bring them face to face with someone from Soul’s past. Shocking secrets are uncovered and fresh allies come to the fore as they attempt to put a stop to a new and terrifying threat to both immortals and humans. 

Time is running out for Soul. Can he get to the truth before his seventeenth death, protect the ones he loves and prevent another immortal war?
Hi Ashley! Can I say how thrilled I am to be featured on your fantastic blog?! Thank you SO MUCH for having me and introducing me to your readers! It's been an absolute pleasure getting to know you and your world on here and on Twitter and Facebook. It's doubly special as I've discovered another manga-anime fan out there in the mad world of book bloggers. I hope the interview answers don't scare you or your readers too much. Especially the last one (gulp!)' 

If you could work with any author who would it be? 
Undoubtedly, it would be Terry PratchettI loved how he worked with Neil Gaiman in ‘Good Omens’. It’s one of my favorite books by these two authors.

Who is your favourite author and is you writing style similar to theirs?
Again, I would have to say Pratchett! I read many others but I keep coming back to his Discworld books. One agent who looked at the first novel in the humorous fantasy series I hope to publish next year did compare parts of my writing style to Pratchett’s. Another likened it to Douglas Adams though, so I don’t know what to make of the Pratchett comparison!

What's your favorite part of a book?
The part where you can’t stop turning the pages and you completely lose yourself in the world that the author has created.

When naming your characters, do you give any thought to the actual meaning?
Not really. I mean, I won’t choose a name just because it means something specific that is relevant to the story. I will occasionally look up the meaning of a name that I have already come up with out of curiosity. The name of the main protagonist in Soul Meaning, Lucas Soul, came to me quite naturally. It was as if he was meant to be. And the title of the novel evolved automatically from his name. I have been asked on several occasions ‘Why Soul Meaning?’. My answer is always: ‘Because this is the story and the journey of an extraordinary man who finally discovers the meaning of his existence.‘ Similarly, Anna’s and Reid’s names came to me easily. The others I did research quite a bit. For example, quite a lot of the characters in the book are from Eastern Europe and I had to make sure their names sounded as authentic as possible. Incidentally, the other titles in the series Seventeen will likely bear the name of the main protagonist!

How do you get started with writing a story (as in, how do you start developing the story, how do you get inspired for it)?
Apart from a dark fantasy trilogy that I hope to start writing in the next five years, all my story ideas have come naturally, some from the very vivid dreams that I have, some from things that I have seen or heard around me. For me, every story starts with a plot concept. For Soul Meaning, this was: ‘Social outcast of two powerful immortal races discovers the extraordinary truth behind his origins and attempts to stop a terrifying plot that threatens to kill millions.’ I usually know how a story starts, how it ends and several crucial ‘scenes’ in the middle. The rest is all hard slog trying to get from A to Z. I know my characters relatively well before I commit fingers to keyboard, as in I can ‘hear’ them (I believe most authors would agree with this. Which kinda makes us a bunch of nut cases, really!)

The dark fantasy trilogy I mentioned above evolved from a deliberate, intense, alcohol-influenced brainstorming session one evening last year after I received another rejection letter telling me ‘Good writing. Wrong subject. You should be writing epic dark fantasy.’ So, I sat myself down and browsed the internet in search of ideas (Seventh Sanctum is the best resource I’ve discovered out there for that purpose. I used the Tavern name generator for inspiration for the humorous fantasy series coming out next year!). Several hours later, I had the basic outline for my epic dark fantasy trilogy and even wrote a draft of the prologue!

As far as the writing process goes, I always compile a book specific playlists on my iPhone. I’m into hard rock and some heavy metal and the current playlist for the second novel in the series Seventeen is bad ass, if I say so myself. For the humorous fantasy series coming out next year, I bought and uploaded the soundtracks to the Japanese anime Noir and Madlax. Noir is said to have been inspired by Luc Besson’s ‘La Femme Nikita’ and ‘Leon’. The soundtrack to Noir is incredibly uplifting and kinda epic in my mind. The anime is one of the best in the ‘film noir‘ genre out there.

I am also using dry wipe boards to plot out each novel in the series Seventeen. They are very usual visual aids to linking different parts of the plot.    

 What advice would you give to people who "run out of creativity" when writing?
Ah. The infamous ‘writer’s block.’ I don’t personally like to use the term as I find it quite negative. On the days that I don’t write well, it’s most likely because I’m too tired to think or I’m still busy working out where to take the plot next. The days where I’ve stared at a blank screen and been unable to write a single word are very, very rare. I normally go do something else for a few hours. By the time I come back to the keyboard, I usually know what I want to write. Sometimes, I have to do some cut throat editing to get things flowing again.

How long did it take you to publish your first book, after you started trying?
I completed Soul Meaning in early 2011 and sent it to various agents and publishers in the UK and across the pond to the US. The feedback was positive but most agents replied that they were fully booked for the year or it didn’t interest them enough to take it on. One agent was quite interested, asked for a rewrite, which took me three months to do, and then lost interest. It was around this time that my friends gave me a Kindle for Christmas. And another friend told me to check out an article on a self-published author who was doing exceedingly well for herself. After researching self-publishing (Joe Konrath’s blog is the most influential and educational source of information I read out there) and realizing that it was a growing industry supported by an ever expanding pool of professional editors, proofreaders, formatters, cover and website designers, I decided to go for it. It has been a long, hard road, with an exceedingly sharp learning curve. And I’m still learning all the time.

What books have most influenced your life most?
I don’t there’s a single book that’s influenced the direction that my life has taken but there are many that have contributed to making me the writer that I am today. From my childhood, I would say Enid Blyton is the author that most influenced my reading taste. I gobbled up ‘Famous Five’, ‘The Secret Seven’ and ‘Malory Towers’ like there was no tomorrow. I also adored the Nancy Drew books. In terms of fantasy, my father bought some of the Andrew Lang’s Fairy Books at an auction and I just fell in love with them as a child. I read Stephen King’s ‘It’ when I was twelve. It scared the crap out of me and introduced me to the horror genre. I became an avid reader of King, Christopher Pike, Richard Laymon and Clive Barker in my teens. I got to know Dean Koontz after seeing ‘Watchers’ (I absolutely adore Einstein, the genetically modified golden retriever in the story). After that, I read a lot of Koontz. Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman and Douglas Adams entered my life when I came to the UK in 1994.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor? 
Oh gosh, that’s a such tough one. I would have to say Pratchett really. Gaiman is an exceedingly close second.

What book are you reading now?
I’m currently rereading ‘The Wee Free Men’, the first in the Tiffany Aching books by Pratchett.
Are there any authors that have grasped your interest?
Oh, plenty. Robert Crais, Jeffrey Deaver, China Mieville, Janet Evanovich, Naomi Novik, Clive Cussler, Tom Holt, Stephanie Meyer, Kathy Reichs, Harlen Coben. I've read Stieg Larsson's Millenium trilogy, Rowling’s Harry Potter series, Paolini’s Inheritance cycle and Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy several times over. I’m sure I’m forgetting quite a few more from my bookshelves. Oh, and Calvin & Hobbes and Garfield!
What are your current projects?
I’m presently writing the second novel in the series Seventeen. I’m halfway through and having such a blast! There’s a lot more hand to hand combat in this one and I have my own personal black belt in martial arts-serving soldier reference guy (Hi Steve! AD waves madly!). His wife laughed a lot when we reenacted one of the fight scenes from the second book in their kitchen. Note to all writers out there: never try to do a roundhouse kick while wearing a dress and heels! Especially if you’re being watched by three ninja cats.
I aim to finish the first draft of the novel by the end of November this year. December will then be dedicated to rewriting the first novel in the humorous fantasy series coming out next year.
Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
All the wonderful NHS (National Health Service) staff I work with. Honestly, I never thought I would get so much support from them! They have been simply amazing.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book? 
I sometimes wonder whether I rushed the last few chapters of the book. On the other hand, I didn’t want to ‘pad’ it out with potentially unnecessary stuff that would detract the readers from the fast pace of the plot. I’ve asked this question of many of my readers and so far, none have thought that was the case. When I rewrote ‘Soul Meaning’ for the agent who was interested in it last year, I took out a lot of descriptive material around each city that Lucas and Reid visited on their adventures through Europe, as advised by the agent. I’ve had one reader comment that he would have liked to know more about each of those cities.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
(AD grins) Hell yes! We can blame my dad for that!

When I was twelve, I wrote a creative writing essay for school and showed it to my dad. He absolutely trashed it! To spite him, I went and wrote several short stories. Then I wrote a novel. And a second one. I was on my third novel by the time I left school.

Way before that though, I had always been a bit of a story teller. I spent most of my lunch recess in primary school recounting tales of princesses, heroes with swords and dragons with bad breath to an audience of close friends.  

Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Eeep! (AD winces slightly!) Well, I don’t want to give too much away or upset my readers.

I think a lot of people are expecting the second novel to be about Lucas and Anna and the rest of the characters in Soul Meaning. Though some of them do feature in the story (Lucas, Anna and Reid definitely make an appearance or two and I think Victor may appear somewhere in the plot), the second novel’s protagonist is female and is a close relation of one of the characters from the first novel. The two novels overlap slightly, with the second story’s timeline starting in the last few chapters of Soul Meaning. The female protagonist in the second novel is THE perfect immortal warrior. She is around three hundred and eighteen years old and has never suffered a death. In a battle between this character and Lucas Soul, I honestly don’t know who would win!

Look out for an excerpt on my website before the book’s release next year! 
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Editing! It does not get easier!
What was the hardest part of writing your book? 
I think the hardest part was writing about places I have never been to. Soul Meaning starts in Boston and ends somewhere between Sardinia and Italy. I spent hours reading about the different places that Lucas and Reid visited on their adventures and looking at pictures and maps on Google Maps and Google Earth! I wanted to make the experience as authentic as possible for my readers. A couple of people suggested I visit the places where the story takes place. I would like to, one day. At the moment, working as a Pediatrician and writing take up all my time. Plus, there’s the money factor.

Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it? 
Well, for one, I never thought I could write this genre! I always figured I would be a humorous fantasy author, but I’ve also written a sci-fi horror short story that I plan to make available as a free Kindle download in the coming months and Soul Meaning is the start of a supernatural-action-adventure-thriller series. I’m planning an epic fantasy trilogy and a possible steampunk YA trilogy, as well as a children’s fantasy series. So my message to writers is: don’t limit yourself to one genre. You’d be surprised what you can write if you experiment outside your comfort zone.

Do you have any advice for other writers?
Don’t rush to submit to agents and publishers. You have one shot at making a great first impression and you want the product you put before them to be THE best it can be. Similarly, don’t rush to self-publish. Make sure you get the novel edited by at least one professional editor. Send it to beta readers and always, always have the last version prior to submitting for formatting proofread. I’ve picked up at least two typos in Soul Meaning after it came out and it’s been read about twenty-five times!

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers? 
I hope you enjoy the journey Soul Meaning takes you on. It was fun to write and I hope it’s as fun to read. I welcome comments on my website (you can email me via my contact form) and I appreciate any feedback you may have (it will make me a better writer, honest!)

Oh, and if you know any movie-type people (wink, wink), I’ve been told Soul Meaning would make a great summer blockbuster! 

What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?
I talked about the challenge of writing about places I have never been to above. The other writing challenge was the fight scenes. I started to have palpitations whenever I had to look up the weapons and bombs that feature in the story. Combined with the Google maps searches, I got pretty paranoid that I would end up on an FBI or an MI5 watch list somewhere (gulp)! The logistics of trying to write a novel while holding down a busy day (and night) job is one that every writer is familiar with, so I won’t harp on about that one too much. But I will say that I’ve written on nightshifts, planes, trains and in many an airport. Not cars though. I can’t even read a map in a car without getting a headache!

In terms of psychological challenges, trying to get into the skin of the characters and making each of their voices individual is a trial that the majority of authors face. I know I’ve got it right when I close my eyes, say the words out loud and think, ‘Yeah, he’d definitely say that.’ I think I was most successful with Reid in that respect. I love his dry, rugged sense of humor. (AD looks around furtively) Between you and me, although I fancy the pants off Lucas, going on a date with the man would scare the crap out of me and I would probably sit there like a dumbstruck fool. Reid on the other hand ... whoa, mama (AD fans herself and wipes her sweaty palms dry). That man can take off my pan— (AD goes away for a cold shower and comes back). Ahem. The male protagonist in the second novel is kinda having the same effect on me. He is so hot! I can’t wait to write the love scene between the two main characters in the second novel: it will be the funniest and sexiest scene in the book. I’m sure I’m going to fall off my chair laughing! 

Thanks Ashley!

Chapter One

I woke up in a dark alley behind a building.

Autumn rain plummeted from an angry sky, washing the narrow, walled corridor I lay in with shades of grey. It dripped from the metal rungs of the fire escape above my head and slithered down dirty, barren walls, forming uneven puddles under the garbage dumpsters by my feet. It gurgled in the gutters and storm drains off the main avenue behind me.

It also cleansed away the blood beneath my body.

For once, I was grateful for the downpour: I did not want any evidence left of my recent demise.

I blinked at the drops that struck my face and slowly climbed to my feet. Unbidden, my fingers rose to trace the deep cut in my chest: the blade had missed the unusual birthmark on my skin by less than an inch. I turned and stared at the tower behind me.

I was not sure what I was expecting to see. A face peering over the parapet of the glass and brick structure. An avenging figure drifting down in the rainfall, a bloodied sword in its hands and a crazy smile in its eyes. A flock of silent crows, come to take my unearthly body to its final resting place.

Bar the heavenly deluge, the skyline was fortunately empty.

I pulled my cell phone out of the rear pocket of my jeans and stared at it. It was smashed to pieces. I could hardly blame the makers of the device: they had probably never tested it from the rooftop of a twelve-storey building. As for me, the bruises would start to fade by tomorrow.

It would take another day for the wound in my chest to heal completely.

I glanced at the sky again before walking out of the alley. I found a phone booth at the next intersection, closed the rickety door behind me and dialled a number. Steam rapidly fogged up the glass wall before me. There was a soft click after the fifth ring.

Want an extended excerpt? You can read more here (This can be helpful for the contest).

AD Starrling was born on the small island nation of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean and came to the UK at the age of twenty to study medicine. After five years of hard graft earning her MD and another five years working all of God’s hours as aPaediatrician, she decided it was time for a change and returned to her first love, writing. Soul Meaning is her debut novel and the first in a supernatural thriller series entitled Seventeen. She currently lives in Warwickshire in the West Midlands, where she is busy writing the second novel in the series while drinking gallons of tea. She still practises medicine. AD Starrling is her pen name.
To find out more, please visit her at:

There are 3 ways to enter. 

The first way is guess Lucas Soul's favourite things, yes things. Just make some guesses :) The person who gets it right or the closest to the right things wins! (If there are more than one person who gets it right before the contest closes, a random draw will be conducted.) Just email your guess to catchingashootingstar(AT)hotmail(DOT)ca with the subject line "Favourite Things (YOUR NAME)". And yes you can guess more than once, just sent those emails to me with the suggested subject line. :) *hint, hint there are 10 things*

The second way is to write a 100 words "story" (not really story since it doesn't have to end) to the following prompt. Make it as thrilling as possible! And email me your entry with the subject line "Writing Entry (YOUR NAME)" to catchingashootingstar(AT)hotmail(DOT)ca. And once again, you can send in more than one entry, just email me. :)


I smiled, glanced at the side mirrors and stiffened.
‘What?’ said Reid.
‘Got your seatbelt on?’ I said tensely.
‘Yeah, why?’
‘We’re being tailed. Hang on.’
Complete this scene when they leave Boston for New York in 100 words! 

The third way is a photo contest! So here is what you have to do: send pictures of the actors/actresses who would best portray Lucas, Anna, and Reid. Need a little help? Read the excerpt or the extended excerpt above. :) Sent your picutre(s) with the subject line "Photo Entry (YOUR NAME)" to catchingashootingstar(AT)hotmail(DOT)caIf you are having trouble sending your photos, upload the pictures somewhere and sent me a link to the photos via my email. If that doesn't work, tweet me the photos/links or facebook me. And with this one too, you can send in multiple entries. :)

And before you ask, yes you can enter all three ways! If you enter all three ways, you get three chances to win! Also this contest is INTERNATIONAL! AD is happy to send the book anywhere, just not the moon. :) The contest ends October 31st (you got almost two months). And if you have any more questions regarding the contest, just comment below your questions. :) Don't be shy.

So what can you win?
Soul Meaning of course! :) You can choose between ebook (mobi, epubsmashwrods, or doc files) or paperpack of Soul Meaning. But wait, there is more! The three winners will have a spot in the acknowledgements in AD's upcoming book! So what are you waiting for? Enter to win!

If you want the book now, then check out all the sellers!
eBook:  Amazon | Smashwords
Paperback:  Amazon  |  Waterstones
eBookAmazon  | Smashwords  | Barnes & Nobles | Sony
Paperback: Amazon  |  Barnes & Nobles
The book is also available from the Book Depository, Blackwell’s and Amazon Canada/France/Germany/Italy/Spain/Japan!

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