An Interview with D.C. Akers, Author of Haven: Revenge of the Viper

I am very excited to post my first official author interview on goodbookscents! A few months ago I got to sit down with Akers over the internet and ask him a few questions about his writing habits, the inspiration for Haven, and his favorite characters both in and out of the Haven world. The first Haven book, Haven: A Stranger Magic, came out last May (see the press release here) and it has been a great success on Amazon, reaching the #1 spot on multiple Amazon Bestseller lists (see here and here).

The second book in the series, Haven: Revenge of the Viper, officially comes out this Saturday, March 1st on Amazon, and I liked this book even more than the first one. It picks up right where A Stranger Magic ends, and the action builds throughout the book as we find out more about Sam, the mysterious people in his life, and his family’s past. I am so happy that I got the chance to help edit this novel, and I am excited to see where the story takes us next.

So, without further ado, here is the interview:

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What is your writing routine? Do you have a favorite place or time of day to write?

Well, after I have written the outline and have some general direction I stick to a very strict writing schedule. I write six days a week for about four to five hours straight until the novel is finished. I never set a word count for myself; I write until I think I’m done for the day. Most of my writing is done at night, in the dark. Just the light from the monitor is all I need. I love to write when it’s raining, too. I can get really creative then!

How did you come up with the idea for Haven

Haven was written five years ago, and began with one simple sentence: “My life has been a lie.” When I was growing up, my family was always very guarded about the past. I always felt things were shared on a need-to-know basis. Family photos were rare, and most of what I knew about my extended family was hearsay more than fact. So I drew on my past to create Sam, and then I added things like the love for his mother, his relationship with her, and the longing for a father figure. Then I took it a step further by asking questions such as what if all the secrets and lies where there to protect him? What if the truth was so unimaginable and daunting that it was best to keep it hidden from him? I think parents face decisions like that all the time. We choose the time and place to tell our children the things they need to know. Sometimes we have to wait until we think they are old enough to handle the truth. But sometimes, as parents, we make the mistake of holding on to the truth too long, and when it finally surfaces it can be more damaging than we originally thought.

As for the world of Haven, I wanted it to be something different. There are loads of books about supernatural creatures, and how they interact or try to assimilate into the human world. So with Haven, I wanted to turn the tables — make it about the world they had created for themselves where the humans were not the ruling class.

How does Haven differ from your previous book, Terra Vonnel and the Skulls of Aries? How is it similar? 

Well, the biggest difference is Magic. In Terra’s world Magic is not unheard of; it exists, but Terra does not possess the ability to perform magic. Whereas in Haven, Sam lives on Earth in the beginning of the book and there is no such thing as Magic. But that all changes when Sam reaches Haven — Magic is prevalent there and Sam discovers he has an affinity for it.

What was the process of becoming an author and getting self-published like?

At first it was a lot of research—learning what I would need to do, and who I should choose as my main distributor. Then it was about building my team, which included my editors (I have a team of four), graphic artist, and someone to format my manuscript. Then I began to build my author platform. I knew taking the self-published route with Haven was going to be a challenge, but I love the control it offers. I think of it as a business, and in reality that is exactly what it is. I know that as the CEO of my company, I cannot and should not try to do everything myself. I believe if you want to be great, you surround yourself with great people. I understood early on that I’m a storyteller and nothing more. I’m not an editor or graphic artist. It’s important to understand what your strengths are and to get help with your weaknesses.

If you could have a meal with any author, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

That’s easy—J. R. R. Tolkien. That man was brilliant! I love the world he created with all its intricate details and rich history.

What about fictional characters? Who would you want to meet?

I think meeting Gandalf, Dumbledore, and Obi-Wan-Kenobi all at the same time would prove to be quite interesting.

Do you have a favorite character in the Haven series, and if so why is he or she your favorite? Which character is the most fun to write?

Right now it would have to be Travis, just because he is so quick-witted, but more importantly because he just gets it. He understands the true importance of friendship and how important it really is in our lives. Friendship is a choice, not like family into which you are born and feel obligated to. I think the quote by William Shakespeare that I placed in the beginning of Haven: A Stranger Magic sums it up best:  “A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.”

These precious bonds are timeless and seem to blossom without our ever realizing how intrinsic they have become in our lives. It’s one of life’s true gifts.

You read and write a lot of Young Adult fiction/fantasy books. What is it about the genre that makes you keep coming back to it as an adult? 

Well, this genre offers me a means of escape. It gives me a chance as an adult to live in a fantasy world through the eyes of someone who has had fewer life experiences to draw from. It places you in a time where things are still intriguing as a young adult. Where feelings are being felt for the first time, and so much of the world and everything around you is still new and unknown. I think that is an exciting time.

Haven: Revenge of the Viper officially comes out on Saturday, March 1, but the ebook and paperback versions are currently available on Amazon along with Haven: A Stranger Magic, and the Haven series collection. Get them before the launch here! 

Haven series – Amazon #1 Bestseller!

Kindle:

Haven: A Stranger Magic – http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00CR4IR7A

Haven: Revenge of the Viper – http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00IKJ3EBK

Haven: Series Collection – http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00IJC9SN6

Paperback:

Haven: A Stranger Magic – https://www.createspace.com/4281387

Haven: Revenge of the Viper – https://www.createspace.com/4679353

Haven: Series Collection – https://www.createspace.com/4679432

Akers is also the author of Terra Vonnel and the Skull of Aries available here- http://www.amazon.com/Terra-Vonnel-The-Skulls-Aries/dp/0984587101 

To find out more about D.C. Akers,

Website –  www.dc-akers.com

Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/AuthorDCAkers

Twitter-  @DC_Akers

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9 Children’s Books that Defined the ’90’s

Maybe it’s nostalgia, maybe it was the fact that the economy was better and the hairstyles were bigger, or maybe it’s because all the recent college grads spent their time having playdates, going to the park, and watching vintage Nicktoons, but I feel like there’s an unspoken truth that the ’90’s were a better time. So grab your Pogs (does anyone else remember those – they were awesome), and your Tamagotchi pet if it is still alive, and reminisce about the ’90’s and the great books that were read. And maybe we can play Mouse Trap afterwards.

1. The Boxcar Children created by Gertrude Chandler Warner 

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The Boxcar Children was originally published in 1924, so it’s not really a book of the ’90’s per say, but I first came across the series in the ’90’s, and the series expanded a lot during that time, so it will always be a ’90’s book to me.  I thought I was really cool in my 1st grade reading group when it was announced that we would read The Boxcar Children as our first chapter book because had already read it (rather it had been read to me, but what mattered was that I knew what happened already and it was part of my favorite series).

Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny solve mysteries and live with their grandfather in Greenfield, MA after living in an abandoned boxcar in the forest, and it was this series that spurred me to write a bunch of mysteries when I was younger – none of which I finished, except for The Boxcar Cats – original, I know.

There is apparently an animated Boxcar Children movie in the making and I’m a little more excited about this than I probably should be. Does anyone want to go see it with me?

2. The Ramona Quimby series by Beverly Cleary

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Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, and Lois Lowery had a pretty big monopoly on Middle Grade books aimed at girls in the ’90’s, and Ramona Quimby was a big name. I can still remember a lot of scenes from these books very vividly. Her fights with her sister Beazus, the time her bangs were cut unevenly so they were longer in in the middle and made her head look like a heart, and when her parents showed her how to squeeze toothpaste neatly from the bottom of the tube, but she ended up squirting it all over the bathroom.

I was never quite as unruly a child as Ramona was, but it was fun to read about all her mishaps, and looking back, she was a really strong female character. She also developed a lot over the series, especially since it started when she was so young, and the last book, Ramona’s World, where Ramona is 10 came out when I was 10, so that was pretty cool.

3. Nancy Drew created by Carolyn Keene

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Here’s another series that was clearly not written in the ’90’s but it definitely had a huge following when I was young. I first heard about it because my brother had a few Hardy Boys books that I thought that was really cool, and then I thought it was even cooler that there was an equally great series for girls in the Nancy Drew books (early signs of my feminism, I guess). Nancy Drew jets around River Heights in her cool blue car and solves mysteries with her friends, George and Bess, and her boyfriend, Ned Nickerson. Even though there was an old timey ’20’s feel to the series, it can still remain a classic throughout the years.

There were also so many books in the series that it never really ended, which meant it was a great series to return to. My favorite book was probably the first one, The Secret of the Old Clock. I had a double edition that had the Old Clock and The Hidden Staircase in one. It looks like they have come out with newer, more modern stories since I stopped reading these books, but I will always be a Nancy Drew purist at heart.

4. Thoroughbred: A Horse Called Wonder by Joanna Campbell

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My horse phase didn’t last nearly as long as many of the girls in my class, but I did take horseback riding lessons in fourth grade, and after I got back from the stables I would read Thoroughbred, and  I really enjoyed it. I’ve always loved animals so this fit right in with that, and I thought it was really cool that the main character’s name was spelled Ashleigh.

During my short lived riding career, the pony I always was paired with was very sweet but also very stubborn and I wasn’t a particularly strong child when it came to muscles, so the pony pretty much did what she wanted, which was mostly walk. Her name was Maybe after all, as in maybe she will and maybe she won’t. So Maybe the pony and the Thoroughbred series pretty much defined my horse phase.

5. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz

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Disclaimer: I’ve never actually read this one, so I don’t have much to say about it, but it was somewhat of a staple at school in the ’90’s. I’ve never been one for scary stories, and I was convinced that if I ever read this book I would never sleep again, and that wasn’t something I was willing to risk.

I remember coming across this book again towards the end of high school and the stories were laughably dramatic, but I probably wouldn’t have thought that as a 6, 7, or 8 year old, so I made sure to stay clear of this series. But it still does bring me back to the ’90’s and library time at school.

6. The BFG by Roald Dahl

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All of Roald Dahl’s books were classics but the one I returned to the most was probably The BFG. I also got angry whenever people called it The Big Fat Giant, because that’s just mean.

I also loved all the pen and ink drawings in Dahl’s books, and I watched the classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movie with Gene Wilder too many times to count. Also, the fact that Roald Dahl wrote spy novels along with his children’s books is awesome, and I would love to read one of his adult books at some point, just to come full circle.

7. The Anastasia series by Lois Lowry 

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Lois Lowery’s Anastasia series wasn’t as big as some of her other books, such as The Giver, or Number the Stars, but these were definitely books that I kept coming back t0 when I was younger – more towards the late ’90’s now. I can’t point to specific reasons why I liked this series, other than the fact that I probably related a lot to Anastasia and I liked reading about her life.

I read Anastasia, Again, in which Anastasia’s family moves houses, around the time that my own family moved in fourth grade. Anastasia moves towns and her bedroom was in a tower in her house in the suburbs, and while I was thankful that we were just moving within New York City, my room wasn’t nearly as exciting sounding as Anastasia’s. To this day I still love houses with towers in them.

8. Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein 

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Shel Silverstein’s books of poetry were another ’90’s staple in every classroom and child’s bookshelf. He was probably my first favorite poet before I found out about Billy Collins. His poems were always ridiculous and imaginative but they were also relatable and fun. Silverstein’s poems were always a go to favorite for poetry recitals in school if we could chose our own poems, although I don’t think I ever did one of his. I probably should have – it would have made memorizing poetry more fun.

9. Alana: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce

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With thirteen years of all female education, and my love of fantasy books, it’s really no surprise that the Alanna books made it onto my list of favorites. Although I never really read the series all at once back to front, I make my way through the Song of the Lioness books during my childhood, although I did return to the first book more than any of the others. Alanna is a girl living in medieval Tortall who wants to become a knight, so she switches places with her twin brother Thom, who isn’t interested in the knight life, and travels to the royal court to train.

Tamora Pierce’s books are great because they all feature really strong female characters, and the strength and feminism isn’t overstated in her books to the point where it becomes old. It’s just the way the characters’ lives are, so the characters’ strength immediately become the norm, and then this becomes the norm for young girls as well. Plus the stories are action packed and really fun. Although Alanna was definitely my favorite of Pierce’s series, I also really enjoyed the Protector of the Small series, which is about the first girl to become a knight after Alanna.

Pierce’s books straddle the Middle Grade/Young Adult line a little more than the other books on this list since they deal with some complex issues, and I’ve actually been debating rereading Alanna at some point, maybe on my next rereading binge.

So there you have it – the 9 books that defined the 1990’s (at least for me). Of course, the American Girl books and Harry Potter also had a huge influence on me during this time, but since I’ve already done posts on both these topics I wanted to expand the selection a little more and show what else influenced my childhood.

What were some of your favorite books when you were little?

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Writing, Reading, and Research

ImageDoes anyone have any good ideas about how to survive this snowpocolypse? It actually looks like it has turned into a rainpocolypse by now, but that’s besides the point. Lately I have been looking for some new projects, but I’ve also been making a point to spend at least some of the day working on my story idea. Yes, it’s back. Some of the character’s names have changed but I’m feeling good about it.

The time that I spend working on it isn’t always used for writing. I have been stuck in a somewhat mundane scene that is important for setting things up later but it itself isn’t all too exciting. But in the past few days I have figured a few things out and have planned out a few other scenes for the future. It’s more of a I-don’t-know-what-to-do-here-but-wouldn’t-it-be-cool-if-such-and-such-happened-later? I don’t know when later but just later.

Sometimes I plan out things in my pretty moleskine notebook that I got a few months ago when I realized the smaller notebook I was using just wasn’t going to cut it. Sometimes I do background research. And sometimes I actually write. But doing research and actually writing are two very different mind sets, and it is a little strange switching between the two. I’ve been reading The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman to get some background on World War I, since part of my story takes place during that time. Lately I’ve been reading about the different countries’ military plans, and how the whole thing was just one big mess waiting to happen.

But I’m enjoying the research. I probably won’t be reviewing The Guns of August on here since I’m reading it as more of a textbook (underlining, notes, etc.) but it has been pretty interesting. And I figure I need to do more research than I actually will use in the story just so I have an overall view of the era. Then I can pick and chose what I need for my story and work from there.

And even if I’m not physically writing something everyday the characters and plot are still on my mind. I’ve also been debating drawing my characters so I know what they look like but I’ve never been that great a drawer, so we’ll see how that goes.

I’m still not giving myself any deadlines or anything like that when it comes to my story. It is still a fun side project for me, which is why I don’t always talk about it on here – sometimes I am working on it and sometimes I’m not, and deadlines or specific goals would most likely add stress to a project that is really not stressful. I am still looking for jobs and freelance editing projects as well but all I’ve been really enjoying this process. I’ve just been putting on some background music (either film scores or Let It Go from Frozen) and seeing what happens. And I also know a lot more about World War I now as well. I wouldn’t say I’m an expert yet but it’s getting there 😛

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