TP Hogan Interview

This post I have the absolute delight of interviewing urban fantasy author, TP Hogan. TP’s unique work burst into my world three years ago and I’ve been a fan ever since. I know you’re going to love her novels too. Welcome TP!

1. What genre do you write and why?

I like to claim ‘speculative fiction’, it covers a lot – Paranormal, Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Sci Fi, Steampunk and Horror. It has a lot of wriggle room to be creative. So far I have one Paranormal novel out, and an Urban Fantasy series.

Oh, by the way – just because a lot of people ask ‘what is Urban Fantasy’ – it’s fantastical (with ‘magic’ instead of technology) stories set in ‘our’ world (historical, now or futuristic) rather than a made up world. Think ‘Harry Potter’ or ‘Fallen’.

The why is kind of a long story.

When I started writing I thought I would write romance. At the time, I read a heck of a lot of romance, and it seemed natural. I wrote one romance (still to be published – maybe) and sat down to write the second and realised the ‘boy meets girl’ sorts of stories wasn’t what I wanted to explore. I had to think a long time on the stories I actually liked to read, aside from the romances. The long time was because I’m a voracious reader and there’s a lot I like. Finally I realised I loved the ‘hidden world’ stories – the world in a world, hidden just beneath the surface of what we think is reality…and ‘speculative fiction’ covers that.

Can you tell us a little bit about your previous works and what inspired them?

Sure. Just be warned, asking me to talk about my books could result in an extremely long answer. I’ll try to keep it short (ish).

Shattered
This one is a Paranormal story about a man (Bastian Ashcombe) who is trapped behind the mirrors of Ashcombe manor and the woman (Mattie Holmes) who is trying to break the curse and set him free.

This one was inspired by a Jon English song called ‘Carmilla’. Part of the lyrics are – “…the man in the mirror says you’re my friend…” and as I heard them I thought ‘what if a woman looked into a mirror and saw a man instead of her reflection?’

Nephilim Code
(Nova, Edward, Zeph)
This series is an Urban Fantasy where Nephilim are real, some want to live ‘normal’ lives and some want to rule humanity like they did in the days of old, and both factions are on the hunt for a living Angel.

This one was inspired far too many years ago, long before I even thought I could be an Author. As a kid I loved the stories of the Greek and Roman gods (still do, although it’s been years since I’ve read one), and because the two cultures had many gods who were so similar, I thought they must have once been real people. I didn’t think they were real ‘gods’ but people who were special in some way. I just never figured out what was special about them.

That was until ‘Nephilim’ came into my sights. In two biblical references (Genesis and Numbers) they are described as the offspring between the sons of man and Angels…and as the ‘men of renown and heroes of old’. That small description triggered the thought ‘what if this is what made the Greek and Roman gods ‘special’…they were Nephilim’. (I’ve since learned that this isn’t an original theory, but I didn’t know that at the time.)

That lead to a little project with my husband (who has a theological background and a strong interest in history and industrial archology) and we tracked a theoretical timeline to see if it was possible for Nephilim to be around in the days of the Greek and Roman gods. As a bit of side-line fun (never denied being a geek) we took the timeline and looked for plausible ways that the Nephilim could end up in Australia.
When we actually succeeded in that (with a bit of poetic licence, I have to admit), it became the inspiration which became the series.

Out of those works, what was your favourite story and why?

That’s a hard question to answer. It’s on par with trying to decide my favourite child. Each has their parts that I love. Edward (Nephilim Code #2) was my first attempt at writing from a male point of view (and a character who is the complete polar opposite of me), and I’m very proud of how that turned out…but I think I like writing puzzles best. They are the most fun. So that would have to be a decision between Shattered and Zeph (Nephilim Code #3). I think I’ll go with Zeph, that one has a full on ‘treasure hunt’ style adventure in it and the clues were a lot of fun to set up.

What has been the most difficult part of your publication (and/or writing) journey?

Believing in myself.

To this day, with four books out and one on the way, I feel like a fraud. Doubts are very good at rearing their ugly heads. I’m not a good writer. I don’t write dark gritty, grab you by the throat and spill your blood books. I get confused when someone starts to talk ‘pronoun cases’ and ‘subject-verb-object sentences’ and I wear out the comma key on my editor’s keyboard. I graduated with an ‘A’ in high school English, but have no further qualifications in writing. No university degree in literature. I sometimes stare at my page as I’m writing and wonder if I’m any good at this at all.

The other day, I finished writing my next book. To get myself out of that world, I went back and re-read the Nephilim Code. I laughed and I cried. And not once did I wince over the story or the characters. I enjoyed it and still can’t believe I wrote it.

I love writing, and I love being in a world hidden within a world, exploring the characters and their journeys. I love fan interactions and having the chance to talk about my books with anyone who stands still long enough. It’s amazing that I get to do something like this, but those doubts can get pretty loud sometimes.

In your writing process, are you a plotter or a pantser or somewhere in between?

A ‘plantser’, maybe? Somewhere in between with a severe bent towards a pantser.
I know from experience that working out a predetermined overview just doesn’t work for me. It causes writer’s block for some reason. I think because I write character driven stories, not plot driven ones.

My most important prep are my character overviews, and they can take months. If I really know my characters, and what drives them then I’ll know how they’ll react to being dumped into the middle of a plot and left to their own devises.

I like to have an overview of the direction I’m going with the story. What the important moments are – I call them my story beats. Mostly that will be in the form of a list or bullet points. I’ll have some research done prior which relate to the story beats, and I’m more than willing to do further research as I go, if needed. While I’m writing I’ll have a file that I’ll add important details to, so I don’t get them lost as I go along. For example, in Nova (Nephilim Code #1), Nova ‘sees’ Nephilim abilities as colours. So I could remember which colour meant which ability, I created a spreadsheet to keep track of them all.

After that, I sit back and let my characters have free reign. So long as they take me in the general direction of my story beats, then it’s all good. Although, sometimes they do take off on their own, and I don’t mind that. If I like where they’re taking me, I’ll adjust the story beats. If I don’t like where they’re taking me I’ll pull them back into line, which most of the time does mean re-writing, but that’s half the fun.

What should we expect next from TP Hogan?

What if Thylacine (Tasmanian Tigers) weren’t extinct, but were shifters trapped in human form? That’s the ‘what if’ question which inspired my next book, Extinct. If all goes to plan, it should be released on 7th October 2017.

Thanks so much for sharing your writing with us, TP. I look forward to reading your newbie!

TP Hogan writes speculative fiction. This allows her to escape…and explore hidden worlds, inhabited by the creatures of her imagination, and she invites you to join her in these realms. She has penned such stories as Shattered, Nephilim Code and Extinct.
When she does step owlishly into reality it is to mess about with baking ideas, play violin, drink copious amounts of coffee and remember that there is a whole other world to explore, in the guise of the beautiful Sunshine Coast Hinterland of Queensland, Australia. She shares her home with her husband and an ever expanding urban backyard garden.
TP Hogan loves talking to readers and writers and you can find to her on Facebook, Twitter and on her website.

Core Strength

Redwood2_AdjA character’s quest lies at the heart of any story, with their journey of change driving the plot as they face obstacles to achieving their ultimate desire. One thing that will undermine any character we write is a lack of consistency and a lack of believability. But ever since a recent family holiday in the ‘Land of the Long White Cloud’, there’s something else I’ve been considering relating to character development.

I think most of us are aware that people don’t behave in the way they do for no reason. We all have a history that predisposes us to certain behavioural patterns, deeply embedded in our thought processes and emotions. For example, children who’ve experienced trauma often, in turn, behave in ways that are unhealthy. Trauma makes as much of a wound on the brain as a physical injury. Even experiences that, to an adult, might seem inconsequential, can profoundly affected a child’s (and ultimately adult’s) behaviour and way of perceiving life. It stands to reason that these types of pain-based behaviours can be difficult to manage, but once identified, the brain can be ‘rewired’ over time by making different choices. Each positive choice makes a small change in the brain. And small changes, over time, make big ones.

Something I find frustrating as a reader is when a character whose entire life has been dictated by negative behaviours, suddenly changes, and then the story is resolved. Now, I’m not denying people can experience profound shifts in thinking over short periods of time, or even significant emotional healing, but more often than not, there’s a dogged grappling with pain-based patterns over time, before the positive choices outweigh the negative wiring of the past.

Just as a child can be damaged emotionally or mentally by being forced to grow up too fast, whether that be through exposure to adult concepts too early or, as mentioned above, through trauma, so our characters can come across as weak and untrustworthy if they change too fast, or without appropriate context and conditions justifying that change.Redwood

But how does this relate to our holiday in NZ? While touring, we visited a Redwood forest. The redwood seed had been brought over from America to grow trees to produce wood for use in construction and other such applications. Unfortunately, the NZ climate wasn’t the same as that from which the trees were brought. The trees grew too fast, leaving the inner core soft and unusable for the purpose it was intended.

Like those magnificent redwood trees, a character can be fleshed out to look every bit the part they’ve been developed to play in a story, but if they don’t go through challenge- or condition-appropriate growth, a reader won’t buy it. I think you’ll agree, there’s something about a character’s inner struggle that builds convincing inner strength, developing rapport with a reader. I do love stories where characters rise above overwhelming odds, but let’s ensure we give our literary heroes opportunity to develop sufficient core strength to make the distance.

And then there was …

ActivatemedOn November 1, ‘Activate’ final book in the Blaine Colton young adult techno-crime thriller trilogy, was released. Yay!!!! Celebration time for sure. But a thought has been edging into my mind that once the buzz of launches, signings and visits settles, I’ll be writing … Well, what will I be writing?!

Yes, I do have works in progress. I also have a quandary.

Somehow, after completing the trilogy, one of the characters in ‘Activate’ got a life all their own. So I’ve found myself halfway through a spin off story. But there’s also a story that’s been on the backburner for … well … a while. Originally penned for the general adult fiction market, I’m rewriting it as a YA. It really does seem to be working, but it’s also a challenging project. Meaning, it will take time to get it right.

Perhaps I need to admit to myself that there might be a teensy bit of laziness factoring into that equation. You see, project ‘old-made-new’ has historical elements I’ll have to squish back into whatever grey matter I have remaining in the crevices of my head. You know what that means? Lots of research i.e. lots of extra work. And well, the speculative SciFi angle the spin off is taking, doesn’t have quite so many restrictions.

My brain says something new. (Hang, my publisher probably does too. LOL.) But those characters have a way of sneaking into your mind and pulling on your heart strings.

There’s one group I haven’t asked yet. You! 🙂

What would you do? More of the same or something different. Or would you do the crazy juggle I used to, of writing multiple novels at once? Hit me with your thoughts! It would be great to hear your angle.

Veils, Halos & Shackles – A Voice for Change

Picture a defenceless child being dragged from their home by members of their community – people they trust and love. They scream as they are held down, and again as a cruel blade pierces their skin. They beg for help as their beloved mother looks on in tears, immobile. Everyone gathered hears their pain, witnesses their shame.

And no one

did anything

to stop it.

These are some of the concluding lines of my poem Severed from the Veils, Halos and Shackles (VH&S) anthology. This statement translates the wave of helplessness I experienced upon reading an article on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), written by an aid worker in Africa. I knew about FGM, was aware it happened, but reading that article as a young mother made the practice horrifyingly personal.

My heart broke for the child who had been assaulted. Worse, there was nothing I could do to change it for them. Images plagued my mind, playing out the attack, watching the little one’s terror, hearing their cries. It challenged my comfortable existence, safe from such atrocities. Out of these roiling emotions I wrote Severed.

That was many years ago, well before the remarkable VH&S project had been birthed. What difference could one poem make? Yet, I felt I must pen those words.

vhs_coverfbThen, thanks to visionaries Charles Fishman and Smita Sahay, poets worldwide were invited to contribute to a unique work focussed on the empowerment of women by sharing stories of the oppression against them. Through Charles’ and Smita’s persistence and dedication, VH&S came to have form and eventually found a home at Kasva Press, Israel.

One could say each poem is just one of hundreds in a single work. One could say this poetry anthology is one of countless others. But in May 2015, while VH&S was still going through the publication process, Nigeria banned FGM. What a timely reminder of the need for this publication and the power of using one’s voice to instigate change. Other countries are gradually following suit in banning the practice of FGM.

To quote from the VH&S site:

Veils, Halos & Shackles aims not only to make a statement, but to make a difference—to shock, to startle, and above all, to inspire.

On her recent blog post, editor, former psychology academic and writer, Nola Passmore, reflected on her VH&S poem Petals, a reminder of hope in the midst of destructive abuse and pain. Our fellow South East Queensland contributor, gifted poet and author, Catherine Sercombe (also writing as Mazzy Adams), will follow this post on her blog on October 5, in anticipation of our online launch on October 8. Like the dozens of poets who have contributed over 240 poems to VH&S, each of us have a voice. Yes, we alone are only one, but one voice can apply a balm of healing words. One voice can inspire others to speak up. Over time, one voice can change the world.

Twice Stolen – Susanne Timpani Blog Hop

SusanneTToday I have the pleasure of introducing debut author, Susanne Timpani. Susanne is married, has four beautiful children and works as a community nurse with families. (So, she’s a busy lady!) Themes of her work and her faith appear in her writing. She’s also the author of the blog, 10 Minute Daily Retreat, twice weekly reflections on scripture. And she’s kindly agreed to chat about her new novel, Twice Stolen:

‘After the death of his grandmother, Dimitri finds he’s been lied to most of his life. His journey into the Outback to unravel the mystery of his identity leads to an encounter with Leah, a nurse with a tragic secret.’

Twice Stolen broaches issues of identity, loss, love and betrayal, and is woven around the theme of Australia’s Indigenous Stolen Generation. You can find out more on this aspect of the novel in Susanne’s interview yesterday on the CWD blog.Twice Stolen cover high resolution

Whilst prompting deeper reflection on the generational impact of the policy effecting widespread removal of Indigenous children from their families, this novel also emulates the traditional storytelling of Indigenous Australians, entwining the Biblical Song of Songs (Song of Solomon) through this element. In Q&A format, Susanne’s going to tell us a little more about this aspect of her story.

Q. What sparked the idea of incorporating the Biblical Song of Songs as a framework for your novel?
A. The Song is considered by some as one of the greatest love songs in history. Its fame in the ancient world parallels our Romeo and Juliet or Pride and Prejudice. Given that Twice stolen is written in the genre of Inspirational Fiction, I decided its themes provided a strong foundation on which to build the plot.

Q. Twice Stolen draws on the emotional awakenings depicted in Song of Songs. How is this significant in the novel?
A. The Song of Songs is like any love story. The characters experience an ebb and flow of emotion in their relationship. They face obstacles and resolutions appear almost impossible. The reader wonders if the characters’ love is strong enough to endure.

Q. The young adult protagonists both carry vulnerabilities because of their situations. Do you feel there are similarities between your characters and the lovers in Song of Songs?
A. My characters, Dimitri and Leah, like to think so.

Q. Okay, I think Dimitri and Leah might be a little biased. 🙂 What do you think?
A. Absolutely. The Song of Songs describes the love between King Solomon, named the ‘Lover’, and a local girl, the ‘Beloved’. The Beloved finds it difficult to comprehend how a king could possibly love her, a mere keeper of a vineyard. Despite returning his feelings, she spends a great proportion of the Song denying them and rejecting his love. The Lover never wavers in his feelings, believing that in the end she’ll come around.

Q. This makes it sound like Dimitri’s love is not reciprocated as ardently by Leah. Is it really so one sided?
A. Not at all. The Song of Songs is thought to appear in the Bible because it reflects the relationship of love which exists between God and ourselves. God is our steadfast Lover, and we, His recalcitrant Beloved. It doesn’t take Leah and Dimitri too long to realize that they are both similar to the Beloved, and in the end, God alone is the true Lover.

Q. Lastly, is there a verse from Song of Songs you feel best captures the heart of this story?
A. Definitely.

for love is as strong as death,
its jealousy[a] unyielding as the grave.
It burns like blazing fire,
like a mighty flame.[b]
7 Many waters cannot quench love;
rivers cannot sweep it away. Song of Songs 8:6-7

Throughout the hurdles Dimitri and Leah must face in Twice Stolen, they constantly question the strength of their love. They each face a major life challenge and something innate must change within or their romance doesn’t stand a chance. They question whether it is even possible to have love as strong as this verse describes.

Thanks so much for sharing with us today, Susanne. I enjoyed reading Twice Stolen and found myself drawn by Dimitri’s and Leah’s stories – as I’m sure your future readers will, too. Twice Stolen won the 2012 CALEB prize for an unpublished manuscript and is due for release on Valentine’s Day weekend (Feb 12-14) in South Australia, and will be launched in the company of Susanne’s publisher, Anne Hamilton, founder and director of Armour Books. For more about Susanne visit her website and 10 Minute Daily Retreat. To connect you can also find her on Facebook and Goodreads.