#SciFi Women Interview – Marie Bilodeau

For this month feature, I am glad to welcome Marie Bilodeau. I found out about her and her work via Twitter several months ago.

Marie Bilodeau.
Marie Bilodeau.

Marie Bilodeau is an Ottawa-based science-fiction and fantasy author, with a bunch of novels and short stories to her name, and some awards to go with them (shiny awards).

The native Montrealer is a professional performing storyteller. Armed with a Bachelor’s Degree in Religion and Culture with a minor in Archaeology from Wilfrid Laurier University, Marie mostly tells adaptations of fairy tales and myths, as well as original stories of her own creation.

You can connect with her on her blog, Facebook and Twitter.

NG: How were you first introduced to Science Fiction?

BILODEAU: I discovered science fiction watching Star Trek from my hiding spot under the dining room table (we weren’t allowed to watch it – it was too, um, I’m not sure too what). I’d say that I really really discovered science fiction in grade 9.  I’m French Canadian and didn’t really speak English at the beginning of high school, but English classes were a requisite to graduate from high school.  We had to do three book reports, and my teacher told me to ignore the list of classics and pick three books that I wanted to read.  My brother handed me a fantasy trilogy, and I devoured it as quickly as a French Canadian kid can devour their first English books, never stopping to check any word in the dictionary. I didn’t know what a dagger was, but man did I ever want one.

NG: How did you start writing in this genre?

BILODEAU: I never even considered another genre.  This is what I read and loved, and just dove in to these stories.  I started writing seriously after university, when I realized that, if I was going to be a writer, I should actually put words down on the page.

NG: Which Science Fiction authors have been most inspiring to you?

BILODEAU: I’m a huge fan of pulp writers like Robert E. Howard for multiple reasons.  I love how prolific they are, and how their characters captured the imaginations of so many readers.  I want to be one of those writers with such a long backlist that it takes a long time to get them all, like Terry Brooks, Marion Zimmer Bradley and Ed Greenwood.

NG: What do you think of Science Fiction’s versatility and its ties to other genres such as Fantasy and Folk Tales?

BILODEAU: Science fiction follows many of the same story beats as fantasy and folk tales, it just does it in a science-based setting, to varying degrees. You have hard science-fiction, where the magic is science, the creatures and demons are usually ignorance (or ignorance-driven characters), and the reward is solving an enigma or having it solved through some scientific principle or theory. You have some “softer science fiction,” like space opera, which doesn’t rely on science as much but relies on scientific “real world” ideas without making the thrust of the story about them. No matter which end of the science fiction spectrum, the bones are similar to fantasy and folk tales, the beats practically the same, but the focus is on the cool science and/or concepts of the setting.

NG: Do you think Science Fiction is a genre welcoming to women creators and female characters?

BILODEAU: It’s definitely heading that way, but there’s much more work to be done for the genre to be welcoming of female creators and characters.  Women are stepping up to the plate, holding their own and claiming space. The more women do that, the more it’ll change.

NG: What are some recurring themes and patterns in your writing?

BILODEAU: I hadn’t noticed until it was pointed out to me, but home comes up a lot. Finding a home, whether physical or emotional, is a recurring theme.  Whether it’s due to growing up in a culture that fears losing itself, or moving many, many times as a child, that’s for psychologists to figure out. But it’s definitely a recurring theme.

NG: What place does Science Fiction have in your Storytelling?

BILODEAU: I tell a few science fiction stories, from space journeys to scientific discoveries, and also stories of discovery that mimic some of the emotional journey of science fiction. In romance, many beats rely on finding your true love. In science fiction, many beats are about discovering your surrounding OR your true self (or both), and those are beats I use a lot in my storytelling.

NG: Has your Podcasting experience influenced your views on Science Fiction?

BILODEAU: The recently defunct Planet X Podcast reviewed many science fiction storylines.  My cohorts, Jay Odjick and Ken Bonnie, gave some fascinating reviews on science fiction shows and comics, and always brought it back to how the spirit and the mind intertwined. Whereas I’d traditionally viewed science fiction as mostly a discovery of one’s surroundings, I started to view it as mostly a journey of self-discovery and reflection.

NG: How important are conventions in the Science Fiction community?

BILODEAU: Science fiction is often about ideas, and conventions are an awesome place to share and develop ideas.  I find them very important in most fan communities, and science fiction is no different. Finding people of like mind can be an exhilarating and fulfilling (and sometimes annoying) experience. If you’ve been to conventions you probably know what I mean. If not, go check one out and find out!

NG: What advice would you have for an aspiring Science Fiction writer?

BILODEAU: Stick to the rules of your world. The more you try to explain, the more you highlight the cracks in your own logic. Trust that your readers can follow. Make sure that any strong story concept is supported by great characters and an awesome intrigue.

NG: Thank you very much for being with us today, Marie! My readers will be happy to learn more about your work and many stories.

Background by Rose B. Fischer.
Background by Rose B. Fischer.

The Digital Quill’s Writing Tips – R-Rated Content Isn’t Mandatory

Some authors thrive in graphic content and are accomplished R-Rated storytellers. It is one thing to do what you choose to, but if you think such content is mandatory, you will want to reconsider. Whenever I hear of people adding violent or sexual content out of gratuity or to make their story more marketable, I feel sad.

Storytelling can include a lot of darker themes and sensual tension – if you wish to have such elements in your story – without going past PG-13 rating. I had some people tell me that I shouldn’t pull the curtain on some intimate scenes between my characters, but this is something nonnegotiable for me as an author. I am not comfortable writing and publishing sex scenes, nor am willing to tackle certain subjects any other way than my characters mentioning them or dealing with the aftermath. There is plenty of darkness for my characters to deal with, but I won’t go beyond PG-13. I have author friends who do as much and I respect their choice and I consider them talented writers, but I recognize this isn’t for me.

In the end, the rating and the content in your stories should remain yours. Regardless of what you do, you won’t be able to please every single reader under the sun. So if you have boundaries in your writing, honor them.

What about you?

  • Do you have boundaries in what you write or want to write?
  • Can you think of themes or types of content you wouldn’t want to write about?

Digital Quill's Writing Tips

Author Interview – Jenny Graham-Jones (Witherfist)

A friend of mine, Jenny Graham-Jones has recently embarked on a new writing journey, entering Inkshares contest in hope to see her Fantasy novel Witherfist published. You can check and pre-order her book on Inkshares site. She accepted to do a two-part interview here.


NG: Can you tell us about your book, Witherfist?
GRAHAM-JONES: Witherfist is a fantasy novel that at its heart, centres around two women struggling to deal with the repercussions of power-struggle that both women were on the wrong side of. The book opens almost a year after the conclusion of a conflict in Last Empire, a political upheaval that nearly split the Empire in two and made our two main characters – Irusai and Arren – into fugitives.

The story tracks their attempts to reclaim the lives they once had. Irusai, also known as Witherfist, is a warrior and former provincial governor, who made a pact with a malevolent spirit to gain the power to protect the people of her province. Arren is the daughter of the Empress, who openly defied her mother’s decision to take the throne from her father. Irusai wants to return to her family and to the people who she swore to protect, but first she must rid herself of the spirit that earned her the name Witherfist. Arren wants to return the Imperial throne to her father, but to do so she must have the backing of people within and outside of the Last Empire.

NG: What was your first writing experience?
GRAHAM-JONES: My memory is hazy when it comes to my first experience of writing, but I can recall some of my first attempts at storytelling. Some of them involved a pack of toy farmyard animals and their encounters with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I dare say that the stories I’ve chosen to write have become a little less bizarre since, but they have always been far from normal.

NG: How were you drawn to the Fantasy genre?
GRAHAM-JONES: Growing up, I spent a lot (and I mean a lot) of hours listening to, rewinding and re-listening to a cassette tape I had of Roald Dahl’s George’s Marvelous Medicine. Though not strictly a fantasy novel, there is a clear element of the fantastic to the story – and the themes of the wonderful and the strange have never stopped appealing to me.

NG: What are your greatest inspirations as a writer?
GRAHAM-JONES: A significant source of inspiration and ideas for me has to be the world around me. I love reading about or watching documentaries about countries and cultures, outside of the UK. So much of history is already full of fascinating stories to draw inspiration from. The idea that eventually evolved into Witherfist, for instance, came out of watching a documentary about the Empress Wu Zetian. I couldn’t draw direct parallels between my writing and real-world events, but by echoing a fraction of history, I feel like fantasy world my stories inhabit can become more human.

The other main source of inspiration would be Brandon Sanderson, whether I’m reading his books, or listening to the ‘Writing Excuses’ podcast that he co-hosts Brandon is a master of the fantasy genre and arguably the creator of some of the most interesting and unique magic systems in the genre. Brandon’s worlds always feel deep and fully realised, without being mired in too much detailed.

NG: Thank you, Jenny! I look forward to continuing this conversation next month.

Jenny Graham-Jones.
Jenny Graham-Jones.

English author Jenny Graham-Jones is a newcomer to the fantasy genre. Based in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England, she spends her days at her job as a software developer and her evenings writing about the weird and the wonderful. Witherfist is her first foray into novel writing.

You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Inkshares.

The Digital Quill’s Writing Tips – Find Your Genre(s)

Writing in multiple genres is fine; and it happens to many of us, but figuring out what your main one or two are is important. As much as you might explore and take time to figure out what your favored type of writing is, this will eventually become your foundation. Having one will help you grow stronger and also encourage you to experiment more. The fact that many genres have ramifications and ties to others also encourages you to explore without necessarily jumping into something totally different from what you are familiar with.

My deep interest in Science Fiction, whether when I analyze media universes in my nonfiction and academic endeavors, or when I create my own stories, has been mine for many years. From there, I have expanded into Fan Communities and Gender Studies in nonfiction and in Fantasy in fiction. Gravitating back to my foundation and growing stronger in it has helped me tremendously over the years.

You shouldn’t pick a genre just because you think it will sell better. Trying a genre out because you are curious about it or feel any sort of inclination towards it can be a great experience. Forcing yourself to do it because you hope it will sell better when you have no interest whatsoever (or even repulsion) at the thought of delving into it, shouldn’t be considered. Writing is hard work enough when you have passion, so when all about it is a chore, it doesn’t make for a rewarding experience.

What about you?

  • Do you have a favorite genre or two?
  • Can you imagine new developments branching out thanks to them?
  • If you don’t have a favorite genre to write in yet, what genres do you feel most drawn to as a reader or viewer?

Digital Quill's Writing Tips

Recent Interviews

I have been featured on two blogs this month, with interviews where I discussed my writing path and process.

Many thanks to both Lyn Vicknair and Sally Cronin for these opportunities!

If you haven’t done it yet, you can read my interviews by clicking on the links below and also check out both blogs.

Recent Interviews

The Digital Quill’s Writing Tips – The Time Element

What if you don’t have time right when the muse hits you with a hammer and demands?

Still try to take some notes as soon as you can (which can also be a good idea to use a way of voice-recording if it tends to happen to you while you are driving or doing something you can’t put on hold right away).

Making efforts to stay focused on the ideas you are getting, so you can remember them for as soon as you can take actual notes, is a good way to go as well. Even if you are unable to recall everything as if you had taken notes right when inspiration hit you, every bit of information you can gather can still make a difference.

So, if you don’t have the immediate possibility to take notes when inspiration happens, don’t fret and write down everything you can remember when you have time.

And if you do have time to take notes when your muse barges in, you should make the best of this opportunity. You never know what you can learn in those moments. If you are blessed with availability when it occurs, it always makes for a meaningful experience.

What about you?

  • Did you ever have time to dive into an inspiring moment and take as many notes as you could? Does your muse show up at most inopportune times?
  • If so, how do you react?

Digital Quill's Writing Tips

Writer Interview: Samuel Brantley (The Chronicles of Count Carlos)

Today, I am happy to interview Samuel Brantley, one of the authors of The Chronicles of Count Carlos: Son of Dracula (R Rated). The kickstarter for the project runs until September 1, 2016.

Count Carlos1

The Chronicles of Count Carlos: Son of Dracula

Stuck in a small Mississippi town, a vampire obsessed geeky kid must rescue his mother from REAL killer vampires. But when he finds out that he is the heir to the vampire world’s throne he must embrace his vampire side or risk losing everything and everyone he’s ever loved.

Samuel Brantley

Samuel Brantley has been involved in film-making for 10 years all the while working at day jobs too, naturally.  He has written over 10 feature length screenplays, and consulted on many more. He has also written and produced a number of short films, and stage productions in the New Orleans area. He is currently in post production on his feature-length directorial debut, a documentary about a New Orleans Mardi Gras group known as The Krewe of the Rolling Elvi.  Count Carlos is his first attempt at comic books, which he has read since he could read. He lives in New Orleans with is wife and step-son.

Samuel Brantley.
Samuel Brantley.

NG: What inspired the Chronicles of Count Carlos: Son of Dracula?

BRANTLEY: Pretty much just my co-writer and I just talking about horror, action, and sci-fi movies and what we liked about them.  The conversations then turned to what we found funny about stories in such genres, and what could be made funny.  From that foundation we thought about classic horror icons, and pitched around ideas until we were set on taking the character of Dracula, and vampires in general, into weird and fun places. We also wanted to incorporate elements of fan culture and geek/nerd culture into the story.  Our hero, Carlos, is an avid player of a vampire live action RPG system known as the Vampire Allegiance Guild, and we thought it would be fun to see how folks who love acting like vampires would react to encountering real ones.

NG: How did the team come to work together?

BRANTLEY: I met my co-writer, Armando Leduc, about 10 years ago.  I was working on a screenplay with a filmmaker who had also worked with Armando, who is a TV/film actor.  We hung out and such, and eventually ended up working together on a live sketch comedy variety show produced here in New Orleans called “Sketchy Characters”.  Around then, almost 7 years ago, the seeds for Carlos were planted and we wrote a short film script for it together. The story sat for a while, and we would occasionally come back to it, but were often both too busy with other projects or day jobs to work on it. Then a year ago he came to me and said he had some producers interested in horror/comedy, and we picked it back up.  After many drafts, over a dozen live reads, and a ton of feedback, the story evolved into what it is now.  The comic book is an adaptation of the feature length screenplay that is now in early development for production and filming.  We decided to do a comic book version to generate interest in the universe we created, and to expand more on that universe without the constraints a film script can have. Our illustrator, Anthony Figaro, is an awesome artist who Armando met and brought in to bring the story to life in a comic book.  He was in the moment we pitched him the story.

NG: What are the central themes of the story?

BRANTLEY: I’d say the story explores the theme of finding out who we really are and where we really come from.  In the story, Carlos learns who he is and has to embrace his vampire heritage to save the world and fulfill his destiny.

NG: What audiences do you believe will be most interested in the universe and its characters?

BRANTLEY: Anyone who appreciates a story that takes tropes from horror, action, and sci-fi and makes them funny without insulting the genres or fans of them.  It is a story full of laughs, but also intense gore and violence, crazy fights and battles, with some good old fashioned lewd and crude jokes and situations.  I also think it will find an audience with readers who like a diverse cast of characters outside of traditional Anglo-Saxon style vamps and humans.  Dracula is about the only main character who fits that mold, and he ends up becoming a “vegan” vampire (a vampire that doesn’t consume human blood).  I would also say anyone who has played role playing games, or who considers themselves part of a fandom, and who always dreamed about actually living IN the universe they are so drawn to.

NG: What are your hopes and goals for this project?

BRANTLEY: To make a living writing it.  I’d love to see this first issue generate enough interest to get it picked up by a publisher and turned into a monthly comic book series. We have enough of the story done thanks to the screenplay for a good 12 to 15 issue story arc, and have more outlines for much bigger adventures for Count Carlos.

NG: Thank you very much, Samuel! I wish you all the best with your kickstarter!

The Chronicles of Count Carlos

The Digital Quill’s Writing Tips – Always Have Note-Taking Tools on You

This isn’t negotiable (unless you’re in the shower I guess, but you might still want to have tools in the bathroom for when you get out). Years ago, I didn’t care so much about listening to inspiration when it knocked on my door. I still remember needing six months before remembering the development I needed for my first novella. Those were long six months.

While I love notebooks no matter what, I always make sure to have smaller ones I can carry on my person at all times. I also make sure to have two pencils instead of one in my purse, because I sometimes don’t realize one is almost at its end and found myself with a non-functioning pencil right when I had to take notes!

Smartphones and tablets also have great options and apps for notetaking, voice recording, or any shape or form of jotting down thoughts and ideas. I am still a dinosaur without a smartphone so I still tend to stick to pen and paper for random notetaking.

One way or the other, having anything to take notes on you is a must have for a writer.

What about you?

  • Do you stay prepared for whenever inspiration hits you?
  • Do you have certain tools or device you always keep with yourself?
  • If not, are you willing to make a change?

Digital Quill's Writing Tips

Calling All Readers and Bloggers

Generations after Earth died, humans have been living in the Dantek system, cohabiting with multiple ancestral species in the region.

Investigator Morden Avachk and his team ally with a Prisias priestess. They are the only hope to save her species, endangered by a biological weapon in the making.

Avachk’s hierarchy won’t like his team’s choices but innocents come before orders.

My Science Fiction novella Dream Crusher will be released in Kindle and Print formats in November (date TBD). Illustrations are currently in preparation and I am looking for help to spread the word from early October to mid December.

I am looking for opportunities such as character or author interviews, guest posts, book reviews.

Thank you in advance to everyone willing to help!

Calling All Readers and Bloggers

The Digital Quill’s Writing Tips – Finding Inspiration and Purpose

Even when everything is “perfect” and we are ready to take on our project and get writing, if our soul doesn’t show up, our creativity can take a nosedive.

We have to get into the right mindset and it can be quite difficult at times. Yet, we shouldn’t give up and we should work on improving it so we are able to write. We could be just satisfied with “show up and write” but why don’t we try for something that is a little more enthusing? (There will be days when showing up and writing will be good enough and way better than we might have expected when getting up, but I want us to focus on how we can all grow!)

You may want to find rituals that channel your creativity. Those can encompass multiple forms. Maybe you like to work out, take care of certain tasks from your to-do list, or play a certain type of music, so you can devote your attention and energy to your writing.

Having a spiritual element to bring you towards your writing can also be strongly encouraging and inspiring. As I grew as a writer, I also grew in my faith and it has strengthened me. A few times in the past, I remember trying meditation before writing, but it didn’t really work for me, because it lacked a true spiritual dimension (and just sitting there listening to my breath tends to stress me out anyway!)

Over the past years, I have prayed more and grew in my faith a lot. At first, I didn’t notice how it influenced me so much, including in my writing. By now, my daily praying is an important part of my life. While I don’t necessarily pray right before writing, it is common for me to bring up my writing concerns to the Lord and ask for guidance. This is how this book came to be.

What about you?

  • Do you have rituals that help you get into your writing mindset?
  • Do your spiritual practice fuels your writer’s life?
  • If you are unsure where to begin or how to create rituals that might help you, can you think of elements that have worked for you in the past and that you could use on a more regular basis?

Digital Quill's Writing Tips