Saturday, 3 September 2011

Blog Tour: Stephen Wallenfels - POD

Hello everybody! I'm here for the second time today, phew! If one blog tour post wasn't enough for you I'm here with another one, it's a bit of a blog tour extravaganza this weekend at Writing from the Tub.

Keep reading for a fab interview with Stephen Wallenfels, author of POD, which was released on Thursday this week (1/9/11). It's one of the most exciting books I've read this year and any action/adventure/sci fi fans will absolutely adore it. Although, I'm not a huge fan of any of those genres and I still thought it was fantastic! The new POD website has just launched over at so make sure you stop by, you can win an iPad...although I pretty much failed at the contest so I'm pretty sure I'm out of the running!

Without further ado, onto the interview:

In case any readers haven’t read the book yet, can you tell me a little bit about POD?

It’s three stories in one. Alien ships (PODS) attack earth from the skies and wipe out all our technology along with any humans that happen to be outside. That is the premise that sets up two stories in alternating chapters: Josh, a 16-year old boy stuck with his father in their house in a small town, and Megs, a 12-year-old girl on her own in a parking garage next to a hotel with some nasty people inside. Survival under stress from human and otherwise is the theme.

Talk me through an average day when you’re working on a novel. Do you have a set number of words you have to write per day or do you set yourself different targets?

I wake up at 3:45am, make tea and toast, am writing by 4:15 and get about 2 hours before I leave for work. I have a goal of writing at least 500 words, but hope to write more. In the evening, after work, I spend an hour editing what I wrote in the morning. On weekends I try to get three hours in and shoot for 1000 words. Sometimes it is like squeezing an orange through a garden hose.

In young adult fiction in particular, it’s important that readers bond with the characters - what do you think is the most important thing to get right when you're creating a character?

In a word: voice. The character needs to have a compelling, realistic and engaging voice. And I believe YAs are in a tricky place, not quite adults, not quite kids. They are finding their own voice, which makes writing in that space interesting and fun.

Do you own a Kindle or other e-reader? What’s your opinion on them?

I own an iPad because it can do the eReader part, and then so much more. I like the idea of reading on an electronic device, but am not thrilled with the experience so far. I’m old-school all the way, but expect to change with the times. Save paper, save a tree!

What sort of research did you have to do for POD? How did you go about doing this?

Prosser is a 30-minute drive from where I live. I went there a couple of times to get a feel for the vibe. I went to college in LA back in the day, and used Google Earth a couple of times, otherwise not much research. POD II, which I’m writing now—that is a different animal. Lots of research there!

The YA book market is a competitive place, what do you think sets POD apart from the pack?

A couple of things come to mind. The format of the book is unique—two protagonists in separate locations. And the invasion itself, which is the event that sets everything in motion, but becomes secondary to the characters and their stories. POD is technically sci-fi, but it works just as well as an action-adventure thriller.

Some writers relate take great inspiration from music while they’re writing. Do you listen to music while you’re writing? If so, what artists/bands do you like to listen to while you write?

I need total (and I mean TOTAL) silence when I write so listening to music at the same time is impossible. But I do listen to music prior to writing to get my creative juices flowing, and it helps the book play in my mind like the soundtrack to a movie. For POD, I listened to Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb”. For the sequel I’m listening to “Thrasher” by Neil Young.

Are you a plotter or a pantser? Have you always been this way?

It depends on the book. Since POD started out as a short story from Josh’s point of view, it was primarily “pantser”. When I added Megs to make POD a novel, it turned into a plotter by necessity. Mostly I’d call myself a pantser—definitely the way I live my life!

What would you say is your worst bad habit when it comes to writing?

That’s an easy one! I edit while I write. Oh how I wish I could break that habit and just let it flow, flow, flow.

Which authors do you think have most influenced your own writing style?

Ray Bradbury (for creativity and structure), Elmore Leonard (for dialog) and Cormac McCarthy (for character and economy of words). If we’re talking YA, JD Salinger is the best there is.

What advice would you give to writers who want to make the leap from writing as a hobby to actively pursuing a career in writing?

Study the craft by reading books on writing, character, structure, etc. Enter contests, get feedback. Get disciplined relative to goals. Read, read, read. Write, write, write.

There is a lot of argument within the young adult market as to what is appropriate for teens to read. Where do you stand on this matter? Do you think teens should be protected from reading about taboo subjects or do you think they should have the freedom to choose their own reads?

Excellent question!!! I feel strongly that teens need to read books that relate to their world, their concerns, their reality. And they exist in a world that has drugs, suicide, sex, violence, gangs, wars, etc. etc. etc. If a book does not portray their world accurately, or is condescending, then they will not read it, or more important—not gain anything from the experience.

I think edgy is good, but it has to serve a purpose. One concern I have is with books that don’t have a clear protagonist that is good, or has the potential to be good. Hope should be a driving force in the genre. Hope for the future, hope for the planet, hope for a better life. And I just wish there weren’t so many zombies. Enough already!

Thank you so much for your time, Stephen. Before you go, could you tell me about any projects you have in the pipeline we can look out for?

Thank you for the opportunity. Some great questions here. I’m working on POD II (tentatively titled: Monolith) and another sci-fi teen thriller that takes place in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. I plan to have both in the anxious hands of my agent this year.

And there you have it! I just want to say another huge thank you to Stephen for taking the time to answer my questions. Getting up at 3.45am every day - what a hero! This is one of my favourite interviews I've done so far and I completely agree with his answer to the penultimate question, fab answer.

So that's it from me this weekend everyone, I've got a highly unrealistic writing deadline to try and smash so wish me luck, any motivation on Twitter will be gratefully received!

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