Starla Huchton On Her New Novel Entitled Maven

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MAVEN_450x600I’m so hap­py to have Star­la Huch­ton back that if I was a gig­gler I would, uhm, gig­gle. Need­less to say, I’m excit­ed to bring her back to talk about her new book Maven which is set to be released on June 3, 2013. That’s just over a week away! She’s such a busy woman, which I can total­ly under­stand and appre­ci­ate, so the fact that she spared the time to do this inter­view makes her pres­ence here that much more sweet.

So Star­la, talk to me…

1. For the sake of those who don’t know you yet, give us a lit­tle bit of infor­ma­tion about your­self. You write, yes, but what else are you up to?

Most of what I do these days (out­side of chas­ing my kids while my hus­band is deployed) is design book cov­ers. I work with both inde­pen­dent authors and pub­lish­ers alike. I believe my job as a design­er is to get to the heart of a sto­ry and try to con­vey that into the visu­al. It’s not the eas­i­est of tasks some­times, but I love what I do and I’m thank­ful that oth­ers like my work enough that I can con­tin­ue doing it.

Some might know me as an audio­book nar­ra­tor. I’m cur­rent­ly work­ing on the fourth book in Lind­say Buroker’s The Emperor’s Edge series, though I am woe­ful­ly behind in this. It’s been a rough few months with mov­ing and hav­ing the hus­band deploy amongst oth­er things, but it’s com­ing.

2. Tell us about Maven. What was the inspi­ra­tion? How long did it take to write it from inspi­ra­tion to com­ple­tion? Where do you hope to take the series and how long do you plan it to be?

Maven is the first book in my new Sci­ence Fic­tion Romance Endure series. There will be four total when the sto­ry arc com­pletes, and I plan to have all of them out in the world before my birth­day in March 2014. It’s an ambi­tious sched­ule, but I’m more than on-track to meet it. The major­i­ty of the sto­ry takes place in an under­wa­ter lab in the year 2050 (at the begin­ning of book 1), but by book 3 you get to see some of the out­side world. It’s not a huge stretch from mod­ern day, real­ly, but enough so that it’s firm­ly plant­ed in Sci­ence Fic­tion. Even with these futur­is­tic lean­ings, it’s still a very acces­si­ble sto­ry, even for read­ers that are not typ­i­cal­ly fans of Sci­ence Fic­tion. I don’t gen­er­al­ly like hard Sci-Fi, but I do like some of the ele­ments, so I want­ed to cre­ate some­thing that oth­ers like me could real­ly enjoy. As I’ve man­aged to sway at least two Para­nor­mal or Urban Fan­ta­sy-only read­ers over to the dark side of SF, I’m count­ing this book as a suc­cess.

As for the inspi­ra­tion, well… that’s a long sto­ry. Basi­cal­ly, as a teenag­er in the 90s I was a huge Jonathan Bran­dis fan­girl. How­ev­er, I didn’t dis­cov­er him until one sum­mer I hap­pened to catch a rerun of the first sea­son of a show called SeaQue­st DSV, of which he was a cast mem­ber. In re-watch­ing the show now, I inevitably wind up in fits of gig­gles over the “future tech” and some­what cheesy scripts, but for a geek like me, espe­cial­ly back then, it filled a huge enter­tain­ment void in my world. I took my love of that show so far that 16-year-old me even tried my hand at writ­ing my own scripts for it, nei­ther of which I fin­ished and nei­ther of which will ever see the light of day because they are absolute­ly awful. But, there was some take­away from it. The hero­ine of the Endure series, Dr. Lydia Ash­ley, was born from those pre­co­cious, imma­ture scrib­blings, and she has stayed with me all these years.

So, that leads into anoth­er part of your ques­tion. If we’re talk­ing how long it took from it to go from orig­i­nal inspi­ra­tion to com­plet­ed nov­el, the answer is sev­en­teen years. How­ev­er, I didn’t real­ly pur­sue the sto­ry until Jan­u­ary 2012. In six weeks I knocked out 68,000 words of Maven, but then I hit pause. The rea­son for this is prob­a­bly because my Steam­punk nov­el became a final­ist in a con­test, which it then won. My focus shift­ed to that book and its sequel and Lydia and Daniel got put on the shelf. Fast for­ward to Jan­u­ary of this year, at which point I had 3 or 4 unfin­ished first drafts of things in var­i­ous states. I decid­ed it would be my goal to fin­ish sev­er­al of these up over the next year and went look­ing at each one to see which spoke to me the most. Hon­est­ly, I didn’t think Maven was the one that would make the cut, but the moment I opened the file I was imme­di­ate­ly drawn back into that world. A week or so lat­er, the book was com­plete, but I real­ized their sto­ry was not. I jumped right in to the sec­ond one, and then imme­di­ate­ly the third right after that. At some point in book two, I fig­ured out this was not going to be a tril­o­gy. Four full nov­els would be required. It didn’t feel like a heavy weight to bear, how­ev­er. This sto­ry is easy for me to bring to the page now. I would think so, after think­ing about it for 17 years!

3. Maven isn’t your first nov­el length work. Tell us about your oth­er writ­ing endeav­ors.

My first fin­ished nov­el was The Dreamer’s Thread. It’s a mod­ern fan­ta­sy sto­ry and very much a first book. My writ­ing style has changed and grown so much since I put it out as a pod­cast. Peo­ple still enjoy it, how­ev­er, so I leave it float­ing around the inter­webs, wait­ing for unsus­pect­ing folks to stum­ble across it.

My sec­ond book, which isn’t out any­where yet, is the first of my Antigone’s Wrath series, a Steam­punk adven­ture called Mas­ter of Myth. It’s the one that won first place in the Crest­ed Butte Writ­ers Con­fer­ence annu­al con­test, The Sandy, and, as a result, was request­ed in full by a senior edi­tor at TOR/Forge (nev­er did get an answer either way on it, but that’s nei­ther here nor there). I’m a lit­tle over halfway done with the sec­ond in this series, Mas­ter of Machines. I was actu­al­ly hop­ing to put the first one out this sum­mer, but with all I’m doing with the Endure series, I’m no longer sure if I’ll have the time to devote to it that I think that sto­ry deserves. I know there are a lot of folks wait­ing to get their hands on it, so I hope they know I’m going to do my best here. I am only one per­son though. 🙂

4. Will you be podi­o­cast­ing your book? If so will you read it, or will you have some­one else do it?

At this time, I have no plans to pod­cast or audio­book the Endure series. Lydia and Daniel have unique voic­es to me, and I just don’t feel like I could do them jus­tice if I were to nar­rate it myself. First and fore­most, I’m con­cen­trat­ing on get­ting the writ­ten con­tent out, so peo­ple can enjoy the entire sto­ry arc as fast as I can toss it out there. I know how hard it is to wait between books in a series, so this is an exper­i­ment in rapid-fire con­tent for me. I’m curi­ous to see how it plays out.

5. Where do you see your­self and your writ­ing in ten years or so?

In ten years? Good­ness. Right now I’m just try­ing to get through the week!

I don’t real­ly know how to answer this. In an ide­al world I’d say “on top of the NYT Bestseller’s List”, but, real­ly, who wouldn’t want that? I sup­pose what I hon­est­ly want is for my writ­ing to be enjoyed by as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble, and hope­ful­ly make a lit­tle mon­ey for me. I like to keep my goals real­is­tic and achiev­able. That way, I don’t get too bogged down in how I’m not mak­ing any progress towards suc­cess. There will always be anoth­er mile­stone ahead, and anoth­er brass ring to grab. Def­i­n­i­tions of suc­cess change all the time and vary great­ly from one per­son to the next. Today I might tell you I’d be hap­py to sell even 100 copies of Maven. Tomor­row, it might be land­ing a great review on a book blog I admire with a lot of fol­low­ers. A year from now I could be com­plete­ly burnt out on this whole thing and just want six hours of unin­ter­rupt­ed sleep. I have no idea. That’s prob­a­bly a ter­ri­ble answer. Feel free to chuck­le.

I can total­ly relate Star­la. I wish you lots of luck get­ting those six hours of sleep, catch­ing up to the kid­dos, pub­lish­ing and find­ing a gid­dy appre­cia­tive audi­ence to read all of your work.

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starlaStar­la Huch­ton released her first nov­el, The Dreamer’s Thread, as a full cast pod­cast pro­duc­tion begin­ning in August 2009. Her first for­ay went on to become a dou­ble-nom­i­nee and final­ist for the 2010 Par­sec Awards. Since her debut, Starla’s voice has appeared in oth­er pod­casts includ­ing The Dunes­teef Audio Fic­tion Mag­a­zine, The Drab­ble­cast, and Erot­i­ca a la Carte. She is also a voice tal­ent for Dark­fire Pro­duc­tions, and nar­rates sev­er­al of their projects, includ­ing The Emperor’s Edge series, This Path We Share, and oth­ers. Her writ­ing has appeared in the Erot­i­ca a la Carte pod­cast, a short sto­ry for The Gear­heart, and an episode of the Tales from the Archives pod­cast (the com­pan­ion to Tee Mor­ris and Philip­pa Balantine’s Min­istry of Pecu­liar Occur­rences series), which gar­nered her a sec­ond final­ist badge from the 2012 Par­sec Awards. Her sec­ond nov­el, a Steam­punk adven­ture enti­tled Mas­ter of Myth, was the first place win­ner in the Fantasy/Science Fic­tion cat­e­go­ry of The Sandy Writ­ing Con­test held annu­al­ly by the Crest­ed Butte Writ­ers Con­fer­ence. Maven is her third com­plet­ed nov­el and the first in a planned series of four.

After com­plet­ing her degree in Graph­ic Arts at Mon­terey Penin­su­la Col­lege, Star­la opened up shop as a free­lance graph­ic design­er focus­ing on cre­at­ing beau­ti­ful book cov­ers for inde­pen­dent authors pub­lish­ers. She cur­rent­ly lives in Vir­ginia where she trains her three Min­ions and mil­i­tary hus­band.

You can find Star­la here:

Twit­ter

Goodreads

Face­book

Designed by Star­la

Upon the Wings of Greater Things

To Podiobook, or Not to Podiobook?

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I first came to know about Star­la while lis­ten­ing to Emperor’s Edge by Lind­say Buro­ker on my iPod.  With absolute­ly spot on read­ing, Star­la made lis­ten­ing to Emperor’s Edge, an already top notch sto­ry, a delight to lis­ten too.  I decid­ed to fol­low her on Twit­ter and then I looked her up online.  I learned that this woman not only does superb voice act­ing, but she’s also writ­ten and pod­cast­ed her own Par­sec nom­i­nat­ed nov­el.  Imag­ine how pleased I was when she agreed to vis­it my site to tell us about pod­cast­ing.  Thanks Star­la, for stop­ping by!

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When I was first asked to write this guest post, I looked at the broad scope of the top­ic and had a brief fit of pan­ic. Where do I start? After tak­ing a deep breath, I decid­ed “the begin­ning” was as good a place as any.

If you aren’t famil­iar with pod­cast­ing, think of it as on-demand radio. There are pod­casts out there for every inter­est, be it Buffy the Vam­pire Slay­er fan­dom, quilt­ing, astron­o­my… you name it, it’s prob­a­bly there.  There’s anoth­er type of pod­cast out there too, the pod­cast audio­book. This is what I’m going to speak to specif­i­cal­ly today.

A pod­cast audio­book?” you ask. Yes. Oth­er­wise known as the “podi­o­book”, these are (gen­er­al­ly) free episod­ic releas­es of writ­ten works. They run the gamut from full-blown, full-cast pro­duc­tions com­plete with music, sound effects and char­ac­ter voic­es to sim­ple, author-nar­rat­ed short sto­ries. They began appear­ing in 2005 with folks like Tee Mor­ris and Scott Sigler among the first wave of these con­tent pro­duc­ers. If you’re curi­ous about these begin­nings, I’d sug­gest this arti­cle.

Cur­rent­ly, podiobooks.com has 595 podi­o­books avail­able for down­load. All free, with the option to donate to the writ­ers. That’s to say noth­ing of how many oth­er authors and antholo­gies have works avail­able in their own feeds.

The main ques­tion you might ask is “why?”. Why would a writer give away their work for free? Is it worth it?

With­in the podi­o­books com­mu­ni­ty, that is the mil­lion-dol­lar ques­tion. Truth­ful­ly, I don’t think any­one knows the answer. Every indi­vid­ual mea­sures suc­cess dif­fer­ent­ly and takes away dif­fer­ent expe­ri­ences. Scott Sigler, Mur Laf­fer­ty, J.C. Hutchins, Philip­pa Bal­lan­tine, and Tee Mor­ris (to name a few), have found their way to tra­di­tion­al pub­lish­ing through this avenue. Many, many oth­ers… not so much. All I can tell you for sure is what my expe­ri­ence was and con­tin­ues to be.

I start­ed out in 2007 with a half-baked idea for my first Nation­al Nov­el Writ­ing Month. A year lat­er, I had a com­plete, albeit still half-baked, nov­el and was think­ing about send­ing queries and rid­ing the mad­den­ing tra­di­tion­al pub­lish­ing mer­ry-go-round.  A friend of mine dis­cov­ered my lit­tle word habit, and point­ed me to a podi­o­book he had pro­duced the audio for: Mur Lafferty’s “Play­ing for Keeps”. It’s one of my all-time favorites to this day and was the major rea­son I decid­ed to pod­cast “The Dreamer’s Thread”.

It snow­balled from there. Before long I was buy­ing audio equip­ment and obses­sive­ly scour­ing oth­er pod­casts for any voic­es I might be able to recruit for my own book. That’s right. First time out of the gate and I decid­ed to go big with a full cast pro­duc­tion. Essen­tial­ly, I lis­tened to oth­er podi­o­books and tried to match voic­es to my char­ac­ters, and then sent out polite, self-dep­re­cat­ing, plead­ing emails in hopes that I’d get at least a few pos­i­tive respons­es. To my shock, I received a slew of yeses, and only a sin­gle, soli­tary no. My excite­ment knew no bounds.

From there it was a whirl­wind of send­ing out scripts, pick­ing just the right music, record­ing the main nar­ra­tion, upload­ing files to my pro­duc­er (Jamie Jor­dan, the saint he is), send­ing lit­tle reminders to stray actors, scru­ti­niz­ing every episode for errors, and try­ing to be as vocal as I knew how to be on social media and my blog. In short, I had no idea what I was doing, but it was crazy fun!

My reward for all the hours of hard work and pro­mo­tion? Well, I wouldn’t call it “book sales”, but I wouldn’t trade what I have got­ten for any­thing (well, maybe a super-star lit­er­ary agent and a six-fig­ure con­tract, but that’s a big maybe). Not only was “The Dreamer’s Thread” a dou­ble-nom­i­nee and final­ist for the 2010 Par­sec Awards, but I have become a part of a com­mu­ni­ty that is ASTOUNDINGLY sup­port­ive and help­ful, made INCREDIBLE friends, grown and matured as a writer by LEAPS AND BOUNDS, been approached to write short pieces for sev­er­al oth­er projects, and even found employ­ment doing audio­book nar­ra­tion for REAL MONEY.  Before my podi­o­book expe­ri­ence, I had no idea I had tal­ent as a nar­ra­tor. It turns out, peo­ple actu­al­ly like lis­ten­ing to me read. Who knew? For me, all of these pos­i­tives would out­weigh by ten times what I had to put into it. You might then ask what that entailed…

It would be hard for me to put a price tag on my podi­o­book. I had a lot of help. Jamie did all the pro­duc­tion work for free, the music I used was free (though the hours I spent look­ing for it were mind-numb­ing), every­one who voiced a char­ac­ter donat­ed their time, and host­ing the pod­cast on podiobooks.com is free (but I also pay for a per­son­al feed). I invest­ed in a fair­ly decent micro­phone and mix­ing board, but I do all of my record­ing in Garage­Band, which is includ­ed on every Mac. How­ev­er, not every­one can (or should) nar­rate their own work. This is where peo­ple like the guys I work for at Dark­Fire Pro­duc­tions come in.

One of the books I’ve nar­rat­ed for Dark­Fire, “The Emperor’s Edge”, has done fair­ly well. If you’d like to see how the author, Lind­say Buro­ker, feels about her podi­o­book­ing expe­ri­ence, check out her post here  from when that pod­cast was about mid-way through it’s seri­al­iza­tion. She can more defin­i­tive­ly explain the mon­e­tary side of pod­cast­ing, for those curi­ous about what it might cost to hire the whole thing out.

I com­plete­ly agree with Lindsay’s assess­ment that podi­o­book­ing isn’t for every­one. Per­son­al­ly, I love it. It has enriched my life in more ways than I can count and I can­not say often enough how amaz­ing the con­trib­u­tors and fans are in that com­mu­ni­ty. If it’s some­thing you’d like to get into, or even if you just want free audio fic­tion for your ears, podiobooks.com is a great start­ing point. Join us!

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Star­la Huch­ton is an author, nar­ra­tor, and free­lance graph­ic design­er, focus­ing main­ly on book cov­er cre­ation. Her first nov­el, The Dreamer’s Thread, is a full cast pod­cast audio­book and gar­nered a dou­ble-nom­i­na­tion and was a final­ist for the 2010 Par­sec Awards. Her short fic­tion has appeared in the Erot­i­ca a la Carte and Tales from the Archives pod­casts, as well as the Far­ra­go Anthol­o­gy. When she is not stretch­ing her­self between 50 dif­fer­ent cre­ative projects, she is mom to three and wife to a Naval offi­cer. You can find her on Twit­ter (@riznphnx), Face­book, Podiobooks.com, Designed By Star­la, or her author site .