FWG Member Spotlight: Madison Keller

Tell us about yourself and a recent published project of yours.

I have been writing since 2012 and published my first novel near the end of 2014. My newest project is The Dragon Tax Book One, which came out in June 2016. This originally was published in 2015 as a short story in the anthology A Menagerie of Heroes, which went out of print just a few months later.

I’d had so much fun with the characters I’d already written several more stories of their continuing adventures. I’d planned on perhaps doing a series of linked short stories, but with the very first one out of print and hard to find, I scrapped that idea. However, I’d had to cut some scenes to fit in the word count limit and I had the idea to add back in those missing scenes and tighten up the story, making it a novella length work and republishing it as a stand alone first in the series.

The Dragon Tax Book One

Why do you like using “furry” characters in stories?

I enjoying figuring out how furry features and characteristics would change a society’s fundamental values. I also like using it to explore aspects of human behavior that wouldn’t come up in non-furry fiction.

What made you want to become a writer? Are there authors or books that strongly influenced you?

I was a huge bookworm and devoured the entire science fiction/fantasy section of the local library as I was growing up. I wanted to be a writer to tell the stories that filled my own head. However, I let others talk me out of pursing a career in writing and threw away everything I’d been writing in junior high and high school. With the advent of the Kindle I began reading many self-published works and was re-inspired to again put pen to page.

In high school I was inspired by the likes of Piers Anthony, Tracy Hickman, Walter Jon Williams, and Barbara Hambly. Lately I’ve been devouring A.E. Marling’s Enchantress series, Charles Stross’s Laundry files, and Jonathan Howard’s Necromancer series as well as many other books.

Tell us a bit about your writing process. Do you see yourself as a “pantser,” an outliner, or somewhere in between?

I’m an outliner all the way. Before I write a single sentence of my manuscript I’ll outline the plot, define all the major characters, and do high-level worldbuilding. As I write I will expand character profiles, add world-building details, and tweak the outline.

Do you have any advice you’d give other writers?

Don’t let other people discourage you and never stop writing. Read a lot, everything you can find, but especially books in your chosen genre.

What’s a project you’re working on now, or that may be coming out soon?

I’m currently juggling three projects—working on the next books in the Dragon Tax series, finishing up the final planned book in my Flower’s Fang universe, and outlining a new werewolf urban fantasy trilogy set in central Washington state that is as of yet un-named.

Where can people find you and your work?

All of my work can be found on Amazon or on my website, flowersfang.com.

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Member Spotlight: Rob Baird

1. Tell us about your most recent project (written or published). What inspired it?

I’ve been working on a short story cycle that follows the residents of a fictional small town on the Oregon coast. Cannon Shoals is typical of such towns, intimate but clannish, full of people who are trying to balance their dreams against the reality of economic depression and the sense that the world is passing them by. I was inspired by my summers spent in the Santiam Valley, and all the little towns you drive through on winding, lonely highways — places where the water dried up or the railroad left or the mill closed and things just, as the poem goes, “fell apart.” Yeats was talking about the cataclysm of the Great War, but I think that for many places the apocalypse is more subtle and more drab. There are a lot of interesting stories to tell there.

2. What’s your writing process like? Are you a “pantser,” an outliner, or something in between?

I believe in outlines. I say “believe” because it is something like faith! Generally when I start I try to know roughly where I’m going, even if I don’t end up getting there. I find it hard to begin writing with an empty page.

3. What’s your favorite kind of story to write?

My favorite kind of story is the kind where world-curious, upbeat animal-folk learn that there are few problems one cannot solve through the twin powers of good-natured optimism and clever banter. A lot of my stories are ones where I count it as a success if my readers come away with a smile, a lifted mood, and knowing some obscure bit of trivia that they didn’t know before.

4. Which character from your work do you most identify with, and why?

Teobas Franklyn starts my story An Iron Road Running as a starry-eyed, irrepressible kid on his first day of his dream job working on a railroad. Over the course of the novel, the work becomes more trying and he finds himself well out of his depth, but by keeping his wits about him he matures into someone people look to for help, guidance, and solutions to difficult problems. Teo, who ends the story still excited and optimistic, but with his optimism guided by world-wisdom, is the kind of person I’d like to grow up and become.

5. Which authors or books have most influenced your work?

Robert Heinlein and Rudyard Kipling, for the knack they have at celebrating and lauding individuals with indomitable spirits. Other golden-age SF writers, too: Leiber and Asimov and Cordwainer Smith. I know they seem archaic and even naïve now but I feel like that sense of optimism and grand adventure needs to be recaptured. That we should look with wonder and excitement to every new horizon; that frontiers still await us, be they physical or technological or scientific or philosophical — and that, moreover, through ingenuity and dedication and willpower and intellect, such frontiers are our birthright. Furry is such a singularity of great writers that it’s hard to name specific ones in fandom, but pretty much every time I sit down at a keyboard I wish I could write like Huskyteer and Cinnamon, or that I had the same honed gift for ideas as Rechan and Kyell Gold. Those are really the furry authors I look up to and who influence me.

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Member Spotlight: Amy Fontaine

1. Tell us about your most recent project (written or published). What inspired it?

I have a novel, Mist, forthcoming from Thurston Howl Publications. It’s not recently written, as I first wrote it a few years ago – back when I was in high school! But it’s a “recent” or more accurately a current project because I’m going to be working on it over the coming year as we prepare it for publication.

I never really knew what inspired Mist until I dug through an old journal and realized that before I started writing or even outlining the book I had a dream about five animals made of mist in this gray, veiled, mysterious place:  a wolf, a stag, a hare, a lynx, and a snake. Those animals ended up representing the five main characters of Mist, though the hare later morphed into a mongoose. The wonders of the subconscious mind!

2. What’s your writing process like? Are you a “pantser,” an outliner, or something in between?

Amy Fontaine - wolphicornIt really depends on the project. With short stories, I tend to get an idea and then just run with it and see what happens. Sometimes I know exactly where I’m going and sometimes I don’t, and sometimes I think I do and then the story has its own plan. With novels, I like to have more of an outline and a sense of the overarching structure before I begin. But it’s still somewhat fluid, and I am often surprised.

Poems usually come in sporadic bursts, like desert monsoons, and get refined later.

3. What’s your favorite kind of story to write?

I like to write speculative fiction – stories that ask questions, pose “What if?” scenarios, take the reader on a journey to a place where strange and wondrous things can happen.

4. Which character from your work do you most identify with, and why?

Hmm. This is a hard one. They are all their own people/creatures, but they all have little pieces of me inside them I suppose.

I can relate to the dragon narrator of “The Monster’s Story”, published in A Menagerie of Heroes (the RainFurrest 2015 Charity Anthology). He has such a wealth of love in his heart and just wants to be generous and kind. In the end the world uses that against him, though, in a sense, his love helps him to transcend it.

5. Which authors or books have most influenced your work?

Growing up, I loved the Harry Potter series, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, the Animorphs series, and The Last Unicorn. I also loved fiction and nonfiction about animals, including works by Jean Craighead George, Gary Paulsen, and Jack London. I think this amalgamation caused me to want to write stories involving magic and animals. A lot of my writing thus far has involved those two elements.

The Last Unicorn, The Lord of the Rings, and Animorphs also gave me an interest in stories with bittersweet, ambiguous endings. I don’t usually favor neatly tied-up happy endings. Such stories don’t haunt me. They don’t continue to live and breathe in my brain. And they aren’t consistent with reality.

Poetry-wise, Mary Oliver, Rainer Maria Rilke, William Stafford, and Naomi Shihab Nye are a few of my biggest influences.

6. What’s the last book you read that you really loved?

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. It’s a surreal, beautiful, richly detailed fantasy love story.

7. Besides writing, how do you like to spend your free time?amy fontaine

I am a wildlife biologist, so I spend a lot of my time chasing animals around. I also like to draw and play musical instruments, neither well. I enjoy reading about anything from astronomy to comparative mythology. I love traveling and exploring and seeing the world.

And I pray, because I am continually astounded and humbled by the universe and I’m grateful to be one small part of it.

8. Advice for other writers?

Don’t give up. If you love to write, make time for that passion in your life. If you want to be published, don’t let rejection stop you. Listen with an open mind to suggestions, refine and improve your craft, and keep trying.

Most importantly, daydream and have fun.

9. Where can readers find your work?

My author website is in the works, but for now, you can find a few samples of my work through my page on Goodreads. Contact me there if you’re interested in reading more!

10. What’s your favorite thing about the furry fandom?

I am a relative newcomer to the furry fandom, so I have never been to any conventions, nor am I a member of any furry websites other than the FWG forum. But I would love to attend a convention someday and meet others who share my interest in anthropomorphic animal characters.

What I like so far about this fun, dynamic place is its vibrant creativity, its diversity, its inclusiveness and friendliness, and its wonderful ways of combining two of my favorite things – fantasy and animals.

 

Check out Amy Fontaine’s member bio here!

Member Spotlight: Renee Carter Hall

1. Tell us about your most recent project (written or published). What inspired it?

Huntress smallMy most recent published work is Huntress, the story of a young anthro lioness’ journey to become one of her people’s elite female hunters. Some of the character names and deities were taken from an old notion I’d had many years before to write a Watership Down-style novel about regular lions, but the story of Huntress was inspired by an episode of the National Geographic Channel’s show Taboo. It focused on the practice of “breast ironing,” where young women have to either painfully flatten their breasts so they can stay “girls” and keep going to school, or let their bodies develop, officially becoming women, and then be forced into marriage. The conflict of that choice stayed with me, and a more extreme version of it became part of the book.

2. What’s your writing process like? Are you a “pantser,” an outliner, or something in between?

The process can vary from project to project, but for longer works I usually make a few pages of notes brainstorming possible scenes, characters, elements, and so forth, which then turns into a list of key scenes. It’s a pretty flexible, organic type of outline, though, and things often get added, changed, or moved as I get into the writing. The other part of my process is that I try to work longhand for first drafts whenever I can, especially for short pieces; for a lot of different reasons, it feels better to me than composing with a keyboard.

3. What’s your favorite kind of story to write?

I’ve always felt most at home in fantasy, whereas science fiction is more a place I visit the suburbs of but don’t feel comfortable venturing into the heart of the city. I like adding a touch of humor where I can. And of course, I like writing anything with an animal or animal-like character involved, or I wouldn’t be here!

4. Which character from your work do you most identify with, and why?realdragonscover

There’s a lot of me in Leya from Huntress — her longing, her drive, her perfectionism, and her questioning. I admit, though, sometimes I do feel like Dinkums from Real Dragons Don’t Wear Sweaters, wanting to be taken seriously as a fearsome creature of legend despite being pink, fuzzy, and cute. Whenever I feel like I should be writing some kind of gritty, edgy, epic trilogy that will win prestigious awards; whenever I feel like I’m just writing these silly, shallow little stories that will never really matter — yeah, that’s Dinkums.

5. Which authors or books have most influenced your work?

A lot of my influences aren’t technically (or primarily) authors, but when it comes to my furry fiction, it’s pretty easy to pick out the notable turning points on the timeline. I read Bambi around age 10 because I was curious how it compared to the movie — and found that in many ways I liked the book better. As I’ve read it again and again over the years, I’ve come to appreciate its reverence for the natural world and its adult sensibility that doesn’t resort to easy, sentimental answers. Later, books like Ratha’s Creature and Watership Down opened up the possibility of writing animal fantasy in a way that included culture and change (with or without humans being part of the mix). In late high school, I fell hard for the Redwall books, and though the formula eventually wore thin, that initial enchantment became a big influence on my first published novel, By Sword and Star (I wrote a whole blog post about that here).

Later on, around the time that I was getting into the furry fandom, I read S. Andrew Swann’s Forests of the Night and started to see possible ways to write the bipedal type of “furry” fiction, in addition to the more feral style of animal fantasy that I was already familiar with. Without question, my biggest influence among fandom works was a short story I discovered online, “Wings” by Todd G. Sutherland. That inspired my own story “Dog Days,” which then became my first story published within the fandom.

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Member Spotlight: George Squares

1. Tell us about your most recent project (written or published). What inspired it?

I think I’ve become known as a person interested in nonfiction writing just as much as fiction in the furry fandom. I publish things whenever I can at [adjective][species] (a team I’ve had so much pleasure working with), and I have a piece coming up about analyzing some of the sociological aspects of post-con depression.

But my biggest project, which I have been working on for well over a year now, is my novel The Bad in the Briar, which is about a fox with psychic powers who lives in an insular mountain community with a family who doesn’t have electricity. It’s a coming of age story with a splash of horror and adult content. I wanted to write a fantasy that felt very human and very earnest despite taking on an epic fantasy model. This might be a story about somebody from your home town who dropped off of the face of the earth as opposed to a crown prince discovering their heritage.

2. What’s your writing process like? Are you a “pantser,” an outliner, or something in between?

george squaresThe best metaphor I have for my process is something akin to clay relief sculpting. You have a planning stage where you draw out a rough idea of what you want your sculpture to look like. You add large chunks of clay to the piece, which look ugly and gormless as first, but once the big chunk is on the slate, you go through a subtractive process to redefine elements of your sculpture. You carve in small details and remove a lot of the raw product to make a beautiful piece, and then you add more rough shapes into the artwork to slowly shape it, repeating your process.

So for writing, I’ll do a very non-detailed skeleton outline. It will be simple and sparse but it will have a clear beginning, middle and end. I’ll leave myself a lot of wiggle room for the in-betweens to grow organically, but knowing what is going to happen with big decisions in the plot helps me ahead of time. It also allows me to work on something like the end before I write the beginning, or vice versa. Sometimes your finished product is going to veer away from your original plan, but that’s the nature of art, and sometimes it works out for the better.

Keeping a plan very simple is helpful for me, because I know that as you write and continue to add prose, you’ll introduce complications of your own, and the story will develop like a weed that’s getting out of control. You don’t have to add more complications to the planning stage.

3. What’s your favorite kind of story to write?

A lot of the pieces I tend to work on draw inspiration from living around poverty for most of my life. I like thinking about the places in America (and not just America) that often don’t get their stories told. Really bizarre, niche things like the inexplicable phenomenon that is roadside dinosaurs, or towns in the deep South that still exist to this day which only have one federal building in their town–that building being the post office.

We have places in America like the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina which is this grand, majestic castle showing off the wealth and opulence of the Vanderbilts that exists within driving distance of some of the most ridiculous tourist traps you’ve ever seen; things like gemstone mines with egregious pictures of cartoon prospectors where tiny children pan for uncut gems and go wild about owning a “real-life” emerald. That kind of juxtaposition is amazing to me.

I also feel like for a community that spends so much of its time talking to long distance friends over the internet, surprisingly few stories incorporate aspects of online life. Little things like sending a text or showing off a character’s typing habits, or one person’s tendency to make typos versus another person. I try to incorporate how social dynamics have evolved a bit when it comes to things like instant messengers, texts and twitter.

Something that’s interesting to me is also how I feel like I’ve become this inadvertent liaison between writers who write and love erotica and writers who strictly write for a general audience. I write both of these things, and I care a heck of a lot about both. Furry is an interesting space that I think desperately needs stuff like smutty gay fiction as well as something you may read and say “oh hey, I can easily see this getting The John Newbery Medal.” All I can say is that art comes in many different forms, and I have high standards for all of it, no matter the content or the purpose of the writing.

4. Which character from your work do you most identify with, and why?

I think a lot of things that have irked me about adventure or fantasy novels is that the main character is stressed as an “every man.” They’re supposed to be our windows into fantastic worlds and they aren’t supposed to have the strongest personalities because it’s believed that these types of characters can be easier to relate to. That’s always bothered me, so I wanted to spend extra time on making sure I really liked the protagonist of The Bad in the Briar, Keene. He’s this quiet, observant guy with decent intentions. He hasn’t been dealt the best cards in life, but he copes with them in the best ways that he can, and I try to make those coping mechanisms fun. Continue reading

Member Spotlight: Tarl “Voice” Hoch

1. Tell us about your most recent project (written or published). What inspired it?

My most recent project is what I have come to call ASfHA. (Which stands for: Anthropomorphic Science Fiction Horror Anthology, which is quite a mouthful as you can see.) It’s largely inspired by a number of science fiction horror films I watched while growing up. Chief among these being Alien, Aliens, and Event Horizon. There is something to be said for the terrors that the future will bring to humans as we take each step forwards, and that intrigues me.

2. What’s your writing process like? Are you a “pantser,” an outliner, or something in between?

VoiceSpiderI’m a total pantser. Maybe it had to do with all the essays I had to write in University, but my stories only seem to flow when I am keyboard composing. I’ve tried doing the whole outline thing, and when it worked it worked beautifully, but ultimately I work better on the fly. The characters take on a life of their own and the story they tell is theirs. I’m just there to put it into words.

3. What’s your favorite kind of story to write?

The members of my local writer group would say ‘Female Betrayal’.

Really though, I enjoy writing stories with complex characters and the interactions between them. Take my Raven and Holly stories (featured in Taboo and Will of the Alpha 2 & 3, all published by FurPlanet). I’m not a huge fan of setting stories in our current timeline, yet here are a couple I can’t seem to get enough writing about. Sure, the stories are erotic, but the more you look into Raven and Holly’s lives, the more you realize just how complex it is and how much juggling it takes to maintain their polyamorous relationship. It’s something I enjoy exploring and more importantly, want to keep exploring.

4. Which character from your work do you most identify with, and why?

Kaden Stockheimer from Wild Night in Trick or Treat, published by Rabbit Valley.

I spent my twenties as a goth and even now still dip into the culture every so often since hanging up my lucky PVC pants. Kaden represents a lot of my own attitudes from that time in my life, and his experiences with his friends and his girlfriend share a lot of echoes with my own life. He’s not a self inserted character by a long shot, but is the closest I have ever come to putting a part of me into a character.

5. Which authors or books have most influenced your work?abandonedplaces cover

Lovecraft is easily my primary influence. Yes, he was a terribly xenophobe and racist, but he wrote weird fiction that changed the face of horror and influenced many of today’s contemporary horror masters. The scope of his horrors, the inclusion of multi-generational sin, and the idea that mankind is insignificant and unimportance in the scope of the universe are themes that still resonate today and are interesting to explore while writing.

C.L.Werner is another one. Despite writing primarily in the preexisting Warhammer setting, Werner manages to bring his own flavour and personal preferences to his writing. His fantasy stories always seem to have a touch of Lovecraft to them without smacking of it, and that’s always a win for me.

Lastly, Andrzej Sapkowski has recently become a large influence to me. His fantasy novels are easily the most realistic ones I have read when it comes to his characters and their interactions. Much like real life, his characters wear different masks for different situations or people, and often the dueling dialogues between them are as engaging as his fight scenes.

6. What’s the last book you read that you really loved?

She Nailed a Stake Through His Head: Tales of Biblical Terror, edited by Tim Lieder and published by Dybbuk Press. The concept captured my attention due to my degree in religious studies and my love of horror anthologies. The stories within were amazing and extremely creative. Not only did the writers who submitted capture various themes found within the Bible, but did it in such ways as to make your skin crawl and breath quicken over a variety of timelines.

7. Besides writing, how do you like to spend your free time?

tarl oceanI work with Ocean, Roland and Yannarra on the writing podcast Fangs and Fonts, which has been going for over two years now. I also read a lot, go for hikes, tend to my two feline overlords and fursuit for charities when time permits.

8. Advice for other writers?

When your inner voice says you can’t write, ignore it.

Keep writing, never stop, and continue to practice your craft. You will always continue to improve as long as you write. No matter how bad a rejection may sting or linger in your mind, always remember that you can either run from it, or learn from it. And trust me, learning from it is always the better option. Less repetition of painful lessons that way.

9. Where can readers find your work?

Primarily my works can be found through FurPlanet while my non-furry works can be found on Amazon. For a full list of what I have done, readers can check out my Goodreads page:

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5759304.Tarl_Voice_Hoch

10. What’s your favorite thing about the furry fandom?

It’s where I met my wife.

Also, the sheer creative force in the fandom is amazing to watch. We have people from every walk of the creative arts who are constantly creating, be it stories, artwork, dance routines, music, you name it, furries create it. We’ve come a long way from when I first got into the fandom, and that was only 20 years ago. I am excited to see where this all goes, what works we create and how we will continue to change mainstream culture. It’s an exciting time for the fandom and I love it.

 

Check out Tarl “Voice” Hoch’s member bio here!

Member Spotlight: Sorin Kat

1. Tell us about your most recent project (written or published). What inspired it?

My most recent published pieces as a short story in FANG.  Exploring themes of betrayal and especially betrayal of friends or loved ones, the action piece followed an agent for a covert intelligence agency that gets tricked into romance and betrayed by the secret object of his affections.  I was really thrilled to explore some of the aspects of betrayal in love.  While in a limited scope because of the length limits and requirements of the piece, I was most excited about digging in the surface of the concept of love by trickery and if it really can ever be a one-sided exercise.

2. What’s your writing process like? Are you a “pantser,” an outliner, or something in between?

I am definitely more of a pantser when I write.  While I like to have an idea in my head when it comes to the direction the story will go, I often enjoy the organic joy of discovering the twists and turns with my characters.  I feel this adds a sense of life and energy to the story that the characters are taking the reader on as well.

3. What’s your favorite kind of story to write?

I enjoy writing urban paranormal/fantasy, romance and science fiction.  Often i find the most compelling stories include a mix of these genres.  As for the types of stories, I like stories with a dark side, betrayal, loss and elements of hopelessness go a long way to craft a story that the characters can overcome… or fall to, depending on the overall mood of the tale.

4. Which character from your work do you most identify with, and why?

While there is not a specific character in my work that I relate to whole cloth, I tend to relate more to the characters that express a strong sense of self and often find themselves the underdog of my stories.  I find that characters that start the story strong have the furthest to fall and the most compelling build back up again which I enjoy.

5. Which authors or books have most influenced your work?

I take influence from a lot of authors both furry and non.  In the mainstream, Orson Scott Card, Jim Butcher, David Eddings, Ursula K. Le Guin, Alan Dean Foster and Anne McCaffrey are my tops!  Within the fandom I often find inspiration in the writings of Kyell Gold, Kevin Frane and Ryan Campbell.

6. What’s the last book you read that you really loved?

A book by Alan Dean Foster called Quozl about a lapine-like race of aliens that come to earth on a generation ship to colonize it only to find that humans are already there!  The story is compelling, following a few generations of the colonists and looking into their unique culture shaped by their ultra-violent past.  A very interesting read!

7. Besides writing, how do you like to spend your free time?

Truth be told, I’m a geek.  Most of my free time is taken up with tabletop board games and RPGs, Live Action Role Playing (and the crafting and costume work that goes with it), computer games, movies and socializing with friends!

8. Advice for other writers?

So cliche, but write!  In the end it doesn’t matter what, but write often and keep everything you write, even if you hide it in a shoe box and pull it out to marvel at your improvement, just do it!  Computer, pen and paper, anything, just write!

9. Where can readers find your work?

I post stories on SoFurry under Sorinkat, or you can check out some of my published works in the RainFurrest charity anthologies, FANG 7 and a few scattered convention books.

10. What’s your favorite thing about the furry fandom?

I love the general sense of acceptance that the fandom has.  It’s so refreshing to be part of a group of people that are willing to let people be who they are and are generally friendly about it!

 

Check out Sorin Kat’s member bio here!