Monday, February 9, 2015

Feature: Janet McKnulty author of Solaris Seethes


Every myth has a beginning.


After escaping the destruction of her home planet, Lanyr, with the help of the mysterious Solaris, Rynah must put her faith in an ancient legend. Never one to believe in stories and legends, she is forced to follow the ancient tales of her people: tales that also seem to predict her current situa-tion.


Forced to unite with four unlikely heroes from an unknown planet (the philosopher, the warrior, the lover, the inventor) in order to save the Lanyran people, Rynah and Solaris embark on an ad-venture that will shatter everything Rynah once believed.



Marlow warned this day would come. The day when Lanyr, my home, would cease to exist, destroyed by a man who thought only of the power he could acquire. Before he died, Marlow made me promise to look after his granddaughter, Rynah—to guide her.


“She is the key,” he said, “the key to stopping a most dangerous man.”


My name is Solaris. I am a ship, a vessel some consider archaic, but I have a secret—a purpose.


What inspired you to write this book?


I had been wanting to write a good space adventure for some time, and I love space odysseys, so I decided to start thinking about how I would accomplish such a feat. I wanted a computer intelligence in the story, every science fiction book needs one, but I wanted mine to have a bit of an attitude. But, mostly, I wanted to write a story that we can all relate to.


The story of Solaris had been brewing in my mind long before I ever wrote the first word, and long before I realized that I wanted to be a writer. While still in middle school I had gotten the idea of crystals that possess some kind of super power and aliens that are searching for them. Over the years, bits and pieces of the story came to me, but it wasn’t until two years ago that those pieces started making sense and I outlined the first book.


Can you give us an interesting fact about your book that isn't in the blurb?


One interesting bit of trivia, that isn’t in this book, and might not be mentioned in the others, just alluded to, is that Rynah’s grandfather had actually visited Earth. He didn’t know it at the time and did not stay long, but in his search for the crystals, he had landed on our little planet.


How did you choose your title?


I love science fiction, but I really love a good adventure story and wanted to write a story that took place in outer space. While trying to figure out how I could do that, I decided to sit outside one night and star gaze, which happens to be a favorite pastime of mine. The name Solaris popped into my head, and I thought that it would be a good name of a character. I did some research on it and learned that it means “of the sun” and I decided that I could work that into a story.


After that, I outlined the character of Solaris and then made each title of the series match the overall theme of the individual book and her reaction to it. So the title Solaris Seethes is perfect because her planet has just been destroyed, and she is very angry about it.


Tell us about the cover and how it came to be.


The cover underwent several changes, which influenced that cover for this book. I found someone on Fiverr who did artistic font work and asked her to show me what the word Solaris would look like. She did and I loved it so much that I knew I wanted to use it on the cover of all of the books in the series. For a small fee, she rendered the image files and sent them to me.


Then, I had hired one artist to help me with the concept and background of the cover and his work was good, but there seemed to be something missing. I hung onto the artwork for a while, trying to decide what it needed.


Still unable to figure out what the cover lacked, I decided to contact another artist friend of mine. He had done a some covers for me for some of my other books. When he sent me his artwork—the exploding planet of the final cover for book one—I knew he had nailed it, but there was still one thing about it that needed changing. His original idea had an image of Rynah on there, but I found it distracting and asked if we could change it to that of a crystal, since that is what the story focuses on. He did and I knew I had found the right cover for my book.


After I had gotten what I needed for Solaris Seethes, I had asked the same artist if he would do the covers for the rest of the series and he did, using only my rough drafts of the novels as a guide. I believe he understood my books, and the overall theme of the series; and I like the classic, or old-school look, that he gave them.


Did you self-publish or publish traditionally and why?


I self-published. I had wanted to publish traditionally, and had tried with other novels, including this one, but was rejected each time. My mother had told me about Createspace and Amazon publishing when I was working on my very first novel Legends Lost: Amborese and I chose to publish it myself. I made a lot of mistakes with it in the writing quality and in the publishing part, but from those mistakes, I learned what I needed to make Solaris shine.


For the past two years, while writing my Solaris series, I studied how to improve my writing, but I also learned proper book formatting for print and ebook. Though, I was also submitting Solaris to various publishers, but no one wanted to take a chance on it. Some had said that it was an interesting concept, but not what they were looking for. This left me with only one option if I wanted to see it published: publishing it myself.


So, I took what I had learned about proper book formatting for both print and digital, hired an illustrator to do the cover artwork, purchased ISBNs for the various formats, registered for an LCCN and released Solaris Seethes in December of 2014.


One of the advantages of self-publishing is that I decide when my books are released and my readers do not have to wait a year or two for the next one. They may have to wait a couple of months, but before the year is out, they will have the entire series.


What do you consider the most important part of a good story?


Relatable characters. Every book needs a good storyline, but the reader also needs to be able to relate to the main character, or characters. If you can’t identify with the characters in a novel, you’re not going to care about them, their tribulations, or their victories.


What is your writing process?


A jumbled mess. My writing process usually starts with me just writing little bits and pieces of a story, usually a short scene or piece of dialogue, on paper, napkins, envelopes—anything I can find to write on. Then it gets thrown into a box and remains there until I start going through the pieces and put them in outline form in a notebook. After that, I edit my outline constantly. I’ll make changes to it even while writing the rough draft of my novels.


My stories always come to me as small scenes that are out of sequence and incoherent. It isn’t until I start writing them down that I figure out how they fit together, and form a story around them.


How long have you been writing?


For about 15 years off and on. But I’ve only been writing full-time and as a published author, for about four.


How did you get started writing?


I started writing short stories while in grade school and kept the habit up all the way through college. Most of the stories I wrote as a child have been lost, or thrown into the trash. But that is where it all began. Never thought that I would make a career out of it.


What part of the writing process is the hardest for you?


Getting started and then keeping the momentum going once I’ve begun. Sometimes I will have a good start on writing a chapter, but then get sidetracked. Staying focused can be difficult because I have so many bits and pieces of my story going through my head all at the same time, which forces me to focus on one while hoping I don’t forget to write down the others.


What tips can you give on how to get through writers block?


Keep writing. One of the worst things you can do when you have writer’s block is to stop writing. The only way to cure it is to write anything that comes into your head; it doesn’t even need to relate to what you are currently working on. You may even get a new book out of it. That’s how I got the idea for Mellow Summers. I was experiencing writer’s block and decided to write down the first thing that entered my head in an effort to cure it, and the idea of a woman turned mature sleuth who is plagued by a ghost ended up on paper.


So if you are experiencing writer’s block, just spend five minutes writing down anything that enters your head.


What kind of music do you like to listen to while you write?


Instrumental music. I have a playlist on Youtube of music by Audiomachine, Two Steps from Hell, and other musicians like them. I can’t listen to music with actual lyrics because then I will spend all of my time singing along. Instrumental music, seems to help me focus.


Read anything good lately?


I just finished reading a book called The Labyrinth by Joni Mayhan. It’s pretty good and I enjoyed it. It’s a nice short, mystery, thriller type book geared towards young adults. Because I am so busy working on my own novels, I don’t have a lot of time to read anything that is really long, but this was only about 130 pages, so I was able to get through it in a few of hours. It was  very straight forward read, with a few twists, and I found myself unable to put it down.


What do you like to do when you're not writing?


Gardening. I like to be outside, but if it’s too cold, then I’ll curl up with a good book, or catch up on some of my favorite TV shows on Netflix. Sometimes I will bake something. The only problem with that is I then end up eating it all.


What advice would you give an author just starting out?


Get your book written first. Then edit, edit, edit, until it is as close to perfect as you can make it. Worry about the publishing process after your books is written.


Once you have finished your book, try submitting it to some publishers. You might get lucky and get picked up, but if you don’t, then publish it yourself. Make sure you hire a good cover designer and formatter.


There are a lot of hurdles that authors need to cross, especially if they are just starting out. But even seasoned ones run into obstacles. All you ca do is keep going forward and keep trying. Giving up is the surest way to failure. Also, keep in mind that success does not happen overnight. It is more of a long term process.


Have you had anything else published?


Yes. I have published other series: Legends Lost, the Dystopia Trilogy, and the Mellow Summers Series. Legends Lost is a young adult fantasy. Dystopia is a dystopian series, as it name suggests. Mellow Summers I think people will like. It’s a light-hearted, short, paranormal mystery, that is more comedy than horror.


I have also published a few children’s books, most notably, Mr. Chili.


What's your next project?


I’m not sure at this point. I am still finishing up my Solaris Series and Solaris Seeks will be released this coming spring. The final books in my Solaris series should keep me busy for the rest of this year.


After Solaris, I am not certain what I will write. Maybe I will try my hand at a paranormal romance. I know that a lot of paranormal romances have been released after the success of Twilight, so, if I do write one, it will probably be more of an adventure story and less of a romance. Romance isn’t my forte, but it would be fun to try it.


Ms. McNulty began writing short stories at an early age. That passion continued through college until she published her first book: Legends Lost: Amborese under the pen name of Nova Rose. Since then, she has gone on to publish a mystery series, children’s books, and even a dystopian series.


Recently, her grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, causing her to visit her grandparents and record her grandfather’s memoirs before they become lost. The final result is Grandpa’s Stories: The 20th Century as My Grandfather Lived It. She did this to preserve her family history before it becomes lost.


Ms. McNulty currently lives in West Virginia, where she enjoys hiking, being outside, crocheting, or simply sitting around and doing nothing. She continues writing and is busy working on the next book in her Solaris Series.

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