Featured Writer: Samantha Chaffin

I think first Sam started reading Esmeralda, and then I read her then contest entry “Death Touch”, and from there we told each other what excellent writers each other were (she has probably been lying to me all along, but I like her praise so I don’t mind) and have been “writing buds” ever since. She’s even one of the few I knew would be honest enough with me to be allowed to read my horrid original ending to “Esmeralda”.

You’ll just have to accustom yourself to the knowledge that she’s way more awesome than the rest of us.  It’s the truth.  And her writing? Holy. Moly. Quit now, is my advice. Because she’s monopolizing the market on epic.  Her current Pirate novel, Privateer, has me in its clutches; I’m Team Benjamin. 😉

Here’s a bit about Sam, taken from her blog:

“I love me some Jesus Christ. He’s my All in All.  I’m a student at the University of Southern California, working toward a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre and English (Creative Writing). Class of 2014.  I base characters on especially bizarre people that I meet (so beware), and I have a deep and undying love for historical fiction and fairytales.  When I watch movies, I usually end up rooting for the villain, especially if the villain is Alan Rickman or Zachary Quinto.  I quote the movie “The Princess Bride” like a lunatic.  I have an almost fanatical devotion to Paris, France. Jk, it’s totally fanatical.  I never learned to walk in high heels without tripping/falling/causing catastrophic damage.  Last but never least, I love books. Real, honest-to-goodness books that have covers and paper and ink.”

From all the way over in ‘Sunny California’ she answered a couple of questions for me:

What inspired you to write Privateer?

In general, I can only begin a story when I hear the voice of a character so clearly in my head that I just can’t ignore the urge to put him or her on paper (or on Word Document!). In the case of Privateer, I had actually had the protagonist Charmaine Trenton in mind for months. I saw in my head exactly what she looked like, how she talked, and essentially all of the personality traits that made her who she was. The only thing she was lacking was a name and a plot to live in. Big problems, right? So I let Charmaine kind of brew in my head for a while, until the summer of 2011 when I went to see the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie with a friend. I ended up placing all of my hopes for the quality of the movie onto the single most interesting character—the woman pirate Angelica Teach (played by Penelope Cruz) who is first introduced as impersonating a man (Jack Sparrow). By the end of the movie, I was sorely disappointed; I thought Angelica had so much potential as a character, but she was almost immediately cast into the Hollywood female character archetype, depicted as subtly subordinate to the male protagonist. When I got home, I was still fuming over it. Then I thought about Charmaine. And I thought some more about pirates and how I have always wanted to write a pirate story. And I thought to myself, “Self. It’s got to be done.”

Would you describe the book a little?

“A little” being the key phrase there. Sure! Privateer is set in the 16th century during the reign of Elizabeth I, and the book opens with the discovery of Queen Elizabeth’s bastard son, who has been hidden away from the world. Meanwhile, Captain Charmaine Trenton, a pirate turned “privateer,” has been blackmailed into doing the bidding of a power-hungry English lord, as he is holding her sister hostage. The only way Charmaine can save her sister is if she kidnaps the bastard prince and uses him as a bargaining chip for her sister’s life, and so she sails off to do just that, but along the way, unplanned adventures and romance and mass chaos ensue. Sometimes all at the same time. Most times, in fact.

What is your favorite thing you ever wrote / are writing?

Usually, my most current project is the thing that I am most in love with. I’m very fickle in that sense… feel free to judge me. But even though I do love Privateer, I think that the novella I wrote over this past summer—“How, Ever”—is probably the piece that I am most proud of (so far in my writing life). “How, Ever” was the story that scared me the most to write, because the issues it addresses are both controversial and very near and dear to my heart, and I was terrified of portraying them in the wrong light. But I am very happy with the result of my decision to plow ahead with it anyway.

What book(s) are you reading now?

I am currently reading an Alexander Pushkin novel in verse, called Eugene Onegin. It’s the first piece of Russian literature I have ever read, and it is absolutely wonderful! It’s about a man who loses his wealth and is forced to move to the countryside. There, a young lady falls in love with him and tries everything to woo him. Mostly, I’m just reveling in the fact that it’s translated from Russian, and all of the lines still somehow rhyme. Brain explosion.

Do you have favorite “noveling music”?

Do I ever. I make entire playlists for each of my stories, because I am just that neurotic. But in general, I listen to film scores. Songs with words tend to distract me while writing. I also start typing out the lyrics without realizing I’m doing it, which is really fun when I go back to reread what I’ve written. Some of my favorite scores are those for Pride & Prejudice (Dario Marianelli), Stardust (Ilan Eshkeri), Peter Pan (James Newton Howard), the first two The Chronicles of Narnia (Harry Gregson-Williams) soundtracks, and of course, Pirates of the Caribbean (Klaus Badelt).

Is there a cliché that turns up in more than one of your stories?

Nope. I’m perfect. No, actually, I don’t know if this is a cliché, per say, but whenever one of my characters realizes that he or she has been lied to, there will be a confrontation, and at some point, I promise you that someone will burst out, “YOU LIED TO ME” (sans caps lock… sometimes). Oh yes. And there are more ridiculous/awful one-liners that I use without fail in my first drafts. I constantly have to remind myself to tone down the drama.

Ever cried over killing your own character?

I’ve never cried, but I’ve definitely had to fight myself on it. Like any writer, I get way too attached to my characters way too quickly, and even if I’ve planned their deaths from the beginning, I always find it hard to kill them off. Even if they’re villains! I have to get up and take a walk or eat a carton of ice cream after I write a death scene. Which is why I will never write an apocalypse story.

If you could go on a date with any literary character, who would it be?

Ooo, okay, I have three. Can I have three? James Sterling from Jade Parker’s To Catch a Pirate (I know, I know, I’m on the pirate thing), because we’d probably go on some crazy adventure to commandeer a ship or something, which would be basically awesome. Geric from Shannon Hale’s The Goose Girl, because when he’s not being princely he’s really easygoing and adorable, and I could totes go for a picnic. And Etienne St. Clair from Stephanie Perkin’s Anna and the French Kiss, because swoon. So many emotions.

Do your books ever change drastically from your initial idea?

That’d be a yes to the power of fifteen billion. I outline because I have to, but even then, I will inevitably stray from it and come up with “brilliant” new plot twists that conflict with the rest of my story, and my draft will end up in knots. But they’re usually the good kind of knots, the kind you can pick apart eventually with a little poking and prodding and smoothing out. If I didn’t ever change my initial ideas, I would have a whole slew of boring stories on my hands.

Favorite snack while writing? (I’m a nutella girl.)

I have three words for you. Cheddar. Cheese. Twists. These things… your taste buds will sing the Hallelujah Chorus. I can’t even.

Have you ever shamelessly plagiarized a storyline, phrase, character, setting?

Besides taking the idea of Angelica in POTC4 and messing with her so that she came out how I wanted her to (i.e. a completely different and mostly unrelated character)? Usually, I draw my inspiration from real life experiences, so I don’t usually have that problem… but if you count using things I’ve overheard in everyday life as plagiarism, then yes, I am so incredibly guilty it’s not even funny. Seriously, my friends have learned to watch their mouths around me. I keep a list of all of the crazy things my little brother says, just so I can use them for a character someday. Don’t tell him.

And finally, have you ever had a crush on a fictional character? If so, who was it?

Is this similar to the date question? Can I use those three again? I also have a major fictional character crush on a certain awesome prince from a certain awesome book that’s yet to be published, written by a certain awesome lady who happens to be conducting this

interview. His name is Leopold and the book is Esmeralda, and I am certifiably head-over-heels for him because he’s practically perfect in every way, except for his flaws, which make me love him more. True facts.


Ain’t she fantastic?  Check her out on Figment here, and drop whatever you’re doing this moment to read Privateer here.

And lastly, check out her fantastic and often hilarious blog here.



Featured Writer: Reagan Dyer

Reagan has been a writing buddy of mine since- actually a while ago; I don’t remember when we “met” on Figment and started chatting. It seems like every time we talk, we discover more things that we have in common, from our love for ALL THINGS Broadway to growing up reading the Mary Poppins books. She’s one of the cool kids. Plus she’s writing a novel about SteamPunk Aeronautics. Yup.

In describing herself, she says this:
“I’m just an old school, seventeen-year-old, born-again Christian writer who loves dancing in the rain, counting shooting stars, obsessing over musical theatre, wearing converse sneakers, and laughing with my best friend.” -The Newsie

Her name is Reagan Dyer, but she also has a pseudonym, Jackie Falcon, which she uses on Figment.

Her novel-in-progress Flyboy has recently enthralled me and I’m anxious to see where it goes. Check it out HERE!

Earlier this week she “interviewed” me on her blog, sparking the (not-so-original) idea in me to do the same! So here she is; we “sat down” over facebook and here are her answers to my questions:

What inspired you to write “Flyboy”?

Well, I have always loved flying. I am in love with vintage aircraft and someday I want to own a vintage, bright red biplane named the Skylark. So, naturally, I decided it was high time to write a story about flying–a girl who loves to fly and will do so despite all cost. I had been struggling to find which genre it would fit in, and then steampunk just kind of clicked into place.

Would you describe the book a little?

Like I said, it is a steampunk novel about a girl, Jacey Drake, who gets into the Conservatory of Aeronotics with nothing but guts and a dream to fly. Flying is a man’s area of expertise, and she is always reminded of that fact. Two provinces are coming into conflict: the Uplands [the islands in the sky that the Government controls with strict regulation after the War] and the Lowlands [a vast array of low islands that are lost in the mist and clouds of the sky–a place where criminals are exiled]. And now the Lowlanders are building their own Sky Force to rival that of the Uplands’ Ether Squad. And Jacey is caught right in the middle, torn between two worlds. She also meets a mysterious boy, Kit Morgan, who, even though he might be a pilot worth his salt, has a few deep secrets.

What is your favorite thing you ever wrote / are writing?

That’s a pretty hard one to answer, I’ll have to admit. I’m working on the idea of a novel that has taken root in my mind and is totally different from anything I’ve attempted before, and that should be fun. I have also written a short story called The House of the Wind that I really love. But I think the one I’ve stuck most with is Den of Thieves, and it has sure been a ride. So that is my favorite for right now. If I ever get around to finishing Starkeeper’s Gate and actually making it as awesome as I’ve planned, then that will be my favorite thing I’ve written. But for right now, it’s Den of Thieves.

What book(s) are you reading now?

I just finished reading The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater for the second time. One of my favorite books! I’m starting Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott [a long overdue book] and True Valor by Dee Henderson, a story about a woman pilot.

Do you ever base characters on people you actually know?

Doesn’t every writer? I had great fun one time writing a story for my bestie based all on characters we knew in real life. I find myself watching people all the time, taking note of their habits and how they look, and thinking that they would fit very well in a novel.

Personal taste: mountains, beach or desert?

the author in question

Okay, originally coming from SoCal [I’m a converted Texan now] I love my beaches. However, I simply love the smell of spicy pines, woodsmoke, and fresh air just off the mountains. So, between mountains, beach, or desert, I’m choosing mountains. Because, I mean, sitting there in a warm sweater and jeans and breathing in the chilly breeze, you could write just about anything. But, I have to say, moors beat all three of those. I first got a taste of the Yorkshire moors while falling in love with The Secret Garden, and have loved them ever since. Moors are so beautiful and wild and windy…

Are you anything like Jacey (or another heroine of yours)? If so, how?

I like to think I am. I like to think I’d have the guts to do what she did. And in some ways, I am like her. I’m from a small town that nobody’s heard of and I absolutely love to fly. I also have what some of my friends like to call an Irish temper, and Jacey tends to flare up as well. I have yet to meet a Kit Morgan in real life, though [a misfortune I’m seriously lamenting]. Out of all my characters, though, I think I’m most like Jordie Cruize [Russell] from The Starkeeper’s Gate. She, just like me sometimes, is content to sit in the background and watch everybody else–but she also has a fiery spark. But other than that, I tend to make my characters different than myself. I don’t know why–I guess just for the thrill of being able to create anyone you’d like.

What’s the first story/poem you remember writing?

Oh. That. Well. The first “novel” I ever attempted, when I was around eight or nine, was inspired by C.S. Lewis. It was about four children [two boys and two girls, of course] living in England, who go to visit their grandmother during the summer. And they find a door into another world and have a bunch of adventures, because I’m just creative like that––although I didn’t get that far… I remember one of the boys’ names was Edward, so his nickname was Ed. And I have been writing stories ever since.

How many pen-names have you used (I know I’ve tried out a good half-dozen at least)?

Well, currently I write under the pen name Jackie Falcon. I also sign my blog posts and other bits of writing “-The Newsie”. I have used Stormie Skye and Stormie Jackson as well. I love pen names, so I’m not sure how many more times I’ll change mine till I find a permanent one.

Do you cry watching movies / reading books?

I am very emotional when reading books and watching movies. [Just ask my friends.] I cry whenever dogs or horses die in books, I bawled when Dumbledore died [even though I already knew what was going to happen], and I cried when Fred, Tonks, Remus, and Colin Creevey died in the last Harry Potter book. I was literally sobbing on my friend’s shoulder while I watched The Notebook, and dreamt about sinking ships and drowning people after Titanic. And don’t get me started on Braveheart. I think I have cried more watching that for the first time than I have for any other movie.

Pick a book to spend a day inside of:

Oh. That is hard. Very hard. I could say Lord of the Rings and just lose myself in Tolkien’s sheer brilliance. Or I could say Scorpio Races and have a fast Capall Uisce beneath me, sand in my eyes, wind in my hair, running the deadliest horse race of all time. Or maybe Airborn so I could pilot an airship with Matt Cruse. Living in Harry Potter would be pretty awesome. Or I could just choose Name of the Wind and follow Kvothe around asking him “How do you pull those seven words? And which do you think is worse, stealing a meat pie or killing someone?” In short, I don’t know. How about many days, and several books?

When do you write (morning, afternoon, dusk, midnight, 3am)?

Whenever it strikes my fancy. I write whenever I feel the inspiration start to strike. [Unfortunately, inspiration usually comes in the form of an idea for a new story.] But, I have to admit, I do tend to get most of my writing done at night.

And finally, have you ever had a crush on a fictional character? If so, who was it?

Oh, that is a good question. I still have a crush on Matt Cruse from Airborn. I mean, who wouldn’t? He’s a cabin boy aboard the airship Aurora. And I definitely have a crush on Sean Kendrick from Scorpio Races because he is tall, dark, handsome, and knows horses like he’s breathing [Puck is one lucky girl.] And if I had to pick one more, I would choose either Will Treaty [yes, he is awesome] from Ranger’s Apprentice or the Weasley Twins [sniff, Fred, sniff].

Check out her always excellent and entertaining blog, Old School Ink and follow her on Figment!