Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Exciting Interview w/ Maria Hammarblad

Sweden born author, Maria Hammarblad is an extremely talented science fiction writer. Her recent release Undercover is a deviation from her typical genre, one which I found completely exhilarating. Admittedly it was not my usual choice for reading, but I found it both exciting and original; something I continually discover when reading her books.

Undercover is a novel of the spy variety, filled with action and adventure that takes you on a long voyage, battling between the grey line of right and wrong. Maria has a smooth way of introducing you to a love for even the most un-heroic of characters and I found myself completely smitten with the Russian accented voice of Alexi. This unlikely love interest takes the main character Jenny for the adventure of a life time, where she not only finds what she has most longed for in life, but also most frightened of.

The book was wildly imaginative, yet at the same time visually comprehendible. It was so well written I could literally see each detail of character, as well as space and exploit. I found myself at times so engaged that I consciously had to force my muscles to relax, from the tension. This book was riveting and just when you are sure you know what to expect, Hammarblad completely takes you by surprise with an incredible finale. Amazingly fun and enjoyable, I definitely recommend this book to those who don't mind a bit of bloodshed, thrown in with their romance!

Thank you Maria for agreeing to this interview and giving me something exciting to talk about. I understand you are a Swedish transplant to Florida. What have you found to be the most surprising cultural difference in your transition?

Oh wow, Christy, what an introduction! Thank you, and thank you for having me over on your blog! For me, the most surprising cultural difference was the food. A part of me knew it would be different here, but I didn't realize how different. Even foods that look about the same have a completely different flavor.

That is interesting, and something I may not have even considered. Do you have any quirky writing habits?

Haha, probably! I'm very asocial when I write. I see the characters act out scenes in my head, and I don't want to do anything besides write. If someone talks to me I'm likely to pretend I'm listening, while I really think, "Oh, and then, if he goes there, he'll be captured, and she'll have to save him, and…" At that stage, conversations go along the lines of, "What's for dinner?" "Blue." Luckily, people around me are very patient.

I can certainly relate. When did you write your first book?

I always wanted to write, and I made the first draft of Kidnapped as a teenager. My first book as in 'available to the public' was in 2010.

Well I for one am certainly glad you went publicly with your writing. What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

I've always read a lot and giggled when I've seen typos in books. "Haha, it says 'she' there but it should totally be 'he'. Doesn't anyone proofread these things?" Now I know juggling 80,000 words or so isn't as easy as it seems from the other side. It doesn't matter how many times you proofread, or how many people do it, there will still be quirks and errors. It's also much harder to get a storyline together than I expected. Many things make sense in my own head and seem perfectly coherent to me, because I already know what happens. It might not come together at all for a reader who sees it with fresh eyes.

There are also some cultural differences between American books and Swedish books. Some things we discuss openly are taboo here, and the other way around, and this is difficult for me to figure out. Luckily, my publisher has great editors who tell me, "You can't say this. The readers will hate the hero."

Maybe sometime you can email me some of the “taboo” things privately, (giggle). How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

I've written... Wait… The Goddess's Saga currently has three books. Embarkment 2577 has three novellas, so that can be counted as one novel, I guess. Kidnapped, Undercover,Flashback, and Operation Earth. Eight? I have a couple more slumbering in my computer, but they won't be released until 2014, so I don't think they count. Return of the Goddess is my personal favorite. I would love to re-write all three Goddess books and apply everything I've learned working with Desert Breeze Publishing, I just haven't had the energy to actually do it.

Let’s not forget to add Invasion to your list of brilliance. Do you work with an outline or just write?

When I get an idea I usually jot it down, and make an outline of what I think will happen. Once I start writing, it always changes. My characters tend to take on lives of their own, and when they get going, anything can happen. Sometimes they don't like each other, even though they're supposed to.

I’ve read that as a child you wrote short stories about aliens for your parents. What does your family think of your writing success?

Hard to say… I've always been a bit too weird for them to really 'get' it, and I have very little contact with my family in Sweden. My mom will say, "That's nice, dear" even though she has no idea what I'm talking about. I hope she's proud of me. My husband isn't a big reader, but he's very supportive.

Well I think I am fan enough for the lot of them. Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?

I sometimes get messages, mostly on Facebook or Twitter, from people saying they liked one of my books. My website is also a topic of discussion. Some people love it, and others get a little lost. I guess it's structured in the same random way as my brain, hahaha.

I’ve seen your website and I find it unique, which is what you want. Who wants a cookie cutter webpage? What do you think makes a good story?

I think the storyteller needs to know the characters. That sounds a little cryptic, but a story can be about almost anything if the writer can make me care about the people.

I couldn’t agree more. What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?

Writers, well, artists in general, put so much heart and soul into their work that it can be difficult to take critique. It's important to remember the person giving a negative review is talking about the book, and not about the author. That said, one specific occasion does come to mind. I submitted an early version of Kidnapped to a publisher, and got a reply saying my constant misspellings of words such as colour, labour, and harbour made the material unappealing. Honestly, I thought this acquisitions editor must be an idiot. People in Europe spell differently than people in the US, and I expect everyone working with literature to know this.

The best compliment… Anyone liking my books. If I'm able to entertain someone, I've succeeded. People writing positive reviews and other writers enjoying my work make me do happy dances. Also, this year I've submitted a screenplay to a couple of contests and I'm doing quite well. That's a huge compliment!

That is exceptional! I would love to see one of your manuscripts on the big screen. Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

Write! It's so easy to get lost in thinking about writing, or in planning to write. Try to do something every day, even if it isn't relevant to your project. Writing a blog or a diary can help start a good habit.

Excellent advice, thank you. Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?

Yes, I'd love to hear from you! Hit me up on one of these links, Facebook or Twitter

Finally, do you have any new releases coming out soon?

I do. I have a short prequel to Kidnapped coming out in December. It's called, "Courage and Retribution" and it will be free. My novel Flashback will be released in June 2013, followed by Operation Earth late summer. I am also contracted to write a novella in Desert Breeze Publishing’s science fiction series set on the Borealis space station. It will be available in December 2013. I have some ideas for it, but I haven't written much on it yet, so it's time to get to work.

Thank you so much Maria for your time. I really look forward to your upcoming publications and wish you continued success.

Excerpt from Undercover

When the wheels finally touched American soil, Jenny was both relieved and nervous. She was so happy to be home she could cry, at the same time as she fretted over his papers. They looked good but could hardly be real. Alex didn't seem worried at all; he was the epitome of calm as they stood in the long line to the passport checkpoint.

Her own passport had been unused before this trip, and she opened it to look at the stamps. Alex bent over to kiss her on the cheek. He knew her well enough already to know what was on her mind. "Don't worry, I do this all the time."

The comment distracted her, and she thought he probably did it on purpose. She wanted to ask a million or so questions, but didn't even lift an eyebrow. "I can't wait to be home."

Once they reached the counter, the woman sitting there hardly even looked at the photos. She threw one glance at their documents, gave them back, and yelled, "Next!"

They waited for the luggage for an eternity, and Jenny was nervous all the way through customs. She relaxed a little once they were well into the large airport, surrounded by Americans hurrying in all directions. The protection of being in the country was more imagined than real, but she was still happier. They walked slowly hand in hand with the suitcases rolling behind them like obedient dogs, and just seeing the crowds made her heart lighter.

She wondered if her lover would miss seeing and hearing his own language, and if he would miss his own people. He was stranded in a foreign country and culture with nothing but her, with an axe hovering over his head, and all this after knowing her for just a couple of months. Thinking about it made her feel incredibly guilty, and telling herself she couldn't have done anything about it didn't help at all.

Eventually, Alex stopped and pulled their bags up next to a wall. "Are you up for the drive home, or do you want to stay in a hotel tonight?"

She kept going because he did, but now when he said it, she was very tired. "I don't know. It would be good to be home, but it seems so far away. What do you think?"

"Oh, I want to go somewhere and take all your clothes off, but what I want is not important. Your wish is my command, my sweet."

It made her laugh. "So, a hotel it is."
When they walked towards the exit, past one of the caf├ęs, she saw a familiar face turn towards them. A smile played on the man's lips. She had seen him not all that long ago, on the other side of the world, in Alex's apartment. He met her eyes, and she said, "Ignore him."

They walked right past the old man. "They've been with us all the way. One would think people would have something better to do."

She hadn't seen anyone else, but if he said they had been there, they were there.

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