Happy 25th Anniversary, StarWarp Concepts!

Two days in and 2018 is already turning out to be a special year for anniversaries. Yesterday was the 200th “birthday” of the first-edition publication of Mary Shelley’s seminal novel, Frankenstein, and today Pan’s publisher, StarWarp Concepts, kicks off its 25th anniversary celebration as an independent publisher!

They’ve got some exciting things lined up this year, so be sure to visit the SWC blog during 2018 to find out the latest news!

Pandora Zwieback: Blood & Iron a Real Treat for Halloween

blood-and-iron-cvrThe wait is almost over!

She’s been shot at by vampires, killed by a fallen angel, come back from the dead, and nearly trampled in a zombie stampede for sweets, she’s maybe started to fall in love with a boy named Javier, and her mother’s been turned into a vampire, but teenaged Goth Pandora Zwieback has a whole new set of challenges facing her in the latest volume of her adventures: Blood & Iron: The Saga of Pandora Zwieback, Book 3!

When we last saw Pan, she, Javier, and their friend, the immortal, shape-shifting monster hunter named Sebastienne “Annie” Mazarin, were trapped on a remote South Pacific island, and the fallen angel Zaqiel—not just Annie’s former lover, but the creature who had killed Pan and turned her mother vampiric—was leading an army of monsters to free his fellow bad angels. Could things possibly get any worse? Well, if you asked Pan, she’d probably say that’s a rhetorical question when it comes to her increasingly complicated life—and she’d be right!

Blood & Iron: The Saga of Pandora Zwieback, Book 3 is scheduled for release in late October, during the Halloween Countdown celebration we’ll be hosting all month long at this blog. Hey, what better treat for All Hallows’ Eve than curling up with the conclusion of Pan’s first literary adventure—the vampire war begun in the novels Blood Feud and Blood Reign?

Stay tuned for further information!

SWC Horror Bites: Something You’ll Want to Devour

whitefell-werewolf-cvr“Short tales to appease your monstrous hunger for suspense” is how we describe SWC Horror Bites, a chapbook series that will be available in print and e-book formats exclusively from the StarWarp Concepts webstore, and at the conventions we attend. The series, which launches in February (during the annual celebration of Women in Horror Month), will be a mix of new and classic horror stories.

And if you head over to today’s post at the StarWarp Concepts blog, you’ll see my explanation of what this program holds in store for fans of literary horror this year. A feminist werewolf tale, a classic ghost story from Charles Dickens (but not starring Ebenezer Scrooge), and an anthology of spooky stories that first appeared in 1950s horror comics are just the start of the menu for SWC Horror Bites. Go check them out!

Happy 2017, Panatics!

newyear-skeleton

Believe it, skeleton man—that’s what you get for sleeping through Christmas! Still, I hope Santa and the Krampus brought you—and you Panatics—everything you wished for (or wished on others…mu-ha-ha).

blood-and-iron-cvrTwo thousand seventeen promises to be a busy year for Pan’s publisher, StarWarp Concepts, whose plans include—you guessed it!—the much-anticipated release of Blood & Iron: The Saga of Pandora Zwieback, Book 3 this October. It’s the conclusion of Pan’s first literary adventure, which began in the first novel, Blood Feud, and continued into Blood Reign, and pits Pan, her family, and her friends—including immortal monster hunter Sebastienne “Annie” Mazarin—against the forces of monsterdom, who are led by the fallen angel Zaqiel—who’s also a former lover of Annie’s!

But starring in a new novel isn’t all that’s in store for Pan this year, and if you check out today’s post at the StarWarp Concepts blog, you’ll learn what SWC has in mind for our favorite Goth adventuress, as well as its other publishing plans. Head over there now and give it a read!

Start Your Summer Reading Early

BloodFeud-FinalAd

Blood Feud: The Saga of Pandora Zwieback, Book 1 is the critically acclaimed novel that starts Pan’s story, explaining how she, her parents and friends, and her monster-hunting mentor, Sebastienne “Annie” Mazarin, are drawn into a conflict among warring vampire clans searching for the key to an ultimate weapon (or so the legend goes)—a key that just so happens to have been delivered to the horror-themed museum owned by Pan’s father!

Visit the Blood Feud: The Saga of Pandora Zwieback, Book 1 product page at Pan’s publisher, StarWarp Concepts, for ordering information, as well as a free downloadable sample chapter.

Looking for a Different Kind of Comic?

pan_annualIt’s Comic Book Wednesday! Sure, you could head to your local comic shop and pick up the latest superhero slugfest, but why not check out a one-shot special of a different variety that critics loved?

The Saga of Pandora Zwieback Annual #1 is a spinoff from the novel series, and this 56-page, full-color comic special finds the teenaged Goth adventuress battling vampires and a jealous, man-stealing siren. Behind that striking cover by award-winning artist Henar Torinos (Mala Estrella), it features:

* “Song of the Siren,” written by me, with art and color by Eliseu Gouveia (The Saga of Pandora Zwieback #0), in which Pan and her boyfriend Javier attend one of his family’s picnics in Central Park, and run into Javi’s ex-girlfriend, Sophia—who turns out to be a mythological siren!

* “After Hours,” written by Sholly Fisch (Scooby-Doo Team-Up) and illustrated by comic-art legend Ernie Colon (Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld). It tells the tale of a most unusual New York City bar—and the demon who walks into it after a hard day on the job.

* And “Shopping Maul,” a short story by me, with title page art and color by Elizabeth Watasin (Charm School), in which Pan and her friends run afoul of a group of Elegant & Gothic Lolita vampires in a shopping maul.

And like I said, critics sure loved this comic:

“Roman demonstrates yet again his ability to write in the voice of a teenage girl without resorting to the petty whining and needless angst that seem to plague a lot of the female teenage characters in books today… I would readily and heartily recommend this comic to anybody.”Word of the Nerd

Roman mixes young adult fantasy with themes like ‘young love’ but also with equal parts of ‘female empowerment’ and lets Pandora be a real and true voice. The art by Eliseu Gouveia is just stellar and makes a perfect match for the main story.”Comics For Sinners

 “Pandora is so three-dimensional that you feel you’ve known her your entire life.”Krypto Dies!

Visit the Saga of Pandora Zwieback Annual #1 product page for ordering information and sample pages.

Steven A. Roman: Behind the Scenes at StarWarp Concepts

SRoman_PhotoLast Tuesday, I told you about a 2015 interview that I did with Steve Williams of the site Write a Revolution…which, I recently discovered, has disappeared from the ’Net—along with WaR’s website. So, for those of you who might have missed it the first time, I’ve been serializing that interview here at Zwieback Central for your reading pleasure. Part 1 was posted on Tuesday; Part 2 appeared Wednesday; and Part 3 was published on Thursday. Now here’s the conclusion…

WaR: How did you design your cover and/or any illustrations?

SR: When dealing with artists, usually I’ll start off by doing a rough sketch of the composition I’m looking for, and providing them with any reference material they might need. For designers, I’ll sometimes do a rough design of the cover in my Mac’s Pages application, just to give them a starting point they can riff on. Or if I have something particular in mind I’ll say, “No, I want it exactly like this, but with a professional finish to it.” The cover for Lorelei Presents: House Macabre was meant to emulate 1970s and ’80s DC comics; if you look closely, you can see an “Approved by the Monsters Code Authority” seal in the upper right-hand corner.

I try not to waste artists’ or designers’ time with a game of “I’ll know it when I see it”—that approach just winds up annoying everyone. Doing it the way I do seems to work out just fine; a few of the artists have even told me I’m one of the best art directors they’ve ever worked with.

WaR: Did you format your own eBook or outsource?

Blood-Reign-FinalCvrSR: For the PDF versions of StarWarp’s books, comics, and graphic novels that are sold through the company website, I have my designers deliver a lower-res version of the print files, with the covers combined with the interiors. Higher-res versions of those files are provided to places like Comixology to meet their distribution requirements.

However, the Pandora Zwieback novels get mass distribution and require separate file formats for Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords (who distribute to iTunes, Kobo, and Oyster Books), so I outsource them to an e-book conversion company called 52Novels. All I have to provide them with, other than a Word doc file of the manuscript, is the design material I want to carry over from the print versions—front cover, title page, house ads—and they put it all together. I was really happy with the work they did on Blood Feud, and they’re great people to work with, so I went back to them with Blood Reign and in all likelihood will continue to use them.

WaR: Did you find the overall process of publishing a book an easy one or especially difficult?

SR: It was difficult starting out because I had to learn the process on the fly, but strangely enough that tends to be the method I’m most comfortable with: just jumping right in and figuring it out as I go. It was the same way I got started in comics publishing, back in ’93, except for the book market I was able to rely on books like Dan Poynter’s Self-Publishing Manual and Self-Publishing for Dummies for guidance. And I had some familiarity with the ins and outs of the industry, having been an editor for ten years at a New York publishing house called ibooks, inc. (no relation to Apple’s iBooks).

What made the process of reinventing StarWarp as a book publisher a bit easier was in hiring the designers I worked with at ibooks, inc., so I’d be working with people I knew, and who were familiar with my methods. The rest of the business stuff, though, was up to me.

BklynFest2015-01WaR: Let us know a marketing or promotional tip or piece of advice that has worked well for you.

SR: One of my friends in publishing suggested exhibiting at book festivals. With my background up to that point mainly being in comics, I wasn’t sure how that would work out. But considering the responses StarWarp Concepts has gotten at the Brooklyn Book Festival and BookCon over the years, I’d have to say that was pretty good advice!

WaR: What are you working on next?

SR: Blood & Iron is the third Pandora Zwieback novel, and it wraps up the “vampire war” storyline that runs in Blood Feud and Blood Reign. I’m also looking at putting together Lorelei Presents: Return to House Macabre, another one-off anthology comic for Lorelei to host; I’ve already got two stories in-house.

And that’s the end of the interview. Thanks go out to Steve Williams and the folks at Write a Revolution for running it last year—as publisher of and main writer for StarWarp Concepts, I’m always appreciative of sites who show a little love toward our endeavors. Who knows where the next interview will appear…?

Steven A. Roman: On Promoting StarWarp Concepts’ Titles

On Tuesday, I told you about a 2015 interview that I did with Steve Williams of the site Write a Revolution…which, I recently discovered, has disappeared from the ’Net—along with WaR’s website. So, for those of you who might have missed it the first time, I’m serializing that interview here at Zwieback Central for your reading pleasure. Part 1 was posted on Tuesday; Part 2 appeared yesterday. Now here’s Part 3…

Pan0-finalcvrWaR: Have you tried giving anything away for free or include special offers to try and entice readers? E.g. free chapters, promotional items, limited day price reductions.

SR: Absolutely. At the StarWarp Concepts website, we offer free sample chapters from the Pandora Zwieback novels Blood Feud and Blood Reign, and there’s The Saga of Pandora Zwieback #0, a free, downloadable 16-page comic book that acts as an introduction to Pan’s book series. That one originally started out as a print comic that I handed out as a promotional item at comic book conventions and book festivals. And depending on budgetary limitations, I’ll have either brochures or catalogs printed up to hand out at shows. It’s important that people know that StarWarp has a growing backlist of titles.

WaR: Are there any promotional ideas that really did not work out or “bombed”? Things that you definitely will not be trying again?!

SR: Ooh, where to begin…? (laughs) Well, I’ve stopped exhibiting at New York Comic Con, for one thing. The last one I attended was in 2013—I had the best location I’d ever had at that show, and wound up with a larger space than expected because the show runners had misjudged the borders of the booth layouts, but at the end of four days I’d spent $1,500 for the location and taken in…let’s just say nowhere close to that in sales.

Pan-LarkinCardFor the 2011 New York Comic Con, I used the show’s database to contact people who’d listed the StarWarp booth as one of their planned visiting points, and e-mailed them certificates for exclusive Pandora Zwieback sketch cards that the novels’ cover painter, Bob Larkin (who used to work for publishers like Marvel and Bantam), had done for me. Only one guy showed up to claim a card—and even he didn’t really want it. He’d come to the booth to find out what was going on with Lorelei! (laughs)

In 2014, I tried a similar promotion at the first-ever BookCon, only this time I was offering prints of Bob’s cover painting for Blood Feud. Again, of all the people I contacted, only one person showed up to get their print.

There were others, but I’ve depressed myself already, remembering just these. (laughs)

WaR: Have you ever come across any book promotion ideas that were maybe a little unorthodox?

SR: I’ve considered other ideas—I wouldn’t really call them “unorthodox,” but stuff like hiring a Pan spokesmodel to try and attract more women and teenaged girls to the booth so they can learn about the book series. It’s a car show/comic con kind of approach—you don’t see it used all that often at book festivals, so I guess that might be considered unorthodox. We’ll see what happens if I ever get around to hiring one.

WaR: Do you mostly stick to online promotions or do you do much offline networking as well?

BklynFest2015-01SR: I attend some conventions and book festivals during the year, which tends to work better for sales than the online promotions, because I’m able to tell attendees about the books, on a one-on-one basis. The big show for me is the Brooklyn Book Festival, which is held in September, because I’ve started building a fanbase there that will seek out the StarWarp Concepts booth so they can check out the latest releases.

WaR: What have you struggled with the most during your adventures in writing and publishing?

SR: Getting recognition for the company and our titles. It’s a cliché that the Internet is just a big void you’re shouting into, hoping to get attention, but it’s true.

WaR: Do you network with fellow writers or self-published authors?

SR: I have friends who are writers and self-publishers, and we’re all in the same boat, to varying degrees, all trying to get the word out on our projects. We compare notes on our approaches, and share convention war stories and stuff like that. A mutual commiseration society! (laughs)

Coming Monday: The conclusion of this four-part interview, focusing on the more technical aspects of getting StarWarp Concepts titles ready for the masses. See you then!

Steven A. Roman: Talking About StarWarp Concepts

Yesterday, I told you about a 2015 interview that I did with Steve Williams of the site Write a Revolution…which, I recently discovered, has disappeared from the ’Net—along with WaR’s website. So, for those of you who might have missed it the first time, I’m serializing that interview here at Zwieback Central for your reading pleasure. Part 1 was posted yesterday. Now here’s Part 2…

WaR: Tell us a bit more about StarWarp Concepts—what services you provide, and where it differs from the many other publishing companies that have been around since the Indie Pub boom.

SR: Well, like I said [in Part 1] we originally started out publishing the Lorelei comic, but since 2010 we’ve expanded into graphic novels and straight books—young adult novels, illustrated classic reprints, an artist sketchbook, and an upcoming writing guide for fantasy authors. Occasionally we still do comics—we published a tie-in to the young adult novel series, The Saga of Pandora Zwieback, and [in 2015] we released the horror anthology Lorelei Presents: House Macabre. I guess that would mean we’re somewhat in a gray area between being a book publisher and a comic publisher, which probably makes us different from most indie houses. I’m okay with that—it gives us two types of audiences to appeal to.

SWC_Lorelei-SectsWaR: What level or research and planning goes into each project you undertake at StarWarp?

SR: I’m not really the kind who does market research to see if there’s an audience for what we publish, because more often than not our titles tend to be counter to whatever is considered hot or trendy at any given time. When the first Pan novel, Blood Feud, came out, Twilight was still popular—but there’s nothing romantic or “sparkly” about the vampires I write; in fact, some reviewers went out of their way to point out how much Blood Feud is a polar opposite to Meyer’s books, in terms of depth of characterization and the violent nature of the vampires.

The Lorelei projects are completely at odds with today’s comic market, given the sexual nature of the character and her appearance—the blown-out hair, the unbuttoned blouse, and the stiletto-heel boots. But then again, I’m not going after people who only read mainstream or alt-press comics. Like I said [in Part 1], Lori is a throwback to old horror comics—if you’re not into those, then Lorelei probably won’t appeal to you. And yet the Sects and the City graphic novel is our most popular title overall, especially with horror fans.

SWC_SnowWhiteThe Illustrated Classics line we have—which right now consists of the vampire novella Carmilla, Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars, and the Brothers Grimm’s Snow White—are chosen for various reasons: they’re well-written books I enjoy; there’s some movie or event I can tie them to; or I know they’ll appeal to dark fantasy fans. Carmilla involves vampires, so that was a no-brainer—vampires will never go out of style. A Princess of Mars was published to take advantage of Disney’s John Carter movie, since the movie’s based on that novel. Snow White came about because I found a children’s storybook published in the late 1800s, with pristine, full-color illustrations; since the book was in the public domain, we scanned the art and released it as an e-book. And the original spot illustrations for Carmilla and Princess—all done by Eliseu Gouveia—are a major selling point for those books, especially at conventions.

WaR: Let’s talk about book publicity and book marketing ideas. Which social media sites are you registered with and post on? Which do you find most effective for engagement?

SR: I have Facebook pages for StarWarp Concepts and the Saga of Pandora Zwieback book series, and author pages at Amazon.com and Goodreads. I also review comics for a site called Comics for Sinners, whose owner links back to the StarWarp site. I’m not a Twitter or Tumblr type, so I don’t bother with those. The most effective site for getting the word out on projects seems to be StarWarp’s Facebook page, especially if I post a graphic—covers, sample pages, etc.

WaR: There is plenty of advice out there telling you how to sell your book but what book marketing strategies or methods have you found work effectively for new authors or even more established indie names?

SR: The ones that seem to work the best usually involve crowdfunding—Kickstarter and IndieGoGo and sites like that—because you’re directly marketing to people who become interested in investing in your project; the rewards offered at different donation levels have a lot to do with that. It’s not a method I’ve been interested in trying, but I know other small publishers it’s worked for.

WaR: Do you try to build to a launch or release the book and then promote afterwards?

SR: I did a major push for Blood Feud, the first Pandora Zwieback novel, by first purchasing booth space at the New York Comic Con one year just to announce the coming of the book the following year.

Then, as the release date got closer, I ran a feature called “The 13 Days of Pan-demonium”—a sort of countdown in which I hired twelve artists (plus me) to draw their interpretations of Pan, with the cover of Blood Feud appearing somewhere in each piece. I posted one illustration each day, leading up to the book’s release.

Coming tomorrow: Discussing book promotions—what works and what doesn’t.

Steven A. Roman: A Revolutionary Interview Recovered

SRoman_PhotoIt was close to a year ago that I contacted Steve Williams, the power behind Write a Revolution—a website dedicated, as you might expect, to promoting writers—about the possibility of WaR interviewing me to promote StarWarp Concepts and its titles. After reading Blood Feud: The Saga of Pandora Zwieback, Book 1 and the horror anthology comic Lorelei Presents: House Macabre, Steve enthusiastically agreed to set up an interview, which ran in August 2015.

Fast-forward to this past weekend, when I was doing one of my occasional checks on the Pan website to confirm that links we’ve set up still work—and much to my surprise, I discovered that Write a Revolution is gone! Don’t have a clue why that happened, but with the site, and my interview, now lost in the depths of the Internet, I thought you folks might want to read it, just in case you missed it the first time around.

So here for your reading pleasure, is Part 1 of that “disappeared” interview…

WaR: I believe your company, StarWarp Concepts, has been on the scene for a while now.

SR: Since 1993. But back then it started out as a comic book company that I set up so I could publish a series I’d created called Lorelei, about a woman who winds up getting caught in a supernatural situation and gets turned into a succubus. It was a pretty character-driven comic—no superhero fistfights or explosions or the like—and sold well enough in the nineties for a black-and-white series, but the market dried up when there was a major collapse of comic book distributors late in the decade, leaving only Diamond Comic Distributors. To this day, they’re really the only game in town for comic publishers, but Diamond’s focus is on the major companies—Marvel, DC, Image—with not a great deal of interest in the small presses.

When I rebooted the company in 2010, I moved away from comics and concentrated on publishing, for the most part, dark fantasy and horror books and graphic novels.

WaR: Lorelei Presents: House Macabre has a great grindhouse feel to it, almost reminiscent of some of Quentin Tarantino’s early work or the Rob Zombie movies. Do certain movies or film genres influence your work at all?

SR: Oh, sure. In the case of House Macabre, the influence comes from horror anthology movies like Trick ’r Treat, Trilogy of Terror, and Creepshow, but it also comes from comics like EC’s Tales From the Crypt, DC’s House of Mystery, and magazines like the original Creepy, Eerie, and Vampirella—short stories with a little twist at the end. Like most of the projects I come up with, it’s a nod to the kind of stuff I grew up reading.

I’d say there’s more of a grindhouse feel to the Lorelei graphic novel that preceded House Macabre: Lorelei: Sects and the City, in which she battles a cult of Elder God worshippers. Unlike House Macabre, Sects is aimed at an adult audience, with sex and nudity and a whole lot of F-bombs. It’s basically a love letter to 1970s horror comics and movies; a few reviewers commented that it’s the sort of story that might have interested Hammer Studios, back in their heyday, which I consider a great compliment.

WaR: Who are the talented artists behind the drawings and where does the inspiration for characters come from?

SR: In Lorelei Presents: House Macabre, we’ve got cover artist Louis Small Jr., who made a name for himself in the 1990s as a supreme “bad girl” artist, drawing characters like Vampirella, Lady Death, and a bunch of others. The four-page introduction (written by me) that starts the comic, in which Lorelei greets the readers, was penciled by Uriel Caton—who once drew a Justice Society of America annual for DC Comics, and now is a top designer for Diamond Select Toys—and inked by “Chainsaw” Chuck Majewski. “All in Color for a Crime” (also written by me) was drawn by Lou Manna, who worked on DC’s superhero comics Young All-Stars and T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents. “The Basilisk” (again, written by me) was drawn by John Pierard, who’s mainly a book illustrator. And “Requiem for Bravo 6” was written by Dwight Jon Zimmerman—a New York Times bestselling author, and a former writer of Marvel titles like Iron Man and Web of Spider-Man—and drawn by Juan Carlos Abraldes Rendo.

Lorelei: Sects and the City [a Mature Readers graphic novel] was written by me and has a cover by Esteban Maroto, who’s a comic-art legend with credits like the original Vampirella and Creepy, and a ton of DC Comics titles. The interior art is by Eliseu Gouveia, who’s drawn comics like The Phantom and Vengeance of the Mummy; Steve Geiger, a former Marvel art director who drew Web of Spider-Man and The Incredible Hulk; and Neil Vokes, who drew comic series like Fright Night and his own current one, Flesh and Blood. The book has a vibe that’s sort of a combination of classic movies like The Devil Rides Out and 1980s Lovecraftian horror flicks like Re-Animator.

Lorelei herself was inspired by Vampirella, Marvel’s Satana, the Devil’s Daughter—who’s a succubus—and 1980s exploitation movies like Abel Ferrara’s Ms. 45, and even the TV show The Equalizer, because New York in the ’80s was a pretty dangerous place to live. When I created her in the late ’80s, I set out to create a sexy action heroine in that sort of grungy, urban setting, but didn’t want to make her a vampire, since that always seems to be the lazy, default setting for any female horror character. Back then, there weren’t too many comic-book succubi who went around seducing men and stealing their souls—I don’t think there are all that many, even today—so that’s what Lorelei became.

blood_feudWaR: In the young adult novels Blood Feud and Blood Reign, you introduce Pandora Zwieback. Who is Pandora and what’s her story?

SR: Pan is a sixteen-year-old Goth who spent the last decade being diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic because she can see monsters. But after she meets an immortal monster hunter named Sebastienne “Annie” Mazarin, she learns that she doesn’t suffer from a mental illness—she has the power to see through the human disguises worn by the monsters that actually exist in the world. How she wound up with that power is a complete mystery to her and her parents, but before they ever get a chance to start figuring it out, they get swept up in a war involving vampire clans looking for what they think is an ultimate weapon. And it just so happens that it was delivered to the horror-themed museum owned by Pan’s dad.

Blood Feud: The Saga of Pandora Zwieback, Book 1 introduces Pan and her cast of characters, and sets up the vampire war. Blood Reign continues the story, adding more details on Pan and the relationship Annie had with the fallen angel who’s leading the vampires against humanity. They’re both extremely character-driven novels, because I love writing for Pan and getting her take on this whole potential end-of-the-world scenario she’s found herself in.

Blood-Reign-FinalCvrWaR: How do you get into the minds of your characters and make them tick? What I mean is, when you’re writing about women for example or characters that experience things that you have no personal knowledge of, how do you keep it realistic?

SR: That’s a good question—I’m still trying to figure out how I’ve managed to get inside Pan’s head! I mean, obviously, I’ve got no experience in being a sixteen-year-old girl, but I do remember being something of a socially awkward nerd in high school, so I have that to draw on, to some degree. I’ve taken the old axiom about writers writing what they know and applied that to her, so she’s a horror fan and Mets baseball fan and comic book lover, and then I add more facets to her character as I go along. So far, it’s been working—my favorite convention story involves me telling a woman about Blood Feud and explaining Pan’s character in some detail, and her response was, “That sounds fascinating. Is the woman who wrote the book here?” When I pointed out that I was the author, she said, “That’s incredible! But how could you know what it’s like to be a sixteen-year-old girl?”

I think a lot of getting into the mental processes of the characters comes by playing certain kinds of music to set a mood. If I want to write a sad scene—say, like the discussion between Pan and her mom in Blood Feud, about the effect her parents’ divorce has had on her—I’ll play something that’ll intentionally make me feel melancholy, and put it on a loop. If I get a little misty-eyed when I read the scene over, then I know I’ve gotten inside Pan’s head and nailed down her emotions. For action scenes, I usually play movie sound tracks, like Hans Zimmer’s scores for the Batman trilogy and Man of Steel, or David Arnold’s for the John Singleton movie Four Brothers.

Coming tomorrow: A behind-the-scenes look at StarWarp Concepts—the thinking behind certain projects, promotions, and book-marketing strategies.