author spotlight




1.    Does writing energize or exhaust you?

I’ve heard people talk about the boost they get from a nice big cup of coffee—I don’t experience that because I drink entirely too much of it to feel any effect. But I like to imagine that the buzz I get from writing is that same sort of feeling. After a long session I’m too excited to go to bed or relax. So it most definitely energizes me!


2.    What are common traps for aspiring writers?

Rushing the process. It doesn’t have to take years to write a book, but if it does, if that’s what it needed to be the best version of itself, then that’s what it needed! Some people are quick, some are slow, none of them are doing anything wrong…but no matter how fast you can produce a story, it takes time to edit, revise, get feedback. The urge to get to the finish line is a strong pull and with our options it’s easy to skip steps sometimes. Take it from someone who has to learn everything the hard way—Do it right. Give your story the effort it deserves!


3.    What is your writing Kryptonite?

My children! They’re obviously my first priority, and just as obviously the reason I don’t always get to sit down and write when I’d intended to! But somehow we make it work.   


4.    Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?

I try to balance the two. The things I love about the stories that are dear to me aren’t always original, but because I love them they are familiar and comforting. The ideas, tropes, events that have moved me to tears or lingered with me long after the story ends, those are the ones that stay close to my heart. I don’t want to just regurgitate someone else’s story, but I do want to take the my favorite bits of things and spin them into my own creation. That’s the beautiful thing about writing. A hundred people can look at the same prompt and write a hundred different stories from it. Every stimuli we come across, whether from books, TV, or everyday life, has the potential to be transformed into the focal point of a “What if…?” question. Speaking of questions, did I even get around to answering this one? I think so. Maybe.


5.    Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

Antiquity’s Gate is definitely a series very dependent on each of the books working together to build the big picture. Don’t get me wrong, they each tell a complete story with a beginning, a middle, and an ending. But I don’t think the later books pack quite as much punch as intended if someone were to read them out of context.   


6.    As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?

Totoro. He gets me.    


7.    What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

I don’t research much BEFORE writing, I research as the process calls for it. The vast majority of my world-building is me wondering if something is just plausible enough to be believable. That results in hours spent researching all kinds of topics (you writers know what I’m talking about, the kind of stuff that lands you on a no-fly list somewhere.) It’s neat when I run into things I “thought up” and discover that something similar is actually in the works! Anyway, I don’t want to disrespect the science part of science fiction, so I definitely try to be within the realm of possibility…for the most part. There’s always that one outrageous piece of tech, you know? The other research is a lot of that stuff I learned in school that I thought I’d never use. If the population was cut down by x amount and it’s y years later and they are living in a city of domes with z amount of livable space what’s a realistic number of inhabitants? If x is racing down a maglev track in a stolen vehicle at y kpm and a train leaves the station heading in his direction at 9:18am at what time will he be flattened into a pancake…that sort of thing!


8.    How do you select the names of your characters?

Most of the time they just come to me. Like magic! Haha. If they don’t, I text my husband something vague like “need name. Jerk. Likes bright socks and hates Tuesdays.” Then he texts me back a name and boom, there it is.


9.    Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?


Ohhhh yes. This is quite possibly my absolute favorite part of reading and writing. Easter Eggs. Replay value. Finding things in a story the third, fourth, fifth time I read it. I don’t reread too many books that many times—there are too many books I want to read the first time! But those I do are those I really love. And I so appreciate the nuance and tiny details the author placed there, like a love letter to us super fans to find tucked in the pages years later. My books have a lot of love tucked in for those who wish to find it. Things that don’t come in to play until much later, perhaps forgotten & then discovered anew! Perhaps not. J


10. What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

Transitioning from one project to the next. Even between books in a series there’s something hard about letting go. When I finish the whole thing I’ll probably have to go through a traditional mourning period of some sort. Better buy some black slacks that fit. Or can you mourn properly in yoga pants?


11. How long on average does it take you to write a book?

To take a page out of Bilbo Baggins’ book… I don’t write half of them half as fast as I should like, and I write less than half of them half as fast as they deserve. Take from that what you will!




Hello everyone! Welcome back to the Author Spotlight Series with The Writer’s Alley! And, today we’re honored with the amazing Sara A. Noë. She’s here to give us a brief history of her journey with some writing tips! Sit back and enjoy her story.


“I want to be an author when I grow up” was a sentence that was never uttered out of my mouth as a child. I was always a creative type from the moment my fingers learned how to hold a pencil—drawing, writing poetry—but writing a book? Never crossed my radar. I wanted to be a landscape architect.

That is, until I wrote my first full fantasy novel in high school, and then I was infected with the writing virus. After coming within a hair’s breadth of traditional publication as a high school senior and then watching the dream slip away when my mentor became disinterested in me, I obsessively threw myself into writing a new series at Purdue University while pursuing a landscape architecture bachelors of science and a minor in creative writing. My life plan was to design parks by day and write novels by night.

Life has a funny way of veering in different directions just when you think you planned your roadmap. I realized partway through college that landscape architecture was a noble and innovative field, but it wasn’t for me. I lacked the passion. I completed my internship and graduated with honors but then hopped from odd job to odd job while spending every spare minute writing and editing. I wanted to publish traditionally because self-publishing has such a negative stigma about sloppy, unedited, and overall poor quality books flooding the market. I wanted the prestige of signing with a literary agent.

And yet, as the query letters went out and the rejection letters inevitably trickled in, the idea of giving up all the rights to my story left an uncomfortable pit in my stomach. After reading about bestselling author Terry Goodkind’s experience with his cover art, I worried a publisher wouldn’t honor my opinions and I might end up hating my own book. The more research I did, the larger that pit grew with each query letter I sent. I may not have always been a writer, but I was always an artist, and as hard as I tried to convince myself an experienced publishing house would do a better job designing the book than I could, the thought of surrendering my story felt like passing off an incomplete piece of art for another artist to finish and then own the copyright.

I wanted my book to be mine, from cover to cover—every aspect, inside and out. I had a vision for what I wanted it to be. Eight years after I began writing my seven-book series, I hired an editor, designed and created the cover in Photoshop, formatted the layout, and independently published the first book in the Chronicles of Avilésor: War of the Realms series, A Fallen Hero. Book II: Phantom’s Mask is scheduled for a 2020 release date.

My experience proves that even when you think you’re walking down the wrong road, you’re actually leveling up for the next leg of the quest. Landscape architecture not only taught me how to use Photoshop and provided me a basic understanding of graphic design and layout, but also expanded my knowledge to develop detailed settings in my writing. My odd jobs interacting with the public as a casino cashier, a travel agent saleswoman, a server, and a customer experience adviser taught me to overcome my introverted mindset and talk to people with more confidence, and then later, my job as an e-commerce specialist taught me skills in website management and email content. These “wrong roads” left me prepared when I stepped foot on the right one.

Holding my novel for the first time brought a rush of tears to my eyes. The monetary and time investments are colossal, but every penny and every second is worth it to pursue my dream. I just finished my first book signing tour, where I visited seven cities in three states to sign copies of A Fallen Hero at Barnes & Noble. These characters have pulled me into their world for over a decade; they wouldn’t let me rest until I told their story. I hope to someday forge a full-time career writing novels.

I’m just getting started.

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Get your copy of her wonderful novel! And, give her a follow on all of her social media! Thank you for joining us at The Writer’s Alley!!!!

See you next time!


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Today at The Writer’s Alley, we have the grand Joseph S. Samaniego—author of the Legends of Carolyngian Age novels and other stories. He has decided to give us a lesson on world-building—a topic near and dear to every writer. So, sit back and take a few notes. He has some really good information to give.


World Building for Fun and Fantasy!

                  As a fantasy author world building is often much more time consuming and complex than the stories themselves. What am I saying? It is always much more time consuming and complex than the stories themselves. Usually it’s more fun too! It simply has to be because this is the world that your labors of love will need to exist in for their entire lives, which in the literary world is for eternity. That doesn’t mean that your newly built world is a static thing. It can grow and evolve much like the world we live in does. In fact it is much better it that is the case.  Your characters change over time and so the environment around them should as well. It is something that happens in the natural world.

                  Valleys form and mountains crumble. Oceans rise and storms will rage. However, the world accepts it all and change becomes the only constant factor. In fantasy writing the changing world fuels the stories that are set within the world. Often we get bogged down by the intricate details of character development that we sometimes miss the bigger picture behind the development. The world will change much like that. A stream flowing from a mountain will eventually turn into a flowing river but it may take hundreds or thousands of years. Was there a settlement living downstream that is now in danger? Did a plucky young adventurer get chosen by the village elder to find a new place to settle before it is too late? These are some simple yet potentially action packed stories centered on the evolving world. That world will mold that adventurer and his village.

How then do we as writers describe the world? Any way we can! I have a love for maps so I use those maps to add to the experience for the reader and myself. I can draw the world out and see where my characters are headed and how they will get there. Where are the mountains and rivers located and then maybe come up with some legend of how the gods shaped them. Maybe there is an old tale about a giant cutting a path that became a river or valley. Who knows? However, the great thing is that there is no wrong answer because it’s part of the world that you are building to match the setting and the atmosphere. For thousands of years out own cultures have been shaped by the tales passed down and for many cultures those tales sync up and share commonalities with other cultures. Telling a story of a world can be exciting and unpredictable. Sometimes it can seem overwhelming.

That’s a chore to combat, believe me. It used to work on my nerves to make sure I had every detail in place and though I still get a bit frustrated making sure that everything is correct, I’ve learned to let go. However, one way I’ve been able to keep myself a bit more focused and ground is in the voice I use to write. I like to utilize my historian training and write as if I’m recording a historical record. I learned that if you want people to read historical research you have to add some flare and a bit of charm. I like to do that in all my writing and when I speak. A 3rd person omniscient narrator is great but if he or she is monotone then it hurts the final product. When you are talking about wars, natural disasters, gods, goddesses and all sorts of magic you want to bring the reader on the each of their seat and dazzle them so much that they see the world and events happening right before their eyes! Having a focused voice in your writing also helps you as a writing understand your own world much better and easier than just jotting ideas on paper. I mean that is the start but your voice should evolve like your world does, maybe along with your world.

That’s the joy of building a world. You get to put the excitement that you feel as you craft it within your mind directly into the readers’ eyes. They can see your vision as you describe it or maybe you’ve left some parts open-minded for their own interpretation. That works too! Maybe it will inspire them to take own a world building idea of their own. In the end the world being built could be any shape or form. What will matter is if we, as writers and readers, can experience something magical and great within a brand new world. 

Listed below are all of Joseph’s social media links. Take a second and check out his pages. He’s a great guy, and he’s always willing to help anyone. Don’t be afraid to say hello.