A Moment With Christina Engela, September 28, 2020

An interview with Simon Corn in September 2020:

A moment with Christina Engela, author of the Galaxii series, the Quantum series, Panic! Horror In Space, Space Sucks, along with many more!

Hey Jynxters,

I’m super excited today as I get to interview a fellow South African! We are a nation of story tellers and each of us is talented beyond belief, I may also be a little biased here, lol.

Anyway, down to business, over to you Christina.

1. You’re a writer, why would you do that to yourself?

I’ve been writing stories ever since I could hold a wax crayon! It’s more than just a hobby, it’s almost a compulsion! I love storytelling, creating characters and the world-building aspect of writing a series! I mean, in spite of the massive workload a writing career brings, the additional burden of marketing and promotion of the finished works is just… Um, come to think of it, that does sound a bit obsessive doesn’t it? Er… perhaps I should seek professional help! Any recommendations?

2. How would you best describe the genre you chose to write in?

Perhaps the best, most suitable genre description I’ve found thus far is ‘transgressive fiction’ – but not every bookstore or publishing platform includes that option. I feel that fits, because my writing tends to challenge the status quo, or points out the areas where the world fails us on a compassionate or humanitarian level, while simultaneously telling a kick-ass, entertaining story! What’s nice about my writing, I feel, is that it appeals across a wide age group. I don’t write specifically for any age group – just for the discerning, hungry intelligent mind!

3. Do you write in only one genre or do you have more strings to your bow?

I’ve always considered myself a science fiction writer, but in the last few years I also ventured into the field of horror, and I have to say I enjoy combining the two. “Demonspawn” – the story just released as an audiobook yesterday – is a good example of this, where one reviewer described the story as “Event Horizon meets Alien”! I love that – I think it’s really flattering!

4. Tell us some interesting facts about your MC.

I already have so many main characters, which makes it’s hard to pick! If I have to choose one though, it would have to be Gary Beck, a.k.a. Beck the Badfeller. He’s one of the main characters from the Quantum Series, and features in 5 of the 6 titles in that series that have been published so far.

He’s a bounty-hunter, and is celebrated as Atro-City’s most famous sun – the best bounty-hunter who ever lived, rumored to be so good at his job that he could find the missing day in a leap-year. He has a conscience, and prefers to bring his bounties back alive, even if he says it’s just because dead people are harder to carry.

He was called the Badfeller not because he’s a tough hombre or a bad guy, but because when he was little, he showed poor aptitude for felling trees. Sure he can laugh about it now, but his dad’s boss had to be freed from what was left of his brand new SUV with the Jaws of Life after a tree young Gary accidentally cut down while trying to show off to his dad at work, fell on it! He also spent a lot of time running!

He’s based on parts of several real people I knew, including a former fiancé and a former brother-in-law. (Ssh – don’t tell them!)

Gary’s completely heteronormative, and has fallen head over heels in love with Cindy-Mei Winter, another main character from the same series. She’sa former Colonial Intelligence Agency …er, agent,who came to Deanna to start afresh and to get away from her transgender past.

Gary Beck, when he was still single, spent a lot of his free time alone. His favorite haunt at that time was a bar called ‘The Shock Diamond’, which was named after the diamond flare visible in the exhaust of a rocket while it takes off.

Since book 2, “The Time Saving Agency”, Gary has also been a casual or freelance agent for the Time Saving Agency, and gets called in to assist Senior Time Agent Jonathan Scrooby from time to time. This results in he and Cindy-Mei taking front place in the latest books in the series, and in stories awaiting completion!

5. Was/is your relationship with your MC a fun one, or did they give you any problems?

I’ve had an incredible amount of fun writing Gary Beck. Often I would work on my stories in quiet spells at work and then randomly burst out laughing at something or other they did in the story – much to the surprise of coworkers! Of course then I’d have to read it to them, or explain it to them, and they usually thought I was off my meds, but I enjoyed it immensely.

The great Terry Pratchett said “writing is the most fun you can have by yourself.” I’d like to take that a little further by saying: “If your writing doesn’t make you spontaneously burst out laughing, cry your heart out, or leave you with gooseflesh, then you’re not doing it right.”

6. When writing, are you a fan of a fast food splurge or do you stick to the healthy option on the menu?

Eat? I sometimes completely forget to eat while I’m in the middle of a writing binge! If it weren’t for my better half reminding me to eat my dinner before it gets cold, or inserting a plate of food under my nose while I type and sternly telling me to fill my face, I’d probably be able to fit into last decade’s clothing again! What I do like a lot of while writing is coffee – by the flagon!

7. Give me your elevator pitch for your latest project. (Time to sell your work in 30 seconds)

Hello, you don’t know me, but I’m an author and I’d like to tell you about my books! There’re thirty of them, and they’re really good… I’ve had some very flattering reviews… Wait, why are you backing away from me? I mean you no… Wait! No, please don’t spray me with that! No! Not the mace! Please, no! Not the mace! Not the mace!

8. In our crazy COVID world, what keeps you focused on your WIP?

Ignoring hysterical radio and TV news altogether in favor of mainstream newspaper news online helps to limit most of the insanity in my exposure to the outside world! Also, it’s far easier to just block trolls and doomsayers on social media than to argue with them, or to see the insane conspiracy theory crap they post in my ‘news’ feed – which would be constant otherwise. This reduction in worry and trauma-induced stress helps me to retain enough of a creative mindset to keep focused on my writing!

9. How much of your valuable time do you set aside for the dreaded marketing needed to build a successful social media platform?

I try to share a poster or link to a book at least once a weekday to numerous Facebook groups, Twitter, LinkedIn and a few other places. I’ve also put out a monthly newsletter from my website since February 2017, as well as releases for each new book or audiobook release. I find marketing a challenge, honestly – I never did any marketing courses or such, I’ve had to learn what I know from experience and it’s a constantly changing dynamic, very fluid. What works one month might not work the next month because Facebook or Twitter might change a filter or make certain posts less visible than previously.

10. Any advice for any new authors staring into the void of social media marketing and the cutthroat world of self-publishing?

Just off the top of my head, I would suggest a newbie indie author should ensure their story is really, truly finished before starting the publishing process. By that I mean they should make sure the story flows properly. Check the grammar and spellcheck the text. Have a friend or relative read through it to provide a fresh perspective. Make sure there are no glaring continuity errors or contradictions or inconsistencies. If the story is below the appropriate word-count for a novel, for instance, bulk it out and expand areas of the story without putting in too much fluff or waffle. If doing the self-publishing work themselves, they should look for a formatting standard or template for Word so they can format their manuscript in a way that won’t result in error messages from whichever platform they choose to go with (Smashwords is a good example) and delays.

Once they’ve done all that, they need to look at cover design for eBook and print formats – and the best advice I can offer there is to be creative! This is your story, your brand – make it uniquely yours! There are plenty of entities on the internet offering free-use images that can make brilliant book covers.

Also, avoid the ‘traps’ out there. Not everyone who sends you an email telling you how much they like your new book and offering you a publishing ‘deal’ is what they claim to be – most aren’t. Avoid the ‘vanity press’ guys who expect the author to pay thousands of $$$ for them to publish your work! Real publishers don’t charge the author just to publish their books! If you go down that path, you will very likely end up regretting it.

11. Back to your process; where do your ideas originate from?

Believe it or not, that’s a hard question to answer! Inspiration is all around us after all! For me it’s important to tell a story that entertains and even challenges the reader. I try to be as unpredictable as I can because I feel if the reader thinks they know where the story is headed, they will get bored and lose interest. I’ve often referred to my warped sense of humor, a couple of friends off their meds – and having too much time to myself as a child – as being key factors in the way I interpret the world around me!

I’ve always been a sci-fi fan, particularly Star Trek, Star Wars, Buck Rogers, Space 1999 – you know, the classics! In reading, it was Harry Harrison in particular – and Terry Pratchett who filled my head with strange things… still, it doesn’t quite explain how I came up with some of my story elements or scenarios!

For example, few people expected to see vampires in my sci-fi short story “The Thirteenth Ship” (the characters didn’t see it coming either) and probably even fewer expected the character of Fred in “Black Sunrise” to be a walking, talking sentient alien plant who walks about carrying his own pot! The planet Deanna for instance, is somewhat sarcastically referred to across the Terran Empire as “the center of the galaxy as far as weirdness is concerned” – since one of its small moons falls down occasionally, and gets put back in orbit by the tourism office!

It’s quite concerning really, I mean, ideas like that don’t just grow on trees you know! 😉

12. Plotter or Pantser? Or as it’s now known, Architect or Gardener?

Most of the time, I develop a story in thought before even setting down a single word. I work out a rough plot and characters and settings etc. then develop this plot in more detail, and then start working on the actual story. In terms of my series however, it’s easier because I essentially continue the story featuring the same characters and settings and just have to develop the actual plot. I confess that on occasion, I’ve actually foregone the plot development stage altogether and just winged it from beginning to end – and oddly enough, this worked out perfectly since I did all that in my head as I worked on my story, leading me to understand that sometimes stories will simply tell themselves. I love my characters – they’re like children to me, perhaps because I put so much of myself into them – good and bad.

13.  Is there anything you’d like to tell us about upcoming projects that excite you?

Yes, there is as a matter of fact! Over the last year or so, I’ve worked closely with Brandon Mullins of Moon Books Publishing, an American small press, and with their assistance I’ve been able to release some of my books in audiobook format! Four are already out so far – three of my own and one I was the Editor for!

Today in fact, book two in the Galaxii Series “Demonspawn” was released on Audible and I’m very excited about that – it was narrated by Nigel Peever, who’s a really dynamic fellow! Not only is he a stunning audiobook narrator and character actor, he’s also an actor who’s appeared in movies, TV and on stage! He also narrated book 1, “Blachart”, released in July, which has already proved very popular in terms of sales! He will be working on book 3 in the new year. In the meantime,I’m currently working on book 4 in that same series to have it ready for when he’s done with that one!

I’m also waiting on the imminent release of “Malice!” a horror collection read by Michelle Innes – a wonderful Scottish narrator whose accent gives me goosebumps!

I have a string of projects still awaiting completion, so I work on one for a while, then another, and eventually I finish one. Often though, I will drop everything to start and finish another story in the space of a month – as in the case of “Mirror, Mirror” and “Lifetime” for example.

There will be more of my books coming out in audiobook form this year – so stay tuned!

14. How many of your social media links can you list in 10 seconds…and go! (lol, take your time).

View all my available books, paperbacks, eBooks and audiobooks on my official author site: https://christinaengela.wordpress.com/ or visit the following pages to view titles in my series:

The Galaxii Series: http://christinaengela.com/bibliography/novels/the-galaxii-series/

The Quantum Series: http://christinaengela.com/bibliography/novels/the-quantum-series/

Panic! Horror In Space: http://christinaengela.com/bibliography/novels/about-panic-horror-in-space/

Space Sucks!:https://www.smashwords.com/books/byseries/47770

Audiobooks: https://www.audible.com/author/Christina-Engela/B00OBY5PD8

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Christina-Engela/e/B00OBY5PD8/

More social media links:

Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn | Academia | Minds | Instagram | GoodReads | Author’s Database | Library Thing | YouTube | Pintrest | Stage32 | The Book Marketing Network

Thanks Christina, that was awesome, and some great insight in there!

And, If you like dark comedic horror ( and who doesn’t), then take a peak at my latest book, Jynx, which is free if you’re a member of Kindle Unlimited.

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