Tuesday, December 30, 2014

First Drafts and Writing

First drafts are complicated beasts. On the one hand, there's excitement- new story, new characters, new directions, new possibilities. On the other, there's frustration. And doubt. And that nagging suspicion that maybe I don't know how to write a novel after all. Despite this being my third go round (Fifth if you count the two books before A Tree Born Crooked, which I am not counting...), the old anxieties are beginning to swarm like yellow flies in the Florida woods.

With the last book, at this point in the writing (which is still very, very early), I was struggling with point of view. This time it's narrative distance. And the old standbys of pacing and plot construction of course. Add to that the sheer volume of unexpected research (due to unexpected story developments) and it's been a slow, somewhat intimidating process. And then there's everything else that's been going on in the writing, publishing, working, living world....

Still, I'm pushing on. I'm having to let go of some of the time expectations. I've had to allow myself room to explore this new book in the way that I want to. In the way that I think it deserves. In some respects, that means adjusting my writing process, which is difficult. I'm pretty hard on myself when it comes to writing and though I certainly don't planning on cutting myself any slack, I will have to be patient and understand that every book is different- this new one especially so.

And so this is the writing life. Neurotic. Critical. Plagued with anxiety and isolation and at times the edge of madness. At times, a tiny, exhilarating, addicting moment of success.....


Monday, December 22, 2014

Dancing with the Masters: A Conversation with Mira Jacob, author of The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing

Today, I am super excited to bring you an interview with Mira Jacob, author of the debut novel everyone is talking about: The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing. Though to be fair, aside from the chronology of this novel in what is sure to be an amazing body of work from Jacob, nothing about this book is akin to a debut. It already belongs on a shelf with the masters and has the makings of a classic before its time. Traveling through decades and across continents, The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing is more than just the tale of Amina Eapen and her family. It is an emersion into different cultures, both Indian and American, and an exploration of the truest nature of love, loss and resilience. Jacob's book has a deep heart and an edge of magic to it. It was the sort of novel I reluctantly put down and eagerly picked back up, and I feel truly fortunate to have had the opportunity to catch up with Jacob and to bring her words to you.

Steph Post: Especially after the first full 'family scene' in India, I was especially struck by how well you handle dialogue in The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing. At many points throughout the novel you write these crazy, chaotic family scenes around the dinner table that include many family members, all talking at once, all pushing different agendas, all loving and hurting one another at the same time. In a way, these parts of the novel felt like an Indian August: Osage County of sorts. How did you manage to keep all of the dialogue straight as you were writing these scenes?

Mira Jacob: My mother made me into a rampant eavesdropper. As an immigrant, she is constantly delighted by what Americans will discuss in public, and just as often as not, a dinner out with the two of us is spent with us wriggling our eyebrows at each other. It drives the men in our lives understandably crazy, but it has also turned me into a person who can automatically track an entire conversation with my eyes closed. I know those beats well.

SP: Along the same lines, just as multiple threads of dialogue are woven through these family scenes, multiple timelines are woven throughout the novel as the story flashes back and forth between 1998, 1979 and 1982 to give the reader a full picture of Amina and her family's tale. In crafting the novel, how did you plan out the myriad settings? Did you outline first? Or write each timeline separately? How did you maintain the balance of settings as you were writing?

MJ: You know what's funny? I didn't even consider pacing settings as I wrote. I think in scenes, so I wrote about 400 of them and cut half. In terms of jumping between locations and times, I did plot that out on a wall after my agent told me the story was dying in the middle and my husband (a filmmaker) suggested I try to storyboard.

SP: Your characters, while unique and definitely memorable, seemed completely natural and almost effortless. They were rich and complex- at times, I felt as if I were reading a memoir and not a novel because the characters were so dynamic and realistic. How do you begin the process of crafting a character? Are your characters ever based on or influenced by real people?

MJ: One character in here absolutely is--Thomas, the father. I had originally been writing about a father who was going to be leaving his family somehow, and then in real life my father got cancer and died. To make a long story short, putting him in was the way I dealt with my grief. But the rest of the characters, including Kamala and Akhil, just sort of revealed themselves over time, and became more real to me in the process of writing, to the point where I wasn't sure they didn't exist when I stopped. I missed them. I kept thinking I might run into them.


SP: As with all great family dramas, The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing is filled with moments of heartache, frustration and triumph. The plot of the novel is buoyed by a series of highs and lows that keep the reader continually invested in Amina's story. Reading your novel was a deep, multi-layered experience, and it never felt like work to get through the narrative. Yet some novels do require a 'labor of love' from the reader and make it worth it in the end. What are your feelings towards this subject? Do you think readers should have to struggle with a novel?

MJ: First--thank you for all these nice things you are saying. When I am lying in bed wondering who I am next year, I'm pulling out this interview and using it as therapy. So as for thinking readers should struggle a bit--I do think that's more than fair. Art is worth fighting for, always. At the same time, after running Pete's Reading Series for 14 years, I have a strong love of a direct narrative that just keeps you pulled in. As a result, I tend to go for complicated structures with very straightforward scenes. It feels like asking the reader to do the right amount of work for the kind of story I'm going to deliver.

SP: The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing is your debut novel and it has taken the literary world by storm. Do you think that you have a particular style that sets your apart? Do you want to have a trademark style?

MJ: I had one lovely review that basically said "she's a combination of Bharati Mukherjee, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Jhumpa Lahiri, Arundhati Roy and Woody Allen," which was flattering at every turn, obviously. And one day I hope that combo will be called Mira Jacob.

SP: Speaking of debuts, this has been an incredible year for debut writers. Who are some of your favorite new authors on the scene?

MJ: So many! Right now I'm remembering Marie-Helene Bertino, Scott Cheshire, Courtney Maum, Ted Thompson and Will Chancellor, but I'm sure I'll go away and have 20 pop to mind instantly. We were a bunch of crazy weeds this year.

SP: Finally, we all know that writers are influenced by other writers and other books- who or what outside of the literary world played a significant role in your crafting of The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing?
MJ: My dad was a brilliant live storyteller, the best I can think of, actually. Timing, arc, sensibility, he really knew how to pull emotions to an unexpected place, and he was unafraid to hold a silence. I still think about that when I feel stuck. What's going to make the room come apart? Gun for that.


Thanks so much to Mira Jacob for stopping by! Make sure to pick up your copy of The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing today!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Two Lists!

I'm super stoked to mention that A Tree Born Crooked made two more end of the year lists!

Top Ten Books of 2014 on Bent Country by Sheldon Lee Compton

"Wow, people. Hardcore Florida."


Best Books of 2014  on The Spark (Alternating Current) by Leah Angstman

"Her writing is colorful and full of rough beauty, and she’s gunning for her spot among the backwoods boys to bring a little touch of female firecracker to the country-noir picnic."
That's right, boys- this firecracker is here to stay....

Thanks so much to Sheldon and Leah, both amazing people and writers in their own right. Their support of A Tree Born Crooked is much, much appreciated. As is their friendship.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Small Press Book Review: A Tree Born Crooked

Check out this review of A Tree Born Crooked by C.A. LaRue over on Small Press Book Review. This is one of my favorite lines...

"And while I hate to make comparisons to other writers, Post’s Tree-Born vibe is very Carson McCullers meets fearless inventiveness of Virginia Woolf, with maybe a Barry Hannah daiquiri air-brushed in."

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Swim in Frozen Waters: An Interview with Winterswim author Ryan Bradley

It’s been a while since I’ve posted an author interview, but get ready- the series is gearing back up and I’ve got quite a few waiting in the wings. Over the next month I’ll be posting interviews with some amazing authors and I’m so excited to kick it off with a conversation with Winterswim author Ryan Bradley.

Winterswim is a crooked, dark, strange little tale. I read the story of the meth-addicted Pastor Sheldon Long and his awkward, but well-meaning son Steven, in one sitting. Reading Winterswim is like taking a gulp of sharp air and then plunging underwater into a frozen sea, staying down as long as you can, and then emerging, gasping, sputtering, shivering, addled, and ultimately, changed by the experience. It’s not for the squeamish, not for the easily offended. This is a book for readers who want to be stricken, and for those daring enough to take the plunge, it will be worth every second.
Steph Post: As Winterswim pulls no punches, I’m going to follow suit and dive right on in with the hard questions. Winterswim takes place in a harsh Alaskan landscape, populated with shadowy, almost half-formed souls, so I wasn’t surprised about the violence present, or at least lurking, in almost every scene. I was surprised, and, honestly, shocked, by the amount of predatory sexual violence in the story. It becomes so prevalent as to reach a point of saturation, creating numbness in the reader, which echoes the numbness felt by the characters. Was this your reasoning for including so much disturbing sexual imagery, at the possible cost of alienating some readers? Were you using these scenes to convey an ulterior message?
Ryan Bradley: We’re all half-formed souls, right? I’m a very nonviolent person in real life, to the point that even accidentally hurting a person or an animal would make me sick to my stomach. I was driving a couple weeks ago and a bird hit my windshield and I haven’t stopped feeling a little queasy over it. Sometimes the stuff I write has the same effect, but what I’m interested in exploring is the lengths people will go to in life, the way they justify things to themselves, the way they interact with others.
So, to get more to the point, yes, a big part of the reason there is so much predatory violence is that numbness, another part of that is I think it’s a more realistic portrayal. If you’re going to write about a serial killer but hold back on the violence I don’t think you’re painting a very realistic portrait. If you’re going to write about someone who preys on a particular set of characteristics, then those are the people your story is going to end up revolving around.
I made a conscious decision years ago to not hold back with my writing, to write what I wanted to write and not worry about what some (or any) people might think. On one hand that limits my audience and probably the ability to sell my books to larger publishers, etc., but it’s the only way I know to honor what I want to get out of writing.
SP: Your style is clearly minimalist in a very distilled, honed sense, and this shines brightly in the development of your characters. What interested me most, though, is how I found your characters developing backwards as the novel moved forward. Many stories start with a complex character and throughout the course of the narrative, layers of the character are peeled back to eventually reveal an inner core to the reader. Your characters, especially the main characters of Pastor Sheldon Long, Steven and Kate, begin as simple characters, but build in layers as the story builds in tension. By the time the novel ended, I felt that I knew less about your characters than I did at the beginning, because they had been wrapped in these layers, which ultimately left them as more fascinating. Was this your intention? Do you normally write characters this way?
RB: I’ve never thought about it in exactly those terms, but you are definitely right. Simplicity in writing is sort of my mission, though part of it is just naturally how I write, whether I’m trying to or not. But as far as how the characters unfold it is definitely what makes sense to me. We never really know everything about a person. When you first meet someone all you have is the basics. But you can know someone for years and still be learning about them. I think it should be the same for fictional characters.

There are two things people seem to think is necessary in fiction in regard to characters, one being that you have to establish their personalities/identitites early on, and two, that as a writer you have to know your characters inside and out. I resist both notions. As a reader I don’t feel the need to open a book and know exactly what a character looks like, what their background is, etc in the first third of the story. And as a writer I don’t feel the need to map out the entire histories of my characters, each scene they’ll tell me something about themselves. Just like getting to know someone in real life.
SB: Winterswim is rooted in its setting of Alaska. Even as I’m writing these questions, I’ve been tempted to make allusions to winter- diving into frozen waters, wrapped in woolen blankets, etc. Everything about this novel, from the setting to the style to the language seems to echo a barren state of winter. As someone from Florida, who, ahem, has barely even seen snow, I found the world and atmosphere you create to be as foreign as an alien planet. So, why Alaska? Why winter? In other words, why is everything so cold?
RB: Alaska is alien, especially in comparison to the rest of the country. I was born in Alaska, half-raised there, worked in the Arctic Circle briefly. I think about Alaska every day, look at the weather in Anchorage, look at pictures. I miss it intensely. There’s a quote in something (a movie, a book, hell maybe some class I took in college) about great writers having conflicted relationships with where they are from. I don’t have that (not to imply that I might be a great writer), despite the fact that I don’t align with the state that well in personality, politics, etc. I have a complicated relationship in being away from Alaska. As such, most of my fiction takes place there. Not only does it serve my stories in terms of setting, but also in the kinds of people I want to write about. Plus, it helps me feel close to home in some way.
SP: Yet, I must say, that while I can’t relate to the temperature of the world of Winterswim, I can certainly relate to the seediness. I, too, write about characters who are on the bottom, who are lost and often unlikeable. If you turned up the heat, your characters and mine could probably inhabit the same town. Do you think the setting of Winterswim isolates your story or allows readers to get closer to it?
RB: I’m reading A Tree Born Crooked right now (well, not this second, as I am at work)! I think there are definitely a lot of similarities between what we write. And I think the interesting thing about writing unlikeable characters is that you start to find things that make you realize how you can find something sympathetic in anyone. It’s easy to write a character who has good intentions, and doesn’t fuck up, and who people will find it easy to root for, but that’s not very interesting to me. People are flawed, so why not embrace that. If you have a cast of unlikeable characters people are still going to find someone to root for if it’s well written.
As for the isolation, I’m not sure. I don’t think people can necessarily always relate to that setting, but I think for those who can’t it’s a sort of curiosity. I’ve spent time in a lot of different places, and as a reader the setting of a story has never effected my engagement with it. I’m sure that’s not the case for everyone, but what are you gonna do?
SP: My favorite part of Winterswim was the inclusion of the Tlingit legend of GonaqAde’t, a sea monster. I love mythology and have been deep in the study of world tricksters for the book I’m currently working on. Can you tell me more about GonaqAde’t and why you included this tale in the novel?
RB: This was the missing piece as far as the writing of the book. Once I realized that the native mythology had to play a part in the story the writing started to flow so much easier, so much more quickly. I’ve always been fascinated by mythology as well, and growing up I was around the native cultures of Alaska a fair amount. We had a lot of family friends who were Tlingit, I spent time at pow-wows, etc.
It’s one of the myths I remember most vividly, because a friend of my stepfather’s wrote a play based on the legend and I remember watching that as a kid. Of course, I probably mangled the legend of GonaqAdêt quite a bit, but that’s what Pastor Long does throughout the story, he twists and twists these myths, these characters, until they suit his convictions and delusions. Pastor Long was born into a conflict between Christianity and native culture, so trying to make him one-sided just wasn’t going to work.
SP: Outside of being a writer, you are also a designer and you designed the amazing cover for Winterswim. How important was the visual image of Winterswim to you? What do you think the cover says to readers?
RB: Thank you. Attempting to put biases aside, it’s one of my favorite covers I’ve designed. I really wanted something almost cinematic and I think I accomplished that. At first I bristled at the idea of putting a cross on the cover, but it worked so well that my own feelings about that fell away. I hope it conveys a few things at once, that it’s going to be a cold, dark, grimy read.
In the digital age, and especially with small presses where the books are more often than not being bought online, book covers have to be approached differently I think. What might make you pick up a book in person might not make you click on a product on Amazon, per se, and vice versa. I don’t know if the Winterswim cover necessarily would do either, but I’m quite fond of it anyway.

SP: Of the many things we have in common, we both have tattoos that relate to our books. Can you tell me about your Winterswim tattoo and why you felt the need to get it?
RB: I always had the idea that when I had a book published I would get a tattoo for it. When my first novel, Code for Failure was about to come out I got John Dermot Woods’ awesome drawing for the cover tattooed on my forearm. I also have one for my poetry collection, TheWaiting Tide, and the Artistically Declined Press logo to represent both running the press as well as the books of mine that we have put out. The plan is to have something that will relate to every book I write. For Winterswim I picked an early alternate design I came up with while working on the cover. In one sense it’s kind of messed up because it’s basically an illustration of someone reaching out for a drowning girl. But in some ways that feels pretty representative of being a writer in general.

When I got the tattoo done the artist was asking about the book so I gave him a rough summary of it and he paused, asked what had given me the idea. I gave him a shrug and an “that’s just what came out” kind of answer and he took a longer pause. Then he said “does your wife ever worry about you.” To which I could only reply, “all the time.” 
SP: Finally, what’s next? In addition to writing novels and designing book covers, you are also an accomplished poet and short story writer. Is there anything you can’t do?

RB: I’m gonna try to keep breathing. Other than that, who knows. I have at least one thing on the horizon book-wise that I can’t quite talk about yet, but I really haven’t written much in the last two years. I’ve worked on revising some existing manuscripts. I have a billion ideas but not much time to get them down. I’m considering trying to write a TV script based on Winterswim. That seems like it might be fun. Mostly that’s what I want to try to do, find ways to be creative and have fun at the same time, which probably sounds easier than it is, at least for me.

Thanks so much to Ryan Bradley for stopping by! Pick up your copy of Winterswim today and, as always, read, review, repeat….


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Tree Born Crooked Is Now Available In Bookstores!

Heads up! My publisher has expanded its distribution- A Tree Born Crooked is now available to order through Ingrams. Own a bookstore? Look it up and order. Go to bookstores? If it's not on the shelf, ask for the store to order it and carry it.

Support your Indie bookstores and Indie authors!

Thanks for the love...

Monday, December 15, 2014

Promise Me- The Round Up Zine

Heads up! My flash fiction piece titled "Promise Me" was featured in the Flash Edition of The Round Up Writer's Zine. Enjoy!

Entertainment Weekly Radio

Last Wednesday I was fortunate enough to be interviewed on Behind The Scenes with Anthony Breznican for Entertainment Weekly Radio. (Siruis XM Radio) If you missed the broadcast, you can still listen to the episode on demand! Don't miss Anthony and I talking about the films that inspired A Tree Born Crooked... (you might be surprised by a few....)

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Steph's Amazing, Spectactular, Superlative, 2014 Book List Extravangaza!

In the spirit of the seven million end-of-the-year booklists currently circulating on and off the internet, I felt inclined to add to the noise and create my own. So here you go- I present to you, Steph Post's Most Important, Highly Essential, 2014 List of Books Extraordinaire...

(Note: Most of these books are already on actual, notable book lists, but that should make these awards no less important...)

Ryan Bradley's WINTERSWIM- Book most likely to be read by angry polar bears. Also, book most likely to kill you if dropped on your head (when frozen into a block of ice, as seen above).

Anthony Breznican's BRUTAL YOUTH- Best totemic imagery (I'm talking baby sharks in jars, people). Special award for characters most likely to stay with you long after you've finished reading.

Taylor Brown's IN THE SEASON OF BLOOD AND GOLD- Book most likely to renew your faith in the power of short stories. Monumental award for Best Short Story of the year for "Sin Eaters" as well.

Eric Shonkwiler's ABOVE ALL MEN- Best use of risk-taking dialogue.

Smith Henderson's FOURTH OF JULY CREEK- Best use of word re-appropriation. (Wyoming, oh Wyoming....)

Leonard Chang's TRIPLINES- Best use of a single line to convey the heartache of an entire story ("You killed my tree.")

Nayomi Munaweera's ISLAND OF A THOUSAND MIRRORS- Book most likely to break your heart and then put it back together again.

Tom Bouman's DRY BONES IN THE VALLEY- Best use of setting to create theme. Also, book most likely to convince you to make a squirrel pie.

Scott Cheshire's HIGH AS THE HORSES' BRIDLES- Best opening and closing scenes. Special award for best Star Wars reference.

Schuler Benson's THE POOR MAN'S GUIDE TO AN AFFORDABLE, PAINLESS SUICIDE- Best book design. Special award for a story with a Popple in a meth lab.

Sheldon Lee Compton's WHERE ALLIGATORS SLEEP- Best exhibition of honest, brutal, punch-you-in-the-face writing.

Matthew Gavin Frank's PREPARING THE GHOST- Best arrangement of bizarre topics that make perfect sense together. Also, book most likely to make you never, never eat calamari again.

Will Chancellor's A BRAVE MAN SEVEN STOREYS TALL- Book most likely to cause you to see the world differently. Special award for influencing me to research mythology.

Honorable mentions go to Will Boast's EPILOUGE and Mira Jacob's THE SLEEPWALKER'S GUIDE TO DANCING for being incredible debuts that I am currently in the process of reviewing.

The Lifetime Achievement Award goes to Sam Kean for making me love science and whose TALE OF THE DUELING NEUROSURGENS is the Book most likely to make your jaw drop. 

Now that, my friends, is a book list. If you haven't read these gems, do so. Do so now. And always, review and spread the word....

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Stephen King's Contemporary Classics

I am so thrilled to share: a story that I wrote is included in the fantastic new book of Stephen King scholarship: Stephen King's Contemporary Classics: Reflections on the Modern Master of Horror. In addition to Chapter 14 (my story), my graduate school project for a Stephen King class is analyzed in another essay on teaching with King's On Writing. Yep, I am pretty proud of this one...


Read To Write Stories Part 2....

In addition to the writing exercise that was built around A Tree Born Crooked and posted earlier in the week, Read To Write Stories has an interview with me up today. Michael Noll and I are talking Florida, plot issues and how Cormac McCarthy helped me to craft dialogue. I'd say it's worth a read...


The Badass Chronicles No. 1

Today, I am proud to announce the very first installment in my series over on Revolution John Magazine. The Badass Chronicles is a monthly column wherein I am writing about all things I consider to be badass. (read this first article to find out what exactly means...) This month I'm writing about one of my favorite short stories of all time- Jenny Hollowell's "A History of Everything, Including You." Please take a look, share and be sure to check out all of the killer writing happening everyday on Revolution John.


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A Tree Born Crooked on Read To Write Stories

I am thrilled to share that A Tree Born Crooked is featured on one of my favorite writing sites today: Read to Write Stories. This site uses excepts from current novels to teach a specific lesson on writing. An excerpt from A Tree Born Crooked is used to teach writing active character descriptions. This is a writing teacher's dream come true!

And stay tuned for Thursday, when an interview with me will be featured as well!


Saturday, November 29, 2014

Home... and Thankful


I have spent the last week driving all over the Southeast so I missed getting in a Thanksgiving post. Which is fine, because Thanksgiving is pretty much my least favorite holiday. For a gluten-free vegetarian, the food isn't all that exciting (yay! more salad!), and although the past few years haven't been a problem, I have plenty of stressful memories of Thanksgiving (and Christmas...) as a child. It always rains on Thanksgiving, the color scheme is awful, the social-political implications, etc. etc. I'm more of a Fourth of July kind of girl. You know, summer, fireworks.... fun stuff.
That doesn't mean that I'm not a thankful person, though. Some days the gratitude welling up inside me almost hurts. There are times when I'm so thankful that I'm alive, that people I know are alive, that it seems almost unbearable to think about. (I know, I'm weird- this is why I don't write about emotional things here)
But in the spirit of thankfulness (and in being extremely thankful that I, and the dogs, are all home now) I'd like to make a few mentions-
I am thankful for dogs. (could you guess?) But seriously. There have been times when I'm pretty sure Vito and Lucy have been responsible for saving my life. (again, dispensing with the emotional bullshit) I don't understand how people can not share their lives with dogs. Having dogs is the most natural thing in the world to me. More natural than having children. Although picking them all up from the kennel today, by myself, in my little Suzuki, was not the most fun. Still, they are home now. And happy. Asleep and curled up around me, apparently having forgiven me for leaving them. Dogs are pretty much the greatest thing ever. Ever. So I'm thankful.
I am thankful for my husband, Ryan Holt, who puts up with me. (see, he even has to deal with being listed After the dogs..... though if he reads this, he won't he surprised) I am not easy to deal with at times. I'm a writer, for Christ's sake. If you are one, or have ever loved one, then you know what I'm talking about.
I am thankful for my family, who is equally as crazy as I am. (this incudes my in-laws, who are also nuts and most likely the best in-laws on the planet)
I am thankful for the readers who support me in buying my books, reading my work and giving me reason to keep writing.
I am thankful for my fellow writer friends (most of whom I've just met recently), who keep me motivated, stable and able to keep the roller-coaster ride of being published in perspective.
I am thankful for my students, who keep it fresh, and my faculty, who keep it real.
I am also thankful for nachos and cheese fries. Because otherwise, there would be no joy in the food world for me.
I am thankful for books, ideas, art, compassion, television shows and films that stretch my mind and inspire jealously (which inspires motivation), mentors, being healthy, friends and the choices and chances that have allowed me to have the life that I do.
So thank you.

Friday, November 28, 2014

A Tree Born Crooked is Free Today!

Don't miss out- Right now you can download a Kindle copy of A Tree Born Crooked for free. This deal is for today only. If you've been wanting to check out it out- here's your chance!


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Morgen Bailey's Author Spotlight

This week I was Author Spotlight no. 387 on Morgen Bailey's Writing Blog. Check it out to learn more about me, A Tree Born Crooked and to read my guest post on advice for making it as a novelist (it's all about love and mistakes). When you're done reading my post, check out the rest of Morgen's fantastic blog which hosts tons of resources for writers including prompts, tips, submission and contest information and more.


Miami Book Fair International!

I just wanted to say thanks to all of the wonderful peeps that came out to the Miami Book Fair International on Friday. I met so many fellow writers, readers, publishers, professors... it was a whirlwind. (almost literally, considering how rainy and windy it was)
The entire Miami event goes on for almost two weeks, ending with the outdoor Fair this past weekend. And when I say Fair, I mean six city blocks of tents full of authors, publishing companies-everything from McSweeny's to Harper Collins- book sellers, indie presses, writing groups, publicity companies and more. We're talking food trucks, balloon animals and shoulder to shoulder people. The incessant wind and rain didn't seem to hold anyone back and I was amazed at how many people came out.
The best moments of the Fair for me were talking to students. Friday offered many writing workshops for kids of all ages and the chance to meet some prominent young adult authors, so the streets were full of students, who were unabashedly full of questions. Instead of the usual "what's your book" about questions, I fielded a lot of "what's it like to be an author" or "how do you become a writer" questions. Student after student told me about the short stories and poems they wrote and I hope that I was able to offer both encouragement and practical advice. They wanted to take pictures with me and have me sign postcards for them and I was even interviewed for a school report. I would have given anything to meet a real author when I was their age (I'm pretty sure I didn't meet any authors until I was in college) and so I hope that I was able to pass on a little inspiration.
My one regret is that I wasn't able to stay at the Fair longer. Some of my favorite authors, including Smith Henderson, Wiley Cash and Rick Bragg were set to speak on Saturday and Sunday,  but the rest of this crazy road trip I'm on was calling. Next year I will definitely plan better and be sure to attend many more events.
In a nutshell, Miami was a blast.                                   

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Back in the Saddle and Writing

This past weekend I finally got back in the saddle and began writing the first draft of my new novel.

I'd be lying if I didn't say it wasn't intimidating/frustrating/terrifying/euphoric and strangely familiar. This will be the fifth time I've written a novel. The first, written right out of undergrad, was more of a training ground than anything and will never see the light of day. The second was my (no longer in print) self-published novel and the third, of course, was A Tree Born Crooked. At this point last year I was deep in the trenches with my fourth novel and now here we go again.

I always find it strange to begin writing again. While I've spent the last four months researching, I haven't actually written too much.  A few short stories over the summer and some personal essays, many book reviews and author interviews and promotional work for A Tree Born Crooked. But I've been off the steady writing track since May and it's been a year since I was recklessly plowing through a first draft.

And being reckless is necessary. Everyone has a different writing process, and mine changes subtly with each new work, but when I'm writing a first draft all fear has to be thrown aside and all caution trampled underfoot. I can't think about the final product. I can't worry about the language, or about the reader (too much anyway)-  I have to write selfishly and with abandon. I have to only let myself think about the characters and the story. All of the craft elements will come later. The first draft is all about getting it down, maybe not fast, but definitely dirty.

And getting myself back into this mindset is not easy. Especially with everything else writing related (editing, teaching, promoting, etc.) happening all at the same time. Is this stressful? Absolutely. Is it daunting? Possibly. Will it hold me back in the slightest? Hell no.

Here we go again. See you on the flipside.


Sunday, November 9, 2014

Covered with Harry Marks (a podcast interview)

Just in case you missed it- my first podcast interview aired on Friday. It was fantastic fun and great conversation! Harry and I talk influences, the writing process and what it means to be an author. Enjoy. :)

Covered: A Conversation About Books with the People Who Write Them

Friday, November 7, 2014


Today only, download the Kindle version of A Tree Born Crooked for free. Here's your chance to see what everyone is talking about..... Enjoy! 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Book Review: Where Alligators Sleep by Sheldon Lee Compton

Sheldon Lee Compton's collection of flash fiction pieces, Where Alligators Sleep, is one of the best story collections I've read all year. It's the sort of book that reaches inside you, grabs your guts and twists. Read my review of Where Alligators Sleep over on Heavy Feather Review and stay to check out all of the other fantastic reviews!


Sunday, November 2, 2014

"Writing Under Fire" Guest Post on Read Her Like An Open Book

Today I'm over on the killer book website Read Her Like An Open Book talking about the multi-tasking life of an author. Read about how I'm trying to manage writing, selling and promoting 3 separate books at one time. And how it feels like doing so puts me right smack in the middle of a war zone....


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading

I just wanted to say thanks to everyone who came out to the festival on Saturday. It was a lot of fun and I appreciate all of the readers who picked up copies of A Tree Born Crooked! 


Friday, October 24, 2014

Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading

Tomorrow, (10/25) I'll be in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida signing copies of A Tree Born Crooked at the 22nd Annual Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading. I've been looking forward to this all year and the author lineup is fantastic! Don't miss out!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Heavy Feather Review of A Tree Born Crooked

Today I'm thrilled to have a killer review up at Heavy Feather Review. Here's an excerpt to give you an idea of what Sam Slaughter thinks of A Tree Born Crooked:

"Each of the people she brings to life on her pages doesn't so much perpetuate the stereotype of a Florida Cracker as it does bring to life the people you meet at the gas station on the side of a two-lane highway. The skill with which she does this allows the novel to slide along with all the grace of an alligator in water."

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Gratitude and Writing: Pt. 2

To the readers spreading the word about A Tree Born Crooked....
To the peeps already writing reviews....
To the established authors providing invaluable support and advice....
To the folks who've connected....
Who've been enthusiastic....
Who've gone out of their way....

Thank you. 
Here's to you.
Debut authors would be nothing without you. Remember that. 

(And here's a fox. Because I love foxes. And I love you all. So it makes sense....)

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Goodreads Giveaway for A Tree Born Crooked

Spread the word: A Goodreads giveaway for 3 autographed copies of A Tree Born Crooked is currently going on. You only have until October 26 to enter! This is more exciting than a puppy with a cupcake!

Monday, October 6, 2014

"Championing the Loser: 13 Questions with Grit Lit Author Steph Post"

Today I'm over at Writer's Bone, answering interview questions about fears, Florida and, of course, writing. Read my interview and then stay to check out the many others (I mean, come on, there's one with Gene Hackman...) as well as all of the other writerly happenings....

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Holding it in My Hands

THIS... Is one of the best feelings ever. That's all...


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Indie Ink Runs Deep

Today I had the wonderful opportunity to give a little back ground on my crooked tree tattoo (one of soooo many...) and it's relationship to my debut novel A Tree Born Crooked. Hop on over to The Next Big Book Blog and check out my feature on Indie Ink Runs Deep. Make sure to stay and read the excellent book reviews being posted on the site- there are some fantastic finds!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Gratitude and Writing

So, a very long time ago I started telling stories. Then one day, I decided "I'm going to be a writer!" (Having no idea what that actually meant) I went on to high school and wrote some poems that got me into college, where I wrote some short stories that landed me a daring career as a waitress and bartender, where I listened to other people's stories and eventually decided to go back to grad school, where I wrote a novel for my master's thesis, but fell in love with teaching, so I became a teacher and then, one day, two and a half years ago I decided, "okay, now I'm not just going to be a writer. I'm going to be an author" and I started writing the book that was signed last year and published today, yes today: A Tree Born Crooked. 

And that's how it happened. 

And it couldn't have happened without so many people along the way who not only supported me and encouraged me, but who never let failure be an option. Who would not ever let me even consider the idea that I would not achieve my dreams. From my best friends whom I've known and for the past 15 years to the authors I've just met only this summer, from professors to punk rockers, students to co-workers, all those that I have loved, both alive and looking down right now- you have all lent me a tremendous strength that I am extremely grateful for.  

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. 

(And yes, today I am a total cheeseball. And I'm okay with that...I can be cool again tomorrow...)

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Storytelling at its finest: An Interview with Schuler Benson, author of The Poor Man's Guide to an Affordable, Painless Suicide

As if this week couldn’t get any better, today I bring you an interview with Schuler Benson, author of The Poor Man’s Guide to an Affordable, Painless Suicide. This collection of short stories will disturb you, startle you, possibly even shatter you. It will unsettle you and it will renew your faith in the short story genre. Benson is a risk-taker and his prose pushes boundaries while inspiring awe. This collection is not for the faint of heart- but it IS for any fan of savage beauty and masterful storytelling.

Steph Post: Since your stories seem to do the same, I’d like to dive right in. You write very graphically about some pretty disturbing situations- kids growing up in a meth lab, marital abuse, death, violence, more death and so on. With your descriptive style and attention to detail (usually the kind most people overlook) you take, what I’d call “everyday horror” to a whole new level. What spurs you to populate your stories with these unsettling scenes, settings and characters?

Schuler Benson: It's an interesting distinction to make, or try to make, between "everyday horror" and just "the everyday." I've been to some wonderful places, made connections with wonderful people, and I have a lot to be thankful for. Having said that, I've done some pretty awful shit and been in some pretty bleak places with some shady folks. Those are the places where I think I learned the most about others, and about who I am. And who I'm not. A lot of what I've read, seen in movies, or heard elsewhere and enjoyed kinda works the same way. I think some of the uglier parts of these stories are equal parts dark corner and mirror. The dark corners make for interesting scenarios to plumb, and the mirrors keep things honest.

SP: I’m a sucker for well written dialogue and you are a master of it. In writing dialect you use words such as “whatchu,” “arrite” and “lemme,” which effortlessly convey the characters’ voices. What is your process for crafting dialect words? How important is it to you that you get the dialect correct?

SB: Man, thank you so much. I love listening to people. I’ve been a mimic my whole life, and I guess that’s worked its way into how I tell stories. I try my best to get the way people talk down on paper in a way that looks and feels natural enough that it’s not impossible to read for people who aren’t accustomed to that kind of speech. Not everyone’s gonna get it though, and honestly, alienating a few people is a risk I’ll take if even one person reads it and thinks, “man, I can really hear this stuff.” It can be polarizing, but that makes it all the more rewarding when it works. Plus, in work I’ve read by established writers, when the dialect really works, it makes for such a fun read. Seeing it done well by others has been, and continues to be, a big inspiration for me.

SP: There are so many well-written stories in this collection of twelve, but without a doubt “A Hindershot of Calion” is my favorite. This is the story that really sparked for me- the dialogue is spot-on and the apathy and tenderness of the characters rings completely true without a hint of artifice. So, I have to know the story behind the story; how did “Hindershot” start out and how did it become the gem that it is?

SB: I’m so glad you liked it. And I’m a little surprised by the love that story’s gotten, because it’s definitely the oddball in the collection, and when I was writing it, I honestly never expected it to see the light of day. In the spring of 2013, I’d just had my first story accepted for publication. I was excited, couldn’t wait to tell my family. I was going to be back in my hometown in mid-May. I didn’t get down there very often, and I was hoping the story’d be published before I got there so my folks could read it, but it wasn’t slated for publication until later in the summer. Before I took that trip, I sat down at my computer with the express intention of writing something my grandparents would like, specifically my grandfather, the real Denny. Just to have something to give them, you know? I wrote that story in, like, an evening, and between then and when it eventually debuted, it changed very little. The story’s fictional, and it contains a fictionalized version of Denny, but a lot of the places are real, and some of the themes deal a lot with the relationship he and I had. I brought it to him, and my Gran read it to him and he loved it. Later that summer, on a whim, I submitted it to Alternating Current for the Go Read Your Lunch series, and when it was accepted, I was floored. It’s a cool story, but it’s also a little bit Mayberry, and I didn’t expect it’d be the kind of thing anyone would go for. Can’t tell you how happy I am now to have been wrong then.

SP: Especially nowadays, publishing a collection of short stories is no easy feat. How did you first connect with Alternating Current Press and what was it like working with them?

SB: After that first story came out on Hobart, Leah from Alternating Current and I connected on Twitter. We had a lot of similar interests, and she mentioned Go Read Your Lunch, which I checked out. I loved the idea of a blog that premiered original material in that format, and the handful of past GRYL stories I read were all just killer. For the hell of it, I think last July, I submitted “Hindershot” to AC for Go Read Your Lunch, and I genuinely never expected to hear anything back. But I did, and that story is what got me the offer to do the collection. Alternating Current has been incredible to me. Leah’s been in this business for a long time, and it shows. She and her people have truly worked tirelessly on this book, as well as everything else they undertake, including promoting other authors and now organizing book tours. I’m really new to all this. I’m grateful to have so much knowledge and elbow-grease in my corner.

SP: The Poor Man’s Guide to an Affordable, Painless Suicide is not only filled to the brim with stark, startling prose, it’s illustrated! When it first came in the mail and I started flipping through it, I was taken by the illustrations and the design of the book. I mentioned to you before that your book is like mixtape made with love. (After finishing it, I still believe this- though it’s sort of like that mixtape you find in the back of your closet that was made by the one person in your life who ripped your heart out and stomped on it and you don’t want to listen to it, but you do anyway while you sit on the floor and sob.) How personal is this collection to you? How much of a hand did you have in directing the design of the book, the artwork and the arrangement of the stories?

SB: That’s awesome. The mixtape vibe is exactly what I wanted. In my mind, this thing’s not so much a collection of stories as it is kinda an ode to my love for the album. All the stories are personal, I guess. Like songs. I mean, some are at more of a remove than others, but spending time in those worlds with those people binds them to you. I think that’s true for any writer, and I don’t know if it’ll ever not be true for me. I’m lucky to say that I had virtually total creative freedom with the design of the book, and that’s yet another testament to how awesome working with Alternating Current is. I mentioned some things about the art to Leah at the beginning, and she was very accommodating and enthusiastic. I bounced a few of the illustration ideas off a couple friends of mine, both of whom are, coincidentally, amazing artists. The section pieces were done by Patrick Traylor, a guy I’ve known most my life. We grew up together, and he lives in the Phoenix area now. The jacket pieces and individual story art was all hand-drawn by a dude named Ryan Murray. He’s a Houston-based artist. He and I have known each other and been friends for over a decade, and it’s one of the most interesting relationships I have, because he and I have never met in person. We never even spoke on the phone until we went into the planning stages of this project late last summer. The work these guys did stands so beautifully on its own, and I am honored to have it included as part of something with my name on it. I arranged the stories and sections the way I would’ve sequenced them if they were songs on a record. I think everyone involved is happy with the final product, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Phenomenal experience. If I never write or publish another story, I’ll be happy to have this.

SP: I could go on all day about the stunning craft of your collection, but instead, I’m going to switch it up a bit.  Let’s do flash favorites (first thing that pops into your head). So, favorite…

Airport to be stranded in: If I had to be stranded, I guess any airport’s pretty much the same.

Liquor to drink straight: I’ve been sober since December 2008, but if you asked me this question in
November of 2008, I would’ve said “whatever’s free.”

Place to stay up all night: If I’m up all night, I’m miserable. J Doesn’t matter where. Man, I’m boring.

Author you’ve read in the last six months: Like pretty much everyone else who’s read him, Eric Shonkwiler. Above All Men is so good, and his short fiction hits so hard. The guy is truly built to write.

Non-domestic animal: I’ve got a weird obsession with the thylacine. I have a picture of a pile of them in my kitchen.

Class you took in college: I took this “Bible As Literature” course at the University of Arkansas, and it was a blast. A professor named Robert Madison taught it. He was one of my favorites.

Person to take on a road trip: My fiancée, Celeste. We’ve been from Arkansas to Colorado to the Carolinas together. I’m not much of a roadtripper, but she is. Makes the distance more fun. And our dog, Ellen Ripley. If we’re going somewhere, she’s going, too… but she ain’t happy about it.

Word: fidbin-a-snake-idda-bitcha (Where I come from, this is one word.)

By the way, where I come from, this is one word as well.... Thanks so much to Schuler Benson for taking the time to stop by. Don't foget to pick up your copy of A Poor Man's Guide to an Affordable, Painless Suicide and, as always- read, review, repeat. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

"The Strong Pull of Home" a review of A Tree Born Crooked at Revolution John Magazine

A new review of A Tree Born Crooked just came in! Not only was this review written by Sheldon Lee Compton- someone I admire and consider a kindred spirit- it gives you a true reader response to my novel. Please take check it out and stay to read all of the other fine reviews, interviews and original works up on Revolution John.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Catching Up with Christine Gabriel, Author of Crimson Forest

Last month, I got the chance to sit down with Christine Gabriel, author of Crimson Forest, right before her book was set to release. Now that Christine's book has been out for a month, I wanted to check in to see how things were going and get her candid advice for being a new author. Here's what she had to say.....

Steph Post: Do you think there is a difference between being a writer and being a published author?

Christine Gabriel: Well, I still feel the same.  I'm not used to getting so much attention so that might be a little different, but other than that I think everything is the same :)

SP: Do you think your outlook on writing has changed at all now that you are a published author?

CG: One thing I've learned is that getting published is quite a process.  When people look at it from the outside, it looks so darn easy.  Let me let you in on a little secret...it's not easy ;) There's sub edits, more edits, cover art, and so much more.  Now that I know how much work goes into publishing a book, I have so much more respect (not that I didn't before, but holy crap batman!).

SP: What was the most stressful part of the publishing process or experience for you? How did you handle the stress?

CG: I come from a very small town and was very quiet and shy, so needless to say all this attention is very different.  That is probably the hardest thing for me to deal with right now.  I'm not used to all the compliments and people that want to get to know little ol' me.  It's quite humbling and will take some time getting used to.  The only thing I find stressful about it, is that I feel terrible when I can't reply to the hundreds of messages I receive daily as I want to connect with all my readers on a personal level.  That does stress me out a tad :)  I promise, I will get to all the messages!!

SP: What sort of feedback have you gotten from readers of Crimson Forest?

CG: I've gotten amazing feedback from the readers of Crimson Forest.  So far, my favorite was from a message that came in a day ago that simply said, "Guess who my daughter and I are dressing up as for Halloween?!"  That made me smile from ear to ear.

I love that it's been deemed better than Twilight (which is a book I enjoyed) and The Hunger Games. I mean really?! Those are amazing and to be compared to being as good if not better than those. Yeah...it's very surreal.

SP: Are there upcoming promotions for Crimson Forest readers should be aware of?

CG: There may or may not be (hint hint) a surprise free download day ;)  Keep your eyes out, it may...or may not...happen :)

SP: Crimson Forest is only the first book of a series. How is the writing going for Crimson Moon? What can readers expect from this next installment?

CG: It's almost done!  I will let you in on a little secret.  I really enjoyed writing Crimson Forest, but Crimson Moon in my opinion is pretty darn amazing (Yeah, I kinda like it, can you tell?).

In Crimson Forest, there was quite a bit of character development that took place in the beginning, so in Crimson Moon I was able to jump right into the action.  You'll find that you may love, or be very angry with me in some of the chapters.  It might just be a little bit of an emotional roller coaster depending on which characters are your favorites.

SP:What advice can you give to new authors to help keep them sane?

CG: Have lots of patience, junk food, and caffeinated products on hand!!  Don't get discouraged!! Have faith in you and your work.  Never let someone tell you that you'll never be good enough because you are (someone told me that and I made sure to thank them in my acknowledgements - haha, no I didn't actually put their name, but they'll know who they are if they decide to stalk me mwhaha).

See, how can you not love this girl? Don't forget to pick up your copy of Crimson Forest today and be on the look out for Crimson Moon.

A Tree Born Crooked on Goodreads

Don't forget to add A Tree Born Crooked to your Goodreads "to-read" list! (And then hopefully your "read" list) It's out in 9 DAYS, folks!