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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Fantasy/Science Fiction Author A.K. Taylor Shares Her Story and Her Writing Adventures

I think you will find  learning about this most unusal author fascinating and a great read as you get to know the author behind the books. 
A.K. Taylor is a YA fantasy/science fiction adventure writer who has been writing since age 16. Taylor also draws her characters and designs her covers and illustrations, which she also began at 16. Taylor has also written a nonfiction piece about self-promotion. She also engages in beekeeping, outdoor sports, marksmanship, and gardening. She and her husband love animals and are amateur herpetologists. Taylor grew up in the remote backwoods of GA where she learned about nature. Taylor also is an amateur artist who draws her characters and designs her illustrations and covers.  She began drawing her characters at 16 as well.
Tell us about the genre of your work. 
My general genre is young adult fantasy/science fiction even though it has pieces of other genres mixed in so it is not so easily described in a basic way. I read multiple genres so I took the best elements of each and squished them together. This book and others have action, adventure, mystery, some real and imaginary mythology, paranormal elements, and some dark fantasy elements. There is humor in the mix too. I always like to have a character or two in an adventure book that is a comedian; that just makes everything more enjoyable. Other books have real places and real historical people in the case of Escape from Ancient Egypt for example.
I have also broken the mold on fantasy as I think of it, and I will include some examples in a moment. Fantasy as I see it is like D&D, LOTR, and the like even though I like the medieval sword and sorcery concept which is present in my work—just not in Hawote because Indians don’t live that way.  The ones I write about do fight with Indian melee tactics and modern ones.  Indians rarely mess with that is not theirs magic because it spooks them, and it is a shaman’s area of expertise. The Indians in my stories live in a modern age not a medieval setting, and there are real and fictional tribes. I have some interest in weapons and armor as well. The Five Lands is a very medieval place but they also use lasers and rocket launchers, so there is science fiction. To add, dinosaurs are alive and well there and are local wildlife for another twist—I personally was a dino nut as a kid. Time travel, a science fiction favorite, is not achieved through the building of a time machine, but rather through a time crystal Francesco created, unbeknownst to Raven, to send Neiko to Egypt back 3000 years which becomes a target of controversy for Neiko and her friends.  Their enemy Francesco; becomes something that must be destroyed by Ramesses as it proposes a threat to his romantic plans for Neiko. This crystal comes from a magic not of Hawote, but of the Five Lands that was passed through a “boundary” that separated the worlds to make the inhabitants of one think that the other was fictional, and only inanimate objects could pass through. I cannot think of any fantasy books that have Native Americans in them especially the protagonist being one.
Why did you choose this genre?
I chose young adult fantasy due to I was a teen at the time and few people wrote to our age group back then; this was fifteen years ago. Fantasy blankets a huge area and other elements of other genres can be mixed in quite easily, not the other way around, or at least for me. In any case, I feel like I have broken the “rules.”  I also like the premise of building a fantastical world, which I was good at as young as age 4. In fantasy just about anything can happen and it has fewer constraints, but this can be hard in making something too unbelievable. In my opinion if something is different than Earth on another world, I make connections or explain why that is by a ‘finding’ or in conversation.
What are some of your books, stories that have been published?
My first two books Neiko’s Five Land Adventure and Escape from Ancient Egypt were first published in 2009, but this experience was very disheartening, and I was unhappy with the results and the way I was treated. I was only 28 years old by the way because the book was finished before my 29th birthday, but it was released after that though. I republished “Neiko” in 2010 which I had a much better experience, and I plan to redo in 2012 where I republished “Neiko.”
Can you tell us more about your books?
Neiko’s Five Land Adventure: This is the first book of the entire series, but two prequels will be written later that go into all the stuff that happened before to where they connect here in this book. Neiko, an 18 year old warrior is known as the Chosen One in the hidden Indian land of Hawote that coexists with the US, Canada, and Mexico. Neiko’s enemies, Raven and Bloodhawk come up with a scheme to take her out of command so they can abduct her. During the unfolding of the plan, the fantasy world that she believed she created is real. Ramses, a villain from Qari, one of the Five Lands, pays her a few visits and traps her in Qari. She must find her way back to Hawote to thwart her enemies and expose the phony chieftain who is a spy.
 I will include my paperback ISBN 10: 1936198851 even though this book is also available for kindle and EPUB. All editions of my book can be found on Goodreads, Librarything, my website, and, and you can Google my book. The book can also be found other book and eBook retailers. I am also on the gaming site that I give away kindle editions from time to time and people can also buy from there. I also will do giveaways on Librarything for ebooks. I am also listed on
Escape from Ancient Egypt: In the wake of the battle in Neiko’s Five Land Adventure Francesco, the exposed and scorned phony chieftain and traitor, collects on a debt of revenge against Neiko by sending her into the past in ancient Egypt during the reign of Ramesses II the Great. He was also responsible for the mysterious disappearance of four of her friends eleven years ago. Neiko finds three of them but they have to find one more. They journey to Thebes to find him. After a turn of events, Neiko is discovered and pursued by Ramesses. Francesco also comes into the picture and tries his best to push Neiko into Pharaoh’s arms for personal gain. Francesco has a fetish obsession and admiration for Ramesses as well. They must find and capture Francesco and thwart Pharaoh, but the odds are stacked against them severely as they go up against one of greatest military leaders of Egyptian history. There is also an underlining storyline here that also drives the story and is hinted at in conversation and actions and it is the reason why Ramesses and Sito, the friend that is found in Thebes, hate each other. This underlying story is revealed in book 3 Black Hand Vacation but it is kept from Neiko for a long time. This Black Hand has nothing to do with the group that started WWI, but it is an Indian terrorist group and secret society in Hawote.
 The ISBN 10 for the paperback is 144159857X. It is only available at and other book retailers. Presently there is no eBook or website, but as I mentioned earlier, I am going to get this redone and have the same extensive networking as “Neiko” does after it is re-released in 2012. It will be available until I begin the publishing process for the new edition, which will include eBooks.
The newest book I have worked on that may be available this year is called Self Promoting and Survival Tips for Newbie Authors, which is my only nonfiction book at the moment. This is a small eBook about some of my discoveries and ideas of unconventional methods to promote books and the authors themselves. I wrote this during a cooperative project with Mark Levine, the author of The Fine Print of Self Publishing. I hope that it will be available this year sometime and I will be involved in other work too during the course of the project.
I wrote Black Hand Vacation last year and I am working on book 4 Ramses Vs. Hawote, but altogether I have completed 11 more books in the Neiko series and I am working on two more, and one of them is book 4, and yet I’ll still keep writing. I am not sure when these others will be released but I am hoping it will be one after the other someday.
How do you come up with the names of places and characters in your books?
Some names for characters and places just jump in there and if it sounds cool and I like it; I use it, if not, I trash it. Others were made by playing with words. I would do this “word bending” as a kid for fun or mispronounce words on purpose or turn some around backwards. Some mundane words can sound really cool reversed. The pretend Indian language Greyhawk that Neiko’s tribe speaks is really just backward English, but if you try speaking an entire sentence with each word backwards it gets very difficult and it sounds like a foreign language. I have spoken this way since I was about 10 so I can do it very easily. Some Indian names are the “phrase names” used by Indians back in the past like Yellow Arrows or Grey Wolf. Attack Pack names were like some of the toy names for the action figure series but my characters were very much different than the originals. Some names are of real people like Ramesses II for instance. The Qari pharaohs may have the same names as some Egyptian kings but their meanings are much darker and insidious than original meanings, but this is mentioned later in more detail in book 3.

How did you develop the character of your protagonist in this book?
The protagonist Neiko is basically myself. I based her off of my tough side and made her a hard-core tomboy like myself. She does the things I like to do and says things much the same way. I do not put as much of my intellect into her as I do a couple of other characters. I do put in my tendency to explore, which gets her into trouble quite a bit when she snoops and finds something that has been hidden a long time.

What about an antagonist…is there a unique “bad guy” or a recurring nemesis of any kind?
There are a several of them actually, but the biggest one is Ramses, the Dark Pharaoh. Neiko’s Five Land Adventure goes into what that is slightly but more is found out as the saga continues as Neiko makes new discoveries, and it is more than a title; it is an entity. He is the ultimate nemesis, and his kind is much more evil and worse than a demon or a devil. That is the best I can describe it without spoiling too much. Raven and Bloodhawk are reoccurring bad guys and what is different about them is their towering stature, wings, eyes and feet that are like an eagle. This is due to a curse on the Crackedskulls from a long time ago due to their bloodthirsty and conquering nature. There are a few more as well…

What is your favorite thing about your book?
Hmmm, well, I guess my favorite thing—or things—about it are that it is the start of something in many ways than one. It was the start of my book-writing career, and it is the start of a new series, and it is the start of my published author career. This is also the first book that I was able to hold in my hands as a published book and not a word document that has languished on three computers for over a decade.
How is writing in the genre you write, different than other genre?
Writing in fantasy lets you create your own world and others, which I am good at and have done since I was very small. In other genres you can do this to an extent, but certain criteria within some genres rather limit you. For example, if you were going to write a story based on a real town somewhere in the US where something fictional happened, you would have to do a lot of research of that town as opposed to making up everything about a made up town, but it can have some of the customs of the area. Many authors like more structure to their settings, and I do not dock them for that. They do great jobs researching their real places and writing their stories. I am just a bit different though, but I have done that as well. I do write other books in real places that I have researched and liked. Ancient Egypt is one and the Congo River Basin, the Bayous of Louisiana, or Canada’s wilderness are others just to touch a few places I have been already, but I’ll say most of them are remote areas.
Why and when did you begin writing?
I had begun writing small stuff since middle school, but the idea of writing a book came at age 16. I thought that writing a book would be a new challenge for me and I needed a means to come back to my fantasy world that I have had since age 4. My age and society said, “You can’t play with toys anymore” so I had to think of something to be able to return to it so I wrote a book about it on my parents’ decrepit computer that they had in their room. I had to act out the stories in my head instead of with toys or solo RPG. I had to teach myself how to write a book by looking at books I had read and some of the grammar basics I learned in school such as: parts of a story, the writing process, and a brief intro to dialogue. They do not teach you how to write a book per se, and I knew no one to ask since I did not know anyone who wrote a book. Once I started, it was much easier than I thought. The fantasy world had two parts, which was “Hawote” and “The Five Lands,” so I wanted to combine them, so I did. These worlds had their perspective parts out in the woods, in the back yard or inside and outside any house where I would play.  As the book took shape and moved more, more ideas came and the fantasy world grew like never before, and then my imagination inspired a younger cousin where we made more stories and helped grow the world even more. Once this book was born, a new saga was born. When I started writing, I never thought about publishing it; I wrote for fun and as a release because high school was not kind to me socially, so I spent most of my time with family or alone; writing transformed my lonely time to constructive time. I wrote a post on my blog about this not too long ago as I reminisced about it. I was actually socially challenged and I rejected my whole school career except for college.  It was not my choosing, it was chosen for me because I was a different, deep, and brooding child. How many four year olds ask their mothers, “Do fish drink water?” or questions about why words are they way they are like: we have mice and lice, so why don’t we have hice? Or mouses, louses, and houses instead?” just to give you a glimpse of the depth of my thoughts. The question about fish was never answered until college biology and I found out why—in case you’re wondering, the answer is yes. Family and friends started to read the stories over my shoulder as I wrote and they begin insisting I publish. Strangers come into the picture too later on and say the same thing.  I did not know where to begin on that and that is a whole story in itself. My parents could not help but peek because I kept them up at night as I pounded the keyboard into the wee hours of the night until I bought my own computer five years later. I remember back with a giggle about them telling me ten times “Go to bed!” I would always say “Let me get to a stopping point,” or “Let me finish this thought,” or “Let me finish this sentence/paragraph/chapter.” Sometimes that stopping point never came until the next “go to bed” plea.
What is your writing schedule?
My schedule fluctuates. I write posts on Facebook, Twitter, my blog when I want to make a new post, email the people I need to email, or if I am working on a questionnaire like this one, I try to devote the day to it, or I write in my newest book. I write something every day. If I cannot get to my computer because I am doing something else, I am brainstorming instead. I can brainstorm everywhere. I have written so much during and after college that my laptop keys have been worn smooth and shiny—lol.
What projects are you working on now, or plan for the future?
I briefly mentioned book #4 Ramses vs. Hawote, but I am also working on one that occurs later in the saga called Residing Evil. I plan to go back and fill in where I skipped around in the saga and/or make improvements to the other books I want to change before they become published. I am also working in that project with Mark Levine I mentioned earlier that includes an eBook, but at the present, I am in a waiting period, but it will come soon. Once “Egypt” is redone then it is going to be getting each new installment published one by one or whatever I can do since this saga will be at least 30+ books, but that is the future.  Right now I am working for and earning the readership and loyalty of readers as I go, and I may have other surprises that I don’t know about in the future too, so who knows? I am just taking it day by day.
What kind of advice or tips to you have for someone who wants to write and get published?
One of the things I could tell writers is to wherever you are at, take it day by day and do not look at the big picture or the future too much or you will get overwhelmed. When you write there is a big hill to climb that has three big parts that have little parts to them: writing, publishing, and marketing, but take it step-by-step and day-by-day. You will accomplish more that way than looking at it and trying to look at the hill in its entirety and freaking out even before you get to the top. This one is cliché, but it is not unimportant: do not give up; keep writing or keep going in the direction you are going if it is good for you. Thirdly, research, research, research, this goes for anything besides science. You have to research everything from how to write a book, your setting or person you are writing about, who your publisher will be and to make sure they do good business and are trustworthy, how to market your book, or how to conduct yourself in certain settings like book signings. This is one of the many points I hit on in the eBook I wrote for the project with Mark Levine, and it is every important and worth mentioning now. Lastly, read. Reading helps you write better and it is how you do research too, and if you read a bad book, you know what not to do in your own book and recognize why you did not like it. I saw this on a writing blog, it makes sense, and it seems like common sense too.
Are there any other comments, advice or tips that you would give to beginning writers?
One comment I can think of is for younger writers out there: start writing as soon as you can! There is no age bar you have to reach when you can start—writing is actually the easy part, publishing is mediocre, and marketing is brutal and hard. Publish young too to get a good start on your career, if you think you can handle it—I did. I made my first attempt at big houses at 21, but I tried anyway even though I was turned away. I made it 7 years later as an independent author, which was a blessing in disguise even though the first run stunk. You do not have to wait until you are 40 to publish—I didn’t. I did it as soon as I was able even though I made a couple mistakes along the way, but who doesn’t? I can relate my mistakes so others do not make them and that is what author cooperation is all about. Learn all you can from people before doing your own research if you know someone. For me, I had to learn just about everything on my own because people I know knew nothing about writing and publishing and least of all marketing a book. I had to find people later on. Normal marketing strategies businesses use to sell products can work for books too. A book is a product; an author is a business and a brand, so authors are entrepreneurs and you become a business who promotes and sells its product(s). I have seen this mindset spoken of before, but I had already had this mindset before I saw others talk about it. I also mention this in my eBook “Newbie Authors.” This mindset has become very important and is often missed!
What do you do when you are not writing? 
When I am not writing I engage in my other activities, which are plentiful and well rounded. I spend a lot of time outdoors doing things or engaging in outdoor sports.  I go on hunting/fishing trips with my husband. My dad and I are small time beekeepers and we are oftentimes working together on a project of some sort like: hive maintenance, honey harvest and extraction, or removing a hive from a house, catching a swarm, and we have had the privilege to train a novice beekeeper I went to school with and start our own little group. I also am gardening or going for a walk in the woods or canning and preparing homemade foods. I plan to experiment with soap making candle making and other things too. I also like going to do target practice from time to time. My husband and I are also amateur herpetologists (science of reptiles and amphibians). We rescue, read about, and study different species of snakes, lizards, turtles/tortoises, and amphibians and we have all the catching equipment too. We love all animals, and in case you are wondering, I have pet snakes. Some of these things can include brainstorming from time to time. My biology degree has come
in handy in beekeeping and herp culture and apiology (science of honeybees) and explaining/understanding the biology to my husband and father. This has helped me talk about the scientific side of my mother’s home-based nutritional business and the biochemistry and chemistry behind it, which she uses in her presentation.

What “Made It” moments have you experienced in life?
 Some of them include, I made it through school, I made it through college, I made it to a professional lab job, which unfortunately I no longer have due to the recession, and I made it to being a published author. I also made my dream of writing a book happen. I can call that book mine because I “made it.” I can say that one over a dozen times now even though most of them are not published yet. I have several “made its” on other interviews I have been able to do. I even “made it” into a few bookstores to do signings, but now those are slowly tanking out as the industry is changing. All that tells me I have to find other creative means to “make it” and make more “made its” for the future!

What was the place you grew up like and what did you do?
The places I grew up in was extremely rural; if I took you there you would wonder how to get back to civilization and you knew that you in the middle of nowhere. My very young years were in the foothills of the mountains close to South Carolina and we lived near a river. We moved across the state to another rural place close to Alabama. My middle years were in the suburbs, which I hated. I now have returned to the backwoods in middle Georgia where I live today. We had neighbors but we could not see them when we lived out in the backwoods. I had hundreds of acres of woods as a personal playground, and our yard was like five acres itself. When we moved to the suburbs though I had about an acre—oh that was like jail to me.  I never worried about snakes or other wildlife too much when I was out in the woods, but I did look out for them. When we lived on the river we would go into town and buy a bucket of worms and some snacks, go fishing all day and walk up the steep hill home. We would swim in the river with the snakes and all, but we did not care too much. Sometimes the bream would nibble on your toes and you would step on a catfish which hurts, sometimes we would bring home some of the small freshwater clams and keep them for a time. To add when we lived in the foothills I was the only girl in my kindergarten class to hold a king snake and get a certificate of bravery. I believe this is when my fascination with snakes began; I had already been catching big fat toads, frogs, and lizards already.
Where can readers and other authors find you?
Facebook: I have widgets to Bookbuzzr and Goodreads on this fan page on my wall
Blog: I write about my experiences and life in the backwoods. I have widgets for freado and bookbuzzr on my blog and a link to one of the hangman games I created here too. I will try to put one for Goodreads later on.
Other sites: and Bookbuzzr hosts the gaming site Freado where readers can win and/or buy books including “Neiko”
Shelfari, Librarything, Goodreads: I am an official author on each of these sites so people should find me.
The Book Marketing Network,
Local newspaper article:  picture with me holding the book.

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