Author Interview: Krista Cagg

Hello, everyone! Today I’m thrilled to host an interview with author Krista Cagg!
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kristaBorn all too close to Thanksgiving in a small town in Pennsylvania, Krista Cagg pretty much spun tales from the moment she began talking. Surprisingly, she pursued a path in art instead of word craft for far longer than she should have. She did eventually come to her senses while recovering from surgery, birthing The William’s Hunt and her crew. She currently lives in Savannah, GA with a husband and the super mini-wiener dog Pete who is firmly convinced that tummy rubs solve writer’s block.

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Thank you for agreeing to this interview. After reading the bio, we’d like to know more about you! What’s the quirkiest thing about you?

Just one thing?  Yeesh.  There are so many.  I am an absolute geek, but I don’t geek any one thing in particular.  I like Star Wars (original trilogy…the other three are a farce I’m trying to scrub from my mind), Star Trek (original series and reboot movies), comic books (Neil Gaiman, Frank Miller, old school stuff kids these days wouldn’t understand), sci fi/fantasy novels (Anne MacCaffrey, Jim and Shannon Butcher, even George RR Martin before the TV show existed, Mercedes Lackey), cheesy horror flicks, music (pretty much anything from classical to Mika, Flogging Molly, Frenchy and the Punk, and even Nickelback laugh if you want nyah).  I’m a sucker for a period movie or TV show: Michael Fassbender’s Jane Eyre, Downton Abbey, The Tudors, Copper, and Richard Armitage’s North & South.  So…yeah.  There’s no predicting what I will like.  Keeps people on their toes.

And I even take my geekery to the extreme by cosplaying.  DragonCon is paradise for this, and my husband and I go every year.  More often than not I have at least one new costume that I will wear, and while at con I will wear upwards of four to five costumes throughout the weekend.  I even mashed together comics and Steampunk by wearing a Steampunk Zatanna costume…that very few people recognized.  This year I’ve even geeked my own series.  I have a Captain Alex costume!

Tell us a bit about your book! What inspired The William’s Hunt or drove you to tell this particular story? What sets it apart from others in its genre?

I have been writing or creating stories my entire life.  My poor mother used to have to listen to them every morning at the breakfast table, or a recounting of my fantastically vivid dreams.  One would think I would have gotten a clue back then, but no.  I decided I wanted to be a comic book artist instead.  Ha ha ha.  Fool.  My art was mediocre at best, and I learned that trying to draw a paneled page was panic inducing in its frustration for me.  I loved to paint with watercolors, however, and gave that a try with faeries, dragons, other fantasy critters, but I learned that the market was pretty much flooded with such things and nothing sold.  No one was interested when there were so many better illustrators out there.  So I gave up any creative endeavor.

One day in 2012 I woke up in screaming amounts of pain in my neck, shoulders and arm.  And I do mean screaming.  I’m not the type of girl to cry when I’m in pain.  I get mad.  But this was pain that put me sobbing on the floor.  Long story short I had bad discs in my neck, and needed surgery.

During my month and a half of recovery and physical therapy I think I watched just about everything there was on Netflix and OnDemand.  I was growing bored.  I had already been introduced to the world of Steampunk music, cosplay, images and some books.  (The Vampire Empire series by the Griffiths, the Age of Steam series by Devon Monk.)  I thought to myself: Self?  We could do this!  We could write stories!  Didn’t our Scripting for Comics instructor at comic book school say we had a good voice?  Why, yes!  Yes he did.  Thus the muse for Captain Alex and the crew of The William’s Hunt was birthed!

I wanted to do something different, though.  Amazon makes it very easy to self-publish, and I knew that it would take a lot of effort from me to get it seen, but it wasn’t impossible.  There are authors out there who got their start in the self-publishing genre and are now hugely successful.  I felt it might be worth a try provided I come up with a gimmick.  Since eBooks, Kindle and Nook were becoming so popular I thought to target that.  It’s such a quick process that after talking to some folks, knocking ideas around I came up with the idea of putting out a monthly episodic series but reflective of those old black and white serials our grandparents used to see in the movie theaters.  Cliffhangers were what drew the audience back.  Would our fair damsel be rescued from the train tracks in time?  Did our hero survive his plunge over the waterfall?  Tune in next week to find out!

With the first plot of the series: The Milan Job, each episode was only available on Kindle (with the exception of the pilot book: Shove Off which is also available in paperback).  Once the plot was finished I crammed them all into a novel length paperback with an additional short story at the end you can’t get anywhere else.  The Gunpowder Plot and all other plot arcs will follow this model: 4-6 episodes each released monthly on Kindle then put together with a bonus short story into paperback when completed.

The concept of a crew of “pirates” undermining and fighting against a corrupt, monopolistic corporation was not my original idea.  I just thought it would be cool if time travelers went back in time and pirated artifacts.  Having a nemesis was almost required to make things interesting.  To be honest, my own opinion of large corporations probably oozed from my subconscious into the creation of Naviwerks and the conflict of them changing history to their own ends built from there.

Oh, and there’s one more thing that sets The William’s Hunt apart from everyone else: The characters have trading cards!

Do you think you could share your favorite excerpt or tease us with a single quote even?

Geri Reynolds is the Security Office of The William’s Hunt.  Laurence Kane is the Horotech (or technical engineer in charge of the chrono-engine of the ship).  Geri is huge and confident.  Laurence is mousy and timid.  They do not get along too well, and were sent to finish the mission in The Milan Job, set in Italy 1490.  The following is an excerpt that gives a perfect example of their interactions as well as a good tease for the action of the book.

Geri looked back over his shoulder at the vast amount of ledgers. He sighed as he nodded. “They probably have copies somewhere else, but you’re right. We can’t leave these in one piece.” He looked back to Laurence. “Got any ideas? Setting fire to ‘em is too unpredictable. Could be put out before it did enough damage.”

“Actually,” Laurence looked up at the Security Officer with his best clever smirk, “I do. How attached are you to those chrono-rounds?”

Geri pulled back with a disapproving expression. “What?”

Laurence held up a hand in a pacifying gesture and sent up a silent prayer that the Security Officer wouldn’t knock him over the head for his impertinence. “The chemicals that those rounds contain are highly unstable if mistreated. Sealed and stored the way they are they no doubt do not have a reaction until the casing cracks under pressure. However, when exposed to a variable-…”

“Skip the science lesson and make your point.” Geri glared at Laurence.

“Ah.  Right.” Laurence grimaced then swallowed against a throat gone dry for that look. “Recall, if you will, that I work with these chemicals all of the time in engineering. I can make them react however I like. In this case, I am thinking an implosion.”

Geri’s brows twitched upward. Laurence hoped that meant he had impressed the Security Officer. “Will that do it or just bury the books?”

Laurence nodded. “The chemicals are not meant to-…” he broke off when Geri gave him another menacing look. “Yes. It will destroy the books.”

What was your process for writing The Milan Job? Did you make a story outline, map out scenes with index cards, or did you just go with the flow?

Writing about time travelers is simple and not.  As long as there is history I will always have a plot.  That said, I’ve learned that I better get my facts straight!  I’ve had to become a historian and to a certain degree a chemist (steam reactions with elements and compounds whee!).  The easy part is picking a point in history then figuring out how it would be altered, why and what the result would be.

Once I have a general idea of what story I want to tell I write a basic outline so I know where to begin and where I want to end.  Then I get a little deeper in deciding what characters I want to focus on, and what I want to do to them (mwahaha).  I only flesh out a detailed outline as I begin an episode because characters are surprising critters.  You could have it all worked out, start writing then it never fails that one of them will decide to go in a direction completely different and unexpected which messes up all that careful planning.  I have yet to finish an episode and have it look exactly like the original outline.

And everything I plan is digital.  It’s all in files, backed up several times over.  The first time my words actually see print is either if a beta reader prints it out and hand writes their corrections, or is published in paperback form.

What advice have you most benefited from? Do you have any words of wisdom you’d like to impart to all the writers still on their journey toward publication?

I got to speak with a very cool lady, and an even better author, at Anachrocon 2013: Jana Oliver.  With two words/one simple sentence she gave me the best advice ever: Keep writing.  It’s become my personal mantra for when I really don’t want to do anything today, feel despondent because I haven’t sold a book or start to feel like I’m wasting my time.

As for advice from me?  Keep writing.  Never give up; never surrender (a quote from a very silly yet awesome movie).  The only way you can fail is by giving up.  And by all means, never let them see you sweat.  That means keep your doubts and fears to those near and dear to you.  Always wear a smile, be cheeky and fun.  Rant and bitch to your dog, cat or significant other, but to everyone else hoist the main sail and aim for the horizon.

Technically speaking: Hire an editor and a format person.  This is invaluable!  There are many fine editors out there ranging in price from super cheap to super expensive.  Do your research.  Get references.  I went with expensive and wasn’t entirely satisfied with the outcome.  I found my editrix Bev Gelfand through Facebook whilst in a panic, and have been in love ever since.

Formatting is the same.  I’ve tried to format my files for Kindle and lost a couple of patches of hair and three hours from my life because of the frustration.  Formatting for paperback is simpler, but a good format person will do both for only a little more.  My format mistress, Jennifer Chandler, is creative without being pushy and cares about how I want my baby to look in the final version.

If you could visit a fictional setting, what would it be and why? Also, who would you most likely get into a fight with?

Again…just one?!  Foul tease.  Camelot.  All of the benefits, magic, romance, adventure and intrigue of the medieval age, with none of the plague, horrible hygiene and oppression of the actual medieval/dark ages.  I’d be hanging out with Merlin picking his brain as much as possible.  Flirting with Lancelot and a handful of other knights.  Scandalizing everyone by not being a proper lady, and as if to emphasize that point I’d most likely get into a fight with Guinevere.  Can’t STAND that dishrag!

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When Captain Alexandria de Sade discovered the truth about the corporation with a monopoly on time travel (Naviwerks), she refused the promotion they offered her, quit her position and disappeared. So did chrono-ship #25. She put together a crew of like-minded individuals to undercut Naviwerks prices on artifact and heirloom retrieval, including hiring Laurence Kane as her Horotech.

Laurence Kane. Disliked by his Horotechnology professors at university for his wild and unconventional ideas and designs on time travel, unable to keep even the simplest of employment for being too independent of thought, he had been turned down repeatedly by the only company to employ his area of study. “Unbiddable” had been the official verdict. Captain Alex hired him inexplicably with barely a job description for the maiden voyage of The William’s Hunt.

Their contract: retrieve the working model of Leonardo da Vinci’s Gran Cavallo from Milan, Italy 1490. What should have been an easy job went south almost immediately. Someone got shot. The model was taken by Agents of Naviwerks two days prior to their arrival, and it seems as if her crew’s every step takes them deeper and deeper into discovering just how nefarious Naviwerks truly is. All five of the monthly episodes of the maiden voyage of The William’s Hunt are collected here in The Milan Job! Follow Captain Alex, Laurence Kane, Geri Reynolds, Nigel Wellington, Dr. Hennessey, and Angel Flynn as they try to stay one step ahead of Naviwerks and Agent Nash, all the while making a grab for the swag that will keep The William’s Hunt in operation.

About Rachel Russell

Rachel is the YA author of Harvester (Entranced Publishing, 2014). She works as the Submissions Coordinator and Editorial Assistant for Month9Books, LLC., and is also a freelance editor. When she isn't reading, writing, or editing, she's lurking on Twitter, drinking dirty martinis, and spreading the love for pickles on pizza.
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