Alex Epstein, guest post, interview

Author Alex Epstein Shares Ten Stories That Got Away

Hello Readers and Writers!  

I would like to take a moment to welcome author Alex Epstein, author of THE CIRCLE CAST, to Roof Beam Reader! Alex is here today to share with us -readers and writers alike- some of those great ideas that just didn’t go where they should have or could have.  We all know it happens, and we all get discouraged when a seemingly great idea fizzles out, but we don’t always keep in mind that even experienced, published authors experience similar set-backs too. 

About the Author:

“A native New Yorker, Alex Epstein studied Computer Science and English at Yale University. After a year in Paris, he studied filmmaking at the University of California, Los Angeles in the School of Theatre, Film and Television, finishing with an MFA.

Throughout the 1990s, Epstein worked in the motion picture industry as a development executive. His first book, Crafty Screenwriting, came out of his experiences developing movies.

Epstein moved to Montreal in 2000 and began his career as a professional screenwriter. He co-created the comedy series Naked Josh, which ran for three seasons, and co-wrote the hit buddy cop comedy Bon Cop / Bad Cop.

Epstein lives in Montreal’s Old Port with his wife, Lisa Hunter (author of The Intrepid Art Collector) and his two children.” – from

Ten That Got Away

One of the tragedies of writing for a living is all the ideas you love that you can’t get someone interested in. Or you get someone interested, but the project only goes so far. I work in film and television, and there’s a huge amount of carnage. Last year, my wife Lisa and I pitched a dozen movies and TV shows. We placed about three of them, leaving nine orphans.

Some things I can’t sell because they’re not good enough – yet. I haven’t cracked them. But some of them are projects I love that I can’t get made because of where I am in my career (I’m successful, but in Montreal, not LA), or there just isn’t an audience for them.

1.       I’ve always loved Homer’s Odyssey. I’ve read it in multiple translations. To my mind, it’s a science fiction story. Except in the Bronze Age, you didn’t have to go to the Moon to tell a story about some strange place. You just went across the Mediterranean. Who knows what lived there?

I wrote a feature film script called The Wine Dark Sea, and then Odysseus. I wrote it for two scenes I’ve always loved. One, when Odysseus gets home to his island, Ithaca, where he’s king, after 20 years, he doesn’t just go announce himself. He’s too canny for that; and he’s right, he’d probably be murdered by the suitors. So when he meets a shepherd boy on the beach, he doesn’t say he’s Odysseus. He makes up a cockamamie story about being an Egyptian who was kidnapped by pirates. Of course the shepherd boy turns out to be Athena, his patron goddess, who loves that he won’t even tell the truth at home. “If I were a mortal,” she tells him, “I’d want to be you.”

The other scene is when he shows up at his house, disguised as a beggar. He tells Penelope he’s seen Odysseus alive. She tells him she’s going to choose a suitor to marry. Isn’t that odd? After twenty years of staying faithful to her husband, who for all she knows is dead? But of course she knows exactly who she’s talking to, in spite of the disguise. She warns him about the suitors. And she tells him she’s going to choose whoever can string Odysseus’s bow. Of course she knows that he’s going to be the only one who can do it – and he’ll need that bow to wipe out the homicidal suitors.

I’d love to see that in a movie. Preferably mine.

2.       I wrote a movie script called Furies. It’s Moby Dick in space. The problem with Moby Dick is that the most interesting character is the villain, Captain Ahab. So I made a hero, a man who knows from personal experience that Ahab’s vengeance will wind up killing everyone – because he has destroyed his own life through vengeance. The whales are “sylphs,” these giant creatures made of plasma and carbon, that live out among the stars, and men hunt them as they once hunted whales.

Space opera isn’t big right now…

3 and 4.      Virginia Station and Yukon. I want to write a TV show set in the Yukon Gold Rush. The hero is a whorehouse madam who’s become mayor of a Gold Rush town, because she’s the only person that no one dares get in a dispute with. She’s not a gunslinger. She uses her wits to keep the peace.

There is no selling a TV show set in the Yukon in the 1800s, alas.

I reworked this as a TV show set in a space station in more or less the universe of Furies. People liked it, but “we already have a space station show.” Them’s the breaks.

5.       Kinslayers.  Ever wondered why the Vikings didn’t colonize North America? I read Westviking by Farley Mowat. Apparently every time they met the local Indians, they murdered them, and then the Indians came back and chased them off. I want to tell a story about a Viking guy who falls in love with a Beothuk Indian gal. But the Vikings have a dark secret. They’ve been cursed. One of them killed his own brother. Kinslaying is the worst crime among the Vikings. Because there is no way for a family to avenge itself against its own members, it violates the code of revenge. The usual response is for other Vikings to slaughter the entire clan. (Nice guys, huh?) So they’ve fled west. But the curse begins to take hold, and one by one the Vikings begin to go mad, and murder each other. Maybe they go berserk. Maybe they actually transform into beasts, I’m not sure. At any rate the girl figures it out. She tries to get the Viking to become an Indian, so he can avoid the curse. But he can’t abandon his people or his identity. So she leads her tribe to wipe out her lover and his whole settlement.

Dark. Mysterious. Set in a really obscure time. Yeah, that’ll sell.

6.       Gone to Soldiers. It’s a drama about two Cajun kids who grow up near an Army base in Louisiana in the ’60’s. Billy Wes’s father goes off to Vietnam and comes back in a box with a flag on it; so Billy Wes becomes someone for whom honor means too much. Jackie’s dad comes back with a self-inflicted wound; so she becomes someone for whom honor is a shuck. But they become soul mates, because they’ve both been wounded by a war they never went to, and they get engaged. She dumps him when he gets into West Point. But he finds her again when he goes AWOL from a Ranger training mission gone horribly awry, and she convinces him to make a run for the Canadian border. Will they make it? Or will their baggage catch up with them first?

7, 8.   The Spell Woven and The Circle Broken. The sequels to The Circle Cast. The Spell Woven is Morgan’s doomed love affair with Arthur, and his failed marriage to Guinevere. The Circle Broken is about Morgan’s twisted love affair with Merlin, and the final battle between Morgan and Arthur’s son Mordred and his father.

Honestly, I haven’t even tried to sell these. If The Circle Cast sells like hotcakes, I’ll be able to take the time to write them. But they’re not exactly YA novels; Morgan is a woman in The Spell Woven and she’s a mother in The Circle Broken. As a professional writer, I can only afford to write what I can sell. Maybe one day…

 9.      Neanderthal. Neanderthals exist. They live in our cities, hiding in plain sight. They can’t breed with us. They have to keep their secret. So they have killers, “snuffers,” who suppress anyone who might discover it. Otherwise, they’re sure that human beings will kill them. But one snuffer starts to feel that killing humans is wrong, and turns against the tribe… but at what price?

10.     Of course, there’s always hope. I’m currently developing a TV show called Fallen, about a vice cop who’s really a fallen angel. It came out of a TV show I developed for years with a network, about a fallen angel who wasn’t a cop. That came out of a comic I tried to write, which came out of a play which got a reading at the LA Playhouse, which came out a feature film script called City of Ravens that I never got quite right. It may wind up as a feature film script again, if the cop show doesn’t work out…

Thanks for sharing your time and thoughts, Alex!

Readers, you can find my thoughts on THE CIRCLE CAST right here

Fantasy, Giveaway, Giveaway Hop, Giveaways, interview, Monthly Review, T.A. Barron, Young Adult

Interview with Merlin Author T.A. Barron!

downloadAs a big fan of T.A. Barron’s Merlin Saga series, I’m excited to announce the paperback release of Atlantis Rising, the first book in an exciting fantasy new series!  I’m even more exciting to bring you all this interview with the author.  Enjoy!

From the publisher: “With his trademark magic and adventure, T.A. Barron, international best-selling author of The Merlin Saga, has returned with a whole new mythology – the origin of the legendary isle of Atlantis.  Atlantis Rising is the first book in an exciting new trilogy that explores not how Atlantis was destroyed, but how it was born.”

Q&A with T. A. Barron on Atlantis Rising

What fascinates you most about the legend of Atlantis?

No word evokes more of a feeling of tragedy than the word Atlantis. It stands for almost, what might have been. The tale of Atlantis is such a beautiful story, and for the 2000 years since Plato first wrote about it, people have wondered and dreamed about it. But one thing that has never changed is that the island of Atlantis was utterly destroyed.  I started to wonder, though, about something else—how Atlantis began.  How did a place that rose to such a level of near perfection get destroyed by the flaws and weaknesses of its people? Ultimately, how did that happen? This big unknown question is what got me to write Atlantis Rising. I wanted to add a new thread to the tapestry of myth about Atlantis—how it all began, the secrets of its origins.

Why do you choose to write about origins of stories?

When you write about the origins of a great legend, you experience the best of two worlds. You get to tap into a wondrous emotional and mythical journey that people have celebrated and enjoyed for a long time—which is why stories persist, why people keep telling the tales about Merlin or Atlantis. At the same time though, you get the opportunity to be fresh and original. You can explore and go behind the myth to discover how and where it all began. It just might start with the most inconsequential event—a boy stealing a pie, a girl discovering something strange in the woods, or a young man washing ashore. In those small moments you may discover the beginning of an amazing adventure!

What research was involved in preparing for Atlantis Rising

Before starting this project, I read everything I possibly could about Atlantis. As I got deeper into the research, I realized not only is there an immense story of high ideals and tragic consequences, human aspirations and failures, but a wonderful mystery of how it all began. That powered me even more to want to set forth the beginning, the origins of that magical place.  In addition, I have often thought about Atlantis since visiting Greece 20 years ago—the place where the legend began.  Often, I’ve recalled the sight of that landscape, the sound of waves on those islands, and the smell of the Mediterranean air. All that will, I hope, come through for anyone who reads the Atlantis trilogy.

In the last few scenes of Atlantis Rising, we see Atlantis become an island at last, while Promi returns to the spirit world. Where does the second book start?

The second book picks up immediately after Atlantis Rising finishes.  But time works differently between Earth and the spirit realm. Quite a bit more could have happened up in the spirit realm than has happened on Atlantis.  You see, during that brief interval—which feels just like a few days on Earth—many perils have risen. Some of them are dangers that come from old enemies—enemies who want to control all the magic and power of the Earth. And some of the perils come from romance…and we all know how tricky that can be.

In Atlantis Rising, Promi, the protagonist, risks his life for Smackberry pie. What dessert would you risk everything for?

Fresh Colorado snow-covered in maple syrup.

Thanks, T.A. Barron, for stopping by to share your thoughts – and thanks to the publisher for orchestrating this opportunity.  Whether you’re a fan of Barron or new to him, I hope you’ve enjoyed his thoughts and I invite (encourage!) you to check out his books – they’re great fun!

BBAW, Book Blogger Appreciation Week, Events, guest post, interview

#BBAW Day 2: Interview Swap! (Obsession with Books)

I am honored to have Sharon of Obsession with Books visiting for BBAW Day 2’s “Interview Swap!”  

Please give her a warm welcome!

1)      Tell us a little about your blog – when you started, what your focus is, why you do it, etc.

I started Obsession with Books in March 2011; I had been reading and reviewing on Goodreads but ‘stalking’ book blogs regularly so I thought why not? I can do this; it was an easier way for me to log my thoughts on books and series as well as meet like-minded book lovers and promote authors.

My main focus is promoting books and authors I love in the Young Adult genre, I was all over the place initially, having no clear direction and my book range was quite eclectic so I am now more focused about what I read and blog about – I want to continue to blog for fun and as a hobby.

Blogging is an outlet for me to express my thoughts, get in contact with people who are as passionate about reading as what I am and it’s also an introduction to new books and authors.

2)      Can you give us three books that you consider “Must Reads?”

Can I cheat on this one and give your three series? 😉 My all time favorite author is Karen Marie Moning, her Fever series is one I have read over and over again and I’m sure I’ll continue to. The world she has created is phenomenal and thoroughly entertaining.

Julie Kagawa’s Iron Fey series is another favorite; I love her fantasy world and the characters; each of her books is wonderful and left me thinking about them long after I had finished.

I am hooked on Jennifer L. Armentrout’s Covenant series at the moment, the characters and her take on mythology is compelling and enjoyable and I love the humor she includes in each of her books.

3)      What do you most appreciate about book blogging?

The community as a whole; I have no ‘real life friends or family’ who share my love of reading so I appreciate the ability to be able to chat with other bloggers about books, series, authors etc. and know they understand what I am carrying on about. Also, being able to share my thoughts and opinions about a book with others and believing I am in some way, shape or form helping to influence what they chose to read. It’s also great to be able to promote an author I really like.

4)      When you are not reading or blogging, what else do you like to do with your time?

I have two children so a lot of my time is spent doing mummy things like homework or playing with them – one is in year one and the other in pre-school so my spare days while they are at school gives me a lot of time to do things I love like cooking (I’m a sweet freak), socializing with friends or watching movies (I’m a huge action movie fan) and I am about to start studying by correspondence to be a Teaching Aide.

5)      If you had the opportunity to go back in time and write any book (one that you now consider a favorite), which book would it be and why does it appeal to you?

Most probably book three in the Hunger Games trilogy, Mockingjay – I am a huge fan of this series and although I loved this book I would actually want to re-write it; there were too many loose ends and it felt very rushed, the ending made me sad whereas I wanted happy after everything these characters had endured. It was a bittersweet ending to an otherwise brilliant thought-provoking series.

6)      How would you describe your perfect reading day?

Housework done, no plans whatsoever – down at our local park under a tree with enough snacks and no interruptions to laze back and enjoy my book, far away from real life.

7)      Share an interesting/weird/random/funny fact about yourself with us!

Hmm, this one is hard! I am extremely introverted and shy and have a huge fear of being surrounded by strangers or put on the spot.

None of my family (besides my husband) or friends has any idea I have a blog or that I read as much as I do and filling out interview questions freaks me out 😉

Thank-you so much Adam! It was wonderful ‘meeting’ and getting to know you.

Thanks, Sharon, for stopping by and sharing a bit about yourself and your blog!  And, thank you for your response re: Mockingjay! I completely agree with you about the loose-ends!

Folks, feel free to head on over to Obsession with Books to read my interview responses!

Adi Alsaid, Fiction, Giveaways, interview

Somewhere Over the Sun by Adi Alsaid :: Author Interview

Hello, Readers!
I would like you all to meet Adi Alsaid, author of Somewhere Over the Sun.  Adi has graciously agreed to stop by and answer a few interview questions, to help my readers get to know him.
About the Book:
Alan, a spirited young writer with a wandering imagination has discovered that the stories he writes are suddenly coming to life. At the suggestion of his loving father, Alan embarks on a quixotic journey to visit friends and use his new found gift to write them all happier lives. There are a few limitations to his power; he can’t cure diseases, he can’t summon pots of gold, and headaches accompany each reality-infused story he lives out, but the appreciative and optimistic Alan is not deterred from creating fantastical characters and storylines to give his friends more literary lives. 

About the Author:

Adi Alsaid graduated from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas with a degree in Marketing, but spent the majority of his time there reading and writing fiction. Somewhere Over the Sun is his debut novel and was written in Monterey, CA. He was born and raised in Mexico City to Israeli parents whose love and support made this book possible. Adi is usually unsure of how long he will remain at any given address, but chances are he is living somewhere in the northwestern hemisphere. He hopes this book brings his readers even a sentence’s worth of happiness. 

Aside from reading and writing, Adi is a huge fan of cooking and eating, watching and playing basketball, and listening to music and singing (despite his clear inability to do so).


1. We’re here today to spread the word about your new book Somewhere Over the Sun – so tell us about it: Where did it come from? What’s it about? And why do you think people should read it?

The story’s about Alan, a young, imaginative writer who discovers that the stories he writes are suddenly coming to life. Fueled by Alan’s desire to spread joy as far as it’ll go and encouraged by his loving father, Alan goes on a trip to visit friends and write them happier more literary lives using his new-found ability to turn fiction into reality.

It came, as most of my story ideas do, inexplicably and in the middle of the night. I was about to fall asleep and a sentence-long thought forced me to wake up and turn the computer back on so that I could write the thought down before it died. I typed out the sentence, then forget about it for a few months until it turned into an outline and my journey as a professional writer began. More on that later.    

I wrote in my author bio that I hope the book brings readers even a sentence’s worth of happiness, and I want people to read my book because I truly believe that there’s at least a morsel-sized smile for everyone within its pages. Obviously, I’m a bit biased, but so far reviews and reader reactions have confirmed this. I tried to bring life out of the mundane, find happiness where it might go overlooked and I think readers will enjoy seeing Alan’s happy-go-lucky ways of turning fiction into reality.

2. We all come from someplace and we all have life experiences, similar and different to others, but how do these things – where you’re from and what you’ve done- impact the things you write and the way you write them?

Oh boy. Huge question. I doubt there’s a way for me to fully answer this, much less succinctly, but I’ll give it a shot (I apologize in advance for any rambling). Fiction is definitely rooted in life. And even with my natural proclivity to have a colorful imagination, I doubt I’d write anything of interest if it weren’t for the life I’ve lead and continue to live.

That life has affected my writing is a certainty. The question of how is impossible to answer in any all-encompassing way, so here’s just a tiny list of all the ways my life has influenced my writing. If I try to expand upon these, we might be here forever, so I hope these nuggets of myself and my writing are sufficient, even without context: I am a happy person. I grew up in Mexico City, but because I attended an international school called the American School Foundation, I found a home in the English language. 

In high school, the way to gain love’s affection that most made sense to me was through words and I failed more than once; in college and since I have succeeded. I’ve moved around a lot and am good at goodbyes. I’ve lived in central California. I cook for the same reason that I write: because once I found out I could, found out that I had the ability to learn and the ability to create something literary delicious or literally delicious, why would I not? (more on that here)

3. Can you tell us about how you came to the realization that you are a writer – the moment when you knew that it wasn’t just a hobby, something you did well, but that it was what you were going to do with your life?

That moment wasn’t a hardheaded, heart-chasing “this is my life’s calling” kind of moment. It came out of surrounding circumstances that kind of forced me into the moment. When I was about to graduate from UNLV with a Business Marketing degree, I had a job in my sights which would pay me to travel and set up fundraising call centers for universities. I was good at fundraising and I love to travel, so it seemed like a great fit. I figured that I’d work for the year my visa made me eligible for and afterward I’d either get sponsored for a more permanent visa or I’d cross that bridge when I got there. Turns out, the company wasn’t very keen on hiring me for just a year, and neither was anyone else so I found myself about to graduate with no fall back option. I didn’t want to go back home to Mexico. And then I remembered that little sentence that I had written down in the middle of the night a few months before. I emailed a friend from high school, asked her if she thought I could make a book out of it and before she had said yes, I began planning my getaway to the California coast to write.

It didn’t even fully hit me until after the book was written and I had moved back to Las Vegas that this was now my career. I have a friend who would introduce me to all his film friends as, Adi, the writer and that’s when it started to sink in. 

I always knew I was a writer. But until I was in the thick of it, I didn’t realize I would ever be a writer, if that distinction is clear.

4. Now that you’ve told us how you knew you were going to be a writer, can you share with us some of your biggest literary influences – books or authors? Which writers and works have inspired you and influenced your own style, and why?

In a guest post I wrote (found here) titled “You Are What You Read”, I talked about a file I have saved in my computer of quotations and passages from books that I’ve picked up along the way. I think these snippets, as well as all the song lyrics I’ve memorized along the way, lines from movies, have become a part of me. Even
if I’m misinterpreting them or misunderstanding them, they’re there, shaping the way I see the world simply  because they’re offering their opinion.

I read tons of R.L Stine when I was a kid, so I’m sure he influenced me somehow. Probably by leading me to Stephen King, who in turn led me to pretty much everything else. It’s interesting I never became a horror writer. I’ve been reading Bill Watterson of Calvin and Hobbes for ages, and if he hasn’t influenced my writing or general life outlook at all, then he’s at least influenced my physical aspect (Calvin and Hobbes sit quietly at the base of a tree on my leg, forever contemplative).

I once tried to write a story specifically trying to imitate Vonnegut’s style, and I’m sure there’s bits of him in my writing that I’ll never shake free. Bob Dylan and Charlie Kauffman, Palahniuk, John Darnielle, Hemingway. Here’s a list of a few more: Influences.

5. Finally, now that your first book has been written and is being published, what would you say you have learned from the whole process, start-to-finish? Was there anything unexpected or particularly challenging?

Most importantly, I think, is that I found out that I could. Before I wrote Somewhere Over the Sun, I specialized in not finishing short stories. I even had the idea to one day release them in a collection called Never-ending Stories.

I realize now how little I knew about the book publishing process. Even when I was writing the book and researching what to do after it was written, I was pretty clueless. I’ve learned how long it takes to wait on agent responses, I’ve learned that self-publishing companies sometimes stop caring about you after you’ve made your payment, I’ve learned that a publishing contract is not enough for a Special Talents Visa (the immigration lawyer practically laughed at me, “You’re 23? You want a visa because you wrote a book? Did you win a Nobel Prize yet? No? Not gonna happen then.”), I’ve learned that social media sites are crucial for authors’ marketing efforts, but that without positive word of mouth it’s hard to get anywhere. And that even with some positive word of mouth, you still have to do some yelling to be heard.

Thanks for helping me yell, Adam.

Thank you again, Adi, for stopping by and allowing my readers a chance to meet you and learn about your new book!