Author Interview: Vanessa Finaughty @VanessaFin from Grumpy Old Trickster Gods #AuthorInterview #humour #books

To help spread the word about the Grumpy Old Trickster Gods anthology, I’m interviewing the authors involved.

Today we have Vanessa Finaughty, author of That Kind of Mojo.

What is your story in the Grumpy Old Trickster Gods about?

That Kind of Mojo is about a retired trickster god who keeps being pranked by a group of young trickster gods. They eventually push him past his tolerance level and he shows them how it’s really done!

Sounds like fun! What kind of research did you do for this story?

None at all – for this story, I invented most of the characters, and the ones I didn’t invent, I already knew what I needed to know in order to use them in the story. That’s one of the things I love about fantasy – sometimes it doesn’t need any research!

Do you enjoy books filled with mythology and folklore?

Absolutely! Since mythological worlds are usually so different to our own, it’s a great way to escape the stresses of real life.

Where did the inspiration for this story come from?

A question just popped into my head when I was sitting trying to think up a plot for Grumpy Old Tricksters: What could be more annoying than young tricksters pranking an expert trickster day in and day out? I contemplated how the retired trickster might react – especially if his magic no longer works the way it used to. From there, the characters seemed to take a life of their own and the story wrote itself. (Not all of my writing goes that smoothly, mind you!)

Sounds like one of those awesome writing experiences we dream of when inspiration just won’t come. Have you ever considered writing under a pseudonym, and why or why not?

I have actually already done that! I co-authored some erotic fantasy with an author friend in Canada, and we decided to publish under a pseudonym for two reasons. One was that it was totally different to my usual fantasy/sci-fi and I wasn’t sure about mixing the two on the same author profile, and the other reason was that I would probably die of embarrassment if anyone I know ever read it – I would be too worried that they would then sit and wonder ‘does SHE do all this stuff’! :p

Yeah, people don’t come up to you and ask if you really were in space if you write sci-fi, but they assume you’ve done the things you wrote about in your book when you write erotica. So weird. What do the words “writer’s block” mean to you? 

I’m lucky in that I have never been cursed by it – so to me, it’s only ‘something that happens to other people’. That said, what I AM cursed with is not enough time to write :-/ I imagine this must be worse than not having any ideas or not knowing how to write your ideas – to have your head flooded with endless ideas and not be able to get them out… it’s a special type of torture on a level of its own! But of course, if I did have writer’s block, I would probably long for my current dilemma instead!

Sounds like a problem that can be fixed with a time-turner… How do you process and deal with negative book reviews? 

It depends. If it’s constructive negative, I tend to consider/mull over what was said – that type could be taken as free critique to help you hone your craft, if you agree with it after consideration. If it’s just ‘what a horrible book’ or ‘author bashing’, I just never think about it again, since doing so serves no purpose to me. In fact, if I can see it’s going to be the latter type, I don’t even read it to the end.

The constructive types are the best! Are there therapeutic benefits to modelling a character after someone you know?

Uhm… you can’t get arrested for causing horrible things to happen to a fictional character?

Nope, they’re free game. What is the most difficult part of your writing process? 

Finding the time to write, and focussing on the writing when I do have the time. It can be very hard to focus when you have 20,000 ‘things to do’ at the back of your mind the whole time.

How long have you been writing or when did you start? 

Ever since I could. I used to make up little books before I could even write, and English essays were my favourite part of schoolwork. My first short story was published in the Something Wicked horror magazine in 2007, and I published my first book, Ashes to Ashes, in 2011.

How do you use social media as an author? 

Not at all really, lately. Work has kept me too busy for that. However, I do still have my blog that I need to start keeping active again (I have not had time to post for some time, and not much news either), and I share links on Twitter when something new is published. That’s something I need to focus on more when things settle down.

So much work, so little time. What’s your favourite and least favourite part of publishing? 

My least favourite part is definitely formatting. This is part of the reason I am not the Vanessa on the Grumpy team doing this! :p

My favourite part is sharing the sales links and watching the reviews come in.

LOL. How many books have you written and which is your favourite?

I’ve written 7 fiction books, 3 non-fiction books and 8 short story complications, booklets and standalone shorts (combined). My favourite is Ashes to Ashes, because it was the first novel I completed and published, so it will always hold a fond place in my heart.

Would you and your main character get along? 

I would probably get along well with Erus, the retired trickster god in That Kind of Mojo. The young tricksters, not so much – immaturity of their sort would no doubt annoy me as much as it did Erus!

What do you need in your writing space to help you stay focused? 

Coffee and cigarettes.

Ah, coffee: muse in a cup! If you were to write a spin-off about a side character, which would you pick?

Rune Arcana from my Wizard of Ends series. Besides being a really cool person and powerful magic user, her personality can potentially get her into all sorts of trouble – it would make for an interesting series!

Sounds like fun! If you could spend a day with another popular author, whom would you choose?

John Connolly. Besides being an amazing writer and one of my three favourite authors, I’ve actually met him already when interviewing him for a newspaper article many moons ago, and he is a down-to-earth, super-cool and super-interesting person!

Have you ever travelled as research for your book? 

No, I do most of my research online.

Have pets ever gotten in the way of your writing? 

Not that I can recall.

Lucky you! What is the most valuable piece of advice you’ve been given about writing?

Write what you enjoy reading – because if you do not enjoy what you write, no one will enjoy reading it.

That’s great advice. What are the essential characteristics of a hero you can root for? 

Being compelled to do the right thing, hatred of injustice, passionate beliefs, and the determination to see it through… and stubbornness. I think most heroes need to be stubborn on some level – since heroes are the ones who often go against the flow, which is not easy. Oh, and a sense of humour is a bonus!

What books do you enjoy reading?

I have a wide interest. I love the thrillers (think Dean Koontz), some old horror such as HP Lovecraft, and of course fantasy. I also enjoy non-fiction books on topics of interest, such as photography, ancient peoples, mythology or martial arts, etc.

Phoenix on Fire. Image credit.

As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?

The phoenix – because as a writer I will need to ‘rise from the ashes’, so to speak, after not publishing a novel for so long (especially considering that I have unfinished series).

Are there any books or authors that inspired you to become a writer?

I can’t remember everything that far back, but the ones who come to mind are Enid Blyton, CS Lewis and Willard Price, and the countless other authors who entertained me endlessly throughout my childhood.

Name an underappreciated novel that you love.

The Call of Cthulhu by HP Lovecraft, ‘the father of cosmic horror’. I think it’s not so much that his novels are underappreciated by those who read them, but more that I think they deserve a much wider readership.

Which author in your genre do you most admire, and why?

John Connolly. He’s able to switch between genres easily and writes each equally well – and despite his success, he’s a very normal (albeit super interesting) guy!

What, to you, are the most important elements of good writing?

I think the most important thing is to have real characters with whom readers can relate. By this, I mean that readers should find it easy to think of the characters as real people, and root for them, hate them, love them, feel something about them… If this is not achieved, no reader will care what happens to the characters during the story, which makes the entire story a flop in my opinion, even if the plot is brilliant.

The other most important thing is to have your book properly edited – no matter how amazing your imagination or story might be, if a story/book is riddled with language-related mistakes (e.g. spelling, grammar and punctuation, etc.), not many readers will read it to the end, or pick up your next book.

Absolutely! What comes first for you — the plot or the characters — and why?

It depends. Many of my books start off with a scene popping into my head – for those ones, the plot often comes first (but still, it’s vital for the characters to be realistic). I write the scene and the rest of the book often writes itself, so to speak. Sometimes I need to do a lot of thinking before the rest of the story comes to me, other times it’s easy and just happens on its own as I write. Those are the most fun to write! Some stories, like my Wizard of Ends fantasy series, started off with the character popping into my head; the more I thought about that character, the more details I knew about him, the more real he became – then I put him in an uncomfortable situation and so the story started.

About the Author

Vanessa grew up in Cape Town and still lives there with her husband of twenty-three years, two human children and two furry, four-legged children.

Her passion for the written word started her career as an editor and copywriter, and she ran a writers’ critique group for close on seven years. She’s been writing ever since she learnt how, has always been an avid reader, and currently lives on coffee and chocolate.

Her interests include reading, ancient history, mythology, alien life, conspiracy theories, photography, graphic design, the supernatural, life’s mysteries and martial arts, of which she has five years’ experience in ki aikido.

Vanessa has written or edited for magazines, national newspapers in South Africa, Oxford University Press Southern Africa and the International Trade Centre in Geneva, Switzerland, among others. She is a published author of fiction and non-fiction, with a main focus on fantasy in recent years. Vanessa is also an official short story judge for On the Premises, an online fiction magazine that hosts short story contests throughout the year, and proud editor of the Grumpy Old Gods short story anthology.

Review copies of all Vanessa’s books are available upon request, and fans are welcome to e-mail her at – she loves to hear any type of feedback and answers all e-mails personally.

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