Howdy ladies and gents.
Welcome to the best place to be on a Monday night, when the lights are low and all you want to do is just chill after a hard day’s work.
For tonight’s Author Interview, may I present to you a very entertaining, inspiring and talented lady, as we chat with author AR Neal about her writing inspirations, motivations, published works and writing advice.
As always, thanks for reading, enjoy the show and have a great evening.
Hi there Andreé, thank you for stopping by to give us an insight into your wonderful words, stories and the lady behind them.
(curtsies awkwardly) Thanks so much – I appreciate the invite into these cosy surroundings.
Let’s start with your latest novel that you just released recently – “Life in the Floating City”. You mention that you were inspired to write this book based on the songs on musician/producer Thomas Dolby and his album “A Map of the Floating City”. Some people listen to soundtracks when writing their novels and others have specific soundtracks in mind when writing scenes to enhance the mood but you have gone one further and created the framework of your story based on an album. This is indeed fascinating, particularly how the art of one can truly inspire another. Please can you tell us specifically how you were influenced by the album, how the city itself floats (is it magic, science or both) and what sort of genre spanning story we are going to find when we soar deep into the skies of your floating city.
First, let me give credit to one of our fellow writers, Heather Dubois, who I had the pleasure of spending time with as part of an Inlandia Writers Group held at my local library a couple years back. Heather wrote a story based on a song and it was very good. Fast forward a few months after that: I work as an online educator and in my past life (read: during my undergraduate years) was an on-air DJ … I can’t work in silence and often stream music; as it happened, I had a bunch of Mr. Dolby’s tracks playing. ‘Road to Reno’ was on and the lines “He went out and bought a gun/And he took it to their room/And he filed the number off/And he blew them both away/To the mountains of the moon caught me.” I stopped working and replayed it, then went to find a site that had the lyrics and listened again. My next thought was that there was a story in there. I listened to the entire album and started writing. I approached a colleague to inquire about getting it published if I finished it and he asked, “Does Mr. Dolby know what you are doing with his music?” I reached out to get permission, which was granted.
To your second question about how the city floats, which is a great question! In 2014 a movie called ‘The Signal’ came out. I won’t give any spoilers, but the scene at the end where the viewer is shown the truth came to mind as I visualized the Floating City. In actuality, the Floating City is very much ‘just’ a city, floating in the centre of three continents; Map of the Floating City was a multiplayer transmedia online game that was created to debut the album, Mr. Dolby’s first studio endeavour in 20 years. As noted in a TED release (TEDBlog – Play Thomas Dolby’s new game, “The Floating City”), “The Floating City is set against a dystopian vision of the 1940s that might have existed had WWII turned out a lot differently,” says Dolby. A global energy experiment went haywire, the Earth’s magnetic fields have been reversed, and the planetary climate system violated. Science has betrayed us: now what must the species do to survive? My floating city is a space installation, so there are probably complicated stabilizers and other futuristic doo-dads that keep it doing what space installations do.
Ah, the third question is quite a nugget. I would agree that Life is genre-spanning. There’s the whole steampunk connection because it is based on Mr. Dolby’s work – anyone who has followed him for a bit can see that piece. There is also a connection to science fiction because of the space travel element. Lastly, there’s the possibility of mystery, murder, and mayhem as well.
You also have two other books that you have published – your novel “After” and novella “Adventures in Cargo City”. How do these two stories differ from “Life in the Floating City”? Were either of them inspired in a similar way or are they different concepts entirely? Tell us more about them, their specific inspirations, their individual story arcs and the challenges the protagonists face across the course of their literary journeys.
The other two works are completely different and neither was inspired by music like Life. I wrote and self-published Adventures, which was a story based on an exit off Rte. 95 outside of Philadelphia (Pennsylvania) near Bartram Avenue and the airport. I live in California now but was born in southern New Jersey and lived in Delaware and Pennsylvania as well, so I spent quite a bit of time in that area. I used to ride by the sign that said ‘Cargo City’ and had a longstanding desire to write something about it. Adventures describes two young women in an urban environment who, during a violent storm, become involved in some nefarious goings-on after being separated from their uncle. After is based on the Biblical book of Revelation and offers the story of a woman who has to come to terms with strange happenings in her community – she is unsure if they are related to what her husband told her about his faith teachings or not. Both texts deal with female characters who must deal with real-life quandaries.
If your novels were to be made into films, who would you cast in the lead roles?
Feel free to ring up anyone you know who might be interested in making films from these – would love a creative consultant job! In the meantime, I think I’d need a magic wand because some of the people I envision in the roles would need to be their younger selves! For example, I could see Sonequa Martin (most recently of ‘The Walking Dead’ – she plays Sasha) from the time she was on Law and Order in a dual role as Victoria and Veronica from Cargo City. I could see Taraji P. Henson as Marlena and maybe Saul Rubinek (‘Warehouse 13’ series, among other credits) as Mike from After. My cast picks for Life would make for great analysis if it were a film … I’d love to see Rachelle Lefevre (‘Under the Dome’ series) in a dual role as Simone and Irene and Viola Davis (‘How to Get Away with Murder’ series) as Brittany Bostic, the attorney. Idris Elba (‘Thor’, and other films) would make a great Herbert. I think Tracee Ellis Ross (she came to prominence on the ‘Girlfriends’ series from 2000-2008) would make a great Caroline. Adrien Brody (‘The Pianist’ film and others) would be fabulous as Anderson. I’d love to see Mr. Dolby as the ship’s captain. I think I’d do well as the store clerk.
What do you find the most difficult thing about writing? And what do you find the easiest?
I often have multiple works-in-progress and get ideas for all of them at once. It becomes a chore to make myself focus on just one. I sometimes jot down reminders for the stories I’m not working on immediately so as not to lose what feels like a great idea. That would be the most difficult thing about writing. The easiest thing is usually the beginning and the end of a story. I have had situations where the outcome arrived first and the story evolved backwards, which was great fun and turned out to be quite easy.
Who are some of the authors in general that inspire you?
My ultimate inspirations are Ray Bradbury (who I got to sign my copy of Fahrenheit 451 when he was in my town to celebrate that particular book), Larry Niven (the Ringworld series of books), Stephen King (his Tower series specifically), Zora Neale Hurston, and Richard Wright, to name a few and in no particular order.
What sort of research do you do to write your books?
It depends on the text. For Life, I listened to the songs multiple times a day. I spent time reading Mr. Dolby’s inspirations for each song as well as information about the Map game to get a sense of the locations in it. I also did a bit on the Sombrero Galaxy and the White Star shipping line (which inspired the airships in my story). The Bible and associated commentaries were the inspiration for After. I tend to do a lot of reading about distances and locations, the background to concepts, and the rationale for theories, particularly if a story is science fiction. I would never consider myself a hard science fiction writer, but I want what I write to be factually based. I take that stance for any genre.
Why do you write? What inspired you to become a writer?
I write because I have to – there’s too much going on in my head for it to just stay in there! As far as inspiration, I find myself intrigued by all sorts of things – it is difficult to narrow down inspiration. However, I started writing in elementary school. I think I shared this story on my blog, but since you asked, I’ll share again. As a young person, I was a voracious reader. I mean, food packages, slips of newspaper, anything with words on it, I would read. I got my hands on the little newsletter insert from the household electric bill and there was a writing contest included. I wrote my story and probably begged my parents to send it in for me. I won an honourable mention for a science fiction piece about a space toaster, which garnered me some branded goodies (the electric company had partnered with a local bank so there was, as I remember it, a plastic bank for storing change and a tote bag), an official presentation and some cake, and the story was published in a subsequent newsletter. I was hooked.
I spent a number of years not writing fiction but was in Honours English classes in high school. I took a minor in English with a focus on creative writing as an undergraduate college student. I took part of a correspondence writing course but gave it up for financial reasons a long time ago. I discovered blogging sort of by accident and started writing again. I wrote Cargo City during National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo but felt it was finished as a novella instead of the novel-length expectation. I went on to write a collection of short stories (From Reality’s Edge, Volume One) as well for a later NaNoWriMo. I also had the honour of writing three pieces in a collection called ‘Feast’, which included writers from around the globe who each contributed three stories with a focus on (you guessed it) food. It was a fabulous adventure. Check it out at Pure Slush – a taste of Feast!
What keeps you motivated during creative slumps? How do you deal with Writers Block?
I don’t think of them as creative slumps but writing hibernation periods. There are plenty of occasions when I am not putting quill to papyrus, but I am thinking about writing. I spend my workdays reading academic papers, so there are times when Madam Muse is simply not interested and hibernates. When she wakes, she is on fire and I can barely keep up with the ideas.
You have access to a time machine. What advice would you give to your younger self?
I would tell my younger self to not stop writing. To not let the world convince her that there were more important things she needed to be doing. That writing was a waste of her time.
How do you spend your free time when you are not writing?
There’s this pesky ‘pay the bills’ thing that must be attended to, so I work as an online faculty member. I facilitate dissertation work for doctoral students and also teach master’s level courses. I continue to look for additional teaching opportunities online to add to my income as I am only working part-time. I live with two wonderful dogs, a neurotic cat, and a few strange fish, all of whom keep me occupied and entertained. I go to the gym as I’ve heard rumours I’m not getting younger and see this as a way to keep fit for as long as possible. I spend time with a few close friends. I dream.
Tell us more about your upcoming projects. Are you working on anything specific or have plans in the pipeline?
I have a science fiction tale that I have brewing as well as a flash fiction novel. Neither is as far along as I’d like, but Madam Muse keeps throwing snippets at me. I have done some outlining because the bigger picture isn’t clear yet. I am actively shopping a light romance/murder mystery to agents and publishers. Very much outside my usual genre preference, but it was a story that needed to be told – it was constantly whispering so I had to get it out of my head and onto paper so it would leave me alone. Stories do that, you know. They pick at you until you write them.
Finally, are there any nuggets of wisdom that you can impart to other aspiring writers?
Don’t be afraid to write. I think all writers, at some point, hear that nagging voice that tells us our stuff is horrid, that no one will want to read it, and so on. There is an audience for every word. While what we write will need polishing, chances are that someone will enjoy it. Post on social media. Write a blog. Put it in manuscript form and go to a few writer’s groups to get it in front of like-minded folks. Send it to publishers and agents. Take rejections as learning experiences and keep sending it out. Do all of the above. Just don’t stop writing!
And that’s a wrap! Thank you for taking us on an epic journey to remember Andreé 🙂
Andreé Robinson-Neal got bit by the writing bug back in the late 1970’s while watching Rod Serling and reading Ray Bradbury; although she has worked in education for more than a quarter-century, she has never been cured of her penchant for speculative fiction. Find some of her flash fiction at her website (see link below) and her professional portfolio at Dr. Andree Robinson-Neal – The Online Repository of Works.
She writes under the name AR Neal and reads more than she sleeps. She is the author of two novellas, “Adventures in Cargo City” and “Life in the Floating City”, a novel, “After”, “From Reality’s Edge, Volume One,” a collection of short and flash fiction that may one day include a Volume Two, and three stories in the Pure Slush flash fiction collection, “Feast”.
You can connect with her via the following Social Media channels:-
Facebook:- AR Neal – Author (FB)
Goodreads:- AR Neal (Goodreads Author)
Twitter:- AR Neal – Author (Twitter)
Website:- One Starving Activist – The Website of Author AR Neal
You can buy her books here:-
Still want more? Well, as it so happens there is a prompt over at The Daily Post that ties in with the titles of Andreé’s books. For more articles around the theme of ‘City’ then check out the links below:-
1. debooWORKS – Malaysia
2. Saint P. Blogging – Prompt for the Day: “City”
3. UrbandialoguesBlog – What is city?
4. City – Mumbai – rupalislale
5. FACTS AND COMMENTARY – Our Social Diversity
6. In the city – The Inkwell
7. Writing with Spirit – Bits O’ Blog
8. The City – Little April Shower
9. Sunset Over Richmond – The View From My Window
10. Living, Learning and Letting Go – A New Beginning in Seattle
11. A tourist from Boston just tried to dupe me – Familiar Tirotories
12. The luminous curves of the city – WazirNama
13. My Mixed Blog – Paris
14. Day Eight_City – Motivation – Live Now or Forever Hold Your Peace!
15. Daily Sketches 16-19 June 2016 – DEAN KEALY
16. tuckedintoacorner – meandering (400)
17. From My Horizon – The origin of a city
18. Letter to the big city – dreams deferred
19. Joy Write – Beckoning the City.
20. The Linda Life – City Respites and Trees That Curve
21. kwesi – urban denotes location
22. Blood in the Streets – Dreamer’s Paradise
23. City of Lights – writealineblog
24. Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: All about Cities (Skylines to Street Photography) – ladyleemanila
25. tuckedintoacorner – cactus + perfection + city
26. Sacrificial Chain Breaker – NIGHTTIME IN THE CITY
27. shame – Monsoon salt
28. another quiet muse – City…757
29. Artsy World of Asheville – Meg’s Musings
30. City – Scott’s website
31. Trained to Go – Its Time to Unleash the Power Within – Success in Spry
32. the default blogger – Lost in the city
33. Success Inspirer’s World – Tell me about city life
34. City Life – Short…but not always so sweet
35. Hiding the City on a Hill – Eagle’s Wing Ministries
36. Home City – Fantasy Raconteur
37. Francesca’s Frailties and Foilables – Daily prompt: City
38. The City Girl – Girl With A Tripod
39. Mainline_Matter – Concrete-Glass Monolith City
40. Crushed by the City – Love it Now
41. Sheep in the Big City – Get Lost!
42. Purposive Writer – I Still Found Me in the Midst of the City
43. COLORED LINES – CHAPTER 19 – I REMEMBER THAT DAY THE CITY – Singledust
44. The city of dreams – Awordseeker
45. City – guavarilla
46. CITY-CITY OF HOPE – alifiyablogblog
47. What will cities look like in the future? – The Daily Post’s One Word Prompt. – tech7533
48. The Orlando Shooting: Little Did We Know – ONE MORE SHOT PLEASE
49. As I See Things – Night in the City
50. A Glimpse into My Journey – Imagine
51. Two forms of coexistence – mistspell
52. City Burden – From Sand to Gemstones
53. Travel Hotspot: Los Angeles – Crystallized
54. A walk through the Lalbagh Botanical Garden: Part 1 – Later Alligator
55. Mitigating Circumstances – City
56. The Last Blog Available – ‘Eternal Love, Panicking’
57. Experiments in Poetry and Prose – Horizon
58. Pen Pals… – The Contrast.
59. City – calliemm
60. Electric Grave – StrangeLander2015
61. Urban Evil – Vivid Dreamer
62. Chicago with You – stephentotheplate
63. Get-a-way not far away – SnoSouthernLife
64. City – jheart2hearty
65. LINES of SHADEAU – City That Never Sleeps
66. Ann Arbor Cuisine – Mac’s World
67. construction blog web – Construction in the City
68. beeblu blog – Curve
69. City: Daily Prompt #4 – InsistentBooks
70. Mindseyemama – LBC—The City to Be
71. City Lights – Nichelle Lei
72. New York City aka The Big Apple – Roaming Urban Gypsy
73. City by The Sea – HotChocoBreakER
74. Sascha Darlington’s Microcosm Explored – The City Sleeps
75. City life vs the ‘burbs – one fabulous fiasco
76. The City Within Me – Karuchan90
77. Samuel H. Birnie – Episodes from the City
78. XingfuMama – Shanghai: skyline to street
79. Writing The Girl – Close Enough, Far Away
80. Where are You From? – A lot from Lydia
81. Home – Lola’s Day
82. London – CreativeWritingBox
83. Reunion – City
84. debooWORKS – Malaysia
85. Alleyway Art – The One Scripturient
86. Fluffy Pool – My Five Things
87. Swedish Cities – yuling li
88. debooWORKS – Singapore Flyer
89. Writer Sanctuary – Is Freelance Writing for You?
90. law abiding brunette – This City, My City
91. My musings from South London – WordPress Promp – City
92. The Gad About Town – A Trip to the City
93. Diary of a Married Woman – We’re Not Some Part of Her
94. City – Mychoice360
95. This city of ours – Diary of fantastic discoveries
96. ruminatorsite – Hudson Valley Cities
97. City = hard pavements. – Life as Nan
98. City of Dead – world4womencom
99. Anton’s Ideas – THE CITY OF MY INNOCENT DREAMS
100. The City – wordsareallihavesite
101. I belong to the city – In my world
102. Barbara Duncan Mathies – Road Trip to the City
103. B_ up to date – Close and so far away
104. City = Person ? – Writer’s Blog
105. Beware Of Birds And Bread People – Apparently I’m Funny
106. Joes-Fotowelten – Unwirkliche Welten
107. I Left My Heart¸ in San Francisco – Onto My Next 40 Years
108. Make America Truly Love Again – Redhead Reflections
109. Seeking Solitude – Addison Greene
110. City – heart2go
111. Seattle – My Favorite City So Far – Crusty Monkeys
112. An Upturned Soul – Why Do People Complain?
113. The Cat Chronicles – Daily Feline Prompt: Feline City
114. Great City – Travel with Intent
115. Wide Eyed In Wonder – 5 Things I Love About Cities
116. Zombie Flamingos – A Thursday walk
117. Coloring Outside the Lines – City
118. Travel Tales! – caffeinetoyourdecaf
119. Miss Pelican’s Perch – The City of the Queen of the Angels
120. Peaceful Journey – Life in the City
121. Daily Prompt; City – tnkerr-Writing Prompts and Practice
122. My Brain, on Everything – London – The home I love to hate
123. To Wear A Rainbow – Lost… haiku
124. How to Find Beauty in City or Forest – Emotional Fitness Training
125. Visions Of A Daydreamer – City
126. Chief of Sector 210 – Kuma House
127. I went to Kolkata and finally found my birthday tradition – Later Alligator
128. a tiny snowflake in a city by the lake – Singledust
129. Citylights – Weaving Notions
130. Darkness… – clumsyandsilly
131. Personal blog of Shreyaa Senthilkumar… – My City :’)
132. Giggles & Tales – The City – Daily Prompt!
133. The Daily Post – Progressing into Solitude – Run City Run
134. Poem:Acrostic- Hometown – jotabouts
135. View From Above – A Year of Sunshine
136. Urban Masquerade: – Stokespeare
137. Light & life – It’s All in Your Perspective
138. Walk me Through your City .. – pins & ashes
139. Jottings and Writings – City
140. Dee Travels – The City
141. somawrites – Reflections
142. Common Pursuit – The City’s Pot
143. Live-Life.. – Truly Hyderabad
144. Musings of a Random Mind – inside germany: ich liebe munchen
145. Prompt for the Day: “City” – saintpblogging BlogJob site
146. Suddenly Single… Minded – In the City – we don’t like Cavs or Calves…
147. Travelogue : Moscow and St Petersburg – Geek Ergo Sum
148. masihbersambung – Voronezh or Sarov
149. An Ode to The City – Writing through Career Transition
150. Prompt for the Day: “City” – Saint P. Blogging
151. Haiku: Hollyhocks – Jane Dougherty Writes
152. City Poem – whippetwisdom.com
153. Life with Jess – Wanderlust
154. #TheWickedVentures – I belong to you: bonding with the city
155. The City from above – Living Life
156. debooWORKS – The Gateway to the North-East
157. debooWORKS – Reminiscence: Guwahati
158. Crossing Colorado – How Being Social Improves Weight Loss
159. lifelessons – a blog by Judy Dykstra-Brown – Entrapment
160. Ode to Taipei City – Silver Birch Tree
161. A Driftwood’s Journey – The City is Alive
162. 83 Unsung Heroes – City Living
163. Family, Education and Liquor – Sydney David
164. City – Tvor Travels
165. kStan(ly) kSays – country visit
166. Sure Scribbles – New York Dreams.
167. Darkly Dezire – My City
168. Daily Prompt – City – Dutch goes the Photo!
169. Kuwait City – Thirty by Thirty
170. Musings and My Two Cents – Now That’s A Graduation Speech!
171. Zurigo é una bella citta, no? – I’m a Writer, Yes I Am
172. Anonymous in Cali – places i haven’t been back to
173. Le Drake Noir – City of the cities
174. Where Dreams and Nightmares Collide – Little Miss Understood
175. City vs Country Life – Uma’s life and thoughts
176. BreatheShellyGirl – Do I have to go?
177. City – Image & Word
178. Chronicles of an Anglo Swiss – Touch a City
179. The City where I belong! – life’s journey
180. A Sunken Thought – So Terrified
181. Pittsburgh – My Second Act, Scene One
182. a cooking pot and twistedtales – Living in the diaspora…
183. I love you NY – Love Lyricism
184. thelonerose – CITY Daily Prompt
185. Science Traveler – Rolling on the River in the City of New Orleans
186. Short Story: A Mental Breakdown In The City – farrahstyles
187. Hot White Snow – Limping in London
188. Mary 2.0 – Classy City Living on a Country Estate
189. Everything about Bengaluru! – A lil bit of everything
190. Mute World. – The Talkative Dreamer
191. Maps: My Muse, My Story. – SUCCESS STRATEGIES
192. Growing Toward the Sun – Why We Like To Blame The Gorilla Parents, The Alligator Parents & Everyone Else
193. City – A bit of a geeky mom
194. Ocean – Jennifer Terry
195. Munsieville – Selah Ministries
196. coldhandswarmheartsblog – Unity in the City
197. The Wandering Poet – DP Prompt ~ We visited Taipei City 🙂
198. Travel Much? – Barcelona much?
199. Designer Sophisticate – Give me the city life.
200. City of Hope – wordsonwings
201. Travel Much? – Stavanger, forever in my heart
202. Anecdote. The Ties that Bind – SUCCESS STRATEGIES
203. domestic diva – The journey Down Under
204. the15thday – nyc
205. A City birthing A City – mySestina
206. Red Mountain Motel – Stream of Consciousness Daily Prompt–City
207. Plant stand – zorazebic
208. The Celestial City – Pete Gardner Psalms
209. elizabethAfox Artist – The Lowry, Manchester
210. Michelle Lunato Photography – Cities. Different Views & Styles.
211. Roast Yourself – Eloraquence
212. Lantern Words – I Look For A City
213. new2writing – The Shrine #writephoto