Today's Author Spotlight is author Frank Winter! Read on for the full interview. Publication date: September 18th, 2021 Links:  Amazon  ...

Author Spotlight || Frank Winter, Author of Homecoming

Today's Author Spotlight is author Frank Winter!
Read on for the full interview.

Publication date: September 18th, 2021

One last dance... Homecoming was going to be the best night of their lives for the students of Villa Vista High School, but instead it became their last. Love was in the air as several couples among the crowd found themselves at a crossroads. Expectations were high, but the future was less certain than they could ever imagine.

Death was not the end. The students found that Hell looks a lot like high school. The afterlife only offered more questions than answers, but one question took center stage. With grief and anger consuming them, the search for the killer began.

Now the accused must survive the wrath of their classmates, while continuing their own search for atonement and escape. Their Limbo could give way at any moment, and they have no idea how far down the Circles they might fall.

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What's your latest release? 

"Homecoming" is my debut novel. It's a 571 page, 196K word Thriller / Murder Mystery with strong Supernatural Romance themes. The Amazon blurb really gets the plot synopsis across.

Can you start out by telling us a little about your latest work? 

"Homecoming" is the story of several high school couples at a crossroads of their relationship when they are suddenly murdered a the titular high school dance. They must navigate the strange afterlife they wake up in to not only solve their own murder, but prove their own innocence to their vengeful classmates. As all that unfolds, they must escape from Limbo and find their killer.
It's "John Hughes meets Stephen King" or "'Heathers' meets Tim Burton". If you enjoy any of those creators, you should check it out.

Where did you get the inspiration to write this story?

One very specific and very real incident that happened to me back in high school. Our school was threatened by an *accidental* event, which if left undiscovered could have turned out like the disaster described in "Homecoming".

When you developed the characters, did you already know who they were before you began writing or did they develop organically?

I had a basic outline of who each of the characters were going to be, influenced somewhat by the part they had to play in the story and by some of the real life people and characters that inspired them. However, everything after that was much more organic. The nuances and quirks of their personalities showed up in the little interactions they had with everyone else.

Which of your characters was your favorite to write and why?

For "Homecoming", the main character, Blaire, for sure. I feel like I put small (but different) parts of myself into all of the main ensemble. In my high school days, and probably even now, I'd relate to her the most.

What was more important to you when you were writing: character development or plot?

Without sounding like I'm trying to have it both ways, the interaction of both. "Homecoming" has an ensemble cast so it cycles between five groups of two people (most of whom are couples). So the major plotline advances with the development of each of their individual/couple arcs. I do already have the basic story framework in place before they get fleshed out as characters though, so I would say plot, ultimately.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned (about your story, about yourself, etc.) while writing?

One thing I learned, which I already sort of suspected, is that my emotions can be heavily swayed by the seasons, and that my most creative writing months are in the ... Winter. That is actually only the fourth reason why I picked that pen name, but it's absolutely true. Between the Solstice and Spring Equinox I can churn out 25K words per week of raw manuscript.

The first chapter of "Homecoming" actually played out for me in a dream on Christmas morning 2020. It was the closest thing I've ever felt to divine inspiration. From that experience, I learned to simply "go with it.

In your opinion what makes a good story?

Probably a basic answer, but a good story is one that is compelling for you as a reader. A lot of subjectivity is involved. Taste in genre, length of the work, pacing, format (Book vs TV/Movie) all play a part in how its valued by you as a person. There are definitely some objective measures that come into play, but a great deal of what makes a story uniquely good are those qualities that are beautiful in the eye of the beholder.

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

Just the accomplishment of crossing the finish line was a big moral booster for me. While the seed of the idea came to me over a decade ago, actually transforming that into a finished novel has been a very gratifying experience.

Do you read your book reviews? What do you consider "good" /"bad"?

I definitely read my reviews, even the bad ones, at least once. It's like Pandora's Box. I have to look inside, even just that first time. Every author needs to learn to deal with negative criticism in their own ways. The key is properly processing constructive/legitimate criticism and filtering out the toxic or vacuous reactions which lay more in the personality or preferences of the reviewer.

And of course, you're not going to complain about good reviews. The best ones are the long ones, very drawn out explanations of exactly what someone liked about your work and how it was meaningful to them. Not only is it emotionally edifying, but it's a great indicator of what to keep doing in the future.

What led you to start writing?

I mention this in the book's Acknowledgements, but I had an English professor in my first semester at University who was very inspirational. She was a Ms. Frizzle type, very eccentric and enthusiastic. I started writing fiction on a weekly basis, even after I passed her G.E. class. Despite my dozens of engineering classes, she had the single most important impact on my life.

Do you have any writing superstitions?

I'm very paranoid about losing progress after a big writing session. I will email copies of the latest version to myself through several separate email accounts, and save local file copies to several different hard drives.

What attracted you to the genre(s) you write in?

I've always been a fan of Thrillers, the Supernatural, and Romance. In the case of Thrillers, my favorite author, and the one whom my writing style or "author's voice" is most heavily influenced by, is Michael Crichton. I was a dinosaur kid growing up, and the Jurassic Park film was the pinnacle of that childhood pastime.

In the case of the other genres, I've described "Homecoming" to friends and family as "John Hughes meets Stephen King" or "'Heathers' meets Tim Burton". All of those creators and properties were major influences on me as a writer and this novel in particular.

What is one of your favorite words? OR Is there a word you find yourself using too often?

"Absolutely" and "Of course" are turns of phrase I default to a lot. It's how I talk in my daily life, so it sounds like the most natural dialogue to me. I always have thesaurus websites open to mitigate some of those crutches. Plus I try to give each character their own default phrases to help individualize them better.

What are you currently reading?

I'm currently re-reading one of my favorite non-fiction books. "The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind" by Julian Jaynes. It is a mindblowing collection of theories by the 1970's psychologist about how he believes consciousness manifested in Homo Sapiens. Anyone with a passing interest in Pop Anthropology or want to dig into something that makes you question your own humanity and agency should check it out.

A lot of authors have a soundtrack while writing. Are there are songs you had on repeat?

Yes, definitely. Music is a big part of my life, almost as big as writing. I'm always listening to songs, soundtracks (such as film, TV, & video game scores), and a variety of other things while I write. With this first book, "Homecoming", I have a playlist of nearly 300 tracks that could almost be considered an unofficial OST.
I also commissioned a theme song for the novel which will play prominently in the audiobook , but can already be heard in the promotional video:

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Self-publish something sooner. Just take the shot, give it a try and put something out there.

What are a couple of your favorite movies to kick back with to relax?

I love vegging out to old 80s and 90s TV shows and movies I watched as a kid. I'm currently re-watching The X-Files.

Which animal would you say is your spirit animal and why?

We did a family tree history once, and found that our family name was once associated with the stag (hooray House Baratheon). More specifically, the reindeer. That definitely played into the pen name. As far as my personality goes, I think its a wise animal. You have to have the strength to fight if the need arises (with 8-point antlers in this case), but you can be smart enough to run when it isn't necessary.

It's like the Sun Tzu quote: "He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight."

Would you rather live in a haunted mansion or a cottage surrounded by fairytale creatures?

Haunted mansion. The ghosts would be much less annoying.

What is something about the genre that annoys you?

I think the issue with any genre that an author focuses on is genre norms and expectations. Often you can have a lot of fun with those, by subverting tropes or exploring them in unique ways, but they can be limiting if you color too far outside of the lines. With my stories, I mostly write them as they come to me and then apply the genre labels at the end. Settling on a BISAC code took me a while.

What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

I don't really have an ideal "writing hour." Just like my sleep schedule and many other things in my life, I'll write pretty much whenever the inspiration (and energy) come to me. That can be in the evenings, midnight, the witching hours of 2:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m., early mornings, or afternoons. It really all depends, and I've never noticed any difference in my writing quality or variety regardless of when it was penned.

Are you on social media and can your readers interact with you? What are your links?

My main hub is going to always be my website: I have a blog there that I'll update every few weeks. It's worth subscribing to, but I won't spam you.

Then I have a Facebook:


And YouTube channel with the fantastic "Homecoming" promo:

Do you have a favorite line that you've written? What is it and why do you like it?

I think my favorite lines from stories are the very quotable ones that you would expect to hear in a trailer or read on a promotional poster. While I didn't use this line for either of those kinds of advertising, one of my favorite ones from "Homecoming" is: "Life will usually give you a second chance ... but never a third."

How that figures into the story is where the real depth and meaning come into play though.

What advice would you like to pass on to aspiring writers that is unconventional but true?

Don't second guess yourself too much. Just write something down, even if you think it's bad. By just "fighting through the pain", not only will you keep making progress, but the inspiration to improve that bad section will come to you eventually and you can go back to fix or reinforce things.

Do you have a WIP? If so, can you tell us anything about it?

Yes. My plan since college was to eventually reach the point of releasing an annual novel. 2022's novel is already well underway with 50K words and 150 pages. I really love the character ensemble so far. I think fans of "Homecoming" will really enjoy it once it's finished.

Frank Winter is a native of Northern California who was born into a wonderful family that supported his passions and aspirations. He grew up loving the performing arts, inspired by the animated musicals of the 1990s. During his university days, he dabbled in local theatre as well as productions put on by his church. At the same time, he expanded his interests to include creative writing. This quickly evolved from lyrics to short stories to long-form fiction.

After graduation he pushed forward in his career as a mechanical engineer while continuing to moonlight in writing and music. Following years of honing his craft, he finally decided to pursue an old story idea to be released as his debut novel.

"Homecoming" is now available on paperback, and releases for Kindle on September 18th.