Reader Spotlight: Stephen the fantasy loving hiker and his business savvy alter ego
In the Reader Spotlight series we ask our smart, diverse and multi-talented readers what makes them tick, and what they're seeing in Spun Yarn manuscripts. Our readers span the gamut of literary taste, so expect to see a little bit of everything!
By day Stephen is a program manager for a national bank. Outside of work, his creative passions take the reigns. Stephen is a prolific writer, a voracious reader of Action, Fantasy, and Young Adult manuscripts for The Spun Yarn, and a frequent traveler. When he’s not teaching business courses at the local community college, Stephen and his wife visit friends all over the country in between hiking trips.
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The Spun Yarn: Stephen, we know you’re pretty involved in your local writing community. Can you tell us a little bit about that community and how you got involved?
Stephen: A high school friend and I had been talking books for years, then one day we met up for coffee and found out we were both planning to write a book. It was fate. We spent the next year working on a book, and continued to talk shop even after our writing interests diverged. He writes high fantasy and I write action / thrillers. Locally, I participate in events and conferences put on by the Sisters in Crime chapter. Even though I’m not a “sister,” they welcome me with open arms and put on killer events. Last year I got to listen to Clive Cussler!
The Spun Yarn: What do you admire about your favorite books? What do you think is one of the hardest things for authors to do well?
Stephen: I’ve always been impressed by authors who can drop a piece of information into Chapter 1 and make it pay off many chapters (or even books) later. That “aha!” moment is thrilling. It’s a sign that the author is fully in control of the story.
Lately, I’ve also been drawn to an author’s ability to tackle heavy, potentially depressing topics while maintaining a sense of hope and optimism. It’s a dreadfully tricky balance to strike, and too many authors settle into the bleak, negative outlook on life.
The Spun Yarn: What do you find yourself commenting on most often when reading a Spun Yarn manuscript?
Stephen: The fastest way to lose me as a reader (and thus something I comment on all the time) is when a character has muddy or inconsistent motivation. I need to know WHY a character is taking an action, especially if that action is dangerous or costly. As human beings, we don’t take dangerous or costly actions unless we have good reason. It violates our innate sense of self-preservation. When a book opens with the main character risking life and limb for no discernible reason, that pulls me right out of the story. “What?! Why did John just do that?!”
Even more painful is when a main character shifts character for no reason, for example suddenly becoming heroic after a plot full of selfishness. I find myself wondering what changed. If the story doesn’t support the change through real character development, then I struggle to keep reading.
The Spun Yarn: What was your favorite moment while reading a Spun Yarn manuscript?
Stephen: There have been a few. I enjoy providing feedback to burgeoning authors, especially those that show flashes of brilliance. While a story may need fine-tuning, there are passages that makes you sit up in your seat and pay close attention. Whether it’s strong world-building or a moment of deep character, I love encouraging a writer’s progress.
I’ve also had the privilege of reading some stellar writing with The Spun Yarn, some fascinating stories with complex characters—the kinds of stories that just need some tweaking here or there. Being able to enjoy the story, while also providing some comments that may push it to the next level, is a real treat. And I hope to see these manuscripts on bookshelves soon!
The Spun Yarn: That’s a trait you share with the rest of our diverse cast of readers, and why we appreciate you so much. You’re all truly excited to see these books make it into the world. We love how much your constructive criticisms are driven by a real desire to see authors succeed. Thanks for being such a great reader Stephen!