Author James Moushon did me the honor of interviewing me for his HBS Author’s Spotlight.
Please check out the interview by clicking the logo below, and if you care, please share. 🙂
Today, I have the pleasure and privilege of interviewing the sizzling Shay Blaze, burlesque performer, cosplayer, and, last but certainly not least, my friend. She is a petite, almost fae-like beauty with a smile and personality bigger and brighter than the sun itself. And if you’re like me, you are already looking forward to learning more about her. Without further adieu, I give you the lithe, the lovely Shay Blaze.
J: Let’s start with something simple. How long have you been performing as a burlesque dancer? And how did you start performing?
S: I’ve been performing burlesque for 5 years now. It all started when a good friend of mine told me about a local audition here in Alabama and I just fell in love with it.
J: Did you decide on your stage name or was that moniker applied by someone else? Either way, what does that name mean to you?
S: I chose my name after quite a bit of searching. Shay is something I’ve actually been called for years. Blaze came from the energy and passion I have on stage and the bright red hair I have from time to time.
J: How would you describe your style of performance? Did you develop it over time or did you know what you wanted to do when you started?
S: My performance style is always changing and has evolved so much over the years. There are so many beautiful styles of performance out there and I want to experience all of them. I love to keep my fans guessing and fully entertained.
J: Before venturing into the world of burlesque, did you have a background in dance, music, theatre, or other performance art?
S: As a child, I always dreamed of being a dancer or a circus performer. I dabbled in pageants early on and found out quickly that I thrive under the spotlight. I actually began with visual art which soon opened the door to makeup and hair styling. Then came fashion which led to cosplay and costume design. Once I discovered burlesque it was all over. I fell head over heels for it. It allows me to enjoy every creative hobby I’ve ever had or wanted all in one place.
J: When we first met at Alabama Phoenix Festival, you were helping to promote Warehouse 31, one of Birmingham’s premiere haunted houses. Could you tell us more about W31? Do you perform there?
S: I have not performed there actually. I used to do some acting at Sloss Fright Furnace way before I started burlesque. Since then, some of my friends/co-workers from Sloss are now at W31. They are all very wonderful people.
J: At Phoenix Fest, you did a fantastic job cosplaying Harley Quinn and Tinker Bell. What other characters do you cosplay and would you consider yourself a professional cosplayer?
S: Thank you! Cosplay is a hobby for me. I don’t really consider myself a pro just yet. I do have big plans for Dragon*con particularly this year. I’ve been fortunate enough to work conventions with the amazing artist Patrick Giles. He and I will be representing DC Comics for Dragon this year and I will be premiering a new Harley cosplay along with X-Men’s Emma Frost, and DC’s Black Canary.
J: What are your favorite parts of performing and cosplaying? Do you have a least favorite part?
S: It’s hard to pick a favorite part honestly. I love everything about both of them from start to finish.
J: Are there any common misconceptions about burlesque, or cosplay for that matter, that you’d like to clear up for people?
S: Oh boy, I’m not sure where to begin on that subject. Burlesque is a wonderful thing to experience. It differs a lot from what people initially think of when they hear “stripper”. To me, burlesque is beautiful and playful celebration of the body. It has a grand theatrical element that you won’t see anywhere else.
J: Finally, where can people follow you online? And when and where will we be able to see you onstage?
S: You can keep up with my ever-changing antics and show dates on my website shayblaze.com and of course social media.
Or you can come to my next show this Friday June 19th at Das Haus! It’s going to be epic!
Thanks for sitting down with us, Shay. You’ve been engaging and enlightening as always. Cannot wait to see the new cosplays as well as the performance this Friday. If you’re in the Birmingham area, be sure to come out to Das Haus on Friday night for Shay, a sideshow, and much more. Hope to see you there!
For my final author interview this month, I am fortunate enough to have snagged some of the valuable time of the charismatic Kimberly Richardson, my friend and the editor of the Cycle of Ages Saga. Let’s get down to business, Kim. I’m sure the readers out there are eager to learn more about you and your work.
J: Judging from our conversations and your stories, you have a vivid imagination. Where do you find the inspiration to fuel this creative fire and turn your wild ideas into amazing stories?
K: I get inspiration by simply observing the world around me. The world is filled with magick and wonder; all one has to do is simply open your eyes. Even a simple conversation between two people in a coffee shop can inspire an awesome story – several of my stories began that way.
J: You’ve reached some manner of acclaim in a short period of time as a professional writer. In fact, two of your novels were considered for the Pulitzer list a couple of years ago. Could you tell us more about that experience as well as your other accolades/honors?
K: Being enlisted for the Pulitzer was quite a learning experience for me; it felt wonderful to know that my work stood a chance to receive such an honour. I do plan to enlist again very soon! I was also a finalist for several awards as well as edited several anthologies that later won awards through certain stories.
J: Which of your fantastical tales has generated the most feedback from readers? What was their overall response to it?
K: It is spread across the board; I get feedback from people about everything! Generally, the feedback has been great followed with questions of when my next work will be available. Either that, or they ask me if I’ve ever committed any of the “incidents” that are in my stories. I consider that to be a compliment.
J: What writers have influenced you the most? And which of their books are your favorites?
K: That answer is very, very long but I will say that roughly 100+ writers have influenced me. The list of books is too long as well. I take little bits from those who inspire me and add it to my own mixture. The mixture is always changing and blending to whatever I’m either reading or writing.
J: If you could talk to any of these writers, living or dead, who would it be, and what would you discuss?
K: Actually, I really wouldn’t want to speak with any of them, strangely enough. They are in my mind in certain ways and for me to possibly speak with them might shatter that “image”. I know that sounds lame but it is the truth. Let them continue being that certain “thing” in my mind and I’m happy enough.
J: Doesn’t sound strange to me at all. After having my own mental image of certain celebrities shattered by meeting them in person, I tend to avoid those who have had the deepest impact on me. Nice to know that I’m not the only one who would hate to be disappointed in the humanity of my heroes and idols.
J: In addition to writing, do you have any other hobbies or creative pursuits?
K: Photography, tea blending, traveling, cooking, hiking, mycology, attending ballets, opera and the theatre in general, reading books (of course!).
J: Could you tell us more about your experiences as an editor for Dark Oak Press and others? Do you prefer to write your own material or help edit and shape the work of others?
K: They are equal in my world. When I first began editing for Dark Oak, I wasn’t sure of what I was doing. After many bruises, scrapes, cuss words and failures later, I think I’ve gotten the hang of it. With regards to my work – I still enjoy it. That will never die even as I continue my work as an Editor.
J: As a writer and editor, what advice would you give to aspiring writers who want to become published professionals?
K: Don’t stop, no matter what. I can’t get any more blunt than that.
J: What project are you working on currently? Without spoiling anything, could you provide us with a snippet from it?
K: As of now, I’m working through the second round of edits for my Southern Gothic novel, Open A. The novel is about a Memphian named Graydon Fayette who is also a world renowned violinist. He is also a member of a very old family that more than just dabbles in the dark side.
J: Do you have any new or upcoming releases that you’d like to promote here?
K: Open A should be out next year if not sooner. Tales From a Goth Librarian II was released this past February. Both are/will be through Dark Oak Press. I also have a short story called “The Master of Tea” that will be released in Asian Pulp through Pro Se Press this year.
J: Thanks for sharing, Kim. As always, it’s a pleasure to hear more about you and your passion for writing and editing, as well as your other creative pursuits. I wish you all the best on your upcoming releases. Maybe we’ll be seeing you on the Pulitzer list again soon.
As most people’s thoughts turn to warm weather, bright flowers, and outdoor vacations, there are those of us who enjoy the Addams Family or Munsters-kind of life regardless of the season. I am one of those Autumn People, always with one foot on either side of the Veil. Paranormal writer Bella Roccaforte is part of our worldwide creative carnival as well. This legitimate badass is literary and quite lively, unlike some of her creepy crawlers and haunting hunks. I have the privilege of sitting down with her to find out what steered her toward the world of spooky fiction.
J: Let’s start with something simple. How long have you been writing? And what led you to “go pro”?
B: In a former life, I was a professional musician and used to write poetry for as long as I can remember. But as far as writing stories, I started in December of 2012. My husband had been talking about writing a novel for as long as I’ve known him. So I challenged him to write for an hour and I would do the same.
At the end of a week of doing that he asked how many words I had. I didn’t know, because I wasn’t paying attention to that. Turns out I had 30k words. When I asked him how many he had, he just told me that wasn’t important right now. He asked to read what I had written and after he did, he told me it was good and I should publish it. So I finished and here I am now eight novels later.
J: Whoa! That’s an impressive start. If you can type 30k words in a week, I should hire you to write my novels, if I could afford you. Broke Guys Productions is no euphemism. Hehehe!
J: What genre(s) do you prefer to write? Do you prefer to read those genres too?
B: I prefer to write in paranormal. I’m having a blast with my latest series which is a paranormal romance. I’m not typically big on romance, but this story was scratching to get out.
I also love to read paranormal, pnr is okay, but I don’t need a lot of sexy to enjoy a story.
J: Personally, I’m fine with scary, sexy, or both, as long as it’s well-written and edited.
J: Speaking of your reading habits, what are your five favorite novels?
B: Inferno by Dante Alighieri
The Beautiful Demons series by Sarra Cannon
Elfhunter series by C.S. Marks.
The Celestra Series by Addison Moore
The Art of War by Sun Tzu
J: Both 1 and 5 are great choices. I’ll have to check out the rest. You’re not the first person to recommend Elfhunter.
J: What writers have influenced you the most over the course of your life?
B: Addison Moore and Sarra Cannon. I would not be a published author without both of them!
J: I feel similarly about those who helped me along the way, writers, editors, publishers, and artists. Part of why I started this series of interviews was to showcase them as well as others.
J: Let’s turn back to your writing process. When you set out to create a new story, do you jump right in to the tale (pantster) or plan it out for ages beforehand (plotter)?
B: Gosh, this is a tough one because I usually have the basics down for the story in my head before I jump in. But as the words flow, they create their own little ripples in the story line. I have been known to come out of my office with wide eyes and say “Whoa, I didn’t see that coming!”
But I don’t create an outline, or write down the plot. My latest series actually grew from a series of paintings I had done. Originally, there were three paintings, now there are nine. But the original three served as beginning middle and end. The story has grown beyond that at this point.
J: Are there common themes, topics, or tropes that you use or explore in your works of fiction?
B: Oh yes, I have all kinds of little Easter eggs or private jokes all throughout my work.
In the INK series, there are a ton of The Walking Dead Easter eggs. I have a character named Carl who’s always getting lost. Things like that.
In Paranormal Transmissions, many of the towns/cities they go to are named after the actors from The Walking Dead (I’m a huge fan if you can’t tell.)
In Moon Crossed (The Crescent Hunter Series), my “hero” is named Cole Jackson. Jackson is the name of the hero in Sarra Cannon’s Beautiful Demons series and last night I needed a list of casualties. Characters we’ve never really met that died in battle. At first, I was thinking I could name them Kenny (South Park), Rory (Doctor Who), Red (Red shirts from Star Trek), you know characters that always die. But I couldn’t come up with enough names, so I decided to go with a list of all my exes.
J: It’s nice to know that I’m not the only writer here who has killed an ex or two in fiction. Or loves #TWD!
J: Judging by our previous conversations, it sounds like you have had a rough life, one that has helped build you into the badass you’ve become. What real life events have most shaped your writing?
B: Whoa, so yeah. If we were sitting face to face, I’d be making that face that Peta Mellark made when asked on stage if there was anyone special at home (Hunger Games).
Okay, so yes, probably the one thing in my life that has shaped and driven my writing in one specific way is heartbreak. In the INK: Series, the two heroes are based on exes. They are both aware and think it’s pretty cool. I did have one of them apologize to me for being such an ass hat.
Moon Crossed is the product of a difficult time when life had just fallen to pieces for me. I’m a people hoarder, and for whatever psychological issues, I have one of the coping mechanisms is to create an extremely tight knit circle of friends that I would kill or die for. The circle broke, we all fell away, and I felt like my heart had been dug out of my chest with a rusty spoon. Thus, the painting outlet, and subsequently telling a part of that story. I, of course, had to spice it up and throw in some romance. But all of the characters with the exception of the love interest/hero are based on my boys from The House of Brotus (our little cult).
It has been therapeutic, but still on a level while going back and doing revisions and re-feeling some of those emotions, it’s so raw. Most of us have all reformed the circle, it would seem there was only one permanent casualty of the fallout.
J: Pardon to tough question, but I find that many writers tend to be survivors and fiction makes wonderful therapy for us. But it also showcases our pain as well as our hope for a better tomorrow. That can make it daunting to delve into such personal stories on occasion. Glad you’re working through it all and finding catharsis bit by bit with each tale.
J: Do you find that your real life struggles make it easier or more difficult to put your characters through a fictional baptism by fire?
B: Depends on the character and the mood that I’m in. Sometimes it’s so nice to just rip someone’s intestines out and eat them while they watch. Other times I’ll be like, “I’m so sorry, but we really had to do that. It hurt me more than it hurt you.”
In general, the heroine always gets the shitty end of the stick. I love to torture her to see how amazing she’ll be when she rises from the ashes.
J: What’s the common quote about fiction? Put your characters up a tree and then throw rocks at them. Writing 101. I think some of us enjoy the experience entirely too much though. Yes, I’m talking to you, G.R.R. Martin.
J: What writing project are you working on at the moment?
B: I’m currently putting the finishing touches on the first book in the Crescent Hunter Series, Moon Crossed. I’m releasing it in serial format and three episodes are already available on Amazon. I’ll continue to release them weekly until April 15th.
J: What upcoming releases do you have slated for 2015? When and where can we find them?
B: Moon Crossed #1 (Crescent Hunter Series) April 15 – Amazon and my website (BellaWrites.com for the paper back)
INK: Bold Strokes (Book 5) – Final book in this series. All digital retailers by the end of summer.
Three more installments of Paranormal Transmissions – supernatural/paranormal serial. All digital outlets and I’ll be releasing them over the course of the next year.
And who knows what else might come from my crazy brain. If you had told me three months ago that I was going to write a shifter romance, I would have said, “Shut up, I’m not.”
Thanks for the lively, intriguing answers, Bella. I’ve come to expect no less from you. Good luck on your future endeavors and upcoming releases. Stay weird. Stay fun. And most important of all, keep writing!
For my first Cherry Sparkle Burlesque interview for the Spring of 2015, it’s appropriate that I welcome the vibrant, vivacious Daisy Foxx, a delectable young lady with a heart full of song and a spring in her step. She’s the original hooper for the CSBC and fast becoming a good friend, especially after offering to bake me cupcakes following my back surgery. Thanks, Daisy. Happy to have you here on the blog today. Let’s jump right in, shall we?
J: When you joined the company, why did you choose to be known as Daisy Foxxx? What does that persona mean to you?
D: Well, I’m sweet like a daisy but also foxy.
J: Have to agree there. Definitely as sweet as a daisy. And the foxy part goes without saying.
J: What prompted you to join Cherry Sparkle? And how long have you been a member?
D: I saw a post about it on facebook. I’ve been looking for a group like this for awhile. When you live in a small town full of people who don’t really get art and freedom of expression, it’s a bit tough. I love my group. I joined in August 2014.
J: Ah, the glories of Facebook. Happy that you found a match with Cherry Sparkle. They are some wonderful people. And very accepting. This area can be very draining for all creative types, but I hope that our influences can open people up to new experiences and forms of entertainment.
J: Do you have a background in dance, theater, or performance art?
D: I do have a little bit of a background. I used to do chorus and drama in my church…till I was in high school. I have always been interested in dance; I think it’s so beautiful how our bodies can move and be used to create and express ourselves.
J: Well, in your case, Daisy, it’s a beautiful expression. For me, it’s more like a spastic rhino on the dance floor, so I’ll leave it to the professionals like you. 🙂
J: What about other creative interests or hobbies?
D: I do photography on the side. I really do enjoy taking photos. You capture a moment that you can only go back to by looking at the photo itself.
J: You’re certainly in good company if you want to develop those skills. Joel did amazing work on the Cherry Sparkle calendar, and I know several of the dolls are photography hobbyists too.
J: Could you tell us about your role in the company and your performance style?
D: I like to look sweet and innocent, but draw you in with my magical hoop and sexy ways.
J: Miss Daisy, you manage that with little more than a smile and a few kind words. The hoop is just icing on the cake.
J: How did your hula hoop come by its name? And how long have you been performing together?
D: I used to hula hoop when I was a child. My school held a talent show and that was my first performance with a hula hoop. I did the cha-cha slide while hooping. It’s a connection, you just simply go with the flow and enjoy the movement.
J: Again, I guess this comes down to you being naturally fluid, flexible, and fantastically creative. With the addition of a second hooper to the company, I hope to see more complex routines from you and her in the future too.
J: Given complete creative control and few limitations on budget, what song would you perform to onstage and what would you wear for this performance of a lifetime?
D: Gosh that’s a hard one. Hmm…let’s see…probably Lana Del Rey. She’s inspirational to me. I would probably also use a LED hoop. It lights up with different patterns pretty sick.
J: Sounds pretty trippy. And reminds me of your psychedelic photo in the new Cherry Sparkle calendar. I’d share it here but would rather people go out and buy their own copy.
J: What’s your favorite part of a burlesque show? What’s your least favorite part of performing?
D: Honestly, everything. When we all get ready together and set up [for the show]. Tell each other how we all look great; we are really like a team. Yet all of us are all unique in our own way. Then the butterflies set in, but it’s so rewarding afterwards. It’s a wonderful feeling almost like a high. It feels good doing something you enjoy.
J: Performance art at its best. Sounds like group synergy at its best too, when the group become family.
Thanks again for agreeing to this interview, Daisy. Great hearing back from you about your life and times with the Cherry Sparkle Burlesque Company. Come check out her and the other dolls and guys of Cherry Sparkle at their next show at Caldwell Tavern (formerly the Crimson Tiger) in Anniston, Alabama on the 4th of April 2015.
Stay tuned for more upcoming interviews with authors, artists, dancers, and more. It’s bound to be a busy year.