Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Fantasy Middle Grade Young Adult

Spotlight & Interview with Crisanta Knight Author Geanna Culbertson!

Hi everyone! As promised this week, I have a special interview to bring to you guys! Have you read the Crisanta Knight books?? If not, I guarantee you will want to after reading this amazing interview!

I want to take a quick second to thank Geanna Culbertson for taking the time to answer a few questions about her writing, content, content in general, and plans going forward!  I originally became a fan of her clean content and writing style after winning a giveaway that introduced me to the books, and even more so once we incidentally got to chatting about inappropriate content! (See Question 3)!

Alright I’m done talking, here she is!


Meet the author!

Image: Author Geanna Culbertson

Geanna Culbertson is the award-winning author of The Crisanta Knight Series. The series follows the kids and siblings of fairytale characters, all of whom live in a magical world called “Book,” where citizens train to be the next generation of main characters in stories. The majority of this coming-of-age series is told from the empowering, sassy perspective of Cinderella’s daughter—Crisanta Knight. 

Image: the Crisanta Knight book covers

Her full biography can be found on her website, here:

https://crisantaknight.com/bio-by-me/book-bio/


1) How did the Crisanta Knight books take shape for you? Did you know from the start it would be a fairytale re-imagining?

When I was a sophomore in school I took a course devoted to classic and contemporary fairytale analysis. It was a fabulous experience that I loved. Having all that exposure to the classic tales filled me with so much wonder and inspiration, and one day on my way to class the name for the school in my book series: Lady Agnue’s School for Princesses & Other Female Protagonists popped into my head. Later that week I drew out a map of the world, aka the realm of Book and I wrote the prologue and first chapter to go along with it. So that’s how it all started!

In terms of the “reimagining” aspect—I am a girl who is a big believer in the power of change and moving forward. People remake stories all the time; I want to know what happens next. Furthermore, I am someone who is extremely passionate about heroic female characters and living a life where you are always challenging yourself to be better, stronger, wiser, etc. Those qualities helped my main character of Crisanta Knight take shape. 

As the plot formed, fairytales were the main backdrop, but my love of superheroes, princesses, action-packed comedy, and elaborate world-building fused with that and started to grow. The idea for the story simmered in my mind for a little while and then eventually I came to a point where I had to explore it. And so the adventure began . . .  

2) I like the focus on character, identity, and friendship in the books so far! What are some of the topics and themes you think are important for girls and young women to see on-page?

At the beginning of my author journey, I set out to write a story that would inspire others the way my favorite tales have inspired me, featuring characters who balance heart, humor, and a genuine sense of honor. I always thought it was important that a great story not just be about an exciting external plot—magic, adventure, larger-than-life stakes—the true power of story has to be in the internal arc. Some themes I explore throughout my series that I think are very important for girls, young women, and all people are: self-acceptance, trust, taking fate into your own hands, making proactive choices, fighting for what matters to you, understanding, respect, perseverance, and more. However, the overarching theme of my series is CHANGE. To paraphrase a line in Book One, change is a beautiful thing because within it is the opportunity to do anything and become anyone. I hope that as my readers experience the series, they are inspired by all these themes to try and live as fiercely, wisely, kindly, and optimistically as possible. 

3) We talked a bit about “clean reads” and your philosophy on content, could you talk about that a bit?

There is a word I came up with in college: “scandalosity.” It’s a term that encompasses inappropriate, intimate things that take a movie from PG-13 to R, if you catch my drift. I tried to put that word into one of my college English papers lol, but the TA said she’d dock me a letter grade. Anyway, my books are scandalosity free. It’s not my thing, neither is extreme violence or gore—basically anything that would cause adults to want to cover the eyes of their under 18 children. 

I think that there is a lot of unnecessary violence and scandalosity in stories these days. You don’t need to rely on that to create something compelling or intrigue an audience. Strong storylines should always take the lead and if you are going to have romantic moments, action, death, etc. it needs to serve a greater purpose and push the story forward. If it’s just being used for shock and awe, it has no point there and it is lazy writing—storytellers trying to make an impact through cheap shots. 

Action and drama can be handled with style and class, and should genuinely matter to plot/character development. I once heard director David Leitch say something akin to: “You should learn as much about a character from a good action scene as from dialogue.” I agree with that. Death (the killing of characters) can also be a valid event in a story if it truly is integral to plot/character development. But again, there is no need to make it overly graphic. Like, maybe a death needs to happen, but there are many ways that it can be portrayed. No need to scar someone traumatically. 

Also, if utilized in a story that targets younger audiences, death should be eased into. Take Harry Potter for example. You don’t start in Book One with characters dramatically dying left and right. The story progressively explores the themes of loss and death—each book getting more intense so audiences of different ages are eased into some of the harder moments as they grow with the characters and the scope of the story.

Romantic encounters are also fine if they meet the same criteria of being integral to plot/character development (though it’s important to note that you can get the feel of intimacy across without random boobs or whatever flying in your face). I come back to the idea of handling things with style and class i.e. the choices of how intense moments are portrayed.

I’m often quite surprised by the types of content targeting the YA and middle grade markets. I feel like every other TV channel is showing something with murder or scandalosity. However, I firmly believe that audiences of all ages want more than that. People watch those darker things because that’s what’s on; that’s what the media is putting out there the most. But there is plenty of cleaner, goodhearted programming out there that is beloved, proving my point. There just needs to be more of it.

That is what I have brought, and intend to keep bringing to the world. My stories will have action, romance, drama, and deal with intense topics—morality, loss, anger, and so forth—but they will always be handled with care, finesse, and consideration of all the above factors. Any book I ever write can be equally and appropriately enjoyed by an eleven-year-old, a twenty-five-year-old, and a seventy-two-year-old.

4) I wish I had read all the books to know where this is going, but so far (The end of book 3) you have Crisa worrying about herself before she starts worrying too much about boys! Is there hidden advice in that? 

Growing up, most of my favorite stories have had male main characters. I think part of the reason for this is that while a male main character may have a love interest, that love interest/romantic relationship is never the point of his story; it is just another factor. Meanwhile, in most female-led fiction, the love interest/romantic relationship is of equal value and importance to that female protagonist’s individual journey. It shouldn’t be that way. She should come first. Most girls have more on their mind than boys. They just do. The complexities of growing up, taking ownership of your choices and goals, accepting yourself, and learning who you are and who you want to be is way more pivotal to a person than deciding which hot guy you want to end up with. So while there are romantic, shippable elements to my series, I do not belittle my female characters and their potential by limiting the scope of what they focus on to romantic entanglements.

5) What is your favorite fairytale? Do you have a favorite fairytale twist that you’ve written so far? (Mine is definitely everything you did with Aladdin, from the sarcastic cave to the flying furniture!)

In terms of my favorite fairytales—Cinderella has been close to my heart since I was very little. That’s why I made my main character Cinderella’s daughter. If we’re talking strictly about Disney interpretations of fairytales, The Princes & the Frog is one of my favorites. Then in terms of the classic, old-timey tales I have a lot of respect for Snow White because that story created the roots of the fairytale-loving culture we have today.

In terms of the twists I’ve written, that’s such a hard question!!

I have highlighted so many fairytales and classic tales in my series now—diving really deep into quite a few. For example, the majority of Book Five takes place in Camelot, so there are a lot of characters, myths, and settings I work with there. In that space, developing Merlin as a character has been really interesting, specifically regarding his relationship to Crisanta. However, as Book Eight is freshest to me, I would have to say that diving into Mulan and Alice in Wonderland lore in that novel has definitely been one of my most challenging and rewarding fairytale exploration experiences thus far. All of Book Eight really was an intense adventure to write—Toyland, Swan Lake, Rumpelstiltskin, there’s just so much!

6) Many books in the series have been nominated for and received Feathered Quill book awards (yay -congrats)!!! Can you talk about that a bit?

I feel very grateful for the many awards that different books in my series have won. In terms of Feathered Quill, I have won six awards so far. Winning such an array of awards in the last two years has been awesome—two awards for Best in Teen Fiction (13-18 years), two awards for Science Fiction/Fantasy, Best of Backlist, and The Write Companion Award for Best Overall TOP PICK (Adult, Children’s and Young Adult categories included).

Winning these awards, combined with the wide array of other awards that my series has won, is quite flattering. I think what makes me the happiest about this range though, is that it shows the huge scope of audiences that my series appeals to. I have always believed that one of the strongest elements of my series is how many different kinds of people it can connect with. If in one week I can get fan mail from a nine-year-old girl, a twenty-year-old college student, a forty-year-old woman, and a fifty-year-old father, then it means I have done my job right. Because, at the end of the day, this isn’t a story about a princess, or even fairytales. This is a story about a good-hearted, honorable person trying to figure out how to best live her life, live up to her potential, and do right by the world, the people she cares for, and herself. That’s a story anyone should be able to relate to theoretically.

7) As an author looking for feedback from reviewers and readers, what do you hope to see from those people?

I love positive reviews; I mean who doesn’t? But I particularly love it when people go into specific details about their favorite parts or moments in a book. Getting five stars is awesome, but knowing how specific jokes landed, or how twists affected my readers, what they connected with most, etc.—it is great feedback for me.

Also, I like to use a “Mario Cart” comparison when it comes to how reviews affect me (you know, the video game). So in that videogame, as you’re driving your racecar along, players can throw exploding mushrooms or other brickabrack at you. When that hits you, your car spins or you crash temporarily or slow down. That’s what negative reviews are; they don’t take you out of the game, but they can still hit you hard. Positive reviews are like the magical stars or rainbows or bonus coins that you pick up as you’re driving along. You could still keep going on fine without them, but they give you extra power and supercharge you. ☺

8) Thank you for taking the time to be interviewed! Is there anything else you’d like to talk about or add?

The Crisanta Knight Series is my beginning. I have so many other wonderful series and standalone novels coming down the line. For example, in addition to working on the Crisanta Knight finale right now, I am working on the first novel in my new “guardian angels” series that releases next year. Also, my magical, heartwarming Christmas standalone novel releases November 3, 2021—official book announcement and book trailer launching in June. 

***Audiobook Two for The Crisanta Knight Series releases this summer as well.

For more information, you can visit: www.CrisantaKnight.com

To stay updated on my latest book news, sign up to be a part of my email list through the website.

And go ahead and follow me on social media too, if you like:

Instagram/Twitter/Pinterest: @gculbert14

Facebook: @CrisantaKnightSeries

#crisantaknight #crisantaknightseries #geannaculbertson

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Crime Thrillers

“Alone Under the Lights” – Guest Post by Author Alan Orloff!!

Alone Under the Lights

I grew up in a sheltered environment. Wasn’t exposed to much crime (thank goodness). So when I decided to write crime fiction, I quickly realized I needed to do some serious research. And not just book or internet research. I needed to get some hands-on experience (no, I didn’t rob a bank!). I took a Citizen’s Police Academy. 

Many jurisdictions offer these programs; if you’re interested, check with your local PD. Most require an application, but I don’t think the admission requirements were too stringent (I believe they conducted a background check—I got in anyway).

The academy was about twelve weeks long and consisted of a weekly meeting and several field trips. At each meeting, we’d learn about a different aspect of police business. The undercover gang cops told us what their jobs entailed. The drug unit showed us a display of all the illegal drugs available on the streets. We got a K9 demonstration. We got to use radar (LIDAR) guns on actual vehicles (alas, we couldn’t arrest anyone). We went to the shooting range (I put all my shots right in the center circle—don’t mess with me!). We toured the county jail, which was fascinating in a terribly depressing way.

And we got to go on a Saturday night ride-along.

At first, we handled a few routine incidents. A too-loud party. Some possible gang activity (nothing there). A DIP (drunk-in-public). Interesting and a little exciting.

Then we got a call over the radio. “We have a report of individuals running through the Community Center parking lot with rifles.”

Things just got a lot more interesting. And a lot more exciting.

The police officer flipped on the siren and we went screaming through the streets, then roared into the Community Center parking lot. Another cruiser was already there, it’s doors flung open, empty. My officer unstrapped the shotgun from between the seats and said, “Don’t go anywhere!”

“Don’t worry,” I croaked.

Then she jogged off across the neighboring ball fields. Leaving me. Alone. Under the bright lights of the parking lot. Did I mention I was alone?

With armed individuals running around?

I shimmied down in the seat until I could barely see out the window. And waited. Alone.

After what seemed like two hours (only about fifteen minutes, in retrospect), the officer came back with a few teenagers playing around with air rifles. 

Crisis averted. Luckily. But I often think what might have happened, and it still makes me shudder. Those kids could have been shot!

I prefer writing about crime over being involved with crime.

Alan Orloff’s thriller, PRAY FOR THE INNOCENT, won the 2019 ITW Thriller Award for Best E-Book Original. His debut mystery, DIAMONDS FOR THE DEAD, was an Agatha Award finalist; his story, “Dying in Dokesville,” won a 2019 Derringer Award (“Happy Birthday” was a 2018 finalist); and “Rule Number One” was selected for THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES 2018. His first PI novel, I KNOW WHERE YOU SLEEP, was released from Down & Out Books in February

Alan loves cake and arugula, but not together. Never together. http://www.alanorloff.com

A note from OneReadingNurse: I want to thank Ellen at Booksforward PR for making this guest post possible, and Alan Orloff for writing on his experience at the Citizen’s Police Academy!   My review of his most recent book, I Know Where You Sleep, can be found at https://onereadingnurse.com/2020/03/17/book-review-i-know-where-you-sleep-by-alan-orloff/ !  Thank you guys for checking out this guest post. Show your support by liking or dropping a comment so I can keep bringing you guys more great content!!

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Fantasy

An Interview With The Phoenix Grail author Helen Savore!

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Hi everyone, welcome to the OneReadingNurse stop on The Phoenix Grail blog tour! I was so happy to interview author Helen Savore, who is obsessed with anything paper and is hilarious on Twitter. Here is her bio, followed by a synopsis of the book, and then the interview! I do hope you guys read through, Helen offers some excellent advice about writing and life in general as well!


Biography:

Helen Savore writes fantastical worlds filled with a mixture of modern and medieval settings. She explores stories loosely based on Arthurian legends, secretly wishing that King Arthur would return to pull the world from the brink of darkness. An engineer by day, and a gamer when time allows, this paper ninja writes, reads, plays with pen-and-paper RPGs and folds origami. It’s not surprising that her stories are filled with unexpected folds and twists that blend seamlessly with reality.

You can also follow her on Twitter @ImaPaperNinja.

Or http://www.oberonsforgepress.com/


Interview:

For those who haven’t read the book and author’s note, would you take a second to introduce yourself and explain your motivation behind writing?

Hi, I’m Helen Savore, sometimes known online as a Paper Ninja. I like to call myself a literary engineer. Storytelling is a great form of escapism, and you know we can use a little of that from the world right now. Actually, we can always use more than a little bit of that. We are living in a shared hallucination, so it’s fascinating to slip into different people, different worlds. It’s amazing how immersive a story can be. So that explains why I’m a reader, but a writer? There are stories I would like to experience I just haven’t found. Which sounds insane given all the content we can now connect with through online book stores. Unfortunately once I started ideating I came up with an ever stranger combination of concepts. But hey, I’m always open for more reading suggestions if you can parse the threads I’m weaving into my stories.

Was there a particular book or story that got you interested in the Grail legend and the fae?

The Gargoyles cartoon from the 90s. Mixing the third race, the fae, into Avalon seemed such a fun match. Arthur didn’t interact with the fae so much there, but the ideas came close enough in my mind to want to write about that. I had ties to Arthur from much younger. My aunt brought us these beautiful illustrated books which kills me I can’t find again as an adult.

Is The Phoenix Grail your first full novel? I know there is at least a second book coming, do you have a rough idea of when it will be available?

Lady Leaves the Lake is planned for a September 20, 2019 release. This isn’t a sequel to The Phoenix Grail, but another story within the universe. I’m calling these focuses on a particular character or “historical” event Faerie Forge Chronicles.
Sword in the Throne follows the Phoenix Grail, and that is planned for December 20th.
I’ll be releasing my first five stories over the course of a year, around the solstice/equinox dates. After that I plan to settle into one book a year cadence.

Are any of the characters written in your image? If you had to pick a favorite….and why?

I would say there’s a different aspect of me in each of my main characters. Because of that a favorite is tough. At this point in time I’m going to have to go with Raebyn. Prepping for The Phoenix Grail release I realized Raebyn had most of the best lines.

They [Fae] can physically be anything and anyone, and have been around long enough to have collected a myriad of experiences. They’re playing a long game that has noble intent, but they’ve gone terribly awry. I guess I like to explore those stories of do the ends justify the means. The trick is most people don’t yet know what’s at stake…

Did you pull any real life travel destinations or experiences into the novel?

It was more reverse on destinations. The Arthurian legends have become an amalgam of so 111many stories and traditions Arthur could be from a few different places, but I tend to favor the welsh traditions, so I knew I wanted to go there. I managed a short trip and to Wales and hit six of the northern heritage castles. I had actually studied the google maps walking view so much I navigated one of the towns without map or phone.

There’s a bit of me in each character. When I was young, some things happened and what gave me comfort and rationalization was that these experiences prepared me to do something, and I was on a hero’s journey. As an adult I’ve become disillusioned, there are no simple dragons to slay. But I tried to put that dichotomy into Drea. She grew up with Moralynn, and has known since a child this was what she had to do, and it set her apart from her peers. I’ve had a history of sometimes trying to reach too far too fast, so designed Jamie to have treading in unknown waters. Viviane, who we’ll see more of in Lady Leaves the Lake, constantly goes through surviving a lot of restrictions. From the age of eight into adulthood I couldn’t swim underwater due to ear issues which inspired some of Viviane’s initial curse.

Did you either have to, or choose to cut out any major scenes or chapters from The Phoenix Grail? If so, why?
I’ll just come out and say it, this is half of what was originally one story. It hit a point where it felt two large for one book, and I thought I could achieve satisfying arcs in both. A lot of scenes did move around, this was my first novel so I have learned a lot and did a lot of work on this. I am waiting to see if it’s even recognizable to my beta readers.

In writing a full length book, did you acquire any quirks or pet peeves that you didn’t have before?

I overanalyze storytelling. Granted I am a systems engineer so I make a career of understanding the components and connections of everything. However writing a book meant I’ve gained a lot of domain knowledge in story telling, so I can dissect those elements. Not sure this is a pet peeve but now I absolutely need a Mac so I can use all the good writing and publishing software. I also play a lot less video games, that’s sad.

Outside of writing, what hobbies do you have? Did you pull any of them into the novel for your characters?

An engineer by day, a writer by night, and a gamer when time allows. That’s why I gave Rhys a bit of a secret game obsession, and in future books that’s going to blossom in a lot of fun. How would a gamer handle real magic in the world?. One of my future books even features my favorite Pathfinder character.

A hobby you won’t see in the stories is origami. See I love all things paper. Reading books, writing books, and folding it. It’s very portable art, and my own cute fidget toy no one can be upset about. I do leave paper cranes everywhere, so keep an eye out if we’re ever at the same con!

Do you have any advice on finding a work/life/writing balance?

Ha! Next question.
More seriously, you just have to decide what your life priorities, and segment your time..
I’m also a relatively new mother so that changed priorities a lot. I worked really hard to get a daytime boss I could work with to keep my hours to an appropriate level, but that means I am passing on some opportunities. The dedication is actually in reference to one of my previous bosses who called out my workaholism and straight up told me to cut my hours; I wasn’t being effective. I don’t have a lot of free time otherwise, which meant giving up video games and entire day RPG sessions.

For writing specifically how much progress can you make in a doable unit of time?… then just know it’ll take a lot of those units to achieve your writing goals. It’ll probably take some practice to really get a good idea of your capacity. I’m a planner so I can do that math. If you’re a panster that’ll probably be tougher, so to be safe don’t set your release and editing deadlines until you hit a good level of doneness.

You will have to figure a way to balance the business side too. Does that come out of your writing time? Or is that a different kind of time? For me the energy for business and writing is different so I can schedule those different. I can watch things when I’m doing business math, planning, communication. When I’m writing, very minimal stimulus.

Thank you for taking the time to do this interview! I want to have an open ended question and just ask if there is anything else you want to say either about the book, the characters, writing in general, life, or anything else?

I believe the Arthurian legend is the original fanfiction. So many influences came together to get us to the version we have today. The versions actually. Everyone can have “their” Arthur. I feel both a bit of a responsibility and a joy I might in the tiniest way influence peoples experience with it. Fanfiction is the highest form of compliment and interaction with a story. If you want to get into writing, don’t be afraid to write in the worlds you love first. I grew up in Pern fandom writing in weyrs and I couldn’t be where I am today without that experience. You will not only practice your craft, you are going to find a community. You need a community to bolster you through writing. Creative work is not easy and it isn’t always inherently collaborative so it’s easy to withdraw. So find those people you can share with, help each other, and never let go.


Here is the link to purchase the book:

Thank you guys so much for tuning in, to the publisher and author for including me in the tour, and for any future opportunities to participate!