Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Fantasy

The Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series: Featuring Patricia A. Jackson!

Thanks for tuning in to the Sunday Brunch Series! For episode 16, I am beyond honored to feature Patricia A. Jackson of Angry Robot books!

Her debut novel Forging A Nightmare came out on November 23rd, and it is an amazing mix of urban fantasy, biblical mythology, and horse-crazy that only a true horse lover could write.

Forging- book tour

I am thrilled to join the book tour with this interview!  Read on to learn about the publishing journey, her tips for BiPoc authors, authentic voices, and so much more.  If you follow the link at the bottom and check out the author website – there is, if you can find it, a Star Wars costume on horse back 😂 also her book trailer had me cracking up so definitely check it out if you have time.

Let me get out of her way – here she is!


🖤Welcome to the SBS! Can you tell us an interesting thing about yourself that isn’t in the author bio?

🎤I’m an otaku! I love Japanese anime, but I’m very particular about the series i binge. Among my favorites are Psycho Pass, Kaze No Stigma, and Demon Slayer. I facilitate the Anime Club at the school where I teach.

🖤I’m so floored since you are one of the first traditionally published authors on the interview series, can you chat a bit about your publishing journey?

🎤I wrote my first little novel after seeing Star Wars in 1977. I was eight years old. I continued writing to appease an overactive imagination that was not satisfied with just reading about other worlds. In 1993, I met the editor of The Star Wars Adventure Journal. That opened the door for me to write stories in the universe that gave birth to my inspiration. Thanks to a dare from a student, I discovered Wattpad and entered the first ever Online Novella Contest. My 20,000 word entry – Feast or Famine – won second place. That novella would eventually become Forging a Nightmare.

My agent Sara Megibow (KT Literary) rejected the novel, but said her door was always open to me. I wasn’t ready to give up on the novel, so I kept working on finding it a home. It was rejected eighty-eight times. A year later, I went to a class on how to write effective query letters with Sara. Like the other folks, I emailed my query to her for a tune -up, but I didn’t bother attaching the manuscript. She contacted me about it and asked to see it. Sara made some suggestions in the first chapter. I complied, thinking her advice would surely help me land the next agent. I had no idea, she would be that agent. During a phone call, she made the offer to represent me. You know that Michelangelo painting The Creation of Adam—yeah, that’s how I felt and how I still feel. She’s amazing!

🖤 What advice do you have for other bipoc and under represented voices that may want to write a book or tell a story?

🎤Be true to your identity before embarking on this journey. Define yourself and do not let the taint of society define you because any fallacies will bleed into your story and readers will sense it. Do not be worried when people outside of your culture cannot fathom why your characters do not react the way people in other cultures do. You don’t have to spend your time or word count explaining that to someone who can never truly understand your struggle. Look at those things that have been illicitly claimed and appropriated and have no fear in taking it back and remaking it in your image.

🖤 Did you have prior interest in old testament stories and Christian mythology ((I questioned my word choice here)) and old languages, or did the research came with the novel? 

🎤I think the term mythology is perfectly fine because that’s what it is: myth. No different than the Greek, Roman, or Egyptian renditions. People often confuse faith and religion. Faith is one’s belief in something greater than themselves, which may not necessarily be a god. Religion is how you practice that faith. I have always been interested in religion and the connection to faith. I grew up with a father, who was a mason, and a mother, who was Baptist, while attending Catholic schools. I am keenly interested in the religions of other people from witchcraft to druids, including the ancient Aztecs, Greeks, and Romans because I am fascinated by the vast cultural and practical differences.

🖤Can you tell us about your own night-mares?   I have two red mares and you really nailed the mare behavior in the novel 😂

🎤I have had a love affair with Thoroughbreds since I was a kid, particularly the ones off the track. I enjoyed rescuing them from the racing life and give them a second careers as fox hunters, show hunters, and dressage horses. One of my Nightmares is named Indy. He’s actually a great-grandson of Secretariat. He is the winningest horse I have ever owned with many championship ribbons to his credit. And that’s saying a lot because he is rather opinionated.

As I have gotten older, my knees are deteriorating. I actually need replacements. So I decide to try a Warmblood. Maya is a Canadian Warmblood and she is what you call a stick and kick ride. Moving too fast consumes too many calories. Her favorite speeds are slow and stop—which is perfect. I bought her because she didn’t act at all like a mare! She is so rock solid! No mood swings. No opinions. (Unless the poor thing is suffering ulcers-whole different world then.) But I think looking forward, I’m going back to geldings.

🖤Other than Kristen Britain and Maggie Stiefvater, I guess Mindee Arnett too but she didn’t emphasize the horses in her books as much, and Tamora Pierce, I haven’t seen a lot  of horse-crazy authors in SFF! Do you have any that you love and recommend?

🎤When it comes to current fare in the SFF genre, I don’t think anyone handles it as well as Susan Dexter. She has done the best job in bringing a horse into character and bringing out the character in a horse in her Warhorse of Esdragon series. I have always wanted a horse character to feature as prominently as any other primary or secondary character, so when I could not find that, I wrote one. My favorite novel is True Knight.

🖤What would you tell one of your high school students who wanted to read your book??

🎤I’m actually quite lucky because the very first beta readers for FORGING A NIGHTMARE were high school kids. I developed the novel in a mind-mapping assignment for my first Creative Writing class. Kids have been a part of the journey every turn of the page. I told them to look for the things I’m always looking for In their work: pacing, character development, and holes, places where the muse went off the track.

🖤Since the holidays are coming, which do you think is your main character’s favorite holiday?

🎤It might seem anti-climatic, but when Michael Childs is not working his day job, he plays the role of a knight in shining armor and jousts. So his favorite holiday would be Halloween.

🖤Are you a fan of brunch? Any favorites?

🎤I am a fan of BREAKFAST at ANY time! My favorite is scrambled eggs with white toast, sausage patties and grits with a side order of home fries (no onion) and orange juice.

🖤Here is the easy rapid-fire round of bookish questions:  favorite author? A book or series that you always recommend? Favorite literary character? 

🎤Fave author: Kristin Britain

Recommended Book: True Knight by Susan Dexter

Favorite Literary Character: I’m gong to be a complete and utter fangirl when I say Tolkien’s Aragorn, which is why I love ranger characters in Dungeons and Dragons

🖤Thank you so much again for taking the time to interview! If you want to add anything else please do so here!!

🎤I  was recently involved in a dispute over banning books in the district where I work. Thanks to a few brave young women, the Panther Anti-Racist Union and their protests, the ban was temporarily lifted. These were beautiful books (many children’s books) by and about BIPOC and LGBTQ+ people. Literature, like history, is not always for the faint of heart. But what offends one, may uplift another, thus no one has the right to decide what belongs in a library and what should be burned. Banning books is never a good idea. I’d like to add that diversity and representation matter. We need more books, more stories, where people can see themselves in the struggle as the heroes, champions, vagabond anti-heroes, and not just in the ensemble cast or as sidekicks. 

🖤


You can find more info, author and purchase links on the link tree! 

https://linktr.ee/ByBirthright

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Fantasy Romance Young Adult

Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series: Featuring Mary Beesley

Hi everyone, welcome back to the Sunday Brunch Series!  Episode 15 this week features one of my newer favorite authors and bookstagrammer, Mary Beesley!
 
It started with a review for Monster Ivy, and  became quickly apparent that Mary is a lovely person to chat with too.  With four books out now and at least two more in progress, she’s a busy lady!   That said, I’m so thrilled that she agreed to interview!
 
Here she is!

 
🥞Welcome to the SBAIS! Tell everyone a little about yourself and your literary life!
 
🎤Hello! It is so fun for me to connect and get real about writing and share my love of books. I started writing eight years ago. When I found out I was going to have a fourth child, I got discouraged and overwhelmed. God inspired me to start writing stories. At first it was a place for me to be creative and decompress, then I fell in love with it. I took classes and worked hard to practice and improve. The first moment when I was reading my manuscript and I realized it was good, really good, it hit me that I’d finally found what I want to do with my talents and time. That sense of rightness and belonging has filled me up and fueled me through hard writing sessions and painful rejections. Seven years after starting to write, I had my first book published! Now I have four books out. DRAGON BLOOD and WOLF PACK are book 1 and 2 in the Draco Sang Trilogy, a YA fantasy series. TO UNITE A REALM is my adult fantasy. BETTING ON LOVE, is my romantic comedy.
 
🥞I think it’s amazing that you’ve published a young adult fantasy, an adult fantasy romance, and a contemporary romance – what keeps the ideas flowing through the different genres?
 
🎤I love reading in a wide variety of genres and I think that’s part of it, but I also am growing and changing as a writer and trying out different genres and voices. I’ve always been a daydreamer and have lots of different ideas and stories going on up there in my wild brain so it’s fun not to limit myself but to explore it all. No matter what genre, my goal is to tell a great story.
 
🥞I saw that you posted NaNoWriMo goals, can you share anything about the work in progress?
 
🎤Oh man. NaNoWriMo has been tricky! It’s been fun to connect with other writers, but I am struggling with feeling like I have to force big numbers. November is a busy month too. But, I’m still determined to get it done. I’m working on a new MS and hope to complete the first draft. It’s an adult contemporary fiction from a male first person POV. It’s been an interesting challenge to try and really get into a man’s head.
 
{{Sometimes I really wonder what men are thinking, their brains are a mystery to me. Can’t wait to read it!}}
 
🥞Can you compare and contrast writing for YA with writing for adults? Do you prefer writing for one age group or the othe
 
🎤I have had a great time with my YA Draco Sang series, but as I’ve written more and developed as a writer, I am feeling more excited about the adult stories. The adult voices feel more natural to me. The humor seems to come easier for me as well. And right now I’m more interested in writing about adult subjects. I feel like I have more freedom in an adult novel. In YA, I have to be more careful about content and language. It’s harder for me to navigate the teenage brain right now.
 
🥞With the sad news that Monster Ivy is closing down, is the third Draco Sang Trilogy book going to be affected?  (I’m not necessarily dying for the conclusion, but I’m dying for the conclusion!) 
 
🎤 I’m very excited about the final book in the Draco Sang trilogy. It’s got some great scenes, and I hope y’all with love the way it wraps up. I’ve worked hard on it, and it’s important for me to get it out to everyone! I’m in the process of figuring it out now, so I don’t have an answer yet on dates, but I’m going to do all I can to get book three out there as soon as I can! I’ll post updates as they come on my social media.
 
🥞 I really love the Dragon Blood and Wolf Pack characters – can you talk about what message you’d like young readers to take away from the books and characters?
 
🎤Thank you. I love them too. It was important for me to create characters that were dynamic and relatable. People are flawed. Humanity is beautiful. We all have our own “demons” we’re dealing with and I think having my characters be honest about their battles makes them compelling. I also wanted to give them inner strength and courage. They feel deep, love deep, and fight hard. And of course, I throw them into tough situations and then give them a chance to shine (or fail spectacularly). I want everyone who reads the Draco Sang books to take away HOPE. Everyone has power and influence. We can’t always control our situation, but we can choose our reaction and our attitude.
 
🖤There is a lot of moral ambiguity in your fantasy books so far, what do you think makes a good morally gray character?? 
 
🎤I touch on this a bit in the question above, but I’ll add that I think intent is important. We relate to people who are striving toward what they think is “good.” It’s hard to love a character that is purposefully, willfully being immoral or cruel. But if the reader can see from a flawed characters POV and feel sympathy for them, that is powerful. I love giving characters a chance at redemption and change. Honesty is also endearing and can make up for a lot of other moral missteps.
 
🥞How do you feel about brunch?  Any favorite brunch foods?
 
🎤I love brunch. I don’t get to brunch often so it feels like such a luxury. My mouth is watering just thinking about hot chocolate and tea, buttermilk biscuits and jam, waffles with real maple syrup, egg sandwiches, quiche, croissants, I love croissants! And hash browns!
 
🥞 If you could have drinks (or brunch) with any author in the world, who would you choose?
 
🎤Oliver Jeffers is the first one who comes to mind so I’m going with it. I know how weird that makes me sound, but I love him. I think he is so creative and humorous. He seems so approachable on social media and friendly. I love his accent. I love his books. I want to be friends!
 
🥞Here is the easy round of rapidfire bookish questions! Favorite book or series that you always recommend? Favorite book character? Any strange or wonderful bookish habits?
 
 🎤 It feels impossible to recommend a favorite book. I have so many loves (you can check out my five star ratings on goodreads), but these are a few autobuy authors for me: Naomi Novik, Leigh Bardugo, Liane Moriarty, Neil Gaiman, Brent Weeks, Madeline Miller, Brandon Sanderson, Sarah Maas, David Sedaris.
I always have a book with me. Always. Even if it’s a download on my phone. I like to know that anywhere, anytime, I can read while waiting.
 
🥞Thank you so much for taking the time to interview! If there’s anything else you’d like to say or talk about, the floor is open!
 
🎤Thank you so much! Thanks for reading my book. It means the world. xo, Mary Beesley

Meet the author:

Mary believes humans are born to create and promotes creativity in all its beautiful forms. She loves exploring our magnificent planet and finding all the best places to eat around the world. But nothing beats coming home and sharing a pot of slow-simmered soup and homemade sourdough with friends and family. She’s been a daydreamer since childhood, but after having profound difficulty learning to read, she couldn’t be more surprised to have fallen in love with books. If she’s not in her writing chair, you’ll probably find her painting or hiking in the Utah mountains with her husband and four children.

from marybeesley.com

Find Mary and her books online!

https://linktr.ee/MaryBeesley

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Young Adult

The Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series: Featuring Ava Cates

Happy Sunday everyone! I had to check my calendar twice to ensure that another week had actually gone by already 😂

This week on the SBS, episode 14 features young adult author Ava Cates. Ava reached out about participating and gave a short and sweet interview about her books, some good life advice, and what to look for next!

So glad she offered – here she is!


🖤 Welcome to the SBS! Tell everyone a little about yourself and your books!

🎤I’m Ava Cates, a young adult writer. I’ve been creating stories for over a decade. I draw inspiration for my stories from my life. I have two dogs, Skippy Jon Jones and Captain Jack Sparrow. I’m also close to my sister, Megan. She helps edit my books. I’m a Christian. I like to cook. I like photography. I like to dance. I paint. I like to drink eggnog coffee all year round. Christmas is my favorite holiday. And I’m super grateful for the friendships I have made on Instagram.

🖤How do you feel about brunch? Any favorites?

🎤I say bring it on! I particularly like Waffle House! That’s what you mean by brunch right? 😂 

{{Can’t go wrong with Waffle House, I miss it!}}

🖤 In Speechless, the main character is deaf and attending public high school for the first time.  She manages to attract a bully after becoming friends with a hot guy, and I thought she handled the bully pretty well. What advice would you give to someone in that situation?

🎤Don’t give up in the face of adversity.  God will bring you through. This is only going to make you stronger.

🖤Have you written your faith and beliefs into the books at all, or do you plan to in the future?

🎤Yes! I’m currently working on a Christian fiction now. It’s a story about how a girl gets saved and gains Holy Spirit powers like becoming a healer. I’m super excited about it! Thanks for asking:)

🖤Seeing as the holidays are coming, what is your main character’s favorite holiday and why? Is yours the same??

🎤I imagine Julia’s favorite holiday would be Christmas. Her mom is a bit of a cook so there would be good food. Plus Xavier and Jeremy/Luke can shower her with gifts! I love my birthdays. It’s the one holiday we go big.

🖤What would you like teen readers to take away from the Speechless books?

🎤You can go through challenges and still thrive.

🖤What’s your relationship like with bookish social media?  

🎤I love making book pictures for Instagram and I really enjoy the friendships I have made on the site. I make book graphics, so anyone can DM me and I can make them one for free! I especially like to help Indie authors!

🖤 Since book 4 seems like the end of your Speechless series – can you share what’s next??

🎤There’s actually a fifth book in the series! The gang grows up a little and **edited out huge  spoiler alert.** It’s my favorite book in the series this far! 

🖤Here is the rapid-fire round of bookish questions!  Do you have a favorite book or series you always recommend? Favorite character? Wonderful or strange bookish habits?

🎤I love the Stephanie Plum Series. 

My favorite character is Elizabeth from Pride and Prejudice. I type my books on my phone. It’s just easier to drink my morning coffee that way and snuggle in with my dogs. But I only write in the morning. If not I would type all day and never have a life!

🖤Thank you so much for taking the time to interview! If there’s anything else you’d like to say about anything at all, please do so here!

🎤Thank you for having me! You’ve been super supportive. I can’t wait to share my Christian book with the world!


Find Ava and her books online at:

https://www.instagram.com/ava.cates.books/

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Contemporary Paranormal Romance

Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series: Featuring M.A. Philips!

Another week, another awesome interview! Episode 13 of the Sunday Brunch Series features local author M.A. Philips, writer of the Rituals of Rock Bay trilogy!
I found M.A. totally by accident while looking at Shadow Spark publishing titles, and thought it was absolutely incredible to find someone writing books in and about NNY & the Thousand Islands area. What a thrill to have worked at the hospital mentioned in the book, picture the waters of the St Lawrence, and learn a bit about Irish Legends!
Come to find that M.A. is also an absolutely lovely person to chat with, and I was floored when she agreed to come onto the SBS!
Read on to learn about the author, book, writing process, some resources to explore druidry, and much more!

🍁Welcome to the SBAIS! Tell everyone a little about yourself and your books!

🎤Thank you for having me! I’m a writer and teacher from Upstate NY (near the Thousand Island Region).  When I’m not writing, I enjoy gardening, reading, sewing, cooking, watching anime, and spending time with my husband and daughter. Much of my writing involves modern Pagans because I’m part of that spiritual community. I want to portray our beliefs realistically while also weaving in lots of magical realism and romance. Next year, one of my short stories will be published in an anthology called Brigid’s Light: Tending the Ancestral Flame of the Beloved Celtic Goddess edited by Cairelle Crow and Laura Louella. As for WIPs, I’m currently writing a new novel about a witch who primarily works with plants.
🍁 I was so excited to find a local author! Your love for the St Lawrence is clear in your writing, did you always know you wanted to base the setting locally too?
🎤 I didn’t! The earliest iterations of River Magic, before it was centered in a village on the St. Lawrence River, was originally going to take place in Utica, NY! I grew up in that area and was writing what I knew at the time. After moving up here, I fell in love with the Thousand Islands. Over the last decade, I came to know the land and waters more intimately, and once the mermaid entered the picture, switching to a North Country-based story was right.

Now my current WIP takes place in Utica, though it’s more urban than my previous series. It’s been fun to explore and reconnect with that part of my life again.

🍁River Magic sparked a huge interest in magical realism for me, a genre that I have hardly read. How did the book change the most from your original idea or draft?
🎤I’m so glad you became interested in magical realism! The genre really captured my attention after reading some of Alice Hoffman’s books like Practical Magic and Indigo (especially the latter due to the inclusion of mermaids). In my original drafts, Lacey and Cian were part of a more fantastical world. I suppose it would have started as urban fantasy but become increasingly more of an epic supernatural romance. The characters were so drastically different back then, and it never felt right. The conflict was too global, and I decided I wanted to tone it way down and think about what messages I really wanted to send.
🍁I had no idea that druidry was a modern practice, or that we had a local chapter! Can you recommend some reading material or a website for anyone else who might be interested in learning more.
🎤Sure! If anyone who reads my books is interested in what Lacey, Cian, and Fiona do, I would suggest reading books by Morgan Daimler or Lora O’Brien. Irish Pagan School is a great online resource with many reasonable classes and teachers from Ireland. There are some wonderful intro classes for example. I’m also a part of a grove of Druids in the Ár nDraíocht Féin (ADF) tradition, so that’s another option as well. Read or listen to the lore, take heed of what Irish (or Scottish, Welsh, Cornish) authors and scholars have to say, and listen to your own intuition.  Like my characters, I’m just a student who is trying to respect the living Irish culture.
🍁Did the rituals and practices described in Rituals of Rock Bay come from your own experiences? 

🎤They did, though not always verbatim, and I often simplified so as to not gum up the pace. When characters continually attend or perform rituals and magic in a similar manner, I ran the risk of those scenes becoming repetitive. I focused on the seasonal changes, how life events intertwined with these celebrations, and the characters’ development in regards to familiarity with the traditions, skill, and confidence. Some magical practices shown in the series are activities I’ve only witnessed or read about, though, but everything is based on authentic practice within the Pagan community.
🍁I loved the ongoing theme of holding to one’s convictions and doing what’s right! What would you like the new adult audience to take away from the Rituals of Rock Bay?
🎤I’m so glad you enjoyed that theme! I hope readers can relate to Lacey and Cian in their efforts to find their place in life and be true to themselves and their intuition. I also explore the importance of community throughout the series. You don’t have to be alone. Find your people!
🍁How do you feel about brunch? Any favorite items?
🎤I don’t get to enjoy brunch nearly enough! I’m always down for mid-day waffles and mimosas. 
🍁The Irish mythology elements in the series were cool too, do you have a favorite story from that lore?
🎤I’m very drawn to stories about the Tuath Dé Danann, the gods of Ireland. I also adore anything about selkies and other legendary creatures. I actually reference one of my favorite myths in River Magic: the story about the god Angus and his lover, Caer. As it involved dreams and romance, it was fitting for Lacey.
🍁One of the magical elements in River Magic included a river spirit in the shape of a Sturgeon! {{There are rumored to be some up the Oswegatchee and maybe Black River too but I’ve never seen one}}. I was wondering why you chose a sturgeon?
🎤The decision to move the setting to the St. Lawrence River and incorporate a mermaid happened around the same time, and I decided that she would be a sturgeon spirit shortly after that. In the book, there’s a scene where Lacey is standing in a hotel balcony looking down at the river, and she sees a creature who looks like a shark, but Cian explains it’s actually a sturgeon. That’s based on an experience I had in Alexandria Bay. I was blown away by the creature’s size. The more I read about them, the more I admired these beautiful swimming fossils. They quickly became my favorite fish, and incorporating sturgeon was central to the environmental elements of the story.
🍁Here is the easy round of rapid fire bookish questions! Do you have a favorite book or series that you always recommend? Favorite character? Any wonderful or strange bookish habits?
🎤Oh no, these are the hardest! Haha! The first favorite series I really obsessed over were the Redwall books by Brian Jacques. I devoured them and, for many years, emulated his style of writing. As a teen, I loved the concept of a medieval world of anthropomorphic animals. As I grew, I enjoyed the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and I will always admire Samwise. I’m also a fan of the Outlander series, and love the enduring relationship between Claire and Jamie. For more magical realism, I highly recommend Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen.  As for strange bookish habits…um…this is really divisive, but I dogear pages (only if they belong to me). Don’t judge me!
{{This is a judgement free zone!!}}

🍁Thank you so much for taking the time to interview! If there is anything else you’d like to say about anything at all, please do so here!

 
 🎤 Thank you for chatting! I’m delighted you found my novels and enjoyed the first one enough to share your thoughts and interview me. Experiences like this keep me writing. 
 
Your readers can find my books through Shadow Spark Publishing in e-book and paperback format. https://shadowsparkpub.com/ma-phillip

Meet the author!

“M. A. Phillips lives in Northern NY with her husband, daughter, and three cats. She is a writer, English teacher, & practicing Druid. Some of her short stories have been published in Stone, Root, and Bone magazine. Her debut, River Magic, is an adult magical realism novel featuring a friends to lovers romance, contemporary Pagans, & a vengeful mermaid.

When she isn’t writing, you can find her in the garden, sewing, or enjoying a book with a side of tea. You can read more about her spiritual and creative journey on her blog ditzydruid.com, or on Twitter & Instagram @ditzydruid

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Fantasy Horror Paranormal

The Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series: Featuring A.J. Vrana!

Welcome to the special Halloween edition of the Sunday Brunch Series!! I was so excited to see Halloween falling on a Sunday this year.  After an absolutely incredible month of GrimDarkTober interviews, it is coming to an end with an amazing feature… Presenting my first traditionally published author – dark fantasy & horror writer A.J. Vrana!!

I “met” A.J. on bookstagram after participating in a tour for her first book, The Hollow Gods, and at this point am honored to say I consider her a booksta friend!

Happy Halloween everyone, here she is!


🎃Welcome and thank you so much for coming onto the Halloween edition of the SBAIS! Tell everyone a little about yourself and your literary life?

🎤Hello! I feel like my online bio is more eloquent than I am, but here it goes: My name is A. J. Vrana, and I’m the author of The Chaos Cycle Duology, which is comprised of The Hollow Gods and The Echoed Realm. They’re folklore-infused, contemporary dark fantasy with horror undertones and a romantic subplot. I also penned the short supernatural horror story, These Silent Walls, which is published in Three Crows Magazine. Outside of my literary life, I’m also a PhD candidate researching the supernatural in literature and its relationship to violence, and I have two magical rescue cats, Moonstone and Peanut Butter. 

🎃That’s a fascinating topic for research! Especially in book one, the interest in violence, legends, and sociological/group aspects was evident. How did that research translate into or influence The Chaos Cycle?

🎤I actually think that it might be the other way around: my fiction influences my academic writing more than my academic writing influences my fiction. That said, they are mutually reinforcing, and I think that ultimately, they might just be part of the same project.

To be a little more specific, my research focuses on Japan and former-Yugoslavia, with my personal background being with the latter. I was always interested in the supernatural, and through my research, I’ve found that it functions as an excellent metaphor for trauma, violence, and all the horrible things that we maybe can’t do justice to through plain, clinical expression. Further to that, the relationship between truth and fact is something that I have always been intrigued by. I research a lot of folklore, and folklore has always been a way of approaching and understanding the world. It’s a system of knowledge, and it can be very useful! There is truth to it even when it is just a story, because often, those stories are produced from generations of lived experience.  

I also think a LOT of my own experiences are in the novels, but they’re all written in through metaphor and allegory. I really struggle with explicit #ownvoices stories because it feels like there is no barrier between the reader and the writer. It’s too vulnerable. However, using the supernatural to talk about communal violence is a productive way to explore themes in my own life. I’ve never been kidnapped by spirits or anything, but I do think there is a relationship between Miya’s existential ruminations, Kai’s alienation from society, and my diasporic experience. Also, having grown up being adjacent to civil war, there is something about the way Black Hollow functions that echoes that experience of mine as well. Violence against the outsider is such a common theme, but I wanted to give it the kind of intimacy that can really unsettle. And what could be more intimate and unsettling than having a folkloric creature invade your dreams and become the reason your whole community turns against you?

🎃I was sometimes a little confused during book one, and then book two was just incredible and I loved how you brought the legend to life via the history.  What do you think was the biggest growth factor for you as an author between the two books?

🎤There was about a five-year gap between the writing of the first draft of each book, so I definitely grew as a person and as an author, though I don’t think that’s what impacted the clarity of the story so much as it impacted the way I delivered my themes. When I wrote the first book, I was in a phase in my life where I was grappling with a lot of intellectual ambiguity, and so ambiguity became a huge theme that permeated the story. I actually intended the first book to be rather hazy, because one of the central points is that there are no simple truths and that we can’t always get clear cut answers to our bigger questions. Was the town’s violence the result of groupthink and repressed generational guilt, or was it due to the influence of a malevolent entity? The story doesn’t give you an answer; both possibilities are true and inseparable from one another. Likewise, the way we weave social narratives is diffuse and confusing; you can’t always locate the logical progression that led to a belief system or social truth. The fabric of real-world narratives is often incoherent and full of contradictions, and I wanted to capture some of that incoherence in the structure and narrative style of the book. That said, I was also far less confident when I wrote The Hollow Gods; I shied away from being direct about my themes, and when you are a new writer trying to get traditionally published, it can be difficult to feel assured in your approach. I also had no idea how to outline! To a large extent, I was flying by the seat of my pants, and I had to do a lot of editing and rewriting as a result. 

However, The Echoed Realm was a very different process. It took me much longer to write the first draft, but it was such a strong first draft that the editorial process only took several months (THG’s editorial process took years, hence the five year gap!). I went into The Echoed Realm with a much firmer idea of what I wanted to do, and so I think the book is much more confident and direct about some of its themes. I feel like it also reflects my personality better; there is, I think, an intensity to The Echoed Realm that wasn’t present in The Hollow Gods, and that has a lot to do with me feeling like I have laid the groundwork to really be myself as a writer. This also reflects the characters’ growth between books; they are not the same people they were in The Hollow Gods. They’re not experiencing their world for the first time! I also did lean into commercial fiction a lot more for the second book, whereas the first book veers a bit towards the obscure. All that said, I think the success of The Echoed Realm largely hinges on the work The Hollow Gods did to establish a strong foundation. The first book does a lot of heavy lifting with world building, lore, and characterization so that the second book can really showcase what the duology had been building up to all along.  

🎃What do you think is the most important part of capturing a consistent atmosphere?

🎤This might sound weird, but I think the most important thing is to actually decide on what kind of atmosphere you want and to pay very close attention to word choice and language. Atmosphere (for me anyway) is a matter of focus. It’s kind of like maintaining a character’s voice throughout the book; you need be consistent not just with imagery and descriptions, but with the specific word choices that make up each image, because word choice can help evoke a particular tone or emotion. Atmosphere suffers when writers reach for the easiest or most obvious word. Readers don’t consciously pick up on word choice, but it does impact them because we all make subconscious associations without even realizing it. So, if I say, “Thunder rolled through the grey sky,” it sounds quite plain compared to, “The sky churned with a menacing rumble.” Both sentences are almost the same length, but the second one uses a stronger verb (one that evokes sickness or unease) and transforms something commonplace (thunder) into something with character (a menacing rumble). Ultimately, these are the things that make up atmosphere. 

🎃What makes a good morally gray character?

🎤I think this is a really interesting question, because in reality, we are all morally grey. No one has a rigid or unchanging moral compass; we are all reacting to our circumstances and trying to navigate the world in all its complexity. The world is morally grey at best (or completely bankrupt at worst), and so we are all inevitably morally grey. But, to answer your question, I think that good morally grey characters are the ones that invite us to reflect on the moral ambiguity in ourselves. Their reactions, attitudes, and choices have to make sense for their character regardless of our moral expectations, and even if we recognize that their actions are morally questionable, we an approach those reactions with a degree of compassion. 

So, for example, it’s not that Kai lacks a conscience or acts out of wanton malice. He is simply responding to his circumstances in the only ways to know how to, and that is all informed by his personal history and his position as a socially marginalized person. But I think most people who read the books don’t judge him to be a bad person, so that particular confluence of indictable behaviour and compassion help us produce a more nuanced understanding of ourselves and others. Morally grey characters may do something that is morally reprehensible, but in context, that behaviour might seem reasonable, and that forces us to reckon with the expectations we have for moral behaviour. I also think this is why Mason is the character I personally find the most frustrating. He’s someone who fancies himself to be morally upright, but he behaves in ways that are subtly quite selfish, and ultimately, it’s his confrontation with Kai and Miya that brings all that to the fore.

🎃Is it hard to write your characters into those tough, destructive, near deadly scenes that Grimdark requires?  Are you a true lady of chaos or does it take an emotional toll?

🎤Full disclosure: when I first wrote The Echoed Realm, Kai lost an arm. My editor made me change it, though, and in hindsight, I’m happy he got to keep it. I think when I’m writing it, I’m not really impacted by these tough scenes, but sometimes I’ll come away, like, “Wow, that was kind of intense.” I wouldn’t say it takes an emotional toll, though. On the contrary, I think it can be quite cathartic and invigorating to write out a very intense scene in which all the characters’ emotions are running at eleven and a half. In some instances, the whole book is culminating to that moment, so it’s exciting to finally let shit hit the fan, you know? I guess that makes me a true lady of chaos…

🎃Seeing as it’s halloween! If you’ve ever worn a Halloween costume, what was your favorite? Bonus points if you have a picture!

🎤Oh gosh, I don’t remember the last time I dressed up—I’m so lazy! As a kid, though, my two favourite costumes were a witch and a ninja. I don’t have any photos from that era, but I have this monstrosity

Screenshot_20211031-120717

🎃How do you feel about brunch? Do you have a favorite brunch food?

🎤I adore brunch, and it’s one thing Canada sucks at. When my partner took me to his hometown in the US, I nearly died eating biscuits and gravy every day. That said, I do love just a basic brunch of fried eggs, sausage, hash browns, and toast. If I can get a single banana pancake on the side, then we’re golden.

🎃Ama – I am just dying for any tidbit that hints at Ama’s story. I think I missed who she was in the original story.  Can you tell us anything extra about her??

🎤I actually have a whole book planned for Ama! Her backstory is still definitely a mystery. All you really know is that she’s been with Gavran for a long time and that he more or less raised her. She’s obviously very dedicated to anything Gavran cares about, and she is strongly attached to Miya both because of Gavran but also because she genuinely cares for her. Regarding the first book, **spoiler here** Ama is the wolf that Miya originally sees as a child, and this encounter becomes the thing Miya latches on to and hopes for throughout her youth and into had adulthood. Of course, the next time she encounters a wolf, it’s not Ama, but Kai. 

What I can tell you is that Ama’s becoming a wolf is not quite the same as Kai’s, though there are similarities too. Neither of them are werewolves in the contemporary sense; their condition follows the wonky rules of folklore rather than what we get in genres like urban fantasy. In Kai’s case, it’s “spiritually inherited” from Sendoa, though his parents were also like him. Kai’s history is also a bit of a shadowy thing, so there is a lot about his past left unexplored by the end of the duology. Ama, however, was not actually born a wolf as Kai was, and if you go to my website, click on Vignettes, and then on “The Weaver,” you’ll find some short stories exploring bits of Ama’s past ;). 

{{Done!! Can’t wait for that book!!}}

Now that The Chaos Cycle duology is completed, can you give us any hints as to what’s coming next? A WIP?

🎤I am currently working on a supernatural horror novel! I can’t say much about the project right now, but it does feature a small Appalachian town in rural Pennsylvania, an unreliable narrator, creepy, supernatural melodies, and murder. It’s been slow going, but I’m just about 40-50% through the first draft. I also have been fleshing out the world of The Chaos Cycle on my Patreon and plan on writing a standalone that takes place after the duology. It will focus on Miya, Kai, Ama, and Crowbar, and it will not be related to the major plot of the duology, though I do plan on exploring Kai’s history quite extensively in that book!

🎃Here is the round of easy rapid fire bookish questions – do you have a favorite book or series that you always recommend? Favorite literary character? Strange and wonderful bookish habits?

🎤Uhh, here goes:

  • The Winternight Trilogy by Catherine Arden!
  • I am blanking so hard on this. Let’s say Dorian Grey. 
  • I’m pretty boring, but I need to read in complete silence, or I get very crabby. 

Thank you so much for taking the time to interview!! A.J. wanted to tell you guys that the special hardcover editions of The Chaos Cycle duology just released, so definitely check those out!!

Here is an Instagram post with all the info, plus you can find her website at

https://thechaoscycle.com/

There are additional links here!

https://direct.me/ajvrana

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Fantasy Horror

Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series: Featuring Nicolas Samuel Lietzau

Welcome back to GrimDarkTober month on the Sunday Brunch Series! Episode 11 is a super special feature featuring German author Nicolas Samuel Lietzau! 

Most people recognize him as the writer of Enderal: The Forgotten stories – a Skyrim mod that has a huge following.  I fell off the gaming planet years ago and therefore am so glad and grateful that he reached out about his debut novel: Dreams of the Dying.  Obviously I am equally, if not more grateful that he agreed to join for an SBS interview!

While DotD is a book set in the Enderal world, I can promise that you don’t need the game to love the book, and certainly not to enjoy reading this amazing interview!  Read on to learn a bit about the book and the author, as well as a great discussion on world building, mental health, comically short relationships,  and much much more!

Enough from me – here he is!


🖤Welcome to the SBaiS! Tell us a random interesting fact about yourself!
 
🎤I’m a bit of a health nut. Also, I recently started a band, Neochrome. If I hadn’t become a writer, I would have tried my luck as a musician.
 
🖤 Can you tell me something off the beaten path that has intrigued you recently? That’s my favorite line from the author bio
 
🎤 There were several rather tragic things, but I’ll stick to something positive: I recently moved to a mountain village near Barcelona and went for a run in the nearby national park, where I got lost and suddenly found a broken-down car in the middle of the woods. No idea how it got there, but it certainly intrigued me.
 
{{In the spirit of GrimDarkTober, I wonder if something tragic happened to the vehicle’s owner! How curious}}
 
🖤 So your Enderal books are a prequel to the video game – is it challenging to write within a world with predefined boundaries?  Would it be easier or harder to create your own brand new world (and is that a plan in the future)?
 
🎤It’s definitely challenging, but I already took an important step by separating the novel canon from the game canon (while remaining faithful to the game best as I can). There are a lot of undefined areas in the Vyn universe – such as the dystopian dark age between the end of the Pyrayans and the advent of the Lightborn – which I plan to flesh out in the next two books. Even so, I’m looking forward to creating a brand-new story world in the future – in fact, I already have some ideas floating around in my mind.
 
🖤The world building in DotD was pretty intense, and equally so was the character build. Did you try to lean more towards a world or character driven story, or was the mix always there?
 
🎤I’d say characters – or rather, tragedies – always come first. A recent review criticized that the “world is the protagonist in Dreams of the Dying,” which frankly surprised me. I do enjoy world building, but to me, a well-realized and coherent world is simply due diligence. Just like I do my research when writing about experiences that weren’t my own by reading autobiographies and collaborating with people, I do my research on mythology, geography, linguistics, et cetera.
 
🖤Because you travel quite a bit – do you see a relationship between people who like to travel and are passionate about culture, and their level of world-building interest?  I would love to poll people who travel vs people who don’t, about their reading interests
 
🎤That’s an interesting question. Honestly, I haven’t noticed a trend here, but most of my author friends are German, so I’m not sure how representative they are. I do, however, feel that there tends to be a type of writer who is thirsty for experience and would certainly count myself as one of them. There are many approaches to writing great fiction, but for me, exploring life in all its facets is essential. I hope that doesn’t sound pretentious
 
{{I don’t think it does! As a travel nurse, it would sound even more pretentious if I disagreed 😂 and I love using work as an excuse to immerse myself somewhere new for a few weeks or months!}}
 
🖤Speaking of culture – you mentioned the gratuitous swearing, is that a German thing? Were there any other cultural easter eggs that you put into your story?
 
🎤I love this question. Yes, I’d say that Bavarians (Southern Germans), in particular, love to swear. It has even become an art form of sorts called Granteln. In essence, zu granteln means to humorously rant about something using imaginative insults. It’s important to note that this has nothing to do with popular rant videos on the internet, which are often mean-spirited. The hallmark of good a good grantler is that he or she is not really insulting a person offensive per se and rather lets off steam at “god and the world.” Besides grantling, Bavarian service providers have a reputation for being rude. That’s not the case, in my opinion – they’re simply allowed to talk back when a customer goes off at them. Which, in my opinion, is a wonderful thing.
 
I don’t think I put any more easter eggs into the story, at least not consciously, but you can certainly tell my cultural signature, so to speak. The focus on philosophy and politics, which some readers and others loathed or perceived as contrived, is simply a part of German fiction. As are the deeply personal conversations characters have. It’s something many Germans just do
 
{{Darn – I’ve been trying to decide where to travel to this spring if the world is open, maybe I should go to Germany and see if anyone wants to tour the area and debate life for a while! A friend said there are some lovely castles and stuff too}
 
🖤There are some correlations in your Enderal storyline and in DotD with harder and rough sounding events that have happened in your life, can we talk about using storytelling as a coping mechanism?
 
🎤Yes, my creative work definitely helped and continues to help me cope with and process some of the things that happened to me. Even these days, my first response to when something bad happens is to somehow translate it into my books or music. I think this is something any artist can relate to. For me, there’s also a phoenix element to this mechanism: yes, I lived through some traumatic events, but that also gave me access to a pool of experiences that I can now weave into my stories. Before this gets taken out of context, I’m not saying that trauma is a good thing, and I wouldn’t wish it upon anybody. But for me, using it this way is empowering. I hate to see myself as a victim.
 
🖤DotD had a significant running theme of mental health and digging oneself out of their own personal hell. For anyone that hasn’t read the last few chapters and afterword, are you willing to share any advice for people who might be struggling?
 
🎤Oh boy, that’s a big question. The first step should naturally always be to get help. It’s common to avoid therapy out of pride or dread of a diagnosis (god knows I’ve done it), but it won’t get you anywhere. Besides that, I found a lot of solace in Agaam’s words: You won’t find out if you give up. This is actually from what a close friend of mine told me during a difficult time. If you’re currently in a bad place, for all you know, tomorrow might be the day things finally turn around. It’s important to make yourself aware of this, as the mind often tends to catastrophize and imagine the dreariest outcome possible. Again, I’m speaking from experience.
 
{{I love big questions! Seriously though this is great advice. Mental healthcare in America is a disaster and getting help can be extremely intimidating. I tell people that there’s no shame in seeking help and no one is here to judge.  I wish the stigma wasn’t there.  There are many things to try before medication as well and I 100% wholeheartedly endorse getting help from a trained professional before things get to the catastrophe point. Recognizing and diverting that worst case scenario cycle of thinking alone can go a long way}}
 
🖤Alright, enough heavy questions! Is brunch a thing in Germany? If so, do you have a favorite brunch food?
 
🎤Oh, yes, we love brunch. I do intermittent fasting, so I actually get to brunch every day. Personally, I love German dark bread and obatzda, a Bavarian cheese made from three different sorts of soft cheese, herbs, and spices. That said, I was recently diagnosed with lactose intolerance, so no obatzda for me in the near future.
 
🖤Do you have any terribly unpopular opinions?
 
🎤In light of the upcoming new movie: I actually loved Matrix: Reloaded and MatrixRevolutions. It wasn’t as accessible as the amazing first part, but once you wrap your head around it, it’s fascinating.
 
🖤Jespar and Lysia literally had the shortest exclusive relationship ever, has that ever actually happened to you?
 
🎤Oh, for sure – my teenage relationships were very much of the straw fire variety. Especially in the LGBT community, relationships can be absurdly short-lived. At least that’s my experience.
 
{{I promise the hetero community is doing this too, dating in your 30s is a disaster by itself }}
 
🖤I don’t see a ton of German authors in fantasy; can you recommend any that have been translated?  
 
I’d say that the English-speaking publishing houses hardly translate anything, which strikes me as odd considering the industry’s current focus on spotlighting diverse voices. It’s a shame because I think people are missing out. There are countless fantastic international writers – not only German – who never find the success they deserve. As far as German fantasy authors go, I loved Ralf Isau’s books as a kid, but it’s been so long. There is a Quebecois horror author whom I adore, Patrick Senecal. No one ever translated his works (only a couple) for some strange reason, even though he is absurdly popular in Quebec.
 
🖤Who’s your favorite book character of all time?
 
🎤Tyrion Lannister. The run-of-the-mill answer, I  know, but his moral ambiguity is incredibly intriguing

I made this a separate section, which I am naming “Nicolas’ Amusing and Insightful Rant About Modern Language in Fantasy”.  I think he should expand and turn it into an essay of his own!

My only real criticism of DotD was how jarring the modern day slang came across in an otherwise immersive story … … so, what led you down that path vs creating slang in the language native to the characters?
 
This has come up a few times, so I’m glad you asked. I’ll do my best to explain my choice, but forgive me for going on a bit of a tangent first. I’ve often read fantasy readers describe colloquialism, slang, and vulgarity as unrealistic. While I get the sentiment, I believe that this is a misconception.
 
First, unless you’re writing historical fiction set in an English-speaking country, the narrator’s English is always only a translation of what people really speak in those fictional worlds; in the Enderal novels, for example, this lingua franca is Inâl, which is also what Jespar or The Man in the novel speak. However, since nobody in the real world speaks Inâl, the narration translates it into English. The bottom line: barring the usage of modern words that simply couldn’t exist given the technology level of a culture (such as “rocket science” or internet jargon), there is no such thing as “realistic” English in high fantasy. It’s always a stylistic decision of the author.
 
Second, most people know this, but the English we read in fantasy, and even historical fiction isn’t at all faithful to the English people actually spoke in the Middle Ages, Middle English. You could probably understand what’s being said, but it would be a chore. What’s more, all we know about language during these times is based on documents that were exclusively written by the small, educated minority that wasn’t dyslexic. Imagine aliens using formal business emails to deduce what 21st-century humans spoke like; even books or plays these days used a stylized English that didn’t necessarily reflect how people spoke on a day-to-day basis. In conclusion, it is very likely, if not certain, that the English spoken by the real people was full of colloquialisms and vulgarity. Why wouldn’t it? If anything, etymology suggests that they swore like sailors, including the dreaded c-word. “Fuck” arrived a little later, but it’s safe to assume something with a similar meaning was around to describe the same thing.
 
 
All this is a long way of me saying that the English we are used to in fantasy fiction is ultimately a convention established to create a certain feeling. It’s an entirely subjective and stylistic choice and doesn’t indicate bad worldbuilding or poor command of the English language.
 
Now, why did I decide to use modern language in dialogue? It’s not because I dislike the convention – I grew up reading German fantasy books, which use very formal and “olden-days” language much like what you see in English fantasy staples, and I still love them. For me, it’s mostly about relatability. I want my characters to feel as real and relatable as possible. I also have a background in video game writing, where I work with voice actors on a regular basis and came to realize that a lot of dialogue that reads well in a book translates poorly into a voiced script; consequently, I made a habit of rewriting any “bookish” dialogue I wrote for a script to make it as “organic” as possible.
 
All that said, looking back, I believe that I sometimes overshot and accidentally crossed the line between relatability and anachronism. It’s something I will improve in the next novel.


Once again, thank you endlessly to Nicolas Samuel Lietzau for taking the time out of his busy schedule to give such an amazing interview! Here are the links to find him online and social media: 

I’m not good at link lists but you can find Nicolas online at:

WEBSITE: WWW.NICOLASLIETZAU.COM

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/niseam_stories/

https://mobile.twitter.com/Niseamtao

And many others, go find the links through his site!

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Fantasy Horror

Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series: Featuring Lee Conley!

Welcome back to GrimDarkTober month on the SBAIS! For episode 10 this week, fantasy/horror/Grimdark author Lee Conley was nice enough to take the time to interview!  

Now I feel bad for asking if he is heartless, but he took it like a champ and talked about what it takes to present a grim, realistic, immersive fantasy world, and what makes a great fantasy in general.  

Enough from me, here he is!


Welcome to the SBAIS! Tell everyone a little about yourself and your literary life!

Hello, great to be here. I am Lee, author of The Dead Sagas series. I am from the UK and work as a professional guitarist by day, and write things by night. I’m also very passionate about the study of history and am a longsword and medieval martial arts instructor, which means I get to fight with actual swords with full contact, which is amazing fun.

When I’m not doing that I am part of a small team that runs Bard of the Isles Literary Magazine, which represents and showcases work from our British and Irish Writing Community group. My own writing is usually a weird blend of horror and grimdark fantasy which is basically what you will get from The Dead Sagas.

1) After reading A Ritual of Flesh, I have to get the elephant out of the room first – are you heartless or a lord of chaos?

I could be heartless when it comes to my characters I suppose, but I think I’d prefer to go with Lord of Chaos, as there is certainly the element of pure chaos in the events unfolding in my books that I try to capture and put down on the page. But hear me out, there is reason behind it all, not just mindless chaos. I am all too aware that life is a fragile thing, people die, sometimes important ones, sometimes pointlessly. I try to give a sense of that in my books, the feeling that absolutely no-one is safe or has invincible plot-armour. I think a large unfolding story is made up of many parts rather than a handful of central invincible characters (I usually find that quite boring to read), so I try to show the bravery and courage (or lack of) of those playing those parts even if it leads to their unexpected demise. Perhaps that makes me heartless? But it does lead to unpredictable, unexpected reading hopefully. I did really enjoy the utter chaos that the combination of the Cursed and the Dead bring to the novels, there’s so much sheer horror to play with there, and its really great fun to write.

2) Is there a character in The Dead Sagas that you either wrote yourself into or relate to the most? 

I think all the characters have part of the writer in them to some degree. You have to tap into their, and thus your own, emotions to portray them and show their hopes and fears. I think a lot of the characters have a lot of heart, and to show those qualities I put them through some very traumatic experiences, experiences I have not had, and would not want to have, but can only imagine. I sit and think what it would be like to go through that, what would I think, feel or do if I were in their shoes, so in that respect those reactions are part of me I suppose. There is no single character that I wrote to be me though, I really wouldn’t want to be any of them. I can only wish I was a fearless and bad ass as some of them.

 

3) Does it take a mental toll to write so many character deaths and put them through such tough actions and decisions? 

You do develop a certain emotional attachment to the characters. I wouldn’t say it takes a toll with the amount of deaths, or particularly the acute darkness of the writing. Harking back to that earlier question, does that make me heartless? Maybe? I have to be a little heartless in some respect, and I’ll kill them, hurt them, maim them, and utterly destroy them all ruthlessly on a whim. But, saying that, there is a certain emotional attachment, as mentioned to some of the characters. One example is Hafgan, I very quickly realized that Hafgan was amazing, and originally Hafgan played Hagen’s part and met his demise early in the first book. I couldn’t do it, Hafgan I knew had a larger role to play somehow so I had to create Hagen to die in his place (Sorry Hagen) and keep Hafgan, and I’m glad I did. There are some emotional scenes in Flesh too, a certain scene at the gates where characters die was emotional to write, and certain unspeakable things that some characters have to do to their loved ones were also hard to write. I hope I harnessed that emotion and that it shows through in the books though as it will enrich them all the more.  

({{That scene at the gate 😭 if all innocence wasn’t lost yet, it was there}}

4} I would 100% recommend your blog for those looking for fantasy recommendations I hadn’t heard of many books that you review and it seems like a wealth of good reading! That said – what do you think sets apart a particularly good fantasy novel?

Thank you, I generally only really read books that genuinely interest me and I like to spread the word about excellent and unusual books that I have come across that I feel should get more attention. Personally I am a big fan of a realistic element in fantasy. I am less drawn to the high fantasy tropes where a single invincible character defeats all evil, magic can be Deus Ex Machina, and everyone has a happy ending. Don’t get me wrong I love Tolkien, (like, really love it) and have read a lot of that type of fantasy, but I am usually drawn to the grimmer, low fantasy, something that shows normal people experiencing incredible things. I like good prose, and vivid settings too. I like it to be something different and set apart. In the end though a good book is a good book so I trawl the fantasy and horror genre looking for things that I think the author got right for me.

  

5) Feeding off #5 – Immersion is huge for me and it was one of my favorite aspects of the Sagas so far, are there any aspects of the writing or world building that you focus on to help make it a more immersive reading experience?  

I am not a huge fan of world building exposition style info dumps, I think too many writers spend too long building their world instead of their plot. Saying that, the setting is vitally important, it has to be familiar enough to immerse yourself in and rich enough in background detail to have the world shape the character’s personalities. I try to connect to the human side of a character, the everyday things we all think and feel.

 

6) From your first notes to the final edition, would you say that the books got lighter, darker, or about the same as you initially imagined?

I think the darkness differs between the two books, the first is very atmospheric and spooky, whereas the second leans more towards outright violent gory horror, although there are certainly elements of both in both books so far – it’s a balance I aim to continue over the series. I think I did let myself go a little more with A Ritual of Flesh and pulled no punches, in the first I didn’t hold back per se as much I was cautious. So in that respect I think Flesh is more full on, with full levels of depravity, but I wouldn’t say they got darker or lighter, I think they started quite dark and already quite extreme in places and I have been quite happy that I maintained that level of grim nastiness throughout.

 

7) If you’ve ever worn a Halloween costume, what was your favorite? Bonus points if you have a picture!

Not surprisingly I have often dressed as a zombie. I was a musketeer zombie, a pirate zombie, general zombie, I’ve been a zombie a lot. This year I’m pretty sure I’m going with something different but of course there are pics…

received_685974085668119

8) How do you feel about brunch? Do you have a favorite brunch food?

Favourite brunch is probably the full English breakfast, we quite often go for a full English for brunch, Lincolnshire sausage, smoky bacon, black puddings, mushrooms, tomatoes, hash browns – the works. In fact I cannot wait until I can go get one again.

9) Were there to be an actual zombie apocalypse, what do you reckon would start it? Would you survive?

I imagine it would be some kind of virus or genetic experiments. Especially after the worlds recent events, it really brings it home how easily it could happen. I have seen some pretty worrying experiments on bringing back dead animals or brains recently, and I always say to myself “That how you get zombies, you fools”. Would I survive? I doubt anyone would in the long term. In the end the apocalypse part of the zombie apocalypse is going to win and everyone will likely die. Sorry to crush those hopes folks. Would I survive for a while? I’d like to think so. I have a certain amount of close combat skill at arms and survival skills which most don’t. However, like I said earlier, often important people fail or die pointlessly. I am a family man and would no doubt be caught out whilst saving those who I love, I could never leave them behind, but still, I will I will fight my damned hardest and keep us all safe.

10) Here is the round of easy rapid fire bookish questions – do you have a favorite book or series that you always recommend? Favorite literary character? Strange and wonderful bookish habits?

Malazan, or Dark tower are my favourite series.

Conan is my favourite character.

Habits? I buy physicals and often never read them, and instead read them on kindle, I suppose that’s a weird pointless habit but I just like good books on my shelves.

 

Thank you so much for taking the time to interview for GrimDarkTober month!! 

It’s been a pleasure, thanks for having me.

Author pic 1

Check out the book and author links below for more info, purchasing The Dead Sagas, and connecting on social media!

Website

www.leeconleyauthor.com

Social media links

Facebook: www.facebook.com/LeeConleyAuthor/

Twitter: @LongswordLee  or  https://twitter.com/LongswordLee

Instagram: @LeeConleyAuthor  or  https://www.instagram.com/leeconleyauthor/

Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/author/show/14649012.Lee_Conley

 

Mailing list

Sign up to Lee’s mailing list!

If anyone would like to sign up for occasional (once or twice a year) email of news and updates on Lee’s work, with the occasional competition or giveaway too, please sign yourselves up to Lee’s mailing list. https://mailchi.mp/ec0e4d5c30e7/leeconleyauthlaningpage

Universal Order links:

getbook.at/ARitualofBone

getbook.at/ARitualofFlesh


Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Fantasy Horror

Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series: Featuring T.R. Slauf!

Welcome to GrimDarkTober month on the Sunday Brunch Series!  Here for episode 9 is T.R. Slauf, a super nice author that I “met” on bookstagram after participating in a book tour! It’s been fun staying in touch and I was psyched when she agreed to feature on the SBAIS!

Book wise, T.R. is in the middle of a dark fairytale mashup series called Legends of Lightning, with book two set to release on 11/2! She also has a horror novella out that I found pretty terrifying.  I linked her website at the bottom of the interview so definitely check those out if you’re looking for a spooky season read!

Redemption_Reveal_dark

Enough from me, here she is!


1) Welcome to the SBAIS! Tell everyone a little about yourself and your books so far!

Hi everyone, I’m T.R. Slauf!

I was born and raised in Michigan. I am a writer, cat parent, spouse, and a congenital heart disease survivor. I didn’t start seriously writing until after my last open-heart surgery in 2018. Going through something like and being faced with the harsh reality of mortality gives you a different perspective on life. I realized how unhappy I was and that it wasn’t necessary. So I started writing Legends of Lightning and moved myself and my cat to Cincinnati OH in 2019 to start a new life. And it’s been great!

Legends of Lightning book 2 is releasing this November and I’m working on outlining Book 3 right now. Book 3 is going to be interesting because a majority of it will follow Davon in the Wastelands instead of Esther. She’s still going to be in the book, but Davon and his adventures are going to get a lot of pages. 

I also have several other stand-alone novels in the works outside of the LoL series. An alien invasion, a mythology mash up, and possibly a sword & sorcery romance. One I’m drafting right now is a quirky urban fantasy about a retired with and a young mage with a vulture familiar who begs her to train him. I really hope to have that one done in a year or two. It’s all so exciting, I have so many ideas swimming around in my head it can be hard to think sometimes.

2) What was your publishing journey like? Do you have any advice for hopeful authors trying to write or publish a book?

Oh man, it’s been a roller-coaster! First of all, I was beyond happy that I was able to finally finish a full book, it took a long time to get there. Then came the enormous task of learning how to self-publish. I was essentially starting from ground zero. I had little to no connections and was on my own to find an editor, cover artist, build my own website, and set up my online platform.

Some of the hardest parts for me were knowing who to trust and who would do quality work. Editors especially can be very expensive, how would I know if this person would do justice to my novel after giving them so much of my hard earned cash? The first editor I had took my novel and never returned it and did not answer any of my follow up emails. That was a nightmare and it delayed my first book being published. It took a few tries but I finally found a great editor and am using them for Redemption and all my other novels moving forward. 

My advice to others looking to self-publish would be to ask questions. If you’re interested in hiring someone for your book (whether that be an editor, cover artist, etc.) you should be comfortable asking them questions. And if they come back rude or demeaning then you know they aren’t the ones for you.

Learning how to self-publish was not easy and it took a while to learn all of the different aspects involved, but it is so rewarding. That feeling I got when I held my first print book in my hand, there’s nothing like it. And I’ve learned so much that will help me be an even better author for books to come. 

3) How do you feel about brunch?

Hahahaha! Brunch is ok. I don’t go out of my way to get it, but I will occasionally spend a Sunday making blueberry waffles and bacon tofu with orange juice. 

4) As an indie author, what is your relationship like with social media? 

Social media is interesting to say the least…I dislike how political many social media sites get and how argumentative everything seems to end up being. I try really hard to stay as far away from any of that as I can, and that’s part of the reason I’m mostly just on Instagram. That negativity aside, I like having the opportunity to connect with book bloggers and the indie community on Instagram. I’ve met some really truly kind people on there and it has given me the opportunity to share my novels with people who otherwise might not have known about them.

5) The cover for book two of Legends of Lightning, Redemption was just revealed! Wow! Do you have any advice for seeking/connecting with an artist?

I take my cover art very seriously, probably too seriously if I’m being honest. I wanted my cover to feel like the old covers used too, you know the cheesy ones from the eighties but with less cheese. I wanted a piece of art, not just re-arranged stock photos.

I did some sketches myself to kind of get the ideas flowing, from there I spent months looking for the perfect graphic artist. I sent emails out to a few illustrators and cover artists, and everyone was booked solid. Then finally I came across Jeff’s website. I was blown away by his art, even though it was way out of my original budget, I knew I had to make it work. 

When I got on a video conference with him, I told him about the novel, its themes, and the monsters in this fairytale land. We tossed around some ideas and he did some sketches on his computer for me. We ultimately came up with what you see now, and I think it does an amazing job of portraying the terrible dangers in this fantasy.

You can check out Jeff’s amazing artwork or take one of his classes here: https://www.jeffbrowngraphics.com  

If you’re looking for your own novels cover art, I suggest you first decide what type of cover you want. Look at other novels that are current or even ‘outdated’ to get your ideas flowing. From there just google away. Look at artists websites or social media pages. And last, take your time. The cover is your novel’s first impression, make sure it says what you want it to.

6) A while back we were chatting about the difficulty of writing dark, challenging scenes, what goes into that for you? Is it hard to put the Grim dark elements into the story?

There are several scenes in LoL that were very difficult for me to write. In the first book there was the sacrifice in the first act and then the family death in the last act. (If you’ve read the book you probably know what I’m referring to, if not I don’t want to spoil it.) 

These were hard for me because as I was writing these high emotion scenes, I wasn’t just looking down on it. I put myself in my characters shoes, I played out the motions in my head as if these events were happening to me directly. It’s a bit emotionally draining and sometimes jarring to do that, but it’s also very effective. How am I to expect these scenes to have the desired impact on my readers if they don’t have that same impact on me?

I also think having scenes like that, that really challenge you as a writer, are important. I wanted this series to challenge people emotionally and morally, in order to do that the scenes had to be hard for me to write and for my readers to read.

{{Hard, they were.  Not many books really impact me at this point but Hidden Realmwas tough at times.  Great work on that front}}

7) Legends of Lightning is described as a dark fantasy, fairy tale mashup. Do you have a favorite fairy tale? Did one in particular inspire your writing more than others?

There wasn’t really one specific fairytale that inspired me to write this series. I’ve always loved fantasy because of all the different possibilities it offers, you never know where you’re going to end up! Despite these possibilities, I always gravitated towards the dark elements of this genre. I often think about how fairy tales started and how they changed over the years. The originals were rather bloody, and we somehow got to the point where they‘re fun cartoon characters. While I still love these versions, a lot was lost in this transition. 

One day I was wondering what a world would be like if all of these gruesome tales actually existed. What would the society that allowed princesses to be locked in towers and sold Belle to the beast, look like? That’s what really got this idea going. 

I also wanted to write a story where an average person is faced with the impossible. I wanted to take this character (who was never taught to be a hero and who never wanted to be one) and put her into this high-pressure, magical situation and see if it broke her. These characters are faced with the absolute worst, and they need to find the will to fight for their survival. I’m basically testing the thought of ‘you either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain’.

8)  Here is the easy round of rapid fire bookish questions – do you have a favorite book or series you always recommend? Favorite literary character? Any wonderful or strange bookish habit?

I always recommend His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman and Good Omens by Neil Gaiman as general fantasy. For the grittier stuff I will always recommend The Road by Cormack McCarthy and 1984 by George Orwell. 

I can’t think of a singular character that’s my favorite… But in my novels Windsor is my favorite to write because I love his sarcastic quips! 

As for bookish habits, I’m a spine breaker and a very slow reader. As much as I love books it takes me forever to finish them.

9. Have you ever been trolled as an author?

I haven’t had any major issues with trolls yet, but I did get someone who gave me a one star review because she said the year 2020 was too traumatic for her to enjoy my book. And I got another one who gave me a two star because she said the cat never came back, even though he totally does hahaha. And I had an old editor spam my facebook asking if I was sending more books for her to edit.

10) So you covered reading habits, what about writing ones?

I do have some weird writing habits. First off, I write all my books by hand. I found that writing my books down on paper before typing them is very beneficial to me. Handwriting helps me stay focused and it’s so much easier on my eyes. Then when I type it all up on my computer, I do edit checks and re-writes. I thought this was a relatively common practice, but some other authors have told me otherwise.

I also found that listening to videogame music while I write is very beneficial, the Witcher 3 soundtrack is my favorite. It helps me stay focused and gets me pumped for high action sequences. I do my best work when I sit down at an empty table with my notebook and a big cup of black coffee with my music playing.

I also found that listening to videogame music while I write is very beneficial, the Witcher 3 soundtrack is my favorite. It helps me stay focused and gets me pumped for high action sequences. I do my best work when I sit down at an empty table with my notebook and a big cup of black coffee with my music playing.

Thank you so much for taking the time to interview! If there’s anything else you’d like to say about anything, please do so here!

I have a link tree with my website, book links, Spotify playlist and my merch store link on it. 😊 

https://linktr.ee/t.r.slauf


If anyone wants to check out my review for book one, you can do so here!

Hidden Realm (Book Tour Review) by T.R. Slauf


Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Fantasy

The Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series: Featuring Michael S. Jackson!

Thank you so much to Michael S. Jackson for inviting me onto his blog tour for Ringlander: The Path and the Way!  I turned that around and invited him onto the Sunday Brunch Series, and was super excited when he said yes!!
So, welcome to episode 8 of the Sunday Brunch Series!! Michael is a Scottish author who released his debut novel back in April.  Here he talks a bit about it, offers some publishing advice, gives a fascinating chat about maps, and more!! Do read on!

1) Welcome to the SBAIS! Tell everyone a little about yourself and your debut novel!

Hello!!! I guess I can call myself an author now that I’ve written a book and I can hold the thing in my hand — that’s going to take some getting used to. Let’s go with writer. I’m Michael S. Jackson, writer AND author of Ringlander: The Path and the Way, the first book in a new original epic fantasy adventure

2) What led you to self publishing? Do you have any advice for hopeful authors trying to write or publish a book?

I wanted to give self publishing a go because through my working life I’ve done all the various pieces like design, typography, file formatting, copywriting, and indie publishing brings it all together. What better project to work on than your own book? The thing you’ve ached, cried and bled over for the past x number of years. It definitely was something I fancied trying so I just thought, let’s check it out.

It’s actually pretty straightforward, although there are some nuances that make for some interesting quirks. For example KDP’s user interface wants you to upload a cover, and it checks to see if it is ok before you print a proof, but if you refresh the page during the process it can cause issues. The KDP service is incredible but the UI has some ways to go before it’s up there. Reedsy has a phenomenal user interface and even some writing tools that build your ebook files for you. That’s the level Amazon needs to get to.

For advice though, the best I can offer is – don’t be afraid to talk to people. If you need an artist for your cover, go and speak to some artists. Twitter makes things so easy. Find some artists you like, tell them you love their work (and why) and send them some of your book. Suggest scenes, be passionate and soon enough you’ll find yourself with an artist eager to work with you. Apply that same mechanic for editors, formatters, and the wheels of your project will be thoroughly greased. It will cost you, but ultimately it will be worth it.

3) What’s your favorite brunch food??

Ohhhh, good question. Banana & blueberry no-egg pancakes with bacon and/or black pudding is pretty hot right now in our house. Sunday food.

{{Ah gosh guys if you are squeamish don’t look up black pudding 😂😂 this must be a Scottish thing! I do love hearing how other countries do brunch!}}

4) There are lots of themes, ideas, characters, major events, etc happening in The Path and the Way – do you remember which idea came first? Was there one that you built the book around?

Absolutely. I wrote the first chapter first, although it was actually the third chapter then, as weird as that sounds. Chapter one and two ended feeling like filler, which is never good for the beginning of a book, so I went back to basics and gave chapter three the spotlight. The start of Ringlander is pretty brutal, but it was such a visceral opening and introduction to the main character Kyira that I decided to keep it.

5) Do you have a particular favorite scene or chapter from the book?

Games. That chapter has got such rich visual descriptions as Fia walks through the city of Tyr, and I think it perfectly introduces her. I had to do some character merging early on with Janike and another female character, but the soul of that chapter has remained the same from very early on, and even after I’ve read it over a hundred times (literally) it still is as bright and clear in my mind as when I first wrote it.

6) I noticed an ongoing theme of maps and there was a pretty cool puzzle box too, do you have a real life interest in maps or is it more of a fantasy novel thing?

Maps are a very real part of Ringlander, so it was also a nice opportunity to try illustrating a map. I had the shape down after I accidentally spilled coffee on a bowl and it printed a ring on some paper, so I traced it with pencil and took a photo. It became the the shape of Rengas, the world of the Ringlanders.

I also don’t have some weird map-type job or anything, I just really liked the idea of including something that stood for finding one’s way, which is what every character in Ringlander is doing.

We take maps for granted. The fact that Google has mapped the entire world to the street level is an incredible feat, like science-fiction level of accomplishment and yet no one really talks about it. It’s weird, as a concept, always knowing where you are. This is the only time in human history that a human can work out where they are to within inches and see images of their environment from where they stand, and it’s only happened in the past ten years or so. Remove that and the world descends into chaos.

Knowing where you stand geographically is tied very much to where you stand everywhere else. We’re all trying to find out who we are and where we’re going, and the idea that a culture like Kyira’s has the blood of the navigators in their veins, enabled the Ringlander story to work on many different levels. It became a wonderful tapestry and as I wrote I began to see those layers unravel and reweave into new ideas that helped keep me on track.

7. Do you have a favorite fantasy map??

Two of the most beautiful fantasy maps I’ve seen (and I researched a lot of them) are Illka Auer’s (https://twitter.com/IlkkaAuer/status/1189464988618051585 or https://twitter.com/ilkkaauer/status/1226872574623219714) but honourable mention to Stephen Aryan’s The Coward, which is also beautiful. I spent a fair amount of time checking out r/mapmakers too, which has some amazing fictional world maps.

7) if you could go have adult beverages with any author (or fantasy character) in the world, who would you pick and why?

Uhhh, Logen Ninefingers. Easy. Or maybe Gandalf. I’d ask him to explain some of those powers, and if he was really reborn to become Gandalf the White. If it had to be an author I’d love to pick Patrick Rothfuss’ brains, the way he devised Sympathy in The Kingkiller Chronicles is just… I’d love to ask him how he did it. Or actually maybe Brandon Sanderson and how he manages to write so much detail over and over again.

8)  Here is the easy round of rapid fire bookish questions – do you have a favorite book or series you always recommend? What about in fantasy? A favorite literary character? Any wonderful or strange bookish habits?

I’m gunna sound like a fanboy here, but the First Law is such an easy recommendation. It’s got everything: magic, intrigue, attitude. Sold. As for strange bookish habits… I can’t read unless all is quiet. I’m a total purist and I read to be able to immerse myself in the world, so if I’m being pestered, then I can’t read. Weirdly though, I can usually write, even if the house is quite busy. Not sure what that’s about to be honest.

9) Thank you so much for taking the time to interview! If there’s anything else you’d like to say about anything, please do so here!

The people in the indie business are the nicest I have come across in any industry. They’re passionate and clever and love their work (which is often unpaid or voluntary). Going self published was something I really liked the idea of, but I was not prepared for how many cool people there are in the business. Every single person I’ve liaised with since Ringlander hit the shelves has been so helpful. I also run Author Interviews and the authors I’ve worked there are the same. So I’ve come to the conclusion it’s a book thing. Books clearly bring out the best in people.

{{I totally agree, the indie community is absolutely amazing and I’m so glad to be a part of it as well}}


Here is the general info and book blurb if you want to read more! One link below does contain the first chapter excerpt too!

  • Title: The Path and the Way
  • Series: The Ringlander, #1
  • Publisher: Self, 04/27/21
  • Length: 526 pages
  • Genre: fantasy, epic fantasy, adult fantasy

Screenshot_20210926-150634

Here is the synopsis via Amazon:

The first book in the Ringlander Series: a fast-paced, epic fantasy adventure full of games, grit and magic.

Holes between worlds are tearing through Rengas. Firestorms are raging as multiple realities battle for control of the elements. Even the Way, the turbulent channel that separates Nord, Határ and Kemen, the lifeblood of the city of Tyr, has turned.

Kyira’s search for her missing brother draws her away from the familiar frozen lines of Nord and south into the chaotic streets of Tyr where games are played & battles fought. As reality tears Kyira must choose between her family or her path before the worlds catch up with her.her.


Book & Author Links!

To read an excerpt: https://ringlander.com/

On Twitter: https://mobile.twitter.com/mikestepjack

Author Website: mjackson.co.uk

On Instagram: https://instagram.com/mikestepjack?utm_medium=copy_link

On Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Ringlander-Path-Epic-Fantasy-Adventure-ebook/dp/B093C93P46

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Fantasy Young Adult

Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series: Featuring Edith Pawlicki!

Helllllo once again, I can’t believe we are on episode 7 of the Sunday Brunch Series!  Today features Edith Pawlicki, an author that I “met” through Bookstagram and now have read and reviewed three of her books!  All three of those are searchable on the blog. The most recent released this past Tuesday so congratulations on that!

Here she talks about her publishing journey, compares writing for YA vs Adult audiences,  shares a co-op food story, and even shouts out Rochester too 😁

This is a bit of a longer interview so I won’t hold it up, here she is!


1) Welcome to the SBAIS! Tell everyone a little about yourself and your books!

Thank you for hosting; I love brunch! 

I write science fiction and fantasy books with a big dash of romance and family. My books are character-driven. 

I am a stay-at-home mom and my family shares a duplex with my sisters (there were five children under five here for a while), so my time is split between little people and fictional worlds. Which means I’m a little quirky but very happy!

2)What was your publishing journey like? Do you have any advice for hopeful authors trying to write or publish a book?

I queried for two different books in 2013 and got a lot of rejections.The plots were neither fresh nor compelling, but I didn’t know how to fix them. I did write sporadically over the next five years, around my sons’ second birthday, I found the time to get back into it and audited David Farland’s writing courses online. If you’re aware of a weakness in your writing (characters, setting, plotting, or the writing itself), I highly recommend Farland (https://mystorydoctor.com/). If you can’t afford some version of his course (though he always offers an audit bundle of all of them during NaNoWriMo), his newsletter is free and covers pretty much everything in his lectures in bite-sized chunks. His courses took my writing to a new level. 

I started querying agents for Minerva in 2019. I didn’t query as many as I had been advised to (I’ve heard 50-100 agents), but the process is slow and put me in a negative headspace for writing. Since writing is my main hobby/stress-reliever, my husband persuaded me to self-publish. Even though promotion is very difficult for me, I am so glad that I did because having books in the world, holding the hard copies in my hands, and getting positive reviews from strangers has been joyous and motivating.

As a self-published author, I have not followed the majority of advice. I did not hire an editor (I know all my beta readers personally – none of them had ever beta read before, but just as I got better at revisions, their feedback has improved massively over just three books), and I did my book design and covers myself. I did commission art: maps for Minerva (by Michael Engard:  https://www.kaelri.com/projects/ ) and the cover and interior artwork for the Immortal Beings series (by Goldfinch1 of Fiverr: https://www.fiverr.com/goldfinch01 ).

After publishing Vows, I realized that there are options between traditional publishing and doing it completely alone (like me). You can look for indie presses; sometimes these presses expect you to invest financially in the publishing but manage cover art, editing, etc. Alternatively, you can find editors and book designers online. I have no desire right now to hire a book designer because I really enjoy doing the layout (I use Word) and creating the covers (which I do in Google Drawings), but I have some regrets about not having an editor. Most of the self-published authors I’ve talked to do have editors, and I would really like to at least try it. I think one thing to keep in mind if you self-publish is you will have to spend some money. At absolute minimum, you need to be prepared to print and mail free copies to reviewers, but expect to pay for covers, editing, and advertising. I’ve been told that you should expect it to take at least six books before you have a base audience. As for promotion, a few things that were effective for me were book tours on Instagram and running a paperback giveaway on Goodreads. Be wary of scammers – there are lots of people who will reach out to talk about your book who just want to make a quick buck. Also, talk to libraries and local bookstores – most are very friendly and supportive of local authors.

3) There was a pretty big jump between your first novel, Minerva, a Young Adult post-apocalyptic, and the second, an adult epic fantasy series!  Do you find that you prefer writing to one target audience vs. the other?

I don’t prefer one audience over the other, but I find it more relaxing writing for an adult audience because of my standards for YA. For example, in my latest book, Loves of Shadow and Power, a main character says “One way of loving isn’t better than any other. There are as many right ways to love as there are beings in this world.” When my husband read that, he turned to me and asked if I agreed. And while I do think there are as many right ways to love as people, there are definitely bad ways to love – many controlling/abusive relationships are in fact twisted expressions of love. When my target audience is adult, I feel I don’t have to qualify all the character’s beliefs though – I am trusting readers to assess the statements for themselves. But if that line had been in Minerva, I would have felt compelled to offer a counter opinion, which would necessitate a listening character with a contradictory opinion who was determined to express it, and having the response/argument be relevant to the plot. Anyway, that’s why I find it challenging – and why Minerva was outlined while the Immortal Beings series was discovery-written. 

4) What do you look for when finding readers to contact about your books? Are you looking for any specific style or content for your reviewers?

This question is giving me way too much credit! When I started the publishing process, I signed up for Inkers Con 2020 and one of its lectures suggested using Instagram for promotion. I stumbled into Bookstagram, and messaged ten Bookstagrammers who posted regularly, wrote coherent reviews, had at least 100 followers, and had followed me (I had probably 30 followers at that point). I was super nervous, and I remember I freaked out when you accepted a copy because you had about five thousand followers, which was mind-boggling to me! Anyway, only two of the Bookstagrammers who accepted copies actually posted, so I felt I had to do something different for the Immortal Beings. I ended up discovering book tour organizers, and decided to try that – it was far more effective in getting follow-through than when I was messaging bookstagrammers directly. As for who got ARC offers for the Immortal Beings sequel – I contacted people from the original tour that had posted their reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, had written more than just a synopsis, and had liked the first book. I’m not planning any tours for the sequel because I don’t think it would read well on its own; instead, I am focusing on promoting the first book and relying on read-through.

{{pssst: hey people, especially if you take a physical review copy from an author, write a review!  It doesn’t have to be long or even necessarily right on time – most authors are understanding – but write something!!

As a fun fact I actually took Minerva because she mentioned doing Uni in Rochester, and I am totally 100% glad that happened}}

5) What brunch item would you pair with your books so far??

For Minerva, I would do Christmas Tree bread! It’s a family tradition: sweet bread with whatever dried fruits you fancy, spread with cinnamon, sugar, and butter before it’s cut and twisted to resemble an evergreen tree and baked. Then you drizzle with frosting and M&M/gumdrops. My grandmother invented it as a Christmas present for her many in-laws (my mom’s side is a prolific New England farm family), and I can’t remember a Christmas brunch without it! Minerva always feels like a holiday book for me, maybe because Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years are such pivotal days in the story.

For the Immortal Beings series, I would say chawanmushi, which is a savory Japanese egg custard that might feature fish and any number of veggies. When it comes out perfectly, it’s like silk, but all of my attempts have been scrambled eggs…

6) I actually misread Edith’s bio and thought she moved around frequently – so this question turned into “How have your travels and experiences influence your writing”?

I was surprised by this question because I’ve spent at least three quarters of my life in the same rural Connecticut town, but I was exposed to a lot of different cultures because my grandfather grew up in India and my father spent large portions of his childhood in Japan and Germany. We ate lots of “foreign” food as well as read stories from around the world. Yes, the places I’ve been shape my writing. The tunnels in Minerva have roots in the tunnels at the University of Rochester, which let students walk between buildings without going out in snowstorms. And of course, Japanese culture, aesthetic, and mythology obviously influenced the Immortal Beings. It isn’t just places though –  everything (and everyone!) that I know creeps into the books one way or another. For as long as I can remember, I have always read author bios when I finished a book, and it struck me early on that my favorite authors had collected many life experiences – different jobs, different homes, widely read. And so I have tried to collect experiences too – I am always trying to log the atmosphere, the essence of my surroundings so that I can pull them out for my stories! 

{{I love those tunnels!}}

7) Wayyy back in the day you mentioned that you lived in a vegan co-op, and that some of the food fails were inspirations for your army’s cuisine in Minerva! I am calling in that promised story if you can remember any particularly epic fails!

So most of the meals I ate there really were delicious spreads that I still try to mimic in my own cooking, but I had one housemate who believed that he could toss any fresh produce from the farmer’s market into a frying pan, some tofu or nuts, add the spices we used for granola (cinnamon, ginger, allspice, nutmeg) along with some generous shakes of yeast flakes (a savory topping that often replaces grated cheese in vegan dishes), and it would work. The first time he did this, I think it was with apples and potatoes and it was tasty, but multiple people tried to convince him to explore other recipes. The worst one I remember had swiss chard and peanut butter – the flavors didn’t mesh well, but the biggest problem was that he didn’t properly clean the chard, so there was a generous seasoning of dirt and small stones. Anyway, all of these “stir-fries” tended to become mushy stews that looked really unappetizing, even when they tasted good, and he sometimes pureed them (why?), which you probably recall from Minerva!

8) Here is the easy round of rapid fire bookish questions – do you have a favorite book or series you always recommend? Favorite literary character? Any wonderful or strange bookish habits?

My favorite author is Mary Balogh. Her books are a delightful blend of life lessons and happy-ever-afters. I know the regency romance wrapping isn’t for everyone, but her books have made me a better person. My favorite character would be Kel from the Protector of the Small series by Tamora Pierce, partially because I grew up with her. She always relentlessly chose to do the right thing, regardless of how hard it was. She demanded so much of herself, while always granting the benefit of the doubt to others. She has always inspired me, and I think that Minerva is a little like Kel. As for strange habits – when I was younger (not a mother) I pretty much either read a book straight through (if a book was really long, like the Wheel of Time, I would carry it with me constantly, reading during school passing periods and every free moment until it was done) or DNF – if I put the book down, it usually meant I was either finding it boring or disliked the characters and once that happened, I almost never would pick it back up.  (I do read quite quickly, which is probably why I like to reread because I often miss details on the first read through). Now I usually have to set books aside for even days at a time (because children can’t wait while fiction can), but I never feel guilty about stopping a book – honestly, I was shocked to realize how many people seem to after joining Bookstagram. Usually my DNF happens within the first chapter because I’m not enjoying the writing, but I’ve stopped 75% through if I realized I didn’t care what happened next. I guess I feel I have too many things I want to or have to do to waste time doing something that’s neither!

9) Thank you so much for taking the time to interview! If there’s anything else you’d like to say about anything at all, please do so here!

Thank you so much for the interview! It was fun. I will end by sharing my writing goals: to write stories that take people on adventures, leave them happy and encouraged, while provoking them to think about themselves or the world. Life lessons through fantasy!


Find Edith online at:

https://edithpawlicki.com/about.html