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

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Science Fiction

Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series: Featuring Dustin R. Cummings

As part of the Feather & Dove book tour for Exiles of a Gilded Moon Volume II: Kingdom’s Edge, I am happy to have author Dustin R. Cummings on episode 6 of the SBAIS today! He nailed some tough questions about the narrative, his literary life, and of course brunch!

As far as the books – I read and reviewed book one, Empire’s Wake, a few months ago and you guys can search for that here on the blog if interested! I’ll be posting thoughts on Kingdom’s Edge soon and am definitely curious to see where he takes the series from here.

Enough from me – here he is!


1) Welcome to the Sunday Brunch Series! Tell everyone a little about yourself and your books!

Thank you for inviting me! I’m originally from  Mid-Michigan and have lived in New York City for the past several years. 
 
I am a practicing surgeon in the metropolitan area, with a speciality in minimally invasive surgery. In my free time, I like to read, write, exercise and go to museums, especially the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I love the ambiance, and being around ancient things. 
 
I am about to publish the second book in my series, Exiles of a Gilded Moon in a week. I am working on the 3rd and final book in the series, which will hopefully come out in 2022. 
 
2) I think Empire’s Wake is the first book I have read by an MD that isn’t medically related fiction! Did you think about writing something medically inclined or have you always wanted to write a SFF?
 
I have long been interested in writing and literature, and most of all history – I am a professed history nerd. I often contemplate the major events that preceded all of us, and wonder what things would look like today if certain points in history had been different. 
 
The Exiles of a Gilded Moon Series originated from my rumination on history, specifically the European age of conquest. My story arose from a short literary sketch I started, which was inspired by a painting I created for my high school French class. Surprisingly, it happened to be an abstract sci-fi painting! Back then, I wondered what a story about that painting would look like, and Exiles of a Gilded Moon came from that moment.
 
I have definitely contemplated writing something medically related, and I hope to in the future. I wouldn’t necessarily make medicine the main focus. I feel that medical related issues contribute an intriguing narrative arc, and they are most interesting as part of a larger story.
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3) What has your literary life been like? As in – what genres and authors did you love as a kid, vs. as an adult? 
 
As a kid, I really enjoyed any sort of book that involved horror and fantastic elements. I was a fan of the R.L Stine Goosebumps series, and Steven King’s Pet Sematary.
 
As an adult, much of my literary exposure was through my French major in college. I enjoyed reading enlightenment era works by Rousseau and Diderot. I also learned a lot from reading  French Caribbean literature. I was particularly interested in works that dealt with identity, colonization, and the complex relations between the Caribbean islands and metropolitan France, as they transitioned from colonies to integral parts of the country. 
 
As for now, I enjoy reading a variety of genres – anything with a fantastical element will usually get my attention! I also read a decent amount of non-fiction historical works, specifically related to the European age of conquest, or the history of the Americas. 
 
4) Exiles of a Gilded Moon covers some tough narratives like conquest and slavery, but I also see themes like coming of age, redemption, and moreso in book 2 discovering your identity – what are your thoughts on putting these more difficult narratives into Scifi/fantasy? 
 
Exiles of a Gilded Moon indeed covers difficult themes in the course of a young man’s coming of age. I wanted to show how someone who is dealing with his own inner turmoil might navigate his complex, human society with its historical legacy, societal divides, and cultural intricacies. 
 
I wanted to examine what it would look like if someone like Darshima, and the diverse people of his realm suffered a singular, monumental injustice. We often think of invasion and slavery in its general aspects, but I wanted to examine it from the individual level, as well as the global aspect. I sought to use a fantastical location, to tell a story that would feel familiar to readers, that was hopefully less weighted with bias and pre-conceived notions. I used fantastical elements, as they speak to all of us on a deeper level. We all wish that we had some power to shape events seemingly beyond our control. Fantasy allows us to envision worlds where this is possible. 
 
5) Was there any particular scene that was hard to write for you??  {{I’ll tell you the hardest to read afterwards}}!
 
There were several scenes that were challenging to write. I would say the invasion was difficult to compose, given the vividness of the imagery and the description the suffering. As you know, the first half of the book is a very methodical buildup of Darshima’s world and a meticulous exploration of his family and social dynamic. I spent much time with descriptions of people and places. I wanted everything to feel real, and for readers to bond with the peoples, cultures and places. 
 
The invasion represents a violent and calamitous end of innocence for Darshima and his people. As Darshima and the readers learn through the rest of the book, what they thought was an age of innocent before their realm’s fall, was anything but. The transition from freedom to slavery, conquerer to conquered at the individual and societal level is abrupt and jarring. It took some time to settle within me. 
 
The scenes of Darshima’s capture and enslavement were particularly difficult to write. My personal background is Caribbean and South American. In a sense, these scenes were a reflection of my own ancestry through a fantastical mirror. Having to imagine every aspect of Darshima’s toil was a unique emotional experience, and I did my best to express the characters’ thoughts and actions during their suffering. 
 
{{Yes, so like he said in the first paragraph – he spent a lot of time world building a beautiful city, creating a culture, got me all attached to it …. then totally levelled it in the invasion and conquest.  It was hard to read but thinking back on it, the sense of loss was real}}
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6) Specifically in the sci-fi and fantasy genres, do you have a favorite author or one you always recommend?
 
I tend to enjoy the classics, specifically H. G Wells (The invisible Man, The Time Machine, etc.) and Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles.
 
{{This is a response after my own heart, I totally grew up on Asimov and Bradbury and to a lesser extent, Heinlein had a few fantastic stories)
 
7) Did you base any of your characters on real life people?? Darshima’s whole complicated family dynamic felt very real 
 
I like to think that all of the characters have a bit of myself in them, as well as people I know. I have a twin brother (I am the younger twin), and a mother and father whom I adore. I’ve been fortunate to meet and work with so many interesting people throughout my life. My family and friends have all had an influence on me, and that is represented in the story through the events and in the characters.   
 
I really wanted to portray Darshima’s complicated but nurturing family dynamic and how it helps him grow. How he learns to navigate relationships, solve predicaments, etc. is based on some of my own experiences. I would also say, some of the scenes were fantastical portrayals of some of the things I’ve seen and experienced in my own life. 
 
8) What is your favorite brunch food?
 
There are so many to choose from. I love eggs Benedict, either with Canadian bacon or smoked salmon. 
 
9) I know it’s cliché but I aim these interviews at indie authors and the indie community, so I always ask if you have any advice for authors trying to write or publish a novel?
 
I would suggest that anyone interested in writing, please keep writing and don’t be discouraged! We are in a difficult time right now, and people are seeking some means of escape and whimsy, what better means than your future book?  Work on your craft, read in the genres that interest you – even if it isn’t the genre you necessarily want to write in. See how your interests can help you craft your own unique voice and tell your story. 
 
Moreover, reach out to other writers and authors via social media, and don’t be scared to share your writing, its the best way to achieve growth, and get you ready for the steps needed to publish. 
 
10) Thank you so much for taking the time to interview! If there’s anything else you’d like to add or mention or talk about, please do so here!!
 
{{Dustin didn’t have additional comments so I’ll just take the space to say THANK YOU for serving during a pandemic! To him and all the other HCWs working, struggling, bringing hope, and getting through right now, keep your heads up!  I started reading a lot more SFF during the pandemic and I am personally endlessly thankful for the authors giving me these stories to escape into. Again, thank you)!
 

Meet the Author:
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Dustin Cummings is an author who lives in New York, NY. Originally from Mid-Michigan, he is an avid fan of science fiction and fantasy. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, classical music, and long walks. He is an assistant professor of surgery in the New York metropolitan area.

Find Dustin and Exiles of a Gilded Moon online:

Author Website: https://www.dustinrcummings.com/

Twitter: @dorenavant2020

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

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08LDBW29J?binding=kindle_edition&ref=dbs_dp_awt_ser_img_widg_tukn

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Fantasy Young Adult

Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series: Featuring V. Romas Burton!

Hi everyone! Thank you so much for tuning in to the 5th episode of the SBAIS! I screwed up and am posting this as a super late edition because I miiiiight have thought that today was Saturday.  I swear I am getting way too old for these night shifts.

Today I’m here with a very special guest, the author of the YA epic fantasy series Heartmender! I found her books through the Monster Ivy Publishing Instagram page, and was really honored to read two out of three of her books as ARCs!! The last novel in the trilogy, Heartrender, releases on September 7th and you can find all of my reviews here on the blog for those books!

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Without further ado, here is V. Romas Burton!!

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

Thank you so much for having me! My name is Vanessa and I write under the pen name V. Romas Burton. I write YA Fantasy for Monster Ivy Publishing. The third book in my debut series, Heartrender, comes out this fall! I’m so excited for this series to be complete!


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

I actually spent a while searching for a publisher/agent the traditional way: through querying. However, one day I heard about a Twitter pitch party named Faith Pitch. I decided to participate for fun and ended up with a contract with my publisher

3) The Heartmender books are YA epic fantasy with a strong allegorical theme. What main takeaways would you like Christian youth, vs non Christian youth to take away from the series?

I would like all youth to understand the same message: there will always be trials and temptations in life. But through  your perseverance and God’s guidance, you will get through the hard times.

4) Is there a character that you wrote yourself into more than the others?  I won’t ask who your favorite is 😅

Although there’s a little of me in each character, I would definitely say I’m a lot more like Claire than any of the others. ☺️


5) Content has been a huge debate recently, especially in YA novels. What content and themes do you think are important to present to young readers? I try really hard to spotlight “clean reads” whenever possible, and your books definitely fall into that category

I definitely think YA books should focus more on standing up for what’s right and including good morals. Now, I enjoy a good love story and an epic battle. But sometimes the scenes in YA books, I believe, are extremely erotic or gorey for young readers. I believe it’s possible to write an exciting story without adding all those extra things.

6) I found the video on your Instagram where you mentioned the Verse that sparked the idea for the series! Essentially the thought was: what would it be like if people physically traded their heart to the creator, vs only doing so in spirit? What would you have traded your heart for at the Heart Reign?

Oh I probably would’ve traded it for power or unlimited clothes 😁


7) I can’t imagine how busy you’ve been with the two boys and a book coming out soon!  What do you do for fun/relaxation/selfcare?

Life is definitely busy right now! I’m so thankful that I have had my family’s help! Most nights I’m just ready to crash into bed 🤣 But when I have a little more energy, I love reading webtoons at night to decompress from the day.


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

I always recommend The Lunar Chronicles to anyone interested in YA. It’s one of my favorite series and was the series that got me hooked on YA Fantasy.

I love the March sisters from Little Women. I enjoyed reading the series as a child, teenager, and adult and was able to identify with a different one at each stage in my life.

I love to binge read genres. If I read a fairytale retelling I love then I will proceed to read all the fairytale retellings! Then, once I’m tired of that, I’ll move on to something else like dystopian and then read all the dystopian! 

{{I’m just adding here that on her website, she has a list of books that she recommends and it’s organized by genre and age group! We have really similar tastes! I was psyched to see Ted Dekker on someone’s recommendation list, and I definitely bookmarked that incase I ever need more book recs!}} 

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 having me! I’ve enjoyed the fun questions! Heartrender, the epic conclusion to the Heartmender trilogy releases Sept. 7! Be sure to read books 1 & 2 before it comes out!


Meet the Author!

V. Romas Burton grew up bouncing up and down the East Coast where she wrote her first story about magical ponies at age seven. Years later, after studying government and earning an M.A. in Theological Studies, V. Romas Burton realized something even bigger was calling out to her–stories that contained great adventures and encouraging messages. Her debut novel, Heartmender, has won several awards including: First Place in Young Adult for the 2020 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, Second Place in Juvenile/ Young Adult for the 2021 Illumination Book Awards and tied for Third Place for Young Adult Fiction- Fantasy/ Sci- Fi in the 2020 Moonbeam Children’s Awards.


Find Vanessa and the Heartmender series online!

On facebook: https://m.facebook.com/vromasburton/

On Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/vromasburton/

Author Website: https://vromasburton.com/

Purchase the Heartmender books on Amazon:

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Fantasy Science Fiction

Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series – featuring Steven J. Morris!

Happy Sunday everyone and thank you so much for tuning in to the fourth installment of the SBAIS!  I originally was introduced to Steve’s books through a tour company, and have had a lot of fun reading his first two books which bring fantasy and sci-fi elements into the modern world.   I was super excited when he reached out to participate here!

The SBAIS is now booking into October! If you are reading this thinking “wow I would really like to do that too,” please do contact me!


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

Hi. My name is Steve, and I’ve been writing fantasy for a couple of years now. 

(“Hi, Steve,” says the writers anonymous group in my head. Ha.)

I’m editing the 3rd of a four book series called The Guardian League, about a group of unlikely heroes saving the world from invasion by magic-wielding aliens. I’ve targeted Dec/Jan for the release of Book 3, but it feels ahead of schedule to me. I’m married and have three daughters spanning the Elementary to High School age, and I do engineering work at Intel to pay the bills.

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

There’s a surprising amount of work that happens after writing to get your baby out the door. That said, when I was a kid, there was nothing like the capabilities available now to self-publish. I have suggestions regarding writing: embrace learning, read how to write through books and podcasts, pay for editing and learn from it (find someone good). Regarding publishing, just keep swimming – if you’re not naturally technical (or even if you are), there’s a lot of steps to learn. Once you’ve gone through it, maybe a couple of times, it isn’t so bad. Sadly, you’re not done there – there’s a lot to learn about advertising. I’m still a beginner there, so I won’t offer advice.

3) The Guardian series is full of fantasy, FBI thrills, and a lot of sci-fi elements all brought into the modern, if not slightly futuristic world.  Do you remember what idea came first? As in, what did you build the series around?

Ironically, I built it around the ending, in book 4, which you haven’t seen yet. So I can’t say too much about it. I started at the end, and sketched the story backwards.  Then I began writing book 1. I did have some components I knew I wanted, magic and science together, travel between worlds, but the actual story was built on top of those components.

4) I loved that there was a bit of a D&D / Warcraft feel to the series, are you a gamer? If you want to nerd out about a game, I’m here for it

For about 10 years, my two brothers and I would meet online once a week and play Everquest. I played an enchanter (go team Galad). The Lost Dungeons of Norrath were some of the most fun adventures I remember in any game ever – one hour cooperative dungeons that you’d finish within seconds of the timer running out… nothing beats that feeling of pulling victory from the jaws of defeat. Yeah, D&D as a kid, played some Worlds of Warcraft, and a few others as well. Believe it or not, I created a shareware game back in 1998 or so – “Homeland: The Stone of Night.”  https://www.mobygames.com/game/homeland-the-stone-of-night It was okay for its time (total junk now). Regardless, yeah, definitely have a big gaming past. 

5) What brunch item do you think would go with your books?

Chilli-cheese fries, and I’d have a beer with it too. IPA, like Red would drink.

{{There you have it – based on these interviews, I am forced to assume that brunch is a NorthEastern thing))

6) I can imagine being self published that it’s hard to get the word out about your book, has that been a challenge? Was using a book tour company a positive experience?

Oh, I should have read ahead, since I mentioned advertising already. So I exited “writing/publishing” having done NOTHING in regards to exposing my book or writing. I’m naturally a pretty socially timid guy (introverts unite! But, um, keep your distance). I don’t know if a book tour would be the right move for everyone, but it helped me build a community and get connected, so for me, it was a positive experience (and I *have* recommended it to people). But set your expectations – you’re competing with a lot of other authors for attention, and the quick bursts from a tour can’t replace doing continuous advertising work. I am far far far from figuring out the right way to do advertising. So much to learn!

{{That said, thank you to By The Book Tours for originally introducing me to Steve’s books!}}

7)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?

Favorite book(s) – The Mirror of Her Dreams and A Man Rides Through

I guess it is cheating, but also natural, to say that the characters in my favorite books are my favorite characters: Terisa Morgan and Geraden. 

Strange habits: I have multiple copies of my favorite books. I’ve never written in books, including textbooks. I’d see other people with their highlighters and cringe like someone was spray-painting the Washington Monument. (And now I have to sign them… )

8) 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!

Just a shout-out to all the folks who promote writing, of their own time and energy, for indie authors. It’s really heart-warming. Thanks!


I hope you guys will check out the author’s website and bookish links too!

Website: https://sjmorriswrites.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/steven.j.morris.writer/

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08TV879J6/ref=x_gr_mw_bb_sin?ie=UTF8&tag=x_gr_mw_bb_sin-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B08TV879J6&SubscriptionId=1MGPYB6YW3HWK55XCGG2

GoodReadshttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/56811451-the-guardian-of-the-palace?ref=nav_sb_ss_1_23

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Science Fiction

Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series: featuring T.A. Bruno!!

Thank you so much everyone for supporting the Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series!!  In this third installment I am lucky enough to feature DreamWorks artist + Sci-fi author T.A. Bruno!

I read his first novel In the Orbit of Sirens and was impressed by both the scope of the plot and the intricate, detailed world building.  The sequel comes out next month and I can’t wait for that one either.

Alright without further ado, here he is!

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

Thanks for having me! I’m happy to be featured. For those who don’t know me, I grew up in Chicago and moved to LA to work in the film industry. I’ve worked on a lot of fun projects, including some Marvel films. I currently work for DreamWorks Animation as a Layout Artist. My career has been all about telling stories through film, and it gave me the confidence to put a story down on paper. In the Orbit of Sirens was my debut novel, and I have written two sequels during quarantine. It’s been a blast, and it allowed me to meet some great people!  

SequelStandby_Insta

2) I think based on that, you’re going to have to tell us what a layout artist does! It’s super cool that you work for DreamWorks!!

Thanks! I love telling people about my day job. Layout—or Previz as it’s also known—is one of the best-kept secrets in Hollywood if you ask me. We wear many hats. In live-action (So Marvel movies and other big-budget VFX films), we create a computer-animated sequence for the film that will be visual effects heavy. By making these sequences, we get accurate camera data. We can explore the best ways to film the upcoming sequence before the entire production gets to it. It saves production a lot of time to plan ahead like this, and often we have the Director over our shoulder directing us. After we finish our job, production takes our Previz and films it, mimicking the cameras we made and sticking close to the action we planned out with the Director. The actors even get to look at it for reference. For Dreamworks, it’s the same idea, but we do the entire film. We are cinematographers, and our cameras get finalized. The animators use our work as a foundation to build upon and draw out more personality. It’s a super fun job, and not many people know about it. I’m happy I stumbled into it after College.

3) Feeding off of that, does that experience help you envision the scenery and world building for The Song of Kamaria so far? I definitely thought the visual imagery was one of the first book’s strong points

I’m glad you liked the imagery! Yes, by nature, I tried to escort the reader through the world of Kamaria with a cinematic eye. I treated each sentence as a shot and drew out the details as I would in a camera composition. My career has taught me how to express lots of detail without taking up too much time. I do my best to show and not tell. 

4) I was impressed because I had some obscure world building questions about In The Orbit of Sirens, and you were READY with a response! You had said that it was originally in the book but got edited out and I felt like I could see the holes where the information was before – how do you (or the editor) decide what makes the final cut in the book?  How much did the finished product change would you say from the original?

I have all the answers! I had planned to begin In the Orbit of Sirens very differently. Originally, Eliana and John Veston were on the Telemachus at the same time as Denton. I cut it and started it with Eliana on Kamaria with the forward scout team because it was honestly very dull the other way. Lots of explaining how they made it there and what they needed to accomplish. One of my beta readers actually suggested Eliana should just be on Kamaria in the beginning because Kamaria is where the meat of the story takes place. So before the change, I had written out the first scouting mission and how it all worked {{the techie info}}.  There is a whole chapter I wrote about that. It might make it into a prequel novella, but I will revisit that idea after publishing book 3. 

5) How do you feel about brunch? I think I have to start asking authors their favorite brunch item!

Second breakfast?! I’ll admit, mainly thanks to work from home, my eating schedule is all over the place. I don’t formally recognize any meal anymore, haha. But if I had to sit and consider brunch, I’d probably enjoy a sandwich wrap or some sort. Loves my wraps.

{{Here I will tell readers that in the Northeast, brunch is considered a combo of breakfast and lunch, usually with alcohol, or in some cases refers to breakfast for lunch.  Now I know what L.A. does 😂}}

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

I think publishing in 2021 is an interesting field. Initially, I attempted to get traditionally published, but after many rejections, I reevaluated my priorities. What did I want? What did I want my future to look like? And most importantly, how much longer did I want to sit on In the Orbit of Sirens? For the record, the final version of In the Orbit of Sirens is very different from the one I queried. I don’t blame those agents for rejecting me.  When I realized that I enjoy my day job, and that the only story I really wanted to tell was the Song of Kamaria, and that the validation of a committee of publishers didn’t mean anything to me, I realized I’d be better suited to self-publish. I’m very glad I did too! I have total control over the story I’m putting out. I got to pool together all my resources and friendships and pump my entire body and soul into these books. I got to meet so many great people, including you! I also got to bring in my friend Jason Hall to do the illustrations in my book. I always loved his art style!

NellaCadeHeader_Showoff

At the end of the day, I can say The Song of Kamaria is ME. The cover, the illustrations, and the words all spawned from my resources, connections, and skillset. I’m so happy with how it’s being received as well. It just makes me more proud of being self-published and taking the risk of being my own boss.

7) Kamaria runs the entire spectrum of scifi, from interstellar war to space ships, futuristic technology, first contact… which idea came first? Do you remember what idea or theme you built the book around?

I knew I wanted to do something I hadn’t seen before, and most of my decisions sprang from “what haven’t I seen yet?” I wanted to write a story about starting over and making new choices. So a desperate escape to a new planet with limited resources felt like the best way to do that. I wanted to make Kamaria something unique. The native Kamarians are nothing like anything from Earth, so they are not based on Earth life. They are technologically advanced, but in a way that nurtures a peaceful life that utilizes the land around them. I also wanted to explore the parts of human nature that involve lying and truths. Readers might have noticed that you can’t lie to the auk’nai (mainly because it’s said between characters often) but that the Undriel are huge liars. Humans are in the middle, sometimes deceiving each other and sometimes being painfully truthful. I had not seen that before, and I felt it was worth writing about. I know this answer is a little scatterbrained, but I’ll conclude it by saying I had MANY brainstorms about what this trilogy should be before starting. 

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 am loving Vernor Vinge’s A Fire Upon the Deep trilogy (I’ll admit I haven’t finished it yet, but the first two books are some of my favorite Sci-fi). But I always recommend Dan Simmon’s Hyperion Cantos to everyone. Vinge’s series can be a little bit of a slow burn that I specifically loved, but Hyperion is just excellent sci-fi that anyone could love. Favorite literary character Piranesi from the book of the same name. He was just fantastic, and I did the audiobook, voiced by Chiwetel Ejiofor, who made him even more charming. And my weird bookish quirk is often buying multiple versions of the same book. It’s not unusual for me to have an e-book, physical copy, and an audiobook of the same book sometimes. Typically if I do audiobook and enjoy it enough, I will buy a physical copy for my shelf. And if I’m leaving a review on Amazon, I’ll buy an e-book with my author account instead of my personal one so that my review shows up as a “verified purchase.” Plus, it helps support my self-published friends.

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!

Thank you for the interview! I really enjoyed these questions. For those looking to jump into the world of Kamaria, now is a great time! The second book, On the Winds of Quasars, releases September 20th, 2021. Currently, the e-book is available to preorder, but softcovers and hardcovers will also be available on the 20th. I hope you enjoy your time on Kamaria!


Meet the author!

T. A. BRUNO grew up in Chicago and moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the film industry. Since then, he has brought stories to life for over a decade as a previsualization artist. At home, he is a proud father of two boys and a husband to a wonderful wife. IN THE ORBIT OF SIRENS is his debut science fiction novel.

AuthorPhoto2021_LowRez

Links:

Twitter:

https://mobile.twitter.com/TABrunoAuthor

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/tabrunoauthor/

The Song of Kamaria series Amazon page: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09B4YVKGT?binding=kindle_edition&ref=dbs_dp_rwt_sb_tukn

Author website: TABruno.com

In the Orbit of Sirens audiobook link: https://www.audible.com/pd/In-the-Orbit-of-Sirens-Audiobook/B08X5XVW8Q?qid=1614184804&sr=1-1&ref=a_search_c3_lProduct_1_1&pf_rd_p=83218cca-c308-412f-bfcf-90198b687a2f&pf_rd_r=BFGSJEZSWAPDEDGY62HQ

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/20726865.T_A_Bruno

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Fantasy

Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series: with Clemy Warner-Thompson

Welcome to the second installment of the Sunday Brunch Author Interview series! It is a working goal to (maybe find a better title and) bring an Author Interview to you lovely people every Sunday morning!

Today I have author Clemy Walker-Thompson joining all the way from the UK! Without further ado, here she is!

 

Thank you for taking the time to chat! Tell everyone a little about yourself and your writing!

Hi everybody, my name is Clemy. I have been writing since I was thirteen, and I turn thirty at the end of this year. How time has flown! I love anything fantasy, reading books like Hush Hush, Fallen and Eragon. The books I write are also fantasy, with most of them being Young Adult (YA).. Only my newest two are reaching into the New Adult (NA) category. I have two gorgeous cats who are only just two, and I live with my boyfriend in the UK.

 

What was the Indie publishing journey like for you? Do you have any tips for fellow indie authors trying to publish a book?

After my first book was completed and I’d started working on the next two in the series, I went straight to self-publishing. As every author does, I have the dream of one day seeing my book in a well-known book shop, but for my writing journey so far self-publishing has been the right direction for me. I am a little shy and the idea of being in the public eye is very daunting, so I like the freedom and control you have from self-publishing. It can be very hard at times, with all the marketing and promoting you have to do, but it gives you a taste of what being published is like. 

Make sure you have faith in your own work, before you search for readers

 

I found your book on Smashwords but had not heard of that site before, what led you to it? What do you like about it instead of say, Amazon?

I was only fifteen when I first started looking into self-publishing. I didn’t have a job and I needed something that would be free. My brother, who had published his first book at 16 with Amazon had always said after it was made available, that once something was on Amazon it could never be removed, and the idea of that just put me off a little.

Smashwords has served me well, so too has Lulu where my paperbacks are available, but I will be looking into Amazon a little more now that I have polished off some of my earlier books.

 

What’s your relationship like with social media?  Have you found good support in the writing community?

From the start, I have always had a presence on Facebook. My page has 2000+ likers and followers, and at the beginning it gave me a great push. I met some other authors and arranged some book signings all through Facebook, but as I have matured as a writer I feel that Facebook has very little positive engagement now. Recently I moved over to Instagram and the writing community there is amazing.

Instagram definitely has the engagement with readers and other authors that I was missing from Facebook. Sometimes I spend a little too much time on social media, but when you self-publish that is something you have to do a lot of in order to get your books out there. You should take breaks from social media though!

 

There are a literal endless supply of indie writers out there, has it been a challenge to have your work seen?

Definitely. I still struggle to this day. If you don’t have the confidence or the courage to get yourself out there, it can be a very difficult task. I have had some amazing readers, and in turn some fantastic reviews left for my books, but I still feel as if I haven’t pushed my books out into the world enough yet.

I checked last week and I have sold to four continents so far, which is such a proud announcement for to me make, but there are places I still haven’t got to yet!

Four continents is amazing though, congrats on that!

 

YA books are changing now with popular themes, what themes do you like to write about? 

I love encouraging strong relationships between family and friends. There are often sibling characters in most of my books which are always very close. I love writing about redemption and proving oneself. Destiny and fate are also themes I like to work with, but I make my characters always follow their heart, even if that means going against the fate that is planned for them. 

 

You started writing at age ..13? What inspired you then and now?

My brother who is four years older than me, self-published his first book at 16. I’d grown up with 4 brothers, with films and games and many books shared throughout the years, and I just wanted to follow in his footsteps. The funny thing is that I continued on with the writing journey and he didn’t. It was only the one book he self-published in the end, and I am currently working on my 8th

 

Alright let’s end this with the easy rapid fire general bookish questions:  Do you have a favorite book that you always recommend? Favorite character? What genre do you usually read? Do you have any strange and wonderful bookish habits?

I love Roald Dahl: Matilda, The Twits, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

For my favourite character I would choose Saphira out of Eragon. She is the dragon that hatches for him.

Fantasy. Anything and all that is fantasy.

Hmmm, that’s a hard one. I think I’d have to say I always buy a book because of the cover.  Even if the story sounds amazing, if I don’t like the cover I won’t buy it. 

 

Thank you so much again for offering to interview! If there is anything else you want to say about yourself, your novels, your life, or anything at all, please do so here!

I am very proud of where I have reached so far in my writing journey, but there are bigger and brighter points I have yet to get to. I appreciate every one of my readers and the reviews they leave. I wouldn’t still be writing now, if it wasn’t because of you all.


Find Clemy and her books!

On Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/ClemyWarnerThompson

On Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/cwarnerthompson/

On GoodReads:

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5328411.Clemy_Warner_Thompson

To purchase E-Books

https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/CWarnerThompson

To purchase paperbacks:

https://www.lulu.com/en/gb/shop/clemy-warner-thompson

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts

Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series: with Rachel Hobbs!

Hi everyone! Welcome to the inaugural Sunday Brunch Author Interview, I hope this will become a long standing series! Shadow Stained author Rachel Hobbs was nice enough to take the leap with me, so read on!

She talks about her publishing journey, morally gray characters, social media, and more!

1. Thank you for taking the time to chat! Tell everyone a little about yourself and your novel!

My name’s Rachel Hobbs and I’m the author of the dark fantasy novel Shadow-Stained. Love and hate, good and evil, I write about morally grey monsters and opposites that both attract and violently polarize. I’m a dental nurse for a small local practice, and when I’m not working with teeth, I’m summoning demons at my keyboard.

My characters don’t always deserve your affection, but just maybe they’ll steal your heart anyway.

2. What was the Indie publishing journey like for you? Do you have any tips for fellow indie authors trying to publish a book?

I actually queried Shadow-Stained for a good nine months before making the decision to self-publish. I had this dream of seeing my book on the shelves of a physical book store, and having done my research on both avenues of publishing, I knew that you could fall back on self publishing after querying, but not the other way around. I went into the querying trenches with realistic expectations and came out on the other side with the kind of thick skin and determination only one hundred plus agent rejections could get you! When I made the decision to go it alone and publish Shadow-Stained anyway, I was nervous of getting it wrong. In hindsight, self-publishing my debut novel was the best decision I could have made. I was in full control of every aspect of my launch – final content, cover design, marketing – and my books still made it into my local indie book shop. I couldn’t be happier with the way things panned out.

If I had one tip, it would be don’t skimp on the cost of your cover. A good cover will sell your book time and time again, so a good cover designer is an investment that you won’t be sorry you made. There are so many amazing book covers out there already. Why set yourself at a disadvantage from the get go?

3. How do you feel about social media? I am seeing a lot of love towards indie authors these days and it’s amazing

I know some authors tend to find social media a chore. Personally, I’ve been made to feel very welcome on Twitter, especially in the writing community. I’ve made a lot of solid friends on that platform and in some ways, it’s almost like having one big online family! Everyone is so supportive of each other and cheering for your success. In a similar way, social media is a goldmine of undiscovered gems. I’ve found a few of my current favourite reads this way, books by extremely talented indie authors that deserve all the love and attention. I don’t enjoy Facebook, but maintain one anyway. It really is each to their own, when it comes to social media.

4. There is also a lot of “noise” out there and I have seen authors on Twitter lamenting about ratings and having their work seen, has that been a challenge?

Ratings are everything when you’re first starting out. When your name means nothing to anyone, a reader is relying solely on existing reviews, the book blurb, the cover. It can be disheartening to put yourself so wholly out there and get very little back, but writing is marathon, not a sprint. There isn’t really such a thing as an overnight success, because the chances are, that successful person worked really hard in the shadows for a long time before being discovered. All you can do is show up and put the work in. It can be a challenge to get your work in front of the right eyeballs, especially when there are so many amazing books already out there. But it’s important to remember that the other authors are not your competitors, they are your community. And the chances are that by supporting and lifting others, you yourself will eventually be lifted in kind.

    5. One of the main characters in Shadow Stained is a morally gray, “destruction and mayhem vs saving a girl” kind of guy. What do you think makes up a good “Gray” character?

Morally grey characters are so deliciously complex. Thorny and often only looking out for number one, one of the best things about a good ‘grey’ character is that they’re unpredictable. One moment they’re saving your life, the next you’re facing off as enemies. They have the potential to be both the hero and the villain at any given moment, depending on what most suits their needs at any given time. They’re not boxed into any one category, and because of this, you never quite know which way they’re going to turn.

With Drayvex, my morally grey Demon Lord from Shadow-Stained, I know I really pushed the boundaries of grey. He’s about as wicked as a character can be without actually being the villain! But to me, this makes it all the more compelling when he finds himself stumbling towards the hero side of antihero, clueless as to how he even got there, but fully committed for his own personal reasons. I think another thing that can have us so attached to a great morally grey character is their unflinching drive, their tunnel vision commitment to what they consider to be the only rational way forward. We don’t always agree with them, but by damn we want them to win.

    6. In your bio you wrote that narcolepsy and parasomnia inspired some of your writing, are you comfortable elaborating on that?

When I was in my early teens, I had a hard time staying awake. Sometimes it felt like I was dragging a physical weight around with me all day long, and I would fall asleep at inconvenient moments at school. What I didn’t know at the time was that this was a neurological condition called narcolepsy, but it was the parasomnia at night on top of this that really pushed me to the edge. To summarize, we’re talking sleepwalking, hallucinations and periods of paralysis upon waking and falling asleep, so I really had my hands full! As a sort of coping mechanism, and a way to explain what I didn’t understand, I made each of these conditions into a demon that was personally responsible for my suffering. It’s for this reason that demons feature so heavily in Shadow-Stained. Turning to creative therapy, when I eventually started to pour my demons onto the blank page, it sparked a wildfire idea for the darkest little monster story. That creative fire has been burning ever since.

    7. What else inspires your writing?

I’ve always thought of ideas as being like sand. Inspiration can come from anywhere and everywhere; the secret smile of a stranger, a snippet of conversation you overheard on the train, a vivid memory, a really good film. By themselves, they’re just grains of sand. But meld them all together and they become something else entirely. I suppose that’s quite vague, but I know that a lot of my inspiration is subconscious. It’s a really strange feeling when you read back something you’ve wrote, and only after you’ve wrote it and it’s on the page do you start to pinpoint the origins of such an idea. When I’m looking for inspiration, I can turn to a good book, a curated playlist, or even Pinterest.

    8. Alright let’s end this with some easy rapid fire general bookish questions:  Do you have a favorite book that you always recommend? Favorite literary character? What genre do you usually read? Do you have any strange and wonderful bookish habits?

One of my favourite authors is Darren Shan. He has quite the extensive back catalogue at this point,  and I often change my mind on which of his books is my favourite. But Lady of the Shades is a cracker, and I’d recommend it to anyone who likes a dark twisty thriller that will keep you on your toes. If I had to pick a favourite literary character, I’d have to go with August Flynn from V E Schwab’s Monsters of Verity duology. August is effectively the one monster with a conscience in an entire city of savages. His heart and his melancholy, along with this chink of light inside him that makes him want to show up and fight his true nature again and again, is what makes him such an interesting character. I like dark, gritty fantasy, and love to read the kind of things I love to write. Monsters and rogues, enemies to lovers, villains that are the heroes of their own story. I’m sure by now you’re seeing a pattern forming! I don’t really have any strange and wonderful bookish habits that I know of, but maybe it’s time I adopted one. 😉

    9. Thank you so much again for offering to interview! If there is anything else you want to say about yourself, your novels, your life, or anything at all, please do so here!

I get overly attached to book characters. I’ve lost count of how many times over the space of a book or a series that I’ve made a character the latest object of my obsession –ahem, I mean affection– and then had my heart ripped out when there are no more pages left. I love it, I dread it. It’s like losing a friend. And then of course, there’s the void to fill in their absence. But the best characters stay with you, and some even live on in little pieces of my own characters. All in all, the book hangovers are a small price to pay. We really are suckers for punishment!


Meet the author (from Google Books)

​Rachel Hobbs lives in soggy South West Wales, where she hibernates with with her bearded dragon and her husband. By day she is a dental nurse at a small local practice. By night, she writes. ​ Her debut novel SHADOW-STAINED is the first in a dark fantasy series for adults, inspired by her dark and peculiar experiences with narcolepsy and parasomnia. She’s since subjugated her demons, and writes under the tenuous guise that they work for her. ​Fuelled by an unhealthy amount of coffee, she writes about hard-boiled monsters with soft centres and things that go bump in the night

Here are Rachel’s author links and links to view and purchase the book!

Website http://www.authorrachelhobbs.co.uk

Twitter http://www.twitter.com/rhobbsauthor

Instagram http://www.instagram.com/authorrachelhobbs

Amazon Shadow-Stained (Stones of Power Book 1) eBook : Hobbs, Rachel: Amazon.co.uk: Kindle Store

Barnes and Shadow-Stained by Rachel Hobbs, Paperback | Barnes & Noble® (barnesandnoble.com)

Book Depository https://www.bookdepository.com/Shadow-Stained-Rachel-Hobbs/9781527257962

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Fantasy Middle Grade Young Adult

Spotlight & Interview with Crisanta Knight Author Geanna Culbertson!

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

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

Alright I’m done talking, here she is!


Meet the author!

Image: Author Geanna Culbertson

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

Image: the Crisanta Knight book covers

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Instagram/Twitter/Pinterest: @gculbert14

Facebook: @CrisantaKnightSeries

#crisantaknight #crisantaknightseries #geannaculbertson

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Crime Thrillers

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

Alone Under the Lights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Don’t worry,” I croaked.

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

With armed individuals running around?

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

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

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

I prefer writing about crime over being involved with crime.

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

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

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

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Fantasy

An Interview With The Phoenix Grail author Helen Savore!

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


Biography:

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

You can also follow her on Twitter @ImaPaperNinja.

Or http://www.oberonsforgepress.com/


Interview:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Here is the link to purchase the book:

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