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