Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Fantasy Horror

Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series: Featuring Lee Conley!

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

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

Enough from me, here he is!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

  

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Malazan, or Dark tower are my favourite series.

Conan is my favourite character.

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

 

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

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

Author pic 1

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

Website

www.leeconleyauthor.com

Social media links

Facebook: www.facebook.com/LeeConleyAuthor/

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

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

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

 

Mailing list

Sign up to Lee’s mailing list!

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

Universal Order links:

getbook.at/ARitualofBone

getbook.at/ARitualofFlesh


Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Fantasy Horror

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

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

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

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Enough from me, here she is!


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

Hi everyone, I’m T.R. Slauf!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3) How do you feel about brunch?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9. Have you ever been trolled as an author?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Fantasy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3) What’s your favorite brunch food??

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7. Do you have a favorite fantasy map??

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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Here is the synopsis via Amazon:

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

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

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


Book & Author Links!

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

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

Author Website: mjackson.co.uk

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

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

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Fantasy Young Adult

Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series: Featuring Edith Pawlicki!

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

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

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


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

Thank you for hosting; I love brunch! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

{{I love those tunnels!}}

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

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

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

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

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

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


Find Edith online at:

https://edithpawlicki.com/about.html

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