Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Fantasy Horror Paranormal

Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series: Featuring Beronika Keres!

Thank you for joining us on the Sunday Brunch Series this week!

Episode 18 features fantasy and horror author Beronika Keres! We originally ‘met’ when her debut novel Cracked Coffins was considered too thematically intense for a book tour! Luckily I was able to have a read anyway because dark vampire thrillers are everything and it was definitely a thriller!

The second novel Binding Blood released on December 7th. There are purchase links below if anyone has not checked these books out yet!

That said – I am glad that we finally got to chat about challenging content, favorite vampires, obviously brunch, and more!

Here it is!


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

🎤Hello! I’m Beronika, and I’ve been writing stories since I was old enough to read and write. So far, I’ve published Cracked Coffins and Binding Blood, the first two books in The Cracked Coffins Series. I have a bunch of stories in various stages of production and am so antsy to get them out.

When I’m not writing, I’m usually studying for university, consuming copious amounts of caffeine, and listening to my favorite gothic rock or punk songs on repeat.

🥞Could you tell everyone a bit about your publishing journey?

🎤My publishing journey has been long, so it’s a dream that I was able to release my first book in 2020. I think I was eight or nine when I first tried to get something published. I wrote a little story, found a major publishing house’s address on the copyright page of some book, and sent it in. It came back with a return to sender stamp—of course—but I didn’t let that deter me. I tried many times to write a full book and did so successfully at twelve. I had some success with short stories over the years, but I was really focused on being a published novelist. This was way back when many viewed indie publishing in a negative light, so I was convinced traditional publishing was the only way. Yet when that view shifted, and I realized the control indie publishing would grant me, I pursued that instead. Two books in and I’m happy with that decision.

🥞Congratulations on the second novel! What do you think was the biggest point of growth for you as an author between the two books?

🎤Thank you! My biggest point of growth is probably my writing. I worked with an awesome editor for Cracked Coffins who taught me so much!

🥞Seeing as we just got through the holiday season, what would Marianna’s favorite holiday be? What about Denendrius?

🎤Holidays would be a sore spot for Marianna, given her situation, but she’d yearn to experience a normal Christmas the most. I can see Denendrius periodically liking Valentine’s Day under certain conditions. He also would have celebrated Saturnalia when he was a human during his time, so I imagine he would shift to celebrating a non-religious version of Christmas, providing he has a reason (like Marianna) to care about celebrating.

🥞Cracked Coffins is a perfectly dark story so far! Did you start off knowing that it was going to be a dark fantasy? Did it get less or more dark as you started writing?

🎤I actually first wrote Cracked Coffins as a young teen during the last vampire craze. Denendrius as a character existed before I completely knew the plot for the novels, so I knew any story including him would be grim. The first apartment scene and the following forest scene were the first parts written and were based off dreams, and I’ve been told the latter is one of the darker scenes in the book. Some parts of the series are darker than other parts, though there are lighter areas. Yet overall, the dark themes are fairly consistent.

🥞I love that vampires are making a comeback! Do you have any favorite fictional vampires or vampire related literature?  

🎤I love that they’re making a comeback too! Yes, of course! I love Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice. I just absolutely adore Lestat, Louis, and Claudia for so many different reasons. I also really liked Companions of the Night by Vivian Vande Velde. I think about that book from time to time, though the ending was bittersweet to me. 

🥞How do you feel about brunch? Any favorite brunch foods?

🎤I love brunch even though I don’t eat it very often. Bacon, waffles, and cinnamon rolls are my favorite!

🥞Marianna went through the ringer in Cracked Coffins, (drugs, death, domestic abuse, etc), is it emotionally difficult or otherwise challenging to put your characters through hell?

🎤It can be hard sometimes. Some themes and topics in Cracked Coffins are personal to me, so it can be interesting to wade through those feelings again to write. I always feel equipped to handle the topics, at least. Doing research can be difficult as well, especially stumbling upon real-life stories of people’s personal experiences (whether it be from those suffering from addiction or recovering, abuse survivors, or from those who were in the foster care system), or articles about abusive victims who weren’t able to escape.

But I also find it therapeutic to visit these sorts of situations with a fictionalized and supernatural approach. Including vampirism in a kidnapping/domestic violence story adds a whole new dynamic to explore. I thought the mortal/immortal power imbalance was a good way to portray some of the helplessness and hopelessness that can be felt in that sort of entrapment. Of course, adding violent creatures makes everything darker, but the supernatural also creates different avenues for hope that don’t exist in the real world.

🥞After two books, what’s the most valuable thing you have learned going forward into the next?

🎤How to adapt, be flexible, and try new techniques! Indie publishing makes this easy, which is why I love it so much.

🥞Here is the quick round of rapid-fire bookish questions! Do you have a favorite literary character of all time? Favorite book that your always recommend? Favorite author?

🎤It’s so hard to pick a favorite author since there’s so many that I love. John Saul, R.L. Stine, Stephen King, and Scott Westerfeld, to name a few.

One of my favorite literary characters is Janie Johnson from The Face on the Milk Carton (one of my favorite books since childhood) by Caroline B. Cooney. I always recommend that book and the subsequent ones.

A couple more of my favorite books that I’m always quick to recommend are Lighthouse Nights by Jake Vander Ark and Room by Emma Donoghue!

🥞Thank you so much for taking the time to interview! If there’s anything else you’d like to add, say, or feature, add it here!

🎤Thank you! It’s been a pleasure. I’m currently hard at work on the third book in the series and can’t wait to share more information about it!


Meet the author – from  https://www.beronikakeres.com/

Beronika Keres is a fantasy, thriller, and horror writer. After deciding in the second grade that she was destined to be an author, she has spent her life honing her craft and pursuing her dream. Fueled by coffee, she can often be found chasing plot bunnies and writing books.

When she isn’t writing, she can be found spending time with her family and enjoying the forests, mountains, and lakes of where she resides in British Columbia, Canada.

Cracked Coffins is her debut novel


Social Media and Book Links!

https://www.beronikakeres.com/

https://www.instagram.com/beronikakeres/

https://books2read.com/CrackedCoffins

https://books2read.com/Binding-Blood-2

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Fantasy

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

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

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

Forging- book tour

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

🖤Are you a fan of brunch? Any favorites?

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

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

🎤Fave author: Kristin Britain

Recommended Book: True Knight by Susan Dexter

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

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

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

🖤


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

https://linktr.ee/ByBirthright

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Fantasy Romance Young Adult

Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series: Featuring Mary Beesley

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

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

Meet the author:

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

from marybeesley.com

Find Mary and her books online!

https://linktr.ee/MaryBeesley

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Contemporary Paranormal Romance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meet the author!

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

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

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Fantasy Horror

Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series: Featuring Nicolas Samuel Lietzau

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

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

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

Enough from me – here he is!


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

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

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


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

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

WEBSITE: WWW.NICOLASLIETZAU.COM

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

https://mobile.twitter.com/Niseamtao

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

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Fantasy Horror

Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series: Featuring Lee Conley!

Welcome back to GrimDarkTober month on the Sunday Brunch Series! Episode 10 this week features fantasy/horror/Grimdark author Lee Conley!

I was originally introduced to Lee through Storytellers On Tour, and was psyched when he offered because he is a perfect fit for GrimDarkTober!

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!

Redemption_Reveal_dark

Enough from me, here she is!


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

Hi everyone, I’m T.R. Slauf!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3) How do you feel about brunch?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9. Have you ever been trolled as an author?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Fantasy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3) What’s your favorite brunch food??

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7. Do you have a favorite fantasy map??

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Screenshot_20210926-150634

Here is the synopsis via Amazon:

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

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

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


Book & Author Links!

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

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

Author Website: mjackson.co.uk

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

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

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Fantasy Young Adult

Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series: Featuring Edith Pawlicki!

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

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

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


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

Thank you for hosting; I love brunch! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

{{I love those tunnels!}}

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

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

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

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

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

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


Find Edith online at:

https://edithpawlicki.com/about.html

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