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Author Interviews & Guest Posts

Interview with Shadow Stained Author Rachel Hobbs!

Hi everyone! In an effort to bring more interviews and author content to OneReadingNurse, I put out an open call a few weeks ago! As a result I can now bring you this awesome interview with Shadow Stained author Rachel Hobbs, where she talks about her publishing journey, morally gray characters, social media, and more!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    7. What else inspires your writing?

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

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

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

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

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


Meet the author (from Google Books)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Fantasy Middle Grade Young Adult

Spotlight & Interview with Crisanta Knight Author Geanna Culbertson!

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

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

Alright I’m done talking, here she is!


Meet the author!

Image: Author Geanna Culbertson

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

Image: the Crisanta Knight book covers

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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