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
Fantasy

The Echoed Realm (Blog Tour)!! By A.J. Vrana

Tour Banner with host names!

Thank you so much to Storytellers on Tour and A.J. Vrana for having me on the tour for The Echoed Realm!   I really enjoyed the first book in the duology (my review for The Hollow Gods is up on the blog too) and A.J. did a phenomenal job bringing this series to conclusion! Just in time for fall reading comes this darkly atmospheric, spooky, haunted and hallowed book where we get the real history of the wolf under the willow tree.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Echoed Realm
  • Series: The Chaos Cycle Duology #2
  • Author: A.J. Vrana
  • Publisher & Release: Parliament House Press, 08/10/21
  • Length: 444 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 Yes for fans of book one, folklore, and unapologetic dark fantasy!

Here is the bookblurb:

Miya’s world ended in Black Hollow.

It’s been three years since the Dreamwalker upended her life and left her with a heavy burden. A fledgling to the ethereal realm, Miya stumbles into the nightmares of those haunted by spectres. Little does she know, one of them is coming for her, clutching a dark secret abreast.

Kai has found a new purpose with his companion, but the price is his freedom. Bound and beholden to Miya, he struggles to adjust to his new role as her vanguard.

Meanwhile, Mason discovers he may be a pawn trapped in a web of schemes. Was his time in Black Hollow an accident, or was it only the beginning of some greater machination?

As Black Hollow’s bloody stain spreads beyond its wooded borders, Miya fights to evade a past she barely understands. The Dreamwalker’s legacy is a vise grip, and it isn’t letting go. Primordial horrors draw near, fables come alive, and long-buried histories rise from the grave, ready to hunt.

Sharpen your claws and bloody your teeth. There’s fear to be sown.

Sharpen your claws and bloody your teeth. There’s fear to be sown

Three years after the events of The Hollow Gods, we see Miya and Kai settled into their new “normal”.  If you can call traversing the dreamscape after demons normal.  Kai has become tethered to the dreamwalker and he really isn’t a fan of this new bond.  There is old evil on the loose and the only way to free themselves and the town of Orme’s Rest is to confront age old trauma and make the choice to move forward.

I think that while reading The Hollow Gods, I missed the kernel of the story.  There was a certain level of ambiguity in the folklore that didn’t make 100% sense at the time, but reading book two answers all the big questions.  I think Vrana did this on purpose, gave us enough to appreciate the legends, and then told us the backstory and revealed the true meaning of The Chaos Cycle at the conclusion.

The folklore aka legend aka bedtime story is amazing.  We learn the origin of the black wolf, the creator, and the dreamwalker, and it’s as dark and bloody and violent as I could have possibly wanted and expected. 

My only question was – Where did Ama fit into it all? Where did she come into the legend? We even got Gavran’s back story so not including Ama felt like a big omission.

One of my favorite themes was how Miya and Kai both had to realize and appreciate their own worth in order to beat their literal and figurative demons.  Yes they were tethered together but individually they are both worth their weight in existence. 

I also looooved the theme that love is a choice, not a need or a calling or a hex or an ages old tether. 

Tie those themes into an utterly dark and atmospheric read that never once loses it’s character, and I think A.J. Vrana wrote the ultimately perfect fall read.

The dreamscape and the roots, trees, swamp, were practically their own characters in this book. I love when the setting and atmosphere are so alive. Fear is practically a living character as well,

The one thing I want to add is that if you tend to avoid horror novels because they are too scary – this really does not fit into that realm for me. It’s definitely a dark fantasy but I don’t want anyone to see “horror” and run! I absolutely recommend these as a quintessential fall spooky season read though!


Like the artwork that you see? Enter the giveaway by clicking here to win your choice of a poster!


Meet the Author!  You can click the tour link below to find all of her social media links!

A. J. Vrana is a Serbian-Canadian academic and writer from Toronto, Canada. She lives with her two rescue cats, Moonstone and Peanut Butter, who nest in her window-side bookshelf and cast judgmental stares at nearby pigeons. Her doctoral research examines the supernatural in modern Japanese and former-Yugoslavian literature and its relationship to violence. When not toiling away at caffeine-fueled, scholarly pursuits, she enjoys jewelry-making, cupcakes, and concocting dark tales to unleash upon the world.

 Please do check out the rest of the tour schedule for more info and to see what the others have to say about The Echoed Realm! 

Book Tour: The Echoed Realm by A. J. Vrana

Lastly here are some preorder links and goodreads!