An Interview with Author Shannon Schuren

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Huge thanks to Shannon Schuren for putting together this post for us today! Her novel, The Virtue of Sin (June 25th, 2019), is a fascinating story about two teenagers who have spent their entire lives in a cult and how they deal with their newfound clarity about their situation as they are thrown into adulthood in the community. It is a novel that portrays the importance of not always taking what people in power say at face value, fighting for equality, and learning to accept others—and oneself—for who they are. 
I read The Virtue of Sin a few months ago and it is one of my favorite books of 2019! Shannon has graciously agreed to join me for a Q&A about the novel and her career as a writer. Please make sure to check Shannon out on her websiteTwitter, and Goodreads. If you are interested in reading my full, spoiler-free review of The Virtue of Sin, you can find it here!

What inspired you to write The Virtue of Sin?

I’ve always been fascinated by cults and fringe groups, by this idea that someone might give up their freedom and autonomy in their search for meaning and belonging. But the initial spark for this story, specifically, came from a visit to Koreshan State Park in Estero, FL, which was the site of a ‘utopian community’ back in the late 1800’s. So, basically a cult. It was so interesting to wander around their old buildings and read about their belief system. It didn’t seem wise or safe to try and infiltrate a cult for research purposes, so this was the next best thing. I recommend a visit if you’re ever in the area!

You portrayed the psychological aspects of the cult mindset incredibly well and your characters were very realistic and well-crafted. How did you approach the task of creating their personalities and bringing them to life within the setting and narrative?

Thank you! Honestly, this was mostly trial and error. The very first version of the story began with a four-person narrative, but I realized very quickly that wasn’t going to work. For one thing, Aaron knows things about New Jerusalem that I didn’t necessarily want the reading learning right out of the gate. After I pared the POV down to just Miriam and Caleb, it took some work to develop their distinct voices and personalities. They both have very different experiences in the novel, much of that based on gender and their roles within the community. As for the secondary characters, a lot of their personalities developed organically as I was drafting. Especially in early drafts, I like to put different characters together and write random scenes to see what they say and how they interact.

What did you find to be the most challenging part of the writing process?

The ending! I rewrote it so many times, I’ve lost count. Without giving away any spoilers, I had a really difficult time figuring out whether or not Miriam and Caleb’s paths were going to meet up or diverge. And I really had to push myself to find the right ending for both of them—one that felt realistic, yet earned. Hopefully, I managed it. 

How does it feel to know your book is published and out in the world for people to read, and what has been your favorite part of the experience so far?

It is definitely a surreal experience to know that it’s out in the world! I am so grateful for everyone who has picked it up, and everyone who has reached out to tell me about it. I absolutely love hearing from readers. That is my favorite part, by far.

What books and/or authors have inspired you the most?

This is a tough question, because I have been touched by so many books and inspired by so many authors. I really love stories about strong, fierce young women who aren’t afraid to stand up for themselves and others. Or maybe they are afraid, but they do it anyway. Some of my favorites include “The Female of the Species” by Mindy McGinnis, “Speak” by Laurie Halse Anderson, “Sadie” by Courtney Summers, and “Blood Water Paint” by Joy McCullough.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

  1. Read—anything and everything. Genres you love and genres outside your comfort zone. For fun and for research and with avid curiosity.
  2. Write the book you want to read.
  3. Don’t give up. I was very close to throwing in the towel on THE VIRTUE OF SIN. I cringe whenever I think about how close I came. You’re going to hear a lot of ‘no’s’ but it only takes one yes, and it could be on that next manuscript you write, or the next query you send out. So keep going!

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Book Info:

thevirtueofsinThe Virtue of Sin by Shannon Schuren

Date Published: June 25th, 2019

Publisher: Philomel Books

Pages: 432 pages

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

A compelling novel about speaking out, standing up, and breaking free perfect for fans of The Handmaid’s Tale and Tara Westover’s Educated.

Miriam lives in New Jerusalem, a haven in the desert far away from the sins and depravity of the outside world. Within the gates of New Jerusalem, and under the eye of its founder and leader, Daniel, Miriam knows she is safe. Cared for. Even if she’s forced, as a girl, to quiet her tongue when she has thoughts she wants to share, Miriam knows that New Jerusalem is a far better life than any alternative. So when God calls for a Matrimony, she’s thrilled; she knows that Caleb, the boy she loves, will choose her to be his wife and they can finally start their life together. 

But when the ceremony goes wrong and Miriam winds up with someone else, she can no longer keep quiet. For the first time, Miriam begins to question not only the rules that Daniel has set in place, but also what it is she believes in, and where she truly belongs.

Alongside unexpected allies, Miriam fights to learn–and challenge–the truth behind the only way of life she’s ever known, even if it means straying from the path of Righteousness.

A compelling debut novel about speaking out, standing up, and breaking free.

Author Bio:

5190994Shannon Schuren (shannon.schuren.org) works as a children’s librarian at a public library and writes from a cozy she-shed in her backyard. Her short stories have appeared in various journals such as Toasted Cheese Literary JournalBig Pulp, and Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. Shannon lives in Sheboygan Falls, WI, with her husband and three children. Follow her on Twitter @shannonschuren.

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Guest Post: Author J.L. Mbewe

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Today’s post is a guest post written by the very lovely and talented author, J.L. Mbewe. J.L. is the writer of The Hidden Dagger trilogy, an exciting fantasy series set in a beautifully crafted and rich world. I am incredibly honored to have this chance to feature her on my blog and to work with her to promote her wonderful books! Please make sure to check out J.L. on her social medias which are listed down below. You can also find all the information about and links to the novels in this trilogy there as well. You can check out my spoiler-free review of the full trilogy here!

Thank you so much for having me!

Where to start, eh? I’ve been writing since I was eight years old. From little children’s stories to poetry to journaling. Writing has always been a way of processing things and expressing myself. I even attempted a few novels when I was a teenager, although, those will never see the light of day. I burnt them. Long story. But it wasn’t until 2003 that I decided to seriously sit down and write a novel. The Sorceress’s Curse. Printed out, the first draft could fit in a plastic folder with brads, which eventually grew into The Hidden Dagger Trilogy. Sixteen years later!

I had no clue what I was doing. Once I had finished that first draft, I started looking for the next step. I read magazines, books, and blogs on improving my writing and how to get published. I was told newbies should not begin with epic fantasy and a large host of characters. Oops. Too late! I broke every rule in the industry or what the experts would suggest. I learned a lot of stuff the hard way. It was like chasing unicorns. Actually, it still feels that way. Ha!

While I was rewriting and learning the ropes with my first book, I discovered National Novel Writing Month. *Cue angelic voices* Each year when NaNoWriMo rolled around, I would take a break and write something new. I’d figure out the basic plot aspects, the main characters, and sketch a map of the world ahead of time, and then I’d dive in. I was always a big proponent of write fast and fix it later. It helped get the basic idea of the story down for me, which led to several novels in various stages and drafts. But now I’m not so sure. My latest project has me world-building and outlining a whole lot more than my previous novels. Of course, this latest series is a different beast than The Hidden Dagger Trilogy and all my other unfinished novels. It’s a murder mystery fantasy, but we’ll see. I’m sure the fate of their world will hang in the balance eventually.

And that brings us up to current day, 2019. I’m not sure where I will go from here and I suspect that my writing process will continue to evolve and that no two book journeys are alike. My plan is to continue writing, learning, growing, and not just in writing, but in my other creative endeavors. I love creating, but I also want to encourage others. Writing can be such a lonely journey. The directions are muddled, the map is sketchy, and one’s journey is never quite the same as another. I have learned so much, yet I have so much more to learn. I hope to one day be able to help other writers through their own journey.

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Author Bio:

JL MbeweWriting as J. L. Mbewe, Jennette is an author, artist, mother, wife, but not always in that order. Born and raised in Minnesota, she now braves the heat of Texas, but pines for the Northern Lights and the lakes of home every autumn. She loves trying to capture the abstract and make it concrete. She is currently living her second childhood with her wonderful husband and two precious children who don’t seem to mind her eclectic collections of rocks, shells, and swords, among other things. Here, between reality and dreams, you will find her busily creating worlds inhabited by all sorts of fantasy creatures and characters, all questing about and discovering true love amid lots of peril.

Her debut novel, Secrets Kept, was nominated for the 2014 Clive Staples Award. Her second novel, Darkened Hope was a semi-finalist for the 2017 Alliance Award.

Website  Facebook  Instagram  Twitter  Goodreads — Pinterest

Book Details:

secretskeptSecrets Kept by J.L. Mbewe

Series: Hidden Dagger #1

Date Published: May 14th, 2015

Publisher: BrokenSeed Books

Pages: 400 pages

Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Synopsis: With a curse, she will build an army. With the dagger, she will undo the last sacrifice. But first the sorceress must find the secret keeper. 

Torn from her homeland and thrust into a betrothal against her wishes, Ayianna learns her family has a deadly secret that now has her on the run. She joins forces with Kael, an embittered half-elf, and Saeed, an elderly High Guardian, to seek answers to her father’s death, the destruction of Dagmar, and the plains people’s bizarre behavior.

Ayianna discovers there is more at stake here than just her mother’s disappearance and her familial duty to her betrothed. The sorceress has cursed the plains people, and it is a race against time to release them before the sorceress resurrects an ancient evil.

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darkenedhopeDarkened Hope by J.L. Mbewe

Series: Hidden Dagger #2

Date Published: May 7th, 2016

Publisher: BrokenSeed Books

Pages: 392 pages

Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Synopsis: The Secret Keeper is on the run, but does she know the secret she keeps? 

Ayianna is a cursed half-elf betrothed to Desmond, but her heart belongs Kael. After discovering the cure for the Sorceress’s curse, she and her companions embark on a dangerous quest to retrieve the ingredients.

When dragons descend upon their party, Ayianna realizes the Sorceress is searching not just for the corrupted dagger, but a human sacrifice that will open a portal to the underworld. Battling deadly creatures and natural disasters, Ayianna is forced to confront her insecurities and conflicted heart. She must decide whether to be true to her family or true to herself.

As the nations rally for war, betrayal threatens to destroy them all, and it’s a race against time to return before the curse destroys the plains people.

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curseboundCurse Bound by J.L. Mbewe

Series: Hidden Dagger #3

Date Published: June 27th, 2019

Publisher: BrokenSeed Books

Pages: 326 pages

Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Synopsis: Kael’s worse fears have come true. Betrayal has shaken the Guardian Circle, the High Guardian is dead, and Ayianna and Prince Vian are in the hands of the Sorceress, but he and his companions must finish their quest, before they can attempt a rescue mission. Unfortunately, Desmond’s parting gift left them stranded on the western cliffs of Nälu.

Jathil, once heir to the throne of Arashel, believes her father will aid them, but first she must face the crimes of her past. When she does, she could never believe the outcome, nor the rippling effect it would have on the nations. Meanwhile the Alliance braces for war, but division threatens to undermine their efforts. When Nerissa returns from Ganya with the dragon regiment, she discovers a bigger problem. The curse bound are waking up.

As the quest nears completion, Kael is forced to choose between his heart and duty, and neither choice bodes well with him. Either way, he will face the Sorceress and her armies sooner or later. The battle for Nälu has begun and there can be only one victor. 

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An Interview with Author Amy Rose Capetta

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Huge thanks to Amy Rose Capetta for putting together this fantastic post for us today! Her forthcoming novel, The Brilliant Death (October 30th, 2018), is a captivating and unique fantasy story filled with magic, the love and loyalty of family, a beautiful and irresistible queer romance, and a powerful reminder of the importance of being true to ourselves no matter what. In anticipation of its release, Amy has graciously agreed to join me for a Q&A about the novel and her career as a writer. Please make sure to check Amy out on her website, Twitter, and Goodreads!

Click here to check out my full review of The Brilliant Death!

Echo After Echo | Entangled | Unmade | The Brilliant DeathOnce & Future | The Lost Coast

How did you get into writing, and when did you decide to pursue it as a career?

WritingWriting-768x768I don’t remember a time before I was reading voraciously, and for me reading flowed naturally into writing. I was always story-obsessed. When I was eight years old, I went to writing camp (which, when I say out loud, people confuse with “riding camp”—but I’m not much a horseperson and I have the stories to prove it.) At writing camp, I wrote stories about opera singing yaks and sentient grocery stores. My best friend there wrote exclusively about magical pandas. I think everyone at the time thought it was a cute kid hobby, but she and I both grew up to be authors.

I decided to pursue writing as a career towards the end of college, but it took a while to figure out exactly what kind of stories to focus on. When I found YA genre fiction, I felt like I’d found my home. And when I started writing queer main characters, the stories started pouring out of me at a startling rate. Learning writing craft was important but putting my true heart in my stories was the missing piece.

What do you find to be the most challenging part of the writing process?

Feelings! I always have to go back and layer them in as I draft, because I’m usually discovering and working through my own feelings as I go. For The Brilliant Death, I had to get even more in touch with feelings about power and family and fate and gender and carving a new way forward in a patriarchal world.

I know some writers whose emotional truth pours out of them in torrents. I’m awed by those folks. I have to enter the world first, and find the cast of characters, and work my way in.

But now that I’ve written several books, it’s getting easier to cut straight to that honest place.

What inspired you to write The Brilliant Death?

Since I was young, I’ve wanted to write about my family’s history and stories of the small town they came from in Italy. Those tales always felt magical and epic in scale, so it wasn’t hard to take it a step further and add strega magic and some mafia scheming.

The other truth is that I wanted to write a story that gets underneath the idea of a “girl disguised as a boy.” I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with “pants” roles. Viola in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night is the original Italian femme in slacks, and I both loved her and always felt so frustrated by the need to bring these stories back to an ending where girls are girls and boys are boys and there has to be one of each in love with each other for a happy ending. I wanted a character who goes a lot farther in terms of exploring the wide world of gender and sexuality and coming to a new understanding. It always felt like a missed opportunity to me!

When writing The Brilliant Death, who was your favorite character to create and why?

I hope anyone who reads the book will be able to see the joy that went into writing Cielo. I can’t exactly claim to have created the character—Cielo is very much inspired by my own real-life love interest (and sometimes co-author!) Cori McCarthy. There are differences of course! Cielo’s enchanted book was born when I read the Italian folktale “The Canary Prince.” And there’s a touch of an homage to Howl in Howl’s Moving Castle in Cielo as well…

What books and/or authors have inspired you the most?

onceandfutureI am endlessly inspired by the work of writers in YA fantasy, who are pushing at the boundaries of all of our maps.

Leigh Bardugo, Melina Marchetta, and Kristin Cashore are pillars of my collection. Libba Bray is like no other. Kiersten White and Heidi Heilig are writers I turn to for inventive stories with historical roots. In contemporary worlds, Daniel José Older’s Shadowshaper series is radically good and Zoraida Córdova’s brujas are my favorite witchy girls. Nova Ren Suma and Melissa Albert take fantasy to deliciously dark places. Nnedi Okorafor writes across all age groups, and everything she does is glorious. Malinda Lo is the first queen of YA queer girl genre fiction. Sarah McCarry has written mythical punk tales in the most beautiful prose. Alex London’s new (gay!) falconry epic, Black Wings Beating, is beyond exciting to me.

I have five queer YA fantasy novels coming out, starting with The Brilliant Death, and it wouldn’t be possible without the authors who paved that route.

I’m also a lifelong fan of Italo Calvino, whose Italian Folktales collection gave me solid ground for the magic in this series. When I was reading through hundreds of pages of old stories, I saw a thread that ties them all together: transformation. (Which is about the queerest theme out there, and one of my favorites. Maybe it’s why I was drawn to stories of magic all along.) Transformation is what breaks us out of a single, set way of seeing things and paints the world in every shade of possibility.

And I’m inspired the most, every day, by Cori McCarthy. I was a fan of their writing before we even spoke to each other. We talk craft constantly and chase stories together—but our love is my favorite story.

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Author Bio:

Amy Rose Capetta c. Cori McCarthyAmy Rose Capetta [she/her] is an author of YA fantasy, sci-fi, and mystery. Her first novel, Entangled, was a BEA Buzz Book. Her latest, Echo After Echo, is a queer love story wrapped in a murder mystery and set on Broadway. It received two starred reviews and is a Junior Library Guild selection. Upcoming: The Brilliant Death (Viking 2018), The Lost Coast (Candlewick 2019), Once & Future (co-written with Cori McCarthy, from Little, Brown’s Jimmy Imprint in 2019). She holds a BA in Theater Arts from the University of California at Santa Cruz and an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from VCFA. Amy Rose is the co-founder of the Rainbow Writers Workshop, the first-ever LGBTQIAP workshop for YA and middle grade. She lives in Vermont with her partner and their young son.

Check Out The Book:

thebrilliantdeathThe Brilliant Death by Amy Rose Capetta

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: For Teodora DiSangro, a mafia don’s daughter, family is fate.

All her life, Teodora has hidden the fact that she secretly turns her family’s enemies into music boxes, mirrors, and other decorative objects. After all, everyone in Vinalia knows that stregas—wielders of magic—are figures out of fairytales. Nobody believes they’re real.

Then the Capo, the land’s new ruler, sends poisoned letters to the heads of the Five Families that have long controlled Vinalia. Four lie dead and Teo’s beloved father is gravely ill. To save him, Teo must travel to the capital as a DiSangro son—not merely disguised as a boy, but transformed into one.

Enter Cielo, a strega who can switch back and forth between male and female as effortlessly as turning a page in a book. Teo and Cielo journey together to the capital, and Teo struggles to master her powers and to keep her growing feelings for Cielo locked in her heart. As she falls in love with witty, irascible Cielo, Teo realizes how much of life she’s missed by hiding her true nature. But she can’t forget her mission, and the closer they get to the palace, the more sinister secrets they uncover about what’s really going on in their beloved country—and the more determined Teo becomes to save her family at any cost.

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Kate Marshall’s Top 5 Must-Haves in an Author Survival Kit

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Huge thanks to Kate Marshall for putting together this fantastic post for us today! Her forthcoming novel, I Am Still Alive, is a captivating survival thriller that comes out on July 24th. In anticipation of its release, Kate is here to share the top five must-haves in an author survival kit! Please make sure to check Kate out on her website, Twitter, and Goodreads! I will be posting a full review of I Am Still Alive very soon!

Top 5 Must-Haves in an Author Survival Kit

You might think that an author, set adrift in the wilderness, has the same survival needs as any other person. You would be wrong. Authors are peculiar creatures, and need specialized gear even for short excursions into the wild. Before handing your author a compass and dropping them in the deep woods, make sure you’ve packed their bag with these essentials.

Sunscreen & Sunglasses

Authors become less tolerant of sunlight the closer they come to deadlines. The mid-draft author may, in fact, become confused when exposed to bright light, and attempt to find the keyboard shortcut to dim the sky. Liberal application of sunscreen will allow the off-roading author to slowly acclimate to the presence of the daystar without suffering sunburn.

Notebook & Pens

Ask any park ranger, and they will have a harrowing tale to share of encountering a lost writer in the woods, searching beneath bushes for an outlet to charge their dying laptop, having failed to secure shelter, water, or food in favor of this fruitless quest. To prevent such tragedy, replace the laptop with high-quality, water-resistant notebooks and pens.

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Books

It may seem as if books are an impractical choice for wilderness survival—unless you’re talking about survival guides. But while manuals on plant identification, hunting, and other survival skills are useful, for the author it is particularly important to pack some of their favorite reads. This is because a bored author is a dangerous author. The key to survival is caution. The bored author gets “creative.” You don’t want to discover that instead of gathering firewood, your author has turned the kindling into a stick-person society complete with lushly detailed culture, rituals, and myth. Keep your author entertained, and you’ll keep your author alive.

Caffeine

Many a hiker has come across a listless author on the trail. Most wilderness first aid courses now teach how to nurse the author back into consciousness through the gradual introduction of coffee or other caffeinated substances, first by waving the thermos under their nose, and then allowing small sips. But the best treatment is prevention, which you can accomplish by supplying your author with a ready source of caffeine. Coffee may be impractical; “the coffee gap,” the well-known phenomenon in which mistakes are made in the acquisition of coffee due to not having had your coffee yet, is exacerbated in a wilderness situation. We suggest chocolate-covered espresso beans as an easy substitute.

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Simulated Companion Object

While authors are often solitary animals, they frequently require moral support, brainstorming, and appreciation for their wit. To prevent a repeat of the “stick-person culture” scenario, consider identifying an object (any object will do, really) as their “companion.” Draw a face or heart on the object if your author seems reluctant to bond. Encourage your author to “just bounce some ideas off of it” to get things rolling. You will know you have succeeded when your author creates social media accounts for the companion object. You have gone too far if the author begins laughing at the companion object’s jokes.

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As you can see, there are special responsibilities in outfitting an author for a wilderness excursion. Nonetheless, I highly encourage exposing your author to a variety of such experiences, as (if they survive) the benefit they provide to the author’s descriptive abilities will prove rewarding to author and readers alike. 

Author Bio

KateMarshallPhotoKate Alice Marshall started writing before she could hold a pen properly, and never stopped. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with a chaotic menagerie of pets and family members, and ventures out in the summer to kayak and camp along the Puget Sound. Visit her online at katemarshallbooks.com and follow her on Twitter @kmarshallarts.

Check Out The Book:

iamstillaliveI Am Still Alive by Kate Alice Marshall

Synopsis: After
Jess is alone. Her cabin has burned to the ground. She knows if she doesn’t act fast, the cold will kill her before she has time to worry about food. But she is still alive—for now.

Before
Jess hadn’t seen her survivalist, off-the-grid dad in over a decade. But after a car crash killed her mother and left her injured, she was forced to move to his cabin in the remote Canadian wilderness. Just as Jess was beginning to get to know him, a secret from his past paid them a visit, leaving her father dead and Jess stranded.

After
With only her father’s dog for company, Jess must forage and hunt for food, build shelter, and keep herself warm. Some days it feels like the wild is out to destroy her, but she’s stronger than she ever imagined.

Jess will survive. She has to. She knows who killed her father… and she wants revenge.

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An Interview with Author Candace Robinson

Today’s post is an interview with the lovely and talented author, Candace Robinson. Two of her novels, Quinsey Wolfe’s Glass Vault and The Bride of Glass, have recently been picked up by a publishing house and are set to release this year. I am incredibly honored to have had not only the chance to get to know her, but also to read and review her work, and help her to promote her amazing stories as well! Please make sure to check out Candace on her website, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Quinsey Wolfe’s Glass Vault | The Bride of Glass | Hearts Are Like Balloons
Clouded by Envy | Bacon Pie

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Tell us a bit about yourself!

This one is always such a toughie! I pretty much read and write during the day, mostly YA stuff. I love old horror movies, those are the best kind! I’m also a huge fan of the eighties and nineties!

How did you get into writing, and when did you decide to pursue it as a career?

I started staying at home because I get really bad migraines, hemiplegic sometimes. When my daughter started school and my dad passed away, I decided to finally start writing. I would put it off because I always found myself busy with something else and said I would do it another time. When my dad passed, I knew I needed to do it now because you never know what’s going to happen.

What is your writing process usually like?

So I don’t outline. I’ll tell you that right now lol. I have a general idea of my story, write down some scenes, and get cracking. Even if I were to outline, the story usually changes for me as I get to know my characters and their journey. Plus, I develop writer’s block if I try to do a complete outline!

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Where do you usually go to write, and is there anything in particular you do to get yourself in the right mindset?

I have a small office connected to my bedroom. It has to be pretty quiet in order for me to get the job done. I can’t go to coffee shops or the park or anywhere because I need the silence!

What do you find to be the most challenging part of the writing process?

Getting the first draft done. When I do something I want it done then and there. That’s the problem with draft number one, because there is no finishing it in one day. It takes time and patience, so I give myself a pat on the back each day and tell myself I can do it!

How do you typically approach the task of creating the personalities of your characters and bringing them to life within a setting and narrative?

So the character aspect is always the easiest for me because almost everything I write is character driven. I try to give my characters particular qualities and run with it, hoping it works!

While reading Quinsey Wolfe’s Glass Vault, I was struck by how inventive and unique every aspect of each of the worlds within the Vault felt. How did you come up with the ideas for the exhibits and the stories within them?

To list a few: Sleepy Hollow, I’ve always been a fan of the Headless Horseman character. Jack the Ripper because I really did do a research paper on his whole story back in high school. Three Billy Goat’s Gruff is my favorite nursery rhyme. Snow White because that story has always been awesome.

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On the topic of the Vault, which exhibit and story was your favorite to create?

Snow White, only because that is a pretty important chapter for the MC, Perrie. But I also really like the Sleepy Hollow one!

How does it feel to know your stories are published and out in the world for people to read, and what has been your favorite part of the experience so far?

It’s actually more scary to me, but that’s the closest to being inside my head that people are going to get. And my head may not always be the nicest part to be in, but I try to make it entertaining.

What books and/or authors have inspired you the most?

I wish I could say Shakespeare or someone classic. But I actually mainly read newer YA. I love Sarah J. Maas, Tahereh Mafi, and A.G. Howard.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Writing is the easy part, everything after that is hard. But you have to stay with it, no matter how many rejections or rewrites you have to do. Also, not everyone is going to love your book. There will be hate and love, but always remember there’s a reason you wrote your story. Stick with your guns and cherish what you write and always believe in it.

Thank you so much for talking with us, Candace! If you guys would like to check out my review for the original version of Quinsey Wolfe’s Glass Vault, click the teacup below! I will also have reviews of the re-released versions of both novels in the series, as well as Hearts Are Like Balloons, very soon. And for all of you out there who haven’t yet, please do yourselves a favor and check out her novels! 😀

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Guest Post: Author Sarah Jean Horwitz

Today’s post is a guest post about the process of character creation, written by the very lovely and talented author, Sarah Jean Horwitz. Sarah writes the Carmer and Grit series, which rocketed up my all-time favorites list early last year. I am incredibly honored to have this chance to feature her on my blog and to work with her to promote her wonderful books! Please make sure to check out Sarah on her websiteTwitter, Instagram, and Goodreads. The Carmer and Grit series consists of The Wingsnatchers and The Crooked Castle.

How to Grow a Boy

14612081The Crooked Castle, my second book in the Carmer and Grit series, begins with something very large crashing into Carmer’s roof.

Well, not something, exactly – someone. 

When seventeen year-old balloonist Bell Daisimer loses control of his balloon and literally crashes into the lives of Carmer and Grit, he starts a chain of events that leads them to a magical flying circus, a brand new mystery, and a whole lot of scary faeries. An aspiring pilot always game for an adventure, Bell helps Carmer and Grit navigate the aeronautical community they suddenly find themselves immersed in. The story couldn’t exist without him.

But Bell Daisimer was not always a balloonist.

In fact, the Bell Daisimer that exists on the pages of The Crooked Castle is nothing like the character I originally imagined – and that’s what so great about him, and about writing stories in general. Back in the early days of brainstorming for the book, Bell was one of the first characters I knew I wanted to add.

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The first book’s villain ran a number of enterprises, including a scientific school for boys. With the villain’s defeat came the unraveling of many of his businesses. Bell had little connection to said villain, but he was a scholarship student at that school. Bell lost his scholarship in the fallout, and at the start of the second book, he was determined to find out the real reason behind his benefactor’s meteoric rise and fall.

Bell was supposed to spend the book as the thorn in Carmer’s side, always sticking his nose where it didn’t belong, eagerly searching for evidence of faerie magic. Much of the book’s plot at that time revolved around telephone and radio technology, so Bell was named after – you guessed it – Alexander Graham Bell.

If you’ve read The Crooked Castle – or even taken a casual glance at the jacket! – you’ll know that there’s nary a mention of telephones, radios, or dissolved educational institutions. But Bell Daisimer somehow managed to make it through every iteration of the story, evolving and changing until he became the character on the page today.

thewingsnatchersThis character evolution was a new experience for me. Most of the characters in The Wingsnatchers simply popped into my head, fully formed and ready to be written. Carmer, Grit, the Amazifier, Kitty, Gideon Sharpe, Madame Euphemia – even minor characters like Echolaken and Ravene – they all simply appeared in my mind’s eye, walking and talking almost exactly as they do in the finished draft. I was extremely lucky to have such a great cast of characters pop out of nowhere, ready and waiting to be written about.

While writing The Crooked Castle, however, fewer characters appeared to me as fully formed. Many, like Bell, started out as mere seedlings of ideas. Perhaps I knew one or two of their distinguishing features, or how I wanted them to function in the story. I definitely had to work for them, teasing out their voices through lots of brainstorming, reading aloud, and revisions. 

Sometimes, stories and characters come easily, like a garden that flowers all at once, filled with vivid and healthy and complementary plants. Maybe they need a bit of rearranging or a bit more sun here and there, but otherwise, they’re complete. Other times, you’ve got to stare at your plot of dirt for a bit, plant a few seeds, and coax them into something beautiful yourself. You’ve got to go in pruning and weeding and watering and getting your hands dirty. Both processes have their pleasures – and at the end, you’ve still got a garden. The trick in storytelling, of course, is to make the finished story smooth enough that no one can tell how you grew it!

I hope you and your readers enjoy meeting Bell and the new cast of The Crooked Castle. Though this book was a challenge for me, I do hope to write more Carmer and Grit stories in the future. I can’t wait to see how my garden will grow with each one.

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The Crooked Castle will be out on April 10th! And of course, make sure to check out The Wingsnatchers as well!
My review of The Crooked Castle will be up in a few days, and if you would like to read my review of The Wingsnatchers, click the teacup below!

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An Interview with Author Sarah Glenn Marsh

Today’s post is an interview with the extremely lovely and talented author, Sarah Glenn Marsh. I am incredibly honored and excited to have had this chance to talk with her and get to know her, as well as to work with her to promote her wonderful books! Please make sure to check out Sarah on her website, Twitter, and Goodreads

Reign of the Fallen | Fear the Drowning Deep | Selfie Sebastian | A Campfire Tail 

Tell us a bit about yourself!

Hey! I’m Sarah: currently blond (but sometimes pink-haired!) lover of animals; mother to four rescued greyhounds, three birds, and tons of fish; eater of sweets; always anxious; sometimes funny; someone who loves writing books for kids and teens.

How did you get into writing, and when did you decide to pursue it as a career?

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I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember (we’re talking little stories when I was five years old about why my parents should get me a dog…!), and I’ve always been a voracious reader. I started loving trips to the library in preschool!

I didn’t take my writing seriously until I was out of college, however; it was actually my husband who pushed me to follow my writing dream and supported me every step of the way, however he could, because he believes in my talent (even when I don’t)—I hope everyone who’s seeking a partner in life finds one who supports their dreams like that! 

What is your writing process usually like?

Quiet, full of looking up dog memes, and consuming copious amounts of kit kat bars 😉

In all seriousness, I’m one of those people who edits as I draft, so what I usually do is spend the day getting down a bunch of new words, the evening going over them to edit, and then the next morning before writing any more, I’ll read over what I edited the previous day to refresh my memory!

Where do you usually go to write, and is there anything in particular you do to get yourself in the right mindset?

I like to write in my dining room, because it’s quiet, sunny, and there’s a big table in there! Plus, whenever I get stuck on a scene, I can stare at my awesome fish tank on the opposite wall 😉

As for getting in the writing mindset, what helps me most is routine. I write in the same spot every day, during the same general hours, and so when I go sit down in the dining room, my brain switches into ‘work mode’ with little effort!

Sometimes, to set the mood for a certain scene, I’ll also listen to music first 🙂

What do you find to be the most challenging part of the writing process?

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Credit: Penguin Teen

The most challenging part of the process for me has changed over time. It used to be revisions that I found daunting, though after plenty of experience, I now love them.

Now that I have a publisher and write under contract, I usually have to think up a synopsis for a story ahead of drafting. And since the most magical part of creating a new book used to be discovering things about the world and characters as I wrote, I’d say that currently, the toughest part of the process for me is plotting in advance. However, I figured out a way to help myself plan ahead while working on the sequel to Reign—the index card method.

I write out every scene I can think of on individual index cards—and not just scenes, but character building moments, pivotal moments in relationships, and so on—and then lay out all the index cards and try to put them into the order in which I think they belong. This allows me to see what’s missing from certain sections of the plot (ie: if I have three action scenes in a row, I’m clearly in need of a quiet, character-building moment in there somewhere), where I need to tie certain plot threads together better, and so on. Sometimes, my husband will take a peek and help me rearrange them. Having another pair of eyes is helpful even at that early stage!

Your characters are incredibly well-crafted, realistic, and easy to connect with. How do you typically approach the task of creating their personalities and bringing them to life within a setting and narrative?

My biggest tip for characters is to give each one a fully realized character arc (yes, even for the most minor of characters named in the book!) before starting to write the story. I found this really helped me make everyone in Reign distinct and more real. Before writing the book, I also spent time giving each character detailed backstory- even stuff that didn’t make it into the story in the end!

While reading Reign of the Fallen, I was really struck by how refreshing and unique every aspect of the story felt. How did you come up with the world, the magic system, and the overall role that necromancy played in Karthia? 

 

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Credit: @BeautifullyBookishBethany

Thank you! When I began world building for this story, I knew I needed a unique take on death and necromancers, since they’re a part of so many fantasy novels and I didn’t want mine to feel cliché! To do this, I went back to one of the earliest stories of necromancy– the Greek myth of Orpheus, a man who attempts to rescue his wife from the underworld and is told by Hades that he can take her back to the living world as long as he doesn’t look at her until they’re both out of his realm. Spoiler alert: he takes a peek and loses her forever. Drawing from that mythology, as well as researching rituals surrounding death from around the world, helped me to start building the culture in Reign of the Fallen, where the Dead must wear shrouds in the living world or else become monsters; where change of even the smallest sort is outlawed because the Dead fear it; where entering the spirit world demands a painful sacrifice of any living person who dares to go there. The spirit world in the book, known as the Deadlands, was also inspired by the Greek underworld! I took some of the themes from that world and put my own spin on it by having my Deadlands be a landscape that’s ever-shifting, ever-changing, unlike the spirits themselves. It seemed fitting, somehow. Same with my spirit world being full of flowers and beauty, things that grow the way the spirits long to still.

 

Since we are on the topic, Reign of the Fallen is such an emotionally intense story, and it’s clear that you put your heart and soul into every word. In what ways did that emotional intensity affect you while working on it?

Writing from Odessa’s POV, being so close to her thoughts throughout the tragedies that befall her during the novel was definitely a challenge at times! But the emotional intensity was actually…freeing, and healing, in a way. My grandmother was really sick while I was writing this book, and I was frustrated at some of my circumstances—getting to channel that negative energy into something positive through writing this story helped me tremendously. 

How does it feel to know your stories are published and out in the world for people to read, and what has been your favorite part of the experience so far?

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I won’t lie; it’s a little nerve-wracking knowing your work is out there to be judged, loved, hated, discussed, etc.! But the coolness factor completely outweighs that. It’s a joy to be able to share stories with the world. I feel very fortunate.

My favorite part of the experience is when people contact me and say that after reading Reign, they were inspired to work on their own book. Knowing I’ve inspired someone else to make their own art is the best feeling! I also love hearing from readers who identify with one or more of my characters, because they are such a part of me.

What books and/or authors have inspired you the most?

Patricia McKillip is probably my biggest influence. Her writing is the strongest and most beautiful I’ve ever read, and I wish I had a style as elegant and mysterious as hers. If you’re not familiar with her work, here are some titles I love: Ombria in Shadow, Winter Rose, and The Forgotten Beasts of Eld.

I also have to give a shout-out here to the most recent book I read and loved to pieces: MAMMOTH by Jill Baguchinsky. It comes out this November (2018) from Turner Publishing, and just…do yourselves a favor, friends, and read this book!

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Here’s my best advice for aspiring authors, broken into three parts:

  • Get others to critique your work, but more importantly, offer to critique for others! Critique as much and often as you can. There’s nothing like finding the strengths and weaknesses in a variety of different authors’ work to teach you about how to edit your own stories.
  • Read voraciously in the genre/category in which you want to publish. When you’re doing that, and you have a strong response to something- love it, or not so much- try to identify what it is you’re enjoying, or what’s not working for you about the story you’re reading. You’ll pick up things you might like to try in your own writing this way (for instance, maybe you’ll be inspired to try a new POV!), and will also identify things you may want to avoid (the things that don’t work for you as a reader).
  • Seek community. In the online writing community, I’ve found like-minded people, learned more than I ever would have imagined possible, and made life-changing connections with wonderful authors and bloggers who I’m so happy to call friends. You have everything to gain by interacting with other book lovers online!

Thank you so much, Sarah! If you guys would like to check out my review of Reign of the Fallen, click the teacup below! And for all of you out there who haven’t yet, in the words of Sarah…do yourselves a favor and read Reign of the Fallen! 😀

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