Author Interview – Maria Johnson

Author of The Boy from the Snow, Maria Johnson, was kind enough to take some time to answer some questions I had for her about her book and writing style!

What caused you to write a historical fiction novel? Particularly one set in Northwest Celtic England? 

My novel ‘The Boy from the Snow’ is really all about my main character Daniel and telling his story, which I’ve had in my head since I was a child. I knew Daniel would’ve lived hundreds of years ago, so that’s what drew me to historical fiction. After that, it was about finding out where he would fit best into history. After looking up a few different historical periods, I decided on Celtic England, specifically 590 AD. In that period of history there are warring kings and rival kingdoms, which is an important aspect of the story.

As for the location, I’m based in the North West and have spent several happy holidays in the Lake District, so I knew it would be a wonderful place to set Daniel’s story and fits well with the plot. Whilst the smaller kingdoms of Klumeck and Gaeson are fictional, the wider kingdom of Rheged, spanning most of what we know now as Cumbria in NW England, really existed.

Do you have a special connection with any of the characters? 

Yes! My connection with Daniel, the main character, began years ago when I was a child. When I was about 7, my brother had Lego. While he was would be building all sorts of things, I used to take the little yellow people and make up stories about them. One of them was a soldier character who used to be a stable boy when he was growing up- that’s when the character of Daniel was born. I also came up with the characters of Princess Evelyn and King Cedric, who feature heavily in the book.

As a female, did you find it more difficult to put yourself in Daniel’s shoes?

Not really, no! Perhaps it’s because I feel like I’ve known Daniel since I was 7, so I didn’t find that aspects of him were particularly difficult to write.

How long did you research and what things did you discover in your research?

The research process took quite a while! It was quite a long time before I started writing, then also I kept dipping back into research as I went along. I absolutely loved researching, as it really helped put colours onto the word I’d been building and imagining. I’ve really loved the idea of having Daniel be a stepping board into a wider world of history. I’ve learned things about the period, especially battles of the time and King Urien, who was the supreme king of Rheged (the bigger Northwest Celtic Kingdom where the book is based) that I never would’ve discovered otherwise.

Princess Evelyn is a strong-willed character. Did you draw inspiration on someone to help build her independent personality?

As far as I’m aware I wasn’t drawing on anyone specific at the time, but thinking about it in recent years I probably subconsciously based Evelyn on the characters of Arwen and Eowyn from ‘The Lord of the Rings’. Both are strong, royal characters who have independent wills.

Another character I definitely know I drew my own inspiration from was the character of Aife, one of Daniel’s oldest friends and one of the foremost warriors in Gaeson’s army. She’s been one of my favourite characters to write and is especially gifted with a bow and arrow, so you wouldn’t want to mess with her! In my head Aife is a mix between the character of Tauriel from the Hobbit films and Katniss from The Hunger Games.

What kind of books do you generally read? Are there any books (or authors) that you feel inspired by when you’re writing?

Writing historical fiction has definitely awakened a passion in me for reading that genre, which I’m thrilled about. I absolutely love the balance between it being our own world that I’m reading about, but so different from the one we know today that it feels like fantasy. I’m currently loving reading Annie Whitehead’s novel ‘To Be a Queen’, telling the story of Aethelflaed, daughter of Alfred the Great. This year I’ve also read the novel ‘Osbert’ by RA Currier, telling the story of a shepherd in Medieval England which was absolutely magnificent.

As I’ve mentioned Lord of the Rings has definitely inspired my writing and remains one of my favourite novels.

What can we look forward to seeing from you in the future?

In September I signed a contract with my publishers, Olympia, to publish ‘The Veiled Wolf’, the sequel to ‘The Boy from the Snow’. Hopefully it will be published maybe in the autumn next year, but there isn’t a confirmed publication date yet.

 The sequel is set a little over a year after the end of my first book. When their plans to retake a kingdom now in the hands of the enemy go awry, Daniel discovers there may be a spy in Gaeson, known only as ‘the Wolf’. The more Daniel attempts to solve the identity of this veiled agent, the more he starts do doubt those closest to him. After the Veiled Wolf threatens to destroy those he loves, however, Daniel must act quickly before all he cares for is lost.

I’m also about 2/3 way through my first draft of a 3rd novel continuing Daniel’s story, set four years after the end of ‘The Veiled Wolf’ so hopefully this too might be published in future years.

Any advice for aspiring writers?

This may sound like a cliché, but don’t give up on your writing. It’s just over two years since I opened up the email from Olympia offering publication and it really has changed my life! I can still remember pressing the submit button on their online form, probably already believing it would already be a no… but it wasn’t. It’s so easy not to have any confidence in your writing or think that publication can never be an option, but there might come a day when you find an acceptance email in your inbox, too. One of the things I’ve learned as a writer is to develop the ‘author’s voice’ which allows a writer to tell their story in a voice that is uniquely yours. So never give up writing, writers- because nobody can tell a story quite the way you can!


2017 Debut Author Bash – Rebecca Ross

35098412When her seventeenth summer solstice arrives, Brienna desires only two things: to master her passion and to be chosen by a patron.

Growing up in the southern Kingdom of Valenia at the renowned Magnalia House should have prepared her for such a life. While some are born with an innate talent for one of the five passions—art, music, dramatics, wit, and knowledge—Brienna struggled to find hers until she belatedly chose to study knowledge. However, despite all her preparations, Brienna’s greatest fear comes true—the solstice does not go according to plan and she is left without a patron.

Months later, her life takes an unexpected turn when a disgraced lord offers her patronage. Suspicious of his intent, and with no other choices, she accepts. But there is much more to his story, and Brienna soon discovers that he has sought her out for his own vengeful gain. For there is a dangerous plot being planned to overthrow the king of Maevana—the archrival kingdom of Valenia—and restore the rightful queen, and her magic, to the northern throne. And others are involved—some closer to Brienna than she realizes.

With war brewing between the two lands, Brienna must choose whose side she will remain loyal to—passion or blood. Because a queen is destined to rise and lead the battle to reclaim the crown. The ultimate decision Brienna must determine is: Who will be that queen?

1. Q: Which passion would you pick and why?

A: I would definitely be a passion of knowledge (although I think dramatics have the most fun!).

2. Q: What gave you inspiration for your world (books, movies, etc.)?

A: Since I’m a very visual person, I glean a lot of inspiration from Pinterest; I have a board for TQR that is full of landscapes and castles and costumes. I think there is something about the Renaissance that really draws me; I love the thought of culture going through a rebirth. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman is one of my favorite books ever, and I loved the world she created in that story. And I’m also a huge fan of the movie Ever After! I think all of these things really built up my own imagination.

3. Q: Which character do you relate to the most?

A: I relate the most to Brienna. I feel like she and I would be pretty good friend in real life 🙂

4. Q: Will we learn more about Brienna’s passion-sisters or Cartier?

A: Yes! You will definitely learn more about Cartier in the second installment. And Brienna’s passion-sisters are some of my favorite characters, so I hope to also do more with them.

5. Q: Do you have any writing habits?

A: I must always have a drink with me when I’m writing. I typically have coffee, water, herbal tea, and kombucha on my desk (sometimes all of those at one time!).

6. Q: What kind of research did you do for The Queen’s Rising?

A: Here are a few things I did research on before I got started writing: clothes, music, castles, food, medieval swordsmanship. I feel like most fantasy is grounded in history, and while I didn’t use all of my research, it definitely provided a good jumping off point for me to get started writing.

7. Q: What kind of books do you read in your freetime?

A: I love to read fantasy in my spare time.

8. Q: Do you have an author you always read/a favourite author?

A: My top two favorite authors are Juliet Marillier and Melina Marchetta. They know how to write characters and create worlds like no one else (and they also have both made me ugly cry in their books).

9. Q: What can we look forward to from you in the future?

A: Definitely more stories! TQR is a trilogy, and I’m actually going through edits for Book 2 right now. Book 2 is a direct sequel (not a companion book).

10. Q: Any advice for aspiring writers?

A: My advice for aspiring writers is to write. And I know that sounds simple, but you really must learn how to dedicate time to getting words on the page. You don’t have to necessarily write every day (although I do feel like it helps turn it into a good habit), but you must hone the discipline to write even when you don’t feel like it. You learn the most about crafting a novel by going through the whole process: the beginning, the middle, the end. And be prepared to rewrite. All good writing is rewriting.

And a Giveaway!!!!!


Author Interview – Lisa Maxwell + Giveaway

Lisa Maxwell, author of the New York Times best selling book THE LAST MAGICIAN, took enough time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions I had about writing and her new book! Plus, there will be a giveaway for a swag pack on this blog AND a giveaway for a signed copy of the book that will be posted on all participating blogs! 

1. What character do you feel a close personal connection to? 
Probably Viola. She has my temper, I think. And I drew a lot on my own upbringing and Italian-American identity to create her.
2. What is your ideal setting for writing? 
On my couch with my laptop and a cup (or 6) of coffee. This book, though, didn’t like that setting. I wrote a lot of it in my bed, in the dark. There was something about being cocooned in the dark that helped me focus.
3. Did your original idea for The Last Magician change by the final draft? 
Oh…yeah. Considering that at first I thought the thief would live in DC and drive motorcycles? It took me a really long time to figure out where Esta’s story was set—and even then, I hadn’t been planning on writing a time travel book. That all came later.
4. What was your inspiration? 
I had a few things. I loved the show Leverage and wanted to write something as fun and smart as that show was—bad guys trying to be the good guys. I also loved Newsies and the whole world of life in the streets…though, THE LAST MAGICIAN has no signing or dancing. Maybe in the sequel? 😉
5. Any plans for the future? 
I’m working on the sequel right now. 
6. Any advice for aspiring writers? 
Read everything. Finish something.
You have to read widely—even things that you don’t think you like or things that are hard, because they all help teach something about how writing, stories, or language works. And if you can finish something, then you always know you’re capable of finishing. That’s an amazing source of confidence in future projects, because you know you’ve done it before.

Author Interview – Tara St. Pierre

Author Tara St. Pierre was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions I had about her experiences in writing and about her book Just a Few Inches, which sounds so interesting. For those of you that don’t know what it’s about, here’s the excerpt from Goodreads;

“All Carrie Roberts wants is to be a little bit smaller.

To fit into the perfect dress for the Valentine’s Day Dance. To look beautiful for her boyfriend, the school’s star basketball player. To keep his jealous ex-girlfriend, a rival cheerleader, away from him. And to be noticed by her classmates.

Exercising and dieting don’t work, but an advertisement for weight loss pills promises a quicker solution to her problem. As time runs out, she takes more than the recommended dose until she’s just a few inches slimmer. Heads turn when she arrives at the dance, and the wonderful night with her boyfriend is beyond what she dreamed it would be.

Days later, Carrie discovers that her body is changing in ways that should be impossible. While her doctor searches for a cure, she desperately turns to her friends and family for support. Everyone is noticing her now whether she likes it or not, and even the media is intrigued by her incredible story. Getting everything she once wanted has created new problems—problems that are growing more terrifying every day.

Because Carrie Roberts is shrinking.”

Super unique, right? You can get Just a Few Inches from Amazon and Barnes and Noble, so go get your copy today! I can’t wait to start reading! But in the meantime, here’s a few teasers!

What was your inspiration for Just a Few Inches?

I was in the checkout line at a supermarket or drugstore, staring at the magazines—many of them targeted at women. One cover offered a diet program to lose inches from your waist and shrink your dress size. The usage of the word shrink in that context intrigued me. There had been other movies or TV shows where people shrunk, but none that I knew of due to a diet. I thought this was an interesting premise for a story.
I chose a high school setting because teens are always trying to fit in, so Carrie’s insecurities would be believable. Also, by having her shrink in height, I hoped readers would be more intrigued because it was something new, and I could make it about body image in general instead of just weight issues.
With Carrie shrinking in height, it allowed me to posit some interesting questions in a unique way. For example, there are claims that the unreal measurements of fashion dolls may be one reason why young girls have body image issues. I don’t know if that’s true, but when Carrie is that size, she’d have a different perspective and I could posit the question. In the end, if readers of my book learn something from it, then I’ve done my job.

Did you have to do any research?

I could probably write a book about all the preparations and research that went into the story! I have a little more than a basic knowledge of biology and chemistry, so that helped in making the explanation Carrie’s doctor gives about why she’s shrinking at least sound believable. I did some research into how diet pills work on a biochemical level. There were actually more scenes between Carrie and her doctor and many more between Carrie’s family and the pharmaceutical company. They didn’t test well with my advanced readers, so they were removed. All for the better because it shrunk the length of the book and kept the focus on Carrie and her friends and family, which all the readers loved.
But most of the preparations for this story came in taking tons of measurements of anything and everything I could find! Such as: the height of the average doorknob, of a high school locker shelf, of high school desks, of a bed, of a smartphone—everything Carrie interacts with in the story was carefully measured to determine when they would transition from inconvenient to use, to difficult to use, and then to impossible to use. The same measurements were made about a variety of clothing: adult to young teen to pre-teen to toddler, infant, and a variety of dolls.
I found typical growth charts for females so I had an idea what the average height for a girl at every age up to 18 years old so I’d have a frame of reference for her height in comparison to other characters, particularly her sisters. Also, since Carrie shrinks proportionally, I learned that she wouldn’t look like a toddler when she was toddler-sized. Teens and toddlers are built very differently, so toddler and infant clothes would be baggy on her even if they were the right length for her. Thus, I had to keep track of how her shrinking progressed (lots of math) to find a time when she could go to the prom in a somewhat nice dress.

Was there anything particularly hard to write?

The chapters are titled after Carrie’s height, and one of them (2’ 4”) was definitely a challenge. It’s a chapter that surprised me as much as my first round of readers. I don’t want to give away too much, but it’s the first time that Carrie finds herself in a dangerous situation because of her size. She had experienced awkward, bizarre, and embarrassing, but nothing like this. Also, it’s an important turning point in the relationship between two characters. All the elements of the chapter needed to work together just right to have the right impact.
Wish I could be less cryptic, but you can find out what happens if you read the story!

What are your ideal writing conditions (in bed, outside, etc)?

I usually write on my laptop at the kitchen table. I try to keep the TV off but play some music, preferably 80s pop. I’d have a few cookies and sip some raspberry iced tea. It would be even more ideal if I could stop letting the internet distract me while I—oh look, a cat video! CLICK. 😉

Is there a character you have a special connection with?

I spent a lot of time inside Carrie’s head since she’s the first-person narrator, and it took a long time to stop thinking in her voice. Also, to get a better feel of what the world looked like to her as she shrank smaller, I would often kneel or even lie down on the floor to learn her perspective of things. That was definitely a unique bonding experience.
But, I also share a connection with Evan. It was great to write someone so sweet and secure in who he was, even if he was shy at times. Also, I could incorporate some of my inner dorkiness into him. There are some scenes where he performs calculations about Carrie’s height or her trajectory in a cheering routine. I had to do the calculations myself in researching and developing the story, so why let them go to waste or keep them behind the scenes? His character gave me the opportunity to insert some of them into the storyline!

Do you have any plans for upcoming books?

What author doesn’t have plans for the next book? My head and laptop are full of incomplete (and sometimes incoherent) plot bunnies.
But I have written what may become the first chapter of a future project. Right now, it’s a scene with two boys eating pizza while one wants to discuss fractions and infinity. The conversation came to me one morning, so rather than lose it, I typed it out. I like the narrator’s voice, and I’ve started sketching out what his lecture is a defense mechanism for. Whether this will develop into a later YA novel, I don’t know. It took a long time for me to complete Inches, so we’ll just have to wait and see!

Any advice for aspiring writers?

If you want to write, it takes practice. You need to write a little bit every day—even if it’s just a journal entry—and you need to read. Know that not everything you write is going to be perfect or sometimes even good, but it’s all useful. Know that not everyone’s going to like everything about your writing and that’s okay. It’s art; it’s subjective. Write the story you’d want to read, and if others want to read it too, that’s a very special gift. If people you don’t know like it, it’s a wonderful and surreal experience, and never take it for granted.


Author Interview – Elise Kova

Author Elise Kova took time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions I had for her!

What was your inspiration for Air Awakens and the series as a whole?
Music is influential in my writing process, it helps me find the right mood and stay “in the zone” when writing. Therefore, it may be little surprise that the entire Air Awakens series was inspired by a single song: Clarity, by ZEDD.

When I first heard Clarity I was just getting back into writing. The song put a scene in my head of a woman at the center of a Windstorm and a man struggling with all his might to get to her. I began asking the questions posed by the song… “Why is their love insanity? Why is it clarity?”

The answers formed the foundation of Aldrik’s and Vhalla’s relationship and Air Awakens was born.

What writers/books influenced you?
I was eleven when the first Harry Potter book came out. So, naturally, that was a huge influence. However, long before that, I loved fantasy. I read books like The Unicorn Chronicles and Dealing with Dragons that had elements of fantasy and magic in them. One book that really sticks out from when I was older is Magic Casement, the first book in the “A Man of his Word” series by Dave Duncan. I loved this book and it still remains one of my favorite fantasies.

Any plans for future books outside of the Air Awakens series?
YES! A resounding, 100% yes! Though, I can’t say much more than that right now. I hope to remain an active author for years to come.

What’s the best part about writing?
It’s hard to pick a “best part” because being an author really is so cool. You get to wake up every day and do something that you not only enjoy but makes you happy. But, I think the best part really is interacting with and hearing from readers. Knowing people are enjoying my work, hearing their theories… that engagement makes it all worth it.

Any advice for aspiring writers?
Write, write, and keep writing. The best, and only way to get better is by writing. You will write stories that you’re embarrassed to look at later, but you will be better because you wrote them. Be open to critique and craft your stories with your whole heart.


Author Interview – Rachel E. Carter

Author Rachel E. Carter of The Black Mage series was very kind to take the time to answer some questions I had for her!

What is it like having your books published?

Unreal. I’ve had these books as daydreams dancing around my head since middle school so every time I hear from a reader who loves them my seventh grade self does a little dance. I never imagined anyone would actually read my books. It’s the most nerve-wracking thing out there, to put your ideas in front of the world, but it’s also the most rewarding.

What was your inspiration for The Black Mage series?

So many things. In books I was always deeply inspired by female fighters (a la Tamora Pierce) in the medieval-fantasy world, so I knew I always wanted to write in that realm… except I wanted the fighting to be about mages. And I wanted to write in sarcastic first-person (a la my hero at the time, Meg Cabot). I liked the idea of magic school (because of Harry Potter?) and moody sorcerers (because I was always writing fanfic of Julian from LJ Smith’s The Forbidden Game as a sorcerer). Ultimately, I was listening to a certain song which shall not be named (for fear of spoilers) in seventh grade and I saw one of the big scenes for the final book in my series. It was an epic duel, so to speak, and the two mages I saw clearly shared a history that made it more difficult to fight. I started to think how did they get there? What circumstances put those two in this situation? Why is it so hard for them? >> I realized that I needed to know more, and work my way forward to that pivotal moment. I always knew where my characters would end up, but I needed to know how. I needed to understand why this moment was the moment I saw them. I needed to know who these two were… and so I started at the beginning. I started at the day they met.

Do you have a specific place where you like to write?

Anywhere that works. Sometimes it’s Starbucks (free internet and a place to plug in my laptop with endless caffeine!) but mostly it’s home. I wrote the first three books in The Black Mage on my couch or in bed, but I just bought a desktop and redecorated an extra room to make it my official “writing room” so I’m hoping I’ll be more productive in there now.

Did you always know you wanted to write?

Yea, but I could never finish any of my books (always stopped about halfway through) so I thought it was just a dream. I figured I’d have story ideas forever but no actual stories to show for it.

What roadblocks did you face?

Not being able to finish a book that was cleared up when I quit my full-time job to work part-time and write the other half. Nothing like the pressure of no money to get my act together.
Writer’s block every day. I’ve learned that cutting scenes is okay, and I will get past the block better if I plot chapters out individually.
Money. I gave up a car and a well-paying job to start. Now I’m writing full-time starting this March (2016). Money is always an issue when you are a writer, it’s unstable. But I’ve learned my happiness is more important than having stability or pricey things. You truly cannot put a price on self-fulfillment, and when I share my books with the world there is no better feeling.

Are you facing some of the same roadblocks now?

Constantly. I just deal with them one day at a time and am open to change.

Do you have any plans or ideas for upcoming books outside of The Black Mage?

Millions -here is my current WIP (works in planning) list: http://rachelecarter.com/future-books/ I have millions more but I can only write one book at a time.

Any advice for aspiring writers?

Every person starts out different -not everyone can afford to write full-time from the beginning. But if you really want to write, make time for it. Most people have to give up something to write (free time, more $, etc) but if you are serious, you will find a way. There’s always a way. It’s a hard road in the beginning but I promise you, you won’t regret it.