Interview with C. Vonzale Lewis

C. Vonzale Lewis is the author of the newly released Lineage published through Parliament House Press.She takes us on a magical journey in the first book of The Blood and Sacrifice Chronicles.

Synopsis: Smart-mouthed Nicole Fontane has a way of getting herself into trouble. She’s been fired from every job she’s had but still refuses to work in her father’s apothecary shop because of his practice of Earth Magick. On Tulare Island where Nicole grew up, Magick has always been a way of life—one she’s determined to avoid at all costs. 

With less than two hundred dollars in the bank and rent due, Nicole is forced to take a job at Tribec Insurance as a last resort. Little does she realize, the moment she sets foot inside the building, she becomes a pawn. A sinister force has set its sights on her and will stop at nothing to use her in a sadistic game. 

Tribec’s proprietors, the Stewart family, are curiously preoccupied with the Naqada, the mysterious pre-dynastic Egyptian society. Nicole finds it creepy, but on the bright side, the job reconnects her with her estranged friend, Marta. Yet the eerie atmosphere, disappearing Magick wards, and the smell of blood inside Tribec bring Nicole to a startling conclusion—the Stewarts are practicing Blood Magick, the deadliest of the Five Principles. By the time Nicole uncovers the truth, Marta and her four children have gone missing, and all signs implicate the Stewarts and an archaic blood ritual to an Old One, a Naqada god imprisoned on Tulare Island. 

Battling the evil of Blood Magick will demand Nicole to confront a hidden past and unlock the Magick buried within. But can she set aside her deep-rooted fears to work with a team of vigilante Mages? Or will the clock run out on Marta and her children—and on Nicole?

What inspired you to write Lineage? What is special about it?

I use to work in a call center. I don’t recommend this job for ANYONE! Once in a blue moon, the major players would come to our center for a center wide meeting. I use to wonder what they did all day. Like what exactly was their job. So in answer to that question, I wrote my first book based on a woman getting a job in a call center and learning her employers were sacrificing people. Morbid, I know. But I did warn you NOT to work in a call center.

If I had to give a reason for it being special, it’d be my determination to finish it. But if I dug deeper, it would be me channeling some of the things that affected me in my own life in the past and finding a unique way to fix them. We do put a little bit of ourselves in our characters and in this case, some of the trauma my main character experienced is similar to what I experienced. And since this book is a series, I get to go on her journey of healing with her.

I love that! What character in your books are you most like? Unlike?

I believe I’m a mixture of both Nicole Fontane from Lineage and Raine Feather from Foretoken. With Nicole, her sarcasm and inquisitiveness and with Raine, her sense of feeling at peace when she’s alone.

I know I’m nothing like my character Rachel, from Lineage. Although, sometimes I wish I was. LOL! She is pretty brash!

How long have you been writing? Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?

When my mother bought me a typewriter when I was eight. I think I was amazed at how I could put words on paper. And, of course, I loved reading stories and having stories read to me. All those wonderful adventures in one book! I thought, I can do that!

As far as how long of been seriously writing. I would say since then. Either in my head, or scribbling something on paper. But in a coherent form, since high school. I never did get to finish that story, but maybe one day I will.

Who, or what inspired you to be a writer?

Honestly, just the love of storytelling. And if I dig deep, I’d say I got it from my father. He had the gift of storytelling. And I’d like to think I inherited it from him.

What book has had the most impact on you? Why?

In relationship to story, I’d say Lightening by Dean Koontz. That was the first book I read that had a romantic element in it and after that, I searched for more books like that.

Tell us about your writing process. What is the journey from draft to published piece?

Oh, I see we moved on to the challenge round! Well, my ideas come from some interesting places. A turn of phrase can spark and entire plot or character. An image can do the same. I usually jot these gems down in my notebook I carry and if inspiration continues to niggle at me, I sit down and start writing.

Now as for process, I really don’t have one. I just sit down and start typing. I don’t hate outlining, but I find I get to anxious and want to just get going with the story. I will, however, keep a notebook by my side to jot down bullet point ideas that will shape future scenes. And once I run out of steam, I get up and do other things. But during the course of reading, watching T.V, or cleaning, I get inspiration and return to my writing. This happens ALL DAY LONG!

Well, we kind of know the answer to this one, but I’ll ask it anyway. Do you plot out the entire story, or have the characters drive it?

The characters definitely drive the story. I like to create them first, get to know them in great detail, then I throw the plot at them and since I know them so well, I know how they would respond. I have, on occasion, been surprised by their reaction to a certain event.

I‘m sure it’s funny for readers to hear that an author is surprised by their characters. Where do you write?

I mostly sit at my desk in the office. But every once in a while I need a change of scenery so I move to the downstairs kitchen table or sit on my bed and type away.

Do you have a writing goal you want to achieve? What does success look like for you?

I want to continue writing until I can’t anymore. It’s as simple as that. I love creating so I don’t see myself ever stopping. I do want to publish an entire bookcase of books. Now that is what success looks like to me! I have so many books that just seeing my collection of works intermingling with the others would bring so much joy! Financially, I don’t have a set goal. Starving artist is a real thing. But if I can make enough to be comfortable, that would be awesome. And, of course, seeing my characters on the big screen would be…WOW!

I never thought about having an entire bookshelf. Now, that would be impressive. What helps you when it comes to writing?

I like to have music playing softly in the background or have the TV on low. I don’t necessarily create playlists for my books, but I have played a single song on repeat to help create the right mood for a scene.

What are you working on now?

Right now, I’m working on two books. Zealot, the second book in the Blood and Sacrifice Chronicles and Foretoken, A Raine Feather novel. I’ve been going back to Foretoken for a few years now and have most of the scenes written and quite a few different beginnings for the story. I could never quite finish the last few chapters of that story, but now, I’m ready to get it done.

How often do you write? Do you have another job besides being a writer?

I honestly wish I could say every day, but sadly, that’s not the case. But I do write when the mood strikes. Let me correct that. I don’t sit down every day and write, however, I’m always writing in my head. LOL!  And I’m also an Acquisitions editor for Filles Vertes Publishing.

What is the best piece of writing advice that someone has given you?

As for writing advice, On Writing by Stephen King. When I first starting writing, I hadn’t been exposed to the “writing rules” that seem to float around in the writing community. And after I did read a few of them, I became discouraged. So much, don’t write this, don’t do this, don’t begin here, and so on. But he put it the best way possible. JUST WRITE.

That book also inspired me not to give up because even King received rejections. Do you have a favorite review of your book? Can you share here why you liked it?

As of right now, I’ve received five reviews for Lineage and I love every single one of them. What I love the most is that the reader was able to truly grasp Nicole, my main character, and connect with her.

What else do you like to do besides writing?

Reading, of course, I can spend all day reading a book. And when I’m not reading or spending time with my husband, I like binge watching British detective stories. LOL!

Where can fans connect with you?

Website: cvonzalelewis.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/CVonzalelewis

Twitter: @cvonzalelewis

Instagram: www.instagram.com/carlavlewis

Bio:

My name is Carla Vonzale Lewis and I like my martini’s shaken…never stirred.

I was born in Georgia but please don’t mistake me for a Georgia peach. I’m more like a prickly pear. Speaking of being born, someone asked me recently if I remember my birth. And I have to say, yes, I do remember that handsy doctor pulling me out into the cold. Right Bastard!!!

Despite being born in the South, I grew up in the North. California to be exact. Every once in a great while we get to experience all four seasons. But mostly, it’s just heat. You should see our electric bill in the summer! I like the beaches, but not the sand. I enjoy being outside, but the sun gets on my nerves. Does it really need to send its death ray to a single spot on my skin! (I told you I was a prickly pear) And don’t get me started on the traffic.

The first part of my life, I worked in customer service. This line of work led to the discovery of my favorite drink, or, rather, several favorite drinks. I could list the many concoction but that would go on forever!

Needless to say, it wasn’t an easy job. But I did enjoy talking with people. And when it came time to develop my characters, I drew on those experiences.

I have a degree in Fashion Design. Don’t ask. The only thing I gained from those wasted two years of my life, is being introduced to the love of my life, Bobby. He is truly my rock.

So…why do I write?

Well my first book, LINEAGE, answered the question, “What does the big boss actually do all day?” I might have gone a little dark with my answer, but it was fun answering the question. But mainly, I love writing because it gives me power to create. And it also gives me the power to fix this broken world.

Truthfully, I’ve always loved the written word and the way a good book could take you to another place and time. Instead of hanging out in the lunchroom, I would go to the library and create stories or bury my head in a really good book.

I started writing my first novel in 2014 and 30 days later I had a collection of scenes that needed some serious revision. And that was where the fun came in. Over the course of several years my novel went through final draft after final draft until I finally came to…you guessed it, the final draft.

When I’m not writing, I enjoy reading, binge watching shows on Netflix, and trying to convince my husband that getting a dog is a wonderful idea.

And one day, I will discover how many licks it actually takes to get to the center of a tootsie pop.

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Interview with Taylor Simonds

Taylor Simonds has just released her new book, Collateral Damage, and it is already a best seller. Fans of superheroes will love this unique take on the classic stories and my interview with Taylor definitely shows her fun personality. The book is published through Parliament House Press.

Synopsis:

Power. Courage. Invincibility. The marks of a true hero.

Meg Sawyer has none of these things.

Meg has never stopped a moving bus with her bare hands, been bitten by a radioactive insect, or done anything moderately resembling saving the world. She doesn’t have to. She’s a background citizen, a nobody, one of the swarms of faceless civilians of Lunar City–where genetically enhanced superhumans straight out of the comics have thwarted evil for years.

For as long as the Supers have existed, Meg has had one goal: to not become a casualty in their near-daily battles for justice. And for the last seventeen years, she’s managed to do just that. Sure, her minimum-wage job at the local coffee shop isn’t great, she can’t even leave her apartment without loading herself up with protective gear, and her car was just hijacked to throw at a supervillain (again), but she’s not dead yet.

But when Meg accidentally finds one of the city’s perfect, invincible protectors murdered under extremely suspicious circumstances, her whole “innocent bystander” strategy falls apart. After being coerced by his determined girlfriend into a mission to help prevent the deaths of the remaining Supers, Meg finds herself forced into the foreground of a story she never wanted to be part of-one that challenges everything she thought she knew about both her city and herself.

What inspired you to write Collateral Damage? What is special about it?

My recent debut COLLATERAL DAMAGE is about the aggravated, cynical background extras who have to deal with the chaos brought about by superheroes, and was unapologetically inspired by a showing of Man of Steel I saw when I was seventeen, in which Superman and Zod destroy an entire damn city while fighting each other. I couldn’t concentrate on the movie at all—all I could think about was “oh my god, so many people are dead. Oh my god, they’re breaking everything. How much property damage just happened? Then I was like, “Someone should write this book. I’ll write this book.” It took six years, but we got there.

That’s so funny. Sometimes it’s interesting to look at something from someone else’s point of view. Which character in your books are you most like? Unlike?

It’s not out yet because I’m still dragging myself through this draft, but I feel like there’s a lot of me in Aren, one of my protagonists from my space fantasy! He uses humor and optimism to deflect from his inner fears and desperation for approval, and that’s something I really relate to. I feel like a lot of people will think I’m like Meg from Collateral Damage, because it’s a first-person narrative, so her written voice is inevitably so, so close to my written internet persona, but we actually don’t have much in common. She’s rather pessimistic and guarded, which is to be expected when you spend your whole life waiting to get crushed under a falling building, and it takes a lot for her to open up or make a friend. Aren is part of a crew of very skilled, pretty badass mercenaries, and he knows he doesn’t belong with them but really, really wants to. He cares so much about what other people think of him, and tries to make up for his perceived incompetence by working really earnestly and helping wherever he can, and so do I.

How long have you been writing? Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?

Okay, I know everyone always says “I’ve been writing my whole life and I always knew I wanted to be a writer” and I wish I could say that applied to me, too, but I actually wanted to be a performer for a while. I was really involved in theater in high school and got a job as an Equity singer at Disney World pretty much out of the gate when I graduated. My Big Dream was to work on the Disney Cruise. I wrote in a way where I didn’t realize I was writing; when I was in high school I’d take whatever bland assignment I had and come at it from a weird angle—like when I was in dance classes we’d have to write a weekly article about news in the performing arts community, and I’d always turn in these very quippy, dry, sarcastic observations that I didn’t even realize were developing my narrative voice. Or we’d have to write an essay about Greek mythology, and instead I’d write a one-act play that was a comedic retelling where everyone spoke colloquially. Stuff like that. So that helped me find my voice, but the performing arts stuff turned writing into a game, like I was creating a play where I was performing as every character at once. Then, when I needed some internships for college, I worked as a staff writer for College Fashion, then MuggleNet, and started to realize that this was what I was good at, this was what was fun for me and what I actually wanted to do.

Artwork from Collateral Damage

You have a lot of experience in the field. Tell us about your writing process. What is the journey from draft to published piece?

I don’t know if two books is enough to supply a scientifically justifiable pattern, but pretending it is, here’s the process:

         1) A book premise and ending drop themselves into my head fully formed. I know who my characters are and where they’re going and I have no idea how they’re going to get there.

         2) I pants. I write without an outline. It is bad. “The first draft is telling the story to yourself!” I scream at myself as I write many, many bad words that I know I will delete later.

         3) Somewhere around the 40,000-word mark, I realize that I have made a crucial error in developing one of my lead characters. That personality isn’t right at all. I have to fix it. Wait, I need to change the opening scene to match the characterization I actually want them to have. Wait, none of these characters are right. This worldbuilding is so half-baked. This would make a much better inciting incident. What am I doing?

         4) I move all 40,000 words to a file labeled “WIP Dumping Grounds” and start over from scratch.

         5) I do this three more times until I have 40,000 words I don’t hate and then I finish the book, still screaming.

That is quite the process! I’m a pantser, too, but I usually write one rough draft and sometimes stop to ask myself where I am headed. Tell us more about letting your characters drive your stories.

HAHAHAHAHAHA! OH GOD MY CHARACTERS DRIVE EVERYTHING AND THEY’RE SO BAD AT DRIVING. It’s like being in a car with no brakes, speeding toward the edge of a cliff. Sometimes they’ll turn around completely and start driving in the other direction, or I’ll have them aiming for a specific road and then they’ll swerve to detour onto a bridge I didn’t even know was there. It’s the worst. But I also feel like it allows them to react naturally, in the moment, like real people. Real people don’t have their lives plotted—they know where they want to go, and how they think they’re going to get there, but your path is informed by your decisions. If I know who every one of my characters are on every level, they will act realistically, and their choices will create the plot.

I LOVE what you just said. I might use that with my husband who wants me to plot everything. Where do you write?

I’m lucky enough to live near Disney World, so one of my favorite things to do is take my laptop to one of the resorts and work there. They’re all so beautifully themed and it’s so easy to find a quiet place with a comfortable chair. I get a coffee from the gift shop and turn on my music and write until the guests start swarming back in from the parks. The best locations are Beach Club, which has a promenade-style reading room that makes me feel like I’m on a cruise ship, Wilderness Lodge, which has big crackling fireplaces and fulfills all of my wish-I-was-on-a-writing-retreat-in-the-woods dreams, and the Grand Floridian, which is just fancy.

That sounds amazing! I’m a huge Disney freak. Parliament House retreat? Do you have a writing goal you want to achieve? What does success look like for you?

Yeah, I’d like to defeat my own imposter syndrome and be able to believe people if they say they like my book without immediately suspecting them of lying to me. Oh god, that’s too dark uh—you know what would be cool? If someone cosplayed one of my characters. Or if I went to a con and came across fan art. I would die.

With a superhero story, that might be a possibility. What helps you most when it comes to writing?

PLAY. LISTS. Spotify has singlehandedly sponsored every aspect of my writing. I don’t plot very far in advance, but I do brainstorm very cinematically—I’ll storyboard a scene in my head and watch it over and over again before I write a word, and music is an irreplaceably important part of that. I have a score for like every scene I’ve written—you wouldn’t believe how much it helps with the pacing. I’ll pick an instrumental track and then talk out my dialogue over it, using the fluidity of the music to inform how fast characters should talk or react, when natural pauses would occur for introspection on the part of the narrator, how long a conversation should go on before it gets interrupted. Then there’s character themes, emotional playlists, songs I can imagine my characters singing in the shower or on a road trip to help me develop their personalities, Broadway musical numbers that match a particular dynamic. It’s the only thing that consistently works to help me write.

Artwork from Collateral Damage

Who, or what inspired you to be a writer?

I mentioned before that it didn’t hit me that I wanted to be a writer until a little later in life, but once the revelation came, I knew exactly who was important to me and who I wanted to emulate: Meg Cabot. From middle school onward, I’d read The Princess Diaries pretty much once a year, and I used to get in trouble in class for laughing too loud. It was the first book I read that helped me understand the power of voice, and how important humor was to tell a compelling story—and I realized that I’d been unconsciously letting that self-deprecating, sarcastic voice seep into my own school writing for years without noticing it. So when I finally sat down to write my first book, I knew I wanted to be like her.

Besides the Princess Diaries, are there any other books that have had an impact on you? Why?

Listen—LISTEN, I know how trite it is to say Harry Potter, but I’m saying Harry Potter anyway and here’s why: .when I was little, I read exclusively classics. I probably actually didn’t, I probably read Dr. Seuss or something at some point, but I don’t remember it. I remember being in first grade and reading A Little Princess and Little Women and Anne of Green Gables. I think these books created me and reflected me as I was, because I was a little girl with a lot of imagination and love for others who often felt different because I read too much or felt too intensely, and those were books about girls who were exactly the same. I was very quiet when I was little and didn’t have very many friends, and it was okay because so did the protagonists of the classic books I was reading, so I could relate to them. I had all these books teaching me that reading was an introverted activity, and that it was okay and good to feel different from everyone else.

Harry Potter changed that, because Harry Potter was a community activity. I didn’t know reading could be social before. Suddenly, I could dress up as Hermione for Halloween, go to launch parties at Borders and movie premieres at the mall, buy Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans at Target—I could do all those things, and no one would laugh at me, because everyone else was doing it, too. I mean, people were starting friendships by asking each other what their Hogwarts house was (at the time you were either a Gryffindor or a Slytherin, by the way). I’d read lots of books, but Harry Potter was the first one that left the pages and crawled out into the real world. Since then, my favorite books, and the ones I hope to write, are the ones that live beyond what’s on the page: Percy Jackson, The Cruel Prince, Six of Crows, The Hunger Games. I love the way these books created communities that I now get to be a part of, and I think Harry Potter started that. 

Wow! That is so true and an amazing way to look at it. What is the best piece of writing advice that someone has given you?

I don’t remember the first person to tell me this (and different versions of it can be found everywhere), but THE FIRST DRAFT IS YOU TELLING THE STORY TO YOURSELF. I have to scream this at myself while I’m writing constantly, because I’m a perfectionist and I want everything to be good the first time so I can get through edits quickly. And that’s not a productive way to draft. The first draft is about you telling the story to yourself. Even if you have to change every word on the rewrite, you’ve still created the bones. This is why I like writing sprints so much—it forces you to just write as fast as you can without worrying about whether what you’re writing is good. It won’t be good! It’s okay! Only you are going to see it. Everything can always be fixed later.

How often do you write? Do you have a job besides writing? Let me guess, you’re a secret Disney princess.

I try to write for twenty minutes or 500 words per day as a minimum, because it’s so insignificant and there’s no reason why I can’t. I spend enough time on Twitter; I can sacrifice some of that to actually being the thing I’m claiming to be online!!! I still work at Disney World and I have a full-time position as senior editor for a manuscript editing firm with a team of junior editors I’m responsible for, so sometimes I just don’t feel like thinking about words anymore, but I force myself to anyway.

I’ll usually spend the day storyboarding the next scene in the back of my head, then set a timer and try to get as much of it down as I can in twenty minutes. When the twenty minutes is over, I’ll be feeling more inspired and I’ll just ignore the timer and keep going until I hit a lead-in—a dialogue question that the other character will answer, or a weird noise that someone hears, or a new character making an appearance. This always gives me a stronger base for the next day’s sprint than stopping at the natural end of a scene. It’s a lot harder to pick back up where you left off if you left off with a line that feels conclusive.

What are you working on now?

I’m currently drafting a space fantasy that Twitter knows as #LittleMermaidinSpace that I also rather self-deprecatingly like to refer to as my Treasure Planet x Little Mermaid fan-fiction, even though the influences are definitely more aesthetic than character-based, and it’s not really a romance. It’s about a shapeshifting girl who’s just trying to get home after a selfish decision separates her from her family, and the rather unskilled mercenary-in-training that tries to help her, who’s desperate to live up to the unyielding expectations of the elite, universe-saving crew who raised him.

What is your favorite review of your book? Can you share why you like it?

I’ve been trying to stay off Goodreads because it’s stressing me out (and also because reviews are for readers, not writers), but someone once described Collateral Damage as something like “if Percy Jackson had been dropped into a city of superheroes” and that’s just about the highest praise I think I could ever get.

What else do you do besides writing?

I love cosplaying. I am not great at it. Sewing is hard. Wig styling is hard. I can do the most basic possible level of makeup. My friends are exceptional—they’re a painting in the Louvre and I’m a second-grade class project made out of popsicle sticks—but I absolutely love going to cons. We stuff the trunk with costumes and roadtrip to different cities in Florida where I spend all my money on Disney fan art I’ll forget to hang up and buttons that weigh down my backup and spend too much money on noodles. It’s the best. Also it’s fun to relocate my aggravation with my Word processor to my sewing machine every once in a while.

Where can fans connect with you?

Readers can find me wailing about book-related things on Twitter at @tay_simonds, and curating a more aesthetically pleasing version of my life at Disney World and in the cosplay circuit on Instagram at @taylor_on_tour!

Taylor Simonds is an Orlando-based professional manuscript editor with Write My Wrongs Editing. Taylor holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing from the University of Central Florida, and previous staff writing credits include CollegeFashion.net and MuggleNet.com. When she’s not hunting down grammatical errors or reading comic books and calling it “research,” Taylor can be found almost exclusively at Disney World.

A thorough geek, Taylor enjoys cosplaying, watching anime, buying fan art she’ll forget to hang up, and camping out for the next Marvel movie. Collateral Damage is her debut novel; the product of a dawning realization after years upon years of superhero fandom, that although superheroes are cool, living next door to them would be decidedly not so.  

Thank you, Taylor. That was so much fun! If you are a reader, pick up Taylor’s book. If you are an author and want to be interviewed here, send me a message and we’ll connect.

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Interview with Nicole Knapp

Nicole Knapp is the author of Hook and Crown, recently released through the Parliament House Press. The book is a retelling of Peter Pan, and from the reviews, is very different from the Disney version.

Synopsis:

You’ve heard of Neverland and its inhabitants… Fairies, pirates, mermaids and a boy who didn’t want to grow up. But you can’t always believe the stories.

Elena Hart arrives in London, bound for a new boarding school operated by her estranged uncle. A fresh start is exactly what she needs. But when strange things begin happening, things she can’t explain, she begins to wonder if she has lost her mind.

Until the night a strange girl appears in her room, claiming to be a fairy from Neverland, come to take her to the fantasy world at the request of its ruler. 
Skeptical, Elena refuses. But the following night, a young man with strange green eyes appears, and though she tries to resist his charms, something about him draws her in and Elena is whisked away from the world she knows, to a world she always thought was make believe.

But when she arrives in Neverland, it is nothing like the stories and Elena realizes that she must figure out for herself who the true heroes and villains are.

What inspired you to write Hook and Crown? What is special about it?

My latest work was, of course, inspired by my love of Peter Pan and retellings. I love a dark retelling and a role reversal type of thing and Hook & Crown has both!

What character in your book are you most like? Unlike?

I feel like I relate to Elena pretty well. Just a girl looking for her place, fiercely independent, yet a hopeless romantic. Feisty, but soft. That describes me pretty well!

I am definitely not like Aiden. He is self-absorbed, power-hungry, narcissistic. No thank you.

What inspired you to write a retelling?

I adore retellings. The classics are classic for a reason, but taking a favorite story and crafting something new from it… it’s my favorite. I love putting new twists on classic stories and making the well-known world something my own, something fresh.

Artwork by Aislinn Honeycutt

Tell us more about you as a writer. How long have you been writing? Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. But the original plan was to be a lawyer, so glad that didn’t pan out!

Using facts, I’m sure a lawyer has to do a little storytelling. How often do you write? Do you have another job besides writing?

Aside from being a writer, I also have a full time job at a newspaper, a part time restaurant job, and I’m a mom of 2.

Tell us about your writing process. What is the journey from idea to a published piece?

My writing process is a mess … An idea pops into my head, I write it down in a notebook. Then I just start writing and see what happens. If it flows, I do a rough outline and keep running with it. If it doesn’t flow, I save it for later.

I think I know the answer to this one. Do you plot out your stories, or have the characters drive it?

I am the world’s worst plotter. I like to let the story just flow and let the characters drive it and spin the story themselves.

It’s a lot of fun to see where characters take the story. I have an office that I seldom use in my house. Where do you write?

At my kitchen table, on the couch, in bed, at my kids’ sports practices. The better question is where DON’T I write?

What helps you most when it comes to writing?

I have to have background noise, preferably music. I can’t write without it.

Do you have a writing goal you want to achieve? What does success look like for you?

My current writing goals are to finish the Hook & Crown sequel, and to finish a special short story project I’m working on. To me, success is getting my work out there, into reader’s hands.

Who, or what inspired you to be a writer?

Books inspired me to be a writer. Words were my first love. It may have taken me a while to really get serious about writing, but it’s something I’ve always done.

Do you have a favorite review of Hook and Crown? Why did you like it?

There has been one review that really hit me so far. It was so passionate, and described my characters and the world the way every writer wants their work described. I cried when I read it, and I have re-read it many times.

What else do you like to do besides writing?

I’m big into movies and music, and I love to cook and bake. oh, and read of course!

Where can fans connect with you?

Fans can connect with me on Facebook, on Instagram and on Twitter!

Nicole Knapp was born in Palm Springs, California on May 10th, 1990. She lived in California until the age of 16, when her family relocated to Oklahoma, where she currently resides. Nicole loved books from a very young age, and has been an avid reader all her life. At 24, she started freelance writing, which she continued for two years before deciding it was time to write something she was passionate about. Her first book, The Missing Piece, was released in August 2017. Her newest project, Hook & Crown, a dark and twisted retelling of Peter Pan, will be released Summer 2019 by The Parliament House.

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Interview with Jadie Jones

My interview today is with Parliament House Press author Jadie Jones who just released Wayward, the third book in her Hightower series.

Wayward blurb: Tanzy’s journey races toward an explosive end in Wayward, the third book of the Hightower Trilogy. Tanzy Hightower has crossed the veil between the Seen and Unseen worlds. She is now the only mortal in a land teeming with creatures who want her dead. To stay alive long enough to stop Asher and seal the door between worlds, she is forced to accept his marriage proposal and seek refuge inside his fortress. Tanzy is certain she can withstand any offers he makes to tempt her into opening the door, but he possesses a bargaining chip she could never have imagined. On the Seen side of the veil, Tanzy’s allies are fragmented, lost, and leaderless. They must learn to work together as they gather more candidates and begin training to defend their world against unfathomable predators poised to strike should the veil holding them at bay dissolve. While Tanzy has accepted her own inevitable death in fulfilling her destiny, her closest friends refuse to stop searching for the impossible: a way to save Tanzy’s life.

A choice will be made. The veil will change. The worlds as Tanzy knows them will never be the same.

What inspired you to write your latest work?

When we were in edits for book 2, Shayne asked me to consider writing a prequel novella to the series – something short and explosive that would introduce readers to the Unseen world and some of its characters prior to “Wildwood” beginning. There’s a scene in book 2 that reveals an unpleasant secret from Lucas’s recent past that I have always been interested in expanding upon, and this gave me the perfect opportunity to do that, which is what became “Wither.

Tell us about your writing process. What is the journey from idea to published piece?

I “taste” new ideas probably a couple times a week, on average. Something will happen or I’ll come up with a little hook in my head, and I’ll chew on it, marinade it, see how strong the flavor is. If the idea is still growing and soaking up juices a few days later, I write it down in my notebook, and any little thoughts that come up about it I’ll list beneath it as I go so when I’m ready to start a next project I have all these “spices” and “ingredients” waiting to be mixed together.

From there, I start sketching out my characters. How old are they. What do they want? What are they scared of? Are they social? It’s kind of like drafting a “for sale” ad for a horse. The most important piece for the main character is: WHY YOU. Why is your voice in my head? What makes you do a double take? What are you pointing at? What would you do if you could literally do anything? What lengths would you go to in order to survive should your world burst into flames? Those answers also help build the blocks for the obstacles in the way of whatever it is he/she wants. Those blocks are sometimes time/distance, but more often they’re a WHO, not a what. I look at the blocks and ask them similar questions: WHY YOU? What do you stand to gain by standing in the way, etc.? What do you want? What are you hiding? Who trusts you? Why do they trust you? Then I figure out where the hell we all are, and I start braiding everything together.

Often with the first draft, it’s like stumbling around blindfolded in a room you’ve never been in, with the goal of getting from one side to the other. You shuffle. You bump into things. You flail your hands out. You second guess yourself. But you also learn where things are and where they aren’t, all by feeling and flailing and running into things. Once you get to the other side, you get to take off your blindfold and clean up the path you made from one wall to the other.

I have an office, but it’s not the only place I write. Where do you write?

Wherever I can. I have 3 kids (ages 3, 4, and 8,) so I have had to learn how to write in snatches of time on whatever flat surface I can find. Dashboards, kitchen counters, the bed of my truck, a plastic fisher-price picnic table, my knees… I used to have all these little rituals to try to “help” me get in the zone, but honestly they became more of a crutch and a distraction than inspiring. My focus is inside my head, not outside of it. Now, I look around, make sure nobody needs anything, and jot down as much as I can. If I’m on a deadline, I stay up after everyone has gone to bed and write at the desk in my bedroom or at the kitchen counter (if the light is bothering my husband.)

Do you have a writing goal you want to achieve?

I want to stumble upon fan art or fan-fiction that someone has made inspired by the Hightower series. I want a reader to be so enraptured in this world that they create something of their own. That’s how I will know that my books did for them what my favorite books have done for me. Pipe dream goal: to be blurbed by Joss Whedon or Sarah Michelle Gellar.

What does writing success look like for you?

I want to be able to help pay my family’s bills with my writing. I know that sounds plain and unromantic, but I see writing as a career, and the time and energy it takes from me (and subsequently from my family) is a cost not unlike a full time job (that mostly happens on weekends and over holidays when I have more hands to help at home so I can squirrel away and write.) Success for me would be the ability to pay my monthly mortgage payment.

I totally understand that dream! Do you plot your entire story, or have your characters drive it?

I generally have a few “stepping stone” ideas for the plot, but for the most part put the characters first. It means for extensive revisions from the first draft to the second, but it also allows characters to interact in a more organic way and for secondary plots to generate more naturally as well.

What book has had the most impact on you? Why?

Bloodroot by Amy Greene. It was the first multi-pov book I’d ever read, and it also spanned a couple generations’ worth of time. The way she wove in details and the tiniest red herrings was phenomenal. The ending was also supremely satisfying, even if it didn’t necessarily end the way I wanted it to as far as characters getting what they deserved (good and bad.) It was well rooted in salt-of-the-earth stability with whispers of mystical and all of it was smart as hell.

What’s the best piece of writing advice that someone has given you?

To let the first draft of any new story absolutely, unflinchingly suck. It’s impossible to really understand your story as you’re writing that first draft. So many little things will reveal themselves to you – some that may change really big pieces in other places in the book. You have to take the pressure off yourself that you’re going to come out of the starting gate and pave the way with beautiful, cohesive prose all the way to the finish line. I don’t know that I’d ever get past the first page. The first draft is just a rough map of where you’re going and how you think you can get there with the information you have. And a map doesn’t have to be fancy or colorful. It just has to show you how to get there.

I love that advice. I always try to make everything perfect and it does create stress. I love the covers of the Hightower series. They are so beautiful. Who designed them and did you have any input?

Shayne Leighton – the captain and creative goddess at the helm of Parliament House Press – designed every cover in the Hightower Series. She asked me what feel I wanted and she took it from there. She encourages author feedback at every stage in the game, which is wonderful. For Windswept and Wayward, I asked for a couple very minor adjustments to the original mock-ups, and gave her my reasoning, and she was totally on board. She’s a visionary and a renaissance woman. Parliament House is a game changer for the indie-book industry.

What else do you do besides writing?

I love working with horses, especially rehabilitating horses that need nutritional or injury support. I also love long walks. I could walk all day if I had the opportunity to do so.

Where can fans connect with you?

My website is a great home base: www.jadiejones.com, and provides links to my social media (Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook.)

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Release Day – The Jolly Dodger

Parliament House Press – Alice J. Black – Soul Seekers – Paranormal

It’s another fantastic day for Parliament House Press (@theparliamentpress) with the release of book 8 in Alice J. Black’s Soul Seekers series – The Jolly Dodger.

Synopsis

A double-date on a short weekend away… What could go wrong?

Peyton cajoles her best friend, Olivia, to join her and their dates on a mini pirate cruise. Peyton is loving life until it becomes clear that the ship is more than just a sentiment to the old pirate life and it’s a matter of time to figure out the mystery before she and her friends are tossed overboard for good…

I’ve loved mysteries since I was in fourth grade, so I look forward to reading Alice’s new book. And who can go wrong with pirates? What do you think? Let me know in the comments.

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Interview with Anne Marie Andrus

Monsters and Angels – Raimond – Dark Visions – Author Interview

My interview today is with my good author friend, Anne Marie Andrus. We’ve never met, but she’s been a huge supporter of mine and is an excellent writer on top of that. Anne Marie uses her love of New Orleans and vampires in her writing. So, if you love the supernatural and creepy with the right touch of romance, you’re sure to love her books.

What inspired you to write your latest work?

My current work-in-progress is the next installment of the Monsters & Angels series. The Monsters series was originally planned to be a trilogy—but my characters and their storylines escalated and twisted, demanding a four-book series.

Over the summer I’d like to switch directions and work on my New Jersey shore based mystery/action adventure.

What inspired your latest work? What is special about it?

The third book in my Monsters & Angels series has a working title of Fall of the Crown. Several characters from my first two novels—Prince Draven, Norman, Ivori Journé and Steven Banitierre—will have pivotal roles in the big finale. These “secondary characters” can’t wait to show off their star power.

It sounds fantastic! Which character in your book are you most like?

Easy one! The first answer that popped into my head was Sorcha Alden. She began her career as a young woman in the medical field—I was nineteen when I started…Then I thought a little harder, and the better answer is Ivori Journé. Like Sorcha, Ivori is dedicated to her career and patients, but she talks less and keeps more secrets. Watch out when Ivori finally steps into the spotlight—she’s got a few tricks up her sleeve.

Do you plot out your entire story, or have the characters drive it?

In the beginning I let my characters completely drive the story. It’s incredibly exciting to create something or someone that didn’t exist when you first sat down to write. Now I plot out major points so I don’t get confused or write myself into a dead end.

How often do you write? Do you have another job besides being a writer?

I’m still working full time night-shift as a Respiratory Therapist, so I don’t write as consistently as many other authors. When I do have a block of nights off and get going, I can write for eight hours and make tremendous progress.

How long have you been writing? Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve only been writing since 2012 and I never really considered becoming a writer until I wrote a novel. I think my life experiences not only played an incredible part in my creative side, but were the reason I was brave enough to publish my work.

Tell us about your writing process. What is the journey from idea to published piece?

My process usual begins with a light bulb blinking on inside my head at the most inopportune moment—working, driving, showering or sleeping. I jam scraps of paper in my pockets or frantically peck away at the note-pad on my phone. Often there’s a lot of disjointed gibberish for me to decipher.

Besides your car and your shower, where else do you do your writing?

My writing spots are my dining room during the winter and the back of my boat in the summer. Winter is for vampires; summer is for the beachy action/adventure.

I love that the topic of your writing changes with the seasons. Do you have a writing goal you want to achieve?

Right now I’m focused on finishing the Monsters series. The story is complicated and intertwined enough that I want to get all the major parts and a good portion of the details worked out before I publish Fall of the Crown.

What helps you most when it comes to writing?

Well—coffee of course, but I’ve also discovered that I need to give myself a break. Time to think doesn’t have to be silence or isolation, but I do need to disconnect and allow my characters room to speak.

What does writing success look like for you?

Since I finished Raimond (the prequel to Monsters & Angels) last year, I fell into a bit of a slump and couldn’t seem to get into the writing groove. I was scared I’d just lost my ability to write. Luckily, in the past month I’ve found “it” again, so I celebrate any kind of progress as writing success. 

And we’re so happy that you did! Who, or what inspired you to be a writer?

I began writing my first novel in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, but the characters and story had been in my head for some time. My co-workers and my patients inspired me but that beast of a storm was the spark that drove me to put it on paper.

Anne Marie Andrus and Heather Kindt are contributing authors to the Dark Visions Anthology.

How do you feel about critiques?

Critiques are a necessary step in the writing process and they don’t always have to be an awful experience. Finding the right people for each phase of editing is essential, but that doesn’t mean they love every single word or are afraid to be honest when something doesn’t work. Having similar reading and writing interests makes it more enjoyable and productive.

Do you have a favorite review of your books? Why did you like it?

I love that my story left enough questions to make readers crave the next installment and I do dream of seeing this saga on the big screen someday.

I didn’t want this book to end…this book should be a movie! Bravo!—Kathleen on Goodreads

 Love this book! I’m craving another…I still have questions – but I think that’s the mark of a great author!—Janine on Goodreads

 It was an incredible and enthralling journey from captivity to freedom, from soldier to doctor, from human to vampire.
If you like vampire stories that revolve around being able to live among   humans, then I would recommend you check out Raimond. He’s a gentleman, well that is until you piss him off. That’s when the fangs come out….and yes they do come out!—Plum Report

Which book has had the most impact on you? Why?

Nine Lives: Death and Life in New Orleans by Dan Baum

Nine Lives is a multivoiced biography of this dazzling, surreal, and imperiled city through the lives of nine characters over forty years and bracketed by two epic storms Hurricane Betsy, which transformed the city in the 1960’s, and Katrina, which nearly destroyed it.”—Dan Baum

 Outside of New Orleans, so few people truly understand the city and what draws her residents to return home over and over, no matter what. This book gives the reader a heartbreaking glimpse at the answer to that question.

Wow! There’s so much I need to learn about New Orleans. What’s the best piece of writing advice someone has given you?

Create an alternate reality and live in it!

There’s a lot of power in those eight words. You really do need to live in your book world. Thanks for joining us today. Where can fans connect with you, Anne Marie?

Author Website

Monsters & Angels Blog

Anne Marie Andrus Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

Purchase Anne Marie’s books:

Monsters and Angels

Raimond

Dark Visions

Anne Marie has been an equestrienne, chorale singer, EMT and baseball fan. Roaming the back roads of New Jersey with her family, she found great respect for antiques, historical locations and the stories they hold. Her current list of favorite pastimes includes coffee, bourbon and Les Misérables-which requires more bourbon. She has been known to attend sporting events just for the flyover. The boat she and her husband christened Glory Days, is her escape from the chaos of everyday life. The inspiration for Raimond and Monsters & Angels is Anne Marie’s fascination with vampires, castles and her passion for everything New Orleans. When she isn’t writing, she can be found working nights with the critical care team in a busy trauma center.

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It’s Here!!

Cover Reveal – The Weaver Trilogy – NA – Paranormal – Contemporary – Romance

I’m so proud to share with you the cover of the first book in The Weaver trilogy to be released this autumn through Parliament House Press. This is the first book I wrote and holds a lot of me within its pages. I hope you fall in love with Laney, William, and Jason like I have through the years.

Most writers choose the endings to their stories . . . most writers are not Weavers.

Laney Holden is a freshman at Madison College whose life goes from normal to paranormal in a matter of seconds. When the antagonist in the book she’s writing shoves her down the stairs at the subway station, she learns she is a Weaver. Weavers bridge the narrow gap between fantasy and reality, bringing their words to life.

Laney soon meets William whom she also suspects is a character from her book—one she’s had a mad crush on since her pen hit the paper. But he’s in danger as her antagonist reveals a whole different ending planned for Laney’s book that involves killing William. Laney must use her writing to save the people closest to her by weaving the most difficult words she will ever write.

THE WEAVER is the first installment of The Weaver trilogy. It is an NA paranormal romance set in a small town on the north shore of Boston. It will leave you wanting more.
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/41109363-the-weaver?from_search=true

Message me if you are interested in being an ARC reader. I will get you on the list.

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The Weaver Cover Reveal

One more day until the Weaver’s cover reveal and I have to tell you, I’M SUPER EXCITED!! The cover is absolutely gorgeous thanks to Shayne Leighton from Parliament House Press. I can’t wait to share it with all of you.

I’ll be looking for ARC readers soon, so message me to let me know your interested.

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The Weaver Cover Reveal!

The first book in my Weaver trilogy has it’s cover reveal on April 12th and I’d love for you to be a part of it. Click on this link and follow the directions at Parliament House Press to be in on the action of this very special day.

Most writers choose the endings to their stories . . . most writers are not Weavers.

Laney Holden is a freshman at Madison College whose life goes from normal to paranormal in a matter of seconds. When the antagonist in the book she’s writing, shoves her down the stairs at the subway station she learns she is a Weaver. Weavers bridge the narrow gap between fantasy and reality, bringing their words to life.

Laney soon meets William whom she also suspects is a character from her book, one she’s had a mad crush on since her pen hit the paper. But he’s in danger as her antagonist reveals a whole different ending planned for Laney’s book that involves killing William. Laney must use her writing to save the people closest to her by weaving the most difficult words she will ever write.

THE WEAVER is the first installment in The Weaver trilogy. It is a new adult paranormal romance set in a small town on the north shore of Boston. It will leave you wanting more.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/41109363-the-weaver

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