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About the book
Frankie lives next door to her bestie. Together they love to hang out in their tree house planning to take pictures of the moon. But, they don’t agree on everything. Her BFF is boy crazy, and Frankie finds it embarrassing.
There is an internship at the Planetarium and there’s a few hoops to jump through to get the role. Both girls decide to go for it. Frankie works hard on her essay and gets her science teacher to check it over and write her reference.
When she finds out her BFF sent an inappropriate photo to the science teacher instead of an essay, Frankie worries how their friendship will affect her reference. Her BFF knows she screwed up and is hurt that Frankie won’t stand by her side when she needs her most. The girls have a massive fight and are no longer friends.
To make matters worse, her now ex-BFF tells their mutual friends her version of what happened, and now Frankie is alone. Being alone enables Benjamin to get to know Frankie better. The pair get closer, and closer, and one thing leads to another.
The best feeling in the world, rapidly turns into a dirty secret. Someone knows the sordid details of what Frankie and Benjamin did that afternoon. And, now it’s all over the internet, one meme after another.
How can Frankie get the bullies to stop and who can she trust? This is a fast paced emotionally driven story of friendship, bullying, and first love. With an epic ending.
As a fan of her writing, I wanted to make sure you didn’t miss out on the giveaway ending 24 Feb and I wanted a chance to share more about Blessed Darkness.
Filled with grit and magic, this literary romantic fantasy will take you on a ride. A Blessed Darkness by @elexis_bell is out NOW! Get started on it today ➞ https://amzn.to/3HPvzq9
A Blessed Darkness Elexis Bell Publication date: February 22nd 2022 Genres: Adult, Fantasy, Romance
A dark connection. A deadly responsibility.
Sparks fly when Elairie, a mixed-blood elf living on the edge of society and serving as a night guard, meets her latest prisoner. Strange auras surround them, and a magical gravity draws her to him, despite what her associates might say about his race. But the connection they share comes with a dark side.
When Beluroan learns that he and his guard are Blessed Ones, hand-crafted by the Gods to stop a madman from recreating the Blood Magic of old, his veins run cold. Threatened with a return to the magical slavery such magic commands, fear grips him, and memories of his childhood Master fill his mind.
But together, their potential power frightens even the Gods. Can they overcome the prejudices marring their land and master their new magic in time to stop the man trying to enslave their country? Or will they succumb to their own power?
Filled with grit and magic, this literary romantic fantasy will take you on a ride.
I’m a nerd with a lot of hobbies and enough sarcasm and swear words to make a sailor blush, though, you’ll never hear a word of it if I’m not comfortable around you. I’ve been an introvert since birth. When I’m writing, though, words come easily.
At the end of the day, I just want to write stories that make people feel something.
𝑩𝒆𝒍𝒖𝒓𝒐𝒂𝒏 His life has been… difficult. To say the least. Born a slave to the Blood Magic, serving an especially brutal Master, he has a lot of scars, both physical and emotional. The worst of those scars come from the night that brought him freedom but stole his parents’ lives… and almost his. As a Blood Elf (formerly known as Fox Elves), he’s tolerated in small doses in society. Blamed for the Blood Magic and the atrocities it wrought during its reign, mistrusted because maybe there’s still a Master out there controlling them all, he’s often denied the means of earning an honest living. Even his Earth Magic, useful in construction and farming, only gets him so far. He earns less than Light Elves and often resorts to theft in order to provide for himself, his sister, and her two children. Meeting someone, let alone having a family of his own, hasn’t really been possible. Scrounging a living, stealing food, and hiding from Guards doesn’t allow much time for dating, and anyway, how could he hope to help provide for them when feeding his nephews is already a struggle? But when he gets thrown in jail for his thievery, he accidentally meets someone he could never dream of walking away from. Elairie and Beluroan are inescapably linked, created as one entity then split into two for the mortal realm because their united powers are too much for any one mortal to control. But the gift of their bond has a cost, a destiny written in blood. Blood Magic, that is.
𝑬𝒍𝒂𝒊𝒓𝒊𝒆 She’s unusual in her village. Of mixed blood, she has attributes of Light Elves and Fox (aka Blood) Elves. All thanks to a Blood Elf rapist taking a liking to her Light Elf grandmother during what came to be known as the Blood War. Given all the prejudices that carried over from the war, her mixed blood means she lives on the edge of society. She’s not completely ostracized. She even has a decent paying job, but it’s one that keeps her on the fringes of society. As the night guard at the local jail, most everything in her village happens while she’s asleep. Not that she minds. Interacting with other people is often exhausting, also thanks to her mixed blood. From one conversation to another, she has to gauge whether to fade into the background or let herself be seen depending on who’s around, and she’s gotten good at reading a room. Of course, her Aura Magic helps with that, too. She lives with her mother, having lost her father to the Blood War and her grandmother to old age. Though she’s not opposed to the idea of finding a partner, especially now that she’s in her early twenties and most everyone else her age has partnered up, no one has ever drawn her in. Until now. Until Beluroan. Until they meet, and sparks fly. Literally. In a strange, shared aura that burns and jolts around them. But neither of them know the truth of their bond. Or the sacrifices it may require.
I spur my feet to action, dragging myself into the room. Again, my heart falters at the sight of him, at the strange familiarity of him. I barely keep my jaw from falling open.
Leaning back, propped up on one elbow, he sits with one foot drawn up to the edge of the cot. Oh so casually, he examines his nails. His vest gapes, falling open to the side, and his shirt clings to him.
But realization dawns on me.
He’s messing with me.
His chest rises with a deep breath, and he glances up, rewarding me with a coy smile and confirming my suspicions. I balance the tray in the only horizontal opening in the bars. Without a word, he gets up and slinks toward me with an almost feline grace.
He takes the tray gently and sits back down on his cot.
Settling in at the desk, I take a long drink of the cool water. We eat silently, and I’m thankful for the time it affords me to calm my nerves. But I glance at him too many times as I eat.
And more often than not, his eyes linger on me.
He eats slowly, controlling his pace. But it makes me wonder.
Does he not usually get this much food in one meal?
My heart clenches, though I’m sure he’d bristle at the pity.
Then, it hits me, as if all the stone and earth Luxitore ever created were falling down upon me, as if Jemarie were taking all the wind from my lungs…
Does he have a family?
No necklace of eternal bonds peeks out from the open neckline of his shirt, but given the scar on his chest, it may have broken when the magic hit him. My stomach plummets, and I tell myself it’s only out of concern for his possible family. With him here, they may not have food.
It isn’t because he’s attractive. It’s because his family might be starving.
But I know better. It’s both. The two concerns mix, curdling in my stomach.
I finish my food shortly after Beluroan. Gathering my tray and cup, I move to take his. “Would you like more food or water?”
The simple question surprises him. After a moment’s hesitation, he says, “Just some water, please.”
Has no one ever shown him simple kindness?
The lightning scar glares up at me in answer, making my own upbringing seem privileged. People turned their backs on me all the time, but no one turned their magic on me.
He hands me the tray, then drains the remainder of his water in one long pull. My eyes linger on his neck, but I force myself to look away. Reaching through the bars, he passes me the cup. Our fingers brush, and gentle warmth flows between us. His hand lingers, and my breath hitches. Swallowing, I pull away.
But I still feel his touch.
Heat rushes to my face, and he drops his gaze quickly.
I dart from the room, tripping over myself to get to the relative safety of the cold storage, or even just out of this room. I barely notice when I bump into the desk in the front lobby.
I rush down the stairs and drop everything on the table in the corner. My hands shake, sloshing a few drops of water over the rim of Beluroan’s cup as I refill it.
Kairos is book 2 in your The Syren Story series. Who is this series for?
This series is for anyone who loves mythology of Percy Jackson or Circe, and who is enchanted by the magical worlds of Holly Black or Sarah J Maas. My series contains fan favourite tropes such as enemies to loves, and the chosen one which woven into unfamiliar worlds with unsung creatures such syrens and centaurs.
Can you tell us more about King Kellan?
Kellan is the eldest son of late King Lachlan and Iseult, and a Descendant of Ares. Although this ancient tie to the god of war is generations old, Kellan is something of a warlord and is willing to fight hard, particularly if his family is involved. His act first, think second nature often lands him in trouble, but when he awoke from a dream about a syren, he didn’t hesitate to take the seas and find Wren.
What inspired you to write this series?
I was walking along a coastal cliff walk with my boyfriend when I started talking about mermaids and the sea. As much as I adored the Little Mermaid growing up, as an adult it bothered me that Ariel was willing to give up her voice for a prince, so I began toying with the idea of a King who needs a syren’s voice.
Tell me about your writing routine?
I usually scribble ideas in my notepad throughout the day, especially on my commute to work, which I can type out and expand on in the evenings. I write with a cup of tea beside me and complete silence, I don’t know how other writers can work with music.
I tend to edit as I write which is viewed as a sin in the writing world, but I find rereading what I wrote the previous day helps me get back in the flow and I can tidy up typos along the way.
What is your greatest challenge as an indie author?
Marketing. Hands down, marketing. I had watched a ton of BookTube videos and done my research before diving into the indie author world, and I thought I was prepared, but no. Nothing can prepare you for how much marketing you have to do in order to get your book scene.
As much as I adore being an indie author, I would love the big marketing campaigns that some bestselling authors get! Imagine seeing your book in Times Square!
Can you share a short snippet from Kairos?
Sliding his forearms under me, he carefully prises me off the soiled garment, positioning me on the thick, plush sheepskin rug in front of the now roaring fire instead. He feeds my dress to the flames without hesitation.
“Hey.” I croak, watching the beading melt whilst the gossamer fabric billows out smoke, “I liked that dress.”
“I’ll get you another,” Kellan says, as he makes his way to the bathroom adjacent to his suite to fetch a basin of water, “Recover from this and I’ll buy you an entire wardrobe.”
“You’ll need clothes. Not me.”
My voice barely carries over the sudden ripping sound of him destroying yet another shirt. This time to make linen strips.
“I don’t need anything bar you surviving, okay?”
I nod, or at least I think I do. I don’t feel my body move. I don’t feel my body at all anymore.
Even with my eyes shut, the dancing flickers and shadows penetrate through my lids. I try to remind myself it’s just from the fire, but an ever-growing part of me fears it is Hades stoking the pits of the Underworld in preparation for my arrival.
Kairos by Naomi Kelly
Can you tease us with what you are working on next?
I’m currently working on a companion novel which features two characters readers will have met throughout the Syren Stories. This story will be able to be read as a standalone and will be the first book of mine to not be classified as YA. The tale will be jam packed with forbidden romance, magical creatures, a hint of smut and of course more magic and mythology than even Atlas could carry.
Where can readers connect with you and discover more about your books?
Thank you Emily for agreeing to a Behind the Book interview about your YA Urban Fantasy book, Chasing Sunrise.
This is book 1 in a trilogy. What can readers look forward to in this vampire series?
Very few vampires, actually, but the series will explain why there are so few. You’ll also learn the origin of vampires and how they fit into Judeo-Christian mythology. These books also set up a world where I plan to write a lot of urban fantasy/paranormal romance, so I hope people like the world-building too!
Can you introduce the MC, Liana?
Liana was a nerdy, quiet, high-achieving, prep-school attending girl who had a weakness for a guy who told her he needed her. Unfortunately, what he needed was her blood, and the way she let him drain her makes her face a lot of uncomfortable truths about herself. She realizes that if she wants to be the strong, independent woman she always thought she was, she has to make hard choices. And when her father is killed and she is left an orphan, the hard choices start coming at her fast.
Can you introduce the love interest, Corban?
He’s more of a cypher to begin with. When he meets Liana he’s very hostile to her, but he also asks her a lot of questions that don’t quite make sense. Despite their rough first meeting, she comes to believe he’s one of the only people she can trust with her deepest, darkest secret. She figures out who he is by the middle of the book. Suffice it to say, it’s complicated.
What drew you to writing a YA novel about vampires?
The one common thread in my romances is making good guys sexy. It really bothers me how many male leads are abusive, narcissistic, reckless, and even criminal, and vampire stories tend to be some of the most extreme in this regard. There’s a lot in these books about what it takes for love to last a lifetime, and selfish, obsessive vampire behaviors aren’t it. While I don’t believe in preaching to anyone, especially young people, nor in writing propaganda, I do think as a writer that it is my job to be honest and to ask hard questions. The YA audience is more than capable of grappling with those.
Who do you think would enjoy your series?
I think if you like, say, Tamar Sloan or Ilona Andrews or Carrie Vaughn, you’ll probably like these books. They’re meant to be a fun ride with a few heavy topics laced in there. But first and foremost, they should be fun!
The book is set in a boarding school, what was your school life like?
Only the first chapter is in a boarding school. I did go to a boarding school for two years of high school, but it was the United World College, which is an unusual boarding school. It’s international, most of the kids are on scholarship, and the curriculum is the International Baccalaureate. So, it’s not much like Liana’s boarding school. Before going to boarding school I went to the public high school in Los Alamos, New Mexico, one of the big rivals to Taos High School, where Liana ends up as a total fish out of water.
Can you share a short snippet of the story?
I sat on a patch of dead grass beside Aunt Cassie’s house as the sun rose. My skin already tingled as if I’d rubbed it with heat cream. Even though it was winter and the temperature below freezing, my jacket lay on the ground behind me, leaving my arms bare. With a deep breath of clean, chilled air, I braced myself for the full force of the oncoming pain.
The desert around me was quiet, and I was glad for that. It seemed that every animal I could think of that lived out here was poisonous in some way. Scorpions, rattlesnakes, various types of spiders—and I wasn’t an outdoorsy person to begin with. I found myself taken in by the stillness of it all, though. There were no birds chirping, or leaves rustling in the wind, no distant sound of cars whooshing down the road, or buzz of an errant porch light attracting insects.
There was just the broad, flat Taos Valley with its deep, jagged line of canyon in the distance, and beyond that were the mountains, their sharp angles softened with a layer of evergreen trees. Now the sky was turning a deep, vivid pink with wispy clouds looking like they’d caught fire.
I felt more than saw the sunrise. One moment my skin burned with an annoying tingle, and the next it felt like I was laid out atop a hot griddle with molten metal poured over me. I was certain that my flesh was being incinerated this time, but I’d thought that last time and the time before. Clenching my teeth and holding my breath, I waited for the sensation to break. It had before, so it had to this time. Still I gripped my small gold cross pendant and prayed to any deity who would listen. I begged, mentally, for forgiveness for my weakness. Please, give me another chance, another day.
Tears leaked from my eyes, and that was the first sign I had that the pain was abating. Their cool tracks down my cheeks quenched the fire and that sensation spread across my face and down over the rest of my body.
And then it was all over, the external pain at least. It was just me, the silent desert, and the yawning chasm of emptiness I felt inside. Tears didn’t ease that pain though. It was bottomless.
Chasing Sunrise by Emily Mah
Where can readers go to find out more about you and your books?
I’m so happy Ellie agreed to let me interview her as I loved her debut book. There’s a link to my five star review at the end. It’s really exciting to find out what went into making such an amazing book.
I loved Garden in the Sands. It’s not like any book I’ve read before. What genre would you say it is?
It’s interesting that you say that, as Garden in the Sands actually started as a MG fantasy story. When it came to self-publishing, however, I read lots about YA being an easier market to get into. Therefore I re-wrote it, adding Lira’s POV element. Overall I’d say it’s a YA fantasy re-telling.
Despite being set in the desert, it’s very reminiscent of The Secret Garden. Did you plan for it to be like a fantasy version of the classic?
Yes! A re-telling was exactly my aim. I adored Mary in The Secret Garden when I was a child, as she was stroppy and imperfect. She influenced Quil a lot!
There are two MC’s can you give a brief intro to each?
Quil is a human girl born into wealth and privilege that only serves to constrict her. Desperate to gain a shred of attention from her parents, she spent her childhood misbehaving. This led to being frequently sent away from home to learn to become a ‘lady’, something she has no interest in doing. The only ray of light in her life is her main, Sasha.
When she finds herself sent away from the palace and charged with entertaining the sickly prince, she finds she’s not the only one in the world with problems.
Lira was born into greatness too, but as a demi-god this involved learning to wield a sword to prove herself. She rose to the challenge, and when the story starts she is a great heroine. She feels trapped, however, the link to her long dead human mother setting her apart from the other gods. She can’t help but watch the misery of life below in Miran. When a chance arises to break the curse that’s punishing the humans for their king’s crimes, Lira risks all the help them.
Quil learns to garden in the book – are you green thumbed?
I certainly try to be, but it’s a process of trial and error!
Lira is a demi god and fights mythical beasts – did you do a lot of research on this for your novel?
I studied Classics at university, so I’ve loved the mythology of Ancient Greece and Rome for a long time. I knew many of their stories already, but some of the beasts needed some extra research!
Who is your favourite God/Goddess from mythology?
Definitely Athena. She’s so strong and not cowed by any of the males in Olympus. She’s who Lira is based upon.
What can we look forward to from you next?
My next book is and MG adventure fantasy set in Cornwall, where I live.
Where can we go to discover more about you and your books?
Instagram (@ellie_mitten) is where I like to connect with other writers and reads 🙂
I was excited to interview Hannah about her book as I’m currently reading it and it’s a mermaid story. As an author of a mermaid story myself, I’m always fascinated to see how others do it and how different the worlds we create can be.
This is book 1 in a trilogy. What can readers look forward to in the Pearl Wielders series?
Mer, magic, adventure! Some readers have even described Tenebrasco as a Little Mermaid retelling! It’s a very contemporary take on the mer world. I basically wanted a story that avoided some of the standard mermaid tropes. So, for example, the mer wear normal clothes (hydrodynamic of course!), the humans (or legged as the mer call them) know that the mer exist and the mer live in a world and society that is as advanced as ours.
From a plot perspective, the Pearl Wielders series starts when the peace treaty between the mer and legged is attacked derailing peace and setting the two worlds on the brink of war.
In the aftermath of the attack, April (MC) ends up stranded on a poison shrouded island grappling with her powers as they start to consume her.
Can you introduce the MC, April and the sort of powers your mermaids have?
April, or Princess April Meridia, is the most powerful pearl wielder in the seven seas. She loves marine wildlife, is a very caring and loyal friend and would do anything for her mer but… she has never been fully in control of her pearl powers in the way her mum and society expect.
As the heir to the throne of the seven seas April wields all seven of the original pearl powers. She can manipulate water and the weather, grow plant life, communicate with animals, heal and connect with the life force of other mer.
Who is your favourite mermaid- other than April of course?
This is a difficult one and it changes across the books! In the first one though, I think it’s Alex.
I won’t give too much away but… he’s the best friend everyone needs!
What inspired you to write the Pearl Wielder series?
Several things inspired me to write the Pearl Wielders. The earliest version was a draft I wrote when I was ten years old. I woke up from a dream about a mermaid with golden hair who attended a boarding school on an island. I only wrote a couple of pages back then but it became a comfort story. Whenever I was bored, lonely, travelling etc. I would add to the Pearl Wielders world and continue telling myself the story.
The story has changed to a point that it’s unrecognisable, but when I finally started writing it properly (some ten years later) the one thing that stayed the same was the mermaid with golden hair.
Who do you think would enjoy your series?
If you like the Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare, Alanna’s Quartet by Tamora Pierce or The Selection Series by Kiera Cass.
The Pearl Wielders series is enjoyed by all ages but the target demographic is Teenagers.
Can you share a short snippet of the story?
A deep cold washed through April. Dark tendrils of energy writhed towards her. Panic flooded her brain and the compulsion to reach the Merdevil was broken. She tried to drop the stone but it clung to her hand. Her panic levels increased and April thrust all her powers outwards. She propelled herself upwards and the Merdevil dissipated as she found herself back in the lake.
Finally, she broke through the surface and hurriedly clambered onto the grass. Clouds had gathered overhead and all the waterweeds had shot up. April looked around in alarm. The beautiful flowers were now overgrown with grasses. She looked to her hand where she was still gripping the black stone. A dark flicker ran across her fingers, she blinked and it was gone. April shook her head trying to make sense of what had happened. She felt cold, very cold.
Connor and Alex were frozen ten metres away from April. Their faces mirrored the horror of the other’s expression. Silence settled over the pool. Even the sudden clouds froze in place hanging ominously above. Only a few seconds had passed but it felt like everyone had stopped for several minutes. The cold was slowly seeping into April’s skin. She looked up towards the sky and wielded her Tempus powers to part the clouds and let the sunshine back through to heat her up. April turned to assess the damage she had caused, but the pool area had reverted back to normal. She stood up and whipped the water from her body with her Factus powers as she walked through the grass. A glow of white Factus and navy-blue Tempus energy surrounded her. As she wielded her pearl powers she heard an intake of breath to her left. Suddenly she remembered who she was with. Alex and Connor still hadn’t moved. Transfixed by April’s actions they were both utterly still. April took a small step towards them and as if the power had been turned back on, they both abruptly burst into life.
Tenebrasco by Hannah Reed
Can you tell us about any special events you have coming up? (MerMay, upcoming releases, etc)
Yes! We’re actually in the midst of an event. This year I’m hosting the first-ever MerMay Readalong! Check out Instagram to see what’s going on!
The third book in the pearl wielders series, Tempus, is releasing summer 2021 (date TBC).
Where can readers go to find out more about you and your books?
This is book 1 in a trilogy. What can readers look forward to in this series?
As the series goes on, we see Delaney grow as she learns more about her abilities and the people she trusts, especially her father. There are tough decisions she’s forced to make, but there are good things that come about as a result. It’s a reminder that sometimes things don’t turn out the way we want or plan, no matter how good our intentions may be, but there’s still a chance for hope in the very end.
Can you introduce the MC, Laney?
Delaney Murphy is the daughter of the Devil, who was posing as a human rock star named Angus Murphy when he fell in love with a human woman. Laney’s always known who her father is, but it wasn’t until she realized that his powers had been passed to her that she made the difficult decision to limit her contact with other people in an effort to protect them. She only breaks her self-imposed isolation when she recognizes a rogue demon is targeting women. Leaving her self-imposed isolation starts a domino effect that forces her to confront those parts of herself that are the most frightening.
Do Hell Hounds feature in the series and can you tell me about any pets you have?
Hell Hounds do feature in this series and they are the most fun to write about. In fact, Laney’s Hound, Moose, is based on my own supersized Yorkie (who also just happens to be named Moose). The Hounds become even more integral to the plot in Books 2 and 3. Here’s a picture of my Moose, who is always nearby when I’m writing.
What inspired you to write this series?
Delaney’s character came to life in my head because of a comment someone made to me while I was at work. It was not very nice, essentially equating me with the spawn of Satan, but it sparked an idea in my head about a young woman who is really trying to do the right thing, and just happens to be the daughter of the Devil. It definitely turned a negative into a positive.
Who do you think would enjoy your series?
I think this series would appeal to readers who’ve enjoyed the The Hollows series by Kim Harrison and The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, as well as readers who enjoy books by Cassandra Clare.
Is there a date for book 3’s release?
At this time, Book 3 is tentatively scheduled for release in autumn 2021.
Can you share a snippet?
Angus had come to me, after my prom had erupted into mayhem at the sudden emergence of my magic. He’d given me a choice.
“All of it? All that happened because of you?” I faced him, tears blurring my vision. I didn’t want to believe what he’d just told me, but gut deep, I knew every word had been true. The screams from the gym still echoed in my ears.
“No Delaney. It happened because of you.” He gave me a sad smile. “The sins of the father and all that.”
The room swam as I fought to catch a breath. My mother. My friends. My future. Everything I thought my life would be was slipping away and there was nothing I could do.
“You have to make a choice.” This time his voice was softer. “Stay or go. You have to decide.”
I forced myself to swallow against the bile in my throat. “That’s not a choice, Dad. But you already knew that.”
He didn’t say anything, but he didn’t look away. No matter what, he would be my witness.
“Go. It’s the right thing to do.” As I choked the words out, an agonized scream rose up from the hall right outside the room I’d hidden in, as if somehow my answer had penetrated the walls. I recognized the voice that called my name, pleading with me not to leave as a heavy fist battered the door I’d locked behind me. My heart twisted in my chest, a pain I almost welcomed. But the decision was made. I nodded at my father, more strength in my answer this time. “I have to go.”
“That’s my girl.”
He came to stand behind me, strong arms wrapping around and pulling me close, snuggling me up against his heart. The scent of brimstone stung my nose even as it comforted me. Then he took one step back and we fell, together, into Hell.
The Devil’s Own by K.A. Fox
Where can readers go to find out more about you and your books?
This book is the finale in the Cronus Chronicles series. I will place links for the earlier books in this series at the end of the post. Each interview covers different writing tips and info about the series.
How long did it take you to write this book once you had the idea?
The idea of Gabe’s story came in flashes, but once I finished writing Abby’s and Seth’s stories, Gabe’s story took about six or seven months to write the first draft. Another month or two to rewrite. I’d say the process from drafting through publication took sixteen months.
This book was written after you lost your dad – was it a therapeutic outlet? I notice that it deals with death.
This book explores my grief to some extent, or the ways in which suppressed grief has power over us. Writing Gabe’s story allowed me to process the loss of my father and my own pain. In many ways, I felt stuck like Gabe. When he walks into that childhood fort, I felt like I completely understood his need to hide there, to face death; though Gabe deals with suicide ideation, I think each of us face the symbolic death of self when we face the pain of loss, and then the subsequent rebirth when we find our way out of it. I’m not sure if that makes sense?
Tell me about the character Gabe?
Gabe has faced immense bullying his entire high school career; it’s called The Freak Challenge, and the object is to get Gabe to fight back. Writer of poetry and lover of Abby, he hasn’t fought back because he knows who started the challenge—Seth—and he’s biding his time to get back at his former best friend for the betrayal. His therapist has tried to help him. His adoptive parents have helped him. Even Abby, now, has helped him, but lingering over his head is the knowledge of his real parents and his fear of becoming them. When things spirals out of control and Seth’s life is on the line, Gabe crashes and feels like everything that’s happened is his fault, the fault of the DNA he carries in his body, and that the only way to save everyone else from the monster he’s becoming is to end it.
Each book is a different character from the series story. What inspired these characters?
You’ll see the parallels with the three characters in the Twilight series. Abby-Bella, Seth-Jacob, and Gabe-Edward (though an awesome reader thought Seth and Gabe were reversed which I love too). When I rewrote the books, Abby was inspired by the emergence of Hawaiian culture in my island home. The exploration of how one’s culture informs identity. Seth, as a villain, was inspired by the idea that even the villain has a story. That those either-or dichotomies are often flawed because as people we are a million variations of color. Finally, Gabe was inspired by my daughter who has struggled with mental health. When I read the statistics about males and sucicide rates, I was so saddened, I knew I wanted to explore this further.
When you finished the series you gave it a new look. What was it like relaunching a book and redesigning the covers?
It was hard work (and costly) but I’m so glad I did it. I am so proud of how they turned out, and they are so much more in line with how I envisioned them in the redesign as opposed to the original covers (which I liked too). It’s a lot of work. Finding a cover designer, formatting, learning the ins and outs of publishing in a more hands on way. I don’t think it’s probably a path for everyone, but I’ve enjoyed the process.
Do you design the covers yourself or use a designer?
When I decided to self publish I knew I would need an editor. As much as I love writing and creating stories, English language was never my best subject at school.
I wasn’t the worst but I wasn’t top of the class either. Even if I’d been good at English I’d still need an editor, because people miss their own mistakes.
Once ready for an editor, I was over whelmed by how many different types of editors there are. For Ocean Heart, I used many rounds of Beta Readers, and two rounds of professional edits, and used a professional formatter.
The two terms are often used interchangeably as they are similar and it’s important to check what your editor means so you can ensure what you are paying for is what you expect.
CopyEdit: Unsually involves checking SPAG, readability, and clarity. They may highlight where it’s not flowing right.
Line Edit: Usually focuses on the content and use of language. They highlight inconsistent style, where pacing is too fast/slow, if you’ve overused a word (or repeating yourself).
If you can afford both, do it. Traditionally published books will have a copy edit, then a line edit. If you can’t afford both, don’t skip the copy edit. Your spellchecker is not enough.
How I chose my Copy Editor
Avery was at the top of my list as I’d already had such a good experience with her, but I did consider letting another pair of eyes run over my manuscript.
Budget: This was a big deciding factor. I had a limited budget and had to operate within my means.
Recommendation: Connecting with other indie authors gave me a good source of recommendations, many are listed in the World Indie Warriors brochure.
Expertise: All of them had experience as an editor. One was new, but had already built a portfolio and I’d attended a workshop she did which helped build trust. But, Avery was the only one that specialised in YA.
I went with Avery as she ticked all my boxes and was already familiar with my book. As she does writing workshops with teens, she also has a close relationship with my target audience.
I paid Avery for a copy edit. But, it definitely over lapped into a line edit. For example, she highlighted a scene where the emotional impact needed work, and another scene where my character came off rude towards her friend.
Through Avery’s comments I learnt a lot about my writing. Once I’d actioned her feedback, my novel was definitely better.
I wish I could have afforded a line edit but my budget was maxed out. Avery didn’t get to see it again, as I went ahead with my next step – formatting. Once formatted, I sent it off to my ARC readers.
One of my ARC readers was author Cassidy Reyne. She did an unofficial proofread for me. I didn’t ask her to do it, she’s just sweet like that.
As I’d already paid Ingram to publish Ocean Heart (it was on preorder) there was a fee to amend the files. I paid it because I wanted my book to be as perfect as possible. I’m so thankful to Cassidy for letting me know.
For my next book, I will seek out Cassidy’s eagle eyes – if she has time. If not, I will consider getting a professional proofreader.