Interview: Suzanne van Rooyen, author

Today I’m interviewing Suzanne van Rooyen, whose LGBT YA, The Other Me, came out on 19 December. Suzanne is originally from South Africa but ended up in Finland after a short stay in Perth, Australia.

Suzanne van RooyenFirst and foremost: why did you leave Australia? Was it something I said?!

Haha, probably not 😉 South Africans are often told that moving to Australia is like a home away from home. It isn’t and I wasn’t prepared for the culture shock. I was also living in Perth, which might not be the nicest city in Australia. While there were some things I absolutely loved about Australia – like living a five-minute walk from the beach, the size of the ravens and waking up to a chorus of cockatoos – ultimately, the heat (so much hotter than I’d ever experienced in SA!) and the lack of job opportunities for my then-boyfriend-now-husband made the move to Finland all the more appealing.

The Other Me is your first contemporary release after a series of science fiction works. Can you tell us about it?

With pleasure! I blog over at YAtopia and one of my fellow bloggers and authors there, Lisa Burstein, made a comment once about how in writing the author needs to open a vein and bleed a little. This had a huge impact on me and ever since then, those words niggled and gnawed until I eventually quit my zombie WIP and started writing a far more personal story. Inspired by my high school experiences at a Catholic all-girls school in South Africa, that novel became The Other Me. This is the story of fifteen-year-old Treasa, who thinks she’s an alien – the kind from outer-space with embarrassing tentacles – because she can’t come up with a better explanation for why she feels so out of place at her school or in her own skin. It takes falling for an emotionally scarred boy with baggage of his own for Treasa to understand, and accept, who she truly is.

You’ve said that the story is incredibly personal to you. Do you think that made it harder or easier to write?

In some ways easier because the emotions were real and the situations were largely inspired by my own experiences (I honestly went through a stage believing I must be from Mars because I felt so weird and ostracized by my peers) – not always my direct experiences, but experiences friends and family members had. This also made it harder because I needed to maintain the distance between fact and fiction while still tapping into that emotional well. I’d never really believed authors could cry while writing – I mean, just change the story so it’s not so sad, or how can it affect them when they know what’s coming? But I cried while writing The Other Me and in places I didn’t expect it, where the characters ambushed me with their own emotions and reactions to the situations I placed them in. While this story may have started out inspired by personal experience, it took on a life of its own, becoming Treasa’s and Gabriel’s story, and no one else’s.

OtherMeFSDoes it affect how you feel about the idea of people you know reading it? (My debut hasn’t been released yet and I’m quite frankly terrified!)

Oh yes, I’m terrified of people reading it and miscontruing fiction for fact. I’m also really excited because this book is different and it doesn’t mince its words. Treasa has an important story to tell, and so does Gabriel. As afraid as I am about how people might react to me, the author, I’m more excited to see how people might connect and relate to my characters. Ultimately, this is a story that needed telling and I have no control over readers’ reactions. I’m trying to be Zen about it. *munches all the cookies and eyes the red wine longingly*

What is your next project? If it’s a secret I promise not to tell anyone. *shifty eyes*

My next to-be-published work is a quirky YA science fiction novel called I Heart Robot, which will be released from Month9Books in 2015.

My current WIP is set in the I Heart Robot universe, but across the Atlantic, and is all about cyborgs instead of androids.

You’re also the publicity manager for Entranced Publishing. What’s the single biggest piece of advice you’d give to a new author?

I’ve been asked this a lot recently and I’m not sure I’m qualified to answer it considering I still feel like a ‘new’ author myself. Perhaps the best advice I can give others is the type of advice I wish people had given me when I first entered the industry:

Be authentic and be sincere especially in online social media. The cultivated persona will only take you so far.

Persevere and have patience. Publishing is a waiting game: waiting to hear from agents, to hear from editors, for a book release, for reviews, for the shiny new idea… It all takes patience.

Dream big but set realistic goals. Chances are your first book deal won’t be six figures and go straight to film. That doesn’t mean you can’t dream about that one day being a reality, but in the mean time set attainable goals to avoid disappointment and disillusionment.

When in doubt, keep writing. As Ray Bradbury said, “You fail only if you stop writing.”

Quick! Choose! Science fiction or fantasy? Small press or traditional? The West Wing or Game of Thrones? Coffee or tea?

Gah! You’re seriously making me choose between all the things I love!?

Fantasy – it’ll always be my first love and first choice for reading

Small press – my experiences so far have been wonderful

Game of Thrones – only because of the dragons!

Coffee – because there’s just no starting the day without it

Suzanne is an author and peanut-butter addict from South Africa. She currently lives in Finland and finds the cold, dark forests nothing if not inspiring. Although she has a Master’s degree in music, Suzanne prefers conjuring strange worlds and creating quirky characters. When not writing you can find her teaching dance and music to middle-schoolers or playing in the snow with her shiba inu. She is rep’d by Jordy Albert of the Booker Albert Agency.

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Character interview: Mischa Richardson from ‘Sleeper’

Today I’m interviewing Mischa Richardson, the main character from SLEEPER by S.M. Johnston. I’ve never done a character interview, so this is a new and exciting experience!

"Sleeper" by S. M. Johnston

“Sleeper” by S. M. Johnston

Mishca, why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself?

“My parents adopted me from America as a baby, but raised me in Australia. For most of my life I’ve been on the sidelines due to health issues. Guys avoided me and I felt like a social freak. Then I had my heart transplant and things changed.”

What are you most proud of?

“That I graduated high school without dying.” Mishca goes all shifty eyes. “It was touch and go there for a bit, but the heart transplant did the trick.”

Heart transplant. That sounds serious.

“Yeah. It was pretty full on. But the operation was a success. No more sickly Mishca. Do you mind if we talk about something else?” Mishca bites her lip and looks away.

Okay, sure thing. Because I’m a book nerd, I’m sure my readers would love to know this: what’s your favourite book.

“Oh, that’s hard. I love Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre and anything by Jane Austen. More modern books would be Losing It, Girl Saves Boy and Sweet Evil.”

If you could have one wish what would it be?

“To be normal. Before my heart transplant I was weak and socially awkward, and now it’s … never mind.” Mishca chews on her nail. “Let’s make it for an endless supply of shoes.”

What’s your secret shame?

“If I told you then it wouldn’t be a secret, so I’ll pass on that one.”

What’s the best and worst quality you think a person can have?

“Worst is definitely judgmental people. Seriously, the number of shop assistants who assume I can’t afford certain brand clothes, or that I’m going to be a shoplifter. I know things are changing and hopefully in years to come the colour of my skin won’t cause people to judge me. The best thing people can do is to pay it forward. A little kindness can go a long way.”

Blurb for SLEEPER:

A new heart should mean new life, not a living nightmare.

Mishca Richardson’s life is at an all-time high after her heart transplant. With new boyfriend, Ryder, the two of them have the perfect summer romance. Even the nightmares that have been plaguing her sleep since her operation can’t dull the high she’s on.

Things start to unravel as Mishca develops superhuman abilities. She does her best to hide them so as not to end up a science experiment in a lab. But she can’t ignore the instant attraction she experiences when she meets her university professor, Colin Reed.

Torn between the blossoming love and the obsession, Mishca must decide if she wants Ryder or Colin. But the organization responsible for her changes and her connection to Colin, is moving to secure Mishca for himself so that she can be the weapon he always intended her to be. If Mishca can’t resist her programming she’ll have a lot more to worry about than romance.

Add Sleeper on Goodreads! Buy it from Amazon!

Enter the giveaway here! (You could win a $100 book voucher!)

About the author:

Sharon M. Johnston

Sharon M. Johnston

Sharon is a writer from Mackay in Queensland, Australia who has short stories published in anthologies and was also runner-up in the Australian Literary Review’s Young Adult short story contest with KARMA. By day she is a public relations executive and by night she writes weird fiction and soulful contemporaries while her husband, two sons and cat are fast asleep.

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Interview: Kristen Strassel, new adult author

Last week over at Aussie Owned and Read I interviewed Julie, half of the Undead Duo. I’m now thrilled to have her partner in crime, Kristen Strassel, to my blog for a visit. Kristen is a vampire smut peddler, hair band fan, makeup artist and lover of live music. Her debut release, Because the Night, came out last month, and the prequel, Seasons in the Sun, comes out on 4 December. That’s right: TODAY!

Because the Night

Available NOW on Amazon! And Smashwords!

Because the Night is set in Las Vegas. It seems like the perfect place for a bunch of debauched vampire rock stars; although it’s sunny I hear those casinos are so huge you can quite happily never see the light of day! How did you choose the setting?

Hi Cassandra!  Thanks for having me on here!  Las Vegas really chose me. I had a dream about ten years ago about a girl trying to make her way in Vegas. Something about the dream stuck with me so much I actually moved to Vegas to write a book about it! Turns out my friend must have left the TV on, because when I saw the movie Showgirls it bore a striking resemblance to the dream. But the experience was invaluable research for Because the Night.

Sure, there’s plenty of sunshine in Las Vegas, but it’s Sin City. Dark, sensual, anything goes. The more I started putting the story together, the more it couldn’t have been set anywhere else. What other city in the world could vampires capitalize on what they are without anyone really believing they had anything to worry about?

Tell us a bit about the leading lads, Tristan and Blade. Are they both vampires? Which is the sexy one on the cover? Because damn!

Tristan is on the cover, and I know, right? He’s a pretty reasonable facsimile of what Tristan looks like to me. Tristan is a vampire, and he’s the rock star. He’s always been trouble, which led him to the afterlife. Callie’s never been able to resist him, which brought her to Vegas. But Blade is the one who made her stay. Blade is everything Tristan isn’t. First and foremost, he’s alive. He leads a normal life, and understands there’s a time for fun and a time for responsibility. Tristan has no idea what responsibility even means.

I know you’re a huge live music fan. Did any real-life rock bands inspire Immortal Dilemma?

I love going to concerts. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of seeing your favourite band play their songs live in front of you. The emotion, the energy…it’s sexy. There’s no better word for it.

Immortal Dilemma was inspired by Motley Crue.  They’re perfect because even though there’s that undertone of debauchery, women love them. Nikki Sixx has died twice. So anyone who’s done that and lived to tell about it deserves to have a fictional character based on them. He was my inspiration for Tristan.

Everyone’s publishing journey is different. What is the number one thing you’ve learned so far on yours?

This is a tough question! I would have to say Expect the Unexpected. And adapt. When you’re writing your novel, everything is in your control. Once you make the decision to publish it, from the minute you send out that first query, you are handing control over to someone else. I think that the concept of “dream agents” and “dream publishers” as a debut author is exactly that—a dream. In the beginning, you work with the people who say yes. It’s just the reality of the situation when you’re starting out. You have to earn your bargaining chips. I never expected Because the Night to have the journey it did, but I’m happy with where I’m at and where the book is at right now. At the end of the day, you have to do what is right for you. You don’t have to answer to or apologize to anyone for what you do.

What’s it like having a childhood friend who lives near you as a crit partner? (Can you tell I’m jealous?)

Because the Night probably wouldn’t have existed without Julie. Remember I told you about moving to Vegas to write a book? Yeah, that book didn’t get written. Until Julie one night worked up the nerve to tell me she was working on a vampire novel, which is Running Home. I said, “You know, I’ve had one that I haven’t been able to put together in the right way and finish.” So we worked together, we finished the books, and we brought them to the world.

We get together about once a week these days. Pizza and adult beverages are usually involved. Our meetings have evolved as our journey has. Before it was just about the writing. Now business has crept in as well.  We don’t always agree on everything, but that’s what makes for a good partnership.

KristenStrasselI asked Julie this and now I’m asking you: what’s the one question you wish an interviewer would ask you and they never do?

On my bio, I allude to the fact I’ve worked a lot of different jobs. It took me a long time to find my path in life. I think that’s why I’m so attracted to the New Adult category. I’ve started over a lot. College wasn’t for me, and I worked a lot of dead end jobs that I hated. When I was younger, I didn’t have the confidence to reinvent myself so easily, and at one point I actually had to come to terms with the fact that my dreams were never going to come true. The turning point for me was when I lost a lot of weight—almost 100 lbs. (which has since come and gone several times). It made me realize that if you wanted something badly enough, you could make anything happen.

Coffee or tea?

Coffee. Please and thank you.

Plotter or pantser?

Both, really. I pants until I hit a wall and then I outline what I’ve got and write down ideas for what needs to happen next.

Morning or night?

A very reluctant morning person. I have to be up sometimes in the 3 AM hour for work, and it’s always very unpredictable, so I don’t like to get too off schedule. But I do love the nightlife.

Sneaking into nightclubs to see bands since she was sixteen, Kristen has been researching Because the Night her whole life. Now she’s been to more concerts that she could possibly count. She gets an up close and personal look at the behind the scenes workings of the entertainment industry doing makeup and hair for TV, movies and commercials. She’s a graduate of the School of Hard Knocks and Blaine Beauty School. She enjoys watching football, decorating her house, and making wickedly decadent desserts she force feeds to all her guests. She does not have a Boston accent. You can find Kristen on Goodreads, at her blog or on Twitter.

Interview and giveaway: Julie Hutchings, author of ‘Running Home’

Today over at Aussie Owned and Read I had the pleasure of interviewing the awesome Julie Hutchings. There’s also an ebook giveaway – you could win one of TWO copies of “Running Home”! 🙂

Aussie Writers

Today I’m interviewing Julie Hutchings: black belt, beer drinker, harpy, and at least fifty percent of the Undead Duo. When she’s not doing those things, she’s a horror and urban fantasy writer, and one of my very favourite people on Twitter. Welcome to Aussie Owned and Read, Julie!

Running HomeYour debut, Running Home, came out in August this year. When I read the blurb (which totally made me order the paperback from Amazon, by the way), I thought it sounded like vampires mixed with wasabi and tears. How would you describe it? And are you going to break my heart?

Thank you for having me on Aussie Owned and Read! And for buying my book. 🙂 Oooooh, I really do like that description! But it’s better suited for the sequel which will take place in Japan. Running Home is more of a warm, fuzzy Christmas story but with blood…

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Interview: Zara Hoffman, teen author

Today I’m interviewing Zara Hoffman, the amazing sixteen-year-old author of The Belgrave Daughter, which is being released…today! How exciting! Hi, Zara—welcome to my blog.

18467181Your story has a combination of sorcery, angels and demons—three of my favourite things in a book! Tell us a little about Fawn, your main character.

Fawn is a strong young lady who values family, friends, and trust above all else. She’ll do anything for those she loves. She’s very intelligent, but tends to lose focus when Caleb is around. Oh, and did I mention she’s the most powerful witch on the planet? Talk about a heavy destiny to bear. And she’s only twenty years old—but at least she has her best friend Ivy and brother Alec to help her along the way.

What’s Caleb like? I’m imagining a hot bad boy, with motorcycle leathers and a pair of sunglasses—am I close? 🙂

Haha. I’m sure Caleb has taken up that appearance at least once or twice in his two hundred years as an angel, but he’s more of a laid back, jeans and a t-shirt guy when he’s with Fawn. He’s actually very similar to her in that he, too, loves his family more than anything and is willing to do many morally questionable things in his quest to reunite with them. But here’s a secret: he’s my favorite character of the story.

How do you want your readers to feel when they turn the last page of your book?

I want people to feel…hopeful? I’m sure when readers reach the ending they might want to throw things at my head, but I want people to feel disillusioned from the perfect romance that is in a lot of romance books, YA especially, and know that relationships are hard work—but not unattainable, and worth fighting for.

I know you researched traditional publishing extensively before choosing to self-publish. What was the thought process behind that decision?

My decision was in the making for a long time. While I loved the idea of being chosen by a literary agency or a publisher, the creative independence I’d be giving up didn’t seem worth it. For my first book, I wanted the story to be my vision, not some transformed version that wasn’t my intention. Also, I’m creative enough to know what I want on the cover and to format myself, and entrepreneurial enough to promote my own book, so I decided to go the self-publishing route. Maybe later in my writing career I’ll try for traditional, or maybe not. Only time will tell on that one.

What is the most important thing you’ve learned on your self-publishing journey?

That rushing is the death to creativity and progress. Okay, maybe that’s a bit melodramatic, but rushing through something just for the sake of being able to say “I’m done” only creates stress and hassle. It’s not worth it. Take the extra time, turn out a better book, and be happier in the end.

What advice would you give to other teenagers who are writing their first novel?

I would say to write the story in your heart. If that happens to be one that caters to a popular trend, or completely goes against it, just write it. You’ll only be happy with a project that inspires your enthusiasm. How else would you be able to survive the long haul of writing a novel? And don’t expect it to be perfect. Revisions and edits are necessary. It’s a fact, but even though it’s long and involves lots of work, you can make it fun! And it’ll be worth it!

The Septemgeminus Prophecy states: “A powerful sorceress with blood laced in gold sevenfold shall determine the fate of the world.

Fawn Belgrave’s magical powers are the coveted prize in a bet between God and the Devil.

When she meets Caleb, the dark angel assigned to seduce her, Fawn’s life is turned upside down.

Zara Hoffman is a teen author. She spends most of her time doing homework and writing new stories. When she isn’t wrapped up in projects, Zara can be found relaxing with friends and family, listening to music, reading and writing, or playing with her dog, Riley. You can find her at her website, on Facebook or on Twitter.

Zara Hoffman

Interview: Amira K. Makansi, author

Today I’m interviewing Amira K. Makansi, who is one third of the team that wrote The Sowing, the first book in the Seeds trilogy, by “K. Makansi”. Welcome to the blog, Amira.

Thank you!

The SowingDid I read correctly that you and your two co-authors, Kristina and Elena, are all related – that they are your mother and sister? How did the three of you come to write a book together?

It happened so naturally! About four years ago now, my mother Kristina had a dream that proved to be the genesis of The Sowing. She told my sister Elena about it, and they mapped out a basic story outline, and then forgot about it. Later, still haunted by the memory of that dream, Kristy revived the story and told me about it. Together we decided it had merit and that we’d sit down and try to really write the thing. She wrote a chapter; I wrote a chapter. Then Elena wrote a chapter, then I wrote another. It just kept going that way until eight months later, we had a completed manuscript! We were bound and determined to tell the story of Remy and Vale, and we all believed in it.

Do you think writing with people so close to you has made it easier or harder to co-write a novel? How do you handle creative differences? Do you glare daggers over the breakfast table?

For me personally, I definitely think it made it easier to have co-writers. I don’t know if I could have written a book without their help. When I got stuck, one of my co-writers was always there to help me past writer’s block, or a boring character, or a dumb plot idea. When we argued over different directions, we were always able to come to a consensus, even if it was a hard-fought battle. Some of the best ideas in the story were a result of the three of us just brainstorming casually: one person would say, “Hey, what about this?” and the other two would respond, “Yeah, that sounds awesome! And what if we did this other thing, too?” That’s actually how we came up with the idea of the seed bank database that ended up being a key component of our story.

The Sowing is set in a post-apocalyptic world where genetically modified crops and environmental destruction are major themes. Are these issues you feel strongly about in the world outside your novel?

Yes. All of us feel very strongly about the need for environmental preservation and awareness, especially when it comes to food, water, and land maintenance. We are also passionate about learning more about genetic modification and its potential beneficial or harmful effects on the human body and on the environment. It’s such a developing field, and food companies are jumping into it too quickly for us to anticipate all the possible effects. It has incredible potential, both good and bad, and we are firmly of the opinion that Monsanto et al. are moving too quickly for us to avoid the bad side and fully realize the good side. The Seeds Trilogy is a story about the dark side of GMO – a cautionary tale of the way that GMO crops, combined with mind-altering pharmaceuticals, could be used to control an entire population.

On your blog that you talk about plans for expanding the Seeds trilogy into other media forms, such as apps. Can you tell us a little about that?

We love the idea of serializing our story—that is, releasing it in pieces so that the reader can follow it much as you would a TV show. We’ve definitely toyed with the idea of working with a developer to create an app that would allow you to download the latest instalments of the books, while at the same time interacting with the world we’ve created. I’d love to get to a point where you can click on, say, “The Okarian Sector” in the text, and that would link you to a few paragraphs of history and background on the state we’ve created. Likewise, you could click on “Elijah Tawfiq”, one of the characters in the book, and pull up an illustration, a short bio, and a description of his role in the book. Maps, illustrations, history, technology, and links to information about why this is relevant in today’s world would all feature in as a part of this app. It’s a dream, but I think it’ll be realizable sometime in the future.

As well as writing, you’re also an acquisitions editor at Blank Slate Press. What really grabs you in a pitch? What puts you off?

Good writing is the first thing I look for. I’m a pretty avid reader of science fiction, fantasy, and historical fiction, but I’ll read absolutely anything if the writing is good enough, and at Blank Slate Press, we’re passionate about finding and nurturing talented writers, no matter what the genre.

What puts me off? Arrogance. Don’t tell me you’ve written the next bestseller or that you’re the best writer to come along since Hemingway. (I’ve seen some pitches like that!) I love seeing that a writer really believes in his or her work, but I don’t need to hear about why you think your book is going to be the next Hunger Games.

Thanks, Amira, for dropping by!

About The Sowing:

Remy Alexander was born into the elite meritocracy of the Okarian Sector. From an early age, she and her friends were programmed for intellectual and physical superiority through specialized dietary regimes administered by the Okarian Agricultural Consortium. But when her older sister Tai was murdered in a brutal classroom massacre, her parents began to suspect foul play. They fled the Sector, taking their surviving daughter underground to join the nascent Resistance movement. But now, three years later, Remy’s former schoolgirl crush, Valerian Orleán, is put in charge of hunting and destroying the Resistance. As Remy and her friends race to unravel the mystery behind her sister’s murder, Vale is haunted by the memory of his friendship with Remy and is determined to find out why she disappeared. As the Resistance begins to fight back against the Sector, and Vale and Remy search for the answers to their own questions, the two are set on a collision course that could bring everyone together—or tear everything apart.

You can buy The Sowing on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, or learn more about it at the website.

Amira is a twenty-four year old writer and editor with a passion for food justice and sustainability. When not writing, working with Blank Slate Press, or promoting and marketing The Sowing, she also works in the wine industry, selling, drinking, or making wine. You can find her mushroom hunting in Oregon, writing in cafes while severely over-caffeinated, or eating buffalo wings just about anywhere. 

Amira Makansi

Interview: Melissa A. Petreshock, new adult author

Today I’m interviewing Melissa A. Petreshock, whose debut novel, Fire of Stars and Dragons (book one in the Stars and Souls trilogy), comes out with Swoon Romance in March 2014.

Your Stars and Souls trilogy has dragons, vampires, elves and at least one demigod. If you could transform into any of those types of critter, what would you choose and why?

Definitely, it would not be an elf. I’m not a violent person, and they are a warrior race. The deities hold themselves to such a high set of standards, though they do often fall short. I think I’d be setting myself up for failure there. Lol. The dietary restrictions of the vampires might be difficult for me — too many things I’d have to give up. I’d have to say a dragon, though I’m not sure how they’d feel about a female dragon among the brotherhood. However, I’d love to be able to travel and have a serious distrust of airplanes. I will fly on them, but they make me extremely nervous. Just to be able to shift from human form to dragon form and go wherever I wanted to would be cool.

Melissa A. Petreshock

Melissa A. Petreshock

Is the world of Stars and Souls, which you describe as 22nd century sovereign America, an Earth-like parallel, or a fantastical future Earth? How did you dream it up?

Technically, it’s a bit of both and slightly dystopian. Essentially, it is this world only the year is 2189 when it opens. All supernatural beings have come out of the shadows and made themselves known to the public during a revolutionary period in Earth’s history. America has seen significant changes. The supernatural beings have taken over, creating a monarchy, so we now live in United Sovereign America with the nearly 2500 year old vampire King Corrin ruling. Being less powerful, the humans have become rather repressed within society, particularly women; though the laws are intended to “protect” them, that’s not how certain women feel, despite this way of life being the only one known to them for generations.

The concept is a combination of pure fantasy and a fantastical statement of political and social views. It’s a magnified and extreme concept of corrupted power, dysfunctional leadership, and the desire to make a difference. As well, my female main character Cait is a defined statement to young women that it’s not necessary to allow yourself to be pegged into a hole determined by society. There is more within you than outside influences may tell you, and sometimes it takes just a little support, encouragement, and a lot of courage to face the world head on, no matter what obstacles you face.

If you could give one piece of advice to a writer starting their first novel, what would it be?

Don’t write to the market. Always write the story you believe in, the story you feel in your heart and in your gut. Fads in the market come and go, but if you believe in your writing wholeheartedly and put the work into it, eventually you will find someone else, be it an agent or a publisher, who has the same enthusiasm about it. I went out on a limb by writing what I did, totally unique romantic heroes and incorporating political/societal statements in the underlying story, but my publisher fell in love with it. I signed with Swoon because Georgia had the same excitement in her voice when we spoke on the phone that I feel when talking about my work.

You describe yourself as a music addict, and have the 32-song playlist for Fire of Stars and Dragons on your website. I’m in awe and a little jealous, because I usually write in silence! What song are you listening to in your writing right now, and what sort of scene is it for?

Oh my… With 13 chapters finished, Blood of Stars and Gods already has a 20-song playlist, but the second book will be longer than the first. I’m absolutely a music addict. I have over 50GB of songs on my laptop and download stuff regularly. If I didn’t have a specific method for choosing songs, I’d have to write in complete silence, and I do edit in silence. Words flow with music, but edits require deep concentration. At least that’s my process.

Choosing the right songs for the scenes I write makes the difference between being able to write with music playing or not. They have to fit the emotional tone or events within the scenes or chapters of the book. If you listened to the entire playlist for Fire of Stars and Dragons, you’d have a great sense of the feelings the characters experience before you ever read a word of the book.

Currently, my iTunes is set to “Love Alone Is Worth the Fight” by Switchfoot, which after the way chapter 13 ended, comes into where the specific character I’m writing for stands both in his emotional state and the reason behind actions you’ll see him take. He isn’t willing to give up, even though he’s facing what seems like insurmountable obstacles. If the greater part of your destiny is predefined, what is worth the risk of consequences to fight for what you want and believe you deserve? Where does the line between right and wrong fall when you’re sure your goal is justified?

What book release are you looking forward to in the next three months?

Well, I have several friends releasing books soon, and I’m looking forward to all of them. One of my beta readers, Zara Hoffman’s first book, The Belgrave Daughter comes out on 14 October. A terrific friend of mine, Joshua J. Johnson, has his first book releasing on 29 October, a middle grade book called Bones on the Surface that I’m looking forward to reading with my 9yo son. Erin Albert’s The Prophecy sounds incredibly exciting, and so does Kristen Strassel’s Because the Night, both November debut releases. Then Josh also has Soulless, a thrilling YA novel coming out on 30 November . These are all on my Goodreads TBR shelf.

I’ll confess though, I’ve now received eARCs of The Belgrave Daughter and Because the Night, so I really only have to wait for the others. 😉

About the author:

Debut New Adult paranormal/fantasy romance author, Melissa A. Petreshock lives on a small farm in rural Kentucky with her genius husband, three exceptional children, and their feline overlords.

When not inhaling or exhaling words, she subsists on unnatural doses of coffee, sarcasm, and music. Melissa can often be found singing and dancing around her house or randomly doing Zumba routines, if not playing Wii Just Dance with her kids. She also fangirls The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Falling Skies and True Blood like a total freak.

Spending most of her time weaving myths, reality and imagination into a fantasy of dragons, deities, vampires and elves in a world she created, Melissa often forgets she lives where there are no dragons or faeries in the woods surrounding her house. (But she never stops hoping…)

You can find her at her website, on Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, & Instagram. (NEEDS MOAR SOCIAL MEDIA!)

About the writing:

Stars & Souls Trilogy is a New Adult fantasy/paranormal romance set in a world filled with shapeshifting dragons, a powerful demigod, an ancient vampire monarch, and a sassy human chick keeping them all on their alpha male toes.

Fire of Stars and Dragons… Undying love. Timeless bonds. Eternal consequences.

Coming March 2014 from Swoon Romance

In 22nd-century sovereign America, archaic laws declare 21-year-old Caitriona Hayden a neglected dependent following the death of her uncle, landing the sassy and self-reliant high society young woman in the midst of a trio of quintessential alpha male suitors in a world where human females should be seen and not heard.

Theo Pendragon claims her as his ward, ordained to guard her through to a long-awaited destiny unbeknownst to Cait, but finds more than he expected when passion ignites within the dragon for the first time.

Always drawn to the pursuit of knowledge rather than the heat of desire, powerful demigod Dante cannot deny everything his future holds in Caitriona.

America’s monarch, ancient vampire Corrin, has no interest in the frivolity of love, yet marrying Cait could be the answer to his continued survival.

Thrown from studying for college exams to facing matters of life and death, eternity and destiny, loyalty and love, revenge and deception, Cait must choose a husband knowing the consequences are eternal, the love undying, the bond timeless.

Blood of Stars and Gods… Blood saves. Blood lies. Blood runs between sacrifice and gain.

In progress. Release to be determined.

Interview: K.A. Last, YA author

Today I’m interviewing the fabulous K.A. Last, Indie YA author. In my opinion, she’s an Indie author who’s Doing It Right ™.

KALast_HeadshotFINAL_LRYour book, Fall for Me, was the first self-published novel I ever read. It was fun and fast-paced, and left me wanting to know more about the characters.

Thank you! You are too kind, and I feel honoured that my book was the first self-published novel you ever read. I hope I set a high standard of expectation. 😉

Maybe too high! To be honest, some other self-published novels I’ve read since haven’t fared very well in comparison. What advice would you give a new writer considering self-publishing?

My advice would be: aim to be as professional as you can with the resources that you have. That short sentence encompasses a lot of things: marketing, editing, cover design, production — the list is endless. Independent authors need to keep up with the standards that traditional publishers have set, so we can do away with the stigma that Indie means lower quality. I pride myself on producing a quality product (which unfortunately doesn’t mean to say that everyone has liked my books).

My other piece of advice would be: an Indie author is their own boss, but we can’t be too hard on ourselves. This publishing thing is a lot of hard work, and there are times we need to be a little nicer to ourselves. Oh! One more thing: take everything in your stride, don’t respond to negative situations, and if you fall, pick yourself back up again and keep going.

You’ve described yourself as a bit of a control freak, so I can see why you love the idea of self-publishing. Would you consider pursuing a small press or traditional big six publishing deal after having self-published your first two books? 

This is quite a hard question, and one I don’t really know the answer to. A year or so ago I would have said yes, most definitely. I guess if a big six offered me a contract with a huge advance I might consider it, but if I was to go with a publisher I think I’d feel more comfortable with a small press.

These days the big six publishers still expect their authors to do a lot of promoting. I do that anyway, so the added benefits would need to be worthwhile. I’m in this for the long haul. Things take time, so I’m happy working away at building my fan base, working on my next release(s) and doing it myself for the moment.

Also, I think sometimes I’m too impatient for the query process. I finish something and I want to get it out for people to read, not sit around and wait while someone may or may not want to sign my book.

As well as writing, publishing and promoting your books, you also have a graphic design business, and you work and have small children. How do you find the time to do everything?!

Ha! I don’t. Basically it’s whatever has priority gets done first. All the other stuff waits. If I have the choice between sitting down to do edits and playing with the kids, I play with the kids. My family is the most important thing in my life, and they always come first. I can stay up late and do edits after the kids are asleep.

There’s a quote I love from The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom: “It is never too late or too soon. It is when it is supposed to be.” Exactly!


Cover illustration: Lawrence Mann

You’ve got a new release coming out before the end of the year, Immagica–which one early reviewer described as “the Never Ending Story meets Jumanji with a little Alice in Wonderland thrown in”. How have you found the experience of writing fantasy as opposed to urban fantasy? (I’ll be honest: so far the world-building has scared me off writing that genre!)

Immagica was so much fun to write. You shouldn’t be scared of writing fantasy! With something that is pure fantasy and set in another world, there are no rules. In Immagica I made the rules so no one can tell me any part of it is wrong. The world-building was a really exciting part of the story, and I love the world I’ve created. I’ve found Pinterest is a great way to help with inspiration and visualisation.

Urban fantasy is also a lot of fun to write, but there are already certain rules in place that you have to follow. If you break them there needs to be a good reason for it, or a really unique take on something that is already established. Basically I’m happy when I’m writing whether it’s fantasy, urban fantasy, dystopian, paranormal romance, or contemporary (yes, I have a contemporary WIP, although it may turn into an UF). Each story is different and sucks me in with its own uniqueness.

For those who’ve read Fall for Me: if you were stuck on a desert island, would you choose to be stranded with Grace, Josh or Seth? Assume for the purposes of this question that none of their various supernatural abilities are available (so you can’t just choose one that can teleport!).

Oh dear, I love all my characters for different reasons, so this is a really hard question. But I think I would have to choose Seth. He is a very multi-layered character. He’s a typical bad boy in that he likes to uphold his mean exterior, but on the inside he has a lot to offer. I’m assuming we will be on this island for a while and I think he would provide the most interesting conversation. He’s also been through a lot in his long existence so I think he could teach me a thing or two. Not to mention he’s pretty nice to look at. 😉

Haha, I’d choose Seth too. Mostly because I’m superficial and he’s smoking hot! Thanks for dropping by. 😉

About the author: K. A. Last was born in Subiaco, Western Australia, and moved to Sydney with her parents and older brother when she was eight. Artistic and creative by nature, she studied Graphic Design and graduated with an Advanced Diploma. After marrying her high school sweetheart, she concentrated on her career before settling into family life. Blessed with a vivid imagination, she began writing to let off creative steam, and fell in love with it. She now resides in a peaceful, leafy suburb north of Sydney with her husband, their two children, and a rabbit named Twitch.

You can find her at her website, or on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads or on Amazon.

Blurb for IMMAGICA:

Title: Immagica
Author: K. A. Last
Genre: YA Fantasy/Adventure
Expected Date of Publication: November 2013
Word Count: Around 66,000
Cover Illustration: Lawrence Mann
Cover Designer: KILA Designs


Where anything is possible, but not always controllable.

Enter at your own risk.

The night before her fifteenth birthday, Rosaline Clayton receives an amulet from her deranged father. He tells her she must find the book, and begs her to save him. Rosaline is used to her father not making any sense, and she dismisses their conversation as another of his crazy rants.

Rosaline and her younger brother, Elliot, find the old, leather-bound book tucked away in their Nana’s attic, and it sucks them into its pages. They land in a magical world where anything is possible, but when Rosaline and Elliot are separated, the only thing Rosaline wants is to find her brother and go home.

The creatures of Immagica have other ideas. Rosaline befriends a black unicorn, two fairies, and a girl named Brynn, who are under threat from a menacing dragon. Rosaline discovers she is bound to Immagica in ways she doesn’t understand, and the fate of this magical world rests entirely on her shoulders.

Add Immagica on Goodreads today!

Interview: Dahlia Adler, YA author

Today I’m pleased to be interviewing Dahlia Adler. If you’re part of the writing community on Twitter, particularly, you’ll probably have heard of Dahlia; she’s full of good advice and kind words for new writers. Her first book, BEHIND THE SCENES, comes out in June next year.

Tell us about your THREE-BOOK DEAL with Spencer Hill Contemporary (SHC)! I gather they signed you up not for a trilogy but for separate books. How did that process work?

This was actually sort of a hilarious process, because in addition to being my wonderful, talented editor, Patricia Riley is also a friend of mine. She loved (well, hopefully loves!) BEHIND THE SCENES and once we started talking about it, I couldn’t stop babbling about every random thought I’d ever had, and one was what my imaginary companion novel would be. As the deal was happening, she said, “Well, what if it wasn’t so imaginary?” And then as we kept talking, she said she didn’t want to lose me after two books, and I knew I had a couple of others I thought could be perfect for her and SHC, so the non-trilogy three-book deal was born! Definitely not typical in process or practice, but I’m very, very excited that Patricia’s stuck with me for a while longer!

What has your favourite part of the publishing process been so far?

I announced my deal five months ago and it’s still the greatest feeling in the world every time someone tells me they’re actually excited to read my book. Like, people I don’t know who don’t have to say that to be nice to me. That is so amazing, and having great editors at SHC in Patricia and her incredible editorial assistant, Lauren, makes me feel infinitely better about what I’ll be releasing into the world!

What about the worst part?


Dahlia the Divine (as she shall henceforth be known!)

I just turned around my first round of edits, and there’s always this nagging feeling of what else I could’ve or should’ve done, and the anticipation of the response, and thinking “If only I’d had another week.” And while now, sure, there’s always another round of edits, the realization that one day there won’t be—that what I’ve done is what readers will get—is terrifying. But eventually, you have to let go, and that’s why I think it’s so, so important to trust the people in charge of your book that they’ll make it the best they can be.

All your books (that I’m aware of!) are young adult contemporary—even The Book of Esther, a retelling of the biblical book of (surprise!) Esther. What draws you to that genre?

I love contemporary for all the lives it allows you to live vicariously; that’s always been a huge draw to writing it for me. This definitely traces back largely to the fact that I strictly observe Orthodox Judaism (if I’m never gonna eat bacon in real life, I’m going to have characters who do!) but I’ve also come to realize that part of what I love about contemporary is the challenge of creating new stories in the confines of a world that already exists.

Now, granted, my worldbuilding skills when it comes to making up alternate realities and fantasy lands are nonexistent, so I highly doubt I could write another genre even if I wanted to, but there’s something so cool in contemporary about having to create new worlds, schools, local cultures, etc. within the existing geographical boundaries, social constructs, and laws of our world. It’s a fun challenge every time, trying to figure out a way to make your story stand out when you’re playing by the same guidelines as every other contemporary writer!

I’ve got a Pinterest board where I collect blog posts that are great resources for writers, and your posts and Chuck Wendig’s are the majority my pins. You also volunteer your time on contests like Pitch Madness. How do you manage all these incredibly generous contributions to the writing community while also finding time to write, work and, you know, eat? Do you have a TARDIS?!

Thanks so much for that! Regarding time, I’m honestly just very, very lucky. My husband is the crazy kind of supportive that will say things like, “I’ll clean up the enormous mess you just made in the kitchen—you go write.” I also have a brain that thrives on multi-tasking, a job that allows for some surreptitious tweeting during the day and blogging during lunch, a subway commute that ensures I’ll always have plenty of time to read and often beta, and incredible friends and CPs who keep me sane and my work better.

But I also don’t have kids or pets. I don’t give any time to things like exercise. I don’t have other hobbies. I’m pretty apathetic as to the cleanliness of my house. And I really don’t care if I get to shower every day. Or every other day. Or every three days. It’s easy, especially over social media, to forget how both our personal wiring and personal circumstances feed in to what we are able to put out into the world. But those things can factor in as much as skill, knowledge and desire do.

What book release are you most looking forward to in the next six months?

Oh God, this question is torturously unfair. I am so, so excited for so many upcoming releases, and anyone who follows my blog will see me talking about them a lot over the next few months. I’ll answer, but I’m going to cheat a little and go with something that’s in the next six and a half months, because it really is the answer that automatically comes to mind when I think about the release I’m dying for: OPEN ROAD SUMMER by Emery Lord, which releases on 15 April 2014, from Walker.

Our books are similar in premise, so obviously it’s an idea that excited me from the get-go, but I’m really excited for the differences, too—I know nothing about the country music world, and I love that there’s a huge travel aspect to the plot—and now that I know Emery personally, I’m particularly excited for the amount of heart and humor I know will fill it. So…is it April yet??

Dahlia Adler is an Assistant Editor of mathematics by day, a Copy Editor at Spencer Hill Contemporary and Ellora’s Cave by night, and a YA author and blogger at every spare moment in between. She lives in New York City with her husband and their overstuffed bookshelves, and is represented by Lana Popovic at Zachary Shuster Harmsworth. You can find her on Twitter at @MissDahlELama and blogging at The Daily Dahlia and YA Misfits.


Eighteen-year-old Ally Duncan’s best friend may be “the” Vanessa Park – star of TV’s hottest new teen drama – but Ally’s not interested in following in her BFF’s Hollywood footsteps. In fact, the only thing Ally’s ever really wanted is to go to Columbia and study abroad in Paris. But when her father’s mounting medical bills threaten to stop her dream in its tracks, Ally nabs a position as Van’s on-set assistant to get the cash she needs.

Spending the extra time with Van turns out to be fun, and getting to know her sexy co-star Liam is an added bonus. But when the actors’ publicist arranges for Van and Liam to “date” for the tabloids just after he and Ally share their first kiss, Ally will have to decide exactly what role she’s capable of playing in their world of make believe. If she can’t play by Hollywood’s rules, she may lose her best friend, her dream future, and her first shot at love.

A big moment for me…

Many years ago, I did professional writing at university. I landed there because in year twelve I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life, and a very lazy career adviser said, “Well, what classes do you enjoy?” and I said, “Um, English?”

I also enjoyed computing, so if the career adviser had asked a slightly different question or if I’d mentioned the other class first I might be a highly paid IT nerd right now. I’d still be writing, regardless, but maybe not quite as well. (Much love to any IT nerds reading this. My boyfriend is one; I mean no disrespect.)

As it was, I got a degree that was broadly applicable to every job I had — I draft a mean minute — but only became specifically applicable in the last five years when I landed my precious editing job, and started writing again.

The head of the course — let’s call her Janey — was a huge fan of literary, feminist fiction. Genre fiction fans like me didn’t get a lot of credit from her, and the male genre fiction fans in the class got even less. She also believed in what she probably would’ve called tough love, but what I secretly believed was her way of trying to scare us all into not bothering to write so that she had a better shot at getting her own Great Australian Novel published.

I remember one lecture where Janey was talking about the Australian publishing industry. She told us there were maybe half a dozen Australian fiction writers who could make a living off their work, that they all wrote literary or mainstream commercial fiction (ie they were Bryce Courtenay), and that we should all give up any hope of ever being successful enough to pay a mortgage.

Especially us genre fiction writers.

I have no words

I have no words

(Note: Her advice is both good and very crappy. Kids, don’t give up your day job to write unless you are independently wealthy or you’re already earning enough from your existing royalties to pay the bills and save for your superannuation. But don’t believe it’s not possible to achieve the latter with a lot of hard work and persistence, either.)

Anyway, a few years later I discovered Kate Forsyth.

Kate is a Sydney writer. She writes speculative fiction. She is very good at her job, and she makes a living from it. When I read her high fantasy series The Witches of Eileanan, I loved the story — but who Kate was and what she was doing was, simply put, a revelation.

And yesterday I got to interview her over at Aussie Owned and Read.

Take that, Janey.