I’d like to welcome Amber to the blog today. Amber is a YA fantasy author of Fragile Chaos, The Last Goodbye, and the forthcoming Dream Keeper trilogy. The first book releases on January 29thfrom Parliament House Press. The book is called Dream Keeper, a deliciously dark and romantic tale. I had the opportunity to read an ARC and I absolutely loved it.
Loie: Thank you so much, Amber, for agreeing to be interviewed 😊 Can you please share that initial spark of inspiration behind Dream Keeper?
Amber: I was lying on the couch thinking about what to write next (I was querying Fragile Chaos at the time) when it hit me out of nowhere that I wanted to write something that included the Sandman. That was it—no plot or other characters which was obviously super helpful, haha. It took me days to come up with the rest.
Loie: Are there things you do before drafting that help open up new ideas for the plot or characters?
Amber: I wouldn’t say before drafting. My “first draft” is where things sort themselves out, but that’s really a glorified outline of 20-30k words. I know where things start and where they end, but I give the characters a good amount of leash to explore the rest. In writing book 3 of the Dark Dreamer trilogy, I realized I set up something in book 1 without knowing it so at least they know what they’re doing. 😉
Loie: How did you come up with the nightmarish world? I loved all the details and it really came to life. I felt scared and amazed at times while reading.
Amber: Thank you! It was my favorite realm to create! Everyone is afraid of different things, whether it’s a living thing or something emotional. For the emotional landscapes, I tried to embody the feeling it wanted the Dreamer to have, but the living ones were my favorite. Honestly, I just took something, like the clown, and kept twisting it until I knew it would freak people out. (Is my dark heart showing?)
Loie: Can you share who your favorite character is to write in this book?
Amber: Kail! He’s not in the first book much, but he’s so fun to write because he doesn’t give one single crap.
Loie: What’s next for you 😊? Do you have any genres you’d like to visit after this trilogy?
Amber: Don’t I wish I knew? 😛 I have a few ideas jumping up and down on the sidelines, begging me to pick them as soon as book 3 is finished. 1 involves magic, 1 science, and the 3rd, both.
Loie: Can you tell us what’s your most anticipated read (s) of 2019?
Amber: I already have it! The Wicked King! I’m rereading The Cruel Prince right now to savor the story a bit longer.
Loie: Thanks so much, Amber, for stopping by ❤ Can’t wait until the rest of the world gets to read Dream Keeper!
Amber R. Duell was born and raised in a small town in Central New York. While it will always be home, she’s constantly moving with her husband and two sons as a military wife. Before becoming published, she had a wide range of occupations including banking, bartending (though she’s never tried alcohol), and phlebotomy (though she faints with needles). She also volunteered as a re-enactor at the local Revolutionary War fort and worked near shelter cats which led to her previous crazy cat lady status.
She does her best writing in the middle of the night, surviving the daylight hours with massive amounts of caffeine. Her favorite stories are dark with a touch of romance and a villain you either love to hate or hate to love.
When not reading or writing, she enjoys snowboarding, embroidering, snuggling with her cat, and staying up way too late to research genealogy. She loves to travel and has visited more countries than states. Kissing the Blarney Stone and hand-feeding monkeys in the mountains of France will be hard to beat, but that doesn’t stop her from trying to find the next real-life adventure.
Mere Joyce is a Canadian author of books for young adults. Her writing includes contemporary tales, high-action mysteries, and her personal favorite–ghost stories. When she’s not writing, Mere can be found recommending books as a librarian, or spending time at home with her husband and two sons. She’s also been known to be a selective, yet highly enthusiastic fangirl.
Mere’s novels include Blank Canvas (Evernight Teen, 2015), Getting the Brush Off (Orca Book Publishers, 2017), Shadow (Orca Book Publishers, 2018), and Shade (Oracle of Senders book 1 – 7S Pub, 2018).
Welcome to another addition to Canadian Author Interviews. Today, I’d like to welcome Canadian YA author, Mere Joyce.
Loie: Welcome to the blog, Mere! So lovely to have you here. Can you please share about your journey as a writer to published author? When did you start writing and why? When did you decide you were ready to try and have your book published 😊?
Mere: Thank you for having me! I can’t precisely remember when I started writing, but I can trace it back at least to my tween years. Writing has long-since been an important part of my identity (my high school yearbook actually says my future goal is to become the female Stephen King, :P), but it wasn’t until I finished schooling and began working as a librarian that it went from being a hobby to being something I was serious about. It’s always easy to say ‘I’ll get to it eventually’. But being surrounded by books each day at work made me realize I needed to make an honest effort at getting my own writing on the shelf as well. I sent out my very first query in January 2012, and spent three years working on various projects before finding a home for my first novel.
Loie: YES! Love your high school yearbook goal 🙂 I know that way of thinking too, getting to it eventually.
Can you share some of the inspiration behind Blank Canvas? It sounds so complex and amazing 😊
Mere: Blank Canvas actually came from a dream I had when I was fifteen years old! At the time, I couldn’t stop thinking about the creepy man who painted everything and kept me captive, so I wrote a story called The Painter. It was a fairly short tale, and more of a horror/thriller. But unlike some of my other earliest writings, I never gave up my conviction that someday the story would make it into book form. Nearly a decade after first writing it, it occurred to me that the story could be told in a totally different way, focusing less on the imprisonment/escape and more on the life lived afterwards. I started to explore the character of Maddie more thoroughly, making connections I’d never realized before (for instance, that she herself was a painter), and I ended up rewriting the entire thing from scratch. The story gained depth, and the character of Maddie truly came alive for the first time, which was awesome.
Loie: Wow! Some dreams are truly powerful. Love the story behind Blank Canvas! Can’t wait to read it. My copy is on its way:)
What is your favorite genre to write and why?
Mere: I love horror, and would be thrilled to write more YA horror stories. But I actually find myself often drawn to writing YA contemporary tales. I love exploring the possibilities of ordinary teens facing extraordinary dilemmas (big or small), as well as the complexities of “normal” life.
Loie: Yes! I love contemporary as well. I’m working on a Bluebeard fairytale retelling. I’ve never written horror or creepy stories, so it’s been kind of fun.
Do you have any new projects on the horizon in 2019 that you can hint at 😊 ?
Mere: I have a couple! In addition to continuing with my Oracle of Senders series with the upcoming Revenant, I also have a new YA Contemporary called Things That Fall, which will be released in August by Dancing Cat Books! Two very different stories that are both immensely near to my heart – including a varied mix of ghosts, cousins, romance, and mystery.
Loie: Eeee! I love the title, Revenant! Also, your new contemporary sounds fantastic. Ghosts 😀
With your experience, how have you found the Canadian publishing industry?
Mere: The Canadian publishing industry is really interesting…it can be a challenge, as there aren’t a ton of publishing houses/agencies, and many of the ones that do exist have very specific areas of interest. But I absolutely love the dedication of the Canadian industry to publish and promote Canadian authors and Canadian content, especially in regards to YA—I grew up not even knowing Canadian YA existed! There is a lot more visibility for our works now, and there is a sense of community among both publishers as well as authors that is fantastic.
Loie: Thank you for sharing 🙂 I always love to hear authors perspectives on the industry. I see the dedication too and its lovely. Super encouraging for up and coming authors and writers.
Who’s your favorite author and why?
Mere: I actually find this an incredibly hard question to answer, because I collect favourite stories far more often than I do authors! However, if I were to choose one, I’d have to reach back a ways and go with Frances Hodgson Burnett. She had a way of writing stories that were grounded in reality but completely magical all the same.
Loie: Oooo! She’s a fantastic author.
Favorite 2018 read?
Mere: I really liked Kiersten White’s The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein, an unexpected enjoyment that’s rekindled my interest in the original tale.
Loie: I can’t wait to read that book!!! Any tips for aspiring authors 😊 ?
Mere: When you read (both in your genre and outside of it), pick out the things you absolutely love about the stories—especially the little things. Metaphors or descriptions, character interactions or settings…delving into the intricacies of stories will help you learn what kinds of things you love (and, conversely, what things immediately make you roll your eyes with annoyance or dismay). There are so many “rules” out there for writers, that it’s easy to feel like you have to write in a certain way, or avoid a type of story because it’s been done before. Always keep the magic of reading alive, and write the kinds of things you love/wish there was more of as a reader—without worrying if it follows the rules or is going to be seen as cliché!
Loie: That is great advice! I actually was planning a series for January where I’ll look at examples of characters or setting in various stories and share what I love about them so much.
It’s like studying craft more directly:) Mmmm. I love that – keep the magic of reading alive. I agree one hundred percent.
Thanks so much, Mere! Fab to get to know you more and highlight Canadian YA authors<3
Please welcome the funny and lovely, M. Dalto, soon to be published author! Her debut novel releases tomorrow, December 11th, with Parliament House Press! I was lucky enough to be mentored by MB during #WriteMentor from the months of May to August. MB mentored me with Amber R. Duell (author of Dream Keeper) and it was a blast.
Welcome MB! I’m so happy you are here, today. Can’t wait to hear more about your journey with TWO THOUSAND YEARS and what’s next for you 🙂
Let’s get started!
Loie: When did you start writing TWO THOUSAND YEARS and what inspired it?
MB: The inspiration for TWO THOUSAND YEARS actually came to me in 1993 – and now I’m probably dating myself. Billy Joel released his album entitled River of Dreams and on it was a song called Two Thousand Years. My best friend and I had very active imaginations and often wrote our own stories, roleplayed, and the like — there was something about Two Thousand Years that called to me, even then, telling me there was a story there, and it needed to be written. They melody was moving, and the lyrics were inspiring- battles to be won and love that spanned centuries. It was just begging for a story to be told.
I socked the idea away for many years later, until 2014 when something in me felt the need to write a story for NaNoWriMo. So, using the same song for inspiration so many years later, that’s exactly what I did.
Loie: Wow! Love the story behind TTY. That is so cool, MB! Now I’m going to go and listen to that song 😉
Can you tell readers what Wattpad is? When did you decide to post TTY on it?
MB: Wattpad is a website where millions of writers and readers can come together, from all over the world, and share their stories and experiences. I had heard about it from a friend when I was looking to do more with TWO THOUSAND YEARS. What brought me there didn’t start out as happy though…
I finally decided to share my first chapter on one of the NaNoWriMo forums. And the person who read it, a total stranger, messaged me and told me that it may have been one of the worst pieces of writing he ever read.
I was devastated.
So much so that I was ready to just stop- no more writing, throw the story away, that was it.
Until a friend of mine mentioned Wattpad. I never knew it existed until she told what it was, where I could upload as much or as little onto it as I wanted, where the feedback I could get there would be far more diverse than one unknown person’s opinion.
So I finally joined in February 2016.
Loie: Super important to receive diverse feedback compared to one person. I’m so glad your friend mentioned Wattpad to you ❤
Did you have the novel finished before you started posting on Wattpad or did you write a chapter a week?
MB: TWO THOUSAND YEARS was fully drafted when I decided to post it to Wattpad, but I was still in the process of my first round of edits and revision. So once I had a chapter completed, I would post it to Wattpad. I tried to get at least one up a week at the time, sometimes there would be two. I remember when I was about 10 chapters away from the end I went on a posting spree and put up one a day, but because I wanted to mark it as ‘complete’.
Loie: Oh, that’s neat 🙂 How fun! Your readers must have been thrilled about the posting spree, hehe 🙂 ! I used to post on Fanfiction. I wrote Sailor Moon and Harry Potter fanfic (featuring Harry’s parents :D) and I remember how fun it was to receive reviews and feedback on my writing.
Can you share your journey with Two Thousand Years getting published?
MB: confess I had not interest in publishing when I started writing it. I merely wanted to write a story, and I did. But once I posted it to Wattpad and it won the Watty, I started to consider that maybe there was something more I could do with it. So I started querying it to agents. A lot. And it was rejected. A lot. I tried on SwoonReads and it ebbed and flowed in its popularity, but nothing came of it. It got some interest a Pitmad or two from indie publishers, but at the time I was focused on traditional publishing. I even tried throwing it into 2017’s PitchWars but it got me nowhere.
I soon lost count of the rejections, but for this one I was okay because it, and the rest of its series, was still extremely popular on Wattpad. But eventually the frustration got to me and I was seriously considering myself as a writer (don’t we all?) until a friend of mine whom I met through an ACOTAR FB group started posting about her new book coming out with a Parliament House Press. After talking to her about it and her experiences, I began to realize that TWO THOUSAND YEARS as a story I wasn’t going to compromise to sell, so maybe an independent small press was something to consider. So I queried them and they enjoyed what they read enough to request my full manuscript a month later, and a week after that I was sent the contract!
Loie: Writing is a journey and I agree, I think every writer doubts themselves. I’ve been there. So cool that you met a friend through your love of ACOTAR ❤ I love Parliament House Press. I’m so glad they’re releasing your book. Also, your cover is amazing!
What is your favourite 2018 read?
MB: This is hard because I can barely remember what I read! If you’re asking me what my favorite 2018 release was, it would definitely be A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas because her ACOTAR series is my favorite, with A Court of Mist and Fury still up there as my most favorite book ever. I know a lot of people were upset with this book, but it was a novella and it was a fun novella and I’m okay with the romantic fluff every once in a while, especially where Rhysand is involved.
Now, if you’re asking me about books that I actually, finally read in 2018, the favorites there would be Lady Midnight and Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare. Though I guess I can now throw Queen of Air and Darkness into the mix, as it’s a 2018 release though I haven’t finished it. Yet… But those books redeemed her Shadowhunters franchise for me and I absolutely love them. Almost as much as must as the ACOTAR series.
Loie: Eep! I haven’t finished ACOFAS but maybe I will in the next few weeks. Also, I need to get caught up with the Shadowhunters books so I can finally read this new series. It sounds amazing!
When you’re not writing, what do you like to do In your free time :)?
MB: What’s free time? 😉
Other than writing and wrangling my 8-year-old daughter, I love to read. YA and Adult fantasy are my favorites, though I’ll drop everything for the Outlander series. I also love playing video games – RPGs are my preferred genre, and I’ve been playing World of Warcraft for what feels like forever. And sometimes, when the mood arises, I’ll practice yoga- basic Hatha is my go-to.
Loie: Hahaha 😀 ! Outlander! Love it. Also, I haven’t played video games in ages but I would love to again. I was inspired by my love of Legend of Zelda to write my own fantasy novel.
Okay… now for a super important question: why is Jamie Campbell Bower the best :D?
MB: *HAHA* I see what you did there…
Okay, so let’s start at the beginning.
Hi, my name is MaryBeth, and I adore Jamie Campbell Bower.
I don’t want to use the term ‘obsessed’ because it still remains a healthy infatuation. For the moment. The man can do no wrong – he can act, he can sing, and he’s gorgeous… I mean…a very successful model. He’s well spoken, hilarious, and did I mention gorgeous?
So, Jamie is one of those actors who you know without realizing you know. He was in Sweeney Todd, Harry Potter, played the most amazing Jace in the City of Bones, and then there are those damn movies about sparkly vampires that we don’t talk about. He was also the front runner in Camelot for the one season it was on Starz and played the most amazing Kit Marlowe in TNT’s Will. He’s incredibly talented, and not only on the screen. He actually started his career in music before acting, and his band, COUNTERFEIT., is coming out with their second album in 2019. AND I can attest that he is as genuine in person as you may see in his interviews because I was fortunate enough to have met him in 2018.
But I digress….
Loie: Hahah! Thank you for sharing! I’m sold on JCB! I have yet to listen to COUNTERFEIT but I will sometime this week. Yes, I’ve seen a few interviews with him and he does seem really genuine. So neat that you got to meet him!
What does 2019 hold for you? Do you have any new projects on the horizon?
MB: So the beginning of 2019 will bring the release of the first two companion novellas for the Empire Saga, REYLOR’S LAMENT and TREYAN’S PROMISE. After that, there’s rumor’s Book 2 could be coming out later in 2019, but we’ll see what happens there 😉
Other than that, I have a couple of other projects I’m working on, both with myself and others. A manuscript or two I’m trying to focus on finishing and polishing, and maybe a couple others that are ready to start from scratch. We’ll just have to see how the year goes!
Loie: Wow! I’m so glad there’s more on the horizon. Can’t wait to read the novellas! Congrats, MB! One more day until TWO THOUSAND YEARS releases 🙂 It’s one of my top reads from 2018 ❤
Thank you so much, MB, for visiting the blog today! You can connect with MB on her Twitter, Instagram, and Wattpad 🙂
“NICOLE BEA is a short story author, novelist, technical writer, and agent with Metamorphosis Literary who primarily focuses on writing contemporary teen fiction. An avid storyteller since childhood, she has honed her skills through a variety of educational programs including management, sociology, legal studies, and cultural diversity in the workplace, most recently engaging in coursework about communication for technologists.
When she isn’t busy updating her manuscript portfolio or responding to queries, she can usually be found reading, avoiding domestic chores & pursuing her new hobby of learning to cook. She & her husband share their home in Eastern Canada with a collection of disabled cats and a lifetime’s worth of books.”
Loie: Hi Nicole! It’s so great to have you here on the blog today. I’m excited to chat with you 😊 I love meeting Canadian YA authors. Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed.
Can you share a little bit about your writing journey. When did you start writing, what do you write, and how did you get your agent?
Nicole: I started writing novels in January of 2017 after being diagnosed with clinical depression. I had always wanted to write a book growing up but never really knew how to go about it. Once I started to be treated, I decided to tackle my goal of writing a full-length novel. I’ve always loved young adult stories and thought that perhaps that would be a good place to start and I completed the first draft of my first book in about a month. It was such an exciting process and I found the ideas started flowing from that book very organically, and so I started my second book very shortly after, finishing that one in six weeks. Over the course of the year I wrote five teen fiction books!
I ended up querying my fifth book, FORGET ME NOT, in January of 2018 and was picked up by my agent, Patty Carothers of Metamorphosis Literary Agency, in April of the same year. I was so happy to find someone who loved my story as much as I did and who was also willing to help me set some goals and teach me about the publishing industry, so it was immediately a great match.
Loie: Thank you for sharing ❤ That’s quite amazing that you wrote five novels in one year 🙂 ! Also, super encouraging that you found an agent after querying for a few months.
Can you tell readers a little bit about Wattpad and why you decided to post your stories there? What’s your favorite thing about Wattpad?
Nicole: Wattpad is such a great community to be part of, especially for a new writer. There are so many ways to grow your writing and share your stories with others that I think it’s a fantastic way to learn more about writing. There are people on the platform who like all different genres, so the nice thing about that is you’ll be able to find a group of people to connect with who have similar interests.
I joined Wattpad about a year before I started writing full-length fiction, mainly as a reader and poster of micro-fiction. I ended up turning some of my Wattpad pieces into novellas that were picked up by Zimbell House Publishing and it was then I realized that maybe I had the potential to turn writing into something more than a casual hobby. Wattpad definitely helped engage me with a network of wonderful people who were all very helpful in giving me direction and answering inquiries.
Loie: Wattpad is amazing. I’ve read some incredible works on that site. My friend and mentor from #WriteMentor, MB Dalto, posts stories there 🙂 That’s really neat that some of your novellas were picked up by Zimbell House Publishing!
As a literary agent at Metamorphosis Literacy Agency, have you noticed anything with incoming manuscripts? What are some things that turn you away from a manuscript? Have you noticed any trends? What do you love seeing in a submission?
Nicole: I absolutely love reading submissions. It’s one of my favourite parts of the job. I’ve received some really creative content and it always amazes me what people can come up with and the depth and breadth of creativity. I’ve received all genres and sub-genres and have become really engaged with some things I would normally not have thought I’d interested in. That’s kind of an interesting part of being an agent is the exposure to all these projects.
Most submissions I receive are very well put together. That being said, it is important to ensure you have the basics down in your query. Please double-check to ensure the agent’s name is spelled correctly, that you’ve included contact information, and you are following the submission protocol. I also personally like to know why the author thinks we would be a good fit, but if you’re including this, please make sure it is a personalized statement and not just something generic that may not actually apply (for example, don’t say that you’re sending it along because of the agent’s interest in romance if they’ve indicated they don’t wish to receive romance).
Loie: Wow, that’s super insightful. Thanks for sharing. What is your favorite genre to write and why?
Nicole: I generally only write teen fiction, but I have dabbled in adult romance. I like to use my own experiences as a teenager as the basis for my books and some of my stories directly reflect things that have happened to me growing up. I find when I write about things that are based on real life, it allows me to process them in a different way, plus I get to maintain some sense of nostalgia. In particular cases, like with my story SKIN, I get to re-write endings to stories that may not have had positive conclusions.
Loie: Can you share how you edit your novels? Do you have a checklist you go through after completing a draft? Do you send to beta or critique readers?
Nicole: I edit as I write, paragraph by paragraph. Because of this it takes me a little bit longer to get my writing done, but I find it less stressful than trying to get all my thoughts down without reviewing them. As I’m writing my first draft, I post the chapters on Wattpad for my dedicated readers and take their comments into consideration when putting together my manuscript for submission. Once my draft is complete and I’ve reviewed the comments on Wattpad, I employ a selection of beta readers.
Loie: That’s a neat method 🙂 Cool! What are you reading at the moment?
Nicole: Nicholas Sparks – The Last Song
Jay Coles – Tyler Johnson Was Here
Lauren Spieller – Your Destination is on the Left
Loie: Ooooo, I have Your Destination is on the Left on my TBR list 🙂 What are you hoping to find in your inbox as a literary agent? Do you have a specific #MSWL? Any fairytale retellings or fantasy, contemporary, or YA stories you’d love to see in your inbox?
Nicole: My #MSWL is as follows (at least for now!):
Contemporary fiction in ages 16+, and YA in all forms and genres, particularly with romance or mystery subplots. Manuscripts featuring animal appearances are always appreciated, cats and horses in particular, as are stories taking place in Canada.
Loie: Awesome! Yay, Canada ❤ Thanks so much for visiting, Nicole! So great chatting with you.
This Christmas Eve… no creature was stirring…
Except, maybe, a mouse.
At long last, can true love break the Nutcracker’s curse?
For Clara Stahlbaum, this Christmas means the end of her youth. A daughter of the aristocracy, Clara is expected to give up her dreams of adventures and the extraordinary for more normal days as the wife of a cruel Viscount.
But when magical Uncle Drosselmeyer returns with his wondrous, dancing contraptions, and one…special gift for Clara, she is beckoned to the land of Winter Dream, where she is thrust into the greatest adventure of her wildest dreams. But will she be able to break the Nutcracker’s curse?
Uncle Drosselmeyer’s apprentice, Anton, is handsome as he is mysterious. But what is it about him Clara finds so alluring?
Winter Dream is a phenomenal retelling of The Nutcracker from the eyes of Clara Stahlbaum with all the magic of the Holiday season. If you loved S. Jae-Jones’ Wintersong, you’ll fall in love with this stunning tale of love, war, redemption, and Christmas magic.
I would like to welcome the lovely author, Chantal Gadoury, to the blog today. Chantal is Senior Editor at The Parliament House Press. This is an amazing publishing house releasing some of my favorite books this year: Dream Keeper by Amber R. Duell, Two Thousand Years by M. Dalto, Clouded Envy by Candace Robinson, and Blinding Night by Chantal Gadoury 😊
Check them out if you love fantasy, steampunk, science fiction, and more wonderful tales!
Today, we are celebrating and counting down the days until Chantal’s Nutcracker retelling, WinterDream, releases. Isn’t that cover gorgeous?!
Loie: Without further ado, welcome Chantal!
I love this time of year and am SO excited to read WinterDream. This is the perfect read for me. I know I’ll cozy up with a blanket and a mug of hot chocolate ❤
Can you please share the initial inspiration behind WinterDream? What led you to write a Nutcracker retelling?
Chantal: Loie, first – thanks for having me on your blog today! I can’t help but agree with you whole-heartily about cozying up with a blanket and a mug of hot chocolate. That sounds so perfect. As to answer your question, Christmas actually inspired my Nutcracker tale. I grew up going to the Nutcracker ballet with my mom, and the story has always been this magical love story that I’ve treasured for years. It was right around the beginning of the holidays last year that I had just finished writing “Between the Sea and Stars,” and I was pondering the question of “What else do I write?” And with a Christmas tree in front of me, it suddenly made sense to write my own version of the story I had grown up with – and loved so much!
Loie: Love it! That’s such a special inspiration ❤ When did you start writing this story and how long did it take to revise?
Chantal: I started writing this mid-November, early December of 2017, and I finished around February of 2018. I really pushed myself to get through the story while it was still winter, and cold (and while I still had an excuse to listen to Christmas music – and the Nutcracker score.) It sat for a while until Parliament took it, and it’s been in the revising process since August! It’s been happening fairly quickly, but I’m definitely excited to share this tale with everyone!
Loie: Awesome! Yes, perfect excuse to listen to Christmas tunes 😉 Did you come across any interesting tidbits of history about the Nutcracker story during your research?
Chantal: Not necessarily history – but cultural differences. So when I began to write the Nutcracker, I had to choose between setting this in Germany or in Russia. While the tale of the Nutcracker is a German tale, we all associate it with Russia because it originally premiered in St. Petersburg back in December 1892. As I researched the way Russia celebrates Christmas, it was vastly different to the way America and/or Germany celebrates the holiday. But for the sake of the tale, and the origins, I chose to go with Russia and tried to adapt around the cultural differences. It’s definitely worth looking up and seeing how we all celebrate the holidays differently around the world!
Loie: Ooooo, how lovely! I’m going to go and look that up. Thanks for sharing 🙂 Are there any fairy tales you would love to retell in the future?
Chantal: Oh yes! I’d love to retell “Swan Lake” someday – and with a twist! I’m working on retelling the story of “Hansel and Gretel” with a very talented writer, Amanda Wright! I have a few other stories I’d like to tell, but we’ll see where my writing takes me! I still have to revisit Lena and Soren in the sequel to “Between the Sea and Stars,” and return to the Underworld with Darce and Summer in a sequel to “Blinding Night.”
Loie: Oooo Swan Lake 🙂 ! Can’t wait! Can you share a little bit about what 2019 holds in store for you?
Chantal: To be honest, a break! I’m not going to push myself the way I have the past two years. In two years I’ve published six novels! As I mentioned, I need to revisit two worlds that I’ve already established. I’d like to focus on Amanda and I’s retelling of “Hansel and Gretel.” But I plan to take 2019 pretty easy.
Loie: A break sounds perfect. You’ve done a lot in the past two years, wow. What is your favorite thing about the winter season?
Chantal: Christmas trees, lights, and music. Those are the three things that make the holiday the most magical for me. There’s nothing like setting up a beautiful tree, decorating it with beautiful lights (and seeing homes decorated) and blasting Christmas music! (And singing along!)
Loie: Mmmm, same ❤ Are you participating in National Novel Writing Month 😊?
Chantal: Not this year. After writing three novels just within this year, I’m focusing on “WinterDream” and allowing my creative juices to build up again. But I wish everyone luck as they write this year for NaNoWriMo!
Loie: Thank you so much, Chantal, for stopping by the blog! I love your books so much and cannot wait to read WinterDream.
Chantal: Thank you so much Loie! I really appreciate you welcoming me here today! “WinterDream” waltzes onto shelves November 27th! And you can all sorts of information about my books at www.chantalgadoury.com
Amazon Best Selling Author, Chantal Gadoury, is a 2011 graduate from Susquehanna University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing. Since graduation, she has published “The Songs in Our Hearts” and “The Songs We Remember,” with 48Fourteen Publishing, and “Allerleirauh,” “Between the Sea and Stars,” and “Blinding Night” with Parliament House Press. Chantal first started writing stories at the age of seven and continues with that love of writing today. Writing novels for Chantal has become a life-long dream come true! When she’s not writing, she enjoys painting, drinking lots of DD Iced Coffee, and watching Disney classics. Chantal lives in Muncy, Pennsylvania with her Mom, Sister and furry-’brother’ Taran.
As the winter ice begins to thaw, the fury of a demon builds ― all because one girl couldn’t stay dead . . .
Roan Harken considers herself a typical high school student ― dead parents, an infected eyeball, and living in the house of her estranged, currently comatose grandmother (well, maybe not so typical) — but she’s uncovering the depth of the secrets her family left behind. Saved from the grasp of Death itself by a powerful fox spirit named Sil, Roan must harness mysterious ancient power . . . and quickly. A snake-monster called Zabor lies in wait in the bed of the frozen Assiniboine River, hungry for the sacrifice of spirit-blood in exchange for keeping the flood waters at bay. Thrust onto an ancient battlefield, Roan soon realizes that to maintain the balance of the world, she will have to sacrifice more than her life in order to take her place as Scion of the Fox.
American Gods meets Princess Mononoke in this powerful first installment of a trilogy sure to capture readers’ imaginations everywhere.
Welcome, S.M. We are so happy to have you here! Congratulations on your latest release, CHILDREN OF THE BLOODLANDS 🙂 Let’s dive into some questions.
Loie: I love Roan. I love her personality, her cleverness, and her spunk. Did you have an initial idea about Roan? Did you learn more about her during drafting?
S.M. Beiko: Roan was really interesting to write, especially because her voice comes from first person perspective. Because of this, a lot of my own mannerisms and interests came through—though she’s of course much taller than me, and a bit more athletic 😉
Whenever I create any character though, I try to put myself in their shoes and their situation, and I wanted her to headstrong, the type who rushes in, a bit emotional but also practical, and level-headed enough to be reluctant about the hard choices she had to make. At first, she was a pretty simple Chosen-One hero type, but the more I wrote her, the more it came out organically that nothing was going to be that easy for her, given the circumstances she ends up in. What came out of that were evident character flaws, which I feel are very important to making a protagonist believable! Now that I’ve finished a draft of book 3, Roan has changed quite a lot from an idealistic can’t-do-wrong prototype, and I hope everyone likes where her journey ultimately has led her!
Loie: Wow, that is so interesting! I love how you learned more about her as you wrote. Her voice is so strong and that’s one of my favorite parts. She feels three-dimensional and real. I can’t wait to read the final book 🙂
Where did the story of the Fox come from?
S.M. Beiko: I live in the far west side of Winnipeg now, but I used to live more centrally, near the Assiniboine River and Wellington Crescent. In fact, a lot of Scion was planned during my frequent walks to and from work from River Heights into Wolesley. One night, walking home along the river in late winter, a fox ran in front of me on the sidewalk, threw me some wicked shade, then bounded off into the night. A wild hypothetical popped into my head—what if that fox followed me home and gave me a cool mission? A lot of my stories crop up from random questions I ask myself, and I keep asking them until suddenly a whole novel—or three of them—have formed in my head.
Loie: Yay, Canada! Love it. It’s magical when a question or idea pops into your head and the story unravels from there.
Have you always been drawn to fantasy? Are there any other genres or styles you would like to try?
S.M. Beiko: Fantasy is definitely my bread and butter, and what I was ‘raised’ on. A lot of that influence stems from magical girl animes, or Hayao Miyazaki films, as well as comics and video games like the Final Fantasy series, and films like Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, Lord of the Rings, and hundreds of others. I love magic in all its forms, and pushing the limits of what is expected beyond the mundane. I’d like to someday try High Fantasy, where the world-building is much more extensive, or Historical Fantasy, which entails way more research and immersion.
I’m also very keen to start a comic/graphic novel (probably still in the fantasy genre!) that is a little more light-hearted than what I’ve been writing lately. Before I got into writing/book publishing, I was actually studying for a Fine Arts degree. I found the way my program was structured to be a bit stifling/confining, so I switched into Literature. As a result, art has been something I’ve ‘done on the side’ but I’ve let it go far too much. While I’m also a comics editor by trade, I’d like to hunker down and learn another dimension of comics by creating one. We’ll see!
Loie: I love magical girl animes as well ❤ Sailor Moon is still my favorite 😀 Wow! A graphic novel/comic would be fantastic.
I read that you work in the Canadian Publishing industry. Can you share a little bit about how it differs from the US? Or can you share about your experience working on the industry. What’s it like? Being on both sides?
S.M. Beiko: The general North American market is quite similar in terms of structure, but I’ve found (with a few exceptions) that fantasy, and all other Speculative Fiction genres (Sci Fi, Horror, Graphic Novels, romance, etc.) have a much livelier market in the USA than they do in Canada. The Canadian market is still quite focused on General Fiction, meaning the themes and characters take place in the modern, real-life world (often referred to as ‘Can Lit’), and as such, spec fic hasn’t thrived. I think a lot of it has to do with major publishing awards like the Giller and the Rogers Fiction Trust Prize being focused on the Can Lit experience, as well as population density; there’s just more people in the USA who are hungry for spec fic!
My experience working in the industry has been great, though. I’ve been working as a book and comic editor, as well as a packaging graphic designer and typesetter, since 2010, and at this point I’ve virtually worked in every part of the field as I’ve journeyed to full-time freelance sustainability. As a writer, my publishing education gives me insight and tempers my expectations for my own work, as well as buoying me forward when it comes to representing myself and knowing what I can ask for. It has definitely made me a much more proactive author when it comes to promoting myself, because I know how much work goes into getting a book to press, let alone making sure its visible on the shelf. The author has to take an active role in assisting the publisher rather than relying on them to do everything.
Loie: Wow. That is so cool that you’ve worked in all parts of publishing. Love it. That would really provide you with valuable insight. Thanks for sharing about the industry. I thought that might be a reason – re: larger population reading more spec fic in the US 🙂
Do you participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)?
S.M. Beiko: Unfortunately I don’t. I always say I’m going to every year, but the reality is that by the time November rolls around, I’m just coming down from either handing in a manuscript or resting after book touring. However, I do try to apply the principles of NaNoWriMo to my every day writing ethic and schedule, and while I won’t be Tweeting or updating constantly about where I am on a project, I do aim to write every day in November, even if it’s not 50,000 words, or the project isn’t complete by month’s end. November 9 is my last travelling book event—a book launch for Children of the Bloodlands in Calgary—and I can’t wait to just be at home, making things, for the rest of the year!
Loie: Thank you so much, S.M.! It was so interesting to hear you talk about the Canadian Publishing industry and also where your inspiration came from ❤ I hope you have a blast on tour!
Also, for my maritime friends, check out this tour that SM and Kristen Ciccarelli will be going on. They made a beautiful banner 🙂
I hope you enjoyed the interview ❤ Thanks again, S.M.
Are you guys participating in NaNoWriMo this year? What are your goals? I would love to hear below ❤
In the beginning, there was the Namsara: the child of sky and spirit, who carried love and laughter wherever he went. But where there is light, there must be darkness—and so there was also the Iskari. The child of blood and moonlight. The destroyer. The death-bringer.
These are the legends that Asha, daughter of the king of Firgaard, has grown up learning in hushed whispers, drawn to the forbidden figures of the past. But it isn’t until she becomes the fiercest, most feared dragon slayer in the land that she takes on the role of the next Iskari—a lonely destiny that leaves her feeling more like a weapon than a girl.
Asha conquers each dragon and brings its head to the king, but no kill can free her from the shackles that await at home: her betrothal to the cruel commandant, a man who holds the truth about her nature in his palm. When she’s offered the chance to gain her freedom in exchange for the life of the most powerful dragon in Firgaard, she finds that there may be more truth to the ancient stories than she ever could have expected. With the help of a secret friend—a slave boy from her betrothed’s household—Asha must shed the layers of her Iskari bondage and open her heart to love, light, and a truth that has been kept from her
Thank you so much, Kristen, for agreeing to come on the blog today and share about your writing, books, and other creative endeavors.
I loved The Last Namsara SO much! I particularly loved your worldbuilding, mythology, romance, and main character, Asha 🙂 Also, dragons! It’s great to have you here on the blog today. Woohoo to Canadian YA Fantasy authors! Love it.
When I first picked up The Last Namsara and flipped to the back to read your bio, I was so excited to see you were a fellow Canadian. It gave me hope that someday I might also be published.
Okay, let’s get to the interview 🙂
Loie: How did you come up with Firgaard? I love this world so much!
Kristen: This is actually a hard question to answer! My stories always begin with character, and everything in a story (in my opinion) needs to somehow serve that character—either helping her or hindering her on her journey to becoming who she’s meant to be. So I guess you could say that I came up with Firgaard because of Asha. The outlawed stories, the patriarchal monarch, the deadly dragons, the walls within walls … these were all things that came out of who Asha was, the secrets she was keeping, etc. It’s the world she needed.
Loie: When you are building and researching a story, what tips do you have for writers? Do you spend a certain amount of time preparing the story before drafting? Also, could you talk a little bit about rewrites and revisions?
Kristen: I think everyone researches and worldbuilds differently, so I’m not sure how helpful I can be here. One thing I will say is that research and worldbuilding can become procrastination tactics. They’re important, but getting the book written is more important. You can do all the research and worldbuilding in the world and still not have done enough. At some point, you have to start writing. I do some research and worldbuilding at the beginning, some as I write, and then some more in between drafts, going back and fixing things/layering in the new pieces. What’s more important for me is knowing my character. I spend a considerable amount of time figuring out who my character is before I start writing. I need to know who she is at the beginning of the story versus who she is at the end so I can figure out how she’s going to change and grow (which is essentially the plot of the book).
In terms of rewrites and revisions, it really depends on the author, as well as the book. Some things that are important before you sit down to revise a story: take space away from the draft so you can see it with fresher eyes, give it to trusted people who will give constructive feedback, compile that feedback into some kind of revision plan (I like to make a revision list starting from big things like character and plot changes, then end with small things like adding in more sensory details, etc), then go down the list as you revise. When you get to the end, repeat the same steps over again for as many drafts as a story needs, until it’s done.
Loie: What inspired the stories found in TLS and TCQ? I loved your book because of the snippets of legends we received before each chapter. It made the story and the world so much richer and I truly felt immersed.
Kristen: The stories are essentially cleverly disguised cheating. 😉 They’re there to give the reader a whole lot of backstory (on the characters, on the world, on the religion) without the reader realizing they’re reading a lot of backstory. But also, stories are so integral to the book—they’re dangerous and forbidden because they lure dragons and kill their tellers, but also because Asha is a storyteller. So it just seemed right to use them in this way.
Loie: Do you have any projects that you are dreaming to work on in the future after this series? Will you always write YA or will you write MG or Adult? Are there any other genres you are particularly drawn to?
Kristen: I have a few projects I’m working on now, just for fun. One of them is YA fantasy set in a very different world than The Last Namsara and it’s been the thing I work on when I don’t have any other looming deadlines. The other project is an adult fantasy. I’m definitely most drawn to fantasy (and always have been). I can’t really see myself writing in other genres, but never say never, I guess?
Loie: What do you do to get unstuck in a story?
Kristen: Usually it requires going back to the place in the story where I wasn’t stuck and deleting everything after that point. But sometimes getting stuck is a sign of stress or exhaustion. So sometimes it means I need to put the laptop away for the night and watch Netflix with my husband. Other times it means going for a walk. Or washing the dishes. Or doing something that requires me to get out of my head. The subconscious mind is a powerful thing that can often figure out your plot problems while you distract yourself with other things.
Loie: Who is your favorite character to write and why 🙂 ?
Kristen: Whichever character I’m writing at the moment. 😉 Seriously, though. I’m most interested in whoever is driving the story I’m currently writing, probably because I have to know them so well. (So with book one, it was Asha. With book two, it was Roa.) However, I think people are interesting in general. People are like icebergs. There’s a tiny little bit of them showing above the surface, but mostly who they are is all hidden underneath. The surface of a person can be extremely deceiving. I want to know what’s under the surface of every character/person, because it’s so often interesting and surprising.
Loie: I love your Instagram and seeing all the other creative things you are up to like baking and pottery and hiking around Newfoundland. How do other creative endeavors inform writers or how do they help?
Kristen: As anyone who spends a lot of time staring at a computer screen will know, it’s helpful to get out of your head and into the real world, to move your body, to have sensory experiences. Writing is stationary and solitary and happens inside your own mind. You can’t stay in that state. You need to move, have social interactions, be present in the world happening around you. For your writing, yes, but more importantly, for your well-being. Baking, making pottery, hiking … these are restorative acts for me. They remind me that writing is not the most important thing. Living is.
Loie: If you could sit down with one author and have a coffee with them, who would it be?
Kristen: Patricia McKillip! She was my favourite author growing up (and still is). She has virtually no internet presence. She doesn’t go on tour. She’s a total mystery, which I love. (In fact, now that I’m writing this, maybe I don’t want to have coffee with her, maybe I should keep her as a mystery…)
Loie: Finally, can you share a little bit about The Caged Queen?
Kristen: The Caged Queen is about a girl who must kill a king in order to save her sister. The protagonist of this book is Roa, who you meet in The Last Namsara when she makes Dax (a boy she has tumultuous history with) a deal: she’ll lend him the army he needs to win a war if he marries her and makes her queen.
While The Caged Queen opens almost immediately after The Last Namsara ends (with Roa as an outlander queen in a kingdom that’s been shaken by war), and while it continues on with the characters from TLN (Asha, Torwin, etc), it also stands alone. So you can read The Caged Queen first if you want, and then read The Last Namsara as a prequel.
Loie: Thank you so much, Kristen for coming here and taking the time to answer some questions. I love your writing and I cannot wait to read The Caged Queen!
Kristen: It was my pleasure! Thanks for your questions, Loie.
I hope you all enjoyed the interview. Keep an eye out on my Twitter account for a book giveaway 😍✨ Have you read The Last Namsara? What is your most anticipated sequel?