The start of a fierce fantasy duology about three maidens who are chosen for their land’s greatest honor…and one girl determined to save her sister from the grave.
In the walled city-state of Alu, Kammani wants nothing more than to become the accomplished healer her father used to be before her family was cast out of their privileged life in shame.
When Alu’s ruler falls deathly ill, Kammani’s beautiful little sister, Nanaea, is chosen as one of three sacred maidens to join him in the afterlife. It’s an honor. A tradition. And Nanaea believes it is her chance to live an even grander life than the one that was stolen from her.
But Kammani sees the selection for what it really is—a death sentence.
Desperate to save her sister, Kammani schemes her way into the palace to heal the ruler. There she discovers more danger lurking in the sand-stone corridors than she could have ever imagined and that her own life—and heart—are at stake. But Kammani will stop at nothing to dig up the palace’s buried secrets even if it means sacrificing everything…including herself.
I would like to welcome amazing YA fantasy debut, Kelly Coon to my blog. I’m on her street team, the Skeleton Crew ❤ She answered some of my questions about her inspiration behind Gravemaidens, her writing process, and more. Let’s get started 🙂
Loie: Did Gravemaidens change a lot from the first to final draft?
Kelly: What a good question! As a matter of fact, it DID. I’d say the finished hardcover is close to the 35th draft of this story. I dropped a POV character—the Boatman—and rewrote nearly every single scene from the book. It was a massive undertaking!
Loie: When you’re brainstorming a new project, what do you start working on first? Do you like to research, think about the plot, or work on your characters?
Kelly: I tend to start with my characters, because until I know who they are, I can’t know the plot. The decisions they make in their character arc will change the course of the plot, so I have to nail down what they want, what they need, the ghosts in their past, and the truth that they need to hear. I also need to know things like how they solve problems, how they view the world (because that impacts their voice), who they have conflicts with, and their values.
Loie: Can you give us a hint at what you’re working on right now 🙂 ?
Kelly: Yes! I just finished the last round of developmental edits on the GRAVEMAIDENS sequel (I cannot wait until I get to introduce you to some of the new characters) and am working on a contemporary stand-alone with speculative elements. It’s a daunting book, because one POV is written in verse and another POV is written in prose. =)
Loie: When were you first inspired to write Kammani’s story?
Kelly: I wrote two completely different novels set in versions of Kammani’s world from 2013-2015, but the characters and plots did not work at all. I hadn’t yet gotten to the heart of the story she should be in. So, I scrapped those two novels completely and started over from scratch in 2016 with new characters, a new premise, and a whole new world. I queried it in early 2017 and got my agent, Kari Sutherland, who is amazing, in April of 2017, just a couple of weeks after she read it. =)
Loie: When you’re writing, do you need complete silence or do you listen to music?
Kelly: I actually listen to white noise for the most part. I’ve written six novels (and much of a seventh) with white noise, but the poetry I’m writing for my WIP has been written to loud, screaming, pulsing music. Haha
Loie: What was your favorite part about writing Gravemaidens?
Kelly: There’s one scene near the end of the story where I felt myself let loose. Like I untied all my strings and allowed my imagination to take me wherever it wanted to go, plot outline be damned. This scene is still one of my favorite scenes in the whole book because it’s imaginative and weird and exactly the right fit for that part of the story.
Sometimes writing this book was an absolute struggle, but other times—like that night—it was magic.
Thank you a million times, Loie! These questions were amazing! =)
Loie: Thank you so much for answering all of my questions 🙂 If you’re interested in pre-ordering a copy of Gravemaidens, you can find it here. It releases next Tuesday, October 29th. I’m anxiously awaiting for my own copy to arrive in the mail!
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 🙂
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.
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?