Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!
In addition to being a novelist, I am a high school English teacher, which was an unplanned, even despised, career but which has become a labor of love. I write young adult / new adult fantasy; right now I’m focusing on epic high fantasy. My current trilogy is one in which I reverse the trope of Humans who have discovered a new land and conquered the indigenous fey race. Instead, Humanity has been enslaved in everything but name and is facing possible extinction.
The Healer’s Rune, the first book, features Sabine Rhyonselle, a healer in the Human village of Khapor who learns that history is a lie woven to keep her people trapped in bondage to the Rüddan, the dominate race of Ceryn Roh. To prevent this, Sabine must overcome centuries of lies and prejudice to forge an alliance with an enemy race. This book was published in 2016 and is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
In the second book, The Guardian Prince, Sabine has escaped the Rüddan who enslaved her and fled Khapor. Now half a world away, she joins the Aethel prince and his companions in a race to beat the Rüddan to the one thing that can secure Humanity’s freedom: the godstone Fyrleoht. The Guardian Prince will be released this year and will be available on Amazon.
What is/are the story(ies) behind your book(s)?
The Ceryn Roh saga was born out of my love for the fantasy genre and a desire to give back in a way that was new(ish). It was my first really serious attempt at a novel, so there was a steep learning curve—it took ten years to complete. When I began writing it in 2000, the idea of humans being enslaved by fey races was fairly unexplored, so I wanted to give it a try. I was also wrestling with the idea of what happens to a country or race who becomes complacent and allows others to be involved in the running of their government, so that idea got folded into the mix, as well.
What inspires/inspired your creativity?
My creativity is inspired by my addiction to wonder and a longing for something more. I grew up in a small town and lived the life of a stereotypical American teenager. I did not realize, then, what a blessing it was to be “normal”, to not have any major upheavals in my life. I began reading fantasy when I was ten years old, and I became addicted to the sense of awe the stories of magic and adventure stirred in me. I couldn’t find any of that in my typical, everyday existence, so I experienced it vicariously through the books I read.
One day, however, I became disillusioned. I was disappointed with a Saturday morning cartoon that encapsulated novels into one-hour, condensed versions, and I moped about the house grumbling about how I could have done it better. My mother finally told me to do it, then. She challenged me to write a better story, one that I would enjoy, and that’s when I fell in love with writing. I have yet to write a better story, and I believe it will be the achievement of a life of learning if I ever do, but I’m no longer satisfied with just reading about the magic. Now I have to write about it, as well. Writing is my exploration of longing, my quest to recreate the satisfying sense of wonder that I experience when I read a well-crafted work.
How do you deal with creative block?
Creative block is one of the most polarizing concepts in the writing community. Most people either believe firmly that it exists or that it doesn’t. One of the things everyone agrees about, though, is that creativity is HARD. On good days it’s fun, but it’s always a challenge to sit down and begin spinning something out of seeming nothing. That being said, when I get stuck, I step away from writing all together and try to figure out why I’m having an especially difficult time.
For me, creative block is usually the result of poor time management, burn-out, or going in the wrong direction in a project. Dealing with poor time management is easiest: I reevaluate my priorities, refocus on my goals, and reset my intentions. For burn-out, I go away from trying to be intentionally creative for a while. I set a specific amount of time where I forbid myself to wrestle with being creative and I just rest. Any accidental creativity that occurs during this period is allowed and indulged, but wrangling new ideas out of thin air is not permitted. During this time I silence the inner voice that accuses me of slacking by reading books about writing, by catching up on my rest, and by indulging in creative outlets that have no consequence for me. I paint (terribly, I have no patience for recreating minute details), I play the piano (which I’ve only begun learning to do), I read for fun a lot, and I watch movies or shows with people I love. If I’m going the wrong way on a project, I put the project away and free-write in a sort of flow chart format until I find why I’m resisting the current direction of the project and how to fix it.
How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?
Bad reviews and negative feedback are hard, but unavoidable. It helps to remember that people even criticized those authors now considered Greats, and that art is subjective. No single work is going to be universally appealing to everyone, and that’s a good thing because it gives us variety.
Of course, my initial reaction is to be hurt and defensive. While I’m pouting, I’m invariably mulling over what was said, but as I do I try look for any kernel of value. It’s hard to be objective about something I’ve poured myself into, but if there is an element of truth to the criticism, then I would be a fool to throw it away just because my feelings are hurt. I’m pretty good at ignoring comments that are simply wrong or that don’t apply, but if there’s something to learn, I try to learn it with the understanding that any effort to grow that I make will only improve my writing.
How has your creation process improved over time?
One thing I’ve gotten better at is plotting. I know the parts of a story that are structurally necessary, and that helps me write a more solidly-built story in less time. My process is also more streamlined in the areas of content generation and character development. I still have a lot to learn, though. I hope to constantly develop so that each story created is better than anything that’s come before it.
What were the best, worst and most surprising things you encountered during the entire process of completing your book(s)?
The best thing I’ve encountered is impacting a reader’s life. It’s incredible to hear how much someone enjoyed my story, but it’s indescribable to hear that my story touched someone deeply or affected his or her life in some way.
The worst thing is feeling as if I’m not producing fast enough. I am also a literature teacher, and I love being in my classroom, but that doesn’t give me a lot of time to create new content as quickly as I’d like to.
The most surprising thing is how amazingly important writer’s conferences are. They give writers the opportunity to improve their craft, yes, but they also give us the chance to meet others in the industry. Networking and making connections is so valuable not because of what those other authors, agents, and editors can do for us but because of how much we can learn from them others about creativity, the writing process, marketing (and how to do it without losing your mind), and how to overcome the struggles that all writers experience.
Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?
I love reading a good story, so that writing one is always my primary goal. I write in the genre I like because I invest a lot of time in each story, so I want to enjoy that time. I learned a long time ago that taking my passion for the subject I teach into my classroom and showing it in my lessons makes me a better teacher, and I believe the same is true with writing, so I write a story I am passionate about and that I would want to read. If these things help me build an enjoyable story, then I think I’m serving my readers as I’m experiencing personal satisfaction.
What are your plans for future books?
My next novel is the third book in my Ceryn Roh trilogy, which I’m currently calling The Blind Queen. I’m also one-fourth of the way through an urban fantasy crossover that I’m very excited about. After that I have an idea for a story that explores what role fate plays in a person’s life, which might spin into a series. There are also some ideas for a more classic fairy-tale type novel that has a slight Tamlin-type vibe; a story set in the equivalent of medieval Venice that explores madness in the monarchy and people who make sacrifices to honor those they love; and another epic adventure involving conflict between humans and high elves… I have so many ideas that I’m not sure how I’m going to find the enough time to write them all!
Tell us some quirky facts about yourself
I grew up in Roswell, New Mexico.
I never had my wisdom teeth removed because they dissolved naturally.
I always have a song in my head; when I’m not paying attention it escapes as drumming, whistling, or singing.
I adore Italian food. Thick, creamy sauces make me drool, and I love desserts that contain chocolate and berries. A creamy chocolate dessert with berries alongside a glass of red wine is my idea of paradise.
I cannot put anything in a “safe spot.” If I do, I am guaranteed to never see it again.
I’m pretty easy-going when it comes to how people treat me, but I get really, really mad when people are rude to others.