Please introduce yourself and your book!
Hi there! I’m Yolandie Horak, indie author, artist, and blogger.
I have a background in graphic design and fine art, and started blogging in 2011. The blog was initially about beauty-related topics, since I’d done a short course on make-up artistry and fell in love with make-up as an artform.
Running the blog rekindled my love for writing, and penning stories became my new dream.
My debut novel, A Study of Ash & Smoke, launched in May 2019. It’s a gaslamp fantasy riddled with plague, deception, and spies, and is the first installment of a series.
What is the story behind your book?
So many books are about larger than life antagonists and their armies, and I wondered what it would be like to write a book where something microscopic ran amok. This idea was strengthened when I watched a Sci-Show video about deadly viruses, and I knew my book had to feature some sort of plague.
I was also heavily inspired by a video game and an article about the standards of beauty in the Victorian and Edwardian eras. If you’re interested, I wrote an in-depth article about the inspiration and ideas behind A Study of Ash & Smoke on Skolion’s website.
Basically, the book features a bunch of physicians who have to fight a deadly plague, while also dealing with a lot of court intrigue, and other yet-to-be-discovered threats. It’s The Americans meets Grey’s Anatomy in a Victorian setting.
What inspires your creativity?
Honestly, life in general. Anything can offer inspiration, often at the weirdest times. Music, travel, snow, a bird pooping on your head, you know what I mean? 🙂
How do you deal with creative block?
I have many hobbies. When I get stuck with my writing, I paint, sketch, cross-stitch, play the ukulele, read, or play video games. I also really enjoy hiking, and we’re lucky enough to live close to the Rocky Mountains. The mind works through things more easily when the air is clear and the views are breathtaking.
What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?
I know this one from experience! The biggest mistake a writer can make, in my opinion, is to publish an unedited book. This is doubly true for indie authors.
Readers will forgive a typo or two, but are less likely to finish a book riddled with mistakes. I also believe self-published authors are judged much harder than their traditionally published counterparts, just because so many self-published books are sent into the world unedited.
And I’m guilty of this. As a new, overly-excited writer, I published a trilogy of books without the help of an editor. I’ve since unpublished those, and they’re being reworked. I learned my lesson–I won’t be publishing unedited work again.
Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?
I’m horrible when it comes to titles, but I’m lucky enough to be a part of the most supportive author’s co-operative, Skolion. They helped me pick the title and write the dreaded blurb.
One of the members is also a cover designer, and took charge of the cover for A Study of Ash & Smoke.
I’d tell you Covers by Tallulah gave me the cover I’d always dreamed of, but the final design is so much more than that. It’s like she instinctively knew what would make it even more magical than the brief.
How has your creation process improved over time?
I’m a pantser, which means what happens in my writing is always unexpected. Though I tend to have a general idea where I want the story to end, I discover most of the plot as I go along.
For me, working with an alpha team has made the process easier. I send every few chapters to my trusted alphas, then incorporate their feedback as I go. Working this way has definitely resulted in fewer plot holes or rewrites.
Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?
Initially, I wrote only for myself. I never imagined I’d be published or that anyone out there would want to read my stories.
These days, I take advice and feedback from readers very seriously, but I do try to remember that my own opinion counts too. For the most part, I try to follow Stephen King’s advice–if two or more people are commenting negatively on the same thing, it might need to be changed. There’s some balance in that, though it remains difficult.
What role do emotions play in creativity?
The biggest role. I’m an extremely emotional and intense person, so whatever I feel in the moment translates directly to the art I create or my writing. If I’m having a sad day, chances are my characters are breaking up. If I’m elated, everything will be rainbows and butterflies in the story.
I’ve had to become more critical of my own writing to combat this. All these overly emotional scenes also often have to be reworked and cut back a notch from the soap opera drama.
What are your plans for future books?
I’m currently working on the sequel to A Study of Ash & Smoke and rewriting my first trilogy. Otherwise, I also have a short story coming out in an anthology soon.
Tell us some quirky facts about yourself.
- Basically every piece of clothing I own is either black or grey. My daily uniform is a pair of well-worn sneakers, jeans, and a black or grey top.
- I don’t trust people who don’t sing as loudly as they can to Bohemian Rhapsody.
- I loathe avocado and olives.
- I’m a Whovian and a massive Dragon Age fangirl.
- I’ve immigrated twice. From South Africa to Germany, then from Germany to Canada.
- If you write in a book, fold, tear, or spill something on a page, you’re dead to me.
- I live for coffee, chocolate, and carbs.
Yolandie Horak can often be found typing away at the computer or nibbling at the end of a paintbrush. When not writing or making art, she spends her time cuddling her daughter and husband, reading, fangirling, or gaming.
She resides in Calgary, Canada, but misses the milk tart and koeksisters she frequently ate in her hometown of Johannesburg, South Africa. She’s currently working on the sequel to her debut novel, A Study of Ash & Smoke.
She has been a passionate blogger since the dawn of time, and updates her blog twice per week with art tutorials, her thoughts on writing, book reviews and experiences as an immigrant.
Plague, deception, and spies in a steampunk setting.
Cara should be the queen of Mordoux, but instead she must pretend to be a boy named Carl.
Her father hunts her, and will kill her if he finds her.
She’s trapped with him beneath the Mantle forcefield that isolates the kingdom of Aelland. The only way to elude him is to hide as a male physician’s apprentice, keeping her telltale royal hair covered beneath medical robes.
But when the enigmatic Nathan Cutter takes over her apprenticeship, her secrets could be exposed.
Nathan knows surgery, not deception, and certainly not the feelings he starts to develop for his new apprentice. Pulled into an ever tighter web of lies, he must decide how much he is willing to give up for a person he hardly knows.
While Cara’s father tries to manipulate the puppet queen he installed in Cara’s place, a terrible plague threatens to rot Aelland from the inside.
Can Cara and the other physicians find a cure? Or is the only solution the fall of the Mantle, and surrender to the emperor who’s claimed the rest of the Seven Kingdoms?
A Study of Ash & Smoke Online
“You’re going to make a sternal incision. Put your left hand on the chest. Now, pull the skin tight with your thumb and index finger. Good. As you cut, you’ll move the left hand to keep providing tension on the skin. Place the blade and start cutting.”
The tip of the blade trembled as Cara lowered it to the small hollow between the collarbones. She took a breath and started to cut. The skin parted like torn paper.
“No. Look.” Nathan touched the tumour with light fingers, shifting the tissue.
Except for the skeleton, the inside of the body tended to consist of earthy colours: ruddy browns, deep plums and various reds and pinks, but the tumour was the colour of bone—an alien thing with branch-like arms, pulling and knotting together living flesh. The white tip and surrounding tissue appeared hard; it refused to give way beneath Nathan’s fingers as organs and tissue should.
“Only the outermost part is visible. The extent of the damage spreads too deep—we’d kill him if we started cutting,” Nathan said.
“Still no survivors?” Lance asked.
The deep baritone of Masters’s voice rumbled in his chest. “None. We don’t see a pattern, and we haven’t had success in curbing the spread. Take my advice, and get the other girls out.”
“They’ve nowhere to go.”
“They’re prostitutes, son. You need to get them out. Somewhere—anywhere—away from here. If the rest of them get sick, they’re going to spread the disease faster than we can burn corpses.”
Despite the frigid, wet air, the woman’s tiny waist and arms were bare, while her petticoat and wide-legged pants accentuated her ample curves in ruby red, threaded with gold. She dripped sensuality, from the pout of plump lips to the slight pause of a hand at her collarbone before she brushed a strand of dark, wavy hair over her shoulder.
Her weapon was sex, and she wielded it with as much power as Varda held her axe.