Author of the Sunspear series
Joining me today to chat about her fantasy Sunspear series is Elizabeth Lavender. Welcome Elizabeth. Please tell us a little about your novels.
Elizabeth: My fantasy/sci-fi series is the Sunspear Series. I’m currently in the final revision stages of the 3rd book in the series. The first book in the series is The Spinning of Deception and the second book is Deception’s Hold. Our journey begins with meeting 18-year-old sunspearbearer Dante and a mysterious female sunspearbearer the same age who has been secretly trained. The reason why she’s secretly trained becomes apparent in the story. A powerful force led by the Dark Lord and his Black Dragon Commander threatens the galaxy; the Black Dragon Commander also is Dante’s father. Dante and his companions lead in the fight to stop the colonies from being massacred by the Dark Lord’s forces. In other scenes, our mysterious girl’s gift of visions from the Ancient One reveals a truth about a past event that could be key to breaking the Dark Lord’s hold.
The second book, Deception’s Hold, continues right where the first ended. Dante and his companions are told the truth of the past event, provided proof of it, and sets up a deadly task for Dante to undertake. Success could mean ending the Dark Lord’s power finally and much more. Failure would mean a much worse fate than even a blade for him. Even as they try to defend the colonies, they’ve come to understand something horrible is at work at Black Dragon headquarters. A race begins for the girl and her comrades to discover it and stop it in time. The girl knows though how short their time really is. She fears for Dante’s fate because she’s discovering her visions have created an unexpected connection to him and losing him isn’t an outcome she can accept. Too, she may be the only one that really knows the darkness he’s about to face.
Helen: This sounds like an amazing series, and I just love your covers, they are so complex, so many elements, tell us the story behind them.
Elizabeth: All of my covers have to do with that specific part of the storyline. So, for the first cover, there is a cloaked figure, two sunspears (one on either side), a dagger, and a blue eye. The cloaked figure represents the Dark Lord or darkness in general approaching. The two sunspears are for Dante and the girl. The dagger is directly related to the event from the past that has such a bearing on the present situation. It also has to do with an event in the girl’s past that happens in the book that will continue to haunt her through the series. The blue eye is referring to the girl’s eye as she sees visons, which play an important role throughout the series, but her visions of the one event set off a whole chain of actions.
The second cover shows the Black Dragon Commander who is also Dante’s father. On one side is the Black Dragon Helmet showing his allegiance now to the Black Dragon and on the other side is Ethan, the person that Dante once called Father. Through the middle is a sunspear, separating the two sides. The Black Dragon Commander/Ethan are on the cover because it ties into the task that lays ahead for Dante, which is at the heart of book 2.
Helen: With so much detail behind the cover design, I imagine as much thought went into the titles?
Elizabeth: The titles for both books are central to the story (The Spinning of Deception and Deception’s Hold). The power of deception is at the heart of both books and it’s how the Dark Lord has done what he has. While many of the battles in the books are the traditional swords, blasters, tanks, sunspears, and other cool technology to which you’ll get introduced, those aren’t the hardest battles fought. Many of the hardest battles fought in the book are these ones where being able to decipher truth from lie is the key. Otherwise, your fate is sealed. The Dark Lord has deceived before and he continues to do so. His mastery of it is how we find the Black Commander is at his side now. That’s the main way the title comes about. However, it’s not just the Dark Lord using it. You will see deception also used in other forms, but sometimes not for bad. Like I said, it’s a constant theme in the series.
Helen: It is so nice to learn the reasoning behind the covers and titles. It makes the book richer. What made you write this series?
Elizabeth: It was finally time to put it down on paper instead of bouncing around in my head. LOL. Seriously I’ve had pieces of it coming together since high school (that was over 20 years ago). There’s a point when you have a story, you have to tell it. It’s the writer in you.
Helen: Yes, as some point you just have to put pen to paper, you can no longer resist the urge! I don’t know why we resist, but sometimes we do. Why did you choose to write fantasy?
Elizabeth: This is my only series and it’s sci-fi/fantasy. I guess it’s the one I primarily read in myself and love, so I don’t know how much I would enjoy writing in another genre. Also, the story in my head ended up falling in this genre.
Helen: You have two books in the series published, I’m sure your die hard fans want to know when the third will be released. Tell us a little about your WIP.
Elizabeth: My current work is the 3rd book in the series. I’m in the final revision stage and hoping to have it published by the end of summer at the latest. This one shares the same things readers have come to love about the series. The characters haven’t changed with the way they face whatever the threat may be, while finding the opportunity to bring humor into even the most challenging situations. There are battles and close calls just like we like them to have too. However, there are some differences because we are in a different place in the storyline. The battlefields are a smaller scale to an extent. We’re getting to see the internal battles of one character in particular in book three and how it manifests itself outside. Also, the third book is a great deal about relationships being built between characters, ones that will take them through the entire series. For many of these characters, it’s the first time they’ve had a chance to actually meet in person and work/fight side by side. So, there are a lot of places in book 3 that read like a romance between certain characters, but for those who have been reading the series they will say it’s long overdue. It is where we find ourselves in the story.
Helen: I think as you write a series, and you live and breath the story, certain characters begin to resonate. Do you have a favourite character in your series?
Elizabeth: I have two favourites. There’s no way I can choose between them. It has to be Dante and the girl (yes, she is called that until book 3 because her identity has to remain hidden). Dante fights with all his heart to defeat the Black Dragon, and he’s already lost so much. As the series opens, his mother and brother are counted in those losses and his father now fights on the other side, causing the destruction he now sees around him. Yet somehow, he fights on even with that always there and as the series continues his incredible heart and spirit that make him a hero will shine through in the battlefields he’ll be put through. Then there’s the girl who fights just as hard, but between her own internal “demons” and the visions rest doesn’t come easy for her. There are moments she can’t move beyond, that still hold sway over her. She can give grace to others, but not to herself. We’ll see her be forced to take on many roles, play many parts to help win against Black Dragon. Even as she does it, it all adds to the turmoil that’s already creates such a nightmare for her at times. Yet despite all that, she has a spirit and heart that matches Dante’s, and she’ll need it to manage the battlefields that lay ahead for her.
Helen: You are well into your series, and have heroes and villains who are well defined. Who do you prefer to write?
Elizabeth: Heroes probably. I like seeing them going through whatever trial or battle I put them through and hopefully come out alive, even if barely. I like to delve into their emotions and their mind as they struggle with whatever they get thrown. I think too we can identify in real life with the hero and the challenges they face and how they struggle with them. I’ve said many times the struggles in my Sunspear world are not so different than those in our world. The battlefields may appear different on the surface, but they’re not. One of my characters says it better though. Here’s a quote from book 3 of the Sunspear Series (still under revision) “”I can’t tell you what happened, because it’s a part of my past. I found myself at a juncture which many do at a point in this life, many of us more than once, Dante. It’s a scary, lonely place to dwell. Everyone faces this Darkness. In reality daily. There are times though the battle is one not forgotten, leaving such a mark on one…” “Those are the ones that stay with you because you come face to face with how powerful the Darkness is. How quickly it can take you and destroy you and all those around you before you realize what is done. Yet you also discover how strong the One is who stands beside you, and that must be your refuge.” So, heroes are my favorite to write about as I think they inspire us to see that no matter how hard it gets or imperfect we are in our struggle, we can emerge victorious. We may have our body battered, our heart broken, and our face streaming with tears, but we come through. We need our heroes.
Helen: I agree. This sounds amazing. It is inspiring to see how people can survive what is thrown at them. We are often stronger than we realise are. Of course as authors we make it especially difficult for our characters. Author life can be just as challenging! Tell us a little about your writing process. How does writing fit into your daily routine?
Elizabeth: With great difficulty! I work fulltime during the week and there’s always stuff with the kids/school and just family stuff with the kids/husband. So, most of my writing stuff comes in the evenings and on the weekends. I don’t do mornings at all, unless I have to get up to go to work/take the kids to school. However, I’m a night owl, so most weeknights I’m until close to midnight and the weekends I’m routinely up until at least 3:00 working on stuff. Sometimes that’s good, but sometimes that can be bad especially if I’m writing a villain scene. You can get strange inspiration at that time of night. That could be the reason my characters have such close calls and end up in such bad shape at the end of those scenes when facing the villians. LOL. They have to be pretty tough!
Helen: I often go to sleep thinking about a scene or a sticky situation. Often as not, I wake up with the solution in the middle of the night and I have to dictate it in to my phone and hope I understand it in the morning! When you are writing do you know what the story will be and have a plan? or do you let it unfold as it will?
Elizabeth: I’m definitely the pantser. I know how the last battle of the whole series will go and the dialogue has written itself in my head for a while. I know there are certain events and conversations that have to be revealed to get me there. I have a good idea of how those events need to unfold and probably how the dialogue will go, but that’s because I’ve been in my characters’ world for so long now. I just know what they would say and do now. It’s not because I sat down and outlined how it’s going to go or plotted it out. I can’t even imagine writing like that. I know my eventually endpoint and the dots in the middle to get me there.
Helen: I know fantasy is all made up, but do you find you have to do much research?
Elizabeth: None really. For the first book, I did some on names. The character names were not chosen randomly and neither were the places. I wanted them to mean something. I do make sure when I’m writing I have a copy of the other books in the series next to me in case I need to look something up. I have to be sure to keep my story straight throughout the series. I have plotlines that are unanswered or left mysterious in the first two books that will be answered later, some not until the last book in the series. That’s the other reason it’s essential I have the others nearby.
Helen: Ah yes, keeping track of all the threads! That can be challenging at times. What is your working environment like? Do you need music to inspire you, or is silence king?
Elizabeth: Actually, I don’t listen to music. Once I start writing, I’m in a zone, so I don’t know that I would even hear it anyway. When I’m revising, it’s the opposite. I really hate the revising process, so the music would probably distract me. I need quiet because I honestly welcome distractions then. I think my revising actually takes longer than the writing for that reason.
Helen: Which do you prefer, the creativity of writing or the polishing up of editing?
Elizabeth: LOL. I answered this on the music one, I guess. Love the writing part, detest the editing part. I know the editing part of the process is necessary, but I still can’t stand it. It’s like the 6-month check-up to the dentist or when we get a recall notice in for something on the car. Necessary, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it. Writing on the other hand is awesome. I love going into their world, and it doesn’t even feel like I’m doing the writing anymore. I know what they would say and do because I know them now. It really writes itself.
Helen: If you didn’t write fantasy, what genre would you like to write?
Elizabeth: That’s tough. Mine is sci-fi/fantasy, so it covers two genres. The current book has felt more like a romance in places, but long-term I don’t think I could be comfortable going there. Probably psychological/suspense thriller I could see. I have a counselling background and that influence is seen in my current series as many of the battlefields aren’t the traditional ones as we said earlier. I like delving into what they are thinking and feeling and making them struggle with their internal “demons.” So, I could see trying my hand at a suspense/psychological thriller.
Helen: I hope you do, that would be amazing! Most writers are great readers, after all, reading gives us insights into a well written book. What are some of your favourites?
Elizabeth: That’s too difficult. I have several favourites. One of my favourites is Les Misérables by Victor Hugo. I read it in 10thgrade and I’ve seen it on stage like three times now. It’s a beautiful story of redemption and grace. The main character ends up spending 19 years in jail for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister’s family. When he gets out, he’s as you would expect, but a priest shows him true kindness, the true love of God in a sense. The rest of the book is the convict’s story of how he demonstrates the grace he was shown. Another favourite is The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas. That one is kind of the other extreme in the beginning. The young sailor is naïve and gets falsely accused and thrown in jail. Circumstances allow him to find a treasure and when he gets out, he gets revenge on everyone that put him in prison. However how he did it was what made the book, finding the secrets of each one and exploiting them to destroy them. In the end, he realizes he went too far and has to deal with and we see the young sailor re-emerge in a sense. I think the reason I always liked that one was how carefully he crafted his revenge. It was amazing all the pieces Dumas had going at once, but he made it work. The main character was only able to destroy them because he brought to light their dark deeds, things they thought they hid and no one could uncover. It’s just a well-done story. Some other favourites are The Star Wars Trilogy (A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi). It has everything. I love the battles, the dialogue between the characters… The story though can’t be beat. The epic story between good and evil, of redemption and sacrifice, and the triumph of light over the darkness. Another couple series are Lord of the Rings by Tolkien and the Narnia Series by CS Lewis. Okay, I’ll stop now because I could keep going.
Helen: I can see how these have influenced your writing! What books have you read recently?
Elizabeth: There are quite a few. Generally, I read at least two a month and post the reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, and Bookbub as well as my Facebook and Twitter account. I also have a section in my newsletter that I post to. However, recently I finished Rise of Tears by Brand J Alexander, Dreamstate by Toni Cox, (Her Elemental Trilogy is the other one I read and it’s excellent too), A Twist of Night and Day by Aubrey Winters, The Enchanted Dagger by Vonnie Winslow Crist, Sentinals Awaken by Helen Garraway, Flames over Frosthelm by Dave Dobson, The Threat of Shadows by JA Andrews, First Earth by Cami Murdock Jensen… LOL. You can look on Goodreads account and check out my reviews. There are just too many awesome books out there!
Helen: It’s so cool to see my book in your list. It’s nice to see it is out there being read. Just to close us out, what advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Elizabeth: Just write the story that’s in you. The passion for your world and your characters will come through on its own. Have readers fall in love with your world and your characters as much as you have. Don’t let anyone discourage you. Surround yourself with people that will keep encouraging you to keep the journey going. You never know if your story is what someone needed to hear.
About the Author:
Elizabeth Lavender is the author of the Sunspear series. The first book in the sci-fi series is called The Spinning of Deception and the second book is Deception’s Hold. Originally from the Alabama coast, she currently lives in the Dallas area with her husband, Jeff, and her two children. She has a Master’s degree in counseling from Dallas Baptist University and has studied psychology and English. She enjoys science fiction and fantasy and hopes to bring some of that same enjoyment to others. She also enjoys suspense novels as well. However, as long as the storyline is intriguing, she will give it a try. Her reading spans from Les Miserables to Shakespeare to the Percy Jackson series to anything written by Ted Dekker or Frank Perretti. She works full-time and has been at the same company for over twenty years happily. She is a huge football fan and has a decent throwing arm, despite what her oldest son says when he practices throwing the football with her. Although she enjoys Texas, she does love going home to Alabama to visit. Besides visiting family and friends, it is nice to be back near the water again, where the seafood is the best.
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