Author of Succumb to Darkness.
Today, I am pleased to welcome the prolific Indie author Lauren A. R Masterson, a.k.a Alice Lidell to talk to us about her latest novel Succumb to Darkness which released on May 11th, 2023.
Helen: Welcome Lauren. I am so excited to meeet you and that we get to chat about your new book today!! Congratulations on the release of your sixth novel. Let’s start with your newest book. Tell us about Succumb to Darkness.
Lauren: Succumb to Darkness is my 6th novel, set for release Q2 of this year. This dark fantasy novel is a vampire tale with parallels to the French Revolution. The main character, Evanangela, is a fallen angel, cast from the eternal kingdom for her cardinal sin of vanity. Doomed to walk the earth as a vampire and never be able to gaze on her own reflection again as punishment. She joins a French vampire court and must find a way to not only survive, but to thrive as the newfound favorite of Seigneur Verseau and his official consort, Àmichemin.
Helen: Sounds intriguing. And I’m loving the artwork on the cover. Tell us how you came up with your design.
Lauren: I commissioned the cover art from my friend R. Taylor. She is also an author who writes high fantasy novels and is an accomplished artist. She did a wonderful job bringing my vision to life. My goal with the cover art was to represent the three main characters, Evanangela, Verseau, and Àmichemin, exactly as they appear to me. It was especially important to me to have this cover custom designed because there is no representation of black vampires in typical cover art templates that you can buy; and Verseau is black. I’m also an artist and have designed book covers for myself and other authors in the past, but I felt my colorful illustration style was not a good fit for the moody opulence of this novel.
Helen: I’m glad you managed to get your vision into the cover art, sometimes it can be quite difficult to get the cover right. Kudos to you for. being artistically creative as well as writing novels. Did your title have any ulterior meaning?
Lauren: “Succumb to Darkness” is the title of the book because it’s about Evanangela’s slow descent into the “darkness” of living as a vampire. Throughout the story she must question and even go against her previous nature and morals in order to survive. She also begins to question her blind devotion to humanity she once believed in as an angel. That seeing humans up close, she sees their duplicity. Her succumbing to the darkness of her new nature as a vampire and seeing the world how it truly is, is what the story is all about.
Helen: I think you must have had fun delving into the human psyche for your characters to disect. What made you write this particular novel?
Lauren: I wrote this book originally back in 2005. It started as a short poem. That sparked a longer saga poem. And at last, that sparked the first few chapters of “Succumb to Darkness”. I put this story away for several years until I worked on it again in 2008. Then put it away once more until 2019. I put this story on hold for several reasons, but at last, I finished it this year.
Helen: It sounds like you’ve been writing for some time. When did you realise you had a passion for writing?
Lauren: This is a question I’m frequently asked. The honest truth is I’ve always known that writing is ma raison d’etre (reason for being). I created little stories when I was 3 years old. That grew into stapling together notebook pages into makeshift books with stories and pictures I created. I started writing novels at age 12 and went on to art college for writing when I was 20. I was writing professionally by the time I was 24, and published my first novel when I was 30. Writing is why I’m alive. It’s why I was put here. I have other passions, talents, and interests, but writing has always been the pillar of my life.
Helen: I love how your poetry evolved and grew into a novel. Where else do you find inspiration, and is there anyone specific who inspires you to write?
Lauren: Many things inspire me- songs, paintings, stories I’ve heard or read, dreams or nightmares I’ve had. In my adult years, I’ve had to limit the flow of that firehose of inspiration because I already have too many stories to write. After two decades of creating and creating endlessly, I’ve had to prioritize the books I’ve already started writing so I can start finishing them. I’ve already sent off #6 to be published this month, and I’m already two-thirds of the way done with writing novel #7. Novel #8 is only a third done, and I need to also do all the illustrations for it. I need to get down the list all the way to #97, and that’s only if I don’t create more. Being inspired and creating stories is my gift. Completing them and sharing them with the world is my discipline.
I haven’t been specifically inspired by any person to write, but I have had important people that have helped, and continue to help, my writing journey. My Mum is also a writer. She gave me all the resources I needed and encouraged me growing up. My parents sent me to art school so I could learn the industry from professionals. Once there, I made great connections, especially my college professor Tina Jens, who has become my mentor. After graduation, I became a part of the Chicago writing community, and made many friends who are also authors. Together, we help each other and cheer each other on. Having a community and support is so important.
Helen: You are extraordinarily creative. You are fortunate to have such a supportive network. Finding your writing ‘tribe’ is so important, otherwise, writing can be a very isolated profession. How do you fit writing into your daily life?
Lauren: It can be a big struggle to fit writing into my daily schedule due to my busy life. In addition to writing, I work a corporate office job, have several freelance jobs, and work as an artist, a model, and a YouTuber. In order to balance everything, I have a planner, a calendar, and white boards to keep all my projects and tasks organized. In recent years, I’ve found that working on only 2-3 projects at a time is the best way to get everything done in a reasonable timeframe.
Helen: Being so organised, I imagine you are a planner when writing as well, or do you find yourself winging it?
Lauren: I do both. I begin the process as a pantser. I write and write and write until I get the full inspiration onto the page. After that step, I start to detangle the story idea and organize it into story sections. After that, I start to organize out chapters and the general storyline. Then I pants again as the chapters inspire me. Rinse and repeat.
Helen: If your main character could answer, why would they tell us to read your book, Succumb to Darkness?
Lauren: Evanangela is the main character in “Succumb to Darkness”. She would say that readers should pick up this book because it’s a new take on the lore of vampires, as well as it’s unique with the parallel to the French Revolution and the idea of the nobility literally sucking the people of France dry. It’s a read that has a lot of wild moments and the ending conflict hits hard.
Helen: Who is your favourite character and why?
Lauren: Àmichemin is my favorite character in Succumb to Darkness. I had so much fun writing her and discovering her as a character. She is so sassy, cool, and aloof. The best part was that a big reveal about her character in the story was a surprise even for me. It was one of those instances where the character hijacks the story. Àmichemin basically jumped off the page and revealed this incredible twist to me, and I ran with it. She’s a fantastic character. I think she and my main character from “Love of the Sea”, Asrai, would have a fantastic time taking over the world together.
Helen: Succumb to Darkness is set in similar setting to the French Revolution. Do you have to do much research for your books?
Lauren: Research depends on the individual story. For my fantasy mermaid novel “Love of the Sea” I did some research on marine biology because I wanted to take a more biology focused approach to the mermaids I created in the story. I spent three years researching and writing, and then another two years doing the illustrations for my historical fiction novel “Geisha Hands”. I wanted to be as thorough with my research as possible to present a historically and culturally accurate story. Another story that will require a ton of research will be one of my future novels – one about Marie Antoinette and Versailles.
Helen: Research can take you down a rabbit hole and consume so much time. But you also learn so much about different things! The quote you use from Alice in Wonderland fits this perfectly! “Start at the beginning, and when you come to the end, stop.” –Mad Hatter from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. It just seems there never is an end when it comes to research. What are you working on now?
Lauren: My current WIP is novel #7 – “Be Mine”. This is an LGBTQ+ BDSM erotica novel. It’s a story I’m having a lot of fun with. It’s meant to be a “fluffy candy” sort of story, one just for enjoyment. It’s a group of main characters – Blake, Tyler, Justin, Carter and Ashley and the story of a wild triangle romance. My other WIP is novel #8 – Book One of my YA Fantasy Series. I can’t share too much about this series yet, but I can say that it’s the crowning jewel of my work. All thirteen books are written, but the manuscripts need major rewrites, as I started writing Book One when I was 12 years old, and finished writing Book Thirteen when I was 23 years old. I have to bring them up to parr with my current skills and writing style. All thirteen books will also have full color illustrations, and I’ll be drawing them all myself.
Helen: That is going to keep you very busy! I wrote my Sentinals series in one hit, all six of them. And then spent the next three years editing so I could publish them! The last one will release in the fall which is quite exciting. One of my greatest influences was the Belgarion series by David Eddings. Which books would you say have influenced your writing?
Lauren: The book series that inspired me the most with my writing style is The Sevenwaters Trilogy by Juliet Marillier. The beautiful imagery and magical world building in the story has deeply influenced my writing. But in terms of the book that I reach for over and over again is A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I have a battered copy of the book from childhood. It’s gotten me through some dark times. The story gives me hope and brings me joy when I need it most.
Helen: Oh, I agree, I loved the Sevenwaters series. I’m not sure you have much time to read nowadays, but do you have any books you would recommend?
Lauren: I would recommend “Bittersweet Memories of Last Spring” by Ardain Isma. It’s a wonderful story that showcases the struggles of immigrants finding their way in America. It shines a light on the history of Haitian immigrants in America in the 1980s. I learned so much reading this book and highly recommend it. The sequel is also set for release this summer! I’m also biased and must recommend “Marked Territory” and “Painted Cats” by my partner Neal F. Litherland. These books are so much fun. They take the hardboiled noir detective trope, but with a stray alley cat living in New York City. Leo, the big tom cat, solves conflicts for resident strays. It’s truly a fun series and there are plans for a third instalment.
Helen: Excellent recommendations. I’ve enjoyed learning about your many projccts, and I wish you much success with all them. One final question. What is the best writing advice you’ve received?
Lauren: A piece of advice that I think is important for most writers to heed is “Write now, worry later”. Too many writers get ahead of themselves during the writing part of the process. Whether it’s worrying about how the book will be received, what audience to target, or even lofty goals like getting on the NY Times best seller list. Too many writers fall prey to these worries before their manuscript is even a completed rough draft. Just write the story. Get it all on the page. All those other worries are later steps in the process. No use worrying over them when you’re not there yet.
And a piece of advice I’d share for new writers: Don’t concern yourself too much with trends. You can end up chasing your tail without accomplishing much if you’re trying to keep up with all the different writing trends. Write what you want to write. Write what makes you happy, or what you need to say. Trends come and go. Worry more about being proud of what you’ve created. If you love your story, others will too.
Helen: Fantastic advice. That you so much for joining me today, Lauren. Its’s been fun chatting.
About the Author:
Lauren A.R. Masterson aka Alice Liddell graduated from Columbia College of Chicago with a degree in Fiction Writing. During her college days, she began working as a freelance model eventually making it her full-time profession after graduating. She toured nationally, met scores of creative people, and had many adventures. After retiring from modeling, and experiencing a divorce, Alice felt the drain of her creativity. But after finding a loving and supportive community she began exploring her writing talent and art again. Alice is now a regular in the local Chicago writing communities and is dedicated to enhancing her craft.
You can find her on:
Facebook: Alice the Author
You can purchase Succumb to Darkness here:
Link to book on Amazon UK: eBook | Paperback | Hardcover
Link to book on Amazon US: eBook | Paperback | Hardcover
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If you enjoy fantasy romance books then you will love SoulBreather, and my epic fantasy Sentinal series. As a new threat against Remargaren is discovered, only one man can wake the ancient guards who can protect them, only he doesn’t know how. Start the adventure and stay for the journey. Sign up to my newsletter and download a free novella called Sentinals Stirring and get notified when my next books are published.