Author Interview – Rachel Hobbs

Author of The Stones of Power series

I am so happy to be chatting to fantasy author Rachel Hobbs today. Her second fantasy novel Soul Strung launches on November 2nd, and if you haven’t read Shadow Stained yet, you should! Welcome Rachel. Let’s start with you introducing your new novel.

Rachel: The book I’m working on right now is Soul-Strung, the second book in the Stones of Power series. Soul-Strung is the direct sequel to Shadow-Stained, my debut adult dark fantasywhich launched last year. In Soul-Strung, we pick up the story around a month after the events of book one. Ruby is living Callien city, where she’s been trying to build a new life for herself in the wake of past catastrophes. Always the opposite, Drayvex is leaving trails of devastation. Saydor, having narrowly escaped with his life, is back in the power game, and boy does he know how to play it. As we know, Drayvex now has one very clear, very human weakness. And it’s only a matter of time before Saydor discovers that she survived. But despite Drayvex’s dogged attempts to hunt the demon down, Saydor has been one step ahead. So Soul-Strung starts with Drayvex turning up on Ruby’s doorstep out of the blue, armed with this devastating confession and a crazy plan – secure the stone of time and kill Saydor in the past. It’s the first time she’s seen him since Shadow-Stained, and his presence is the equivalence of a demonic hurricane ripping through her new city life. Buckle up, this is going to be a bumpy ride!

Helen: I am so excited to read Soul Strung, as you well know I love Drayvex, even though he is a terrible demon lord, he does have a soft, well a softening centre! What about the cover? What can you tell us about how you came up with the design?

Rachel:Both Shadow-Stained and Soul-Strung have my demon-human duo, Ruby and Drayvex, on the covers. Ruby and Drayvex have a complicated relationship, and it just gets more tangled and polarizing as the books go on. I wanted to reflect that on the cover of Soul-Strung. The biggest difference in the two covers, though, lie with Ruby. This is a deliberate reflection of her personal journey, of the changes she undergoes between the first and second books. On Shadow-Stained’s cover, our heroine has her back to Drayvex and the threat he poses to her. On Soul-Strung, she’s facing Drayvex head on and ultimately, the darkness he represents. She’s not the victim she once was. She’s a little stronger, a little wiser, and she’s no longer scared of the big bad Demon Lord. The question is though, is she facing down his darkness, or is she inviting it in? You’ll have to read the book to find out!

Helen: Sounds amazing! I hope she is inviting him in. He needs some of his sharp edges smoothing! How did you come up with the title of the book?

Rachel: I wanted something suggestive of being trapped. Strung is a great word, as it evokes visions of being tied to someone or something against your will. A loss of control and freedom that’s forced upon you, but at the same time, not entirely torturous. With these vibes in mind for book two, Ruby and Drayvex are living with the consequences of that impulsive decision at the end of book one. Consequences that just seem to unfold and unfold. Yes, he saved her life. But not even Drayvex could know what the price of this would be, as no demon before him has ever put a piece of their soul inside a living, breathing human. At least, they didn’t leave an instruction manual!! Does he come to regret going to such lengths? Now isn’t that the question.

Helen: With such strong characters in your book, who did you prefer writing? Ruby or Drayvex?

Rachel: I’ve always gravitated more towards the villains than the heroes in stories. Give me a character with grey morals and a big personality, and I’m yours. I’m a sucker for a good anti-hero, and I think this is a big part of why I find Drayvex so much fun to write. It’s just so much more interesting when the protagonist is a terrible person! I must admit, I feel like I do sometimes really push those anti-hero boundaries with Drayvex. He’s a villain masquerading as an anti-hero. He’s unapologetically demon in all the worst ways, and yet somehow, he manages to get away with murder time and time again. I was told pretty early on that Drayvex’s one redeeming quality is his affection for Ruby. This made me laugh, as when you put it like that, it sounds pretty bad! But I couldn’t agree more. When I first released Shadow-Stained into the world, I wasn’t sure how well he was going to be received. But it seems like the sly devil is doing pretty well for himself. Everyone loves a rogue.

Helen: I think part of it his struggle to understand what is happening. We sympathise as he attempts to understand human emotions, emotions he shouldn’t be experiencing! Which part of the writing process do you prefer? Editing or writing?

Rachel: I used to think I preferred editing to writing. I’m one of those writers who favour having written the book to the act of writing itself. Writing has never been easy for me, and when I’m in a bad cycle, I struggle day after day, after day and I don’t enjoy it. But on those good days, writing from scratch feels like flying. There’s nothing more freeing than taking that tangle of thoughts and words and emotion inside your head, and shaping it into something entirely new that has a life of its own. Having now taken two books from initial concept to a living, breathing story, I’ve come to realise that when I’m writing, I prefer editing. When I’m editing, I’m dreaming of writing. So now I see the pattern, I’m trying to teach myself to enjoy the process as a whole. Both writing and editing have their place. They’re both part of the journey, so I may as well try to enjoy the whole ride!

Helen: It’s been lovely chatting iht you, good luck wiht the launch of Soul Strung. Just to close us out, tell us something random about yourself.

Rachel: I played clarinet in my school orchestra in my teen years. We travelled the world, played in Prague and Barcelona, and Lake Garda. From carparks to grand halls, we did it all. Music was one of my chosen escapes back then, and it was so easy to lose myself in these big booming pieces that blew me away. Being part of a bigger whole kept me whole. Well, that and stories. I was quite young when I first joined, so some of my memories of these beautiful places are stronger than others. But I’d like to back one day with my partner and see them again with fresh eyes.

You can find my book review of Rachel’s first book Shadow Stained here.

About the Author:

Rachel Hobbs lives in South West Wales, where she hibernates with with her bearded dragon and her husband. By day she is a dental nurse at a small local practice. By night, she writes.

​Her debut novel SHADOW-STAINED is the first in a dark fantasy series for adults, inspired by her dark and peculiar experiences with narcolepsy and parasomnia. She’s since subjugated her demons, and writes under the tenuous guise that they work for her.

​Fuelled by an unhealthy amount of coffee, she writes about hard-boiled monsters with soft centres and things that go bump in the night. ​

You can find more about Rachel via:

Author website

Twitter

Instagram

You can purchase Rachel’s books from Amazon:

Shadow Stained

UK: eBook | Paperback | Hardback

USA: eBook | Paperback | Hardback

Soul Strung Pre-order until Nov 2nd 2021 (Pre-order the paperback and a claim a free piece of character artwork.)

UK: eBook | Paperback

USA: eBook | Paperback

As an Amazon Associate I may earn commission from purchases made using these links.

Author Interview – Forest Wells

Author of the Blood of an Alpha

Blood of an Alpha, by Forest Wells releases today, October 10th, and I am excited to be chatting with the author about his books and all things writing. Welcome Forest. Let’s start with you introducing your new novel.

Forest: My new release is a novella called “Blood of an Alpha”. In this one, Toltan’s pack faces serious trials when they lose their alpha, and the new one is an arrogant fool. As things get worse, Toltan will find himself facing hard choices that could decide the fate of the entire pack. This one is actually a prequel to my first novel, “Luna, The Lone Wolf”, and has two other short stories that dig deeper into events we hear about, but never get much detail on. I had hoped to have it out by June or sooner, but it took a little longer than expected.

I am also working on a sci-fi called “Fog of War” that follows the one human and two holdren (alien foxes basically) crew of a Scorn heavy starfighter. If it helps, think of it as a fighter bomber with better weapons and armor. Anyway, just as 40 years of war with the alien nation of Marcalla looks to be ending, a new threat that may not be new at all looms over the horizon. The crew of Gold 1 will charge back into the flames of war as they always have to defend their homes and loved ones, but they may not come out unscathed this time. That one I didn’t expect to have out before September, and that was if things went perfectly. FYI; things NEVER go perfectly for me.

Helen: That was one of the lessons I learnt when publishing my first book. Things always take a lot longer than you expect, and you should give yourself plenty of time to get everything done. Setting unrealistic deadlines just puts unnecessary pressure on yourself. Congratulations on publishing your book, you did it! Was there a special meaning behind the title you chose?

Forest: Not really. In the first novel, Toltan talks to Luna about “Your blood. My blood. The blood of all wolves. The blood of an alpha.” When I look at the three journeys we follow, that theme felt central to all three. The characters all have “the blood of an alpha”, and their journeys touch that blood in different ways. As for the sci-fi, it just feels right, though it took me a while to find it. There’s a fair amount of doubt, or “fog” if you will,  hanging around the characters. The title tells people that combat is a part of the story, but there’s more to it than just war and space battles, which is why despite what it looks like, it’s actually not a military sci-fi.

Helen: Who is your favourite character from your novels so far?

Forest: That would be the holdren Sundale from the sci-fi, but I still don’t know why. I only know that I love spending time with him any time I can. Especially when I get to dig deep into his mentality and emotions. I don’t know what else to say about that really.

Helen: You have two books out now, which genre do you prefer to write?

Forest: I tend toward sci-fi and fantasy because… I enjoy it? I’m not sure what else to say. I’ve always enjoyed Star Trek, Babylon 5, Starcraft, Narnia, Dragon Age, Dragon Heart, and so it’s fun for me to create my own worlds. I will say that I have an eaiser time creating worlds rather than playing in the real one, so that too is a factor. I get to set my own rules, and then play within them to tell the story I want to tell.

Helen: Creating new worlds is what I love about writing fantasy. Have you always wanted to write?

Forest: I was always writing, even as a kid in elementary school, but I didn’t realize what it was. Then 9/11 happened, the muse woke up, and I’ve been writing ever since. The stories won’t leave me alone, so I write them as best I can.

Helen: Strong emotional reactions tend to be a catalyst for many writers. Having awoken the need to write, how did you come up with the ideas for your books?

Forest: In the case of “Blood of an Alpha”, the two side stories are, well, side stories that couldn’t be told in the original novel because they weren’t part of Luna’s journey. One of them was in an original draft of “Luna” actually, but I realized that because it left Luna’s perspective, it damaged the story too much so it had to go. Similarly, the original draft showed us how Luna’s pack came to be where they are before he was born, but it was too slow and took too much time to develop before he ever got to meet Luna, much less begin his journey. But I didn’t want to just shelve those pages never to use them again. So I expanded those set-up page into its own story that is now “Blood of an Alpha.” But the last half or third of it is actually the original start of “Luna, The Lone Wolf”.

In general though, my ideas mostly come from random thoughts or feelings. My sci-fi was born because I was tired of the “heroes” we were getting. They were always misfits, downtrodded, broken (one way or another), worn-down, unrespected, unlikable, arrogant, or straight up criminals. I wanted a hero like that line from the original “Duck Tales” TV show; “Real heroes just do their job.” I couldn’t find one, so I set out to make one. Not sure if he stayed true to that as he evolved, but that’s how it started.

But it tends to be purely random. A writing contest makes me think of a different angle on werewolves, my desire to see wolves protected gave birth to a story about a wolf who learned how to face and evade hunters (it evolved into what became “Luna, The Lone Wolf”, but that’s how it started), looking at dusty Zoid models made me think of some long forgotten weapon depot that someone finds, things like that. My personal is how a line from Shrek gave me an idea. “You’re a GIRL dragon. I mean… of COURSE you’re a girl dragon.” Suddenly, the old fairy tales of a princess locked in castle guarded by a dragon made sense. From that came a story about a dragon with her own journey to take. And that’s all you’re getting on that one for now. Sorry. 😉

Photo by Andrew Ly on Unsplash

Helen: I love that you are interested in wolves for themselves and that interest drove you to write the book, and of course, any book with dragons has to be good! How does writing fit into your daily life?

Forest: I write when I can, think when I can, and be perfectly fine with not doing a thing for a protracted period of time. Experience has taught me that I do worse when I force things, not better. So I’ve learned to use distractions to center myself so I can write at will more often, but I’ve also learned to let things be. Thus far, sooner or later, the words come back to me.

Helen: Are you a writer who prefers back ground noise or silence? Do you have a playlist you use when writing?

Forest: Heh heh, that’s a VERY long list. But sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. Music can help me get into a scene better sometimes, and other times I need the silence to really process the, “okay, how does this NEED to go?” thoughts that make it all work. As for the music itself, it’s a long mish-mash of tunes, soundtracks from games/movies/TV shows, and other instramentals that fit the feeling I need to conjure at any given moment. Whether it’s League of Legends, Assassin’s Creed, Mass Effect, Ace Combat, Rambo, Star Trek, Babylon 5, Fox Amoore, or Two Steps From Hell, if it fits a mood I need, it will be played at some point.

Helen: How much research do you need to do for your books?

Forest: As much as I need. That sound like a cop-out, but it really isn’t. Mostly because I’m not sure how to exactly quantify it. I look up what I need for the needs of the story. My first novel just needed some research into wolves, most of which I knew because wolves have always been a passion of mine. The sci-fi… whew. That thing has sent me digging into technology, science, and tactics like nothing else. But I never dug more than I needed, and I think it’s served me pretty well so far. I have enough to tell the story and build the world enough for the reader to enjoy. Now for “Luna”, my written notes were pretty minimal. For the sci-fi, I have 30 pages of notes JUST about my alien foxes. So it depends on the needs of the story a bit too.

Helen: That’s not a cop out at all, each book is different. The trick is not to get lost in the research, but it sounds like you have that under control. Talking of control, do you find yourself planning your books, or letting them evolve as they will?

Forest: Oh total panster. There is no plan. I have at most a general idea of how a story will end (though that doesn’t always remain in tact) and a few highlights along the way, but zero idea how I’ll get there. So in many ways, it’s more like I’m reading my work that writing it. It can be fun in that way, but also annoying when it’s clear the story knew things but didn’t bother to tell me. The story knew the real back-bone to “Luna, The Lone Wolf”, I could see it in the evolution of the story, but it didn’t let me see it until a few months before publication. Similarly, the uniforms for my sci-fi military always had a sash sewn into them. For years I thought it was purely decorative. Then the story finally admitted that it’s also an emergencty air supply. May not last long, but even five minutes can be enough to get to an air tank or be rescued. It always knew, but it didn’t tell me. Panster.

Helen: What is your favourite book and why do you like it so much?

Forest: It’s not so much one as a series. Jane Lindskold’s Firekeeper series really got me energized about writing canine characters, as well as fantasy in general. But the main thing is that she is an expert at weaving intricate and detailed plot lines that are totally separate, only to have them crash together for the climax. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to do that, but that doesn’t keep me from enjoying the read.

Helen: If you didn’t write in sci-fi or fantasy, then which genre would you like to try and write in next?

Forest: Oddly enough, I actually have an idea for a murder mystery. I’ve loved shows like NCIS, The Rookie, Columbo, and others, and I wouldn’t mind giving it a try someday. No idea if I ever will, but still. It would be a fun challenge to write.

Helen: That sounds intriguing, I hope you get the chance to write it. We’re nearing the end of our chat now, tell us something anecdotal about yourself..

Forest: I got the chance to do a reading at a VERY small bookstore up in Joshua tree. There weren’t many people there, and I only sold one book, bit it still felt like a worthwhile trip. To this day I don’t know why, but I do know that it was one of the first times I really felt like a published author. Kind of like being on the other side of the signature table. It’s also been a reminder for me to not be too proud about my appearences. Especially as a new author, but even if I ever do “make it big”, I hope I never get so proud as to say no to such a venue. After all, it’s where I came from. I hope I never forget that.

Helen: I bet that was the best feeling ever! Thank you so much for joining me today. Just to close us out, what advice would you give to new writers?

Forest: Well that could take an hour. Lol. You’re going to hear A LOT of “do this, don’t do that” as you develop. At least 50% of it won’t apply to you or your story. But as you get better, you’ll learn which ones to heed and which to ignore. Like the popular GIF says, “The code is what you call guidelines than actual rules.” Until then, be a sponge. Absorb any little tib-bit and fragment you can into your ball of clay that you use to create. Don’t be afraid to stash freelancers and other resources for future reference. I’ve sat on a few for years until it was time to call on them. It was worth the stash. Also; you DO NOT have to write every day, but I recommend you try it first. Even if you turn out to be one of the many who can’t write like that (despite what you’ll hear, there are plenty of highly successful writers who don’t), the attempt will help you develop your own tricks and ways to help your write more often than you normally would. Writer’s block IS a thing for some, but it can also be an excuse for others, so be wary of which it is for you. There is no such thing as an “aspiring author”. You write. You’re an author/writer. Own it. The terms are inerchangable and do not need a quantified beyond, at most, “published or unpublished”. And finally; I don’t care how Steven King or any author you name writes. You will NEVER be them, and they will NEVER be you. Write like YOU, and you’ll be fine.

About the Author:

Forest Wells is an author with dysgraphia, but those things don’t go together, which is why he did it anyway. He specializes in stories that focus on the emotions and personal journeys characters face regardless of the genre he’s writing. All of which is fueled by his deep passions for all things wild canine, sci-fi and fantasy, and really any well told story. When he’s not writing, or helping with his parent’s Girl Scout troops, you’ll find him watching his favorite NFL and NHL teams, watching E-sports, or gaming himself. Assuming he’s not caught up in the biggest of all procrastinating tools: Twitter. His first novel Luna, The lone Wolf was released in April of 2019, but he had a few short stories and poems published in anthologies before that. He currently lives in his home town of Thermal, California.

You can find more about Forest via:

Author website

Twitter

You can purchase Forest’s books from Amazon and other vendors:

Blood of an Alpha

UK: paperback

USA: Paperback

As an Amazon Associate I may earn commission from purchases made using these links.

Book Review Alert: Stoneskin Dragon by Zoe Chant

Reviewed: October 3rd 2021
Released: January 31st, 2020
Genre: Paranormal Fantasy

He has days to live.

Dragon shifter Reive is dying. After a fight with a gargoyle to save his clan, his poisoned body is painfully turning to stone. His only hope: an ancient book that promises a cure. 

And the librarian who can help him find it.

She’s a monster.

All her life Jess has feared and hated her gargoyle shifter form. She would give anything to be fully human.

Now she might have a way.

If she can fight her attraction for a dying man long enough to help him find the book that will save or doom them both.

But they’re not the only ones looking for it … Read More…

Book Review Alert: Ashes on the Earth by Sarah Ashwood

Reviewed: September 30th 2021
Released: September 25th, 2020
Genre: YA Paranormal Fantasy

“This was a war between monsters. And I was caught in the middle.”

Shapeshifters exist. Monsters are real. And no good deed goes unpunished.

Nursing student Ellie St. James didn’t mean to get involved in a war between rival gangs of shifters, but saving the life of a local mob boss’s child has dragged her into one. When Ellie’s life is threatened because of her involvement, she’s forced to go on the run, protected by Carter Ballis, head of security for the mobster’s family, and a lethal shifter himself.

Blood, fire, and warfare weren’t part of Ellie’s plans, but even if she survives, her life will never be the same. The world is more than she knew, and she’s seen too much. People capable of morphing into deadly creatures from legends and folklore around the globe are coming for her.

The cost of staying alive means trusting Carter to defend her, and he’s every bit as frightening as the creatures that want her dead… Read More…

Book Review Alert: Blooded by Nat Kennedy

Reviewed: September 26th 2021
Released: September 25th, 2021
Genre: Contemporary MM Fantasy

A broken mage. A penitent vampire. Can they put aside the horrors of the past to save each other?

Plagued with erratic, volatile magic, Nicodemus Green focuses his entire life to stop an evil sorcerer who brainwashes or kills anyone in his path to domination. Ten years into this crusade, Nick stumbles upon his former Academy instructor in the Austrian Alps. The strict and pious Byron Domitius has cloistered himself in an isolated manor. Alone and starving, he hates the twisted, damned creature he has become.

A prophecy calls for Nick and Byron to bond by blood to finally bring an end to the sorcerer’s hidden agenda. The two are forced to see beyond their shared past, and Nick finds himself desiring more from his old instructor than just his magic. But are these emotions real, or do they come from the heat of their bond? Read More…

Book Review Alert: Dragon’s Heir by Molly Webb

Reviewed: August 31st, 2021
Released: August 11th, 2021
Genre: Urban Fantasy

My name is Thea, and I’m a monster hunter. Or a monster, depending on who you ask…

My dad trained me to be tough and ruthless, so I could replace him someday as head of our shifter clan. Then I discovered my father wasn’t the man I thought he was. So I went freelance instead. Now, I fight for the underdogs my dad used to exploit. Sure, I get paid. But I don’t do it for the money…

So when a rogue werewolf I’m hunting turns out to be innocent, I want to know who framed him, and why. His name is Marcus, and with his broad shoulders and piercing eyes, he can certainly take care of himself. But someone wants him dead. And I want to keep him alive… At least long enough for me to figure out what he’s hiding.

Because Marcus is more than just your average shifter. He’s something much stranger, and much more dangerous. An ancient secret lurks behind his fierce, smoldering gaze.

And once it’s revealed, it could tear this world apart… Read More…

Book Review Alert: Dragon’s Hoard by M.A. Church

Reviewed: August 22nd, 2021
Released: February 1st, 2020
Genre: Paranormal Gay Fantasy

To be loved by a dragon is to be treasured.

A hundred years ago, werewolf Alpha Montgomery took a risk driven by desperation—he borrowed money from the ancient dragon Warwick Ehecatl, putting up the pack lands as collateral. Now the debt is due, and dragons don’t forget—or forgive. Warwick demands Montgomery’s son, Avery, and three businesses as compensation. As an Omega, Avery knows he is basically useless to his pack, so he might as well agree. He soon has second thoughts, though. Warwick is fearsome, and he’s free to do as he likes with Avery.

Warwick knows his race’s reputation, and he even admits some of it is deserved. But he’d rather cut off his tail than let his innocent mate’s light go out. It won’t be easy, but buried deep, there’s something between them worth safeguarding. Read More…