Author Interview – Sierra Knoxly

Author of The Fate in the Flames.

I am joined today by Sierra Knoxly, another of my co-conspirators from the Realm of Darkness boxset. We are chatting about her contribution to the boxset, The Fate in the Flames which releases on October 4th, 2022 and is currently available on preorder. Click the cover image to see a great book trailer.

Helen: Welcome Sierra, I am so excited to talk with you today. Tell us about your contribution to the anthology.

Sierra: My Realm of Darkness book The Fate in the Flames is book one in a fantasy reverse harem series: Legend of the Kitsune Pearl. Originally, I had two different story ideas I was considering for RoD, and I chose the other one, and got about two chapters in, forcing every word. I gave up and tried writing what has become The Fate in the Flames, and it just flowed out. Sometimes I write the stories, and sometimes they write me.

Helen: It’s nice when the story writes itself. You have such a beautiful cover, tell us how you chose it.

Sierra: I saw this cover in a premade covers group a year ago, and I fell in love with it. I had it on reserve, waiting for the right story, and Sakura’s tale deserved all this beauty, plus all the little elements I needed were there, from the moth to the flames, and the sword she holds is very significant (hint: the sword doesn’t belong to her).

Helen: It is very atmospheric! What made you write a book for an anthology?

Sierra: One of my writer’s group friends had signed up to participate but had to withdraw for personal reasons. She offered her space, and I thought the opportunity was really intriguing. When I signed up, the anthology was one year away from launch, so I thought that was plenty of time to get my head around the process, since I’ve never joined a boxset before. Boy, was I misguided! I feel like I stepped into a whirlwind and have yet to get off the wild ride! Of course I’m hopeful we’ll hit best seller status, but it’s been so exciting to work with all the authors, and it’s really pushed me to get out of my comfort box.

Realm of Darkness Anthology

Helen: The year has gone so quick, hasn’t it? I can’t believe there is only three weeks to go to launch. How did you come up with the title for your book?

Sierra: The title was probably the hardest part of the book to write! I agonized over it, particularly because I needed wording that suited the layout of the premade cover. I did a brainstorm and showed it to the RoD writers’ group, and the lovely authors helped me pick through my ideas. ‘Fate’ stood out because I had written it several times in the brainstorm, haha! The flames came naturally thanks to the cover image and how the story develops around fire (the main male character is a shapeshifting hellhound).

For the series title, kitsune is a name for a nine-tailed fox. I’m deeply inspired by Asian mythology, so that weaves through several of my series.

Helen: I think you came up with the perfect title. What made you write this specific book?

Sierra: This book (series) is a prequel occurring (2,000 years) before the series I’m releasing at the moment – Tears of the Heart. One of the characters that appears in that series had an amazing backstory, so I thought it deserved to be told.

Helen: Tell us a little about your main character and why you wrote about them.

Sierra: Sakura Ochi is a young adult girl from the daimyo class (nobility) in an ancient Japan. Her birth name is Kiyoko, but she’s known by a nickname that her mother gave her, in reference to the blossoming of the cherry tree flowers. I wrote the Tears of the Heart series a few years ago, and I wanted to write the backstory of a character that appears in that series. That put my character starting a few thousand years back in ancient Japan, and so I created Sakura. This character has a traumatic start to the story; her family is condemned to ritualistic suicide to regain their family honor. If Sakura truly thought this was a way to regain their honor, she would go through with it, but she knows it’s a set-up, so she’s determined to fight and survive.

Helen: If your Main Character could answer, why would they say we should read your book? 

Sierra: “The author put me through hell, but I survived. Don’t let my suffering be in vain!”

Helen: Who was your favourite character to write?

Sierra: I really enjoyed writing Rivaan. He’s been raised in the clan culture, and he never questioned it until Sakura arrived in his life and presented a different outlook. Between that and his own mysterious development, he goes through a lot of personal upheaval.

Helen: The Fate in the Flames is Reverse Harem. For those who don’t know reverse harem is typically considered a group where there is one male with several female members of his household or poly relationship. These are considered reverse harem books because it is the woman who is surrounded by a group of men. Must be such fun to write. What else do you write?

Sierra: I write fantasy reverse harem/poly romance. I always enjoyed fantasy, and then I stumbled on a RH book, and discovered my mantra “more fun, more love.” There are other things I like to write as well, but this is my focus now.

Helen: You said The Fate in the Flames is the prequel, how many other books have you written?

Sierra: I have three other books out currently. Two are in the completed series In the King’s Hands, which is a fantasy poly duet (Ambience and Resonance) about an escaped slave who joins a royal harem to hide from the cruel master who is hunting her. Just recently I released a new book, Tears of Ice, which is the first in a new series (Tears of the Heart), a portal academy fantasy RH, about a young adult with a serious heart condition who gets stranded on a world that doesn’t like humans. This occurs a few thousand years after the timeline of my RoD contribution, The Fate in the Flames.

There are links between all my books across the realms. I think readers will enjoy pulling on those threads as all the series evolve.

Want to try a RH book? You can downlod a copy of Sierra’s Ambience for free here. (Limited number available. Content Warning: Ambience features a king’s harem carrying out sexual activities. High steam, MM/FF/MF, intended for mature audiences. Triggers include references to sexual assault, mild cursing and mild violence.)

Click image to download a free copy (Limited number available.)

Helen: It’s so exciting when you can explore back stories and delve into side characters. What are you writing now?

Sierra: Right now, I’m editing book two of Tears of the Heart. I find editing much harder than writing because you have to more analytical about the purpose of every scene, so it’s a slow process. Having said that, this is my favorite series, and I laugh and enjoy reading it, so I can’t wait to get the books out.

Helen: What inspired you to first begin writing?

Sierra: Reading and writing has had a strong presence all through my childhood, but what prompted me the most was a vivid dream that I wrote down. When I finished that story, I knew I needed to write another. I had teachers recognize my interest during my school years (long before I recognized it myself), and I’m very grateful to them for planting the seeds.

Helen: How do you find new ideas for your books?

Sierra: Vacuuming is totally dangerous for new ideas, haha. Any activity that let’s your brain tick over while your body is moving gives space for stories. I find most of my ideas are based on ‘what if’ questions that I stumble across at random times. ‘What if a runaway slave hid in a king’s harem?’ ‘What if a girl goes through a portal and gets stuck in a world that hates humans (and dragons)?’ Recently I was watching an online chat group where a joke was made about crossdressing, and the little fishhook in my brain latched onto that word and started asking what if the person was crossdressing to con people and make money…so that one is simmering away in the bubbler, in a queue of a dozen other ideas waiting to be written.

Helen: ‘What if’ is such a useful tool for authors! Let’s talk a little about your writing process. Do you plan your books or let them flow where they will?

Sierra: I think the term for me is a plantster. I start out with a few dot points of a plot and an ending in mind (usually), and the story/characters sometimes run away with me during the writing journey, haha. I write from beginning to end sequentially, although occasionally if I get stuck I’ll leave a note to ‘finish this chapter’ and move on, so I don’t get bogged down.

Helen: When is the best time of the day for you to write and where do you write?

Sierra: I write late in the evening when the house is quiet. I’ve had great results overlooking the ocean…but that’s not an everyday reality, unfortunately! I like to be at my desk with lots of light and multiple screens, because I need my manuscript, my character guide, my one thousand google tabs…you get the picture 😉

Helen: Do you prefer writing or editing?

Sierra: Writing! Definitely writing! Editing means having to admit that what I wrote first time around was not the most brilliant piece of writing out there, haha. It gets messy, so I have to don emotional armour.

Helen: If you didn’t write Fantasy what genre would you like to write in?

Sierra: I love all things YA, and I’m a big fan of most sci-fi movies, so I would probably give sci-fi a try. I also love Manga (a lot of my Asian influences come from an interest in manga/web comics) so it’s a dream of mine to write or turn a book into a comic.

Helen: Thank you for joining me today Sierra, it’s been such fun meeting you. Last question, do you have a favourite piece of advice that inspires you, and what advice would you give aspiring writers?

Sierra: “A writer’s most important asset is their state of mind.” Alessandra Torres.

Once I heard this, a lot of elements about my writing practice clicked together, and now I work hard to protect my state of mind so creativity can flourish.

My advice? Just start writing—it doesn’t matter if your plot is all over the place or whatever. The more I write, the more I learn about craft and how to improve. Get a manuscript done and send it to a developmental editor. Learn from their advice. Write the next novel.

Helen: Such great advice! I am so excited to be part of this anthology, it has been a great experience, and I can’t believe the launch is only a month or so away. It has come around so quickly! You can preorder the anthology here for the insane price of 99c/79p!

Make sure you can check out some of my other posts as I spotlight the authors as they reveal their covers!

About the Author:

Sierra Knoxly lives a double life. By day she is the reserved mom of young children where adventure means a walk to the park or trip to the local pool. Once night falls and the cherubs are tucked into bed, Sierra dons armour (and amor) and rides a dragon into battle. She rains chaos down on her characters like an avenging angel of old and shoots their hearts with cupid’s bow.

Her love of mythical beasts and magic began at a young age when she had an imaginary Pegasus friend. Her gentle nature and fiery imagination leads to all around fictional steam. She lives with a mild fear that one day she’ll get a knock at the door from the authorities come to ask about her questionable browser history – all for writing research, of course.

When not writing or momming, Sierra loves bringing plants home to die and reading a reverse harem novel under a warm blanket.

For all the latest news:

Author webpage

Facebook

TikTok

Other books by Sierra Knoxly

Ambience (In the King’s Hand Book One)

Link to ebook on Amazon UK | Amazon US
Link to paperback on Amazon UK | Amazon US

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

If you enjoy fantasy romance books then you will love my new release SoulBreather, part of the Realm of Darkness Anthology, 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.

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Author Interview – Rosalyn Briar

Author of The Mermaid and the Pearl.

Joining me today is another of my co-conspirators from the Realm of Darkness boxset. I am chatting with Fantasy author, Rosalyn about her contribution to the boxset, The Mermaid & the Pearl, which releases on October 4th, 2022 and is currently available on preorder.

Helen: Welcome Rosalyn, I am so excited to chat with you about The Mermaid and the Pearl. I was fortunate enough to beta read your book, and I can’t wait for it to be released. Tell us a little about your book.

Rosalyn: The Mermaid & the Pearl is a sapphic retelling of “The Little Mermaid.” It has an underwater circus setting and a “Corpse Bride” twist. It is atmospheric and delightfully creepy.

Helen: Such a great idea to have an underwater circus, gives you lots of enteratining ideas to play with. Your cover is gorgeous, tell us who is on the front cover.

Rosalyn: The cover shows the main character Muriel swimming in front of a circus tent to show the unusual setting. It also shows Muriel holding her magic pearl necklace which is what she uses to make skeletons dance for the circus.

Helen: Sounds suitably creepy! I imagine your title is quite descriptive of your story and as a retelling you got straight to the point.

Rosalyn: I chose The Mermaid & the Pearl because I wanted readers to know right away that this was a book about mermaids. Pearls are important to the book because they contain the souls of the dead and my character uses a pearl necklace to make skeletons dance with the magic in her voice.

Realm of Darkness Anthology

Helen: What made you write a novel for an anthology?

Rosalyn: A writer friend told me about the set and that they were still accepting authors, and I just decided to go for it! It was a lot of work to come up with an idea and write an entire novel so quickly, but I am so thankful for this opportunity. I knew I could write another fairy tale retelling in the same world as my book A Sea of Pearls & Leaves, so a Little Mermaid retelling was an easy choice!

Vision of the Moon

Helen: I loved A Sea of Pearls and Leaves. Readers can find my book review here. What else have you written?

Rosalyn: My first book, The Crown of Bones, is a dark fantasy adventure with deadly obstacles based on the Grimm’s fairy tales. A Sea of Pearls & Leaves is a whimsical and atmospheric retelling of “The Three Snake-Leaves” and is set in the same world as The Mermaid & the Pearl. I also have a novel coming out in April with Quill & Crow Publishing House called Her Dark Enchantments, a witchy and magical villain origin story about the Wicked Fairy from Sleeping Beauty.

Helen: When writing, do you enjoy creating villains or heroes?

Rosalyn: I really love writing villains because I think they are so much fun. I suppose that is why my next book is a villain origin story!

Helen: Do you prefer silence or music when you write?

Rosalyn: I only listen to instrumental music because I cannot focus on writing if there are lyrics. I really enjoy witchy or fairy tale-esque playlists on YouTube.

Helen: I know you have a young famiy, so, how do you fit in writing around your daily life?

Rosalyn: I find it important to follow a writing routine, so I wake up at 5 AM every day to write. It really sets the tone for the day for me and puts me in a better mood.

Helen: I couldn’t do it. I am a night owl. You won’t get a sensible word out of me at 5am in the morning! If you didn’t write Fairytale retellings, what genre would you like to try?

Rosalyn: I absolutely love reading thrillers and would love to try writing in that genre someday. I actually have a storyline, setting, and notes for a thriller that I hope to work on within the next few years.

Helen: Most authors are great readers, who is your favorite author?

Rosalyn: I will read anything by Shea Earnshaw. I think she has the most beautiful and lyrical prose.

Helen: Thank you for joining me today Rosalyn, it’s been great chatting with you. Just to finish, what advice would you give aspiring writers?

Rosalyn: I would tell new writers to never give up and write what they love. Also, I would say to share your work with reliable critique partners and beta readers to make your writing even better.

Helen: Thank you, Roslayn. I am so excited to be part of this anthology, it has been a great experience, and I can’t believe the launch is only a month or so away. It has come around so quickly! You can preorder the anthology here for the insane price of 99c/79p!

Make sure you can check out some of my other posts as I spotlight the authors as they reveal their covers!

About the Author:

Rosalyn Briar

Rosalyn Briar a former teacher, a mother to two fearless daughters, and a wife to her soul mate. She loves reading, traveling, and playing board games. More importantly, she believes in fairy tales. When she is not reading or writing, you might find her playing dress-up or gleaning through the woods for wildflowers with her princesses.

For all the latest news:

Author webpage

Other books by Rosalyn Briar

A Sea of Pearls & Leaves

Link to ebook on Amazon UK | Amazon US
Link to paperback on Amazon UK | Amazon US

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

If you enjoy fantasy romance books then you will love my new release SoulBreather, part of the Realm of Darkness Anthology, 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.

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Realm of Darkness Author Spotlight – Fae Lis Bride by Jessica M. Butler

Some gorgeous covers have been revealed over the last few weeks for the Realm of Darkness Anthology. I am delighted to share Jessica M Butler’s Fae Lis Bride

Only available as part of the Realm of Darkness Anthology.

Have you preordered your copy yet for the insane price of 99c/99p?  I can’t wait to read these wonderful books. See all the covers revealed so far here

FAE LIS BRIDE By Jessica M. Butler

To save her sister, a desperate human woman is willing to kidnap the handsome Lord of Wind and Spring.

Daphne must bring a powerful elemental fae lord to the mountain before the full moon or her little sister dies.

Kanek, a fine-dressing but reclusive elemental fae, knows something has to change, but he doesn’t know what to do or how. A human woman showing up in his sanctuary and attempting (unsuccessfully) to render him unconscious and abduct him is not part of his plans. But her utter gall and desperation are enough to convince him that maybe cooperation is better than ignoring her.

It’s not the quest he expected. He’s not the man she thought. She might be harder to live without than she is to live with. And right from the start, he can’t stop thinking about her. But it is just because she’s annoying? Right?

Preorder Realm of Darkness Boxset

Only available as part of the Realm of Darkness Boxset available for preorder now on Amazon and other retailers for only 99c/99p!


About the Author:

Jessica M. Butler is an adventurer, author, and attorney who never outgrew her love for telling stories and playing in imaginary worlds. She is the author of the epic romantic fantasy series Tue-Rah Chronicles along with many other fantasy stories set within the same worlds. She lives with her husband and law partner, James Fry, in rural Indiana where they are quite happy with their two cats and all of the wildlife and trees.

Other books by Jessica M Butler:

Identity Revealed Book One of the Tu-Rah Chronicles

Amazon UK: eBook | Paperback

Amazon US: eBook | Paperback

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

If you enjoy fantasy romance books then you will love my new release SoulBreather, part of the Realm of Darkness Anthology, 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.

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Sentinals Rising now available in Audiobook!

So excited to share that the audiobook of Sentinals Rising is now live! You can find it on Audible, Amazon or Apple Books.

All 12 hours and 32 minutes of it, narrated by the amazing Matt Coles. Check out the audio sample and start the adventure now.

The Sentinal series

Continue the adventure with Jerrol and the Sentinals whilst you drive, exercise or work. Pick up your copy from Audible, Amazon or Apple Books.

Readers’ Favorite Honorable Mention and Five Star review; Global Book Award 2022, Silver Medal
Sentinals Rising is the second book in the saga of Remargaren, a vibrant, ancient world of high fantasy suffused with magic and adventure.

Jerrol Haven, having rescued the king from the clutches of the malevolent Ascendants, knows they haven’t stopped their scheming. While trying to learn more about the mysterious Sentinals he woke from a three-thousand-year sleep, he has to defend his king and country from further magical attacks.

Should he trust the Sentinals in such vital positions? Can he trust them to protect the king and Vespiri? As Jerrol learns more of their capabilities, he realises there are more secrets yet to be revealed. Maybe those questioning their sudden rise in power have a point.

Before he can delve further, a call for help comes from the neighbouring country of Terolia. The nomadic Families are disintegrating into chaotic infighting. The king sends Jerrol to investigate, instructing him to do whatever is needed to protect the Families from the Ascendants.

If you’ve read this far you deserve a gift! I have a few Audible promo codes allowing you to download my audiobook for free. You can apply for a free code here. (Limited number of codes available so don’t delay. When they are gone, they are gone!

Happy Listening!

If you enjoy fantasy books then you will love my epic fantasy Sentinal series. Sign up to my newsletter and download a free novella called Sentinals Stirring and get notified when my next books are published.

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Author Interview – Catharine Glen

Author of Wind Across the Silver Blade.

Joining me today is another of my co-conspirators from the Realm of Darkness boxset. I am chatting with Fantasy author, Catharine Glen about her contribution to the boxset, Wind Across the Silver Blade, which releases on October 4th, 2022 and is currently available on preorder.

Helen: Catharine, thankyou for joining me today! To start us off, tell us about Wind Across the Silver Blade.

Catharine: Wind Across the Silver Blade is a steamy Asian fantasy romance set in a world of gods and yokai (demons). Yumi, an exiled noblewoman, accidentally awakens Touma — a tengu (a winged crow demon god) who was sealed in a sword three hundred years prior. Together, they uncover the truth of a hidden power Yumi harbors while coming to terms with the soulbond growing between them. There’s time magic, a hero resisting the bond, a brave heroine willing to face her fate, and even a little *fun* with feathers. 😉

Helen: ooh sounds like lots of fun! Your cover is amazing. Which character did you choose and why?

Catharine: The cover for Wind Across the Silver Blade was illustrated by my fantastic artist Rakuen, who also did the covers for my Shadowed World Saga series. I wanted to feature Touma, our tengu hero and the love interest of the story. She brought him to life in gorgeous detail, incorporating elements of the mythological tengu dress and showcasing those beautiful wings. He also carries twin swords (daisho) at his waist like the samurai of old, which are important to the story. I don’t know about you, but I’d love to grab his hand and let him spirit me away!

Helen: I am definitely in your corner with that one, he sounds amazing. What made you write a novel for an anthology?

Catharine: I was thrilled to have the opportunity to be a part of the Realm of Darkness anthology, and this is my first time writing for a set. I typically write steamy romantic fantasy with human characters, but had the idea of a romance specifically involving a tengu for some time. This anthology was the perfect fit for my story!

Realm of Darkness Anthology

Helen: This is my first time writing for an anthology as well, and it has been a great experience. Tell us about your steamy romantic fantasy series.

Catharine: I have another Asian fantasy series with two books out so far. The Shadowed World Saga is a Japanese-inspired epic romantic fantasy reverse harem featuring an assassin heroine and the men who stand by her side. Ema faces trials of duty, honor, and betrayal as a ruthless anti-imperial faction moves swiftly across the country. Worse, sentient death shadows known as the shi-no-kage have emerged, threatening the very world itself. I adore writing this series and have become deeply attached to the characters. Fans of enemies to lovers, diverse characters (all-Asian cast), strong heroines, political intrigue, the supernatural, and Japanese history and culture will find lots to love here.

Vision of the Moon

Helen: I am adding them to my tbr pile as we speak! What made you first put pen to paper and write a book?

Catharine: I was a voracious reader growing up. Trips to the library and local bookstore were among my favorite things to do! There was something magical about exploring the shelves and picking out new books to read. I was always drawn to mystery and fantasy, and later historical romance. I wrote stories in my early teen years, fascinated by the notion of writing as a career but never believing I could actually do it (this was well before Kindles and self-publishing became a viable option). What I really wanted to read is now known as romantic fantasy, but I couldn’t seem to find the types of stories that fit what I was seeking. It was after reading Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy in the 00’s (a fantastic series, BTW) and being disappointed in the minimal romance between Vyn and Elend that I began writing seriously — fantasy with a strong romantic subplot.

Helen: I haven’t read Mistborn yet. I have the books, just haven’t found time to read them! When you are writing, do you prefer silence or do you have a favourite playlsit?

Catharine: I enjoy having music on while I write and edit. I typically stick with instrumental music, particularly lo-fi as it blends into the background but also evokes certain moods to help immerse me in the creative process. I also enjoy epic movie and anime themes, Gregorian chants, and new age depending on the types of scenes I’m working on. The only time I do not listen to music is during final proofreads when I need silent, uninterrupted focus.

Helen: Sounds inspirational enough to me. I know writing consumes all pur free time, but when you do ahve that spare hour of two, what hobbies do you like to pursue?

Catharine: When I’m not writing or tending to the kids and family, I enjoy reading fantasy books with kissing (of course!), playing video games (these days, otome or visual novels), studying Japanese, going for walks, Lego, and traveling. I also enjoy watching anime and reading manga.

Helen: Thank you for joining me today Catharine, it’s been great chatting with you. Just to finish, tell us who your favourite author is and why.

Catharine: I would have to say Lindsay Buroker, not only because she’s an incredibly talented writer, but she inspired me to pursue being an indie author. I came across her book, The Emperor’s Edge, not too long after it released, and instantly fell in love with the story and her characters. I was writing and studying craft at the time, but not ready to submit my work anywhere. These were the early days when indie authors were just starting to appear on the scene in a real way. From then, I followed her career and enjoyed consuming her books as well as her now off-air podcast Science Fiction & Fantasy Marketing Podcast (and later, the Six Figure Authors Podcast). She was always so down to earth in her advice and candid in sharing her experiences, even as her success and prominence in the industry grew. I found her to be a warm and encouraging voice to all fantasy writers, and it gave me the courage and knowledge I needed to jump into the indie writing lifestyle.

Helen: The writing community is so generous, everyone is willing to offer help and support to new writers.

I am so excited to be part of this anthology, it has been a great experience, and I can’t believe the launch is only a month or so away. It has come around so quickly! You can preorder the anthology here for the insane price of 99c/79p!

Make sure you can check out some of my other posts as I spotlight the authors as they reveal their covers!

About the Author:

Catharine Glen is a romantic fantasy author residing in New England. Her favorite kinds of stories take place in faraway worlds with unforgettable characters, plenty of romance, adventure, magic and the supernatural. She tends to get immersed in all things Japanese, reading, Lego, and possibly consumes a bit too much coffee and tea. She’s also a wife to a loving husband and a mom to two children and a spirited Jack Russell.

For all the latest news:

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Other books by Catharine Glen

Shadowed World Saga

Vision of the Moon (Book One)

Amazon UK: eBook | Paperback

Amazon USA: eBook | Paperback

Promise of the Storm (Prequel)

Amazon UK: eBook | Paperback

Amazon USA: eBook | Paperback

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

If you enjoy fantasy romance books then you will love my new release SoulBreather, part of the Realm of Darkness Anthology, 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.

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Mailchimp to receive marketing, updates, and other emails from the site owner. Use the unsubscribe link in those emails to opt out at any time.

Author Interview – Robert Zangari

Author of A Prince’s Errand.

I am excited to be joined by one of the authors of the Tales of the Amulet series, Robert Zangari as we chat about his books and how he and his father, Dan, work together. You can check out my book review of the first book in the series, A Prince’s Errand here.

Helen: Welcome Dan! To start us off, tell us about the latest book in your epic fantasy Tales of the Amulet series.

Robert: Taking place immediately after the events of A Prince’s Errand, The Dark Necromancer continues the thrilling adventure set into motion by the discovery on Dalgilur, and the climatic conflict at the Mindolarnian Palace.  The story follows Iltar, Cornar, and Elsia as they ward off secret societies, thwart conspiring necromancers, and defy vengeful princes—all while struggling to unearth the truth about the Crimson Eye.  But no place, not their homeland nor an island long forgotten, is beyond their enemies’ reach—not even the Translucent Fields of Vabenack. 

If you want to hear Michael Kramer narrate those exact lines, you can do so over on the book’s Kickstarter campaign or on YouTube.

Helen: I can’t wait to read The Dark Necromancer. I must admit I fell in love with Iltar and I can’t wait to see how his story pans out, and if he survives the antics of his students! This cover is amazing. There is so much going on, it’s a story in itself!

Robert: Kerem Beyit did a fabulous job capturing our imagination with the cover art for The Dark Necromancer.  We wanted a scene with a struggle and he did just that by depicting our main characters climbing the stairs to meet the three powerful mages.  We actually had this cover done for awhile, as we commissioned it immediately after the cover for A Prince’s Errand was finished.

We went with a purple tone because my dad’s initial draft of The Dark Necromancer back in 2001 had a purple font colour for the title.  It’s just kinda stuck through all the iterations of this story.

Helen: WIth so much thought going into the covers, what about the titles?

Robert: There is a bit of a special meaning to it. Initially my dad had four stories planned; The Dark Necromancer, The Golden Dragons, The Red Ruby, and The Black Knight.  The Dark Necromancer consisted of the flashbacks for his original trilogy into one story that revolved around an evil necromancer, Iltar. 

Yeah, Iltar was the bad guy that set my dad’s story into motion, and in the original Chronicles of Lorn story he died in the first book, but we got glimpses into his life via flashbacks (it was very similar to what Sanderson has done in the Stormlight Archive).  But my dad had ultimately pulled those flashbacks because of feedback he had received from other authors and publishers, saying that method of storytelling doesn’t work (well it obviously does for Sanderson).

So, when I was sixteen, my dad re-worked his story and made a prequel of sorts to his Chronicles of Lorn and called it The Dark Necromancer.  Our initial debut novel as independent authors was titled The Dark Necromancer, which we released in 2013.  When we split the book up we later called it The Dragons’ Legacy, but this current 2022 title are those same events, just told very differently and with some different outcomes.

Book One of the Tales of the Amulet

Helen: I’m in shock! You were going to kill off Iltar? How could you? Setting my horror aside, what made you first begin writing?

Robert: Well, I actually started writing non-fiction in 2010 and published my first book as a tie-in to my martial arts business that I had at the time.  But I didn’t get my start in writing fiction until after my son passed away—he was stillborn at 28 weeks gestation.  In an effort to ease his passing my father approached me about working with him on finishing his series.  It had been nearly twenty years since he began and he was getting nowhere fast. 

I was still in school studying Bio-medical Engineering, so I was writing only part time for the first year.  Then I decided I loved crafting stories more than designing artificial organs or synthetic body parts, so I switched career paths.

Helen: I truly believe writing is carthartic. I am sorry you lost your son. I began writing after my mother passed, and I truly belive writing my books helped me deal with her passing. What made you write this particular book?

Robert: Well, it’s a sequel so I kinda had to write it.  But other than that, I wanted to continue the adventure we set into motion with A Prince’s Errand.

But to better expand on the question, I’ll explain why we wrote Tales of the Amulet.  My father has always been fascinated with the fantasy genre, and for as long as I can remember it’s been a part of my life.  In fact, this series and the world have been with me since I was five years old.

Throughout the years he worked on the stories but never really made huge progress due to other responsibilities.  But when we finally started working together we wanted to produce this fantasy series as if it were finished and published back in the early 1990’s—which was when my father began working on these stories.

We wanted to produce big, thick, epic fantasy tomes, and that’s sort of our motto now.

Helen: You definitely achieved that. The Tales of the Amulet is a wonderfully complex world with amazing world building, characters and magic systems. I don’t think you could not write a tome! Do you have ideas for other books?

Robert: I mostly sit and stew on a premise until I start getting ideas.  But fortunately for me, most of Tales of the Amulet is already mapped out for me.  So it’s more getting ideas to flesh out the major parts of the story my dad already created.

One of the things I often find myself doing is meditating in the shower to dig deep and find the nitty-gritty details of the story.  Sometimes I just go on a drive by myself in my 87’ Pontiac Fiero and let the ideas flow.  Other times I will crawl into bed and wrap myself in my covers and see what comes to mind. I’m an introvert, so if I can get isolated the ideas flow.

Helen: Who do you prefer to write villains or heroes?

Robert: Oh, I don’t know.  I enjoy writing a fresh POV that I’ve never written in before, as it gives me an opportunity to explore something new.  That’s one of the reasons the Greater Kalda chapters are in our main stories.  I do enjoy writing from Cornar’s perspective, and I feel I relate to him the most out of those I’ve written.  Although writing Iltar’s pain and trauma has been cathartic.

I enjoy both the heroes and the villains.  It allows me to explore two polar worldviews and see things from both sides.  Plus, there’s something liberating about writing an excellent bad guy/girl.  I hate Vaem from The Prisoner of Tardalim but oh was it fun writing her.

Helen: Before we move into talking about your writing process, tell us a random fact about yourself.

Robert: I am an only child, and the son of an only child (my father).  When I was a kid I often played out elaborate fantasy scenes with my medieval LEGO sets, and I think that’s marks the beginning of my imaginative madness.  And I still enjoy LEGOs.

Helen: We can blame it all on the LEGO!! Do you have a special working place where you find creativity flows the best?

Robert: I have an office in my basement, well as of writing this I don’t have it accessible at the moment.  So, I’m up in a makeshift office in a nook in mine and my wife’s bedroom.  You can see a quick tour of it over on TikTok.  I mostly prefer solitude when writing.  I have a hard time writing in groups or in a classroom setting.  It’s gotta be the introvert in me, but I feel the creativity flow when I’m just by myself.

Helen: Do you prefer writing or editing?

Robert: Oh, writing all the way.  Reviewing next, but editing is rough.  For me, editing is work and the writing and reviewing is the fun part.  I also enjoy outlining and planning a story, and then writing it and having my plans get messed up by my characters—I like the problem solving that comes from those hiccups.

Helen: When writing, do you prefer silence or do you have a playlist playing in the background?

Robert: Yes I do, and it varies for the mood of the scene.  I prefer to listen to movie soundtracks, and I often pick a track that was in a scene that matches what I’m writing.  That helps me get put the right emotional beats in the scene and helps me stay true to the outline I’ve written.

Helen: Do you plan out every scene or do you pants it and let the story take you where it will?

Robert: Planner all the way and I do stick to a few frameworks that I learned from my writing mentor, David Farland.  I try to incorporate a few different story structures, typically the 10-15-25-40-10 rule that you often see in the hero’s journey or the adventure story.  Once I get through the first 10% and finalize my inciting incident that gives me a good idea of how long the story is going to be.  I notice it more when I am writing a short story or novella, and it’s mostly accurate as the first try-fail cycle takes 15%, the second cycle 25% and the try success taking 40% with a wrap up at the end lasting about 5-10%.

I also try to incorporate a story in the round element that links to one of the main conflicts for the characters.  In A Prince’s Errand Iltar at his homestead in the beginning, and at the end of the story he ends up back there again.  I did a similar thing with Amendal Aramien in The Prisoner of Tardalim where the story’s initial inciting incident begins at a tavern, the Sea Vistonia, and the book ends at the same tavern.  Physical locations are often my go-to for a story in the round element, but I’ve also tried to incorporate an internal revolution for the characters like what we see with Gigaus in the short story Sorter of Mages.

Helen: Do you find you have to do much research for your books?

Robert: It depends on what elements I’m incorporating and how much knowledge I have on the subject matter before starting the story.  For instance, I did a good deal of research about Antarctica while writing The Prisoner of Tardalim.  I also did a few deep-dives into several different animals to study their anatomy so I could accurately create some variant creatures for the story, since it featured a conjurer as the main character.

Helen: Who was your favourite character to write?

Robert: Zanxsthy’ll, you haven’t truly met him yet if you’ve read A Prince’s Errand.  Well, you sort have met him, but you don’t know him by Zanxsthy’ll (that name shows up only once during Lirathy’lu’s point of view in Mindolarn).  Zanxsthy’ll embodies everything I hope I can be, the ideals I visual for my best self.  He’s more of a background character until later on, but as the series progresses he takes a more prominent role.  I’d love to write a series about him one day, in the vein of R.A. Salvatore’s Drizzt books.

Helen: You have some very complex names! I hope you have a glossary and a pronounciation guide. Most writers struggle with distractions and procrastination. How do you fit writing into daily life?

Robert: I try to make it a priority and the best way for me to do that is to do it first thing after I wake up and get ready for the day.  I write in the mornings and revise/edit in the evenings.  One thing I learned from David Farland was that our brains tend to be more creative in the mornings and more analytical in the evenings.

Since I write full time and work from home it can be challenging.  There are some weeks where I only get a few thousand words down, and others where I can get a novella’s worth finished.  Part of that is just the ebb and flow of life with four kids.  But I feel like I’m still trying to figure it all out, schedule wise.  When I think I’ve got a handle life throws a wrench at my gears and cogs.

I notice that taking a shower tends to help me focus on the story.  I guess it’s the solitude and the calming of flowing water, but I will get a good deal of “pre-writing” done before hand and often see the scene play out in my mind.

Helen: If you didn’t write fantasy what genre would you like to try to write?

Robert: I’d love to dabble in some science fiction.  I adore science fiction, but more of the hard sci-fi and unfortunately I’m just not smart enough for that.  I feel like I’d need a doctorate to accurately pull it off.  But I’m fascinated with near future Sol system settings.  DOOM and Destiny are two of my favourite videogame franchises and both share a similar setting I’d love to explore myself.  I guess Star Trek sort of fits into that, especial during the Enterprise show era.  But I think it’d be fun to explore the planetoids of our solar system.

Helen: You lead such a busy life, with four children to keep you occupied. When not writing, what do you do to relax?

Robert: Immersing myself in a good story, whether it be movies, a TV show, a story-driven videogame, or going to plays.  Before COVID-19 we used to have an annual membership to our local theatre and saw a play almost once a month.  I love that experience of watching a story acted out live, and even though I’m sitting in the audience I often feel I’m there participating in the story.  As mentioned before, I enjoy putting together LEGO sets, and I’ll often do that with my daughters.

Helen: What are some of the books you read recently that you would recommend to others?

Robert: I’ve been reading Robert Jordan’s Conan books because I’ve had a Sword and Sorcery itch that I needed to scratch, and they’re great!  I love how he writes Conan.  As far as indie goes, I highly recommend anything by M.H. Woodscourt.  I finished her Wintervale Duology and it was fabulous!  I’m also reading David A Trotter’s Birthrights currently, well listening to audio (narrated by Henry Kramer) and it’s one of my favourites I’ve read this year.

Helen: What is the most useful piece of writing advice you’ve been given?

Robert: David Farland (author of the Runelords) was probably the most influential author who’s given me valuable writing advice.  Dave was a treasure trove of knowledge.  While taking one of his classes I had approached him about a fantasy murder mystery series I wanted to do—the class was his Master Plotting class, so I had brought the series concept to use in the exercises.  But, the visuals and story ideas that were coming to me weren’t what I wanted to do.  When I told him about the conflict he told me, “You’re not ready to write that series.  Go write this adventure instead.”  And that is how The Prisoner of Tardalim was born.

Dave was like my author-dad, and he was always so happy to share his knowledge.  I miss him.

Helen: His passing was a great loss. I have found authors to be so generous with their knowledge and their time. As a published author what piece of advice would you like to share to new writers?

Robert: Stick with it, no matter what.  I know several writers who gave up too soon before they could truly become a published author.  The hardest part is getting that first book done, but once you do you know you can write a book.  So, writing another isn’t as hard.

Also, practice honing your voice.  It’s often said that it takes 10,000 hours to truly master a subject, and I’d agree.  I don’t think I settled into my voice until around the one million word mark.  That’s one million words of prose.

Short stories are a good way to practice, but they’re not very profitable so I know many authors don’t write them.

I know it can be tempting to publish the first thing you finish, but in my experience that isn’t the best idea for your career as an author.  We (my father and I) published our first project together and looking back at it, the story was solid but the writing not so much.

Helen: Thank you so much for spending the time with me today. It has been really interesting chatting with you. Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Robert: You can get a FREE copy of my novella, Beneath the Frozen Wastes featuring two of our main characters, Iltar and Cornar, by joining our mailing list at https://legendsofkalda.com/pages/newsletter-1. And you can also get the first 10% (roughly 77 pages) of A Prince’s Errand when you join.

The Dark Necromancer is planned to release later this year and you can pre-order it on our website: https://legendsofkalda.com/collections/frontpage/products/the-dark-necromancer-book-two-of-tales-of-the-amulet  or on Amazon (mybook.to/TheDarkNecromancer), but only the eBook is available at the moment.

My next scheduled signing is at Salt Lake City’s FanX (comic convention), September 22-24th, 2022.

About the Author:

Robert Zangari

Robert Zangari is the co-author of the various books which belong to the Legends of Kalda universe. He studied Bio-Medical Engineering at the University of Utah; however, his love for stories and storytelling took him down a different career path. When he’s not writing he enjoys spending time with his wife and daughters, playing video games, practicing martial arts and immersing himself in a good story.

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If you enjoy fantasy romance books then you will love my new release SoulBreather, part of the Realm of Darkness Anthology, 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.

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SoulBreather now available in Paperback!

SoulBreather, the first book in the Fantasy Romance SoulMist series is now available in paperback, and in hardcover shortly.

If you fall in love with the shadows, does that mean you are fallen too?

A dying angel. A fractured realm. The SoulBreather who might be able to save them both. 

Solanji has a secret. One that is becoming increasingly difficult to keep. She can touch souls and see into a person’s inner thoughts. Soulbreathing is exhilarating and addictive, until the day Solanji caresses the wrong person’s soulmist. 

Dragged into a long forgotten angelic mystery, she is forced to venture into Eidolon, the godforsaken last resort for those without souls. In order to save her brother, she must rescue a broken and tortured man. Can she save him from the shadows? Does he even want to be saved? And can she find a way to return to the light before the darkness engulfs them both?

The SoulMist series

If you are looking for the eBook then you’ll find it in the Realm of Darkness anthology along with forty other full length fantasy books, which releases October 4th, 2022 and is available for preorder for 99c from a vendor of your choice!

Realm of Darkness Anthology

If you enjoy fantasy books then you will love my epic fantasy Sentinal series and my brand new SoulMist series, paperback now available. Sign up to my newsletter and download a free novella called Sentinals Stirring and get notified when my next books are published.

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Author Interview – Lea Cherry

Author of Starlight.

I am excited to be joined by one of my co-conspirators from the Realm of Darkness boxet today! I am chatting with YA Fantasy author, Lea Cherry about her contribution to the boxset, Starlight; which releases on October 4th, 2022 and is currently available on preorder.

Helen: Welcome Lea! To start us off, tell us about Starlight.

Lea: My contribution to the ROD set is called Starlight. It’s a fantasy story set in the realm of Elesseand where the Princess of the Kingdom is a Starlight (Someone born of the stars with magical powers) but also a fierce warrior that protects the realm from any dangers with her Legion. I don’t want to give too much away, but there is an assassin, a magi, a shifter, some romance and a lot of dangers to go through.

Helen: Sounds like you packed a lot of elements into your story. I can’t wait to read it. Your cover is gorgeous, down to the font which glistens. What were your thoughts behind the design?

Lea: The cover for Starlight took some creativity. I tried various different things but none of them actually spoke to me, so I decided to create the cover with symbols instead so that later on, I could hopefully create art to accompany the books. The cover shows a beautiful star that represents the Princess Tekana and all the Starlights before her. Even though the star is bright and beautiful, it is sharp and dangerous and should be treated carefully.

Helen: Readers be warned! What made you write a novel for an anthology?

Lea: I love reading fantasy and thought that this was a great opportunity to write one myself. I usually dabble in other genres, YA and horror to be more specific, but thought that if I could write my own fantasy, the possibility of what could happen would be endless, so here I am.

Realm of Darkness Anthology

Helen: I called you a YA Fantasy author but you actually write a range of YA genres, don’t you?

Lea: I usually write Young Adult books in various subgenres as I enjoy the way the young characters discover themselves and evolve into people that are strong, independent and overall great humans. I also enjoy writing horrors because I just love it and want to test myself with writing one that can scare the pants off the readers. I’m kind of wired that way.

Helen: That is mean! I am not a fan of horror, I have too creative an imagination. Tell us about some of your other books.

Lea: My two horrors are Chimera and Devil’s Doorway which were my first trials into the genre. I have also written two YA Urban Fantasy books for a series, currently busy with the third book, that is about a girl that learns she’s a descendant of a very powerful magical race known as the Pure and that she must learn to harness her powers before the Tainted (villains) can claim her soul to resurrect their leader. There is also a poetry journal that I co-wrote with another author as a companion book for her dragon series to give her main dragon character a poetry voice.

Helen: I bet that was a fun project, especially with dragons involved. You are multi-talented for sure. Many writers find inspiration from music, when you are writing do you listen to music?

Lea: I can’t, at all. If I listen to music, I find myself singing along and then I can’t concentrate of what I’m writing. If I listen to something, it is usually instrumental music that sounds like it could have been on the book’s soundtrack. Like Celtic instrumental songs for my fantasy stories. I do however listen to certain songs before I write to get me into the scene, like rock music before I write a fight scene, or something emo and sad for the heart-breaking stuff.

Helen: When I’m editing and solving plot knots it has to be instrumental, as like you I get distracted by the words of the song. But when I’m writing that first draft, anything goes. Do you plot out your novels or are you a pantser?

Lea: You could say I’m a plantser. I plot out the basics of my story, the most important things like characters, settings and the plot of how the story should go, but then I pants a lot of the story to give myself or rather my characters the freedom to sometimes roam free and choose other paths to get to their goal.

Helen: Characters do tend to have a mind of their own and go off on unplanned tangents. Do you have to much research for your books?

Lea: Sometimes way too much. I tend to fall into the rabbit hole with research, but only when I feel that there should be more and especially if the subject I’m researching is very interesting.

Helen: Tell us something random about yourself.

Lea: I’m from South Africa and English is my second language, is that random enough?

Helen: Wow! And you are writing in English which makes your work even more amazing. Thank you so much for chatting with me today. It’s been such fun talking shop. As we reach the end of our time together just to finish, when not writing what do you spend your time on?

Lea: My hobbies include watching movies, reading and painting. I have started teaching both my daughters to draw and they love it so a lot of the time they want to know how to draw something so if I don’t know, then we all learn something new that day. On a different note, just because I enjoy it doesn’t necessarily mean I’m great at it.

Helen: Thank you for joining me tody Lea. I am so excited to be part of this anthology, it has been a great experience, and I can’t believe the launch is only a month or so away. It has come around so quickly! You can preorder the anthology here for the insane price of 99c/79p!

Make sure you can check out some of my other posts as I spotlight the authors as they reveal their covers!

About the Author:

Lea Cherry

Lea Cherry is an international bestselling author residing in South Africa with her husband and two daughters. With a Bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing, she shares the spark of language in Young Adult, Fantasy, Horror, and Thriller. When she is not crafting stories, she shares her time with her family watching movies, painting, and reading up a storm when she is not exploring the outdoors on camping trips. Her first book in the Descendant series is set to arrive in 2021 and is filled with magic and adventure that will keep you wanting more.

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Other books by Lea Cherry

Hidden, Book one of the Descendents

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Devil’s Doorway

Amazon UK: eBook | Paperback

Amazon USA: eBook | Paperback

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

If you enjoy fantasy romance books then you will love my new release SoulBreather, part of the Realm of Darkness Anthology, 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.

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Sentinal series hits top twenty of Amazon Bestseller Top 100 lists.

A man searching for his purpose. Another determimed to redeem past failures.

The Sentinal series is a rich and complex story of two men walking the convoluted path set them by Lady Leyandrii, the Goddess of the world of Remargaren.

Jerrol is a King’s Ranger, quiet and tenacious. Birlerion is a Lady’s Sentinal, silent and deadly. Together they will change the history of Remargaren.

This week, the first book in the series, Sentinals Awaken, hit number 13 on the Amazon Top 100 Bestseller list for Classic Fantasy ebooks, having consistently been in the top 30 for the past three months. The second book, Sentinals Rising, hit number 10 on the Amazon Top 100 Bestseller list for Religious and inspirational Fantasy ebooks.

It is so rewarding to know your books are being enjoyed by many readers and garnering the recognition they deserve. Sentinals Rising also recieved a Readers’ Favorite Five Star Review, you can check it out here!

I am excited to share that I am working on the next book in the Sentinal series, the title of which my Patreon and newsletter subscribers are currently voting on. Want to get involved? Then sign up to my newsletter or Patreon at the link via linktr.ee/HelenGarraway.

There is a lot more happening:

  • Sentinals Rising narration is almost finished and releases on audiobook in September.
  • The first book of my new SoulMist series, SoulBreather, releases in paperback in September, you can add it to your TBR shelf on Goodreads here.
  • Hardcover of SoulBreather will also release in September.
  • SoulBreather ebooks releases as part of the Realm of Darkness Boxset on October 4th. Preorder for 99c now!

I am excited about the release of my new SoulMist series, which is a fantasy romance series about Solanji, a young woman with a secret and Mav, a tortured fallen angel.

SoulBreather is the first book I have written to an extenal deadline and in a new world. So that was a bit scary as well as exciting!

Initial ARC review have beeen positive, in fact, I could say they have been downright enthusiastic, along with demands for book two, which is very reassuring. You can find them on Goodreads!

Interested in learning more about SoulBreather?

If you fall in love with the shadows, does that mean you are fallen too?

A dying angel. A fractured realm. The SoulBreather who might be able to save them both. 

Solanji has a secret. One that is becoming increasingly difficult to keep. She can touch souls and see into a person’s inner thoughts. Soulbreathing is exhilarating and addictive, until the day Solanji caresses the wrong person’s soulmist. 

Dragged into a long forgotten angelic mystery, she is forced to venture into Eidolon, the godforsaken last resort for those without souls. In order to save her brother, she must rescue a broken and tortured man. Can she save him from the shadows? Does he even want to be saved? And can she find a way to return to the light before the darkness engulfs them both?

Follow me on Amazon, Goodreads or Bookbub to get notified when SoulBreather releases. I hope you pick up my new book, and enjoy the new world I’m building. There is plenty more to come.

Thank you for joining me on the journey, hope you stay for the aventure!

If you enjoy fantasy books then you will love my epic fantasy Sentinal series. Sign up to my newsletter and download a free novella called Sentinals Stirring and get notified when my next books are published.

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Author Interview – Elle Hartford

Author of Beauty & the Alchemist.

Today I am chatting with Elle Hartford who is celebrating the release of her cozy mystery/fairytale retelling Beauty and the Alchemist which releases today, August 12th, 2022.

Helen: Welcome Elle. Congratulations on the relase of your new book Beauty & the Alchemist. It seems like it’s a mixture of multiple genres, tell us a little about it.

Elle: Hi! I’m really excited for this book. It’s called Beauty and the Alchemist, and it’s a cozy mystery retelling of Beauty and the Beast. My main character is an alchemist named Red, who’s really just trying to live her life making potions in fairy tale Belville. But when a criminal is found murdered in a nearby haunted castle, and Red’s best friend takes the blame, she has to jump in and find the truth. There’s ancient curses, supportive friends, and–of course!–a huge library.

Helen: Oh, and you’re playing with fairytales as well. You are mixing up the bag! How did you come up with idea to mix genres?

Elle: My friends on social media have accused me of making up my own genre, and I guess they’re right! But that’s not what I set out to do. I’ve been a long time reader of cozy mysteries (mysteries where the focus is on the puzzle and the community, not so much on grim crimes or police procedure). A lot of cozies have a witchy or “paranormal” theme, so to me, it seemed natural to extend that just a little bit, to include fairy tales and magic creatures. So, often I’ll describe my subgenre as “fairy tale-inspired cozy” or even cozy fantasy. I just love it, because it takes the warm feelings and brain teasers of cozy mystery and adds magic–what could be better?

Helen: Sounds like an excellent new genre to me! I always think covers are the most difficult to create, how about you? How did you decide what the cover should be?

Elle: I really wanted my cover to have a classic cozy mystery look–a picturesque scene with a hint of danger, and the cozy companion front and center, naturally. So William, the black dog, is sitting on the path watching as Red’s cloak disappears into the woods below the ghostly castle. Normally, William would refuse to sit still while Red runs toward the unknown, but I liked how this scene combines both the lost castle of Beauty and the Beast with the dark forest of Little Red Riding Hood (Red’s namesake).

Helen: I think it’s so interesting that you’re mashing up fairytales as well. Tell us about your protagonist, Red.

Elle: My protagonist is the alchemist, Red, who recently gave up a life of being a traveling potion-maker to settle down in rural Belville. She’s smart, resourceful, and a little bit mysterious. She also cares a lot about her friends, even if she won’t always admit it outright–often, she feels like an outsider, even though many people in Belville welcome her immediately. I myself can relate to Red’s shyness when it comes to trusting relationships, so that’s probably part of why I wrote her. But also, more practically, who better to solve mysteries than a natural scientist with botanical knowledge, an alchemical lab, and an arsenal of special tools?

Helen: If Red could answer this question, why would she say we should read your book?

Elle: Red would say that we should read the book for Luca, her best friend in Belville, or for Gloria, her irascible neighbor. Both Gloria and Luca have their own personal struggles that they have to overcome in the course of the book. Red helps them both, in her way, but she would definitely give them most of the credit. 

Helen: Who is your favourite character in your book?

Elle: What a tough question! I love so many of my characters, each for a different reason. But one of the characters who made me smile the most while I was writing is Trent, a young witch who gets roped into the investigation. He reminds me very much of my little brother (though both Trent and my brother are too big now to really be thought of as “little”!).

Helen: When writing cozy fantasy novels, with a touch of fairytale magic, do you still find yourself doing research?

Elle: Tons. If you could see my office, you might think I was an alchemist fresh from the twelfth century–or a scholar of some kind! This series has been a very good excuse to collect books. 🙂 The alchemy that Red practices is based on historical science and mysticism–think things like the Elixir of Life and proto-chemistry. And then, of course, I also research a lot of folklore for each story too, since many of them are based on fairy tales or legends. I love breathing new life into old things!

Helen: Thank you so much for joining me today Elle, and congratulations on the release of your cozy fantasy novel. A final question for you. What advice would give aspiring writers?

Elle: My opinion on this has changed a lot during my journey to publication. I think my advice would be twofold: first, find a critique partner or editor or writing group whose opinion you trust, and who you feel safe sharing your work with. Having someone with a completely different perspective from me point out the highs and lows of my manuscripts has been invaluable–it may feel hard to accept feedback in the moment, but it makes you so much more confident in the end, because you know you’ve covered your bases. So that’s part one: value an outside perspective. But part two is definitely to believe in yourself. If you can do that, truly–and it is very hard!–then you’re golden. A lot of my books boil down to just that.

And catching murderers, of course. 😉

Thank you so, so much for having me on, and giving me a chance to ramble about things I love!

About the Author:

Elle Hartford

Elle adores cozy mysteries, fairy tales, and above all, learning new things. As a historian and educator, she believes in the value of stories as a mirror for complicated realities. She currently lives in New Jersey with a grumpy tortoise and a three-legged cat.

Find more stories of Red and her friends at ellehartford.com. And while you’re there, sign up for Elle’s newsletter to get bonus material, behind-the-scenes sneak peeks, and terrible jokes!

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If you enjoy fantasy books then you will love 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 keep up with progress on my next books are published.

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