Author Interview – Monique Edenwood

Author of The Black Oak series

Today I have the pleasure of chatting with fellow indie author Monique Edenwood about her Blackwood Oak series and all things writing and more! To start us off, Monique, tell us about your latest novel.

Monique: I’m currently working on book 4 (out of 5) of my Black Oak series which is a dark romance series within the genre of romantic suspense. The books is called Embers of Black Oak and is out on September 24th. At the crux of the series is a love triangle between the heroine Jessynia, the powerful and ruthless Jackson Wilder and his childhood friend and now sworn enemy, Cameron O’Neill, as equally powerful, dominant and damaged as his former friend. Both men love Jess to the point of madness and consider the other man dangerous. This triangle is the crux of the book, but as the series has unfolded, the subject of past trauma and how it affects our behavior has become one I’ve loved to explore as it’s a subject that is very close to my heart.

Helen: Not long now! Good luck with our forthcoming launch. How did you choose the cover design?

Monique: The cover of book one has a naked male torso on a black background with an oak tree bathed in dusky light at the top. My books are named after a dangerous secret society created by the outwardly respectable elite of Manhattan, the Black Oak Society or Quercus Velutina. I grew up surrounded by forests and have always been obsessed with trees and I knew I wanted the society to be named after a tree. After playing around with a few names and checking that Black Oak did not exist in this context anywhere on the web, I chose Black Oak as a recurring motif in the series titles.
I came across the picture of the man randomly while surfing stock pics and it just spoke to me. The fact that he’s standing so self-confidently and that you can’t see his face just felt so powerful to me, and all my books have an element of black in their background to represent the Black Oak society, of course, as well as the darkness of this dark romance.

Helen: You have four books written in the Dark Oak series, how did you begin writing this series?

Monique: I have to say my series has been on quite the adventure because I originally wanted to write a dark comedy, along the lines of the British author Tom Sharpe—totally outside the romance genre—about a wife who discovers that her husband is cheating on her and doesn’t tell him she knows, but sets off on a journey to slowly ruin his life in every way possible while trying to help him deal with all the calamities befalling him. So sadistic, lol!

It was really supposed to be just total comedic escapism. Once I had done a tiny bit of research and saw that romance was the biggest genre, and once I brought down that self-defence mechanism that wanted to turn this story into comedy, I realized that I wanted to really deep-dive into the bloody guts of a faltering relationship in a way that was raw and real and made you feel and think and question what you would do in the character’s shoes.

The very early chapters of the book deal with infidelity, dropping you right into the moment when the heroine, Jess, discovers her husband’s secret phone, but this is really just a catalyst to bring in Cameron O’Neill, the third man in the love triangle. He’s been in love with her for as long as he remembers and wants to her save her from her marriage, but he has demons of his own and the story ends up taking a lot of unexpected twists and turns. Realizing how much trauma was at play in the behavior of the characters really let me explore this subject and I hope it has made the whole series more powerful.

Helen: What genre do you write? What made you choose to write in this genre?

Monique: I write dark romantic suspense. My favorite author is Sylvia Day and years ago when I first read one of her books after picking it up at a bookstore without ever having heard of her before, I remember resonating so much with her Crossfire series and how raw and brutal it was and how deliciously deviant the hero was. I was shocked by the language he used and how graphic it was, but when I started to write, I realized I wanted my series to be raw and make you feel, and I find I can do that best within the genre of dark romance.

 One of the things I love exploring is the concept of duality. I love books that really make you think, throw you off balance and make you question what is right and wrong. I like to be shaken about a bit when I’m reading and I love doing that to my readers too! In my series, some of the characters behave in ways that are questionable, but it’s super important to me that they are still seen as human beings. I really don’t like to distill everything to just black and white, good vs. bad. I hate this way we have in the fictional world of reducing complex people to weak and strong or good and bad when most of us are a combination of these things depending on the circumstances.

When a character’s behavior is questionable, we may not like them, but then we learn about the trauma and abuse they may have suffered and perhaps start to rethink. So, to me, it’s important that books are not reduced to just tropes and that they take you on an emotional journey and really make you think and feel and question everything! Dark romance offers me that space as I don’t have to worry about how flawed the characters are. Messy and damaged characters with questionable instincts come with the territory and those are the ones I want to know the most.

Helen: It sounds like you have some very dominant characters in your novels. Who is your favourite character to write?

Monique: Sebastian Gravier. He is the head of the Black Oak Society and a dangerous sadist, murderer and prominent member of Manhattan’s high society. He is almost certainly an irredeemable character, but he is the most fascinating to me as unlike most psychopaths, he was not born that way. His soul and psyche fractured as a result of horrific and untreated narcissistic abuse on the part of one of his parents while the other stood back and did nothing to intervene, like a coward. The subject of parental abuse and narcissistic abuse is one that is not talked about enough in my opinion, so exploring this fascinating, dangerous, terrifying character and his origins has been just thrilling and very cathartic to me.

Helen: How do you get on with editing your books? Most writers prefer writing as it is more creative and freeflowing, yet editing you have to discipline yourself to look at every word.

Monique: I definitely prefer editing! I actually find the writing process quite painful but I am in heaven when editing. I love playing with words, rewriting sentences until they grab you by the throat or make you shudder from fear or pleasure.

Helen: Words are such fun! When not writing what do enjoy spending your time doing?

Monique: I am from the UK originally but have lived in beautiful British Columbia for several years as I have lots of family here. I love hiking through forests, writing under trees, swimming in the ocean, cycling, hot yoga and just being in nature and with my lovely friends and family.

Helen: Sounds lovely! I imagine reading fits in there somewhwere. Which books have your read recently that you would recommend?

Monique: I read the Tainted Love trilogy by RC Christiansen and it is so raw, so brutal and yet so beautiful. It just haunts me and even though it breaks a lot of the rules of romance, I highly recommend it. She’s just such a huge talent.

Helen: I have that trilogy on my tbr pile. I must find time to read it, but I know it will be raw and emotional, and I’m not int he right mindset yet. We’ve come to the end of time together, thank you so much for joining me. One last question. What advice would you give to new writers?

Monique: Thank you for having me!

I would say to really enjoy the writing process above all else and to realize that in the first year or so, your books are not necessarily going to take off. It will take some time to get traction and to become better known in the community. I’ve seen quite a few authors really suffer because they’ve been keen to have big sellers in their first year and it’s difficult in today’s highly competitive and saturated market. I would say to always write for yourself first, and I remind myself of that too when I read lots of opposing opinions about what the outcome of my series should be from my lovely group of readers.

It’s really easy to fall into the trap of writing primarily for the buzz of getting positive feedback from readers and I have actually seen authors post that that is the main reason why they write their books which I find so amazing. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing more glorious or uplifting than getting emails or messages from readers to tell you how much you’ve touched them with your books, but if you’re only writing for the high of having people read and tell you they loved it, then if they don’t, you’ll be devastated, and it becomes more about chasing the high of positive reinforcement at that point than about the joy of creating these magical characters that will live on forever. In the long run, if you write from your heart, things will always work out. If you write purely to get praise, that’s a dangerous place to be in.

I am so lucky to have really passionate readers who contact me on a daily basis, and who are very active in my Facebook group. Their support and enthusiasm is not something I expected to experience so early on in my author journey. They give me so much energy, even when they shout or sulk at me for things that the characters do, lol. However, they have some deliciously strong and opposing opinions and it’s easy to get lost in them, especially when you hate the idea of hurting or disappointing anyone.

That’s why your most important author relationship should always be with yourself and your characters before that with your readers, otherwise you will get lost trying to please everyone and second-guess yourself and your writing will suffer because of it, so staying connected to your characters above all else is the best way to make to make your amazing readers happy as well!

About the author:

I am the writer of the Black Oak Trilogy, the first novel of which is Enter The Black Oak. I love helping people escape their daily lives for a short while with the help of some intrigue, suspense and some smoking hot fictional boyfriends!

I am a British-Canadian author based in Vancouver, British Columbia and when I’m not reading or writing, I love hiking and cycling around beautiful Vancouver. I’m also an epic fantasy geek and lover of 80’s and 90’s music.

You can find more about Monique via:

FaceBook
Instagram
Author Newsletter
Tiktok

You can purchase the first book in Monique’s Black Oak series, Enter the Black Oak:

UK: eBook | Paperback

USA: eBook | Paperback

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

Author Interview – Philip J Dennis

Author of The Wrong Apocalypse

Join me as chat to Philip J Dennis about his novels and all things writing and more! To start us off, Philip, tell us about your latest novel.

Philip: My latest book is The Wrong Apocalypse. It was released back in February. It was an idea for a story I had years ago, before I had even started writing. It was simply a funny premise I had. People trapped in a sex shop during a zombie apocalypse. It’s just ridiculous enough to be funny. It wasn’t until I had been struggling with another story that this one came back to me. With the whole pandemic that I thought my zombie book was a little relevant. People trapped in doors, unable to see family and friends, communicating only through social media, only going out when strictly necessary. Throw in some references to real life and how different people handled or reacted, it practically wrote itself.

Helen: It’s weird how a pandemic can make crazy ideas seem reasonable, isn’t it? I love the fact the book practically wrote itself. The ideal type of book! How about the cover? Was that as easy to design?

Philip: When I had written my first book, Isaac’s Fall, I had no idea about cover design. I had images in my head of what I thought it should look like, but no way to pull it off. I could have paid for someone to design a professional cover but I couldn’t justify spending money on this hobby when there are bills to pay. So, I discovered Pixabay, and instead of getting an image of a person for the cover (I couldn’t find one that I liked anyway) I chose a silhouette. I used the same style for books two and three, and by the time I had completed the wrong apocalypse, I kind of felt that it was my style, my thing.

The cover of The Wrong Apocalypse was a group photo of me, my wife and some friends, edited to simple shadows with an abstract background of hues of red. It seemed to fit the tone of the book and my style of cover.

Helen: It’s actually quite eye catching, the more you look the more you see. The title sounds very apt for the novel. How did you come up with it?

Philip: The title came from the number of memes circulating during the pandemic, complaining that we were promised zombies for the end of the world. Basically, we were given the wrong apocalypse. It didn’t take long to come up with the title. It was the first idea I had and it stuck. I was opened to changing the title should I think of a better one, but I never did think of anything better. People seem to like the title. I’ve had people hear it and be intrigued.

Helen: What made you start writing? That moment when you first put pen to paper?

Philip: I started writing back in ’08, roughly. As corny as it sounded, I had a dream, a really vivid dream but just one scene long. As is usually the case when people dream, you’re already aware of the context and background. I don’t know if anyone else does it but sometimes I cast people in dreams. It might be family or friends, or in this case, Dennis Hopper was the character. Why him? No idea. I remember thinking though, at the time, I hadn’t even been watching him in anything. I told my girlfriend, now-wife, Jan, about the dream and the backstory, and she thought it was really interesting. She said that would work as a film or a book. I won’t go into the details of it, I might come back to it one day.

Anyway, I started to write it. I had no story arc, no bullet-pointed plan, just wrote to see where it took me. A little while later, Jan and I were talking. She said that she had started to write some stuff based on my dream.

         I was like, “Yeah. Cool. Me too. How much have you written?”

         Jan said, “Only about two pages. What about you?”

         I replied, “About sixty pages.”

I never did finish it. Well, I did, but nothing that was any good. The core idea is still good. I might come back to it. But writing that book got the ball rolling. From there, I started Isaac’s Fall. But this time I knew to plot out the story first. Sometimes, you need to know where it’s going. Or at least know the next few steps. There have been some WIP that never panned out. Even though I might have felt the story was good, I didn’t enjoy writing it or that it was too big for me.

Helen: What is your work day like? How do you fit writing into your daily life?

Philip: Any writer will tell you that routine is the key. And they would be correct. But sometimes, you need to snatch those moments of peace and quiet, and of inspiration when they come. I try to do some writing on my days off from work, between household chores, and when motivation strikes. Sometimes, it might be an hour of a night after my son has gone to bed but before exhaustion kicks in.

Helen: Finding time to write is the challenge. I have notebooks all over the house for when inspiration strikes. The odd scene out of the blue, and you have to capture it before it slips away. When writing do you listen to music? Or do you prefer silence?

Philip: There’s a saying, which I’ll now butcher, about the biggest part of writing is done away from the keyboard. I walk home from work most days. In that time, I listen to headphones. Spotify. Sometimes, a lyric from a song can paint an image for something that I’m working on. I was listening to Short Change Hero by The Heavy, and the music reminded me of a western, and a lone man walking out to meet a posse of outlaws, with no hope in the world of surviving. I thought that image would work well in The Wrong Apocalypse. A lone character, walking through the centre of the outdoor shopping centre, essentially sacrificing themselves for the rest of the group. The scene was never used in the book. I couldn’t find a way to make that fit logically, and I wasn’t going to force it in just for the sake of it.

But I’ve listened to different bands depending on the book. Isaac’s Fall, I listened to Slipknot. Harmony’s Choice, I listened to Evanescence and Noel Gallagher’s Highflying Birds. They become a, sort of, internal soundtrack to the books, helping to set the tone.

Helen: Some interesting choices, thank you for sharing them. Where do you find you are most productive, where you write the most?

Philip: Best place to write is not actually at a desk or a table. I spend my workday at a computer, at a desk, I don’t want to do the same when I get home. For me, it’s on the couch, feet up, laptop on my knee. As comfortable as possible for as long as possible. The last thing I want to have to do is get up because my back is aching or I start getting a crick in my neck. If there are some snacks in reach or a cup of tea or coffee within reach, then even better.

Helen: Having written a few books, have you found yourself writing in one genre?

Philip: I don’t want to stick to writing in one single genre. Why limit ourselves? The Wrong Apocalypse is a horror/comedy. The trilogy I wrote is more of the thriller/supernatural genre, and I wrote a children’s book for my son, featuring him as the main character, which falls into fantasy/fairytale. I mentioned earlier about struggling with a story/ that was in the genre of a fictional biography, if that genre exists. I’d like to finish that one day, but I don’t know if it will happen. I don’t think I would want to deep-dive into sci-fi but maybe splash in the shallow end a little. The very first story I mentioned, that was a sci-fi thriller.

Helen: Most writers are great readers. What have you enjoyed reading recently?

Philip: I’m a very slow reader. My wife Jan inhales books. But because I’m a slow reader, I can be a bit picky with what I’m going to spend my time reading. I’m currently reading Ready Player Two, having read the first last year. I’m less than half way through but enjoying it. The film was very different from the first book, and I knew this going into the book. I’d seen the film first. But the book still holds up and it made me want to see how the author built on that world, and where he would go with it. Was it going to be a natural progression of the story or a cash-in given the recent Spielberg film? I haven’t finished, so I can’t say yet.

Helen: Is there a book you recently finsished that you would recommend?

Philip: I would certainly recommend Matthew McConaughey’s Greenlights. I’m not a biography person. I had only ever read Bryan Cranston’s biography before this. Greenlights is positive and funny and inspiring. I had heard some reviews stating it was too self-involved. I think that someone needs to explain the purpose of a biography to those particular people. My only regret with Greenlights was that I should have listened to the audiobook instead. Years back I had tried to read Corey Taylor’s Seven Deadly Sins. A book of stories and rants. I never finished it. The audiobook, on the other hand, is much better. Sometimes, hearing people tell their own stories or going on their rants is the best way.

Helen: I have Greenlights on my tbr pile, which is much too high! Who is you favouite author?

Philip: Hands down, Neil Gaiman. American Gods is probably my favourite book. Good Omens is also fantastic. Coraline, The Graveyard Book… He’s written comic books… Sandman… This is an author who doesn’t stay within a set genre. His writing style can be simple and to the point or detailed and layered, depending on the story. If people haven’t read any of his work, that should be the next thing they do, or maybe right after they read The Wrong Apocalypse.

Helen: Sounds like, if you like Neil Gaiman, you’ll like Philip J Dennis! It has been a pleasure chatting with you today; thank you for sharing your authorlife with us. Just to finish, what advice would you give other writers?

Philip: I barely consider myself a writer but if I had to give anyone advice, it would be to do it for the enjoyment, for yourself first. Some people want to write to be rich, to be famous, and, sure, we would love for that to happen, but you’ve got to love what you’re doing first. Sometimes I need to remind myself of that, I’ll admit it. Not even the money side of things, really, but just to know that people are reading my work, that they are enjoying it. Everyone needs acknowledgement. It’s basic human behaviour. But you need to recognise this and remember that your own enjoyment of writing is paramount.

About the author:

I am 39 years old. I live in Liverpool, England, with my wife Jan, and 4-year-old son Jacob. I currently work in a contact centre, though this is not for much longer due to redundancy. I’m currently taking a copywriting course in the hopes that this might lead to something interesting, new and enjoyable.

I started writing about 13 years ago but only published my first book just over four years ago. The only person that knew I was writing was my wife Jan. Why only Jan? Simply put, it’s better to fail without an audience. It’s a very pessimistic outlook, I know.

I’d love for my books to become big enough to be a sustainable income, but at the end of the day, I enjoy writing, and if there are some people who enjoy reading them, then that is great too.

You can find more about Philip via:

Amazon Author page

Instagram

You can purchase Philip’s novel from Amazon:

The Wrong Apocalypse

UK: eBook | Paperback

USA: eBook | Paperback

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

Author Interview – Devin Sloane

Author of the Bridgewater Novels

Join me as chat to Devin Sloane about her Contemporary Romance novel Feel Again which releases today, August 30th, 2021. Feel Again is the third book in the Bridgewater series. Congratulations Devin, on the launch of your book. To start us off, tell us about Feel Again.

Devin: Feel Again is the third and final book of the Bridgewater Novels. The Bridgewater Novels are deeply emotional depictions of three women’s lives and the hurdles they face together and separately. They are at turns heartbreaking, comical, sexy, enlightening, and uplifting.

The first book follows Bex as she picks up her life after losing her husband. Book 2 follows Bex’s best friend Mara, who learns to deal with a devastating mental health diagnosis, and book 3 follows Mara’s younger sister Willa, who has not yet healed from trauma in her past. 

Because of events in her teen years, combined with the narcissistic abuse she suffered at the hands of her mother, Willa believes she is inherently flawed and selfish. She’s content with her lot in life. She has her own home, a good job, a volunteer position that gives her purpose, and her small family that she adores. She’s not looking for a man, and she’s definitely not looking for forever. When Barrett enters the scene, he shakes Willa’s conviction to keep her life as it is. The fact that starting a relationship with him would rock her small family makes it an easy decision for her. Logically. Her heart has other plans. 

Helen: There are quite a few elements to the cover. How did you come up with the design?

Devin: It is the road on Feel Again’s cover that is most reflective of the story inside. Both Barrett and Willa need, at times, to escape. Going on drives to different places is something they do together and something he ultimately promises he will be for her. Barrett is older than Willa by nine years and is careful with her as well as caring for her. The couple on the cover has a similar look to Willa and Barrett, but it is the tenderness between them that made them perfect for the cover. The circle icon with the dandelion is meaningful, and my daughter actually designed it for me, but I can’t give away the meaning!

Helen: Feel Again is a contemporary romance, is this your genre of choice?

Devin: I write women’s fiction with a strong romance factor. There is steam in my books, because sex is important in relationships, and many times, especially with these couples, sex plays a large part in their healing or growing process.

Helen: Where do you find ideas for your books?

Devin: My ideas come from music, mostly. I hear a song and an entire scene unfolds in my head. Sometimes it is dialogue that I hear, and there are times I write it down, though I don’t know yet who is saying it! Often while I’m writing one book, the side characters are speaking to me and wanting their stories told as well!

Helen: It is great that ideas can come from all sorts of places. Tell us a little about what you are currently working on?

Devin: My current WIP is the story of a character who makes a brief appearance in Live Again and has a small part in Feel Again. Something about her just spoke to me, and her story started to reveal itself bit by bit. She is 42 years old and has an almost 11-year-old son. She deals with agoraphobia and ADHD, both of which have seriously derailed her plans for her life. She has never fully gotten over her university boyfriend, but due to the way their relationship ended, she is happy he lives 3000 miles away…until he doesn’t. This story follows her as she deals with the obstacles blocking her from living her life the way she once dreamed.

Helen: What is your writing environment like? When writing do you listen to music? Or do you prefer silence?

Devin: I generally write early mornings in bed and sometimes I can sneak in a couple of hours in the afternoon or evening.

I need to listen to music while I write otherwise I am much too distracted. Because my books are inspired by music, I make playlists for each book and listen only to that playlist while I write. Once my book is released, I make my playlist public on Spotify. https://open.spotify.com/playlist/3DbvjtMQNcabflTy8alNwD?si=830d0c328d0a4cb7

Helen: How great, I’ll have to check your playlist out, thank you for sharing it. I listen to music most of the time. Writing and editing are such different elements of the writing process. Which do you prefer?

Devin: I think I like editing best. I’m incredibly anxious until the story is written down that I won’t finish it. I read somewhere that you can edit crappy writing and make it great but you can’t do anything with a blank page. On the other hand, I find writing really exciting because my characters often take me places I am not expecting. It’s much the same feeling as when I’m reading someone else’s book and I can’t wait to find out what happens next!

Helen: Do you plan your stories in advance or do you just write and see what happens?

Devin: I am a pantser to start off. The scenes I see first could occur anywhere in the book. I write those first and then plan out the missing pieces of the story.

Helen: Most writers are great readers. What have you enjoyed reading recently?

Devin: Recently I’ve read, and loved, Our Way by TL Swan, Surrender to the Stars by Swati M.H., The Experiment by Amy Alves, The Club Trilogy by Lauren Rowe, Untouchable Zane by Debbie Cromack, Bed of Nails by Nola Marie, Welcome to the Dark Side by Giana Darling, Fall from Grace and The Devil’s Own by LL Meyer, The Naughty Pine by Sybilla Matilde…there are so many and I keep track of them on my bookstagram book review account, @aphroditesharem. 

My favourite authors are probably Kristen Ashley and Rebecca Zanetti.

Helen: What s great range of authors for others to investigate. Thank you so much for chatting with me today, and sharing some of your writing world. It has been lovely meeting you.

Devine: I have loved being part of the bookstagram community. I never dreamed I’d find the support and cheering squad that I have found on here. It’s truly remarkable and I am grateful for the friends I have made since I started this journey in January.

About the Author:

I live in Southern Ontario with my husband of almost 28 years, our 4 kids, one of whom just moved out, and our two furbabies. Homeschooling was a huge part of my life for the past twenty-one years but I am very happy to be transitioning onto other things now that my children are getting older.

I started writing in October of 2020 and I have not been able to stop! I find it to be hugely cathartic and it keeps my brain busy in a good way. My children have various special needs, two are biological and two are adopted. I myself have fibromyalgia, autoimmune issues, arthritis, and mental health challenges. My husband is a wonderful man, really he is all the best parts of all my male characters! My life is at times messy, chaotic, busy, boring, and heartbreaking, but always beautiful because of the huge amount of love in our house. I am both incredibly lucky, and incredibly blessed.

You can find more about Devin via:

Instagram

Website

Facebook

Goodreads

Bookbub

Pinterest

You can purchase Devin’s novel from Amazon:

Feel Again

UK: eBook | Paperback

USA: eBook | Paperback

Canada

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

Book Review Alert: Deja You by Barbara Kellyn

Reviewed: May 21st, 2021
Released: January 10th, 2021
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Summary

Seven years ago, college student Hill Taylor attended a journalism conference and ended up having an intensely hot hookup in a coatroom with a too-sexy stranger. 

Hill is now a successful publicist for rock’s notorious bad boy Tommy Kaine, who’s about to dish the outrageous dirt in a tell-all written by tabloid reporter James Spencer Sutton (aka The Hollywood Hatchet) – Hill’s coatroom hit and run. Problem is, Tommy’s got a secret that Hill has been sworn to protect and more importantly, keep the still-too-sexy Sutton from uncovering.  Read More…