Audiobook Giveaway & Interivew: Keira Gillett, Author of the Zaria Fierce Series

GillettZariaFierceAndTheSecretOfGloomwoodForestFolks, please give a warm welcome to Keira Gillett! I’ve really enjoyed the first 2 books in her Zaria Fierce series (The Secret of Gloomwood Forest and The Enchanted Drakeland Sword) so it’s a real pleasure to have her on the blog today. We chat about Scandinavian folklore, cover art, magical quests, and plenty more! Also, please check out the audiobook giveaway at the end of the post!

Susan: Myths and beliefs that we would consider fiction or fantasy in modern literature once upon a time shaped history (think of all the hunts for unicorns & dragons). Do you see modern fantasy fiction affecting human cultures today and how?

Keira: Great question, Susan! I believe all fictional stories regardless of genre help to shape the world around us because they shape the people reading them. Things that were once the stuff of science fiction are today the norm – flying machines, submarines, space stations. Anything that sparks the imagination towards discovery and progress is a great thing. Fantasy is the same, and while we might not be riding around on great winter-wyverns like Norwick, there is always more to learn about the world around us. I read an article recently about a new species of whale that’s been discovered. A whale! Those creatures are huge! So I think fantasy keeps readers interested in how things seen and things hidden intersect and connect with each other. They share a sense of wonder and hope that anything is possible.

Susan: What has been your worst or most difficult job? How does it compare to writing?

Keira: I’m lucky because I don’t think any of the jobs I have held have been difficult or beyond my capability. The hard part was probably the commute. Writing can be done anywhere. Zaria’s story in its current form started when I was in the car driving and I pulled out my phone at a stoplight and opened the voice memo app. I started talking about her, introducing her to readers, and later transcribed it. The hardest part about writing is distractions and research rabbit holes that I fall into. I love looking into things and figuring out how to adapt and incorporate them in the Zaria Fierce world. Sometimes I would be so involved I’d look up and it’d be time to go to bed and not a lick of writing had been done.

Susan: If you were sent on a magical quest, which 4 other children’s books authors would you take with you?

I love quests and there are authors out there who really understand how to get into and out of trouble. If my quest involved an ancient culture I would snag Rick Riordan. He’s got his fingers on the pulse of several and would be handy to have around. If it involved magic and alternate worlds connected to our own, then C.S. Lewis is a definite must for the party to succeed. If the quest would involve politics, years of travel, and dangerous objects J.R. Tolkien would be my go to guy. The last person I would bring is Cressida Cowell, for she is the best in the world for dragons, which almost always guard hoards of secret treasures.

Susan: In my experience, some of the best fiction is based on facts. How do you build your research into your fictional works?

Keira: For one, I read a bunch of folktales, and in fact, I am reading right now another book of them that I found recently for Norse and Scandinavian folklore. The Tall Ships Race actually exists and has been held in Fredrikstad in the recent past. I watched several videos on YouTube featuring ships and people from the event. I even got a map/brochure of the different events happening around the city tucked away. The castle and its grounds that are in the Under Realm are based on real Scandinavian castles. I look at maps and try to keep my kingdoms in real locations so readers could say to themselves, maybe… maybe it’s there if I look hard enough.

GillettZariaFierceAndTheEnchantedDrakelandSwordSusan: Care to share an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment, either one where someone was gushing over your work…..or one where you were gushing over another author’s work?

Keira: I haven’t really a story about fans or authors, but I did write Robert Pattinson a letter once. It was really bad, but I remained cool and didn’t express my undying love or anything. LOL But it was bad enough that not even his people bothered to send me back a form letter thanking me for writing. Mostly when I gush I gush to like-minded individuals near me and not to the objects of my intense gushing. I spare them the indignity of having to pry me off.

Susan: Cover art can be so important for a book, making or breaking sales. Your books have great cover art. Can you tell us a little about how you found the illustrator and the collaborative process that lead to the book covers?

Keira: Thank you! I love my covers too. I think they really stand out and grab attention in the best of ways. They were a collaboration with Eoghan Kerrigan. He provided the cover art and I set up the covers with fonts and backgrounds. I found Eoghan through a series of events.

On one of my rabbit hole research trips, right after I had decided Zaria would be set in Norway, I found myself looking into John Bauer’s art. He created such ethereal landscapes and fantastic little trolls. Somewhere in that search I found a piece where an artist copied Bauer’s style on Deviant Art, but when trying to locate that artist down the road as the story neared its conclusion proved impossible.

I spent hours looking at other artists on the site and discovered Eoghan Kerrigan’s magnificent trolls. I fell in love with them on the spot. I tracked him across several websites trying to determine if he was open to commission work and lucky for me it turned out he was. We connected on Facebook and then by e-mail and the rest as they say is history.

Eoghan is fantastic to work with. He’s very open during the process. We did a few rounds of sketches to determine how Zaria and Olaf would look like, and another round for the covers. Once that was sorted I gave him carte blanche to pick what he wanted to illustrate for each chapter and I’m so glad I did. His style brings such realism to the books, characters, creatures, etc.

Susan: What is the first book you remember reading on your own?

Keira: The first book I remember reading on my own is probably Nancy Drew. I read that series until there wasn’t a single yellow book on the shelf left. I also thoroughly enjoyed the Baby-Sitters Club. The first book I remember being read to me is Half Magic. My mother read it at home and would volunteer to read it at my school too. Great books.

Susan: You have to run an obstacle course. Who do you invite along (living or dead, real or fictional)? Will there be a tasty libation involved?

Keira: Can it be a zipline course? I love those. Getting to climb around in the trees and soar across spaces is so much fun. Food is probably some sort of meaty, hearty fare to keep you full and ready to tackle the next obstacle. I’d probably bring friends and family and make a day of it. Thanks for having me at Dab of Darkness, Susan. This has been a lot of fun! If you keep scrolling there’s information about a giveaway below.

Zaria3Book Three in the Zaria Fierce Trilogy

Summary: “Nothing can save you now, Princess.”

How can anyone be tricked twice? Isn’t there even a saying about that? Zaria Fierce is determined to get things right this time and with the Drakeland Sword in her possession she’s ready to take on trolls, dragons, and whatever else may come… but first she and her friends are going to have to figure out just how much trouble they’re in at home.

Release Date: July 1, 2016

Available in E-book, Paperback, and Audiobook (Coming Soon)

Praise for Zaria Fierce and the Dragon Keeper’s Golden Shoes (Book 3):

“That’s the great thing about the Zaria Fierce trilogy: adventure is fast, furious, and loaded with Norse mythology, but the friendship between Zaria and her group of friends is the heart that drives this story.” Rosemary, Mom Read It

Zaria Fierce and the Dragon Keeper’s Golden Shoes was the magical conclusion this trilogy asked for. Filled with action and adventure, Zaria and her friends showed us the importance of teamwork, friendship, and having courage in ourselves. The perfect ending to a fun series, I recommend this to all fantasy lovers, middle school and beyond!” – Emily, Midwestern Book Nerd

Zaria Fierce and the Dragon Keeper’s Golden Shoes was a spectacular conclusion to a great trilogy (though the ending left the door open for more adventures). Filled with magic, a great story line, amazing and real characters, wonderful settings and beautifully explored themes, Keira Gillett created a trilogy that I will always cherish and will visit anytime. If you like The Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit, The Spiderwick Chronicles or simply love a book filled with Norwegian folklore and fantasy, then this is the ultimate series for you to read, devour and lose yourselves in.” – Ner, A Cup of Coffee and a Book


Hector was right that the group wasn’t far from Malmdor. They reached the entrance before night fell, and in the gloomy dusk that slipped around them like a cloak, they reached the edge of the forest and stopped. Below them in a wide clearing was an abandoned quarry filled with water.

The lake was nestled at the bottom of a deep, steep pit. Its deep blue water was smooth and glassy, protected from wind by the rocky walls and surrounding forest. Zaria could see the lakebed in the shallower areas. Something large swam in the center, too deep to see clearly.

“What is that?” asked Filip, having spotted the creature at the same time.

Hector said, “It’s a water-wyvern.”

“Is that like the Loch Ness Monster?” asked Christoffer. “Cool. No wonder they can’t find it in Scotland.”

“You haven’t seen a winter-wyvern,” Zaria said. “I bet it’s more like Norwick.”

“The flying snow leopard-bear-bat thing you told me about? Even better,” Christoffer said, rubbing his hands together in glee. “Do we get to meet it?”

“Is it friendly?” worried Geirr.

“The beastie is not friendly,” said Hector, grimly. “And yes, we will be meeting it. Water-wyverns are wild, unpredictable creatures. This one is particularly nasty. It was captured and transported to this quarry lake over a century ago. It can’t escape – water-wyverns aren’t able to live out of water for very long. This makes it very angry. The lake is too small for him.”

“That’s what I was afraid of,” Geirr said, stuffing his hands into his pockets. “So, can it eat us?”

Hector nodded. “It once devoured an entire legion of dwarf handlers because they smelled bad. They’ve showered regularly ever since.”

Geirr looked at Zaria. “Why?” he moaned. “Why do we have to meet it?”

“Look on the bright side, mate,” Filip said, clapping Geirr on the back. “Maybe we get to ride it.”

Hector shook his head. “The water-wyvern is the guardian of Malmdor. Its job is to keep out all trespassers.”

Christoffer sighed, disappointed. “Too bad. I would have loved to ride him.”

“Will we have to feed it to get by it? What does a water-wyvern eat?” Aleks asked, readjusting his backpack and bow.

“It eats whatever it can catch,” Hector said forebodingly. “We’ll have to be careful as we near the shoreline. A water-wyvern might not have much in the way of limbs, being adapted to the water, but it has enough leg-power to propel itself onto the shore and attack.”

“At least it can’t fly,” said Geirr, relieved. “Small favors.”

Zaria and her friends gasped as it breached the surface, blowing out a large stream of air. The water-wyvern was magnificent with a gray-and-white pattern. It had a seahorse face, with a long snout, and no ears. The top of its head bore a wavy crest that trailed down its neck.

As the creature dove beneath the water, it flipped its body into the air. There were no scales anywhere on it, as far as she could see. Zaria half-expected a whale fluke, but its tail looked like an eel’s. The thing was massive, at least four times bigger than Norwick, and hideous.

They stood there, watching the shifting, undulating, shadow in the water. Aleks wore a pensive frown, his brown eyes narrowed. “Does it have a name?”

“The dwarves call it Vingar.”

Keira Gillett author pictureAuthor Bio: Keira Gillett is a technical publications librarian, book blogger, world traveler, artist, and now author. She graduated from the University of Florida with a Bachelor of Arts in Drawing and Painting. From an early age her mother instilled a love of the written word, as such she has always been a big reader. Her first book, Zaria Fierce and the Secret of Gloomwood Forest, is about a young girl who must complete a quest to save her friend from a nasty river-troll.


Social Media: Twitter (keiragillett), Facebook (zariafiercetrilogy), Pinterest (zariafierce)

Giveaway: Keira is offering up the first 2 books in the Zaria Fierce series in audiobook format (from to one winner. Enter the Rafflecopter by clicking the link below. Ends Aug. 14, 2016.

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Interview: Gary & George of Unsung Stories

HockingDejaVuFolks, please welcome the brains behind Unsung Stories, an indie SFF publisher based in London, UK. Unsung Stories publishes intelligent genre fiction – science fiction, fantasy, horror, speculative, steampunk, and importantly those works that blur the boundaries between these genres.

Myths and beliefs that we would consider fiction or fantasy in modern literature once upon a time shaped history (think of all the hunts for unicorns & dragons). Do you see modern fantasy/horror/scifi fiction affecting human cultures today and how?

So this turned out to be a vast question that we couldn’t really answer concisely at all. We’re both in agreement on the themes of the answer, as below, but given it’s a big question we figured it deserved a big answer.


Starting with an easy one I see! All narratives, contemporary SFFH, Homeric epics, Jane Austen and even The Daily Mail, are reflective of the society that created them and help shape history. So unicorns, dragons, the Cyclops, witches, changelings and more, have very specific functions beyond whether or not people believe they’re actually there. The same applies to Ebenezer Scrooge, Hamlet, Emma Woodhouse and Malcolm Tucker.

Demons and angels. Our aspirations and our fears. How we manifest these in art has changed, absolutely, but the reason why we do it remains as essential and indefinable as ever.

As to whether contemporary SFFH affects human cultures today? Of course! The how is more telling. One of the most pervasive SF narratives of recent times is Star Trek, which is at its core a utopia project. Sure, they’re knocking on the doors of the Heavens, and it’s about intrepid adventurers and individual acts of heroism, but the thesis is of humanity at its best. Reaching to the stars, embodying justice in a universally welcoming and productive society. Add a splash more hubris and tragedy and you’re getting back into the same territory as Homeric epics. Only this time Icarus has shields and inertial dampeners.

One idea I have is that we use different genres for different purposes. So science fiction is about exploring hypotheses for humanity. What our existence will mean when the fundamental state of humanity has changed. Gibson does this excellently, Haldeman’s The Forever War and countless others. It’s a sandbox for thought experiments, inherently philosophical at heart.

Fantasy has created vast explorations of history and the moralities of governance and action. We can transpose political realities into new environments and comment on and satirise them. There’s so much of humanity’s history to understand and fantasy lets us do that freely, calls on us to tackle political and sociological Gordian knots.

Finally horror might be the most introspective of the three. Sure, it’s about scaring people but it’s also based on what we are afraid of. It’s more than big rats, it’s the darkness and the void, our weaknesses and fears, our inability to protect what we love.

Obviously that’s three broad generalisations, and only offered as a springboard for thought. It’s a big question!


All of human history, all human life, is shaped by narrative; it’s how we fundamentally understand and process the complex, messy reality we find ourselves in.

I see that SFFH affects human culture today in some very profound ways. Speculative fiction as a whole has always been a wonderful way of exposing and exploring collective hopes, dreams, fears and nightmares.

Trends in science-fiction can accurately map entire cultures’ feelings towards the future – do we see utopia or dystopia ahead? Will technology set us free, or create new traps for us? Do we even believe in a future anymore? In turn, these narratives exploring these issues will inform how we think about ourselves and the way we live, and where we are going (or perhaps going wrong).

The horror genre is a place where our worst fears, anxieties and repulsions can be explored (and exploited). I think there are two camps of horror fiction, the cathartic ‘ghost train’ types of horror, where everything works out in the end, where the evil is defeated and mankind overcomes: fiction ultimately as a form of validation that the world is OK. 

Then there’s the other kind of horror, pioneered by Lovecraft and perfected by writers like Thomas Ligotti, where there is no victory, no catharsis, where the bad things win. This is my preferred model of horror fiction – not because I think life is hopeless or inherently ‘bad’, but because I think this kind of writing serves a useful function, to allow readers to face and explore difficult emotional topics.

We have a deep psychological need for monsters. Through storytelling we can turn an abstract fear into something physical that can be, at least potentially, defeated. Fear of the consumerist, mindless masses become zombies, aggressive male sexuality takes form in the werewolf, the ghost is a clear manifestation of past guilt/trauma, and so on.

With fantasy the enduring appeal of Tolkien and the LOTR films, the continued popularity of epic fantasy novels, the Game of Thrones phenomenon are all things that cannot be discounted. It would be nice if some mainstream fantasy was not based on the models established by Tolkien (Celtic/Saxon/Norse European myths, essentially). But there’s obviously some appeal to that kind of mythic setting that has a real appeal.

WhiteleyTheBeautyIt’s time for you to host the book club. Who do you invite (living, dead, fictional, real)? And what 3 books will you be discussing?

The invite list first: Iain M. Banks, Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett first of all because you need wise, nice and irreverent people to balance any debate. To stir the pot I’d add Hunter Thompson, Ursula K. Le Guin, Adam Roberts, Octavia Butler, John-Paul Satre and Charles Bukowski. That should provide enough knowledge, experience and strong-willed extroverts to ensure a healthy debate, right? Or at least an unforgettable evening. Actually, maybe add Imperator Furiosa as referee.

As for the books? I’d go with Ubik, The Trial and The Master and Margarita. Not because they are perfect bedfellows but the all fascinate and terrify me in equal measure. They all poke at the consensus of the ‘normal ‘state of affairs, be those philosophical, social or political. And they all leave you with very difficult questions.

Are strict guidelines for genres dead in today’s book market? Where does Unsung Stories fit in? 

Increasingly I’d say genre is being normalised, the distinctions eroded by audiences growing more sophisticated. We’re not the people who thought The War of the Worlds was real. Genre tropes are commonplace now and we are seeing an increasing number of crossover success stories both ways. Ishiguro is exploring genre in his work. Cloud Atlas was nominated for the Booker and the Clark and Nebula. Gaiman is an international sensation despite being massively Genre, even starting out in *gasp* comics. And of course SF and fantasy are all over TV and cinema. So it’s increasingly not about defining the lines between ideas, but the opportunities in how they interact.

Here at Unsung Stories, we love non-generic takes on genre. We want to give a home to writers who grab this opportunity with both hands. The people who don’t see rules or conventions, just the way their story is. Commissioning isn’t about if we can see a market, it’s about finding the stories we love, and know deserve to be published.

LangmeadDarkStarWhat now-dead author would you like to interview? What are some of the things you would chat about?

Philip K. Dick, probably. He’s the man who posited a Matrix-like reality decades before even Gibson started at it. Aside from writing some of my favourite books his take on reality fascinates me as much as it seemed to trouble him. Especially because he didn’t seem to have that layer of detachment from the problem academics do. So I’d talk to him about what his philosophies of perception and what it is he thinks we’re not seeing.

If you could, what book/movie/TV series would you like to experience for the first time all over again and why?

All of the bits that weren’t terrible, ideally. But if I had to pick one it would be The Sandman because it achieves so many different things. It’s a glorious collection of short stories, it’s a revelation for the potential of comics, it’s a vast indulgence of amazing ideas, it’s funny, it’s scary, it’s utterly heart-breaking in several places, and so much more.

In fact, if I could have just one page, I’d ask for Delirium and Death in the funeral procession from Worlds End. It might just be perfect.

Over the years, are the changes in society reflected in today’s villains and heroes?

One thing I find fascinating is the development of monsters in horror. After the explosion in the 1960s monsters abound, starting with the classics like Dracula, Frankenstein’s creation and werewolves. Then aliens are introduced, incomprehensible powers given physical form. Soon we’re creating new demons for cinema like Freddy and Jason, where they can be defeated but only temporarily. The step after is the one that grabs me though, where they all suddenly become human. Us. No more immortals, no masked killers returning from the grave. Teenagers. Your neighbours. Your children…

With SFF we’re beyond grimdark and sci-fi horror now as well. Bank’s Culture is full of stories that blur the ideas of who is the hero. We love Game of Thrones and Abercrombie because it’s not so simple to say who the hero is. We’re interested in the grey areas more these days, probably because we understand them better than the extremes of heroism or villainy.

So yes, absolutely. And watching how this growing canon of influences develops is something I find incessantly fascinating.

The other thing is post-apocalyptic fiction is huge right now, which works on the base assumption that we somehow failed as a race. As a result of technological developments in the last 20 years we have burgeoning global identities, a greater awareness of what is happening across the world. Maybe we’re coming to realise it’s not about heroes and villains, but about our collective responsibilities as a species?

More and more we see fiction being multimedia – a book, a TV show, a PC game, a graphic novel. How do you see the publishing industry evolving to handle this trend? Any plans to take Unsung Stories into the multimedia realm?

I think it will continue to evolve as it already has been. Ebooks are commonplace now for instance, and apps and enriched variants are going the same way. A lot of the most interesting examples I’ve come across have been games – Device 6 or Dear Esther for example – but that doesn’t mean it will all be games. What I will say, is I suspect the great ideas will come from writers/indies who create something as a labour of love. People in the industry are readers, gamers, fans, just like everyone else. So they’ll be there with everyone else when good things happen.

Unsung don’t have plans right now, but if we see an idea we like enough we’ll go for it. There’s no reason for stories to be limited to books any more (however much we love them). The crucial thing is to ensure the story works for the format. So, for example, rather than shoehorning a popular book into a graphic novel I’d want to see something written with comic format in mind. It’s about best serving the stories, after all.

Care to share an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment where you were gushing over an author’s work?

I exist in a perpetual state of anxiety as a rule so that would mainly involve every conversation I’ve had with an author, ever. I’m also particularly bad at recognising people as we rule so my worst moments are the opposite kind where you talk to someone, usually spouting flawed opinions at great length, to then discover they’re Pat Cadigan, or someone like that. Things like that happen to me, so I operate the working assumption that my brain hates me.

That said, when I met Brian May I had a not-inconsiderable haircut myself and proceeded to compliment him on his hair. Not his music, charity work or career as an astrophysicist. His hair. I got the impression I wasn’t the first person to do that.

What is the first book you remember reading on your own?

I’m not sure what it was called but there was something involving a mad professor taking a teenage boy to Jupiter where he had to play hockey with 20 metre tall bruisers. It’s the illustrations I remember more than anything. Something I remember the title of though, is either the Mary Plain books by Gwynedd Rae, or The Arabian Nights. That and poring over the Terran Trade Authority books in my primary school’s library.

Finally, what upcoming Unsung Stories events and works would you like to share with the readers?

We have our Unsung Live event scheduled for 20th October in Kings Cross, London. This is SFF storytelling, with readings from Simon Guerrier, Robert Sharp, Cassandra Khaw and David Hartley. We’re doing this because we couldn’t find any live-lit events for genre fiction and thought there should be at least one! Tickets are free, you just need to RSVP to secure a place at – It was very popular last time so booking is advised!

We do have other things in the pipeline in terms of books, but nothing I can talk about yet. They’ll be good though, promise.

Places to Follow Unsung Stories




Giveaway & Interview: Elizabeth Jeannel, Author of The Travelers

JeannelTheTravelersFolks, please give a warm welcome to Elizabeth Jeannel, author of The Travelers, to the blog today.

If you had to choose someone to rescue you from the jaws of certain death would it be a superhero, supernatural creature, or a space alien?

As a child, I definitely would have chosen a space alien because superheros were real to me, actively saving the world, I just hadn’t met them yet. As an adult, I’ve somewhat grown up. I currently think superheros just live among us waiting for their time to shine. I’d have to say Batman would be my chosen hero because, lets face it, there’s enough billionaires out there that someone could realistically step up and do the job. Until then, my life will not be complete. So, someone who knows a billionaire needs to tell them its Batman time; we are all waiting.

Myths and beliefs that we would consider fiction or fantasy in modern literature once upon a time shaped history (think of all the hunts for unicorns & dragons). Do you see modern fantasy fiction affecting human cultures today and how?

Modern fantasy definitely affects human cultures today. People are constantly stepping up as they prepare for the zombie apocalypse (which is inevitable, might I add), some are even claiming to be vampires, others are searching for vampires, whether it be lover or hunter, people still look for Big Foot, and the age old Loch Ness, and we all know that the idea of time travel is secretly on the mind of everyone who can comprehend the idea. We want to believe what isn’t real because if the imaginary stay imaginary, life is just too normal.

Conventions, book signings, blogging, etc.: what are some of your favorite aspects of self-promotion and what are some of the least favorite parts of self-promotion?

I think my favorite aspect about the self-pro process so far is that I’ve really had full control. I decide where to go, what to talk about, who to talk to, and why. No one tells me where I have to go or what I have to do. Ultimately, its up to me.

My least favorite part is that I’m alone. Everything I do is sort of in my hands, and its a learn as I go experience. Most of the steps I’ve taken so far have really come from reading the experiences of others, and trying my best to learn from them. The writing world is so vast, and unless you make the right friends, you aren’t really going anywhere. I’m still trying to make friends in general, but those that I have are amazingly supportive.

If you were sent on a magical quest which other 4 fantasy authors would you take with you?

When I read this question, I imagined that each of us would have the ability to use our writing freely. I.e. we could magically create things and change things just like we do in the word world. So, that being said, I would definitely bring J.R.R Tolkien back from the dead because who doesn’t love classic, by his side C.S. Lewis would be kicking it, I’d definitely add Jim Butcher along for the ride, and finally I’d add one more female to this group of manly men with Lauren Kate. I feel like I’d definitely be the weakest link with this group of literary geniuses, but I still think we would take that magical quest by the horns.

What does your Writer’s Den look like? Neat and tidy or creative mess? Can you write anywhere or do you need to be holed up in your author cave?

Sadly, I do most of my writing at my day job. Between caring for my spoiled cat, spending time with my disabled girlfriend, and doing that real work thing, I just don’t have a lot of spare time, except when work is slow. However, I typically leave an earthquake wherever I go, so if I had a Writer’s Den, it would most likely be a beautiful disaster. In all honesty, I’ve written at work between 911 calls, the park, school, the library, Starbucks (because I am a typical white girl and I don’t care), and even in the car at one point, BUT I prefer to be curled up with a blanket, munchies, and my favorite drink by a rainy window. I think that’s when I have my best creating juices flowing.

Care to share an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment, either one where someone was gushing over your work…..or one where you were gushing over another author’s work?

I can actually honestly share two of these moments because both are equally worth it.

Since my first book has not been released, and a recent accident forced me to put it off, I’ve had some of my friends and family in full suspense waiting for the release since the spring of this year. Well, about a month ago, I bumped into an old high school friend at our local mall, and she had to stop me and beg me to release my book soon. She even said she checked my facebook page regularly to see if I had posted any tidbits about the book. It was the first time that I realized that other people actually do care about my work, and I can’t get over that day.

My second story flashes back to the dark days before my self publishing adventure began. These were dark times, Susan, very dark times. I was doing the unthinkable and querying like crazy, when I stumbled upon the agent of one of my favorite authors (who shall remain nameless for lack of ridicule from the general public). I literally squealed, scaring my cat, my girlfriend at the time, and my in laws. Quickly, I began forming a query letter, without explaining my outburst, and clicked send. Of course, I never received a response, and it just so happens now that I’m glad about it, but at the time, the idea of having the same agent as one of my favorite authors was something beyond my wildest dreams.

Thank you for the interview, and I hope you have an amazing day!

JeannelTheTravelersBook Blurb for The Travelers:

The town Alex calls home has always felt safe to her, until three girls her age are found dead. When Alex’s father forces her mother to skip town with him, possibly for good, they leave Alex behind to fend for herself and unfold years of lies they have built her life upon. Jaze, who has been invisible by her side for months, appears just in time to eliminate any normality that remained in her life. He’s tall, dark and terrifying, though that wasn’t his intent. Just as Jaze is earning Alex’s trust, the Council, a feared and powerful group of leaders from his world, orders him to protect her with his life.

Jaze quickly becomes torn between his duty and his love for Alex. When her real memories of her childhood return, Alex tumbles head first into Jaze’s strange world and into his arms. While Jaze soon finds that Alex may not be the ordinary girl he had originally assumed her to be. Together the two of them discover that sometimes love and simplicity aren’t always options in life.

Places to Find Elizabeth






Elizabeth Jeannel is offering up 2 ebook copies of her book The Travelers. This giveaway is open International! To Enter, do the Rafflecopter thing below or answer the following in the comments: 1) Do you think fantasy fiction affects modern society? 2) Leave a way to contact you! Giveaway ends December 7th, 2015, midnight.

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Interview: Kim McMahill, Author of A Dose of Danger

McMahillADoseOfDangerFolks, please give a warm welcome to Kim McMahill.We chat about Wyoming, snakes, how to win at an obstacle course, and plenty more! Enjoy!

How does modern pop culture influence your work? Do modern cultural references date a piece or add touchstones for the reader?

My stories are generally set in the present and several are even futuristic, so it’s impossible not to be influenced by modern pop culture in order to write realistic stories. In my latest novel, A Dose of Danger, a researcher believes she’s found a miracle weight loss supplement. In the U.S. the diet product industry is a 40 to 100 billion dollar a year industry, driven by the need of many to conform to social pressures to be thin or strive for a trendy look. We’re constantly deluged by what the perfect body image should be and the latest fad promising to deliver. But what if we were all thin and fit? Those invested in the diet product industry might not be too excited to see their profits disappear.

Modern cultural references definitely date books. Ten years from now that diet supplement might actually exist, so the plot no longer delves into a “what if” scenario. But hopefully the overall story is strong enough that it really doesn’t matter and the reader will see it as a touchstone, not an outdated story. Sometimes when I read an older book I get those nostalgic, “oh I remember that” feelings, and the memories evoked only make the story more enjoyable.

What has been your worst or most difficult job? How does it compare to writing?

During summer breaks throughout high school I cleaned motel rooms. There’s no comparison. Writing novels can take me on any grand adventure I can dream up and I get to share those stories with the world. The only thing I dreamed of when cleaning motel rooms was being done, and I seldom wanted to share any of those adventures with anyone.

McMahillMarkedInMexicoDo you have any phobias?

I can’t even look at snakes when I go to the zoo or I’ll likely have nightmares. We didn’t have a lot of snakes where I grew up in Wyoming, but we did have rattlesnakes. The up side was that my dad let my sister and I have all the cats we wanted since keeping the rodents (common snake prey) away from the house and barn also kept the snakes away.

When trekking through Khao Yai National Park in Thailand every time our guide stopped to show us a flower or mushroom, my heart nearly stopped. They have some seriously poisonous snakes in Thailand. Finally my husband asked the guide to quit pointing excitedly at the ground, because every time he did I was sure it was a cobra.

What reboots (or retellings) of classics have you enjoyed? Are there ones that haven’t worked for you?

I absolutely loved The Lord of the Rings Trilogy based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic novels. I re-watch my DVDs at least once a year, sometimes more. I wasn’t quite as excited about The Hobbit, and it was definitely a bad idea to mess with The Wizard of Oz.

What were you like as a kid? Did your kid-self see you being a writer?

Kids that grow up in the country tend to be self-entertaining and often very creative, and I was no different. We only had about four channels of antenna television, so sitting around the house wasn’t an option. I had a pony, but no tricycle since those aren’t conducive to dirt roads, and dogs and cats for companions. When I got a little older I had a mini-bike. My sister and I would ride around the hills behind the house exploring all the gullies and rises all day. I loved to downhill ski, which I find ironic now since I’ve grown to dislike the cold. How did I stay out all day, seldom stopping for lunch, not wanting to miss a moment on the slopes?

I never thought about being a writer, but I should have known that’s where I’d end up. I had an active imagination as a kid, and I guess I still do. I love adventure and discovering new places. Now, whenever I can’t get out on the road, I can always read a book or write one and uncover something new and exciting.

McMahillShroudedInSecretsWhat do you do when you are not writing?

I enjoy gardening and spending time outdoors in the summers, reading and jigsaw puzzles in the winter, and traveling as much as I can whenever I can. I also enjoy tennis, playing and watching professional matches, and following my Wyoming Cowboys!

What is the first book you remember reading on your own?

I don’t remember which specific story was first or my favorite, but I do remember a book of fairy tales that I absolutely loved. I read each story over and over until I wore the book out.

You have to run an obstacle course. Who do you invite along (living or dead, real or fictional)? Will there be a tasty libation involved?

That’s a tough one. Jack, in Marked In Mexico, is full of surprising skills which came in handy while eluding drug dealers in the Mexican jungle, and Logan in A Dose of Danger is not only smoking hot, but he will do whatever it takes to get the job done, against the odds and a host of professional assassins. But, Dirk Pitt has been part of my reading life for decades. He can get out of any situation, anywhere. I can’t tell you how many times he’s saved the world. Regardless of who participates in the obstacle course there would likely be libations. Dirk loves a fine tequila, Jack has also been known to dabble in the drink, and Logan will go with whatever the situation calls for.

McMahillADoseOfDangerBlurb for A Dose of Danger:

When researcher Grace Talbot and her team discover a possible solution for weight loss they are targeted by a group dedicated to controlling the multi-billion dollar a year diet-product industry. Her unsanctioned testing methods bring tragedy to the family ranch and the attention of the local sheriff’s deputy. With her colleagues either dead, missing, or on the run she soon realizes she must trust the deputy with her life, but can she trust him with her heart?

McMahillMarkedInMexicoBlurb for Marked in Mexico:

An idyllic Caribbean vacation turns deadly when hostages are taken at one of Mexico’s most popular Mayan ruins. The kidnappers believe the abduction will be a simple way to negotiate the release of a colleague from a Texas prison, but the stakes become much higher when they realize one of their hostages is the daughter of a powerful U.S. Senator and another, an ex-Army Ranger who has no intention of playing by the rules. After a daring escape the Senator’s daughter, Jessica, and the ex-Ranger, Jack, must endure a terrifying manhunt and a desperate fight for survival. While trying to stay alive in the unforgiving jungle they forge a bond that will last a lifetime and find love neither wanted, but were unable to avoid.

Places to Find Kim McMahill



Author Website

Author Blog


Interview: Kelly Michelle Baker, Author of The Waters of Nyra

BakerTheWatersOfNyraVol1Folks, please give a warm welcome to author Kelly Michelle Baker. We spend some quality time talking about one of my favorite things – biology! But we also chat about some of my other favorite things like Harry Potter, fantasy authors, Ken Follett’s World Without End, and plenty more. Enjoy!

Myths and beliefs that we would consider fiction or fantasy in modern literature once upon a time shaped history (think of all the hunts for unicorns & dragons). Do you see modern fantasy fiction affecting human cultures today and how?

Books are time capsules. They often reflect the era in which they were written. If Tolkien were to compose The Lord of the Rings today, would it be different? Maybe not the core messages, but the setting and characters might have subtle 2015 traits vs. the 1930’s and 40’s. Hobbits shaped a world far outside Middle Earth. It’s become an almost tangible piece of civilization, still pervasive over 60 years later. Tolkien’s an outstanding example, but far from alone. Take Harry Potter. The boy wizard turned non-readers into bibliophiles and put adults in the children’s section of Barnes and Nobel. Everyone knows Harry. It’s been almost 20 years since The Philosopher’s Stone was first published yet it’s the gift that keeps on giving; an upcoming stage play, a spin-off film franchise, bonus publications by Rowling through the online interface Pottermore, etc. Fans are just as jazzed as ever (myself included). Where we’d be without Harry is hard to envision. Personally, I think the explosion of young adult readerships would be a bit paler. Cash-cows like Twilight, The Hunger Games, Divergent, Unwind, and The Maze Runner would exist but, without flying on Harry’s coattails (or Nimbus 2000), be far less lucrative.

If you were sent on a magical quest which other 4 fantasy authors would you take with you?

1) David Clement-Davies. I went with him on a Kickstarter quest once, but perhaps one day we can do something more exciting. He too writes about dragons. David has one of those lyrical voices caught between prose and poetry, and he can play it out through animals. He weaves dark worlds and darker psychologies. There’d be no journey’s end without him. He’d know the magic, but more importantly, the enemy’s next move.

2) Clare Bell. First, she’s a stone’s throw from where I currently live, so I wouldn’t have to travel much out of my way. Second, she’s a biologist, sustainability advocate, and an animal fiction writer—in other words, who I want to be when I ‘grow up.’ Together, we’d go on a paleontological dig for prehistoric felines.

3) Brian Jacques. If anyone knew warriors, it was Brian. He also had a knack for describing mouth-watering feasts. He’d be in charge of swords and snacks.

4) Patricia C. Wrede. She knows dragons as well as quests, but more importantly, she knows humor. On a magic journey, I’d need someone to keep my spirits up. Patricia’s a bucket of laughs and lemon-water (read Dealing with Dragons for clarity).

What reboots (or retellings) of classics have you enjoyed? Are there ones that haven’t worked for you?

The only reboot I know well is the The Wicked Years by Gregory Maguire. The books were dense, but clever enough to warrant multiple readings. They work because they pay homage to the source material, but not at the expense of the story or characters. They can exist on their own without relying on constantly winking at the reader. I can’t stand that. It’s like a bad movie with no creativity, using celebrity cameos to garner box-office success. I can’t think of many books relying on such crappy hand-tricks, but that’s mostly because I avoid reboots. Still, good-retellings are out there. I hope to find them.

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you chose to do?

I’m a biologist! Writing doesn’t pay the bills (and for a long time, neither did biology). I’m currently working on the water crisis in California, but I hope to get back into wildlife ecology in the next few years. For my master’s I studied coyote diet and how it varies between season and location in the San Joaquin Valley. Coyotes have a bad rep but are extraordinarily important to human-modified ecosystems. If I could devote myself to preserving North American predators (and biodiversity in general), I’d be pleased as punch! As much as I love fantasy, nothing is more astonishing than the world we already live in. It’s more than worthy of our curiosity and exploration.

In this age of publishing, self-promotion is really necessary for the author. What do you enjoy most about advertising yourself and your works? What do you find most challenging?

To be honest, I hate advertising myself. I don’t mind other people doing it, but from me, it comes off vain and needy. I go through a cold sweat before putting anything up on Facebook or Twitter. I spent fifteen years keeping my manuscript a secret. Now when I hear my dragon’s name on another’s tongue, I have a little flip-out (like they’ve just read my mind). I’m slowly getting better, but it’s an adjustment. What I find difficult is telling strangers that I’ve made something worth looking into, but having no idea if that’s true. If I’m reaching a Watership Down fan, then yes, they should read my book. If they like teen-paranormal romance, they might hate it. Finding my target audience is challenging because animal-fiction is going through a dormant stage, at least for older readers. But this inspires me to write something new and peddle The Waters of Nyra when I can.

BakerTheWatersOfNyraVol2If you could sit down and have tea (or a beer) with 5 fictional characters, who would you invite to the table?

Caris from World Without End (Ken Follett) and Alexandra from O Pioneers! (Willa Cather) would be on either side of me. Though separated in time (1300’s vs the early 20th century), they are young people struggling for their dream career, fighting the oppressions of their sex, heritage, and social standing. Hell-bent on a singular source of happiness, Caris and Alexandra abandon the niceties of comfort and deeper relationships (romantic or otherwise) which wait on the fringes of their ambition. Life begets choices. As a millennial who graduated just in time for the economic recession, I can identify. I’ve been running a race and not quite getting ‘there,’ leaving much of what I love on the road. It’s a timeless battle, and one to which billions can relate.

Beyond these two would be Theo Decker from The Goldfinch (Donna Tartt). In literature, we too often see characters who play their best cards in spite of bad hands. Theo is dealt bad cards and then cheats. Yet we root for him. He’s a good person, even when he’s swindling, even when he’s using, even when he’s betraying his friends. How can we possibly love him? Because, like Caris and Alexandra, he is us. He screws up. Badly. But he learns. His ethical 180’s are slow and arduous, but life is like that. I followed him through hundreds of pages and it still wasn’t enough. I want to know what he got up to after the final paragraph.

Across from Theo sits Morgra from The Sight (although as a wolf, she might need special accommodations). Morgra is one of the great villains of literature, although few have heard of her. The best baddies aren’t baddies, or at least they didn’t start out that way. Some are borne from injustice or trauma. Morgra is no exception, however, whether she was transformed by circumstance or an innate hostility is never answered, not by the heroes, not by her. She’s the ultimate enigma. We hear her thoughts in a few chapters but she’s still impossible to decipher. I love characters like that, with self-belief that could either be true or entirely fabricated. At teatime, I’d take one last stab at trying to figure her out.

And finally, at the head of the table, would be Jean Valjean of Les Miserables. He is one of those rare characters who experiences his ethical turnaround at the beginning of the story, not three-quarters through. As readers and creators, it’s easy to forget that not all journeys twist at the ‘climactic battle.’ Valjean defies the formula. His story is about the after.  The generosity of people is often overlooked, especially since the selfless rarely wave their flags. Valjean would be the guest of honor because he would never ask for it, and serve as a reminder that the story doesn’t end with wisdom. Rather, it begins again.

Which favorite fantasy worlds would you like to visit and what would you do there?

Not gonna lie: Harry Potter. No elaboration necessary. You’ve read it. We all have. There’s a wonderful quote by Ms. Rowling: “All these people saying they never got their Hogwarts letter: you got the letter. You went to Hogwarts. We were all there together. Of course it happened inside your head, but why on earth should that mean it wasn’t real?” I went to Hogwarts with friends and strangers and look forward to dozens of visits.

What is the first book you remember reading on your own?

That I fell in love with? The Grand Escape by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. Sometime in early elementary school I was pushed (kicking and screaming) away from picture books toward intermediate-reader novels. None of them starred animals. As a misanthropic seven-year old, I started boycotting stories and turned to informative non-fiction. In doing so I became extremely learned in zoology. I begrudge nothing, as this may have resulted in my career in ecology. But it wasn’t until I discovered The Grand Escape, which stars cats, that I realized some authors were writing strictly-textual animal fiction. From there I hopped to Brian Jacques’ Redwall, Kenneth Oppel’s Silverwing, and really didn’t look back until I discovered historical fiction in my 20’s. More ‘mature’ animal fiction waned in popularity some ten years ago, thus getting The Waters of Nyra to the surface has been tricky. So I’m grateful to older readers who haven’t turned their noses up at talking dragons. The kids have been great, too!

You have to run an obstacle course. Who do you invite along? Will there be a tasty libation involved?

I’d take my own brainchild, Nyra, who has a knack for evading death. This is partially because she has a lot of help. But in spite of personal trepidation and more self-doubt than any eleven year old should have, she’s moderately clever and resourceful. I’m neither fast thinking nor thrill-seeking, so I’d have to strap myself to someone much more tenacious: her. A tasty libation? I’d settle for root beer, but Nyra (being a dragon) would prefer cool water from Fitzer’s Reservoir.

BakerTheWatersOfNyraVol1Book Blurb for The Waters of Nyra, Volume 1:

Never an ordinary dragon, Nyra grew up forbidden to breathe fire or fly. Like her mother before her, she has only known a life of enslavement, held in thrall by mountain dragons, which need Nyra’s ripening wings to secure hunting for the future.

But at the cusp of her first flying lesson, new rumors whisper through the herd. Mother pursues friendships in forbidden places, blurring the once succinct enemy line. In a whirlwind of realization, Nyra uncovers a secret in plain sight, one thought unknown to her enslavers, and one putting her at the focal point of rebellion should it come into play.

And come it does, but through a terrible accident, killing the slaves’ last chance of escape. To survive, Nyra must conquer the sharp-ended lies cutting her future to ribbons and the war threading in their wake.

BakerTheWatersOfNyraVol2Book Blurb for The Waters of Nyra, Volume II:

After braving the ocean, Nyra finds herself incarcerated on the other side of the world. The would-be saviors are in the midst of civil war, and her presence enflames their rivalry. Caught by the Sorja herd, Nyra is held prisoner with Olieve; a Royal as garrulous as she is blind, neither friend nor foe, but essential to the young dragon’s escape. Yet even escape has little promise, as the opposing Raklisall herd has a poisonous outlook on Agrings, so potent it reawakens an old scandal of superstition and murder.

At the crux of deceit, scorn, and prejudice, Nyra must unearth new weapons in her natural repertoire and learn the identity of a mysterious hero. Only then can she return home, and at long last free her downtrodden kin.

Places to Find Kelly Michelles Baker









Interview: B. T. Lowry, Author of Fire from the Overworld

LowryFireFromTheOverworldFolks, please welcome author B. T. Lowry, author of Fire from the Overworld. We chat about pulling rickshaws, the consciousness behind all things, the Vedic pantheon, and much more! Please enjoy!

Myths and beliefs that we would consider fiction or fantasy in modern literature once upon a time shaped history (think of all the hunts for unicorns & dragons). Do you see modern fantasy fiction affecting human cultures today and how? 

Great question.  I definitely think that fantasy affects human cultures today.

I’ve heard that Tolkien was upset to see modern society losing its connection with mythology. He saw that these myths gave people moral guidance and connected them to deep truths, so he wrote The Lord of the Rings partly to reconnect readers to their mythological heritage. His story is rooted in ancient myths.

I believe that we will always crave myths and legends. Impartial logic can never fully satisfy a human being, because we are so multifaceted. Reality is subtle, expansive and multi-layered, and stories reflect this wonderfully.

Joseph Campbell argued that myths have reality in the subconscious world, but that they shouldn’t be taken literally. While I agree with this, I also feel that there are plenty of mysteries beyond the scope of scholarship, anthropology and science. Unicorns may not exist, but other myths could be historical records which are so outside our current cultural context that we can only classify them as fictional. We might rule out as impossible whatever it can’t understand, but we cannot say for certain what is real and what is not. The old cultures certainly had knowledge that we do not.

My own stories are largely rooted in the ancient teachings of India. These teachings speak about levels of consciousness where different kinds of beings reside, and give methods on how to go to each one. There are gods and other celestial beings, and lower beings too. Many consider all this to be mythology, but as in all traditions, the perspective sees things in a deeper way than the observer. Call me pretentious, but like Tolkien, I hope that some deeper truths resonate my fiction. I’d like the reader to get both a good story, and something substantial to consider. That’s the kind of fiction I like.

Given the opportunity, what fantastical beast of fiction would you like to encounter in the wild? Which would you avoid at all costs? Would you take a selfie with the beastie?

I would like to encounter Airavata, the four-tusked elephant carrier of Lord Indra, the leader of the demigods in the Vedic pantheon. I would avoid Vrtrasura, a massively powerful demon who is an enemy of Indra.

Even though at heart he was a self-realized sage, Vrtrasura somehow found himself in the role of a great enemy of the gods. In their final showdown, Vrtrasura actually schooled Indra on the principles of being a ruler and a warrior.

If I had a camera and it didn’t break the mood, I might just take a selfie with Vrtrasura🙂

Conventions, book signings, blogging, etc.: what are some of your favorite aspects of self-promotion and what are some of the least favorite parts of self-promotion?

You know, I’m very new to promotion. In fact, this is my first blog interview! Initially I did not want to do any promotion. I just wanted to live in my cave, writing away. But slowly I started a site and am now putting up a new scene each week. Readers can vote which scene they’d like to see made into a story. And I’m gradually figuring out what to do next.

I love to connect with people interested in the same kind of things that I am, and to hear how they feel about my work. I just wish I didn’t have to go through all the technical stuff to meet them!

What has been your worst or most difficult job? How does it compare to writing?

I pulled a rickshaw in the wee morning hours through the streets of Calgary, Canada. Mostly my customers had been drinking, and I would bring them to their home or their car. It was a weird job because I saw the seedy underbelly of the city – drugs and violence and sex. I got hit on many times a day by men and women, and sometimes offered money for… services. I didn’t take it! I lost some of my innocent outlook during that job, though it did get me to India for the first time.

Compared to writing, that job was hell. Writing is such a great creative outlet. I can make an entire movie in words, with no budget and no crew. But I do draw from the experiences I’ve had in my life, like the ones in that weird job, so I can’t say I regret it.

Do you have any superstitions?

Ha! I sometimes find myself avoiding walking under ladders and such, just in case.

I also have convictions which others might consider superstitions. I believe that plants and animals are conscious beings, not so different from us. I think there is consciousness behind the movements of the clouds and rivers and oceans, kind of like nature gods. I can’t believe that everything is just made up of inert chemicals, moving around by chance. I think there is consciousness behind everything. In this way I relate more with the old cultures of the world than the post-renaissance scientific worldview.

LowryFireFromTheOverworldBook Blurb of Fire from the Overworld:

“Fire from the Overworld” is a terrific debut!” -David Farland, New York Times Bestseller.

Two students of natural magic study under their master, living in a desert village. One, a young woman, travels from her body to higher realms. She finds a battle raging there which threatens their world. The other, a young man, enters the minds of humans and animals. There he uncovers a spreading psychic disease.

To restore balance, she must leave everyone she holds dear. He must skirt into the realm of death.

Filled with extraordinary adventure and mysticism, Fire From the Overworld takes the reader on an inner and outer journey. This is Epic Fantasy rooted in ancient wisdom.

Places to Find B. T. Lowry,

Interview: Simon Turney, Author of Praetorian

TurneyPraetorianTheGreatGameDark Dabbers, please clap your eyes together and welcome Simon Turney, author of the historical fiction Praetorian, to the blog.  We chat  about ancient Rome, stage fright, Masada, Tolkien, and so much more! Enjoy!

What now-dead author would you like to interview? What are some of the things you would chat about?

I suppose, given my genre, I should be saying Apuleius (whose work Frankie Howerd emulated in Up Pompeii – Oooh matron!), or Aristophanes and his frogs and clouds. In honesty, most of my favourite authors are still alive and kicking, some quite hard. I would dearly love to meet the man who was responsible for the Notitia Dignitatum – the catalog of Rome’s military stations and existing forces in the early 5th century. It is missing sections and aspects that would be of great interest to a student of the late Roman military. And because while that’s drool-worthy exciting for me, but excruciatingly dull for a reader, I would also have to say J.R.R. Tolkien. I would love to know what plans he had that never came to fruition even at the hands of his son. I would love to know the history of the Witch King of Angmar, leader of the Ringwraiths in particular. And the history of Tom Bombadil.

TurneyTheInvasionOfGaulIf you could, what book/movie/TV series would you like to experience for the first time all over again and why?

I would love to relive my first experience of watching the 80s mini-series Masada (aka The Antagonists). I remember watching it in around 1981 and being utterly riveted. I have watched it as an adult and it is still one of the best pieces of film ever made, in my opinion. I love the talented Peter O’Toole‘s portrayal of the war-weary general Flavius Silva so much that it has heavily influenced the characters in my own work. But nothing will ever beat the feeling of a first watching. I used to wait for Saturday night (I think it was Saturday!) to come around, switch on the TV and settle myself in ready, no matter where I was. I watched it at my grandparents’ and even missed a meal to see it. I even went to Masada a decade or so ago, purely off the back of that series.

TurneyTheBelgaeReality in my fiction: how important is it? Lengthy travel, cussing, and bathroom breaks happen in real life. How do you address these mundane occurrences in your writings?

I think the level of mundane material in a book is critical. It can mean the difference between Biggles and Schindler’s Ark. If it is too heavy, it can make the book laborious, slow and OTT – like that bit of the Bible where everyone is ‘begat’ing each other. No one wants to sit and hear in detail a legionary’s toilet habits (curly poop!) when they could be reading sword fights and chases and love scenes. There is a certain requirement for it, but I find that, given these specific examples, lengthy travel is best dealt with in retrospectives while setting the next scene (unless the journey contains its own fascinating events.) Bathroom breaks I only introduce to the text if it has a place (sometimes it does – I had a legionary attacked in the latrines) or in the form of toilet humour, which gives it an extra point as well as jogging the reader’s memory that all people have to answer nature’s call in due course, even half way through cleaving a Celt in twain. Cussing is a troubling one. Every writer approaches it differently. I like to write work that my family can read. There is a great deal of violence, but I’ve yet to ever write a sex scene, and my cussing is generally of a level I would consider acceptable as a reader. I reserve the F word for moments when I want the audience to blink in shock. Maybe once or twice a book in general, and often not at all. That being said, I cuss a lot myself while writing… especially when the coffee runs out.

TurneyGalliaInvictaConventions, book signings, blogging, etc.: what are some of your favorite aspects of self-promotion and what are some of the least favorite parts of self-promotion?

For me the social network revolution has produced the best bit. I enjoy connecting with readers and other writers on Facebook and particularly on Twitter, which is – let’s face it – just an ongoing world-wide conversation. The sheer vibrancy of life in the world of Twitter grabs me. Also, from a couple of years ago getting to know a Roman reenactment group to produce book covers, I have ended up as one of the unit, marching in kit, putting on displays for the public and generally exploring the life of a legionary. Not only am I learning more with every event than I ever did from half a dozen textbooks, I’m having fun into the bargain and experiencing a growing camaraderie with my fellow legionaries. For me the worst side is public speaking. I suffer with tremendous stage fright and on the odd occasions I have tried it, I tend to end up a sweaty, blubbering panic-ridden wreck stumbling and stuttering through things that I could expound on to the end of time in a small group of friends.

TurneyConspiracyOfEaglesWhat has been your worst or most difficult job? How does it compare to writing?

My worst job was in admin and then computer network management for an insurance company. Though the job itself was pleasant enough, the extreme corporateness of the company sucked all the joy out of life and years of work there felt like walking into a tomb lit by fluorescent tubes. Moreover it did not take long to come to the conclusion that insurance was a business founded on making the ordinary man suffer. In that respect it was similar to the civil service, in which I’ve also worked! I’ve had soooo many different jobs. I’ve sold cars, sold paint, heaved around bags of sand, managed networks and small admin departments, hired cars, paid farmer subsidies, pulled pints, entered fuel data and so much more. Most were slightly more mind-numbing than even the most dull soap-opera. Quite simply nothing compares to writing. Writing wears me out like no other job has. Even when I am not writing, I am thinking about the plot and how I can improve things – as I go to sleep, as I drive the car, as I shower, as I eat my dinner. But at the same time, that is fine, because writing is a labour of love, not a job. It is simply the best career in the world, despite all uncertainty and stress.

TurneyHadesGateWhat nonfiction works have you found useful in building fictional worlds, cultures, and plots?

I have an enormous library of classical texts and historical reference works. My office is basically wallpapered with books. My wife bemoans my work text collection, as does my bank manager! I always look out specific texts appropriate to my plot (Les Voyages d’Alix: Massilia is a prime example for my next book.) But since most of my work is historical, most of my locations are real and the works I use are simple location-based guides and texts. Apart from a huge variety of fairly random texts, the one series that I find uniformly helpful on all projects are the military history works of Osprey Publishing which are era, nationality and unit specific.

TurneyCaesar'sVowWhat are the top 3 historical time periods and locations you would like to visit?

I would love to visit ancient Rome, but it would have to be a qualified visit. I wouldn’t want to do it as a slave or a pauper. As a free citizen (or preferably a noble) is the only way to realistically visit Rome. I would just love to see what Rome looked like without all the blokes hanging around the Colosseum in Roman tribune costumes that are slightly less convincing than Gary Glitter’s defense lawyer. Other than ancient Rome, I would love to visit late Byzantine Constantinople. The last days of that empire under the threat of the Turk fascinate me. When did the kebab come to Istanbul again? Other than that, again, I would love to visit Charleston in the early days of the American Civil War, when it was all still to play for. I am a Confederate at heart, not because of the ‘slavery issue’ but because I believe in the individual rights of the American states to self government, and not to be ruled from Washington. And because of the cool coats. And the accents. And some of the commanders. I think I’d look good in a confederate grey coat and the red artillery hat!

TurneyTalesOfAncientRomeVol1Which ancient or historical works have you not read and periodically kick yourself for not having made time for them yet?

Oooh, most of them! I’ve read things like the Iliad and Odyssey, and the Aeneid. I read Ovid’s Metamorphoses and various Greek and Latin playwrights. I read both Caesar’s campaign diaries and Suetonius’ 12 Caesars. But there are sooooo many others I haven’t read. I have only dipped into Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, and have been trying for years to get around to reading them fully. I have Vegetius’ De Re Militari on the shelf behind me and have only used it piecemeal for reference. I’d love to read that through. Likewise Thucydides and Herodotus. There’s just not enough time in the world for all the things worth reading, is there? And it’s not like they could televise ‘On the military institutions of the Romans’ is it?

TurneyInterregnumCare to share an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment, either one where someone was gushing over your work…..or one where you were gushing over another author’s work?

Frankly, I have never got used to fanmail. When people tell me how much they life my books I come over extraordinarily shy and embarrassed. I am not a natural self-promoter. Therefore any time anyone gushes over my work, it’s awkward. Probably the oddest moments for me have been when I’ve been at a big author do, such as ‘History in the Court’ in London, and have spoken to some of the biggest names in Historical fiction, only to find out that they already know about me. That’s strange. I never expected such people to have heard of me, but it seems my infamy has spread! Probably the most embarrassing thing I’ve had was a long conversation with a fan, who enjoyed my work, but entered the conversation believing my name was Stephen. He called me that for half an hour, and I was so surprised that I didn’t immediately correct him – my name is Simon, incidentally. Then problem is that when someone has called you the wrong name several times it becomes awkward to broach the subject, and so I went by my expected pseudonym for half an hour. Weird.

TurneyPraetorianTheGreatGamePraetorian: The Great Game book blurb: 

Promoted to the elite Praetorian Guard in the thick of battle, a young legionary is thrust into a seedy world of imperial politics and corruption. Tasked with uncovering a plot against the newly-crowned emperor Commodus, his mission takes him from the cold Danubian border all the way to the heart of Rome, the villa of the emperor’s scheming sister, and the great Colosseum.

What seems a straightforward, if terrifying, assignment soon descends into Machiavellian treachery and peril as everything in which young Rufinus trusts and believes is called into question and he faces warring commanders, Sarmatian cannibals, vicious dogs, mercenary killers and even a clandestine Imperial agent. In a race against time to save the Emperor, Rufinus will be introduced, willing or not, to the great game.

Places to  find S. J. A. Turney