Author Spotlight: Lauren Marsh

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Photo Credit: Kristin Gillis Photography

Lauren Marsh, also known as L. S. Kilroy, is the author of a new YA dystopian novel, The Vitruvian Heir, her debut novel.The story follows Lorelei “Lore” Fetherston, an aristocrat with a rebellious streak and a penchant for writing – something forbidden among her sex – as she tries to carve out her own destiny despite the oppressive regime. I got the chance to talk to Marsh about her writing and The Virtuvian Heir recently. Check out the interview below and make sure to check out her new novel.

Why did you start writing?

Growing up an asthmatic only child in a neighborhood of [elderly people], I made friends with books at a young age, both out of necessity and genuine enjoyment. Early exposure to the classics fueled my own writing. I began making up stories and would stay up until all hours feverishly writing summaries and illustrating book jackets for ideas as they came to me. These I kept in an old Snoopy and Woodstock suitcase under my bed. At age fifteen a man in a bookstore asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I replied, “Writer,” without hesitation. Being a writer is the one thing in my life I’ve never doubted.

Why did you choose to self-publish The Virtuvian Heir?

I [wanted] to attempt to be “traditionally published,” because I felt like and still feel that there’s a stigma around doing it yourself. However, I’m starting to change my thinking as more authors are publishing their own high quality works. When it came down to it, I wanted to get my story into the hands of readers before it became irrelevant and without waiting for an agent to decide my work is good enough for them to represent. I think it’s good enough and readers are mirroring that sentiment so that’s all that matters.

Is The Vitruvian Heir your first novel? 

It’s my first published novel, but it’s the third that I’ve completed.

How did you come up with the idea for this book?

When I was a sophomore in high school, my history teacher [told] us about the time when Catherine de’ Medici ruled the French court. She had a group of beautiful female spies called the Flying Squadron (L’escadron Volant), whom she recruited to seduce important men in court and then report back to her. My 15-year-old self took this fascinating lesson and formed an idea for a new story. What if a future version of the United States had somehow come under the control of an emperor who commanded that everything be returned to the Victorian and Edwardian periods – women were stripped of rights, had to wear corsets, were forced into arranged marriages, etc.?

And what if, there was a woman who was running this underground circle of female spies trained to extract information from powerful men? What if she was planning a coup? What if she sent her best girl in to charm the emperor himself? But then the girl falls in love with him…That was my teenage sensibility. That story was eventually discarded along with its bedfellows somewhere between high school and college. Then, a couple of years ago, when women’s rights issues were heavy in the media, the germ of this idea resurfaced and became The Vitruvian Heir.

How long did it take for you to write this novel and publish it?

I worked on it for about two years sporadically, but the most concentrated work – the bulk of the writing and the design, etc., spanned about six months.

How do you think your novel compares to the other dystopian novels out right now?

Someone recently said it’s like “Downton Abbey and The Hunger Games had a baby,” and I think that’s pretty accurate. It’s also been compared to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and Orwell’s 1984, which are, of course, enormous compliments. When I was reminded of this idea again by the news surrounding contraception and our reproductive rights that was such a hot media topic back in 2011, I kept hearing women say “I fought this battle thirty years ago. I never thought I would be fighting it again,” and that stuck with me while I was writing. Because I think yes, any idea of a dystopian future with new and unimaginable challenges (like The Hunger Games) is quite jarring, [but] I think what’s more frightening is the idea that as a society, we continue to repeat our mistakes and the idea that such a regression is possible.

It’s happened to women in other countries already. So, I think my book – even though it’s set far in the future – is more about the danger of repeating the past, which is why I thought the Neo-Victorian, steampunk backdrop was the most appropriate for it to unfold over. As for readers, there’s something for everyone – there’s almost unstoppable action, romance, rebellion, and strong social commentary.

Will there be a sequel to this novel?

I have an idea for two other potential books in the series to make a trilogy, but I’m not committing to that just yet.

What authors have inspired you and/or your writing? 

I’m a huge throwback to the classics so anything Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, Aldous Huxley, Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Louisa May Alcott, Edith Wharton, [Fyodor] Dostoevsky, [F. Scott] Fitzgerald, Harper Lee. But my favorite book of all time is Michael Cunningham’s The Hours. I re-read it this past summer and it’s just pure joy. I’m pretty sure the meaning of life is in that book.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

This advice may sound unconventional, but it’s worked for me. It’s true that practice makes perfect and you should try to get into a routine to hone your craft – take a class, workshop with fellow writers, and do the thing. Stephen King said “Writers write,” and that’s true. If you want to be good at something, you need to work at it. However, that isn’t always easy. Sometimes with schedules and what not, especially if you work full-time at a job that sucks away your energy, if you have a relationship that you need to devote time to, or a child, you can’t carve out a determined amount of time every day to write. I would go weeks without writing a word even when I was in the middle of working on a book. Sometimes it wasn’t even because of other factors in my life, it was just because I didn’t feel like it. If I’m not inspired and I’m not feeling it, I can’t write. And I think that’s okay. Because every time I’ve tried to force it, the product is crap.

So my advice is: Write, but only when you feel it. Even though I don’t write creatively every single day, I’ve still managed to produce three books and a slew of short stories in spite of being a high school teacher at one point and having a very stressful corporate job at another. When you feel it and when you’re enjoying it, pushing yourself to work when you go home at night isn’t as hard as you might think.

Are you working on any other projects right now?

Yes, I’m halfway through another novel called The Clothes That Make You. It’s the polar opposite of The Vitruvian Heir. Set in 1967 New England suburbia it follows Sally, a quiet misfit dealing with the fresh grief of losing her father and her unlikely friendship with the new girl at school – a feisty civil rights activist who identifies as a boy. I have a self-imposed goal of completing a draft by year end. We’ll see how that goes.

To find out more about Marsh, check out her website and purchase The Vitruvian Heir here.

 

Author Spotlight: Keira Gillett

Hi everyone, welcome. Today I have the pleasure of interviewing Keira Gillett about the second book in her middle grade fantasy adventure trilogy set in Norway. Keira is self-published, and this is not only her second book, but the second book she’s published this year. Let’s get started!

Keira: Hi Zakiya, thanks for having me! I’m glad to be here.

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Q: How do you write? Do you know everything before you start a book?

Keira: Just the opposite actually. I found that boxing myself in blocked creativity and kept me from putting words on the page. When I write a book, or a trilogy, as is the case with Zaria Fierce, I focus on the big picture and the large landmarks that mark the way along the journey. Starting Zaria Fierce I knew a handful of things which I would build the story around. For instance, I knew how book one and book two would end, but I also knew how the final confrontation would resolve at the end of the trilogy, and since that was the destination I was flexible even on where and how to end the first two books. For Zaria Fierce and the Enchanted Drakeland Sword I knew we’d visit giants, fairies, and dwarves to get to the sword, but how each group would interact with our adventurers I couldn’t have told you until I was in the midst of writing those scenes. It made writing as fun for me as I hope reading is for fans.

Q: What is your favorite scene in Zaria Fierce and the Enchanted Drakeland Sword?

Keira: So I asked my mom this question, right, and she said (as moms will do), “I don’t know. I liked all of it.” That was super unhelpful because I felt the same way. I still do, but I’m going to be good and pick a couple of scenes that are just magical to me.

  • I loved how Zaria and her friends enter and leave the high court of Jötunheim. I loved their time with the giants. Coming up with giant names is a blast. They make me giggle.
  • I also get excited by how Hector takes everyone into Niffleheim (the fairy realm). At first, it was just a super cool entrance and sequence into the next movement of the book, but then it became even cooler to me because it meant something to the fey (which, when I started the scene, wasn’t even on my mind).
  • Lastly, I am super pleased with how the end sequence came out with Zaria and the sword. It is exactly what I wanted. I wouldn’t change anything. And, that’s all I’m going to say about that.

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Q: Where did you experience writer’s block in Zaria Fierce and the Enchanted Drakeland Sword?

Keira: The first block came right after Zaria and her friends left the giants. I kept thinking, what next? How do we get to the fairies? I also had to figure out how Aleks as a changeling would react going there, because he was abandoned by them in the human world, and his grandmother had told him stories all his life about magical Norway. What would she have said?

While I thought about this, I was working on edits and revisions for Zaria’s first adventure in Norway, so I was able to keep my focus on the world, and not dwell too much on the problematic aspect of advancing the storyline in the second book. By the time I was finished with edits, I’d become so immersed in the first book that I had to reread everything in the second book, which took some time as I was naughty and edited as I went.

When I caught up to where I had been before, Aleks’ dilemma was obvious, and how they would travel into the realm of the fairies, and what would happen while they were there. It all fell into place as easy as plopping down on a couch; the support/structure was there, ready and waiting for me to pick up where I left off. I just had to start writing.

Q: Do you do anything to keep you focused while writing?

Keira: I listen to music… generally without lyrics while writing and generally with lyrics while editing. I also like to be isolated from people while I write/edit. You can check out more about my listening habits and hear the playlist for the book at my friend, Emily’s, blog.

Q: Is there any advice you would give to young writers?

Keira: You are capable of writing a book and you’re capable of self-publishing it you want to go that route. Take every step one at a time, and before you know it, you’ll be a published author. Just be sure to finish writing the book!!!

Thank you again, Zakiya. I loved being here and talking about the book. If you have any questions for me – share in a comment and I’ll take the time to answer them!

Zaria Fierce and the Enchanted Drakeland SwordBook Two in the Zaria Fierce Trilogy

Summary: If Zaria Fierce had her say, being a princess would mean you’d never have to wait for news. In the eight months since Olaf tricked her, Zaria has felt a near constant mixture of restlessness, listlessness, and hopelessness. When the time comes to fix past mistakes, she is more than ready to climb aboard the ship sailing towards the giants. Summertime in Norway promises many more adventures, but also many more perils… something sinister lurks beneath the surface following her every move, haunting her, disturbing her dreams, and stealing her peace. Can Zaria figure out what it is and stop it before it’s too late?

Release Date: November 6, 2015

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

Praise for Zaria Fierce and the Secret of Gloomwood Forest (Book 1):

“Are you in the mood for an old fashioned magical jaunt? Zaria Fierce and the Secret of Gloomwood Forest by Keira Gillett is a classic “perilous adventure” book for middle grade readers.” Jennifer Bardsley, The YA Gal

“A captivating blending of fantasy storytelling with today’s technology. At the base of this tale is deep, abiding friendship that stands the tests of time, adventure and even danger.” Kathy Haw, Goodreads Review

“A great book with a lovely story and amazing characters. It’s a fantasy and adventure book that will be the delight of Narnia fans and those looking for a bit of Norwegian folklore thrown into it.” Ner, A Cup of Coffee and a Book

“If you’re looking for an action-packed adventure dipped in fantasy, look no further. This book kept me on my toes with its many cliffhangers and plot twists; it was quite hard to put down at times.” Meredith, All ‘Bout Them Books and Stuff

“I love when a story jumps right in and hooks me like this one did. I highly recommend you look into it if you are in the mood for a fun adventure. I also recommend that you get it for any book loving middle schooler you know.” Emily, Midwestern Book Nerd

Excerpt:

Filip slung his window open and tossed out his backpack. It landed in a thump in the hedgerow. Aleks pulled it out and slung it over his shoulder with his own bag.

“How’re you getting down?”

“Hopefully with your stargazer.”

“Then why toss down your bag?” Aleks asked, exasperated.

“Just in case,” Filip said with a wink at Zaria.

She suppressed a smile. She looked to the others, “Does anybody have rope?”

Aleks and Geirr both nodded. Then Geirr unzipped his bag and pulled out a neat coil from on top. He tossed it to Filip, who snatched it up as it sailed by the window. He disappeared into his bedroom and reappeared moments later slinging the coil out the window. It unraveled to the ground.

“Good,” Filip said briskly. “It’s long enough. Now let’s see if it holds.”

Filip quickly scaled the side of the house and they gathered their belongings preparing to dash. Without warning, Mrs. Storstrand stuck her head out of a bottom window and shrieked at the sight of them.

“Just what do you think you’re doing?” she demanded.

“Run!” Filip shouted, grabbing his friends’ sleeves and rushing for the street.

Aleks cursed and threw Filip his backpack while slinging his own around to the front and unzipping a pocket. He looked frazzled as he dug inside the opening. Mrs. Storstrand was quick. She was already out of the house and chasing after them. She threatened life and limb and the most terrible of all – letting Filip’s father know what he was about.

At last Aleks found the stargazer – a shiny purplish egg-shaped object perforated with stars – and almost dropped it in his haste. After a brief fumble, Aleks located the largest star, and hastily jabbed his finger into the hole. Just like that, Mrs. Storstrand froze mid-run. But so too did Christoffer, Filip, and Geirr.

Aleks looked at Zaria and to the others. “Damn,” he hissed. “Wait! How are you not frozen too?”

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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.

Website: http://keiragillett.com

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

Author Spotlight: Katie Sise

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Source: Twitter

Katie Sise is multitalented. She makes and sells her own jewelry, been on TV, and has written both nonfiction and fiction books. I had the pleasure of talking to her and learning about her writing, her newest books, her jewelry making, and much more.

What first inspired you to start writing?

“I’ve always loved to write. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing, even as early as seven and eight-years-old. Writing [is] how I understand the world. I always loved stories as a little kid, and still do today. That need to tell a story is what inspires me to write.”

What was the transition from writing a nonfiction book (Creative Girl) to a fiction novel (The Boyfriend App) like?

“Writing fiction is so different from writing nonfiction, which I learned the hard way. I practiced writing fiction for years before The Boyfriend App clicked. Writing fiction every day was how I learned what worked plot-wise, how to create characters, and how to pace a story. I’m still making mistakes and learning with each new book.”

What was the inspiration behind The Boyfriend App?

“I wanted to create an intelligent heroine whose smarts get her into trouble, and then gets her out of it. I also love exploring the effects that technology has on our lives, and this was a fun way to do it.”

What is the sequel to The Boyfriend App about?

The Pretty App is a companion novel told from Blake Dawkin’s perspective. Blake is Audrey’s sort-of nemesis in The Boyfriend App, so it was a lot of fun to get inside her head and write from her POV. The Pretty App is the story of Blake’s wild and crazy journey to a reality television show in LA based on the premise of The Pretty App, which is another out-of-control app that makes users their most beautiful selves but in a controversial way.”

Are you working on any other novels right now?

“I’m working on a brand new series – I can’t share too much about that one yet, but I’m hoping readers who liked The Boyfriend App will like this one, too.”

Besides writing you also make jewelry. What first got you interested in that profession?

“I’ve always loved creative projects, and when I was in my early twenties I especially loved fashion. I was working in a clothing boutique, and a customer asked how much the necklace I was wearing cost. I’d made the necklace myself but she still wanted to buy it so I quoted a price, she bought it, and the rest was history. The owner of the boutique was very supportive; she cleared a shelf for me and allowed me to start selling my pieces there. Being in her store (Dernier Cri) led to all kinds of fun creative work: I started doing television hosting for style segments, then wrote Creative Girl because of the combination of jewelry and television work, which really then led to writing fiction. I owe a lot to that boutique owner, who I’m still close friends with today.”

Where can fans buy your jewelry?

http://www.katharinesise.com

Outside of writing and jewelry making, what do you do in your free time?

“I read, obsess over movies and my favorite TV shows, and spend time with my family.”

Who are your favorite authors and what are some of your favorite books to read?

I love Kieran Scott’s writing, and particularly love her new book, Only Everything. I also can’t wait for Anna Carey’s Blackbird. This summer I brought Jen Calonita’s Summer State of Mind to the pool and Tana French is my favorite adult writer.”

Do you have any advise for aspiring writers?

“Keep writing! Every day. Set a word goal for yourself ([try] 1000 words per day) and stick to it. You can write an entire book that way in less than three months.”

Is there anything else you would like to add or say to fans?

“Thank you for reading!”

 

Follow her on Twitter and check her out on Facebook.

Author Spotlight: Eniola Prentice

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Introducing Eniola Prentice a new writer on the scene. She was born in Lagos, Nigeria where she began to pen her stories as early as nine years old, inspired by an eclectic group of writers. Still is her debut novel and the first in a series of book. It was in her third year of medical school that she was inspired by God and the unique and inspiring stories of friends that later became her family, to start writing this novel. Check out her author interview below and make sure to purchase Still on Amazon or on iBooks.

Eniola Prentice: Inspired by God and Medicine

Q: What is your story?

Eniola Prentice: Lol. I really do love that question because everybody has a story. How long do you have?   I am someone who has beat incredible odds to get to where I am today by the grace of God. Getting and staying in medical school was [a] struggle, publishing this novel was a struggle but I did it by the grace of God.  I have many definitions, doctor, Nigerian, female etc. but I don’t think those categories adequately tell my story. The recurring theme of my life story is never giving up and God dragging me to the finish line with the helm of his garment. I hope my life one day inspires others to chase their dreams in education, music writing, in whatever with an unparalleled tenacity. With God [and] with you, there really is nothing that is impossible.

Q: What is Still (and the Still series) about?

EP: At its core, Still is about God’s love for four flawed characters. It includes a fifth character of medical school which is an essential component of my plot. The novel is about their intertwining relationships between each other and their friends against the backdrop of medical school. The main character, Sola starts medical school with the hope that it’s a new beginning for her but as life never turns out how we plan she meets an unlikely character, Tayo who she had encountered in a past life. She also develops and ignores feelings for Ladi, another classmate while she is trying to convince Nikky, another classmate that she should steer clear of Tayo. Yes, she does have her hands full.

Q: Is Still based on personal experiences?

EP: Yes, it is a tongue in cheek memorial of my experience in medical school. When I graduated I realized just how self-absorbed we were. Our whole lives revolved around being in medical school, the gossip, [and] what we wanted to do in the future. We were aware that we were going through an exciting process and enjoyed every minute of it. Yes it was hard work but it was also fun.

Q: Tell me about your journey as a writer

EP: My journey as a writer actually started when I was younger. I wrote my first official novel or novella when I was twelve years [old]. It was called Dark Shadows. Before that, I would use stories from the Sweet Valley High series and Babysitters Club as ‘inspiration’ for my novels. I put inspiration in quotes because my sister always accused me of copying the stories and I would get upset. It led to a lot of sibling squabbling. Anyway these novels inspired me and tickled my imagination. I never took writing seriously as a medium for reaching people until a light bulb went off in my head in medical school and I began writing again. I realized the imagination I had should not be dismissed as childish but that it was a gift from God.

Q: Why was writing this book so important to you?

EP: It was important because I believe God placed it in my heart to write it. I felt He has a plan and purpose for the series so I am going to obey him to the best of my abilities.

Q: Tell us a little about your life now?

EP: My life now is in transition. I just published my novel and now I am starting medical residency in Virginia so I also have to move to a new city. I am excited about all the changes in my life and I am looking forward to starting a new chapter of life.

Check out the synopsis for Still below and buy it today.

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A broken soul,

an alcoholic,

a certifiable genius,

a Christian man

and a secret that will destroy the bonds of their friendship.

When self-proclaimed atheist Fadesola, gets into medical school she believes that it’s a fresh start of sorts for her. Until she discovers her class mate is charming and handsome Tayo Smith, a man she encountered in a violent moment years ago. This revelation shatters Fadesola’s already fragile emotional state but hope comes where she least expects it. A seemingly innocent friendship with Tayo’s friend, Ladi, slowly develops into a smoldering relationship with both afraid to acknowledge their mutual feelings. Things get even more complicated when Nikky, Fadesola’s classmate and friend, ignores her desperate warnings and decides that Tayo is the man she is meant to be with. However, within the complexities of this friendship these flawed individuals will experience God’s redemptive grace in a setting each believed his love would never find them. Still, the first book of a four part series is a coming of age story about navigating through medical school in the first year, complete with hilarious hook ups and breaks ups, legendary parties and incessant studying, and experiencing the triumph of success and disappointment of failure.

Also to celebrate the release of her novel, Eniola is hosting a raffle. You can win a signed copy of the novel, a mystery gift, and a $40 Amazon Gift Card. Click here to enter.