1) How long have you been writing? I’ve been writing most of my life. Only recently, during COVID honestly, did I realize that it was something that I wanted to pursue professionally and for a career.
2) What inspired you to write Dear Monica? My mom went through some really hard, tough mental health stuff and that was my inspiration. A mind place and setting with a romantic twist. I think it’s interesting for people who don’t understand mental health to read something of someone in that spot.
3) Why did you decide on the format of letters to tell the story? When thinking of mental health suicide often comes up and is at the forefront of mental health, with that idea, letters came to mind.
4) The core of the novel is the mental health of its main character – is this a subject you feel strongly about? I do feel strongly about mental health, especially in the male community. I think mental health has a stigma for men and that’s something I hope to chip away at with my career.
5) Is Charlie based on anyone you now? Charlie and Monica are a combination of people that I’ve known in my life, whether a friend or significant other, they’re the best parts of people I knew.
6) Has your Army career influence any of your writing? My army career has greatly helped me with the structure of writing. I consistently schedule my time to write and stick to it, even if I hate what I wrote in that time I have something to go off of. My army career also helped me and opened my mind up to a lot more in this world than I originally thought.
7) Having acting experience yourself, can you see your book being made into a movie? I could definitely see Dear Monica being a movie. Since I am an actor, I usually write from a point of visual and what I see in my head as I write.
8) Do you use the places you have visited as part of your narratives? Yes, I would say 95 percent of the places I write about I have been to. I don’t particularly feel honest writing about something I don’t know, so I try to stick to what I do.
9) Are you writing a new manuscript currently? I am, I have on a novel, “Yours, Only” with the editor now, and my other one “Little Red Card” is 2/3 of the way through its first draft.
10) Can you tell us about any new projects, events or presentations you have coming up? My newest projects are both very interesting. “Yours, Only” is another project that’s a collection of letters between a soldier and his young wife back at home. the letters follow his missions, while he battles with his own demons he’s creating and his life back at home. “Little Red Card” is a pandemic-based romance that I am really excited about.
11) Has the COVID19 restrictions impacted your writing life? If so how? My acting career got put on pause at the beginning of COVID and I really started writing seriously because I needed a creative outlet. I wouldn’t have a novel without Covid.
12) Where is your most favorite place to write? I love to write in central park. I’ll take my laptop out there and write until it dies, that usually enough for a day.
13) How can readers connect with you? My IG is @samdavel
14) Is there a message you would like to give to your readers? I think I would just like to tell my readers that they can do whatever they want. Anything is possible and that people are there for them if they need them.
BIO: Samuel Davel grew up in rural Wisconsin leaving home at 18 for the Army. In the Army Sam was an Airborne Ranger who was constantly taking in the world around him. After leaving the Army Samuel moved to NYC while pursuing a career in film and television. After appearing on the small screen and doing numerous indie works Samuel started writing about the world he absorbed throughout his life. He enjoys writing story’s that have mental health twist or ones that don’t always end in happy endings, at the end of the day, life doesn’t always end happy. Samuel tries to capture the small moments, the ones that everyone can easily take for granted.
It’s what I fell in love with. Ever since I read Lord of the Rings, almost all I have read is fantasy. It’s so imaginative. You can have almost anything happen in them. You can create outlandish worlds that could never exist. It’s creative.
Who are your fantasy author heroes?
Robert Jordan, R. Scott Bakker, and Brandon Sanderson.
How do you plan a series like the Jewels of Illumination or The Storm Below?
They are very different origins. The Storm Below was my first. I intended it to be a light-hearted adventure with flying ships and sky pirates and then, in my world building, I discovered a secret of the world that changed it into epic fantasy. I only have a book ahead planned writing that series. I knew what I was writing and the next book was shaping up in my head. I felt 5 books was what I needed even if I wasn’t sure how I would get there.
Jewels of Illumination, I had a much more concrete ending and what would happen. I knew the major events of the books. And even though it deviated a lot from my outline, the general gist didn’t change.
What do you feel are the key points in fantasy stories?
Great characters. That’s the key point of any book. But great characters who are exploring and unveiling and discovering a world that is fantastical.
Can you tell us a little about the new series Masks of Illumination?
It’s a companion series to Jewels of Illumination. They are separate series that can each stand-alone, but they compliment each other. It follows Foonauri, a noblewoman exiled from her home and tired of being just a pretty bauble on a man’s arm. When she is invited to join a thief group and steal an artifact, she might just find what she’s searching for.
How does constructing a standalone novel differ in the writing process?
It doesn’t. Its just a shorter story. You don’t have to worry about setting up future events, I suppose, but it’s merely the scale that’s different.
Is poetry a new venture for you?
I dabble from time to time.
What characteristics have changed in your main protagonists from the first to last book?
It depends on the characters, but it’s usually about going from weakness to strength. Not necessarily physically, but in understanding who they are, in overcoming flaws, in accepting their place.
Do you have plans for other books in the two series?
Not for the Storm Below, but Assassins of Illumination is a sequel to Jewels of Illumination.
How long have you been writing?
Seriously since 2013 but I started back in 1993 or so in Junior High.
How do you juggle your own writing with client’s projects?
I have a schedule. I spend X time on their stuff and X time on mine. I use timers and have my work day scheduled.
Do you have a dedicated writing space? Can you describe it?
Since I moved back in August, I do. No more writing in the living room! I have an office. It has my desk, some book shelves, and my recliner that I write on with a laptop. I have some posters for decoration.
JMD Reid has been a long-time fan of Fantasy ever since he read The Hobbit way back in the fourth grade. His head has always been filled with fantastical tales, and he is eager to share the worlds dwelling in his dreams with you. Reid is long-time resident of the Pacific Northwest in and around the City of Tacoma. The rainy, gloomy atmosphere of Western Washington, combined with the natural beauty of the evergreen forests and the looming Mount Rainier, provides the perfect climate to brew creative worlds and exciting stories! When he’s not writing, Reid enjoys playing video games, playing D&D and listening to amazing music.
JMD Reid is also a ghostwriter, which gives him a great deal of freedom to work on his own fantasy. It is his passion, that shines through his stories. JMD Reid has a lot of stories in his head and is looking forward to sharing them with his readers.
I was honoured to be part of this virtual writing conference this past weekend. It was certainly jammed packed with panelists from all avenues of the writing community, and I made some great connections and learned a lot. I was also a panelist, which was such a fun thing to do. My first panel was on Friday with Mandy Michelle, Sarah Graham, and Melinda Curtis. We were discussing the romance genre and how it has transformed in line with societal changes since it’s conception, but also the expectation of the genre readers for the story format. Then on Saturday, I partnered with my publisher, Dream Write Publishing’s owner, Linda Pedley to discuss the business of getting a novel published and the extra writing required. This includes an author bio and professional photo, a blurb, a summary, a synopsis etc. etc. These ‘extra’s’ are not always considered by authors and the information proved to be useful.
We met in 2007 on an online writing group where you share short stories, poetry and life experiences. We became fast friends.
2. When did you begin writing?
Cristal- I began writing in grade school. In 1976, in second grade, I won a writing contest. The prize was three silver dollars. I was hooked. I also published multiple special interest stories in the local newspaper. I typically wrote in journals growing up and started a couple novels, but they were never published.
Andy- I have always had a love for books and a vivid imagination. It wasn’t until later in life that I decided to put my imagination to work.
3. Where did this quote come from? It’s not about tolerance, it’s about acceptance.
We were both bullied as children and always felt we were not accepted the way we were. Tolerance is only allowing someone to be themselves and not genuinely loving them and encouraging them to never change. We prefer the be accepted.
4. How did this quote bring about your book series?
We created imperfect, quirky characters that are relatable to everyone. We threw them together because each one is unique, different or weird. It allowed us to show you can form friendships with all types and if you do, magical transformations can happen. We wanted to make readers think about their preconceptions of the deaf kid, the geek or even the bully. We want to show that digging deeper can produce an understanding and lifelong friendships by just being kind.
5. What age range are your books aimed at?
We consider the books to be young adult/adult paranormal mystery genre. However, we have had ten-year-old advanced readers love them. There are some intense and scary moments plus a little gore that could affect younger readers, so we ask parents to use their own discretion.
6. Can you give the readers an idea of the messages within Secret 8 and The Wandering?
We have found that our readers all relate differently to the books. What might resonate with one person may not with another. It might be easier if I give you key words to describe what our readers have experienced and relayed to us. Secret of 8- adventure, self-discovery, confidence, trust, courage and inclusion. The Wandering- grief, guilt, first love, teamwork, closure, second chances.
7. How many books will be in the series?
We are currently working on the third book in the series, “Freaks to the Left” which is to be released in the Fall 2021. We have plans for at least eight books.
8. What is the fundamental message you wish your books to convey?
Whether you are being bullied, went along with it so as not to be bullied yourself, or maybe you ARE the bully, there is always a choice to change that behavior. No one is perfect and we all make mistakes. You have a choice to look at the behavior and get to the root of why. By simply being kind, you can influence others to do the same.
9 What are the subjects you will cover in your books?
Our books hit on many aspects of growing up. Awkwardness, low self- esteem, love, loss, social class, racism, disabilities, sexuality, prejudice and addiction to name a few. So many books for young adults only skim over sensitive subjects. Our books approach them head on but tactfully and through the eyes of our character’s first-hand knowledge.
10. Has your own background contributed to the stories?
Yes, very much so. We both have life experiences that are sensitive and meaningful. By including these in our books, it makes our characters more realistic. They say to write about what you know. If you have never experienced it, how would you explain it? How would you capture the emotions? Sure, you can research it, but will it come off as authentic?
11. Where do you prefer to write?
We wrote the first book entirely through email. Andy lived in Pittsburgh and I lived in Erie. Once we married in 2016, we published the first book and built an office in our home. The office has shelves filled with everything that inspires us. Andy likes to write on the laptop there, but I tend to write chapters in paper notebooks whenever the urge hits.
12. Do you feel a writing group is an important tool for writers?
Absolutely! Chatting with fellow writers, reading their works, asking questions and encouraging one another is the best kind of support. Writers are unique in that they do not compete; they are fully supportive and celebrate with you.
13. What is your writing process – punster or planner?
We have never used outlines with our books. They have evolved as we wrote. We often wondered where it all comes from, but it seems to flow freely and eventually make sense in the end. The last chapter takes the longest though, as we tie up loose ends and make sure the climax is exciting.
14. Can you share your social media and book links
Bio: Cristal Underwood: Born and Raised in Erie Pennsylvania, She is the mother of one Daughter Megan Grace, and an extra Mom to Andy’s for children. She has always had a passion for writing and has been writing stories and poems since elementary school. Writing books that encourage inclusion, anti-bullying and acceptance is her life long goal. She enjoy’s baking custom decorated cakes and delicious cupcakes.
Andrew Underwood was born in Salem Utah, he is the father of four wonderful kids, and newly became a grandpa this last week. He is an avid paranormal investigator, loves to read, build things in his woodshop and daydream. He has always had an active imagination and a love for the outdoors. He always considered himself a geek and a little different which fits in well with his message in the books they write.
1.You describe your stories as epic fantasies with dark undertones. What drew you to this genre and type of story?
I have always been drawn to dark and gritty genres in all types of entertainment – horror films, true crime shows, certain types of music, etc., so I believe a touch of this will always show through in my writing. Part of the darkness I mention is also due to subject matter. I delve into the human mind and look at how psychological aspects might affect people and the choices they make. However, my books are mainly influenced by more classic fantasy with a medieval world, swords and bows, and a bit of magic. This comes from reading other books of this genre (such as those written by David Gemmell), but also from playing plenty of video games growing up, as well as watching animes and reading mangas.
Furthermore, I tend to add a third genre into the mix – romance. I’ve always loved a bit of romance, especially the slow burns and classy steamy scenes. The best of both (or all?) worlds! In my own opinion, anyway!
2.When you were creating the background world to The Light of Darkness series, did you have a specific place in mine?
Not really, other than I wanted a world where the characters would see all the different season. I think it adds a certain beauty, with the budding flowers in spring, the light and heat of summer, the shifting colours of autumn, and the snow and darkness of winter. I suppose it is not too dissimilar from where I live myself. I would say the Midlands (where most of the series takes place) is probably a north- to mid-European climate. However, the expanded world has everything from swamps, mountains, lowlands, steppes, deserts, and so on, and the reader does get to meet people from plenty of these places as the series progresses.
3.How did the characters develop as you wrote the novels? Were you surprised at any changes to their personalities?
I usually design my characters quite meticulously ahead of writing, but since I’m a pantser, they do tend to do their own thing in the end. Some end up as a love interest, where they weren’t initially cast for such a role, whereas others change in ways the reader might not expect, depending on how their motivations and actions are portrayed.
The one character who really took his sweet time to settle into a groove was Edric. He is part of the main cast, and is the main character of one of my prequels (The Redeemed). He is rude at times, obnoxious at others, and suffers from a snappy attitude, but as the reader gets to know him, you get the feeling there is more to him than meets the eye. There is a reason behind his abrasive personality and why he acts like he does. As I finally wrote his complete backstory, I mainly changed some of the ways he spoke. I didn’t soften him, as such, but I streamlined his outward communication and interaction with others.
4.Do you see yourself in the stories?
The one character I based the most on myself is probably the main character – Anaya. Like me, she tends to do things with conviction. We’re like a dog with a bone, and won’t relent until we have given something our all. She is fiercely loyal and tries to help others whenever possible; also traits I can see in myself. Oh, and we always burn food while cooking. Don’t even get me started on this one.
5.What made you write the prequels?
As a new author, I’ve had (and still have) a lot to learn! One of those things was how to build a newsletter successfully. When delving into this subject, I researched the most popular sites to do build a following, and I found myself needing a reader magnet to join in on all the fun. I tried to think of a story that would be short, but meaningful, to really complement the series. And thus spawned the idea for my first prequel – the origin story, Righteous Dawn. It takes place 4 decades before the series, and offers a glimpse into how the Priesthood was initially formed.
My second prequel, The Redeemed, I wrote because a dear friend of mine wanted to read Edric’s story. I felt it was a good idea because he has an immensely heavy backstory which I thought should be told. Not that the reader doesn’t get to experience some of this through the series, but it’s much more touching and heartfelt in the way I fleshed out his backstory through The Redeemed. Edric is also a favourite character of mine, so it felt right.
6.Do you have a regular writing routine?
With 3 kids, aged 5, 3, and 0 (9 months)? That’d be a no, I’m afraid. Although it is regular to the point of me literally writing whenever I’m allowed, pretty much every day, after the kids have gone to bed and until I near fall asleep on my keyboard!
7.Where do you prefer to write?
In the best of worlds: on my own, using my laptop while listening to some nice music.
In reality? On my phone, while feeding the baby and taking her to bed… You know – mom life! To be honest, I’m happy as long as no one is screaming while I’m trying to write. That’s a win in my book.
8.Has any aspect of your traveling enabled your writing?
The biggest enabler of my writing is my husband, and what I mean by that is not purely because he supports me, but because he has fed me a lot of the English language. Expressions – and words – which I previously didn’t know what they were. Our relationship and, subsequently, my travels to England has enriched my language immensely, and my books are definitely the better for it.
9.When did you start writing?
*Drumroll* to ready you all for the most common answer known to man!
I have been writing since forever. But I started doing it more seriously with a close friend and neighbour in my preteens. We wrote A LOT, and it was absolutely atrocious, but we had so much fun! And I was hooked. I’ve been writing ever since, but mainly little snippets here and there, and I never really finished anything to the point where I would even have someone else read it… Well, until now, that is!
I finished my first book in 2019, The Power of Conviction, which is currently being released by Fallbrandt Press. It is also my first complete novel in English, and I’m super happy with how it came out!
10. Tell us about your latest novel.
The Power of Conviction (release date January 27th) is the first book of The Light of Darkness series, and it centers around the priestess Anaya. She is skilled wielding the Light and thus highly ranked, battling alongside her spiritual brothers and sisters. As part of the Priesthood, they attempt to put an end to the demonic incursion, paving their way through blood and gore on an almost daily basis.
But things are not always what they seem, and Anaya’s beliefs are challenged through the story. She is forced to choose between heart and duty as fate, prophecies and an impossible love will blur the very line between good and evil.
Now, go read it!! There are another 5 of these bad boys coming!
11.Where do you see your writing career going in the next five years?
The absolute dream would be to write full-time. But if I at least manage to be a part-time writer, I think I will be pretty proud of myself. My recent signing with Fallbrandt Press has really given me the confidence that this is a career I can pursue and I’m like that dog with a bone now! I won’t let it go!
12.Do you have a specific message for your readers?
Feel like some medieval action, fighting, magic, blood, and gore, but still sweet romance, steam, and heartache? I’ve got something I think you might enjoy! Check out my series, The Light of Darkness!!
And sign up to my newsletter and receive my two prequels for free! The link can be found under question 14!
Also, don’t hesitate to follow me or send a message on social media. I love to connect with readers and all kinds of bookish people!
13.Who are your favorite authors?
My absolute favourites have to be David Gemmell, Lois McMaster Bujold, and Janny Wurts! They are my primary sources of inspiration, and I absolutely love their work!
14.Please share your social media sites and website link.
Visit my website for more information, and sign up to my newsletter for those freebies!
Catrin Russell is a Fantasy and Romance author from northern Sweden. Her books are all written in English and are mainly part of the Epic and High Fantasy Genre. However, she does use influences from Dark Fantasy, and a touch of Fantasy Romance. Growing up outside a small town, basically in the middle of nowhere, Catrin eventually moved to Stockholm, where she studied computer game development and design. Meeting her soon-to-become husband online, she lived outside of London for the best parts of a year, before finally settling down in Piteå, back in Sweden. Since then, two children and two dogs have joined the family. With a background in design and holding a degree as a registered nurse, she writes novels in medieval settings, with plenty of action and romance. She often brings moral struggles, or highlights issues in society, into her writing. Another subject that is often highlighted is mental health. Catrin also creates concept art, bringing her characters to life on the screen, and her own cover designs, much of which can be seen on her social media pages!