Sometimes we are attracted to books for unusual reasons. I recently read Miss Benson’s Beetle, which is a delightfully eccentric account of a woman who leaves everything in search of a gold beetle in the wilds of New Caledonia. I have read this author’s work before and enjoy her style and character development. However, there was another draw to the book due to the title. My daughter, from a very early age has been fascinated with all animals including insects. So a story centered around a beetle was too good to lose in my mind. Through my daughter’s eyes I came to know a whole new world of creepy crawlies beneath our feet.
The book ends with another character and I am hoping the author continues with a sequel.
What unusual subject , interest or hobby has drawn you to a book? Do let me know in the comments.
I am continuing to read a fictional memoir, which centers around the life of a child living in a military family. As the author calls it, life as a military brat.
I had the opportunity to ‘swap’ author interviews with a New Zealand author and this was my interview with her. You will be able to read Elise Brooke ‘s interview on 6th May here on my blog.
This is an excerpt from Chapter Forty-OneA Secret Place – 2002
As the evening grew darker Gina took Caroline’s hand and led her further down the valley towards a grove of olive trees. Gina told Caroline she had a secret place where she spent many peaceful hours. It was there she found a deep pit covered with wooden planks hidden in the undergrowth. Caroline was intrigued so came prepared with a rope.
“See here, Caroline, here is the pit as I told you. The wooden lid is held down with a large boulder. Why would someone do such a thing? It could only be a water well, don’t you think?”
“I’m not really sure but whatever the reason, I am curious to see.”
“It may not be safe shouldn’t we ask the archeological dig people to look?”
“If I find some precious artifact or relic I will certainly get James over here. Now don’t worry I will be careful.”
With one end of the rope tied to a sturdy olive tree Caroline’s excitement grows. She holds a lantern over the void, before lowering herself down slowly. Gina watches as Caroline gradually disappears into the inky blackness.
The lantern hanging off her belt Caroline’s descent was slow but gradual and her eyes could pick out roots and rocks jutting out of the pit walls. Eventually she felt her feet touch ground and called up to Gina.
“I’m at the bottom now.”
“Be careful, is there no water? You don’t know what’s down there.”
Peering through the gloom Caroline suddenly gave out a cry making Gina jump and call down to her.
“Are you all right?”
“Yes, I’m fine but I’ve found a skeleton!”
Both girls exclaimed at once “Who could it be?”
“I have no idea but I’m guessing this well has been dry for quite some time.”
Caroline knew she would have to get the Professor down the well with proper equipment; it could be a wonderful discovery. For now she needed to make sure she didn’t disturb anything and made her way back up.
Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce Absolutely loved this book! Great characters, story, tension, discovery and the power of finding your true self. The descriptions transported you to the locations. I thoroughly recommend it.
My next read is Saying Goodbye is Easy – A Life in Short Stories by Kathie Sutherland.
What are you currently reading? What was your last review?
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.
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!
1. Please tell us about your new YA novel – Virtual Age
A- Virtual Age takes place in a distant future. Our world is no longer able to support life so, in preparation for this, indoor cities were built where air and water is purified. The technology of virtual reality was adapted so people can work, play, travel, and enjoy a version of the outside world within the system. When you live your lives within a computer, you become susceptible to hacking – which could drain you of all your money as all money is accessed through computers – and your whole world could be altered and flipped upside down.
My main character is a thirteen year-old boy by the name of Aiden Murphy. He enjoyed the simple life of a teen – going to birthday parties, occasionally standing up to the school bully, and going with his family on vacations or trips to the beach. It was on one of these outings where Aiden finds himself trapped in the system, lost and all alone; unable to get home. He doesn’t know who to trust. He doesn’t know where to go. He doesn’t know what he is going to encounter within someone else’s program. He will be tested every step of the way.
2. How did you come up with the idea?
A- I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of virtual reality and wanted to come up with a story centres around that concept. Actually, I remember when I came up with the idea and some points within the plot while at work. I was working for a commercial insulating company a few years ago. One day I was sent to a job and there was no material there for me to do any work so I spent 3 hours waiting around for the material and while I did, I came up with the concept and title of my book.
Did you decide on writing a YA from the start?
A- I have had ideas for YA novels that I still want to write, however, this wasn’t one of them. I started it off as any of my other novels but then realized as I was writing that it was better suited as a YA.
Of the characters you have created or envisioned, which is your favorite & why?
A- There are so many but one that stands out is Dimlyn – an inhabitant of the planet Seledania – she is strong, determined, stubbourn, kind, and generous. Her loyalty to her society is put to the test when she encounters a visitor from beyond the stars –a human – who is feared and hated by the whole of the society besides Dimlyn. She is willing to overlook his outer appearance despite the backlash she receives from the rest of the society. She was probably the most fun to write because she isn’t human.
When did you write the manuscript?
A- I wrote the manuscript in November of 2018. I participate in NaNoWriMo every year. November is National Novel Writing Month and authors who sign up are challenged with writing 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days.
How many books have you written?
A- I have published 8 books so far. Book #9 is in editing and book #10 is ready to be edited.
Which genre interests you the most?
A- I mostly write in the sci-fi/supernatural genres.
Have you written more than one genre?
A- Aside from sci-fi/supernatural I have also written a psychological thriller, a superhero story and a collection of Christmas stories.
Do your books have a specific message for your readers?
A- I don’t often think in terms of messages within the story but when I thought about my stories I began to realize most of them did carry a similar message- that being of tolerance. We need to treat each other with the love and compassion we want for ourselves. And don’t be too quick to judge.
How many other writing projects do you have in progress?
A- Like I said I have two books in various stages of the editing process as well I have a prequel for my first novel – Time’s Hostage – I’m working on.
Where can readers connect with you?
A- They can connect with me on my Facebook page: J E McKnight – author
And they can check out all my books on my website: jemcknight.com
E-books available on all sites.
Joe McKnight was born in Fort Saskatchewan and raised in the small Alberta farming community of Partridge Hill. He started his schooling in Ardrossan, where he developed a love of story-telling. His love of writing continued to grow throughout his school years. In 2004, while upgrading his English 30, Joe’s passion increased. It was during that same year he stumbled upon a writer’s circle (offered by the Writers Foundation of Strathcona County) that provided the support and encouragement he needed. He continues to grow in his writing and looks forward to many future literary ventures.
Joe has published several books: Time’s Hostage, Fly on the Wall, The Arrival, Powerless, The Other Secret, Stocking Stuffers, Unnatural Selection, and Virtual Age. He is currently working on a new manuscript.
Joe is also an accomplished artist and his artwork also appears on the cover of From a Solitary Drop – he was commissioned to design the illustration featured on the cover.