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 Happy Monday! Hope you're enjoying the summer.

Today I’m thrilled to have debut author Livia Blackbourne here to help celebrate the release of her YA fantasy MIDNIGHT THIEF that released on July 8, 2014. I love fantasies and wish I wasn’t too behind to read this before Livia’s interview. I’m definitely hoping to read it this summer and maybe even before I have to give it away. Just reading the reviews makes me really want to read it.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

Growing up on Forge’s streets has taught Kyra how to stretch a coin. And when that’s not enough, her uncanny ability to scale walls and bypass guards helps her take what she needs.

But when the leader of the Assassins Guild offers Kyra a lucrative job, she hesitates. She knows how to get by on her own, and she’s not sure she wants to play by his rules. But he’s persistent—and darkly attractive—and Kyra can’t quite resist his pull.

Tristam of Brancel is a young Palace knight on a mission. After his best friend is brutally murdered by Demon Riders, a clan of vicious warriors who ride bloodthirsty wildcats, Tristam vows to take them down. But as his investigation deepens, he finds his efforts thwarted by a talented thief, one who sneaks past Palace defenses with uncanny ease.

When a fateful raid throws Kyra and Tristam together, the two enemies realize that their best chance at survival—and vengeance—might be to join forces. And as their loyalties are tested to the breaking point, they learn a startling secret about Kyra’s past that threatens to reshape both their lives.

Hi Livia! Thanks so much for joining us.

1. Tell us about yourself and how you became a writer.

I was a voracious reader growing up. I was always hiding books from my parents, trying to sneak them in instead of taking care of my other responsibilities. I also did a lot of writing in middle and high school. But after I entered college, I stopped having time for reading or writing fiction. It was only after I turned 26 that I had a bit of a quarter life crisis. I realized that I was never going to write that novel unless I made time for it. So I did, and it proved a nice creative outlet while I was working on my dissertation. One thing led to another, and I sold the book!

2. Awesome that you decided to start writing again. I know you also have a PhD in neuroscience (my daughter wants to study this BTW) and wrote much of this while doing your doctorial research. Has your scientific background influenced your writing? How?

I think my neuroscience and psychology background makes me a little better at perspective taking. For example, some readers have pointed out that the villains in my books are well-rounded. Even though they do despicable things, it's clear how they came to be that way, and how they view themselves as heroes. I think my psychology training helped with that.

3. I bet it gives you a lot of insight into people. Share a bit about your world building process and any tips you have about creating a fantasy world.

My world building process was kind of haphazard, and I would recommend that other writers take a more systematic approach than I did. For example, a lot of my early names didn't sound like they were from the same language, even though the characters came from the same city, so that was one thing I had to go back and correct.

A lot of my world building also came after the fact. When my editor bought my book, her biggest point of feedback was that the big plot twist came out of nowhere, and didn't quite fit into the world of the book. So I ended up going back and fleshing out the world so that my plot twist would be less surprising.
As far as tips go, I'd say don't be afraid to go back through during revisions to develop your world. World building, just like plot and characterization, is something that evolves through drafts.

4. That’s a great idea to give yourself the freedom to delve further into world building while
revising. I’ve read that you aren’t afraid to tackle complex moral issues in MIDNIGHT THIEF. What draws you to these types of issues and tell us a bit about some of the moral challenges, Kyra, your main character faces.

It's funny, when reviews mentioning MIDNIGHT THIEF’s complex morality first popped up, I also wondered what inspired those themes, because I certainly didn't start out trying to write a story that tackled these issues. The story just turned out that way. At first I thought maybe it was because, as a practicing Christian that spent most of her life running in secular circles, I think a lot about morality and moral relativity. And I'm sure it that's part of it, but a lot of the credit also goes to the old USA TV show La Femme Nikita (not the one on CW, which I haven’t watched much of). I was completely obsessed with the show as a high schooler, and they delve really deeply into moral dilemmas that are very similar to the ones that Kyra faces. In MIDNIGHT THIEF, the Assassins Guild works to overthrow the corrupt nobility. But such things are hard to do, and there's often collateral damage. Thus, Kyra has to decide how far she really wants to go in this fight, and whether the ends justifies the means.

5. Tell us about how you obtained representation by your agent and your road to publication.

I finished MIDNIGHT THIEF in late 2011, and at that point I actually planned to self publish it. I'd been reading a lot on changes in the publishing industry and decided I wanted control of my rights while things settled. My critique group was very supportive but suggested that I send out a few queries to test the waters and see what happens. So I did, and instead of being careful about it and sending them out in batches of 10 and adjusting based on feedback, I sent out about 35 in one go because I didn't really care if I failed. As irony would have it, I got an offer of representation rather quickly. I think what swayed me to go the traditional route was that I had really good conversations with agents about their visions for the story, and their ideas for edits were quite good. I realized that I could make MIDNIGHT THIEF a much stronger work if I worked with an editor at a publishing house. Granted, I could have hired an editor freelance and self-published as well, but at the time I was unwilling to spend the money and time to get a good one.

6. That’s a cool story about getting an agent. And one we’d all love to have. What’s surprised you about the year leading up to your book release? What advice do you have for other debut authors just signing a book contract?

I've been pleasantly surprised by what my publisher’s been doing to get the word out about my book. Again, I came from the self-publishing community, where a publishers’ ability and willingness to market books is often disparaged. But I've been able to see firsthand how Disney’s platform has found me new readers through their connections with bookstores, libraries, and book bloggers. Librarians and bloggers have picked up the book through conferences and Netgalley. MIDNIGHT THIEF was also picked up as a top ten summer debut by the American Booksellers Association, which raised its profile greatly among independent bookstores. Even though my book is not a “big book” that’s announced with billboards in Times Square, I've been pleasantly surprised at how much visibility it's gotten even through the normal marketing channels.

7. So awesome it’s on ALA’s list. That sounds like a huge help in getting word out about your book. I noticed you have over 15,000 Twitter followers and follow over 10,000 people. How did you grow your following? What tips do you have on how we should grow our Twitter followings and get more out of being on Twitter?

My biggest asset was my twitter bio. I took care to make it intriguing -- I don't remember what it was back then, but something about a neuroscientist who explores the intersection between psychology and fiction. So my first tip would be to make yourself interesting, and make people curious. The second would be to think about how your twitter feed can help others. What's in it for your followers? People follow you on twitter because you're useful or interesting to them, not because they want to hear about you.
When I first started using twitter, I did a lot of follower churning, which involves following people in the writing world and un-following those who didn't follow back. Nowadays, I think it's of questionable usefulness. You'll end up with a lot of followers that way, but are they actually looking at your feed? So I no longer do that and only follow people who I’m genuinely interested in keeping up with.

8. What are you working on now?

I'm working on the sequel to MIDNIGHT THIEF. It's due September 1.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Livia. You can find Livia at

 Twitter:  @lkblackburne

Disney has generously offered an ARC of MIDNIGHT THIEF for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through July 26th. I’ll announce the winner on July 28th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, please leave it in the comments.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 or older to enter. This is for US and Canada residents.

Here’s what’s coming up:

Next Monday I’m interviewing debut author Stephanie Diaz and giving away a copy of her YA sci-fi story EXTRACTION.

The following Monday I'm interviewing debut author Julia Marie Gibson with a giveaway of her MG fantasy COPPER MAGIC. I really enjoyed the contemporary feel of it too.

Friday that week I’ll be participating in the Beach Reads in August Giveaway Hop. I’ll have lots of great book choices and will also be offering a $10 Amazon Gift Card.

The following Monday I’m interviewing debut author Lori Lee and giving away her YA fantasy Gates of Thread and Stone. I waited for ages for this and it was worth the wait.

And don’t forget Casey’s Thursday Agent Spotlights.

Hope to see you on Monday!


  1. Great interview. Sounds like a fun book.

    Yeah, the reach of a publisher (who does something) is a really good plus in choosing to go traditional.

  2. I like that you delve into morality with the story. Congrats on your book, Livia. And the gorgeous cover.

  3. Congratulations, Livia! I have had a similar experience, regarding being a small book published by a big company. No - I don't have billboards advertising my book, but the company has a long reach with librarians, conferences, NetGalley, etc. I was surprised by how many library copies were ordered alone!

  4. I love readings these stories and interviews of how authors got their agents and how they got published. I can't wait to read this book, and she's coming my way for a launch party too! :)

  5. Thanks for the insightful and inspiring interview, and the giveaway too. Midnight Thief sounds amazing.

    I shared it on twitter: https://twitter.com/akossket/status/488674483616481280


  6. Nice interview, Natalie. Loved the story about her getting an agent!
    Don't worry about including me in the giveaway since I'm swamped with books right now! Hope you have a great week.

  7. LOVE this interview, especially the part about how she was going to self publish the book but ended up querying without caring one way or another what happened. That's sure to make querying less painful. :)

  8. Enjoyed reading the interview, especially the discussion about morality. Look forward to reading The Midnight Thief. =)

  9. This one is definitely on my wish list! It's so nice to hear such positives about a publisher helping out.

  10. That's some great promotion you're getting! Congratulations, Livia.

  11. This book has been on my TBR list since I first read about it on Livia's blog last year. I'm so happy it's out!

  12. I enjoyed the interview, especially her thoughts on world building. It was also interesting to see how she broke the mold on querying. You just never know. Congratulations to Livia!

  13. Great interview. This reminds me how we sometimes put off our passion--for life things. Not cool!

  14. Awesome interview!! I'm definitely going to add this to my TBR!!

    I just started my book blog (http://bookcatpin.blogspot.ca/) and am excited to meet other bloggers! Please visit me if you have some time, thanks!!

  15. I've enjoyed reading the various reviews for this book and look forward to grabbing it and reading it for myself.

    As always, another intriguing interview, Natalie. Thanks to you both for great questions and answers that will leave me thining about some things in my own writing world.

  16. Every time I read about an author's journey to publication, I have to smile. No one is ever like another, yet there is a common and beautiful thread through each of them. Congratulations to Livia.

  17. Not entering the giveaway; just wanted to say that I love the interview :D Thank you both for sharing. <3 I cannot wait to read Midnight Thief. Just waiting for my hardcover to arrive ;p

  18. This isn't my usual genre, but it sounds so intriguing.

  19. Midnight Thief sounds wonderful, I'm going to make sure it's on the TBR but please don't enter me in the giveaway. Neuroscience has always fascinated me with the intricacies of how these function. Wonderful interview and insights into the author.

  20. Midnight Thief sounds like an excellent read!! I find this stuff so bloody fascinating.
    GFC: Vivien

    kellis_amberlee at yahoo dot com

  21. Wow, great interview and I think I HAVE to have this book! lol I've tweeted about the giveaway https://twitter.com/warrchick/status/488783915151138816 and will keep my fingers crossed!

    Livia, good luck on hitting your deadline for book two!


  22. Thanks for the intro to Livia. It's so inspiring to meet and learn more about other writers. I'll pass on the giveaway. Thanks for sharing with us!

  23. Ooh! I love the concept, and what a great story about getting an agent. Way to go, Livia.

  24. Wonderful interview, and I love Livia's story about getting an agent. It is one we all dream of. Congratulations, Livia!

    Here's my tweet for the giveaway: https://twitter.com/CRainsWriter/status/488817626139721729

  25. Sounds like a fun book.

    FYI - the twitter link to LIvia's twitter page is broken - it should be: https://twitter.com/lkblackburne

  26. That's awesome that your publisher has been doing so much marketing. You don't always hear that. And I think the best way to handle complex moralities and themes in a book is to let them grow organically. Otherwise it comes across to pointed and preachy.

  27. Really enjoyed this interview, Natalie. Especially relieved to hear that Livia did a lot of worldbuilding in revisions. I've already ordered a copy so don't include me in the giveaway.

    Congratulations, Livia! Can't wait to read your book.

  28. I follow you on Bloglovin and Twitter!

  29. Thanks for the giveaway and I follow by email and my email is:

  30. Wonderful interview. I love the cover of the book. My TBR pile is tottering, so please let someone else win, but I will keep this in mind for the future. Thanks!

  31. LOVE that her degree helps her create such well-rounded characters!

    It's so awesome she kept sneaking in books at school :)

    Thank you so very much!!

    Bloglovin follower Christina Kit.

    email subscriber ccfioriole at gmail dot com

  32. I tweeted https://twitter.com/christinafiorio/status/488966826895085568

    Thank you :)

    ccfioriole at gmail dot com

  33. This was a great interview. Hearing how Livia's Christian-among -secular lifestyle affected the moral questions in her books was interesting. Please put me in the drawing with the email address emilygmoorewriter@yahoo.com. Thanks!

  34. Look at all of the comments! Awesome...
    Fantastic interview, filled with intrigue and tips.
    Thank you.

  35. Sounds like a fantastic book! I can't wait to read it!


  36. This one's been on my TBR list for a while! =)

  37. This book sounds so incredibly interesting. I've heard many great things about it, too!

    I tweeted! https://twitter.com/katebucklein/status/489091248972521472

    ktbucklein at gmail dot com

  38. Loving the cover of Midnight Thief.

  39. I can't wait to read this one! I follow via Bloglovin.
    Tweet: https://twitter.com/ArielSmith24/status/489233223193346049

  40. Thanks for the interview and giveaway! I like reading about authors' roads to publication. I shared on Facebook.

  41. I really enjoyed the prequel novella for this and would LOVE to win a copy of Midnight Thief! Thanks for hosting! ^^

    blacklaceblonde (at) yahoo (dot) com

  42. I have been really curious about this book. I have heard mostly good things about it and I adore the cover. Having a chance to get to know the author a bit more has me even more curious about it though, fingers crossed I win!

  43. Sounds like a great book! Lovely cover :-)

  44. Sounds like an amazing read!!
    Thanks for the chance to win!
    natasha_donohoo_8 at hotmail dot com

  45. Love all of this - blurb, cover, interview! It's all awesome!

  46. Great interview! I really liked the story about how you got your agent, too. And I liked your twitter advice as well. I've been wanting read MIDNIGHT THIEF every since I first read about it--sounds like an awesome book!

  47. This sounds like an amazing book. It's important to go back and flesh things out. I've also sent things out in big batches to get a surprise when I least expect it. Great interview.

  48. so many awesome books - was going back through all the interviews and posts - wow!! and so glad i won Becky Thatcher!! can't wait to get it!

    thanks again!

  49. This looks and sounds amazing! :D

  50. Really looking forward to Livia's book!

  51. I'm really excited for this book! I also spread word about the giveaway: https://twitter.com/Rose_crossed/status/492814275426021376