CURRENT GIVEAWAYS

Here are my current Giveaway Contests

INK IN THE BLOOD through February 8th


OASIS through February 22nd

Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews and Guest Posts w/ Debut Authors & Query Critique Giveaways

Megan Manzano Agent Spotlight Interview & Query Critique Giveaway on 2/24/2020

Carrie Pestritto & Author E.M. Castellan Guest Post & Query Critique Giveaway on 3/4/2020

Ann Rose Agent Spotlight Interview & Query Critique Giveaway on 3/18/2020

Kristy Hunter & Author Loriel Ryon Guest Post & Query Critique Giveaway on 4/20/20

Lindsay Davis Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 4/27/20

ROMANCE IS IN THE AIR GIVEAWAY HOP


Happy Wednesday Everyone! Today I'm excited to participate in the Romance Is in the Air Giveaway Hop hosted by BookHounds. I've got a combination of newly released MG and YA books that I hope you're looking forward to reading. Some do have romance in them.

Remember, if you want an earlier book in any of these series, you can pick that instead as long as it doesn't cost more than the book here. You can find descriptions of these books on Goodreads. Here are your choices:

 
















If you haven't found a book you want, you can win a $10 Amazon Gift Card.


To enter, all you need to do is be a follower of this blog and leave a comment telling me what book you want or that you want the gift card through February 29th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. I will also give you an extra entry if you follow me on Twitter and let me know this. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. This giveaway is International as long as the Book Depository ships there for free.

Here's what's coming up:

Monday, February 24th I have an agent spotlight interview with agent Megan Manzano and a query critique giveaway 

Wednesday, March 4th I have a guest post by debut author EM Castellan and her agent Carrie Pestritto and a giveaway of IN THE SHADOW OF THE SUN, a YA historical fantasy, and a query critique giveaway

Monday, March 9 I have an interview with debut author Tanya Guerrero and a giveaway of her MG contemporary HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE SEA

Saturday, March 14 I am participating in the Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop 

Monday, March 16 I have an interview with author Beverly McClure and a giveaway of her YA contemporary GABE'S GUARDIAN ANGEL

Monday, March 18 I have an agent spotlight interview with Ann Rose and a query critique giveaway

Monday, March 25 I have an interview with debut author Alechia Dow  and giveaway of her YA sci-fi THE SOUND OF STARS

Hope to see you on Monday, February 24th!

And here are all the other blogs participating in this blog hop:






KATYA DE BECERRA INTERVIEW AND OASIS GIVEAWAY


Happy Monday Everyone. Today I’m excited to have Katya de Becerra back here to share about her new YA supernatural thriller, OASIS, which is set in a fantastic setting—the desert. I interviewed her when her debut book, WHAT THE WOODS KEEP, came out in 2018 and am excited to pick her brain about what’s she’s learned since then.

Here’s a blurb of OASIS from Goodreads:

The oasis saved them. But who will save them from the oasis?

Alif had exciting summer plans: working on her father’s archaeological dig site in the desert with four close friends . . . and a very cute research assistant. Then the sandstorm hit.

With their camp wiped away, Alif and the others find themselves lost on the sands, seemingly doomed . . . until they find the oasis. It has everything they need: food, water, shade—and mysterious ruins that hide a deadly secret. As reality begins to shift around them, they question what’s real and what’s a mirage.

The answers turn Alif and her friends against one another, and they begin to wonder if they’ve truly been saved. And while it was easy to walk into the oasis, it may be impossible to leave . . .

Katya de Becerra’s new supernatural thriller hides a mystery in plain sight, and will keep you guessing right up to its terrifying conclusion.

Hi Katya! Thanks so much for joining us!

Thank you for having me again, Natalie! It’s truly exciting to be back J

1. Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got your agent and your first book contract.

I was born in Russia, studied in California and now call Melbourne (Australia) home. I’m an academic by day and work at a university as a lecturer and researcher. I am also a co-founder and co-host of #SpecLitChat and a writing mentor with the 1st5pages workshop. My debut WHAT THE WOODS KEEP and my latest novel OASIS are both YA genre-benders inspired by things I love: mysteries, science fiction and mythology.

I got my first agent in 2015 and sold my first two books in 2016. There isn’t really much of a “how I got my agent” story as it one of those “I was discovered in the slush pile” lucky break situations. Leading up to the moment of being discovered by the wonderful Amy Tipton (now editor with Feral Girl Books), I’ve been querying on and off throughout 2013 and 2014 with mixed success. Having written and queried two books by then, I’ve received many full or partial read requests but no offers. That’s when I started to see what mistakes I kept making and realized how to best revise one of these books to increase my chances of success. I’ve focused on the book that eventually became WHAT THE WOODS KEEP, as it felt very close to my heart but perhaps was missing something – that essential X factor that would make it unique in agents’ eyes. I don’t remember exactly how I came up with the idea of using “found documents” as part of the narrative, but that was truly a breakthrough moment for me. Amy requested to read the manuscript within an hour of me querying her and offered to represent me within the week. It was amazing and so surreal! We went on sub pretty quickly with it but it’s been about 7 or 8 months before we had a solid offer (I had to do a “Revise and Resubmit” first). By then, I’ve completed a pretty solid draft of OASIS, so Amy pitched it to the same publisher (Imprint at Macmillan) who was already interested in WHAT THE WOODS KEEP. The rest is history!

2. Where did you get the idea for OASIS?

OASIS is linked to a specific place and that place is Dubai. I won’t say that travelling to Dubai gave me the idea to write OASIS but it definitely influenced the book’s setting and context. I used to be a big archaeology nerd as a kid and teen and I think if things played out differently in my professional life and I became a field archeologist, I’d make a really good one! I’ve tons of patience and perseverance, so I’d be great at careful work that is required when unearthing ancient history. 

That aside, it’s difficult for me to trace it all back to the very inception of a specific idea as my brain is very busy and constantly thinking and coming up with scenarios (I can’t even just sit down and read a book for enjoyment – I’m constantly jotting down ideas that either build on what I’m reading or just emerge via random association). Though after a darker kind of story that was WHAT THE WOODS KEEP I felt like writing a different kind of book, perhaps one that’s more action-focused, while also drawing on all the things I love like the interaction between science fiction and philosophy as is the case of OASIS.

3. I'm sure your students and readers are glad you decided not to be a field archeologist. Oasis is a supernatural thriller with a mystery to solve. How did you plot it out? Do you have any tips and/or craft books you recommend for writers wanting to write in this genre?

My first and foremost advice on writing a book in any genre is to read a lot in/outside of that genre. It’s always helpful to familiarize oneself with various genre expectations and tropes. Having said that, as I tend to write genre-benders, I write them around a specific premise. I develop a situation and main characters first and then go from there. The idea is that the plot will emerge naturally from the characters’ hopes and dreams and motivations. What I found particularly helpful when plotting OASIS was to keep character descriptions (I use hand-written index cards) somewhere close so that I could refresh my mind once in a while as I was writing. It became especially important toward the end of the book when the characters’ differences as well as their specific desires and fears became absolutely critical for the mystery’s resolution. In terms of craft books… I have a complicated relationship with them, to be honest. I’ve read a few and skimmed the rest, always finding something useful as well as something that made me cringe in disagreement in most of them. Most recently, I’ve read Stephen King’s ON WRITING and found it very interesting as a craft book in the context of a thriller/horror writer’s memoir (King’s been a huge part of my reading diet as a teenager, so it was really cool to read about how his seminal books came to be).   

4. Oasis is set outside Dubai. I’ve read that you lived there once. How did this help you in building your setting?

I haven’t actually lived in Dubai but it’s one of my absolute favorite places to visit. It was such an
incredible experience to travel there as I could really feel the heat on my skin and see it all with my own eyes. Being out in the desert was one of the most interesting things I’ve done – and also one of the scariest, in the sense that you really feel like you’re in a beautiful but unforgiving place and that if you find yourself out there alone and without help or provisions, you’re screwed. I’ve also experienced a sand storm (a minor one!) when I was there and that really helped me write one of the earlier key scenes in OASIS when the excavation site where Alif and her friends are volunteering is under attack by a much bigger and scarier sand storm.

5. I bet your visit and experiences, like with the sand storm, really helped you get your story right. Your book sounds like a haunting, page-turner. Share your tips on how to keep the pace and tension up.

To me, it’s really all about when to reveal a critical piece of information and how – and also what it means in terms of future events (the cause and effect thing). OASIS is more fast-paced book than my debut (though, I must add that “pace” and “speed” are still subject to reader’s perception and expectations, which we authors can’t fully control), so it meant I couldn’t let my narrator contemplate too long on something because the next danger was already here and she had to deal with it. But still, no matter what I’m writing I always keep in mind my premise and the what-if question at its core, so the steps of my plot all need to eventually lead to the resolution of that question. 

6. Was the process of writing your second book different than your debut book? How do you deal with the pressures to write your books more quickly now that you have publishing contracts?

OASIS was a much faster book to write compared to my debut. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve written it while WHAT THE WOODS KEEP was on submission with editors. Plus, as I’ve partially written OASIS during a NaNoWriMo, by the time I came back to it after getting an agent all I had to do was just write the third part of it and then revise. Given my first two books were fully written before they sold, the only thing I had to do to specific deadlines is revision, which was still lots of work but doable as I had an excellent editor and his notes were spot-on, complete with useful suggestions on how to fix things.

7.  That's great advise to try to get the second book written while the first one is on submission, especially when you are writing stand-alones. Are you still working as a teacher and researcher full-time? How has juggling your writing and day job been going?

Yes, I am. I can’t imagine quitting my “day job” and going full time with my writing at this point of my life. I worked pretty hard to get where I am now in my academic job, so it’d have to be a pretty compelling case for me to leave all that behind, especially considering how unstable the income from publishing is for most of writers who are just starting out. What helps though is that academic jobs, especially those research-focused like mine, can be quite flexible. I schedule my writing around my academic duties and usually it works out pretty well.  

8. I totally agree with you on the not quitting your job. Even though my writing is way slower due a day job, my job was always fulfilling and made my life so much more financially stable. When I interviewed you in 2018, you said that you did a lot of your book promotions through blog tours and giveaways on Twitter and Instagram. Is this still a big part of your marketing plan? Why?

OASIS was a very different experience for me in regards to publicity and promotion compared to WHAT THE WOODS KEEP. I’ve decided to organize a mini tour in the US to promote OASIS and have launched it in Books of Wonder in New York as well as in Once Upon a Time bookstore in Los Angeles. It was a wonderful experience and I’m so grateful to the booksellers, my fellow authors and my family who supported me as well as to my publisher and my wonderful publicist who was instrumental in setting up my US tour. I’ve also organized digital signings for OASIS via Good Choice Reading which was a great way to entice people to preorder the book as it’d then come signed, personalized and with a beautiful art print as a gift. I’m now back home and have four events lined up in Australia over the next two months, including a launch for OASIS in three cities. I’m coming back to the US in June for a family visit and am planning to do an author event in my local Barnes & Noble then.

In addition, with digital marketing for OASIS, similarly to WHAT THE WOODS KEEP I’ve only done what I like doing anyway. I worked with the wonderful team at The Nerd Daily to release an excerpt from OASIS and then I had a blog tour (organized by the publisher) and a few giveaways. I still have a few interviews and blog posts to write but everything I said yes to is exciting to me so it doesn’t feel like “work” to do this. Overall, though it’s difficult to talk about “return on investment” for things like tours and signings and blogging, the experience is great and I love doing it, which is what matters to me.

8. So interesting to see how you've handled marketing. What advice do you have for debut authors from your own experience?

Ask questions and be proactive. Ask to see your marketing plan, and if it warrants it, discuss with your publisher what you can do to supplement it - things like strategic giveaways as well as stock signings in your area. But don’t stress if you can’t do some or all of the promotional things you think you are supposed to be doing. Not everyone has the time or resources. Just write your next book then.

9. What are you working on now?

I’m working on my next YA – I’m still deciding what I want it to be though. I’ve also recently written a middle grade fantasy grounded in my own immigration experience, and I’m currently working with my agent on its revisions. I’m also looking at new ways to diversify my writing. For example, I’m planning on writing a historical fantasy as well as adult thrillers.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Katya. You can find Katya at Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @KatyaDeBecerra or at her blog https://katyabecerra.blogspot.com/

Katya has generously offered a hardback of OASIS 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 February 22nd. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either contest.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog or follow me on Twitter, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. The book giveaway is International.

Here's what's coming up:

Wednesday, February 12th I'm participating in the Love Is in the Air Giveaway Hop

Monday, February 24th I have an agent spotlight interview with agent Megan Manzano and a query critique giveaway 

Wednesday, March 4th I have a guest post by debut author EM Castellan and her agent Carrie Pestritto and a giveaway of IN THE SHADOW OF THE SUN, a YA historical fantasy, and a query critique giveaway

Monday, March 9 I have an interview with debut author Tanya Guerrero and a giveaway of her MG contemporary HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE SEA

Saturday, March 14 I am participating in the Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop 

Monday, March 16 I have an interview with author Beverly McClure and a giveaway of her YA contemporary GABE'S GUARDIAN ANGEL

Monday, March 18 I have an agent spotlight interview with Ann Rose and a query critique giveaway

Monday, March 25 I have an interview with debut author Alechia Dow  and giveaway of her YA sci-fi THE SOUND OF STARS

Hope to see you on Wednesday!


ADALYN GRACE INTERVIEW AND ALL THE STARS AND TEETH AND HILLARY JACOBSON AGENT QUERY CRITIQUE GIVEAWAY AND IWSG POST


Happy Wednesday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Adalyn Grace here today to share about her YA fantasy ALL THE STARTS AND TEETH. I was lucky to obtain an ARC and loved it. The world building is fantastic, and this is a fast-paced page turner.

FYI, In addition to offering an ARC for a giveaway, Adalyn’s agent, Hillary Jacobson, is offering a query critique. 

Before I get to my interview with Adalyn, I have my IWSG post. 

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!



Posting: The first Wednesday is officially Insecure Writer's Support Group Day.

The co-hosts this month are 
Lee Lowery, Ronel Janse van Vuuren, Jennifer Hawes, Cathrina Constantine, and Tyrean Martinson!


Optional Question: Has a single photo or work of art ever inspired a story?

No, though I can see how it could be inspiration. I did find a very weird button under strange conditions in my garden when we first bought this house where I've lived since. It's become an important part of the current fantasy I'm writing.

What about you? Where have you found inspiration?

Now onto my interview with Adalyn. Here’s a blurb of ALL THE STARS AND TEETH from Goodreads:

Set in a kingdom where danger lurks beneath the sea, mermaids seek vengeance with song, and magic is a choice, Adalyn Grace’s All the Stars and Teeth is a thrilling fantasy for fans of Stephanie Garber’s Caraval and Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass series.

She will reign.

As princess of the island kingdom Visidia, Amora Montara has spent her entire life training to be High Animancer—the master of souls. The rest of the realm can choose their magic, but for Amora, it’s never been a choice. To secure her place as heir to the throne, she must prove her mastery of the monarchy’s dangerous soul magic.

When her demonstration goes awry, Amora is forced to flee. She strikes a deal with Bastian, a mysterious pirate: he’ll help her prove she’s fit to rule, if she’ll help him reclaim his stolen magic.

Hi Adalyn! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

Thank you for having me! So I have a bit of a silly story about this. I always enjoyed writing in school, but it wasn’t until I was about eleven and discovered the roleplaying boards on Neopets that I really started to write for fun. My first stories on there were wolf roleplays, and I wrote about a female alpha wolf who killed her entire pack because of a curse, but was super misunderstood and wanted to start over. You know, super nice things. From there is moved onto vampires, then onto fantasy. I became obsessed with these roleplays. I had a group of 3 other girls around my same age, who lived all over the country, and somehow, we’d come together nearly every day to just write and write for hours. It wasn’t until a few years into those roleplays that I really recognized that writing could be a job. Twilight had just come out, and Stephenie Meyer was a local author in my town. The moment I went to one of her first Twilight book signings (they used to be so low key in the beginning!) and saw her signing books, I knew I wanted her job.

2. The role playing games are a cool way to get into writing. Where did you get the idea for your story?

The story really came first with Amora. This was the fourth book I’d written, but the process was so unlike any of the others! When I wrote the previous stories, I always felt like  I was forcing it, and writing always took me so much longer because of it. But when Amora popped into my head, I knew I had to write her story.

Writing her, I wanted to challenge the leniency male characters get throughout the media. They get away with so much more than female or non-binary characters, and I really wanted to examine that. I wanted to create a morally gray heroine who not only embraced her femininity, but who also embraces her moral grayness. Who embraces her desire for adventure, as much as her desire to date and court. Who wants to be in the thick of the action, and is unapologetic about what she wants.

From Amora, the rest of the story snapped into place. But it very much started with her. 

3. One of the things that I loved about ALL THE STARS AND TEETH was your world-building. It was unique and complicated with all the different islands in the realm. Share a bit about your world building process.

One of my main goals with the novel was to create a world that was entirely its own. I knew it was going to be a huge undertaking when I gave all of the seven islands their own magic system, but I wanted the world to feel really massive and fantastical, and like so many different things could happen within this world.

When writing fantasy, especially fantasy with magic, I always start pretty basic by just putting the magic on the page while drafting. In revisions is where I really let loose and grow, and there are a few elements I like to consider about the world and the magic, such as:

How can magic influence this setting? How does the setting influence the magic? How does the setting/magic influence outfits? Jobs? What people do? What they eat? In what ways would having magic in this setting be beneficial? What are some common and uncommon uses for this magic?

I love questions like this, because I feel like they can really help further develop the world I’m creating, and make it as distinctive as possible.  

4. I love those questions too. Amora is a flawed but strong, compelling character. Did her character come to you as a pretty developed character or did she grow over time as you worked on your manuscript?

I definitely knew who I wanted Amora to be from the very beginning. But only in writing her and learning
her story could I carve out why she’s who she is, and what she wants most. I definitely believe that you truly find out so much more about your world and character in editing, and that drafting is all about just getting the ideas on the page. So for me, she definitely grew over time, and is still growing in the sequel!


5. You also have worked in live theater and as an intern on Nickelodeon Animation’s series The Legend of Korra. Did this help you develop your storytelling abilities? How?

I think theater probably helped most in terms of staging! When writing characters, I’m usually able to see very clearly how they’re positioned in their surroundings, and what they might look like as they move. I’m not sure if this is fueled by my theater days, but it’s possible!

For Korra, I will always be incredibly grateful for my time there, and for the opportunity I had to study under such brilliant storytellers. I was only 18 when I went to Nickelodeon, and I think that having that opportunity at such a young age really helped to ignite my drive, and make me feel like anything was possible. Apart from that, it also helped me learn something very important about myself, which was that I could never feel fully satisfied working on someone else’s story, instead of working on my own. I think this was a very timely lesson for me, and more than anything about story or craft, this was the most important lesson I learned, and I’m so glad I was able to be honest with myself and use it as a drive to really push toward publishing. 

6. I saw on your website that were involved in Brenda Drake’s Pitch Wars and recommend writers who are querying participate. How did this help you and why do you recommend it to other writers?

I definitely recommend it, and think Pitch Wars is an incredible opportunity for querying writers to get mentorship from established authors! So many incredible books come out of Pitch Wars (Children of Blood and Bone, The Kiss Quotient, and Four Dead Queens among so many others), and so many writers end up finding their agents through this program. But Pitch Wars is about so much more than just finding an agent; it’s really about growing as a writer, and learning about the publishing industry. I did not get an agent through this program, or even with the manuscript I participated with. But what I did get is a wonderful community, brilliant critique partners, and the skills and knowledge I needed to move forward and write a stronger book.


7. The growing as a writer part of the pitch wars really appeals to me. Your agent is Hillary Jacobson. How did she become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

Hillary became my agent through good old fashioned cold querying! With the aforementioned Pitch Wars manuscript, I’d had probably around 100 rejections, had spent years writing the book, and probably spent another year and a half querying and editing. It was incredibly difficult to shelf that book, but doing so and learning how to fast draft were the two best moves I could have made for my career.

After I set that manuscript aside, I wrote what would later become my debut novel, All the Stars and Teeth, in about a month, spent another month editing, and then got querying! My query process with this book was drastically different with my previous, in that I had multiple offers within the first 24 hours of querying. It was absolutely bewildering, and a totally lucky and abnormal experience. Once I decided to work with Hillary, she and I worked on editing for about a month or two before she submitted it to editors, and found it the perfect home with Macmillan!

8. I need to learn how to write faster. How are you planning to promote your book? Why have you chosen this strategy?

As I’m traditionally published, a lot of this is actually determined by my publisher! We do have conversations (like what angle do you think might be a good one to promote, or what have you noticed people having the most reception to while reading). But ultimately, so much of this comes down to your publisher and their sales and marketing team! I can focus on smaller things like trying to grow my social media presence, share exciting news, or possibly even work on promotional material (like art), but when you’re traditionally published, your publisher mostly influences strategy.

 9. How have you grown your online presence since signing with your agent and getting your book deal? What advice to you have to other writers on growing their social media 
platform and using it during the year leading up to their book’s release to promote it?

I really think the best way to grow your online presence is to do it organically and naturally. If you hate being on a certain platform so much that you’re basically never on it and it feels like work, don’t use it! Focus on a platform you genuinely enjoy. From there, try to find people with the same interests and in the same stage of this process as you. For querying writers, you can find so many others in our same position on the #amwriting or #pitchwars hashtag. And when you post, you want to make sure it’s organic. No one likes when they get an automatic DM the moment they follow someone, spamming them with a book pitch and a sales link. Don’t do that! It feels so spammy and gross, and like you’re a robot instead of a real person.

Be authentic and find your people. But also take care of your mental health. If you find social media too stressful or depressing, remember that you don’t need it to be an author. 

10. What are you working on now?

I’m currently working on finishing up edits for the sequel of All the Stars and Teeth! There’s no set release date yet, but things are moving along well and I can’t wait to share more of Amora’s story!

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Adalyn. You can find Adalyn at:
Twitter:
https://twitter.com/AdalynGrace_

Adalyn generously is offering a hardback of ALL THE STARS AND TEETH and her agent Hillary Jacobson is offering a query critique 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 February 22nd.  If you do not want to be included in the critique giveaway, please let me know in the comments. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either contest.
If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog or follow me on Twitter, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. The book giveaway is U.S. and the query critique giveaways are International.

Here's what's coming up:

Monday, February 10th I have an interview with author Katya de Becerra and a giveaway of her YA fantasy Oasis

Monday, February 24th I have an agent spotlight interview with agent Megan Manzano and a query critique giveaway 

Wednesday, March 4th I have a guest post by debut author EM Castellan and her agent Carrie Pestritto and a giveaway of IN THE SHADOW OF THE SUN, a YA historical fantasy, and a query critique giveaway

Monday, March 9 I have an interview with debut author Tanya Guerrero and a giveaway of her MG contemporary HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE SEA

Saturday, March 14 I am participating in the Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop 

Monday, March 16 I have an interview with author Beverly McClure and a giveaway of her YA contemporary GABE'S GUARDIAN ANGEL

Monday, March 18 I have an agent spotlight interview with Ann Rose and a query critique giveaway

Monday, March 25 I have an interview with debut author Alechia Dow  and giveaway of her YA sci-fi THE SOUND OF STARS

Hope to see you on Monday!

KIM SMEJKAL INTERVIEW AND INK IN THE BLOOD GIVEAWAY


Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Kim Smejkal here to share about her YA fantasy INK IN THE BLOOD. It explores ink and tattoo magic, which sounds fascinating.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:


A lush, dark YA fantasy debut that weaves together tattoo magic, faith, and eccentric theater in a world where lies are currency and ink is a weapon, perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo and Kendare Blake.

Celia Sand and her best friend, Anya Burtoni, are inklings for the esteemed religion of Profeta. Using magic, they tattoo followers with beautiful images that represent the Divine’s will and guide the actions of the recipients. It’s considered a noble calling, but ten years into their servitude Celia and Anya know the truth: Profeta is built on lies, the tattooed orders strip away freedom, and the revered temple is actually a brutal, torturous prison.

Their opportunity to escape arrives with the Rabble Mob, a traveling theater troupe. Using their inkling abilities for performance instead of propaganda, Celia and Anya are content for the first time . . . until they realize who followed them. The Divine they never believed in is very real, very angry, and determined to use Celia, Anya, and the Rabble Mob’s now-infamous stage to spread her deceitful influence even further.

To protect their new family from the wrath of a malicious deity and the zealots who work in her name, Celia and Anya must unmask the biggest lie of all—Profeta itself.
 

Hi Kim! Thanks so much for joining us!

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

I’ve been a writer since I was a kid! That’s a dull answer, but it’s true. I’ve always been a reader, a writer, a poet. I stepped away for a while in my twenties to focus on my education and my kids, but I inevitably came back to it. Being a book nerd is just part of who I am.

2. Where did you get the idea for INK IN THE BLOOD?

The initial seed of inspiration came from a conversation I had with my father. He left Czechoslovakia in 1968, and told me that the worst part of living under a communist regime wasn't the lack of freedom, but the constant flow of lies from those in charge. I wondered, how big could one lie get? What would happen if people wanted to believe that lie over the truth? If one lie could become so powerful, what would it take to expose it? As I played around with those ideas, the antagonist in Ink in the Blood was born. Then from there, I added everything I loved: theater, masks, tattoos, a fierce friendship, and of course, MAGIC.

3. What a great way to get a story idea. I love your magical system, which is based in part on ink and tattoo magic. What was your world building process like?

My world-building process included a lot of experimentation! It always made sense in my head, but I had a lot of back-and-forth conversations with critique partners, my agent, and my editor to make sure what was in my head translated to the page. I have a huge document with rules, examples, and information that I updated constantly, and now it serves as an INK encyclopedia. Much of my revision process was answering questions like Why? and How? and even though it was a process, I think it worked out really well in the end!

4. That sounds like a good way to tackle world building. You have a content warning on your website where you warn that your story contains violence, torture, blood, violence against children, and other difficult issues. How did you balance the need to tell a story that is violent and addresses other hard issues with the fact that you are writing in part to a young adult audience?

I’m always cognizant of my audience, and I make sure that I stay far away any gratuitous violence.
Every difficult scene serves a thematic purpose. That said, I don’t believe in censoring tough topics from children and young adults. I think young people are good about censoring themselves, and generally only read what they’re comfortable with. With Ink in the Blood, I made sure to introduce the world authentically right from the beginning. The fact that it's a dark book is obvious from chapter one, and this gives readers the opportunity to close it and put it aside if they feel it might be too much for them.

5. Celia, Anya, and the other characters have been described as complex, well-developed characters. Character development is difficult for many writers. What are your secrets for creating memorable ones in your story?

I’m thrilled people are reacting so strongly and warmly to Celia, Anya, the plague doctor, and the other characters. For me, every story begins with the characters. I imagine fully realized people and—very importantly—how they relate to one another. I was a social worker for many years and empathy might be my superpower? I think that in order to create complex characters, a writer needs to be able to put themselves in their characters shoes and show authentic needs, wants, and behaviors. That’s really my only secret!

6. It's a great secret. Thanks for sharing it. Dan Lazar is your agent. How did he become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

My road to publication is a long story, involving many manuscripts, many queries (and so many rejections!), many contests I didn't get anywhere in, an agent I parted ways with, and a two-year sanity hiatus where I stepped away from trying to be traditionally published altogether. It was rough. With INK though, I knew I had something special. When I began querying Ink, I submitted to Dan because I’d always submitted to Dan in the past. It had become a bit of a joke between my writer friends and I that I wasn’t truly querying until I got my lightning-fast rejection from Daniel Lazar. :D But then he took my by surprise and requested the full, loved it, and after his offer of representation came other offers. After about 8 years of writing/querying/repeat, no one was more surprised that I was about how quickly things came together in the end! He was able to sell INK super quick and I’m so grateful he’s by my side on this journey.

7. I love your road to publication story. How are you planning to promote your book? Are your plans different because you live in Canada and your book is being published in the United States?

It is really difficult to be in another country, and on an island at that! The expenses of travel means options for conferences, conventions, and signings are limited. Sending swag and arcs through the mail is that much more expensive, and that’s the main reason I didn't do a preorder campaign. I do have a wonderful Canadian distributor, Raincoast Books, and they've been great at finding me opportunities for promotion in Canada though, so that's a win!

8. How have you been building your social network platforms and connecting to other writers, authors, and readers? What advice do you have for those who don’t have a publishing contract yet?

Well, like I said above, I was deep in the querying trenches with other projects for years, and I was lucky enough to meet some brilliant writers, cheerleaders, and critique partners along the way. Many of the same people I connected with years ago are still some of my best friends. Twitter, Instagram, and mentoring opportunities like Author Mentor Match and Pitch Wars are excellent ways to find people at the same stage as you. My own experience taught me that the biggest key to any kind of success is perseverance, and it helps to have people cheering for you and supporting you on what can often be a long road.

9. What are you working on now?

I’m currently putting the finishing touches on the sequel to Ink in the Blood! CURSE OF THE DIVINE is set to release in early 2021, and I’m excited for people to read the continuation of the inklings’ story. After that, I have an older fantasy project I’m excited to revisit, as well as a new story idea I can't wait to draft. Too many projects, not enough time, which is relatable for many writers, I’m sure!
  
Thanks for sharing all your advice, Kim. You can find Kim at

 Kim has generously offered an ARC of INK IN THE BLOOD 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 February 8th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either contest.


If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog or follow me on Twitter, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. This giveaway is U.S. and Canada.

Here's what's coming up:

Wednesday, February 5th I have an interview with debut author Adalyn Grace with a giveaway of her YA fantasy All the Stars and Teeth and a query critique by her agent Hillary Jacobson and my IWSG Post

Monday, February 10th I have an interview with author Katya de Becerra and a giveaway of her YA fantasy Oasis

Monday, February 24th I have an agent spotlight interview with agent Megan Manzano and a query critique giveaway 

Hope to see you on Wednesday, February 5th!