I can’t believe it’s time for another blog post! Thinking I’d shake things up a bit, I wanted to have one of my good friends, Brea Essex, share her writing journey. She recently had her debut novel, Foreshadow, published by Astraea Press. Below are her answers to my interview questions. Enjoy!
- Tell us a bit about yourself—what’s your background and how did you become a writer?
I wrote a lot as a child and a teenager, but didn’t finish much. My first taste of “fame” was in fifth grade. I wrote a short story and my teacher put it in our class “library” for my classmates to check out. It was about Nancy Drew being murdered and the ensuing investigation. Looking back on it, I’m surprised the teacher didn’t call my father.
By the time I got out of high school, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I didn’t think I could actually make it as an author. I studied to be a medical assistant, but ended up not liking it. Most of the doctors I worked for and the patients we saw were great, but the job was too stressful for me. So, I started writing again.
- What is the genre in which you write?
I mostly write YA (young adult) paranormal. I’m working on an epic fantasy series and a historical novel as well.
- What is the book you recently published? What is it all about?
“Foreshadow”, book one of The Shadow Imperium series, came out in December of 2011. It’s about a sixteen year old girl named Raena whose mother dies. She has to go live with her mother’s best friend and her family. Craziness ensues. Here’s the blurb:
Imagine discovering that your boyfriend was out to kill you—and that the annoying boy from school was your guardian angel.
Rae Davenport has already lost her mother. The only thing keeping her sane is her new boyfriend, Andrei—that is, until she finds out that he wants to kill her. Andrei is a devil, and he wants to use Rae as a sacrifice to get back into Heaven. The only one who can save her is Logan, her guardian angel. He’s only annoyed her in the past, but now he will be her savior.
- Have you published or written any other works?
“Foreshadow” is currently my only published work. I’m finishing up the sequel, “Overshadow”. I’m also working on a myriad of other projects.
- Name your top three favorite characters you’ve made up and explain why they’re your favorites.
Number one favorite would have to be Father Matthias, the Catholic priest in the Shadow Imperium series. He comes across as a bit crazy (and yes, that was intentional). Let’s just say he’s not all he seems. He’s been really fun to write.
Second…I’d have to say Ty from another series I’m working on called The Zayin Chronicles. One of my beta readers called him “wonderfully creepy”. It’s interesting to write such an odd character.
Third, I’d say Declan from a stand-alone novel I’m working on, which is tentatively titled “Ravenside”. He’s Scottish, and it’s really fun writing in an accent—it’s also really hard.
- Do you ever get writer’s block? If so, how do you deal with it?
According to Alyson Noel, the best way to get past writer’s block is by refusing to believe in it. Trust me, it’s easier said than done. Writer’s block sucks, plain and simple. I’m still trying to learn to deal with it. The best things I’ve found is to listen to music. I have playlists for each series/novel. Some write better to classical music. Sometimes instead of music, I’ll put on a movie that I’ve seen a ton of times. That way, I have background noise without distractions. I’ve also found that writing in sprints helps. I’ll time myself for fifteen or thirty minutes, see how much I can write, and then take a short break. I’ll often do “word wars” with other authors. We all sprint for the same amount of time and see who writes the most.
- How long did it take to finish your first novel?
Writing-wise, about a year. It took me another year to get a publishing contract, edit, and have it published. It was almost exactly two years from when I first put pen to paper (or rather, fingers to keyboard) until it released.
- What were the challenges you faced when getting your first book published?
I had a really hard time getting it long enough. Editing was a nightmare, as was writing the dreaded query letter. I couldn’t get anyone to look at it for a long time. I got rejection after rejection. A lot of the places I sent it to never responded at all. I finally found my publisher, Astraea Press, after about seven months of querying.
- How do you market your work? What avenues have you found that work best for your genre?
I market it in any way I can possibly think of: Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, blogging. Writing involves a lot of promotion. I spend a lot of time on social media, as well as looking for places to do guest posts and interviews. It’s a learning process, something I hope to improve on.
- What does your writing process “look” like?
Honestly, it can get messy. Oh, I attempt to outline, but those usually come out with about five or six points on them. More often than not, I take several pages of notes, and then write the scenes as they come to me. With one series I’m working on, I literally wrote down everything I might like to see in a book series and ran with it. I usually write very out of order. I write the major scenes, then go back and fill in the gaps.
- What projects are you currently working on?
I’m finishing up “Overshadow”, the sequel to “Foreshadow”. I’m also working on “Ouroboros”, book one of The Zayin Chronicles. There are some others I’m working on, but these two are my main focus.
- What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
I haven’t gotten too bad of criticism yet (if I have, I must have blocked it out!). I have gotten a few nasty comments. One person told me that “Foreshadow” was Satanic because it was paranormal. I found that funny, since it’s about angels. I also had one really mean review. These things happen, I guess.
The best compliment…that’s hard to choose. One recent reviewer said that “Foreshadow” is now at the top of her “favorite angel books” list. I’ve had quite a few people tell me how much they love Logan (I do too). One of my favorite comments I’ve gotten is that “Raena is the anti-Bella”. Now, I’m not trying to bash Twilight. I’m just not a big Bella fan. So, naturally I thought this comment was amazing.
- What advice can you give to aspiring authors?
Stick with it. I can’t help but think how much further I might be if I hadn’t listened to people tell me I had to get a “real job”, or that I’d never make it as an author. Find what works for you, writing-wise. If it’s spending hours outlining, and writing in complete silence, go for it. If you’re like me, and just take tons of notes, then write to music or “Prince Caspian” (yes, the Narnia movie), do it. No one has the same writing process, and finding yours is key.
- When can we expect to see another publication of your work?
Hopefully, later this year. I’m hoping to finish “Overshadow” and submit it to my publisher this month. I’m working on a couple of things I might self-publish. Those may be out sooner.
- Is there anything you’d like to say to your fans and readers?
I want to thank everyone who’s supported me, either by buying “Foreshadow”, or reviewing it, or just encouraging me. If you’re hearing of me for the first time, thank you for reading this long, rambling interview of mine. I’m a little long-winded. I’m Italian. I talk a lot. I can’t help it.
- What’s a cool (or nerdy) fact about you that you’ll share with us?
Hmmm…sadly, I’m not very cool. I guess the “coolest” fact about me is that I’m actually descended from nobility. My great-great-(add a few more “greats”) grandfather was the Duke of Caithness, Scotland. You’ll see a lot of information about Caithness—or “Caitnes”, as they call it in Scotland—in my upcoming book “Ravenside”.
Would you like to know more about Brea, connect with her, and buy her book? Here’s where to find her and Foreshadow:
Buy her book:
Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/t39319
Astraea Press: http://bit.ly/xXv80w