Category Archives: author interviews

Author Chat: Celine Jeanjean on Sequels

Hi, everyone! Today it’s my pleasure to host a guest author on the blog. If you’ve been hanging around here, or if you follow me on Instagram, you probably know how much I enjoyed The Bloodless Assassin (formerly titled The Viper and the Urchin) by Celine Jeanjean. The sequel, The Black Orchid, is currently available for pre-order and releases tomorrow, so it seemed like a great time to chat with Celine about the unique challenges presented by sequels.

(Cover art by the excessively talented Ravven)

Writing your first book is hard. The next is another beast entirely.

This post is an edited transcript of our recent chat. As interesting as our tangents about cover art (what is with all of the beheaded hot dudes and drowning chicks, anyway?), reacting to reviews, our dogs, and the current state of publishing were, we’ll try to keep this post on topic. 🙂

KS: So, Celine, would you like to give us a quick introduction to what your books are about?

CJ: Sure! The series follows Longinus (the Viper) and Rory (the urchin). Longinus is a pedantic assassin with an inconvenient blood phobia. Rory’s an urchin girl with big dreams of becoming a famous swordswoman. They meet when Rory saves Longinus during an assassination gone wrong and then blackmails him so he’ll teach her swordfighting. It’s pretty much irritation at first sight for them both. They argue, they get on each other’s nerves, and ultimately become very close in a very platonic way.

The books are both fun action capers, they’re a mix of steampunk, non-magic fantasy (in that they take place in another world than ours) and there’s quite a bit of humour. And then each story has a darker mystery running throughout, where Rory and Longinus find themselves fighting to save the city.

KS: And now it’s sequel time.When did you start working on The Black Orchid? Was that something you had drafted before The Bloodless Assassin came out? Did you have an idea of what you wanted to do?

CJ: I had a completely blank slate after Bloodless Assassin was finished. I always wanted each book to work as a standalone, so I had no particular idea of what would happen next, other than Rory and Longinus would get into some trouble together. Likewise, I didn’t get the idea for book 3 until I was nearly done with The Black Orchid. There’s a bit of an emotional thread running throughout the books, in that the characters grow and change over time, but that’s as much as I know before I start writing a story. Although I think I might know the overall story for book 4 already. That might change as I write book 3, mind you. One thing’s for sure, I have so much fun creating new cities that I think Rory and Longinus will do a lot of travelling as the series develops!

KS: And you gave us a fantastic glimpse of that worldbuilding on your blog not long ago. I can’t wait to see what locations you create next! I find your series process interesting. And it strikes me as brave, because I would totally freak out if I didn’t have some idea what was going to happen next. I drafted Torn before Bound’s release, and Sworn before Torn’s release.

CJ: Yours is a continuous story whereas mine are separate stories with a common thread. I imagine if I wrote something like Bound, I’d plan out the whole thing first.

KS: I really had only a vague idea how the larger story would end when I released Bound. I’m glad I did things the way I did for the series, being able to plant seeds in earlier books that would sprout later, but leaving lots of room for exploration. Each book was a really unique experience for me. Did you find you faced different challenges in writing this book compared to what you dealt with for book one?

CJ: Yes absolutely. One of the challenges I found was dealing with the Worst Case Scenario of writing each book. When I was writing Bloodless Assassin, I kept picturing the worst thing that could happen: that nobody read the book (or that a handful of people read it and left 1 star reviews – I could never decide which was worse). But then I told myself that if that happened, then nobody would actually know about my book, so I could quietly retire it and start again from scratch. That made it less scary because I could see how I’d pick myself up if I failed, so most of the time I was just having fun with Bloodless Assassin.

With Black Orchid, I have readers now, and those readers have expectations. Which is a wonderful thing, of course, and I’m incredibly grateful, but I’ve found that this time my Worst Case Scenario is much harder to ignore: the idea of people who loved Bloodless Assassin reading Black Orchid and putting it aside, disappointed. I found myself second guessing what I wrote a lot more. Writing a book 1 in a series is far more freeing because there’s zero expectations, so you can literally just have fun with it. With book 2 there’s definitely a whole lot more pressure. Thankfully I did manage to set it aside most of the time so I’m not quite a basket-case yet.

And then from a more ‘technical’ standpoint, I found that with a sequel you have more of a balance to tread. You want to have the stuff people seemed to love in book 1 but at the same time make book 2 a unique thing that’s not just a rehashing of book 1 (I’m looking at you, bad Hollywood sequels). And part of that for me was trying to make sure there was as much of a sense of discovery in terms of the setting in Black Orchid as there was in Bloodless Assassin, despite it taking place in the same city.

KS: I think we may be kindred spirits. We have the same worries/paranoias. ^_^

CJ: Did you find publishing book 2 harder than book 1?

KS: I think the hardest thing about writing the middle book in a trilogy was making it its own story. None of them are intended as standalones, but each book needed a complete story arc and a definite challenge for each character to overcome, and Torn had to bridge the gap between the beginning and the series climax.

Do you have any advice for authors embarking on the sequel experience?

CJ: I think for sequel writing, the most important thing is keeping reader voices out of your head – even if it’s very positive stuff. One thing I fell prey to while writing Black Orchid was at some point consciously trying to please readers. I wrote this whole (rather large bit) which was totally created on the back of some very nice reader comments — because I really wanted to give them more of the stuff they’d liked. And it was totally wrong for the story and I had to cut it all out. That’s not to say it was worthless, it might even be transformed into a little side novella, but I realised how important it is not to let people into your head as you’re writing.

KS: That’s good advice! I think that was one place where having a definite idea of where my trilogy/story was going helped me. People wanted certain things to happen, and I already knew “no, that’s not going to be a thing,” or “I think this person will be happy about where this goes.”

CJ: Yes, that would really help. Probably a big advantage of trilogies over standalones
Did you know how the whole thing was going to end by the way, from the start?

KS: I knew a few big things, but not exactly how they would happen or how everyone would get there. I’m glad I knew the things I did so I could get those ideas started in earlier books and build to them rather than throwing concepts in at the last minute, but I’m also glad I got to explore and be surprised.

To wrap up:  What do you think makes a strong sequel? You mentioned bad movie sequels. How do you avoid that?

CJ: For me a bad sequel is a sequel written for the wrong reasons. Bad Hollywood sequels for me stink of business men rubbing their hands at how much money they’ll be able to make from it. A sequel has to be written with as much artistic integrity as the first book, and if the story was done at book 1, then it needs to stay done at book 1.

KS: Thanks so much for taking time to chat with me about sequels! I think we’ll need to do this again some time. Unleash all of our ideas on all of those other topics on the world. 🙂

CJ: Thank you so much for having me, this was fun! We should definitely do it again, if only to cover some of our many, many tangents! 😉

Here’s the link to The Bloodless Assassin (which you should all definitely check out–one of my favourite indie books from the past few years), and to the sequel, The Black Orchid. You can find Celine here at her site.

Thanks for joining us!

-K


Check This Out: Bound

The lovely L Marie asked me some fantastic questions about Bound, and she’s giving away two e-book copies! Get thee to her blog!

El Space--The Blog of L. Marie

Thanks for dropping by. Today on the blog is the awesome and effervescent Kate Sparkes, blogger extraordinaire, dragon enthusiast, and the author of Bound, which was featured here as a cover reveal. Bound, the first book of a trilogy, was released on June 26. Huzzah! (Click on the cover reveal link if you’d like to read a synopsis of Bound.) To celebrate the release, I’m hosting a giveaway of this very book, which I’ll discuss after I finish talking to Kate. So grab a beverage of choice and make yourself comfortable.

     sparkes_profile bound_promo

El Space: Four quick facts about yourself?
Kate: (1) I won a writing award in kindergarten for the story, “Ons eponatim ser wsa hws wsa trebesidit.” (That was the whole story. It was accompanied by a lovely painting.) (2) I firmly believe that one can never own too many beautiful socks. My…

View original post 1,034 more words


Spotlight on Kate Sparkes

Joanne Guidoccio hosted me on her blog this morning, where I shared a few thoughts on my journey as I wrote and published “Bound.” Also, she spelled my name right, so she gets bonus points!

Thanks for having me, Joanne!

Joanne Guidoccio

For over a year, I have followed Kate’s blog and enjoyed her delightful take on the long and winding road to publication. Today, Kate is sharing more of that journey and celebrating the release of her debut novel, Bound.

Here’s Kate!

sparkes profile (2)It’s quiet here tonight. The kids are yelling outside, but in here… silence. The book is published. No more scurrying around, making last-minute changes. No more worrying about whether it’s going to be ready in time. Just me, a cat, a cup of tea, and room to breathe.

It feels very different from my life when I started writing this book. That was three and a half years ago– November 2010. Back then the kids were smaller, and always under-foot (or on lap, if I wanted to write). We lived in another province. I knew I wanted to be a writer, but had never actually finished a book. My…

View original post 510 more words


Character Interview: Emergence

KL (Kathi) Schwengel, author of the Darkness and Light series, recently presented me with a most unusual proposition. An offer I couldn’t refuse, really. I mean, how many beta readers not only get to have characters from the book visit them, but get to be interviewed by them? I’m a little nervous about having Bolin over; I may have made some comments in my beta reading notes that weren’t exactly flattering. But hey, that should be fine, right? He has no idea. At least Donovan’s not coming, which is good. He’s quite a nasty bad guy. Oh, and Kathi promised to bring Berk, who’s a new character in Emergence who I kind of… well, he’s adorable. And I’ve admired Ciara since First of Her Kind, so–

*knock at the door*

Eek! Oh, and for anyone not familiar with the conventions, asterisks like those up there denote actions, everything else is speech.

*Kathi enters the room beside Ciara, followed by Bolin with Berk trailing behind. Kate welcomes them warmly, taking Berk by the arm and guiding him to a seat beside her on the settee. Kathi and Ciara claim chairs on the opposite side of the low coffee table. Bolin stands beside Ciara, one hand resting lightly on her shoulder, the other on his sword, finger tapping the pommel. His eyes narrow on Kate, and Berk shifts uncomfortably.*

Kathi: Hi Kate, I’m so glad you agreed to let us stop by. Thanks again for taking the time to Beta read Emergence. I really apprec–

Bolin: I read your comments.

*Kathi sighs. Kate opens her mouth to reply–*

Bolin: It seems you’ve lumped me into the same general category as Donovan. I’d be insulted if it weren’t so ludicrous. Is there something in particular I did to earn your ire?

Kate: *glares at Kathi* It’s not you. It’s me. I mean, it is you, but I… Some of your attitudes seem to… *eyes Bolin’s sword and shifts closer to Berk* You’re growing on me. Really.

Ciara: You have to understand, Bolin is under a lot of pressure. *glances Kathi’s way* It’s really not his fault.

Berk: *grins, flashing those adorable dimples, and leans closer to Kate* I read your comments, too.

Bolin: Did anyone ask for your input, soldier?

Kathi: Ease up, General. We’re all here to ask Kate about her experience Beta reading Emergence. This isn’t an episode of the Dating Game. *ignores Bolin’s scowl* So, Ciara, let’s start with you. What would you like to ask Kate?

Ciara: What would you say was the hardest thing about…*waves hand in the air* What’s it called? Bayduh reading?

Kate: *tears gaze away from Berk’s dimples* I think the hardest thing for me is always finding a balance between enjoying an amazing story and acting as a critic. In this case, there were times when I was able to find constructive things to say, but I held back a bit, knowing that a lot of the things I wasn’t comfortable with were just because my world tends to be a bit less dark than yours. I fall in love with these characters and then see them– you– go through horrible things, I get caught up in the story and still have to be critical of what’s working or not for me as a reader…

Actually, that’s a lie. The hardest thing is sending notes off and then living in fear of Kathi’s flying monkeys paying me a visit in the middle of the night. All that other stuff was second-hardest.

Anybody want another drink? It’s getting uncomfortable in here. I mean, warm.

Kathi: We don’t want to put you to any trouble, Kate. Berk, do you have a question you’d like to ask?

Berk: I’d love to. Was there anything that surprised you when you read our tale? Something–or someone–who caught you off-guard?

 Kate: Well, since you mention someone, I’d say that yes, I was caught off-guard several times. Without spoiling anything for readers, I wasn’t expecting Bolin to have any competition for Ciara’s affections.

Kathi: Crap! Kate, don’t–  * Ciara blushes. Bolin’s knuckles whiten around his sword grip.*

Kate: Especially such charming competition. *Berk tries his best not to look at anything, especially Bolin.* Usually in a situation like that, it’s fairly obvious that one guy is THE ONE TRUE LOVE and the other is a distraction. Not so, here. I actually had no idea how this was going to end. Ciara’s a lucky lady.

But not just that. I also wasn’t expecting to see the villain roster fill out so much, which was a very pleasant surprise. Instead of just continuing with one Big Bad Guy (and one terrifying hag), we got a whole lot of bad coming from a few different directions. Not much fun for all of you, I imagine, but it made for compelling reading.

Kathi: Well, Kate, I think we’ve taken up quite a bit of your time. *glances Bolin’s way* Um, before we go, are there any questions you have for me, or any of the others?

Bolin: I don’t get to ask her a question?

Kathi: I believe you already did. It’s Kate’s turn.

 Kate: I’m actually curious about Bolin’s question… unless “ask her a question” is a euphemism for “stab her repeatedly,” in which case we’ll just move along.

Bolin: I would never raise my hand to a lady. Nor would I stab you repeatedly. One clean thrust is all that’s needed.

Ciara: Bolin!

Kate: Um. Yeah. Oh, so many questions! I don’t want to spoil anything for future readers, though. I guess my question for Berk would be “do you want to hang out here for a while,” but I’m expecting my own characters back soon, and that could get weird.

Male voice from another room: It’s only weird if you let it be weird!

Kate: Oops…

Berk: I’m not sure what ‘hanging out’ is, but I wouldn’t mind–

Kathi: Probably not a good idea, Berk. We don’t want to start any inter-novel squabbles or anything.

Kate: *sigh* Well, this has been fun, and I’ve enjoyed meeting all of you. You know, I think I’m actually going to let my questions rest for now, wait and see what happens as the story continues. Also, I think any question I ask is only going to piss Bolin off more, so… actually, one question for Bolin. Can we call a truce here? I know we’ve had our differences, but I do respect you as a character, even if you occasionally rub me the wrong way. *winces* Can I say that and not have you hurt me?

Bolin: *tips head politely* It has been a pleasure, lady. I look forward to our next visit. *offers Ciara a hand*

Ciara: Fare well, Kate. I hope we meet again. And good luck with your adventures. I’ve heard they’re very exciting.

*Bolin holds door for Ciara and Kathi, glances Berk’s way.*

Berk: I am, technically, off duty. Are you sure I couldn’t stay for–

*Bolin raises a brow, Berk frowns and leaves the room.*

Kathi: Thanks for putting up with us, Kate. And huge thanks for being such an awesome Beta reader. Now, shouldn’t you be writing or editing or something?

Kate: Yeah, yeah.

Male voice from another room: Make it “or something!”

Kate: *yells* You have no idea what you’re in for when I get back to writing, mister! *to Kathi* Merfolk, am I right? Wow, thanks for bringing your people by. I must be the luckiest  beta reader ever!

Kathi: *pauses at door, glances toward the other room, bites her lip.* Um…tell you what, why don’t you all go on without me. I think I’ll stay and visit with Kate for a while. See you back in the dungeon! *waves and quickly closes door* Now, who’s all in the other room?

Annnnnnd… scene.

If you enjoyed this and would like to get to know these characters better, check out First of Her Kind and Emergence, available in ALL THE PLACES! Click here for links.

Thanks to Kathi for bringing her characters by, and for leaving the monkeys at home. It was fun! Weird, but fun. 😉

coverreveal


Anastasia Writes

politics, engineering, parenting, relevant things over coffee.

The Writer Within

Inside the world of author AnnMarie Wyncoll

Beth Camp

Writer of historical fiction and teller of tales . . .

rogerbloomsfield

An Aspiring Author's Adventure

Are You Finished Yet?

Life, writing, books, dragons- not necessarily in that order. Home of USA Today bestselling Fantasy author Kate Sparkes.

life, love writing

Heartwarming, Authentic, Inspirational Contemporary Christian romance

Allie Potts Writes

Author, Blogger, Designer - Inventor of Worlds

Ultimately Useless Stories

If I don't write to empty my mind, I go mad. ~Lord Byron

The Wordy Rose

"Either write something worth reading, or do something worth writing." - Benjamin Franklin

Shan Jeniah's Lovely Chaos

Finding Yessings and Blessings in Lifes Messings!

Little Rittwolf's Book Blog

I thought having my own blog would help me....Squirrel!....stay more focused. I could be wrong.

The Sword of Air

Stunning new multitouch iBook by breakthrough author R.J Madigan

Doorway Between Worlds

Communication tips with a creative twist

CHOUETT

Read it! 📖 Spark it! ✨

Benjamin Wallace Books

Books written by Benjamin Wallace

Denise D. Young

Wild Magic. Wild Stories. Wild Souls.

chestnut book blog

Read. Recommend. Revel.

B E L I E V E 🦋Life is Never Fair

I gather strength from life’s storms -Jonathan L Huie

inkedrainbowreads.wordpress.com/

LGBT Book Reviews, Cover Reveals & More! We are a group designed to help promote and review LGBT et al books. We were created out of seeing a need and wanted to have that need filled. We pride ourseles of having opinionated reviews that are unique and helpful to the author. Welcome to a world of the best LGBT et al books out there!

Dionne Lister - Author

I love sharing my stories but I wish they wouldn't keep me awake at night

Avid Reviews

Fantasy and Sci-Fi Reviews For Both Self-Published and Traditionally Published Books

Author Jen Wylie's Blog

Welcome to my mind... Blog for fantasty author Jen Wylie

J.R. RASMUSSEN

new epic fantasy for old-school fans