September SST: A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess Interview + Giveaway

Sunday Street Team

 

Welcome to the Sunday Street Team! I was lucky enough to interview Jessica Cluess about the first book, A Shadow Bright and Burning, in a new trilogy of hers. See below for her answers, plus a giveaway.

 

A Shadow Bright and BurningTitle: A Shadow Bright and Burning
Author: 
Jessica Cluess
Publisher:
Random House Books for Young Readers
Publication date:
September 20, 2016
Summary (via Goodreads): I am Henrietta Howel. The first female sorcerer. The prophesied one. Or am I?

 

Henrietta Howel can burst into flames. When she’s brought to London to train with Her Majesty’s sorcerers, she meets her fellow sorcerer trainees, young men eager to test her powers and her heart. One will challenge her. One will fight for her. One will betray her. As Henrietta discovers the secrets hiding behind the glamour of sorcerer life, she begins to doubt that she’s the true prophesied one. With battle looming, how much will she risk to save the city—and the one she loves?

 


 

interview

 

Was there anything specific in your life that made you want to write?

The recession of 2008, actually. I know that’s not the most romantic story in the world, but it’s the truth! I was barely making ends meet, and I really had no idea what was going to happen to me. So, feeling glum, I picked up Dune by Frank Herbert and got instantly whisked away to another world. I thought ‘I need to write stories that make other people feel this way.’ So I got to work, and I haven’t stopped since.

 

What’s your favorite color?

Red. I’m a Gryffindor, it’s expected.

 

If you were on a deserted island, what’s one book that you’d want to have with you?

Is there a How To Survive On A Deserted Island For Dummies? Because then definitely that one.

 

Did you have a playlist that you listened to while writing A Shadow Bright and Burning, or are you a ‘write in the quiet’ type of person?

I’m a ‘listen to the same song over and over while staring at a blank wall and thinking, then shutting off the music to write’ type of person. But I listened to everyone from Florence + The Machine and Janelle Monae to Bach and Stephen Sondheim to music from video games and the theme song from Outlander for like ten hours straight. I believe music is to writers the way food is to pregnant women: it may be a combination of something you’d never eat or listen to normally, but when you’re creating, it suddenly becomes the only thing you want.

 

Do you know how many books are going to be in the Kingdom on Fire series?

Three. I know exactly what happens in the epilogue of the final book. When I write it, I’m going to be pretty emotional.

 

If you could have any job in the world, what would you choose and why?

Besides this one? Because it’s pretty sweet. Well, when I was a kid, I wanted to be an FBI agent. Then, when I realized that didn’t involve hunting for aliens or interviewing cannibals, I changed my goals.

 

Do you have any advice for writers looking to be published?

I think the biggest thing is persistence. My first book that I queried died a horrible death—no one would touch it. If I’d stopped there, I wouldn’t be where I am right now. So even after the worst rejection of your life, remember that an acceptance could literally be right around the corner.

 

Chocolate or vanilla?

Oof. Chocolate, I suppose. Although sometimes a vanilla milkshake is perfection.

 

What are some of your hobbies?

Honestly, writing used to be my hobby, so I need to get some more. Let’s see. I love hiking. If I could, I’d hike every day, always in the early morning. Watching terrible movies with my friends and shouting at the screen is always fun. Maybe I should take up knitting.

 

Are you considering writing in other genres, like contemporary for example?

I’m a fantasy writer at heart. For me, it’s the genre that allows a lot of fantastic worldbuilding with really intense emotion, two things that I love. I would love to write a detective series one day, but it would probably end up with something supernatural going on. I can’t stay away.

 


 

about the author

 

JESSICA CLUESS is a writer, a graduate of Northwestern University, and an unapologetic nerd. After college, she moved to Los Angeles, where she served coffee to the rich and famous while working on her first novel. When she’s not writing books, she’s an instructor at Writopia Lab, helping kids and teens tell their own stories.

 


 

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April SST: The Island by S. Usher Evans Interview + Giveaway

Sunday Street Team

 

Welcome to the Sunday Street Team! I was lucky enough to interview S. Usher Evans about the first book, The Island, in a brand new trilogy of hers. See below for her answers, plus a giveaway.

 

The IslandTitle: The Island
Author:  
S. Usher Evans
Publisher:
Sun’s Golden Ray Publishing
Publication date:
April 26, 2016
Summary (via Goodreads): Prince Galian is third in line to the throne, but prefers his place as a resident at the Royal Kylaen Hospital. When his father urges him to join the military to help reclaim their colony, Galian is forced to put aside his oath to Do No Harm and fight a war he does not believe in.

 

Across the great Madion Sea, Captain Theo Kallistrate dreams of a day when she is no longer bound by conscription to fight for her country’s independence. But when the Kylaens threaten, honor and duty call her to the front lines to fight off the oppressors.

 

When an air skirmish goes wrong, both Theo and Galian crash on a remote island hundreds of miles from either nation. Grievously injured, Theo must rely on Galian’s medical expertise, and Galian must rely on Theo’s survival skills, to live another day in a harsh and unforgiving terrain.

 

Can they put aside their differences long enough to survive? Or will the war that brought them to the island tear them apart?

 


 

interview

 

What’s your favorite color?

It changes with my mood! Recently, I’m into Gray+Yellow, Purple, Blue, and Green. I painted my whole house gray and I just lerve it.

 

Was there anything specific in your life that made you want to write?

About two years ago, I went through a quarter-life-crisis. I was emerging from a six-month depression after a bad breakup (you can read more about it in my book Empath) and I decided to do something for myself. I had a book that was 90% ready-to-go that had been sitting on the back-burner because “writing was silly.” I decided to publish it on my 27th birthday, June 12th.  

 

Along the way, I realized that “hey, I’m not half bad at this.” Then I began to ask myself, “What if I did this for real? As a job?” Once I let go of the fear holding me back, I began to make preparations. Eighteen months (and six published books) later, I’m living back in my hometown and writing full-time.

 

Is there anything on your bucket list that you want to do soon?

I would love to take a writing-cation to Ireland or go back to Spain.

 

If you were on a deserted island, what’s one book that you’d want to have with you?

A notebook with unlimited paper and a pen with unlimited ink. I’d be so productive without Twitter…

 

Have you started working on book two in the Madion War Trilogy? Do you know how many books are going to be in this series?

Oh yeah! I wrapped up the second book in January, right now it’s in line edits. Pre-orders should go live this month, and it’s coming out July 16th. It’s a trilogy, so the last book is coming your way February 14th, 2017.

 

Did you have a playlist that you listened to while writing The Island?

Oh yeah, each book has a playlist. Since Madion is a dual-POV book, I had a bunch of duets. My favorites were You+Me, Sweeplings, and the Civil Wars. Also, there’s this AMAZING cover/mash-up by Louisa Wendorff of T-Swiftie’s BlankSpace and Style.

 

If you could have any job in the world, what would you choose and why?

This job, writing books, is my dream job. Wouldn’t trade it for anything in the universe.

 

Do you have any advice for writers looking to be published?

First and foremost, figure out what your intention is. “Getting published” is a broad term these days. Do you want to be NYT Bestseller? Do you want to quit your job? Do you want control over your story or do you want others to help? There are pros and cons to every path, and depending on what you’re looking to get out of “getting published,” some pros will outweigh the cons. 

 

For me, I had the marketing background and excessive work ethic that made self-publishing the route for me. I’d attempted to shop The Island around to agents last year, but I realized that I didn’t really like the idea of waiting for someone else when I could market and release the book myself. But self-publishing is truly what it sounds like – you are on your own. So if you opt to go that route (and once you publish a manuscript, that’s it), be prepared to get your hands dirty.

 

Candy, ice cream, or baked goods?

Oh lord. I don’t allow any in my house because I lack the self-control to not eat the whole box. Right now, there’s a box of brownie bites and a jar of salted caramel from a party I just had that are calling my name thanks to this question.

 

What are some of your hobbies?

When I quit my job, I suddenly had tons of free time at night that used to be taken up by writing. I decided to learn how to knit to keep my hands busy so I wasn’t staring at a screen forever. I also have two dogs, Zoe and Mr. Biscuit that take up a lot of my time.

 


 

about the author

 

S. Usher Evans is an author, blogger, and witty banter aficionado. Born in Pensacola, Florida, she left the sleepy town behind for the fast-paced world of Washington, D.C.. There, she somehow landed jobs with BBC, Discovery Channel, and National Geographic Television before finally settling into a “real job” as an IT consultant. After a quarter life crisis at age 27, she decided consulting was for the birds and rekindled a childhood passion for writing novels. She sold everything she owned and moved back to Pensacola, where she currently resides with her two dogs, Zoe and Mr. Biscuit.

 

Evans is the author of the Razia series and Empath, both published by Sun’s Golden Ray Publishing.

 


 

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You’re Still the One Blog Tour by Sasha Clinton Interview + Giveaway

Sasha contacted me to be part of her blog tour, and I happily said yes. Below you’ll find her answers to some interview questions, plus a giveaway for a chance to win one of three ebooks. The first 5 chapters of this book can be downloaded from Sasha’s website by subscribing to her newsletter.

 

You're still the one final cover

Title: You’re Still the One
Author: 
Sasha Clinton
Series:
NYC Singles #1
Publication date:
February 27, 2016
Summary (via Goodreads): One love. One man. Two chances.

 

Ashley has her life sorted out. After a painful divorce, she has now rebuilt her life as an editor. She is happy with her life—until her ex-husband Andrew walks into it, opening up the deep scars that even time has failed to heal.

 

He’s gorgeous, funny and as utterly tempting as he was seven years ago. Plus, being the editor for his new book, she cannot avoid him. But Andrew has his own issues lingering from the past.

 

Bound together by work, every breath they take draws them closer, into the same hopeless, passionate love that they once shared…

 


 

 

interview

 

Was there anything specific in your life that made you want to write?

I’ve always enjoyed writing and used to write a lot throughout my school years. But after I started university, I don’t know why I stopped writing all of a sudden. When my mother passed away last year, it triggered off an obsessive need to write again. I wrote a lot of books last year, most of them really bad, but they were crucial steps towards improving my craft and establishing a writing routine. You’re Still The One was also written in 2015.

 

What’s your favorite color?

White. But unfortunately, I’m unable to keep white things white, so I don’t own a lot of white clothes or white shoes. 🙁

 

Do you have a favorite background character in You’re Still the One?

Andrew’s father, Carl Smith. He’s not a particularly likable character, but he is a very complex character who grows a lot during the book.

 

If you were on a deserted island, what’s one book that you’d want to have with you?

I’d rather have an iPad (I read on my iPad) and an internet connection, so I could read any book I wanted to (I’m cheating here, aren’t I?).

 

Have you started working on book two in this series? Do you know how many books there are going to be in the series?

Yes, I’ve started writing book two. It’s called ‘In my Arms Tonight’. You can find the cover on my website. There are three books planned for this series but that number could increase to include novellas depending on the response I get from my readers.

 

If you could have any job in the world, what would you choose and why?

I’d want to be a writer. The lifestyle of a writer really suits me, plus I love to write. My second choice would be to be a singer/songwriter because I love music too.

 

Do you have any advice for writers looking to be published?

I’ll talk about self-publishing here, since I’ve never been traditionally published. I’d say it’s really important to get your work edited and polished so it’s the best it can be. I’ve seen firsthand how much of a difference editing has made for my book and for my growth as a writer. But that said, the editor your work with must understand and respond to your style and vision for the book, otherwise it’s going to be a disharmonious relationship. The other thing that’s also equally important is to be disciplined about writing and try to write every day.

 

Have you read any good books lately?

I finished reading The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud recently. It’s a fantasy/mystery novel for younger readers. I loved it. The characters were so well fleshed out and plot was incredibly clever. I can’t wait to read the next book in that series.

 

Chocolate or vanilla?

Vanilla.

 

What are some of your hobbies?

Apart from reading and writing, I like to dance and exercise. I find that physical activity improves my concentration and mood and makes me very happy.

 


 

 

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October SST: Dreamstrider by Lindsay Smith Interview + Giveaway

Sunday Street Team

 

I recently joined the Sunday Street Team, and I’m so excited to be aboard this fantastic team! Now with that said, it’s time to get down to business. I was lucky enough to interview the fabulous Lindsay Smith about her latest novel Dreamstrider, and anything else my heart desired.

 

Dreamstrider

Title: Dreamstrider
Author:  
Lindsay Smith
Publisher:
Roaring Brook Press
Publication date:
October 6, 2015
Summary (via Goodreads): A high-concept, fantastical espionage novel set in a world where dreams are the ultimate form of political intelligence.

 

Livia is a dreamstrider. She can inhabit a subject’s body while they are sleeping and, for a short time, move around in their skin. She uses her talent to work as a spy for the Barstadt Empire. But her partner, Brandt, has lately become distant, and when Marez comes to join their team from a neighborhing kingdom, he offers Livia the option of a life she had never dared to imagine. Livia knows of no other dreamstriders who have survived the pull of Nightmare. So only she understands the stakes when a plot against the Empire emerges that threatens to consume both the dreaming world and the waking one with misery and rage.

 

A richly conceived world full of political intrigue and fantastical dream sequences, at its heart Dreamstrider is about a girl who is struggling to live up to the potential before her.

 


 

interview

 

Was there anything specific in your life that made you want to write?

I’ve always been making up stories in my head as answers to random “What if?” questions. Trying to write them down was a great way to pass the time in class when I was kid! As an adult, writing became a creative outlet for me, a way to de-stress after work rather than lie motionless on the couch watching television. Now I get to lie motionless on the couch while typing about fantasy worlds and kissing and spies. 😉

 

Do you have a favorite background character in Dreamstrider?

I really love Vera, one of Livia’s teammates at the Ministry of Affairs. She’s feisty, fierce, and unafraid to state her mind–all things that Livia is fearful or too conditioned not to be. I wouldn’t say Vera is a good role model for Livia–she’s pretty rude and rash, too–but she definitely brings a different viewpoint to the team. I got to explore Vera’s story a little more in a short story I wrote for Tor.com, “Kingmaker.

 

If you were on a deserted island, what’s one book that you’d want to have with you?

I only get one? Oh, dear. I’d probably choose a massive omnibus of fantasy novels to pass the time, like maybe Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel series. Or maybe the complete works of Dostoevsky. Something epic and juicy that I can devour slowly to keep me occupied until I’m (hopefully) rescued!

 

Have you read any good books lately?

I recently read and adored Naomi Novik’s Uprooted, a wonderful fantasy book about a girl forced to serve as an apprentice to a sorcerer. It starts out very simply, but the story is vast and rich and delightful. I also really enjoyed The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen. I’m hesitant to read “fantasy” stories that are actually post-post-apocalyptic, because I often find the references to our modern era a little too nudge-wink, but I thought it was beautifully done, and Kelsea’s struggles as she takes the throne are so vivid and genuine.

 

Did you have a playlist that you listened to while writing Dreamstrider?

Music plays a major role in the Sekret books, but not as much in Dreamstrider. Still, I’m a sucker for great classical music, so I listened to a lot of Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky while drafting. Dreamstrider was a big book for symphonic metal and its sweeping melodies–Nightwish, Leaves’ Eyes, Lacuna Coil, and so on.

 

How long does it take you to write a book?

I write first drafts fairly quickly, often in just four to five weeks. Unfortunately, I used to be a “pantser” writer (meaning I wrote without a solid outline, or “by the seat of my pants”). I’d have about eight to ten plot points I knew I needed to hit in the story, but no idea how to connect them. Dreamstrider was the book that broke me of that! I ended up significantly rewriting it a good five times because the plot was too complicated to rework. Now I write from much more detailed outlines, which improves my drafting speed even more, but also results in much cleaner first drafts that don’t start out as one book and end as another.

 

Where did you get the idea for Dreamstrider?

Dreamstrider was initially called Skinwalkers in my head, which sounds super gross. I’m glad I changed it! I knew I wanted to write a fantasy spy adventure, and the element of taking over other people through their dreams really intrigued me. I ended up building a whole religion and culture around dreams and their hidden messages, and the rest of the story grew organically out of that.

 

Do you have any advice for writers looking to be published?

Don’t be afraid to experiment with your writing process, or anything else! Changing to an outliner really worked for me, but maybe you’d write better if you let go of your outlines. Try a variety of genres to find your most authentic voice. And never let the blank page get the better of you. You have to put words on it in order to have written. The quality of those words is something you can fix later.

 

Do you have a favorite book out of all the ones you’ve written so far? If so, why is it your favorite?

Now, now, I love all my children equally. 😉 Honestly, my favorite book is always the one I’ve just finished or the one I can’t wait to write next, and my least favorite is the one I’m currently struggling through. The books change but that rule doesn’t. I always take comfort in knowing that whatever I’ve finished was the best work that I could do at that point in time. And I’m always excited for the unsoiled potential of the next new idea.

 

What are some of your hobbies?

I’m a huge board game fan. My husband and I spend way too much money at our local game shop, and we enjoy hosting regular board game nights with our friends (and tons of food and beer–another hobby of mine). I also enjoy video games. Right now, I’m hooked on Heroes of the Storm, and this wonderful little British murder mystery game called Contradiction. Outside of that, I’m usually found either watching Russian TV serials, reading, or plotting my next story idea.

 


 

about the author

 

Lindsay Smith: Author of YA historical thrillers SEKRET and SKANDAL and the YA fantasy DREAMSTRIDER (all from Macmillan Children’s). Russophile, foreign affairs junkie, nerd.

 


 

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