Tell us a little about your book. My book would best be classified as a fantasy adventure, but it contains elements of romance, horror, thriller, etc. It takes place in Los Angeles 13 years after World War 3, although L.A. no longer exists. The survivors have rebuilt, but in the form of colonies that reflect an almost medieval structure, (due to much of our current technology being destroyed and not replaceable, that will be explained in the prequel I’ve been asked to write). Well, most of these colonies are based on religion and the main colony of the story is Lia Fail, the Pagan camp. Lia Fail is led by our main character, Alia Stark, who is their queen. We open to them preparing for the Bi-annual Gathering, where all the colonies come and celebrate for ten days. During the course of the book, they are presented with an evil they have never known before and well, they have to come to terms with that and several other “changes” in the new world they’ve built. It’s definitely got some darkness and it can be graphic at times, but I love it and so far, so has mostly everyone else who has read it.
Do you have any upcoming projects? I am currently working on the sequel to The Gathering, as well as several stand-alone novels, one of which is a YA fantasy. I also have written my first play and I will be directing that at the end of October for The Askew Theatre Co.’s Triple Feature Halloween project.
What has your journey as a writer been like? Interesting, for sure. I’ve been writing my entire life, but I never thought of it as being my passion. I wanted to be a vet, and actress, a producer, and the list goes on, but I never really embraced writing until I was in my late twenties and began writing screenplays while I was in film/TV at LACC (Los Angeles City College). That’s when I really started to realize writing was what I wanted to do. Then in my early thirties, I decided to write a novel. It’s hard, but it’s great. It’s what I love.
Why did you choose to self publish? Would you do it again?
As I was writing, I did a lot of research in terms of publishing and I didn’t like what I found. Most old school publishers not only make you sign a contract giving them exclusive publishing rights in that specific country, but they can choose to take your book out of print anytime they wish. Then you are up the stream without a paddle. You can’t take your book else where without breaching contract, so you could have to wait 5 or 7 years before you can put your book back in print. Also, they want 90% of the profits for 20% of the work, they want to tell you what should be in the book and how long it should be and what the cover should look like and if you aren’t “somebody”, they expect you to do all the leg work. In addition, all the book signings and marketing comes out of your royalties. That is not an ideal situation for me. Thus, I went to self-publishing (and do your research as some of the self-publishers are the same as the traditional, except you pay them) in particular CreateSpace and POD (Print on Demand) and I make the decisions. I’m doing the work and if I’m expected to do all the legwork, then I’ll get the rewards as well. In addition, on a personal level, I don’t like the idea of getting paid for something or promising something I may not be able to deliver on (advances and book deals). Would I do it again? In a hot minute… everything is mine, the success and the failure, but it’s mine and I can’t help but get better at it every time I try again.
What was the process you used to write your manuscript? I always start by asking the question “What would happen if?” Then the brain starts spinning and soon I’m seeing scenes in my head, much like a movie. The characters start to form and when I can see them fully, they start to come to life. Then I just start writing, whichever scene is screaming to get out goes first. I don’t tend to outline, but I do start an outline of items already written, so I can keep track. Then by the middle of the book, I can see where things are going and I can throw some ideas into the outline, but usually it’s more of a roller coaster. Hold on tight and don’t fall out.
How did you create your characters? Do you have a favorite character and why? They come to me. As I think about the story and ask the questions, they start to develop and then start to “talk” to me. A favorite? Honestly, no. I love each one of them. The collective whole brings the story to life and each one of them, even the small ones, move the thing forward and add life to the tale.
What one person has impacted your life the most? My father. He was truly the most amazing man I have ever met and had the privilege of knowing. He loved life and reveled in the wonder of it. It was him who was always telling me to just do it, stop talking about it and just do it. Any great man I write about, I can guarantee you, he is always the influence and I’m just glad he was still here when I published this book, so we could share that.
How do you plan to promote your book? Well, it’s been slow going, but I’m currently working on a Press Kit, which will be complete by the end of the month. We’ll be sending that out to reviewers and bloggers, and hopefully they will review the book. I’m also on Twitter and Facebook. I’m creating trailers for YouTube and beginning next year, I plan on doing a virtual book tour and possibly setting up book signings at some of the independent stores in Southern California as well as some of the book festivals nearby.
Please share some advice to help future authors. I suppose the best advice is to keep reading and writing. Sit down everyday and write. And Read. And believe in your story, whatever that is. Make sure to listen to the people you trust. They’ll tell you what is working and what isn’t. Oh, and know the difference between Criticism and Critique. They’re very different. But over all, just keep writing.
Below is Chapter 1 of The Gathering: Book One Of the Lia Fail Chronicles:
The early morning silence of the village was heavy in the cool autumn air, but that would soon change as it was the third Sunday of November, the Gathering.
This was the time when all of the villages gathered at the chosen colony to trade goods and tales, and when families and friends were re-united. The last Gathering of the year would be in Lia Fail, the great pagan village, resting tall on top of the Santa Monica Mountains, just above the ruins of the old Hollywood sign.
The quiet of the morning was as yet undisturbed, save for the few sentinels at their posts, occasionally shifting their gaze from one end of the horizon to the other in bored observation.
A giant stonewall surrounded the town, allowing the sentinels to see over both valleys. Every two hundred feet sat a giant tower. A walkway extended the entire length of the wall, running through each tower. The village was a fortress.
There were some gardens in the settlement, but most of the crops were outside the wall, as were many of the herding animals who grazed among the chaparral, and who were being tended to before the sun rose. A creek running along the edge of the village supplied water for the community. In addition to the creek, an underground spring ran through the center of the town, where several wells had been placed to benefit the settlement.
The walls were made of stone that was eight feet thick and secured by steel, and the two main gates at the front and rear of the colony had been fortified by giant metal portcullises.
The entire area was reminiscent of a medieval castle, save for bits of technology like the windmills that grew from behind homes and parapets, and solar panels that were attached to the highest roofs and turrets. The rays of the sun rose higher in the sky and began to reflect off the panels, causing the light to dance and sparkle.
Sean Lantry, the captain of the guard, appeared from the lower hall of the barracks and moved steadily across the courtyard to the stairs of the eastern wall. His lean, muscular build advanced easily up the steps. As he approached the battlement, his gaze was turned to the rising sun. The light reflected against his long, wavy brown hair, blowing gently around his stubble-strewn, darkly tanned face. He closed his eyes to a squint in an attempt to make out the figures riding from the edge of the valley.
“Creegan! Jones!” He pointed towards the moving figures.
The two guards looked in the direction their captain had ordered. Molly Creegan, a tall, thin woman in her mid-twenties with short black hair and almond-shaped gray eyes, grabbed a pair of binoculars and looked to the east, positioning them to get the best angle without being blinded by the ever-increasing light of the sun.
There, in the distance, she saw six riders approaching the village. No banner was waving, but they rode in a familiar fashion. The other guard, Arthur Jones, then adjusted his eyeglass and recognized the lead figure.
“It’s her, Captain,” he shouted.
Sean grinned and called to the soldiers by the entrance.
“Open the gate!”
Sean turned back to Molly.
“Did she catch anything?”
Molly looked back through the binoculars and began to smile, then pulled the binoculars down and looked slyly at her partner. Arthur Jones was a short, stocky young man, with a head full of short, strawberry-blond hair; he too began to smile as if in anticipation of what she was going to say.
“Well, she appears to have a hell of a catch on her horse, Sir, but my gut tells me that it isn’t hers,” Molly said.
Sean smiled and waved Jones and Molly back to their posts. The two soldiers laughed and turned as Sean trotted down the winding steps, back to the courtyard.
The first signs of activity began to fill the village as the soldiers moved to the front of the parapet where several more guards were pulling the gates open. Despite the early hour, several faces looked out their windows into the courtyard as the soldiers’ shouts echoed against the stone walls.
As Sean approached the bottom step, Vivian Shorely, chancellor to the queen, was waiting in anticipation.
“What is she doing out there unattended, Captain?”
Sean looked at the thin, pinched face of the middle-aged woman and smiled slowly, cocking his head.
“I have no idea, Chancellor, I wasn’t invited.”
He moved around Vivian and continued towards the gate. Vivian’s mouth dropped open at the obvious dismissal. She shook her head and spun on her heel in pursuit.
“See here, Captain! It is your responsibility to look after the safety of the queen, is it not?”
Sean turned to the woman, who had to stop suddenly so as not to run into him.
“I beg your pardon?” he asked.
“I said,” she began sarcastically, “is she or is she not your responsibility?”
Vivian folded her arms in front of her as she smugly completed her sentence. Sean took a step up to her and put his face to hers.
“See here, Woman…”
She gasped, “Woman?!”
“I realize to some it might be hard to tell, but you are a woman, right?”
Vivian scrunched her little face into a frown as Sean continued.
“Yeah, here’s the deal… it’s my job to make sure everyone in this village is protected and if the queen should choose to leave the safety of these walls, which is her prerogative, then I have no control over that.”
Vivian’s tight face became even more pinched as she tried to respond, but was once again rebuffed as Sean turned and walked in the direction of the approaching riders.
From the wall above, a young sentry called out, “Here they come!”
Through the gates, the horses pounded into the quad, led by the queen. Her auburn hair looked like spiral flames as it flowed behind her. She wore a small leather top and long leather pants. The sun glistened off her tanned and muscled body as steam rose from her skin, while she reigned in the giant animal.
Several stable hands came forward and grabbed the horses’ reins as the riders dismounted. The queen jumped down from the left side of her horse and began to walk towards Sean, and he watched her with wonder and pride.
She was the queen of Lia Fail, Alia Stark. She demanded respect and her people gladly gave it. Not one person in Lia Fail could look into those mysterious gold eyes and help but pledge their loyalty. Sean marveled at the round soft features of her face, a contradiction to the strength of this lady. She was forty-eight, he knew that, but she didn’t look a day over thirty.
Sean walked towards the queen, quickly followed by Vivian.
“Anxious?” Sean asked as he raised his eyebrows.
Alia furrowed her brow and looked at Sean. Her eyes blazed as brightly as her hair. A slight smile appeared on her face.
“You trying to say something, Lantry?”
“No, Ma’am.” He smiled and shook his head. “It’s just that you don’t usually take off so early in the morning, especially to hunt.”
Vivian moved forward, pushing Sean out of the way, causing him to roll his eyes as he was forced to take several steps back, shaking his head.
The chancellor spoke loudly and with a shrill forcefulness that made Alia take a step back and frowned.
“Your Highness,” Vivian continued, “the Gathering is starting today.”
“I know, Vivian.”
“Then how can you behave so irresponsibly and go off riding without a proper escort? What if something had happened to you? There is so much to be done. You have petitioners in just a few hours, the cakes have to be checked, the breads tasted, the wine chosen, then you have to begin getting dressed for your presentation…”
Vivian stopped short and sharply inhaled, only to look directly into the face of the queen, who was now right in front of her, hands on her hips. The furrow had deepened considerably.
“I…well, I …things…” Vivian stammered and stopped as Alia held her hand in front of the chancellor’s face. Sean turned around so that no one could see him smirk, on the verge of laughter.
“Vivian, I go where I want, when I want,” Alia stated. “Please remember that… and for the record, I did have an escort. I also understand the importance of this day and I’m aware of all the things that must be done prior to the arrival of our guests.”
Alia stepped back and motioned for the chefs to take the game. Gordon Hutton, the head chef, stepped forward and patted a fat deer, which was slung across the back of the queen’s horse.
“Most excellent, Your Majesty! That’s quite a prize you took down!”
“Sorry, Gordon, I only got a few ducks and quail. Quinn and Todd brought this bad boy down.”
The two large men in their early twenties smiled at Gordon and smashed their fists together and then curled their arms around and under like body builders. They were physical opposites of one another. Quinn was pale and blond, where Todd was dark skinned and had black hair.
Gordon frowned and shook his head as he walked towards the kitchens, hurrying his butchers and chefs along as he did.
“Don’t be sore, Gordo,” Quinn yelled after him.
“He’s still pissed about that cake.”
Todd looked at Quinn, who looked around, then slyly smiled.
Alia smiled and looked to her captain.
“Hey!” barked Sean. “You two still have sentry duty in a few hours. So put your horses up and get some food.”
They smirked until they saw that Sean was not laughing. Only when their backs were turned and they had headed off to the stables did their captain break into a grin and wink at Alia.
Vivian’s face grew crimson, the color spreading from her neck to the top of her head while she watched the commotion. She fidgeted and bounced in her tightly laced shoes, slightly tapping her toes in annoyance. Alia gave Sean a knowing look and slowly turned to face her chancellor.
“Alright, Vivian, here we go. Please check with Janeen and her staff verifying the assigned areas for our guests, both tent housing and vendor booths. Also, check with Duncan Worley and verify that his staff is also prepared to assist our guests with any help they might need…Oh, and make sure they are prepared for plumbing issues. Please make sure that your staff keep the petitioners to an hour today. With everything going on, I’m just not going to have time. Also, I’m putting you in charge of keeping the kitchens on time, which includes picking the wine and making sure the beer is cold, and that breakfast, lunch and dinner are on time. Please assist Gordon with whatever he needs, and be willing to take his advice, as he is our head chef. I know he and his staff have been working very hard for the last month trying to perfect their recipes and for the last week they’ve been up almost every night. I’m sure they could use more help setting up the stands. Pay special attention to the cakes and pastries, Vivian, I would hate for the Crystals to show us up in that department like they did at the last Gathering. It all comes down to you.”
She took Vivian by the shoulders and looked her squarely in the eye.
“Make me proud.”
Vivian’s face brightened. She turned and strode off in the direction of the main hall.
Vivian turned and looked at the queen in earnest.
“Be on the lookout for Quinn and Todd. You know how they are about cakes.”
Vivian nodded her head and set her tiny pinched mouth, obviously meaning business. As Vivian walked towards Janeen’s office, she thought about the Crystals. They had named their colony Crystal Shade and they had built it on the remnants of the Crystal Cathedral in what was once Garden Grove. The Crystal Cathedral had gone pretty quickly when the bombing began. Vivian would make sure that Lia Fail’s confections were the best they had ever been.
As Vivian turned the corner, Alia took Sean by the arm.
“I want you to watch those boys as well. I really want to kick some Crystal butt this year and if they steal any of the cakes again…”
“I know,” Sean replied, “it’s my ass.”
“Damn straight. Walk me back to the castle.”
“You are nervous.”
Alia smiled and placed one hand over her other in the crook of his arm.
“A little” she said. “I just hope that everyone behaves themselves. Some of the other colonies can get so sanctimonious. The last thing we need is to have to deal with their stupidity.”
Sean placed his hand on hers and smiled.
“Not to worry, Al. We’ll be watching.”
Alia nodded and smiled.
“I know. You’re angry we didn’t come and get you for the hunt, aren’t you?”
“Me?” He looked surprised. “No.”
She looked at him.
“After all,” she started, “it was a late meeting last night and I do realize that you’re getting older, so I thought…”
“Older?” He asked, feigning hurt. “I just figured after the last hunt, you all couldn’t take being shown up again…”
They walked towards the castle arm in arm and laughing, unaware of the events the Gathering would bring.