I’m so excited to share this, we’ve been keeping it under our hats for quite a while, but I can finally tell you that we’ll be following Once Upon a Name up with Twice Upon a Name!
Coming April 2023, we’ll be bringing you a whole new cast of characters provided by our favourite online fairytale name generator, with a few cheeky appearances from some old friends. This new collection of stories will all be able to be read as standalones, but if you’ve read Once Upon a Name you might recognise a few characters!
Are you ready to see our absolutely stunning (if I do say so myself) new cover?
Look how pretty it is sitting next to our first book baby!
Fancy getting to know the OUAN & TUAN authors a little better, and discovering all of our other books? Lucky for you, I’ve interviewed most of my coauthors so far, and you can read those interviews here:
It’s release week for Once Upon a Name! We’re so excited to share this collection of weird and wonderful short fantasy stories with you, and we can’t wait to hear what you think.
Today I want to introduce you to another OUAN coauthor, Susan Stradiotto.
Susan Stradiotto writes fantasy for New Adult and later Young Adult audiences, with storylines enjoyable for adults too. Themes focus mostly on relationships of all kinds, family situations, coming of age, and finding oneself or one’s destiny.
Keep reading to find out more about Susan and her books!
Hi and welcome to the blog, Susan. First off, can you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m originally from Texas. I grew up with the firm belief that ya’ll was a word and there was no I in oil. To this day, when I say, “You guys,” my brother corrects me by saying, “Ya’ll.” So there’s that. I moved around a bit but settled down in Minnesota with my husband to raise the family in 1999. I’ve lived in the Twin Cities area ever since.
We’re still very close to our three adult children and enjoy playing fantasy games (DnD, Gloomhaven, etc.) on the regular with them. My husband and I have 2 dogs: a Bernese Mountain Dog named Delaunay and a mini-Dachshund named Knox the Dox. However, along with my daughter I own 3 more Berners: Hodgins, Valkyrie, and Wanda. They’re still puppies, but we’re planning to breed them—first litters likely in late 2022, early 2023.
Oh wow, that many dogs sounds like a dream! I’ve got two German Shorthaired Pointers and they’re the sweetest. So, when did you start writing and what inspired you?
I’ve always dabbled in writing. Usually, I’d write something once I’d read another story that inspired me.
What are your favourite genres and tropes to read?
I gravitate toward longer stories with a thorough world and some political machinations. That, however, doesn’t mean I like politics. As N.K. Jemesin said in her master class, “All stories about people and their relationships are political.”
My favorite genre, I believe, is Historical Fantasy.
Favorite tropes are a tougher topic. I think most things are okay as long as they’re done well, but there aren’t any that make me pick up the book on that trope alone.
Some of my fave books are Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Legacy series and N.K. Jemesin’s Hundred Thousand Kingdoms series.
I love historical fantasy too, especially when the world building is rich and the historical aspect is really well researched and accurately portrayed. Kerri Maniscalco who wrote Stalking Jack the Ripper is brilliant for that, at the end of her audio books she includes a sort of appendix where she explains the historical details she uses and their real-world discovery and uses. It’s fascinating, and really makes you appreciate and respect the amount of effort she went to to craft a brilliant and accurate story.
Tell us about your most recent or favourite published work.
The work I’m the most proud of is The Serpentine Throne. It’s a 5-book series about a princess who’s lost both her parents and is the only person in the empire who believes her father still lives. It has many of the characteristics of a young adult finding yourself type story, but it’s geared toward the college age in that the characters experience a few more mature themes. This story was greatly inspired by my son who has adored all things dragon since he was in the 3rd grade and learned the difference in dinosaurs and dragons.
The mythos in The Serpentine Throne is inspired by Japanese culture but is overall highly original. There are themes of found family and real family, learning the differences in love and lust, and rising to be something that the person thought they never wanted.
That sounds fabulous, I can’t wait to read it! Where do you find inspiration for your characters or settings?
Almost always, I am writing a story with one individual in mind. It’s usually someone I care about or once cared about in my life. I have a short story addressed to my mother, The Serpentine Throne addressed to my son, a romance novel addressed to a dear friend who I wanted to give a happy ending. Usually, my stories are to answer a need or desire I see in those people.
There are a couple of stories I’ve also written when inspired by something larger in life—a turning of the wheel of time, if you will. That’s especially true in my novella, The Muse of Wynter.
For short stories, I will also find inspiration in the research I’m doing for a longer work. Such was the case with my free short story for signing up for my newsletter (The Wanderer and the Devil).
Bottom line is that inspiration is almost everywhere, it’s just what feels like the best story to tell at the moment that pulls me forward.
It sounds like you’ll never be short of inspiration or a story to tell! Would you say you’re a plotter, pantser or plantser?
I’m going with plotter. Even if I deviate, I usually have to do some plotting to get back on track.
I’m the same, I need an outline to keep me heading in the right direction! So, what are you working on right now?
I have 2 active projects at the moment. The first is a contemporary romance novel. The second will be a historical epic fantasy, tentatively entitled Blood of the Skies.
They both sound so exciting! I’d love to branch out into another genre at some point, possibly domestic thrillers, plus I have a historical fantasy WIP that I’m so excited to start working on once The Fair Chronicles is complete! What one piece of advice would you give aspiring authors?
Start your story. Finish your story. Then worry about the rest.
Perfect advice, after all, many people start a book, but very few actually finish it, and even less go on to publish. If you write a complete manuscript you’re among the tiny percentage of people who will ever write THE END. And then the real work starts!
Thank you so much for chatting with me today, Susan! Before you go, how can we find out more about you and your books?
I hope you enjoyed my chat with Susan, she’s an incredibly talented author and has been an absolute dream to work with on Once Upon a Name, I’m so honoured to be able to call her my coauthor and friend. Susan also has a story in an upcoming anthology that is supporting charities in Ukraine. It’s just 99c to preorder and will be released on 28 June, so if you’re looking for ways to support the people of Ukraine during this horrific time, please do consider buying Feathers of Hope – you’ll get over ten stories by NYT and USA Today bestselling and award-winning authors in return!
Fantasy might be my one true love, but I also have a soft spot for thrillers. Crime and domestic thrillers are my usual jam, but recently I’ve read some absolutely brilliant, gripping YA thrillers, so I wanted to share some recommendations with you! I know, I’m good like that.
So, if you’re looking for a gripping thrill-ride that’ll keep you up at night turning the pages and leave you gaping at the final line, you’re in the right place. Here we go…
One of Us is Lying & One of Us is Next by Karen M. McManus
Now a Netflix Original series! I read One of Us is Lying a few years ago when it was released, and I really enjoyed it and bought the sequel straight away when it came out, but I never got round to reading it. That is, until the Netflix adaptation came out, and whilst it was a fun watch, I knew I remembered things differently in the book. It prompted me to pick up One of Us is Next and finally read it, to see what happened after Simon. Well, I flew through it in a couple of days, I think I actually enjoyed book two and the new generation of Bayview students even more than the first book! I even went out straight away and bought Two Can Keep a Secret (another book by Karen M. McManus, but not in the same series) so I’d have another thriller by the same author to read when I get the craving again.
I highly recommend these books if you like shows like 13 Reasons Why, and of course, the recent One of Us is Lying Netflix adaptation! There’s a third book, titled One of Us is Back, coming out next year, so there’s plenty of time to get caught up with the Bayview Four.
This Lie Will Kill You by Chelsea Pitcher
I grabbed this book off the shelf when I bought Two Can Keep a Secret – it was sitting right next to it, I’m fairly sure there was some kind of two for £7 deal, and I mean, look at that cover? It looked like exactly what I was craving in my post-One of Us is Next rush. And I wasn’t wrong. Like a cross between Cluedo (that’s Clue to my American friends) and Riverdale, this book had me up late and reading on my lunch break at work to find out what happened and who did what to who, when and why.
This one is somewhat darker than the One of Us series, with strong Pretty Little Liars and Riverdale vibes (that dolls house in PLL is pure This Lie Will Kill You, and Ruby, one of the MCs, is a total Cheryl). It dances on the line between thriller and horror, but without the gore, so if you’re in the mood for a chilling and suspenseful read, then this one’s for you.
A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson
This is one I haven’t read yet, but I’ve heard good things and can’t wait to dive in! Here’s the blurb:
The case is closed. Five years ago, schoolgirl Andie Bell was murdered by Sal Singh. The police know he did it. Everyone in town knows he did it.
But having grown up in the same small town that was consumed by the murder, Pippa Fitz-Amobi isn’t so sure. When she chooses the case as the topic for her final year project, she starts to uncover secrets that someone in town desperately wants to stay hidden. And if the real killer is still out there, how far will they go to keep Pip from the truth?
The blurb reminds me a bit of Sadie, which I absolutely adored, so this will be jumping up to the top of my TBR!
Sadie by Courtney Summers
Speaking of Sadie, I listened to the audio book last summer and was blown away by this incredible book! Told through the POV of Sadie, who is hunting for her younger sister’s killer, and a podcast hosted by an investigative journalist who is trying to find Sadie, it’s layered and complex but so gripping and tense.
If you can, I highly recommend listening to the audio of this one, as it really does show the whole podcast format in the best way. But there is a lot of very triggering content in this one, so please do be aware before diving in, if you’re likely to be triggered by themes of sexual assault and child abuse.
Broken Things by Lauren Oliver
This is another one I’m yet to read, but I loved Lauren Oliver’s Delirium series, and the blurb for this one is just too good to pass up.
It’s been five years since Summer Marks was brutally murdered in the woods.
Everyone thinks Mia and Brynn killed their best friend. That driven by their obsession with a novel called The Way into Lovelorn the three girls had imagined themselves into the magical world where their fantasies became twisted, even deadly.
The only thing is: they didn’t do it. On the anniversary of Summer’s death, a seemingly insignificant discovery resurrects the mystery and pulls Mia and Brynn back together once again. But as the lines begin to blur between past and present and fiction and reality, the girls must confront what really happened in the woods all those years ago—no matter how monstrous.
Now, some of the reviews have called it predictable, but I’m actually okay with that. I love a shocking twist as much as the next girl (Gone Girl, I’m looking at you) but I really enjoy the journey towards the truth and even if I call the killer in the first few chapters, I probably can’t guess every element of what went on, so there’s still plenty to discover. Plus, I really like being right, so there’s that.
All These Bodies by Kendare Blake
Last, but not least, is this from the author of Anna Dressed in Blood (my FAVOURITE YA horror) and Three Dark Crowns. Kendare Blake is an incredible author, so this 1950s set, true crime inspired thriller with a potentially supernatural twist (Kendare calls it “true crime with a vampire”) sounds like my dream read. Here’s the blurb:
Sixteen bloodless bodies. Two teenagers. One impossible explanation.
Summer 1958—a string of murders plagues the Midwest. The victims are found in their cars and in their homes—even in their beds—their bodies drained, but with no blood anywhere.
September 19- the Carlson family is slaughtered in their Minnesota farmhouse, and the case gets its first lead: 15-year-old Marie Catherine Hale is found at the scene. She is covered in blood from head to toe, and at first she’s mistaken for a survivor. But not a drop of the blood is hers.
Michael Jensen, son of the local sheriff, yearns to become a journalist and escape his small-town. He never imagined that the biggest story in the country would fall into his lap, or that he would be pulled into the investigation, when Marie decides that he is the only one she will confess to.
As Marie recounts her version of the story, it falls to Michael to find the truth: What really happened the night that the Carlsons were killed? And how did one girl wind up in the middle of all these bodies?
Right? Right?? I’m off to buy and read this book immediately.