Interview: fantasy debut author Ashley Steffenson

Hello book dragons! How was your September? Did you read many books? I’ll be honest, I didn’t finish a single book in September because I was focusing on my revisions for The Solitary King. It’s coming along nicely and will be off to beta readers in October and my editor in November, and I’ve really enjoyed being immersed in the Fair Realm again!

Today, I’ve got a really exciting interview to share with you. Ashley Steffenson is one of the incredible authors that I’m collaborating with on Enchanted Forests, the follow up to Enchanted Waters, as well as Once Upon a Name! I’m so excited to have my name on two beautiful covers with Ashley, and I can’t wait to introduce you to her.

So, without further ado…

Hi Ashley! Thank you so much for joining me today. Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I’m Ashley and I currently write under my married name – Ashley Steffenson. I’m a born and raised California girl turned Southern. My husband (a 50% Irish hottie – swoon!) and I moved to South Louisiana about a year ago and we are LOVING it. I received my BA in Intercultural Studies from William Jessup University, and am now working as a Librarian Page at our local library. I also have a small candle-making business on the side called Estellian Treasures, originally inspired by my debut novel. We have three wily cats – Ember, Milo, and Piper – and we are expecting a third tiny human heart in the family in April 2022.

Oh, congratulations Ashley! What an exciting adventure you’re about to begin, I’m so happy for you! Can you tell us when you started writing and what inspired you?

Funnily enough I haven’t always been a writer. My passion for writing began 3 years ago when I started a new job at a jewelry shop as a saleswoman. I hated that job, but I loved learning about gemstones. That led me to the birth of ‘Estellia’, my debut novel. Furthermore, Adrienne Young (an ah-may-zing YA writer) also indirectly inspired me. Now I’m beyond blessed to be a part of Enchanted Forests with all these incredible award-winning, and up-and-coming authors!

That’s so interesting, I can totally see how learning about gemstones could be the inspiration for a fantasy novel. I love world building, personally, and one of the things I did when I was creating the world for The Fair Queen was to choose gemstones that symbolised each of the five different types of Fair. OK, I’ll pick your brain about gemstones later! What are your favourite books or your favourite genre?

Favorite genre would definitely have to be Fantasy/High Fantasy/Sci-Fi. And I have too many favorite books! A few of my favorite authors include J.R.R. Tolkein, C.S. Lewis, and George MacDonald (originally known as the ‘master of the fairytale’). Joseph Campbell is pretty awesome too. I listened to The Hero with a Thousand Faces on audio three times and still didn’t understand all of it lol. He’s a philosophical mastermind!

Those are some of the greats right there! I love high fantasy and portal fantasy, and I’m so excited to read your upcoming debut novel, can you tell us a little about it?

Estellia is now officially ready for preorder on Amazon! Click here to read the blurb and get your copy.

My short story ‘A Lesson in Refinement’ will also be coming out in another anthology titled Once Upon A Name in 2022.

I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of Once Upon a Name! It’s such a cool project and I’m really glad we’re working together on it, along with eighteen other awesome authors! Where do you find inspiration for your stories? 

Oh I 100% go to Pinterest and type in all sorts of fantasy creatures/places and if a picture speaks to me then I base my characters/story on that!

Also, I’m blessed to have an amazingly talented artist for a cousin who can help bring my characters to life based on my descriptions. You will be able to see some of her artwork in my debut novel!

Oh you’re so lucky, I love character art and illustrations in books, that’s one of my favourite things about the Enchanted Anthologies. Do you consider yourself a plotter, pantser or plantser? 

I use the ‘Save the Cat’ Blake Snyder Beat Sheet, but sometimes my characters take the reins and the story goes in a different direction lol. So I’d say I’m a plantser. Guess that’s what happens when you have such headstrong characters! 

I’m exactly the same, I love a strong, detailed outline to keep me writing and on the right track, but I also like a little wiggle room for those pesky characters to have their say! What are you working on right now?

Final edits for Estellia, beta reads/editing for Once Upon a Name, and I need to start plotting out my story for Enchanted Forests. Also working on a book review for the library on Enchanted Waters which will eventually be posted on our Staff Picks webpage at lafourche.org

You’ve got some really exciting projects on the go, I can’t wait to read them all! Thank you so much for chatting with me today, Ashley, it’s been lovely. Before I let you go, what one piece of advice would you give aspiring authors? 

Don’t give up. Be patient with yourself, and with what life throws at you along the way. Enjoy the journey of creating a masterpiece and be proud of your work. You wrote a freaking NOVEL for heaven’s sake! That’s something to be proud of.

Don’t rush yourself. George R.R. Martin has been writing for over 20 years. And J.R.R. Tolkien didn’t finish his books overnight. You got this. And KEEP WRITING. No matter what it is, always try to write something each day. Even if it’s a simple journal entry. And never stop reading.

Yes to all of this! We should all be so incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved by persevering and finishing an entire story, whether it’s a short story, novella or full-length novel. Not many people do it and it’s a hugely impressive achievement.

How can we find out more about you and your books? 

Instagram: @authorashleyanne

Facebook page/group:  Writerly Adventures in Estellia and Beyond

Other: @estellian.treasures

Amazon: Buy Estellia now!


How incredible is Ashley? If you’re a writer I really hope you found her advice helpful, because she’s absolutely right! And if you like the sound of Ashley’s debut novel, Estellia, or our upcoming anthologies Enchanted Forests and Once Upon a Name, then you can preorder them on Amazon right now!

Happy reading,

Lyndsey

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Interview: urban and steamy high fantasy author Shana Vernon

Hello lovely folks, I’ve got a real treat for you today! I had the immense privilege of interviewing the incredible Shana Vernon, author of The Hybrid Chronicles.

I recently read an early copy of Shana’s new release Of Shadow and Ember, and it’s my favourite book of the year so far (a review is coming soon). So let’s see what Shana had to say when we chatted!

Hi Shana, it’s so lovely to have you with us! Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I am originally from Baltimore Maryland, USA, but I moved to Israel at nineteen years old. I love to travel around the world, cook and eat delicious food, create and write new worlds, read, drink wine, and play with my twenty-one-month-old triplets and our frenchie, Lola. 

We could be best friends, because those are all my favourite things! Say hi to Lola for me!! So, when did you start writing?

I’ve been writing since I was about twelve, but I only took it more seriously during my pregnancy when I was stuck on bedrest. Two years later, I have three books and one novella published, with another on the way!

Wow, that’s an incredible achievement in just two years. And especially when I know that your pregnancy was with triplets who are now eighteen months old! I’ve got one 3.5 years old, so I can only imagine the fun and chaos of having three baby boys to deal with. What’s your favourite genre to read and write?

Fantasy.

Me too! And your favourite tropes?

  • Found family
  • Enemies to lovers
  • Slow burn romance
  • Kick-Ass heroines

Those are definitely some of my faves too, especially enemies to lovers. But I have to admit, I’m a sucker for royalty and the chosen one trope. Tell us about your upcoming release.

My newest release, Of Shadow and Ember, is now available for pre-order and comes out 15 September, and everyone who orders will get two freebies!! 

Claim your preorder goodies here:

https://forms.gle/qK5w3UWMVCm2KTEB6
https://forms.gle/zYCcFE4vAkRp8Utn9 

Add it to your TBR on Goodreads.

Awesome, I can’t wait to see what the preorder goodies are! I loved the book and found the world building incredible. Where do you find inspiration for your characters or settings? 

Each kingdom in Elaerys has a unique magic system and culture that were inspired by different lore and legends. Kalamia was inspired a bit by my own ancestry. 

When I originally began outlining and writing OSAE, there was only one main character. After the story started, I really fell in love with the other two sisters and made them both MCs as well. 

I really enjoyed seeing inside all three sisters’ heads, I think it made the story more three-dimensional and layered. You’ve made me want to write a multi-POV story next! Do you consider yourself a plotter, pantser or plantser? 

Hard core plotter. I outline the entire book, including the characters, before I even start writing. 

I’m a big plotter too, although I do leave room to find my way, but I need a chapter by chapter breakdown to keep me on the right track. What are you working on right now?

I just got started working on two different WIPs. One is the second book in the “Heirs of Elaerys’ series, and the first in a new urban fantasy series. 

I’m so excited for the second Heirs of Elaerys book! What one piece of advice would you give aspiring authors? 

Don’t give up. Just keep writing – sung in the ‘Just keep swimming’ tune. 

Perfect, thank you so much for chatting with me today! It’s been an honour. Before you go, how can we find out more about you and your books? 

Shana’s website:    www.shanavernon.com

Sign up to Shana’s email newsletter: https://www.shanavernon.com/newsletter 

Follow her on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/authorshanavernon/ 

Join Shana’s Facebook group:   https://www.facebook.com/groups/shanavernonssupernaturalsquad 

Shana will also be featured in the upcoming anthology, Season of the Witch!


I cannot recommend Of Shadow and Ember highly enough, and I’ll be impatiently waiting for book two, Of Earth and Bone, until March 2022 when it comes out. I’m definitely adding the Hybrid Chronicles to my TBR! How about you? Which of Shana’s books are you reading first?

Lyndsey

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Interview: international bestselling and award winning fantasy author Carlysle Labuschagne

This summer seems to have flown by without pausing for breath. Especially compared to the last few years’ summers, which lasted from April to October with glorious sunshine and more than a few unbearably hot heatwaves here in the UK.

I’m not complaining though. Autumn is my favourite season (yes, I’m that basic) and I definitely prefer being able to sleep comfortably and walk my dogs without sweating before I’ve even left the street.

I will miss being able to let my toddler play outside quite as often, having a nice garden has been a godsend throughout the various lockdowns.

This week, I had the honour of talking to the spectacular Carlyle Labuschagne, USA Today and international bestselling, and international award winning author of A Beast So Beautiful. Here’s what she had to say…

Hi Carlyle, it’s so lovely to speak to you! Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am happy to be here, Lyndsey. I was born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa , and writing has been one of my favorite hobbies since I was ten years old. I used to often beg my friends to let me write their essays…

A hobby I had long left behind once the kids were born was decorating, but recently made a huge effort to upgrade my writing room. Few more things to do but must do it when the money comes in. I hate playing any card games. But kick ass at battleship and I need to get back into fingerboard.  

The first thing I did when we moved house during lockdown was decorate my office! I feel like working from home and writing my books means I deserve a really beautiful space to do it in. My husband doesn’t necessarily agree! When did you first discover you were a writer and who encouraged you?

I loved any story. Disney audio and read a long, Cinderella was my favorite. I used to pretend to be ill and sit and watch any story that was on TV at the time. My worst was Cocoon, ET and Gremlins – traumatized me forever. No one had to encourage me to write it was a part of me always. But to write a book, now that only became a reality when I read the Twilight Saga. It seemed so possible and it became possible because of her (Stephanie Meyer).

I love that Twilight was the book that made you realise you could do it too, that being a writer was a career path you could choose. I think mine was Throne of Glass. Do you have a favourite book? And what are your favourite tropes?

My latest favorite is Bone Criers Moon and it’s sequel. It’s very unique and the whole love triangle is very short lived. A Curse so Dark and Lonely and it’s two follow ups are also my favorites. It’s a royal fantasy book where female and male characters both have important roles and both genders are strong, equals.  As for Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom it’s follow up is my favorite because it takes a fantasy world and puts it in a heist and is filled with the thrill of conning for a living. And as for the trope – male leads.

That’s really interesting, because there’s been such an explosion of incredible female MCs over the last couple of decades that it can feel really surprising and fresh when a book (especially YA) is told from a male perspective. Can you tell us a little about your published books?

First published book was The Broken Destiny, it was about South African, genetically-enhanced children exiled to planet Poseidon, where they live side by side with Zulu’s and Minoans. 

Buy it here.

My most recent release is my first epic fantasy, fairytale kind of spin on GoT meets Beauty and the Beast, where the prince is locked in the tower because he is a beast – A Beast So Beautiful.

Add it to your TBR here.

Wow, those covers are stunning! I love the sound of Game of Thrones meets Beauty and the Beast, I’ll definitely be adding that to my to be read pile. Where do you find inspiration for your characters or settings? 

My settings and the worlds I create are some from memory, I adventured a lot in rivers, dams, hiked, swam in rivers and walked small villages growing up with my African nanny. Walking through the bush to get to the river every Saturday. I have always really lived in every moment, the smell, the noises, the feel, the mood and the voice of nature. For The Broken Destiny I made up my own world, a purple planet with three moons, and turquoise oceans, silver shimmering trees and modern technology in their dorms. 

In Dead of Night I created a toxic world where fish were poisonous to eat, acid rain could burn through cars. Swamp gas could put you on a trip. And mountains were made from bombs and others just broken in half. 

In A Beast so Beautiful, the world was pretty much like it would have been back in King Arthur’s day. But they had a white blight of snow and ice that forever stayed there, separating two kingdoms. One kingdom was very primitive in ways and relied on magic that was banned by Rurith Kingdom after the Queen died and the prince was locked in the tower when the king realized he was born of magic. I write very descriptively, the sound talons make on stone, how the wind howls around the steeples of the castle and the termites crackle under leaves. 

That sounds so immersive, it’s amazing that you’ve created so many completely distinct worlds for your stories, all totally unique. Do you consider yourself a plotter, pantser or plantser? 

Half and half. I pants the first half, then make notes of all the answers that need to be tied in and plot out the second half. 

That sounds like a perfect way to go, it can be difficult to know when to stop plotting and start writing when you’re a plotter or plantser. I reckon a free written first draft must be a much quicker, more organic experience. Even if it does mean somewhat more editing! What are you working on right now?

I am working on A Love So Lonely, the second in the A Beast so Beautiful duology. And I am half way through it. This is very different to the first book as we go way ahead in time, but the prince still remains in the story. 

I’m currently working on book two in a series as well, and I’m finding it a really strange and different experience to book one. Trying to balance where I want the story to go with reader expectations and the pressure of whether it’ll do well is a really interesting atmosphere to write a book in! What one piece of advice would you give aspiring authors? 

Write every day. Network on Facebook and Twitter everyday. Build up a readership while writing. 

Great advice, I’ve discovered the most amazing writing and reading community on Facebook since publishing my debut novel last year. Networking is so important in ever career and industry, it’s funny that we don’t expect it from writing as it’s such a solo activity, but publishing takes a village!

Thank you so much for chatting with me today, Carlyle! Before you go, how can we find out more about you and your books? 

Visit Carlyle’s Website and sign up to her email list: https://carlylelabuschagnebooks.com

Follow Carlyle on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/carlylelab/

Like her Facebook page:   https://www.facebook.com/carlyleL

Find her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AuthorCarlyle


That was so much fun, I hope you enjoyed finding out more about Carlyle and her stories. According to Goodreads, she has 23 distinct works with over 700 ratings and an average of over 4 stars, and with books that cover sci fi, fantasy and fairy tales, you know there’s something in her repertoire that you’ll love. Personally, I’m going to download A Beast So Beautiful to my Kindle right now.

Go pick out one of Carlyle books and add it to your Goodreads shelf!

Lyndsey

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