Interview: Portal Fantasy Author Becky James

Hi fantasy fans! I’ve got a real treat for you today, I sat down to chat with the lovely Becky James, author of The Tenets in the Tattoos, one of the most unique and gripping fantasy books of the last few years!

Keep reading to find out what we chatted about…

LH: Hi Becky! Thanks for joining me. First off, can you tell us a little about yourself?

BJ: I write NA sword and sorcery mashed with contemporary fantasy, about a cocky swordsman and his exasperated friends. I’m also writing something more fantasy-romance themed, it’s shaping up nicely. I like noblebright, with worldbuilding threaded throughout the plot, and anything unexpected. I love it when a story comes full circle and closes off nicely, ready for the next. 

I’m from Wales originally, then I moved to Scotland, now I’m trying out living in England. (I’ll do Ireland one day to complete the set). I speak conversational Welsh, French and Japanese and eager to learn more languages. I am a massive extrovert, but nearly all my friends are introverts, so I know how not to energy vampire them. I will still talk your ear off though. 

LH: As a card-carrying introvert, we appreciate you! And if it’s about your books, I’ll happily let you talk my ear off for hours. When did you start writing and what inspired you? 

BJ: I got into fantasy young, and I’m all for stories that use the settings / events to explore human nature and character-driven storylines. My first “grown up” fantasy writer was Eddings, and I love that balance of humour and heart. 

LH: I love a character-driven story too, it’s the characters I fall for more so than the plot, especially when there’s a big group of them and we can really get to know and love each one over the course of a series. Sarah J. Maas is my favourite author for that, introducing lots of new faces slowly over a long series, and making me obsess over every single one. What are some of your favourite books, and why?

BJ: What I love is when characters and their choices drive the story, rather than weathering event after event thrown at them. Fantasy books – I’ve been told my books are like Trudi Canavan’s (what an honour!) I love Eddings, especially The Redemption of Althalus; the banter is absolute mint. T. Kingfisher’s whimsy and rollicking prose is always a good time. 

Other books I enjoy are more on the adult romance side – I am a huge fan of Alexis Hall, his portrayal of modern age Britain is so real and visceral, from sullied seaside towns to the dreaming spires of Oxford, and the relationships between the characters are so well done. 

LH: It sounds like you have a very eclectic taste, and I can see that coming through in your writing. Tell us a little about your first published book.

BJ: The Tenets in the Tattoos is my debut novel, so it will always be my baby. I do enjoy a delicious comeuppance, especially if I think whoever this is happening to absolutely deserved it. Thorrn starts off as an overconfident swordsman, convinced he’s god’s gift, and you can just bet he’s heading for a wake-up call. So my favourite early scene to write is when Thorrn realises he was wrong about someone and acted rashly. He goes careening around the castle trying to find her to right his mistake, and everyone he meets is telling them how much they have come to like her… it’s just so tasty, I was laughing so hard. 

My favourite scene from The Tenets in the Tattoos has to be when they try to convince Aubin they are in a dreamworld. The apothecarist is confused by what’s real and what’s not, and Thorrn hits on the idea of using his tattoos, those small details, to prove to Aubin that he’s in the waking world. Next time you’re in a dream, try looking at your watch. You won’t be able to discern a time, and those details are what will shock Aubin into realising he’s dreaming. So Thorrn designs a tattoo, and he chooses something to represent the group; a sword for him, a book for Evyn, a rock for the stone mage, and then a plant for Aubin. He chooses the spikiest, scariest looking plant he can find, modelled after sea holly. And then Aubin calmly informs him that that plant helps with, ahem, male personal problems. You can feel the wind knocked right out of Thorrn’s sails!

LH: That’s hilarious! I love all of the detail and meaning you’ve woven through the story, it adds so many layers and gives the reader so much more than they expected! Where do you find inspiration for your characters or settings? 

BJ: My stories are heavily UK influenced, from the mythology and folklore to the settings (semi-rural British countryside and our canals feature a lot. Slightly obsessed with canals). I’ll feature the dreaming spires of Oxford next to steel-crash impacted Sheffield, and there needs to be more about the laylines influencing Milton Keynes and the real story behind the Magic Roundabout in Swindon.

As for characters, well, Thorrn walked into my head one day and wouldn’t leave me alone. So it goes!

LH: Being from Sheffield, I heavily support this, and my books are similarly filled with British folklore and the realities of life in a Northern ex-mining town. Plus, who doesn’t love canals? Their history is fascinating. I’ll have to pick your brain about them another time! Do you consider yourself a plotter, pantser or plantser? 

BJ: I’ll be writing away and have no idea where this is going. The characters have a situation in front of them, and it’s up to them to solve it. I’m hardly ever involved! I guess that makes me a pantser, but I’ll be pantsing along and some item or event from earlier in the book or series suddenly has a role. Maybe that’s a special type of plantser (plant as in planting things there – but utterly by accident). This just supports my theory that we actually just channel stories, like some kind of medium, and that the author has very little to do with the process apart from technical execution!

LH: I know exactly what you mean, the number of times I’ve foreshadowed something without even realising it or meaning to, those are my absolute favourite moments when writing! So, what are you working on right now?

BJ: I am writing a fantasy romance! It will be featured in the Realm of Darkness set.

LH: Ooh, I’m very excited to read this collection! What one piece of advice would you give aspiring authors? 

BJ: A popular Welsh saying is, “It never hurts to ask the question. Them that don’t ask don’t want.” Always try, because rather an ‘oops’ than a ‘never was’. 

LH: Brilliant advice, and so true, I feel like so many people don’t even try to achieve their dreams because they’re afraid of failing or looking daft. It’s only the ones who are willing to fall flat on their faces, and then pick themselves back up, who succeed.

Thank you so much for chatting with me today, Becky! It’s been a dream. Before I let you go, how can we find out more about you and your books? 


That was so much fun, I love chatting with my fellow UK-based indie authors, it’s such a treat to share so much in common. And Becky is just the loveliest. And incredibly talented to boot! I’m not jealous at all…

Go check out The King’s Swordsman series and the Realm of Darkness boxset and enjoy some fabulous fantasy stories, and support an indie author!

Happy reading,

Lyndsey

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Interview: Fantasy and Romance Author Susan Stradiotto

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.

The first in series is free here: https://books2read.com/callofthestormsorcerer/

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? 

Susan’s Website:  https://susanstradiotto.com 

Sign up to Susan’s Newsletter and get a FREE story!https://www.subscribepage.com/susansfantasycommunity 

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

Join her Facebook group:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/aworldawayfantasyreaders 

Upcoming Release: Raine of Fire, A Wickney Mystery Novel coming August 23, 2022: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/58736734-raine-of-fire


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!

Happy reading!

Lyndsey

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Interview: Sci-Fi and Fantasy Romance Author Dani Hoots

Hi friends! With just three weeks to go until Once Upon a Name is released into the world (so exciting!), I wanted to introduce you to another of my fabulous coauthors.

Dani Hoots is a science fiction, fantasy, romance, and young adult author who loves anything with a story.

Keep reading to find out all about Dani’s books, and her upcoming story in OUAN.

Hi Dani, welcome to my blog! Why don’t you tell us a little about yourself?

I am Dani Hoots and I am a YA sci fi and fantasy author with over 20 books published. I live in Arizona with my husband where we spend our time hiking and finding new bookstores to check out and restaurants to eat at. I love manga and anime and learning new recipes. 

Reading and eating, my two favourite pastimes! When did you start writing and what inspired you? 

I started writing when I was very young. I always loved stories and wanted to create my own.

I can totally see little Dani reading Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and dreaming up her own version! What are some of your favourite tropes?

The punk boy with a soft heart. Also the badass female lead who doesn’t stick to gender norms. Enemies to lovers is also a fav.

Those are such good ones! I’m a big enemies to lovers fan too, and who doesn’t love a tough female main character? Tell us about your first published book, or your favourite or most recent release.

It’s not my first book published, but the first book I ever wrote and finished was The Quest and although my newest book always ends up being my favorite, I really love that one and it is dear to my heart.

That’s so heartwarming, it’s a really special moment when you finish a book and this just shows how important that feeling of achievement can be. Where do you find inspiration for your characters or settings? 

For The Quest, I think I was inspired by some dreams I had when I was in high school, along with actors/actresses. I always end up getting inspired by some actor/actress and make up a story for them. For The Quest it was Anna Van Hooft and Taylor Kitsch.

I can definitely see that, I probably did the same and just never wrote my imaginings down. Are you a plotter, pantser or plantser? 

Plantser! I make some outlines and then let the characters go like squirrels.

Haha! That’s a brilliant image. Those pesky plot bunnies are definitely nothing like nice little ducks that will sit in a row! So, what are you working on right now?

I am working on the next books of my City of Kaus series.

I’m excited for that, Revenge has such a cool concept and is a really fresh take on the space western genre. I loved Firefly and your City of Kaus series gives me serious Firefly vibes! What one piece of advice would you give aspiring authors? 

Keep writing and don’t listen to people who say you can’t do it. You can and you will. Also take some marketing classes.

I completely agree! Especially on the marketing classes. Just kidding, but my day job as a marketer has definitely come in handy as an indie author!

Thank you so much for chatting with me today, Dani! Before I let you get back to creating worlds, how can we find out more about you and your books? 


Which of Dani’s books are you going to read first? I have to admit, I’m torn between Trapped in Wonderland, Revenge, and Endangered! All of Dani’s covers are just so gorgeous, I’m going to need them all.

You can support both me and Dani by buying our anthology, Once Upon a Name, which comes out on 20 April and all profits go to Book Aid International.

Happy reading!

Lyndsey

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