Interview: Debut Fantasy and Sci-Fi Author Marie Reed

Hello lovely people! We’re down to single digits until release day for The Solitary King and I cannot wait for you all to get your hands on the second chapter of Aria’s story. You can get your hands on it here:

Today, I’m chatting with another one of my Once Upon a Name anthology coauthors, Marie Reed, so keep reading to find out more about our upcoming collection of fantasy short stories…

Hi Marie! Thank you so much for speaking to me today. Why don’t you start by telling us a little bit about yourself?

I was born in Ohio but have lived in Illinois as long as I can remember. I met my husband in high school; we have 2 kids who are both in school. My major in college was Archaeology and Classical Studies, and I would love to work in a museum or library.

That sounds absolutely fascinating! And a perfect background for creating fantasy stories. Working in a library would be such a dream job! When did you start writing and what inspired you?

I’ve been writing on and off since elementary school. My school had an author contest every year and we’d get to write and illustrate our books in hardback form. In fifth grade, mine was voted Best In Show and I got to go meet published authors and show them my book. I still have a signed copy of a book I got that day as well. I went through a poetry phase in high school and have since thrown all evidence of that away. Now that the kids are in school, I have quiet time to sit and write down the ideas that have been swirling around my head for years.

What an amazing opportunity your school gave you! I’m very jealous. My school had us write poems in the style of Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes, and when the school assessor came round they liked mine so much they took a copy to show round other schools. I was (and still am) so proud, but I didn’t get to meet a published author or get a signed book!! What are your favourite books that you’ve read?

I’ve read so many books that it’s hard to pick favorites. I read mostly urban and epic fantasy and sci-fi. However, Pride and Prejudice will forever be one of my favorite books. Terry Brooks is also one of my absolute favorite authors. And so many indie authors that I’ve come to find in the past few years!

I’ve loved reading more indie books over the last couple of years, both of my absolute favourite reads from 2021 were indie. Tell us about your upcoming debut publication!

My story about Callie Azuresmith in Once Upon a Name will be my first published story, but I am working on an urban fantasy/superhero story that I hope to have finished in the next year. I love reading about fantastic, magical places, so that’s what I write about.

I’m really excited to read your story, Forged in Fire, in Once Upon a Name, and your first novel! Where do you find the inspiration for your characters and story?

I’m not really sure where my characters come from; I usually start with a random scene in the middle of my story and the character builds themselves a history from that.

For my debut series, The Fair Chronicles, it was actually the setting that came first and then the story and characters came out of that, so there’s infinite ways inspiration for a story can strike. Do you consider yourself a plotter or a pantser?

I’m definitely more of a pantser, but am trying to outline and plan more to help with the pacing of my stories, and to make sure I can hit novel length word counts.

I’m a chronic underwriter, hitting word count goals is such a challenge for me, even as a card carrying plotter. What’s your current WIP?

My superhero story is about a girl named Natasha, who wanted to go into law enforcement, but found that no one trusts her in her hometown because of her…shocking outbursts. So she leaves home and decides to fight crime in the big city, and of course gets in over her head.

That sounds so cool, I love a good superhero movie so I’ll definitely be reading that when you publish! What one piece of advice would you give to fellow aspiring authors?

I would say to stay at your own pace and do your own thing. One person might tell you that you need to write a thousand words every day, another might say you need a detailed outline before you can write. Do whatever feels natural.

Brilliant advice, I love that. It can be really disheartening to hear some writers say you need to write every single day, or showing off their huge daily word counts, especially when some of us work full time and have young kids. Staying in your own lane and keeping your eyes on your own paper can be challenging, but it’s so important if you want to achieve your own goals and not be distracted by what everyone else is doing.

Thank you so much for chatting with me today Marie! Before you go, where can we find out more about you and keep up to date with your works-in-progress?

I’m still starting out, but I have an author page on Facebook and Instagram, and have profiles on Amazon, Goodreads, and Bookbub. There isn’t much there yet, but hopefully that will change soon!

How lovely is Marie? I’m excited for Once Upon a Name’s release so you can read both Marie’s story, Forged in Fire, and mine, Baroness of Blood and Bone!

Have you seen the 2022 reading planner we’ve put together to raise even more money for Book Aid International? It’s full of really useful layouts like habit trackers, month at a glance, a year in books and review pages to help you keep track of your reading and make notes on the books you read. It also features quotes and illustrations from our stories in the anthology, which you could even colour in if you fancied!

Click here to get your copy:



Interview: time travel sci-fi author D.M. Taylor

I hope you’re having a relaxing, restorative and joyous festive break, friends! I scheduled this post before the big day, so right now I’m probably knee-deep in mince pies and Baileys. Or sneaking the batteries out of whichever annoying new toy the grandparents bought for my three-year-old…

As a little Twixmas treat (that’s the scientific name for the gap between Christmas and New Year where we only wear pajamas and have no idea what day it is), I’m sharing my interview with the lovely, talented and very down-to-earth D.M. Taylor, one of my Once Upon a Name co-authors.

Read on to find out what we chatted about.

Hi, thank you so much for chatting with me today! Tell us a little about yourself to begin with.

I’m from Michigan. I’ve lived here my whole life. My favorite part about living in Michigan is that we have the most spectacular summers surrounded by the Great Lakes. It’s never too far to get to a beach. 

That sounds wonderful, we’re not too far from the Lake District in England, and we’re right on the edge of the Peak District, so I definitely appreciate a good natural backdrop! When did you start writing and what inspired you?

I’ve been a writer my whole life. In grade school, always writing stories and entering the Young Author’s contests. I have stacks and stacks of diaries, poetry notebooks, story starters that I’ve written in throughout my life. 

I made the move to become a published author a few years ago after writing a story that was inspired by the loss of my mom. Once the first draft of that story was on paper, a fire ignited to see it to publication. 

I’m so sorry for your loss. What a beautiful tribute to write a story inspired by your mother, and for that story to have been the catalyst for your publishing career. What are some of your favourite books?

I am all over the place with what I like to read. In a nutshell, I love a story that I can totally lose myself in. Some favorites include; Dark Matter by Blake Crouch, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Dracula by Bram Stoker, Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Good choices! And quite a mix there, you obviously have an eclectic taste. I think it’s great when you can enjoy a wide range of genres and look for the story elements you love that link them together. Tell us about your first published book.

My debut book is titled, The Reckoning: A Time Travel Thriller.

It’s about a young woman who is facing the grief of losing her mother to cancer. She goes on to become a renowned physicist who is driven to discover time travel and get back to her mom. But, what she thought would undo years of turmoil, might have triggered the downfall of society and put those she loves in peril danger. 

That sounds so fascinating, and grief is such a strong motivator, your protagonist sounds incredibly courageous. Where do you find inspiration for your characters or settings? 

I am a people watcher! Most of what I write comes from people I know, I’ve watched, or experiences I’ve read about. The stories of real people that impress on me the most, stick around and take up space in my brain until I get them onto paper as a character in the world I make up for them. 

I love that, reality is such a rich source of inspiration. And creating a fantastical world to set the story in just adds another layer of possibility to let your creativity go wild, while keeping the story grounded in truth. Are you a plotter, pantser or plantser? 

I’ve evolved from a straight pantser to a plantster. I am unable to tap into creativity in straight out plotting but I do a rough outline to keep my timelines straight. Time travel is tricky business. 

I can imagine! I’m a plantser too, I need some structure, but not so much that it stifles my creativity. What are you working on right now?

I’m in editing for my third book in The Reckoning Series and the short story I am contributing for Once Upon a Name: The Sultana of the Deathly Stars.

Editing is my least favourite stage of the writing process, so I’m sending you lots of coffee and good vibes! What one piece of advice would you give aspiring authors? 

Write the book. Everything else can be figured out afterward. 

Thank you so much for joining me today, D.M.! Before you go, how can we find out more about you and your books? 

D.M. Taylor’s Website:

Follow her on Instagram:

Like her Facebook page:

Or find her on TikTok: @authordmtaylor

Book 3 in The Reckoning Series is coming soon! 

I hope you had fun getting to know D.M. Taylor and learning more about her books and upcoming releases. I’m so excited to be working together on Once Upon a Name! Have you heard about our new 2022 reading planner? It’s a gorgeous book filled with weekly, monthly and annual calendars, reading trackers, review pages and illustrations and quotes from our stories in the upcoming anthology. If you order yours now, you can start using it in January and keep track of your reading in a beautiful, mindful way all year long.

Get the Once Upon a Name 2022 reading planner from Amazon

Happy reading!



Interview: fantasy author and podcaster Sarina Langer

Hello, hello!

Happy November. How’s NaNoWriMo going for you? Are you aiming for 50k, or a different, personal goal? I’m working on a couple of shorter projects, getting the audio book of The Fair Queen ready to go live, and preparing to edit The Solitary King next month!

Best of luck with your goal if you’re taking part, I always find November is my best month for word count, even though I’ve never hit 50k. I just enjoy the community and the accountability Nano brings.

This week, I’ve been hanging out with Sarina Langer, fellow Brit, author of Rise of the Sparrows and host of the brilliant podcast The Writing Sparrow.

Thanks so much for chatting with me Sarina! Can you tell us a little about yourself?

You say ‘a little’, but this could be a lot! XD

I live in the cloudy south of England with my partner (calling him my boyfriend makes me feel around 14 years old, which isn’t an age I wish to revisit!) and our daughter/cat. I always wanted a cat but was never allowed one when I was younger, so of course I jumped at the chance when I could. I did have pets growing up, though – my sister and I always had at least two guinea pigs in the house. I’d read fairy tales to mine. My SO insists they didn’t care, but I think they loved it.

I don’t read to my cat, but I often read with her. I have a sofa in my study and she seems to know when I sit down with a book, because she usually comes running. Besides reading, I love playing video games, and just like reading, I’ve played pretty much every genre. My favourite games include Dragon Age (this may be unpopular, but Inquisition is my favourite of the three), Mass Effect (probably unpopular again, but I love love love the ending – yes, it hurts and breaks me every time; no, there isn’t a perfect, feel-good way to win—that’s why I think it’s brilliant!), the Witcher, Pokémon, Stardew Valley, the latest Assassins Creed games (possibly unpopular again, but I haven’t played the earliest ones, so I can’t compare it *shrugs*), The Outer Worlds – a bit of everything. My go-to genre when I’m reading is and always will be epic fantasy, but with games, I just want a strong story that’ll scar me emotionally or at least make me feel something (relaxed and nostalgic count, stressed does not).

Some other things I enjoy include walking in nature, knitting, colouring with an audiobook or a podcast, yoga, and meditation.

I love that your favourite books and games destroy you emotionally, but you counter it with mindfulness, yoga and meditation. That’s a great balance! We should all aspire to that. When did you start writing and who encouraged you? 

The first things I remember writing were half-an-A4-page long stories for my Mum’s colleagues. She let me come to work with her during my primary school summer breaks, and I’d create little presents for everyone. I made complete annual calendars for everyone, too, but that got repetitive quickly. I had more fun with the stories, and her colleagues loved them in the middle of their workdays… or if they didn’t appreciate the interruptions, they never said as much. 

Your mum sounds wonderful, and her colleagues sound very patient! I bet they really enjoyed your short stories during their coffee breaks. Do you have a favourite genre or author?

While I read almost every genre, epic fantasy will always have a special place in my heart. I love the endless possibilities of new worlds whether I’m reading them or creating them. My favourite authors of all time are N. K. Jemisin, Laini Taylor, and Leigh Bardugo, and it’s always because of the worldbuilding. Don’t get me wrong, I need great characters and a strong plot as much as the next bookworm, but both of those need a world to happen in, don’t they?

Leigh Bardugo and Laini Taylor are two of my absolute insta-buys. I don’t even care what the book is about, I will buy and I will love it. Can you tell us about your first published book?

I published my debut novel Rise of the Sparrows in 2016. Back then I was just getting into reading again – it was Empress by Karen Miller that made me realise I wanted to be an author; I recommend you check it out if you haven’t read it – so the idea to write about a world where magic was outlawed was new to me. I’d only read books where magic was a normal part of everyday life, so it was an intriguing new concept to me. I made life as tough as possible for my main character Rachael, a homeless orphan with the magical talent for prophecy, and took it from there!

Writing Rise of the Sparrows was a huge learning curve for me. I didn’t study writing, but I read every book on the craft I could get my hands on. It took years before I was really happy with it, and then I had to accept what every writer eventually needs to accept: perfection is an illusion and I need to let go already.

Since then, I’ve turned it into an audiobook, published the entire trilogy, added a prequel novella, and put together a box set with all four, but it definitely wasn’t an easy journey. I’ve published some other stuff, too, and I’d like to think I’ve improved with every book. 

A while back, I decided to make Rise of the Sparrows perma-free everywhere, so you can easily try my writing if I’m a new author to you. You can get it here: 

You’ve had such an exciting publishing career so far! I’m currently in the process of making my debut novel into an audio book, and it’s been the most fun experience hearing my words read back to me by a professional narrator. Being an indie author can feel like your dreams are coming true every single day! (And other days it can feel like your worst nightmare, but let’s just brush over that!) Where do you find inspiration for your characters or settings? 

Ah yes, that question every creative dreads XD

Inspiration is everywhere. I’ve taken notes while playing a video game, after an especially weird dream, and just while going for a walk or doing the laundry. Our minds are constantly working, and sometimes, two ideas come together while we’re doing other things. I have a notebook app for when inspiration strikes on the go, and I have a physical notebook on my desk where I collect all ideas, even if it’s just one sentence of a conversation.

Most of my books are epic fantasy, but real locations can still be fantastic inspiration. I got the idea for the prison entrance in Brightened Shadows when I went to Winchester with a few friends and we found a sealed, gated entrance to an old tunnel. Every now and again I’ll take pictures when the place fits a fictional one just right, but I’ll admit that I rarely come back to them. Most of them exist in my head.

I can imagine video games are an absolutely brilliant source of inspiration, the story telling in some of the is A+++! I’ve taken inspiration from some really random places, you never know where the final piece of the puzzle to make a plot or character work will come from. Some of mine have been podcasts on history or short Gothic fiction. Having a notebook handy at all times is an absolute must! Do you consider yourself a plotter, pantser or plantser? 

Plantser all the way! I love plotting and feel more secure when I have a plot—I don’t believe you can get stuck when you have a plot figured out, because you can always refer to your notes—but I give my characters free reign, too. I often compare it to going on a road trip: you want to know where you’re going so you know when to turn left or right, but if you see a prettier country road or your friend asks you to check out a location you didn’t know about, you can do that. You really can go as far off track as you want, because you can always come back to your planned route once you’re done exploring. If you realise as you’re travelling that your destination goal has changed, that’s fine too—sometimes, plans change. 

(I should say here that I’ve never been on a road trip)

This is how I approach my writing: I have everything figured out, but when my characters have better ideas, I’ll at least try it. It doesn’t always work out, but it often does. That space where I as the author fade into the background and my characters take over is where magic happens.

That’s a perfect analogy, and exactly how I write too. I love that you say you can go as far off track as you like because you can always come back to your planned route. It’s so true, and makes writing feel safe and productive even when you’re experimenting and exploring. So, what are you working on right now?

I may be working on a short story for a certain anthology 😉 [Lyndsey’s note: Once Upon a Name, the anthology we’re both featured in, coming April 2022!]

Apart from that, I’m editing my next trilogy, and I’m hoping to have all three published before July 2022. A lot can happen between now and then, but the first book (Blood Wisp) is with my editor now for line edits, and I’m editing the first sequel. ARCs will be with my reader group and mailing list before I know it! I hope this doesn’t jinx it, but it’s looking good right now *crosses fingers*

I’ve also recently finished the first draft of my 10th book. I can’t reveal the title just yet (my Patreon Sparrows know what I’m considering and like it, but I haven’t decided), but there’ll be ten books in this series. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little intimidated by that. I’ve never written such a long series, but the first book flew so fast and easily! If that’s any indication, all ten will be out before I’m 50 XD My mailing list Sparrows voted for this idea, so I hope they’ll like what I’m doing with it!

That is so exciting! And I love how involved your Patrons and subscribers have been in the process, what a fantastic reward for supporting your art! I wish I had the courage to plan a ten book series, I’m currently thinking about a five book series for after my current series in finished in 2023, which will be a prequel series set in the same world as The Fair Chronicles. But that’s as long as I dare go at this point! I can’t wait to find out more about it. What one piece of advice would you give aspiring authors? 

Learn, learn, learn. If you’ve never written a book before, this’ll be a steep learning curve, and it’ll likely be terrifying, but everything that’s worth doing is. Don’t dismiss any way of learning outright but try everything at least once, whether it’s listening to a podcast on writing, reading a ton of books on the craft, browsing blogs for the knowledge you want, asking on social media, etc. Try everything and see what works for you. Don’t forget that you learn best by doing. You can soak up all the theory you want, but you won’t really know what works for you unless you sit your butt down and start writing. Even then, your process will probably change with every book. This is normal too.

So, don’t be afraid of this process and its learning curve—embrace it. 

(And one quick, additional note, if I’m allowed: read. Authors should be readers, if you ask me. You learn an awful lot simply by enjoying a good book (or reading one you don’t enjoy all that much), and it’ll all stick somewhere in your mind. I genuinely believe that you do yourself a disservice if you want to write a book but don’t want to read.)

OK, I think you just became my mentor (and probably everyone’s who’s reading this and wants to write a book one day). You’re such a font of wisdom and knowledge, Sarina! Thank you so much for sharing your incredible insight with us, I’m definitely subscribing to The Writing Sparrow podcast.

Thanks so much for chatting with me today, Sarina, it’s been lovely getting to know better. Before I let you go, how can we find out more about you and your books?

My website is a great starting point. It has links to all of my books and social media pages, as well as my maps, book trailers… all that good stuff. From there, you can easily go wherever you’re happiest, be it Instagram, my monthly mailing list, or directly to my sales pages. The links to all of these are included here, too, just below this bit 🙂

Sarina’s Website: 

Sign up to Sarina’s email list:

Follow her on Instagram:

Like her Facebook Fan Page:
And join her Reader Group:

Follow her on Twitter:

And find Sarina on TikTok

Subscribe to The Writing Sparrow podcast:

My latest release is Brightened Shadows, but since that’s the second book in a duology, I recommend you start with the first one, Darkened Light:

It’s a dark epic fantasy, and it’s separate to the Relics of Ar’Zac trilogy in every way, so it doesn’t matter if you haven’t read that. You can be a new reader to my books and start with Darkened Light.

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I had the best time getting to know Sarina and her books better, so I really hope you enjoyed that too! How gorgeous are her covers? I’m really looking forward to reading Darkened Light and Brightened Shadows, and the upcoming Blood Wisp!

Which one of Sarina’s books will you read first?