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: https://books2read.com/u/3yEEd6 

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:  https://sarinalanger.com 

Sign up to Sarina’s email list: https://www.subscribepage.com/sarinasbooks

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

Like her Facebook Fan Page: https://www.facebook.com/sarinalangerwriter
And join her Reader Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/sarinassparrows

Follow her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/sarina_langer

And find Sarina on TikTokhttps://www.tiktok.com/@sarinalangerwriter

Subscribe to The Writing Sparrow podcast: https://www.buzzsprout.com/1356037

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: http://mybook.to/darkenedlight1

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?

Lyndsey

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Interview and happy release day: epic fantasy author R.S. Williams

Happy release day to Kingdom of Lies by R.S. Williams!

I had the absolute privilege of meeting Rhianne recently, and interviewing her for this blog, and she’s just as lovely as she comes across online. Fancy getting to know her better? Keep reading…

Hi Rhianne, it’s so nice to finally meet you in real life after over a year of online frienship! Why don’t you start by telling us a little about yourself?

I write under R. S. Williams, but you can call me Rhianne. I live in the south west of England in Somerset with my husband and two cats. Soon to have a little sproglet running around as well. Which is my way of saying I’m pregnant – yay! Although my cats are very much like two babies too – I spoil them rotten! 

I love music and dancing, watching crime and fantasy TV shows and films. If you can’t find me – usually look in one of three places, my office, the lounge or my bed. I’ll probably be reading or playing video games! 

Congratulations on your pregnancy! My little boy just turned three and definitely keeps me on my toes! Plus we have two dogs, so it’s a little crazy over here. But you’re going to love being a mum! When did you first start writing and what inspired you? 

I actually starting writing very young when my school asked everyone to write a poem and they were all published in a book parents could buy! Then as a teenager I thought I was going to make millions by writing songs, but that was short lived, and then at 18 I started writing novels. 

Oh wow, that sounds so adorable, I’d love a book with a poem by my son and his schoolmates. My origin story is quite similar, we had to write a poem in the style of Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes and I chose Red Riding Hood. The Ofsted inspector came around the same time and she loved my poem so much she took it to show around all of the other local primary schools. I still have a copy tucked away somewhere, it’s my prized possession. So, what are some of your favourite books?

Always a hard question to answer because I can guarantee you I will forget something and possibly change my mind tomorrow. However my staples have always been Vampire Academy, Graceling, Throne of Glass, Harry Potter and A Touch of Power.

I love fantasy, which is why I write it, but I also have a HUGE soft spot for contemporary romance – always a good pallet cleanser too. 

Graceling and Throne of Glass are two of my top favourites too, and Harry Potter is what originally got me into fantasy books as a teen. That and Artemis Fowl. Tell us about your first published book, or your most recent release.

Can I do both?

My first published book was The Collective. I brought together two things which I loved at the time. Pirates and time travel. I had also just watched The Adjustment Bureau and was obsessed with the idea that someone controlled the timeline and had to set it back on course. So, my story was born. The Collective – a secret society that protects history. Jenny – my main character who wants to prove her worth and find her missing parents, and Tilly – the girl who was at the wrong place at the right time. 

My most recent release is titled Kingdom of Lies and is the first book in my fantasy trilogy The Kane Saga, which I have been working on for at least four years. I LOVE this story. I have poured my soul between the pages and, it’s funny, because at the time I was seeing post about ‘powerful female protagonists’ and I suddenly realised all the books I read had female leads… so I chose to write a male one. Bonkers when you think about it, that way. But its about a teenage boy whose parents’ assassins come back for him. Oh and he’s hidden royalty 😉 

I don’t even know where to start. First of all, I LOVED The Adjustment Bureau so your The Collective series sounds like my cup of tea! Second, hidden royalty? Assassins? Yes please! I’m so glad Kingdom of Lies hit my Kindle today so I can devour it! Where do you find inspiration for your characters or settings? 

Anywhere really. Sometimes they just come to me randomly and I start jotting down notes. Other times I’ll be watching a TV series or a film and want to change things or see something I like and add them to the idea bank then when inspiration hits I put them all together and see what I pull out. It’s a fun experience.

It sounds fun, I definitely watch enough TV and movies to find inspiration, I just need an idea bank to put them in! Are you a plotter, pantser or plantser? 

Somewhere between plotter and plantser. I love to plot but also diving off the edge is fun too!

I love that description. As a fellow plotter-leaning plantser, it does feel a lot like free-falling when I let myself veer off track while drafting my stories. But I always land somewhere unexpected and amazing. What are you working on right now?

I am writing an exclusive story for my patrons, plotting a vampire standalone and editing books 2&3 of The Kane Saga.

Crikey, that’s a lot of irons in the fire! I’ll let you get back to your WIPs soon then. First though, what one piece of advice would you give aspiring authors? 

Never give up. Some of my favourite authors didn’t make it the first try. James Patterson was rejected 31 times before his first book got published. Victoria Schwab had written 13 books before she got noticed. It takes time, but you will get there. The world needs your story too. 

That’s really encouraging, it just shows that art is so subjective and it only takes one yes to cancel out all of the nos. Thank you so, so much for being here today Rhianne, I’ve loved chatting to you. And congratulations on the release of Kingdom of Lies! Where can we find out more about you and your books? 

Rhianne’s website https://www.authorrhiannewilliams.com

Sign up to Rhianne’s newsletter https://www.authorrhiannewilliams.com/members 

Follow Rhianne on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/authorrhiannewilliams

Like Rhianne’s Facebook page   https://www.facebook.com/authorrswilliams 

Join Rhianne’s Readers on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/groups/rhiannesreaders

Add Kingdom of Lies (The Kane Saga #1) to your TBR https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/58380471-kingdom-of-lies 

Read the prequel novella to KoL, Tournament of the Elite, when you sign up to Rhianne’s email list!


How stunning are Rhianne’s covers? I’ve been desperately waiting for Kingdom of Lies to release for months, and now it’s finally here, I’m off to read way past my bedtime.

Happy reading folks!

Lyndsey

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Interview: Epic fantasy author Kala Merseal

Hi friends! How are we already half way through July? This year has absolutely flown, especially after last year seemed to drag so much.

I’ve been a busy bee this month, making my new story A Fair Deception available on Amazon (if you’ve read it I’d absolutely love it if you left a review on Amazon, Goodreads and/or Bookbub!), drafting my new 2k word flash fiction story for an anthology coming out next year with a group of 20 fellow authors, and ramping up the marketing for my new release, Enchanted Waters, which comes out tomorrow!

In between all of that though, I made time to chat with the lovely Kala Merseal, author of The Guardians of Altana series. Come along and see what we talked about…

Hi, it’s so lovely to be speaking to you! Why don’t you start by telling us a little about yourself?

Hi, I’m Kala! I’m an indie fantasy author that lives in southeast Missouri. I’m married, with three furbabies. I love books, comics, anime, and Asian live-action dramas, as well as playing The Sims, Skyrim, and Summoners’ War!

Aw, I have two furbabies and now I want another one! I used to play a lot of Assassin’s Creed and I actually miss it, I’ll have to start playing again when my son is asleep. So, what are your favourite genres to read and write?

My favorite genre hands-down is fantasy. Epic/high fantasy, dark fantasy, urban. I’ll take any of it. As for tropes, I do love the “enemies to lovers”, the “bad guys are actually good guys”, the “bad guy becomes redeemed”, and finally the “good guy spirals into corruption” tropes. The Guardians of Altana has redemption for the antagonist in the end but doesn’t follow any of my other absolute favorite tropes. I would say GOA’s main theme is redemption though. 

I do love a redemption arc, but “good guy spirals into corruption” sounds really interesting, you’ll have to give me some recs! Tell us about your first published book, was that a fantasy novel?

My first published book was actually back in 2016 and it was called Purge, a vampire horror novel. I have since unpublished and buried it deep in the backyard.

In 2020, I published my first epic fantasy novel, The Shadow Curse, embarking on a new journey as an indie author. At the end of this month, exactly a year since I published the first of my series, I’ll be publishing the conclusion, The Dark Realm!

That’s so exciting! Congratulations on having a complete series, that is the absolute dream for any author I think. Where do you find inspiration for your characters or settings?

My latest series (my first officially published and finished series) is from a dream I had a few years ago.

I’d love it if story ideas came to me in dreams, mine always seem to be from podcasts! Random, I know. And I’m always driving or doing dishes so I can’t write them down. Do you consider yourself a plotter, pantser or plantser?

I am a plotter all the way. I can’t keep my head straight if I don’t have a voluminous amount of notes for my stories and their worlds.

Same! Although I’m more of a plantser, I love a big story bible with character profiles, magic rules, geography and flora and fauna, and a chapter by chapter list of what needs to happen, but I do leave some room for discovery writing. What are you working on right now?

I just released the last book of my series, The Guardians of Altana, on June 29. So exciting! In my spare time, I’m outlining my next series, The Hunted Duology.

That’s so exciting, I hope your release went well! That’s amazing that you already have another series to get stuck into, I need to think about what I’m going to do after The Fair Chronicles is complete. But that’s a problem for 2023 Lyndsey! 

Thank you so much for chatting with me today, Kala, it’s been lovely! Before you go, what one piece of advice would you give aspiring authors?

Don’t give up. I think that’s the best thing that needs to be constantly drilled into writers and creatives in general. It’s so easy to stop doing what you love just because life gets in the way. 

Absolutely, it’s not the easy choice, especially if you’re an indie, but it’s so worthwhile and there’s room for all of us on the bookshelf! How can we find out more about you and your books?

You can join my newsletter or join my Facebook group! I send out emails twice a month but I’m frequently on Facebook.

 Website: www.kalamerseal.com 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kalamersealwrites/ 

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/KalaMersealAuthor 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/KalaMerseal 


If you’re anything like me, you feel absolutely spoiled with incredible new fantasy books to add to your TBR now! It’s going to be a long, hot summer of reading friends.

Lyndsey

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