Interview: YA and NA fantasy author Bekah Berge

Happy Sunday friends, how was your week? I hope you’re taking the time to rest and recuperate before next week, you deserve to take it slow today and refill your cup, whether that’s reading a book, taking a nice, hot bath, going for a long walk, or playing your favourite music at full blast and dancing around your kitchen. (I’ll be doing all of those things, and going for a big roast dinner at the pub later, too!)

Today, I want to introduce you to an incredible woman who is not just a brilliant writer and a huge supporter of indie authors, she’s also a really inspiring human.

Meet Bekah Berge, author or Needlework and Sedendum, and one of the amazing authors I’m working with on Once Upon a Name!

Hi Bekah, thanks so much for joining me today! Can you tell us a little about yourself?

Hi everyone, my name is Bekah Berge and I write YA and NA fantasy. When not writing, I am often found reading or trying out a new vegan recipe. I also have a rare chronic pain condition called CRPS (complex regional pain syndrome) that can make life a little more complicated… 

YA fantasy is my favourite genre, and I love trying new recipes! I’ve seen your posts about CRPS on social media and it sounds like such a tough condition, I admire you so much for facing it head on and still going after your dreams! So, when did you start writing and what inspired you? 

I began writing a little over 10 years ago. I had been crafting stories in my head for years, but never thought of becoming a writer until one day when I decided to put my thoughts on a page. Over 400 pages later, I had my first book. It was awful with several plot holes, but I was hooked. I couldn’t wait to start writing another story. Now, over a decade later, I’ve written eight books and published four of them.  

Wow, eight books! You’re a total writing veteran. What would you say is your favourite book or genre?

My absolute favorite book of all time is Brightly Burning by Mercedes Lackey. I love reading fantasy, historical fiction, historical romance, rom coms, biographies, and a few classics. I’m a sucker for enemies-to-lovers, as well as anything set in or involving Egypt. 

Enemies to lovers gets me every single time. I haven’t read Brightly Burning but I’ll have to check it out! I love getting book recs from the authors I interview, they’re always the best. Can you tell us about your first published book?

My first published book was The Whisperings in the Shadows, which is part of the Shadow Series. It’s a fun series for me to write because my hero and villain are the same person. You’ll have to read it to learn more. 

Ooh, that sounds very intriguing! I can’t wait to read it. Where do you find inspiration for your characters or settings? 

For me, inspiration often comes in the form of music. Other times I’ll be inspired by a piece of poetry or (strangely) when I’m cleaning. People would be shocked by how many storylines have come to me while cleaning the kitchen.  

I get most of my ideas while doing mindless tasks like cleaning too, or out walking the dogs. Something about nature and no distractions, it’s my prime creative time. Are you a plotter, pantser or plantser? 

Plotter.

Me too, I need a good, strong outline to keep me on track while my mind wanders off on a tangent! What are you working on right now?

I’m working on two short stories going in two different anthologies, as well as a few other projects that I’m keeping close to my chest for now. 

Exciting! I can’t wait to read your story for Once Upon a Name, and to find out more about your upcoming WIPs! What one piece of advice would you give aspiring authors? 

Figure out your “why” with the story. Why are you writing it? Why should readers care? Why is the character making that decision? Why does it drive the story forward? Once you know your “why” I think the story blossoms into something really magical for readers.  

That’s great advice, I definitely think motivation is really key to a story that grips readers and stays with them long after. So many books feel just slightly flat because the ‘why’ either isn’t there or isn’t credible enough.

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

Visit my website CRPSBookshelf.com to learn more about me and my books. I am also very active on Instagram and all four of my books are available on Amazon. 

Visit Bekah’s Website:  https://crpsbookshelf.com   

Sign up to Bekah’s Newsletter: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScKtpnIcpsNIV8gnvUfxHQAwK7VVj9RACEHdPbXaqrmIBNW2Q/viewform?vc=0&c=0&w=1&flr=0

Follow her on Instagram: https://instagram.com/Bekah.Berge

Like Bekah’s Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/crpsbookshelf   


Bekah is currently raising funds to help her with the cost of her treatment for CRPS at the prestigious Spero Clinic. If you suffer from a chronic pain condition or know someone who does, then you’ll know how challenging and debilitating it can be. If you can spare just a few dollars to help Bekah reach her fundraising goal, I know it will be so appreciated!

Click here to donate to Bekah’s GoFundMe

And, of course, you can buy Bekah’s books too! Her newest release, Needlework, is a dark fantasy about a music festival and two ambitious young musicians, with themes of mental health and overcoming traumatic experiences. It’s a slow burn romance filled with secrets and the looming threat of war, with fully-formed characters and beautiful, descriptive writing.

Click here to visit Bekah’s Amazon Author page

Once Upon a Name is still available to preorder for just 99c, and will be released in April 2022. Bekah’s story, Salty Sweet, follows Norenia Scarlettreasure as she enters into a cooking competition against some shifty and shady fairy creatures!

Preorder Once Upon a Name

Happy reading, folks!

Lyndsey x

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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Meet Tullia Artfulbeau, Baroness of the Northern Wolves

Last week, we revealed the (frankly, gorgeous) cover of Once Upon a Name, the upcoming collection of fantasy short stories that I’ll be publishing alongside nineteen fellow authors in April 2022.

Today, I want to introduce the main character of my story, Baroness of Blood and Bone.

Meet Tullia Artfulbeau, Baroness of the Northern Wolves.

Tullia Artfulbeau is the alpha of the Northern Wolves, a pack of shifters who rule the Ancient City with an iron fist. Despite being the smallest pack in the city.

On the night of the Blood Moon, Tullia performs a ritual to find out the truth about her mother’s murder. With the help of the local vamp club owner, she’s able to uncover the mystery and reveal her mother’s true killer.

But will she be able to take her final revenge?

Find out on 20 April 2022 when Once Upon a Name comes out!

Preorder the ebook here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B09C2TDGJV/

Preorder the paperback here: https://bronzewoodbooks.com/product/once-upon-a-name-paperback/

Add it to your TBR here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/58804078-once-upon-a-name

What do you think of Tullia? Are you excited to read the full story next year? I’ll be revealing more snippets and introducing some other characters over the next few months, so slip on your leather jacket and hop on your motorbike and get ready to ride into the Ancient City.

Lyndsey

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