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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Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

I recently listened to the audio book of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern and really enjoyed it, it’s completely unlike anything I’ve ever read before. It’s an adult fantasy, almost magical realism, set in part in London, as well as various real cities across the world that the circus visits. It spans over a century, with the main story beginning in the mid 1800s and ending in the early 1900s.

TL;DR two magicians play a dangerous game, pitting their unwitting contestants against each other in a decades-long battle of talent and skill. A miraculous circus that only opens at night, a group of incredibly talented illusionists and performers, and an utterly fabulous clock all combine to make a spectacular fairy tale filled with magic and enchantment.

 

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4.5 stars

Synopsis

Where to start! This book has so many layers, so many subplots that combine to make a beautifully complex story. It begins with an introduction to the circus as though you yourself are visiting it right now, in modern day, describing what you see and smell.

Admittedly, the second person present tense was jarring at first, I’ve never read a book that was written that way, but only the framing parts are in second, the rest of the story is written in third. I’ve seen a few reviews where people DNFed because they couldn’t get into the book, and to be honest I can see why some didn’t persevere, but as I was listening to the audio book it was easier to push past the initially uncomfortable parts and just listen until I was completely absorbed by the story.

“The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.”

We start with Prospero and “the man in the grey suit”, or Alexander, two old friends and rivals who decide to each choose a pawn to play in a mysterious game. Prospero’s own daughter Celia has recently come to live with him after her mother committed suicide, and Prospero quickly realises that she has inherited his magical abilities, a natural talent for manipulating the world around her. Marco on the other hand, Alexander’s playing piece, is plucked from an orphanage and spends years learning how to create illusions, use charms and enchantments, and manipulate the perceptions of the people around him.

“People see what they wish to see. And in most cases, what they are told that they see.”

We then meet Chandresh Lefevre, who Alexander encourages to open a circus, providing them with a game board on which to play their pieces. Marco takes on the role of Chandresh’s assistant, and Celia auditions to be the circus’s illusionist. Neither is aware that the other is their opponent. Both use their own skills and abilities to manipulate the circus and those who are a part of it, including the proprietors and the performers, waiting for the day their challenge begins, unaware that it already has.

“Good and evil are a great deal more complex than a princess and a dragon . . . is not the dragon the hero of his own story?”

They each begin to add to the circus, creating new and spectacular attractions – an ice garden, a cloud maze, a wishing well. Eventually, they both work out who their competitor is, and recognising the beauty of each others’ magic, they fall in love.

“Everything I have done, every change I have made to that circus, every impossible feat and astounding sight, I have done for her.”

There’s a parallel story about a young boy called Bailey who visits the circus as a child and meets Poppet, one of the twins, Poppet and Widget, who were born the night the circus opened and possess magical abilities of their own. When the circus returns years later, he searches for Poppet and discovers a whole new destiny.

“You’re in the right place at the right time, and you care enough to do what needs to be done. Sometimes that’s enough.”

The book is incredibly descriptive, with some long sections that only describe the various tents and features of the circus, such as the amazing clock, rather than furthering the plot, but it is astonishingly beautiful and Morgenstern’s imagination is fabulous. Some of the characters could do with a bit more fleshing out, I would have loved to hear more backstory on some of them, like Tsukiko the contortionist, and Alexander – the most mysterious character in the entire book, but in some ways the lack of backstory adds to the overall mystery.

The origins and limitations of magic are never explained, leaving it up to the readers’ imagination – a lot of things are alluded to in the story and never fully explained. How Marco is able to study magic and learn to wield it, while Celia is born with natural abilities, is just one of the questions we’re left with.

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I’m giving The Night Circus 4.5 stars because it was absolutely enchanting, with wonderful descriptions and a fairy tale like plot. The only reason it’s not a five star read for me is because of the confusing format, with changes in person and tense as well as time jumps that leave you wondering how long has passed if you’re not listening carefully.

The mountain of questions I was left with afterwards also stopped this from being five star, some of which are interesting and allow me to wonder, others make me wish there had been more explanation and back story. The ending was definitely unexpected, I’m not sure how I feel about it, I don’t think I would have ended it quite that way, but I don’t feel like I need a sequel, I think the story tied up neatly and didn’t really leave room, unless we focused on Poppet and Bailey’s story.

All in all, it was a lovely listen, and now I’m even more excited to download Caraval, which I’ve seen described as ‘The Night Circus for YA’! Have you read The Night Circus? What were your thoughts? I hear it’s been optioned for a film, but there’s been no announcements yet – I’d love to see it on screen! Who would you cast?

Lyndsey

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Review The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern Lyndsey's Book Blog