Stormy weaves an intricate tale in her debut novel “Bound by Duty”, she’s also managed to navigate the complicated realm of gaining success as a self published author. She shares some great insights into that complicated process along with giving us a glimpse into the depths of the world she has created. I hope you enjoy.
What was the genesis of the idea for Bound by Duty? Was this an idea you had for a long time before writing it or was it that middle of night flash of genius?
I truly had no idea that I ever wanted to write a book. I read all the time – books upon books – but I hadn’t considered truly writing. I had just finished reading Rachel Higginson’s Star-Crossed series for the third or fourth time and it just started bouncing around in my head that the story could have gone this way, or this could have happened, or that…and suddenly my own story was born. It took a lot of work to take it from some random thoughts in my head to a real story people should read, but that’s where it all started.
Do your characters inspire you in daily life?
I think I would actually say the opposite. My daily life often inspires my characters. I watch the way people engage with each other and how they treat each other. I take conversations and reactions and they become part of my scenes.
How long did it take you to complete Bound By Duty?
I published it one year to the day from when I wrote the first word. It could have published sooner, but that date was sentimental to me, and I also work full time and go to graduate school, so I can’t spend all of my time writing and editing (though I’d really like to!).
What draws you to the paranormal genre? To YA?
That is what I’ve always been drawn to. They say to write what you know, and I can’t tell you how many YA and paranormal books I’ve read. I had the original LJ Smith books, back in middle school (I still have them!). I loved Buffy and Charmed. Magic, shifting, faeries…it’s always been a passion point for me. And I love the way that YA pulls you back to that time in your life when everything was new, every experience was a first and there were just so many emotions that you couldn’t take it. Things were so complicated, but as an adult when you look back, it was so simple.
What has been your favorite part of any of the books you have written so far? Best line or scene you’ve written?
I have two answers. The friendship between Bethany and Amelia was one of my favorite things to write. Bethany is a conglomeration of all of my best friends throughout my life and she was the best friend we all want. Her empathy, but “no holds barred” style was something I loved and something Amelia needed.
But, the scene that I’m most proud of comes near the end of the book when Amelia meets a man named Elias. I can’t tell you much without spoilers, but she sees one of his memories and that writing was what I felt like was my best in the book.
What’s your favorite part about writing worlds filled with magic?
I feel like magic is the extension of our emotions. It gives me the chance to personify something that I feel so strongly and give it its own life force. It allows me to visually show a reader things I could only describe before, and it gives me the opportunity to do more with the story line because readers are already in a state of suspension of belief. They will allow me to do crazy things and have wild plots because I already operate in a world of magic. I have to make sure I don’t go too far, but it gives me a lot of freedom as an author.
Is there a character that has taken a completely different turn than you originally planned for it?
I don’t think I had a character who took a different turn, but I did have a lot of characters that I didn’t know actually existed until I was writing them. A whole plot line that includes a family member of Amelia’s was never part of the story until all the sudden he was there on paper. Everyone’s favorite dog, Charlie, wasn’t someone I knew I wanted in the story and then…boom…there he was. And, he’s one of the most commented on characters!
What is the most challenging thing for you writing wise? Fight scenes? Continuity? Love scenes?
As I’m editing my second book, right now it’s keeping all of the details straight. I give you a lot of information and I have a lot of characters. Not too many – this isn’t Game of Thrones – but I mention small details here and there that I then have to decide if I’m going to pull through. I’m actually listening to the audio book files now for Bound by Duty and it’s helping tremendously to bring things to light that need to be woven into Bound by Spells, or even into the third book.
What’s the most fun and most difficult about writing from your perspective?
The most fun thing about writing is that it’s your story. You can change your mind and rewrite it a hundred times if you want to. You can decide who lives and dies, how they act, who falls in love…no one can come in and tell you that you wrote your story wrong. (Let’s be clear, they will oftentimes in their reviews, but by that point it published!)
The most difficult thing about writing is that you don’t always control the words. Your characters do things you didn’t want them to. They tell you the story needs to go another way, or they give you that sour feeling in your stomach until you rewrite the scene to be even better. You feel in control but really, they make sure you’ve told their story right.
Who are your major influences?
Rachel Higginson, who I mentioned earlier, is a huge inspiration. Her books are some of my favorite and she continues to mentor me and the other Rebel Writers. She has been in the game for five years and she knows so much more than we do about what’s worked and how to cut the right corners and which ones not to try to cut at all. Her advice and support has been invaluable.
Also, Jessica Park. I’m a really authentic person but she takes authentic to a new level. She’s so real in her interactions with her fans and in her social presence. She doesn’t apologize for who she is and I love that. And her writing…I can only dream about taking risks like she does and writing stories that can absolute gut people in the very best ways.
For newer authors (like me) what is the best advice you can give to gain traction for your work?
My biggest suggestions are to be really active (and authentic) in your social channels, don’t ask your fans to buy your book all the time (because if they are there they already have) and to actively build relationships with bloggers. Know, and be okay with the fact, that you will give dozens of your books away for free. Donate to every blogger. Sign up for their promos and contests. Help them and it is likely they will help you. And besides, when you gift ebooks as prizes, they count as sales, you make profit and you can write them off. There’s no downside. The biggest upside is that you are likely to get some reviews!
Another author recently said to me that it’s all about putting yourself out there over and over again until you end up in the right place at the right time. There’s never a reason to stop promoting your books, just be honest with yourself and change things if they aren’t working. Do a new cover. Write a new blurb. Hire a different editor to take a pass through it. And then pay for a blog tour or a blitz to get your name out there. It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth every second.
How has Rebel Writers helped you?
I wouldn’t be here without them. Plain and simple. When you decide you want to be an author, you don’t realize how solitary of a life you’ve chosen, because the odds are, no one you know in your everyday life is an author. No one understands what it feels like to be afraid of a blinking cursor, anxious about reading feedback or running victory laps from a great review. So finding the Rebels meant I had a tribe. I had people who were only a click away that got every step of it. And because none of us had published when we first got together last October, we were all really doing it together. The first Rebel (Regan Claire) published in February and we’ve pushed a book out at least every few months since then. Caylie Marcoe and Regan now have two full-length books out. Theresa Kay has one book and a few novellas. Every day we push each other for better, we ask questions and give advice, and we moan and complain about the things that only we really understand.
I’ve only had the opportunity to meet Regan in person, but these girls are like my sisters. I don’t know that there will be a time in my life that I won’t talk to them daily.
I’m editing Bound by Spells now, the second book in the Bound series, and it will publish in March. I’m hopeful to have the final book in the trilogy out in either December 2015 or January 2016.
There has never been a better time to be an author, but it is also a scary time to be an author. There’s a lot of content out there and you have to be ready to do what it takes to break through the clutter. I hope every person reading this who wants to write a book does, but I also hope they steel themselves for the hard part. Sadly, the book is the easiest part. It’s everything that comes after to get it read and out there that’s hard. Be ready for it and embrace it, because it means you will get messages at midnight from readers telling you that they just finished your book and they just HAD to message you about it. You will get reviews that knock your socks off and those that make you want to throat punch somebody. And you will find a tribe of people who understand exactly what every second of it is like. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Why mint chocolate and peanut butter ice cream?
We had a Baskin Robbins in my hometown growing up and I found that combination when I was a kid. There’s pretty much nothing better than chocolate and peanut butter mixed together, and then I realized if I put the mint chocolate chip on the bottom and the choco/pb on the top I could have all of that decadent goodness and then cut through it with refreshing minty-chocolate. It’s bliss. Really. Try it.
Bio: Stormy Smith calls Iowa’s capital home now, but was raised in a tiny town in the Southeast corner of the state. She grew to love books honestly, having a mom that read voraciously and instilled that same love in her. She knew quickly that stories of fantasy were her favorite, and even as an adult gravitates toward paranormal stories in any form.
Writing a book had never been an aspiration, but suddenly the story was there and couldn’t be stopped. When she isn’t working on, or thinking about, her books, Stormy’s favorite places include bar patios, live music shows, her yoga mat or anywhere she can relax with her husband or girlfriends.
Synopsis: Amelia grew up in a world of half-truths. She knows she’s an Elder, but has no idea what that means. Her father reminds her daily that she must maintain control, but he refuses to explain why. Even worse, she’s betrothed to the prince of the Immortals and doesn’t even know his name.
Finally breaking free to live a few normal years at a community college, the last thing Amelia expects is to find her best friend in a cheeky southern girl, or fall for a self-assured human who sees her for who she is, not what she will become.
As she learns more about herself, Amelia realizes the line between love and duty is a thin one. As her power continues to increase exponentially and her questions are slowly answered, Amelia must make the ultimate choice. The question is, will her head win the battle, or her heart?
Excerpt: Bound by Duty – Prologue
Her stark white hair fell down around her face. For the first time in one hundred years it wasn’t pulled back in a waist-length braid. Her crimson robes were torn and stained. She bit back a groan, her lips a tight line as the pain ripped through her once again. The invisible knife raked its way up her back as wounds no one could see flayed her skin and weakened her resolve. It had been days of this and she wasn’t sure if she could continue. As she looked up and met the queen’s eyes, Lavignia pushed the anger down and forced compassion to rise yet again.
“What is it you hope to learn, Julia? What is it you think you have to gain from all of this?” she asked weakly as she tugged on the restraints that kept her tethered to the heavy wooden chair. Her power was already weak when the Hunters had found her, and the enchanted chamber had dampened what remained to a tiny flame.
The room was dark, but the sun was slowly rising. An orange and pink glow filtered through the small window above Julia’s head. The colorful rays that should have resembled hope of a new day only shed light on the reality that Lavignia would never leave this room alive.
Julia stepped from the shadows and walked slowly toward Lavignia. She stopped and crouched down, putting herself at eye level.
“Oh, Livvy, dear. Don’t do that,” she said, her tone patronizing as her ice crystal eyes narrowed. “Don’t pretend you can still look down on me from your Elder tower. Don’t pretend you can utter your polite words and suddenly I’ll remember who you are versus who I am. I know exactly who I am. I am the one who rules them all. I am the one they will bow down to and worship. I am the Queen. Not you. Or your sisters. Your time is done.”
She looked back over her shoulder to the Hunter who stood in the still dark corner of the room and nodded. The Hunter’s eyes burned bright orange as Lavignia’s screams echoed off the walls. Julia raised her hand and the screams dropped to whimpers. With that same hand, she reached out and took Lavignia’s.
“Livvy, look at me,” she commanded. Dazed, dim violet eyes struggled to focus and find hers. Julia tightened her grip, digging her scarlet nails into Lavignia’s already tender flesh, making her yelp and their eyes connect.
“Livvy, you need to tell me,” she said. “I know you see it. You knew this day would come and you know I won’t stop until you tell me. I scoured the lands for you. I know there are others left, but they can be saved. You can save them, old friend. You just have to tell me.” Her tone was persuasive and gentle, but the frantic look that passed through her eyes told Lavignia the truth the queen couldn’t hide — she was scared.
“You won’t harm the others? You will let them live out their lives hidden and free? You will swear an oath?” Her words trailed off and Lavignia’s eyes closed, the torture of the last few days taking its toll. She could only hope the oath would keep her people safe.
She didn’t see the triumph that straightened Julia’s posture or the sneer that twisted her thin, painted lips. “Of course, my dear. I swear to you that I will not seek out and harm the remaining Elders. I swear that I will not take their freedom.”
“Your blood,” Lavignia said, her words barely audible.
Julia removed a small dirk from the folds of her skirts and repeated the words as she slid the blade down her palm. As the deep red drop hit the floor, she sent a small wave of power through to heal the wound, reveling in the knowledge that she had won.
“Now, Livvy, darling, you must tell me.” When Lavignia didn’t respond, Julia whipped back around to the still silent Hunter. “Help her. Give her what she needs. NOW!” she commanded, panic finally breaking through her controlled facade.
The Hunter flicked a wrist at Lavignia and she suddenly straightened, her eyes luminescent and shining at the welcome invasion of power that flooded her system, giving her renewed life for a few precious seconds.
With sudden clarity, she saw the future that had eluded her. She looked down on Julia with authority and pity as the words that would cement the queen’s fate fell from her lips.
“You will have your time, but it will end. She will be born to the one who got away. Inside her, the five families will merge and only a man who is both king and companion will tame the wild and set her free. She will be your undoing. She will lead them all.”
Julia reared back, Lavignia’s words not the ones she expected. Seconds later, her dirk was buried deep in Lavignia’s chest. Lavignia collapsed back against the chair, a content smile mocking the queen from her lifeless face.
Julia’s breath heaved in and out in short bursts as she turned to the Hunter. “I made an oath. You did not. Find them. Kill them all.”