Thursday, December 5, 2013

Featured Author: Connie Smith

When I interviewed Connie Smith I was happily surprised to find out we're fellow Kentuckians. It's my pleasure to have her here to talk about her young adult novel, Essenced (The Division Chronicles: Book One), and to give you a sneak peak at the book.

About the book:

Years ago, demons were forced out of the earth’s realm by a band of supernatural fighters, banished from the place and its people in the aftermath of a horrific war. It should’ve ended there – would’ve – if not for the final demon’s claw snagging on the open portal. What felt like victory became only a reprieve, the winning warriors understanding that the tear would spread, and the demons eventually would escape exile. It was only a matter of time, and a need for future defense – a question of genetics and essences, magic and power. 

Now, centuries later, a new army must bind together – one of teenagers with inhuman potentials and abilities… 

AJ went to bed Sunday night an average teenage girl, clumsy and athletically lacking. So when she wakes up Monday morning with super-strength, she does what any rational person would do: She goes into denial. When a smoking hot guy in a suit shows up, rambling about the end of the war and demons spilling through some kind of rift, she refuses to listen, telling herself he’s insane. Except weird things just won’t quit happening, and the guy keeps popping up in her life, trying to explain the changes suddenly happening within her. Is she crazy, or is this guy… not so crazy after all?

Connie, how long have you been writing, and how did you start?

I’ve been writing since I was in elementary school, but I actually started off writing song lyrics. Of course, in single-digit ages, my songs tended to be highly plagiarized, but I got better! I visited that off and on, and really invested myself into it in high school. I can remember being excited about short stories I’d written for school – the first memorable one in fifth grade – and I liked having that creative outlet. I didn’t seriously attempt to write an actual novel until last year – the beginnings of which have been temporarily abandoned. Essenced is my first dedicated effort to see one through.

What’s the story behind the title of your book?

Essenced is a term used heavily in the book. As you can tell by the blurb, certain humans are carrying the essences of mythological creatures within them, and minus a prologue, the story starts when the magic has already brought those essences to life. Those people changed are referred to as Essenced. It’s also used for individual packs – Dragon-Essenced, Fairy-Essenced, Thunderbird-Essenced...

What’s your favorite line from a book?

I don’t know if it’s my favorite, but I do have a Terry Pratchett quote at the top of my blog. It’s from The Light Fantastic: “Inside every sane person there's a madman struggling to get out... No one goes mad quicker than a totally sane person.”

How do you get to know your characters?

For this book, I needed to begin – for the most part – with the mythological creatures and work my way back. Aside from the handful of humans and angels in the trilogy, it was pretty open territory to pick and choose any type of creature I wanted. Obviously I used the standard ones – vampires, werewolves, fairies – but I really wanted to bring some myths to the story that readers might’ve never known about. So that’s where a good chunk of my characters started – searching for the right creature and building from there. Their personalities have a tendency to reflect the creature.

Which character did you most enjoy writing?

I honestly enjoyed writing so many of these characters, because their side effects (the transition to Essenced wasn’t as flawless as they’d hoped!) were so fun. There’s a skirt-chasing Incubus-Essenced, an emo-poetry spouting Necromancer-Essenced, a balding Thunderbird-Essenced, a thieving Dragon-Essenced...I don’t know that I could pick one specifically just based on how much fun they are to write. (I say ‘are’ because book three isn’t complete.) My favorite character though, is Johnny. I have a bit of a crush on him – I won’t lie – and his story is really something that snagged my attention. Plus his side effect is fun!

Are any of your characters inspired by real people? Who?

Not really, no. Parts of them might come from different people, or maybe conversations I’ve had. Like Ray-Ray’s obsession with Wheel of Fortune. That definitely reminded me of one of my friends – my BFFFFFFFFFFF, actually. But the characters as a whole, no.

One of your characters has just found out you’re about to kill him off. He/she decides to beat you to the punch. How would he kill you?

If this happened, I would be in trouble. These characters – the soldiers and angels – are pretty hardcore and have some magically-infused weapons. My only shot would be to hide.

If you could be one of your characters, which one would you choose?

Lexia! She’s Fairy-Essenced! Sparkly wings!

What song would you pick to go with your book?

I’m actually planning on posting a soundtrack list to my blog in the near future! For now, I will say this. If AJ and Julius had a song, it would have to be “True Love” by Pink. It’s like she wrote the song about them.

You get to decide who would read your audiobook. Who would you choose?

Misha Collins, but he has to do the whole thing in Castiel’s voice.

I don’t claim to be an expert on writing, but there are some writing techniques (or mistakes) that stand out to me when I read (e.g. when an author switches POV mid-scene). What’s one pet peeve you have when you read?

I HATE when dialogue doesn’t sound like a person actually talking. If it’s an omniscient narrator, I’ll accept some fancy language. But if it’s an average character...If you can’t picture a person saying something, you really shouldn’t make your character say it.

Where’s home for you?

Harlan, Kentucky. I moved around A LOT when I was a kid, and Harlan’s the place where I ended up spending most of my years in total. I wasn’t born here, but it’s my hometown.

Oh my gosh! You're a fellow Kentuckian! That's so cool! Okay, back on track. Neil Gaiman said, “Picking five favorite books is like picking five body parts you'd most like not to lose.” So...what are your five favorite books and your five body parts you’d most like not to lose?

Books: Small Gods by Terry Pratchett, Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins, Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick, Beyond the Shadows by Brent Weeks (just because it’s the last book of the AWESOME trilogy), and Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay. I still have others I want to mention...

Body parts: If I say ‘eyes,’ does that count as two??? I’ll pretend not. I’ll pick eyes, ears, mouth, hands, and feet. By extension, my arms and legs would have to remain intact. Unless I’m going all Jaime Lannister...

Very smart! You can be any fictional character for one day. Who would you be?

Belle! She has a drool-worthy library, and she gets to randomly burst into song! Or Rogue, if it’s the cartoon version. She was my childhood hero!

What steps to publication did you personally do, and what did you hire someone to do? Is there anyone you’d recommend for a particular service?

I hired someone to make the cover, and I’m taking this opportunity to brag on her. The cover was designed by Laura Gordon, and she had very little detail from me about what I wanted. I gave her a few guidelines, and she worked on the project until I was happy with the final product – which only took a handful of changes. In fact, she made a second option for the cover. I loved it so much that it’s waiting to be the cover for the second book of the trilogy. The prices are good, and the work is phenomenal. Check out her site:

What’s your favorite candy bar? And don’t tell me you don’t have one!

BUTTERFINGER! I snatch them out of the bowl intended for trick-or-treaters!

What three books have you read recently and would recommend?

Abel by Elizabeth Reyes. I fell in love with her books when I first read Forever Mine, and I’m only listing this one because it’s a recent read. She has some wonderful stories.

A Brush of Darkness by Allison Pang was good, but I haven’t read the other books. I can’t make any claims for the whole series.

Boundless by Cynthia Hand. I love the trilogy, even though I think my dear Christian got a bad deal :)

What are you working on now?

Emblazed, the second book the trilogy, is in the edit stage, with a planned release the week of February 24, 2014. The third book of the trilogy’s rough draft is about halfway through (maybe a bit more). I also have a novella scheduled to come out around December. It’s a Paranormal Romance prequel to The Division Chronicles called In Your Wings. And I’m starting a new project for NaNoWriMo.

Is that all?! Seriously, good luck with all your projects, and come back soon to tell us more.

Excerpt from Essenced

Even as she thought about those things, gathering her empty water bottles to leave the endurance room, she felt his eyes on her, so intense she both cringed and shivered. Both good and bad, beautiful and bothersome. That’s Julius, alright. Turning to him, seeing the intensity for herself, made her pause as an involuntary gasp escaped her.

“What?” she finally demanded.

He kept staring. “I’m deciding something.”

“Okay…” She elevated an eyebrow, drawing the word out. “Well, I’m gonna go eat, so just… keep deciding.”

“I’m deciding about you.”

She stopped, gawking at him with wide eyes. Deciding about her? What did he mean exactly? Surely he hadn’t bridged the topic of them out in the open for everyone to overhear.

They’d done so well these last days, pleasantly ignoring all the complications the topic brought, playing selective memory. If he meant to change that – which she couldn’t decide if she wanted or not – the endurance room certainly didn’t seem the ideal setting.

“Deciding what about me?”

He gazed a moment longer, biting the inside of his mouth as he thought through his answer. “You fought against Nicholai longer than the other alphas today.”

Well, this definitely didn’t sound like it concerned them. She argued with herself that she held no disappointment with that fact. “Yeah, I managed a pitiful defense for a little over a minute.”

“More than the others did.”

“Well, then, we all need help.”

He nodded. “So you do. And so you’re getting it. Lesson learned, I think. Today you all pushed. A lot.”

Although she appreciated the compliment, she wondered what this had to do with her specifically. If he wished to congratulate her on a job well done, and all the students had increased their focus and determination, shouldn’t he be addressing a crowd rather than just her? “Is there something you’re wanting to say here? Because I really am hungry. And tired. And I really, really stink….”

“You outlasted the rest of them.” He looked her up and down, again causing her to cringe and shiver, nodding once when his eyes locked with hers. “You’re ready.”

She lifted an eyebrow. “In case you aren’t aware, that’s exactly the attitude that got us all in trouble in the first place.”

He laughed, shaking his head. “Not ready for the war. But you’re ready for the next room.”

She tried to understand his words, but their meaning evaded her. “Next room?”

He nodded, then jerked his chin toward the door, intending her to follow him. Though nervous, and not a little unsure, she kept to her self-promise of acquiesce and walked behind him. “Where are we going?”

“You’ll know in a minute.”

“But I don’t get it. You gave me the tour the day after I got here. I’ve seen all the rooms already.”

Glancing over his shoulder at her, that annoying smirk spread across his lips. “You sure about that?”

He stopped in front of the supplies room, checking to see if anyone could see his actions. When he noticed a clear coast, he opened the door and ushered her hurriedly into the dark room, flipping on a light switch seconds later.

“This is where you wanted to take me? ‘Cause I gotta say, Julius. I’ve kind of been here.”

“Shut up and keep walking.” He gently shoved her toward the area’s opposite end, grinning at her unease. As they neared the back door, leading to the desert circling the facility, he pointed to the left.

Glancing there, AJ only saw boxes piled high, layers of training materials that, although organized, hardly seemed like a destination worth finding. She turned to him, confusion and concern etched on her expression. “You’ve brought me here to kill me, haven’t you?”

He rolled his eyes, though with a smile on his lips. “I told you once before. If I was gonna kill you, it would’ve been when you wouldn’t quit with the adrenaline thing. Just walk over there.”

She tilted her head to the side, eyes suspicious. “To the piles of supplies? In the supplies room?”

“Yes.” He considered the uncertainty on her face, sighing and shaking his head. “Just this morning you were shown how this hardheaded mentality works against your training. Do you really wanna hold to it before you fight the demons?”

She winced, then glared. “That was low.”

“It was necessary. Even with your newfound determination to not be stubborn, you can’t help but be stubborn with me.”

“Well, the other trainers didn’t drag me off to show me the wonders of supply organization. I could be eating right now, you know. We walked right by the cafeteria…”

“…And the sooner you go along with this, the sooner you can eat.”

“And get rid of you…” She thought it over, then agreed. “Solid reasoning. Let’s get on with this.”

Watching her spin toward the piles of boxes, Julius smiled to himself.

Once they reached the stacks, he maneuvered one to the right, leaving just enough space between two of them for a person to fit through. He grinned at her, mockingly, and strode through the path.

“He’s so gonna kill me,” she mumbled to herself.

“I’m not gonna kill you! Just come on already!”

She did as instructed, stepping in between the mess of provisions, inching forward a few feet until she reached her trainer, finding him waiting – and smirking – beside a door she hadn’t previously seen.

“Where did that come from?”

“Do you want the construction plans?”

She scowled at him, though obviously intrigued with the unfamiliar part of the facility.
He opened the door, holding his hand out to motion her through. As she stepped over the threshold, her eyes widened at the wondrous vision, somehow stashed away behind the clutter of the supplies room.

About the author:

Connie L. Smith spends far too much time with her mind wandering in fictional places. She reads too much, likes to bake, and will be forever sad that she doesn’t have fairy wings. And that she can’t swing dance. When she isn’t reading or writing, there’s a good chance she’s goofing off with her amazing, wonderful, incredible, fabulous nieces and nephew, or listening to music that is severely outdated. She has her BA from Northern Kentucky University in Speech Communication and History (she doesn’t totally get the connection either) and likes to snap photos. Oh, and she likes apples a whole big bunch.

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