YA Author Kat Ellis Talks About Her Debut Novel, Getting Published, And The Rules of Writing.

I promised that when I was finished Blackfin Sky I’d have a review for you, and guess what? Kat Ellis was kind enough to answer a few questions for me too. She’s such a sweetheart and answers all my crazy Welsh questions without calling me crazy. If you’re a writer or an eager reader, I suggest you add her to twitter @el_kat. As for the book, I didn’t hesitate to give it 5 stars. It’s an amazing read, but before we get to the review, here’s what Kat had to say about her novel, getting it published, and her thoughts on the dreaded rules of writing.

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1) Tell us a bit about how you got published. How did you go from aspiring author to a publishing deal in the UK and the US?

I’ve been writing semi-seriously for about four years. A couple of trunked manuscripts down the line, I wrote one that turned out to be Blackfin Sky. When my agent, Molly Ker Hawn, first took it out to publishers to look at, I had no idea what the response would be. But one day in June last year I got the news I’d been hoping for: Firefly Press absolutely loved my novel, and had contacted Molly to talk about the possibility of publishing it.

“Oh my god, someone wants to publish my novel!” (Me, with eyes so huge and round they nearly fell out. FACT.)

Running Press Teen in the US got in touch soon after. Molly worked out the details with both publishers so Blackfin Sky would be published in the UK by Firefly, and in the US by Running Press Teen. I’ve loved working with both publishers, getting to make Blackfin Sky an American and UK novel. It showed me that Blackfin is just as weird on either side of the Atlantic!

2) What has been the most exciting moment for you on the road to publishing?

There are quite a few landmark moments, really – all the firsts. Signing with Molly was one, as well as getting those first offers from Firefly and Running Press Teen. Seeing both covers for the first time – now that was definitely something! And of course, holding my book in my hands for the first time.

3) Is there anything you would do differently next time?

Easier said than done, but try to concentrate on writing the next book when things slow down on the publishing side. There are always going to be ‘rush hour’ periods as well as lulls in getting a book published, so it makes sense to use those less frantic moments to focus on the next project.

4) In your debut novel Blackfin Sky, the town of Blackfin is so mysterious and distinctive that it almost becomes a character. The setting is perfect for Sky’s journey. What inspired you to create Blackfin? Is it based on a real place?

Thank you! I love the idea of Blackfin, though I’d never actually want to go there. A lot of the elements – the pier, the woods, the circus – have a basis in my local area, but Blackfin could really exist in any coastal area. And for Sky’s story to work, it really needed to be set somewhere super-creepy and cut off from the rest of the world, where anything and everything could happen.

5) Why did you choose the circus as the alternate setting in the novel?

It was at a travelling circus that I figured out some key parts of the story. I was sitting in the stands, watching these amazing people doing tricks and stunts that shouldn’t have been possible, and I knew then what would happen to Sky. The circus was the perfect setting for her bizarre story.

6) What was the inspiration behind the Blood House?

In a town where weird things like haunted weathervanes and wishing wells that steal the coins from your pocket are accepted as the norm, all that needed to be mirrored in the place where Sky felt safest. Her home had to embody everything that makes the town of Blackfin so special, and when I started to think about what kind of place that would be, the Blood House was it.

7) The very first chapter of Blackfin Sky had me hooked. I absolutely LOVE how you had Silas as the observer. What made you decide to start the book that way instead of just staying with Sky’s pov the whole way through?

I rewrote the beginning quite a few times before I settled on it. Having Silas’ POV really sets the tone, and I think (hope!) draws the reader straight into the heart of the place, the atmosphere, and Sky’s story.

8) What are you working on now? What can we expect from you in the future?

My writing groove tends towards sci-fi and fantasy, but I like to try new things, so at the moment I’m working on a couple of things – a sinister story set in a Welsh valley, and one about psychopaths in a boarding school. I have a wicked idea for what I want to write next, but my writer’s heart is as fickle as the wind, so we’ll see!

9) Let’s talk about some of the Rules of Writing. It’s a chant us writers hear over and over, and yet, we see the rules broken all the time. What are your thoughts on:

Adverbs – I’m not a stickler for stylistic rules, or an adverb-hater. If adverbs add to your story and don’t affect the pacing, knock yourself out.

Prologues – I don’t love-LOVE prologues, because I want to be drawn into a story good and hard before an author starts throwing me around their timeline. If there’s a prologue, I’m only not going to be very invested before I’m thrown around, so it can feel like an obstacle. That said, if it’s the best way to start a story, go for it. Seeing the word ‘Prologue’ as the chapter header isn’t going to make me roll my eyes and stop reading.

Detailed descriptions of characters – This really depends on what it adds to the story, and where it happens. If I find out at the end of a book that a character I’ve been picturing one way actually looks completely different, it kicks me out of the story. The character will feel less real to me then. But if it’s relevant – say, a character is picked on for being tiny – then of course I need to know that.

Using anything other than “Said” to carry dialog – I think it’s generally better to convey tone/emotion through what is said, so in “I can’t believe you did that!” you can tell the speaker is upset, and the tag ‘he shouted angrily’ should be redundant. But there are always exceptions, of course.

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer some questions. J

Thank you for having me!

 

Review ~ 5 Stars!

Atmospheric and Captivating.

Blackfin Sky is an amazing debut. Kat Ellis weaves together a spine tingling mystery set in Blackfin, a shadowy little town cut off from the world and filled with secrets just waiting to be unearthed. The story will make you shiver. The cloudy skies, dark forest, Blood House (‘cause all creepy houses should have names), a veiled circus, and the spectral observer watching the mystery unfold give this novel a very Gothic feel. But while the setting fascinates, the mystery surrounding Sky’s apparent death (and return), drive the story forward. And just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, the author adds another twist to keep you turning the page because in Blackfin, nothing is as it seems.

Kat Ellis is very talented writer and an incredible storyteller. It truly is a tale of magic, mystery and emotion.

Blackfin18952405When Sky falls from Blackfin Pier and drowns on her sixteenth birthday, the whole town goes into mourning – until she shows up three months later like nothing happened.

Unravelling the mystery of those missing months takes Sky to the burned-out circus in the woods, where whispers of murder and kidnapping begin to reveal the town’s secrets. But Sky’s not the only one digging up the past – the old mime from the circus knows what happened to her, and he has more than one reason for keeping quiet about it.

Add it to Goodreads

PURCHASE LINKS

Amazon UK

Pre-order Amazon US

 

 

 

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COVER REVEAL FOR THE EMBERS OF LIGHT!

We have a release day! On November 11th, 2014, The Embers of Light, the 2nd installment in The Dia Chronicles will be available.

Make sure to add it to Goodreads – (The Embers of Light)

Check back for ARC giveaways in the coming months.

Now, without further ado, I give you the gorgeous cover designed by the amazing dark artist, Nathalia Suellen.

jacket2

The descendants of the ancient gods think they’ve found peace, but the time has come when new magic and ancient powers will collide…

Stripped of his Dia powers and left to rot, Malcolm is a prisoner of Valenia—a sentence he finds worse than death. His thoughts of revenge are the only thing keeping him sane, but when he finally manages to escape, Malcolm discovers that living as a mortal is more dangerous than he ever imagined. After stealing from the wrong man, Malcolm becomes a captive once more, only this time his punishment is one that he won’t soon forget. His only hope of survival is Seren, an enigmatic young girl with golden eyes and a malevolence to match his own.

When he’s led to Mara and Corbin, the two responsible for his fall from grace, their new faction of Dia is in chaos, infiltrated by an ancient power thought to have been banished forever. This only fuels Malcolm’s ruthless ambitions, but he soon realizes that he too is under attack, a pawn in a centuries old game of power and greed. As new battle lines are drawn, Malcolm finds himself in uncharted waters, forced to choose between helping those he’s vowed to destroy or give in to his lingering desire to settle the score.

Debts will be paid, lives will be lost, and no Dia will ever be the same.

It takes 21 days to form a habit.

Back in my early 20s, when I was starting a career as a life insurance and mutual funds salesperson (I know, sounds boring. It was), I attended many, many, many motivational conferences. While I’m no longer selling insurance, much of the wisdom I gathered at these conferences sticks with me today.

One piece of advice I heard was that it takes 21 days to form a habit. Last year I read a Forbes article insisting that the 21 day rule is a myth. But here’s the thing, I don’t want to be a money mogul. I don’t care to be the CEO of a fortune 500 company. All I want is to get my shit together, and if I manage to stick with something for 21 days, I’m gonna call it a habit.

22 days ago, my HSN impulse buy (an elliptical/bike hybrid) showed up at my door. My husband put it together and the very next day I woke up and decided that was the day I was going to work out. My first day on this thing was hard. I had it on the easiest setting and at 15 minutes in I was ready to collapse. But I kept the 21 day rule in my head. After all, I only had to commit to 21 days, and if I didn’t like it, I could abandon ship, right?

Today was officially day 21 of my workout routine. I woke up this morning and didn’t feel like exercising. But unlike day one, two, or three of this routine, that thought quickly vanished and was replaced by “But you’ll feel so much better. It’s so much easier now. You’ve already put in so much work.”

I got dressed and got on the elliptical. On day one I was doing level 1 for 15-20 minutes. Today, on day 21, I worked out for 40 minutes on level 10. And the best part is, I enjoyed it. It’s not something I dread, it’s not something I avoid doing. 21 days later, this work out routine has become a habit.

The same principle can be applied to your writing. If you have trouble finding the time, or you find you go days without working on your manuscript, try committing to a 21 day plan for 15 minutes a day.

21 days is not a long amount of time in the grand scheme of our lives. It’s not even a full month. If you try something for 21 days and find that it makes you unhappy, then it’s not the length of time you do it, but the action itself that isn’t working for you.

If 21 days isn’t enough time to form a habit, at least it’s enough time to know for certain whether you like something or not.

So give it a try. Commit to your writing for 21 days. Commit to your workout, your walk, your plan to eat better, your plan to read more for 21 days. Hopefully by the end you’ll have a habit that no longer feels like a chore. 🙂

 

RT Recap and How To Convention

Kristen was nice enough to answer some of my convention questions. Hope this helps the “convention virgins” 🙂

Deadly Ever After

Today’s Brew: Is there coffee shock therapy?

by Kristen

If you follow me on Twitter (and if not, why not? You know I’m fun.), you know that last week I was in New Orleans for the Romance Times Convention, or as you saw it a thousand times, RT14.  Simply put, I had a blast. All of us who spent time together are lamenting how weird it feels to get back in to our regular routines at home.

Tammy Farrell, a convention virgin (yes, Tammy, I outed you) asked me a lot of questions about RT, and we figured she couldn’t be alone with having questions about attending conventions.  I had her ask some questions I could answer on the blog that might help you if you’re wondering why the heck we go to these things.

What is the schedule like?

During the weekdays, there are panels scheduled throughout the…

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Release Day! ~ Blackfin Sky by Kat Ellis

HAPPY BOOK BIRTHDAY TO BLACKFIN SKY!

Today is the UK release of Kat Ellis’s Blackfin Sky and let me tell you, I’ve been waiting for this book FOREVER! While today is just the UK release (US release is in September), you can still get a paperback copy (UK version) through Amazon UK.

After a lot of begging on my part, Kat was kind enough to send me an ARC of the US version, which I’ve just started reading, and it’s everything I knew it would be. She had me hooked at the very first chapter with her gorgeous writing. I will be sure to post a review the moment I’m done. 🙂

Be sure to add this one to your TBR list, folks. I promise, you won’t be disappointed.

Blackfin18952405When Sky falls from Blackfin Pier and drowns on her sixteenth birthday, the whole town goes into mourning – until she shows up three months later like nothing happened.

Unravelling the mystery of those missing months takes Sky to the burned-out circus in the woods, where whispers of murder and kidnapping begin to reveal the town’s secrets. But Sky’s not the only one digging up the past – the old mime from the circus knows what happened to her, and he has more than one reason for keeping quiet about it.

Amazon UK

Goodreads

 

Spotlight and Review ~ FATAL by T.A Brock

Fatal_FRONT coverFirst love can be brutal. Sometimes it can be Fatal. Grayson Patch hasn’t been human since he was seventeen years old…and that was nineteen years ago. When he rose from the dead, he had no memory of his former life. Grayson desperately wants to recapture his lost humanity, and he’s been told that there is one person in this world who can save him from his current fate before he begins to decompose. One person whose life must be sacrificed for his. Cori Abbott has a million things to worry about. She’s the new girl in a school that’s a fraction of the size of her old one. Her antisocial tendencies are crippling her ability to make new friends. And then there’s the recent, sudden death of her father, the only man who ever understood her. The last thing Cori wants is the attention of a strange, withdrawn, and consistently angry guy who seems to hate her for no apparent reason. A guy she can’t stop thinking about. Will Cori break through Grayson’s cold exterior and find the human within, the boy who can love and understand her like no other? Will Grayson sacrifice Cori to rid himself of his undead curse, even if it means losing her forever?

Review

5 Stars For FATAL!

There are many YA books on my shelf that I’ve started and never finished (I don’t hate YA, it’s just hard to find ones that capture my attention). This book is not one of them. Avid readers know how rare it is to come across a book that catches you completely off guard, and you will do anything, including ignoring all else, to finish it. THIS is THAT book.

I’m a big fan of zombie shows and movies, but I’ve never actually read a book about zombies (I know, right). I went into this read with an open mind and was pleasantly surprised to find a truly unique approach to zombie lore. T.A. Brock has created zombies in such a way that they’re actually sexy. Who knew? They walk, they talk, they think, and, as it turns out, they love.

Grayson and Cori have a star-crossed romance. At first, it seems that they’re not meant to be. In order for one to live (or live again) the other must die. And when they fall in love, one of them will have to make a terrible choice.

Cori is a lost soul in a strange land, and when she meets Grayson, who also seems a little out of place, her curiosity moves her to connect with him, even if he wants nothing to do with her…or so it seems.

While Grayson comes off as a brooding jerk, at first, it soon becomes clear that he is motivated by an existence he loathes and a decision he doesn’t want to make. But is it really his decision to make?

I love the zombies in this book. This novel will keep you on the edge of your seat and just when you think you’ve got it figured out, the author throws in another twist. T.A. Brock’s writing style is so fluid that you get completely lost in the story. I also appreciate that it was written in 3rd person, which I prefer.

The story wrapped up just enough to satisfy me, but left an opening for the story to continue. I am eager to see what this author does with the rest of the series. It’s definitely one I’ll be recommending to others.

Get Your Copy Now

Amazon  B&N  Goodreads

 

 

I want to thank my 11th grade guidance counselor for telling me I couldn’t…

This post was originally my guest post over on The Dragon Blog. Now that the giveaway is over, I thought I’d share it with my readers and followers.

 

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When I was in grade 11 (because that’s how we say it in Canada), the guidance counselors had every student in my year take a career profile test. I remember it being a long drawn out test that took most of my spare period to complete. I answered all the multiple choice questions, some of which seemed completely pointless, in order to find out what my destiny would be.

When I was finished, the computer spat out five career options that fit my profile. They were: Historian, Librarian, College Professor, Archives Technician, and Writer.

I just about jumped out of my seat when I read the amazing career options I had before me. How exciting! While a little Ask Jeeves search (this was the early 2000’s, people) explained what an archives technician was, I quickly became excited about that as well.

When I sat down in front of the guidance/career counselor, who shall remain nameless (mainly because I don’t remember her name), I expected her to pull out college booklets and go over course listings with me.

Instead, she looked at my test results and frowned. Then she proceeded to tell me that there aren’t many jobs in those fields, competition for those jobs is tough, and I’d be wasting my time if I tailored my education around those career goals.

I was completely deflated and tried to argue that, if I wanted something bad enough, wasn’t anything possible?

She didn’t agree with me. However; she did TRY to stick to my career profile by suggesting I study journalism. But that area of writing never interested me. I wanted to write fiction, I wanted to study history, I wanted to live with books, I wanted to organize information, and I wanted to teach people about the things I knew!

So what ended up happening after high school? I didn’t go to college. Why would I want to go into debt to study a subject I had no interest in?

It seems like a sad story, a misguided teen gone wrong. But guess what, Guidance Counselor Lady? Without even trying, without even realizing I was doing it, I became all of those things.

I AM a Historian – 7 years out of high school I finally realized that your advice was ridiculous, and I went back to school… to University, actually. I studied English literature and History, with an emphasis on early Western Civilizations. In case you weren’t aware, Guidance Counselor, my novel is set in 6th century Britain. I have spent years studying ancient cultures including Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and British civilizations. While I may not have a PhD in history (and I very well might some day), I’d say I’m more of a historian than you ever thought I’d be.

I AM a Librarian – You should see my book collection. I have shelves filled with books in every room. They aren’t organized by the Dewey Decimal System, but ask me to find any particular one, and I know exactly where it is. I’ll even lend you one if you ask nicely.

I AM a college professor…sort of. I teach pre-GED Reading and English to adult students who fell through the cracks (perhaps because of people like you). I help these students learn about Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe, and I help them prepare to take a test that will get them into college, get job promotions, and help them realize that they can do ANYTHING they want in life.

I AM an Archives Technician. While I don’t work in a museum or any type of records management position, I spend a lot of my day finding resources for others, and I even created the entire South Carolina resource directory for the South Carolina Immigrant Victim Network. It took me two years to find all the services an immigrant victim might need, and I can assure you, the people at SCIVN are VERY glad I was so good at the job.

And last, but certainly not least…

I AM a Writer—a published one at that—with great reviews, a pretty decent sales record, and several months on the Amazon bestsellers list. Also, did you happen to see the full page spread on me in our hometown newspaper?

I sure hope you did. And I hope you remember telling me I couldn’t do any of these things. As it turns out, guidance counselors don’t control destiny. Who would have thought?