Author Interview (Writers): Samantha Young

Today’s author interview for writers is with Samantha Young, indie author of Smokeless Fire, book 1 in the Fire Spirits series. You can read my review of Smokeless Fire here or go back and read part one of Samantha’s interview on the book here.

What was your process for your book from creation to publication?
My process is pretty formulaic. Research, note taking, basic plot plan, character plotting, comprehensive chapter summaries, writing the novel, collaborate with cover artist, do cover reveal, tease readers with small teasers on blog and social sites, organize a two week blog tour, editing the novel, send manuscript to beta readers, edit the manuscript, send manuscript to professional editor, upload manuscript to amazon for publication. 🙂

How long would you say it took from final edit to selling copies?
 From final edit to selling copies? Only days. By the time Smokeless Fire was ready for publication I already had a small but growing readership from my other series. Along with keeping them informed of the upcoming release, I had arranged a blog tour with lots of info and giveaways, plus a number of reviews, so there was immediate interest. I started selling as soon as the book went live on amazon and because of the success from the blog tour, Smokeless Fire shot straight into the bestseller lists.

Why did you choose to self-publish? What are your preferred methods of marketing your books?
 I took time with my decision to self-publish. Research was key because I didn’t want to put all my efforts and passion into the writing if I wasn’t going to give just as much effort to making sure people were aware about my books. I follow Joe Konrath’s blog, A Newbies Guide to Publishing, and I also follow Amanda Hocking and have done almost from the beginning of her writing career as an indie. So I knew that writers were making a success of self-publishing. The idea of having complete control over the entire publication process – from content, to cover art, to marketing – that appealed to me, as did the higher royalty rates indies were receiving through amazon. I thought it wouldn’t hurt to try self-publishing. And it definitely hasn’t. I love being a self-published writer. I feel very blessed to be doing something I love so much for a career.

My preferred methods of marketing: Bloggers! I love bloggers. They are the most awesome people in the world. Not only do they happily chat back to me when I get all geeky and fan girl over a book (I’m a huge book addict) but they take time out of their busy lives to either read and review my books, give me an interview, or host a giveaway on my behalf. If it weren’t for bloggers my sales would never have taken off.  I also think it’s important to make yourself visible on social sites. I have a personal blog I update regularly. I have an author’s facebook page where I interact with readers almost on a daily basis and I use twitter and goodreads to reach out to followers and readers. Best part is that it’s all free marketing AND it’s effective.

Would you recommend self-publishing to aspiring indie authors?
 Pros: 1. Complete control over the entire process. 2. You set your own deadlines. 3. Higher royalty rates. 4. The indie community is a friendly, open place where most indie authors are willing to help each other out and offer free advice.

Cons: 1. All the work comes down to you – writing, formatting,marketing etc – and you have to rely on yourself to find a good cover artist and editor. It can be time consuming and take you away from the actual writing.

Any mistakes you’ve made or particularly wise advice you’d give for authors? (can be anything—more research, a scene you’d edit, or if it was me, not letting myself get so easily distracted by TV/dog/etc.)
Lol, yes, don’t let yourself get distracted, especially if you set deadlines. I’ve recently decided to stop setting specific deadlines for the release of a novel. It’s difficult to estimate when cover art will be ready, when editing and copyediting will be finished and when all beta readers will get back to you. I only give ‘target dates’ to my readers now. Less stressful :-p Also, I recommend you really research your editor before you choose them. I use a great editing service now and it just makes the whole manuscript that much more polished and professional.

 How the hell do you balance everything? Family, friends, everyday activities, work, AND several books? Spill the secret, Wonder Woman.
 Haha, I don’t know! Seriously, I have no idea how I get everything done. I think I’m just a really fast typist! And if I’m honest, I do let some things slide. My friends and family will tell you that when I’m in the middle of writing a new book I am practically a hermit. They only see me on the weekends and they don’t take offense when I forget to call them back or text them to reassure them I’m still alive. They all know when I’m done with the first edit on a manuscript because they start getting invites to lunch etc and I actually pick up the phone when they call :-p

Tell us about your gorgeous book cover—the process, how much input you had, how you went about deciding that was JUST right?
I’m lucky that my cover artist, Claudia Mckinney of Phatpuppy Art, has such amazing vision. I had this image of the book cover of Smokeless Fire in my head. I literally described the vision of the girl shrouded in flames to Claudia and only hours later she came back to me with the cover of Smokeless Fire and I didn’t have to make one change to it. It was just…Perfect. With Claudia, you get a lot of input. She’s so professional and so friendly. Also, she’s now started offering custom photoshoots for clients for exclusive book covers. I hired Claudia and photographer Teresa Yeh for the book cover of Borrowed Ember (Fire Spirits #3) and it’s been an amazing process so far. Authors can contact Claudia via her website to discuss quotes for cover art.

What are the next big plans for you in regards to your writing?
I’m loving every minute of writing the Fire Spirits series and this series is going to take me into 2013. But I am really, very excited about next year because I plan to kick off my first adult fiction series. It’s all very hush, hush at the moment but I can’t wait to share more with my older readers in the future about it. All I can say for now is that it’s an adult urban fantasy/dystopian series. It’s going to be refreshing to write from an adult P.O.V. and be able to stretch the limits of my content a little more.

Thanks so much Samantha! Readers, go check out her books at her website here and keep up with all the good news she’s bringing from her part of the world. I’m sure she’d love to hear from you and hear your thoughts on her novels!

Author Interview (Readers): Samantha Young

Today’s interview is with Samantha Young, author of Smokeless Fire, the first in the Fire Spirits series. My review of Smokeless Fire can be found here. Without further ado, the lovely and very funny Samantha Young!

What was your inspiration behind Smokeless Fire?
 My Fire Spirits series is the only series that wasn’t inspired by anything unexpected. I actually went hunting for this series. I knew I wanted to write a series that was a little different so I started listing supernatural creatures that were less widely covered in the YA genre. As soon as the word ‘genie’ entered my mind I was totally gung-ho about it. This was a race of supernatural beings that had unimaginable power, diversity of species, and a complex existence/purpose.
Heading off to the bookstore, I bought non-fiction literature on Jinn and then came home to scour the internet for research material. It was through the actual research that the plot for Smokeless Fire came together. I must admit to playing around with some of the mythology a little though. You know… creative license and all lot :-p
 Who would play Ari if the book were made into a movie? How about Jai and Charlie?
 I watched a couple episodes of the sci-fi show ‘Terra Nova’ and absolutely love the idea of Naomi Scott playing Ari. She has the look and the attitude. Jai and Charlie are a little more difficult, especially Jai because readers all have such different ideas of him in their own heads. For Charlie, I really like the idea of Alex Pettyfer. I know, I know, that poor guy must be on every YA fantasy cast list going, but he has the ‘boy next door but I can be a bad boy too’ thing going on and that’s exactly what I have in mind for Charlie. Jai completely flummoxed me but a reader suggested Abdel Rahman El Balaa and he’s as close as I can find so I’m really happy with that choice. (Blogger’s Note: I am a-ok with Abdel the Hottie playing Jai. Yow. And Naomi Scott is adorable!)
Without giving anything away, what’s your favorite passage from the book?
 Ah, one of my favourite passages from Smokeless Fire has a spoiler in it so I’ll go with my second favourite. This is a conversation between Ari and The White King. It’s her first encounter with the Jinn:
Ari’s stomach roiled, her chest rising and falling in fast waves, feeling as if a million birds had been let loose inside it as he gazed over her shoulder into a world she could not see. “You’re not kidding, are you? This is real?”
He cocked his head. “What gave it away? The Nisnas attack or the Fire Spirits that keep appearing before you?”
“Fire Spirits?”
“Colloquial name for Jinn.”
Her fingers bit into the velvet blanket beside her. “So… Jinn… there are different kinds? Ones like you and Rabir and ones like the Nisnas?”
He nodded. “There are many kinds. With many talents.”
“Good or evil?”
If it was possible his dark eyes seemed to grow even blacker. “Why are humans so obsessed with that distinction?”
Ari snorted. “Because we like to know what we’re dealing with.”
“Good people have been known to do evil things, child.”
She sucked in a deep breath, her nerves twanging as she found the courage to ask, “Are you a good person?”
The soft tap of his fingers against the glass arm of the throne made Ari jump and she watched his face twitch at her reaction. She cursed herself for revealing how much he unnerved her. “I am not a person. I am Jinn.”
How many books do you plan to write for the Fire Spirits series? Any fun hints you can drop us from Book 3 or 4? (this is just a sad begging on my part!)
I’m hoping to make this a six book series but that number isn’t definite. Any fun hints? Hmm… no hints but a teaser of sorts. There is a couple of rather large plot twists in Book 3 that I think will shock readers. It will definitely change the course of the series as readers know it :-p
Thank you so much, Samantha! We’ll have her second interview (geared towards aspiring authors) out this Friday, so stay tuned!

Book Review: Smokeless Fire, Samantha Young

I’m not a spoiler person, so let me please forewarn you that while I will talk about the book, I won’t give away too many details. I don’t want to give away the twists that come with reading the plot, so I’ll give you a basic rundown, but I won’t ruin it for you. Promise!

“For the last two years Ari Johnson’s life has been anything but normal, and on her 18th birthday, when her friends surprise her with a gimmick genie claiming to grant wishes, Ari discovers the truth. The tragic and strange occurrences surrounding her 16th birthday were not coincidental and her life is never going to be the same again. Ari’s real parents are not normal. They are not loving. They are not human. They are myth. They are Smokeless Fire. They are Jinn.”
Smokeless Fire, #1 in the Fire Spirits series, follows a teenage girl named Ari Johnson, an astoundingly beautiful girl who also happens to be a loner. No mother, a father who’s never home, friends who are self-absorbed, and then there’s Charlie, the sweet best friend turned asshole addict from his little brother’s death by car accident. (Ari’s pining over Charlie gets old quickly–thank god hot Jinn Guardian Jai comes in fast.) After some developments, Ari is whisked away to her true father’s palace, and I gotta say, The White King gave me the heebie-jeebies immediately. (The description of his deformed yet vicious Jinn pet truly gave me the creeps). There’s a big ol’ twist about who she really is and why she’s such a desired being, but again, I’ll save that for your own fun surprise. There’s another smaller twist involving Charlie, which I thought was just okay–it seemed like an excuse strictly to keep Charlie around for the love triangle/connection to Ari’s past. Although I do grow to like Charlie (more in the 2nd book, though), I still mostly wanted to smack the dumb, stoned expressions off his face and tell Ari to get over it already. (I think that’s due more to my own personality than anything, though. I can’t handle whiners.) Anyways, that’s where Jai comes in, a young Guardian working for his father’s security firm. There’s a whole bunch of bad blood from Jai’s family, giving him firm reason to be a hardass guardian at first. Of course, the more he grows to know Ari, the more he starts to fall in love with her, which is a huge no-no. Ari must learn how to survive in a dangerous new world while figuring out who she really is–which leads well into Book 2, Scorched Skies.
I loved the chapter when Ari finds out what she is, who her real father is, and especially why he wants her around. The White King is a scary motherfu–dude, sorry–and he means business when he says she’ll regret turning him down immediately. They’re well-written and give me plenty of setting descriptions. When he tells her he is not human, that he is Jinn, it’s such a great section in the book that it’s probably my favorite part.

The storyline is very unique–Jinn, or Fire Spirits, are far from vampires, werewolves, and faeries. There’s a long and built up history the author has designed and I’d explain it all, but it’s pretty tedious (plus I don’t have my book on me). I felt like I was being forced to read something for class, which made my eyes immediately skim for important keywords and move on to the next scene. I have trouble processing information given to me as a history book–I get why Young chose to do it this way and I don’t mind it terribly, but it’s just not how I want to read. It’s important for Ari to read it, but perhaps we could’ve gotten her Cliff Notes version.

I love the Red King–I think he’s not only the comedic relief, but also the supreme wild card of the story characters. He’s well-written, full of personality (I love that he has such a fascination with humans and their world), yet mysterious and just dangerous enough to make us not trust him, despite how Ari feels. We never really see what his true intentions are, except to serve his father Azazil. He may or may not come to care for Ari, but that doesn’t mean he won’t throw her to the wolves if it’s required of him.

And where do I even start with Jai? Okay–for me, Jai saved this storyline. He’s the best character in the story, especially where character development is concerned. As the youngest therefore impressive Guardian, he comes from a very complicated family history that really supports his viewpoint. With such awful family, I get why he has the attitude and personality he does–his silence or anger, his anguish over the new feelings for Ari versus the idea of responsibility towards an unloving father–it’s easy to like him and I found myself wishing more than a handful of times that we saw his POV more than just a couple times.

The language was sometimes a little varying–characters would speak as adults with logical issues, then turn around and call someone an “asshat”–which of course I still giggled at, but given the life-threatening situations, I found it difficult to believe there wasn’t more serious freaking the eff out going on. I think Young was trying to balance it, though–to keep Ari as a human teenager while hanging very serious situations over her head and it didn’t always compute well.

While reading, Ari gave me some frustration. I wanted to throttle her at times when she allowed herself to be a human doormat. She’s a loner by nature, which is perfectly believable, but her attitude to do whatever everyone wants drives me crazy. For someone who’s alone a lot, she spends the majority of her time thinking about Charlie or Jai and instead of making me feel bad for her, I want to tell her buck up (or be all, “Okay, we get it already, Ari.”). I also think she’s a little too cool for school–when she finds out she’s Jinn, she sticks her ostrich head into the sand and pretends she never heard a word. She flat out refuses to accept the news and when she finally does, it’s in a shrugging “meh, okay”  way that made me grimace. There was no freak out, no uncontrollable crying or screaming…I’m sorry, I get that Ari likes ghosts like Ms. Maggie and whatever, but her reaction to the insane news supernatural creatures and of being a powerful, targeted Jinn is unforgivably unbelievable. I need reaction to circumstances and while she gives one to every other situation, this one was a biggie that fell flat. Like once she accepted it was all real, that was it. No problems, no questions asked, and suddenly The White King is her father in narration as opposed to “that scary motherf–dude.” Once decided she will leave her home to save family and friends (a fine hero personality), she’s very robotic about it. Other than Charlie, she seems to have no real problem about leaving home. I get that Ari’s making the “right choices” but there probably should’ve been a little more self-struggle with the decisions.

However, I will say she flashes a different, much stronger personality in many points of the story, which gives a good indication that it’s only a matter of time before she comes into her own. (In fact, I’ve read Book 2 of the series and while I won’t give anything away, I will say Ari is much more likeable when she realizes what needs to be done to save her existence.)

None of these things I listed, however, keep me from reading the series. As soon as I finished Smokeless Fire, I bought the second book (and I’ll hint that I think the second book is even better) and I’ll keep reading the series until she’s done. I was able to invest in these characters, despite their flaws, and that’s extremely important to me. It’s not necessarily about relating to them, but I do like them enough to care about them and wonder where they’re headed. I’m looking even more forward to Book 3, Borrowed Ember, to finally see how Ari is gonna nut up and take back her life. At the very least, she’s not a damsel in distress and that I can appreciate.

Wednesday and Friday we have interviews with Samantha Young on her favorite passage, her inspiration behind the series, and her advice to aspiring indie authors!