Thank you so much for sharing your book with me and agreeing to do a Q&A for my readers. Give us a quick summary of OverRuled, the first book in your fantasy series!
Happy to! My “elevator” pitch for OverRuled is . . . Two girls. One kingdom. No way out.
That’s about the quickest summary ever, but essentially OverRuled is a YA fantasy filled with magic, betrayal, adventure, and two kick-butt heroines. It is written in dual POV (point-of-view) so the story rotates between two female characters: Nova & Jade.
Nova Hart knows nothing of Sterling, the kingdom she was born in. She has never been exposed to strict rules, a controlling monarchy, or black magic. So when Nova and her Dad travel back to Sterling to rescue her recently orphaned cousin, she quickly understands why her family packed up and left Sterling sixteen years ago - before Nova could crawl. Stunned by the way magic is used to control the kingdom, Nova is ready to leave the second she arrives, but what she doesn't know may stop her. Inside the boundaries of Sterling, Nova is being watched, hunted - for a power she's not sure she has.
Princess Jade has never stepped foot outside the castle, bound by its walls for protection as she's the sole heir to the throne - and the magic that comes with it. But the Queen's not ready to give up her royal status. Not now. Not ever. Queen Katrina sees Jade as a hurdle, rather than her legacy. And Jade has started to wonder if the castle walls are truly there to keep her safe.
Fighting for freedom against a queen that wants to crush them both, Nova and Jade are forced to discover their own powers as their separate lives become intertwined by Chael, a royal guard with secrets of his own. But does Chael have the knowledge to help them break free of the queen, or is he using them both to secure his own agenda?
Your two previous books have been contemporary and this the first fantasy book you’ve shared with us. What made you venture into the world of fantasy writing?
I love reading all kinds of genres, but I tend to gravitate toward fantasy, romance, and any story with a horse in it (literally – I will read anything with a horse in it!). My first two books are part of a YA contemporary series (Red Rock Ranch series), but I affectionately call them “YA equestrian fiction” because they are really horse-books for horse-crazy-girls. Horse stories are my first love, but I’ve always wanted to write a fantasy as well (don’t be fooled through – my YA fantasy has horses in it too!). OverRuled came about when I was trying to write the third book in my Red Rock Ranch series. I was working on the plot outline, but I kept getting distracted by two characters (in my head) that just wouldn’t be quiet. I keep a notebook full of book ideas and I had this idea for a book that featured two teenage witches that hated each other but were linked in some strange way in which they would ultimately have to work together. I had the idea for years, but never fleshed it out. However, when I was trying to write the third Red Rock Ranch book, these two witches would not get out of my head and I decided to pause the Red Rock Ranch manuscript and take a stab at writing the witch story. That witch story started off as an urban fantasy, morphed into a dystopian, and ultimately transformed into OverRuled, my first YA fantasy which is set in a medieval world with a ton of magic.
The country of Sterling that you’ve created is dark and terrible. What inspired you to create this country for your setting?
I can’t think of a single fantasy that has a world in which I would want to live. That’s what makes fantasy exciting, right? Dark and terrible makes for some great adventures and fight scenes! 😊 In OverRuled, Sterling is a kingdom ruled by a power-hungry queen. Queen Katrina will do anything to keep her throne and her magic – including getting rid of her own daughter (Princess Jade). But this atmosphere pressures Jade to break free, to become her own person, to find her own magic. The dark & terrible setting is like a pressure cooker that forces characters to change. And change is the beautiful part.
What is your writing process like? Do you plan everything out in advance or let yourself discover the story as you go along?
I’m a planner. I usually work for about a month on characters, plot & outline before I start writing a first draft. However, my plot outline is pretty general. Before I start my first draft, I know the major plot points, but I often surprise myself with twists along the way. Basically, I have an outline, but I let the story and characters take me where they need to go.
Can you tell us a bit about how you decided to publish your novels independently and what the benefits have been for you?
Currently, self-publishing is the best option for me because I wanted to get my stories out into the world. I wanted to share them and have not yet had the opportunity to work with a literary agent. Essentially, that’s the reason I chose the self-publishing route for now. I’m still exploring my options and navigating my way, but here are the things I enjoy about being self-published: I am in total control of my books. I have the final say in everything including my story, my cover, my deadlines, and what I write next. And, that’s both exciting and scary and freeing.
How long did it take you to get this book published, from its initial conception to the release date?
From its initial conception to publication, OverRuled took me about 2 years. The first draft took me about a year and the second year was spent on revisions. When I start a new book, I always spend about the first month free writing and I use a great book by Alan Watt called “The 90 Day Novel.” Watt’s book helps me to brainstorm and figure out my characters and plot before I start writing the first draft. I highly recommend “The 90 Day Novel” to any fiction writer!
What was the biggest hurdle you had to overcome in completing your book?
I would say time, but I think my biggest hurdle is actually procrastination mixed with the need for perfection. Striving for perfection often gets in the way of my writing. For instance, when I feel like my writing isn’t “good enough” or I don’t feel “inspired enough” I can let procrastination get in the way of putting words on paper. I may have a free hour to write, but if I get in my head too much, I might choose to spend that free hour vacuuming or organizing my book shelves. I’ve had to learn to push through those fears and “allow” myself to write even when I don’t feel like I’m 100% ready to do so. Getting to the end of a first draft is the hardest thing for me because I often second-guess myself. I just have to tell myself that anything can be changed in revisions… just get to the end of the first draft. Keep writing.
Nova and Jade are such, strong female characters. And the Queen, while the antagonist of the story, is also a tough and independent woman. Are there any real life women that inspired your characters?
I have so many strong women in my life (thankfully) and I try to create strong female characters in my writing. I think it’s really important for young women to read about female characters that go through hardship, that fight their own battles, that save themselves. I do my best to write characters and stories that I would want my niece to read. Don’t get me wrong, there is a romantic storyline in each of my books, but it’s not about “boy saves girl” or “the prince runs in on his white horse and saves the princess.” I try to show female characters that are strong in their own way – or that learn to be strong.
The first book in your series ends on daunting cliffhanger! What’s next for Nova and Jade?
When I started writing OverRuled, it was going to be a standalone novel. However, when I got to the end of it I realized Nova and Jade’s stories weren’t finished. I actually changed the ending of OverRuled so that I could continue on with a sequel, OverRun. I am currently working on revisions for OverRun and am hoping to publish the sequel before the end of the year. I’m sooooooo excited to share the next chapter of this adventurous story!
Your books always feature strong relationships with animals. Can you tell us the role animals play in your life and in your writing?
Horses have had a huge impact on my life and I honestly think I write about horses because I just don’t understand a life without horses in it. I started riding when I was about 10 years old and horses have always been a consistent in my life. I rely on my horses as much as they rely on me. They are my daily therapy, my happy-place, and my release.
All three of my books feature strong relationships with horses. My contemporary YA books (Red Rock Ranch series) feature characters that live and breathe horses, but even my YA fantasy features a main character (Nova) that has a magical connection with horses. She can telepathically communicate with them (and other animals). She also has a horse, River, that is her best friend and I love writing scenes which show their bond.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Noise. I need to write in complete silence. I wish I was one of those writers that can play music while they create or write in a busy coffee shop, but words distract me. I tend to write from an armchair in my home office (with the door closed), but I keep ear plugs handy because if I can hear the TV playing from the other room or another conversation in the house, I just cannot concentrate, and I get pulled out of my story. I have those BOSE silencer headphones on my Christmas wishlist… 😊
What advice do you have for aspiring writers looking to publish their first novel?
Keep going. Don’t let fears or doubts slow you down. If you keep writing and reading, you will keep learning and keep getting better. Half of the challenge is being persistent.
I’d also recommend reading in all types of genres. Definitely read as much as you can in the genre you write so that you understand that genre but mix up your reading materials. Do you write contemporary YA? Pick up a sci-fi. You never know what you will learn from someone else’s writing style. In fact, I’d never read a book with dual point-of-view until I picked up a contemporary romance in which each chapter rotated between the female lead and the male lead. I was captivated, and I discovered dual POV is my favorite POV to read … and to write!
Also, push yourself to learn. Read books on the writing craft. Here are a few of my favorites: The 90 Day Novel by Alan Watt, On Writing by Stephen King, and The Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donald Masss.
What is your favorite book to recommend to others?
I think this is the hardest question that anyone could ask because I have so many favorite books! However, here are a few that I always find myself gushing about…
· Contemporary… The Flood Girls by Richard Fifield… get ready to laugh and cry and to everything in between. After reading this book, I will read anything Fifield publishes in the future. Such a touching story! I also always gush about In Twenty Years by Allison Winn Scotch and I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios.
· Fantasy … Shadow & Bone by Leigh Bardugo (AMAZING world!). Magical realism … The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore (BEAUTIFUL writing!).
· And for my horse peeps… The Dressage Chronicles by Karen McGoldrick, Cut & Run by Amy Elizabeth, Chosen by a Horse by Susan Richards, and The God of Animals by Aryn Kyle.