Category Archives: Author Interview

Literary Losers – Interview with a Villain

You may remember the review I wrote on Nathan Lumbatis’ spectacular new book, Daniel and the Sun Sword. Well, today I feel very privileged to be featuring a video interview between Nathan and the antagonist of his exciting story. You’ll really want to see this . . . it made me smile 🙂

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Thirteen-year-old Daniel is about to be adopted. But when he learns his new family wants him as a slave, he runs away with the help of his new daniel and the sun swordneighbors, the naïve and cowardly Ben, and Raylin, a mysterious girl with a shady past.

He begins to second-guess his decision when the cave they hide in transports them to the ruins of Machu Picchu, where they find themselves embroiled in a battle between ancient gods of Life and Death. To top things off, the God of Life draws Daniel into the fray by adopting him as his son and setting him on a quest to complete a broken, mystical sword, a task that will pit him against the god of the underworld.

Now, Daniel and his friends have just one weekend to find the shards before a hoard of supernatural enemies catch up. But that’s not all they face. A trap has been set that even Daniel wouldn’t expect, and he just took the bait.

Will the power of his Heavenly Father be enough to save them?

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INTERVIEW WITH A VILLAIN

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PURCHASE THE BOOK HERE

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE AUTHOR HERE

Where Shadows Lie: An Interview with Tialla Rising

whereshadowslietour

Today I’m chatting with the super-talented author, Tialla Rising, about her new release, Where Shadows Lie. For any of you who have read the first of the series, Holding the Future Hostage, you’ll definitely want to pick up this exciting, long-awaited sequel!

Check out the rest of the blog tour stops at this link. And don’t forget to enter into the awesome giveaway!!

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This book is a sequel. How is it different from the first book in genre, theme, stakes, etc.?

I like to think that other than the main characters being the same, my books are completely different. The genre for Where Shadows Lie is Christian suspense, whereas the genre for my first book (Holding the Future Hostage) is Sci-Fi/Action-adventure. Therefore, while the non-stop action is consistent throughout both books, the setting and stakes are completely different. I made everything for Where Shadows Lie as realistic as I possibly could, while my first book definitely has a sci-fi twist.

Can you name something interesting about your main character which only YOU know about, which wasn’t mentioned in the book itself?

Shawn finds that he can relax and de-stress best when lifting weights or running. I can’t remember if I actually mentioned this in the book or not, but if I did, it was brief.

Describe two of your main characters in 3 words each.

Shawn: Determined, stubborn, conflicted.
Virginia: Optimistic, stubborn, loyal.

Was writing a sequel more or less difficult than writing the first book? Why?

Definitely more difficult. I believe it was much more difficult because of the realism, research, and balance this book required. My first book didn’t need as much realism or balance for the story to work, but they were a must for Where Shadows Lie. This resulted in numerous revisions and lots of red notes from my proofreaders, haha!

What’s in store next? How far will this series go, or will you begin a brand new project?

Honestly, I’m not sure. I do have an idea for a third book with these characters, but I’m not certain whether I’ll write it next or not. I didn’t plan on this becoming a series, but it might be nice to make it into a trilogy. I also have ideas for a children’s book and other novels. At this moment, I’m taking a few months’ break from writing, though I’m sure I won’t be able to stay away for long.

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His dark past haunts him. His new life taunts him.

where shadows lie coverAfter twenty years in the gangs and a hefty prison sentence, an early release gives Shawn the opportunity to turn his life around.

But that isn’t so easy when gangs are involved.

Only a year into his fresh start, the gang catches on and makes Shawn’s life miserable. After all, once a gang member, always a gang member. His very blood belongs to them.

Threats become promises. Whispers become actions. Words become bullets. He must fight – not only for his life, but to save his honor, prove his integrity, and protect the woman he loves.

An ember of hope glows in the darkness, strengthening his resolve. Will her support and his determination be enough to dispel the shadows of his past?

A story of discovery and faith, love and perseverance.

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Tialla Rising is a Christian young woman living with her family in the mountains of Arizona. She loves to write and will passionately spend hours long into the night developing her stories. Like most writers, Tialla fills her spare time with reading from her favorite fantasy and mystery genres. A good book, a stormy day, and an iced coffee comprise her favorite moments.
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Cinderella Schemes #5: An Interview with Cameron Dokey

For my final post in the Cinderella Schemes interviews, I’m thrilled to welcome the epic Cameron Dokey. She is, as most of you are aware, the author of the acclaimed Once Upon a Time series of fairy tale retellings. She’s with us today to discuss her own spellbinding Cinderella story, Before Midnightand the universal truths we can glean from Cinderella herself.

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Was there anything in particular that sparked the idea for your retelling? What was it? How did it come about?

pumpkinThere was a very specific spark for the direction my re-telling ended up taking. I like to do quite a bit of research, reading as many variations of the “original” story as I can. One thing I discovered very quickly about Cinderella was that, in its earliest versions, her father is alive during the events of the story (though he’s not a very active character). This totally blew me away. What kind of guy lets this happen to his own daughter? I wondered. And that was the genesis for my re-telling right there.

The other thing that putting a living father back into the story accomplishes is that it also let me do some re-thinking about the stepmother and stepsisters. I don’t know that I can claim that re-thinking the stepmother/stepsisters is a completely new idea, but I really did want to sort of rehabilitate them. If we jettison the notion that the stepmother is a straight out villain, what might her motivations for “mistreating” a stepdaughter be? Could it be as simple as a series of misunderstandings, eventually sorted out? I really enjoyed that aspect of the re-telling.

What original storylines, scenes, characters or props did you feel you just had to retain from the original Cinderella to use in your own version?

Once Upon a Time

Once Upon a Time series

One of the tricks about any re-telling is that you have to decide what you can and cannot do without. In the case of Cinderella, I think you need a ball, a glass slipper, and a pumpkin! They’re just such touchstones. And you need the stepmother and stepsisters and a prince, of course. But, as I hope I’ve successfully shown, just because you have to have them, they don’t have to behave quite the way that readers expect. Deciding what the core of the story is for you as a writer is not only fun, it also lets you decide what can stay and what might go.

What themes from Cinderella do you think resound well for readers today? What themes or lessons did you personally take away from this fairy tale?

It has always seemed to me that one of the core lessons of the Cinderella story is the notion that, eventually, you will be seen and honored (or punished) for being who you truly are. I think, even more than the “she gets the prince” angle, this is what keeps us coming back to this particular story. She is misunderstood, put upon–in many versions we would say abused–but eventually, she comes out right. She stays true to herself, and her worth is recognized. I think we’d all like to believe that this aspect of this fairy tale that could come true for us. That someone will see us for who we really are no matter what the surface might suggest, no matter what others might say about us. And that, having seen us, they will love who we are and give us the opportunity to love in return. Now that’s a happy ending!

It was an honor to visit with you, Cameron. Thanks so much for visiting Finding the True Fairy Tale!

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Find out more about Cameron and her books here:

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BEFORE MIDNIGHT

Etienne de Brabant is brokenhearted. His wife has died in childbirth, leaving him alone with an infant daughter he Before Midnightcannot bear to name. But before he abandons her for king and court, he brings a second child to be raised alongside her, a boy whose identity he does not reveal.

The girl, La Cendrillon, and the boy, Raoul, pass sixteen years in the servants’ care until one day a very fine lady arrives with her two daughters. The lady has married La Cendrillon’s father, and her arrival changes their lives.

When an invitation to a great ball reaches the family, La Cendrillon’s new stepmother will make a decision with far-reaching effects. Her choice will lead La Cendrillon and Raoul toward their destiny — a choice that will challenge their understanding of family, test their loyalty and courage, and, ultimately, teach them who they are.

Cinderella Schemes #4: An Interview with Clara Diane Thompson

Time for the fourth Cinderella author interview! This time I’m talking with the beautiful Clara Diane Thompson, the author of The Moon Master’s Ball from the Five Glass Slippers collection. I had the privilege of being an influence reader for Clara’s enchanting story (see my review here), and I truly can’t wait to read more from her.

Clara chats with me today about how she came up with a fresh angle on the original tale, and what she’s working on now!

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How difficult was it for you to come up with a fresh plot for such a well-known story? Were there any tricks you used to imagine a new angle on the theme?

It was pretty difficult to come up with something new, something that might make readers think, “Hmm. I wonder how this could possibly be a Cinderella story?” To me, the Cinderella story has always been light, a bit shallow, and completely unrealistic…even though it is a fairy tale. So I immediately started thinking of a way to change the all around mood of The Moon Master's Ballclassic story, and my imagination instantly took to a darker path. My original idea started out completely differently than how it ended up. There was a ball, an eclipse, and an insane prince living in the forest…But something just wasn’t right. There wasn’t a theme to hold the story together.

That was when I pulled out my trusty journal and found an old idea about a prisoner hidden away amongst the clowns and acts of a circus. And thus The Moon Master’s Ball was born!

What original story lines, scenes, characters or props did you feel you just had to retain from the original Cinderella, and use in your own version?

Well, obviously the slippers had to stay, and I wanted them to play a more useful roll in the story, which I think turned out nicely. Then there’s the mice–that’s where darling Scatter came from, and, of course, pumpkins. With pumpkins comes a cool, fall atmosphere that fits so perfectly with the eerie feel I was going for. Apart from there being the classic pumpkin carriage, they are mentioned several times throughout the story.

Which character(s) in your retelling did you have the most fun writing?

Oh, The Moon Master himself was my favorite to write! For some reason his scenes came so easily and naturally, I wasn’t having to drag the sentences and dialogue out of my brain! His character is just the type I love reading about, that could be why I enjoyed writing him so much.

Which character(s) in your retelling was the most difficult to write?Clara Diane Thompson

Tilly Higgins. It’s something about those main characters that get me every. Single. Time. I think it’s because I’m more detached from them, and was constantly wanting to get to the next scene with a more interesting character. Ha! But I can’t be too hard on her…after I struggled writing Tilly, she blossomed and became the timid, sweet maid I love today!

What themes from Cinderella do you think resound well for readers today? What themes or lessons did you personally take away from this fairy tale?

Personally, I think the idea of a poor, kindly girl who is treated horribly by everyone getting the gorgeous dress and the prince makes story lovers happy! Everyone enjoys a sweet hero/heroine who gets all the goodness they deserve.

As for what I took away from the fairy tale, it would have to be how Cinderella didn’t act. In the Disney cartoon, it always drove me crazy how she never stood up for herself! I’d have to say what I take away from the story is it’s never wrong to have a backbone and stand up for yourself…just so long as you’re kind while doing it.

Do you have any plans for more retellings? If so, could you give us a hint as to which fairy tale(s) they may be based on?

Ooh, goodness, yes! I’m currently working on (as I’m sure many of you are as well!) my entry for the Five Magic Spindles competition. The one thing I’ll say about this story is that it’s unlike anything I’ve attempted before. I’m a bit nervous about it! Also, I’ve got the beginnings of a Puss in Boots story brewing in my mind, which is going to be loads of fun, I hope! And then there’s Rumpelstiltskin, too….

The list is never ending!

Thank you oh, so much for hosting this interview, Ashlee! I am enthralled by the premise of your own retelling, and can’t wait to get my hands on a copy!

I loved visiting with you, Clara!! And I’m pretty thrilled that you’re working on some more retellings – can’t wait to read them! Thanks again!

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five glass slippersAfter her terrifying experience there several years ago, the one place young housemaid Tilly longs to avoid is Bromley’s Circus. But when kindly Lord Hollingberry begs her to deliver a message to the mysterious Moon Master hidden away among the circus dwellers, Tilly can’t refuse . . . and finds herself ensnared in a web of enchantment cast by the loathsome Mrs. Carlisle and her beautiful goddaughter.

FIND CLARA HERE:

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Cinderella Schemes #3: An Interview with Melanie Dickerson

Today I have the enormous privilege of chatting with Christian fairy tale author Melanie Dickerson. She has written a beautiful series of medieval fairy tale retellings which, if you haven’t read already, you most definitely should. One of those retellings (of course!) is based on the Cinderella tale. Here’s a bit more about it:

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THE CAPTIVE MAIDEN

Gisela’s childhood was filled with laughter and visits from nobles such as the duke and his young son. But since her father’s death, each day has been filled with nothing but servitude to her stepmother. the captive maiden

So when Gisela learns the duke’s son, Valten – the boy she has daydreamed about for years – is throwing a ball in hopes of finding a wife, she vows to find a way to attend, even if it’s only for a taste of a life she’ll never have.

To her surprise, she catches Valten’s eye. Though he is rough around the edges, Gisela finds Valten has completely captured her heart.

But other forces are bent on keeping the two from falling further in love, putting Gisela in more danger than she ever imagined.

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Was there anything in particular that sparked the idea for your retelling? What was it? How did it come about?

I knew I wanted to write a story with Valten as the hero, since he was the hero’s brother in the previous book. Since Valten was such a manly character, a knight who was trained for battle, I wanted him to be able to rescue a damsel in distress, and Cinderella seemed like a great damsel in distress kind of story, so I went with it.

How difficult was it for you to come up with a fresh plot for such a well-known story? Were there any tricks you used to imagining a new angle on the theme?

I was pretty faithful to the original premise, especially in the beginning of the story, but I added my own twists, since I already had a setting and characters in place. I just tried to imagine what kind of person would want to hurt Valten and would cause my Cinderella character to flee from the ball—but I ended up having her kidnapped by Valten’s nemesis, which made it more exciting.

Name your top three fairy tales, and explain why you love them.

1. Beauty and the Beast, 2. Cinderella, 3. Sleeping Beauty, because these are the most romantic, and I love romance.

What’s unique about the Cinderella-character in your book? How is she different from the Cinderella most people think of?

My Cinderella is named Gisela, and she is tougher, more of a tomboy, and is pretty defiant toward her stepmother and stepsisters. She only puts up with them because of her beloved horses.

Name one thing in your story which is completely new and unique from the original tale.

The second villain, Ruexner, who is the hero’s nemesis and kidnaps the Cinderella character from the ball, causing her to lose her slipper in the process.

Which character(s) in your retelling did you have the most fun writing?

Gisela was probably the most fun, because she is strong and spunky.

Which character(s) in your retelling was the most difficult to write?

The evil villains are always the hardest for me to write. The stepmother and Ruexner were the hardest because they’re so mean, and I had to try to think like them in order to write their actions and their dialogue. And there was no softening in either of them, especially the stepmother, and that’s hard for me to write.

What themes from Cinderella do you think resound well for readers today? What themes or lessons did you personally take away from this fairy tale?

I think everyone can relate to feeling like they have to do more than their share of the workload, and everyone can relate to wanting something, to having a dream, like dancing with the prince and wearing a beautiful dress and having everyone stare at you and wonder who that gorgeous person is.  I like the hope this fairy tale gives, that if you hold on to your own integrity, good things will eventually come to you, if you keep believing and don’t give up.

Why do you think fairy tales (and their various rehashings) are still so wildly popular today?

I think everyone can relate to fairy tales, the whole good versus evil thing, and the reversal of fortune that happens in fairy tales, where the poor mistreated stepdaughter ends up married to the wealthy and beloved prince. Everyone prays for their own reversal of fortune story when things aren’t going so well.

Tell us about what you’re working on now.

I am working on a Little Mermaid story set in Medieval England and waiting for my Rapunzel story to come out in November, The Golden Braid.

Do you have plans for more retellings? If so, could you give us a hint as to which fairy tale(s) they may be based on?

I have a Rapunzel story releasing in November, and I have a Princess and the Pea/Beauty and the Beast story, titled The Beautiful Pretender, coming out next May, which is a sequel to The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest. I also am working on a Little Mermaid story that is as yet untitled that will come out November, 2016.

Thanks so much for visiting with us today, Melanie! It was a true honor!!

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FIND MELANIE HERE

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Cinderella Schemes #2: An Interview with Shantelle Mary Hannu

Here it is! Number Two in the Cinderella Schemes series of author interviews. (In case you missed it, last week I interviewed Cinderella’s Dress author Shonna Slayton.)

This week I’m speaking with the sweet Shantelle Mary Hannu, who released her debut novella quite recently, titled A Dream Not Imagined. She’s visiting my blog today to answer a few questions not only about her book, but about Cinderella and fairy tales in general.

First, here’s a little more about her new release.

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3 a A Dream Not Imagined (Paperback edition)A Maid, a Prince, and a Duke. A Gardener, a Stepmother, and a secret . . .

Ellie Abbington, a beautiful yet unassuming young woman, quietly longs for her life to change. Too privileged to associate with the servants—too underprivileged to associate with her own family; she dreams a dream of a prince and a happily ever after. 

But it could be that her own stepsisters, conniving Dezmarie and easily-influenced Adelaide, are dreaming the same dream . . . of the same prince. 

In the end, are dreams even all they’re made out to be? Especially with deep and long-hidden secrets about to be unearthed? 

A Dream Not Imagined is a non-magical fairytale novella based loosely on the classic tale of Cinderella.

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Name your top three fairy tales, and explain why you love them.

Well, I suppose I can pick three . . . but I love pretty much all of them!! ^_^ The Little Mermaid, because I’m fascinated with mermaids and the ocean depths! I don’t know; I just love the thought—so mystical! The Twelve Dancing Princesses, because of dancing and princesses, and gallant men to the rescue!! *grins* It’s charming and intriguing, and I simply love it! Rapunzel, because I just like the idea of a long, golden-haired maiden trapped up in a tower. The backstory. The prince. The terrible trickery; but then the oh-so-sweet ending!

What are your feelings on the original version(s) of Cinderella?

I usually love the more original versions of fairytales. Like, I adored the movie Cinderella (2015), and that one stuck pretty close with the original storyline I think. But it is fun to throw in something fresh and new. And maybe change things about a little so there’s not “love-at-first-sight”, ;P

Name one thing in your story which is completely new and unique from the original tale.

It has a little mystery twining throughout it, 🙂

Which character(s) in your retelling did you have the most fun writing?glass-slipper

I must say, the stepmother and Dezmarie (eldest stepsister) were pretty fun, and interesting, to write! XD I also enjoyed writing Ellie (Cinderella), and kind of delving into her character.

Why do you think fairy tales (and their various rehashings) are still so wildly popular today?

There’s just something about fairytales that captivate. I don’t even really know what it is—that mystical world. Those mysterious happenings. When true love reigns. Evil gets trounced. The lovely lady and the strong, handsome knight. And certain fairytales have truth and deep lessons to them, 🙂

Tell us about what you’re working on now.

I’m getting a fantasy novel ready for publication—it’s with beta readers right now. And I have about 20,000 words on its sequel, Diamond Dark! I adore fantasy, so this is exciting stuff!

Do you have plans for more retellings? If so, could you give us a hint as to which fairy tale(s) they may be based on?

I would love to write more retellings!! I actually have a Beauty and the Beast one that I haven’t decided if I’ll publish or not yet. I also started a Rapunzel retelling randomly . . . and I might just join the contest for writing a retelling of Sleeping Beauty. Oh, and I’m also planning for the third book in my fantasy series to be a subtle retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses. So much fun, ^_^

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Find Shantelle here:

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Cinderella Schemes #1: An Interview with Shonna Slayton

As a way to celebrate the release of A Wish Made of Glass, I’m doing a series of interviews with other authors who have written retellings or renditions of the Cinderella story. I’ve got some pretty spectacular authors lined up, so I hope you’ll join me every Monday from today until August 3rd.

In the first of these interviews I am hosting the lovely Shonna Slayton. She is the author of Cinderella’s Dress (June 2014) and its sequel, Cinderella’s Shoes (October 2015).

Without further ado, here’s what Shonna has to say about writing her re-vamp of this age-old tale . . .

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How difficult was it for you to come up with a fresh plot for such a well-known story? Were there any tricks you used to imagine a new angle on the theme?

My two Cinderella novels are spin-offs of the original story, told from the point of view of the descendants of all the characters. The novels are set in New York City during the 1940’s starting from around D-Day in 1944 until the summer of 1947 where I move the cast to post-WWII Europe.

I had been going through a fairy-tale binge when the ideas for Cinderella’s Dress started to take shape, but I never intended to write my own retelling. So many people had already produced such wonderful retellings that I was too intimidated to try my hand at it. Instead, I wanted to “tell the rest of the story” using the objects Cinderella might have bequeathed to her children: her dress, her glass slippers!

When I was younger my parents dragged me around to antique stores, and at the time I hated it, but now I have a fascination with old objects and the stories they silently keep. What would Cinderella’s children…grandchildren…hand writinggreat grandchildren do with her dress? Her shoes? Would the children fight over them? Would these items remain full of fairy-tale magic? If so, what could they do? These are some of the concepts that had me daydreaming a new angle for the well-known story.

What original storylines, scenes, characters or props did you feel you just had to retain from the original Cinderella to use in your own version?

During the first draft I started to parallel the Cinderella story pretty closely. Almost like a retelling where my main character, Kate, had a wicked stepmom, and she had an older sister who took advantage of her, but not far into the writing I realized that wasn’t at all what I wanted to do. I really wanted to change it up even more.

Back in medieval times there was a job called “Keeper of the Wardrobe.” As the job title suggests, a keeper maintained the clothing of the royal family. I latched onto that role and made Kate’s family the descendants of the original Keeper. They became the ones responsible for the safety of the dress. And since the 1940’s was a pivotal time in fashion, I had a lot of fun placing the story in an upscale department store, and talking about the arrival of Dior’s New Look.

Now, for the sequel, Cinderella’s Shoes, which comes out in October, I had a bit of fun with adding more references to classic Cinderella tropes. Some are obvious, but others more subtle. The story moves from New York to Europe so it seemed appropriate to add more fantasy to the sequel the closer my characters got to the source, so to speak.

What type of research, if any, did you do for your retelling? How deeply into the history of Cinderella did you dig?

I didn’t research the original Cinderella tales very much at all, since I was only taking pieces from the story. For Cinderella’s Dress I spent most of my research time learning about New York in the 1940’s, department store window dressing, and 1940’s fashions. I was thrilled to discover actual historical events to tie my plot points to. (Seriously thrilling—often gave myself goosebumps over it!)

For Cinderella’s Shoes, I dove into research of post WWII Europe. This research was a bit trickier considering much of what we know from Eastern Europe has only recently come to light. As an English speaker studying Polish history, I felt frustrated at the lack of information available compared to the wealth of information that was available for New York during this same time period. Nonetheless, I did find some fascinating bits of info that I was able to include in the story. Much of what I learned about WWII and the aftermath was quite terrible, but given that I was not writing a realistic novel like Code Name Verity, I put a lot of what I learned into the backstory of a new character, and only hinted at what she went through during the war.

Do you have plans for more retellings? If so, could you give us a hint as to which fairy tale(s) they may be based on?

I do! This summer during Camp NaNoWriMo I am writing a new fairy-tale/historical mashup, and if you check out my Pinterest boards, you could come up with a pretty good guess as to both the fairy tale and the historical time period.

Thanks for having me on your blog, Ashlee! I’ve enjoyed following your publishing adventures this past year and look forward to more fun with you.

Thanks, Shonna! Sooo fun to visit with you, as always!

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CINDERELLA’S DRESS

cinderellas dress coverKate simply wants to create window displays at the department store where she’s working, trying to help out with the war effort. But when long-lost relatives from Poland arrive with a steamer trunk they claim holds the Cinderella’s dress, life gets complicated.

Now, with a father missing in action, her new sweetheart shipped off to boot camp, and her great aunt losing her wits, Kate has to unravel the mystery before it’s too late.

After all, the descendants of the wicked stepsisters will stop at nothing to get what they think they deserve.

CINDERELLA’S SHOES 

(Available Oct 6, 2015)

The war may be over, but Kate Allen’s life is still in upheaval. Not only has she discovered that Cinderella was real, but now Cinderellas Shoes by Shonna Slaytonshe’s been made Keeper of the Wardrobe, her sole responsibility to protect Cinderella’s magical dresses from the greed of the evil stepsisters’ modern descendants.

But Cinderella’s dresses are just the beginning. It turns out that the priceless glass slippers might actually exist, too, and they could hold the power to reunite lost loved ones like her father—missing in action since World War II ended. As Kate and her boyfriend, Johnny, embark on an adventure from New York to Italy and Poland in search of the mysterious slippers, they will be tested in ways they never imagined.

Because when you harness Cinderella’s magic, danger and evil are sure to follow…

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FIND SHONNA HERE

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Interview With Anne Elisabeth Stengl: Cover Designer for A Wish Made of Glass

Many of you are familiar already with Anne Elisabeth Stengl. She is the talented and lovely authoress behind the award-winning series, Tales of Goldstone Wood. As I have gotten to know her over the past couple of years I’ve been continually impressed with her talent, sweetness, boundless energy, and grace as both an artist and an individual. God has most certainly blessed her with multiple gifts!

When I decided to begin approaching designers about the cover for A Wish Made of Glass, I had a few artists in mindAWishMadeofGlassFinal – none of which was Anne Elisabeth, since I really had no idea she designed covers at all. But one day I stumbled upon a blog post with a brand new book cover which had been designed by…you guessed it…Anne Elisabeth.

Hmm, I thought. Now there’s a thought. After all, Anne Elisabeth had already read my novella. She knew the mood, she knew the characters and setting. And what’s more, I trusted her taste completely.

As fate would have it, she had a very small window of time which was open in her busy schedule (just the window of time that I happened to need!) to do a cover for me. Within mere hours of having contacted her, she had some mockups for me to look over. After a few back-and-forth email discussions, she had the finished cover ready for me within a handful of days.

Super impressed? Yeah, I was too. I’m fully aware how blessed I am to have had her design my cover! It’s truly gorgeous.

I thought it would be fun (not to mention insightful!) to ask her a few questions about the designing side of the book world. FYI: All the book cover images I’ve got below are Anne Elisabeth’s designs as well…as if you needed another reason to admire her 🙂

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Tell me how you got into cover design? Is it something you do on the side, or do you have “official” training in art?

Cover design is a relatively new pursuit of mine. I studied illustration for several years in college with the idea in mind that I would someday illustrate picture books. Although that particular form of art is different from cover design, many of the elements carry over. When I began creating book covers, I had all sorts of great training in color, composition, lighting, etc. to draw from.

I design only a precious few covers every year, starting two years ago now when I took my first commission. While I would love to get into more regular design work, carving out the time for it is a struggle these days. I find designing a new cover to be a fun break from regular work, however, challenging a whole different side of my brain. So someday I might accept more regular clients!

How different is it to design a cover for a book you’ve read versus one you haven’t read?BoardwalkCover

Designing a cover for a book I have not read is a different sort of challenge from designing for a book I have read. But as long as the author I’m working with makes clear what he/she hopes to see in the final image, I can usually make do without much difficulty. The first cover commission I took was for a book I had not read (still haven’t!), which was an interesting process. The client had a very specific vision in mind for the cover of Boardwalk. Once he had described his vision, however, I had a different idea which I thought might better illustrate the mood he wanted. I submitted my idea, and he loved it, so we went that direction instead.

All covers are unique. But if there’s any one thing/concept/quality that every book cover should have, what, in your opinion, should it be?

Oh, that’s an easy one: clear, readable text. Which is actually much harder to achieve than you might think! It’s too easy for a designer to get so caught up in the image—the characters, the backgrounds, and so forth—that she foCorrodedThornsFinalrgets the text until late in development. It’s much smarter to develop the text at the same rate as everything else in the design so that it fits seamlessly into the whole.

Whether an image is static or dramatic, dull colors or vibrant, active or passive, whether it features landscapes or models or simply an interesting texture . . . the text HAS to stand out.

What are your thoughts on the saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover”?

I think it’s a lovely theory but very hard to put into practice. Particularly these days with the Indie market booming, a great cover can set an author apart as someone who is serious about her business as opposed to someone who is just tossing work out there. Unless you’re an already-established, very popular name in the market, a dynamic cover is often the one thing that will make a reader take a moment to glance over your book, read the description, and BattleofCastleNebulaCover1consider making a purchase. If a cover doesn’t have that “Wow!” factor, the author is losing sales.

Of course, a fantastic book may be housed in a lousy cover. No one is denying that. All stories should be judged on the merit of their writing. However, they won’t be judged at all if readers don’t bother to pick them up.

Being a capable artist yourself, what are the benefits of hiring another designer to work on the covers for the books you’ve written?

For me personally I feel much too close to my own stories to dare design covers for them. I would struggle to get out of my own head and think in terms of dynamic imagery rather than specific scenes or character looks, etc. These days, I am often very much involved with the talented artists who create my cover images . . . but ultimately I try to let the creative invention and imagination be theirs. I’m usually much happier with the covers I end up with as a result.

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Professional Photo - Anne Elisabeth Stengl

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Interview with Fantasy Author Jeff Chapman

Today I’m visiting with author Jeff Chapman. I had the honor of recently reading Jeff’s latest book, Last Request, a Victorian Gothic. (Click here to read my review of it!). Jeff has a unique style, and definitely knows how to create a story full of suspense and excitement! Hope you enjoy getting to know him better!

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Welcome to Finding the True Fairy Tale, Jeff!  Can you tell us a little about yourself … hobbies, quirks, tastes, interests, passions?

I make a living writing software, feed my soul with great books, and express myself writing fiction. I love to watch mysteries and costume dramas on PBS. I have graduate degrees in history and computer science. I fell in love with words and story reading Poe. The first fantasy I read was The Chronicles of Narnia. Somewhere in my teens I discovered Dostoevsky and Kafka. My favorite C. S. Lewis book is Till We Have Faces. My favorite Tolkien book is The Children of Hurin. Not sure why my tastes run so dark. I listen to U2, Loreena McKennitt, Natalie Merchant, and Mazzy Star. I build my own bookcases. I don’t like candy and I don’t like soda, but I am very passionate about dark hot chocolate.

You write science fiction, fantasy and horror … is there a genre you haven’t written in which attracts you? Do you see yourself ever writing in that genre?

Six months ago I would have said historical fiction but Last Request is historical. I like mysteries, but I don’t think I could come up with all the clever plot twists to write a good one. I have a thriller novella with a publisher. I definitely plan to write more historical fiction and if the thriller works out, maybe I’ll write some more of those. My base is definitely in fantasy and horror. Those two elements creep into every story.

Tell us about your road to publication.

I started writing for my own amusement as a teenager. I took some fiction writing classes at university and tried to publish some LastRequestCover300x186stories. I didn’t meet with any success. I kept reading fiction and toyed around with writing but I wasn’t serious about it. I shelved the dream of being a writer, thinking I would get to it someday. A serious illness shocked me back to reality. I’m going to die someday and it might not be on my schedule. Becoming a parent gave me a new sense of maturity. So with my new sense of maturity and mortality, I decided I had to become serious about my writing dream. I began writing every day, joined critique groups, and delved into books on the craft of fiction. I made my first sale in 2009.

Do you remember the first story/book/poem/etc. that you wrote … ever? (Or if not the first, one of the first!). What was its title? How old were you when you wrote it? If you were to read it now, what would you think or feel about it?

I remember writing some stories in sixth grade. My teacher gave me good grades for them, but I was way too shy to volunteer to read them out loud to the class. One was about a guy on a whaling ship. Another was about a guy who crash lands a glider on a mountain. I think they were highly derivative.

Of all your main characters in all your books and stories, which has been the most fun to write, and why? Which has been the most difficult? Why?

Esme from “Esme’s Amulet” was very fun. She tries to be clever and quickly gets in way over her head, but she never gives up. She’s going to have her own novel some day. The most difficult is from a work in progress, a weird Western about a murder committed during the Civil War. The hard part is how to resolve the protagonist’s guilt. I’ve written three different endings to that story and haven’t liked any of them.

If you could get lost inside of a book, and become one of its characters, which book would you choose?

Definitely not any George R. R. Martin novels. I want to survive the story. I would be content to tag along with Ransom in Perelandra, so I could visit the astounding planet Venus as Lewis imagined it.

Your latest story, Last Request, is a Victorian Gothic. What made you decide to write this particular type of story? Is it something you’ve always been interested in? Or did you get a sudden spark of inspiration from somewhere?

I saw a reference once to a crypt in which the future occupant had placed a bell that could be wrung from inside in case of a premature burial. Premature burials are also a frequent theme in Poe’s work. I’m a bit claustrophobic. Nothing terrifies me more than the thought of being buried alive. I thought about what someone might do to make certain they were dead and cutting off the head came to mind. The story wouldn’t work as well now with most people being embalmed so I chose a Victorian setting. I’ve read a lot of nineteenth-century novels. The rest of the story flowed from the setting and the initial problem –an aging claustrophobe asking his relatives to cut off his head postmortem, just to make sure he’s dead.

If you had to describe yourself in three words, what would they be?

Tall, dark, and handsome, of course. Okay, above-average-height, quiet, and creative might be closer to the mark.

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Jeff Chapman

Jeff Chapman writes software by day and speculative fiction when he should be sleeping. His tales range from fantasy to horror and they don’t all end badly. He lives with his wife, children, and cats in a house with more books than bookshelf space. You can find him musing about words and fiction at jeffchapmanwriter.blogspot.com.

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Last Request

Interview with Author Tialla Rising

Tialla Rising is the charming authoress of Holding the Future Hostage, a Christian action/adventure with a sci-fi twist … does that sound exciting or what?!  She is currently working on its sequel, Where Shadows Lie.

Hope you enjoy getting to know her better! I know I have!

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Tialla, welcome to Finding the True Fairy Tale! It’s an honor to have you by for a chat! First of all, could you tell us a bit about yourself? Hobbies, history, family, eye color … shoe size 😉

Hi, Ashlee!  Thanks for having me.  Well, first and foremost, I’m a born-again Christian, and I strive to honor the Lord with the stories I write.  I published my debut novel in 2012, graduated high school in 2013, and I’m *hoping* to publish my second novel autumn of 2014.  I live in the mountains of Arizona with my family (yes, mountains – where we have seventy degree weather in the summer and OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAsnow in the winter).

Aside from writing, I’m also a Marketing Representative for the website LetsHomeschoolHighSchool.com.  In my spare time, I work on my books, read and review novels, and – when I’m completely exhausted and just cannot work any longer – I provide job-security for Netflix.

I have green eyes, I’m 5’3” and I wear a women’s 7 ½ shoe size. 😉  I have a huge weakness for shoes, earrings, and summer dresses.  One strange fact about me: I always have to feel busy – and if I’m not crazy busy, I feel lazy.  I’ve burned myself out from this multiple times in the past year, but I just can’t break the habit.

If your present phase of life was a book, what genre would it be told in, and what would its title be?

Oh, this is tricky.  I suppose it would be in the Christian Fiction genre (nothing so exciting as action or drama), and I think the title would simply be, “Choices.”  I know that’s fairly vague, but…it fits.  At this point in time, I am confronted with essential choices regarding every aspect of my life.

I’ve wanted to be a writer for a long time – as long as I can remember, in fact, except for a short period where it was a toss-up between a carpenter and a ballerina… 🙂 What is the first thing you remember aspiring to as a young child? Was it being a writer – or something different altogether?

I didn’t even consider writing my own stories until I was eleven, so being a writer certainly wasn’t always on my list.  For the longest time, I wanted to be a veterinarian.  My parents even purchased multiple veterinarian computer games for me – which I adored.  I eventually grew out of that phase, though.  I think seeing the suffering animals is what did it for me – I love them too much to witness so many hurting and injured creatures.

Holding the Future Hostage (Tialla Rising)Your books, titled Holding the Future Hostage and Where Shadows Lie, sound fascinating! Are they part of a series, or standalones? Can you tell us a little about how your ideas for them came about and/or evolved?

Thank you!  I will more than likely end up making a trilogy out of these books – maybe even four books.  HTFH can definitely be standalone; however, WSL is a sequel.  I have been marketing it as a standalone as well, but after hearing back from one of my proofreaders, I’ve decided readers would understand it better if they read HTFH beforehand.  Fun fact: my third book *may* end up as a prequel.

The ideas for HTFH truly came as I wrote.  I didn’t outline anything, and I honestly had no idea what I was doing when I wrote the first draft (thank the LORD for revisions!).  I was only running on inspiration from a single photograph of a large rock formation, which I titled, “The Stone Megalith.”  I imagined a girl swimming in the water nearby, and everything grew from there.

My inspiration for WSL was much different.  Shawn was the second character to make an appearance in HTFH, and from that first moment, something about him attracted me.  In fact, I took a whole week away from editing HTFH to fill notebooks with “who Shawn is,” “where he comes from,” “why he is the way he is,” and so on.  He absolutely intrigued and fascinated me – I just had to tell his story.  However, HTFH wasn’t the place.  Once it was published, though, I knew without a doubt that my next book would tell Shawn’s story.  And that’s how Where Shadows Lie was born. 🙂

If you had to describe Shawn, your most recent main character, in just three words, what would they be?

Conflicted. Loyal. Determined.

When a reader closes the last page of your latest book, Where Shadows Lie, what message or feeling do you hope they will walk away with?

The message truly has several dimensions.

I would like for readers to know that no matter where they come from, and no matter how dark their past may be, God’s strength is powerful enough to lift the shadows – and also that even though God’s power is sufficient, it still takes work.  We have to *want* it – enough to not let anything stop us, even ourselves.  After all, if God is on our side, who can stand against us?

I also pray that readers come away with the feeling that even if they are drowning in the darkness, as long as they are pursuing God’s will, there is always a thread of hope.

I’ve made phone calls to strangers, I’ve done Google searches on grisly, embarrassing or disturbing things … all in the name of writing! Do you have a story about a crazy or quirky thing you’ve done to further your writing or creativity?

Ahh, what we do to add to the realism. 🙂

I suppose one of the more disturbing things I’ve done is when I asked my Dad about the very intricate process of how someone might go about extracting money from a stranger’s bank account without arousing suspicion (my father is a former police officer).

I’ve also contacted complete strangers in India to tell me about daily life there, as well as ask all my friends what qualifies a person as a “cool bad guy,” and if they could give any examples.  And LOTS of rather grisly Google searches (like, “can someone survive a stomach knife wound” and “how to assemble a shaped-charge car bomb”).

We writers have undoubtedly captured the government’s attention.

I won’t ask that dreaded question: “what’s your favorite book?”!!  But I would like to know if you could name three books (any genre or type) that you think everyone in the world would benefit from reading…

(The Bible is a given.)

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis.  This is one of my absolute favorite books, and I do think everyone needs to read it.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.  This book is just so intense on so many levels…I really believe it’s a necessary read.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe.  This classic was incredibly hard to get through, but it has impacted me more than any other book, and I feel like it’s a story everyone needs to know.

Lastly, would you mind sharing a short excerpt from one of your books with us?

Sure!  Here is a bit of dialogue from my work-in-progress, Where Shadows Lie.

***

It wasn’t until we were nearly three blocks away that I realized what had happened.  I froze mid-step.  “Did he say trained killer?”

A smug expression crossed Jackson’s face.  “I was wondering when that would dawn on you.  You’re not actually going to take him up on that, are you?  Hiring an assassin seems a little…dramatic.”

I started walking again, and looked down, watching my feet.  I wasn’t sure what to think.  It did sound dramatic but…compared to everything Max had done to us, was it really such a bad idea?  No…well, if I didn’t get caught, that is.  I would not go back to jail.  Then again…I had decided to do everything to avoid prison because I didn’t want to lose Ginny.  I lost her anyway, so what was holding me back?  Get the guy off my back, serve time if I got caught, then get on with the rest of my life.

A hand on my shoulder stopped me.  I glanced up at Jackson; his eyes burned with determination.  “No matter how many enemies you eliminate, Shawn, there will always be someone ready to take his place.  Be careful what you choose.”

***

Thanks for having me, Ashlee!  This was so much fun.

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Tialla Rising Author Pic

Tialla Rising is a Christian young woman living with her family in the mountains of Arizona. She loves to write and will work long into the night developing her stories. Like most writers, Tialla spends her spare time reading. A good book, a stormy day, and an iced coffee comprise her favorite moments.

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