Review: Mercedes Lackey & James Mallory – The House of the Four Winds

The House of the Four Winds
Mercedes Lackey & James Mallory

Clarice, or Clarence as she prefers to be known, has been sent out from home to seek her fortune as a swordswoman. Determined to explore more of the world before settling down, she finds herself on a ship to the New World. After a mutiny by the crew, Clarence and her Captain find themselves running out of food and water – and instead heading towards an unknown destination.

16059529Clarence is a traditional female-hiding-as-male character. Not only does she pretend to be a passenger when she’s perfectly capable of looking after herself, she predictably falls in love with the Captain – who is understandably confused about having feelings for a young man…

It’s pretty much black and white what each person is feeling and doing. You know some characters are being sneaky, and it’s almost 100% positive that they are ‘bad’. ‘Bad’ dies out, and ‘good’ wins. Even when you put an all-powerful sorceress in the mix.

This novel was the highlight of the ones I borrowed from the library recently by Lackey. Mallory pulls up Lackey’s slack, and makes the story work. That being said, the execution is improved, but there’s not really any real variation from a known and best-selling story-type. I long for something new and unique – and I think I’m going to have to step away from

I’m interested to see what becomes of the next sisters in the series. They can’t all be firey princesses dreaming of adventure surely? Or perhaps this book won’t be successful enough to demand the writing of those… 4 stars from me.

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Review: Brandon Sanderson – Steelheart

Steelheart
Brandon Sanderson

David has been hunting Epics his whole life. Well, not all of them. But enough of them that he can classify them, and knows how to take them down. But there’s only one he wants to take down. And that’s Steelheart, who killed his father. Somewhere in David’s mind is the clue to take him down. He can’t do it on his own though…

17182126Metaphors in a world gone mad. I think that setting up difficult ones is just as hard as setting up good ones! I can’t decide whether it’s overkill, or just adding depth to David’s character. I guess it shows his out-of-contact social skills from living alone for too many years.

Sanderson always picks an interesting idea, and moves away from it in an odd direction. Take a concept that you think you understand, then turn it upside down. Too many times are there heroes and villains as super-people. Sometimes the balance is out. And what happens when they’re always mad and grumpy? Normal humans don’t have a chance.

I would have liked to see a bit more variety in the perspectives offered. David offers a pretty narrow world view to see the whole novel through. But it would have ruined some of the surprises because each person has their own secrets that the hold that are both their own and for others.

Something I love so much about this novel, and others, is that the person you might empathise with the most might turn out to be someone different or die on you! His twists and deaths are real deaths – people stay dead. Not like some series I can mention… *Game of Thrones* cough cough.

Oh Sanderson. You’ve done it again. I felt so shattered by the ending, and it wasn’t what I expected at all, so it was totally awesome. I can’t possibly recommend this novel enough. I’ve loved his work since much earlier, since borrowing novels while I was overseas on vacation (I now own them, not that they are out of their pristine plastic wrap).

I forgot to say thank you to my amazing girlfriend for surprising me with this novel! I have the bestest girlfriend ever.

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Interview with Katarina West

Today I have the honor of continuing my new interview series with an interview with the fabulous Katarina West. I’ve reviewed her debut novel, Witchcraft Couture.

 

Katarina West was born in Helsinki, Finland, into a bilingual family that in addition to humans consisted of dogs, cats, horses, guinea pigs, canaries, rabbits and – thanks to her biology teacher mother – stuffed owls and squirrels.  She spent time travelling in Africa, Asia and Latin America, and went on to study at Queen Mary and Westfield College in London and the European University Institute in Florence, where she completed a PhD in political science and published a book based on it, Agents of Altruism. During those student years she started work as a journalist, and continued writing for various Finnish magazines and newspapers for over ten years, writing on various topics from current events and humanitarian issues to celebrity interviews and short stories. She also briefly worked as a university lecturer on humanitarian issues in Northern Italy.  Katarina lives in an old farmhouse in Chianti with her husband and son and when not writing, she is fully immersed in Tuscan country life, from jam-making and olive-picking to tractor maintenance.

I read Witchcraft Couture what feels like an endless time ago now (November 2014)! When can I expect a copy of your next novel?

  • Hi, Rosemarie! Yes it seems a long time ago, doesn’t it? My next novel is coming out this autumn, and right now I’m writing one of the last drafts. It’s rewarding, to start to see the structure of the story coming out. It’s like sandpapering an old chair, and after a lot of hard work you start to see wood underneath the layers of ugly paint.

What is it about?

  • Entitled Absolute Truth, for Beginners, it tells the story of a twenty-something art history graduate, Elisa, who falls in love with a famous scientist. It’s a love story – but for me it’s first and foremost a coming-of-age story.

Your novel feels strongly literary, which is to say for me it feels like you have stuffed as much detail in there as possible, but somehow you have also managed to make it enjoyable. What called you to writing in this style and genre?

  • Good question. How do authors acquire their voice, their particular way of writing? As for me, much has to do with what I read as a child and a teenager, what influenced me in those years: the novelists I admired, and whose writing I wanted to emulate. I love rich, carefully-woven stories. I love reading them, and I love writing them.
  • Another aspect that has shaped my way of writing is that I write in two languages – Finnish and English – and grew up speaking Finnish, not English, and I live in Italy, which means that in everyday life I speak and think in Italian. Since I have many languages in my life, the languages in which I write are bound to be more literary. I don’t think I could switch between languages so easily if I wrote in a dialect, for example.
  • But it’s one of those eternal questions, really, that of an author’s voice. I think only part of the process is conscious: sure, you can mould your narrative voice, shape it, improve it, push it towards a certain direction. Yet only up to a degree, because so much of writing is instinctive. When you’re seated in front of your computer, you’re just trying to tell a good story.

You say you are an omnivore when it comes to reading novels. Are there some genres that you simply don’t read?

  • Not really, because I don’t always read a book simply because it belongs to a certain genre. If a book sounds interesting, I’m always ready to read the first thirty pages, no matter what the genre is.

How do you feel about erotica and graphic novels?

  • Frankly, I haven’t read enough of them to form an opinion.

When you were younger, did you know you wanted to be an author?

  • Yes, I was about twelve when I solemnly swore to myself that one day I was going to write novels. In the years to come I did a lot of other things though, simply because I kept doubting myself. The fact that I worked as a journalist from early on helped me, because I kept writing, no matter what.

Did you study at university because it was expected, or because you enjoyed it? A doctorate is a pretty heavy time commitment.

  • You know what? I went to study history because Dostoyevsky – my then idol – had said that a writer should have a superb knowledge of people. I didn’t want to study psychology, so I chose history, thinking that history was the human condition on a macro level. Honestly, can you have a sillier reason to study something? In any case, I fell in love with history and political science, and since I was still battling with my doubts, trying to gather that courage to write that first novel, I started to write a PhD instead. For a while I even toyed with the idea of remaining in a university environment. In that sense I can relate to Elisa, the heroine of my next novel, who dreams of becoming an art historian.

What is a usual day like for you now?

  • I wake up at six-thirty, wake up my eight-year-old son and get him ready for school. Once he has left, I go outside for a short walk with my dog, just to get some fresh air in my lungs before I start writing. I usually write till it’s time to go to fetch my son, trying to grab a quick lunch somewhere in the middle. And then it’s family life till my son goes to bed. After that, it’s office time: social media, answering emails, contacting people, and so on.

What does your writing process look like?

  • The first draft is always the worst. The quicker you get it done the better, and no matter what you do, it always looks horrible. Those are difficult months, because the perfectionist in me comes out, and doubts if anything at all will ever emerge from that mess of chapters. But little by little, I start to see light at the end of the tunnel. I love editing, it’s like working with clay, moulding it into a form you like.

Do you give yourself vacations from writing?

  • I don’t write my novel during weekends. But often there are other things to write, like blogs and guest blogs, and so on.

Have you ever been on a scheduled writing retreat, or is your self-motivation enough?

  • No, I haven’t. When I was writing Witchcraft Couture my son was still little, and it would have been difficult to go on a writing retreat. But we live in an isolated farmhouse that is as quiet as a monastery. I couldn’t write anywhere else – it’s so silent here that you really get work done!

Oscar has creative blocks. Do you suffer from these?

  • In the past I have, and that was one of the reasons why I wanted to write this book. There was a critic inside my mind, and nothing I wrote was good enough for that voice. It was really a nasty vicious circle, my own silent nightmare, and I didn’t know how to get out of it. Then one day I saw creative blocks in a larger context and I realised that I could write about them. That’s how Witchcraft Couture was born.

Would you get your own Sampo?

  • I think not. Obviously the temptation would be enormous. But I would prefer to create something that’s mediocre yet mine, rather than to pretend to be the author of a masterpiece. The satisfaction that comes with the first choice is just so much more rewarding. I like the idea of craftsmanship – that many aspects of writing are something that you can learn and improve; and that a quality novel, just like a quality outfit, is first and foremost a question of hard work.
  • One of the things I love most about Tuscany, my home region, is that it has a long tradition of artisans: carpenters, restaurateurs, tailors, shoemakers, and so on. In some sense these people are really like artists – they have such a high degree of professionalism (and obviously so, as often the profession is handed down from one generation to another), and they are so proud of and passionate about their work. I really have such an enormous admiration for them.

You’ve mentioned in other interviews that you are constructing in your mind the Perfect Novel. Do you think it’ll ever be committed to a written page?

  • Unfortunately, no!

Can you tell us a bit about your journey to publication? Why did you go for self-publishing? What made that choice for you?

  • Initially I worked with an agent, who was excited about the combination of folklore, fashion and magic. But publishers were cautious. Maybe that was because as a story, Witchcraft Couture is such a rare bird – it’s on fashion, but it’s not chick lit, and then there’s that magical realism aspect too – and they didn’t want to take risks. So I decided to go solo, and so far the journey has been absolutely fabulous.

Witchcraft CoutureHow long did it take you to write Witchcraft Couture?

  • Several years, because there were so many pauses in between. At times I had other writing projects, and many months passed and I didn’t even open the Witchcraft Couture file. And during the first drafts my son was always sick, and we didn’t have much babysitting help, so I was able to write the manuscript only at night.

How did you know that your book was ready for the general public?

  • You just know it, when a chapter or a scene or a character is working. After a few drafts you’ve got a pretty clear idea of what works well and what doesn’t. The more you write, the stronger your own instinct becomes. Also, I’ve got a brilliant editor and I trust her opinion as to how much work is still needed.

Do you believe in ongoing promotion of your novel?

  • Depends what you mean by promotion. If that means shouting online continuously how marvellous your books are, then the answer is no. But if it means, for example, slowly building a network of reviewers and book bloggers who might be interested in reading your novel, then that’s another story. In any case, I think the best way to promote yourself, especially in social media, is just to reach out to people, just to be nice and human and chat with them.

Is keeping up with your online presence daunting?

  • No, but it can be exhausting, especially if there are problems with your manuscript and you want to focus on that. I try to do the basic minimum all the time, but sometimes there just isn’t enough time.

How do you gauge how successful your social media campaigns are?

  • Both Twitter and Facebook offer possibilities to analyse the impact of your tweets or posts. And then you can of course check your book’s Amazon rating. But that’s all. I don’t do anything elaborate and complicated.

You’ve given a number of other interviews:

Are there any questions you wish people would ask, or wouldn’t ask?

  • I love to talk about writing and books. I love to read other authors’ interviews about their writing, and get a glimpse of how they work. You can always learn something new.
  • There isn’t anything particular I wouldn’t want to talk about, but sometimes even the simplest questions make me panic. Like the question about which book you would take to a desert island, knowing that it’s the book you’ll be reading for the rest of your life. And I answer something, quickly, just for the sake of answering, but then later on start to regret it, because honestly, there are so many brilliant books, and I simply don’t know which one to choose. I think that’s my problem: I have so few good opinions to offer. Maybe that was one of the reasons why I became a novelist in the first place, because writing is my way of getting some answers, of understanding life.

Do you have any further questions you would like to ask of Katarina? Some of the answers she’s provided certainly whet my curiosity about the rest of her life and her writing style.

You can find Katarina West on a range of platforms:Katarina West 1

I hope this interview leaves you wanting more. I have a chance to ask interesting questions of a range of authors that I review novels from. Let me know who you want to see next!

Add Witchcraft Couture on your Goodreads want to read shelf.
Witchcraft Couture is available to buy on Amazon. Grab your copy now!

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Review: Leah Raeder – Black Iris

Black Iris
Leah Raeder

I’m not even sure I can write a blurb for this novel, it was so unsatisfying. Complex relationships and a F/F/M love-triangle combined with copious amounts of drugs and a couple of mental illnesses thrown in does not make a good book.

9781476786421This book was raw, rough and sometimes hard to follow. I am a serial ignorer of chapter titles and headings, particularly when reading an e-book. It took me a couple of chapters before I realised that yes, it was all from one perspective, but no, the time wasn’t proceeding in a linear fashion, and yes, some of those were flashbacks, and no, I couldn’t work out from Laney’s unreliable narrating whether things actually happened. It all came across with the same level of importance and the same amount of crudity.

I feel like I am betraying the queer community for saying this, but I don’t think it’s a supportive book for those going through acceptance issues. I appreciate what this novel is doing in terms of trying to expose sexualities and gender balances to a wider community of readers. However, I felt that the execution of this was too extreme for most people to relate to. The important messages were drowned by the characters’ sex and drugs.

There was sex and drugs and sex and abuse left, right and centre. I’ve read other novels with those things in it, and it hasn’t bothered me. Some of the best books I have read manage to make those things available to the reader, by not scaring them off. If anything, this novel seemed to enjoy disquieting the reader for no purpose,

Something that I didn’t agree with at all was the treatment of serious mental illnesses. Two of the characters had bipolar disorder, and the other had borderline personality disorder. No-one made an effort to medication professionally, instead they abused the medications they had and combined it with as many drugs as possible. If it was just them affecting themselves, I’d be ok with that – it’s their business. But when they are affecting close family members and causing deaths, there’s something seriously wrong.

I felt entirely confused and turned around by the time I got to the end. And I never felt any satisfaction. Laney seemed happy ripping holes in as many other people’s lives as possible, but I wasn’t happy with the way things turned out. The things she gets away with, the forgiveness she demands from other people, everything was wrong.

I had to let the book sit for a while before I could review it. Even now, I can feel the rotten taste of it in my mouth. I literally felt dirty once I had read it. I didn’t walk away from it feeling like I had gotten positive out of it – all I’d seen was what the worst of the world had to offer.

Yes, I kept reading it to the end. Yes, I didn’t want to walk away from it. But no, I shouldn’t have started reading it in the first place. Stay far, far away and shop for something with similar themes but a more satisfying ending (I’d suggest Scars, The Burn Journals, The Admirer and Keeping You a Secret). In fact, even the worst of the queer/mental illness novels that I have reviewed on this blog so far are better than this one.

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Review: Mercedes Lackey – Blood Red

Blood Red
Mercedes Lackey

Rosamund is the first female Hunt Master. When her first elemental teacher is killed by a werewolf, Rosa is spirited away to a Hunt Lodge where she will make her fame and fortune hunting down others like it. She doesn’t expect to met anyone friendly who might ever have been a werewolf, and holds this prejudice against all werewolves – even cute ones 😉

23296687Nothing breathtaking to see here. Another elemental masters series novel, nothing new and exciting. It covers a new range of geography than previous novels, but didn’t really give me enough to hang on to. A long uncomfortable train ride is nothing new, and a tree falling on the tracks isn’t exactly something that tells me fascinating details about the surroundings.

All of Lackey’s females tend to be of the fighting type, so it’s not like Rosa is adding anything to the stable. Personally, I much prefer the protagonist in The Fire Rose. You don’t have to be all brawny and mannish in order to win your way through obstacles!

I felt myself grasping for something more. The first half of the novel was nothing but social backchat, and I felt like I hadn’t gotten anything! The action occurs right near the end where you’ve basically already give up hope of anything happening. Something that could have been a ‘twist’ just seemed inevitable.

No magic basically, only what you can do with silver shot. I wonder what Rosa does when forced to combat with normal enemies – she doesn’t appear to have any body strength in her besides what it takes to deal with the backlash from her gun. Since one of the favourite parts of these novels is seeing what magic can do next, it’s pretty boring from that perspective. And it was never really explained how the Earth magic that Rosa has lends itself to attack.

Yes, it’s an eligible addition to the Elemental Masters series, but I don’t think it adds anything significant to the body of Lackey’s other works. Pleasurable to read like a sweet candy, but leaves your tummy hungry for something a little more substantial. I’ve got two more Lackey books lined up from the library, so I still have hope.

I didn’t find myself disappointed by what this novel had to offer, but that was mainly because I was already primed to have low expectations. Lackey has been losing her style lately, and dragging novels out to where they are no longer sustainable. If you’re like me, and determined to hang on to the romantic notion of all Lackey’s novels being good, borrow it. Don’t buy it – I don’t think you’re going to want to read it more than once.

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Review: Sarah Vincent – The Testament of Vida Tremayne

The Testament of Vida Tremayne
Sarah Vincent

Vida has become trapped in her own mind, while Dory is trapped in the suburbia of her job. When Dory comes to clear out her mother’s house, in preparation of Vida never recovering, she finds a house-guest who witnessed Vida’s demise – but the truth is to be found in a series of journals.

23583770The novel starts out with Dory’s perspective, and you feel yourself thrust into her busy mindset. Dory is a woman who knows her own mind, and is determined to succeed in all of the ways her mother failed. The other chapters are excerpts from Vida’s journals, exposing both Dory’s childhood and Vida’s decline.

Honestly, it took me a while to write this review. This was a novel I needed to think deeply about and prod myself to dig into it. Initially I struggled to get into this novel. The prose put me a little bit off balance, and then, about 20 pages in, I suddenly got hooked. By about half-way through the novel, I couldn’t put it down, and spent time thinking about it while I wasn’t touching that gorgeous cover.

Vida. Dory. Vida. Dory. Rhiannon. They were all brilliantly characterised and had very separate voices. I never felt confused as to who was speaking. I was unfamiliar with the countryside, and the external world-building was good, but oh my, the characters were just so good.

I wanted to talk about this book having finished reading it, almost to anyone who would listen. I doubted my own reading of it. I wondered if I had missed something. Somewhere, the lines of fiction and fantasy get blurred, and I couldn’t tell where that point happened. Arg! How could that happen! The action drove me to keep reading, and perhaps I missed some of the nuances. Or maybe, just maybe, the author tricked me into thinking I should know more, but leaving me wanting more instead. Either way, really compulsive reading.

The ending was haunting. Especially as it wasn’t clear what was actually wrong with ‘the monster’ or what had happened to ‘the animal’.

It’s a definite re-read for me. And I have a family member in mind who would absolutely LOVE to get her hands on this kind of novel, so I might offer it to her for a read.

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Review: Alexander Key – Escape to Witch Mountain

Alexander Key

Escape to Witch Mountain

Tia and Tony have been different all their lives. With abilities that seem to only get them into trouble, and branded as aggressors and thieves, Tony and Tia are alone in the world with only each other for support. When someone from their past comes looking for them, they know it is time to move into the future.

6576481I only picked up this novel because its listing in my digital borrowing app from my local library said it was a ‘blindingly brilliant piece of sci-fi’. I thought it couldn’t be that bad. And it wasn’t horrific, but nor would I recommend it.

Everything is completely see-through. Tony and Tia always have to succeed, even as it seems like they will be ruined forever. It’s a children’s fiction book as far as I am concerned, and that makes it all the more likely that everyone will escape without a scratch.

The reader on this one (and perhaps Tia’s character) drove me mad. Ugh! I hated the way Tia spoke, and the way she was all ‘don’t make me tell the hurty things’ Tony. Suck it up princess! I could barely listen to her. Tony wasn’t much better, and Father O’Dey could have done with a deeper and more commanding voice (especially since he’s the priest that adds validity to their claim that they aren’t the devil’s work).

What redeems this novel? None of the ideas are new. Or they aren’t new now. As another reviewer said, this feels like a predecessor to Harry Potter! If there is a child in your life, and you think they might be ready for some ‘gentle’ sci-fi, let them have this novel. There’s nothing offensive, the good God remains prominent, and it fits in nicely with tales of UFOs.

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Review: Jessica Shirvington – Corruption

Corruption
Jessica Shirvington

Maggie Stevens has lost track of time. It’s easy to do that when you have been shut in the dark with limited food and absolutely no light. Wasted away, and pining for someone that Maggie believes she has irrevocably harmed, Maggie still tries to keep her fitness up for the first chance of escape.

19035609I remember finishing the first book in this duology last year, and feeling incredibly pained at its ending. How could that happen? What chances are there for the next time? Will there be a next time? Of course there had to be another chance, otherwise Maggie would be good and gone forever!

This novel has just as many amazing cliff-hangers and scary parts as Disruption. Gods! I felt myself pulled every which way, and I wanted to keep listening and listening and listening to it. As a talking book, the narrator was excellent at captivating her audience and I felt a particular connection with Gus. Gus, I love you!

Let me say something here. Maggie inspires a loyalty that is quite frightening. It’s not surprising that her father has a similar pull on people. If Maggie ever has offspring (and I hope she does!), then I want them to be the same self-aware, self-punishing individuals that she is.

When you consider that an ‘M-band’ is likely to be produced in our near future, novels like this one are warnings of how things shouldn’t be done. If it was me, I’d want to exploit ‘Perfect Matches’. Instead of going for lust enhancers, I’d travel the world trying to find my Perfect Match. I’m not in the least surprised that this dystopian interpretation of the future also involves a society whose running is based on sex.

Something that Shirvington does extremely well is character building and maintaining characterisation. There isn’t any time where you feel like you’ve jumped into a character’s head and found that everything in there is mixed up from what you expected. What you feel, is what you get.

Tell me this is an Australian author, and I’ll try and reject your claim – it is just that good! I haven’t seen many authors lately that are inspiring and enjoyable to read as Shirvington’s works. Highly recommended. 5 stars.

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Review: Melinda Salisbury – The Sin Eater’s Daughter

The Sin Eater’s Daughter

Melinda Salisbury

Twylla has been chosen to save her kingdom by the God and her duty is to perform the services deserved by treasonous vipers in the country – she lays hands on them and they die from the poison in her skin. No-one can touch her but the royal family – and one of the perks is marrying into it to continue the bloodline.

sineaterThe cover on this book is beautiful, and made me want to read the novel as soon as possible. Sadly though, judging a book by its cover doesn’t always turn out well…

Twylla lacks a spine. She lacks the ability to question what is going on around her, and she lacks the ability to communicate with people her feelings. She sometimes seems to lack feelings at all, except regret. She even admits she feels nothing for her mother!

Oh yes, let’s just have a quick word about the love triangle. Is there even one there? Is this like a ‘Frozen’ love story, where it looks like she loves both of them and can’t choose? It’s pretty clear that Twylla falls in love pretty instantly, and gets suckered in by the first man who treats her as a person.

That Queen is nothing but a bit of bad work. How refreshing to see a monarch who is going to do the whole Oedipus thing for her son without even blinking an eye. Enough said, or I’ll spoilt the plot.

The Sin Eaters of the kingdom are fascinating. When someone dies, their sins are visualised as food, and the Sin Eater is called to eat those sins so that the person doesn’t wander. What I wondered was how many Sin Eaters there were, and how isolated the practice was. Surely one woman can’t eat that many sins with the death rate present in those sorts of society?

Apparently this is the first book in the series. I think I would actually like to read the next in the series – maybe the author will have fixed the pacing issues, and given a bit more thought as to making a more independent heroine. 3 stars for this one from me.

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Interview with Karelia Stetz-Waters

Today I have the honor of introducing my new interview series with an interview with the wonderful Karelia Stetz-Waters. I’ve reviewed a number of her novels, including The Admirer, Something True, and Forgive Me if I’ve Told You This Before. I’ve loved all of them, despite (or perhaps because) them being across a range of genres.

glasses-copy-2Karelia Stetz-Waters is an English professor by day and writer by early morning. She has a BA from Smith College in Comparative Literature and an MA in English from the University of Oregon. Other formative experiences include a childhood spent roaming the Oregon woods and several years spent exploring Portland as a broke 20-something, which is the only way to experience Oregon’s coolest, weirdest city. She now lives with her wife, Fay, her pug dog, Lord Byron, and her cat, Cyrus the Disemboweler. She teaches at a rural community college which  provides ample inspiration for writing, as the college attracts all walks of life, from Sudanese refugees to fresh-out-of-the-closet drag queens. Her interests include large snakes, conjoined twins, corn mazes, lesbians, popular science books on neurology, and any roadside attraction that purports to have the world’s largest ball of twine.

I feel like I should ask you about your most recent novel that I read, The Admirer, but perhaps it would be more interesting to talk about the novels you have planned for Wilson and Helen. I’m dying to get my hands on your next one, The Purveyor. What am I going to love about it?

  • The Purveyor is an emotional tour de force. It’s long and gorgeous and anguished. But it’s also a story of redemptive love, so the end is, in the language of gamers, an “epic win.” I also think it contains one of the most unique, beautiful, and controversial sex scenes you’ll find in contemporary literature.  

When you were younger, did you know you wanted to be an author? Did you study at university because it was expected, or because you enjoyed it?

  • When I was twenty, I volunteered at a feminist magazine. I remember sitting in the office with the older staff members. Someone asked me what I wanted to do after college. I said I wanted to marry a woman, be an English professor, and write a novel. They laughed, but I’ve done all three. As for college, I loved it and it was expected. I’m a third generation teacher.  

You say it’s taken 10 years for you to publish a novel, have you ever thought about self-publishing? What made you aim for professional presses?

  • Self-publishing is a great option for some people, but it robs the author of one vital part of the creative process: crushing rejection. I aimed for professional presses because I wanted to know that I was good enough to get in. My early rejections – and I got A LOT – pushed me to be a better writer. Here’s a bit more on surviving rejection.

In other fiction, using repetitive symbols can equally be annoying, or wonderful if used correctly. Do you ever actively connect symbols and the actual characters you write? From what I’ve read about ‘The Purveyor’, the conjoined twins are a sort of metaphor for Adair to break away from her family.

  • I think the key is to let symbols arise naturally from the story. The Purveyor is about the people to whom we are bound: by love, by family, by sin, by desire, by hatred, by slavery, by guilt. It was very important to me to make the conjoined twins complex characters (not just a freaky sideshow) and by the end of the book I realized they embodied all those connections, but I didn’t plan it that way.

Do you start feeling like you are the characters in your novel as you are writing them? I certainly get into the heads of them while I’m reading them, that’s what makes your novels so enjoyable.

  • There is a point in the writing process when I hold the entire story in my mind, and it is like having another world, another life that travels alongside me. It makes boring meetings go faster, but it’s dangerous too. Sometimes I’ve missed out on my real life because I was so immersed in a story.    

Do you have a writing schedule? What does your writing process look like? I love the idea of using index cards to move the scenes around. Do you use a special pen or composite notebooks to write in?

  • I write every morning before work. I usually write with a Lamy fountain pen in one of those black and white composition notebooks. I do try, though, to remember that writing is not about the perfect pen. I knew a woman who claimed she could only write on a particular sofa at a particular coffee shop. When the coffee shop closed, she never wrote again.

Can you tell me about a typical week? Have you ever been on a scheduled writing retreat, or is your self-motivation enough?

  • I’m very sociable and I get more done when I’m busy. I write 10+ hours a week, teach three classes a term, and I’m the chair of my English department. My colleagues ask me if I would ever consider a sabbatical, and the answer is no. I’m like a border collie. If you leave me alone in the house for too long, I’ll eat the sofa.

Is keeping up with your online presence daunting? How do you gauge how successful your social media campaigns are?

  • I love social media. It’s so gratifying to hear from readers who have enjoyed my work. With that said, I don’t know how good my social media campaigns are. I did a big video blog campaign for The Purveyor, and I don’t think it helped much, although I’ll enjoy looking back on those videos. They capture a lot of my. This is my favorite: First Day of Summer.

Do you believe in ongoing promotion of your novels? It seems like most novels come out as new and if they don’t sell in the first month, then they’re gone. Your novels have the right to shine for longer than that.

  • I think that every good book I write builds an audience for my other work. I wrote The Admirer hoping to drive traffic to my at-that-time-unpublished Forgive Me If I’ve Told You This Before. As it turned out Forgive Me got more critical acclaim and drove traffic to The Admirer instead.

You’ve given a number of other interviews:

A couple of these people also write novels in your genres. Have you read their books? Did they reach out to you for an interview?

  • I’ve read work by Jody Klaire, Liz McMullen, and AJ Adaire and enjoyed them all. I don’t remember exactly how we connected, but I do know that I owe a lot to Sapphire Books. It’s a great press, and they helped me connect with readers around the world.

Finally, are there any questions you wish people would ask, or wouldn’t ask? This could be about anything you want to talk about further.

  • Both The Admirer and The Purveyor contain a lot of sexual content, some of it quite edgy. Very few people have ever asked about this aspect of my work, which is fine (I blush easily!) but if I were interviewing, I would probably ask.
  • One thing I’d like to talk about more, perhaps just to help me understand it myself, is my Estonian heritage. My mother was an Estonian war refugee, and that did and did not have a big impact on my childhood. I wrote about that experience in a blog called “My Grandmother Poses with a Desiccated Corpse.” The thesis is that we are more deeply connected to the past and to the world than pure logic can ever explain.

Do you have any further questions you would like to ask of Karelia? Working with her in order to obtain copies of her novels, and to ask for an interview has been a rewarding process, and she’s a very personable person to talk to.

You can find her on a range of platforms:

I hope this interview leaves you wanting more. I have a chance to ask interesting questions of a range of authors that I review novels from. Let me know who you want to see next!

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