Tag Archives: Dracula

Interview with author Susan Squires. Giveaway

11 Sep

Susan,

Thank you for accepting to be a guest on my blog. You and I can talk for hours about the same passion that brought us together in the first place—writing—but I’d be selfish keeping you just to myself. Can’t thank you enough for taking time out of your busy schedule and sitting down with me for a cup of . . . wisdom, writing and romance.

Last week I posted a review of your novel titled THE COMPANION which I absolutely loved for its raw emotions, heroes with more than just good looks and a storyline that kept me awake late in the night. This novel redeemed for me the entire vampire species, it truly did and I thank you for it. Along with the review I promised my fans an interview with you so, here I keep my promise. Shall we? 

Tell us a little about yourself and your writing journey.

I had always wanted to write. When I was 12 I started a novel written from the point of view of my dog and got 36 painfully typed pages done. When I was 16 I was sure I would be a writer. But I had other interests too. I was a theater major in college and did some acting, got a Masters Degree in English lit. And then life got in the way. Neither writing or theater seemed like a practical way to make a living. (I was right about that!) Nobody was getting work teaching. I went to work in the business world, had some luck, got to be an executive in a Fortune 500 company, but I always felt something was missing. In one of my many mid-life crises, I decided to write a book. That was difficult for me. I’d studied great literature. I knew I probably wouldn’t turn out to be the next Jane Austen. But I read a novel with an exciting premise on the back blurb. The actual book didn’t seem to deliver. I remember finishing and saying to myself, “I may not be Jane Austen, but I can do better than THAT.” So I wrote a book. It was awful. I had to decide whether I was going to put the effort in to get better at this thing. So I took classes, and got a critique group. I sold the second book I wrote, DANEGELD, about Vikings and Saxons in Dark Age Britain. It got some attention. I was on my way… 

When did you write THE COMPANION and what was the inspiration for it?

I had written five books and wanted to return to an idea I’d had some time earlier. During the early years of the AIDS epidemic, many people blamed the people who had the disease, as if it was a punishment for being bad. I didn’t believe that. I had just watched (again) the old movie of Dracula with Frank Langella, and I thought to myself, “What if vampires can’t help what they are? What if they just have a disease, and everyone just thinks they’re evil because of it?” So my vampires have a parasite in their blood that gives them eternal life, and strength, and the ability to influence weaker minds, but it also extracts a terrible toll. The world of the Companion was born. And, of course, some things we all believe about vampires are myths in my stories. I wrote some of my vampires as Italian—so of course their aversion to garlic was a myth. So was the stuff about crosses. Just superstitions! I also wanted my world to be a little kinky but with real people who experienced real emotions. I wanted readers to experience what it would really be like to be a vampire, or to be in love with one. 

Why did you pick the Regency Era for your novel? 

See above—all those references to Jane Austen? I loved the Regency period. I had read every Georgette Heyer book I could get my hands on. I thought they were pretty perfect, except they didn’t have enough sex (or any!) I had done an earlier vampire story called SACRAMENT that first laid out the world of the Companion and I wanted to revisit and expand that world. I had already accumulated a lot of research materials on the Regency, and I’d been to England several times. So I combined my two interests, and did Regency vampires. 

I know there are 6 novels in the series called COMPANION (can’t wait to read them all!). The second novel titled THE HUNGER follows Beatrix Lisse, who you introduce to your readers during THE COMPANION. Why out of all your secondary characters you chose her to become the main heroine in the second novel?

Cami, you are so perceptive! I had a special love for Beatrix. She was based on a character I loved from my first vampire novel. That novel was far, far too long, and in order to publish it I had to cut it in half. (It was still published and more than 120,000 words.) So my beloved character hit the cutting room floor. But when you are a writer, those characters can live again… and I brought her back as Beatrix Lisse.

Is it true that each novel in the series follows a character you introduce in the previous novel?

No. Some books follow characters you’ve never met. Sometimes characters from previous books show up. Sometimes a villain reappears. Each can be read as a standalone book. In some cases, all they share is the world construct. 

A series of 6 books must be hard to write. You need to remember when and where each story begins/ends, keep track of all heroes, etc. Can you tell us which book was the easiest to write and which the hardest? Were you stuck at any given time and if yes how did you overcome it? 

Because the Companion series doesn’t follow a single, overarching story arc, they were much easier to write than a series where each book follows the same character group and occurs immediately following the previous book. I had more freedom that way.

Of course the first book in a series is often the easiest. It seems to just flow out, because the idea is shiny and new and you just want to live the story. But in ONE WITH THE DARKNESS, I had an experience that was very hard, and that turned into something very easy. It’s the sixth book in the series. I had submitted an idea my editor didn’t like. I was crushed. She started trying to suggest what I should write. I not only didn’t like her ideas, I got angry (though she probably never knew that. I was nice—she was my boss after all.) I told her I’d go away and think about it. I was in Philadelphia for the day job at the time, trying to get home on a Friday night. The plane broke. I had to stay over night. And while I was having a very lonely dinner at the Ramada Inn coffee shop, I had the idea that would become ONE WITH THE DARKNESS. I thought to myself that I really needed to come up with a character I cared about. Immediately I thought about ONE WITH THE SHADOWS, my last Companion book. The hero’s mother, the Italian Contessa who was also a vampire, stole almost every scene she was in. She had a great tragedy in her past. During the Roman Empire, she had let the love of her life, a barbarian slave, age and die rather than make him a vampire. She lives with horrible regret. Why not, I thought, allow her to go back in time and try to change that? The idea of Leonardo DaVinci’s time machine was born. (I liked it so much I wrote three more books using that device called the DaVinci Time Travel series. The first one even has a vampire heroine.) Who, after all, was better to invent a time machine than Leonardo? Of course, it’s not as easy to change history as one would think. J I won’t say more than that. But I got to research Caligula’s Rome, and barbarian slaves, and…. And I love that book. Once I got going, it was easy to write.  

Ah, I love the Starz’s series called DaVinci’s Demons! So amazing you were able to incorporate his history into your novels. As much as I’d love to continue talking about the COMPANION series, I’m also interested in what you’re working on now, what genre and when should we expect its publishing? 

I’m currently working on the MAGIC series. There are seven books planned. It’s about a big modern family, the Tremaines, who have inherited Merlin’s DNA. When each sibling finds their destined mate, another with the Merlin gene, they are instantly attracted, and their gene is activated. They get a magic power. You’d think that would be just great, right? But the bad boy brother is an outsider who doesn’t want to believe it will happen to him. The oldest sister is sure of her destiny, until the man who raises her power is an alcoholic still in love with his dead wife. And I won’t even talk about the middle sister, poor thing. Then, of course, there are those who got their magic from Morgan Le Fay. They don’t have quite the same goals as our heroes. The family is as much a character in these stories as any individual. I’ve fallen in love with all of them as I’ve been writing it. My writer friends say it reads as much like a contemporary romance as a paranormal. One friend says it’s a paranormal romance for readers who don’t like paranormal romances (that would be her.) This is a series that should be read in order. It’s also the complicated kind of series. Everything is intertwined, and all the characters appear in all the books. I plotted out six books before I ever started writing. The first book (about that bad boy brother) is DO YOU BELIEVE IN MAGIC?, followed by HE’S A MAGIC MAN and WAITING FOR MAGIC. NIGHT MAGIC, the 4th in the series, is out starting September 8th. There’s also a novella that tells the Tremaine parents’ story, YOUR MAGIC TOUCH, available only in digital formats (but at least it’s only $.99!) I’m currently working on THE MAGIC’S IN THE MUSIC, which will be out next year. By the way, I planned only six books in the series, but a new character just showed up, and he won’t be denied. So the series is seven. 

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A lot of my readers are aspiring writers. What is the one piece of advice you have for them? 

Hmmm. One piece of advice? That’s really hard. How about two pieces? The first is to learn the craft. My first book was not good. But writing is something you can learn. I put in the work, and two of my books were named Best Books of the Year by Publisher’s Weekly, and I have Reviewer’s Choice awards, Rita nominations and other contest wins now that were a direct result of doing the work to get better. People may read you once based on a blurb or a cover, but they keep coming back if the books are good. 

The second piece of advice is a direct corollary of the first. Stick with it. Most people who want to write don’t finish a book. Most people who finish a book don’t really polish the whole thing. Most people who get a finished product don’t keep at it until they sell to the buyer who can really get them the distribution they need. So decide on what you want for your book? Supermarket shelves everywhere? Or do you just want to see your title available on Amazon? Know what you want for that book. Then pursue that goal and don’t stop. 

I couldn’t agree more, Susan. Being so experienced, my next question is: what is your take on traditional publishing versus self-publishing?

This is a publishing world where everything is possible. Isn’t that an improvement for writers? We’re in the driver’s seat. We can self-publish, publish with an e press, a small press, or go for an agent and a New York house. I published 17 books with New York houses, and got all the benefit of that. I am self-publishing my new series and it’s given me both a wonderful freedom and more control over the end product, though it also has brought more responsibility. Bad cover? I approved that, and I can’t blame my publisher. I will say, that while we can all point to instances of lightning striking for self-published authors, most authors build their audience over multiple books. It makes it easier to sell self-published books if you already have an audience built with a publishing house. That said, NY publishing is harder to get into these days, and traditional publishers are pretty clueless about how to promote digital sales. If you need proof, just look at the price of digital copies for traditionally published books. Digital copies of THE COMPANION are only 50 cents cheaper than a paperback copy was. I can hardly wait to get my rights back! So in the end, the awful truth is that the choice is yours. And that’s both frightening and empowering. The only obligation you have is to yourself and your readers to write the best book you can. 

Susan, thank you so much for your time. I had a tremendous time interviewing you. Good luck with your upcoming release (love the cover, by the way!) and can’t wait to see you again. For those interested where to find Susan please visit:

http://susansquires.com

Facebook/AuthorSusanSquires

Goodreads.Susan_Squires

twitter.com/SusanSquires

And now to the much promised giveaway: I decided to offer one e-copy of Susan’s upcoming novel titled NIGHT MAGIC to one lucky winner. What do you have to do for it?

Add NIGHT MAGIC to your to-be-read list on Goodreads and leave a comment with the link you did so. I’ll have the giveaway running until September 24th with the winner announcement on September 25th. 

Good luck everyone!

 

Me, Myself and March

1 Mar

I know, kind of a weird title, don’t you think? But in my defense it’s about the month of March and how busy it’ll be for me. So, it is about me, myself and March.

The month starts with a great tradition we Romanian people have, called Martisor.

martisor

We celebrate for 8 days (cool tradition, huh?), from March 1st until March 8th which is our national Mother’s Day. Women wear these trinkets for the entire month, reminding us of spring knocking on our doors, but also who loves us (we receive the trinkets from boyfriends/husbands/fathers, etc).

I have to admit I don’t really celebrate Martisor anymore since I moved to the US, but Mom is still visiting so we plan on getting together with my oldest sister and my cousin for a little party. We need this since mom is leaving on March 5th. We spent the past 6 months together talking our heads off until late at night, laughing, crying, soaking in the sun, and our bond became so strong, so intense, so deep unlike any other relationship. Mom, I will be missing you like crazy!

photo (16)

My friend Tina along with her lovely hubby John is visiting until March 6th. They are from New Jersey and contemplate moving to AZ. I say: pack and come faster! If you love sun 365 days a year, a relaxed and laid back atmosphere, and not too crazy traffic then AZ is the place to leave.

March 14th I’m leaving for the Festival of Books held  at Univ. of Arizona in Tucson, AZ.

festival1

Between March 15-16 from 9:30am and 5:30pm you’ll find me in booth 107 along with some of my favorite authors: Kris Tualla, Morgan Kearns, Deena Remiel, Mimi Sebastian, Virginia Nelson to name a few, and many, many more. This is an incredible opportunity for you, your family and your friends to buy books at incredible affordable prices, receive swag, bookmarks and participate in countless giveaways.

March 17th I’m participating in the Toastmasters Tall Tales Contest at the district level. I won the club’s contest with a story about how I grew up in the land of Dracula. And yes, I lived among vampires.

March 21st I will be teaching a workshop about the importance of a critique group during the process of writing. The workshop will be held at Dog-Eared Pages a fantastic library in Phoenix you MUST check it out. I’ll start promptly at 5:30pm for an hour log presentation followed for Q&A. If you want an autographed book then don’t miss out on this event. I have a really nice pen I’ll be using 😉

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Address:

Dog-Eared Pages Used Books 

16428 N. 32nd Street 

Phoenix, Arizona 85032 

I look forward to Natalie and Caleb’s wedding on March 28th. Can’t wait for these two to tie the knot, two beautiful and incredible individuals who I’ve known for a couple of years now, ready to start on their together journey through marriage, family and love.

This pretty much wraps my March so far. I haven’t mentioned my Toastmasters Club meetings every Thursday starting at 6:30pm. I try to make it to all of them, but then again life gets in the way and I miss a few. I still struggle with my fear of public speaking but I can see a big difference in my attitude since joining it. If you like me fear public speaking I encourage you to find a Toastmasters Club near you and join it. It really helps, promise. 

I also didn’t mention my nephew’s surgery, which is scheduled on the same day as my mom’s departure, March 5th. Talk about bad timing. He’s been in the hospital on and off since September of last year until December 18th when the doctors removed his colon (mind you he is only 19yr. old). This will be his second surgery, with one more to go until he will finally function normal.

I rarely get so personal on my blog, usually keeping my family’s affairs out of it, but I think it’s important for you all to know that as a writer we don’t stop being someone’s child, someone’s cousin, sibling, friend, co-worker, parent, spouse and the list can continue. We don’t stop cooking, doing laundry, taking out pet to a grooming appointment, watching a movie or going on a date with our partners. We do all of the above. And then some more when our imaginary friends talk to us, one story at the time.

Guest Post and Author In The House Carmen Stefanescu with “Shadows Of The Past”

2 Apr

I love getting to know authors, the more the better. We share the same passion and we have an instant connection. This is exactly what happened when I met (virtually) fellow Romanian author Carmen Stefanescu. Her writing career has been going on far longer then mine with poems then later prose, both in English.

Her newest release titled “Shadows of The Past” receives more and more recognition. For that alone I invited Carmen to stop by with a guest post. Before I give her the floor, here some more details about her latest release.

shadowsofthepastbk

Publish date: 4th December 2012

Publisher: Wild Child Publishing

Genre: paranormal/light romance/light horror.

Blurb:

Anne’s relationship with her boyfriend Neil has disintegrated. After a two-year separation, they pack for a week vacation in hopes of reconciling. But fate has other plans for them.

The discovery of a bejeweled cross and ancient human bones opens a door to a new and frightening world–one where the ghost of a medieval nun named Genevieve will not let Anne rest. This new world threatens not only to ruin Anne and Neil’s vacation but to end all hopes of reconciliation as Anne feels compelled to help free Genevieve’s soul from its torment.

Can Anne save her relationship and help Genevieve find her eternal rest?

The twists and turns in this paranormal tale keep the reader guessing up to the end and weave themselves together into a quest to rekindle love.

Author, Carmen Stefanescu’s  Site:http://shadowspastmystery.blogspot.ro/

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Carmen-Stefanescu-Books/499245716760283

Buy Link: Wild Child Publishing

GUEST POST–

I thank Cami for suggesting the topic of this post –What does it mean to live in Dracula‘s country?

I won’t bore you with economical, social and political details. I’ll leave these for another place and another time. By the way, have you ever thought that the blood of someone famous, whose name inspires, even nowadays, a feeling of admiration or unease or dread may be flowing through your veins? No? I must admit that I haven’t either till I wrote the novel Dracula’s Mistress and, come to think of it, Dracula’s blood may flow through my veins, too, as I am a native of his country.

If you go outside in the street, in the States, and ask at random, ordinary people passing by “Have you heard about Romania, you will be, most often, met by frowned eyebrows, confused looks or shrugging the shoulders. Or even answers like: “Well, I don’t know… is it South America… or maybe Africa….”

Ask the same people “Have you heard about Dracula’s country?” A large smile/grin will lighten the face of your interlocutor. “Oh, Dracula. Yes, yes, I heard about it. Somewhere in Europe. Transylvania.  Vampires.”

So, I am glad to live in a country known to everyone, be it only because it is linked to a name bearing negative connotations: creatures of the night, fangs, sucking the blood of maidens, crimes and horrors. Dracula is said to have drunk his victims’ blood, terrified his enemies and turned into a bat at will. The border between legend or history and figments of people’s imagination is difficult to perceive in his case.

Links between the British Royal Family and Vlad the Impaler, the 15th century nobleman whose deeds inspired the vampire legend are exploited now for advertising reasons. Books, movies, restaurants, T-shirts, fan clubs, toys, posters, wine…. So many products with this name Dracula. It’s a powerful brand and a source of inspiration for generations to come.

There are many people in Romania who are bothered by this analogy, Romania – Dracula’s country. I am not. I am proud to be one of his country people. And I chose to think about Dracula as a symbolic personality, a hero, a true leader, who used harsh yet fair methods to reclaim the country from the corrupt and rich boyars. I wish there lived another man like him in his present-day country!

Anyway, words are never enough to describe the place. Beautiful landscapes with gorgeous mountains and mysterious ancient forests, clear rills coming down grassy slopes to meet the Danube.

Well, not to mention that there are enough elements in the Romanian mythology – ghosts, zombies, vampires – to be a real attraction for visitors. We have our paranormal, haunted places, too. Come and visit Romania and you’ll see for yourselves how Dracula’s country really looks like. And to prevent getting bored while crossing the ocean, get a copy of Shadows of the Past and read it. Otherwise you don’t know what you are missing!

Thank you, Cami, for hosting me today!

 

Dreaming Of Summer Blog Hop

26 Nov

As an Arizonan by choice I do not dream of summer. I have it ALL year long, or at least the sunshine. But that didn’t stop me from signing up to participate in Dreaming Of Summer Blog Hop organized by Kathy @ I’m A Reader Not A Writer and helped this time by Me, My Shelf and I.

For this hop the one obligatory rule is to host a giveaway for summer/beach read. That simple. Wearing my swim suit, a ton of sunscreen and flip-flops off I went to the beach called Amazon browsing for books. And one of the first books that popped on my browser was… Vlad All Over.

It caught my attention because Vlad is a famous Romanian name (Vlad the Impaler) but also because, in reading its blurb it says the main heroine (an American schoolteacher) goes on a trip to… Romania, the land of Dracula. Wait a minute! I was born and raised in the land of Dracula (and no, I haven’t seen vampires growing up, in case you wondered…). Now with all these tidbits, I had to know more about the book and started reading it through the look inside feature (love Amazon for this!). Needless to say it’s on my TBR list and decided to assign it as the prize for this giveaway.

Based on Amazon Best Seller Rank this book lands at # 11 in Books which means it’s a winner. And the plot happens during summer vacation, which complies with the hop’s rule.

So, for your chance to win an electronic version of Vlad All Over all you have to do is FOLLOW THIS BLOG BY EMAIL by clicking on the button to the right called “Sign me up!” (atop all images) AND leave your answer to the question:

What was your favorite summer read this year?

Mine was The American Sniper by Chris Kyle.

Good luck! 

 

 

 

Growing up with vampires–Guest blog @ She Who Blogs Behind The Rows

1 Feb

Edward Cullen. Vampires. We all know they originate in the land of Dracula which happens to be my birthplace. I’m dead serious. I knew at one point I have to come clean about growing up with them and so decided, as part of the book tour for A World Apart, my next post to be about vampires. You can find my (and their) story at She Who Blogs Behind The Rows. Many thanks to Amanda for being part of the tour and hosting A World Apart. There is also a giveaway associated with the post, so hurry over and try your luck.

Enjoy!

P.S: don’t forget the garlic….

Growing up in the land of Dracula

17 Oct

As my biography states I was born and raised in Romania, or Dracula’s birthplace. Since many of you love vampires I thought my blog should be about vampires and how I grew up with them. Literally.

I’m not going to tell you the story how I found out from my cousin what vampires are (“They come at night and suck your blood,” he’d say), where they live (“I see them all the time. Didn’t you see them near grandpa’s house, in the cemetery?” he’d add), or how can you fight them (“Just carry this garlic clove in your pocket, and this stick—you should be fine. If you see a vampire, try to aim at his head with the clove and if that doesn’t work make a cross on the roof of your mouth with the tip of your tongue and duel him with this stick. Now, you’re ready to go to the outhouse.”). Oh, wait… I said I’m not going to tell you the story.

Needless to say every summer since (I was probably about 6years old) I dreaded, I hated visiting my grandpa, afraid at any time one of the vampires living in the cemetery will know (among their superpowers they can read minds, in case you wondered) I’m there and come to suck my blood. As soon as the night descended on the lone village I’d run inside the house, refusing to go potty since the outhouse was quite a distance away from the house. Can’t tell you how many nights I spent under the covers, holding my breath at every sound—a tree limb hitting the window, a cat scratching the door—making the cross on the roof of my mouth until my tongue hurt. Leaving grandpa’s house and the vampires was the highlight of my summer vacations.

Eventually my grandpa died, the house was sold and I never went to that village ever again. And eventually I grew up and realized my cousin was one mean lair I had the pleasure to hurt one day, kicking his shin for all the mental abuse he had caused me. And his afterward limping?—oh, so worth it!

Going back to Dracula. Never knew what prompted Bram Stoker to chose Transylvania as home for Count Dracula. But he sure directed a lot of attention toward Romania, which among other things is known for Nadia Comaneci (the first gymnast to ever receive a 10 at Olympics), Nicolae Ceausescu (the tyrant president killed during the 1989 Revolution) or its happy cemeteries. Trust me, we do have happy cemeteries.

Naturally, tourists from all over the world visit yearlong Dracula’s Castles (Poenari Castle and Bran Castle).

Poenari Castle

                                                                                                 Bran Castle

I took the liberty to add here a few photos, hope you enjoy them. But I also need to make a clarification. Dracula—our Dracula that lived for real in both castles and Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula don’t have much in common, in fact they are two distinctive creatures—one human, the other pure fiction.

I’m not going to bore you with Count Dracula’s story—we all know it from novels to movies, to historic accounts, etc. But I bet not many of you know the real Dracula.

We (Romanians) refer to Dracula as Vlad Tepes, or Vlad the Impaler, Romanian Prince of Wallachia who lived around 1450s. As monarch Vlad had cleaned the country of all criminals—from simple liars to killers, even some political enemies by impaling them (ouch, it hurts only thinking of such a horrific way to die). Because of this “special treatment” Vlad was often associated with the Devil, which in Romanian is translated Dracul. He was feared not only by his own people, but by all countries around us, especially by Turks with which he had numerous clashes, trying to keep them on the other side of the Danube and so to protect our land. Eventually he was betrayed by his own allies and decapitated by Turks.

I wish I could tell you I’ve seen a vampire. Maybe if once, only once I would peak above the covers while in grandpa’s house I would’ve seen the vampires my stupid cousin had the “privilege” to see. Maybe if I’d stop crossing the roof of my mouth or not carrying the garlic clove in my pocket I would’ve seen them then. I’ll never know, but I bet the closest I’ll ever be to one—Twilight movie.