Tell us about yourself and what inspired you to start writing.
I’m from Atlanta, Georgia and was raised in a metro-Atlanta city called Riverdale (no relation to the one in the Archie comics, trust me.) I graduated from the University of Georgia with a B.A. in English Literature, but that wasn’t why I originally went to college there. I intended to become a veterinarian, but as I continued taking science classes, I realized that I was completely miserable and that I wasn’t meant for that kind of life even though I had been preparing for it for years.
I had actually been writing since I was a small child, starting with diaries and then little stories that grew into intricate fanfiction and a few attempts at a novel. I wasn’t successful at writing a full novel until late college, after I went to a lecture put on by UGA alumnus Jackson Pearce. She told us about the world of fiction and publishing, and I realized that as crazy as it sounded, I would love to do something like that. I’d been passionate about reading and writing for so long, but never gave it any thought in a professional sense. Towards the end of my college years, I took a class that focused on Greek myths, which got me thinking about the modern equivalent of epic tales, and then after I took a class focusing on John Milton’s Paradise Lost, which I loved, I got the idea for The Black Parade. I wrote that from 2009-2010 and submitted it to publishing agents from 2011 thru 2012, but I made no traction. My father gave me the idea to research self-publishing, and since it couldn’t hurt to give it a shot, I eventually did in 2013. Like almost all newbie authors, the book faceplanted for about a year and a half, and then fellow author Geoffrey Thorne introduced me to KBoards and I learned how to slowly work my way into readers’ digital bookshelves.
Tell us about your books.
The Black Parade series is basically a mashup of a bunch of different things that I love. The ground level inspiration came from a somewhat unusual source: the 2005 film ‘Constantine’ starring Keanu Reeves. I know, I know, it’s not exactly the perfect movie and it is nothing like the Hellblazer comics, but I absolutely fell in love with it anyway. Everything about it intrigued me and since I was already enraptured with John Milton’s Paradise Lost, I decided to give my take on this type of urban fantasy setting, but with a twist. If you’re at all familiar with urban fantasy fiction, it’s not exactly the most diverse genre. I had been reading it since my teenage years and I noticed that there is a very definite pattern to how it is written, particularly by female authors. There are so many by-the-book female urban fantasy leads that I wanted to make my protagonist absolutely nothing like them. Typically, the urban fantasy female protagonist is either one of two tropes: the rugged but still beautiful private detective loner or the perfect, idolized Mary Sue. Well, I didn’t want Jordan Amador to be either of them. I wanted someone who was awkward, someone who had trust issues but not for a cliched reason, someone who was a little nerdy and not so polished and suave, and someone who was bad with the opposite sex, because not all women are drop-dead gorgeous hunk magnets. I also felt it was incredibly important that she was Afro-Latina, as black and Hispanic women are underrepresented in the urban fantasy genre quite a lot. The world is a diverse place, and fiction should be no different. After I had a good grasp of who Jordan Amador was, I decided to run with scissors and tackle the modern world if ghosts, angels, and demons were real and lived alongside us in their own private war for our souls.
How did you go about getting published?
As mentioned above, I shopped The Black Parade around to literary agents for about two years before I threw in the towel. To be clear, I have nothing against traditional publishing. If by the grace of God (or Satan or Cthulhu) a publishing company saw my work and offered me a contract, I’d take it in a heartbeat, because self-publishing is hard and exhausting. However, I’m actually grateful that I published The Black Parade series on my own. I have a gut feeling that a lot of the books would have turned out completely different under a publisher. For instance, I know that the average urban fantasy/paranormal romance novel has either a hot girl with a gun or a sword, or a shirtless dude on the front cover, but I didn’t want that for the main novels. It probably has affected my sales negatively in some ways, but I love the covers that I had commissioned for the books simply because they don’t adhere to the stereotypes. The books are about Jordan, not the occasional hunk in her life, and I don’t want her to be hyper-sexualized just to sell a copy.
I also believe that it’s possible for the self-published world and the traditional published world to get along and not be at each other’s throats constantly. Both have benefits and drawbacks. There is no need to feel like you have to be on either side of the fence. There is no fence. All we want is to tell stories, so we should be able to be civil about it regardless of difference of opinions.
What is your writing process? Do you have a time, day or place you like to write?
My writing process is usually the same each time. Before I start a novel or novella, I write down the idea in its most basic form and then I sleep on it. If I wake up and read it again and think it’s still good, I go for it.
Since I still have a day job, I typically write on my days off since it leaves me enough time to do research, take breaks, and do minor editing while I write. I write during the day now that I’m older and my brain shuts off as soon as the sun goes down, but sometimes I get those feverish writing sessions at one o’clock in the morning. It goes against most authors’ advice, but I do write while in bed because I like being cozy under my blanket. However, if I get too sleepy, I will move to the den and write on the couch.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing? Full-time job, pets, hobbies?
I am a huge moviegoer. I adore seeing new films the night they premiere because the air in the theater is so electric and everyone is excited about what they are about to see. I’m also an enormous nerd. I attend yearly comic book and anime conventions and I just recently started to cosplay at a few of them after I realized how fun it is. I have a black cat named Selina, after Selina Kyle aka Catwoman, and like most people, I’m glued to Netflix when I’m not reading, writing, or marketing my books.
I also love meeting famous people. It’s basically become a hobby of mine from my years of attending conventions. The most famous person I’ve met so far was Captain America himself, Chris Evans, at New Orleans Comic Con in 2016, and he was just as lovely and handsome as he seems. Mind you, I don’t meet famous people because I like to name-drop; I love meeting my real-life heroes. I love meeting people who seem larger than life, but then when you talk to them, they are just like anyone else. It’s humbling to know that it seems like we put celebrities on pedestals and treat them like gods, but when you meet them in person, a lot of them are just as cool as someone you know in your day-to-day life. It also provides me with endless fun stories to tell, since many of these celebrities meetings are colorful or humorous, or just plain inspirational. After all, I love telling stories and that’s why I’m a writer to begin with.
Any advice for authors about book covers?
Don’t always feel pressured to follow the norm. If you’re really passionate about a cover, go with your gut. Keep in mind, though, covers make all the difference, so you cannot cut corners. Don’t go in MS Paint and make a cover. It’s insulting to your book and to any future readers. Get the best quality you can afford or don’t do it at all.
Any marketing tips you’d like to share with other authors?
Marketing sucks! But it is 100% necessary and it is the only thing that will give you a chance out there. For me, the most reliable and helpful source for marketing tips is KBoards. They literally saved my books. I wouldn’t be where I am without them, so join the forum and research until your head feels like it’s going to explode from all the new knowledge.
Plus, if your book’s content and your budget allow for it, join successful boxed sets. They can do wonders for your book sales.
What’s your favorite book?
No such thing. I’ve read too many books. However, my two favorite series are The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher and the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews.
What are you reading now?
Magic Shifts by Ilona Andrews.
What’s your next book project?
I’m currently penning OF BLOOD AND ASHES, the sequel to my sci-fi romance OF CINDER AND BONE. If you can keep a secret, I’m also writing a novella for The Black Parade series that takes place between the second and third novels in the series for a future boxed set. Both of them are driving me crazy, but I’m having a good time nonetheless because writing is awesome.