Interview – Leandra Martin, author of Dark One Rising
Self-Publisher’s Showcase: Today we are joined by Leandra Martin, author of The Tanith Prophecy. Welcome to the Showcase Lounge, Leandra. For any of our readers that haven’t come across your work previously, can you take a moment to tell us all a little about yourself?
Leandra Martin: I am originally from the Boston area (which deep down I still consider my home), then moved to AZ where I stayed for 25 years. I’m not a desert person, especially after living in a city with classic architecture and history, but I didn’t have the opportunity to move until 2004 when I moved to Oregon. I am very happy here as it is quite similar in many ways to Bean Town. I love the seasons here and the lack of heat. I have two teenage boys that keep me busy, a part-time job at the local newspaper, and I keep busy participating in author signings whenever possible.
SPS: What are your perfect writing conditions, and how often do you write?
LM: In a house full of kids and animals, there is really no such thing as the perfect writing environment. It’s always noisy and busy, so..I just write whenever I can. I try to close the door to my office and put up the “quiet- writing” sign, but that doesn’t always keep the interruptions at bay. I try to go in there a few hours in the afternoon before dinner, unless a thought really strikes me, then I run in my office, shut the door, and type away before the idea slips away. I don’t have a particular schedule, especially when I’m struggling with writer’s block, then it may come down to just writing whatever (even just babble) to keep the juices flowing.
SPS: Can you put your finger on the moment where you decided that you wanted to publish your work?
LM: Yes I can. This was a very unforgettable moment for me. A small piece of background information first…the first book I ever wrote was 20 years ago when I was in middle school. My best friend and I used to play games and act out scenes for a sci-fi adventure. I took those scenarios and characters and wrote my first science-fiction novel. Of course, it was VERY raw, and in my opinion not worthy enough to try and publish, so it sat in a folder for 20 years. Fast-forward to five years ago…I was invited to attend a writer’s workshop on the coast hosted by a columnist at the newspaper where I work, another historical fiction author, and a friend. My parents paid for it as a birthday gift. I intended to go to just soak in the atmosphere but walked away with an epiphany. Writing isn’t about fame, it isn’t about popularity, it’s about joy and contentment and sharing your story with others, whether it’s 2 people or 2000. I went home, pulled out the old story, polished it up and published it. The following year when I returned to that workshop I had a finished, published work in my hands. I haven’t stopped since.
SPS: Why do you think it is that you have found yourself writing in the style/genres that you do?
LM: I grew up with Fantasy and Sci-Fi. When I was in early middle school, I had been reading the typical middle school books- Ramona, Nancy Drew, Little House on the Prairie, etc. My best friend introduced me to a little book called- “Magic Kingdom For Sale” by Terry Brooks. I was hooked. David Eddings, Tad Williams, Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Terry Brooks, Anne McCaffrey, Roger Zelazny and Timothy Zahn. I was voracious. I knew I wanted to become a writer after reading Terry Brooks, and knew Fantasy/Sci-Fi was what I wanted to write. I wanted my books to make another reader fall in love with the genre.
SPS: Can you take a moment to tell us all about the first book in the prophecies, Dark One Rising?
LM: Dark One Rising is more than just a book about a “prophecy”. Many fantasy books are about fulfilling prophecies. This is about a female protagonist fighting against the rules of society, rules which tell her what she should be and how she should act. It’s about finding love in the most surprising of places, and how that love makes you stronger. Melenthia is feisty and refuses to conform to the preconceived niche the world expects her to fit in. It’s about her finding her way and doing the impossible.
SPS: What would you say sets Melenthia apart from your typical fantasy genre Chosen One?
LM: Well first, when I was growing up reading all the fantasy books I loved so much, I noticed there wasn’t a female main character. A female lead role in a Fantasy book is unusual, but I wanted girls to have role models they could look up to. George Lucas did it with Leia, Tolkien with Eowyn, and Lewis with Lucy, but since then there haven’t been many. Lately, in a world of 50 Shades of Gray and all the “new adult” females who are rather (I hope I don’t offend anyone with this, or the author of any of those- this is just my feeling) boring. They need men to define them and they are contractually bound to them. I wanted a positive role model. There are authors creating these positive role models finally like Catniss in Hunger Games, Clary in The Mortal Instruments series, and Hazel in A Fault in our Stars. These are the strong positive role models girls need today, and I have contributed women like that with Dark One Rising and my L’Landra’s Tale Series.
SPS: Where did you draw your inspiration from when creating the darker forces at work in the novel?
LM: Reading the newspaper. Have you read it lately? It is dripping with violence, and depression and despair. It’s very easy to look around and see all the evil in the world. Take all those things and add some dark arts flair and you have evil. I also wanted to convey the most awful person in speech and deed when creating Fallon. He had to be someone the reader would loathe in every aspect of his being- speech, act and character description. I think I portrayed that well with him.
SPS: Are there any other characters that readers should be on the lookout for? Any particular favorites?
LM: I really liked creating Brogan. An ex-military man whose life is ruined by a misunderstanding, but who escapes a death penalty because of the faith of a young soon-to-be king. His life is humble but his duty to his king is unwavering. He vows his safety and his life for the man he has faith in, a man no one else sees as honorable. But I have always been somewhat of a sucker for the rogue- Starbuck from the original Battlestar Galactica, Han from Star Wars, Captain Reynolds from Firefly. So in book 2 I introduced Ruan, Dain’s cousin. I love him! He is good looking and debonair, but he’s also a goof and a jokester. He loves his cousin and he stands strong beside him, but he knows how to get the king to lighten up. I had fun with him.
SPS: What races could a reader expect to find in your Tanith Prophecy novels?
LM: Well, there are of course the normal Fantasy races, dwarves, elves, a wizard and humans. But there are also a race called the Isamarians. They are a primitive race of desert dwelling people with no magical abilities but who are cunning and mighty warriors. They hate the humans on the other side of their border, mainly because of how humans assume them to be- barbarians, but they agree to help because they respect life and understand that they will be overrun by the enemy if they do not agree to fight. Because of the Chosen One and who she is and what she stands for, they join forces.
SPS: Was the idea originally to create a standalone novel, or was it always your intention to create a series?
LM: As a young reader, I could swallow a book up every two weeks, as an adult, with lack of time, I’m lucky to be able to finish a book in a month. I understand the desire writers have to create trilogies, or multiples, and it seems to be the norm, but I usually don’t know how many books it will be ahead of time. I just write the story and if it seems like there will be more information to stretch it to be 2 or even 3 books, then I’ll find a place to end it and keep going on another one. I know it probably seems weird to do it that way, but it has just always turned out like that. In my first series, L’Landra’s Tale, I wrote 2 books originally and never had any intention of writing a third, but after a few years, after writing Dark One Rising, I got another idea in my head and decided to write a third.
SPS: What can we expect from book 2 in the series?
LM: Book 1 was getting to know the main characters and their nuances, and the romance that began late in the book between Melenthia and Dain. It also shows her growth as a person, someone who can finally let go of her fears of men and has to accept who she truly is. Book 2 deals with the end of her training and her preparation to return home. It begins the campaign to enlist more troops, especially from unlikely allies, and prepares the reader for the ending climax- the battle with Fallon and his forces.
SPS: With Melenthia’s training complete, is she ready for the battle that lays ahead?
LM: Yes and no. She is prepared to face Fallon without fear, but still struggles to accept the fact that people may die in the fight, maybe even people she deeply cares about. She is unsure she can go on later if her lover dies, or her brother. She has a difficult time preparing herself for what might befall any of them., and still has doubts she is strong enough to thwart the real danger- the Dark One himself.
SPS: Who does she have at her side to help her in her fight against the evil forces?
LM: Besides the love and support of her brother, she has her love, Dain, the wizard, and her protector, Tomaz the elf. She also was able to unknowingly gather many other races to her side, races who have never sworn fealty to any of the kings in the land. Just her good nature and unwavering love for her people makes the kingdom want to rally with her.
SPS: Did you find the pacing of the novel to be faster in the sequel with less need for character introduction?
LM: Yes. Most of book 2 is the preparation for war and the conflicts that arise on the way to the main battle. However, book 2 has a huge character development in it, with a character who has been pivotal from the beginning. I won’t give any details, but there is a pretty surprising development with the character that I hope readers like.
SPS: Are there plans to further continue the series, or are things nicely wrapped up?
LM: I think the series is pretty wrapped up. I thought about different angles I could take with it, like future stories with kids and such, but I think I will let it rest with the ending it has. I have plenty of other projects in the works to think about a continuation with this series. Melenthia’s job is done, it’s time for her to enjoy a life of happiness now.
SPS: Was there anything you did different in the writing/editing/publishing process second time around?
LM: My very first book – L’Landra’s Tale, was published through an indie publisher. For those of you who are unfamiliar with that- basically, you pay for whatever package choice you decide on. They typeset and format the interior pages, and print the book. They will do a cover if you choose for them to do it, and you can pay extra for editing services. I hired my own editor and I hired a graphic artist to do my cover. Then I submitted everything to them and they took care of the rest. When I was ready to do my second book, I had a friend tell me about self-publishing, which you can do for free if you take care of all the formatting, editing and cover work. He helped talk me through the process. I formatted the interior and I enlisted someone else to edit. I pay someone to do the covers now as well. Once you get the hang of how it works it’s a fairly easy process. Most traditional publishers do not do marketing any more so it really is an advantage to do everything on your own.
SPS: What kind of responses have you received from people who have read your work?
LM: I have had a dozen + reviews done on this series and the responses have been great. All the reviews have been 4+ stars and the input has been very flattering. If you are interested in reading the reviews yourself, I have them posted on my website: www.amberwingpress.us
SPS: What’s next on the self-publishing horizon for Leandra Martin?
LM: I have 3 (yes I said 3) projects I’m working on currently. I have a Fantasy novel which is in the editing stage right now, as well as having the cover designed. I have another Fantasy novel (which will be a 2-in-1 book) which has the first half finished at this time, along with some ideas kicking around for the cover art. I am having my 2 original books in the L’Landra’s Tale series redesigned, due to different artists on 1 & 2 then a change of artist on 3. These will be released hopefully after the first of the year with brand new covers. I am also awaiting the finished illustrated pages of my children’s book which I am hoping to release by Christmas.
SPS: Was the Self-Published/Indie-Published route always your preferred route for your work?
LM: No, absolutely not. I really had no idea they even existed until I talked to some people. I always wanted my work picked up by a traditional, good old fashioned publishing house, but with the 1% pick-up rate for new authors, I needed to research other ways to go about getting my books in the hands of readers. After going the “indie-publishing” route and realizing that unless I have a plethora of disposable income (or multiple sales) I wouldn’t be able to go the paying route in the future. That’s when I discovered Createspace. Very easy to use, free if you aren’t afraid to do the work, with friendly and helpful customer service people to help answer questions.
SPS: Has the experience so far been all that you thought it would be?
LM: Should I answer this question honestly? Okay- I will. The answer is no. I think all writers have the dream of being a best seller, and raking in millions on what we think is the story of the century, but honestly, you have to look at it differently or you will be disappointed and you will quit. I went into this journey with the idea that writing makes me happy, it is what I love, and I should do it just for the joy of it, for the happiness it brings me when I have finished something I feel is wonderful. I can’t dwell on the lack of income because if I dwell on that, I will never write another book ever again, and that would be worse than never being famous, and never being able to quit my job permanently and make a living doing it. Terry Brooks told me that writing becomes who you are, unlike other day jobs which you only trudge through every day to put food on the table. Writing gets into your skin, gets into your dreams, makes you want to get up in the morning, and the money isn’t why you wake in the morning and race into your office. It is simply where you find your contentment.
SPS: If you could give one piece of advice for someone looking to get into writing, what would it be?
LM: I guess the same answer as above. Don’t go in with any expectations. Don’t plan on when you will write (unless you can adhere to a strict schedule), don’t think about all the money you’ll make, and don’t sit on something because you can’t compare it to the great works of Tolkien or C.S. Lewis. (Tolkien ruined the fantasy field for the rest of us- no one will EVER be a Tolkien). Just find your inner voice and run with it. Rely on those you trust to be honest with you, and be honest with yourself. Revise and rewrite, but be willing to let go when there is nothing more you can do to it. Enjoy the time you have writing, and write something every day, no matter what it is. And most of all, don’t give up. That great story will present itself when it is time. And most of all- read! Reading is the best way to explore the styles, the voice, and the landscape of other writers to find where your voice fits in the grand scheme of things.
SPS: Before we bring this interview to a close, it’s your chance to name-drop. Anyone who you feel is deserving of more recognition at present or someone whose writing you have recently enjoyed? Now is your chance to spread the word…
LM: I have been trying to explore different genres when I read, to see what other great voices are out there. Recently I discovered Markus Zusak- The Book Thief and I Am Messenger. I am also really enjoying John Green. His characters are wonderful and his prose is easy to read and heart- warming. I’ve gotten a bit tired of the dystopian stories, they are getting a bit depressing and no one has been able to really capture that essence like Suzanne Collins did in Hunger Games. I realize tweens really like these stories but I hope they soon get tired of that and find more uplifting things to read. For Sci-Fi lovers I read a really cool book (which has wiggled its way into my #1 spot) a fun, look-back into the 80’s culture book called Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. This book was funny, and action packed, and just all out fun! As far as unknown, good authors out there in the self-publishing world, try Brandt Legg with the Inner Movement Trilogy- a fun modern time sci-fi with some time travelling elements. Or Trista Wilde with her debut novel The Dragon Runes Cycle (a rock n’ roll fantasy). This is a fantasy story which weaves in some modern twists like electric lamps and guitars. Don’t worry, the modern elements are so well written you won’t even notice. Try these books, I think you’ll really like them.
SPS: Thank you for joining us today Leandra, and all the best for the future.
LM: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk about myself and help people hopefully get to know me a bit. I hope that I was able to encourage people to give my books a try and that people reading this interview will discover a gem out there they may have missed because they haven’t read self-published books prior to this interview. There are a lot of great authors just waiting to be discovered, so keep reading, and keep looking for that undiscovered gem that may just stir your soul.
SPS: For more information on Leandra and her work, please do visit her Showcase Author page here.