Author Interview – E. V. Jacob

A few weeks ago, I wrote a review post for the new book The Shadows by E. V. Jacob. It’s a book that’s one of my favorite books that I’ve read in 2017, as well as one that I definitely think you should pick up. If you haven’t read the review, I would encourage you to do so.

I was fortunate enough to have a chance to chat with E. V. Jacob a bit about her new book, her experience as a new author, as well as about some other authors that she sees inspiration in. The transcript of our chat is below. Responses have been edited solely for the purposes of fixing typos. For ease of reading, my questions are in bold, with the responses unbolded below each question.


Tim (T): I’m going to start off with what might be the most obvious question — how does it feel to be a published author?

E. V. Jacob (E): It’s twofold: On the one hand, it feels like everything you want it to and more—I’m proud, excited, grateful, happy, and having a blast. But on the other hand…you’re still you at the end of the day, you know? Nothing about you, or who you are, has ultimately changed. Because the road to publishing, as any published author knows, is so long, that the changes happen over time. There’s no sudden shift; there’s long-term growth. And that’s honestly a great thing, it’s just not as immediate as I think most people would assume. At the same time, it still all feels like a whirlwind and I can’t believe that it’s already done. This simultaneously took forever and happened in the blink of an eye. It’s weird.

T: As a newly published author, what was the your favorite part of the writing/publishing process? What was the most intimidating part of the process?

E: I love it all. I do these wild plotting sessions with outlines and timelines and character profiles. I pin up notecards and scatter papers all over the floor, and do that murder wall thing you see in investigations. Then I hand-write the first draft. After it’s done (and boy is it a hot mess when it’s done), I type it up and get to editing. Each and every stage is incredibly fun but also incredibly daunting in its own way. I get stuck, I get frustrated, but the whole time you love what you’re doing, and that keeps me going. But really, I think the best part—and this could just be the novelty of it—was finally getting it out there into the world, and being able to say “I am 100% done writing that book. Time for something new”.

T: From the outside looking in, you seem to be a very motivated, very driven writer. What keeps you motivated during your creative slumps?

E: I appreciate that, because I don’t usually feel like a motivated or driven writer. But what keeps me going is just how badly I want to tell these stories. I have over 70 books planned, and that can sometimes seem like an impossible task, so I am just trying to tell as many of these stories as I can in the time I have. Writing is also a great refuge, and cathartic, so often it’s as therapeutic as it is productive (and other times it’s a damn chore, but I get my friends to yell at me and demand the next chapters, and that helps me churn out words on the bad days).

T: Who are some of the author — or even some of the works — that inspired you? Do you think any of those inspirations show through in The Shadows?

E: My first love, at the ripe old age of six, was the Animorphs series by K.A. Applegate. I still have every single book and read them from time to time. They definitely influenced me. As I grew older, I read anything I could get my hands on, so figuring out exactly has been the biggest influence can be tricky. I’d be lying if I left off obvious contenders, like J.K. Rowling, Neil Gaiman, and Rick Riordan, but I think every single book I’ve ever read has motivated me to write and tell my own stories. Even books I didn’t like, because I’d think, “If this can get published and have fans then my book should definitely be out there.” One I always think of is Douglas Adams—he’s so funny and absurd and I so admire the odd, casual manner in which he is completely ridiculous.

T: Let’s take some time to talk about your book now. If someone walked up to you on the street and asked you about your book, how would you explain The Shadows to them?

E: I’ve just been describing it as a young adult paranormal sci-fi as of late, but if someone wanted a more in-depth description, I’d tell them it’s about tragedy, and loss. It’s about mental health struggles, and figuring out who you are, apart from what you’ve been raised to be. It’s also about ghosts and some other entities that I don’t want to spoil, but…yeah, things get weird. That’s a phrase I use a lot when describing it, too: “Things get weird.” Which is hilarious to me, since this is arguably the tamest of all my books.

T: The Shadows is your debut piece, however it’s evident that it’s intended to be part of a longer series. Has this always been a series in your mind or did it start out as a book and become something more?

E: This is kind of tricky. See, years and years ago, there was a stand-alone novel that I discussed with my mother about a teen girl named Roz, her eccentric artist neighbor, and some dark secrets. I fiddled with this a bit, but it never fully evolved into anything. And there was another stand-along novel about Derek and Emily—two characters in this book—that was mostly an exploration of Derek’s personal struggles.

Fast-forward to about five years ago, and I’m again kicking things around with my mother, and a new idea blossoms: A series, with a more supernatural feel, taking Roz from her book, and Derek and Emily from their book, adding some other characters, throwing in some mysteries and mystical entities, and creating a series that could unfold over several books. So it almost started as two separate stand-alone books that have been combined into one longer series.

Fun fact: Both Roz and Derek’s original stories will be told over the course of this series, so very little was lost; just assimilated and reworked. I’m excited to still get to share those concepts in this bigger framework, because I loved them both, but they needed the rest of the story to shine.

T: Are there any characters in The Shadows that you like or feel more attached to than others? Any reason why?

E: I mentioned Derek having come from a previous story, and he is actually the character I’ve had the longest out of all others in this series, so he’s rather dear to me. His role in book one is smaller, but that’s mostly due to his reserved nature. He’ll feature more in coming books, and I hope others will come to care about him like I do. Ford is also special, mostly because he’s so easy to write it’s almost like he’s writing himself. I never have to sit there and think about what he’s going to say or do, he just does it. It’s great fun, and he brings out sides of the other characters I like. Roz, I relate to in more ways than I realized I would, and in fact I didn’t see it until the book was almost published.

T: Going into the book as a reader, I knew there was going to be a good bit of paranormal and supernatural content in the book. That said, the detail you went into with the ghost hunting and the paranormal shows was more than I expected. Was there a lot of research that you put into this book — be it in the paranormal realm or otherwise? If so, what was the strangest thing you found yourself researching as you were writing this book?

E: So much research. I mentioned my mother helping out before, and I should say: She loves to research, so I’d recruit her help and she’d find some amazing stuff. Also, I have an affinity for physics and scientific study, so I always liked the idea of explaining the paranormal in logical terms. A lot of research went into “ghosts from a scientific standpoint” (which I’m sure isn’t surprising to anyone who’s read the book), and I built from there. I need to know how things work in order to write them, even if it never makes it into the book, so when I wrote my first ever ghost story—a short story requested by a friend back in 2012—I found myself puzzling over the physics of ghosts. I spent way too much time thinking about how it all worked. So it’s been building for quite some time now, and I’m likely going to continue adding to my eclectic knowledge.

T: Being from Southern Nevada, how much research did you have to do into the setting for the story and how much came from memory?

E: I was born and raised in Las Vegas, so almost all of it was from memory, though I did use the book as an excuse to “research” locations a few times. I’ve been going to Red Rock Canyon all my life, and I actually lived up on Mount Charleston (just outside of Echo, the area mentioned in the book) when I was a teenager. Most of the restaurants and other locations I mentioned are real, or are based on real spots around town that I like to visit. I actually went up to the mountains and hiked around, deciding exactly where I wanted the final scenes of the book to take place. It was a lot of fun, getting to use my hometown as a backdrop to a story, especially when so many of my other projects take place in different countries, time periods, or even on different planets.

T: You’re working on the second book in the Dark Sentinels series now. There’s a nice, albeit short, excerpt that appears at the end of The Shadows as to what’s going to happen in the second book. Anything else you can share about the next book in the series?

E: Some questions will be answered, more questions will be posed, and Rosalind (and her friends!) are going to find themselves dragged even deeper into this mess. Relationships will be strained, and Roz will have to work very hard to keep up with her new abilities. I’m trying not to give anything major away, but things get a lot more intense as the series progresses, and it happens pretty rapidly. Book one, as you know, was a lot of set-up; books two and beyond won’t be slowed down by setting the stage—full speed ahead into the weird.

T: What new, upcoming, or little-known authors would you recommend to others to read?

E: One person who’s writing I love and was fortunate enough to get to read before it was published is Ryan Dalton. He’s the author of the Time Shift Trilogy, which anyone who loves sci-fi and time travel should absolutely check out. Another, with a completely different style, is Abigail Johnson. She writes these complex, deep real-world stories about people taking the raw hand they were dealt and turning that into something magnificent. And she, as a person, is hugely inspiring. I also know that there’s a book coming out Fall 2018 by Candice Montgomery, Home & Away, which I think a lot of people are going to love. And me, of course. I have a lot of projects in the works—some solo, some collaborative, all awesome.


If you haven’t already, go pick up The Shadows by clicking on any of the links below. Additionally, you can learn more about E. V. Jacob by going to her website or by following her on Twitter.

Amazon – Hardcover | Kindle | Paperback
Draft2Digital
Kobo
Smashwords

Book Review – The Shadows (Dark Sentinels, Book One)

You know what I haven’t done in a while? A book review.

Tim, you did one in April.

Huh. So I did. Well I haven’t done many of them.

This will be your sixth.

Uh…well it’s not like I’ve done any other revi…

What about this one?

Goddammit. Am I becoming a reviewer?

Not yet, but you’re on your way.

 

…also, if you’re looking for an update on the book charity drive, that’ll come later this week or early next week. Anyway, on with the review.


Full disclosure on this review — I received an advanced reader copy of The Shadows. While I’m not receiving any sort of compensation for writing this review, I am quite shamelessly helping the author promote this book as I can on Twitter. This is partly because she’s been a writer/creator I’ve held a lot of respect for for quite some time now1Yes, I know there’s a double for there. It’s also grammatically correct.. It’s also partly because The Shadows is a damn good book.

Oh…uh…review spoilers in that previous paragraph2Since people get all bent out of shape for spoilers. Which…stop that..

As a reader, I have a decently wide range of books I like to read. With that said, one of the original book genres that I really got into when I started caring about reading was the Young Adult genre. In particular, I tended to prefer Young Adult dystopian novels3Think “Feed” by M.T. Anderson., however I wasn’t opposed to reading pretty much anything in the genre, aside from heavy romance4Still can’t stand heavy romance novels now, regardless of if they’re young adult books or not. For whatever reason, many romance writers struggle to write good plot..

That said, it’s been quite some time since I’ve really sat down and read a YA novel. The only one I’ve read in the past three years was Mila 2.0 which, while a good book, wasn’t one that I actively went out of my way to recommend to others to read. On top of that, when the book’s concept was original ran by me, it was stated to be a young adult paranormal sci-fi book. The closest I’ve come to caring about paranormal things is my love for Chandelure and Froslass in the Pokemon games. Needless to say the book had a chance of being outside of my wheelhouse.

Here’s the thing though…I loved the book.

The main character of this book, Roz, is a very relatable character in my mind. Anyone who has gone through the challenges of living as a child in a single parent household will have some level of empathy for Roz’s situation, particularly the frustrations of her mother not being around. The other major characters of the story also seem to jump off of the page — in particular Derek, who is more of a secondary character in the book, but has a very distinct way of speaking, to the point where I feel like I know exactly what his voice sounds like in my head.

The characters themselves form a diverse, multicultural cast, which is always a pleasure to see in a book. It’s something I know from personal experience can be a struggle for writers, so seeing someone handle it successfully is always a positive. The paranormal entities in the book also stick around in your mind for a while, particularly Diego and the book’s main antagonist5It’s hard to explain exactly what this specter is without spoiling, so that’s all you’re getting..

The Shadows is definitely a setup book. You can tell the book is doing its best to introduce you to the main characters of the story, the intricacies of the world around them, the gravity of the challenges they’re facing, and the relationships between the characters themselves. You can also tell that there’s going to be more books in this series coming down the line. And yet, even though you can, as a reader, surmise that as the book is winding down, the only feeling you’re left with is sadness that the book is ending and you don’t get to know what happens next. Having a preview of the second book at the end was particular cruel — not because I didn’t enjoy it, but because I wanted to know more.

I was able to get through The Shadows in a single evening, though I was a bit distracted, so quick readers might be able to finish it in just a few hours. It’s not that The Shadows is a particularly short read — the ebook version I had was around 290 pages — it’s that it’s a captivating read that you won’t want to put down. I cannot recommend The Shadows highly enough. Not only would I encourage those of you reading this interview to buy the book, I would also say that many of you, like me, will find it to be one of your favorite books you’ll read this year.

Book Review – Always a Bridesmaid (For Hire) by Jen Glantz

Before I start reviewing this book, I have a pair of disclaimers to give. First and foremost, hearing Jen’s story about getting her previous book, All My Friends are Engaged, from idea to self-published work helped inspire me to take my short stories and turn them into a book. It was a significant enough of an inspiration that I felt like a complete asshole when I forgot to put her in my thank yous section of the book, even though I’ve never met her in person. She wrote a guest post for my blog, I wrote one for hers, and we would occasionally chat on Twitter/20SB. But I still felt terrible. The second disclaimer is that I don’t like weddings. Or stories about weddings. Or pretty much anything wedding related. Weddings are (generally) long, boring affairs with similarly long and boring receptions. They’re expensive and frequently cause the newly married couple financial problems because you want to throw a good party for your friends and family6Or something. I personally don’t see the need for weddings to be opulent affairs, but I get why people might feel it’s necessary..

Now to begin…

Even when taking into consideration my dislike for wedding-related subject matter, there’s not a ton I have to complain about in Always a Bridesmaid (For Hire). If anything, the first quarter of the book reads a bit slower than the rest of the book, though I think that’s natural as Jen is setting up the context for the rest of the book to make sense. Considering how much she talked about her family early on, I expected her to mention them more as the book went on. Other than her mom, most other family members are only mentioned occasionally after the first 60 or so pages. Which is totally fine, as you get into more of Jen’s personal experiences — just a bit unexpected.

My wife actually stole this book from me right after I got it, meaning she got the chance to read it before I had even opened it up. She mentioned that she expected it to be more about wedding and bridesmaid stories, particularly from the title of the book and the summary blurb on the back. If you’re reading Always a Bridesmaid (For Hire) for an abundance of wedding stories, you’re likely going to be let down a bit. I remember reading a review of the book saying that Jen should have waited until later in life to write this so she’d have more wedding stories, however I think that such a point of view misses the entire point of the book.

Yes, Always a Bridesmaid (For Hire) is a book that talks about weddings and talks about the experience of being a bridesmaid. That much is definitely true. But this book is not a wedding book. It’s a business book masquerading in a wedding book’s body7Much in the same way every member of a wedding party is a complex human masquerading as part of the theatre that is a wedding.. In this book, you’re going to get great advice about risk-taking and failure, about determination and effort, about openness and learning from your mistakes. The concept of learning how to fail like a hero stuck with me far more than the stories of chasing down a lost bridesmaid’s dress.

There was one line in the book that stuck out to me far more than any other, not just because of its profound nature, but also because of the truth it’s held in my life.

Maybe that’s the strange thing about strangers: they have just as much control over how your story ends.

-Jen Glantz, Always a Bridesmaid (For Hire)

Recently I found myself contemplating how people can change our lives for better and worse just be being in our lives. It’s kind of interesting to think how one day you could meet someone who has never been part of your life before, only for them to become the person who changes your life — either positively or negatively — for good. Or that stranger could just be a person you pass on the street who you’ll never see or interact with ever again. But you don’t know. And you don’t know the impact each person will make until well after that impact has been made.

I’d recommend Always a Bridesmaid (For Hire), particular as a book that tells the story of a young woman looking to make her own impact on the world, while also trying to find who and what in the world will make an impact on her. It’s not a business or philosophy book in a traditional sense, however if you’re looking for thoughts on either, I think you’ll find this book surprisingly helpful.

Book Review – How to Be Yourself on the Internet by Samantha Clarke

I’d like to lead off by stating this is not a sponsored post or anything of the sort. I actually went and bought this book with my own money, so take that all for what it’s worth.

Most of you who read this blog are already familiar with Samantha from The Jill of all Trades. If you’re not aware of her work, click on the link in the previous sentence and take a look at her blog. I’ll wait. It’ll help give this review some context.

Back? Awesome.

When I read that Samantha had published a book, I was quite excited. She’s one of my favorite bloggers to read, as well as one of the more prolific commentors on this blog((As of 2/5/2014, she accounts for approximately 15% of the comments on this site. No exaggeration.)). Some of my favorite posts of hers delve into the more humorous side of her mind, be they discussing religion, introspection, sex, or feminism. Without looking much into the book, I was hoping for a humor-filled book, similar to what Allie Brosh did after her time at Hyperbole and a Half.

How to Be Yourself on the Internet is not a humorous read. Sure, Samantha’s natural humor does come out in bits, but that’s not the point to the book. The premise behind How to Be Yourself on the Internet is to act as a quick reference guide((And I do mean quick…it’s only 24 pages long.)) to creating the foundations for your personal brand on the internet. Samantha discusses topics such as the importance of deciding your internet ethics, the difference between criticism and trolling, and why it’s important to have a life outside of the internet (among other things) within the pages.

I see How to Be Yourself on the Internet being particularly useful for two groups of people. The first group is bloggers, particularly those who are blogging for the first time or who are looking to re-launch themselves into the larger internet landscape. The advice within the pages of How to Be Yourself on the Internet is a great reference guide for building your brand and helping you to choose how to interact with readers. The second group that this book could be of significant benefit to are younger teens — ideally those who are just being introduced to social media and internet communities — as a way to help them learn very basic etiquette rules. Sure, the book features a curse word or two, but if you’re worried about your little snowflake reading a naughty word in a book, you really don’t want them on the internet.

How to Be Yourself on the Internet is available directly on Samantha’s blog at this page. It’s a pay-what-you-want ebook, which means you could pick it up for free if you so desire, or pay whatever price you deem as fair. It’s a short, but valuable read on a topic that goes a bit overlooked online. The book’s definitely worth picking up, even with a modest donation.

Book Review – Lucky Us by Amy Bloom

Author’s Note: The following book review was previously published on my old blog on June 9th, 2014. The majority of the content of this post has remained the same from the review at that time, however references to a giveaway associated with said review have been amended accordingly.

 

Disclaimer: The following book review is part of Random House’s book review campaign for the novel “Lucky Us” by Amy Bloom. All opinions in this post remain my own, as no one else could be paid to claim them.

So in writing this review, I find myself in a first time situation on a couple of different fronts. While this isn’t the first time I’ve done a book review, this is the first novel I’ve had the opportunity to review pre-release. Likewise, the is the first book review I’ve done that is any sort of promotion for someone else’s writing. As such, I’m working to find a balance between the objective/promotional side of my writing and the cynical/sarcastic/general buffoonery of my normal writing. I might as well get used to it though — there’s a chance someone could be doing this for me some day.

There’s an old saying that states you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. From a metaphorical standpoint, the idiom is reminding you that just because someone or something looks a certain way, it doesn’t mean that’s their inner personality. Apparently, that cliché applies to actual books too. Who knew?

Lucky Us by Amy BloomThe back cover of Lucky Us made the novel sound like a cheap mashup between The Great Gatsby and The Grapes of Wrath, combining the low points of both novels to create a cheesy coming of age story about two girls seeking adventure. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), the actual story of the book didn’t give off that vibe at all.

Lucky Us focuses on the story of a young woman, Eva, and her struggle to truly find a group of people she can call her family. Along the way, she has various people in her life who are family in the literal sense — a con artist father whose fake Britishness is second only to Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins, a mother who abandoned her so that she could live out her lifelong dream of becoming the female Joel Osteen, and a lesbian half-sister, Iris, who, despite being the most relatable and believable character in the book, was largely absent due to her own pursuits for fame, fortune, and love.

While she spent much of the book looking for the stability of a family, it wasn’t until Eva realized that she could be a self-sufficient person (albeit while caring for Iris’ adopted/stolen son, Danny) that Eva began to find a family. While acting as the mother she never had to Danny, Eva found a father figure in one of Iris’ former makeup artists, and a lover/husband in a German man (Gus) who had been deported under false pretenses during World War II. Oh, did I mention said man was also the ex-husband of Iris’ lesbian lover with whom she adopted Danny?

At least Bugs could follow which way everyone went. Image credit: storiesspace.com

I actually have very few criticisms of the book, however that final sentence highlights my biggest concern. The majority of the characters throughout the book intertwine in rather convoluted ways. At times, keeping track of who is who, who likes/hates who, and who wants who is a bit difficult. Not quite Grey’s Anatomy pre-Lexi Gray’s death difficult, but still pretty damn confusing.

My other qualm with the book came from the book’s ending. Initially, I hated the ending. Eva’s estranged sister returns from England, and everyone lives happily ever after. That said, once I began really analyzing the book, the happy ending where Eva gets her family just feels right. That said, the ending felt a bit rushed, particularly Gus’ return and integration within the picture. Even with that in mind, it’s a minor gripe.

Lucky Us will be released on July 29th, 2014. For more information about the author, Amy Bloom, please visit her website. You can also follow her on Twitter at @AmyBloomBooks, and see other posts in this blog tour either by searching #LuckyUs on Twitter, or by going to the list I’ll be compiling at the bottom of this post.

Other reviews of Lucky Us from 20SB writers:

http://www.warmweatherwishes.com/2014/06/review-lucky-us-giveaway.html

http://theflannelflower.blogspot.com/2014/06/lucky-us-review-and-giveaway.html

http://www.poor-unknown.com/luckyus/  Warning: Outbound links from this post don’t appear to work

http://laurenofalltrades.blogspot.com/2014/06/lucky-us-review.html

http://emzrant.blogspot.com/2014/06/lucky-you-another-book-giveaway.html

http://www.thesls.blogspot.com/2014/06/lucky-us-book-review-giveaway.html

http://www.thechannelingboard.com/2014/06/giveaway-lucky-us-by-amy-bloom.html

http://thesaltypretzel.com/2014/06/20/lucky-us-amy-bloom/