Sunday, November 1, 2020

Book Tour and Giveaway: The Seeking by Marlena Frank

Title: The Seeking
Author: Marlena Frank
Publisher: The Parliament House
Publication Date: October 27th 2020
Print Length: 259 pages
Genre: Young Adult Horror
Beware the Gray People

Each Seeking, the magic that protects the town of Carra must be renewed, which means the children of the Exalted Family must go into hiding. Whether it be through disguise or bribe, through trusted friends or perfect hiding places, every child of the Priest family must avoid capture for the full day.

When things go wrong with the renewal, it’s up to seventeen-year-old Dahlia, the middle child of the Priest family, and her girlfriend, Bisa, to escape Carra and find the magical beings responsible for the protection. They must learn who would require such a cruel game to be played every year and if the protection of the Gray People is really worth such a deadly cost. What they will discover is far worse.

Marlena Frank has always been fascinated with monsters, and now gets to write about them. She has been writing horror and fantasy short stories since 2010 and has had her work published in a number of anthologies, from Heroic Fantasy Quarterly to The Sirens Call.

Her YA Dark Fantasy novella, The She-Wolf of Kanta, was released in April 2018 from Aurelia Leo. Her debut novel, Stolen, came out January 2019 from The Parliament House Press, and on release day became an Amazon Bestseller in a YA category. 

When she isn’t thinking up strange tales, she’s an active member in the Atlanta cosplay community and the Atlanta chapter of the Horror Writers Association. Her novel Stolen hit Amazon's bestseller status on release day, reaching #34 in the Fairy Tales, Folk Tales & Myths for Children category on Amazon on release day.

- What book do you think everyone should read?
This is a tough one! I think The Hobbit is a must-read, and also The Last Unicorn. I love the adventure in The Hobbit, but I absolutely adore the writing in The Last Unicorn. That book made me have to close it occasionally and remind myself that it’s okay that I’m not as good of a writer haha.

- How long have you been writing?
I still have journals where I was writing when I was eight or so. I’ve been writing for a long while, and yet I’m still learning.

- Do the characters all come to you at the same time or do some of them come to you as you write?
Usually I’ll start with my protagonist and then work my way out from them. In Dahlia’s case, I knew she was going to be a middle child, so I worked my way out from that to create her brothers, then her parents, and then her girlfriend and her family.

- What kind of research do you do before you begin writing a book?
I like to put down character sheets for the main characters in my book before I start writing. Since my characters tend to carry the story or figure it out as they go, I like to make sure I know them before I begin writing. Otherwise I can have many false starts before I get going.

- Do you see writing as a career?
I see it as a secondary career since I have my day job too. It takes up about as much time as a second full time job, and while that can be difficult at times, I absolutely love it. As I’ve learned over the years, I love it too much to let it go.

- What do you think about the current publishing market?
I love all the ways that a book can be created today. You have self publishing, indie publishing traditional publishing, and many flavors in between. Even after years of rejections, there is probably somebody out there who wants to read what you’ve written, and I think that’s incredible.

- Do you read yourself and if so what is your favorite genre?
Absolutely! I love fantasy, dark fantasy, and horror genres. I also enjoy non-fiction and biographies.

- Do you prefer to write in silence or with noise? Why?
It really depends. Sometimes my writing time is so limited that I’ll write to silence and do just fine. Then other times, I need to have some music in the background to help me focus. I must have music that doesn’t have lyrics to it though or else it tends to distract me from creating words.

- Do you write one book at a time or do you have several going at a time?
I tend to have multiple books in progress at once, though I wish I could just focus on one at a time! Right now I have a short story I just finished writing, I have the sequel to The She-Wolf of Kanta I’m working on, and I have the beginnings of a new YA horror novel. Plus I have Pinterest boards where I build on ideas for books I have down the road when inspirations strikes and it doesn’t want to leave my brain haha!

- Pen or type writer or computer?
Lately I’ve really been enjoying writing by hand. It’s probably because I’m regularly at home now so I can have a journal and keep it with me to add a sentence or two at a time. However when I’m on a deadline, I work on a computer because I can write so much faster that way and get my ideas down quicker.

- Tell us about a favorite character from a book.
Oh wow, I have so many! I love the Gunslinger from Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series. I love Remus Lupin from the Harry Potter series. I love Finn from the Hunger Games series. I also love Smaug from The Hobbit

I tend to like the wise people who advise the protagonist. I remember almost refusing to watch the Star Wars original trilogy after what happened to Obi Wan. I told my Dad it wasn’t fair, and he told me to keep watching. I’m glad I did!

- What made you want to become an author and do you feel it was the right decision?
Every time I’ve tried not to be an author in my life, I keep getting pulled back to it. Whether it’s through original books or through fanfiction or short stories.

I remember reading the end of the Harry Potter series. My entire family went to the book release party at our local bookstore and we went home and read the book all night long. I won’t say where, but at one point I threw the book across the room. It was probably the first time in my life that I thought to myself that I could write a better ending.

Now do I think I could write a book better than JK Rowling? Absolutely not! But it was a really revealing moment for me because I realized I could try.

- A day in the life of the author?
We’ll cut out the day job description since that’s just boring, but I usually check my bullet journal for what I have to do that day. Sometimes it’s preparing for a book release, or it’s an interview or a panel. I’ll mentally prioritize what I need to do and tackle the urgent items first. Then I’ll work my way down the list until I run out of time. Often I’ll take breaks and clean house, or play with our three cats, or hop on social media. If I’m on a deadline, I’ll keep a tracker in my bullet journal to measure my progress. That really helps to keep me motivated!

- Advice you would give new authors?
Don’t give up on your dreams, even if it’s an uphill struggle! Keep writing, keep putting words down on paper, and be persistent. If the first book you write isn’t gaining traction, it could just be not quite ready yet or it could be the wrong time. Shift gears and try something new. Slowly you’ll gain your voice and gain confidence in your writing. Just keep going and don’t give up!

- Describe your writing style.
I write very character focused stories that tend to have a lot of diversity. I focus on characterization, environment, and mood. My writing has been described as immersive, and I think that’s the highest compliment. I love it when readers lose themselves in my worlds.

- What makes a good story?
A good story is respectful of whatever topic it’s tackling. It also is smart about the underlying statements it’s making. I think a good story should be immersive and that a reader should be able to fully understand the characters.

- What are they currently reading?
I’m currently reading a few ARCs including Dead Rockstar by Lillah Lawson and Lyrics and Curses by Candace Robinson. I also read way too many books at once, so I’m also reading Lineage by C. Vonzale Lewis, All Those Broken Angels by Peter Adam Salomon, and In the Woods by Tana French. There are more, but those are the main ones right now. I’m definitely a multi-tasking reader haha!

- What is your writing process? For instance do you do an outline first? Do you do the chapters first?
I start with the premise. Usually I like to figure out the story beats in my head or jot them down. In my experience that is what really determines the pacing and allows for the story to properly flow. If it’s a trilogy or a series, then those beats need to be planned out even further. Then I turn to the characters and start fleshing them out. I create character sheets and figure out their goals, their flaws, and their role in the plot. After that I try to figure out the locations I want to tackle, determining what they look like, smell like, feel like. And once I have those sensory details down and I have a grounding understanding of the main characters, including the protagonist, then I’ll start writing.

As I write, if I find new locations or new characters, I’ll try to pause and go back and fill out more information for them to help them be more real. Admittedly I’m not always good at this portion, but I do try!

- What are common traps for aspiring writers?
I think becoming a writer can be intimidating. It’s not easy writing a book and even a short story can be difficult to grasp because you need to pack more into a much smaller space. Personally I think fanfiction can help with that. It gives the freedom to write without the need to polish as much, and that can be a freeing way to explore plot, pacing, and world-building. Once I had written long pieces in fanfiction, I could turn to original short stories and it wasn’t as daunting. I could do that. Then I went longer and longer. Finally when I attempted my first NaNoWriMo, it wasn’t my first novel. I had readers and followers of my fanfiction, so if I messed up my first original piece, it was okay. That really helped to take the pressure off of me when I started seriously focusing on original work. I knew that my writing could be good, I just had to switch gears from fanfic to original books.

- What is your writing Kryptonite?
I could have a dozen deadlines coming up but if a family member or friend needs my help with something, I can very easily get pulled into helping. That can be very problematic when I have to finish writing a novel or finish edits. Another Kryptonite for me is social media and video games. I have to consciously not allow myself to open social media apps until after I’ve reached a particular goal. I also have to be dutiful about what games I get on because those can really take my time away without my knowledge.

- Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
This is a tricky question because it implies that readers don’t want original stories, but I don’t think that’s true. I think readers love original work as long as it is in the vein of things that they love. I think The Seeking is a good example of that. It’s set in a dystopian world, it has unique monsters, and it features a very diverse cast of characters. I pitch it as a mixture of A Quiet Place and Hunger Games, and I think it delivers on those expectations. While I consider The Seeking to be a very original novel, the factors that make up the novel aren’t themselves original, but the combination is.

- If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Your writing really is good, you just have to keep pushing to make it better. It’ll work out in the end, I promise, just don’t give up and don’t stop writing!

- What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
I’ve grown up reading mostly books written by male authors writing about male characters, so I think as a woman, I have an easier time writing about male characters. However, I do feel that there aren’t enough books written in the perspective of non-binary or trans protagonists, and that dearth of diversity is troubling. I also find that when writing books from the perspective of a female character, it’s more daunting to tackle more feminine concepts such as childbirth or even something more basic like menstruation. Many of these things feel taboo to tackle in fiction even though it’s a part of life.

- How long on average does it take you to write a book?
Some books have taken me eight months to write the first draft while other books have taken me four weeks. It really just depends on how much I’ve been mulling over the world and the characters, and how much time I have to write.

- Do you believe in writer’s block?
I believe that authors can struggle sometimes to put words down on paper. I think that sometimes the words just won’t come, but I would argue that the author is probably not writing what they want to write when that happens. My advice to overcoming that is to switch gears and write something completely different, whether it’s a short story that’s been in the back of their mind, or free writing, or just writing about their day. Allowing themselves the ability to write helps to unlock the words again.
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