This week marks the release of one of my favorite new YA horror stories/series by one of my favorite new ladies of horror fiction: The Night Weaver by Monique Snyman. (If you missed my review, read it here or here.) To help celebrate the release of the book, I invited Monique to do a guest interview here on the blog and share some of her writing pearls of wisdom, as well as talk about what's next for her new Harrowsgate series. Welcome, Monique!
Simultaneously refreshing and deeply unsettling, The Night Weaver weaves together small-town horror with an intricate otherworldly fairytale to deliver a blend of horror and fantasy that captures the essence of young adult terror seasoned with the stuff of grown-up nightmares. - Seven Jane
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
You don’t need to be the next J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, or J.R.R. Tolkien, so stop measuring yourself by their standards when you’re contemplating your future and career. Be the first Monique Snyman. Be you, no matter what, and also, don’t be so impatient with yourself.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
Oh, I’ve always known that language had power. Growing up, I had to force myself to speak a certain way in order to “blend” in better. If I didn’t, I was bullied by my peers. Even today, when I go to my childhood home, I change my dialect and the words I pick are wholly different to when I’m not there. So, language has a lot of power, especially if you need to survive adolescence.
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
Lies like Love by Louisa Reid. I read that book quite a few years ago, but it was such an impactful tale and beautifully crafted book that I still find myself thinking about it.
The Night Weaver doesn’t only prey upon the flesh of children, but on grief, fear, and pain—making her both the monster under the bed in a scared child’s bedroom and a fitting personification of the dark shadow that lives in the back of the mind of anyone who has experienced tragedy. - Seven jane
How do you balance making demands on the reader with taking care of the reader?
I’m a Libra, so balance, in general, comes naturally to me. I do, however, take into account what readers enjoy/despise, and allow their preferences to sometimes guide me on my journey.
Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?
I wouldn’t call it spiritual per se; it’s rather cathartic for me to write. I have all these characters living inside my head, an unlimited amount of stories that need to come out, and everything battles for my attention when I’m not writing. So, although I have my writing rituals, and for some it could even feel spiritual in a way, but it’s more of a therapy session for me.
And of course, what's next for Rachel and clan?
Well, in The Night Weaver, readers got a taste of the horrible things Shadow Grove often attracts, but in The Bone Carver we get to see what happens when those nasties hone in on a single target and the lengths they’ll go to when they feel … rejected. There are also some new characters being added into the story, but the old ones make an appearance, too. The sequel is a different kind of scary, but scary nonetheless.
Interior artwork courtesy of Monique Snyman. Illustrated by Luke Spooner from Carrion House.
Connect with Monique
You can keep up with Monique on her various social channels. She also has a spectacular blog!
Website – www.moniquesnyman.com
Facebook – www.facebook.com/moniquesnyman.author
Twitter – www.twitter.com/moniquesnyman
Instagram – www.instagram.com/therealmoniquesnyman
And, don't forget to stay tuned for the sequel. The Bone Carver is coming September 2020 from Vesuvian Books.
Today is release day for one of my favorite new YA novels by Liana Gardner: Speak No Evil. (If you missed my review, read it here.) To help celebrate the release of the book, I invited Liana to do a guest interview and tell us more about a story that reminds us all that silence does not equal consent, and that the truth, even (and perhaps especially) when it hurts, must be spoken. Speak No Evil is a powerful reminder to today's young women to speak up, speak out, and never lose their voice.
Dark, delicate, and masterfully written, Speak No Evil will make you cringe and cry in equal measure as it pulls your heart through the muck of humanity’s worst evils in every page before depositing you at the end feeling uplifted, empowered, and—most of all—grateful." - Seven Jane
Most authors would avoid such serious subject matter (such as abuse, abandonment, and sexual assault), but you've brought them front and center. What made you want to convey this story for a younger audience?
This is such a HUGE question. To be honest, my gut reaction is, “How can we not?”
So, I’m going to start by answering with some facts. Every 92 seconds another American experiences sexual assault. Every 9 minutes that person is a child. Over 60,000 cases of sexual child abuse are documented each year—and those are only the cases that have been reported. Of those cases, 67% of the victims are aged 12-18 and 34% under the age of 12. One in nine girls and one in 53 boys have experienced sexual assault. For every 1,000 cases reported, only 5 perpetrators will be incarcerated.
The majority of child sexual assault cases involve someone known to the victim; parents, siblings, other relatives, friends, teachers, etc. Most are authority figures. There are some commonalities to the occurrence:
By not talking about weighty topics such as abuse, abandonment, and sexual assault, we are perpetuating the isolation the perpetrators have created. We need books like Speak No Evil so those who have experienced or are experiencing these things know they are not alone. So they realize it is not their fault. And hopefully it gives them an opportunity to find their voice and speak out.
We need those who have not experienced the issues to know that they exist and can happen. And hopefully, they can be a better friend to those who have experienced, to be patient and listen to what the survivor has to say and to say those words the survivor most needs to hear--I believe you.
Because, bearing in mind the statistics, in a classroom of 30 students three or four have experienced or are experiencing sexual abuse. If we don’t provide a safe ground for talking about these matters, then who will?
There are those who will argue that the topics in this book will strip away some of the kids’ innocence. I’d rather provide a kid with the framework for awareness and a platform for discussing such heavy topics than have them find out their reality first hand. And please, let’s stop denying such things exist, negating the experience of so many, demeaning their self-worth.
Like Melody’s voice that could calm snakes, Gardner’s storytelling displays the same sort of sinister charm as she unravels Melody’s past to tell the story of her present. Speak No Evil is at once hypnotic, vaguely sinister, and decidedly beautiful, with sharp, poignant prose that handles the heaviest of issues with grace and delicacy." - Seven Jane
What gave you the idea to frame the story around a protagonist who won't speak?
Some stories come a little at a time, slowly building up the framework, while others burst into being almost fully formed. Speak No Evil was the latter kind. I didn’t decide to frame a story around a protagonist who doesn’t speak, it hit me like a lightning bolt.
On my way to work one morning, I had the radio on and an emotional song came on, and I had the idle thought, as I had many times before, that sometimes songs conveyed feelings better than we are able to say them. Then BAM! the story hit … I nearly had to pull over and probably would have if I had been able to. In the same moment, I felt very strongly the urge to speak, but knowing if I opened my mouth, nothing would come out. And more than anything, I knew I had to write this story and give Melody a voice.
How does the book's title relate to the deeper message?
The title immediately brings to mind the three wise monkeys and the message they convey of turning away from evil. But the underlying meaning is how society silences survivors. Do not speak of the evil that befell you because you will be blamed for allowing it to happen. We are so good at turning our heads away from evil, at pretending it doesn’t exist, that the automatic response is to wonder what the victim did to bring their fate crashing down around them.
We don’t want to face the truth; we don’t want to believe evil exists because if it does, and the victim did nothing wrong, then it could happen to me. Facing the truth means we all lose a little of our security—our feeling of safety.
What do you hope readers take away from your work?
Understanding. Empathy. Hope.
In many ways it depends on the reader. If the reader has not experienced the types of situations Melody has, then what I’d like them to take away is understanding and empathy for those who have. A recognition that it is not the fault of the victim, but that of the perpetrator.
For those who have experienced the abuse, I’d like them to recognize they are not to blame, it isn’t their fault, and they did nothing wrong. And if they have been rendered silent, my hope is that they can find a safe haven where they can find their voice and with it peace.
What was your biggest challenge when writing this piece?
Framing the story from the point of view of a main character who doesn’t speak. :) It would have been much easier to change point of views and give other characters a chance to share the story. But I wanted the reader to share in Melody’s experience right from the beginning, where the wall of silence is palpable. And if the character was non communicative, then I wanted to show that on the page, so felt that going into her thoughts was taking a liberty I shouldn’t. Of course, as she became comfortable and started opening up, I was able to go deeper into the skin of the character.
The other challenge I had to overcome is my deep and abiding fear of snakes. With her background of having been raised in a snake-handling church, the snakes were there throughout the story. So, I had to do my research and have watched more video than I’d care to say about snake-handling churches. One of the scenes deals with Melody caring for and nursing back to health a sick snake. It created an odd place in my head because I’m one of The only good snake is a dead snake. crowd, and the sympathetic feeling for the book snake was a weird thing.
Connect with Liana
Author Website: www.LianaGardner.com
Book Site: www.SpeakNoEvilNovel.com
Dark, delicate, and masterfully written, Speak No Evil will make you cringe and cry in equal measure as it pulls your heart through the muck of humanity’s worst evils in every page before depositing you at the end feeling uplifted, empowered, and—most of all—grateful.
Raised in a snake-handling church where indigenous belief systems mix with modern Christianity, Melody Fisher is a half Native American, quarter Scottish, and quarter black orphan. Before her parents’ deaths—one by accident and the other, arguably, by grief—her daddy caught and handled rattlers and other venomous serpents for the church where Melody sang with her parents. Melody’s voice is God’s gift and music is in her soul; she can even charm the snakes her father catches through her songs—a curious and seemingly divine feat considering snakes have no ears (at least not in the traditional sense). But Melody's voice is also her greatest burden, because when she asks her mama about the strange man she saw walking with her along the river, her mama is almost immediately struck down by one of her father's rattlers. From there, tragedy follows in the wake of Melody’s voice until, eventually, she stops speaking altogether.
After years in the system and a series of foster homes that have gone from bad to worse, Melody Fisher has lost her voice. At sixteen, she’s survived more trauma and tragedy that many people experience in a lifetime, and now she’s on trial for stabbing a classmate. But, even faced with losing her freedom, she cannot find the strength to speak after being silent for nearly two years. She can’t speak, because every time she has told the truth something terrible has happened. Now, Melody won't even use her voice to clear her name—or tell the truth about why she stuck a pair of scissors in Troy Alexander. Even so, music still lives in Melody’s soul, and with the help of her court-ordered therapist, she learns to communicate through a massive song library on a portable music player. Through the restorative power of song, Melody eventually finds her voice and speaks the truth that has weighed heavy in her heart.
Like Melody’s voice that could calm snakes, Gardner’s storytelling displays the same sort of sinister charm as she unravels Melody’s past to tell the story of her present. Speak No Evil is at once hypnotic, vaguely sinister, and decidedly beautiful, with sharp, poignant prose that handles the heaviest of issues with grace and delicacy.
The terrible tragedies and stifling trauma that Melody has experienced are enough to make the reader want to reach through the pages and gather the poor girl up in our collective arms. And, while younger readers should certainly be forewarned of weighty topics like grief, abuse, and rape that rear their rattles in this story, all are tactfully and mindfully done, proving Gardner’s ability to convey emotion and complexity without catering to shock and surprise. Likewise, Gardner’s technical execution is flawless as she alternates between multiple timelines to piece together Melody’s story, giving just enough information to keep the story moving without bogging itself down in exposition.
In fact, you might say that, like the music that lives in Melody, Speak No Evil is itself something of a song bound within the pages of a story. With powerful lyrics, perfectly paced prose, and artful cadence, Gardner gives voice to a character that has become disconnected from her own, while reminding us all that silence does not equal consent, and that the truth, even (and perhaps especially) when it hurts, must be spoken.
TRUTH IS THE HARBINGER OF HELL
What if every time you told the truth, evil followed?
My name is Melody Fisher. My daddy was a snake handler in Appalachia until Mama died. Though years have passed, I can still hear the rattle before the strike that took her from me.
And it’s all my fault.
Since then, I’ve been passed around from foster home to foster home. I didn’t think anything could be as bad as losing Mama.
I was wrong.
But I will not speak of things people have done to me. Every time I do, worse evil follows. Now, the only thing I trust is what saved me years ago. Back when I would sing the snakes calm ...
It's finally happening! Book II in the Daughters Jones Trilogy is coming in 2020!
A NEW CAPTAIN HAS RISEN
Merrin’s journey to the mythical Isle of Bracile was only the beginning. On the seas between one world and the next, she uncovered the secrets of her past and took her rightful name, arising as Merrin Jones, daughter of the infamous Captain Davy Jones and the sea goddess Melusine.
Merrin also discovered the truth of the curse that binds her—and those she loves—to the Sea.
Now, as the Caleuche sails in hopes of reclaiming the Riptide, Merrin will find herself torn not only between two worlds, but also between the love of Tom Birch and Claudette Abobi. When the ocean splits as wide as her heart, Merrin will be forced to choose between the part of her that belongs to the land and that which belongs to the water. Her loyalties will be questioned and the fate of all she loves tested when the Sea calls Merrin home.
With the same blend of history of fantasy that brought the sea to life in The Isle of Gold, the Daughters Jones Trilogy continues as Merrin explores the very depths she will go to in order to save herself, her family, and both the man and woman she loves in The Sea of Glass.
I am so, so excited to continue Merrin's journey. While The Isle of Gold saw Merrin come into her own, she'll confront some tough decisions as she continues to grow in The Sea of Glass. She'll face choosing between the world of her father (land) and her mother (sea) and navigate issues of her own heart with Tom and Claudette and decide where her loyalties like and the type of Captain she'll be.
It's going to be a wild adventure--and since the sea is fickle, there's no telling where Merrin will end up.
Stay tuned for more news AND the cover reveal very soon!
Suicide is not an easy topic to talk about. But, that doesn't mean we shouldn't talk about it. In fact, the very fact that suicide is such a difficult topic to talk about openly means it's one we should be talking about.
Probably everyone has been touched by suicide, whether you've know someone who's taken their own life, read about recent celebrity deaths like Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, or perhaps even have had suicidal thoughts or attempted yourself. Or all three.
Author Elizabeth Isaacs provides some staggering statistics in her blog post:
September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day. I am joining with many other authors and book lovers to unite, spread awareness, and reach out as a source of support in the conversation about suicide. But, truth be told, I am almost didn't write this post--and for the very same reasons that people don't want to talk about it.
I have reached a point in my life where I have had to say goodbye to many loved ones, friends, neighbors, colleagues, and so on. But, the number of people that I have lost to disease and age and even tragedies like drunk driving accidents and brain aneurisms in total barely sum to the number of people I've lost due to suicide. And, I lost someone else only a little over a week ago to suicide on such a tragic scale that I can't even put it into words. This week, someone I know had to be put on suicide watch. That's two people in two weeks. Even saying that out loud hurts.
I've contemplated suicide myself once or twice, too. Probably never too seriously, but I've been there, in the dark, unable to find a way out.
If you have thought about suicide you are not broken. You are not weird or selfish. You are not being dramatic. And you are not alone. Suicide doesn't just show up on your doorstep one morning with some grand offer that you can't wait to take advantage of. It's a vine. It buds and begins to grow inside of you, taking its time as it wraps around and suffocates you, blocking out the light until you barely have the strength to draw breath. It's distressing, intolerable, and gradual.
And it hurts. I know. I've been there.
But even in our darkest, most despairing moments, there are reasons to stay alive. To hope. To persevere. To cut the vine. To keep going.
If you are struggling with or considering suicide, know that there are resources and help lines. There are people who can help. There are ways you can overcome.
The first annual Book Lover's Unite for World Suicide Prevention Day Tour will kick off on Sunday, September 1st and will culminate in a twelve-hour Facebook Live Event on World Suicide Prevention Day, September 10th.
For more information, and to add your name to the giveaway, click here.
Join us on Facebook September 10th, 8am-pmCT.
Platform building is one of the most hotly discussed topics among writers, agents, and publishers. Publishers, and agents, consider an aspiring author’s platform when they make acquisition choices, and they look for authors who are active and authentic online, regardless of which genre you write. Social media isn’t the end all be all of author platforms, but used appropriately, it is an important tool in an author’s platform arsenal.
Social media is daunting. There are a whole bunch of platforms, and they all come with their own rules and tricks. Being 'on social media' does not mean you have to be on all social media. My suggestion is that you strategically pick the few platforms that work best for you and do them well, rather than trying to conquer them all and cannibalizing your own efforts. Another recommendation is to focus on on building your followers on only one or two platforms, and not thinning out your crowd amongst too many social channels.
Here's a few things to keep in mind about each social channel, geared toward fiction writers:
Facebook is a platform that's been around for a while. It was once the go-to platform for social media interaction, but constant change and fluctuation in Facebook privacy rules have made it a rather inhospitable place for authors. Rules have changed on what / how you can promote, and there is more noise than ever. Unless your willing to spend bucks on advertisements (and know how to wade through Facebook's algorithms to get your ROI, it might be best to be on the Book, but not put all your eggs in this basket.
Visual content is all the rage right now, and for this there's not better place to be than the Gram. Instagram has very active writing and reading communities and a lot of follower engagement groups to boost your interactions and ability to go viral. It's also a great place to build your visual brand, and show off your book covers, too. #bookstram is always a trending topic.
IG is not without its challenges. You need to know how to maximize your use of hashtags, for one. Filters are commonplace on Instagram, too, which has led to body image issues and can be a mark of extreme fakery. You also can't link within IG, so that's frustrating.
Speaking of visual, YouTube is the second largest search engine (behind Google) and it's a place to take visual one step further. Booktrailers are a great way to share content on YouTube, as are Q&As, live book launches, book trailers, interviews with other authors, etc.
IMHO, Twitter is the workhouse of the (adult) social media. It has a huge and very supportive literary network...and it also can turn very quickly into a vacuum of vitriol when the trolls get loose. Twitter is a great place to meet people, converse, and grow, but it's perhaps the most difficult place to be genuine (IG filters aside). It's also an easy place to step outside of the "novel writer" bubble and meet other types of authors, and other types of creatives--screenwriters, visual artists, etc. There are tons of writing events, like #pitmad that happen on Twitter, too, so it's quite the opportunistic platform.
Like IG, Twitter relies on hashtags. It's also a place you can/will/might spend a lot of time interacting on and there are more stringent character count limitations in individual posts.
Pinterest is also a (weirdly) popular place for writers. I haven't particularly figured out why, but I'm on it. Check back for details. Plus, while you're there, you can also find nifty recipes and cool DIY projects, so it is a great place to get lost online and I suppose that accounts for something.
Of course, there is some what not to do on social media, too. Primary amongst these is leaning on social media as a sales tool. Always remember that using social media as part of your platform is about interaction and engagment, not a sales pipeline. Sure, you can chat about your work and even drop a buylink or two, but your focus should be on interacting and building a community around your work, not forcing your book(s) upon them.
And, if you absolutely abhor social media, you don't have to use. There are endless other things you can do besides tweet, post, and share. For example:
If you have the funds, you can also hire an assistant or an outside firm to help manage your social media accounts. But, remember, authenticity is important in building a brand, and you'll need to keep careful watch over what's happening online. YOU are your own brand; be sure you manage it.
Be sure to maximize your social efforts, too. Link your blog to Twitter so it tweets when you have new posts. Get a scheduler (I use Zoho Social) so you can schedule your main pics and posts ahead of time. Slap that Pinterest HTML code into your website so you can easily pin. Make it easy for yourself to succeed and feel good about how you're using social media.
At the end of the day, remember that social media use is one part of your author platform...and it may not even be the most important part though it is an important component. It is critical for you to be active, to be easily found online, and to be authentic in your online interactions, wherever you're interacting. For further reading, here's an article on BookBub with 10 Tips for Authors on Using Social Media from a Literary Agent.
Of course, there's more to learning how to use social media than getting lost in the actual mechanics of doing so. You can also learn by reading the experiences of authors, agents, and publishers who do social media well, and by following them, too.
It's finally here!