Hello everyone! And welcome back to my author interview series.
Today I am interviewing E. Paige Burks, another fellow member of my Indie Eden Book Club and the 2016 winner of the YA category of the Draft to Dream competition. Her fantasy novel, Return to Royalty, is our current Biweekly Read. It’s about a girl who has no idea that she is actually royalty from another world – until a dark, menacing (and broodingly handsome) stranger comes to take her back. Let’s find out more about Paige’s books and see if she has any tips on the writing process!
Let’s start by finding out which question I left out of my list. What is the one question that you wish people would ask you about your latest book? (And what is the answer?)
Hmm…This is tough for me. I think the one that I dislike the most that people ask is “did you really write this?” Um, yeah, I did, haha. I know a lot of people don’t know how we have time to write, but if it’s your passion, you make time for it. So maybe what I wish people would ask is “what’s your advice on writing a book?” My answer would be make time (just 30 minutes a day is all it takes!), set a goal (do it the NANOWRIMO way, you can write 50,000 words in just one month!), and overall be consistent! It’s not that hard, and don’t worry if it’s poo the first time around. First drafts rarely ever become the finished product. Just tell your story.
That is really great advice. I often find that finding time to write is one of the biggest challenges to writing a book too, but it is important to make time, like you said. Aside from people asking if you really wrote your book (which just seems rude, by the way! :P), which typical author interview question do you hate the most?
I’m not sure there are any that I hate. I like to talk about my book 😊 Maybe the questions I dislike are the ones about me. I don’t really like to talk about myself.
I can definitely understand that. So we’ll focus on the books now instead! Can you give us a short description of the books you have published?
I currently have 3 books (OMG I can’t believe I’ve written that many!) The first is The Heart of the Guardian: A warrior princess has been cursed by an evil warlock intent on taking control of her home and nearby neighboring kingdoms. She must team up with a fallen prince to help stop the evil warlock and break the curse before it kills her.
Return to Royalty: Nyx is a lost princess from Gexalatia, a world on the other side of a portal. Sent to Texas as a baby, she doesn’t know about her heritage until a mysterious stranger comes to get her. Sparks fly, and not necessarily the good kind.
My newest short story, Jewels for Gemma: Gemma was a soldier in the Galactic Law Enforcement Over Watch (GLOW), but now she’s retired and lives on Earth with her family. A strange jewel comes into her possession, leading her to do things she’d never dream of doing, including trying to murder her husband and returning to the decimated planet of her birth.
Wow, those all sound really interesting! Is there any famous author that inspires you, or that you admire?
I grew up with the typical books, Harry Potter, the newer Nancy Drews, Hank the Cowdog; but the one that changed my life was The Sight by David Clement-Davies. I’d never read epic fantasy until I picked up this book, and I can honestly say it’s the first book that made me actually cry, and I didn’t even cry when Sirius died! His world building and character development was beautiful. I highly recommend The Sight and the sequel Fell, as well as a similar book he wrote called Firebringer. Also, Mary Stanton’s Unicorns of Balinor inspired a lot of my first stories.
You didn’t cry when Sirius died?? That was one of the saddest parts of the series! :P Seriously, though, those books sound great, I will have to check them out!
Your own books are in the fantasy genre. What drew you to this genre? Do you also like to read books in this genre?
I love fantasy. I love that people can do things that are impossible and I love that I can go to worlds that I would otherwise never experience. I’m not a big fan of the urban fantasy trend, as I’d rather escape to a new place with names that are hard to pronounce, hehe. I love the monsters and creatures that can appear in fantasy, especially dragons. I wish I had one! I really enjoy reading fantasy, too, but it has to be something really different from my own for me to pick it up. Don’t want to unintentionally steal someone else’s stuff. Lately, I’ve been on a sci-fi/fantasy kick, and I have the first three books of The Atlantis Gene series on my Kindle. I’m really looking forward to getting into those.
Who is your target audience for this book? What do you think will appeal to them about Return to Royalty?
So you know how when you’re in high school and you have to write a paper and you just BS to fill the word count? That’s how this question started for me. But as I dug deeper into it, I really feel like teenage to young adult girls will enjoy my book. I have a tough heroine, Nyx, and a surly hunky sidekick and mentor in Jet. What’s not to like? I think, besides the obvious hot-guy appeal and eventual romance, what I really want to talk about in this series is how Nyx grows as a young adult and how she takes everything she’s dealt in stride. Nyx believes in love and second chances, and she tries to make the best of things. Jet tends to provide a very pessimistic point of view and sees everything as the world taking a crap on people just because it can, but I hope that he comes around to Nyx’s point of view. She knows how to care about people and when to offer forgiveness, even in situations that don’t warrant this. It might make her seem like a pushover, but I think that’s something we don’t see in female leads anymore. The most popular female MCs carry bows and swords, and yeah, so does Nyx, but she’d rather talk it out and see if an agreement can be reached. That’s what I like about her. She very much embodies light and love and goodness, and I hope that resonates with my readers.
I’ve been reading Return to Royalty this week, and I can say that Nyx definitely does embody all of those qualities, and that is what a like about her. She’s tough, but that isn’t all there is to her! (Plus I love an eternal optimist, because I am one too!)
So when you write a book, do you plan out everything beforehand, or do you let the story follow its own course?
I am not a planner. I just run with it, and sometimes my characters get away from me. More than once they’ve put me in a place where I didn’t know they were going to go, and I had to get creative to get back on track. Sometimes a little spontaneity is a good thing, but sometimes I have to go back and tell my characters that we’re not going that way. Then I have to hold their hands and guide them back where I need them to be. They don’t normally like it when I do that. :D
Haha! I like the idea of holding your characters’ hands and leading them back to where they should be. :) Continuing with our discussion of your writing process, do you have any quirky writing habits?
I need YouTube or some other music on in the background, I need a cup of water and a Diet Dr Pepper on my desk (seriously, I even have two coasters!), and I need my cat Dustin sitting on the end of my desk or in my lap. Perfect writing conditions for me! I also prefer to be home alone so that when I randomly laugh or cry or break out in song no one sees me.
Any writing tips for other writers?
Plan your writing time until you have a schedule. Don’t be afraid to reach out to other writers. We all need to lean on each other, and other writers can be your best friends and critics. Just watch out for the jerks who think they’re better than everyone else.
That is some great advice! Maybe you have some for marketing too. What would you say is the best way to market your book? With which method have you had the most success so far?
I use a lot of social media. I use Hootsuite to plan out a week at a time. But my best sales so far have been from events that I’ve done. At the last one I did on June 24, I had a lady who saw that I was going to be at the event on the host’s Facebook page and she researched my book! When she came up to my table she said, “oh! This is the book I saw online! I definitely want this.” I felt like a rockstar.
Oh, that’s awesome! That’s the dream. :) How did your book come to be published? What was your journey to publication like? Did you get a lot of rejection letters before you finally saw your name in print?
My journey has been unique. I worked on Return to Royalty for a long time before I was ever confident enough to let anyone see it, other than a really good friend and my husband. I was never sure that I would ever finish it or that it would ever be ready to be published. But then last year, in 2016, I happened to get a code for a free membership to AuthorU. I saw that they put on the Draft to Dream contest every year, and I knew I wanted to enter Return to Royalty. I had a month to clean it up and edit and turn it into something amazing, and I did it! I mailed it in right at the deadline, because I’m nothing if not a procrastinator, and I sat on pins and needles until August when the winners were to be announced. The deadline passed and I never heard anything, so I was heartbroken. I thought it just wasn’t my time. But I emailed the office email anyway, just to see when the results would be available to see on the website, and the response I got back was “you are definitely a finalist.” I was ecstatic! I never expected to win the category, let alone have the highest scores from the judges since the contest began! From there I went to the AuthorU yearly conference and met Judith Briles, got in touch with 1106 Design who put my book together and helped me set it all up on Ingram Spark and Createspace, and the rest is history! I’ve learned a ton in just the last six months about indie publishing, and that led me to want to create my business, Infinity Flower Publishing, so that I can help other indie authors achieve their dreams too. So many doors have opened for me. My husband says he never doubted I would win the contest, but I definitely had a lot of days were I thought that my writing was $%^& and why bother, haha. This has always been my dream, and I’m just over the moon right now with all the success I’ve had. I know it won’t stay this way forever, but at least I’m working and doing something I want to be doing, and that’s all I can ask for.
I definitely have to give a shout out to my hubs here, too. He’s supported me, emotionally and financially, and he gets me in a way that no one else does. If I didn’t have him, I’d still be unpublished and miserable, working a minimum wage retail job. It’s important not to quit, but it’s also important to surround yourself with people who will lift you up, or pull your notes out of the trash after you decide you’re simply not worthy.
That is a really inspiring story. I think a lot of aspiring authors can learn a lot from you! It sounds like it is going terrific, but is being a published author everything you dreamed it would be? If not, how is it different? Is there anything you would change about it?
It’s a lot more work than I thought it would be, but I love it. I’m the type of person that will give up after a while if I’m unhappy or if I deem something to be too hard. I haven’t once felt that way since everything took off for me. Don’t get me wrong, I have bad days where I don’t want to do anything and writing is a chore and why the hell do I need so many blog posts??? But I wouldn’t have it any other way 😊
Thank you, Paige, this was a great interview! I think it will inspire a lot of people. I am sure your success will continue on for years to come! :)
To find out more about E. Paige Burks and her books, you can visit her website at www.epaigeburks.com/books. The ebook version of Return to Royalty is on sale on Smashwords all month long for only $1.50. You can also purchase a paperback copy from all major retailers, such as Amazon, or a hardback that comes with a free map of the world in the book!
E. Paige Burks, budding author of The Heart of the Guardian, is a graduate from Texas A&M University with a degree in Agricultural Communication and Journalism.
Her book, Return to Royalty, won the 2016 Author U Draft to Dream Award in the Young Adult category and has been nominated for USA Best Book Awards and International Book Awards.
When she is not writing fantasy and love stories, she enjoys Mexican food, singing out loud, cuddling with her cats, and taking long naps.
E. Paige Burks lives in Houston, Texas with her husband, four dogs, three cats, three horses, and a single bird named Ricki.
About the Book:
Nyx Estrella is a princess from Gexalatia, a world on the other side of a portal. Unfortunately, she has no idea. Sent to Lucky, Texas, when she was a baby to protect her from the evil King Paraximus, her biggest concerns are grades and seeing her friends. She has no idea that she possesses magical abilities and that her reality is about to become really strange.
Jet Lamia is a war prisoner, sent from Gexalatia by the queen, Liana Estrella, to bring Nyx back home to the kingdom of Ymber. The portal only opens on the winter solstice, so Jet finds himself trapped on Earth, trying to blend in. Fortunately, he has help in the form of the queen’s chosen assistant, Seth Alvar. But playing well with others has never been one of Jet’s talents.
It is a race against the clock to tell Nyx her true identity and try to train her, while also keeping her alive. Nyx and Jet struggle to defeat the assassins sent to kill them both, while trying not to kill each other. Can this duo put their differences aside and return to Gexalatia?