John Ortega is the first author to be published by SmashBear Publishing. His debut novel, Storm’s Child, follows Nathan Mercer, the owner of an inn who, despite trying to leave his violent past behind him, is drawn to an ancient and powerful world when one of his employees mysteriously dies. Ortega discusses his debut novel, his inspirations and the impact of 2020 on writing.
What was the inspiration for your novel ‘Storm's Child’?
The basis of the story comes from Celtic Mythology and the mythical land of Tír na nÓg, the land of eternal youth. I was driving in my car one day and was listening to YouTube and the song Tír na nÓg by Celtic Woman came on. The song impacted me so much that I researched the myth behind it: a love tragedy where a human falls in love with a fae woman and goes to the land of the fae. Years go by and he wants to go back to the mortal world, his love tells him that the world has forgotten him but he insists and goes back. Centuries had passed and he dies as time catches up to him. So I asked myself what would happen if a mortal that lived with the fae for so long escapes to the mortal world and doesn’t die? What would that do to their psyche? Would they consider themselves human or something else? All those questions came to mind and the road to the story just appeared.
Your book is categorised as Urban Fantasy, what drew you to this genre?
Urban Fantasy for me is a genre where the mundane everyday life meets the supernatural, they clash and blend into this fantastic genre that speaks to my soul. We all hear and read about wonderful creatures: vampires, werewolves, the fae and they bring images to our heads. A spooky moonlit forest is where werewolves hunt; a gothic castle on the hill is where we can go get seduced and enticed by its vampire master, and the fae lived in these magical lands where anything and everything is possible. Yet, what happens when we bring these characters into our own world away from the fantasy?
When you walk down the street late at night and feel the breath of something evil chill your spine, you turn around and see nothing but a 24/7 bakery, do you ignore it and keep walking? Or do you go inside because those pastries smell so good and suddenly you find yourself getting charmed by a six-hundred-year old vampire that was a baker in his human life and uses his skills to get a quick meal?
That’s what I find so fascinating about the genre: turning something normal into something more. A baker is not a baker (to reference my earlier example), your mechanic may very well be a coyote shifter, a high school teacher can be a naiad, a private investigator may be the daughter of a millennia's old wizard bent on world domination and she has to stop him. The possibilities are endless.
Do you identify with your main protagonist, Nathan? What characteristics do you share?
I think every author identifies with their characters in some shape or form. As for Nathan and myself? We’re both food lovers. I tend to savor every bite as much as possible and that bled into Nathan and he has been described as a foodie by several readers and they love it.
You’re currently working on your second novel, how is that going? Can you give us any teasers?
It’s going stupendous if I do say so myself: every day I sit with Nathan and he tells me what’s been going on in Portland and I just nod and write it down. Teasers, huh? Well, rule number 3 of running an inn for the supernatural, keep the cauldrons away from the witches.
For future writers out there, what is your advice?
Everyone has a story to tell, it builds inside us and is bursting to come out. So we have to do that story justice. The best way I can think of is to create a writing routine, it doesn’t matter if it's in the morning, the evening or after midnight. The important thing is to write, write and write. Set a minimum word count, say 500 each day for five days, try to reach that goal and have the other two days of the week to rest and recharge. But the most important part is to have fun with it, writing should be a fun experience because readers can tell when an author had a blast writing a book or not.
Outside of writing, what are your other passions?
Reading, lol. Nothing beats sitting down with a cup of tea and reading a good book. I also enjoy listening to music and playing some video games when I can. It helps turn off the old noggin for a while.
2020 has been a hard year for everyone, especially creatives, how have you continued to be creative during a lockdown?
You’re right, 2020 has been a hard year. I think the best way to stay creative is to have some friends to talk to. I have this amazing group where we can chat and just let go of the day's worries. Even if we’re not talking about anything writing-wise, just having that connection with someone else helps a lot. Music has also been a great source of inspiration and escapes for me.
Those two things are what has kept me sane during the lockdown. As for pumping up the creative juices, I talked with several friends where we bounced ideas off each other and debated them. It’s a great exercise, sometimes it's silly stuff like what would make a dragon sneeze harder, a feather rubbed on its nose or some pepper? Others are more serious, like the difference between immortal and long-lived...it’s been a 3-year debate and we’re still going back and forth.
John's books are available to buy and preorder on Amazon!
Buy Storm's Child here.
Preorder Death's Edge here.