Updated: Feb 8, 2021
SmashBear is now home to four wonderful authors: Samantha Atkins, Kelli Call, Tom Jolly and John Ortega. I sent them some questions to get to know them better, as well as their wonderful books.
Tell us about yourself:
SA: I currently live in Rhondda Cynon Taff, South Wales with my partner, Layla, and two children. I also have two dogs, Stella and Lexi, who have helped keep our step counts up during lockdown. As far back as I can remember I’ve wanted to be a writer. I love reading and storytelling and the escapism it gives people. This year I’m taking part in the 52 Book Club: 2021 Reading Challenge and really enjoying exploring the different genres. My favourite genre is fantasy, some of my favourite books being ‘Harry Potter’, ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ and ‘The Hunger Games’, although I do enjoy the occasional period drama. Never really growing up, I still have a huge love for Disney movies and am able to sing most Disney songs word for word – one of my most wasted talents! I also really enjoy the TV show ‘Once Upon a Time’. When not reading or writing, I love spending time with my family. We have a weekly tradition of sleepovers in the living room, where we pull down all the mattresses and curl up to watch movies together – it’s my favourite part of the week.
KC: I grew up in the middle of nowhere Kansas where I passed the time by reading books and making up stories or risk dying of boredom. This method of survival became a way of life. As an adult, you can almost always find me reading a book or writing one.
My husband of nearly eighteen years made me believe in love at first sight, which is why I love to write about it. We have three teenage children that are currently eating us out of house and home, but are great for testing out my writing on. We live in Idaho, near Yellowstone, where we often hike, climb, and kayak our way through the mountains, as I hold either a notepad or book in my hand. I graduated from Brigham Young University-Idaho with a Bachelor’s in Marriage and Family Studies and a minor in English. My first book was published in March 2019. It is a picture book about Sensory Processing Disorder in children called: It’s Not Easy Being A Superhero: Understanding Sensory Processing Disorder.
TJ: I was an electrical engineer at Lockheed-Martin working on the Titan program at Vandenberg AFB for 27 years, then retired and started writing SF and fantasy in earnest, with about 50 stories in print now, mostly in Analog SF and Daily SF. I’ve also been a board game designer since 1985, and a puzzle designer more recently. Been married for 42 years, living in the foothills of Santa Maria, California.
JO: I’ve always loved fantasy in all its forms, TV, movies, plays but I wasn’t a fan of reading until I was in my teens. Before that if you wanted to scare me away then you would show me a book and I would run the other way. I know it’s weird given what I do now, however now a day won’t pass without my nose being stuck in a book. Nothing beats sitting down with a cup of tea and reading a good book. I also enjoy listening to music, mostly instrumental as of late, lots of Fantasy and Irish are on my playlist, playing some video games when I can though not much as of late. I do however love playing tabletop games and do so every week with a group of friends, over Discord due to the pandemic but we still have a blast, Dungeons and Dragons is one of my go-to games and long with Pathfinder where I just lose myself in the mind of a bacon obsessed, ale drinking barbarian goblin.
Give a brief description of your book.
SA: The Wing Thief is set in the magical forest of Letherea. The story focusses on Vista, a fairy who only ever wanted two things: adventure and freedom. After finding herself unable to fly, however, she must find a way to survive on the forest floor. She soon learns that not everyone can be trusted and must now race to save the family she left behind. The Wing Thief is perfect for anyone who is a fan of magic and YA Fantasy.
KC: Every five years during the Festival of the Dead the Captain of Souls comes to the island of St. Peter to collect the spirits that have passed away, and take them on their judgment voyage to either Paradise or Hell. Rogan is resigned to his curse as the new captain until he meets Nemiha. At seventeen, Nemiha is desperate to escape her fate, involving ruin and betrothal to a ruthless man. With each passing day of the festival, Rogan is shaken out of his apathy and rediscovers the humanity that he had lost long ago as he falls deeper in love with Nemiha. She, in turn, learns what it means to be loved and what she is willing to do to keep it. As the inevitable end of the festival draws near and their relationship deepens, both grow desperate for each other and an escape from their fates. However, escape comes with a price. It’s a price that neither can afford—a soul.
TJ: Alex’s gravity turns sideways; his floor has become the east wall of his home. The front door opens onto an infinite cliff. He suddenly finds himself dealing with a criminal organization that wants him, a government agency with similar interests, and a family that needs to protect him. But he also has clues as to why his father disappeared four years before, and nothing is going to stop him from trying to find him. Not even falling off an infinite cliff.
JO: Storm’s Child is an Urban Fantasy story set in modern-day Portland, Oregon. We meet Nathaniel Mercer, Nathan to his friends and he runs an inn for supernatural creatures to go and let their hair down or claws out away from the pesky humans. Nathan has a long and sordid history with the Fae and they think he is dead and he very much wants to keep it that way but life doesn’t always work out the way you’d hope and circumstances forces Nathan to face his past and all the consequences that come with it.
Why did you write your book?
SA: I had always wanted to write a book, but had never had an idea that I felt was strong enough to turn into a novel. Until, one day, whilst waiting for an appointment for my son, he asked me to tell him a story. I began making up a tale of a flightless fairy who lived in a magical forest filled with secrets and my son was immediately intrigued. I saved it on my phone and that night began to write. I felt like it was a story that could appeal to a variety of people. It shows that you don’t have to be the biggest or the strongest in order to be important and make a difference.
KC: You know that old saying, write the book you want to read? I wanted to read a book about a soul pirate that falls in love. However, I couldn’t find it, so I decided to write one.
TJ: I love the idea of humans flying around with no means of mechanical support, and have written several stories involving flying humans. Alex can only fly one direction, of course, but he’s a fast learner with plenty of tricks to try.
JO: For fun. I’ve been writing on and off since I was eighteen years old and Storm’s Child was the latest idea that came to mind after driving in my car one day and was listening to Youtube and the song Tír na nÓg by Celtic Woman came on and the story sang impacted me so much I researched the myth behind it. One thing led to another and I was down the rabbit hole and couldn’t come out. Once I finished, I sent the story to a friend to see what she thought, I never in a million years thought about publishing. But you, my friend, is a very picky reader and after she read the first chapter she told me she loved it and convinced me to publish it and well the rest is as they say history.
What was the most challenging part of writing your book?
SA: I would say the most challenging part of writing the book was finding the time to write. Being a stay at home mum with two children, I had to fit writing around family life, which was particularly difficult during lockdown. I ended up doing most of my writing at night, when my children were asleep. Luckily, I have a very supportive partner, who understood how important this was to me.
KC: I actually wrote this book first in duel first person. After it was finished, I decided that the story would be better in third person. Changing a whole novel’s POV is hard. I hope I never end up doing that again.
TJ: The first version had a lot of sub-stories in it that detracted from the core story. I had to cut them out.
JO: The location, I have never been to Portland though I want to and it's definitely on the bucket list. However, I knew that the type of story I wanted to tell had to have a very specific set of requirements and after looking and researching Portland fit the bill. But I wanted to give the book that local and natural feel to it, so I spent hours researching and looking at pictures of the different places that the book takes place. What helped out a lot was that through a Facebook group I’m a part of, I met someone who lives in the city and we have become good friends. She sends me pictures of the area and gives me her own thoughts about stuff that helped me a lot.
What other books or authors have inspired you?
SA: There are so many fantasy books and authors that I admire, for example: The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins and The Chronicles of Narnia – C. S. Lewis. I’ve always been inspired by the way they were able to create an entirely different world and make it so real that it completely captivated me, making me feel like it actually existed. This is what inspired me to try and do the same.
KC: Cassandra Clare. She does a perfect job with her world-building and character development. Maggie Stiefvater. Her prose and originality make her books unforgettable. Mary E. Pearson. Her stories are completely enthralling and I love them.
TJ: I’m a fan of Christopher Moore, Steven Brust, John Scalzi, Terry Pratchett, Iain M. Banks, and many others. I can’t point to a single author that influenced “The Infinite Cliff.” For my hard SF stories, Asimov, Brin, Baxter, and Banks have been strong inspirations.
JO: I would have to say beyond the classical stuff such as Shakespeare and Spencer. The three authors that have inspired are Ilona Andrews, a must-read for any fans of Urban Fantasy, her books such as the Kate Daniels series, Hidden Legacy among others are a great font of inspiration and enjoyment. Patricia Briggs author of the Mercy Thompson and Alpha and Omega series, her world is a comfort read for me and I just love the characters. Finally, Jim Butcher, author of the Dresden Files and the Codex of Alera series, has always been an inspiration for me.
What is your favourite line from your book and why?
SA: "Let me ask you a question. It’s a pretty straight forward question, but one that you shouldn’t rush to answer. Do you believe in magic?" This is the very first line to my novel and it’s my favourite because it’s the line that was running through my head the entire way home from the hospital that day when I had first thought of the idea. I rushed to write it down so I didn’t forget it, feeling like it was a line that could draw a reader in. I believe that even adults could do with believing in magic sometimes.
KC: “Sacrifice, love, loss, joy, even heartbreak, they are all a part of being human. Love is the very essence of one's soul. To love is to be human.” This book quote is really the deeper meaning behind the story of the Captain of Souls. What is a soul worth? What is love worth? What does it mean to be human? All these questions are asked and explored in this story.
TJ: “A more interesting example might be the Pacific Ocean.” We’ve recently learned that Alex can change other objects to point eastward. This line changes the entire threat-level that Alex represents to the government and others.
JO: "The secret to enjoying life is knowing how much trouble you’re willing to invite into your home," I raised my palms mimicking a balance scale, "Not enough and you’ve lived a meaningless life, too much and you might not survive it. If they want to come and stir the pot, let them, we’ll see who gets burned." I think this encapsulates what and who Nathan is about. He is just a guy trying to live his life and not bother anyone but if you ring his bell you better be ready when he answers.
What can readers hope to learn from your book?
SA: My main character, Vista, is very small, flightless and doesn’t possess any magic of her own and yet she is the most important character in the story. I want readers to realise that you don’t have to fit any kind of stereotype in order to be special. Everybody has something to offer the world and I hope that my book shows people that our differences are what make us unique and they should value themselves more.
KC: I hope my future readers learn that love is worth all the hardships that comes with being human.
TJ: How to have a fun time reading a book, I hope. Or how someone in a tough situation can overcome incredible obstacles with good friends on their side.
JO: The thing I want readers to learn is that there’s magic in the world no matter how ordinary something might seem, if you look at it just right, that barista at Starbucks might actually be a naiad, that local pizzeria by your house, the owner could be a vampire that’s been around since pizza was invented, hell he might’ve invented pizza. How cool would that be? Let your imagination flow and take a dip into the unknown because you never know, when the ordinary suddenly becomes extraordinary.
You're sent away to live on a deserted island, what three things would you
bring with you?
SA: A Bear Grylls survival book, matches and an inflatable raft!
KC: A trunk full of my favourite books. Is that cheating? Music playlists with speakers. Oh yeah, and my family.
TJ: Well, a solar-powered yacht would be smart. Also my wife; she’d be a little irate if I were taking this vacation alone. And the town of Cambria (torn from the coast of California). Yeah, I could live with just those three simple necessities. Oh, and my meds, too, but I could probably get those from the pharmacy in Cambria, just up the beach a ways.
JO: A collection of books, gotta pass the time somehow. A knife, those fish aren’t going to hunt themselves and a flint, nights are cold, gotta keep warm.
If you want to check out any of the books by our lovely authors, you can find them at: https://www.smashbearpublishing.com/books-catalogue