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Interview with Elizabeth Lavender

She has a Master’s degree in counseling, a bachelor’s degree in psychology, and a minor in English. She enjoys science fiction and fantasy and hopes to bring some of that same enjoyment to others. She also enjoys suspense novels. 

She is a huge football fan and has a decent throwing arm, despite what her oldest son says when he practices throwing the football with her. Although she enjoys Texas, she does love going home to Alabama to visit. Besides visiting family and friends, it is nice to be back near the water again and enjoy the amazing seafood.

Q.1 Tell us something about yourself not many people know?
My counseling training/degree has helped in writing more intense emotional scenes/battlefields with my characters. If I were to try writing in another genre, it would be suspense/psychological thriller because of my counseling training/degree.

Q.2 Are we going to read more from you in the near future? Any new project you’re working on?
There is absolutely more to come. The Sunspear Series is only at the halfway mark in completion if even that. Shadowed Bonds, the third book in the series, just came out in October 2021. I am currently writing the fourth book in the Sunspear Series. I expect the series to take at least six books to tell the whole story of Dante and The Girl.

Q.3 What inspired you to write the Sunspear series?
It had several inspirations. I enjoy sci-fi and fantasy as well as psychological/suspense thrillers. The sci-fi universe has a Star Wars feel to it because that’s my favorite sci-fi. I also always enjoyed Star Trek. I enjoy the earlier ones in the timeline (the ones with Captain Kirk and Captain Archer) more than the later ones. They seemed more personable/relatable to me. Then there was a sci-fi series I loved as a kid. It was called Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. It was one of my earliest introductions to the sci-fi world, and I loved the characters. The heroes were relatable as well, even though they had cool ships and technology. I’ve always loved the Lord of the Rings Series, so just the epic fantasy feel to the Sunspear Series came from that. The earliest fantasy series that I fell in love with was The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander, starring the Assistant Pig-Keeper who, one battle at a time, becomes more than he thought possible. 

I’m a big fan of the works of Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker, so the concept of this whole other unseen battlefield that comes into play is something that is prominent throughout their work. I’ve made that battlefield as great a role in my series as the sunspear/air battles that one expects from a Fantasy/sci-fi struggle. 

Then there’s the novel Les Misérables. It has to be one of my favorite books of all time. It’s a story of grace and redemption to a convict who ends up spending 19 years in jail for stealing a loaf of bread. The themes of grace, redemption, and sacrifice that are threaded throughout the series were directly inspired by Victor Hugo’s heart-wrenching tale. 

Another favorite is The Count of Monte Cristo. It’s about a young naïve hardworking sailor who’s wrongly imprisoned. While in prison, with the help from another prisoner, he pieces together how he ended up in prison, and upon escaping carefully plots out and carries out revenge on all those responsible for his imprisonment. Only at the end, does he realize he went too far, but it’s too late. The book inspired several parts of my story. It includes the way he changed his personality, once he began carrying out his revenge. The meticulous fashion he implemented is reflected in a couple of major characters and storylines. 

The Sunspear story is a rich culmination of all those influences, and the story began taking shape over twenty years ago in my mind. There was finally a point that I had to tell the story.

Q.4 What is the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
I don’t know that I have encountered any real difficulties writing characters from the opposite sex. Maybe that’s because I’m actually not overly girly myself and at times think more like a guy in certain areas. 

For example, I really hate shopping and enjoy watching a football game over a lot of other things, which I associate more with guys. I think I would actually have more difficulties writing a character that was of the same sex that was excessively girly and prim and proper.

Q.5 How do you develop your plots and characters? Do you use any set formula?
I don’t have a set formula by any means, and I can’t say I have a real process either. The Sunspear Series is my first work. The overall story started forming in my head and the two main characters took shape. As far as plot, I find that once I have the overall story, I know what scenes and information have to get revealed in order to get us to the end of the journey. So, it’s a matter of filling in the gaps or plotting the course. 

For me, my characters show me where that needs to go. I’ve been in my characters’ world and heads and hearts for so long, that the writing takes care of itself. If I’ve gone where they wouldn’t, I’d know it instantly. Honesty, I don’t think it would even get written. As far as characters, the two main characters came easily as I said. The others I built around them and the plot. If I was doing it again with another series, I don’t know if that’s how it would work itself out. For this one, the characters seem to find their own way in a sense.

Q.6 How many books have you written? Which one is your favorite?
I have written and published the first three books in my Sunspear series. They include The Spinning of Deception, Deception’s Hold, and Shadowed Bonds. I’m in the process of writing the fourth book in the series. I can’t pin it down to a favorite as all the books are part of the same series.

Q.7 What was the hardest part of writing this series?
I find the writing part comes easy for me, as I’ve gotten to the point that it feels like the characters write the story or at least direct it to a great extent. I don’t know that one part is harder than another as I feel like once you’ve been with your characters long enough, one scene flows as easily as the next one in the writing process.

For me, the revising or editing part of the process has always been difficult. I have a hard time figuring out when I’m done with the revising/editing of the document. When I finish a scene, I love how it turned out. However, after I’ve revised it to death, I find it’s hard to judge how good it is anymore. It’s not “fresh” for me anymore, and that’s when I usually stop in the revision process. It’s impossible to revise it further because I’m probably actually “messing” it up. 

Q.8 Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
I wouldn’t like it for sure, but since this isn’t what I do full-time, I don’t know that it would be as huge of an adjustment as it would be for other authors. I work full-time as a counselor during the day and do all my writing/marketing for the books during the evenings and on the weekends. So that time would be freed up again.

Q.9 If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead role?
This one was difficult, as I’m not good with keeping up with celebrities. I admit to getting help with this one. So maybe a younger version of Chris Evans (known as Captain America) with brown eyes for Dante. As for the other main character, The Girl, there’s Alexandra Daddario (known as Annabeth from Percy Jackson). The two fit the fighting, courageous personalities that are Dante and The Girl.

Q.10 Is it vital to get exposure and target the right readers for your writing, tell us about your marketing campaign?
It is important to get exposure and target the right readers for your writing. However, my series spans a couple of genres and has a mix of a few different elements, so my readership doesn’t always fit so tidily. The books have the sci-fi element, but its domain lies in fantasy as well. It also has a supernatural/psychological/suspense element because of this whole other unseen battlefield that runs through the series. 
Because of the unique combination, it brings in a unique group of readers. 

For example, there are those that would not normally enjoy sci-fi, but because of the interplay of the other elements, they report loving my series. However, those that enjoy sci-fi, have dived into the series with equal pleasure. 

As far as my marketing strategy, I’m on most of the social media where readers can interact with me at any time. I’m also on social media that’s targeted at readers, like Goodreads and Bookbub. I’m a reader in various groups too. After all, authors were and are readers first, as that’s what inspires authors to write the stories we do. 

I have a website I keep updated that has a place for readers to contact me. I have a monthly newsletter that keeps readers updated on the progress of the Sunspear series, book recommendations in the genre, a question and answer section about the series, current giveaways, and a section to get to know the series characters better.

Newsletter swaps and giveaways with other authors in my genre help as well. Usually, at least two giveaways a month are posted on my social media. I have interviews with various other authors/bloggers about my series to further get the word out. So, my marketing comes from several different directions.

Q.11 What fantasy realm would you choose to live in and why?
. It would probably be Tolkien’s world from the Lord of the Rings. When I think of a fantasy realm, his world is the first one that comes to mind, the standard that most others are measured in a sense. Tolkien’s world had everything too: elves, dwarves, wizards, kings, the best fighters, and hobbits. It had epic battlefields that took our breath away, along with the epic struggle between good and evil.

Q.12 Do you feel any competitive pressure from fantasy movies? If not, why not?
No, I don’t feel any competitive pressure from fantasy movies. Mostly because my writing includes sci-fi and fantasy, with elements of supernatural/suspense. Since it has several different elements besides fantasy, my series isn’t a direct competitor with fantasy movies.

Q.13 Do you ever research real events, legends, or myths to get ideas?
I don’t ever research any real events, legends, or myths to get ideas. The only research I do is for choosing character and place names.

Q.14 Among all the supporting characters in your book, who is dear to you and why?
To choose between them… why would you ask such a thing? I created all of them and it’s not possible to choose one. They are all dear to me, at least the ones fighting against the Dark Lord. So, I’ll just pick one and tell you why that one is dear to me. 

Alena is one of my supporting characters, and she’s the constant comrade to The Girl. However, she’s much more than that. She’s the sister The Girl never had, the one that pulls The Girl back when she goes too close to the edge. She’s the shoulder always there for The Girl to cry on and the one that can be trusted with The Girl’s deepest secrets. We all know her because hopefully, we all have an Alena in our world. She’s that sister, our closest friend, our confidant that we turn to when our world falls apart, and we need help putting the pieces back together.

Q.15 Who designed your book cover? How do you select him/her?
All my book covers are designed by Arcane Book Covers. I just went on the internet and checked several designers and looked at their work before settling. I can’t say enough about the amazing job they have done on all three book covers, and I have no doubt they will continue to do for the rest of the series. Each book cover in the series is directly related to the storyline at that time. 
For example, in the first book, there are two sunspears, a dagger, a cloaked figure, and a blue eye pictured. The two sunspears represent the two sunspearbearers, Dante and The Girl. The cloaked figure is the Dark Lord that is central to the deception in the book, but it also represents the darkness that runs through the series. The dagger has to do with the past event that is of utmost importance that gets everything else in motion. The blue eye has to do with The Girl who has the gift of visions in the book, which is pivotal throughout the series.

Q.16 How do you select the name of your characters?
I pulled up a list of boy and girl names and their meanings and chose based on that for the most part. There are a couple of exceptions, just names I liked, even though their meaning wasn’t anything particularly special.

Q.17 Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with good or bad ones?
I do read them. So far most of them have been very good, four and five-star reviews. The good ones are encouragement for continuing to write. I would anyway, but with working full-time and balancing the writing in the evenings and weekends, I admit it does get hard. It’s always nice to see when someone takes the time to say they enjoyed the series and why. It helps me to know what I’m doing right as well in the series, what really resounded with the reader, and what I can do better.

As far as a bad review, I can’t say I like them. However, in many cases, there’s a kernel of truth in them, so I can possibly use it to make improvements in the writing. It just depends. The one review that wasn’t favorable mostly had to do with the person not liking the entire genre and didn’t realize that before reading the book. So, someone reading that genre would probably enjoy my book; mainly I didn’t worry about it.

Q.18 Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?
I would enjoy meeting Mark Hamill, also known as Luke Skywalker. He’s one of my all-time favorite heroes. There are celebrities that their screen character/hero is very different from their actual off-screen real-life persona. From what I have read about Mark Hamill, that can’t be said of him. All that we admire about Luke Skywalker’s character is very much a part of Mark Hamill’s real person. So, I would enjoy meeting him for real.

Q.19 What is your favorite book from other authors and why?
I have several favorites, so that’s almost an impossible question. One of my favorites is the Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander. It was my earliest introduction to fantasy, the one that sealed my love for fantasy. The series has everything, from the epic battle of good vs evil that makes fantasy amazing. It has the battlefields that leave the reader trying to catch their breath. Then there’s the characters that we fall in love with, that we root for to win the day and we share their grief when they lose what is most precious to them.

Q.20 Share the experience of your journey so far?
As with any journey, the scenery is always varied. There are plenty of stretches of the pleasant skyline, but there are always occasional thunderstorms that burst forth and thorny weeds that reach across the path. In this journey, I’ve met a courageous group of characters that continue to reveal themselves in more amazing ways the more time I spend with them. 

In a separate journey, I’ve met readers and authors that have come alongside me, I never would have met if I had not started the Sunspear journey. Both inspire me in this journey, to keep discovering the wonder that lies ahead. Of course, there have been harder stretches, like the refining process in the journey, better known as editing or revising. Then there have been challenges, like navigating certain parts of the path, like social media or the business part of being an author. These are the places in the path that made me want to leave the path altogether at times. 

Yet I struggled through the thorny vines that threatened to overwhelm the path before me and continue to learn how to break through them, so I could continue on the journey. I’ll keep going because you battle through the ugly patches to reach the beauty of the other side of the pathway. The splendor of a blue sky on a cloudless day or a gorgeous sunset over the emerald expanse is certainly worth the journey.

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