Friday, December 13, 2013

Interview and Giveaway with Lauren Sweet

What inspired you to become an author?

I’ve loved stories ever since I can remember. I learned to read when I was three, and haven’t been without a book near me ever since. As a kid, I used to tell myself stories every night while I was lying in bed, before I fell asleep—long, complicated, ongoing stories about me and my friends having fabulous adventures. So writing down my own stories was an inevitable progression, I guess!

Also, once I graduated from college and started working for a living, I immediately decided that a career where I could stay home in my pajamas would be vastly preferable to going to an office every day. It took me 20 years to get out of the office(s), but now I’m a freelance editor as well as a writer, so when I’m not playing around with my own novels, I get to play with other peoples’ and help them make their stories the best they can be. So I’ve finally achieved my work-in-my-pajamas dream.

How did you come up with the title for your latest book?

I’m usually really, really bad at titles. I agonize over them. One of the best things about writing the Bitter Snow series was that the titles just sort of came to me. When I thought of Bitter Snow for a title, I loved it because winter plays such a huge part in the beginning of the story, and there is a bitterness because everything in my character Gilly’s life—including the guy she loves—becomes tainted by this evil that’s taking over her town.

The title for Twelfth Night was easy, because that’s the night when Gilly has to try to banish the demons from Bremerton—the climax of the first three volumes of the story. (And, incidentally, the day it will be released—January 5.) Twelfth Night was supposed to be Volume Two, but about halfway in I realized that it was too long and would have to be split into two parts. Since some major story events are centered around what the demons are planning for the winter solstice—the longest night of the year—the title Dark Solstice popped into my mind for Volume Two, and I liked it immediately. Twelfth Night became Volume Three.

Do you title the book first or wait until after it’s complete?

Usually the title is one of the last things in the process for me, because I usually can’t think of anything and so I desperately poll all my friends, relatives and beta readers for ideas. For this particular series, though, I already have titles for a bunch of the upcoming volumes, even though they’re not written yet. Of course, I have some idea what they’re about because I’m loosely following Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale (“The Snow Queen”), so that helps.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

I don’t really think about specific messages when I write. It’s more about trying to capture certain experiences that readers can hopefully relate to, and then seeing how the characters will deal with those.

For instance,  a lot of people, at some point in their lives, have been in love with someone who only sees them as a good friend. There’s so much hope and heartbreak and tension in that dynamic, and since Gilly and Kai have been best friends since they were little kids, I wanted to explore that friendship part of their relationship—and then see what happens when Kai starts falling for someone else. (Though of course, the fact that the “someone else” turns out to be a demon queen makes everything more complicated!)

But as stories unfold, they almost always end up also being about things I didn’t know they were going to be about when I started writing them. In Volume Two:  Dark Solstice, as Kai began to fall more and more under the Snow Queen’s spell, I realized that the story was also about that urge to turn ourselves inside out trying  to be “perfect” enough to please someone who we want very desperately to love us. And about how damaging it is to compare ourselves to some unreal image of that supposed perfection—whether that’s an airbrushed, computer-altered picture of a supermodel, or an impossibly beautiful demon queen.

The cool thing about writing paranormal and fantasy is that it lets me take those everyday issues and intensify them, making the stakes into life and death. But even though paranormal stories are, on the surface, about things we know will probably never happen to us (like having our town taken over by demons and being single-handedly responsible for banishing them), at the core they’re still about things we can all relate to: what happens when the person you’ve loved all your life starts turning away from you. That one time when you do something you’re not supposed to do, and the consequences are so much worse than you ever imagined. When following your heart can lead you down the wrong path, and the strength and courage it takes to turn that around and make things right.

Hopefully, that’s what allows readers to identify with the characters and their fantastical experiences.

Is the book, characters, or any scenes based on a true life experience, someone you know, or events in your own life?

Not at all! I don’t really like writing about my life. Not because it’s painful or tragic or anything—it’s just that once I’m done living my life experiences, I get bored with the idea of rehashing them on the page. For me, the fun of writing fiction is that you get to make stuff up! Through my characters, I (and my readers) can experience literally anything I can possibly imagine. I’m not trying to diss people who write fiction based on their own lives—I’ve read some wonderful autobiographical (or semi-autobiographical) fiction. It’s just that I personally can’t understand why a fiction writer, with the whole universe to choose from, would want to limit themselves to writing about their own tiny slice of it. But that’s what makes the writing world so rich and varied—we all come to it with different motivations and perspectives.

What book are you reading now?

The Mindjack trilogy by Susan Kaye Quinn
Also, How to Practise: The Way to a Meaningful Life by His Holiness the Dalai Lama

What books are in your to read pile?

Yikes. Hundreds! I have an entire bookshelf and a stack on the floor, and then about 50 more in my Kindle. (Can you say book junkie?) Here’s a taste:
Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin (bookshelf)
Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick (bookshelf)
Blood Moon (Book II of the Huntress/FBI series) by Alexandra Sokoloff (Kindle)
I’ve also been snapping up multi-author fantasy/paranormal bundles on Kindle, like Faerie Worlds and Magic After Dark, for my holiday reading fun! I’m looking forward to discovering some new favorite authors.

What is your current “work in progress” or upcoming projects?

Right now I’m finishing up Twelfth Night to get it ready for its January release. After that I have six more volumes of Bitter Snow to write, so lots of work ahead in 2014!
I also have the second book in my Samovar Mystery Series that’s been on my back burner for months—the sequel to Aladdin’s Samovar, which is a humorous paranormal suspense novel. Book I was about a woman who finds a genie in a brass samovar, and makes a wish that ends up with her, the genie, and her long-lost father on the run from the Mafia. The genie gets her into further trouble in Book II. I have a full draft, but it still needs a lot of rewriting. I really want to get that out in 2014—my readers have been so patient!

Do you have to travel much to do research for your books?

I wish! That would be awesome—I love to travel, and it would be such a good excuse! I’m kind of a lazy researcher, though, so I make up absolutely everything I can get away with making up. As far as the stuff I can’t make up, thank goodness for the internet—I do most of my research online.

Who designed the cover of your latest book?

My cover artist for the Bitter Snow series is Jeanne Gransee Barker, who is a professional graphic artist and happens to be a friend of mine! I love the covers she did for the first three volumes. 

Bitter Snow Series Description

“We are the rulers of Midwinter. In the most powerful cold of the winter, in the deepest dark of the year, we hold sway, and all of your hearth fires cannot stand against us. We are the winds that howl down the chimneys and extinguish your candles. We are the northern lights and the hungry wolves; the bitter crack of ice and the killing frost. The raging blizzard and the deep, soft, final sleep of those lost forever in the snow.”

Bitter Snow is a modern retelling of the fairy tale “The Snow Queen,” in nine novellas. It’s my all-time favorite fairy tale, about a girl’s quest to save her childhood friend from the evil Snow Queen, through her courage, determination, and the strength of her love for him. Each volume is about 80-90 pages (32,000 words). The next three installments are scheduled for release in spring/summer 2014, with the final three to follow later in the year.

Bitter SnowVolume One
Lauren Sweet

Genre: YA Paranormal Romance

Date of Publication:  December 5, 2013

Number of pages: 85
Word Count:  32,000

Cover Artist: Jeanne Gransee Barker

Book Description:

Whatever you do, don’t open the door.

All Gilly Breslin wants for her sixteenth birthday is for her best friend Kai to see her as more than just the girl next door he’s known forever. So when she receives a mysterious, romantic invitation to meet him at midnight, she knows she has to go. 

But it’s St. Nicholas’s Eve, the ancient festival of Bellsnichol, when demons roam the dark winter landscape. Tradition demands that everyone in the tiny town of Bremerton stay inside, doors shut tight against evil.

Gilly thinks it’s just a quaint old superstition. She has no idea that a malevolent power has been unleashed in Bremerton—with Kai as its target. But when she answers her door at midnight, her romantic date turns deadly…and she’s drawn into an ancient web of fear and darkness that threatens everything she loves.

Amazon    BN 

Dark Solstice
Bitter Snow
Volume Two
Lauren Sweet

Genre: YA Paranormal Romance

Date of Publication:  December 21, 2013

Number of pages: 85
Word Count:  32,000

Cover Artist: Jeanne Gransee Barker

Book Description:

On St. Nicholas’s Eve, the festival of Bellsnichol, Gilly Breslin opened her door to an ancient evil. A demon queen who’s slowly destroying Gilly’s best friend Kai—the only guy she’s ever loved.

But it’s not just Kai. Every guy who falls in love with the Snow Queen turns evil—and every guy who sees her falls in love with her.

Gilly’s only hope is to enlist the secret guardians of Bremerton, who may hold the key to banishing the Snow Queen and her minions. But with the town erupting in violence and the demons’ power increasing as the winter nights grow longer, she’s in a race against time to stop them before it’s too late.

Twelfth Night
Bitter Snow
Volume Three
Lauren Sweet

Genre: YA Paranormal Romance

Date of Publication:  January 5, 2014

Number of pages: 85
Word Count:  32,000

Cover Artist: Jeanne Gransee Barker

Book Description:

Winter demons have invaded the tiny town of Bremerton, and sixteen-year-old Gilly Breslin is the only one who can banish them. The only problem is, she doesn’t know how.

Digging through the town’s historical archives, she and her friend Niko piece together clues to an ancient ritual to send the demons back to the dark realm they sprang from.

But the Snow Queen has plans of her own. Her power is greatest at the darkest time of the year, and her evil influence is spreading insidiously through the town, leaving Gilly wondering if there’s anyone left who can be trusted.

The demons must be banished by Twelfth Night, or the town will be lost. But to do it, Gilly may have to sacrifice everything that matters to her—including her soul.

About the Author:

I was born and raised in New Jersey, and books were a big part of my childhood. When I was about three and a half, I became obsessed with a Little Golden Book about a goat that gets a bucket stuck on its head. Since no one would read me the goat book as often as I wanted, I learned to read it myself—and haven’t stopped reading since. It was only inevitable that I turned to writing, so I could create more of the kind of stories that I like to read!

My favorite genres are mystery, sci-fi and paranormal/fantasy. I’ve always been fascinated by myths and fairy tales, and I love incorporating elements of ancient lore into modern stories. I have a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing from the University of Alaska Anchorage, and I currently live near Portland, OR, where I am a freelance writer and editor. My other esoteric skills include astrology, figure skating, and the ability to do a perfect split.

Twitter: @writerlaurens

a Rafflecopter giveaway

December 5 Guest blog
The Creatively Green Write at Home mom

December 6 Guest blog
The Book Landers 

December 9 Recipe for Mama's Monday Kitchen  and review
Cabin Goddess 

December 10 Infamous Cabin Goddess Interview 
Cabin Goddess 
December 11 Interview
Skye Malone

December 12 Spotlight
3 Partners in Shopping, Nana, Mommy, & Sissy, Too!

December 13 Interview
Roxanne’s Realm

December 16 Spotlight
Howling Books and Design

December 17 Guest blog
Fang-tastic Books

December 18 Spotlight
Lisa’s World of Books

December 19 spotlight
Soaring Eagle Publicity

December 20 Spotlight
Night Owl Reviews

December 20 Spotlight
Paranormal Romance Fans for Life

December 23 Spotlight
Book Liaison – 

December 23 Spotlight
Krystal's Enchanting Reads ... 

December 26 Guest blog
Magic and Mayhem

December 27 Interview and review
Nyxx's Nook

December 30 Interview
Pembroke Sinclair

December 31 review 
Mythical Books

January 1 Spotlight and review
Corey's Book Reviews   

January 2 review
Who's Review – 

January 2 review
Fic Central 

January 3 Spotlight and review
Curse of the Bibliophile

January 3 review
Painted Words

January 6 Guest blog and review
Fictional Reality 

January 6 review
Tanyas Book Nook, 


Lauren Sweet said...

Roxanne, thanks so much for hosting me on your blog! Loved the questions--they really made me think about what Bitter Snow is all about!

Hope you and your readers enjoyed it.