Summer Splash Book Blog Tour ~ Author Interview ~ Leslie Conzatti
Summer Splash Book Blog Tour
Make your summer reading SIZZLE with these HOT reads from FRESH new authors!
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
My earliest memory is of finding a kid's novel... I must have been six years old at least. Anyway, I picked up this book because I was interested in the cover. Of course, being an actual novel, there weren't a lot of pictures, mostly text, and above my reading level. But I flipped through that book and stopped at any picture I found—mostly just the illustrations in the margins and stuff—and I made up what I thought the story was about, or I just told myself a story about the picture. It confused me to no end a few years later, coming across that book again and thinking I knew the story... But the one I read was nothing like the one I remembered! That's when I knew I had been bit by the writing bug. I have been making up stories for the pictures in my head ever since.
Do you have a favorite book or series from another author?
Yes. Of course I do! In just about every genre. Mostly, though, I tend to hunt for authors I can rely on to produce fantastic content no matter what series.Shannon Hale's Books of Bayern and the Princess Academy series are wonderful. Cornelia Funke has written a lot of books I love, namely the Inkheart Trilogy and the Mirrorworld trilogy, but also her standalones like Thief Lord and Dragon Rider. David Baldacci writes amazing crime thrillers. His King and Maxwell series is especially wonderful.I love the Inspector Trave novels, a crime fiction series by Simon Tolkien. (Grandson of J.R.R., as a matter of fact)The Ruby Red trilogy by Kerstin Gier is spectacular. I will read anything by Brandon Sanderson. I just finished the Reckoner novels, and I am about halfway through the Mistborn series. The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer is hands-down the BEST fusion of cyberpunk and fairy tale I have ever witnessed. I could go on, but you get the picture!
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
When I am not writing, I like to read a whole lot or watch TV shows on my laptop! As far as my "other job" (besides being a writer), I also work as an elementary school staff assistant.
Where do you get your inspiration or ideas for your books?
All of my ideas start from one of two points: either a random “What If?” question (“What if an average guy at a gala event happens to pick up a fortune cookie that contains a message intended for a terrorist?” becomes the story “The Misfortune Cookie” [http://upstreamwriter.blogspot.com/2014/01/serial-saturday-misfortune-cookie-part-1.html]) or a single scene that presents an interesting premise (A janitor at a small art museum discovers that the “dimensional paintings” are actually live fairies stapled to the canvas and painted over to look fake--that one turned into a novel called “Fairies Under Glass” [http://upstreamwriter.blogspot.com/2013/12/fairies-under-glass-excerpt-discovery.html], which I enjoyed writing so much that I went and wrote a sequel).
Once I have the idea, I will usually go from there and start making a bulleted list of plot points to provide context for the “What if?” or the scene; I am very much a planner because I have so much going on in my head at all times that I lose my train of thought very quickly unless I write it down. Sometimes I will go back through the bulleted list and decide chapter divisions; sometimes I’ll just start writing it as a serial novel and do away with chapter divisions altogether.Then again, the more I get into the habit of writing whatever comes to mind, or whatever feels “in character” instead of trying to stick to “The Plan”, the more I become somewhat of a hybrid between a planner and a pantser, because--just like when writing an essay--I have the basic outline with just vague notes to remind myself where I am supposed to be and where I want to end up, but sometimes the unexpected happens when I go to actually write it, and then I end up switching “The Plan” to match the new storyline.
Do you have any suggestions to help others become a better writer?
I am a strong advocate of learning the nuts-and-bolts of writing a story. I wrote stories before I knew the mechanics, but they were just random, disjointed sensational adventures that had no point and no purpose till I got to the end. After I learned about the elements of literature and storytelling in high school, I feel like my writing improved dramatically. It starts with getting ideas on paper, yes—but then it's important to take those ideas and give them purpose and meaning by considering the structure of the plot and actually asking "What is my message? How do these ideas play into that message? What ideas are fun scenes but they don't have anything to do with the message?" This will help give the plot direction and so it doesn't feel like the ending either drops or forces itself into the story, making it more compact and impactful.
What are you working on now?
Right now, as I am waiting to get my first novella published, I have quite a few side projects going. On Wattpad I have a new project ongoing called "The Water-Man," [https://www.wattpad.com/story/49585258-the-water-man] and it's an urban fantasy set in the 1950s. On my blog, I have just started a sci fi miniseries called "Clan of Outcasts." [http://upstreamwriter.blogspot.com/2016/07/serial-saturday-clan-of-outcasts-23.html]
What is your preferred method to have readers get in touch with you or follow you?
My blog is called The Upstream Writer (www.upstreamwriter.blogspot.com) and I try to update that frequently with writing projects and book reviews. For more direct interaction and non-blogging stuff (though I do share all my blog posts!) I am most frequently on my Facebook author page, www.facebook.com/Leslieconzattiwriter , so that would probably be the best place to contact me directly.
Wattpad: KartheyM http://my.w.tt/UiNb/TixtBDn7wu
What would you say is your favorite thing about becoming an author?
My favorite thing is the fact that people I don't even know will be reading my book, and maybe they'll even enjoy it. The idea that finally I am not writing stuff that "only I" understand or that "only I" like is very appealing to me!
What has been your toughest criticism given to you as an author? best compliment? How did you handle both?
The single most painful moment of my writing career is when I wrote a novel that took me two years. I was convinced that it would be my debut, I had everything just like I wanted—I gave it to my mom and my mentor for editing... And they found fault and weakness in pretty much every scene. I watched this amazing contemporary fiction novel just evaporate before my eyes. I was pretty devastated, and to be honest, I haven't written contemporary fiction since then. I have just reserved myself to fantasy and cyberpunk.
The highest compliment in my mind came out of a spin-off trilogy I wrote based on the Chronicles of Narnia. I wrote it trying to match the style as close as I could, and I have it to a friend to read... And later on, she comes and tells me that her little brother could not be convinced that C. S. Lewis himself did not write it! That sort of thing motivates me to keep honing my craft so that I can match the par of the authors I love so much.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in writing?
I am somewhat of a lazy writer in that I would rather try to make stuff up and make it believable than actually research what it should be. So any kind of situation or character that requires deep technical details and knowledge is really challenging for me. I love to read novels that use information that other authors know, but when it comes to writing I don't do it as much as I should.
What is the most fun part of writing?
The funnest part hands-down is watching the idea go from premise to plot, having a little baby idea and bringing it from beginning to end. I just love it when a plot comes together!
Can you tell us 5 random things about yourself?
I am left-handed.
I play the viola.
I write fanfiction and I take it VERY SERIOUSLY. Case in point: "How To Fanisode" [http://upstreamwriter.blogspot.com/2015/01/how-to-fanisode-or-guide-to-writing.html]
My favorite berry is the huckleberry.
On the top of my bucket list is to visit the British Isles.
Title: The Princess of Undersea
Author: Leslie Conzatti
Leslie Conzatti is an avid reader, a passionate writer, and a committed lover of all things fantasy. A native of the Pacific Northwest, she has been running the blog “The Upstream Writer” since the beginning of 2013, to promote her own writing and as a medium for interacting with readers. In addition, “The Upstream Writer” is an “indie book blog” as well, since Leslie willingly uses it as an excuse to get free books. (to review, of course!) Leslie’s “day job” is a staff assistant at a local elementary school. She is currently in the process of getting a novella published, and hopes to be ready for release by the fall!
This is a tale of two realms: one above the sea, one far below. A tale of two kings: King Davor watches his people grow ever stronger, while the might of King Theodore wanes and withers in the wake of hardship.
Two young royals, set to inherit the throne of their fathers: Princess Ylaine wants to convince her father not to declare war on a species no one has ever seen; Prince Nathan wants his father to see that a loveless marriage will only compound the problems their kingdom faces, not answer them.
Two minds, learning the principles of true leadership; two souls, seeking the full extent of true power; two hearts discovering the meaning of true love--
Before two enemies conspire to destroy their worlds forever.
How long did it take to write the book?
It took about eight months to put together this novella.
What inspired you to write the book?
Actually, funny story: It started as a fanfiction for the show Once Upon A Time. I loved the first season of the show, but I felt like it took a really bad turn, and I really didn't like the way the character of Ariel was introduced, when there was so much already in existence that could have been used, right there in Storybrooke. So I went ahead and wrote a "fanisode" more in the style of the episodes fromThe first season... So when the opportunity came to write an "adapted fairy tale", I just took those portions of the fanfiction that occurred in Ariel's "backstory" in the Enchanted Forest side, and expanded those and tweaked some details, and there you have it!
What do you hope your readers come away with after reading your book?
My hope is that the story will give readers a new perspective on influences. We've all been there, with overbearing parents (like the Sea King in the original fairy tale) wanting something we think is so much better than what we have... But the answer that sources like the Disney movie encourage is a warped kind of "stick it to the man" rebellion, to "make them see" that they are wrong and we are right—and this negative choice gets a happy ending to reinforce it. Child rebels, child wins in the end.
Mine is different; I made a point to place influences in my characters' lives that would give them a choice, and the choices they make have very real consequences, and it's only when they take responsibility in owning these choices that something positive grows from it. So: Be careful of the advice you follow. In the end, you are the one who made the choice and earn the consequences.
What's in store next?
I am in the process of rewriting another full-length fantasy novel that I might consider publishing. This is my first experience and it's pretty positive so far, which gives me hope!
How much of yourself is reflected in this book, and how?
In some ways, I feel like Ylaine, a fish-out-of-water trying to make sense of her world. Then again, I can also take after Nathan, content with my current position in life, until the moment I get forced outside my "bubble", and find that the situation is not at all what I was expecting.
Not much, but I tried to make my characters as relatable as possible.
Why should we read this book and what sets you apart from the rest? What makes your book unique? In addition to the reasons mentioned above, about both main characters having mentors for good or ill, I sprinkled my story with twists and tweaks that would set it apart from the original. One particular feature that I am quite proud of is the fact that instead of trading away her whole voice to become human, Ylaine gives up a very special gift she had received from a fairy at her birth, the gift of a beautiful singing voice. It does not leave her mute, but her voice becomes dull, flat, and with a profound stutter. I quite enjoyed that idea—like she can still talk, but she stutters so bad that people are inclined to still ignore her.
Who would you recommend this book to and what should readers be aware of (any warnings or disclaimers)?
I would recommend this to anybody who loves fairy tales and fantasy. There isn't anything too graphic in it, I kept it fairly clean. About the only thing remotely objectionable for some is the use of magic, but that's to be expected in a fairy tale!
How did you come up with the title?
The story focuses on the mermaid, but she is also the Princess of Undersea, so I called it that.
How did you pick characters’ names?
I loved thinking of exotic names for the merfolk: Ylaine is sort of a twist on Elaine, and Nayidia is based on the name "Nadia" with a "y" thrown in. The humans have traditional-sounding names, like Nathan, Giles, and Theodore.
Who is your favorite character? Why?
That would have to be Giles. Originally, when I set out to write the story, I thought it would be fun to have a character who was the king's steward and was sort of a combination of the Disney characters Sebastian and Grimsby, kind of snooty and standoffish—but then when Ylaine arrived at the palace, all of a sudden I envisioned this character being all helpful and wise and very supportive of this unknown lady who materialized out of the water, and he helps her when the prince gets smitten by another girl—he was just so sweet and kind and a great mentor for Nathan, I didn't have the heart to make him otherwise!
What was the hardest part about writing this book?
The hardest part was definitely filling in the gaps of the plot, bringing it from a simple little fanfiction to an actual fleshed-out story. There were just so many things I could just get away with not explaining in the fanfiction because it was previously-known information... But when it became my own thing, I needed to do more explaining!
Do you have a favorite line or two you’d like to share with everyone?
So many that I can't decide! So in lieu of a promotional excerpt above, I have one of my favorite scenes, the one introducing Prince Nathan.
“Five… four… three… two… one!” He slipped out just as the guards were changing. Hugging the wall and keeping well below any windows, the grey-clad young man crept toward his goal. One more corner, one more hallway—
At last! The mischievous rogue squeezed into an alcove and surveyed his quarry: a fresh berry tart on the windowsill.
“Your Highness!” The cry hurt his pride almost as much as the fierce grip hurt his ear.
“Aww, Giles!” he whined, gripping the servant’s wrist in a vain attempt at getting him to relax his grip.
Giles never relented. “Prince Nathan, what do you think you’re doing?” His eyes immediately went for the tart. “Devising plans of insubordination, I see." [...] Giles laughed and hauled the prince ignominiously out to the hallway. Only then did he release him.
“Ow, Giles,” Nathan rubbed his tender lobe. “I could have you whipped for that, you know.”“I am fulfilling the duties laid down by your father, of looking after you, Prince,” Giles replied soberly. He snorted, “Besides, if you whipped everyone who dared speak against you, Prince, what sort of king would that make you?”
“One with less bruises, that is certain,” Nathan muttered. “Now go and fetch my boots!”
Giles glanced at his stocking feet and shook his head. “Ah, nay, My Prince. You and I both will return to your chambers. It would not do to stuff those sorry, dusty scraps into your nice clean boots that I’ve just shined, now would it?”
Nathan groaned and followed Giles back to his room.