To begin, I want to say that it is an honor to be able to interview you just as your new novel is being released. It’s an exciting time for an author, albeit a busy one. I enjoyed reading When Stars Die. For me it was an adventure as well as a chance to gain insight into the Young Adult genre. I’m pretty sure your readers will be as impressed as I was with your ability to create suspense. I was equally taken by the imagery you created. I sure hope you have more like this one.
Readers can find my review of Amber Skye Forbes’s When Stars Die here on this blog.
So we should get started:
Q: Would you mind giving readers a quick overview of the plot line for “When Stars Die?”
A: Amelia Gareth discovers that her brother is a witch, so she joins a convent to cleanse the taint from her family, as witches are abhorred in her world. She believes that by becoming a nun, she’ll become closer to Deus, the god in their world, and he’ll forgive her family of witchcraft. But she soon learns that redemptions is impossible; however, she is still determined to get into Paradise. The only person who may be able to help her with this is priest, Oliver Cromwell, but will he really be able to help?
Q:Where and how did you decide on the theme and setting for your novel?
A: When Stars die was originally going to have its own world, with continents and everything, but I realized that I mainly focused on one country, Warbele, so I knew it just needed to be a country in our world, albeit an alternate universe. I wanted to make up the country because I wanted it to have a vastly different outlook from the rest of the world. The rest of the world finds the murder of witches inhumane, but Warbele does not. Warbele is also separated from the rest of the world, for reasons that will be revealed a little bit in book 2, and a lot in book three.
As for the theme, which is stars, I came up with it because I am overall fascinated by stars and that we are made of star stuff. When stars die, they go out leaving a lasting brilliance. Even if some of them just quietly scatter away from their cores, their stardust does not go to waste. Similar to humans, as Amelia muses, we leave something behind, and she desperately wants to leave something important behind when she dies. So stars will be a motif throughout the trilogy, and the way I treat stars in each book will determine the titles. The second book is called The Stars Are Infinite.
Q: Who or What inspired you to write this book?
A: I think the Salem Witch Trials actually inspired me to write this book. I knew I wanted to write about witches, with a different, original twist from the usual stories of witches, and I also wanted to add convents, as a witch being a nun in a convent is blasphemy in Amelia’s world.
The rest just came from my head—really no external sources. Libba Bray’s A Great and Terrible Beauty inspired the Victorian aspect, but everything else just poured from my brain—and sometimes I’m still in disbelief that it all came from me.
Q: What genre would you say is a best fit for “When Stars Die?”
A: Paranormal romance simply because the romance aspect of the big is important, though it’s very dark. Some reviewers have said that if you’re expecting Twilight, you might as well turn away because my book is not your typical paranormal romance.
Q: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
A: I would say a year. I started it at fifteen and switched between that book and its sequel.
Q: How did you decide on using a first person point of view for your main character?
A: First person point-of-view will probably always be my favorite POV to write in, simply because it is a very intimate view into a character’s thoughts and feelings. Since I am a very emotional writer, first person makes a lot of sense to me.
Q: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
A: I suppose A Great and Terrible Beauty and any of Cassandra Clare’s books. Like I really think that if people enjoyed those books, they’ll certainly enjoy mine.
Q: Who do you think should pick up a copy? Maybe you could tell us a bit more about how you decided on your target audience.
A: I really think teens should because the book is aimed toward them. Amelia is still young and very indecisive, so she experiences typical teen feelings, even though what she’s going through is not typical teen things. However, I know more adults will inevitably buy my book simply because way more adults than teens are buying YA books due to teens often not having the money to buy books. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who is buying my book, so long as they enjoy it.
Q: I understand this is your first published novel but you’ve written others? In fact you wrote the sequel to “When Stars Die” first. Could you tell us a little bit about your process?
A: I have written others before it, but they were very immature novels with unsalvageable stories. The Stars Trilogy, even though I started it young, was a trilogy I felt very strongly about because I knew that the story could mature as I matured, and that it had a lot more potential than anything I had ever written.
I wrote The Stars Are Infinite at fourteen, and it was a 180,000 word monster. I began re-writing it when someone told me 180,000 was way too much. I parced it down to 96,000, but the story still wasn’t where it needed it to be. Then Georgia McBride came along and began looking at it, and she really unearthed the potential that the book held. So after writing it, I realized that When Stars Die needed to be the first book because a lot of what readers learn in the second book is too much in the beginning, so When Stars Die breaks all that information down throughout the duration of the book.
I have already finished The Stars Are Infinite, and I estimate it, after revisions, to be around 93,000, perhaps last. But sequels often are longer than their first books.
Q: I read almost everything on my e-reader these days. Is there an eBook version? What about other media such as audio books?
A: Yes, there will be an e-book version, and I have every confidence that it will do well, especially because my marketing efforts and AEC’s have generated so much buzz than I ever could have expected in the beginning. Authors do NEED to do marketing on their end because they are now able to with how prolific the internet has been as an advertising medium. So I have been seeking tons of interviews and doing guest blog posts and what not on my own, as well as receiving exposure from AEC’s end. But, again, we as authors do need to contribute to marketing efforts, whether it is a big or small press, and not fully rely on our publisher to do it. I have seen books with big presses do abysmally with sales because there is no buzz surrounding them, the author doesn’t seem to be taking any effort to generate that buzz, and the publisher only seems to be looking at Kirkus Reviews and other review-oriented things, which are likely not read by your average reader.
What I like to do with the extra money I have at the end of the month after paying ballet tuition is buy book blitzes on book PR sites. They’re often only 30 bucks, and even if they don’t generate sales, they generate exposure, and that is what I’m primarily seeking right now, which is why I believe the e-book version will do well—and hopefully print sales will correspond, though my research has yielded that e-books often do far, far better. So I’m very attentive of the publishing industry and what small presses like AEC are doing to generate buzz for their books. I love to follow Spencer Hill, especially because it is such a successful press, and I know AEC can and will get there.
And I would LOVE LOVE LOVE an audio book, but that is totally contingent on what AEC Stellar thinks. I understand Val Vogel’s book is being translated into Chinese, which I think is amazing because his book will do very well over there since the Chinese economy is so large and business-oriented. I think that was a very smart business move. So hopefully my book will have an audio book—among other things.
Q: I understand you’re working with a publisher specializing in partnerships with independent authors like yourself. Could you tell us a little bit about how you made your connection with AEC Stellar, Inc. Publishing?
A: I found AEC Stellar through Shannon Thompson’s blog, and I can’t even tell you how I found her blog. I must have found it while going through the reader on WordPress. But I saw she had a paranormal romance like mine being published by them, and I was very curious, so I clicked on them. I read their guidelines and everything, and I liked how they were willing to work really, really hard with their authors—like they didn’t expect absolute perfection. I mulled on them for a few days, in fact.
I had a blurb that I knew was ready, as they didn’t require query letters, so I subbed, they asked for a partial, loved it, and I was accepted. After reading over the contract, I liked the terms and signed with them.
I have loved being part of AEC Stellar. It really is a partnership because Ray is really willing to listen to any ideas that any of we authors have to improve upon marketing efforts or whatever. I know authors in other small presses are often dissatisfied with marketing efforts and bring this up, but the presses aren’t willing to change what they do. In fact, they’ll get straight up offended, but not Ray.
This flexibility is why I want to stay with them, why I want to continue publishing. Ray and I had a recent talk, which will remain hush-hush, and it made me realize just how glad I am to be with AEC. I KNOW I will find success with them. I feel like I’ve found success right now, but I know with them, I am confident I will reach my dream of being a bestseller—after all, we do have one who is.
You can find and follow Amber and her writings at the following locations: