Children of Shadows Author Interview

Hey, gang! Very pleased to be bringing you today's interview with author Joleene Naylor. Jo is a friend and a very talented lady to boot. She runs a cover design business as well as being a fantastic author, and she does a lot of her own artwork for her promotional items.

Here are some trading cards she designed for her series--

Super cool, right?! Jo is giving away a set of these as a prize in her blog tour contest, so be sure to sign up at the end of the interview!
I recently caught up with her to talk about the latest book in her Amaranthine vampire saga, Children of Shadows. Here's what she had to say!

EJ - Okay, true confession time: I JUST watched Interview With A Vampire for the first time (literally last weekend). Loved the dark, sophisticated, sexy, and gritty way it portrayed vampires, and it made me realize just how much modern pop culture has influenced those stories (not necessarily in a cool way--looking at you sparkly, emo fangers smh). ANYWAY, your Amaranthine series definitely seems like a throwback to a darker type of vampire story, and it had me wondering:

What were your vampire influences, and are you treading any new ground? Or is this series a serious throwback to our favorite night stalkers of yore?

Jo - I’m afraid my vampires have very little in common with the Edward Cullen’s of the world. They don’t go in the sunlight. (This is one of the few “cons” to being a vampire, and I think taking it away just makes vampires too strong – like writing an all powerful character that has no weakness.) They don’t go to high school, they fight, they kill, and even the heroes have been caught drinking human blood. They’re brutal and for the most part unapologetic for it. I’ve actually gotten complaints about it. If I had to pick something to compare it to, the movie version of Interview with the Vampire would actually be the closest. (I think the movie has a much darker tone than the book does.)

At the same time, my vampires are inhabiting the human world – our world – and sometimes they have to play by our rules. In Children of Shadows they travel across Europe, but they have to find ways around customs. They have to deal with police officers. There are consequences for their actions, especially for Katelina, the resident human. In the early books when she first leaves with Jorick she loses her job. She loses her apartment. Her mother reports her missing to the police. There’s no fairytale sunset where all their problems just go away. And nobody flies.

EJ - Children of Shadows is the sixth (!) book in the Amaranthine series--which is HUGE. I'm nearing the sixth story in my Moonsongs series, and they are short, so I've had a small taste of how difficult it can be to keep creating within the same universe. At this point (and probably after just the third story), for me it is purely love for the characters that keeps me writing that series.

What keeps pulling you back into Amaranthine? Do you have an endgame in mind, or is this going to be a series that grows until you no longer have anything to say?

Jo - I rarely know what’s going to happen. Children of Shadows was almost as surprising to me as to the readers, so I don’t really have a specific goal in mind, other than to write them until I run out of anything to do with them, or am so sick of them I want them to die. And even then I have so many interesting side characters and back stories that I could drop Katelina and Jorick and concentrate on those for years.

Part of my thinking comes from my own reading habits. I used to read Anne Rice’s vampire books – but only her vampire books. I never bothered with anything else she did. And when she came out with the non-Lestat vampire series, I skipped that, too. I liked the original core characters and their universe – they were why I read her books. Not for her prose, or her imagination, or for her, but for Lestat. It’s the same with JK Rowling. I loved the Harry Potter universe, but I haven’t read any of her other work. Tolkien had it right, I think. Almost everything he wrote, no matter how vastly different, fit into one universe, and so for a fan of the universe, you want to have them all. There’s a certain satisfaction in connecting the dots from one story to another, in seeing how an event on one story inadvertently shaped an event in someone else’s story.

EJ - Do you think vampire stories simply lend themselves to a long series? (They kind of go on un-living forever! LOL) And tell us a little bit about how you've fleshed out these eternal characters and their universe. (I know you've created spinoffs, trading cards, etc.)

Jo - Vampires are actually a branch of the fantasy genre, whether fantasy fans want to own up to that or not, and I think anything under that umbrella calls for at least a few books. Aside from the novels, there are a couple of free supplements. There is a mini prologue collection which goes along with Heart of the Raven, and then Tales from the Island is six short stories that fill in the gap between Heart of the Raven and Children of Shadows. I mentioned side characters in the last question, and I’ve done quite a bit with those as well. I have a short story collection called Vampire Morsels that’s made of seventeen short stories, each about different side characters from the first two books, and I’ve started Tales of the Executioners (The first story, Aine, is free right now on Smashwords, etc.) which will be a collection of short stories about the Executioners, the vampire’s elite police force. The trading cards are actually of the Executioners. I made them for the Ashes of Deceit (book four) release and found an extra set hiding out when we moved this summer, so it seemed a good time to dust them off and throw them in the Children of Shadows giveaway.
EJ - Most folks who follow my blog are other writers, do you have any tips or tools you could share for helping keep things straight when writing a series? I can't imagine the character timelines you've established over six books alone! :)

Jo - Yeah, there is a lot to keep track of. I’m sure I could use some really awesome software, but instead I just have a word document that is about 200 pages long and organized like an encyclopedia with alphabetized entries. Everything from individual vampires, to place descriptions, timelines, the rules of my universe, and more. So if I want to look up what Adam looked like, or who used to belong to Oren’s coven, or just when Jorick got arrested for kidnapping, I can scroll through my “navigation pane” and click on the appropriate heading. I’m actually considering making an Amaranthine Encyclopedia one of these days.

EJ - Last one! Why do we need to dive (bite?) into the Amaranthine universe, and what makes Children of Shadows the best yet in the series? Also, how can we find you and your books? (This is where I'll insert all of the bio info, links, etc you sent.)

Jo - Sharon Stogner, reviewer for I Smell Sheep, hit the nail on the head with what I was trying for with the series when she said, “It is a different look at what it would be like to be in love with a vampire. More realistic.” Children of Shadows is another dose of reality tinted, action packed excitement that sees the continuation of an evil master’s plans and the resurfacing of an extinct vampire cult that wants to wipe out the world.

The sixth installment of the Amaranthine series pulsates with the dark blood of vampire lore.

The Children of Shadows, a vampire cult not seen for hundreds of years, resurfaces to wage war on the vampire guilds. Led by a familiar face, the cult wreaks havoc while Katelina and Jorick are trapped in Munich. Ume, a mysterious vampiress, claims to know Verchiel and offers the help of her secret organization. But can they trust her?

As mysteries are solved, new ones appear. Why have the Children of Shadows returned, and is it really a former ally that leads them, or a look-alike?
Legends rise and secrets are revealed in a world where vampires walk, drenched in blood and shadows. Though it is part of a series, each book is written so that you can pick the series up at any time and dive – or bite – right in. 

An independent author, freelance artist, and photographer for fun who loves anime, music, and writing. Check out my vampire series Amaranthine at or drop me a line at

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And be sure to hop over and enter the giveaway

Spring Re-Freshening - Are Your Books Do for a Makeover?

Hey, gang! Hope all of you have had a great weekend and enjoy an even better week ahead. AND...

I've been busy overhauling the aesthetics of my Moonsongs series recently, and it has brought to mind a dilemma that indie authors (specifically) face:

When should we slap a new coat of paint on our catalogues? How often? Or better still, should we at all?

Here's my reasoning for making a change, and you can tell me if it makes sense to you:

- My stories are all in the same series and universe, yet I'm not sure my current covers would give much indication of that other than the words on the front.

- I'm thrilled when even one person reads my stories, but I'd always love more people to read them. I'm not breaking any sales records, so maybe a change of cover and labeling will help. (I've heard others say it can make a big difference.)

- My first story (Blood Fugue) has been out for well over a year, and I'll be releasing the 6th story soon-ish. This is a logical time to rebrand things and build momentum for the home stretch. (The series will end with #12--to hopefully be published by the end of this year or early next.)

- My current covers are very polarizing. Some people really like them, other people seem to literally hate them. I'm gambling that a more stylistically neutral cover will encourage those sitting on the fence to give them a shot.

- I've never been satisfied with calling these stories "books" because they're technically novelettes. (Moonsongs "books" just fit the series mechanics, and no one knows what a novelette is. LOL) I've seen other authors using television terms like 'episodes' and 'seasons' to label their serialized stories, and I think it's incredibly simple and easy to understand.

- One major tool indie authors have at their disposal is the ability to re-brand and market their work differently whenever they choose. It's a great way to keep your product fresh and visible. (Something businesses do in every industry.) I'm exercising my right. :)

My plan is to refresh the covers, update the electronic files (making sure my author bio matches my current public one, correct a couple of typos that snuck into final versions, make sure I've got my entire catalogue linked in each story, etc.), and evaluating/tweaking my product descriptions.

Here's a sneak peek at my cover overhaul (click the image to compare to the old covers):

I've still got a few tweaks to make, but I'm hoping the consistency (and toning down) in style will yield positive outcomes.

What about you? Have you thought about changing things up? Assuming you're not already a bestseller, do you think these types of changes can bring you more readers?

Most of you know that I'm a contributor over at the New Adult Alley, and I wanted to share news on that front. Beginning in April, the Alley will be doing more than ever to bring all of the important information, fun, and insight on all things in New Adult literature right to your fingertips. 

We have a new forum, newsletter, and more. For more details, click HERE.


IWSG - Modern Author Problems

Hey, gang! It's time yet again for another round of Insecure Writer's Support Group goodness. What is the IWSG? It's a band of merry scribes who gather once monthly to share worries, encouragement, and perspectives on the creativity-enduced madness we call writing.  

Sound like a good time? Click the pic below for more info, a list of bloggers who participate, and details on how to sign up!

Modern Author Problems

Like certain types of sharks, it seems the modern author has a motion problem. Well, a lack of motion problem anyway. If we aren't moving, we die.

Well, maybe more just sink to the bottom of the Internet ocean to settle on the bottom with all the other scuttled things. Which is troubling to folks who want their words to stand out, or at least float enough to be snagged in a reader's net on occasion.

This has been on my mind of late after I read THIS fantastic post by the inimitable Anne R. Allen. In the article, Anne confronts the popular notion that, for indie authors specifically, you have to write quickly to survive. That if you're not constantly bolstering your catalogue, the tide will surely sweep you away.

I loved this little bit of wisdom she shared:

"Because a writing career is not a race or a contest.

It has to be a source of joy. It doesn't pay well enough to be anything else."

She cited one of our dear blogging-writing friends (and the dude behind this IWSG thing), Alex J. Cavanaugh, as proof of this concept.

Alex is an admittedly slow writer. He works full time outside of writing, he plays in a band, and is an insane blogger. But he's also a bestselling author, even though he's only putting out a book (or less) every year. 

Then there are stalwarts like George R. R. Martin, who puts out another volume in his popular Song of Ice & Fire (Game of Thrones) series whenever he damn well feels like it.  

Ultimately, I definitely agree with Anne when it comes to the actual writing, and I sure hope we're right.  Because some of us struggle to do it any other way. 

Sometimes the words flow well for me and I can crank out a few thousand words in a sitting. Other times, I'll labor over a single scene for hours. But there's definitely no consistency to what I do.

However, when it comes to a successful writing career, there's unfortunately just more to it than the writing nowadays. (Which Anne is definitely aware of, by the way--I don't want to suggest that she isn't.)

Alex is one of the most prolific bloggers in existence. He's everywhere, so much so that there've been entire blogfests devoted to trying to uncover his ninja-like methods. :) That guy is moving.

Anne mentions that she is a 'slow blogger', meaning she doesn't post every day. She, along with her co-blogger Ruth Harris, has defied popular logic that content generation is key by winning bunches of awards and amassing a large following. 

Well let me tell you, that lady is a mover too! Her Twitter account is a must-follow, her G+ account the only one you really need in your feed if you're a writer, and her blog posts are like going to school. 

And Martin has an unbelievably popular television franchise keeping us well aware of his universe even when there's nothing new to read. Not to mention, he's been in the writing game a LONG time.

I have to think those things play a part in their publishing success as well. And it has led me to this conclusion: We, the authors building our careers right now, will be successful to the extent we are active. 

If we aren't writing, we need to be blogging, tweeting, pinning, or reading (and sharing what we think about our reading). There needs to be an almost constant awareness of what we're up to or we're essentially perceived to be up to nothing.

And that's where I get all sweaty and gross, because being perpetually engaged is tiring and sometimes just downright unpleasant for me.

I call it a modern author problem, because I don't think authors of yore faced this dilemma. It was expected that you wouldn't hear from an author until their next greatest book was ready to be read. Maybe they'd do the occasional interview on TV if they were really famous, but that's about it. The book WAS the author in that way.

Now, we can (and are) identified by so many other things besides our actual writing that we are forced into a tireless loop of performing if only for the sake of not vanishing completely.

And I don't know about y'all, but it puts me in an ongoing state of inadequacy when it comes to my writing aspirations. There's always something more I could be doing, or doing better, it seems.

What about you? Do you feel any pressure to constantly be present? Are you a slow writer, blogger, etc.? What's your impression of the successful authors out there? Are they pumping out new work at a breathless rate?