Curiosity Quill's 7 better boyfriends than Christian Grey

7 Better Book Boyfriends Than Christian Grey

Valentine’s Day  can be a tough holiday, sifting through the perennial hearts, boxes of chocolate, teddy bears, and gooey sentimentalism that swamps every store at this time of year. And this particular year, you’ve likely already been inundated with hype for the Valentine’s release of Fifty Shades of Grey. Yes, we know it’s a bestselling, popular, and possibly sexy book. We get it. But what about those of us looking a  more colorful Valentine’s Day? What about the readers who aren’t fangirling over Christian Grey? Is there no hope for the rest of us?

Of course there is! There are a ton of potential book boyfriends out there who offer an alternative to Mr. Grey and his billionaire BDSM ways. Check out this selection of books featuring to-die-for heroes who all stand out from Fifty Shade’s eponymous hero in important ways:

  1. He’s An Alien

Damon Black, Jennifer Armentrout’s Lux Series

Origin by Jennifer Armentrout

It’s hard to get farther away from obsessive billionaire than alien-in-hiding Damon Black. When you first meet him, he comes off as a huge jerk. A huge sexy jerk, actually, because sparks fly when he meets Katy, the book blogger next door. (Yes, I know! It stars a book blogger!) He had me from the first “Get lost.” It’s not the predictable taming-of-the-bad-boy, either. The heroine is almost as bad, in her own way, and the chemistry between the two of them works because Armentrout knows how to tango on the fine line between rage and passion.

  1. He Has Tattoos

Irial, Melissa Marr’s Ink Exchange (Wicked Lovely #2)


Irial definitely looks the part of bad boy, covered as he is in ink. And boy, do his outsides match his insides. Irial is appealing because he’s a very dark character, but his actions are all driven by need and circumstance. As King of the Dark Court, he murders, maims, and tortures- anything to keep his court, and the ones he loves, protected. And when he does love, it’s brutal and ferocious and neverending.

  1. He’s Not Attractive

Terrible, Stacia Kane’s Unholy Ghosts

unholyghosts by Stacia Kane

Another not-for-the-faint-of-heart hero, Terrible lives in Downside, where drug kingpins make all the rules, and vicious ghosts hunt the living. He’s the only book boyfriend who isn’t attractive. In fact, he’s hideous, which I find a welcome change. We could use more ugly heroes and heroines. He’s also a gentleman, holding doors open for ladies, and a fierce protector. He doesn’t judge, either; his girlfriend is a drug addict and witch. Sounds dark, I know, but the series is a lot of fun. 

  1. He’s Older. Much Older.

Jamie Frasier, Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander


Although Jamie Frasier has a few things in common with Christian Grey, on the whole he couldn’t be more different. For starters, Jamie is about 250 years older than his significant other, the very lucky time-traveling Claire Frasier. She winds up in eighteenth century Scotland, subject to the same restrictions placed on all women of that time. Jamie keeps her secret and helps her adapt. He’s also dead sexy, and has this whole old fashioned alpha male thing going on. This is an older but much beloved series, and if you haven’t it read it yet, you should. The Starz original series begins airing again in April after a much too long winter break.

  1. He’s an Immortal Warlock

Magnus Bane, Mortal Instruments series


Sexy hair? Check. Insanely powerful magic? Check. Dreamy eyes….Yep, cat eyes are sexy, CHECK. Magnus is the full package, and he’s eternal so he clearly knows his way around the sack (just saying). While there is the whole issue of him never aging, he throws his whole heart into his relationship with Shadowhunter Alex, and he agrees to keep is a secret until Alex feels comfortable coming out of the (most likely weapon-clad) closet. There is something about Bane’s complete and unapologetic ownership of who he is that is inspiring and endearing. Maybe instead of a romantic embrace with a special someone this Valentine’s, we should all work on embracing who we are a little more.

  1. He’s Your Anchor Between Alternate Realities

Brandon Mackenzie, Altar of Reality

Altar of Reality Cover

This is one of ours, but I’m in the middle of reading this book and completely in love with best friend Brandon. Basically, epileptic MC Madeline has seizures that transport her reality from the world she remembers to an alternate warring version of her reality, but the strangest thing is that even though she has no memory of the world, the same people are in both realities, most importantly her best friend Brandon. He is her life-line in both worlds, protecting her from harm whether it be from gunshot or his relationship-stunted brother, Thomas. Bottom line: He’s sexy, sweet, and a pretty badass soldier in one world, so I’ll take him with a side of ice cream any day!

  1. He’s a She

Celaena Sardothien, Throne of Glass series


Okay, so I’m not seriously suggesting Celaena, the King’s Assassin, as a Valentine, since she’d just as soon use a stuffed bear for target practice. (She would definitely eat ALL The Chocolate, though.) If you like the ladies, how can you not throw a kick-butt heroine like her into the mix? I mean let’s be honest,  she would likely make a MUCH better date than many a boyfriend of V-days past.  Though there is a small chance that you could end up in danger or tied up, it’s definitely not in the same fashion as Mr. Grey. Because even when Celaena is with a love interest, she’s still fiercely independent and capable of holding her own. And that’s an important quality to have on a holiday so drenched in sugar and togetherness: independence.


Just Call Me Dream Crusher

My official title at CQ is Director of Marketing and PR, but what I should actually be called is The DreamCrusher.

The truth is, a sad but very prominent part of my job is managing expectations. I keep authors within the reality that is oh-so evasive to the newly published, and make sure the disappointment doesn’t completely dismantle their ambition to write. This sounds cynical, I know, but bear with me.

Let me walk you through the typical expectations an author has (whether consciously or not):

  • Write a book
  • Get it accepted within a couple of months
  • Make a few edits then publish the book
  • Get oodles of media press coverage, everything from the local television station to NY Times
  • Sell tons of copies of your first ever novel, making enough money to become a writer full-time

Now let me give you one example of an actual, very possible outcome:

  • Write a book
  • Get rejected by at least 5 publishers, or not even hear back
  • Finally get an accept, assigned an editor, and get your MS back in shambles
  • Release day comes, you get some decent sales the first 2 weeks and then it drops severely. You’re now making $30 a month from your book
  • Get a few local newspapers and maybe a TV station or two to feature you
  • Start all over, because you won’t be able to sustain a living on anything less than 4 books unless you catch a break and make it big. Do not count on this

Sounds pretty brutal, I know. That’s how publishing is every day though. It’s brutal. It’s emotional. It’s competitive. I’ve had authors drop their 9-5 the second their first book is out, and then email me a month later confused as to why they aren’t rolling in disposable income. The fact of the matter is, there is a lot of competition out there. There’s social clutter to break through, thousands of authors to beat out, and 2 million other books in a given genre that could be picked over a single book.

It’s also creative and exciting and personal, if you can get past the difficulties. Become an author because you love to write, because you have stories to tell, because you are good at it. Don’t become an author to be the next J.K. Rowling, or to make a million dollars. This industry is tough, so you need to love what you do. The best thing you can do for your career is to spend 70% of your focus and time on writing, and 30% on everything else. Marketing is extremely important, but you can only promote one book for so long before you sound like a broken record.

My advice?

Write. Write some more. Give everything you have and expect absolutely nothing in return except a nice review on Amazon every once in a while. Believe in yourself, but listen to the realistic goals set by your publishers and agents.

And of course, stay gold Ponyboy.

Author Ghost Stories: Hello Poppa

Hello Poppa

by Michael Cristiano

This Halloween, Curiosity Quills authors are spreading the spookiness by sharing their own personal paranormal experiences. Get haunted with these bone-chilling blogs, or post your own! #myghoststory.

Poppa IWe called my maternal grandpa Poppa and he died in 2001 when I was ten years old. His death was sudden: into the hospital one day and then gone the next. No one saw it coming and he was relatively young, just shy of his 67th birthday.

The death was hard on us: my immediate family was devastated, my extended family was devastated, and my Grandma was never quite the same. But even though he had departed from us, he didn’t necessarily go away. Following his death, we began to see signs that he was still around.

The day of his funeral, my father and I sat outside the church just after the service. I was especially upset. Poppa had been my best friend. I would skip school and pretend to be sick just to hang out with him. While I was sitting there, I felt something flutter by my ear. I looked up and saw that a butterfly circled me and my father and then swept across the parking lot to the remainder of my family. It went up to each family member and finally to my Grandma, where it lingered the longest.

The photo that fell over in my bedroom. My Poppa and me at my first communion, circa 1998.

The photo that fell over in my bedroom. My Poppa and me at my first communion, circa 1998.

A butterfly, you say. I’m supposed to be convinced of my ghost story by a little butterfly? Well, those butterflies didn’t go away, not around my house or the house of my family in the months to follow. They lingered near the windows and around the parked cars, greeting us whenever we went outside.

Other strange things began to happen around my house too. I woke up once in the middle of the night and went to the bathroom. From where my room was, it was easy to see the landing and the stairs. Though it may have been my overactive imagination (I’m a writer, remember?), I saw a shadow at the bottom of the stairs. As I ran from it, as overactive 10-year-olds do, I barricaded myself in my room and turned on my light. I calmed myself and just as I did, I heard a noise: a thud not far away. I looked into the corner of the room where a picture of my Poppa and me usually stood on my desk.  It had fallen over onto the floor.

Most creepy of all, my mom and my aunt went to a psychic as a way to get some closure. According to my mom, the psychic guessed that my grandfather had passed before either mentioned it, but she also went on to say something else. I normally don’t believe in psychic abilities, but even this surprised me. The psychic told my mom that my Poppa was still around—in fact, he was in our house.

“He’s in the yellow room,” the psychic said.

“Yellow room?” My mom asked. “We don’t have any room painted that color.”

But apparently we did. The psychic was adamant. My mom went home confused and with a little less closure than she wanted. In any case, she went on with her life, slowly overcoming the loss of her father and returning to normality. One day, my mother sat in the study working on one of her freelance writing projects. She turned on the lamp beside her, the sun setting as she worked well into the evening. When her eye caught sight of the wall behind the computer screen, she put her hand to her mouth.

Though the walls were white, the fabric of the lampshade was a light gold. It illuminated the room and shone on the walls. My mom was sitting in the yellow room.

Years passed and the butterflies went away and sure, I was still running from shadows, but they were largely fueled by raging hormones and high school gitters. One day, I was home alone studying for my grade nine English exam. We had just gotten a dog, a beagle-basset hound cross named Tessie. During my cramming, the dog started barking. She only ever did when someone was at the door but when I went downstairs, there was no one there. Instead, I found her in front of an antique chair in the study that Poppa had given my parents, sitting and barking and wagging her tail.

I turned on the lamp.

Hello, Poppa.

Other Stories:

J.E. Anckorn | Samantha Dunaway Bryant | Katie Hamstead

10418505_10152144249720064_3539865657594422553_nAbout Michael Cristiano:

Michael Cristiano is a Canadian writer. His relentless obsession with fiction began long before he could even spell the words ‘relentless obsession’. Growing up in endless suburban sprawl, he spent most of his childhood getting lost in fantastical masterpieces and attempting to be published by the age of thirteen.

When he isn’t writing or reading, he can be found planning his next backpacking trip around the world. He is a recent graduate from the University of Toronto with studies in Foreign Language and Linguistics. Previously, he attended a Regional Arts high school where he majored in drama. He is fond of all things dramatic.

Michael currently resides in the Greater Toronto Area and he is using his years as a twenty-something to establish what he hopes will be a long career in writing. His debut novel is due for publication in 2015.

Find Michael Cristiano Online:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads


Halloween Reads By Creature! , ghosts, witches, werewolves, books, reading,

Our Picks for Halloween Reads…by Creature!!



Charming, Krystal Wade

Charming Facebook Cover

Heart Chants, Randy Attwood

Heart Chants Randy Attwood

Schwardzchild’s Radius, Gustavo Florentin

schwarzschild's Radius, gustavo florentin




Return of the Loving Dead, Stan Swanson

return of the loving dead, stan swanson

Dead New World, Ryan Hil

Dead New World Ryan Hill zombie YA book

Dead Detective, Rod Kierkegaard and JR Rain

The Dead Detective, JR Rain, Rod Kierkegaard




Real Vampires Don’t Sparkle, Amy Fecteau

real vampires don't sparkle, amy fecteau

Vampire’s Last Lover, Aiden James and Patrick Burdine

Vampires last lover aiden james patrick burdine

The Other Lamb, Katie Young

other lamb katie young



Book of Bart, Ryan Hill

Book of Bart, by Ryan Hill - Wallpaper

Wilde’s Fire, Krystal Wade

Wilde's Fire, Krystal Wade, Darkness falls book 1

Catch Me When I Fall, Vicki Leigh

Catch Me When I Fall, by Vicki Leigh - Wallpaper

Darkness Watching, Emma Adams

darkness watching emma adams




Curse Merchant, J.P. Sloan

The Curse Merchant, by J.P. Sloan - Wallpaper

Memories of Murder, Yolanda Renee

Murders, Madness, Love, by Yolanda Renee - Wallpaper

Devil You Know, KH Koehler

The Devil You Know (Nick Englebrecht, No. 1), by K.H. Koehler - Wallpaper

Serendipitous Curse: Reborn

The Serendipitous Curse: Reborn, by Aiden James - Wallpaper



Gateway Through Which They Came, Heather Marie

Gateway, by Heather Marie - Wallpaper

Division Zero, Matthew Cox


Lost of the Edge of Forever, Michael Haley

Lost at the Edge of Forever, by Michael Haley - Wallpaper

Remembering Kaylee Cooper, Christopher Francis

Remembering Kaylee Cooper, by Christopher Francis - Wallpaper

One Ghost Per Serving, Nina Post

One Ghost Per Serving, by Nina Post - Wallpaper

 Dead Dreams, Michelle Wright

Dead Dreams, by Michelle Wright - Wallpaper



Exacting Essence, James Wymore

exacting essence, James wymore


Gathering Darkness, Lisa Collicutt

The Gathering Darkness, by Lisa Collicutt - Wallpaper

How to Date Dead Guys, Ann Noser

How to Date Dead Guys, by Ann Noser - Wallpaper

Escape from Witchwood Hollow, Jordan Elizabeth

Escape From Witchwood Hollow, by Jordan Elizabeth - Wallpaper



Rex’d, Jack Reher and J.B. Skelter

Rex'd, by Jack Reher and J.B. Skelter - Wallpaper

Five: Out of the Dark, Holli Anderson

FIVE, by Holli Anderson - Wallpaper

Fade, A. K. Morgan

Fade, by A.K. Morgen - Wallpaper





Undead: Playing for Keeps

The Undead: Playing for Keeps, by Elsie Elmore - Wallpaper

Deadgirl, B.C. Johnson

Deadgirl, by BC Johnson - wallpaper

Death the Devil & Goldfish




Leap of Space

Leap of Space, by Sharon T. Rose - Wallpaper

Without Bloodshed

without bloodshed, starbreaker, matthew graybosch


Redeye, by Michael Shean (Wallpaper)

Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’m a Supervillain

Supervillain, by Richard Roberts - Wallpaper

Too Much Dark Matter, Too Little Gray

too much dark matter too little gray, mike robinson, sci fi anthology

Operation Chimera

Operation Chimera, by Tony Healey and Matthew S. Cox - Wallpaper


FREEBIES are destroying publishing

Let me make one thing clear before I dig into this: Like anyone who was a college student at one time, I’ve learned to love free things. Who doesn’t really? That said, working in the publishing industry has caused me to greatly reconsider freebies, and actually grow to dislike them. Let me explain-

Before digital books and e-readers existed, doing a 100-book giveaway was so not a thing that happened for most publishers. Especially for CQ, still only 3 years old and learning to walk and talk, giving away hard copy books isn’t something we do everyday, and almost always is a straight loss for us. But we don’t live in the ‘90s anymore (RIP Walkmans and cassette tapes) and e-Books do (thankfully) exist.

As you all of you know, this led to an insanely large boom in new authors, and the amount of books being published each year, which at first I was flapping around about. Now though, I’m feeling more like Gob from Arrested Development.


Since there are so many books competing for attention over each other (and, let’s be honest, Netflix), many without the resources of big publishers, the obvious way to earn more sales and attention was to offer your book cheaper, and since the cost of printing was zero, why the hell not, right? Wrong. Because the price keeps getting lower, and giveaways and freebie prizes are so amok that the market demand is essentially nonexistent. I have friends who read maybe a book a month, if that, and yet whenever there is a free e-Book, they download it, because why not? One friend in particular is working full-time, taking night classes for her masters, and she has over 300 books on her ereader that are unread. There’s no way she is reading even a third of those in the next year, so the benefit of awareness and promotion from that freebie isn’t going to happen. She’s also not likely to pay for a book for quite a while either, since she already has so many at her fingertips. This would-be customer is now completely off the market. Now imagine that happening thousands of times over. Not only has the supply grown like a teen on steroids, the demand has been halved at best.

The price dispute between Amazon and various publishers is a hard debate, because on one side, people have to eat, and get their dues to do so. On the other hand, who is going to pay $25 for one book when you could get 25 books for the same cost? No one. The bigger issue here with eBooks is that people view them as zero cost items that are pure profit for publishers and authors when that is simply no where near the case. Yes, a substantial amount is saved by not printing the book, but the fees for artists, editors, beta readers, publisher staff, and submitting books to retailers’ systems doesn’t go away. More to the point, if I was an author, and had spent the better part of a year or three working on a book that was then told it will only sell at 99 cents, I would feel incredibly diminished, how about you?

I’m not saying I support cartelization, being illegal and all, but perhaps we as publishers, authors, and readers, need to agree to respect the time, effort, money, and stress that goes into making a novel. By pricing them reasonably (at least $3, I mean really), and as readers actually buying books for their quality, not the latest free download, and supporting the authors that we do love, we could do quite a bit more for our authors, and the publishing system. Thoughts?

Shit Non-Readers Say

Why are you reading?



Just put it down for a second




This book-adaption movie sucks


It’s just a book


Where do you find the time?


Why don’t you just watch TV

What are you doing?


You really need to get a life


Are you still upset about that books?

Are you even looking where you walk?


Didn’t you read that already?


Anything at all while you are trying to read



literary nails we love at Curiosity quills press

Literature-Inspired Nail Art

Inspired Nails on Etsy


literary nail art

George Orwell 1984

Chalkboard Nails

The Fault In Our Stars Nail Art

Janet Mendoza

Sherlock nail art

Inspired Nails on Etsy

And a few others that are completely impossible but we thought they were cool anyways:

Tips & Top Coat



Halli Casser-­Jayne Interview

“If you aren’t being monumentally different, you aren’t standing out at all-­‐ period.”

What happens when you interview the queen of interviewers? A slightly sweating interviewer and intellectual conversation’s galore, at least that’s the case with blog radio star Halli Casser-­‐Jayne. Find out what we talked about:

Nikki: Halli, you’ve had guests ranging through a variety of topics and themes, including most recently a Hiroshima survivor, a celebrity chef, and even talked Oscars with Diane Ladd. Those are remarkably different. How do you focus yourself while staying so broad? In other words, what’s your shtick?

Halli: I do have a diverse audience, but an intellectually sound one. I’d say my focus is to elevate the conversation. I’ve learned not to follow the market trends, but to talk
about what I want to talk about. I introduce things that haven’t been talked about before or offer a twist in the perspective of the topic to add a hook. For example, I’m a BlogTalkRadio Show Host who wrote a novel about a mute woman. The angle, the hook, it’s key…it’s everything. Even when I do cover ‘hot topics’ such as the recent Oscars awards, I offer a twist in the discussion or a unique voice to the mix.

Nikki: How can authors get someone like yourself to feature them? How would a pitch grab your attention?

Halli: Engagement is real, so is sharing and being social. Engage people online and in person as often as you can. Do not, by any means, get in people’s face. The worst
thing you can do if you are trying to get media attention is to get in their face and be aggressive. Be real and be human.

I also tell people to be different. Be yourself, but be different. If you aren’t being monumentally different you aren’t standing out at all-­‐ period. I am fascinated with people, I want to learn whom that individual really is, what makes them amazing. An author will peak my interest if they can sell me on how different they are, because that will peak viewers interest. Celebrate what makes you abnormal, it is what draws people in. There is nothing more real than humanity.

Nikki: What advice would you offer to give a great interview?

Halli: Flirt. Interviewing is very much like flirting. It goes back to being yourself and being real. I love interviews that make me feel like we’re sitting at a café chatting. Don’t be succinct; when you respond succinctly in interviews, you don’t allow yourself really open up and find a flow. An interviewer will give to you as much as they get, if you aren’t offering up enough of yourself and your thoughts the interview will fall flat. My best interviews are the ones that lead me through tangents. Those are the genuine interviews where you really discover a person. I don’t want to feel like there are barriers to a person that I’m interviewing.


During this interview I realized that it isn’t just what you say, but how you say it. If you sound like a script, you won’t sound real. Language is key. Even Halli using the phrase ‘pissed off’ made me feel more comfortable in the conversation, because I didn’t feel like she held anything back. She explained that our interview was going well because there were no barriers, she was herself and I was mine, we were genuine. Genuine people are likable people. (It also doesn’t hurt to have a sense of humor, which let me tell you, she does!)

It became very evident that Halli lives and breathes her advice. Her description of the show and our conversation lend themselves to her tagline; Talk Radio for Fine Minds is exactly what she’s about.

BTRLthehallicasserjayneshowlogoAbout Halli Casser-­Jayne

Before we get to who is Halli Casser-­Jayne, let’s make clear what she is:

Halli Casser-Jayne is fun

Halli Casser-­Jayne is frank

Halli Casser-­Jayne is fearless

and,Halli Casser-­Jayne is feisty

These traits are just a part of the sum of the Halli Casser-­Jayne total. Throughout her professional career, Halli has worn many hats: reporter and photographer; actress and documentary producer; radio personality; author, editor and publisher. Her many accomplishments include writing and producing the six-­‐hour rockumentary on The Doors as well as collaborating with Doors drummer John Densmore on his autobiography Riders on the Storm. She is the author and photographer of Still Life:

Images of Antietam, and A Year in my Pajamas with President Obama, her celebrated book about the 2008 presidential campaign.
As a foreign correspondent during the 1980s, Halli showed her fearlessness when she reported in the danger zones of war-­‐torn Central America. Her frankness and feistiness has been expressed via her opinions and commentary on The Halli Casser-­Jayne blog.

Read More:

Folklore Friday Author Spotlight: Juliet Marillier

Happy Friday! And it is a very happy Friday indeed, because today guest blogger Holly Erwin has a guest of her own, the one and only Juliet Marillier, Queen of Folklore. She really needs no introduction, so without futher ado- Enjoy!

A note from Holly before we start the interview:

Today is a beautiful day. Today, I get to tell you about my favorite books and author. Ask any avid fan about their favorite series of novels/television/movies, and chances are, they’ll jump at the chance to talk your ear off. I will try to be a little more professional and a little less fangirl for this piece, just because I find it easier to read spotlight articles if they aren’t the ramblings of an obsessed fan. So, here goes.

I first came across Juliet Marillier over 10 years ago, the summer of my twelfth year. I was short on good summer reading, and my school list wasn’t exactly keeping me entertained. After asking my mother for advice, she disappeared into her room and came back with a well-worn paperback titled Daughter of the Forest, which she thrust into my hands saying, “I think you’re for this one.” Immediately diving into the story, I hardly came up for air for two days. I fell in love with the ancient Irish traditions and exceptional character development, not to mention the fantasy thrown in with druidic history. I was hooked.

Daughter of the Forest (Book One of the Sevenwaters Trilogy) was first published in 1999, though my editions of the trilogy were published in 2002-03. Son of the Shadows, the second novel, is unequivocally my favorite, and Child of the Prophecy finishes the original threesome. Since publishing the first three novels, Juliet has continued the Sevenwaters family history with three more novels, Heir to Sevenwaters, Seer of Sevenwaters, and Flame of Sevenwaters. These novels are beautiful continuations of the family and characters, though they are still separate in my mind from the original trilogy.

Juliet Marillier, sevenwaters trilogy, interview, Daughter of the Forest

The idea for the novel stemmed from a traditional fairy tale from the Grimm Brothers called The Six Swans. Juliet’s novel takes the Germanic roots of the story and transports them to Ireland, circa 9th century. We follow Sorcha, the youngest of seven siblings, and the only daughter. It’s a fantastical story of loss and at times a bitter determination—and at the end of the day, centers on sacrifice and family. Sorcha loses her brothers to a sorceress’s spell, but finds a way to undo the magic through a deeper, older source of power her family belongs to. It’s a love story, but also one of loss and deception, and true strength of character.

Son of the Shadows

The second novel follows the next generation of characters in the Sevenwaters family, with familiar faces and names. Liadan has her father’s honor and her mother’s sense of duty—which is put to the test when she’s kidnapped by the Painted Men, a notorious band of mercenaries. As a daughter of one of the region’s most powerful families, Liadan’s disappearance doesn’t bode well for a peaceful alliance. Trust is built and destroyed in the blink of an eye, and Liadan finds herself embarking on a journey she’s not prepared for.

Child of the Prophecy

The forest and stronghold of Sevenwaters is daunting to young Fainne, who journeys from Kerry for an unspeakable task. As the daughter of a sorcerer and the niece of the Sevenwaters leader, Fainne is torn between who she is and who she has the power to become. Family and honor are wrapped in a prophecy she’s only beginning to understand, and safety becomes a murky concept for herself and those she loves most.

What began as a simple piece about my favorite novels has turned into an author spotlight. I was writing about the Sevenwaters Trilogy when I thought, Maybe I can interview Juliet for this piece. It’s only a dream come true to talk with my favorite author and ask her questions that have been rolling around in my brain for a decade—so when she said she’d love to answer my questions, you can imagine that I jumped for joy. Quite literally.

So, without further ado, I give you my correspondence with my favorite author, Juliet Marillier: historical fantasy author extraordinaire. She had the grace to answer of my questions, no matter how oddly specific or ordinarily general. There are not any terrible spoilers, but as I know that everyone who reads this post will immediately go out and purchase the novels and devour them forthwith, I am unconcerned. Read: nothing too climactic is spoiled. Read on if you’ve read the novels and want to know a little more about them, or if you’re interested in a fantastic author who goes above and beyond in the realm of research.


Questions about Sevenwaters:

The names in your novels are beautiful. Sorcha, Liadan, and my personal favorite, Diarmid.  Other names are relatively common Irish names – like Conor and Liam – but how did you come across the other, more traditional names? Do they have any significance?

I use books of Irish names to find the more unusual ones, such as Mac Dara (‘son of the oak’). These days I’m careful to choose names that were in use in the historical period of the story. Back when I was writing the first three Sevenwaters books I didn’t realize some of the character names belonged to a later period (after the Anglo-Normans were in Ireland.)

Sorcha’s brothers almost seemed to name themselves – I used up all my favourite Irish men’s names on them! Some names I do choose because of their meaning. The most obvious is Fiacha (raven).

I’ve always been drawn to Simon, from Daughter of the Forest. Was it difficult writing a sad ending for him?

I always find it hard writing the parts where bad things happen to good characters. I don’t see Simon’s ending as completely sad, though – he does go on to marry well and take on a position of leadership (unfortunately he finds that wasn’t what he wanted after all.) I think it’s a realistic ending, and I never thought Sorcha and Simon were a well-matched pair; he is too needy for her. Red is perfect for Sorcha. So what happens for Simon seems almost inevitable. For me, it was much harder to write the scene where Sorcha is assaulted. Traumatic to put down on the page but necessary for the story. Life contains both good things and bad. It’s not always fair, just and balanced, and fiction needs to reflect that.

I’ve always wondered about Colum and Niamh’s life together – Sorcha’s mother and father. Have you ever thought about telling the story of their generation?

It’s been suggested to me that I could write that story. I do have a hang-up about prequels because the reader knows in advance what will happen (for instance, that a member of the central couple dies young.) That makes it challenging for the writer to engage the reader in the characters’ personal journeys. Not impossible, just harder.

Who was your favorite character to write?

From the Sevenwaters saga, probably Bran from Son of the Shadows. Also Gull, Snake, Dog and the rest of the Painted Men!

What was the hardest scene for you to write?

See above – the rape scene from Daughter of the Forest. If I was writing that now I would probably be less graphic. However, I have had positive feedback from readers on the emotional integrity of that scene.

The religious rituals and ceremonies in the Sevenwaters Trilogy are incredibly in-depth. How did you even begin that research?

That’s quite an interesting story! When I started out writing Daughter of the Forest, and decided to make the family pagan rather than Christian, I didn’t know a great deal about pagan/druidic rituals, especially those of the early medieval period. And of course, there isn’t much in the way of written records from that time, as druidic lore was secret and was only shared by word of mouth. I read what I could find, then my research led me to the discovery that druidry is alive and well in the present day. So I began studying with OBOD (The Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, to which I still belong) and found out more about the current practices. For the novels, I had to find a happy medium, based on both my historical research and my practical knowledge. The rituals in the books are neither authentic historical ones (because nobody knows what those were in any detail) nor modern ones, but a blend that reflects, I hope, the philosophy behind a spiritual practice based on humankind’s place in the natural world.

Note: the rituals and ceremonies are almost awe-inspiring in these novels. The detail in which Juliet describes the scenes and histories of the Celtic traditions is simply amazing. Also they’re incredibly unique – I don’t think I’ve ever read a novel which this level research and dedication.

What’s the biggest challenge about writing a novel set hundreds of years in the past?

Making the interactions and relationships between the characters both historically plausible for their time and culture, and also acceptable and relevant for a contemporary reader. Fortunately, in early medieval Ireland women had quite a lot of protection under Brehon law and played a bigger part in society than women were able to do in many other places at that time. That means it’s not quite so implausible for my female characters to take control of their own destiny!

What did you edit OUT of the story?

It’s a while since I wrote the earlier Sevenwaters novels so I can’t answer this in much detail. I do remember being asked by my editor to make Son-of-Shadowsmajor changes to Son of the Shadows. In the original version, Red and Sorcha told Niamh the truth about who Ciaran really was and why they couldn’t marry. The change the editor wanted felt really wrong to me – it was completely out of character for Red and Sorcha to deceive their daughter, even if they were under huge family pressure to keep the unsavoury secret. It was also inconsistent with their approach to Liadan’s pregnancy later. But I was a fairly new author then so I made the changes the editor wanted – if it happened now I would negotiate a compromise that suited everyone. Also in that original version there were long passages in italics (Bran lost in dark visions of his past.) I have learned now that readers hate reading lots of italics and that too much angsty introspection does not make for a well-paced read!

Note: I agree with you completely! I’ve always thought Red and Sorcha’s treatment of Niamh was out of character – Liadan and Niamh both mention that. It’s interesting that it was originally written differently. I wonder if that knowledge would’ve changed Niamh, Ciaran, and Fainne’s lives at all. Huh.


Questions about writing:

When was the first time you unequivocally called yourself a writer?

No specific time, it grew on me. I’ve been writing stories since I was a child, though there was a long hiatus while I worked in other jobs and raised my children. But writer as in ‘career writer’ – that would be the day Pan Macmillan offered me a contract for the first two Sevenwaters books.

What are some of the most interesting, weird, or crazy things your readers have told you?

There is an alternative community in Germany where most of the children are named after characters in my books – hearing about that was quite strange, but in a good way. There are also various readers’ dogs and cats named Sorcha, Finbar etc. (None of my dogs is named for a book character but I do have a rather Irish-sounding Fergal.) I’ve had letters from readers in a hard-core survivalist group in the US and from readers doing long-term prison time.

Recently I had a request from the mother of a reader who had headed off on a long work stint at a research station in Antarctica. This reader was most disappointed that she’d still be away when The Caller, third book in my Shadowfell series, was releasedin Australia. My editor arranged for her own advance reading copy (there were so few of these available that even I didn’t get one) to be put on the supply boat, so the scientist would be able to finish reading the series. And she received it safely, so now there’s one of my books at the bottom of the world!

How do you react to bad reviews about your novels?

I find them devastating. Not sure which is most painful, a bad review by someone who knows their stuff and backs up each point with examples, or the ignorant ‘this book sucks’ kind. While I’ve got a little better at dealing with criticism over the years I am still quite thin-skinned about it. I don’t look at reader reviews on Amazon, Goodreads or similar sites for that reason – although there are some well-considered reviews on there, the negative ones would paralyse me. I do read reviews on established book review blogs/sites or in the print media, and if I’m getting the same criticism from several reliable sources I take it on board for future reference. Generally my books are quite positively reviewed – that means the negative reviews really stand out!

What’s your recipe for setting a creative environment? Hot tea with lemon, noisy café, absolute silence?

I write at home and absolute silence is impossible as I have five dogs! But I do like quiet while I work – I don’t have background music playing and I find it hard to concentrate if there are other people around. Tea has to be available whenever required. Earl Grey is my favourite and I drink a lot of it. I am a full time writer – that’s how I earn my living – so I have a fairly consistent routine.

As a woman in the writing industry, have you ever felt marginalized? How, if at all, have you sought to combat that feeling?

I can only speak for the Australian experience and for my own genre. Women writers of fantasy/historical fiction are well respected in the industry here. We have many highly successful female fantasy writers: Trudi Canavan, Kate Forsyth, Isobelle Carmody, Kylie Chan, to name only a few. And there are respected New Zealand writers like Helen Lowe (a David Gemmell award winner) and Karen Healy. Many of the staff at the Australian publishing houses are female, including senior management. Women writers are well represented in the genre awards such as the Aurealis and New Zealand’s Sir Julius Vogel Awards. However, in literary fiction I believe it’s a slightly different situation – fewer female reviewers for the major print publications, fewer reviews of books by women, women writers under-represented in the more prestigious literary awards. That led to the recent establishment of the Stella Award, an Australian award similar to the UK’s Orange Prize, exclusively for women writers.

Do you ever wish you had a career that didn’t require so much creative energy?

Not at all. I’ve had previous careers that required creative energy but were far more stressful (teacher, music performer) and careers that required little creative energy but carried high stress (public service middle manager.) I feel very privileged to be able to earn a living doing what I love best. I do sometimes get tired!

What’s a typical working day like for you? When and where do you write? Do you set a daily writing goal?

8452340I write at the kitchen table on a laptop. I have a perfectly good study complete with desk, but the living area of the house is the only part that is air conditioned, also the dogs like to hang out there and keep me company. And there is tea within easy reach! Generally I get the morning feed/medicate/walk routine out of the way for all five dogs (that means two walks) and then I start work. Late afternoon there’s another dog routine which marks the end of the working day.  When I have a lot of work on hand I write in the evening as well. At less pressured times my working hours are much shorter.

If a deadline is looming or I am falling behind, I set a daily minimum word count or (more likely) a weekly word count. Daily – around 1000 words. Weekly – 7000 words. 10,000 if the pressure is really on.

Not all of my working time is spent actually writing the next book.  I have lots of ongoing related tasks to do: research, answering letters and emails, keeping up with social media (website, Facebook Fan Page, Goodreads author page), doing my accounts, editing, writing short pieces of various kinds, preparing and presenting workshops.

What’s your least favorite part of the writing process?

Revising and editing my own work.

Historical fiction is a popular genre – especially in e-books. What are your thoughts on this? Are you surprised? Why do you write primarily historical fiction?

I’m not surprised at all. Romance is also very popular in e-books too, as is fantasy. Genre readers do tend to gobble up a lot of books, and e-books are really convenient for the avid reader. As for historical fiction being popular in general, I do think readers are fascinated by the past, and a well written historical novel can draw you right into that other world.

I love fairy tales and mythology, and my first novel arose from that love, when I decided to put a real family of individuals into the middle of a fairy tale story. I see my work as historical fantasy rather than historical fiction. Rather than create a whole secondary world as the setting for a story involving magic/the uncanny, I like to place that story in a ‘real world’ setting. I develop the uncanny parts from what the people of that time and culture would have believed in – fey folk, talking animals, gods and spirits sharing the natural world with humankind. It’s harder to incorporate folklore into a modern story, but I guess urban fantasy goes a certain way down that path.

If you got to choose between living in today’s modern society, with all its convenience and perks, or living in the fantasy realm you write about, which would you choose?

I would find it hard to live in a society without modern medical science, where women so often died in childbirth and there was no effective way to fight infection. I guess if I could rely on the Old Ones to appear when required and provide their magical cures, the world of Sevenwaters might be OK to live in.


Upcoming Works:

Tell me about your upcoming series, Blackthorn and Grim. It makes me think of the Brothers Grimm…any correlation?

No, there’s no connection with the Brothers Grimm except that chime with the ‘dark fairy tale’ concept. Blackthorn & Grim is an adult fantasy series that combines mystery, fairy tale and human drama. The series is a lot darker and grittier than my previous work and its protagonists are older and more flawed than my usual characters That should make some of my readers happy, as I am occasionally accused of making my central characters too good/strong/courageous/young!

The first book in the Blackthorn & Grim series, Dreamer’s Pool,  comes out in October (Australia) and November (US) 2014. The novel begins with the embittered healer Blackthorn in prison awaiting execution. A mysterious visitor offers her a lifeline – she can be spared provided she agrees to live by certain rules for seven years. Each time she breaks a rule, another year will be added to the term. Since the rules prevent her from seeking vengeance on the man who wronged her, Blackthorn doesn’t believe she can obey them for seven days, let alone seven years. But who wouldn’t lie to save their own life?

I bought Shadowfell a few months ago – but I confess I haven’t read it yet.  What do I have to look forward to in this series? Caller_2

The Shadowfell series has been marketed as a young adult series, but it’s a satisfying read for adult lovers of folkloric fantasy as well – my readers tell me so!  It’s an epic story of rebellion and tyranny set in an alternative version of ancient Scotland, and has a big cast of uncanny characters and a lot of magic. The three books are Shadowfell, Raven Flight and The Caller.

The Caller is available in Australia and New Zealand now. The US edition, a Knopf hardback, will be released on September 9. It will also be available in e-book.

Magic and ancient Scotland? Now I remember why I bought Shadowfell (other than seeing Juliet Marillier on the cover)! It sounds right up my alley – I’m interested in seeing the contrasts between the Shadowfell series and my beloved Sevenwaters. I promise to keep an open mind! Looking forward to it already.

Thanks so much Juliet and Holly for taking the time with us today. Everyone, if you haven’t read the Sevenwaters Trilogy yet, we obviously highly recommend it. If you have questions about folklore, the trilogy, or even about Juliet, tweet them to @CuriosityQuills using #FolkloreFriday and we’ll try to answer as many as we can. Don’t forget to check out Juliet’s upcoming release, Dreamer’s Pool!