I’m delighted to have fellow Canadian Julia Phillips Smith joining me on my blog today. Welcome, Julia! My blog leans heavily toward the paranormal so I have to ask what your paranormal element of choice is?
Thanks for having me, SJ. Vampires top my list.
In my debut novel SAINT SANGUINUS I introduce a brotherhood of guardian vampires which stands between humans, vampires and their mutual desire to annihilate the other.
Magic is a close second. There are magical elements in both SAINT SANGUINUS and my second release, BOUND BY DRAGONSFYRE, which is Book One of a dark fantasy series.
In fact, I have a special weakness for magical realism, and I adore stories where highly-grounded regular-folk characters begin to interact with the supernatural world.
A few favorite films in that genre are Purple Rose of Cairo, Like Water for Chocolate, Adaptation and Scott Pilgrim vs.: the World.
Have you ever made big changes in your story because someone – your crit partner, a friend, or beta reader – really didn’t like it?
Definitely. If the story has a major bump that takes the reader out of the world I’ve created, I want to address that.
I tend to hand my manuscript over to several critique readers with as varied backgrounds as I can manage, because I feel that creates a microcosm of the reading public. Let’s say that three out of five critique readers all mention an aspect of the story that’s not working for them. Why wouldn’t I want to revise that section? If I’m being honest with myself, I’d always known in the back of my mind that something wasn’t clicking in that part of the story, anyway.
Can you share a bit more about your writing process with us? How did the plot come together for you?
I’m a seat-of-the-pants, or pantser, sort of writer, so the plot only comes together when I’ve written ‘The End’ on the first draft. I tend to begin with intense, set-piece sequences that burst into my mind. I then have to figure out who all the characters are in these scenes, why they’re there and what exactly is going on.
I do a bare minimum of plotting or character work on paper. It’s better if I just sit down at the computer and get into the zone (put my headphones on, play some music and head into the manuscript.) The closest I get to plotting is ‘running scenes’ in my mind as I go for a walk or ride the bus home from my day job. It’s like directing a play rehearsal. I give my characters suggestions and let them ‘run lines’. I then step back and see how that works out. If I don’t like it, I change a few little details and then let the characters go through the scene again until I’m happy with it.
I love your title, how did you come up with it? Do you choose a title first, or write the book then choose the title?
I pretty much call each story by the male protagonist’s name as I write the first draft. SAINT SANGUINUS was ‘Peredur’ until the Save the Cat revision led me to its current title. I followed the superhero naming convention in order to choose SAINT SANGUINUS. In the tradition of Batman, Iron Man, Green Lantern and all superhero stories, the transformed identity requires the character to rename himself.
This is a facinating tale. What about your novels most reflects who you are as a writer?
Writing as an indie author says the most about me.
I have always been someone who is attracted to things outside the mainstream. Typically, at the moment I’m passionately devouring a ten-year-old Russian historical drama made for television called Bednaya Nastya, just as many around me are finishing up American Idol. That is just par for the course with me.
Taking the advice of many artists I respect, I wrote the stories I wished I could read but couldn’t seem to find on store shelves. I passionately believe there’s a readership for books that are finely-crafted, telling stories that enter readers’ hearts and remain there, while taking place in time periods and settings seldom found in traditional publishing.
When I want to be swept up into the intrigues of a regency London season, I know I can find those stories at my local bookstore. When I want my hero to be a dashing 18th century Caribbean plantation owner, I now have the option of finding that story—told by an indie author.
What was your inspiration behind the creation of Saint Sanguinus?
I’m a lifelong fan of superhero origin stories. I’m also a lifelong fan of vampire tales. I wasn’t actually aware that I was writing a superhero origin story at first—that was something that became clearer as the Dark Ages character of Welsh warrior Peredur revealed himself to me.
I finally realized what kind of story I had when I was in the first revisions stage of the manuscript. I’d written it in two separate parts, following first the male protagonist Peredur, then following the female protagonist Tanwen. I was having quite a challenge merging these two sections together into one narrative, when two of my writing retreat buddies let me flip through their copies of Save the Cat! Goes to the Movies. I easily saw how my story followed the beats of the Superhero structure. Everything fell into place after that.
Gawd, I love a good retreat and that kind of aha moment is exactly why! What can readers expect next from you?
My second novel, BOUND BY DRAGONSFYRE, released this week. It’s the first book in a separate series which follows the changing fortunes of a young noble:
Young Scorpius is fetched from the estate nursery, once raised to live among the nobility – claimed finally not by his family, but by a falconer to serve as his apprentice. Scorpius soon learns that a noble hides his monstrous appetites beneath velvet and jewels, while the leathery-winged dragon is honest about his own.
His master does his best to shield Scorpius from the world outside their cottage, but the falconer is merely a servant who must obey his own masters. An attempt on the life of a young lord while on a hunt sends the falconer’s apprentice on an abruptly different path, bringing Scorpius into the service of the House of Pruzhnino. Court intrigue sinks its talons into everyone, even Scorpius–especially a former falconer’s apprentice once raised to be a lord in his own right.
by Julia Phillips Smith
Only those warriors who curse God with their dying breath. Welsh warrior Peredur falls to a spear before he can claim Tanwen for his bride. Raging on the battlefield, Peredur utters the curse that seals his fate and leads him to another life. Using the power of a saint whose bone makes up an amulet, Peredur takes on the trials to become a true member of the brethren. Yet his need for the chieftain’s daughter Tanwen still burns.
Tanwen resists her father’s command to take a husband. The only one who understands her sorrow is Cavan, the wise woman’s son. When he promises that he can reunite her with her beloved, she agrees to his terms.
But does Tanwen truly understand the depth of the price that must be paid?
Here are two book trailers for you to enjoy.
A graduate of Ryerson University’s film program, Julia Phillips Smith’s previous writing credits include scripts for radio and television. She has donned various creative hats, including stage manager (theatre), editor (TV documentary) and director (short films.)
Julia lives with her husband and her mom on Canada’s east coast, where the rugged sea and misty forests feed her thirst for gothic tales.
A longtime blogger, she invites you to visit A Piece of My Mind
Connect with Julia.