The Path Keeper (The Indigo Chronicles Book 1) by N J Simmonds
1- Would you share some cat humor with us, please?
My biggest ever distraction as a writer are cat videos. I miss having a cat...here's a funny one!
2- Would you please, in 160 characters or less, give a #WriteTip ?
As a writer it’s hard not to compare yourself to others, but worrying if your book will be commercial enough will block your creativity! Write YOUR story.
3- What ignited your passion for writing?
For me, writing has always been a form of alchemy. You turn your thoughts into tiny dark symbols on a blank page, and suddenly what’s in your head is transferred into the minds of others. It’s magical. All I’ve ever wanted to do is help others escape reality for a few hours and get lost in another world.
Books were a huge part of my childhood (my father designed book club magazines, before the internet was a thing and people wanted to order books via little catalogues). Every few months he would come home with boxes and boxes of random books, our house was full of them. YA and MG weren’t official genres back in the 1980’s so I read everything from Nancy Drew and Terry Pratchett, to Steinbeck and Tolkien. I longed to create fantasy worlds of my own. As a kid I though the idea of making up characters that feel like real people to readers was a kind of superpower! I guess it is.
4- Bookshelves by the Dewey decimal system, height, genre, color... what's your preference?
COLOUR! People wonder how I find the book I’m looking for, but I’m a very visual person so I’m more likely to remember the colour of the spine and cover design than the title or name of the author.
Finally, the colourful YA bookshelf in my office complete with a bag full of booky tote bags and my own books on the top shelf!!!
5- What's your Twitter handle, and do you have two or three writer friends on there to shout-out to for #WriterWednesday ?
My Twitter is @NJSimmondsTPK and I want to shout about my very lovely and talented fellow YA Fantasy writer friends Anna Day @annadayauthor and Jacqueline Silvester @Jacky_Silvester
6- Would you share a picture with us of you with your book?
7- Given how our society is becoming more sensitive to triggers, should books come with warnings the way that movies and television do? (Language, sex, violence, drugs, etc)
Definitely. Although I hate the idea of censoring, I also believe that as a writer of young adult fiction I have a duty to my readers and their parents. The Path Keeper contains quite a bit of swearing, sex and violence, so it’s marketed as 16+. It also deals with the topics of death and sexual abuse, but you wouldn’t know that from the blurb, so I wouldn’t want someone recovering from a trauma to be triggered. Why not warn them? If not, it only leads to an upset reader and bad reviews!
8- What most motivates you to read a new book?
I hate to admit it, but an amazing front cover and hype/recommendations. Most of the books on my shelf have been picked for those two reasons alone, without even reading the blurb. In fact, I prefer to only know the genre and rough themes and not read the blurbs. Then everything is a lovely surprise!
9- What is your favorite book by someone else, what's the author's Twitter handle, and what do you love most about that book? #FridayReads book recommendation time!
Author name: Angie Thomes @angiecthomas
Title: (I love both books)
Love because: The Hate U Give was ground-breaking when it came out in 2017 and rightfully won lots of awards. The subsequent film is amazing too. It deals with the Black Lives Matter movement in a very real way. Her second book On The Come Up is about a young female rapper trying to rise above the troubles in her life and make it big – a YA, black, female ‘8 Mile’ if you like. Angie’s writing is raw and unapologetic, yet warm, funny and totally relatable. I was brought up on 90s hip hop, Fresh Prince and movies like Boyz N The Hood – so the homage to them was very impactful (even though I’m not the market intended for the book). It’s refreshing, too, to see a whole new audience of readers get introduced to the love of books because of these hard-hitting themes and fresh writing.
10- Who is currently your biggest fan? What does that person love most (or "ship") about your debut novel?
I’m very lucky to have a mini gang of readers who support me a lot, one even has a tattoo inspired by The Path Keeper! I don’t call them fans though, that’s just cringey – it’s a symbiotic relationship. Through these amazing young adults I learn a lot about what they need from writers like me, and in turn run competitions and giveaways so that I can give something back to this awesome community. I’ve even received gifts and artwork from some of them, which means the world to me!
As for who they ship – Zac and Ella, of course. They already have a hash tag: #ZellaForever
11- What emotions do you hope your book will evoke for the reader, and is there a particular scene you hope will resonate with readers?
Although The Path Keeper is emotional in places (a bit sad, a bit sexy and a lot thrilling) the main feedback I have received from readers is that after they put the book down they had a good think. It asks not only esoteric questions about our place in the universe, love and fate – but also makes you wonder about the choices we make and questions the concept of soul mates. It’s not a simple love story, and it’s not all spiritual and sweet, it will grab you by the throat and really throw you about. Luckily a lot of people like that, haha!
12- Do you have a favorite #bookstagram image or account/ profile?
I adore the photos by @darkfaeritales_ (who also runs @storygramtours). The Path Keeper is being featured on one of her Instagram shoots in May and I’m really excited. Her work in whimsical, creative, inspiring and so so beautiful.
13- How do you hope your book will help readers in their life?
I never set out to be a didactic writer or a moral messenger, so even if the book simply helps readers escape reality for a few hours a day I’ll be happy. Although, because it has a spiritual element, it may also help them understand the complexities of love and fate. I hope they come away feeling like everything will work out OK. As you can tell by the title, the concept of life paths features heavily…so maybe they’ll find some comfort in that.
14- What is the most memorable trait or visual oddity of one of your characters?
The Path Keeper features quite a few magical characters so they do some really cool things. Zac has crazy blue eyes that change shade all the time, from indigo to aquamarine to lilac. I can’t tell you the rest though without giving the story away! Ella has a birthmark on her knee linked to a past life, and the baddie Sebastian has really tiny teeth. I don’t know why I gave him really tiny teeth, but it helps paint a very distinct impression of him.
15- In what ways are the main characters in your book diverse? diversebooks.org #WeNeedDiverseBooks
Diversity is really important to me as both a writer and a daughter of an immigrant. Ella is half English and half Spanish – I wanted to show what that’s like, to come from two cultures and never fitting in either. The series is mainly set in London, one of the most multicultural cities in the world, so I wanted the characters to reflect that. Her best friend Mai Li is Vietnamese (her ethnicity isn’t part of the plot, why should it be?) and as the series progresses there are gay characters, mixed race relationships, various religions, young people struggling with abilities which they see as a disabilities and a very feminist outlook. I only wrote about things I felt reflected my own voice experiences.
For me, having a variety of diverse characters in the series wasn’t about ticking boxes or making sure everyone was ‘covered’ – it was about representing society as I know it. None of the plots centre around the fact a character is gay or from a certain country, it’s just who they are. End of.
16- Who is your favorite book review blogger?
There are some really fantastic bloggers out there and I’m so lucky to get to work with many of them. The Glass House is a brilliant online magazine that features a book review page. I also love watching @JessikahHope and @FrancinaSimone on YouTube, and Jenni @jennieLy is an award-winning blogger I enjoy following too.
17- What was the deciding factor in your publication route?
I always wanted to be a traditionally published author since I was a little girl. Call me old fashioned, but my dream was to walk into a bookshop and see my work on the shelves – and for that self-publishing wasn’t going to work. Obviously, the “big agent and big top 5 publisher” route is what most writers aim for, but I had a very long and complicated journey with my series so when I was offered a contract with BHC Press (a small US press) I realised they were perfect for me and the series. Not only do they champion me every step of the way, but because I’m not a small cog in a large machine we work as a team on cover design, marketing, PR, events and ideas. I wouldn’t get that with bigger houses. They are really lovely too. Who knows what the future may bring - maybe I’ll end up with a mix of everything - but for now my choices have worked out great!
18- Why do you think readers should write book reviews?
1. It helps other readers with similar tastes know what they will and won’t like.
2. It helps sell books as it contributes towards promotional hype.
3. The nice reviews give us writers something to shout about - so if you’re a blogger you get an author-endorsed push too.
I don’t often read reviews, good or bad, as I find they create judgemental voices in my head making me second-guess what to write. So to stay true to me and my ideas, I leave the reviews for the readers. Saying that though, I do have friends who read my reviews. So if a remark comes up often it can help me with future books – like adding trigger warnings. I can’t speak for other writers, but I write for my readers…so I care what they think!
19- What is one question or discussion topic which you would like the readers of this interview to answer or remark on in the comments?
I would like to discuss YA and adult readers. There is a lot of talk in the book community about how YA should just be for young readers, and we need to stop adding sex, violence and young characters to older storylines – but there’s another side who says adults WANT to read books with protagonists in their teens and early twenties. Unfortunately there’s no genre or category for that.
My publisher is currently using YA+ as a description of my series as most of the five star reviews have been from adults (themes of lost love and finding your soul mate is obviously going to resonate more with older readers, looking back on past choices, than a fifteen year old).
So my question is: how do we separate YA teen and coming of age stories, with stories with older teen protagonists but with tougher plots/themes adults will enjoy too?
After all, Catcher in the Rye, Romeo and Juliet, To Kill a Mockingbird and Lord of the Flies are all YA books. And there’s nothing childish or innocent about them!
20- Anything else you would care to share about your book and yourself?
Blurb for The Path Keeper
THE PATH KEEPER
Book 1 of The Indigo Chronicles(28 May 2019)
What if our lives were mapped out before birth? Does anyone have the power to change their destiny?
Ella hates London. She misses her old life in Spain and is struggling to get over her past—until she meets Zac. He’s always loved her but isn’t meant to be part of her story. Not this time. Not ever. Little does she know that his secret is the one thing that will tear them apart and force her to live in a world that no longer makes sense. A world full of danger, lies and magic. The Path Keeper is a passionate tale of first loves, second chances and the invisible threads that bind us. Can love ever be stronger than fate? *The special edition white hardcover contains the never-seen-before short story “One Day I’ll Fly Away.” Exclusively available in the hardcover edition.
Read chapter one of The Path Keeper online
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N J Simmonds, author of YA fantasy romance series The Indigo Chronicles, began her career in glossy magazines. She went on to manage marketing campaigns for big brands before becoming a freelance writer and consultant. In 2015 she co-founded online magazine The Glass House Girls and has since contributed to many publications. She writes books filled with fearless teens, magic and adventure, and also lectures on storytelling and self branding. Originally from North London, with Spanish parentage, N J lives in the Netherlands with her husband and two daughters.
The Path Keeper (The Indigo Chronicles Book 1) by N J Simmonds