Indie Author Spotlight #12: Meet Katrina Hokule’a Ariel

Indie Author SpotlightThank you for coming back to read more of the Indie Author Spotlight. Today I’m featuring my twelfth author, Katrina Ariel, mom, yogi, musician, writer, designer, etc. I read and loved Katrina’s romance novel (which I might even call women’s fiction), we chat about kids, life, and writing on Twitter, and I’ve even watched her yoga videos! Plus, I get to call her a client! It’s been a privilege to get to know Katrina and support her writing, and I hope your lives will be enriched by hearing her story and reading her books! 

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Katrina, thank you for participating in the Indie Author Spotlight! Can you talk to us a little about what genres you write in? I’ve sort of hinted at your ability to mix them . . .

I do tend to hop genres and blend them together. My published books are non-fiction and contemporary romance, but most of my unpublished manuscripts are fantasy, sci-fi, and speculative fiction. Whatever I’m writing, there’s always soul searching and magic, even if it’s subtle, and a romantic sub-plot or two.

What motivates you to write? 

Writing gives me a way to express myself that’s my own. It reminds me who I am. And it gives me freedom to adventure anywhere and everywhere in my imagination, which I think is one of life’s greatest joys.

Your adventuring and soul searching have definitely brought great joy to my life, as I thought Wild Horse Heart was a wonderful read. Though my marriage is (thankfully) nothing like Ria’s, I identified with her search for self, with her slow accumulation of confidence and strength, with her role as a mother. Please tell us about Wild Horse Heart and your other published work, Yoga for Dragon Riders.

Wild Horse Heart is a romantic suspense novel set in the film industry that straddles the line between romance and women’s fiction. The action takes place in Hollywood and on location at a horse ranch in Canada, where the plot twines between that of the film they’re making and behind-the-scenes struggles. Available as paperback and eBook: http://amzn.to/2rDZI7Z

Yoga for Dragon Riders is a comprehensive, unorthodox yoga manual written for fantasy lovers. It covers a wide range of practices, with meditation, breathwork, mantra, sacred texts, and philosophic offerings from nature and beyond. It’s beautifully illustrated, with hundreds of photos and detailed descriptions of yoga poses and alignment, as well as sequences that can be modified to suit a home practice. The paperback version is recommended, but an eBook can work if you need to travel light. http://amzn.to/1a2g3Dq

Yoga for Dragon Riders sound so interesting! I’m going to add it to my wish-list (hint hint, family and friends!). Earlier you mentioned that writing is a way to express yourself; has this always been the case? 

I’ve always been a daydreamer. Poetry got me through my teen years, and songwriting got me through my twenties. I started writing full-length manuscripts with a laughable first attempt at a screenplay in 2010, and learned a lot from that. In 2012 I published my yoga manual, at the height of my teaching career. And then I had kids. I’ve written all nine of my novels since being pregnant with twins six years ago.

Wait, you’ve written NINE novels since becoming a parent? How do you manage to pull that off?!

Balancing writing and parenting is a constant challenge. I’m lucky to have a spouse who has worked a job to support us all, so I could be with my kids. Due to the pandemic, neither of us are working, so that’s a thing, but I count my blessings every day that we live in Canada, where we have good support systems. It’s nice to have this time together as a family, but sometimes I feel guilty not spending time with my kids when I want to write.

I’ve always been a night owl, and tend to stay up obscenely late to get my words in, which is often when I do my best writing. Of course, the danger of repeated late nights is turning into Zombie Mommy and slipping into a degrading mental space, so I make myself go to bed earlier than my creative drive wants some nights. My saving grace is the fact that my twins are five now, and able to look after themselves when they wake up, so I can sleep in. Hallelujah!

Mom-guilt is a real struggle, I totally understand; same goes for me with my editing and blogging. When you do get that late-night writing time, what new things are you working on?

So many projects. I have a series I’m hoping to self-publish in the next year or so—a fantasy romance saga set in the Highlands of Scotland, the rugged Teton mountains, the edge of the Nordic sea, and the Realm of the Gods. I was planning to get it ready for release in 2020, but I’ve pushed myself to meet unreasonable publishing deadlines before, and the stress isn’t worth it. I’ve been writing this series for six years. I’m going to take my time to make it every bit as special a story as it deserves.

I’m also in the process of revising a handful of manuscripts with the intention of querying and pursuing traditional publishing. I have an epic fantasy with a slow-burn romance that would appeal to fans of Kristin Britain’s Green Rider and Leigh Bardugo’s King of Scars. Next in line is a sci-fi with elements of Rogue One, Doctor Strange, and Moana. And on the back burner, scratching at my mind with dragon claws, is a future fantasy with mage-warriors and mythical creatures that has the grit of The Arrow and the atmosphere of Pirates of the Caribbean.

I’ve decided to publish my fantasy and sci-fi books under the pen name Leia Talon. I chose the name Leia because it’s the last part of my middle name, Hokule’a, and as a tribute to the rebel princess who’s been my idol since I was two. Talon invokes an element of nature, which is super important to me, and adds a bit of swagger I’m hoping gives me confidence when I’m doing author appearances. 😉

You really do cross genres! I’m particularly intrigued by how you’ve worked Moana into your sci-fi, but I will undoubtedly aim to read anything you or Leia Talon (awesome name!) publish! Do you read as widely as you write? 

I read lots of children’s books, as I spend more time reading to my kids than I get reading by myself. Some children’s books that I love: I Am Enough by Grace Byers, I’m in Charge of Celebrations by Byrd Baylor, and Of Thee I Sing by Barak Obama.

For myself, I tend to read fantasy more than anything, preferably with a romantic sub-plot. Some semi-recent personal favorites are Caraval by Stephanie Garber, Queen of Air and Darkness by Cassandra Claire, and Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine. Classics that will always be on my shelf include Guy Gavriel Kay’s The Fionavar Tapestry, Christopher Moore’s Lamb, the Song of the Lioness series by Tamora Pierce, and the stories that shaped me as a child: The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis.

As far as indie authors go, I highly recommend A Thousand Years to Wait by L. Ryan Storms. My current read is Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse.

I’m amazed that I have not read any of the books you listed, except for the Chronicles of Narnia. I now have a lot to add to my TBR – and I’ll definitely check out the kids books you recommended! I’m always looking for different things to read the kids! Now, I’m going to ask — when you’re not writing, reading to your kids, or doing yoga, what do you do (besides sleep, ha!)?

I love hiking. Being in the quiet of a forest is my medicine. Paddle boarding on a peaceful lake is another treat when I find the time. I try to garden, which I mostly enjoy, but I don’t really know what I’m doing.

I’m a musician, and love to sing, especially while hiking—Disney-princess style. My guitars and piano are largely ignored as I focus on writing, but I play when I can. Music feeds the soul.

Another of my passions is rescue animals. I advocate for local rescues and donate locally and internationally as I can. A portion of proceeds from the sales of Wild Horse Heart goes to a wild Mustang sanctuary that also offers horse therapy programs to help those recovering from trauma. I’ll just drop their website here in case anyone’s feeling generous. Even small donations help: https://wildhorserescue.org/

Wow – so much! What the forest does for you, the ocean does for me, though I’ve probably spent more time in the forest than by the ocean in the past many years. Also, I could definitely get behind some Disney-princess style singing in the outdoors! You seem to bring a lot of creativity and passion to whatever you do, and that is evident in what I’ve seen of your writing. What would it look like for you if you were to achieve your dream as a writer? 

The ultimate dream would be to have a slew of books that inspire readers, and for them to be successful enough to allow me to write for a living. I’d love to have one or more of my stories be turned into a film or series, even better if I can work behind the scenes on set! But really, just making enough that I could support my family and drop generous donations to charities I care about would rock my world. These goals seem like a reach right now, so I remind myself that the most important thing is for people to connect with my books, and find something in the words that makes their souls soar.

If that’s the case, you’ve accomplished what’s most important. Is there anything else you’d like for readers to know about you? 

I turned 42 this year, and I’ve been contemplating the questions of Life, the Universe, and Everything. My answers are: humility, kindness, and nature.

Please help Katrina reach the rest of her author dream by picking up copies of her books. At the very least, connect with her online for some positiveness and light in your life!

Wild Horse Heart: http://amzn.to/2rDZI7Z

Yoga for Dragon Riders: http://amzn.to/1a2g3Dq

Website: http://katrinaariel.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/KatrinaAriel

YouTube (music and yoga videos):  https://www.youtube.com/user/YogaWithKatrina

 

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Would you like to be featured, too? Please contact me at kristin@theedifyingword.com!

Indie Author Spotlight: EJ Fisch ~ Science Fiction/Thriller mashup!

Indie Author SpotlightWelcome to week SIX of Indie Author Spotlight by The Edifying Word. We’re switching genres this week to sci-fi, with a sort of thriller twist. I used to think I didn’t read sci-fi (I wrote a post about that once), but really I find myself reading and enjoying it more and more. Doesn’t hurt that my 8yo seems to like it, so I end up reading some with her, too. I’m please to introduce you to EJ Fisch, who will talk to us a little about herself and her writing!   

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One of the coolest things about putting together this series is that I’ve gotten introduced to so many new books. I’ve been doing my best to read at least one book from every author I feature, so when EJ Fisch expressed interest in participating I picked up her first book, Dakiti, which I just finished a couple of days ago. I really enjoyed it, and do plan to read the rest of the series. 

So, broadly speaking you write sci-fi. After reading Dakiti, I feel like it’s a little bit of a cross with thriller, though. Are all your books a hybrid like this one?

You’re right, my sci-fi comes with a twist. My current series, of which Dakiti is the first book, is character-driven space opera with kind of a spy/military thriller twist—lots of action and intrigue, but happening in a fictional galaxy with a cast of superhuman characters. All of my future story ideas are also sci-fi but have varying subgenres like post-apocalyptic and cyberpunk.

Tell us about your books and where we can get them!

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My Ziva Payvan series—the aforementioned space opera/spy thriller mashup—is currently available on all major ebook platforms and in paperback. The saga begins with an elite operative (the series namesake Ziva Payvan) being forced to team up with the brother of a man she killed in order to stop a threat to their world. Shenanigans ensue. The main trilogy consists of Dakiti, Nexus, and Ronan (+ an omnibus edition containing all three), and then there’s Fracture: Ziva Payvan Legacy, Part 1. Embers, which is part 2, is still in the works and I’m aiming for a year-end release. While all five books are technically part of the series, I consider the two Legacy books kind of a collective sequel to the main trilogy.

I really enjoyed Dakiti, and I was shocked when I heard when you wrote it! Can you share with readers when you started writing?

I’ve been writing to some extent since I was probably 10 or 11, but I didn’t really start writing “seriously” until I was in junior high and even high school. A couple of friends and I had this goofy Star Wars roleplaying game going via AOL instant messenger in 7th and 8th grade and I used to take our chat transcripts and novelize them. It was at that point that I started to think, “Hey, I could probably write a real novel-length story if I wanted.” I started developing some new characters and some new plots and experimented with some little one-shots. I actually wrote the majority of Dakiti during high school, then spruced it up fairly extensively a few years ago when I decided to pursue publishing.

Seems like writing has been a part of your life for a long time. Why do you write?

Frankly, I think I’d go insane otherwise. I admittedly have a very a vivid imagination and am always thinking “what if,” so creating new worlds and characters is a constructive way for me to explore all of those ideas. Writing just feels like the natural solution. It’s an outlet.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I gave pantsing my best shot when I first started developing the two Ziva Payvan Legacy books, and looking back on it, I really should have known better. I’m a plotter at heart, and I ended up wasting an enormous amount of time (we’re talking like three years—yikes) before I finally went back and wove what little material I had into a detailed outline. After that, I was able to progress much more smoothly. An outline serves as a roadmap for me, and I’ve always had to at least have a high-level list of major scenes/events before I even begin a new project. As I’ve worked on Embers, I’ve created an outline for each chapter, leaving space for extra notes because it never fails that I come up with more ideas for little details I don’t want to forget. I’ve really enjoyed using the GoodNotes on my iPad so I can sync it with my phone and jot things down wherever I am.

How do you fit writing into your life? 

I have a day job, so it can sometimes be tricky to fit writing into my schedule. When I’m really on a roll, I usually don’t have much trouble finding the time, but more often than not, writing is competing with several other hobbies for the limited free time I have. I’ve gotten to where I do all my drafting in Google Docs so I can access my work from pretty much any device at any time, and I think that has really helped. Even if I’m not actively working on the story, I’m still connected to it.

It’ll take me a bit to get through the books you’ve already published, but can you share anything about your upcoming projects?

Embers is definitely my primary project right now and I’m planning on it being the final installment in the Ziva Payvan saga (with “planning” being the keyword—I wasn’t originally “planning” on Fracture and Embers even existing, but here we are). One of my future ideas is for a semi-comedic sci-fi adventure/heist story I’m describing as “Ocean’s Eleven in space,” and then I’ve got a space-opera-meets-post-apocalyptic story idea that will involve a bounty hunter guild and a character who belongs to another race featured in my current series. Then there’s kind of a near-future-Earth cyberpunk/psychological thriller idea I’ve actually had longer than the others, but it’s not as big of a priority as they are.

Currently, one of my biggest dreams is to have my books adapted into graphic novels. I’ve been really into the Lazarus graphic novel series by Greg Rucka, and every time I read it, I think my material would be perfect for that sort of thing and I imagine how cool it would be to see it visualized on the page. It’s one of those things that I could probably do myself if I tried, but it would take me a thousand years and I’d have to devote all my time solely to that project. And if someone else was developing it, I’d be hovering constantly to make sure it was done the way I wanted. So while it’s a nice dream to have, I’m not taking it super seriously at the moment.

I don’t tend to read graphic novels, but I can see how your books would fit really well, and it would be really neat to see visual representations of the different species and their characteristics. You mention you’d do it yourself – are you an artist as well? What other hobbies do you have? 

Yes! Digital art is a big hobby of mine. I do all of my own cover art and concept art, so even when I’m drawing instead of writing, chances are it’s still somehow related to the story. I’m also a sucker for story-based RPGs, but gaming is dangerous because if I get caught up in a new game, I typically don’t get anything else done, regardless of how much I want to. I keep saying I’ll have to make myself finish Embers before Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla comes out this holiday season or it’s never going to get done. Ha! And, of course, reading, but that tends to fall by the wayside a lot.

What’s your favorite genre to read? Favorite books?

They say write what you like to read, so it should come as no surprise that I enjoy reading a) sci-fi and b) thrillers (bonus points for a combination). Space opera is definitely my favorite sci-fi subgenre, but I’ll read most types of sci-fi if a given book’s premise grabs my attention. I love Hugh Howey’s Silo trilogy and have enjoyed a number of space opera works by other indie authors, such as G.S. Jennsen’s sprawling Amaranthe saga and Joel Shepherd’s Spiral Wars series (which I’ve fallen miserably behind in, I fear). My CP T.A. Hernandez also has a great dystopian thriller trilogy with a dash of sci-fi. On the purely thriller side, I’ve really enjoyed David Baldacci’s Will Robie series (government assassins, anyone?). The plots feel a little far-fetched at times, but the two protagonists are wonderfully written.

What do you want readers to know about you?

I’m always up for connecting on social media (links below). I’m happy to discuss my books, characters, or just chat about writing and reading in general. And it’s always fun to connect with people over other random mutual interests. Sometimes it feels like I spend more time tweeting about video games and cats than I do about books.

Thank you so much to EJ Fisch for taking the time to answer my questions! Please check out her website and find her on twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

Also, buy her books from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, Kobo, and Google Play.

 

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Would you like to be featured, too? Please contact me at kristin@theedifyingword.com!

Indie Author Spotlight: T. A. Hernandez

Indie Author SpotlightAnd we’re back for week four of Indie Author Spotlight by The Edifying Word, which is super exciting because when I hatched this idea I really had no idea whether anyone would take me up on it! I originally had ten, and the roster is growing so we’ll just keep on going. Today’s Spotlight is T. A. Hernandez, whose most recent release I reviewed here on the blog last year. She writes speculative fiction, which includes a whole host of things like fantasy, science fiction, paranormal, dystopian, and more. 

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TAHernandez.jpgI met T. A. Hernandez on Twitter (yup, you’re noticing a trend, aren’t you?) when I agreed to participate in her cover reveal for Calico Thunder Rides Again. I enjoy following her because her tweets are usually upbeat, I can identify with her as a mom, and I LOVE that she shares her writing-related artwork! Calico Thunder Rides Again is a fun read, and I’m looking forward to her next releases (more about that below). Check out her website for more info on all her books and some free stories! 

Please tell us about how you got started writing, and why you continue. 

I started writing when I was a kid, maybe ten or eleven years old. I was a voracious reader and just wanted to tell stories like the ones in the books I loved so much. I started to take it more seriously as a teenager and realized then that this writing thing was something I was really passionate about and wanted to pursue long-term. 

Still today, I write first and foremost because I love it. I love stories and it brings me a lot of joy to let my imagination run wild and record my stories for myself. But it’s also a lot of fun to share those stories with others, which is why I decided to go ahead and publish them. Writing is a big part of my self-care and mental/emotional well-being. I’ve always been a very creative person, and I have to be doing something with that creativity to feel like my life is fulfilling.

You make your own FABULOUS book covers – is art another of your creative outlets? 

I love art and have been drawing for even longer than I’ve been writing. I got into digital art about nine years ago and have really enjoyed doing that, as well as branching out into graphic design and other related things. The graphic design skills I’ve picked up have come in super handy as an indie author when it comes to things like making my own social media and promotional graphics as well as designing my own book covers. I also enjoy playing video games and take a lot of my writing inspiration from games. Some of my favorites are the Mass Effect series, The Last of Us, Horizon Zero Dawn, and Portal.

Can you tell us a little about your books? 

Right now I have four novels out. The first three belong to a new adult dystopian thriller trilogy called Secrets of PEACE, which follows a skilled but inexperienced young assassin named Zira who works for the authoritarian government. The other book, Calico Thunder Rides Again, is a fantasy novel set on a magical travelling circus in an alternate Prohibition-era America. The circus owner, Jake, finds himself indebted to some dangerous mobsters and has to find a way to repay them on a tight deadline.

What about your current work? I’m enjoying the artwork teasers!

I’m currently in the process of drafting the first book of a YA fantasy duology, which is told from the perspective of three main characters: Amar, Kesari, and Aleida. Amar is a man who seems to be immortal, but he doesn’t remember anything about his past and wants to figure out exactly what’s happening to him. Then there’s Kesari, a girl who traded part of her life for magical powers she now refuses to use. And finally, we have Aleida, a young refugee woman desperately trying to save her younger brother from a debilitating illness before it takes his life. When their paths intersect, they encounter new conflicts and are forced to face the darkest parts of themselves in order to get what they want. It’s a story that’s been floating around in my head for more than a decade, so I’m really excited to finally share it with readers.

You’ve said you write because you are passionate about it, which makes sense because it certainly doesn’t seem like you have loads of spare time for pursuing it. How do you fit it in? 

I have two kids, ages 6 and 9. I also work part-time as a therapist, and a year ago, I was a full-time graduate student doing a part-time internship and just trying to keep my head above water with all the responsibilities I had to juggle. So I’ve definitely had to learn to balance my time and fit writing in whenever I can. It’s not always easy, but as I said, writing is such an important part of my own mental health and self-care that I just have to make it work. Maybe that means I give up some of the time I’d spend watching TV or playing video games, or maybe it means I do a lot of my writing late at night when the kids are asleep. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a great housekeeper and have often put off whatever chores I could to write instead, but it makes me a happier, healthier person overall, and that helps me be a better mom, so I don’t feel too bad about it. My husband is also a huge support. Because he works full-time, I’ve been able to work part-time, and that leaves me with some time to write that I might not have otherwise. He’ll also take the kids out on his own sometimes so that I can just be alone at home and focus on my writing.

It’s so interesting to me to hear what authors read in their downtime so I’ve been asking everyone I feature here to share some favorites (which, honestly, is something I’d have a hard time doing). Do you have any favorites?

I love reading speculative fiction just as much as I love writing it, and I like to read across a variety of genres under that umbrella. Some of my favorite books are The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien, Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, the Tales of the Wendy series by Erin Michelle Sky and Steven Brown, the Ziva Payvan series by EJ Fisch, and the His Dark Materials books by Phillip Pullman.

What do you hope to achieve as an author?

I have a lot of different author dreams, some of which I’ve already achieved (selling a short story to a publisher, self-publishing a novel, receiving a positive review from an author whose work I greatly admire) and some of which I’m still working on. My overall goal is to reach as many readers as possible with my stories and to just keep getting better as a writer. And I’d love to eventually make enough money from my books to supplement my existing income in a more substantial way.

Thank you so much for participating here. Is there anything you’d like to leave with readers? 

I like to think I’m a pretty easy person to talk to, and I love hearing from readers and fellow writers, so if you ever have any questions about me or my writing process or my books or even just books I’ve read, please don’t hesitate to reach out. I especially love hearing about readers’ reactions to my stories and characters. I also love to connect with and support other indie authors, so if you’re an indie author or if you have a favorite indie book you want to recommend, definitely let me know.

All right, friends! Please visit T. A. Hernandez at her website, or on social media, and maybe buy her books!

Website: www.tahernandez.com
Book links: https://books2read.com/ap/n9bBBK/T-A-Hernandez
Twitter: @ta_hernandez5
Instagram: @ta_hernandez5

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Would you like to be featured, too? Please contact me at kristin@theedifyingword.com!