Today I’m super excited to have Selina R Gonzalez on the blog with me! Her interview was so much fun, her books even more so! Speaking of, if you want to check out my mini review of her prequel story, Servant, Mercenary, Brother, you can find it HERE!
Hi Selina! It’s so nice to have you on the blog today!
S: Thank you so much for having me, Savanna!
When did you first decide you wanted to write? Was it your first career choice or were you planning on doing something else?
S: Oh, I had many other career choices first. As a kid, I mostly wanted to be famous. (AKA why my Sorting Hat result of Slytherin was unsurprising.) I wanted to dance or sing or act. Then I wanted to be a geologist–I was a rock collecting kid. But I always loved story and the idea of writing. I started writing around fourteen, wrote through most of high school, but knew it wasn’t a very lucrative career choice, so I went to a community college for digital video production. Decided I didn’t want to do that, settled on being a medieval history professor (I’ve always loved history), earned an AA and BA in history…and decided I really hate higher ed. Oops. So then I thought…well, might as well write, since it’s something I enjoy and seem to be fairly good at. I’ve had a variety of day jobs, but nothing I’ve loved for a career.
Did you enjoy your self-publishing experience?
S: I’ll admit, the months of agonizing over if I wanted to self-publish or not weren’t exactly enjoyable! I’m very much an over-thinker and made pros and cons lists and made my head swim with opinions and research. It hasn’t always been easy after I decided to go for it, either–there’s a lot of opinions that can get confusing, a lot of decisions to make, things to keep track of, plenty of expenses, and tons of work involved. One of the things I do love is the control and that final decisions are all mine. There’s still things I can’t control, like how long it takes for a book to go live after hitting publish, and the waiting can be killer! But I find all the organization required satisfying, and I love that the timeline is mine–no waiting on publishers. Overall, I’m a fan of the flexibility and control and leaning toward staying self-published for future books.
Congratulations on publishing your debut novel, Prince of Shadow and Ash! What is it about? Can you give us a brief description?
S: Thank you! It’s a romantic medieval-inspired fantasy about a former mercenary enslaved to a cruel sorcerer, and a noblewoman who is secretly the last mage in the kingdom. Regulus is a bit of a tortured soul, a good guy stuck in the role of the villain. Adelaide is a fiery but kind individual torn between using her magic to help people and not attracting the attention of a mysterious mage-killer. There’s lots of secrets, sword fights, magic, bro bonds, and romance, as well as confronting prejudice and holding on to hope.
Now Prince of Shadow and Ash is book one in a duology, yes? Can you give us any hints about the next book?
S: That’s correct. I can tell you that book two, Staff of Nightfall, picks up immediately after the end of Prince of Shadow and Ash. And while both books are very much about both Regulus and Adelaide, Prince is more Regulus’ story and Staff is more Adelaide’s story. And I can tell you the stakes get higher and the threats get bigger. Anything more will spoil book one!
What inspires you to write?
S: In general, a love of story, urge to create, love of adventure, and enjoyment of taking readers on an emotional journey. Creating worlds and characters and plots and solving how to get everything to work together is fun, and seeing readers falling in love with characters or getting caught up in the action or enjoying a plot point is super motivating.
Who are some authors that inspire you to become a better writer?
S: So many. Leigh Bardugo, Stephanie Garber, Nadine Brandes, and Patrick Carr to name a few.
Do you have a favorite character you’ve written thus far?
S: Possibly Regulus. I ended up pouring a lot of myself and my struggles with self worth into Regulus. In a lot of ways we’re not much alike–he’s much more relationally-driven than I am, and probably ultimately a better person, haha–but I love his heart and his grumpiness and how hard he tries and how he never really sees how good he is. He’s my baby.
What is the hardest part about writing for you?
S: Either focus or editing! Especially when drafting slower scenes or trying to figure out how to get to the next big plot point, just getting enough focus to get words on the page can be tricky. And I feel like I’ve been in editing hell (erm, heck?) trying to get this duology publication ready. The edits never end, I swear!
How would you describe your writing style?
S: I have a fairly relaxed, contemporary, descriptive style with a good amount of action and humor and a hearty dose of emotion. I like to say I write magical stories with swords, sincerity, and a touch of sarcasm.
Do you have a favorite snack or drink you enjoy while writing?
S: Definitely tea! I love a cup of English breakfast tea with a little brown sugar (less than half a teaspoon, thanks) and a splash of milk. I don’t usually eat while writing–too messy and complicated. But sometimes I’ll snack on gummy bears. Very healthy. 😉
Just because I’d like to include it for readers’ purposes, what would you say your target audience is for your book? Is there any content I should warn readers about?
S: About fourteen-ish and up, but particularly for adults who like a fairly clean romance and enjoy YA books but are a little over teenage protagonists. There’s a few instances of h— or d—, and b—-d is used often, only in its historical usage for an illegitimate son. There’s some violence about on a PG-13 level, themes of prejudice, racism, classism, and depression, and book two deals a little with self harm and assault, also on a PG-13 level. There is some non-graphic, brief torture (and a scene of slightly more graphic torture in book two). And there’s definitely kissing…but nothing graphic.
What is some advice you can give aspiring authors out there that you wish you had known when you began your writing and publishing journey?
S: It usually takes time. Time to actually write (it’s not always easy, sometimes writing is slow), to develop your skills and craft, to know what kind of stories you enjoy writing, to learn about the various ways to publish, and time to publish (even if you self-publish, but especially if you trad publish). That’s not a bad thing, it’s good. You probably aren’t going to write your very first novel and immediately have a great book worth publishing. But that doesn’t make that first book not worthwhile, because the best way to get better at writing is to write (and rewrite) a lot. Then invest time and money into learning and actually applying all those things you learned. Aside: you don’t need to spend a ton to be a good writer. Spend wisely, and know that time spent writing, reading (VERY important), and getting feedback from trusted readers will always be better than spending money you don’t have on writing resources or instruction. Also, we learn “rules” so we know when to break them! But mostly, don’t feel like you must publish right away or you’re a failure. Especially if you’re in high school or college. You have time!
As an author, I know how hard it can be to write duologies and series. How has your experience writing a duology been? Did you always know you were going to start off with a duology?
S: When I first had the idea, I thought it would be a stand-alone, but as I plotted, I realized it needed a second book–there was no fulfilling way to wrap up everything in one book with the villain I had created. Book two was definitely harder–I had a clear idea for book one, and a more general idea for book two, so I pantsed more than I had ever done before. I’m glad that I wrote both before publishing, because it helped me get a better grasp on the characters and their arcs which strengthened book one.
As an Indie author, what advice do you have for other aspiring indies involving the self-publishing process?
S: Do your research! Know what your genre is and what people expect from that (for example, tropes, length, covers). Find out about the different printing companies and their distribution, fees, and quality. Learn about working with freelancers. Research all the things that go into publishing a book–editing, formatting, typesetting, cover design, printing, imprints, copyright registration, marketing, taxes and legal considerations. Know your budget so you can decide what you can afford before hand. Know your own strengths and weaknesses–what can you do and can’t you? (Be realistic!) And don’t be afraid to ask for help–having support is important. But also be polite; don’t be a drain on someone’s time for things you could find through an internet search.
What do you consider your definition of success, as an author? Have you reached it yet or are you still in the process of obtaining it?
S: I sort of have two–a purpose-related success and a financial success. The more important one is my purpose–having readers who get my book and connect with and love the characters. And I know of readers who have, so that most important definition for me has been met, and that is such an exciting and humbling thing. I’d also love to eventually earn back what I spend on producing my books. That’s going to be a very lengthy endeavor, and I’m fine with that–because my main concern is making the book available so it can find the readers that need it.
Big thanks to Selina for letting me interview you! To check out all of her links to her social media and books, keep on scrolling!
Selina R. Gonzalez is a Colorado native with mountains in her blood and dreams that top 14,000 feet. She loves chocolate, fantasy, costumes, bread, history, superheroes, faux leather, things that sparkle, medieval Britain, snark, dogs, and Jesus—not in that order.
She has a bit of a gypsy soul and loves to travel. She’s driven coast-to-coast in the US, visited Britain three times (once for a semester at Oxford), and moved to Maine for four and half months. She has a list of places to go as long as Pikes Peak is tall, but always comes back home to Colorado.
Link to book page on my website: https://selinargonzalez.com/books/prince/
Universal Amazon link: http://mybook.to/princeofshadowandash