Friday, May 19, 2017

Exclusive Interview with Petra Landon + Excerpt from The Prophecy

Today, I'm thrilled to be featuring urban fantasy author Petra Landon, who goes into exquisite detail about her new saga The Chosen, characterisation, book cover, publishing, travel and a lot more.
Petra has also provided an excerpt from the first book in the saga, The Prophecy.
A powerful wizard threatens the Chosen from beyond the grave. Can they unravel The Prophecy in time to save their world?
Chosen have walked the earth for time immemorial. Tasia is a very special Chosen. Warned to keep her distance from her brethren, she makes a fateful decision one night to assist an injured Shape-shifter. Suddenly, Tasia finds herself in the cross-hairs of Shifter mercenaries encroaching on San Francisco. Forced out of the shadows, Tasia has little choice but to ally herself with the local Shifter Pack led by a formidable and dangerous Alpha Protector. In the cut-throat world of a Shifter Pack, Tasia must fight to protect her secrets while struggling to negotiate with the enigmatic Alpha who holds his violent Pack together with a ruthless hand on its reins.
Grave danger threatens their world as a powerful wizard exploits an old prophecy to divide the Chosen. When the Pack is asked to investigate the twenty-five-year-old mystery, Tasia is drawn deeper into a past that risks raising the suspicions of the very Chosen she hides from. As danger closes in on her, Tasia must decide who to trust with the deadly secrets she guards.
Author's Note: The Prophecy is the first book of Saga of the Chosen, an urban fantasy series sprinkled with action, adventure, an unfolding mystery and a dose of romance. The book is set in contemporary San Francisco in the fantastical and intrigue-ridden world of Chosen where factions of Wizards, Shape-shifters, Vampires and others vie for power and influence over their kind.

Exclusive Interview with Nadaness In Motion

Introducing Petra
Q: Who are your favourite classic authors and/or books? Has any of them been influential in your writing?
PL: I grew up on the classics but they have never influenced my writing. Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is the classic romance that most romances try to emulate, even today – there’s a throwaway reference to it in The Prophecy too.  Other classics I like include To Kill a Mockingbird, Ivanhoe, Children of the New Forest, Jane Eyre, A Tale of Two Cities (which I thought as a child was seriously too gory to allow children to read), The Scarlet Pimpernel, almost anything by Mark Twain, Heidi, stories by Hans Christian Andersen, O’Henry and De Maupassant, to name a few.
I grew up reading Enid Blyton and I find her stories timeless. For me, Alistair Maclean epitomizes action and adventure as does Agatha Christie when it comes to mystery. I also love Mary Stewart’s romantic suspense stories set in exotic locales. One of the main characters in The Prophecy is named after the male protagonist in Nine Coaches Waiting, a Mary Stewart’s story set in France near the Switzerland border. When I was devouring her books in high school, I didn’t know that one day I would travel and see the places she talked about in such wonderful detail in her books.

Q: The places you mention in your blog posts and tweets like Greece, have you been to any of them? Have you used any of them as inspiration in your writing?
PL: Books have always played a huge part in my life – reading them, that is. I’ve been a voracious reader since I was a child, my Dad having encouraged me to follow in his footsteps. My love for reading is also what inculcated the travel bug in me. Mary Stewart, an author I read in high school wrote wonderful suspense thrillers set in exotic locales and since then, I’ve always wanted to travel. I love to travel and count myself very privileged to have visited many countries around the world. My blog Books Feed My Soul is about all things that inspire me to write and create – reading, travel, music etc. I post the pictures from the blog on Twitter and yes, the pictures are all mine. I have travelled to about twenty-five countries and my bucket list is still growing.
I find traveling very inspiring. I love experiencing the different cultures, peoples and food as well as the natural beauty inherent in so many locales around the world. The Prophecy features some of my favorite places in the US and Canada and I hope to add more international color as the story progresses to include Chosen diaspora from around the world.

Q: Apart from being an author, do you have a full-time job? (Has it helped you in your writing in anyway?) What do you do when you're not writing?
PL: I have a full-time and demanding job. I like what I do but it doesn’t influence my writing in any way. I’ve a background in the Sciences and Mathematics, so perhaps I bring an analytical way of looking at plots and characterisation. You might occasionally note very geeky descriptions in my books when it comes to gadgets and technology in general, but I try and tone it down when I can J I’m a little bit of a dreamer. I’ve read all my life as a means to escape to a fantasy world. My career is too much real world and not enough fantasy for me J
Apart from reading, I love to travel. I listen to music from around the world and love the outdoors. I’ve been dancing since I was a child and I'm fascinated by languages. I take dance classes when I can and occasionally work on rudimentary skills in other languages. My husband is a mega foodie and a fabulous cook, something I’ve grown to appreciate over time J When we have the time, we love to cook together to recreate dishes from the different cuisines that we have tasted during our travels.

Q: When reading, what do you look for in a book?
PL: I don’t generally choose a book based on what genre it falls under. Any book that can successfully draw me into the fantasy world that exists only between its pages is a good one. I like stories that are a mix of suspense, romance and adventure with some elements of fantasy mixed in. I’m also open to stories that build the world and characters slowly up to the crescendo as long as the writer does it well in a way that holds my attention. Some authors possess the talent and ability to write very well, weaving a story that has been told many times before but doing it so well that a reader looks at it with fresh eyes. And then there are others who are wonderful story-tellers. Their well-crafted stories and wonderful characterisations more than make up for any deficiencies in their writing style. In such cases, sometimes the reader has to engage their own imagination to envision the world as the writer intended. 

Q: What genres are readers unlikely to see you writing? (least favourite genres)?
PL: I consider myself primarily a story-teller, so I doubt I will ever write non-fiction.

The Prophecy from the Outside
Tell us about your cover and who designed it.
PL: When I first made the decision to publish, I knew absolutely nothing about designing a book cover but I had very strong ideas about what I like and don’t like in a book cover. I’ve been a bookworm all my life and although a book cover doesn’t generally nudge me into buying a book, it does draw my attention to one. Especially, when it comes to books by new authors I have not read before. One of the firms I worked for had used 99designs to run a contest to design their website and I decided to check them out.
Before running a contest for a book cover, I had to create a design document to let potential designers know what I was looking for. I was seriously hampered by the fact that though I had strong views about it, I didn’t know how to articulate my thoughts to potential designers. I looked at dozens of such documents from fantasy and indie authors who had been looking for book covers on 99designs before coming up with my own. It was a fairly long and drawn out process for me. My design document and the final four designs in the contest are here for anyone interested in checking them out.
The contest itself was easy to run, although quite nerve-wracking for me. I picked the four designs that I had liked at first glance as my four finalists. Biserka, whose design I picked as the winner, has been fantastic through this entire process. I count myself very fortunate to have her by my side. I ran the contest for my cover six months before I published. I had not anticipated many aspects of a book cover since this was my first time. Biserka anticipated my needs and continues to work with me, responding promptly to all my requests and changes to the original design. Biserka may be contacted here.

Q: You mentioned that this is a Saga not a trilogy or Quartet, so how many parts do you have planned? And how much have you written so far – even as drafts?
Petra Landon: When the idea for the story first came to me, I envisioned the story as a trilogy. I’m not giving much of the story away by saying that the prophecy in the tale centers around three siblings. The idea was that each book would tell one sibling’s story and how that tied in to the larger tale of the Chosen. Most of the world and main characters were very clear in my head before I started to put it down on paper. But once I started writing The Prophecy, I realised that my inexperience had led me to underestimate an important aspect of the story. The world building in the story is quite detailed and very essential to why the characters react the way they do to various events that affect their world. The Prophecy is a little over 400 pages and that is already at the upper end of what I had envisioned for Book 1.
As a reader, I love long books myself but now that I’m on the other side, I realise that the writer must work extra hard to hold the reader’s interest and keep the story taut in such cases. That is why I’ve been very careful to not call Saga of the Chosen a trilogy because I’m not sure yet how many books the story will take to tell it the way I had originally envisioned it.
In the future, I also plan to write stories with some of the secondary characters from Saga of the Chosen and shorter standalone stories set in this universe.
To answer your second question, I have 80% of Book 2 (The Rainmaker) written as a draft. I’m toying with the idea of releasing some of it as short standalone addendums to keep The Rainmaker to a more reasonable length.

Going Deeper into The Saga
Q: What or who are the "Chosen" in your book series?
PL: The Chosen in my books are Magicks – beings with power who have lived amidst humans since the beginning of time. I do plan one day to explore the origins of the Chosen and how they came to live amongst the humans. Many of them possess great power and as we all know, with great power comes great responsibility. Unfortunately, the Chosen continue to be divided by rifts and factionalism, some centuries old. They agree on one law – that no Chosen can ever allow the secret of their existence to be revealed to the humans. They call this their Supreme Edict and their leaders enforce this under the penalty of death. There have been many attempts to foster greater co-operation between them, the last attempt twenty years ago before the story of Saga of the Chosen begins. A Council of Chosen was formed with four seats to represent the four main Chosen factions. The Council has helped open communications between the leaders of factions but not much has changed at the grass roots level. The story explores what happens when one of their own - a powerful wizard - threatens to exploit the schisms between the Chosen for her own ambitions. When the Chosen slowly awaken to the danger that threatens their kind, can they forget centuries of animosity to come together to face this threat or will she succeed in driving a deeper wedge between them?
Although set in a fantasy world, it is a story that we see play out in the real world so often. Quite depressingly so, in my opinion. I’ve always found it fascinating how different people react to the same life-changing event. Some are willing to let go of their life-long beliefs to come together for a common good while others tend to cling to their dogma stubbornly.

Q: You have many species in your novel, did you have them in mind from the start or did you add some as the story progressed?
PL: The fantasy world was very clear and vivid in my imagination when I started writing the story, down to the last detail. The world and the characters that populate it are very integral to this story since the different factions of Chosen and their historic inter-dependence and conflicting ties and loyalties to each other play a crucial role in how this particular tale plays out. Some are willing to join hands with their enemies to work towards the betterment of their brethren while others are bamboozled into allowing their greed to override their better judgement. As the story progresses, some factions paper over their internal differences to present a united front while others are torn apart by the differing philosophies within the group, leading to the weaker members being vulnerable as a high-stakes grab for power and influence over the Chosen world commences.
There are four main factions within the Chosen, each with a distinct history and set of beliefs. The wizards are arrogant and look down on other Chosen, except the Ancients whom they idolise and try to emulate. The vampires, considered an abomination by many Chosen, are obsessed with social hierarchy and isolate themselves from the mainstream. The Shifters share much with their beast forms at an elemental level – territorial, aggressive and loners except when it comes to their Packs. They have little magic but their physical abilities make them a force to reckon with. The Ancients are believed to be the descendants of the first Chosen to walk the earth and possess the most diverse set of powers.
The story begins with an incident in San Francisco when Tasia, a Chosen with secrets that force her to hide from her kind, finds herself in the cross-hairs of rogue Chosen encroaching on the city. When the local Shifter Pack, vampire nest and wizards get involved in the messy but mysterious affair, Tasia is forced to accept the Pack’s hospitality. Now, she must fight to guard her deadly secrets, navigate the politics in the Pack and negotiate with the Alpha Protector who is the only one standing between her and the wolves circling her. When the Pack gets involved in investigating an old prophecy, she’s drawn into the past. Tasia must decide whether to help unravel the threat or guard her own secrets. In essence, the larger story of the Chosen interweaves through Tasia’s journey as she goes from a Chosen more at ease in the human world to someone at the center of this investigation that might well change the course of Chosen history.

Q: Tell us about some of the lessons you've learned from being a self-published author.
PL: There are many things I have learnt about publishing in general. I would categorise them into two broad groups – aspects of being an indie author and aspects of publishing a book. As an indie author, you have to manage all aspects of publishing a book – book cover, editing, formatting for Kindle and paperback, learning how to use and maximise Amazon as a platform, writing book descriptions, query letters to potential reviewers and so much more. And I don’t include here the actual art of crafting a story to build a world with interesting characters that might hold a reader’s interest. As an author too, you are expected to build a platform to draw readers in. This includes a website, social media presence, blogging about your work, presence on Goodreads etc and so much more.
I’m introverted by nature. My presence on social media was extremely limited before I published. Since then, I’ve made an effort to reach out and engage with others. It is not an easy endeavor for someone like me. But I will admit that the toughest aspect by far when it comes to publishing has been putting my book before an audience. I’m constantly learning on the job and trying to read up on the experiences of other self-published writers who have been successful at this. This aspect of publishing is something I had never taken into account. And it has been very challenging for me.

Q: Your Saga falls under paranormal and urban fantasy, what genre(s) would you like to experiment with in the future?
PL: My books tend to be a mix of adventure, mystery and romance in a fantasy setting. Over the years, these are the stories I’ve liked the most as a reader, so whatever I write in the future will fit into this broad category.
My next book, The Mercenary, will not be urban fantasy. Rather, it is a romantic tale of swashbuckling adventure and danger, set in a distant galaxy where an ongoing and deadly war has made the lives of its inhabitants very complicated and dangerous. The story is set in motion when two people from very different backgrounds, races and circumstances meet accidentally on a space station in neutral space. He’s a mercenary who follows the traditions of his people - a race of nomadic warriors who only fight for hire, fiercely independent and formidable in battle. She’s a rebel fighting against the powerful Empire that has enslaved her world and now finds herself a prisoner in desperate circumstances, alone and friendless on a faraway space station. In a twist of fate, these two are drawn to each other, despite everything that tries to tear them apart. The echoes of this unlikely alliance will change the balance of power in their slice of space forever.
I’m also a huge fan of Georgette Heyer and would like one day to attempt a Regency Romance in her style. I consider such stories to fall within the fantasy genre too, albeit with more rules than the fantasy worlds I tend to create J

Last But Not Least: Writing Advice
Q: What advice can you give to aspiring authors?
PL: Follow your dreams and never allow anything to hold you back. I never thought that I would ever write, let alone publish. If writing is what makes you happy, you should give it your all.

Excerpt from The Prophecy by Petra Landon
Streaks of light from the breaking dawn had just appeared in the sky when the young man dashed up the stairs to the fourth floor at inhuman speed to burst precipitously into the Pack Room. He glanced around the room to zero in on a tall man who stood in conversation with an older white-haired gentleman whose noble features denoted his native American ancestry.
“Hawk’s downstairs, Alpha” he announced, the quiet words successfully bringing all discussion in the room to an abrupt halt.
A young girl with dark hair sitting forlornly in a chair to the side, perked up at the announcement. Hope blossomed in her beautiful face, successfully banishing the tiredness and anxiety that made her appear older than her age.
The Alpha Protector directed his oddly cold eyes at the young man by the door, his eyebrow arched in inquiry.
“He’s on his way up. Needed a few minutes to get decent” the young Shifter added with a grin.
At the Shifter’s words, the Alpha glanced at Duncan. The big Shifter, whose habitual impassiveness usually rivalled the Alpha’s, met his gaze with an expression of unmistakable relief.
“I’ll take my leave now, Alpha” Atsá said softly, drawing his Alpha’s attention back to him. “I am happy that Hawk has returned to us” he added, his wise gaze meeting the Alpha’s unusual eyes, the color of old gold.
The Alpha nodded respectfully to the older white-haired Shifter. When he had made the decision to sound the alarm for Hawk and rouse his Shifters to go hunting for their Pack mate, he’d made it a point to personally inform Atsá. He knew how much emphasis the powerful Were-Alpha placed on tradition and he’d thought it only right to inform him personally of Hawk’s disappearance. Plus, there had been no keeping the information from the wolves. So, it’d been imperative that Atsá hear the news from his Alpha before he learnt it from any of the others.
As the older Shifter moved towards the door, Hawk came barreling through it. He stopped abruptly as he caught sight of Atsá, directing a short nod at the Were-Alpha after an infinitesimal pause. Atsá inclined his head in dignified acknowledgement before making his way out of the room.
Hawk glanced at the Alpha Protector.
“Alph, you’ll never guess what happened to me” he announced impetuously as the young girl rushed forward to throw her arms around him.
“Hawk” she whispered, her voice indicating a mixture of fear and relief. “I was so worried.”
An affectionate smile lit up Hawk’s attractive face as he returned her hug. “I’m indestructible, Sara mia” he stated with cocky self-confidence. “You shouldn’t worry about me.”
“Beware, little stripling! That kind of cockiness has been known to bring better men than you onto their knees” drawled a gorgeous green-eyed woman, her voice rife with amusement.
“I’m no mere man, Elisabetta” Hawk countered lightly. “I’m a Shifter.”
One of the male Shifters in the room laughed aloud with genuine mirth.
Hawk responded with a grin before extricating himself gently from the young girl. As she walked away from him back to the seat she’d vacated, Hawk turned his attention back to his Alpha.
“Alph” he began.
“Close the door, Hawk” the Alpha directed imperiously.
Reminded of protocol, Hawk hurried to close the heavy door to the Pack Room. The room was now shielded from the rest of the Lair.
“What happened to you, Hawk?” Duncan inquired.
“Alph had me chasing down some reports of non-Pack Shifters in the city. I caught up with them this afternoon in an abandoned warehouse in Oakland. There were three of them. They ambushed me and we fought. I killed one and the others locked me up in a cage.”
“Hawk, my man, don’t tell me that you couldn’t break though one tiny cage” queried a red-haired man with the hint of an Irish brogue in his voice.
“The bars were reinforced with silver” Hawk’s response was blunt. “They burnt my skin when I touched them.”
A charged silence descended on the room full of Shifters. Silver was like kryptonite to Shape-shifters. It sapped their power and strength and was even known to kill on prolonged contact.
“How’d you get free?” the Alpha’s voice was sober.
“A young girl helped free me.”
“Human?” Duncan inquired, his voice sharp.
“No” Hawk shook his head. “She’s Chosen. I was in my wolf form in the cage and she knew what I was.”
“She was frightened of me and of being discovered in the house” Hawk continued. “Yet she helped me get out of there. I spent the remainder of the night at her place, conserving my strength to fly back before dawn. I did snoop around a bit before I left - wanted to find out who she was. There was correspondence addressed to her from an address I recognised.” He paused dramatically. “The Registry!”
“A wizard came to your aid” Duncan exclaimed while the Alpha remained stonily silent.
“Yes. And she might be in trouble because of it. Alph, when those Shifters discover that I’m missing, they might guess who helped me escape. Her being there tonight was not a coincidence. For all we know, that might lead them directly to her” Hawk said urgently to his Alpha.
“It might be a trap, Hawk” Duncan pointed out mildly. “She could be working with those Shifters.”
“But what if she isn’t?” Hawk encountered impassionedly. “She could be in danger.”
The Alpha gazed at Hawk, his expression grim. He knew very well what Hawk was asking for – some kind of protection for the girl. She'd come to the aid of one of his Shifters, helping to extricate Hawk from a sticky situation. The girl deserved to be safeguarded from any consequences that might arise from her singular kindness to a stranger. 
“I want to meet her. Bring her to me and I’ll see what I can do” he stated noncommittally.

Last but not least, author Petra Landon would love to connect with you via her Website, Amazon | Twitter | Goodreads | Pinterest
Where to find The Prophecy? Check out Amazon | Book Page | Goodreads

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