Guest Interview with Tyler R. Tichelaar, author of the Children of Arthur series

Some of you may remember my friend, author and fellow Arthurian nut Tyler Tichelaar, from his 2012 guest post where he talked about a trip he took to Turkey and the Arthurian connections he found there. Well, now he’s back, talking about the fifth and final book in his Children of Arthur series about King Arthur and his descendants.

Tyler is an author of Arthurian nonfiction and historical fantasy and an enthusiast for, if not expert on, modern Arthurian fiction. His nonfiction book King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition, which I reviewed here, was published by Modern History Press in 2011. It explores various traditions concerning King Arthur’s children in Welsh and medieval sources, the possible historical descendants of King Arthur, and more recent creations of descendants for King Arthur in modern fiction. (It’s a great book, one that has been a resource for more than one of my novels and non-fiction books.)

Tyler began writing King Arthur’s Children as his master’s thesis in 1994 and as research so he could write his first King Arthur novel, which eventually became the five-book Children of Arthur series, consisting of Arthur’s Legacy (2014), Melusine’s Gift (2015), Ogier’s Prayer (2016), Lilith’s Love (2016), and the newly released Arthur’s Bosom (2017).

I’m thrilled to have him here today to talk about the publication of his fifth novel in the series, Arthur’s Bosom.

Without giving too much away, can you give us an overview of the series for readers not familiar with it?

Tyler: Sure, Nicole, and thank you for having me here. The premise of the series revolves around the idea that King Arthur had descendants. Most people are not aware that he had any children other than Mordred, and depending on which version of the story you read, Mordred is often just Arthur’s nephew. However, there are ancient Welsh traditions that Arthur had several other sons—namely Gwydre, Llacheu, and Amr. There are also traditions that Mordred had children. Furthermore, several families over the centuries have tried to claim descent from King Arthur, including the Scottish Clan Campbell, and the Welsh Tudor family, which, of course, means the current British royal family can claim descent from King Arthur. Whether any of this is true is open to speculation. Many people are very interested in determining the historicity of King Arthur, but to me, the magic has always existed in the legend’s flexibility to recreate itself for each new century and even decade. My premise then is that King Arthur did have descendants, they are living among us today, and considering the fifteen hundred years separating King Arthur’s time period from our own, most of us are King Arthur’s descendants.

Wow. That would be really cool to be a descendant of King Arthur. (I have always thought I was a queen…) So will you tell us a little about what King Arthur’s descendants do in your novels?

Tyler: In the first novel, Arthur’s Legacy, the story starts in 1994. The main character, Adam, has been raised by his grandparents. His mother gave birth to him outside wedlock and then basically abandoned him. He doesn’t know who his father is. I don’t want to give too much away, but eventually at age twenty-two, he starts to get answers, which lead him to finding his father in England and also meeting a strange professor named Merle (you can guess who that is). Eventually, Merle arranges for Adam to fall into a deep sleep and dream the true story of Camelot. In that dream, we learn that Mordred had descendants who survived the fall of Camelot. We also learn that Mordred was one of the good guys, and instead, other villains brought about the fall of Camelot. In the successive volumes, Mordred’s descendants battle the evil ones who destroyed Camelot and who continue to try to destroy them over the centuries, including during the time of Charlemagne, during the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, and during World War I.

Is it giving too much away to ask who these villains are who were really responsible for the fall of Camelot?

Tyler: No, you learn that right in the opening pages of Arthur’s Legacy. There are two of them, but they are not the usual suspects, although I believe they are the most likely ones when you dig a bit deeper into the legend. First of all, we understand today that history is written from the conqueror’s perspective, so think about who ends up ruling Britain after Arthur—it’s Constantine of Cornwall. It’s never clear why he is chosen as Arthur’s heir; he seems to be some shirttail relative. However, in the sixth century book De Excidio et Conquestu Brittainiae, written by Arthur’s contemporary Gildas, there is reference to a king named Constantine who murdered two royal youths. I believe these youths are Mordred’s sons. In Arthur’s Legacy, one of those sons, Meleon, has a child before he dies, and that child carries on Arthur’s bloodline. The other villain is Gwenhwyvach, whom I imagine most readers have never heard of. However, there is a statement in the Welsh triads that one of the causes of the Battle of Camlann was the blow Guinevere struck to her half-sister Gwenhwyvach. There is a later tradition in the Prose Lancelot that Guinevere’s half-sister, Gwenhwyvach, tried to pass herself off as Guinevere on Arthur and Guinevere’s wedding night. The trick was discovered and Gwenhwyvach, known as the False Guinevere in the Prose Lancelot, was imprisoned in Hengist’s Tower. So it is Gwenhwyvach and Constantine who bring about Camelot’s fall.

I’ve learned a lot about Gwenhwyvach in my non-fiction research. What you say makes perfect sense. I love this theory. But I’m confused; how can they continue to pursue and try to kill Arthur’s descendants in successive centuries? Is it reincarnation?

Tyler: Not exactly. Constantine can’t since he’s just human, but Gwenhwyvach can in my novels because she is a witch, and even more than that, she is an ancient sorceress who is able to reincarnate and has for many centuries since the beginning of time—the title of the fourth book in the series, Lilith’s Love, gives away her real identity. You see, Lilith was Adam’s first wife in the Garden of Eden. Tradition says she refused to let Adam be on top (a sign of submission) when they had sexual intercourse; consequently, she was derided in Jewish folklore as a monster (a totally sexist attitude), and in my series she acts that way.

Interesting. Tell me about the other women in your novels. You know I’m all about the girl power.

Tyler: One thing I absolutely wanted to avoid was just another story of good vs. evil. Lilith/Gwenhwyvach does many evil things in the novels, but she is a complicated character, and in Lilith’s Love, she gets a chance to explain her own side of things. There are lots of gray areas in my novels—nothing is black and white or exactly as it seems at first. One thing I refused to do was just follow the traditional storylines of various medieval legends that I used. I wanted to turn everything on its head, showing that these stories I use are not necessarily what we have been taught. I did that first by retelling the Camelot story.

I also turn everything on its head in the second novel, Melusine’s Gift, where the French fairy Melusine is the strong female protagonist. Traditionally, Melusine was raised in Avalon, so it only made sense to me that Melusine must have grown up knowing King Arthur, who was there recovering from his wound. Melusine marries one of Arthur’s descendants and uses her fairy powers to try to bring about good. However, in tradition, Melusine made her husband promise she could always hide herself away on Saturday and not be seen by him. Eventually, he broke his promise and discovered she took on a mermaid or serpent form (depending on which version of the legend you read) on Saturdays. At first, he kept her secret, but later in a fit of anger, he called her a serpent in front of his court and she flew away. She is treated as an evil character in tradition, but I am much more kind to her. She is the strength of her family and also works to bring about good, though others cannot accept her because she is different.

Another strong female character throughout the series is Morgan le Fay. Since she shows up in the Charlemagne legends, I thought she obviously must be immortal and live beyond Arthur’s time, so throughout the series, she intercedes as needed to help Arthur’s descendants (and her own since she is Mordred’s mother in my novels).

People know know you through King Arthur’s Children (both the blog and the book) may not know that you have another blog where you write about Gothic literature. Can you explain what that influence is on your Arthurian novels?

Tyler: Yes, one of the main influences that carries through all five novels is the Gothic format of using stories within stories to move forward the plot. It was used in such classic Gothic novels as Matthew Lewis’s The Monk (1796) and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818). All five novels in the Children of Arthur series use this format. By inserting stories within stories, I am able to peel back the layers of the onion—to reveal the secrets about the characters and secrets lost to time that King Arthur’s modern descendants must learn in order to succeed in their goals.

I also use Gothic elements particularly in Lilith’s Love, which includes in it the story of Quincey Harker, the son of Jonathan and Mina Harker, who defeat Dracula in Bram Stoker’s classic novel. Because Mina drank Dracula’s blood, I imagined that Quincey, who is born at the end of Dracula, must have some of Dracula’s blood in him, which gives him some superhuman powers. In his quest to understand his vampiric origins, Quincey has several Gothic experiences that make up bulk of the novel, which you might call a sequel to Dracula really.

And what about your latest novel, Arthur’s Bosom? When does it take place and how does it bring the series to an end?

Tyler: I wrote Arthur’s Bosom for two reasons. The first is because I wanted to bring the series full circle since the first novel largely takes place during Arthur’s time but the three novels after that take place in different centuries, so this novel returns the storyline back to the time of Camelot. In the novel, Arthur’s modern-day descendants, Lance and Tristan Delaney, travel back in time to sixth century Britain.

The second reason I wrote this novel as the series finale is because in the first book of the series, Merlin tells Adam that he and his family (Lance and Tristan are Adam’s grown sons) will be responsible for helping to bring about King Arthur’s return. I’ve been sorely disappointed by the few novels that have tried to depict Arthur’s return, so I set about to write my own version of what Arthur’s return would be like, and hopefully, I pulled it off in a way that will surprise and satisfy readers. So far, the response I’ve received has been positive.

Why did you pick the title Arthur’s Bosom?

Tyler: It’s actually from a line in Shakespeare’s Henry V where Falstaff is said to have gone to Arthur’s Bosom. Shakespeare was playing on the biblical phrase of Abraham’s Bosom. I used the term to refer to a type of Arthurian heaven. I must admit I have no desire to sit around on a cloud and play a harp all day. I think I’d much rather go to a heaven that resembles King Arthur’s Britain as depicted in Malory, so in the novel, Arthur’s Bosom is used to refer to the Arthurian version of heaven where Arthur’s true believers go when they die.

What do you hope readers will come away with after they read the series?

Tyler: The theme of this series is “Imagination is the salvation of mankind.” I am a firm believer in the Law of Attraction and that our thoughts create our world. I want people to use their imaginations to think outside the box, to question the past we believe we know to find new truths in it, and also to imagine new and positive possibilities for our future. Through imagination, we have the power to shape our world. We don’t have to believe in a doomed world where global warming and the possibility of nuclear war make us think humanity’s best days are past. The future is still ours to write, and through the power of our thoughts, we can make it into a glorious one. I even think it possible we could change the past if we concentrated hard enough upon it. Why can’t the King Arthur and Camelot we dream of have been real? Why can’t we make it real in the future, even if it is in the past? What would it mean to us if we learned we were descended from King Arthur? Would it make us want to live those ideals of Camelot? So, ultimately, I hope that in the Children of Arthur series, I have used legends—that of King Arthur, but also Charlemagne, Prester John, Ogier the Dane, the Wandering Jew, Dracula, etc.—as inspiration and encouragement for all of us to want to create a better world for our future.

Wow, that’s a lofty but worthwhile goal. Before we go, where can readers purchase your books?

Tyler: The books are for sale at my website www.ChildrenofArthur.com. They are also at the major online booksellers—Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Google Play, etc. They are available in paperback and ebook formats. At my website there is also more information about the Arthurian legend and I have a blog where I regularly write about Arthurian modern fiction and other related topics.

Your blog really is a great resource. I’ve been reading some of your old posts lately. So everyone, go check it out. Thanks again, Tyler for being here today. It’s been a pleasure having you. I wish you all the best with your series.

Tyler: Thanks, Nicole. I’ll be looking forward to reading your own last Guinevere novel when it comes out.

Do you have questions for Tyler? If so, please leave them in the comments. He’ll be stopping by to answer them.

Author vs. Writer

The other day, I read a bio of a fellow writer that said something along the lines of “I’m a writer. I’ll earn the title ‘author’ when I’m published.” This gave me pause and it made me sad, because it reinforces the misguided idea that there is a class difference between being an author and being a writer.

Looking at publishing as the reason a writer becomes an author (much like a child becomes an adult) leaves out a large segment of the writing population and sets up unrealistic expectations. Many people are chosing to self-publish. Does the moment they press the “publish” button automatically make them better than or different from everyone else? What about people who write for themselves or for their family, with no intention of publishing? Does that make them any less authors? I don’t think so.

Yes, getting published is a huge deal. It’s professional validation and does wonders to get your work in front of a large group of readers you otherwise may not have access to, and let’s be honest, it usually involves an increase in income. But it isn’t some magical initiation whereby you get a new title. You are still doing the same thing you’ve been doing, just with an advance/royalties and more accountability. When that glorious day comes, by all means, celebrate! Be proud of your accomplishment! (I know I will be.) But please don’t think it makes you Grand High Pooba or High Priestess of the Written Word. (Those come with being on the best seller list – or so I’ve heard. 🙂 )

Really, it boils down to semantics. Oftentimes, I use the words “writer” and “author” interchangeably, because really, they mean the same thing – someone who writes. If you asked me which I prefer, I’d say “author,” only because to me, that is more evocative of the literary nature of what I do. You can “write” anything (and I write all day long for my day job, so I know): newsletters, articles, ad copy, cereal box text, instruction manuals. But the word “author” seems to me to be more reserved for those who write literary works: books, poems, plays, etc. That’s why I like it. It speaks to who I am. I’ve been using it since my writing became more than an occasional hobby and I plan on using it well into my future days as a best-seller.

In my mind, if you write something, you are already an author, regardless of whether or not your work ever sees the light of day. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, of course, but I think to view authorhood as something to be achieved – like winning a gold medal – is just silly. If you want to aim for something, aim for an audience of adoring fans, a certain level of self-satisfaction, or even certain sales numbers. Those things are great goals, but they do not an author make. Only words poured out from your heart onto paper or a computer screen can do that.

So, embrace who you are. If you write and you want to call yourself an author, do so – because you already are. If you don’t like the term and want to be known as a writer, go for it. Class warfare within the writing profession does nothing other than separate us, when what we need is to work together as a community to support one another. Our community is what we make of it, and I, for one, hope we are willing to include everyone, from the novice learning his/her craft to the household name.

What do you think? Is there a difference between being an “author” and being a “writer?” Which do you prefer? Why?

Author Interview: J. P. Reedman, Stone Lord: The Legend of King Arthur, Era of Stonehenge

J.P. Reedman, author of “Stone Lord: The Legend of King Arthur, The Era of Stonehenge”

Today we have a very special guest, author J.P. Reedman, whose historical fiction novel, Stone Lord: The Legend of King Arthur, The Era of Stonehenge, was recently published.

Q: Thank you so much for joining me and my readers.  By way of introduction, please tell us a little about yourself. 

Janet: Stone Lord is my first published novel. I began writing fantasy when I was 11, back on the west coast of Canada, where I grew up. I had lots of stories and poems published in the small presses in the ’80s, and had a long foray into ‘fan fiction’ but slacked off when I moved to the UK in 1992—I was too busy traveling around and having fun! A serious illness ten years ago kick-started my writing again; I knew then that it was time to sit down and really make an effort, and not to think you had all the time in the world.

Q: Stone Lord is a very unique take on Arthurian legend, as most books about King Arthur are set the Middle Ages or Celtic times. What inspired you to set yours in the Bronze Age?

Janet: I have read all the different Arthurian versions, plus non-fiction and the legends in the Mabinogion. There were so many versions of the Arthurian legends I began to think that, like Robin Hood, there may have been more than one source of inspiration for the character. I believe there probably WAS a dark age Arthur who stemmed the Saxon tides for a while…but certain mythic qualities in the legends speak of an older time, long before the Dark Ages. In the Welsh Mabinogion Arthur fights monsters and witches, not Saxons, and his company have the thinly disguised names of gods. Then there were Geoffrey of Monmouth’s anachronistic mentions of the building of Stonehenge, a monument many thousands of years older than the historical Arthur. Add to that, stories of weaponry coming from and being deposited in lakes (a custom that began in the Bronze Age), swords in standing stones, and you start to see what may be the root of some aspects of the legend.

Q: In reading the excerpts from your book available online, I noticed the main characters have names that are derivations of the names we normally associate with Arthurian legend. How did you determine what you would call them?

Janet: With great difficulty! I knew that it wouldn’t sound right to call them by their traditional established names, which are a mix of Celtic, French, and even a bit of Germanic. So I looked for older or more ‘primal’ sounding versions of the names, and found them most often in Irish myth—for instance Arthur’s sword Excalibur seems to have the Irish hero’s sword Caladbolg as its direct ancestor, so I used a version of this. I decided I wanted ‘Celtic sounding’ names, but with alternate spellings so as not to sound TOO familiar or confuse people about the timeline. And if anyone is wondering, it is now thought that Celtic languages were in Britain at least from 2500 BC.

Q: What types of traditional research did you do for this book? What are some sources you’d recommend if others want to learn more about the Bronze Age or its people?

Janet: Visit the monuments if you can! There’s nothing like being in the field. There are several brilliant books on the subject of Stonehenge and the British Bronze Age. Stonehenge by Mike Parker Pearson contains much of the recent findings in the Stonehenge landscape, and Aubrey Burl’s Rites of the Gods covers the ritual side of things.

Q: You’ve also done some archeological research. That’s something few people can claim. Please tell us a little about this research, how it came about and how it influenced your book.

Janet: I work part-time at Stonehenge itself and have been lucky enough to talk with many of the top archaeologists in the field. I also have worked myself on a marvelous site just 2 miles from the stones where there is an ancient sacred pool full of deposits that spans the ages from the Mesolithic to medieval times. A rare type of Bronze Age dagger was found in the spring, and this really started to make me think about the Excalibur tradition. The site is on private land and covered in trees; an iron age hill fort stands next to it, and the Avon river curls around it like a serpent…it’s a truly magical place and may well become a site of worldwide importance.

Q. You have some very nice nods to traditional Arthurian legend in your work, such as Ardhu (Arthur) moving a stone and taking a sacred dagger from underneath it. What made you choose to portray the Sword in the Stone in this manner?

Janet: I saw a video about someone who could move large stones. He did it using a pivot point and I thought, ‘Yes, that could work!’ I began to think again, about Geoffrey of Monmouth’s description of Merlin dismantling Stonehenge when it was still in Ireland. It wasn’t magic that moved the stones but his ‘ingenious machines.’ I didn’t want to use magic in Stone Lord, so I had to come up with something that could be done and would look visually impressive to onlookers.

Q: One of the most fascinating aspects of your story, at least to me personally, is the mythology of the people and how it affects their daily lives. Can you please tell us a little about how you came to learn about it and the role it plays in your story?

Janet: When reading many books about prehistoric people, I was nearly always disappointed by the usage (or lack) of personal mythology/ritual. People laugh when archaeologists dig a mysterious mound and say it’s ‘for ritual’ but it WAS a very different world to ours, one when you really didn’t know if the Sun would return every Midwinter, where  a simple virus or a bad tooth could kill you, where you would have to placate the powers for your continued survival.. I studied anthropology briefly in the ’80s and tried to make a fairly realistic portrayal of what I think Bronze Age Britons might have believed in—a world where the spirits of the dead co-existed with the living, where trees, stones, rivers all held tutelary deities. It wasn’t the ‘fluffy’ time some authors like to make it either; there is plenty of evidence that strange and not-so-nice rites did take place on occasion.

Q: Your pre-historic version of Guinevere, whom you call Fynavir, is Irish. Why did you choose this background for her? How did you choose how to place the other characters since they are very much out of their traditional element in your book?

Janet: The name Guinevere has the same origin and meaning as Fynavir—White Phantom. Findabhair was daughter of the Irish Queen Maeve in the famous saga The Cattle Raid of Cooley. I liked the idea of a marriage alliance being made, especially as much British gold work of the Bronze Age came from Wicklow. It is now also thought that the Irish hero sagas have roots in earlier prehistory rather than just in the Iron Age. As for the others, I did try to keep some of Arthur’s familial ties in tact. I used Cornwall for his mother’s Y’gerna’s home as not only was Tintagel in the original, it was a very important place in prehistory—the source of Britain’s tin. Lancelot (An’kelet) is a prince from Brittany in France…not a million miles from the ‘canon’ Lancelot who was also from that area; Brittany has had strong tied to Britain since the Stone Age and also has a great megalithic culture.

Q: Some reviews have likened your book to Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel. Obviously they are both set in pre-historic times, but beyond that do you find it an apt comparison? How would you describe your book to those trying to decide whether or not to read it?

Janet: Auel’s book is set at a very much earlier period than mine, but I can see some resemblance. She may have been writing an adventure epic but she knew her stuff about the people and their lifestyle.

Q: What is one misconception you’ve heard voiced about your work and what would you say to clarify?

Janet: I’ve had a few people who don’t seem to recognize that it is fiction! I am not expounding a theory on King Arthur in any way. You could almost call what I write a form of alternative history, I suppose.

Q: Do you believe there was a historical King Arthur? Why or why not? Or do you think it really matters?

Janet: I do think there was, but whoever he was, he has assimilated both mythic characters and a whole handful of different historical figure into his mythos. That’s why there are legends in various parts of Britain concerning him, from Cornwall to Wales, to Scotland.

Q: Is Stone Lord a stand-alone book or part of a series? What are you working on next?

Janet: There will be a second part which carries through to the end of Ardhu’s life. It introduced several new main characters, including Ardhu’s illegitimate son, Mordraed.

Q. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Janet: I hope that this book might also give people a better idea of the Bronze Age era in Britain. Too many people still have this image of ‘cavemen’ in shaggy skins grunting as they haul stones around a landscape. These people are our direct ancestors and no less intelligent than us—they wove cloth, wore gold jewellery, forged bronze weapons, used razors and had buttons on their clothes!

Q. Where can readers find the book, online or in print? Where can people connect with you online?

Janet: Stone Lord is available in print and kindle on Amazon. Other e-book variations are available on SMASHWORDS, and print copies from Barnes and Noble and Waterstones.com. There is a blog at stone-lord.blogspot.com, and also a Stone Lord Facebook page. Both have lots of archaeological items as well as information on the book.

Thank you again for spending time with me today. I wish you the greatest success with your work, both now and in the future.

Do you have questions or comments for Janet? Add them here and she’ll respond.

The Author Platform or “What Is It You Do, Again?”

It takes more than just writing a great book to get published nowadays.

If you’ve ever explored what else goes into it, you’ve probably heard of the dreaded “author platform.” It’s really just a way of answering the questions, “What is it that you do?” or “Why I should care about anything you say?” Your platform is how you get yourself out there and try to cultivate an audience well before your book hits the shelves. And there’s a lot of contradictory advice on how to do it.

“Talk about your expertise.”

“Be human – show people you have a life.”

“People don’t care about your personal life.”

Sometimes it makes me feel like I’m following a crazy director whose next command/advice will be, “Show me spirit fingers!” (Please tell me you’ve seen Bring It On.)

There are as many ways to build a platform as there are writers, but in this digital age, chances are social media will play a big part in it. I’m by no means an expert, but I am slowly learning as I continue to blog and tweet as a writer. Here are a few conclusions I’ve come to about building a platform/brand/name for yourself:

Not everyone is going to like you. Shocking, I know. For a perfectionist like me, this is tough to swallow. Sometimes when I notice my Twitter number is down or I don’t have as many blog hits as I’d like, I wonder what I said to make people leave or why they aren’t visiting. Then I realize that one tweet or blog post may have made them think they were getting one thing, when reality is really another. Or maybe their timeline was just getting too full. I’m learning to not take it personally. And there will always be people who either flat out don’t like you or are contrary just because they can be.

Being yourself is important. I’m not a writing machine and neither are you. I think it’s important to show that you have a life outside of your writing. I don’t know about you, but I love it when a writer I follow gives me a little glimpse into their real life. I don’t do it much here (other than by recommending books and the occasional manifesto), but I do tweet about my favorite TV shows and bands, in addition to writerly stuff. If you don’t like it, you can always scroll through it, but for me it’s a way to be relatable.

Speaking tours aren’t the only way to show off your expertise. Right now I don’t have a schedule that allows for teaching online courses or going on speaking tours (I hate public speaking anyway), so I’m using my blog to share what I’ve learned while researching. Hence, you get to learn all about the Celts and Arthurian legend. I’m also hoping that will help me find other people who love this stuff and might want to read my books. If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll see I try to retweet blog posts and other articles on writing that I find valuable. Pay it forward, as the saying goes.

Write about your passion and it will show. For me, that’s Arthurian legend (thank God, or I’d really be in trouble), writing, reading and history. That’s why you also see “non-educational” posts from me: book reviews/recommendations, essays, etc. I also love my cats and to cook, but I don’t think anyone would care about that. But then again, I am trying to expand my blogging horizons. Anyone have any suggestions about other things you think I should write about?

Readers, do you think I’m on the right track? What else would you like to see in this blog? Writers, what’s made your platform successful? What advice helps you? What common “words of wisdom” do you disagree with? I’d like to learn from your experiences, so please let me know in the comments.

A Dream Come True: Meeting Alyson Noel

Alyson noel book signing

Those who know me won’t be the least bit surprised to learn that three hours before the book signing, I was already nervous and shaking. This was my first time to meet an author so I had no idea what to expect. I respect Alyson so much, for me it was like meeting a Hollywood celebrity. And we all know how well I handle that…I tend to forget how to speak or what my name is, but more on that later.

Tulips we gave Alyson Noel

Alyson started with a reading from the first chapter of Everlasting and then took questions from the audience of about 20 people. She talked about everything from her writing process and characters to a movie deal with Summit. As I mentioned in my last post, some of the things she said hit so close to home for me I almost burst into tears. I’m just glad I didn’t; that would have cemented my weirdo status.

alyson and niki

My reason in blogging about this, besides it being one of the coolest experiences of my life, is to say this is how you should treat your fans/readers. Alyson is incredibly friendly to her readers and genuinely wants to get to know them. Months before our meeting, we started corresponding on Twitter. I never thought that a NYT bestselling author would bother to reply to little ol’ me, but she did, again and again. She is an example of how I hope to behave when I have fans of my own someday.

It still kind of amazes me how much social media has opened up the world for authors. I remember being a pre-teen (we didn’t use the word ‘tween then, and I still don’t) and reading Sweet Valley Twins books wondering who the creator of this world was. At the time, there was no Internet, so the best you could do was maybe a photo and a mention of what city they lived in on the back of the book. That made authors this untouchable enigma, certainly not people you could relate to or aspire to be.

Now, I realize there are some writers out there today who have little or no online presence whatsoever and who don’t like to interact with fans. That’s their choice. But I don’t think it’s a good one. Your fans are your bread and butter, the ones who keep you relevant and marketable, so if you know what is good for you, you’ll be good to them. How much is up to you. Facebook, Twitter, blogs, email, meet-and-greets, all of these things forge very valuable connections between author and reader that keep both coming back for more. (Can you see my PR background shining through?)

As an as-of-yet unpublished writer, these connections and support are all the more important to me. I’ve gotten advice from published authors online and in person that I think of every single time I write. As I told Alyson, just knowing I have her support means the world to me. It’s what helps get me through the rough times in my day job,  writers block and the daunting task of querying agents. Just knowing they went through all the same things, were succesful and are rooting for me (even if in only the smallest way) can mean the difference between persevering in making a dream come true and giving up.

So, thank you, Alyson (and all the others who have encouraged me along the way). I only hope I can return the favor someday.

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