MY INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR ERRIN STEVENS!
What’s your name and what genre would you consider your books to be?
My name is Errin Stevens, and I write paranormal romantic suspense novels, specifically The Mer Chronicles. I have two out in a series at the moment – Updrift (book 1) and Breakwater (book 2). Outrush (book 3) is coming, I swear…
Tell me about your book. How did you come up with that (story, angle, idea)?
My inspiration was a mishmash of fairy tales – the brutal originals, not the prettified versions we’re more used to – and stories I basically mainlined growing up. Seriously, I can’t remember several years of childhood experiences in the proper order because I read so much, lived so much in my fiction.
How did you get interested in writing this particular genre (historical novels, mysteries, sci-fi, children’s books, etc.)?
I always, always wanted to write stories, starting from about the third grade… and I never had the nerve to give it a shot, not when I was a real youngster and not as a career girl after college. I mean, I just didn’t feel I had the right! I got to a point in my 30s where writing was all I thought about, however. Seriously, every time I read a novel, I’d think, “How would I write this? Where would I take this story if it were mine?” When I began to feel jealous of writers and books I love, I talked myself into trying paranormal romance, mostly because the genre felt approachable to me.
What kind of research did you do for this book?
I’d been a longtime ingester of mythology and fairy tales when I finally sat down to draft Updrift, so I had a few decades of basic fluency to draw from… this was probably another factor influencing my chosen genre. But writing takes you to new places as you go along, too, so I frequently chased after new details, e.g., what species of tuna inhabit the waters off the coast of North Carolina? What does the shoreline look like up and down the Eastern Seaboard? I’m a gardener, which made Kate and Cara’s produce-growing hobby natural to me, but I had to look into differences between Zone 7 gardening and frozen Zone 4 where I live. I got so lost in many corollary daydreams related to my characters and I have to say this part of writing/info trolling was a ton of fun for me.
Can you tell me about your Series?
Sure! Here’s the jacket blurb for Updrift:
Since her father died, Kate Sweeting’s home life has been in the pits, her well-being on life support. Her future looks desolate until she and her mother, Cara, make another plan: abandon their shriveled existence for more promising prospects on the coast, where Cara can play small-town librarian-bachelorette and Kate can figure out what’s up with that secretive Blake family from the beach.
Everyone is eerily captivated with Kate and her mother, and Cara is the first to figure out why when the man of her dreams arrives all dripping and devoted and closed-mouthed about what he intends. Kate is willing to go along with their subterfuge for a while, but eventually makes a charge for the water to learn what her mother is hiding. Gabe Blake is there waiting for her…and so is someone considerably less friendly. By the time Kate navigates her way home, everything will have changed for her—what she feels, what she wants, and what she’ll risk to be with the man she loves.
…and here’s the blurb for the sequel, Breakwater:
The sirens of Griffins Bay are in trouble, and the recent slew of royal suicides looks to be the least of their worries.
For one, unless a blood relative of the queen shows up, no one’s around to staff the monarchy. Well, except for a whack-job bureaucrat and he seriously won’t do. Worse is the community unrest threatening siren society, a problem caused by too many humans in the pool, which means Simon and his off-limit girlfriend will have to run and hide if they want to make more of their flirtation…
The solution doesn’t inspire confidence at first, but the Blakes have everything at hand to set their world to rights – namely, a hidden queen, a dead prince, and a facility for human manipulation. Once they find their sea legs, they’ll restore order, distribute smart phones, and drive that conniving bureaucrat to a grisly, satisfying end.
Do you have a favorite book out of this series?
Such a naughty question. 😉 That’s like asking a mother which child she loves the most. But. I’m a fair-weather loyalist, very much a ‘love the one you’re with’ kind of girl, meaning Updrift was the most beautiful, compelling story I could think of when I worked on it; Breakwater replaced the first in my favors because of its complexity and excitement; and now I’m convinced Outrush is my best work as I finish it.
Where did you get the inspiration/idea for your series?
The initial idea grew out of my love for Hans Christian Andersen’s “Little Mermaid,” which I read over and over again as a girl out of my dad’s Harvard Classics Volume 17. That tale and other originals that have not had the hardship filtered out of them are so, so powerful. I highly recommend trotting down to the library and reading them if you haven’t had a chance!
What kind of research did you do for this book?
I scavenged for sea-based mythologies I hadn’t yet exposed myself to – did you know almost every society on Earth has their own siren lore? Anyway, once I started the process of drafting what was then “Blue,” I thought about it obsessively and connected my narrative to almost everything I experienced and saw. I didn’t end up using everything, of course, but once I’m immersed (yuk-yuk) in my work, I really do look everywhere for ideas I might incorporate.
Was it always meant to become a series?
Yes. I even had the names picked out so I could have my fabulously talented artist work up cohesive series covers. I will say I initially expected to write out Maya and Aiden’s story second, but Sylvia and Simon staged a coup in my brain so they won out. Maya’s story will be told in my forthcoming third.
What’s a typical working day like for you? When and where do you write? Do you set a daily writing goal?
I am generally disciplined with my writing, where I get up at 5 a.m., write until 8 a.m. at my kitchen table, stop to help my little family start their day, then sit down again to write until 10 a.m. When I am between stories or am self-editing (in advance of calling my pro editor in), I take a month’s vacation from a piece before going through it again, which uncovers little problems I don’t see when I’m in story development mode. But I write in the mornings, and conduct promotion and admin in the afternoons.
Do you have a new book in the making and if so, what’s the name of your upcoming book?
Book 3 in the Mer Chronicles, Outrush, is so dang close to being done… and yet it isn’t, dang it, so I’m still fiddling with it. This one focuses on the best friend of the heroine in Updrift and her journey back to her supernatural guy who got away.
How important are character names to you in your books? Is there a special meaning to any of the names?
I agonize over characters’ names and have changed a few of them more than once as I’m writing out a storyline. I don’t have any characters with names that represent something other than the identity I’ve envisioned for them, although I have tended toward names with Gaelic origins? Don’t ask me why…
Where do your ideas come from?
Man, do I ever wish I knew! Although I actually have a couple of answers to this one: firstly, because I read so rabidly as a child and young adult, I tend to apprehend my experiences in a storytelling format, meaning I see everything coming at with a kind of narrative filter in place, something that’s just a part of my make-up. Secondly, my characters help me along once we’ve started hanging out. !! I think about each one so much at the beginning of a book I feel like we’ve lived together. Consequently, they tell me how they’ll react in whatever scenario I’ve constructed for them as we amble along. It’s kind of a relief.
Is there a genre that you’ve been wanting to experiment with?
I used to think I’d like to try writing a regency romance novel, but now that I know all that goes producing and publishing a story, I find I’m not interested enough to deviate from my current plan. J
What is the hardest part of writing for you?
Wrestling with the erstwhile certainty that nothing I’ve come up with is any good. Some days, I have to go forward writing on a piece I’m not sure is worthwhile.
What do you think of book trailers? Do you have a trailer or do you intend to create one for your own book?
I love book trailers and I do have one for Updrift, although I intend to redo it. My narrator for my audiobooks worked up a script and scene progression I quite like, and I hope to get it produced when I launch Outrush. But in general, I think trailers are great mind candy, a fun addendum to stir the imagination over a book.
What do you consider to be your best accomplishment?
I’ve come a long, long ways both as a writer and manager of my own creative and production processes since I first sat down to write Updrift. All of the parts of writing and publishing I didn’t yet know about… including what traditional publishing would and would not do for me – well, I’ve figured out a crap ton of things that initially scared me flat out and no longer do. Now I have a secure sense of my voice and my story arcs, and I’m enormously proud of the product I’ve created.
What’s the best thing about being an author?
Outside of a few painful stretches spent losing my way or going down the wrong path, I get a huge charge out of what I do. Mostly, I feel so fortunate to be able to write and share my books at all. I love the creative freedom I have. I love dreaming up my characters and all their doings, and I love the complexity of developing a novel-length tale. This is also a very exciting time to be an author because writers have really good options when it comes to publishing these days. I find such control and self-direction tremendously gratifying.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Doing the same dang thing! My idea of a trilogy has grown to include a fourth book after Outrush as well as a prequel to Updrift, which might end up being a novella. But the short answer is: I’ll be writing more novels.
Have you always liked to write?
Yes. I’ve always had an easier time expressing myself as I want to – which is to say with a lot of thought given to the ideas I hope to represent – in writing.
What writing advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Do it. It will gut you at times, but the outcome, if you make it through, is glorious.
If you didn’t like writing books, or weren’t any good at it, what would you like to do for a living?
I think I would run or work in a community garden, and I’d work with disadvantaged kids. I truly believe 99 percent of our world’s problems would be solved if we made absolutely certain our children knew they were loved and worthy.
Do you read reviews of your book(s)? Do you respond to them, good or bad? How do you deal with the bad?
I read reviews early on when I had to, when I had to find pull-out quotes for marketing. But I hate reading them and I avoid them at all costs these days. The good ones I don’t credit, and the negative ones destroy me.
What is your least favourite part of the writing / publishing process?
Definitely the careful editing required to produce a book I’m proud of. It’s every bit as much work as writing the original story, and it’s so tedious. Marketing is way easier than editing.
What are you working on now?
In addition to Outrush, I’m developing scenes for use in a fourth book in my series, and I’m toying with a novella prequel to explicate Carmen’s story.
Can you give us a few tasty morsels from your work-in-progress?
Sure! I have a couple of bits up on my blog, but here’s something no one else has seen yet:
“It’s just… you remind me of someone,” she blurted out after a lengthy, uncomfortable pause. And he did. Something about his eyes, and a sheen of vitality she associated with a family she used to socialize with back in North Carolina, the Blakes. The likeness was superficial, but it made her horribly homesick, and, if possible, even sadder over her empty, soul-sucking marriage.
Maya realized everyone was waiting for her to explain her strange greeting, or maybe they just hoped she’d resolve the awkwardness she’d created. Sweat bloomed on her forehead and she became aware of the shallow, insufficient breaths she took, which she worried were too loud. She felt unanchored and bizarre and very much hoped she didn’t look it. She checked Mitch’s expression. It did not encourage her.
Her lack of composure was obvious. Worse, she felt naked and flayed under his regard, so she quickly turned away. It was like he’d put a spotlight on her most private fears, ones she preferred to pretend she didn’t have, and most definitely wanted to keep hidden.
Her marriage was disappointing and unlikely to improve. Her absorbing career was no more than a convenient place to hide. And if she couldn’t achieve happiness with an M.D. under her belt and marriage to a beautiful, wealthy man, then something was very, very wrong with her.
And there it was, dang it, the path to the ultimate no-no of all her memories: Aiden. It was Mitch’s fault for bringing him to mind, she decided, since he looked at her in the same penetrating way and exhibited the same physical markers. Aiden symbolized all her missteps at this point in time, his name synonymous with the more unpleasant consequences of her running away – from him and North Carolina and all the possibly destructive super-secrets he wore like a cloying aftershave. With just a glance in Mitch’s direction, Maya saw starkly the unhappiness of her future as Mrs. Evans, understood too well what she didn’t and never would have with Stu.
She despised Aiden – or at least, she wanted to – for stealing her peace of mind so thoroughly after her wedding, she’d never regained it. That awful dance at the reception, where every second felt like an accusation. His recriminations, issued without actual speech, were like an internal battering ram ripping through her insides from the center of her liver. This marriage is a lie you cannot turn into truth. I’m the one you wanted. You’ve made a terrible mistake. When Mitch Donovan shook her hand, his touch was a direct transmission line to the whole, miserable litany.
And no. Just… no. She would not feel that draw again, the attraction to Aiden that had solidified her decision to marry Stu. Back then, she was struggling for purchase on adult life with very little hope she’d achieve it, thinking maybe she had it in her to go to medical school, and how, if she was lucky, she might be able to build a life with Stuart Evans. Stuart had been a guy who, unlike Aiden, didn’t seem like he’d die without her. Stuart was maybe predictable by comparison, bland even… but he never freaked her out with intense, hungry stares that gave her the impression she was about to fall off a thousand-foot ledge. Mostly he never made her feel crazy, like she could suddenly smell the ocean, or feel a sea breeze on her skin; or think she wanted nothing more than to dive into the biggest, deepest body of salt water she could find. She hated swimming in the ocean. All she could think about when she waded in was the statistic on shark attacks, how most of them happened in three feet of water.
“There are about a gazillion things waiting to kill you out there,” Maya explained once when her friend, Kate, questioned her on her saltwater reticence. “People don’t belong in oceans. That’s why God invented swimming pools.” Kate snickered.
“Laugh all you want, Blake,” Maya retorted. “I’ll be your ER doc when you come in with shark’s teeth lodged in your sternum. Or a Man-O-War wrapped around your neck. Don’t think I’ll forget this conversation, either.”
Why did you choose to write in your genre? If you write in more than one, how do you balance them?
I was too impressed by literary fiction and to chicken to tackle it. So far, I’ve only written paranormal romantic suspense stories, and I don’t currently have plans to develop anything else.
Where did your love of books come from?
Such a great question. My parents both loved to read and read to me all the time. That was my initial impetus. When my mother’s addiction problem caused her marriage to my father to unravel – and my dad had to launch himself as a newbie lawyer while trying to raise three kids – fiction became my place of solace, the better world I could escape to at will, and I became a constant reader. I was the stereotypical kid hiding reverse-wide under the covers with a flashlight to read when I was supposed to be sleeping. I know it sounds melodramatic to say so, but I think reading saved my life.
Do you have any favorite authors or favorite books?
Ever so many. I profile a bunch on my Instagram feed if anyone wants to look me up. I’m @errinstevens on the app, and I LOOOOOVE bookstagram.
Of all the characters you have created, which is your favourite and why?
I know I said earlier I don’t pick favorites, but if I had to get stuck on the proverbial desert island with only one of my characters, it would be my bad guy from Updrift, Peter Loughlin. He was so beautiful and dynamic and complicated. If I’d met him in my 20s and he were a real person, I would have tried hard to save him from himself!
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Both, of course. It’s the best and the worst thing, often at the same time. Some days I would give anything to want something else – dog walking, cow tipping – but writing is the professional affinity I have. And I am grateful to be so passionate about what I do. I feel badly for people who aren’t driven in some endeavor because these pursuits give such richness to life.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Social. Effing. Media. It’s the ultimate distraction and most days I have to disable my wi-fi if I hope to write anything.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I should be more concerned with the latter, but I really write for myself. My hope is that the result will appeal to readers, too!
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I take weekly walks with Cloud S. Riser (a.k.a., J.F. Jenkins) and I love her. I’m in a pretty lighthearted writing group – Vowels & Vixens – on Facebook with T.S. Williams, Tee Smith, Deanna Jagmohan (her first book is forthcoming), Ellen Cummins, Becca Savedra and a few others. We challenge ourselves with writing goals and trade feedback on blurbs and similar efforts. It’s a terrific group of women and I really recommend cultivating such collegiality as a writer because it helps the process and makes the work more fun.
If you were writing a book about your life, what would the title be?
Uh-oh. Brain cramp. That’s a hard one! I think I’d have to use an alias so I could get into the right character-writing head space, so the title might be something like, “Lucy Takes Hollywood.” The storyline might follow a dopily happy, naïve young woman who approaches life with the belief hers will turn out like a romantic sit-com… and of course learns real personal growth is a much more complicated happening.
What question have you always wanted to be asked in an interview? How would you answer that question?
This component of Updrift isn’t overt, but I’d love to explain how important the mother-daughter bond is between Kate and Cara in my first story, how their closeness bolster’s Kate’s initial appeal to Gabe and how this dynamic has unique implications for Kate and Gabe’s romance when they wander off on their own.
Where can your fans find you and follow??
Thank you for taking your time to do this interview ❤️
Thank you for having me! ❤