MY INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR RENNIE ST. JAMES
What’s your name and what genre would you consider your books to be?
I’m indie author Rennie St. James. My debut series is urban fantasy/ magical realism with romantic subplots. September 24, 2019 is the release date for Mercury, Book 4 in the Rahki Chronicles. There will be two more books published in this series. In 2020, I’ll be releasing my first paranormal romances, but we’ll stick to the Rahki Chronicles for this chat!
Can you tell me about your series?
Of course! The Rahki Chronicles follow Mia Rayner and the ensemble cast of characters introducing her to a new world of Gypsies and Rahkis (warrior protectors). Ancient prophecies decreed Mia and her orphan charge, Nadya, are meant to change the world. Unfortunately for them, not everyone in the Rahki world supports that idea. While others debate the truth of the prophecies, Mia is just trying to train so she can protect Nadya from the next attempt on her life.
What kind of research did you do for this book series?
Personal travel aided my research tremendously. Mia’s journey isn’t only symbolic, she and her escort are visiting Rahkis throughout the United States. Each location is somewhere I’ve lived or traveled to for work or vacation. The cities almost become additional characters!
My degree in history also inspired this series. It was fun to brush up on some historical facts and mythology while adding a fictional spin. I did research the Romani (Gypsy) culture as I was less familiar with those details.
I also relied heavily on my martial arts training for the action sequences. As fantasy allows a wonderful spin on reality, the injuries I’ve received became much more dramatic in the books. Of course, the characters’ skill sets far exceed my own too.
Tell us about your main character.
Mia Rayner was a normal 20-something staring at 30 when Nadya Kilsdova and the Seer find her. She believes herself to be an orphan but comes from a long line of Rahki warriors. It’s a bit of an adjustment for her which is why the Book 1 tag line works. Some epic journeys do start with a stumble. Normal for Mia had once meant a 9-5 office job, an apartment, and friends. Her new normal includes Gypsy magic, martial arts, and a mountain lion.
Of all the characters you have created, which is your favorite and why?
I don’t think I can answer this. Each character has bits and pieces of my heart and soul including my villains! I would like to share one secret here though.
My favorite part of books, shows, and movies are often the character relationships. I love bromances, unlikely friendships, and enemies to friends/ lovers. I must confess to having a favorite relationship in the Rahki Chronicles. You’ll see I ramble about romances later, but this one isn’t a romantic relationship. It also doesn’t include Mia (our MC)!
Again, I don’t want to spoil anything but watch for the relationship Nadya develops with Nicu Lomas (one of the Eagle warriors in her escort).
Which is your favorite minor character and why?
There are definitely a few ‘minor’ characters who steal the show for me. One piece of writing advice I embrace is that every character feels they are the hero in their own story. Part of my writing process is to fully develop minor characters, and I share flash fiction and short stories for minor characters with my readers. As each character sees him/herself as the hero, they don’t always like to stay in the back ground.
What is your favorite personality trait of your main character?
I love Mia’s determination to learn and yet do things her way! She starts at a disadvantage in knowledge and training, but that doesn’t stop her from doing what she thinks is right.
What is your favorite personality trait of your bad guy/girl?
Several of my villains just might be able to convince readers they are right and are actually the heroes of the story. I adore them for believing that and for having the skills to tempt others to follow them even if that means taking a dark, twisted path!
I’m inviting your main character to dinner. What should I make?
Something chocolate…for dessert or the main dish. Mia (and Nadya as well) appreciate the sweet life! That is something they have in common with me I’m afraid.
Were you surprised by the behavior of any of your characters or the direction of your plot at any point while writing?
There have been a few surprises for me. The first happened at the end of book 2. I won’t give away any spoilers! However, when you get to that final scene, please know that was not originally planned.
How long did it take you to write this book?
Much like Mia’s epic journey, my writing path didn’t go as planned. It took approximately six months to write Azimuth in its original form. A small indie publisher released it to dismal sales. After some writing conferences, classes, and author stalking, it took at least another six months to re-write Azimuth into its new edition. Getting to this point in the series has taken a full five years though I have finished other stories during this time too.
How did you come up with the title?
I had so much fun with my titles! The released Rahki Chronicles books in order are Azimuth, Coppe, Lamassu, and now Mercury. Do you see the pattern? Can you guess what letter the final book will start with (and yes, it has a name)?
The titles are definitely symbolic of what’s happening in each book. The covers are also individualized and full of meaning, and we’ll talk about that next.
Tell us about your cover art and how it pertains to your story.
I love talking about the covers! A local girl (Braelynn Gibson) modeled for them and a local graphic designer (Mary Hastings of Hastings Design Corp) took the pictures and created the covers. The covers do portray so much of the story. Notice the beige background? That would the parchment the ancient prophecies were written on. The scene background is always a real world scene though the location and lighting differs to match the book. Braelynn portrays Nadya, and she too develops as the books progress.
For me, it was a balancing act of what was expected (the prophecies), what was happening (the real world scene), and what was possible (Nadya and the lion). If you want more about cover secrets, I posted two blogs with a few more explanations including the street name on the Azimuth cover.
How important are character names to you in your books? Is there a special meaning to any of the names?
It’s funny you ask this as the characters discuss the meaning of their names in Coppe (Book 2). There’s definitely symbolism and foreshadowing in the characters’ names. This isn’t just for the main characters either. I don’t want to reveal all my secrets just yet though!
Fiction can often provide powerful life lessons. What message do you hope readers get from your book?
Each book has life lessons, and there are larger themes unifying the books as a series. Some of these must be discovered and, to be honest, the reader may find lessons I didn’t intent. Reading is intensely personal though and I do hope that happens.
I will share a bit about my theme of Book 1 (Azimuth). It is very much about each character having a starting point of their own complete with troubled histories, secrets, lies, and dreams. However, the situation or perhaps even Fate/ Karma has brought them together. They must find a way to compromise and work together in order to save Nadya’s life.
Do you have a new book in the making and if so, what’s the name of your upcoming book?
There are always new books in the works though I try to be organized and complete WIPs before moving on. There will be two more books in the Rahki world (fall of 2020 and 2021). My spring releases will be paranormal romances. The plan is for a short story collection then a full length novel first. Many characters will cross-over between those books but each will stand alone as a HEA romance.
What do you think of book trailers? Do you have a trailer or do you intend to create one for your own book?
I think they’re brilliant but haven’t made any yet. If any readers want to help with that, I’m certainly open to ideas and suggestions!
What do you consider to be your best accomplishment?
I think having the nerve to try again after failing with my first edition’s release is a huge accomplishment. It would have been much easier to quit. That is another theme for many of characters and stories – Plan A doesn’t usually work out so you have to move on to Plan B and try again. I love writing though, and I still hope to find readers who enjoy my stories!
What writing advice do you have for aspiring authors?
View writing as a marathon instead of sprint and assume you will stumble a few times. Patience (which is something I’ve never had) is very important. It takes time to complete each book, time to find alpha/ beta readers, time for them to read and reply to you, time to edit, time to find an agent/ publisher, time to finalize and publish, time to get reviews, time to see profits. Patience is definitely your friend!
Other than that, you simply must keep writing!
Do you have any favorite authors or favorite books?
I’m a pretty moody reader so I’ll grab whatever strikes my fancy and that includes old favorites I’ve re-read multiple times. The Harry Potter series falls in that category – I’m quite invested in those characters and love seeing small things I missed upon first readings. As for classics, I also re-read (and re-watch) Pride & Prejudice and The Princess Bride. I’m a sucker for paranormal romances and have read many books by Kristen Painter, Amanda Quick/ Jayne Castle, and Kay Hooper. I also grew up on romances so Julie Garwood and Nora Roberts are old favorites. I’m slowly branching out in fantasy and tried my first steampunk earlier this year – Wolves & Daggers by Melanie Karsak is great fun! There are so many books just waiting in my TBR pile!
Where did your love of books come from?
My mom strongly encouraged me to read and I have fond memories of the Little Golden Books Classics such as The Poky Little Puppy and There’s No Such Thing as a Dragon. I moved on to Nancy Drew then romances captured my attention. Regardless of where I’m at in my life, books continue to be there for me!
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I see myself very much where I am in many ways, but I don’t consider that a bad thing. I have a wonderful family and great friends. I have a real world job that pays the bills and allows me to write (and sometimes inspires new characters and plots). While losing a furbaby is always a possibility and heart wrenching, I believe I will continue to have cats in my life. There are still so many places I haven’t visited so I hope to still be traveling. Fat free chocolate will probably never be as a good as the real thing so I’ll still work out.
That being said, I wouldn’t be opposed to having my books made into movies and owning a private island!
What question have you always wanted to be asked in an interview? How would you answer that question?
I’ve always wanted someone to offer chocolate and ask to see pictures of my cats. I would certainly accept the chocolate, and I have plenty of cat pictures to share.
Even without chocolate, I’ll share a bit about my furbabies. I’ve had three rescue kitties for almost five years. The two tuxedo kitties are Darcy and Izzie while my all-black baby is Leila.
Do you read reviews of your book(s)? Do you respond to them, good or bad? How do you deal with the bad?
I do read reviews but primarily to determine if ARC readers/ bloggers will be interested in the next book. I assume a favorable review means it’s okay to let them know when the next one is available.
Generally speaking though, I don’t intend to read or respond to reviews. I believe those are meant for other readers, not me. I read book reviews before buying books to see if they will interest me. If the reviewers all wrote their reviews with the authors in mind (instead of me as a reader), I don’t think they would be as helpful.
I will, of course, reply to messages sent to me from readers! I have a contact me button on my website and I’m on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. It would be great to interact with readers on any or all of these platforms.
I do love to chat about all things bookish and writerly so please don’t be shy about contacting me! My social media accounts are full of cats, chocolate, books, travel, and a bit of snark. If that works for you, feel free to stalk me. I’ve also joined Patreon and have posted a few free drabbles and short stories for readers.
Thank you so much for allowing me to do this interview! It’s been so much fun! I do have one more fun thing to share – a character quiz. Answer these 20 questions to claim your warrior Tribe and animal spirit guide. Rahkis live by an honor code though, so please pick the best possible answer for each question.
May Moon share her smile with you and keep your path clear of pebbles [Rahki blessing].