I’m so excited to announce that today we are doing something a little different and entirely new to my blog! Jessica Storin, the author of the Young Adult fantasy novel “The Paladin,” was kind and sweet enough to let me work with her and have her answer some interview questions. I prepared 15 questions for her that would sure be of interest to you if you loved The Paladin or if you are simply an up-and-coming author looking for some insight or advice on publishing your first novel!
As you guys may or may not know, I was lucky enough to have received a signed copy of The Paladin before its release date (which was on April 8th, 2016) from Jessica herself. While you won’t always find my nose buried in Young Adult fantasy novels, I do love giving indie authors a chance to wow me with their work. And that, my lovely bookworms, is just what Ms. Storin did for me! Which is why I have decided to reach out to her and have an interview with her featured on my blog. She is just an all around sweet person and gives off such a positive vibe that is more or less contagious. I agree with a lot of her views and am more than proud and impressed of her success.
Now, without further ado, let’s get to Ms. Storin’s answers!
1. How did the idea for The Paladin come to you?
The idea came to me when I was about twelve years old. I don’t remember what made me think of it initially, but the idea started with the stone. I knew there would be this girl in possession of this powerful stone and that was all I knew for a while. I stopped thinking about it throughout high school, but in college, I began daydreaming of the story again and when the world, the characters, the plot and where I wanted it to go all just clicked, I immediately sat down to write.
2. Is there a bit of your protagonist, Briana, in you? And is there a bit of you in Briana?
I think because Briana has been in my mind for so long that there is a little bit of me in her in terms of her humor and persistence. But she truly is a woman on her own and I can only hope to be as brave as Briana in my own life as she is in hers.
3. For those of us who have read The Paladin, we know the character names are quite unique (i.e. Viessa and Valerys). How did you come up with them? What was your inspiration?
It totally depends on the character. Caellum, Viessa, Valerys—these are all names that I thought of organically and knew fit the characters. For Briana, I wanted her name to fit who she was, and the name actually comes from a Celtic origin meaning “strength”, which is how I landed on it. Then, smaller characters names, honestly, came from name generators online. These are brilliant tools and I can’t get enough of them!
4. The Paladin is more geared towards young adult readers. Is Young Adult (more specifically fantasy) your favourite genre to read? What draws you to this genre?
It absolutely is. I write what I would want to read. I think I’m attracted to young adult in general because I love the coming-of-age stories. Every one of us went through this phase in our life where we were kind of finding our ways and weren’t too sure of ourselves and it’s fascinating to read stories about these characters going through this and watch them grow into themselves, the reader growing right along with them. In regards to fantasy, I love world-building. Getting lost in new worlds is fascinating and allows us to expand our imaginations to fit all these new places.
5. Do you have a writing schedule? If so, what does your daily or weekly schedule look like?
I currently have a full-time job at a healthcare software company, so I don’t have a regular writing schedule unfortunately. I try to write during my breaks at work and every night before I grab a book and cozy up in bed. If I can write 1000-2000 words in a night, I feel accomplished for the day.
6. Before The Paladin, have you written other stories or books?
When I was younger, I would write little things here and there, but never anything fully formed. The Paladin is my first complete story.
7. Growing up, did you always have love for the English subject or was it something you got more into during adulthood?
I adored English in elementary school. I participated in those Accelerated Reader programs (do they have those anymore?) and if I wasn’t first in class, I would throw a fit. Then, in middle and high school, we had to start reading books I didn’t enjoy as much and my love for reading and English faded away because of that. It wasn’t until college and after I graduated that I started getting into it again.
8. Every artist has specific people they look up to that inspire their work. Which author will you name your absolute role model and inspiration?
100% J.K. Rowling. I’ve probably watched every interview of hers at least twice. I am so completely fascinated by her and her brain and not only is she the most fantastic writer, she’s so humble and sweet. In my opinion, her story can truly resonate with each of us because we all start from nothing and have to make our own success. I remember watching her documentary on Netflix and being immediately inspired and writing well over two chapters of The Paladin right after.
9. As an author, especially being an indie one, what do you think is the most important part about getting your book out there?
So, for me, the best tool I used to get my book out there was Instagram. It’s important to have a social media presence elsewhere, but allow those to stem from your main social media branch. I chose Instagram, but others may choose Twitter or Facebook. I dug through Instagram to begin following accounts that appeared to be in my target audience. I took a hint from their feeds and began trying to make my own similar to stay relevant with the community. What started as a tool purely to get my book out there has now turned into this awesome community of people sharing ideas and reviews and I continue to post simply because it’s fun to connect with everyone and I’ve been able to meet some wonderful people!
10. Putting your story out for the world to read and criticize can be intimidating. It is putting a piece (or even the whole) of your heart for others to see. Was there a time you doubted in The Paladin and almost completely decided not to publish it?
It’s absolutely terrifying because no matter how good it may be, there are always going to be people who don’t like it. It’s a simple fact of the industry. After I finished The Paladin, I didn’t touch it for a year. Not because I didn’t have time. Not because I didn’t want to. It was because I was so scared to do something with it. This is a story that’s been so close to my heart for over ten years, what if everyone hates it? There came a time, though, where I decided I needed to do something with it not for everyone else, but for me. I wanted to hold this book in my hands and decided that haters are gonna hate, but as long as I’m proud of what I’ve done, I can shake ’em off (thanks T-Swift).
11. There is no denying that your first novel published, The Paladin, was a huge success. It is all over the bookstagram and Goodreads community and has been getting a lot of buzz. Knowing this, is there anything you’d like to say to the J.M. Storin in the past that may have doubted the future success of The Paladin?
Well thank you so much! Honestly it’s been so surreal seeing pictures of it on Instagram from so many wonderful, kind people. I’ve been so humbled by the positive feedback because it really is such a personal piece of me. And for as long as I waited to do something with The Paladin, it ended up working out so beautifully, so I wouldn’t change a thing.
12. In the book world, we are always learning something new. What was one of the most surprising things that you learned in the process of writing The Paladin?
Probably that your characters truly do come to life as you write them. When I sat down to write, there were still a lot of unknowns about where this story would go, what our characters would encounter, so I was definitely wary going into it. But as you begin to write and become so invested in these characters and their stories, they truly do take the reins. I’d heard this from other people and never really believed it until I noticed how Briana would begin surprising me with the decisions she made. It’s like I would have a plan for the chapter and the characters would say “you know what, we’d rather do this.” So let your characters take the reins!
13. I’m going to bet that it’s no walk in the park to write an entire novel. What were the challenges you had to face while writing The Paladin?
Isn’t that the truth! I think the hardest part of writing the first draft is deciding how much detail and backstory to tease your reader with and when is most appropriate to insert those details. As the author, I have a clear idea of how this world looks, the history, Briana’s history, etc, but the reader doesn’t necessarily need to know all of that. So how do I decide what’s most important to say and when to say it? That’s definitely the challenge with the first draft. Editing is also the worst, but that’s another beast altogether.
14. So you’ve written a successful Young Adult fantasy novel and it’s no secret that there is a sequel currently in the works. Are there other genres you’d like to explore for future novels?
Oh yes 😉 but I would say definitely! I’m currently working on a new series right now and it’s a totally different feel than The Paladin. Although we are staying with young adult, it’s a gritty urban fantasy in a steampunk-inspired world. I actually feel grimy while writing it, but it’s a blast! It’s allowing me to explore darker places as a writer that may be a little riskier, but I hope it will pay off.
15. What advice would you give to other aspiring authors? Especially those who are on their way to or thinking of self-publishing their work?
I wrote a blog post on this, but would like to reiterate it for all future authors. My biggest piece of advice is to just write. Sit down, have a glass of wine, and seriously just write what’s in your head. It may be crap, it may not even make sense, but don’t stop writing and don’t keep nitpicking your previous chapters. Do this and you’ll never finish your book. Your first draft is meant to be atrocious. That’s why you do 3-4 drafts afterwards, but at least you’ll have flushed out your plot, characters, and world a bit more. So always just write and NEVER EVER delete what you write even if you hate it. You may come back to it and be inspired one day.
For those who want to self-publish, start making your social media presence known now. Instagram (or bookstagram should I say) is my best friend. If you can get a following before the book is even released, you’ll be in really good shape. 🙂 Also, one more hint, invest in editing and a good cover. You cannot, I repeat, cannot edit your own book and expect that’s enough. I tried this for a while and was getting nowhere. So be ready to pay some chunks of money and make your book as professional as possible!
There you have it, bookworms and book lovers alike!
It was so amazing getting to know more about Jessica as an author and getting a little bit of information from the “behind-the-scenes” of The Paladin. I was particularly amazed at the backstory of Briana’s name. It definitely adds to the reading experience when you learn that some names behind characters have deeper meanings to them. After learning Ms. Storin’s reasoning behind the choice for her protagonist’s name, I feel even more proud to have been a part of Briana’s journey.
From this interview alone, Ms. Storin’s humbleness can’t possibly go unnoticed. I still remember when she discovered my bookstagram account and when I discovered her bookstagram account. I am so glad to say that we have been mutual followers/friends even before the release of The Paladin. It has been so moving and inspiring witnessing an author like Ms. Storin climb her way up the literature/writing world. She has stayed humble throughout her journey and she truly does treat her readers as friends. Which I think is very important when you are in the industry.
Once again, thank you so much Jessica, for letting me do this with you and for being an absolute pleasure to work with. I really cannot wait for that sequel to The Paladin, not to mention that steampunk-inspired world that you mentioned!
I have no doubt that your success in publishing your first novel will continue to thrive. I wish you all the best and luck in your journey to writing more novels in the future! You truly do deserve it.
The Paladin (Volume 1) by J.M. Storin
If you guys are interested in purchasing your own copy of The Paladin, then just click either the image or the link above to do so via Amazon! Or if you’d like, you can also purchase a copy from BookDepository. You can even download the first chapter for free if you’d so desire! Just click the link here.