Author Interview: LB Garrison

The next collection to be released by the Just-Us League is Fractured Ever After, to be released on 27th April 2019. The collection of fairy tale retellings will be the group’s seventh anthology. Author LB Garrison joins me to discuss his contribution to the anthology – ‘Beauty’.

Fractured Ever After Blog Tour

Have you ever watched the stars on a warm summer night and wondered if someone was looking back? Thoughts of dinosaurs and aliens dominated LB Garrison’s childhood. Adult concerns came later, but never could quite crowd out the wonder.

A microbiologist by profession, and dreamer by choice, LB has always been an avid reader of science fiction and fantasy, and recently a writer of speculative fiction.

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Author Interview: Lynden Wade

A Bit of Magic is an upcoming fairy tale retelling anthology, and will be the fifth collection of stories published by the Just-Us League. One of the authors, Lynden Wade, joins me today for an interview about her contribution to the anthology – ‘Reed Girl, Fire Girl, Cloud Girl’.


LYNDEN WADE AUTHOR PHOTOLynden Wade was home schooled in a village in West Africa, giving her lots of time to read. The bright colours of illustrations to fairy tales, legends and medieval history – worlds away from the dry grasslands and termite hills around her – inspired her to write her own stories. Her muses include Joan Aiken, Diana Wynne Jones and Rosemary Sutcliff. She has had stories published in The Forgotten and the Fantastical 3 and in the JL Anthology From The Stories of Old. Two more stories are due to be published in 2018 in addition to ‘Reed Girl, Fire Girl, Cloud Girl,’ her contribution to A Bit of Magic. She is working on a historical novel. She loves tea shops, book shops, period drama, castles and trees. You can find her on, on and on Facebook.

What inspired your retelling?

One of my favourite books as a child was ‘The Kingdom under the Sea and Other Stories’ by Joan Aiken, illustrated by Jan Pienkowski, who drew delicate silhouettes that entwined the text. I particularly loved the story ‘The Reed Girl,’ but I also felt quite impatient with the Prince, who kept letting the reed girls die because he didn’t get to them fast enough to give them water. It needed a retelling!

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Author Interview: Sam Waterhouse

Today, Sam Waterhouse joins me as part of the Of Legend and Lore blog tour. This collection of fairy tale retellings by members of the Just-Us League takes a fresh look at both well-known and lesser known tales.


Sam Waterhouse is a part-time writer with a full-time imagination from Hobart, Tasmania. ‘Wishes Between Worlds’ is his second published story, a futuristic retelling of ‘The Enchanted Quill’ fairy tale. He enjoys writing unusual characters, so a trickster, genie-esque crow was an opportunity too good to pass on.

Sam also contributed to the previous Just-Us League anthology Between Heroes and Villains with ‘Like You’, an original story where superpowers are treated as a disease to be eradicated.

You can follow Sam on Twitter (@SW_Wordologist).

What inspired your retelling?

I chose to retell ‘The Enchanted Quill’ partly because I like a good anthropomorphic character and partly because of how it portrays the power of the written word. I took a few liberties in the retelling – such as changing the setting to a spaceship during a multi-generational interstellar voyage and having Corvo play the part of trickster – but those were the two qualities I liked most about this particular fairy tale.

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Author Interview: Kelsie Engen

Today I bring you an interview with author Kelsie Engen, whose story The Bear in the Forest will be published in From the Stories of Old: A Collection of Fairy Tale Retellings by members of the Just-Us League writing group.


Kelsie Engen grew up in North Pole, Alaska, where the winters are harsh but beautiful. Those winters may or may not have inspired those in Canens and “The Bear in the Woods.” She can be found at, and Instagram @kelsiengen, or hunched over her laptop working on her current fairy tale inspired by the other “Snow White.”


What can you tell us about your retelling and what inspired it?

You know, funny story about that. A group of us writers had agreed to rewrite some fairy tales for an anthology, and I had narrowed my choices down to two stories. I’d been on a fairy tale kick anyway, recently having polished off Grimm’s fairy tales, a few of Andersen’s, and then some others as well. In late 2015, I had started writing a series inspired by a trio of some of the most popular fairy tales, a series I’m still polishing up. But for this anthology, I wanted something a little lesser known.

So I’d narrowed it down to two stories: The Psyche, and Snow White & Rose Red. I had seen someone already mentioned Snow White & Rose Red, so I swear when I put in my choice, I had chosen The Psyche, which I was getting really excited about writing. As I was gearing up to rewrite that, I decided to double check the list and found I had written down Snow White & Rose Red!

I kind of had to change tracks after that, and as the two stories are vastly different, one with a happy ending, the other without, I actually had a tough time getting started. But overall, this story perhaps stretched me more and I’m happy I stuck with the “surprise”!

Well that worked out well! What aspects of writing it did you find challenging?

I think the biggest complaint about Snow White & Rose Red–and one of the problems I’ve always had with it–is how convenient the ending is. I mean, endings are difficult enough, but fairy tales tend to either really nail it or really flop. And SW&RR is frustrating on a few levels, which I think is why it’s been a less popular version of Snow White. So I felt challenged in making the ending work while also being true to the original tale. All too often fairy tales seem to offer limited types of cardboard cutout characters in order to expound upon the moral that the authors wanted to teach, and to make matters worse, they just add a last minute ending that hasn’t been properly developed or foreshadowed. So for me with this particular tale, the ending always felt way too convenient, and I had to really work to figure one out that made more sense and kept the story true to itself.


So do you like happily ever after endings? Or do you think more complex or bitter sweet endings are more interesting? Even though that might not please all readers.

I don’t know that an ending will ever please all readers. Readers are such a diverse group, it’s impossible to make everyone happy at once, no matter how good a writer you are or how happy your ending. But very rarely do I write a plain, old fashioned, happily ever after ending. While I do sometimes read them, and they have a place in every reader’s life at some point, I much prefer the complexity of a more realistic resolution. In life we don’t get happily every after endings, which I’m sure is why some people love them, as they are a sort of ideal that we all wish for at some point in our lives. But mostly, I find them too simplistic and unsatisfying when I read–or write–them. I like endings that turn expectations on their heads a little bit, and so I try to write stories that may be dark at times, but offer hope out of that darkness. I fully believe that a good ending to a story is more complex than good winning over evil, or the guy getting the girl. We always have to sacrifice and compromise, and we either find happiness in that compromise, or else we start off on a new journey to find that happiness again.

The Bear in the Woods, however (my version of Snow White & Rose Red), is quite traditional and true to the story, so it was a fun challenge to write a different sort of ending, where nearly everyone got what they wanted! I can’t say it will start a new trend with me, but it was actually a challenge for me to write an ending that resonated with the story and within me. In the end, while I rewrote my ending several times, it was a fun process to figure out how this version of “happiness” worked out.

What is your writing process and do you have any writing habits or quirks?

These days, my process is to wake around 4:30 a.m., feed the cats and dog, make myself a pot of coffee, and start writing until my son gets up at 6:30. I can usually push out a thousand or so words that way–more if I’m focused–or get a significant amount of editing done without distraction. Other than that, I’m working nap times and after my husband comes home, or while the two-year-old plays. I’m lucky that I don’t work outside the home, so I get to spend my day with my son and fit in writing where I can. I like to set goals and keep lists of tasks so I know where I’m at in a project. I try to be quite organized, setting personal deadlines and whatnot for myself. I feel quite guilty if I’m not writing or editing on something every day. Writer’s guilt, I guess.

As for writing quirks, I don’t think of myself as particularly quirky. But I do like to try out different writing software. I currently own Ulysses, Scrivener, and Storyist, and some weeks I’m working in all three programs! I find that different projects work best in different programs. But my go-to program is definitely Scrivener. It’s most versatile and can do everything. Other than that, just give me coffee and my computer, and you’ll find me typing away on one project or another.

When did you first start writing?        

I started writing in 5th grade. I remember because we were given a short story assignment for class and of course mine turned into some epic piece. But ever since then, I was always scribbling stories underneath my notes during class. I was one of those students!
Vox audita perit, litera scripta manet.

How have you found the collaborative process of creating an anthology as a group?

Overall it’s been a great process. Being able to get feedback from a group of writers all working on similar projects, all with the mindset of improving each other’s work as well as their own is a special place to be. Writing is challenging no matter how you go about it, but sometimes it’s really nice to have that encouragement from a group of writers when you’re feeling discouraged by your work or when you don’t know how else to improve it. And the writers in this anthology are all talented and creative individuals that went out of their way to help one another make this project amazing. Even though it was a challenge, and there were times I contemplated backing out for some personal reasons, working in a group like this was extra special.

What are you working on outside of the anthology?

I’m currently working on a fairy tale series inspired by the other Snow White. In my story, she is sold into slavery by her evil stepmother the Queen, and brought to a Manor where she is trained alongside other slaves in many jobs. After several failed attempts at escape, her master decides to teach her a lesson she won’t forget.

Quick fire questions!

Favourite genre to read: Ugh… too many to pick from! Lately I’ve really gotten into YA fantasy and fairy tale retellings (understandably). But my personal, go-to favorite is literary fiction.

Favourite genre to write: is fairy tale–is that a genre? No? Okay, fairy tales for adults! Fantasy?

Favourite writing spot: is the living room chair by the fire. Preferably with the fire lit! With a cup of coffee.

Favourite reading spot: Same chair, fire lit.

Favourite book: The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas.

Favourite film: The Odd Couple.

Favourite character: I actually LOVE Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series. Kindred spirit.

Writing or editing: Can I say both? I spend more time editing, and I’ve learned to love it, but I also love putting new words to the page… It’s a tie. Can’t choose. I love it all.

Thank you, Kelsie for answering my questions!

And here is the georgous cover!


Check out The Bear in the Forest and all the other retellings in From the Stories of Old, due out on 7th December.


Author Interview: Sarah Perlmutter

Sarah Perlmutter is an English teacher from Pennsylvania who has self-published her Young Adult apocalyptic novel The Blast. It follows the story of Beatrice and her family as they fight to survive in the aftermath of a nuclear apocalypse, exploring themes of moral choices and humanity. The novel has been very well received and its current highest rank on Amazon is #26 in YA Dystopian! Sarah agreed to answer some questions about her novel and her self-publishing experience.



Why did you choose to write a story set during and after the apocalypse?

I’ve always been interested in human nature, and what better way to test it than to put people in extreme survival situations? I also really enjoy the science fiction genre, especially post-apocalyptic and dystopian stories, so I wanted to contribute to that genre of YA literature with my own take on the world’s end.

The Blast is fairly short, did you consciously choose for it to be a short novel or did it just turn out that way?

I did consciously choose for it to be a shorter novel, because I wrote it to be a companion piece or prequel for the trilogy I’ve been working on for a couple of years now. I meant for it to only be a novella, but at its current word count and length it’s straddling the line between novella and novel. Once I started writing, I had more to say than I initially anticipated I would.

How did you build the cast of characters for The Blast?

I built the cast of characters based on characters in my trilogy. I knew Beatrice, Eleanor, and their parents had to be in The Blast, but some of the other characters I added to help explain who they became as adults, like Henry and the Smiths. Characters like Jacob and Mr. Timmons were included to help explore themes in the novel, while characters like Drew helped me to flesh out the community within which Bea and Eleanor grow up and later raise their children.

The Blast is a prequel to your Deathless trilogy. Which idea did you come up with and write first?

I came up with the idea for the Deathless trilogy first, and then halfway through the second book, I realized that I didn’t know nearly enough about Beatrice or what happened before the trilogy begins. I began writing The Blast as an exploration into Bea’s character and as a way to bring the entire world to life for myself. The trilogy now exists in a world that is much more believable and complete than it did before I wrote The Blast.

What made you decide to take the self-publishing route?

I sent out maybe 5 queries for the first book of the trilogy when it was not in the proper shape to be published, and, not surprisingly, received 5 rejections. I began researching self-publishing then, and learned that it can actually be a viable route for publishing these days. I wanted to test out the waters of self-publishing as an alternate option, and after receiving positive feedback on The Blast from readers on Wattpad, I decided that would be the perfect book with which to test self-publishing. I’m glad I did, because now I feel like I have a better handle of the whole industry.

What do you think the pros and cons of self-publishing are?

The huge pro of self-publishing is how much creative freedom you have. The book is exactly as you want it, as is the cover and all other materials for it. However, as a self-publisher, you really need to be ready to invest serious time and money into your project. Good cover designers and editors cost money, as does professional formatters for your manuscript. That’s the con of self-publishing: Because you are in control of everything, it requires much more work to get your book into reader’s hands. A lot of writers just want to write, but when self-publishing, you must also be your own editor, production manager, designer, marketing professional, advocate, and internet personality.

Has self-publishing been a positive experience?

So far I have really enjoyed my experience with self-publishing! I have learned so much more about the industry than I would have if I kept querying, and I love experimenting with different marketing platforms for The Blast; however, I will still try my luck at traditional publishing for the trilogy and for any future projects. If it doesn’t work out with traditional publishing though, I’d be happy to self-publish again. Do you have any advice for writers hoping to be published?  Write! Write so much that it becomes an obsession. Write books, stories, plays, and poems of all genres. The more you write, the more pieces you have to choose from for submission calls, and the more likely one of your pieces will be chosen. Have fun with the submission process, and find a new way to view rejection. Rejection shows you’re living your dream, because every single writer you’ve ever heard of was rejected just as much as you. And if you like the idea of self-publishing, do it. Don’t wait. Get your manuscript ready, and do it.


Quick fire questions!

-Are you an organised or messy planner?

I am a messy planner masquerading as an organized one. I always have a plan, but it will be in 15 different notebooks, in the notes on my phone, on my Pinterest boards, and in my mind.

-Favourite character from The Blast?

I have to say Bea. When I finished writing The Blast, I really felt homesick for her perspective. But I also love Ellie. I didn’t think I would, but by the end of the book, she was one of my favorite characters to give dialogue. I love her voice.

-Would you survive the apocalypse?

Not likely. My husband and I are not at all prepared like Bea’s family was, and I’ve never even held a gun.

-What would be your weapon of choice – force or diplomacy?

Diplomacy for sure. I’m a teacher by day, so I feel like diplomacy is second nature to me. Force, not so much.

-Favourite book?

So difficult! It’s a four-way tie between Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, The Giver by Lois Lowry, Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman, and Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison.

-Favourite film?

My gut’s telling me to go with Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

-Favourite character?

Oh man, even more difficult! I love so many characters for so many different reasons! Right now, because I recently finished reading All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven, I really enjoy Finch’s character.


The Blast is available NOW to purchase on Amazon for Kindle and in paperback.

Follow Sarah on social media:

Facebook: @SaPerlmutterWebsite: http://www.sarahperlmutter.comPinterest:

You can read my review of the book here!

Author Interview: Ashley Maker

Ashley Maker is a young adult author who recently had her debut novel, Under the Trees, published by Cliffhanger Press. Ashley is from Oklahoma and enjoys writing songs for her books as well as writing them. Under the Trees is a fantasy romance which follows the story of Princess Araya as she runs away to a neighbouring kingdom to escape an abusive arranged marriage. There, she falls into the hands of Prince Thoredmund, who decides to help her and provides refuge for her in his kingdom, unbeknown to his father. As their feelings for each other begin to grow, the fragile peace between the two kingdoms is threatened.


Where did your inspiration for Under the Trees come from?

UNDER THE TREES is actually a complete rewrite of a book I finished when I was nineteen titled ARAYA. The first version was much sillier, and I had an agent tell me it had too much of a Middle Grade tone for a Young Adult book. After a few years of it being shelved, I set out to rewrite it as a Middle Grade book, but the first words of the rewrite ended up being the opening scene of UNDER THE TREES. I knew before I hit the end of the first page that I wasn’t writing the lighthearted, comical MG novel I set out to. Araya’s new voice, and her desperation and fear, sent the novel in a darker, much more mature direction, falling squarely in the upper YA category. I loved it so much I plotted the entire novel around that scene, and on giving Prince Thoredmund his own point of view chapters, whereas before he had little journal entries interspersed at the end of every few chapters. The two versions are so drastically different that they’re hardly comparable today. Just about everything changed.


What made you decide to write from the alternating perspectives of Princess Araya and Prince Thoredmund? 

I wanted the reader to be able to see the story from both sides, especially since Prince Thoredmund’s first chapter opens where Araya’s leaves off. There are important things the reader would never get to see if it only followed Araya’s POV, like all of the stuff going on at the castle and how the feud between the two royal families plays out.


What is your writing process? Do you have any habits?  

I’m a very slow writer, and I tend to edit while I write. I almost always write in my office at my desk, and before I type anything out, I try to take ten minutes or so to brainstorm what I want to work on that day. As far as habits go, I like to listen to music on Grooveshark, and I always have something to drink and snack on nearby.


How long did it take for you to bring Under the Trees from its planning stages to its final manuscript? 

I started the rewrite in the fall of 2010 and finished it in the summer of 2011. That doesn’t include revision, which was an on and off again process all the way up to December 2013.


Who is your favourite character in the book and why?

Prince Silas. He’s Araya brother, and I had so much fun with his character because he’s a bit of a wild card. I’m even thinking of writing a companion novel from his POV one day.


Do you have any advice for writers hoping to be published? 

Write what you want. If writers followed every piece of advice, or tip, or trend, we’d be writing in circles or not able to write at all. So write something you love and will be proud of, regardless of what others say about it. After your book is revised and ready, that’s the time to look into publication. Be sure to do lots of research on the different avenues of publishing so that you can find the best one for you. If you choose to submit to agents or publishing houses, make sure they’re legitimate since you’ll likely be working with them for years if they offer on your book. Also, while you’re shopping your book out, try to write something new. Publishing is one big waiting game. Having something new to focus on helps during those periods when things are going slow.


Under the Trees is available now in paperback and on Amazon kindle.

For more information on Ashley and the novel see:


You can read my review of the book here.


(This interview was originally published in the University of Surrey’s student newspaper The Stag)