Published by: Inkspell Publishing
Publication date: September 12th 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Duty and prophecy get in the way of everything.
All I ever wanted to do was read my books, play my sports, and help people. Life and prophecy had other things in mind.
Helping people is what I do; as an empath and semi-frequent telepath, I can easily sense and understand people’s needs and emotions. Sometimes even before they do. Being able to read everyone’s thoughts and feelings all the time can drive me crazy with anxiety, but that moment when I can finally make someone’s life better makes everything worth it.
Unfortunately, I’m also the next in line to rule the galaxy, I’m the only diplomat most planets will listen to, assassins try to kill me on an annoyingly regular basis, and a much-vaunted Prophecy has decreed that I’m going to die. Oh, and someone blew up my home planet.
Kind of a lot to deal with, right?
Too bad I just got another problem: a big, irritating, overbearing bodyguard with serious anger management issues.
And I think I’m falling for him.
“Great, Clee,” I said. “Job’s all yours. I’m going to bed.”
Kenzi covered a snicker as Synie rolled her eyes. “Princess, you know the Yurilians will only talk to you.”
I leaned back in my chair and stretched my neck. “Yeah, yeah.”
Kenzi tilted his head at Synie. “Why will they only talk to the princess?”
Synie shifted uncomfortably. “King Cepheus was….” She paused, searching for the right word.
“A jerk,” Clee supplied unhelpfully.
“Clee!” Synie barked. “That’s practically treason.”
Clee shrugged. “Yep. But I already told him that to his face. He agreed with me.”
Cepheus had a weak spot for Clee, as did we all; her tendency to tell the truth and lighten the mood at the same time was curiously refreshing. And she was right: Cepheus was a terrible diplomat.
With another reproachful glare at Clee, who was no longer paying attention, Synie continued, “King Cepheus was less than sympathetic toward their grain dispute with us. Andromeda smoothed things over and managed to talk them down from outright war.”
Kenzi’s eyes bugged. “They were going to declare war on us, just for some grain?”
“Food is a common reason people go to war,” I said. “Or, rather, lack of it. When people starve, they feel they have nothing left to lose.” Perseus’s words came back to me: people who have nothing to lose, fear nothing.
That was true on a global scale as well as a personal one, I supposed.
Kenzi’s dark eyes turned to me and he gave me an awed smile. I really hated being an object of awe. I liked doing my job—a lot—and I loved helping people, but at heart, I was an introvert who wanted as little attention as possible.
Just my luck, I got the most high-profile job in the galaxy.
Did you always want to be an author?
Kind of. I wanted to write for National Geographic Magazine when I was a kid, and even though my brother kept telling me that bats would defecate on my face, I still wanted to do it. And I wrote stories all the time. I have found them in boxes over the past few years, and oh my are they awful, but I loved writing them. I would sit in my room and just write, for hours; I would daydream late at night and before I got up in the morning about scenes I wanted to write. I was always super quiet on the ride to school because I was busy daydreaming my stories. Daydreaming got me through so many classes.
What authors had an impact on you growing up and as an adult?
Richelle Mead was one of the biggest influences on me, in recent memory. I love her stories, but what I love most about her books is how vivid the characters were. She’s so good at sensory description, when the characters are eating, tired, or feeling anxious, and I really took that to heart when doing my own writing. Cassandra Clare, Susan Ee, and Sharon Kay Penman are all authors I really admire and go back to time and again. In high school, my favorite authors were Ambrose Bierce, Dorothy Parker, and Ernest Hemingway, which looking back feels remarkably precocious, but it was the snarky sense of humor from the first two and the pervasive sadness of the last that I so admired. Humor and melancholy are emotions that really speak to a teenager, perhaps, but I still love all three authors.
Do you have any “must haves” with you while you’re writing?
I can never get rid of my cat Nina. She almost deleted an entire chapter of the story once. She’s a bit tubby and one of the most lovable cats I’ve ever had, but she’s super aggressive about getting her pets in. She’ll sit next to me on the couch and roll over onto the laptop if I’m not petting her enough. Sometimes she’ll grab my hand with her paw and pull it toward her, then rub herself all over it until I’ve rubbed her ears. It’s adorable but more of a “must have” because she just won’t go away!
I also work better, oddly, when I have Star Trek: The Next Generation or Friends on TV in the background. I know all the episodes so well that it doesn’t distract me, and it feels like having company around. I can’t do music because then I just get up, dance around the house and sing at the top of my lungs, and that’s about when the neighbors start complaining.
What have you learned the most from being in the writing business?
That I love it! And that it’s hard working a full-time job and writing. I never seem to get in as much writing as I want.
If you could change one thing about our world, what would it be and why?
As a historian, it’s hard for me to think of changing things, because everything we do makes us what we are. Changing one thing would just create another problem; we’re human and we’ll always find adversity but hopefully, always power through it.
That said, I wish it were easier to convince people that compassion and patience really do make a difference, in our personal worlds and in the larger one. Any little or big thing we can do for others does matter.
And I’d get rid of radishes, because I just don’t see why they exist.
If you knew the exact date of your death down to the minute, what would you change about your life starting tomorrow?
I suppose that depends on how far in the future that time of death was! But I’m not a bucket-list person. I want to see and do everything and I always have, so I guess everything is on my “bucket list”? I’d probably spend the money to visit Madagascar to see the lemurs, and spend as much time with my family and my cats as I could.
When was the last time you felt alive? I mean really alive!
When something makes me laugh really hard, I feel alive. There are so many instances of that, but recently, I was camping with my school. We were in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness, we had just sent all the kids to bed, and we adults were in our tents, settling in for the night. I was on the cusp of sleep when one of the other teachers, in trying to set her alarm for the morning, started blasting Justin Bieber music throughout the forest. I burst out laughing so hard that I woke all the kids up again! The combination of being startled awake, and by something so funny, really got my adrenaline and endorphins pumping. It was a fun trip overall, but that will always stick out in my mind.
When was the last time you helped someone that was desperately in need? What did you do? Was this person grateful?
I’m a teacher and I frequently deal with students who are suffering. Sometimes they’re just having a bad day, but often they are hurting deeply, with more painful, long-term issues. The best thing I’ve ever done for any of these people is just listen. Most of the time, that’s all they need.
I think they’re grateful, but I don’t ask. As long as they feel better when they leave our conversation, I hope I have done something to improve their day and help them heal.
What television sitcom is most like your family? Why?
Friends. I’m the only one in my family who really likes that show, but it seems about right. We’re all adults now and we all seem to hang out with a comfort level that reminds me of how close they are on that show. My husband is a mix of Joey and Chandler, I’m totally Chandler, and I won’t offend the rest of my family by telling them who they remind me of!
What’s your favorite thing to do to relax?
Go for a walk in a forest. Lots of things make me happy or calm me down, but grabbing a London Fog and going for a walk in a forest is easily the longest-lasting. I feel so chill for hours after I do it, especially if it’s raining a little. The rain amplifies the sweet smell of the forest and I think it has an exponential effect on my serotonin levels.
Do you have a favorite scene in your current book? Why?
I really enjoyed writing the scene where Meda lets Yalan out of jail. I’m a believer in redemption and rehab, but I also thought it was fun to make Meda, who can be a little stubborn-minded, realize that even Yalan has a good side. Somewhere.
I also really enjoyed the Diskos scene and any scene involving Clee. I had more with Clee, but the book was too long as it was and she was distracting from the main plot. So I’m saving more Clee moments for books 2 and 3. Clee is just so wonderfully unpredictable and free, and writing her was liberating.
Do you have a character that you identify with? Who and why?
There’s a little bit of me in every one of the characters, I suppose, but Meda’s sense of ignoring the rules is very much me, Perseus’s Rage issues are a little bit me, and Clee is who I’d be if I didn’t have to function in normal society. Meda’s hesitation with swearing is most certainly not me.
The best combination of all this, I think, would be Gi. He and I are probably most alike. He’s very much a good person with a great sense of humor who annoys the crap out of everyone, yet they still like him and can rarely pinpoint why. I have a feeling my friends and family would say that’s true of me as well.
A Pacific Northwesterner by birth and disposition, Mara has lived in Washington DC, Oregon, Japan, and most recently the beautiful Pacific Grove, California, before returning to her roots in Seattle. By day she teaches history to unsuspecting teenagers, and by night she writes books and travels to far-flung places. She loves to be with animals, read, play sports, and drink more London Fogs than is likely good for her.
Hope you enjoyed reading!
Sincerely Karen Jo