SP: Hey MJ! So excited to have you on the Spinning Pen! Before we get started, we want to hear about YOU and your writing journey! What made you want to write and what’s a fun fact you don’t mind sharing?
I loved writing ever since I was a kid. It was a way for me to escape and be creative. I loved reading stories, writing my own version of them when I was done reading (I guess that’s early fanfic?) I also liked to write little serial stories starring my friends and then pass them out every week for them to read. By middle school I was writing fantasy novels by hand but when I got to high school I had to focus on getting a “real job”. Two degrees, a soul-sucking job, and a two kids later I returned to my love of writing, deciding to make a career out of it.
Fun fact: My first published novel was in the 3rd grade. Our teacher had us write and illustrate our own stories. Then she bound them and put them in the school library for the everyone to check out. I still have that book to this day!
SP: Let’s talk publishing for a second. What was your path to publication like?
After listening to a lot of podcasts I chose to self publish my books. I took a year to write my first three books (a YA sci-fi novella and two novels) before I decided to self publish them. At that time, rapid releasing books was a big thing and was touted as the way to go in self publishing. I built an email list and published those books in 2017 and 2018 but alas they didn’t go far. It was because I didn’t learn about the value of branding and community.
So I took set the whole series aside and decided to start over. I worked with Katie Phillips, a branding and writing coach, to hone in on my author brand. I studied writing craft, reading books like Story Engineering and listening to podcasts. I got active on Instagram and Twitter to start engaging with other readers and writers. Instead of taking the super quick route (and being totally impatient!) I took the time out to really build a solid writing foundation and I’m really glad I did! I self-published Macario’s Scepter last year and it’s been an amazing experience.
SP: Now, for the exciting stuff. Tell us about The Secret Library, which just came out in April!! We want all the deets! How and where did this story come from?
The idea for the Secret Library came out of a major rewrite of Macario’s Scepter. I had to add a new chapter that wrapped up the storyline of my treasure-hunting nun Seraphina. But instead of wrapping up, my girl had other plans! I don’t want to give any spoilers but the end of her chapter set up a whole new adventure for her.
It started out as a short story….then a novella…then a full-fledged novel that was so not in the original plans! But I’m so glad it came together the way it did.
Here’s a blurb:
When a surly pirate and a treasure-hunting nun fall into a cursed jungle with the Order captain tasked with their capture—what else could possibly go wrong?
Seraphina Davalos left her seminary and inserted herself into Captain Mari Adlam’s pirate crew to gain passage to a mysterious isle said to hide a secret library. In this library is the knowledge her twin sister—the one chosen by the gods to wield Macario’s Scepter—needs to defeat the awakening monsters and stop the end of the world.
No big deal, right? Unfortunately, Captain Luis Fozo is much less concerned with taboo myths and impending doom. He’s determined to exact revenge on the pirates responsible for his brother’s death.
His plan goes sideways, however, when he falls through an ancient portal and is forced to work together with Seraphina and Mari to survive sirens, harpies, diabolical traps, and whatever else the cursed jungle conjures on their path to the library—and escape.
Their alliance is only temporary, though. He doesn’t believe their conspiracy theories about the world ending in the slightest. And he certainly, most definitely—without question—is not falling for a brave, naive nun who’s as intelligent as she is beautiful.
It’s only a few days, a few monsters, and a few curses. How bad could it be?
A funny, page-turning adventure great for fans of Indiana Jones with a dash of Pirates of The Caribbean.
SP: What was the most challenging part of writing this story? Did you have to do a lot of research?
The hardest part of the story was just getting the motivation to write it. Right before I was to start drafting my mother died unexpectedly. That totally upended my world and it took me two months to get back to it. And even as I wrote it I had no idea if this would be any good so there were some tough drafting days. But I’m glad I wrote it and I have to say it was one of my best stories I’ve written so far.
SP: Last question before the lightning round! What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Trust the process with the first book. You won’t get it right in the first draft or even in the second. Sometimes you’ll have to tear it apart and start over. Sometimes you have to take time out to study your craft. It may not be published when you want it to be. I experienced all of these things with Macario’s Scepter and man it was hard! But it was absolutely necessary. So trust the process and lean on the writing community for support.
SP: Lightning round time! Favorite or most interesting pet? I have 2 pet parakeets, Alexa and Hawkeye. They’re fun…and loud!
SP: Coffee or tea? Coffee all day everyday!
SP: Word you can never spell? This may be a trick question… Initiative…I’ve typed it three times already before I got it right.
SP: Trilogy or duology? Or standalone? Trilogy. I hate leaving a story world too soon.
SP: Finally, where can we go to read more from you? Find you?
SP: Alright, thank you so much for joining us MJ! We are super excited for The Secret Library and wish you all the best!