Welcome to my weekly Author Spotlight. I’ve asked a bunch of my author friends to answer a set of interview questions, and to share their latest work.
Today: USA Today Bestselling Authors Sarah Biglow and Molly Zenk are the authors of three fantasy series. Sarah lives in Massachusetts with her husband and son. Molly lives in Minnesota with her husband and three daughters.
Thanks so much, Sarah & Molly, for joining me!
J. Scott Coatsworth: If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Sarah Biglow: I would love to go back and tell my younger self that editing is not something to be feared or ashamed of. Not everything you write is going to be perfect on the first go. I have definitely improved over the years, but I still ensure each book I publish goes through a copy edit and a proofread before they hit the digital shelves. And I have some wonderful early readers who help me bounce plot issues off them during the writing and revising process to make my earlier drafts stronger.
JSC: Are there underrepresented groups or ideas featured if your book? If so, discuss them.
Molly Zenk: The cast of characters that inhabit the Celestial Academy series are very diverse. We’re proud of how inclusive it is too. One character is gender neutral, one of the main characters is a lesbian, and another discovers as the series goes on that she is bi. They may be teenagers, but they are comfortable with who they are/their identity.
JSC: What is the most heartfelt thing a reader has said to you?
MZ: This relates to another series Sarah and I wrote together – the Captivity series. One reader, who also happens to be a family member of mine, said that reading the series helped her realize she was being kept in a cage metaphorically by her abusive husband. Because the characters in Captivity had the strength to fight for their freedom and happiness, so did she. She left her abusive marriage and is now living her best life.
JSC: What was the most valuable piece of advice you’ve had from an editor?
SB: Back when I was developing my main urban fantasy series (from which so many things now spring), I thought I needed to approach the story in a large four-book arc with this big final showdown with the Big Bad. I hired a developmental editor who absolutely gave me the best advice: treat every book like it’s going to be a standalone. This really helped me reshape what the series and that first book in particular would be. Granted, the later books in the series did land more on a cliffhanger (book 3 epsecially) but they each still contained a complete narrative arc.
JSC: How did you choose the topic for Celestial Academy?
MZ: We knew we wanted to do an Academy series, but we wanted it to be original and unique in the genre. Eventually, we hit on the idea of “what happens after the War In Heaven?” There were two sides then –Angels and Fallen. That divide has continued. When Lucifer’s angelic relic is stolen, his daughter tracks it to Celestial Academy – a school for the children of angels and descendants of saints. She forges her way into the school and ends up roommates with Archangel Michael’s daughter. They are complete opposites (just like their dads) but learn that the stories they’ve heard growing up are not necessarily true.
JSC: Tell us one thing about them that we don’t learn from the book, the secret in their past.
MZ: We created a series guide with the history of the Celestial Academy universe and background of the characters. So much of the character backstory and motivation didn’t make it into the finished series – especially for the secondary characters. When we decided to run a Kickstarter campaign for the special edition hardcover, we knew this was the perfect time to include the bonus stories and material. I could tell you their secrets, but it is better if they tell you themselves. 😉
JSC: What qualities do you and your characters share? How much are you like them, or how different are they from you?
MZ: I share Miry’s determination, optimism and willingness to see the best in everyone.
JSC: Do you have any strange writing habits or superstitions?
SB: I wouldn’t call it a habit or superstition per se, but I do tend to have this massive avoidance that happens when ‘m writing a book and I get toward the end. It is the strangest thing, but when I’ve got about 10-20k left to write on a book, I want to finish because I know I’m in the home stretch. Yet, my brain wants to focus on anything else. Binge 10 hours of a tv show, read a book. Just stare at my screen doing nothing. Inevitably, I get through it but it’s a pretty consistent occurrence that just makes me shake my head and ask “why, brain? Why?”
JSC: What’s your drink of choice?
SB: Non-alcoholic? Earl Grey tea with some milk and sugar. I am an absolute tea snob. I pretty much refuse to drink anything else. On the alcoholic side of things, I’m a fan of Angry Orchard hard cider. Or a red wine sangria. But I usually can only have one and then I’m super sleepy.
JSC: What are you working on now, and what’s coming out next? Tell us about it!
SB: I am super excited to be launching another Kickstarter in June to kick of a brand new series; Guardians of Camelot. It is a urban/portal fantasy series in which Morgan le Fey si the rightful heir to Camelot and she must face off against Arthur with a round table of strong women at her side. I have been planning this for a long time and this campaign (for the first wo books in the series) is going to be epic. Honestly, if I could time travel I’d be there right after this current campaign ends because it’s just going to be so freaking cool!
And now for Sara and Molly’s upcoming book: Celestial Academy: Kickstarter Limited Edition:
Four angelic relics. Two warring families. One elite academy. School is about to get biblical.
Zuri’s next in line to rule Hell. Miryam’s father is an Archangel. When fate throws them together in the halls of Celestial Academy, they’ll have to overcome brutal kidnappings, demonic manipulations and an eons-old grudge of apocalyptic proportions.
When they uncover plans to start a second celestial war, they have no choice but to rely on each other. With innocent lives on the line, is Miry and Zuri’s growing bond strong enough to overcome eons of bad blood between Fallen and Archangels?
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