S.L. Choi and E.E. Hornburg | Interview
From Cinderella To Blood Fae.
I have two outstanding authors with me today, both writing fantasy romance in their own way. S.L. Choi is an urban fantasy author and her new book, Bad Girls Drink Blood, is the first in the Blood Fae Druid series. And E.E. Hornburg’s fairytale retelling, The Shadow’s Heir, is the second book in The Cursed Queens series.
Thank you for chatting with me today. This is a first for my blog! Two authors in one interview and I’m very excited to have you both.
S.L. Choi: Thank you so much having me—us! I’m honored to be here with Emily.
Both of you have books coming out today. Congrats! Emily, if you can only pick five words to describe The Shadow’s Heir, what would they be?
E.E. Hornburg: Magical, romantic, Cinderella, with ghosts.
Oh, nice! I’m very partial to ghosts LOL. And what about you Stacy? Which five words would you choose?
SLC: Action-packed, irreverent, steamy, hilarious, heartfelt
You had me at irreverent! Now that you both have me intrigued, you need to tell me more. What are your books all about?
SLC: In a nutshell, Lane is forced by her long-time enemy to hunt down monsters while proving she isn’t one herself, or accepting that she is.
EEH: It’s the sequel to the first book in The Cursed Queens series, The Night’s Chosen. We pick up right where we left off in The Night’s Chosen, but this time we’ll follow Alvis and Myra in a Cinderella retelling. Myra has come home after 17 years when she was sold off as a slave. After years of being shunned and abused due to being a direct descendent of the goddess of death, she’s ready to leave her magic behind and start fresh. But, she ends up on the steps of Alvis’ palace as a ladies maid to serve the women who are competing to be his queen. While there, she and Alvis uncover a plot to free the former evil queen that could threaten the safety of the entire realm.
Exciting! I remember reading The Night’s Chosen and really loving all the different types of supernatural and fantasy beings you included in your writing. Now that we know a little bit more about both of your stories, I want to talk about characters. Who’s the villain and where is the last place they’d want to be and why?
SLC: A case could be made for several characters as the villain, but the one constant baddie is a nasty piece of work named Nyle. I don’t think there is any place in particular that guy wouldn’t want to be. His view on life is twisted. He’s the kind of guy who thinks life or death fights are a form of flirting. I’m pretty sure wherever he was, he’d cause some sort of havoc and have fun with it.
EEH: We have a few villains in this book! The “big bad” for the whole series is Queen Amelia, and in this book she’s exactly in one of the last places she’d ever want to be. Trapped, stripped of power, and far away from a big body of water. (As a water sorceress, her ideal location is the ocean.) She’s in one of her lowest points in life when we encounter her in this book.
That brings me to my next question. Tell me more about the setting! Why did you choose to set The Shadow's Heir where you did?
EEH: This book, the readers will travel to the southern kingdom of Oxare. It was the most logical place to go since we’re following Alvis’ storyline, and that’s where his home is. In the first book, we were in a northern kingdom that was reminiscent of a lot of classic western European fairy tales. Stone castles, enchanted forests, etc. So, when I wrote this book, I wanted this kingdom to have a very different feel. I took a lot of inspiration from ancient Persia and India.
What about your setting, Stacy? Where did you choose?
SLC: I used to live in the Mojave in southern California. My husband and I made weekend trips to Vegas. We always had a blast and it seemed like the perfect place for a bunch of supernaturals to live out loud. The tricky part was working out how I wanted the real world to connect to the other realms. I’ve always been fascinated with space, and I had a blast figuring out how I wanted to bind these worlds together.
Supernaturals with a side of space? Yes, please! Did you encounter any challenges in writing Bad Girls Drink Blood?
SLC: Not until the end. I was flying through this book until 2020 hit. It wasn’t the pandemic alone. It was the fact that my husband and I were moving about 1500 miles smack in the middle of the first peak. I experienced my first panic attack. It wasn’t fun LOL.
I thought I’d be able to write while we were on the road. Nope. Surely when we settled into temp housing while we looked for a place to live. Definitely not.
I’m grateful for my amazing critique partner, Gabrielle Ash. She was my cheerleader the whole way and really helped me get those last few chapters finished.
Yay for amazing critique partners! What about you Emily, did you encounter challenges writing The Shadow’s Heir?
EEH: I did. There’s a popular warning among writers about how the first book you write under contract and not just because you want to, is the hardest, and they weren’t kidding! There’s the added pressure of a deadline, living up to expectations of the first book, and wanting to improve on what you’ve already done. But then on top of it, since it’s part of a series, I had a hard time balancing what to put in the book so I can prepare the reader for what’s coming in the future books and tying in strings from book one, while still focusing on these specific characters and their individual journeys.
What drew you to writing urban fantasy romance, Stacy?
SLC: I am a big Anne Rice fan. One of the things that I love about her stories is how real they feel. The textures, the layers, the visuals. They are fantasy in our world, and surely if we went to New Orleans, we might spot Lestat or the Mayfair witches.
When I came across this book called Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison. It blew my mind! It was the fantasy in the real world I loved about Anne Rice, but so much more!
I live for the snark, the heart-pounding action, and female leads who are total badasses!
Badass women for the win! Emily, what are your favorite tropes and themes to play with in your work?
EEH: Well, obviously I love fairytale retellings! I love being able to take classic tales and characters and finding my own ways to tell them. They’re classic tales that people keep coming back to, and it’s so much fun to be able to flesh them out more and bring in my own versions. But I also have a lot of themes of identity and being true to who you are, making your own path in life, friends, and romance. Some of my favorite tropes are friends to lovers, chosen one, and found family!
Here's a question to both of you, are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you have pre-writing routine or do you just go with the flow?
SLC: I proudly say I am a plotter! I never used to be, but somewhere along the way I started writing a beat sheet and turning that into a synopsis before I begin the story. There are A LOT of things that pop up I didn’t plan for, but the main plot is all laid out.
EEH: I consider myself a “planster.” I have to have some sort of idea of where my story is going and the major plot points and beats I want to hit. I usually have a general idea of where my main players are going to be by the end of the book or series. But the journey between the main points and beats tend to be a bit murky. I give myself a general outline and use index cards on a big cork board, but I let myself explore as I write and give myself room to be flexible.
Plansters unite! What’s a favorite quote someone has said about your book?
EEH: One of my most recent reviews from The Night’s Chosen said it was “A debut novel that doesn’t read like one. Hornburg’s writing is masterful, and I realized while reading that she’s one of those writers who can craft a beautiful story so well that she makes the whole process of writing look easy.”
I almost died reading that! It made my heart so happy.
Beautiful. And what about you, Stacy?
SLC: Because I’m being an absolute, shameless fangirl I have to say Kim Harrison, the urban fantasy OG, my idol, writing a review that ended with “If you like the Hollows, you will love this.”
I’m still not sure I’ve recovered from that. Can you check if I have a pulse?
Oh, wow. That’s absolutely fabulous! Dead Witch Walking is a favorite. Here’s a goofy question: your book has been turned into a restaurant. What’s the name of it and what would it serve? What’s your main character’s favorite dish?
SLC: Ha! I think the restaurant would be “Finger Food.” Lane is a junk food junkie. Her two loves are Hostess Ho Hos and cheesy poofs.
EEH: Oooooo that’s a good question. I think it would be some sort of magical café. Myra loves coffee and can’t survive mornings without it, so I can see it being a casual café but with a mysterious vibe. There would be a lot of lush and vibrantly colored furniture that you can sink into with unique dishes with a lot of flavor! I think it would be called “Stula’s Lair.”
I want to visit both of these places! What are you two working on right now? Does it connect to your new releases?
SLC: I’m about to dive into edits on the sequel, so yes it does!
EEH: I’m now working on book three! This one will be Red Riding Hood and mostly takes place in the enchanted forest.
Perfect! I think I remember one of the characters I liked in your first book being gifted a red cape. Can’t wait! Where can readers interact with you or find out more?
EEH: I’m the most active on Instagram! My handle is @eehornburg.
Thank you both for chatting with me today! Let’s leave some links here so readers can find your newest releases.