Welcome Diane E. Samson, author of Gems of Fire. It is a delight to have you with us to talk about the writing life and your debut novel. Let’s start off with you telling my readers a little about your writing journey. There are areas that parallel mine and many authors I’ve interviewed in the past few years. So exciting to see that.
I loved reading as a young child, but the beginning of my writing journey began with reading C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia in third grade. Although I might not have understood the underlying parallels until I was older, I remember clearly thinking to myself that I wanted to make other people feel the same magic, wonder and adventure that I felt from reading those books.
I was the editor of my high school newspaper, which for high school, was a rigorous program. My teacher encouraged me to major in journalism in college, so I earned a degree in magazine journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia and began a career in that field. Though I worked in journalism, I still held close the dream that someday I’d write fiction, but at the time I’d use up all my words at work. So, I didn’t begin my fiction journey in earnest until I stayed home with my children and also worked as a freelance writer.
I wrote Gems of Fire (working title was Finding Anna) during my children’s nap time and sometimes late at night. I finished the first draft more than ten years ago. I pursued agents and publishers at writing conferences and was even asked to submit some sample chapters to a famous editor, but in the end, no contracts came. Life got busy. We moved twice. While living in Connecticut I became friends with an incredible woman who worked for a literary agency. She was kind enough to read and edit a few chapters of my manuscript as well as coach me on my writing, including recommending several books to read and apply to my work. I spent the next year re-working my manuscript. I submitted to #Pitchwars and then to #PitMad, which led to a contract with Clean Reads. I am overjoyed to be a published author as of November 2018. A writer’s journey can be lonely, but I had a lot of help along the way.
Your story reminds us it truly takes years to get your first book out there. Thanks for encouraging us all to press on.
Now tell us about Gems of Fire.
My debut young adult fantasy is Gems of Fire, released Nov. 6, 2018. It’s about a princess overcoming fear and figuring out how she fits in her world.
Palace of Sunderland. Paradise to the peasants. Prison to sixteen-year-old Anna, daughter of the king. She can never escape the castle’s cold walls and scorning disapproval of her father and his brute royal counsel, Seamus. She’ll always live in the shadow of her late mother the queen. Will they ever see her for who she really is?
A riding accident lands Anna in the hands of traders who sell her as a slave in distant Kasdod to none-other than her father’s enemy, Lord Anwar. After overhearing a dangerous plot to conquer Sunderland and kill the royal family, Anna must escape and warn her father, even if it means facing her greatest enemy.
With the doom looming over her, Anna is approached by a dangerous-looking man in the dark. He claims to want to help her, but can she trust him with her secrets? The perils of the journey ahead will push Anna to the limit and answer the one question that has always plagued her. Will she ever be enough?
Anna’s adventures continue in the next book in the series, Valley of Bones, which I’m still writing. I’ve especially enjoyed plotting all three books and am excited to see where Anna’s journey has taken me.
Sounds exciting. Your cover is stunning.
How did you research for your fanatasy world?
Part of Gems of Fire’s fantasy world is loosely based on a medieval European culture, but Morocco serves as the loose setting for the desert scenes. I also researched weapons, sword fighting, armor, moon phases, approximate distance one could travel in a day on horseback and other details. Though it’s set in a fantasy world, I wanted to the details to feel authentic.
I love when fantasy authors research real time things and add them to their stories.
What inspired you to write your book?
The inspiration to write has always percolated in the back of my mind. I was often plotting stories in my head. Specifically for Gems of Fire, when I transitioned from a working woman to stay-at-home mom, I sometimes felt like I was locked in Anna’s room with her. Though I loved being at home with my children, writing was a much-needed creative escape for me.
I can never answer this question without referencing not only Narnia, the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, but others such as Walter Farley’s Black Stallion series, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, the City of Ember, Graceling series, Throne of Glass series, and the incredible, wonderful Seven Realms series by Cinda Williams Chima, which begins with The Demon King.
Writers write what they know as well as what they love. Clearly you love fantasy. As an avid reader of the genre you can craft a compelling story. Love it.
Do you have a favorite verse that resonates with you?
It’s hard to just have one favorite verse. Proverbs 3:5-6 is always a comfort, while Romans 8 continues to be one of my favorite chapters. A passage that resonated with me while revising Gems of Fire and now writing the next two in the series is Psalm 18:30-36.
If you could go back in time and give one piece of advice for your younger self about writing what would that be?
I would invest in a mentor early on. I had learned what I could about writing, but until someone sat down with me and showed me how to apply writing principles specifically to my own work, I got stuck at a certain level.
Who is your best support system to keep you focused on your writing?
Writers need to be self-starters, but we also need community. Right now, my community is mostly online, but I have been part of a writers’ group in the past.
What is your favorite genre to read for fun?
I almost always read young adult fantasy with romance subplots. Can’t get enough!
I am not surprised. 😊
Where is your favorite place to write?
I enjoy writing in a quiet place, in view of nature. Our home backs to a small lake, so it’s a perfect setting. I’m not a coffee-shop writer because I get too distracted.
What a wonderful setting. Thanks so much for being with us today. Readers, continue scrolling to learn more about Diana and a chance to win a copy of Gems of Fire.
More about Diane:
Diane E. Samson is the author of Gems of Fire. She was lucky enough to grow up on acreage just north of Kansas City, Missouri, with horses and dogs in the backyard. When she wasn’t dreaming of Narnia, she was outside riding her horse, training her dog or spending time swimming at the lake. Her love of words led her to earn a degree in magazine journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She subsequently worked as a reporter, editor and in public relations. After moving around the country, she has returned to the Kansas City area where she lives with her husband, children and dog. She will never be without a golden retriever.
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Order Gems of Fire :
Amazon order link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07JWB434F
Barnes and Noble order link: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/gems-of-fire-diane-samson/1129907813
Diane is giving away an e-book or signed paperback version of Gems of Fire to one lucky winner. Sign up for her newsletter following the link below for a chance to win. Winners outside the US will be sent an e-book copy only. Drawing will be December 15th.
Diane’s newsletter gives you exclusive updates, new release info and author news https://mailchi.mp/737d6fa20356/authordianesamson