Friday, February 22, 2013

Interview with Charity Santiago, author of 'Return'

Today, I would like to welcome author Charity Santiago to the blog, and to thank her for taking some time to let us get to know her a little bit better.

Q: What was the inspiration behind 'Return'?

A: I first got the idea for 'Return' years ago, when I was caught outside during a storm. It was the middle of summer in Arizona- also known as monsoon season- and I was filling up my horse's water trough when it began raining. I stood there, watching raindrops drip from the brim of my baseball cap, and I was suddenly struck by how completely the storm had isolated me from the rest of the world. The melancholy feeling that came with being alone in the rain inspired the first chapter of 'Return,' and I tried to maintain that sense of loneliness and independence in the main character, Ashlyn, throughout the entire trilogy. Once I had the first draft of the opening chapter written, I started fleshing out an actual plot. Originally I was writing the story solely for my own entertainment, with no intention of publication, and as a result nothing was off-limits in my world. My husband likes to joke that I took everything I liked in fiction and threw it in one big pot to create the plot for 'Return.' He may be right. Where else are you going to find vampires, assassins, magic, shape-shifters, Angels and ninjas, all in one story? 

Q: A ninja isn't the kind of character we have been seeing lately in books. Why a ninja?

A: I wanted to write a heroine who was strong and capable without any kind of supernatural advantage. Ashlyn uses magic, but she can still deliver a beat-down with her bare hands. She has also managed to stay off the grid for the past three years, despite being a famous member of FLD, the rebel group who saved the sun. I knew she'd have to be pretty sneaky to pull that off! Once I knew she was a martial artist and had stealthy qualities, making her a ninja was pretty much a given.

Q: If you could have any kind of superpower or paranormal power, what would you choose?

A: In all honesty, if I could get my hands on the reveal stane from 'Return,' that would be superpower enough for me. I am constantly losing my keys, my phone and my wallet. I would love to have a special magic that could lead me straight to what I'm looking for.

Q: If you could be a character in any book, who would you be?

A: I would be Anne Elliott from Jane Austen's 'Persuasion.' There are so many things I love about that story, and that character in particular. There are actually a few similarities between Anne Elliott and Ashlyn, the heroine in 'Return.' They both walked away from their destiny, and they both regret it now, but neither of them are sure if they deserve a second chance. I love that Anne Elliott has such a quiet, self-contained strength about her. She's human and she has made mistakes, but she bears the burden of her past with grace and dignity.

Q: Your son had severe respiratory issues, which put him in the hospital, and led to you discovering the KDP program. How is he doing now?

A: He is doing fabulously- thanks so much for asking! About six months after his very frightening stay in the hospital, I resigned from my full-time job in the insurance/financial services industry and became a stay-at-home mom. His health has improved tremendously since then. He is now an active, adventurous two-year-old, and he warms my heart every day with his grit, courage and determination. He does face many struggles on a daily basis as a result of his biological mother's drug use during her pregnancy. Asthma is just one of those struggles. We are hoping and praying that as he grows older, his asthma will become easier to manage.

Q: You are pursuing a degree in education. What age and in what area are you interested in teaching? 

A: Initially I wanted to teach high school English, but living in a small town, my options for certification programs are somewhat limited! I'm hoping to teach older elementary students- fourth, fifth, or sixth grade, preferably. When I finish my degree and become certified, I'll be able to teach all elementary school subjects, but in a perfect world, I'd love to find a position teaching sixth grade English or Language Arts. Because this is such a small community, though, I have to be open-minded about my prospects. I'd be just as happy to teach first or second grade. 

Q: Why do you want to be a teacher?

There are so many reasons! I had a wake-up call when my son was in the hospital in 2011. I took a week off from work to stay with him- he was in the hospital for four days, and even after he was released, he was too ill to return to daycare, and required breathing treatments with a nebulizer every two hours. I couldn't believe it when my boss called me into her office and told me that for future incidents, I would need to find someone else to take care of my son, because she didn't want me taking leave from work when he was sick. At that point I realized that I'd spent years toiling in an industry I didn't believe in- an industry that didn't believe in me and didn't care about my personal life, even when my son was gravely ill. All they cared about was whether or not I was making money. 

Several months later, I resigned my job to stay home with my son and began soul-searching, trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. My first passion is writing, and obviously I'd love nothing more than to write books for a living. But if that doesn't pan out, then I definitely want a career that makes a positive difference in people's lives. Being a teacher would offer so many opportunities to change students' lives. I want a student to come into my classroom unsure of their abilities, and walk out with new confidence. Regardless of what grade I end up teaching, I'm most looking forward to sharing my love of writing with my students and getting them involved in the National Novel Writing Month Young Writers Program.

Q: What other kind of writing projects do you currently have in the works?

Now that the Lady of Toryn trilogy- of which 'Return' is the first installment- is complete, I'm working on a new paranormal romance series revolving around vampires and werewolves in modern-day North Dakota. The first book is called 'Blood Lust,' and it's about Eve, a 17-year-old girl who makes an unexpected romantic connection with a sexy, mysterious vampire named Jericho shortly before she is bitten by a werewolf. Eve's initiation into the werewolf pack obviously has an impact on her relationship with Jericho, and struggling to fit in to this new supernatural world isn't easy for her, either. 'Blood Lust' is coming out on April 12, 2013.

My other project right now is a new young adult fantasy trilogy set in Kresmir, the same world from 'Return.' Ashlyn and the rest of FLD will return to battle a new mystical foe. The new trilogy is called 'Battle for Cosmea,' and its first book, 'Stane of Nine Thousand,' has a projected release date of July 30, 2013.

Q: What is something readers may be surprised to learn about you?

A: I'm a total geek, and my husband is, too! We attend Phoenix Comicon every year, and last year I attended Dragon*Con in Atlanta, GA. I was able to attend a panel hosted by Laurell K. Hamilton and Sherrilyn Kenyon, among other prominent female fantasy authors. My dream someday is to have a booth at Phoenix Comicon where I can offer my books for sale, and maybe host a panel or two of my own.

Q: Anything else you would like to share?

A: Thanks so much for being such a gracious tour host. I appreciate you taking the time to listen to my rambling!
Author Bio
In February 2011, Charity Santiago's 7-month old son was admitted to the hospital with severe respiratory issues. While Charity stayed at his bedside, she kept them both entertained by downloading several books on her new Kindle and reading them out loud. It was during this time that Charity learned about Kindle's self-publishing program, and realized that she had an opportunity to share her writings with the world.

Charity is a native of southeastern Arizona, and a writer since childhood. She wrote her first manuscript, Guinea Pig Code!, at age nine. When she’s not writing books, Charity spends her time wrangling children, watching Sylvester Stallone movies and pursuing a degree in Education.

Title: Return
Author: Charity Santiago
Genre: YA Fantasy

For the last three years, eighteen-year-old Ashlyn Li has been running from her destiny. A free-spirited ninja, Ashlyn would rather loot an abandoned city or challenge a fiend to battle than assume leadership of Toryn, her father's kingdom. However, when a series of attacks reunites Ashlyn with the friends who helped her save the sun three years ago, she discovers that her kingdom is at war and her father has presumed her dead.

Suddenly Ashlyn is faced with not only fulfilling her birthright, but also making sense of her feelings towards two very different men- Drake Lockhart, the enigmatic vampire who captured her heart three years ago, and Vargo, the charismatic assassin who was once Ashlyn's sworn enemy.

Will Ashlyn ascend the pagoda and become Lady of Toryn?

Read an excerpt:

“You must be frustrated out of your mind."

"No," he said immediately. "I was there too. It hasn't been that long."

"I feel so heavy all the time," Ashlyn said. "It's like I can't breathe sometimes. Like I can't even move."

"Weight of the world," Skye replied. "It's a burden all leaders have to deal with."

"I'm not a natural-born leader."

"Leaders aren't born, Ash. They're made." He shook his head when she spoke again, stopping her mid-sentence with the gesture. "I wasn't a leader. I was just following Jax around, trying to help out where I could. And after he was…gone…I knew I had to step up because there was no one else.”

He stopped halfway across the bridge to the lab, and leaned against the railing, his expression grave. Ashlyn turned to face him and mimicked his relaxed pose, trying to look nonchalant.

Skye turned his face towards the rising sun, the first rays lighting his handsome features with a strange, tormented beauty. The illumination lasted for only a moment before clouds obscured the sunrise, and they were plunged into grayness again.

"The burden of saving the sun was bad enough," Skye said slowly, "but then to be pretending to be something I wasn't, constantly worried that people would find out I had no idea what I was doing…I almost snapped a couple of times. Stuck inside my mind and trapped by my own lies and insecurities. Tortured by my own failure."

Ashlyn stayed silent as it began to rain. Skye pushed away from the railing and started walking, and she followed quietly. In the back of her mind a little voice was asking why, what with Drake's speech and Restlyn's epiphany and Skye's current revelation, she wasn't having any clarifying moments of her own. Life just wasn't fair sometimes.

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1 comment:

  1. Thank you for hosting my tour, Andi! I truly appreciate it, and I had so much fun with our interview. I hope you have a wonderful weekend!