As part of our author profile series, we had a chance to catch up with Alexia Chamberlynn, author of Martinis with the Devil, Whiskey with Angelfire and Black Magic and Mojitos, some fun Urban Fantasy novels featuring a Katana-wielding, supernatural cocktail drinking heroine named Zyan.
Alexia is a self-published author and also has some good recommendations for authors thinking about self-publishing, or already doing so. She was kind enough to answer a few questions about her novels and self-publishing more broadly!
Zyan sounds like such a fun character. Who wouldn’t love a character with a penchant for “swords, martinis, and bad language”, as you put it?! Tell us a bit about Zyan and her story.
Zyan is an Anam Gatai, an eternally damned soul thief, meaning she has to eat souls to survive. When I tell people this, their eyes widen and they’re always like, “and she’s your heroine?” She’s definitely a very flawed character. However, she chooses to prey on scumbags and criminals and stays away from innocents, though their souls are of course much cleaner and more pleasant to eat ☺. She’s a bit over two hundred years old, so she’s definitely become jaded and sarcastic about her existence, and has some major trust issues. She doesn’t take much seriously — she bartends most of the time, and is a supernatural bounty hunter on the side. Zyan cusses and drinks cocktails and runs around with a katana. She’s a super fun character to write — I absolutely adore her. Her voice comes to me more strongly than anything I’ve ever written. Hmmm, what would Freud say??
It wouldn’t be a romance without a love interest — tell us a bit about who Zyan might be tangled up with?
Well, while Amazon has stuck me in Paranormal Romance, it really is more Urban Fantasy… the romance is not what the plot revolves around. But romance is certainly a very strong secondary plot line, especially as the books progress. And boy is Zy tangled up with some people :).
So, there’s Donovan, an Irish panther shifter. He and Zy have a colorful past and reconnect in Martinis with the Devil. Donovan wants Zy back, but she’s not so sure she trusts him. Then there’s Eli, the stuck-up angelic warrior that Zy has to partner with. They can’t stand each other initially — an angel and someone who eats souls to survive. But from that fantastic tension is born another kind of tension… ahhh, its super fun to write!
There’s also the matter of Zy’s very first ex, the guy responsible for the loss of her soul, but she’s after him for revenge only.
Zyan seems like cocktails, martinis especially. We’re a bit of a martini connoisseur ourselves. How dry does she like her martini, and what kind of gin? Or, what’s her favorite cocktail?
I made up all kinds of supernatural cocktails for this series, with ingredients like brimstone liquor and pixie dust. One of Zy’s favorites is a mermaid tear martini. So, I don’t really use classic liquor brands, but she’d probably like a vodka martini rather than gin ☺.
How much swordplay is there in the book, and how do you go about researching authentic sword combat? Any particular inspirations for this aspect of your books?
There is lots of swordplay, though Zy has enhanced abilities as an Anam Gatai and uses magic in her battles, so it’s not a normal/realistic battle. She’s usually fighting demons and such, so yeah. She has a katana forged in dragon fire, which can vanquish demons. So, I would say that her sword was definitely influenced by Japan, though I can’t say I’ve studied Japanese combat techniques. It’s on the bucket list!
Love your cover art. It feels very movie-like…who plays Zyan in the movie?
Thanks! My artist is amazing. Olivia Wilde ☺
And, if there’s a movie, there has to be a soundtrack! What’s on the soundtrack for your novels?
Yes, and I love that your website has a place to add soundtracks for books! Here’s the list:
Blood Sugar Sex Magik (Red Hot Chili Peppers)
Antidote (Swedish House Mafia)
Titanium (David Guetta, Sia)
Promises (Nero, Skrillex)
A playlist featuring David Guetta, NERO, Swedish House Mafia, and others
As a self-published author, what are some insights you would share with other aspiring self-published authors?
I actually wrote a really long blog post on this last month, but here’s the Cliffnotes version (and click my blog link below if you want to read the long version).
1. Know why you are self-pubbing — do you just want artistic expression or are you in it to earn money as well? This will bleed into all of your decisions.
2. The first book is the hardest — make checklists for marketing, formatting, etc. so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel each time. It’s a lot of work, but well worth it.
3. Have critique partners and/or professional editors who give you completely honest feedback. If your early readers just say, “this is great!” and offer nothing you can fix, you need new ones. You’re not that amazing a writer J Not joking. Everyone has to edit.
4. Have an amazing cover. Don’t let it be one of those covers you can tell is a self-pub cover (unless you are pursuing artistic expression only with no desire to make money).
5. People argue with me about this, which is fine, but I strongly recommend pricing your book at 99 cents if you want to gain traction starting out. People don’t often take chances on unknown authors at a higher price, but 99 cents is low risk. Or, if you have a series, at least have the first book in a series be 99 cents to build your readership.
Who are some authors who inspire you, or whose works you love?
Neil Gaiman is my very favorite, the one who inspires me the most. I also love Maggie Stiefvater’s work, her character development is absolutely amazing. Both of them have gorgeous prose. Up and coming authors are Erin Morgenstern, V.E. Schwab and Leigh Bardugo. All of them have the same qualities — great characterization, breathtaking writing.
Where can people learn more about you and your books?