Today I’m excited to welcome Athena Daniels to Sunday Spotlight. Last month she released her 5th novel and 4th book in the Paranormal romance series Beyond The Grave: When Darkness Follows. I have just finished this series and loved it!
When did you start writing and what was the catalyst?
I published my first novel in January, 2015. For several years prior to that, I’d felt that something was missing in my life. Don’t get me wrong, I had a lot to be grateful for. I had a husband, a home and three beautiful, healthy children. Between working, being a wife, mother and running a household, my life was hectic and full. There was no time for anything else.
But as busy as I was, I still felt there was something missing in my life. I took courses, studied, was proactive in encouraging my children, family, and friends in following their dreams. And then one day, I wondered what my dreams were. What was my great passion in life? And then, a heaviness settled upon me. What good would it do to even answer that? I had no time to do anything about it. My life was full. I had responsibilities. My life was already mapped out. But something inside me wouldn’t let me rest.
In between paperwork, accounts and ledgers, a story began to form in my mind. I woke up at 4am one day and began to write.
I’m an avid reader, but the only things I’d written before were things like reports, quality procedure manuals, and consultations. This was the first time I was writing for fun. I finished my first draft with a sense of satisfaction. I’d done it. I’d written a whole 110K novel without changing anything else in my life. And what’s more… I loved it! Loved it as much, if not more than reading.
My approach to the second book was slightly different. I had started studying the craft of writing, so I considered the technical side more. Things like structure, plot, character development and pacing. I also discovered that getting into a certain ‘zone’ helped the writing flow more easily. The time I carved out for this was 4-6am before the kids woke up and school preparation began.
Secretly, I continued this morning ritual, and before I knew it, Desperate, my first official novel, was born. I signed my first publishing contract with Canadian Publisher, Evernight Publishing soon after.
By then, I had written two full-length novels. I still had my day job, my kids’ schedules were just as full, as were my responsibilities for being a wife and running the household. The only thing that had changed was me. I didn’t wait for time to be handed to me, nor did I wait for permission. I needed to do this for me, so I made time.
Fast forward just four years later, and I have published five full-length novels, won multiple awards, and made bestsellers lists, including hitting #1 on Amazon US & Canada. And I am happy. I found the missing piece. In a world of doing everything for everyone else, I found something I wanted to do for ‘me’.
Whatever your passion, I encourage you to take steps to fulfill it. Don’t wait until you’re forty to give yourself permission to answer that calling inside you like I did, but if you do, that’s okay too. As George Eliot once said, “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.”
Can you tell us something about yourself that not many people would know?
Hmmm… I can’t stand Opera music. Don’t shoot me. I can’t help it. We’re all different, right?
How long on average does it take you to write a book? (Partly because I’d like to know how long we have to wait until book 5 😊)
Thank you! 😊 I would love to write a lot faster, but right now I still juggle my writing career around a daytime job, and my two boys. Looking back over what I have done, there’s an average of nine months in between releases. I hope to reduce that to six months over the next couple of years so that I’m releasing two books a year. And thank you so much! Book 5 in the Beyond the Grave series will be released early 2019.
How much planning do you do? Do you plan / plot the entire story from beginning to end, or let it evolve naturally as the writing progresses? In terms of characters, are they already a firm picture in your mind before you start writing or do they develop a personality of their own as the story progresses? In other words are you a pantser or a plotter?
I’m very much both. Especially as my skills as a writer develop. Plot, structure, character development, etc, are in the back of my mind at all times, however all my books start off with one central idea that I expand on. The idea for The Seer’s Daughter, the first book in the series came because I wanted to write a story where the heroine was being stalked by something not human, and the hero didn’t believe in anything supernatural. That was the conflict between Sage and Ethan and was what kept them from being together despite their powerful attraction to each other. In order to save and protect the woman Ethan was falling in love with, he needed to rethink his black and white view of the world. And if he couldn’t do that, there was a perfectly sexy paranormal investigator standing in the wings, waiting for his chance to move in!
Once I started writing the story, it grew naturally from there. Ethan is Special Ops, therefore there needed to be a crime he was investigating, and of course, the perpetrator wasn’t flesh and blood. The paranormal investigation team developed, as did Taipan, the Special Ops guys and the conflict between the two teams escalated as the story progressed.
That’s why Sage and Ethan’s story ended up running over two books, despite both books being around 120K in length (The Seer’s Daughter and The Alchemist’s Son). I wouldn’t have been able to develop the characters of both the paranormal and Special Ops teams properly, plus add in a steamy romance, the crime element and develop the ancient prophecy responsible for the hauntings properly all in one book. The rest of the series however, is written one book per couple, as the background has already been established.
Several of the characters in the Beyond the Grave series have special paranormal gifts, where did the idea and inspiration come from for these books and the characters? And do you have a special gift yourself? If not is there one in particular you would like to have?
Great question! I would LOVE a special gift, but sadly, I do the best I can with what I have. My love of the paranormal however, stems right back to very early childhood. I grew up in a house that was over a hundred years old. As a child, I heard footsteps walking down the hall (which inspired the beginning scenes of The Seer’s Daughter) and various other unexplained, and spooky, events.
Our family did not talk about ghosts and although I don’t remember asking specifically about the things I’d seen and heard, the impression I got was that if I had, it would have been dismissed. In my early teens, I was drawn to books documenting accounts of the paranormal. Although I wasn’t consciously looking to solve anything, I believe I was subconsciously trying to understand and make sense of what I had seen and heard with my own eyes.
Do you have a favourite character from your books?
I love Pia and wanted to be careful to make sure she come across as strong, and not bitter. I hope I succeeded in that! I think it would be very challenging to be born with a gift that made you ‘different’ from other people. In Pia’s case, she was a psychic medium, but there are so many people in the world who are different in a variety of ways, and don’t feel as though they don’t fit into ‘category normal’. Personally, I love things and people who are alternative, eccentric, and unique, but I also understand it’s a life path not without its challenges. I guess it’s the strength needed to overcome adversity that makes them so awesome.
There are a few rituals that the characters perform during the stories, do you have any sort of ritual you do for when you write?
Time constraints are my biggest challenge. As mentioned, my time for writing is between 4 and 6 in the morning before my two boys wake up. It’s the time of day I have carved out for ‘me’. I make myself a strong coffee, disappear into my ‘cave’, light a candle, clear my mind with a quick meditation, and write away until the responsibilities of the day find me. This is the time where I’m most creative and do my best work.
What is your favourite childhood book? Did reading as a child have any bearing on your decision to become a writer?
I have always loved reading, and can always remember having a book in my hand. The first book that I remember making me cry was Forever by Judy Blume. And the first series I read was the Flowers in the Attic series, by Virginia Andrews.
Growing up, I never even considered writing as an option. I certainly don’t remember it ever even being suggested as a possible career path. I was encouraged to follow academic pursuits, and I spent my twenties and thirties (and still now), doing accounts and office work.
I have often wondered how much further along my writing career would be if I’d started writing ten, or even twenty years ago. But I had a daughter to support, so a dependable career made more ‘sense’ at the time.
How has being Australian AND a woman impacted on your writing and/or writing career?
The locations in my books are all in Australia, and I enjoy the comments I get from my overseas readers saying how lovely Australia sounds and how they’d love to visit one day. The challenge has been the Aussie slang and finding the balance between making sense to my overseas readers and keeping my Aussie voice.
I’m constantly surprised at the everyday words we use that make no sense whatsoever to my editor. Like oval. All Aussie’s know where we are headed when we go to the oval. To make sense to overseas readers I changed it to recreation field, or something similar. Whipper Snipper and Ute are another two examples, but there are so many!
The best part about being an Australian writer is connecting with wonderful groups like the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge, the Romance Writers of Australia, and meeting other amazing Australian women writers through forums like Facebook and Instagram. After all these years, I finally feel as though I have found my ‘tribe’.
When did you discover the Australian Women Writers Challenge? Do you think the challenge has had any impact on the awareness and discoverability of Australian Women writers? Have you personally benefited in terms of exposure of your work to new readers?
I only discovered the Australian Women Writers Challenge very recently. I think it is an extremely important and valuable resource for Australian women writers. My first novel was published by Canadian Publisher, Evernight Publishing, so my very first readers were overseas. My fan base has grown significantly since then, by word of mouth and recommendations, and still, at least 90% of my sales and readers are in the US, Canada and UK.
The Australian Women Writers Challenge is an extremely important and valuable resource to give authors like myself the opportunity to connect with Australian readers. I am very grateful for the opportunity that Australian Women Writers Challenge has provided for me to talk about my series. I truly appreciate your support.
So book 4 in The Beyond the Grave series: When Darkness Follows was released very recently. How has it been received? Do you read your book reviews? Do you appreciate reader feedback and take it on board, even if it is negative? How do you deal with negative feedback after spending so much time writing your book?
Thank you! I have been thrilled with how When Darkness Follows has been received so far. It is always nerve-wracking releasing a new book to the series, because readers and fans already have expectations and I don’t want to let them down. I write across genres, and although each book in the series contains elements of romance, crime, paranormal and suspense, each story is quite different. Book 5 will be very different again but will contain the same main elements. I hope I continue to meet readers expectations as I write future books in the series.
Yes, I read every single review! Fortunately, my readers have been (mostly) nice. There will always be those one or two… I know that not everyone will love my books, after all, I don’t love every book I read. Differences are what make the world such a colourful, and wonderfully interesting place to live in.
Where there is a review with constructive criticism, I take a step back and give myself a moment to consider whether I agree, and if so, what changes I might make to improve myself as a writer. After all, why wouldn’t I try to improve the experience for the reader if I could? Feedback, when it is honest and constructive, is an invaluable insight as to how my work is being received from a reader’s perspective.
And lastly what is next on the horizon for the Beyond the Grave series and do you have any other projects you would like to share with us?
Book 5 in the Beyond the Grave series is scheduled for release early 2019, but I have a new book that will be released in November, 2018. It is not part of the Beyond the Grave series and is something completely different! I will be sharing details about this new book very soon!
Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate this opportunity to talk about my work and my series more than you can know. Please feel free to reach out to me via email or any of my social media pages. I love to connect with new and potential readers, or just network with people in general.
When Darkness Follows
A Sexy Supernatural Suspense – WHEN DARKNESS FOLLOWS can be read as a standalone.
The only eyewitness to a murder can’t remember a thing.
Rachel Sommers and her two best friends don’t believe anything will happen when they sneak onto a haunted shipwreck in the middle of the night. Why would they? Ghosts don’t actually exist… right?
But Rachel and her friends disturb something that night. Something demonic. Something that lured Rachel to the ship. And now one of her friends is dead, the other is missing, and Rachel’s memory of the night is gone. There’s only one thing she knows for sure: whatever killed her friend has followed her home.
Over a century ago, an act of bitter jealousy and revenge tainted a crystal ball with an unstoppable evil. And when the deadly object eerily turns up in her bedroom, Rachel’s nightmare really begins.
The only man who can help her, is the one she swore she’d never see again.
Ex-Special Forces detective Daniel Smith takes the case the moment Rachel’s name appears on his screen. Rachel is the only woman he’s ever loved, but despite their explosive chemistry, she’s determined to keep him at a distance.
With Rachel’s life on the line, the disturbing truth about her ancestry and the possessed object she has inherited must be uncovered. But is it already too late? Daniel will risk everything to save the woman he loves, but how can he win this lethal game of cat and mouse against a killer that is not flesh and blood?
About Athena Daniels
Athena Daniels is the #1 international bestselling author of the award-winning Beyond the Grave paranormal romance series and the romantic thriller Desperate. In 2016, Athena was nominated for Author of the Year and Best New Author in AusRom Today’s Reader’s Choice Awards.
Her novel Girl Unseen won the Silver Medal in the 2017 Readers’ Favorite® International Book Awards and was awarded a Silver Medal in the 2017 Literary Titan Book Awards. Girl Unseen was ‘Official Selection’ in the New Apple Annual book Awards and nominated for 2017 Book of the Year in AusRom Today’s Reader’s Choice Awards.
The Seer’s Daughter was the solo Medalist Winner in the Suspense/Thriller category of the 2016 New Apple Annual Book Awards for Excellence in Independent Publishing.
The Seer’s Daughter was also a finalist in the 11th Annual National Indie Excellence Awards in Suspense and in the 2016 Readers’ Favorite® International Book Awards. Additionally, The Seer’s Daughter was nominated for 2016 Book of the Year and 2016 Cover of the Year in AusRom Today’s Reader’s Choice Awards.
Girl Unseen and The Seer’s Daughter are both 5-star Top Picks at The Romance Reviews.
Athena has a natural curiosity about the “more” there is in life and holds several qualifications in metaphysics and natural therapies. She is a neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) practitioner, life coach, and feng shui specialist.
Athena lives on the northern beaches of sunny Western Australia
You can connect with Athena via