I’m delighted to welcome debut author Cecilia London to Bookaholic Confessions today. Cecilia has joined me to chat about her new novel, Dissident (Which is released today! Click here to get hold of your copy)
Hello Cecilia, a big, warm welcome to Bookaholic Confessions! Thank you so much for participating in this interview. Would you like to start by introducing yourself…?
Hi, Holly! Thanks for having me. Where to start? Well, right now I’m going full force with self-publishing, but I’ve spent most of my career as a practicing attorney. Cecilia is my pen name. For the curious, I happen to love the name Cecilia (Catholic girl talking, no doubt) and London became my favourite city after I spent some time there during a summer study program in law school. Thus the pen name was born.
I’m a native of the Midwest but am now living in Texas, helping to Keep San Antonio Lame. I love baseball. Let’s correct that – I live and breathe for baseball. So it’s been very easy for me to procrastinate during the past month by watching Spring Training games. I love other sports but spring and summer come alive for me with the crack of the bat.
I think/hope I’m quirky and adorable, but I suppose that’s all in the eye of the beholder. I quote The Simpsons daily, and I eat a lot of Peeps.
Can you tell us a bit about your debut novel, Dissident (released 17th March 2015)?
It’s the first book in the series (discussed below). It is told mostly in flashback, as our heroine is recovering in a hospital bed for reasons discussed at the beginning of the story. I’d describe Caroline as strong, feisty, and witty, and her love interest, Jack, as a silver fox playboy who is desperately trying to reform and win her heart. I don’t want to give too much away since most of the fun of the first book is the reader discovering how their relationship evolved, but I enjoyed writing it very much. It is an effective blend of romantic suspense, contemporary romance, and political thriller, with some speculative elements. And parts of it are quite funny (at least, I think so).
Dissident is the first in the Bellator Saga. Can you tell us a bit more about the saga as a whole and what readers can expect from the series?
There are six books:
Each book has a relatively distinct plot, although each one also has a cliffhanger in some form or another. Since I’m an unknown writer, I made sure I had large chunks of each book written before publishing the first instalment. I wanted to make sure I had a rough idea of how the saga was going to end before I took readers on Caroline’s journey.
Each book also contains flashbacks. Not only because it continues to flesh out Caroline’s past, but also because it was an excuse for me to add a lot more sex to the series, particularly in part two, which probably comes close to erotica. In fact, each book might straddle genres in its own way, but again, it always comes back to our heroine, and some pretty serious romantic overtones.
The saga is set in what the reader can assume is a near future America, in which the government has fallen under pseudo-totalitarian rule. Many of our main characters are political activists or have served in positions of power, and now feel a duty to try to restore democracy. I do not go into tremendous detail in part one with regard to how everything happened the way it did, but each book continues the process of fleshing things out.
When I first started writing, I pictured the political storyline as being the most prominent part of the series. This is something that could realistically happen, which is part of the reason it’s so frightening. But then I realized that the story really belonged to Caroline and Jack, their children, and their friends. The political issues obviously have to be resolved in order to get to our ultimate ending, but as I’ve written more, the series has transformed into one that is primarily focused on the relationship between our two main characters. This has resulted in a considerable amount of angst not only for my protagonists, but for me as well.
Dissident is a crossover of genres, which I think is a great idea! You’ve got romance, suspense, thriller, plus many more. Did you set out to write a story in one particular genre or was Dissident always meant to be this way?
I’ve had many of these characters in my head for years, in what I always assumed would be a contemporary political romance. But I never had anything to tie them all together, so they were floundering. And once I found a vehicle for them (see below), I knew that it would not be an easily categorized read. Don’t get me wrong, I read a lot of romances in a lot of different categories (some dark, some light), but I’ve hung my hat on the idea that maybe there would be an effective way to blend all of these “types” into one giant saga. I also knew that my target market would be people who are much more likely to tolerate such crossovers. Romance readers are notoriously willing to do that, for which I am grateful.
What gave you the idea for the storyline?
Funny story – in October 2013, our family went to a barbecue place in town and met some friends for dinner. The food didn’t sit quite right, and I ended up coming home sick from work the next day. I took a nap and…boom…I had this image of Caroline and Jack as freedom fighters. I started writing, finally ordered a Kindle so I could see how it looked on an ereader, and the rest is history. I’ve written well over 400,000 words since then.
The storyline has changed a lot (we go where the writing takes us, and the writing has taken me some very unusual places), but that was when I knew I had something. I ran the pitch past a few of my friends (many of whom don’t really read a ton of romance), and they were very intrigued. And when I started sending them snippets, they kept insisting that the story would have a market. So here I am!
We probably won’t be going back to that restaurant, though. Unless I need another book idea. But this one will keep me going for a while.
How long did Dissident take you to write?
It’s hard to put a timeline on it for certain, since I’ve been writing all of the books simultaneously. This has been tremendously helpful, because it’s allowed me to tweak the first book to accommodate some of what takes place later in the series. But I had it “finished” and in the hands of some capable beta readers in late 2014. I also had our second child around the same time and had to balance a job and maternity leave along with writing. However, I am now in a position to dedicate myself to the series full time.
How does it feel to have your novel out in the big, wide world?
I am completely terrified, yet exhilarated. 😉
Can you tell us a bit about your journey to publication?
It’s been an interesting few months, to say the least. I was employed in a grant funded position that was ending, and I knew that a career break was my opportunity to get the ball rolling on publication. I had a few more objective people read the book, and was still constantly editing (I am a total grammar nerd). I read all I could about Kindle Direct Publishing, online merchants, marketing techniques, etc.
I can’t say I’ve learned all that much, but I’ve definitely gained a tremendous amount of knowledge about self-publishing and, in turn, how much we depend on wonderful bloggers like you who take the time to read, review, and recommend us. I’ve been doing this all on my own, since I’m still not quite sure how it’s all going to shake out. I know the market is tight right now, and I will be eternally grateful that so many have taken a chance on an author they didn’t know.
Who are your favourite authors and what kind of books do you enjoy reading?
So, so many. And I have been lucky to discover many of them after loading all their books onto my Kindle. In terms of my old school loves, I’d have to say J.K. Rowling, Margaret Atwood, and Ellen Emerson White, who wrote a fantastic series about a fictional American President’s daughter, if you’ve never heard of her.
Favourite current authors – Kit Rocha, Tiffany Reisz, and Jenny Trout are for sure on the list. They’re automatic one-clicks for me at this point. But there are so many other wonderful authors out there right now…I don’t even want to get started on them because I’m sure I’ll leave someone out when I don’t mean to.
I’m a big fan of dystopian reads, including YA like The Hunger Games and Divergent. I reread The Handmaid’s Tale at least once a year, as well as Harry Potter. HUFFLEPUFFS UNITE!
I also have a very large collection of history and political science books, mostly because that’s what I studied in undergrad. What I enjoy about nonfiction is that you can always find another book on a topic, if that’s your thing. That’s probably why I don’t mind cliffhangers and stories that take more than one book to resolve…if it’s something I love, I don’t ever want it to end! I get really unnecessarily attached to fictional characters.
Honestly, what I want to read depends on my mood – I can pick up something really dark and enjoy it, and then the next minute I’m going to want something a little more laid back. It’s also affected by what I’m writing – if I just wrote a really graphic sex scene, chances are I’m picking up something hot to give me even more ideas. J
And finally – can you tell us a bit about what you’re working on at the moment?
Right now I’m working on finishing up the second part of the series, Conscience, which I anticipate will come out in late summer or early fall. I’m about 75% done with it, and I intersperse working on it with continuing to work on the other books. I am not a fluid, orderly writer. I write what comes to me and if it doesn’t necessarily fit in a neat spot in the novel, I just make sure I have it written down somewhere and save it for later. I tend to put everything in and then edit the hell out of it later. You never know what might end up being a really great idea or piece of dialogue if you don’t put it in there to begin with.
A huge thank you to Cecilia for participating in this interview. ♥ Don’t forget to pick up your copy of Dissident here.
She once was important. Now she’s considered dangerous.
In a new America where almost no one can be trusted, Caroline lies unconscious in a government hospital as others decide her fate. She is a political dissident, wanted for questioning by a brutal regime that has come to power in a shockingly easy way. As she recovers from her injuries, all she has are her memories. And once she wakes up, they may not matter anymore.
Part One of a Six Part Series. Each part is a full length novel between 60,000-120,000 words and ends in a cliffhanger. For readers 18+. This saga contains adult situations, including non-gratuitous violence, explicit (consensual) sex, psychological and physical trauma, and an oftentimes dark and gritty plot (particularly in part two).
Cecilia London is my pen name. I am a native Midwesterner who never thought I’d end up in Texas and yet here I am, determined to help Keep San Antonio Lame. I have been known to dabble in the practice of law. I can apply Simpsons quotes to everyday life, and I live for baseball season. I’ve been writing off and on since I was a kid, but never really thought I’d have any idea that could turn into a single novel, let alone a series. There aren’t many books about how dystopias/totalitarian political regimes come into existence, and I wanted to touch upon that topic while still maintaining a primary focus on the epic romance. Dissident is my first published novel.