Are you a regular visitor at Books+Coffee=Happiness? You may have noticed I’ve -been reading more horror books lately. I’ve always loved the genre, but for a while they all seemed to be the same, so I took a step back and read other genres. Well, I’m diving back into the realm of horror and all things spooky.
I recently had the pleasure of reading an ARC of E.J. Dawson’s latest book, Behind the Veil, and it’s a definite 5 stars from me. If ghosts, murder, intrigue, and romance are your idea of a thrilling ride, Behind the Veil is a must read! I simply couldn’t put it down! I loved it so much, I reached out to Ms. Dawson and she agreed to an interview! (yes, I totally fan-girled for a moment)
BooksCoffee: Often writers started out as readers. Was there a particular book that inspired you to be an author?
My mother read a lot aloud to us, I often talk about her reading Lord of the Rings to us, twice. But the books that really caught me was the Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper. A five book series threaded with Arthurian legends. It wasn’t the Arthurian legends that I loved, but the subtle darkness of the story. The slow build until even the simplest things like crow’s feather invoked absolute dread of whatever was coming next.
BooksCoffee: Do you tend to read the same genre you write?
Not at all. I read quite diversely. On my shelf is a range of urban paranormal romances, along to the Anita Blake series with Anne Rice, down to gothic romances and thrillers, with M. M. Kaye, further along to the Justin Cronin and Kerry Greenwood’s murder mysteries who has good company with Agatha Christie and Ellie Marney. I’m a devoted Terry Pratchett fan, who has a shelf to himself, but for scifi/fantasy I have loved Anne McCaffrey, Anne Aguire, and of course Neil Gaiman. There are other odds and ends on my shelf, I find it hard to say no to any book.
BooksCoffee: Can you describe your office or writing space?
An old boss gave me my desk, its one of those fancy corporate affairs with metal legs and black painted faux wood. While cheap looking, it is expansive enough for all the things on my desk, including a cat bed. Behind the desk on my wall is my goals and failures. These are divided by a line of quotes which change. At the moment, the best one is from my spouse, who reminded me earlier in the year during a dark period that while I may be failing at some things, they are things I’d never dared try before. He told me to keep failing upwards. Immediately above my desk is a list of what I’ve accomplished this year to keep me motivated.
BooksCoffee: Writers sometimes have furry, feathered, or scaled helpers. Do you have a writing companion?
Oh boy do I ever. We have two rescue dogs with special needs. My beloved is Dobby, a mastiff cross who was a skeleton covered in skin, who “smiled” at people. The pulling back of his jowls when nervous/eager to please put him off adoption. After watching him for several weeks, and sending several pleading glances at my spouse, we were allowed to adopt another needy dog. It turned into the best reward I never thought I’d deserved. Dobby loves hugs, and while his namesake was because he was huge eyed, grey, wrinkly and pathetic, he’s now a thirty five kilo brindled mastiff who will happily sit on my if I don’t get out of bed.
BooksCoffee: Is there a book, movie, or song that inspires you when you’re working? (Something you have to read, watch, or listen to in order to set the mood)
I *always* write to soundtrack music. My favourite composer is Bear McCreary who I fell in love with from the Battler Galactica remake, and in fact walked down the aisle to Roslin and Adama. I find it evocative and inspirational. For example, I wrote Behind the Veil to a track on Youtube called the Untold album from Secession Studios. I often find that a song can inspire a story, I forget to this day what I was listening to, but a dark song on my Spotify caused me to stop my walk home from work in the rain, and under the eave of an abandoned shop I wrote a poem. That poem went on to inspire two books, One with Rage an urban magical cyberpunk romance, and Echo of the Evercry, a NA fantasy that later was contracted to be published with Literary Wanderlust.
BooksCoffee: When you pick movies or TV shows, do you tend to choose something similar to the genres you prefer to read or write? Do you have a favorite movie?
My all time favourite movie is Clue, closely followed by Arsenic & Old Lace. I do have a thing for American Horror Story, Firefly, and Killjoys, but I also enjoy watching a lot of anime. Oran High School is a favourite, but so is Blood Plus and Trinity Blood. What I look for in all of these is the hook, the taboo, the thing that’s not like everything else. I love emotional angst and its prevalent in comedy tales as it is horror.
BooksCoffee: How long have you been writing, and how long did it take before your first book was published?
How long have I got? I kid. But I kind of don’t. I’ve been writing picture stories since I was a little girl about a princess who didn’t need a prince. I wrote my first book when I was sixteen, but bullies tore up the notebook I carried with me everywhere. I met up with a friend from the same school years later, and I will be forever grateful for what she said to me when I told her. “If you know what happens, why can’t you write it again?” I wrote it again, better than before. I made a semi Ok attempt at a paranormal romance in the naughties, but when I turned thirty and was told I may never have children, I knew I had to do something with my life. I started an overly epic steampunk series, before funds ran out and switched to a dark paranormal tale that became Behind the Veil.
BooksCoffee: Do you have a routine you follow when you’re working on a book? A certain time of day when you write, or a snack you keep nearby?
My routine has changed over time, but generally I outline now after being a prolific punster for years and having one too many novels with soggy middles. I also tend to write in sprints, so I’ll write nonestop for a set time, have a small break, and do it again. These times can be from ten minutes to two hours. I am always working. Work and writing for me at first molded into social media management, editing, beta reading, critique partners, dev editing work, and writing, but now writing often takes a pleasurable activity. I’ve worked hard to learn the rules, but my stories still very much run away with me, and I’m eager to be taken.
BooksCoffee: Did anyone give you writing advice when you were first getting started? Do you think it helped?
I absolutely hold my current status to Scott Vandervaulk, an Australian editor who edited my self published series, Last Prophecy. I also have a huge thanks for other editors I’ve worked with, including the great staff at Literary Wanderlust, Sharon Salonen (Behind the Veil) and Jennica Dotsen (Echo of the Evercry). But also the publisher herself, Susan Brooks. I’m also indebted to Marcus Vance and Jennifer Jarrett, who worked on my self pubbed scifi romance Queen of Spades. Each editor has pointed something out to me, about my writing, where to improve but where I shined. I recommend getting a professional editor to work with you on your script, because their outside and unbiased opinion is what you need to make your story up to scratch for the reader.
BooksCoffee: What is the scariest thing you face as a writer? How do you handle it?
People think that rejection or bad reviews is the worst thing you can experience. And its not. As someone who’s worked at this for eight years now the worst thing I wake up to is nothing. You cut pieces of your heart out, swathes of time, to write, edit, and publish a novel. I will love everything I work on but nothing is dispiriting as feeling as though you’re offering your heart and no one wants it. But its not all darkness. It’s never not worth doing. For the people who review my book and want it added to their shelves. To the story where my mother, bless her, had Behind the Veil as a draft, started talking about it at the hair dresser, and describing one terrifying scene, had the entire salon’s attention as she described the scene where Letitia realizes where an evil entity is, and that it isn’t after her.
BooksCoffee: If you could pick your top 3 favorite books of all time, what would they be?
Oh gosh I always hate these. I always go back to the books I read again and gain. Nine Coaches Waiting is an old Mary Stewart novel that I’ve loved. Anne Rice the Witching Hour, and everything with Granny Weatherwax from Terry Pratchett. I can’t put a single book to Granny’s name because she’s stayed with me during some very dark times. She was my humor when I couldn’t laugh, proved there was a way to beat every problem, and was a light in dark times.
BooksCoffee: What do you think is the most important thing to remember when following your dreams?
Never quit on a dream you aren’t willing to let die. It’s a saying that I constantly come back to, and its complicated but works for me. Things don’t always or ever turn out the exact way we predict and often leaves us somewhere very distant from where we thought we’d end up. Life’s thrown a lot of curveballs at me, and I haven’t always handled them very well. What I carry with me is that people like what I do, enough to buy my books, to keep reading, to put their hands up every single time I need a beta reader. I’ve been told I write good stories often enough I believe it. Now I’ve got this experience, I’m going to keep creating from the heart, knowing I tell good stories despite imposter syndrome, but aiming for great stories. I keep failing upwards.
BooksCoffee: Does your family support your writing?
I struggle with this question a lot because I know that many writers not only have very unsupportive families but most importantly unsupportive spouses. I am autistic, and as such have needed my family and spouses support and they’ve been exceptionally giving. I’m so grateful to them, for inspiring me and believing in my writing journey. But the thing about their belief, is that at first some of them were a little skeptical. I’ve been doing this for eight years now and I have nothing but their love and devotion. Yes, you will always have doubt at the start, within and without, but the best advice I can give is to persevere.
Now, let’s talk a little about your current book…
What’s the title of your current release and is it part of a series?
Behind the Veil is a gothic stand alone, but other books of a similar nature are drafted.
Who published Behind the Veil?
Do you know what cover artist designed your cover? Have you worked with them before?
Violeta Nedkova designed my cover, she also designed the covers for the Queen of Spades trilogy.
Was there something in particular that inspired you to write this story?
My love of the supernatural, ghost stories, and the subtle insidious of the gothic genre
If there’s one thing a reader will take away from this story, what do you hope it is?
Strength. That even a coward like Letitia, who isn’t a coward at all, (but annoys my mother, much to my amusement), that strength isn’t about saying yes. Sometimes its about saying no.
Any funny stories (or something memorable) you can share about writing this book, or something that sparked the idea for it?
I knew I had something that might be greater than I’d done before, when my mother was recounting a scene from the book, and was just telling her hairdresser about it. But by the time she was finishing, the entire salon had stopped everyone listening. She is a master class story telling, but I like to think I had something to do with it. I sent her hairdresser a copy of my book as thanks for the assurance that I told a good story.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Can she keep the secrets of her past to rescue a girl tormented by a ghost?
In 1920s Los Angeles, Letitia Hawking reads the veil between life and death. A scrying bowl allows her to experience the final moments of the deceased. She brings closure to grief-stricken war widows and mourning families.
For Letitia, it is a penance. She knows no such peace.
For Alasdair Driscoll, it may be the only way to save his niece, Finola, from her growing night terrors. But when Letitia sees a shadowy figure attached to the household, it rouses old fears of her unspeakable past in England.
When a man comes to her about his missing daughter, the third girl to go missing in as many months, Letitia can’t help him when she can’t see who’s taken them.
As a darkness haunts Letitia’s vision, she may not be given a choice in helping the determined Mr Driscoll, or stop herself falling in love with him. But to do so risks a part of herself she locked away, and to release it may cost Letitia her sanity and her heart.
Preorder for October 1, 2021 at Amazon
ABOUT EJ DAWSON
Beginning a writing journey with an epic 21 book series, Ejay started her author career in 2014 and has taken on the ups and downs of self-publishing with her fantasy series The Last Prophecy since 2016. At the start of 2019, she put the series on the backburner to write Behind the Veil in 25 days, and signed a publishing contract for the gothic noir novel to independent publisher Literary Wanderlust. She resumed self-publishing a scifi series, Queen of Spades released across 2020 and 2021, as well as signing another contract with Literary Wanderlust for NA fantasy, Echo of the Evercry. Believing in more than one path to a career in publishing, Ejay pursues self-publishing alongside querying traditional publishers with multiple manuscripts.