The Masked Songbird by Emmie Mears Q&A + Review

dancingSuper naturalHello All,

Today I have a super-special treat for you because today I’ve got the wonderful Emmie Mears with me. Now, I first *met Emmie way-back-when we were both hitting it hard with queries and slogging it out and sharing out successes and failures (mostly failures) on QueryTracker.Emmie 2

Emmie and I had (and still have) a lot in common. Like her, I was writing stories before I started school, though admittedly mine were not in English.

Emmie and I also share a love of travel and an affinity for Scotland, though I’ve got a feeling her heritage is likely directly linked 🙂

When Emmie hit her first big achievement (notice I didn’t say break because, seriously and for all that is good and Holy, this was all about talent, perseverance and a positive attitude) of signing with an agent, I remember thinking, Damn Girl! You go get’em! And she has.

As those of you that follow and read this blog will know, I try ensuring every post has a point or a potential positive impact for aspiring writers. I think Emmie is the epitome of what happens when talent mixed with hard work and inner faith, meets the right agent and intersects with perfect timing. Emmie is an inspiration to me and I’m sure, by the time you read all of the below, she’ll be one to you also.

Emmie is represented by the wonderful Jessica Negronliterary-agent-jessica-negron

of Talcott Notch Literary Services. http://talcottnotch.net/

Getting to Know Emmie:

emmie-mears-author-writer

Emmie Mears was born in Austin, Texas, where the Lone Star state promptly spat her out at the tender age of three months. After a childhood spent mostly in Alaska, Oregon, and Montana, she became a proper vagabond and spent most of her time at university devising ways to leave the country. Except for an ill-fated space opera she attempted at age nine, most of Emmie’s childhood was spent reading books instead of writing them. Growing up she yearned to see girls in books doing awesome things, and struggled to find stories in her beloved fantasy genre that showed female heroes saving people and hunting things. Mid-way through high school, she decided the best way to see those stories was to write them herself. She now scribbles her way through the fantasy genre, most loving to pen stories about flawed characters and gritty situations lightened with the occasional quirky humor. Emmie now lives in her eighth US state, still yearning for a return to Scotland. She inhabits a cozy domicile outside DC with two felines who think they’re lions and tigers.

Now to the fun part – Me and my weird and wonderful Q&A’s 

NIK: Emmie, tell us a little about where you live and where you grew up.

Emmie 3EMMIE: This question is always a sort of tough one for me, because everyone seems to have a short answer. I currently live in Maryland, which is my eighth US state. We weren’t military, but we moved around constantly when I was a kid. Texas, Arkansas, Alaska, Oregon, Montana, Colorado, Tennessee, Maryland. I spent the most time in Alaska (6 years), Oregon (4.5 years), and Montana (7 years). I’ve just hit my five year mark in Maryland. In addition to those places, I’ve lived abroad in Scotland and Poland, each for extended periods of time. Moving a lot as a kid meant I changed schools frequently. I was a very, very shy kid and barely spoke for years. Now I’ll talk your ear off. *pats collection of ears*

NIK: Now, a truly divisional question – Cat or Dog Person?

EMMIE: Cat. I like dogs, but for me cats are the ideal companions. They purr, they cuddle, but they’re not obsessive about it. They also are fastidious groomers and take care of their own potty habits for the most part. Everyone loves a puppy, but man do they poop and pee everywhere. Everywhere. All the time.

NIK: I think I know the answer to this one based on what time I’ve seen you on Twitter, but are you an early riser or night owl?

EMMIE: Early riser. JUST KIDDING.

I usually only see 6 AM if I’m sneaking up on it from behind. I’ve always been a night owl. I love the wee hours for their solitude and quiet. And coolness. In Maryland I take all the coolness I can find.

NIK: What were your three favourite subjects at school?

EMMIE: Anything that had to do with reading was always number one, though it drove me batty when they would tell me to only read three chapters at a time. I always, always cheated and read ahead. The other two were science (specifically biology — fun fact: I started out a bio major at uni) and history (I ended up a history major at uni).

NIK: What was the first book you remember reading (of free will rather than school assignment) and how old were you?

EMMIE: Let’s put it this way: I don’t remember NOT reading. I learned to read very early, and my earliest memories from school involve getting bunnyReadsGoodBookpulled out of kindergarten to read with a fifth grade tutor, if that gives you any hints on where I was reading by that point. One of my early school memories actually is getting shamed for telling a teacher that the letter G makes a juh sound — I was thinking of the word “gem,” and she embarrassed me in front of the entire class. That might have contributed to that shyness I mentioned earlier. The first books I remember really digging into were Berenstain Bears books, followed quickly by Fear Street and the Babysitters’ Club. I skipped Goosebumps and went straight for the big kids. Heh.

NIK: Aside from reading, how do you relax/escape from the world?

EMMIE: I’ve become a bit of a TV fiend. I am obsessed with Supernatural and Buffy, and when I need to decompress after a long few days of work, I tend to curl up with a book or a pair of Winchesters and immerse myself in a new world to escape this one. {note from Nik: Like Emmie I’m all about the Winchester boys, hell (pun intended) I’m even kinda into Crowley… and God help me (yep again) if a certain Angel doesn’t do it for me- hence I couldn’t NOT feature the Winchester’s on this blog post; right?}

NIK: What is your favourite quote?

EMMIE: No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. Eleanor Roosevelt was a wise human.

About Your Process of Writing:

NIK: Do you set aside a special time to write?

EMMIE: I don’t — my writing habits are a bit on the sporadic side and tend to come in hugely prolific spurts followed by recharging periods.

NIK: Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?

EMMIE: It depends on what I’m working on. Most of the time no; as I said, I tend to go in cycles where I expend a huge amount of energy and produce a book in a couple months followed by a couple months of recharging, working on blogging or reading or research, and generally allowing my battery cells to refuel.

NIK: Inspiration is always an interesting question and perhaps one of the hardest to answer, but alas, readers want to know – so I’ll try to ask it in a different way. The idea for your novel, how much was inspiration, how much perspiration and how much irritation?

the masked songbird2EMMIE: It was probably equal parts inspiration and irritation, because of how it came about. I was irritated at the major movie studios for kicking dead horses with enough repetition to drive the bones into the dirt, and I was irritated with how certain aspects of geekdom still seem to turn a blind eye to you know, half the population’s existence. The inspiration came in a bit of whimsy, and the perspiration was one of those prolific spurts I told you about. I wrote THE MASKED SONGBIRD in six weeks.

NIK: Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?

EMMIE: If George R.R. Martin calls authors gardeners or architects, I’m an architect with a penchant for plants. I “gardened” my first two and a half novels, and they ended up overwhelmed with weeds. For my later novels, I sat down with a specific eye to structure and plot progression and I think the end product was a lot more successful. Everyone has to find their own style.

NIK:  What’s harder for you, the first paragraph of a new WIP or the last?

EMMIE: Hm. Tough one. Purely because first lines seem to pop into my head fully-formed, I’ll go with the latter.

the masked songbird2About your Novel

NIK: Tell us a little about The Masked Songbird.

EMMIE: Mildly hapless Edinburgh accountant Gwenllian Maule is surviving. She’s got a boyfriend, a rescued pet bird and a flatmate to share rent. Gwen’s biggest challenges: stretching her last twenty quid until payday and not antagonizing her terrifying boss.

Then Gwen mistakenly drinks a mysterious beverage that gives her heightened senses, accelerated healing powers and astonishing strength. All of which come in handy the night she rescues her activist neighbour from a beat-down by political thugs.

Now Gwen must figure out what else the serum has done to her body, who else is interested and how her boss is involved. Finally—and most mysteriously—she must uncover how this whole debacle is connected to the looming referendum on Scottish independence.

Gwen’s hunt for answers will test her superpowers and endanger her family, her friends—even her country.

NIK: Where did the idea come from?

EMMIE: I was sitting in the movie theater waiting for a movie to start, and the trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man came on. I don’t even remember what movie I was there to see, but that trailer just made me see red for some reason. Here they’d sidelined a Storm movie and dithered through production hell for years on Wonder Woman, and they were rebooting Spider-Man after what felt like a summer vacation. It annoyed me so much that two things connected in my brain: a first line I’d scribbled down the month before and a Scottish superhero called Gwen. In retrospect, her name may have been a subconscious callback to Gwen Stacy.

NIK: How did the title come about?

EMMIE: Originally the book was called SHRIKE, and my publisher felt that audiences wouldn’t recognize that as a bird. My agent and I brainstormed a few titles that we felt would fit the tone of the novel, and THE MASKED SONGBIRD is the one that was ultimately chosen. A shrike is an interesting bird — it’s a predator, but it is also a songbird with some fascinating abilities.

NIK: Without giving the plot away, tell us one thing about your main character that would surprise readers.

EMMIE: Gwen experimented with hard drugs when she was at uni — and not just once. She was poor and feeling desperate, and she made a conscious decision to try things she knew she shouldn’t. She’ll lightheartedly tell you that it was sticking her hand into a two week old cup of mayonnaise she’d left in an odd place when she was on meth that made her stop, but in reality it was knowing that she couldn’t disappoint her parents that way. In some ways it was resignation that stopped her path to addiction — realizing she couldn’t escape this world, however grey it was. the masked songbird2

NIK: Tell us about the cover and how it came about.

EMMIE: Covers for the most part in publishing sort of spring into the world and shout TA-DA!

There is a team at Harlequin that reads through our descriptions of our novels and characters and designs artwork based on what they read. Which sounds a bit parochial, so if you’d prefer to believe that a team of tiny gnomes painted it with dodo feathers, feel free.

NIK: What do you hope people will take away with them after reading your novel?

EMMIE: Strength isn’t something you’re born with — it’s something you build.

NIK: Now to finish on an interesting note, what would you like to see engraved on your tombstone?

EMMIE: I want to be cremated, so…if I end up with a tombstone against my wishes, I hope it says, “Here lies Emmie, against her will.”

Funny_Pictures_Animated_Dancing_-1

What did I tell ya? She’s awesome isn’t she.

Want to know how to get your hands on THE MASKED SONGBIRD & how to stay in touch with Emmie?

Here you go:

Author Website: www.emmiemears.com

Agent/Publisher Website: www.harlequin.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/emmiemears

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20642698-the-masked-songbird

Amazon Pre-Order Link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00JD7TWZK

SfSW: www.searchingforsuperwomen.com

OK, time to fess up. I happen to know first hand how wonderfully talented Emmie is because, err, I’ve got to read her stuff in draft-stage and even in that stage I’ve been like “OMG THIS IS AWESOME!”

Not convinced? That’s OK, I can prove it. Emmie has been kind enough to allow me to add an Excerpt of THE MASKED SONGBIRD, for your reading pleasure, but first we need to get the legalities out of the way.

1. Unauthorised use of the cover is not permitted.

2. Authorised use of the cover is subject to it remaining unaltered, full form with no cropping or any kind of alteration.

THE MASKED SONGBIRD the masked songbird2

CHAPTER 1

Days Until Referendum: 24

POOF.

That’s the sound I imagine my boss’s head making when it explodes.

Or maybe BLAM. A comic book noise, written in all-caps in a jagged bubble at the top of the panel while I dance a jig and pick bits of her out of my hair. As Annamaria de Fournay speaks into her mobile, not facing me, the back of her head displays no outward indication of an imminent explosion.

She toys with a white card, eyes fixed on a bouquet of purple-blue flowers in a fluted white vase. “I appreciate the flowers,” she says without a hint of irony. “Interesting choice.”

I wait for her to notice me, but her gaze remains locked on the angular petals. After a beat, she goes on.

“The research has been completed? You’re certain, then.” She pauses, a hint of a smile hovering at the corner of her mouth. “You’ll have to work out what to put it in. Something sweet would work.” She turns her head away from the bouquet and starts, seeing me. The almost-smile vanishes. “I’ll ring you back.” She drops her mobile on the table and looks at me as if I’ve walked into the loo to find her on the toilet with her knickers around her ankles.

She says nothing for forty-seven seconds. I cough. “Ms de Fournay, you wanted to see me?”

“Took you long enough to get here.”

I’m not going to remind her that she was on the phone when I arrived. What research was she talking about? A momentary picture of de Fournay at a chemistry set blowing up beakers of bright green liquid intrudes, and I shake it away before I crack a smile. She’s probably just researching the top ten habits of highly effective arseholes.

The Queen swivels in her chair and turns her green eyes on me. I instantly pity the bouquet for having to endure forty-seven seconds of that stare.

Her hair falls in exquisite curls to her breasts, and her nose rises toward the ceiling when I fail to apologise at once, and I look at my hands where they sit clasped in my lap, focusing my gaze on the small ruby ring Mum gave me when I turned eighteen.

De Fournay laces her fingers on the table. Not one of her nails is smudged or chipped. Even if I made her salary, I don’t reckon I’d get a manicure every day. I refuse to accept that she keeps them so perfect without daily upkeep.

“The financial you ran on Francis Duck’s merger lacked any glaring errors. He was very pleased, and he requested that I tell you personally of his…esteem.” Annamaria de Fournay’s lip quirks as if someone has tugged at a marionette string.

I stare at her, waiting for her to continue. I don’t trust myself not to squeak or belch or scream if I open my mouth, so I nod with as much grace as I can muster.

“Additionally, he asked that you be responsible for his summaries for the foreseeable future. I trust you understand the value of his continued loyalty to our company and conduct yourself accordingly.”

I nod again, not sure if de Fournay just praised me or if I fell through my mirror this morning into Wonderland. Or Bizarroworld.

For one shining moment, I think she’s going to let me go without a thrashing.

Instead her lips, top and bottom, as even and calculated as the rest of her, flatten into a line. She gestures to the chair across from her, dropping a folder on the table.

I sit, cupping the arms of my chair with both hands and trying to absorb the coolness of the plastic as a buffer against the verbal flamethrower she secrets away behind those lips. Her eyes are stony jade, her chin high, her skin smooth as a morning loch.

One immaculate French-manicured fingernail lands on the file folder that bridges the mahogany conference table between us. The white crescent of the nail’s tip reflects the fluorescent light from the ceiling, and as she leans forward, I smell the rosewater she dabs at her temples every day at two-thirty.

It might be a friendly gesture if I hadn’t seen it every day for three years. In spite of the compliment she just paid me, something in that file is my fault, and those even lips are about to part in a searing tirade against my character, my work ethic, my mum’s Welshness, my parochial highland crofter upbringing and the ethical conundrum of Mum allowing me to live past birth. Most days, Annamaria de Fournay believes my mother ought to have shrouded me in white linen and fed me to the selkies.

She opens the folder. A rush of rose scent crests over the table like a breaking wave. Pushing one sheet of paper toward me, her lips manage to stay in formation even as she speaks.

“Do read this date for me.”

I blink, following the line of her finger down to its gleaming, polished end and read aloud. “Nineteenth of August.”

“Do you not find that curious?”

I find her accent obnoxious, but the date looks mundane enough to me.

Annamaria de Fournay came to Edinburgh from Cambridge, but if you ask her about it, you’d think she came straight from Buckingham Palace. While I don’t doubt that she’s English, the way she pushes every vowel out through the bridge of her nose makes it sound as though she’s thanking her subjects in St James’s Court rather than pointing out a discrepancy in an accounting report.

I shift my shoulders in response to her question.

“This report was due the ninth of August, Ms Maule. Not the nineteenth, though I see how someone who squints as much as you do could imagine a one in front of the nine.”

Och, aye. That. Truth is, the report was turned in on the eighth of the month, but telling her would just make her set me aflame.

My eyesight is fine. I squint because her rosewater makes my eyes burn.

I used to try to argue my case with her. At least until it resulted in her dragging me into her office every day to flay me with words. Bringing up Francis Duck’s account will only make her angrier. Now I shut up, try to tune her out, and hope she’ll let me return to my blissfully unscented office.

I settle in, painting my face with an expression I hope radiates contrition and humility. I likely just look constipated, but she prattles on, and I wait for her mobile to beep for her next meeting. Two-thirty, rosewater scratch and sniff. Three o’clock, humiliate Gwenllian Maule. Three-thirty, fawn over clients and water them with expensive single malt.

I’m a part of her schedule now, as surely as the rosewater.

“We are Edinburgh’s finest accountancy firm, and the go-to resource for businesses in the northern United Kingdom. Our clients expect more than a crofter’s level of professionalism, Ms Maule. Sheep and accountancy are not bedfellows. You will submit a revised report by Friday. And,” she continues with no change in tone, “I will not tolerate any more careless mistakes of this nature. Do it again and I won’t wait for your annual review to fire you—and no number of compliments from Francis Duck will keep you in this office.”

Fired. I can almost see bills popping up above my head in bubbles. Rent. Mobile. The university loans I make just enough to pay monthly. Credit cards. Car repayment for a car that doesn’t even run. My shoulders curl in, and the air I draw into my lungs feels thick, heavy. I’m glad I’m already sitting down, because I feel wobbly and lightheaded. My annual review is coming up in a couple short weeks. The review is just the excuse she needs to get rid of me, contract or no contract.

De Fournay waits for my response, her eyes trained on my face.

My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth. I force the words out so she’ll stop looking at me. “It won’t happen again, Ms de Fournay.”

I almost sound sure of it.

Just my luck. One of our best clients picks me to do his reports, and she still finds a way to remind me that nothing I ever do here is good enough.

Her eyes drop back to the desk, and I uncurl my shoulders, waiting for the air in the room to thin without her unblinking gaze to thicken it. Her fingernail scans across the report like a heat-seeking missile, searching for more mistakes she can throw in my face. Finding none, she returns to the subject of my idiocy.

I stop listening and watch Annamaria de Fournay’s head, looking for signs of it going POOF. If only I could press a red button and make it so.

Excerpt of THE MASKED SONGBIRD courtesy of Harlequin and Emmie Mears, used with permission. the masked songbird2This text may not be reproduced, altered, or further distributed.

happy cat 1I’ll finish by saying, if you think perhaps my opinion is a little swayed by my utter admiration for Emmie… I’d strongly suggest you go read the 5-Star reviews on Goodreads 😉

To me, Emmie was always a star, now she’s a literary star in the making and I highly recommend buying & reading her novel… trust me, you’ll be hooked!

In case you missed it this first time:

Author Website: www.emmiemears.com  Agent/Publisher Website: www.harlequin.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/emmiemears   SfSW: www.searchingforsuperwomen.com

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20642698-the-masked-songbird

Amazon Pre-Order Link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00JD7TWZK

 

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