TBM: How do you imagine the ideal reader of your book?
JS: The ideal reader of Burning Darkness is someone who likes darker stories, who enjoys reading about the gritty side of life. They like suspense, and when a book makes them check the shadows of their own home in real life.
TBM: How was the writer inside of you born?
JS: Honestly, I'm not entirely sure. I've enjoyed writing stories for as long as I can remember. I never really thought about publishing, though, until several members of my writing group started working on novels they wanted to publish. I'd never written anything beyond a short story, or a few chapters of a book that ultimately got abandoned, so I decided to seriously try my hand at writing novel-length fiction. Turns out I LOVED it and there were quite a few stories in my head that needed to be told.
TBM: What genres do you work with and why are you attracted to these forms of writing?
JS: I write urban fantasy partly because it's also my favorite genre to read, and because I love the paranormal. Life is a mystery, and there is so much we can't explain, and I like exploring the unknown and the mythical in my stories.
I also write psychological thriller. I've been drawn to asylum stories for a long time, and wanted to write my own and really explore that dark, gritty side of life where things may not always turn out sunshine and rainbows.
TBM: As a reader, what elements of a story do you love, or do you hate?
JS: I love stories that keep me turning pages, and keep me up way past my bedtime. (You mean I have to be at work in 3 hours? But I only have 5 chapters left!) I don't need a happy ending, just an ending that makes sense and bring completion to the story.
I hate stories that start out one way, then take a giant left turn part way through. I'm reading a book right now that starts out to be just a regular, every day fiction story, then about a third of the way into it takes a leap into time travel. I'll keep reading, but it was completely unexpected and jarring.
TBM: What inspired you to write BURNING DARKNESS and what do you hope your readers will take away from this book?
JS: Like I said in question 3, I've loved asylum stories for a long time. I'm fascinated by the history of mental health and how broken the system is, even today. I wanted to write something that incorporated this. I was inspired to write Burning Darkness specifically by a song - "Perfect Surface" by Sinfinis. The first line of the song is "I don't want to wake up..." and even though I'd listened to it dozens of times before, this on particular night, I was driving down a dark highway, and when the song came on I immediately pictured a girl who was trapped in an abandoned insane asylum with no idea why she was there. I later sat down to write the outline, and it turned out to be even creepier than I'd expected.
TBM: How long did it take you to write this book and what did you do the day that you finished it?
JS: I wrote the book for National Novel Writing Month, so I completed the draft in 30 days. I then spent about 4 months editing and polishing it up, getting it ready for publication. The day I finished it, well, it wasn't anything special from any other day. I can't actually remember what I did! I work myself pretty hard, and celebrating my successes is something I need to do more of.
TBM: What would you like to say to your readers?
JS: To my readers, I'd like to say to never give up. Life is hard sometime, but don't believe everything the darkness tells you. Don't lose hope, because I guarantee you will find hope and help where you least expect it.
TBM: What is your favorite part about being a published author?
JS: I love talking to my readers, whether that be online or in person at conventions. I love going to conventions to sell my books. It's so much fun to meet readers in person, hear what they think about the stories, and answer questions they have about writing. Writing a book is hard, and so many people never start, much less finish, so if I can inspire just one person to do that, I'll consider the day a success.
TBM: Lastly, a direct message to the readers, about why they should read BURNING DARKNESS.
JS: Burning Darkness is a book about fighting your personal demons, and not being afraid to ask for help. You should read this book if you want a creepy thriller that will keep you guessing, and might just make you throw the book across the room (figuratively speaking if you're an ebook reader) at what some of the villains do.