What inspired you to write this book?
I saw STROWLERS on screen in a film festival and knew immediately I wanted to tell a story in this universe. By the time I got home from the cinema, I had the initial kernel of story that grew into THE DRAGON STONE CONSPIRACY.
What can we expect from you in the future?
I have no idea! I have plans and ambitions, and the sky’s really the limit. I have quite a few irons in the fire, including my first 100% original work (both of my first two books have been IP/tie-in), a couple of screenplays, and a game project. The one thing I can assure you all of is that I am not slowing down!
Do you have any “side stories” about the characters?
You’ll have to stay tuned for future STROWLERS content if you want to find out 😉
Can you tell us a little bit about the characters in (Name of book)?
The main thing you need to know about Pepper Elizabeth Jones is that she is all spunk and grit tucked into a very tidy, feminine, unassuming package. She’s a modern, independent-thinking, sometimes-too-fearless-for-her-own-good woman living in a world that doesn’t yet expect that to exist. She’s no-nonsense and isn’t easily rattled.
When we meet her in the book, she has recently (and quite by accident) come into possession of a magical item that she’s only just learning the consequences of owning. She’s in for quite the journey of discovery, but she’s definitely up for the adventure.
How did you come up with the concept and characters for the book?
This is the great joy of writing IP/tie-in fiction. I fell in love with Pepper in the STROWLERS: IRELAND film and knew I wanted to give her the opportunity to punch a Nazi. The supporting cast came from a hodgepodge of faerie tales, folklore, and factual history.
Where did you come up with the names in the story?
Pepper came with her name already attached. And Sebottendorf was a real person. The others were named based on their characteristics and cultural backgrounds. For the English, Irish, and American folks, I just picked names I thought sounded like them. And for the various fae, I looked up names/words from their native cultures and chose what to call them based on those meanings.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
The people behind the franchise. Every time I had a question about Pepper or her backstory, I was able to email both the IP owner and the actress who plays her. How many authors have that kind of access? I felt like I had support from every angle, and it really gave me utmost confidence in what I was doing.
Tell us about your main characters- what makes them tick?
Pepper is the quintessence of the stereotype of an American circa the second world war. She is stubborn and self-assured, bold, clever, and quick-witted. She cannot abide injustice and refuses to stay quiet when there are things to speak out about. If there’s a wrong to be righted, she’ll be the first to volunteer. And although she barely understands the magic she’s been entrusted with, she knows enough to feel empowered by it.
How did you come up with the title of your first novel?
My first book, RITES & DESIRES, was written under another title—which I came up with based on the A-plot and B-plot of the novel. It went all the way through initial publicity with that title, but then my cover artist mentioned he didn’t like it. And before he hand-lettered the cover with those words, he wanted me to take a minute to be SURE I was going to be happy with that title forever. I went over it with my editor and my husband and the artist and literally anyone who would listen before we landed on the final title.
For this book, I couldn’t come up with anything. It turns out I’m really bad at titles! So I turned it into the editor as THE UNTITLED PEPPER JONES PROJECT. Fortunately, Zombie Orpheus Entertainment is full of brilliant and creative people who were able to send it back titled THE DRAGON STONE CONSPIRACY.
Who designed your book covers?
For RITES & DESIRES I had a say in the cover art, which is actually really strange. Most of the time an author doesn’t know anything about the cover until it’s done. But one of the joys of working with a small press on my debut was that I was welcome to have my fingers in as much of the pie as I found interesting. And for cover art, I had very strong opinions—which led to our hiring the absolutely incredible Lee Moyer. The cover is perfect and I wouldn’t change a thing.
For THE DRAGON STONE CONSPIRACY the creatives at Zombie Orpheus Entertainment put together the cover starting with a photo of Lisa Coronado as Pepper Jones. It’s perfectly evocative of the tone of the book and I am very happy with it.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Yes. I would cancel COVID and everything to do with it and have the book turned in sooner, revised sooner, and released to an in-person book tour.
Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
A lot. Mostly about coping mechanisms and self-care, boundary-setting, communication, and knowing my limits. But also about old cars, secret RAF airfields, and the Irish countryside.
If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
Lisa Coronado 😉
Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
I’m so glad you picked up the book and I hope you enjoy it!
How did you come up with name of this book?
Someone else did that for me. I am terrible at titles!
What is your favorite part of this book and why?
I think it would have to be the cabaret. Things keep getting curiouser and curiouser and that’s kind of the moment when Pepper is starting to puzzle out that she’s someplace impossible—which is how come she’s not deterred by the idea that she’s being asked to do something impossible. Like: impossible is already happening, so let’s go with it. Also, it’s got some of my favorite ambiance. If I could go anywhere in the book, it would be to the cabaret.
If you could spend time with a character from your book whom would it be? And what would yo
u do during that day?
I’d go to karaoke with Holde.
Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?
Von Sebottendorf was a real person, and McCaslin is based on me. But everyone else is altogether imaginary.
Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reigns of the story?
My stories are all character-driven, so I do let them take the lead. With this book, there’s a lot of push-and-pull between Pepper and the forces who have contrived this errand for her, but one or another of them is always in the driver’s seat… even when I wish *I* was.
Convince us why you feel your book is a must read.
This book punches Nazis! It’s a bold-while-creepy romp through faerie machinations as a young woman comes into her own as the custodian of powerful magic. And she gets to punch a Nazi. What more could you want out of a historical fantasy?
Have you written any other books that are not published?
Several! Many! Both those that came from NaNoWriMo and will never, ever, ever see the light of day and those that are in the draft stage currently but will someday be revised and put out on sub. Oh! And there’s the one I wrote that my agent very kindly told me to put away and forget about.
If your book had a candle, what scent would it be?
Oiled oak and apple whisky
What did you edit out of this book?
Hans Georg Hermann Otto Heilege. He was a whole subplot. He was probably 25,000 words when I axed his entire existence. I have this thing I like to do where I write rather terrible people but in such a way as to make you empathize with them and even like them a little, and then once you’re rooting for them, I remind you they’re terrible. You get uncomfortable, I’ve made a statement about the banality of evil, and we all go on with our day.
In this case, he was a dear boy with occultists for parents who happened to be serving in the Afrikakorps. I liked him. He was good. But I couldn’t leave a likeable Nazi in this book. And the more the world turned as I continued work on the draft, the more certain I became that he had to GO. So he went.
The result was an anemic draft and one HECK of a rewrite, but it was the right choice.
Is there an writer which brain you would love to pick for advice? Who would that be and why?
You know… I don’t think so. I’m really fortunate to have a lot of author friends, all at different career stages and with different career trajectories. If I’m looking for specific advice, I have a wealth of answers in my circle of friends, and I can’t imagine there’s any one person who could compete with that.
Fun Facts/Behind the Scenes/Did You Know?'-
type tidbits about the author, the book or the writing process of the book.
I once won a junior college speech competition with a piece on the historical event I use to get Himmler out of Pepper’s way in the book.
If you start at the U-bahn station mentioned in the book and reverse the directions Pepper is given, you will find yourself at an actual nightclub.
The song Holde sings is “Ich bin von Kopf bis Fuss Auf Liebe eingestellt” and the song being played on the piano in Vadoma’s inn is “The Boys in the Back Room” both made famous by Marlene Dietrich.
Gallagher’s Boxty House is a real place that is still in business and I highly recommend their food. Although I cannot promise you’ll find the entry to a faerie knowe, I can promise delicious dinner and a cozy atmosphere.
In the car chase, Cav & Horton are driving a Vauxhall 10-4 and Pepper is riding in a Mercedes Benz 170.