In Search of Gods and Heroes by Sammy H.K Smith
Hi Sammy and welcome to my home in cyberspace. It is not often the boot is on the other foot, so as my publisher, I am going to have fun learning how you put together your wonderful book. I have enjoyed it immensely and I can see that like Dune and Lord of the Rings, it is one of those books a person can go back and reread time and time again, probably finding a little nuance on each reading. My review can be found ….
Would you like to tell the readers about you?
Well, I live in the UK with my husband, my 13 cats and 2 dogs…I am a bit of a crazy cat lady, but I make no apologies for it. I work full-time as a detective in the police and specialize in domestic and sexual abuse. It’s thoroughly rewarding and something that is quite close to my heart. I’m studying for a B.A in Humanities (with a specialism in classical studies) and I also co-run Grimbold Books and write in my spare time. I’m so proud of Grimbold, btw. We’re such a wonderful team and everyone works so hard for one another.
Firstly this is a book with a complex, multi-thread plot set in a fantasy world. What started the idea for the story? Was it a character, a circumstance or a setting?
It was a scene. A young girl, hiding in a cupboard while a demon killed her sister. I wanted to show a character that isn’t the normal archetype. Someone who was afraid and would run rather than protect her family. We’re not all heroes from the onset, and fear isn’t shameful. It’s natural. I wrote the first scene with this character and then jumped immediately to writing a scene with your (almost) typical hero: a selfless protector who would sacrifice his life for good. Then, all these other characters starting popping into my head and I thought ‘huh, what would happen if they were all connected,’ and then ‘huh, what would happen if the gods were meddling with free will,’. And then a story was born…
Now I am curious. I know you love cats and have a lot of little fluffies. A shapeshifting fae, who prefers being a cat is an important character in your book. Which cat was he based on and what sort of human/fae characteristics does this cat have? I note the character has a sense of humor. Does the cat?
Ha! Well, having so many cats means I was able to draw on different aspects of their personalities to help with creating Sheiva. 4 of my fluff monsters are Maine Coon cats, and so they’re quite vocal and like to ‘talk’ to me. I’ve always wondered what they’re saying or thinking…
I would have to say that Thor and Oscar are probably my main influences for Shiv.
So, on to the million dollar question, are you a pantzer or an outliner? You have a stable full of authors hanging on the answer to this question. How does your choice work for you?
Well, In Search of Gods and Heroes was pantzed. I had a pantheon of gods sketched out, and the image of scales in my head to represent three worlds, but other than that – I just wrote. It does mean that I now need to outline the remaining books (of which there are 4), but that’s ok.
Strangely, about 18 months ago I finished a standalone adult dark dystopia book and while part 1 was pantzed, the rest was plotted out and written in a regimented fashion over the course of 3 months…It’s hard to say what works best for me because over the last 18mths I’ve not written anything as I’ve been busy with Grimbold!
So there are more books in the series?
Yes, there are 4 more planned as In Search of Gods and Heroes starts the journey. Book 2, tentatively titled ‘A Time of Faith and Lies’ continues the quest and our characters find their belief in the gods, themselves and one another tested as war begins.
What about work habits? Do you have rituals to get into a writing mood? Can you type straight to a pc, or do you like the traditional pen and ink for a first draft? What is the best time or day for you to write or does this depend on when you have free time? Yes, I know, free time is a premium.
I’m a computer typing girl. I open up Spotify, create a music playlist, get the headphones and I’m away. I love writing to music, and soundtracks especially. Writing usually comes in the evenings, but because I work shifts, I do get days off during the week. My husband is very accommodating and knows that when I’m ‘in the zone’ I don’t like to be interrupted. He has this habit of showing me YouTube videos at the most annoying times though…
Who was your favorite character to write for this book and why? Did they spring into life spontaneously, or is this an amalgam of several real people?
Oh no! This is so hard! I do love them all, but I’m a big fan of Prince Kee Dala (Dal) and Nathan.
Dal was inspired by a friend of mine called Dom, whose nickname is Kidda La (he’s from Liverpool). Dal loves the ladies, and loves alcohol…probably a bit too much…but he’s a good, honest man who doesn’t want to live in his father’s shadow. Now, I’ll say here – this is not Dom! He might get grumpy if I liken him to Dal too much J
Nathan came to life the more I wrote. A former Underworld assassin who, after his defection from the King’s Guard and his sister’s mutilation as punishment, walks the path towards redemption. Unfortunately, signing up to the Underworld is a life-long commitment, and while he wants to walk away, they don’t let him and so he’s constantly battling with his emotions and temptations. Someone described Nathan as a HBO character, which really doesn’t bode well for him in the long run…
Who was the most difficult character to write and why? A character analysis is good. I wouldn’t want you to be giving any spoilers away. LOL.
Chaeli was definitely the most difficult. She’s the main character, but she can be obnoxious, stupid, arrogant and very childlike at times…just like a lot of 20 year olds I guess. However, when writing a book you want people to like the character, and so you have to make them as believable as possible. She makes facepalming decisions at times, and does play with people’s hearts, but underneath it all she just wants to be accepted, do good, and find her place in the world.
Of people who read this book prior to it going live, who’s opinion gave you the biggest buzz?
My granddad. I have rather useless parents, and so my grandparents are my mum and dad to me. My much-loved nanny passed away almost 5 years ago, and I started writing this a year later to distract me from her loss. When I finished, I gave my granddad a copy and he loved it. He’s almost 90 and doesn’t mince his words, and so I knew he wouldn’t hold back if he thought it was rubbish! Anyway, hearing his praise made my year. He means the world to me.
What got you started on writing? Is this something you always wanted to do, or did you have a moment when an idea came to you out of the blue. Was there a pivotal point?
I touched on this a little bit above. When little I used to write stories, but I stopped when I was 11 because I had to spend a lot of time looking after my younger siblings. Many years later, when grieving I wanted a distraction and this was it. It helped a little, but I soon found I loved writing.
Finally, what is the hardest part of writing for you and what is the easiest?
Hardest part nowadays is time. I have so many commitments that my writing is bottom of the list. One day that will change…I hope! Easiest are the characters, their back story and dialogue.
Please select an extract of the book of your choice. It might be nice to find one that isn’t in the Amazon first three and is a heart pounding moment.
She burst into tears and laughter at the same time. She had something, something special that was just hers. She wasn’t some broken thing that nobody wanted. She had power. Adley looked at her for a moment, then smiled. The smile turned to a chuckle, and soon he joined her in full roaring laughter. She bent over and tried to compose herself but as she did, her blanket slipped showing a large expanse of skin. She squealed and desperately tried to cover herself, managing only to lose grip on the other corner.
Adley bent down to help her but their heads knocked, causing him to stagger back and stand upright, rubbing his forehead. From under his hand, he caught a glimpse of her breasts, her stomach, the curve of her hips. His laughter stopped immediately and he turned away. She fumbled with the blanket and covered herself again.
“It’s— I’m fine now,” she said, stumbling over to the chair. Adley turned around, his cheeks burning crimson and his dragon hiding its face under its front talons.
“I’ll just go and get dressed,” he mumbled. But when he opened the door, he found himself face to face with Nathan.
“Sorry,” Adley muttered, then brushed past Nathan and hurried into their bedroom further along the corridor. Nathan frowned. He glanced at Chaeli and saw the flushed look on her face, the blankets in disarray. Scowling, he dumped a pile of clothes on the bed.
“Clothes. Your bath is ready,” he said curtly, then turned to leave.
“Nathan, wait,” she called, but he ignored her and strode to the other room, slamming the door behind him.
Adley had already pulled on his trousers and was reaching for his shirt. Nathan couldn’t contain himself any further.
“What were you doing in there with her?” he raged.
Adley turned in shock, the dragon on his chest shuddered. “I beg your pardon?”
“You heard me, what were you doing with her?” Nathan stepped closer to Adley and pushed him hard in the chest. Unprepared, Adley stumbled back.
“What the hell? What are you doing?” Adley gained his footing and fell into a fighting stance.
“You, and her! Naked. Together!” Nathan struggled to control the darkness; his serpents hissed and slithered around his chest, rage worming into his heart.
“What? No, you’ve got it all wrong. I showed Chaeli how to channel her energy, nothing more.”
“LIAR!” Nathan clenched both fists and threw his weight into a punch. It connected with Adley’s chin, a sharp crack echoing about the room.
Adley refused to fight back. His opponent was mad, out of control. He blocked the next blow easily, and the next. Nathan was fighting like a wild man, all thought and form missing.
“Nathan,” grunted Adley. “Calm down man!”
But Nathan ignored him. The serpents were murmuring to him, coaxing him. He needed this, the sweet, exhilarating haze of rage. It pulled at his mind and thrilled his flesh; the Underworld wanted him, and the Underworld would fight for him.
Adley sensed the change, could feel the evil weaving into his adversary. Something was wrong; this wasn’t just a jealous fury. He waited for the next blow and, sidestepping it, grabbed Nathan’s wrists. The larger man struggled, but Adley kicked him hard in the stomach. Nathan bent double, coughing loudly. Adley released his wrists and struck him with a stinging slap. Nathan staggered and fell; Adley pounced upon him, pinning him to the ground.
“Let me up, you filthy piece of shite,” snarled Nathan.
Adley’s dragon roared, writhed, prowled impatiently across his flesh, yearning for release.
“Fight me like a man!” Nathan cried, bucking under Adley’s grasp.
“His chest,” whispered a voice.
Adley let go of Nathan’s wrists and ripped open his shirt. He stared in horror at the serpents, which had moved entirely to Nathan’s chest. They hissed and spat, fangs visible and ready to strike.
Taking advantage of Adley’s reaction, Nathan moving to his feet, but Adley kicked him back down and pressed his starred palm over the serpents. They bit hard, and the burning pain of their poison shook him. He grimaced and ground his teeth, fighting to keep Nathan down as he thrashed on the floor.
“I’m sorry.” The protector bunched his hand into a fist, punching Nathan squarely in the face. Nathan sank back, unconscious, leaving Adley to concentrate on the snakes. Pressing his hand harder to Nathan’s chest, he pierced deeply into the spirit within.
Whirling black mist clouded his path, stinking of betrayal, bitterness and hatred, and in the background, threatening and deep, was the rage. Adley searched on. This man had promise; his energy had sparks of hope, love and redemption, but the positivity was drenched in the repugnant stink of evil. He focused his energy on the hope, letting it pour into the centre of this tortured spirit, though it cost him. He had already given so much to Chaeli.
But the mere thought of her sparked something in Nathan, and suddenly the two men were connected. One. The tenderness of the younger man’s emotion squeezed at Adley’s heart and he moaned aloud in despair and wretchedness. It was the beginning of love; Nathan cared for the girl with purity and selflessness. With a sinking feeling, Adley fed that emotion as much as he could, sharing his feelings for her with Nathan, opening himself fully, hiding nothing. He gave until he had nothing left to give. Adley collapsed to the floor and consciousness slipped from him.