Today our blog puts the Spotlight on Author Ciara Ballintyne. She is the author of The Sundered Oath series and The Seven Circles of Hell series. Ciara writes fantasy novels.
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FLIGHT OF THE DRAGON
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Ciara Ballintyne was born in 1981 in Sydney, Australia, where she lives with her husband, two daughters, one masochistic cat, and one cat with a god complex. She holds degrees in law and accounting, and has been a practising financial services lawyer since 2004. She is both an idealist and a cynic.
She started reading epic fantasy at the age of nine, when she kidnapped Castle of Wizardry by David Eddings from her father. Another two years passed before she began her first attempts at the craft of writing. Confronting the Demon is her debut book.
She enjoys horse-riding, and speculation about taking over the world. If she could choose to be anything it would be a dragon, but instead she shares more in common with Dr. Gregory House of House. M.D.
SPOTLIGHT Questions and Answers with the Author
Congratulations on your book: On the Edge of Death. What do you have on the drawing board next? Can you tell us the timeline for its release and give us a little tease?
I’m working on Book 3 in both my series at the moment! It’s a juggling act. Becoming the Demon is the third in the Seven Circles of Hell, a short novel fantasy mystery series. Our hero, Alloran, is a wizard who just never realises when it’s better to leave well enough alone and gets himself into trouble as a result—often while trying to clean up his own mess. The road to hell is, quite literaly in this case, paved with good intentions. To Make the Dead Weep is book 3 in The Sundered Oath and the sequel to On the Edge of Death. Our heroine, Ellaeva, is on the run, still trying to fulfil her primary, even though she’s been cast out by her temple. With luck, both books will be released in 2018.
You have a good following on twitter. How important have your social media relationships been? How did you build your following in your niche? Do you see a carry over to your writing success?
Social media is a funny thing. I’m not sure how much difference the Twitter following makes. I do sell more via Twitter than many other authors, who tell me Twitter, as a selling medium is dead, so I think it does make some difference. However, it requires genuine relationships, which requires time, which is really hard for a busy author, so I can see why there’s limited potential. Also, many authors connect with other authors, who are not readers—well, they are, but not readers with a lot of time. Finding readers who are not writers is the trick, and not an easy one at that.
Do you do any book signings, interviews, speaking and personal appearances? If so, when and where is the next place where your readers can see you? Where can they keep up with your personal contacts online?
I do a few each year in Australia. I’ll be at the Central Coast Comicon on Saturday May 5th and Comicgong at Wollongong on May 19. I’m usually at Supanova in Sydney in June, but this year I’m giving it a miss. I was also going to do Oz Comicon at Sydney, but it turns out I will be in the States. So it will probably only be the two appearances this year.
You have great covers. How does your book cover creation process work? Do you hand over the basic theme or do you have more of a hands-on approach? Do you get your readers involved in its development?
The key to good cover design is, I think, to embody a great concept or theme from the story, not necessarily a great scene. One of the underlying themes of On the Edge of Death is the idea of looking into a mirror and seeing what you might have become had you taken the wrong road. So Ellaeva, our heroine, is looking into a gate (which is itself significant to the plot) seeing an evil version of herself reflected back. This scene never happens in the literal sense, but it’s a pervading theme of the story.
The cover art for Becoming the Demon shows Alloran, the hero, walking away from the heroine, Gisayne. Importantly, he’s walking away from her into darkness and leaving the light behind. This depicts the choice he faces in this book: to, for the first time, consciously step away from the light in pursuit of his goals. That step also leaves Gisayne behind—she’s not willing to cross that line.
I usually try to work out what that theme is and then a way to visually depict it and then I give that image to the artist. Sometimes I’ll brainstorm with the artist if I can’t think of a good way to show the theme on paper.
What is your primary genre? What has been your best marketing approach to this group?
Epic fantasy is basically my only genre. I have exactly one story that isn’t epic fantasy—a sci fi dystopian short that I’m still polishing.
I think marketing to epic fantasy readers is hard. Contrary to popular opinion, I think they are a somewhat discerning bunch and don’t necessarily read a lot of indie or small press fiction. Certainly in my quest to find them, I’ve had quite a few paranormal and urban fantasy readers come my way, but what I’m writing isn’t exactly what they’re looking for.
I don’t know what the best marketing approach is. I’ve made some incredibly loyal fans on Twitter. I’m had the biggest reach via Bookbub. A newsletter certainly plays its part. I don’t think there is one quick and easy solution, unfortunately.
What has been your experience in giving your books away free? Have you been involved in any other type of giveaways and how did that work out? What was your main goal in doing this? Did you run into any obstacles?
I don’t often give my books away for free. I did used to give away Confronting the Demon to subscribers to my newsletter, but I don’t think it made a noticeable difference to subscriptions. I have plans to make it permafree in the future but I’m not there yet.
You have a great blog. You do a great job keeping readers informed, marketing your books and providing useful information to other writers. What is your primary goal? And where in the world do you find the time to create great novels, take care of the social media and maintain your blog?
Ha ha, isn’t that a million dollar question. I’m also, at the same time, running a law firm, raising two children, and of course finding quality time to spend with my husband.
My commute is the secret to much of that. I have about an hour and a half on the train every day, which, if I’m on the ball, is enough to produce 10,000 words a week. It’s usually also when I write blogs and newsletters etc. It helps, with blogs, to set a schedule and have regular topics so you aren’t scratching too much for something to talk about.
What is the objective for your newsletter? Do you try to build a list of readers? Do you see a carryover to the sales of your novels?
I am kind of trying to build a list of readers. It helps to not be too reliant on social media, and if you have a loyal fan base you can offer them exclusives that aren’t available to others. A quality list does have carryovers to sales, but building a good quality list takes a lot of time, however.
Living in Australia creates a unique selling and marketing situation. Where is your biggest audience? Does marketing online help in this situation?
My biggest audience is in the US. I also get a lot of sales from the UK, and Australia—the latter of which likely is due to the fact that I am a local author. Marketing online tends to expose you mostly to the US audience.
What is your method of getting reviews for your novels? Do you seek professional reviews, use social media or do you rely on your reading audience to supply them?
All of the above! I will usually aim to get 1 – 3 professional reviews, and I also use services like NetGalley.
Author's Book List
On the Edge of Death
- The Sundered Oath Book 2
When an evil necromancer threatens all she loves, Ellaeva must risk her sanity to face down the darkness within her soul.
All the Left Hand of Death wants is something to call her own, but is the price too high?
Ellaeva, the fated avatar of the death goddess, is desperate to track down her missing family but the trail is decades old. Instead, she discovers her battered and bloodied sister priestesses driven across the Jerreki border on pain of death. Ellaeva must turn aside from her personal quest to investigate the murders, only to find her parents have been taken into the heart of the conflict.
Lyram Aharris, favoured son of the royal line of Ahlleyn, is the only living person she trusts to help her infiltrate the enemy stronghold and uproot the horror they find there, but their chequered past threatens the mission. Accompanying him is his crown prince, the one man Lyram wants dead above all others.
Now Ellaeva must face down the darkness in her soul before a dark god is brought into the world.
At the boundary of life and death, all oaths will be tested.
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In the Company of the Dead
- The Sundered Oath Book 1
Chosen as a five-year-old orphan to be the Left Hand of Death, Ellaeva has nothing to call her own—nothing except a desire to avenge her slaughtered parents.
Lyram, third in line for the throne, is serving out his exile after the murder of his wife. When the castle is unexpectedly besieged, he fears his prince means to remove him from contention for the crown permanently.
Ellaeva’s arrival at the castle brings Lyram hope, until she reveals she has not come for the siege, but instead to hunt for a hidden necromancer dedicated to the dark god of decay.
Within their stone prison, Ellaeva and Lyram must fight to save themselves from political machinations and clashing gods. But as the siege lengthens, the greatest threat comes from an unexpected quarter.
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Stalking the Demon
- The Seven Circles of Hell Book 2
Six months ago, the disgraced wizard, Alloran, sacrificed his hand and risked his life and soul to rescue the woman he loves from his traitorous friend. Despite saving the city from a demon, the council of wizards punished him severely for practising banned magic.
Now he learns his desperate attempt to banish the demon threatens to send the whole world to hell. To unravel the damage, Alloran is forced to dabble in taboo hell magic, and must choose between saving himself and everything he holds dear.
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Confronting the Demon
- The Seven Circles of Hell Book 1
For Alloran, who practised the fine art of frivolity for decades, life just got serious.
Framed for the heinous crime of demon summoning, he is forced to flee his comfortable life of silk sheets and nightly carousing in the wizard’s citadel for the stinking back-alleys of the city of Ehsan. There he poses as a common labourer to hide from his lover, his best friend and the wizarding authorities.
But beneath the garbage of the backstreets he discovers a new horror: a trail of gruesome bodies, gnawed on by hellcats, and left gift-wrapped for him to find with taunting ‘love notes’ attached. Someone is brutally murdering people from Alloran’s past and threatening all those close to him.
As the body count rises, Alloran must confront his personal demons and risk losing himself to a powerful addiction in order to expose the true villain. Failure means the destruction of the city at the hands of the deadliest demon to inhabit any of the seven hells – or worse, Alloran himself.
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