Jane Bled’s Author Spotlight
Season 2, Episode 5
Author of speculative fantasy and paranormal romance
The breakout success of Lilo Abernathy’s The Light Who Shines actualizes a dream that most indie authors dream of, but few attain. Within her colorful cast of fun characters, romantic intrigue, and dynamic plot threads, Abernathy interweaves a vital social commentary about injustice and prejudice against minorities.
New to Lilo Abernathy’s work? At the end of the interview, I explain how to win a free ebook of The Light Who Shines. One lucky winner will be chosen on Wed 1/21.
“A simple kind or hurtful word can have a rippling effect for generations.” – Lilo Abernathy
Lilo Abernathy: Intentions Matter
JB: Welcome, Lilo. 🙂
You’ve made a big impression on the indie writing scene. Only a few months after your debut speculative fantasy novel The Light Who Shines released, you managed to score a coveted spot on Amazon’s Daily Deals and earned a well-deserved spot on the Top 100 Best-Sellers list. Quite the rapid ascent to success!
How has your life changed since the day your book released to the present?
LA: It has been an exciting ride Jane. The biggest change has been that my mind has expanded with the masses of knowledge required to learn how to market my book. When The Light Who Shines was first released, I had zero social media platform, only one author connection, and absolutely no idea how to market. To say the learning process was steep is an enormous understatement. I swear there were times I felt my brain might implode from all the new information. There were also times I felt I was wandering alone in the desert, chasing mirages, looking for something that would work. But things are a bit easier now, thankfully.
JB: I’m pretty sure my brain tries to implode on a daily basis – the learning curve is daunting to navigate. From what I’ve seen on Twitter, you’re ahead of the pack. One might even assume that you enjoy marketing your book. 😉
So your workload has surely increased, yet “things are a bit easier now” – what’s the biggest improvement you’ve experienced in regards to productivity?
LA: I consider the difference between now and then, like the difference between walking into someone’s room that is a complete disaster, and walking into your own room that is a complete disaster. As least with your own room, you know exactly what every piece of disaster is and why it is there. So the chaos is still present, it’s just more understandable.
JB: An apt analogy for familiar chaos. 🙂
LA: You are right that Twitter is a big focus area for me. The biggest productivity improvement I’ve made is learning to automate tweets and retweets. I use Twitter Creative to schedule tweets monthly, and I keep organized lists of who I want to retweet. Though even with all this automation, it is still important to check your notifications and be open and accessible on a daily basis.
JB: One of the major struggles indie authors face is dividing time between promotion and writing. How much time does automation save from self-marketing duties? Have you experienced any drawbacks from relying on Twitter Creative to schedule your tweets?
LA: Actually, the Twitter automation is perfect. I have a program of tweets that highlight my favorite excerpts from my book, paired with eye-catching photos. Then I spend one day a month scheduling them out so they are tweeted at periodic intervals all month long. The wonderful thing about Twitter is that it is such a huge network that new people see my tweets all the time. There is no social media that even compares to Twitter in terms of expanse of market available to an individual. The automation definitely frees me up more for other marketing activities and writing.
JB: Automation aside, what’s your favorite way to connect with readers through social media?
LA: I love to connect with readers through Facebook. I consider Twitter the method for finding new readers, but I use Facebook (both my official fan page and my personal account) to really get to know my readers. I love to hear about how they overcome their own personal trials and their accomplishments. Of course I share tidbits from my personal life as well. I’m not a fan of Facebook chat, but I do watch my feed and respond readily when I see a post from my fans. It’s the everyday stuff that I adore; pictures of babies growing, notices of new jobs…I even know one of my reader’s favorite color (orange) and that makes me very happy.
JB: Facebook is definitely a more personal social media site than Twitter. I tend not to go on it much, simply because I get sucked into my friends’ posts, but you make it sound pretty appealing.
Regarding “overcoming personal trials”, it seems most people experience hardship at some point in their lives. What challenges does Bluebell Kildare, the heroine of The Light Who Shines, face during her journey of self-discovery?
LA: The biggest conflict Bluebell faces is the prejudice toward her and her breed. She’s a gifted sensitive with the ability to see souls. But her particular gift doesn’t matter so much. What does matter is that she carries a mark that everyone can see, which shows she is gifted. The world she lives in has three different breeds of humans; the Gifted, Vampires, and Norms. A good number of Norms are prejudice against the Gifted and she has to deal with discrimination and epithets, even from the people she works hard to protect. Her job as a Homicide Inspector for the Supernatural Investigation Bureau is to help keep interbreed peace and security, which is becoming more difficult as the days go by, as prejudice and hate seem to be on the rise.
JB: What visible mark does she carry that informs others of her breed? Was she born with it?
LA: All gifted people in this fantasy have some sort of mark, but each mark is different. Some marks are on the body in places that can’t be seen. But both of Blue’s marks are highly visible. The first mark is her unusually intense blue eyes. The second mark is streak of blue hair that will not be dyed away. She did try as a teenager, but it just doesn’t work. So unless she wears shades and a wig, she is clearly gifted. Hmm, that is very interesting, actually. She hasn’t gone undercover yet in the book, but perhaps there is a scene with shades and a wig in her future!
Isn’t it funny how inspiration strikes?
JB: Inspiration is an entity of its own and often strikes when least expected. 😉
What inspired you to include underlining themes of prejudice in your urban fantasy/paranormal romance series? Do you have a “mark” of your own?
LA: Actually I do have a mark of my own. I’m an Atheist, which, believe it or not, is the most hated and feared group of people in the United States. I am also a liberal female. Those are marks of their own. But that is not what drives me to write about prejudice. In fact, I find these labels and titles irrelevant. Rather than be defined by what I don’t believe or what groups I belong to, I think it is more important to define people by their intentions and actions. I am a humanist in intentions and actions.
JB: I’m inclined to believe that if more people subscribed to a humane mindset, the world would be a better place.
LA: The main lesson I want to teach with this book is that it doesn’t matter what “group” you belong to or what “label” you apply to yourself or others. What matters are your intentions and actions. I try to show this by exposing good and bad in each of the groups. Those names (race, sex, political affiliations, and religion) are all irrelevant to who you really are. They don’t define you. Do you hurt people or do you help them? Do you destroy or create? A simple kind or hurtful word can have a rippling effect for generations.
In the end, each of our legacies on this earth will be the sum totality of our impact to the earth and the people and animals that inhabit it. That is our final judgment. Did you make the world a better or worse place during your lifetime?
JB: It’s a testament to your storytelling abilities to maintain your readership after imbuing such profound messages of social acceptance and moral responsibility into the fantastical world Bluebell Kildare inhabits.
Regardless of how we strive for perfection, humans are destined to fail in some capacity. What are Blue’s shortcomings, and how does she work to overcome them?
LA: Blue’s success as an investigator comes from her strong will, empathy and ability to sense emotions and magic; not from being physically kick-ass as many Urban Fantasy heroines are. She has a kick-ass will and drive, but she is actually relatively weak compared to her comrades. She certainly doesn’t have the strength of her vampire co-workers or her male counterparts. Additionally, by following her instinct to do right, she makes some rather significant mistakes and rash decisions that get her into trouble. I think it could be argued that a lack of caution is one of her weaknesses as well. On the flip side of that, her courage may be required to save the day. But isn’t that the way it is with so much of life? We live in a society that values both justice and mercy, but aren’t they opposites of one another? The trick is to know when to apply them to arrive at the best outcome.
JB: So does Blue get herself into trouble to fulfill a subconscious desire to experience life on the edge, or is she simply not self-aware enough to recognize to her own errors in judgment?
LA: I would have to say neither. Blue is aware of the risks she takes and it isn’t for the joy of the risk. But rather, her desire to right certain wrongs is so strong, she ignores the risk to herself. She is not one to sit back and analyze about a more careful approach. She sort of dives right in, headstrong and determined. I’d call her a straight shooter. She also tries too hard to prove herself. She is the newest, youngest, physically weakest member on a team of all males, and she refuses to be coddled. Pride is a bit of an issue with her. She was mistreated in an orphanage as a child and she learned to be completely self-reliant. Asking for help is difficult for her. She wants to be seen as strong and capable.
JB: Can readers expect to see her making similar “rash decisions” in Book 2 of the Bluebell Kildare series?
LA: I believe these issues are core to her personality and they will stay with her. In Book 2, she will get some additional training, quite a bit actually. Her skill will increase. But overall her core personality will remain.
JB: Who’s responsible for training Blue? Does she hold any reservations about accepting help from potential mentors?
LA: Now you are asking me questions for things that happen in Book 2, The Light Who Binds. I’m afraid I can’t reveal these answers. (smile)
JB: Well-played. 😉
Switching back to Book 1, who is the person (or supernatural being) most influential in Blue’s personal development?
LA: Blue was raised in an orphanage and difficult as it was, it did have one bright spot. That would be Maud. Maud would come in and read to the children. Over the years, she developed a special relationship with Blue and as an adult, she is a strong maternal figure for her. Now Maud is a hoot. She changes hair color just about every other day. And I don’t mean, from brown to auburn. She goes from fuchsia to peach sherbet to scarlet. And what Maud lacks in cooking abilities, she makes up for her mastery of Southern Cocktails.
JB: Sounds like my kind of surrogate mom! I’ll bet she’s quite the charmer.
LA: Throughout the story Maud has a flirty relationship with her neighbor Harry. But their flirting is a strange sort. Instead of trading compliments, they trade pranks. And Maud can be pretty devious about her pranks sometimes.
JB: So basically it’s like a grade-school crush – how cute.
LA: Despite Maud’s seemingly flighty behavior, she has really been Blue’s rock over the years. She taught Blue her sense of humor and through their relationship, Blue learns about lasting family love.
JB: So Blue is fortunate enough to know about platonic love, but what about romance? Does she find time to flirt in the midst of life’s chaos?
LA: Yes! Actually, I’m not sure that “flirt” is the correct term. She is rather serious and not really the flirty type. However, sexual tension does abound!
JB: Ooh, tell me more. *rubs palms together*
LA: Blue’s sexy vampire boss, Jack Tanner creates quite a dilemma for her. Being taken seriously at work is important and she knows that work relationships are not wise. But the attraction between her and Jack is extremely mutual and apparently irresistible. There are a couple of very steamy moments, one of which occurs in the church belfry! Oh, the joys of new love…
JB: The church belfry, huh? Sounds pretty risqué – in the best possible way. 😉
LA: The truth is that Blue makes Jack more than a little crazy. He is attracted to her, he cares for her deeply, and she keeps getting into scraps with her willful ways. Jack has his hands full trying to keep her safe.
JB: Before Jack, how much experience has Blue had with previous love interests (human, vampire, or other)?
LA: Unfortunately, before Jack, Blue had very little experience with love interests. She is an empath and a sensitive, so imagine asking your boyfriend if your butt looks fat in a dress and being able to “feel” if he is lying to you. Her ability to know what is going on inside people has made relationships difficult for her. Plus, of course, she is gifted, and up until she was eighteen she lived in an orphanage where everyone was prejudice against her. Thankfully, Jack has some special battle training that taught him to control his emotions, so he isn’t a big projector like most people are.
JB: That must be a relief for her!
Does Blue have any close friends in whom she feels comfortable confiding?
LA: Blue does have two other close friends. Alexis is about her age and runs a shop called Herbal Enchantments. She’s gifted in earth magic and sells herbal potions, charms, and even dog de-wormers through her shop. Alexis is one of those no-nonsense people who is always on top of things. She works constantly. If she isn’t in her shop she is cooking up things at home. She is sassy and bossy, but a nurturing sort. When she isn’t shaking her finger at you, she is feeding you.
JB: Friends who feed you = keepers.
LA: I totally agree. Her other close friend, and I’m hardly stretching the word here, is her wolf Varg. Varg comes on the scene just in time to save Blue from her first encounter with the villain. It isn’t clear if Varg adopts Blue or vice versa, but they are inseparable from that point on. Not only is Varg a friend and a protector, but he seems to have some magical capabilities going on as well. No one is sure where Varg came from or what all he can do and he causes quite a bit of speculation from the characters in the book, as well as the readers.
JB: A wolf protector sounds pretty cool: “Oh, you want to steal my purse? Say hello to my friend Varg.” 😉
You’ve obviously put forth great effort into developing character backgrounds and building Blue’s world. Who are the authors responsible for influencing your love of detailed story-crafting?
LA: I must admit that when I’m not writing, I read about a book a day. So I can’t really pin my learnings on any one author. I do have some favorites of course. My most recent favorites are Bec McMaster (London Steampunk series) and Kristen Callihan (Darkest London series).
JB: Interesting book mentions. I’m always looking for my next favorite read, so I’ll have to check them out.
LA: But to answer your question about the detail in my book, I really strove to immerse the reader in the world so they would feel as though they were walking through it as the story unfolds. To accomplish this I wrote a full character profile for each of the main characters and use a paragraph to set each scene. In a few chapters where the scenery was essential to the story (dark foreboding forest, magical Gala, underground crypt) I had to go over that, but one good paragraph is my typical rule. I also feel that balance is essential to a story. So I paid attention to how many scenes were fun, dark, romantic, and full of action and how those scenes were spread throughout the book. I believe this really gives the reader a robust experience.
JB: Regarding your fiction-writing technique, it sounds like an effective way to sustain the reader’s interest. 😉
In the reviews for The Light Who Shines, several readers mentioned the “multiple viewpoints” narrative technique you employ. Will you stick to this formula throughout the series? Do you rely on any special tricks to keep the characters’ voices from sounding too similar?
LA: Yes, I will absolutely keep to the multiple viewpoints technique for the whole series. In my story Bluebell Kildare is the main character and most of the story is told from her perspective. However, about 1/4 to 1/3 is told from Jack Tanner’s perspective. What I love about this is that when you first hear about Jack from Blue’s perspective, her information is limited, so he seems a little two dimensional. But when you get Jack’s perspective, you can see how very layered he is. He suddenly becomes a deep rich character who you care about. Some people find it a bit discombobulating to go from one perspective to the next, and I try to ameliorate the issue by clearly announcing at the beginning of each chapter from whose perspective the chapter is told.
JB: Personally, I’m a fan of dual perspectives.
LA: The majority of readers seem to enjoy it too and they mention in their reviews that they like getting the glimpse inside Jack’s mind. This is real life. Two people can be together watching something occur and come away with two totally different interpretations of what happened. It is really fun to watch the dynamics of Blue’s and Jack’s relationship as they struggle to connect through their differing perspectives. The reader gets to see the miscommunication and incorrect interpretations so they have a secret view with more information than either Blue or Jack.
JB: That method makes sense to me.
Lilo, I always invite the authors I interview to share samples of their work. Do you mind sharing two teaser excerpts – one from Blue’s perspective, and the other from Jack’s?
LA: Sure, I’d love to. I’m giving you Chapter One, when Blue arrives at the crime scene as well as one of the final chapters, while Jack waits to see if Blue lives.
Chapter 01: Double Depravity
Bluebell Kildare, May 26, 2022, Red Ages
The boy is stark naked, and dried blood streaks extend from the crushed area of his forehead down to the hollows of his eyes where they pool like small, bloody twin lakes. The lines of his ribs stick out so much I could climb them like a ladder. A stark white shaft of bone sticks out from his leg, gleaming against the bloody rupture on his thigh. A pattern of crimson, crossed lines decorates his crushed left hip. His skin is dirty and he stinks like crazy, but not from death. Not yet. More like a latrine.
Under this layer of grime is a layer of bruising, both fresh and old. His feet and toes are black. How he was able to stand on them, I can’t imagine, as it looks and smells as though they are rotting. Calluses surround his ankles and wrists. He must have been tied up. Another pool of blood spills from under his head, spreading wide on the asphalt road. He looks sixteen to eighteen in age with the slightest bits of young facial hair growing about his chin. His body sprawls out on the street with his limbs twisted at awkward angles around him.
I’m going to catch the person who did this. I want to tear his heart out with my bare hands and squeeze it into a bloody pulp.
My fantasy of mushy heart muscle squeezing through my fingers as blood drips to the ground is unsatisfactorily interrupted. Dr. Nathan Perlman leans over the boy’s hand with a pair of tweezers and carefully plucks out a piece of dark red thread snagged on a fingernail. It gets tucked away safely in a clear plastic evidence bag for future analysis. Realizing my hands are still fisted from my little fantasy, I release them, trying not to look like the vengeful murderer I momentarily wish I were.
Nathan looks up at me and says, “I’m ready to move the body. Can you step back?”
“Sure.” I remove myself from the body, giving room for the Medical Examiner and his assistant to hoist it onto the gurney.
While the men are in mid-lift, I take the opportunity to examine the boy’s underside. With one hand squashing my hat to my head, I lean over until my hair drags on the asphalt. “Great Plane of Fire!”
Nathan’s assistant stumbles at my exclamation and drops the boy’s leg.
Nathan’s fury overflows. “Holy shit, Patrick! Hasn’t this boy been through enough?”
Four hands jostle the body until they manage to get it on the gurney.
Nathan’s foul mood and abuse of Patrick is unusual. His typically jovial face is soured, and his smile lines twist in the wrong direction. My chest tightens at the pained look on Patrick’s face. My heart goes out to both of them, really. I can feel the anger and pain rolling off Nathan. Patrick feels empathy for the boy and anxiety at having made a mistake on the job. I push their pains aside to focus on the matter at hand. Dealing with my own emotions is enough. Luckily I can’t feel everyone’s emotions all the time, just the stronger ones—unless I open up my sixth sense, that is. Then I feel it all.
Chapter 66: Hoping
Jack Tanner, June 4, 2022, Red Ages
I pace back and forth in the lobby of the surgery ward while strangers try to piece Blue back together. I’ve seen a lot of carnage in my life, much worse than yesterday, but nothing has ever affected me so much as seeing Blue’s skin missing and the insides of her flesh exposed with bone and sinew in clear view. I’d give her my own skin to heal her wounds if I could.
I pull my hands away from my head when I realize not only am I running my fingers through my hair, but I’m actually tugging on it and pulling some out. I tuck my fingers in my trouser pockets.
Strangers with no idea how important Blue is to the supernatural breeds and to all humanity are putting her back together as though she’s just another person. Strangers who have no understanding of how my life would rip apart. They would lose two souls if they lost one.
I stand before the window. I vow if she dies on that table, I will hunt down each person in that room and rip them to pieces.
I feel a gentle hand on my arm. I turn and see Maud looking at me with grieving, pale green eyes and her wide lips pinched.
“Any word?” she asks.
I put my hand on her shoulder. “Not yet. They just started.”
She turns away from me and sits in one of the upholstered waiting room chairs, wrapping a paisley shawl tightly around her shoulders, looking small and frail and all of her age. Her blue hair has faded to a light pastel color, her nail polish is chipped, and her dress wrinkled. I know her disarray is a measure of her love for Blue. I sit next to her and look at my hands. A few strands of my hair are still stuck to my fingers. I gently pull them off and watch them float to the floor. We must be quite a sight, the two of us.
The hours pass and still we sit together, silently, side-by-side, watching the doorway, waiting for word. A white clock hangs on the far end of the room against a beige wall with stark, black hands ticking interminably forward. Along the wall I’m facing, the paint is old and chipped along the rubber baseboards, three and a quarter inches from the right corner. The floor is made of green and blue speckled linoleum tiles. The third, seventeenth, and fifty-fourth tiles have chips in them and need replacing. I trace their outlines with my eyes, listening to the faint sound of the clock ticking over the much louder sound of Maud’s breathing and her rapidly beating heart. Maud smells of roses and lilacs, overlaying the tangy smell of her thinning blood.
As I begin to count the freckles on Maud’s arm for the third time, Alexis comes rushing in. “No word yet?” she asks, out of breath.
JB: Those are both meaty excerpts – suspenseful samples that effectively demonstrate the two different perspectives.
Do you play favorites between writing as Blue versus writing as Jack?
LA: No. I enjoy Blue and Jack equally. However, I do have favorite side characters. Maud is my favorite because she is who I want to be when I get older. Many readers have said the same. Beyond her, I think I would prefer to be friends with Alexis more than Rubalia, but I enjoy writing Rubalia more. Rubalia is the uptight Special Assistant / Office Manager / Research Guru. She is always scolding Blue and keeping everyone in line. But her heart is golden. She is just extremely professional and work oriented. It is so fun to coax her into a smile.
JB: I think we all have met a person like Rubalia – hard exterior, marshmallow interior.
Besides the Bluebell Kildare series, what else are you cooking up? Any writing projects simmering on the back burner?
LA: I have a number of projects in mind after this series. Each different book or series will be designed to highlight a different social issue that we, as a society, face in reality. But I expect each to be ensconced in a fun fiction story. My aim is to produce thought-provoking books that are palatable to the widest audience possible. I want fun, but I want something meatier than just fluff.
JB: Given the success of your first book, it’s clear you’re well on your way to attracting the attention of mainstream readers worldwide.
Have specific personal experiences inspired the societal commentaries found in your fiction?
LA: I’m afraid I have no personal gut-wrenching stories. I just am a middle class American who comes from strong blue collar roots and I empathize with the struggle people are going through. In addition to addressing prejudice and discrimination in this book, I’d like to cover environmental issues, overpopulation, corporate greed and misuse of power. There are so many issues that plague our society and I’m interested in them all. I’ve done quite a bit of personal research on the many facets of these issues and I’d like to share some of that information and those learnings with the world at large, in an easy to understand way.
When thinking about my life and how I can possibly help this world in the most efficient way, it seems to me that spreading knowledge and illuminating minds would have the most impact. It is a goal worthy of the book title The Light Who Shines. (smile)
JB: Lofty aspirations – since you’ve already established common ground with your readers, I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before your influence broadens its reach.
One last question lingers in my mind…if you were a teacher who chose to include The Light Who Shines in your students’ curriculum, what essay question would you require them to answer for their final exam?
LA: If I were to pick an essay question it would be: “Describe how prejudice and discrimination negatively impacts minority individuals, non-minority individuals, families, and society as a whole in The Light Who Shines.”
JB: I give you an A+ for that thought-provoking question!
Lilo, I cannot thank you enough for your time. I was already anticipating The Light Who Shines, but I think I’ll start reading it tonight, instead of waiting any longer to immerse myself into the intriguing world you’ve envisioned. Best of luck with Book 2 – your fans are waiting with bated breath. Please let us all know as soon as you have a release date. 🙂
LA: Jane, this is such a fun method of interview and your questions have been super intriguing. It has been my pleasure and I hope you enjoy The Light Who Shines.
JB: Happy to hear it! I’m looking forward to getting acquainted with your brand of literary entertainment.
If you enjoyed the excerpt, don’t miss your chance to win a free ebook copy of The Light Who Shines. What must you do to win? Leave a comment at the end of this interview (scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page where it says, “Leave a Reply”), and then cross your fingers. I will announce the name of one randomly-chosen winner on Wednesday, 1/21 at 3 PM EST in a separate blog post.
Best of luck!
I’m currently forty-two, but that could differ depending on what year you read this. Unless some fundamental laws of nature change, I expect that number to only get higher.
I live amidst the Smoky Mountains and can sometimes see the shadows of clouds lying on the mountains from my front porch. I am not yet snobbish enough to call it a veranda, but time will tell. I’m a great believer in the proof being in the pudding. Sometimes my young adult daughter joins me on the veranda…err, porch to admire the view. We enjoy watching the ducks in the pond from across the way.
I started working full time while in high school and haven’t stopped since. My illustrious career began with a smattering of service experiences at various fast-food and restaurant chains, went on to fine jewelry, slipped property management for housing projects, morphed into corporate real estate, then ended up in mergers and acquisitions. Then, if working 40 – 60 hours a week at my day job wasn’t enough, I decided to become a writer.
My home is a modestly sized ranch, recently purchased and still not completely unpacked. The walls are a boring light beige, but they make the perfect backdrop for my brightly colored Gustav Klimt canvas prints. Van Gogh hopes to join Klimt on my walls soon, but right now the brakes on my Cube need to be fixed, and the washer overflows if I place the water level on super-duper high. Priorities, priorities.
More importantly than all of the above, you absolutely must know that my favorite color is purple. Not Barney purple, no offense to Barney, but more of a medium eggplant purple. I like to think of it as a “mature” purple, but deep down I know it is really just purple.
Interview conducted by Jane Bled
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