Ancient Egyptian history has always been fascinating to me. In fact I drive my hubby crazy watching the Mummy and all its sequels and spin offs over and over again. The latest author to visit Lexi’s Author’s Alcove , H. L. Reasby, explores ancient themes in modern times in her debut novel Akhet Sekhmet’s Light: Book One. Her main character Dr. Nicole Salem is torn between love and duty (aren’t we all). The story takes place on a dig outside of Luxor Egypt and does not disappoint the want-to-be Egyptologist or adventurer in us all. Akhet Sekhmet’s Light has been compared to the Amelia Peabody series, which is another book series that I love. Author Heather L. Reasby is soon to become a household name. I want to thank Heather for taking time out of her busy schedule where she is working on her second novel in the Sekhmet series Peret.
1. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I’m not one of those people who knew at an early age that I wanted to write. Sure, I was pretty good at spinning tales for my friends, but in terms of putting words on paper and contemplating it as a viable career path, that didn’t happen until college. My mother suggested that I take a writing workshop for one of my English electives after reading a fan-fiction story I had written about the X-Men.
I was dubious at first, but agreed (mostly to make her happy). Boy, let me tell you, that entire semester was equal halves terror and exhilaration. I had always been a super-shy kid and asking me to get up in front of even a small group and talk was about as welcome as a request that I lop my own hand off, much less to read something I had written. The facilitator, Lois Roma-Deeley, was wonderful and the fact that the rest of the group was also very supportive helped immensely.
By the end of that first semester, I actually looked forward to my chance to get up and ready my weekly piece for the group. My confidence as a writer and a speaker soared and I wound up taking the workshop several times after that and cautiously considering the possibility of doing this for a living!
2. What inspires you to write?
The thought of not writing frankly terrifies me at this point in my life. I love it. It’s difficult, yes, torturous even at times, but when it works, when your characters are talking and the words are flowing – that’s magic. That incredible feeling makes all the hard times and struggles worth it to me.
3. What are your writing habits?
I write for at least 1 hour every day, bringing my laptop to work at my day job so I can write during my breaks. Most weekends, I spend a couple more hours a day writing as well.
Generally, I’m pretty consistent in the volume of work I can put out, averaging 1000-2000 words an hour and that’s how I got through the last couple drafts of Akhet.
One of the things that I’ve learned is that the ability to write and hit a deadline (even if it’s one you’ve set for yourself) is one of the best skills you can develop as a writer.
4. Do you ever suffer from writers block and how do you combat it?
Any writer who claims to never have periods of writer’s block is a liar. We all suffer the affliction at some time in our writing lives. If it lasts more than a day or so, I make myself write something, anything, just go get words on the page and keep in the habit of writing.
5. Congratulations on the publication of your new book AKHET. Can you tell us a little about it?
Akhet is a contemporary fantasy novel that centers on an archeologist named Nicole Salem who discovers that not only are the Ancient Egyptian gods very much real, they are actively working in our modern world. What’s more, the goddess of war, vengeance, and a myriad other aspects, Sekhmet, has chosen Nicole to serve as her avatar (a human who is gifted with a small amount of the goddess’ divine powers and who acts as her proxy in the human world).
During the course of the first novel, she is forced to reexamine her relationships, her habits, and her general beliefs in the face of her new reality. In many ways, it is a superhero origin story as there are many themes that cross between the fantasy and superhero genres such as the proper use of extra-normal abilities, the need to protect friends and loved ones by maintaining a ‘secret identity’ and the concept of the morality involved with these abilities. To borrow a perfect quote from Stan Lee: “with great power comes great responsibility”.
6. I love that you include a glossary at the end of Akhet as well as providing footnotes translating some of the words used in the text. It allows the reading to not only be entertaining but educational as well. Did you have to do a lot of research on ancient Egypt prior to writing AKHET?
I’ve had a minor obsession with Egypt for as long as I could remember. I was always fascinated by it and was intensely curious to learn more about it. Once I got older, I began to read voraciously, devouring everything about Ancient Egypt I could get my hands on, watching every special, and every movie related to it.
7. Was history one of your favorite subjects in school?
Surprisingly, no! I never really found a love of most history until I was an adult. I just didn’t really find the stuff I was being told in school to be very interesting, unfortunately. Part of that, I put down to the fact that most of the history classes from middle school up through the high school level tend to repeat the same periods of history until we’re just sick of hearing about them.
8. AKHET Sekhmet’s Light: Book One has received rave reviews. It is so richly vivid in its detail you feel like you are part the story. How long did it take for you to write this story from conception to birth so to speak?
Oh, goodness… I first came up with the character of NuruSekhmet back around 1995 or 1996 after a trip to Chicago that included a trip to the Field Museum of Natural History. If you’ve never been to the Field, I highly recommend it. It’s a beautiful museum and their Egyptian section is just beautiful. They have lots of interactive portions of it too that really help capture the imagination and make it easier to imagine being in the shoes of the people who lived back then.
From there, Nuru kind of sat on the back burner until around late 2001. My mother had passed away after a long illness and I threw myself into gaming. I fleshed her out a bit more for an online roleplaying game that I was involved with (that’s also how I came to meet my eventual husband, but that’s another story!), but, again, didn’t do much with her in terms of a book character until late 2002.
I started the initial draft of Akhet (which was simply called Sekhmet’s Light and was, I thought, a single book written in the first person from Nicole’s perspective). I managed to complete the manuscript in time for Norwescon 2003 where I participated in the Fairwood Writers Conference where published authors would critique your manuscript and give you feedback. Across the board, I received positive feedback in terms of the concept, pacing and general writing ability, but repeatedly heard that it should be in third-person.
At that point, I went back to the drawing board with it, but it didn’t work out so well until a couple of years ago when it dawned on me: it wasn’t working because I was trying to shoehorn a trilogy into one book and I was attacking the story from the wrong angle altogether! Thanks to my husband’s willingness to play taskmaster and keep me on track throughout the writing process, I got it done and into publishable shape by the end of 2009.
9. What lessons have you learned on your journey to publication that you can pass on to other aspiring authors?
Find people that you can trust, have them read your work, and give serious consideration to their comments! Seriously, if not for the efforts of my husband, Garth, and my friend and fellow writer, Ren Cummins, Akhet would not be the book it is now. A good proofreader’s job is to keep you honest and it’s our responsibility as writers to heed their advice. Now, that’s not to say that you must take every suggestion that you receive, but you should at least consider them and have reasons for leaving them if you choose to do so.
Also, I highly recommend getting into a good writer’s workshop like those offered by community colleges. They’re usually reasonably priced, and they can gain you an exposure to other writing styles that you might not normally get, plus if it follows a format similar to the ones I’ve taken, it will help you get over what terrors you might have regarding public speaking.
10. Do you have an agent?
I do not have an agent.
(Lexi’s note after reading the first few chapters of your book I don’t think it will be long before the publishing world will be knocking on your door.)
11. Many authors are choosing to publish their novels independently versus waiting for a traditional publishing contract. Do you think this is the wave of the future? Which route did you choose and why?
I chose to go the self-publishing route for several reasons. One of the things that Mrs. Roma-Deeley stressed to us during the writing workshops is the idea that editors and publishers are far from infallible. They’re people just like us and they have good days and bad days. They may reject a fine piece of writing out of hand because they’re angry about something else and need something to vent that on.
The idea that ‘traditional publishers’ are the only way to find good writing is just wrong, as much as they would like us to think otherwise. I’ve read plenty of junk that came out from large publishing houses like Tor and Penguin. One classic example was when I was browsing the shelves at my local Barnes & Noble and found a book about a farm boy who finds a ring of great evil and who must travel with a band of adventurers to the one place it can be destroyed… and no, it was not the Lord of the Rings! I don’t even remember the title or the author now, but I remember being incensed that crap like that could make it to the shelves while I got rejection letter after rejection letter.
I do believe that independent publishing is the wave of the future and that it’s not going to just go away like the traditional publishers wish that it would and here’s why: Authors retain control over their work. Authors set the prices for their books. Authors receive all of the royalties generated by the books which is a larger percentage (and at a faster turn-around to pay out) than with traditional publishing.
If someone purchases a copy of Akhet on Kindle, my cut is 70% of the price. With traditional publishing, if they even offer digital rights, it’s significantly less money-making it back into the pocket of the person who put their blood, sweat and tears into crafting the novel.
The best advocate for independent publishing that I know of is Michael Stackpole. He’s been in the business for over 20 years and has written in some of the most coveted intellectual property in modern history, Star Wars. He’s been on both sides of the fence and now ardently supports independent publishing. If you want to read his thoughts, you should check out his blog at www.stormwolf.com.
12. Who are your favorite authors and what are you reading now?
The previously mentioned Michael Stackpole tops my list of favorite authors, hands down. I know that whenever I pick up one of his novels, I will be in for a great story with characters that I will both love and hate.
Other favorites include Stephen King, David Dalglish, and Janet Evanovich.
(Lexi’s note: I love Janet Evanovich as well.)
13. What advice would you give other aspiring writers?
Keep writing. It’s going to be hard. There will be tears. There might even be some blood… but it’s worth it in the end. There’s nothing like the feeling of holding that first proof copy of your first novel, and there’s no drug that can compare to the high you get when you see that first positive review. If you want to write, keep at it.
14. What are you working on now?
I am working on a stripped down and completely reworked draft of Peret, book two of the Sekhmet’s Light trilogy… which will hopefully keep some of my readers from staging a siege on my house until it’s done! My goal is to have this draft done by the end of the year.
15. Many people criticize the work completed during National Novel Writing Month as useless drivel best left unwritten. Having recently completed NaNoWriMo what do you think of the program?
I don’t think that anyone comes out of NaNoWriMo with any illusion that what they produced during that month can be published immediately… and if you did, for god’s sake get that notion out of your head! There’s no such animal as a ‘perfect first draft’. They’re mythical creatures that lead fine authors to wonder if they should even bother because their work needs revision. I think that when used properly, that is to develop the discipline of writing each day, that NaNo can be a very positive thing. And that’s something I will stress to people who participated that might not have reached the 50k mark; even if you didn’t reach the goal, if you’ve written every day, or even most days, you’re already on your way to being the sort of writer who can produce books and become successful.
It is a season of waning and little is certain. Akhet, The Inundation. The world is changing, Gods of old stir, and their agents work behind the scenes to fulfill their masters’ commands. Who will have the courage to stand for The Light when darkness rises to swallow the world? Doctor Nicole Salem is a beautiful and brilliant Egyptologist who is working on a dig outside Luxor, Egypt when she is confronted by her own destiny. She is plunged into a world of divided loyalties, intrigue, and treachery that will destroy her and everything she knows if she isn’t strong enough. Nicole must learn how to survive in a war between elder powers that claim her life and soul as their own, and earn the title of Sekhmet’s Light.
- Egypt: A life before the afterlife (guardian.co.uk)
- Ancient Egypt (socyberty.com)
- The Geography of Ancient Egypt (brighthub.com)