Happy 4th of July! If you’re in the US, you’re probably eating hot dogs, hamburgers, bbq, or perhaps some soy impersonation of them with friends and family before enjoying a colorful display of high explosives. For those of you not in the US and might not be familiar, the 4th marks American independence from the British. And what finer way to celebrate than to invite a Brit into the pub? AFE Smith is one of my fellow Harper Voyager open submission selectees. In fact, it’s in no small part from her hard work that many of those selectees (most of whom you’ll see listed on my links list) are now friends. As such, it’s my pleasure to have AFE for a visit promoting her debut novel, Darkhaven. It’s a fantasy novel with shapeshifting, mystery, intrigue, AND flying unicorns. That’s right, I said flying unicorns. We shall not at this time however delve into whether they are pegacorns or unisuses. As part of this tour, she has a lot of giveaways happening. You can, and should, check out the tour here. And if you’d like to get a free copy of Darkhaven, as well as some other nifty stuff, here’s her Rafflecopter giveaway.
For her visit, AFE is here to talk about how she came to not only accept who she is (and what she loves) but to be proud of it, and frankly, that’s a story that can never be told enough.
Love what you love
Let me tell you a story.
Maybe 15 or 20 years ago, when I was a young teenager, I was … well, pretty much the same as I am now. Quiet*, shy, a voracious reader, into fantasy novels and sci-fi movies and going to the library on a Saturday morning. The only difference was, I was ashamed of being those things. I used to creep around the fantasy section of my local bookshop with one eye constantly on the door, just in case someone I knew came in and saw me. Yet now I’m a fantasy author who wrote a book about love and murder and flying unicorns, and I’m not in the least ashamed. Because it’s awesome.
So what changed?
Well, for me it was threefold. Partly it was getting a bit older, moving from school to university, and discovering that no one judged me anymore; the cool kids read fantasy too. Partly (though this may sound silly) it was the first Lord of the Rings movie, which came out around the same time – because it was a wild success, and everyone was watching it, and that meant it wasn’t weird to like fantasy after all. And partly, it was the internet.
I kind of wish the internet had already been mainstream when I was growing up, because one wonderful thing it does is allow people with similar interests to come together. I never even had an email address until I went to university. I’d barely ever used the internet before.** But once I found online communities, I suddenly had a way to know I wasn’t alone. Whatever you love, someone else loves it too.
(As an aside, if I’d had internet access in the 90s I would totally have been a fanfic writer. Actually, I was a fanfic writer – privately, on paper.*** But I’d already stopped writing fics by the time I got online. Which is a little bit sad, because I never got to experience that particular community.)
Then, of course, geeking out over stuff – being enthusiastic about something – became cool. But I’m happy to say that by that point, I no longer cared what anyone thought. Thank goodness. Took me long enough.
The point of this story, quite aside from don’t be as wimpy as me, is never let anyone make you feel ashamed of your passions. Love what you love, and be proud – whether it’s building robots or collecting obscure varieties of tea or dressing up as a different anime character every weekend. It took me maybe ten years to go from being ashamed of what I love to being proud of it (and, you know, even making a living out of it. Maybe. Fingers crossed. If this book takes off). It shouldn’t take that long. It shouldn’t take any time at all. Own it.
*If my best school friend is reading this, she’d probably argue with that assessment. But then, even the quietest person needs someone to be noisy with.
**Yes, at the turn of the century it was possible for someone to reach the age of 18 without knowing anything about the internet. Crazy, I know.
***I’m sure you’re longing to know what I wrote fics for, so I’ll tell you this: the first fic I ever wrote was for the Ace Ventura movies. Remember those, with Jim Carrey? And yes, I know that’s weird. And no, you can’t read it.
Ayla Nightshade never wanted to rule Darkhaven. But her half-brother Myrren – true heir to the throne – hasn’t inherited their family gift, forcing her to take his place.
When this gift leads to Ayla being accused of killing her father, Myrren is the only one to believe her innocent. Does something more sinister than the power to shapeshift lie at the heart of the Nightshade family line?
Now on the run, Ayla must fight to clear her name if she is ever to wear the crown she never wanted and be allowed to return to the home she has always loved.
A.F.E. Smith is an editor of academic texts by day and a fantasy writer by night. So far, she hasn’t mixed up the two. She lives with her husband and their two young children in a house that someone built to be as creaky as possible – getting to bed without waking the baby is like crossing a nightingale floor. Though she doesn’t have much spare time, she makes space for reading, mainly by not getting enough sleep (she’s powered by chocolate). Her physical bookshelves were stacked two deep long ago, so now she’s busy filling up her e-reader.
What A.F.E. stands for is a closely guarded secret, but you might get it out of her if you offer her enough snacks.