LANA HART: THE BEJEWELED BOTTLE IS A CRAZY, SCARY, MYSTERIOUS AND ROMANTIC ADVENTURE
Posted by Ognian Georgiev
The third part of Curious Collectibles series, The Bejeweled Bottle by Lana Hart was released at the end of September. The novel follows the success of the two previous books. With an average 4.4 Amazon stars from 16 reviews the fresh title is the main theme of our next conversation. It was a real pleasure to get such interesting and deep answers to all Land of Books’s questions.
Dear friends, let me introduce you the charming lady Lana Hart.
– Lana, what is your book The Bejeweled Bottle about?
– The Bejeweled Bottle is a crazy, scary, mysterious, and romantic adventure through time and space that takes us to ancient Egypt and the ill-fated Titanic. When Nikki Brewer, our intrepid hero, unwittingly purchases a cursed bottle from Mrs. Clathermont’s Curious Collectibles antique store, she has no idea she’ll end up meeting a djinni—or that she’ll fall in love with him. Nor does Nikki realize the danger that puts her in.
– How did you decide to write the Curious Collectibles series?
– I’ve long been inspired by media that’s about creepy New England towns. Washington Irving’s Sleepy Hollow, H.P. Lovecraft’s Innsmouth, Ragnar Tørnquist’s Kingsmouth and Savage Coast, John Saul’s Blackstone, almost anything by Stephen King—they’ve all been significant influences on me for as long as I can remember. I wanted to write something that explored a small town as it slowly devolved from a quaint tourist attraction into a hive for all things dark and macabre, and then I wanted to add a twist: the theme of true love. Part of that is probably inspired by the TV series Once Upon a Time. I just think when there’s romance involved, the stakes are always higher. And who doesn’t like a little romance?
– What was the biggest challenge during the write up process?
– It was definitely a lot of research. I knew a lot about ancient Egypt already—I’ve been obsessed with it since elementary school. I even have the Nile River, the pyramids, and the god Anubis tattooed on my right arm! But I needed to know some specifics so that I could make Sef’s backstory believable and do justice to this amazing era in our world’s history, and I quickly found that we don’t know as much about ancient Egypt as most people might think we do. A lot of it is educated guesswork. We’re missing a lot of records from that time, and so important figures, like Queen Nefertiti, simply drop out of history without an explanation as to why. That’s where I took most of my creative licenses.
On top of that, I read a lot of literature about the Titanic and watched several documentaries on the subject so that I could get a feel for how life aboard the ship would have been. The White Star Line didn’t take many pictures of Titanic prior to her maiden voyage, because she was “unsinkable” and they didn’t think they needed to. Most of the pictures we have are actually from her sister ship, the Olympic. And researching Edwardian culture too, and how that would have affected an educated, assertive black woman like Nikki traveling in first class, was a very long and involved process.
Totally worth it, though.
– Tell us something more about your main characters Sef and Nikki? Are they close to someone from your real life?
– There was no one person. My characters are always an amalgamation of many different people I’ve loved and not-so-loved, as well as ideas and themes I want to explore.
I’ve always been the kind of girl who’s attracted very strongly to intellect and curiosity. I think knowledge is the ultimate power, and so Sef is the embodiment of that. He’s immortal, and he’s had the opportunity to actually live through so much of history. He’s sort of like the Doctor from Doctor Who. Tennant and Eccleston’s versions, not Matt Smith’s or Capaldi’s. But he was also so consumed by his past failure that it prevented him from taking advantage of his immortality and the opportunity to learn and observe, and Nikki calls him on that more than once.
Nikki was originally a secondary character in The Spellbound Spirit, which is the second book in the series. I was interested in exploring the idea of “moving forward” and the lack of respect I’ve seen from a lot of my peers when it comes to history, but in a way that was more meaningful than “those darn Millennials.” Nikki has reasons for not wanting to look back. Viola Davis recently said “memories have teeth,” and that’s especially true for Nikki. And I wanted to tell a story from a diverse point of view, one that I don’t think we see a lot (or as much as we should) in works of horror and fantasy, and I just hope that I did her justice in that way.
– How much time did you need to finish the story and to publish it?
– I first conceived of The Bejeweled Bottle as an idea before I even finished The Spellbound Spirit, so I’d say in May of 2014, I knew where I was headed next. But life kept getting in the way, and I didn’t seriously sit down and start banging out page after page of it until summer 2015, so it definitely took over a year. Self-published authors are expected to publish frequently, but me, I really need to let an idea stew and fully form before I’m comfortable bringing it to life. I want to bring my readers the best story possible, so if it takes a little longer, that’s okay with me.
– What the readers will find in the first two parts of the series The Magic Mirror and The Spellbound Spirit?
– Oh, man, they’ll find so much!
The Magic Mirror is an optional, but totally free, prequel to the rest of the series. It covers the real start of magic returning to Sanctum Harbor and sets readers up for a conflict they’ll see resolved in The Spellbound Spirit. At heart, it’s a haunted house story. It’s very heavy on horror and paranormal elements, so if you like to be scared or disturbed, I think you’ll enjoy it.
The Spellbound Spirit has it all: romance, magic, mystery, murder, ghosts… it’s a smorgasbord of action and adventure. Readers will get to meet Misty Ryder, whose lack of momentum in life is making her feel claustrophobic. So I guess it’s only fitting that she ends up buying a cursed object that constricts her and forces her to start changing her circumstances. And on top of that, she’s solving a murder mystery, dealing with an unrequited love, and realizing that the things she always feared under her bed are actually real. So I mean, tons of stuff!
– Who are you?
– It’s so funny that these are always the hardest questions…
I’d say I’m an extremely passionate person who is so fascinated by the world that she just can’t help but share that with everyone around her. And if I can scare the hell out of people while doing it, then that’s a bonus.
– What are your writing habits?
– I read a lot, and I watch TV a lot, and I play a lot of tabletop games and video games. Believe it or not, those are writing habits. I take in everything around me and ask myself things like, “Why am I enjoying this?” “What about this works?” “What about it doesn’t?” “How could I have taken this idea and made it work?” I can always be better, and learning about what others are doing and how it’s resonating with their audiences is a huge part of my process.
For the actual writing, I have to have absolute silence, the only exception being either a repetitive, instrumental song and/or rain. I need to be able to get into a zone to feel satisfied with painting a scene, and I can’t do that if the TV is on or if I’m listening to the radio. Focus is very important to me.
– Are you satisfied by the sales of your books?
– I think every author wishes they were a little more popular! I definitely do. I know what I’m doing is way different than what’s out there right now. If we went back a few decades, my books would probably be classified as “Weird Fiction.” I’m not so much worried about the sales as I have the desire to reach people. I want my work to change somebody’s life, to inspire them, to shock them, to make them feel something. So I guess the answer to the question is “yes,” but it comes from a place of really wanting to connect with an audience and affect people.
– What are you doing to promote your book by the best possible way?
– I invested some money in Facebook ads. If any indie authors out there are reading this, they’re very important. There doesn’t seem to be a comprehensive guide out there to them, but fiddle around with them a bit and you should get it. Think outside the box. They can drive a lot of traffic to your books.
I also offered the books for free—yes, the whole series!—just to get some people interested in reading them. And based on reader response, I’ll definitely do that again. The Bejeweled Bottle climbed pretty high in Amazon’s free store, and I’d like to think most people who downloaded it enjoyed it, because I didn’t receive many complaints. I think at this stage, for me, promoting is about getting my books in people’s hands, rather than making a lot of money from them.
The last thing I did was start a newsletter and a patreon, where readers can, for $1 per month, get a short story about one of Mrs. Clathermont’s cursed objects. This month’s object is The Music Box, which we see a little of in The Bejeweled Bottle. So I’m hoping that’s an attractive offer for readers who are just dying to know more about the series and dive deeper into the world of Sanctum Harbor.
– When we will see your next novel and would you unveil something more about it?
– I’m actually taking a break from the series to write another one called Thorns. It’s about a woman who happens to be the descendant of Briar Rose, and she’s also part of a secret society dedicated to fighting, containing, and neutralizing paranormal threats. When a shifter named Jareth Grimm walks into her life, she thinks her mission will be easy, but it quickly turns more complicated and she’s forced to face an ancient foe, one that has haunted her bloodline for centuries. It’s going to be heavy on fantasy and magic, with some Arthurian legend packed in there for good measure, as well as an exploration of different ancient cultures like the Picts and the Celts, the Norse, and the Greeks.
Hopefully the first book in that series will be out around Christmastime, and the next book in the Curious Collectibles series will be out at the end of June 2016. That book’s called The Cursed Key and I can’t say much about it just yet, except that we’ll be following the story of a Roma girl and a shapeshifter as they battle against some very scary faeries.
– You are fan of D&D! Would you rate your top 3 computer games or table RPG based on D&D?
– I am a fan of D&D! I love it. And since you opened the door, I’m gonna make a top 3 list for both video games and tabletops.
For video games: The Quest for Glory series (particularly, Shadows of Darkness), The Secret World, and a tie between Mass Effect and The Longest Journey.
For tabletop games (besides D&D): World of Darkness, Call of Cthulhu, and Shadowrun.
All of the above have been huge influences on my writing.
– If you may ask yourself one question in the interview what it will be?
– I guess I’d ask myself, “Why do you write? Why is this so important to you?”
And the answer would be that never, in my entire life, did I see myself doing anything else. I was built for this. This is my passion, one of the reasons I get up in the morning. I can’t not write—believe me, for a while there, I tried. But then I’m watching the news, or reading a book, and I’m like, “What would have happened if…” and then I’m done. I can’t stop. The ideas are there, and they won’t let go, and I have to put them on paper. I identify with George Orwell’s quote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” But I’d also add, there is no greater ecstasy for me in life than being a writer and having the ability to create these stories. I really am very lucky and privileged to be able to do this.
Take a look at her books: