I am simultaneously thrilled and embarrassed to share today’s post. The thrilled part comes from the fact that fellow author Jeanette Mbewe has just released the third and final book in her Hidden Dagger fantasy trilogy, Curse Bound. Jeanette is such a warm-hearted, cheerful, and talented person, skilled as both a writer and visual artist.
She’s had quite an impressive run with her series so far. Her debut novel, Secrets Kept, was nominated for the 2014 Clive Staples Award. Her second novel, Darkened Hope was a semi-finalist for the 2017 Alliance Award.
But the biggest thing I’m excited about is just to pick her brain about and get a window into her creative process and imagination and for more people to get the chance to know her.
So now for the embarrassing part. This interview was finished some time ago and was supposed to go up July 11th as part of the book launch. And it TOTALLY slipped my mind. I should have scheduled it before I went on vacation. But I’ve been in a bit of a tailspin both leading up to and coming back from my vacation and I just dropped the ball.
Sorry, Jeanette! But gracious person that she is, she’s forgiven me and allowed me to post it late.
I do hope you enjoy this and that you’ll check out her series!
And now without further delay, welcome, Jeanette!
Thank you so much for having me!
So, first off, could you give just a quick summary of your series so far. When did the first book come out, the second, etc. and also what’s the main arc, what’s the series about, how did it get started? Sorry, I know that was like four questions in one to start off!
Those are a lot of questions! And one could go into a long post about them, but I’ll do my best to keep it short. Ha! The first book, Secrets Kept, came out in the fall of 2013 with a small press, but we went our separate ways soon after, and I republished it in 2015 under my own imprint, BrokenSeed Books. Darkened Hope was published in the spring of 2016. And now here we are, finally, seeing the epic conclusion this summer of 2019.
As to how it all began…Back in 2003, I sat down to write a book that would illustrate my journey to freedom. An allegory of overcoming the lies that bind us, but the story grew and became its own journey. A journey of a young half-elf who discovers her father is a guardian of the corrupted dagger, loses everything, gets swept up in a quest to save her mother’s people from the Sorceress’s curse, and learns to stand up for herself.
It’s been a while since the last release. What have you been up to as a writer and just with life in general during that time?
That, my friend, is a loaded question. Ha! I went through a very dark time. Life hit me hard, deep in the core of my beliefs, who I thought I was, who I thought God had called me to be. It shattered me, my dreams. I ALMOST walked away from writing. Although, there were some bright spots such as going to the writer’s conference in 2017 and I finished coloring a graphic novel for a publisher, something I loved and hope to do again. I started working fulltime in January of 2017, which cut my writing time severely and my headspace to think beyond the necessities. I started waking up an hour earlier in the morning to work on Curse Bound before I had to get ready for work and get the kids up for school. I went dark on social media, because with one hour, five days a week devoted to writing, I couldn’t manage much else at the time. Probably, some of that had to do with the state of my mind during that time as well. Then in Sept/Oct of 2018 we sold our home and moved six hours away. I’ve been scrambling to finish the book before I have to go back to work again, or whatever it is that will happen. I am at better place than I was three years ago, but I still don’t have the answers.
I can very much relate. I think people outside of writing think every author’s story is like JK Rowling’s. But it can be tough out there and sometimes the valleys are so deep you feel like you’ll never get out. I’m so glad you’re back writing though. So, back to the world of Nalu. You’ve done a lot of work on it, haven’t you? What’s that process been like and what are some of the things that make it special?
Yes, a lot of work. When I started, I had no clue what I was doing. I felt like I was plowing dirt with my head, learning so many things the hard way. I’ve done a lot of rewrites to help flesh out the world. I did a TON of research, trying to base the advancement of technology on what our world had around the 1500’s or so. I drew a bunch of maps, trying to figure out where everything was, how far everything was from each other, and how it would influence their travel, the weather patterns, and climates. What each culture would look like, taking into consideration their commerce, textiles, crops, what they would have available to them, etc. I might have gotten a little carried away. During the rewrites, I would find a problem or a question would come up and I’d stop to research it and brainstorm a solution. So building the world of Nälu was a slow process, taking two steps forward, one step back, over the course of ten years.
I think the cultures and how it influences the characters are what makes Nälu special. But that could be because I love learning about other cultures. The world around us contains so much beauty and wonderful, amazing sights that we never get to experience for ourselves, contrasted, of course, with the darkness in the world around us. But hopefully, the beauty and wonder can shine out evermore brightly because of that. I hope the reader enjoys the adventure, the experience, the sights, and the flavors Nälu brings to the epic fantasy genre.
Wow, 10 years! You have put even more work than I thought into building the world for this series. With this new book, (which has a great cover by the way!) what are you most excited and/or pleased about?
Thank you!! I am so glad you like the cover. While I was putting it together, I had my doubts! I even tried to scrap it and start over with a different slant and my son was like, um, no. Ha!! Wisdom of a ten year old, eh?
This story. Oh my goodness. As I’ve polished this story, I’ve gotten so excited about seeing it finally come together. Seeing the events that were set in motion in Secrets Kept—no, not just in the first book, but in the short stories—come to completion is soooooo satisfying. How the characters grow and overcome throughout the trilogy, aside from those who don’t. Not naming any names, you know. Ha! There are scenes that I cannot wait for readers to read.
Yes, it’s so great to be able reveal all these secrets you’ve kept, eh? No pun intended, ha ha. So in what ways have you grown as a writer on this project?
I know I have grown, but to actually point out where I’ve grown is hard. Due to working fulltime for almost two years, I feel like I’ve learned how to manage my time better. I can’t believe the projects I’ve finished this year already! As far as craft goes…I…don’t know. Honestly, I feel like I’ve gotten worse!
Oh, don’t be so hard on yourself. I know I do that a lot. Maybe it just means we have high standards! Continuing on the subject of writing, what do you see as the larger purpose for your writing? What motivates you to put in all the work it takes to see a novel come into the world?
With Curse Bound specifically, it was my commitment to my readers. I would not leave them hanging. I was determined to finish what I’ve started. So even though my dreams were shattered and I was willing to lay down my writing for good, I had to finish this story. I will always write, whether it be for the public’s eyes or not. It is how I process my thoughts and feelings. On the other hand, I have such a deep desire to be able to do for others what books have done for me. To encourage, entertain, and inspire.
I actually had a similar experience with my first trilogy. I had to finish the story because it deserved to be finished and I knew I couldn’t not tell it. Okay, slightly off topic. Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what sorts of things, and what were some of your favorites for Curse Bound?
When I first began, I did. years ago. I’d listened to soundtracks without words from movies such as the Lord of the Rings, the Pirates of the Caribbean, and Narnia.
No way, me too! Those exact same soundtracks!
As time went on and for various reasons, I began to write in silence for the most part. I’ve come to prefer silence, since I seemed to waste too much time on finding the right song and what not. Haha! Although, I’ll tell you something kind of cool. When I was first writing the trilogy, when all three books were one and fit into a plastic folder with brads, the song Grace Like Rain by Todd Agnew was on repeat for what would have been the final epic battle. When I was polishing up the final part of Darkened Hope, the song Broken by Lighthouse was on repeat, which I revisited a few times while polishing up Curse Bound. I really feel like that is Kael’s song. Of course, my characters would have songs, not the books themselves. Ha! In the early stages of writing Curse Bound, I listened to music from the likes of Two Steps from Hell and Audiomachine’s Tree of Life album. But mostly, if I listened to anything at all, I listened to a rain track as I tried to drown out the world around me, because my hubby and I share an office, in our bedroom now.
I like Audiomachine as well. Finally, last question: finish this sentence. “If a reader gets Curse Bound and loves it, the best way they could show their appreciation would be…”
However they’d like! Ha! Although, I would love to hear about it. It is so encouraging to hear how readers have loved my stories. And tell others! Write a review so others can see if this story is something they might like.
Thank you so much for having me, DJ! I enjoyed your questions!
Curse Bound info
Thank you, Jeanette, and thanks for being so understanding about my slip up!
Those were great answers. I love hearing the story behind the story.
Now, post haste, everyone should go check out her book on Amazon:
Or, if you’d like to find out more about Jeanette and her world of Nalu and her crazy life raising a family and writing novels, hope over to the social media venue of your choosing:
Thanks for stopping by.