Tru Darling is a Sparkler. She didn’t choose to be almost electrocuted, inherit otherworldly powers, and fall for the hottest evil guy in St. Louis—but that’s exactly what happened. Her power to see true love spark in the eyes of strangers, to watch it flicker with excitement, fuse with its perfect match, or witness it burn out from despair, is a wonderful curse that drains her emotionally and physically. But she can’t afford to be weak while she’s hunting down soul mates, saving others’ faith in love, and contemplating if her hot new boyfriend is her guardian angel or the angel of death. Being a Sparkler may have its perks; enhanced vision, intuition, and physical beauty. But what of the personal costs that come with Tru’s destiny? Constant danger, unbearable pain, and lost souls she just can’t save. Tru must choose between a normal life without love or a birthright that comes with great passion, danger, and responsibility.
The Kindling is the debut novel from author Brandi Schmidt, who also is currently writing erotic fiction under the name of Elle Sharp. I had the privilege of working with Brandi as her content editor at MuseItUp Publishing, so I was very excited to ask her a few questions for one of our Author Spotlights.
AW: Who is your intended audience and why should they read your book?
Brandi: Women between 16 -60, but really anyone who loves a good love story. It’s a sweet romance about true love, best friends and crazy family.
AW: How did you come up with the title for your book/series?
Brandi: I get all of my inspiration from God and the Bible. Most of my stories are given to me and I am thankful for that. I didn’t ever intend to be a writer, but it’s the most amazing thing I have ever done. Sometimes you just have to go with it, have faith and never give up.
AW: Tell us a bit about your cover design? Who designed it and did you have a lot of input into the design?
Brandi: The amazing Suzannah Safi designed my cover. She is the best! With MuseItUp publishing I was able to fill out a questionnaire of what my book was about, what HAD to be on the cover and what my protagonist looked like. I loved the first draft of the cover. I did want the “spark” in her eye brighter and Suzannah did make it brighter. I think the cover is amazing and yes I did cry when I saw it. I ran into the bedroom, woke up my husband and made him come see it. I texted a picture to my mom, too!
AW: How long did it take to complete your novel?
Brandi: It took me 7 months to complete the first draft and 4 years to complete the edits! I was a new writer and had to learn everything about the business and more importantly about myself. It took me 4 years to get published with MuseItUp Publishing. I cried like a baby when I got the e-mail accepting me. I mean, I totally freaked out! I was so happy, that was the best day ever!
AW: Did you ever experience writer’s block? If so, what did you do to get out of the funk?
Brandi: Not really. When I do get stuck on a scene, I take time to just think about it. I will reread the chapter before and get into the heads of my characters. They will show you the way out, you just have to be willing to listen.
AW: Tell us about the challenges of getting your first novel published? About how long did it take?
Brandi: Wow – this could be a book. When I started I thought “hey I’m going to write a book and be like Stephenie Meyer!” Little did I know how hard it was really going to be? It took me 4 year almost to the date to get published. My first drafts were terrible! I am not kidding. My first queries were a joke! After many rejections I took leave from submitting and focused on getting the book in shape and learning as much as I could about the process of publication. I was very uneducated, but that was okay. I needed to learn. I needed to go through it all to make me a better writer. I am grateful for the journey. It if was easy everyone would do it. It takes passion, grit, and a lot of faith to get published. It’s been the best ride of my life.
AW: Who is your favorite character from your book and why?
Brandi: Tru Darling, hands down. She is so funny and real. She isn’t a kick-ass superhero, she is scared and confused. I think her emotions are what any of us feel at one time or another. She didn’t want to be a Sparkler, she didn’t even know if she could do it. The Kindling is her story of growth as a woman and as a reluctant semi-superhero.
AW: Who is your least favorite character and what makes them less appealing to you?
Brandi: I love writing all of them, but if I had to choose it would be Weylin. He is so difficult to write, even though I love him. He holds back so much, even from me. I never know if he is good or bad or both.
AW: If you could change only one thing about your novel, what would it be?
Brandi: Hard question…I love the book. If I had to pick something, I would have made Weylin more likeable (maybe). I kind of like him the way he is, but then again readers don’t seem to like him. But, that makes good drama, so I don’t know. UGH…what is the right way? This is a writer’s life – never knowing if what you are doing is right/wrong or awesome.
AW: Give us an interesting or fun fact about your book/series.
Brandi: Tru’s name. I don’t think most readers figure this out, but it’s Tru Leigh Darling…” Truly Darling.” Cheesy I know, but I love it.
AW: What other books are similar to your own? What makes them alike? Did they inspire you?
Brandi: I love all paranormal romance. Twilight, Black Dagger Brotherhood by J.R. Ward is amazing, The Mortal Instrument by Cassandra Claire. I love contemporary paranormal books, books set in today’s world with supernatural elements. Although I don’t have any vampires/shifters/fairies in The Kindling, there is a new power. Who wouldn’t want to be a supernatural matchmaker?
AW: What made you decide to become an author?
Brandi: Twilight, true story! Love it or hate it, the book series changed my life. I devoured the books in a few days. I was what my husband called a “book zombie.” I stayed up until the wee hours of the night to read. When I finished I actually hugged the book. That’s what I want. I want my readers to love the books so much they hug their kindles/nooks/e-reader/paperback. That would be the greatest complement as an author.
AW: What is the toughest criticism that you have received as an author?
Brandi: Each reader has their own criticisms. Some have said the beginning is too slow, some say it’s just right. What really makes me cringe is when people find mistakes in the book. I worked so hard with my critique group and editors to get it right, but still a spelling error or grammar error happen.
AW: What is the best compliment?
Brandi: Getting a review on Amazon, good or bad, either way someone read it and felt empowered to write a review. That is a great compliment.
AW: Do you have another job or are you a full-time author?
Brandi: Oh yes! I have a full-time job as a Sr. Regulatory Specialist at a local pharmaceutical company. I have a degree in Biomedical Engineering from Washington University in St. Louis. In addition, I own a small business, BB bows, LLC. We make interchangeable hair bows and have two patents on the invention. I am a mother of three, 16, 6, and 3yrs. I also have one fur-baby, a golden retriever. My husband is an engineer too. We have a crazy busy life! I dream of the day I can be a full-time author. I have a plan to get there, if all things work out one year from now I can be a stay-at-home writer. *Fingers crossed*
AW: What can we expect from you in the future? Do you have a new novel or project that you are working on?
Brandi: I am working on the sequel to The Kindling called “The Flame.” It is an amazing book, lots of action and danger. Of course lots of love and sparks flying.
In addition to that, I have started a new series. The first book is “Krossroads.” It is a paranormal erotic romance series with danger and suspense. Bree is a paranormal investigator who meets and falls for Karsten Kross an ex-priest and professional exorcist. Each book will cover a case of demonic possession and the trials they have with each other and a paranormal team bent on destroying them. “Krossroads” will be released this summer so keep a look out!
AW: Do you have any tips for readers or advice for other writers trying to get published?
Brandi: Keep at it! It took me four years to get published. If you love it don’t stop. I highly suggest a good critique group, my group is amazing. They make me a better writer. I also suggest Beta Readers! If you don’t know what that is, look it up and find some. They make your book so much better.
AW: How to you market your book?
Brandi: I made a lot of mistakes marketing my book. I paid a ton of money for reviews and ads, it wasn’t needed and didn’t increase my sales AT ALL. I have a Facebook author page and a private page, www.BrandiSchmidt.com. I am active in many groups and have been to several writing conferences. I joined Romance Writers of America which has open many doors. I have a Twitter account, Pinterest, and Google +. I follow many authors and study what they do. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel; there are successful authors out there. Be real. Be available. You have to put yourself out there so your readers can see who you are and that you care about them.