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Advice from IRDA Winning Author L.J. Engelmeier: “Your story is an engine. Learn to be a mechanic first, artist second.”


Indie Reader Discovery Award

A Shard of Sea & Bone was the winner in the Fantasy category of the 2019 IndieReader Discovery Awards, where undiscovered talent meets people with the power to make a difference.

Following find an interview with author L.J. Engelmeier.

What is the name of the book and when was it published?

A Shard of Sea & Bone; January 2019. A previous version was published in 2018.

What’s the book’s first line?

“The last thing Magnus Prendergast expected to find while out checking on his winter wheat fields this morning was a dead body.”

What’s the book about? Give us the “pitch.”

When three deities of the multiverse are found murdered—eyes gouged, hearts ripped out, souls stolen—a ragtag crew must band together to solve the mystery. But something darker than they ever imagined is at work in the multiverse, and now, they’re all in its path.

What inspired you to write the book? A particular person? An event? 

The multiverse—called the Infinity—and its pivotal characters were created by me and two friends of mine as kids. We wrote short stories and drew pictures for each other, crafting this elaborate multiverse over several years. After a time, I decided to pull cohesive threads from it and rework them into this novel and the novels that will follow.

What’s the most distinctive thing about the main character? Who-real or fictional-would you say the character reminds you of?

There are seven main characters/alternating points of view, but I would consider Artysaedra the “main” character. She’s a princess, but she prefers her role as a soldier, though she’s hotheaded and bloodthirsty at best. I’d say the most distinctive thing about her is a toss up between her whiskey habit, her scythe, and her inability to shut up. You tell me who that resembles. I honestly don’t know.

What’s the main reason someone should really read this book?

This book is going to be different from what you’ve read before. It’s a murder mystery, but in a high fantasy setting. It takes place in a multiverse. It has several fantasy languages. There are main characters of color. The main cast is also predominantly LGBT+.

When did you first decide to become an author?

I didn’t decide to become an author until I was fourteen or fifteen. I despised English growing up. I was a science/math kid. Now, I’m an MFA student. Who knew?

Is this the first you’ve written?

It’s the first novel I’ve published (but not near the first novel I’ve written). I’ve published short stories as well, which have homes in traditional magazines.

What do you do for work when you’re not writing?

I’m a full-time MFA student, which requires taking writing classes and teaching freshman composition at the university. On the weekends, I’m a jeweler.

What’s a great piece of advice that you can share with fellow indie authors?

Your story is an engine. Learn to be a mechanic first, artist second.

Also, don’t let anyone belittle you. I’m in a university program, where I spend a good chunk of my time navigating prejudice because I’m a woman and especially because I’m a woman who writes genre. Tell the world where it can stuff it sometimes, hold your head up, and write.

Is there something in particular that motivates you?

Spite. Pure spite. Also I just like spending time with my characters.

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