I'm back with another interview, and today I'm talking to fantasy authors Octavia J. Riley and Nia Rose, the creators of the 'Coven Chronicles' series. I recently had the pleasure of reading the first book, 'Spellbound and Hellhounds', and it really is well worth a read. You can find my Goodreads review of it here.
So, lets meet the authors behind the series!
PB: Hi both! Welcome to pjbermanbooks.com. Tell us a bit about your backgrounds.
OJR: Hello! We’re both glad to be here, but I (Octavia J. Riley) will be doing the writing for the both of us today. It stands to reason Nia’s much busier than I am being a stay-at-home mom of four beautiful children – especially now during this pandemic. She doesn’t seem to grasp the concept of work hard, play hard. She only knows work hard, work harder. Nia was born in Germany on a U.S. Air Force base and also came from a family of four children. She speaks German pretty fluently (if at times the confused faces of everyone in the house are anything to go by) and wants to one day go visit her family in Europe.
As for me, I’m an online college student working toward my BA in English Language & Literature. I keep tossing between the ideas of becoming a professional editor or traveling overseas and teaching English in Japan. I speak and read moderate Japanese right now, and I am an avid fan of their culture, traditions, language and history. I have no children of my own and I plan on keeping it that way (I’m much happier playing resident aunt). I have a severe case of wanderlust and dream of traveling all over the world.
PB: What made you decide to become authors?
OJR: Nia knew ever since she was a child she wanted to become an author. Her imagination was too vast to contain, and her life was too packed full of experiences some of us will never face to not add into her stories. Writing to her is what reading is to readers: an escape. She often tells me that if she doesn’t write, she’s plagued by weird (and sometimes terrible) dreams. She has all these ideas in her head for so many stories, it’s no wonder she can switch between writing two or three at a time.
I was very much the same when I was a kid. I wanted to be an author, but I was told countless times to go for a more practical job. I found a temporary outlet in drawing characters and portraits, but it wasn’t enough. I stumbled upon a place to dump all my ideas and strengthen my writing in fanfiction sites, though nowadays my head is too full of my own characters to even try attempting at someone else’s. I think receiving such good feedback on my fanfics really helped solidify my desire to make a career out of writing.
PB: As a novel-writing duo, you have one of the less common approaches to writing. How did that come about, and what is your writing process?
OJR: Nia began writing first, and at the time we had no plans to work together. I wasn’t even an author yet, and we had just become good friends that year. We connected over our love of writing, but back then I had stopped putting pen to paper for years. I had fallen into depression, so my writing suffered, but I always had an idea in the back of my head of a sanctuary for magical creatures. Each time I went to write the story around it, though, I would stop, restart, stop, redo it, stop, and try all over again. I could never get it right. It was as I was confiding in Nia about these struggles that she offered a place in her world for my sanctuary. We got giddy at the idea. Two trilogies by two different authors in the same world? I’d never heard of that before, and we were excited at the prospect of doing something so completely unique. We stayed up for hours each night coming up with world building, lore, magic spells, rankings in government, and creatures that were considered “demons” and creatures that weren’t.
Doing something like this is not for the faint of heart, however. We have to make sure we know what’s going down in both of our stories so that a proper cause and an effect plays off the other’s work. We have to be the bad guy to each other and say, “That doesn’t work” or “That doesn’t make sense,” and then we have to fix or redo something we thought would have been an amazing plot point. I can say we’ve had a fight here or there because one of us (me) was being overly defensive.
But it’s also so much fun. The looks we send each other when we discover a loophole that we can play off of, or when we ask “Why would this happen?” and come up with amazing ideas. It’s worth the temporary frustration, but I believe it’s also because, through working together, we’ve come to understand each other so much better. It’s like we’ve been friends for ten years rather than four.
PJ: When did you first start writing?
OJR: Nia had been an avid reader for a long time before she started writing at the age of 12. Poems (that were full of every edgy emotion of a pre-teen and then some) and short stories were her first attempts at writing before she went on to table top RP that evolved into online RPing. She started writing her first full-fledged story at the age of 24.
I also started writing around the age of 12, and I remember it was because I read and wanted to write my own vampire book. Mine was a lot more bloody and gruesome. I found such enjoyment in writing that I continued, going on to fanfiction and occupying myself with that for a couple years.
PJ: What was the first story that you can remember writing?
OJR: We were 12, okay? The emo/punk/goth scene was also thing at the time. It was about Death watching a girl and slowly falling in love with her. He finds her name on his list one day and can't bear the thought of her dying so young. So, he goes against the law of the Reapers to keep her alive, even though that means that he can't be with her for many, many years. was about a vampire girl who hated being what she was, but she found solace in her abilities after one day killing a man that attacked her. She set out to rid the city of murderers, rapists, and other bad folk, leaving white roses on their corpses in her wake. She was never caught, because hey, she was a vampire.
PB: When you begin writing a new novel, do you always know the ending?
OJR: Yes and no. This goes for both of us. Sometimes we know the beginning, sometimes we know the origins, sometimes we know only a few scenes. Sometimes the characters come walking into our heads and sit down with us, and even though we keep asking them who they are, they just keep talking about their lives and we have to rush to get a pen and a piece of paper and hope they take a breath so we can write all this down.
PB: Tell us about the 'Coven Chronicles' series.
OJR: Coven Chronicles follows two protagonists in their adventures to save the city they love. In the world Raen, where magic is plentiful, two young women set off on two very different paths when their missions go awry. Vanessa’s task is to investigate an explosion that took out the side of a local academy, and Thea’s assignment leads her to a sanctuary for magic creatures after the refugee numbers have suddenly soared.
They quickly discover a darkness that is bleeding into the city of Tolvade, possibly leading to the very government they had always believed to be good and just. The Coven’s leaders, the illustrious High Priest Council, are raising more questions than they are answering. Aided with pets summoned from the depths of Hell, Vanessa and Thea both embark on separate journeys to uncover the truth, never even knowing the other is doing the same.
These two young women, along with their respective group of friends, never meet up, though cameo appearances can be found in current and future books. They both must deal with their inner demons, budding and confusing emotions, and monsters that will scar them on the inside more than they will on the outside.
PB: If you could meet one of your own characters, who would you meet, and what would you say to them?
NR: Bobo. I would ask him out for tea.
OJR: That’s it?
NR: I’m sure we would gossip once we got to the Grim Bean.
OJR: About what?
NR: Oh, Vanessa and Leon.
OJR: Oh, I want in on that too. I guess if I had to pick from my characters it would be Ma. I would love to just follow her around all day and see what she does. I may be the author, but nobody knows what all Ma gets into. Nobody.
NR: Bobo and I would follow after! We want to know too!
PB: Take a pen and paper with you. As one of your readers, I want to know what comes up in both of those meetings too!
PB: Back on a more serious note, where did the idea for the series come from?
OJR: I laugh every time I see this question – Nia just cringed so hard – Leon was supposed to be the bad guy, the love interest. Wasn’t even in the works, and Blythe and Cressida were not supposed to be an item. I don’t think there ever really was an idea for . We sort of started piecing it together little by little with an overarching problem: magic was dying in the world. We just figured out the complete ending not even a month ago.
PB: Of all your achievements, which are you most proud of?
OJR: Nia and I both agree our proudest moment is what we’ve done so far with our company, Poisoned Apple Publishing, L.L.C. We’ve turned our books into audiobooks, we’ve gained a devoted following, we’ve reached high numbers (to us, anyway) on our Facebook page, and we’ve gotten glowing reviews on all our works. Nia even did the cover art for all Poisoned Apple Publishing books. I know I’m one of the lucky first-time Indie authors to have a spectacular book cover for my debut novel.
PB: What is your favourite book series to read and why?
NR: Lord of the Rings, a classic, epic fantasy that just stuck with me for years. No matter what I read, that would always come to mind.
OJR: The Fever Series by Karen Marie Moning. I loved her descriptions, the way she made the characters come alive, and how she mingled fae and fantasy with history and present day.
PB: What are your long term ambitions career-wise?
OJR: Nia wants to continue being an author until the stories in her head stop coming – which that may never happen. We plan on making it big and using Poisoned Apple Publishing as a place where Indie authors can come to get services like cover art, editing, promotional banners and flyers, and formatting done at an affordable price. We understand how expensive it is just to tell a story, and we’re lucky enough to be skilled enough to cut out the middle man for most if not all we have to do. Like I mentioned before, I’d like to either be a professional editor or travel overseas to teach English. Maybe I can even do both, but whatever I decide, I still want to continue writing because, like Nia, the stories in my head will probably never stop coming.
PB: If you weren’t authors, what career would you be in?
OJR: I think I already answered this, but this question seemed to short-circuit Nia. She’s honestly never thought of being anything than an author. I suggested to her about being a singer because of her love of singing off-key lullabies to her children, and then somehow the conversation derailed into how each of her children would be up on stage with a different instrument rocking out.
PB: What’s the next target for you both?
OJR: After, we plan on doing some standalones and emptying out some of the nest from all the characters and stories shouting, “Write me, write me!” After a year or two, we want to come back together and do the same thing we’ve done with , only on a more in-depth, grander scale. We have this story in our heads begging to be written, but it’s going to have to wait. It’s centered in a country going through a civil war. Fantasy meets heavy steampunk. My character is fighting for one side of the war, and Nia’s will be fighting for the other side. We are both so excited for this dual duology (meaning four books, two done by each author), but it’s a project that’s on the back burner for now. Oh, and the kicker? It’s in the same world as .
PB: Tell us a random fact about each of you.
OJR: Nia met her husband through an online RP site, fell in love with him without ever seeing his face, and when he came to visit her from across America one day, he never left. They’ve been together ever since for 7 years now.
I said I didn’t have any children but, technically, I lied. I made a mistake when I was younger and ended up pregnant. Now a loving family, who tried but could never have children, is raising a five year old little girl who looks a lot like me.
PB: Those are two beautiful stories. To quote the great Hans Zimmer, 'Family. It's why we do this.'
It's been wonderful talking to you both today, and I look forward to starting the next book, Secrets of the Sanctuary.
Here are some more links to where you can find Octavia and Nia's work;
Until next time, all the best!