Behind the Book with A.L. Knorr
Liz - This week I bring you the adventurous A.L. Knorr! Tell us about the part of the world you reside in?
A.L. - Right now we live in Antalya, which is a beach city and tourist destination for many people in Europe and Russia. While I wouldn’t say that Antalya itself is very pretty (too many high and low rises for my liking) the region around Antalya is stunning in its natural beauty. Sparkling clear water, rocky coves, forests of huge pine and cedar trees, huge mountains, palms trees and fruit growing everywhere. For this little Canadian who grew up with 3 month long summers and 9 months of winter, life has suddenly flip-flopped. Now summer lasts 9 months and winter is warm and rainy and short. It’s quite a difference for me to adjust to, but Turkey has a lot to offer. The people are warm, hospitable and gracious. The food is fresh and mostly grown locally, the sea is warm and clean, and the mountains have lovely cold spring water which we can take for free.
Liz - How has Covid impacted life there for you?
A.L. - To be honest, we are very lucky. I was and am impacted very little because I work from home, and since we left London my husband has not worked, so he’s basically retired for now. Life seems fairly slow and peaceful for us.
Liz - What led to the relocation to Turkey?
A.L. - My husband is a Turk, though he lived in the UK for 26 years so he’s more British than Turkish. When the measures were enacted in London, they destroyed his business (a pub in downtown London), leaving us with the massive rents and all the costs that London is known for, but half our income suddenly gone. London was no longer sustainable (and having grown up on a farm, I’m not a fan of big city living anyway) so we made the decision to move to Turkey where the cost of living is much lower to give us time to recover from the blow. It has been a good move, though I’m unable to say how long we’ll stay.
Liz - As a total ancient history nerd, I have to ask if you’ve visited Göbekli Tepe?
A.L. - Not yet, but we hope to do so before the end of 2021. There is SO much to see here, and while I’ve seen a lot in the last 9 months, I’m amazed at how much there is still left to enjoy.
Liz - You enjoy visiting historical sites—what have been some standout ones for you personally?
A.L. - I would have to say the underground city of Kaymakli in Capadoccia. Imagine 7-8 stories underground, a warren of stairs and passageways, private and public rooms, air shafts, wineries, stables, big round slabs of rock that roll to cover the openings and keep out invaders, and everything that would be needed to sustain life for a population of 30,000 people living underground full time. Why were they living down there? Where did they go when they left? Why were absolutely zero artefacts discovered in the city when the city was found? There are over 100 of these amazing underground cities in the Capadoccia region and exploring them was an amazing experience that I’ll never forget. Also I loved Ephesus and Sirince. We have visited them twice already and will do so again, I’m sure. some of the other ancient sites I’ve seen and enjoyed are Perge, Sidhe, Myra, Laodicia, Pummakale, and Kaonos (another fave).
Liz - You’re an urban fantasy writer with primarily female protagonists. Was this a decision you made or just how you naturally gravitate when writing your main characters?
A.L. - My target is female readers, that is part of the brand I created and it's what I’ve always wanted to write, probably because I was once an impetuous female youth, so why not write what I know rather well? That is not to say that my male characters are not important, they are, but the strong female protagonist is one of the brand promises that I made to readers from the very start and it is what they expect from me. I do have a lot of men who love my stories, even though I am writing with women in mind, and that was a really pleasant surprise to me in the early days. It’s only a matter of time before I write a full series with a male protagonist in the lead, I’m sure. As an author’s library expands, these kinds of ‘sneaking into other lanes’ can’t be helped.
Liz - Could you ever see yourself writing a book with a male lead?
A.L. - In fact the book I’m currently working on has multiple main characters, one of which is a male protagonist that readers met in my Earth Magic Rises series.
Liz - How has your background in marketing helped with your writing career?
A.L. - It’s difficult to overstate how big of a difference my marketing knowledge has made. Writing a good story is less than half the battle, in my opinion. Yes, you need a great book, one that makes readers look for what else you’ve written, but if you can’t get your book seen and noticed amidst the millions of other titles that are vying for readers' attention, then you’ll never be able to build up a revenue stream to support doing it full time. This is why we often see amazing books never get traction, while mediocre or even poorly executed stories can dominate their categories for weeks or even months. It isn’t fair, but it is the reality of this industry. An indie author will not succeed without some understanding of how to target readers both with their packaging and their marketing efforts, no matter how fantastic their writing is.
I was very blessed in this because I spent ten years as a marketing professional in the consumer packaged goods industry and came to the table with knowledge about branding, packaging and marketing that I would not have been successful without.
Liz - In 2018, your book, Born of Water, won the Gold Medal in the Readers Favourite Awards – congratulations! Can you tell us about this book and the inspiration behind it?
A.L. - Thank you! This book was full-on fantasy fulfillment. I have always loved marine biology, nautical history, and anything to do with oceans and seas. I used to dream of being able to explore shipwrecks unencumbered by SCUBA gear or deterred by darkness and pressure. The best way to do that was if I could become a mermaid. Born of Water began as a simple vignette in my imagination. Picture a mermaid coming across a well-preserved wreck in the brackish waters of the Baltic. As she circles the wreck, she is drawn to the ship’s figurehead, which is covered with algae from years of submersion. She pulls water through her gills and shoots it from her mouth to blow away the growth and reveal the face of the carving. She is astonished to see that it was made in her exact likeness, but she has no idea how this could have come about, for the wreck is 150 years old. This moment spawned all kinds of questions for me and the process of answering those questions gave birth to the story of Born of Water. It is not only an adventure and a romance, its a love letter to the ocean and an ode to the strength of mother/daughter bonds. It’s a story of just how much a mother will sacrifice for their child all wrapped up in fantasy mythology that will convince you that mermaids are real.
Liz - What is it about this book do you think readers connected to the most?
A.L - I suspect it's the bond between Mira and her daughter, Targa. Our parents are our first loves, they teach us what love really means and set the standard for how we pursue love as we grow into adulthood. Readers have told me many times and in many ways how much the sacrifices Mira makes for her daughter touched them, and how their heart aches as the bond is stretched to the breaking point. There was a scene in Salt & Stone (a prequel to Born of Water) that had me weeping while I wrote it, and my readers told me that many of them wept while they read it. At the end of the day, readers respond to what reflects the truth about the human experience, whether or not the main character is a human or a unicorn. Every child must eventually be nudged from the nest to embark upon life as an adult, taking with them all the lessons their parents taught them. And parents must have the courage to let their children go, having faith that they’ve done the best they could. This can be as beautiful as it is painful, and is probably why coming of age stories and the young adult genre are so popular.
Liz - Out of the 35 books you’ve published to date, which was your favourite?
A.L. - That is a really difficult question. I don’t think I can pin that on one title. I love Born of Water because I love Targa and Mira as characters. Born of Water was wish fulfillment, so that makes it special. If I had to rewrite it, I would change a few little things about the story, but ultimately I’m really happy with it. This book is a love letter from me to the seas and the oceans and I hope that it inspires readers to imagine themselves as an underwater citizen with the ultimate goal of fostering respect for the bodies of water that we are currently polluting and mismanaging so poorly. It’s a cause that is close to my heart, so for that reason Water ranks high among my favorite titles.
But I would be remiss if I did not give some favor to the last book I published, Source Fire. For the simple reason that Arcturus Academy was the most complex series I had written to date and had a lot of loose ends to tie up that I feel were tied up nicely. There is a metaphysical and visionary quality to how the series ended that gives a depth that I think is often lacking in urban fantasy, and I suppose that’s why it has become one of my favorites.
Liz - Is there a stand out book that was more challenging to write than the others, and why?
A.L. - I had to rewrite Born of Earth more than any other book. It was only my third title, so I was still figuring out my process, and I ended up getting into trouble when I didn’t think through characters' motivations and actions thoroughly enough. I have a memory of sitting on my living room floor with chapters spread out all around me as I hacked and slashed through what I had written. Ultimately, the story that got published ended up being very different from what I had first envisioned, but it also came out so much better, so it was worth the aggravation. Readers who love fae and Scottish lore as well as being spooked love that title.
Liz - How has your writing process changed from when you started your first book to when you finished your most recent?
A.L. - I have one now. Haha. Jokes aside, when I wrote my first book I had no idea what I was doing. I had an idea of the story I wanted to tell and kind of plodded through the process as best I could. I didn’t have an outline, so I guess I was pantsing it in the truest sense of the word. I had to rewrite the ending because I thought it was weak and that taught me to make sure I had the ending figured out before I started writing chapters. I learned so much during the process that I felt like I was back at school. Now I am much more organized. I always do a fairly thorough outline and I know how every story ends before I ever start writing. I’ve recently started using Plottr and have found that to be a very helpful tool, especially for complex plots and large casts of characters.
Liz - Can you tell us about your most recent series?
A.L. - I finished Arcturus Academy in June of 2021, it's a 5 book series that follows Saxony Cagney, a fire mage, as she joins a secret school for fire magi in Dover, UK. Saxony is a sassy but compassionate character who falls in love with Gage, one of a set of twins. Gage’s twin, Ryan, however, has set his sights on Saxony because he believes she holds the secret to leveling up his powers… which she reluctantly does. What begins as a game of cat and mouse escalates to an effort to prevent the extinction of their species by a much more powerful force than what a few teenagers can handle, even united. Fraught with complex relationships and peppered with a unique system of fire magic, this series has plenty of tense and chilling moments, but also humor and romance. I would say it walks the line between fantasy and science fiction because the magic system is more technical (I spent more time studying the table of the elements during the writing of this series than I’d like to admit to) Readers who like action adventure, academy, urban fantasy and sci fi with young female protagonists will enjoy this series.
Liz - What is your process with your beta readers? Do you use the same one with each release, or do you alternate?
A.L. - I have a private group of reviewers I have been using for years now, although it has grown substantially since I first started it. I simply post a form where reviewers can submit their details to request an early copy and usually limit it to giving away between 50 and 100 copies depending on the title. Reviewers who are consistently able to review in a timely manner (within a month of launch) and who I know to be genuine fans of my work are given precedence. It’s important that reviews are written thoughtfully and I have some amazing and lovely fans in this group who never fail to support me. I’m really grateful for them.
Liz - You’re giving away the novella, Returning, on your website – can you tell us about it?
A.L. - Ah, this story kicked off the whole Elemental Origins Series and was the first novella I ever completed. It follows a young mermaid named Mira (who is the mother of the main character of Born of Water) as her biological imperative to find a mate kicks in after spending eight years at sea. To procreate, Mira must mate with a human male. But she’s been away a long time and forgets normal human etiquette and social norms, so reintegrating into society isn’t that easy for the siren.
Her mother, now deceased, told her when she was young that when she hears the voice of her mate, she would feel as though strings inside her heart had been plucked. The only problem being that when this happens, her mate, Nathan, is already dating Mira’s roommate, a young woman who has been very kind to Mira; helping to find her a job and giving her a place to stay. It is clear to Mira that no other aside from Nathan will do, but that leaves Mira in a moral bind she’s never had to deal with before. This story introduces my mermaid mythology and gives the reader a glimpse into the universe that expands with much more detail in subsequent books.
Liz - When you’re not writing, what else do you enjoy?
A.L - I’m an avid biker, road and mountain, though mountain biking is my favorite, however since moving to Turkey I haven’t been able to do any biking. I swim a lot and enjoy the Mediterranean as much as possible. I read, of course. Lots and lots, as is necessary for any author. I love animals and grew up on a farm, and I also love gardening so I’m looking forward to buying a plot of land where I can have a small hobby farm and gardens.
Oh, I also eat my body weight in watermelon every week since moving to Turkey.
Liz - What are you working on next?
A.L. - I’m working on a YA epic fantasy series called The Scented Court. Book 1 is entitled A Blossom at Midnight. This series follows a larger cast of characters in a truly epic setting as this series is not set on our earth but in an adjacent dimension that readers of my Earth Magic Rises visited briefly. I’m excited to be expanding my earth magic mythology and including a lot of animal and insect characters as well as creating a detailed medieval setting (something I’ve always enjoyed) with a unique magic system I have never come across in anything I’ve read before. Readers can learn a bit more about this series and read the prologue here.
Liz - Where can our readers follow you?
A.L. - Here are my links: