The Path Keeper
by N.J. Simmonds
Series: The Indigo Chronicles #1
Published by: BHC Press
Publication date: May 28, 2019
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance
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What if our lives were mapped out before birth? Does anyone have the power to change their destiny?
Ella hates London. She misses her old life in Spain and is struggling to get over her past—until she meets Zac. He’s always loved her but isn’t meant to be part of her story. Not this time. Not ever. Little does she know that his secret is the one thing that will tear them apart and force her to live in a world that no longer makes sense. A world full of danger, lies and magic.
The Path Keeper is a passionate tale of first loves, second chances and the invisible threads that bind us. Can love ever be stronger than fate?Hi everyone! We are here for another segment of ‘Behind the Pages’ and I’d like to welcome debut author, N.J. Simmonds, who will be answering some questions regarding her book. If you want to get amazing prizes, check the competition at the end of this post!
Hi Natali! Congratulations on your debut, The Path Keeper! Thank you so much for joining us today here on Behind the Pages!
Hi, thanks so much for having me!
What was the initial story behind your inspiration for writing The Path Keeper?
Oh, that’s a tough question. I started writing The Path Keeper in 2012 when my kids were really young and not sleeping. I was up all night and started making up stories in my head to stop myself from dozing off. Originally it was about a stroppy rich girl and a homeless boy and it grew and grew. I was heavily influenced by my travels in Australia and my studies in reiki, crystals, astrology and past life meditations and regressions – so as the story grew it became more spiritual too, but in a raw urban way. This is not a fluffy romance.
Can you share your 10 favorite YA books of all time that possibly inspired your debut?
1. The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas
2. The Beach, Alex Garland
3. Strange the Dreamer, Laini Taylor
4. Six of Crows, Leigh Bardugo
5. Looking for Alaska, John Green
6. A Darker Shade of Magic, V E Schwab
7. All the Bright Places, Jennifer Niven
8. Eleanor and Park, Rainbow Rowell
9. Words in Deep Blue, Cath Crowley
10. I’ll give you the Sun, Jandy Nelson
But I also adore writers Becky Albertalli, Adam Silvera, Melinda Salisbury, Anna Day, Simon James Green, Neil Gaiman and Patrice Lawrence.
Talk us through your biggest challenge in creating Zac and Ella’s characters.
They kept changing! I wanted him to be a tough, brooding hero and he become a damaged, vulnerable softy. And I wanted her to be strong but she became quite petulant. As time went on, I even questioned whether they should be together, because their love is equal in intensity but for two very different reasons – neither of them that healthy. But then I realised that was the point, that love isn’t simple but always worth fighting for.
One of the things that stood out for me while reading the story was Lily’s relationship with her parents, especially with her mother, Margaret. How do you think this affects her own relationship with her daughter, Ella?
Great question. Margaret was a character that came out of nowhere fully formed. She’s so damaged and virtually ethereal in the way she wafts in and out of her daughter’s life, yet is such a brittle and toxic influence. For me, it was vital that readers understood why Felicity was so flighty and insecure, the way she was always having to reinvent herself to protect herself. I don’t think Felicity ever fully allowed herself to love her daughter Ella as intensely as she does, because her own relationships (her mother, first love, nanny) ended. People have always left her. It’s no coincidence Felicity moved in with Richard as soon as Juliana died – Ella’s mum constantly craves attention and security because she doesn’t really know who she is. This creates a huge wedge between her and her daughter, ultimately causing Ella to feel needy and reckless, which is why she initially turned to Sebastian as a big brother figure without realising how dangerous he was. And then obsessed over Zac, a virtual stranger, who she channels all her emotions into.
Given your book falls under the fantasy and romance genre, there were notably religious and historical facts found within the story. What made you decide to incorporate them to the narrative?
I don’t know, I guess I’m an ‘all or nothing’ kind of person. I never expected the book to be read by anyone else – let alone signed and published – so I never approached the story in a commercial fashion. I wish I had sometimes as it would be easier to market and find an audience for! It’s a mish-mash of everything because life is too. To fully understand a person you need to know them, their family, what drives them, their history, what hurt them, their first loves and what they see in the future. That’s why this series is so convoluted and layered. I can’t talk about past lives without addressing God, and I can’t talk about past lives without going back in history, and I can’t talk about any of that without the book becoming magical and other-worldly. The Path Keeper has been called ‘ambitious’ – which totally sums me up. I’m not scared to go where others fear to tread, so it’s all in there. You’ll either love that about the series, or hate it.
The Path Keeper talked about some sensitive topics and issues that might be triggering to some readers. You have mentioned that you asked your publisher to include ‘Content and Trigger Warning’ on your book. Personally, do you agree that by doing so, it will help readers know what they are getting at and prevent them from picking up a book they are not comfortable, reading?
I like making readers uncomfortable, but I don’t like upsetting them. It’s great to have readers laugh and cry and get their hearts racing, but not if it triggers latent memories or emotions. So of course I wanted a trigger warning – because I prefer no readers than ones who are going to be dragged back to memories they wish to forget, and then tell everyone how awful the book is. This series has some really dark content, other books I’m writing don’t. So it’s important, like in movies, that readers know what to expect theme-wise without giving any of the story away – that way the onus is on them to make the decision to read it or not. I don’t believe in censorship or patronizing readers, because life is utterly horrific sometimes. It’s up to you if you want that in your books or not.
Your book first published in 2017. During that time, how did things changed for you as an author? Would you kindly share with us the steps you took to get The Path Keeper published?
Maybe one day I’ll write a book called ‘How to eventually get your book published by going about it in the most complicated, difficult and soul-destroying way’.
I’ve been writing all my life (for fun and for work) but The Path Keeper was my first attempt at a full novel. I wrote odd chapters here and there for two years then attended a writing class. Then I rewrote it and finished the book after nearly four years. What I SHOULD have done at that stage was get on Twitter, follow the book world, understand publishing better, research agents and start subbing. I didn’t. I had a friend who was a small-time lit agent and she said she’d rep me. I shrugged and said ‘fine, whatever, if you don’t get any interest then I’ll self-publish so my mum can read it’. I was that relaxed and naive about it all!
My friend/agent got lots of interest from some really big publishers, at least twenty asked for the full MS. The problem was that it was hard to market. It’s not clear whether the book is YA, romance, historical, fantasy or spiritual. It has a bit of everything, while also being very London in style and saucy/dark in places. My friend decided to quit being a lit agent, and when I was eventually offered a three-book deal from Accent I was over the moon and went in agentless. The Path Keeper came out in 2017 but Accent were winding down their YA division and I wasn’t confident the book would be pushed as hard as it needed to be so I managed to get all rights back and was back to square one.
I was left with nothing but an out-of-print book that had 137 x 4-5 star Amazon reviews and readers desperate for the sequel – but no publisher. I worked really hard and eventually was offered a deal for the full series by the wonderful BHC Press in the USA. My baby was going to the US! I also got an independent foreign rights agent for the series and I’m in talks with other agents for my future work. So everything is now in place, and no reason why the book won’t get out there (now it’s down to readers if it does well or not). But I did go about it in the most complicated fashion!
So if you want to get published then write a book that’s comparative to other successful ones, get a reputable agent, have them negotiate a good deal and do as you’re told. Or be difficult like me, buck the trend with your weird and difficult book, and don’t give up.
Son of Secrets is the second book in The Indigo Chronicles. What should readers be expecting this time?
Ooooh I love Son of Secrets even more than The Path Keeper. It’s witchy, dark, a bit less sexy but a load more feminist. It has my favourite character ever, Luci, who is the woman we wish we could be on a crap day if we had all the power in the world. She’s a fascinating mix of maternal obsession, righteous narky evil and pure wantonness. Three years after Ella last saw Zac, we discover whether she’ll give into fate and end up with the man fate chose for her…or wait for Zac. We also discover who Zac’s mother is, the secret behind the necklace, we go back in time to 5BC when Zac and Arabella/Ella first met and get a glimpse of the witch hunts of 1613 in southern Holland. There’s plenty of gore, a touch of passion and more religious twists – so you’ve been warned.
What one piece of advice do you want to leave to your readers? To young aspiring authors/writers?
Don’t give up. By that, I don’t mean keep pushing to get your book published – it means never stop learning, improving and evolving. Maybe your third book will be the one that makes it (I still have an unsold book I wrote two years ago), be prepared to start from the beginning more than once. Go on courses, buy How To Write books, get to know the industry, follow authors and book people on Twitter, read books like the ones you want to write and read books like the ones you DON’t want to write. See what works. But most of all, be kind to yourself. There’s only one J K Rowling and Stephen King – you can’t be them, because it’s highly unlikely writing will make you rich and famous. Be yourself, enjoy perfecting your craft and write for yourself – every voice and idea is unique to each writer. You attract the best readers that way!
About The Author:
N.J. Simmonds, author of YA fantasy romance series The Indigo Chronicles, began her career in glossy magazines. She went on to manage marketing campaigns for big brands before becoming a freelance writer and consultant. In 2015 she co-founded online magazine The Glass House Girls and has since contributed to many publications. She writes books filled with fearless teens, magic and adventure, and also lectures on storytelling and self-branding. Originally from North London, with Spanish parentage, N J lives in the Netherlands with her husband and two daughters.
Follow N.J. Simmonds:
Website | Facebook | Twitter | InstagramEvery blog in The Path Keeper blog tour has a letter. Collect them all to spell out the answer to this competition question: What does Zac get in the sequel SON OF SECRETS that’s very out of character? Prize info and entry details will be posted in The Glass House Glass magazine on release day 28 May 2019.
Check out today’s letter below.