By Claire Knight, 28th May 2020

Interview with NJ Simmonds

...with Bonus Artwork Reveal

…with Bonus Artwork Reveal

Today is a special day, today we take part in the first day of the Blog Tour for the release of the second part of the Indigo Chronicles. Son of Secrets by NJ Simmonds hits the shelves today, and to celebrate, we have a little surprise for you – but you will have to wait until the end of this interview to find out what it is…

We wanted to tackle this blog tour a little differently – so instead of the normal review, we wanted to start the tour with a special interview with the author herself, a special ‘reveal’ at the end of the review and then we will be back to close the tour with our own take on a review of the book. Both articles have been written by the fabulous Claire Knight.

So settle in, grab a cuppa and enjoy this special interview – and then try telling us at the end of this piece that you havn’t bought the book.

NJ Simmonds has long been a favourite author of mine. Her first novel The Path Keeper captured my heart and I became enamoured by Zac and Ella’s intense turbulent relationship. Now the second novel is due for release and I can’t believe my luck not only did I get another book to devour. Oh no! I also managed to score some time with the author herself and talk about this next installment in The Path Keeper series… Son of Secrets.

We are introduced to a lot of complex female characters in your second book. Who were the easiest and the hardest to write?

It’s ironic that the title Son of Secrets refers to Zac – when the three main storylines contain a lot of complex female characters.

Felicity and Ella were the easiest to write as I know them so well by now – although in the sequel they’re both struggling so their characters had to evolve a little. You don’t experience the things they did in The Path Keeper without suffering some form of PTSD, and it was important to me that I showed that.

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The hardest women to write were the two versions of Ella in the 5BC and 1613 flashbacks – Arabella and Elien. The characters had to be historically accurate while threading through the current Zac and Ella love stories in The Path Keeper, while foreshadowing the final book Children of Shadows. It’s also hard to write characters from a past life because they die. And killing people you like is always tough.

But my favourite female character – the most complex, fun and interesting – is Luci. She’s a woman who gives zero fucks. When you’ve lost what she has at the hands of cruel men, coupled with having her power and all the time in the world…well, you get an explosive combination.

Let’s talk witches. What was the inspiration for putting that specific period of history in your sequel?

I’ve always been fascinated with witches, and from a young age had flashbacks of being accused of witchcraft and being drowned. Even though I was brought up by the sea, I didn’t go near water until I was nine years old!

As time went on, I learned about the witch trials from a feminist standpoint, as well as learning and practising a lot of metaphysical pursuits (crystals, astrology, tarot, reiki and meditation) – all of which would have got me killed four-hundred years ago. The more I delved into that world, the more I knew I had to feature that part of history.

In 2016 I moved to Delft in the Netherlands and lived in a creepy 15th century canal house called The House of Fire and Water. It was this inspiration that led me to base the witch trial flashback in Son of Secrets on one of the biggest witch hunts in Europe, in the Dutch town of Roermond during 1613, and why Marisse lives in my old house.

So my inspiration came from my interest in witchcraft, my past life regressions and my time living in one very old spooky house – but apparently I didn’t make the story up, I simply remembered it!

Yes, it certainly zooms out and looks at the bigger picture.

I always knew the series would be a trilogy, and that it would be about more than just ‘will the boy get the girl?’ There’s only so many obstacles you can put in a couple’s way…it’s so much more interesting to widen up the story and see who and what has led them to their current predicament.

The first book, The Path Keeper, is about the struggles of love. All types of loves; everything from family, loss, soulmates and unrequited love, to the bad decisions we make and the ability to be in love with more than one person.

But Son of Secrets moves on from that and explores strength – especially feminine energy. How is Ella coping after losing Zac? What obstacles have women had to endure in their past in order to survive? And how did Ella’s past lives influence her current one?

In Son of Secrets we also meet Luci for the first time – Zac’s mother – and discover what and who she is. This character is the epitome of vulnerability and strength. She’s what you get when you’ve walked the earth for two-thousand years collecting pain, watching history repeat itself over and over again, no longer constrained by social norms or human limitations. She has her own moral compass – she is what many women wish they could be if our societal and physical limitations didn’t exist.

In Son of Secrets you twist and challenge traditional tropes in terms of how good and evil are generally perceived. What was that like to write and how do you think others will respond to it?

I hate being bored. I don’t like to read a book or watch a film and know what to expect – where’s the fun in that? The joy of writing fiction is that you can do whatever you want. You don’t have to stick to any rules. We all think we’re open-minded when it comes to stories, but the truth is that deep down we’re conditioned regarding traditional tropes. What is right, wrong, good or bad is ingrained in us from a young age. We very rarely question it.

I wanted to play about with that and make people think.

Son of Secrets is definitely going to ruffle a few feathers and I couldn’t give a sh*t. I don’t believe in writing comfortable, predictable stories. Books should make you feel, even if that feeling isn’t always positive.

Luci isn’t a ‘nice’ woman – she’s violent, overtly sexual, selfish, determined and cruel – but there’s no apology or redemption arc, she lives by her own values determined by a very complicated past. I didn’t create her to teach anyone about morality or what the right kind of woman looks like, she’s the product of two-thousand years of oppression and loss.

The book also contains many references to biblical scriptures, the patriarchy’s role in how we perceive good and evil, and the role of a good mother. I hope it does piss people off, because I want readers talking about what it means to be a woman; what lengths we go to in order to be heard and how easily other people’s impressions of us can be manipulated, even after we are gone.

In theory, those readers who were offended by the contentious issues in The Path Keeper won’t come back for more…but if they do, then they’re in a for a shock. I’ve been very transparent about that.

The series itself is based on a concept of past lives, how important is it for you to get the message across that we can learn from our past? And the women that came before us? 

The books I write are fiction, I’m not here to preach, but I do think it’s important we all learn from our mistakes in our own lives and before. That’s why weaving Ella’s past life stories into her current predicaments are so interesting.

Women still have a long way to go to be heard – to break boundaries that have been in place for centuries. Look at any part of history and you will see women being oppressed, used and controlled for two simple reasons:

  1. We are physically smaller and weaker
  2. Our bodies can be occupied by a stronger person

It’s that knowledge that makes women wary, nervous, cautious, less loud, less public in what we do and what we say. It’s that fear we pass on to our daughters, because it keeps them safe. It’s why we’ve never been able to fight fairly.

Son of Secrets isn’t a book that’s against men (characters Zac, Gabriel, Leo and Tommaso are wonderful male characters), but it does highlight the obstacles women have always faced in order to achieve the same level of power and respect as men.

History doesn’t work in a straight line, it’s not a clear trajectory, and currently, we are in a major dip. But yes, looking at our own pasts and histories can highlight what we must do – and mustn’t – to shape our futures.

As Zac asks Leo in The Path Keeper – ‘Do you think my past is the secret to my salvation?

His reply? ‘Isn’t it always?’

What is one thing you want people reading this book to take away with them? 

This book wasn’t written to impart any specific message, but obviously it’s been tainted by my own experiences. I would still like readers to come away asking questions. I want people to read Luci’s story and wonder why they support her, when she’s clearly not a nice person. I want them to feel torn between wanting Ella to be with Josh, as fate dictated, or with Zac. I like the idea of readers feeling a bit shaken, uncomfortable and confused with what they think, and to be challenged regarding the conventions of romance, good and evil, right and wrong.

What I love the most as a writer is having readers contact me saying ‘Why did you do that? I was so angry, but then I was so relieved, and now I don’t know what to think. I’m all over the place.’ Good, if the story makes you feel something intensely and keeps you guessing, then it’s working. That’s what art is. That’s what stories should do!

Finally, for a bit of fun, what’s the most memorable depiction of witches you’ve seen? What has made you laughed or stayed with you? I personally think the Monty Python “she turned me into a newt, but I got better” is up there with the funniest…

As a kid, I found the book and film of The Witches utterly terrifying.

Roald Dahl was so clever because he combined all of the scariest triggers for children – they are women who look just like your mum or teacher, but they want to kill you, they live among us but are in disguise. As if that’s not horrifying at any age, he goes on to describe them as having long bony fingers and noses, and being bald beneath their wigs. So visually scary.

I’m glad that things have moved on from then though. I’m glad that the concept of witchcraft has come full circle and is now less of a ‘creepy scary women’ thing and more an embodiment of female power, working with nature and helping people.

Feminine energy is powerful – women literally create people inside of our bodies, and bleed for days every month without dying. No wonder we were once worshipped like gods. Why did that stop? The power of the feminine has threatened the patriarchy for a long time, and even now governments are doing their best to take away women’s rights and keep us supressed – so I’m glad to see the arts (TV, film, books and fashion) rebelling against that. We can’t allow ourselves to be the victims of a modern-day witch hunt.

It’s OK though, luckily witches are good at rising up. Much like Luci, women don’t stay down for long.

Don’t forget to pop over and check out the posts from our other Blog Tour Buddies

Buy your copy of Son of Secrets on Amazon by clicking here:

Time for the big reveal…

NJ Simmonds has sent us a very special piece of artwork to share with you – this, is Luci.

At least – this is how Luci looks, in the eyes of the author (and the artist).

But why not grab your copy of Son of Secrets and dive in and decide if this is how you see Luci – feel free to pop back and let us know your thoughts.

‘Never mistake a strong woman for an evil one’. Love her or hate her, readers won’t be forgetting Luci in a hurry.
Artwork by @morganaOanagrom 

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