Author Spotlight: Tjalara Draper (SHARDS OF VENUS)
Tjalara Draper began writing her novel at the start of 2016 when the stories in her crazy imagination kept growing. After a few online courses in Creative Writing, she was thoroughly convinced she needed to pursue her all-time dream of becoming an author.
Shards of Venus, a paranormal/urban fantasy about shape-shifters was the first pick of all her story ideas.
She’s wife to an amazing man who’s just been through a career change to become an amazing doctor. She’s also a mother to a spitfire of a daughter, who becomes more creative and outgoing with each day that goes by.
When Tjalara isn’t writing her next book or tackling laundry monsters and wrestling dishwashing shenanigans, she’s bound to be somewhere flying on wishing chairs, swimming with the mermaids, marking her skin with shadow hunter runes, raising dragons, or being a poison taster for the commander.
Welcome to the Hive, Tjalara. Could you start by telling us a bit about your books, Shards of Venus, Flames of Mars and your recent spin off from the series, Nika (A Celestial Shifter Story) please? What can readers expect?
Shards of Venus is my first book in my Celestial Shifters series and also my debut plunge into my author career. Shards of Venus is an introduction to my Veniri shifters, a race of shifters who transform under the light of Venus. The Veniri are reptilian humanoids in shifter form, with crystal bones and crystal spikes.
Flames of Mars is the second book in my Celestial Shifters series. I’ll be honest, this book was a real challenge to write, but it was so much fun exploring a few other shifters in my Celestial Shifters world. I introduce a few more of the other shifter races, such as the Magneii which shift hunter the light of Mars and have heat and fire abilities.
I’m currently in the midst of writing the third book in the series, and came across a plot line where I needed a bit more clarity with a few of the minor characters, one being Nika. I never planned to do a spin-off book, and if I had, Nika wouldn’t have been at the top of my list. But I surprised myself as to how much Nika’s story developed as I was fleshing out a bit of her background. The next thing I knew, Nika’s story was written and published.
Ok, Tjalara, we’ve featured a few Australian authors on the Hive before and we’ve asked them to describe their books using Aussie slang! Would you mind describing your series in Aussie slang too?!
Haha! This is awesome! I’ll try my best.
Shards of Venus is about a coppa who’s not ya ridgie didge kinda bloke. Nathan Delano is a Veniri, a deadset shape shifter, but not one like those werewolf fuzzballs who shift under light of the moon. Nah, the Veniri shape shifters are the kind who shift under the light of Venus. With scales like a croc and gnarly crystal spikes, Nathan ain’t the kind of fella to get into a kerfuffle with. Growing up in the cruel Veniri world, Nathan finally spat the dummy and ditched his Veniri rellies to become a coppa in the human world.
One night, while sussing out a crime scene, Nathan finds Violet, a young sheila who at first appears to be cactus. But after a bit of a stickybeak, Nathan is convinced she hasn’t carked it. Despite having no experience in raising ankle-biters, Nathan takes Violet under his wing, and keeping his shady secret from her is legit hard yakka. Fair Dinkum!
But there are some people in Nathan’s dodgey past who are as cunning as dunny rats, and ensuring these yobbos stay away from Violet, keeps Nathan as busy as a one-legged man in an arse kicking contest.
Tell us a little something about your writing process – do you have a certain method? Do you find music helps? Give us a glimpse into your world!
I’m not one to listen to music while I write, although I have tried. But I end up singing along to all the songs where I know the lyrics. So, I’ve found that at writing in silence is much better for me.
I’m not sure if I’ve got a writing method sorted out yet. My method seems to be different with every book that I’ve written so far.
Although, pantsing is my jam. I’ve tried plotting, but ended up getting very bored if I know everything about the story before I write it.
Speaking of worlds, what inspired you to write an urban fantasy/paranormal series? Could you tell us more about the shapeshifters and werewolves in your stories please?
A few years ago, I went through a stint where I was binging TV shows like Grimm, and Teenwolf. The shape-shifter concept fascinated me. I had been thinking about the theory where werewolves are linked with shifting under the full moon, and one day a thought struck me, “What about Venus, and Mars, and the rest of the planets?”
From then on it was like my imagination went haywire. A story of celestial shape shifters evolved and got bigger and bigger in my mind, until I reached a point where I just had to start writing it all down.
What kind of shapeshifter would you be and why?
Oh gosh, now this is a difficult question to answer. In my world of celestial shifters, the Veniri were the first shifter species that I developed, so I feel a little drawn to those shifters slightly more.
As I progress with the series and I’m now exploring more of the other kinds of shifters, such as the Magneii who are fire/magma shifters associated with Mars, and the Nephezai who are the underwater shifters associated with Neptune. Fire abilities and breathing under water would be awesome, but for the sake of sentiment, I’d probably choose to be a Veniri.
Now let’s discuss your characters! Can you tell us more about Violet and from your spin-off, Nika, please? Have you found it easy to develop their characters throughout the series or have you come across any tricky parts? What kind of female characters do you most enjoy writing?
Violet was pretty much the first character who solidified in my mind. At the start of Shards of Venus, we meet her at a fragile time in her life where her dark past has practically left her shattered. I didn’t want to shy away from the rawness of her past. Although, instead of going into detail about what happened to her, I wanted to focus a bit more on her healing journey. I tried to be somewhat realistic in giving her the time and growth she needed to overthrow her demons. It was a bit of a challenge to find a balance between Violet’s inner struggles and small victories, where her shortcomings weren’t interpreted as weakness and whinging.
I also wanted to showcase that Nathan, being her father figure, has played an important role in encouraging Violet to overcome her fears.
It’s been interesting to hear some feedback from some readers, where Nathan’s level-headed actions in supporting Violet, he’s perceived as quite the hero, almost to the point where, Violet could do no right and Nathan could do no wrong.
As for Nika, she’s a character who has caught me by surprise. She makes her introduction to the Celestial Shifter series in the second book, Flames of Mars. She’s more of the kind of character who goes in for the throat-punch first without even bothering to ask any questions.
While writing the Nika spin-off, it became so clear to me the reasons why she’s so polarising, and what it is that drives her to let her fists do the talking. It certainly surprised me as to how much I ended liking Nika, and how much I empathised with her prickly nature.
As a self-published female author, what have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced? What have been the highlights?
Deciding to go self-published, so far is one of the best decisions I think I’ve made in my author career. It’s definitely given me the freedom to explore my creativity in writing, in marketing, as well as connecting and networking with other authors and people in the industry.
It’s been a blast, and I think something drastic would have to happen for me to attempt taking a traditional publishing direction.
Regarding challenges as a female author, I haven’t yet faced too much personal challenges.
One thing that I’ve personally experienced, which isn’t really a challenge, but more of an observation, is when I tell people that I’m an author. It always seems to be their first assumption that I write children’s books. I’ve now lost count as to how many people jump to that conclusion, and they almost seem surprised when I explain the kind of books that I write.
We see such varying opinions from authors when it comes to the time of editing their books. How have you found the editing process? Enjoyable, stressful or satisfying?
I’ve heard a lot of varying opinions as well, even before I even reached the editing process of my first book. I had braced myself to detest that stage, but thankfully, I’ve come to really enjoy it.
My editor lives on the other side of the world from me, and she’s done a fabulous job in helping me to refine my stories. It’s been so great to see how much she’s embraced my stories and is a massive help in enhancing the themes, concepts, and the “voice” that I’m aiming for.
We’ve really built up a rapport where I now get excited when it comes time to email her to start the editing process again. Finding a wonderful editor has been such an encouragement for me, as I can really see how far my books are improved through this process.
We always appreciate a beautiful book cover! How involved in the process were you? Was there a particular aesthetic you hoped the artist would portray?
And as much as we all love to harp on about the whole “don’t judge a book its cover,” we still can’t ignore the fact that a great cover is really important. Especially for an upcoming, indie author, fighting for as much attention as possible in a highly competitive industry that feeds on instant gratification and “one-click” sales.
Before becoming an author, I completed a diploma in graphic design. With my graphic design background, I’ve never had the experience in designing book covers. So I found a company that specialises in indie book covers. I tried not to be too overbearing in the design process. Instead, I made a conscious effort to trust the designer. And I’m glad I did, because the covers my designer has created are fantastic!
The world shifts, and you find yourself with an extra day on your hands during which you’re not allowed to write. How do you choose to spend the day?
My family is really important to me. I think I would likely be doing something with my family, whether it’s just spending time with them just lounging about on the couch watching a trashy movie, or going on some kind of family day-trip toge
One of our favourite questions here on the Fantasy Hive: which fantastical creature would you ride into battle and why?
Wow… so many to choose from…
Although, if I’m honest, the first creature who came to mind is Falkor from The Neverending Story. Haha! I don’t exactly know why. A Luck Dragon is perhaps not the most ferocious of fantastical creatures to ride into battle with. But he’s just soooooo cooooool!
Tell us about a book that’s excellent, but underappreciated or obscure.
My go to underappreciated book is The Seer and the Sword by Victoria Hanley. I came across it when I was a teen, and I absolutely love it! I’ve now lost count as to how many times I’ve read it. Great story, great characters, great world building. Love it!
Can you tell us anything about any upcoming projects? Or can you tell us a few teasers for your sequel?
Of course, I’m working on the third book in my celestial shifters series, entitled “Thorns of Neptune”. This third book explores the world of the Nephezai, who are the underwater shape-shifters who live at the deepest part of the ocean.
And I also have a few Sci-Fi/Action kind of concepts and ideas that I’m super keen to write.
I do have a few other ideas in the pipeline. One is based on a pre-made book cover that I impulse bought from a very talented cover designer, which she had entitled “The Curse of the Goblin Queen.” The title and the book cover just enchanted me, and I’m definitely keen to take up the challenge of writing a story that gives the cover justice.
Finally, what is the one thing you hope readers take away from your writing?
Oh gosh… to be honest, I haven’t really thought about that. I suppose I hope that they really enjoy my books.
Being a reader myself, I love reading to explore new worlds and amazing characters that authors have created. And I suppose for me, the best experience I have while reading, is being so immersed into a story that I don’t feel like I’m actually reading it. Perhaps my hope is that readers just have as much fun as I do, getting caught up in these crazy make-believe stories from my overactive imagination.
And if some readers don’t like my stories, then that’s okay too! Life is already too short, and too complicated, and regulated far too much to get bogged down with begrudging all the things that don’t suit us. If it turns out that some readers aren’t a fan of my books, then just toss the book aside and find one that you do like! 🤗
Thank you so much for joining us today!