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Author Highlight: Erin Embly

I signed up for an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) of Erin's first book, and I am so freaking glad I had the chance to read it!! Her cover and blurb pretty much had me hooked from the beginning, and I'm looking forward to being one of her customers for life.

We've had the opportunity to connect via email over the last few months because of the mythology she used and settings of our books -- we both set our worlds in DC! We're hoping to make a meet up in person happen someday soon, but after this whole messy corona situation is cleared up. And obviously not the boozy kind. Womp womp.

How did you come up with the story concept for the Firebird Uncaged series?

It all started with the supernatural strip club! A huge part of why I love urban fantasy is the prevalence of strong, independent women as heroines. And after I took up pole dancing as a hobby, I realized just how little representation there is in books for women who are strong and independent while also being unashamed and in control of their femininity and sexuality—let alone sex workers. I’d love to live in a world where the ladies who wear makeup and high heels can also be seen as heroes, so I knew I wanted to write about such a place. Then I stumbled on some Aztec mythology that struck a chord, and the rest just unfolded naturally.

What do you love about writing urban fantasy? What do you hate or maybe just dislike about it? Aside from the strong women, I mostly love the sense that anything can happen at any time, no matter how absurd or horrifying or magical. No matter how high the stakes, there’s always room for laughter and there’s always room for fun. The characters are easy to relate to because they live in a world almost like ours, and that also means I don’t need to spend too much time getting distracted by world-building.

I don’t think there’s anything I dislike about writing urban fantasy at all! There are some tropes I dislike as a reader (like rapey alpha-jerks and some werewolf pack dynamics), but as a writer it’s easy to just avoid those tropes.

When it comes to world-building do you have any particular tricks or techniques? I try to think about world-building as little as possible. It’s so easy to spend hours/days/weeks making up a bunch of cool details only to realize you can’t fit them in the book because they’re not relevant to what’s happening. Instead, I like to figure out the details of the world in bits and pieces as I need to, and hopefully the result is a world that serves the story rather than the other way around. 

What was the most difficult part of the publishing process for you? Definitely the anxiety! I’ve always been an extreme introvert and a perfectionist, so the idea of putting myself out there and actually letting people read my writing has led to many sleepless nights. But I’m slowly getting used to it, even if it means I’ve had to start sneaking decaf into my morning coffee and harassing my husband for more hugs. 

What does your writing space look like? I have a beautiful office that took me many hours to paint and decorate, and I love writing in it… but much more frequently, you can find me pinned on the couch underneath my pup, who does not appreciate the fact that there’s no room for him in my office chair.

What are your tricks for juggling writing while maintaining a personal life?

Wait, do you mean writing doesn’t count as a personal life? Well, balls. I try to set aside just enough time to make sure my marriage doesn’t fall apart, but aside from that I’m a reclusive workaholic. Probably the only trick I have is accepting the fact that I like it this way, at least for the time being. 

What's the best piece of advice you've received about writing? To stop worrying about perfection. I’ve been working as an editor for the past five years, and I’ve always been better at editing than writing, so letting go of perfection and turning off my editing brain was necessary for me to allow my writing to thrive.

What is the best book you’ve read recently? I haven’t quite finished it yet, but I’ve been reading Feathered Serpent, Dark Heart of Sky (Myths of Mexico) by David Bowles for research, and I’d highly recommend it to anyone interested in Aztec and Mayan mythology. It’s refreshing to read these ancient stories that aren’t as well-known as myths from other cultures, and it's inspiring so many new ideas I can’t wait to write into future books!

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