Author Interviews

Author Q&A: N.J. Simmonds on the Release of Her Long-Awaited Sequel SON OF SECRETS

The wait is over for fans of The Path Keeper! Author N.J. Simmonds shares the inspiration behind the release of her long-awaited sequel Son of Secrets.

“Just wow! This is an amazing book. The imagery and creativeness in this book is amazing. I was on the edge of my seat wondering what would happen next. …simply a must read.” — Gina Roe, Librarian

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About Son of Secrets: In a fight against destiny – who will win?

Ella has been waiting for Zac for three years. She’s convinced he’ll return for her, but fate has other plans. When Josh is thrown back into her life, Ella has a choice: step back on to her rightful path, or wait for the one who dared her to rebel.

But Ella’s not the only one missing Zac. Luci has been searching for her blue-eyed boy over two millennia and will stop at nothing to get him back. Even if that means hunting down the only girl he ever loved.

From Tuscany 5BC to 17th century witch hunts, Ella, Zac, Luci and Sebastian’s lives have been forever intertwined. The time has finally come to complete the circle.

What led you to explore the idea of fate versus free will in this series?

I’ve always been fascinated with fate. I came up with the idea of this series when my children were tiny and we’d been living in Spain a couple of years. I got to thinking about all the forks in the road I’d taken, and what would have happened had I made different decisions. I’ve also read a lot of books about our ‘sacred contracts’ and the lives we choose to live before we’re born. I wanted to explore that idea further–that there’s a stronger force out there, and no matter how much you think you’re in control it will keep taking you where you’re meant to be.

I met my husband on a bus in Australia, yet months before meeting I used to often visit the bar where he worked. He was also best friends with a guy my sister knew from university in the UK and was roommates with the brother of someone I went to school with. We’re not even from the same part of England, and we met on the other side of the world, yet we had all these people in common. Were we fated to meet? I like to think we were. And that’s one of many examples in my own life that got me thinking that maybe we all choose our own path before we’re born.

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We got to meet Luci, Zac’s mother in this book. Tell us about your experience writing such an intriguing character.

‘Intriguing’ is a really polite way of describing Luci. When I realised, toward the end of The Path Keeper, that Zac’s parentage was going to have to be addressed I also realised his mother would have to be someone unforgettable. Men as powerful as Zac don’t appear out of nowhere! Then I started to ask myself ‘what would a woman who had been walking this planet for 2,000 years looking for her son be like? How would she act, if she’d been betrayed by her own people? What if she had unlimited powers? How would that rage and pain manifest itself?’

Luci stepped out of a dark place. She’s the personification of suppression, of every woman who’s said no and been punished for it. She’s the intensity of maternal love combined with the force in all of us who have had enough.

As soon as I decided what Luci was going to be, she wrote herself and took over the third book too. Some characters are created whole and jump on to the page so real you don’t dare argue with them; you let them do what they have to do. Some days I’d read back what I’d written and think, ‘wow, what twisted place did that come from?’

Some may see her as a villain and some as a hero. I wrote her like that on purpose because no one is all light or all shadow. In my opinion, Luci does bad things for a good reason–but it’s up to the reader to decide what they think. In the words of Luci, ‘never mistake a strong woman for an evil one.’

“…the wow factor seriously doesn’t seem to stop. …genuinely one of the best fantasy/romance series I have read for a long time…I would highly recommend it.” — Lorna Corbin, NetGalley & Goodreads Reviewer

In the first book, we got to see the 1940s and World War Two. In the second book, we get to see Roman Italy and the Dutch witch hunts of the 17th century. What was your favorite historical piece to research? What can you tell us about your experience crafting those scenes based in the past?

I’ve always had an affinity with Italy. I’ve been six times now, and to me it feels like a second home; I’m so comfortable there. I wanted–no, needed–to set one of the past lives in Fiesole, Tuscany, after an experience I encountered sixteen years ago on a pearling ship in Australia. I was backpacking on my own at the time and convinced some sailors to give me a lift up to Darwin. Huddled on my cot near the engine room I decided to do some meditation to get through the sea sickness. I had a really vivid flashback of being in the hills of Tuscany and saw myself as a young Roman village girl overlooking what is now Florence. I thought nothing of it, it’s not the first flashback I’ve experienced. Then ten years later, when I looked into it further, I discovered the place I’d seen was Fiesole and that it had been a huge Roman stronghold. The ‘coincidence’ shocked me because I’m no historian, yet everything I’d ‘remembered’ was accurate. So I looked into it further and based one of Ella’s past lives there. Last year, I visited Fiesole and was nearly in tears standing in the exact same place, at the base of the two-thousand-year-old amphitheatre, where Arabella and her little brother stop to eat grapes in the book.

scenic view of mountains during daytime

As for the Dutch witch hunts, the House of Fire and Water was a real place. It was a house I was living in at the time of writing Son of Secrets. We’d moved to Delft in Holland, and the five-hundred-year-old house we rented was called by that name. It used to have a well and it was where villagers came to collect fire and water. It was a very creepy house, and we’d hear footsteps at night. When I realised the town of Roermond, about an hour away from Delft, had experienced one of Europe’s biggest witch hunts in 1613, I knew I had to include that part of history. And that my house was the perfect place for the accused witch Marisse to live. It was sad to research the killings, yet so fascinating–plus it tied in so well with Luci’s struggles as a woman.

How do you plan a series in which all of the pieces come together as they do for these characters? Did you see the big picture immediately or did your characters show some of the pieces to you as you dove in?

I knew The Indigo Chronicles was going to be a trilogy from page one. I’ll be honest, there’s nothing I hate more than when the first book of a series is clearly written as a stand-alone, it does well, and then the author is encouraged to write a sequel that hadn’t been considered previously. That disjointedness shows. I think a good series needs to have a thread running through all the books so by the time the reader gets to the last book they see the entire story as one epic tale.

That was my intention with The Path Keeper. I knew what Zac and Ella’s journey was going to be, I knew the sacrifices they would have to take and how all the different characters would play their part from the very beginning. The first book is very much about love in all its guises, the second about what it means to be a woman, and the last is about family–but ultimately all three books are about fate, second chances, and the extremes we’ll go to for those we love.

So did the characters reveal themselves to be as I went along? Oh my god, yes! I never realised how strong Luci would be, how much I would fall for Gabriel, or how much I’d care about some of the characters in Children of Shadows (book 3). Neither did I realise how much Ella would grow as a person, how damaged she would be after her rough teen years, and I definitely didn’t expect Josh to get such a starring role in Son of Secrets. I think when you write a series spanning so many years, with past lives and flashbacks, it’s vital that you’re only telling the stories that matter. It’s also important that with each glimpse of the past the readers get to see the larger picture bit by bit. So I knew what I had to do to tell the story, to get the characters from A to Z–but they chose the route, not me.

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What inspired you to write a story that involves past lives?

When I realised this story was going to be about big love, a love so epic it couldn’t be ignored, I knew it had to go way back further than a normal life does. It’s irritating when a character’s attraction is described as love in the first chapter because it’s convenient for the story line. That’s not real love, that’s unrealistic insta-love–neither plausible nor big enough for this story. Zac and Ella’s love had to be overwhelming and realistic, but also bad news. An attraction that logically they would normally walk away from but they can’t. And you can’t ignore two thousand years’ worth of love…even if only one of you remembers each lifetime.

The concept of past lives isn’t that outrageous to me. As I mentioned before, I’ve had quite a few flashbacks to previous lives and deaths via past life regression and my own meditations. I’ve seen myself be drowned in a canal, repressed as a Victorian who was disinherited for not having a husband, and I’ve seen myself as a poor Roman girl lighting a fire outside a simple hut. Whether they really are past lives, or simply our imagination attaching emotions to archetypes and stories, it can be a really rich place from which to garner inspiration.

So once I chose to use past lives to tell Ella and Zac’s story over two thousand years, it opened up a world of possibilities that really justified the lengths they go to in this lifetime to be together. Plus it was a lot of fun to write!

Read an Excerpt of Son of Secrets:

Available Formats & Purchasing Information:

Hardcover: 978-1-64397-043-1
Softcover: 978-1-64397-044-8
Ebook: 978-1-64397-045-5
LCCN: 2019945394

Available at Barnes & NobleWaterstonesAmazon, and other fine retailers. Visit our website for more retailers and purchasing options.

Purchase direct from our online store at Bookshop.org and help support your local independent bookstores!

Click here to purchase softcover

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Booksellers, Librarians, and Retailers can purchase copies though Ingram, Baker & Taylor, Bertrams, Overdrive, and Perma-Bound. BHC Press also offers attractive pricing and discounts to booksellers, libraries, and retailers. Visit our website to learn more about available retail/library partnership programs.

Author’s Website:

Visit N.J. Simmonds’s website for information on her books, blog, and upcoming events!

About N.J. Simmonds:

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N.J. Simmonds began her career in glossy magazines and marketing, before becoming a freelance writer and consultant. She now fills her days writing books about strong women, magic and adventure. She is the co-founder of the online magazine The Glass House Girls and has since contributed to many publications.

Originally from North London, with Spanish parentage, N.J. Simmonds currently lives in the Netherlands with her husband and two daughters.

 

 

 

Visit our website to learn more about Son of Secrets and other titles available from BHC Press.

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