A few months ago the sweet and talented Tiffany Skylark sent me a copy of her book Roquiel and the Phoenix. I had several other books to read in front of it but I was so excited to get to it!
Everyone who follows me knows I am a huge Lord of the Rings fan and love fantasy. When I got to the book I could not put it down! There are some slight spoilers here!
Roquiel is as relatable as he is love able. I could relate wholly to his lack of enthusiasm in his work but also for his compassion toward it. He feeds the fish in the elf village he lives in. When he is selected to replace the life stone of the dying Phoenix so that earth will survive, it’s a bigger challenge than he has ever taken on.
I would say it will be the biggest challenge he will take on but since the next saga will be released in 2019 (yay!) I would say Roquiel’s first journey is just the start!
While reading this book I realized it was the best fantasy novel I had read in a long time. So I asked the author some questions. It’s always easy to know a book and very hard to know the author. Tiffany is so nice! (She’s also very smart, people!) She was open to questions and gave incredible answers that made me really think.
1. What inspired your book?
The basis came from the elves in The Lord of the Rings. I’ve always thought that they were so elegant, intelligent and had the right idea about living in the trees and being close to nature. I felt like elves were underrepresented and so I wanted my main characters to be these intuitive, strong beings with extra senses. After the main characters were set, I wanted to work in some ideas and topics that are important to me like not seeing your differences as weaknesses, how travelling can expand your horizons and get you out of your shell, developing spiritual abilities, the power of meditation and working with energy.
I’ve learned that in order to understand and appreciate the good things in life, you also have to see and experience darkness. But in the end, my message is one of hope. I want people to come away from my books inspired, confident in themselves and looking forward to the future.
2. When did you know you wanted to be an author?
I can’t give you an exact age or moment that I knew, I’ve just always loved to write. When I was younger I would write short stories and poems all the time. More than once as a kid, I had people refuse to believe that I had written the work that I was showing them. I didn’t take this as a negative thing though, I knew it just meant that I was a good writer.
3. You went to college to study Spanish and are very accomplished in your field, what inspired this?
The high school that I attended began offering Spanish classes when you were a freshman. I signed up for Spanish 1 and I remember going and picking up my books for class that summer and I studied the Spanish textbook constantly. I fell in love with the language, the food, the culture and I wanted to become fluent for several reasons. I took Spanish all four years in high school. In Spanish 3 there were only two students and I was all alone when I took Spanish 4 as a senior but I stuck with it.
At that point, I hadn’t travelled much, but I knew that I wanted to and if I knew Spanish, I could travel around Spanish-speaking countries with ease. I was fortunate enough to study both in Spain and Mexico in college. I’ve also spent a lot of time traveling in Colombia, Peru and Honduras.
I also was inspired by the migrant farm workers in my area who struggled with the communication barrier and I wanted to be able to bridge that gap for them.
4. Do you have a day job? If so, what is it?
I have a six year old son, so that in itself is a big job. Apart from that I’m also an interpreter/translator. Like I mentioned above, I became fluent in Spanish and wanted to put that to use in my community. I started out as a medical interpreter and later moved into courtroom interpreting and document translation as well.
5. Balancing work, life and writing what steps do you take to do so?
It is difficult and by no means do I have it perfected, but for me, it helps to write a daily task list. I strive to get everything done on my list, even if I don’t feel like doing it that day. I try to carve out time every day for self care (meditating, exercising and of course, eating ice cream). I’m also mindful of spending quality time with my family where I put everything else aside (including my phone) and focus on them.
6. What advice would you give young girls about pursuing their dreams?
I think the best advice that I have heard on this topic came from Kathy Lee Gifford. I was watching her on The Today Show once and she said, “Find something you love and figure out a way to get paid for it.”
Those words stayed with me and I think about them often. Sometimes we take a job just to pay the bills and I totally get that, I’ve done it many times. But I think that life is too short to spend all of your time this way. Following your passion, being your true, authentic self and showing the world what you have to offer is how things change for the better.
7. What advice do you wish someone had told you before you got published?
I’ve heard a lot of authors talk about branding yourself lately. Creating a logo, a color scheme, a font and other things, that when people look at it, they immediately think of you and your books. I didn’t really think about this aspect of building your platform as an author before I published, but now that I have, I’m working on all of the things that they mentioned in order to have a more cohesive look to the material that I put out and to become more recognizable.
8. Your book is very detailed, I especially love when you described Ava’s wood chest and how it was passed down to her. How do you draw such vivid details out of your imagination?
My mom has this chest in her room that her dad made for her when she was a teenager. She keeps her wedding dress, some photo albums and blankets in it. When I was small, I would open it and spend a lot of time looking at her ‘treasures’. That was the inspiration for the chest in Ava’s room. I like the idea of heirlooms being passed down in families, especially ones that contain sentimental items.
9. As someone who suffers from anxiety, I love that you made Roquiel to have it as well. It makes his story relatable and humanistic in a fantasy novel. Was that your intention?
Yes, definitely. I too, deal with anxiety issues, including panic attacks and so I wanted a protagonist who had the same problem. But I also wanted to show how Roquiel is able to push himself outside of his comfort zone, accomplish great things and slowly but surely, become a leader, despite his anxiety.
10. I’m so eager to know what happens next! When does your next book come out?
I recently attended a book signing in Frankenmuth, Michigan called Once Upon A Book. Before going there, my goal was to publish one novel per year. While at the event, I talked with fellow authors, many who had DOZENS of books under their belt. I was sitting next to author CC Dragon and she told me that she can write an entire novella in 1-2 weeks. Being around all of these amazing people inspired me to push myself a lot harder and to up my daily written word count. That being said, I’m now aiming to have book 2 out by the end of this year and book 3 done by May 2019!
So excited for her newest addition to the saga!
For more on Tiffany check out her website at www.tiffanyskylark.com
If you’ve read Roquiel and the Phoenix let me know what you thought! Remember to follow me on Instagram @books_and_a_brunette for constant updates!