Interview with Joni Parker, author of The Seaward Isle Saga

Joni Parker was born in Chicago, Illinois, but left the windy city at an early age when her family moved to Japan.  Upon return to the United States, her family moved to Phoenix, Arizona where she graduated from Camelback High School and began college.  However within months, Joni quit college and joined the Navy where she became a Photographer’s Mate.  After 3 years in the Navy, she returned to college and got married.  She got a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting and an MBA before she returned to the Navy.  As a Commissioned Officer, Joni attended the US Army Command and General Staff College, completing a Master of Military Arts and Sciences Degree.  She retired from the Navy with over 22 years of service and spent several years traveling the United States in a motorhome with her husband.  When he died unexpectedly, Joni returned to work for the federal government in a civil service job.  Five years ago, she started writing and retired once more to devote more time to her new passion.  She currently lives in Texas.  

Her latest fantasy books are The Black Elf of Seaward Isle, Tangled Omens and Blood Mission.

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Can you tell us what your book is about?

The Seaward Isle Saga is a fantasy series about the adventures of Lady Alexin Dumwalt (Alex) who lives on Seaward Isle, an Elf island lost in time and space.   

In the first book, The Black Elf of Seaward Isle, Alex is orphaned due to a misguided attack on her father’s home by the local king.  She escapes with the help of two soldiers who take her to her brother’s boarding school for safety.  When Alex learns that the wizard employed by the king killed her parents, she vows revenge, becomes a soldier to learn how, and fulfills the prophecy of the Black Elf.

In the second book, Tangled Omens, Alex is a fully trained soldier and experienced tracker even though she’s only fifteen.  She goes undercover to find out about the fate of a pirate leader when she meets a man, known as the Horseman, the notorious pirate spy wanted for treason.  Her mission is to find him again and kill him before his activities destroy the kingdom, but his trail leads her deep into the pirate stronghold far from home.

Blood Mission is the third book and Alex’s toughest mission to date.  This time, she thwarts an assassination attempt on her cousin, Prince Darin and Lord Odin, the two most powerful Elves on the island.  Although executed by the Prince’s own general, the dastardly deed was instigated by the rogue Elf Mellen.  The Prince tasks Alex with a mission to track down the rogue Elves sealed with his own blood.  She finds the Elves elusive even as they build a pirate army to take the island.   

The Island Game: The Inside Story of Seaward Isle is a bonus story documenting the arrival of Olivia Richards, a freelance investigative journalist, stranded on the island with her husband.  Her investigation provides insight into the history and origins of the mysterious island and its inhabitants.

Why did you write your book?

Bits and pieces of the story began circulating in my head several years ago and grew until I had to write it down in order to keep sane.  It took me three months to dump it into the computer.  It was quite a relief, but I didn’t want all that work to go to waste so I decided to publish it.  I thought this was something I could do in retirement to keep me active.  Rewriting the manuscript turned out to be a monumental task, but soon, I had broken down the manuscript into the first two books.  Then before I knew it, I’d written the third.  The bonus story came about when my editor/publisher asked me about Seaward Isle.  After I explained it, she asked me to come up with a bonus story. 

Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

I created all of my characters from my imagination, but I could see their faces, hear their voices, and feel their emotions.  This way, I can change them or make them act a certain way without feeling like I betrayed someone I knew.  Of course, the characters don’t always do what I want them to—they seem to have their own free will.

Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel or do you discover it as you write?

I’m aware of the plot because I’ve designed it in my head, but it can change as I write it down, depending how a character reacts or how the situation evolves on paper.  Sometimes, it takes a completely different direction.  For this reason, I find it difficult to outline a book before writing. 

Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

Setting does play an important role in the story.  Seaward Isle is an Elf island that seems to be lost in time and space.  People arrive there by shipwreck or in some cases, plane crashes from different times and places.  For instance, Olivia Richards was in the Mediterranean Sea in the year 2011, while Alex’s father was from the Black Sea in the 1600’s and her grandfather was a Titan who escaped there from the War of the Titans (year unknown but a long time ago).  In addition to thousands of mortals, there are Elves and Dwarves.  The question is how did they get there and manage to be living at the same time and place? 

Is it hard to get a fantasy book published?

Let’s face it.  It’s hard to get any book published.  That’s why so many people are self-publishing.  In my case, I was working with an editor/publisher, Teresa Kennedy when she started an indie publishing company, Village Green Press LLC.  She took my series with her and published it.

Is it hard to promote a fantasy book and where do you start?

Promoting any book is the hardest part of being an author.  The question is where to start and what method works.  My publisher helped by sending out press releases and posting to social media.  I used social media as well in addition to my website.  My publisher and I used free book offers on Amazon, and I’ve given away some books on Goodreads.  Nothing has really worked so I’m trying a blog tour.  I’m also working on my next series called The Chronicles of Eledon and the first book is called Spell Breaker, which I plan to release in 2015.

Can you tell us about your family?

My grandparents came from Japan on both my father and mother’s side.  They arrived in the early 1900’s and established a productive life until World War II came about.  Then they were forced into internment camps—my father went to Tule Lake, California and my mother was at Minidoka, Idaho.  They lost everything during the war, but once it was over, they built new lives in Chicago, Illinois where I was born.  I lived there until I was 8 when my family moved to Japan.  My father wanted to be a professional golfer and after 4 years, he achieved his dream.  We returned to the States, moving to Phoenix, Arizona, a city with a lot of golf courses.  I graduated from Camelback High School in Phoenix and joined the Navy after I dropped out of college.  After 3 years, I was discharged from the Navy and married a career Navy man.  We were married for 27 years until he passed away.  During that time, I also completed my bachelor’s degree, two master’s degrees, and a career in the Navy with 22 years of service.  I recently retired from my second job in order to write.

What do you like the most about being an author?

It keeps my brain working.  I’m always working on new scenes and each one is a challenge.  In addition, there isn’t a mandatory retirement age so I can continue writing for as long as I want.

What kind of advice would you give other fiction authors?

Look around for writers’ groups for support.  The first group I found was the Writers’ League of Texas.  It offered classes on writing, a summer writing retreat, an annual conference, and fellowship with authors.  It isn’t located in my area, but is close enough for me to drive.  Writing can be a lonely occupation, but you don’t have to do it alone.