For April, the Sassy Girls are welcoming author Courtney Brandt. Courtney has graciously agreed to answer a few questions and talk a bit about her book, Coronation. 

Q: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

A: I’ve always been writing stories.  Literally, since I learned to write, I’ve been coming up with little bits of fiction.  I started developing novel length projects out of an interest in fan-fiction (no, I’m not going to tell you which one), and then moved over to original stories.  For a very short time I fancied myself a screenwriter, but my true love is fiction.  For the most part, I tend to concentrate mostly on young adult and women’s fiction.

Q: How long does it take you to write a book?

A: I generally write a book a year, with rough drafts written from January through May, and editing completed later in the year.  As of now I have five unpublished novels.  In general, I try to look at my calendar and find a chunk of time where I’m not traveling.  I prefer to write at least once a day, and if trips or vacation are scheduled, the interruption messes with my process.

Q: What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

A: I’m definitely a morning person!  If actively writing, I try for at least 1,000 words per day.  If editing, I try for somewhere between 8-10 pages.  The rest of the day I try and balance with a bit of marketing, reading, and writing about food.  In addition to being an author, I run an active culinary account, A to Za’atar.

Q: What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

A: I’ve always been told that I write ‘cinematically.’  Given I had an active interest in film, and even worked for a few years in the entertainment industry, this comment makes a lot of sense to me.  There are a few words I manage to include in almost every novel, limited, but not excluding ‘accouterments.’  I’m also quite partial to a specific champagne, so if my characters drink bubbly, they will almost always prefer my favorite brand.

Q: How do books get published?

AL My books are all self-published.  After I edit, then send my book to an editor and other beta types, I do a final draft and read the book on my Kindle.  As of now, I’m exclusive to Amazon, so once the manuscript is complete, I just upload everything and am ready to go.

Q: Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?

A: Ideas seem to drop in at a pace of about one fully formed novel idea per year – this year’s came pretty late…just a few weeks ago.  While I have the idea, I might not get to it for another year or more.  To begin, I start with a basic Pinterest board (yes!) and then now and then see what might be a good fit for what I consider a mood board.  Other than that, I read as much as possible on the subject I’m writing about – similar books, authors in the genre, etc.  This was particularly sad when I was writing Life After Joe, which is a book about a young widow.

Q: When did you write your first book and how old were you?

A: Let’s see – I wrote a piece of fan-fiction that was novel length was in 2006, with my original fiction at nearly the same time when I was 26.  Since then, I’ve averaged a book a year or so, sometimes two.
Q: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

A: Write…about food.  I run a food blog entitled A to Za’atar, which focuses on global fine dining.  I love to travel and have been living overseas for the past twelve years.

Q: What does your family think of your writing?

A: They are supportive.  I don’t think they always understand exactly what I’m doing, but they help in their own ways.  I know they want to see me be successful.  My mom has even had my books in her book club.

Q: What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

A: I think every author goes through peaks and valleys when writing and editing.  I’m glad that I can now take a step back and be much more critical than I was when I first started.  I’m also endlessly fascinated by reviews and understanding what other people take away from my characters.

Q: How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

A: To date I’ve published 10, and have 5 unpublished, with a few other projects kicking around.  I really couldn’t pick a favorite.  Certain novels I’ve had more fun writing, but there is something about each of the novels that means something to me.  I keep wondering which one will break away and become a huge success, because I believe they all could.
Q: Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?

Write every day – even if it’s just 100 words.  Continue reading – in your genre, in other genres, to learn how people tell stories.
Q: Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?

A: Not all the time, but I do have some core readers who have been with me from the beginning.  When I first published in 2006, many of them were in high school and now they are all out having lives of their own.  Some of them have even started writing their own books!

Q: What do you think makes a good story?

A: I’m a sucker for well-developed characters.  Make me care about your characters – from protagonist through supporting cast and I won’t be able to put the book down.  I also love a good sense of humor, world building that’s done in a seamless manner, and, of course, a happy ending!
Q: As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?

A: If you can believe it, yes, I’ve always wanted to write.  I’ve always wanted to do something in the arts, but I think it comes down to a desire to create.  Writing is a place to make something new, and I’ve always had the motivation to do just that!

More about Coronation: A story of growing up and leading a nation. Read on for an exclusive excerpt!

With Victoria and much of the aristocracy killed in a horrible dirigible accident in 1840, recently crowned eighteen-year-old Queen Juliette must balance fighting a shadowy terrorist organization, the hunt for the legendary Excalibur, and an undeniable attraction to the Captain of her Guard before she fully assumes the throne. This lighthearted steampunk adventure also features a handsome foreign prince, a gifted unicorn, and an alternate history you won’t want to miss. Will Juliette’s reign be over before it has a chance to begin? Download the novel to find out!

Fans of Gail Carriger, Shanna Swendson, and Colleen Gleason won’t want to miss out on this exciting book.

The Queen of England: Coronation is the first book in a planned trilogy by author Courtney Brandt. The second book, The Queen of England: Grand Tour is now available, and The Queen of England: Ascension is expected in early 2019.

This novel is classified as Gaslamp Fantasy, with elements of magic within alchemy and science, based in Victorian England.

Review(s): “Bottom line: I recommend this book if you love Victorian romance, steampunk, and old legends. The Queen of England: Coronation does not disappoint! And as this is part of a trilogy, I look forward to future installments.” The Silver Petticoat Review

“A country. A queen. And a secret organization thirsty for power.

In an alternate reality set in the Victorian times, Prince Albert and Queen Victoria were murdered before they were able to produce an heir, leaving 18-year-old Juliette to become Queen. But. Mysterious messages from the same organization that ended Queen Victoria’s life threaten to do the same to Juliette if she doesn’t agree with their difficult and seemingly impossible requests… A brilliant book filled with action, suspense and even a bit of a love story…” Mango Bubbles Books

“The Queen of England: Coronation follows an alternative history where eighteen-year-old Juliette, with a distant claim to the British throne, becomes the queen of England after Queen Victoria and other members of the royal family are assassinated.  The book follows Juliette as she gets used to being queen while trying to figure out who assassinated the royal family. Juliette loves science, making her different to a ‘prim and proper’ British Queen heroine you’d expect. This made me like her even more as someone who wasn’t changing who she was to suit the new life path forced upon her.  With receiving cryptic letters and trying to work out the motives of the new people she’s meeting, there’s plenty of mystery to make this an unusual lead up to the crowing of a royal. There’s also a budding romance to split up the mystery which is heightened by Juliette’s new status as Queen.” The YA Literature Bookshelf

“…the foundations have been laid, we have some excellent characters, some intriguing concepts, some excellent world building and an excellently balanced writing style that gets the necessary elaborateness of a steampunk setting without bogging it down – there’s plenty of reasons to follow this series.” Fangs for the Fantasy
“Juliette is smart, curious, active and modern. Truly, a heroine written for the purpose of being a literary female role model.” Boarding With Books
“This book gave me an insight into the lives of those in power. I got to see the challenges some of them go through and the difficult decisions most of them have to make. This made me understand the saying “uneasy lies the head that wears the crown”. This book is captivating, I love the way events happen at a fast pace. I look forward to reading the other parts of this trilogy.” Whispering Stories Review

Excerpt:

CHAPTER ONE

The New Queen of England

London, England

June 1840

“And who exactly are you supposed to be, the Queen of England?” The tone, a patrician blend of haughty and distantly respectful wasn’t at all dissimilar to the many other voices I’d heard in the past few weeks. The query was intended to not only question my existence, but also my right to the throne. I knew Victoria—God rest her and Albert’s poor souls— did not have to suffer such impoliteness.

“Yes. And Scotland, Wales, and Ireland, if we’re being specific. Actually, if you include the rest of the various colonies and protectorates, my domain is quite extensive,” I answered, then nodded in what I hoped was a regal manner and moved on, not particularly caring whether or not I left another open-mouthed subject in my wake.

Of course, there was always a remote chance he did not know who I was. Therefore, the gentleman was not ultimately at fault for his query. My reign as Queen was barely a month old and my kingdom was still reeling from the deaths of the former monarch and Prince Consort, along with a significant percentage of the peerage and senior leadership. After the shock of the May Massacre had worn off, in one of my first acts as monarch, I had formally established a year of mourning for the United Kingdom, ushering in a trend of blacks, grays, and somber colors in the world of fashion. I knew these colors would not bring anyone back from the realm of death, but I thought it was appropriate as a nation that we bore our memory in unison.

I was born Her Grace, Juliette Rosamund Collingwood, seventh Duchess of Battle, suo jore, heiress to one of England’s oldest fortunes, with a direct line back to the time of the Magna Carta. The title of queen regnant was only recently bestowed upon my person, and although I considered adopting Rosamund for my regnal name (in honor of my deceased mother), in the end, I simply couldn’t be bothered with a new moniker to reign under and therefore ascended the title as Juliette (whether or not those who confirmed me had any opinion on the matter, they made no mention). Shortly after I turned eighteen, the royal family and many other prestigious members of the realm were invited to test out the latest in airship technology. As a mere debutante only introduced to society in the recent past, I barely made the invitation list. At the last minute, I claimed feminine issues and stayed home. The reality was I wanted some time alone to work on my experiments—a most un-royal activity and furthermore, I’d already had a private tour of the new conveyance and saw no reason to get dressed up and spend the day not being allowed to speak with the aether mechanics.

Over the Thames, on an unseasonably warm day in May, the royal dirigible exploded in a horrible rain of flame and debris. Newspapers and telegraphs around the world ran with news of the May Massacre. When it became apparent there were no survivors, important men got together and their unanimous decision left me next in line for the throne—a title and station I’d never expected and had no idea what to do with. I did hear rumors of the monarchy being abandoned altogether, but those were quickly shut down by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the newly minted Lord Chamberlain, who showed up at my Mayfair townhouse the morning following the tragedy. They presented me with a certificate of the queen’s death and prayed that God would guide my way in these troubling times.

Trust me, I was never meant to be this person.

So, why me? Why not some elder and more responsible Hanoverian descendent?

My journey to the throne is unprecedented in British history. Yes, our monarchy has been filled with scandal and plotting and a murder here and there, but individuals tend to know whether or not they will have a chance at being even remotely destined for the throne. And, as with anything royal in my kingdom, everyone seemed to have an opinion. I could share a rather detailed history and family tree, but suffice to say, after reviewing all the documentation, I am the correct individual to have such a prestigious title thrust upon them. Naturally, there are those who disagree most thoroughly. Although never spoken of in polite company, I am the product of a most indecent, but still recognized union. My mother, Lady Rosamund, was the only daughter of the aforementioned family of irrefutable descent. She fell in love with my father, Mr. Peter Collingwood, owner and founder of the exceedingly successful Malay Maritime Trading Company, a man who made his considerable wealth in a most unsuitable way—through trade. Their marriage shocked many, but stood firm until she died giving birth to me.

From her, I inherited beautiful mahogany hair, delicate features and, most unfortunately, a generous sprinkle of freckles which refuse to fade no matter what the course of beauty treatment. From my father, I received a rather unseemly height (which made any sort of transference of Victoria’s belongings or garments physically impossible), wide blueish almost grey eyes, sturdy hands, and a proclivity for research, inquisition, and if I may be so bold, card sharping. His lineage and existence were overlooked in my ascension (made easier by the fact he was away on business in India). Searches for any living relatives that could act as a chaperone to me, a young queen alone in Buck House were underway. Of course, it was entirely possible they just didn’t want anything to do with me or the crown. Given the tragedy that had surrounded us in the recent past, I couldn’t entirely blame them.

So, my eighteenth birthday and ascension to the throne occurred all in the space of a month. Of course, rather than wait and mourn the loss of our fallen, the details of my formal coronation were already in process, set for the summer solstice. While we did not want to look as though there was a rush to confirm my ascension, we did not want to give our heretofore unknown enemies any additional time to make another attack. Tensions were high, particularly since invitations had gone out to what felt like half of Europe.

In the interim, no one knew much what to do with me. My subjects are terrified the terrorists who brought down Victoria, Albert, and the unborn heir to the throne would strike again. Rumors are rampant at who was behind the unprecedented attack.

Was the threat foreign in nature?

Or, as the whispers led me to believe, some group closer to home?

While certain ministers wanted to lash out and attack various countries around Europe, I held firm. We would not attack without specific provocation.

Links: https://www.amazon.com/Queen-England-Coronation-Courtney-Brandt-ebook/dp/B074N4PN6X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1502281763&sr=1-1&keywords=the+queen+of+england%3A+coronation

Ms. Brandt is proud to present The Line, and the additional novels in the complete series, A Fine Line, Keeping in Line, and The Line Up (available individually, or as a complete Anthology). Each of the lighthearted novels was created for high school students and alumni in marching band. As a former drumline member, Courtney enjoys bringing a fictional voice to band geeks all over the world. The author also released two additional stand-alone novels, Confessions of A Teenage Band Geek and her final YA marching novel, Major Pain. She also is the sole manager of the successful Tumblr ‘marchingartsphotography’ account.Courtney looks forward to turning back to her YA roots as she completes a new steampunk series set in Victorian England. The Queen of England: Coronation, The Queen of England: Grand Tour and The Queen of England: Ascension are a planned trilogy, with the first and second books in the series now available.