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Author Spotlight on Elizabeth Lavender

Tell our readers briefly about yourself.

I am the author of the sci-fi/fantasy Sunspear series. Originally from the Alabama coast, I currently live in the Dallas area with my husband and two children. I have a Master’s degree in counseling, a bachelor’s degree in psychology, and a minor in English. I enjoy science fiction and fantasy and hope to bring some of that same enjoyment to others. I also enjoy suspense novels. However, as long as the storyline is intriguing, I will give other genres a try. My reading spans from Les Misérables to Shakespeare to the Percy Jackson series to anything written by Ted Dekker or Frank Peretti. I work full-time and have been at the same company for over twenty years happily. I’m a huge football fan and have a decent throwing arm, despite what my oldest son says when we throw the football back and forth. Although I enjoy Texas, there’s nothing like going home to Alabama to visit. Besides visiting family and friends, it is nice to be back near the water again and enjoy the amazing seafood.

What books do you have available? Can you give us a short description of them?

There are currently three books in my sci-fi/fantasy Sunspear series, which include The Spinning of Deception, Deception's Hold, and Shadowed Bonds. Shadowed Bonds released late October 2021. I am currently working on the fourth book in the series. The series have a Star Wars feel as far as the sci-fi world, with the technology and space setting. The series has a foot in the fantasy world as well, with the girl’s mysterious gift of visions, one called the Ancient One, and those who can shift their appearance. It also shares a classic theme from both, the epic battle between good vs evil. There is also another arena that the series heavily dwells. It’s of the unseen battlefield, that’s as deadly as a blade, if not more. Some would call it the supernatural, others one’s own inner demons. Still, someone else could create another name for it. Whatever its name, that battle never ceases throughout the series, and the characters must struggle in their hearts and spirits to keep from surrendering to it.

The series starts with The Spinning of Deception. We meet our two main characters, our two spear-bearers who will be the inspiration to stand against the Dark Lord’s army that means to crush countless galaxies, one colony at a time in a bloodbath. Dante stands on one side, determined to stop the threat, even as his father commands the Dark Lord’s army. Across the galaxy, a mysterious young girl, trained in secret, fights against the threat as well. Her gift of visions reveals the truth of a past tragedy from Dante’s family, and it could be the key to stopping the Dark Lord. It's also this past event that creates a deadly task for Dante to complete as it ties into the present terror that threatens the galaxies. A mysterious connection grows between the two spear-bearers, but is it strong to defeat the battlefield that the Dark Lord has in store for them? And can they stop whatever the Dark Lord is creating to bear down on the colonies before he unleashes his destruction?

This is the stage set as we move into Deception's Hold. The Girl and her comrade race to discover the terror the Dark Lord is constructing to bring the colonies to their knees. Dante's group lends their aid with a dangerous gamble to help their friends in their search before it's too late. Dante's personal nightmare looms over the horizon as his task nears, and The Girl's fear for his fate becomes unbearable at times. Dante feels ill-prepared to confront his father and free him from the Dark Lord’s control. But when he comes face to face with the fiend’s petrifying ability to twist truth into deception, the embattled warrior may struggle to resist falling victim to the same power. Can Dante escape following the same descent into madness and bondage?

Our journey continues with Shadowed Bonds. The unthinkable has happened. All around is destruction. An unforgettable sacrifice has already been given and what else will be asked? The Girl and Dante longed to finally meet and yet it's overshadowed by the grief that threatens to imprison them. The battle with the Black Dragon isn't over, so they can't let their pain win further. Then there's The Girl's own battlefield. She is forced to keep her world hidden from Dante, and her tortured past threatens to overwhelm her. Those bindings entice her like never before, dragging her closer to the edge of a black abyss determined to make her its own. Dante, though, is equally relentless in his pursuit to keep his beautiful sunspear-bearer safe from the shadows that threaten to take her. In the end, will she succumb to the tendrils of Darkness coiling around her, or will Dante’s bond be the stronger claim? Or does it only mark the beginning of the Black Dragon’s galactic conquest turning from a mere shadow to a deadly certainty?

The series will unfold more as it’s a work in progress.

Do you stay in one genre when you write, or do you find yourself veering toward others?

I stay in the one genre, which is sci-fi/fantasy. This is the first series I’ve written, and I’m currently writing the fourth book in the series. After I finish this series, I can’t speak to what I might write after that.

Are you a panster, planner, or someone in between?

I’m definitely the pantser. I know how the last battle of the whole series will go, and the dialogue has written itself in my head for a while. I know there are certain events and conversations that have to be revealed to get me there. I have a good idea of how those events need to unfold and probably how the dialogue will go, but that’s because I’ve been in my characters’ world for so long now. I just know what they would say and do. It’s not because I sat down and outlined how it’s going to go or plotted it out. I can’t even imagine writing like that. I know my eventual endpoint and the dots in the middle to get me there.

What is your writing routine like? I just write the story first. I don’t stop to edit or revise until I have the complete story for that part of the journey. I let the story flow, stay inside my world and my characters’ heads and hearts, and allow them to direct the writing. Once the story is down, then the editing/revising begins.

Tell me about your favorite character that you’ve created?

I have two favorites. There’s no way I can choose between them. It has to be Dante and The Girl (yes, she is called that until book 3 because her identity has to remain hidden). Dante fights with all his heart to defeat the Black Dragon, and he’s already lost so much. As the series opens, his mother and brother are counted in those losses and his father now fights on the other side, causing the destruction he now sees around him. Yet somehow, he fights on even with that always there, and as the series continues his incredible heart and spirit that make him a hero will shine through in the battlefields he’ll be put through. Then there’s the girl who fights just as hard, but between her own internal “demons” and the visions rest doesn’t come easy for her. There are moments she can’t move beyond, that still hold sway over her. She can give grace to others, but not to herself. We’ll see her forced to take on many roles, play many parts to help win against Black Dragon. Even as she does it, it all adds to the turmoil that’s already creates such a nightmare for her at times. Yet despite all that, she has a spirit and heart that matches Dante’s, and she’ll need it to manage the battlefields that lay ahead for her.

Where do you get your ideas for world building?

Since my series has its feet in the sci-fi and fantasy worlds, I’ve been inspired by several sources. From the sci-fi world, Star Wars certainly left its mark on me. I also always enjoyed Star Trek. I enjoy the earlier ones in the timeline (the ones with Captain Kirk and Captain Archer) more than the later ones. The characters seemed more personable/relatable to me. Then there was a sci-fi series I loved as a kid. It was called Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. It was one of my earliest introductions to the sci-fi world, and I loved the characters. The heroes were relatable as well, even though they had cool ships and technology. On the fantasy side, I’ve always loved the Lord of the Rings Series, so just the epic fantasy feel to the Sunspear Series came from that. Also, the earliest fantasy series that I fell in love with was The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander, starring the Assistant Pig-Keeper who, one battle at a time, becomes more than he thought possible. So that one certainly has influenced parts of my Sunspear world. Also, there is the concept of this whole other unseen battlefield that comes into play that is prominent throughout my series. I’ve made that battlefield as great a role in my series as the sunspear/air battles that one expects from a fantasy/sci-fi struggle. Two authors that inspired that part of the Sunspear world would be Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker.

Do you add romance to your writing? Is it steamy or clean?

Yes, I do have romance in my writing. One of those romantic relationships is central to the series. All of the romance in my writing I would consider clean.

What was your favorite scene to create?

There were several that come to mind, but if I have to choose one it would have to be the big confrontation between Dante, Dante’s father, and the Dark Lord. It incorporated a sunspear battle, but the central battle was the one for Dante’s very spirit. It showcased the unseen, powerful battlefield full scale that runs through the series. Dante was brought to his knees as he tried to withstand the assault to his soul and the reader is taken with him. We endure with him as he is emotionally shattered into pieces and hope he finds what he needs to rise again. Although it was a difficult confrontation to write, it came out beautiful.

Where do you get character inspiration?

I don’t have a set formula or a real process. I can only say how the characters of The Sunspear Series came about since that’s my first and only work at this time. The overall story started forming in my head and the two main characters took shape. Those two main characters came easily. The others I built around them and the plot. If I was doing it again with another series, I don’t know if that’s how it would work itself out. For this one, the characters seem to find their own way in a sense. There are certainly other works that have inspired the Sunspear World including the characters. Just as Star Wars, Star Trek, and Buck Rogers inspired the sci-fi physical world of the Sunspear world, their touch can be felt on the characters as well. It goes the same for the fantasy end, as the Lord of the Rings and the Chronicles of Prydain have characters that provided the spark of creativity for the characters in the Sunspear series. Then there’s Jean Valjean from the novel Les Misérables. It has to be one of my favorite books of all time. It’s a story of grace and redemption for the convict Jean Valjean who ends up spending 19 years in jail for stealing a loaf of bread. The themes of grace, redemption, and sacrifice that are threaded throughout the series were directly inspired by Victor Hugo’s heart-wrenching tale. Then there’s Edmond Dantes from The Count of Monte Cristo. It’s about the young naïve hardworking sailor Edmond Dantes who’s wrongly imprisoned. While in prison, with the help from another prisoner, he pieces together how he ended up in prison, and upon escaping carefully plots out and carries out revenge on all those responsible for his imprisonment. Only at the end, does he realize he went too far, but it’s too late. His character inspired several parts of my story. It includes the way he changed personalities once he began carrying out his revenge. The meticulous fashion he implemented is reflected in a couple of major characters and storylines. The characters of the Sunspear story are a rich culmination of all those influences.

What genre do you prefer to read?

I prefer to read in fantasy and sci-fi, but I also enjoy the suspense/psychological thriller genre. There’s even a sprinkling of romance ones in my reading. I certainly have preferences, but I don’t have any issues with picking up a book in another genre if it gets my interest.

Do you have any specific authors you follow and try to craft your work after?

There are certainly authors I follow, enjoy when they publish their next work, and I’m likely to pick it by virtue that they wrote it. There are also other authors that their works have inspired the Sunspear world in more direct ways, such as Tolkien, Alexander, Peretti, and Dekker. However, I can’t say that there is an author that I try to craft my work after.

Do you have any recurring themes in your book?

There are several recurring themes in my book. One is that truth is of the upmost importance, even life altering. It can change the course individuals take, the choices they make, for good or for the worst outcomes. When truth is twisted or the lie is believed as truth, the destruction it can cause is devastating not only to the believer, but to all those in their circle.

Another recurring theme is that you can’t always trust your eyes to guide your steps. That it is largely dependent on the source many times. There’s more than one occasion in my story that characters find they see with their eyes, and they make decisions based on that rather than follow what they should have known to be true. The result is never good, ranging from bondage to near death.

Another is that our greatest battlefields may be the ones not so easily seen. One of the main characters in the book, The Girl, has significant battlefields to conquer with her sunspear and she’s amazing in that respect. However, her larger and more significant battlefields many times are internal that become manifest in the external. We see it played out in her bedroom in a struggle, after she has just suffered a major loss. We’ll continue to see her wrestle with these internal demons. She’s not the only one either. It’s a thread that runs through the series, and it’s prominent with Dante in the second book in a major confrontation he has. The message is there’s an unseen, equally powerful battlefield always at play in our lives and those struggles and how we face them shapes us as much as those we see.

Another theme is that don’t always see clearly who we are. Some people have an inflated sense of who they are, so that’s not accurate. However, in the case of our story the problem comes from our characters seeing a distorted view of themselves and believing lies about who they are on the other end of the spectrum. Despite efforts by others to convince them differently, this distorted view has taken root in their spirit and directs how they view themselves. It also directs how they talk to themselves and even their actions. For example, they take more risks with their lives because they see themselves as less valuable.

Another theme is that once you go down a certain path, you can choose to turn back. The gloomier side of that is you can begin following the right path and the darkness indeed does consume you or maybe the person always chose the darker path and continued on until it followed its natural course. However, the series puts more concentration on the other side of the picture. It’s the one that if you start down a path of darkness, light can still peek through. You can choose a different path. Redemption can be found. Forgiveness is sometimes hardest to give to oneself, but grace can indeed be found and is given.

What does your editing process look like?

Long and painful. I see it as a necessary evil part of the process. For me, the revising or editing part of the process has always been difficult. I have a hard time figuring out when I’m done with the revising/editing of the document. When I finish a scene, I love how it turned out. However, once I start the revising/editing stage of my book and I’ve revised it to death, I find it’s hard to judge how good it is anymore. It’s not “fresh” for me anymore, and that’s when I usually stop in the revision process. It’s impossible to revise it further, because I’m probably actually “messing” it up. The other part is I hate the revising/editing process to such an extent, I have a hard time motivating myself to do it. I find myself grinding through it whereas the writing part is so much fun to me.

Do you have a preferred drink or snack that you eat/drink while writing?

I can’t say I have anything that’s specifically confined just for writing. Any snack that involves chocolate, I’m in, no matter what I’m doing. As far as drink, sweet tea is what I grew up on in Alabama, and that’s what I prefer to drink.

When is your favorite time of day to write and why?

Some is already predetermined for me. I work fulltime during the week, so all the writing has to be done in the evenings and on the weekends. However, I’ve always been a night owl by nature. I’m a horrible grouch in the mornings; no way I’ll ever be a morning person. So normally on the weekdays I’ll push it until about midnight (the only reason I don’t do later is because I have work the next morning and kids to get to school). On the weekends though, I’m usually up until 3 or 4 in the morning easily. My mind works well as far as the writing in the evening hours until about 3:00 AM.

What is your favorite vacation spot?

My favorite vacation spot is actually my hometown. I’m originally from the Alabama coast, and I’m only thirty minutes from Gulf Shores, Alabama, when I’m back home. I can be at the beautiful sandy white beaches and get the most amazing seafood to be found when I’m back home. Of course, there’s always things to do since the area draws tourists with the nearby beach.

Marvel or DC? Do you have a favorite character?

Marvel fan for sure. I think my oldest son would disown me if I said otherwise honestly. LOL. My favorite character is probably Thor. I love his fighting ability, but his attitude is priceless throughout the series.

What hobbies do you have?

I enjoy reading. I suppose that would be a given with being a writer. If I am not writing my own story, I love getting lost in someone else’s story. I also really enjoy watching a story coming alive on the big screen or onstage.

Where can our readers find you?

I’m on all the major social medias, which includes Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. I can also be found on Goodreads and Bookbub. You can also contact me on my website and be sure and sign up for my monthly newsletter.

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