Today, I’m honored to chat with JL Rothstein, author of the Heaven Sent series. I’ve interviewed her before, as well as marveled at her first book, Atonement. Since our last chat, she’s been really busy.
Hi, Jen! Welcome and congratulations on your latest book, Hellbound! Your books are now sold in stores! How does that feel? Where can we buy them?
Yes, they are in a couple of independent bookstores, Tatnuck Booksellers in Westborough MA.
And All She Wrote Books in Somerville, MA. Just recently my first book was picked up in select locations of The Paper Store, which is a 95-store retail chain. It was surreal seeing it on the shelves of a bookstore. It’s an amazing feeling. I am humbled by the opportunity. It is difficult as an independent author to get your book in stores. It’s why most choose to go the traditional route, so to have these stores pick it up at all feels amazing.
It must feel great!
Please, tell us about Hellbound! I haven’t had a chance to read it yet. Is it as nerve-wracking, hold-onto-the-edge-of-your-seat as Atonement is?
Hellbound picks up right where Atonement left off. It follows Deborah O’Mara as she starts to question the Guardians mission on Earth. She wants to rescue someone and believes it’s worth risking what she’s sworn to uphold. I think it’s an interesting dynamic for her to be in, because she is the sister that has always followed the rules. You’ll meet some new characters, but there is plenty of action.
I don’t suppose you would care to give me a little update on Deb and Marcus?
I won’t say too much, but I will say that Marcus does play a major role in Deb’s journey in book two. I like the idea that we get to see Deb go on a heroine’s journey in book two, there will be trials and tribulations for sure! In Atonement, we had to meet the family under grueling circumstances, but in book two we get to know Deb on a deeper level, it feels a little more focused now that all the characters are known.
It sounds extraordinary. How about the writing of it? How does the (writing) experience compare to the first book in the series? Did any particular part give you a harder time to write?
I think with the first book you spend a good amount of time introducing the reader to the main characters. Where the family is large, there are nine siblings, plus love interests and allies. It’s a big cast. The first book was about bringing the reader into the world/universe that I created. With that done, book two is allowing me to dig a little deeper into the three sisters. What are their motivations, their desires, their goals etc. I hope readers come away knowing them more intimately. I always think the action scenes are the hardest. They are fun to write, but they take a lot of editing and re-writing to make them believable and well-paced. It’s definitely something I continue to work on as a writer.
Emotions – what can we expect from the book? What emotions did you experience while writing it?
I think we are going to run the gamut here. Deb is going to feel loss, betrayal, frustration as well as love and desire. She is going to question everything and when that happens, I think you end up experiencing an entire slew of emotions.
I felt a little spent at the end of book two. My Mom passed away in Dec 2020 and at the time I was going through the editing process, which in and of itself is a tough process. By the time I got through it and launched in April 2021, I was pretty wiped out. It was good having this past summer to try and recharge in anticipation of writing book three.
I'm so sorry for your loss. I know how hard that is. I'm glad you took a little time to recoup and get back to yourself.
You named your main characters after your nieces and nephews. How do they feel about Hellbound?
I think they are thrilled that I did it, and my nieces have told me they are honored by it. Gen and Deb are tied up with being new Moms, but they read book one and are on book two now. It has been wonderful being a great-aunt, so excited to have babies in the family again! Kelly has read both and is very excited for her characters book to come out next!
It must be so exciting for them. And Book 3 is Kelly's story? Yaay! We all love Kelly!
From my point of view, you’ve been something of a pioneer out in the vast open spaces of indie publishing. You’re an influencer on Twitter, you have a youTube channel, and you have a presence on other platforms as well. Do you have one best tip about indie publishing or navigating social media that you would like to share with us?
I’m no different than the other indie authors out there. I’m trying a bit everything to see what makes a difference. From the outside it probably looks like I know what I am doing, but I’m learning as I go!
I think I would tell people not to give up. There will be things that you try that work, and things that are flops. Just keep going, something is bound to break if you keep at it. There is no one thing you’re going to do that will lead to success. Publishing is a marathon, not a sprint. You need to be patient and understand that it takes time to get your work out there, try and enjoy the journey.
Did I read somewhere that you’re now pursuing a masters or was I imagining things? In addition to writing, promoting, and life in general, you’ve gone back to college? Tell us a little about yourself, about what drives you.
I applied to Graduate school and have taken a few classes. I am not currently enrolled this semester, but I do plan to go back and take more classes. I feel like I need that foundation, others may not. I went to school for finance, and I work in the accounting field. There is a lot to learn about writing, editing, publishing, and marketing. I figure anything that helps me get better is worth pursuing.
That's so well said and true for all of us, if only we would recognize it.
Wishing you all the best, Jen. Thank you for sharing your time with us.
Thank you, Anastasia! I so appreciate you sharing this information with your audience.
Hell’s First Army has been preparing a thousand years to reign terror upon this Earth.
For centuries Deborah O’Mara and her siblings have been faithful followers of their brethren in Heaven. After Hell murders an Archangel, Deborah begins to question her very mission as a Guardian.
Rescuing a Sentinel means Deborah will have to shatter The Accord reigniting an age-old Celestial War. She must choose between love & loyalty and find the strength to live with the consequences.
Battling new enemies, forging desperate alliances, and burdened with a soul-crushing betrayal, Deborah is tempted to pursue the path of the Fallen. Her family races to intervene, but they may be too late to stop her from becoming…HELLBOUND.
Available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble
Hellbound by JL Rothstein (Excerpt)
Deb couldn’t remember exactly when she was here last, but she knew it was decades, not years. Hence why it took her time to locate it again. The boarded-up door swung back open with force. The door ricocheted against the stone exterior and snapped back toward those exiting. The young female was unceremoniously being hauled outside by her arm. Even at this distance Deb could sense the male was demonic. He shoved the teen up against the neighboring building’s facade. Deb couldn’t hear the conversation, but she could tell by the tone it was anything but pleasant.
The female held her hands up in front of her face and yelled out.
“Leave me alone, demon.”
The female attempted to shove her attacker, but he towered over her by at least a foot and probably a hundred pounds or more.
The male snickered and goosebumps rose along her arms.
“Your kind isn’t welcome here,” the demon yelled in her face.
The female kneed the brute between the legs and took off running toward the street. The male took only a few strides to catch up to her. Grabbing her, he pulled her up off her feet. Closer to the street,
Deb could clearly see the female’s face. The male had a large chunk of her hair. Tears escaped her eyes as they filled with terror.
She’s over her head, Deb thought.
Briskly, Deb walked across the street and dropped her shield in front of them as the girl hung nearly frozen in the air.
“Why don’t you pick on someone your own size, demon.” Deb’s voice was calm, determined.
The Demon swung his large bulky arm to the left and the female tumbled out of his grasp rolling to a violent stop to Deb’s right.
“What do you want?” he asked. “She with you? You should tell your friend that not all of us from Hell have the same anatomy.”
“I’ll be sure to explain your inadequate manhood to her later,” Deb quipped.
He didn’t retort, he just lunged. His broad shoulders and bulging neck were indications he trained often. The girl scrambled to her feet.
“Look out,” the teen warned.
Deb adeptly slid out of the way, unsheathing the dagger she had stashed in the inside of her raincoat. Before he could recover Deb swung the blade down across his chest. His shirt tore open.
The black patchiness of his skin revealed what he was, a vampire.
Deb hadn’t encountered a vampire for many decades. In her memory, they were fiercely trained soldiers making up Hell’s First Army. Unlike how the humans portrayed them, vampires didn’t have fangs or fear sunlight. They more resembled the Spartan army from the 5th Century BC. They did, however, consume human blood to maintain their strength and vitality. At least they did until the Amendment to the Heaven/Hell Accord was enacted.
The old scars of battle had healed on this vampire, but without consuming the essence found in human blood they were burnt and marred. Deb swung again and managed to break open the skin under the most mutilated of his scars.
He growled and stepped back using his hand to stem the bleeding.
“You’re going to pay for that,” he sneered.
“I doubt it,” a female voice echoed from behind the vampire. “You guys need better lines.”
Deb pushed down the wave of relief welling up. Kelly had arrived further down in the alley. She was wearing all black; Deb had to squint to make out her sister’s profile. Kelly held a knife in each hand, a clear indication she came prepared for a fight.
Glancing back at Kelly, the vampire snickered. “Well, aren’t you a pretty young thing.”
Kelly sucker punched the vampire in the face and then used her left shoulder to knock him into the wall.
Turning to her right Deb spotted Gen standing behind her.
“What’s going on here, Deb?” Gen asked.
“A little misunderstanding between these two, that’s all,” Deb answered as she turned back toward the vampire.
“Someone else is coming,” the teenager announced.
The metal door creaked at the end of the alleyway and Deb stole a glance in that direction.
“I take it there’s a problem here,” the newly arrived male declared as he proceeded to head in their direction.
Kelly turned her back on the wounded vampire to face the entity coming toward them.
“You should go back to whatever cell you just crawled out of,” Kelly warned.
The newly arriving male wore a suit and held his hands up in front of him as if to surrender.
“No need for those, Guardian,” he said to Kelly.
Deb was confused, the male seemed to be attempting to quell the situation. He was as hulking as the vampire, but there were no scars, in fact his face was almost too pretty for a demon. He wore his black hair cropped and he was clean shaven.
“Garrick, go back inside and finish your drink,” he ordered of the vampire.
“She started it,” Garrick stated as he pointed at Deb. “I’m going to finish it.”
“There is no fighting on the grounds!” he scowled at the vampire. “You know the arrangement. Now, go back inside or they won’t be the only ones asked to leave.”
With a grunt, Garrick walked toward the door. He scoffed at Kelly on his way by and she sneered back.
“What are you, the vampire whisperer?” Kelly remarked to the newly arrived male figure.
“No, I’m Ray and I’m simply trying to enforce the rules and regulations. If you don’t know them, then you probably shouldn’t—”
“I thought this place was neutral,” Deb interrupted.
“It is,” the male answered as he lowered his hands and shrugged slightly. “Mostly.”
Deb chuckled sarcastically. “Good to know.”
“I’m afraid you’ll all need to leave now.” He nodded toward the street. “If you visit again, it’s expected you’ll be less, shall we say, aggressive.”
The demon turned and walked toward the door, following Garrick back inside.
“You’re Guardians?” The teenager asked from behind her. “Why did they just leave? What do you mean by neutral?”
“I would like to know all those things and more,” Kelly said, shooting a quick glance at Deb. “Let’s start by making our way back toward the street. I assume this place has cameras since Ray knew to come out and rescue the vampire.”
Deb followed Gen and the teen out onto the street where they turned left and walked a half block up. The teen’s shiny black hair was wet from the rain and hung straight to the middle of her back.
When she stopped walking and turned back, Deb noticed her long black eye lashes and olive skin. She was naturally beautiful, even in casual clothes and an unmade face.
Deb asked the teen a series of questions. “What were you doing in there? Aggressive, what did he mean by that? Did you go inside to start a fight?”
Before the teen could answer Gen interrupted. “Maybe we could start with who she is?” The teen’s big brown eyes swung in Gen’s direction. “What’s your name?”
“Why do I have to answer all the questions first. I didn’t ask for your help.” The teen looked back at Deb. “I went into the club looking for a friend.”
“That was foolish and dangerous,” Deb commented.
“Yes, Mom,” the girl remarked sarcastically. “But, like you, I didn’t have a lot of options.”
“What do you mean, like me?” Deb asked.
“You’re here, aren’t you?” The teen deadpanned.
Kelly chuckled. “Good one.”
Deb smiled and her shoulders relaxed a bit. “I guess I am. I’m Deb and these are my sisters, Kelly and Gen.”
“My name’s Gardenia.” The girl eyed Deb cautiously. “Thank you, you know for stepping in. I didn’t know he was a vampire until I saw the black scars on his chest. It was only recently that I came to learn that vampires were real. Do they have fangs and drink human blood?”
“They don’t have fangs,” Kelly answered. “When they want your blood, they just slice you open. They’re soldiers, or at least they were until the Accord Amendment. Now, they don’t really have a purpose and human blood is toxic to them.”
Deb noticed Gardenia’s sweatshirt was torn and grew concerned. “Are you alright Gardenia? Did he hurt you?”
The girl’s eyebrows furrowed as she looked down at the torn front pocket of her sweatshirt. “This was already torn.”
“Do you want to tell me what happened in there?” Deb asked.
“It doesn’t matter anymore, I found what I was looking for,” Gardenia responded.
“And what was that?” Gen asked.
“A Guardian,” Gardenia replied. “Any chance your last name is O’Mara, and you make your home in Boston?”
“Seriously?!” Kelly squealed.
Deb was taken aback, she had never seen Gardenia before, at least not that she could remember.
Is this another thing I’ve forgotten? Deb agonized. How
many are there? How many more lost memories do I have?
About the Author:
JL Rothstein is a published author. She writes in the Fantasy genre with an affinity for the Supernatural. The first two books in the Heaven Sent series are available for order now on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Target and Wal-Mart.com.
Atonement, the first book in the trilogy is the fictional story of the O’Mara family, nine siblings sent by Heaven to guard humans against the intrusion and interference of those in Hell. Genevieve O’Mara kills something she shouldn’t, thrusting she and her family in mortal danger. Along the way the siblings come to realize the violent confrontations and disturbing behavior they encounter can only be overcome if they have trust and faith in one another.
Jennifer was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts. She comes from a large Irish family and spent twelve years in Catholic school. Having three siblings herself she understands the challenges, drama, rivalries, and loyalties between siblings.
Jennifer has a BS from Suffolk University and is currently pursuing her MBA in Creative Writing from Southern New Hampshire University. She is married and now resides in the central part of the state.
I’ve been stuck with the flu this week. Yep, the flu, not Covid, not a cold. I fought it for a few days, finally feeling miserable to the point of tears, and gave in. Time to follow doctor’s orders – that is, my family’s orders as well as a medical doctor’s – and stop everything and rest. I’ve come to realize that for me, at least, that has to include mental as well as physical stillness. I’ve been noticing a particular lack for a while, but this week it’s been driven home forcefully. I’ve come to rarely practice quiet and stillness within.
There’s always something to do, to think about, to plan, to learn, to listen to. As much as I enjoy and appreciate podcasts and audio books, they circumvent a meditative approach to performing chores. I would not give them up, but I should work in silence more often than I have been lately. I even got to the point that I was listening to something most of the time I was gardening. When I realized I wasn’t fully engaging with nature (duh), I stopped, at least for the most part. One small step in the right direction…
This morning, I picked up a book that I’ve had for a few years and never got around to reading, Gunilla Norris’ Inviting Silence. It's good, but so far, it hasn’t taught me anything new. That might only be because I’ve practiced yoga for almost fifty years, and I can surrender myself in contemplative prayer. But I like the book. I think it would be an excellent introduction to meditation for a beginner. Even for someone as old and wise as I am (wink, wink), it offers great reminders.
Influencers and business coaches encourage us to utilize every spare moment with activity. It’s a pro-active, “don’t waste time” mentality. Standing in line at the store? Check your email, engage with social media. In a waiting room? Make lists, review your agenda. In Inviting Silence, Ms. Norris suggests the opposite, using these moments to take an inner break, that they offer small chunks of time to practice inner silence. Just be there. Personally, I don’t love it, but I can see it as a practical and less intimidating approach to meditation, even if you just try it once a day.
Let’s be clear: taking recourse to inner calm is not wasting time.
But why? Why practice silence? Our brains need it. Our souls need it. If we’re always immersed in – and saturated by -- everything else, we only hear a babble in our heads and feel the jangling of our nerves. Pulsing, pulsing, all so fast, nonstop.
It should stop. We should stop – cease thinking for a moment. We deserve to breathe -- long, deep, fulfilling breaths – and experience true calm.
And we need to be able to be with ourselves – only ourselves – not listening to a book or a podcast or music. I’m not talking about relaxing. Or thinking. Send away every thought. Let a fresh, cool, gentle wind fill your head as you breathe.
I practiced this morning. I’m on the mend, and my head isn’t so stuffy that I can’t not think. Obviously. And I have to say, that little quiet, the brief reconnection to my own breath (which is not just physical but spirit) did wonders.
Wishing you abundant peace and joy.
Keep me away from the wisdom that does not cry, the philosophy that does not laugh, and the greatness which does not bow before children. – Gibran Khalil Gibran
From me to you with a smile.
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