Today is my slot on The Path Keeper Blog Tour, and I have a guest post from author N. J. Simmons.
ROMANCE AUTHOR N J SIMMONDS TALKS INSPIRATION, TRAVEL AND WHY LONDON WILL ALWAYS RUN THROUGH HER VEINS.
The Path Keeper is the first book in the urban fantasy romance series The Indigo Chronicles. Set in north London it’s about nineteen-year-old Ella falling for the mysterious, blue-eyed guy Zac – but this is no straight-forward love story, it’s one that has spanned hundreds of lifetimes.
Firstly, what made you set the book in north London?
I grew up in Highgate (although in a council flat, not a mansion in the village). Like my main character, Ella, I too have mixed Spanish and English parentage but spent most of my life in north London. I was born in the Whittington Hospital in Highgate, then moved to Barcelona until I was seven, then came back to north London. I was brought up in Highgate, went to school in East Finchley, worked in Muswell Hill, as an adult lived in North Finchley and Enfield, and worked in the West End and Canary Wharf. As a kid I’d play in Highgate woods and Waterlow Park, and my teens and twenties were spent shopping in Camden (where the fictional bar Indigo is set), hanging out on Hampstead Heath and going out in central London. It was important for me to reflect that world and the teen life of a north Londoner. I don’t see enough YA fantasy books featuring London transport, teens going out and the not-so-glam side of the city.
Since then I’ve also lived in Australia, the south of Spain and now in the Netherlands – but London will always be in my blood. It made me who I am today.
The Path Keeper is partly set in the south of Spain. What influenced you to set the book there too?
Although my family is from the city of Barcelona in Spain, I lived on the Costa del Sol for seven years. It was while living there that I started writing the series – so there was no way I wasn’t going to bring some of that sunny Spanish charm into my book. I even have Ella swearing in Spanish!
The old town of Tarifa, famed for its kite surfing and the Mediterranean meeting the Atlantic Ocean, is one of my favourite places ever. It’s only an hour away from my house in Estepona, and every time I visit I look over to the spot on the beach where I imagine Zac playing his guitar, and the other side where Lilly meets Leo.
Also, the fictional mountain village of Las Alas was inspired by the ‘pueblo blanco’ Gaucin. In fact, the tiny church Leo mentions is based on the chapel where I got married, an 11th century site hidden in the shadow of a crumbling old castle.
Ella is a really strong character and very outspoken, is she anything like you?
Yes and no. I was nothing like that at nineteen, it took at least another fifteen years until I found the confidence I have today. Saying that though, Ella is also very vulnerable and needy due to lots of issues in her past. I think it’s easy to only see the surface of a person and forget why they put up barriers. She’s not as self-assured as she makes out she is. Even though Zac is one sweet and soppy cinnamon roll, he’s the calming, grounded influence she needs.
The Path Keeper centres around esoteric subjects such as past lives and crystals. Are you spiritual or religious?
I have my moments. In my twenties I travelled around Australia on my own for ten months before meeting my (now) husband and continuing my travels around south East Asia with him. Those fourteen months of backpacking changed my life and taught me a lot – not just about myself but also about meditation, crystals, past lives, astrology, and learning about other faiths. I also trained as a reiki healer and have since studied colour therapy, so these learnings have certainly influenced my beliefs.
A lot of people have criticised the “anti-God” aspect of The Path Keeper, which surprises me. I was brought up a Catholic, went to a Catholic school and married in a Spanish chapel – I’m not anti-God -but I’m also a proud feminist and have delved into a number of my own past lives, so that mindset doesn’t always sit neatly together with standard Christianity. Because of the storyline and who Zac is, I had to come up with a plausible backdrop for that world, and quite frankly it made more sense to not have a god or heaven in the story. That seems to have offended a few.
A person’s values and beliefs are personal. Faith isn’t a matter of ticking off a list of attributes and calling yourself a better person. For me, true faith is about understanding yourself before judging others. If you are truly happy with yourself, new ideas and twists to common tropes and religious figures shouldn’t be a threat.
And finally, tell us what other places in the world have influenced the rest of the books in the series.
I’ve seen a lot of the world and hope to see even more as my kids grow up and I get more time to myself. I’m so happy to have had the opportunity, through my work, to play homage to all the places that have meant something to me.
In the sequel Son of Secrets we get to visit Roermon during 1613, where one of Europe’s biggest witch hunts took place. Although I live in Delft, the Netherlands during the seventeenth century was much the same as many parts of the country still are today. I used to live in a Dutch house dating back to the 1500s – and it later became my inspiration for ‘The House of Fire and Water’ featured in the sequel.
One of my favourite places in the world is Florence. The sequel is set partly in Fiesole during the Roman occupation, and the final book in the series Children of Shadows also features Florence and an amusing scene in the Uffizi gallery.
I think that as long as I keep seeing new parts of the world I’ll never run out of inspiration!
Every blog tour in the blog has a letter. Collect them all to spell out the answer to this competition question: What does Zac get in the sequel SON OF SECRETS that’s very out of character? Prize info and entry details will be posted in The Glass House Glass magazine on release day 28 May 2019. Check out today’s letter and competition graphic below.