Monday, September 2, 2013

Author Spotlight: Interview with Stifyn Emrys

1. Quickly, give us the title and genre of your book and a 30-word or less tagline:

“Identity Break,” dystopian novel about two teens on the run, hunted by adults who want to control them. They aren’t who they seem - or who they think they are.

2. Who is your intended audience and why should they read your book?

I targeted this book at a wide audience. It should appeal to YA readers, science fiction fans and readers who enjoy paranormal fiction (even though it’s not exactly paranormal or science fiction). I wanted to give the humanity of the characters broad appeal and provide the kind of twist that blindsides you. I want you to say to yourself, “Wow, I didn’t see that coming.” Think “The Sixth Sense” meets “The Twilight Zone.”

3. How did you come up with the title of your book or series?

I wanted something original, so I did some research and found “Identity Break” hadn’t (to my knowledge) been use before. The “break” refers to a break with perceived reality and a break with expectations, which plays into the twist I referred to above.

4. Tell us a little bit about your cover art. Who designed it? Why did you go with that particular image/artwork?

I design all my own cover art. It’s a creative process I enjoy, though it can be a challenge.  In this case, I found the photograph online and messaged the photographer, asking permission for use. Once I received consent, I used Photoshop and an online photo editing tool called Pic Monkey to convert the photo to black and white and enhance it to create the stark, haunted feeling I was seeking. The cover photo depicts a child named Charlotte who’s one of the key characters in the book.

5. Who is your favorite character from your book and why?

My favorites are the two protagonists, Elyse and Jason, both of whom are outcasts for different reasons. Jason is a gifted scholar and athlete who has little patience for the social games of high school. His parents keep him at arm’s length and have put him in therapy so someone else can deal with his “problems.” Elyse is an artist with a more cynical worldview whose father has died a couple of years earlier and has withdrawn to some extent. Both, however, are heroic figures whose courage comes to the fore when they face challenges they never imagined.

6. How about your least favorite character? What makes them less appealing to you?

Definitely Pamela Throckmartin. The reader isn’t supposed to like her, because she’s very manipulative and scheming. But I don’t like one-dimensional villains.  She’s one of the adults trying to control Elyse and Jason. You’ll read a bit about why she has turned out the way she has, and you might even have some sympathy for her. Not much, but maybe a little.

7. If you could change ONE thing about your novel, what would it be? Why?

I’m very pleased with the way it turned out. I can’t think of anything specific I’d change.

8. Give us an interesting fun fact or a few about your book or series:

It’s written in a multiple first-person format. Most chapters are written from Jason’s or Elyse’s point of view, but some are written from Pamela’s and a few are viewed through the eyes of other characters. I was worried this might confuse readers, so I was careful to give each character a distinctive voice. I think it worked well, especially considering it’s my first novel, and those I’ve asked about it say the changes in voice are clear.

9. What other books are similar to your own? What makes them alike?

I’d say it’s more similar to some visual-media stories I’ve seen in terms of style and approach. I referred to “The Sixth Sense” and “The Twilight Zone.” There are also elements of “The Matrix” and “The Hunger Games” movies. In terms of literature, I’ve always been taken with the themes George Orwell brings up in “1984.” There’s an element of turning the world on its head and manipulating people’s minds that is somewhat Orwellian.

10. Do you have any unique talents or hobbies?

I’m a journalist, and I’ve spent nearly three decades working as a writer and editor for daily newspapers. I’ve also spent a good deal of time researching the myths, stories and philosophies that have gone into the development of Western religion. It’s a topic I address in some of my non-fiction works, such as “The Gospel of the Phoenix,” “Requiem for a Phantom God” and “The Way of the Phoenix.“ I consider myself a strong advocate against bullying, and my non-fiction work “Undefeated” spotlighted stories of people who have overcome prejudice and oppression. I also occasionally sing karaoke.

11. How can we contact you or find out more about your books?

Visit my Amazon page at You can also follow me on Facebook at or Twitter @stifynemrys.

12. What can we expect from you in the future?

I have a couple of ideas for novels, one of them being another installment in the “Identity Quest” series (I’ve also written a novella called “Artifice” that explores some of the backstory). I’ll also be doing more non-fiction writing.

13. What can readers who enjoy your book do to help make it successful?

The best thing you can do is recommend it to friends and rate/review it on Amazon or Goodreads. Positive ratings are a huge help, both in terms of visibility and encouragement to any independent author. I don’t have a big publishing house to back me up, so I rely entirely on word of mouth.

14. Do you have any tips for readers or advice for other writers trying to get published?

Just do it. You don’t have to wait for a publisher to accept your work. There are a number of self-publishing options out there, including CreateSpace (which I use). Be meticulous about your work. Go over it carefully yourself, then hand it off to an editor you can trust to be thorough and honest. My wife, who’s also an author, and I edit each other’s work.

15. Is there anything else you’d like to say?

I’d like to thank Jenna for spotlighting my book on her blog.

16. And now, before you go, how about a snippet from your book that is meant to intrigue and tantalize us:

Jason Nix in session with Dr. David Stanton, psychiatrist:

He spoke to me in his lecturing tone. “Everyone has a subconscious, Jason. It’s just a matter of accessing it. I’d like to do a little experiment, if you don’t mind.”

I squinted one eye at him. What was he getting at?

“What kind of experiment? I’m not a lab rat.”

“Oh, nothing that will hurt,” he said. “I’d just like for you to go to sleep here in the office for a few minutes, and we’ll try to discover what’s going on behind that tightly drawn veil of yours. I understand you might be too nervous to sleep, so I’m prepared to help you with a little meditative exercise.”

This time, I was the one who had been taken off guard.

Sleep? In the office? This was the kind of thing you did in a hospital on a couple of weeks’ notice. Not in a doctor’s office on the spur of the moment.

“What kind of bull is this?” I demanded, slapping the good doctor’s precious glass globe against a marble tabletop and watching it shatter.

Amazingly, Stanton didn’t seem to care.

“Come one,” he said in his best attempt at a reassuring tone. “This will be interesting. You’ll learn a lot about yourself, and it might even be fun.”

“Fun for whom?” I asked. “For you, sure. For me, this seems ...” I pulled out my mobile phone. “I’m calling my parents.”

I started to dial the number, but Stanton grabbed the phone out of my hand.

“Nice,” I said, doing my best to stay composed.

“Now, we can’t have any of that. Besides, your parents have approved what I have in mind, so you really don’t have any say in the matter, Jason. Just lie back on the couch and try to relax while we peer inside that incredible little mind of yours.”

The couch. Yeah, Stanton actually had a couch. I had always thought it was another one of his stupid props. No one actually lay down at a therapy session anymore. Did they? And what was this about my parents having the final say? I was of legal age now. Barely, but it counted.

Stanton pushed a button on the intercom on his desk. “I think we’re ready, Ms. Throckmartin. You can come in now.”

My eyes flashed toward the doorway, which opened in a same moment to reveal someone I’d never seen, a woman with a jet-black bowl-shaped head of hair and a dark birthmark just over her right eyebrow. She wore a gray pantsuit and a pair of white gloves that made her look a little like the white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland.

To her left was a small man in spectacles - the round-framed glasses I’d seen in pictures of John Lennon - and a white physician’s coat. Under one arm, he carried a tablet computer. He looked like a mole.

I stood and took a step backward.

Directly behind the mole man stood an imposing specimen of humanity even bigger than Haze.

I glared at him. Always challenge the biggest dog first; if you lose, you get it over with quickly. If you win, all the others will fall into line. I don’t know where I’d heard that, but it had always seemed like a damn good way of handling conflicts. If I was intimidated, I wasn’t about to let them know it.

Any of them.

“Allow me to introduce Ms. Throckmartin, Mr. Davey and Mr. Olson. They’ll be assisting us this afternoon.”

My mind flashed back to the football field and my winning touchdown. There was only one door to the room, which wasn’t particularly large, and Mr. Olson - the big dog - stood directly between me and the goal line. He was big, but I surmised that I was faster. A lot faster. I took a step forward and stuck out my hand, imitating Stanton’s plastered-on smile. Reflexively, the mole man took a step forward and extended his own hand. In the moment that he shifted his balance, I grabbed it and pulled him toward me.

His knees buckled and I let go, thrusting both hands firmly against his shoulders and knocking the off-balance mole backward into the surprised big dog. Both went tumbling backward in a heap. I had just a split-second to make it past them, but I knew it would be enough. I ran for the goal line …

And felt my shoulder wrenched back firmly from behind. Arms flailing, I landed flat on my back.

Ms. Throckmartin was staring down at me.

“Don’t worry about them,” she snarled. “Worry about me. Be afraid of me.” Her lips curled up in a menacing, self-satisfied smile.

“Sweet dreams,” she said.

Then everything went black.


Thank you Stifyn for taking part in my Author Spotlight interview! I hope your writing continues to flourish and we hope to see more of you in the future.
If you or an author/illustrator you know is interested in being interviewed, feel free to send me an email at