Author Interview with Brigitte Morse-Starkenburg!

If you’re a frequent reader of my book reviews, you know that I have read and loved each of Brigitte Morse-Starkenburg’s books. They are my lifeblood during these trying times.

So, I was extremely excited to be able to sit down (virtually anyway) with her to complete this interview. Without further ado, a word from one of my favorite self-published authors!!

  1. Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from?

I was born in the Netherlands and lived there until I was 23 years old, when I decided to join my fiancé after having had a long distance relationship for 3 years. We met in Assen (where I lived and he worked), but he had to return to England after a year, and we decided to give the long distance thing a go. It was the best decision as we’re still together and have a family with three gorgeous teenage children (if you leave out all the teenager horrendousness lol).

  1. What does a normal day look like for you?

What a day in the life of Brigitte looks like, depends on whether I am working or not as I still have a part time job at a secondary school. I used to be a teacher of geography, but now I invigilate during exam times and go on school trips! Obviously due to Covid, they have all been cancelled and exams have only just started again, so haven’t worked much over the last year. When I’m not working, I get up fairly late, do a couple of chores and shopping, walk the dog around lunch time, have some lunch at a pub occasionally when Steve joins me on my walk, do some writing in the afternoon, be a taxi driver for my kids when they get back from school to their sports and activities and nag them to do homework, do some more writing, cook some dinner, read for a while, watch some Netflix with youngest daughter or oldest when she’s home, Get the youngest to bed, sit down, do some more reading with a glass of wine (though not on Monday and Tuesday, our dry days) Then stay up way too late doing some more reading and watching Netflix with Steve and, by then, with some rum and coke. Go to bed way too late, rarely before 1am.

  1. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I used to write when I was a teenager. I always wanted to tell a story. I loved reading and the world it transported me into, and I wanted to create worlds myself. Unfortunately, I never managed to finish one book! Then years later, when my children were a little older and I wasn’t working a demanding job the itching to write started again.

  1. What does your family think of your writing?

I think my family is quite proud but they are also extremely down to earth. Steve supports me with my terrible computer skills and gives me the time to write. My youngest is the most keen in that she has listened to me read my books out loud to her in the editing process, and she loves them! (I had to edit some of the language whilst reading, even though I damn well know she knows and probably uses the words with her friends!) My eldest occasionally chips in with helpful suggestions, but my son probably doesn’t even know what the book is about!J

  1. Does writing energize or exhaust you?

The actual writing of the story excites and energizes me. It is the best part of writing; making up a world where you have ultimate control! I think I am a bit of a control freak and in real life that is not practical as more or less everything is compromised by events and other people. This does make me sound rather weird, but it is the main reason I love writing! The editing phase of writing generally exhausts me and so does the promotion of the book. Not my favourite parts at all.

  1. What inspired you to write The Sensorians?

A little idea started playing in my head based on the  sensory issues my daughter experiences due to her ASD. For her, quite often it has been a negative experience as smells particularly can be challenging, but I was thinking what if it was actually a gift, and something you can use in a positive way? That was where the idea came from. Then there are different aspects of ASD in the characters, but ones that are quite often not associated with ASD but presents quite often in girls with ASD, like extreme empathy, almost making you really feel other people’s emotional pain.

  1. How long did it take you to write The Sensorians: Awakening? What about its sequel Trust? Will there be another?

The first draft of book 1 took about a year and a half to write, then I tinkered with it for ages, started writing book 2 at the same time as editing book 1, to finally dive into the world of publishing after about three year from the start. Lockdown gave me the time to really look into how I wanted to publish and I decided to go independent with KDP. I published book 2, Trust, 5 months after I published book 1. I plan to have book three in the trilogy published in June/July 2021. After that, who knows! Hopefully a new project! I do have some ideas swirling around in my head.

  1. What is your favorite part of The Sensorians? No spoilers, of course!

My favourite parts to write are the ones with Zack in it. I love his mainly grumpy arrogant dominant character. I like the attraction between the three main characters, how it develops and how they deal with it, but I also like the action parts.

  1. As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?

My spirit animal is a black feisty horse or a wolf.

  1. What does literary success look like to you?

Literary success to me is finishing a book or in this case the Trilogy where I feel happy with it, but the icing on the cake would be that people read my books and have an opinion about it, hopefully a positive one!

  1. What advice would you give a fledgling writer?

 Advice to fledgling writers, coming from an not very experienced writer could be pointless, but I would say; just start writing, don’t keep postponing.

Reader Questions!!

  1. What sort of books do you read?

I have a very eclectic taste in books, including young/new adult, fantasy, literary thrillers, classics, women’s lit, erotica, psychological thrillers, dystopian, sci-fi, detectives. Anything that interests me I will read, no matter the genre.

  1. What’s your favorite book?

How can one answer that? One of the books that I often recommend as it made a big impact on me is the Book Thief by Markus Zuzak,  another favourite was the Secret History by Donna Tartt, and Wild Swans by Jung Chang, but I’m not ashamed to say that The Twilight Series are a little obsession for me!

  1. Book that made you cry?

Lots of books make me cry. An obvious one was You Before Me but also New Moon in Twilight!

(The interviewer would like to point out that while she shares a love of Twilight with Mrs. Brigitte New Moon is her absolute least favorite and she thinks it should burn in a hell fire.)

  1. Book that really inspired you?

Books that inspire me are any books that I am reading at that moment! Every book inspires me in a different way, even if I hate it or can’t finish it (inspiring me never to write like that). 1984 by Orwell, inspired me as a teenager and A Brave New World by Aldous Huxley really got me into the dystopian genre. Enid Blyton gave me the love for reading as a child.

  1. A book you didn’t like at all? (Maybe one you felt like you were supposed to like.)

I hated the sequel to The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. Such a disappointment. Also cannot finish When The Crawdads Sing, hate it.

  1. What’s your perfect reading environment?

 I can read anywhere and everywhere, but I love to snuggle up on the sofa with a glass of wine and read.

  1. Do you listen to music while you read/write, or do you prefer silence?

I don’t specifically listen to music when I read, but I don’t mind it.

Well, that’s it! You can pick up Brigitte’s two AMAZING books at the links below! Follow her on ALL the social media platforms! Until next week, then. 😉

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheSensorians/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/brigitte__books/
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Brigitte-Morse-Starkenburg/e/B08BTH1CDT

Book Review #16: Trust (Sensorians Book 2) by Brigitte Morse-Starkenburg

**Be aware, there are spoilers in this review! So, if you haven’t read book 1, which I reviewed here… DO NOT CONTINUE**

All Eliza wanted was to be trusted. She’s been thrown head-first into this new community of people with gifts like hers, and now, they want her to prove she’s on their side.

After a month of isolation, Eliza’s read to face the world again. This time, though, she’s going to take the hunt for her father Rick into her own hands. When she hatches a plan to infiltrate his headquarters, things will quickly get out of hand.

People close to her will be hurt, and the consequences for her actions will be irreversible. Will it be worth it? Will she gain the trust she so desperately wants?

Style:
I love Starkenburg’s style. I’ve reviewed her book before, and I cannot iterate enough how much I LOVE this simplistic, yet emotional style of writing. It isn’t draggy with the descriptions but you can still see clearly the setting and emotions in every single line. Starkenburg really has done it again with a very well-written book. I absolutely gobbled this book down. No regrets at all.

I will say kudos to Starkenburg for fixing the formatting errors that I pointed at in my last review. I had no such issues this time! Aside from a few minor typos here and there, it was a solid read!

Now, I did have one slight issue (Say it with me, “Oh, Lord, of course you did, Amy. *insert heavy eye roll*). I loved this book. Ate it right up. And yet, at times, I was still hungry for more. This book felt like Starkenburg spent a lot of time telling me what was happening without really showing me. I wanted to see Eliza tricking Daniel. I wanted to see them conversing amongst themselves, playing around and relaxing. Some scenes feel very skipped over, and I’d really like to be able to see more. Instead of telling me that Zack was furious with her, show me him stomping away (I mean, he does that anyway, but I fully expect him to stomp like every other dang page).

TLDR; I feel like this book could have been longer and deeper than it was.

Characters:
Our beloved cast is back. Eliza is still in love with Zaphire. Zack is still a pining little snot with anger issues. But we’ve also got a whole new group: Daniel, Ned (old but with a bigger part now), Sam, Phaedra, Irena, I could go on for years, but I won’t.

Eliza is still as strong as ever, although she’s starting to realize she’s not perfect. I like that her character is changing over time– taking bigger risks and wanting to be more independent. She also realizes that she needs help and asks Zack. That was a great decision in my opinion.

Zack is still just as angry as always, and I love him for it, lol. I wish he’d make better decisions, but I understand why he’s making bad ones. He wants a girl he thinks he can’t have. The whole love triangle thing is mega-frustrating. I am glad he met Phaedra, maybe they can have some no-strings-attached time together and get out those frustrations. I really like Phaedra, despite the fact that Zack and Eliza belong together.

Zaphire made me extremely mad throughout this entire book. I tolerated her in book one, but I really just… Ugh. She seems really whiny sometimes, and she doesn’t want to accept the idea that Eliza left her. She’s way too cocky for her own good! And that gets in her in trouble.

Overall, Starkenburg always does an excellent job of creating characters that are both frustratingly and amazingly real at the same time. That’s obvious in how I describe the poor things.

Plot:
Other than the issues I’ve already discussed above, I have no problems with the plot. I would complain about the ending a little bit more, but if you’re a reader who can easily pick one book up after another, you will not complain about the way the end is formatted. It’s a massive cliff-hanger, and I’m just mad that Book 3 isn’t out yet. LOL So, my dislike there is a little bit biased.

Otherwise, the action moves along smoothly and makes perfect sense. As far as I know, there are no plot holes or unanswered questions (other than that STUPID END). Well done, Brige.

If you want to buy Trust or read it through Kindle Unlimited, you can do that here. 🙂

Book Review #15: What Lies Beneath by Michael R. Lowe

The ancient realm of Xovia is in turmoil. A dark, powerful figure known as The Masked One runs rampant across the land, pillaging and kidnapping as he sees fit. This evil entity is searching for the Lost Crowns, which will allow him to ascend to The Empty Throne, thus becoming the ruler of all.

When Arturius wakes up on the edge of a blood-covered battlefield– no memory of who he is or where he comes from– his journey begins. Together, he and a band of exiles take the task upon themselves to stop The Masked One and find the crowns themselves. His journey will be anything but easy, and the truth will be harder to uncover than ever before.

Isn’t this cover just drool worthy?!

Style/Length:
We’ll start with style. What Lies Beneath is an epic dark fantasy, meaning it is LONG and it is WORDY. I think the word I used to describe it was “chonker.” The language can be at times very description heavy and can often times bog the reader down, but this is very much a staple of the genre. If you’re an active reader of my reviews here, then you know I don’t read a lot of this heavy fantasy genre. I can handle some cross-genre stories, light fantasies, etc, but epic fantasy is really not my forte.

It may be after this, y’all.

This book was indeed the longest book I’ve read in a long time, and it did take some time to get moving. It’s not without issues (which I’ll get to in just a moment). Yet, I found myself just blank-staring at the wall after reading the end and WISHING it would keep going. I was both exhausted and amazed and…. blown away that I liked it as much as I did.

As far as issues go, the first three chapters really need to be condensed into a shorter prologue. I understand their significance now, after talking this through with Lowe in our Book Club. Yet, I still think they’re too long. Especially considering that they have nothing to do with Arturius to begin with. They seem very disjointed and a bit confusing.

Another rather small issue (because I loved the plot so dang much) was the amount of errors. It’s going to happen. The more you write, the more words start blending together and you start making little typos. No one is perfect, I know that. Yet, the amount of typos and punctuation errors throughout is sometimes distracting. It takes you out of the story. I suggest that Lowe invests in a line editor (which will be pricey) to go through and pick out the mistakes. I’ve done a lot of the spelling stuff through my notes, but the punctuation errors, I didn’t pick out. A good editor will be able to do that for you.

Characters:
Now, the PEOPLE. In true epic fantasy form, you’ve got a whole cast and crew of characters. They’re a band of brothers (for lack of a better word). I have problems keeping up with a whole bunch of names, but that’s just a personal thing. It wasn’t until past the halfway point that I was really able to start distinguishing between each individual person.

Our story really starts with Arturius (our hero) and Silas (our scholar/helper). As I was reading, I kept referencing Lord of the Rings. It’s one of my favorite movie franchises. Please don’t click away because I haven’t read the books. I tried. I told you I don’t like epic fantasy books; I lack the patience. Yet, I found myself comparing the characters and events to Tolkien’s characters. Arturius is Frodo– but with some killer sword-weilding skills and more height. He has a strong moral compass and fights over and over to do what’s right. I really like Art.

The rest of the group includes Silas: a young and often sheltered, for reasons that are semi-clear right now, scholar; Selwyn: the leader of the band of exiles that I compare to either Gandalf or Aragorn. We will see how one event plays out in his life before I finish that comparison. Then, there’s Garton, who reminds me a bit of Aragorn, cursed and broken but so faithful to the hero; Ozark: the guy who seems to know everything about untold legends, a Legolas in my book, Eskiel (Gimli, lol), Kezin, Robbard, Jorik, Burak, Dovan, Karlan… I’m honestly probably forgetting someone. It’s a list and a half. Sometimes they blend together, sometimes they do not. Some characters are world’s better than others. That’s just the reality, though.

Plot:
For my analysis of the plot, I have to keep in mind: this is an epic fantasy. I can’t look at it with the same glasses as I would one of my sci-fi or romance books.

We do have a rather slow start. Art and Silas are trudging forward to find the exiled crew, fighting their inner demons and some outer battles along the way. In terms of action, not a lot is happening for a while! I’m not a huge fan of the down periods.

About halfway through, things pick up. Fast. Once Art is joined with Selwyn and his men, they start engaging in battles. They travel. They bicker. This is the meat in the burger, y’all. This was by far my favorite part. The action is so well-written, and it doesn’t drag on like you would expect it to after this length world building (necessary for this genre, I know). Plus, the assorted talents of the characters really makes for an interesting read!

Some notes from my reading experience include:

  • “This is like that thing that killed Gandalf. You know– YOU SHALL NOT PASS. That thing.”
  • “OMG ELVES” followed by: “OMG NO! It’s an ent!” (I was wrong on both occasions, lol.)

Overall, a slow, imperfect read that was somehow bursting at the seams with all the potential to be a staple epic fantasy. I would recommend this to anyone who loves Lord of the Rings! It was wonderful, and I am so glad I pushed through to finish it.

8/10 from me.

Follow Michael R. Lowe on the following platforms:
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08KGTSSZY/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/LoweinXovia
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheEmptyThroneSeries