Featured Author: J. Naomi Ay
- Please introduce yourself. Tell us a little about the person behind the pen.
I’m a former CPA and businesswoman, who out of boredom more than 20 years ago, started writing a science fiction/fantasy story purely for my own entertainment. Mr. Ay and I have two boys one would consider adults although they are still on our medical plan, a daughter who is fourteen and has just started high school, and a Pomeranian.
2. What made you decide to write (the genre of your book), were there any influencing factors, or were any of the stories based on true events.
I’m a life long fan of Star Trek and Star Wars and have also enjoyed historical fiction. The Two Moons of Rehnor has a lot of elements from all that. In fact, recently a reviewer called it “Game of Thrones meets Star Wars.” I confess that I’ve never read or watched Game of Thrones but my sons tell me that is a huge compliment.
3. How do you promote your book, and do you find that difficult or just par for the course.
Well, that’s exactly the issue isn’t it? We write this amazing treatise and put it out there on Amazon and somehow expect readers to notice it amongst the other 80,000 ebooks which are launched every month. Unless you’re really lucky, that just doesn’t happen. So, promotion means constantly working the social media, advertising in the social media and working the local area press and book stores. It’s hard and horrible for someone who’d rather just sit in front of their computer and bond with Word.
4. Do you remember your first review and how it made you feel? (If it was a bad one, also tell about your good one too).
Of course! As I mentioned early, the Two Moons of Rehnor series evolved over a 20 year time period. About 1 ½ years ago, I bought an iPad and discovered the whole ebook revolution and KDP. Here I was sitting with a huge story that was almost ½ million words figuring that nobody would ever read but me. So, figuring that I could hide under the cloak of anonymity, I bravely put up the first 70k words on Amazon as “The Boy who Lit up the Sky.” I didn’t tell anyone, not husband, not kids, not friends. Two days later, someone bought it. The next day, they returned it. Oh! You mean I’ve got to edit it too? Anyway, long story short, I asked two friends to take a look at it, edit it and tell me what they thought. They both came back and said, basically, you’ve got something here. A month later, edited and republished, I got my first review from a stranger. Here it is:
What a great book READ April 11, 2012
I really enjoyed this book. This book renewed my love of the fantasy genre.I had just finished the “Hunger Trilogy” and feeling a little let down. This book is the opposite. It has everything you want in a book; politics, drama; the unexpected and love. The characters are developed so you feel you have a stake in what happens to them. Just when you wonder what happened to a past character there they are again in the story adding more “flavor” to this stew of intrique. I just finished book 1 and purchased the next 2 just so I can continue uniterrupted. ENJOY.
PS started book 2 last night and stayed up until late just to get to a point I could take a breath. This book promises to be even better than the 1st one.!!!!
5. Tell us about your book and if it’s a series and how the public is reacting to this book.
Yes, as mentioned, the original Two Moons series was nearly ½ million words which I broke up into Books 1 – 5. Amazingly, once I called that done, I started receiving letters from fans begging for more. Now, I’m in the middle of drafting Book 11. We’re several generations into the characters and the story is taking twists and turns in all sorts of directions. I’ve also written 9 prequel novelettes which sort of fill in the gaps. 4 of the novelettes have been made into audiobooks and I’m also working with an illustrator to turn the series in graphic novels. The Two Moons of Rehnor #1, a graphic novel which starts at the beginning of The Boy who Lit up the Sky will be out before Thanksgiving in ebook format.
As far as how the public is reacting, The Boy is probably the most controversial book as there is some graphic scenes of child abuse, implied rape, and a fair amount of profanity. Some object to this while others tell me it’s mild as I don’t get into any explicit details. Unfortunately, a lot of people think that because it’s about “a boy” it’s intended for children or teens which is NOT. It is necessary to show the development of the character though. That being said, The Boy is still highly rated on Amazon and Goodreads. The series overall has 152 ratings with a 4.38 avg on Goodreads and on Amazon, every book in the series has a 5 Star average in the US, UK and Germany. It’s truly amazing to me and heartwarming that the series and especially, the main character, Senya, has garnered so many fans.
6. Can you share any and all links that are important to you as a person and the book? (You can relate more to a book if you know more about the author).
My links are as follows:
The main series is available in ebook and paperback format at all major book resellers. Here’s the link to Amazon:
7. I’ll wrap it up with this question since “7” is a lucky numberJ. Can you share an excerpt from your book, and I’d like to thank you so much for taking time to share your book with me. Please share as much as you’d like.
Excerpt from The Boy who Lit up the Sky, Chapter 1, Meri
“What have you got there?” I asked Sister Moon.
“A pot of gold,” she cackled holding up a little purse and shaking it. It jingled with heavy coins.
“No,” I said reaching for the baby in her arms. “Who is this?”
“A Karut.” She easily relinquished him to me. I peeled back the blanket and looked at the little face.
“Aren’t you pretty?” I stroked the soft cheek. “You’re sure he’s a Karut? He’s so pale.”
“Maybe he’s a half-breed,” she replied, already counting the coins. “So many good Mishnese girls giving themselves to Karut men after poor Lydia was forced to do it. I suspect we’ll be getting a lot more just like him.”
“Maybe,” I agreed, stroking the baby’s tuff of silky black hair. “He’s sweet all the same. Does he have a name?”
“Senya,” I repeated.
“Now don’t you go taking special heart to this little rat,” Sister Moon scolded me as she tossed the coins back in the purse. “The same will happen to him as the rest of them.”
“Maybe he’ll get adopted by a nice family,” I said wistfully. “Look what long eyelashes he has.”
“Nobody will want a Karut,” she snorted. “He’ll be here with the rest of the nasties until he runs off and gets himself killed on the street. Get yourself back to work now. Put the baby in the baby room and go check the one year olds’ buckets.”
“Yes Ma’am.” The baby put his little fist in his mouth. “Can I give him a bottle first? He’s hungry.”
Sister Moon shrugged. “Be quick about it.”
“Thank you, Ma’am.” I curtseyed and hurried the baby to the baby room where I could get a bottle out of the warmer and sit for a moment before I had to dump all the potty buckets. Twice daily I had to circle through the one year olds’ room here in the Old Mishnah Orphan Home where twenty babies sat naked in chairs, eating, sleeping and pooping at will. I spent about two minutes with each of them, wiping them hopefully before they broke out in rash, putting ointment on their rashes and hugging them all for just a moment before I must put them back down and move on to the next. By the time they graduated on to the two year old room, they were allowed to wear pants and shirts, sleep on cots and eat at small tables. If they messed their pants for whatever reason, they were sent back to the one year old room for a day which was such a punishment that rarely would they mess again.
The baby room was my favorite place though. It was quiet and warm in there, and I could sit in a rocker and cuddle as many little bundles as I had time for. The older ones stood in their cribs and waved to me as I came in. Some babbled out a few nonsense sounds and some smiled showing me two or four tiny teeth.
“Hello babies,” I called to them.
“Hello Meri,” Sister Lena called back. She was in a rocker with one of the few little girls we had. Most of our children were boys. I didn’t know why they were abandoned more often than girls. Girls could be put to work, I supposed. Certainly our girls unless they were rescued before age seven or eight, would be put to work earning their keep.
“Who have you got there?” Lena asked.
“A new one,” I replied, grabbing a bottle and settling down next to her. “This is Senya.”
“A Karut,” she gasped with surprise. The baby she was holding stopped sucking and looked at her for a moment.
“Yes, but he’s pretty isn’t he,” I said, offering him the bottle. He sucked it greedily and patted it with his hand.
“I wonder why the Karuts didn’t take him.” Lena peered at him through her bottle thick glasses.
“Sister Moon thinks his mum was Mishnese. Was your mum Mishnese, Senya?” I teased. The baby smiled with the nipple still in his mouth.
“He says yes.” I laughed as he sucked fiercely once again.
“He is beautiful,” Lena agreed. “What color are his eyes?”
“I don’t know. Open your eyes, baby. Let me see your pretty eyes.”
The baby opened his eyes as if he understood me, and Blessed Saint, I nearly dropped him. His eyes were silver, like swirly specks of silver light.
“Blessed Saint,” Lena cried upsetting her baby who howled in protest.
Senya closed his eyes again as if he knew this is what caused us fright. He finished his bottle and sucked air until I wrestled the bottle from his mouth and held him against my shoulder.
“He is possessed.” Lena calmed her baby and then quickly put her back in a crib. “Do you think this is why the Karuts didn’t want him?”
“He’s not possessed,” I insisted, burping my little friend. “He’s sweet.” He patted my face with his hand while looking out across my back.
Lena looked at me warily. “It is strange though.”
“It is,” I agreed. “But they are kind of beautiful too.” Surely, if he was possessed, we would know that somehow. I might have to ask the Father about that, but I hated speaking with the Father. He always wanted favors, and his breath was bad, and his old skin was wrinkled and made my own skin crawl.
I changed Senya and put him in one of our shirts. I was about to put socks on his little feet when I was stopped short.
“Lena, can you come here?”
She approached with narrow eyes. I held up a little foot. Senya reached for it too.
“Look at his nails,” I said. “Why are they like this?” Gingerly, Lena touched them. She visibly shivered. Senya played with his toes. He put one in his mouth and sucked on the long curled nail.
“We should dispose of him,” she said.
“Dispose?” I cried.
“Throw him out in the gutter before …before…”
“Before what? You mean to kill him?”
“No, no.” She walked away. “Maybe send him to the Karuts. I have a bad feeling about him.”
“Will you tell the Father?”
Lena turned and looked into my eyes. She nodded slowly.
“Don’t hurt this baby,” I begged. “Let me take care of him.”
“I have a very bad feeling about him,” she repeated, and her wimple nearly fell off as she shook her head. “Something is wrong about him.”
“I promise, Sister. Please let me care for him. If he turns out to be bad, then I’ll help you get rid of him. Don’t turn him out now and don’t tell the Father.”
“What will you do for me if I agree?” She asked, lifting her head haughtily.
“What do you want?”
“All the diapers,” she said. “All the time.”
I looked down at Senya. He smiled at me, and when he opened his eyes they sparkled. “Okay,” I agreed, falling in love with this strange little fellow. “I will do anything to save little Senya.”
I was strange too. My back was crooked, and my face was scarred. I was ugly even though I wasn’t always. Once I was a beautiful young girl who nice boys would ask to dance and nice girls would chat up. Once I went to school and got high marks in Mishnese and literature and fair marks in math and science. Then my step-father wanted me, and when I refused he pushed me down the stairs and broke my back. As I lay crumpled, he set my clothes on fire. The Saint saved me, and after I was healed, I came here to love other children who no one wanted anymore.
Senya loved me, I thought. He greeted me every day with a smile. He didn’t speak. He didn’t even make noise, but he stood in his crib and waved at me and his silver eyes sparkled. Everyone else he ignored. He sat in the corner of his crib sucking his fingers, or lay on his back and played with his strange toes.
The Father came to look at him. “How much was in the purse?” He asked Sister Moon. She told him, and we all gasped as it was such a large sum. It would feed everyone in this house for a year. “Will there be more?” The Father wondered aloud.
“I think so,” Sister Moon replied. “For as long as we keep him.”
“Then we will keep him until they want him back,” the Father declared. The next week, the Father had a new speeder. It was shiny and red with rich leather and polished wood inside. It looked very expensive. He wanted me to sit in it with him. He wanted me to pleasure him while he drove it around. I did because he was the Father and I was so ugly no other man would want me. If he threw me out on the street, I would have nowhere to go and be forced to pleasure other men who were worse than him. This is what he told me when his leavings were in my mouth, and I wished to spit them out on the fine carpet of his new speeder.
When I came back to the orphanage, I went to the baby room and found Senya crying. He sobbed silently, his little body heaving but making no sound. There was a red welt across his back. “Who did this?” I demanded of Sister Lena.
“Sister Moon,” she said. “Sister Moon says he is destroying too many socks and wasting our precious cloth. She says he is to have cold feet all winter. He shall have no more socks.”
“But why did she hit him?” I asked, picking him up and holding him tight until he stopped crying. He put his hand on my face and nuzzled my neck.
“He looked at her with his wicked eyes and she said she felt dizzy because of it and nearly fell down. He is possessed she says, but the Father says he must stay here so we cannot throw him out in the gutter.”
I wondered if I could take Senya and run away. I would have to pleasure anyone who would give me money, and how many would want one as ugly as me? I would have liked a real job. Once I knew how to type and could speak well and answer a vid and perhaps put together things with my hands. There were no jobs like that anymore. There were no jobs for anyone because Mishnah was broke. There were only jobs for men who joined the guards and women who worked as maids in the Palace. I could not do that because I was a woman with a broken back and burned face.
It was a cold winter, and there was not much food. The money from the purse had been spent on the Father’s new speeder and his fine clothes and jewelry. The children cried because they were hungry and cold, and the old radiators spat and hissed, but little warmth came from them. Senya’s little feet were always cold, and when I was with him I wrapped them in rags, but someone else always took them off. Senya sat in his crib and held the bottle himself. He was getting big, and his face was taking shape.
“He looks more and more like a Karut,” Lena said beside me. “He looks like Prince Sorkan.”
“He does,” I agreed, admiring his handsome little face. “But pale.”
“Maybe he’ll get darker over time,” Lena thought. “Did you give him this bottle? It’s not time for him to eat.” She took it away. Senya opened his mouth to protest.
“I didn’t,” I said. “He was already drinking it when I came here.”
“Well I wonder how he got it then,” Lena frowned and just as she did so, the bottle went flying out of her hand and back into Senya’s.
Lena and I both screamed.
Senya popped the bottle back in his mouth and gave us a big smile.
“How did he do that?” Lena whispered, her eyes giant saucers.
“I don’t know,” I whispered back. “Do you think that’s how he got the bottle from the warmer?” We both looked at the warmer as if it could speak to us. Lena turned back and snatched the bottle out of Senya’s grasp again. He opened his mouth in a silent howl. Lena ran across the room and put it on the warmer table.
“You want it, Senya?” She challenged. “Then take it.”
Senya pulled himself up by the bars on his crib and held out his little hands. The bottle flew across the room right into them. He fell back on his bottom and sucked triumphantly.
“Don’t say a word of this to anyone,” I begged Lena.
“Blessed Saint,” Lena collapsed in a chair. “What is he?”
“Please Lena, please! I’ll do anything. Don’t let them throw him out on the street!” I was on my knees before her.
“Okay,” she said, narrowing her eyes and smiling wickedly. “Forever and ever you will be doing the diapers, Meri.”
“I will, I will,” I promised.
Senya laughed. It was the first noise we had heard from him. I ran to him and gathered him in my arms.
“You little devil,” I cried, and he laughed some more.
“Mayhap, he really is,” Lena snorted and walked away.
We lost four babies from the baby room including our one little girl. There was a fever going around, and the diapers were endless and messy. Our one year olds and two year olds were sick too, and I was forever dumping buckets filled with loose and foul smelling stools. Our two year olds were messing their pants, but we did not punish them because several of them had died, as well. Our building was cold, and the snow and frost outside made it impossible to open the windows and bring in fresh air. The children burned with fever and then shook with chills. I wrapped and rewrapped as many as I could, but there were not enough of us Sainted Ladies here to take care of them. There was sickness in the city, and bodies lay in the gutters where ever you walked. Our dead children joined them waiting for the coroner’s van to collect them.
* I’d like to thank J. Naomi Ay. She is a wonderful author and colleague. I would personally recommend her book (s). Thank you for allowing me to interview you.