Tuesday 22 March 2016


A Count of Five is the first novel in a new series, 
The Citadel of the Last Gathering,
 exploring a fantasy world on a massive scale.

Title: A Count Of Five
Series: The Citadel Of The Gathering 
Author: Erin L. Snyder
Genre: Fantasy
Release Date: 18th June 2015

BLURB from Goodreads
One for the gods of our people 
Two for the plants they seeded into the earth 
Three for the animals they gave gifts of magic 
Four for the men who serve the gods 
Five for the spirit that sustains everything 

Five numbers. Five gods. Five spells for men and five for women. Five ages before the end. 

Since history began, this knowledge has defined the world for Alaji’s people, who live along the shores of five holy lakes. But now an army has ridden out of the north led by a powerful and cunning warlord. This, Alaji is told, could mark the end of the last age. The end of men and of time itself. 

Alaji has more to fear than invaders. She has learned the five spells of women. But she knows one more: a spell beyond those given to mortals. A spell that that gives her power over time. 

To learn a spell of the gods is to challenge them. If discovered, the penalty is death. But harnessing such power may allow Alaji to save her family, or may start her on a journey ranging farther than they could have ever imagined.



By the Author

The world is ending. Alaji’s generation will be the last to walk the earth, and those who live long enough will witness its end.

For her entire life, Alaji has heard whispers from the village elders and even her own father, but she never really believed it until a warlord rode out of the north with an army. When tragedy strikes her family, she gives up all hope for the future and sets her sights on revenge.

But before she can kill the warlord, she’s whisked away to another era. Her people were right that the world wouldn’t last forever, but their predictions were off by hundreds of millions of years.

Now, lost in a time she doesn’t understand, Alaji must rely on her will, her magic, and her training if she hopes to survive, find a way home, and - against all hope - forge a better fate than she was raised to expect.

For as long as I can remember, fantasy and science fiction were part of my life. I was practically raised on Lord of the Rings and Star Trek. Growing up, even Santa Claus had a wizardly connotation.

When I was about twelve, I was introduced to Dungeons & Dragons. The game's setting felt natural to me; a hell of lot more so than middle or high school. As the years went by, I gravitated towards narrative-heavy games and complex characters. It's not the only thing that pointed me towards writing, but RPG's were certainly an influence.

In 1998, I went to Hampshire College, where I concentrated in philosophy and creative writing. It was a fantastic experience: I took numerous classes in mythology, religion, and cognitive science. Altogether, it was as great a primer for writing genre fiction as I can imagine. As if that wasn't enough, I also met my wife, Lindsay Stares, while I was there.

After we graduated, we spent two years in DC, seven in New York, and finally moved to Seattle in 2012. Before you ask: no, it doesn't always rain. The climate's mild year round, at least compared to New England, and the Pacific Northwest is easily the most beautiful place I've ever lived.

Since writing doesn't pay the bills, I work as an analyst, which I also find sharpens my critical thinking skills. Would I like to write full-time? Sure, but not many people make it into that club. If this remains a side-venture, I've got nothing to complain about.

Almost everything I write is genre, but there's quite a bit of room within those boundaries. I've written everything from grounded science-fiction to space opera, magical realism to epic fantasy... and everything in between, around, and crossing over those categories. I like fiction that's about something meaningful, but I hate feeling like I'm being preached to, even if I agree with the message. That's a tough balance to strike sometimes, but my goal is always to create something that's entertaining and substantial, without hitting the reader over the head with morals or messages.


What is your name, where were you born and where do you live now?
My name is Erin L. Snyder, I was born in Biddeford, ME, and I’m now living on the other side of the country in Seattle, WA.

Did you always want to be a writer? If not what did you want to be?
I really wanted to be a marine biologist until the 3rd grade. I’ve wanted to be a writer pretty much ever since.

When did you first consider yourself as a "writer"?
It’s hard to pin down a date, but I guess it was in my senior year of high school. It wasn’t the first time I planned on going into writing, but I think it was the first time I started seriously moving in that direction. I put together a couple stories I thought had merit at the time and felt pretty good about myself (less good when I revisited them a few years later, but isn’t that always the way?). When I started looking at colleges, I ignored any that didn’t have writing programs.

Did it take a long time to get your first book published?

I finished a draft of my first novel in 2004, and self-published it in 2009. So five years, if you want to look at it that way.

Do you work another job as well as your writing work?
I think there are two kinds of writers: those who are independently wealthy, and those who have day jobs. Tragically, I am not independently wealthy, so I most certainly have another job.

What is the name of your latest book, and if you had to summarise it in less than 20 words what would you say?

A Count of Five

A time-travel adventure exploring a world of epic fantasy from the perspective a young woman crafting her own destiny.

Who is your publisher? or do you self publish?

Self published, and not embarrassed of that at all. I make enough to get by on my day job, so - barring a standard rich and famous contract falling into my lap - I actually prefer the freedom I get from publishing my own work over the modest money I could expect from a small press or even a small run from a recognizable publisher. Besides, months spent on query letters is time I could be devoting to the next novel.

I gave up trying to find a publisher years ago, after realizing agents weren’t interested in seeing my work. I don’t hold any grudges: when I think about the number of submissions that must come in on a daily basis, it’s hard to imagine an agent or publisher spending much time on anyone who isn’t already famous or doesn’t have connections.

But it doesn’t exactly incentivise me to pour my limited time into trying to break in through that door.

Do you have a "lucky charm" or "lucky routine" you follow when waiting for your book to be accepted by a publisher?
Not really. Whenever I’m waiting on anything related to my writing - whether it’s a review request, contest, or anything else - I check my email nonstop. Does that count?

How long does it usually take you to write a book, from the original idea to finishing writing it?
That’s a tough one, actually. I typically mull ideas over for years before starting a novel, and it’s impossible to look back and say for sure when a bunch of jumbled thoughts coalesced into the idea for a novel. Some aspects of A Count of Five were concepts and questions I was playing with in high school and college decades ago, but most of the more concrete elements were much more recent.

I guess I’d have to say it takes me somewhere between six months and my entire life to write a novel, depending on how you look at it.

Which of your books were easier/harder to write than the others?
The hardest book, hands down, was the first: For Love of Children. I spent years obsessing over every choice in that thing. When you’re writing your first novel, you also have to teach yourself how to write a novel, and that’s a tall order.

The books have gotten easier with each one I’ve written since.

What can we expect from you in the future?  ie More books of the same genre? Books of a different genre?
That’s a little complicated. My latest, A Count of Five, is YA epic fantasy crossed with science fiction. The sequel is going to retain those genres and incorporate a heavy dose of sword & sorcery into the mix, with later novels in the series picking up other sub-genres.

This is actually pretty much par for the course for my writing. My first book was a fantasy-superhero-fairy tale mash-up with a touch of historical fiction tossed in for good measure: I tend to shy away from conventional stories.

Do you have plans for a new book? Is this book part of a series?
So many plans….

I’ve actually finished the first draft for the sequel to A Count of Five, and plan to release it later this year. After that, I’ve got ideas for several more installments in the series.

What genre would you place your books into?
Almost everything I’ve written could be described as science fiction, fantasy, or a mix of the two, though “cross-genre” would probably be a more accurate description. I try to the explore strange and unusual corners of those genres.

What made you decide to write that genre of book?
I’ve got a dozen arguments I could make about how fantasy and science fiction are objectively great platforms for storytelling, how they provide a fantastic opportunity to explore profound philosophical questions without sacrificing the chance to develop believable, complex characters… but I’d just be sidestepping the question.

While I believe deeply in these genres, the truth is that’s not really why I write in them. Honestly, these are the genres I fell in love with growing up. They’re a part of who I am.

Do you have a favourite out of the books you have written? If so why is it your favourite?

For Love of Children, hands down. While I don’t actually think it’s my best book, I have the strongest emotional attachment to the characters and story.

Do you have a favourite character from your books? and why are they your favourite?

Alaji, the protagonist of A Count of Five and its upcoming sequels. She’s a sixteen year-old girl with a perceptive mind and a ruthless streak when pressed. She’s got a complex life ahead of her, and a lot of tough choices. I can’t wait to tell the rest of her story.

If you had to choose to be one of your characters in your book/books which would you be? and why?
I don’t want to be these people: they have difficult, frightening lives! I suppose forcing me to turn into one of them would serve me right for putting them into such awful predicaments, though.

How long have you been writing?, and who or what inspired you to write?
Since the end of high school. There’s a lot that inspired me, from Tolkien to my father to my AP English teacher.

Where do you get your book plot ideas from?What/Who is your inspiration?
My ideas come from a lifetime of interest in philosophy, genre, and an overactive imagination.

Do you have a certain routine you have for writing? ie You listen to music, sit in a certain chair?
Music. I create a specific set list for each novel and almost always start it on the same song. That song becomes dedicated, too: I don’t listen to it unless I’m writing. After a while, I can put myself in the right headspace to work just by putting on that song. It’s the best cure for procrastination I’ve found.

Do you have anybody read your books and give you reviews before you officially release them? ie. Your partner, children, friends, reviewers you know?
I get my wife and at least a few friends to read my novel and give me feedback. I’ve been involved with writing groups before, but - honestly - I find I get better advice from genre fans than writers.

Do you gift books to readers to do reviews?
I’m planning on doing a few giveaways soon, and getting some reviews is absolutely a motivation. I’d never try and demand a review in exchange for a book, though: it’s always the reader’s choice.

Do you read all the reviews of your book/books?
I try to. Reviews are feedback, and feedback is information. Used right, it can be incredibly valuable. The trick is not to take the negatives personally.

What was the toughest/best review you have ever had?

I received a few glowing reviews for For Love of Children (you can find those on the Amazon page).

The toughest is a little hard to say. I’ve gotten some very harsh criticism for a couple free short story collections I put out, but it’s difficult to take it personally when the main critique is they didn’t like the genre.

Would you ever ask a reviewer to change their review if it was not all positive about your book/books?
Absolutely not! I’m grateful to anyone who takes the time to read one of my novels, and I completely respect their opinion, positive or negative.

The only time I could imagine asking for a correction would be over a factual mistake (i.e.: misspelling my name, broken link to my page, etc.). I can’t imagine a situation when I’d ever challenge someone’s opinion.

How do you come up with the Title and Cover Designs for your book/books?Who designed the Cover of your books?
My wife and I do the covers, and she handles the interior design.

Do you choose a title first, or write the book then choose the title?
It’s varied a bit from book to book, but I usually come up with a title midway through writing the novel. Facsimile (my second book) was an anomaly. I knew I wanted that title from the start.

How do you come up with characters names and place names in your books?
There’s no single answer. I come up with names by pouring over lists of baby names, looking at maps, and altering common names. I’ve also occasionally spliced random syllables together until I found something that felt right. I spend a lot of time thinking about what names suggest in relation to each other: it’s a big part of fantasy and science fiction writing.

Are character names and place names decided after their creation? or do you pick a character/place name and then invent them?
I usually create the character or place first then come up with a name, though there are cases when a name helped develop the character.

Do you decide on character traits (ie shy, quiet, tomboy girl) before writing the whole book or as you go along?
This varies a lot. I’ll generally know what I want to do with the main characters’ personalities and traits before getting started, but minor characters are developed as I go along. There have definitely been exceptions to this where major characters seemed to take on a life of their own as I wrote.

Do you basic plot/plan for your book, before you actually begin writing it out? Or do you let the writing flow and see where it takes the story?
I always know where the story is ultimately going when I start, however, the path to get there sometimes surprises me.

How do you market/promote your books?

Badly, I suppose. I’ve got the usual (website, Goodreads, Amazon author page), I send out review requests, and I’m looking into blog tours and other promotions. It’s not easy to get attention!

What do you think makes a book a really good/bestseller ?
It’s a combination of quality, luck, timing, and circumstances. I don’t think you make it big without a minimum of two of those.

Have you ever suffered from a "writer's block"? What did you do to get past the "block"?
Occasionally, but I don’t have the same problems a lot of writers seem to run into. Given time, I can almost always think of something interesting to write.

What do you do to unwind and relax? Do you have a hobby?
I’m an avid toy and action figure collector, I go on hikes in the summer, and I watch a lot of movies.

Have you ever based characters on people you know or based events on things that have happened to you?
I don’t base characters solely on specific people, though I’ll occasionally use aspects of people I know as part of a character. As for events, I’m more likely to use an emotional reaction than try and fictionalize something that happened to me. But I commonly try to ground the fantastic elements in my writing by focusing on experiences. I’ve never seen another planet, for example, but I’ve been to mountain lakes and massive waterfalls: the sense of awe certainly translates.

Are there any hidden messages or morals contained in your books? (Morals as in like Aesops Fables type of "The moral of this story is..")
I really hope not.

I try to make my stories about something, but I have no interest trying to preach to my readers about ethics or politics (besides, as a liberal writing SF/F, it’s a safe bet most of my readers already agree with me).

Is there a certain Author that influenced you in writing?

There are quite a few, actually. Peter S. Beagle, Richard Adams, J.R.R Tolkien, and Alan Moore leap immediately to mind.

Which format of book do you prefer, ebook, hardback, or paperback?
I think ebooks are the future. For the weight of carrying a single paperback, you can walk around with a library under your arm. As an author, they’re also easier to produce, market, and distribute.

What is your favourite book and Why?  Have you read it more than once?

I almost never read a book more than once, but I’ve read The Last Unicorn a few times. It’s an absolutely incredible story that delves into the beauty and tragedy of fairy tales. Depending on when you asked me, there are quite a few other books that might challenge its place for #1, but it’s definitely one of my favorites.

Do you think books transfer to movies well? Which is you favourite/worst  book to movie transfer?
Depends a little on the book and a lot on how it’s being adapted. If I spent some time thinking about this, I’m sure I could come up with a better answer on my favorite/least favorite novel-to-film adaptations, but I’m kind of amused by the answers that first sprung to mind.

Favorite: Lord of the Rings

Least Favorite: The Hobbit (I actually love the first third, but I think the second two movies stripped away the spirit of the book completely).

What are you currently reading? Are you enjoying it? What format is it?(ebook, hardback or paperback)
Currently, I’m reading and re-reading, and re-re-reading A Count of Five and its sequel in an attempt to get them ready for publication. I look forward to the day I have the time to read other people’s novels again.

Do you think ebooks will ever totally replace printed books?
Yes and no. I think they’ll replace paperbacks entirely, but hardcover book will stick around as collectibles (expect the numbers produced to plummet and the prices to increase, however).

There will be a place for physical books as display pieces for a long time, maybe forever. But (with sincere apologies to fans of paperbacks), ebooks are objectively superior for reading, distributing, and transporting books.

Do you think children at schools these days are encouraged enough to read? and/or do Imaginative writing?
I don’t have kids, so I’m not entirely sure what the level of encouragement is these days. I’m happy to see graphic novels circulating in libraries and online lists as worthwhile literature, though. The education system tends to be a generation or two behind on recognizing the significance of new forms of media.

In addition to novels, our schools should really be teaching kids the importance of short digitally-produced films and interactive entertainment. When historians look back, they’re going to consider Youtube shorts and video games the most culturally significant works of this era: it would be nice if we got ahead of that trend for once.

I’m going to make some people angry by saying this, but I think schools spend too much time on poetry. It needs to remain a part of the curriculum due to its historical importance, but its relevance has been waning for more than a century.
Sorry, poets.

Did you read a lot at school and write lots of stories or is being a writer something newer in your life?
I read a lot growing up, though not half as much as my wife did. I didn’t do much writing until towards the end of high school, but I found other outlets for storytelling, starting with Dungeons & Dragons. I think role-playing was a major influence on my interest in fiction.

Did you have a favourite author as a child?
I was a fantasy nerd growing up in the 80’s/90’s: I think we were all obsessed with Tolkien.

Do you have a treasured book from your childhood? If yes, what is it?

I’m assuming this means a treasured book I grew up with and still own. Not really. Most of the fantasy I read as a kid was borrowed from my parents, and those books were already falling apart when I got a hold of them. I had some sentimental attachment to a copy of the 2nd Edition Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook, but I lost that during a move after college.

Do you have a favourite genre of book?
Fantasy, fairytale, and science fiction are all at the top. If we’re counting comics, superheroes are up there, as well, but I’m not as interested in that genre outside of a visual form.

Is there a book you know you will never read? Or one you tried to read but just couldn't finish?
Nothing jumps to mind. There’s a lot I have no interest in, but it’s not hard for me to imagine reading anything for research or curiosity.

I once read and reviewed Sarah Palin’s book about the War on Christmas: if I can make it through that, I figure I can make it through anything.

Are there any New Authors you are interested in for us to watch out for? and Why should we watch out for them?
Is it bad form to name myself?

Is there anything in your book/books you would change now if you could and what would it be? I’m not sure. There’s a lot in For Love of Children I’d do very differently if I was writing it now, but I think I’d wind up losing a great deal of the book’s charm. I look back on it, and it’s clearly a “first novel,” but all my favorite parts are the consequences of choices I made that could be called mistakes. I think it’s a book that had to written by someone who didn’t know better, and I don’t regret it, at all.

What do you think about book trailers?
Not a fan. I’ll definitely believe one could win me over, but I think I’ve disliked every book trailer I’ve seen.

What piece of advice would you give to a new writer?
Don’t approach this as a career. If it blossoms into one, great, but if you try to live as a starving artist, you’re probably going to give up. If you’re serious about making this work for the long haul, you need to focus on landing a day job that leaves you with time and energy to write.

Do you or would you ever use a pen name?
No. I was enrolled in school under a slightly different name: my parents listed my first name as “Aron” instead of “Erin”, once they realized they’d inadvertently given me a popular girl’s name. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t briefly consider using that as a pen name, as well, but it just didn’t feel right.

I’ve got nothing against pen names as a concept, but I’m pretty happy being myself.

If you could invite three favourite writers to dinner, who would you invite and enjoy chatting with?
I kind of think I should be approaching this strategically, trying to choose three authors whose friendship could help launch my career. Alternatively, what are my limitations in terms of realistic constraints? I’ve got quite a few questions I’d like to ask William Shakespeare.

This is why you should never ask science fiction/fantasy authors questions like this. Sorry - I’ll try to approach it like a normal human:

If I’m limited to living authors I’d like to hang out with, it’s a little harder. Well, the first name isn’t: I’d love to spend some time talking with Peter S. Beagle, assuming I somehow managed not to embarrass myself. Neil Gaiman seems like he’d be one of the world’s best dinner guests, and I’d round out the list with Susanna Clarke: anyone who can write Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell has got be great to hang out with.

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