Recently, I read Elizabeth Stephen’s fabulous sci-fi romance Taken to Voraxia. I was captivated by the interesting characters and immersive setting. Imagine my excitement when Elizabeth Stephen’s agreed to an interview!
Getting to Know Elizabeth Stephens
Q: What books/Which authors have most influenced your writing?
Elizabeth Stephens: I’d have to say the two most influential books on my writing have historically been Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire and Clive Barker’s Abarat.
Interview with a Vampire was one of my first favorite books – and yes, what kind of parents let their small child read a book this dark? I think the answer is, the best ones 😉 It was dark, poetic, tragic, and above all else, romantic.
Clive Barker’s Abarat was equally romantic and dark, with a shot of world-building so fantastical I don’t know that another author has ever matched it – at least none that I’ve read have, so far. It also featured a strong female lead coming into her own.
These are all the key elements you can find today across all of my books, no matter the genre: Romance. Strong heroines. World-building. And action! Because really what is a book without a battle?
Q: What led you to write in the romantic suspense and science fiction genres?
ES: Science fiction I think is where authors can really let loose. Creating new worlds is fun! And infusing suspense into everything I write is such an easy literary tool to keep people turning pages. The worst criticism for a book, in my opinion, is not to hate it but to feel nothing for it at all.
Tough heroines & possessive Alphas solve mysteries, fight epic battles, and fall in love in Elizabeth’s diverse romance & SciFi novels.
Elizabeth Stephens has been living in a fantasy world since she was 11, and in 2015 finally translated her imagination to print! An author of romantic suspense and science fiction, she is a big fan of inclusion and her books always include kick ass ladies of color.
When she isn’t found writing, you’ll also see her getting her hands dirty by throwing pottery, or working as a communications consultant for privacy and human rights organizations. With origins in Seattle, Atlanta, and Bamako, she currently lives in Berlin with her loving husband and doggo, King Louis.
Q: In your Goodreads bio, it says that your books include, “tough heroines & possessive Alphas,” as well as, “kick ass ladies of color.” What compelled you to include these qualities in your characters?
ES: As a person of color I have always wanted to see more people from diverse backgrounds – be those racial, national, ethic, cultural, linguistic, or even galactic! – featured as the primary characters in trade fiction – from your casual cozy mystery to your smuttiest romance – WITHOUT the plot having to do anything with said background.
My characters strive to do just that. To bring all colors into the mainstream. To make sure that girls and women who read my novels know that “normal” does not mean “white”. To make sure that the lady leads in my romances enable all different kinds of women to be seen as heroes, and to be seen as beautiful. This is why I think movements like #weneeddiversebooks are so important!
Strength in women is also something I grew up with. Perhaps because my mom and my other female relatives are all so formidable – or maybe just because The Fifth Element was my favorite film – I think it’s so much fun to see a woman kicking ass and taking names, even when – perhaps especially when – they come from positions of vulnerability.
Being able to see adversity, face it down and defeat it is something I think most women in today’s society have to do in some shape or other. I like to amplify our collective successes by bringing those women and these struggles to post-apocalyptic, intergalactic, or mafia-ridden universes.
About the Series
Q: What inspired you to write the Xiveri Mates series?
ES: I am on a huge sci-fi romance kick as a reader right now, and as a writer am often influenced by what I’m reading in the day-to-day. In particular, Captive of the Horde King by Zoey Draven, Penelope Fletcher’s Venemous, and His to Claim by Eve Vaughn and Taylor Theodora, were my major influences for Taken to Voraxia.
However, in each of these books, I felt that there was something missing – be it gaps in the development of the relationship between the hero and heroine, consent that’s a bit too dubious for my tastes, or just generally frustrating or long-winded storytelling.
Taken to Voraxia was my solution to these aspects I did not like, and allowed me to create the exact sci-fi romance I had been looking to read since stumbling across this amazing genre and the wealth of wonderful books within it.
Q: One aspect of Taken to Voraxia that I love is the poignant messages about prejudice, self-acceptance, and love. What messages are most important for you to convey in your writings?
ES: I’d say you’ve captured the essence of Taken to Voraxia quite perfectly. I really love writing vulnerable characters that come to terms with some aspect of themselves that wasn’t or isn’t valued by their societies or themselves. In this sense, I hope that my characters can be seen to embody elements of strength, power, perseverance, and both selflessness as they fight for the ones they love, and selfishness in their need to put those loved ones first above all others. My heroes are all possessive and territorial because who doesn’t want to be wanted like that? Like they are the center of someone’s world – or universe.
Q: Another aspect of the story that captivated me is the immense and immersive universe depicted. Can you tell us a little more about your process in developing such a detailed and complex setting?
ES: I’ve been fortunate in my life to have the opportunity to travel so much of the world. I grew up in Bamako, Mali, Atlanta, Georgia, and Seattle, Washington and then went to university in Washington, DC, Cairo, Egypt, Amman, Jordan and Paris, France. After that, I moved to Beirut, Lebanon and then with my partner to Geneva, Switzerland, followed by Johannesburg, South Africa where I spent four years before finally ending up here, in Berlin, Germany, where I am currently.
Beyond that, I’ve visited countries in every continent except for Antarctica and South America (I’ve only made it as far south as Guatemala) and along the way have done what I can to immerse myself in new cultures, cuisines, languages and customs.
I find myself drawing on many of these learned experiences when I write and create new worlds. In Taken to Voraxia, for example, the click language of Voraxians is inspired by isiXhosa, one of South Africa’s 11 official languages, while Svera’s customs are drawn from my time spent in the Middle East. The hollowed out homes of Illyria are reminiscent of the hobbit holes I saw when I visited Hobbiton in New Zealand, while the domes of Sasor seen in book 3 are derivatives of the yurts I saw when I spent 5 weeks in Almaty, Kazakhstan in 2018. And as for the even more alien aspects of my worlds? Well those are imagination entirely.
Q: Which of your characters (from any of your stories) do you most relate to?
ES: This is such a tough question to answer! Interestingly when I first read this question, two characters immediately popped up. The first is Abel, from Population. A warrior through to the bone, with a soft smushy center, she is who I would want to be if an alien-invasion apocalypse did happen.
Interestingly though, Diego might be the character I feel closest to. He shows up in Population book 2, Saltlands, and gets his own book in book 3, Generation 1. Diego is perhaps the most broken character I’ve ever drawn, but he’s one of my favorites.
Q: Can you tell us anything about your upcoming books?
ES: I feel so very fortunate to have the support from family, my loving husband, my pupperoo Louis, and my steadily growing fan base to be able to have left my day job to start writing full time!
I will be releasing four books this year (instead of my previous one book per year average) starting with the first three books in the Xiveri Mates series:
- Taken to Voraxia, Book I (Miari and Xoran) – available free on Kindle Unlimited
- Taken to Nobu, Book II (Kiki and Kinan) – now on preorder
- Taken to Sasor, Book III (Mian and Seena) – now on preorder
Books 4 & 5 will be coming in 2021 and will feature Rhorkanterannu and Svera and Krisxox’s stories. All books can be read as standalones.
These will be followed by book 3 in Population, my post-apocalyptic, alien invasion series, which includes:
- Population, Book 1 (Abel and Kane) – available free on Kindle Unlimited
- Saltlands, Book 2 (Abel and Kane) – available free on Kindle Unlimited
- Generation 1, Book 3 (Diego and Pia) – now on preorder
And a fourth book coming in 2021. Books 1 & 2 should be read sequentially as they tell Abel’s story, while book 3 is standalone.
Lastly, romantic suspense fans can check out the first two books in my dark mafia romance series, Brothers:
- The Hunting Town, Book 1 (Knox and Mer, Dixon and Sara)
- The Hunted Rise, Book 2 (Aiden and Alina, Gavriil and Ify)
Books 1 & 2 should be read sequentially and standalone, though a third books is planned with some of the same characters set in the same universe.
Q: Where can readers learn more about you and your writings (i.e., website, Twitter, Facebook page, Goodreads, etc.)?
ES: My ARC team list is open! Anyone interested in receiving advanced copies of my books in exchange for honest reviews can sign up here: https://www.booksbyelizabeth.com/contact
Otherwise, you can follow me on:
Amazon – amazon.com/author/elizabethstephens
I want to thank Elizabeth again for the interview. Plus, she graciously offered to host a giveaway today! How awesome is that? In celebration of her upcoming release, Elizabeth is giving away 2 eBooks: Taken to Voraxia and an ARC of Taken to Nobu!
Giveaway is now closed