SB: Welcome Kami. Tell us a little more about yourself.
Kami: I like in southern California (LaMesa) with my mom. My dad died of cancer when I was six, so it’s just the two of us.
SB: So is it really true you’ve never met your grandparents until just recently?
Kami: It is true. When my parents got married, his parents disowned him. They left Egypt and moved to California.
SB: How did you parents meet?
Kami: They were both attending the American University in Cairo. It was a love at first sight sort of thing.
SB: Was it strange to see your grandparents under those circumstances?
Kami: It was! I was afraid they wouldn’t like me.
SB: What are your grandparents like?
Kami: My grandfather (or Gedo) is an archeologist. He is obsessed with finding Alexander the Great’s tomb. He found some artifacts that he thinks may have been Alexander’s. He hasn’t had a chance to finish the excavation yet, but he’s hoping to find the tomb. My grandmother (or Neina) loves her family and cooking. I received the scarab necklace and my powers through her bloodline.
SB: What is your favorite thing to do back home in California?
Kami: I love to run! When I run, I feel I am in control of at least one thing in my life. I also like to sing karaoke. It surprises a lot of people since I’m a little shy, but when I start singing, I forget about the world and I’m not nervous.
SB: You have a pet turtle named Galileo.
Kami: Yes, named after my favorite scientist.
SB: Do you have any other pets? Would you like more?
Kami: No. I used to have a dog named Bailey. I think I would like another dog someday, but it’s hard to imagine any dog being as special to me as Bailey was.
SB: So I understand you recently broke up with someone. Can you tell us more about it? And do you have a new boyfriend?
Kami: Yes. I was dating a guy named Vance, but we broke up. Let’s just say, it didn’t take too long to realize that we didn’t have much in common. He was also way too controlling. I wasn’t looking to date anyone after Vance and I broke up, but then Liam came into my life.
SB: How did you meet Liam?
Kami: He sat next to me on a plane ride to Egypt. The plane was attacked, by the way. But that’s too big of a story to go into here.
SB: Tell us more about Liam.
Kami: How do I describe Liam? He’s a Brit. He’s good-looking. Unfortunately, he knows it. He’s constantly driving me nuts, then he turns around and does the sweetest things. I think we’re good together because he’s more adventurous and he’s always pushing me to try new things. Sometimes he doesn’t think through things, though, so that’s where I come in.
SB: What is your impression of Egypt?
Kami: I don’t think I really had a chance to experience Egypt under normal conditions. I would love to come back without anyone missing and without being chased by anyone!
SB: Thank you so much for chatting with us today.
Kami: Thanks for having me!
This is a scene of when Kami and Liam first meet. Enjoy!
The boy slid into the seat next to Kami. She was very aware of him. He was even taller than she realized, now that he sat next to her. He smelled good too, a clean masculine scent. There was an awkward silence between them for a few moments until he broke it.
“Sorry to whisk away your seat mates, but one of them didn’t seem to appreciate not having his own seat.”
Kami laughed, relaxing as she glanced back at the little boy. He was standing in the window seat jumping up and down. His mother had an arm up supporting his back and looked much more at peace.
“He seems much happier now that he’s not constrained,” Kami said.
“Aren’t we all?”
“That was kind of you to offer her your seat."
“What do I need two seats for?”
“I don’t know. Kick your feet up. Catch a nap.”
“At the expense of that woman and her baby? No thanks.”
“Still, not everyone would have done it.”
“Maybe. My name is Liam, by the way,” he said. “Liam Mitchell.”
“I’m Kamilah Hassri.” She was glad her voice didn’t sound as shaky as she felt.
“So do you go by Kamilah, or do you have a nickname?”
“My friends call me Kami.”
“And do I qualify as a friend?”
“I don’t know yet,” Kami replied. She liked the way his mouth always seemed to be on the verge of smiling, and she marveled at how easy he was to talk to.
“Ah, the lady throws out a challenge. So what does it take to earn your friendship?”
“Nothing much—be willing to walk on hot coals, slay dragons, prove absolute loyalty by tasting any suspicious libations to make sure they’re not poisonous. The usual stuff.” Liam laughed as she ticked off her list.
“You are so random,” he said.
“You have no idea. So it’s my turn to ask you a question. What’s up with the winking?” She regretted saying it almost the moment it escaped her lips. It wasn’t like her to be so bold.
“I was bored. And intrigued,” Liam said, smiling a bit sheepishly. “I was curious how you would react.”
“You reacted just as I expected. You were embarrassed.”
“Actually, I was thinking ‘Who’s the perv who has the audacity to hit on a complete stranger?’” she said.
“Or that could have been it,” Liam laughed, flashing his strong white teeth with a lopsided grin that made her smile. “I was curious because you weren’t covered.”
“Not covered?” Kami’s voice rose as she looked herself over. Nothing was exposed. What was he talking about?
“No, not that,” he shook his head. “Your hair.”
“Oh, you mean I’m not wearing one of those scarves.”
“A hijab, right.”
The drink cart rolled up to their seats and a stern stewardess in a navy blue dress took their orders—a bottled water for Liam and a cranberry juice for Kami. She set the drinks on their fold down tables and moved on. He reached over and pulled back the tab of her juice, which Kami thought was strange. Maybe he was trying to be a gentleman?
Then he gulped a big swig of her juice!
“What are you doing?” she sputtered, outraged.
“Just testing your suspicious libation,” he said with a fake look of innocence. “I don’t think it’s poisonous, but maybe I’d better make sure.”
“Give me that,” she said grabbing his arm. How could she have mistaken him for a gentleman? “Since when is cranberry juice suspicious?”
“You never know. You usually get happy, chatty stewardesses, but that one? I don’t know. Kind of dodgy. She has assassin written all over her.”
“You’re so full of it. If you wanted a cranberry juice you should have asked for one instead of taking mine.”
“I didn’t. I just wanted a drink of yours. So are we friends now?”
“That little stunt definitely did not help you.”
“Blast. I guess I’ll have to keep trying. I don’t suppose there are any hot coals onboard, are there? Do you think I should call the stewardess over and ask?”
She shook her head, biting her cheek to keep from laughing. The boy was incorrigible.
He beckoned to the stewardess who didn’t look too thrilled to come. Kami was half-expecting a request for hot coals, but instead he asked for another cranberry juice. The stewardess rolled her eyes but handed him another drink.
“There you are,” Liam said. “Now am I back in your good graces?”
She opened the tab and nursed a long sip.
“Thinking about it,” she grinned.
“Are you always this happy?” Liam asked.
His question hung in the air, suspended, like a fine mist threatening to dissolve any minute. For the past few hours it was as if she was a different Kami, not the girl who’d spent countless nights worrying about her mother, praying she wouldn’t choke on her own vomit or drink herself into an early grave. Not the girl who stressed out over every test because she knew if she didn’t pull a 4.0 and bring in scholarships, she wouldn’t have a future. Not the girl who lived in a dingy trailer and wasn’t sure how much longer they could afford that.
She was just a regular girl having fun with a boy. Is this what it felt like to be normal?
Q. Tell us about The Shadow Wars Series?
A. The Shadow Wars is a YA fantasy/adventure series set in modern day Egypt. The first book in the series Born of Shadow begins with the the main character Kami receiving a package on her 17th birthday—a mysterious artifact and a plane ticket to visit her estranged grandparents in Egypt. When she arrives, no one is there to meet her. Alone and in an unfamiliar country, she discovers their disappearance is only part of a greater threat. Whispers of strange creatures made of a shadowy substance can be heard among the nomads of the desert. A new queen has quietly come to power, given strength by a powerful evil unleashed when she opens an ancient jar. She won’t stop until she finds the tomb of Alexander the Great, convinced that his remains hold the secret to her becoming a god. Kami must rely on a band of misfit friends she makes along the way to stop the queen and save her grandparents.
Q. How did the idea of this series come to you?
A. I have been obsessed with Greek mythology ever since I picked up “The Odyssey” as a precocious child. Later, in junior high and high school, I loved studying Egypt - the culture, artifacts, pyramids, mummies, all of it. The idea of this story all started with the jar. In myths like Pandora’s Box (which actually was a jar, not a box) and others, there is a force trapped that, if unleashed, could cause the destruction of mankind. So I took that concept, applied it to a Greek amphora and decided to bring Alexander the Great into the mix. There is a lot of mystery regarding his life, cause of death, and the location of his body. For many Egyptologists, finding Alexander the Great’s body would be like finding the Holy Grail. So I loved the idea of Kami’s grandfather being an Egyptologist with an obsession with Alexander the Great who accidentally uncovers something that should have remained buried.
Q. You first put your story, Born of Shadow, on Wattpad; what was the journey of gaining readers through that platform like?
A. Slow at first. :) Once I posted by story on the Share Your Story thread and on Facebook, I started to have several more readers. I think the biggest thing to contribute to my success at first was I invested in the community. I read and commented on several stories, which brought readers to my story. My story really took off when Wattpad featured it (featuring means you agree to leave your completed story on Wattpad for at least 6 months and in exchange, Wattpad promotes it for you heavily). I was able to get a ton of reads and followers by being featured. I also have people discover me and my story through the contributions I make with the Wattpad Class of 2014 (my writing group) and as a panelist on The Corner Booth, a weekly Youtube channel that broadcasts ways to succeed as a writer on Wattpad.
Q. What was the hardest part of writing Born of Shadow?
A. Sticking to a schedule. My life was slammed with tons of responsibilities, so I found the only way I could finally make my writing happen was to wake up at 4:30 every morning and write for a few hours before the kids left for school. I also bought a laptop so I could sneak words in during wrestling or basketball practices. Taking advantage of the “waiting” time throughout the day was surprisingly effective.
Q. Who and how did the process of the cover design come about?
A. I commissioned a talented illustrator Duy Phan http://bloodyman88.deviantart.com/ to paint my cover. I sent him a description of what I hoped for. He sent me a painted “sketch,” I requested changes and he made them. Once the painting was the way I imagined it, he completed the painting.
Q. How has your writing developed through your book?
A. I think with each book a writer improves, but in the beginning, the improvements are more dramatic. After I completed the first draft of Born of Shadow, I realized I needed to add quite a bit of description. So I did a series of “nerd” assignments where I practiced in this area, and it really did help when I went back to edit the book.
Q. Do you have any writing habits?
A. I wake up insanely early to try to get most of my writing in before the day hits. This isn’t a writing habit, per se, but while I was writing much of Born of Shadow, I had my toddler sitting on my lap playing Angry Birds on my cell phone. It was a happy, happy day when he learned to catapult his own birds instead of interrupting my writing to have me do it!
Q. How do you overcome writers block?
A. For me, writers block stems from to reasons 1. Letting the outside distractions take the priority (I suppose you could call this writers distraction more than a block) and 2. Letting my nerves get the better of me and “psyching” myself out. Waking up early and consistently writing has helped with the first. As for the second, I’ve had to learn how to work with my anxiety and talk myself into a better place. I’ve also found it helps to focus on the things I’m grateful for. When I’m in a state of gratitude, it seems to calm the anxiety and bring me peace.
Q. Does your fans have a fandom name, if so what is it, if not what do you think it could be?
A. I set up a fanbook on Wattpad and asked for fandom suggestions. I received several great options, but the clear favorite on Wattpad was Shadowborn. So we’re sticking with that for now. :)
Q. What’s the best way for readers to talk with you?
A. The best way is to visit me at SarahBensonBooks.com. I am also active on Facebook, Wattpad and Twitter under the handle @SarahBensonBooks.
Q. If you could be in your book for one day, what would you do?
A. I would love to visit several of the sites in Egypt that I’ve always wanted to see - the pyramids, the Sphinx, the library in Alexandria with Kami and the gang. One day wouldn’t be long enough though!
The Music of Born of Shadow
Before I ever put pen to the paper, I imagine the action scenes in my mind like a movie scene. So I often turn to movie soundtracks to set the mood when I write. I also prefer song without lyrics because the words of the song mix with the words in the story, though I find if the words are sung in a different language, it doesn’t bother me.
I listen to a lot of music on Spotify, and whenever I hear a song that I think would work well for my story, I put it into a special playlist. One of the best ways to discover new music is to I also listen to music on the radio. If I ever hear a song that I think would fit my story well, I capture it on the Shazam app on my cell phone.
One of the advantages to posting stories on Wattpad is you can add images and music. So often I will search for these songs on Youtube and post the videos in my stories on Wattpad. That way readers can hit the play button and enjoy listening to the same songs while reading the chapters that I listened to while writing them. It’s a cool connection I have with my readers.
I listen to everything from Audiomachine to Fall Out Boy to Lisa Gerrard. If you would like to check out the playlist, click on the link below.