We're excited to welcome Blair St. John to Pelican Book Group. Her Passport to Romance™ Lily of the Nile is an adventure you won't want to miss! For now, let's learn some interesting things about the author.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I’m apparently super picky about my writing conditions. In create mode, my ideal writing place is on a train, with headphones on (the music will be dictated by the tone of what I’m writing, or I could get obsessed with a particular playlist and listen to it on a loop), using a steno pad and a Pilot G2 pen (05 or 07, any color). If I can’t be on a train, then any table/desk/etc. will suffice, or in a pinch, I can work laying on my stomach facing the foot of the bed. If I don’t have a steno pad handy, a college ruled notebook works. Second choice pen is a Pentel RSVP, and I can use a mechanical pencil if there are no pens available—but not a dull pencil. If I’m using a standard wood pencil, I strongly prefer a Ticonderoga, and I have to keep a sharpener nearby. When I start to transcribe to the computer, I still prefer the train and the music, but I can do the transcription anywhere that I can plug in the laptop. – I don’t know if this is interesting or just makes me really weird…
How much of the book is based in real life?
The scene in the perfumery, specifically the proprietor talking about the differences in western cologne and Egyptian perfume oils, the pheromones, and the line of dialogue “your man smell this he make love to you all night long” (complete with gyrations), all happened to me when I was in Egypt several years ago. I didn’t know I would use that when I initially started writing the story, but it’s been over 10 years since it happened and it still cracks me up, so I thought my readers would laugh at it too. Also, the Ebla tablets are real. While the stolen tablets (along with their thief) are fictional, the real ones were found in Syria in the 1970s, and there was a controversy as to the significance of the tablets within biblical archaeology, though it was ultimately determined that they were minimally significant.
What is your next project?
I keep a lot of irons in the fire at all times. Until one story really gets ahold of me, I let the muse pull me in whatever direction she wants. If I try to force her to sit and work on just one story she refuses to show up. The irons getting the most attention right now are: a Steampunk Christmas Romance, a Young Adult Fairytale Retelling, a Contemporary Romantic Comedy (I think it’s going to be a RomCom, but right now the characters are being very serious and mysterious, so the genre may change), and a couple of follow up stories with characters from Lily of the Nile—both Malakai and Mahreena have love stories coming their way!
Do you have advice for other writers?
First, it might sound trite, but it’s true: Keep writing. Writing doesn’t come easy to most of us, even if God has blessed us with the gift of words. You might take years to get from first word to first draft (I did) and might take years to get from first draft to the best draft (I did). In the movie The Professor and the Madman they define diligent as “Constant and earnest effort to accomplish what is undertaken. Persistence, application, but also toil, and pain.” Be diligent in your writing. And yes, it will take every aspect of that definition, pain and all. Second: Study writing craft. Study it until you feel like it's oozing out of your pores. It’s not always fun. It’s often repetitive. It’s going to ruin other books and movies for you, because you’re going to notice the inciting incidents, the turning points, and the other plot points along the story. But you will be a better writer for it. Third: Your Editor Is Right! Looking at earlier versions of the story versus the story readers are getting, I can see the underdeveloped characters and scrawny plot of my first submission. If I had taken my first rejection and simply decided to self-published the story, I would have put out a book that was okay, but a far cry from the one we made. A “poor man’s” Lily, if you will. But my editor was right, the story could be better. I listened to my editor, I applied the advice she gave, and discovered just how complex and rich my characters and plot could be.

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