Tuesday, August 18, 2015

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Sherel Ott, Author

Sherel Ott, Author
Sherel Ott wrote ADVENTURES OF PRINCESS JANAI AND THE WARRIOR MAIDENS OF QUINU: THE CITIES OF TONGA AND TONGIA primarily to entertain middle grade girls. She also noticed that there were few books or animated movies with girls of color as leading characters. She chose fantasy as the genre to best tell her story because she likes being able to “step outside of your reality.”

When she’s not writing, Sherel is a Family Nurse Practitioner. She is also taking drawing lessons and cake decorating classes, loves reading , and enjoys crocheting. She is currently working on the next Princess Janai story.

Don't miss the excerpt and the opportunity for a giveaway at the end of the interview.

Q: Why did you choose Fantasy/adventure as the genre to tell your story, ADVENTURES OF PRINCESS JANAI AND THE WARRIOR MAIDENS OF QUINU: THE CITIES OF TONGA AND TONGIA?

Sherel Ott: I chose fantasy/adventure as a genre because I like how you can step outside of your reality into a whole other world.  Being able to immerse yourself in it and forget about your present reality and problems for a while.

Q: What or who inspired your main character, Princess Janai? Did you base her on a real person?

Sherel Ott: My main character was named after my niece Janai. It was originally written with her in mind, but once I started writing…the character took on a life of her own, she wanted to be different.

Q: How do you write to reach your target age group, which I understand to be middle grade girls? Do you use different dialogue techniques, backstory that will appeal to this age group, or characters of their age? Other?

Sherel Ott: I’m a big kid at heart, and I remember some of the things I went through as a tween.  I listen to some of the stories that children talk about today and the issues that they face.  I then put myself in those shoes and try to see things from their point of view. I do try to give a little back story so that people will/can understand where a certain character is coming from. Having the characters in that age group also makes it more relatable for the readers, they are more apt to identify with someone of their own age.

Q: Did you write ADVENTURES OF PRINCESS JANAI to entertain only or did you include themes to help educate or guide?

Sherel Ott: In the beginning, it was mostly to entertain. That is mostly what the first book is, but the follow up books will be both entertaining as well have an education/lesson imbedded in there.

Q: Do you use setting to help tell your story and/or advance your theme? If so, how?

Sherel Ott: The setting is more of a backdrop for the stories.  They do help advance the story along in places but they are not the main focus.  I want to provide an all around experience for the reader as much as possible.  Give enough details but allow their own minds to fill it in.

Q: Why are your characters “relatable”? Does humor help you develop your characters? Why will your readers care about them?

Sherel Ott: I try to make them as human as possible, with feelings and emotions that we all go through.  I think giving them those emotions and feelings helps the readers to like or dislike them making them relatable to either themselves or someone they know.  Then, they will either cheer for them or hope they get their come-uppance for their bad deeds.  Not always will they though…that would end the story too soon.

Q: Is the concept of heroes vs villains important to tell your story?

Sherel Ott: Actually, no.  I try to make it more the situation that creates the villain or bad person.  In some instances who you think is bad might actually be a good person, just misguided in what they do and believe and vice versa.  The main antagonist in the series will be Serlina, but as the stories progress, you will find a more human side to her.  It might not justify what she is doing but you will understand more from her point of view.

Q: What do you believe are the most important elements of a story to reach the middle age group of readers?  

Sherel Ott: I believe that if you have something exciting going on that they would really like to do themselves and add a little danger, a lot of colorful characters and believable situations (whether it is make-believe or real) it will garner their attention.  If the story and details of the surroundings are enticing, you just might have their attention.  The middle age group vary in their level of imagination and maturity.  You want to try to appeal to all levels without alienating anyone.

Q: What’s next?

Sherel Ott: In the next story, we find Princess Janai at the end of the mandatory training sessions and conflicts arising within her own group.  We find one of the supporting characters having to deal with her low self-esteem and self-confidence, and as she comes to terms with her issues of her weight and size; she finds a friend in someone else who is going through the same exact problem, but a little opposite.

Q: Tell us about Sherel Ott. What do you like to do when you’re not writing? 

Sherel Ott: When I’m not writing, I’m a Family Nurse Practitioner.  I love helping take care of people and I chose this particular path because I saw that a lot of the providers were becoming more and more specialized.  Being a family practice provider was becoming a dying art.  We have Pediatrician…Internalist…Cardiologist…Nephrologist…Gastroenterologist, but not a lot of general practitioners; people who can take care of you from as I was told… from lust to dust.  I’m also taking drawing lessons and cake decorating classes on and off.  Reading has always been a favorite pass time of mine as well as crocheting.

About Sherel Ott

An eclectic collector of animation movies, Sherel Ott is a writer of fantasy and romance stories. One day while watching an animated movie, she noticed that there weren’t a lot of movies or books with girls of color in leading roles…as heroines, adventurers or with strong moral characters and wondered… Where were the influential leaders, doctors, lawyers or royalty of color? Why weren’t there any strong black female characters where a girl of color could be proud of her skin color and the type of person representing and say … “I want to be like her!” Wanting something more for her own nieces to look up to and strive to emulate, other than what girls of color were currently being portrayed as or should settle for is how her book initially took form. She wanted to show that there are black princesses, warriors, adventurers of all walks of life. That she should be and can be recognized for what she does and who her true self is, not be prejudged by what color her skin was.

As a fan of all fantasy, magical, mystical, celestial and other worldly creatures, Sherel began reading sci-fi/fantasy stories at a young age.

"I have always been a sci-fi and fantasy type of person. I always felt as a child that I belonged in those types of worlds rather than here. Reading them had always been my way of escaping from my shyness as a child."-Sherel Ott. She had started collecting fairies of all types and now has a mini collection of collectible faery ornament to decorate her Christmas tree every year.

Sherel creates her stories first by writing them out and then typing them on the computer. She feels she gets her inspiration greatest when she writes and from nature itself. She strives to present her stories in a way that anyone can relate and identify with no matter how old or young...with a little fun, a little action/adventure, yet with a hidden message. Writing since the age of 14, her first published book -ADVENTURES OF PRINCESS JANAI AND THE WARRIOR MAIDENS OF QUINU: THE CITIESOF TONGA AND TONGIA - brings a story of strong African American females. It's an adventure series particularly geared towards girls, although boys will also find it an enjoyable read.

When Sherel is not writing, she is working as a full-time Family Nurse Practitioner and has been so for the past 17 years. She presently resides in Felton, DE.

All Janai wants is to be just like everyone else. Being the Princess and having to try out for the Warrior Maidens is just part of her problems. She has the present Warrior leader unhappy with the fact that she is trying out, because that means her time is almost up and she enjoys her “status” too much to give it up without a fight. Not to mention someone just froze two of her guards into living statues with the fabled Mist Flowers of Tonga. Now she and a small group of warriors must travel to a forbidden city and obtain the antidote before the two guards are lost forever…all in 24 hours. Is she capable? Will she make it in time?


Once every year in the village of Quinu, the maidens of the village from age 16 to 18 are allowed to try out for a position as a Warrior Maiden and protector of the Quinu people.  The competition matches the maidens go through are very strenuous and demanding.  These matches last for two weeks each spring and very few maidens will make rank on their first attempt.  Those that do, are extremely talented and athletic.  

This spring year happened to be very different and special.  The whole village turned out to watch the competition, for a certain 12-year-old girl was to be involved in the competitions.  

           Now this was no ordinary 12 year old, for even though she was young, she already showed that she was going to be a beautiful woman. She has skin as smooth as a pebble in a running stream and the color of rich mahogany.  She has large almond shaped eyes the color of a new leaf in spring, long coltish legs and a torso that was just hinting at what she will look like in a few years.  

            Her hair and its ornaments distinguished her status.  The top of her head has three braids that arched out and upwards; then joined at the center of her head to form three arches (one in the front and one on each side of her head just above her ears to form a crown of sorts).  At the back of her head, her hair is pulled into a ponytail and hangs down to the center of her back in one long corkscrew braid. 

            And on her forehead just below the center arch, a circular ornament made of gold with an amethyst surrounded by four diamonds hangs.  The ornament is attached to a gold thread, which is woven in and out of her hair.  This ornament is worn mostly on ceremonial occasions.  Normally, she wears a diamond shaped amethyst stone also attached to a gold wire/thread which is weaved in and out of her hair.  

             This hairstyle and decorations distinguishes the Princesses of Quinu.

Now Princess Janai has made it through the first week of tryouts and out maneuvered all her opponents.  The second week proved to be more demanding and competitive as the participants were narrowed down to only twenty entrants.  

Serlina usually did not participate in these competitions, but Princess Janai was making fools out of her Warriors.  She has not lost one match in the last week and a half since competition started.  Serlina decided that she would be the Princess’s opponent for the last three of her matches, just to see if she was really that good or if the warriors were just afraid to harm her. Her Warrior Maidens were afraid of no one, but were aware that their main objectives were to see that the Royal Family came to no harm.  

By the second to last day of competition, everyone forgot about the other entrants.  Everyone was interested only in Princess Janai and Serlina’s hand-to-hand combats.  The maidens who made it to the final combat were already considered to be part of the Warrior Maidens.  The announcement at the Ceremony of Feast was only a formality.  The competition between the Princess and the leader of the Warrior Maidensthough, was not only highly unusual, but an event not to be missed.

          “That impertinent brat!  How DARE she humiliate me in front of all those people,” roared Serlina.  “A twelve year old little nobody.  She will pay for this.”

          “But Mistress Serlina, she is the Princess,” Serlina’s second-in-command, Zara said.

Purchase Link

Author Links:
Twitter:  @SherelOttAuthor

1st Prize: $50 Amazon.com gift certificate and signed copy of About Adventures of Princess Janai and the Warrior Maidens of Quinu: The Cities of Tonga and Tongia
2nd Prize: $25 Amazon.com gift certificate and signed copy of About Adventures of Princess Janai and the Warrior Maidens of Quinu: The Cities of Tonga and Tongia
3rd Prize: $10 Amazon.com gift certificate and signed copy of About Adventures of Princess Janai and the Warrior Maidens of Quinu: The Cities of Tonga and Tongia

Giveaway on Facebook at http://gvwy.io/om690v2


  1. Hello Joyce,
    On behalf of Sherel Ott and Book Marketing Services, I would like to thank you for hosting Sherel today on Strand’s Simply Tips. She found the interview process to be very thought provoking and enjoyed the process. If any of your readers have any questions and/or comments for Sherel, please leave them in the comment box. She will be by later in the day to respond.
    Sherel is having a giveaway throughout her Virtual Book Blog Tour. You can participate on Facebook by clicking here: http://gvwy.io/om690v2 or on the link provided for the Giveaway in the posting.
    Please join us tomorrow, Thursday, August 20th for Sherel’s guest post on Cassidy Wang, http://cassidywang.blogspot.com/2015/08/guest-post-featuring-sherel-ott-author.html. Her topic is the process of writing a book. Check where Sherel is each day on her ten day tour by clicking here: http://www.sherelott.com/virtual-book-blog-tour-schedule/.

  2. Thank You Joyce for Hosting me. It has truly been a pleasure.