I know, I know, comparing your books to Harry Potter can be kind of a “No, no” for a number of reasons (I mean — it’s setting the bar a little high, right?). But I dare to make the comparison for a few reasons: For those of us who are huge Potterheads, it can be difficult to find another book series to scratch that “itch,” so I appreciate when someone lets me know about a series that has similarities. Also, this is feedback I’ve consistently gotten from my readers. And last, but not least, while writing The Gateway Chronicles, I studied Rowling’s storytelling methods and intentionally told a similarly structured story so that those who love the world of Harry Potter might find similar story beats in my books, as well. So without further ado, here are the top ten reasons why I think readers who love Harry Potter will appreciate The Gateway Chronicles:
1. It’s a story of friendship
One of the prevailing themes of both Harry Potter and The Gateway Chronicles is that of friendship. In both stories, the narrative turns on the relationships between the main character and his (or, in my book, her) friends. When friendships are out of balance, so is the mental health and wellbeing of the main characters. In the first book of my series, The Six, Darcy Pennington’s success hinges on whether or not she will allow some new friends into her life.
2. It’s a “fish out of water” story
As with any good “gateway” fantasy, taking the main character and trapping them in a new world/situation makes for all sorts of fun. This is what happens to Harry when he meets Hagrid (and proceeds to Diagon Alley, Platform 9 ¾, and Hogwarts), and for my main character, Darcy, it’s what happens when her parents drag her against her will to Cedar Cove Family Camp, where she slowly discovers some odd occurrences that could be magical… until she stumbles through a gateway to another world and all doubt is erased. Like Harry, Darcy (and her five friends) find out everyone in this alternate world knows a whole lot more about them than they know about themselves, and not only that, but they have magical abilities.
3. There is a slow-burning, friends-to-more, romance
One of the things I always loved about Harry Potter was the fact that I could tell Harry would eventually end up with Ginny, but Rowling took her time about getting there. Not only was this appropriate for the intended audience of the books, but it made the ultimate romance more believable and satisfying, in the end. In The Gateway Chronicles, Darcy also meets her eventual great love right away in The Six, but she’s only 13, and they don’t terribly like each other. Dislike turns into friendship in books 2 and 3, The Oracle and The White Thread, and into… more as the series progresses and the characters age. It’s a more prominent storyline than Harry and Ginny’s romance in Harry Potter, but a similarly slow burn.
4. Each book is a year-long adventure
There are a handful of things I intentionally patterned closely after Harry Potter, and this is one of them. Each book in The Gateway Chronicles (with the exception of the final book, The Bone Whistle), is a year-long adventure in the world of Alitheia. Just as you know exactly what you’re getting when you sit down to read a Harry Potter novel (one year at Hogwarts, with some adventures preceding and immediately after), likewise, that’s what you’re getting with The Gateway Chronicles.
5. The adults in the story are not wicked, foolish, or pointless
It is not uncommon in YA literature that all (or most) of the adults in the story end up being wicked, foolish, or pointless. J. K. Rowling avoided this trap so well in Harry Potter, and I sought to do likewise. So, if you’re a Dumbledore, Remus Lupin, Molly Weasley, or Sirius Black fan, I assure you that I have adult characters that are similarly not only not wicked, foolish, or pointless, but who have crucial roles to the story and who treat the young main characters with respect and dignity.
6. Episodic books; series metanarrative
As with Harry Potter, each book in The Gateway Chronicles tells a contained story — that concludes itself — while also contributing to a metanarrative. In other words, just as Voldemort isn’t defeated until Deathly Hallows, so my “big bad,” Tselloch, isn’t defeated until the very end of The Gateway Chronicles. But each individual book has its own narrative arc and individual conflict that, while resolving, also furthers the greater story. I patterned this after Harry Potter because I don’t like getting to the end of a book and feeling like it just ended without resolution, but I also think a series should have a clear metanarrative from beginning to end.
7. Unique magical elf-creatures
Every good fantasy series should invent some unique magical creature. J. K. Rowling has house elves (among others), and I created narks — which are elves that switch from day to night personas depending on whether it’s day or night (two beings housed in one body). There are lots of magical creatures in The Gateway Chronicles, but narks have proven to be, based on reader feedback, the favorite addition.
8. You get to grow with the characters
I loved growing up with Harry, Ron, and Hermione. That was part of the delight of reading a “There and back again,” yearly episodic story — knowing that in each book, the characters would be a year older with all the unique traits that come along with each new year as a teen. Thus, in writing The Gateway Chronicles, I wanted to do likewise — not just for my young readers who would get to empathize with the characters who were walking alongside them, but for my older readers, too, looking back on those ages and remembering.
9. There is a magical system to learn
The magical system in The Gateway Chronicles is very different from the magical system in Harry Potter (it’s alchemy and enchantments and elemental magic, no wands or charms or anything like that), but when Darcy and her friends arrive in Alitheia, they get there with abilities that are new to them and no idea how to use them. Although there’s no magic school for them to attend, they are privately tutored in magic, and this instruction takes up a good amount of the story in The Six and on into books 2 and 3 (and even book 4, if I think about it). So if you love the classroom scenes at Hogwarts, there is plenty of that to go around in my books, as well.
10. The kids act their age
A recent complaint buzzing around the internet is that teens no longer act like teens in YA lit. Something I have always appreciated about Rowling’s young characters is that they actually act their age. Her authenticity inspired me, and I think it’s so important to have characters like hers. I’ve striven to do likewise — to have characters in The Gateway Chronicles who act like teens, not like miniature adults.
*Get The Gateway Chronicles now on Amazon, or check out my Books Page for all purchasing options*
I'm so happy to welcome Sherry Gomes to my blog this month! Sherry is a longtime blogger and reader of my books—going back to my days when I was published by The Writer's Coffee Shop. I got to know her via the internet as she participated in various book release tours of mine, and recently we got to chatting about book accessibility for the blind and seeing impaired. Sherry, being both blind and a prolific reader and writer, is a wellspring of information on this topic, and she graciously agreed to let me pick her brain! I hope you enjoy learning from her.
1) Please tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Sherry Gomes. I’m sixty-one. I live in a small city in Colorado with my golden retriever guide dog, Petunia. I was born with a disease called Juvenile Rheumatoid arthritis, JRA. JRA is different from adult RA or similar diseases, and it can be either mild or serious. I have the serious kind, so besides having arthritis in every joint in my body, it also damaged the optic nerve, and I have been totally blind since around age five. I really can’t remember, but that’s what my family told me. I only mention all that because we’re talking about books and the ways that accessing books have changed since my childhood is darn near miraculous for me.
2) How did you get into book reviewing?
The internet made book reviewing an easy thing for me. I started by reading and reviewing fan fiction. Back in those years between Harry Potter books, when we were all longing for JKR to publish the next one, someone told me about fan fiction. I found a whole new world of stories, and now read in a variety of genres—and write in some too! From the start of my journey into fan fic, I was committed to reviewing. From there, it was quite a short jump to reviewing books. I have friends who worked at the Writers Coffee shop, and they invited me to review some of their upcoming books. For a while, I reviewed many books from TWCS, which is how I found your books. I ended up loving reviewing, and though I tend not to do it as much now, I try to review books that really make a difference to me.
3) What is your favorite genre to read?
Oh, boy, that’s a hard question. I’d almost say, what genre don’t I like. However, here are some.
Fantasy, both epic and young adult
Historical fiction, the longer the better
Family sagas, the longer the better
Gothic and romantic suspense
Those yummy slow-burn British mystery series
Space stories, fiction and nonfiction
Anything about the American Revolution, fiction or nonfiction
It’s always about characters for me, so if a book has great characters and plenty of them, I’ll give it a try.
4) Do you find, as a blind person, that accessibility to books has improved in recent years? If so, what are some of the developments that have led to these improvements?
And now we get to why I elaborated about my blindness in question one! When I was growing up, I fell in love with reading from the first day they put my hands on a first-grade braille reader. Anyone remember Run Jane Run! Anyway, back then, the only sources for books were through the Library of congress, National library Service for the Blind, NLS. Or, in the town where I grew up, a small local volunteer group that hand-brailled textbooks for blind students and some novels. The NLS books were either braille, or recorded on records, later cassettes and now digital downloads. I wanted to read everything.
I went to public school, and I envied my sighted friends who could walk into a book store, pick up any book and buy it, own it, keep it forever or give it away. I wanted that so desperately. There were few books in either braille or recordings back then, and I hungered for more. Purchasing such books was not feasible as they were very expensive. I dreamed of growing rich someday and buying a big house, so I could have several rooms, stocked with books, floor to ceiling.
Then, in the nineties, commercial audio books hit the scene. Stephen King was the first major author to put his books out in unabridged audio. I worked at a major department store chain, and I would spend my lunch hour at the bookstore in the mall, happily browsing the shelves for new books on tapes. There I was, actually in a bookstore, buying books! It was mind-blowing.
Still, until Harry Potter came along, most commercial audio books were abridged. Beggars can’t be choosers, and I read my share of abridged books back then and discovered wonderful authors I wouldn’t have access to in any other way. But then came Harry, and Harry changed the world, and changed my reading life.
Harry Potter was the first time that commercial audio books were released the same time as the hard cover print books. For the first time in my life, in my forties, I was able to discuss the latest smash with my peers! I wasn’t years behind, because I was able to get my book the same day sighted folks got theirs. NLS was always behind, due to budgets, getting books read, recorded, edited and such. I won’t go into all the other ways that HP affected my life, except to say, that I even went to three midnight release parties, something that could never have happened before commercial audio books came along.
In the early 2000s, I discovered audible.com and that was an amazing adventure. There were thousands of new books, mostly unabridged, and I could access them all, as long as I could afford it, of course. Again, I found books and authors I had never been able to read before. I discovered George R. R. Martin and the Song of Ice and Fire, just as an example. Here again was timely access to contemporary books, more things to discuss with my colleagues and friends, more new worlds to discover.
Around this same time, a service called bookshare came along. This is a special service for people who can’t read print, and has exceptions under the copyright laws, just as the NLS has, so that books can be accessible to those of us who are blind, or otherwise print disabled. This service is both a place where volunteers can scan and upload books, and where publishers can donate clean digital copies of their latest books. It’s also a place where authors can donate copies of their books. We pay a flat fee per year to access this service. Any type of book can be uploaded, so there’s everything from the typical genres, to erotica to text books and highly technical manuals.
And then came kindle. Amazon opened another door for me. Amazon has been committed to accessibility from the start, and when they came out with kindle books, they also had an accessible kindle device. Here I found new books, old books, everything in between books. Along with the ability to self-publish through amazon, I found authors and stories I’ve never found anywhere else. And I’m still finding things I can’t find anywhere else, as well as some old much loved authors, whose books have never been put in any audible format, or perhaps, nobody but me misses enough to have uploaded to bookshare. NLS may have recorded many of these on records long ago, but now they’ve gone digital, and the books that were on records will never get digitized. So, I keep checking amazon for those beloved authors.
And I’ve written a novel about this, but it is a subject dear to my heart and soul. I don’t own a big house with multiple libraries. I have a cozy little two-bedroom condo. But, I have my multiple libraries, on several devices, on several computer hard drives, on many SD cards. I have the library I dreamed of for so long, and I’ve never gotten over the wonder of finally having access to books. It will never be enough. The number of books in some kind of format I can read, compared to the number of print books past and present, well, it’s small. But this is more than I ever thought I could have.
5) Are there any well-kept secrets when it comes to reading accessibility for the blind or seeing impaired?
Not really. Just that for many types of books, we have to own accessible devices that will play or read the books to us. Commercially, both Audible and amazon have gone a long way toward that. For bookshare and NLS, we have to have special devices to play the books.
6) Is there anything you wish authors knew—or would do better—about portraying characters with disabilities in stories?
I’m incredibly picky about this. Characters with disabilities are rarely portrayed correctly in books or film. In fact, I wrote one of my fan fics, just to show how a blind character in the genre might actually live her life, instead of reading the nonsense that was out there. We who are blind, don’t feel faces for instance. Just one myth that is completely false. We’re also not superhuman. We’re just normal people, living our lives, doing our things, trying to get by. I write stories with blind characters where blindness is not the main point of the story, trying to show that we are just like everyone else. So, I would say, if a person wants to write about a character with a disability, do research. The internet is a good place. Look for organizations relating to that disability, whose members have that disability, and talk to them. Don’t ask nondisabled people what a disabled person would do, go directly to the source.
7) Anything else you'd like to share?
Can’t think of anything else. I’ve written my novel just answering these question. I do have a blog, so if anyone is interested, they can read it here:
One of my great joys this year has been getting to know Dollcie Webb, who is the narrator of The Gateway Chronicles. Not only has she been fantastic to work with and someone who I almost immediately felt really got the books, but she brings a particular joy and light to this story, which is so precious to me. Here's a fun fact: Dollcie lives in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where The Gateway Chronicles is set! I think you can hear those roots and that sense of place and love of home in her narration of The Six, but maybe you should pick up a copy for yourself and check it out!
I invited Dollcie to answer a few questions so you all could get to know her a little bit, especially if you plan on listening to the audio versions of The Gateway Chronicles. I hope you enjoy this interview!
1. Tell us a little about yourself! How did you get into voice acting and narrating audiobooks?
I discovered voice acting my first year of college. It was actually one of the things that drew me to attending Michigan Technological University waaay up in the snowy tundra of the upper peninsula of Michigan. The Theatre and Electronic Media Performance major has you participating in radio dramas and theatre from your very first semester — one of the perks of attending a smaller school with fantastic Sound Design and Audio Production programs. There are performance opportunities abounding, and I always knew I wanted to be involved in voice acting. My third year of college is when I experienced audiobook narration for the first time and it is something that has continued to stay with me. The fact that I’m still narrating audiobooks is entirely serendipitous with how my life has worked out since graduation from Michigan Tech.
2. What is your favorite part of narrating an audiobook? What is the most challenging part?
My favorite part of narrating is when I find my illusive narrating groove. When I’m so in-tune with the book, my body, and when there are absolutely no environmental distractions — I can marathon read with the best of them! Hours of standing in my booth reading will drift by when I reach “the groove”. It’s an almost meditative state and I feel like I’m at my truest self with no mental hangups and I can be as vulnerable as I need to be. It doesn’t happen often but I hope with more practice the easier it’ll be to find that mental state.
I have to say the other small joys I get that occur on a more frequent basis are 1) getting that fresh manuscript from the audiobook rights holder and delving into the story while there is still so much to discover about the plot and characters and 2) Submitting the final audiobook to the rights holder. There is always an excited rise in my heart rate when I go to press “submit”.
The most challenging part of the audiobook process is when it’s time to bring in music. My husband, Jonah, writes all the music for all my projects. He has an incredible ability to transform the feelings of a scene and turn them into wonderful original musical pieces. I couldn’t do it as well as him if my life depended on it. The hardest part for me is forcing myself to take a step back and allow him room to explore creatively. We think in inherently different ways and this has caused us more than a little disharmony in life and work. He’s a stop and savor, single-thought, linear thinker, while I have to be in motion, always moving forward, multitasking, and progressing to the next opportunity. We’ve known each other for 6 years and have finally reached the point where we appreciate the others’ unique skills and thought processes and don’t immediately dissolve to frustrated discussions.
3. What drew you to The Gateway Chronicles?
Before I audition for any book I would like to narrate I do extensive research. On the book, the author, the person responsible for posting the listing and anything else deemed interesting or noteworthy. I was surprised and intrigued when I saw that The Six had been previously published and had been well-received on it’s initial release. There were amazing reviews on Amazon and Goodreads and the first book of The Gateway Chronicles had received the Literary Classics Gold Book Award. All of those things individually were nothing to sneeze at but when I considered them together with the research I did on K.B. Hoyle, I knew then this was an opportunity to be a part of something really special. I realized that this audiobook (and all the following audiobooks) would mean as much to me IF NOT MORE to her and there’s something unusual in that. I’ve met authors who treat audiobooks with indifference and view them just as a way to bring in a little more cash. K.B. Hoyle spoke about her stories with passion and everyone who had posted or commented about the book always left a positive response. That kind of energy and zeal made a powerful impression on me and I knew then that if I didn’t audition I would live to regret it. So I, of course, recorded and submitted my audition that afternoon.
4. How do you think the audio version of The Gateway Chronicles brings the story to life in a unique way?
The audio version of any great story should offer a fresh perspective that humanizes the characters and narrative. It should provide that extra spark to light up the listener’s imagination and transport them into and solidify the world the text sets up. It really laudes back to the days before humanity could keep written documents and instead passed down lore with oral tales. To me, there’s something really beautiful about that. The connection between this technologically advanced society reinventing a prehistoric form of communication that’s existed since the dawn of humanity.
I like to think that the audiobooks of The Gateway Chronicles strive to embrace that philosophy. To embrace the story and honor the author's intent while offering that extra spark to fuel an inferno of creative, immersive experiences for the listener. Jonah and I put pieces of ourselves into each story to offer a pure listening experience. No facades or preconceived notions and with that much love and hard work SOMETHING good has to come out of it!
5. Who is your favorite character to voice in The Gateway Chronicles, and why?
Samantha Palm! She is such a pure soul and a great friend. She’s the kind of person I’d want to be friends with in spite of, or maybe because of, her annoying optimism. She’s the glue that holds the group of friends together and has an innocent and unfettered zeal for life. I feel like everyone could benefit from having a friend like Sam.
6. How can people follow and support your work?
My narrator instagram and FB handles are @daydreamingdollcie. They serve as platforms for all of my professional audiobook works. I have a lot of exciting things in the works and you’ll hear about them there first. The Daydreaming Dollcie website is currently in the works and when it’s launched it’ll be announced on FB and insta-. My studio, Various Audio, has a website and is on FB. Follow me there and see a lot of the work Jonah and I have collaborated on as well as cute updates with our family!
If you want to support my work, I’d love for you to listen and leave a review of The Six! Reviews of audiobooks are one of the best ways to support your favorite narrators and authors while providing proof for future listeners that the work is something worth investing in.
*The Oracle is NOW in audio production! Stay posted to my newsletter for the latest updates!
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