In 2020, I had the pleasure of beta reading Emily VanderBent's debut novel, Crimson Time ahead of its July release. Each person was sent the Author Note, Prologue, and Chapters 1 - 10 to read, edit, and give feedback on during the last few months of production. I was absolutely blown away and couldn't wait to read past chapter 10 when her book released at the end of July. Although, I would have to wait for my signed copy to be mail in August. Plus, I didn't start reading until September and had to take a four-month reading break, I love this book just as much as the first time I met Adelaide. Therefore, my review is going to be a mix of my first thoughts before and after I finished her book. Along the way, we will hear from Emily about her writing journey, how her influences added to her story and her plans for the future.
Crimson Time mixes time travel and history knowledge like fine wine. Fast-paced action scenes and smooth storytelling make Emily VanderBent's debut stand out from recently published first-time authors.
Finding another author named Emily has been so exciting! We may share a name and passion, but what stems from those are very different. I am a Romance/Adventure Fiction Author (or whatever the plotline is), while Emily is a Historial Fanasty Fiction Author. Yet, we both have one book under our belts, more on the way, and an intense love for Paris, France and the writing community. Those are aspects that drew me to her work. Her debut book sets readers in a very intense time period in France's history, The French Revolution. My research for my own writing projects (Book 2) barely scratched the surface of that major event. Whereas, hers hits every nail and crack in history concerning this piece in France's past. That is where my favorite thing comes in, to get to that era in history, Vanderbent sends her characters back in time to survive in the middle of a bloodbath. Interesting, right? Exactly! And deadly. Trust me, there are so many facts to devour in Crimson Time, you'll love it.
Are you ready to turn back time?
One of the most important things about being an author is learning from those around you. Whether that be fellow authors, family, friends, classmates, literature, or movies, we learn from what we see and hear every day. Authors people watch, they listen, and they brainstorm stories all the time. With all of that comes the want/need for advice, which is always a must in this industry. Community is everything, which is how I met Emily. So before I dove into learning about her book, I picked her brain about what she learned while writing her book.
Emily Craig: What did you learn while writing your debut release and what will you take with you as you continue your writing career?
Emily VanderBent: I learned a lot throughout the process of writing Crimson Time, and honestly, I’m still growing and learning as I continue working on the series as a whole, but the biggest thing writing Crimson Time taught me was that I can, in fact, write a book. Being an author has been a dream of mine for a long time, but until I actually did it, it always seemed like an amorphous thing so far out of reach. I still battle with imposter syndrome, like all other creatives do, but having a book under my belt and seeing people engage with it, the characters, and the messages within it, encourages me as I continue in my author journey. It reminds me why I do what I do and how powerful it is to lean into your passions and write with purpose.
EC: Do you have any advice for new authors that an author before you said when you first started writing, if so, what did they say?
EV: I think a lot of new authors think they need to feel ‘ready’ before they tackle a novel. That they need to know all the ins and outs of the writing and publishing process before they can start, but one of the best pieces of advice I received from an author before I became one was that if you wait until you feel ready, nothing will ever get written. The only way you will ever know if you are capable of writing a novel is if you make the choice to try. You will never feel ‘ready’ and that’s ok! Becoming an author is a journey. You have to be willing to try and fail and learn along the way.
EC: What is your writing process like? An early riser, mid-day, or night-owl writer?
EV: I’ve found I work best in larger chunks of time, so typically I get most of my writing done midmorning on weekends or late at night on weekdays. I’ll start by making coffee, lighting a candle, and putting on some soft music in the background. It’s a fairly simple and quick routine, but it really helps me ease into a writing mindset rather than just automatically sitting down and hitting the keys.
Crimson Time is a fresh, exciting, and thrilling ride back to the French Revolution. This story needed to be told. Why? Because women need to have their voices heard and their accomplishments known by the world. The French Revolution-era was a man's world. To combat that notion, VanderBent crafts a strong female character who thrives to understand what truly went wrong in the past. Adelaide is unlike any female lead I have ever read about or watched on screen. She is vulnerable yet powerful and skillful. Her problem-solving skills are beyond anything I could come up with on the spot if I was sent a weird letter. Considering she can take down armed guards, there is nothing Adelaide can't do in this thrilling Historical Fantasy Young Adult novel.
Emily's writing is so easy to get lost in and escape the real world. Immersed in Adelaide's world, I found myself thrown into an environment where anything is possible, such as time travel and secret societies. Nothing is off the table when I stepped inside her head. She tells it like it is and honestly says she is afraid of the unknown and finding out the truth. This character quality stands out above the rest. Her willingness to admit that she was unsure of her situation makes her so down to earth and relatable to people of all ages. She is a budding role model for little girls and boys everywhere. She may be unsure about where her life is going, but it is the hidden courage that makes Adelaide so appealing to readers.
EC: What is your message for readers as they follow Adelaide's journey?
EV: Crimson Time, both in and of itself and the series as a whole, has many threads of messages and purpose woven into it, but they all feedback to a central message that has two distinct parts to it. The first is the significance of history in its past, present, and future impact. The second is the importance of underrepresented narratives (including the female narrative) within it. From an understanding of these two elements, I am hoping readers come to understand and believe in the significance of their own story.
"As Adelaide followed Elise through the twists and turns of the urban streets, she found her gaze drawn up to the sky."
EC: How did you create the Red Rose Society and make it so complex? Walk me through your world-building process.
EV: The concept of a secret society composed of the descendants of different historical figures was actually one of the founding ideas behind Crimson Time. I knew from the very beginning this central element would play a large role in the books. I did a little world-building in the early stages, but the Red Rose Society really grew and developed as I dove more into my characters, their wants, and needs, and how the Red Rose Society could fulfill or hinder those desires. It also helped reading a bit about secret societies and their structures as well as watching how different tv shows and movies depict them.
"What, she didn't know, and that flat-out scared her."
EC: What inspired Crimson Time?
EV: There is a lot that went into my desire to write Crimson Time, but at the heart of it is my belief in the power of words to create positive change and desire for the female narrative of history to be told and acknowledged. There is a gap in the way history has been recorded and in the way, it is taught. It is my goal to shed light on this gap and begin closing it. The best way to empower anyone is to show them what they are capable of. By bringing to light the female narrative of the past, we not only share stories that need to be told but encourage women today to own their own story and write a narrative for it they are proud of.
One of my favorite parts of writing is meshing my real life with my fiction world. Emily does this nicely by adding in pop culture nods such as Harry Potter. I love the reference to Ministry of Magic! This small detail really shows the ages and interests of the characters, which to me is important. This aspect helped me connect more to Adelaide because I at least knew we had something in common although I didn't know her specific age. This nod also makes her even more real by connecting her fictional world to our world. Begging the question, how would Adelaide fit into today's world? Honestly, if Adeliade survives the past, she could survive just about anything. But, you'll have to read the book to find out if she makes it back alive.
EC: I love the Harry Potter nods, what was your goal by putting those little pop culture nods in the book?
EV: I love those little nods in books I read as well, but aside from that, I wanted readers to see Adelaide’s world as an extension of their own. There are definitely some fantastical elements of her and her world that would seem to place the book in a future time or different world than the present one, but by adding in those pop culture references, I hoped to cement readers in the fact that although it looks a little different, Adelaide’s world is not separate from their world, it is one and the same.
I couldn't get enough of VanderBent's story, Adelaide is so real and authentic throughout the story that I wanted to hear more and more. Luckily, Emily is currently writing the second book in the Crimson Time series. More Adeliade? I think so.
"Well-behaved women seldom make history."
- Laurel T. Ulrich
EC: I saw where you are working on a Crimson Time Sequel, what are your hopes for it?
EV: I am. The series is currently planned to be a trilogy, but as I continue to tell Adelaide’s story, it could definitely become more if need be. That’s up to her. Book two will introduce another interesting woman of the past and dive deeper into the Red Rose Society, the individual Kindred who made it in, and Adelaide’s potential role within it as she continues to search for answers.
EC: Are there any more books in the works after a sequel to your debut release?
EV: Aside from the other books in the Crimson Time series, I do have plans for a few stand-alone historical fiction novels, a high fantasy series, and a couple of collaborative novels with some fellow authors. Having started with historical fantasy, I’m interested to branch off in either direction and try my hand at the two genres in their pure form.