Welcome back to Najla Qamber Designs! First, we wanted to thank everyone who has read and supported our little virtual family. It's our honor to take part in your journeys and we love hearing your stories. That's why we're excited to share our first exclusive interview with contemporary romance author, Maria Luis. Maria is the author of the bestselling NOLA Heart and Blades Hockey series.
Discover more about her writing and life adventures below! And stay tuned for a peek at her newest release, Road to Fire!
NQD: Did you always want to be an author? We’d love to hear your story!
ML: If you ask my mom, the answer would be yes! Apparently, when I was a kid, I would write the same story over and over again, sketched out pictures and all. (She’s kept most of them but trust me when I say they’ll never be published, LOL). Later, though, I was a competitive gymnast. I fractured my back — and was almost paralyzed — and ended up in a stiff, plastic back brace for eight months. It was eighth grade. It was a little embarrassing to not even be able to bend over to grab a pencil off the floor without nearly wiping out. And I wasn’t even allowed to go to the mall because that involved too much walking. Ultimately, my mom got fed up with my misery and told me to find something else I loved to do...and that was dabbling in stories. I ended up writing what was clearly a Pirates of the Caribbean fanfic and never looked back! I’ve been writing ever since.
NQD: We love how storytelling carried you through your pain and into your next big adventure as an author. :) What is your favorite book or books you’ve written?
ML: Oooh, this is a tough one! I think of all my books, my favorite would be my Blood Duet (Sworn and Defied). Although I love all of my books, the Blood Duet taught me to never be shy with my writing. It showed me that I could be brave and I could take risks and I couldn’t spend my time worrying about what anyone else would think about the world I’d created— I could only worry about if I did that world justice and brought it to life. I’m thankful to the Blood Duet for a lot of reasons, but mostly I’m grateful to its characters because they showed me to always go big or go home. That’s exactly what I do today when I write—if I’m not taking some sort of risk then I’m not trying hard enough.
NQD: Were you brought up reading or is it something you fell in love with later in life?
ML: It was definitely something that I remember growing up with! Both of my parents are big readers, but my dad was especially. I remember with the Harry Potter books, after book 4 came out, we started having to pre-order two copies, one for me and one for him. Neither of us was willing to wait till the other had finished before starting (spoilers, you know, LOL) so I have vivid memories of me camped out on one couch and my dad on the other, both of us devouring J.K. Rowling’s words. When we finished, we always hashed it out and talked shop. So, yeah, my reading is absolutely an inherited trait!
NQD: That sounds like so much fun. You and your dad had your own book club ;) What is your favorite genre or type of story?
ML: Romance all the way! I personally need a HEA (happily ever after) in my stories. Which is funny, and slightly ironic, because when it comes to TV shows or movies, I’m less about the romance and more about the action. But in my books, I need the romance front and center. The steamier the better, LOL.
NQD: Has your past professional background or hobbies influenced your writing?
ML: Oh my goodness, in every single way! 100 percent. I used to be a tour guide (here in New Orleans but also in York, England, where I lived a few years back), and I’m always finding ways to incorporate things I’ve learned or seen along the way into my books. At the back of every one of my stories is a "Dear Fabulous Reader" section, which might as well be a travel guide, LOL. I include real locations that made it into the book and all sorts of behind-the-scenes stuff too. I love to travel and I love history, and if I can share that love through my stories, it totally makes my day. One of the best compliments I’ve ever received was a reader who emailed me to say that she and her husband visited New Orleans and while they were here, they used my NOLA Heart series as a guide to discovering the city. I’m pretty sure I’ve never felt more accomplished than at that moment.
NQD: How amazing to hear that your books have impacted people in such a way! What's your favorite cover or series we’ve done together so far?
ML: The Put A Ring On It series, hands down. I can’t even put into words how obsessed I am with these covers. When I asked Najla to cover them, I asked for something romantic, something swoony, something that sort of makes you gasp when you first lay eyes on it—and she nailed it. The branding, the vibes, encapsulates everything I wanted for these books and everything I didn’t know I wanted, all at the same time. They’re gorgeous and I’m so happy to see them whenever I look at my bookshelves.
NQD: How important would you say cover design is for your books & business?
ML: So important! I know the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover” is something we all try to remember as a cautionary tale but I totally judge a book by its cover. Every aspect of branding is another form of storytelling. The blurb sells a book. The name of an author sells a book. But the cover? The cover is what stops a reader in their tracks and gives them that initial encouragement to check the book out. To me, a good cover doesn’t just sell books but it also builds an entire brand for an author. I’m so, so happy to have covers that I not only love but that my readers do too.
NQD: How did you decide on branding? Has design played a part in that or were you able to do it yourself?
ML: I’ll be completely honest, I built my author branding based on the covers Najla has designed for me! My books represent my personality in a lot of ways — my humor, especially — and my covers are bright and fun and, yes, also sexy, LOL. Over the last two years, I’ve played off the covers and used those same vibes to create my website and my business cards and any swag items. Before the covers came to fruition, I’m honestly not sure I had an idea of what the Maria Luis brand even was or would be.
NQD: We've had so much fun helping create your brand over the years! Kay, on to the deep questions... Who or what would you say your author avatar or spirit animal is?
ML: Okay, totally cheesy moment, but I’d have to say that my dog Athena is my spirit animal. She’s my partner in crime, my plotting buddy, and I’m going to stop talking now before I totally embarrass myself, LOL.
NQD: Our pets tend to be the most understand and patient when the creative genius takes hold ;) Where do you see yourself in your writing career 5 years from now?
ML: Writing so many more books! I have a list of books I plan to write, and since I only release about three times a year, my plans are already creeping into 2021. I hope to create more worlds, discover new fictional friends, and maybe toe the line of some new avenues within the publishing world. TV shows? Movies? I’ll keep dreaming big because dreaming small never gets the job done.
NQD: We can't wait to see where the journey takes you next! Thanks, Maria for sharing with us today.
ML: Thank you so much for having me!
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About the Author
Maria Luis is the author of sexy contemporary romances, though she may or may not have (read: she does) a few historical romances hiding in the cobwebs of her computer.
When she's not writing about strong men and the sassy women who sweep them off their feet, Maria is a historian/content marketing buff with a specialization in medieval England and 19th century New Orleans. What do the two eras have in common, you ask? Not much, except for disease, scandalous activities, and crime--Maria's favorite topics.
Maria lives in New Orleans with her better half, where she can generally be found hiking with her two dogs, Zeus and Athena, kayaking in Louisiana's intercoastal waterways, or curled up on the couch with a good book.