Julie Elise Landry, 26, has published her debut novel "Bless the Skies," a dark fantasy thriller she describes as "cruel."
"I have invented a world where the Clouds are worshiped as martyrs, the Sun is a demonic avenger and thieves and assassins fight the rich in an island country obsessed with its own mythos," said the author. "A cast of characters struggles with toxic relationships of all kinds—obsessive, destructive, jealous, dependent—and the reader follows their descent into an increasingly tragic stalemate. 'Bless the Skies' is about struggle—against our enemies, against our gods and against ourselves."
Landry wrote the first cursory draft of the novel over a decade ago as a freshman in high school, though she said the final product rejects her original opinions of some characters.
"The barest idea for this book came from the mind of a brooding teenage girl. As I grew, the core of the plot and the basic personalities of the characters remained unchanged, but my attitudes toward those characters and their actions transformed year after year, affecting the overarching frame and theme of the story," she said.
"Fortunately, my 14-year-old self wasn't given a vote in the final draft."
Landry said the novel centers around Laeli Tavens, a "skilled thief and murderer" who must "rescue her little sister Elaina from a sadistic nobleman." Throughout her journey, Laeli "clings to a well-crafted denial of her past," while Elaina "copes with brutalities and tortures she cannot understand."
Though she has already begun writing the sequel, Landry insists "Bless the Skies" could stand on its own. "The end is a bit severe," she said, "but the resolution asks something from the reader that my sequel will diminish, in a way. We'll see what people think."
"Bless the Skies" is available as an e-book through various online sellers and as a paperback through Amazon affiliate CreateSpace. Landry chose to self-publish rather than pursue traditional routes because she considers self-publishing a necessary first-step toward a career as an author.
"I want to know how much work it takes and where my weaknesses are as an individual," she said. "This way, if I ever attempt traditional publication, I'll better recognize my own limitations and blind spots. In the modern era, I think it's almost expected that aspiring authors will cut their teeth in self-publishing."
Landry graduated from the University of Louisiana at Monroe in 2011 with a Bachelor of Arts in English and Spanish, and again in 2013 with a Master of Arts in English. She grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana, and graduated from Mount Carmel Academy in 2007. Her writing has been published in The Sigma Tau Delta Rectangle, the photography book Aftermath and the ULM News Center. She won two investigative reporting awards for her contributions to The News-Star, where she covered crime and safety.
For more information or to purchase "Bless the Skies," visit blesstheskies.com.