In keeping with our Fantasy theme this month we interviewed fellow SAWC member L.S York about her enthralling New Adult fantasy, Book of Seconds. It is the first book in The Seventh Circle series. She chats to us about self-publishing and the hard work of writing.
1) How long have you been writing this particular series?
I have been writing The Seventh Circle on and off for five years now. I take breaks in between from the series and work on other projects to help me maintain a certain level of distance. I can get too close sometimes.
2) You had an agent but decided to go the self-publishing route in the end. Why is self-publishing the perfect fit for this particular project?
I wouldn’t say it is a perfect fit so much as it is an experience I wanted to have. My agent is wonderful and I love working with her. Unfortunately she has been struggling with her health and needed some time to recover. I wanted to proceed on my own rather than contract to another agent, but we are still in contact and she mentors me.
I have found that The Seventh Circle as a whole inspires mixed emotions and views in people and having this project all to myself suites me. I have believed in it from the very beginning, when no one else did. I hope I can remain brave throughout and take this series forward with the continued passion I felt from the first word I wrote for it to the last.
3) From personal experience, what would you say are the pros and cons of self-publishing?
Self-publishing is daunting. There is no one to hold your hand, or steer you through the slopes and slides. While self-publishing has come a long way in a short space of time many people still don’t take chances on unknown authors easily. Stars and reviews are of paramount importance to the indie-author and getting them is very difficult. So while you spend a fortune on editors and cover designers and interior book designers, people will still find fault with your work. And you can’t recover any costs until you build a readership, which you must also do on your own. It is a slow and arduous journey.
On the plus side it is very rewarding, you have complete control over your work and the vision you have for it. Reaching that one reader that loves your book, well, there’s no joy like that. Mostly however, the main pro is that you can get your book out there to readers without having to deal with the gatekeepers. In the end no one truly knows what readers are hungry for except readers. Let’s say for arguments sake only half the books submitted are published (traditionally), imagine how many great books are out there waiting to be discovered. Self-publishing offers writers the chance to get off the slush pile and into a reader’s hands.
4) Can you tell us a little about what Book of Seconds is about?
Book of Seconds is an anchor for The Seventh Circle series. It introduces the reader steadily to the world of Cèlethdàil and its balance with Earth. It follows two strong leading characters born into the midst of a war that has raged for decades in their homeland. Their roles have been predetermined in a journey that began without them and just picks them up and sweeps them along with the tide. It’s their choice to swim.
It’s a story about discovery. Rain and Andrew learn about themselves, about one another and about the people and circumstances that put them where they are. It sets up beautifully for the series to follow. The story is also about courage, to take chances and make changes. Most importantly the story is about love, both romantic and platonic, and its enduring capacity for hope and forgiveness.
5) Do you find it difficult to write a fantasy set with one foot in the real world? How do you go about finding a balance between the real and the strange?
I don’t find it hard at all, rather, it feels perfectly natural. Writing fantasy is always going to be a balancing act. Essentially you are writing about things that most generally accept as impossible and then you have to make it real. I think that if you ground your fantasy in reality you make it plausible, and then you’re just a stone’s throw away from believable.
We are all governed by laws of nature and physics, gravity and the laws of motion for example. When you build your world, you must also build your system of magic and the laws of nature which govern that world. Once they exist you abide by them, cause and effect, action and reaction. Everything you write thereafter will be consistent and believable within its own realm. Everything that exists in your world should be explainable. If everything and everyone in your world has a story, a history, even if you never tell that story it will be there in subtext making it three dimensional and then it will become believable. No matter how strange it first sounded. Once I have myself anchored this way, switching between the two is easy.
6) Why have you chosen to write for NA (new adult)?
It happened through sheer necessity that this series began as New Adult, though it will probably end as adult. All other projects I have on the go are adult fantasy. The necessity was that I needed Rain and Andrew to meet in a place that was confining and required certain social protocols that would encourage a specific outcome between the two. The two have far too different interests for this to have taken place at college or university, and since the story had to start in our world high school was the best option.
I enjoy writing for the adult niche in fantasy more as I find it challenging and I never feel as though I must censor my work. I can tell the story faithfully without worry that I will offend parents.
7) What draws you to fantasy?
I grew up in a family of readers and storytellers. When my mother read to us at night, she would give all the characters their own voice and accent; she really pulled us into the story. My uncle also collects antiques and he would scare, enthral and entertain us with wild tales of how a chandelier he had just acquired came from Dracula’s castle. Things like this made me addicted to stories and the telling of them. As I grew older my craving remained, so I searched out new tales and lived the adventures I found there in my mind.
This beginning made me fall in love with mythology, history, the imagination and folklore. Fantasy combines all of these and often stretches them vibrantly.
What further draws me to fantasy is that it has a great capacity to illustrate so many issues, good and evil, interracial relationships, gender equality, overcoming abuse, sexuality, betrayal, love, the list could be endless. Not to mention all the interesting and challenging ways one can help a reader relate to the struggle of a non-human character dealing with something very ‘human’. When it came to my own writing, fantasy was a very natural choice. We all love those epic adventures; we all want to write one. I am determined to explore all aspects of the character and the story whilst on that epic adventure, and the toll it takes on them. Fantasy is fun and exciting. It’s a great escape from the dull and ordinary. It can take you anywhere and make you believe in possibility.
8) Are any of your characters like you?
None of them are like me. Law of averages would dictate that everyone should find similarities between themselves and others. Since all of my characters come from me I think it’s only natural that each of them have some small part of me, but I can’t say they are like me. If I had to pick one character in this series that has a few more of my character traits than the others, I would say it’s Andrew.
9) What are you working on right now?
Aside from editing Book of Illusion (book two in the series) I am currently researching for a new epic fantasy series that I would like to release in a series of novellas. I am also writing a new urban fantasy/horror trilogy that I want to release simultaneously. I don’t want to give too much away at this point; I will say that each of these projects is bold.
10) Name one thing you absolutely have to have with you when you sit down to write.
Music. I can’t function without it, even when I’m not writing. I find that no matter how bad my day has been or what is happening around me I can easily find my rhythm and slip out of reality. I also make a playlist for each book that sets the mood and tone I’m looking for, as each story has its own voice.
If you’re looking for something more material though, then I would have to say my fluffy slippers.
11) Have you followed any blogs or podcasts that have helped you grow as a writer?
I enjoy reading interviews with my favourite authors and read many blogs in my spare time, but I don’t follow any of them. I think I am allergic to social media and technology. The best podcasts I’ve listened to are on The Creative Penn. I find interesting tips and helpful hints all over the web though. Red Room (Jessica Barksdale Inclan) was one of them, very helpful. I can’t attribute any one of them for my growth as a writer though. I think that people can tell you what they do or what they found helpful, but it’s meaningless unless you put it into practice. You will never truly grow until you stop thinking and do. Don’t talk about writing, write. The more you write the better you become.
I experienced a massive growth in my writing from being a member of the SAWC, the face to face time with people passionate about the craft. But this is only effective if you participate, that is where the greatest reward comes in. At least it did for me. I also experienced a great deal of growth through being edited professionally; it was a huge eye opener. As a writer you must be open to criticism, take a good point and apply it. At the end of the day you must be true to your own voice. If you changed your novel each time to suite the opinion of those who read your work, you would never finish writing your book. There are as many opinions as there are readers, so make sure you are happy with it. It’s your book after all.
Find out more about L.S York and her book right here.