Author Interview: Yolandie Horak

Tell us a little about yourself & your background

A wild, red-headed six-year-old girlchild belongs to me, and my husband is his royal majesty, King of the Geeks. I’m sure you’ve heard of him. 😊

I was born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa, but now live in Calgary, Canada. Other than that, art is one of my passions (I have a history in fine art and graphic design), I’m an avid gamer and bibliophile, and what even is life without chocolate?

When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

In high school, I loved writing. I was always penning some sort of story, but art was my main thing. One of my teachers advised me to pursue journalism, and a few of my poems were published in anthologies, but I never took writing as a career seriously. Along the way, I forgot how much writing meant to me. Ironically, a course in make-up artistry was what rekindled my love of writing years later. It all started with a beauty blog, but that blog led to the dream of writing a novel. And here we are.

What are your ambitions for your writing career?

Honestly, I just want to write. If only a handful of people find and enjoy my stories, that’s enough for me.

Can you tell us a little about your most recent work?

A Trial of Sparks & Kindling is the sequel to my debut novel, A Study of Ash & Smoke. It’s grittier than ASOAAS, which I think is just fair, considering it’s the continuation of a story about a deadly plague spreading uncontrollably.

The characters have been through a lot and many of them are leagues stronger than they were in ASOAAS. Having said that, I don’t think anything could’ve prepared them for what’s to come in ATOSAK. *insert evil laughter*

Can you introduce us to your main character?

Cara is a twenty-one-year-old princess hiding as a physician’s apprentice. A male physician’s apprentice, since the society she lives in doesn’t trust women with healing and science, among other things. She suffers from anxiety, and dreams of being invisible. As her story progresses, however, she discovers a well of inner strength she didn’t know existed. I think of all the characters I’ve ever written, Cara grows the most.

Do you have a favourite quote or scene from your work?

My favourite scene in ASOAAS is set in Little Mordoux, the pseudo-French part of town, in a tavern called The Crooning Cockerel. I think it’s a defining moment in Cara’s life, and so much stems from that scene that influences the following books. In ATOSAK, there are three scenes that really make me happy. One where Cara finally realises what she’s capable of, one where Vendla is my hero, and one where Pointy bares his soul, but nobody realises.

My favourite quotes are these two:

“They expected a lion, but she was a mouse. A crown would not sit on an invisible head.” – A Study of Ash & Smoke.

“Carabelle of Mordoux wasn’t a mouse. No, she was a dragon.” – A Trial of Sparks & Kindling.

Where do you find most of your inspiration?

Conversations, mostly, but anything interesting that grabs my attention. A lot of my inspiration also stems from music and art.

Are you more of a plotter or a panster?

A hybrid. Though I plot more these days than I used to, a fair bit of writing is still due to happy accident.

What is your writing routine like? How often do you write?

I write every day, obsessively, whether I’m inspired or not. I read the last chapter I wrote the previous day, tweak as I go, and write as much as I can after that. I average about 2000 words a day, but cut about half of that when I edit the next morning. 😛 I reread everything I’ve written after every 10 chapters, and edit again as I go.

How much research has gone into your writing?

A LOT. Since these books have many medical elements and I’m not medically trained, I have to research every ailment or injury extensively. There’s also a fair bit of politics, and many of the cast members are spies, so that needs researching too.

What was the hardest thing about writing?

Self-doubt, and as an indie author, marketing.

Did you choose self publishing or traditional? Why?

For me, it was always going to be self-publishing. I mean, I write epic fantasy about physicians and spies, with a great big dollop of politics and classism, set in a steampunk world. That’s not something you see in the mainstream.

What has the publishing process been like for you?

As an indie author, you have to be involved in every step of the publishing process. That can be difficult, but I’m lucky enough to be a member of the Skolion writers’ co-operative, and these established folks have held my hand throughout the publishing process. Their pooled wisdom has been as good as (if not better than) working with a big publishing house.

What are you currently reading right now?

I’m reading The Company of Birds, by Nerine Dorman, The Magician’s Nephew, by CS Lewis, and How to Cheat a Dragon’s Curse, by Cressida Cowell.

Who are your biggest idols?

Trudi Canavan and Nerine Dorman. Nerine is my editor and a wonderful author in her own right, and she’s taught me everything I know.

Do you get writers block? How do you deal with it?

Unpopular opinion time, but I don’t believe in writers block. If I’m uninspired, I take a break, but then sit my arse back in the chair and write.

If you couldn’t be a writer what would you want to be?

Some sort of artist. Game art, illustrations for book covers, make-up artistry, I don’t care. Any of it, or all of it. 😊

What do you get up to when you’re not writing?

So, I’ve mentioned art, right? 😛 I also read, game, cross-stitch, and fangirl. My happy place is hiking in the mountains.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Don’t give up. It’s going to be hard, but keep going. Your story is worth being told.

Any important info regarding works & where to buy it:

The easiest way to find my work is probably on my website, under the ‘Books’ option. You can also find extra content under Extras, and I blog about writing often. For exclusive behind the scenes content, sign up for my monthly newsletter.

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