Tell us a little about yourself & your background
I have been performing since I was three years old, and I suppose I’ve been a storyteller ever since. I grew up in North Carolina studying theatre, went to college for Musical Theatre/Shakespeare studies, and moved to Orlando, Florida in 2012! Since I got here, my life has been a nonstop chaos of theme park jobs, performance gigs, and freelance work of all kinds!
When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
Honestly? The dream has been a part of me for my whole life. I always loved reading, and when my little brother was younger he used to beg me to tell him stories. I realised as I started acting in more and more stage shows that I longed to be a storyteller. I took advantage of every chance I got to do so, and my love of the stage shifted into a love of the page.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
For starters, I would love to be able to write full time. I’ve spent the last decade jumping from job to job, picking up a dozen different gigs every year. After that, my goals are to go on a proper book tour and to, one day, be included in some sort of book subscription box.
Can you tell us a little about The Mapweaver Chronicles?
The idea came to me when I was in a theatre history class in High School. I had this idea that was centered around old Renaissance traveling performer troupes, and wondered how I could make MAGIC out of something like that? The Shavid were born shortly after, and the whole thing sort of came tumbling out from there. The story as a whole has changed many times since then, but The Mapweaver Chronicles as they are now focus on a young man named Fox, and the forgotten magic that runs through his veins. Who and what the Mapweavers were in their heyday still remains to be seen, but that mystery is just a part of the journey!
Can you introduce us to your main character, Fox?
Forric Foxglove was not originally meant to BE the main character of this series! Originally, the story started 30 years in the future, and Fox was a mentor instead of a young man learning his own potential. In this rendition of the story, however, he is a boy who just wants to grow up to be a trapper like his father. Through a series of strange events, a different path is laid out before him, and Fox’s life suddenly becomes a quest to discover the truth of the magic that lives inside him.
Do you have a favourite quote or scene from your series?
Oh SO many, honestly. But recently, one has really stood out: “It’s not enough just to say the words. It’s not enough just to tell the stories, they have to mean something to you.”
Where did you find inspiration for Windswept?
As I mentioned before, much of my inspiration started in the theatre. From there, I constantly added bits and pieces of every show I had ever been in. Every creative endeavour. Every part of the arts that I could think to make MAGICAL. My life has always been filled with art in one way or another, and I think I’ve been gathering inspiration for this series my whole life without realising it.
Are you more of a plotter or a panster?
I consider myself a “Plantser” 😉 Halfway between. I always know where I’m going, and what major points I want to hit along the way. My phone is filled with scattered random notes, reminding myself of things I NEED to include. But after that? I sit and let it happen. No outline, no drafting … just pure creativity chaos.
What is your writing routine like? How often do you write?
I am, unfortunately, an emotion-based writer. I cannot FORCE the writing to come, so my writing routine is a bit chaotic and random. I try to write every day, at least a little bit. But more often than not, I’ll power through several chapters over a day or two, and then leave it alone for several days … Lately, however, I’ve been able to finally settle into a good sort of writing rhythm, where even if I’m not actively putting words to paper, I set aside a few hours every day to WORK on my books. Sometimes that means advertising, sometimes it just means putting together pinterest boards. But, it helps me write more frequently and regularly, and helps me stay in the right emotional place to let the words happen.
How much research did you have to do to complete the first 3 books?
Luckily, not much. I’ve been able to pull a lot of my own life experience and prior knowledge into this series, regarding everything from performing and travelling acting troupes to naval life (I narrated a series of YA Nautical Fantasies and learned quite a bit accidentally:) As an avid reader my entire life, I’ve collected enough eclectic trivia and interests to last SEVERAL books. However, I did find myself researching the nitpicky day-to-day of Medieval life, specifically what technology would have actually existed. While I do take liberties (it is fantasy, after all) I found some amazing things I was able to play with. For instance, gunpowder existed long before proper ship cannons. Indoor plumbing and heating has been around for longer than most of us realise. Fountain pens were popular in certain areas during the Renaissance era, which means I didn’t have to stick to parchment and quill. Little things like that sort of research allowed me to fill my world with marvels and curiosities, while still playing with reality and history a bit.
What was the hardest thing about writing this series?
The death of my parents. Each of them were instrumental in the beginning of my writing career, and losing each of them took its own toll on my creativity. For Mom, it broke my heart that she never got to see me published. She only ever got to read Windswept in its entirety, and that thought haunts me to this day. For Dad, it was much worse. My father was not only my prime reader and biggest fan, but my map artist. He passed away as I was reading him the barely-finished Wayfinder (book 3) and moving on without him has been exceptionally painful.
Why did you choose self publishing?
A few reasons, actually! For starters, many publishers and agents were very complimentary of my writing, but rejected me solely based on word count. If they had read the book and said “Hey, I believe we could cut these 1K words for content” I would have said “Great!” However, I took issue with the arbitrary number, along with the idea that “readers don’t WANT” books that long. So, my mentor and I discussed, and decided self-publishing was worth the risk. But still, I sat on the idea for a year before moving forward. It was a massive health scare of my own that finally pushed me over the edge. While I was off work, panicking about cancer and worrying that I’d never fulfil this lifelong dream, I decided to do something about it. I am certainly glad I did.
What has the publishing process been like for you?
For me, it has been relatively painless! I was very lucky to be surrounded by professional editors and proofreaders, and my cover artist has been INCREDIBLE to work with! The hardest part of the process has been running EVERY aspect of the business all at once. I have to send out beta chapters, manage the promos and advertising, keep the website up-to-date … There is a LOT to do outside of writing when you are self-published.
What are you currently reading right now?
I have fallen absolutely in love with The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan, and I am savouring every page!
Who are your biggest idols?
Tamora Pierce has been a massive influence in my writing life. My ultimate plan is to layer my books together within each others’ worlds, like she does with all her Tortall novels! I also adore Neil Gaimon. His twisted brand of creativity and adventure has inspired me, along with Erin Morgenstern.
Do you get writer’s block? How do you deal with it?
I. Absolutely. Do. Most of the time, I have to sort out my own mental and emotional state before I can move forward, because as I mentioned I am a bit of a chaos-based writer. However, in the writing itself, the biggest way I fight past writer’s block is to ask myself “What else?” What other line could have been said? What other direction could my characters have taken? More often than not, writer’s block is our brains trying to tell us something we’ve ALREADY written is wrong, rather than something we’re about to write. Following that advice has gotten me out of countless blocks and mental creativity cages.
If you couldn’t be a writer what would you want to be?
Honestly, I am already living my other dream job as a performer/actor. I would love to take that further and be a video game voice actor, or a full time audio book narrator. And one day, I will get there! Or I’ll have my own part in a SyFy channel TV show.
What do you get up to when you’re not writing?
Dungeons & Dragons. That’s … basically it these days! I am actually an avid collector of hobbies, and I like to play around with whatever sounds interesting at the moment. However, over the past few years most of my down time is dedicated to my other small business, co-running a production company with my boyfriend. We specialise in tabletop gaming and RPGs, specifically focused on D&D. So I perform and run shows, do tech, design our merchandise … so many things.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
There will be a lot of information out there, including mine. There will be tips on how to write, how to publish or market, and it can all be very overwhelming. However, the best advice I could ever give is this: find what works for YOU. If outlining everything is your thing, that’s great! If you work better just sitting down and seeing what happens, that’s also great! Just don’t let anyone shame you into thinking there’s only ONE “right” way to write. Find what works for you.
Finally, what’s the most exciting thing about the upcoming book 4? What can we expect that hasn’t come up in the previous books?
Not only are we visiting whole new parts of the world with Book 4, but I believe we will finally see a full “coming into power” moment from both Lai and Fox. Whatever magical heights they will reach in THIS series, I believe it will climax here in Book 4. So I am VERY excited about that particular adventure.