Tag Archives: Interview

Sunday Spotlight with Historical Fantasy Writer and Musician, Madeline Davis

I’m so glad we finally got to chat on my blog, Madeline! I know this is a super busy time of year for you with all your pursuits. Hopefully, you got a nice winter break. Since we actually need to catch up, tell me first about what you’re currently working on and how are you feeling about your progress? 

Thanks for having me!  A busy time for you too I’m sure, and you’ve got quite a variety of projects running yourself—new books, new platforms, new connections, wow! I’m looking forward to seeing your new ventures as well!

Right now I’m just focusing on completing my first novel: an historical-fantasy based on Louis IX and Isabel of France. I’ve gotten to do a lot of research for it these past few months with a medievalist professor, digging into 13th century France and the royal family, and am now about halfway to a complete draft (various degrees of polish). While there’s still a considerable way to go putting all the pieces together (I write many scenes out of order, and this particular project started as a series of short stories too, so lots of structure work), I am quite hopeful of finishing it in the next few months. 

You make me wish I would have started writing in my youth, combining fiction writing with academia. I don’t know which would be more fun, writing or the opportunity for that sort of research! It sounds exciting, and I can’t wait to read it. We’ve talked a bit about writing scenes out of order, and there is a lot of merit to that method. Can you share a little more on that?

Actually, I’m not sure I would recommend it, unless you have a solid framework for the whole story, and are willing to rewrite those scenes after the other parts are finished–not necessarily very efficient! But it is motivating at times to dig into a more substantial scene, something that reminds me what I found so fascinating about this project in the first place, and which stews in my head without my trying. I find that especially helpful if the gears aren’t turning so smooth at the current place. Rather than saying I’ve hit a block, I’ll write something I know comes later, (but have enough of an idea to write it) and work backwards from that–a little like doing a large puzzle, where you  do the corners, then edges, then chunks of the more singular-looking parts, till you can put those together… but if you don’t know what the whole looks like, that would be quite difficult! (And I have some unfinished manuscripts testifying to that).

The themes of your stories have such a classical feel, like I’m stepping right into medieval times, only where dragons roam. It makes them both magical and entrancing. Tell me how you came to this style of writing. How would you classify your genre? Do you explore writing in other genres?

Funny you should ask about classification, as it took some frantic searching to find historical-fantasy as a genre; I worried for a while I was fiddling too much with the two genres I loved best! I love history, but have a healthy respect that makes me leery of deviating much from the real, so I find the flexibility that fantasy offers very reassuring. 

That being said, I love medieval history more particularly. Delving into the people and cultures that created wonders like Chartres cathedral, the Divine Comedy, the Lindisfarne Gospels and so much more is just fascinating. Also, the themes that it offers are universal—love, duty, loyalty, honor, sacrifice, devotion, and many others—but I’ve found some particularly striking examples in the medievals that it would be a shame for our own time to lose in forgetting. So we need their stories! (Never mind the many misrepresentations and misconceptions about the medievals as dirty, dumb, and monolithic that modern scholarship has been disproving, but still need combatting in entertainment. Highly researched fiction is my penny in that project). 

Also, I think my approach is shaped by my vision of literature–including fantasy—as not an escape from reality, but a lens for better appreciating it. Through literature, we can return to the real with eyes refreshed. Literature can draw into focus the lines of reality with artistic emphasis and perspective. Fantasy’s particular gift for manifesting unseen realities in concrete, memorable ways is particularly compelling, so I do tend to write more in the fantasy genre than anything else. But I’m quite a new writer, and wouldn’t box myself into any category just yet, having experimented with science fiction, more strictly historical, memoir, and contemporary so far, with plans to try others in the future! 

I am catching your passion! Thanks for sharing that. I’m experimenting with a historical fiction novel (though not that far back in time) mixed with fantasy, and this is encouraging insight.

Oh lovely! Actually, in researching the genre, there seem to be many more examples of more-recent historical (especially Victorian) than medieval, so I’d say you’re likely in good company! And if you enjoy research as well as writing–double win!

When and how did you start writing?

Before I could write! Well, at least I like to joke that the pictures I drew and scribbled squiggly lines around before I had learned letters were my first attempts—these princesses and maids must have had tales! But I don’t really remember not being able to read, and books have been such a substantial part of my life, it seemed natural to want to make my own as soon as I could. So I’ve scribbled away at stories since grade school, and always thought I wanted to try to give back some of what I enjoyed—I guess I’ve more or less always had something simmering, though in high-school I started paying more attention to the craft of writing itself; that might mark my actual “beginning,” entering the world of online writing forums and focusing on improving different aspects of storytelling. 

That is a great concept, to give back what you enjoyed. To me, that means you experience joy both ways. Can’t lose with that as motivation. I also love hearing when a writer has grown up with a passion for telling stories. Thanks for sharing that.

Who and/or what were your biggest influences?

To pick one author, I’d have to say J.R.R. Tolkien. That sounds natural enough for a fantasy author, but I would say not just for his creation of Middle Earth: I’ve found his views on literature (particularly in his essays, “Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics”, and “On Fairy Stories,” and especially his short story, “Leaf by Niggle”) really resonate with the view of art I feel called to create: a sort of “subcreation” that reflects the beauty that already exists but bringing to light particular facets in a profound collaboration with the first creator. 

In addition to that, I’m driven by the notion that art exists to delight and instruct (Can’t claim originality in that either—Horace defined art that way over 2000 years ago). If either of those is missing, it’s falling short of its potential, as there is always so much more for us wisdom-hungry humans to take in, but we need help—especially the help of delightful beauty—to really learn! So I find it essential for me to write with a solid philosophical and theological framework that gives enough light to grasp the edges of mysteries, and yet realize these are only the edges. The idea that our human intellects can fathom a measure of beauty, order, and purpose in the universe, but not contain it— and then to highlight that with literature—that idea, slowly forming for me, has influenced why, how, and what I write.

But we are what we eat and we write what we read, so I’d have to say I owe a huge debt to my mother for making classics fun (homeschooling), and to the authors of many classics (Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Mark Twain, Herman Melville, Flannery O’Connor, to name a handful); in the realm of fantasy, C.S. Lewis, Andrew Peterson, and Megan Whalen Turner as the most inspiring; and many, many different historical authors (some fiction, some not) as well as philosophers like Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, and G. K. Chesterton, just to get started… 

Wow! Thank you for this, Madeline. You’ve given our readers some well-articulated concepts to analyze for themselves why they might love literature and writing. I know it’s given me some things to chew on. Reading Tolkien’s essays-Way to go. and when it all comes down to it, Mom was the one who started the ball rolling. Awesome!

We belong to a great writing community and you were there to greet me when I joined. What drew you to the group? What do you think are the biggest benefits of belonging to a community of writers? What other communities have you found beneficial to your growth as a creator?

Writing is, of all art forms, I think, the most bonding, and yet also the most isolating. Writing can reach very deep places in the human person, engaging us on different levels of being, and giving us those moments where we exclaim “How did they know that?!” Or “Me too!” 

But the writer doesn’t usually get to witness someone experiencing that, but instead spends a lot of time withdrawn from the rest of the world typing symbols that have no inherent meaning onto a screen. [(I love words and crafting them, but studying a variety of languages, I’ve come to be pretty sure there’s very little in any one alphabet that really gives the symbols themselves intrinsic meaning, which is different from the media of other arts—think of how color exists apart from painting, notes apart from music. Words–particularly written words— just don’t work like that.)]

But writing is art, also reflecting reality. Having support in creating it is immensely helpful not only for persevering through the process of making it, but giving it an authentic balance—it won’t resonate and connect if it comes from an island! 

For that reason I’d say that I’ve even found less-than-communal participation in various writing forums helpful. Fanstory.com, writingforums.org, Underlined.com, and Absolutewrite.com,  where people were pretty much all strangers, were each helpful (in different ways–absolutewrite being the largest) because of the outside perspective exchange they could facilitate. For writing to bridge well, getting feedback from different perspectives is critical, and I am grateful for finding those there.

But having a more tight-knit community of people who all know what the joy and struggle of writing is like, and with such a diverse pool of experience (writing-related and also not) to draw on–that’s another type of support that I would say is quite helpful. I’ve appreciated finding that through Richie Billing’s discord group, where it’s much easier to get to know individuals and exchange on a more personal level. I’ve also found that in a local writing group at my college, where having in-person community adds another dimension of encouragement and opportunities for sharing—resources, feedback swapping, or just writing at the same time, like buddying up for an exercise program. 

An African proverb that runs something like: “If you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together” sums it up well, I think. Putting in the actual work to write well at all is the first essential, and requires personal commitment– as Stephen King well said in his On Writing: “Life isn’t about supporting art, art is about supporting life.” But finding support sure makes the long-term commitment seem more feasible!

I appreciate when my guests give us quotes to illustrate the conversation! These are wonderful and convey the benefits of support communities perfectly. Thank you! Also as a note to our readers, I’ve provided the links to Madeline’s listed resources in the text. I also belong to Richie Billing’s group. His Fantasy Writer’s Toolshed Podcast, and newsletter are phenomenal free resources.

I love that you play the harp. Another element of you that is classical. Can you share that journey? How long have you played and what kinds of engagements do you participate in? Does playing an instrument help with or influence your writing and vice versa?

It’s certainly been a journey, with multiple providential moments.  I had to have become fascinated by the harps in books, as there’s no way I saw one in person before I became obsessed. But I do still have the concert programme that says, “Madeline, I’m sure you’ll be a lovely harpist someday”–I’d run up to get the autograph of the harpist in the President’s Own Band because here was the first real live harpist I’d ever seen! (hard to hear in the middle of such a large ensemble,  but that was certainly the highlight of that special concert for me). At the time, that seemed incredible–we already had a piano (which my mother taught), so why on earth would I play harp? Never mind how. But a few years later, a friend of my grandmother’s heard about my interest and offered to lend me her little lap harp, just at the same time that we met a family with a daughter who played harp and had found a teacher, and we could carpool, and so, 14 years ago… it all worked out! 

It has certainly been a journey since then. Each of the teachers I’ve had have really shaped me–not only as a musician, but also as a student and person, and the way I approach learning and accomplishing new things. 

Because of that formation, it’s always been quite clear to me how intertwined the different arts are, even while distinct. Music is more imitative than writing, consisting of sounds and rhythms that evoke associations and emotions, and perfecting the performance of a piece usually written by someone else. But writing shares with music the requirement of perfecting technique by repeated, focused practice (it’s not just practice that makes perfect, as one of my teachers insisted—practice makes permanent, but focused  practice, as perfect as it can be in certain aspects, makes for perfection). And while a musical performance has a certain time-sensitive finality—once that wrong note is played, there’s no reversing it–writing is also subject to that in a way with publication; the practice, practice, practice of the music room finds a reflection for me in the revision process, and bringing a piece to performance level has become to me a model of editing written work. Also, in both music and writing it takes another special skill to synthesize all the technical aspects and make something beautiful, but it does come with diligence in the bit-by-bit exercises. And then, the result: humanizing beauty to be shared with fellow humans.

I’ve played harp in a variety of settings–weddings (of course), funerals,church services and other special events, as well as concerts as soloist and as an ensemble member. Of all the venues and types of playing I’ve done, two have impacted and shaped me the most: playing in nursing homes for the sweetest, though often loneliest people, and being part of an ensemble. 

In an ensemble, I really experienced the mutual dependence of being an artist with a small role participating in a larger whole. That whole was definitely greater than the sum of its parts, but it depended on each part performing well. Even while any part played individually might not make much sense, the great whole depended on the quality of its contribution, (which was itself a combination of personal preparation, knowing one’s part really thoroughly, and flexibly following the conductor and listening to the other musicians and their parts). That doesn’t sound terribly different from any other type of teamwork, but it really demonstrated that to me in a singular way for the arts, and how much could depend on the personal commitment of an individual, as well as the work of the ensemble as a unity.

In writing, I think there’s a similar interdependence of artists, each with their own part, their own contribution–but the whole is much harder to grasp, something that might be generalized as cultural, but really defies a perfect synthesis. So I hold onto that truth of the parts coming together in the orchestra, and work on my part, but try to also listen to “the other parts”–other writers, which across time and place, can form a symphony of the human imagination. 

Goodness, that was a long answer to a straightforward set of questions! But if you give a mouse a cookie, or you give a writer something fun to think about…

I was utterly riveted, Madeline! And you gave me exactly what I hoped for.  I am fascinated by multi-creative lives and how the aspects of one art impacts another. Thanks so much for providing this insight.

How do you balance all your pursuits with life and work? Do you have any tips on time management and how to fit in what you love doing with what you must do on a day-to-day basis?

That’s an excellent question that I’d be a giant hypocrite pretending I have a very helpful answer to, but as best I can: for me it mostly comes down to evaluating (and regularly rechecking and reevaluating) priorities, particularly lining up where things fall on an urgent-important grid (I think I first read that in Sean Covey’s 7 Habits of highly effective teens… Excellent book, and there’s an “adult” version by his father too).

But sometimes it is possible to combine necessities and art. 

Practically speaking as a writer, I’ve found audiobooks extremely helpful. To fill the need for direct instruction in the craft I’ve found books like Sol Stein’s On Writing, and several lecture series from The Great Courses on writing and editing particularly insightful in laying down principles. But besides that, listening to quality literature sharpens my own sense of style, and makes me more aware of the patterns and rhythms of fine English prose. And enjoying lighter works in my genre helps me understand what’s already been done, works well (or not). And listening to any of these is all manageable while doing other mundane things! Driving, cooking, cleaning, dog-walking,(I do those also for part-time work), exercising (actually very helpful supplement for creative work!), etc—I’ve really appreciated the efficiency audiobooks allow. 

The beauty of art, though, especially writing, is that everything can be seen as “research”; that is one reason that, even when occupied with life and work, I think of myself as a writer—it’s a lens for the way I look at the world, gathering strands from every source I encounter. Not that I’m quite like a journalist that’s always ready to pounce on some incident thinking, “Ooh, that would make a good story”–but it’s always in my mind that what I live day-to-day can help shape my writing—I just have to keep my senses and mind open.

My part-time job helping an older woman as a living assistant for example—it’s not just a job, but an opportunity for me to recall the trials of getting older most of us will someday face, and to keep in perspective what I do with the limited time I have. I find that especially valuable for me as a college student, usually surrounded by youth who don’t have that at the top of their minds—but preparing for death and dealing with the loss of abilities is worth reflection, and I’m grateful for the reminder.

Experiences pleasant or painful, awkward or funny, happy, sad, and everything in between can all help deepen the well I write from. Sometimes it just takes a simple perspectivizing of an experience to make that happen, and sometimes I realize later I’m processing something through writing—so I don’t see “real life” as getting in the way of writing so much as providing the material for it, and shaping me as a writer. Perhaps that’s a view that will shift for me with time, but for now, I’m settling into the awareness that much of what I want to write requires long processing—there’s much to be gained from my own maturing before I try to “literaturize” some of these ideas, and I’m not so worried that the world is missing a lot if my still inchoate efforts don’t reach the light of day very soon. True, some things require more of the approach I take to poor writing—but that hardly leaves them valueless, if analyzed as examples of errors to be corrected for myself, or warnings of what to avoid.  

I can attest to the trials of getting older, so kudos to you for opening yourself to so many perspectives in your daily life! And then using the efficiency of experience and absorption to generate art. Harks back to your Stephen King quote about art supporting life.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Teaching Latin and/or Greek (what I’m majoring in),and/or history, literature (probably in one of the classical charter schools that I’m glad to see developing in various places, especially not far from where I’ve grown up—go classical learning!). In terms of writing, I hope to be publishing short stories, and if traditional publishing hasn’t worked out for my current novel (and the next), getting into self-publishing. That’s a flexible vision, though—I know a lot can change in five years, especially looking at the last five! (Five years ago I was entering a cloistered monastery, and if I hadn’t run into health issues 2.5 years in, would have happily spent the rest of my life there. As it is, I will be eternally grateful for the time I did get to spend in that vocation).

What were your biggest highlights in 2022? Any exciting plans for 2023?

Writing this historical-fantasy novel was certainly one! I only realized the other day that before February of 2022, I didn’t have a single inkling of this story, and now it’s certainly grown more than I would have thought. Another 2022 highlight has been meeting other writers (live and through discord)–which has also led to joining a small, live critique circle, that’s just getting started. I’m very excited for the possibilities there, especially with my experience in 2022 of feedback swaps—both the giving and the receiving feedback on longer pieces has brought growth I can almost see as it happens, and I’m looking forward to continuing that (moderately) as well. 

In 2023 I’ll also be tackling a different kind of writing challenge: researching and writing a thesis (for graduation) on a topic from either a Greek or Latin classic. While writing 50 pages of academic writing is quite different from 50 pages of fiction, I’m looking forward to the growth as a student and crafter of words such a process will entail. 

Thanks for sharing this and demonstrating how life can zigzag surprisingly for us all, and here’s to more exciting things ahead for you!

Thank you so much for visiting with me. Do you have any parting advice for our readers who want to pursue their creative passions?

Time is precious, and making art is worth it. The time, dedication, and patience that it takes to make good art, though, is also worth remembering, and this is not a journey that has to be done alone—support, instruction, and the wealth of experience that each person accumulates through a reflective appreciation of their life can all contribute to something beautiful. And there are so many people out there with a lot more experience than me—if you found the time to read this advice, you can find someone wiser too!

Writing Battle Flash Fiction Challenge Coming Soon – A truly amazing writing community phenomenon taking off!

@WritingBattle on IG and WritingBattle.com

If you missed my December Guest and need a little art in you life… I’m reposting…Sunday Spotlight – Artist and Teacher Audrey Markowitz

Artwork by Audrey Markowitz

D. I could talk all day about your teaching and how wonderful you are at motivating and supporting those around you. That is my experience with you, …

Sunday Spotlight – Artist and Teacher Audrey Markowitz
Artwork by Audrey Markowitz

My Spotlight Guests for the New Year are Lining Up to Meet You – Here is a Little About Them

Meet Madeline! Sunday 15 January Spotlight Feature

January Madeline Davis – Harpist, Scholar, U.S. Fantasy Writer Madeline and I met in the Fantasy Sci Fi Writer’s Alliance and enjoy helping each …

My Spotlight Guests for the New Year are Lining Up to Meet You – Here is a Little About Them

Musings

Once I realized the “real world” was largely in my head, it became infinitely easier to interact with the reality of others.

Musings

Kent is My New Guru

Check out our conversation and meet this sci-fi author who gives us more on his insights.

Guest Spotlight with Adventure Lifestyle Photographer Joey MacLennan

Joey is one of the chillest people I know – And his photos blow me away…

I was thrilled to catch him on a break from climbing mountains to get this interview, so I could learn more about the artist side of the guy who’s marrying my niece next year. Here’s our conversation.

As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. Which means your photographs already say so much about you, Joey. It also means that this is a great opportunity to learn more. Can you first share a bit about how you came to love photography and your background?

I grew up in Northern California in a family that loved to get outdoors. Whether it was fishing, camping, or just barbecuing, we spent a lot of our time outside with others. This instilled a love for nature and being able to share that space with the people in my life. Photography was something my grandfather was a natural at, but it came to me before I even knew he had a passion for it when he was a young adult. I didn’t really start to shoot consistently and develop my own style until I was a sophomore in college. From there it inspired me to pursue more remote places. Documenting and sharing my experiences with my friends and family then became my routine. 

D – I for one appreciate that you share such amazing things with us through your lens, and how special is that to discover your grandfather enjoyed the same thing.

Obviously, you have a love for the adventurous life and the outdoors. But besides that, what inspired you to make it your preferred genre?

I realized that every time I’d reach the city limit, breathing  in the fresh mountain air and finding a sense of solitude, I would feel a sense of good energy rush over me. Simply put, at this stage in my life, I got happier when I could escape the chaos within the city. 

Engaging in the kind of epic art you do, it must be hard to focus on the business end of things. I know for me, I could hide away and write all day long. But it doesn’t pay the bills. What are the top three tips you can share to help creators balance their passion in art with other aspects of life?

Honestly, I’m still not very good at selling myself regarding my art. However, I have always worked hard with various jobs I’ve held to allow me to continue doing what makes me happy. I’d say it should be a big priority to take the time to reflect on why you do the things you do. Spend time creating the space to really think about the why. Once you can find a strong reason, it is easier to make the choices that set you up for success.

It has been a lot of fun watching you and Ana taking all those steps and finding your niche while you’re young.

The kind of photographs you take require being in the right place at the right time. What are your tips and preferred techniques for getting those great shots? 

Do what others are not willing to do. It’s not my phrase, but it’s something I’ve seen ring true more times than not. More specifically, if you put yourself in good positions to get those perfect conditions by hiking through the night or waking up before the sun, you’ll be provided with more opportunities to get a great photo.

D – I love that you have a passion for film cameras. Can you tell us about your favorite equipment? How much do you haul around trying to get those shots? Does Leo help out? Sorry, but I had to get a mention in for your awesome German Shepherd, whom I’ve known since he was a pup.

I’ve always focused more on the action of taking the photos and not on the gear I use to get there. That being said I use a Leica M6 primarily for 35mm film and a Pentax 67 for 120mm film (medium format film). Leo doesn’t help much, it’s a surprise I don’t charge him rent at this point haha.

You’re originally from California, and explored the beauty of that state and the surrounding ones extensively with your camera. What compelled you to make your home in the Pacific Northwest? Are there other parts of the country… or the world you’d like to explore?

 I needed a change from where I was living. My fiancé(Ana) and I were living in Sacramento California, but we were constantly traveling north to Oregon and Washington. We both decided it would be fun to simply pick up and move. Not a whole lot more thought went into it at that time. Just a spontaneous choice that left us very happy. 

As far as other parts of the world, I’d love to see as much as I can in my life. Scotland and Ireland are higher on the list because of mine and Ana’s family history there. 

D. I’ve experienced that kind of spontaneous move myself, and often it’s the best kind. Still, I’ve never been to Washington State, and that’s another reason I enjoy your photos. But I will come for a visit and a tour one of these days haha. I sincerely hope you get to travel abroad with my niece someday… And though I’ve said it in person, congratulations on your upcoming marriage!

What has been your biggest highlight of the last year?

Attempting to climb Mt. Tahoma (Rainier) and learning a lot about the mental toughness it takes to document the experience while being fairly uncomfortable. 

D – I love that. Can you share a little more about what you took away from the experience?

Yeah, it was one of those experiences that shows you how much you don’t know, the more you know haha. Basically being physically fit is only a small percentage of climbs like Rainier. The rest is about maintaining a positive outlook when setting up camp in the snow, the sun is going down, and your beginning to get weary of how cold you’ve gotten. Thankfully I have amazing friends with more experience and who were able to show me little tricks to make life smoother out there. 

What are you most excited about in the next year?

I plan to race my first Ultra marathon this year, along with a few others soon after. I’ve developed a love for all forms of movement in the mountains. Running and climbing are simply amazing, and they’ve taken over my life haha. 

D – It shows in your photographs. Wow! All the best in those endeavors.

Where do you want to be as a photographer in five years?

I’ve come to learn that I’m happy just having a camera around and not taking it too seriously. I decided not to worry whether or not I make a living with photography, but rather just to enjoy it for what it is. A passion.

D – I am truly happy that you get to follow your passion freely. Again, it shows in your work. 

Do you offer your art commercially? If so, where can we find it?

I have a print shop where I occasionally add new photos too. I’d like to open a new selection this year and use the funds to donate for ALS research. My lifelong friend’s mother has bulbar ALS and has been showing immense strength in her fight against it. That shop will be available through my website at joeymaclennanphoto.com

D – That is another wonderful reason to follow Joey and watch for those photos. Where can we find you besides your website

Instagram is basically my only other online presence. That is @joeymaclennan 

Any parting advice to those who dream about pursuing a creative and/or an adventurous life?

Get outside, care about the environment, and don’t be afraid to fail in pursuit of things that make you feel alive. 

D – Great advice! Thank so much for dropping by, Joey.

Thanks for talking with me!

Click on any photo to link to Joey’s website and don’t forget to follow him on Instagram for those inspiring posts!

Join me here Sunday for my next Guest Spotlight Q&A

Joey came off a mammoth peak to chat with me.

Join our conversation to get a glimpse into the lifestyle of an adventure lifestyle photographer.

Joey MacLennan Photography

Meet Author E. B. Hunter on my Guest Spotlight this Sunday

Meet Indie Author Douglas W. T. Smith

Douglas W. T. Smith is the self-published author of Shadow of the Wicked, which ranked on Amazon’s Top 5 List in Dark Fantasy and Sword and Sorcery eBooks in 2021. Hailing from Macquarie, New South Wales, Australia, he is one of the CORE authors for Of Metal and Magic Publishing with a debut core novel To Wield the Stars due in 2022.

Between writing and reading fantasy stories, Douglas embarks on adventures in nature with his wife, son, and beloved dog.

We had an awesome Q&A session, and I’m sharing it with you here. Keep on reading…

  • Tell us about yourself. We would love to hear how you became a fiction writer and your life that led up to it.

It’s kind of a strange story. I had always dabbled in creative writing and reading books, but it wasn’t until a friend showed me Lord of the Rings. At the time I was at university, and I was studying something that I wasn’t enjoying, so after watching LotR I fell in love with the lore and Middle-Earth. After devouring the movies, I had an epiphany. I wanted to write an epic story like J.R.R. Tolkien. So, I started writing my first book. I wrote the first 100 pages and showed it to my friend. There were many inconsistencies, and it heavily mimicked The Hobbit. I was a bit devastated but then I began looking at online writing courses to improve my writing and discovered that I could change my university degree to Creative Writing and English Literature. Since then, I haven’t looked back. Writing stories is a part of my life and it will be something I want to pass on to my children.

Thanks so much for sharing that. What a great way to look at your writing career, as a legacy. 

  • Can you share more about your Works in Progress? What are your plans for a full-fledged novel? Or do you prefer a shorter format? Are there any other plans you’d like to share?  Any more stories for Jaromir and Talmage?

Shadow of the Wicked’s audiobook has taken up a bit of my time and I’m so happy to release that on all audiobook platforms. Outside of SotW, I’m currently in the last edits of my debut novel, To Wield the Stars. It will be published this year by OMAM Publishing in a shared universe. I’m pretty excited with that because I’ve been working on it for quite a while.

With Shadow of the Wicked, I wanted to write in the short form because I wanted to test my writing ability and see if I could write a story and keep it within the short form.

I have started the first draft for a novel in the same world–The Three Kingdoms. I have plans to write more stories for Jaromir and Talmage but I’m not sure what stories they have to tell. Maybe something as a ‘before event’ to follow their life story.

Congratulations on the audiobook release and I can’t wait to check out To Wield the Stars. What an intriguing title! Can you give us a little description/teaser?

Thank you. I’m happy with the title but I’m more excited about releasing the book cover, which you’ll have to wait and see when I do the release. 

Here is the elevator pitch for TWTS. 

Two sisters are separated across continents from an attack of a dragonlord and its army.

  • What drew you to sword and sorcery and dark fantasy writing? Do you write or want to write in other genres?

I have always loved fantasy. I played fantasy games and read a lot of fantasy. It only seemed natural to start writing fantasy stories. As I began writing, I discovered the sub-genres of fantasy and sword and sorcery felt natural to write.

  • Are you a full-time author? If not, how do you balance writing and other work?

I would love to be a full-time author but unfortunately, I’m not. I make time for writing. I get up early at 5am and write–or do writerly things–and I’m up late. I don’t sleep much but I try to work around my family and lifestyle outside writing.

  • With a little one around the house, what are your tips for finding time to write while sharing life with a young family?

Create time. If you want it, make time to write. There’s a quote from Stephen King.

If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.”

It is all about time management. If you want to write stories, write them–even if no one will read them. There’s a lot of times during the day you can sneak in a quick writing/ editing session. 

  • What’s your advice or thoughts about getting involved in writing communities and reaching readers through supporting other writers?

I think writing communities are essential to make it as an author. Whether it be online or physical, the interaction and motivation from these communities are invaluable. It can open opportunities, grow your reader audience, and boost your author profile like this interview!

These opportunities can be a lot of fun, too, and I’m thrilled to have you here today. 

  • What is the writing community like in Australia and New South Wales, in particular? Do you get to participate in local events? Is Australia your primary market, or are you reaching other markets?

In my local area, it’s a hard community to crack. The demographics are a lot different from the city. However, in Sydney the events are fantastic, and the community is a lot stronger, but I did find more success and community engagement from my online platforms.

  • What’s your advice about focusing on the best social media platforms, sorting through all the noise, to make what you do count?

I think the bare minimum for an author is to have a website. If you turn that into a blog–even better. My best advice for handling social media is do it within your means. If you can only commit to 1 or 2 social accounts that’s okay. At the end of the day, we can only do what we have time for and what we prioritize. If you have edits to do to finish your novel and your time schedule is tight, prioritize what you want first. During your marketing plan, I think it’s absolutely necessary to be present on social media–whether that’s one or two accounts–if you want to sell books.

  • Do you recommend Patreon for burgeoning writers? What are your top tips for starting one up? Same question for creating a website, newsletter, or YouTube channel. Any plans to expand?

I have a Patreon account and to be honest it’s okay, but it comes back to my previous answer–if you have the time to commit then by all means. With my experience, I think Patreon will be successful later on as I build more of a reader audience and have more time to offer exclusive deals but for now, I give free stories, merchandise and editing opportunities on my Patreon Tiers. (So, if you want to sign up, there’s some great options!)

I’ve recently signed up to Story Origin and I think that’s another essential for authors. It’s a platform to do newsletter swaps to grow your mailing list. I think it’s fantastic and all authors should have a mailing list.

Awesome advice and great suggestions. Thank you. It helps to hear from someone who has navigated so many of the choices we’re faced with.

If you want to get exclusive stories and content, or know when Douglas’ next book will come out, visit his patreon.com/douglaswtsmith and sign up. See below for more ways to follow Douglas.

  • What has been your biggest highlight of the last year?

My biggest highlight of last year was publishing Shadow of the Wicked. To finally self-publish a book and call myself an author.

That is a great accomplishment. What was the main thing that prompted you to self-publish?

Thank you. The main thing that prompted me to self-publish was building my mailing list. I wanted to give out short stories as a reader magnet but as I began writing the story of Talmage and Jaromir, the narrative took control, and it became a lot bigger than I expected. I grew more in love with the world I was creating and the characters that I felt that Shadow of the Wicked needed to be published as a novella. 

  • Where do you want to be as a writer in five years?

I want to be a full-time writer. I want to publish a minimum 1 book a year.

Awesome! Follow Douglas in the links below to stay on top of his upcoming works!

  • Any parting advice to those who dream about writing?

Find time to write. Get up 10-15mins early to write or on your lunch break. All those small increments of writing, sand grains, create a beach. It takes time so make the time. It’s a marathon not a sprint––unless it’s a writing sprint.

Great recommendations! And that makes me think of another question. I’ve been discovering just this summer the value of flash fiction and short story challenges. Tell us about your favorite writing challenges. Will you be hosting any like the writing sprints you mentioned?

I used to do short story challenges. For example, each month the Australian Writers’ Centre does a short story challenge, Furious Fiction. It was great to get the creative juices flowing if they were going stale and stagnant. I haven’t done one in a long time because I’ve had a full schedule but if I ever fall behind in my book ideas, or writing–I know where to go. 

I’ve spoken to the head of the FSF Writer’s Alliance about hosting a writing sprint but I’m waiting to hear back from him. I love writing sprints. I did a couple on Twitter and TikTok, but I want to do it on Instagram as a live stream.

When I did the sprint, I wanted the participants to do something writing related. I know it’s called a writing sprint but if you weren’t drafting a story, I wanted writer’s to at least edit their book or have it related to their current project––without the distractions and with a community. 

Follow Douglas:

Find Douglas W. T. Smith on his:

Website, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Patreon

Click on Douglas’s book to find it on Amazon

For a fun video Interview, check out the conversation with Douglas and our friend from the U.K., dark fantasy author Anna K. Moss.

You can discover more about Anna and her exciting new book here. Anna and I will be having our own conversation in the upcoming weeks, so stay tuned!

More about my featured Spotlights

I hope you enjoyed meeting Douglas and getting a glimpse into the life of an Indie Author for some fun and inspiration in your own creative journey. I will be featuring more of my fellow Writers’ Alliance members, other authors, artists, and creators right here, so please like this post and follow me to keep on top of the latest. Feel free to leave comments.

My next guest will be a writer of horror fiction from Canada, E. B. Hunter. If you would like to be featured, shoot me an email. I would love to meet you. Please visit my pages for more about me and my books while you’re here. Thank you so much for dropping in.