Joining me around the campfire today is YA fantasy author Cassie Crow. Settle in and enjoy!
- Hi Cas tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to write?
Hi. I am the author of The Wayward Haunt, the first novel in The Wayward Series, a YA dark fantasy which was released in June 2020. Since I was very young, I’ve been drawn to stories involving the supernatural. I would spend my lunch times at school creating scary stories for my friends to listen to. Barbie and my dolls would often end up some terrible, haunted, fantasy setting of some kind. I think what inspired me to write was that for a very long time, I couldn’t. I really struggled as a kid to read and write. I hated it. Eventually I was privately tutored by a teacher named Mrs Swann who recognised my love for storytelling. She taught me to see that reading and writing weren’t any different. With her guidance, I caught up to my peers in class. I think I chose to become a writer because I needed to prove that I could do it. Now I write because I love to be creative.
- What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?
I love to read and write fantasy because it takes me into another world where anything can be possible. Fantasy is always growing and evolving. Every author brings something new to the genre, which keeps the stories entertaining and interesting. You never know exactly what you are going to get when you read fantasy, because rules are unbound by reality. The author’s imagination can be limitless. I write dark fantasy because I’ve always enjoyed chilling, ominous stories. The Wayward Series is set in a war-torn, dystopian world where magic is prevalent and ghosts exist, but the themes and events are very similar to what has occurred throughout our own history. I think fantasy allows authors to write about what is happening in our own world, by exploring it through fantasy.
- Tell us a little bit about your latest project and the challenges you’ve faced putting it all together? (include release date etc here)
My current project is the second instalment in The Wayward Series and is the sequel to The Wayward Haunt, titled The Four Revenants. It picks up directly where The Wayward Haunt finishes. I am halfway through the first draft, which I hope to have completed by April 2021, with the novel released early 2022 (fingers crossed). Just like the first book, it has come with its challenges. Time being the biggest. I feel like there are never enough hours in the day to complete everything I wish I could do with my writing. I work part time, have to organise marketing for the first book, and write a second novel. Sometimes it’s exhausting and I have to remind myself that I’m human and need to take a break. Sometimes it’s great fun and I enjoy every moment. Funny enough, that happens after I’ve taken a break.
The second biggest obstacle is the fantasy-world building in my story. There is so much history and detail in the world that I’ve created, that it could easily become overly complicated. My biggest fear is that the reader won’t be able to follow it. How do I overcome that? Honestly, I ignore it as I write, even though its nagging away at me. I focus on getting the story completed. After a few weeks, I’ll return to the story and read it. If the world doesn’t make sense to me, I know there’s a huge problem. I’ll need to edit and rewrite. Once it makes sense to me and I think it’s ready, I wait to see what the beta readers say. Again, if it’s too complicated, it goes through another rewrite.
I think the best thing about writing the second novel is that I learnt so much from the first book, that the challenges are less daunting. They’re still there, but now their easier to manage.
- What type of characters do you like to write the most and how much of yourself do you put into them?
I enjoy writing all sorts of character types. The easiest characters to create are the ones that are similar to me, or have traits I wish I had. I like to explore both the positive and negative qualities in a character. My main character in The Wayward Series, Zaya Wayward, is strong, confident, and assertive, but she’s also impulsive, judgemental, and has trust issues. I have worked hard to make sure Zaya is always driving the story. Sometimes she makes the right decision. Sometimes she makes bad ones. Just like in real life, her mood dictates what she does. I also enjoy creating villains because… well, what writer doesn’t love creating a superbad guy… or girl. You can be entirely evil and get away with it. It’s great fun. But I do try to make sure my villains aren’t two dimensional. They have a backstory. They have a motive they believe is right, no matter what the cost or sacrifice. Even in a fantasy world, the emotions and thoughts of a character need to be real and relatable. That’s the part I love developing.
- For any wannabe writers out there what’s the most useful thing you’ve learned?
As a writer, I think the most useful thing I’ve learned is to manage time and be realistic with what I can accomplish. Writing is hard. It took me years to learn, and I’m still learning. I am a perfectionist (something I’m teaching myself not to be), and often I’d get frustrated at how little time I had to write. When I finally did have time to write my stories at the end of the day, I was too exhausted. My writing just didn’t flow. I had to learn time management and be realistic with what I could write in that allocated time. Everyone has commitments—family, work, relationships, sport, etc. For wannabe writers out there, I suggest finding a realistic schedule that works for you. Don’t tell yourself you are going to write for five hours a day if you know that in reality it’s impossible. If you can only write an hour a day, do it. If you can spare two hours on a Saturday afternoon, do it. Writing should be fun and enjoyable, not a chore. You will learn and accomplish far more when you are in the right frame of mind.
- What writing tricks do you utilise to hit your deadlines and keep your stories on track?
I set daily, weekly and monthly goals with my writing. I write and write and don’t care about editing. I just get the story into the computer. The editing comes later. I take a break when I need to, because if I don’t, I will drain myself and achieve nothing. I exercise. Ideas often drift into my head when I’m out on a jog. I take a notebook with me wherever I go. Inspiration can strike at the unlikeliest of places. Some of the dialogue in The Wayward Haunt is directly from conversations I have heard among friends and colleagues. I am realistic with what I can achieve in a day, or an hour.
- Are you a plotter or a pantser (make it up as you go)?
I am definitely a plotter. Everything in my stories, beginning, middle, end, scenes, chapters, are plotted out and written down. I find that this helps me to keep focus and to meet deadlines. I know exactly where I’m going with the story. Sometimes, unexpected ideas jump in my head as I write. Strangely enough, they work for the scene or chapter that I’m writing. They are always nice surprises when they occur. So yes, I am a plotter, but I do not object to new ideas coming along halfway through my stories. It keeps things interesting.
- What plans do you have for the future? A new series or perhaps a dip into other genres?
The Wayward Series will be a set of four books, so book three and four are in the pipeline to be written and published. I have many ideas in my head for other novels that I haven’t given attention to at this stage, because my focus is on The Wayward Series, but eventually I will delve into those other stories. I want to write a cozy murder mystery, something along the lines of Agatha Christie. Knowing me, it will have an element of horror in it.
- With the world the way it is at the moment what sort of tales do you prefer? Ones with heroes where good triumphs over evil or ones that take a darker approach?
I enjoy both. Sometimes I’m in the mood for something a little darker, scarier, and tragic. Other times I want a happy feel good story, or a story where the hero faces dangerous obstacles, but ultimately triumphs. Life throws unexpected situations at us all the time. I like stories to do the same.
- What’s better, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings or Star Wars?
To watch, precisely in that order—Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars. To read, Harry Potter, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings. I read Lord of the Rings when I was fourteen. It’s a wonderful story. Tolkien is amazing. But honestly, I don’t have the time or the strong mental energy it would require to read it again.
Author Website: www.casecrowe.com