Category Archives: July – Fantasy

Interview: Amy Hopkins

Diannika Alyse Star: Thank you for agreeing to speak with us for Fantasy month!

To start with, could you tell us a little about your “Talented” series?

Amy Hopkins: Sure! Talented is an urban fantasy set in modern day London. It contains open-world magic – Fae and other magical creatures wander the streets in plain view, and magic is used openly.

Emma is our heroine. She’s a simple teashop owner, content to sell her enchanted tea with the help of Gibble (her boggart assistant) to the magical population. Until, that is, someone tries to kill her.

It’s not just a simple thriller. The books deal with themes of bigotry, and standing up to those who misuse power. Emma isn’t a super-strong, unbeatable magician. She’s a half-blood, weaker and with limitations on her power. She needs to learn to work with what she has to overcome not just the bad guys, but the prejudice against her kind

Star: I’d definitely agree it’s not just a thriller. What inspired you to write the series?

Hopkins: I’ve been working on bits of stories forever, but this one just seemed ‘right’. I’ve always adored fantastical worlds, and knew that anything I wrote would fall under the SFF banner. This one just kind of fell out of my head and onto the page, and each book makes me even more sure it was the right choice.

Star: Do you feel ‘spoiled’ by how easy it was, or have all your books been like that?

Hopkins: I’ve always found writing easy, in the first phase. However, I tend to run out of steam and really have to push myself through the end. Editing is also really tough for me, I find it utterly exhausting! It’s an interesting balance of absolute joy and really hard work.

Star: I’m sure plenty of aspiring authors reading this will be relieved to hear that they aren’t the only ones who don’t like editing;)

You have 3 published books so far, correct? I believe the most recent came out 2 days ago on kindle? (note to readers: This interview took place on 6/22/2016)

Hopkins: Yes, it did! I’m launching this one slowly, so I haven’t really publicized it yet.

Star: When did you first realize you wanted to be an author?

Hopkins: I don’t remember there ever being a time I didn’t want to, I just never saw it as a viable career path. I thought writers were these highly educated, incredibly talented, big-city people that had done something I could never attain

Star: And when did that change?

Hopkins: Last year. I was running a blog and found out about self publishing. I decided to write a nonfiction book (on body positive health) and found out more about the process through that. Around the same time I decided to finally have a go at nanowrimo during a camp month, and took time off work, study and writing my non-fiction to start the first of the Talented series. I wrote about 25 thousand words that month, but never imagined it would turn into what it has. It was just a passion project to begin with.

Star: And you already have 3 of them out?! Now that IS inspiring, at least to me 🙂

Will there be more to the series after Truth Taker? I have to admit, My TBR list means I’ve only had a chance to read the first one so far :’(
Hopkins: It looks good because I managed it well! Dream Stalker was pretty much done by Christmas last year, except for applying beta reader feedback and last proofing. Barrow Fiend was my November nano project, and was partially through beta-feedback when the first book was released. I had a head start, but I plan to try and keep to a release schedule of at least one every three months.

Talented will be six to eight books long, and there will be at least one spin off series if it goes well. I also plant to write a SciFi series, and have that ready to launch by Christmas, and I’d like to fit in a steampunk serial next year as well.

Star: oooh I can’t wait! You certainly are ambitious 🙂

Do you think it will be difficult to move to scifi while also writing fantasy?

Hopkins: No – to me, they’re both about impossible worlds and new ideas. Science is just an explanation for how magic happens.

Star: Well, I have to admit, I hope you choose to write science fantasy at some point, with that way of thinking!

Who would you say has inspired you most in your writing?

Hopkins: Enid Blyton. She was the author who taught me the wonder of books, and of new worlds. She instilled a love of words and all things British into my young brain.

As an adult, I’d say a combination of Jacqueline Carey, who has a way with words that makes you fall in love with a phrase or description; and that cliquey group of fantasy writers who talk about their craft. Pat Rothfuss on the Story Board and Brandon Sanderson with Mary Robinette Kowal on Writing Excuses gave me a really solid grounding when I finally put pen to paper. I listened to their stuff for a long time before writing these books and I think it helped me to be a better writer.
On a personal level, fantasy author Katika Schneider has acted as my cheerleader, supporter and my incredibly helpful beta reader. I keep telling her my books wouldn’t be one-tenth as good without her feedback.

Star: I have one final question before I let you go.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Hopkins: Figure out why you’re doing this, and put the appropriate amount of resources into it. If you really, honestly want to make this your job, treat it like one. That means you have to *work*, every day. You have to do the hard stuff, take care of the business end, invest in it, learn the process – not just of writing, but of marketing, selling, getting your work out. You can’t wait for the muse, bounce around unfinished projects and make excuses. You need a plan, and you need to work *hard*. IF you can do that, if you can really, truly do the work even when it’s not fun, this is the best time ever to be an author. There are limitless opportunities and a voracious audience, if you create the work and help them find it.

Star: I’ve really enjoyed speaking with you today. Thank you for taking
the time for an interview.

Hopkins: Thanks for the opportunity!

You can find Amy Hopkins on Twitter and Instagram @spellscribe .

Interview: Katika Schneider

Diannika Alyse Star: Good evening! Thanks for agreeing to speak with us for Fantasy month!

To start us off, could you tell us a little about your book “Devotion”?

Katika Schneider: It’s my pleasure! Devotion is the first of my character-driven epic fantasy series, Tale of the Fallen. Its premise is a holy war against demons, set on an island nation whose god abandoned them. An immortal paladin is sent to try to restore faith to the nation and fend of the demonic threat. I like to think it has a little bit of everything in it – action, suspense, mystery, political intrigue, and a touch of romance.

Star: OOOH, That definitely sounds worth reading! What made you decide to write about that?

Schneider: Well, the series honestly began as a mistake. My freshman year of college, my then-boyfriend-now-husband asked me to create a character for an online RP he was part of. I said I’d only join if my character and his character could know each other, and he told me that was fine as long as I could figure out the logistics of how they met. That’s when I met my female lead, Nessix Teradhel, and she grabbed me by the hand, introduced me to her entire family, then dragged me along through her story. Before I knew it, the simple background for this character became an entire history, from birth until death, leaving me no real room for role playing. Having failed my objective, I told my husband what I’d done and he laughed and told me to scrap the RP idea and write the entire story. From there, I took a step back, fleshed out the history of the world of Abaeloth, created gods, killed gods, and created new gods. The entire beast has now gotten rather out of my control and after Tale of the Fallen is completed, I have at least two other series in The Afflicted Saga already underway.

Star: Wow. That is kinda awesome. 🙂 How many books do you anticipate in Tale of the Fallen?

Schneider: Assuming all of the rewrites stay on track, Tale of the Fallen will have five books. The entire series is already at least in first draft form, so mostly I have to make sure they clean up at the same pace which they came out. Once I have the entire series live, I’ll start on my male main character’s storyline, Legend of the Risen, and it’s currently at five rough drafts and not quite done.

Star: Was there a choice to finish a series before publishing, or did it just happen that way?

Schneider: When I first started writing what became Devotion and the subsequent books, I’d been determined to publish as soon as I could get them out. I’ve got a vicious inner editor, though, which kept me working on Devotion for the better part of 4 years. Once I finished Devotion, I set it aside to begin Deception, and in the first December of working on this book, I learned about NaNoWriMo (which I had barely missed). I was absolutely determined to participate in it the following year, so made finishing Deception my priority. Since then, November’s become a sacred month for me and I’ve churned out a fresh rough draft every year since 2007. Somehow, my publishing dreams kept getting shuffled aside – I’m going to blame how hectic life got on that one – but I’m actually very grateful for the delay I had. Let’s just say, it took me getting much deeper into other characters’ pasts for me to fully understand what I was working with, and it took me getting to experience a whole lot more in life to be able to do my characters justice. I’ve been in the world of Abaeloth since 2003 and it took until 2014 for me to feel as though I fully understood it enough to make things official. While part of me is disappointed for not making my original goal, there’s a much bigger part of me that is glad I took the time I needed. Having a massive backlog of first drafts is a happy accident and added bonus.

Star: So would you recommend those looking to publish a series in the future to wait until they had first drafts of all of it?

Schneider: It’s hard to say, since I’ve only experienced it this way and everyone has their own journey, but I definitely think it helps having the series already written out. For me, I feel as though it’s taken a lot of pressure off as far as trying to create a release schedule. Honestly, if I had it to do over again, I think I’d try to have the entire series at beta-level or better before releasing the first book, so it could all be seamless, but you live, you learn.

Star: I know I’ve heard people say that that definitely increases the overall quality and continuity of a series (As well as, of course, the publication rate lol)

When did you first realize you wanted to be an author?

Schneider: It first occurred to me in fourth grade. I’d had trouble getting interested in school until my fourth grade year. My teacher scheduled an hour of every day for Writing Workshop where all we did was learn about the different genres, different story telling devices and techniques, all that good stuff. Pretty much, it was an hour a day where we were allowed to be creative and express ourselves, with lessons in language arts hidden in there. I absolutely thrived on that hour and knew I had to keep writing in my life for the long haul. Not only did Writing Workshop secure my love for the written word, it also turned me around and got me caring about education as a whole. It’s one of the reasons why I think writing is such a beautiful part of our lives.

Star: Did you always write fantasy?

Schneider: To my recollection, I’ve only written one story that didn’t have some degree of fantasy element to it. I’ve always loved to read fantasy, but had been scared to write it for the longest time until I got my feet wet with a DragonLance fan fiction (before I knew what fanfic was) in junior high. I dabbled with a dystopian trilogy when I was in high school, but never made much of it. I’m a notorious rule breaker (or, at the very least, a rule stretcher) and there’s a certain degree of freedom that comes with writing in a completely unique world. Fantasy’s a good fit for me these days.

Star: Who would you say has inspired you most in your writing?

Schneider: As far as the authors that influenced me the most, it has to be Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. They’ve written three of my all-time favorite characters and really are the reason I thought maybe I could give fantasy writing a try. Outside of other authors, I credit where I’m at with my writing on my husband. He makes it a point to ensure that I can devote the time and energy needed for my writing and has so far funded all of the costs that go along with self publishing. I could not be where I am today without his support.

Star: It’s great that you have that kind of support!

One last question before we go, Do you have any advice for other writers?

Star: One more question to wrap things up.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Schneider: My advice to other writers is to write true to yourself, and take the time the story takes. Trying to write to suit other people and trying to rush a finished book are two of the most harmful things you can do to the integrity of your story. Don’t be afraid of letting it come out organically; that’s the best way to really let the story shine as it’s meant to.

Star: Thank you so much for doing this interview. It was great speaking with you!

Schneider: It was a pleasure! Thank you for having me.