Allegra, welcome to Lavender Lass Books. Thank you for agreeing to this interview and best of luck in the competition!
Where Shadows Lie is the first book in The Last Gift series. Here’s the blurb:
The Chosen One Is Dead. Magic Is Going Haywire. Time Is Running Out.
When the King of Lirin murders Elenor’s brother during a failed coup attempt, she must choose between turning a blind eye to her people’s suffering or joining the rebellion and helping bring down the tyrant king. There’s only one problem–the king is her father.
Helped along the way by a grouchy old doctor, a boisterous group of nobles, and a well-meaning assassin, Elenor is forced to dance between duty and defiance as she tries to save her kingdom.
Meanwhile, from the rainy streets of Lirin to the scorching dunes of the Mondaer Desert, the ripples of her actions have inadvertently broken a chain of events five centuries in the making. Ancient forces move in the shadows, calling in debts and striking deals. A monster with a thousand faces fingers his knife, ready to kill, and a pair of fugitives run for their lives.
Where Shadows Lie is a non-stop, epic fantasy ride featuring an lgbtq+ and disabled protagonist and filled with court intrigue, sizzling romance, adorable baby dragons, and the battle between oppression and freedom. Dive in and get swept away!
And now to the interview:
1. Is this your first time entering #SPFBO? Why did you decide to enter this book?
Yes, this is my first time entering SPFBO, as it is also my first year as a published author. Where Shadows Lie has been a passion project years in the making, and I knew from the get-go that I wanted to put it out there to as large an audience as I could. Those plans took a bit of a nose-dive as I released my debut the week Covid-19 spiked and everything shut down in March. Despite a rocky start, though, I’m still in the game and I hope Where Shadows Lie does well in the competition. My goal with this novel was to write epic fantasy featuring a protagonist with an invisible illness, because epic fantasy has always been a love of mine, but rarely could I see myself in it.
2. Why do you write in the fantasy genre? What make this genre particularly appealing to you?
I have loved fantasy since I was two years old and my father read me the Hobbit. I think fantasy is an incredible tool to discuss real world problems, be it through allegory or simply by choosing only one or two and focusing the plot and worldbuilding around them. It is also a medium for unhampered imagination. Anything is possible, and I love pushing the boundaries of my own worldbuilding to make sure it is internally consistent. Most of all, though, I love writing fantasy because I never know where I’ll end up when I walk out the door (or put my first words on the page). It is as much an adventure for me as for my characters. I may not be able to ride a dragon in real life, but this is the next best thing.
3. Why did you decide to self-publish?
I chose to self publish for three primary reasons. The first was the creative control. I want to write diverse, different, and genre-bending speculative fiction that often doesn’t fit within the normal genre standards. Beyond that, I had very strong feelings about the design of Where Shadows Lie, particularly in my team of artists. My father and a dear friend did the illustrations, and they, like myself, suffer from the same rare genetic disease. It felt right to have them on my team, and it doesn’t hurt that they are amazing artists. The second reason for self-publishing is that Where Shadows Lie is the first book in a shared universe, in which I write with several other authors, and that I am hoping to grow. That would not have been an easy sell. The final reason is that I write big books. Like, really big. Where Shadows Lie is easily twice as large as what agents are looking for, even after cutting the plot in half. It wasn’t a story that could be told in a shorter book (and trust me, I spent twenty years trying). At last, when I was about ready to throw in the towel, I joined the 20booksto50k group and found a home there. I accepted myself for the author I am, instead of the one I thought I should be, and am so glad I did.
4. Are there advantages to self-publishing? What about the challenges?
The main advantages are creative control and eventual financial gain. I’m just starting out so I haven’t seen much of the latter, but the former makes me happy every day. The biggest challenge is, by far, building an audience. There are a lot of books out there, and many readers turn up their noses at indie books, no matter how well-edited or written. However, there are also a lot of people looking for indie books because self-published authors tend to push boundaries and tell stories that are different and engaging. We aren’t boxed in, and it’s both a blessing and a curse.
5. As a reader, and now author, how has the fantasy genre changed over the last several years? How has it stayed the same?
The fantasy genre has changed dramatically over my lifetime. Hard magic systems are in, and the whimsical magic of Narnia becomes rarer by the year. There has been a huge shift towards YA, and even within YA fantasy, books are getting darker. More and more protagonists are young women, which I fully support, and we are seeing a ton more diversity, both in characters and settings. It warms my heart. However, some things have not changed. We are still fighting to be taken seriously as a genre, despite the vast and brilliant body of work from truly spectacular authors. Likewise, while a lot of unique work is being published, the success of mega-franchises like Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, etc., have produced wave after wave of books trying to mimic their success.
6. Do you write (or plan to write) in any other genres?
Oh yes. In fact, sticking to one genre even within the same book is hard for me. I love mixing things up. Where Shadows Lie, for example, starts off in this first book as epic fantasy. By the end of the series, we will be solidly in science-fantasy. My next book, NACL: Eye of the Storm, is a wild ride that has computers, pirates, magic, and eco-punk elements all side-by-side. After that comes a dark Fae romance, and now I’m writing an unexpected LitRPG novel. Oh, and did I mention memoir travel writing? Cookbooks? Someone please tie me down and make me stay on genre! Jokes aside, the unifying thread between all of these is my desire to highlight diversity and take my readers somewhere exciting and unexpected.
7. What do you look for in a story? Especially in the fantasy genre? (Original ideas, plot lines, character development, world building, etc.?)
Characters come first to me. I need to love the protagonists of what I’m reading, or no matter how good the rest is, I won’t be able to stick it out. After that, worldbuilding and plot are tied. As long as one of them is solid, I can forgive any number of lapses in the other. Through all of it, the most important element that will make me love or hate a book is heart. I want to feel for the world and the people in it. I want to laugh and cry with them. I want protagonists to make mistakes, face consequences, and learn from their pasts. Give me that, and I don’t care if it’s a story about the next great fantasy war or a slice-of-life tale about a street-cleaner, I’m there for it.
8. Are you working on a new book? Can you share any details?
I am currently in the process of editing NACL: Eye of the Storm with my co-author E. Sands. It is a high octane pirate heist story about a world where the only source of salt is a giant mountain in the middle of the sweet-water ocean. The Salt Spire is controlled by a powerful corporation that only doles out the barest minimum to survive. A team of misfits and outlaws decide that it is high time for that control to end, and set out to break in to the Spire and blow it sky high.
9. Do you have any advice you would offer to writers who plan to self-publish in the fantasy genre?
Educate yourself as much as you can. To self-publish you need to wear so many hats that it can feel daunting. You have to learn not just how to write, but how to hire professionals to design and edit your book, how to market it, how to build a brand, and so much more. Take advantage of the amazing community of indie authors out there who have written extensively on the subject. Most of all, though, write something you love. It takes so much work and so many man hours to put a book out there. If you don’t love it with all your heart, that may be insurmountable. Believe in what you are doing, and love it enough to make it the best it can be.
You can find Allegra Pescatore’s book on Amazon! https://www.amazon.com/Where-Shadows-Lie-Book-Last-ebook/dp/B084S3JVCB