#SPFBO6 Interview – Megan Haskell

Megan, welcome to Lavender Lass Books. Thank you for agreeing to this interview and best of luck in the competition!

Forged in Shadow is the first book in The War of the Nine Faerie Realms series.  Here’s the blurb:

In the chaos of war, not all heroes shine. Some must rise from shadows to claim the light.

As the youngest son of the greatest smith of the fae, Curuthannor should be aspiring to the forge. Instead, he would rather wield a blade than craft one. When the high elf king commissions a powerful enchanted sword requiring iron found only in the subterranean goblin mines of the Shadow Realm, Curuthannor seizes the opportunity to earn a place in the smithy that doesn’t require a hammer. But when dark elf treachery interferes, the lives of his entire family could be at risk…for the high elf king is unmerciful and will not suffer disobedience.

Especially from his own daughter.

Lhéwen is honored to be the only handmaiden selected to attend the high elf princess on what she believes is a diplomatic delegation to the dark elf king. She doesn’t realize it could be a one-way trip. While the princess forges an escape from her father’s ruthless will, Lhéwen is trapped in a foreign land. Betrayed and alone, Lhéwen discovers it is her own quiet power that may free—or doom—them all.

For when the pen fails, the sword will take its place.

Forged in Shadow is the first book in the thrilling new epic fantasy trilogy by award-winning author, Megan Haskell. Set in the same universe as The Sanyare Chronicles, this is the story of the Great War between the nine faerie realms. If you like sweeping vistas, unexpected heroes, and world-shattering stakes, you’ll love this battle between Shadow and Light.

And now to the interview:

1. Is this your first time entering #SPFBO? Why did you decide to enter this book?
Yes, it is! I’m really excited to be able to participate this year. I’m really proud of Forged in Shadow and I think it has a good chance of being a strong contender. In all honesty, I think it’s my best book to date, and as an epic fantasy, probably fits more with the genres that the judges tend to prefer versus my other titles.

Forged in Shadow tells the story of how the Great War of the Nine Faerie Realms began. It’s related to my debut series, The Sanyare Chronicles, in that it takes place in the same universe and has some of the same long-lived characters, but it takes place a couple thousand years earlier and stands entirely on its own. In a sense, it’s the history of the world I originally created, told in a way that I hope connects with readers on a visceral level.

I really love this book and hope that the judges love it too!

2. Why do you write in the fantasy genre? What make this genre particularly appealing to you?
I’ve been a fantasy reader since early elementary school. I picked up The Hobbit in fourth or fifth grade, Dragonriders of Pern in fifth or sixth, and Green Rider shortly after that. From there, every “fun reading” book I chose was pretty much a fantasy. I never really even considered writing anything else, except maybe sci-fi, which is arguably a close cousin (and I read a ton of that, too.)

But as an adult, I love how fantasy can help us think about and discuss difficult issues and themes in a way that’s not always obvious. Things like justice and honor; what it means to be good or evil; strength (or weakness) in mind, body, and spirit; the corrupting drive for power and the horrors of war . . . Fantasy allows the reader to experience and consider these issues and more, while enjoying an adventure from the safety of their armchair.

3. Why did you decide to self-publish?
Because I’m Type A.

In all seriousness, I’ve always wanted to be a business owner, and I enjoy the process of publishing as much as I enjoy the process of writing. For me, it made far more sense to go the indie route than to go traditional because I like being able to choose my covers and having the final say on editing, descriptions, and pricing. Plus, I’m not very patient, so I can’t imagine having to wait months or even years to get an agent, then a publisher, then actually see the book in print.

That said, I do my very best to make my books indistinguishable from my traditionally published counterparts. There are still some people who believe indie = inferior, and I want to make sure I’m doing everything I can to break that stereotype. In fact, that’s why I prefer the term ‘indie’ to ‘self-published’. It’s not that I do everything myself, but that I’m running my own small press that only publishes my own books.

4. Are there advantages to self-publishing? What about the challenges?
Actually, I co-wrote a non-fiction book that goes into this very topic! PUBLISH: Take Charge of Your Author Career is an overview of what it takes to be published, and which path (traditional or indie) is right for you. We believe there’s no single best way to produce, publish, or promote your book. All paths to publication are valid. It just depends on your author personality and your goals for your work.

But, in a nutshell, here are the pros and cons of the indie path as I see them:

Pro:

  • Significantly higher royalty rates per unit sold
  • Faster speed to market (months instead of years)
  • Total control over the end product as well as marketing decisions (You choose the cover, the editor, the pricing . . . everything!)

Con:

  • Total control over the end product as well as marketing decisions (the buck stops with YOU)
  • Upfront costs (budget depends entirely on what the author can afford to spend)
  • Negative bias for some readers (diminishing, but still present)
  • Less access to bookstores and libraries (see above)

5. As a reader, and now author, how has the fantasy genre changed over the last several years? How has it stayed the same?
Like any genre, there are trends that come and go in fantasy. I’d say traditional fantasy tends toward what is now considered “epic” fantasy—long drawn out quests and journeys in magical lands. More recently, the genre has expanded into multiple subgenres, each with its own audience and its own tropes. From paranormal romance to sword and sorcery, from urban fantasy to epic military adventures, in the modern industry there’s a wider range of fantasy stories being written and loved by readers.

But even with the expanded reach and new designations, I think the core of the genre remains the same: magic, monsters (or mythological creatures), quests, heroes, and battles between good and evil. Some might be faster paced than others, or feature different kinds of characters, but at their heart, they all strive to create new worlds and give readers new places to explore.

6. Do you write (or plan to write) in any other genres?
I’ve promised my husband a space opera one of these days. 😉

Eventually, I will branch out into sci-fi, possibly under a pen name. At the earliest, that won’t be for a couple of years, though, so for now, it’s all about the fantasy.

7. What do you look for in a story? Especially in the fantasy genre? (Original ideas, plot lines, character development, world building, etc.?)
For me, it’s all about the characters and the adventure. I’m a fan of faster-paced stories where the character’s internal journey is as important as the external plot. Unique magic systems and monsters are a bonus!

8. Are you working on a new book? Can you share any details?
I’m currently working on the second book in The War of the Nine Faerie Realms. It will be an immediate continuation of the story in Forged in Shadow, but will feature a few new characters as well as our original hero and heroine. It’s still in the first draft stage, so I don’t have too many details to share, but I will say I think this one will be longer and even more epic than the first!

9. Do you have any advice you would offer to writers who plan to self-publish in the fantasy genre?
Start networking with other fantasy authors. Our community is vibrant and, for the most part, open to questions and sharing information. Whether self-published or not, there’s a vast wealth of advice out there and every author will have a slightly different perspective on what works and what doesn’t. Those resources are incredibly valuable.

Ultimately, you’ll have to find what works for you, but having access to a supportive network has been the biggest benefit for my personal journey.

You can find Megan Haskell’s book at Amazon and other retailers!  https://books2read.com/forgedinshadow

forged in shadow cover