#SPFBO7 Interview – A.F. Stewart

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

Past Legends: An Arthurian Fantasy Novel is the first book in The Camelot Immortals series. Here’s the blurb:

You think Camelot was all heroes and wizards? Bollocks. It was nothing but chaos and trouble. And when you’re a legendary immortal witch, that’s a lot of shit to sort out after a few centuries.

Let me introduce myself. I’m Nimue, and yes, I’m that Nimue. Maybe a little grumpy and foul-mouthed, but you try dealing with magical drama and living forever. It’s bloody annoying, which is why these days all I wanted was a peaceful life. Just a quiet cottage nestled in England’s Lake District and a nightly glass of mead.

Just my bloody rotten luck the past won’t leave me alone. I should have known. Magic always brings trouble.

When an old friend, Iseult, appeared bringing news that my old rival Morgawse was abducted, another impending catastrophe landed on my doorstep. And worse, the wizard responsible was my ex, Nostradamus.

Despite my better judgement, I let myself be dragged into another adventure and confronted my halfwit former flame as he waged some desperate mad quest. And worse, I listened to his nonsense ravings, and his warnings. He swore the heart of magical energy itself was threatened.

Help me fix it, he said. Why? Why should I care?

If I was smart, I’d walk away. Let someone else deal with the dark secrets and rescue magic. Except my friends expected me to step up, be the champion.

I never wanted to be magic’s saviour.

Maybe we’d be better off if magic died…

Past Legends: The Camelot Immortals Book One is a contemporary Arthurian fantasy inspired by the tales we all know and love. If you like strong snarky heroines, wizards and witches, and copious amounts of alcohol, then you’ll love the adventures of Nimue and her friends.

Buy Past Legends today to conjure up this bewitching novel.

And now to the interview:

1. Is this your first time entering #SPFBO? Why did you decide to enter this book?
This is my second time entering SPFBO; I entered previously with my novel, Ghosts of the Sea Moon (Saga of the Outer Islands Book 1) in 2019 (that was the year the seriously awesome novel, Sword of Kaigen, won) and didn’t make it out of the first round. But I had fun and found many, many new authors to read, plus some networking opportunities, (my taking part in Quarancon directly resulted from my first participation), so I was eager to try again. As to this book in particular, it’s the start of a new series and what better way to test its mettle than throwing it into mortal book combat.

2. Why do you write in the fantasy genre? What make this genre particularly appealing to you?
As a lifelong fan of fantasy since my childhood readings of Grimm’s Fairy Tales and the legends of King Arthur, I naturally gravitated towards the genre. Even though my first writing attempts were in the realm of mysteries, I figured out quickly that fantasy was the way to go when I kept trying to work magic into the crimes.

3. Why did you decide to self-publish?
I stumbled on self-publishing in its early days, back before there was KDP, and entered the arena as a testing ground for my writing. My original thoughts were, “I’ll publish a book or two, see how they’re received, and proceed from there”. And here I am, many years later, still publishing independently.

4. Are there advantages to self-publishing? What about the challenges?
I think creative control is the biggest advantage, where you have more freedom to explore outside the narrower traditional publishing markets. Understandably, bigger traditional publishers are focused on the widest audience possible for the most sales. Self-publishing can go more niche or write to market, so there’s more flexibility. Also, there are better royalty splits; if you can sell, you will make a better profit.

But selling books also leads to the biggest challenge of self-publishing: recouping costs. To self-publish a good product there is an initial investment of money, and the greatest hurdle is getting your marketing skills in order to sell your book and at least break even.

5. As a reader, and now author, how has the fantasy genre changed over the last several years? How has it stayed the same?
I think fantasy has opened up over the last several years, steering away from just the standard character tropes of the past and being more varied in its approach. There less reliance on the classic good triumphs over evil plot, with more flawed nuance, and protagonists come in all forms these days.

Yet, the genre hasn’t lost its familiar fundamental core, which is exploring the human condition within a world of imaginative marvels. At the heart of any fantasy, elves are still elves, trolls are still trolls, and so on, in whatever variation they are presented.

6. Do you write (or plan to write) in any other genres?
I write in a few other genres, including horror, steampunk, and poetry. Most of my horror and steampunk offerings are short stories or novellas, and quite a few have fantasy elements mixed in as well. In addition, some of my poetry is fantasy based, as well as sci-fi and horror poems sprinkled into the published collections.

7. What do you look for in a story? Especially in the fantasy genre? (Original ideas, plot lines, character development, world building, etc.?)
I’m a firm believer there are no original ideas, only unique ways to spin old ones, so I look for interesting world building and characters. But the plot has to make sense, at least within the context of the story. I hate being jerked out of a story by a plot hole, or a sudden shift in character that doesn’t fit motivations.

8. Are you working on a new book? Can you share any details?
I currently have three books I am actively working on and a short story series, plus my Camelot Immortals series to finish editing. At present, I’m writing a short story sequel collection to my Visions and Nightmares book, which will be dark fairy tales mixed with mythology, and my Heyward and Andersen series, three steampunk/paranormal detective short stories.

The story collection, Fairy Tales and Nightmares, is another dark fantasy book with each story featuring a female protagonist, and will feature reworked offerings such as Snow White as a historical Japanese ghost story, Sleeping Beauty with vampires, Ali Baba from a female point of view, Red Riding Hood with a Celtic goddess, Bluebeard as a revenge story, and a slight pirate/treasure hunt spin on the Little Mermaid.

The Heyward and Andersen shorts are a Sherlockian parody of sorts, mixed with paranormal creatures, occult societies, and Lovecraftian type monsters.

I’m also editing my gothic paranormal horror novella, Shadows of the Dead; that one has demons and a killer lurking in the streets of Victorian London. In July, I’ll be back writing my 15th century historical fantasy, Masks and Shadows, which is set in Venice and follows the adventures of an immortal assassin.

Also waiting in the wings are four more series, two fantasy and two steampunk horror, with more trilogies and books planned in my Saga of the Outer Islands world.

9. Do you have any advice you would offer to writers who plan to self-publish in the fantasy genre?
Make sure your book is well edited, find yourself a good genre matching cover, and for heaven’s sake do category research so you reach the correct target audience (books in the wrong categories annoy readers).

You can find A. F. Stewart’s book here! https://books2read.com/u/4DRnyk