Casey, welcome to Lavender Lass Books. Thank you for agreeing to this interview and best of luck in the competition!
Survival’s Edge: A Mythology Isekai is the first book in the Spark of Divinity series. Here’s the blurb:
Life was going great – right up until Tara died.
She’d always expected that to be it. Death is final, after all. But when she reaches the afterlife, she’s instead presented with a destiny she’d never bargained for. Instead of reincarnating to begin a new life as a human, she’s been selected as a candidate for godhood. If she can claw her way to divinity, she’ll be the first new blood to stand amid the old pantheons in ages.
Thrown into the dubious situation of establishing herself as a fledgling goddess in a cruel, skeptical world, Tara clings to the task she’s been given: Kill an aging, ancient deity, and take her place. Not everyone will be happy to see her, and not everyone will approve of her smashing through celestial society like a wrecking ball.
Giving up means laying down and accepting oblivion, though – and that’s something Tara refuses to do. She’ll have her birthright, and she’ll have her name.
And then Terra will rise again.
Spark of Divinity contains strong language and content that may be traumatic, with themes around death and overcoming hardship..
And now to the interview:
1. Is this your first time entering #SPFBO? Why did you decide to enter this book?
This will be my third time participating in the SPFBO! My first entry was back in SPFBO 4, with Chosen, book one of my now-complete four-book Flameweaver saga. That one was high fantasy – my second entry was in SPFBO 5, with Silvertongue, book one of Remnants of Magic, which was urban fantasy. I took a break and passed over SPFBO 6, but wanted to jump back in with 7.
With SPFBO 7, I actually had two books that were potential entries – Spark of Divinity, which is what I wound up entering, and The Library. In this case, I opted for Spark of Divinity because I felt like it had a stronger opening and a tighter, more cohesive story. Since judges are reading so many books, and often don’t have time to finish all of them, I want to pack as much bang for my buck into the opening chapters as I can!
2. Why do you write in the fantasy genre? What make this genre particularly appealing to you?
Writing in fantasy is liberating. Because you’re writing content that doesn’t have to follow real-world limitations, you can pinpoint a specific aesthetic or theme you want to explore. There’s just a lot of freedom there that I don’t find elsewhere!
3. Why did you decide to self-publish?
I got my start via serializing on Reddit – writing my books one chapter at a time and publishing them that way. I actually never set out to write a book in full; it was just something that kind of happened one day when I looked up and saw I had 200k words written. Because of that, trad was never on the table for me to begin with.
And, once I’d published my first few books, trad frankly stopped being a consideration at all for me. Self-publishing was perfectly satisfying for me, and I found I was making slow but sure progress, so I decided to keep going with it!
4. Are there advantages to self-publishing? What about the challenges?
I think that there are definitely pros and cons to both self-publishing and traditional publishing – this won’t be something where there’s a one size fits all ‘better’ option.
For the pros of self-pubbing, the control is massive – and more than just creative control, which is something often brought up. For me, I put more stock in the fact that I can publish what I want, when I want. If I want to continue publishing a low-performing series and try to kickstart it, I can. If I want to drop something and switch to a project I’m more passionate about, I can. Those decisions will have consequences, naturally, but the decision is mine to weigh.
The speed possible in self-pubbing is another massive pro for me. I’ve been writing for more or less four years, and I have 13 novels. That just wouldn’t be possible in trad. Now, with that said, that might be a con for some – the self-pubbing market does reward frequent publications, and if that’s something you struggle with, it might be overwhelming.
To jump off that point into some of the drawbacks…self-pubbing requires that the author have some business savvy, and be willing to learn and adjust on the fly. You don’t have anyone watching over your shoulder to tell you no, or to give you tips. Networking is really important, matching up with authors who might have different experiences and comparing notes until you figure out the best path forward.
Self-pubbing does also require some amount of capital up front, which can be difficult. I think this can be overblown a lot – most of my books are published for under $500 – but it’s definitely a concern and something to be aware of.
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, like any genre, is going to continually change and morph. Personally, I see styles shifting to a lighter, more active voice, which is something I do enjoy. I think that tastes are going to continue requiring less intro, less exposition, and a faster pace into the story to match people’s declining attention spans. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, mind, and I do think there will always be a place for slower, more ‘purple’ (to use the term affectionately) fantasy.
But, at the core, I think people’s wants in fantasy are the same – to live out an experience totally distinct from our own, to dive into a world of the impossible and fantastical.
6. Do you write (or plan to write) in any other genres?
I write across many of the scifi-fantasy genres! I do write a lot of fantasy, yes – mythological, high fantasy, urban fantasy, contemporary – but I also write a lot of scifi, notably space opera and space western pieces. In my opinion, there’s a lot of crossover between scifi and fantasy, so for me it always felt natural.
I don’t see myself branching out away from speculative fiction in general, though. I’ve got some pieces with horror influences and such, but I personally don’t have an interest in literary fiction, or non-genre fiction in general. I write to have a good time, and SF/F was always how I did that!
7. What do you look for in a story? Especially in the fantasy genre? (Original ideas, plot lines, character development, world building, etc.?)
I personally am not worked up over the idea of original ideas – I think that any idea, given its own setting and characters and premise, is going to wind up having a unique execution. I do thoroughly enjoy a good trope reversal, which can be a new spin on a familiar idea, though!
My main interests will almost always be somewhere between characters and plot – I love character-driven stories, so that’s always a plus for me, but I also love riding along for a story with lots of twists and flips. Some of my favorite books are the sort that sprinkle in details as you go, only to offer one final detail at the end that builds off that earlier information and turns the context on its head! Immersion with the characters and story is really important to me, so stories like that will keep me thoroughly engaged.
8. Are you working on a new book? Can you share any details?
I’ve got three projects going right now, more or less!
First, I’m continuing to write book 3 of Spark of Divinity (Terra Rising), which will wrap up the storyline of our main character trying to unseat Gaia from her pantheon.
Second, I’m continuing work on Legion (Book 3 of Remnants of Magic), which follows our cast through the real world as their band of mages goes mercenary, struggling all the while to rescue an old friend from the magic-wielders who hold him captive.
And, third and final, I’m working on Roots and Steel, which is my newest series – it’s being written for Kindle Vella, the new Amazon serialization platform. R&S is a Monster Hunter-inspired GameLit, following our main character as he gets sucked into a competition to become master of the Hunter’s Guild – and untangles a decade-old murder in the process. Lots of character growth, revenge plots, and good old monster fighting!
9. Do you have any advice you would offer to writers who plan to self-publish in the fantasy genre?
I would say the thing I most often have to give advice on is cover art – covers are important! Do not try and do your own book cover! It’s your single most important piece of marketing, so if you’re going to invest money in any one place, I would do it here. There are also low-cost options that will look very professional using stock art – I have books that have $5-30 covers that look stunning.
Look at other books in your genre. Look at their blurbs. Learn from them! And talk to other authors. Writing is not a zero-sum game, and most authors out there are very happy to help people who are taking a legitimate interest in self-improvement. If you’re going to do this, do it right!
The final bit of advice I would give is to remember that self-pubbing is very rarely a “publish one book, collect bank” game. I didn’t break even until my fourth book was published, and I didn’t see notable success until my fifth. I don’t recommend even starting ads until you have at least 3 books published – it’s hard to earn back enough to cover the cost per click until that point. If at first you don’t succeed, don’t give up. Backlog is forever. Just keep writing and learning and improving, and you’ll put yourself in a position to capitalize on success when you find it.
You can find Casey White’s book on Amazon! https://www.amazon.com/Survivals-Edge-Mythology-Isekai-Divinity-ebook/dp/B093YKCS24