Ceril, welcome to Lavender Lass Books. Thank you for agreeing to this interview and best of luck in the competition!
Haven is the first book in The Fae Queen’s Court series. Here’s the blurb:
Most people think the fae are gone. Most people are wrong.
Owen Williams wakes after a horrific car accident to find his wife is dead—and somehow turned into a gryphon—and his kids gone after a home invasion turned horribly wrong. Shattered and reeling, he vows to do whatever it takes to find them.
When a fae scout appears and promises to reunite him with his kids, he doesn’t hesitate before joining her. But she warns him that if he wants to protect his family, he must follow the fae to their city, the hidden haven of Tearmann.
With enemies on the horizon, Owen needs to set aside his fears and take up arms to defend their new home alongside the people he’s always been taught were monsters—or he’ll lose everyone he’s trying to protect.
And now to the interview:
1. Is this your first time entering #SPFBO? Why did you decide to enter this book?
Yes! I decided to enter Haven because #SPFBO was recommended to me by a friend who participated in one of the past contests and because it seemed like a good opportunity to learn more about the market. I’ve already added quite a few of my competitors to my TBR.
2. Why do you write in the fantasy genre? What make this genre particularly appealing to you?
I’ve always been a big fan of fantasy ever since I was small. Before I turned six, I’d read most of Tolkien’s legendarium, the collected Brothers’ Grimm fairy tales, and anything with a fairy, elf, or dragon on the cover I could find on my dad’s bookshelves. Turning that love for reading fantasy into writing fantasy just made sense.
Beyond that, fantasy is such a broad genre. I can write a story set in a medieval European setting with chess playing dragons or a story about the underground alchemy scene in Chicago and both fall into fantasy. As long as there’s something fantastic about it, you can write whatever you want and that is brilliant.
3. Why did you decide to self-publish?
After three years of querying, I decided Haven wasn’t a particularly good traditional debut. Besides being the first in a series, it doesn’t have any flashy magic, sexy elves, or death-defying battles between the forces of good and evil AND my main character is a middle-aged man with five kids. Even if I did manage to find a publisher, they’d be the ones deciding on the cover, marketing, and even the title. If I wanted to maintain control of Haven and to present it in the way I thought best suited it, I’d need to take the reins myself.
4. Are there advantages to self-publishing? What about the challenges?
Self-publishing gives you an amazing degree of control over your final product. You get to decide the dimensions, the cover, the advertising, and have final say over all edits. It allows you to bypass the traditional gatekeepers of the publishing community and publish on your own timeline.
Its challenges are exactly the same thing as its advantages. You have a tremendous amount of control over your book, which means you have a lot to do. You have to design the cover (or pay to have it designed), you have to manage the marketing, you have to pay for all the nickel-and-dime costs that come with publishing. There’s no one there holding your hand as you go. If you’re lucky, you’ll have a few friends who can give you advice and suggestions, but at the end of the day everything is up to you.
Self-publishing isn’t any better or worse than traditional publishing and it’s not for everyone.
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 is branching out in ways little me reading the Fellowship of the Ring under my covers never would’ve believed.
There’s still plenty of swords and sorcery, the traditional mix of species, and the same tropes if you look but people are more willing to take risks. They’re critiquing the traditional tropes and cliches of the genre and writing amazing stories while they do so.
With the availability of self-publishing, the gatekeeping seen at traditional publishers has lost a lot of importance. After all, if a company isn’t going to put fill a gap in the market, someone’s going to.
At the same time, there’s a reason so many old fantasy books stay popular. The giants of the genre, like Tolkien, Brandon Sanderson, GRRM, and Robert Jordan left a definite stamp on what people expect from fantasy. As much as I love it, I have to admit that there’s a certain level of complexity that people expect from medieval-esque fantasy that they don’t expect from other categories.
6. Do you write (or plan to write) in any other genres?
I’ve got vague plans for a contemporary adventure one day, but fantasy is my heart and home.
7. What do you look for in a story? Especially in the fantasy genre? (Original ideas, plot lines, character development, world building, etc.?)
Prose and character development usually. I can forgive a lot of sins with plot and world if the story sounds good and I care about the character. Any idea can be made to look new in the right hands, so I’ve never been too concerned with reading what’s essentially the same story a million times in a row. In the same vein of thought, even the most fascinating idea can become a slog to read through if the prose doesn’t draw the reader in.
8. Are you working on a new book? Can you share any details?
I’m currently editing the sequel to Haven, which is tentatively called Avalon and drafting the third book in the series.
I can’t give too many details about Avalon away without spoiling much of Haven, but I’ll say it follows Owen as he struggles to deal with new responsibilities in the wake of the events of Haven.
9. Do you have any advice you would offer to writers who plan to self-publish in the fantasy genre?
Do your research before you make any final decisions. Find out the cover expectations for books like yours, figure out what you’re doing for marketing, and price the story in a way that’s affordable but doesn’t undersell the book.
No book is universally likeable so don’t sweat bad reviews.
You can find Ceril N Domace’s book on Amazon! https://www.amazon.com/Haven-Fae-Queens-Court-Book-ebook/dp/B08WHKFPZF