#SPFBO7 Interview – Joanna Maciejewska

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

By the Pact is the first book in the Pacts Arcane and Otherwise series. Here’s the blurb:

High mages lied: Veranesh, the demon who destroyed the continent is still alive. And it’s up to their former student to expose the truth—even if it means another Cataclysm.

When Kamira, a once high mage student turned arcanist, discovers an imprisoned demon in underground ruins, she is forced into a pact that grants her powerful magic, but also ties her to the very demon that once devastated the continent… and Veranesh wants his freedom.

With one friend by her side, Veelk, a mage killer bound on protecting her, Kamira will have to outwit the archmages, other demons, and possibly her own demonic benefactor to survive. Her chances are slim, but with Veelk’s ever-present sarcastic repartee, Kamira might just pull through.

Plots and schemes, power and means—sometimes the price for victory is choosing which friend will die, but when you only have one friend, the choice is… easy?

And now to the interview:

1. Is this your first time entering #SPFBO? Why did you decide to enter this book?
Yes, it’s my first time, and By the Pact is my debut novel. I’ve been quietly following the contest for a couple of years now, as a reader, searching to discover new authors and potential favorite books, so it felt natural to join it from the other side, so to speak, when my book released.

2. Why do you write in the fantasy genre? What make this genre particularly appealing to you?
To put it in the simplest of ways, I write what I like to read. I’ve been almost a life-long fan of speculative fiction, both fantasy and science fiction, and the sense of wonder pulls me in every time. I read to experience things that aren’t part of my everyday life, and fantasy offers me adventure, whole new worlds, magic, and often food for thought.

3. Why did you decide to self-publish?
There were a few reasons behind it. Until you get a traditional publishing deal, you’re stuck in writing a new “book 1”, hoping it’ll get an agent’s interest, and I felt like some of my series deserved to be finished. My beta readers kept asking about sequels too. I also liked the idea of learning new skills. Being self-sufficient is something for which I strive, so self-publishing seemed like a logical step. I am a dreamer, but I also want to be a doer: I’d rather be a self-published author than an aspiring traditional author.

4. Are there advantages to self-publishing? What about the challenges?
I think the biggest advantage is the control I have over my projects, deadlines, budget, marketing choices… Sure, there is still some luck involved and things I won’t be able to control (like I can’t make the readers like my book), but it feels like there’s much more I can control to give myself a chance. And that also gives me choices: from release dates that are only dependent on my work pace, to picking the right people to design my covers or edit my writing. It’s also the excitement of having things done, of having accomplished something, over and over again. Every little win, every book sold, every positive review: it makes me smile, as I know I worked for it.

Some of the challenges, on the other hand, are having to learn a lot of new skills and becoming one’s own project manager. A lot of people get discouraged by the legal, accounting, or technical aspects of publishing one’s own books, and in the beginning, I also was questioning whether I could handle it all. But when I moved over to the United States, my husband encouraged me to start my own freelance business, and dealing with the business aspect of being sole-proprietor made me feel I was prepared to face the challenges.

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 feel somewhat unqualified to answer such a question. I try to follow the news and trends, but I can’t claim to have kept my hand on the pulse all the time. From my perspective, fantasy has become more inclusive and broader. People are trying new things, from new settings to new ways of storytelling. There’s also a growing section for young adult books which didn’t really exist back when I was growing up (and it was a long time ago), and some of them start to cross over with adult audience, blurring the line. As a reader, I now have a bigger pool of books to choose from, but it also means that it might be harder to find books I really enjoy.

The second change I wholeheartedly welcome is blurring the lines between traditional and self-publishing. As a reader, I’m interested in a book’s quality, and not in the way it was published, and as a writer I don’t take self-publishing as an excuse for subpar quality, so the fading stigma of self-published books makes me all the happier. Traditionally published authors self-publish some of their books, self-published authors get traditional deals, and readers have a broader choice of books they can enjoy. Everybody wins.

6. Do you write (or plan to write) in any other genres?
Although I write primarily fantasy, I have some science fiction short stories published, and in the future I will likely write novels in that genre too. I also enjoy fantasy and science fiction romance, so depending on how the future goes, I might write them as well.

7. What do you look for in a story? Especially in the fantasy genre? (Original ideas, plot lines, character development, world building, etc.?)
With every book I pick up, I always hope that this will be the one that will cause me to almost miss my deadlines, forget about food, and make me read till morning. I’m definitely swayed by good writing, and I like interesting, well-developed worlds, but characters are often the ones who make or break a book for me. I like diverse character perspectives and behaviors, and I like their decisions to be reasonable (based on the knowledge they have, of course), and if they make emotional choices that feel like their purpose is to push the story forward, to provide a plot twist or throw a wrench in a relationship for more drama, I’m more likely to put the book down.

8. Are you working on a new book? Can you share any details?
At the moment, I’m working on finishing Pacts Arcane and Otherwise, a series started with By the Pact. Book 2 releases this year, and I’m working on revisions for book 3, already outlining the final book of the series. After that, I have a contemporary fantasy series in the works, set in Ireland where I’ve lived for over 8 years. Then, there are other ideas and projects as well… Let’s just say that my list of books to write or finish is about 30 titles long so far.

9. Do you have any advice you would offer to writers who plan to self-publish in the fantasy genre?
My first piece of advice would be: take your time and start learning beforehand. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of things you have to tackle: publishing platforms, e-book and print formatting, finding a cover designer and an editor (some of them are booked months ahead!). Start reading about self-publishing and joining groups for independent author long before your book is ready, so even though a lot of learning will be done through the hands-on approach, you’ll feel confident and have an idea of what to do. Other indie authors are supportive and willing to help, but nothing is harder to answer than the general question, “So… How do I self-publish my book?”

You can find Joanna Maciejewska’s book at Amazon and other retailers! https://books2read.com/ByThePact