#SPFBO7 Interview – Virginia McClain

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

Sairō’s Claw: Gensokai Kaigai Book One is the first book in the Chronicles of Gensokai. Here’s the blurb:

Torako has done many things to protect the valley that she calls home, but she’s never looted a corpse before. So when the katana she steals off the still-cooling body of a bandit turns out to be possessed by a grumpy wolf kami, she can only assume it’s because she’s somehow angered the spirits. An impression that’s only reinforced when she returns home to find her wife abducted and her daughter in hiding. But angry spirits or no, Torako isn’t about to let bandits run off with the love of her life, even if it means taking their 3 year old on a rescue mission.

In all Kaiyo’s years as Captain of the Wind Serpent she has never once questioned her admiral’s orders. So when she receives the command to abduct a civilian scribe with the help of fifteen felons, she registers her objections, but does as she is bid. Yet, as the mission unfolds, Kaiyo finds herself questioning everything from her loyalties to her convictions.

As Torako and Kaiyo’s fates cross like dueling blades, their persistence is matched only by their fury, until they uncover a series of truths they may never be ready to accept.

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. The first time I entered my debut novel from back in 2015 into the 2019 SPFBO (SPFBO 5) and it became a finalist much to my delight and surprise. I decided to enter Sairō’s Claw because it is my newest novel, it kicks off a new series (though it is set in the same world as Blade’s Edge) and frankly, I think my writing has improved quite a bit since I wrote Blade’s Edge, so I figured it couldn’t hurt. I still expect to be cut in the first round just because there’s so much luck involved in making it to the finals, and there are SO MANY excellent titles in this year’s competition, but I wanted to get more eyes on my new book child, and I know SPFBO is a great way to get eyes on books so here we are.

2. Why do you write in the fantasy genre? What make this genre particularly appealing to you?
I love magic. I wish it were real. I love spending time in imaginary worlds where magic is real, where dragons exist, where a grumpy wolf spirit might get trapped into a katana and then get stuck with a human companion… 🙂

3. Why did you decide to self-publish?
Control and impatience, really. I didn’t want sell rights to my worlds. I didn’t want to leave cover art in the hands of a marketing team that might or might not actually care about the book. (To be fair, trad fantasy covers have gotten way better since I started publishing, so that might be less of an issue than I had initially worried about.) But also, I am not patient enough for the constant querying/rejection cycle or traditional publishing. I did it for some short stories back in the early 2000s and I got a couple of them published in small literary magazines, which was fun, but when it came to full length novels… indie publishing was just taking off when I finally had a book ready to publish, and after reading a few blog articles from Hugh Howie I never even tried submitting my books to traditional publishers. I ran a kickstarter for Blade’s Edge and was off and running.

4. Are there advantages to self-publishing? What about the challenges?
The advantages are control, speed, and the community. The community is really lovely. 

The challenge is marketing. To be fair, that is also the challenge of traditional publishing, but it’s often someone else’s problem if you go through a large press. I wish it were someone else’s problem for me. You can’t sell a book that no one can see. So, the trick is getting eyes on the book. The ways to do that are myriad and varied and some are more effective than others. SPFBO is a great way to get a few more eyes on a book, and I’m really grateful that it exists.

5. As a reader, and now author, how has the fantasy genre changed over the last several years? How has it stayed the same?
Fantasy has gotten way more inclusive over the last several years and that is absolutely fabulous. We’re seeing so many people represented in fantasy books these days and it’s absolutely fabulous. 

The ways in which it has stayed the same are that there are systemic issues in publishing that have been affecting marginalized writers forever and they continue to do so. Though I believe we’re making slow but steady progress in those areas there is still a long way to go.

6. Do you write (or plan to write) in any other genres?
I currently write both Urban and Epic fantasy, but I have a few different Sci-Fi ideas in my head too. Some day, I may write them. I’d also like to try out some fantasy romance, perhaps in the form of a web serial. 

7. What do you look for in a story? Especially in the fantasy genre? (Original ideas, plot lines, character development, world building, etc.?)
I look for stories that sweep me away! Some do it with characters, some do it with world building, some do it with breakneck plots, but if I’m immersed and carried off, I consider the story a success.

8. Are you working on a new book? Can you share any details?
I am currently taking a break after releasing Sairō’s Claw in May, however, I am about to start writing again, and I have three project ideas on the go. Two web serials (both fantasy romance) and the next book that follows Sairō’s Claw (titled Eredi’s Gambit). I had to write 20k words of that book just to make sure I finished up Sairō’s Claw properly, so I will dive back into that and hope to finish it up in 2022 sometime. It will be another action adventure romp, with more epic highlights.

9. Do you have any advice you would offer to writers who plan to self-publish in the fantasy genre?
Advice the first: Take all writing advice with a grain of salt. There is no one way to do this thing.

Advice the second: Write a book that you love through and through, because writing and selling books is hard work, but it’s much easier to suffer the ups and downs if you write a story that brings you joy whenever you work on it. And remember, you can’t (and shouldn’t try) to please every reader, so write to please yourself first and then try to find the readers who need your story.

You can find Virginia McClain’s book on Amazon! https://www.amazon.com/Sairōs-Claw-Gensokai-Kaigai-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B0945D858D