My featured author this month is a talented high school student and published author of a thrilling new YA Urban Fantasy series. Check out her interview and buy her book!
Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview! To kick things off, tell me a little about yourself.
- Hey! Well, I live in Canada. I’m currently a high school senior, so when I’m not in school or spending my time writing, I love to embrace more of my musical side. I regularly sing when I’m taking a break, and often dance while I roam around my house. I do take regular lessons for singing, but I also take classes for guitar and piano. Aside from all of that, I love fitness and nutrition. I’m not totally immersed in the more science parts of it, but I enjoy eating a balanced diet and working out!
What led you to write fantasy?
- I’ve been writing stories for as long as I can remember. I still have the very first “books” I ever wrote. The first was when I was five years old, and it was about a unicorn getting lost in a forest and eventually finding her parents by the end. Deep subjects, I know.
- I think what led me to start writing books was my desire to tell stories. I have always been a very creative person, and I would often daydream about my own version of whatever movie or show I’d just watched.
- I’ve always loved the fantasy genre because it provided me with more creative freedom. It allowed me to create something all my own: my own worlds, rules, powers, etc. I also liked the idea of escaping reality for a moment to submerge myself in whatever fantasy world I had created for myself. It’s like when you would play pretend as a kid, except now it’s a job.
- I have written unpublished books in genres outside of fantasy, but I am still at the beginning of my career, so never say never.
Going along with that, what sub-genres of fantasy do you prefer to write?
- I’m currently in the middle of writing an urban fantasy series called ‘Clarissa Lovett’, but I love anything and everything related to the fantasy genre. There are just so many ways a writer can take the genre, and I love the creativity that stems from every version.
- If I had to pick an ultimate favourite fantasy genre, I would have to say either urban or epic. I like the grounded nature that urban presents, that the writer can build upon, and I like epic because the writer can just go crazy with creativity.
Do you write with a particular message or worldview in mind?
- I don’t necessarily go into writing a book with a specific message in mind, and the reason for this is because I always try to put the story above anything else. I usually won’t come to a particular thesis because I don’t want to limit my creative freedom in any way, but I also want to leave the message up to the reader to decide. In the end, I think a clear theme becomes prevalent within my stories, but I never want to spell it out or make it blatantly obvious. I prefer to leave the overall message and theme up to interpretation based on whatever aspect of the story spoke the most to that individual.
I love your approach! What is your preferred writing style? Does it coincide with your reading preferences?
- I tend to write past-tense since that is the type of books I’m used to reading. I prefer third-person narrative since I enjoy being able to talk about multiple points of view and getting to delve into each character more than I otherwise would have been able to. Though, I do have a soft spot for first-person and really like that writing style.
How do you feel about a hero vs. a protagonist in fiction?
- I prefer a protagonist mainly because it is more realistic and relatable, in my opinion. Even as a fantasy writer, I believe in the importance of grounding a story and making something believable and something that the reader can see themselves in. Heroes are great and all, but I don’t particularly enjoy the good vs evil stories where every character is one or the other. That isn’t how people really operate, and despite writing about fantastical characters, I want to reflect real-life emotions and motivations in those characters.
Kind of going along with that, do you prefer a sympathetic villain or someone a reader loves to hate? Or is there another kind of villain you prefer to write?
- I have to say I am a huge softy for a villain I love to hate. I find it so much fun and makes them so much fun to read and write for. However, I have a tough time writing those types of villains, and personally prefer writing sympathetic villains because I love to make my readers hate a villain upfront, then humanize them and make my readers conflicted with whether or not this person is still worth rooting against.
I love that. Tell me more about one of your published works.
- Like I said before, I am currently working on a YA urban fantasy novel series called ‘Clarissa Lovett.’ The first book in the series (called ‘Lexi’) has already been released and is available on Amazon. It is about a girl named Lexi, like many other characters in the series, who can control the elements with magic-type abilities. Lexi, while living ignorant of her powers on Earth, has a shocking experience with a mysterious boy and not only finds out that she can control the element of light, but that she is being hunted down by assassins who control the darkness.
- It has a lot of action, thrills, a slow burn forbidden romance, heartache, and some good old bloodshed. Many of my readers have told me how sad and scary my book is at times, which I can only laugh evilly at, but they also always talk about how connected they felt to every one of the characters, and how the concept hooked them immediately.
What are you working on now?
- I am now working on the second installment of the series and some smaller-sized journals that illustrate some of the characters’ backstories and past life experiences.
Are you traditionally published or do you publish independently? Why did you choose that path to send your books into the world?
- I am self-published, and I chose to go the self-publishing route because I honestly wasn’t incredibly serious about making this a career. Instead, it was more of a test run to see how things went. However, I contacted a girl who went to my school, who had just published a book through the traditional route. I asked what her option was, and she told me to go the self-publishing route for specific reasons I can’t remember at the time of writing this. However, with her advice on top of the research I had done, I mainly came down to the decision to do self-publishing because I simply had no patience. I didn’t want to wait around for a year, anticipating the time when an agent would deem my story good enough. I just wanted to get it out there and see what happened.
What are your writing habits?
- I really wish I could make these habits sound more glamorous, but I don’t have many strict writing habits. The habit I practice the most is getting most, if not all, my writing for the day done first thing in the morning. I start working right after I have breakfast and usually don’t stop until my alarm goes off for school to start.
- I mean, to name some other things I do when in my writing zone: I tend to write all of my burning ideas in a notebook, wherever I can find one. I write all of my chapters and organize my notes on my computer, and I always need to listen to music to drown out any noise around me. I have playlists on my phone for each of my characters and individual character relationships that I will play if I am writing a scene/chapter where that character(s) are at the center of the action. I like to work at a desk (which doubles as my desk for school work), but if needed, I can work anywhere as long as I have my pens, notebook, phone, and computer.
Do you prefer to plot your books out in advance, or do you dive in and see where the story takes you?
- I am far too scared to try writing a story without a previously planned outline. Knowing me, it would get so off the rails so quickly, and I would end up needing to rewrite the whole thing for it to make a lick of sense. I always outline my books before I even write the first sentence, and I will get really in-depth with my outlines, to the point where I will add actual back and forth dialogue and passages meant for the book itself.
I admire writers who can plot like that! Do you enjoy writing plot-driven or character-driven stories more?
- I go back and forth sometimes. If I absolutely need to change the plot because of a character, I will do it, but I also fear completely letting go of the leash out of fear that I will lose the overall meaning and purpose of the story that I want to tell.
That makes a lot of sense. What type of fantasy medium do you enjoy most?
- I am a very visual person, so I have always gravitated towards movies and TV shows. I personally find it the most laid back and relaxing, and that has always been the source of my inspiration.
What is a fun quirk you have?
- I’m not sure if I’d consider this a quirk, but I have to admit, I am a huge fan of bad jokes. Tell me the dumbest, most awkward joke you can think of, and I will be one the floor laughing. Dad jokes are the best.
Ha! I love that! In closing, what advice do you have for up-and-coming writers?
- The best advice I can give to anyone is the advice I would give my past self. It took me years to finally gain enough confidence to publish my first book, so I would say to any up-and-coming writers to just go for it. Whatever you’re worried about, whether it’s fear of not making money or getting backlash, if you have a story you want to tell, then tell it. Odds are you’re not going to be rich after one book release, and your reviews probably aren’t going to all be five stars, but if there’s a story that you want to tell, and you want to put out for people to enjoy and get invested in, then I say do it. There is no time like the present, and you have to start somewhere, so why not start here and now?
That’s terrific advice. Tomorrow isn’t promised, as they say.
Thank you again for taking the time to interview with me, Jamie! I wish you every success with your continued writing endeavors and I look forward to diving into your book.
To follow Jamie Gray’s author journey, check out the links below!