The writing community has lots to share, and I’d like to start doing at least one interview a month with writers I respect. Some are experienced, some are new, but all will have knowledge to share and strengths we can all learn to emulate, as well as insight we may have not seen on our own.
To kick-off July, we have one of the most well-read and educated people I’ve had the pleasure to come across. Eleanor Konik is currently writing a fantasy mashup of Rome’s greatest defeats titled THE LAST COLLARED MAGE and is a regular attendee of Balticon, a science fiction and fantasy convention in Baltimore. Let’s delve in and find out what she can share with us!
Q: What inspired the worldbuilding for your novel?
I tend to pull inspiration from a variety of sources. I spent a lot of time pinch-hitting as a science teacher the last few years, and it got me thinking about how the senses work, and how few books really look at how magic would work on a biological level. For example, I loved the idea of being able to sense and control the earth like an extension of your body, and I wanted visualizations of magic to mirror the way we see color, particularly when it came to evaluating a mage’s strength.
Verraine grew out of a lot of little ideas like that, and I put them together like a jigsaw to create a realistic society. Once I knew what kind of world I wanted to wind up with, I sat down and worked out a timeline of events that could get it to that point.
Q: How did you develop the history?
EK: I’m a big history nerd, so I firmly believe that fictional history should be at least as interesting as real history. The Last Collared Mage takes place during a pivotal point in Verraine’s history: an enslaved mage leads her people against an imperialist republic in what is basically a fantasy mashup of Rome’s greatest defeats.
Once I had that skeleton, I built up from there, almost as if it were a facial reconstruction — think forensics shows like Bones. I wrote out my seven plot points, then expanded it to a synopsis and started writing.
Q: Do you proofread everything yourself, or do you have someone who does that for you?
EK: I’m going to give you the lawyer’s answer: it depends!
The answer is really both. I try to avoid having people read absolute zero draft word-vomit. I always proofread my work and self-edit before having others look over it, but I would never publish anything without having a professional look it over, after I’ve also had my writing group look it over and beta-read it. The Ubergroup is a genuinely wonderful source of feedback, and it took me years to find a writing group that suits me so well. There are so many types of feedback available, from long-term developmental edits to gestalt beta reads and everything in between.
Q: What would you say the main advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing are?
EK: I don’t think it’s really a question of “pros” and “cons,” really. It’s a more about personal preference.
Some people like to be their own boss, and others (like me) prefer the structure of a hierarchy. Some people prefer to work alone on projects, while others like to feel part of a team. I’m definitely one of the latter types, which is one of the reasons I quit law and wound up in education.
There’s also the question of control vs. delegation, because everyone has their own comfort levels with decision-making. I myself am just as happy to leave things to the experts, but really it’s about priorities, if you want to walk into a bookstore and see your book on the shelf, self-pub isn’t the way to go. If you’re motivated more by profit than pride, though, ebooks are plenty profitable and online stores are huge movers of dead tree books anyway.
Q: Well, how about for yourself?
EK: For me, personally, there’s only one real advantage to self-pub, and it’s financial, but not in the way you might think. Though there’s definitely money to be made, it’s more about market size. Traditional publishers can’t afford the production costs of targeting a niche group of readers, but self-publishing has more forgiving profit margins. I’ve been warned that my writing is a bit on the academic side — smart genre fiction sometimes lacks mass appeal, which is how L. E. Modesitt never won a Hugo but Eragon and Divergent became movies — and I like knowing that there’s a backup plan if I don’t have the right gimmick or hit the hot new fad agents are looking for.
Eleanor Konik was born and raised in a close-knit neighborhood just outside of Baltimore, where she is putting the final touches on her teaching certification. She spends her free time gardening and playing cards with coworkers. She also enjoys fishing, hiking, and visiting attractions around the city. Her blog showcases insights she’s gleaned while researching THE LAST COLLARED MAGE, a fantasy mashup of Rome’s greatest defeats.