What made you want to start writing?
I’ve always wanted to make a positive impact on the world, but I didn’t know how to go about doing that until I finally put pen to paper about ten years ago. That’s when I realized my writing could actually inspire people who were struggling with all sorts of different issues in their personal lives, so I’ve dedicated myself to helping readers escape and feel truly seen ever since. Now my ultimate goal is to one day save a reader’s life.
How do you get the ideas for your novels?
For the main Ildarwood series, the plots and characters have evolved over the course of 25 years based on people I’ve met and situations I’ve lived through (or seen people live through). But for the prequel, the characters and plot were mostly created from scratch. In both cases, I stopped and asked myself what compelling real-life struggles I’ve seen people deal with, then figured out a way to create a compelling narrative around a fantasy version of those struggles. I think that’s why so many readers see themselves in these characters and stories. They’re fantastical and relatable at precisely the same time.
What makes your novels different from other fantasy series?
Most of my readers have said my novels are darker and more complex, but also more inspiring than the books they usually read. I’ve taken a lot of risks with my first series–having numerous POVs, including diverse characters, and tackling some sensitive topics–but I’ve been surprised to learn that the things that scare some readers away are the exact same things other readers are falling in love with. And that’s what makes all of the hard work and sacrifices needed to write, self-publish, and promote these books so worthwhile.
What does a typical writing day look like for you?
I tend to start most days by writing, especially on weekends and during vacations. During the work week, I need to stop after a couple hours to focus on my day job, but once that’s over, I try to spend at least one more hour writing, editing, planning, or promoting my books before bed.
What makes a great character?
My favorite characters are the ones grounded in real-world struggles and, to an extent, real world limitations. I’ve always believed that there is nothing more impactful for a reader than being able to see themselves in the stories they read, *especially* if those stories leave them feeling inspired or empowered.
What is your writing process?
I start new stories by defining a central theme and making sure it’s something readers can relate to. This helps me craft a compelling title, then the combination of the two are used like guardrails to help me plot out the characters I’ll focus on and how they’ll evolve. Next, I try to imagine what compelling events would hook and surprise readers throughout each character’s journey. And after that, I use the outline I’ve created to write a few chapter drafts at a time before going back and polishing / re-writing everything I’ve written so far. This process has allowed me to design really compelling characters and plots while still giving me the flexibility to make adjustments as I go.
What elements of fantasy make you like reading and writing in the genre?
I love immersing myself in any fantasy world that’s so magical, I just can’t stop imagining myself within in. This is especially true when there are different types of magic, fascinating cultures, creative creatures, and unique villains.
If you could be any fantasy character, who would it be and why?
Newt Scamander. I would love to be a quirky wizard who gets to spend his life taking care of magical creatures!
When did you start reading? And what books/series did you read over and over again?
I’ve always struggled with reading, to be honest, since very few stories / authors are able to hold my attention for more than a chapter or two. But I really enjoyed The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and a little-known title called A Walk Out of the World when I was growing up. The only series I’ve read multiple times though is Harry Potter.
What are some of your favourite recent reads?
I enjoyed Fire & Blood by George R. R. Martin, mostly because it saved me from waiting five years just to find out how the TV series will end. And ironically, I have just started Of Blood and Fire by Ryan Cahill. It’s been a pretty great read so far!
What do you enjoy doing outside of writing and reading?
I tend to split most of my free time between video games and learning. For video games, I love Elder Scrolls, Civilization,The Legend of Zelda, and Pokémon. For learning, I’ve rededicated myself to speaking Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian more fluently. And I love doing research for my books – things like reading articles about different cultures and religions, seeking out critical reviews of different fantasy series (books, TV, video games, films), and finding inspirational images or concepts online.
If you only had one piece of advice to give to an aspiring author, what would it be?
Life is short and unpredictable, so carve out a little bit of time every day to write or re-write something, and begin the process of making your dream come true. Know that a lot of what you write will probably get thrown away or completely revised, but sooner or later, you are bound to create something that you enjoy so much … something that is so uniquely you … you will find yourself inspired to finish the story and share it with the world. And so long as you keep in mind that everyone’s feedback is only meant to help you refine your craft and maximize the potential of your stories, you will be able to overcome any obstacle until your dream has finally come true.
Are you working on any new books or other projects at the moment?
I currently have three Ildarwood novels in various stages of development. The one I’ll be releasing later this year is an origin story that takes place between my prequel and Book One. It heavily features LGBTQIA+ characters and their struggles, so I plan to donate most of the proceeds from it to charities like the Trevor Project. I’ve also been making great progress on Book Two in the series, so that should be out sometime in 2024. And the ARC readers for my Prequel have been fairly insistent that I continue the story of those specific characters, so I’ve been planning out a short companion series that chronicles their adventures leading up to the events in Book One. So lots of great stories in store over the next two years!