Interview with Stephanie Valis

What do you read for pleasure?
I love to read everything I can get my hands on. When I was younger I especially loved fantasy novels (from YA to Adult, regardless of how young I was). Now I have expanded that to Non-fiction as well as fiction as I find non-fiction information about the world an incredible source of inspiration for the places and peoples that I create for my worlds. There are a lot of books that I've fallen in love with over the years that I have in a special stack on my shelves for re-reading multiple times. Some of my favorite authors have been Mercedes Lackey, Robin Mckinley, Tamora Pierce and so many others. Lately I've been thrilled to find authors like Johnny B. Truant (Fat Vampire series is WELL worth the read), Sean Platt (Check out The Beam, that's an awesome one), Courtney Milan (Whose historical romances are incredible) and Adrian Tchaikovsky's Shadows of the Apt series which is incredible in its scope and complexity. I am always on the lookout for new authors to inspire me.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
This is a hard one, I have an e-reader but every electronic I own also has multiple e-reader apps on them. My computer for instance has four or five different e-reader programs alone. For someone like me who owns a lot of paperback books e-books were a revelation. I read very, very quickly and I always hated never having another book to read when I was close to finishing one. Now I can carry hundreds of books with me and all I have to do is remember to make sure whatever I'm reading on is fully charged! That is its own problem, but not a terrible one with outlets more common in coffee shops than drinking fountains in parks! I still love a good physical book, there is something about them that digital should never fully replace, but nothing beats the ease of travel of the digital book age.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
I have only recently published The Sea-Witch's Curse, my first book available from the World of Faetalia, so the marketing side of things is a little hard to say what's working. So far I think most of my sales have been people who have come to smashwords or amazon through my new facebook author page or from twitter. Social Media is going to play a big part in my initial sales I think, but I am hoping reviews and word of mouth will take The Sea-Witch's curse and all my other books slated for completion and release the rest of the way. I would love for everyone to read my book and adore it and pass it along to their friends. I am hoping word of mouth will spread it around as well. As for other Marketing techniques... well I am still researching different possibilities. Next on the list is business cards!
Describe your desk
My desk is a solid wood desk (stole it from my hubby lol!) and it has my laptop, mouse, mousepad, lap and my datebook on it. I try very hard to keep it clean so that when I'm working I can actively concentrate on what I'm doing instead of being distracted by other things. There are two little note pads, three finished paintings of mine as well as one unfinished one, a pen, a coaster, my backdoor key, a hair clip a kneadable eraser, a business card for photographers (yay actor head shots!) and a small plastic camel... His name is Woody (no special reason, but that's his name) and he keeps me company while I write. He has a tendency to say words incorrectly (English isn't his first language after all, he's a camel) but he is entertaining nonetheless. He is also the envy of all the other plastic toys scattered around the house as he gets to actually sit on my desk. Plus I used him for an audition tape so he thinks he's on TV and he's very proud of it.
When did you first start writing?
I have been writing since I was really little. Silly little stories done in crayon with awful drawings and stuff like that. It continued throughout high-school and into university and then beyond to now. It has taken a lot of time to build up my skill and my confidence, but I am proud of my first novel and I know that it will only get better from here!
What's the story behind your latest book?
The story behind my book is a long one. I have always come up with very intricate stories and worlds. My husband and I have another world that we are going to eventually put out together but that one is SO complicated at this point that we are going to have to plan out every book before we actually put pen to paper (or hands to keys as the case may be). So we decided to start with something smaller. I have always loved fairy tales from Hans Christian Anderson and the brothers Grimm and so on and so forth and the ACTUAL tales too, not the cleaned up for kids ones. There is something about the stories that people used to tell each other that is so different from so many of the stories that we read and understand today. Faetalia is a direct result of my love for fairy tales, myths and other things and The Sea-Witch's Curse, book 1 of the Prelude series, is inspired by the original Little Mermaid story from Hans Christian Anderson. That was merely the jumping off point, but if you know the story you can see the influence that it had on this one. It was largely a "what if" question from the beginning. What if the story was actually from the Sea-Witch's point of view? From there the world of Faetalia and specifically of the Mer culture of Nixla exploded into my head and then out from there resulting with The Sea-Witch's Curse. I'm very happy with how it turned out and I am planning 9 other novels in The Prelude series with another 4 minimum for the follow up series The Unraveling Knot. Faetalia has certainly spiraled out and I even have a third series that I am playing with based on several historical events in Nixla's history that will be a part a series called The Heirs of Nixla. The Sea-Witch's Curse was such a wonderful jumping off point that it has spawned four or five more possible books in my head by itself, but I feel I owe it to the other characters waiting for their introduction to see that they get it first. Hence book 2, The Midas Touch, that I am working on right now!
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I considered traditional publishing as a course of action and when I was younger and I first started writing I thought that was what I would eventually do when I "found a story worth publishing". From the time I had that first dream though to now I have been researching and debating and thinking about what path I want to take. I know that being an Indie author can be incredibly difficult because you have to do so much yourself and, right now at least, I am doing it with very little money, far less than say vanity publishing of the past would have demanded. I take a great deal of pride in my work and I hope that it reflects in every novel that I write and publish. It is harder to do it all yourself and to be aware of so many different considerations in getting the book out and published, but it is worth the effort in the end. I get to show the reader the story as I felt it is best told and I hope that they agree with me and enjoy every word.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I love the planning and the world building the best. There is something about creating whole worlds and peoples from basically nothing (it's not really but it feels like it sometimes) and then throwing them into situations where you hope for the best, but they don't always get it. It took a long time for me to realize that I could not have perfect people in perfect situations and even longer to realize that I didn't much LIKE perfect people, let alone perfect situations. Now I love the imperfections of my characters (though admittedly I often get told "but I hate your character because of...") so I guess I sometimes swing to the other side of the spectrum where I maybe make them too flawed to begin with. I do love finding that balance between their flaws, their strengths and their weaknesses and making them all too human, even when they're not.
What are you working on next?
I am working on book 2 of the Prelude, The Midas Touch. I have had the chapters planned out since the second edit of The Sea-Witch's Curse and once everything is set up with book 1 and I don't have to worry about it anymore I can go full tilt into writing book 2. I'm super excited to share George's story with the world, though I'm sad to leave Selene and Nixla for the moment, it's necessary to understand the full scope of the underlying story that is messing up everyone's happily ever after's in Faetalia. ;) I promise you, there's a lot more to all of these stories than it might seem on your first read through. I am so excited for everyone to meet George! I hope they love him as much as I do!
Who are your favorite authors?
Eep! I kind of answered this earlier I guess, I should have just talked about the books I like reading! Lol! So... in no particular order: I love Mercedes Lackey, Tamora Pierce, Robin McKinley, Johnny B. Truant, Sean Platt, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Julia Grey, Patrick Rothfuss, Megan Whalen Turner, Clare Bell, Robert T. Baker (Raptor Red, if you can find it it's fascinating and very well written), Sherryl Jordan (Winter of Fire is my favorite there), Christopher Pike, Susan Kay, Russel Kirkpatrick, Brent Weeks, Ted Dekker, Jane Yolen, J.R.R. Tolkien, J.K. Rowling, Joseph Campbell, Brother Grimm, Hans Christian Anderson... the list really does go on... I think I should stop there, but if you really want more please message me and I'd be happy to let you know if there's anyone I missed.
How do you approach cover design?
I approach cover design like I do a lot of things. I paced through my local bookstores on multiple occasions and just looked at the covers in the book areas for the genre that I was writing in. I studied the font, the text placement, the cover's subject matter, the colors, the size of the text and the cover art, the type and style of art, the form, and then I compared it with other genres until I got a feel for not only what drew me to a particular book over another, but what some of the basics were. Then I went online and looked up a bunch of guides for what makes great cover-art. THEN I looked through Smashwords, Amazon, Chapters and Nook's online e-book sections to skim through the titles in the appropriate sections for again, what caught my attention as an e-book cover instead of as a physical book cover. I asked myself if what caught my attention was the same or was different? I noted what irritated me about covers (a grayed out book without even a title is a huge pet peeve of mine) and what I loved about them. Then I went through my own e-books, the ones that I had downloaded and read and loved the books for. Almost every single one of my favorites had a cover that seemed to encapsulate the FEELING of the book as well as give me a hint about what was to come.

Finally I read through my own book, considered the series I was planning and asked myself what I wanted to show. Then I found my very talented artist, Shannon Pacy and spent countless hours working with her to bring my image of the cover to life. I found a free font through the internet so I would never have to worry about stepping all over someone else's rights (I found out about font rights while I was looking through the informational pages, sticky situation that), and then I composed my cover. I played with it for quite awhile, until I was happy with every aspect from the type of image on it, to the sizing and placement of each element to the style, size and placement of the text until I finally finished with my cover.

I'm very happy with it and I plan to utilize something similar for each book in the series so that simply by glancing at the covers you can tell which series that particular book is a part of. It's one of the huge benefits to planning my series myself and on publishing myself. I have full control to plan ahead for all the other books in The Prelude series that will be released along the line and I can plan their covers and their stories now so by the time I'm ready to publish book 9 in the series I already know what I want and what I am planning but if I want to change it I can! It's such a wonderful, flexible thing to work as an indie author that way and I have been blessed with some phenomenal connections along the way so that makes it even better!
Published 2014-05-20.
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