Interview with VM Sapone

Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I remember writing stories when I was very young, but I can't remember the details. The first one I really remember was in 6th or 7th grade for a very eccentric English teacher. The story had something to do with a mad scientist who created candy balls like jawbreakers that needed one drop of a secret ingredient to become explosive.
What is your writing process?
I use a notebook to handwrite ideas, characters, make sketches of places and buildings, and a very loose outline that changes many, many times. I'm sort of a hybrid between the "planner" and the "pantser". A lot of my writing is done 'flying by the seat of my pants'. I have much better ideas when I just write and write and write. This means I have to go back and change this and that, over and over. But I think it works better for me. It's sort of my creative process. Ideas will come at any time, especially if I'm writing quickly to get them down on the page. If I sit and plan everything ahead of time, I'll get bored and have a much more difficult time writing.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I remember reading a lot of Seuss and books about dinosaurs. Then someone bought me a stack of Hardy Boys books. I didn't love those. I have issues with my attention span, so reading wasn't something I loved when I was young. I didn't fall in love with reading until I was about 20. Fantasy became my go-to reading material. Some of the first books I read when I started enjoying reading were The Hobbit, Harry Potter, and the Axis Trilogy by Sara Douglass. These books inspired me to try writing. I began to shape the world that Hilfords Chronicles takes place in, Pelgra, about 15 years ago.
How do you approach cover design?
I really wanted professional covers. I used to be good at using photoshop, but it's pretty expensive and has gotten a little confusing for me. Searching around I found a lot of folks online who make covers to sell to authors who are self-publishing. I looked at their work and at the guidelines and size requirements for Amazona and other publishers like Smashwords. Eventually, I decided I wanted simple, clean covers. No more than three colors. I developed a template for myself using GIMP and Pixlr. It works pretty well. What one lacks, the other covers, so I use both apps for each cover. I try to make a simple vector image and then choose the colors and add the titles. I hope it works well and people like the covers.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
This is a long answer. Probably for any author, because we all love books. Lately, I love anything by Joe Abercrombie and Lev Grossman's Magicians books. Lord of the Rings, of course. Anything Narnia. I have a lot of Sara Douglass' books, and I love the Crucible Trilogy. Love Harry Potter. I've read and love Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series. Wheel of Time is another classic I've read (most of). Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is a favorite of mine. Something non-fantasy: all the Sherlock Holmes shorts and novels.
Why do I love these? I love fantasy. The medieval aspect, I think, really makes fantasy great. Urban Fantasy can be good but other times just reads like fiction, to me. In fantasy you really get transported to another place and time. It's a great escape. Fantasy stories have a lot of emotion.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
My smartphone is huge so I can read anything on there in any format.
Describe your desk
This is funny, because my desk is the coffee table in the living room. If I sell some books I plan to get a nice, simple writing desk and have nothing on it except my laptop, notebook and pen. Oh, coffee mug...typically with coffee inside of it.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in NYC. I think growing up in a place like New York you really learn a lot about people, different kinds of people, human nature, and behavior. I think that really helps me in creating characters, dialogue and interactions between characters.
When did you first start writing?
My first attempt at a novel was when I was about 21 years old. It was long and terrible. I wrote another shortly after that. Then I wrote a bunch of short stories for entry into contests like Writers of the Future. I went back to school and stopped for a while. Then I figured, authors are artists and artists should just put their work out there for people. So that's what I'm doing.
What's the story behind your latest book?
I came up with stories that take place in a world called Pelgra, a long time ago. The stories were oddly plotted and too complicated. Later, I revisited the location but changed the towns and cities. I made the time period later medieval so there'd be some urban feel. I love some of the steampunk investigation novels like George Mann's Newbury and Hobbes books. I didn't want to do steampunk but I wanted that Victorian Era feel, only way earlier. Once I knew I wanted mystery in my fantasy I knew what I wanted to do with the story. The characters were created long ago. I tweaked them and started writing. Everything just flowed from there.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
This is a complicated one. I have a belief that artists should be able to put their work out into the world, whether they're visual artists, writers, musicians...whatever. I think the system is set up to put power in the hands of those who have connections rather than in the hands of the creator. I think that's changing with things like self-publishing and websites that allow musicians and artists to distribute their work.
I feel like an indie author must rely on a devoted audience. I hope to create a devoted, niche audience of people who just love the stories I'm telling and love the characters in those stories. I'd rather make a small, specific group of fans happy than try to appeal to the entire world.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Getting all that stuff from inside my head out into some kind of cohesive, legible story that is entertaining and has all the feels and characters people can relate to or identify with. That's a joy, for me. I love the process. Getting the ideas out and having those 'ah-ha' moments and figuring out plot lines and story arcs. These are all sources of joy.
What are you working on next?
More Hilford Chronicles! I've got a short story coming out soon, as a prequel. There's another novel in the works right now. I hope to publish it by the end of summer 2017.
Published 2017-06-25.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Hilfords Chronicles: The Witches of Blackthorn
Series: Hilfords Chronicles. Price: $3.99 $2.24 USD. (44% off until Dec. 30!) Words: 68,240. Language: English. Published: June 16, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » General, Fiction » Fantasy » Epic
The dead are piling up in Blackthorn. An odd ritual ties them together. Fear and hysteria spark a witch-hunt. With so many possible suspects, Ezren and Van must figure out who’s telling the truth and who has something to hide. With the help of friends, new and old, Ezren and Van seek the truth in a town that hides it well. Hedge-mages, healers, and politicians complicate matters.
Hilfords Chronicles: The Black Powder Incident
Series: Hilfords Chronicles. Price: $0.99 USD. (Free until Dec. 30!) Words: 12,730. Language: English. Published: July 11, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Young adult or teen » Fantasy, Fiction » Mystery & detective » Amateur sleuth
When a bedraggled girl steps out of the forest, plans for a leisurely day are ruined. Thanks to the talking fox, Ezren and Van get sucked into the hunt for a mysterious black carriage. Captain Torvik links abductions to the well-guarded opium den in Mirinol. Everything ends with a bang. The scholars’ lives will never be the same.
Hilfords Chronicles: The Hunters from Grey Hills
Series: Hilfords Chronicles. Price: $2.99 $1.79 USD. (40% off until Dec. 30!) Words: 75,630. Language: English. Published: June 25, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic, Fiction » Fantasy » Epic
Ezren and Van find themselves in the middle of an investigation when an acquaintance is murdered in an alley. Solving mysteries in a place where magic has gone wonky is dangerous business. It’s clear that no one is safe when the murderer turns out to be a beast. Many questions arise, but is there time to sort it out before more people die?