MY INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR A.F. STEWART⚓️
What’s your name and what genre would you consider your books to be?
My name is Anita Stewart, I write under the name A. F. Stewart and my books come in three genres: fantasy, horror and poetry.
Tell me about your book. How did you come up with that (story, angle, idea)?
My latest book, Ghosts of the Sea Moon, is a sea-faring fantasy about dysfunctional gods, monsters, and ghosts, based on a flash fiction story I wrote for a contest. The original idea, and the themes I expanded in the book, are rooted in folklore, tales of ghost ships, and in Greek mythology.
The initial story was inspired by Charon, the Greek ferryman of the dead and the story of the Flying Dutchman, and told the tale of a magical, ghostly ship navigating waters sprinkled with moon magic. For the book, I kept the idea of the ship ferrying souls, threw in some gods and living crew, and some sea monsters. Instead of mystical moon magic as an adversary, I added a slightly insane Moon Goddess and a mysterious Nightmare Crow.
How did you get interested in writing this particular genre (historical novels, mysteries, sci-fi, children’s books, etc.)?
I have always loved fantasy, so it seemed natural to gravitate towards that genre as a writer. It speaks to me if you will.
What kind of research did you do for this book?
I did quite a bit of nautical research for Ghosts, about how tall ships moved, their speed, how they docked, types of masts, sails, etc. I also did some research into marine animals as well, for their swimming speeds and attributes to create my sea monsters. Plus, I brushed up on my Greek mythology.
Can you tell me about your Series?
It is an epic fantasy series called Saga of the Outer Islands that incorporates my love of the sea, with my love of folklore, ghost stories and mythology. The gods in the series are inspired by Greek myth, but the sea-faring aspects are inspired by the Horatio Hornblower books and also British naval history. The series follows the adventures of the ship the Celestial Jewel, its crew, and its captain, Rafe Morrow. Throughout the series,they deal with sea monsters and other assorted creatures, a mad goddess, a hungry, corpse-eating beast, witches, pirates, and a diabolical Crow.
Do you have a favorite book out of this series?
Well, there is only a short story and book one published yet, although book two is written and should be out by July/August. However, while book three may still be in the planning stages, I think it will be my favourite. I mean it’s going to have undead pirates sailing around wreaking havoc. You can’t get better than that.
Where did you get the inspiration/idea for your series?
Book one, as I said, started out as a piece of short fiction, but part of my inspiration was a photo of ship and sea in front of a giant moon. That began the idea of this ship of ghosts and men roaming the seas. The second book in the series came about by combining the Cthulhu mythos and the myth of Jason and the Argonauts (with the walking skeletons directly inspired by Ray Harryhausen). For book three, well you cannot have a good nautical fantasy without pirates, and I just twisted it a bit by making them undead pirates.
Was it always meant to become a series?
No. Originally Ghosts of the Sea Moon was to be a short story, but it kept growing and growing. First, into a novella, then novel and finally a series. It has also spawned ideas for a secondary series, two prequels books, and a couple of short stories.
LWhat’s a typical working day like for you? When and where do you write? Do you set a daily writing goal?
A typical working day for me is check the emails and notifications, and get any marketing for the day out of the way first, as I do my best writing in the late afternoon or early evening (or even nearer to midnight if my fickle muse has decided to keep me up again). I have a cluttered home office where I write at the computer, although sometimes I like to take a notebook and scribble away longhand. I try to set a daily writing goal (and I did quite well at that in November for NaNoWriMo), but alas life often comes along and screws things up.
Do you have a new book in the making and if so, what’s the name of your upcoming book?
I am currently editing book two in the Outer Islands series, Souls of the Dark Sea, and writing book three, Renegades of the Lost Sea. I am also working on a series history for the books, and planning the secondary series in that world, Tales of the Seven Kingdoms.
How important are character names to you in your books? Is there a special meaning to any of the names?
It will depend on the story or book, but I do like to give characters names that somehow relate to their personality or the storyline. For instance, in the Saga of the Outer Islands, one of the characters is named Cylla, a nod to Scylla and Charybdis from Greek myth. I also sometimes sneak in a little homage to things I like (I once used the last name Winchester for a character who made a deal with the devil, a sneaky wink to my love of the TV show Supernatural)
Where do your ideas come from?
I wish I could answer and sound very wise and literary, but I honestly have no clue. Things pop in my head triggered by random stuff, and the next thing I know I’mscribbling down ideas.
Is there a genre that you’ve been wanting to experiment with?
I would love to write a mystery novel one day, but so far most of my efforts keep ending up as fantasy stories.
What is the hardest part of writing for you?
Those daily writing goals and getting the first draft written. Some days you just want to go, “screw it” and stare at cat videos. But I get it done. Eventually.
What do you think of book trailers? Do you have a trailer or do you intend to create one for your own book?
I love book trailers. I make my own for each of my books, and a few for some short stories I wrote. They are all posted on my YouTube channel.
What do you consider to be your best accomplishment?
Book-wise, I would say my dark fantasy novella, Ruined City. Actually getting the premise of the book (twelve interconnected short stories telling one plotline) to work was quite a feat.
What’s the best thing about being an author?
Holding a finished book in your hand and knowing you have a completed story. It is a lovely feeling.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Still writing I hope, with many more books and series on my published shelf.
Have you always liked to write?
I think so. I’ve always written poems and stories and silly bits since I was young. And even before I learned to write I was making up strange and weird stories. At least that’swhat my family tells me.
What writing advice do you have for aspiring authors?
My advice would be to have patience and always, always edit your first draft. There will mistakes and re-writes and a learning curve. The one thing writers need most is the ability to keep evolving.
If you didn’t like writing books, or weren’t any good at it, what would you like to do for a living?
I would love to be an artist. I love drawing and designing.
Do you read reviews of your book(s)? Do you respond to them, good or bad? How do you deal with the bad?
I do read my reviews. A good review can cheer your day, and with the bad ones, I take the philosophy that you can’t please everyone. Plus, bad reviews keep my ego in check. What I don’t do, though, is respond to them. Reviews can be useful for an author to gauge what readers love or hate, but I don’t think they should be a forum for debate.
What is your least favorite part of the writing / publishing process?
Marketing. It’s a constant juggling act to find what works and what doesn’t in order to find new readers.
What are you working on now?
Besides the Saga of the Outer Islands series, I also have another fantasy series in the works, The Camelot Immortals, based on Arthurian Legend. Those wacky characters have a short story out, Grail Days, that was published in the anthology, Legends and Loreand I am re-working their first adventure, Legendary Debts to release as a free short story.
Can you give us a few tasty morsels from your work-in-progress?
Here is a snippet from Souls of the Dark Sea, Book Two of Saga of the Outer Islands.
Hugh led Rafe along the beach, southwest, to a small secluded cove. The moonlight reflected off the still sea and silence. Not even the wind blew and the still air only enhanced the quiet. When Hugh spoke, his voice echoed like a drumbeat of thunder.
“They’ll know we’ve arrived, and will show themselves in a moment.” He fidgeted, before adding, “They’re from the Island of Stone and Ruins Key, so be prepared.”
As the last word left his mouth, the sea beyond the cove rolled and heaved and three stone giants rose from the water. Rafe stared at the bipedal creatures made of red and grey rock, feeling something akin to awe and fear. Each possessed two arms and a head, but no visible eyes. That oddity caused a shiver to race up Rafe’s spine. Together, they opened their mouths and clacked the stone teeth within. From the ocean sprung five flying, hissing serpents, who lashed their tails and wings.
“Is he the one?” The voice of the stone giants rumbled, shaking the air around Rafe and Hugh.
Why did you choose to write in your genre? If you write in more than one, how do you balance them?
As I mentioned, fantasy is just natural fit for me, and I’ve been writing poetry since I was a kid. My horror writing, however, came by accident. I was trying break a writing block and wrote a horror story to shake up my muse. Turns out I liked it, and I had a certain talent for writing on the dark side.
Balancing them is fairly easy, as there is crossover between my fantasy and horror stories with supernatural elements in both. I also write quite a bit of fantasy, sci-fi, and horror poetry, so again much the same mindset.
Where did your love of books come from?
I don’t know, I’ve simply always loved books. Maybe I was born with it.
Do you have any favorite authors or favorite books?
Of course. My favourite authors are Ray Bradbury, Neil Gaiman, and Guy Gavriel Kay. I love The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman and the Sarantine Mosaic duology by Guy Gavriel Kay is exquisite. And no one can write a short story quite like Ray Bradbury.
Of all the characters you have created, which is your favorite and why?
I’m rather partial to Nimue from my Camelot Immortals series. She is a witch that is part kickass, part grumpy hermit and so fun to write.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
I’d say it energizes me. I love diving into my worlds and crafting their stories. Sometimes it can be frustrating, but mostly fun and invigorating.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Writing romance or romantic scenes. I never feel at ease writing love scenes. It seems to me, whether it’s true or not, like I go right for the cliché. I definitely have to work to get those types of scenes right.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I just write the stories that spill out of my head. And try to write them well. I can only hope it is what the readers want.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I have a large circle of authors I hang with. They are great for help when I need a sounding bound, marketing advice or feedback on something. Some of my cadre includeHeidi Angell, Rebekah Jonesy, Joe Compton, Nina D’Arcangela, and Angela Yuriko Smith.
If you were writing a book about your life, what would the title be?
She Spoke Softly… and Wrote With Blood.
Where can your fans find you and follow??
I lurk over on Twitter quite a bit: https://twitter.com/scribe77
And I have a fan group on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/348788975590362/
Or they can check out my website’s social media page for all my sites:https://afallonblog.wordpress.com/social-media-sites/