- Where did the idea of a magical vault come from?
The idea for the witching vault itself was actually sparked from something else I’d written into a completely different series for one of my clients. I’m also a ghostwriter, which is where I discovered my penchant for Urban Fantasy, which I never expected to be writing myself. We finished this series, and I liked the idea of a magical bank so much that I pitched it to this client when we were brainstorming new ideas. They didn’t want it, so I kept it for myself! As the idea grew in the back of my mind, it did of course change completely from its original spark. And then Jessica Northwood was born, and I had to figure out a way to get her in that vault!
2. Jessica is a rough and tough character, was she inspired by anyone you know or respect?
Jessica Northwood was inspired a little bit by another Jessica, as it turns out: Marvel’s Jessica Jones. I wanted the same dark, rough-around-the-edges, potentially redeemable feel in this character, and I fell in love with Netflix’s ‘Jessica Jones’ series. The rest of my Jessica in the Accessory to Magic series pretty much just draws from my own direct experiences in life (which oddly enough happens more and more with each new series, and it still isn’t particularly intentional at first). I haven’t been to prison, but I have been to jail and rehab and a state-funded program for first-time drug offenders in active addiction (and all right here in Colorado, where the Accessory to Magic series is set).
I know what it’s like to bounce around from job to menial job, using temp agencies, unable to keep something that really sticks or ever feels like it fulfills anything beyond living paycheck to paycheck. I know what it’s like to stuff the darker parts of myself away and lock them up purely out of fear of what it would do to me and others around me – like it had in my past (whereas Jessica stripped half her magic and put it in a box for eighteen months, I didn’t touch a word of fiction for four years after I started the process of “rehabilitating”). The toughness that Jessica displays on the outside is the toughness I’ve learned to harness on the inside. The rest, I think, is just about making her character raw, real, “human” (she is a witch), and bad-ass for fun. She says everything I wish I could say out loud in the moment but have too much a conscience to express.
- I loved the fact that there are lots of different races that have a lot of detail in the book – which is your favourite?
I think so far, the favourite race I’ve written into this series are the changelings. They can morph their extremities (and sometimes their own appearance) into literally anything. We see one of them in the chaotic battle in the bank at the end of The Witching Vault turning her hand into a knife and… well, things get bloody. Just the way I like them.
As I’m finishing up the writing of Book 3 in the series right now, I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to get to explore this race even more (hint: one of Jessica’s old “friends” is a changeling himself).
And okay, maybe there’s a tie here between the changelings and the Umbál, who are definitely one of those races you don’t want to mess with. They exist on multiple planes of existence at the same time, and while they’re ridiculously deadly in a fight, they “tap out” of their powers fairly quickly. (Yep, there’s one in the battle at the end of The Witching Vault, and also one in Jessica’s group of friends from back in her days of organized crime.)
4. There feels like there could be so much more to this world, would you consider publishing a book that details all the different species, races and the magical trinkets from Jessica’s magical world?
I honestly prefer to dive into the world-building, races, artifacts, magic systems, etc. within the pages of the book. Personally, I’ve never had an interest myself in reading a “detailed glossary” of other authors’ worlds describing the same. I would much rather discover it as I’m immersed in the story with the characters, because that’s where it comes to life for me. That’s where I hope it comes to life for my readers too, because I’m discovering all these things along the way as I’m writing out Jessica’s chaotic story. That’s part of the mystery too, for Jessica and for me and readers as we all go through the journey together.
I always aim to weave everything of importance into the story itself, when the time is right. Everything readers need to know is right there in the pages, and the rest can be left up to the imagination. I can entirely admit that even I don’t know everything about this magical world Jessica inhabits, and trying to write it all down outside of the story feels like a rather insurmountable task.
5. What techniques do you use to be able to write up a world that has such consistent world building?
I think I may have just answered the first half of this question with my last answer. I’m always pulling in these new details as I go along, expanding the world as I know it through Jessica’s eyes and what she experiences. On a more technical level, I do use a “series bible” for every series I write. It includes names, dates, locations, very brief descriptions of races, and all the tiny details we see again and again throughout the books to help flesh out this world. So I both refer to that and add to it as I write each new book in the series, and that keeps my facts and details straight. But it would be completely illegible to anyone else who saw it, being written in my own form of “author shorthand”. I know how the pieces fit together in my head, and it’s my job to show my readers how they fit together within the pages.
6. The description of the Vault is really detailed, how do you write up something with this much detail?
I just… write it. I know that’s not a very satisfying answer, and I wish I had better tips to share when it comes to writing detailed and vivid description that isn’t overdone or boring. I guess I can chalk it up to how much reading I do on my own and how varied the genres and writing styles are in my long list of past reads. There are many books out there with what I consider to be too much detailed description, as well as those I feel just don’t have enough. For me, the sweet spot is in the middle, and I’m a firm believer in the ideology that “less is more.” I choose my words very carefully with descriptions to get across exactly what I see in my head in as few words as possible. Maybe that’s the trick.
7. Which character did you enjoy writing up the most?
Tabitha Belmont, by a landslide, was my absolute favorite character to write in ‘The Witching Vault’. The scryer witch – with the ability to see the future in various forms – is the current owner of Winthrop & Dirledge Security Banking when Jessica first arrives to apply for that “apprenticeship”. She’s been the owner for fifty years, going through the motions, fulfilling her duty with running the transactions in the witching vault and protecting the Gateway. And she also comes across as completely insane. A lot of that comes from her ability to see the future; I’ve always felt that kind of prescience, or knowledge of what’s coming, needs to have a counterbalance in any genre. So with Tabitha, while she knows exactly what’s going to happen (in bits and pieces), she comes across as more or less of a complete nutcase because of it. And people in this world are far less likely to really listen to someone who sounds like they’ve lost their mind.
Tabitha’s hilarious. Her surety and her foibles were so much fun, especially when she expresses her wisdom as humor. For someone who can see the future and read others’ pasts just through a brief touch, why in the world would the everyday mundane things carry any importance whatsoever? She’s got her head in the clouds, or so it seems, but she’s also immensely powerful. And she did everything she could to prepare Jessica for the responsibilities ahead (though with only two days to do it, it wasn’t much).
The bank was (and still is) another character I enjoy so much for the very same reason, and yes, there are limitations on what the bank itself knows and what it can share with Jessica. Because it was, in fact, created, and not everything inside the bank is a part of the bank or even fully understood by the bank. And through writing Jessica’s interactions with the sentient building for which she suddenly becomes responsible, I hoped to also reveal to readers a little bit more of why Tabitha seemed so crazy in the first place. Living and working inside a sentient building with a serious attitude would make anyone a little nuts.
8. Getting advertising, publishing sorted is a lot of work, let alone the writing – how do you find the time?
Fortunately, I have an incredible team of industry professionals in my corner who handle all this for me. It wasn’t always that way. I started my career as an Indie Author doing everything myself, which I definitely recommend for others starting out on their own journey. I learned so much in the first five years about all aspects of the publishing, marketing, and advertising side of putting out new work. Most importantly, I learned that while I can do it all on my own, I just don’t want to anymore.
That was a huge lesson for me – that what I needed to spend my time and focus on was the actual writing of my books, planning of the next ones to come, and interacting with my fans. Without a doubt, my superpower is writing. 100%. And I’ve found an incredible team of people who handle all the other technical aspects as well as I could, and most of the time they do it better than I ever could have. It frees me up to focus on the writing, though it took five years for me to work my way up to being able to invest in my books and my business this way. But already with the launch of The Witching Vault and The Cursed Fae (Book 2) on January 18th, I can say without a doubt that it’s been more than worth it.
Being an author doesn’t have to necessarily be a sequestered and completely solo endeavor. Neither does being an Indie Author. It just takes time to find the right fit and the right processes. I know I’ve got the writing down, and I know my team handles everything else with masterful precision, because that’s their superpower too.
9. Do you have any pearls of wisdom for some of our more fresh writers?
Just keep writing. Don’t worry about the ‘nitty-gritty’ details until that first draft is finished. Don’t worry about “what comes next” until it’s actually time to do what comes next. As of right now, I’ve written a total of 81 books in the last five years (75 of them since 2019). And the only way I’ve managed to do that is by taking it one step at a time. Getting the first draft pumped out as quickly and efficiently as I can so I can go back through and worry about “the details” later. Of course, it’s a balancing act between my ghostwriting work and my own books, so this next piece of advice may be even more important, if not paramount. I’m still learning how to navigate this myself:
Prioritize your writing. Put that “soul work” that’s screaming out to be written and shared first on your list – before chores, before the day job, before family and friend obligations. All of it. I’m not saying to abandon all other responsibilities. That would make me the worst advice-giver in the world! But what I mean is there’s a difference between “finding the time” to write and making the time.
There was a point in my life where I put off writing anything for four years because I’d convinced myself “it wasn’t important” (and this was long before I wrote fiction full-time for a living). Then, after having a kid, I made the commitment to myself to write 1,500 words a day every weekday, no matter what, because I knew that if I didn’t prioritize that, I’d let everything else become “more important” and would never write again. I started waking up at 3:30 a.m. every day just to get that writing time in, because there wasn’t any during the day with my husband at work and a one-year-old to care for. And as circumstances changed, I was able to make more and more time for myself to prioritize writing.
Even now, the first thing I do every single morning when I start my workday is to write my own books first for an hour before jumping into anything for any of my clients. Because then it’s done. I’ve made the time, I’ve prioritized my “soul work” books that are screaming to be written out, and I can move on with everything else for the day. Even when, for now, my own books don’t “pay the bills” like my ghostwriting work. But if I don’t prioritize my writing, I’ll never get it done. I’ve learned that the hard way for sure.
10. What is next on the horizon for you, project wise?
Well, I’ve got the last of Book 3 in the Accessory to Magic series, The Secret Coin, to finish up here in the next week or two. That will be out on March 4th, 2021. Then I’ll slide right into Books 4 and 5.
Right now, the series is slated for 5 books and will be completed and published by the end of May. After that, I’ll be diving back into my LGBTQ+ Dystopian Sci-Fi series Blue Helix for the third book in that series. Completely different from Accessory to Magic but no less exciting. And then I have some seriously fun, seriously dark new Urban Fantasy series I’ll be bringing to the table in the second half of 2021, so buckle up! There will be demons…