Our #IndieHero for today is Shaina Krevat, author of "Tales of Mundane Magic". Shaina is a terrific author of short stories, and has a brilliant website which showcases her writing. She also offers writing advice! What a fabulous IndieHero to have on our blog!
Make sure you check out the links at the bottom of the page, after reading the interview.
Make sure you check out the links at the bottom of the page, after reading the interview.
Tales of Mundane Magic
Nothing too strange ever happens to Gertie and Bridget Mallon. The sisters don’t have magical adventures fighting off dark lords or saving the world. Gertie spends her time learning the skill of enchantment, and Bridget has the ability to see things no one else can see with her left eye, which was bewitched in an accident many years ago. Sure, they attend Flories Boarding School, where Gertie takes a potions class and Bridget plays basketball, and the occasional magical anomaly takes place, but who doesn’t deal with the occasional poltergeist or curse?Life is relatively calm for the Mallon sisters, but things might not be quite as mundane as they appear.
1. I noticed that you have published a successful book of magical short stories. Personally, I find short stories very difficult to write, but there are tons of competitions for them. Do you have any tips on how to write a successful short story?
I created my modern fantasy collection of short stories, Tales of Mundane Magic, as a way to get back into the swing of writing after taking a year long hiatus from writing novels. To me, short stories force you to condense all of your writing skills. You have to make decisions about elements you want to keep. You have to focus on one plot, a handful of characters, and include only the most important components to get your point across.
What helped me to do that was choosing one snapshot to explore. “Gertie and Bridget go to the beach”, for example, started with considering how sea monsters would exist in a modern world, which could be a novel-encompassing idea. But in the short story, I showed one example of how it would work.
2. You wrote a very helpful blog post about how to self-publish a book. We’re huge fans of self-publishing at Crowvus! Would you share your top five favourite things about self-publishing?
I’m glad you enjoyed my blog post! I find it really helpful to refer back to it with each new volume I publish. Some of my favorite things about self-publishing include:
- The lack of gatekeeping - Getting two (soon to be three!) collections of short stories published as an unknown author would be impossible through traditional publishing. Because I self-published, these stories that I love are out in the world and people have been reading them and enjoying them, which feels incredible.
- Adding to my skillset - I’m someone who loves adding to my metaphorical toolbox. I’ve done acting, singing, set building, photoshopping, sewing, and more. With self-publishing I’ve been able to pick up marketing, talent scouting (finding a cover artist isn’t always easy), communication, interviewing, and a whole host of other skills.
- Being able to collaborate with my cover artist - People judge a book by its cover, and when you’re self-published, you get to have a hand in what they see. I’ve had incredible experiences with my cover artists, communicating back and forth about ideas and requirements and edits. With traditional publishing, more often than not you’re simply handed a cover.
I actually have a story that highlights this perfectly. One of my traditionally published friends had written her book, her publishing company’s editor had gone over it, and then my friend was shown her cover. There was a prominent cat on it.
“But there isn’t a cat in my book,” she said.
“Oh yeah,” her editor replied. “You have to add a cat.”
That wouldn’t happen in self-publishing.
- The flexibility - Writing is my second job, but I do have a very demanding full time day job. Some days I come home from work brimming with energy and ready to tackle the next scene in my murder mystery, or write an outline for a new Tale of Mundane Magic, but some days I really need to give myself a break. With self-publishing, I don’t have deadlines that others have set for me. I have the freedom to give myself time, maybe change around some deadlines, and know I’ll be able to make it work.
- The self-published community - I’m sure there is also a lovely traditional publishing community, but the indie writing community is so encouraging and really wants to lift each other up. We all know the struggle, and we’re all entrepreneurs trying to get our books out there. I’m really lucky to have made some great writing friends through self-publishing, and I hope to make more!
3. For many self-published authors, the world of speaking events is far off! I noticed you have done these events before. What advice would you give to authors on how to get a speaking engagement?
Speaking engagements are one of those things that you get as a culmination of a lot of work and relationship development. To start with, build up the essential skills. Learn public speaking, and how to structure a talk. AuthorTube, the author section of YouTube, is rife with advice content that you can look to for inspiration, and you could build your own platform by uploading your own videos/talks. The more you practice “public” speaking (even if it’s just to a camera), the better at it you’ll be. And if you film your talks, it’s possible people will discover them and want to invite you to events.
Next, put yourself out there. No event is too small for you. Once you have the skillset, see if your public library would be interested in hosting an event. Maybe your local indie bookstore that you frequent would be interested - I was shopping at my local bookstore and mentioned to the manager that I was a self-published author and he immediately invited me to give a talk (unfortunately this was just before I moved, but I would have taken him up on it!) Have a friend film your talk and put it (or just the highlights) on your website.
Go to conferences that interest you. Meet the people in charge. Like most networking, don’t just go for “Can I speak next year?” or “Read my book!”, but appreciate the work that they’ve done. Maybe you can volunteer to help. Make a professional relationship, and maybe someday they’ll see your website and all the videos you’ve done and they’ll think - hey, I should invite them to speak!
4. What genre of books do you enjoy reading, and what is your favourite book?
I really enjoy reading fantasy novels, but (much like my varied taste in music) I like reading anything that’s well-written, has compelling characters, a good plot, and teaches me something new about writing. I have a lot of trouble turning off the analytical side of my brain, so I also really enjoy reading (or watching videos on YouTube about) analysis of others’ writing.
My favorite book is still Lady Knight in the Protector of the Small series by Tamora Pierce. Protector of the Small was the first series I read as a kid that made me understand reading for more than just schoolwork. Lady Knight, the last book in the series, is this incredible culmination of everything that came before it. The series is one that I re-read every couple of years, and learn more and more from it every time.
5. So, you’ve been writing since you were twelve! Do you ever go back over your stories from that time and read through them? Would you ever like to rewrite and publish one of those stories in the future?
Sometimes. Every once in a while I have to make sure I didn’t lose all of my old writing, and in doing so I end up reading some of it. There are some writings I’m still decently proud of, like some of the short stories I wrote in middle school that I was trying to be artistic with. I also recognize that a lot of the ideas I came up with - swords disguised as earrings in a fantasy novel, for example, or playing with the idea of an omnipotent narrator in a musical - were unique and interesting. But a lot of them were built on an immature understanding of the world, which makes it difficult to appreciate as an adult.
There are some past writings that I might be interested in revisiting. A book that a friend and I wrote together about a mysterious camp being invaded by wolves might be fun to explore again, but in general, I kind of do the Marie Kondo thing of thanking the writing for its service, and the fact that I learned from doing it, and then I set it aside.
6. I noticed you have a dog called Atlas! Why did you pick this name? I’m wondering if he looks all cute and splodgy like a world map? Or if it’s a reference to Greek myths?
I do love Greek mythology, so it is kind of a reference to the Titan - because my Atlas also carries my world on his shoulders ;) - but it is also a reference to the robot character Atlas from the videogame Portal 2. Long story short, my dad had meant to give me an Atlas (the robot) figurine for Christmas, but it didn’t work out. He really wanted to “get me Atlas”, but decided to take the money for the figurine and give it to me to adopt a dog. I named my dog Atlas, so he could “give me Atlas”.
Additionally, Atlas the robot only has one eye, and Atlas the dog does as well! So it works on a lot of levels.
7. What inspires you to write? Music? Nature? Other books?
All of the above! I often get my creative spark from going for walks, listening to music, starting to read a really good book, or watching a great movie or TV show.
In general, I’ll usually come up with a Tales of Mundane Magic idea because I’ll wonder how a magical society would handle a certain real-world problem, or I’ll wonder how a real-world problem would exist in a magical society. For example, Los Angeles had a huge heatwave in 2018, and I was walking Atlas and thinking about how hot it was, and I thought, “If I was Gertie, I would shrink myself down into a snowglobe and live there during all this.” And then I went home and wrote “Gertie and Bridget survive a heat wave” (out in Tales of Mundane Magic: Volume Four).
I absolutely loved that interview, thank you so much Shaina for participating! The only thing that makes me sad is that it stood in my inbox for a few days before I read it. I loved the info about your dog - what a fantastic reason to call him Atlas!
If, like me, you want to keep up-to-date with news from Shaina, or you'd like to buy her books, then please check out the links below:
Crowvus is currently looking for a blogger who would like to do a cover reveal for Virginia Crow's new thriller "Among These Dark Satanic Mills". The book is being published in September, so a reveal in June would be perfect.
Kevin gripped Jilly's coat and his voice became little more than a whisper.
"I'm cursed, Jilly. Everyone who looks after me dies in a fire, or someone they love does. I don't know how to stop it."
When Rev. Alistair Roberts adopts Kevin Alderman, he dismisses any reference to the boy's curse. But as the pair spend more time in one another's company, it becomes apparent that Kevin is not the only one with a bitter past.
If you're interested in being the only blog to do this cover reveal (yes, that's exclusive, folks!) then please get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org