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Learn 5 Tips For Fellow Writers & Details About Award-Winning Fantasy and Sci-Fi Author W.A. Simpson

W.A. Simpson is an award-winning author of Fantasy & Sci-Fi books. She’s enjoyed the position of top 100 on the Amazon best-seller list in Black & African American Fantasy Fiction. In the interview below, she’ll share about her experience writing and also provides five tips for fellow writers…

Wendy Shepherd: W.A. Simpson, you’ve written several fantasy books, including “Tinderbox,” “Tarotmancer,” and soon, “The Hatter’s Daughter,” all as part of the “Tales of the Riven Isles” book series. I’d love for you to share with readers a deeper understanding of your work, the creative process behind it, and some tips for fellow writers.

W.A. SimpsonW. A. Simpson: Oh, those are quite a few questions. I’ll try my very best to answer. With the Tales from the Riven Isles, starting with a Tinderbox, is based on the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale The Tinderbox which started with a question. “What happened after the soldier murdered his way to the top?” There were no consequences to his actions. He came off more like a villain than anything. To understand this better, I highly recommend doing so if you’re unfamiliar with the original story. Maybe the witch had a relative? Someone who cared about them? Who came home from a long journey and found the grandmother dead and vowed to avenge her? That is how Tales came to be. It’s my love for old folklore stories and fairy tales.

Now, Tarotmancer is based on the Reynard the Fox fable by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. The question was, “What if Reynard faces the consequences of all the pranks he played on friends and family?”

Of course, with The Hatter’s Daughter, it is based on Alice in Wonderland. However, Alice is not the protagonist but a young woman, Faith, adopted by the Mad Hatter. The Riven Isles is a place of fables and fairy tales, although not the usual ones that you see.

I enjoy going outside of the box; so, for example, there is an area called The Pipers Keys and another city called Jack in Irons, which has a twofold background—it’s thought to be the name of the Giant or Jack himself. And, of course, the Celestial Vine is from the same story, so I wondered if all these fables came together, and I just tweaked the stories so that they’re not just retelling the whole old fairy tales, but they become different fables.

W.S.: Would you like to share details about yourself and your book series? How did you start your journey as an author? Was there anyone that supported you?

W.A.S.: I started at the tender age of five, as I’ve said many times before. I’ve always had a love for books and reading when I was little. I would write stories on whatever scratch paper I could find in the house, and one day, a friend of the family — I called her Aunt Janice — who saw what I was doing, brought me this little typewriter, and I used that, or I dictated my stories on an old tape recorder–Google it, young people—which included Star Trek: TOS parody stories which my brother found hilarious. I’m a fan now, but it wasn’t back then, and he always wanted to watch Trek when I wanted to watch cartoons. Now, one of the many things I would like to do is write for Star Trek: Lower Decks. But back to the subject at hand.

I had two English teachers who got me on my way. The first, whose name I can’t recall because she was a sub, gave us a writing prompt, and I had so many ideas. She said, “Wendy’s gonna be a writer.” I thought, you know, I wouldn’t mind trying. I wrote my first book at fourteen, a young adult mystery, at the suggestion of my grandmother, who raised me. One day, I was standing in the lunch line, and a classmate of mine ran up to me and pressed this little piece of paper in my hand. When I opened it, it was an ad for this publisher. Unfortunately, said publisher turned out to be not very reputable. It didn’t work out. I kept writing mysteries for several years until, in another English class, my teacher, Mrs. Kolcum — who I so wish I could see her and thank her for everything she did for me. She assigned a list of words at the end of the week and allowed students to either write sentences with the words or write them in the story, so of course, I chose the story route. But she didn’t stop there. She helped me to improve my craft, beta read my stories, and gave them to her husband, who was a University of Delaware English Literature professor who would look all over my work and correct and make suggestions. I kept at it, but then life as it does got in the way, and it was a while before I wrote again, but that’s a whole other story.

But to answer the other question, my greatest supporters are my Big Brother Lance and my good friend and soul sister Kelly Rifle. They stayed with me through all the tough times and convinced me not to quit. I’ll always appreciate them.

W.S.: Can you share more about your two cats, Cinnamon and Spice? How long have you had your writing cuddle buddies, and why did you choose their names?

W.A.S.: Cinnamon is the male, and he is very sociable. When people come to the door, he’s there. The thing is, he likes to nip! It’s not malicious; it’s just like him saying, “Oh hi, welcome to my house. Let me introduce myself by biting you.”

Spice is the shy one. She’s usually quiet, and she loves to cuddle at night, though Cinnamon always tries to get me to pay him attention when I’m trying to sleep.

I didn’t choose their names. They are rescues from the Faithful Friends, a no-kill shelter here in Delaware.

W.S.: Family is the most important. Do you ever tie in your real-life family experiences into stories, or do you keep that world completely separate?

W.A.S.: I like to keep my family and life separate. My point for writing fantasy is to step away from real life and from the day-to-day grind. It’s about losing yourself in a good story and just getting your mind off what’s going on around you. I will say that I have a work in progress that’s going to have characters based on myself and my brother Lance. We’re kind of like a mercenary duo.

W.S.: What inspired you to create the “Tales of Riven Isles?” how long did it take you to write the books, and what is the basis of the story?

W.A.S.: As previously mentioned, the inspiration for Tales of the Riven Isles came from questions. There are many fantastic books about popular fairy tales like Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty. They are great, but I like to go off the grid a little for the stories that don’t have as much attention. Tinderbox took five years. I started after a time that I call my writing defeat. I had written a young adult novel that was going to be a series, and unfortunately, I got involved with a scam publisher. That was a big fiasco that ended in me being so disappointed and disheartened that I stopped writing for two full years. But a true writer can never truly quit. I asked the question. Tarotmancer took me about six months before I was on a deadline. The Hatter’s Daughter is currently in the same state, so I’m hoping to complete that by the end of this year or the beginning of next year.

W.S.: Did you plan to write a whole series at first, or did you start with just making one book to see if they would be well received first?

W.A.S.: I always planned this to be a series, although at first, I wanted to see if I could get Tinderbox published before starting anything else. Flame Tree Press bought Tinderbox and Tarotmancer on proposal. So, I was like, OK, I’m gonna do this. It’s actually going to be a quartet with The Hatter’s Daughter; there’s going to be a fourth book, tentatively titled Steeldriver, based on the John Henry fable. I haven’t gotten the go-ahead for it yet, so fingers and toes crossed, and if you’d like to see that fourth book come to life, let Flame Tree know! Nicely, that is. Consider this an actual call to action to say that you want to see the fourth and final book in the Riven Isles.

W.S.: Can you describe your favorite characters from the series and how they resonate with you?

W.A.S.: I love all my characters, but if I really had to choose a favorite, it would be Isbet because she is the foremost protagonist who basically introduced the series to the world, and she resonates with me because she is very strong-willed, independent, yet kind and compassionate.

W.S.: Who inspires you, and what is a typical writing routine for you? How do you keep inspired to write creatively?

W.A.S.: I can say the inspiration for my decision to write speculative fiction would be Ray Bradbury. His stories are the main reason I switched from mystery because I found I liked it much better. One of the things that writers have to be careful of is waiting for inspiration or for their muse because if you do that, you’re never going to get anything done; although if I feel like I’m having a rough time, I may step back for a little while, and maybe listen to some inspiring music or movies. And anything by Hayao Miyazaki! If I could write like him or write with him, then the world would be just perfect. I don’t really have a writing routine, but if I must answer the question, I enjoy writing in the evening, late at night, and into early morning. I’m not a morning person, plus I have a nine-to-five, so I get little writing done in the daytime, anyway.

W.S.: How do you overcome writing challenges (including writer’s block, real-world events, illness, etc.)? Does it matter where you write? Do you always write at a certain place? Can you give five tips to help fellow writers?

W.A.S.: Really, I couldn’t tell you how I overcame writer’s block. Sometimes, I just have to let it run its course, and eventually, I get back into the groove. Now, with real-world events, I don’t believe in just ignoring things like that, but at times, if I feel like I’m getting drawn too deeply, and it’s affecting my mood, then I’ll just kind of move away from that kind of information or news or whatever is out there.

Now, for illness, I don’t know if you’re aware I am a breast cancer warrior. I’ve had it twice, and it was just very difficult to write because you are just so exhausted, and all you want to do is sleep, or you’re in pain, and that just keeps you from doing it, so really when I’m ill, I just work on taking care of myself because it’s easier to write when you’re at the very least ninety-nine percent. Usually, I write in my home office. If I want to get out, I will go to Barnes and Noble or a café somewhere.

As for five tips for fellow writers:

  1. Don’t give up!
  2. Write for yourself first and then for others.
  3. Do not, under any circumstances, listen to bad advice. For example, the worst advice I ever got was to read other famous people’s work and then copy their style. You’ll never do it, and it’ll just drive you crazy. Develop your own style.
  4. Research everything! Publishers, agents, editors, and so on. Make sure you’re not getting into a situation that’s going to discourage you.
  5. Have an online presence! Don’t let anyone convince you that you don’t need one; you do! Have a website or a blog. And you don’t have to get on every social media platform, but at least get on the more popular ones. I’m pretty much everywhere.

W.S.: Can you share any details about your upcoming book “The Hatter’s Daughter” and when readers may expect its release?

W.A.S.: I am currently working on The Hatter’s Daughter so I really can’t say when it will be out, possibly sometime in 2024 if everything goes well. For more information, here is the blurb I wrote:

There is more to the Vine than mortals and immortals know. It reaches its branches and tendrils into realms beyond the Riven Isles.

On the night Faith was born, a fire raged, and her mother perished, but not before sending Faith to safety, to a place of legend, deep in Underneath. Discovered by The Mad Hatter, he takes Faith home and raises her as his own. On her 21st birthday, the Rot invaders, and Faith is determined to save her home. She won’t do it alone. Sent by the Queen and King of Hearts, Prince Rowan accompanies her.

Now Faith must return to her birthplace to find a woman who has become a near legend in her world. But Overland is full of avarice and deceit, and the minions of the Rot are in pursuit. And if they find the Legendary Heroine, will she have the key to saving them all? If she doesn’t, the minions of the Rot will destroy everything they know, leaving them adrift in a world not their own.

W.S.: For “Tales of the Riven Isles,” do you plan to release the series through other media avenues such as television?

W.A.S.: I would love to have an anime series done! However, I really don’t control whether that will happen. I’m not self-published, but if someone offers me a series, I will grab onto it. Whenever you’re ready Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, or whomever — I’ll be here waiting.

W.S.: Thank you! It was a pleasure talking with you.

You can find out more details about where to purchase her books here…

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