I had the pleasure to chat with In Shadows We Fall author Devin Madson about her writing process and the world she’s created for the August edition of the Indie Author Spotlight.
Check out the interview below!
You’ll come to find throughout the course of the Indie Author Spotlight, that while I love multiple genres and sub-genres, my absolute favorite novels to read are fantasy. With an over-saturated self-published market, it can be difficult to weed out the bad from the good. So, I’ll be completely honest and say that I do judge a book by its cover. Sure, I may be missing out on some excellent works of fiction due to this step in my research process, but if a cover looks like it hasn’t been properly cared for, what might that say about the book itself?
When I saw the cover for Madson’s novella In Shadows We Fall, I knew that I needed to take the extra step and read the synopsis, which also did not disappoint:
You will die. Your children will die. The empire will burn.
Empress Li is out of favour at court. Foreign-born and past her prime, she is to be set aside. But she won’t go quietly. With nothing left to lose, Li will do anything to stop Emperor Lan signing a secret alliance that could tear the empire apart. Yet when her life is threatened, old mistakes come back to haunt her and only a three-year-old boy can change the course of history.
With everything at stake, could an innocent child be the best assassin?
How cool does that sound! Well, let me tell you, this story is awesome. Certainly a work of “Grimdark” fantasy fiction. For only a novella length, Madson is able to fully realize a dark, Asian-inspired fantasy setting with some of the most complex characters I’ve encountered in a long time. I cannot wait to dive into her other books, including “The Vengeance Trilogy” and We Ride the Storm – a current entrant in Mark Lawrence’s 4th annual Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (SPFBO).
Geeks of Doom: Devin, thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to chat with Geeks of Doom!
Devin Madson: And thank you so much for having me! Given my infamous Toddler of Doom, Geeks of Doom seems a very fitting place for me to hang out.
GoD: What does a typical day of writing look like for you? How about the writing process in general?
DM: Since I have to juggle writing with parenting I don’t have what you would call a typical writing day. Although at the moment I am very fortunate and able to get four hours uninterrupted writing time daily, when I used to only get 1-2 when the aforementioned Toddler of Doom was napping. Because of that, though, I learned to make the most of my time. The computer I write on isn’t connected to the internet and I often leave my phone in a different room so I can’t get distracted. I play the same selection of music every time I start and always have a cup of tea, as I find these little rituals help me switch my brain from parenting to writing.
GoD: What made you take the self-publishing route?
DM: A mixture of wanting full control, impatience, and wanting to learn everything I could about the production of a book from start to finish. I wanted to be able to build a brand on my own terms. I wanted to be able to choose my cover artist and my editor, and wanted to be able to write the stories that were important to me without having to care if they were marketable before all other considerations. And I wanted to be able to do all of it NOW. I write more than a book a year, so the slow production of traditional publishers also didn’t appeal to me.
GoD: What kind of success have you seen as a self-published author thus far?
DM: Both more and less than I thought when I started out. I’m a very optimistic dreamer and had barely had any contact with the industry at all when I published my first book, so I had big, glorious dreams. Don’t we all? We all want to be best sellers and sudden success stories. Naturally that didn’t happen, but I kept working hard and putting out books and have been growing the business (and it IS a business) ever since. I think the highlight of my career so far was winning the Aurealis Award for In Shadows We Fall. It was one of those rare moments that confirm you really are doing the right thing and just need to keep working.
GoD: Where did the inspiration for the world of Kisia come from?
DM: I didn’t really plan it, it just happened, so I can only guess in hindsight where the elements came from. All I knew was that I didn’t want to write a western medieval style fantasy setting, as much because there was enough of them out there already as because they tend to be ugly. If I was going to write about characters with poor moral compasses doing terrible things to other characters with poor moral compasses then I was going to juxtapose that against beauty, not more ugliness. There is something I’ve always particularly loved about the Asian aesthetic – silk robes, fine carving, paper screens and lanterns and blossoming trees. The perfect, artistic backdrop for a lot of bloodshed.
But Kisia isn’t just a mash-up of a whole load of things I love, it’s also a whole load of things I hate. Humidity, snow, drenching rain, bad smells and patriarchy. Like I said, juxtaposition. It’s a very powerful and often under used tool in the writer’s toolbox.
GoD: In your novella, In Shadows We Fall, a prequel to “The Vengeance Trilogy,” Empress Li’s desire to do what is right for her country, along with her unyielding hunger for vengeance, and her unconditional love for her children make her one of the most compelling characters I’ve had the privilege of journeying with in a very long time. As a writer, what is the process like in crafting such complex characters?
DM: Honestly, as simplistic as it sounds, I just start writing. I don’t plan them, I don’t interview them, I don’t make a list of their traits or weaknesses or anything. Not even a backstory. I think the most important thing is just starting out without any belief in their greatness. Don’t put them on a pedestal. Don’t try to shape them to form an ideal. Don’t care about them so much that their image matters to you, because if you do then you won’t let them be honest and fragile and flawed. And all people are. Go into it accepting, believing, they are real.
GoD: You’ve written a trilogy – “The Vengeance Trilogy” – tied directly to In Shadows We Fall, and you’ve recently released the first book, We Ride the Storm, in a new series titled “The Reborn Empire.” How far into the future have you envisioned this world you’ve created?
DM: All the way through to what would be deemed urban fantasy/steampunk and science fiction. I have a LOT of books planned and a lot of stories to tell, tracking the history of this world as it progresses into modernity with a magic system that will play havoc with the development of technology and capitalism. It’s”¦ going to get ugly for a bit.
GoD: Are you currently working on, or have plans for other stories outside of Kisia?
DM: I have already written the first of a series set a few hundred years after on the other side of the continent, but as for planning any books in a completely different world – no. I have so many I want to write in this one and so much scope for different tales within its borders and history that I’ve not yet considered looking beyond it.
GoD: How can the GoD community help support you?
DM: Buy 35 copies of every book and build a fort with them. Or if you want a serious answer, the best way to support all authors is to review their books. Sharing your opinion with other readers and book buyers helps us to be seen. Although the bookfort idea is cooler.
About The Author:
Aurealis Award-winning author of In Shadows We Fall.
Devin Madson has given up on reality and is now a dual-wielding rogue with a lot of points sunk into stealth and lock picking skills. A completionist at heart, she works through every tiny side-quest and always ends up too over-powered for the final boss. She is still waiting for her Hogwarts letter (a total Ravenclaw) and dreams of flying away in the Tardis.
Anything but zen, Devin subsists on tea and chocolate and so much fried zucchini she ought to have turned into one by now.
If you’re after happy, fuzzy tales then you’ve come to the wrong place. Her fantasy novels come in all shades of grey and are populated with characters of questionable morals and a liking for witty banter.