Six Elementals Author Interviews will introduce prospective readers to some of the best writers in their genre you may, or may not, have heard of, via a series of six questions. I encourage you to check out the work of these phenomenal creatives! Links to their websites and purchase links will always appear, accompanying the interview. Check them out!
Today I get the treat of speaking to one of the established stars and influencers in the Indie fantasy writing community, Virginia McClain! Virginia’s numerous currently published works include: Sairō’s Claw, Blade’s Edge, Traitor’s Hope, Meddling Goddess, Rain On A Summer’s Afternoon, Ro
ad To Hell, Dragon’s Rage, Shadow Death, Inconvenient Prophecy, and the anthology The Alchemy of Sorrow with other authors.
P.L.: So honoured to be able to interview you, Virginia, for Six Elementals Interviews! Along with being a well-known and successful author, you do so much to support and encourage people in the broader writing community, which I so admire! Can you tell those who may not be aware of all
your efforts in this regard, such as QuaranCon, what some of these endeavours are all about?
Virginia: Thank you, PL! I don’t know that I do all that much, but I try to give back to the community where I can. The indie community has been really great to me over the years and I like to return the favor as best
I can. QuaranCon is an online/virtual fantasy and sci-fi convention I started (with the help of P.S. Livingstone and a handful of other volunteers) back in 2020. It is entirely free to attend and was originally created to provide entertainment to those stuck at home in the early pandemic. We’ve been nominated for Stabby Aw
ards two years in a row, and we get a lot of authors and readers telling us how much they enjoy the program every year, so that keeps us going even when it gets a bit overwhelming to organize. For 2023 we will likely be running towards the end of the year as Pam and I were both a bit burned out by the end of QuaranCon2022.
More recently, I was invited to be a mentor for WriteHive’s brand new HiveMentor program which connects newer writers with more established authors across all types of publishing, traditional, small press, and self-pub in order to help them bring a particular manuscript to life in their preferred form of publishing. To my knowledge, this is the first mentorship to specifically include self-pub as a mentorship option and I am honored to have been invited to help a newer author with their self-publishing journey. We recently selected our mentees from over 170 applications and I am delighted to be helping out with 2 projects that I think are going to be really amazing.
P.L.: I absolutely loved Sairō’s Claw, especially the Japanese-inspired worldbuilding! What made you choose a setting analogous to that part of the world in your writing for the Gensokai Series?
Virginia: Oh thank you! I’m so glad you enjoyed it. I was living in Japan when I wrote the first draft of Blade’s Edge, which is the first book in that series. And, well, as a life-long fantasy reader who was suddenly surrounded by hundreds of shrines, temples, castles, pagodas and other bits of architecture spanning the centuries during which samurai were prevalent in Japan, it would have been nearly impossible for me to write a book set anywhere else. Gensokai is heavily inspired by all the time I spent exploring those plac
es, the curiosity and wonder they instilled, and the feel of the natural landscape that they inhabited. The history of Gensokai is completely fictional however, as is its culture. In the same way that many authors take a generic medieval-European feeling place and create a new world from it for many fantasy books.
P.L.: Can you please tell those who may not have read it, a bit about your other major published series, the Victoria Marmot Series?
Virginia: The Victoria Marmot books are the fun, fast-paced series I wrote to help me recover from writing Traitor’s Hope (Gensokai Book 2), which followed a lot of dark roads as I explored the trauma of war, violence, and the emotional abuse that some of the characters we
re dealing with. Despite its overall hopeful nature, Traitor’s Hope was a hard book to write, and when I was done I needed to write something happier and more lighthearted. The result was the Victoria Marmot series, which basically takes and twists all of my favorite urban/contemporary fantasy tropes just for the sheer joy of it. Vic is the character with the largest dose of “me” in her that I’ve written to date. She’s very much her own character who is *not* me, but she and I have a lot in common (including our initials), and part of the reason for that was to play on the self-insert nature of most urban fantasy reads, and another part was just drawing on my own experiences as a high school student in order to try to write a (at least marginally) convincing teenager.
To be clear, I frequently read and enjoy a lot of urban and contemporary fantasy, so the parody is a loving one, and the satire is mostly directed at our society rather than those genres. But I took a lot of joy in twisting some of the most pervasive tropes in the genres that I find questionable, and making them into something humorous or wholesome depending on what seemed appropriate. Anyway, I wound up with five short, humorous, fast-paced books that I hope lend themselves well to binge reading in a single weekend. They are meant to be fun page turners.
P.L.: You’ve also supe
rvised the publication of a major anthology, called The Alchemy of Sorrow, which has performed extremely well in pre-order, and the calibre of talent of the writers (including yourself) involved is fantastic! Congratulations! Can you tell us about that project and how it’s coming along? What’s it like to steer a project that requires such an extensive level of collaboration and planning, including raising funds for the project?
Virginia: Well… It’s a LOT of work. Organizing 13 authors is not a small task, and running a successful Kickstarter campaign of any size is a massive time commitment. Then there are all the bits and pieces that go into making a book actually book shaped and… Honestly, the entire process has been wonderful on so many levels, but it has also just… taken up all of my time and energy for the better part of a year now. And I’v
e had a LOT of help! Intisar Khanani has been a phenomenal co-coordinator (can we make that a word?) and has put in a huge amount of time and effort to keep me from going completely
off the rails. And a number of our authors have stepped up to help out with organization, announcements, and other bits and pieces that have saved my bacon on more than one occasion. I can’t imagine navigating a project this big without all the wonderful people who have helped out over the past year.
But even with all of that help, I’ve barely written anything since I published Sairō’s Claw in May of 2021. And part of that is because of a few mental health breaks I’ve needed to take, but another big part of it is down to simply not having much bandwidth outside of this massive project. Even when I make myself take time to focus on other things, I’m rarely able to conjure the energy to write new words.
Or at least, that has been true up until recently. Since September I’ve managed to write a decent chunk of notes for the book that follows Sairō’s Claw (tentatively titled Eredi’s Gambit) and also I’ve drafted about 30% of a new project that jumped out and insisted on being written just in time for NaNoWriMo 2022. All of which may have something to do with the fact that The Alchemy of Sorrow launched to the public on November 1st, and most of the work for its release is done now.
P.L.: Can you please speak to any other projects you are working on, or plan to publish?
Virginia: I am slowly working
on Eredi’s Gambit, which is the follow up to Sairō’s Claw. There are a LOT of political machinations to untangle (or tangle depending on whether we’re looking at my perspective or the reader’s) so I am taking my time writing detailed notes so I don’t waste too much time on wayward drafts.
I’m also writing a brand new project, completely unrelated to my other projects, that is tentatively titled Mutually Assured Dragons and which I am calling a cozy, clockwork, slow-burn f/f fantasy romance with a dash of dragons, war, and neCROWmancy (there’s a necromancer who’s a crow, she’s technically a secondary character but I love her with my whole soul).
I also *may* have recently gotten roped into working on another anthology, but… if I did it’s a secret that I won’t be able to talk about for a while yet.
P.L.: What are some of the authors that have inspired you? Who are some of your favorite authors?
Virginia: So many authors inspire me. It’s difficult to make lists and every time I do they seem to change. But I’ll give it a shot. And I’m going to go ahead and co
mbine inspiring authors and favorite authors because I think the lists overlap enough that it would get repetitive otherwise.
My all time favorite author these days is Rebecca Roanhorse. She’s an auto-buy for me and I just love her world building, characters, pacing, plot, everything. Trail of Lightning was amazing, so was Storm of Locusts. Black Sun and Fevered Star are probably two of my favorite books ever. And I love reading Race to the Sun to my kiddo at bed time (I think we’ve read it at least 8 times). I even enjoyed her Star Wars book even though I haven’t read Star Wars stuff in decades. I can’t seem to get enough of her writing.
Intisar Khanani’s books are also some of my favorite reads in the past decade. Her prose is gorgeous and descriptive and yet straight to the point and anchored in deeply relatable character choices. She somehow manages to tackle some of the hardest questions a p
erson trying to live a moral life can grapple with and yet do it in a way that makes it clear the human experience is a vast and diverse experience and that sometimes there are no easy answers. I’m in awe of her abilities. And I am very excited to start reading her Sunbolt series soon.
I also adore T. Kingfisher’s books. I have yet to read a book from her that I haven’t thoroughly enjoyed. I didn’t realize I enjoyed fantasy romance until I read T. Kingfisher. I also love her non-romance books. I can’t pick a favorite, really.
Other authors whose books I love include (but are not limited to): Andrea Stewart, Kristin Cashore, K.S. Villoso, M.L. Wang, Leigh Bardugo, Lisa Cassidy, Tamsyn Muir, Terry Pratchett, Roshani Chokshi, TL Greylock, Rachel Aaron, RJ Barker and… Ok, I should really probably cut myself off now, but there are SO MANY more.
P.L.: Virginia, I have truly enjoyed our chat! I truly appreciate you joining me on Six Elementals Interviews! Thank you so much!
Buy Virginia’s books – links below: