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!
This is a distinct pleasure, in that I have the award-winning YA fantasy author, joining me: the amazing E.G. Radcliff! Her currently published novels include: The Hidden King, The Last Prince, and The Wild Court.
P.L.: E.G., thanks so much for joining Six Elementals Interviews! I am one of your super-fans, as you know, so this is very special for me! The Hidden King was one of my top ten books read in 2021! And I’m not alone, obviously, in my love for your debut novel. The first book in your The Coming of Áed series has racked up quite the literary prizes, including being an SPFBO SemiFinalist in 2020, a Book Bloggers’ Novel of the Year (BBNYA) SemiFinalist in 2020 & 2021, a BlueInk Notable Book, an International Review of Books Gold Seal Book, and a Kindle Book Award SemiFinalist in 2021. Congratulations on all the well-deserved accolades! It takes a lot of courage for a writer just to put their work out there and publish, much less enter awards. What do you feel is the value of submitting for, and potentially winning literary awards? How do you feel that the process, or the winning of the awards themselves, has helped your writing career, and your personal growth?
E.G.: Thank you! I do feel that there are benefits to submitting for awards. The most obvious are the immediate emotional ones; being offered an award feels like proof that all your hard work has paid off. There are, of course, plenty of other ways to get that kind of validation, but it’s a very potent feeling. The second benefit is more practical. Some of this recognition has allowed me to reach a broader audience than I otherwise would have (like the audiences of Publishers Weekly and Booklist magazines). It’s also a great way to encourage readers to take a chance on your book, since a book with an award tends to stand apart from the crowd.
P.L.: Well, having read your work, I can definitely attest it stands out! By now, many people in the Indie Fantasy community know all about your wonderful books, but for those who don’t can you please tell us what The Coming of Áedseries is all about?
E.G.: The Coming of Áed is an action-packed YA series inspired by Irish folklore, blending magic, found family, and some intense self-discovery. A young man must discover who—and also what—he is… and there are consequences.
P.L.: Oh yes, lots of delicious consequences! Do you write full time? If so, can you please tell us about being a full-time novelist (something many of us aspire to be)? If not, can you disclose a little about your other work, or hobbies and interests outside of writing?
E.G.: As much as writing full-time sounds nice on paper, I don’t think I could ever do it. I love writing above just about all else, but I’m not sure I was built to stay put for so long. My job is at a library, but I am also engaged in my community (I play water polo and sing in a choir, for example). I draw, play the lute rather badly (I’m getting better!), and keep lists. The last one sounds odd, and it is, but it’s my version of collecting stamps–I have lists of idioms, lists of mushrooms, lists of proverbs and sayings, lists of quotes from friends, lists of things I’ve seen out the windows of trains… I have lists of lists.
P.L.: Sounds like you are multi-talented! And great you have all those interests! Can you please speak a little bit about your writing journey? How long have you been writing, what inspired you to write, and what made you elect to self-publish, instead of small presses or querying, trying to obtain an agent, and going for a “Big Five” traditional house?
E.G.: I’m not sure when I decided that I wanted to be an author. I’ve loved storytelling for as long as I can remember; I told tales before I could hold a pen, and when I learned to read and write, it was like learning how to walk. I tripped a lot, but it felt natural. Truthfully, I can’t remember when I started writing for pleasure. It was always something I’d just done, but I didn’t realize it could be more than a pastime until around the time that I hit my late-teens. In the past, I hadn’t put much thought into the mostly-instinctive act of writing, and so the pleasure I reaped didn’t last beyond the end of the writing process. That changed when I started trying longer pieces, pieces where I experimented with new skills and played around with more difficult techniques, because I created results I could re-read and be proud of. I love the challenge that comes with that, and I love the anticipation I feel when I’m building up to an exciting plot point. Writing is the one activity where I lose all track of time; I’ll look up at two in the morning and realize that I should have gone to bed ten pages earlier. I just can’t get enough.
For me, independent publishing was the way to go, for a variety of reasons. It allowed me to function on my own schedule, arrange my own promotions, and market the way I chose. But I wanted to make sure I produced a piece that was as high-quality as any book that had been through the works at a “big-5” publishing house, so I spent a long time with editors and artists to ensure that it was up to snuff.
P.L.: Your books are definitely of top quality, and wow, your covers are glorious!!! What do you think is more difficult to write, and garner larger reading audiences? Great standalones or great series? Will you write both?
E.G.: It’s probably easier to draw attention to a series, since every new release is a reminder about the books before it, and the sales accumulate over time. It’s harder to maintain consistent reader attention about a standalone unless you already have a committed following. I gravitate toward series myself, since I have little interest in writing 1,000-page novels like Steven King, and would prefer to divide a story into sections; besides, the idea that each book in a series still needs to have its own compelling arc is a lovely challenge. It isn’t as simple as dividing a long story into multiple parts, and I like that.
P.L.: Personally I LOVE series, but am really learning to appreciate stand-alones more and more, especially as companion novels to compliment series. Can you tell us a little bit about how magic works in your series, what you can reveal without spoilers? Would you consider it hard or soft magic?
E.G.: I had so much fun putting together the magic system for The Coming of Áed. At first, it was a challenge, since I started writing before I planned a single thing, and the system started to take shape before I’d actually settled on any rules. It got to a point very quickly where I needed to codify it, or else the system would be too soft to hold up under artistic scrutiny, and so I sat down and arranged everything into a pattern I could consistently follow going forward. I’m really happy with the result.
In The Coming of Áed, there is a veil that divides the world.
On one side of the veil, the human realm—everything feels familiar and concrete. On the other side, the otherworld—is the home of fae, who probably think it’s familiar and concrete, but nobody asked them.
Like anything else in the natural world, the veil operates on a cycle. It’s at its most impenetrable during the steady seasons of summer and winter, and it is most vulnerable at times of flux like autumn and spring. That means that two times every year, it becomes thin enough to allow the passage of creatures from one side to another. These openings are marked by celebration and tradition: the Festival of Fire in the spring, and the Festival of Souls in the autumn. Once the veil closes again, nothing can pass through until the next festival—with some exceptions.
The veil is natural, and thus imperfect. Here and there, little tears open and heal, and they usually shift so rapidly that nothing could possibly find them, much less pass through. On occasion, though, one will stabilize. Natural tears are invariably small, much too small for anything larger than a field mouse or a will-o-wisp, and by and large, they stay undetected.
This is helped by the fact that they most often form in naturally liminal spaces, like cave passages, places where water moves underground, or deep-forest mushroom circles. If, however, one happens to find a tear, it is possible to widen it enough to allow passage—meaning, someone needs to die on that spot. Death of a thinking mind constitutes the irrevocable movement from one state to another, and that interacts with the veil in a very specific way: if a human dies in the tear, the resulting gateway will enable passage into the human realm, and if a faerie or other sentient fae creature dies in it, it will enable passage in the other direction. Once made, these gateways are stable.
Magic originates on the fae side of the veil. It occurs in many states: certain minerals, for example, carry connective magic that links all rocks in a deposit, certain small animals employ magic camouflage to protect them from predation, and some plants acquire magical properties under certain conditions and are thus used in the making of medicine. Magic can even occur at larger scales, such that my water horse, for instance, wields power over whatever body of water it calls home and can even command vessels on its surface.
The most potent magic, however, is fae.
Faeries live according to a natural duality: there are two kinds of fae magic, and two kinds of fae. Low fae and high fae tend to live separately, with low fae organized into discrete, diverse courts while high fae have historically been united under a single monarch. No matter low or high, all fae have two very unique realms of power: the first is the ability to summon fire. It is this ability which illustrates the most glaring difference between high and low-court fae. Low fae have fire which resembles a natural wood fire, typically orange or red in color, and like natural fire, it causes no harm to other fae. High fae, on the other hand, possess brilliant white flames which burn hot enough to injure low-court fae. This fire can also be cast into shapes, usually weapons, so long as the wielder doesn’t let go of it.
The second type of magic, more hauntingly, is power over the mind. Most often, this presents as little more than the ability to sense emotion very acutely, but a combination of natural talent and active cultivation can elevate this to terrifying levels: skilled faeries have the ability to create emotion in another. This can be as simple as extending one’s own emotions onto the recipient, or as involved as inciting madness so specific as to induce specific hallucinations. This is often perceived as illusion magic.
Humans, while not naturally magical, are not excluded from practicing the more mysterious arts. Magic tends to emanate from those objects and creatures which produce it, and the imperfect barrier of the veil permits a small degree of this untethered magic to cross into the human realm. It is this diffuse power that humans can bend to their will. Given that it is not interwoven with their own being, they have much more freedom in how they use it, even if it is far less powerful than it would be if it were inborn.
Humans use a number of methods to channel magic to their purposes. The most common is the verbal spell: a combination of nonsense syllables which by their shape and sound help the concentration of the caster to flow into the shape which the magic will follow, achieving the desired end. Physical movements–dances, patterns of hand gestures, holding very specific positions–can achieve the same effects. This is not dissimilar to meditation, and talented casters can often forgo the guidelines of a spell.
In order to master magic safely, most human magic-users begin learning as children. Children tend to be able to command less magic at once, meaning that the power that is misdirected when a spell goes wrong can do much less damage.
Culturally, magic and its practitioners are regarded with distrust, but its occasional usefulness cannot be denied.
This is the magic system that underpins all the action in The Coming of Áed—experienced at its peak in The Wild Court.
P.L.: I’m so looking forward to reading the rest of your series, including The Wild Court! E.G., this has been amazing! It has been such an honour to have you join me on Six Elementals Interviews! Thank you so much for interviewing with me!