Today’s interview is with Astra Crompton! Her answers are so much fun and I can’t wait to check out her novels when they’re available!
About Your Novel:
I have many books on the go at any time, all at various stages of completeness. Presently I have 5 between first draft to the querying trenches.
What’s the title (or tentative title) of your manuscript / novel?
My current most complete WIPs are Briar & Thorn and Legend of the Quill. They both take place in the same world (Ul-Zaorith) but in very distant time periods.
What genre is your novel?
Both are fantasy, but B&T is a romance fantasy in a sort-of Renaissance setting; LotQ is an epic fantasy, and book 1 of The Prophet’s Tale trilogy.
Give us a quick synopsis and tell us what your book is all about!
B&T is a queer romance in the style of Jane Austen but for a modern audience. It follows Naeryn, a girl who is striving for a respectable household, but this requires learning how to love and be loved.
LotQ is a subversive take on a hero’s quest, only the protagonist, Sasharr, is not your typical hero. He’s a budding prophet, better suited for advising than leading armies. Prophecy is a difficult and toxic gift, part deciphering and part chance. He must convince the monarchs of five disparate nations to band together to prevent their countries from being conquered by a powerful invader.
What inspired you to write this book?
B&T was a result of me not enjoying modern romance stories, especially in YA. I wanted to read a story about gender and sexuality exploration that retained that old-timey feel. So, I decided to lump all of my favourite things into one book: bisexuality and gender exploration, magic nuns, letter writing, dashing knights, and a “saving the day moment” for our heroine.
For LotQ, this was a story that I’ve been working on for nearly 20 years. It’s sort of the establishment for why the world is the way it is, but that string of events ended up filling two trilogies. The characters in it are famous people of Ul-Zaorith’s history, and sometimes have cameo mentions in my other books set in a more current day and age.
Quick — pitch your novel in ONE sentence!
Erg, these are the hardest thing!
B&T: There are lies we tell to hide our shame, and lies we tell to protect those we love, but neither are as damaging as the lies we live.
LotQ: To prevent the overthrow of his homeland, the Prophet must learn to read the weave of fate, defy both gods and demons, and resurrect the long-dead Great Mage.
About Your Process:
Are you a plotter, pantser, or somewhere in between?
I used to be a strict pantser, but I get really distracted with exposition and worldbuilding when I write that way. Now, I work from a loose outline, with 3 to 5 points I need to hit per chapter, and that keeps me on track. It also limits the number drafts required to clean a manuscript up. So, likely a hybrid.
Where and when do you do most of your writing?
I use Dabblewriter, so I can log-in and write from anywhere. It’s really helped my productivity, and I find I do consistent writing before work and/or on my lunch-breaks, and then a big chunk on my day off. I also make use of NaNo, and that usually allows me to pen an additional 80k to revise and clean up throughout the year.
When did you first realize, “I want to be a writer”?
I had wanted to be a creative for all of my life, from being an “artist” when I was 5 to becoming a fashion designer around 12 years, and then a comic artist at 15, which allowed me to both write and draw. But it wasn’t until my early 20s that I refined my goals and realized that prose format storytelling was my deepest love, and the one I never burn out on.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote? Tell us about it!
It was a picture book (which I also illustrated); I don’t remember the title, but it was about dreams and the night sky. These themes tend to crop up in all of my works in some format or another.
Are there any novels or authors who inspire you?
Novels that inspire me as a writer include: Perfume by Patrick Suskind (the use of the sense of smell revolutionized how I thought about portraying the senses), Corum by Michael Moorcock (this was the “aha! I could do this” moment for me with how diverse and otherworldly it was), Mister B. Gone by Clive Barker (the use of first and second POV was so clever and artistic), Watership Down by Richard Adams (it’s such a brilliant piece of worldbuilding, but also deftly weaves in amazing commentary about social structures and environmentalism). For authors that inspire me: Neil Gaiman and Dianna Wynn Jones for how diverse and creative they are; Anne Rice for her subversive and sexy twists on well-known topics; Joe Abercrombie and Guy Gavriel Kay for their consistent and rich storytelling; and finally Alexandre Dumas who wove such intricate plots, lush characters, and snappy dialogue in a way that remains timeless.
Just For Fun:
What is your favorite book / who is your favorite author?
My favourite book is The Count of Monte Cristo (it’s such a genius arrangement of plots and subplots), but I also love books that are well outside of what I write, probably because it’s so far beyond my own style. Some examples: Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Matilda, When Elephants Weep, Just So Stories.
My favourite author is probably Neil Gaiman simply because he is so talented in so many arenas: short stories, graphic novels, novels, collaborations, TV episodes, voice acting. I hope I can someday dabble in so many arenas!
If your novel were to be adapted for film or TV, who is your dream cast?
Ul-Zaorith doesn’t have any humans, so my Special Effects budget would be insane. It also means that I have a really hard time casting human actors because with enough CGI, it wouldn’t really matter who was beneath the SFX. Possibly Ezra Miller for Ahd’ar’ohk? Again, so much CGI required. However, for B&T, I would cast Sophia Boutella for Gianetta, because she’s 100% perfect.
You have one day to spend in any fiction world of your choosing; which world is it and why?
Assuming my own Ul-Zaorith is not an option… Assuming what happened in that one day carried back over to regular life, I’d probably choose Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles and get Benji to turn me into a vampire so I could finally have enough time to write all of my stories. There’s just not enough time!
Ship it: who are your favorite fictional ships?
This is tough, because usually the relationships I’m shipping are cannon, or are from visual media instead of books. For books, the one that really hurt me was Baerd and Alessan from Tigana. They were lovers off-page (presumably before the main action of the novel) and I kept hoping they’d get back together…and then Kay paired my book-boyfriend Alessan up with Caterina, who was not only my least-favourite character in the whole book, but also seemed to have zero chemistry with him. I was baffled and am (obviously) still salty over it.
If you could give your younger self any piece of advice, what would you tell them?
Patience, young paduwan! Your work could always be better; be willing to get outside opinions and tear your art to shreds sooner so you can get better faster. Don’t take on so many shiny projects; focus on the long-term goals.
Where can your readers interact with you?
My website has more information about my world and works: astracrompton.com and I have such things as a newsletter, and many avenues of social media. I’m most likely to interact on Twitter (@ulzaorith), but you can also ping me on my Facebook author page (@cosmoscollective).
Thanks for your support!