Back after some delays, I bring you another episode of Authors in Isolation. Today, I’m happy to welcome Cas E Crowe to the Scar den. Her debut novel came out not long ago and it looks pretty cool, go check it out!
First of all, tell me about yourself! What do you write?
Hi. My name is Cas E Crowe and I am the author of The Wayward Haunt, the first novel in The Wayward Series. I like to write young adult, dark fantasy, and horror. Ever since I was a child, I have been intrigued by chilling, ominous stories. I honestly don’t know why. My favorite day is Halloween, closely followed by Christmas. I had a haunted doll house growing up as kid which my grandfather built for me because he knew how my imagination worked. I’d create my own monsters and ghosts, which meant Barbie always ended up in difficult and scary situations. I’m not sure what happened to Ken. He probably died a horrible death. I guess it was inevitable that I would write in this genre.
I’ve had many careers. I’ve worked as a sales assistant, a graphic artist, an office manager, and am currently a part-time office administrator and part-time author. I am enjoying life immensely as I’ve finally found a balance between work and creativity. For me, there are never enough hours in the day to complete everything I wish to do. I love to write, draw and paint traditionally and in photoshop, read, travel, watch films, and catch up with friends and family. Creativity for me is my life. I’d get bored without it.
How do you develop your plots and characters?
I think they’re entwined. I make sure that the events occurring in the plot test and challenge the characters I write about. They grow and mature from the experience, or depending on the character, they are impacted negatively by the events. Daydreaming about the story often leads to a basic plot outline, which I then flesh out by taking the time to sit down and create a timeline of the events, putting in the tiny details and figuring out what the turning point will be for the character. I try to figure out how the character will resolve the conflict, and how their actions will influence that next part of the story. I then start to write the first draft of the manuscript. This is where the plot structure and story progression take form. I aim on getting the story into the computer. The rewrite and editing comes later.
Tell the world about your current project!
I’m currently writing my second instalment in The Wayward Series titled The Four Revenants. The first book in the series, The Wayward Haunt, was published in June 2020. The story is set in a war-torn, dystopian world, where teenage prisoner Zaya Wayward is conscripted into the Haxsan Guard. When malevolent forces haunt her, she suspects her ability to see the dead is the key in a sinister plot to annihilate human existence. The Four Revenants picks up directly where the first book ends. It focuses on the same themes and subjects – ghosts, hauntings, war, tragic pasts, star-crossed lovers. I’m having a blast writing the second instalment. The first draft should be completed by April 2021, and the book published early 2022.
Who would you say is the main character of your latest novel? And tell me a little bit about them!
Zaya Wayward is the main character in The Wayward Series. I used to think that she was everything I wasn’t. She’s confident, assertive, sassy, and charming when she wants to be, whereas I am more of an introvert and tend to keep to myself. I think she is the image of what I wished I could be. Zaya has developed so much since I first created her. She has negative qualities of course. She can be pushy, judgmental, impulsive. She is a recalcitrant and has serious anger management issues she needs to get a control of, but she’s also very caring and supportive toward her friends and the people she loves. When we are first introduced to Zaya in The Wayward Haunt, she has been sentenced to a labor camp for a murder she didn’t commit. In the camp, she is tormented by nightmares and haunted by ghosts. Zaya is nineteen years old and has no collection of life before she was ten. She likes to think she knows and is confident with who she is, but seeing ghosts constantly makes her question her past and her identity. There will be four books in The Wayward Series, and throughout Zaya’s journey, these will be questions that she will have to acknowledge and solve.
Have you been to any conventions? If so, tell me a little about them!
I go to writing conventions in Brisbane, Australia, the city where I live, as often as I can. There is the Brisbane Writers Festival, the Brisbane Writers Group Convention, and the Brisbane Authors Network Group (BANG) workshops. All these conventions and workshops have provided me the opportunity to network with successful authors and connect with experts in the writing, editing, marketing, and publishing field. It has been a great experience. Due to COVID-19, unfortunately these conventions were cancelled for 2020.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
To be honest, I hated reading and writing when I was a kid because I couldn’t do it. I struggled so much in class that I lost interest and never really learned. I was way beneath my peers in literacy, and I was bullied because of it. Eventually my mum organized for me to be taught by a private tutor. Mrs Swann recognized my love for storytelling and was quickly able to show me that reading and writing was the same thing—delving into stories. After about a year and a half, I was better at reading and writing than any of my peers. I think I chose to become a writer because I had a story I wanted to tell, and I wanted to prove that I could accomplish writing a novel.
If you had the opportunity to live anywhere in the world for a year while writing a book that took place in that same setting, where would you choose?
I’d live in London because it’s deep in history, art, and architecture, and because they speak English there. I’d probably get lost in a place like Paris. I’ve read so many books where the stories are set in London, and each time it makes me want to return.
What advice would you give new writers?
I have three tips for new writers who are attempting, or about to go on the adventure of writing a novel.
1) Read as many books as you can in the genre that you want to write in and learn from those authors.
2) Be realistic about what you can achieve. Everyone has different commitments—family, work, relationships, etc. If you know writing for two hours a day will be impossible, don’t set yourself up to do this. Find times to write when you know you will actually be able to write. Maybe that’s two hours on a Saturday morning, or an hour on Friday night when the kids are training for soccer. Everyone has busy schedules, so don’t be too hard on yourself. Writing your story should be fun. If you’re constantly failing to meet a ridiculous timeline you’ve set yourself, the writing process will be grueling and frustrating. You’ll end up hating it.
3) Join a writing group. You will meet other fantastic writers and authors that you can share and collaborate ideas with. This is a great way to get your writing out there and get feedback. You will learn how to critique, edit, and improve your writing.
What real-life inspirations did you draw from for the worldbuilding?
I didn’t draw from real-life as such. I definitely did research on folktales. I have always been fascinated in ghost stories and folklore. They tell us so much about a culture’s history and beliefs. I guess all the ideas for my novel sprang up from these. I’m a creative person. I love to write and draw, so creating my own tales became a huge part of my creative process.
I also enjoy history. The Wayward Series is about racial cleansing, labor camps, and totalitarian regimes, so I did research on Nazi Germany and the Third Reich. Small scenes started playing in my head, which grew into bigger scenes, and somehow, I managed to connect them into a story. Of course, the structure for my story changed drastically during the writing process. Every time I researched a new folktale, ghost story, or event in history, my brain would be greeted with a new idea. So yes, reading and research is what inspired my idea for The Wayward Series. It’s ultimately what built the fantasy world in the novel.
What inspires you to write?
For me, inspiration can strike at any moment. Music, films, novels, research and internet searches, Netflix, something I see on the street. All of these have inspired my creativity in the past. I try to take a notebook with me everywhere I go now so I can jot down fresh ideas that spring up from the most unlikely of places. Even snippets of conversation I hear from my friends, something funny and unique that is spoken, can end up becoming dialogue in my novel.
What is the hardest part of writing for you?
Managing the time for writing. I’m on a good routine at the moment and following my schedule, but sometimes things just get in the way. Chores take longer than you think they will. Family arrive unexpectedly (not that I’m complaining about that). The house needs cleaning. I need to get the groceries. I need to water the garden because I live in Queensland Australia where it rarely rains. The list goes on. For me, the hardest thing is sticking to the routine.
What is your routine when writing, if any? If you don’t follow a routine, why not?
I work part time and write part time. I attempt to write all day Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday and treat it like a regular working day. I’m up at 8am. I have breakfast and then I write. I have lunch at 1pm for half an hour, and then I write till 5pm. After that I go for a run and come home and prep for dinner. Sometimes life intervenes. Sometimes I have to adjust my schedule for work or marketing, but for the most part it works for me, for now. I am not one of these people who can work full time and then come home and write till 2am in the morning. I tried it and fell asleep at the desk. I am realistic with what I can achieve now, and I know that writing in the evenings after work is just not something that I can do. Well, I can do it, but my writing is awful.
What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write in any of your books, and why?
I always enjoy writing the scary scenes in my novels. This is where I can get really creative and descriptive. I pick up the pace with my writing by creating short, staccato sentences. I describe in detail what the character is experiencing, the taste and smell in the air, the way objects feel, the sound of their heartbeat and quickened breathing. I know before I commence writing where the scene is set and what is going to happen. That’s the enjoyable part, creating the suspense and anticipation, and knowing that when people read this scene, they will be holding their breath, waiting for the ghoul or monster to jump out at any moment.
Did you learn anything from writing your latest book? If so, what was it?
The timeframe is challenging. Attempting to write a novel requires time and dedication. There are drafts and rewrites, suggestions from beta readers followed by more rewrites, an editor taking a professional look at the work, and then finally your finished product that you have to get out there in the world and market. The challenging part is to keep the process fun and enjoyable, otherwise it will exhaust you. My writing improved tremendously as I wrote The Wayward Haunt, but this occurred over a period of years. I learnt to be patient, to not be too hard on myself, to takes breaks when it was required, and to stay determined and motivated to finish the book. I learnt to set goals and a timeframe, and to celebrate little achievements. I think this is something all authors need to learn, otherwise they will go completely insane.
Are you a plotter or a pantser? A gardener or an architect?
I am definitely a plotter and an architect. Everything in my stories, beginning, middle, end, scenes, chapters, are plotted out and written down. I find that this helps me to keep focus and to meet deadlines. I know exactly where I’m going with the story. Sometimes, unexpected ideas jump in my head as I write. Strangely enough, they work for the scene or chapter that I’m writing. They are always nice surprises when they occur. So yes, I am a plotter and an architect, but I do not object to new ideas coming along halfway through my stories. It keeps things interesting.
If you had to give up either snacks and drinks during writing sessions, or music, which would you find more difficult to say goodbye to?
I’d definitely miss the music. I don’t snack when I write, but I do listen to cinematic music. It helps me think about the scenes I’m writing. It creates a mood for the writing. So yes, it would be very difficult to say goodbye.
Which is your favorite season to write in, and why?
I love spring and summer. I always feel energized as it starts to get warmer. The days start to get longer too, so I have more time to write, because I never write in the evenings.
It’s sometimes difficult to get into understanding the characters we write. How do you go about it?
The characters in The Wayward Series live in a war-torn world. They are conflicted, scared, unsure what the future holds. Most of the time, their lives are hanging by a thread. I have never been in a situation like that, but I know what it is like to feel hopeless, desperate, and afraid. These are emotions that everyone goes through in their life at some stage. I guess when I write a character and I try to understand a decision they have made, good or bad, I try to remember a time when I experienced a similar emotion. For horror writing, I have heard that authors put themselves into scary situations to understand the fear that their character would experience, like entering an abandoned house or taking a walk at midnight through a graveyard. I’m not a fan of this and I would never recommend anyone do it. If I’m really stuck trying to figure out how a character would feel or react in a scene that is meant to be frightening, I close my eyes and listen to music from a horror movie. Music is incredible in creating emotion.
What are your future project(s)?
The Wayward Series will be a set of four books, so book three and four are in the pipeline to be written and published. I have many ideas in my head for other novels that I haven’t given attention to at this stage, because my focus is on The Wayward Series, but eventually I will delve into those other stories. I want to write a cozy murder mystery, something along the lines of Agatha Christie. Knowing me, it will have an element of horror in it, so it probably won’t be so cozy.
What is your favorite book ever written?
Oh no. There are too many to choose from. Okay, I’ll go with the book series that inspired my own writing, which is Becca Fitzpatrick’s Hush, Hush saga. The books in this series are in my bookcase right now and they are the most tattered things on the shelf. I guess that means I’ve read them quite a few times.
Who are your favorite authors?
I have so many favorite authors who have inspired me; Becca Fitzpatrick, Cassandra Clare, Kendare Blake, Claudia Gray, Lauren Kate, Sarah J. Mass, Melissa Marr, Derek Landy, Richelle Mead, James Dashner, Rachel Caine, Alexandra Adornetto. Phew. I might take a breather now. All these authors have novels for the young adult market in various sub-genres of science fiction and fantasy. I have enjoyed reading their novels. They have fantastic characters who drive the story, and as a reader, that’s what I want. If you don’t have a conflicted character with difficult choices to make, what’s the point? The story is uninteresting without this element.
What makes a good villain?
I’ve actually written a blog about this.
1) You need to understand who the villain is. They simply can’t be the evil person in the story. They need back story. They need a reason to be the way they are.
2) The villain needs to believe their goal or motive is for the right reason, no matter what it will cost.
3) The conflict needs to be specific to both the villain and the hero, meaning they need to confront each other over something that is targeted and will impact both of them.
4) The villain must appear unbeatable. The hero’s journey has to be difficult and near-on impossible to achieve.
5) The villain must have likeable qualities so that readers can empathize with him/her.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Spare time? What is that?
Honestly, if I’m not writing, I’m reading, drawing, painting, or watching Netflix. I am never bored.
If you couldn’t be an author, what ideal job would you like to do?
I was a graphic designer once. I truly enjoyed it, but I preferred creating my own artwork and concepts, not working from a brief. If I couldn’t write, and didn’t need to worry about money, I’d be an artist.
Coffee or Tea? Or (exult deep breath) what other drink do you prefer, if you like neither?
I am a tea drinker. I love tea with milk and honey. I also like a good moscato. Cocktails are nice too.
You can travel to anywhere in the universe. Where would you go, and why?
I think I would get on a submarine and see the Titanic. That would be awesome… and kind of scary.
Do you have any writing blogs you recommend?
The inspired Lines Blog which you can access at the link below.
Isobelle Lans is a specialist fiction editor who provides some amazing writing tips in her blogs. I highly recommend aspiring authors to check this out.
Do you have any writer friends you’d like to give a shoutout to?
I’d like to give a big shout out to all the writers in the Night Writers Group in Brisbane. There are so many talented writers and authors in the group who have helped me along my own writing journey. A big and very appreciative thank you to you all.
Pick any three fiction characters. These are now your roadtrip crew. Where do you go and what do you do?
I read “pick any three fiction characters,” and immediately the first three that came to mind were Roger Rabbit, Scooby Doo, and Sylvester the cat from the Looney Tunes. These were my favorite characters when I was a child. A road trip with them sounds fun and terrifying at the same time. I think we’d travel in the mystery machine and go solve a spooky crime at the beach.
What superpower would you most like?
I’d like the ability to read minds. That would be so useful. It could get annoying, but I think the positives far outweigh the negatives.
What are two of your favorite covers of all time? (Not your own.)
Kendare Blake’s novel Anna Dressed In Blood has an amazing cover. It’s very mysterious and caught my eye immediately at the bookshop. I love the colours and the setting. Lauren Kate’s cover for her novel Fallen is beautifully gothic and haunting. Both covers have an intriguing focal point that just draw your eye to the title. It’s amazing artwork.
It’s a very difficult time right now for the world. When quarantine and pandemic comes to an end, what is the first thing you would like to do?
Quarantine and restrictions are pretty much over in Brisbane, Australia. The first thing I did was go to the beach. When the pandemic is finished and travel is allowed to safely resume, I will likely organize a trip to Osaka, Japan to visit my brother and sister-in-law.
Finally, what is your preferred method to have readers get in touch with or follow you (i.e., website, personal blog, Facebook page, here on Goodreads, etc.) and link(s)?
Readers can get in touch with me through my contact page at my website www.casecrowe.com