Adam Interviews...A.F. Stewart!
Hope your Monday is going well.
Ready for a break?
Let's chat with A.F. Stewart. A steadfast and proud sci-fi and fantasy geek, A. F. Stewart was born and raised in Nova Scotia, Canada and still calls it home. The youngest in a family of seven children, she always had an overly creative mind and an active imagination. She favours things dark and stabby when writing—her genres of choice being fantasy and horror—but she has been known to venture into the light on occasion. As an indie author, she’s published novels, novellas and story collections, with a few side trips into poetry.
Firefly – gone too soon or overrated?
Firefly was a brilliant series unfairly cancelled after being ineptly handled by its network. May it live forever in our hearts.
Reboots – a great idea or a lack of creativity?
Generally, I think it’s a lack of creativity, because too often good shows that worked are the ones unnecessarily rebooted. Reboots would be a far better idea if they took shows that had potential, but failed to live up to that potential (for whatever reason). Rebooting good ideas that missed the mark and giving them a second chance seems the better option to me.
1. Where do you get your information or ideas for your books? An evil muse that keeps chattering in the back of my head. But I draw a lot of my ideas from history and mythology, true crime, and a misspent childhood reading comic books and watching sci-fi TV shows. For instance, my Camelot Immortals books are based on Arthurian legends, and The Saga of the Outer Islands series was inspired by Greek myths.
2. Is there a trope you find yourself going back to in multiple works? Or one you avoid? I’m all about dysfunctional families. Very few of my characters have good relationships with parents, siblings, etc. I also like the reluctant hero trope (Nimue from Camelot Immortals is 100% reluctant hero, plus a ruthless curmudgeon). As for tropes I avoid, until recently, I shunned the love triangle trope, but in my WIP horror novellas, my muse made me write one (or two).
3. How many books have you written? Which is your favorite? I have 20+ books published, but several are anthologies where I have a story. I don’t really have a favourite book; they all have different aspects that I enjoyed creating. But I am most proud of the being part of the Hell’s Empire anthology and the story I wrote for that collection. It was a themed horror anthology (what would happen if Hell invaded Victorian Britain) and a unique experience.
4. What do you think makes a good story? Believability. And by that, I mean whatever your character does, whatever turns or fantastic twists the plot takes, had better have well thought out motivations and reasons for happening. Pulling rabbits out of thin air to patch plot holes kills a story.
5. What is the first book that made you cry? Probably Where The Red Fern Grows. It’s a brilliant book, but the ending is so sad.
6. Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym? I considered it, and eventually published under my initials and not my given name. I wanted to write as Anita Stewart, but there was already a Canadian author of cookbooks with that name, so I went with the initials instead.
7. Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you building a body of work with connections between each book? My books all have their own worlds and aren’t in any connected universe, with the possible exception of two short story projects. My Heyward and Andersen story series might take place in the same world as a previous story, The Professor’s Christmas Ghost, which I also plan to develop into a series. I haven’t decided yet whether they take place in the same world.
8. Who shot first, Han or Greebo? Han. Why is there even a debate? It was preemptive self-defensive and Greedo knew the risks.
9. What was an early experience where you learned that language had power? That was after reading the short story, All Summer in a Day by Ray Bradbury. There’s heavy emotional weight to that story that hits you in the last scene. Especially if you didn’t fit in or were bullied as a child.
10. What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel? The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin springs to mind. It’s a novella of hers that often gets overlooked among her more well-known books. It may be a bit dated now, but it’s a fascinating psychological sci-fi story exploring spiritual and mental nuances and states of being.
11. Do you write novels, novellas, short stories, episodic fiction, poems, screenplays, or something else? What is your preferred format? All of the above, except screenplays. I enjoy writing short fiction best because it forces me to be more creative with less. A novel is great for spinning out character growth, worldbuilding, and plot twists, but you have to pare a story down to an emotional core in shorter works. I regularly write horror flash fiction (stories under1000 words) for a couple of blogs, and started a serial horror sci-fi story over on my Kofi page.
12. Are you traditionally or self published? Or both? Do you feel there are advantages to one over the other? I’m self-published. I fell into it back in the early days and since I publish a lot of story collections and novellas, it seemed best to stick with it. Both methods have advantages and disadvantages, and these days keeping your options open or even going hybrid seems like the best bet.
13. How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have? Laughs manically. At least 15, probably more. I may have a problem.
14. What is the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything? 42. It is always 42.
15. What’s the best way to market your books? Win the lottery. But seriously, the best methods for me have been newsletter swaps, group promos and Amazon ads. And getting involved in conventions, be it online or in person, are excellent ways to network and establish your author presence and brand.
What do you have coming next?
That’s a dangerous question, considering the number of works-in-progress I have on the go, but I have at least three of mine queued up for publication in the near future, plus another anthology project. The first project is the second story in my Heyward and Andersen steampunk series, Shadow in Scarlet. Paranormal detectives Elspeth and Lars are back to investigate a vampire stalking their client. I also have two short story collections on the horizon, with Fairy Tales and Nightmares, a horror retelling of classic fairy tales, and Tales of the Norse Gods: Loki Saves the World. That’s a retelling of Norse mythology where Loki is the hero and Ragnarök involves gods, ghosts, a werewolf and an evil chicken. I was also asked to write a story for Ron Lahr’s Kathaldi anthology, which was a first for me as I’ve never written in another author’s world before. It was fun though, and my story ended up with three dead bodies and my signature dysfunctional characters.
That's great! And now, an excerpt for you From Chapter Three of Ghosts of the Sea Moon
As the Celestial Jewel sailed with all haste back into open waters, the seas spread calmer with a touch of undulating wildness, which reflected like black glass. The crisp air hit the crew with the force of a wench’s slap. The smell of briny seaweed, fish, and death clung to it.
Captain Morrow sighed and tossed a command to the men at the rail on watch duty. “Keep a sharp eye on the waves. By all accounts and indications, there’ll be salvage tonight.” Answering hails echoed off the timbers, a sad agreement from the crew of what may come.
The ship veered west, and then to a more southern course, following the strains of moonlight, searching. The dark unfathomable waves slapped against the ship as the spotters leaned over the rail and peered across the depths. Radiance and chimera spun in their vision, nevertheless, their eyes faithfully scanned the ocean for life or death.
Suddenly, a smallish voice squeaked, “Something in the water!” Mouse raised a hand, pointing into the illuminated black. “Looks like debris!”
“The boy’s right, sir!” The familiar baritone of Striker Angus shouted. “Wood to be sure, and white cloth! Could be a sail!”
“It don’t mean a ship was lost!” One-Eyed Anders roared, voicing everyone’s thought out loud. “Don’t mean that. Could be they was caught, same as us. Just took some damage. Could even be from the Bastion.”
“No.” The Captain’s soft answer washed over the crew. “We shouldn’t speculate until we’re certain. It’s bad luck, that.”
Still, the crew grew silent, no laughter, no banter, only their duties to man the ship and all available eyes on the sea. Despite clinging hope, the further out they sailed, the more shouts came as they spotted debris: fragments of wood and sailcloth, bits and bobs of individual possessions. The unmistakable flotsam of a shipwreck.