Put down that pencil, minimize those work tabs, and get a fresh cup of coffee - it's time for another awesome author interview!
Joining me now is C.D. McKenna. C.D. McKenna is the award-winning author of The Vorelian Saga. She lives in the stunning mountains of Colorado, where she was first inspired to build a world of magic and beasts. McKenna not only dares to blend the genres of Epic High Fantasy and Horror, but she also explores the thematic elements of what makes us distinctly human in her work. It has been a lifelong dream of hers to tell a story that could bring people together from all over the world, and The Vorelian Saga has done just this. If McKenna isn’t writing, she is enjoying the grand outdoors or reading. But one thing you can always bet on: she’s going to have a coffee with her.
Star Trek or Star Wars? Star Wars – it is a story that blurs the line between good and evil, a concept that I fell deeply in love with because it explores the complexities of human nature. And plus, who doesn’t want a light saber?
DCU or MCU? Do I have to choose? Superman from DCU and Loki from MCU. I can’t choose between the two!
Coffee, tea, or cacao? Coffee, coffee, coffee – I’ll take it hot, iced, luke warm, whatever. It’s one of my favorite drinks, and one I take very seriously (don’t get me started on my expresso machine).
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? I’ve written for as long as I can remember! I’ve always been captivated by stories and writing them became my absolute obsession as a youngling. Pencils and notebooks were all I asked for at that age. I would say about five years ago is when I realized I wanted to share my work with the world.
Is there a trope you find yourself going back to in multiple works? Or one you avoid? A trope I can’t get enough of: anti-heros, morally gray characters, and the enemy turned hero (whoops, there’s three). There is a complexity to those tropes that feed my fascination with human nature, so I am constantly referring back to them. A trope I actively avoid though is “you’re a hero, now you’re super powerful.” Maybe that’s not necessarily a trope, but it makes me cringe. You know the character that struggles all this time and then is bestowed powers and suddenly everything is perfect? Yup – that one. My eye is twitching just writing about it here.
Do you like to create books for adults? Yes – I am an active writer of adult thematic content (I’m talking high fantasy and horror here, readers, get your mind out of the gutter). Not because I don’t like YA, but because I absolutely adore exploring just how real we, humans, can be. Something that was always important to me in my writing is never to shy away from the ugly, even if it is morally wrong to the reader or character (we all do things under great stress, we all face our own demons, and we all hate something, etc.) My job, as the writer, is to exploit the very fundamentals of human nature, which makes it very much adult-related, most of the time.
What do you think makes a good story? Heart. Don’t write just to throw words on paper, write from the soul. When a reader says they can feel the emotion from the very pages they read, it’s because they can, and there is a significant difference between writing and storytelling.
Does writing energize or exhaust you? Energizes me. I turn into an addict seeking my next fix when I get to write day after day. It gives me so much life and makes me so incredibly fulfilled.
Does a big ego help or hurt writers? I always say: Never forget where you came from. It’s okay to be confident in your work, but don’t be so confident that you forget you were once an aspiring writer. Others look up to you and it is your job to become someone they can trust, not despise. So, in a sense, I do believe big egos hurt the writer. I will never forget the time I reached out to a writer who had just made it – her book was a debut that exploded, and she was living off that high. I had read the first and was just starting my journey for publishing and reached out to her. I wrote a message about what an inspiration she was and that I was so happy for her, and that it would mean the world if she could simply follow me back. Her reply? Cruel, rude, and dismissive because I was “a no one.” I won’t name names, as that’s not my place, but she defines what it means when your ego gets in the way of who you once were. And you can trust I never picked up a book after that by her. I’ve never shared that story, but this question is one I take very seriously as an author.
Who shot first, Han or Greedo? Han. Enough said. No discussion.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer? Everything – Invest in the editor, the cover, the formatter/interior designer, all of it. Countless times, I have people tell me “this doesn’t look self-published,” and that’s because I sold my soul for it. Ah – whoops, meant to say money. But emotionally speaking, the best money I ever spent was when I had a professional trailer done for the first book. At the time, I was dealing with significant doubt and my first experience with my editor. I got this trailer and the artist who did it took my breath away (she is a graphic designer and this trailer looked like it could fit the big screens). I think I watched that trailer fifteen times, back to back, and cried. It was at this very moment that I realized this dream was becoming very much real.
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel? The Anomoly by Michael Rutger. Nobody ever talks about it but let me tell you, best horror book I’ve read. I still think about it to this day, years later.
Do you write novels, novellas, short stories, episodic fiction, poems, screenplays, or something else? What is your preferred format? I write short stories and novels, ranging anywhere between 10k to 160k. I’ll admit though, I am a sucker for crossing the 100k mark. The epics I write are anywhere between 140k-160k.
Are you traditionally or self published? Or both? Do you feel there are advantages to one over the other? I am self-published. I chose this option because I wanted to give it a shot, carve my own path, and get a taste of this industry without the politics. It’s been incredibly rewarding and I have learned an immense amount of information that I would have never learned going the other route. I do think there are advantages to both – self-publishing provides a lot of direct control and freedom, but traditional publishing provide a mass marketing platform that makes traditional publishing so alluring. I think, at the end of the day, the decision you make (whether self-publishing or traditional) must be made with pure intentions. Don’t do either with the wrong intentions. For me, this was never about the money (although that is a nice perk), but to share my stories.
What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters, if anything? A big thank you - anyone who has made it into my books have done so because they provided a significant influence on how I perceive the world, myself, and so forth. And I mean both the good and bad. If you’ve made it to a death scene . . . need I say more?
What is the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything? Write for you and no one else. Write because you want to, not because you have to. And most importantly: write like you’ll never publish (I always say, if the book flops, I am still opening my laptop the next day and writing).
What does literary success look like to you? Literary success, to me, is connecting people from all over the world. Being able to share my stories and make people laugh, cry, yell, or whatever, are the moments I peak as a writer. I can’t tell you how fulfilling it is when I see a message come through from a reader who couldn’t believe a scene they just read – that means more to me than any review ever will.
What do you have coming next? So much! I’m a part of a top-secret project right now that I cannot discuss but will hopefully be huge upon release. I am working on The Dance with Destiny, book 3 of The Vorelian Saga, which will be released Spring 2024. I also have a horror piece that I am letting marinate for a few months before returning for a heavy self-edit before handing it over to the professional. I am also a part of Autumn Tales, Vol. 2, which is a horror anthololgy for charity and releases October 2023.