Hello book lovers!
With everything that has been going on in the world lately and with a lot of us self isolating or social distancing we thought it would be a good time to introduce you to an exciting epic fantasy series that we are loving.
A Tale of Stars & Shadow is written by local author Lisa Cassidy and the third book in the series, A King of Masks & Magic, is out today!
With three books now out in the series it is the perfect time to dive in and get lost in this fantasy world.
To introduce you all to this wonderful series and the author behind it we thought we would interview Lisa and ask her to tell us a little bit about the books!
with Lisa Cassidy
Can you tell us a little bit about A Tale of Stars and Shadow and where your inspiration for the series came from?
A Tale of Stars and Shadow was born out of another series I’ve written set in a much earlier time period in the same world – that series is one of the earliest stories I ever wrote (read: the writing is pretty raw!). Once I’d finished that, I was really excited to write about how that world might look after a few generations had passed.
I first started A Tale of Stars and Shadow 10-15 years ago, and have been working on it off and on since then. Once my first self published series – The Mage Chronicles – was under my belt and I felt I’d learned enormous amounts about writing and publishing… this was the story I wanted to do next, because of everything I’ve ever written, it’s always been my secret favourite.
How many books are there going to be in the series?
Four books! But I’m not ruling out the possibility that in the future I may go back to that original series…
When writing, do you already know how the series is going to end or does it evolve as you go?
I have no idea, lol! I’m a pantser, which means I write without plotting anything. I get bored with a story if I know where it’s going, so for me the most exciting way to write is to discover the story as I go along. That isn’t easy… especially when it comes to a fantasy book with lots of different layers that need to weave together, and I spend a lot of time editing! But I’ve discovered I love the editing process as well, so it’s a win all round 😊
What kind of research did you have to do when writing these books?
Not a huge amount… one of the benefits of writing in fantasy is that you can make everything up about the world you set your story in. But I did do a bit of reading and watching YouTube videos on sai fighting techniques because sais are Talyn’s main weapon and I wanted her use of them to be realistic. The Callanan unarmed combat form of sabai is loosely based on karate, which I am a black belt in, so that helped a lot. I also did a bit of research on medieval ships and nautical terms given the Shadowhawk likes to rob them occasionally!
The covers for these books are gorgeous! Where did the designs come from and do you have a favourite?
Thank you! Jessica Bell is the cover designer I’ve used for this series – she’s an Australian artist and musician living over in Greece, and is an extremely talented cover designer. I’m a horrible artist (stick figures are a challenge for me) so I struggle a bit with articulating a vision for my book covers. I usually give my designer the main themes of the book, the colours I’d like used and some examples of other book covers I love, and let them go to town with their imagination. Once the designer has a concept that I like, we go from there to tweak it until it’s just right. One of the things I love most about self-publishing is the control I have over things like my book covers.
I think my favourite so far is the A King of Masks and Magic cover… I just love that blue, and the image of the crown with the mask is so perfect for this book (once you’ve read it you’ll know what I mean!)
What made you want to be a writer? Was it something you always wanted to do?
I started writing in my late teens, and for many, many years had absolutely no intention of trying to publish. I wrote only as a hobby because I loved it so much. I always had this weird fear that an editor/publisher would mess up my story, and then of course there’s the intimidating process of traditional publishing and how hard that is to get into. It just wasn’t what I wanted. And then, a few years ago, I saw an article about self-publishing… and my whole mindset changed. I think as I was getting older too, I started to realise that writing might be what I really wanted to do, more than anything else!
In terms of learning craft… I tried a creative writing course or three over the years and couldn’t stick with any. Writing is so intuitive to me, I struggled to sit in a class and apply lessons… yes, my brain is weird. My learning has come on the job – my first published book had two different editors, and the learning curve was exponential. I soaked in all their comments and advice with absolute delight—my fears were unfounded, the right editor only makes your story better. I grow stronger as a writer every time I have a book edited, it’s fantastic!
When writing do you tend to stick to a strict schedule, or do you write when inspiration strikes?
A bit like plotting out a book, if I set myself a schedule it tends to kill my inspiration or interest—the same with giving myself word count goals. Having said that, I love writing (and editing) and there is very rarely a day where I’m not working on something. There are days where I’m on an absolute roll with a book and I could write up to 6000 words, and then some days I’m not feeling it as much and it will be closer to 1000. But I’m usually always doing something.
And my brain… even when I’m not writing my brain is working through story ideas, figuring out what comes next, etc. I’m very lucky to have such a great imagination.
Has writing the A Tale of Stars and Shadow books been a different process to your previous Young Adult series, The Mage Chronicles?
I’ve felt a lot more confident with this series after the learning process I went through with The Mage Chronicles. My instincts over what’s working and what isn’t feel much more on point, and as I write now, I can hear my editor’s voice in the back of my head pointing out where I’m going off track.
That’s not to say I still don’t have a lot of improving to do as a writer—I’m always learning and I hope I never stop!!
What is your writing process and the way you brainstorm story ideas? Do you write every day? Set a word count schedule?
I’ve mostly answered this above, I think, but in terms of brainstorming… that process usually takes place in my head. I’m constantly having potential story ideas pop up (while I’m watching TV, or reading a book, or watching people at a cafe… basically anytime or anywhere). Sometimes one of those ideas sticks and won’t let go, and I start to build on it, flesh it out in my head. When that happens, I’m totally hooked and have to start writing it down. That’s when I open up the word document and start typing (note, it’s very frustrating when this happens while you’re still in the middle of finishing another book!)
Do you have a favourite place to write? Do you need to be in a specific place or under certain conditions to write or can you write anywhere?
I mostly write in my study, where I’m surrounded by all my books. I admit I like the comforting familiarity of my computer, my comfy chair, the quiet space, and being able to look up and see all my favourite books around me. But when I’m travelling, I really enjoy finding cosy little cafes to sit in a corner and write away with a cup of coffee (self-confessed coffee addict here). As long as there’s a table, coffee, and my laptop, I can write anywhere.
Do you start with the world building of a novel or are you more character based?
It’s always the characters that draw me into a story…and the plot comes after that. For The Mage Chronicles I wanted to explore the friendship dynamic of Alyx, Dashan and Cayr as they grew up. And then the magic, battles and intrigue all followed.
What are your top 5 fantasy novels that everyone should read?
- Robin Hobb – The Assassin’s Apprentice series
- Isobelle Carmbody – The Obernewtyn Chronicles
- Jay Kristoff – The Nevernight Chronicles
- Anything written by Victoria Schwab
- Patrick Rothfuss – The Name of the Wind
What are you currently reading?
The Midnight Lie – I opened it up just last night. So far the writing is so beautiful and lyrical!
Are you able to tell us what you are currently working on or what plans you have for the future?
I am currently working on the first round of edits on Book 4 of A Tale of Stars and Shadow. I have rather ambitiously set myself the date of September 2020 to release that book so am working pretty hard on it 😊 After that, I think I’ve decided what series I’m going to work on next, but for now that’s a secret….
Is there anything you would like to say to your readers?
Thank you so much for having me, Claire, it’s been an honour!
I sincerely hope you all enjoy A King of Masks and Magic and find it a great addition to the series. I love chatting with my readers, so please feel free to reach out if you have any questions or want to know more about any of my answers here! With everyone self-isolating at the moment and needing to stay healthy and happy at home, I’m more than happy to chat via email about anything and everything book or writing related (or what Netflix shows you’re bingeing- I always love a good recommendation).
– Lisa Cassidy
The first three books in the A Tale of Stars and Shadow series are all available in store now!
Don’t forget you can call, email or order on our website for delivery.