Interview: fantasy debut author Ashley Steffenson

Hello book dragons! How was your September? Did you read many books? I’ll be honest, I didn’t finish a single book in September because I was focusing on my revisions for The Solitary King. It’s coming along nicely and will be off to beta readers in October and my editor in November, and I’ve really enjoyed being immersed in the Fair Realm again!

Today, I’ve got a really exciting interview to share with you. Ashley Steffenson is one of the incredible authors that I’m collaborating with on Enchanted Forests, the follow up to Enchanted Waters, as well as Once Upon a Name! I’m so excited to have my name on two beautiful covers with Ashley, and I can’t wait to introduce you to her.

So, without further ado…

Hi Ashley! Thank you so much for joining me today. Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I’m Ashley and I currently write under my married name – Ashley Steffenson. I’m a born and raised California girl turned Southern. My husband (a 50% Irish hottie – swoon!) and I moved to South Louisiana about a year ago and we are LOVING it. I received my BA in Intercultural Studies from William Jessup University, and am now working as a Librarian Page at our local library. I also have a small candle-making business on the side called Estellian Treasures, originally inspired by my debut novel. We have three wily cats – Ember, Milo, and Piper – and we are expecting a third tiny human heart in the family in April 2022.

Oh, congratulations Ashley! What an exciting adventure you’re about to begin, I’m so happy for you! Can you tell us when you started writing and what inspired you?

Funnily enough I haven’t always been a writer. My passion for writing began 3 years ago when I started a new job at a jewelry shop as a saleswoman. I hated that job, but I loved learning about gemstones. That led me to the birth of ‘Estellia’, my debut novel. Furthermore, Adrienne Young (an ah-may-zing YA writer) also indirectly inspired me. Now I’m beyond blessed to be a part of Enchanted Forests with all these incredible award-winning, and up-and-coming authors!

That’s so interesting, I can totally see how learning about gemstones could be the inspiration for a fantasy novel. I love world building, personally, and one of the things I did when I was creating the world for The Fair Queen was to choose gemstones that symbolised each of the five different types of Fair. OK, I’ll pick your brain about gemstones later! What are your favourite books or your favourite genre?

Favorite genre would definitely have to be Fantasy/High Fantasy/Sci-Fi. And I have too many favorite books! A few of my favorite authors include J.R.R. Tolkein, C.S. Lewis, and George MacDonald (originally known as the ‘master of the fairytale’). Joseph Campbell is pretty awesome too. I listened to The Hero with a Thousand Faces on audio three times and still didn’t understand all of it lol. He’s a philosophical mastermind!

Those are some of the greats right there! I love high fantasy and portal fantasy, and I’m so excited to read your upcoming debut novel, can you tell us a little about it?

Estellia is now officially ready for preorder on Amazon! Click here to read the blurb and get your copy.

My short story ‘A Lesson in Refinement’ will also be coming out in another anthology titled Once Upon A Name in 2022.

I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of Once Upon a Name! It’s such a cool project and I’m really glad we’re working together on it, along with eighteen other awesome authors! Where do you find inspiration for your stories? 

Oh I 100% go to Pinterest and type in all sorts of fantasy creatures/places and if a picture speaks to me then I base my characters/story on that!

Also, I’m blessed to have an amazingly talented artist for a cousin who can help bring my characters to life based on my descriptions. You will be able to see some of her artwork in my debut novel!

Oh you’re so lucky, I love character art and illustrations in books, that’s one of my favourite things about the Enchanted Anthologies. Do you consider yourself a plotter, pantser or plantser? 

I use the ‘Save the Cat’ Blake Snyder Beat Sheet, but sometimes my characters take the reins and the story goes in a different direction lol. So I’d say I’m a plantser. Guess that’s what happens when you have such headstrong characters! 

I’m exactly the same, I love a strong, detailed outline to keep me writing and on the right track, but I also like a little wiggle room for those pesky characters to have their say! What are you working on right now?

Final edits for Estellia, beta reads/editing for Once Upon a Name, and I need to start plotting out my story for Enchanted Forests. Also working on a book review for the library on Enchanted Waters which will eventually be posted on our Staff Picks webpage at lafourche.org

You’ve got some really exciting projects on the go, I can’t wait to read them all! Thank you so much for chatting with me today, Ashley, it’s been lovely. Before I let you go, what one piece of advice would you give aspiring authors? 

Don’t give up. Be patient with yourself, and with what life throws at you along the way. Enjoy the journey of creating a masterpiece and be proud of your work. You wrote a freaking NOVEL for heaven’s sake! That’s something to be proud of.

Don’t rush yourself. George R.R. Martin has been writing for over 20 years. And J.R.R. Tolkien didn’t finish his books overnight. You got this. And KEEP WRITING. No matter what it is, always try to write something each day. Even if it’s a simple journal entry. And never stop reading.

Yes to all of this! We should all be so incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved by persevering and finishing an entire story, whether it’s a short story, novella or full-length novel. Not many people do it and it’s a hugely impressive achievement.

How can we find out more about you and your books? 

Instagram: @authorashleyanne

Facebook page/group:  Writerly Adventures in Estellia and Beyond

Other: @estellian.treasures

Amazon: Buy Estellia now!


How incredible is Ashley? If you’re a writer I really hope you found her advice helpful, because she’s absolutely right! And if you like the sound of Ashley’s debut novel, Estellia, or our upcoming anthologies Enchanted Forests and Once Upon a Name, then you can preorder them on Amazon right now!

Happy reading,

Lyndsey

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7 things I wish I’d known when I published my debut novel

It’s been almost a year since I published my debut novel, The Fair Queen, and I can honestly say it’s been one of the best years of my life. Pandemic aside, the friends I’ve made, opportunities I’ve been given and everything I’ve learned since hitting ‘submit’ on my first book have made it an amazing twelve months.

But, that’s not to say that I wouldn’t do it slightly differently if I had my first time again. Sadly, I don’t actually own a time machine, so I’ll have to settle for doing a few things – and NOT doing a few others – next time around. Bring on book two, The Solitary King!

Here’s seven things I wish I’d known when I published by debut novel:

Fast release

OK, so I won’t be fast releasing books 2 and 3 in The Fair Chronicles, sadly, my timeline for these books will be early 2022 and early 2023, for so many reasons (I’m starting a degree soon and my military husband is moving away for work and then being deployed next year, so it’s going to be a busy couple of years!). But next series for definite!

The difficulty with slow releasing is that you end up having to work ten times harder on your marketing to get people to remember you and buy the next book. With fast releasing, they’ve just read (and hopefully loved) your first book in the series and can’t wait to get their hands on the next one.

On that subject…

Linking to preorder book 2 in the back of book 1

When I published The Fair Queen, I had already written a good chunk of The Solitary King, but I didn’t trust myself to have it finished in time for people to preorder it and get it by a specific date. And, wouldn’t you know, like a self fulfilling prophecy, I haven’t gotten TSK ready for publication yet. But it is in the works, and in six months’ time not only will you be able to buy The Solitary King, but you’ll also be able to preorder the third and final book in Aria’s story (which is currently untitled, but one thing at a time).

The cover might be a place holder, the blurb might be a little vague and subject to change, but I’m promising you now that there will be a link to preorder TFC3 at the end of TSK and I’ll keep to my promised publication date in early 2023.

Hold me to that.

Facebook groups

I didn’t have a Facebook group for readers when I started this publishing journey, in fact I’ve only just started one (you can join Lyndsey Hall’s Fair Folk here). But not only that, I was barely in any groups myself, I didn’t know many of my fellow indie authors, I didn’t have a real community or a place for readers and friends to share about books and play games and host giveaways. And now I do!

I’ll definitely be using my Facebook group more going forward, in fact, I’ve got a few really cool ideas for my birthday in early August and The Fair Queen’s bookaversary on 30 August…

Newsletter swaps

I’ve actually had an email newsletter for years, but it only consisted of my most recent blog post emailed out to around 30 people who’d signed up in 2016. So when I heard about the great indie marketing tactic that is newsletter swaps, I knew I needed to get started sooner rather than later!

I’ve now got almost 2k email subscribers who get Letters from the Fair Realm every week, with a bit of an update about life, my books, anything fun coming up over the next week or two, as well as a link to my latest blog post and a few book recommendations and book fairs with discounted books, new releases and Kindle Unlimited books. It’s been a great way to connect with new readers and get some feedback on what people like and want to read.

Where do I find other authors to swap newsletter mentions with, you ask, well Facebook groups, but also…

StoryOrigin

If you’re a self-published author, or aspire to be, then StoryOrigin is definitely worth looking into. I was introduced to it back in March when it was still in beta (read: free) and now I’m a paying member as I found it so useful for my book marketing efforts.

SO lets you create and join group promos (book fairs) which will then be shared by all the authors involved in their newsletters and even on social media, giving you more exposure than you ever could have gotten alone (teamwork, amirite?). It also allows you to search for newsletter swaps with other authors in and around your genre, using either a universal book link (UBL) or a reader magnet (a free short story, novella, book, or sample).

That’s not all though, you can also use it to host review copies and accept requests from reviewers, whose stats for downloads versus reviews you can check before approving. Plus there’s a handy word goal tracker to help you get words on the page.

If I could go back a year, I would definitely join StoryOrigin sooner and start building my email list and creating reader magnets to get my readership ready (this isn’t an ad btw, I’m just a big fan!).

Promotions

One of the things I hadn’t considered before this year is big promo sites and newsletters. I just hadn’t even realised these sites existed, let alone that there were some that were worthwhile paying for and others that weren’t. Luckily, Reedsy and Kindlepreneur (two sites for writers I absolutely trust and can comfortably recommend you check out) have created lists of the best promo sites and newsletters to get your book out there, including which have free services. (Spoiler: not many do!)

These services are best utilised for brand new releases and big sales, so the week your new book comes out or over the few days your book is free or 0.99. You either want to make your money back from sales, or get enough free downloads that you know the reviews will start to roll in and it’ll be worth the cost in the long run.

(I’ll do a more in depth blog post on these services and which have worked well for me soon.)

Author friends!

I don’t know what I would do without the friends I’ve made since I decided to self publish my stories. Or where I would be. Whether I’d have stuck out this indie life and continued with publishing. I certainly wouldn’t have reached as many readers as I have, or been offered the opportunities I’ve been lucky enough to have. I wouldn’t have a second published story coming out on 16 July in Enchanted Waters, or a group of ride-or-die indies who have had the best time working together over the past year that we’ve decided to do it again next year, with Enchanted Forests.

This past year has been a dream come true, even wilder than my wildest dreams, and it’s been made possible by you guys, my loyal blog readers, the fellow authors who helped me along the way, through NaNoWriMo and Pitch Wars, the friends in Facebook groups where we shared synopses and blurbs, celebrated word count goal wins and complained about agent rejections. The indies on Instagram who inspired me to go solo and take a chance on myself, and then became the best friends a new baby author could have.

Thank you to all of you, if you’ve ever read a single word I’ve written, here, on social media, in a book or elsewhere, then this is my thanks to you. You’ve made my dream come true this year.

Lyndsey

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