Hey there, Insiders!
Well, it’s time for another author interview, and today we’re flapping gums with Olivia Rising. Olivia’s first fantasy novel, Transition, has just been released.
Break the ice and tell our readers who you are and what kind of thing you write.
Hi! I’m Olivia, a.k.a Chrysalis, a web fiction author on the cusp of making the transition to ebooks / print. I live in Bern, Switzerland, in a cozy one-room apartment which I share with numerous videogames, books, and fictional characters. It’s a bit cramped, but we manage.
I write the Anathema series, a dark, gritty Urban Fantasy with superpowers. Despite being a law-abiding individual in real life, I love to break the established genre conventions. My superheroes don’t necessarily wear costumes (or capes!), my supervillains aren’t shy to use firearms, and my character death count is somewhere up there with Game of Thrones.
How do you approach your stories; do you plan everything out before starting, or are you more a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of a person?
I tried plotting; it didn’t work out. I’ve written more than half a million words for my series so far, and the only plotting I managed to do was for the first three arcs –about 80K words. Now I develop the story at a pace which is pre-determined by my weekly updates.
I don’t know what exactly is going to happen in the next few chapters, but I know how the series will end. My characters are leading the way there. I never ask ‘what do I want to happen next?’ it’s more like ‘what would these characters do next?’ they dictate where the story is going, not me.
Tell us about your most recent release, and why the heck our readers should give it a shot:
I think something like Anathema hasn’t been done before, at least not outside of web fiction. Wildbow already turned the superhero genre on its head and portrayed characters who are really just people with powers, but I’m taking the deconstruction one step further by eliminating secret identities as well as villain prisons. Anathema explores the question of ‘what would happen if superpowers were introduced to our world?’
The answers touch on some subjects that aren’t typically addressed in superhero fiction: international politics, religion, and racial tension. Some of my web fiction readers told me they don’t usually read superhero stories, but really enjoyed mine.
I believe the series will appeal to anyone who enjoys dark, gritty settings with flawed characters and realistic consequences to supernatural events. One reviewer on Webfiction guide thought it could be a Game of Thrones type of story with superpowers in a modern setting.
What’s the biggest influence on the kind of thing you write? Another writer? A TV show? Some other thing that is neither of those two things?
Worm, the web serial by John Mc Crae a.k.a Wildbow. I devoured the 1.7 million words in 3 weeks, and the feedback he provided for some early drafts of my first handful of chapters inspired many significant changes, especially in regards to world building and the distribution of powers.
I believe it’s fair to say Anathema wouldn’t exist without Worm. Not just because it was the most original and inspiring story I read all my life, but because it showed me that I don’t need to spend years waiting for a publisher’s approval to find readers. My readers are out there. Reaching out to them is a matter of hours, sometimes minutes.
Unbreakable with Bruce Willis. Of all the superhero films I’ve seen, Unbreakable was the first to emphasize human characters (and a human, relatable villain) over fast-paced action and splashy special effects.
What was your favourite book as a kid?
Back in grade school, I devoured any and all of Wolfgang Hohlbein’s Fantasy novels before moving on to Stephen King. It’s hard to pick my personal favorite from back then – I’m in my thirties now. It feels like ‘being a kid’ is something that happened a very long time ago.
If I had to choose, my favorite would be either Stephen King’s The Stand or Wolfgang Hohlbein’s Midgard.
What comes first for you with a story, concept or characters?
Probably a mix of all three, but in the case of Anathema I can say it was one character in particular: Chris. She predates my decision to write anything at all. Originally, she was a character I developed for a play-by-post forum roleplaying game hosted on Myth Weavers.
The game was set to take place in Wildbow’s Worm universe, and because the host – who now writes a web serial of his own – was a big fan, he encouraged potential players to read Worm before creating a character for the game. That’s how I learned that web fiction is a thing, and that superhero fiction can be dark, different and ‘realistic’. I was in love.
Long story short: I liked my character from that forum game so much that I decided to use her in my original setting, too.
What are you reading/watching/playing/hiding from right now?
I’m trying to play the Witcher 3, but I just never seem to find the time, so I usually resort to Solitaire instead. It’s fairly easy to stop playing Solitaire when I need to get some actual work done.
The newest addition to my Kindle library is Drew Hayes’ Corpies. I can’t wait to dig in!
What made you decide to go indie, and what do you see as the benefits of indie?
Well… the thought of traditional publishing hasn’t crossed my mind in the past 20 years or so. What matters most to me is readers and feedback. I always found the waiting times associated with traditional publishing discouraging. Why wait years when I can upload my stories on a popular web fiction platform and start building my audience right away?
My web serial readers like the story; some have been following it for more than a year and still post comments to cheer me on. I’ve gotten comments that were 400+ words long and moved me to tears. The direct reader feedback means more to me than any validation I could be getting from agents or publishers.
Who is your favourite fictional character, be it from books, TV, comics, movies or games?
Daenerys, the Mother of Dragons. Taylor, the protagonist of Wildbow’s Worm web series, is awesome too. But… dragons! What’s not to love?
Tell us about a great indie book or two that you’ve read:
I just finished CyberStorm by Matthew Mather. Hands down, this is the best post-apocalyptic novel I’ve read in a long time. It explores a frighteningly realistic scenario which doesn’t come up in post-apocalyptic fiction very often, and the writing / editing are top notch.
I also loved T. Ellery Hodges’ Never Hero. He enriched the superhero genre with some twists and novel concepts of his own.
D’you listen to music whilst you write? The TV on in the background providing a pleasant white-noise babble? Or d’you DEMAND SILENCE WHILST YOU CREATE FROM NOTHING.
Silence would kill me! Seriously, I CANNOT write without music. At all. My stories unfold as movie trailers in my head, and movie trailers need music, right? Whenever I get stuck in my writing, music gets the creativity juice flowing again.
Which of your own works are you proudest of?
Escalation, the second book in the Anathema series contains some twists and developments I’m quite proud of. The title says it all. The world (and the characters) will never be the same again.
I’m also fond of the two interludes in that book. One of them is a chapter dedicated to the origin story of Emily / Kid, a nine year old Empath and supporting character who influences the plot and the POV characters time and time again.
I submitted her interlude as a guest post to Drew Hayes’ Corpies serial. It was so well-received that my own blog stats exploded overnight. Literally. I went from an all-time high of 675 daily views to 1783. One of Drew’s readers even became my Patreon supporter. Wow!
What’s you’re writing schedule like? Are you super regimented, butt-in-chair every day, tip-tapping away for hours, or an airy-fairy ‘when the muse strikes’ sort of a person?
My muse is a harsh mistress. Some days she sings sweetly in my ear, we are in love, and I actually get a good chunk of writing done. Other days she turns her back, and I stare at my computer monitor in a dazed stupor, fiddling with random objects in my reach and checking the clock every five minutes or so.
I’m a slow writer who averages around 250 words a day – English isn’t my first language. If I didn’t at least try to write and edit every day, I’d get no writing done.
What’s your number one piece of advice for anyone reading this who is considering going the indie route?
Try web fiction to get your feet wet and build an audience! Web fiction doesn’t require any sort of financial investment, and it’s a good way to gauge interest in a story before you make the decision whether or not to get it edited for an ebook / print publication. Your built-in audience will give you a starting boost on Amazon, too.
Tell me a ‘classic’ book that you’ve not been able to get through:
A German book I was supposed to read at school: ‘Sansibaroder der letzteGrund’ by Alfred Andersch. I’m sorry, teacher! Please forgive me (or don’t read this interview).
So what treats do you have in store for readers next?
Escalation, the second book in the Anathema series, is due for a release in summer. I’ve already written book 3 and most of book 4, but the editing is going to take some time. I expect to finish the series sometime in 2017 (2018 for ebook and print).
Check out Olivia’s work HERE!