I'm ending the week with another awesome interview and another awesome self-published author talking about her journey to publication!
Here we go...
Kassandra Flamouri made her storytelling debut at age three with “Squirm the Worm,” which was warmly received by an audience of assorted beetles. After many years spent exploring a variety of interests, she went on to study music composition at the Sunderman Conservatory of Gettysburg College. She currently resides in Pennsylvania, moonlighting as a folk musician while juggling writing and teaching. Kassandra shares her heart and home with a very sweet and loving man, a very sweet and excitable cattle dog, and an only intermittently sweet, very old black cat.
Driven, talented, and determined to live up to her family's fame, Sasha Nikolayeva is ballet’s crown princess. But just when Sasha lands her most prestigious role yet, she falls prey to a host of disturbing neurological symptoms that threaten to end her career and her very life. As her mind and body weaken, she spirals into the world of her nightmares, where beauty and cruelty exist in the same breath and villains rule from the shadows.
In the glittering, sharp-edged City of Roses, Sasha is no princess. She’s a thrall, a slave. Thousands like her suffer in cursed silence while citizens enjoy the splendor of the City, blissfully unaware that their servants are anything more than living dolls enchanted to do their bidding. But the City's slavers know the truth, and they are always watching. One misstep could cost Sasha her life—or her soul.
Even as she endures the pain and indignity of captivity, Sasha can't help being drawn to the beauty of her nightmare world and the underground rebels who offer her friendship, shelter, even love. Before Sasha can break her chains for good, she'll need choose between the life waiting for her at home and the countless lives she could save if she stays. To choose a nightmare over her real life, her future, would be madness...but maybe a little madness is just what it takes to change the fate of a city built on lies.
Who are you and what do you write?
I’m Kassandra, and I write fantasy, usually with a folklore bent or mythological bent. My dad is Greek, so I grew up with a love of Greek mythology. Celtic music led me to Irish folklore, and I was hooked even before I realized my great-grandmother was from Ireland. That pretty much clinched it. I’m not sure I’ve written anything that doesn’t have at least a little magic in it.
Where and when and how did the writing life begin for you?
I’ve been writing stories for as long as I can remember (I was one of those dweebs that actually liked the creative writing exercises on standardized tests in elementary school). I wrote fanfiction all through high school and promised myself that one day I’d write an original novel. But in college I basically lived and breathed for music. I kept writing, though, even if it was music instead of novels. I was a composition major, and it drove my professors nuts that I either couldn’t or wouldn’t write music without “programmatic content” (music that conveys a narrative or depicts a scene of some sort).
After college, I worked as an SAT tutor and finally had the freedom and focus to start writing again. At first, I was just trying to check off an item on my bucket list but once I finished my first draft I thought hey, why not actually do this? So I started learning about the querying process and different publishing options. I rewrote the book I don’t even know how many times over about five years. I queried it to agents, then small publishers, got a publishing deal, lost the publishing deal (the press went belly up just as I was starting the editing process), moped a lot, finished revising and editing on my own (I’m an editor myself), ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to publish on my own, wrestled with IngramSpark and cried over cover designs…and a lot of other stuff… and here we are today. Somewhere in there I also published a couple of short story collections which basically flopped, which I kind of knew was going to happen because short stories are notoriously hard to sell, especially for new authors. But I learned how to navigate KDP, which has made the publishing process for Chalice smoother than it otherwise would have been.
What's been the hardest part of your writing/publishing experience so far? And the most enjoyable?
I’d say the hardest part is building a following and getting noticed in the vast sea of Twitter and Instagram. But I’m hoping that will change now that I have a (in my completely biased opinion) pretty awesome novel to offer instead of just a couple of niche short story collections. I’ve been blown away by some of the reviews I’m getting for Chalice, and it’s seriously so cool to hear strangers say such wonderful things about something I wrote. Getting my book into readers’ hands is definitely the most enjoyable and rewarding part of all this.
Would you go back and change anything?
From a financial standpoint, I probably SHOULD go back and, you know, not spend a kind of ridiculous amount of money to have my short stories professionally translated into Greek. The intersection of people who A) like to read B) speak Greek and C) can read in Greek is way, way smaller than I thought it would be. It always seemed to be a game of “pick 2.” I can’t say I regret it, though. As far as Chalice goes, I wouldn’t change anything substantial. I definitely made some mistakes along the way that cost me a few bucks (note to anyone thinking they can teach themselves Photoshop in a month: you can’t. Or if you can, you probably won’t convince me that you didn’t do it by selling your soul to the devil), but as far as the choice to self-publish, I don’t regret a thing. I always told myself I didn’t have the hustle or know-how to walk this road, but you can’t know something like that about yourself until you try. Whatever happens, I’ll be glad I at least gave it a go. If nothing else, I’ve learned a ton.
Where would you like to be in 5 years time? And 10? Or, what are your plans for the future?
I do plan on pursuing traditional publishing one day, if only because self-publishing is SO MUCH WORK. But maybe it’s like childbirth and I’ll forget how hard it was in a few years. I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, I’m querying my second novel to agents and small presses and am working on drafting my third novel.
What's one piece of advice you'd give to new writers just starting out?
Read craft books. Don’t take any of them as gospel, but read a bunch and try a wide variety of methods. Also re-read your favorite books and try to notice what it is you love about them. You don’t have to dissect them, but try to be aware of what makes your heart pound or what it is that keeps you coming back to them. And, most importantly, KEEP YOUR EYES ON YOUR OWN PAPER. Seriously. Comparing yourself to others in any way, shape, or form, is only going to make someone unhappy (probably you, but possibly the other person as well).
And most importantly...
Ketchup or Mayo? - This is just a mean question.
Night or Day? - Day.
Inside or Outside? - Inside, mostly. I love my cave. I really only enjoy being outside if it’s for hiking or something, or if it’s very quiet.
Dogs or Cats? - The more snuggles and fluff the better.
Twitter or Facebook? - Twitter for book stuff, FB for personal stuff
e-book or Paperback? - Paperback.
Sun or Rain? - Sun
Keyboard or Pencil & Notebook? - Each have their uses.
Comedy or Drama? - Depends on my mood.
Chips or Chocolate? - Why? Why would you ask someone to choose???
Want to guest blog or be interviewed? Got a cover reveal or book coming out?
Get in touch today!