It’s not possible it’s the middle of September already, is it?
I suppose it is; that’s the thing with time and calendars and such. They keep moving no matter how we want them to slow down!
On the other hand, it means you’ve made it to another new interview! Today we have fantasist and musician Cassia Hall dropping in!
Cassia Hall is the author of the fantasy-themed poetry collection: Fantasy Romance – Poems of Myth & Magick, and the books in The Lake Traveler saga.
Her novels – Silvermist, Silverleaf – and novellas, Spring Song, Summer Lights, cross the genres of High Fantasy and Romance.
Character-driven, with strong female or LBGTQ+ leads and a lyrical tone, the novels and novellas in the Lake Traveler saga have inspired poems and songs (composed by the author) that add to the enjoyment of the series.
I highly recommend you start the music playing while you read her interview!
PURCHASE LINKS – here, or click on each cover image!
What do you think makes a good story?
A good story must be compelling, and the main characters must be engaging. In romance, I would expect the MC to make the reader swoon. The reader must be able to follow the story without too much effort. There has to be a reason for them to keep reading, and there has to be a pay-off at the end.
I’m old-fashioned and like to read between the lines, but I understand that one must move with the times and adapt to the tastes of the modern reader. So, in my slow-burn romances, I have upped the UST a couple of notches, and my readers are giving me a big thumbs up for that.
A well-written story is just so much easier to read. The more work we as writers put into polishing our manuscripts, the smoother and easier and more enjoyable the reader’s experience. Much of good writing is like invisible scaffolding—it has to be there but you don’t see it. The only time you notice is when the writer wants you to—a particularly beautiful passage, a lyrical turn of phrase.
For me, a good story is a compelling or engaging story, well told and well-written.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I don’t think these two things are mutually exclusive. During the beta process, my betas often tell me what they want from a passage that they’re not getting. Often, it is something that I meant to deliver but did not spend enough time or thought on it. Once the issue is flagged, I realise that I need to revise, expand or otherwise improve on my writing so the readers get what I had meant to give them but was not able to do so with the first or second draft. Giving them what they want is often me figuring out how to give them what I intended to but fell short of doing, for whatever reason.
Writing is all about re-writing (revising/editing/polishing). That’s where the magic happens. It is when the real story evolves into being, becoming what it could be, what it was meant to be all along. Every revision/edit/round of beta’ing should move a WIP into a better version of its former self.
What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?
Most of my characters are not (consciously) based on real people. With me being a pantser, many just turn up as the story progresses. I welcome them into the fold and sometimes they develop into fully fleshed-out characters, maybe even MCs in another story (like Heinregard and Clayten in Spring Song). But a few are composites of people I know and love, with traits that I admire. Because my characters are composites, the people they’re based on never recognize themselves. I’m not sure I owe them anything (they sure as heck aren’t getting a cut of my royalties, hah), but I am grateful to have (or have had) them in my life, for showing me the many different aspects of human nature.
Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
Well, I suppose it doesn’t matter if they’re a technical writer or a writer of non-fiction or in academia. But if we’re talking fiction, then I think it may be challenging. People read fiction for different reasons, but one big reason (and this may not even be conscious) is to have an emotional experience.
Most people are brought up to suppress their feelings, but those feelings are still accessible to those brave enough to open themselves up to the experience. For many, writing is a coping strategy, a creative form of sublimation. It’s therapy. It’s sacred work. If you’re really brave, it can be cathartic.
Many write because the pain they feel has to come out somewhere, somehow. I find it difficult to believe that people who choose to write fiction do not feel emotions strongly. I believe they write fiction precisely because they feel strongly and, knowingly or unknowingly, have come to the conclusion that it is the only safe outlet for the emotions that they are not able to express any other way.
The challenge is not so much about not being able to feel emotions strongly. The challenge lies in how to acknowledge, accept, access and then convey these strongly-felt emotions onto the page—honestly, poignantly, without coming across as maudlin or overly sentimental.
Does a big ego help or hurt writers?
I think a big ego hurts every aspect of our lives. It’s important to differentiate ego from confidence, because we often mistake one for the other. We can be confident and self-assured without being egotistical. As writers, as people, we need to be confident in our abilities but at the same time stay humble, simply because there’s so much to learn, often from those younger and less experienced. We don’t know it all and we can’t possibly know it all. Having a ‘beginner’s mind’ is very important, whatever we undertake. It doesn’t matter if someone has been writing for decades and happens to be rather good at it. There’s ALWAYS room for improvement. Even if someone thinks their writing cannot possibly improve (now that’s egotistical), they still need to learn about marketing and publishing, the complexities of different genres and subgenres, etc. So yeah, a big ego would hurt a writer, just as it would mess with our personal lives.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
I was published in the small press many years ago, so the concept of beta reading was completely new to me. Like I do with most things, when I decided to go full indie, I threw myself whole-heartedly into the beta’ing process, and was richly rewarded. I was very fortunate to find beta readers who neither flinched nor shy away from the very rough first draft of Spring Song. In fact, it took three batches of betas to straighten things out, and one wonderful super-beta (Daiva Paskauskaite — you rock, girl!) even stayed with me throughout the entire process, helping me polish my final manuscript until it shone.
In the run-up to release, I depended on the kindness of strangers (new FB friends) to point me in the right direction. Much of the time, I had no idea what I was doing, but I never let that stop me, so I just kept asking questions and moving forward, one baby step at a time. Of course, I should have planned it all properly, but that wouldn’t be me. I’m not the most organized person and get easily overwhelmed, so if you told me it would take up to a year of planning and marketing before I can release a book, I would have just thrown my hands in the air and given up.
So really, these are all the surprising and delightful things that happened – the kindness of strangers, my awesome betas who read sub-standard work for hours, the FB indies who came chivalrously to my help as I slowly but surely unraveled in the lead-up to release, someone (yourself, Adam) pointing me in the direction of D2D when I was losing my epic battle with IGS. Ignorance is not excuse, as they say, but there’s so much to indie publishing that it’s really impossible to learn everything upfront, so I just kept moving forward with the help of all these wonderful people, one baby step at a time.
So, I guess the most surprising thing is this – It takes a village. Completing Spring Song, bringing it to publication was a collaborative effort. It took a group of betas to help me write Spring Song the way it was meant to be written, and another group of kind FB friends and strangers who took pity on my struggles close to release, and gave me advice and tips and hints and moral support. That was totally unexpected and meant so much. And that’s why I like to say, What’s worth doing is worth doing together. Sure, I could struggle on my own, but I’ve done that with my previous books, and it wasn’t half as much fun, and I believe the results will soon speak for themselves.
Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?
I’ve read a ton of manuscripts/ARCs/books this past year from indies (some published, some not), and I’ve noticed some people spending a lot of time working on a huge project (a novel) without ever asking for help, and then they end up with this huge tome that is quite problematic and they’re not able to get people to beta or even alpha for them. Sure, anyone can publish nowadays, but there are some things that are not negotiable if you want to produce and publish quality work.
Anyone with self-discipline can complete a first draft on their own. But if you’re serious about publishing, you need to LEARN HOW TO SELF-EDIT. Buy a copy of Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne & Dave King, read it, then apply EVERYTHING you learn from this little book BEFORE seeking the help of alphas and/or betas. If you’re really serious about writing, read books on CRAFT—learn about story structure, character arcs, description and dialogue, all the good stuff.
Meanwhile, find good editors, esp. for developmental editing (maybe also line-editing, depending on how clean your writing is). The more help you get, the faster you can go from first draft to completion. If you really want to get better, ask people to be honest. If you want to get better quickly, ask people to be blunt. If you have a thick skin, avail yourself of the free services of Critique Circle. If you really want to speed up the process, be prepared to pay for good, experienced betas and editors.
DO NOT TAKE THINGS PERSONALLY, because it’s never about you. It’s about the story and how it can improve. Your stories and your writing will not improve if you keep ignoring or arguing with the very people you’ve asked to give their opinion and advice. LEARN TO ACCEPT CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM without being defensive about your work. Only then will your stories and your writing improve.
How many books have you written? Which is your favourite?
Right now, I have a published collection of fantasy-themed poems titled Fantasy Romance – Poems of Myth & Magick. Book One of my Lake Traveler series (Silvermist) was published many years ago but has been revised and was republished last year. The sequel, Silverleaf needs one more round of self-edit before it goes out to an editor.
My newest release is a novella, Spring Song, Book One in the Seasons Cycle, which is a spin-off series from my main Lake Traveler series. It all started with two side-characters in Silvermist, Heinregard and Clayten, wanting their back-story told. What I thought was to be a short story turned into a novella and that developed into its own series, complete with poems and songs.
So basically, I have one poetry collection and two ‘first of series’ (one novel, one novella) published, and I’m working on the remaining books for these two series.
Hard to pick a favourite book, but I can tell you my favourite new poem. It’s The Forsaken Mermaid, and will head my next poetry collection, which will contain all the poems and songs in my Lake Traveler Saga.
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
I’m trying to keep everything within the Lake Traveler worlds, but the time-line for the Seasons Cycle is twelve years earlier than the main Lake Traveler series. In the Seasons Cycle, Jess Lochlen, my MC, is a child, whereas in Silvermist, she’s a full-grown young woman. Most of my fantasy poems and all my music are written for the Lake Traveler Saga.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I have a youtube channel where I’ve been uploading music, songs that I’ve composed for my characters. I would love for readers of my books to listen to the songs as they are all composed for key-scenes in my stories. I feel they really add another dimension to my written work.
Be sure to subscribe to my youtube channel as I keep adding songs as they come off the production line. You can check out many of the songs on youtube, on pinterest, and of course on my writing website and my music website where you’ll be able to read all about the wonderful musicians I work with.
Here are links to my websites and social media:
I understand you have a couple more goodies for your new fans?
Yes! A poem, and a short sample from Silvermist!
The Forsaken Mermaid
by Cassia Hall
Land stretches far beyond the sea
I had not noticed, whilst still carefree
I swam and dove
No talk of love
My current plight none could foresee
In the ocean’s fond embrace
’Midst wrack and ruins, I grew apace
Fish I raced
Waves I chased
Till even tides I soon outpaced
One starless night, ’neath full moon’s glare
A haunting tune pierced salt-steeped air
Soft and low
You sang alone – unwary, unaware
You sang me up from ocean waves
You lured me forth from warm sea-caves
Soft and low
Love’s first throes
Thus did you my heart enslave
Between tide-marks on the sandy beach
As terns and seagulls squawk and screech
I lie and pine
Return what’s mine
Look how I’m beyond the waves’ full reach
Between tide-marks on the golden sand
As wrack and shells stranded on half-dry land
I lie and pine
Return what’s mine
If you no longer wish to hold my hand
The seagulls call, they rise and fall
Like waves far out from this unclaimed seashore
Return what’s mine
To the ocean brine
A mermaid’s heart belongs on the ocean floor.
Excerpt from SILVERMIST, Book One in the Lake Traveler series”
Just a song. Just another sad love song, that was all, naught more. But a song that made a grown man’s color fade from his face. A song that made his lady cry. A song that spoke of love and loss, and more, of worlds where time was a factor gone astray—where a traveling stranger went away and returned to find half a century gone by.
Different worlds kept different times, he supposed that was the moral behind the tale. As if there were truly worlds and worlds, as natural as lands and lands.
He ran his fingers through his hair, thinking and thinking himself to sleep. Dreams assailed him that long night, dreams of him and his lady separated, rent apart by the vagaries of time and space. And in his dreams, he kept losing her, following and searching the heavens from afar. And in his dreams, the Argentene no longer shone, less the one significant star. And in his dreams, his lady’s footsteps faded into the lakes through which he could not follow. And in his dreams, the seasons slowly passed, till the fertile earth turned fallow. And still, still he found her not.
And in his dreams, he feared he would grow old while searching his world for her. Till he threw himself into one unhallowed lake, and passaged his way to the stars.