I am so excited to welcome YA indie author Megan Crewe on today’s Writer Wednesday feature! Don’t miss my earlier review of her upcoming novel, A Mortal Song, and check out her Q&A below as well as the links to her books. There’s a sweet deal going on if you pre-order A Mortal Song, so don’t miss it!
Hi Megan! Let’s start with a little about you. Tell me where you’re from and one fact that people may not know about you.
I’m from and still live in Toronto, Canada (so, yes, I say “eh” and have been told my “about” sounds more like “a-boot”). One fact people may not know about me is that in high school I was a competitive swimmer, both speed and synchro.
Are you a pantser or plotter?
I’m pretty firmly on the plotter side of the fence, although I’ve loosened up a bit as my process has evolved. I used to outline every scene in detail before I started a book. Now I’m more inclined to just outline the first few chapters and have more general points for the rest of the story (I have to know all the major turning points and how the story ends) and flesh it out more as I see how the story plays out on the page.
Describe your typical writing day.
Typical weekday when I have a project in progress: I get up and putter around on the internet on my iPad for a bit while I eat breakfast. Then I write for 2-3 hours (however long it takes to finish a scene, typically). I break for lunch and downtime which probably includes internet browsing and social media and often a TV show. Then I write another 2-3 hours. If I have any time left before I need to pick up my son from daycare, I’ll work on blog posts or promo or things like that.
What inspired your decision to self-publish? What has your experience been like as an indie author?
I’ve been slowly easing into indie publishing over the course of a couple years. It started in 2014 when I had ideas for some stories to follow up my trad-pubbed Fallen World trilogy. My publisher for the trilogy (Disney-Hyperion) declined to put out the collection, so I published it myself. Then, last year, I got back the rights to my out of print debut novel and self-published a re-released version to see if it could find new readers. I didn’t have any new books under contract with publishers for this year, and I had A MORTAL SONG mostly ready, just sidelined while my agent and I had focused on other projects (I write a lot 😉 ). Because it’s set in another country and culture, I liked the idea of having control over the editing and design to make sure nothing was whitewashed or adjusted for North American readers at the expense of authenticity. So I thought, let’s do this!
It’s been a great experience so far. There are things I miss from traditional publishing (and I do hope to continue publishing books that way), but it’s been wonderful feeling more directly connected to the readers and having that creative and marketing control. I’m… a bit of a control freak.
Where did you draw your inspiration for your newest release, A Mortal Song? What do you want readers to take away from Sora’s story?
A MORTAL SONG was initially inspired by two YA novels I read back to back that both had storylines in which the main character discovered she wasn’t actually human but a [insert magical being here] and had been hidden among humans for her protection. It got me thinking about how many stories like that are out there, but that I’ve never seen one that looked at the other side of the changeling equation. What would it be like to think you were a magical being, and then find out you were actually only human?
In particular, it bothers me a bit that being magical or supernatural is often portrayed as better than being “just” human. I think there are some pretty special things about humanity! So if there’s anything readers take away from Sora’s story, I hope it’s that there’s a sort of magic to being human.
The culture and world that you’ve built in A Mortal Song is vivid and complete. Can you tell me about your research process for the novel and what went into creating the kami world?
Technically I was “researching” before I knew I had anything to research for. 😉 I’ve been watching anime and Japanese movies and reading Japanese books since I was a teenager, which gave me a basic grounding in the setting, culture, and tropes. When I realized the story I wanted to tell in SONG fit that setting and culture well, I started being more directed in my reading and viewing, seeking out stories involving ghosts and kami, and also those that showed everyday teen life. I also read books and online resources on Shinto beliefs and mythology and nonfiction accounts of various aspects of life in Japan. I made two trips to Japan in which I visited every place Sora goes to in the story. And finally, once I had a close-to-final draft of the story, I sent it to a few Japanese readers who kindly read it over and let me know some details I’d fumbled. It was very important to me, while writing outside my culture, to make sure I did so authentically and with sensitivity.
For the world of the kami, I had to be a little creative. There are a lot of different accounts of kami and how they live and behave from folktales and myths, some of which are somewhat contradictory. And Shinto has become somewhat entangled with Buddhist practices and ideology over the years. I stuck to established ideas where possible, and when there wasn’t one definite idea, I drew on whatever best suited the needs of the story.
You have several published works under your belt now. How has your writing evolved as you’ve gained more experience? Any advice for people (like me) just starting out?
One of the biggest ways it’s evolved is the evolution from dedicated plotter to being a little more open to winging it as I go I described above. 🙂 In terms of the stories themselves, I’ve done a lot of work on plot structure and pacing, figuring out how to keep the action going while leaving room for thoughtful and quieter emotional moments as well.
My main advice for writers starting out is to read lots, both in your genre (so you know what’s been done and what appeals to those readers) and outside it (to give you inspirations you might not have gotten otherwise); to write lots (because improving takes practice, as with any skill); and to be willing to make changes, maybe even big ones, to improve what you’ve written based on your own evaluation or (preferably) outside feedback from trusted sources.
What’s the happiest moment you’ve lived as an author?
Oh, that’s hard. There are so many great ones! If I can only pick one, I’d have to say it was getting the phone call to confirm I’d gotten an offer on my first book. Knowing I was going to be a published author, that my book would be out there for thousands of readers to find. That was life-changing!
Do you have any advice for writers that are considering self-publishing versus the traditional route?
I think people need to carefully consider what they’re looking to get out of publishing, and what their strengths and weaknesses are. Some genres, like romance, have a huge audience in self-publishing that’s easy to reach. With others, like YA, you’re losing out on a large chunk of the actual teen readership because many of them don’t read ebooks. (I’ve put a lot of effort into library outreach for SONG’s print versions to try to counterbalance this, but it’s one of the things I miss most about having a traditional publisher behind me.) And no matter what genre you’re writing, being successful at self publishing generally requires a lot of organizational and marketing skills, because technically you *are* your own publisher, and you have to fulfill all those tasks yourself. You get more control, but you have to work for it!
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Reading (of course), watching TV and movies, listening to music, visiting new or favorite restaurants, and traveling.
Where can we find you on social media?
Sora’s life was full of magic—until she discovered it was all a lie.
Heir to Mt. Fuji’s spirit kingdom, Sora yearns to finally take on the sacred kami duties. But just as she confronts her parents to make a plea, a ghostly army invades the mountain. Barely escaping with her life, Sora follows her mother’s last instructions to a heart-wrenching discovery: she is a human changeling, raised as a decoy while her parents’ true daughter remained safe but unaware in modern-day Tokyo. Her powers were only borrowed, never her own. Now, with the world’s natural cycles falling into chaos and the ghosts plotting an even more deadly assault, it falls on her to train the unprepared kami princess.
As Sora struggles with her emerging human weaknesses and the draw of an unanticipated ally with secrets of his own, she vows to keep fighting for her loved ones and the world they once protected. But for one mortal girl to make a difference in this desperate war between the spirits, she may have to give up the only home she’s ever known.
With its breathtaking action, heart-wrenching conflict, and unexpected romance, this vivid standalone YA fantasy will delight fans of Julie Kagawa and Laini Taylor.
Pre-order at the limited time sale price today and get ready to dive into the captivating world of the kami!
EARTH & SKY TRILOGY
For centuries they’ve been studying us like lab rats.
Experimenting with our past.
Rewriting our present.
Our future is in their hands.
How far would you go to stop them?
FALLEN WORLD SERIES
A deadly virus.
An isolated island.
One girl’s desperate journey to save humankind.
The Way We Fall (Book 1)
The Lives We Lost (Book 2)
The Worlds We Make (Book 3)
GIVE UP THE GHOST
I have friends… You just wouldn’t believe they exist.
Cass McKenna much prefers the company of ghosts over “breathers.” Ghosts are uncomplicated and dependable, and they know the dirt on everybody… and Cass loves dirt. She’s on a mission to expose the lies and backstabbing between her fellow students.
But when the vice president of the student council discovers her secret, Cass’s whole scheme hangs in the balance. Tim wants her to help him contact his recently deceased mother, and Cass reluctantly agrees.
As Cass becomes increasingly entwined in Tim’s life, she’s surprised to realize he’s not so bad—and he needs help more desperately than anyone else suspects. Maybe it’s time to give the living another chance…
Read the first chapter!
Like many authors, Megan Crewe finds writing about herself much more difficult than making things up. A few definite facts: she lives in Toronto, Canada with her husband and son (and does on occasion say “eh”), she’s always planning some new trip around the world, and she’s spent the last six years studying kung fu, so you should probably be nice to her. She has been making up stories about magic and spirits and other what ifs since before she knew how to write words on paper. These days the stories are just a lot longer.
Megan’s first novel, Give Up the Ghost, was shortlisted for the Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic. The Way We Fall was nominated for the White Pine Award and made the International Literacy Association Young Adults’ Choices List, and Earth & Sky was an OLA Best Bet for 2015. She is also the author of the rest of the Fallen World series (The Lives We Lost, The Worlds We Make, and Those Who Lived), the rest of the Earth & Sky trilogy (The Clouded Sky and A Sky Unbroken), and the standalone contemporary fantasy A Mortal Song.
Huge thanks to Megan! Are you looking forward to A Mortal Song? Let her know in the comments below!