Today’s spotlight caught up with Megan Crewe wandering the zen gardens in Japan. Japan is a special interest for this young adult author. Hey Megan, if you bump into Mulan in your travels, tell her I said hello! You see, I am also of the ‘Fa family’! Without further ado, here’s…Megan!
Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m a Canadian author of YA speculative fiction (fantasy, sci-fi, paranormal—it’s all good). I have eight novels out and more on the way. J Other than writing and reading, I love all the arts, getting out into nature (especially forests and beaches), and traveling to distant cities.
How did you get started on your writing journey?
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. Before I knew how to print letters, I would dictate stories to my mom, who would write them down for me and staple them into books I could illustrate with crayon. As I got older, I started to realize from my friends’ and teachers’ responses to my stories that maybe I didn’t just love writing, I was kind of good at it too. That was when I started seriously thinking about trying to get published.
Are there any poets or writers who influence you? How so?
Honestly, I’m influenced by every book I read, whether it’s one I love and see things I want to emulate in, or one I don’t enjoy that much that I can learn lessons about what not to do from.
Let’s talk about your novel! What is it about?
A Mortal Song is basically a reversal of the common YA trope where the main character discovers a secret supernatural heritage, in that my heroine discovers she is not actually a magical being but a human changeling raised as a decoy, and must deal with her sudden loss of power while fighting to save her home. There is sword-fighting and sorcery, secrets and betrayals. And kissing. Kissing is important too. 😉
How is the title significant?
The main character, Sora, loves music and often thinks in terms of musical metaphors for various parts of her life. And during the book she grapples with her unexpected mortality. So the phrase seemed to fit, and also I thought it sounded good. 😀
Where did inspiration for this come from?
I read a couple of YA novels back to back that had the premise I mentioned above: the main characters discovered they were actually supernatural beings who had been hidden among humans for their protection. I started wondering what it would be like to find yourself on the opposite end of that sort of swap—to think you were “special” and then discover you weren’t after all. The story evolved from there.
Tell us a little bit about the characters? What are they like and how did you come up with them?
Sora, the main character, is devoted to what she believes is her duty and anxious about not being able to perform it well enough, so it completely throws her for a loop when she finds out the role she thought was hers isn’t after all. But she’s also very stubborn, so she decides to do whatever she can to help protect the family she thought was hers all the same.
Her best friend and guardian, Takeo, is brave and loyal to a fault—he’s not always able to weigh his responsibilities effectively. The girl Sora was swapped with, Chiyo, has an unshakably cheerful personality that sometimes hides deeper doubts. And Keiji, a classmate of Chiyo’s who joins the battle, is a lover of all things supernatural who covers his social insecurities by poking fun at himself and making jokes.
The characters were partly inspired by the Japanese books, movies, and anime series I’d read and watched, and partly came into being as I figured out what roles I needed in the story.
Who do you think would like your story and what kind of readership are you aiming for?
Although A Mortal Song is technically YA, I think it’ll have a lot of appeal to adult fantasy fans too—there isn’t much specifically teen about the story other than the characters’ ages and level of world experience. And I think both urban fantasy and high fantasy fans would find something to enjoy, as the book is set in the modern-day world but has a sword and sorcery feel. I hope everyone who enjoys fantastical stories will give it a try!
What is the message you are trying to get across in your book?
I don’t like to push a message too heavily, but the biggest theme for me when writing the book was the idea that being human can be just as special in its own way as being some other sort of being. We simply have different strengths and powers, not lesser ones.
What is your writing process like?
I’m very much a planner. I let an idea sit for a while as the pieces come together, until I’m ready to outline. I have to know at least the beginning, the end, and all the major turning points in between before I feel confident enough to start writing. I tend to draft quickly (1-2 months depending on the length of the book and what else is going on in my life) and then do at least one rewrite after critique partner feedback before passing the book on to my agent.
How do you go about editing your story?
As I mentioned above, I have critique partners I share early versions of my books with, and I revise based on their feedback and ideas that occurred to me while I was writing the first draft (which always happens). Often my agent has a little bit of feedback before we’d submit the book to publishers as well.
With A Mortal Song, which is my first completely indie novel, I hired a freelance editor and copy editor to make sure the story was in the best possible shape.
Where did you find your cover artist and what was the process like?
I found my cover artists, the amazing Carlos Quevedo, after asking for recommendations in the KBoards Writers Café. I wanted someone who could create a beautiful illustrated cover and also do their own typography to make sure it all fit together. Carlos did a wonderful job! I gave him some ideas of what I was looking for in content and layout, and he came up with a brilliant cover that only needed a few tweaks to get it exactly the way I was hoping.
How did you go about getting published?
With this book, it was pretty simple. I put the book through the editing process, got the cover designed and the interior formatted, and then I uploaded it to Amazon, CreateSpace, and IngramSpark. J With my past books, I’ve gotten published by having my agent submit to publishers.
What was your self-publishing experience like?
It’s been great so far! It’s definitely a little stressful not having a publisher promoting the book like I’m used to—they have a reach I can’t fully emulate—but I’ve also enjoyed having full control over the process, from the editing to the marketing.
What are the pros and cons of self-publishing?
The pros for me are that control I mentioned above and being able to adapt quickly to the market and new promotional ideas, because I don’t need anyone else’s approval. The cons, particularly with a YA novel, are the higher price of POD print books (which teens still mostly read rather than e-books) and the lack of outreach to schools, libraries, and bookstores, as well as the lower financial security that comes with going without an advance.
What were the surprises? Good or bad? If so, what were they?
I’m not sure if I would say I was outright surprised, but I’ve been awed by how supportive my fellow indie authors have been. The book wouldn’t be doing half as well as it is now without their assistance spreading the word.
How do you go about promoting your book as a self-published author?
I promote it directly to readers via my social media accounts and my mailing list, and I’ve booked ads with some of the major promo sites to help reach other readers as well.
Is there something about the whole process you wish someone had told you before? Good or bad?
It’s not so much that no one told me, because I saw lots of people talking about the importance of mailing lists, but I wish I’d realized I should start building mine earlier than I did. The readers I’ve found through those efforts have been some of my most enthusiastic!
Do you have any advice for writers who want to self-publish?
I think it’s important to go in with as much information as you can get your hands on. If you want your book to succeed, read what people are saying right now about what’s working for them, both in terms of writing and marketing. Join message boards like the Writers Café and Facebook groups. And be prepared that your first release or two might not do as well as you’re hoping, because some things you can only learn by doing, and that’s okay. You’ll have those lessons under your belt for the next time!
What plans do you have for the future of your writing?
I’m always writing more YA, so there will definitely be more novels from me in future. But since I’m pursing a hybrid career and what happens on the traditional side is beyond my control, I’ll have to wait and see how things go with my books there before I can decide what I’ll self publish next. I definitely plan to continue releasing books myself in between my traditionally published books.
What are you social accounts if people want to connect with you?
Want a preview of A Mortal Song? You can read it here on Megan’s website!