And since I’m away, I’m going to introduce you to a guest! I found her through Goodreads and thought you might be interested in meeting someone else! Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Claudie Arseneault!
Where do you live and write from?
I live in Quebec City, the capital of Canada’s majority French province. I’ve been here all my life, and English is a second language for me. I love my city, for all of its conservative faults. I think I see myself in a lot of its contradictions.
Why do you write?
Funnily enough, I recently wrote an entire guest post on this topic (it’s not up yet, but keep an eye on Ayah’s wonderful Why I Write series for it!). I won’t repeat all of those words here, but the short version is this: I write because it makes me feel like I belong. Writing allowed me to find my community. Writing reminds me that I am a professional, that I have found my path. Even when it is stressful and hard, writing is like coming home.
When did you start writing?
About ten years ago. At the time, it was a complement to my intense roleplaying habits. I ran games with a single player, and I wanted to write out the scenes between characters he didn’t witness. Then I heard of NaNoWriMo, got a sudden burst of inspiration, and after that first rush of creativity and fun, I could never go back.
What genre(s) do you write?
Fantasy is my main turf, although I tend to play around a lot in the genre. My latest novel, City of Strife, is a crossover between high fantasy and political fantasy, while one of my other projects is… steampunk-fantasy-ish. Without the steam. Kind of falls a lot into the kind of magic/technology mix you’d expect from the Tales of _____ series, or Final Fantasy. I do also write science-fiction, and when I do, it’s absolutely solarpunk—a community-driven, eco-conscious, hopeful subgenre. I love the subgenre enough to edit an entire anthology of solarpunk dragons, Wings of Renewal!
What does your writing routine consist of?
I don’t have one. I write whenever and wherever I can. This means I write on my cellphone in the bus to/from work, I write at a cat café in the city, I write after work on weekdays when my brain is half mush from the day’s labour… anything I can get done, I try to do it. I sit my ass in my chair and try to ignore twitter and social media until I have the strict minimum done. It is not always successful, but that’s okay. (I also do not necessarily recommend it? I have to watch myself because I will overwork myself if I’m not careful).
What do you feel are your strengths as a writer? How have you developed these qualities?
Characters. I have absolutely no qualms stating that: I’m good with characterization. A lot of it comes from all the roleplaying I did, and creating such a wide range of characters over the years. I pay a lot of attention to details when I build a character, and a lot of time thinking of silly things that are unrelated to the story, but that help me nail their personalities.
I also tend to build storylines that have a great many threads, and with practice, a lot of craft-studying, and trial and error, I’ve grown quite good at tying all of them into an epic ending. I like to think the last quarters of my books are the best part—that the payoff is worth it.
Where do you find your inspiration? Do you put yourself in your stories?
Everywhere. This isn’t a question I have a great answer for, really. I draw inspiration from other stories, from history, from things I feel aremissing from what I read. I used not to put much of myself in my writing, but now I do.
Outliner or improviser? Fast or slow writer?
Outline. Gosh, I would have written myself into a corner a dozen times over without outlines. The degrees of precision I put into them varies a lot from one project to the next, but I always have a general outline before I start (typically, the ending is more vague, and I outline it as I get nearer). Although, really, I frequently end up ditching or redoing my outlines as I write, so it’s a little of both. But I never start without some basics down. I’m also definitely a fast writer. Not in terms of words/minute, but it terms of time I can and do put into it, yeah! I get through drafts fairly fast.
Tell us about your latest book
Okay, here is the short version of the blurb:
Isandor, City of Spires.
Bickering merchant families vie for power through eccentric shows of wealth and brutal trading wars. Unspoken rules regulate their battles, but when an idealistic elven lord provokes the powerful Myrian Empire, all bets are off. They are outsiders, unbound by local customs, and no one knows how far they’ll take their magic to dominate the city. Nobles and commoners alike must fight to preserve their home, even if the struggle shatters friendships, destroys alliances, and changes them irrevocably.
City of Strife is the first installment of the City of Spires trilogy, a multi-layered political fantasy led by an all LGBTQIAP+ cast. Fans of complex storylines criss-crossing one another, strong friendships and found families will find everything they need within these pages.
It is indeed published, and you can find it here on Amazon. The book’s page on my website also contains a list of trigger warnings and all other buy links. This universe has been with me since the very start of my writing, and I’m happy to share it at last!
Indie publishing or traditional publishing – and why?
Indie all the way! I can’t even imagine going a traditional route. First, too much of it is still hostile to wide LGBTQIAP+ casts, and I don’t have time to waste arguing about the validity and existence of my characters, or being pressurized to add a romance. Second, indie publishing allows me to choose my contributors and encourage marginalized freelancers with my money. Third, I like being in control. I like leading projects from beginning to end, and earning every bit of those way-better royalties. I do wish I had a larger marketing reach, but I’m working on that too! I just created The Kraken Collective with fellow indies, a cooperative of QUILTBAG science fiction and fantasy! We share platforms, advice, and skills, leading to high-quality books and great times.
Any other projects in the pipeline?
The second book, haha. The City of Spires trilogy was conceived as a unit, and I want to get the second one out as fast as I can. Spare my readers the long years of wait between cliffhangers (there are some).
I do have another project besides that one, called Baker Thief, which is sort of a fantasy-mystery-romance, except instead of actual romance, you have the slow bound between an aromantic spectrum character and a demisexual one. There’s a lot of me in it—twins, French puns and sentences, a city that draws upon Québec’s history—and it gets quite tropey at times, which I love.
What is your goal as a writer and what are you doing to achieve it?
Two things: first, I want to provide a large array of stories in which the whole LGBTQIAP+ spectrum gets to play a part and be a hero. This is especially true of aromantic and asexual people, because these are also my stories, and I hope that through the body of work I can give voice to a large part of the spectrum. Second, I would love to earn a living with this? A lot? Hey, we can always dream. So I write or work on my projects almost every day, and I follow and listen to other marginalized voices, and hopefully as years go by things will get better.
What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever been given?
Find the writing advice that applies to you. Seriously, every writer has a different process, and a lot of writing advice disregards that, especially when it comes to writers with disability. So, sure, try out the writing advice out there, but know that if it doesn’t work, it’s not you. You’re still a writer!
One that worked for me was: “open a blank document and rewrite.” This is a follow-up to the more common “your first draft is crap”, but it taught me not to be afraid to start over. My process changes between projects, but for novels, I will often scrap almost the entirety of the first draft. Because I need to reach the end to see the story as a whole. So I tend to rewrite with only a few looks at the first draft, from beginning to end. Even later in the project, I still apply that to entire scenes too. Sometimes it’s better to start from scratch. Scary and long, but better.
Claudie Arseneault is an asexual and aromantic-spectrum writer hailing from the very-French Québec City. Her long studies in biochemistry and immunology often sneak back into her science-fiction, and her love for sprawling casts invariably turns her novels into multi-storylined wonders. The most recent, City of Strife, comes out on February 22, 2017! Claudie is a founding member of The Kraken Collective and is well-known for her involvement in solarpunk, her database of aro and ace characters in speculative fiction, and her unending love of squids. Find out more on her website!