Also by this author: Ravensblood, Raven's Wing, Raven's Heart
We’re so excited to have Shawna Reppert here on Books That Hook for an interview!
JS: Thank you so much, Shawna, for visiting Books That Hook! I appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions.
JS: Please tell me one thing about your new book that readers won’t know until they read it.
SR (Shawna Reppert): Oh, tough to answer without spoilers. Readers will learn more backstory for William, the dark mage who was Raven’s mentor and who is now trying to destroy him. There were some hints earlier in the series, but they were pretty subtle, and a lot of readers I talked to hadn’t caught on yet. I wanted readers to understand what made William what he is. To paraphrase Raven, given William’s childhood, there was never a chance he was going to grow up sane.
JS: Who is your favorite character to write about in this series? Explain.
SR: Corwyn Ravenscroft (Raven), without a doubt. He’s such a great character to write—there’s so much depth and complexity. He was a dark mage and William’s right hand for many years, so he’s done and seen some pretty horrific things, but he was never able to completely bury his conscience. When he reaches a point where he can no longer ignore it, he’s got quite a bit to get past.
There’s a touch of the old-world gentleman about him. He plays classical piano and enjoys chess and opera. He’ll hold a door for a woman or help her on with her coat, and yet he respects the strengths and abilities of the women in his life. He’s proud of the fact that Cassandra, his lover, is one of the toughest and smartest mages in Guardian International Investigations (an elite magical law-enforcement agency).
He’s a powerful mage, brilliant, resourceful and steel-willed. But the lack of healthy relationship role models in his formative years and the fact that he’s spent so much of his life walling away his emotions makes it hard for him to negotiate a long-term romantic partnership or even friendships that go beyond the superficial.
He has a complicated relationship with his ancestry. As the last scion of the Ravenscroft line, he has inherited wealth and natural magical ability, and a family journal full of magical research his ancestors kept secret—but also a name infamous for dark magic, a name he finds it hard to live down.
JS: If your books were turned into movies, who would play the leads (in an ideal world)?
SR: Richard Armitage for Raven, without hesitation. It’s funny, because I wrote the early draft of Ravensblood before I ever saw any of his work, but from the first moment I saw him on the screen, I thought Oh my gods, that’s Raven! Not just the way he looks, but his voice, his presence, everything but his eye color. It’s almost eerie—I read an interview where Richard Armitage described himself as an adolescent, and it was exactly the way I’d described Raven at that age in the backstory.
As for Cassandra, I have no idea. Physically, she’s partially an amalgam of people I’ve met or seen in real life, and largely made up out of whole cloth. I’d leave it to Central Casting to find a talented unknown.
JS: What was the biggest challenge you encountered during the writing stage?
SR: Part-way through writing Raven’s Heart, I was invited to be part of a ‘boxed set’ anthology of paranormal and fantasy writers which included a New York Times best-selling author. It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up, and so I took a break from working on the novel to write a novella set in the same alternate-universe.
This put me behind my projected schedule for Raven’s Heart. Also, since I set the novella in an earlier part of the series, between the first and second novels, Raven was at a very different stage in his character arc, with subtle but important differences in his outlook and his way of dealing with the world. I had to reacquaint myself with that version of my protagonist, and then jump forward again when I went back to the novel.
The extra challenge I had to meet to get the novella into the anthology definitely paid off. The anthology, Here Be Magic, spent a good long while in the Amazon top ten for fantasy and science fiction anthologies, peaking at the number two spot. And Raven’s Song, the novella I wrote for it, has drawn many new readers into the world of Ravensblood.
JS: What have you found to be the pros and cons of self-publishing?
SR: My debut novel, The Stolen Luck, came out with Carina Press. I was lucky—they gave me a fabulous editor that I got along well with, and a gorgeous cover that was appropriate to the sub-genre. But when we couldn’t agree on what my next book should be, Carina and I parted ways. I decided to test the indie waters with the Ravensblood series, but hadn’t yet given up on traditional publishing.
Then came my experience with—let’s just call them The-Publisher-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named—and my stand-alone novel Where Light Meets Shadow. Like my debut novel, WLMS is a balanced crossover of high fantasy and male/male fantasy romance set in a secondary world with a late-medieval, almost fairy-tale feel. It is absolutely not erotica. Yet they were going to give me a cover with half-naked elves with David Bowie hair-cuts, tribal jewelry, colored lip gloss and, I kid you not, a friendship bracelet.
I showed the cover to a friend while visiting her house, hoping she’d tell me it wasn’t as bad as I thought. She said, “Oh, honey, I’m so sorry.” Then she went out to the kitchen, came back with a bottle of Jameson’s and a shot glass, and set them down in front of me.
I tried to talk to the publisher about the problems, but my protests fell on deaf ears.
The editor they gave me was even worse. She had no concept of modern writing techniques like deep characterization, and at more than one point seemed to confuse the actor of the sentence with the POV character. Now, I’d worked with enough editors, and gotten along with enough editors, to know that the problem wasn’t me.
She seemed incapable of grasping irony and sarcasm in dialogue. Anyone who has read me knows how big a problem this would be.
I ended up leaving margin notes with suggested reading on modern craft, and, more than once, links to grammar websites.
Ultimately, it came to a showdown between myself and the editor. She had edited errors into my manuscript and refused to correct them.
I knew I could do a way better job myself. I broke the contract, fixed the manuscript, got an editor of my choosing on board, and had a very talented friend make me a lovely and appropriate cover with a Celtic harp and knotwork.
I swore never again would I hand control of my work over to strangers.
Because that is, of course, the biggest down side to traditional publishing. You give up complete control of your work. Your editor is chosen for you. Trust me, your editor can either make your prose sing or make your life a living hell. You have no say in the cover that is the first impression of your work that a reader will encounter.
You also have no control of whether or not your book will have a print edition or only be released in e-book. (There are some readers still who flatly refuse to read anything but a print book. And, believe me, there is no heartache like having a reader tell you that she’d love to give your book to a friend for Christmas, she knows the friend would love it, but you see, the friend won’t read e-books. . . ) In this day of easy print-on-demand, there is absolutely no reason not to bring the book out in both print and digital formats, but traditional publishers tend to lumber along like dinosaurs, believing the world will remain forever hot and swampy and anything but a ‘major title’ should be brought out in one format only.
With traditional publishers, you are also signing away the lion’s share of the profits from your work, quite possibly for your lifetime. (Yes, sometimes rights revert, but this is not the place and I’m not the person to talk about reversion clauses in contracts). The myth is that you will make up the difference by selling more books with a traditional publisher, but let me tell you right now that that isn’t necessarily so.
With indie, you maintain complete control of your product and you branding. This also means that you have all the responsibility. You will spend many sleepless nights agonizing over cover blurbs and font choices.
You also will need to come up with the money for a cover artist, an editor and a proofreader. If you are a trained graphic artist, you may be able to get away with doing your own covers, but no one can get away with editing and proofreading their own work.
I was very lucky to find a stock image that worked for the first cover of the Ravensblood series, and by keeping it simple I was able to cobble together a cover that looked reasonably professional. A generous reader paid the artist for the second book of the series, so I was able to have something customized to the series and made to blend with the style of the first. And for the cover of the stand-alone and for the third book of the series, I feel like I won the indie lottery. A graphics artist friend of mine did the covers for free, and they are simply amazing! I now want no one else doing my covers!
Unless you get as lucky as I did, calculate on paying anywhere from $250–$1200 for a cover. You will also need an editor, and they don’t come cheap. I used Mary Rosenblum of New Writer’s Interface for the Ravensblood series. Not the cheapest around, but certainly not the most expensive, but honest as they come and she gives incredible value for the money.
As an indie, you will need to do all of your own promotion. It costs at least a little money, and takes a lot of time away from your writing. But these days, you do most of your own promotion even with a traditional publisher, so not a big difference there.
There is a little bit of a stigma still against indie writers, but that’s going away fast. I’ve been able to escape some of it because my first novel came out with a publisher. I’m hoping for writers coming up that it won’t matter one way or the other.
So, that might have been a longer answer than you expected. I used to believe that traditional was the only way to go, and, like most converts, I tend to get up on a soapbox at every opportunity. Really, unless someone is knocking at your door with a six-figure contract, there’s no reason to go traditional. Maybe not even then, if you can afford to turn down that kind of up-front money.
JS: If you could give only one piece of advice to aspiring authors, what would it be?
SR: Never stop working on craft. The best writers strive always to get better. Count on working harder than you can imagine and having it take longer than you expect.
Check out Shawna Reppert’s Raven series!
In a life of impossible choices when sometimes death magic is the lesser of the evils, can a dark mage save the world and his own soul?
Corwyn Ravenscroft. Raven. The last heir of an ancient family of dark mages, he holds the secret to recreating the Ravensblood, a legendary magical artifact of immense power.
Cassandra Greensdowne is a Guardian. Magical law enforcement for the elected council— and Raven’s former apprentice and lover. She is trying to live down her past. And then her past comes to the door, asking for her help.
As a youth, Raven wanted to be a Guardian but was rejected because of his ancestry. In his pride and his anger, he had turned to William, the darkest and most powerful mage of their time. William wants a return to the old ways, where the most powerful mage was ruler absolute. But William would not be a True King from the fairy tales. He would reign in blood and terror and darkest magic.
Raven discovers that he does have a conscience. It’s rather inconvenient.
He becomes a spy for the council that William wants to overthrow, with Cassandra as his contact.
Cass and Raven have a plan to trap William outside his warded sanctuary. But William is one step ahead of the game, with Raven’s life, his soul, and the Ravensblood all in danger.
Ravensblood won a Gold Medal in the 2014 Global E Book Awards. The author’s first novel, The Stolen Luck, won a Silver Medal in the Global E-Book Awards and a 2014 Eppie Award.
Word count approximately 89,000 words
Raven struggled to escape the world of dark magic he’d committed to as a bitter young man. Now he must come to terms with both his past and his ancestry. What will be his place in the Three Communities? When he finds himself on the run, trying to find the stolen Ravensblood, the task grows much harder. He must protect the people he has come to care about from the danger of this powerful artifact in the wrong hands, and at the same time prove he is not the thief!
This is the sequel to Ravensblood, an urban fantasy set in an alternate-universe version of the Pacific Northwest. Ravensblood won a Gold Medal in the 2014 Global E Books Awards.
The author’s debut novel, The Stolen Luck, won a Silver Medal in the 2013 Global E Books Awards and a 2014 Eppie.
The reformed dark mage Corwyn Ravenscroft, Raven, has finally found his place in the world. He has a fiancé, friends, and meaningful work. Yet a shadow hangs over everything. His former master, the darkest and most powerful mage of their time, the man he betrayed, the man he thought he had killed, still lives. William is determined to destroy everyone and everything Raven ever loved.
Will Raven find a way to defeat him, once and for all? Or will he see the life he has built crumble around him as William rises once again to threaten the Three Communities, perhaps even the world?
The much-awaited third book in the award-winning Ravensblood series! Urban fantasy set in an alternate-universe version of the Pacific Northwest!