One of the goals of SPFBO is to give a chance to self-published authors to get more exposure. In the Finals I’m taking part in the competition as one of the judges in Fantasy Book Review‘s team. As I did with our group’s authors, I decided to offer a spot to the Finalists too to be featured on my blog. You can check out all of our content during Phase 1, and everything that’s happening during the Finals on my SPFBO 4 page!
Devin Madson is an Aurealis Award-winning fantasy author from Down Under.
After some sucky teenage years, she gave up reality and is now a dual-wielding rogue who works through every tiny side-quest and always ends up too over-powered for the final boss. Anything but zen, Devin subsists on tea and chocolate and so much fried zucchini she ought to have turned into one by now.
Devin writes obsessively, but if you’re after happy, fuzzy tales then you’ve come to the wrong place. Her fantasy novels come in all shades of grey and are populated with characters of questionable morals and a liking for witty banter.
Welcome to the Asylum! Take a seat by the fire, have a glass of beverage of your choice and tell me something about yourself!
Thank you! I’ll have a green tea. My name is Devin Madson, writer of things (books), lover of things (chocolate) and killer of things (pot plants).
Say, you can live in the fantasy house/lair of your dreams. What would it look like?
A treehouse! Inside a really big tree and connected to other rooms in other trees with swinging bridges. It’s always warm inside (because I’m a lizard lady) and there’s spring water and lots of birds and those pale, billowy curtains that are always magically clean.
What is your favorite fantasy creature and why?
Oohh big, magical foxes that you can ride. I don’t think they have a single name like dragons do, but I’m a sucker for all over-large animals like big cats and wolves and birds.
Why did you decide to become an author and how did you end up choosing self-publishing?
I’ve always written stories and still have some I wrote at six and seven years old (still rather grim I must admit), so it wasn’t so much a decision as just something I always did. I do recall telling my parents that I would be an author and illustrator though, but I was extremely terrible at drawing so that was soon adjusted. I fell into self-publishing a bit by accident too. I set out to learn everything I could about how to produce my own book, how to find an editor (and I found one) how to find cover artists (and I found one) and how you typeset and get ISBNs and in the process of learning I ended up … doing it. And that suited me just fine because I was keen on the control and getting to make my own decisions. Then all of a sudden that was what I was doing. I’ve never been very good at patience or thinking things through, so I just ran with it.
Which author would you say is your greatest influence as a writer?
That’s a tough one, because I have plenty of authors whose work inspires me to keep improving and whose work I admire, but I don’t think I write like any of them. Guy Gavriel Kay is one of my very favourite authors, his wonderful characters and worlds and intertwining stories just take hold of you and don’t let go. Black Wolves by Kate Elliott is probably my favourite book and her world-building is endlessly inspiring, as is the humour and insight of Terry Pratchett’s books, but it’s hard to put a finger on where they have influenced my style. I just love them.
If you could go back in time and offer any advice to a younger Devin prior to releasing We Ride the Storm what would it be?
It’s all going to be fine, younger Devin, but you’ll have to make peace with being known as she of the head-chopping.
What SPFBO means to you? What do you hope to gain (fame and wealth aside)? What are your experiences so far?
This is a much easier question after the competition has ended! We Ride the Storm hasn’t been out for a year, yet. I entered it in SPFBO really soon after it came out and, despite the grand dreams, all I really wanted to do was launch it as well as I could in the hope of getting some more eyes on it. It was my first Book 1 since 2013 and I wanted to make the most of that. I’ve always loved SPFBO, as much for the opportunity it gives authors as for the community that builds around it. This year we had a finalist chat space where we could support each other through the stressful final stage and I love that we were able to do that. I’m looking forward to spectating through SPFBO5 and cheering on the enormous number of friends I’ve made in the last two years of taking part.
What inspires your writing? Do you listen to music, stare into the fire, listen to the whispering of the wind, make deals with the Devil?
You wouldn’t think this would be a hard question to answer, but it is! I do not do any of those things, I just… made up this world about twelve years ago and now continually obsess over writing down its history, from the small personal stories to the big epic ones. There are a lot of notes and it’s become a bit of a self-perpetuating project that is its own source of energy and inspiration. Not that I don’t take in things from the world around me and churn them in, more that I don’t need to stare at the screen awaiting inspiration or need scene appropriate music before I can write. I think I just live entirely inside my own head most of the time.
How do you relax after a long writing/research session? Do you have any hobbies (writing not included :P)?
Relax? I have kids! I walk out of my office and trip over toys in the hallway while trying to figure out who is screaming and why. When I do have time to myself I like to game (video and board games), read, garden badly, play the piano angrily, and do really big jigsaw puzzles.
What was the most exotic place you’ve visited? Did it inspire any of your work? How that experience affected you personally?
Hmmm that’s tough. I haven’t travelled too much, but even so I think the most amazing place I’ve ever visited is central Australia. Even as an Australian you aren’t prepared for how red the sand and soil is, how different the landscape, and how magnificent the culture. I went in my teens and it made me far more understanding about our First Nations people, which I value enormously. It hasn’t inspired my work in that I would not presume to draw anything from the cultural experience, but I hope it has made me more thoughtful about challenging some of my assumptions.
Which character of your book do you identify with the most and why? Who would you like to live with in an asylum?
Ooh that’s tough. Cassandra’s snark is my inner monologue, so I love writing her chapters for that reason, but I think I identify more with Miko ultimately because I am also stubborn and hate being told what to do. I like to think I would be as brave and determined as she is despite the danger and suffering, but hopefully I’ll never know. I don’t think I’d like to live with any of them though. Perhaps Rah because I could keep myself entertained attempting to chip away at his unbending view of the world.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with the good or the bad ones?
I used to, when I first started self-publishing, but I soon learned that it wasn’t for me. It’s too easy to hold on to the bad things and miss the good things and let both effect not only your mood but your work. The day I first thought about changing some things based on one person’s thoughts on a character was the day I stopped reading them. For me it has been much better learning to write for the work itself again rather than for the next hit of positive reinforcement.
Are there any books that have been/ are being released in 2019 that you are excited to read?
NEW GUY GAVRIEL KAY! A Brightness Long Ago is probably the book I am most looking forward to. It’s just come out but I haven’t had a chance to start yet. Can’t wait!
While you are locked in here for eternity, we will allow you one book – what would you choose?
Only ONE? You’re very cruel. Ok, I’ll choose to have my own book, We Ride the Storm, so I can keep myself busy rewriting it over and over again until I go mad.
Well then, we hope you’ll enjoy your stay in the Asylum! Any last words? *locks door*
If you’d like to get in contact with Devin Madson, you can find her on social media:
We Ride the Storm, book 1 of The Reborn Empire series has made to the SPFBO Finals thanks to Fantasy Book Critic. Read my review of We Ride the Storm, or the sequel, We Lie With Death, then go and grab the first book while we are waiting for book two to be published 🙂