Interview with Chelsea Harper, Author of Wake of the Phoenix | NewInBooks
What’s the story behind the story? What inspired you to write Wake of the Phoenix?
These characters were initially conceived in a creative writing class in high school. Like most high schoolers, my writing left something to be desired and I picked at the story and character arcs for many years after their initial conception, occasionally fiddling with the story, being dissatisfied with the presentation, and walking away again. After living with these characters for almost twenty years as they evolved in my head through my own experiences.
I had the opportunity to revisit the story with some new feedback from a writing group and some additional free time from a job transition. I wrote the first draft of this book in about 3 months of fervent writing between 8PM and 3 AM after my 1-year-old daughter went to sleep at night. It went through a lot of transitions after that initial drafting, including getting split into two separate books when I realized I’d put too much story arc into the first draft, but that was when I knew the characters were ready to come make friends with my readers. They started speaking to me again.
What’s your favorite genre to read? Is it the same as your favorite genre to write?
Fantasy, primarily epic fantasy although I’ve been known to enjoy some contemporary fantasy, as well. I write almost exclusively epic fantasy, but I find the broader reading scope gives me a lot of fun insights into the innovations other writers are playing with.
What books are on your TBR pile right now?
I’m partway through Rage of Dragons by Evan Winters, The Boneshard Daughter by Andrea Stewart, and The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson. All started based on beta reader comparisons to my own book.
What scene in your book was your favorite to write?
I loved writing all the scenes from my book, so it’s impossible to pick a favorite one. However, the scene which convinced me to pursue story arc as my debut novel was the one I call “the morning after scene” when Arkaen confronts the book’s overt villain over his treatment of the woman Arkaen met at a ball. Initially it was just a fun scene to write, but when I asked for feedback from my husband he gave the single most excited response he has ever given to any of my writing on that particular scene, which was really encouraging and demonstrated the value of that contrast in the book to me.
Do you have any quirky writing habits? (lucky mugs, cats on laps, etc.)
All my first drafts have to be hand written in a leather bound notebook with a fountain pen. It’s highly inefficient from a production perspective, but I can’t generate ideas when I’m looking at a computer screen.
Do you have a motto, quote, or philosophy you live by?
I don’t have a specific one, but I’ve always remembered the author who gave a writing retreat for my middle school. The quote in my book’s dedication from him has always inspired me: “There’s no such thing as a professional writer. Only published and unpublished writers.” While I’m certain many people could define the term “professional writer” in a way that makes sense, his point was that all writing holds value, regardless of the response it receives.
If you could choose one thing for readers to remember after reading your book, what would it be?
I don’t typically write with a moral in mind, so I don’t have a specific message or impression that I want readers to have at the end of the book. Primarily, I just hope they enjoy the complexity of the characters as much as I do and are excited to learn more about where those characters go next.
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