One of the things I knew I wanted to do as part of Self Published Fantasy Month is interview an indie author whose work I’ve enjoyed, and Lou Wilham was kind enough to oblige. Lou is the author of multiple fantastic self pubbed novellas including The Tale of the Sea Witch, The Curse of the Black Cat, and The Curse of Ash and Blood. Next up on her list is a steampunk Rapunzel retelling called The Girl in the Clockwork Tower (which comes out in just two days!). For more information on Lou and her awesome books, read on for the interview
Welcome to the blog! Why don’t you start off by telling us a little more about yourself and your books?
All right, so here’s the skinny on Lou, I’m an unabashed nerd of all things. I love anime, drawing, crocheting, books, binge watching whatever strikes my fancy from shows about murder to rom-coms (seriously, Netflix doesn’t know what to do with me), and I’m not doing any of those things I’m probably talking about those things with some of my writer buddies or running after my Basset Hound, Sherlock.
As for my books, I don’t tend to stick to one genre or setting, because for me the stories are about the characters, not the setting. I like world building, don’t get me wrong. It’s fun. But for me at least, my books are about people. Granted, they’re imaginary people, but the things they struggle with (internally at least) are very real, and something we all face. So yeah, you won’t see me sticking to a genre, but one thing is for sure, there will always be magic.
So far, your books have been a mixture of fantasy themes and queer romance. What drew you to these genres in the first place and why did you decide to combine them?
Personally, I don’t like reading anything if it doesn’t have at least a little magic in it usually. There have been some exceptions, but generally I lean towards fantasy and sci-fi in what I read because I get enough of real life on the daily. So that’s what had me leaning towards the fantasy themes and settings. That’s just what I personally enjoy both reading and writing. Plus, I’ve always loved a good fairytale.
As for the queer romance themes, that’s a little more of an interesting question, I think. It wasn’t something that I consciously did, really. It was more of a question that spurred that on. The first queer romance I wrote was Tales of a Sea Witch, and it was in an anthology. I had decided I wanted to do a story based around the sea witch, but then I was like “ok, why would she hate the little mermaid and her family so much?” And the idea just came to me, “oooooh what if she had been in love with the little mermaid’s mom?” It sprung from there. For Black Cat and Ash and Blood it was a little more of a conscious decision as by that time myself and my brother both identified with some part of the LGBT+ community, and let’s be real there just isn’t enough representation out there. So I decided to add to it with stories I hoped would give everyone (not just those in the community) hope. I mean, really, we aren’t going to escape the stigma unless we start really seeing the LGBT+ people all around us.
A number of your novellas are fairy tale retellings. Tales of the Sea Witch is an origin story for the sea witch character from The Little Mermaid, and you’ve described The Girl in the Clockwork Tower as a steampunk Rapunzel retelling (which sounds awesome by the way). How do you manage to strike a balance between respecting the original tale, yet making it your own?
Honestly, it’s not always easy. I’m currently struggling with putting together an outline for my second Sea Witch book which will be a literal retelling of The Little Mermaid. But, I think it helps to look less at the exact events of the fairytale and more of the core of it. At its core, Rapunzel is about this girl who was snatched from her happy life, abused by her captor, kept locked away from the world, and ultimately escaped. So long as I keep those key events in mind, I can do whatever I want with the story. It likely helps that the original fairy tales aren’t usually more than a couple of pages long. There isn’t much story to them.
Are there any other fairy tales that you would like to explore in the future?
Oooooh so many. Haha! My Clockwork Chronicles series—which The Girl in the Clockwork Tower is the first book in—is going to feature a few more fairy tales including the unicorn story, a beauty and the beast and Snow White mashup, a Pinocchio and little mermaid mashup, and maybe even an Alice and Wonderland story.
I know you also design the cover art of your books as well. Have you always been interested in artwork? And do you have any advice for people who might like to create their own cover art?
Yes! When I was really little I told my entire family that one day I was going to be a cartoonist for Disney, that was my dream. Then in high school I got into graphic design because I was on a few writing forums and liked doing the design work for my characters. I actually got one of my associates in Art with a focus on graphic design, and for a little while I thought that’s what I was going to do with my life until I got into marketing by chance. So yeah, I have a loooong history with art and graphic design.
The best piece of advice I can give any artist or graphic designer is just to “consume” a lot of art. It’s the same advice most big name writers give to people who want to be authors, you have to learn from people who are already doing. I’m not saying copy someone. I’m saying follow artists you love, save pieces they’ve done that inspire you, and look to them when you’re thinking of ideas. For Tower in particular I had a few cover designs I’d found and loved that I drew inspiration from. Don’t copy, but don’t be afraid to be inspired by others. Like everything else, art doesn’t just spring up from nowhere. Also, inspiration is literally everywhere. I’ve got a phone full of pictures of design I loved at the grocery store to prove it.
This interview is part of Self Published Fantasy month. Do you have a favorite work of self-published fantasy that you would recommend?
Hmmm… I really like Elle Beaumont’s retellings, she’s one of my buddies from back in my writing forum days, and her world building is just magnificent. Also, Gail Carriger’s novellas are really amazing if you’re looking for some supernatural stuff, and gay werewolves of course.
Finally, what’s up next for you? Any exciting projects on the horizon that people should know about?
Oh lawd. I have a never ending list of projects it seems! Seriously, I get exhausted just thinking about all of the things I’m working on. Haha! Umm, once Tower is out in the world I have the first draft of a cyberpunk-ish fantasy heroes/villains story I finished up a couple of months ago called Villainous that I’d like to get out early in the new year if not before, I also have the second Sea Witch book I’d like to get out next year as well, I have a couple of ideas for a third Curse Collection book simmering on the back burner, and of course I have the second book in the Clockwork Chronicles in the works. So…. yeah…. lots of things!
Thanks so much for answering my questions! If you’d like to find out more about Lou and her work, you can follow her on her Instagram or her facebook. Instragram is the best place for regular updates. Make sure to preorder your copy of The Girl in the Clockwork Tower today!