It’s time for another author interview! This time, it’s featuring a writer I greatly admire: Andrea Stewart, author of The Drowning Empire series. If you’ve read any of my reviews of her books, you know how much this series means to me. (I mean, she became an auto-buy author for me after just one book.)
So, getting a chance to learn more about how she created such an amazing series was such a delight!
Please join me in giving a warm welcome to Andrea!
- Thank you so much for agreeing to stop by my corner of the internet, Ladz! Warmest welcomes! We’ve been internet friends for so long (!!). I am so beyond thrilled to have a chance to interview YOU about your upcoming debut novella, Ice Upon a Pier.
- But first, for those who don’t know: introduce yourself!
- Writing Questions
- Personally, I love seeing the non-creative day job not prevent you from telling stories (as sometimes, I feel that disconnect in my own life makes my imposter syndrome flair. But that’s a discussion for another time!).
- As someone who is also a writer and has a lot of fellow writers who follow this blog, I love the chance to pick an author’s brain. So, if you don’t mind, I’d love to ask a few writing/craft questions first, before we dive into books and hyping up your latest release.
- Would you mind telling us about your publication journey and any tips for unpublished writers?
- I absolutely LOVE your tips, especially about luck. I could have been saved a lot of heartache had I realized how big a factor that played ten years ago.
- What is your favorite thing about writing? What is your least favorite?
- Since we met on Twitter and have beta read for each other before, I feel like this question is particularly apt. How did you initially find your writing support group and what advice would you give for writers who feel a little more alone in their own writing journeys?
- I feel like so much of this advice could be tattooed, by gosh, by how important it is. Thank you for sharing it.
- What informed your decision to self-publish? What are you most excited about?
- I think many of the aspects you detailed are apt—being in control, the freedom with the finances in some cases, etc. But what resonated with me the most, in my own writing journey, was sitting down and having a self heart-to-heart about why we are writing and then matching our publication journeys with that vision.
- Thank you, truly, for sharing that with me, and all the readers here!
- If people were to say, “This feels like a Ladz novel,” what do you hope they associate with you? What do you want readers to take away?
- I genuinely love these, ohmygosh.
- Book Hype
- Alright, we’ve talked a lot about writing. Now, let’s talk about your novella, ICE UPON A PIER. What’s it about? What are you most excited for readers to discover?
- You had me sold on amoral lesbians, to be honest.
- What has the self-marketing experience felt like? Do you enjoy it? For others who might want to self-publish, what would you recommend?
- That’s some great advice. And some I need to take to heart (especially related to marketing, which I always feel like I’m “annoying” people with).
- What projects are you currently working on? Any hints you can give readers on what we can expect to buy from you next?
- My gods, let me preorder IMMEDIATELY. That pitch is speaking to my soul in so many ways.
Writing, Editing and Craft
Thank you so much for agreeing to stop by my corner of the internet, Andrea! Warmest welcomes! As you may know, I’m kind of obsessed with your trilogy, The Drowning Empire. (I will try REALLY hard not to fangirl, but…I’m already struggling.)
Would you mind telling us about your publication journey and any tips for unpublished writers?
Whew! Okay, it was definitely A Journey. I had been writing stories since I was a little kid. I decided later on that I should actually finish a book and try to get it published. A lot of research and a lot of work later, I started querying my first completed epic fantasy manuscript in 2007. I got some nibbles, but no bites, so I wrote another epic fantasy manuscript. I started querying that and wrote another, very different manuscript—then ended up querying that one as well. The epic fantasy was the one that landed me representation, in 2013.
After revisions with my agent, that manuscript went out on submission to publishers. Radio silence. I wrote another manuscript, went through heavy revisions with my agent (we ended up splitting it into two and I rewrote that first half), and that went out on submission. I got some nice rejections, but no takers. I wrote another manuscript very different in tone that I thought about self-publishing. I also wrote another epic fantasy manuscript—epic fantasy, as you may have guessed by now, is my one true love—and my agent took that one out on submission.
That happened to be The Bone Shard Daughter. Everything happened very fast. I got my first offer two weeks after it went out on submission, and other quickly followed. Orbit came through with a pre-empt, so I had to make a quick decision about taking it to auction or taking the pre-empt. I took the pre-empt. That was at the end of 2019.
Zero complaints. I’ve loved working with them!
As for advice—dream big, keep your head up, know that it’s okay to be sad about rejection and even to give up. Just know that not everyone’s journey to publication is a straight line. There can be a lot of dips along the path, and even some sheer cliffs. It doesn’t mean that you’re not a good writer.
How do you balance your writing while also balancing other responsibilities (like being a mother, a partner and taking care of the cutest cat I think I’ve ever seen)? For those of us who struggle with that balance, any advice?
Oh goodness I simply do not balance everything. There is no way to do it. Something always falls by the wayside. It’s just constantly analyzing and figuring out what is a priority in the moment as well as what is important overall. Does the house get messy? Do I miss making dinner one night because I’m really in the swing of writing? Do I forget to play with my cat so he “politely” reminds me by trying to climb my back? Yes, yes, and absolutely yes. Partially it works for me because I have such a supportive partner. If I miss making dinner when it’s my turn, he’s happy to pick up that slack, and vice versa.
I do try to find little ways to make things more efficient, to cram more productivity into stray pieces of the day—but we all need breaks too. I think the best piece of advice I have is to really lean into those breaks. You’re going to take a day off? Then really take a day off. Don’t think about or worry about responsibilities. People think a lot about how to be more productive, but I find we think less about how to better recharge, and part of that means being absolutely slovenly lazy for a period of time completely free of guilt. Do it. It’s wonderful.
So, my favorite aspect of your trilogy isn’t just the creativity (I mean, the drowning islands, the bone shard magics, come on, it’s brilliant). Nor is it Mephi, who is my favorite companion in ages.
But it’s actually how you are a master at plot twists (I mean, there were so many revealed in Bone Shard War that had me screaming). I mean this as a compliment, but I’ve never been so stressed out reading a book!
Could you tell us more about how you managed to write something so elaborate, across three books? Was it all planned or did it magically come together?
It is absolutely planned. When I start a series, I like to think about the difference between what the characters know, their understanding of the world, and what the truth actually is. I think about what mysteries exist to both them and to the readers, and when and how those things should be revealed. What assumptions have they made? How do they figure out if their assumptions are incorrect? What effect does this have on them and on the plot and on the world itself?
I hold these secrets pretty close. And then I like to lay out clues through the course of the books. Little breadcrumb trails that the characters may think in the moment, briefly, “well that’s strange” before continuing on their way. I also like to add in little clues that are almost solely for my own amusement.
But these things always have to be plot relevant.
What is your editing/revision process like? Has it evolved since getting published, or does it vary by story?
It’s not evolved since I’ve gotten published. I finish a draft (which usually involves tossing a bunch of words before restarting), I let it sit for at least two weeks, I do a read through and take notes on what needs to change. While I’ve been drafting, I’ve kept another document with fixes I realize I need to make mid-drafting. It helps me keep momentum and not stop to revise anything. I compile the read through notes and the drafting notes into one document and then order them from biggest changes to smallest changes. This allows me to make fewer redundant or pointless changes while revising. And then I make it into a checklist, estimate how long each change will take me for scheduling purposes, and then I start in.
I find checklists very satisfying.
When I get an edit letter back from my editor, I let it sit for a bit, think of how to address the issues, and again—I make a list in order of biggest changes to smallest.
Completed Trilogies and Upcoming Releases
How does it feel to have published a trilogy!? Especially when you made your second book, The Bone Shard Emperor, seem like second book syndrome can’t possibly be a real thing. While the third, The Bone Shard War, is so masterfully executed so many plot threads to conclusion?
Hah, that’s so kind of you to say! It’s surreal! I wrote a whole blog post about how it felt to me.
In short, the work was done for me a long time ago. It sometimes feels like something that happened to another person. And given how much we change from moment to moment and year to year, isn’t that something close to the truth?
But I know for readers, it’s not over—the end is just beginning. Readers bring so much to the books they read, fleshing out the story in a way the author can never do on their own. So in a contradictory sort of way, it will never be over, not until somewhere, someday, the last person to read it has closed the cover on an old copy they’ve found in a dusty corner of a used bookstore, the book having long since gone out of print.
Do you think you’ll ever write a “years later” type story for the characters from The Drowning Empire? Like, a snapshot glimpse on what their lives looked like, after? (Yes, this is me selfishly not wanting to let the characters go yet, even though the ending was so good. And yes, I am really asking about my favorite lesbians.)
I mean, I’ll never say never, but I think if I ever revisited the world, it would be years and years later, with the characters’ descendants striving to handle the legacy their ancestors have left them with—what should be kept and what needs to change as technology and society advances.
So, I don’t want to take away from the amazing accomplishment of publishing a trilogy!! BUT. With your next series, The Gods Below, recently announced, am I allowed to ask about what excites you about it? Because your quote claiming it is “deeply romantic and deeply unsettling” has my finger lasered on that non-existent (yet) preorder button so hard.
So many things excite me about it! I love that it centers around two sisters; I’m very close with my siblings and I would do anything for them. I’m excited about exploring this shattered, hollow world and sharing it with readers. I’m definitely excited about the romance and creepy elements. Is there a spelunking expedition that goes horribly, terribly wrong? Yes. Is there more than one romantic subplot that forces the characters to reexamine their traumas and their beliefs? Also yes.
What are some tropes, topics, genres or dreams you hope to write about, one day?
I’d love to write a thriller with strong speculative elements. It would be fun to write something strange, high-octane, and with less world building. I also have a partially-finished sci-if I’d been working on before The Bone Shard Daughter got picked up. I’d love to return to that someday. It had time bubbles, a cult with non-human robotic avatars, conspiracies, and galaxy-ending stakes. And I’d written a book (with dragons) at one time that dealt very heavily with tribalism—I’d love to touch on that again.
Just For Fun
Using three GIFs or three vibes (or both), how do you hope readers respond when they say, “Oh yeah, this is an Andrea Stewart novel”?
One Mass Effect nerd to another: I’d love to hear about who is your go-to crew and why.
Oh I always loved Garrus. In addition to his weapons skills, and always supportive and you just feel like he has your back. I also really liked Tali. I think together maybe they’re a bit tech heavy, but I also enjoy their interactions with one another. And Tali is just so cute and nerdy!
As a reader, what draws you in and makes you stay up too late to read another chapter, like you’ve done to so many readers with your books (myself included)?
Great characterization always draws me in. I just need to know what happens to these nonexistent people I suddenly find myself deeply invested in. Cliffhanger chapter endings that make me promise myself “only one more chapter.” High stakes—whether they’re world stakes or personal stakes—and impossible decisions.
My favorite question to ask: what question did I not ask that you wanted me to? Answer it here!
What are the best birds? The best birds are roadrunners because they are incredibly sassy and will let you get quite close for photographs, California quails because they sound like squeaking dog toys and have the aura of worried butlers, osprey because they are big badasses, and waxwings because they always look like models wearing avant-garde makeup.
Finally, in what ways can readers connect with you and how can we support you?
I’m on Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok (sigh, I finally gave in) under @andreagstewart on all three. I also have a website at www.andreagstewart.com. I do periodically answer questions about publishing and writing on TikTok, so drop one in the comments if you have something you want to know about!
Thank you so much for taking the time, Andrea!! I admire your books so much, so it was truly a joy to get to peek behind the pen, so to speak.
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Fantastic interview! It was so great to get to know Andrea Stewart a little better. And, as an aspiring author, so nice to know that even someone who wrote such a fantastic epic fantasy can have written so many before that were never picked up.
M.A. Crosbie says
Loved this interview! I definitely need to read these books!
Oh you would love them, Meredith! They are some of my favorite books EVER.