Hi, book loves. Thank you for joining me for The Bookish Ballad Blog’s second Author Chat! On April 15, 2020 I interviewed T. Rae Mitchell, YA Fantasy author of Fate’s Fables, which is the first book in the Her Dark Destiny series. While reading Fate’s Fables I thought about how crazy it was that I have gone so long without these books in my life. They are fantastic and wildly entertaining. I want to thank all of you who were able to tune into our live Instagram chat! You all contributed to the fun Terry and I had chatting about her book, author life, publishing, and more, so I am happy you got to be a part of it!
For those of you who could not attend...fear not! I recorded the video and uploaded it to my YouTube Channel, The Bookish Ballad, for you to watch. I also asked T. Rae Mitchel to send me written answers to all the questions I asked in the live chat so you can peruse it at your leisure! ENJOY!!<3
Q&A with T. Rae Mitchell!
When did you decide you wanted to be an author and how did you make that dream a reality?
I’m not one of those people who wrote stories since the time they were children and wanted to be an author one day. As a kid, I was always drawing and wanted to be a published illustrator. Life is strange though, because obviously that’s not what happened. I unleashed my artistic side into a career as a graphic designer and illustrator instead.
The writing began later when I decided to follow through with my childhood dream of creating a picture book for my son when he was little.
However, I quickly discovered I couldn’t write a short children’s story to match my illustrations. I loved character development and world building too much and ended up writing a middle grade novel instead. Not a publishable one, mind you. That story is collecting dust. But that’s what got me hooked on writing.
After that, I studied the craft for a good ten years and here I am today.
Fate's Fables has a magic system that revolves around runes that invoke the elements and Finn McKeen has a fascinating background as a Scottish druid who can wield these runes. Can you tell us about your world building process and what research you had to conduct to develop this magic system?
World building springs mostly from A LOT of research. I have to immerse myself in the subject matter to become as informed on as many details as I possibly can. Only 10% of those details ever make it into the story, acting as touchstones that help ground the world I’m creating with familiar archetypes. For example, when I was reading about Druids, I learned of their belief that humans were descended from trees. Each tree is sacred to them, especially the oak, which is why I made the oak tree such a prominent theme throughout the story.
Magic systems are more challenging because there’s no actual research you can do, except to study how they’re used in books and film. However, some of my best inspiration for what sort of magic I’m going to use, is inspired by my favorite fantasy art. To me, there’s a unique story going on in every picture. Just as someone else looking at the same image would see a completely different story.
I love Pinterest for that. Though I have to be careful I don’t lose hours swooning over artwork when I should be writing!
What advice would you give to an aspiring author who would like to independently publish their book?
Believe in your dream and be willing to do whatever it takes to make it a reality. Doubts and fears will inevitably rear their ugly heads, but you can’t let them stop you. Become a demon slayer and keep moving forward.
Write what you love and fall in love with your characters, because if you love them, your readers will too.
Fundamentals of Self-Publishing:
How did you come up with the magical objects and tools Fate, Finn, and Sithias use on their epic journey through the Book of Fables?
I name the magical objects first.
From there I let each name trigger my imagination as to what it looks like and how it works. Asking questions works great too. For example, the Orb of Aeternitis. It’s an orb, so it’s round. But what size is it? I’ve always loved the concept of small things having great power, such as the One Ring from LOTR. Okay, so it’s the size of a pendant, but what is it made of? At that point, I let the characters tell me the rest. Here’s what they had to say:
“The Orb is a small puzzle ball––golden and about the size of a cherry. A rather unassuming piece at first glance, unless you have the mind to look more closely. Then you’ll see the interlocking hexagrams comprised of magical numbers and symbols, all of which represent ancient alchemical formulas and celestial forces powerful enough to bestow life and death.”
You recently announced the re-cover reveal of Fate's Fables a couple months ago (YAY!). What made you want to give the books a new look and what all did the process entail?
I’d been considering taking the series wide (into B&N, Kobo, Apple etc), but I wanted to launch with a more timeless, classic design and test it on Amazon before making the big jump.
Unfortunately, the new design didn’t come together right off the bat. We experimented with a completely different cover involving red roses and a white snake slithering through thorns.
I really loved the design, but it didn’t seem to be drawing in the right readers. A few months later, after deliberating on several other designs (which never saw the light of day), we finally arrived at the current design and I couldn’t be happier. :D
What is your writing style like? Are you a pantser, a plotter, or a plantser?
I found out the hard way I was a terrible panster, so now I outline like a good little plotter. But I still get to be a wild and crazy panster, because I let the characters fill in the blanks and surprise me along the way.
Did you experience any challenges or roadblocks while writing Fate's Fables? How did you push through them?
Oh yes. I could fill a book with them, hahaha! I pushed through them by going back to my advice to aspiring authors. I believed in my dream and I did whatever it took to make it a reality. I’m still doing that. Challenges and roadblocks continue to arise, but I love writing and staying connected with my readers too much to give up.
They say that authors put a little bit of themselves into their fictional characters. Which character from Fate's Fables is a close representation of you, and why?
I’d have to say Fate. In the beginning, she was the hardest character for me to write, whereas, Finn and Sithias, flowed in whole and complete. Fate, on the other hand, arrived as an ordinary girl who was sheltered and lived in her own little world writing stories. She had no special powers and gifts–other than having extraordinarily and highly questionable good luck that either didn’t last or turned sour on her. Not exactly a kick ass heroine with a well defined mission ahead of her. Fate was average, and I second-guessed her constantly, fearing she wasn’t interesting enough to be the star of the show. I suppose I related to that a little too much, which was why I found her to be such a challenging character to write.
But I’m happy to say Fate has taken on a life of her own and surprised me, proving that average can be quite entertaining and super fun to write.
Let’s play kiss, marry, kill! Fate, Sithias, Finnn. GO!
Yikes, really?!! All right, if I must. Who to marry is easy. Finn of course. (My husband inspired him, so need I say more?) I’ll kiss Sithias because he’s such a sweetheart. I reeeally don’t want to, but Fate’s the one I have to kill, for giving me such a hard time in the beginning (as noted above).
What are some valuable lessons you learned from publishing your first novel?
There are so many, but here’s my top three:
1) Learn everything you can about publishing before you publish. Don’t wait until after the book’s published (like I did);
2) Get feedback on what others think your book’s specific genre is. Sometimes we’re not writing in the category we think we are. I thought I was writing in sword & sorcery epic fantasy, when I was actually writing in fairy tales & folklore, coming of age categories;
3) It’s okay to make mistakes. It might mean going back to the drawing board, but there’s much to be learned from mistakes and you can then make improvements.
Fate's Fables revolves around eight grim fairytales that I absolutely loved getting lost in despite their grim endings. What are some of your favorite fairytales? Do you have an all-time favorite?
I love the romantic classics, such as Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Beauty and the Beast. Sleeping Beauty is my all-time favorite. And I just love, love, love the Disney Maleficent movie. I can’t count the number of times I’ve watched it!
Which authors/books have inspired you on your writing journey?
The books I read before I started writing have made the most lasting impressions on my work. Maybe it’s because I was strictly a reader back then. Ever since I’ve been writing, the reading experience isn’t as immersive (unless it’s a really, really good book) because I often get distracted with analyzing the plots and characters from a writer’s perspective - which isn’t exactly the best way to unwind at the end of a long day of writing.
Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles has been a strong influence. Her writing is pure poetry and so visceral in her descriptions. I had nightmares about vampires coming into my house while I was reading those books!
Garth Nix’s Abhorsen trilogy broke my imagination wide open and influenced my writing of Fate’s Keep. Joss Whedon’s, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel series have been a huge influence, especially in the way I develop relationships between all the different characters.
Does Fate's Fables have a playlist full of songs you listened to while writing?
I once had a beautiful playlist I embedded on my Tumblr page, which gave me all the feels I needed to get into the right heart and head space, but it’s since vanished from the page for reasons unknown. The music I listened to during that time was moving, haunting and often times of a Celtic nature, (because of Finn’s Scottish roots).
Here’s a wonderful example of the kind of music I listened to while writing Fate’s Fables: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KTroLJbP3u4
Readers get the sense that family is an important theme in Fate's Fables. What does family mean to you?
Family is everything to me. We’ve always supported and encouraged each other. Fate’s Fables wouldn’t be out in the world without their encouragement and support, especially that of my husband and son. I am truly blessed to have such an amazing family.
Fate's Fables has a beautiful and unique cast of characters. Which character is your favorite and what do they contribute to the novel that makes them so special?
Finn is definitely my favorite. He’s such a complex character, yet amazingly easy to write. He’s protective and loves fiercely. He has this soft spiritual side that connects him to nature in such a beautiful way, yet he can be brutal in his use of the elements when he needs to be. Out of all my characters, I think I’ve been hardest on him, because he’s been forced to face his dark side and the lure of surrendering to it completely. The fight between the dark and light inside us all has always fascinated me.
Fate and Finn’s love story knocked the breath from me on multiple occasions. I’m a hopeless romantic, I know! What was it like to develop their love story and how do you get readers to believe a love as timeless as theirs could exist? A suspension of disbelief, you could say.
I think this romance works because I believe in soul mates. I believe there’s someone special out there for each and every person, but before that wish can come true we have to be crystal clear on what we want. When destiny finally conspires to bring that person into your life, you know it deep in your bones, because everything falls into place like pure magic. That’s the connection I strive for between Fate and Finn.
I’d love to know Fate’s Fables framework. Were the eight grim fables and their strategic placement the foundation of the novel or did something else in your creative process structure the novel?
When the idea for Fate’s Fables came to me, I knew the Book of Fables needed to be fleshed out first. So I wrote all eight fables before ever writing Fate’s story. I came up titles, which I wrote each fable to. From there, I wrote each fable in chronological order, making each story darker than the last. This gave me the roadmap Fate would travel upon.
The main story developed out of each fable’s story, which helped me build increasing tension as her story progressed. I was amazed by how well that worked, because it gave me so much to work with as far as having a solid sense of setting with its own built-in cast of characters to interact with.
I’m pretty sure you know how much I adore Sithias at this point. I mean, I love him enough to gush over him and give him his own question. He is quite the playwright and marvelous actor. What role does the theatre play in your life?
I’m not brave enough to ever step onto the stage, but my son’s an actor and screenwriter. I’m usually the one reading lines for him when he preps for auditions, which has always been so fun. It’s interesting just how many different ways an actor can interpret a single line of dialogue. I’ve learned a lot about the importance of what form of expression an actor chooses, because it makes all the difference in the casting room.
There are so many references to pop culture in Fate’s Fables that I just loved and related to on a deeply emotional level. How much pop culture do you know and who are some of your favorite celebrities?
Most of the pop culture I’ve gravitated toward, centers around fantasy (with some sci-fi peppered in) from books, comics, TV and movies. Favorite celebrities come primarily from TV series.
Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles - who play Sam and Dean Winchester in Supernatural are one of my top fave celebs.
Talented actor, James Marsters, who played Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, because of Spike’s character growth and complex story arc. I even wrote and article about him: https://traemitchell.com/oh-yeah-james-marsters-is-resurrecting-spike
Angelina Jolie became a huge favorite of mine after her performance in Maleficent.
Thank you Taylor, for inviting me to this awesome interview. I’m so honored you loved Fate’s Fables enough to share the first book of Her Dark Destiny series with all yourfollowers. I’m excited to have them discover the adventures for themselves and I can't wait to announce the release of Book 4, Fate's Fury, later this year!
About the Author
T. RAE MITCHELL is an incurable fantasy junkie who spent much of her youth dreaming up worlds and bringing characters to life. While most kids grow out of such things, T. Rae didn’t and she sometimes took playing make-believe a bit far. Like the time a wizard hid a bottle of dragon beans in the back yard and left her son convinced he could grow his own dragons. Needless to say, the beans failed to produce and disappointments were had. That’s when T. Rae decided to funnel her crazy imagination into writing. She has since begun her young adult Her Dark Destiny series, which can be found on numerous Amazon Top 100 Best Seller lists, such as Coming of Age Fantasy and Fairy Tales & Folklore.
Follow T. Rae Mitchell on Instagram at @t.raemitchell!