Interview with Fantasy Author Sienna Skyy

Sienna Skyy comes from a long line of storytellers, and from the moment she learned to speak she began telling tales of her own, many of which were reflections of the beautiful city where she lived. She got her start by exploring lyricism in the form of song, and was inspired the combination of literary fantasy and rock music that was prevalent in her early years. (Nowadays they call it classic rock.) She believes that art and music and literature are different forms of the same wonderful thing. She also believes that knights exist today though they’ve stopped wearing shining armor, and that magic is waiting just beyond the surface of the things we see. Sienna Skyy lives in Gotham City, and is surrounded by animals, of both the human and non-human variety. She is currently working on the next novel, Otherworld Quest.

Welcome to The Writer's Life, Sienna. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?

Thanks for having me! I’ve been writing stories since the moment I learned how to write, probably because I’d been telling stories since the moment I learned how to speak. Transferring those tales to paper was just a natural progression.

Can you please tell us about your book and why you wrote it?

American Quest is a tale about love, evil, magic, and the fate of humanity. It centers around Bruce and Gloria, a young couple with uncommon depths of passion for life, the things they believe in, and each other. But they fall prey to a dark force—there are hordes of demon-like creatures called Maculs who look for ways to defile human virtues. If the Maculs achieve a certain degree of success, they gain power over humanity. Enervata is one such Macul. He abducts Gloria and lays a trap of seduction and temptation, trying to turn her to his side and lay down her love for Bruce and all that she cherishes. If Enervata succeeds, he enslaves the entire human race; but if he fails, he will kill Gloria. Bruce learns that his only hope is to find the Four Pillars of Humanity. He embarks on a quest to find the Pillars, fight Enervata, and save his true love.

What kind of research was involved in writing American Quest?

Oh, the research was so much fun! Interestingly enough, although I had a strong idea of what I was writing when I began, the research really took me to places I didn’t expect to go, and that stemmed from pure story detail coming to life. I found myself delving into anything from change theory to khoomei (an ancient form of Ukranian throat singing—strange and guttural so that it sounds like the song of mystical creatures) to food and wine. That last bit, the food and wine, was particularly fun because it involved a lot of time spent in the dining room. I cooked so much good food and poured so much good wine during those months—by the end I’d spoiled myself rotten. Tough research, you know, but I survived it. All in the name of art.

How much input did you have into the design of your book cover?

The original design was purely the artist’s interpretation of the book. I was tickled (and a bit relieved, as you never know how this sort of thing is going to play out) by what she came up with. The artist took my and other team members’ opinions into account during subsequent drafts, and I’m very pleased by the final product. I think the book is absolutely gorgeous on the shelf.

Has it been a bumpy ride to becoming a published author or has it been pretty well smooth sailing?

Actually I think it’s been smooth, if not slow. Publishing, as an industry, is a study in patience. No, things have not always panned out the way I’ve wanted them to. But I can honestly say that every time I’ve felt things haven’t gone my way, a greater opportunity than the one I’d lost has come along. More importantly, I feel that my writing craft has improved with each step. If I’d gotten a contract in those early days, I might have released a book I wouldn’t have been proud of as I learned the ropes. I’m still growing, but now I feel I can be confident about my work.

For this particular book, how long did it take from the time you signed the contract to its release?

Including the editorial back-and-forth, about fifteen months. Oddly enough, that flew by.

Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/is is? If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it’s necessary to have one?

Yes, I do, although he’s more of a manager than an agent. I see an agent as someone who makes sales for you. A manager is someone who manages your career. I definitely feel it’s worthwhile to have excellent professional representation. Teams are always stronger than individuals. But it’s crucial to partner with someone who truly believes in you and shares your vision, and it’s crucial that as an author, you understand the leap of faith that person might be making in order to take you on. Mutual respect is so important. That dynamic alone, between author and agent, can have a tremendous impact on an author’s career.

Do you plan subsequent books?

Absolutely! There are four books in the American Quest series.

Are you a morning writer or a night writer?

Morning, although perfect writing conditions are a luxury I can’t always expect, so I often write at night as well.

If money was no object, what would be the first thing you would invest in to promote your book?

You know, there are a lot of areas where I’d invest my energy that have nothing to do with money. Brand new authors must build a relationship with readers, and that’s not something that happens overnight. Readers have to get used to the name and the style—they like having an idea of what they’re getting into when they pick up a book, because they’re willing to invest their time and energy in reading it in the hopes that they’ll have a great experience. So to that end, if perfect conditions were no object (and I hope you’re keeping up with my abstract digression here), I would publish one book right after another, each within four months of the previous work.

But if money were no object, I’d be investing in seeking radio and television air time. Nowadays I think that’s the farthest reach. The Internet’s great too, of course, but people are accustomed to maintaining short attentions spans online, and it’s not as conducive to the sort of linear engagement you get with radio or TV.

How important do you think self-promotion is and in what ways have you been promoting your book offline and online?

I think self-promotion is extremely important. Until every reader out there is familiar with your name and your writing style, it’s up to you to introduce them to your world. I think that’s pretty much common knowledge among writers these days. What may not be common knowledge, though, is that you can have a ball with it. The Information Age has brought us so many new and unique ways of presenting ourselves to the world, we have the freedom to pick and choose strategies that we actually enjoy. To me, online interviews like this one are lots of fun, and you feel like you’re a significant part of something wonderful. But there lots of other ways to get your name out there: audio, video, print, mobile; the only limitations are your time and imagination.

Any final words of wisdom for those of us who would like to be published?

Yes. I would say the single most important quality a writer might possess is persistence. Persistence will help you grow in your craft, find professional representation, and it will help you land a publishing contract (assuming that’s your goal). The writer who can persistently and consistently pursue goals—be they related to craft or the business or both—is a writer destined for success.

Thank you for coming, Sienna! Would you like to tell my readers where they can find you on the web and how everyone can buy your book?

Yes, and thanks again for having me! Please check out the American Quest web site at http://www.americanquestbook.com/ for short stories, multi-media experiences, and more information about the book. You can find the book itself on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, either online or at your local book store. Cheers!
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