Please introduce yourself and your books!
Fifteen years ago the image of a huntress, arrow notched and ready to shoot, came to me in a daydream. She was strong, serious, and saw no limits for herself. She was Kiana.
I, on the other hand, was a quiet, mousy little junior student who normally took refuge from the pressures of normality in the fantastical lives of other people’s characters. Yet there I was, seeing the life of this huntress before my eyes like a movie playing in my head.
Just for fun, I filled a few pages of a notebook with descriptions of the scenes I could ‘see’. Just for fun, I filled a few more pages – with other characters joining Kiana, being saved by and saving her. Soon the note book was full, there was a rough map of this new world, a terrible threat facing it, and my Three main heroes coming together with as much surprise as I felt about it, to face the Sorcerer Darziates and his Witch.
Half my life passed by, and any chance I could, I would be back in Kiana’s world. I would be talking with Mother Nature, the Elves and Nymphs in the oldest forest in the world. I would be with Dalin and Noal, right by Kiana’s side. I learned about the characters as they did, and found my way to solutions as they did. Three novels poured from me, and they would later become known as ‘The Last Larnaeradee’, ‘The Raiden’ and ‘The Army for the World’.
I polished them, re-working and sacrificing precious words until their stories were right. And then I published them … and became an author, Shelley Cass.
What are the real-life stories behind your books?
Every scene and event I wrote for those fifteen years was a reflection of what I needed to write and to express. Things I felt in the angsty days of teenagedom, things I daydreamed so vividly that they just had to be painted onto a page in words. Characters’ moods could reflect my moods because scenes did not always get written in sequence (and in fact, breakthrough moments often involved me having a ‘vision of the future’ for my characters. These would give me purpose in going back to fill in the story that would lead to that future).
But a deep undercurrent, and then a driving plot point of my novel was a focus on our world. I was often most worried, and most moved, by what I could make of the state of nature and humanity.
I was inspired by the beauty of nature, and also feared how this complex, miraculous thing could be so mistreated – this thing that we most need to support and be supported by. Symbolically, the terrible threat, the sickness of magic, Mother Nature and the world in my novels, correlated to the lack of connection and care of the peoples living on it.
I was scared of how divided this world can be, how in modern times we seem to be pulling even further apart from each other, growing colder on a global and local scale. So I would look to the real world examples of individual kindness, of people reaching out to each other, to feel better.
What inspires/inspired your creativity?
Annoyingly, I feel most creative when I also feel most time poor and stifled. I think it’s the sense of yearning to express myself rather than be trapped in the ‘hum-drum’. When I most want to write, I have the least brain energy to do it!
However, it’s because I am swept up in the ‘hum-drum’ that I have these flashes of appreciation for beauty around me. When I have a moment of surfacing to take a breath, I feel and see with so much more clarity than I would when I’m comfortable and stress-free. I remember vividly one such moment of this kind of ‘surfacing’ – I had just sat myself down on the back step, taking the dogs outside to run. I had rubbed my face to stop myself from staring like a zombie, and I found myself really looking and really seeing what was around me. The grass! Each blade, curving in a spreading wave as the wind made tracks across the yard. The trees! The leaves singing in a whisper and waving as they rustled to and fro. The way the water on those leaves, little individual drops like crystals, showed the light through them before they danced their way down to the grass.
So, oddly, being frustrated that I am too busy or stressed, makes my creative energy build up until it simply must be expressed.
How do you deal with creative block?
Though I believe in the importance of eloquence …
I resent when I finally get a chance to be creative and then feel too tired or stuck or doubtful to just do it. So I tell myself to give it time and space. And fifteen years pass.
Do you have any creativity tricks?
Apart from giving myself time, I find that songs and even film clips can get me into the right mind frame. The spark of inspiration from one song on the drive home from work can give me the image of a new scene that then gets the words bubbling up from me. A song planted the opening image in my head of Jackson Flint, sitting in the shadows of a night club, watching the wild-eyed dancers writhe in flashes of pulsating strobe lights, while his murderess stalked through the crowds to find him. Needless to say, with an opening like that, I had to get started on ‘Darkling’, my new project.
Also, keeping a note book close when you should really be falling asleep is a good idea. Images of scenes come to me when I’m on the cusp of sleep, as if I’m lapsing into my characters’ worlds when I am least trying to or controlling it. I’ve lost many ideas by letting myself fall asleep, I’ve given myself some good laughs when I wake up to read my ‘brilliant’ ideas from the night before, but I’ve also taken some good notes.
And lastly – listening. Words inspire words. Rather than seeing a scene first, and then letting it play out, sometimes I hear it. (Hearing voices … not always a bad sign). These stand out words became the blurbs for two of my novels. Book three, ‘The Army for the World’, had this:
“You could save yourself damage,” the Witch warned. “But it’s all the same to me. As long as I get the Fairy.”
My heart was racing. I felt like every pulse point in my body was going to explode.
“So …” I swallowed. “I guess I’m going to get damaged.”
“It was your choice.”
The Gods have given their warning. The Sorcerer’s threat grows. And the Three must unite the Army for the World. Or risk losing each other, and life itself.
What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?
Ironically, considering the length of this answer compared to others – overwriting.
I overwrote my first few drafts while I was feeling my way into the world. Much was needed for my own understanding of the world, but it became clunky, got in the way of the story, and I had to cut each of my novels down by half.
What are your plans for future books?
I have one fully written dystopian future novel called ‘The Dreamer and The Star’, but I need to spend some time editing it before it can be released into the wild later this year (2019), or early next year (2020).
‘Soldier Lili has been having dreams about freedom. Her doctor says she’s glitching.
Mitch is a real star. He’s been making dreams come true since the dawn of time.
However now that it’s dreamer Lili’s turn, Mitch must deal with what a nightmare her futuristic, dystopian world has become. A world where dreams are dying … even when you wish upon the best star going round.’
A soul cannot settle until its true purpose has been fulfilled. It will wander from one lifetime to the next, unless it is given aid. So if dreams are dying – what will happen to the star who grants them? And what will happen to the unfulfilled dreamers?
And I’m feeling my way with ‘Darkling’, a story in which the evil deeds of man-kind have caused a tangible consequence – a new type of being has manifested. A being that feeds off the darkness in us, and so that can not be easily weakened or killed.
Tell us some quirky facts about yourself
I believe that chocolate is the best flavor, I believe that doing nothing is actually doing much, I believe that love makes the world go round, and I believe that a touch of sun and a smile is the best medicine.