We’re concluding our series of interviews for Self-Published Authors Appreciation Week with the wonderful S. Kaeth, mother of dragons and author of fantasy fiction featuring realistic and flawed characters. We’ve previously reviewed S. Kaeth’s story of dragon rider Palon in Windward on Uncharted Library, and she’s currently working on her series set in the universe, Children of the Nexus, about a mother who must journey across perilous mountains in search of her missing son.
As well as being a talented fantasy author, S. Kaeth is the co-founder of Indie Story Geek, a Goodreads-like review website exclusive for indie authors! Read on to learn more.
One: In your author bio, you mention that you’re active in the writing community by supporting the Write Hive virtual writing convention as well as Writer in Motion, and I often see you cheering on other authors over social media! What inspires you to be so active in the community and what are you most proud of?
I believe in paying it forward. So many people helped me when I was just getting started, floundering in the ocean without a clue how deep it went or how strong the tide was or even whether or not I really wanted to swim, sail, or jet-ski in the first place. The best way I can think of to thank all the people who helped me is to help as many other people as I can, too. And hopefully they’ll help other people too.
I also think that we all benefit when we help each other, particularly with indies, but I think that’s true with all authors, no matter the publishing path. I feel like there’s this story we’re told, that we sometimes perpetuate, and we start looking at each other as competition and the jealousy starts to rise and bitterness begins. But writing can be lonely as it is, and I don’t know anyone who reads exclusively one author. Most times people are delighted to discover other authors who write similar stories to authors they love. So I feel like it’s a no-lose scenario. Why wouldn’t I want to help people, as many as I can?
I absolutely adore helping out with and spreading the word about Writer In Motion and WriteHive, and hopefully the WordNerdCafe podcast is helpful to people! But as far as proud of, Indie Story Geek is the project I’m probably most proud of. Not only does it help writers, readers, and bloggers, but I see people other than me using it, and it’s something I came up with, so I guess I feel like I have enough claim to it to be proud of it, if that makes sense, lol!
Two: You’re the co-founder of Indie Story Geek, which has been described as a Goodreads database for indie and self-published authors. Can you tell us a bit more about it and your awesome “story shape” rating feature?
Of course! So Indie Story Geek tries to basically capture the reading experience without good/bad judgements. Those can be made other places, or in other ways, such as in the review. The reading experience itself is neutral in judgement. So after you read a book, you put sliders in approximately where you think the book falls in 8 different categories for the experience: worldbuilding, cover, plot, characters, storytelling, immersion, emotional response, and how thought-provoking it was for you. We have a spot for trigger/content warnings, and a short tweet-like review, and then you can link back to your own site for a longer review.
From the slider positions, the system will automatically generate a “story shape”. It’s been really interesting to see how the story shapes have varied or stayed the same from book to book and between reviews. For the most part, reviews are generally in agreement on the story shape (the system automatically averages all of the individual reviews’ story shapes for the overall shape) while some authors are incredible consistent in their story shapes (Lyra Wolf and EG Radcliff!) and others are more varied.
Our plan is to eventually be able to search by story shape, once we get more reviews on the site. We’d love to be able to have a “Show me more like this” button and have the system find other books with a similar shape, genre, and age category. That way, if you’re in the mood for a particular type of book, you can get suggestions that are likely to match what you’re in the mood for!
Three: Why did you decide to self-publish and what has been your biggest success so far?
I decided that if I was going to have to market my books anyway (which I was), then I wanted to also have complete control. I didn’t want to give up parts of my vision or have to worry about justifying what I had in my head. This way, all I have to do is justify the risks of my investments and choices to myself, rather than to a publisher.
My biggest success so far has actually been Windward, which I find funny because I wrote it quick as a break book from working on my epic, which was the one I cared more about. Windward grew on me though in revisions especially. It’s not perfect, but it’s fast-paced and snarky and passionate and there’s dragons—what’s not to love? It’s just different than the more leisurely pace of my complicated epic where I’m weaving together strands of hints and subtle strategems and traps. But readers love it, and I am writing a prequel novella for it, and will absolutely be writing more of Palon and Windward’s adventures, for sure!
Four: Windward and the Children of Nexus series are set in the same world. What inspired you to write them in the same world, and were there any benefits or challenges? Are their dragons in both?
There are dragons in both! They just feature far more heavily in Windward than in the Children of the Nexus. I knew they would be in the same world because Palon is the sister of Kaemada and Taunos (two of the main characters of the epic), but while that meant I knew the culture she grew up in, I still had to discover dragonbonded culture, which was tons of fun.
The main benefit I think was that the geography and ecology was already decided. I knew already how big the island was, and I knew that my dragons had no prey on the island that could sustain their population. I knew they solved the problem by being multi-planar creatures, jumping to other dimensions to eat other creatures, then coming back home where it’s safe. But the biggest challenge for me was not letting the problems get too big to where they would impact the other storyline! In writing both, I had an eye to the other, and had to remember when each happened to keep things straight and figure out if any big happenings would attract the attention of the other other party (before Book Three in Children of the Nexus, when crossover happens and I want attention attracted!)
But it’s been fun, and the more I go, the more I think that it’s not going to stay as tidy as Windward and other Windward-related books plus Children of the Nexus. I think I might end up with more of a Discworld situation where I have several books in the same universe with multiple jumping in points depending on what strikes your fancy.
Five: You seem to be a big fantasy fan! Can you recommend a few of your favourite fantasy books from indie/self-published authors?
I grew up devouring fantasy and sci-fi! That’s still the vast majority of what I read, though I lean more fantasy these days. But I love reading indie so then I can shout about it and help other people find amazing indie books!
Here’s some amazing ones:
If you’re looking for some dark fantasy with Celtic inspirations, you need to pick up EG Radcliff’s trilogy, starting with the Hidden King. I loved all three of them and totally got some Robin Hobb vibes. I’ve already shouted about the Hidden King on another blog, but since then I’ve finished the other two books in the series, and they both live up to the beginning (though the third introduces multiple PoVs).
For epic fantasy, try out the Starchaser Saga by Renee Dugan, starting with Darkwind. It starts out a little groany with Princess Cistine, but I promise she gets so much better. I rolled my eyes so hard at her in the first part of the first book, but her character arc has been awesome, and the cast of side characters is amazing.
For urban fantasy, if you like Annette Marie, try Whitney Hill’s Shadows of the Otherside series, and vice verse! Both have similarities, with fiery main characters, though Shadows of the Otherside features a main character hiding how special at the beginning she is because it will get her killed, whereas the Guild Codex, anyway, has a main character who has no magic whatsoever. But the feel of both series, with the pacing and the style is similar, and they’re super fun.
Six: What are you working on next? Can you tease us?
I’m working on the third book of the Children of the Nexus series, which is called Memories That Bind, and while that’s editing, I’m writing a prequel novella of Palon and Windward. The novella tells the story of how Palon and Windward bonded and their early days in the nest. It also gives a chance to show more Miros!
MEMORIES features my fire-wielding inventor Takiyah, plus dragons and fae. It’s been an absolute blast to write! Here’s a little snippet:
“Dragon!” Ra’ael shouted.
Takiyah crouched low while the wingbeats of the dragon blew sand in her eyes and in her mouth. She spat, feeling grit all along her teeth. Ra’ael and Tjodlik crouched near the cliff-face. Near them, shielding Eian from the wind, Kaemada gestured for Galod to hurry as the hermit ran for their cover.
Running. Takiyah had never seen the man run. Ever.
But it wasn’t enough. The dragon’s wings pummeled them with gusts of wind, and with one clawed foot, it snatched Galod, then launched itself into the air. Eian shrieked, dangling by his shirt from one claw.
“No!” Kaemada shouted, grabbing at the dragon. The wolf leaped forward with a snarl, but the dragon rose, unaffected by their rage.
Takiyah shot fire with her hands, aiming for the hind end of the dragon for fear she’d hit Galod, Eian, or Kaemada, all snared in a tangle from the dragon’s claw. Nimae was left behind, on the ground.
The dragon belched fire in return, driving Takiyah to fling herself off the path into a pile of thorn bushes. The thorns tore at her skin as she thrashed her way free, least they catch fire too while she was among them.
“Kaemada!” Ra’ael shouted.
Kaemada dropped from the dragon as it winged its way higher, quickly gaining height, its claws clutching its burden. Curled around something, Kaemada hit the branch of a tree. Brightly colored clothing showed through the green foliage, tumbling lower and lower. Ra’ael raced toward her, and Takiyah and Tjodlik followed, catching up as Ra’ael pushed outward with her telekinesis, slowing Kaemada’s fall a bit.
Kaemada still hit the ground with a groan and a yelp from the wolf. She rolled, her legs tangled up with smaller legs.
Takiyah helped her to her feet, uncoiling around Eian.
“Are you all right?” Ra’ael asked.
Kaemada nodded, groaning as she stood and dusted Eian off. “Eian?”
The boy nodded, none the worse for wear but for a shallow scrape on his back where the claw had torn through his shirt. His eyes were wide, though, and his breathing shaky.
Kaemada embraced him, kissing his head. “I couldn’t have borne losing you again.”
“I can’t believe we lost Galod,” Ra’ael said, staring after the dragon as it flew. “What does it want with him?”
“We’re not going to lose him.” Takiyah glared at her. “We’re getting him back.”
Seven: And a few quick questions:
What’s your favorite…
…book, in recent times?
Oh, this one’s hard. Um… besides the one’s I’ve mentioned, probably either Strange the Dreamer (coupled with Muse of Nightmares) or Bad Witch Burning by Jessica Lewis. Simply an amazing book about a girl who can talk to the dead, but then her power becomes the ability to actually bring people back from the dead. And somehow, this does not make her life better!
Assassin’s Fate by Robin Hobb is an amazing close to an immense saga, though too—absolutely incredible.
…game, in recent times?
Magic Maze is a lot of fun, and (at the risk of being in bad taste) so is the board game Pandemic! I also enjoy the Kingdom Rush tower defense game.
Oh no, I’m a bad writer! I don’t have any favorite writing advice. My favorite advice is the advice that works for you, really. Because it doesn’t matter who said what, if it doesn’t make sense to you or help you in your own writing journey. So just keep going!
…advice for someone who wants to publish their own book?
Build your newsletter early, and write your reader magnet(s) before you release your regular books! I kept telling myself it was too soon, I had nothing to say, etc, but now I have multiple books out and I still have nothing to say, lol! Other than that, have fun with it, and make friends. Don’t let it become a lonely endeavor.
…source of inspiration?
I read constantly. Not for a conscious source of inspiration (though I do notice that my writing output suffers when I don’t read as much) but my subconscious definitely munches on things in the background! Music is also a big source of inspiration for me.
…way to clear your mind when everything gets a bit much?
I get lost in nature! The kids and I try to take the dogs and get lost in the woods somewhere once a week or so, whether on the water or on a trail or whatnot. Just being surrounded by green really helps me center myself and destress.
Eight: Do you have any last words?
I’m just really honored to be here on your blog! Thanks for asking me over!
Books by S. Kaeth
Children of the Nexus series:
Connect with S. Kaeth Here: