Special thanks to A.M. Rycroft who was my Newsletter coach over the past few weeks. She is an indie author who is a bit of a rising star in my personal favorite genre, Dark Fantasy. I plan to pick her brain some more about being an indie author. Her books, the Cathell Series, are suberbly written and well reviewed. If you are a new indie author, she’s a good example of how to do it right. If you’re a reader of Dark Fantasy, I have your next favorite series right here. Now, without further ado.
A.M. Rycroft read her first book of horror short stories when she was just eight years old. Her first fantasy book followed shortly after. She loved them both and went on to devour many more books in both genres.
Scary stories and fantasy books quickly took over her life. She wrote her first horror short when she was nine, much to the horror of her English teacher and her parents. It wasn’t until well after high school, however, that she tackled her first fantasy novel, not long after reading “A Game of Thrones” by George R.R. Martin. This time, it was to the horror of her college writing professors, who shunned all things having to do with “genre fiction”.
Rycroft’s dark fantasy Cathell series is a clear melding of her two reading loves: sword and sorcery fantasy and spine-tingling horror. The strong female characters’ experiences parallel the classic hero’s journey, but with a dark and bloody spin. She takes great delight in drawing a rich world with flawed characters and villains that seem to get more terrifying as the series progresses. Her teachers would be so proud.
Did you try and find an agent or publisher first, or did you decide on being an indie author right from the start?
I was going to look for an agent initially and then I changed my mind along the way.
The typical reasons, really: impatience, wanting to do my books my way.
So, you went ahead and did it on your own. What did you learn after you published the first one?
We’re never as good at editing or design as we think we are. And doing publishing right is expensive. Heh.
I know that your series is building momentum and your audience is growing, and congrats on that. But at what point would you, or did you, consider yourself a literary success? I guess what I’m asking is, what does literary success look like to you?
That’s a really good question. At one point in time, I really wanted to win awards and get written up in the New York Times. That was success to me. I’d still like those things to happen some day, but what I recently realized that I care about more than those things is telling stories that people enjoy and want to read again.
Ever read a novel and think to yourself at the end that it was a good book, but you probably wouldn’t read it again?
Plenty of times.
I don’t want to write those kinds of books. I first realized that I was starting to become the writer who writes books people want to read again after I released the second (better) edition of Into the Darkness. A book reviewer said it was the best written indie book he’d ever read, and he would recommend it to anyone. That was high praise from him, because I know he’s notoriously hard to get a good review out of.
But I have to say I think I may have come close to my goal with my third book, The Joy Thief. A reviewer said she ignored her kids and her dog so that she could finish the book. It was that good. Her review made me laugh out loud. It was genuinely funny.
So, as long as we are on the subject of reviews… Do you read all your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
I’ll read them from time to time, if I see I have a new one. I usually get surprised by new Goodreads reviews than Amazon ones. They just seem to pop up.
Good ones are definitely better than bad ones, and a couple have made me blush. Bad ones, well, that’s a whole other ballgame. I know some people who get really upset by a bad review, but I don’t anymore. I understand that not everyone will like my work. That’s fine.
I’ll look for something I can use to improve in the bad ones. Authors should never become complacent about their writing. But sometimes, I have to laugh at a bad review, because the person isn’t even hiding the fact that they’re going out of their way to be insulting. Again, that’s ok. If that makes their day, then it’s fine by me.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Do you mean what will stop my writing in its tracks?
Pretty much. For me, it’s any kind of bad mood. If something ticks me off, like an argument with a family member, or one of my kids misbehaving, I may as well do something else, because Im not getting any writing done.
Two things: noise (I’m very sound-sensitive) and summer. I get very bad depression during the summer. It’s the alternate form of Seasonal Affective Disorder. So I’ve stopped writing during the summer months. They tend to be the noisiest months anyhow — leaf blowers, lawn mowers, etc.
Well, if you aren’t writing in the summer, I guess you’re reading? How do you find your next book to read?
I like to wander the shelves of my local bookstores and libraries. Whatever catches my eye, I’ll pick up and read a few pages. If I can’t put it down or it intrigues me, it’ll come home with me. Sometimes, I’ll read write-ups, but mostly it’s me wandering.
Ever get reader’s block? (I do, it’s okay to admit it lol)
Yes. I’m embarrassed to say that I have several lovely unread books on my shelves, including a pair of Joe Hill titles that he was kind enough to sign, and yet sometimes I mope about not having “anything” to read. Which is to say that I want to read something in a particular vein, and I don’t have any books that fit that criteria.
I know you make your own covers, and they are awesome, by the way. What tools do you use?
Thank you. I use a combination of Gimp, which is more or less equivalent to Photoshop, but free, and InDesign. InDesign has slightly better layout tools than Gimp. Also, I get free fonts through Typekit with my InDesign subscription, which is a must for designing covers. Using standard fonts is often not enough for good cover design.
Your first book is Into the Darkness, but there is also an Into the Darkness Special Edition. I’ve read Into the Darkness, and loved it. I have yet to check out the special edition, but I see that it has added history and behind the scenes stuff… How about a peek at some of it? What do you say?
Sure. The Special Edition starts off with an introduction where I talk about how I came to write the novel. Reading A Game of Thrones helped me develop my style, but something else inspired the plot. The short version of the story is that I was inspired by a dream I had and couldn’t shake afterwards. Eventually, I decided to write it down. It took on a life of its own from there. You’ll also find histories of the different races and gods of Cathell inside the Special Edition, and also the prequel “The Fall of Tynan Selvantyr”. As I explain in my author’s note, it was originally the prologue in the first edition of the novel. Though it’s a good story, it didn’t further the plot in a meaningful enough way, so I removed the prologue in the second printing and put it into the Special Edition as a short prequel.
What’s your next book, and when can I expect an advance copy?
Two are coming out soon, actually. Part 1 of Corruption of Honor, my new dark fantasy series, is coming in September. It’s much darker even than the Cathell series, with some hardcore horror elements. And then Shadowboxer, book 4 of the Cathell series, will be out in November. It kicks off The Gathering Dark Trilogy, which book 3 set up. As for advanced copies, don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. I can give you a peek at Corruption of Honor in just a couple weeks.
Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions! You’ve been a huge help and inspiration for me. I only hope the Godswar Chronicles can be as well written, reviewed, and popular as the Cathell Series.
You can find A.M. Rycroft here on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/1.amrycroft
You can check out her other works on her amazon author page.