An interview with Jackson Simiana, author of “Starfall”
What/who is your favourite dragon in literature?
Definitely Caraxes the Blood Wyrm from Fire & Blood / House of the Dragon. In fact, I have a big tattoo of him up my arm. I think he’s phenomenal and so uniquely designed. I also love Drogon, Daenerys’s big, loveable boy, for his raw power.
I use an ‘egg rating’ system here on The Cosy Dragon when I rate books. Do you have a favourite way of eating eggs? I’m partial to fried eggs, with a base of rice and some spicy sauce.
I’m vegan, so that makes answering tough… There are great scrambled egg substitutes however!
I’m not going to be reviewing your newest novel, but from your other published novels, is there one that is your own personal favourite?
Probably my first novel, Starfall. It is sort of my brain baby. And while there is a lot now that I would change if I had the chance, given I have learned so much more and would adjust the story arcs etc, I am really proud of it given how expansive and detailed it is. I did heaps of research back in the day on advice for first-time writers, and so many people and authors said “don’t start with a sprawling epic fantasy!” And what did I do? Exactly what they told me not to do. But I think it paid off because it gave me the chance to create what I always wanted to and get my name out there a little bit!
Everyone has a ‘first novel’, even if many of them are a rough draft relegated to the bottom and back of your desk drawer (or your external harddrive!). Have you been able to reshape yours, or have you abandoned it for good?
I started writing when I was like 9 years old! So I don’t even know if the stories from back then are capable of being salvaged, mostly because they are blatant Lord of the Rings rip-offs.
Over the years, what would you say has improved significantly in your writing?
Reading more fantasy opens up my eyes to how other authors write, which I feel has been hugely influential. I think practice has helped me avoid the mistakes I used to make, like repeated words, too many adverbs, etc. I have also found that where I used to write much more as a “Gardener,” I am more of an “Architect” now. I plan the outline and scenes before I begin, and I do allow for creative freedom as it arises… but that way I can always ensure I get to include all the story beats that I want.
Some authors are able to pump out a novel a year and still be filled with inspiration. Is this the case for you, or do you like to let an idea percolate for a couple of years in order to get a beautiful novel?
Gosh, I wish I could do that. My first novella, Little Sparrow, was significantly shorter than my other works, but still took a good 6 months at least to write. I do too much editing on the fly and rewriting to be able to pump out novels so quickly! Plus, you have to let it stew. Writing and publishing so quickly must take some sort of toll on quality, I feel. I mean, look at Stephen King and R.L. Stine.
I have heard of writers that could only write in one place – then that cafe closed down and they could no longer write! Where do you find yourself writing most often, and on what medium (pen/paper or digital)?
I always write on my laptop, and that makes it easier to write where I want because it changes daily. Sometimes it’s in bed, other times I grab a chair and sit in the sun. I don’t have any exciting place where I write unfortunately, like the top of a volcano or something.
Before going on to hire an editor, most authors use beta-readers. How do you recruit your beta-readers, and choose an editor? Are you lucky enough to have loving family members who can read and comment on your novel?
I edit myself because I think editors aren’t always necessary, especially in self-publishing and if you have decent knowledge of things like grammar, punctuation, story beats, arcs, pacing, etc. Thankfully, I feel I do, and so never felt the need for one (plus, I’m a full-time student; there’s no way I’d ever be able to afford it!) I’ve found some great beta-readers through Reddit. I have some friends who also like to read my stuff before it’s released, plus some other self-published authors who I’ve gotten to know over the years and who help me out too. My family basically all hate fantasy! I don’t know if any of them have even read my books *wipes tear*.
I walk past bookshops and am drawn in by the smell of the books – ebooks simply don’t have the same attraction for me. Does this happen to you, and do you have a favourite bookshop? Or perhaps you are an e-reader fan… where do you source most of your material from?
This definitely happens to me! Nothing beats a new book smell. Unfortunately, I do soooooo much reading for uni that I never have the brain capacity to read paperbacks anymore. I usually only listen to audiobooks now on my way to and from work. I’ve actually come to love it, because some narrators are amazing and breathe so much life into the characters.
I used to find myself buying books in only one genre (fantasy) before I started writing this blog. What is your favourite genre, and have your tastes changed over time?
Definitely grimdark fantasy, my own genre of writing. I have always loved fantasy and horror, and authors such as Martin and Abercrombie have made me fall in love with the darker, more depraved aspects of humanity. I don’t necessarily enjoy the heinousness of it, rather how characters react to it. We live in a world surrounded by cruelty and malice, and I think that many creative works brush over this most of the time with fairy tale happy endings and good guys always winning, when in actual fact it is far from true! I also love reading horror, true crime, and science books, particularly on biology, palaeontology, and evolution.
Social media is a big thing, much to my disgust! I never have enough time myself to do what I feel is a good job. What do you do?
I manage my social media all by myself. It can be a bit draining, especially when it feels like you do a lot of work for zero result. But it is what it is- we are a crowded market, and it takes a lot to break through. So I am just happy that I get to share my works with some rather than none. I spend perhaps only an hour or two a week doing social media, whether it’s adding stuff to Instagram, author updates on my website, sharing sales, etc. Nothing too special, really.
Answering interview questions can often take a long time! Tell me, are you ever tempted to recycle your answers from one to the next?
Never! Gotta stay true to it.
About the book
“Alyria is a land in turmoil. Corrupt kings and cutthroat courtiers in the south, disease and turmoil in the middle kingdoms, and a violent invasion along the Broken Coast. Peasant superstitions blame the chaos on the return of the bleeding star, but the ramblings of the lower classes are of little concern to the cold rulers of Alyria and their political games.
A series of childhood traumas keep disgraced princess Katryna Bower away from home for years until a plot to assassinate her parents comes to fruition. Peasant boy Tomas is confronted with the true horrors of war when he and his best friend are conscripted by a dangerous captain to fight against savage invaders from across the sea. King Emery Blacktree will do anything to avoid civil war, but will his sickly wife be able to accept marrying off their only daughter to a descpicable prince, all in the name of peace?
As the tapestry of the world is torn apart, complex and intriguing characters are forced to make tough decisions and survive the unthinkable in a fully-realised grimdark world. The Final Ruin is coming.”