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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

SPFBO Finalist Interview: Kerstín Espinosa Rosero

Book links: AmazonGoodreads

AUTHOR INFO: Author and artist. Burn Red Skies is her debut novel. Find Kerstin online: InstagramTwitter.

Publication Date: November 12, 2020 Publisher: Kerstín Espinosa Rosero Page Count: 400 Cover design: Franziska Haase

Thank you for agreeing to this interview. Before we start, tell us a little about yourself.

​​Thanks for having me, I’m happy to be here. My name is Kerstin and I’m from the US, but I moved to Germany to, um. Study Chinese. And I’ve been living here ever since! I’m really excited to be taking part in this year’s SPFBO.

Do you have a day job? If so, what is it?

I coordinate the Storyteller team for a software company. We showcase success stories of our software across different fields and industries in a fun, informative, and absolutely geeky way. I love it; I feel like a traveling bard in the world of tech.

Who are some of your favorite writers, and why is their work important to you?

Glenn Cook: Black Company really re-ignited my love of fantasy. Just the shenanigans of each (imperfect) character in quick, bite-sized prose.

C.S. Friedman: Black Sun Rising was beautifully written. Some parts felt like reading poetry in every line. It was such a contrast to the short, sharp sentences of Black Company, but packed a different sort of punch, and I loved it.

Oh, and Trudi Canavan! The Black Magician books were the first I’d ever read in German. I guess everyone feels awkward and terrible on their first day as a foreign exchange student, but it was nice to read a fantasy trilogy with similar themes. It felt less lonely. I read them over and over, and wouldn’t you know, they actually helped me pass my proficiency exams. So um, thanks, Trudi!

What do you think characterizes your writing style?

Of course, this is based entirely on my own perception of my work, but I try to find a balance between short and sharp sentence rhythm—which I love when I read fantasy books—and longer, more complex prose—which I also love when I read fantasy books. A result of that, I think, is a strength that is also one of its weaknesses—there is a lot going on in Burn Red Skies, but it does not say more than it has to.

What made you decide to self-publish Burn Red Skies as opposed to traditional publishing?

It could have gone either way. I’d contacted agents and read up on getting traditionally published, and I received positive feedback on my manuscript at the time. But a few suggested major changes, things I felt would have changed the heart of the story. I’d grown attached to my unreliable, vastly flawed (but still very human) MCs. I didn’t want to smooth over their edges. So I kept the story I wanted to tell. And self-publishing very much gives you that freedom.

What do you think the greatest advantage of self-publishing is?

I think it gave me more artistic freedom, and the end product was close to the version I had of it in my head. People had warned me that I wouldn’t have a support system—like in traditional publishing, editing, proofreading, and designing are usually taken care of for you—but that wasn’t the case. I mean yeah, I edited the manuscript myself because I couldn’t afford an editor when I started, but I’ve met and worked with incredible artists since then. Self-publishing definitely gave me more hands-on experience in the creative aspect of it, and I’m glad I went with it for my debut novel, Burn Red Skies.

On the other hand, is there anything you feel self-published authors may miss out on?

Oh, DISTRIBUTION, for sure! I have family in the Philippines, and they don’t have an easy way of ordering physical books unless I pack them in a balikbayan box myself and ship them overseas. I think that was what I did, actually. It was really inconvenient. I have a lot of relatives.

Why did you enter SPFBO?

A friend recommended it, actually! I’d just released my book, and she immediately sensed I had no idea what I was doing. So I checked it out and absolutely loved the idea behind it. For me, that meant a lot of new fantasy reads! My friends and I are already planning on buddy reading all the finalists, semi-finalists, and other books that caught our eye.

What would you do if you won the SPFBO?

​​You actually caught me on the day Fantasy-Faction announced their decision. I still can’t even believe I’m a finalist, to be honest. Can we move on to the next question?

Sure :) How would you describe the plot of Burn Red Skies if you had to do so in just one or two sentences?

A sixteen-year-old survivor dreams of taking down the Summoner’s army—all she needs to do is slay a dragon that is already dead. BURN RED SKIES is an epic fantasy with airship smugglers, badass female tyrants, sword lesbians, and dragons—and with dragons, fire and flame.

What was your initial inspiration for Burn Red Skies? How long have you been working on it? Has it evolved from its original idea?

I would say the core inspiration was Final Fantasy IX and Suikoden II. Beautifully written games, and I was a kid at the time, so they really opened my eyes to how visually stunning a story can be. I loved the friendship dynamics of FFIX. I loved how the villain was developed in Suikoden II.

Burn Red Skies is a bit darker, since I started writing it 15 years later. But the spirit of the two games—at least how I saw them at 10—laid the foundation. I started writing when I was in my late-20s, so I like to think it evolved along those lines. My current mindset layered over 10-year-old Kerstin playing video games.

If you had to describe it in 3 adjectives, which would you choose?

Dragons, airships, and magic. None of those are adjectives. Dragony, airshippy, magicky?

Is it part of the series or a standalone? If series, how many books have you planned for it?

It’s planned to be a quick series, three books max. Four if I fail, but most likely three.

Who are the key players in this story? Could you introduce us to Burn Red Skies’s protagonists/antagonists?

There are three I can mention without spoiling, I think.

Dove: a sixteen-year-old survivor who separated from her brother in a massacre and since then dreams of taking down the Summoner's army.

Valerya: the first Dragon Summoner in hundreds of years. But instead of the savior everyone has been waiting for, a new reign of terror begins...

Decker: the first helmsman of the Smuggler, an airship that probably should have retired years ago. He prefers life in the air; the Realmlands are too much for him.

How did you select the names of your characters?

Since the day I found out the word for “dove” in German was more or less the same as “pigeon,” I got fixated. One of my MCs tends to suffer bouts of imposter syndrome, so it fit perfectly. I associated the antagonist with “valor,” and from that came “Valerya.” Aside from that, I’m terrible with names, so most other characters just have nicknames. Like they literally call each other random words.

Does your book feature a magic/magic system? If yes, can you describe it?

People have elemental magic that has weakened over the generations. This creates a dynamic in which the tyrants in power (usually) have a lot of it, and the commonfolk (usually) do not. Conflicts arise when this order is disturbed.

There are four Realms (Fire, Ice, Water, and Storm), but the story mainly takes place in Fire and Ice.

Cover art is always an important factor in book sales. Can you tell us about the idea behind the cover of Burn Red Skies?

​​I have to admit that my cover artist, Franzi, is the mastermind behind the cover. I just told her it was about dragons, and based on that and the title, she designed a cover that—in my opinion—fit the character of the book perfectly. I love covers that make a general sort of sense before you start reading, but the more you read, the more sense it makes… if that makes sense…

(Check her out, her Insta is @coverdungeonrabbit!)

Which question about the book do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

“(Character) is completely sadistic. Are they based on anyone?”

“No, of course not.” … :)

Can you, please, offer us a taste of your book, via one completely out-of-context sentence.

“Once you think about it, we’re standing at the edge of time; when the sun stirs or the stars change, we’re always the first to know.”

What’s your publishing Schedule for 2021/2022?

​​I’ve actually just finished the sequel to Burn Red Skies, so after a few finishing touches, I hope to be releasing it soon!

Thank you for taking the time to answer all the questions. In closing, do you have any parting thoughts or comments you would like to share with our readers?

I’m very honored to be a finalist but also very humbled. I imagine it is for the other finalists as well. But don’t forget, there were a lot of fantastic books in the competition! So I encourage everyone to check out the ones that vibe with them the most. Big thanks to all the blogs for reading through all the books! And thanks again for having me, Łukasz and the folks at Fantasy Book Critic.



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