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Tuesday, January 4, 2022

SPFBO Finalist Interview: Krystle Matar

AUTHOR INFO: Krystle Matar has been writing for a long time, but things got serious when Tashué Blackwood walked into her life, an amber-eyed whirlwind. When she isn’t arguing with him or any of his friends, she parents, and farms. She has a lot of children and even more animals and one very excellent husband. She is currently working on lots of stories set in the Dominion. She expects to exist in this universe for a while.

Book links: AmazonGoodreads

Publication Date: February 18, 2021 Publisher: Imburleigh Book Company Page Count: 662 Covet art: Brad Bergman


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

Thanks so much for having me! I write, I read, I have a little hobby farm. Our pigs are very charming! I love whisky and craft beer and Netflix documentaries. Those things are wild! I’ve been writing for over twenty years now, and I’m so wonderfully stunned with how well my debut is doing!

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

I’m home full-time with the kiddos and the piggos. We homeschool and that’s a full-time job and a half!

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

There are some AMAZING writers in the self-published community right now. I can’t possibly keep up! Angela Boord has been an amazing influence and an even better friend. My ride-or-die! Quenby Olson’s writing is gorgeous, and her new book Miss Percy’s Pocket Guide To The Care And Feeding Of British Dragons is just chef’s kiss delightful! On the flip side of that coin, Clayton Snyder’s grimdarkest of grimdark really messes me up in the best ways. Clayton is another fantastic friend and I owe a lot to him. The indie community is amazing, folks.

In trad publishing, I’m a sucker for all things Anthony Ryan. His debut got me back into the fantasy genre after a little hiatus away. Since coming back to fantasy, I’ve also discovered the absolute treasure of Josiah Bancroft’s writing. His writing is beautiful and weird and surreal and just all around amazing! I love to see what he can do with prose, and with worldbuilding. While I was away from fantasy, I read all of Dennis Lehane’s work. He writes PI mysteries and thrillers and historical fiction. His historical fiction The Given Day, about the 1919 Boston Police riots is a comfort reread for me. SUCH a good book! And then, of course, the late great David Gemmell. I came across his books as a young person and a young writer and those stories fed my soul.

What do you think characterizes your writing style?

I think the verdict is character, character, character! I love these people I write about, and I can’t help but give them room to really LIVE. (Even if that’s highly inconvenient to me sometimes because they mess up what I thought the plot would be.) All of my favourite stories are about people and I strive to write the same way.

What made you decide to self-publish Legacy of The Brightwash as opposed to traditional publishing?

I think it was a long, slow decision. When I started the drafting process, I had still envisioned sending it out to agents. But, when I started drafting, I wasn’t yet fully immersed in the beautiful, supportive, vibrant community that is indie publishing. I didn’t know that it was a viable option! But fortunately I made some incredible friends in the indie crowd, and was able to watch them bring their books to life, and the whole process really appealed to me. Getting to find my own cover artist, getting to choose my own editors, getting a say in every step. It made my inner control freak VERY happy.

Also… I’ve been writing a long time, like I said. I didn’t want to put the future of my career into someone else’s hands. Publishing is a bit of a gamble, no matter how you go about it, but if I was going to roll the dice, I wanted to do it myself. I’m also very impatient! The prospect of waiting years and years for each step was starting to drive me a little crazy. I was ready to pull the trigger!

The best way I’ve seen the trad vs indie discussion explained is “It’s like the difference between being an employee and an entrepreneur.” Neither route is easy and neither route is guaranteed, but we all have to decide what works best for OUR personalities. There are pros and cons to both routes. So I thought it was worth it, to take this journey by myself.

That being said, I learned very quickly that even self-publishing is not a solitary endeavour! No author is an island. The support I’ve received from readers and other writers and bloggers has absolutely blown me away. I couldn’t have gotten this far without them!

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

It’s definitely the control. We get to be hands-on with every step, and that really appealed to me. Working with Brad on the cover was a dream come true. Love you Brad! Finding editors and sensitivity readers was a beautifully enlightening process, and I’m so glad I had the space to do that.

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

You know, I don’t know! Since I haven’t trad published, I don’t know what the difference is ;) I try not to have a “grass is greener on the other side” type mentality. I’m here, and I intend to make the most of this opportunity!

One of the big challenges with self-publishing is finding readers. Was that your experience?

I think I got lucky! I was fully prepared to grind and hustle and wait for every little shred of progress. But bloggers and readers had my back and that little book of mine shot right out of the gate faster than I dared to hope for! A million thanks to everyone who has helped contribute to the buzz. I can’t possibly thank y’all enough!

Why did you enter SPFBO?

Well it’s like you said, finding readers is the biggest challenge of the self-publishing industry! There’s a bit of a stigma around self-pub that we have lower quality, or that we’re here because we’ve “settled” or we failed at getting trad contracts. SPFBO is trying to change people’s hearts and minds about self-pub and I wanted to take my chances!

What would you do if you won the SPFBO?

I’ll be writing more books, no matter what :D

How would you describe the plot of Legacy of The Brightwash if you had to do so in just one or two sentences?

Tashué is Sick Of This Shit™.

Maybe something a bit more serious?

Character driven, big worldbuilding. Victorian murder mystery meets romantic grimdark (grimheart?) epic fantasy.

What was your initial inspiration for Legacy of The Brightwash? How long have you been working on it? Has it evolved from its original idea?

This book got started when I was thinking about the cost of things. The cost of convenience, mainly. The MC, Tashué, has been with me for a long time now, and I was really searching for the right story for him. The world was already built for a different idea that didn’t take off, so I tinkered with the time period some so it fit him better. I think what made this one different than all my other past attempts was that Tashué and I had found something important to say, about parenting, about trying to navigate a world when right and wrong isn’t always as clear as we think it as, about how standing up for what you believe in doesn’t come as easily as we want it to. What saw me through to the end this time was friends and support. If you’re reading this and you’re trying to get your writing feet under you, make writing friends! They make SUCH a big difference!

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

Brightwash is both bleak and hopeful, with a dash of the romantic.

How many books have you planned for the series?

I intend to have the story arc of what happens in Yaelsmuir wrapped up in 3 or 4 books. But after that, there will be more stories to tell. There will be consequences to the things Tashué does, and it won’t be easy to change things.

Who are the key players in this story? Could you introduce us to Legacy of The Brightwash’s protagonists/antagonists?

I’ll go with the POV characters and see if I can keep this short!

The main protagonist is Tashué Blackwood. He’s been a Regulation Officer for 19 years, and before that he served as a cavalry Captain in the Dominion military. I think he would say his most important traits are that he’s a father, that he loves his son, that he tried his best.

Stella Whiterock tells a portion of this story. She works in hospice care for the critically ill, using her Talent to help people escape pain in their last moments. Stella has some secrets, though… You’ll have to read to find out what she’s hiding.

Of course, there’s Jason, Tashué’s son. His relationship with his father has been tumultuous, and now he’s in the Rift--a prison for people with Talent who refuse to register with the National Tainted Registration Authority.

Lorne Coswyn is… what can I say about Lorne? He’s a fantastic mess. He fights in bare knuckle boxing tournaments for Yaelsmuir’s top crime boss, because it’s all he knows how to do--but he’s smarter than he lets on.

Last but definitely not least, Illea Winter. Her husband is the Governor, but she’s rather tired of him and funding his career… Some of that legacy I was talking about? It’s on her mind a lot.

And then the antagonist… Well, Tashué finds himself facing off against the National Tainted Registration Authority, against politics in Yaelsmuir, against the deeply-ingrained prejudices of the world he lives in. Against himself, and the things that he was taught, and how they don’t seem to match reality. But the real mastermind behind the scenes, pulling on the strings to accumulate power? Well… you’ll see.

How did you select the names of your characters?

This implies that I have some control!

Sometimes the names come first. Stella, for example. The name stuck in my head and I started building her up around the name. Lorne is another one that was name first. I don’t remember how Tashué got his name. He just kind of moved into my head.

Otherwise, I like to poke around on various naming websites. When I’m coming up with a character and their personality comes first I look for sites that will list the meanings of the names, so I can scan that and see what jumps out. For example, Stella’s daughter, Ceridwen. According to my research, and I apologize to anyone Welsh if I got this wrong, Ceridwen means “poetry or song” + “white, fair or holy” and is often associated with a goddess of poetry and inspiration. Anyone reading will understand why this fits sweet Ceridwen perfectly.

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

Yes! In my world, magic is referred to as Talent, the ability to exert your will on the world around you, to shape energy and matter. I don’t go too deep into the theory of it all, but characters are limited by the strength of their Talents and their strength of will, and by the complexity of their tasks. Healers can’t just wave their hands and make wounds disappear; they can only speed the natural process. But if they use their Talents improperly, they invite the Wrath, and that’s a whole other problem…

The important thing to know is that people with Talent aren’t trusted. They’ve been made into second class citizens by bigotry and systematic oppression. They’re called tainted by most people, and they’re forced to register with the Authority. Follow the law and you’ll stay safe…

I’m really excited to bring Legacy of Brick & Bone into the world. We get to learn so much more about Talent in that book, and it’s been amazing to explore the limitations, the potential, and the danger of it.

Cover art is always an important factor in book sales. Can you tell us about the idea behind the cover of Legacy of The Brightwash?

I can’t possibly thank Brad Bergman enough for the work he’s done and continues to do. He is an incredible artist and we vibed so well together!

From the very first conversation we had, it was obvious to both of us that we needed to signal the time period to the readers, which is meant to feel very Victorian. It’s also not a light read, and I wanted to signal that too. Brad and I had a long conversation about vibes and the time period and the character of Tashué, the character of the city he’s in, Yaelsmuir. It was actually my husband that reminded me that Tashué sketches the girl he found on the riverbank, and when I told that to Brad, he absolutely ran with it! The cobblestone background was a delightful touch. I can’t WAIT to see what Brad comes up with next!

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

Man, I had to think about this one a while!

I think one last thing I’d say is that this series is a love letter to all my favourite genres. I didn’t want to have to choose one genre or another. There’s a lot of writing advice out there in the world, but the piece of advice that I believe in the most is “Write the book you want to read.” I did exactly that with Brightwash, throwing all my influences in at once, because if I was going to spend so long on this series, I wanted to love the product I got at the end. I wanted it to reflect my long journey to publishing, and I wanted it to reflect all the facets of the main character. Tashué has lived a lot of different lives in the process of me finding my writing voice and the story I wanted to tell, and little pieces of each one are woven into his identity in Brightwash. That makes me really happy. And maybe that confluence of genre and style won’t work for all readers, because reading is so subjective and everyone wants different things from their books. And that’s fine, because I can truly say that I wrote a book I believe in, and a book that I’m proud of. Here’s hoping it’s the first of many.

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

This is always the hardest question!

Alright, this one is a line of dialogue, but I’ve grabbed two sentences because I’m a cheater.

“It doesn’t matter if everything’s shit and you don’t know what you’re doing. You do whatever you have to for family.”

What’s your publishing Schedule for 2021/2022?

I just relaunched the novella Tainted. Originally published in an anthology, I’ve revised and expanded the story, and now it’s available in paperbacks! That was a bit unexpected but a lot of fun. I’m hoping for a double release in 2022. Legacy of Brick & Bone is the sequel to Brightwash and it’s coming along well! I’m also hoping to publish a novel called Coyote, which is about a character that comes into Brick & Bone. Working on Coyote has allowed me to explore the boundaries of Talent in ways that I don’t have room for in the main series, which has been a lot of fun!

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?

My parting comment has to be a big, resounding THANK YOU. I wouldn’t be here without the overwhelming support of the community, and I know how hard everyone works simply because they love books. I used to think writing was a lonely endeavor, a career of one, and I’m so delighted to be wrong. Publishing is an act of love, and the community has been absolutely stunning.



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