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Sunday, March 6, 2022

SPFBO Finalist Interview: L.L. MacRae, the author of The Iron Crown

AUTHOR INFO: Lauren is a fantasy author of character-driven stories and epic adventure. She lives in a tiny village in the UK, has a degree in Psychology, and was a professional copywriter before going full-time as an author - swapping corporate copy for magic and dragons! For signed paperbacks, visit

Publication Date: May 28, 2021 Publisher: L.L. MacRae Page Count: 587 Cover: Psycat Studios


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

Thank you so much for the opportunity! I’m Lauren, and I mostly write about dragons!

I live in a tiny village in the UK with my boyfriend and our dog, Boris. I’m a huge introvert and have always found fantasy to be the perfect form of escape. Whether it's books, video games, or films, if it had a dragon in it (and some magic), I loved it!

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

I used to be a copywriter, but have been a full-time author since summer 2019! Occasionally I take on freelance copywriting projects with previous clients, but I’m not sure it counts as a day job anymore! Writing about magic and dragons is much more fun than corporate copy!

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

I really enjoy Michael J. Sullivan’s work - his characters and their relationships are excellent. Josiah Bancroft’s Tower of Babel series is fantastic, as is Fonda Lee’s Green Bone Saga. Both have made me laugh until I cried and also just ugly cried. I also love Jen Williams, Rachel Aaron, and Scott Lynch.

If I could get half as much emotion in my writing as these fantastic authors (especially when it comes to character development, world-building, and overall depth), I’d be very happy! They are all highly inspirational!

What do you think characterizes your writing style?

Hopeful? I think there’s a definite lighter feel to what I write. There’s often some aspect of found family or, “not being alone,” as well as fighting for what you believe in - whether or not that’s “right” - and a will to survive. There are usually some eclectic characters, and always a dragon or two, plus bucket-loads of adventure and magic pushing the whole thing along!

What made you decide to self-publish The Iron Crown as opposed to traditional publishing?

I’ve been self-publishing since 2017, so I just continued that trend with The Iron Crown!

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

Control, probably. You set the deadlines, choose the editors/designers/narrators etc. You can bring the whole project out in the way you wish in a timeframe you wish!

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

Probably just time to write! Because you have to wear the publishing hat, you have to research marketing (and take it all on - which is a full time job in itself), liaise with everyone else who goes into creating a book, you have to do all the social side of things, planning out publishing timeframes, launches, newsletters, ads etc. etc. So sometimes I feel that I miss out on pure writing time.

Why did you enter SPFBO?

It’s a competition I’ve entered before (back in 2018) and one that I’ve followed for the past few years. Although it’s highly subjective, and you could end up with a judge who isn’t a fan of your specific sub genre, I wanted to get more eyes on the book, more feedback if possible, and just stand beside some pretty awesome writers for a few months! The calibre of writing gets higher and higher every year, and to share space with them is a great honour.

What would you do if you won the SPFBO?

Probably melt into a giant puddle!!

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

Amnesiac is lost in the middle of a growing war and slowly realises he (and others) might be a central part of it. Also don’t get on the wrong side of spirits - especially dragons.

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

Strangely, I originally conceived this as a portal fantasy, where someone from our world gets transported somewhere else. That’s probably the biggest change - shifting from that idea into a regular old-fashioned epic fantasy. There were going to be more thief characters and Fenn, our main guy, was going to be kidnapped and bartered around quite a bit.

Strangely, the main inspiration was the idea of making a bargain with an ancient creature that you weren’t entirely sure you could trust. Do you risk everything for what you want? Is what you want even important?

And things kind of spiralled from there. Who/what is this ancient creature? What does it want? Why would it be making bargains? Who would trust it? After that, the worldbuilding began and characters evolved - finding out who would have the biggest conflicts or stories to tell.

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

Adventurous, lighthearted, epic

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

It is part of a trilogy! There is also a prequel novella (called The Citrine Key) which is set a handful of years before The Iron Crown. I do also have a spin-off duology (or possibly trilogy) that I’d like to write, which focuses on some of the side characters, again set before events of The Iron Crown.

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

There are four POVs: Fenn, Calidra, Apollo, and Torsten, and I’d consider them the main protagonists, although Torsten is certainly more of an antagonist (he definitely believes he’s the hero of his own story!)

It is really Fenn’s story, though the other characters are important too. Fenn is our amnesiac trope character - due to a curse. He doesn’t remember much about himself or the world, though small bits of information come through over time. But he quickly discovers he isn’t the only one with this affliction, and in fact he may be an unwitting player in the resurgence of the Myr - an ancient race of spirits that were thought gone.

Calidra is the daughter of a Laird, estranged from her family, and used to running away from her problems. She isn’t afraid to fight, but that comes from a place of fear more than anything else. She ends up having to face her fears in more ways than one, and take on more responsibility than perhaps she’d have wanted to, while she learns what’s really important.

Apollo is a retired thief who’s now living the quiet family life after being pardoned. Unfortunately, his past catches up to him rather quickly, and he’s back in hot water soon enough. It’s the old question of can a leopard change its spots, how much punishment is too much for one person, and that actions can have long-term consequences you might not expect.

Torsten works for the queen as her Master Inquisitor. Sort of a head of the investigative police force, with more power. He has a reputation, has crossed paths with Apollo before, and has his own thoughts on this brewing war. He is also spirit blessed, and it’s not clear whether he has his own, the queen’s, or the country’s best interests at heart.

How did you select the names of your characters?

Oh wow, I have a very boring method… I mostly play around with letters until they come up with a passable-sounding name! Sometimes I’ll use a name generator like Serendipity to kick-start inspiration, or I’ll google words in other languages and use those as a base.

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

There are a few sources of magic in this series, most of which come from spirits. Different spirits have different types of magic, which they use to bless or curse people (depending on the spirit’s mood). Those blessed by spirits can often use some part of their spirit’s power - sometimes without realising it.

For example, those blessed by the Spirit of Iron have almost telekinetic control over swords, blades, chains, or anything made of iron. Even the ability to control multiple suits of armour. Those blessed by a forest spirit might be able to help flowers and vegetables grow, create cures to various poisons, or use subtle healing magic.

The Iron Crown only touches on this lightly, it’ll be explored more and shown in greater detail in book two and beyond - along with the mages we have in this world, who use an altogether different system!

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

A friend of mine spotted a pre-made cover on a designer’s Facebook group and sent me a screenshot of it. I fell in love with the teal and gold colours immediately, and decided I needed it for a new series I was writing.

At the time, The Iron Crown didn’t have a name, and I didn’t really know what sort of cover I wanted, but I knew I wanted that one. I think originally it had a bird on the front? I asked the designer to change it to a key because I knew the prequel novella was going to be called The Citrine Key. She obliged and that was the cover!

I had to have matching covers for other books in the series, so I went back to the same designer to ask for The Iron Crown a little later on (once I had finally figured out what the title was going to be!), and here we are!

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

Which part of writing and publishing The Iron Crown do you like the best? My answer - holding the physical finished product in my hands!

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

Green light surged upwards, throwing smaller ships into the air as the dragon burst from the water with a thunderous snarl.

What’s your publishing Schedule for 2021/2022?

In December, I’ll be re-releasing Moroda, the first book in my other epic fantasy series, World of Linaria. It’ll be a second edition, with a brand new cover, and it’s pretty much been completely re-written. Moroda was my debut novel back in 2017 (and a SPFBO4 semi-finalist!), and as I’ve since changed my author name (from L.L. McNeil to L.L. MacRae), I’m taking the opportunity to not just update the author names on my backlist, but to give Moroda a full refresh, bringing it up to my current standard!

Ideally, the audiobook for The Iron Crown will also be out in December, but it may be January 2022 depending on how long the approval process takes.

Optimistically, in 2022, I’ll be publishing the audiobook of the Moroda second edition quite early on - hopefully no later than March.

I’ll also be publishing The Shadow Gate (the second book in my Dragon Spirits series, and the sequel to The Iron Crown) in spring 2022, as well as Kohl, the fifth book in my World of Linaria series.

Both The Shadow Gate and Kohl are two quite chunky epic fantasies that will likely be over 150k each, and perhaps closer to the 200k mark, so they’ll definitely take me some time! Additionally, I’ll be releasing audiobooks for each of those, but I imagine they’ll come later in 2022.

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?

Thank you! If you enjoy light-hearted fantasy that’s full of adventure, curses, magic, and dragons, you’ll love The Iron Crown!

If you’re interested in reading it:

The eBook is available exclusively on Amazon and in Kindle Unlimited:

Signed copies are available at The Broken Binding bookshop:

Signed and personalised copies are available directly from my website:



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