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Wednesday, March 29, 2023

SPFBO Finalist Interview: Quenby Olson, the author of Miss Percy’s Pocket Guide to the Care and Feeding of British Dragons

Read FBC's interview with Quenby
Book links: AmazonGoodreads

AUTHOR INFO: Quenby Olson lives in Central Pennsylvania where she spends most of her time writing, glaring at baskets of unfolded laundry, and chasing the cat off the kitchen counters. She lives with her husband and children, who do nothing to dampen her love of classical ballet, geeky crochet, and staying up late to watch old episodes of Doctor Who. 




Publication Date: October 26, 2021 Page Count: 421
Thank you for agreeing to this interview. Before we start, tell us a little about yourself.

These are the questions that make me immediately panic. I was born in a small town in central Pennsylvania, and now I live in a different small town in Central Pennsylvania. I trained to be a classical ballet dancer, but my knees are terrible and I’m too tall, so I started teaching dance when I was still in my teens. I didn’t get into writing seriously until I was in my twenties (so… oh, no… twenty years ago) and published my first book in 2013. Somewhere in there, I got married, had a flock of children, and am still publishing books.

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

My first instinct was to say “no!” but I’m counting teaching as I homeschool five kids in five separate grades, and that’s a considerable amount of work. So in between writing and researching I’m teaching history and grammar and - so help me - Algebra.

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

I think I have a lot of favorites. I love Elizabeth Gaskell, Jane Austen, the Brontes. You know, the usual suspects. But then in-between those writers I remember latching on to Douglas Adams and books like Good Omens, because they were so smart, so skilled at showing human behavior under the layers of comedy sci-fi/fantasy.

What made you decide to self-publish Miss Percy's Pocket Guide as opposed to traditional publishing?

I didn’t think anyone would want it! It was this weird mash of Jane Austen and comedy and fantasy and too many asides and I really thought that would never fly. And when I was writing it, cute and comfy fantasy wasn’t really a thing yet. Yet.

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

Well, being able to publish something that is a weird mash of genres and styles that you worry a traditional publisher wouldn’t touch. Being able to seek out readers and reviewers who would like what you’ve written. Having control over artwork and publishing schedules. And I know my book better than anyone, so I’m probably the best person to market it. (Or the worst, since I’m rubbish at marketing.)

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

I think we miss out on that push traditional publishers can give, at least to the books they really get behind (which is not all of them, unfortunately). Having our books in bookstores across the country. Having them pop up in lots of libraries. Awards. Of course, all of those things are open to self-pub authors (my books are starting to appear in more bookstores and libraries) but it’s work. A slow and steady process. We don’t have boxes of our work showing up at the local Barnes and Noble in time for release day.

Miss Percy’s Pocket Guide is one of three SPFBO finalists available in audiobook format. Can you share your experience producing it and a reflection if it was worth it?

My answer for this is going to be really brief, because basically Podium reached out to me with an offer, I accepted, they asked what I had in mind for narrator, etc. They did everything. I basically said “Wow! This is great!” a lot and then it was released.

But I absolutely think it was worth it, because it makes Miss Percy available to more readers who prefer audio. And that is a large and steadily growing number.

Why did you enter SPFBO?

I had entered before, was knocked out in the first round, and that was it. But I met a lot of great people and was so warmly accepted into the SFF writing community even though The Half Killed was my first fantasy book. I entered again due to a “Why not?” mentality that drives many (too many) of my decisions.

What would you do if you won the SPFBO?

Treat myself to a rotisserie chicken that I would not share with anyone and also watch K-dramas for about six hours straight. (So, a lazy weekend. Which is rare for me.)

How would you describe the plot of Miss Percy's Pocket Guide if you had to do so in just one or two sentences?

A Jane Austen type of story but instead of Colin Firth in a wet shirt it’s a baby dragon ruining our main character’s good day.

What was your initial inspiration for Miss Percy's Pocket Guide? How long have you been working on it? Has it evolved from its original idea?

My initial inspiration goes back about fifteen years, to me wanting more Regency-era fantasy books to exist. I had a few false starts, then abandoned the idea for over a decade. Then, in early 2020, the idea for Miss Percy came to me really quickly, the whole book just unfurling in my head fully formed. I wrote it in three or four months and that was it. Once I finish Miss Percy #3, it will be 3 ½ years that I’ve been working on the entire series, off and on.

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

Warm, witty, cakey.

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

It’s a planned trilogy. Book two, Miss Percy’s Travel Guide to Welsh Moors and Feral Dragons is already out, and Book Three, Miss Percy’s Definitive Guide to London, Magic, and the Return of the Dragons will be out… at some hand-wavey time around the end of 2023.

Who are the key players in this story? Could you introduce us to Miss Percy's Pocket Guide’s protagonists/antagonists?

Miss Mildred Percy is a spinster, and she’s settled into a safe, comfortable life sketched out for her by others. But it’s a dismal one. So the arrival of a dragon egg is the perfect thing to spark a love of adventure she thought long dormant. Mr. Claude Wiggan is the village vicar who helps her (and loves her quietly from afar). Then there’s Mrs. Babbinton, housekeeper extraordinaire who makes sure no one goes hungry or is without mittens. And we can’t forget our villains, Mr. Reginald Hawthorne (who believes the egg should be his) and Belinda Muncy, who make things rather difficult for Miss Percy and her companions as the story moves along.

How did you select the names of your characters?

I pick a lot of my names from local cemeteries. It’s just a great place to find older names that might have gone out of style some years ago.

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

The second and third books have magic in them. (Even the first does, in a way, if you pay attention to Belinda.) But I don’t know if I would call it a magic “system.” It’s more along the lines of folk magic, that line of spells passed down usually from mother to daughter, the realm of midwives and wise women.

Cover art is always an important factor in book sales. Can you tell us about the idea behind the cover of Miss Percy's Pocket Guide and the artist?

The artist is Mon Maicarap. He did fantastic work on the first two covers (and I’m excited to see what he does for Book Three!) As for what I wanted from a cover, I wanted something that conveyed a bit of the story’s tone, which… well, cute baby dragon hatching out of an egg did a good job of conveying that, I think. But I definitely didn’t want anything too busy, either. So the image combined with the title was all I thought it needed to say “Quaint British village-type happenings with some fantasy elements thrown in!”

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

“Why are there SO MANY parenthetical asides in your book, Quen?”

Because my brain is powered by rabid squirrels on Red Bull. *shrugs*

What’s your publishing Schedule for 2022/2023?

*immediate panic*

Okay, so as of typing this, Miss Percy’s Travel Guide was just released in audiobook. Next should be a novella in a series of Regency fantasy romance stories I’m writing, called Manticore Park. After that should be Miss Percy #3. Then probably the other three stories in the Regency fantasy/romance series. THEN The Womanly Art of Monster Hunting, which is what would happen if Elizabeth Gaskell wrote about vampires, hopefully. (Though that might be finished in 2023, but probably not published until 2024.)

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?

Honestly, just a huge amount of thanks to all the readers and reviews and amazing authors who have been along on this journey so far. It’s been a lot of fun, and isn’t that the dream? Doing something that you love and that is endless fun. (Well, aside from writing a synopsis or a blurb. That part will always suck.)


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