BookView Interview With Author Stephanie Cotta

Welcome to BookView Interview, a conversation series where BookView talks to authors..

Recently, we interviewed Stephanie Cotta about her writing and her recently released novel, The Conjurer’s Curse, an immersive and brilliantly crafted YA fantasy. (Read the review here.)

Stephanie Cotta hails from beautiful Southern Oregon and resides in a quaint, historic mining town. Growing up, she spent much of her time delving into every new Star Wars book she could get her hands on, which all began at age nine when she bought The Courtship of Princess Leia by Dave Wolverton at a garage sale for a quarter. Her love of Star Wars and Sci-Fi/fantasy has been undying ever since. A fine arts major in college, she first embarked into the literary world as a children’s book illustrator, then leapt over to the realm of storytelling when she could no longer repress the urge to write the fantasy stories running wild in her imagination. When she’s not steeped in writing, she’s launching arrows at hay bales, drawing with pastels, reading fantasy, playing an immersive RPG, or watching the latest BBC historical drama.

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How often do you base your characters on real people?

Often. I often take attributes from someone I know—their quirks, their likes/dislikes, their looks, even their personality type—and apply it to a character. This starts as a baseline, and then I branch out from there, creating someone brand new. Most of the main players in my upcoming YA Fantasy, The Conjurer’s Curse, were inspired by people I know.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

I have a total of 8 unpublished books—all fantasy; and I have one YA fantasy that is almost done.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

I don’t do research before beginning a project. As my genre is fantasy, with a focus on Epic Fantasy, everything occurs in a secondary imagined world, so I get to make up whatever I want. It’s my favorite part about being a fantasy writer.

Do you find writing therapeutic?

Yes. There was a season in my life when writing was the best way for me to process my grief and my trauma. It was cathartic, and helped me pull out the deep, dark emotions welling in my heart. It gave my pain a voice, especially when I couldn’t articulate it aloud.

What’s the most difficult thing about writing a novel?

Starting it, then finishing it. I’ve found that when a story idea won’t leave me alone, its time to start it. Once I get going, the writing comes easily. Ending a story though, for me, can cause a bit of stress and anxiety. I put pressure on myself to get it done, to weave together all these threads in a cumulative climax. At those times, it’s so important I give myself grace and continue at a healthy pace.

How many hours a day do you write?

Depends on the day, but on my dedicated writing days, it can be anywhere from 4-8 hours.

Does writing energize or exhaust you?

Both. If I’m really excited to work on a certain scene, and have the dialogue figured out, it can be a blast. But if I’m struggling with a scene, or if I’ve been writing for more than 6 hours, my brain can start to feel like mush.

What are common traps for aspiring writers?

Comparing their writing to others. Comparison is the thief of joy. It’s one of the quickest ways to deflate yourself as a writer. My recommendation to avoid this is focus on what you love about your story or your characters. Recognize you may have a lot of growth to work on with writing mechanics, but keep at it, and read a lot, and the creative growth will happen.

How often you read?

I try to read every day, and oftentimes it’s before bed. But I’ve also recently made a point to let Saturdays and Sundays be the days I can read for long stretches of time. I’ve realized I’m happier when I take these breaks from writing and allow myself to enjoy and appreciate other writers’ stories. It reinspires me to get back to my own writing when Monday comes around.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Your persistence and dedication will pay off, so keep at it!

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

Hiring an editor for one of my fantasy books. It was the first time I spent money on my writing, and as it was a large amount of money, it put “skin in the game.” It made me more determined to get my feet in the publishing world.

How do you select the names of your characters?

What names mean play a big part in the selection process. But I also like to collect unique names and store them in my notes on my phone. Whenever I need a character name, I scroll through the list and see if one jumps out. If it doesn’t, I often consort my sister Lizz; she’s my go-to person for names when I strike out.

What are your favorite books?

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien; The Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson; I, Jedi by Michael A. Stackpole

What is your favorite childhood book?

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis


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