Sally Slater is the fabulous Wattpad author who’s debut novel Paladin is coming out tomorrow, 14th May. I am super excited to able to interview her and showcase her novel to all of you wonderful lot.
Brash, cocky, and unbeatable with a sword (well, almost), Sam of Haywood is the most promising Paladin trainee in the kingdom of Thule… and knows it. The only problem is that Sam is really Lady Samantha, daughter of the seventeenth Duke of Haywood, and if her father has his way, she’ll be marrying a Paladin, not becoming one.
But Sam has never held much interest in playing damsel-in-distress, and so she rescues herself from a lifetime of boredom and matrimonial drudgery. Disguised as a boy, Sam leaves home behind to fight demons-—the most dangerous monsters in Thule—-alongside the kingdom’s elite warriors. Pity that Tristan Lyons, the Paladin assigned to train her, is none other than the hero of her childhood. He hasn’t recognized her–yet–but if he does, he’ll take away her sword and send her packing.
Sam is not the only trainee hiding secrets: Braeden is a half-demon with a dark past that might be unforgivable. Whether he can be trusted is anyone’s guess, including his.
As demons wreak havoc across the land, rebellion stirs in the West, led by a rival faction of warriors.
A war between men is coming, and Sam must pick a side. Will saving the kingdom cost her life–or just her heart?
So shall we get started then?
Who are some of your favourite authors?
My current favorite author is Ilona Andrews, who is actually a husband-wife duo. They write the Kate Daniels urban fantasy series, and to put it bluntly, Kate is the coolest female protagonist in fantasy fiction. Characters are what make the story for me, and the Ilona Andrews team have created some truly memorable ones. I also love the way they weave mythology into the fabric of their world – they’re incredible world builders.
I’m also a big fan of Grace Draven, author of Master of Crows. She writes loves stories with imperfect heroes and heroines, and that’s what makes them interesting. Her writing is also absolutely stunning.
What are you currently reading?
I have a real book addiction problem where I buy a book and have to finish it within the same day. Sometimes I end up reading four or five books in one week, although that’s usually when I’m procrastinating from writing. The most recent book I read is Snow Like Ashes by Sarah Raasch, a YA fantasy novel that’s a little bit like Graceling.
If you could meet one famous person dead or alive, who would it be and why?
I have already met the entire cast of Game of Thrones (check that one off the bucket list), so I’m going to go with J.K. Rowling. She redefined fantasy writing for the modern era and created a series that became an instant classic. I’d love to pick her brain to learn more about her writing process, how much of the story she had planned in advance, and how much the story evolved from her original intentions.
Which writers inspire you?
The women authors who introduced the first female protagonists to fantasy are my biggest inspirations. I gobbled up the fantasy genre when I was a kid, but stories with women heroines were few and far between. Eventually, I discovered Tamora Pierce, Anne McCaffrey, Robin McKinley and Patricia C. Wrede. They wrote stories about young women who took charge and changed the world. I want to do the same.
Why do you write?
As trite as it may sound, I write because I have to. For as long as I can remember, I have always felt compelled to put words down on paper. Even when I wasn’t writing fiction, I was always writing – whether it was for my college newspaper or scrawled in secret in my personal journal. I have hundreds of little stories I started and never finished (full disclosure: they were awful), starting way back in elementary school.
As I’ve gotten older, my writing has become a little more purposeful. I write for myself, but I also write for an audience. I want my readers to first and foremost be entertained by what I write, and I want them to be temporarily transported to another world, as the books I have loved have transported me.
When did you decide you wanted to become a writer?
I didn’t figure it out until I joined Wattpad! I’d actually taken a creative fiction course in college – just on a whim – and my professor wasn’t particularly enamored with my writing. To be fair to her, the stories that I wrote weren’t very good.
Fast forward a few years later, and I felt the urge to do some creative writing. I do business writing in my day job which, while I enjoy, isn’t quite as satisfying creatively as telling a story. I started posting to Wattpad…first a story called Magical PR 101, then Paladin. The immediate positive feedback and encouragement I got from the Wattpad community is what convinced me to stick with it and develop my craft.
Do you work with an outline or do you just go with the flow when writing?
I started writing Paladin without any sort of prep, but I eventually got stuck with the plot. Writing an outline is what got me back on track with the story. I’d also say the story line was much more cohesive once I was working off an outline. That said, I hate making outlines. I view them as a necessary evil. The whole time I’m working on one, I’m antsy to finish and start writing the fun stuff.
Where did the ideas for Paladin come from?
Growing up, I read high fantasy to the near exclusion of anything else (except when forced to in school, of course). One thing that always bothered me was how hard it was to find good high fantasy stories with female heroines. To be sure, there were exceptions – I discovered characters like Aerin Firehair and Mel Astiar and Princess Cimorene who captured my imagination and made me want to learn to fight.
I never picked up fighting…which is probably for the best…but those amazing stories have stuck with me all these years. When the Twilight phenomenon swept the world, and millions of girls around the world were aspiring to be Bella Swan, the least inspiring female protagonist in recent memory, I became nostalgic for the book heroines that rocked my world when I was a teen. I decided to write my own story with my own brand of heroine, and that’s how Paladin came about.
What was the hardest thing about writing Paladin?
I find fight scenes incredibly difficult to write. But I must be some kind of masochist because I probably have a dozen of them throughout the book. I have never trained in martial arts or ever thrown a punch, so I have to rely on my imagination and research. Sometimes I have to get up and have a sword fight with an imaginary opponent to envision the sequence of movements. No, I do not do this in public.
Which part of Paladin did you most enjoy writing?
Writing dialogue between Sam, Braeden and Tristan is so much fun. I love the dynamic they have with each other and the way they banter. In my head, they have three totally distinct voices, which makes writing dialogue easy. They could be in an empty room with nothing going on and manage to get into a lively conversation.
How did moving from Wattpad to being published work?
I posted the first chapter of Paladin to Wattpad over three-and-a-half years ago, so it definitely hasn’t been a short journey! Over the past few years, I learned a lot about the publishing industry – which is rapidly evolving, thanks to the advent of self-publishing and sites like Wattpad – and what it takes to be successful. I had two major takeaways, after lots of self-reflection and several missteps: 1) your first draft needs a helluva lot of work before you can even think about publishing; and 2) traditional publishing is not necessarily the best route for everyone.
Here are the questions I think every author should ask themselves before deciding to publish: “Does my novel read like a book I’d pick off the shelf of the library? Would I buy my own book?” Once I got my book to that point – which took six months of editing and revising at a frenetic pace – I finally felt like I was ready to publish.
As far as the actual publishing part goes, I’m working with an indie publisher. My publisher is handling all the logistical aspects of publishing, like formatting and publishing the book, figuring out the right pricing, and marketing both me as an author and my book. But because I’m working with an indie publisher (vs. a traditional publisher), I have a lot more say in terms of creative direction, on everything from my website to my cover to final edits to the book.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Write down all your story ideas! I wish I’d kept a running journal over the years of all the crazy dreams I’ve had and the fantasy worlds that have popped into my head. You never know what will spur your next novel.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Network with other authors. The best way to learn your craft is to get feedback and learn from writers with different perspectives on writing. That’s part of what makes Wattpad so great – it makes it easy to connect with millions of other professional and aspiring writers who are eager to learn and have lots to share.
Thank you so much Sally for agreeing to be featured on my blog. I have preordered my copy of Paladin and can’t wait to read it at midnight tonight. No sleep for me tonight.