Emma Bradley - Author Interview (Q&A) - The Trouble With Fairies (The Arcanium Series) - Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books #24
- You have just published book two in your The Arcanium Series; what is the story about?
The Arcanium series follows 16-year-old Demi as she joins the ranks of the FDPs (Fairy Deity People) and trains to become one of them.
In the first book, she stumbles on a plot to overthrow the Queen of Faerie by a traditionalist Fae group called The Forgotten, but in book 2 she goes on assignment in Gallows Oak, an elitist Fae country club that The Forgotten are rumoured to use as a base. Her aim: to expose their secret gatherings and find out information on what they're plotting next. Unfortunately, Arcanium is chaotic at the best of times so she's not been prepared for the strength of the enemy or the tricks and pitfalls that are lurking, but at least this time her best friend Taz is going with her!
- At what point did you realise you wanted to write a book? What particularly fascinates you about the Fae that you write about?
I've been writing ever since I was about 9 years old, starting off with pony stories and eventually widening into the world of fantasy fiction in my teens. I love the idea that you can escape into a world where anything is possible and also create your own, which is how the Arcanium series came into being. I wanted to have a character who wasn't a natural champion, but Demi actually started off as a sidekick until she shouted so loud my writing friends insisted she take the lead instead! With the tricksy nature of Fae folk as well, you can create great depth in both the enemies and the main characters, so that nobody is totally good (or totally evil because ‘they just are') - it was really important for me to show characters who have been moulded by life and their experiences into doing both good and bad things, and the consequences that come with it.
- You mention that Arcanium is the most prestigious of fairy organisations, please tell us more about it e.g. does it have a hierarchy system, etc?
Arcanium is an absolute mess a lot of the time, purposefully so! I wanted a setting where everything is often chaotic rather than regimented, because this feeds in quite nicely not only to how a lot of large organisations are in real life (so it can be relatable), but also it lends itself nicely to creating stakes and obstacles for the characters in terms of lack of information, miscommunication, things not working when they should and so on. Despite this, becoming an FDP at Arcanium is a high honour, because it means you're trusted to be the eyes and ears of Faerie, taking on assignments and running errands for your clients.
The hierarchy system is fairly simple - the Director, Queenie, handles the day-to-day running, while the Head Mentor, Emil, runs the assignments that FDPs are sent out on. Each qualified FDP gets a mentor who advises them while they're on assignment, and all hopeful FDP and mentor initiates must undergo two years of training as mentees before they qualify. Of course, things never run that smoothly for Demi, and although she's still a mentee she keeps accidentally volunteering (or getting signed up) for things!
- Do your dreams ever become stories?
I tend not to remember my dreams, but my daydreams definitely end up in my stories sometimes. I've always found it easy to let my mind wander (to the frustration of teachers, bosses, and general people around me), but it's a great way to find inspiration and also you tend to absorb small things about your surroundings when you daydream that then leak into the stories without you realising!
- I have seen a disclaimer that states: All initiates join at their own risk. Loss of limbs is unlikely. No refunds. Tell us more about the risks and what readers can expect and why?
Assignments in the realms of Faerie can be very dangerous, especially with The Forgotten roaming and planning to take over Faerie itself. Also, with Arcanium being so chaotic a lot of the time and a place that only a select group have seen inside of, rumours are bound to spread. Nobody knows if there's really a quarantine floor for dangerous creatures from Faerie, for example, or if they really did find a whole realm full of tentacles. Only those few FDPs and mentors who are lucky enough to make it through their first two years of course know what really lurks inside. It also takes a lot of effort and money to keep Arcanium running, so the 'No Refunds' was Director Queenie's idea. Once you pay for Arcanium's services, it's very unlikely you're getting your money back, but FDPs have never been known to fail an assignment. Lose a limb or disappear possibly, but the job always gets done one way or another!
- Have you self-published your book? If so, did you have to take on all the roles a traditional publisher would?
The Arcanium books are wholly self-published, and apart from the cover designs and advice from my editor, I'm doing the process single-handed. It's a long road in terms of the different tasks that need doing, but also shorter in terms of time-frame. So to release one book I usually have to:
Sort ISBNs for the barcode
Arrange and approve the cover design
Ensure the book is the best it can be (with editorial advice)
Format the interior files to fit distribution portal requirements
Make sure the details are uploaded in various places so bookshops can find the metadata
Marketing/promotion/giveaways (this would be anything from social media promotion on Twitter or through TikTok videos, contacting bookshops in the hope they'll stock the book, designing and ordering merchandise like postcards, bookmarks etc. ordering stock and holding giveaways to increase the reach of the book)
This isn't the full list and many of these take much longer than the above makes it sound! But I do love being able to see every step of the process, and as a naturally anxious person I can wake up in the middle of the night to check something and reassure myself rather than needing to wait for an answer, which often helps!
- What advice would you give an author who is thinking of self-publishing?
Research everything thoroughly first. I thought I'd done this, but I still came up against unexpected hitches with both books 1 and 2! Research, planning and expectation are key before you decide to self-publish, so what distribution platforms are you going to use (Amazon KDP, Ingram, D2D, etc.), are you going with a cover designer, have you budgeted for everything like ISBNs if you're using them, how are you planning to promote so people can find your book, and so on.
It sounds like a lot, and I suppose it is in bulk, but each bit can be broken down and explored until you begin to see how it all hangs together.
Above all else, make sure your expectations are realistic. Self-publishing may get your book out there quicker than traditional routes, but you will be doing more of the work with less of the validation - there's no professional body like an agent or publisher to reassure you your work is good enough. You have to be all of that for yourself (although writing friends are worth their weight in books!)
- I have read you are a serial spender, what is the craziest purchase you ever made and how did it change your life?
Aside from the cost of my currently teetering TBR tower, I think the craziest (and best) thing I ever bought was my black Labrador, Buddy. You know full well 'we'll just go up and have a look' will turn into tears, a lot less money and a car full of toys that said dog is never going to look twice at (and of course the dog himself). We met him, walked him for 15 minutes, the whole time of which he pretty much ignored us and tried to pull us into every hedge going, then when we opened the car in the shelter car park he jumped inside and refused to get out, so that was that!
Luckily, he's more than earned his keep - when I start writing or get engrossed in something I can often go for a whole day without moving or remembering to have a drink or anything, so he knows to disturb me when it's time to go outside or if I've forgotten to eat!