"As the Crow Flies"- How it Came to Be
If you've read my book As the Crow Flies on Wattpad or Tapas, then you know that it is a crazy, sprawling, romantic adventure. Although it's only in its first draft on these sites, a lot of work and background went into creating it.
Are you curious about how As the Crow Flies came to be? Then please read on, in an interview where my friend Aña Anne grilled me on this book.
After last time, Lev has learned her lesson. No more flimsy wooden doors that a certain hooligan can easily break down. No, this time metal is necessary. She can’t possibly get pass that!
Relieved and relaxed, Lev steps away from the door, making her way towards her station. Now she actually get something done. She sets up, gathering her things and readying her mind. She just about sits down when—
Dear lord in Heaven.
“There you are! Almost started without me!”
Slightly scuffed, Aña Anne, in all her colorful and bright glory, climbs out from… Is that a trap door? In the middle of the room. From the floor she emerges, dusting off her dress and walking over. With a smile, she takes over the station, once again sitting in Lev’s seat and staring at the camera.
Here we go again.
A: Hello everyone! Lovely to be here once more, y’all are a riot. I’m back, just to do another special interview with my friend, Lev Lyonne. You already know her, so why don’t we jump right in?
Lev, when did this whole adventure start? When did you get the initial idea for As The Crow Flies, and when was it moved onto the page?
L: The initial idea came a couple of years ago and appeared in different pieces, in other things I was writing. Libraries, flying ships, adventures...they became prevalent themes in my work. I jotted down the idea sometime in late 2017 and let it sit in a notebook. I began writing the story in June 2018.
A: What was the initial idea for this book? How did it occur to you and how did it change over time?
L: The original idea was a sprawling adventure across the world, following two boys and the friends they collected along the way. It came to me in pieces, with different ideas for languages, libraries, and love stories. In the notebook stages, it was set in a different world. The adventure was going to span three years, instead of three weeks. It was much more massive in scale, which is saying something.
A: Oh, wow! Funny how things change, huh?
What was different about ATCF compared to your past works?
L: My big work before ATCF had been two trilogies. They were incredibly fun, but also incredibly terrible. I saw myself drawing away from developing that further and into this giant idea I had that kept calling to me. I wanted something different. I also think ATCF combines a lot of the things I love, which my other work didn’t have. It was a lot of fun to right, but it didn’t feel like it was coming from me. This book feels much more authentic.
A: I think that’s a big part of the appeal of ATCF.
What were your goals for this book originally? How did they change and how did you accomplish them?
L: I thought it would just be something fun to do over the summer. Writing this book reginted my love for writing and I suddenly wanted to create a story that felt both deeply personal and yet engaging for others.
A: You definitely reached that, at least in my opinion. Describe to us, what exactly is ATCF? What is the summary, and more importantly, what is this book at its core?
L: As the Crow Flies follows two young men, Abner and Crow, and their lives in 1903. They both are sent to Europe, where they learn about magic and the dangers that come with it. The two of them fall in love while freeing a prisoner, fighting their way across Europe, befriending fools and criminals, and discovering that family is not all it seems.
At its core, As the Crow Flies is a love story. Of romantic love, definitely. It is also a story of familial love. Mothers, fathers, siblings...they all play a huge role in this book. And also, the love of friendship and how it can be such a beautiful thing.
So, yeah. This book is a love story.
A: It truly is. The series itself is made of such such strong, magical love, and I think that makes me and other readers adore it all the more.
What were the early stages of creating this story like opposed to the later stages?
L: In the early days, I had no plan. I just started writing. Nothing but a list of character names and some vague idea of adventure. In the later stages, especially as I was finishing the second book, the outline was very detailed. I had to tie all these crazy, different plotlines together.
A: Well, your work, spontaneous or not, paid off incredibly well. What was your favorite part of writing As The Crow Flies, and what was your least favorite?
L: Getting to create such a large, fun, crazy cast of characters was my favorite part. I’ve always wanted to write a book with a huge cast and though it’s challenging, I love it. My least favorite part was outlining those last fifteen chapters of Thick as Thieves. I rarely stick to outlines, so keeping at it was exhausting.
A: Executing outlines is Hell. You’re rewriting this book right now, what are the main things you are focusing on changing (avoiding spoilers)?
L: From the first draft to the second, I’ve completely changed the magic system. I’ve also changed how the adventure starts. In fact, if I started listing all the changes, the list would go on forever. But I think they are all much needed and will benefit the story.
A: I can’t wait to see them all! And I’m sure your other readers can agree. What are you proud of in this book, and what do you feel you need to improve on?
L: I’m really proud that I managed to connect all the threads. I threw so many details in there that I thought I’d go crazy, but I’m thrilled that my ideas panned out. It was one giant puzzle, and for someone who hates puzzles, it was an exciting challenge. I think I need to improve on using less “purple prose” and establishing stronger voices.
A: I thought the way you pulled everything together was brilliant! I admire you for it, I think a lot of authors could learn from you.
Being a young writer on the internet is hard, what parts do you find fulfilling, and what parts are annoying?
L: I love connecting with readers and other writers. Getting comments saying how much they like the book, or hearing theories, or just getting to communicate with those who are reading is really fulfilling. An annoying aspect is when readers ghost you. It makes you doubt your writing and no one likes that feeling.
A: Oi, I feel that. It really is a bittersweet life.
Who is your favorite character and why?
L: The impossible question. I always avoid saying Abner or Crow, because it goes without saying that they are my favorites. I had to choose, I would say Malachy or the Librarian. Mal has been the most rewarding to develop and I love him to death. The Librarian is crabby and rude, but also a goddamn queen in my heart.
A: What scenes did you like creating the most? What were the most difficult?
L: I love this question! I think Abner and Crow’s first kiss was delightful to write. It was romantic and sweet, but they are such dorks, so… Also, anytime there is a fight scene. I love writing fight scenes. The most difficult scenes were the moments of quiet intimacy. Just people connecting. That’s something you don’t want to get wrong.
A: Right on! Fight scenes are always so fun.
Each character you create is brilliant, fun, full of depth, and very connected to other characters. What is your process for creating these characters, stripping them raw, and building their relationships?
L: Thank you! I’m not sure if I have a process. A lot of these characters just appeared and I had to work with them. I think just writing the first draft and figuring out what they were like, who they loved, and what their goals are the ultimate masterclass in creating characters. Write them...then develop them.
A: Very wise! Did your characters ever surprise you? If so, how?
L: Almost all of them surprised me! Apollonia, with her whole backstory. Mal, with his sad sweetness. Gabriel and Silas and the roles they played surprised me. Elias and Alice were never supposed to be a story-line, but I wrote one sentence where they spoke to each other, and sparks flew. Siobhan came marching in and demanded a part. And the mysterious moustached man...he was the greatest surprise of them all.
A: It’s beautiful, in a way! What was your secret for finishing the book so fast? How do you get yourself motivated to just write?
L: I have no idea. It took me exactly six months to write each book and I don’t know how I did it. Perhaps posting on Wattpad helped motivate me, because some people were waiting for the next chapter. I think being really passionate about this book helps too. Write what sets your soul on fire.
A: Do you write for your readers or yourself? And have you ever been influenced to change the story due to the audience’s demands?
L: I’m writing a book that I want to read. This is the culmination of all the stories I never got to read. Everything I’ve always wanted, I’m throwing it in this pot and mixing it in. So I guess I write for myself. I try not to let others get in my head, at least in the first draft.
A: I think that’s a perfect way to create a book, something that you want to read that is mostly for yourself.
Crow and Abner are your two main narrators, tell us about them. Who are they, deep down, and what do they want?
L: Abner is a dreamer. He loves old things, he loves to read, and he has always wanted a great adventure. He is kind and thoughtful, but sometimes gets lost in his ideals. Abner has had a rough time with his family, but he keeps his chin up and his eyes wide.
Crow is a genius who thinks he’s an idiot. He is a polyglot with kleptomaniac tendencies, but is horribly insecure and sees the world with a realist’s view. He loves shiny objects, his siblings, and complaining.
Crow loves wildly, but Abner loves romantically. Abner wants adventure and magic. Crow wants truth and strength. But deep down, all they want is each other.
A: They are such beautiful and unique characters. What is their dynamic, and how do you think it fits the story?
L: They are best friends. They are also an old married couple, in spirit. Their dynamic of being completely in love, while also being buddies, propels the story forward.
A: They are such an entertaining pair! Realistically, what character do you see yourself as the most? Personally, I’m probably Crow in attitude and Abner in love for books. Haha.
L: Hmm...I’m like Crow and Abner in terms of interests, but... I see myself as Caris.
A: Oh yes, I can see it…
The other characters, what do they symbolize within you and your personality? What part of yourself have you put into each one of them?
L: The Librarian with her no-bullshit attitude. Gabriel with his grumpiness, but who cares deeply. Kateb and her fierce quietness. Caris with her passion. Alice and my love for women in suits. They all have a piece of me and vice versa.
A: That is such a wonderful thing about writing, isn’t it?
How did you write certain darker scenes and aspects, having not experienced them yourself?
L: I’ll do research. Read interviews and accounts of similar experiences. I have a lot of dark themes, especially in the second book, but I think they are important issues to bring up. I try to write them carefully and pay great attention to them. I keep in mind who the character is, what the situation is, and try to write with the utmost consideration.
A: That is much appreciated.
How much research did you end up doing for this series?
L: It’s a historical fantasy, so I’ve looked up technology at the time, the layouts of different cities, the history of Coney Island, so much stuff on Venice and Murano, how fast trains used to go, tailoring...you name it, I’ve researched it.
A: That’s great! Accuracy is important and dammit… Venice looks nice. What is something you learned, from research or just writing, while creating As The Crow Flies?
L: I’ve learned about so many interesting places! Coney Island, the Venetian Arsenale, Santa Maria e San Donato in Murano, the Eiffel Tower, the English countryside, Corsica...my travel bucket list has grown much longer since writing this book.
A: I’m sure you've made mine grow too! I expect you to pay for my travel bill, as this is your fault.
How did you come up with the title for As The Crow Flies and Thick as Thieves?
L: As the Crow Flies just hit me. I thought it was just perfect. For Thick as Thieves, I had a little more trouble. I was searching through lists of idioms, to keep with the theme. The minute I remembered this phrase, I knew it was the title for Book Two. And the series title, The Spectacular Flying Thieves of 1903, draws from both the book titles. If I ever wrote more books in the series, they’d be titled after idioms as well.
A: I always thought those names were so cool.
Is there a song or set of songs that you think captures this book?
L: I’ll actually be posting about this soon! Three songs that remind me of ATCF are:
Come Along by Cosmo Sheldrake
Istanbul by They Might be Giants
As the Crow Flies by OZWALD (this is a very recent discovery that I’ve fallen in love with, for obvious reasons)
A: Ooo, those songs are perfect fits!
The short stories you create for As The Crow Flies in your anthology, Dagger and Cloak, are beautiful. How do you come up with them and how do they help to write the actual stories?
L: Thank you! I wrote most of them in a short period of time, so the ideas just piled on top of each other. Usually I’ll just have a vague idea or a line and just start writing. They help me find character voices and establish different tones. Also, I get to open the world a little more.
Although, my favorite story in Dagger and Cloak is one that is completely unrelated to The Flying Thieves. “Saikoya the Skeleton” is a story that I have completely fallen in love with it.
A: You often switch to different POVs, other than Abner and Crow. What is this like? What is your process, and what impact do you think it has on the story?
L: It is completely necessary to the story, especially as it grows beyond one couple. I love writing from many POVs. It opens up the world and it certainly makes plotting easier. I used to jot down a rough outline of who would get to talk, because I have four steady narrators, and then try to go from there.
My favorite non-main character to write was Gabriel. He is so weary beneath his eye-patch.
A: It is so wonderful to have read all of their perspectives, it truly broadened the story.
What does this book mean to you? What has the experience been like writing it, and how do you think you’ve changed?
L: This book means everything to me. It gave me purpose and passion. It has been a complete joy to write and I can’t imagine life without writing this story. I think that I’ve become a stronger, bolder writer. I also think that I’m a lot more confident and brave now, because these characters instilled something in me.
A: I have definitely noticed that, Lev. And I am so glad you got to have this experience, it is an amazing one. Writing changes something within all of us, and for that we should be grateful. Hell, wouldn’t have met you without it.
Thanks again, my friend, for having me here. As usual, it was a pleasure and I will be back, so beware. Thank you so much for keeping up with us and allowing me to curse this blog once more.
And without warning, she dropped a mic—
Wait, where’d she get a microphone?
—and walked away. Down into the trap door and was never seen again. Okay, she was, but for dramatic purposes we don’t acknowledge it.
And now Lev has a trap door to remove.