"Speaking Life with Every Word": An Interview with S. G. Bacon.
Today's interview is with the delightful S. G. Bacon, an inspiring author of middle-grade fantasy. I love what she has to say about the escapism of fantasy, writing for a younger audience, and her journey to publication. Read on to discover your next favorite author, who deals with all things fantasy, steampunk, and writing passionately.
L: I know it's difficult to summarize yourself in only one paragraph, but can you briefly tell us about yourself?
S: I guess I should start by describing myself as a storyteller at heart. I live for stories. I've always been an avid reader and have had a crazy, vivid imagination for as long as I can remember. At any given point, I have at least one story going on in the back of my mind, which kind of makes me sound insane, but I think I can just use the excuse of being a writer. I love to write because I think stories have a unique way of accessing people from all backgrounds and lives because we can each find a piece of ourselves in any story we read. Beyond the writing and story stuff, I'm a junior in college (which is not nearly as fun or exciting as describing myself as a storyteller). I'm majoring in Psychology-Child Life and working towards a dual certification in Childhood and Special Education.
L: What is your earliest memory of writing?
S: I don't know if I have a specific earliest memory... I've kind of been writing for as long as I can remember. I do have a little story tucked away that I dedicated to my mom when I was three, but I don't really remember making that and probably 90 percent of it is completely plagiarized from the movie Thumbelina. But, you know, we all have to start somewhere. Other than that, I guess my earliest clear memory would be in first grade when our ongoing writing assignment was to write our own stories in those cool blank books. Mine were all terrible and boring, despite writing far more creative and interesting stories at home.
L: Has fantasy always been your favorite genre? What drew you to it?
S: Fantasy has definitely always been my favorite genre. I think what drew me to it was the ability to run away to some magical, fantastic land for a little while. J.R.R. Tolkien has a quote about how fantasy and reading are prime examples of escapism, and I think that's definitely true. For someone like me, who is typically pretty quiet and reserved, but also always looking for a little more adventure in life, there's a special sort of freedom found in a story about riding dragons or fighting evil. As far as writing fantasy, I think it's so much fun because the only limits are the limits of your own imagination. Within that, you really make the rules.
L: Who are some of your favorite fantasy authors and why?
S: Tolkien and C.S. Lewis are probably my top ones because their stories were so formative for me. I'm still obsessed with them. I think that the way they got across important messages through a story that stays with you is brilliant, and there are so many life lessons to be found in their books. Their worlds are also so immersive. I can't tell you how many times I searched my closet for Narnia when I was younger. I also love Melanie Dickerson because she writes fairy tale re-tellings (and fairy tales are my favorite), and also because I find it inspiring to see how she incorporates her faith into her stories.
L: Your series, The Prophecy War Trilogy, is now available on Amazon. This looks like something that younger me would have absolutely devoured. Can you pitch us this trilogy?
S: Okay, here goes... Imagine your typical, mundane trip to a historical fort going along just as you imagined, and then... demons. That's about how it goes for Cara Macoy. She expected her trip to Fort Ticonderoga to be mediocre at best and horribly boring at worst, but she quickly finds out that she's part of something much bigger. Erik Kohl has been fighting demons and searching for the other players in the Great Prophecy for years, but when he finds Cara and teams up with her, it's not the end of his mission. It's only the beginning. A war that's been brewing for centuries doesn't end after just one battle.
The Great Prophecy War continues to grow, bringing in Cara's brother, Elijah, and his best friend, Kyrra, as well. The four Children of the Prophecy are the main defense against the destruction that the demon armies bring. But as formidable as the demons are, there's something, someone, far more sinister and dark behind them, and now it's his time to come out of the shadows.
L: How long has this series been a part of your life?
S: This series has been with me for over seven years now. I first came up with the idea on a family road trip to Fort Ticonderoga when I was twelve. I'll never know why, but while wandering around the fort, twelve-year-old me thought, You know what this place needs? Demons. So I wrote down my initial ideas on a hotel notepad, and the story evolved from there. Like, really evolved. Originally, it was only supposed to be one book with only two people involved in the prophecy. I guess as I got older and became more involved in the story, it really came to life and brought in more characters.
L: What are the pros and cons of writing middle grade?
S: I'll start with the pros. Maybe it's the teacher in me, but I think a younger audience is the best to write for. So many kids, even though they're only in middle school, have already gone through so many hard times, and they certainly have more hard times coming. If I can write a book that delivers hope in the midst of hardship, and inspires kids to be greater than they thought they could be, I think I've succeeded.
Writing for middle school or a young adult audience also provides the opportunity to catch people before they become too jaded or cynical. I don't want people to read my stories and roll their eyes at the cliches or magic. I want them to take the stories, use them as refreshment, and then see what magic they can bring back into their world. And on top of all that, the feeling I get when a middle schooler who has been all over the place and annoying his teachers all day looks up at me with wide eyes and is completely enraptured with my story is like no other.
As for the cons... it's really bad for book sales. Middle schoolers are a tough population to get to read at all, and even if they do read, they're not the ones who go out and buy books. While I still read many middle grade books, it's not a super popular age range for people to read in.
L: Can you tell us about your journey to publication?
S: I published my first book senior year of high school. Where I went to school, completing a senior project was a requirement for graduation. You could do your project on just about anything, and since I finished my rough draft the summer before, it seemed like a perfect opportunity. I put together an all-star group of editors, comprised of my mom (the English teacher, librarian, and avid reader), my brother (the holder of obscure knowledge, master strategist, and very honest reviewer, among other things), a close family friend (the English major with a unique sense of humor and an eye for typos), and my old high school principal (another accomplished writer).
I found an amazing cover artist through some connections courtesy of my track coach, and a mentor to guide me through the process thanks to a family friend. Putting all my resources together, I self published through Amazon in February of my senior year. My first time through, I made a bunch of mistakes, had no idea what I was doing most of the time, and didn't time anything right. But... I took lots of notes, so the process has gotten smoother each time.
L: Who is your favorite character in the trilogy?
S: To be completely honest, I always feel bad favoring just one of my kids- I mean, characters. They each have pieces of me in them, which makes it hard to choose. But, I do have to say that Kyrra is probably my favorite because she has pieces of me in her, but also pieces of who I want to be. She's brave and positive even in the hardest situations. She always holds out hope and looks for the solution, especially when things seem hopeless. Most importantly, she's kind, and she knows the importance and strength of showing kindness even when it's not returned.
L: What was the most rewarding part about writing this series?
S: The most rewarding part would probably be seeing the full story come to completion and seeing the full evolution of the story and characters. As you might imagine, starting the story when I was twelve meant that there wasn't a whole lot of depth to. While that is not great for book sales (honestly, just assume that anything I do probably isn't with book sales in mind), it did show an amazing change from the beginning to the end of the trilogy. This series will always be so precious to me because so much of the characters' growth and plot development reflects my growth as a person, and I'm proud of that. I also have to say that looking at my completed trilogy sitting in front of me as I type this is incredibly rewarding.
L: What else are you working on?
S: Right now, my main project is a young adult steampunk novel. I have to say, this one is super exciting for me, and I'm completely in love with the story and characters. I came up with the idea in my physics class freshman year of college (clearly didn't get a whole lot out of class that day). Basically, the idea came from Aristotle's theory of there being five essences: earth, water, air, fire, and aether. That evolved into a group of elite people creating things from those essences, which evolved into an entire steampunk society, which evolved into a whole lot of issues regarding social class and people's inherent worth, which evolved into... well, you get the point. Now there's a whole story being written. I'm hoping to publish this one by the end of 2020 (two books published in one year would be very cool).
As a side project, I'm working on a collaborative story with my brother. He had come up with the idea a few years ago, and nothing had really happened with it. I discovered it again while looking for any short stories I could post on Wattpad (I found one, it's called A Matter of Crowns and Kings, and it's on Wattpad currently). This project is a high fantasy story that we will be uploading in parts. Since it is a side project and we're both quite busy with college, it may not be the most consistent thing, but we're having a whole lot of fun writing it.
L: Any advice for other writers?
S: Well, I will preface this by saying that if you want to be a super successful, best selling author and make lots of money from your books... you probably shouldn't listen to me. At all. But, if you write for the love of stories because you're passionate about it, I might be a decent person to take advice from. Maybe. I don't know what I'm doing half the time. My mentor when I was publishing my first book told me that to be successful, I needed to treat my writing like a business. I didn't take that advice, and I can't in good conscience suggest it to anyone else. Unless you love business, don't suck the joy out of writing by making it into one.
Send messages of hope and kindness and love and beauty with your writing, even if it's not the popular thing to write about. If you write for a younger audience, imagine the message you needed to hear when you were that age and stick it in a story. Chances are, there's someone that age now who needs to hear it too. I believe in speaking life with every word that falls from our lips or the tip of our pen. In the words of Samwise Gamgee, "It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo, the ones that really mattered... Those were the stories that stayed with you, that meant something, even if you were too small to understand why."
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