Kasandra Flamouri, author of The Chalice and the Crown, takes a moment to share about her love of folklore and fantasy, using kickstarter, and how her background as both a musician and an editor shaped her author journey.
Please tell us a little about yourself and how you found your way to writing.
I’ve been writing stories for as long as I can remember (I was one of those dweebs that actually liked the creative writing exercises on standardized tests in elementary school). I wrote fanfiction all through high school and promised myself that one day I’d write an original novel. But in college I basically lived and breathed for music. I kept writing, though, even if it was music instead of novels. I was a composition major, and it drove my professors nuts that I either couldn’t or wouldn’t write music without “programmatic content” (music that conveys a narrative or depicts a scene of some sort).
After college, I worked as an SAT tutor and finally had the freedom and focus to start writing again. At first, I was just trying to check off an item on my bucket list but once I finished my first draft I thought hey, why not actually do this? So I started learning about the querying process and different publishing options. I rewrote the book I don’t even know how many times over about five years, and here we are today.
Who is your MC, and what is the story about?
The Chalice and the Crown is a young adult fantasy novel featuring a ballerina named Sasha who uses her strength and resilience as a dancer to free herself from a curse. After months of hallucinations, insomnia, and delusion, Sasha falls into her nightmare world and finds herself sold into a magical slavery. She isn't certain if the glittering City of Roses is real or a product of her own madness, but all she wants is to go home—until she realizes that "home" isn't necessarily where she thought it was. Part of her has fallen in love with the magic and wonder of the City – and with a hunky soldier, of course (because there’s got to be a romantic subplot, amirite?)
What inspired you to write The Chalice and the Crown?
I had this recurring nightmare as a kid about a forest shrouded in mist. It stuck with me for years and eventually provided the seed that grew into Chalice. I drew inspiration from Russian lullabies, Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake, and Susannah Cahalan's memoir Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness (which is a fantastic book btw). It has since morphed into something totally different than what I started with. It’s pretty nutty looking back at that first draft and seeing how far it’s come.
Where did you get your love of folklore and fairytale?
My dad used to read Greek myths to my older brother, whereas my little sister and I got stuff like Dr. Seuss. Nothing against the good doctor, of course, but I wanted to hear the myths, probably because they featured a lot of animals. So I started “double dipping,” having story time with both my sister and my brother. Later, I discovered celtic music, which introduced me to Irish fairy tales and folklore. When I was in fifth grade I discovered Harry Potter and that clinched my love of fantasy.
You’ve published two short story collections. Did you use the same publishing process each time?
I started with a bilingual (Greek/English) short story collection. I thought there might be a market for bilingual stories that were actually entertaining, as most of the instructional material I’d found was pretty dry. So far it seems I was wrong, unfortunately, but it was a great way to dip my toes into self publishing and learn a bit about the process. I also released a “sister” collection that included stories inspired by British/Irish folklore in addition to the Greek stories.
What did you do differently for The Chalice and the Crown?
Um...almost everything. Chalice was originally going to be published by an indie press which unfortunately went belly up. I considered trying to query the manuscript again since I’d made substantial revisions, but in the end I decided to keep exploring self publishing. This time I was going to do things differently, as I’d learned a few valuable lessons from my previous attempts:
Don’t put up any more of your own money than you have to
Be realistic about what you can and can’t do yourself.
I ran a Kickstarter looking for pre-orders to be sure at least some people would want to buy the book before I invested the time and money into making it happen. To my delight, the project ended up something like 180% funded. My fundraising goal had been pretty modest, since I was going to do the editing myself.
One of the things I discovered from my short story collection was that paying a line editor didn’t get me anything I couldn’t have done myself. I’d hired someone because everyone everywhere on the internet agrees that you MUST hire an editor, but I am an editor. I make a big chunk of my living editing college admission essays for content, style, grammar--everything. And the editor I hired? She brought me on board as an editor at her literary journal just a few months after we worked together.
I raised about $450 and used it to cover the essentials (ISBN, pre-order fulfillment, a NetGalley listing, etc.) I did a lot of the cover design myself, though I hired an artist to turn my scribbles into something pretty. I also ended up hiring someone to tweak the formatting, as the specifications for both IngramSpark and KDP are SUPER specific.
How are you staying encouraged and connected during quarantine?
Honestly my life hasn’t actually changed that much. I was always a homebody, but I do really miss seeing my family. We Zoom a lot, and we have a Family group chat that my parents use mostly to brag about all the delicious food they’re cooking.
Where is your book available?
A whole bunch of places, some that I’m probably not even aware of since I’m using IngramSpark and they seem to distribute to everyone. I’m especially excited though that it’s available at Bookshop.org, which describes itself as the rebel alliance to Amazon’s Empire. It’s basically an online bookseller like Amazon, but it’s dedicated to supporting indie bookstores. You’ll find all the links you need in my Link Tree.
Fun Extra - I have a “bookshop” on Bookshop.org where I have curated lists of my favorite titles. If you buy my book, my favorite books, or actually any book at all from Bookshop.org when you arrive through my shop, you’re supporting both indie bookstores and me!
Where can people connect with you online?
I’m mostly active on Twitter and Instagram, and I use the same username for both (@flamourific). There’s a lot of background info on Chalice and my works in progress as well as community resources and excerpts on my website, flamourifiction.com. Subscribers to the newsletter get a free story in text and audio. If you subscribe, don’t worry about getting tons of emails – I don’t have the energy or attention span for that. I only send out the occasional update when there’s news to be shared and a (roughly) monthly message of Pawsitivity from Skye the rescue pup.