Today I’m interviewing YA fantasy author, Sheenah Freitas! Sheenah shares with us the inspiration behind her debut novel, her writing process, and tips on successful world building.
Hello and thanks for having me! I’m a book designer by day and a writer by night. I’m currently wrapping up my YA fantasy series about a girl who gets swept away to a new planet and is told she has to save the gods from a dire prophesy. I also write short stories and flash fiction! They’re usually more on the literary side, but I’ve written in a vast array of genres.
What is it that draws you to the fantasy genre? Has it always been this way?
Growing up, I never read a lot of fantasy books. I’d read the occasional book, but mostly I read contemporary or historical fiction or literary. Fantasy, for me, didn’t become a huge staple in my life until I discovered anime and Harry Potter. Being of the HP generation, there was a time somewhere between Book 5 and 6 where I was dying to read something magical and thought, “Why not try writing my own?”
Why thank you! The Chosen follows the story of Kaia, who’s probably loosely based on a couple of magical girl type characters in anime. At 14, she loses everything she’s ever known and gets taken away to a strange new planet and has been suddenly tapped as The Chosen One. She struggles with the weight of the responsibility and tries to navigate life in her new world. And, of course, there’s the whole quest to find the treasures of the gods. The treasures are supposed to hold the lifeforce of a god, so by collecting them, she’s protecting the god…or is she just being played?
What inspired you to start writing this book?
I actually had a really vivid dream. It was a dream unlike any other I’ve ever had and was one of those rare dreams that continued on right where it left off the following night. On the morning of the fourth day, I decided to start writing it all down, which caused the spell to break because the dreams just stopped. I wanted to know what happened next, so I started writing Kaia’s story.
How do you go about writing a novel? Do you do loads of planning first? Or just dive right in?
By nature, I am a planner. I do a bulk of my research online, but I also end up buying a lot of books for research (my collection of mythology books is getting bigger and bigger) or photocopying pages from library books. After I get a bulk of my research done, I start outlining. My outlines are pretty loose (some might call them beats) and they’re basically just plot points that I think should happen. After the outline is done, I start on the first draft and it can either end up exactly how I envisioned it in my outline stage or it can be vastly different from what I thought it would be. It all depends on where the characters take me.
The only time I ever really dive right in is for short stories, but even then, I have a clear beginning point and end point in my head where I want to take the story.
And let’s talk about worldbuilding. Can you share any tips for successfully creating a believable fantasy world?
I think building a believable world, no matter what the genre, is going to take a lot of trust in the reader and your own work. My only tip is to look around at how other societies and cultures function and developed. There are things that most cultures have in common: some form of ritual, how they deal with death, how they deal with birth, religion, and something that brings people together. J.K. Rowling mentioned she created Quidditch because she realized she didn’t have a thing that brought a mass amount of people together and she chose a sport because most societies have some sort of a sport to be competitive in.
Depending on your plot, you’re never going to reveal some aspects of your world. But knowing all the ins and outs of your world before you start writing (or at least a majority of the ins and outs of your world) will help you stay consistent.
What’s your favourite part of writing?
The editing. I love finessing the really rough draft and watching the story and world really come together.
And the worst?
The first draft. Even though I have an outline to help guide me, sometimes it’s still really difficult for me to figure out how to get from Point A to Point B. I also hate how disorganized and cluttered the first draft can feel.
What’s next for you in the writing world?
Right now, I’m in the middle of doing some last-minute research for the third and final installment of my trilogy. And then after that I’ll be working on a magical realism YA novel that I’ve dubbed my Spirited Away meets Harry Potter. I’m really really excited about it.
If you couldn’t be an author, what would you be?
I’d probably somehow end up in the publishing field. My day job is being a book designer, so I’d probably just do that. Or maybe I’d be a book tour organizer. That could be fun!
What’s your advice for aspiring writers?
There are going to be days where you’re going to look at your work and tell yourself it’s crap and that everything you write is crap. There are going to be days where despite how happy you are for your fellow author friends, you’re going to secretly wonder why you aren’t as successful and compare your success with theirs. And there are going to be days where you just want to give up.
Despite all of that: always remember how writing makes you feel. If it makes you incredibly happy, don’t stop. Keep going. Fight through your inner voice. It’s hard, but just like anything that’s worth anything, you have to work hard to achieve it.
No one can tell your story. Only you can do that.
Find The Chosen on Amazon.