Author Interview: Lou Wilham
When did you first start writing consistently?
Probably when I was either 12 or 13? That’s when I started writing on the RPG forums on Yahoo groups or whatever they were called, and that’s where I got my first taste of what writing could be like. Wow, that means I’ve been writing for almost half of my life, now I feel old.
When did you start to consider yourself a Writer?
I don’t really remember when I started considering myself a writer with a capital ‘W’, it was one of those things that happened gradually, I guess. Probably partly because I went through a lot of different career paths I wanted over the years from cartoonist to a lawyer—thanks Elle Woods.
Is there a difference, to you, in writer or storyteller?
For me, the only difference between a writer and a storyteller is the medium. A writer IS a storyteller, but a storyteller isn’t necessarily a writer, you know? Storytellers can have podcasts, or make comics, or paint, or take really amazing photographs. Whereas a writer tells their stories through the written language, and very often that’s all they use to bring their world to life. So yeah, a writer is a storyteller, but not necessarily vice versa.
What inspired The Curse Of The Black Cat?
Honestly, the idea of an animal that was secretly a prince or princess who fell in love with their owner has been a story sitting at the back of my brain for a VERY long time—we’re talking probably a decade here. But I’m going to quote one of my friends Elle Beaumont here—in August I started asking the question that breeds all stories, “what if?” What if the animal was a prince cursed to be a cat? Why would someone curse them? What if the prince was gay? What if he had to learn a hard lesson about self-acceptance through the curse? And it all kind of spiraled from there, as most stories do.
You write a lot about Japanese pop culture, is this something you are in to?
Oh God yes! Tokyo has been at the top of my list for places to visit since I was in High School. I’m fascinated by how kawaii culture is just accepted, and embraced there wherein Western cultures we see it as juvenile and something to “grow out of”. Like you should grow out of wearing pastels, that’s for little girls. But who says? And why? I can love cutesy things, and still be a functional adult, so why shouldn’t I?
On that note, my other stories don’t have such a heavy Japanese influence, that was something I did because of Yuuki’s character, and because he’s Japanese-American.
What’s your favorite anime?
For a long time the only anime I was exposed to was Sailor Moon, because that’s all we HAD here that was mainstream, and I was absolutely OBSESSED. But a few years ago I discovered Yuri on Ice, and that’s actually my current favorite.
Yuuki is actually inspired by Yuri.
I don’t read as much manga as I’d like, to be honest. So my favorite manga is still Sailor Moon, you can’t beat a classic.
There are a lot of fairy tale elements in The Curse Of The Black Cat, how did you adapt those for a modern audience?
Ok, so this is a super tough question for me because it’s something I’ve been doing for so long it’s almost second nature. I think the best way to answer it is to say that my absolute favorite movie—that I had to buy multiple copies of over the years because I wore out first my VHS tape and then two DVDs—is The 10th Kingdom. Which kind of did the opposite of what I did with Black Cat, in that they throw the main characters into a fairy tale world, and in Black Cat the fairy tale world is just part of the real world.
So when I thought about how to bring magic to our world, and add that fairy tale feel I just applied magic to all the things I’d want to be able to use magic for. Gwydion, in particular, is a perfect example. If you had magic wouldn’t you use it frivolously to hop around the city, and conjure amazing outfits?
Are fairytales something you think are still needed today?
Fairy tales will always be necessary to human existence for many of the same reasons that they were originally necessary—to teach and to make people think. The lessons may be different but the necessity remains the same. In Hansel and Gretel it was don’t go into the woods alone, in Cinderella it was kindness wins out, and in Black Cat it's that no matter who you love you deserve to be loved in return.
You did EVERYTHING for this book yourself. Did the project overwhelm you? How did you stay calm?
I have to be honest, I read this question and cackled so loudly it made people look at me funny…
This project WAS overwhelming at times. There were times where I felt like I was being pulled in fifty different directions at once, times when I wanted to cry and quit because ProWritingAid is MEAN, and then those little highs when I finished a step and could breathe for a moment. So no, I wasn’t calm for most of it.
But the way I got through it was by leaning very heavily on my writing buddies, and family. Never, ever, ever underestimate the power of having writing buddies. Even if they don’t write in the same genre, even if they currently aren’t working on anything, even if they aren’t in the same state as you. Having someone in your life who knows what it’s like to write makes a world of difference. Because let’s face it, writing is a particularly punishing occupation that no one who hasn’t done it will understand.
How did you plan out writing, making the cover, and advertising?
This is three different questions in one! HA!
How did I plan the writing? The same way I do most of my stories, with a skeleton-like outline featuring just the big events. I tend to fill in the details as I write.
How did I plan the cover? There was some trial and error here, if you look at my Instagram you’ll see it. I looked at a lot of other books in my genre with similar themes, created a folder of the ones I liked, and started thinking about what needed to be on the cover. So clearly, a cat needed to be on there somewhere, and then Yuuki and Alrik. Then I sketched it, then started drawing the details. The first “draft” I had Yuuki and Alrik facing forwards, side by side, and the faces were a little more realistic, but I didn’t LOVE that. So I went back to the drawing board and started scrolling Instagram for artists I like, drawing inspiration from them. That’s how I came up with the simpler style, and more dynamic pose that I wound up using. And wow, my art process is much more complicated than my writing process.
Advertising is another one of those weird things that’s second nature to me. My day job is in the marketing field, so I did some research on other book launches and went from there.
On that note, are you an outliner/planner?
If this is a planner or panster question, the answer is a bit of both, like I said above. If this is a “are you an organized person, Lou” question? The answer is no… and I have the messy desk to prove it!
Is self-publishing satisfying for you? Would you ever consider a traditional route?
To be frank, the dream is to be published by a big house and see my pretties on a bookshelf at B&N. But I actually enjoyed self-publishing Black Cat, it left me with all of the control as far as my characters, and artwork, and such went, and I loved that. It also meant I got to tell the story I wanted to tell, the way I wanted to tell it, which is important to me.
So would I consider going the trad route? Maybe, but at this point I’m looking at going indie for my other projects as well.
What are your future projects?
While I consistently have at least 5 story ideas percolating in my brain at a time, I only have two big projects right now.
"Tales of a Sea Witch", which is an origin story for the sea witch from the Little Mermaid in which I ask “why does she hate the king and his family so much?” and “oooh what if she was in love with the little mermaid’s mother who died?!”
And my "Clockwork Chronicles" series, the first of which is "The Girl in the Clockwork Tower" and it’s currently with a couple of my beta readers so I can get my first big round of revisions handled. "The Girl in the Clockwork Tower" is a steampunk Rapunzel retelling that begs the question “what would humans do if suddenly the realm of the magical invaded our world?” and “where would we be centuries later?”
Both of those titles are going to be darker, and grittier than Black Cat is, but will hopefully make people think just as much.
One piece of advice you would give someone setting out to do it all?
I say this a lot via social media, and it’s my biggest piece of advice for life in general, but it especially applies when you’re trying to do all of the things a trad house would usually have a team to do… Celebrate small victories.
Seriously, if you don’t you’ll just feel like you’re spreading yourself too thin, and not getting anywhere. But if you have a cupcake for getting through the first half of your book, and a glass of champagne for finishing the first draft it makes it feel less monumental. Because you’re not doing one BIG thing—writing and publishing a book by yourself—you’re winning a dozen small battles over and over again.
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