Author’s Spotlight: Sirius Interview

Sirius, author of the Draonir Saga

1. First, introduce yourself a bit. What is your name (or pen name) and where are you from?

My pen name is Sirius, although most people call me Star outside of writing. I am from North Carolina and I currently live near Greenville (ECU territory for any who might not be familiar). Before 2020, I lived in Greensboro for eight years.

2. Next, tell us a bit about your most recent work. Is this your first published book? What is it about and what genre would you classify it as?

The next book I have coming out is Condemned, which is book three of an ongoing series entitled The Draonir Saga. It is preceded by Uncrowned and Partitioned, which both came out in 2022. I would classify it as dark fantasy, a blend of gothic storytelling with a clear love for the fantasy of manners genre woven throughout. I have always preferred focusing on the characters, their relationships with each other, intrigue, and politics over action sequences or quests. I put a lot of value into creating atmosphere and beautiful prose that resonates with the reader while staying genuine to the characters and the world around them.

3. Tell us a bit about your main character; what are they like, how did they come about, and what are some of their strengths and weaknesses?

Pharun Mahtrador is definitely the main character of this particular series. On the surface he is a lot of things – he is very beautiful, he is clever, and he is mean. Even to those who know him intimately it is never easy to tell what he is thinking. He is enigmatic and oftentimes aloof – it makes it easy to believe that he does not care. He can be flippant and downright cruel. Of course, when he looks at himself, he sees someone who feels too much. There is a vast disconnect between how he feels and how he presents – everyone sees him as cold, he sees himself as keeping the world at a distance because there are too many emotions brimming up at once, and too much pain that he has to keep stuffed down. He does not sleep well, he has nightmares about the things that happened to him when he was young. He masks often – he is very good at being charming and at imitating social graces. He knows the ins-and-outs of high society very well, but when he is alone or in the company of the very few he keeps close, he is often straight-faced with a dry sense of humor and he is easily irritated. He definitely holds himself in very high regard and considers himself more intelligent than most, so when he finds someone he feels “understands” him, he becomes obsessed and he ends up running them into the ground – “breaking” someone and destroying them is the only way he can maintain superiority, but it is not always what he wants to do. Sometimes, he wants a genuine connection, he just does not know how to get it. He does not know how to stop taking advantage of people. He needs to be told how, but that does not mean he will follow the rules, either. I am very close to Pharun, and we share a lot of similarities. I think if anything he absorbs a lot of my insecurities, and we both feel very out of place. We both have a lot to prove, and we are both ruthlessly ambitious. One thing about Pharun is that he never gives up, especially when he has his mind set on what he wants to pursue, and sometimes that is to his detriment.

4. What was your hardest scene to write in this (or any) book?

The hardest scenes for me to write in any given work are the sex scenes. I add them if they come about in the narrative naturally, but I do not go out of my way to insert them, and I often find myself doing a lot of second-guessing when I write them. I’m not sure why, because I used to enjoy writing them a lot more. I think they just don’t interest me very much. I get a lot more out of tense dialogue and climactic betrayals.

5. Did you go the traditional route when publishing your book or did you choose to self-publish?

The Draonir Saga is self-published. My next book in a totally separate series, Swallow You Whole, is coming out in September and it will be through Curious Corvid Publishing. With the Draonir Saga, I wanted it to look a certain way and feel a certain way, and I was not ready to relinquish control. I love how it looks and feels now, even though there is always room for improvement. I also did not want to put myself through the wringer with sending it out to agents and publishing houses, because while I love the story and I love its writing, I was really insecure about how it would sell because the entire story is queer, the entire cast is queer, and the subject matter is dark. At the time (this was way before I found CCP), I had not been in the industry in a few years and was not sure if people even wanted my story, although I wanted nothing more than to share it. Being a queer, nonbinary writer trying to find a seat at the table of genres typically dominated by cisgender men has been difficult to say the least. If the Draonir Saga was to be picked up down the road by a publishing house, I would still want a lot of say in how it was packaged and presented.

6. What would you say is the most difficult part of your writing journey and what advice would you give to other writers?

The most difficult part has been giving myself grace. I am a prolific writer and an ambitious personality, and between those two things I find it difficult to “check out” even for an afternoon. I am not good at giving myself days off, and the wheels are constantly turning in my brain. All I ever do and think about links back to my writing in some way, it seems. So, if I were to give advice to other writers, it would be to let yourself have a down day. Do not push yourself into burnout, and also never give up. Pursue what you want, because success will start to find you when you do.

7. Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

I like to build a body of work with connections between each book. Even within Swallow You Whole’s universe, there are a few small references that can be linked back to the Draonir Saga. I have been experimenting more with standalone works and short stories, but for the most part everything connects. Everyone lives together in my head anyway, so it does not make much sense to try and separate them entirely.

8. Who are some of your favourite authors, what are some of your favourite books, and what inspired you to become a writer in the first place?

Some of my favorite authors – I definitely love Ellen Kushner, I feel I always say that first and foremost. She established the fantasy of manners genre and she is a queer writer, so I look up to her a great deal. Her writing is lush and gorgeous and her characters are so near to my heart. Another author is Megan Whalen Turner – I feel she gets overlooked a lot because most of her early books are geared towards a younger audience. I did discover her when I was sixteen, so I suppose I was the target audience at the time – but King of Attolia is still my favorite book, and everything she has released since then has felt like it has “grown up” with me. I will never stop loving her books. I am also, of course, in love with Anne Rice. I feel like that goes without saying. Her work has inspired me above and beyond in too many ways to list. I love Robert Louis Stevenson, Charles Dickens, and Victor Hugo with all my heart. Not to lump the classics together, but I would be remiss not to mention their influence. There are dozens more, but these are my all-time favorites.

I have been writing since I can remember, so I do not know what inspired me or compelled me to become an author. It just seemed the natural step. This is what I want to do, this is what I love to do. I have always had stories to tell, I have known so many of these characters for a long time. There was never really an option for me to do anything else. Writing is where my passion lies. I have flip-flopped through career options, especially when I was in college, but the idea was always “this…AND, or this, TO SUPPORT writing”.

9. What would you say has been the best way to market your books?

So far, word and mouth and in-person events have done the most for me. TikTok and Instagram algorithms are absolutely necessary tools, but they are so difficult to crack, at least for me (and especially promoting queer content, a lot of algorithms bury it). Online marketing leaves me frustrated more often than not. I prefer in-person encounters, I prefer connecting with the reader on that level, and I prefer putting a physical copy in their hands.

10. Are there any tropes, clichés, or writing styles that you dislike and, if so, what are they and why?

I greatly dislike first person, I cannot read it, and I don’t know why. If writing is too short and choppy, if the sentences are too simple and broken up and lack rich or offbeat description, I cannot invest in the story.

11. Do you read reviews of your book and, if so, how do you handle negative feedback?

I do read my reviews sometimes, but I have come to learn that reviews are for other readers, and not for the writer. Bad reviews can sting, and I will still read them because I am not immune to criticism. I like to know what other people are thinking (and I find reasons for disliking something can be just as interesting as for why they might like it). I have been writing and publishing for a long time, so I am not immune to feeling hurt, but I do have a pretty thick skin.

12. What are some of your quirks as a writer? Do you like to plot everything out or do you prefer to just “wing it” and see where the story takes you? Do you listen to music when writing and, if so, what do you listen to?

I used to think I was more of a “wing it” person, but I think that is just because I know the story so well (I have rehashed The Draonir Saga in so many ways over the years) that I never felt the need to write it all down each time I started to type. Nowadays, I give myself at least a loose outline (my memory has also gotten exponentially worse and I try to minimize the risk of plot holes). I love to listen to Classical music (sometimes overlapping with ocean or fireplace sounds) when writing, but I have a separate Spotify playlist of different songs to listen to when I am not writing to keep me inspired and connected with the characters.

13. What is the best advice you’ve ever had when it comes to writing and what advice would you give to new writers?

The whole “you can edit a bad page, but you can’t edit a blank one”. I repeat that religiously when someone tells me that they don’t know where to start. I am bad at handing out advice most of the time because my theory has always been “Just start. Do it, see where it takes you.” If you can’t make yourself begin because you’re waiting for the perfect circumstances, they will never come. I taught myself to write almost anywhere even if it was just to get out a small idea to return to later. A lot of things I’ve written when I’m out of my ideal environment have been dross, and that’s okay. Come back to it, sometimes you just have to make yourself do it to begin with.

14. What’s next for you? Are you currently working on any new books or stories?

With Condemned and Swallow You Whole coming out this year, I am currently working on Hawthorne, a novella that takes place in the Draonir Saga timeline that is separate from the main story – and I have two novellas I am trying to find a home for, a Dracula-inspired retelling called Rising Sun Over the Devil’s Nest and a vampire hunter story entitled These Bleak Atrocities. I hope to write more novellas and short stories this year, and explore more magazines and anthology opportunities.

15. Finally, feel free to plug your social media, website, and links to Amazon, GoodReads, and other relevant sites below, and detail any current offers available for your book/s:

Thank you, it was wonderful to talk!

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