Interview: Cady Hammer

This week we sat down with YA Fantasy author, Cady Hammer, whose debut novel, Chasing Fae released today! Join us as we talk about how she stumbled into her publisher, when she finds time to write during such a busy academic schedule, and how losing a close friend became the inspiration for her story.

 

 


CJ: 
Hello Cady! Thank you so much for sitting with me today!


Cady:
Hey CJ! Super excited for it. 🙂

CJ: Awesome. Why don’t you start by telling us a little about yourself?

Cady: Alright! I am a junior in college studying history and anthropology. I am also a young adult fantasy author. My debut novel, Chasing Fae, is due to release during the last week of July 2020. (Editor’s Note: Cady’s book is being released today, August 3rd) I have been an avid reader my entire life, and I am a huge fantasy nerd. Outside of writing, I am active in my honors fraternity at school, Phi Sigma Pi, and enjoy doing theater and ballroom dancing. 

CJ: Cady, we’re brothers! What chapter? I’m with the Epsilon Xi Chapter.

Cady: Woah! That’s crazy. I had no idea! I am with the Gamma Psi Chapter. This is amazing; I love it. 

CJ: Tell us about your blog.

Cady: Of course, how could I forget that? I run Fluff About Fantasy, a website geared towards teaching young writers the tips and tricks to writing fantasy. I started the website back in January 2019 after finishing my first draft of Chasing Fae during NaNoWriMo. I talk about everything from world-building and character-building at the beginning of the process, to drafting, and the tedious revising process. I wanted to create a resource where all of this incredible information about fantasy writing could be pulled together into one space for young writers to read and use. I post about once a week and often update the page with new resources and tools from all the Internet.

CJ: That’s a lot you have going on with your blog. How do you find the time to keep up with it along with all your other activities?

Cady: I work hard. I wish I had an answer like “I summon time from the future,” but the best answer I can give is that I work hard. After classes and homework, I dive into writing, whether that is with the book or with the website. I used to update the website twice a week, but once the sophomore year started, I realized it was too much. So I cut back to once a week, and I have found that I write more substantial posts with the cutback. I live and breathe writing; it’s relaxing to me and really takes advantage of my creativity. I find it to be both my new job as an author and as an intense hobby. 

CJ: Tell us about your book, Chasing Fae.

Cady: Chasing Fae is a young adult fantasy book, and it is the best piece of writing that I have ever put out. The story follows Grace Richardson, a young mortal woman whose older brother dies in a mysterious accident while serving as a mercenary in the Fae’s realm, the Upper Realm. Suspecting foul play and overwhelmed by grief, Grace disguises herself as a Fae and sneaks into the Upper Realm to get some answers. She expected being in way over her head, but the Fae soldier who catches her fleeing an angry bar and discovers her identity only a day in? Not so much. So now Grace is forced to drag this soldier, Aiden, along as she tries to work out exactly how and why her brother died. There’re political conspiracies, demon realm escapades, and family secrets that will all lead Grace to the answers she’s looking for… and some that she isn’t. I’m really excited to get this book out there. 

CJ: Having been one of your beta readers, I can confirm that this is a fantastic story! Where did you get the inspiration from?

Cady: This book started as a way to cleanse my soul after a terrible friend breakup. This particular friend was like a brother to me, I was tired of feeling left behind and just lost. I came up with this story to kind of give an ending to the chaos I was feeling inside. There’s a reason that Grace’s older brother, Leo, has to be dead at the beginning. She has to come to terms with these conflicting emotions while seeking her answers about his death. As I wrote the story, however, it became so much more than just a way to get something off my chest. I watched my characters take their first breaths and become real people who had real feelings and desires, and they ended up driving the story in a different direction. I was just along for the ride. When I finished the first draft and wrote those last words, I knew that this was the one I would get published somehow. I just felt it. 

CJ: Am I remembering correctly that you’ve successfully queried?

Cady: Somewhat. This is actually a bit of a crazy story. I had been querying to literary agents for about three or four months when I started a program called the Book Creator Program. It’s a program that this small press, New Degree Press, runs in connection with universities all across the countries. New Degree Press is all about getting students and young professionals published. The program is amazing. I started working on a non-fiction book with them while querying for my fiction book. Somewhere around the end of November of last year, I was talking with the head of the program, Professor Eric Koester about Chasing Fae. He mentioned that not only does New Degree Press run this program, they also take outside submissions for books. A week later, he set me up with a meeting with the head of the publishing board, Brian Bies. This is all during my final fall exams, mind you. After my exams, and based on the information that Brian told me about the press, I took a leap of faith and submitted my manuscript for consideration. It was my second day of classes for the spring semester in late January when I found out they would publish Chasing Fae. I got the email during the first ten minutes of a three-hour class. It was torture having to wait to tell people. 

CJ: Oh my gosh, I can imagine! Do you know when it’s coming out?

Cady: It is confirmed for the last week of July, starting on July 27th. I don’t have a specific date yet; my publisher and I are still working that out. It is so soon! (Editor’s Note: Go get a copy of it today!!!)

CJ: I know you can’t wait to have a copy in your hands.

Cady: I really can’t. It’s becoming more and more real by the day. I just finalized my cover yesterday, actually. It s being rendered to a high-quality image. As soon as I saw it, I knew it was the right image. 

CJ: That makes my heart happy. I just love it when things fall into place like that. Stepping away from your story for a minute, what do you think makes a good story in general?

Cady: Strong, well-rounded characters. I think one of the most important elements of a good story is characters that can move the story forward. I want to see not just their strengths, but I want to see how their weaknesses move the plot. Once I start with a story idea, I sit down and take the time to really get to know my characters and their voice. For fantasy stories, in particular, I think the world is important too. You want to draw your readers in and drop them directly into a scene. I try to engage all five senses so that a reader can see it in their mind. 

CJ: How difficult did you find world-building for your story?

Cady: I spent eight months before writing my first draft focused on world-building. I found it incredibly enjoyable, but definitely difficult at the same time. My world is complex; the Fae realm has twelve individual Fae lorddoms with distinct cultures. I don’t know what I was thinking! World-building takes a lot of time, but putting in the time is worth it. 

CJ: It definitely is. It’s one thing for you to tell the reader they’re about to read a fantasy book and another to pull them into the world with you. World-building is a next-level skill as far as I am concerned .. and one reason I stick with murder stories. No need to world-build there!

Cady: It is definitely an acquired skill. I’m hoping to get better and better at it as I continue to write. I’m looking forward to exposing more pieces of the world in Chasing Fae and in the rest of the trilogy.

CJ: When you first started writing, who was your inspiration, and has that changed over the years?

Cady: I have always written with my favorite authors and favorite books in mind. I love picking out my favorite elements in books and thinking about how to combine them all into something beautiful. My favorite author of all time is Sarah J. Maas; she wrote the Throne of Glass series and A Court of Thorns and Roses series. Her books are very Fae-focused and have many plot twists between books that have readers just screaming at their copy late at night. You get so thrown at the beginning, but by the end, you’re in love with every direction she went. I want to write like that. Over the years, I have seen my writing not just influenced by other authors, but also by the people in my life. My family and friends sometimes contribute a quote or a personality quirk that just strikes me as something that would fit perfectly inside a certain character or a certain scene.  

CJ: How supportive have your family and friends been through this process?

Cady: I would say my family has been supportive of my writing, although I don’t know how much I shared with them during the process. They were very excited for me when I got the green light from New Degree Press. My friends love the fact that this book is coming out; especially my Phi Sigma Pi brothers. They have just been so supportive of me throughout this entire process. At the end of this year during our Superlatives Voting, I got voted Most Likely To Become A Bestselling Author. I love them all so much. My friends made up the biggest fraction of my presale orders. And I can’t forget my amazing boyfriend who has been by my side from the beginning. He read the earliest drafts of Chasing Fae, told me everything I needed to fix, and really helped me get to a better book. I don’t know what I would have done without everyone’s support. 

CJ: So when you find time to actually sit down and write, do you have a routine or a specific place you write?

Cady: I write throughout the day whenever I get a chance. Typically, on weekdays, I’ll start right after my classes and homework is finished. This is usually in the evenings, somewhere around 7 or 8 pm. I like to sit in the living room at home or in a big chair in the dorm lounge to write best. I always seem to work better there than at a particular desk. On weekends, I’ll write for more of the day. I also like to listen to music while I write. Music often drives the writing of certain scenes or chapters. There are a bunch of scenes in Chasing Fae that are inspired by specific songs. 

CJ: What types of music are on your playlist?

Cady: The main musical artist on my list is Lindsey Stirling. She is a fantastic violinist who has been putting out amazing instrumentals and musical collaborations for several years. I played violin for almost nine years from middle school to high school, and I have always enjoyed the music. I love the rise and fall of the notes. Outside of that, my playlist includes a lot of Fall Out Boy and Panic at the Disco songs and Halsey. 

CJ: That sounds like a very interesting playlist. Do you have it up somewhere on your website?

Cady: I do, actually! But I can also provide a direct link to the playlist on Spotify here

CJ: Great, thanks! We’re almost out of time, but I want to ask you if you have any advice for new or young writers who aspire to publish?

Cady: Absolutely. I want to encourage any young writers to just start that story. The hardest part of writing is starting. I truly believe that. You have all of these ideas swirling around in your head, and you just don’t know if it will be good enough to put on paper or whether you’ll find that perfect ending. I want to tell young writers to just start. Start from the beginning, the middle, start from the end, even if that inspires you. Get words down on the page. The first draft is just to get all of those ideas out of your head and onto paper. You can fix everything in revisions. Write fast; write a novel in a month or a month in a half and don’t stop to edit yourself. You will feel amazing when you have everything out on that page. 

CJ: That first draft is definitely the hardest, especially for those of us who don’t realize a finished book doesn’t come out the way you find it in the bookstores. Amazing advice, Cady. Thank you so so much for sitting with me today. I had a wonderful time with you!

Cady: Thank you! This was so fun; I really enjoyed it. Thank you for taking the time.

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You can connect with Cady via these avenues

Website
Fluff About Fantasy

Twitter
CadyHammer

Facebook
Fluff About Fantasy

Instagram
@fluffaboutfantasy

Pinterest
Cady A Hammer

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