Author Spotlight – L. L. MacRae (THE IRON CROWN)
My name is Lauren, and I’m a fantasy author of character-driven stories and epic adventure. My books usually contain dragons, rarely feature romance, and are typically fun and hopeful.
I live in a tiny village in the UK, have a degree in Psychology, and was a professional copywriter before going full-time as an author—swapping corporate copy for magic and dragons!
I’ve previously published under the name L.L. McNeil.
Welcome to the Hive, Lauren! Let’s start with the basics: dazzle us with an elevator pitch! Why should readers check out your work?
DRAGONS! MAGIC! CURSES! VENGEFUL SPIRITS!
Honestly no idea if shouting random things will help or not, but hopefully it’s dazzling!
I try and write fun, escapist fantasy. Stuff that’s mostly hopeful. There’s a lot of darkness in the world and I like to read – and write – things that are more light-hearted, so if that’s the sort of thing you enjoy, you’ll probably like my stuff! And if you like dragons too, then we’re basically kindred spirits at this point!
Okay, time to escalate things: reality warps and you suddenly find yourself leading a D&D-style party through a monster-infested dungeon. What character class are you, and what’s your weapon of choice?
I’ve recently dipped my toe into D&D and having a lot of fun with it! My current character is a tabaxi wizard. Chaotic good is mostly where I’m aligned! However, I love spears, glaives, scythes etc. Long-reaching bladed weapons that just look epic are definitely my jam!
And also setting things on fire.
When you’re not trawling through dungeons, how do you like to work? (For example, in silence, with music, or serenaded by the damned souls of a thousand dead shrimps? Do you prefer to type or to hand-write? Intense planner or is your system more organic?) Tell us a little bit about your writing method!
I usually spend a few months creating a document of notes and ideas. It could be character names that pop into my head, bits of dialogue, elements of the world or magic. I’ll just add to it as and when creativity sparks. (Often just as I’m about to fall asleep!) After a period of time, I’ll have enough notes to start pulling together a full concept. Then I can start building a plot from what’s growing. It’s all very organic and fluid and based on feelings!
I like to outline events chapter by chapter – but usually not more than a paragraph for each. Some chapters are stronger than others, but once I have at least the first half of the book outlined, I’ll start writing. Often the story will evolve as I write, and things I’ve outlined end up cut or shifted, or chapters will be merged. This is where it switches from organic creativity and into business-like work.
I need music of some sort to write, and usually stick with video game soundtracks or film soundtracks. Music without lyrics that is quite atmospheric is particularly good. (For example I wrote the majority of my most recent book, The Iron Crown, to the soundtrack of Ori and the Will of the Wisps) I also can’t write without some tea!
Usually I write using the Pomodoro method – in 25 minute sprints with a 5 minute break in between. This usually keeps the words coming out at a fair clip! But when things get difficult, I try and change up where I’m writing. E.g. the sofa, the dining table, the home office, the garden. Sometimes just moving environment helps the inspiration flow!
Mostly I try not to be too harsh on myself. Creativity isn’t a tap that can be turned on and off, and breaks are just as important.
What (or who) are your most significant fantasy influences?
The Final Fantasy video game series was my first experience of epic narratives, grey characters with incredible backstories, and superb worldbuilding. I return to a number of the titles in this series again and again – like a comfort blanket! But at around eight years old, it was incredibly significant on my psyche!
As a self-published author, you have to encompass many roles yourself: what aspect of self-publishing do you find the most difficult? Alternatively, which have you enjoyed the most?
How close it puts you to readers.
I’ve made a great deal of wonderful friends that I would never have met otherwise. Especially at comic cons where I sell physical copies. Many of those weekend shows are so enjoyable (and hopefully will be starting up again in 2022 post-covid!)
Are there any fellow self-published creators whom you’d love to collaborate with?
Oh that’s such a hard question! Lots of them – if only to see what sort of crazy book would be produced from our clashing styles! Maybe Michael R. Miller because of a love of the draconic?
What is your process for choosing a cover for your book? Do you have a clear idea of how you want it to look, or do you give your cover artist full creative license?
At the outset, I rarely have a clear idea what I’d like, and definitely allow the cover artist to get as creative as they want! Often once they’ve started sharing some early designs, my brain will finally kick into gear and I can make some decisions and changes.
Having too much choice at the beginning is somewhat overwhelming!
Every writer encounters stumbling blocks, be it a difficult chapter, challenging subject matter or just starting a new project. How do you motivate yourself on days when you don’t want to write?
It’s tough. Very tough. If I can skip the difficult chapter and write the next one instead, I’ll do that. Sometimes getting another chapter done gives me the inspiration or motivation to pick apart the troubling one. Other times I’ll just write bits and pieces of a difficult chapter. The “fun” bits, so to speak. And then all I need to do is join these up.
Or I’ll take a nap!
Sometimes when I’m at a complete loss I will write as much of it as I can, and then brainstorm with an author friend of mine. Having a little outside perspective can really get the creative juices flowing!
The world shifts, and you find yourself with an extra day on your hands during which you’re not allowed to write. How do you choose to spend the day?
I recently had this when I finished my latest book! I watched the Lord of the Rings Extended Editions for the first time, ate potato soup, and drank loads of tea. It was paradise.
If I had another extra day? Definitely getting outside is good for the soul. I’d love to find a quiet beach somewhere, eat fish and chips by the seaside, feel the sand and water in my toes, and end the day with an ice cream.
One of our favourite questions here on the Fantasy Hive: which fantastical creature would you ride into battle and why?
Given the war griffins prevalent in my latest work, I really ought to say one of those. Eleven feet at the shoulder, big enough to carry six fully armed and armoured people? Intelligent creatures with talons and a hooked beak? Pretty formidable for battle!
Tell us about a book that’s excellent, but underappreciated or obscure.
I really adore The Copper Promise, which is the first book of Jen Williams’ Copper Cat Trilogy. I believe it was originally a collection of novellas that were put into one novel?
I always say I love it and receive a blank look from people who’ve never heard of it or Williams! So I would love for more people to read this fantastic series. Incredible worldbuilding and excellent characters! It’s fantastic adventure fantasy!
Finally, can you tell us a little something about your current work(s) in progress?
I’m not sure if it counts as a WIP, but it is something that I’m working on at the moment! My debut novel, Moroda, was first published in 2017. It’s sequel, Palom, came out in 2018. These were the first two books of my World of Linaria epic fantasy series. I’m currently re-writing them and will be re-releasing them as second editions under the name L.L. MacRae later in 2021.
They were my first ever books and a little rough around the edges, so I’m giving them somewhat of a refresh to bring them in line with my current writing. I wanted to re-publish my previous work as L.L. MacRae anyway, so now seemed the perfect opportunity to do that!
Thank you so much!