Some Thoughts with ... C.M. Debell
Fantasy fan since forever, coffee-obsessed, cake-loving Londoner, wife, mother, journalist, editor, designer, and cowrie collector.
1.- Why did you choose self-publishing?
I self-published my first book in 2008, before KDP. It was a different world then and there was none of the support for Indie authors that there is today. The book did very little and I put writing aside for a while. Then Amazon launched KDP, and I always intended to put it on Kindle, I just never got around to it. When I finally did, in 2018, I had no idea about the self-publishing scene. I just re-edited the manuscript and uploaded it, expecting one or two people might come across it, and I was really confused by these little bars that appeared on my KDP dashboard from day one! It was only then that I started looking into self-publishing and realized what a transformation had taken place in the years I hadn’t been paying attention. So when reviews started to complain about a lack of a sequel, I decided to write one, and since I had already started on the self-publishing journey, there was no looking back.
2.- You’ve also written another series, The Long Dream. Could you tell us a little bit about it?
I started writing the first book, Silver Mage, more than 20 years ago. It took me seven years. It’s an epic fantasy with dragons, magic and battles and end-of-the-world stakes, very much a coming of age/quest tale in the first book that is told over two timelines, three thousand years apart. I always thought of it as a standalone story, but I discovered from the reviews that readers didn’t agree, so the second book explores what happens after the dust has settled on the climax of that first book, which turned into a big story all by itself. And it only took me four years to write that one.
3.- What inspired you to create the continent of Ellasia?
I would say the characters and the story came first and the world grew around them. I always start with the characters. My style of world-building is very much making up details as and when I need them to support the story. Having said that, by the time I got to the end, I had quite a detailed history of Ellasia worked out in my head, and there are aspects of that I want to explore in future projects.
4.- Your novel has a plague as part of the plot. Would you say the recent pandemic could have influenced this kind of idea?
It must have done to an extent, but it wasn’t a primary inspiration. I had the beginning of this book in my head for years. I knew the opening scenes inside out before I ever wrote a word, and the plague is there right from the start, I just didn’t know why for a long time. It was actually a David Attenborough documentary about climate change that inspired the story. It made me very angry and I put all that anger down in this book. It was very cathartic experience.
5.- I’ve also found interesting the idea of how syndicates are prosecuting benefits even if that means harming the kingdom. Could you tell us a little bit more of how this idea appeared?
It’s happening every day all around us. The fossil fuel industry has known for decades the damage it is doing, and continues to rake in huge profits at the expense of all of us and the planet we live on. And that’s only the most obvious example. I think of this book as a scream of rage about what we are doing and where we are headed, but it is also an exploration of the mentality that puts profit and short-term gain over everything else and ignores the consequences for future generations. The Many Shades of Midnight is the story of what happens when that time runs out, when there is no more line to kick the problem down. I feel like that’s where we are now with climate change, and yet…. So, yeah, that’s where the idea came from.
6.- Would you say that after publishing a full series, drafting this book has been easier?
The Long Dream is a huge story, with lots of characters, each with their own complicated arcs, and it took me years to write. The Many Shades of Midnight is smaller in scope, so from that perspective, it was easier to write. The narrative is focused on just a handful of characters, and though the wider story is much broader, the book is really about how those characters respond to it.
It also helped that I had spent years thinking about it before I ever wrote a word - other than fragments of dialogue my phone in the middle of the night – so I had a much clearer idea of the story from the start than I did with the Long Dream books. I didn’t plot out the events as such, but from two weeks in I had the ending down, and six weeks after that it was finished. So it was an intense writing experience!
7.- Let’s talk a little about the publishing process. Which parts would you say are more challenging for you
Definitely the marketing. I don’t think I’m alone in that. Putting yourself and your work out there is hard, and it doesn’t come naturally to me, which I think is true of a lot of writers. But if you want people to find and read your books, you have to do it, so here I am…
8.- What can we expect from C.M. Debell in the future?
I want to continue to explore the world I have created in The Many Shades of Midnight. I’m currently in the note-scribbling stage of a story set around 100 years earlier that delves into some of the history mentioned in this book. I’ve discovered that I prefer to write self-contained stories rather than big series, but I like the idea of many linked stories in one world, so that’s what I’m focusing on at the moment.