Some Thoughts with ... Joanna Maciejewska

7 May 2023

The Author/s

Joanna Maciejewska

Joanna Maciejewska

Joanna might be a bit too cautious to do anything even remotely daring or dangerous herself, so she writes about daring adventures and dangerous magic instead. Yet, she found enough courage to abandon her life in Poland and move to Ireland, and then some years later, she abandoned her life in Ireland to move over to the US. She’s determined to settle there, once she finally chooses which state to reside in.

When she’s not writing or thinking about writing, she plays video games or makes amateur art. She lives the happy life of a recluse, surrounded by her husband, a stuffed red monkey, and a small collection of books she insisted on hauling across two continents.  

The Interview

1.- What made you choose self-publishing?
In my case, the answer to this question isn't "what" but "who". After I moved to the US, my husband encouraged me to start my own business instead of trying to find a job. He likes the concept of being self-sufficient, and the idea of being my own boss appealed to me too. Once that first step was done, giving me confidence in being able to handle taxes, contracts, and various paperwork, self-publishing was a natural step, and once again, my husband supported it. "Do you want to sit around waiting for responses to your queries, or do you want to be an author?" he asked. I wanted to be an author, of course, and here I am.

2.- What inspired your new series, Shadows of Eireland?
Well, Ireland and Dublin, of course! Or rather my nostalgia for them. Moving to a new country means longing for what's familiar while you settle into the new place. I missed my friends and the city that was my home for over 8 years, so I started working on a story that would capture my perceptions of Ireland before the memories faded. Humanborn took shape during my first year in the US, and later I returned to it to make it a fully-fleshed out novel.

3.- Why did you decide to go for urban fantasy as a genre?
My choice of the setting somewhat dictated the subgenre, but I consider myself a science fiction and fantasy writer, so urban fantasy is just another facet of what I write. I've written short stories within epic fantasy, sword and sorcery, space opera, steampunk, cyberpunk, and even a little bit of horror and romance, and I don't intend to limit myself to any subgenre: writing just takes longer when it comes to novels, so it's going to be a while before my books span most of them.

4.- Would you say the main character of Humanborn, Kaja, has been influenced in some aspects by your own experiences?
When I was starting to write Humanborn, I wanted it to be as authentic as possible. It meant drawing from the Dublin I knew. The way I perceived it came from who I was, so yes, I consciously chose for Kaja to be Polish, but in the end, I didn't want her to be a reflection of myself. She is her own person, and though we have some things in common, because it made sense she'd live in the area of Dublin I knew well instead of settling her in, let's say, Limerick which I visited maybe two or three times. I actually wrote a blog post about balancing the creation of a character with a similar background without making her a self-insert. It's going to appear on my website mid-May, so if you're curious about what Kaja and I have in common, and how we differ, check it out.

5.- You have another finished series, Pacts Arcane and Otherwise. Could you tell us a little bit about it?
Pacts are my epic fantasy series: one story spans across four books rather than having four standalone loosely connected by the characters, and the series features interwoven plotlines and magic systems, truly multiple POV so that readers can see events from different perspectives and even peek at what the "bad guys" are doing, and focuses on the events that have a potential to affect the whole world. At the same time, I didn't want to write grimdark, so I think the series has some feel of a modern take on a sword and sorcery story or an adventure novel, and I think the friendship that is at its core, one that survives it all and never turns into a romance, adds to that feeling.

6.- Has your writing process changed with the time?
I don't think so. I'm what I'd consider a slow writer, though I know some writers would consider my creative pace good. I ruminate story ideas for a long time, and even when it comes to writing specific scenes, I often replay them in my head countless times searching for the best iteration before committing them to the page. It's like a writerly Groundhog Day of sorts, I suppose. Being a second language speaker also slows me down as I often need to double-check the words or expressions I want to use. Then I write my first draft and send it to my trusted alpha reader. I revise while he reads and then revise some more with his comments in mind. After several rounds of revisions, it's time for beta readers, their comments, and some more revisions. Finally, the novel goes to my editor, and after I implement the necessary fixes, it's ready for my readers. I might write some books quicker or slower, some might take a few more or a few less revisions, but the core of the process I described is always there.

7.- From all the self-publishing process, which part would you say you enjoy more?
If things go smoothly, whichever I'm working on at the moment. If things don't go smoothly, it's usually any part except for the one on which I'm working. A less sassy reply would probably be writing, but it wouldn't be entirely true as I also enjoy the business aspects of publishing and interacting with my professional contacts. Connecting with happy readers is always a treat too.

8.- After having finished a series, how it feels to start a new one?
I honestly can't tell. Because of my lengthy process, I usually work on several books at a time: plotting one, writing another, and perhaps revising something else as well. Humanborn was already in the final stages of revisions before Demon Siege, the last book of Pacts Arcane and Otherwise, was released. I even joked the other day that it sometimes feels like I haven't written anything new in a long time. At the same time, I understand that this series is new to my readers, and that makes it a mix of excitement and anxiety. Many of my readers read across subgenres or even broader than the SFF umbrella, but Pacts and Shadows are different series with different storytelling styles, so not everyone will like both. Some elements, of course, stay the same, like friendly banter or loyal friendships, and magic, there's always a lot of magic.

9.- What can we expect from Joanna Maciejewska in the future?
More books! I know, I know—I should be more specific. Shadows of Eireland is planned for at least three books, so readers can expect Myth-touched and Snake-bitten to come as soon as I finish them. After that, I hope to finally get to more revisions of Memories of Sorcery and Sand, a fantasy in which a young woman, trapped between her father's plans and his rival's ambitions, is trying to piece her memories and past together before she falls apart, losing what little of herself she has left. Beyond that, I have plans for a darker fantasy or two, a fairy tale retelling series with a twist, and even cyberpunk and science fiction stories. I suppose it's also worth mentioning that I'm a writer for Edge of Sanity, a survival horror video game, and that story might become a novel as well.