Find Yourself in a World Away - An Interview with Urban Fantasy Author Erin Casey
A purple strand of Mardi Gras beads hung from a purple thumb tack on the library bulletin board. My eyes followed the beads to a tag, The Purple Door District. Possibly a freebie from an event? My focus returned to my task, perusing the ads to find a lawn mowing teenager in need of over grown yards.
Months later, I joined a writing club at the library where I found my mower. The room was full of bloggers, fan fiction writers, a few poets, and a sprinkling of local authors. We went around the room introducing ourselves and shared about our writing work. One gal mentioned her urban fantasy novel, about an underground group in Chicago. Someone chimed in, what is the name of your book?
The woman responded, “The Purple Door District.”
Over the next few sessions with the writing group, I have come to know Erin Casey, the author, and lover of everything purple. She commits herself to her craft and to all writing craftsmen. Her passion for a great story is only trumped by her compassion for writers. She excels at seeing new writers where they are, everywhere she goes.
When we met for our interview, I learned Erin has so many exciting things happening this year. Her new book, part two of her trilogy, will be published in December. And she has expanded her bird family. As part of her interview, Erin sent along an excerpt from her first novel, The Purple Door District, leaving us on a cliffhanger. Follow the link below to get a copy to find out what happens to Bianca.
“Riccardo called about a missing avian. Yeah, you have a description of her?”
Bianca didn’t open her eyes as the voice stirred her awake. The car jostled beneath her. Her seatbelt was fastened, and the heat still on, so she hadn’t been moved. The taxi driver spoke quietly, but she had better hearing than most humans. She swallowed hard and hid her trembling hands in her pockets.
“Uh huh, that’s what I thought. No, Riccardo told me to watch out for a kid around this area. Said she was of interest...said he’d pay good. Uh huh.” He shifted, and Bianca gave a little snore. “Yeah, looks like her. Yeah…yeah, okay, not far from the drop off point. Look, don’t get blood in my cab this time. Hard to explain that, okay? I’ll be there soon. Tell Riccardo he better have the money.”
Bianca’s heart pounded in her chest as she heard the call end. Dear Mother, they’d found her again. She thought she’d been careful this time! It had been days since the last encounter, and she’d even traveled to a different state.
She swallowed a lump in her throat, every muscle sparking with stress. She’d come this far; she refused to let herself be captured by a human taxi driver. Would running help? Or was it better to fight her way out? Why couldn’t she be a weredog or werecat? They were stronger than werebirds! But no, she had wings, not teeth.
At least avians had speed.
She cracked open an eye. Streetlights flickered past, and she could see townhouses and apartment complexes on the side of the road. Shops and eateries were few and far between.
Bianca reached slowly towards her seatbelt. She clicked it free then froze, waiting. But the driver said nothing. He played a quiet song on the radio, which would have lulled her back to sleep if her heart hadn’t been jackhammering in her chest.
The taxi’s brakes squeaked as they pulled up to a red light. Bianca counted to three, pulled the door handle, and shoved it open.
MK: What element of fantasy story telling is most unique to the genre?
EC: Worldbuilding is the most unique aspect of the genre. While all books need worldbuilding, fantasy you start from scratch and work your way up. You create the world, government, magic systems, an ecosystem, along with characters and a plotline. Many readers tend not to understand how much goes into worldbuilding. Think of an iceberg. The top of the iceberg is what readers see. Everything beneath it, the giant cluster of ice, that is what writers create in order to complete the book.
MK: As a fantasy writer, how do you dig into a story and create something all readers can enjoy?
EC: To create something everyone will enjoy I ask myself, what would I like to read? If I do not like what I am reading, then neither will my readers. I listen to readers who comment on things they would like. My book may be fantasy, but there is romance, action, adventure, and mystery. I listen, learn, and give readers what they want while remaining true to my writing style.
MK: Why is it so important to read as much as you can in the genre you write for?
EC: In marketing terms, reading your genre helps you see what’s hot and what’s not. If an element keeps popping up, you can be sure people really like it. If it only shows up once or twice (like sparkling vampires), then it may be a dud and something you do not want to introduce into your book.
It is also good to see what is being published so you do not write the same thing as someone else. Your goal is to make your book unique while still providing some genre familiarity that will pull the readers in.
MK: Share a zany memory of a time you were inspired to create a story from something very ordinary.
EC: I was inspired to write my medieval trilogy from a dream. All I remember was a character named Min, she is an anti-hero and needed to fight against dark forces, monsters, and a giant tub of popcorn. I woke up and thought, “Hey, that sounds like a good book!” I spent about four years researching and writing it. One dream turned into three novels.
MK: Are we allowed to know if the tub of popcorn is a plot point?
EC: Read the trilogy to find out!
MK: You have a helpful and at times, personal, component to your blog about writer self-care. How important is it for people to aware and in charge of their own journey?
EC: Very important. Self-care is something people do not take seriously. My goal is to help writers realize they need to mind their mental and physical health before they break down. I am not shy when it comes to discussing depression and anxiety because I understand it. Mental health is a taboo topic in our culture, and I believe the more people talk about it, the more we, as a country, might do something about it.
Plus, we all need to know we are not alone. Writing is a personal journey, but there is no shame in reaching out to others for help. That is what the writing community is for. We all have stories to tell, but we have to take care of ourselves while we do it.
MK: As a manager at the Iowa Writers’ House, you meet many budding and struggling writers. How do you encourage writers in a rut?
EC: I tell every struggling writer I meet, “You are not alone.” Sometimes that is all someone needs to hear. If writer’s block is at fault, then I offer tips on how to break out of it. I blog to help people, whether just starting or experienced authors. Sometimes we have to take it back to the basics, even if that means writing a stream of consciousness for five minutes on a piece of paper. Sometimes, if a writer is really stuck then I will pick their mind. By asking them questions about their book they get past the sticking point and move the story along.
MK: What can authors and writers learn from each other?
EC: I am part of the #writingcommunity on Twitter, and people are constantly sharing both their failures and successes. We learn about marketing strategies, trending themes in books, where to find editors, agents, and publishers. While the internet houses a plethora of information, I feel you can learn even more by talking to fellow writers and authors. One of my author friends, Brian K. Morris, views the writing community as a rising tide. If we work together, then we rise together.
MK: Thank you so much, Erin! It was great to bring you onto the website and talk about all the fun writers have. We all are looking forward to the release of Wolf Pit this winter. Listed below are a few of Erin’s favorite reads and some of her own work. Her most recent project, Free Women of the Wild, is a collaboration anthology.
Erin graduated from Cornell College in 2009 with degrees in English and Secondary Education. She attended the Denver Publishing Institute in 2009. She released her first book, The Purple Door District, in December 2018.
Today, she applies both degrees by leading writing sessions at the Iowa Writers' House and The Writers' Rooms. She is the Communications and Student Relationships Manager at The Iowa Writers' House and one of two Directors of The Writers' Rooms.
She writes children's poetry and stories for Whimsical Whiskers. She is a devoted bird mom. You can enjoy feathered family pictures on her Instagram page, @erincaseyauthor.