At New 32 we love shining a light on other artists. This blog post is second in our series Indie Artist Spotlights, where we highlight one independent artist that we really admire. Up first, it’s Anya Leigh Josephs, author of Queen of All.
First, tell us a little about yourself!
I was born in Massachusetts, grew up in North Carolina, and now live and work in NYC. I’m a psychotherapist, focusing on treating eating disorders and supporting neurodiverse and LGBTQ people. I write all kinds of speculative fiction (and dabble in some other genres as well). When I’m not working, I’m usually reading, at the theatre, or with my kitty, Sycorax.
Next we’d love to hear about Queen of All. What should people know about your book?
Queen of All is my debut novel. It’s inspired by the adventure-focused fantasy novels I loved growing up, but with a more diverse cast of characters, including a plus-sized, lesbian protagonist. I started writing Queen of All when I was just a kid–somewhere in the ten to twelve range–and it’s been with me most of my life. It’s still wild to see it out in the world!
Everyone who writes books (or creates art of any kind) has their own unique process; what is yours? Does it differ from book to book or do you have something that works for you across projects?
I wish I had more of a process! Mine looks roughly like “have idea, write furiously, get bored, set aside, pick back up, write more, edit some, check to see if it’s any good.” And definitely very different from one project to the next.
What inspires you? Not just what inspired Queen of All; what inspires you as a creator?
What inspires me is gaps in what exists already. When I’m reading something and it feels like it leaves unanswered questions, or the themes aren’t explored, or there are side characters that are interesting, that’s usually where I start thinking of my own ideas. I can go anywhere from there, but it’s really that sense of both interest and frustration that I usually jump off from!
Everyone who creates art wants something different from it; what were your goals with writing and publishing Queen of All?
I had very different goals for the writing and for the publishing. As a writer, my goal was just to get the story out of my head, to feel like it was finished and I could see the shape of it on the page. But publishing it, that I did with the hopes that it would help readers feel represented by this story.
You have a second book coming out this year, the sequel to Queen of All. What has it been like creating a sequel to a project you’ve been working on for so long?
Really hard! Which is why it had to get pushed back from the original October release date. I knew the shape of the whole series from early on in the writing process, but it’s definitely hard to jump into book two. Book two is also much darker, so navigating that change of tone is interesting.
Queen of All is full of really complex, compelling characters, but my favorite is Jena. She isn’t your typical protagonist in many ways, but she’s a smart, richly crafted character who advances the story in her own unique way. What’s your advice for creating compelling characters?
I try to think of my characters as real people as much as I can. Not so much in that they’re based on real people, but thinking about the ways we get to know people in real life. How do they speak? How do they act? How do they change when they’re around different groups of people? How do they conceive of themselves? I really don’t think about making them compelling, so much as making them real, but I find people’s inner lives super compelling no matter what, and hopefully that comes through in my characters.
With fantasy, you don’t just have to create a strong plot, you have to build out an entire world. What inspired the world of Queen of All, and how did you go about building it?
Worldbuilding is definitely the part of the process where I’m most deliberate. I generally come up with the “rules” and history of the world before I begin, let alone complete, a draft. The world of Queen of All is definitely inspired by the big fantasy worlds in my favorite books, but also by the very ancient history of our own world. A lot of the social worldbuilding, especially in book two, is based on Jewish culture and myth.
What are the benefits of being an indie creator, from your perspective? What are the hard parts?
The biggest benefit is ownership over your own work, for sure. I work with a very small publisher, and so I have much more creative control over my project. It’s also a lot more accessible to me to be on my own schedule (e.g., having to push a release back!) The hardest thing is a lack of marketing and, for publishing in particular, distribution support. But I think that’s the case for many creatives, regardless of their career path!
The best moment for me was when I saw my book in a local bookstore for the first time. It was a moment I’d dreamed about for, quite literally, almost my entire life. It was surreal, and such an undeniable marker of success towards my goals.
What’s your best advice for creatives, especially indie creators?
Focus on building your community as much as possible. One of the best parts of this process is the people I’ve met along the way, particularly other writers just starting out. This support is invaluable, practically and emotionally, throughout what will be a difficult process no matter how well it goes!
Where can people find you online, and most importantly, where can they buy your book?
I’m on twitter @anya_writes (though not much, these days), on instagram @anya_leigh, and on facebook /anyaleighjosephs. My book is available wherever books are sold! I highly recommend ordering through your local independent bookstore or your local library–they can order it in if it’s not in stock, or you can find it on Bookshop. You can also find it on Amazon here.