An interview with fantasy author Adele Cosgrove-Bray.
I’m a writer and artist. My writing has been published traditionally in magazines and anthologies, and I have also explored self-publishing in paperback and digital forms, and recently I’ve been experimenting with video.
I paint in oils and watercolour, and have been sketching in my local park for the last 5 years. In my twenties, I went to art school in Liverpool and much more recently – before Covid – was a regular member of a life drawing group in Oxton.
Tell us something about your books, including your genre and your characters and/or themes.
The Artisan-Sorcerer series of urban fantasy novels and short stories follows the lives of a small group of artists and crafts-workers who share a communal home in Liverpool. They hold down jobs and make paintings and various handicrafts for sale, but they’re also members of a secretive, international magical order. This is a large part of their lives, and it has its benefits but also dangers as priorities and power-struggles bring conflict.
Tamsin is the main character of the first novel, and she becomes involved with the Artisan-Sorcerers thanks to her boyfriend, Fabian. Through her eyes, readers learn something of the magical side of the community, and also its negative side. The positive side is revealed in the second novel, when Rowan is given protection by an enigmatic art dealer named Morgan.
While Morgan plays an important part throughout the books, the real centre of the series is Bethany Rose. Hers is a gradual story of self-discovery, and the third novel follows her life-story and describes the love between Bethany and Morgan, and the huge difficulties which they have had to overcome.
The fourth novel focusses on Fabian, and his own journey within the order. He has major choices to make, and some of his decisions clash with Bethany’s view of the order’s philosophy. This novel also brings forward territorial conflict between the Artisan-Sorcerers, the River Dee selkies, and the prince of the Caldy fae, which will spill over into the fifth novel, which will be the finale of the series.
Where are you based?
I live on the Wirral peninsula in England, in a house built in 1897. When we bought it in 2005, the bay windows at the front were on the point immanent collapse. That whole section had to be radically but invisibly rebuilt. Renovation is on-going, but I’m determined to retain as much of the original architectural character as possible. At the moment I’m part-way through painting two enormous built-in pantry cupboards.
Wirral is a lovely area, with various small towns and villages. Off the coast of West Kirby lie three little islands, Little Eye, Middle Eye and Hilbre, which feature in some of my stories. There are several old woodlands to explore, and there’s water on three sides of the peninsula – the River Dee, the River Mersey, and the Irish Sea. It’s also home to two fabulous art galleries, the Williamson and the Lady Lever, which I’m very fond of.
What are you currently working on?
I’m currently writing the fifth novel in the Artisan-Sorcerer series, which continues Bethany Rose’s personal journey. There are major plot twists and surprises in this book, but obviously I’m not going to give anything away now.
This book’s actually overdue. I disliked what I’d written so I set the manuscript aside for quite a time then came back to it with fresh eyes, edited out 25,000 words – I kid you not – and now I’m back writing it again. It should be ready by late summer 2022.
What inspires you to write?
Ancient folklore has always been a source of inspiration for me, particularly Celtic folklore and the Arthurian Cycle. But I’ve been telling stories to entertain myself since childhood, when my sister Hazel and I created several on-going, multi-character role-playing games, long before we’d ever even heard of RPGs.
When and why did you get into writing fantasy?
I joined Leigh Writers Workshop when in my teens; my first poem, based on folklore, was published when I was 17. I freelanced as a columnist in my twenties for a New Age magazine, and began writing my first novel which was based around the legends of the Tuatha de Danaan. That novel’s still languishing in a drawer, which is where it will remain – like most first novels!
Not long after the millennium, I took a computer course to learn about this new-fangled internet thingy which everyone was excitedly talking about, and quickly discovered online RPGs which I got heavily involved with for a few years. Following encouragement from several fellow players, I began writing my own, original works and also joined Riverside Writers, whose members were a huge help in bringing my writing on through constructive criticism.
Who are your favourite fantasy writers/ fantasy authors?
Anne Rice’s early Vampire Chronicles are still among my favourites, but I also enjoyed Kelley Armstrong’s werewolf series and liked the subtle humour in Charlaine Harris’s vampire novels. I’m one of those people who think the “Lord of the Rings” films were more fun than the, to me, long-winded novels, but the breadth of imagination shown by Tolkien is a delight.
What’s going on in the next few months? Anything on the horizon?
Well, hopefully I’ll finish decorating our dining room; I mentioned the pantry cupboards, but the doors and picture rail need painting too.
What kind of books did you read that contributed to your upbringing, as far as fantasy and science-fiction?
My brother Eric is largely responsible for introducing me to Sci-fi and fantasy when I was a child, by encouraging Hazel and myself to read his collection of Harry Harrison’s “Stainless Steel Rat” series, and also Richard Bach’s books. Eric and Hazel are published writers, too.
When I was around 12 or 13, I’d had an awful dose of flu and had reached the stage where you’re starting to feel better but are still too ill to do much, and I spotted a Dennis Wheatley novel amongst my parents paperbacks. His work seems rather dated now, but it started an interest in occult and metaphysical fiction, and current favourites of this type remain Will Garver’s “Brother of the Third Degree”, “Zanoni” by Edward Bulwer Lytton, and anything by Herman Hesse, especially “Siddhartha” and “The Glass Bead Game”.
Do you have a process, do you plan or do you fly by the seat of your pants?
This depends on what I’m writing. With short fiction, I’ll begin with an idea and just start writing. I really enjoy short fiction, and recently have been experimenting with extremely short pieces of just 500 words, which can be a lot of fun.
With a novel, previously I’ve penned a loose guideline, just jotting down the main points such as big events and how the story is to finish. With the fifth Artisan-Sorcerer novel, which I’m currently writing, I needed a more solid outline to ensure all loose ends were tied up, and to drive the plot where I need it to go.
Have your previous vocations influenced your writing?
My main characters in the Artisan-Sorcerer series are artists and crafts-workers, and I paint and have done needlecrafts, and I worked in a pottery for a couple of years and went on to study pottery at college.
As far as writing goes, what do you use? Software, Apps, Hardware etc?
Nothing fancy – just Word. And lots of cups of tea.
Do you do a lot of research for each book? If so how do you conduct your research?
For “Bethany Rose”, I had to do a fair amount of research for Bethany’s journey to Knoydart and her life there, in this very remote part of western Scotland. I used the internet extensively for this, maps and aerial photos, YouTube videos showing Knoydart, which is an extraordinarily rugged and beautiful place. I had to read up on crofting and diversification in rural businesses.
For “Tamsin”, one of the characters in that, Lily, describes meeting a real-life person, Philip Ross Nichols who was the previous Chosen Chief of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD). I needed to ensure the description was accurate, and so I wrote to the current Chosen Chief, Philip Carr-Gomm and he not only kindly confirmed the details but included the relevant extract in his own book, “Journeys of The Soul”, published by Oak tree Press on 2010.
Most of the Artisan-Sorcerer series is based in Liverpool and Wirral, and while I’m not from either area originally I’ve lived here for decades, so research wasn’t needed for that.
Do you prefer to write in silence and or have some sort of sound in the background?
Music drives me to distraction when I’m writing, and yet I love having music on when I’m painting. I mostly listen to classical and jazz, but I’ve been into David Bowie’s music since the dawn of time, and other favourites include Kate Bush, Marillion, and Suede.
Publishing (formatting, cover design, formats, marketing)
Marketing is something I’m still learning; it’s not something that I’m naturally good at, but it is a vital part of any form of self-employment. Creating a product is only part of the process; getting people to pay attention to that product is something else.
With the internet and social media, so much is available to people for free already, and we can all travel from post to post with the minimum of effort – and yet is there anything more tedious than someone who keeps posting about their wonderful book/painting/thing-for-sale? People want entertainment, not another advert. And so you have to learn how to interest people in you yourself, not just the item you’re trying to sell. You have to make a connection with your audience, to give people a reason to want to more.
I create the front covers myself, using my art and design skills picked up at art school. But I’ve also researched book covers, learning what works and what doesn’t. I’m not sure if I’ve perfected the skill yet. But it’s the cover which first catches any person’s interest in a book….
Will your next book be traditional or indie published?
The Artisan-Sorcerer series is self-published. I’ve had traditionally published works before, and still had to do most of the marketing and promotion myself anyway, and years ago I had number of short stories published by Amazon Shorts who put horrible covers on them – really boring, bland covers – and so I felt that I might as well have total control over the product. At least then, if I mess things up, it’s no one’s fault but mine!
Would you recommend self-publishing to aspiring authors, or would you suggest a more traditional path?
I’d say it depends on what is on offer. I’ve been published traditionally in magazines and anthologies for decades now. The problem with magazines is that they can vanish, and especially with online publications you’ve often no way of knowing how many people are likely to read it anyway. On the other hand, every writer needs to widen their audience hence the benefit of being published in various magazines.
What I suggest, and you’re all welcome to disagree, is to traditionally publish short stories and then, once the copyright has reverted to you in accordance with the contract, create an anthology of your own work and self-publish that. Most editors want new material and so re-selling a used story to a magazine can be very difficult, but if you offer a body of work in an anthology and list where the stories were previously published this can lend some useful gravitas.
With regard to novels, it’s up to you. I recommend that you study any contract carefully, to be clear on exactly what is on offer, how much promotion the publisher is willing to pay for, and how much you’ll be expected to do yourself.
A lot of aspiring authors have misguided ideas about how the publishing industry actually works, and many imagine they’ll earn far more money than they actually will. For every JK Rowling or Stephen King, there are millions of good, traditionally published authors who also hold down conventional day jobs. I remember being genuinely shocked to discover that one of my favourite writers was also a postman.
What do you do pre and post-release to help get your books noticed?
I do interviews like this one! 🙂
I’ve also been experimenting with YouTube, making videos of me reading some of my short stories. It’s early days yet, but it will be interesting to see how it works out.
Do you read digital, paperback or hardback or do you listen to audiobooks?
I haven’t taken to digital e-readers. Maybe that will change in time if they’re shown to be more environmentally friendly than paperbacks. I mean, books use paper = cutting down trees, but electronic gadgets use precious metals and plastics, and you have to keep re-charging them, so are they really any better? I don’t know.
I can’t abide audio books. The sound effects drive me nuts, as they’re so intrusive they seem to almost swamp the dialogue. Each to our own.
What are some encouraging words you’d give to another author/writer?
Typically, writers are told to pen 1000 words a day, as a minimum. That’s fine if you don’t also have a full-time job, kids, partner, elderly people to care for, dog to walk, and – heaven forbid – other interests. Some people get around it by writing on their daily commute, or rising an hour earlier each day – though one writer I know, who’s a farmer, told me if they rose any earlier than they did already it’d be pointless going to bed in the first place.
If your circumstances mean that writing 1000 words per day is out of reach, then lower the bar. Make it 500 words a day, or 200. Set an easily achievable goal, achieve that, and keep writing, rather than set the bar too high then fail over and over to meet it, then mentally beat yourself up for not being productive enough. Do what you realistically can, in accordance with your circumstances.
And if you’re writing purely for fun or self-expression, none of that matters anyway.
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