This week, I have the privilege of interviewing author S.D. Simper (author of the Sea and Stars Trilogy and the Fallen Gods series). Simper is a full time author residing in Arizona. In addition to writing, music is a big talent of hers. She can sing and play the piano. Fun fact: though Simper enjoys horrifying things and reading horror books she rarely watches horror movies — she says they spook her! To learn more about Simper and her writing, read our full interview below!
Q) How long have you been writing?
A) I started writing My First Fantasy Novel (TM) at about 12, because all my friends at school were writing books so I wanted to, also. But my mom always encouraged me when I was really little — like 3 or 4 — to tell her stories, and she would write down what I said.
Q) Why do you write?
A) Writing is both an obsession and therapeutic. I wrote Fallen Gods during one of the absolute worst years of my life because it was something for my mind to cling to that wasn’t reality.
Q) What is your favorite genre to read? To write?
A) I’ve always been a huge high fantasy reader, but I’ve also read a lot of classics (and consequentially have a lot of opinions on which classics are great and which are just terrible). As a kid, I’d read novelizations of video games — most notably Warcraft. I would say I enjoy writing high fantasy the most, but I absolutely live for the romantic bits.
Q) What is your favorite book and why?
A) My favorite book is Hannibal by Thomas Harris, the sequel to Silence of the Lambs. The movie adaptation is terrible (which is sad because the movie adaptation of Silence of the Lambs is flawless), so if you’ve seen that, the book is infinitely better (also they straight up change the ending, which completely destroys the themes). Aside from my innate love of horror books, Hannibal was the first book I’d ever read that offered an ending that was uncomfortable, abhorrent, yet unquestionably, disconcertingly perfect. I loved it, even though I didn’t know if I was allowed to/supposed to love it. It change my entire worldview on storytelling. Years later, it influenced my approach to The Sting of Victory in all the best and worst ways.
Q) Which of your books is your favorite and why?
A) I think my favorite book is Among Gods and Monsters, which is the second book in the Fallen Gods series. I love the feeling of it. I love the themes. I love the final result after what was honestly a trash heap of a rough draft. The Sting of Victory ends in such a way that Among Gods and Monsters is a different style of book than its predecessor, and I was worried that people wouldn’t like it. Consequentially, I put my entire heart and soul into making certain it was an interesting, fun, and a worthy successor. People liked it BETTER, which I’m so relieved by. I stress about every book, but I think that one kept me up at night more than any other.
I’d like to juxtapose this with my least pleasant writing experience, which was Blood of the Moon. I’m actually incredibly happy with it. The issue was with me. The book is depressing, and I was depressed. It had set in after the Among Gods and Monsters high, and it was a struggle and a war to get anything done. You’ll note, a year passed before I published anything else (which isn’t normal for me and my writing speed) because I was so sick during and after. In many ways, Sea and Stars was a comeback. Now that I’ve had that boost, I can finish Fallen Gods 4 (which, while darker than any of its predecessors, isn’t as heavy. It’s nearly cute.).
Q) Who is your favorite author and why?
A) It’s difficult to say who my favorite author is. I will say the author who has been the most impactful is Sarah Diemer — when I read her probably most famous work, The Dark Wife, I told myself if I could ever write like her, I will have made it.
Q) What inspired The Sea and Stars Trilogy? What was your purpose for writing the series?
A) The framework of Sea and Stars came about from my wife and I story-ing at each other (we do that) about mermaids in the greater Fallen Gods-verse (since they take place in the same world, just 1000 years apart). That, combined with the purposeful subversion of the classic ‘mermaid saves royal from drowning’ trope (you’ll note how well that goes…), became The Fate of Stars. I started writing it back in the winter of 2018. It was only going to be a standalone novel, but I couldn’t for the life of me decide how to end it. I stewed on it for weeks before it occurred to me that I couldn’t end it because it wasn’t supposed to end yet. Thus, books 2 and 3 were born.
I often pull from real life legends and mythology to inspire my worlds, and while Solviran culture was already established because of Fallen Gods, I had the chance to delve more into the kingdom of Moratham, which had been a somewhat shadowy entity and hadn’t played a big part in Fallen Gods. It was an exercise in restraint in many ways — anyone who’s read The Fate of Stars knows that Morathan culture holds parallels to fundamentalist religions in our world, which I have a personal bone to pick with, but it’s my job as the author to give them depth and grace, nevertheless. But building on that, the repressive religion of my own youth became the backdrop for creating a god and a culture that would stand at odds to our protagonists.
I don’t know if I set out with a purpose, but many of the experiences reflected in the narrative are reminiscent of my own. All my stories have a personal meaning to me, but none so much as The Fate of Stars.
Q) What is your favorite story of mythology?
A) Literally every story in the Edda is filled with absolute edgelords. The gods don’t want to pay some dude building a wall around Asgard? Clearly the answer is to have Loki turn himself into a lady horse and lure the guy’s own giant horse away. Odin wants wisdom? He’s just gonna gouge out his eye and nail himself to the world tree. My favorite, though, is probably the time Thor loses his hammer to a giant, who will only return it in exchange for the Goddess Freya’s hand in marriage. The solution, of course, is for Loki to dress Thor as Freya (using a veil to cover his scruffy beard), have him marry the giant, and once his hammer is returned, kill everyone in the wedding party.
Q) Can you tell us about the Fallen Gods series?
A) The Fallen Gods series is my (very very) dark fantasy story about a witch named Flowridia who falls in love with a very evil woman named Ayla. The series holds several parallels to the classic Orpheus and Eurydice, aka journeying to hell to save the one you love, the trials therein, etc. The issue is that hell is metaphorical in this case — this is a villainous descent story. There’s a greater framework around it in the way high fantasy usually has (dragons and gods and monsters and kingdoms and necromancers, and and and …), but at its core it’s a dark and twisted love story.
As I mentioned before, it takes place in the same universe as Sea and Stars, but 1000 years has passed and the world is different, most notably the roles of the Goddesses of Solvira. There are some reoccurring characters, however — most notably General Khastra of Solvira. There’s also another daughter of Staella running around, who plays a significant part in the story.
Q) Can you tell us about your current WIP?
A) My next/current project is Fallen Gods 4, Tear the World Apart! I’m aiming to have it released in fall of this year. Anyone who’s read books 1-3 know that a couple pretty earth-shattering things occurred at the end of Blood of the Moon, and trust me when I say navigating the new world is a whole lot of horror-filled fun. I shouldn’t say much, but let me reassure anyone who’s been waiting for the return of a certain someone that you will not be disappointed.
Q) Can you tell us about your hope and vision for your writing?
A) I’m honestly amazed every day that people….care? My vision is to continue growing my fanbase and have a small community to escape the real world with.
Q) What advice do you have for other authors?
A) Keep practicing! Keep moving forward! Virtually no one is born with a talent for spinning words together, but pretty much anyone can develop it. Learn how to accept criticism. Befriend other writers of your skill level and do beta reading swaps. If you find an effective beta reader, love and cherish them. They’re hard to come by.
Also! Literally no matter what you do, what you write, how much of your heart and soul you put into it, someone will hate it. This is unavoidable. I would recommend digesting this well in advance. Someone will hate your story. Stories are art, and art is subjective. The key to mitigating this kind of psychological/emotional damage is marketing. Know who your audience actually is. Learn how to speak to them. If your book is good, it will find readers. But you can avoid a lot of needless bad reviews by being upfront with the content and metaphorically yelling in the right directions. This is a vital skill to develop, if only for the reason listed above, and I cringe any time I see people whining about it.
Q) What advice do you have for readers struggling with their sexual identity?
A) Be safe, be smart, and accept that figuring out who you are is instant for some and takes time for others. Art and literature is a great way to explore who you are in a safe environment, whether by creating or consuming. Being gay isn’t a sin, but being an asshole is. Focus on being a good and authentic person.
Q) What advice do you have for readers who have accepted their sexual identity but are struggling with sharing that part of themselves with their friends and family?
A) This may be unconventional wisdom, but hear me out: be willing to play the long game in regards to coming out. This advice is more for people (especially underaged people) who come from families who may not accept them, like I did. Are your parents/family/community going to completely ostracize you if you come out? Then wait until you’re not living at home. Wait until you’re financially stable. This isn’t an option for everyone, but if you know in your heart that you’ll be on the streets if your mom or dad finds out about your secret girlfriend — I’m giving you permission to not tell them. The person with the most power in any kind of relationship is the one most willing to walk away, so set yourself up so you don’t need them. Being out and proud is the goal, but don’t get swept up in the idea that you need to be out now if it will ruin your life. My now-wife waited until we’d been dating for three years and lived in Alaska before coming out to her family, and it forced any of the bigoted members of her family to still treat her with respect because they had NO power over her. I wish I’d waited longer to be out, because I told a small circle but ended up outed to the rest well before I was emotionally ready to handle it. It had serious consequences, many of which I’m still grappling with. I’ve had to set some pretty hard boundaries against some of my extended family members in order to protect myself, my wife, and my happiness.
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Order the Sea and Stars Trilogy today!
Order the Fallen Gods series today!