Cassandra Hamm is the winner of The Unicorn Writer’s first flash fiction contest! As such, I had the privilege of interviewing her. Cassandra is a librarian residing in Missouri. In her free time she enjoys reading, writing, building puzzles, playing strategy games (like Dominion and Carcassonne), and mothering her two kittens, Keefe and Chase.
A fun fact about Cassandra is that her pets serve as inspiration for her. She stated, “My pets are such an inspiration for me, particularly my kittens, Keefe and Chase, and my recently departed cat Holly. Keefe and Chase’s antics are the inspiration for much of the dragon Lime’s behavior, and Holly’s cantankerous, lovable weirdness shows up in another animal character, the pinecat Evergreen. Suffice it to say that I am a cat lady who may eventually end up with a Warrior Clan.”
Read the full interview below to learn more!
Q) How long have you been writing?
A) I’ve been writing as long as I can remember. I started out writing about my childhood pets and penning Warriors fanfiction, but I eventually realized that I preferred writing human MCs over animal MCs. I primarily wrote novels for most of my life, but three years ago, I started writing short stories and found I quite enjoyed them. I also have dabbled in poetry for most of my life and performed spoken word poetry in college.
Q) Why do you write?
A) I write because I want to touch people’s hearts and lives through my words. I used to be a very close-minded person who couldn’t understand perspectives outside her own, but reading helped expand my perspective and created empathy in me. I want to help foster empathy in others too. Plus, my characters’ stories are begging to be told. Honestly, I couldn’t imagine not writing. It’s as much a part of my life as breathing.
Q) What are your top three favorite books and why?
A) My three favorite books are Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, Neverseen by Shannon Messenger, and Of Witches and Wind by Shelby Bach. Six of Crows is a masterpiece—a twisty, intense plot; lovable, broken, morally gray characters; and a vivid, transportive world. I would die for the Keeper of the Lost Cities characters (particularly Keefe, hence my cat’s name), and I’m so impressed with Shannon Messenger’s ability to plot. (I need Sophie and Keefe to get together.) Of Witches and Wind (and the whole Ever Afters series) got me back into reading middle grade fiction. I love the character arcs and the delightful fairy tale mashups, and Rory and Chase are one of my favorite ships of all time.
Q) Describe yourself in three words.
A) I would say creative, anxious, and passionate.
Q) What song would be your life’s theme song?
A) I mostly listen to instrumental movie soundtracks and Broadway musicals, so this is a bit of a difficult question for me, but I would have to say “Watch What Happens” from the musical Newsies. It’s sung by a girl who’s one of the only women writers of her time. The lines about not knowing what or how to write and wishing the story would write itself are particularly relatable. Then, in the chorus, she sings about how her words have the power to change lives. What I write may seem insignificant to me at the time, but it really can have an impact. Not everything in this song is applicable to me, but it’s the best I can think of for a theme song.
Q) Who is someone who inspires you?
A) Mary Weber, author of the Storm Siren series (and more), is such an inspiration. She lives authentically and fearlessly and spends her time pouring into other people. She’s also an incredible writer who creates vivid worlds and amazing characters and powerful themes, like that of healthy empowerment. I absolutely adore in To Best the Boys how Rhen, a “career woman,” and her cousin Seleni, who wants to be a mom, are both validated and celebrated.
Q) Can you tell us about what stories/books you have currently available?
A) Though I don’t have any novels published yet, my short stories and poems are featured in nine anthologies. I’ll explain more about the Havok anthologies below, but the others are Warriors Against the Storm, Faces to the Sun, When Your Beauty is the Beast, The Depths We’ll Go To, and Aphotic Love (unreleased). Fantasy is my primary genre, but I have some science fiction and contemporary in there as well. I also have stories available in digital form through Havok Publishing.
Q) You have written flash fiction for Havok. Can you tell us about your Havok stories and how people can read them?
A) So far, Havok has published twenty-six of my 1000-word flash fiction stories. Another story (which actually involves my MG main character as a college student) will release in January. Havok’s stories are available to the public for one day; after that, only members have access. However, the membership is only five dollars a year. I’ve been published in all five Havok genres—fantasy, science fiction, comedy, thriller, and mystery. My stories range from emotional and gut-wrenching, like “Stealer of Secrets” and “The Candlemaker,” to hilariously strange, like “Secret Agent Lampshade” and “Mustard Maid,” and everything in between. Havok published six of my stories in their seasonal anthologies—Stories that Sing, Bingeworthy, Sensational, and Prismatic—and a seventh story, formerly published on Havok, is now available in the The Depths We’ll Go To, edited by Alex Silvius.
Q) Can you tell readers about any of your current writing projects?
A) I’m currently working on a middle grade urban fantasy novel about a boy who’s trying to get rid of the tiny dragon living under his bed. He ends up caring for the creature, but when he turns thirteen at the end of the school year, he’ll forget magical creatures ever existed. The winning story, “Dragons Will Melt Your Heart,” features the characters from my WIP. I’m keeping my young adult projects a little more under wraps, mainly because I’m still ironing out the ideas, but one of them involves pearl diving, sea serpents, and elemental magic.
Q) What goals do you have for your writing?
A) I would love to be published at one of the Big Five publishing houses someday. Whatever the case, I want to traditionally publish young adult and middle grade fantasy fiction that touches lives and hearts.
Q) What advice would you offer aspiring authors?
A) When people criticize your work, they are not criticizing you; they’re criticizing something you made. Your work might feel like an extension of yourself, but it’s not—it’s something that can and should always be improved. Learning to accept criticism was one of the best—and hardest—things I’ve ever had to learn as an author. I still struggle not to get discouraged when I receive negative feedback. What I do is process it for a few days before looking back at it with fresh eyes. Then I am emotionally ready to work on improving the story.
Q) Is there anything else you would like to add?
Thank you so much for choosing my fun MG story! Middle grade is a recent passion of mine, but it’s an important genre that can really encourage and shape its readers. I hope other people love Drew and Lime as much as you guys did.