Author Spotlight With Angela Wren Crocker
Delve into the reasons and inspirations behind Angela's writing.
Angela Wren Crocker has been writing fantasy and speculative fiction since 2006. Weaving folklore and lyrical prose with adventure and romance, her novels entertain and delight readers all over the world. When she’s not writing, you can find her reading and editing, hiking in the mountains, weeding the garden, restoring their century-old bungalow with husband Jeremy, or geeking-out with her son Will.
Angela! Hello! How excited am I to have you here? I think you can tell how much I enjoyed your book after me practically screaming at you in your Instagram DM's wondering if there is a next book! 'Firekind' I found to be so unique, you say you have been writing a fairly long time now, what inspires you to write this type of genre?
Hi Aimee! Thank you for featuring me!
I think childhood reading primed me to be a fantasy writer. As a kid/teenager, loving fantasy wasn’t really a conscious choice, it just made a home in my soul and never left. Even when I wasn’t reading a book, I was making up stories with creatures and situations that I would never encounter at school or in my neighborhood, like unicorns guarding me on my walk home or dragons living in tunnels in my backyard.
As an adult, that love is still there, although it has aged. I’m drawn to the beautiful, the abstract, the extraordinary, to the innumerable mysteries of the universe. The creative potential of fantasy is limitless, and that’s what keeps me coming back to it. I think the genre reflects ineffable truths and desires buried deep in every human heart.
For those who don't know your upcoming book 'Firekind' can you please tell the readers more about it?
Firekind is a mash-up of contemporary and mythic fantasy, kind of like Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone. It’s told from two perspectives, Poppy Paquin’s and Thom Magnusson’s, but it’s Poppy’s story at heart. There’s danger, adventure, intrigue, romance – the best kind of fantasy escape.
Here’s a summary: Because of a mysterious illness, Poppy has no memory of her childhood. But when a sinister creature tries to drag her into the Twin River, she discovers her new coworker, Thom, is entwined with these missing memories. Thrown together, they embark on a journey that leads them into Caelith – a realm ruled by elementals – where there’s more at stake than they could possibly imagine.
A mythical world, and an intense fantasy full of outlandish creatures. I loved the terminology you used, such as "Uther-erai" and Feys, Grens, Shadow-Beasts and much more, how did you come up with such brilliant names for these places/characters? I love folklore and mythology, so some of the names sprung subconsciously from those sources. Often, I would play around with different sounds and languages until I came up with something that felt right. I looked up a lot of Welsh, Gaelic, Icelandic, and Scandinavian words and phrases. I have an ancestral connection to these cultures, so I felt comfortable using them as inspiration.
I thought it would be a brilliant idea to create a map of some sort to include in this novel, as the place I envisioned while reading was magical, is something you think you probably could do in the future? There is a map in the print copy of Firekind (unfortunately the formatting isn’t great), and a tiny one in the eBook. I had a lot of fun envisioning Caelith and drawing the terrain. If there is ever a second edition, I’ll revise it and add even more detail. For readers, I’ll put the map in my Firekind Instagram stories. Who was your favourite author as a child, and who is it now? Just one? As a child: Bill Peet, Jean Craighead George. (We didn’t have Diana Wynne Jones in the US until later!) Teen: Robin McKinley. As an adult it would be Katherine Arden or Margaret Owen. (Don’t ask me to pick between them!) What do you find is the best thing to get you going to write a book, I know many authors have writer's block, what do you do to overcome this? If you believe in writer's block at all?
Writing inspiration comes from so many sources. Firekind was inspired by a place in a different city I used to go at night, and the what-if daydreams I spun while lingering there. A couple of my novels were inspired by dreams. I’ve daydreamed my entire life, and sometimes those stories just won’t let go until they’re written down.
Writer’s block is a real struggle! I think it happens for a variety of reasons – a vociferous inner critic, stress overload, depression, imposter syndrome, losing joy in creativity.
This is easier said than done, but here is my strategy for dealing with it:
1. I outline my stories so I know where I’m going next.
2. No shame in bad first drafts.
3. When I’m drafting, I set a manageable daily wordcount goal. Usually between 1000k-1500k
4. Mindfulness through journaling. Just write something, anything.
5. Rest and enjoy the little things. You can’t pour from an empty cup. If you could sit down with one author, who is alive or dead, who would it be and what is it that you would ask them?
Great question! Ursula Le Guin. I would ask her what habits (other than reading and writing) are essential to improving your craft. And how did she stay creative and energized, writing so beautifully for so many years?
In Firekind, so many of the characters had such various personalities, some of them conflicting with others, who would you say you relate to out of the characters the most, and were they based on anyone you know?
I relate to Poppy the most. I wanted to write an underrepresented heroine. In YA fantasy, there are an abundance of badass, snarky, self-assured female main characters, and they definitely have their place! But I wanted to write someone different – a character who was uncertain about herself (and honest about that in her inner dialogue), but who chose not to wilt under challenge, growing in the face of it. I also wanted to touch on issues Generation Z face: mental health, loneliness, the cost of higher education and healthcare, the challenge of finding your way in a world stacked against you. (Ironic for fantasy, I know )
I would say the characters in Firekind are a conglomeration of people experiences over the years, as well as other characters I’ve read/seen, often subconsciously. Recently, I rewatched the Jason Bourne movies and I was cracking up at all the similarities between Jason and Thom. It’s almost like I unconsciously wrote elements of Jason Bourne into a fantasy setting, which absolutely thrills me if I’m honest. Can you tell us something that readers may not know about you yet? I love art! I enjoy painting and drawing, and I fabricate Halloween costumes for my family. Last year I was Ahsoka Tano, my husband was The Mandalorian, and my son was Boba Fett. We’ve also been characters from Guardians of the Galaxy, Star Wars Rebels, How to Train your Dragon. Will (my son) selects the theme.
You ended this book on a cliff-hanger and I could of screamed my walls down because this book was so addictive, what are your next plans? Is this going to be a series?
I didn’t mean to do that! Firekind is the first book in a duology, and book 2 (Firedawn) releases in November 2022, so you won’t have to wait long! I also have a short story prequel entitled Sparks on Bookfunnel (free download for signing up for my email newsletter). The link is in my bio on Instagram.
I have two other books looking for publisher homes. The Beasts of Kindred Vale takes place in the region of Huldra, with a whole new cast of characters and themes. It is also YA fantasy, but without the contemporary setting, more elemental magic, and a love story that I’m crazy about.J The other is an adult dystopian novel that I’m still polishing. I’m planning on returning to another region of Caelith for my next novel, kind of like how Diana Wynne Jones’ worlds often interplay with each other.
If you could make 'Firekind' into a film, who would you choose to play the characters?
Fun question! I have thought and thought about this, and I just don’t think anyone is good enough to play Thom JK. Honestly, I hope Poppy and Thom take on a life of their own in readers’ minds. I want them to see my characters in a way that connects with them, so I hesitate to get too detailed. In fact, I’d love to poll readers about their choices!
But, secretly, I’d enjoy seeing Eleanor Tomlinson as Poppy and Michiel Huisman as Thom, although those actors are far too old to play them. I don’t watch enough TV and movies to know younger actors (except for Zendaya and Tom Holland. Love those two!).
You say you are restoring an old bungalow, you are also a wife, and a mother. How did you find the time to write this novel and how long would you say it took you to complete?
I started Firekind about 10 years ago. At the time, we were restoring a different house (we’re on house 4 now) and autism related care for my son took a lot of my time and energy. During this time, I spent about 5 years working on Firekind, mostly in revisions. I sat on the book for too long, because I was afraid to put my work out there. Firedawn was written and revised in about 9 months total.
If you could give some advice to anyone starting out what would you say to them?
Write because you love to tell stories. Write because you can’t find the book you want to read. Don’t be afraid to fall in love with your characters and ideas, because that’s what will get you through all the revisions, criticisms, and rejections.
Thank you so much for taking the time to take part in this interview. I am so excited for publication day, as I was one of the lucky ones to read it as an ARC. Good luck in the future, and I am grateful to be connected and following you! Take care!
To follow Angela on social media, or to get in touch : Instagram: @angelawrencrocker GoodReads: @Angelawren