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Author Highlight: Sydney Hawthorn

Sydney was one of the very first authors I befriended on Instagram when I started my writing career journey in earnest two years ago. I'm SO stinking excited to interview her now that she's officially published her debut fantasy novel--Awakening Shadows, book 1 of The Navarre Chronicles! ❤️

According to Sydney, she never leaves the house without a pen and a notebook for any random sparks of creativity or unplanned adventures. In her free time, she enjoys singing like nobody is watching, dancing in the rain, and pretending she’s good at drawing even though she knows she’s not.

How did you come up with the story concept for Awakening Shadows?

A. So Awakening Shadows actually started (as much as I hate to admit it) as a Harry Potter wanna be. I was extremely bullied as a kid, and so I created this magical world where my imaginary friend was also bullied and sent to a magical school to learn how to control his power after getting accused of murder by his bullies. Needless to say, it was a hot mess and it’s come a long time since then! But that was where the original concept came from, wanting to write something where the innocent found their voice and learned to be brave and stand up for themselves and what was right despite the odds.

What do you love about writing Fantasy? What do you hate (or maybe just dislike) about it?

A: I adore world building and character development. I love creating the small insignificant seeming details that brighten the story and the character’s surroundings. I adore giving the characters ticks and backstory that influences the people they’ve become and flushing out the descriptions of the world itself. Being a fantasy author, this is definitely one of the most exciting parts! As far as hate, I’m honestly not sure I hate anything! I feel like most might say editing here, but I actually like editing. Maybe cutting down detail or completely cutting scenes, because I love that part of the writing process so much. I’m also much more of a writing fan than a drafting fan, I have a love-hate relationship with drafting.

When it comes to world-building do you have any particular tricks or techniques?

A: One of my biggest tips for world building is not being afraid to make things your own! It’s so important to remember this because as writers we don’t want to just be copying other people’s ideas. As far as tricks, I hate to admit I have a habit of turning to the Pinterest rabbit hole. I’ll collect different ideas and concepts for clothing and characters and then figure out the best way to fit them into the story. I also think knowing your characters and settings on a deep level when you world build is vital. It not only helps you understand what things like architecture and geography look like, but what sorts of things characters will wear or how they’ll act in those places. Character development and world building, in my opinion, correlate much more than people seem to think!

What was the most difficult part of the publishing process for you?

A: Formatting. Not just formatting the document but setting up the steps to publication through KDP and IngramSpark as well. I am not a tech savvy person at all when it comes to that side of things. I had huge issues with not understanding things while setting up preorders and I’m just hoping that gets better the more I publish!! But overall formatting was definitely the most difficult part for me.

What does your writing space look like?

A: Honestly, it kind of depends! I have an office, which I try to sit at as much as possible, but I get fidgety. So I often will switch it up by laying on the floor, moving to the couch or the table just for a change of scenery or positioning. But my main space is my office desk, and I finally have it set up pretty close to how I want it!

What are your tricks for juggling writing while maintaining a personal life?

A: Time management. I know this is easier said than done, and time management has always been something I’m relatively good at. Especially now, I’ve been so exhausted from work that finding the energy to devote to the time management like I need to has been especially tricky for me. But I’m big on lists and timers. So if that means I don’t write on a particular day because my energy after work is lacking, then I just make sure to try and write or work on social media interactions a little more the next day! But I try to be diligent about sticking to my weekly goals.

What's the best piece of advice you've received about writing?

A: I have two for this. “You can’t edit a blank page” has always been a big one for me, especially when I’m doubting myself. But I’d also say “do not compare yourself and your process to others” is another extremely important one to me! I’ve never been super confident, so reminding myself that everyone is different and what works for one person might now work for me has always helped me move forward!

What is the best book you’ve read recently?

A: Ooooof. Well, I’ve been trying to read a lot more this year, since it’s not something I’ve been particularly good at over the past few years. But the first book I read this year (I started it when it came out, but I finished it early January) was Darkwind by Renee Dugan and it was absolutely amazing. I also read the Monsters of Verity duology by V.E.Schwab this year as well as the Folks of Air trilogy and I loved them!!

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