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Author Interview: Lily Rooke

Do you enjoy Dark Fantasy? Have I got the series for you! Oliver Twist meets ASOIAF in the best possible way.

Join me today as I chat with Lily Rooke, author of the Bloodwitch series. The books are an LGBTQIA+ Dark Fantasy told from the point of view of Charlie Carroway, a survivor of child sexual abuse living with Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD).

100% of all proceeds from their books are donated to charities supporting trauma survivors.

A survivor of #adversechildhoodexperiences myself, it's wonderful partnering with such a talented and kind author.

Indies Today called The Dying Light:

An unflinching look at life lived from the bottom ... making for a dark fantasy like no other. If you enjoy a strong-willed protagonist with his back always against the wall, you'll love getting to know Charlie and his fledgling clan in The Dying Light.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Dying Light, as well as Rooke's additional works, The Swallows Flight (a prequel) and A Silent Night. (featuring Charlie and company in a modern alternate universe). You can read my reviews here.

I also had the privilege of serving as both a beta and ARC reader for the author's forthcoming sequel, We Become Shadows, releasing later this year. I loved seeing the progression of the characters as well as the lush world building readers are treated to in one of the new settings.

LQ: From where do you draw information or ideas for your books?

LR: I tend to combine personal psychological struggle with historical and contemporary conflicts that leave me seeking understanding and answers. Our world is so complex, but writing helps me unravel my feelings of helplessness. The Bloodwitch world was inspired by reimagining the Cold War, and draws on historical events such as the invasion and occupation of Western Europe in the 1940s. With The Dying Light, I wanted to explore the psychological impact of living in a militarized state, from the perspective of a character who had also survived their own personal trauma. Charlie himself came to me out of nowhere (I think while I was cleaning my teeth!) and I knew I had to write his story.

LQ: What is your writing process like? Are you more of a plotter or a pantser?

LR: Although I started off as an extreme plotter, I’ve found my process is loosening up with each book. I still find it helpful to prepare a fairly detailed outline, but my attitude is becoming more flexible. These days I would describe myself as a plantser or a discovery writer. The joy is in the journey!

LQ: Any hobbies or creative outlets outside of writing?

LR: As well as reading and journaling, I love to bake simple treats like cookies and fruit crumbles, although I’m fairly out of practice! I used to bake as a way of saying thank you for being invited into someone’s home, so that hobby has been put to rest these last couple of years.

LQ: Do you require any specific items in your writing space in order to stay focused? If so, what are they?

LR: An endless supply of herbal tea! I’ll listen to instrumental music such as film soundtracks or lo-fi playlists on Spotify, depending on whether I’m drafting or editing. I keep my writing notebook and Kindle in easy reach, but otherwise I like to keep my space clear.

LQ: What advice would you give to someone working on their first book?

LR: Get it written! Fight through the doubt, the fear, and complete your draft. Do your best, but don’t expect your first draft to be your final draft. Join a community and get involved at your own pace. Listen to advice but trust your own instinct. Connect with critique partners whose writing you admire. Understand this is the beginning of your creative journey, not the end. Be humble, but reach for the stars. Experiment with what works best for you. Fall in love with your characters and your story. Find your why.

LQ: What risks have you taken with your work that have paid off?

LR: In terms of creative risks, possibly choosing to write the series in the first place. Despite being told my work was unmarketable, I’ve headed straight to the market and found readers who are entirely invested in the characters and their journeys. Personally, I wanted We Become Shadows to be a story of recovery, and writing this story has felt like drawing poison from a wound. Professionally, reaching out to peers in the community still feels like taking a risk, but it’s always a consistently rewarding experience. Fear is a chance to grow.

LQ: Would you and your main character(s) get along?

LR: Vasco is so earnest and sincere, which makes me feel safe, so I would definitely want to be his best friend! I have a soft spot for gentle hearts under grumpy exteriors, so I would utterly adore Vasco. Based on his typical behaviour, I would probably feel quite intimidated by Charlie, although I think he would also pull my ‘protect him at all costs’ heartstrings. When I worked as a Special Educational Needs teacher, I felt particularly protective towards the boys who were typically described as ‘lost causes’, so I think I would do better as Charlie’s teacher than his friend.

LQ: If you could meet your characters, what would you say to them?

LR: I think most of my characters need to understand they’re not broken, and that it’s safe to trust the people who love you. I’d take Charlie shopping on a quiet morning for everything he needs, and let him choose everything in his own time, reassuring him all the while. I’d go to the spa with Vasco and probably encourage him to talk to a therapist. I’d give Saga lots of cuddles and more colouring pencils. I’d also thank them all for helping me so much in my recovery.

LQ: Are there any books or series you’ve read more than once in your life?

LR: As a teen I was constantly rereading Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman; Slaves of the Mastery by William Nicholson; and Silverwing by Kenneth Oppel. I would recommend these books to readers at any age! These days, I tend to reread for comfort, so I’ll typically reach for the All For The Game series by Nora Sakavic.

LQ: What are some must-read titles in your genre?

LR: I’m a proud genre-bending author, so there’ll be a bit of a mix in these recommendations! The Half Bad trilogy by Sally Green is brutal and unforgettable. I’d recommend the Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo for big found family feelings. The first three books in the Red Rising Saga by Pierce Brown are action-packed and powerful. For manga fans, I’d recommend Seraph of the End by Takaya Kagami and Banana Fish by Akimi Yoshida, both of which will truly hurt.

LQ: With regard to TBR, tell us your last/current/and next reads.

LR: My last read was The Kings of Nowhere by C. G. Drews (which I highly recommend for lovers of found family, and includes excellent autism rep). Right now I’m deep in the process of proofreading We Become Shadows in preparation for publication, so I’m prioritizing upcoming ARCs by date. I’m so excited to dive into all these worlds - and, of course, to leave a review to support the authors!

Want to read The Dying Light before the sequel's release? Grab your copy here.

You can also stay up-to-date with Lily by subscribing to their newsletter, or following them on Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok.

Special thanks again to Lily for participating in this interview. It's been a pleasure working with you and I can't wait for the world to find out what you have in store for Charlie next!

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