Many generations have passed since the Guardians crafted the world of Nimestria, planted underneath the aurora of seven moons. Great power courted even greater enemies. It was a trumpet’s blow heralding the arrival of the Creator. Within the realm of Fracturis, a fleet-footed rogue named Frayle and his best friend Relek journey west when they’re set upon by a man vehemently riding a Behemoth. After a narrow escape, the two continue their route to seek guidance away from a roving band of beings called Savages. The Church before them lies in ruin, but this only belies the true mystery. After unspeakable events unfold before his eyes, Frayle is thrust twenty years in the past to right the wrongs of his splintered time. Wandering the thin lines of fragmented memories, a Time-Jumper named Nova Avery whisks Frayle through the windows of the Phantasm and together they unearth the mystery of the Guardians and the origins of the Creator in the first installment of the series.
Today I’ve had the opportunity to chat with Shakyra Dunn, author ‘The One Left Behind: Magic’, the first novel in the ‘The One Left Behind’ series. Shakyra, I’d like to start today’s conversation discussing how this story started. Can you give us some more details on its origins?
The story of The One Left Behind series was actually shaped by thoughts of life and reincarnation. I began the original story about a month after my mother passed away suddenly and I enrolled in college. Back then, the story was much different and felt too… unlike my tastes for a fantasy novel. So I ended up scrapping it. I took time away from the novel for a year and practiced some writing with two of my closest friends, and funny enough, it was Final Fantasy fanfiction. We had a blast, and I learned many skills that I couldn’t have honed otherwise if not for them. Today, I’ve brandished a formidable fantasy story of my own. And I hope that you all enjoy it. I know that I’ve begun something incredible in my head despite it being the first book, and I hope that you get to know the characters well. They sure wouldn’t stop screaming in my head until things went well for them.
How did your screaming characters evolve?
I spent years honing the ability to craft stronger characters, as I’ve always been a fan of characters that can carry themselves in a plot without being swept away. I try to keep a part of myself in every character that I create, whether it is appearance wise or a small part of my thinking, or even a personality trait. For instance, I see myself most in one of the main characters, Nova, because at the time of her creation and revamping, I found myself to be lonely and seeking out how to grow to become a better person after the turmoils that took place. Even now, I’m searching, just as she is. In another character, Analys, I see the insecure child that I was growing up.
Did you find the individual character development rewarding?
Yes, seeing my characters evolve right in front of me was the most rewarding thing, especially given how simple they were when they were first introduced in the original concept.
Since you’ve acknowledged your characters are parts of yourself, did you find that you had strong connections to any particular ones?
I had the most fun creating the characters Nova and Relek. Nova has had the most overall change throughout what I have planned for the series, and she is a character that I have come to admire for not only the morality that she presents, but the influence that she and Frayle provide each other. She starts off so cold and doesn’t know how to really get along with people, but over time, you slowly begin to see her change the more that she interacts with Frayle. Relek has actually become a fan favorite among the readers that I have gained, and I don’t really know why yet. His time in the first book isn’t particularly minimal, but I wouldn’t mark him as a main character either — he is a character that holds high regard in the heart of Frayle, the protagonist, and he is someone that won’t be forgotten.
It’s interesting to see a connection that between the readers and a particular character, especially one that is outside of the main characters. I find it intriguing and would love to know if you ever find a more solid understanding about the connection to Relek. Have you developed a unique closeness to any character that would mean that you would like to socialise with them like to going on a date with or taking them out for a beer?
I’d personally date Relek and we could share a few drinks.
Have you ever dreamt about your characters?
Only when I’m in the planning stages. I actually had a somewhat dark dream revolving around Nova that I plan to use in the second book to touch bases with the start of her first major character arc.
Aside from the characters do you try and drive or intertwine your story with themes?
Most definitely. A majority of my themes revolve around morality, friendship, understanding of others, and a variety of other aspects of what I feel growing up is about. I’m always aware of the direction I want to take in development.
As you have centered on the process of growing up, did you draw on many of your personal life experiences?
Plenty, given that the story was crafted on events after my mother’s death, including some major character arcs that take place in not only the first book, but future books to come.
And where are you currently at with your future books?
I’m currently mapping out the second book as well as entering a few anthologies in the near future, so here’s to the best!
Good luck with your progress on your second book and the other ideas. Now that you have one book under your belt you must have a better understanding on the writing to publishing and promotion process. Have you developed any techniques for writing?
I try to write whenever motivation hits me if not every day. Even if it is not on my story, I always try to take inspiration from the world around me to use for my stories.
Using that method, how long did it take for you to write your current book?
I’ve been working on it for the past three and a half years, and now I am 1/3 complete with the series! Milestones!
It’s all about the milestones! Did you need to do much research during this time?
I didn’t have to particularly do any research–I grew up around a lot of fantasy media from video games to movies, anime, so it was natural for me to world and character build.
And once you had you worlds and characters built, how did you attack the editing process?
I edited the story through three times by myself because I can’t afford a professional editor at this time, sadly. Even then, I made a few mistakes my first run through of publishing, but I was lucky to have someone else notice it.
As you were running the publishing on a budget, how did you go about getting the book cover designed?
I actually found someone on Deviantart to design my cover for me after I commissioned him, and it turned out incredible.
That’s really interesting, I never would have thought to look on Deviantart for an artist, but evidenced by your cover it’s a great strategy. Do you have any overall tips for self-publishing that you can pass onto other authors?
Honestly, marketing your book when you’re just starting out is probably the most difficult aspect. Especially when you’re finding the most applicable sites and trying to fit your budget as well. My biggest mistake was jumping in without much of a plan, but I don’t regret it at all. Next time, I’ll plan long in advance, before I’m even finished with my writing. I’d recommend the same to anyone just starting out.
That’s great advice, as I think everyone thinks about book promotion as a secondary thought, which is understandable after the process of completing a book. How did you feel when you got your first book review?
My only book review. I got 4/5 stars, but I was praised for my characters, which is always my goal. It made me overjoyed to have my first review, because I knew things could only go up from here.
I’m sure that is the case. It takes a bit of time to get traction, but once you have that first review you have evidence that you’re getting there. Now are you privledged enough to be a full time time author?
My day job? Definitely writing novels and short stories, and pretty much anything else that I feel like I want to write. My night job is the graveyard shift stocking shelves and freight at my local Walmart, which can be a hassle on your sleep patterns. It actually messes up my motivation to write a lot, so I’m hoping that in time, things pan out and I could find a better paying job or even one day write full time. That’d be an incredible dream.
Good luck achieving that dream. You’re certainly on the path there now. Do you have any authors who you felt have influenced your path as an author?
This might be silly, but my favorite author is Lemony Snicket. When I was about eight years old, I binge-read “A Series of Unfortunate Events” and to this day, I hold him responsible for my desire to want to become a writer, even if I can’t go with his style of work. After that, I couldn’t stop even though my mother wanted me to become a doctor. I couldn’t stop even though I knew it would be a massive risk. I didn’t care. Writing meant everything to me, and it still does today.
Reading must also be important to you. What was your favourite book as a child?
A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. I also loved Catcher in the Rye by J.D Salinger as a teenager.
And what are you currently reading?
The Cycle of the Six Moons: An Eclipsing Autumn by Adelle Yeung! She’s a good friend of mine, and I adore her books!
Who is your favourite literary character?
I have too many to count, honestly.
Is there a book that you wish that you would have written?
Is it wrong to say Lord of the Rings?
Not at all. Now I’d like to cover some quick fire questions to round out the interview:Do you have any philosophies that you live by?
“Knock on the sky and listen to the sound” is a pretty good philosophy to live by. I interpret it as “Aim high and listen for what unfolds.”
What is your favourite quote?
I really have developed a passion for John Lennon’s quote “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” It rings phenomenally true in the stages of your development of character and self.
If you could breed two animals together to defy the laws of nature what new animal would you create?
Ooh, that’s a fun one. I’d go with a dragon and a dog. A dragon that is the size of a Golden Retriever, yet carries all the traits such as breathing fire and balancing nature, yet is fiercely loyal and carefree. I’ll call it a Dogon. Ha. Dog-gone, get it?
*Laughs*. I like that one. Can you stand on your hands unassisted?
I can, and I have.
Impressive. If you could steal one thing without consequence what would it be?
Just one thing? Can it be a place? Because I’d love to steal a library. Or hide in one unnoticed. Whatever works.
Can you curl your tongue?
I tried it, sadly, and I can’t.
Which are cooler? Dinosaurs or Dragons?
What’s the most unusual name you’ve ever come across?
When I was in high school, I knew a few girls with names from alcoholic beverages. Alize, Tequila, Daiquiri (Yes, really), Brandy… not that my name isn’t unusual either, but it’s a bit more normal than those, they aren’t at all my cup of tea. Or my alcohol of choice in this case, I suppose.
Want to find out more about Shakyra? Contact her at the following locations: