Welcome to the fifth Author Spotlight post of 2022! Every month, I showcase an indie author and interview them to find out more about their writing life.
This month, the author in the spotlight is Maggie Francis! I have had the privilege of working on the first three books in Maggie's Eliza Falls series, and I absolutely love her narrative voice and her characters! If you like paranormal romance, I highly recommend diving into Eliza Falls because you'll be in for a treat.
Bio: Maggie Francis writes magical small-town romantic comedies with spice and sass. After discovering she loved escaping into romance novels (the steamier, the better!) she decided to give writing one a try. Eliza Falls is her offering to other readers who are looking for a joyful escape into a world where magic is real, the heroines are snappy, and the heroes come with a tall side order of Yes Please!
Maggie lives on the west coast of Canada with her Handsome Husband, two delightful and never feral (HA!) children, and a doodle dog.
Q: Can you tell readers a bit about the Eliza Falls series and the inspiration behind it?
A: I write magical small-town romance! Paranormal romantic comedies set in a charming (and quirky) small town in the Pacific Northwest. Magic is real and paranormal creatures exist, but humans are only sort of aware of it. So there’s some fun secret-keeping and magical shenanigans to keep things interesting.
Eliza Falls is my little dream town, full of ridiculous side characters that make me smile and want to spend time there. I’ve always loved stories with a concrete setting (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Gilmore Girls, Community, Lucy Score’s Blue Moon series, the Bootleg Springs series). You know where the edges are and there’s a clear vibe to the setting itself, as it becomes its own character and helps drive some of the stories. I’m hoping that Eliza Falls brings that to my series!
Each story technically stands alone with every couple getting a complete HEA, but I think reading them in order gives the reader more insight into each subsequent love story. Characters are introduced in each book and grow and learn more about themselves with each adventure. I love it when characters from other books make appearances as a series progresses, so readers can expect that from Eliza Falls.
The first three books are connected by an underlying mystery threading them all together, with the conclusion in book three. But since I’ve fallen in love with all of these characters, readers can expect their favourites to pop up in future Eliza Falls books!
Q: You have so many fun characters in this series! What’s your process for developing your characters?
A: Thank you! So far, they’ve been popping into my brain half formed, usually as a flash of something absurd or ridiculous. Cora started as a huffy exclamation of frustrated yearning one afternoon, while I was doing something else, and I had to sit down and see why she was so salty and what had her feathers fluffing. Once she showed me more of what had her tripping over herself, Seb and Desi materialized to offset her energy. After they started interacting, letting me play around with the ideas, it all snowballed from there and I had to write it all down. They all love each other so much, that it became a joy to sit down and see where it all went. Most of my characters start with an interaction or response to something—big feelings that spill over and force them to get ahold of themselves. Once I know how everyone fits in together, it becomes more about doing them justice and getting their stories out as they let me know. Classic pantser!
Q: How do you choose your characters’ names?
A: Ooh, tricky. I feel like this is another instance where I kind of let them sort themselves out a little bit. I have character cards for everyone now, with full names and stats like sports cards, but when they first started materializing, they started off more as feelings or vibes. As I was writing the first book, my chapter headings were just Heroine and Hero. Once I had a better sense of them, their names settled organically.
When they started to lean into who they are, I added a few fun easter eggs for some of them. Seb and Tate’s last name, O’Connell, is an homage to The Mummy series from the 2000s—my favourite comfort movie and a formative romance watch for me.
And it doesn’t get pointed out until book three, but Desi’s last name is Gibson, which, as a child of the '80s, cracks me up. I’m basically just pleasing myself with lots of ridiculous inside jokes. Cora’s full name is Coraline, an homage to Neil Gaiman (another favourite author), and I love that I can do that across the whole series and basically pay tribute to a lot of the stories I love that have brought me joy over the many years I’ve been an avid reader.
Q: Have any of your characters surprised you? If so, how?
A: Since I’m a pantser (so far, anyway), they all kind of surprise me here and there. The first three books in the series came about really organically and I definitely had a few moments as I was writing where I stopped and was all, “Oh snap, that’s what you’re doing?!” Then I let the idea stew for a little bit and see if it fits with what has happened so far. If it works and gives me a little thrill, it stays.
I think part of the joy for me is that writing is a little bit like letting the story unfold, and I love that I don’t always know where the story is going to end up. I’ve read enough romance novels now (wayyy too many) that I have a pretty good idea of the flow and roughly what should be included, so once I have the basic premise, I kind of let them do their thing.
Q: Why did you choose the self-publishing route?
A: I’ve spent the majority of my life working as an artist and I didn’t love the idea of signing the creative rights to my ideas away. Plus as an indie, I get to have my hand in every aspect of each book. I have a graphic designer friend who helps me with the logistics (what even are DPIs??) but I do all the cover art and formatting myself. It’s a labor of love over here, and I’ve got some fun plans cooking up for the near future!
Q: What advice would you give authors who are looking into self-publishing?
A: Invest in courses to give yourself a framework, learn as much as you can about the how to’s so you have an idea of what is successful, but follow your heart! Find a supportive team—cover artists, editors, and beta readers that you like and feel comfortable with—to support you, but always let yourself be the engine of your machine. It’s a lot of work (A LOT, whoa nelly) but so worth it to hold YOUR OWN BOOK in your hands!
Q: Do you have any writing rituals? (e.g., lighting a candle before you write, meditating before you write, going for a walk to get ideas)
A: I’m building rituals as I go. When this all started, it was such a flurry of inspiration. I basically followed the thrill as it all started to pour out of me. I furtively and furiously wrote while I was supposed to be doing something else! I just couldn’t stop. But now that it’s become part of my life, I’m noticing little things I do that set the mood.
I love tea and have certain mugs for different teas and even times of day. I’ve changed my daily schedule to create time to dedicate to writing, so I wake up EARLY now. When I work in the mornings before the rest of my family wakes up, I enjoy a very large, very strong cup of Tetley in the dark, and I focus on the tasks at hand for writing/publishing. But once the kids are off to school and I’ve made time to write in the daylight, the Bengal Spice comes out. Also sea salt dark chocolate. More than is reasonable for a human to consume.
I’m slowly building my office set up more around writing and I’ve got some inspiration tucked around me, quotes and affirmations that fill me up and make me feel like a boss. I’ve thought about sniffing out some beautiful aromatherapy to really set the mood, but I haven’t found the right one yet.
Q: What does your research process look like for your writing, if there is one?
A: Once I start writing and new ideas jump into my brain, I do a lot of googling. It’s usually weird little things for continuity and/or realism or confirming that the word I’m thinking of actually means what I think it does. Characters keep surprising me and I have a browser history to prove it. I’ve learned more about chickens this past year than I thought I would. And they aren’t even main characters! :)
I also keep a little notebook in my purse so that I have somewhere to keep track of the ideas that pop up when I’m out and about. You never know when inspiration will strike, and my little book is full of delightfully weird, one- and two-line bits of dialogue or interactions that are hilarious to look back on and try to remember why I wrote them down in the first place! “Whisper network” “Saxophone solo!” “What’s the difference between an incubus and a succubus anyway?” “Twirly mustache??”
Q: Do you have any specific authors or books that you've learned from on your writing journey?
A: I’ve pulled inspiration from every book I’ve ever read. I tumble headfirst down author rabbit holes, often reading EVERYTHING an author writes when I fall in love with them. Which is a lot. Terry Pratchett, Anne McCaffrey, Sharon Shinn, and Laurell K Hamilton are all authors I read as a teenager who forged me into who I am now. And since happily leaping down the romance rabbit hole a few years ago, writers like Ruby Dixon, Lucy Score, and Claire Kingsley are big inspirations. They all write characters that stretch out over multiple books, evolving and learning as they go. I love that so much and it’s a big part of my overarching plan for my series.
Q: What’s your number one tip for tackling imposter syndrome?
A: Imposter syndrome definitely kicks my butt sometimes, and I tend to wallow in it for a little bit before I have to pep talk myself out of it. One thing that helps me is that I know, deep down, that what I’m doing is awesome. I also have to remind myself that this is just the beginning of an incredible new part of my life, and it’s only going to get better! So once I’ve rolled around in self-pity for a bit, I can dust myself off, pump myself up, and get back to it. These kickass, awesome books aren’t going to write themselves, you know?
Q: How do you refill your creative well?
A: I’m an introvert and I love to read. If I could disappear to a cozy nook for days on end, I would. Reading is my self-care and it fills my bucket to get lost in worlds of swoony romance and fantasy. Dog walks in the sunshine really help too, so for half the year I enjoy this. The blustery, rainstorm half of the year can take a hike though.
Q: What are you currently working on?
A: Right now, I’m thick in revisions for book two of my Eliza Falls series. The cover design is taking shape and I’m working on putting together some fun plans for my newsletter list! I have the first draft of book four slated to start once revisions are done too, so I have lots on the go. But hanging out with these characters is pretty fun, and the couple from book four is already cracking me up, so it’s not a hardship! I can’t wait to see how it all comes together!
If you'd like to follow Maggie Francis on her writing journey or find out more about her stories, this is where you can find her:
Facebook: Maggie Francis Books