Check out this author spotlight for Leslie Conzatti!
You can find all her links furthest down the page, and don’t forget to check out her books!
1. Hi! Welcome to my humble blog of all things bookish! I would like for us to start by getting to know you. Give us a short bio, please!
Hello! I’m Leslie Conzatti, and I live in the Pacific Northwestern US. I am an avid writer and a voracious reader. In 2013, I first started sharing bits and pieces of my stories, updates about my writing and reading, and reviewing books by indie authors on my blog, “The Upstream Writer.” I first published back in 2016, when a privately-owned small-press publisher offered to publish a novella-length story that I’d originally submitted for an anthology of fairy-tale re-tellings. I was grateful for the opportunity to be published by someone who knew more about the process than I did, so I said “Let’s go for it!” and thus Princess of Undersea, a fantasy re-telling of The Little Mermaid, was born. Four years, a handful of side-stories and an epilogue later, the publisher closed down their business, giving me the opportunity to self-publish and re-release Princess of Undersea as the first in a series (dubbed The Undersea Saga) instead of a stand-alone, in the fall of 2020! I’ve also gotten short stories published in a handful of anthologies over the years as well–not all of them fantasy, either! My day job is working as a paraeducator (or “teaching staff assistant”) in a local elementary school.
2. To get to know you just a little bit better, I’d like to ask you some this or that questions. Answer 5 of these and explain why you chose this or that, or maybe an entirely different alternative!
Tea or coffee?
Coffee, most definitely! I tried to like tea, I really did… I enjoy the smell! But the fact that it doesn’t taste on my tongue the way that it smells in my nose is far too disappointing, and so I can’t stomach it!
Library or museums?
Ooh, this is a tricky one! I think probably libraries though, because museums are cool and interesting, but at the same time, I tire rather quickly with just looking at things that people have crafted, whereas being in a place with lots of books is very refreshing to me!
Mountains or beaches?
I’m going to have to go with beaches! My reasoning is that you wouldn’t necessarily go to the beach when it’s cold, and I’d much rather be warm than cold! Where I live, we have both mountains and beaches and they’re beautiful destinations each in their own way! I love mountains because it’s so spacious and grand vistas–plus, every year my family goes up to the mountains to pick huckleberries, and I love doing the picking almost as much as I love eating them!
Plotter or pantser?
Well, more of a plotter,–but at the same time, I’m not a stickler when it comes to the outline I’ve written down! The situation is that I do all my thinking ahead of time. My “prewriting” ritual consists of writing down everything about the plot that I can come up with, from start to finish, before I even begin a story. I want to make sure that the “bare bones” of my story still work and function, before I even write in the details of whatever scene came to mind first when I originally came up with the idea! That being said, once I have my outline and start writing, that’s when I really get to know my characters and the setting, and more often than not, the story changes a bit once the characters start interacting, so in that sense I’m willing to change the “plan” to fit the new developments as they come up.
Pen and paper or computer/phone?
Definitely computer is easier to read! My handwriting is notoriously atrocious–which you might not expect, given all the writing I do! But at the same time, there are some things that I just have to write down with pen and paper–especially in the cases when I’m not entirely sure what should go into the scene or not–it’s easier to visualize when I’m taking the time to write it out, as opposed to merely typing it.
3. When you look for books to read, what trope or type of story will always catch your attention?
Definitely anything to do with dragons, shifters, unicorns, or mermaids–and especially fairy tales! I like good stories with a solid premise that presents a question or a mystery that I’m actually interested in–so the standard romantic tropes of “choosing between two lovers” or just “choosing what you want versus what others are deciding for you” are out–and all the more when the first few pages draw me in and hook my attention! It’s not just the fantasy genre either–I love a good whodunnit or thriller, especially when the main character inspires plenty of sympathy! I find certain types of sci-fi fascinating: usually real-world science fiction, and any of the “punk” genres: steampunk, cyberpunk, dieselpunk, candlepunk, clockpunk–I’ll at least give them half a chance, for sure!
4. What do you write? Tell us about your current projects and the latest happenings!
Well, currently I’m neck-deep in fairy tale re-tellings!
I mentioned in my introduction that I recently launched a fantasy re-telling series, The Undersea Saga, of which Princess of Undersea is only the first book. I’m currently working on the sequel, Fugitive of Crossway, which focuses on a side character from Princess of Undersea, in a story that takes inspiration from the tale of Pinocchio! This one has been a bit more challenging than the first book was–mostly because I can’t really use the full story of Pinocchio, the way I could use the framework of The Little Mermaid to tell my version of the story–and I’m battling my way through this first draft which is ending up wayy too long, all with the mindset of going back through it and figuring out which parts didn’t actually need to be in as much detail as I am putting into it–essentially, I’m writing page after page of this draft with the intention of not using most of it. That being said, I think the benefit of going through all of this is that when I do kind of “gloss over” those “unnecessary” parts, I can still give the reader a sense that what happened in these moments mattered, but they just didn’t really contribute to the flow of the story as a whole.
In addition to writing this draft, though, I’m also actively plotting and sorting through plans for the rest of the series. Each book is going to feature a different location relative to the Mer-Kingdom of Undersea–we have Crossway and Outwest on the mainland, and the island kingdom of Overcliff to explore. In addition, each book is going to re-tell a different fairy tale. After Fugitive of Crossway comes Fury of Outwest, a Wild-West/Steampunk twist on the story of Aladdin, and the series will wrap up with Queen of Overcliff–a re-telling of Snow White with 100% more Merfolk than the original! I am also planning out short stories to go with each of them–the tie-in stories for Princess of Undersea were not wholly intentional, but I liked the idea of being able to include additional background details in short stories, so I’ve got quite a few planned that I just know readers are going to like!
But wait, there’s more! The Undersea Saga isn’t the only active project I’ve got spinning through my brain. On my blog, “The Upstream Writer”, I started out serializing old projects every Saturday, posting them a bit at a time, but as I gradually ran out of old projects, I started posting new serials as well. One such series was a just-for-fun, fantasy side-project titled “The Clan of Outcasts.” Basically, I was inspired by a series of fantasy character inspiration artwork to write this epic tale of a generic fantasy kingdom where some of the people had superhuman abilities–elemental manipulation, telekinesis, shapeshifting, and so on. I started out with a simple enough story arc, but the more I wrote these characters, the more interesting they became, until I ended up finishing the original arc on a cliffhanger–which led to a second “season”, pitting the characters against a larger enemy, and developing the whole idea even further! I resolved that story arc a few years back and thought that was the end of it. The “Muse”, it seems, had other plans. I’m currently more than halfway through a third season of “The Clan of Outcasts”, with even more characters and even bigger stakes and more challenges than ever! We’ve got magic portals, cyborgs, future tech (hence the new term I coined for it, “fantasypunk”–like a lot of it is generic fantasy, but there’s also some cyberpunk thrown in, just because!) and the quest to find the Gate to the celestial realm… So much to do! But anything that keeps the creative inspiration flowing is enjoyable to me, so I’m not complaining here!
5. What is your most recent release? Give us a short presentation, cover, and a link for where to buy it!
My most recent release is Princess of Undersea. Here’s the blurb for it:
It’s a fun twist on the story of “The Little Mermaid”, but as I’ve hinted at earlier, and maybe you can tell from the blurb, it’s not your ordinary “adaptation”–the dimension of a young female fighting to be heard and understood, and the added focus on the prince as a character himself with his own arc, rather than just a symbol of the Mermaid princess’ rebellion, is something I had a lot of fun exploring, and adds depth to the story!
Readers have loved the interesting twists and the unique characters I’ve added to the story, and as the series continues, you’ll be able to see more and more of those changes happening! The general consensus seems to be that people want more–and rest assured, I am working hard to bring it to them! The hope and goal is to craft a fairy tale re-telling series like no other, so that anyone who picks up the Undersea Saga will find their imagination engaged in a wholly unique experience!
6. What real-life inspiration do you draw from, and what are your primary fictional sources of inspiration (books, authors, films, music, etc.)? Name a few!
When I reach into real life to write my stories, I generally use things from my personal experience: the anxiety of trying something new for the very first time, or meeting someone (or something, because fantasy creatures!) for the first time–even the notion of giving my main character Ylaine a stuttering speech impediment, rather than rendering her completely voiceless, is inspired by the fact that I have a slight stutter that mostly comes out when I’m overtired or fatigued. As much as I can, I try to put myself in the place of whatever character I’m writing, to make the responses and interactions as natural and organic as possible.
As far as fictional sources go, I am definitely most inspired by every great book I read, regardless of the genre! Fantasy authors such as Naomi Novik, Marissa Meyer, Cornelia Funke, and C. S. Lewis have all contributed to my own writing voice in some way, whether it’s Lewis’ quaint conversational manner of narrating, or Funke’s incredible prowess at crafting a fantasy world that feels so rich and magnificent, like her very own folklore–and of course, the series that really pulled me into the practice of fairy tale re-tellings, The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer… I absolutely loved the way that she could give readers a story that most definitely harkened back to the original fairy tale (but in a cyberpunk setting), while at the same time pulling four separate fairy tales into one epic mashup for her own unique series arc that kept me fully engaged!
Speaking of re-telling fairy tales, though, a lot of what became Princess of Undersea actually started as a fanfiction inspired by the show Once Upon A Time, and the way that (at least, in the first couple seasons!) it changed and tweaked the fairy tales just enough to fit a whole new context and bring different characters together, while tossing in references here and there with judicious subtlety. I originally wrote the fanfiction because I wasn’t altogether satisfied with the way that the show treated the story of The Little Mermaid, and I decided that I had a better way that more fit within the original canon of the show and managed to tell a better story than just relying on haphazardly stringing together a compressed version of the Disney film. Most of the major points from the eventual novel originated in that fanfiction.
7. What is your writing routine? If you have one, give us the run-down!
I don’t really have a “routine” as in “a set time that I write every day”–but I kind of follow the same pattern when I sit down to write.
It’s typically after I’ve been doing some kind of activity, like housecleaning or chores, that the writing bug bites down hard, and I have to sit down and write the ideas. I usually have two or three projects going at once–a main work-in-progress (like Fugitive of Crossway or anything else to do with The Undersea Saga, like the other books or the short stories) and a for-fun project (often a serial for my blog, like “The Clan of Outcasts”, or a random short story). I’ll have both documents open on my computer, and whichever one seems to be “speaking” to me at the moment, I start writing that one. Sometimes, I’m sitting down to write because I’ve just had a breakthrough on how to solve a plot-snarl that I’ve run up against for that project. Other times, I am sitting down and I know where I left off, I know where I’m going next, and the words just flow out of me.
If I have the time to write, but the words aren’t coming to mind, I typically take that as a sign that I’ve “creatively asphyxiated”, and I need to read a book or watch an episode of either an old show that I’ve seen before and loved, or a new one that I am still working my way through. This usually helps “jump-start” my creative juices, and by the time I’ve finished the episode or read a few chapters, I’m ready to go!
8. If you could go back and give yourself one piece of advice as you started out on the path to becoming an author, what would it be?
I would have to tell myself “Do not hesitate!”
I spent years vastly overthinking things, and getting distracted by every little idea that crossed my mind, instead of honing and polishing the story I wanted to publish. I dabbled with fanfiction for years before ever writing my own original stories–and the first few stories I wrote were not the kind of stories I wanted as a “first impression” to launch my writing career at all! Then when the opportunity did come around, I sometimes feel that I dragged it out longer than it should have taken, procrastinating just because I was so nervous about it! Now that I’ve actually been through the experience of publishing, editing, and even submitting to anthologies, I understand that things come off quite smoothly if I just don’t wait around for the “right moment”, but instead get proactive to make those moments happen sooner!
9. Last but not least: where can we find you? Drop those links!
I’m most active on my Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/LeslieConzattiWriter
To find updates on what I’m working on, excerpts, serial stories (like The Clan of Outcasts), flash-fiction pieces, and reading recommendations, here’s a link to my blog: https://upstreamwriter.blogspot.com/
And finally, Princess of Undersea and the anthologies containing short stories I’ve written are all available on Amazon. Here’s the link to my author page: https://www.amazon.com/Leslie-Conzatti/e/B08C1G68S3
And the individual books are here:
Princess of Undersea:https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08L42TPHF
Dreamtime Damsels and Fatal Femmes: https://www.amazon.com/Dreamtime-Damsels-Fatal-Femmes-Anthology-ebook/dp/B07WFWSQ26
Cracks In The Tapestry: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07H69PCT3
Warps In The Tapestry: https://www.amazon.com/Warps-Tapestry-Arthur-David-ebook/dp/B08YJK2NHM