Author Spotlight Interview: Brittni Chenelle
This week, we continue our series of author spotlight interviews by chatting with Brittni Chenelle, the author of genre-defying multicultural fantasy books like Kingdom Cold and the Gifted Fae Academy series. We spoke to her about her inspirations and motivations, and how she dreamed up the unique world of her magical academy.
HG: So, Brittni – on a personal note, I thought your book was SO original!
BC: Thank you so much! I was really nervous to publish it. It was my first attempt at writing Urban Fantasy.
HG: The magical academy genre is a very packed one. When you started writing, did you make creative choices to specifically stand out from the crowd? Or did that just happen naturally? What do you think makes your universe and characters different to the mainstream?
BC: Writing something unique that doesn’t necessarily fit anywhere is the easier task. I struggled more with trying to make a story that fit the academy genre. I mostly used the academy formula for the set up and then the story took over and things naturally branched off of the path. I used the basic set up that the others have, but I knew going in that whatever I came up with would be quite different. I doubt books 2 and 3 of the series could even be considered academy books. What I think sets my writing apart is the moral ambiguity. There aren’t bad or good characters, just people doing their best and pursuing their own goals. I think it creates a complicated reading experience with characters that feel real. The stakes feel higher when you don’t know who to root for because if anyone fails, you’re invested in that loss. I also think having the love interest be the story’s main antagonist creates some interesting scenarios.
HG: I love that. What is it Oscar Wilde said? People aren’t good or bad – they’re charming, or tedious. So, are you a plotter or a pantster? Seems like a plotter. How did the process go?
BC: I’m feeling that Oscar Wilde quote! I’m 100% pantster. My brain can’t plot at all. The academy theme gave me an idea of where things are supposed to go, but that’s not really how things worked. I kind of leave clues for myself as I write and solve it like a puzzle.
HG: How long did it take you to write your first draft?
BC: I usually finish a first draft in about a month and take an additional 2 weeks to edit.
HG: Wow, you’re a fast writer. Do you have a writing nook? A space? I guess Starbucks is TOTALLY out of the question right now, what with COVID-19 and all that!
BC: I used to love writing at cafes. I miss it a lot. I suppose I’ll have to pull together a writing nook now, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet.
HG: Ooooh, new reality show idea: design my nook! For HGTV? Anyway, so how did you get involved in writing in the first place? Did you write when you were a kid?
BC: Where can I sign up? Hahaha HGTV here I come. I did write when I was a kid. I had notebooks filled with stories and I sometimes read them to friends for fun. I remember liking poetry in high school, too. I didn’t realize I was a writer until college, after I completed my first novel.
HG: You wrote your first novel in college? I did too, but it was TERRIBLE.
BC: I did. It’s called Red Ribbon Tree. I ended up publishing it back when I was still figuring the industry out. I made every mistake possible but it was a learning experience. It’s not my best but I still find it imaginative and charming.
HG: Writings definitely a craft. Some of my previous novels make me cringe, lol. But they still had good stuff in them. Who inspired you to write? Who are your favorite authors?
BC: I was slow to learn to read and write and dreaded English class a lot. In high school I had some amazing teachers that turned it around for me. There was this one writing assignment where the teacher anonymously read our stories aloud. I was so nervous because I knew I spelled everything wrong, but my teacher read it exactly how I imagined and the other students loved it. That moment changed everything. I love Soman Chainani. The School for Good and Evil is one of my favorite series ever.
HG: That’s such an amazing story! I had something similar. My English teacher took me out of class to write my first “book” and it set me on the path to becoming a writer. So, what’s the best piece of advice about writing you’ve ever received?
BC: I think we were really lucky. The best writing advice I’ve ever received is probably, write the book you want to read. I don’t always follow the rules of a genre. I’m sometimes criticized for having books that are too fast-paced, but I get bored reading books that are too descriptive so I don’t write mine that way. The right readers eventually find you.
HG: Who’s your tribe? And what is it you wrote that resonates with them, do you think?
BC: I think my tribe is made up of people who believe that people aren’t inherently good or evil. We’re all doing our best given our circumstances. I always write stories where the hero or heroine has one true love that finds a way to overcome every obstacle. I think that kind of story gives people hope.
HG: Oh, I LOVE that. So, what can you say to give us hope in these crazy times?
BC: I would say that in these crazy times, I’ve already seen communities rally together, reach out, and help each other. I’ve seen compassion and collaboration. I’ve seen families spending quality time together. The worst situations sometimes give us the opportunity to show the best of humanity.
HG: What’s the best advice YOU have for aspiring authors?
BC: That’s an excellent survival plan, lol. My advice would be, don’t be afraid to write a terrible first draft. Your job is to tell the story, it’s your editor’s job to make it sound good.
HG: Thanks so much Brittni! And if readers are interested in finding out more, where should they look?
BC: I’ve got my social media and web links here:
If you like Brittni’s books, remember that subscribers to Hidden Gems got to read them for FREE as part of our program – plus new titles each week from 15 other genres. Sign up today, and you can receive invitations to read and review the hottest new books on Amazon each and every week.