Author Spotlight #14

The Author: Clare Kae

Clare Kae has always been a dreamer, finding her place in worlds and characters that seemed more real than what should have been expected. Though, when she’s not daydreaming about faraway worlds, she’s teaching primary school children in Australia.
Born and raised by a wonderful family, and lots of spotty dogs, Clare had innumerable opportunities to see the world and enjoy life the way she wanted to growing up – especially via endless amounts of tea and books. For that, she will be forever grateful. She now lives with her incredible fiancé and two dogs – one spotty and one not. 

​When daydreaming became something more, and words flowed out of her head like rivers, Daughter of Dreams and Dread was born. Now an indie author, Clare is a newbie to the journey, but an excited soul to say the least. 

The Book: Daughter of Dreams and Dread

When fate tears Estelle Verndari from an ordinary world, dreams become a sinister new reality. In Kiliac, different is dangerous. Different means magic, and magic is punishable by death.

Lost and alone in a forest of nightmares, Estelle is saved by Rose, a man with fire in his eyes and blood on his hands. But she must learn to survive this brutal new world if she ever hopes to make it home. As the forest becomes a sanctuary, Rose captures her heart, and Estelle discovers a secret magic in her soul—the ability to heal in a world full of ruin.

But an ancient power is calling her name. A tyrant king is drowning the forest in death, and taking up arms to defend it means giving up on finding her path home. If Estelle’s secret is uncovered, everything she’s grown to love will be destroyed.

The Review: 5 stars

Clare Kae’s Daughter of Dreams and Dread took me by surprise.
Not only was the writing style incredibly addicting, but the characters, plot, and world-building were terrific.
Like many others of the same genre, the story started off with predictable fantasy tropes of late: the girl suddenly finds herself in another world – oblivious to literally everything, having to keep secrets from those she grows to care about. But Kae quickly switched gears and took me to places that left my jaw on the floor. The way that she has been able to drag the reader into the world she has created is masterful – or should I say magical?
There wasn’t a single page that I felt the need to skim or put the book down – I ended up reading the entire thing in one sitting because Kae’s style had me hooked.
I loved the sassy characters, the phenomenal animals, and the descriptive scenery throughout.
I loved the build-up throughout this book and that the MC was still able to have breathers throughout the fast-paced danger scenes, all of which really helped make the story and Estelle both believable and relatable.
However, about halfway through, when I was genuinely lulled into Kae’s false sense of security – she struck with a meteor-sized curveball of darkness. The tone of the book plummeted to depths that I had not been expecting. It got murky. Not in a ‘this book is bad’ way – gods no! This book is incredible because it went where it did.
This is not a happy fairytale. This is fear, and pain, and heartbreak.
This is a darkness that is real.
The way that Kae switched up the tone in this book had my heart in my throat, my stomach turning circles, and my mind spinning. It made me feel so much emotion for the characters – it made me scream at the pages a few times too!
The twists and complete savagery of the second half of this book – hand in hand with the incredibly romantic and Disney-esque first half – have me screaming for more. I only hope that Kae graces us with a sequel soon, or I might go mad wondering what hellish situations my new friends are stuck in.

The Interview:

What is the most surprising thing you discovered while writing your book?

Honestly I think it’s that I gravitate towards the darkness. Violence, grit and darker themes seems to be what I most enjoy writing – which is ridiculous because I like sunshines and rainbows and am stupidly scared of the dark in real life.  Confrontation? Big nope from me!

Can you share with us something about the book that isn’t in the blurb?

Estelle Verndari is a rag-tag true “Aussie Blue” girl, so her mannerisms and language comes from the dry humour/thinking that I am used to growing up in Australia. I never read many YA or fantasy books with an Aussie as the protagonist, so it was really cool to have Estelle navigate through her fantasy world like an Aussie battler.

Does one of the main characters hold a special place in your heart? If so, why?

Yes! His name is Tor, he’s my most favourite character ever, and he has the biggest heart of any man I’ve ever known. He has made mistakes in his past, and he’s fighting so hard to make things right. Tor is the epitome of gentle giant.

What was the inspiration for the story?

As with a lot of stories, the inspiration was from one of my dreams. I was lost in a fantasy realm called Kiliac, and I had a father figure named Tor teaching me everything I needed to know. The more I imagined about the world, the less ‘me’ the hero became and Estelle was born. She is every scrap of courage I wish I could have! Apart from the dreaming, music is an incredibly major part of my inspiration. Every scene derives from and/or plays out to the beat of a song like it’s in a movie.

What is the key theme and/or message in the book?

In two words, resilience and hope.

What is the significance of the title?

I actually had a lot of fun with this one – Daughter of Dreams and Dread has three components – Dreams was always going to be in the title, because not only did I dream the story, but Estelle first believes she’s in a dream. Dread = darkness because I’m a terrible human being who likes my characters to experience pain and heart break etc. etc. And Daughter…well, let’s just say that Estelle is the daughter of someone special.

What is the future for the characters? Will there be a sequel?

There are definitely sequels! I currently have 4 books total planned, and similar to the themes of the story, my characters future are filled with resilience – a lot! Their poor souls… and hope.

What were the key challenges you faced when writing this book? What was the highlight of writing this book?

The biggest challenge was believing in myself, that I was good enough, and that people would actually enjoy what I had written into words. Coming from a background of loving stories I was never confident in my own ability to do so. I knew I had a good imagination, but wasn’t sure that I would be able to wind the words together to translate that imagination onto the page. So overcoming my fear of being ‘good enough’ (especially as this is my debut) was the biggest challenge. In hindsight, I guess it was the highlight as well – actually having concrete evidence and knowledge that I was good enough, people loved my story and my writing, and now I’m not fearful anymore.

Where do you draw inspiration from?

Music is where my scenes really come to life. I’ll be walking in the morning with my headphones blaring, and a song will come on which fits the general theme of what’s going on with the characters, then their motivations will flow through from the music and lyrics and their actions will reflect the melody and beat.

Who is your favorite author, and why?

Not too long ago I would have said Sarah J Maas, but really I just have some authors whose stories have stuck with me forever. Jean M Auel, J. K. Rowling, and James Marsden are some that come to mind. Though recently I’ve discovered a fellow indie author, Renee Dugan, whose stories are out of this world! I fell so hard for her writing, characters and story – and am confident in saying that she is my favourite author. She is also one of the most beautiful souls I know, and so supportive and encouraging in everything.

What are you reading now?

Currently reading Nightwing – Renee Dugan.

Favorite book/story you have read as an adult, and what was your favorite book when you were a kid?

Favourite story as an adult is Dugan’s ‘Darkwind’, the first in her Starchaser Saga. As a child, I absolutely devoured the ‘Tommorrow When the War Began’ series by James Marsden.

What do you like to do when you are not writing?

I’d like to say something cool like hiking, archery or motorbiking, but honestly it’s playing vidoegames, going on dates with my fiancé to Timezone, or ordering great food on Uber Eats and snuggling up with a good movie/book.

What advice would you give a new writer, someone just starting out?

Trust yourself. Trust that you are enough, and that your story is worth telling. All of the technical stuff comes later, and it’s a neverending learning process. Also do not rush releasing your book, DODAD took me 5 years, and I still feel like I rushed parts of it. Learn the craft, learn your style, and release the book when you are ready and can be 100% proud of what you’ve accomplished.

How do you handle writer’s block?

I don’t, really! I will either not write for weeks on end, sit at a computer staring at a blank screen, or just force myself to write words (no matter how crappy they are!) though hey, I wrote 10k one day by doing that – and they weren’t that bad! Again, it’s down to trusting yourself. Also, surround yourself with great people. I had one amazing friend one night ‘coach’ me through writing the words, just in messages, by going “okay so then what happened,” “that’s good, how does she react?” Honestly she helped me turn 10 words into 1,000 that day.

What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?

This is a tricky one. I guess it all comes down to your story. At the end of the day, it’s the story that pulls you forward. Though, it doesn’t hurt to practise your prose so that the flow of words is like a river lulling you through the story as opposed to a waterfall dunking you head first into the deep end.  Also tea and coffee are very important elements of writing. A must have for any author, really.

What comes first, the plot or characters? How do you develop your plot and characters?

Considering DODAD was utterly panst, I would have to say characters come first. It’s their motivations and actions that drive the plot, otherwise your characters will just become passive, and it wouldn’t matter if they were even in the story to begin with.

Describe a typical writing day.

(haha) * sweating profusely * – a good day of writing for me consists of me waking up at 3:45am, writing for 2 hours before going for a walk and heading to work. A normal day of writing for me is waking up anywhere between 3:45am and 6am, surfing instagram, pinterest and authortube for a good long while, noticing I haven’t written anything then speed writing 100 words before work. An absurd day of writing for me is noticing that I haven’t written anything for a week and then smashing out 10k in one day. And finally, the best days – on weekend, walking to a café and letting the words flow (preferably whilst chatting/sprinting with critique partners).

How do you do research for your books?

Movies, youtube, and speaking to people about certain subjects. Luckily I write fantasy so a lot of historical facts get to be twisted in certain ways which is almost always to my benefit. Any bits and bobs (like names of different weapons or parts of bows) I’ll Google to my heart’s content. It’s great being in a group of writers where we can share what we know, interesting facts and ways of looking at life and situations, and implement that in our own ways into our writing.

When you’re writing an emotionally draining scene, how do you get in the mood? How do you deal with emotional impact of a book (on yourself) as you are writing the story?

It really doesn’t take much to make me emotional, let me tell you! But for me, I play sad instrumental music, and really dive deep into the head of my characters. I role play a little, speak their dialogue if I have to, and will almost always cry after that’s done. Then I’ll sit down and write.

How do you handle literary criticism?

With a grain of salt and a serving of resilience on the side. I am not sure if it’s the Aussie in me, but I tend to take critique pretty well, especially if I know they’re coming from a good place. I listen to my CP critique’s almost religiously, because I know that I’m the newbie to this scene. I know that I have a lot to learn, so there’s no point in me trying to convince myself otherwise. If it’s critique coming from someone I know does not mean well, I am happy to brush off the truly negative feedback and focus on improving myself through self-learning and/or my CPs.

How much ‘world building’ takes place before you start writing?

With DODAD, zilch. It was really that ‘first child’ that parents always joke about – make it up as you go along and learn what not to do with the rest of the kids. The world building came as the story moved forward, and going into its sequel I have lots of world building set into place.

Do you hear from your readers much? What do they say?

I do! I have had some GORGEOUS readers reach out to me to say that they’ve enjoyed DODAD so far, and simply need to know what happens next. I’ve had strangers promote me, and say the most wonderful things in their reviews. It has truly been the most heart warming and rewarding experience of my life.

Where can readers find out more about you and your book, and are you on social media? Can your readers interact with you?

You can find me on Instagram under @clarekae, on Facebook under the same username, and my website (which I really need to update!) under Clare Kae Author. I like to pretend to know what I’m doing across all platforms so feel free to join in the shenanigans!

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