SPFBO 8 Author and Book Spotlight: Leslie Conzatti with The Princess of Undersea

Welcome back to the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off 8 Author and Book Spotlights on Raina Nightingale’s Paths of Fantasy, this fine August 10nth, when the Summer is more than half-gone! Today we have Leslie Conzatti with us, featuring her novel, The Princess of Undersea, which was originally intended to be part of an anthology. It also features a protagonist with a pretty name! Find that out just below ….

Book cover of Princess of Undersea; a realism style blue-lighting picture of a mermaid stretched across the cover. Musical notes wash across the bottom.m.Mermaid princess Ylaine has only ever wanted one thing: her father’s recognition and approval. King Davor of Undersea, however, is obsessed with launching a war against the ignorant, pact-breaking humans. Ylaine believes that if she can convince her father that not all humans are evil, he might listen to her, and call off his plans for war. Such an outcome seems so far out of reach, till the day she willingly trades a most precious gift to have the thing that she hopes will help her make peace between the realms: magic that transforms her into a human.

Safe in the palace of Overcliff, Prince Nathan seeks his own comfort, and dreads the day when the people of his failing kingdom will depend on him for their well-being. His father, King Theodore, remains distant and forgetful, while the Royal Council runs things–and as far as the Prince is concerned, he is free to continue doing as he likes. When a mysterious young woman arrives on the island, he begins to realize that all is not as it seems–and threats can come just as easily from across the sea as under it.

Now, onto the Questions!

As a Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (SPFBO) Entrant, you’re not just independently as opposed to traditionally published, but self-published. Can you start by explaining a bit about why you chose that route and how it’s been for you?

I did start out sort of “traditionally published”, through a small press. The first “edition” of Princess of Undersea was intended as a part of an anthology, to be included with other fairy tale retellings, produced by an author’s group I was part of on Facebook. One of our members ran his own publishing business, so he would be the one to publish our anthology.

As time wore on and the deadline neared, other participants had to drop out of the anthology for one reason or another, until it came down to the fact that I was the only author out of the bunch who was still committed. Hence the publisher offered to publish my story as a novella all by itself, as he had the space in his work queue for the anthology, but no anthology to publish.

I might have waited so much longer to publish anything at all if it weren’t for his offer, but as it was, it gave me the confidence boost I needed to submit to other anthologies in the ensuing years. About half of the anthologies were limited-run, but there are still several available with my stories in them. In the meanwhile I had this stand-alone retelling to market for myself (since the publisher couldn’t do much for me from the other side of the country), and although it was a decent-enough story by itself, I found myself drawn back again to its charms, expanding and embellishing the world-building with tie-in stories and a short epilogue, even a continuation story that seemed to lead into something of a sequel.

Four years later, in early 2020, the publisher contacted me and said he was going to be closing his business, and that he was willing to send me all the rough design files and allow me to do what I wanted with them. Right about the same time, I had finally come up with just the right sequence of events to turn my stand-alone novella into a series of novels, each one using different characters from this same world I’d created to retell a different fairy tale. Hence, I set about revising Princess of Undersea, making changes to different scenes, adding more of a sense of foreshadowing and a broader sense, and re-releasing it as a self-published work and the first in a series!

That being said, republishing a book I’d already polished was the easy part. Marketing it, getting reviews, and (as I’m working on it now…) writing the sequel entirely from scratch is taking much longer than anticipated, but I really want to give myself a chance, to get the whole series out before I decide whether it was all worth it.

That’s awesome! An indie press gave you the confidence, and now you’ve pursued going on your own … Marketing is the hard part, and I hope we all figure things out eventually! From all I’ve heard, giving it time is essential. 😀

On a related note, why did you enter the SPFBO contest? A number of people have related that they find it pretty stressful. How do you feel about it so far? Or has it not affected you much?

I entered SPFBO because this is actually the first time I have a self-published book on my hands to submit! I’ve wanted to ever since I first heard about it, following Mark Lawrence on his blog, I believe SPFBO 3 was the first time I’d ever seen anything about it. I was pretty impressed by it, but at the time, Princess of Undersea was not self-published, and therefore not eligible. Now it is!

As for how I feel about it… I entered Princess of Undersea into a contest last year, and I think it didn’t make the first go-round (or maybe it lasted into the second… I can’t recall), but it was a fun, interesting way to get my book more visibility, and at least get another review out of it! The feedback was very helpful, and, as far as I was concerned, ticked all the boxes I wanted to tick (and the critique wasn’t unhelpful, although I think the biggest hindrance was merely because all the other entrants were such high quality!) so I was content with that. As far as SPFBO goes, I’m a bit apprehensive that I won’t make it far in the contest, but I stand behind my work, and I’m proud of myself, however far I get!

Be proud! You published a book! I hope your SPFBO review is not a disappointment and meets the standard of your last contest review – but if it doesn’t, maybe we can start a club of authors who didn’t get a real review from this?

Book titles. Why did you choose the title you did for your book? Take this wherever you want; an analysis of how it fits your book (if that’s not a spoiler you’d rather not share); the inspiration for your title; how the title makes you feel. As short or as in-depth as you like.

I chose the title Princess of Undersea because I wanted to evoke that fairy-tale feeling, I didn’t mind it being quite on-the-nose, and really, that’s what the story is about: Ylaine, who is the Crown Princess of Undersea, having to choose between being a Princess of Undersea, keeping that identity a secret when she is among the humans, or becoming someone else entirely.

Plus, it made it easy to decide the titles for the rest of the series: I have four books, and four main locations in the fantasy world, and each book will deal mostly with the specific locales: Fugitive of Crossway (book 2), Fury of Outwest (book 3), and lastly, Queen of Overcliff (book 4).

It does have that fairytale sound! And the titles are interesting …. Fugitives and furies. I wonder how it goes.

I won’t ask for your favourite scene since I know some people don’t have those (wink wink), but can you share a scene you really like and you just can’t believe how awesome it is every time you go back to re-read it, that you don’t consider to be a spoiler? Alternately, you can share something about a character you really like. Or both, if you want.

I think I have an answer that will cover both questions!

Full Disclosure: Princess of Undersea started as a fanfiction for the show Once Upon A Time. So when I wanted to create the fanfiction story, I thought I’d go “full-IP-infringement” and imagine a character for the Prince’s steward/butler that was a combination of the Disney characters Grimsby (aloof and proper), and Sebastian (neurotic and exacting).

Then when it came time for his character to interact with Ariel… the character that showed up on the scene was instead noble, kind, courteous and caring. Everything that the Prince ought to have been, but wasn’t at the time. I didn’t have the heart to keep with my original idea, so instead, I named this Steward “Giles”, and he became one of my favorite characters, as not only the only human to figure out what “Ariel” (who became “Ylaine” in Princess of Undersea) is really up against, because he can see through the pomp and ceremony to ascertain people’s motives (that’s how he became such an effective Steward to have around!), but he is really a mentor character for the Prince, teaching him how to develop kingly qualities, while the King himself has been rather neglectful.

So, any scene in which you find Giles, you may assume it is quite possibly my favorite scene.

Aww, that’s sweet! And love it when characters show up and are like, “Hmm? Nope. This is who I am.” Especially when it’s nice?

Same sort of thing as with the last question, except this time what about a quote? One to five lines or so, but this isn’t math. You don’t need to count the periods (or question marks, exclamation points, or other sentence-enders).

There’s a particular exchange that I added into the updated version, because it encapsulated the tone I wanted between these two characters so well. It’s part of a conversation between Merprincess Ylaine and her godmother, Nayidia.

Nayidia took Ylaine’s webbed hands in her own and explained, “[…] I was still very young when the fairies roamed freely [on land, sea, and sky]. In those days, there were certain ancient Merfolk called gossamers who were the only ones allowed to use the magic spells from water-fairies.”

Ylaine made a short popping sound in her throat-gills, and turned her head aside.

Oh,” she said softly. “I remember my father mentioning the gossamers once. He said he had to banish the last one because she defied his authority, and he forbade any other Merperson from becoming gossamers after that.”

Nayidia’s face-gills flared as she released a stream of bubbles, but she merely replied, “King Davor has worked hard to cultivate his reputation as a ruler of immense power. No one ever mistook him for wise.”

Nice story-telling. And webbed-fingered merpeople! So often in pictures they aren’t …!

What would you like to share? Take this in any direction you consider to be related to your book and your writing. It can be as short as a paragraph or as long as a guest post.

Okay, I’ve got two things to share with you all! Firstly, I mentioned earlier that Princess of Undersea started out as a fanfiction–I’ve written lots of fanfiction over the years, and I very much enjoy it as a pastime, a way to blow off creative steam as it were, using characters and situations and “head-casting” that already exist to make original stories come to life even more! For those interested in reading my fanfiction, I have an account on Wattpad under the name “KartheyM”, and the particular fanfiction that became Princess of Undersea is under the title “Poor, Unfortunate Soul.” Here’s the blurb for it:

In the kingdom of Undersea, Princess Ariel longs to be more than just her father’s songbird. She wants to be human, to prove that they are not much different from the Merfolk, that they are capable of love and honor, not wanton killers and insatiable fiends. She saves the life of one of their kind–but is it enough to sway her father? How far is she willing to go to achieve peace between land and sea?

In Storybrooke, Hilary wants to prove to her father that her musical talent is profitable. She dreams of a life beyond working at the garage and the rapidly-shrinking fishing business. When aggressive corporate thugs threaten to push her family out of town, an opportunity knocks; but is it enough to save them?

The character “Sebastian Grimsby” exists here, as a Storybrooke character, and the manager of a recording studio owned by Eric’s real-world identity, “Rick Royal.”

The second thing I will mention is that I’ve had short stories published in four different anthologies, produced by two different groups:

The first group is known as the Dreamtime Tales Fantasy Authors group, and we’ve done two charity anthologies, Dreamtime Dragons, which contains my story “Arthur and The Egg” (a contemporary urban fantasy retelling of “Jack and The Beanstalk”), and Dreamtime Damsels and Fatal Femmes, which contains a shortened version of my story “Red, The Wolf”, (an urban-paranormal shifter twist on the story of “Little Red Riding Hood; the full version can be found on my blog!)

The other two anthologies are produced by The Tapestry Group. The first volume is called Cracks in The Tapestry, and it features my story “Heartsong”, which is a fun twist on the lore related to siren mythology. And in the second volume, Warps in The Tapestry, I kind of departed from my usual fantasy, fairy-tale retellings to write “Finding Her Niche”, a more sci-fi story about a supposed “normal child” trying to find her place in a family of superheroes. (These anthologies will be linked below as well.)

Thanks for sharing all of that with us!

Leslie Conzatti is a blogger, author, and avid enthusiast of all things book-related. Residing in the Pacific Northwest, she currently works as an elementary school paraeducator–leading small groups, supervising children outside the classroom, and providing in-class support for teachers. Since 2013, she has been running a writing/review blog called “The Upstream Writer”, where she posts original serials, excerpts from current and past projects, updates on her writing, and featured reviews of independently-published titles. In 2016, she released her first fairy-tale re-telling, Princess of Undersea, a twist on the tale of “The Little Mermaid.” Over the next few years, she had a handful of stories published in various anthologies. Then in late 2020, Leslie released Princess of Undersea a second time, this time as the first book in a self-published series, dubbed “The Undersea Saga.” Books are Leslie’s passion, and she endeavors to use her words to support and inspire children’s imaginations, independent creatives, and quality literature wherever it happens.

You can find Leslie on

Her blog

Amazon Author Page

Facebook

Wattpad

You can find Leslie’s SPFBO 8 entree, Princess of Undersea, on Amazon and Goodreads.

Her anthologies are also available from Amazon:

Dreamtime Dragons

Dreamtime Damsels and Femmes

Cracks in the Tapestry

Warps in the Tapestry

Thanks again for sharing all of that with us, Leslie! Lovers of fairy-tales retellings (or stories about the one person who doesn’t have a power) — have fun!


Other SPFBO 8 Author and Book Spotlights

2 thoughts on “SPFBO 8 Author and Book Spotlight: Leslie Conzatti with The Princess of Undersea

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