Meet Bethany Forrester, an Indie author from Western Australia who recently published her debut novel The Kingston Chronicles. It’s a soap opera – about witches!
Tell us a bit about yourself: How long have you been writing, and what inspired you to start?
I know this sounds terribly cliché but I’ve been writing my whole life. Literally. My grandmother and father are poets and when I was a child my grandmother took care of me while my parents worked. My grandma fostered creativity in me and I’d make up little rhymes that she would write down and show my mom. I have some of these. The earliest one is from the age of four. She used to send them to my aunt in America who ran a poetry magazine, and she published a few of them.
So, I’m not sure I ever really had an inspiration to start or if it was just an inevitable strand of fate. In high school I wanted to be a novelist (or a journalist, or a lawyer, it varied.) but I could never really seem to get anywhere with a story. I used to write a lot of poetry though and started the occasional short story. I had floppy discs (yes, I’m that old) full of unfinished stories. High school was a pretty dark time in my life and the poetry helped.
I didn’t start writing longer stories and novels until I was in University doing my degree. I mean, the fact that writing was literally coursework helped a lot. It definitely gave me a lot of time to hone my skills and to focus on writing. I think that’s a huge issue, especially for Indie authors, the fact that most of us work one or more jobs (I have three jobs), including our jobs as authors. Time is an essential part of the writing process. I can’t say definitively what inspired me to start but I can tell you that I really can’t stop. It’s a part of who I am.
What was your inspiration for the Kingston Chronicles?
The inspiration for The Kingston Chronicles came in part due to a course I took as part of my writing degree. I’d always been obsessed with myths and legends, especially Greek myths so when I had the opportunity to take myth-based classes I snapped them up. The Greek mythology and pantheon were an inspiration in the formative stages of this book. That’s not to say that The Kingston Chronicles is a retelling of any particular myth, but it has been influenced by the archetypal characters of some of the Gods and the soap opera nature of their actions. The characters of the Gods are quite strong and are a really good example for writers to learn from. I think I especially like the Greek Gods because they are so unavoidably human. They get jealous of humans, they lie, cheat and exact their revenge on not only each other but the whole world. I think that’s why that particular collection of myths has lasted so long: it’s the drama. Writers are still re-working the tales. Films are still playing with these characters. They still serve some psychological function for humanity.
Tell us a bit about the Kingston Chronicles (1).
My aim with The Kingston Chronicles was for it to read much like a soap opera. There are multiple points of view, with each character giving you a little more insight into the story and the world it is set in. The main plot line focuses on Anastasia Kingston. She’s the youngest daughter of a real estate tycoon called Cosmo Kingston, and her mother was his third wife, internationally renowned country singer Iola Robertson. Anastasia has three half siblings, Sofia, Harley and Dennis. I won’t go into all the parentage here because it’s all explained in the book, but it’s safe to say that not only has Cosmo been married multiple times, he also can’t keep it in his pants. When Anastasia decides to leave her mother and move to Los Angeles the story really comes alive.
Once in LA Anastasia finds out that she is from a long line of witches, a fact that her mother has kept from her, and that the Kingston line is part of a powerful magical dynasty. She reconnects with her childhood friends, Mya and Iris Conway, who are the daughters of Cosmo’s best friend Phil and also from a magical dynastic family. Mya takes Anastasia under her wing to navigate the glamourous socialite circles she now moves in, while Iris begins teaching her the ways of the craft. Amid this backdrop of glittering lights and magical lessons Anastasia meets Aidon Conway, Phil’s much younger brother, and falls in love with him. Things become sinister however when a mysterious stalker starts breaking into Anastasia’s room, leaving her presents. The story is mostly Anastasia exploring her identity and finding her place in the world.
The second main plot line follows Cosmo Kingston. Someone is stalking him too and Cosmo will stop at nothing, physical or magical, to find out who it is and punish them accordingly. These two plot lines are the main focus of the book.
Can you give us a teaser for the next book?
Of course I can! As much as I’d like to I can’t give you an excerpt yet because I’m still writing it. But I can tell you that (without giving away spoilers) the unmasked stalker at the end of The Kingston Chronicles returns to wreak havoc on Anastasia’s life. The second book, which as yet doesn’t have a title, deals mostly with the emotional fallout regarding the ending of The Kingston Chronicles. I can also tell you that Aidon survives the second book, mostly because he’s my mother’s favourite character and she made me promise not to kill him off. The plot lines established in The Kingston Chronicles will be delved deeper into in the second book as now the readers are familiar with the characters I can focus a little more on the story. The reader will however get to know more about Sofia and Dennis, characters that were largely absent from The Kingston Chronicles.
Can you tell us a bit about your Indie publishing experience?
I get asked a lot of questions about Indie Publishing and on occasion I have given lectures about why I chose to Indie publish. I chose to because it is extremely difficult to be picked up by a traditional publisher. Look at amazing authors like J. K. Rowling. She was rejected by seven publishers before she finally caught a break. In Australia alone you have hundreds of manuscripts being sent to publishing houses and only a handful of new titles in each genre being published a year. The ratio of rejections is high simply for volume. There are other contributing factors, but this is the main one.
Now while Indie publishing has its benefits for writers like me, it also has its drawbacks. Readers have this assumption that people who self-published weren’t “good enough” to get published traditionally. While this may be true in some cases it certainly isn’t in all of them. While self-publishing technically does have less checks and balances it is up to the writer to make sure their content is of high quality. Readers tend not to want to pay the same price for an indie book as from a major publisher because of this perception. Only by educating readers and by creating quality self-published books will this stigma change. The ability to self-publish is attainable for many writers now, which wasn’t the case in the past. With ebooks and print-on-demand features, set up costs for indie authors can be really affordable.
I was really adamant that The Kingston Chronicles was going to be the same quality as a book put out by a major publisher. So not only did I edit it twelve times I also had two professional editors review it. People are still pointing out errors in the book to me. Writers are only human. Editors are only human. Sometimes we miss stuff. We do our best. I’ve read books that have been traditionally published that had errors in them. Books where character’s names change halfway through for example. It’s not uncommon even in traditionally published books. (So yay! I’m industry standard).
Ultimately, I chose indie publishing not only to have full control over my work, but because I wanted it published. I didn’t think the traditional publishing route was going to work for me, so I chose another path. I’m a big believer in changing your own life and not just hoping that the universe sends you a break.
Any advice for aspiring authors out there?
Again, these are completely cliched, and I’m not the first to say them. First, writing is hard work but essentially anyone can write a book. You just need the dedication to return day after day and write something. Anything really. Second, you need to read widely, even outside the genre you write in. Reading helps you not only understand style and technique it also helps build your vocabulary. It can also be inspiring. But my main advice is to listen to your heart. People may think you’re never going to make it, or in moments of self-doubt you may even wonder what the point is, I know I have, I’m forever having ideas and then discovering someone else has done something really similar, but if you truly want to write a book, if you want to shoot for the dream of getting a book out there then there is only one thing you can do. Tell the voices to shut up (when they’re in your head) or just ignore them and continue on your merry way. If you give in to them then they were right. If you don’t then you’ve proved them wrong.
Where can readers find you and your books?
The Kingston Chronicles is available in paperback and Kindle editions from Amazon. It is also available to borrow through the Western Australian State Library so if you reside in WA you can ask your local library to order it in for you. If you want to be kept up to date with competitions, sales and information about the sequel you can follow me at @b.forrester.author on Instagram and B. Forrester – Author on Facebook. The Kingston Chronicles has recently been added to Goodreads too so if you use the website or the app you can add it to your bookshelf too.