This March, I had the privilege of interviewing Watty award-winning author Madison Siwak about her experience writing adventure stories, such as her fantasy romantic-adventure novel As The Crow Flies. We talked theme, organisation, tropes, Agora, and more.
Thank you so much for joining me today! I'm so excited to hear from you, and I'm sure the readers of the Juven blog are as well. To kick things off, do tell us a bit about yourself: who you are, and where you are currently in your writing journey.
Thank you so much for having me! I'm primarily a university student, though I'll be graduating in the spring, and I'm also an active member of the writing community. I'm working on the third draft of my romantic adventure novel and hope to finish it this summer!
Awesome! Could you tell us more about the novel?
Sure! My novel is called As the Crow Flies, and it's a queer retelling of Romeo and Juliet, with lots of fantasy and adventure elements thrown in.
What has your writing journey been like so far? What got you started with writing, both as a whole and specifically an adventure?
I started writing when I was eleven, so nearly ten years ago, but I used to steal ideas from my favorite stories. Once I learned how to have originally thoughts, I became really drawn to adventure, because of the way you can flex your imagination within the genre.
Not even including everything else I've seen on your Instagram, that description sounds amazing! On flexing your imagination, what do you think makes a good adventure story? And while we're on the topic, some smaller questions for you, just on your preferences: big cast or small cast? And what are some of your favourite adventure tropes?
When it comes to adventure, I think the most exciting thing is combining it with other genres. In my novel, there is romance, familial drama, fantasy, and just the slightest hint of steampunk. Adventure is one of those things where there really are no rules, so a good one adheres to that idea.
I love a large cast, and some of my favorite tropes include the ragtag crew assembling throughout the adventure, the "coveted" object, and perhaps a good capture by the bad guys, then a dramatic escape.
Those tropes are awesome staples of the adventure genre! Having no rules is an interesting concept. Does it transfer over to your process, writing and prewriting-wise?
It definitely used to transfer over. Recently, I've tried to step back and plan more out before diving in. There are a lot of moving parts in an adventure, so it's important to stretch your imagination, but also to stay organized.
Of course. Specifically for character, worldbuilding and pacing, then: how in-depth into plotting and prewriting do you go for your story? Any tips for staying organised during prewriting? Also, where do you get your inspiration from, when thinking up adventures?
I've only very recently started diving deep into plotting. For the first two drafts of this particular novel, I just charged right in, and that left a lot of plotholes and messes to clean up. I've spent the last few weeks trying to organize my pre-writing, and what I've found helps is to ask myself questions. I have a document just full of questions and answers about my world, plot, and characters. My inspiration comes from all over the place! There's the classic novels, like The Count of Monte Cristo, movies like Indiana Jones and The Rabbi's Cat, and just learning about things in our world that seem worthy of an adventure, like the Dead Sea Scrolls or the Voynich Manuscript.
That's so intriguing! So, shifting gears a little, let's talk themes and messages. Do you have any in ATCF, and what are they? How did you find them?
One of the most important themes in ATCF is family. The love of found-family, broken trust between parent and child, the deep bonds that can form and crack in the face of danger. Everything in this book comes back to family, in one way or another. When I first began, this was not a theme at all. I thought I could just write about two boys running around the world. However, as the story evolved, this deeper theme revealed itself through the side characters. Theme is such an organic thing, it will appear where you least expect it.
I love your take on that. On family and writing: the Agora site is just about to launch, if I remember correctly! What can readers look forward to from there?
Agora's social media will launch March 1st. The website doesn't launch into May 1st. But, if I had to pitch Agora, it's a new space for the writing community, where creatives can come together to find resources, connections, advice, and various opportunities. It's founded and managed by myself, but everyone is welcome to contribute. Throughout March and April, our Instagram (@agoraforwriters) will feature "how-to" posts written by the community, discussions, giveaways, spotlights, and more! The site, launching in May, will be an extended version of this!
I'll definitely keep a lookout for it, then! Final questions: you were a mentor for TYWI's Summer Camp. What was that like, and what's your top advice for anyone seeking a mentorship? And, is there anything you want to say to readers before we wrap up?
It was amazing! Even though I was the mentor, I ended up learning so much and having an incredible experience. I think a good thing to remember is to be open-minded, be willing to work hard, and reach out to a mentor that you feel could help you grow. Thank you so much for having me on the blog! This was so much fun!
Find Madison on her writing Instagram, the Agora Instagram, or her website.