What inspired your debut novel, Cloaked Shadows?
It was in March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic kicked the world into a storm, that I suffered one of the most traumatic experiences of my life. I had grown up in the foster care system from the age of eight and when the virus struck, the system used it as an excuse to, quite literally, demand I leave my care home within the next hour. Can you imagine what this felt like to a twenty-year-old who had never in her wildest dreams expected this? As jobs were being lost, businesses were falling and countless lives were being lost, naturally, I became depressed with it all.
This is when I turned to something I had since locked in the mental box of childish dreams that will never come to play. Writing. I used my depression, situation and the pandemic to write something that would give me focus and help lift me from a severe depression.
Which Fantasy or Sci-Fi books do you like, and did any help to inspire you?
Before I started writing, I first started reading – a small challenge and something I told myself I would accomplish as it was something I had always struggled with. I started with the Shadow and Bone trilogy by Leigh Bardugo, which definitely helped inspire me to write Cloaked Shadows. These books taught me so much about world-building and character development – they’re must-reads for YA Fantasy lovers.
Which character do you feel like you enjoyed writing the most?
This is like asking a parent which child they love the most! I loved writing the character of Aella. She’s a feisty woman who starts off as a bit of a bully, but, by the end of the novel, she puts all that aside and we can slowly understand why she was mean to Ikena, the main protagonist.
Can you tell us about your book’s journey to publication?
When I first wrote Cloaked Shadows, I had no idea what I was doing. I knew nothing of formatting and very little about grammar, but I did know how to tell a story. So I wrote my story and then researched how I could make it better. I learnt terms such as beta readers and second draft and did everything I could think of to make my story relate to readers, in terms of writing, and in terms of design too.
Why did you decide to include certain design aspects, such as the map of Nevera and the Classes of Magic?
When I wrote Cloaked Shadows, I always knew that I wanted it to have a map as I had found from reading other books that they really helped me visualise the story right from the very start, before I’d even started reading. Then I thought, why stop there? I created the Classes of Magic to bring a sense of order and limitations to the magical system in Nevera, and I wanted designs to help bring them to life. The designer, Danielle Greaves, has done a fantastic job – she is super talented!
What are your upcoming writing plans?
The second (and final) book in the Cloaked Shadows duology, entitled Unveiled Reflections, is available to preorder now with an official release date of 18th June 2021. You can find more details on where to preorder, alongside amazing preorder gifts you can claim, here. It will be sad to see this chapter close, but it gives me the chance to work on something new, which I’ve already begun writing!
We also got to chat to Danielle (one of our wonderful writers) who worked with Melissa on Cloaked Shadows as a designer.
How did your design collaboration with Melissa come about?
Melissa and I got speaking after finding each other on Instagram. I had recently started my Bookstagram and we were having a general conversation about hobbies, jobs and our passions. I mentioned I am a Graphic Designer, and she told me all about her debut novel she was writing, Cloaked Shadows. Our friendship developed and she asked me if i would be interested in designing assets for her book. I jumped at the opportunity, and even had a hand in beta reading her novel.
What was it like working on this project? What can you tell us about your process?
I had the best time. It was fantastic being able to work with another creative, and to be involved in such a fantastic part of Melissa’s life. I was able to express myself through design, and seeing it finalised and printed was an amazing feeling. Melissa gave me a brief outline of what she wanted on the map, and we went through a few different versions of my design to come up with the desired outcome. For the sigils I did a lot of research and came up with a ‘lined’ theme. My designs were built upon a whimsical, simple but detailed look.
Thanks to Melissa Hawkes for speaking to us so candidly about her wonderful books in the Cloaked Shadows series. Find her below: