Stephanie BwaBwa has been a lifelong reader, starting with pop-up books as a child, which brought fairy tales to life. She cemented her love of fiction when she discovered Lemony Snicket and the crazy world described there. But she says it was the Mortal Instruments series that turned her into a writer and put the desire to write into her heart.
She wrote her first book in 2013. It was a story came out of nowhere, tackled big themes and where she made a lot of mistakes. At that time she didn’t fully understand structure, but writing that book was a great way to start her career.
“so much beauty can come from ashes”
We talk about how dark times in your life can result in something beautiful. Stephanie went through a dark chapter in her own life, but it what spurred her on to write that first book.
“balance is bogus”
We discuss how you can, or can’t, have the perfect balance between work and back home. Stephanie’s coach reminds her that ‘balance is bogus’, that it’s impossible to strive for, or expect, to have the perfect balance, and Stephanie agrees. She says we have to know what our priority is in each season of life. I for one find this a refreshing perspective.
We talk, too, about how to make time for your writing. For Stephanie it comes down to time blocking. She needs to look at her schedule, blocking the time she can write because she knows if it doesn't go in her diary, it doesn't get done!
It's a tough thing to swallow, she says, but we each have to make a sacrifice if we want to write a book. That might mean going to bed a bit later, getting up a bit earlier or even missing that TV show everyone is talking about.
Stephanie tells us about her universe Elledelle, and where it came from. Primarily it came from the stories she learned in church as a child, She wondered what if? What if she mixed God’s world with her imagination?
From there she adopted the stories, invented new ones about Angels and demons and so her universe was born.
Stephanie has fantastic ideas for how new science fiction and fantasy writers can start their own world-building. First you have to know why the story is important to you, what draws you to that particular story. When you know you can delve right in.
Next, you can approach your world-building from either a character perspective or a world perspective. Pick an angle and deep dive with it.
Don't forget that your character is a product of the world you're creating, so how will the atmosphere, the food, the roles people play, impact your character.
We discussed how you can stay out of that research rabbit hole. Trust your gut, she says. Recognise when you have enough to get started. If you continue to research and not write, ask yourself what are you running from? What is stopping you from writing?
To tackle the fear of imposter syndrome, Stephanie urges. Think from a place of service, don't think about yourself, but your reader.
There are readers waiting to hear your story, and you owe it to them to tell the story in your way with your voice.
Connect with Stephanie:
Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/emmadhesi)
Hello, I'm Emma Dhesi and welcome to another episode of turning readers into writers. If you're brand new here, welcome. And here's what you need to know. This is a community that believes you are never too old to write your first novel, no matter what you've been up to until now, if you're ready to write your book, I'm ready to help you reach the end, I focus on helping you find the time and confidence to begin your writing journey, as well as the craft and skills you need to finish the book. Each week I interview debut authors, editors and industry experts to keep you motivated, inspired, and educated on all things writing, editing, and publishing. If you want to catch up, head on over to emmadhesi.com, where you'll find a wealth of information and tools to help you get started. Before we dive in, this week's episode is brought to you by my free cheat sheet 30 Top Tips to find time to write. In this guide, I give you 30 ways that you can find time to write in the small gaps that appear between the various errands and tasks and responsibilities that you have in your day to day life. I know you might be thinking that you don't have any time to spare, but I can guarantee these top tips will give you writing time you didn't think you had. If you thought writing always involved a pen and paper or a keyboard. Think again. If you thought you needed at least an hour at a time to write your manuscript. I help you reframe that you won't be disappointed. Get your free copy of 30 Top Tips to find time to write by going to emmadhesi.com/30 Top Tips. Okay, let's dive in to today's episode, Stephanie Bwabwa began her journey to publishing in 2013. In 2016, her fantasy world Elledelle was born. In 2017, she published her first two books, and since then she has gone on to write and publish fantasy novels centered around black angels in a supernatural world that are captivating readers all around the world. As the CEO and founder of Bwabs collective LLC, Bwabwa has focused her zone of genius on teaching unconventional principles to writers who liked to meticulously plot, research and organize their way through crafting their stories while also having an incredible amount of fun. Stephanie has authored why a fantasy series, The Seraphim Resistance Prequels, and is an avid reader of fantasy and fiction. So let's find out a little bit more about how you can world build with Stephanie BwaBwa. Well, Stephanie, thank you so so much for being here with me today. I'm delighted to finally meet you and get chatting to you.Stephanie BwaBwa:
Yes, no, I'm glad to be here. Thank you for having me.Emma Dhesi:
A pleasure, a pleasure. Now for our listeners, I wonder if you wouldn't mind just kind of letting us know a little bit about you and how you got to where you are today?Stephanie BwaBwa:
Yeah, no. So hey, guys. Um, so for me, I have been a lifelong reader first, um, since I was a child. And I think for a lot of us, it starts off that way, where even in childhood, we were readers. And I can remember, you know, I tell this story sometimes where, you know, when I was a little girl, my mom used to buy like the really big picture books. So like, for example, I had Goldilocks and three bears. And so you could open it up and like the bears would pop up and Goldilocks would pop up and then there would be this, like, you know, like animation in the 90s in the book, right? It's and so, um, since I was a child, I loved reading and I started off with fiction, um, especially when I got to around like nine, eight years old I remember distinctly reading the Roald Dahl books and so like twitches and Matilda, and then I got into like Judy Blume and all of these different kinds of stories that are very nostalgic for me. And I love them so very, very much I very quickly leaned more towards like fiction, and then bit by bit I got towards fantasy, but I picked up somewhere around like nine or 10 I picked up a series of unfortunate events by Lemony Snicket, and that was like the deep dive. I fell in love with that story. And I remember somewhere along like around there, I was like, Oh, I would love to do that one day, you know, like, I just thought they were so cool. The stories I found them hilarious, the baby was always my favorite. And you know and then going into like a middle school years I did you know, I would write like poetry. I had like a hard time during those years and so a lot of ways for me to release was actually writing and so sometimes it would be poetry. Sometimes I would just make up stories. Sometimes I would have them in my head. Since I would write them down. But it's really around middle school high school years, I got into fantasy. First I think I started off with like, I did do some epic fantasy, but a lot of it was also like urban. So I read the like, I believe it's the Blue Bloods series. And then like, I would read The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare, that was my favorite series. And The Mortal Instruments actually is the reason why I, I really wanted to become a writer, and I purposed in my heart that I thought, okay, one day, I'm going to do this thing, I loved that series, so very much. And so, in 2013, finally, I decided that I wanted to write a book for actually publishing. Um, you know, throughout, you know, my childhood years into my teen years, I would write, but I didn't really do anything seriously with it. And I read a lot, a lot of books, you know, reading was escapism for me, especially fantasy, because you could go to a completely different world, these crazy characters, and this really awesome journey. A lot of them were quests, and I love the plot twists, I love the characters, I love the different worlds. And I was like, wow, I want to do something like that. And so in 2013, actually, um, so for those who don't know, you know, I am of the Christian faith. And so, I reached, I reached another low in life. And so instead of praying out loud, I started writing my prayers. And I was writing out my prayers and poems at first, like they were just, you know, they came out that way. Mom was like, oh, my goodness, this is awesome. You should publish it. And I was like, it's why would I do that? I don't, I don't know. I wasn't really sure. I was like, okay, maybe. Somewhere along the way, in January of 2013, not only was I writing these prayers, within, like, this character popped into my head of this girl, she's in California, they're not far from the Hollywood sign. And like, I could see the neighborhood. And so I start, like doing research on like, schools in that area, and like ice cream shops, and all these different things and then I got this idea of like, oh, what have what would happen, you know, if this girl goes through, like all these different things, she's raised in faith. And after going through these hardships, she starts to lose her faith. And all of a sudden, this like, God, like celestial character shows up and takes her on this like trip into paradise to show her what's on the other side of eternity, so to speak. And that was like my first journey into actually writing a fantasy novel, which actually ended up being an urban fantasy, but writing a fantasy novel for publish. And it was really just this journey of like this girl who was raised in church, but then she like started to turn away from it. She didn't want anything to do with that faith anymore. And she gets this journey. And so she's taken into this, like celestial paradise. And she sees all of these different things that she was raised with, but she didn't believe in until she saw it with her very, her very own eyes. And then like towards the the end of the book, she's taken all the way back to the crucifixion. And she sees it in like a real time before she's been brought back into her worlds in California. So it was just like, very magical, otherworldly story. And that was really my first foot, you know, my first dip into actually writing for publishing and like wanting to tell these, you know, fantastical stories and, you know, it was important to me, I mean, I love all kinds of stories. But fantasy, for some reason always stuck with me. This ability to have this like parallel world and universal completely different characters and beings and putting a character in a situation where they can be in something totally different. But yet their condition, the condition of their heart is still very much like the human condition. And so you can still relate to those characters, even though it's completely fantastical world. So that's how I got into writing lifelong reader and writer, I guess you could say, but I didn't really start writing for publishing until 2013.Emma Dhesi:
Wow, there's so much in there just in that alone to kind of like unpick a little bit. So 2013 and I'm just looking at you, you look very young. So I'm guessing at 2013 you were even younger? How old were you published your first book?Stephanie BwaBwa:
Um, so when I published my first book when I was 20? That's a great question. 21, 22 around there around there is, I think. Remember the dates and all that was I wasn't around there the early 20s.Emma Dhesi:
A young but not as young as I thought you must be you. You're aging. Well, you're looking very. Thank you. And, but also, I'd love the year, not enough, but I appreciate that your first book came out of a difficult kind of period in your life. And that certainly was the case for myself. I was going through a period of depression and I was journaling about it trying to figure out what was going on. And that kind of situation was brought up about brought up that idea. Well what if what if What if, and then I could kind of bring it into my fiction. And it's interesting, I think how sometimes a difficult time in our life that we might ordinarily add, the moment feels really insurmountable. We don't realize actually, that can be the trigger for something, and you have a new path for us and you challenge for us or a new new part of our life, and something good can collide to them.Stephanie BwaBwa:
Yeah, no, I totally agree. And I Oh, I like to encourage people to lean into those times. It can be a solitary time, it can be very difficult. But so much beauty can come from ashes. And it's one of those things where if you're willing to let yourself face it, you can actually birth a lot of art from it. Because at the end of the day, our characters mirror who we are, right, even though whether they are fake vampire, Angel doesn't matter. Regardless, the story is very much a mirrors the human condition, it mirrors the human experience and hardship is part of that experience. And there's some darkness and there's some, you know, loneliness and depression, and, you know, self doubt. And so characters, you know, if you're able to go through that, is it easy, no, but it does make you better, and it makes you better for the story, because then you can go to the pages with a fresh understanding of, Okay, this is how a character would actually face this, you know, they might take a little bit longer to process, they might react in certain ways, they might have to go through a journey where, you know, they are dealing with what's inside. And they're also being affected by what's outside. And they have to figure out how to face that, you know, and so at the end of the day, you know, our fiction and fantasy stories, they really mirror what we deal with, in reality, and it's also a gateway for both us and our readers, to figure out how to process what we are witnessing and facing in real life through the lens of these characters in their journeys,Emma Dhesi:
We should be said, I love that what you said there, just so much beauty can come from, from ashes. It's very lovely. You also mentioned just there in your introduction, that you mentioned that faith is a big part of your life. And I was kind of like, wow, as well, when you were telling us about your story. You don't shy away from the big things like the crucifixion and the resurrection. And so does your faith and Christianity. Is that a common theme to all your stories? And it just happened to be that that one?Stephanie BwaBwa:
So in that one book, I love this question. So and that one book, it's more prevalent. Because I mean, I only have like the one ideal in my head, I didn't really and at that time, I will let me go ahead and put out this disclaimer. So I didn't really know what I was doing. I just knew that I had a character my you know, newbie writer right at that time. So like, I had no idea what I was doing, and not a lick or clue about story structure, and none of this stuff. And so I was like, oh, wow, character, my head. And I'm like, I know, I want her to go to some version of heaven, you know, that I can envision in my head. And I want her to see the proof of crucifixion and I want her to come back to Earth. Okay, cool. down, and I wrote it and like, that's all I had. But then like, looking back in hindsight, I was like, well shoot, you know, like, I don't know how to make this story go anywhere else. And I don't really, there were just a lot of different elements. I was like, Oh, this could have been so much better if I really knew what I was doing. And so faith is a huge part of my, all of my stories. Granted, you know, if you just read them as they are, even if you're not a person of faith, it's still an entertaining story. And it's so has really good values and lessons to learn from it. And you won't necessarily be like, Oh, you can pick that out from like, the Bible or something in the books. But if you are a person of faith, like if you are a Christian, and you read the books, you're like, oh, okay, I get where she got this from. And so as you know, and it's and it's down to little things, right? So like in my Sarah from resistance prequel books, you know, the I have four different classes. So all of my characters are angels, and I have four different classes of angels in that particular world. And one of them so there's from the highest ones, they can like shed their physical fleshly bodies, like we would have, like mortal bodies for their actual power. So their real bodies are actually the element that they wield, whether that be fire, water, earth, anything like that. And so, you know, the term for that is their Genesis forms. Now, if you're not a person of faith, you're like, Okay, well, you know, that's cool. I mean, that's a really interesting name. But if you are a person, if you're like genesis for Oh, I get it, the first got it, you know, the beginning, that type of thing. So it's one of those things where it's like the, you know, thread of faith is in there. If you're not looking for it, you won't find it, you'll still enjoy the books. You are looking for it. You will find it and be pleased. And so, but yeah, it is something that I weave in a lot just because I'm at the end of the day, I really want to give readers hope. Want to give readers inspiration, I want readers to see that regardless of how dark it can be, there is always the opportunity to overcome and there's always good at the end, you know, and I know we live in a day and age where a lot of stories are coming out, where evil tends to, like, get the last laugh, you know, for all of you Game of Thrones lovers, no shade, no tea, but you know, by all means, absolutely love it. But, you know, for me, I'm like, your God, you know, like, like, give me some kind of hope that I can clink. Know what I mean. And so, um, I do try to leave in like, a lot of goodness, even now, granted, you know, the characters go through a lot. The characters face a lot, like, I won't even like hide them from you, they do deal with a lot to the point where readers are like, I want to protect these characters from you. But, um, it's all for a greater purpose. So, yeah, that that thread definitely does flow through the books and in and it's good for me, because I have like that foundation point. So I know, like, what I'm aiming for, and I kind of have an anchor when I'm writing, you know, like, what the overall purpose of the story needs to be.Emma Dhesi:
Oh, interesting. I think there'll be a lot of listeners who, well, I know the right number of listeners, you all who are Christian writers, as well. So there'll be interested in that aspect of your books and how, how you bring that incorporation. And so there'll be interested in that. Now, we're going to come back to your stories in just a moment. But I wanted just to ask you about the practical side, because you are your full time writer, you're very busy, because you're running three businesses at different times you have done and I'm sure will, again, be hosting your podcast. And so you've got lots of things going on in your life. And I wonder just how you, you balance the demands of all the things that are going on? And how also you make that switch in brain from doing one type of role to another type of role to another type of role?Stephanie BwaBwa:
Yeah, that's a really great question and so the first thing I will say is, and I got this from my business mentor, she says that balance is bogus. And I can't that I want 100,000% agree. Balance is bogus. Like there, there is no such thing, right? It's a matter of knowing in every season, what is the priority, right? What is the goal? What is what will move the needle? What can your spirit handle at that time, right, what is important to you. And so, for example, if you are about to get married, right, you can't turn out three, four books a year, because a lot of your focus a lot of your income is going into getting things ready for this wedding, getting things ready for, you know, your honeymoon, getting things ready for the new home that you're about to buy, potentially, you might move all of these different things, your focus is elsewhere. And that's okay. Right family first. Um, however, if you are like me, for example, you're single, you know, you're very independent, you have a bit more time. And so you can engage Okay, what block of time Can I give to this? And what block of time Can I give to that? And the thing is, you know, at the end of the day, I know a lot of especially writers, a one because it can seem intimidating at the outset. Right, you're trying to write this big ol thing, you've not done it before. And it can feel intimidating and big. When we get intimidated, we just do nothing at all right? our, our brains are overloaded when we're like, you know what, I'm trying to do anything. At least I can know, like, what the outcome of that, right. But um, it's this thing of like, making time number one, because you're never going to get more time, you know, we all have 24 hours. That's it, like, you know, we're not going to magically get 36. And even if we had 36 or 48, we would still have this sense of like, I don't have enough time, right? So you will never have time to have to make time. That's number one. And so it's understanding what is important to you. And how much time Can I delegate and allocate for that? That's number one, looking at your schedule, you know, are you married? Do you have kids? What's important what, you know, what stage in life are your kids at? If you have a newborn versus a 14 year old, your life was very different, you know, if you if you have a job that you have to fly out all the time for versus you work at home, you know, that looks very different if you have childcare versus not, that looks very different. And so it's one of those things where it's like, what can you do when and at the end of the day, it's going to require sacrifice, and that's a tough thing to have to swallow because you're already sacrificing a lot, right? Like your plate is already full, but it does require sacrifice. You might have to wake up earlier in the morning, you might have to go to bed late at night, you might have to sacrifice watching, you know that one show that everybody else on the planet has binged already and you're Behind, you know what I mean? And it's also recognizing how important is this to you. Like, for me, writing is what I do. And if I were to stop, I would not be able to, right?, I've tried to stop, I've tried to do other things, you know, I went and got another job. And I went into something else, because, you know, life was different. And I was like, well, I need something else to move the needle. And writing was always on the door, like, hey, these characters want their stories to be told. And so, it was one of those things where it was like, okay, you know, that this is your passion, this is your purpose. And this is what you are meant to do. So you need to prioritize and orchestrate your life in such a way that you can actually allocate the amount of time that it requires. Um, so, you know, previously I was doing the podcast and, you know, doing graphic design and writing and, you know, creating digital products for writers. And I've sent, you know, tabled some things because, when human beings, like when you're living and burnout is a very, very real, I wish it on no one. I was working like 13, 14 hour days, like, so exhausted, I would wake up, my eyes were burning. Like, you know, I had to take on some things, um, but it really came down to making time as in like, actually opening up the calendar, looking at the hours and saying, okay, on Monday, between 9 to 12, nobody's allowed to bother me or writing during that time. Okay, cool. Tuesday, between one to two, I have a little window. All right. During that time, you know, like doing things like that actually putting it in the calendar, because if it's not on the calendar, let's just be real. The most of us are adults, right? If it's not on the calendar, it's not getting done, we literally Forget it, the moment it comes into our minds, if we do not write it down or put it in a calendar, and then just really understanding what's important to you in that season, you may be in a season where you're like, Okay, I want to write an entire novel, cool, I'm going to dedicate the next 90 days to writing, you know, 1500 words every single day. And that's what I'm going to do, you may be in a season where you're like, Okay, I am still developing, I'm still working, okay, so, you know, for a little bit of time a day, 30 minutes, I'm going to research, then for another 30 minutes, I am going to, you know, go through Pinterest and get ideas for my story, or I'm going to go to a park and you know, just kind of like breathe in fresh air and look around me and get more ideals. And then for another 30 minutes, you know, maybe I'll watch a film about you know, that's like relevant to the kind of world or story that I'm trying to build. It really comes down to that because there's no such thing as balance, right? You know, this, the same mentor, she talks about how she realizes in life, we are always juggling two kinds of balls, one ball is made of rubber one is made of glass. And every day, while those balls are in the air, she has to decide for, okay, which balls are rubber, and which is glass, and the ones that are rubber. Because if then I'm going to you're going to drop a ball, right? Something's going to fall. But if it's rubber, that's fine, it'll bounce back up, you can keep moving. And so her example was okay, you know, if she misses a day of carpool, you know, dropping her kids or picking them up from school, if that falls, that's fine, it'll bounce back up. However, if it's a monumental dance recital for her child, that's a ball of glass. If that falls, it won't be so easy coming back from that, because that will affect her child long term that she was not there for something so important in her life. And so for all of my writers, especially for those of you who are this is like fresh to you think about Okay, what is a rubber ball? What is a glass ball? What can recover if you let it go, and what will not recover? If you drop that ball, and then prioritize your writing around that and then go from there.Emma Dhesi:
That's a beautiful analogy, you know, that idea of the two evils because then it's very, it's very visual as well, and you can feel them in your hands. very tangible. I like also to Well, first of all, I love that you talk about scheduling, because it's something I bang on about all the time. And I think people get a bit like, Oh, that's so uninspiring. That's not very exciting. And it is the least kind of parts of all, but you do have to do you want to want to make sure you've got that protected time. But I love also that you you mentioned a number of different things that people could spend their time on not just the writing, but the thinking the research and the getting some fresh air then watching a movie or writing a book is not solely about pen or paper that goes into it. And in fact, I'm going to bring us on now actually to that because you are particularly well known for being a very creative world builder. And so I want to hit start off by telling us about l down the world that you have created.Stephanie BwaBwa:
Yes. So lol started with a question again, back to the faith thing, right? So I was born and raised in church, y'all, I'm pretty sure. I mean, I'm joking, but like my mother might as well have had me on underneath a Pew right? Like I've been in church my entire life and, um, because of that, like, wealth of Christian stories in my brain, right, all of the, you know, your Abraham's, and your Joseph's and your Isaac's and your roofs and all of that. And so for me, I've always been attracted to angels. I just I really think that I came out of the womb loving everything fantastical and supernatural. Oh, I've always been into like angels and demons and the supernatural world, and how all of that works. And like, what does that mean? How does it make sense, that kind of thing. And so for me, you know, in the Bible, there is the story in the explanation of how Lucifer was the morning star. He was, you know, this head arc, Angel, his bodies made of pipes, he's perfect. He's beautiful. He's everything, honestly, like, there was really nothing else that he could want, right? Except he wanted also the throne of God. He was like, Well, you know, I'm perfect. Where's my throne. And God was like, that's cute, flicks him out of heaven, right? And so, but before he gets kicked out of heaven, Lucifer is cunning enough and manages to persuade a third of the angels to go with him. Now, you are an ark Angel, and you still managed to persuade all of these other angels who were once loyal and faithful to God only to follow you. There's a war in heaven between the angels. And they are kicked out and they're sent to Earth, right? My question was, I wonder, because that's where my brain goes. I was like, well, I wonder if this happened over like 24 hours. I wonder what happened between the time after the war in heaven. But before these angels got kicked to Earth, like just that gap in that window of time The war has happened, but they're not really at Earth, yet. They're like, somewhere in the ether of space, somewhere. That's how it started. And I got this entire I got this character in my brain, and it was my version of Lucifer, his name is AGS. His original name is exitus. And I thought of him in the previous state of like, when he wasn't full of pride when he was just beautiful and experiencing this entire universe that he's able to travel through, and you know, what he touches grows, and everything is beautiful around him, it's perfect. And then just that journey of him wanting more and where that darkness came from, and what he would have done to achieve his goal and how he goes about persuading the other angels to follow him. So like, all of these different things came into my I wrote that story. Um, didn't publish it yet. Um, it is going to come out though, because that's going to be awesome, but haven't published it yet. But like, that was how and the thing is, I started with that. And, you know, in Genesis one one talks about in the beginning, God created the heavens in the earth. And so in my brain, I was like, Okay, well, what about the beginning of the universe. And so that's how Ella doll was born. I just saw this like expanse of light. And then just different worlds begin to be created into which different planets, different realms, different timelines, time moves differently, different places, different rankings of angels, like all of that begin to be developed in my brain. I, I joke around and I tell people, you know, there are some people who have books in their heads. And then there are people who are like Stan Lee, who have universes in their heads, and that's me. And I have universe in my head, right? So like, I have all these different worlds and different storylines in my brain. But that's how it began. And I'm really, interestingly enough, the world came after I thought of the character, right? Like I thought of this, this one individual, like, what could have happened, after you create it, you made this egregious error by thinking that you were mighty enough to go against God Himself, which was a joke, and you got kicked out. But before you get kicked out to your final punishment, there's like, all of this chaos that ensues afterwards, which is actually aware of the Sarah from resistance here, prequels, which, you know, of course, this year's will come after. That's where those books are from, because that era is after that first great war between all of the angels and they're like recovering from that and dealing with it and all these kinds of things. And so Ella doll is just really my it's a universe. It's not just the world. So it's a universe with 12 different realms in it and each realm has their own story. worlds some realms have different worlds in it like multiple different worlds in it that will have different stories and then that some realms are just like, I view it as like one massive world. And so you know, you have like different courts in it. That kind of thing. Still, like think of like Planet Earth with different continents, like some worlds or some realms are just like that, whereas other rooms have out other different planets in it. And for me, I just, it's my ability one, I did it like that, so that I could give myself a breath of room to write just whatever. Right, whatever and whatever kind of story about whatever type of character, I'm with different powers, different magics, all these different kinds of things. But they are all angels. I love to say, I love wolves, I, I love elves, fairies, all of that I do. And there will also be humans at some point. They're not in the world, yet, they probably won't show for a mighty long time, because there are so many stories about humans that I'm like, I'll just focus on angels. But, um, um, can they still go through things, you know, be not fooled, right? Like, even though they are angels, they are these like, powerful, high ranking beings, they still go through what we humans would go through, they still fall in love, they still go through betrayal, they still go through depression, they still have to make a choice, will they be loyal? Or will they not? You know, will they choose themselves and go rogue? Or will they choose to serve a greater cause all of these kinds of things. And so it is very expansive. And there's a lot that goes on into it. But I'm also rooted in all of like, the other worldliness, because I also still see these characters. They are very real to me, as you and I are real to ourselves. And I could see them I see their journeys, I see what they're going through. And I'm, I like to dig deep in a lot of things at all times. So like, I'm the person who digs into backstory and learns like, why did you get to this point? How did that happen? But yeah, so that's Ella Dalits, about angels I Akin the world to Narnia meets Wakanda. So like, if we're kinda Narnia had a child, you would have lol. You know, me, like, I love what CS Lewis did, I love what was done with the world of Wakanda. And not just about the technology, but really just, um, I will say this as a black woman, and I'm not American, right? Like I am Haitian, and I am and I'm Congolese African. And so you be raised in so much culture, you know, different language and different beliefs, different traditions, you know, we adjust our elders and our parents different, like family is different. So having all of that inside of me, I wanted a world where I could infuse all of that. So that's where like, the Wakanda part comes in, you know, the culture, the beliefs, and all these different things. And then the Narnia Of course, you know, you've got like a talking beaver and all this stuff. So I have like a talking Pegasus. And, you know, I have like, my own version of dinosaurs, and like dragons, and like, all these different things, it's a lot of fun. Um, I get to be a child and just make stuff up.Emma Dhesi:
So I could kind of go down this route of asking you how you can pull the story ideas and check. But what I'd love to know is for our listeners out there, so we can hear from the way that you've been talking about Yeah, you go in deep, you are researched a lot? What advice, what strategies? What tips might you have for some of our listeners who are fantasy writers, and sci fi writers who are maybe in their first year of writing, and they're starting to build their world, and are either looking to put together the basics that they need, and then maybe a couple of things about how they might be able to go deeper and really give? give their world a 3D fuel to it as well.Stephanie BwaBwa:
Yeah, no. So for beginners, right, if this is your first time tackling something, so expansive, something so assuming it's large, right, assuming it's on that kind of level, maybe not a universal level, but you're trying to create a brand new world, brand new cultures, brand new individuals, traditions, histories, that kind of thing. And you're not necessarily pulling ideals from Planet Earth, you know, or a different epic in history of Earth, but maybe you're pulling ideals. I think they were pulling ideals from what we know. Right? So maybe you're pulling ideals from Greek mythology or any kind of thing like that. Um, first I would say is know what you want to write. So what draws you what attracts you, though I I have been able to create my own thing. Basically, at the end of the day, I have always loved angels. I have always loved demons. I have always read stories with angels and demons and these kinds of things. Of course, I've also read, you know, Fey and all these kinds of other creatures, but, um, I know that those kinds of stories tugs on my heart number one, number two, I always knew that stories that are very otherworldly are stories that are near and dear to my heart, Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia, you know, Mortal Instruments, you know, all of these kinds of, we're in one, we're in this one world, but we go somewhere completely different, has always pulled on my heart. And a couple of approaches is either character, or the world. What do you see first? And don't be afraid to go with what you see. First. I know, oftentimes, there can be this, you know, notion of like, Oh, well, the rule is you start with a character. No, the rule is you start with where your heartstrings are going first. Right. So do you hear dialogue? Do you see a face? Do you want to talk about a certain kind of people group, you know, again, while I am creating this otherworldly, you know, universe, I am drawing from what I know as a black woman from the cultures that I was raised raised with. So like, Haitians are in the back of my mind, Africans are in the back of my mind, the the journey of black people throughout the Diaspora around the world that is in the back of my mind. And it's important to me to tell our stories from a beautiful light from a light of excellence and to show our show our joy to shore up to show our history to show our pride. And to do that through the lens of a fantasy, you know, these angels. And so, you know, what do you see first? Or maybe do you see this world of water, you know, and you see these different creature characters and creatures? And you're like, oh, okay, I can't I can see this. Now, I want to go deeper into that. Um,Emma Dhesi:
Can I just really just want to take you back a moment where you were saying, you know, what draws you though, for the listener? what draws them? Is that important, because they're going to be doing a lot of research about that. And they're going to be incorporating those stories. So it's a, it's a good idea to choose Greek mythology, or let me think Chinese mythology because that's what you'll be surrounding yourself with. So make sure you love it so that you're happy to be in that realm or, or take from that. Is that is that why that's important?Stephanie BwaBwa:
Partly because you will be in that for a long time. But also, because at the end of the day, writing is hard. Writing is work, writing is tough. And there will come a point where you're going to question every single word that you have written, and there has to be something deep within you that understands, no, I need to tell this story. I want to tell this story, there's something deeper about this that's calling me to put these these words to paper. And so it has to be because the thing is, if you go I mean, you can go and the reason why I say that is because a lot of people you know, especially if they want to build a career, they go where the market leads, right fame sells couple you know, if you're reading my a write enemies to lovers sells, um, you know, the long lost princess sells, like all of these kinds of things. So but is that the story that you want to tell is that the story that is inside of your heart, because at the end of the day, it's not what the idea that you're writing the story first and foremost for yourself, like you are your first reader, you are the first person that will love these characters, love this world love this journey that they're going on will be able to relate with this journey that they're going on. And so there has to be something deep inside of you that understands, okay, this is the direction that I want to go, this might be fun. But this is not only fun, but it's also really calling me in that direction. And so it's really good to go, what your heart is calling you. And then I would also say, pick an angle, do you want to go from a character's purse, you want to build up from a character, which I would call micro world building, where you're attacking the character. So and this is not just like, oh, what they look like this is where do they come from? Where do they live? How are they raised? What were they conditioned with? You know, what's the world like around them? And how does that affect their affect their psyche? You know, like their education. I mean, like, if we understand that, depending on where you were raised, who was around you, you become a product of your environment. And it's the same thing for your character. You know, their worldview will be determined will be determined by their normal world. What are they exposed to every single day? What opportunities or lack thereof of are they presented with, you can go from that perspective. Right the micro worlds building or you can do macro, where you tackle the entire world you tackle, you know, the different continents, and you tackle, okay. And this is like logistical things of like, where these continents are situation situated during, with the different hemispheres, what kinds of worlds could survive there? How could these worlds survive? How would these people groups if you live in a place where there's always you know, thunder and lightning and hurricanes, at some point, the society is going to set Okay, we need to build shelters and homes that can withstand this because we can't just up and stop our lives every time a storm comes through, right? Like I was raised in South Florida. When you hit you know, like Orlando south, especially when it gets to like Fort Lauderdale, South, a lot of the homes are hurricane proof. Because at the end of the day, we know what it's like to deal with category five hurricanes where the hurricane comes, and literally flatlines everything, because we are literally below sea level if you really think about where Florida is situated, right. And so you know, as, as people grew up in Florida, we obviously have had to acclimate to the fact that, okay, it's May, from the from the month of May, and June, up until November, at any given time, we can be hit by either a low balling tropical storm, or up to a category five hurricane where you need to make sure that you have at least three weeks food supply all of these kinds of things. And so when you're thinking about macro world building, you know, you can think of that expansive view of, you know, looking at the different people groups, how they interact with one another, did they go to war? Are they like, who's an ally? Who's an enemy? How did that happen? You know, what kind of magic do they have? How does magic either advance or hinder their lives? Who has magic? Where did it come from, you know, like all of these kinds of things. And so it really depends on what you want to do. And what you want to focus on when I started from the very beginning back in like 2015 2016, is when I really started, like gathering ideas for what is now lol, I didn't know that. That's what it was, at the time, I just knew that I wanted to create this massive world and have all these different moving parts. And so I just tackled a little bit every you know, every day, I'll just like put a little you know, maybe a character here or like, maybe one day a character will find this magical object somewhere out here. I would do all these different things. But I really approached it from that time on a macro perspective. So like the different worlds different realms, how does time work in one realm versus time in another if they travel inter dimensionally? How does that affect the character? Like these kinds of things? But now I really do. I do tackle it from a character perspective. I do go from the micro perspective of like, who's going to be in the story? What is surrounding them and how does that shape their personality and and their ideals? Right, like I'm working on a story right now where I guess you can call you can think of her as like an assassin so she's a crack since and crescents are bone collectors and ash fusers. And what that means is, it's a terrible job. So is they so there are the parts of the questions where they are assassins, they have these high level targets, they take them out, then they bring them to her where she essentially extract the bone extracts the bones from these bodies, collects them, brings them back to the crescent guild and then they take these bones and fuse them into ash and deliver these ash whether to the temple to be used for like, you know, incense or whatever, or to somewhere else to be used for manufacturing, and terrible job, I promise but you know, she has a good redemption arc. Um, but you know, I started from there and then so I'm thinking, Okay, if you are a Bone Collector, okay, and an ash fuser, you have to have a certain kind of psyche, right to constantly be able to take people's lives and to just end them and to be able to take their bones from their bodies and to disintegrate their bodies and continue to move life, you know, and continue to do what you have to do, right? You like, at the end of the day, that's your job, you know, and you have to get it done. And so, what is that psyche? Like, what are you surrounded by? How does your day move forward for you to have that kind of mindset and lifestyle? versus you know, if I started from like the world, you know, I might have something different, you know, if I started only from the world, I might, she might have ended up being like some noble or something, you know what I mean? So, it really just depends on what you want to do either micro world building going from the character or macro world building, going from the world and then sticking characters in there afterwards.Emma Dhesi:
Okay, okay. Wow. Okay. A lot in there. My goodness. There's a lot to think about. And so that kind of leads me to your question, which is, or know if you're a either a perfectionist or you're a procrastinator you're going through. I'm a bit nervous about writing the story. This kind of feels to me perfect rabbit hole research land where you could just just world bills for the next 20 years and never actually lightened story. So how can people balance that bits of it as well and not let themselves off the hook by just doing the world's building?Stephanie BwaBwa:
No, that's a really good point. And I will go ahead and say this right now I am a recovering perfectionist, I might go to the grave being a recovering perfectionist, because I am as meticulous as I am because I am a perfectionist. So I'm like, Where are these people wearing? What do they look like? You know, how do their wings function? Wait, okay, can they put a coat? Can you put a coat on wings? How does that work? Like? You know, I mean, like, that's where rabbit holes, right? Like you can get lost. For hours. Hello, I've been building this world free hears and I'm still doing it right. And so I would say this, you've got to know when to pull the plug. And honestly, that's a gut thing. That is a gut thing where you realize I have enough. You know what I mean? And honestly, when you get to that space, where you are constantly building, building building, but you're not creating, really the question is what are you running from? What are you hiding from? Why have you not started, what is allowing this resistance to keep you from diving in because usually it's not a, I don't have enough information thing for us extreme plotters, like myself, it's not an I don't have enough information thing. It's a, I'm too, I'm scared that regardless of everything that I have learned, and I have gathered, this book will still be hot, boiling garbage, and no one's going to read it and no one's going to want it. Or I'm scared that when I put it out, I was hoping for it to be like this. And it came out like this. And it's not the way I want it. And I don't want that we're usually avoiding the end result before we even get there. And because we are so afraid of what could be we don't do anything at all in the present. And so I would really say like that is a gut thing. And really that that's just it's it's a mindset thing, right? It's recognizing You are worthy of writing the story. And then also thinking about and some questions to really focus on is, who will this story help the most? And how will they continue to be hindered because you have not written the book, right? When you move yourself out of the way and you think from a place of just service, and you think of the people who are going to get this book, because understand whether you're writing fiction or fantasy, it is just as powerful as writing a self help book, right? There are some people there are certain things that they will process in this life, they will only learn those principles through a fiction book. And so when you think about, okay, if I don't write this book, all of these people will not be able to find the solution that they're looking for, they will not be able to learn the lessons that they need to learn because I didn't do my job, which is to write the book, then it starts to take a different like that has a different weight to it. Because you're realizing Oh, yeah, as much as I would love to spend another five hours on Pinterest, you know, looking at, you know, another 10 minutes million dresses. Oh, what would you look at that I actually need to sit down and write 1500 words today, because I have a goal, you know, and honestly, it and that's the thing too, right? giving yourself a deadline, giving yourself goals, giving yourself you know, rewards, right? So if you write, maybe you get chocolate, maybe you get some coffee, if you don't write maybe you don't get to watch bridgerton until you do, right, you know that? You know, give yourself you know, rewards, give yourself consequences, but also really think about the people, you know, that are being shortchanged, because you have not done your job, which is to write the book, if that story is inside of you. It needs to be told right there is there are almost 8 billion people on this planet. And quite frankly, we could all write as many stories as fast as we could and it would still not be enough because the way that readers, especially if they are voracious these readers will fly through books, whether it is 200 pages or 699. They will fly through the book and sit there like okay, well, where's the next one? And you're like, I can only write so much so quick. Right? So readers at the end of the day, there will never be enough books for readers like they're constantly taking in. And so it is up to you to recognize that you have a power which is telling stories and there are readers literally waiting for your story with how you will tell it in the way that you will tell it and the lessons that you will teach through the journey of your charactersEmma Dhesi:
Is a beautiful place to end because it is all about the reader, isn't it? Why when we're writing our first story in particular, we put our heart into it and possibly yours, right? Again, trying to make every sentence perfect. And and then then we've when we get further down the line, we realize, Oh, it's actually not about me. It's about the reader. And so that's a really valuable ending there just to remind people when they're feeling nervous and feeling unconfident about their work, just to remind yourself, not about me, it's about the reader, it's alright to be done. And that takes the pressure off quite a bit of the pressure anyway.Stephanie BwaBwa:
No, absolutely. Because in the beginning, I will confess, I was that person, I was like, oh, but I love this story. I love these characters. And this world is my favorite. And I know port all of this energy into it. And the lessons and the themes that I thought readers would walk away with from it, they did not write like, because one thing to put your intention into it, it's another thing when their reader interprets it with their own views and what they're trying to get out of the story. And so honestly, once that book is published, it is completely out of your hands. And it's all up to the reader. Because at the end of the day, yeah, we'll write for ourselves, what, we're ready for our readers, you know, what are they going to learn? What are they going to take away from it? And so yeah, I mean, of course, pour your heart into it, right? Like, every time we write a book, it's like we're releasing a part of ourselves. But at the end of the day, it it's for the reader, it's how this book is going to change them, you know, whether for season or for a lifetime. And that's what matters.Emma Dhesi:
Lovely! Well tell us what you're working on now. Because there's lots of things oing on in your universe. So hat are you working on at theStephanie BwaBwa:
So right now I am editing, editing, rewriting a story. Here's a little tip for some of you guys. So there will be some times that you will write an entire manuscript and realize, Oh, I did not write it in the right POV. Or I did not. I did not write it, you know from the right perspective. And so I'm currently facing that with one manuscript where I wrote it in third person is better served in first. So going through an entire rewrite plus, adding a lot of lore in and all it's taking a lot of time, a lot of energy, it is draining on me it is. It's kind of like it's very Romeo and Juliet esque, between a major princess and a Simon Prince. And they are raised, born and raised, conditioned and sharpened as weapons to completely obliterate the other. So sirens are always killing mages, mages are always killing sirens. And at some point, these two main characters will ask the question why? When did this start? Why is this going on? Why am I expected to fulfill these needs and as they are desiring of their crown, because they're both heirs to their thrones, and they both will get their throne by wiping the other one out? That's the condition. But as they as they journey, they'll have to discover Okay, is this really what I want? And if it's not, where do I go from here? And from that a whole slew of events unfold. So that's taking quite an amount of energy. And I'm also writing, I'm a serial, so think of it as so think of novels for those of you like what is a serial, so think of novels as like feature films, serials as like television episodes, so they are shorter, they're coming in and they're like novella length. And um, this is about my Crescent. So she is a Bone Collector and an ash fuser who wants to who no longer wants to be part of the crescent guilds and she no longer wants to be a crescent, right. And so she finally I'm working on the first pilot, if you will, I'm working on the pilot. And for this episode, she, she has finally amassed enough coin to leave the crescent guild and to leave the bone court, and she wants to go to a different court to live but then her, the queen of the crescents gives her one last task. And when she realizes what the task is, she will have to decide is she going to get involved because it's completely against her morals, or she gonna choose herself and you know, do the job and escape. So I'm having a lot of fun with it, it's shorter, so it's easier to dive in without pouring so much into it. You don't have to do so much for character development and world building, I can just dive in. So I'm having a lot of fun with it. There will be several seasons and they will be you know, like potentially about eight or so nine episodes a season. That's like eight or so nine books for those of you that are like what does that mean? Um, so that's what I'm working on. I've got the rewrite plus I've got the book books that I'm working on right now and they're a lot of fun, and they're two completely different realms also. SoEmma Dhesi:
My goodness no for our listeners who are have been their appetites have been wetted and they want to know more where can they find out more about your? Your writing?Stephanie BwaBwa:
Yes, Stephanie bwabwa.com um, I do have a se arate site for Elledelle wh ch is elledelle.com. But right n w I'm kind of consolidatin , because I, I am phasing out o e on one work and mostly ju t keeping digital products up. o I do have two courses f r writers who are at t e beginning. That one deals wi h mindset. It's called writ r readiness. It deals wi h mindset. The other one is call d storyboarding with purpose f r those of you that are like, I need ideals. I'm dealing wi h writer's block, what am I supposed to do? I can't mo e forward storyboarding wi h purpose is for you. And so a l of that has been consolidat d into one site on Stephaniebwa a.com so it will be predominantl the books like it would be o Elledelle. But writers will als be able to find resources t assist their writing journey o Stephaniebwabwa.com as wel , so they can find me there on nstagram at Stephaniebwabwa bec use I live on the gram.Emma Dhesi:
Well, I'll be sure to do all of those links and so that people can find you on either site and to resolve amalgamated. Well Stephanie T ank you so much for your time t day. I really love learning m re about you about lol. And a so, just that crazy mind of y urs has got so much going on i side it.Stephanie BwaBwa:
No, thank you for having me. This was awesome.Emma Dhesi:
Well, thank you so much for joining me today. I hope you find that helpful and inspirational. Now, don't forget to come on over to facebook and join my group, turning readers into writers. It is especially for you if you are a beginner writer who is looking to write their first novel. If you join the group, you will also find a free cheat sheet there called three secret hacks to write with consistency. So go to Emmadhesi.com/turning readers into writers. Hit join. Can't wait to see you in there. All right. Thank you. Bye bye.