C. M. Alongi graduated from Hamline University with a double bachelor’s in history and social justice. She lives in an apartment in the Twin Cities area where she protects her furniture from her roommates’ two evil cats. Her first full-length novel Citadel comes out June 2023, and she is currently writing an epic fantasy novella series called Blackwing.
Tell us about your Blackwing series.
Blackwing is an epic fantasy novella series, starting with To Kill a Necromancer, about a paladin and necromancer who are forced to work together to save the world. Think Diablo II meets Dungeons and Dragons, but the world is based on Ancient Greece and Rome rather than Medieval England.
You are in the middle of publishing novellas related to the Blackwing series. How do these fit in with the series? Will the series be complete when the novellas are released or is there more to come?
There will definitely be more to come. I’m publishing the first five this year, and then the next five next year. I honestly don’t know how long it will go on, but definitely 20+.
Think of the series like a show. Each novella is a single episode with the same characters.
You also have another novel set to publish in June. Tell us about that book. Series or stand alone?
Citadel is a science fiction novel, hopefully the first of a series. In short, Olivia is a nonverbal autistic woman living in the city of Citadel, the only human city on an alien planet. It is a dogmatic, ableist, sexist society that’s been locked in a war of extermination against the “demons” of the surrounding Flooded Forest for the last four hundred years. (The “demons” are basically alien wolves with wings, telepathy, and telekinesis.) After losing her boyfriend to the conflict, Olivia goes on a solo mission into the Flooded Forest to start a dialogue and get to the bottom of why this war started.
It looks like you’re heavily involved in social media, particularly on Tik Tok, Instagram, and You Tube. Are these writing-related projects or do they provide a separate creative outlet?
These are usually separate creative outlets. I originally started social media as a way to grow an audience before getting publishing contracts; that way, when I did have something to release, I’d have an audience ready to read it. This took a lot of trial and error, and I’ll be the first to admit that I only partially know what I’m doing here. (Though that is, frankly, true of everyone on social media.)
TikTok is home to my CaFae Latte series, a light-hearted video series about a café run by fairies. It’s a lot more fun and humorous than Blackwing or Citadel, which tend to be a lot darker and bloodier.
How much time do you spend writing compared to marketing? Do you feel that is the right balance for you?
I don’t like marketing, which is ironic given I’ve spent 5+ years in sales. I’d much rather be creating. So I’m probably not doing as much marketing as I should be.
Do you have a specific place/time/routine to your writing? Do you have a strange writing quirk?
I’ve got a desk shoved in the corner of my apartment, and that’s where I do 95% of my writing. (The other 5% is when I’m out and about, either visiting my parents or chilling at a café or even on an airplane.)
I write whenever I can and for however long I can. Usually with music playing from YouTube. I try to match the music to the aesthetic of whatever it is I’m writing, which means for Blackwing, it’s Ancient Greek/Roman fantasy music.
What is the best advice you ever received as a writer?
It’s less of advice and more of a quick anecdote. My mother is also an author (has hit the New York Times Bestseller for paranormal romance several times, actually), and she told me that before she had a stable career in this field of work, she got so many rejection letters than she could’ve redone in wallpaper of her apartment with them.
You’re going to get rejected. Keep writing and querying, anyway.
When you start a story, do you begin with character, plot, setting, other?
It honestly depends on where the idea is coming from. In Citadel’s case, I mostly started with the characters and a broad concept of two different peoples clashing. I created the setting from that, and once I had all of that figured out, then I outlined the plot.
With Blackwing, I was inspired by the video game Diablo II, and I originally thought I’d anonymously write a fanfiction and then forget about it. But I found myself involved enough with the plot these characters were creating in my head that I essentially plucked them from the (copyrighted) Diablo universe and created a new one from scratch, calling upon ancient civilizations and Greek Mythology. So setting and world history came first, along with the broad concept of good vs evil. Then I re-did the characters based on this setting and how they would turn out, then outlined the plot.
Honestly, plot is usually the last thing I focus on. I’m much more character-driven.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Reading. I also crochet and knit, and I like taking long walks around my neighborhood.
Very boring, I know.
What does success look like for you as an author?
Being able to fully support myself from my creative pursuits, as well as inspiring my audience. Whether that means inspiring them to write their own stories, or to be a better person, or helping them see themselves in fiction—most of my characters are queer, women, and/or disabled.
Right now I still have to work part time at a deli in order to pay my bills, although that is rapidly becoming less and less necessary.
Is there anything additional you want to share with readers?
Get me out of food service! Check out my books!
BookLocations: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo