In the next installment of my ongoing series of Author Spotlights, I present Shakyra Dunn.
Author Spotlight: Shakyra Dunn
Today I’m fortunate to present Shakyra Dunn, author of The One Left Behind: Magic.
Hi Shakyra, thanks for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
Hi there! Well, I’m twenty-two years old, I was born in Chicago, Illinois, and I’m currently living in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Full time writer and part time night stocker. Wonder which one is more life-consuming.
How long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing since I was about seven, but I took up the mantle of writing officially when I was fourteen, and became published last year.
What inspired you to start writing?
I used to create stories all the time when I was younger and write them down on paper or my mom’s old desktop. When I started high school, I happened to find my stories tucked away in a box and spontaneously decided to write again. Since then, I’ve become influenced to take up the craft.
Tell us a little bit about your current project. Is it a novel, short story, or something else? Is it part of a series?
I’ve put the sequel to The One Left Behind: Magic on hold and I am currently working on a novel that I started for NaNoWriMo called “FML: The Final Lesson” (name is in progress). It is going to be a part of a separate mini-series centered around the themes of life, morality and understanding, but none of the stories really connect to one another aside from some similarities or cameos here and there. This is going to be the first of the saga that I create.
What genre do you prefer to write in, if any?
I prefer to mix genres, but my primary field is fantasy.
What authors influenced you?
Lemony Snicket. When I was nine years old, I picked up his first book in “A Series of Unfortunate Event” for a project for class, since we were assigned to read a certain amount in a month. After I finished the first, I started to devour the series until the final book concluded when I was thirteen. I always felt as though the series ended on a bad note, and it inspired me to want to create my own stories and try to tackle my own endings.
What are you currently reading?
Reading, uh, now? I’m sadly not reading much due to focusing more on my own works, but I’ve been dabbling on and off with Adelle Yeung’s final book in her series “The Cycle of the Six Moons.”
Do you write every day? A few days per week?
It’s come down to a few days per week solely because my job drains a lot of my motivation and energy. Nights are not fun. Nope.
Do you listen to music when you write? Does it influence how you write?
Always! I listen to instrumentals, and it paints a picture in my head about the scenery that I want to create.
How do you think your writing has changed from when you first started?
Well, for one, I’ve gotten heavy development on characters, even if my plots can be a bit mundane or outlandish. There is no in-between with me. My characters from age fourteen were so dull and lifeless, and now that I’ve grown stronger in that aspect, I feel that I can carry a story well.
How do you create the covers for your books?
For the original cover of The One Left Behind: Magic, I enlisted the help of an artist on Deviantart that did concept art of my main character Frayle. To this day, I still adore the picture. I tend to go to other artists for my book covers.
Are there any non-literary influences for your writing (movies, actors, music, etc)?
Definitely music, and I also play a lot of JRPG’s to help fuel my idealism on characters and plot.
What is your favorite book and why?
Oh man. I have so many, I don’t know what to do with them all.
How do you market your books?
I try to promote myself through author takeovers and participating in groups as much as I can. I’ve yet to have any success through online promotion websites such as BookRaider.
Do you have an excerpt from your current work you’d like to share?
The cinders crackled over the singed wood, rising through the midnight’s earthy air. Gusts of wind drifted through the dry oak trees, the shades of early autumn teeming from the branches in the form of cracked leaves. The stars were absent from the sky, yet a faint glimmer hovered above.
The still night of a new moon; such times were hard to fall upon. That made things even more brilliant for such an announcement.
“You feel it, don’t you?” A gravelly voice cut through the silence, catching the attention of the group that surrounded him. “This air is thick. The stigma of wind such as this besieges any and every lost soul, carrying them beyond the boundaries of time.”
“Master Hinju, you always make things more dramatic.”
Any means of a rebuttal were replaced by extended humming in a straight tone before finally, “Now is not the time for remarks.” Copper eyes opened to the sound of distant laughter caught in the indistinct gales, and a single glance at the source drew bitter silence. A stern expression coated his features as he gazed upon the group of fourteen seated around the open fire; no disturbances occurred, and he once more cleared his throat, running his fingers through the curly brown mop on his head.
“I have summoned you here today for your final examination.” For a moment, chatter progressed among the group, some questioning what he meant by a ‘final examination,’ and after a second glance, silence took over again. “Moving on… The fourteen of you have advanced through your courses with ease, rising through the ranks of your respective classes. You were hand-chosen by your mentors to reach this stage in your lives.”
“Master Hinju, what is this final examination?” One student piped up, a stalwart expression coating her pale features. “We’ve had plenty of tests, but this is the first that I’ve heard of this…”
“Curious as always, Leilana,” Hinju replied with a nod. “That is correct—you have had many of these examinations, using your time to study magic and overcome obstacles placed before you.” The man cocked his head to the right and smirked. “But how often have you been sought out by the Headmaster himself for one of them?” Leilana grew silent, tucking a loose strand of her shoulder-length dark hair behind her ear.
“He’s not wrong…” one of the students mumbled.
“I guess this is the first time we’ve had someone like Master Hinju try to teach us…”
“Your examination on the night of emptiness will be a test of your overall skill level and valor.” Hinju rose to a stand, extending his hand up towards the evening sky. “As Maesters and Arcana, you know that under the blessing of an innovative and invisible moon, you will be guided by none other than yourself. I chose this night specifically for you to give your all.” The students turned to one another in silence before continuing to listen to their Headmaster’s words. “Two by two, you will duel one another. The winners of each respective battle will progress towards the title that you each so crave—a chance to grow closer to becoming a Warlord.”
Leilana’s eyes widened at the statement, and she clutched the golden-encrusted grimoire in her arms closer to her chest, the metal vines lining the book pricking her fingers. So, that was the prize of winning a duel. Seemed simple enough.
“Would anyone like to volunteer for the first battle?”
From the group of fourteen, a boy with neck-length dark brown hair tipped his beret and rose to a stand, confidence clear in his amber eyes. “I will.”
“Ah, so the mighty Lancett Lune is our first up for battle.” Hinju nodded in approval. “I expected no less. Do you wish to choose an opponent, or shall I have the stars choose for you?” Lancet briefly turned any signs of contempt on Leilana after looking over all his possible choices at least once, and the girl met his gaze before returning a small smirk. Lancet turned to Hinju once more, a hand on his hip.
“I leave my fate in your hands, Master.”
“Very well.” Hinju closed his eyes and ran his fingers along the silver crystal at the tip of his wooden staff, the jewel illuminating a smoky gloom. The students never averted their eyes from the man, watching as the crystal’s haze began to flow over another boy seated on a log. Once he had caught notice of the beam above him, a grin upturned on his face and he shot up from his spot, his blonde hair bouncing along with him.
“Yes!” he exclaimed gleefully before brandishing what appeared to be a rapier from the sheath at his side, twirling the hilt between his fingers. “I’ve always wanted to try my hand at fighting you, Lancelot! The day has come!”
“Lancelot?” Lancett laughed at the comment before he took hold of the sword at his side, pointing it at his opponent. “Take it easy there, Kindall. I’m not some knight. One day, I’ll be a Warlord. But right now, we’re both just knaves in the field of magic.”
“Begin!” Hinju commenced.
The two boys charged for one another at the call to battle, rapier and sword interlocking, the clashing metal harmoniously in sync. Lancett shoved Kindall back with his hand, causing him to stumble before regaining his stance in time to block an oncoming strike. Kindall thrust his hand out, miniscule shards of ice rushing through his palm, cutting into Lancett’s skin before melting. Lancett’s body became shrouded in a douse of flames faster than Kindall could process, the heat and cinders hazing his vision.
Kindall leaped from the line of fire and swung his rapier, sharper icicles accelerating from the tip of the blade. Lancett cut through the shards with his sword as he boosted himself forward off his right foot, ducking under another shard before slamming his sword onto the ground. Kindall barely had the time to react when a cataclysm of earth sent him off his feet and up into the air. He gripped to a tree branch and pulled himself up, bouncing on his right then left foot in an anxious manner.
“The hell is he doing?” one of the male students exhaled. Leilana’s eyes narrowed as she kept her focus on the noble battle before her. Something about the method that the boys seemed to be taking was a little profound, as if they were slowly beginning to seep into a fractured state of bloodlust.
Kindall held up his rapier with both hands and cast down a streak of lightning at Lancett. Lancett cringed, the narrow impact sending quivers down his back. Once he had found an opportunity to strike, Kindall swung from the branch and pierced through Lancett’s defenses, knocking him to the ground. He quickly regained his footing afterwards and extended his sword forward as Kindall was rushing to him again, a swell of dark energy ensnaring the boy and locking him in place, hovering above the ground in a magenta-shaded bubble.
“Hey!” Kindall tried to slice through the bubble, to no avail. When that failed, he attempted to kick and punch it, and when his efforts came to nothing, he groaned and decided to just take a seat inside of his solitary confinement, arms crossed in a huff. “Damn! I was so close!”
Lancett sighed of relief, falling on the ground, hand over his pounding heart. “That was close… I was afraid I was gonna run out of stamina…”
“Excellent work, Maester Lune. Victory is yours,” Hinju stated, laying a hand on Lancett’s shoulder. Within seconds, the torn flesh on his face and body began to mend and close once more, as if the marks were never there.
“Thank you, Master,” Lancett replied, grinning.
“That was awesome, Lance!” One of the girls piped up, now on her feet, both hands curled into confident fists. “You’re so strong!”
“That was impressive,” Leilana agreed.
Kindall grit his teeth, anxiously rocking his right leg up and down. “There he goes again, winning the hearts of all the girls… why can’t I ever get that lucky…? I’m handsome enough, I’m strong, and I’m fun and I’m confident too, just like him… maybe I should just dye my hair or something…”
Hinju stepped up towards Kindall’s little prison and patted it a few times with his staff, the bubble bursting and causing the boy to hit the ground face-first. Kindall sat up, nearly glaring at the man before tapping his finger against the dirt, his free hand still pressed against the ground.
“Vanity does not win hearts. Nor does it appeal to those that you do seek out for guidance—it shows that you have some weakness in yourself.” He rested a hand atop the boy’s head, and a warm light washed over Kindall’s body, healing the wounds that he sustained during his duel. “But those flaws about yourself do improve your perception on what you want to improve on.” Hinju extended a hand to the boy and once Kindall had a solid grip, he pulled him to his feet. “You did admirably yourself, Mr. Mandrison. Do not take this as a loss, rather as an experience.”
“T-Thank you, Master. I will, definitely.”
“That goes for all of you,” Master Hinju continued, “When in battle, or throughout your lives, certain obstacles that you must face are not to be taken with a heavy heart. Every step forward is something that you are meant to grow from. Now, who would like to go next?”
Where can we purchase your current book? What about previous books?
My current book can be found on Amazon and NOOK! The Final Lesson is, I’m hoping, set to be released in late summer!
Where can we find you online?
My Website: http://shakyradunnauthor.wixsite.com/seerofwords
My Review Page: http://burningmasses.shakyradunn.com
My Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/SeerofWords
My Twitter: https://mobile.twitter.com/shakyradunn
My Amazon Author Account: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B01H1BAPWS
If you’re an indie author, what made you choose that route?
Part of it was a lack of patience in wanting to pursue traditional publishing, and the other was fear of rejection at the time. But now that I’ve spent six months in self-publishing, I feel that I would do better in the traditional field. It’s got to be worth one try.
Any parting words for writers?
It may sound cliché, but never stop doing what you love. Your dream is yours alone, and once it is set in your mind, don’t stop fighting for it.