Iscah is too young to be called old and too old to be called young. It is rumored that Iscah was born, and it is prophesized that Iscah shall one day die. As yet the prophecy goes unfulfilled. When not lost in imaginary lands, Iscah lives in the city of music.”

Heck of a bio. So who is Iscah? Iscah is the author of several fantasy books, including the “Seventh Night” series. And I had the opportunity to interview her.

 

Tamara Wilhite: You use the name Iscah to focus on the stories instead of the storyteller. Do you think that authors in general spend too much time promoting a personal brand instead of their stories?

Iscah: No, for myself the distancing felt important.  I am atypical in many ways so I did not want my age, race, gender or personal background to influence reader expectations.  But some authors draw strongly from personal experience, and that is fine too.  Unfortunately self-promotion is part of the reality of the business right now, and so I do not fault anyone who puts in the effort.

I do get a little annoyed when the author name starts getting bigger than the story title.  That is probably more often a publisher decision, but it was something I promised myself when I started writing, that my name would never be bigger than the title.  We made a bit of a joke of it by dropping the author name altogether from “The Girl with No Name” cover.  Initially, it was an accident, but it worked really well with that title.  Likewise, I think publishers have become a little unwise trying to push a lot of the promotional work onto authors.  There are exceptions, but I’d say the majority of writers are introverts.  Writing well and marketing well are different skill sets.

 

Tamara Wilhite: You’ve published three books to date in the same fantasy world: “Seventh Night”, “The Girl with No Name” and “Horse Feathers”. Can you tell me about this fictional universe?

Iscah:  “Seventh Night” is the core book.  I wanted to write something that captured the feel of The Princess Bride without being the same story.  So it’s a tongue-in-cheek action adventure that is a blender of folk and fairytales and the adventure films I loved in childhood.  While it doesn’t have the story within a story aspect of The Princess Bride, there’s a metafiction aspect to it like how the book is divided into acts.  I also aimed for the same family audience.  Is it for kids? Yes. Is it for adults? Yes.

The others are a set of four stories called Before the Fairytale that cover the younger years of the main characters and act as a prequel.  Because it’s not a linear series, I used a different style of writing in each book intended to reflect the character’s personality.

The world itself is a Medieval-ish fairy-tale world.  Not historically accurate and not earth, though I drew a lot of details from 11th-13th century Europe.  Unicorns are common and generally considered to be soldier mounts.  Pegasus are often for merchants and messengers (and the plural of pegasus is pegasus).  Winged unicorns are generally reserved for nobility.

 

Tamara Wilhite: Fantasy isn’t all you write. What other fiction genres have you been published in?

Iscah:  Many planned, nothing else published of my own writing.  I’ve edited a multi-genre anthology called Tomato Slices, and while I did not write any of the stories, poems, or recipes in it, I tried to arrange them so you get all the emotional highs and lows of reading a novel.  I am proud of how it turned out.  My other “published” written work is mainly on T-shirts and a few short stories on Fictionpress.

 

Tamara Wilhite: You’re an artist as well as a writer. I’ve seen your DeviantArt page and CafePress shop. May I ask how well these things sell relative to your content? And do they tie into your books? For example, did you create your own book covers? Have you created anyone else’s?

Iscah:  I did the book covers for Tomato Slices and the Seventh Night hardback.  Maxim Nossevitch did the covers for The Girl With No Name and Horse Feathers and I hope he’ll get to finish out the set because I really like his work, though I did the interior artwork in both books.  I’ve drawn out a map for the Seventh Night world and did a full layout for Pinnacle Castle as well as the Pride of Cordance, but this was mainly done for my own notes to keep things straight in the story.

The Amoeba Ink Cafepress shop (which has a clone on Zazzle) is a shared shop with five or six different artist contributors.  Three of them are significantly better artists than I am, but I was the one who always wanted to design T-shirts, so I have more sections.  There is a section for Seventh Night with art and word shirts (and other merchandise) inspired by the book.  Most of the shop is an odd mishmash of things.  My bestsellers are designs I did for Dexter, Pretty Little Liars, and NCIS (and the now gone Cartoon Network and ET) through Cafepress fan portals, but my personal favorites are probably The Surrealist Court section.

I have not done a book cover for any other authors, but I did an illustration or two for stories in the Tomato Slices anthology.

 

Tamara Wilhite: What works inspired you to become an artist and author?

Iscah:  Timothy’s Zahn Heir to the Empire trilogy is what made the lightbulb go off in my head that I could be an author.  I was thirteen and before I read that I had the idea that great books were all things written a long time ago.  Not sure where I got the ego to think I could write a great book, but I knew that was what I wanted to do.  There were many, many other books that have fed my imagination, but that was the one that set my career goals.

The artist thing was more accidental.  Two of my best friends are both fantastic artists, and employed full time at it.  So I mainly feel like I dabble and have only in the past few years really started to think of myself as both.  My art was mainly about getting story ideas out so better artists could draw them.  But some of it was okay, and Photoshop lets me tweak it into something that doesn’t embarrass me too badly.  I did get a minor in design because I enjoy art and respect it as a medium to communicate.  (I have a degree in television production which I’ve done embarrassingly little with).  My artist friend and I briefly considered starting a T-shirt business in middle school, and that and desire to design greeting cards (which I’ve also done very little of) inspired the Cafepress Shop.

I’m also rather enamored with the whole print on demand idea.

 

Tamara Wilhite: A lot of people create art and write in their spare time. What do you like to do for fun?

Iscah: I designed a T-shirt that says “This IS what I do for fun” because of previous encounters that question.  I have tried to always choose jobs that are fun for me.  Writing and drawing, yes, but my day jobs have generally involved caring for young children, books, and organizing things because those are fun for me.  Beyond that I do like to read, watch movies and series, swim, sing, lurk in SCA groups, learn things, and sometimes cook.  I have a couple restaurant concepts, one I hope to do and the other I will probably work into a story.  I like to keep the line between work and fun blurry.

 

Tamara Wilhite: I believe you’re working on a budgeting book, “Living Single on Minimum Wage“. Do you want to talk about it?

Iscah:  The first edition is out under my other pen name.  What I’m working on is the second edition.  I think the core advice in the book is good, but the examples are dated.  Also it was my first published book, so there’s a lot about it I would like to improve.  The focus is basic budgeting for low income singles.  Right before the fire, I had just wrapped up a year long combination video and research project for it…and lost most of that footage and all my notes in the fire.  I’m going to do something with what I had salvaged, but not sure the exact form that will take yet.

 

Tamara Wilhite: What non-fiction works have you had come out?

Iscah: So far just the budgeting book.  Non-fiction doesn’t come as naturally to me.  My co-writer was extremely valuable organizing everything into a useable format.  I’ve had ideas for other books but have not started any yet.  I do have a massive long term project, which will probably come out in book form eventually.  I’ve developed a pretty effective education system for infants and toddlers, and I want to write it up in some format where others can use it, as well as propose a restructuring of public schools through high school.  The latter may be more of a manifesto.

 

Tamara Wilhite: Thanks for speaking with me.

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See more art related to “Seventh Night” at DeviantArt.