Kick off your Thursday the right way: with an interview with Siggy Chambers, author of The Binding of Bloom Mountain! If you fancy Studio Ghibli-esque cosy fantasy mixed with rural horror and light sapphic romance, check out Siggy's Pride Month sale on Ko-fi, where you can grab 20% off physical orders and 60% off the ebook.
And that's not all! We'll have a giveaway running from 5pm on Instagram, where five lucky winners will receive a free ebook!
Tell us about your newest book, The Binding of Bloom Mountain, and what inspired you to write it.
The Binding of Bloom Mountain is a strange mix of cozy fantasy and rural horror. It follows Celeste as she loses her job, has a major breakdown, and then finds a strange ad in an arts journal for a quick hiking job a couple hours outside of DC, where she lives. Celeste drives out to Milton and agrees to bind the magic of a cursed mountain to save the town from certain doom.
I started this book not long after my husband and I moved away from DC to the Shenandoah Valley, which is the basis for the setting. It was mid-2020, so the pandemic was underway and life was very uncertain. We ended up spending a lot of time driving around the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Appalachians, and the Valley to get out of the house and the scenery was the primary inspiration. There is a mountain with a large tree growing out of it south of one of the towns in the northern half of the Valley, and every time I saw it I wondered what kind of lore this tree would inspire. That inspired the Old Oak Tree and The Hangman, and the rest of the story came from that.
The mixture of cosy fantasy and horror is quite an unusual one. Which genre do you prefer and how did you find the balance when writing the horror aspects and still keeping it cosy?
I actually prefer writing sci-fi and horror to fantasy, and the cozy aspects of Bloom Mountain were entirely on accident. I just wanted to convey what a lot of small Virginia towns can feel like: cozy, quaint, and a bit mysterious. There is not a lot of balance between the horror and the cozy, I drop Celeste straight from one into the other in an effort to keep her and the reader on their toes.
Can you tell us a little bit about your characters? Which, if any, did you identify with most and why?
The main character is Celeste Foster, an early 30s undiagnosed autistic lesbian. She’s a forester by education and through her former job with the US Department of Forestry.
The love interest is Marta Finch, another early 30s woman. She co-owns a coffee shop in Milton and is also an alchemist.
Abram Waite is… a special character. Part-antagonist, part-mentor. But I won’t spoil all that.
I definitely relate to Celeste. I was going through getting diagnosed with autism at the same time that I was writing this book and I put a lot of my own anxieties and worries and traits into her. We are different enough that she isn’t a self-insert.
Did you come across any challenges while writing The Binding of Bloom Mountain? How did you overcome them?
Figuring out the genre for Bloom Mountain was a pain! It’s a mix of dark fantasy, portal fantasy, rural horror, and cozy Ghibli-esque scenes. And it isn’t easy to market either, because it isn’t quite fantasy, but also isn’t quite what people expect from horror. One reader described the second half as a survival adventure.
Tell us a little bit about your writing process! Are you a plotter or pantser? Did you overcome any challenges and how?
I have a pretty interesting process (from what other writers tell me)! I start out as a panster and write a zero draft to get the characters and setting and some of the plot down. Then I switch to plantsing to do my first proper draft of the story, fixing anything that stood out to me while I was doing the zero draft. Then for the revisions and final drafts, I plan all my changes. I always leave a bit of wiggle room because otherwise it would be hard for me to actually do the writing.
I also print out all the chapters of each draft and physically mark them up for the next round.
Bloom was my first time finishing a story to this kind of completion, so figuring out the best way for me to do all of it in a year was hard, but also interesting. It’s much easier now that I have done that testing.
What made you decide to self-publish rather than follow more traditional routes?
I write between genres with queer and neurodivergent characters. A lot of what I saw was that traditional publishing didn’t like the type of stories I write, but also people seemed to want to read them. So my husband suggested that I look into self-publishing. I found friends on Twitter and talked to a lot of other self-published authors and it really felt like the best route for me, for my stories, and for my mental health.
I am also a bit of a control freak, so having complete control over my story is nice.
What are your favourite tropes to write? Are they different from the ones you like to read?
I really struggle with figuring out tropes. I really like ancient gods, cosmic horrors, and anything that is liminal worlds-y. Things like gas stations out in the middle of the Midwest where it feels like no one else has been there for days and the vibes are a little off.
You write queer stories. Who are some of your favourite queer characters from other media, and is there any representation you’d like to see more of?
Xena! I grew up watching Xena and it had a profound effect on me, though I didn’t really realize or appreciate it until much later. Some recent favorites are Paul Stamets from Star Trek: Discovery, Ellie from The Last of Us games, Jainan from Winter’s Orbit, Morgan Yu from Prey (2017 video game).
We’d love a hint about any of your current projects! Are you working on anything that might please or even surprise your readers?
My next book is definitely going to be different, but it still has my usual queer and neurodivergent rep. Metropolis Down is a space horror with an achillean second-chance romance. It’s a fun mix of cyberpunk aesthetics and Star Trek-style sci-fi, with more intense horror than Bloom Mountain. The two MCs are profoundly broken men who are attempting to live without each other before the horror happens.
If you could give any advice to authors set to make their debut, what would it be?
My best advice is to find friends who want the same things from publishing as you. If they are super ambitious and you aren’t, you may struggle to find common ground.
I also recommend setting aside a full month after release to relax. You might not need all of that time, but there are going to be emotions that you don’t expect from finally getting your book out there.
Have any shows, movies, books, or games influenced your own work at all?
I am hugely influenced by media, especially video games. There are so, so many that have made an impact on me and my books, so I will just add a short list: Alan Wake, Control, Prey, Dead Space, The Legend of Zelda, Stardew Valley, Doom, Sunless Seas/Skies, Subnautica, No Man’s Sky, and so many more.
Our podcast focuses on media we’re currently loving. Are there any books, shows, movies, games, or podcasts you’re enjoying this Pride month? Any recommendations for our audience?
I’m currently reading an ARC of Trick by my dear friend Cara Nox (out June 13). And I’m really looking forward to a lot of indie books that are coming out in June: Junker Seven by Olive J Kelley, A Circle of Stars by Craig Montgomery, and This Gilded Abyss by Rebecca Thorne.
Siggy Chambers is a queer, autistic writer living in northwest Virginia with her husband and two cats. When she isn’t writing, Siggy enjoys reading, playing video games, painting, going into DC, and summoning forgotten gods for coffee. You can find her on Instagram and Twitter as @doom_inique, on Tumblr as @doom-inique-writes, and on her website at SiggyChambers.com.