I had the absolute honor of interviewing Allison Saft, author of the young adult fantasy books Down Comes the Night, A Far Wilder Magic, the upcoming 2024 release of A Fragile Enchantment, and her forthcoming adult debut, A Dark and Drowning Tide.
Earlier in the summer, I received an advanced reader copy of the fantasy-romance standalone A Fragile Enchantment, completely falling in love with the characters, the romance, and the careful craft of magic. In this interview, Allison shares some behind-the-scenes of A Fragile Enchantment, her writing career, and some advice for fellow writers out there!
Willow Faust: For those unfamiliar with your upcoming release, A Fragile Enchantment, how would you describe it?
Allison Saft: A Fragile Enchantment is a Regency-inspired YA fantasy romance about a magical dressmaker who is commissioned to design the wardrobe for a fairytale royal wedding—only to find herself embroiled in a scandal when an anonymous gossip columnist starts buzzing about her undeniable chemistry with the groom. I like to describe it as Bridgerton with magic!
WF: What was your inspiration process behind A Fragile Enchantment? Was there anything in particular that sparked your imagination?
AS: I got the idea for A Fragile Enchantment while planning my own wedding, so I’d say stress inspired this book to a certain extent! The premise has changed from that first spark of inspiration, though. Originally, Niamh was a glassblower, Jack was a famous actor, and Kit was the best man, not the groom. But in every iteration of the book, there was always a big, fairytale wedding and Niamh’s chronic illness. I really wanted to explore that pressure of wanting to create something that will outlast you.
WF: There are many different personalities of characters in A Fragile Enchantment, each with their own rich backstory. Did you have a personal favorite character to write?
AS: I had way too much fun with all of them! Niamh has a very special place in my heart, but honestly, I enjoyed writing Kit the most. He’s the kind of person who hides behind surliness to keep anyone from getting too close. But what I love most about him is that his thorny exterior isn’t entirely a facade. Even when he tries his very hardest to be nice, everything he says comes out rude. His voice came very easily to me, as did his dynamic with Niamh. They fluster and annoy each other constantly, but they really do bring out the best in one another.
WF: What does your writing process look like?
AS: Once I get a new idea, I spend a lot of time in the research and daydreaming stage. For me, that involves making Pinterest boards, imagining scenes, and consuming other media. Once I have a solid grasp of the romantic leads, the situation that forces them together, and the world, I make a scene-by-scene outline. I don’t enjoy first drafts, so this roadmap helps me get through them as quickly as possible. I do what I call a “skeleton draft,” which will read more like a screenplay than a book: that is, mainly dialogue and action. Once I’m happy with the overall shape of the plot, I fill in the details, then send it out for feedback. Revision is where the magic happens for me.
WF: If you could only give writers one piece of advice, what would it be?
AS: Hold onto your joy. A lot of people burn out quickly in this industry or become so fixated on the business side of things that they come to dislike or resent writing. I think it’s important to cultivate hobbies and friendships that have nothing to do with books. It helps keep everything in perspective on the bad days—and gives you something to look forward to when you’re between projects.
WF: What was the querying process like for your debut novel? I know it can be a grueling trek, so I was wondering if you have any advice for writers interested in becoming published.
AS: I queried Down Comes the Night in 2018, which feels like a lifetime ago. In some ways, it was; the current querying landscape is much different than it was back then. For one thing, there were many more opportunities for querying writers through mentorship programs and pitch contests. I was a mentee in a program called Author Mentor Match, where I rewrote the book over a period of about six months. Then, I began sending out queries until I caught the attention of my agents. My experience was mercifully straightforward, so take heart, querying writers: cold querying does work! The only thing you can do is write the best book you can. Know that your book’s quality is not determined by the response it receives from agents. It all comes down to connecting with the right person with the right book at exactly the right time.
WF: Lastly, I know you’ve recently announced your debut adult fantasy romance, A Dark and Drowning Tide. The cover is absolutely gorgeous, and I’m so intrigued by the academic rivals-to-lovers and mystery plotline. Since this is your first adult novel, I’m wondering if your writing process has been any different than YA writing—and if so, how?
AS: Thank you so much! My writing process hasn’t been much different on a mechanical level, but it has been a different mental game. A Dark and Drowning Tide is probably the most difficult thing I’ve ever written. I started working on it a few months after my debut novel came out. My head was still full of reader responses to Down Comes the Night, which made it difficult to trust my own instincts. And because adult is a new-to-me age category, I put a lot of pressure on myself while drafting. Writing it taught me a lot about my own process: namely, that I need to be very sure of my own vision before I dive into a new project.
Thank you so very much to Allison Saft for taking the time to share a little glimpse into the world of A Fragile Enchantment and her personal writing journey! If you’d like to learn more about her, check out her website. If you’re intrigued by A Fragile Enchantment, you can preorder a copy–it releases on January 30, 2024!