Shimaira is a wattpad writer who recently made the leap from wattpad to small press publishing. Her book My Lord is soon to be published by Gurt Dog Press. Shimaira’s stories tend to be dark. (They Call Him Lucius was so dark that I was actually too squeamish for it! Hardcore horror fans should check it out though.) Her stories also focus on LGBTQ+ themes and characters.
I first discovered her through her polyamorous romance/gothic horror, My Lord. This book kept popping up all over my newsfeed and once I started reading it, I could see why! This book is one of the most creative works of fiction I’ve ever read.
The book is set in the medieval era, so of course that had my attention right away. The setting is dark and lush. The characters are fully-fleshed and draw you into the story in a way that keeps you thinking about the story long after it has ended.
There is a polyam relationship that, while I wasn’t expecting it (and I’m not poly myself), I ended up really liking. There’s also a same-sex couple that is super cute together. Despite the story taking place hundreds of years ago, Shimaira sets this relationship up in a way that feels organic and believable.
Without further ado, here is my interview with Shimaira.
Thank you for agreeing to let me interview you 🙂
Thank you for wanting to interview me ♥
If you don’t mind, could we start by you introducing yourself to my readers and telling us a little about your work?
Starting right away with the tough questions? haha
So, yeah, hi <waves> I’m Shimaira 🙂 I live in the Netherlands, am married, have a 3yo kid, and have a dayjob in the laboratory where I help develop vaccines I’m queer, pan, grey-asexual. Self-diagnosed autistic and have PTSD (had therapy for that in 2019 ♥).
I write dark fiction often inspired by or even fully based on actual dreams and nightmares I’ve had. Writing helps keep me sane ♥
Oh wow, I’m already learning so much about you. I didn’t know you live in the Netherlands; that’s really interesting. And a job developing vaccines! You’re a superwoman.
Now, I found you when your book “My Lord” which has got to be one of the most creative works of fiction I’ve ever read on wattpad, half the time I couldn’t tell if I was reading a romance or a horror, but somehow it really works. I enjoyed that tension a lot.
You were able to translate your success on wattpad into a traditional-publishing deal.
Can you tell us a little about that?
Not quite sure if Gurt Dog Press would be traditional or indie–the industry terms are not my forte But they’re an awesome publisher and I am quite proud to be the third author they’ll be publishing 🤩
I had been pitching My Lord on twitter in pitch events and had my first “bite” back in March 2019–but the queries I sent out were all rejected.
Gurt Dog Press had liked one of my pitches in an earlier event in late 2019 I believe, but back then they were really just starting and while they sounded like a perfect fit, I wanted a more “established” place for My Lord. When I got another like in late April, accompanied by “This sounds awesome!”, I checked them out again. They had 2 authors now, and 2 books pending publication. I decided to have a chat with them first before deciding to query or not. It was a really nice chat and it got me so enthusiastic that I decided to query them over a bigger (and well established) publisher who had also shown interest. This (still) small queer publisher who is all about LGBTQ+ and dark fic? Located in Europe instead of the USA? Run by people who are queer and polyam? Yes, please! 🤩
As per what Gurt Dog Press has to say about the owner, Nem, himself: “He started this company with the intention of publishing stories for queer readers of Horror and other forms of speculative fiction that don’t focus on the Romance genre as the sole vehicle for promoting LGBTQ+ identities.”
Reading that just had me going, “Hell yeah!” ♥
So, query got sent, I got a positive reply, full MS was next… And they loved it Then we had to negotiate a contract–something I looked over quite carefully as I didn’t have an agent to help with that. I did have several awesome friends help with checking it and, honestly, it was very clear that Gurt Dog Press is run by an author ♥ It was a very good contract. I knew from having read posts online and having checked several publishers in the past when I was doing my “research” for getting published what the “standard rates” for trad. publishers were, so I had a guideline for knowing if what was offered was decent or not 🙂 Suffice to say they had a very compelling offer, considering I signed The only downside was having to reduce my work on Wattpad to draft–except for a few sample chapters. But, honestly, that was to be expected from any publisher and I had already prepared myself for that request.
I’ve seen some wattpad authors get quite a lot of backlash from readers when they reduced a story to a sample, and I’m glad to say I’ve only gotten a lot of positive responses and support ♥ not to mention all the people stating they can’t wait to buy the book
And was the combination of horror and romance a barrier for you?
Honestly, I tend to just write without a certain genre in mind. The very first draft of My Lord was started with me thinking it was going to be an erotica
Turns out my asexual ass is not able to write such a thing
I wanted a good plot, some build-up, and I just couldn’t have them have sex that fast! Not after what happened to Meya
Also, writing sex scenes? I get bored of that quite fast
Furthermore, romance is not exactly my thing either
I am a dark fiction writer at heart and in that darkness slipped
Without thinking about it, the story became a gothic horror/romance 🤷♀️ It was pretty fun to walk that line between scary and sexy, and also to emphasise consent where I found it important to do so ♥ We’re still talking about a Lord who is a bit of a sadist and drinks blood and his servant–there is going to be a power dynamic
I do always worry if I did the romance bit good enough. Was it too fast, too slow, is there enough detail? Did her relationship with the other servant (spoiler lol) feel natural? But considering all the eager and positive comments I got on wattpad, I think it all went well enough ♥ (All the ships that took sail hihi ♥)
It sounds like Gurt Dog press is the perfect fit for you! Dark themes and LGBTQ+ themes are definitely what comes to mind with your book.
What advice would you give to others looking to make the jump from wattpad to traditional publishing?
Always do your research and be sure to ask yourself what it is that you want out of your stories/publishing. If you love the community aspect of wattpad, be prepared to lose that–no more in-line comments from readers. If you’re lucky, you’ll get reviews, but those tend to be for other readers and not for you as the author. In that regard, also be prepared for … less positive reactions. Wattpad is a very safe place to write and people tend to be positive in their comments and feedback. Once published, that “safe space” is gone. There are readers and critics who love tearing books apart. So be sure that you are prepared for such things. (I probably make it all sound harsher than it is, but honestly: I am not published yet so I am just sharing what I am “bracing” myself for
If you’re prepared for the worst (which also includes your book not selling ) than things can only work out better ♥ ♥ ♥)
Oh, one more thing: if you take the plunge to go looking for an agent or publisher, be prepared for rejections. Sometimes you won’t even get a rejection, just silence. Keep track of who you’ve queried and don’t be dissuaded if you get several dozen rejections. Just keep going ♥ But also be critical. Look at your query letter after a dozen rejections and consider reworking it. Look at how others are doing theirs. See if you can find some letters of authors who found an agent/publisher. Ask others to help judge your query letter ♥
Also, as someone who loves romance (and all the spicy scenes that come with romance) I think you absolutely did the romance justice. The polyam angle threw me for a loop, I can’t lie, but in the end I found myself liking that element of the story. I’m very much a monogamy person irl, but you wrote polyam in such a way that I was comfortable slipping into that perspective in the book.
In addition to writing having lesbian and bi representation in your book, you also give polyam a lot of stage time. What made you want to write about a polyam relationship? And were monogamous readers mostly receptive to this? Or did you get any backlash?
Hearing this makes me very happy! Irl I’ve been told by my friends a lot “Oh, I could never do that” whenever we mentioned we’re polyam, but thankfully it’s often met without much judgement and more with intrigue. Hearing that people who are mono are able to read this book and still like it brings me great joy ♥
The polyam thing came rather naturally for me if I’m honest. My husband and I have been rather free in our relationship together almost from the start (we got together when I was 16 and he 17). I also get annoyed from all the love triangles and the drama it brings (who to pick, who to pick) and wanted to show people that sometimes, you don’t need to pick
If everyone consents and is happy with the partner choices, and if someone has enough love to go around, why not love more than 1 person?
Honestly, most people already love more than 1 person, it’s just that in general, society teaches us that romantic love has to be for 1 person only. Which is… weird. To me at least
The fact that I was in a polyam relationship myself for almost 2 years also made me want to include it in my writing more ♥ spread the polyam love
I did once or twice get a reader on wattpad who informed me they had to quit reading because the polyam (or the wlw) made them too uncomfortable. With one person I even had quite a long discussion, explaining how it works for someone who is polyam, and that it doesn’t undermine them being mono ♥
Everyone can love how they love without it invalidating others ♥ In the end, it was a very positive discussion and the reader was understanding and happy to have learnt something new. (Which made me very happy, because at multiple times I was afraid the reader was going to be rigid and deny me being poly, enforcing their view. But once they realised I wouldn’t deny them theirs, they eased up and were open for the discussion and learning that other people can love differently and that everyone is still valid despite their differences ♥)
Did you have any agents reject your work because it was already published on wattpad? And would you recommend wattpad as a platform to get started on?
If they did, they didn’t tell me.
But yes, I would recommend wattpad as a starting point It helps motivate you to write, helps develop skills, and you can get feedback on what works and what doesn’t. If you’re worried about your manuscript having been “previously published”, remember that it can also be your first draft and you can edit and rewrite it for any publication if you want to go that route 🙂 Furthermore, having good feedback and lots of reads can help spark some interest when you query ♥
I see people in different writing communities (like r/writing) bring up wattpad every once in a while, but usually people dismiss wattpad, thinking it’s just a time-wasting website. As someone who made the leap from wattpad to publishing with a small press, I’m curious about your take on wattpad’s reputation in the overall writing community.
Honestly, I am not that aware of what others think of wattpad. I know some still see it as another fanfic site while it is so much more than that. Wattpad itself has been trying to show this too, but it takes time before people who don’t use it realise this (at least, that’s what I think).
People who look down on Wattpad don’t bother me too much if I’m honest. They tend to not use it, or only be active in a small corner. If they were to actually be active there and knew the community, I think they’d adjust their opinion ♥
So, one of the things that drew me to ‘My Lord’ was the medieval setting. I LOVE medieval stories. What drew you to that era?
And how did you go about researching that time period?
Honestly, I had a certain “setting” in my mind and despite having a fictional country, I wanted events to fit real history. I wanted a castle, I wanted to be near “Transylvania” but not overlap with Dracula’s time period. So, the era I went for coincides with the Golden Horde starting their invasion into Eastern Europe. I wanted to go for an earlier era instead of a later, as the later ones are done more often. (And, in my mind, would be more difficult to have a fictional country in because the world was far better mapped.)
I used Wikipedia a LOT during my research for timelines and events. I searched other parts of the internet for all the other stuff I needed. From maps of the time period (Europe was a changing mess, so this was hard), to what kind of food people ate. For example, I had no idea that “herb fritter” was even a thing, let alone in the 13th century! (That they fried stuff already all those centuries ago seemed so strange to me 🤷♀️)
Tristanja may be a fictional country, but because I made the location “fit” within the world–as far as my amateur research went–I tried to keep to certain facts but also allowed some leniency. For example the plumbing I mean, the ancient Romans already had this down and it was actually a lot more widespread than you may think. Bathing also was a big thing for a lot of areas/cultures. So yeah, I took some liberties with where I took stuff from, but I did try to stick to the time periods–as far I could find information. (I may be a researcher for my breadjob, but applied science and history are two very different things though the former did help a lot with working out how transcendence would work )
Did you learn anything surprising about the medieval era? (like for me, I was very surprised that corsets were not a thing in medieval times)
From frying foods to hay-filled mattresses, to bathrooms with multiple toilets (so taking a crap together was a thing )… But this snippet really was something that made me go :
“Phthisis – Tuberculosis
In Medieval Hungary, the Inquisition recorded the trials of pagans. A document from the 12th century recorded an explanation of the cause of illness. The pagans said that tuberculosis was produced when a dog-shaped demon occupied the person’s body and started to eat his lungs. When the possessed person coughed, then the demon was barking, and getting close to his objective, which was to kill the victim.” – Wikipedia
Lots of great advice here! 🙂 So I only have a few more fun questions to end on.
What’s next for you? Will you try to publish more books?
Well, I’m hoping to get Wattpad interested in “In Sickness and in Hell”. Once “My Lord” is published, I might consider seeing if Gurt Dog Press is also interested in “They call him Lucius” because it’s in the same universe.
I also need to finish writing “Millennium”… And then there are all the other books I still got in my head that need writing so… I’m not going to be done any time soon ♥
Do you ever plan on writing another medieval dark romance? (Asking for a friend, lol)
Well, yes. “My Lord” needs a sequel ♥ I still have to tell the story about how everyone deals with the trauma of what happened at the end of the book. I also have ideas of stories–novels or shorts, I don’t know yet–that take place in historic times… Elisabeth Báthory anyone? Where she got her idea of taking baths of blood… However, I am not sure yet if I want to write a story about the actual person or have someone else committing similar atrocities… (Considering Elisabeth was quite horrid and I am not sure if I want to write about such a person who has actually existed and done those things for real on actual people). But yeah, definitely not done writing stories about the transcended ♥
Who are some of your favorite authors that you hope to emulate?
Tough question as I don’t really try to emulate anyone… I used to look up to JKR, but, well… Big nope there now.
Lovecraft is someone whose style I enjoy reading but it’s not something I can write. Stephen King might be a subconscious influence, I honestly don’t know–same for R.L. Stine (as those two are simply the authors I’ve read the most books of in my life). I just hope I can become my own person in writing and have my own style without having to put conscious effort into it ♥
But, when it comes to fame and fortune, of course I’ll gladly emulate any of the big ones Honestly, I just want people to know my name and read my books–and genuinely enjoy them–if only to stick it to all the people who have hurt me in the past (The best revenge is a life well lived ) If I were to get rich, I’d end up giving a lot away. (My husband and I actually talked about this lol we’d be philanthropists, even if just to friends and people online ♥)
That’s it for my interview with Shimaira. If you like gritty horror, lush dark atmosphere, and LGBTQ+ themes, be sure to check her out! You can connect with her via her socials below.
Linktree for Shimaira’s other socials and spotify playlists to accompany her books!