Q & A With C.J. Malarsky

Image from Goodreads.com

Malarsky’s Debut Novel:

C.J. Malarsky is the author of the young adult novel, “Ashwood.”  The novel is about a 16-year-old girl Willow, who explores and comes across an abandoned asylum. The asylum follows Willow into her nightmares, along with creatures called the Mora, who feed on fear. Willow also wears lolita fashion.

Even though J-Fashion is gaining popularity in the states, it is rare to read about characters who wear alternative j-fashion. The last book about a main character wearing lolita fashion was “Kamikaze Girls”, which was published in 2002.

Malasky wears lolita fashion outside of writing. “Ashwood” was published by Distinguished Press and is the first of a trilogy of novels. “Willow Whispers” and “The Spoiling” are the novels that will follow.

 What inspired you to start writing?

C.J: Literature has always had a huge place in my heart. I was always a book worm, but I think Lloyd Alexander’s “Prydain Chronicles” is the series that sealed the deal for me. I was utterly swept up in his stories, his words. They had a profound effect on me as a child, and I think his work really set the stage for me.

I didn’t initially think of becoming a writer. I would write for fun, but when I was younger my focus was on ballet or the theater. When I got into college, though, I realized that my real love was in literature. I got a flyer from the Institute of Children’s Literature in the mail and considered it fate, so that’s when I started the journey. I wanted to make children feel the same sense of wonder and magic I felt as a child. Before Mr. Alexander passed away, we actually had a nice ongoing correspondence. He was incredibly kind and always encouraged me to keep with my writing.


What was the first story/piece you wrote when you began writing?

C.J: The first piece I worked on when I decided to pursue writing as a serious career path is a middle grade high-fantasy piece called “Nimue of the Lake”. It’s an Arthurian retelling told from the point of view of a young Lady in the Lake. It was my very first work, so naturally there was a lot wrong with it. I’d love to get it published one day, but I need to go back and practically re-do the entire thing. The concept is there, but the execution is off.

What advice do you have for writers who want to get published?

C.J: First off, you must be willing to put in a LOT of time and effort into the craft. This isn’t a career path is you want instant gratification. It takes most writers many, many years from the point where they start to when they get published. If your head is full of dreams of fame, money, and movie deals, then you are looking at the wrong field. Out of all the authors out there, only a minor handful ever achieve those things. The literary industry is a very competitive field and there isn’t much money or glory in it. If you want to go into it, you need to go into it for the right reasons. Namely, a love for the written word and a drive to tell the stories in your heart.

Learn the market and pay attention to the industry. Following agents and publishers on Twitter, for example, is greatly recommended. Attend writing workshops and lectures by literary professionals. Invest in taking classes.

And always, always, ALWAYS work with a skilled critique group. You can’t write in a void. Writers need feedback and they also need to know how to critique other people work. Honing in on critiquing will actually strengthen your own work in the long run, because you become attuned to looking for what works and what doesn’t work in a manuscript. Within that, you must learn to put your ego aside. Receiving critiques can be difficult, especially when you’ve spent so much time and energy pouring your heart into your manuscript. It can make you feel very vulnerable to open yourself up in such a way only to have it ripped apart by others. But it is part of the process. And to be honest, it helps you grow a thick skin. This is an industry where you face quite a bit of rejection. It takes a lot of mental fortitude and endurance, but if this is what you love, then just take a deep breath and jump in. It’s worth it!

Image via Goodreads

“Ashwood” is about a girl who wears Lolita fashion. Why did you decide to incorporate Lolita Fashion in this novel?

C.J: I adore alternative fashion such as lolita, fairy kei, and mori girl. You see a lot of “geek girl” protagonists in YA literature, but there’s really not too many J-fashion protagonists out there, despite it being a prevalent subculture for young people right now. I just wanted to represent the community, and also within in a story that isn’t actually about fashion. Young girls have plenty of fashion-focused literature, but we can still like fashion and have other stuff going on. My main character, Willow, loves fashion, but that’s not her entire identity nor is it the focus of the story. I think when start to have the subculture framed in such a way, we help to normalize it to the masses.

When you were writing “Ashwood.” what was the average day like?

C.J: I work a full-time office job, so most of my writing was done on evenings and weekends. During my writing time, I mostly just set up my laptop, and cut out all distractions so I can focus and get into the “zone”. I usually always have tea or a glass of wine next to me while I write, depending on my mood. Sometimes I listen to thematic music to help my mind visualize the scene and pull me into the story. I tried to turn off the lights and write by candlelight a few times, but I usually ended up getting too scared so I often tried to write as much as I could during daylight hours with all the lights on.

What advice do you have for people who want to get into alternative fashion?

C.J: Look into joining a local community to meet others with the same interest. There are so many resources available now that it can get overwhelming, so it helps if you can make connections with a few other people to help guide you along. Don’t get caught-up on trying to build up a massive wardrobe immediately. Most girls spent many years to get their collections to where they are today. It’s not a cheap hobby – it takes time and money management skills. Work on getting yourself some cheaper, off-brand foundations first and then save up for bigger pieces like brand jumperskirts and dresses.


“Ashwood” is available on Amazon Barnes & Noble, and the NYC Kinokuniya store.

C.J. Malasky also runs a blog, which is about her journey as a writer and hobbies outside of the writing field.

Originally posted on JFashionandTech on November 16th, 2015.

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