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I Needed An Outlet To Vent

Stephanie Cotta Author Interview

The Conjurer’s Curse follows a young man who was born with a curse that causes those he loves to die prematurely. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

I got the initial premise due to Covid. Mid-January of 2021, I grew disheartened with the social distancing and how many people acted like everyone could be carrying the “plague.” I experienced something to this extent firsthand, and it left such a bad taste in my mouth, I needed an outlet to vent. So, I laid in bed that night thinking, “What if a teenage boy bore a curse that actually did kill people if they stood in his midst?” I got up that morning and started writing what became the 1st chapter of THE CONJURER’S CURSE.

Also at this time, being shut in and with most places of “fun” closed, I was desperately in need of an adventure. My love for The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien and its adventurous beats inspired me to make this book a fantasy-rich journey. Like Bilbo, I wanted Rowan to explore a new place, setting/environment, or people group in the early chapters, and of course, I had to through in skirmishes with scary monsters and dangerous creatures. Every good adventure story needs to have a monster to face, and THE CONJURER’S CURSE doesn’t shy away from it!

Rowan just wants to belong and not worry about everyone he loves to die because of him. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

I wanted Rowan to have a selfless and integrous heart, putting others’ well-being ahead of his own. He would rather live a solitary, lonely life, than for his life to cause harm to those he loves. I wanted him to be courageous and compassionate, despite the way he was ostracized in his village, and have a strong sense of perseverance.

It was important for me to demonstrate how a positive role model can impact the life of a young person’s identity and future. Many of the attributes Rowan exemplifies he owes to his fourth guardian-mother, Naja. It’s her teachings and her mantra that guide him as he faces tough obstacles.

I also wanted Rowan to have an innocence about him as he went on his journey, so everything felt new and foreign to him—to be naïve at times in the ways people can be treacherous or unscrupulous.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

Hope is always a theme I endeavor to show in my stories. Even when circumstances are at their bleakest, the spark of hope is never absent. This has been the case in my own life, so it hits home when I incorporate this belief in my writing. And so, early on, I have a character remind Rowan that there is hope for him, even though he’s cursed. It’s simply an obstacle he must overcome.

I loved exploring Rowan’s search for belonging and acceptance. I think it’s a universal theme everyone can align with, especially young people. To find a home, a place of belonging, individuals you can call family even if they’re not related, is something people may search their entire lives to find. But when you do, to quote my character Tozrah, “Tis a special feeling.”

Rowan also struggles with the shame of who he is, how he looks, the stigma of his birth, his past. This is something I know many people wrestle with. A close loved one experienced the shame and rejection of being abandoned as a baby by his mother, and so much of his struggle to come to terms with this terrible reality is what inspired Rowan’s tumultuous past.

I felt it important to weave forgiveness into Rowan’s story, considering the actions of his mother and the devastation it causes in the lives of her sons—one who forgives and one who does not. Rowan realizes holding grudges or having hatred in his heart will only damage his soul. That is a lesson we can all learn from.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I have finished writing the sequel to The Conjurer’s Curse, and I hope it will be ready a year from now. Aside from that, I am currently working on a YA steampunk fantasy that I hope to finish any day now. It will go through beta readers, and then I’ll be ready to pitch it off.

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Seventeen-year-old Rowan is a walking, breathing curse. He just hasn’t realized it yet. 

Since birth, Rowan has been the object of scorn in his village. The reason? He’s a dikyli-an outsider with albino skin and an ominous mark blazoned on his neck. So when his fourth guardian-mother is found dead, all blame falls on him, and he is banished before his life-draining curse can strike again. The only path left to Rowan is clear: He must discover who cursed him and alter his horrible fate-or forever lose everyone he loves. 

From facing treacherous seas, soul-devouring Moonshades, and desert terrors, Rowan battles for his very survival to reach his homeland-the far-off kingdom of Shandria, a land rife with hostilities. Dark surprises and back-stabbing betrayals emerge as two devious Iron Barons-who know the scandalous origin of his curse-plot to imprison him in the Mountain of the Damned with the rest of the accursed. 

To make matters worse, Rowan’s curse threatens to claim another life when he meets Tahira, a spunky, pertly persistent Shandrian who vows to aid him in his quest despite the overwhelming odds. Their alliance of trust and necessity develops into love-a love doomed to end in death if Rowan remains cursed. With the hope of a future hanging in the balance, he must overcome the greatest challenge of his life. For the only way to end his curse is to slay the Conjurer who cast the life-draining spell.

The Conjurer’s Curse 

Rowan has always been different. Since the day he was born, he has battled a curse that brings death to those around him, the morbid result of his mother’s actions long ago. After Rowan’s curse kills his fourth Guardian-Mother, he is banished from his island and forced to sail off in search of somewhere he can belong. After finding family in Shandria, Rowan thinks he has found a place to call home. But, the stakes grow as he tries to navigate love while learning who to trust in this world of cunning, monsters, and dangerous magic.

The Conjurer’s Curse is a coming-of-age fantasy story written by Stephanie Cotta. It follows seventeen-year-old Rowan as he searches for a place to be accepted and break the curse that has plagued him his entire life. Set first in the deep jungle, then in the vast land of Shandria, this story opens an impressive fantasy world where the magic takes its toll, and people fall prey to the conniving Conjurers who wield it. Full of dynamic characters and nail-biting conflict, this story is an exciting ride from start to finish.

The Conjurer’s Curse is never dull and transports the reader to Rowan’s world through vivid descriptions and emotional impact. One thing that really grabs the reader’s attention is the excellent use of dialogue. Accents and different dialects are a big part of it, and there are times when the characters come across as very clever. Cotta also proved to be skilled with pacing, based on the plot progression and romance timing.

The Conjurer’s Curse is complex and exciting and has beautiful descriptions and dialogue. This would be an excellent read for middle schoolers and above or anyone who wants to experience the adventure in this young adult epic fantasy novel.

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