Interview with Lisette Alvarez [Repost from June 2018]
Updated: Sep 15, 2021
If you follow my personal Twitter @Cult_of_Trash, you may have come across my tweets about my young witch incidents (see thread below)
Okay so I just remember something from my childhood and it’s important to fans of @KalilaStormfire. Don’t go to untrained witches, and don’t practice untrained witchcraft. When I was a young child, I loved magic and I wanted to make potions. — Alex (@Cult_of_Trash) April 3, 2018
I was at my Gma’s house with my cousins and I made a magic potion that would give them superpowers. I made it from some plants, water, and a citronella candle. Their tongues swelled up and they had to go to the hospital. 🤣😂 a giant tongue could be a superpower, not a good one — Alex (@Cult_of_Trash) April 3, 2018
I have always been fascinated by mythology and folklore, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I wanted to be a witch when I was little. I made up so many spells and incantations as a child thinking that eventually, I’d get it right. It was such a huge part of my childhood that I still have a passion for mythology and folklore. So when Kalila Stormfire’s Economical Magick Services was announced, I was all for it. It was the very first recommendation that I wrote, so of course, I contacted Lisette Alvarez immediately to see if they would agree to an interview. I didn’t even have to make a sacrifice.
Interview with Lisette Alvarez
What inspired you to create Kalila Stormfire’s Economical Magick Services?
I have always loved writing and acting, though it often has its highs and lows. In 2015, I tried to write/pitch a book for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), but I couldn’t quite break through. So I shelved it and decided to move on. I was also writing my father’s survivor memoir and recording interviews of family and friends. After some traumatic experiences and toxic relationships kept me away from stage performance for about seven years, I finally started writing poetry and performing it during open mics.
During this time, I was also participating in an esoteric training program called the Celestials Program in Reflections Mystery School. A coven sister of mine jokingly refers to it as the “witch university.” The purpose of the program is to help individuals grow and develop their own personal vocation. This involves delving into your personal strengths and weaknesses.
Last year, I spent a lot of time commuting and traveling so I had a lot of time to listen to podcasts. I got hooked on Welcome to Night Vale about four years ago like everyone else. Through Tumblr, I got introduced to TANIS, Archive 81, the Magnus Archives, arsPARADOXICA, and Mabel. The more I listened to those audio dramas the more I wanted to listen to audio dramas. I finally got to a tipping point where I was listening to so much material I started to think…”hey, if I was writing this, I would do this instead” or “if I was playing this character I would do this”.
At the same time, I was preparing for my initiation into the Order of the Elemental Mysteries–the founding magickal Order for Reflections–and growing closer to my personal vocation as a storyteller. It was a very emotionally charged and challenging time. I wanted to channel some of that energy into a creative project. Each year at Reflections, students are asked to complete a project. Last year, I decided to use my writing skills, my acting skills, and my lessons learned with Reflections to create a story based on my deep love for all of my creative parts. I wrote all 13 episodes, the 3 teasers, as well as journal entries, short stories, and other supplementary materials during NaNoWriMo in 2017.
How do you create the cases that Kalila works on?
Each case corresponds with a theme I pulled from my previous projects and papers for Reflections. I won’t spoil the names for upcoming cases, but a lot of them deal with my personal alignment (I am an introverted feeler) and my understanding of creativity and storytelling. The themes are extremely personal to me and so while I was writing I allowed the story to flow naturally. Some of the issues that clients deal with are things that I have dealt with in my life, such as the struggle with growing up (Case Three: Music) and trying to use love potions to help me regain trust in romantic pursuits after getting out of an abusive relationship (Case Six: Trust).
What about audio appeals to you for storytelling?
The intimacy of audio and the lower barrier of entry are two of my favorite aspects of audio storytelling. Audio, as a medium, provides something really exciting for me as a storyteller–a space for innovation and experimentation. And, of course, the audio community has absolutely stunned me with its wit, creativity, and compassion.
Did any podcasts inspire you to make Kalila Stormfire’s Economical Magick Services?
For Kalila Stormfire’s Economical Magick Services specifically, I was inspired by the Bright Sessions for its queer representation and counseling/therapy angle and Mabel for its dark fantasy, queer leads, and the ability for a single actor to carry a story for a long time.
You have a lot of diversity in your audio drama, how are you ensuring that their portrayal is accurate?
I pull from my own experience as a bi Latinx witch living in a metropolitan area, of course. However, speaking to experiences outside of my own required more voices to listen to. Telling a good story requires A LOT of listening. Most of my close friends and lovers come from a wide variety of backgrounds. I listen to them and how they experience the world and try to honor that in my writing.
I also hired three sensitivity readers whose experiences could speak to some of the more sensitive topics I brought up in the story including the Black non-binary experience, navigating the medical system, and inter-generational poverty. They all provided very valuable feedback. In fact, I changed large portions of my story to make sure any insensitive material was removed. I then replaced it with writing that was richer in character development and reflecting the true experiences that my consultants had referred.
I think the big part of making sure you get “diversity” right is being able to receive feedback gracefully. Having your writing critiqued is always painful in some way, but I had to make sure I was considering the critique with excitement to improve rather than self-pity or defensiveness. I am not perfect, but I strive to become a better listener and grow in that way.
What podcasts are you currently listening to?
I have After Disaster Broadcast queued up right now! But as for actively updating podcasts I am subscribed to the following: Girl in Space, RedWing, Alice Isn’t Dead, 2298, the Magnus Archives, Here Be Dragons, Welcome to Night Vale, TANIS, Tides, Ars Paradoxica, the Amelia Project, the Bright Sessions, and Starless.
Do you have any early witch mishaps?
I’m lucky in that my grandmother is also a witch and gave me a ton of information and witchcraft basics. I knew better than to mess with certain things.
But my family does like to remind me that I was a “tree-hugger” ever since I was born. As soon as I could walk, my mom would take me for a walk in the park and it would take forever because I would stop and hug every single tree. Every. Single. One. I would also cry whenever my dad would mow the lawn and kill my flower friends. I also remember gently playing with ants (not fire ants…fuck those guys), rolly-pollies, and spiders (daddy long-legs) when I was a kid.
So it was less mishaps and more I exhibited my identity as a nature-lover and witch from birth.
What was has been the hardest thing in making Kalila Stormfire’s Economical Magick Services?
Keeping to my schedule and not procrastinating!
But honestly the hardest thing has been audio editing. It is the aspect of podcasting that I have the least amount of experience in. I try to learn more techniques and best practices each episode I edit but it takes a lot of time and energy. I hope to be able to afford a professional editor I can trust to partner with someday!
Another challenging thing is that every episode theme just HAPPENS to coincide with a struggle around that exact theme in my life. I consider it aggressive meditation.
A character from another audio drama comes to seek Kalila’s services, who is it, and what do they need help with?
Doug Eiffel (Wolf 359) comes to Kalila because he lost a bet with Minkowski and has to get his fortune read. He only has bad experiences with psychics. It’s a long story. It mostly centers around a decades-past palm reading, a lost hamster, and a Battlestar Galactica DVD set. Kalila not only has to convince Doug that no, she does not barter first born children or sci-fi epics for her services, she also has to show him that predictions of doom are usually marks of a bad psychic. After hearing Doug’s story, however, she is forced to reconsider.
So. Yeah. Hey Zach Valenti! Hit me up!
Do you want to bring other people in to voice characters or to assist in the production of the audio drama?
I would love to. I’m mostly holding back from bringing other people on because it is important to me to pay artists for their labor. That said, I have brought in Zayn Thiam as Desiree and plan to bring on more actors for the second season.
How do you market Kalila Stormfire’s Economical Magick Services?
My day job is as a digital strategist, so I spend a lot of time figuring out how to best leverage social media and online content. Sometimes you have to test out platforms to see what works best for you. For example, when I first started planning I was positive I’d get a bigger potential audience on Tumblr compared to other social media. Boy, was I wrong. Twitter is a major source for exposure and community. For KSEMS, I have five key platforms to market my work; a website, Twitter, Tumblr, Patreon, and TeePublic.
The website, kalilastormfire.com, is “search engine optimized” or has good SEO. It looks professional, has clean visuals, and clear information. It shows up as the second option in Google when you search for “kalila stormfire”, right under my Libsyn RSS website. I include many useful links and “breadcrumbs” to lead a user through the site and to valuable content. I include a Press Kit which makes it easier for journalists and bloggers to get high level information about my podcast.
On Twitter, my strategy is different. I try to post something on the official Twitter page every day. Sometimes it is about marketing, and sometimes the posts are just about engaging with the audio drama community or giving out “witch tips”. Mixing it up keeps my page from getting boring or just “advertising”. Similarly, on Tumblr I mix reblogging aesthetic witchy content with my episode graphics and transcripts. Again, mixing it up not only draws people who like to reblog cool pics of crystals and witchy moodboards but also exposes my audience to my own content in relationship to the aesthetic.
On Patreon, I offer rewards that aren’t just Kalila Stormfire’s Economical Magick Services-specific but also things that fans of the witchy vibe would like including spell bags and tarot readings. I think with Patreon it is important to have material rewards. It gives patrons a sense that they are truly in a reciprocal relationship with a creator and have provided something in value in return.
Lastly, I was actually recruited by TeePublic to become a partner store. I used Canva for my designs and utilize flash sales to encourage fans to buy merch. I am currently in the process of interviewing other witchy designers on TeePublic for a blog. Never forget the power of community within marketing.
Finally, I asked Lisette one last, extremely important question:
Do you enjoy making me cry, and are you going to continue with the future cases?
I consider it an honor and a duty to make you cry, Alex.
Every creator that I interview give such good answers! This has been such an incredible journey, and I cannot wait to chat with more creators.
If you aren’t listening to Kalila Stormfire’s Economical Magick Services, then you need to remedy that immediately. Follow them on twitter @KalilaStormfire and visit the website at kalilastormfire.com. You can also support them on patreon.
I cannot wait to share even more interviews with you all, so be sure to follow or subscribe to the email list so you can stay up to date when I post. If you have any suggestions for future posts, or want to chat you can find me on twitter and Instagram @Audiodramarama or by email at Alex@AudioDramaRama.com