Author Interview : Ilona Andrews

Today I’m absolutely thrilled to post an interview with Ilona Andrews.  I recently read Blood Heir  (the first in the Aurelia Ryder series) and loved it and in fact took part in the blog tour that took place pre-release.  My review can be found here – spoiler alert – there may be an abundance of enthusiasm.

BloodHeir

Blood Heir is a new novel, set in the incredibly popular Kate Daniel’s world that focuses on one of the other characters.  The book was so good that I was left with burning questions so I requested an interview.  Just imagine my surprise and joy when the answer came back as a yes!  So, without further ado let’s get to the Q&A:

Firstly, my thanks to Ilona and Gordon and a heart felt welcome to my blog 😀

Q. For readers who haven’t read from this world yet – can you give me a quick description that captures the essence of Blood Heir?

A. Blood Heir is about coming home after a long absence.  Things have changed.  People you knew are different. Your childhood friend is now aiming at the throne of Beast Lord, Uncle Stupidhead, otherwise known as Knight Protector of Atlanta, is having an affair with someone you would never imagine in a million years, and your surrogate uncles had a child and didn’t tell you.

(Well, Uncle Stupidhead is a new keeper)

Q. I’m curious about writing as a team (*readers – I’m sure you all already know but just in case, Ilona Andrews is a pseudonym for husband and wife writing team). I’m sure you will have answered similar questions before but how do you keep everything so streamlined. Do you decide ahead who will write individual scenes or are you responsible for individual characters? Tricky question – who has the final say??

A. We write together, meaning that one of us is at the keyboard and the other one is dictating. So everything that goes into the file is a compromise. Gordon has the final say over male characters.  I have the final say over female ones.

Q. In terms of the above, being married and working together how do you manage to take a real break without reverting back to ’talking shop’?

A. Why would we not talk shop? What is this thing you speak of? On a serious note, there are moments when something occurs and one of us will turn around in some random place, like a car service center, and tell the other, “We should just kill him. We can disembowel him and hang him off a pole.  It would be a good shock moment.”  But mostly we try to respect our time off. Writing eats up so much time and emotional energy and we have many other things to talk about like books, movies, games, politics, and our kids.

(NGL – right now I’m imagining the expressions on the faces of the car service centre staff if they overheard that conversation).

homer

Q. I have a particular love of covers – it may seem fickle to some but the cover is the first thing to draw the eye. I love the cover that Luisa Preissler created for Blood Heir.  It’s stunning.  How did you discover the artist and how much input did you have in the process.

A. You know, I don’t remember. I tried to look through my email and it seems that the first time we worked together was on the collector edition of Kinsmen from Subterranean in 2018. Luisa is an incredible artist to work with and she reads our books, so our input is very light.  We describe the character, provide a few relevant paragraphs from text and some reference images for specific things like the type of hair, for example, and she does the rest. Covers are vital to the book’s success. They are what grabs the reader, so I feel very fortunate to work with Luisa.

Feast your eyes on this beauty people:

BH

(Also, for more information about Luisa Preissler check out her site here for some stunning artwork)

Q.Seeing a long series coming to an end must be emotional for both you and your readers?   Blood Heir is a new start but also a return to a ready established world and old friends.  Can you tell me about where the idea came from for the Aurelia Ryder series and more importantly how did you decide which character to use? Also, how did you decide which other characters would make a return (and how does fan/reader pressure play into these decisions, if at all)?

JulieA. We planned for a continuation of Julie’s story before we finished Magic Triumphs, because we knew that a lot of plot threads would be left dangling. We tied up most of them to deliver a conclusion our readers found satisfying, but there was no time to resolve Julie and Derek’s relationship for example or Erra’s future.

The plans for this book stalled when we were hit by a surprising amount of Julie hate from the fanbase. There is a small but loud group of fans who hate Julie. Julie is written as an authentic teenager, with a will of her own and snark, and some women in particular really wanted her to be a “perfect” child who always does what Kate says, never talks back or takes initiative, and fits into the mold of that wide-eyed teenage protagonist who is nice to everyone and beloved by everyone. I’ve given up on figuring out why that is. The vitriol was loud and proud and we tabled the book.

Writing in the age of social media and email is a double-edged sword. People are extremely quick to offer their opinions on fiction and characters to authors who created them, and they often do so in a less than tactful manner. At the core, writing is an attempt to communicate with the world and when you get too much feedback – negative or positive, that communication falters. You become overloaded.  It’s especially bad when a fictional world has many books in it.  I’ve had people scream at me through email in all caps that I’ve ruined their life because of something minor a character did. This gets old very quickly.

Honestly, the Kate World was on a permanent hiatus and would’ve remained there but then COVID happened. People started reaching out, and we realized that everyone desperately needed a distraction. So we threw out some scenes with Julie, because it was easy to write.  We had thought out the novel and we know the world. From there we moved on to weekly installments and then the novel grew into a full-length book.

Wow – that was a close call, we nearly missed out on all the Aurelie Ryder goodness (by the way, the above is a picture of Julie pictured with her Princess of Shinar ‘hat’ on)

Q. What are the pros and cons of working in an already very well established world.  How do you balance what to include for new readers while at the same time not retreading old ground for established readers?  And how do you keep track of everything?

A. We have a series bible which our copyeditor put together. As to the recap, Blood Heir was a very careful balancing act because we had to refresh the series in the minds of long-term readers, who want to know everything, but not overwhelm the new readers. The reception has been overwhelmingly positive, so we must’ve done something right, but if you hand me that book right now, I would still likely tinker with what we chose to include.

(Oh yes, you definitely did a lot of somethings right)

(Here are the covers for the KD series just to give you an idea of exactly why that ‘bible’ is needed:

Q. In Blood Heir we get the entire story via Aurelia and are able to see how she thinks.  I’m curious as to whether her physical and magical transformation has also affected her consciousness (more precisely, is the eye altering her thoughts without her knowledge)?

A. I don’t think that the eye altered her thoughts. I think that intense education in Shinar customs and royal duties had more to do with it.

Kate is not very good with organized environment; she prefers to be a free agent.  She chooses her own cases and sees them to the end, but as the series showed, when she is forced into a structured environment, like the Order or the Pack, she bucks. Kate’s childhood was extremely structured.  She had very little personal freedom and growing up was a series of challenges and tests she had to overcome.

Julie grew up on the streets in chaos.  She craves structure, and she desperately wants a family to belong to and a clarity of purpose. She found that family with Kate.  She knows her general purpose – she wants to save as many people as possible as the world falls apart.  But it took Erra’s guidance to really lay down the framework of how exactly Julie would go about saving everyone. Erra gave her a set of conditions: this is what a princess of Shinar does and doesn’t do, and in a sense, she saved Julie from herself.  Instead of trying to right every individual wrong she sees, Julie now focuses on wider issues, which in the long run will help a lot more people.

Q. For Blood Heir you made the decision to self publish.  I have been reading your blog so I’ll try not to go over old ground.  How difficult a decision was this?  What has your experience of self publishing been? Also, were there any issues regarding character and world rights due to the Kate Daniels series being traditionally published vs the Aurelia Ryder books being self published?

A. Once your contract with the publisher ends, you become a free agent and have the luxury of publishing whatever you want. Ace doesn’t really have any dibs on our future work, even though they published the original series.  We can write a novel with Kate as a protagonist right now, and self-pub it without any legal issues.

So the question really was, do we sell the novel or do we release it ourselves?  We chose to self-publish for three reasons: first, selling the novel would mean the readers would have to wait about 18 months for its release; second, self-publishing allows us to keep a larger percentage of the proceeds, and third, we really wanted to retain control over our auxiliary rights, such as audio.  It is almost impossible to sell a novel currently without giving up audio, foreign, and film rights, and it was important for us to keep those.

We are waiting for our first month’s sales to land in our account – should be any day now – but according to our agent, we did quite well, so we are likely to continue.

Q. I’m curious in particular about New Shinar.  Aurelia has a foot in two camps.  Will she return to New Shinar in future novels?

A. She would have to, wouldn’t she?  Just to see her grandmother.  😊

(Ooh, interesting ^^!!)

Q.There are hints that there is much more to Derek than meets the eye and he has himself undergone change. Will Derek be making a return in books 2 and 3?

A. Absolutely.  ::rubs hands:: There will be stuff!  Exciting stuff!

Be still my beating heart *faints*

Q. After the resounding success of Blood Heir’s release you are now planning two further books.  Is your plan to complete Aurelia’s story during those two books or will you be reassessing in the future with the possibility of more instalments? (hope so)

A. We don’t know yet.  Our plate is a bit full.  We need to get the second Iron Covenant book out. That will mean two books in KD’s world close together. Once we get that and the next Aurelia done, we will reassess how the plotline develops. I am not trying to be vague, I just don’t know exactly how many books it will take to wrap this up.  Right now we are aiming for two more.

Q. Can you share anything with readers about where you see the series heading next.

A. Well, the battle for the Pack is the obvious next thing for Aurelia.  For Hugh and Elara, there is the struggle with Elara’s heritage. So we’ll see what happens. 😊

Finally, thank you so much for answering all my questions.  I’m so excited for the next book – and I can’t deny I wouldn’t mind reading a bit more about Derek *waggles eyebrows*.

IASo, a little information to conclude:

Regarding the Kate Daniel’s series (you know you want to) look here.

For the Aurelia Ryder series check out this link.

Author Info :

Ilona Andrews is the pseudonym for a husband-and-wife writing team. Ilona is a native-born Russian and Gordon is a former communications sergeant in the U.S. Army. Contrary to popular belief, Gordon was never an intelligence officer with a license to kill, and Ilona was never the mysterious Russian spy who seduced him. They met in college, in English Composition 101, where Ilona got a better grade. (Gordon is still sore about that.)

Gordon and Ilona currently reside in Texas. They have co-authored two series, the best selling urban fantasy of Kate Daniels and romantic urban fantasy of The Edge.

Website
Twitter

ILONA ANDREWS’S BLOG

Credits to Luisa Preissler for the Blood Heir/Aurelia artwork used in this piece.

Interview with Wendy Trimboli and Alicia Zaloga, authors of The Resurrectionist of Caligo

Resurrectionist

Today i’m really pleased to welcome to my blog the two authors who wrote The Resurrectionist of Caligo (my review here).  I really enjoyed the first book in the series which was a great combination of gothic goodness, grave robbing and Victorian-esque horror.  I can’t wait to see what these two lovely authors come up with next in the series.

Firstly, Alicia and Wendy, welcome to my blog and secondly, apologies for the delay in posting this interview which was originally intended much sooner – but technical problems upset the apple cart.

So, off we go:

Can you give readers a very quick description of what they can expect.

Alicia: Twisty character relationships, sea-inspired magic and old-timey medicine, dinner parties and funerals.

Wendy: An enlightened bodysnatcher and a rebellious princess must set aside their differences, navigating both science and sorcery to catch a killer who could tear their country apart. It’s a fantasy noir with a gothic Victorian-ish setting, gallows humor, and a particularly ferocious waif.

I’m curious about how you came up with the notion of writing a book together?  Are you life long friends/reading buddies or did you just get stuck in an elevator for two hours?? Or something else entirely?

Alicia: It’s much closer to the stuck in an elevator. We’d only recently made our acquaintance in Japan when I found out Wendy was a writer. We both had abandoned novels, lots of ideas, but weren’t necessarily committed to one new project over another. I tricked her into having coffee with me and pitched her the idea of a fun in-character writing letters exercise. From there, we got sucked into creating this world of gothic historical medicine and fantasy magic.

Wendy: Basically this. I had just trunked a novel and was dabbling in some Victorian-era vignettes that I didn’t know what to do with. Alicia suggested the letter exchange—completely open-ended, just that we each had to choose a “voice”—and then sent me her angry, insulting letter! Of course my character immediately went on the defensive, and that’s how the core Sibylla/Roger dynamic came about. I had just read a book about body-snatching and wanted to veer historical, while Alicia insisted on fantasy. She had all these magical abilities for Sibylla picked out, and asked about my character–I decided that not only did he not have any magic, he didn’t even believe in it!

Did you decide beforehand to each tackle a particular character? And did you stick to your guns or were the lines blurred?

Alicia: Since the initial letter-writing exercise involved one character writing to another, there was always a defined separation between Sibylla and Roger. However, one of the best parts of the process was jointly writing the characters who crossed between. There are several chapters where the first draft for a character was written by the other person when we were struggling to work something out. Once we got to editing, things blurred together a little, but Wendy always had final say on Roger’s tone, voice, and choices, while I had final say on Sibylla.

Wendy: We were always tweaking each other’s dialogue. I’d write some emperor banter, and Alicia would usually change it. Then she’d write GhostofMary and I’d go muck about with that. All the characters fell into either an “Alicia” bucket or a “Wendy” bucket of responsibility for their voice…except Harrod. He’s the one truly joint character of the book.

I’m curious about the logistics of it all?  Did you physically meet up to talk and write or were all your conversations online?

Alicia: During the drafting of the first half of book, we were fortunate to be living near one another. We’d have bi-to-tri weekly coffee “meetings” where we’d discuss everything from our houses to the coffee shop and back, and practically everywhere we went together turned into a brainstorming session. However, before we got into editing the book, I’d moved away and that’s when we switched to intensive Skype chats/calls and trolling the other person in manuscript notes and tracked changes.

Wendy: We got through most of the first draft simply by trading chapters back and forth over email, then having intensive planning-chats going into the next sections. It was nice to write a chapter intensively for a week or two, then have a little break while Alicia drafted hers (though she tends to draft a lot faster; I’d constantly toss stuff away, restart, and second-guess every other sentence as I wrote it). It was fun to try and catch each other off guard occasionally. In an early chapter Alicia had a random guard deliver a letter to Roger, so I surprised her by writing him as Roger’s brother in my chapter. She had a few surprises up her sleeve for me later, of course.

What advice can you give to other aspiring writer duos?

Alicia: I think the biggest advice I’d give is don’t text too much about the project. Maybe it works for someone out there, but it’s way too easy for texting to become a quick, toneless conversation, often one-sided.

Wendy: Make sure each person has a realm to rule, as it were. Alicia was queen of the palace and political intrigue, creating the setting and characters around Sibylla as she saw fit. Meanwhile I read far too many macabre history books, which flowed out in to Roger’s Caligo underworld. We did a lot of toe-stepping during the edit phase, but during initial drafting we each got to feel like we were (sort of) masters of our little universes.

I love all the little nods to the Victorian era and I’m thinking this must have took a lot of research. Did you find any particularly funny or creepy facts or stories whilst researching that you’d like to share?

Alicia: I cannot in good conscience answer this question knowing that Wendy will require all the space to do so. (Love you Wendy, tell them all things.)

Wendy: I had to laugh looking back at some of our earliest project-related emails. In my third message, I sent Alicia about fifteen links to different gothic-adjacent topics (Bloodletting! Bodysnatching! Weird old funeral traditions! Victorian slang!) which I have a sneaking suspicion she disregarded, which is perfectly fair. My enthusiasm-tidal-wave for this topic is probably quite horrifying when viewed from a head-on-collision perspective. I got on a reading kick, to include Diary of a Resurrectionist by James Blake Bailey, The Knife Man by Wendy Moore, Blood Work by Holly Tucker, heaps of 19th century lit, and much more (seriously, I’m happy to ramble on for hours). Even though our novel is technically a second-world fantasy, I wanted the setting to feel lived-in, and the character’s mindsets to stay true to the era. At several points I did some deep-diving into digitized centuries-old editions of The Lancet, a British medical journal, just to figure out what physicians believed about the nature of blood in the 1820s. Roger’s willingness to bleed patients of their “bad humors” is in line with any “good” surgeon of the time, as horrifying as that sounds to modern readers. Physicians also had a very difficult time telling when a body was dead or not—decay was the only sure way to know. There are plenty of gruesome stories about this, fact and fiction: skeletal remains falling through a vault door onto grave robbers, an exhumed corpse discovered with rent clothing and broken fingernails, even a woman who was supposedly rescued by the resurrectionist come to sell her corpse. Not to give Alicia short shrift, either: she was the mistress of etiquette, legalese, titles, addressing nobility correctly. Neither I nor Roger will every get any of that right.

I’m hopeful that this is the first in a series?  What plans do you have next for Roger and Sibylla?  And how many books do you think we can look forward to?

Alicia: We definitely have ideas and a plan for a sequel, but it’ll depend on sales of the first book. We have started writing it, and it would follow Roger and Sibylla as they navigate living in a foreign country and their complicated, new dynamic. We’ve always liked the idea of a duology: The Resurrectionist and The Empress, as it were. You can never really say though.

Wendy: *mumble* I may have written Timur-trolling-Roger scenes already. So.

Are there any particular works of fiction that gave you inspiration?

Alicia: I really do enjoy and find value in most everything I read, so for Resurrectionist it was fairly broad. Whether it’s the side character in a cozy mystery that inevitably ends up stealing the show, and thus demonstrates how a little characterization can make a big impact, or that dense historical nonfiction that reminds me that whoever’s telling the story will inevitably change the story.

Wendy: I could list so many books! Let’s see, I read The Pickwick Papers a few months before we started working together, and a particular scene stuck with me. Mr. Pickwick is at a lodging house and overhears two medical students discussing their dissections, but the conversation is out of context, so it sounds like they are talking about cannibalism. I just filed that away, as one does. Around the same time, I read Titus Groan—I completely fell for the elaborate atmosphere and the evolving characterization of Steerpike.

How long have you both been writing and what has that journey been like for you both so far?

Alicia: Unsurprisingly, I’ve always enjoyed writing. However, it wasn’t until the end of high school when I really thought I wanted to pursue it, so I went to an arts school for fiction writing. Afterward, I was always working on something, but it never felt right or good enough to query. In fact, I hadn’t queried any agents before I met Wendy. Wendy drove us forward, believing that our book was good enough to enter into Pitch Wars. On my own, I’m not sure how long it would have taken me to get up the courage to submit.

Wendy: I actually hated writing as a child. I read a lot, and I would constantly compare my own efforts to the books I was reading, so of course I never measured up. But in high school I started writing fan fiction, and that turned into a historical teen novel, which turned into a historical war novel, which I worked on evenings while I was in the Air Force. Eventually I got an MFA, completely rewrote that novel as my literary thesis, tried to sell it, trunked it, and eventually fell into fantastical Victoriana alongside Alicia … It’s been a strange and convoluted journey.

Other than next books in this series what other plans do you both have either individually or jointly?

Alicia: I have two solo side projects, one is a space adventure and the other a mysterious something that I’m privately obsessed with but refuse to discuss, lest the idea fizzle before it gets a chance to find its feet.

Wendy: I’m still flailing about for my next massive research obsession. It hasn’t hit me square in the forehead yet, but I have some intriguing leads.

Finally, can you tell us a couple of things (or fun facts) about yourselves that are not already available on the internet?

Alicia: I love tap dancing. I’m not brilliant at it, but I grew up taking dance classes. I have these beautiful, soft tap shoes that are better than any I ever had as a kid and this sad makeshift particular board for when the mood to cramp roll strikes me.

Wendy: My obscure claim to fame is being (afaik) the first American woman to complete the German Luftwaffe winter survival training. It was so cold and snowy we didn’t sleep for fear of freezing. I stayed awake from Monday straight through until Thursday, by which time I was hallucinating Lovecraftian tentacled monsters (not a joke).

Alicia and Wendy, thank you so much for taking part, I absolutely loved your answers and can’t wait to read your sequel.

Further info:

Goodreads

Paperback, 360 pages
Published September 10th 2019 by Angry Robot

 

 

Interview, Cody T Luff, author of Ration

Posted On 24 October 2019

Filed under Book Reviews
Tags: , ,

Comments Dropped 10 responses

RationToday I’m really pleased to be posting an interview with Cody T Luff whose book Ration I read a few weeks ago and has stayed with me ever since.  Definitely a thought provoking book and one that doesn’t pull any punches but absolutely compelling – it drove me to read into the early hours of the morning.  My review is here and if you like dark dystopian stories that make are absolutely gripping then you really should give this book a try.  Seriously.

Hi Cody, thanks so much for agreeing to an interview.  Firstly, I’d like to welcome you to my blog and secondly apologise for the lateness in posting this interview.  (People did I mention all my latest calamities?  Yes?? Okay, so I’ll move on then…)

For the readers out there how would you describe Ration in one or two quick sentences?

Ration is a story about deprivation, it’s a story about survival and how we make desperate and difficult choices at the edge of our mortality. Ration is also about love, a kind of love that grows in dark circumstance.

This is a very dark world where the veneer of civility has worn thin. What was your inspiration for this world?

Ration’s world is inspired by our own change in the social landscape in the last few years. I am a community college instructor and my classes are always populated by amazing students, and yet every day my students are faced with such things as food insecurity, destructive challenges to their identities, and the need to make impossible choices for their families and for themselves. Ration may be set in a dystopian world, but its roots are firmly lodged in reality.

You’ve eliminated men from your novel. Would you say this simplified things or gave you problems?  

This is a great question. In many ways, it simplified Ration, but in just as many, it complicated how the world was constructed. The choice to eliminate men from the world was an early one. I wanted a chance for my characters to have specific and individual voices, while touching on the horrors that women face all over the globe. Horror has a strong precedent for powerful female characters. I wanted very much for Ration to push that precedent even further.

I love your style of writing, it almost belies the horror contained within. How long have you been writing for and what has that journey been like for you?  Has your style changed noticeably, do you still love your earlier work? 

I’ve been telling stories for the majority of my life. Sometimes I’ve told those stories in front of a camera or on the stage of a theater. I started writing as a boy, but did not find my voice as a writer until my early twenties. It is a strange thing to examine one’s own style, especially asking really tough questions such as how does that style influence the story, and for the most part I don’t have an answer, at least not yet. My earlier writing was far more internal, the characters struggling with their own inner demons. As my writing has changed, I have tried to find a balance between what is inside and outside of the character. I think this is because as I mature as a writer and as a gray-bearded human, I’ve discovered that often what is felt inside changes the perspective of what is outside.  I still like my earlier work, but it does feel like it was written by another person, and I hope that I have enough time to see all the people that I can be on the page over the years.

The characters are so well written and jump off the page straight into the mind’s eye. Do you have a favourite character from the central four??

While I don’t have a favorite character, I’ve done my best to match the girls and their desires with the Women in the book. Each character has a psychological counterpoint in another character, and each character is reflected in the actions of another character. I wanted these people to be human, truly human, so even the barbarous Ms. Glennoc has something inside her that maybe all of us can recognize in ourselves.

Is this a world that you would consider returning to, even if not to this particular time and place? 

Yes, this is a world that continues to haunt me, and I have found that even as I am working on newer projects, the world of Ration has drawn me back in. Writing these characters was fascinating simply because they would not do what I asked them to do. They demanded I tell their stories in a very specific way, and by the time I had finished, the characters seemed to have more to say.

Finally, could you fill in the gap ‘if you love  ‘x”  you’ll love Ration’. I know authors steer clear of comparisons for good reason but I feel it’s a good way of recommending the book to others. Feel free to ignore this question though if it makes you feel uncomfortable :D.

If you love Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, you’ll love Ration. Although, several readers have pointed out to me a few disturbing comparisons to Annie, which makes for a fun comp, but does give me the willies.

Thanks again Cody 😀

I love Cody’s answers and can’t wait to see what he comes up with next, I’m certainly excited to learn from the above that the possibility of a return to this world may be on the cards.  I’ll now have to stalk his social media places to see what he’s writing next because if Ration is any indication it’s going to be something I desperately want/need to read.

And… a bit more information about Cody:

Twitter : codytluff
Cody’s stories have appeared in Pilgrimage, Cirque, KYSO Flash, Menda City Review, Swamp Biscuits & Tea, and others. He is fiction winner of the 2016 Montana Book Festival Regional Emerging Writers Contest.

Cody teaches at Portland Community College and works as a story editor. He completed an intensive MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College. Cody grew up listening to stories in his grandfather’s barber shop as he shined shoes, stories told to him at bedsides and on front porches, deep in his father’s favorite woods, and in the cabs of pickup trucks on lonely dirt roads. Cody’s work explores those things both small and wondrous that move the soul, whether they be deeply real or strikingly surreal.

 

#SPFBO4 Interview with Alice Sabo, author of High Barrens

black

Today I’m pleased to welcome to my blog Alice Sabo, author of High Barrens.

Hi Alice, thank you so much for not only taking part in the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off but also for agreeing to take part in an interview.  

It may seem a bit of an overused opener but can you start by telling readers a little bit about yourself and a short introduction to what your book is about – something that isn’t lifted straight from the bio already available on line if possible.

I grew up in New Jersey but have lived all over the country. I blame my wanderlust on nomadic ancestors. The Celts migrated through Hungary, where my father was born, and continued on to Ireland where my mother’s people are from. I’m the family genealogist and spend way too much time researching people that I might be related to. It gives me a lot more stories that I want to write.

High Barrens is set in the high desert. I lived in New Mexico and Colorado for a while. The desert there fascinated me. The landscape is so rugged and parched. Ultimately, it was too dry and hot for this east-coast soul.

The main thrust of the book is about a young woman, Flint, learning about herself and her skills. She’s grown up in a dangerous frontier town and feels that she can handle anything. But once she gets out into the world, she encounters things that are so far outside of her experience that she’s at a loss. However, Flint is a strong, resourceful person. Even when she is caught in the middle of a battle, she can keep her head and lend a hand.

The magic in this world is all controlled by specific gods which each have a certain skill set. For example, Bhanur is the god of healing and his followers, called Hands, run temples that serve as hospitals. There are some odd cracks in the overlap of the various gods’ domains. A few skills are not beholding to anyone, including Flint’s ability to see a person’s soul. The why of that is something that Flint wants to pursue, but she gets sidetracked by other things.

The book is just Flint’s story and I think of it as a standalone. That doesn’t mean it’s the last time we’ll see her. But the next book in the series will be someone else’s story.

I love the sound of Flint’s frontier beginnings and look forward to reading about her adventures.

desert2

So, I can see where the influence for your setting came from.  How about the character?  Did the story come first or the character?

The main character, Flint, has been around for a long time. It’s a story that I originally started decades ago. It was part of a much bigger story and I didn’t have the skills to pull it off. But I learned with a different book to scale down and decided to pull this character out and give her a smaller story. I ended up changing the name and then the gender. That gave me enough distance to separate her from the rut of the old story line. Then I could create something new.

It’s interesting that the next story will be from a different character.  Do you worry at all that that might be risky – readers can become very attached to a character after all?

I left Flint in a good place that also had a jumping off point. In fact, someone left a review stating that they knew what the next book would be about. That made me chuckle because it does seem obvious. She will be around and she might get another book of her own down the line. The next book will deal with people that were introduced in the first book. They were side characters, but hung around for awhile. I can only hope that readers found them interesting enough to want to know more about them.

You mention that High Barrens will be a standalone with a new character featuring in the next book – will that be from the same world?  Do you envisage that Flint might put in an appearance at some point?

Yes, this is all in the same world. I named the series Tales of Haroon specifically because I wanted to be able to spend time on different aspects. I’ve always loved the huge epics, but sometimes they get so confusing. When I started reading Game of Thrones I felt like I needed a flowchart to keep track of all the characters and their affiliations. Also I was hanging out on a readers forum for a while and several said that they didn’t like being forced into a series. Especially one with long arcs. That got me to thinking that it might be better to wrap up the story in one book. It’s sort of an experiment but also the best way for me to do the stories in this world.

When did you first start to write and how many books have you written so far?  

I started writing things down when I was pretty young. It never occurred to me to write a book because I was more focused on art. I started writing after the death of a dear friend as catharsis. When I got that out of my system (and that story will always stay in the drawer) I decided that maybe I could write a book. I started writing seriously about 2005. My 11th novel came out Aug 23rd.

What happened to your earliest attempts at writing – did you feel that they were successful or did you shelve them?

A lot of what I started, I couldn’t finish properly. Many of the stories were episodic, the adventures of a bunch of friends. They were mostly written for fun. I go back occasionally and find an idea that I want to develop. Some of it has morphed into new projects.

If you could go back and give yourself some advice about your earlier works what would that be – would you want to make changes at all?

It’s hard to say because those stories come from a younger, less experienced version of myself. I guess I would just say to keep writing. Practice really does improve your skills.

I notice that you write in a number of genres – do you have a particular favourite?  How easy, or not, is it to keep all the different books and series compartmentalised?

I read in all those genres, so I wanted to write in them also. The favorite is usually the one I’m working on. I like to jump into a completely different world when I’m done with a book. I’ve just finished a mystery and I’m starting a new book in my post-apocalyptic series now. It’s a relief to let go for awhile. I do keep a very detailed bible of each world, the characters and some plot points. So if I forget if someone has blue eyes or green, I can easily find it. Genre-jumping isn’t recommended for building an audience because sometimes there is little crossover – a reader of mysteries might not read scifi and vice versa. So it’s taken me a lot longer to build any kind of following.

I’m intrigued by your first answer where you mention that Flint had been around for about a decade and was part of a much bigger story.  How difficult is it to come to such  a conclusion that something isn’t working and to decide to start over in this way?  Particularly after you’ve invested such a lot of work already?

I’d put that story on the back burner a couple of times because I just didn’t know where it was going. If you can’t finish a story, that’s a dead giveaway that it’s got issues. I started noodling around with screenplays for awhile and was astonished that there was actually a formula to this stuff. Who’d a thunk it? Then I started writing a mystery and that has a formula to it also. It’s much looser, but ultimately it’s about a crime that needs to be solved and a killer arrested. When I went back to some of my rambling, episodic writings, I could see how it needed more structure. Once you can understand the overall structure of storytelling, you can spot the problems in a story. A lot of the work I put into world building and character profiles could still be used. It gave me a terrific foundation to start with. And since some of the story was so old, I couldn’t remember half of it. So I wasn’t constrained by the old plot lines.

Starting over immediately on a bad story isn’t always a good idea. Put it aside and let it rest. Get your brain working on something different. When you come back to it with fresh eyes, and maybe new skills, it’s easier to see solutions.

I noticed on your blog that you studied Fine Art – is that something that you’re still interested in or has writing filled that creative need in you now?  Is there time for both in your life?

I haven’t done any artwork in awhile. I don’t rule it out, I just haven’t had the urge to draw or paint for awhile. The creative energy is probably going into my writing. Also I don’t really have a space to work. But the workmen have started on my office and I foresee some painting in the near future.

Does the artistic side of you mean that you become involved in the cover process at all or do you leave that to others?

I tried doing my covers but there is a big difference between graphic art and painting for the fun of it. The learning curve for some of the programs was daunting. And there is a whole lot of information that a graphic artist just knows from experience that I don’t. I floundered around until I connected with Alex Storer. He’s done all but one of my covers. Sometimes I have a specific image in mind and he works up some sketches based on my input. Sometimes I don’t have a clue and I just give him a list of story elements that he can incorporate. Then I look at the rough sketches and give him feedback. He usually has a winner for me in the 1st or 2nd try. We have a very good working relationship.

I think having a background in art helps me to envision the completed image from the sketch. It also helps me to explain any changes I want, slight color shift or moving an element that gets closer to the image in my head.

HighBarrens

Finally, you may be relieved to hear, and on a lighter note, do you have any stories you could share or experiences of something crazy that you’ve done?

The craziest thing I’ve ever done…there’s been a lot of that, but I’ll go with a G-rated one.

I was living in Boston, back in my early twenties, and had just gotten back from an extended vacation. I had quit my job before leaving, so I needed to find work right away. I don’t even remember how it came about, but I signed up with this guy to be a Sandwich Witch. That meant I had to wear this awful hazard-orange, bibbed hot pants sort of thing and sell sandwiches out of a big wicker basket. It was a revolting outfit that wasn’t the least bit sexy on me. Also, it was made out of some sort of heavy plastic and it was the summer, so that made the thing even more uncomfortable.

The tricky part was that he told me to go into the high rise buildings and hawk the sandwiches in all the offices. Since I had never done anything remotely like it, I was ignorant of a slew of laws. I was quickly caught by security who demanded to see my peddler’s license. Which of course I didn’t have. And it turned out – neither did my boss. The security guy was nice enough to not call the cops on me for who knows how many different violations. (I didn’t even ask where the sandwiches came from, and was kind of surprised anyone would actually buy them.) I quickly handed in my outfit, but it had leaked orange dye all over my blouse and underwear. And I didn’t make a cent for all my sweat and aggravation.

Lesson learned about taking odd jobs and I still have an aversion to the color orange.

Alice, thank you so much for taking part, for being so patient and for sharing your experiences.  I really enjoyed our interview and I wish you all the best in the SPFBO.

For more information about Alice check out the following:

Website
Twitter
URL

 

 

#SPFBO4 Interview with Andrew Lynch, author of Sanctuary’s Fiend

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Today I’m pleased to welcome to my blog author of Sanctuary’s Fiend, Andrew Lynch.

As you may be aware if you’re following the SPFBO competition or my updates I’ve recently cut my first three books (oh, how I hate to cut any books) and unfortunately Sanctuary’s Fiend was part of that first batch. But, I would like to stress that Sanctuary’s Fiend was an easy and entertaining read, I own that I’m not the target audience and, more than that, I don’t just see the SPFBO as a competition with one winner.  I like to think that all the authors who enter the competition are winners, maybe not for the elusive No.1 spot, but in bringing awareness not only to their own books but to the huge self published market that’s out there.  I’ve taken part in this competition since it began and my perception of self published books has definitely changed as a result.  Hopefully that will be the same for other readers.  So, all that aside please check out my interview with the lovely Mr Lynch:

Hi Andrew,  welcome to my blog, I’d like to start by asking you to share a little something with readers about yourself and your book.
Neuralizer1

Heya Lynn, thanks for being crazy enough to read 30 books! I know I couldn’t do it. Me? Well, I work for the government in one of those “kill you if I told you” kind of places, and I love easy to read, funny fantasy. I value a book that makes me laugh over a book that makes me cry any day of the week, and I think that’s really the best way to go into any of my books, and especially Sanctuary’s Fiend. I didn’t set out to change anyone’s view on life, I just wanted to make people laugh and enjoy being in the head of a teenage vampire for a while. It’s popcorn fiction!

What was the inspiration for Sanctuary’s Fiend, was it a lightbulb moment of clarity or more a small kernel of an idea that grew.

It was definitely a kernel that grew. I had just finished writing my sword and sorcery fantasy, Demi Heroes, and I wanted something lighter and easier, and when I was deciding what exactly that should be, I went back to my roots. I grew up on videogame fantasy and Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Writing Sanctuary’s Fiend was just me exploring “what if buffy was a vampire and her best friend was a mute kid that lured sailors to their deaths?”.

Do you have an overall plan for the series?  do you have an ending in mind and a set number of books or is this going to be more of an organic process that will grow?

Keeping with the Buffy vibe, I wanted to create a “monster of the week” feeling. Each book would be its own self contained novel, but there would also be an overarching plot pulling the faithful readers through. Again, I was aiming for popcorn reading. “Missed a few books in the series? No biggie, you’ll figure it out!”. That said, I did have the overarching plot roughly squared away in my head, and I personally have no interest in a permanently running series. Also, the finale of popcorn reading is the best part to write, and getting to write an entire book as a finale? Don’t want to miss out on that!

Would you say that your characters take over and run around in your head when you’re writing about them? I read a couple of authors recently who wrote small part characters only then to have those characters demand more time.  How do you and your characters get along and are any of them proving to be more pushy than you expected?

Such a romantic notion! My characters tend to stay in line in the broad strokes of things. If they need to be dead, or grow a third arm in the final act of the book, they’ll make it happen. HOW they make it happen? Well, I love finding that part out along with the reader! 

(What can I say – I have romantic notions :D)

Sanctuary’s Fiend is UF with a bunch of fantasy creatures living amongst regular human beings.  You mention in the blurb that your young protagonist is starting to develop her own appetites – how easy do you think it will be as the story progresses to keep these two worlds separate.

Oh it won’t be possible at all! What fun would that be? No, no, no, we’re going to smash those two worlds together and the fallout will fundamentally change the landscape of Sanctuary. Of course, there are the supernatural secret police that have worked for centuries to stop exactly that from happening, so they may have a few things to say about my plans.

Why did you decide to go down the route of self publishing and is there any particular advice that you’d like to share with others?

I enjoy the freedom and the sense of accomplishment that comes with doing everything entirely by yourself. And, in all honesty, I needed to write a bad book (The one BEFORE Sanctuary’s Fiend!), make all the mistakes, and learn from them. Self publishing let me do that and still feel accomplished. With traditional publishing, I would have spent a year on a book, hit a stone wall, and given up. This way, I have a finished book that people can buy, and that in itself gave me what I needed to go back to the drawing board and write a GOOD book. Sanctuary’s Fiend is exactly that!

Advice for others: you have to be bad to be good.

Is there any particular aspect that you found difficult about writing a character of the opposite sex.

I actually find writing a female character much easier than writing a male one. When I’m writing a male, inevitably they are me. They will have my sense of humour, my taste in clothes etc. I struggle to deviate too far from that when writing a POV character. But when I’m writing a female POV? I can completely divorce what I’m writing from myself, and let the character truly be whoever that character is supposed to be. (What an interesting answer – I never really thought of it like that before :D)

Finally, on a lighter note:

If you could go back in time would you give yourself any particular advice?

Easy one! START NOW! I waited till I was 27 to start writing. I’m pretty sure If I’d started when I was 18, I’d be ruling the world right now. Instead I lost over a decade!

What happy memory would you use when casting a patronus charm and what would your patronus animal be?

Umm, are you implying that I’m not supposed to be walking through life in a miasma of apathy?

And I’d be a Puma, obviously!

Can you tell me your earliest childhood read that had an impact on you

This is actually a really easy question. It would have to be the series of books that I remember reading in middle school called Spooksville. It was like an off-brand Goosebumps by an author called Christopher Pike. I even graduated to his adult novels (they’d by YA these days, but YA didn’t exist then as a category). Without those, I doubt I’d be a reader at all!

Andrew – thanks so much for taking part in the interview and the competition and all the best for Sanctuary’s Fiend.  I look forward to seeing what adventures Rel will be involved in next.

More information about Andrew’s book is below.

Sanctuary Sanctuary’s Fiend by A. Lynch

Rel is your average 16 year old high school student. She just wants to hang out with her friends, scrape by in class, and avoid the mean girls.

Her best friend is a siren, the girl who just joined the class is a ghost, and her adoptive parents are succubi that simply don’t understand her – the rest of Sanctuary doesn’t get any less weird!

As she tries to be normal and tell the boy she likes how she feels about him, she experiences a case of sudden onset vampirism.
Let’s see how that works out for Rel, shall we?

Goodread’s author page

Website: http://www.lynchwriting.com

 

 

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