writing


Yesterday, I reviewed Sandra Worth’s newest novel, Lady of The Roses. Today, she’s gracious enough to answer a few questions:

DE: What is it that you find particularly fascinating about this time in history? You’ve written Lady of the Roses and the Rose of York Series (which I now can’t wait to read). Why this period of history rather than any other? Was the portrait of Richard III in the National Portrait Gallery the start of it all?

SW: He really was the start of it all! Like Josephine Tey’s detective in Daughter of Time, I was fascinated by the portrait of the handsome young man with the troubled, sorrowful eyes. He didn’t look like a killer to me, and sure enough, he was maligned by the Tudors. The more I read, the angrier I got at the enormity of the injustice that had been done. There was only one very lengthy fictional treatment of the real Richard III available at the time, but it was too wordy and I couldn’t get into it. Eventually, I wrote my own book. One thing led to another, and Lady of the Roses was born. This novel is a sort of prequel to my first book, The Rose of York: Love & War about Richard of Gloucester, and gives the Neville perspective. It’s something that has never been done before, either in fiction or non-fiction. Novelists left this period alone because it was so murky and chaotic.

You ask what is so fascinating about this period of history—why this rather than another, and what’s so special about England’s 15th century Wars of the Roses? The answer is that it’s simply extraordinary –a time of great danger and tumult, reversals of fortune and violent death when the passions of a few determined the course of history. And it’s filled with surprises! The Wars of the Roses so fascinated Shakespeare that he set most of his plays in this era. Living in this period seems to have brought out the best, and the worst in people. Some became larger than life; others exhibited an evil unmatched in the civilized world.

DE: I’m more familiar with the Percies than the Nevilles, albeit earlier than this period. One of the things I especially enjoyed in Lady of the Roses was Isobel’s affection for Alnwick and, especially, Warkworth. I’ve spent time wandering around both and love them. Did you go back and spend time in those locations during the writing of the book? Or had you previously spent enough time there to do it all from memory and research? Do you take lots of notes and photographs when you research? What is your process?

SW: I live in Texas, so unfortunately I don’t have the luxury of taking a weekend trip to places I’m writing about while I’m writing. Everything has to be planned beforehand. I visited both these exquisite castles, as well as Bamborough, another of my favorites, before I began the book. As you suggested, I took copious notes and photographs while I was there. Then of course, my mind “photographed” so much that the camera couldn’t – the evocative landscape, the emotion and feel of the place. Bamborough and Warkworth are the two that “spoke” to me most vividly, even though only the armory at Bamborough dates from John Neville’s time. Yet, standing at the window there looking out at the windswept North Sea, I knew John had done exactly the same himself, many times, long ago, and I found it somehow touching.

DE: One of the interesting episodes in the book is when Isobel states to Queen Marguerite that she would “have as husband a man of my choice” and Marguerite agrees that the law is on her side. One of the assumptions most people make is that women were only moved about as chattel to gain money and power at that time. Would you talk a bit about this law, when it came into effect, how it was honored or ignored?

SW: Since the eleventh century women have had this right. It was given them by the Church which believed that for a marriage to be legal, both parties had to be willing. That was the theory, but of course, there were a thousand ways to get around that. Women were virtually powerless, dependent on men for their survival – first their fathers, then their husbands, and a young girl could be turned out into the street if she disobeyed.

DE: Somerset’s complexity and growth is also interesting. At the beginning, one wants to hate him; yet by his death, he’s far too interesting to hate, and we understand Isobel’s mixed feelings for him. Is most of that complexity (not in relation to Isobel, but in his general dealings) based on historical documentation or were you able to take more liberties in his creation than in some of the other figures?

SW: That was my creative invention. Somerset is known to history as a rash and reckless trouble-maker but as I pondered his many angry and violent confrontations with John Neville, and the fact that he had never married, I began to get a sense of what these arguments were about. John and Isobel came from enemy sides in a civil war, and Isobel was an orphan, a ward of the Lancastrian Queen Margaret of Anjou who hated the Nevilles. John, a Yorkist, was made to pay a jaw-dropping bride-price for Isobel’s hand when he fell madly in love with her. That suggested to me that Isobel was a great beauty, and an admirable young woman, and here she was at court with Queen Margaret, and with Somerset. He was around the same age as John Neville, and evidently good-looking. Was Somerset in love with Isobel? Was that the source of his conflict with John? Margaret of Anjou was said to have been in love with Somerset herself, so she might have looked favorably on getting Isobel out of the way. A marriage to Somerset’s rival would have been a good punishment on her wayward lover, too. After all, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned…”

DE: What’s next on your writing agenda (if you’re at a stage where you can discuss it)? Do you plan to stay in this era, move backwards, move forwards?

SW: I’ve got another novel with Penguin coming December 2008 on Elizabeth of York, entitled The King’s Daughter: A Novel of the First Tudor Queen. Elizabeth of York was a remarkable woman who lived an incredibly dramatic life. Some of the things that happened to her are so unbelievable, you couldn’t make it up! Penguin’s book description is posted on my website, and I think it conveys a good idea of the story. As for a book past Elizabeth, I haven’t decided yet. I’m taking a hiatus right now, just resting and pondering what direction I’m going to go in the future. History is full of the most fascinating and inspiring stories. It’ll be hard to decide.

DE: Thank you, Sandra!

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Bio:
Sandra Worth holds an honours B.A. in Political Science and Economics from the University of Toronto. She is a frequent lecturer on the Wars of the Roses and has been published by The Ricardian Register, the quarterly publication of the U.S. Richard III Society and by Blanc Sanglier, the publication of the Yorkshire, England, branch of the Richard III Society.

She has won ten awards her Rose of York trilogy, including the First Place Prize in the 2003 Francis Ford Coppola-sponsored New Century Writers Award. Her work has been translated for publication in Spain and is forthcoming in Russia Visit her website, www.sandraworth.com.

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For a glimpse into the daily ups and downs of a freelancer writer’s life, visit Ink in My Coffee.

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Yesterday, I reviewed Darkling, Yasmine Galenorn’s latest book in her Otherworld (Sisters of the Moon) series. Today, she’s generous enough to take the time to answer a few questions.

DE: The books are all written in first person, the “first” being whichever sister is the focus of that book. Because of your intense schedule, where you’re usually writing one and in edits or galleys for another, do you ever find that sometimes the voice of one “bleeds” (no pun intended) into one of the other stories? Or does one of the sisters sometimes jump into a different sister’s book and want to say something from her perspective? How do you handle that?

YG: Actually, I’m very good at narrowing my focus and multi-tasking, so this hasn’t been the problem I thought it would be. The only time it was a problem was when I started Changeling, because I hadn’t realized my publisher wanted me to write the books from different POVs—I had planned that it would all be from Camille’s perspective. I tossed 200 pages when I figured out that I was writing Delilah the way Camille saw her, not the way she saw herself. Once it dawned on me that each sister sees herself differently than her other sisters see her, I was able to make the leap. I like the round robin approach because we get to see how Camille, Delilah, and Menolly view each other—and then how they view themselves, and the differing perspectives don’t always match up.

When I start a new book, it’s like I “jump out” of one skin, into the next, and settle in. Sometimes I find myself thinking, “Camille wouldn’t do it this way” or “Oh man, Menolly would react a totally different way” but I don’t think bleed-through ever presents a serious obstacle for me.

DE: Each of the sisters is involved in at least a triangulated relationship, if not a more complex web. The relationships show genuine love and growing trust in a way that is unique. That a protagonist can successfully have more than one lover is fairly new ground in traditional publishing. Laurell K. Hamilton deals with this in her books, but, in my opinion, it’s a means to a different end. Even many of the erotica publishers insist that once the protagonist and her “hero” have sex, neither character can have sex/make love with anyone else. Did you meet any initial or do you meet any ongoing resistance to that from your editor or publisher? Was that a discussion that happened early in the series, or have they simply trusted you enough to follow your vision?

YG: My editor(s) seem quite happy with the direction in which I’ve taken my sisters. I started out with a different editor for Witchling and Changeling. Christine Zika was also with me through all my mysteries—let me take this new series where I needed to take it. Then she was hired by a different house and I started working with Kate Seaver, my current editor, who is as wonderful—and innovative—as Christine was.

At first, the publishers weren’t even sure what the series was—and to be honest—neither was I. The story arc has evolved as I’ve written the books. And the sisters and their relationships have evolved organically through the writing. I think what helps it work in my Alterverse is that I haven’t tried to foist anything on the characters from the outside. Multiple pairings seem to be their natural bent, so the situations ‘feel’ natural in the writing.

The same with the bisexual and gay characters—I don’t have any agenda with regards to the sexual bent of my characters. They are who they are. My current editor did discuss the same-sex scene with me—the one Menolly has in Darkling. In no way did she ask me to remove it, but she gently reminded me, some readers might be uncomfortable with a F/F sex scene. I thought about it, but it had to stay. Menolly is bisexual, and with the background she has—with what Dredge did to her—she is leery of men. I refuse to tiptoe around the issue. She will—on occasion—have women lovers. Actually, all the sisters have the possibility, but for Menolly it seems to play out more. If it pushes a few buttons, well, then it will have to push a few buttons. The worlds I create aren’t sanitized—they aren’t nice and pat and tied up with a pretty bow.

For one thing, I’m openly bisexual (although I resist labels—I happened to fall in love with a man; it could have been a woman depending on who I met). Actually, when you look at human nature, monogamy is a social construct, for the most part. Now, I’m monogamous in practice, but I can understand the natural instincts to gravitate toward different partners. It can cause a lot of havoc, but it also opens up whole new avenues for plot and character development.

I also think that since I’m writing urban fantasy instead of romance (regardless of what you see on the spine of the book), there’s less resistance to the multiple pairings. I’m not focused on relationships or sex, they just happen to be part of the story—they aren’t the whole plot.

DE: Have you made any changes in your own spiritual practice as you explore the worlds and the practices of the sisters more deeply?

YG: No. The Otherworld Series—and the Chintz ‘n China Series, for that matter—while they have a background in folklore, and while actual magical practices can’t help but creep in, they’re both fantasy. Fiction.

My spiritual/magical practice is grounded in…what…at this point…28 years of magical practice I have as an eclectic shamanic witch. I do work with dragon energy and I’ve always worked with Faerie magic, but I consider my spirituality and my writing two separate parts of my life. I am a witch. I am a writer. I’m not writing metaphysical nonfiction wrapped up in the guise of fiction—I already wrote nonfiction books on the subject. While my spirituality guides the way I approach life, and being a writer guides the way I perceive life, they don’t necessarily overlap all the time.

DE: Have you created an overview for the whole series, with a specific ending in site, or does that shift from book to book? Is the series growing organically, or do you make sure to hit certain touchstones in each book?

YG: No—no specific ending. There will be an end to the spirit seal story arc eventually, but another story arc is opening up in Dragon Wytch (book 4, which will be out July 1st 2008) and there will be others. The series is evolving organically. Although, I have to say, by this point—I’m about to start book six—I have an extensive research notebook detailing story threads, subplots, characters, aspects of Earthside/Otherworld, etc.

DE: One of the things I love about the series is the strength of the love and the sense of hope between the sisters and those close to them, even when things are at their darkest. They’re active, and they use love as a catalyst rather than a reason to hide or not act out of fear of loss. It seems that so many decisions nowadays are made out of fear instead of out of love, hope, or integrity. Is that something rooted in your own belief?

YG: No, actually. I’m not an optimist by nature, and I don’t hold much hope for humanity’s future with the way things are going. But we can’t give up. In my opinion, we simply have no other option but to continue the fight, to do what we can, and cross our fingers that maybe, just maybe, it’s enough.

I make my decisions by looking at what needs to be done. What is my part in the scheme of life? I try to act out of a sense of honor. I’d defend my loved ones to the death, because nobody hurts those I protect/call family. I suppose, for me, a sense of honor with heart is a strong motivator. I do recognize, though, that some people confuse honor and pride—and that brings tragedy.

The sisters were raised to be the daughters of a Guardsman, they were raised to be courageous, to stand up for those in need, to follow through on promises made. However, each sister is a little different in the way she approaches danger and action.

As I said, Camille feels a strong sense of duty/honor to her family, to her father, to those she’s bound to by oath or by heart. Camille is the one who would go rushing willy-nilly into battle, screaming, “Do you want to live forever?”

Delilah, well Delilah’s trying to find her courage. She’s trying to grow past her fear. You’ll see—in Death Maiden—how she is evolving out of the ‘Scaredy Cat” into a courageous young woman/feline, ready to stand her ground.

And Menolly, oh yes, for Menolly it’s all about the underdog. She does what she needs to, even when it’s uncomfortable or ugly, because she’s unwilling to let the sadists and the perverts of the world win. She’s been to hell and back, and she’s determined to prevent others from falling to the same fate.

All in all, the Otherworld series is really about the underdogs of the world. The heroes who get thrust into the journey rather than the ones who go looking for it—the people who are scared out of their minds but they know they have to fight and so they somehow find the courage to face their demons. Really, my Alterverse is all about the misfits who band together to save what they can, to help where they can, and to have one hell of a party doing it. And by gods, if they’re going to fall to the enemy—they’re determined to take the bad guys with them! ~grins~

(And no, do not read anything into that—I’m not killing off the Sisters. Or Maggie. I promise you this: Maggie may be in danger at times, but Maggie the Gargoyle will never be tortured or killed).

DE: Thank you, Yasmine!

Bio:
USA Today bestselling author Yasmine Galenorn writes the bestselling urban fantasy Otherworld/Sisters of the Moon Series for Berkley (Witchling, Changeling, Darkling, etc.). She also wrote the paranormal Chintz ‘n China Mystery Series, and the Bath & Beauty Mystery Series (the latter written as India Ink) and eight nonfiction metaphysical books. She’s been in the Craft for over 25 years, is a shamanic witch, and describes her life as a blend of teacups and tattoos. She lives in Bellevue WA with her husband Samwise and their four cats. Yasmine can be reached via her website at www.galenorn.com and via MySpace: www.myspace.com/yasminegalenorn.

The wonderful February authors hosted are Yasmine Galenorn and Sandra Worth!

February 8 — Review of DARKLING by Yasmine Galenorn
February 9 — Interview with Yasmine Galenorn

February 24 — Review of LADY OF THE ROSES by Sandra Worth
February 25 — interview with Sandra Worth.

Please come by and check them out!

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For the daily ups and downs of the freelance writing life, visit Ink in My Coffee.

You read about some of his work yesterday; now get to meet HIM!

Interview with Colin Galbraith

DE: How do you decide in which format to explore an idea? Do you decide “I want to write a poem” and then try to figure out what to write; do you get an idea and play with it in several formats until it fits; how do you find it most often works for you?

CG: Devon – thanks for inviting me onto Biblio Paradise.

For poetry I need a concept first. That’s the most important thing. I need a perimeter with which to work inside so that I can push and pull all the sides into various shapes and images and produce a body of work as opposed to a single poem. Very rarely do I get the inspiration for a poem from an emotion or memory – I tend to source a concept first, let it mature in my head and then run with it.

The first draft of all my chapbooks have all been written within four weeks, and I find myself writing like a mad man at times. After that the craft takes over and they undergo major surgery, which is where I’ll select the poems to include and then edit them satisfactorily, all of which adds on up to another few months just to get them right.

Sometimes I get a concept that I can’t fit anywhere. One day it’s a novel, the next a short story, the next a poem. I had one idea, a story called The Hill that began life as a short story but never worked out. Then I thought it was because it should be a novel, but then that failed too. So I tried it as a poem and as a stage play – all failed.

I’ve still to write that story, but it’s one of my most inspired ideas so I’ve never let go. I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ll know how to write it when I reach a certain level of skill or have an epiphany or something. I had that idea nine years ago and I’m still living with it.

DE: How do you feel that fiction, poetry, play-writing and non-fiction feed off each other? Are they ever in conflict with each other?

CG: I answered this question last because it’s so tough. I wish you’d asked me what my interests were outside of writing, Devon, then I could have said: “Hi, I’m Colin and my interests are pop music and going to the pictures.”

DE: That wouldn’t be any fun – giving you easy questions! 😉 Seriously, it gives me a chance to ask questions rolling around my head, inspired by your work, but that I’ve never gotten around to asking.

CG: Non-fiction requires a different hat altogether for me, and is totally separate from anything else I write. I have to be in an objective and logical frame of mind in order to produce, and I have to have my mind firmly in the real-world and in business. So there are no conflicts there other than time management.

Very often though, while reviewing something or writing about particular subjects in an article, I am fed ideas that I often use in my fiction, so there is a natural cross over. I’ve written one play, and that was developed on the basis of a short story so there’s another link, albeit a tenuous one, but as for poetry, that’s on the other side of the spectrum altogether.

In the same way I have to be in dedicated non-fiction mode to write it, I have to be in dedicated poet mode in order to write poetry – it just won’t work for me otherwise. The key for me is switching those hats around instantly, in order to cover as much ground during the writing day as possible.

I’m still not sure I’ve answered this question the way I was meant to!

DE: What is the biggest lesson that Colin The Writer has learned from his experience as Colin The Editor?

CG: I’ve learnt why editors appear strict and rigid – because they have to be. You have to detach from the creative side entirely and try to put aside the fact that someone has ploughed so much of their time, effort and love into a piece of writing, only for you to have to write to them to say you never liked it. And that’s the hardest thing of all; knowing what goes into a story or a poem, knowing what rejection feels like, and knowing you are doing it to a fellow writer.

I set up an editorial process which I’ve adapted over time, to ensure I give each submission I receive the time and care it deserves. But this also means I now understand those editors who complain when people don’t do the simple things that are set out in the requirements. There’s nothing worse than opening a submission only to find the writer has only looked for the email address on your web site to submit to, and hasn’t even bothered reading the requirements or anything to do with the publication. I throw those ones in the bin almost immediately because if they don’t put in the effort, why should I?

Also, if a piece is really good either in concept or whatever, but it has obvious mistakes in it, I talk to the author to see if they are willing to make changes and improve the piece. I really appreciate it when editors take the time with me to develop an idea – which doesn’t often happen – but the ones who have I’ve never forgotten them or their advice.

On the flip side, I take much more care when making submissions of my own. I triple check everything to make sure that I’ve adhered to all the requirements, and I try harder to make myself get noticed by the editor. I’ve stopped using standard templates for my submissions, and I try to make them personal to the publication and the person reading them. I’m not ashamed to say that some of the more outstanding cover letters I’ve received have found their way into my own submissions.

I’ve also discovered just how hard it is to find good short fiction out there. I get poetry by the bucket load, more than I know what to do with, and it presents a problem when compiling the issues. I get lots of flash too, but short fiction – good short fiction – is extremely thin on the ground. This is good news if you’re a serious short story writer, as there seems to be a hole in the market for it.

DE: Would you ever consider writing again in a serial format? Or a shared world anthology? What kind of parameters would you want in that kind of project?

CG: I wrote Hunting Jack as a serial back in 2004 and I loved doing it. It was a great way of developing a story in a challenging and fun format, and in an interesting marketplace. I would do it again if I had a story that was good enough, and I think I would write half of it first before pitching the idea. Nothing I’ve come up with since then has fitted the serial format though, apart from the idea of a sequel to Hunting Jack maybe.

I love the idea of doing a shared world anthology, purely because it’s an exciting thought moving into someone else’s story and seeing what comes out of it. I think the more open and the less parameters that were place on that idea, the better. The charge of ideas would be what makes it, and I’d jump at the chance to do a project like that.

DE: How do you feel your writing has expanded your reading?

CG: This is a tough question because I’ve only ever thought about this in the reverse i.e. how my reading has expanded my writing.

My writing has grown (or shrunk depending how you see it) into bi-polarised sources: crime fiction and poetry. So from that point of view, I am reading more and more crime fiction, discovering new authors and styles, and getting lots of ideas for my own stories.

Also, I’m reading more poetry both from well known poets and independent ones who publish through small presses or by themselves. You’d be amazed at the talent there is, and by doing this, not only am I enjoying more poetry and benefiting my own writing skills, but I’m also meeting a lot of fascinating people from all walks of life by doing so. It’s a very fulfilling cycle.

DE: What new direction do you want to explore, writing-wise, in this New Year, and what attracts you to it?

CG: I’m delving back into children’s poetry and stories. I got such a buzz from doing Silly Poems for Wee People Vol.1 a couple of years ago, that I’m planning a second volume for this year.

What attracts me to writing for children? Well, I’m a big kid and have never fully matured (just ask my wife), so when I write something that makes me laugh I know it will make a kid laugh. When I wrote “River Monkeys”, I couldn’t stop laughing, and it went on to be published in a national children’s anthology.

I’m also a Dad, and one of the best things to come from having a kid is learning to tap back into your own childhood through their experiences, remembering how the world looked and felt back then, and then putting it all down on paper.

And it’s such fun to do. Writing for kids is such a departure from the serious business of fiction writing – and the occasional grim hardness of crime fiction – that it acts as cathartic release. It helps me move far enough away from the world of novel writing, that when I look back it allows me to see everything with a clear head again.

Thanks, Colin!

Bio:

Colin Galbraith is the Chief Editor and Publisher of The Ranfurly Review, and an Associate Editor at The Scruffy Dog Review. He has published short stories, poems, non-fiction articles and reviews, in both print and online publications.

His novel, Hunting Jack, was serialised in 2004 by a US-based publisher, and his first chapbook, Fringe Fantastic: The Poet’s Experience of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, was published in paperback in December 2005 to critical acclaim. Poolside Poetry was his second paperback, published in March 2007.

He has published three e-books of poetry; Brick by Brick (2005), Silly Poems for Wee People Vol.1 (2006), and Selektion (2007). He edited his first anthology, Full Circle – An ARS Concordia Anthology in 2007.

He lives in Edinburgh, Scotland, with his wife and daughter, and his website can be found by logging on to www.colingalbraith.co.uk

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Visiting Authors:
February 8 & 9: TBA
February 24 & 25: Sandra Worth

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Want to learn more about the ups and downs of the freelance writing life? Visit Ink in My Coffee.

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If you want to experience a truly versatile writer, spend some time with Colin Galbraith. He does it all: Fiction, non-fiction, poetry, web design, business writing. AND he’s the creator/editor/publisher of the new literary ezine THE RANFURLY REVIEW.

He’s one of those writers who can combine talent and skill with humor and professionalism. On top of that, he’s a loyal friend — which means he also tells you when you’re wrong!

His blog on the writing life, Freedom From the Mundane is a must-read, whether you’re an aspiring writer or a published one. In addition to commenting on the ups and downs of the writing life, he also opens windows onto moments of life in Edinburgh and beyond. Both Fringe Fantastic and Poolside Poetry portray everything from the ordinary to the absurd with stylish wordsmithery and wicked humor. His regular contributions to both The Scruffy Dog Review literary magazine and the SDR blog are delightful for both their range and their insight.

I liked his serialized novel Hunting Jack so much that I have a character in one of my novels read it on a flight!

If you haven’t made the literary acquaintance of this author yet, I encourage you to hop on over to one of the many links in this post and start reading. You won’t be sorry!

And come back tomorrow, when we chat with him!

Bio:

Colin Galbraith is the Chief Editor and Publisher of The Ranfurly Review, and an Associate Editor at The Scruffy Dog Review. He has published short stories, poems, non-fiction articles and reviews, in both print and online publications.

His novel, Hunting Jack, was serialised in 2004 by a US-based publisher, and his first chapbook, Fringe Fantastic: The Poet’s Experience of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, was published in paperback in December 2005 to critical acclaim. Poolside Poetry was his second paperback, published in March 2007.

He has published three e-books of poetry; Brick by Brick (2005), Silly Poems for Wee People Vol.1 (2006), and Selektion (2007). He edited his first anthology, Full Circle – An ARS Concordia Anthology in 2007.

He lives in Edinburgh, Scotland, with his wife and daughter, and his website can be found by logging on to www.colingalbraith.co.uk

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Yesterday, you read my review of Hazel’s new novel, My Dearest Friend (scroll down to the post below if you haven’t yet read it). Today, you have a chance to sit in on a chat with the author.

DE: What is it about this time period that intrigues you?

HS: I love the romance and elegance of the Regency and Georgian periods and it is this that inspires me to attempt to recreate it in my work. History has always fascinated me but it is these two eras that I find the most inspiring.

DE: What sort of research do you do for your books?

HS: I have several reference books and have been an avid reader of Historical Fiction since in my teens. Also, the internet is an invaluable tool and I can spend hours perusing the various historical reference sites.

DE: Have you ever come across a piece of information while you researched one book (such as an anecdote or the contents of a letter) that inspired something completely different, and how did you follow through with it?

HS: Very often I find just snippets of things that start the creative process going. The theme for ‘The Portrait’ came from just one line from a song in the film Hawks : ‘I want to be the man that you think I am’. This inspired all kinds of ideas. The beginning of My Dearest Friend came from a dream, which I expanded on. One element of the story came on me quite by surprise as I just found the words coming out of the sergeant’s mouth and then went with the flow. It just added extra depth to the story.

DE: Do you find anything particularly liberating in this time period? If so, what?

HS: It takes me away from the harshness of the present century and allows me, if only briefly, to escape into the world of my characters and live within the mores of the age. I hope this is what my readers experience too.

DE: One of the things I particularly enjoyed about the book was how the friendship developed into love, instead of love following irritation. What inspired you to make this choice, and did you get a hard time for re-inventing the formula in such a positive way from anyone?

HS: I’m pleased you enjoyed the book. I don’t write to a formula. I write what I would like to read and develop the plot accordingly. In fact, when I was writing Robert and Jane’s story, I wasn’t aware that I had strayed from the norm. I know now that I diverted from the usual guidelines for the genre, but was unaware of it at the time of writing, I don’t think I’ve followed it with any of my works. Each one has its own story to tell and none are similar. I guess I wasn’t aware that I was taking a risk in their composition. As yet, no one has commented on it

DE: What are you working on now (if you’re at the stage where you can talk about it)?

HS: My current work-in-progress is going slowly at the moment as I have a lot of research to do. It’s still a Regency but that is its only similarity to anything else I have written. I can’t really divulge its theme, only that it is the story of a young bride who absconds from her husband after just one month of marriage. Her reasons are what drives the story. However, you can be assured of a happy ending.

Thank you, Hazel!

Bio: Hazel Statham lives in Staffordshire, England. She started writing at fifteen and has written on and off ever since. She has always been fascinated by history and writes mainly in the Regency and Georgian eras, although she has been known to occasionally stray into Medieval times. Writing is a compulsion she just can’t ignore and her work has been mainly influenced by Heyer, Bronte and Austen, although over the years, she has read many authors who have inspired her. When she was a child, she often told herself stories and this just progressed to committing them to paper to entertain family and friends. However, there have been gaps in her writing years where marriage and employment have intervened, but now that she no longer works, she is able to return to her first love and devote her time to writing. She had her first two novels published in 2005.

She has been married to her husband, Terry, since 1969 and have a grown daughter and beautiful grandson. Apart from reading and writing historical novels, her other ruling passion is animals and until recently, she was treasurer for an organisation that raised money for animal charities. She currently shares her home with a lovely yellow Labrador named Lucy, who is her constant companion. Lucy is a real sweetie, but it’s not always easy working at the computer with a large Labrador trying to get on your knee!

Her website is www.hazel-statham.co.uk

Her books is available at the Wings Press website.

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To read more about the ups and downs of the freelance writing liffe, visit Ink in My Coffee.

Yesterday, you saw my review of Rue the Day. Today’s the chance to chat a bit with the author, Cat Muldoon:

DE: Rue the Day’s mythological inspirations were intriguing. Do you find Celtic mythology particularly inspiring? Do you have a favorite myth, either in the Celtic or another pantheon?

CM: Oh yes I adore the Celtic stories, culture and music. It is difficult to choose only one story from that tradition. The music inspires me (when done well). While writing Rue the Day, I always had Celtic music going: Iona, Silly Wizard, Clannad, piobrach, Lorena McKennit, and others. That’s not mythology, you say? But often the songs are based on the old stories. As a matter of fact, a song about a human man taking in a wounded Selkie female and tending her wounds inspired my short story “Seal Skins” in WomanScapes, which got published on its first venture through the mail.

I love the Selkie. They are often called the sealfolk. They have a seal skin for water, and they can zip it off and take on human form. They often do this to enjoy … shall we say dalliance… with humans and known to be ardent lovers and fierce protectors. I have never lived near an ocean and cannot give any explanation (in terms of here and now) that I would find the Selkie so engaging, but there you have it. In Faerie (in my books) there are selkie as well, but they do not slip out of their skins as in the human world. They shimmer from one form to the other.

Celtic knotwork (interlace design) appears on the surface to be merely artistic, but there are deeper layers of meaning to it which I enjoyed playing with in the novel. The Faerie castle is an interwoven knotwork design, but spiritually, it speaks of the interconnectedness of all life. So although this is not from a specific story, it is part of the Celtic magical and mythic culture.

DE: Why do you think myths speak to us so deeply?

CM: Stories touch our soul and myths even more. They speak to us on a deep primal level. Also I believe they touch us because no matter who we are or where we live, the stories are similar. Oh certainly they have cultural differences and such, but they are uniting. Joseph Campbell studied the legends and myths of the world for decades, and he discovered that there is a common story among all humanity, which he called the “monomyth” or the hero’s journey. All the heroes of the world tread the same path of self discovery, and it is the same path that you and I walk when we accept the challenge and allow ourselves to become the hero in our own life. If this touches you, read The Hero with A Thousand Faces or The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell.

DE: Are you a trained herbalist, or did you research extensively for the book? What were some of your favorite sources on herbalism?

CM: I am self-trained, and I did no research for the book, which goes to say that so much is already within me that I did not have to look things up. I did check out some photos of rue and double-check my memory on a couple things, but that was it. I have no formal training. A brush with death from medication given me as a child caused me to seek out natural remedies. At the time, there was no internet and there were precious few books on the topic – and no, I am not THAT old. Also my spiritual tendencies to follow the seasons and honor the land and its creatures have led me to a curiosity about plants.

You asked for herbalism references, which I provide below, but there is a great deal of healing work in the book, so I am including some other references that may be of value. Also you can truly learn a method of personal shielding from the book.

Aromatherapy:
Hands of Light by Barbara Brennan and Jos A. Smith
Magical Aromatherapy by Scott Cunningham
Complete Aromatherapy Handbook by Susanne Fischer-Ruzzi
The Aromatherapy Bible by Gill Farrer-halls
Energy Medicine by Donna Eden, David Feinstein and Carolyne Miss
Anything by Carolyn Myss
Magical Herbalism by Scott Cunningham
Practical Herbalism by Philip Fritchey
The Herbal Handbook by David Hoffman
The Encyclopedia of Herbs and Herbalism edited by Malcolm Stuart

DE: Will we learn more about Lynx magic in the next books? Will Aislinn have the opportunity to learn it and use it? The choice of Lynx as Aislinn’s house and the use of Bree are interesting.. In the Medicine cards, Lynx is the secret-keeper, and in the Druid Animal Oracle, Cat is a guardian, and I like the way you layered those associations in the book.

CM: Oh my, I am deeply impressed. There are so many interwoven aspects of the book that may go unnoticed by most. I appreciate your perceptiveness. In my version of faerie, the people are organized into clans which they call Households. Some are named after animals, such as the Lynx, and some after trees, such as the Willow. Faeries do not all look like shrunken Irishmen. They are as diverse as humans. There is a reason for this that I hint at in the book. But I digress.

I chose the Lynx consciously because of their association and also because Aislinn, our heroine, shows the catlike traits of her Household even though she has never known her true nature. Bree has a special role which I will not reveal. You know this already, Devon. Your readers will find out about him when they read the book. It will not be until the third book that she discovers how to use the magic peculiar to her Household. She will fight against learning how to use any magic at all in the second book.

DE: What kind of process did you use to world-build and create this particular land of Faerie and Selkie? Do you outline, do you create collages of visuals, and how did you put it together for this particular story?

CM: I created the world in my head and in my senses. Writing a book is a total experience for me, and I believe this comes out for the reader. I am mostly blind, so collages are a bit of a challenge, but I waited until the aspects of the world became clear to me before writing them. According to “the way it’s done” in typical fantasy, I suppose I should create a map, but if I did it would look a mess, and I feel my location kinesthetically. This also allows me to let you feel along as you see, smell and hear the world around you. I have notes about the land just as I do about the characters.

The castle is something I am particularly pleased with. Pity is that I’m not allowed to share that excerpt (at least not in written form) because of the publisher’s rules, but you can listen to me read that section on my website. The castle is a living organism, not a “building.” It also has an unusual shape. Rather than having the typical floors with stairs, it depicts Celtic knotwork. There appears to be no beginning or end. You know by the plants covering the walls where you are in the castle. The various rooms do not have printed signs, but there is a piece of what on this side of the mists we would call Celtic Knotwork with a design in the center. The kitchen door has a design of a pot artistically woven into knotwork, for example.

The first book takes place mostly around the castle and in the sea, some distance away, as well as at the elusive boundarylands between the human world and Faerie that are only perceptible when the mists are up.

The undersea world of the Selkie is hinted at in Celtic lore but not described. I had great fun considering what the needs of a sentient underwater species would be in terms of shelter, food and so forth as well as their sensibilities and artistic nature. So when you read about the Selkie home, you can gain a great deal of insight into them as a people, just as you can when you read about the Faerie castle.

DE: What is a typical writing day for you? Is it difficult to set boundaries, or have you organized your life to support the writing?

CM: I have another life outside of writing, so it is generally late at night that I get the chance to write, and I’ve been known to be typing while half asleep. Of course, since I use a speech program to hear what’s happening on the screen, this works out reasonably well. My dream is to be able to support myself from my writing and speaking .

DE: What advice would you give to writers early in their careers, who are having trouble making the time to write?

CM: I’ve certainly made the mistake of letting life get in the way. Goodness, I never even meant to write a novel when I wrote one! But even at that I did fairly well at my goal of producing a short story a month. Now for 2008 I’m going for 2 short stories a month written and circulating plus the 2 next books in the Undercover Heir series.

I would say set a goal and figure out what you need to produce each week to make it. Also be sure to read good quality books, some in your genre and some things you would probably never imagine yourself reading, because that way you can improve more skills and broaden your horizons.

I believe that the reason my book appeals even to people who would never consider picking up a fantasy novel is that I read other kinds of fiction, from horror to romance to children’s books to science fiction to the occasional mundane book (not my favorite generally), and it makes my writing stronger. I never lock myself into “the fantasy formula” or any other, because I read diversely. But it is only once you understand the structure that you can break the rules successfully.

And in case you’re wondering how I read books as a blind person, I get books on audiotape from the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. They’re great but very behind. I’m still waiting for book 7 of the Harry Potter series and the last book in Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series. However, if you know anyone in the states who is losing their vision, please get them hooked up. http://www.loc.gov/nls/ will get you to the appropriate branch for your state.

DE: How does your tai-chi practice influence your writing practice?

CM: What I do most of the time would better be called energy-centered movement than the true practice of tai chi. When I take time in meditation to breathe or breathe and move, wonderful ideas present themselves to me. I have dreamed stories before. Two of those are currently in circulation (seeking a publisher). A “daydream” (waking meditation) also inspired some of “Seal Skins,” which will be a 3-part set of short stories that form a novel once I get the other two finished.

I take some deep breaths and expect a story before bed, and I always get them, occasionally in dreams, but one way or another the ideas are flowing more than I could possibly ever have time to write them all. I laugh at writer’s block, because I think it is something writers talk themselves into when they don’t know how to jumpstart their brain.

Breathing and feeling the connections between all things, such as experiences that happen to me, people I meet, nature, etc., I open myself to abundant creativity.

DE: Rhoedrie and Eliatha are two of my favorite characters in the book, and I hope to see more of them in the next two books of the trilogy. Would you ever consider placing Rhoedrie at the center of his own book, such as his time away from his homeland during his training? The hints about it in Rue the Day are intriguing. Or would you consider short stories with some of Eliatha’s previous experiences?

CM: Ooh you just made me smile big. Thank you! Yes I have considered both those options. The characters are so real to me that if the readers are willing, I could easily write a number of spin-offs. Both characters will appear in the next two books. Most of the people you have met in Rue the Day will be in the next books, plus of course a few new ones.

Let me pause here and mention that Rhoedrie is a healer who has spent time away from his people (who scarcely EVER travel away from their own) to pursue new methods of healing. He is just returning to Faerie as the events of the story unfold. He is an Empath, which for the uninitiated means that he feels the emotions and pain of those around him. Rhoedrie very much likes the idea of a book centered around his adventures.

Eliatha is the premier Bard. A bard in Celtic tradition is a musician-storyteller-historian. If you look to the tales of Taliesin (often called Merlin), you will see an example of a bard. She keeps the history of Faerie and has a love interest in one of the other characters. Although she may seem to be a bit of a “hot house flower,” she has a bold spirit.

Devon, what is it about each of these characters that captivates you?

DE: Rhoederie’s spirit is captivating. He’s an empath, but he doesn’t let strong emotions or his reactions to those emotions stop him in his tracks. He finds a way to keep going, to overcome obstacles, in order to find a positive solution. He’s not afraid to think outside the box, to find out how things really work rather than sticking to the status quo, and that’s something I find appealing both in fictional characters and in people. Eliatha intrigues me not just because she’s a female bard, but because I feel we haven’t yet seen the full range of her intelligence and resources. A bard has to have an extraordinary memory and the ability to communicate sensory details and enthrall an audience. Those gifts can be used in many ways. I want to see her actively using them more. So often in this book she is reacting instead of initiating, and my sense of her is that there are so many more layers that we have yet to see, which I assume will come forward in the two next books! After all, you can’t put it all in the first one, can you? 😉

CM: One of my favorites is Fiona, who is Aislinn’s bodyguard and helper. She has definitely had some adventures that I would love to let her tell. I am also quite fond of the Selkie Corlath, who at first has little use for Faeries but because of knowing Aislinn he must face his disgust.

DE: Fiona cracks me up because she’s part warrior, part favorite aunt, and that combination makes her endearing. I’m looking forward to seeing how Corlath develops. Thanks so much for taking the time for this interview!

Visit Cat Muldoon’s website, or visit Wings ePress to learn more about her and to buy the book.

Upcoming author visits:

Jan. 9 & 10: Hazel Statham
Jan. 17 & 18: Colin Galbraith

For the daily ups and downs of one freelance writer’s life, visit Ink in My Coffee.

If you need help in setting the goals for your writing career, check out the Goals, Dreams, and Resolutions for 2008 up on Wordish Wanderings until the 31st of the this month, and join us in the journey meeting them in 2008 on Ink in My Coffee.

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