Monthly Archives: May 2011

Brain Fry!

There they are, the three covers of The Outcast Chronicles. Big thanks to Solaris and Clint Langley for producing such beautiful covers.

It is the end of May (I know there’s a couple of days left, but I go back to work on Monday, so I only have tomorrow). Now I have to hand in the trilogy. It’s been a long journey. I began the first draft almost ten years ago. There was a rewrite the year I did my Masters and took the first book to ROR. The books have evolved and grown, especially in the last year when I’ve been working on them every spare moment.

What does it feel like to hand in a trilogy that you’ve poured your heart and soul into?

Scary.

My brain is officially fried. (See my 5 stages of writing a book on the Mad Genius Club Blog). I would need to put the trilogy away for at least month then read it from beginning to end before I could even contemplate doing anything more to it.  Since I could go on tweaking for ever and I have the end of May as my deadline it is now time to stop.

Take a deep breath, step away from the trilogy … and turn to face the new King Rolen’s Kin trilogy. What wonderful ideas I have for testing Byren, Orrie, Fyn and Piro!

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Meet Kate Forsyth …

As the next of my series featuring fantastic female fantasy authors (see disclaimer) I’ve invited the talented and always engaging Kate Forsyth to drop by.

Watch out for the give-away at the end of the interview.

Q: Kate, tell us a little about your new book?

The Starkin Crown is a fantasy adventure for readers aged 12 and above, which tells the story of Prince Peregrine, a boy who must overcome treachery, heartache and his own secret weakness in order to find the lost spear of the Storm King.

With the blood of wildkin, hearthkin and starkin in his veins, Peregrine is heir to both the Erlqueen of Stormlinn and the starkin throne – except that the starkin crown was seized before his birth by his grandfather’s cruel cousin Vernisha. An ancient prophecy says that Peregrine will be the one who will at last break the starkin’s ruthless reign and bring peace to the land, but his parents fear the prophecies and try to keep him safe.

The arrival of a starkin girl with an urgent warning of an impending attack sees Peregrine and his faithful squire Jack flee Stormlinn Castle. Guided by a mysterious white owl, and with enemies on all sides, Peregrine soon realises that there is a traitor in their party … and that he must learn to trust his own heart.

Q: Your first series was The Witches of Eileanan, which took its inspiration from the Scottish witch trials of the 16th century. There are six books in the series. You must feel like the world and characters are old friends. Are you tempted to revisit it with a new series?

I get emails every week begging me to write more books set in Eileanan, and I always reply, “Maybe one day”. With the six books of ‘The Witches of Eileanan’ and the three books in the ‘Rhiannon’s Ride’ series, the books set in Eileanan took me ten years to write and constitute more than a million words. I loved writing them and I’m glad so many people have enjoyed them, but I had so many other ideas I wanted to bring to life!

Q: There is also Rhiannon’s Ride Series, with a ‘fierce satyricorn’ heroine. It looks like it could be YA cross-over. What age group was this written for?

‘Rhiannon’s Ride’ is a series of three books set in the world of Eileanan sixteen years after the end of the last book in ‘The Witches of Eileanan’. I always say the Eileanan books can be read by anyone sixteen years and older – there’s lots of battle scenes, cruel betrayals, traitors, necromancy, torture, love, despair, and ultimate triumph – not reading for the faint of heart!

Q: The Chronicles of Estelliana (The Starthorn tree, The Wildkin Curse and The Starkin Crown is for ages 12 and up). I see there is a girl heroine again. Is this a theme you like to explore?

Actually, in the three books set in Estelliana I always have two boys and two girls around 15 years of age, and the primary protagonist is always a boy. This is because I wrote these books for my eldest son, Ben, who loves fantasy fiction. The books are read by both boys and girls – I try and have all four of my heroes being vivid, interesting, and fully realised characters with their own strengths and weakness, and their own lessons to be learnt.

Q: I remember you were so excited when your children’s series The Chain of Charms won the Aurealis Award for its section in 2007. That must have been a real buzz. This series is set in the time of Oliver Cromwell. Did you have to do a lot of research?

It was wonderful! There are six books in ‘The Chain of Charms’ series, and five of them came out in 2007 so I was thrilled to have all five of them short-listed that year. You can imagine my excitement when all five of them ended up winning! It’s the first time that’s ever happened. And, yes, I had to do a great deal of research but then I do with every book I write. With the ‘Chain of Charms’ series, I read every book I could find on Oliver Cromwell and King Charles II, the English Civil War, life in the 17th century, and the language and culture of the Romanichal, or the English Gypsies. I also took my three children to England for a month, travelling in the footsteps of my two Gypsy children in their wild adventures in Kent, Surrey and Sussex. I even began to dress like a Gypsy, and Gypsy Stew became a favourite meal of our family.

Q: The Puzzle Ring was written for ages 10 and up. In this one you have a time travelling heroine who goes back to 16 century Scotland. Are you a big fan of Scottish history?

I was brought up on family stories about Scotland – my grandmother’s grandmother was Scottish on both my mother and my father’s side which meant as a child I heard many an old tale of bloody battles, murdered queens, fugitive princes, ancient curses, loch monsters, and one-eyed giants. I’ve always been interested in Scottish history and mythology as a result, and read a lot of books set in Scotland growing up. So when I was thinking about where to set ‘The Puzzle Ring’ –it seemed very right and natural that it should be set in Scotland and that I should draw upon some of the stories my grandmother and great-aunts told me.

Q: Ben and Tim’s Magical Misadventures series looks like it is meant for a younger reader again. And then there is a picture book titled I Am. Your books range from picture books, through the different primary age groups, through Young Adult to the grown up books?

Do you have to get into a certain mindset to write for a certain age group?

I always say that you can read my books from birth to death! Basically, ‘I Am’ and the three Magical Misadventures were written for my own children’s reading pleasure and I was thrilled when they were published and other children loved them too. I never have any problem writing for different age groups – I always know exactly who my audience is before I even write a word. I ‘see’ the whole narrative shape in my mind’s eye, and know who I want to read it.

Q: You originally worked as a journalist. (See here for a series of articles on Kate’s web site).Did you enjoy this and was it a big leap to writing fantasy?

I always wanted to be a novelist – working as a journalist was a way to pay the bills until I was ‘discovered’. I still write half a dozen articles a year for various publications, for no other reason than my own pleasure. I love to write in many different shapes and forms –it’s challenging to conquer the different styles, and I feel small projects like poetry, articles, picture books, and early readers are a way of refreshing my mind in between the big, long, complex novels I usually write.

 Q: My youngest son had a severe speech impediment. He didn’t have a recognisable (to others) word when he started school. I worked long and hard with him to help him overcome it. I believe you had a speech impediment as a child. Did you find the frustration of not being able to communicate your ideas shaped the person you are?

I had a severe stutter as a child, which meant many hours of speech therapy. My mother worked incredibly hard with me, just like you did with your son, to help me conquer my stutter. One of the things I was encouraged to do was read poetry and Shakespeare aloud, and I truly believe this had a profound effect on me, giving me a deep love of language and rhythm and rhyme. It also meant that I retreated into books, and read voraciously as a child, because I struggled to express myself at school and in unfamiliar situations. I still stutter when I’m tired or nervous or excited, but in general I think I’m quite fiercely articulate now and proud that I was able to overcome the great obstacle that was my stutter. (Read Kate’s article on stuttering).

Q: Tell us a little about the book you are working one now. Set in the time of Louis the 14th, involving a French noble woman, a young girl shut up in a tower, and a Venetian Courtesan, it sounds wonderful.

Thank you! I must admit it has been wonderful to write. Called ‘Bitter Greens’, it is a historical novel for adults which interweaves a retelling of the Rapunzel fairytale with the life of one of its first tellers, the scandalous 17th century French writer, Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de la Force. Charlotte-Rose shocked the court of the Sun King with her love affairs and her dabbling in witchcraft, and so was banished to a convent in the country. In those days, enclosure was very strict and so Charlotte-Rose would not have stepped outside the high, stone wall of the convent or seen anyone apart from the nuns and their lay-sisters. She wrote the fairy tale ‘Persinette’ while imprisoned, which was later renamed ‘Rapunzel’ and bowdlerised by the Grimm brothers. Her life story was a gift for a novelist – I could not have made up a better story! The novel is told in three strands – Charlotte-Rose’s life in Paris and Versailles during the 17th century, the tale of the maiden in the tower, and then the story of the witch, who I have imagined as a 16th century Venetian courtesan who was Titian’s muse. I’m just back from a month in Europe, going to all the places described in my book – Paris, Versailles, Bordeaux, Venice and the Italian lakes!

Q: I was prompted to start this series of interviews because there seems to be a perception in the US and the UK that fantasy is a bit of a boy’s club. Do you think there’s a difference in the way males and females write fantasy?

Certainly there’s a widely expressed view that men write fantasy full of battles, assassinations, murder and torture, while women write fantasy full of flowers and frocks. Although there is some truth that women’s fantasy fiction is sometimes softer and more romantic, some of the toughest, bloodiest fantasy is written by women such as Fiona McIntosh and Robin Hobb. I certainly love a good love scene, but then I also think battle scenes have their place. I have both in my books!

Q: Following on from that, does the gender of the writer change your expectations when you pick up their book?

No, not at all. I love fantasy fiction by both men and women. What I care about are the characters and the story and the quality of the writing, not the gender of the writer.

Q: And here’s the fun question. If you could book a trip on a time machine, where and when would you go, and why? (16th Century Scotland? LOL)

16th century Scotland was a wild, dangerous place without hot running water! I think I’d be scared to go there. I’d need a big, strong Highlander with a big, sharp claymore to protect me! I would like to meet Mary, Queen of Scots, though, and I’d be very interested to know who really murdered her second husband! I have theories of my own, I’d like to know if I was right. I’d also really like to go to 16th century Venice at Carnivale time ….

Kate very kindly has offered a copy of The Starkin Crown as a give-away. Here’s the Give-away question:

What was your favourite fantasy book as a child?

 Kate on Facebook

 Follow Kate on Twitter:

http://twitter.com/#!/KateForsyth

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Congratulations to the ROR Writers!

Over at the ROR blog I’ve done a post about the Aurealis Awards. Four wins for the ROR team!

Congratulations to all the writers who made the final lists and to the winners.

Now I’m going to give Trent Jamieson’s book a plug because his book was shortlisted for both the horror and the fantasy novel sections of the Aurealis Awards and didn’t win either, but it’s a great read!


Try it if you like quirky Dark Urban Fantasy.

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Friends doing well!

Over on the ROR blog I’ve done a post about the Aurealis Awards. These are the Australian equivalent to the Nebulas or the Hugos (I forget which one is judged by a panel of peers).  Several members of my writing group are on the short list in different sections.

This is us at the Maleny ROR. Dirk, Richard, Maxine, Me, Tansy, Trent (Marianne was sick and Margo had deadlines).

Why join a writing group? Here’s why Marianne and I started ROR. I can honestly say, the RORees have been like an extended family. Publishing is a tough business. We authors write because we love it, but there are times when you just need to talk to someone else who knows where you’re coming from.

We meet every year or so to critique our works-in-progress (WIPs). Having a group of people all look over your manuscript is great. If four out of five people say X needs changing, then you can be sure it does. Our crits are never destructive, always constructive because we want our friends’ books to be the best they can possibly be. And the ROR team have had some success. (See here).

If you’ve like to start your own critique group like ROR I’ve done a couple of posts on the topic. ROR 101 and Critiquing 101.

So there we are. Kuds to to my fellow RORees for making it into the final lists of the Aurealis Awards and I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed for them on Saturday night!

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King Rolen’s Kin spotted Sweden!

Kaia tells me there are around 3 spec fic shops in all of Sweden and she managed to snap this  at SFBOK. Thanks for the support guys!  (Kudos to all the specialist bookstores).

And thanks to the lovely Kaia for letting me know!

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Book Three Cover pretties!

This is the cover of book three of my new trilogy The Outcast Chronicles. With thanks for Clint Langley the artist and Solaris, the publisher.

I think Clint has outdone himself with the covers for this trilogy. He’s captured the feel of the series – richly beautiful, with loads of  intrigue and danger!

Now I really hope the books live up to these wonderful covers.

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Meet Jennifer Fallon …

As the next of my series featuring fantastic female fantasy authors (see disclaimer) I’ve invited the best selling, multi-talented and amazingly prolific Jennifer Fallon to drop by.

Watch out for the give-away question at the end of the interview.

Q: The Undivided is the first book of your new series, Rift Runners. Can you tell us a little about this series?

It’s set across alternate realities and involves psychically linked twins separated went there were toddlers. One world is similar to ours, the other is a world where magic permeates everything and the druids rule the world.

I am having an illegal amount of fun writing it.

Q: I see Voyager, Harper Collins are releasing your Second Sons series with new covers. This must be exciting. Did you have any say in the covers?

I had quite a bit of say, actually. I’m very pleased with the result.

Q: When I look at the volume of work you’ve produced in the fantasy genre, (as well as the Rift Runners and the Second Sons series, there is the Demon Child, the Tide Lords and the Hythrun Chronicles), I’m impressed by your productivity. Do you find yourself exploring similar themes in the different series, or do you explore completely new concepts?

I like to explore new themes with every series. Some lend themselves better than others to particular themes, so that sometimes influences the type of world I build.

Q: I remember when we were doing our Masters together you were saying that if someone is immortal, then they are immortal and they can’t die, otherwise they aren’t immortal. You had one character who was an Immortal Virgin, (her hymen kept growing back). LOL. Are you ever tempted to write satire?

To be fair, it was Valerie Parv who suggested that, and I thought it was an awesome complication so I ran with it. I’d love to write satire, but I fear I wouldn’t do it well enough to warrant it. There are much better satirists out there than me. I believe I am descended from an Irish satirist, however, who was executed in the 18th century for saying rude things about the English.

Q: I see your best selling fantasy books have been shortlisted for the Aurealis Awards, the David Gemmell Legends of Fantasy Award and the Romantic Times Best Fantasy award. That must have been a real buzz. Do you think these awards help bring your books to the attention of new readers?

Here’s my thing about awards – who won the World Fantasy Award last year? The Aurealis in 2005? I bet you can’t say.

Do I think they’re useful? Maybe. They are certainly a boost to the ego, but in my experience, getting your books in the shops in large displays by the door is more useful than an award, when it comes to expanding your reading base, unless winning the award makes the booksellers buy more of them, and put the large display bin out the front.

Q: You also write for Stargate. Does this mean you are a dedicated Stargate Fan? I’m sure people would be interested to hear how you started writing for Stargate and a little about the process.

To be fair, I co-wrote one tie-in novel. I’m not sure if I can claim the moniker “writes for Stargate”. I am a fan, which was why I was asked, and the process involved my co-author sending me the manuscript, me changing all the things I didn’t like, adding the snappy dialogue, and it going back and her changing the changes I made. I believe most of the snappy dialogue survived.

I was an interesting project, though and I have now written a Zorro story for Moonstone, too, which was fun. I do find tie-ins to be quite limiting, because you are playing in someone else’s sand pit and you can’t always build the sandcastles you’d like.

Q: In the last couple of years you’ve moved to New Zealand’s South Island and renovated the historic Reynox House, which you’ve established as a residential writers’ retreat. (Honestly, running away to write sounds heavenly to me).  Is this a dream you’ve always had, to run a writers’ retreat?

I’m not sure I’ve always had it, but certainly for the past few years I’ve wanted to do it. It has all come to a grinding halt at present because of the Christchurch earthquakes. The house sustained some damage in the first quake and the repair bills have been quoted as ranging from $375K to $3m. We are currently at the mercy of insurance assessors and quantity surveyors. Last I heard we were 65th on the insurance company’s priority list and it’s taking them months to settle each claim. Do the math…

 Q: I see you have also started a mentorship program. How do you get the time to do all this?

I limit the number of mentorees so that I don’t have more than I can handle at any one time. Right now, because I am working to a very tight deadline, I don’t have any. I should be picking up the program again in a couple of months.

Q: I was prompted to start this series of interviews because there is a perception in the US and the UK that fantasy is a bit of a boy’s club. Do you think there’s a difference in the way males and females write fantasy?

More swear words?

To be honest, I’m not sure. I think female writers tend to be a little more character driven, but there are great male character-driven fantasies out there too. I think it’s up to the individual writers. Remember, there’s a large number of people out there who don’t realise Robin Hobb is a woman, so I guess, in many cases, if the reader doesn’t know the gender of the writer, they can’t necessarily pick it, so I’d have to so no.

Q: Following on from that, does the gender of the writer change your expectations when you pick up their book?

Not at all.

Q: And here’s the fun question. If you could book a trip on a time machine, where and when would you go, and why?


I’d go to the past, just before I was first published and change my name from Jennifer Fallon to John Fallon. Then all the boys out there who assume that all female fantasy writers write soppy romance fantasies would pick up my books and read them and I’d be much, much richer.

Jennifer will give-away a copy of her new book Undivided. Here’s the question: One of Jen’s series revovles around a number of immortals. How would you kill an immortal?

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