Author Interview: Jen Williams

Just a couple of weeks ago, I posted an article discussing my most anticipated fantasy debuts of 2014. That article had a fantastic response and I’m so pleased that I am able to introduce these new authors to those of you who hadn’t yet heard about them. One of those new authors is Jen Williams, whose novel The Copper Promise is released in just under a week’s time.

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Following that, I’m pleased to report that Jen has kindly agreed to give an interview for Fantasy In Motion! So, without further ado, here is what transpired…

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Hi Jen, thanks for joining us today.

I wanted to start this interview talking about you as a writer. When did you first know you wanted to write fantasy? What inspired you to take that path?

I’ve always leaned towards fantasy. When I was a kid I refused to read books that were set in our world, or involved normal kids doing normal things. My very first stories, always heavily illustrated by me, were about dragons, pirates, and secret treasure – so not a lot has changed. I loved stories set in strange lands, in places that didn’t exist in our world, and as I got older I became more interested in mythology and folklore. When I first started thinking about writing a book I didn’t even question what genre it would be; fantasy has always been the place where anything could happen, and I found that deeply appealing. With The Copper Promise, I had quite suddenly fallen back in love with traditional fantasy, and it occurred to me that I’d never really written anything like that. I wondered what would happen if I embraced the kind of fantasy I’d grown up loving, and the book was the result of that.

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Author Interview: Dawn Finch

We interviewed Dawn Finch, author of Brotherhood of Shades, her debut novel, a contemporary YA fantasy set in London. Brotherhood was published last month in paperback by HarperCollins and is set to be the start of an exciting and unique fantasy series!

Dawn Finch Author

Dawn, welcome to Fantasy In Motion. Thanks for joining us.

Thank you very much for inviting me, I’ve enjoyed reading your blog a great deal and I’m a huge fan of fantasy maps. I have a designer working on a map of Brotherhood locations at the moment so I’m looking forward to sharing that before the end of the year.

Could you start by telling us a little about your novel, Brotherhood of Shades?

Brotherhood of ShadesBrotherhood is a contemporary ghost story with roots in the sixteenth century. Adam, a streetwise homeless teenager, dies of cold and starvation on the streets of London and after death is recruited into a clandestine organisation called the Brotherhood of Shades. The Brotherhood is an organisation of ghosts set up after the Dissolution of the Monasteries to oversee the passage of the living through the World Between.

The book details Adam’s transition into the Brotherhood, and their battles with demonic forces as they attempt to retrieve a coded manuscript, and protect the world of the living, from the world of the dead.

How did the idea/inspiration for the story come to you?

One of my first jobs was at the education office of a Cathedral and I used to dress as a monk to take children on guided tours. I was aware that young children worked in monasteries and had a brutal and harsh life there, and I felt that it was an untold story. Brotherhood started off as a short story but I liked the central character and knew that he had more to say and it grew from there. I’ve always loved ghost stories and felt that I wanted to bring classic ghost stories to a modern audience.

I was interested to see that you’ve previously worked in publishing and in libraries. Do you think that working with books has helped you as a writer?

I have always worked with books, but my first job in publishing was hardly what I’d call “in” publishing. I worked in the post room and one of my jobs was sorting the slush pile and making sure the unsolicited manuscripts reached the right desk – or not! Some of the manuscripts were, well, shall we say, odd! I certainly learned how not to submit a manuscript after wading through manuscripts that were sometimes barely legible. I think my favourite was one written on serviettes that had clearly been written whilst very drunk and made no sense whatsoever but became increasingly angry as the pile of tissue went on. The writer ended up ranting about how the publisher would be insane to reject them, but never actually got the point about the subject matter.

I have worked for over twenty five years in libraries and I am the current vice-chair of the London and South East School Libraries Group. I campaign hard for all schools to have a library and a librarian as I see this as essential to the literacy of our children, and our adults. Working in libraries has taught me so very much about books, and I read constantly. I always say to young people that if you want to write, first you must read!

Who would you say are your favourite authors/books?

That’s an impossible question! My favourite author is always the author of the book that I’m currently hooked on. When I find a book that I really enjoy my immediate response is to buy the entire back catalogue and read everything. I have so many favourites so it wouldn’t be fair to pick one out.

What was your first encounter with fantasy fiction? Have you always wanted to write in the genre?

I’ve always loved fantasy. I grew up in a hard-up area and the future did not seem promising for any of us kids. For me fantasy was the perfect escape and it remained that way and so when I came to write myself it was fantasy that drew me. I was never really interested in reading about the real world, and was far more interested in the world out of the corner of your eye.

I read Ray Bradbury, Susan Cooper, Ursula K LeGuin, Alan Garner, Brian Aldiss, Joan Aiken, the list is very long, shelves full of doorways to different worlds.  I wanted to be somewhere else, I wanted to be chased across moorland by ancient spirits, battling my way out of dark houses in whirling snowstorms, fleeing scarlet-eyed wolves across wild moorland, conjuring spells to hold back demons, escaping dark forces hell bent on destroying me… basically anywhere other than a tatty and cold school heading for a job in a factory.

When I came to write myself it was not as if I had a choice. I think that all writers need to find their voice and the story will roll out. I didn’t really choose my genre, it chose me.

What was your route towards publishing your first novel like? Any advice you would give to any of our readers who are looking to publish their first book?

Oh dear, my route was very long and complicated! This book was almost published a number of years ago and then the imprint went under and I was left without a publisher. I was lucky in that I did have an agent and he supported me and encouraged me to keep going. My book still didn’t sell (the public seemed to have moved on to an obsessive desire for sparkly vampires and ghosts were not deemed fashionable) and so I focussed on my other work in school libraries.

Writing is a very isolating business and a friend encouraged me to upload my work to the writer’s site – Authonomy. I wanted some feedback and it was nice to have the opinion of other writers. My book was very quickly spotted on there by the man who almost took it to print the previous time! He remembered Brotherhood and recommended it to the rest of the team and they enjoyed it so much that they took it to print. These days it’s not about pleasing one person of course, your work has to be enjoyed by a team of people including the marketing team.

My advice would be to be prepared and get some professional editing if you can afford it. I’d buy the Writer’s and Artist’s Yearbook and try to get an agent first. There are a few writer’s conferences throughout the year where you can meet agents and publishers and those are a sensible investment. Work on your pitch though! If you can nail your plot down to a sharp thirty second pitch, and then hand over a card with your details on, that can do it. I know a good number of people who have secured agents on a “could I ask for thirty seconds to pitch my work to you?” Agents are used to this approach, and a good one won’t mind. If they do mind and react badly, you wouldn’t want to be stuck with them anyway!

Where do you stand in the print vs. e-book debate? Do you think paper novels have had their day or is there room for both formats?

Video did not kill the radio star! I think there is more than enough room for both formats, and we need both. I love my e-reader as I travel a lot and can’t possibly carry hundreds of books around with me in any other format, but I also love print books. A recent survey suggested that people often read the book first on e-reader, and then buy the print copy to keep if they enjoy it – I know I’ve done this! There will always be books that simply do not work in e format, academic and study books for example. Students need to be able to annotate several texts and compare them all at once using several indices, that’s just not possible in e-book form. You simply can’t lay six kindles out in front of you and jot down notes on the pages!

I think that print publishers need to start to be more creative and to offer more for the print version to encourage people to buy it. Maps work so well in printed books, and extra material only available in the print version, or beautiful binding and covers, and maybe offering a free e-version if you buy the print version?

There is a good reason that books will last, they are the best at doing what they do – carrying words. The main thing is that they do not become unreadable. Twenty years ago I remember working with floppy discs and microfiche but now these formats are virtually unreadable, whilst books hundreds of years older are still perfectly accessible.

I think there is space in the market for all formats and we need to remember that it’s the story that counts, not the object that carries it.
Do you have any ‘top tips’ for aspiring authors out there?
Don’t give up, and don’t be precious – get advice and share and grow a very thick skin! I know so many people who say they want to write a book and seem to think it is easy, and that’s why people quit. The first time they get a knock-back, or hear something negative, or actually can’t stick at it to get those words on paper, people quit. If you really want to write a book you need to first accept that it is incredibly hard and time consuming work. It is not something to take lightly and dip into now and again, it takes time and dedication to get over a hundred thousand words down! Once you’ve accepted that it is hard work, and that you will have to make sacrifices to achieve it, then you can do it.

Young people ask me all the time how to become a writer and I always say – write down all the things, and then write down some more!Are you able to share with us what you are working on at the moment?I am currently working on the sequel to Brotherhood which is set in some stunning locations from nineteenth century Paris, to London and on to a remote Scottish island. The sequel is very Steampunk as I have a bit of an obsession for automata and machines. I’ve had this idea churning away for some time and am hugely enjoying writing my machines, and avoiding all jokes about the ghost in the machine!

Dawn, thank you very much for your time!

Thanks again for inviting me on board, and I very much look forward to reading more!

Brotherhood of Shades is available now from Amazon. You can also keep up to date with Dawn at her website.

Author Interview: Luke Scull

Luke Scull is a British designer of computer RPGs and writer of gritty fantasy. His debut novel, The Grim Company, was released last month and is set to become an exciting new fantasy series with enough teeth to take on the big players in the genre. We were lucky enough to put some questions to Mr. Scull – here’s what transpired…

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Luke, thanks for joining us today.

Your debut novel and first in a trilogy, The Grim Company, is available early 2013 from Head of Zeus. Could you introduce us to your world and the series overall?

The world of The Grim Company is that of the traditional fantasy setting fallen to a state of ruin and decay. The gods are long dead and immortal tyrants have divided the land between them. Continue reading

Author Interview: Igor Ljubuncic

Igor Ljubuncic is a physicist and a self-confessed Linux geek, amongst other things, but his real passion is writing. He is the author of The Betrayed, the first in the Lost Words fantasy series. Here’s a short taster to whet your appetite:

A war is brewing in the Realms. When the new religious sect of Feor from Caytor invades the Safe Territories, the home of the old gods, Commander Mali of Eracia scrambles to counter its advance. To that end, Adam, an Eracian prostitute who awaits hanging, is spared to join the army. In the Territories, a former criminal Ayrton and his young protégée Ewan face the threat of the invaders. Can the ruthless followers of Feor be stopped, and the old faith be saved?

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Hi Igor, thanks for joining us.

Hi James, it’s an honor to be invited.

What first inspired you to start writing?

Uh-oh, a difficult question. I started writing at a very young age, probably seven or eight, although my first book, so to speak, did not come to life until three years later. It was a silly childhood thing, a ninja-flavored world adventure. I guess the early insipiration for that came from a weird combination of ninja comic books and the mystery revolving around them, Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe and Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea. Go figure. That was more than two decades ago. What hooked me into fantasy was The Hobbit. I read it when I was twelve or so, and the world changed. Bit by bit, I spared more time reading fantasy and science-fiction, as well as writing. Eventually, I wrote my first proper fantasy book over the span of three years in my early twenties. It’s a waiting-to-be-published monstrosity with some 700 A4-format pages.

What inspires you now to carry on writing?

I think it’s a deep, internal need. I do sometimes get inspired by events and people around me, but the real motivator comes from somewhere inside. I cannot imagine life without writing.

If you had to pick three, what would be your favourite books?

We’re talking about books that stirred me emotionally in a special way, not necessarily the most read or the most entertaining and engaging. Well, The Hobbit definitely. It’s a must for any fantasy author, any child. It does not have the modern flair you see around, nor the gritty realism or the complexity of some of the masterpieces we enjoy today, but what it has is charm and magic that remain unsurpassed today. In the second place, Night Watch, by Terry Pratchett. Again, it comes with that genius mix of nostalgia, purpose and intimacy you rarely see elsewhere. Something about that book triggers thoughts on a different level. The third would be Catch-22. It’s such a profound lesson in humanity.

How do you go personally about planning once you have a story idea?

Ideas usually come suddenly, sometimes when I dream. But once formalized, I am extremely meticulous about planning the rest of it. I create the story arch first, then think of the several sub-plots that should form it. Then, I expand on the characters. Sometimes though, some pieces remain unknown until after I have written them. The fact I surprise myself probably lends to the unpredictability of the story.

Has writer’s block ever been an issue for you?

Yes and no. I have been activitely writing for the past ten years without pausing really. My work falls into two categories – fantasy books and stories on one hand, and mostly software-related for my website, on the other. While sometimes I take a pause from the books, I continuously keep baking articles for the site, so the block is genre-specific. Usually, in winter, I am less inspired to write fantasy.

What do you think about maps in fantasy fiction? Are they a help or a hindrance to the reader and author?

I think the maps are a must for the author. For readers, less so. As a reader, I tend to not pay too much attention to maps, and sketch the world setting in my head. All that said, I think maps should be simple and generic, and too many books feature super-highly-detailed illustrations that do not belong in the medieval-era worlds.

Do you feel that the eBook revolution has helped fantasy authors or not?

I am not sure, really. I think the accessibility of reading material through a Web browser and reading devices definitely makes it much easier to distribute, sell and read content. However, I do not know if there’s a clear correlation between technology and success. I believe a good book will reach its audience, regardless of the medium. eBooks probably make the chance of that happening somewhat faster.

Could you tell us about your writing and where people can find your stories?

I have recently published The Betrayed, the first book in my epic fantasy series The Lost Words. There’s a website dedicated to that work, http://www.thelostwordsbooks.com. I also keep a sizable collection of short fantasy-genre stories on my other website, http://www.dedoimedo.com, in the so-called Life section. For those interested, I have a whole bunch of technical articles and books, too, but they are rather boring for most people.

Thank you very much for your time.

Thank you! It’s been a pleasure.

Author Interview: Tim Marquitz

Welcome to another Monday morning, the start of a new week and a brand new interview with author Tim Marquitz!

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Tim is the author of the Demon Squad series and a myriad of fantasy and horror stories. He once worked as a gravedigger, loves martial arts and is a familiar face on fantasy forums across the web.

I’m really excited to have had a chance to pick at Tim’s thoughts. Read on to discover what he had to say… Continue reading

Author Interview: Michael J. Sullivan

Welcome to another fine Monday morning and to another brand new author interview!

Michael J. Sullivan

We spoke to Michael J. Sullivan, author of the Riyria Revelations, featuring the inseparable thieves Royce and Hadrian. Michael started out by successfully self-publishing his books and was then picked up by fantasy publishers Orbit. It’s the kind of success story that writers dream about. Want to know more? Read on… Continue reading

Author Interview: Elizabeth Moon

I promised you all a new author interview this week and I’m very pleased to be able to fulfill that promise! I mentioned a while back that we had interviews with Elizabeth Moon and Michael J. Sullivan coming up–here’s the first of them. Let me just start by saying I feel really privileged to be able to pick the brains of novelists and get their thoughts on the genre and writing itself. Everyone I speak to, whether they’ve been in print for years and had great success, or if they are self-published and just starting out, has had some really interesting and useful insight. You should go read our other interviews–if you don’t, you’ll be missing out on some important advice and experience.

So, I had the opportunity to interview Elizabeth Moon, a bestselling sci-fi and fantasy author. Just some of her work includes The Speed of Dark (2003 Nebula Award Winner) and the Paksenarrion saga. She has collaborated with Anne McCaffrey, served in the US Marines and is an accomplished fencer.Image

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Author Interview: Chris Stevenson

Welcome to the new author interview slot here on a (cloudy) Monday! While I’m sure everyone’s happy to be back at work/school/college whatever, I feel like I need something to ease me into the new week. So, what better way than a brand new interview with author Chris Stevenson?

As well as writing fiction, Chris also runs the brilliant Guerilla Warfare For Writers blog. Check it out, I promise you won’t regret it!

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Hi Chris, thanks for your time today.

It’s a pleasure to be here. Continue reading

Author Interview: Zacharias O’Bryan

Right, I’m back in business, although I don’t get internet at my new place for a while yet 😦 So, we have a brand new interview for you today. I really hope everyone’s enjoying this series and getting as much enjoyment from it as I am. Next week, I’m going to leave another short break and I’ll put up a special article instead. Following that, however, we’ll have two more authors on the blog which you will not want to miss! Please enjoy.

Zacharias O'BryanZacharias O’Bryan is the author of Spirit Thorn, a scifi/fantasy story which brings together some interesting and original elements. Keep reading for more from Zacharias and to find out more about his writing! Continue reading

Author Interview: Orson T. Badger

Hi everyone! Today, we’ve got another author interview for you.

Orson T. Badger is a scifi/fantasy author whose work includes elements of the space opera, thriller and horror genres. I really hope you’ll enjoy reading the interview he gave and please leave your comments below!

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Hi Orson, thanks very much for joining us.

My pleasure. Thanks for the invitation.

When would you say you first considered writing fiction? Was it a conscious decision or something you had always done? Continue reading

Author Interview: Morgan L. Busse

This Friday, we have a great interview with author Morgan L. Busse.

Morgan’s fantasy book is called Daughter of Light, and is the first in a series from Marcher Lord Press. As always, we really appreciate Morgan taking the time to take part in an interview for the blog and hope that all of you guys out there will find her thoughts both interesting and helpful.Morgan L. Busse

So, with no further ado, here’s the interview!

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Hi Morgan, thanks for joining us.

Hi James. First, thank you for taking some time to interview me. I appreciate that. Continue reading

Author Interview: Kimberli Renee’ Campbell

Today, I’m pleased to bring you our second author interview! The interest in this has been great and it’s a real joy to be able to share these interviews with all of you out there. Please make sure to check back next Friday for another fantastic interview!

We speak to Kimberli Renee’ Campbell in today’s interview. Her debut novel is called The Sword of Light: Shayia’s Adventures and follows the story of a boy and his extraordinary sword as they battle against a dark force.

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Enjoy! Continue reading

Author Interview: Carl Alves

This week I’m very proud to be able to bring you Fantasy In Motion’s first ever author interview! I’m hoping to feature a lot more of these on the blog in the future – any interested writers out there need only go to the About page to learn more. I really hope you all enjoy this post and please do leave your feedback and comments at the end.

Our interview today is with Carl Alves, an author of fantasy and horror fiction. His debut novel is called Two For Eternity and it follows the story of two immortal beings and their battle through history.

Carl Alves

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Hi Carl, thank you for joining us.

When did it first occur to you that writing was something you wanted to pursue? Continue reading