Author Interview

In November, 2023, I was honoured to be asked to interview with The Reading Nook, a website that sepecialises in asking authors about their work, how they write, and who would play the characters in the movie about their book. It was great fun.

I’ve copied the interview below. Let me know what you think? If you’ve read Strands of Time and Magic, who would you choose for Brylee, Levi, Lu, Gideon, and Ostryd?

1: Tell us a little about yourself and what got you into writing?

At school, I had a teacher who went above and beyond, and his enthusiasm for us to do well ignited my interest in storytelling. He included many sessions that were not in the syllabus to teach the techniques authors use to draw us into the story. He also taught us adverbs and dialogue descriptors (whispered, yelled, etc.), which my modern-style editor mercilessly removed from my manuscript (see what I did there).

Two decades later, my commute sometimes included a two-hour ferry ride to and from Victoria and Vancouver. I had a lot of time to kill, always loved people-watching, and I enjoyed putting my thoughts down on paper. I wrote a poem about people in the automated massage chair, the hectic kitchen staff, and the groups of teens trying to pretend they were unaware of the other groups of teens. I submitted them to the ferry company to sell in their onboard bookstore and got my first rejection. It really stung! I also wrote two short stories: a fantasy novel set in an alternate, pre-industrial Vancouver, and a Raymond Chandler-style detective novel. A friend encouraged me, and from those embers, a true interest in story structure, character development, and so on took hold. Although I tinkered with some writing projects while working in the technology industry, it wasn’t until I retired that I could devote the time required to write an epic fantasy.

2: Do you have a favourite time and place where you write?

My process is to hit the desk early (while my brain is sharp), edit a previous chapter, go for a long walk, and think about the next new chapter and come back and write it before I forget my ideas. In terms of favourite place, I’m a view junkie. Harbours, fields, mountains, and city views all inspire me to be creative. I’ve had some great success picking a spot with a view and letting things flow. I’ve had some failures too. We went on a tour of South Africa recently, with stunning scenery, which distracted me so much I kept rewriting the same chapter over and over. I also like sitting quietly in the corner of a café or pub and people watching with my laptop open, noting their mannerisms and interactions.

3: Where do your ideas come from?

My love of people watching turned into an interest in psychology, and I’ve listened to many podcasts on narcissism, shame, and other emotions and their impact on people’s psyché. I like to use what I learn, and I wanted to write a strong female protagonist with her own quirks and have characters with mental health challenges. The rough story arc springs to life in my mind, and from there, it resembles a jigsaw puzzle. Not one that someone else has made and I’m merely completing, but one where I craft the jagged pieces, paint them, and then painstakingly assemble them into a coherent narrative where the characters and plot converge to, hopefully, captivate the reader. Beta readers point out the gaps or colour mismatches and I must adjust. I love problem solving, and a complex story provides many such opportunities.

4: Do you have a plan in your head of where the story is going before you start writing or do you let it carry you along as you go?

I create a rough story arc, then primary characters and their flaws, wants, and needs. I develop a chapter map, a timeline chart, and a beat-sheet. If I sound very organised, don’t be fooled. My characters take over and I lose control. Strands was supposed to be 100,000 words and 28 chapters. It got away from me and is 175,000 words and 77 chapters.

5: What genre are your books and what drew you to that genre?

Fantasy – Strands is an epic tale, but when I began, I was unaware of the distinctions between epic, high, low, and other sub-genres of fantasy. I’ve always read fantasy and science fiction. Works like E.E. ‘Doc’ Smith’s ‘Lensmen’ and J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘The Lord of the Rings’ were among some of the first that captivated me. I got a real appreciation for historical work from ‘Shogun’ and ‘Pillars of the Earth’ and try to bring that sort of realism into my fantasy. If I want to try a different genre, it will be complex detective stories.

6: What dream cast would you like to see playing the characters in your latest book? 

Brylee’s physical appearance was inspired by the Canadian tennis player Andrea Andreescu – very strong and robust, fit but not a gym bunny. Can she act? Gwendoline Christie (Brienne of Tarth) is too tall. How about Hannah Waddington (Game of Thrones/Ted Lasso) when she was 23-26 years old? Gideon, my antagonist, would be a young Mads Mikkelsen. Levinal could be a blue-eyed Ryan Reynolds.

7: Do you read much and if so who are your favourite authors?

I always have a book going. Rothfuss, Sanderson, Hobb, Wheeler, Tad Williams, Salvatore. Anything long and complex. I do read urban fantasy, and many are great, but I seem to find my way back to pre-industrial epic.

8: What book/s are you reading at present?

‘The White Tower’, Michael Wise Hart. Just finished the ‘Vine Witch’… Before that I read all four of Sanderson’s ‘Stormlight Archive’ monster novels as the fifth is coming soon and I wanted to refresh. I’m a slow reader, so this took several months but I loved them.

9: What is your favourite book and why?

Probably ‘The Name of the Wind’ because of how Rothfuss builds his world, the flashbacks to the Inn, that Denna is always out of Kvothe’s reach (because he self-sabotages every opportunity, so frustrating and interesting), the way Kvothe is driven by the twin needs of vengeance for his family and his competitiveness with Ambrose, and the humour of his antics at school. And I’m absolutely fascinated by the magic system.

10: What advice would you give for someone thinking about becoming a writer?

Follow your dream but talk to established writers about the time and cost commitments. Most writers would love to help newbies… we like to talk. If you are hoping to sell your book as an indie, you need to invest in artwork, editing, platforms, etc. Of course, no matter how good your book is, you will need to learn how to market it. I found it all surprisingly complex, but I do love a good puzzle.

There is a wealth of information available on YouTube. I’ve found writers’ forums on Goodreads and Facebook helpful, but initially, I put too much stock in the feedback. Don’t get me wrong; there is a lot of great feedback that I value strongly. However, there are many contributors who might fit the old saying, ‘always certain, sometimes right.’ It’s very hard as a new author to determine whom to listen to and whom to take with a pinch of salt. I’m still not sure half the time, but I think the key is to treat everything as a useful data point and find a way to test any advice you are not sure about.