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Meet the author Monday: Giles Kristian October 11, 2010

Posted by kmcalear in Author Interview, Historical.
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Hiya folks!

As promised, we have an interview with Debut Author Giles Kristian for your perusal. His upcoming novel, Raven, will be available from Amazon.com UK this month and is open for purchase in the US in October. He’s also multi-talented, and was the lead singer for the pop group Upside Down in the nineties. Anyway… without further ado, we have… the interview.

Vital Status:

Lives:  England
Webpage: Giles Kristian
Books: Raven: Blood Eye
Genres: Historical Fiction

From the mouth of the author:

1. What made you choose the Viking Era for your novel? What is it that you think will appeal to modern readers?

I chose the era because, being half Norwegian, I have always been fascinated by my own heritage. I admire these men, these Vikings, who dared to take open, clinker-built vessels across seas that even a modern day yachtsman with all his technology would not take lightly. I think modern readers will appreciate their hardiness and daring, their ambition and their skill. They lived and died on the edge, which is, I think, very exciting.

2. What is the strangest, most bizarre fact you learned about the Vikings in your research?

According to the early saga writers, the first man and woman came from the sweat of a giant’s armpit. Not a very glamorous beginning then, and hardly the Garden of Eden. We should be glad they had not invented antiperspirant back then!

3. What’s the one thing that you think modern readers should adopt from the Viking mode of living or code of Honor?

Perhaps one of the reasons why the Vikings were so dynamic is that they seem to have been fatalistic. My characters believe that the patterns of their lives have already largely been woven and so they live without fear. If you believe what will be will be, you can truly seize the day and live each one to its fullest. Of course, you might also take terrible risks that become your undoing!

4. We all know it’s easy to get distracted when a project is taking its own sweet time to bubble.  What is your Achilles heel when it comes to getting distracted from writing?

When you’re writing historical fiction it can be hard to know when to stop reading (as in research material) and when to get on with the writing. Other than that, I get distracted by anything from the washing and the gym, to Facebook and emails. I like getting distracted. I wander what’s for dinner. Oh look, there’s a bird. Ahem, so…er…where was I?

5. I’ve heard of inspirational eating, so when you’re settled in to get things done is there a particular food that you just have to have on hand?

We have a family cottage in the Norwegian fjords and being there brings me as close to the world I write about as it’s possible to be. I will buy a leg of cured lamb and cut slices from it to munch on during the day, knowing that the Vikings would have enjoyed the very same taste. Catching a nice fish in the fjord and eating it for dinner also sets the scene. However, I draw the line at sheep’s head and the rotten sharks the Icelandic Vikings used to eat.

6. What does it take to write a really good villain?  Do you ever find yourself in a mental space that scares you or makes you wonder if that really came out of YOUR head?

I think good villains are the ones that have something about them that makes you think they might actually have a sense of honour and morality. You think they might show mercy this time. Then, of course, when it really comes down to it they don’t! Few people are inherently bad, but villains consistently do ‘bad’ things. I think it’s important to show they are multi faceted just like any person. Knowing what I am capable of writing, I have never scared myself, but I have scared my mother. She was the first to read RAVEN and when she had finished she texted me calling me a ‘filthy heathen savage.’ I took it as a compliment of course.

7. Which of your characters gave you the most trouble and was the hardest to write for?

Raven himself is the hardest to write. The first person narrative means I can never tell the reader what any other character is feeling or thinking. Everything has to come to the reader via Raven and this can be exhausting to write. Also, I try to get outside of my own skin, as I don’t want Raven to think and feel exactly as I would. Having said this, I’m sure I’m in there somewhere.

8. We all have darling lines or paragraphs in our stories.  Stephen King even says we should kill them.  What is your most favorite murdered darling from any of your books?

There was a scene in the first draft of RAVEN Blood-Eye where Raven finds a cave in a forest and explores it with Asgot the wizard and Sigurd their jarl. In this cave there is a pool into which the three men peer. Strangely however, Raven cannot see his own reflection. It was quite a spiritual scene but my agent thought I should cut it. Highlighting and then deleting that whole scene felt terrible, although I think I still have a version of the manuscript with it in.

9. What is your worst writing habit, the thing which you keep telling yourself you’re going to change and you do it anyway?

For some reason I almost always finish my day’s writing half way through a sentence. Then the next day I wonder what I was going to write. It really is

10.   If you were going to interview another author, whose brain would you want to pick?

I think Bernard Cornwell is a masterly storyteller. His historical novels seethe with excitement, but never get bogged down in historical detail, despite being superbly researched. Also, I’d like to get inside Stephen King’s mind, though I wouldn’t want to stay for long.

From the mouth of Sigurd:

1.   What is the best piece of advice you’d give to other characters to survive when shanghaid by violent warriors?

Shieldwall! If we suddenly find ourselves under attack I will yell ‘shieldwall!’ and my men will rally, overlapping their shields in front and above to create a ‘hutch’ that is proof against missile weapons. Then, when the time is right, we will raise my wolf’s head banner and advance together with swords, thrusting spears and axes. You will see my enemies quake with fear.

2. What is the best way to vanquish your enemies?

The best way is to burn your enemy’s hall with him and all his men asleep inside it. Once you have killed his drunk sentries it is just a question of starting a good fire and guarding the doors with archers and spearmen. In this way you can kill thirty men and lose not one.

3. Describe your feelings on loyalty and brotherhood? What lengths should a man go to for his brothers?

A man should be happy to go to Valhöll, Óðin’s hall of the slain, for his swordbrothers. If you cannot rely on the man beside you in the shieldwall you are all doomed. If you die a good death you will see your friends again in Valhöll. You will drink again with your father and your father’s father. Who does not want this? But a coward will wander the darkness forever.

4. Is there a happily ever after on your horizon, or is true love only for those sappy romance books?

When I die I will have woven a tale worthy of remembrance. Men will talk of Sigurd’s Fellowship around their hearth fires for many years to come. Young men jealous of our renown will make their own fellowships and take to their dragonships in search of glory and fame. When I die it will be no straw death. It will be by the blade and with my own sword in my hand. That way Óðin’s death maidens will know that I am Sigurd of the Wolfpack and they will prepare my seat in the great meadhall, Valhöll. This will be my end.

5.   Do you believe in any Gods or religion? Magic artifacts? Religious relics of power?

There are objects of power. I have seen those followers of the White Christ waving their crosses in the heat of battle. I have seen men display the heads of defeated enemies at their gates. I have known a man with a bear’s head tattoo who believed that this seidr gave him the bear’s strength and spirit. I have seen hundreds slaughtered over a gospel book. If a man believes in something, be it a god or a book or a lump of wood, then that thing is a powerful thing indeed.

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Meet the author Monday: Chad Corrie September 20, 2010

Posted by kmcalear in Author Interview, Historical.
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Welcome to our next interview. <<Snipped, out of date>>

~K

Vital Status:

Lives:  Minnsota.
Webpage: ChadCorrie
Books: Divine Gambit Trilogy, Tales of Tralodren, The Adventures of Corwyn
Genres: Fantasy

From the mouth of the author:

1.      What is the fantasy cliché that most bothers you, or what is your book pet-peeve?

You now, I don’t know if there really is a fantasy cliché that bothers me too much.  I tend to subscribe to the notion that “there isn’t anything new under the sun” when it comes to stories.  It’s really just how they are packaged and dressed up a bit that is the difference.  You can’t really get away from all of the clichés even if you wanted to.

The thing that does tend to make me chuckle when I see it is the authors who jump on the bandwagon of a trend and try to grab ahold of its coat tails.  I don’t blame them for wanting to try and work the system to their advantage, but if you’re just writing a book to try and get into a lucriative niche rather than trying to tell a good story then you might be missing the mark when it comes to being an author… at least how I see it.

Then again, if you do get a ton of cash for crafting a tale in the same vein/flavor of what’s hot right now you might not see the down side to what I just said.

And this isn’t to say that what is produced in these trend niches is entirely bad either.  As any author will tell you how their work is perceived is a relative thing when it comes to the reader’s eyes.  If enough people thing your work is great and are willing to pay you to keep coming up with more than I guess you’re doing well.  Even if I get a kick out of the mentality to “hurry up and jump on this trend” in many niches that, in my mind, are getting a bit too glutted now and need a bit of refining, there is still money to made and people who, more often than not, will purchase and enjoy the published work.

2.       What is your favorite fantasy critter or fairy tale character and why?  No, it doesn’t have to be one you write about.

I’ve always liked dragons, but then again, who hasn’t in this line of literature.  I also like griffins and many of the creatures found in classical mythology.  But if I had to pick a favorite type of fantasy character I think it would be the fractured hero.

When I started writing my first book, Seer’s Quest, I decided that I wanted to do something with the heroes to make them more clay-footed than some I’d read up to that point in my life.  I was coming out of the Conan and D&D type of novels and mindset where the heroes were brave and bold and often one or two-dimensional and just did things because they had to – as if they had a requirement in their contract that forced them to do these heroic deeds.

Now while these are all well and good in their own right for the stories in which they occur, I didn’t want to do the same for my work.  There was a chain of thought going around at the time as well that went something like “DC Comics characters are just plain old heroes-guys who get a power and then slap on tights and start fighting crime just cause they are heroes.  Marvel characters are clay-footed and are more ‘human’ in their motives-more complicated.”

Well, that saying has been reversed from time to time as the companies have both worked to redefine their worlds and characters but I took that thought to my own heroes and made them more complicated-more complex on the simple to even the most detailed of matters related to them.  This, I believe, has helped make some interesting characters and stories.  And this is why I tend to think of them as my favorite type of fantasy critter/character

3.  We all know it’s easy to get distracted when a project is taking its own sweet time to bubble.  What is your Achilles heel when it comes to getting distracted from writing?

When I write it’s not really a challenge to get the idea or to put it down but to keep a disciplined practice of getting it put down on the computer instead.  I tend to leave my email on while I work and every once in a while an email will pop up and then I check it out and get distracted at times by that.  And then there is the internet which I sometimes used for a little reference work or research for one item and I tend to get and go a little farther than I should and find I spent more time than I should on that.  Then you have the phone and other odds and ends that tend to crop up and pop up every so often too.

So that is what gets me for right now when and if I let it. But if keep myself focused I can keep myself chugging away until I complete what I have to do for that day writing wise.  It’s just a matter of focus.

4.  With the holidays coming up what is your favorite winter activity?

You’re talking to a guy who lives in Minnesota, the land of snow and fun.  We’re the folks who like to go taking dips in frozen lakes for some odd reason and find all sorts of odd excuses to get out in below zero weather for some sort of fun.

That being said, I don’t know if I have any real favorite activity for the season.  When it gets cold and snows I tend to not want to go out all that often to do a whole lot of anything other than shovel.

5.  I’ve heard of inspirational eating, so when you’re settled in to get things done is there a particular food that you just have to have on hand?

Nope.

I just have my mug of water and that’s it.  I try not to spend all day at my computer.  I try to keep set hours for my computer use and stick to them as best I am able. I think it’s important to get away from the computer and let my mind and eyes rest and actually get some exersice that doesn’t just benefit my fingers.

6. What does it take to write a really good villain?  Do you ever find yourself in a mental space that scares you or makes you wonder if that really came out of YOUR head?

I’ll tell you want amazes me most is when I go back and read what I wrote and wonder if that came from the same person.  For me there is a sort of odd disconnect as an author.  You know you wrote it when you are writing it but once it is done you go back and it somehow feels different, like it was written by someone else and you’re looking at it from a different place.  Maybe that’s just me and my possible oddity in relating to my work.

To answer your question, however, I don’t know that I’ve been scared by a villain that finds his or her or its way into the story.  From my standpoint I’m in the director’s chair of the tale and sort of know where most of the tale is going to fall before I get started. I see the end of the tale from the beginning and know this and that about the story and don’t really get frightened by what crops up in the process.  I guess it also has to do with the fact that I understand what I’m doing isn’t real and that all these “acts of evil” and so and so forth aren’t real either.  Now if I read something not written by me with a nice baddie in it that could be a different story.

What does it take to make a great villain?  Motivation is a key issue.  Why are they doing what they are doing?  Now in fantasy you can sometimes get away with the classic “I’m just evil and I do evil things because I live for it” type of mindset.  If used in the right way it can work pretty well even in the world of gray people like to live in now days.  There is still a market for the classic “good vs. evil” story.  However, it has to be done in the right way or you lose the full impact of such a mindset.  Imagine it.  The villain knows he is evil and just likes to do evil things.  There are some serial murders like that, who have said, “I’m evil and I know it and just want to kill people.”  So there is a villain out there like that and it can work, but again if used in the right way and in the right story.

Motivation, however, is key for villains favored by most of today’s readers.  In a world where everyone now has some sort of “victim mentality” with which they have to contend we have villains who have “abandonment issues” or this mental disorder or that.  They are painted as sympathetic characters who can’t help themselves and might even be able to be turned to do good if someone just “helped them through their pain/challenge”.  If only someone would understand them.  I’m not a big fan of this in my own writing, as I tend to shy away from what I think of as “whiny characters”.  Though again, if used in the right context it could work very well and I have read books there that is the case.

The best villains, ideally, are ones who really push a button with you.  They are not victims of something that warps them for life (though that can help add some resonance at times if done right) but rather are people who think they are doing the right thing but don’t see it is the wrong thing.  In their own mind they are the good guys and everyone else is on the wrong side.  These, to me, are the best villains because you can relate to them on a more practical level and see the reasoning behind their logic (and might even agree with it) but you don’t like the means by which they try to justify their end.

Again, this is an interesting and nebulous topic in this graying world we live in as we see more and more villains becoming anti-heroes and the line between hero and villain getting more and more blurred.  And then there is the reader’s disposition and how they see the story from their own unique moral worldview…. but I digress.

7.       Which of your characters gave you the most trouble and was the hardest to write for?

In this current book, The Adventures of Corwyn, there weren’t any hard characters to write.  Now in some of my other novels and graphic novels I’ve had to wrestle around a bit with things but for The Adventures of Corwyn it was pretty easy going.  Given that there weren’t that many characters in this short story collection other than Corwyn (who I got along with very well) it probably made things easier as well.

8.       We all have darling lines or paragraphs in our stories.  Stephen King even says we should kill them.  What is your most favorite murdered darling from any of your books?

Stephen King advising us to kill something?  I can’t imagine that.  When I write now I’ve learned to look at it is a crafting a sculpture.  You have to clear away the excess to get to the image beneath.  So there is going to be some things that get cleared away and should be.  Often times this is done by the aid of an editor who can see things from a more objective viewpoint and help make your work all the better for it.

That being said, I don’t really honestly recall what has gone by the way side in the process of completing my works any more so than the artist would consider the bits of saw dust or marble chunks chipped off from the final image hidden beneath the now fallen debris.

9.  What is your worst writing habit, the thing which you keep telling yourself you’re going to change and you do it anyway?

Besides checking my email or answering the phone?

I think many authors struggle with coming to a point of knowing when it’s time to let the book go.  I used to keep wanting to go back and tweak and twist and polish and so on but in the end you can’t do that forever.  There has to come a point where you say “this is it” and then let it go.  I’ve gotten much better at that but sometimes I’ll be tempted to give it “just one more look over” before turning it off to the publisher for the final layout.

10.   If you were going to interview another author, whose brain would you want to pick?

You know, that’s an interesting question.  I don’t really know if there is a certain author I’d like to chat with.  However, I do think talking with other authors in general is very insightful as there can often be a nugget you can pull out of the conversation that will benefit you later on.

From the mouth of Corwyn Danther (The Adventures of Corwyn):

1.   What is the best piece of advice you’d give to other Fantasy characters on how to survive troubles and tribulations?

You tend to get what you expect; look for the best in all things and you will tend to get it.  You might not be able to get out of the situation, but you should he able to weather it better than most if you keep your wits about you and your expectation of a good outcome close to the forefront of your mind.

2.    How do you feel about magic powers? Indispensable? Only for the Lazy Hero/Heroine? You wish your author gave you more?

Magic can be a boon, I suppose, but when is there a wizard around with you might need one, eh?  Making someone lazy?  Well there was that whole mess with Wizard Kings a few centuries ago… if anything magic can make one more arrogant than lazy… though that is often a symptom which follows as well.

As far as me wanting any magical spells or powers or trinkets I’d have to decline.  As I’ve said already, such things tend to be more trouble than they are worth. A recent encounter with two Sellswords and their circlet comes to mind to help make my point… but that’s another story.

3.  What’s the best way to vanquish mad witches, evil dragons… orcs, ogres?

Outsmart them.

If you have to face them, and thankfully I haven’t had to deal with so great a list as what you posted above as opponents myself, then you’d best find a way to use what you have against them.  Often times you’ll find such creatures give you a way to either defeat them or flee.  Sometimes its smarter to just leave while you can as well, and often will save more lives than pressing in for a hard fight ever will.

4.  Is there a happily ever after on your horizon, or is true love only for those sappy romance books?

I’d like to think there is, either in this life or the next.  Causilla is the goddess of love after all, and I’m a faithful follower.  I’d like to think my future wife is out there somewhere and if she is we’ll find each other eventually.

Now wouldn’t that be a tale?

5.   Magic artifacts? (You know what I mean, enchanted swords, books of spells…) Useful, indispensable, more trouble than they’re worth…

Magic artifacts?  Hmm.  Well you probably don’t want to mention that to Fred, he’s still upset about those ruins we found a while back… and those two sellswords I mentioned earlier come to mind again…

Magical trinkets and artifacts tend to be confusing if you ask me.  People are often searching for things that they have no idea what they do or even if they are real in the first place.  In most causes things often tend to go down a bad road and take those who seek after them with them.

Suffragettes in Texas June 15, 2010

Posted by kmcalear in Historical, Musings.
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I’ve been working lately in the Special Collections and archives at my University which has been a unique treat. Reading letters and articles from 50 or 100 years ago, or more is an interesting insight both into history and a fertile source of new ideas for writing. For instance I always dithered on what my character Benjamin’s job would be during his non-vampire days, and reading and learning about the jobs of the wealthy but still working, crowd of exiles in the United States let me give him an authentic job: poetry and running a personal newspaper. It seemed to be a popular passtime for educated men with money in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

I’ve also been working with the documents of suffragettes in Texas and one thing that particularly stood out to me was naming. All of the women were named Mrs. John Doe, or Mrs. Harry Smith, other than a few. I found it intriguing how these women were working for equal rights and were pioneers of feminism but many of them we don’t even really know their names, they became simply the “Mrs” to their husbands. It also lead me to wonder if I’d have been a suffragette in that time and to examine my feelings towards voting. It was a 60 year fight for women to earn the right to vote, something we take for granted now. In fact in the documents some of the states permitted non citizens to vote, while women could not.