Posts Categorized: AuthorsAnswer

Authors answer #13: Can you recommend an author who is not well known?

May 7, 2016 AuthorsAnswer 0

Good grief, how much time have you got? Unknown authors are my specialist subject. Not for me the residents of bestseller lists or airport bookshops or the type of book that’s stacked high on tables near the door at Waterstones. In fact, most of my favourite authors don’t make it onto the shelves of bookstores at all. I could go on all day, but here are just a few that I love.

H Anthe Davis: an American who writes epic fantasy with a hint of horror, compelling characters and industrial-strength world-building. The first of the War of Memory series is The Light of Kerrindryr. She’s a slow-brew kind of writer, so the series is as yet incomplete, with three books out so far.

Marina Finlayson: an Australian who writes fast-paced urban fantasy of the werewolf variety, with added dragons and just a touch of romance, and loads of Aussie humour. Her The Proving trilogy is now complete; start with Twiceborn.

Claire Frank: an American author of wonderful epic fantasy with a great magic system, some intriguing characters with an unusual history, and a shed-load of all-action magely battles. The Echoes of Imara series will be complete soon; start with To Whatever End.

S E Robertson: a single-book author, but what a book! The Healers’ Road can only be described as literary fantasy; two healers, one using magic and one not, have to spend a year travelling about with a caravan of merchants, coming to terms with each other’s very different personalities and methods.

Footnote: Authors Answer is the brainchild of blogger Jay Dee Archer, of I Read Encyclopedias For Fun. You can read the answers to this question by his eclectic bunch of authors here. More recently, Erica Dakin, of the Theft And Sorcery blog, has been answering the questions independently. You can read her answer to this question here.

 

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Authors Answer 12: What books did you read as a child?

April 16, 2016 AuthorsAnswer 0

Enid Blyton. And really, to be honest, I don’t remember reading anything else. Even though I read voraciously, and steamed through the library’s children’s section as soon as I was allowed to join, and then the school library, the books that stand out in my mind are the Enid Blyton ones.

Noddy_Goes_To_Toyland_1949_coverI may have had some of her fairy books, gifted by well-meaning relatives, but the first series I got into was Noddy, and I had the entire collection at one time, golliwogs, Mr Plod the policeman and all. They aren’t remotely politically correct these days, but they were very much the norm in the mid-twentieth century, when they were first published. They were popular for years, too. Everybody read them.

FiveOnATreasureIslandThen there were the Famous Five books, with Julian, Dick, George, Anne and Timmy the dog. Again, not at all politically correct, with hindsight. Julian and Dick, the two boys, were the leaders and brains, George (Georgina) was the tomboyish wanna-be boy, and Anne, the girly-girl was terribly wet. But they did all the sorts of things that I would have loved to do but wasn’t allowed to, like going off camping alone and using their initiative and managing perfectly well without any adults to oversee them. And, naturally, they solved the mystery and presented the case, neatly tied up with a ribbon, to the flat-footed local police.

TheMysteryOfTheBurntCottageThere was a Secret Seven series, too, but I never liked that as much. The other series I remember well was the Five Find-Outers, starting with The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage. I loved these because the fat character was the smart one, and not just comic relief. I remember him doing all sorts of clever things with invisible ink, and escaping from a locked room. I liked the Barney series, too, which started with The Rockingham Mystery. There were some ingenious solutions to the mysteries — in one, a theft was accomplished by a trained monkey who could break in through a tiny window. But in all of them, the children were thinking, observing, weighing evidence and generally being smart and independent. I loved them.

Then, when I was sixteen, someone suggested I read Lord of the Rings, and I discovered fantasy… My reading was never the same after that.

Footnote: Authors Answer is the brainchild of blogger Jay Dee Archer, of I Read Encyclopedias For Fun. You can read the answers to this question by his eclectic bunch of authors here. More recently, Erica Dakin, of the Theft And Sorcery blog, has been answering the questions independently. You can read her answer to this question here.

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Authors answer 11: If you were going to write in another genre, what would it be?

March 25, 2016 AuthorsAnswer 4

In a sense, I’ve already answered that question, since my current side project, apart from the fantasy, is a venture into Regency romance. I’ve always been a big fan of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer – very different styles, but both endlessly rereadable – and my very first attempt at novel writing, many moons ago, was a full-on Regency. That effort was banged out on an old manual typewriter, and I got maybe three-quarters of the way through before life overtook me. It now lurks, unloved, in a bottom drawer, and I haven’t dared to read it again. I’m quite sure it must be execrable.

Fantasy and Regency might seem to be very different creatures. One is a made-up world, with the only limitation being the author’s imagination, focusing on battles and monsters and world-threatening peril, not to mention magic, of course. A Regency focuses on a much narrower field of action, which may be just a few towns or villages in England, with one not-very-earth-shattering objective — to marry off hero and heroine. There may be adventures and high jinks, but generally a Regency is light-hearted fluff.

But in both cases, the characters are tip-toeing through the same minefield — the rules of their world. In a fantasy, the rules are made up by the author (you can use magic, but only if you’re carrying a certain gizmo, or use the right words). In a Regency romance, the rules are those in effect in the real world at the time — the social rules that constrain well-to-to families, with dire consequences if breached. So young women must be accomplished and knowledgeable, but also demure. They are brought up to run large households, yet must always defer to their father, brother or husband. They may speak several languages, but must never express a political opinion. Woe betide the young lady who dares to waltz in public before being approved by the patronesses of Almacks.

For those who still think that fantasy and nineteenth century manners have nothing at all in common, I refer you to a couple of examples of books which gloriously mash together the two genres. Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton is an only partially successful attempt to blend the Victorian social culture with dragons. Temeraire by Naomi Novik thrusts dragons into the middle of the Napoleonic wars, and although there are certain logistical issues (nations can call on fighting dragons, but somehow history has turned out pretty much the same? Really?), the first few in the series are quite glorious, entirely dominated by the rather bookish dragon, Temeraire himself.

Footnote: Authors Answer is the brainchild of blogger Jay Dee Archer, of I Read Encyclopedias For Fun. You can read the answers to this question by his eclectic bunch of authors here. More recently, Erica Dakin, of the Theft And Sorcery blog, has been answering the questions independently. You can read her answer to this question here.

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Author Answers #10: What are your least favourite genres to read?

March 2, 2016 AuthorsAnswer 0

Horror is the first that comes to mind. A little bit creepy or spooky is fine, but out and out horror is a non-starter for me. I have vivid mental images of books I read decades ago that seared themselves into my brain and still have the power to make me shudder. Then there are the nightmares…

Erotica is another genre I’m not fussed about. Now don’t misunderstand, I love me some heavy-duty grappling in a book, so authors can toss in as much or as little sex as they like, on condition that it fits into the story, and the plot isn’t just flimsy scaffolding to hang all that industrial-strength humping on. If the characters are constantly either doing it or thinking about doing it, that’s too much. I loved Erica Dakin’s Theft and Sorcery series, for instance, which features some seriously horny half-elves, but there’s a cracking fantasy plot behind all the bonking.

Then there are thrillers. If there’s a gun on the cover, it’s a safe bet I’m not going to enjoy it. I suppose military sci-fi comes into the same category – lots of fighting, explosions, shoot-outs. Give me characters first and foremost, and don’t overwhelm me with action that features an explosion on every other page.

Footnote: Authors Answer is the brainchild of blogger Jay Dee Archer, of I Read Encyclopedias For Fun. You can read the answers to this question by his eclectic bunch of authors here. More recently, Erica Dakin, of the Theft And Sorcery blog, has been answering the questions independently. You can read her answer to this question here.

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Authors Answer 9: What are your favourite genres to read?

February 17, 2016 AuthorsAnswer 0

Since my published books are all epic fantasy, it’s a safe bet that fantasy is my favourite genre. I love the wide open possibilities of it – when I open a new-to-me book, I love that tingle of anticipation that comes from knowing that almost anything could happen. Magic! Wizards hurling thunderbolts! Peculiar beasties! Non-human races! A whole world to explore from the safety of my armchair! And dragons – dragons make everything better.

And yet, everything still has to conform to its own internal logic. Having magic around isn’t a free pass to getting out of any sort of mess. I’m particularly sceptical of healing magic – it’s just too easy if everyone’s injuries and illnesses can be cured with an airy wave of a wizard’s hand. I like a bit of uncertainty. In my own books, healing is something that mages can attempt, but it doesn’t always work. In The Fuller’s Apprentice, by Angela Holder, healing magic is an intricate and difficult process, akin to surgery, and there are certain diseases that can’t be fixed, no matter what.

A lot of fantasy these days is quite dark, and happy endings can’t be guaranteed (as in George R R Martin’s Game of Thrones), but traditional fantasy is often based on the battle between good and evil, and there’s a satisfying resonance for the reader when, in the end, after many tribulations, good triumphs and the darkness is vanquished, thus restoring the natural order of the world.

Outside fantasy, I also read Regency romances, murder mysteries and the occasional suspense story. Again, these all tend to have satisfying endings: the hero and heroine find true love, the murderer is caught, the bad guys are defeated. All is well in the world. It’s pure escapism, of course, but we all need an escape from the real world occasionally, don’t we?

Footnote: Authors Answer is the brainchild of blogger Jay Dee Archer, of I Read Encyclopedias For Fun. You can read the answers to this question by his eclectic bunch of authors here. More recently, Erica Dakin, of the Theft And Sorcery blog, has been answering the questions independently. You can read her answer to this question here.

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Authors Answer 8: The New Year is coming soon. What are your plans for 2016 in terms of writing?

January 19, 2016 AuthorsAnswer 0

Again, I’m out of sync here, although I suppose January still counts as New Year. This is going to be a very short post, since I already posted at some length about my plans for the year in both writing and marketing. So… I’m done.

Footnote: Authors Answer is the brainchild of blogger Jay Dee Archer, of I Read Encyclopedias For Fun. You can read the answers to this question by his eclectic bunch of authors here. More recently, Erica Dakin, of the Theft And Sorcery blog, has been answering the questions independently. You can read her answer to this question here.

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Authors Answer 7: Christmas is coming! In your opinion, what would be the perfect gift for a writer?

January 15, 2016 AuthorsAnswer, General 0

{Yes, yes, I’m very out of sync here – but Christmas is always coming so…}

Oooh, I can answer this, because I recently found the perfect gift for me. I added it to my wishlist, and… nobody bought it for me. Oh. Here it is:

JaneAustenFigure

Isn’t that… erm, really, really naff? But cute and fun. If you don’t mind the idea of Jane Austen wearing a shocking pink spencer, that is. And look, she has her own quill pen and a copy of Pride and Prejudice. So, so cute.

Serious answers? Do I have to? Oh, all right then. Scrivener, because it’s positively the best writing environment ever in the history of writing environments. There are plenty of word-processor wrappers which guide an author through the necessary steps to writing nirvana (or a completed manuscript, at least). Scrivener doesn’t do that, but what it does do is to allow the author to work in the way that suits her/him best. You want to start at the beginning, go on till you come to the end and then stop? You can do that. Want to plan every single chapter and scene? You can do that too. Want to include all your research notes, web pages and images? Work full screen? Move chunks around? Keep old versions? Yep, no problem. Want to compile direct to epub or Kindle format or pdf or double-spaced printed submission format? Absolutely. It’s a wonderful tool.

Footnote: Authors Answer is the brainchild of blogger Jay Dee Archer, of I Read Encyclopedias For Fun. You can read the answers to this question by his eclectic bunch of authors here. More recently, Erica Dakin, of the Theft And Sorcery blog, has been answering the questions independently. You can read her answer to this question here.

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Authors Answer 6: Which mistake or bad habit in writing is the most difficult for you to stop doing?

January 6, 2016 AuthorsAnswer 0

Adverbs. I know they’re supposed to be a Very Bad Thing, but there are so many situations where a judiciously placed adverb can save a world of verbiage. I’m all for expressing myself briefly and succinctly and efficiently and all those other —ly words. And I’ll also hold my hand up for that other cardinal sin, the adverb used in a dialogue tag, she said shamefacedly. Yes, folks, my characters sometimes speak softly instead of whispering, and they sometimes speak coldly or bracingly or icily or gently as well. My bad.

But here’s the thing. Part of the skill of an author is in not boring the reader, and that’s not just in the plot. It also means including plenty of variety in the writing, so that a long succession of ‘he said… she said…’ is broken up by an action beat, or, dare I say it, by tossing in an adverb. Just as you wouldn’t write a three-page wall of exposition (well, I wouldn’t, although some writers do), so it seems sensible to introduce variety into dialogue, too.

Well, that’s my excuse, anyway.

Footnote: Authors Answer is the brainchild of blogger Jay Dee Archer, of I Read Encyclopedias For Fun. You can read the answers to this question by his eclectic bunch of authors here. More recently, Erica Dakin, of the Theft And Sorcery blog, has been answering the questions independently. You can read her answer to this question here.

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Authors Answer 5: Have you read any foreign language novels?

December 26, 2015 AuthorsAnswer 0

No.

Next question…

But seriously, this is one of those issues where you feel you probably should do it, but life’s too short. I’m British, so naturally I’ve never mastered any foreign language well enough to attempt anything more taxing than ordering a beer and a pizza. I’ve tried, believe me, I’ve tried, but I just don’t have the right receptors in my brain. Even at school, after several years of daily lessons in French, I never felt competent to read a book in the language. And besides, there are so many books to read in English, where I understand the nuances of the words (most of the time), why would I struggle to read something that’s not in English? Struggle may be good for the soul, but I read for pleasure and entertainment and to be taken out of the everyday world for a time. So English it is, then.

Footnote: Authors Answer is the brainchild of blogger Jay Dee Archer, of I Read Encyclopedias For Fun. You can read the answers to this question by his eclectic bunch of authors here. More recently, Erica Dakin, of the Theft And Sorcery blog, has been answering the questions independently. You can read her answer to this question here.

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Authors Answer 4: If you could interview any author, who would it be and what would you ask?

December 18, 2015 AuthorsAnswer 0

Ooh, another interesting one. I’d love to talk to Jane Austen. I’d like to know how she wrote her books in the days of quill pens. How much editing did she do? Did she plan it all in advance? How many drafts? Did she have the Regency equivalent of a beat sheet tucked away under her blotter? Or did she plan the whole thing in her head before she started writing? And did she have to keep a list of characters written down somewhere so that she could remember their ages and incomes (those all-important aspects of high-born life)? Her books are so perfectly constructed, and conform so well to modern ideas about structuring novels, yet she was writing two hundred years ago. She was one amazing lady.

If I could have a second author to interview, I’d love to sit down and have a chat to Australian author Glenda Larke. She writes envy-worthy epic fantasy, and she could talk about that if she wanted, but what I’d love her to tell me about is her time living in Malaysia, her experiences as a naturalist and wildlife expert, and all the amazing creatures she’s encountered, often in her own back yard. Her blog used to be filled with the most astonishing photographs, from trips she and her husband made into the jungle, staying at remote cabins far from civilisation. She’s moved back to Australia now, and although she still observes and photographs wildlife, it isn’t quite as exotic as all those strange jungle beasties. Another amazing lady.

Footnote: Authors Answer is the brainchild of blogger Jay Dee Archer, of I Read Encyclopedias For Fun. You can read the answers to this question by his eclectic bunch of authors here. More recently, Erica Dakin, of the Theft And Sorcery blog, has been answering the questions independently. You can read her answer to this question here.

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