Dear Teen Me, by Edward Aubry

dearteenme-pic-1

The author at 18, apparently having conquered a small pile of dirt.

Dear Teen Me,

ADD is a real thing.  You have it, it’s going to go undiagnosed and untreated, and nobody will ever cut you any slack for it.  Let’s get all that on the table right up front.  It’s why things that seem pretty easy for lots of other people are impossibly confusing to you.  It’s why deadlines are terrifying.  It’s why your room is a mess.  And, it’s why your life for the next few years is going to be defined largely by other people’s disappointment in you.

Heads up: you don’t suck at everything.  It just feels that way a lot of the time.  You’re going to turn out all right, and do some pretty fantastic stuff.  You write at least five novels.  No lie.  And I’m not talking shitty one-draft vanity projects you keep in a box of notebooks in your closet.  All five novels get published.  Rave reviews. There’s a movie deal.  An audiobook.  For three days you are an honest-to-God bestseller on Amazon.  Keep all of that in your head, because we need to talk about how you’re going to get there.

First of all, you’re going to hear many variations of the phrase “not meeting potential.”  Pretty much every adult in your life is going to have this view of you.  Teachers, parents, relatives, employers, and so on.  By now you’ve already figured out you are smarter than the average bear. So have they. And that carries with it a whole assortment of expectations that seem completely reasonable to your elders, and utterly nonsensical to you.  They are never going to get tired of telling you how much better you should be doing, and none of what they are asking you to do will make any sense to you.

Try to keep the following in mind:

Most of them, maybe even all of them, are telling you these things because they genuinely love and respect you.  To you, it will always sound like scolding.  In their heads, it sounds like mentoring.  A huge proportion of their frustration with you comes from that disconnect, and their inability to see it.

When they talk about your potential, they are measuring something completely immeasurable, and they have no idea they are doing that.  They think they are responding to data like developmental benchmarks, test scores, and observational evidence.  It turns out that stuff only accounts for an absurdly small fraction of who you are and what you can do.  They are not wrong to say that people as smart as you are can do things better than you have been doing them.  But they are absolutely wrong to believe that intelligence alone can quantify potential for success, especially for narrow definitions of success (remember, five novels – hang onto that).

So, yeah, lots of adults and authority figures are going to say the same exact unhelpful things to you, over and over, in chorus, and then blame you when their guidance fails to produce the results they want.

And then someone finally figures out the right way to say it.

You’re going to have a French teacher.  Maybe you’ve already met her.  Her name is Ellen Minor, and you take French 2 and French 3 with her in 10th and 11th grade.  You don’t take French 4, even though it’s offered, and even though she teaches it, and even though you think she’s pretty great for a teacher.  You don’t take it because foreign languages are not intuitive for you, and because you have cultivated an interest in the performing arts over the past three years, and there is no way you can fit it in your schedule and still take drama and music.

And you don’t take it because you think you’re no good at French.

Ellen is going to be disappointed in you.  By that point, disappointment will be pretty much the defining quality of your relationships with teachers, and you will weather it. But her opinion will matter to you, and in the course of discussing your decision not to take the class, you are going to make an offhand remark that she thinks you’re just lazy.  I don’t remember why you say that.  Maybe it’s to pick a fight so you can defend yourself.  Maybe it’s a moment of self-deprecation (there will be a lot of those), and it’s to give yourself permission to hate yourself again.  I don’t know.  But it does turn out to be the right button to push, because what she says next will completely change your life.

dearteenme-pic-2

Horribly unflattering picture of me, and in terrible condition, but totally worth including because that’s Ellen in the middle. (Also pictured: Ann Brown, whom I have sadly lost track of)

She’s going to say, “I don’t think you’re lazy at all.  I think you work very hard until you find something that doesn’t come easy for you, and then you give up.”

I… wait… what?

Yeah.  That’s the moment.  Because here’s the secret about ADD: it doesn’t hold you back from anything.  It just means you have to push harder to accomplish whatever it is you need to accomplish.  It means you have to want it more.

Here’s what was happening to you that whole time, right up to that moment:

You accomplished a lot.  That should be obvious, but somehow it isn’t.  Your parents and teachers didn’t think you were smart because of some theory or prophecy. They thought you were smart because you did smart things.  You were reading at a college level by the time you got to middle school. You blasted through math like it was nothing.  And you did those things because they came easy for you, and you enjoyed them, and you got caught in an ease-skill-joy-work-reward loop.  Adults said you were brilliant, and you believed them. But the second your distractibility kicked in and slowed you down, you got the not-meeting-potential smackdown.

Like I said, ADD is a real thing.  Your difficulties are going to be random and profound. It will be frustrating as hell.  The trick is to stop worrying about how good you are supposed to be at whatever it is, embrace the fact that some things are going to require more time, effort and dedication from you than they will from your peers, and never give up.

You’re going to get into Wesleyan.  That’s awesome!  The bad news is college is going to be incredibly difficult for you.  It’s going to take you five years to earn a bachelor’s degree in a field you do not end up pursuing.  You are going to graduate in the bottom quarter of your class.  That’s going to feel like failure to you for years, until one day you suddenly remember that people who graduate in the bottom quarter of their class from Wesleyan are called WESLEYAN GRADUATES.  Wear that badge, pal.  You’re totally going earn it, and you will probably work harder for it than a lot of your classmates who graduate ahead of you (not all of them, obviously, but many).

You’re going to be a teacher.  That probably sounds insane to you right now, but it’s true.  You’re going to get certified to teach math, and then later, on a dare, you are going to add English to your credentials.

You finally get diagnosed at 30.  At first, you will treat it like a dirty secret, and honestly I can’t really blame you.  People you work with, other teachers, your friends and colleagues, are going to say the following things about ADD right to your face:

ADD means Ain’t Doing Diddly.

dearteenme-pic-3

PS: Quit biting your nails.

I wish I had a Ritalin dart gun.

No wonder these kids are so hyper; Ritalin is a stimulant!

You will smile politely, fuming inside, thinking you will never be accepted if anyone finds out you are being treated for the same thing they mock so freely.  Eventually you will figure out that you can do a lot more good for your kids if you just shrug off the anxiety and put it out there.  You will have students who treat their diagnosis as a get-out-of-work-free card.  Tell them you have a music degree, you teach math and you write successful novels, and tell them exactly how you pushed past the ADD to make it all happen.  It will make a difference, I promise you.  They need you to be that example.

You’ve got this, buddy.  Now get out there and write some books.

Respectfully Yours,

Future Edward Aubry

Author Interview: Amy Bearce

Yesterday saw the release of Amy Bearce’s middle-grade fantasy, FAIRY KEEPER. We interviewed Amy to discuss the release of her debut novel, her experiences as a mother and school librarian, and why it’s important to get children reading as early as possible.

You originally had your book as young adult, why did you decide to change it to upper MG and what (in your mind) is the distinction?

There’s sometimes a fine line between upper middle grade and young adult. My editor and I both felt that the voice of the piece was just more MG, but the basic premise seemed more YA…so we merged them until both fit upper MG. While Sierra grows and changes, the focus is on the adventure itself. There was also a sweetness to the story, according to my publisher, that felt younger than what you’d expect with YA. This is especially seen in the romance area. Less heat, more sweet, you might say. J So we changed the age of the character and tweaked a few scenes so that her responses were more consistently appropriate for a 14 year old (granted, 14 year olds in this world have more responsibility than the same age person in ours.) Plus, I wanted something my girls could read and my oldest isn’t quite ready for YA yet.

 

How has being a mother affected the content of your writing?

I try not to think of anything other than the story while I’m drafting, but the place my children have in my heart is such a deep level that I’m sure it affects everything. I tend to write about girls who go after what they want, even if they are nervous or afraid. I like to focus on friendships and family relationships, not just romance (though I love a good romance!) During revision, I do think about how it would affect my girls to read this and know their mother wrote it. I want them to be proud of what I write and be proud of me as their mom.

 

The UK is celebrated World Book Day on March 5. Why is it important to promote reading to children, and how can we as individuals help?

There is one activity that’s been consistently shown to build vocabulary, comprehension, and empathy—and that’s reading self-selected books. The more they read, the better they get, yet kids spend very little time in class actively engaged in reading books that they’ve chosen for themselves. Studies have shown that kids and adults who read literature actually becoming kinder, more understanding people. They also become better communicators. So, I think it’s critical that we support kids (and adults) in reading books.

I used to teach reading in public and private school, and my experience confirmed the importance of allowing students to self-select books. As individuals, you can make a big difference. Give your kids or students a choice. Let them pick a book at the library, even if you think it’s too hard or too easy. You can offer suggestions, of course, but if a kid is dying to read a more challenging book, you’d be surprised at how they will rise to the challenge. And rereading a favorite book? That’s okay, too. Just remind yourself that they are building fluency. Generally, I think we need to relax and trust kids more.

Also—here’s a biggie—if you want your child to read, you need to… READ. Kids model what they see. And if you never pick up a book, they are going to learn from you that reading isn’t valuable, when in fact it gives them a safe place to explore the world in all manner of ways.

You are currently near Ramstein, Germany, in Europe. Do you miss hometown bookstores? Which are your favorites?

I DO miss my bookstores at home. We moved here this summer and I’ve ordered a lot of books online since then! In San Antonio, sadly, the big bookstore on my side of town closed a while back (we miss you Borders!) but there’s still The Twig Book Shop downtown, which supports indie and small press authors as well as the usual big names, and then there’s Barnes and Noble, of course. I met my critique partner at the coffee shop in B&N on many-a-Monday for writing and book chats and I miss that terribly. And the local chapter of SCBWI meets at the Barnes and Noble for events and I wish I were there to celebrate with them! I’m fortunate that there’s such a neat group of writers here in the SCBWI Germany/Austria chapter! I’ve gained several new friends through that group.

 

You also studied to become a children’s or school librarian…was this because you wanted to be a writer? Vice versa?

I think librarianship and writing share several things in common. I love reading and I love books. I also love writing and think that anyone who wants to be a writer needs to read—a lot. I was already writing my own stories when my oldest daughter said, “Mom, you read so much, you should become a librarian.” And I thought, “Oh my gosh, that’s a great idea!” Writing is a wonderful thing, but so is having a steady paycheck. J But there aren’t any librarian positions here at my overseas location, so I’m focused on writing full-time.

 

Are there any important lessons we can expect in Fairy Keeper for young readers?

Hmmmm. I don’t write a story with an eye toward teaching a lesson, but, as with any book I’ve enjoyed, I hope that my book will inspire individuals to think about life or themselves in some new way.   I would hope that readers will consider that if they want to make a difference in the world around them that they first must make peace with themselves and accept who they are, with all their perceived strengths and weaknesses. I hope people can love who they are. And then go after what they want with their whole heart.

 

You have two daughters of your own, did you model your MC after either one of them? Someone to be a role model for your daughters?

I didn’t think of Sierra as a role model at first, honestly. She sort of sprang whole cloth from my subconscious. I think she has some admirable traits, such as her tenacity and loyalty to her sister, but she has a lot to learn about love. She sort of irritates me at times, to be honest. I think the best thing Sierra demonstrates is that it’s a good thing to be able to admit when you were wrong. So I hope in that way, my girls can learn from Sierra. Humbling up is never easy!

Fairy Keeper by Amy Bearce - coverAbout Fairy Keeper

Forget cute fairies in pretty dresses. In the world of Aluvia, most fairies are more like irritable, moody insects.

Almost everyone in the world of Aluvia views the fairy keeper mark as a gift, but not fourteen-year-old Sierra. She hates being a fairy keeper, but the birthmark is right there on the back of her neck. It shows everyone she was born with the natural ability to communicate, attract, and even control the tiny fairies whose nectar is amazingly powerful.

Fairy nectar can heal people, but it is also a key ingredient in synthesizing Flight, an illegal elixir that produces dreaminess, apathy and hallucinations. She’s forced to care for a whole hive of the bee-like beasties by her Flight-dealing, dark alchemist father.

Then one day, Sierra discovers the fairies of her hatch are mysteriously dead. The fairy queen is missing. Her father’s Flight operation is halted, and he plans to make up for the lost income by trading her little sister to be an elixir runner for another dark alchemist, a dangerous thug. Desperate to protect her sister, Sierra convinces her father she can retrieve the lost queen and get his operation up and running.

The problem? Sierra’s queen wasn’t the only queen to disappear. They’re all gone, every single one, and getting them back will be deadly dangerous.
Sierra journeys with her best friend and her worst enemy — assigned by her father to dog her every step — to find the missing queens. Along the way, they learn that more than just her sister’s life is at stake if they fail.

There are secrets in the Skyclad Mountains where the last wild fairies were seen. The magic Sierra finds there has the power to transform their world, but only if she can first embrace her calling as a fairy keeper.

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Goodreads

10176147_1393080960912546_4340356307877669871_nAbout Amy Bearce

Amy Bearce was an Army kid who moved 8 times before she graduated high school.

The one constant in her life was books-particularly fantasy and science fiction-and that hasn’t changed. Despite all the moves, Amy married her high school sweetheart. They met in their junior English class in an American school in Germany in 1991. They have two wonderful daughters and are carefully teaching them to love fantasy and science fiction, too.

A former English and reading elementary and middle school teacher, Amy has recently completed her Masters of Library Science and is excited about a career field with kids, teens, books and technology.

Amy is a homebody with a serious addiction to personality tests, which is not uncommon for an INFP (Myers-Briggs) such as herself. According to the DISC personality test, she is also a perfectionist, a title she hated. She immediately retook the test, changing some answers. When the results came up as Perfectionist again, she took it a third time, changing more answers to get a better result…not even seeing the irony until later.

And yes, the result still came back as “Perfectionist.”

Twitter | Goodreads | Website

Interview with Jason Purdy

Readers of our weekly video game and movie review column The Purdy Perspective may already know Jason Purdy, and today, Curiosity Quills has the pleasure of interviewing Jason about his YouTube gaming channel Polygonasaurus, and the relationship between video-gaming and novels!

 

Thank you for joining us, Jason. Could you start off by telling us a little bit about Polygonasaurus?

Polygonasaurus is YouTube’s only exceptionally average gaming channel, though at times, we strive to be slightly above average. We often fail. We’re essentially three friends and university graduates who love video games – playing them, discussing them, and dissecting them. We release a video every Thursday unless it’s a special occasion, for example, our recent Valentine’s Day extravaganza where we played a pigeon dating simulator. Bronagh, Michael, and I are the mainstays, but we’ve had occasional guests.

 

How did Polygonasaurus as a venture come about?

Michael and I have been huge fans of video games since we were practically in nappies, and when we met through a friend at university we discovered that we were essentially soul mates. Michael was studying Journalism and was already working freelance for a games website, aspiring to become a full time video games journalist. I was doing Media Studies and Production and had the technical knowhow, as well as the gear, to film and edit videos. Polygonasaurus naturally evolved from this happy meeting of circumstances when Bronagh and I moved in with Michael the following semester.

We wanted Polygonasaurus to be an amateur YouTube channel with professional production values. We wanted a regular release schedule, and polished videos that were both funny but also informative. We’ve been going strong for about 9 months now and we’re still having a great time.

 

What could viewers expect if they visit the Polygonasaurus YouTube Channel?

They’d expect to laugh until they die, or at least until they experience minor, non-life threatening injuries. With our weekly schedule we have a few ‘shows’ that frequently crop up. We generally have a one and done approach, we don’t believe in 20 part Let’s Play videos. A single five to ten minute video well edited can give the viewer all the insight they need into a game,

Core Meets Casual pitches Michael or me with Bronagh on the coach. We’re the core (hardcore players) and she’s the casual. It gives a good mix of the perspective of a long time gamer versus someone who’s a little newer to the hobby.

Minute Reviews does exactly what it says on a tin. We get out the stopwatch and one of the trio have a minute to review a game they’ve been playing. We don’t offer a score (how can you quantify goodness with a number?) and reviews often turn into a mad panic to get all the words in.

Polygonasaurus Plays is just that. We play a game, either solo, in a duo, or in a trio.

Inside all of that, expect lots of green screen, Arnold Schwarzenegger references, memes, and fast cuts and nifty editing.

 

Do you think there’s a relationship between video games and novels?

While we don’t often hear about novels being made into games, it seems that nearly every other film that is released is based off a novel, especially in Oscar season. I think that video games and novels have a lot to learn from each other though. Most of my blue sky ideas for video games come from short stories I’ve written. While story telling in gaming is very different from prose on the page, they offer similar perspectives.

The Witcher series and the Metro series are probably the two most notable examples of novel to game right now, and they are remarkably good games. More on that later.

A novel written from the first person invites you into the characters head. A game does the same, expecting you to role play and become a character. Both mediums want you to embody a character, and they invite you to imagine beyond the scenes of a film or television show.

The problem is that gaming is a relatively new medium and you can’t approach it with the tools that work in novels and films. Games like Gone Home and Dear Esther feel like a step in the right direction. They feel like short stories or novellas. Games can draw inspiration from the novel fantastically as well. Lovecraft has inspired a slew of games, which is strange to consider that games as a medium were nearly forty years away at the time of his death. Eldritch, Clockwork Empires, and even games directly based off his canon such as Call of Cthulhu take his strange, impenetrable horror prose and make it into an excellent gaming experience.

It’s interesting to look at the inverse as well. Novels based off games are known for being pretty damn good at times. The Halo novels, the Mass Effect Novels, and even the Gears of War novels are surprisingly good. Developers are investing some real talent and time into their spin off books, because when you spent so much money and effort building a universe, it’d be remiss not to expand it into other mediums and let your fans get their teeth properly sunk into it. Also it makes more money, which is always nice.

 

In your opinion, what’s the best video game adapted from/based on a novel?

This is a tough one, because the category is quite narrow, though it should be much bigger, based on the pedigree of some of the games and novels within. Metro 2033 and its sequel Last Light by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky are fantastic slices of atmospheric, terrifying first person shooter fun in a post-apocalyptic world. Think Fallout, but even darker.

The Witcher video games based on the novels and short stories by Andrzej Sapkowski are fantastic RPGs with a focus on character and morality. The first two games have built deep, engaging worlds with fantastic combat, and the upcoming third game in the series Wild Hunt looks set to up the ante once more. The Witcher offers a realistic dark fantasy world where you are not the hero of heroes, in fact, you’re not even particularly liked. Witchers are mutated, magic toting beast hunters, wanted for their hunting process and little else. It’s a fascinating world to be a part of and retains many of the themes from the fantastic novels and shorts.

To say the best of the best, I have to go back to I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream, the harrowing game based off the equally harrowing short story of the same title, written by Harlan Ellison. The game is set in a bleak world where an evil computer named AM has destroyed all of humanity except for five people, who he has been torturing for the last 109 years. Each survivor has a fatal flaw in their character, and the computer has built a metaphorical adventure for each of them to prey upon their weaknesses and crush their spirits.

To succeed in the game, you must make choices to prove that humans are better than machines, because they have the ability to redeem themselves. In the story, you face a variety of ethical dilemmas, dealing with issues that run the gamut from insanity and rape, to paranoia and genocide.

It’s a point and click adventure made in 1995 that is incredibly dark, and makes the best of the novel by forcing you to be an active participant in the horrible events and terrible lives of the tortured survivors. It also cleverly changes some of the characters and events from the novel, focusing on the individual psychodramas of the characters from the book rather than the exact events.

The game has four endings to reach, only one of which isn’t absolutely horrible. It’s a dark and nuanced gaming experience that makes it clear that gaming’s biggest advantage over other mediums the ability to make choices, even if they end up being essentially futile. This sense of agency can offer much more depth and immediacy to a story. When you get an awful ending, that’s not just the way the book or the film goes, that’s somewhere where you went wrong. Your lack of skill or stupidity caused the death or misery of these characters. Can you live with that, or do you start over and try and do a better job this time? No other medium lets you do that.

 

What games(s) are you currently playing?

I’ve got a good mix on the go at the moment. I’m immensely enjoying Far Cry 4 on Xbox One. It’s just sheer, dumb, fun, and the plot and world are surprisingly compelling. Your quest to overthrow the despicable despot king Pagan Min takes some great twists and turns that make each story mission a thrill, never mind the fact that the core game play loop of traversing the world, discovering new locations and killing enemies is just so dang fun.

I’m also loving Type:Rider on PC. It’s an adventure puzzle game that takes you through the history of typography in an engaging game play experience. It’s an immersive and beautiful game that begs to be played with headphones on, and it makes learning fun, to avoid a cliché. Exploring the history of typography is fascinating and it makes you realize that educational games don’t have to suck. There’s an untapped potential for great games that make great teachers, and Type: Rider will convince anyone of that.

I’ve also been enjoying Betrayer on PC. It’s a strange, first person game with stylized black and white visuals that are immediately striking. The game has heavy horror elements, it’s set in colonial times, and has an immediate what the hell is going on vibe to it that hooks you instantly.

Diablo 3 is on regular rotation with Michael, Bronagh and I. Three player co-op and looting is the purest form of what I love about games. Playing alongside friends in person can never be bettered. Trials Fusion is also great. As is Super Stardust Ultra.

I’m also eagerly awaiting the next episode of Life is Strange and Game of Thrones (the Telltale games series). As usual, I’m playing far too many games at once, and my unplayed Steam back catalogue would make you weep.

 

And finally, what books are you currently reading?

I’m a little more sensible in my reading habits and generally only read one thing at once. I’ve just finished The Exorcist. Before that I was reading Brave New World and Foxcatcher. Now I’m on a bit of a biography trip and am reading Ayoade on Ayoade, the bizarre biographical odyssey by British comedian Richard Ayoade (of IT Crowd fame, and director of Submarine and The Double).

Before that, I really enjoyed Stephen King’s Revival. I’m probably going to check out some more books by William Peter Blatty, because The Exorcist was fantastically written and I need more of that spooky goodness.

 

Thank for your time, it was a pleasure having you visit the site.

Thanks for having me!

photoAbout Polygonasaurus:

Polygonasaurus is YouTube’s only exceptionally average gaming channel. Check back every Thursday for brand new content to enjoy! (Or, alternatively, laugh at.)

Polygonasaurus Online:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Google +

Jason Purdy - Author PicAbout Jason Purdy:

Jason Purdy is 22 years old, from Northern Ireland. In his free time, he enjoys writing, reading, listening to music, watching films and going to the gym. He enjoys video games more than a grown man should. He’s studying for a BA and hopes to do a PhD. Needless to say, he is a glutton for punishment.

His debut novel, Cigarette was released in April 2013 with Rowanvale books. He has also written for a number of short story anthologies, including All Hallows Evil and Undead of Winter. In 2014, he will feature in Curiosity Quills’ The Actuator Anthology with his short story Anna and Lena, and UoU’s Reflexions 2014 collection.

Jason Purdy Online:

Purdy’s Perspective Weekly Column| Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

 

Folklore Friday: Michael Scott

Curiosity Quills recently had the honor of interviewing bestselling Irish author, and collector and editor of folklore Michael Scott.

irish-folk-and-fairy-tales-1

Irish Folk and Fairy Tales, volume 1: published 1983

How did you become interested in Irish Folklore?

I grew up in Ireland, a country where myth and legend were still very real and present. There are stories aplenty of farmers who refuse to dig up certain trees or cut down bushes because they are sacred to the faery folk. And these are not old stories either; when the famous De Lorean car factory opened in Northern Ireland, two fairy thorn bushes were cut down at the entrance to the factory, against the wishes and advice of the locals. They knew there would be trouble ahead!

Ireland’s folklore is very rich and, for the most part, unique to the island. Because Ireland was not invaded by the Romans or conquered by the Greeks, the stories remained pure and were passed down from generation to generation in an unbroken oral tradition. When the Christian monks first arrived they recorded (and both Christianized and sanitized) some of the stories, but a huge body of the material was never translated from the Irish language.

Growing up, I had always been interested in Irish folklore, especially once I discovered its links to Arthurian lore. So much of Arthur’s story can be found in Irish myth. So, I began to collect stories from across Ireland, especially in the West where Irish is still spoken as a native language. I was lucky to be working as an antiquarian and rare book dealer, which allowed me to travel across the country and collect the stories at source. When I came to write my first book, Irish Folk & Fairy Tales, it seemed obvious to put into print stories which either had never before been told in English or to retell the traditional stories in a modern idiom. Sometimes the purists would be offended because I had changed the story slightly, but my argument is that these stories are part of an oral tradition. The travelling storyteller, the shanachai, would have altered and changed the story slightly depending on the audience.

Looking at your past publications, you seem almost perfectly divided between books on folklore and fairy tales and novels, and many of your novels deal with that same folklore. Do you consider yourself to be a folklorist or an author first? Or are the two intertwined for you?

Alchemyst_Nicholas_Flamel

The Alchemyst: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, published 2007

I am a writer who has been very lucky to write about what interests me. I started with Irish folklore, and then branched out into Celtic, then Norse and German lore. Now, my interest encompasses world mythology. My last series, The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, allowed me to explore world folklore and the often startling similarities between stories which are separated by centuries and continents.

Also, every story has its basis in myth. Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey perfectly illustrates that. All the modern superhero movies are based out of mythology – some, like Thor and the Asgardians, very explicitly – while, at the same time creating their own complex myth systems. Humans have always had the need for Gods and Heros and when we cannot find them, we make them up.

I noticed that some of your books on folklore are intended for adults and some aimed more at a YA or children’s audience. How do you accommodate comprehension differences for each, and choose which tales should be told to each audience?

My writing is now split more or less 50/50 between adults and young adults. Writing for a younger audience is really a matter of understanding your audience and, more importantly, understanding what they understand. Younger readers are incredibly sophisticated and have been exposed to a vast amount of media. However, they are still children.

If I say to you, as an adult, Bay of Pigs, you will instantly start thinking about Cuba, Castro and Kennedy. Children, depending on the age, will think: a bay with pigs swimming in it.

So, you have to know your audience. You have to know what they are reading, watching, wearing and listening to. They are incredibly attentive readers and will spot your errors (and then email, tweet and Facebook you!) Adults, in the main, are not so attentive to some of the smaller and subtle details in a novel.

Usually, the subject matter will dictate how I tell a story and for which audience. What I do find interesting are the huge numbers of adults who are now reading Young Adult material. I think adults come to YA because they have found that these are “pure” stories, not overly violent, not explicit and without a political message. They are just stories.

What do you think of mainstream media depictions of Irish folklore? Would you like to see more or fewer of them? I’m thinking recently of The Secret of Kells, but I’m sure there are others that I’ve missed.

For far too long Ireland was thought of as the land of leprechauns and little people, which is a shame, because it is much, much more than that, with one of the richest folklore and legend systems in the world, and an unbroken storytelling tradition stretching back thousands of years. It is a folklore that has fascinated generations of writers. Ireland has four Nobel Prize winners for literature, (Heaney, Beckett, Shaw and Yeats) all of who touched upon the country’s mythic stories. In any roll call of the world’s most important writers, in just about any genre, you will find plenty of Irish representatives. One of the greatest horror creations of all time, Dracula, was created by an Irishman, Bram Stoker.

But the media perception is that Irish folktales are all about leprechauns. And, don’t get me wrong, while there is a vast body of wonderful lore about the Little People. However, if you knew the truth about Leprechauns and the rest of their clans, the Fir Dearg, Fir Dorcha and Cluricauns, you might not be so quick to have them on a breakfast cereal box. Disney has a lot to answer for with the 1959 movie, Darby O’Gill and the Little People. It absolutely enshrined a particular image of Irish folklore – although having said that, some of the imagery is fabulous. Disney’s intentions were good. They wanted to make a movie about Irish folklore and even worked with the Irish Folklore Department for some time before deciding to film Herminie Templeton Kavanagh’s Darby O’Gill and the Good People. We know that Herminie was born in England in 1861 and we know she spent at least one year in Ireland, possibly in 1906 before she married a judge from Chicago. Her knowledge of Irish folklore was extremely limited and there is no evidence that she either spoke or read Irish. She said she got a lot of the stories from her driver and indeed, some of them have a twee touristy fee to them. Unfortunately, however, these are the images which stick.

Mystic_Knights_logo

1990’s children’s fantasy TV series The Mystic Knights of Tir na nOg

There was a program in the late 1990’s called The Mystic Knights of Tir na nOg which was terrible and although it was shot in Ireland, and supposed to be “based” around Irish myth, it showed its Power Rangers roots (and costumes!)

Some fantasy movies have borrowed from Celtic myth: Excalibur, of course, which was shot in Wicklow, south of Dublin. The Lord of the Rings has deep Celtic roots, but then again, JRR Tolkien was also borrowing from Celtic myth for his original creation. Conan (the Schwarzenegger version) has some trappings from Irish myth, and again, his creator, R E Howard, loved Irish myth. Two of his greatest heros, Conan and Bran Mac Morn, are obvious Celts.

What this does mean is that no-one has done it. Yet. But it will happen. Sooner or later Hollywood will discover Celtic myth.

Do you have a favorite fairy/folk tale, Irish or otherwise?

It has to be The Children of Lir, the story of the four children changed into swans by their evil step mother. They spend 900 years as swans before returning to their human form. This incredibly ancient legend is one of the Three Sorrows of Irish Storytelling. My first book for children was based around this legend and it has always remained a particular favorite of mine because it is ultimately the story of trust, family and redemption. You can find examples of the story from all across the world.

Do you have a favorite folk/fairy-related novel or movie?

Far too many to mention. I love big mythic fantasy, especially writers like Charles de Lint and China Mieville, Andre Norton and David Gemmell, Susan Cooper and James Cabell.

But for anyone interested in myth, and its continuing power, then the works of Joseph Campbell are essential reading. Start with The Hero with a Thousand Faces and go on from there.

Tea, coffee, or scotch? 

Tea. I drink endless cups. Strong black tea in the morning, then an Earl Grey in the afternoon and finally, green tea for the rest of the evening.

800px-Hans_Zimmer_2010

German film composer Hans Zimmer

We know from previous interviews that you have a large collection of instrumental music to write to. If you could choose anyone, dead or alive, to compose a writing soundtrack for you, who would it be?

Ah, an easy question. A couple of years ago, I was introduced to a composer I had been following for a decades. His name was Hans Zimmer. I even got to sit in his composing chair in his stunning studio. (Plus, I have the photos to prove it!) At that stage, The Flamel series was already in development as a movie, and we discussed the possibility that he would do the score. His music is essentially another “character” in whatever film he works on and I wrote some of the big set pieces in the Flamel series to his music. However, I know Hans is booked for what seems like the next decade and I’m guessing he’s not going to be available.

I’ve been following the work of a young composer called Bear McCreary since his music first appeared in the TV series, Battlestar Galactica. I’m a big fan of his music and his recent scores for Da Vinci’s Demons is nothing short of stunning. He has just scored Outlander with a great Scottish/Celtic sound and I would love him to score the new Flamel movie. It would be fascinating to see what he would do with the different myths, legends, ethnicities and eras in the story. The finale of The Enchantress was written to his Caprica.

You’ve worked with an array of publishers over the years for your many works. Do you have any knowledge or advice about working with publishers that you can share? Any efforts that really impressed you in particular?

Do your research and choose your publisher. If you are pitching a manuscript or an idea, make sure it is appropriate to that publishing house. The stories of authors pitching a gothic romance to a publisher who specializes in westerns or science fiction to a non-fiction publisher are tongue-in-cheek, but they are also based on a kernel of truth.

Before choosing a publisher, read some of the work the publisher has put out and, if you get a chance, try and talk to the authors. This is especially true if it is a small publisher.

Be professional. Remember, publishers really do want to you walk in the door with the next Stephen King. It is their job to make your good book great. If there are editorial suggestions (and there will be), try to look at them as coolly as possible. I’ve known too many authors who did not work well with editors … and now they do not work.

The Affair, written as Anna Dillon

The Affair, written as Anna Dillon

You’ve published extensively under the pseudonym Anna Dillon. Do you write differently depending on which name will be on the book cover? Do you start books knowing they’ll be either a Dillon or a Scott work? Also, it looks like most Dillon books are out of print in the US – any plans to bring some of them back?

Yes, the Anna Dillon persona is very different and she writes very different books to me. “Anna” was originally created because I wanted to write a big historical novel set in Dublin in the years leading up to the 1916 Easter Rising. Inasmuch as this story focused on the women, my publishers felt that this was Historical Romance and Historical Romances were best written by women. So I started writing as Anna Dillon and soon “Anna” was outselling my other work and was a much more successful author. To be honest, the pseudonym was never that much of a secret.   (It cannot be that much of a secret if “Anna’s” webpages are linked to mine, can it?)

The style of the Anna Dillon novels is different to the Michael Scott work. “Her” books are slower, more character-driven pieces. With the exception of the historical Season’s novels, everything else is contemporary. Many of the Michael Scott books have huge casts of characters; all of the Anna Dillon titles have small casts. The MS books are big, sprawling, and full of fantasy and monsters, the AD books are about real people in real situations.

Yes, Anna continues to write. I am hoping for the new book to appear at the end of 2015 or early 2016

I am often asked what you need to become a writer and is it possible for anyone to be a writer. I really do believe that anyone can write – because writing, just like anything else, is practice, practice, practice. I think this is a great age to be a writer, because there are now so many ways to get your work before the readers.

To become a writer, you need to be a reader. I know this may sound stupid or obvious, but you need to read in as broad a range of genres as possible. One of the first questions I will ask a new writer is what they last read. If they say, “Oh, I’ve no time to read…” Then I know that they will never become a writer.

Writers read.

And writers write. You do it every day. Even if you throw it away the following day, you have to write every day. Writing is all about practice, putting words on paper or screen.

Learn how to type. Do a keyboard skills course, so you can touch type. It is an essential skill and will save your hands endless agony in years to come.

And finally, get a comfortable chair: writing is all about sitting in the chair, putting fingers to keys, or taking pen in hand … and writing.

Mike_promo_picAbout Michael Scott:

Irish-born Michael Scott began writing over thirty years ago, and is one of Ireland’s most successful and prolific authors, with over one hundred titles to his credit, spanning a
variety of genres, including Fantasy, Science Fiction and Folklore.

He writes for both adults and young adults and is published in thirty-seven countries, in over twenty languages.

Praised for his “unparalleled contribution to children’s literature,” by the Guide to Children’s Books, Michael Scott was the Writer in Residence during Dublin’s tenure as European City of Culture in 1991, and was featured in the 2006 edition of Who’s Who in Ireland as one of the 1000 most “significant Irish.”

Find Michael Scott Online:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Youtube | Pinterest | Goodreads | Fan Portal

Folklore Friday Author Spotlight: Krystalyn Drown

As Folklore Friday rolls into it’s third week, we interview the second of our own authors, Krystalyn Drown, the talent behind the amazing young-adult urban-fantasy Legasea.

Thanks for joining us, Krystalyn. Let’s get this interview started …

Legasea, by Krystalyn Drown - CoverDid you always intend to write about selkies? Was Legasea always supposed to have the folklore side to it?

Legasea resulted from a conversation I had with Maggie Stiefvater. We had been talking about selkies, and when she learned my last name was Drown, she said I should be writing about them. The next month, a writing group I was in had a contest to write an original synopsis. I chose selkies and won the contest. Still, it was about 6 months before I actually began writing it.

How did you become interested in Irish mythology?

My mom introduced me to the movie The Secret of Roan Inish. It’s a beautiful story about a little girl whose brother disappears into the ocean and her quest to get him back. The movie had a much more traditional take on the selkie tales where the selkie’s skin was stolen and hidden by a human. She couldn’t return to the sea until she found her skin. In Legasea, I took it a step further. The selkie skins are being poached and sold in an illegal trade.

Do you have any other folklore-inspired books in mind or in the works?

I have a book about Santa Claus coming out in October. Other than that, I’m working on a contemporary novel set in a traveling circus.

Stories of selkies have been around for a long time, but unlike a lot of other folk and fairy tales, they haven’t really been overdone in books, film, and television. Did you take that into account when you decided to write about selkies, or did it just sort of pan out that way? Would you like to see more selkies pop up in mainstream media?

It just happened that way. I’m starting to see more books about them, but they are still scarce in movies and TV.

Do you have a favorite fairy tale? Favorite folk or fairy tale adaptation?

Red Riding Hood. I actually wrote a short story about her where her mother used blood when sewing the red cloak. The blood instilled magic into the cloak to make Red invisible to the wolves.

Krystalyn Drown - Author PicAbout Krystalyn Drown

Krystalyn Drown has spent the past thirteen years working at Walt Disney World in a variety of roles: entertainer, talent coordinator, and character captain. Her degree in theatre as well as many, many hours spent in a dance studio, helped with her job there.

Her various other day jobs have included working at Sea World in zoology, as an elementary teacher, and currently as a support technician for a website. In the evenings, she does mad writing challenges with her sister, who is also an author.

Krystalyn lives near Orlando, Florida with her husband, son, a were cat, and a Yorkie with a Napoleon complex.

Find Krystalyn Drown Online

Facebook | Goodreads | Website

Folklore Friday Author Spotlight: Andrew Buckley

Folklore Friday continues as we interview one of our own authors, Andrew Buckley, the mastermind behind satirical-fairytale/ comedic-fantasy Stiltskin.

Welcome to the site, Andrew. Let’s dive right into the questions …

1) Were you always intending to explore multiple fairy tales, or did that aspect of the book develop as you wrote? Have you always had an interest in folk and fairy tales?

I’ve always been interested in the real fairy tales. I grew up, like most did, with the cute, fluffy singing animals, boy gets the girl, evil people are ugly Disney versions. And don’t get me wrong, I loved them. Still do. However, when I started to discover the source material behind those fairy tales, it was quite enlightening. They were horrific! And awesome 🙂 My interest in them was sparked because they were moral tales that conveyed a clear message that was undiluted. They were dark and sinister and had conclusions that didn’t always result in a happy ending. Being able to combine many different fairy tales into Stiltskin while re-introducing that dark side of the tales was a lot of fun.

2) Did you do a lot of research in terms of the folk and fairy tale aspects of the book?

The more I researched, the more I found, and the more places I found I could fit them into the story. Tweedle Dum/Dee, for example, was a last minute addition. He just fell into place. Others I had already outlined to appear in the story. I also stuck in a bunch of Easter eggs from bits and pieces of other fairy tales that didn’t quite make it into the story. Whether people notice them or not, I have no idea.

3) Does working with the defined plotlines of fairy tales (and twisting those plotlines) make your creative work as a writer easier or more difficult?

It made it easier because I grew up with them and I know the stories well, but it made it more difficult to put a fresh spin on characters that everyone knows. So I guess my answer is yes and no. Creating new unique characters like Niggle and the Humanimals was a lot of fun. Twisting the existing fairy tale characters into very different creatures, even more so. The Mad Hatter, for example, has been interpreted in many different ways – in Batman, in the Burton versions, Ed Wynn in the Disney version, and many more. I really wanted my Mad Hatter to be truly mad, to the point where he’s lost and doesn’t even know what he is. I drew some inspiration from the Joker for his re-modeling and I think he turned out very nice and deranged.

4) Who is your favorite folk or fairy tale author? Did they inspire your writing style?

I actually don’t have a specific one. I could say Grimm but you can follow even those tales back to their roots. Fairy tales are regurgitations of past stories and tales; in some cases they’re a combination of different stories and in many cases there are different endings for the same story in different cultures. It’s a bit of a mess and widely open to interpretation. My personal writing style is heavily influenced by some great comic fantasy writers who can apply their style to anything. Greats like Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, and Christopher Moore are among my favorites.

5) Do you have a favorite fairy tale? (Is it Rumpelstiltskin?)

Rumpelstiltskin stuck in my head for years and years because he was truly scary. In his tale he wanted to steal a baby. What was he going to do with the baby?! Do I have a favorite, though? Not really, they’re all wonderful in their own right.

6) Once Upon a Time and Maleficent have made tidal waves with viewers. What fairy tale or folklore do you predict will be the next ‘big thing’ in television/film?

Well, Riding Hood has been done to death and Alice has already been rebooted. I think they’ll likely go a little deeper and maybe veer away from the main stream fare. Much like they’ve done with Maleficent, I suppose. What a great idea to take a villain and show her story! I’d like to see Rumpelstiltskin represented for the evil little bugger he is on the big screen, but I think we’ll probably see more mash-ups of tales before we see more singular characters emerge.

Thanks for your time Andrew. It was very interesting to see how your own experience with fairytales and folklore shaped Stiltskin.

Andrew BuckleyAbout Andrew Buckley:

Andrew Buckley has been writing steadily since he was six years old when he wrote a story about a big blue dinosaur and received a gold star from his elementary school teacher. He had the good fortune to grow up in England where the sense of humor is rather silly.

In 1997 he moved to Canada because the thought of a country run entirely by beavers was amusing. He attended the Vancouver Film School’s Writing for Film and Television program where he graduated with excellence. After pitching and developing several screenplay projects for film and television he worked in marketing and public relations for several years before venturing into a number of content writing contracts. During this time he abandoned screenwriting altogether and began writing his first novel.

Andrew now dwells happily in the Okanagan Valley, BC with 3 kids, 2 cats, 1 needy dog, 1 beautiful wife, and a multitude of voices that live comfortably in his head. His debut novel The Death, The Devil, and the Goldfish is published by Curiosity Quills Press.

Find Andrew Buckley Online:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Google +

Folklore Friday Author Spotlight: Juliet Marillier

Happy Friday! And it is a very happy Friday indeed, because today guest blogger Holly Erwin has a guest of her own, the one and only Juliet Marillier, Queen of Folklore. She really needs no introduction, so without futher ado- Enjoy!

A note from Holly before we start the interview:

Today is a beautiful day. Today, I get to tell you about my favorite books and author. Ask any avid fan about their favorite series of novels/television/movies, and chances are, they’ll jump at the chance to talk your ear off. I will try to be a little more professional and a little less fangirl for this piece, just because I find it easier to read spotlight articles if they aren’t the ramblings of an obsessed fan. So, here goes.

I first came across Juliet Marillier over 10 years ago, the summer of my twelfth year. I was short on good summer reading, and my school list wasn’t exactly keeping me entertained. After asking my mother for advice, she disappeared into her room and came back with a well-worn paperback titled Daughter of the Forest, which she thrust into my hands saying, “I think you’re for this one.” Immediately diving into the story, I hardly came up for air for two days. I fell in love with the ancient Irish traditions and exceptional character development, not to mention the fantasy thrown in with druidic history. I was hooked.

Daughter of the Forest (Book One of the Sevenwaters Trilogy) was first published in 1999, though my editions of the trilogy were published in 2002-03. Son of the Shadows, the second novel, is unequivocally my favorite, and Child of the Prophecy finishes the original threesome. Since publishing the first three novels, Juliet has continued the Sevenwaters family history with three more novels, Heir to Sevenwaters, Seer of Sevenwaters, and Flame of Sevenwaters. These novels are beautiful continuations of the family and characters, though they are still separate in my mind from the original trilogy.

Juliet Marillier, sevenwaters trilogy, interview, Daughter of the Forest

The idea for the novel stemmed from a traditional fairy tale from the Grimm Brothers called The Six Swans. Juliet’s novel takes the Germanic roots of the story and transports them to Ireland, circa 9th century. We follow Sorcha, the youngest of seven siblings, and the only daughter. It’s a fantastical story of loss and at times a bitter determination—and at the end of the day, centers on sacrifice and family. Sorcha loses her brothers to a sorceress’s spell, but finds a way to undo the magic through a deeper, older source of power her family belongs to. It’s a love story, but also one of loss and deception, and true strength of character.

Son of the Shadows

The second novel follows the next generation of characters in the Sevenwaters family, with familiar faces and names. Liadan has her father’s honor and her mother’s sense of duty—which is put to the test when she’s kidnapped by the Painted Men, a notorious band of mercenaries. As a daughter of one of the region’s most powerful families, Liadan’s disappearance doesn’t bode well for a peaceful alliance. Trust is built and destroyed in the blink of an eye, and Liadan finds herself embarking on a journey she’s not prepared for.

Child of the Prophecy

The forest and stronghold of Sevenwaters is daunting to young Fainne, who journeys from Kerry for an unspeakable task. As the daughter of a sorcerer and the niece of the Sevenwaters leader, Fainne is torn between who she is and who she has the power to become. Family and honor are wrapped in a prophecy she’s only beginning to understand, and safety becomes a murky concept for herself and those she loves most.

What began as a simple piece about my favorite novels has turned into an author spotlight. I was writing about the Sevenwaters Trilogy when I thought, Maybe I can interview Juliet for this piece. It’s only a dream come true to talk with my favorite author and ask her questions that have been rolling around in my brain for a decade—so when she said she’d love to answer my questions, you can imagine that I jumped for joy. Quite literally.

So, without further ado, I give you my correspondence with my favorite author, Juliet Marillier: historical fantasy author extraordinaire. She had the grace to answer of my questions, no matter how oddly specific or ordinarily general. There are not any terrible spoilers, but as I know that everyone who reads this post will immediately go out and purchase the novels and devour them forthwith, I am unconcerned. Read: nothing too climactic is spoiled. Read on if you’ve read the novels and want to know a little more about them, or if you’re interested in a fantastic author who goes above and beyond in the realm of research.


 

Questions about Sevenwaters:

The names in your novels are beautiful. Sorcha, Liadan, and my personal favorite, Diarmid.  Other names are relatively common Irish names – like Conor and Liam – but how did you come across the other, more traditional names? Do they have any significance?

I use books of Irish names to find the more unusual ones, such as Mac Dara (‘son of the oak’). These days I’m careful to choose names that were in use in the historical period of the story. Back when I was writing the first three Sevenwaters books I didn’t realize some of the character names belonged to a later period (after the Anglo-Normans were in Ireland.)

Sorcha’s brothers almost seemed to name themselves – I used up all my favourite Irish men’s names on them! Some names I do choose because of their meaning. The most obvious is Fiacha (raven).

I’ve always been drawn to Simon, from Daughter of the Forest. Was it difficult writing a sad ending for him?

I always find it hard writing the parts where bad things happen to good characters. I don’t see Simon’s ending as completely sad, though – he does go on to marry well and take on a position of leadership (unfortunately he finds that wasn’t what he wanted after all.) I think it’s a realistic ending, and I never thought Sorcha and Simon were a well-matched pair; he is too needy for her. Red is perfect for Sorcha. So what happens for Simon seems almost inevitable. For me, it was much harder to write the scene where Sorcha is assaulted. Traumatic to put down on the page but necessary for the story. Life contains both good things and bad. It’s not always fair, just and balanced, and fiction needs to reflect that.

I’ve always wondered about Colum and Niamh’s life together – Sorcha’s mother and father. Have you ever thought about telling the story of their generation?

It’s been suggested to me that I could write that story. I do have a hang-up about prequels because the reader knows in advance what will happen (for instance, that a member of the central couple dies young.) That makes it challenging for the writer to engage the reader in the characters’ personal journeys. Not impossible, just harder.

Who was your favorite character to write?

From the Sevenwaters saga, probably Bran from Son of the Shadows. Also Gull, Snake, Dog and the rest of the Painted Men!

What was the hardest scene for you to write?

See above – the rape scene from Daughter of the Forest. If I was writing that now I would probably be less graphic. However, I have had positive feedback from readers on the emotional integrity of that scene.

The religious rituals and ceremonies in the Sevenwaters Trilogy are incredibly in-depth. How did you even begin that research?

That’s quite an interesting story! When I started out writing Daughter of the Forest, and decided to make the family pagan rather than Christian, I didn’t know a great deal about pagan/druidic rituals, especially those of the early medieval period. And of course, there isn’t much in the way of written records from that time, as druidic lore was secret and was only shared by word of mouth. I read what I could find, then my research led me to the discovery that druidry is alive and well in the present day. So I began studying with OBOD (The Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, to which I still belong) and found out more about the current practices. For the novels, I had to find a happy medium, based on both my historical research and my practical knowledge. The rituals in the books are neither authentic historical ones (because nobody knows what those were in any detail) nor modern ones, but a blend that reflects, I hope, the philosophy behind a spiritual practice based on humankind’s place in the natural world.

Note: the rituals and ceremonies are almost awe-inspiring in these novels. The detail in which Juliet describes the scenes and histories of the Celtic traditions is simply amazing. Also they’re incredibly unique – I don’t think I’ve ever read a novel which this level research and dedication.

What’s the biggest challenge about writing a novel set hundreds of years in the past?

Making the interactions and relationships between the characters both historically plausible for their time and culture, and also acceptable and relevant for a contemporary reader. Fortunately, in early medieval Ireland women had quite a lot of protection under Brehon law and played a bigger part in society than women were able to do in many other places at that time. That means it’s not quite so implausible for my female characters to take control of their own destiny!

What did you edit OUT of the story?

It’s a while since I wrote the earlier Sevenwaters novels so I can’t answer this in much detail. I do remember being asked by my editor to make Son-of-Shadowsmajor changes to Son of the Shadows. In the original version, Red and Sorcha told Niamh the truth about who Ciaran really was and why they couldn’t marry. The change the editor wanted felt really wrong to me – it was completely out of character for Red and Sorcha to deceive their daughter, even if they were under huge family pressure to keep the unsavoury secret. It was also inconsistent with their approach to Liadan’s pregnancy later. But I was a fairly new author then so I made the changes the editor wanted – if it happened now I would negotiate a compromise that suited everyone. Also in that original version there were long passages in italics (Bran lost in dark visions of his past.) I have learned now that readers hate reading lots of italics and that too much angsty introspection does not make for a well-paced read!

Note: I agree with you completely! I’ve always thought Red and Sorcha’s treatment of Niamh was out of character – Liadan and Niamh both mention that. It’s interesting that it was originally written differently. I wonder if that knowledge would’ve changed Niamh, Ciaran, and Fainne’s lives at all. Huh.


 

Questions about writing:

When was the first time you unequivocally called yourself a writer?

No specific time, it grew on me. I’ve been writing stories since I was a child, though there was a long hiatus while I worked in other jobs and raised my children. But writer as in ‘career writer’ – that would be the day Pan Macmillan offered me a contract for the first two Sevenwaters books.

What are some of the most interesting, weird, or crazy things your readers have told you?

There is an alternative community in Germany where most of the children are named after characters in my books – hearing about that was quite strange, but in a good way. There are also various readers’ dogs and cats named Sorcha, Finbar etc. (None of my dogs is named for a book character but I do have a rather Irish-sounding Fergal.) I’ve had letters from readers in a hard-core survivalist group in the US and from readers doing long-term prison time.

Recently I had a request from the mother of a reader who had headed off on a long work stint at a research station in Antarctica. This reader was most disappointed that she’d still be away when The Caller, third book in my Shadowfell series, was releasedin Australia. My editor arranged for her own advance reading copy (there were so few of these available that even I didn’t get one) to be put on the supply boat, so the scientist would be able to finish reading the series. And she received it safely, so now there’s one of my books at the bottom of the world!

How do you react to bad reviews about your novels?

I find them devastating. Not sure which is most painful, a bad review by someone who knows their stuff and backs up each point with examples, or the ignorant ‘this book sucks’ kind. While I’ve got a little better at dealing with criticism over the years I am still quite thin-skinned about it. I don’t look at reader reviews on Amazon, Goodreads or similar sites for that reason – although there are some well-considered reviews on there, the negative ones would paralyse me. I do read reviews on established book review blogs/sites or in the print media, and if I’m getting the same criticism from several reliable sources I take it on board for future reference. Generally my books are quite positively reviewed – that means the negative reviews really stand out!

What’s your recipe for setting a creative environment? Hot tea with lemon, noisy café, absolute silence?

I write at home and absolute silence is impossible as I have five dogs! But I do like quiet while I work – I don’t have background music playing and I find it hard to concentrate if there are other people around. Tea has to be available whenever required. Earl Grey is my favourite and I drink a lot of it. I am a full time writer – that’s how I earn my living – so I have a fairly consistent routine.

As a woman in the writing industry, have you ever felt marginalized? How, if at all, have you sought to combat that feeling?

I can only speak for the Australian experience and for my own genre. Women writers of fantasy/historical fiction are well respected in the industry here. We have many highly successful female fantasy writers: Trudi Canavan, Kate Forsyth, Isobelle Carmody, Kylie Chan, to name only a few. And there are respected New Zealand writers like Helen Lowe (a David Gemmell award winner) and Karen Healy. Many of the staff at the Australian publishing houses are female, including senior management. Women writers are well represented in the genre awards such as the Aurealis and New Zealand’s Sir Julius Vogel Awards. However, in literary fiction I believe it’s a slightly different situation – fewer female reviewers for the major print publications, fewer reviews of books by women, women writers under-represented in the more prestigious literary awards. That led to the recent establishment of the Stella Award, an Australian award similar to the UK’s Orange Prize, exclusively for women writers.

Do you ever wish you had a career that didn’t require so much creative energy?

Not at all. I’ve had previous careers that required creative energy but were far more stressful (teacher, music performer) and careers that required little creative energy but carried high stress (public service middle manager.) I feel very privileged to be able to earn a living doing what I love best. I do sometimes get tired!

What’s a typical working day like for you? When and where do you write? Do you set a daily writing goal?

8452340I write at the kitchen table on a laptop. I have a perfectly good study complete with desk, but the living area of the house is the only part that is air conditioned, also the dogs like to hang out there and keep me company. And there is tea within easy reach! Generally I get the morning feed/medicate/walk routine out of the way for all five dogs (that means two walks) and then I start work. Late afternoon there’s another dog routine which marks the end of the working day.  When I have a lot of work on hand I write in the evening as well. At less pressured times my working hours are much shorter.

If a deadline is looming or I am falling behind, I set a daily minimum word count or (more likely) a weekly word count. Daily – around 1000 words. Weekly – 7000 words. 10,000 if the pressure is really on.

Not all of my working time is spent actually writing the next book.  I have lots of ongoing related tasks to do: research, answering letters and emails, keeping up with social media (website, Facebook Fan Page, Goodreads author page), doing my accounts, editing, writing short pieces of various kinds, preparing and presenting workshops.

What’s your least favorite part of the writing process?

Revising and editing my own work.

Historical fiction is a popular genre – especially in e-books. What are your thoughts on this? Are you surprised? Why do you write primarily historical fiction?

I’m not surprised at all. Romance is also very popular in e-books too, as is fantasy. Genre readers do tend to gobble up a lot of books, and e-books are really convenient for the avid reader. As for historical fiction being popular in general, I do think readers are fascinated by the past, and a well written historical novel can draw you right into that other world.

I love fairy tales and mythology, and my first novel arose from that love, when I decided to put a real family of individuals into the middle of a fairy tale story. I see my work as historical fantasy rather than historical fiction. Rather than create a whole secondary world as the setting for a story involving magic/the uncanny, I like to place that story in a ‘real world’ setting. I develop the uncanny parts from what the people of that time and culture would have believed in – fey folk, talking animals, gods and spirits sharing the natural world with humankind. It’s harder to incorporate folklore into a modern story, but I guess urban fantasy goes a certain way down that path.

If you got to choose between living in today’s modern society, with all its convenience and perks, or living in the fantasy realm you write about, which would you choose?

I would find it hard to live in a society without modern medical science, where women so often died in childbirth and there was no effective way to fight infection. I guess if I could rely on the Old Ones to appear when required and provide their magical cures, the world of Sevenwaters might be OK to live in.


 

Upcoming Works:

Tell me about your upcoming series, Blackthorn and Grim. It makes me think of the Brothers Grimm…any correlation?

No, there’s no connection with the Brothers Grimm except that chime with the ‘dark fairy tale’ concept. Blackthorn & Grim is an adult fantasy series that combines mystery, fairy tale and human drama. The series is a lot darker and grittier than my previous work and its protagonists are older and more flawed than my usual characters That should make some of my readers happy, as I am occasionally accused of making my central characters too good/strong/courageous/young!

The first book in the Blackthorn & Grim series, Dreamer’s Pool,  comes out in October (Australia) and November (US) 2014. The novel begins with the embittered healer Blackthorn in prison awaiting execution. A mysterious visitor offers her a lifeline – she can be spared provided she agrees to live by certain rules for seven years. Each time she breaks a rule, another year will be added to the term. Since the rules prevent her from seeking vengeance on the man who wronged her, Blackthorn doesn’t believe she can obey them for seven days, let alone seven years. But who wouldn’t lie to save their own life?

I bought Shadowfell a few months ago – but I confess I haven’t read it yet.  What do I have to look forward to in this series? Caller_2

The Shadowfell series has been marketed as a young adult series, but it’s a satisfying read for adult lovers of folkloric fantasy as well – my readers tell me so!  It’s an epic story of rebellion and tyranny set in an alternative version of ancient Scotland, and has a big cast of uncanny characters and a lot of magic. The three books are Shadowfell, Raven Flight and The Caller.

The Caller is available in Australia and New Zealand now. The US edition, a Knopf hardback, will be released on September 9. It will also be available in e-book.

Magic and ancient Scotland? Now I remember why I bought Shadowfell (other than seeing Juliet Marillier on the cover)! It sounds right up my alley – I’m interested in seeing the contrasts between the Shadowfell series and my beloved Sevenwaters. I promise to keep an open mind! Looking forward to it already.

Thanks so much Juliet and Holly for taking the time with us today. Everyone, if you haven’t read the Sevenwaters Trilogy yet, we obviously highly recommend it. If you have questions about folklore, the trilogy, or even about Juliet, tweet them to @CuriosityQuills using #FolkloreFriday and we’ll try to answer as many as we can. Don’t forget to check out Juliet’s upcoming release, Dreamer’s Pool!