Originally posted on Renee's Author Spotlight:
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About the Book
A zealous guardian in a peaceful city, Gentry Mandrake is a fairy unlike any other. Cast out and hated for his differences, his violent nature makes him wonder at the purity of his soul. He hunts for belonging while fighting to protect the human child bound to him. Explore the mythical realm of The Veil, the grating torture of the Sulfur Fields, and the biting tension between power and purpose in this wondrous struggle against a demonic wizard and his denizens. Can Mandrake overcome such terrible foes to defend those he loves?
Keep reading for an interview with the author:
Why did you decide to be a writer?
I had to do something with telling stories. They were there, unwilling to go away, needing to be expressed, and I couldn't walk away from that. I had been writing since fifth grade, but it wasn't an easy choice. For a long time, there was a block in my head, and I couldn't draw the two lines together. Now, looking back, it's the only thing that makes sense. I should have seen it coming from a long way off. But it took awhile to pair together needing to tell the stories and writing them.
What inspires you to write?
My characters themselves have always been inspiring to me. I watched a documentary once about storytelling. It said everything starts with the character. If you write a good character, a strong character, an interesting character, fascinating stories will pour out of them. I think it was a Disney documentary. I think it was about Belle and the Beast. Don't quote me on that.
If you could choose an author to be your mentor, who would it be?
Oh, that's easy. My choice would be Robert E. Howard, hands down. He wrote in the 1920s, created the character Conan. He was one of the formative voices of the fantasy genre. His work has a vitality to it that is rare. The page sweats. He was terribly disturbed, didn't do well in crowds, pretty much hated people. He was obsessed with his work. He was a genius. He never would have given me the time of day. But if I could choose anyone, if I could hold a gun to his head, it would be Robert E. Howard.
What is the biggest obstacle you face as an author and what do you do to overcome it?
The biggest obstacle for me, hands down, is typing. I developed horrible habits when I taught myself to type, and my list of bad habits continues to grow—things like the word "one" turns into "on", "and" becomes "adn", and I just keep on moving. When I'm done, the end product is barely legible. It's sloppy and horrible, but I have a translator. She's a cute little thing that I married. She's been reading my bad typing for so long, she speaks my brand of typo. She reads back what I write every day, normally with no problem. But every now and then, she'll get a puzzled look on her face, and squint at the screen, with no idea how those particular letters are supposed to form a word.
What is the best compliment you've ever received as an author?
This happened the other day. I was in my Tuesday writers' group. One of its members, a brilliant poet named Charlotte Hegg, asked me if I'd ever been compared to Faulkner. I almost wet myself. She was talking about world-building and how his life's work was primarily in one particular county in the South. His stories overlapped, his world developing with every tale. My work has the same features. If you read my work long enough, it all interweaves. I'm still high from the Faulkner comment. It's going to be a long time before that one fades.
What is the worst writing advice you've ever received?
Take a break. I was told this many times by well-meaning friends and family. Maybe I need to stop, slow down, walk away for awhile. I look at them and smile, say, "I'll consider it." But it's just not going to happen. I've been on a roll for six years, and it doesn't look like it's going to come to an end. I'm always working on a book. I write almost every day. If I don't have a plan for the day's writing, I write anyway. If I'm lost in a book, and I don't know where to go next, I go from a walk to a run, throw myself into the work headlong. The only way for me is reckless and wild, the only way to write is right on the edge of out-of-control.
What book or series do you enjoy reading over and over again?
The quick and easy answer is the Cthulhu work by H.P. Lovecraft. But lately, I've been enjoying Steven Erikson's Malazan series. I'm working my way through it a second time. The man is just brilliant. You can smell the blood. The world is well-formed, which makes sense, since he was an archaeologist for many years, studied civilizations and their fall. In my opinion, he's a genius. His work is not easy; you have to earn it. But he never flinches. No matter how dark or disturbing an idea is, he will hammer it out on the page, unapologetically. I respect that. It's very easy when you're writing to say to yourself, "This is too extreme. This doesn't fit in anyone's zone of comfort. I better not do this." It's the true artist that beats that tiny voice mercilessly and puts the work on the page as it was inspired. There are a lot of people doing that now. George R.R. Martin is not afraid of his own darkness. Glenn Cook's Black Company series doesn't hold back. But I think that Erikson is the most devout to the religion of uncompromising exploration into the shadows of the fantasy realm.
What fears do you have about writing and being an indie author? How do you cope with your fears?
The main fear that comes with being an indie author is quality. For years, I tried to publish Liefdom, and finally came to the conclusion that the concept is too bizarre to take a chance on. When Grisham wrote A Time To Kill, no one was interested in publishing a book that took place primarily in a courtroom. Didn't sound exciting enough. It was a hard sell, and he had to self-publish. Such is the way with Liefdom. Liefdom is about a fairy warrior, a brutish, aggressive, violent fairy. Those things don't go together. It's a wild idea no one was ready to take a chance on. It got to the point where it was either publish the book myself, or let it rot in a closet. I believed in the story too much to let that happen, so I published it myself. I might be wrong, but I think all indie authors suffer from self-doubt on some level. That's just my opinion.
Are you a pantser or outliner?
Oh, I'm a pantser. I've never heard that term, but the moment I heard it, I knew exactly what you were talking about. I'm too wild for an outline. I need to rush into the dark and find out what's out there, one step, one breath at a time. When I'm looking at a map, I can see the entire journey and every stop along the way. I get bored. I need to feel the rush of the wind as I'm running. I need to stumble and fall, skin the knees of pride as an idea falls flat or a page needs to be deleted. It's an adrenaline thing for me. But when I reach out, when I run, it's always there. The ground never drops out from under me. Or, at least, it hasn't so far.
How do you come up with the titles for your books? Do you find it difficult?
So far the titles of my books, with the exception of a short story collection, have been the names of cities. My world is pretty detailed. Each city has its own feature. I believe no city in the world is exactly the same as another. Bangor, Maine has a completely different feel than Providence, Rhode Island. Every town has its own sweat, its own odor, that rises up from its streets. My world is no different. The title Liefdom comes from the name of the capital city of the fairies. In October, I'll release a book called Chaste. It, as well, is the name of a city. The line of my books reads like an atlas, at least, the books in this epoch. In another time, in another age of my world, that may change. But for now, all my books are named after the cities they take place in on the continent of Perilisc.
Have you ever wanted to put one of your characters together with a character from one of your favorite novels? What characters would you choose and how would their meeting go?
I've always wanted Aaron the Marked to fight Conan the Cimmerian. Conan was the ultimate warrior. Robert E. Howard called him the damndest bastard that ever lived. He was brilliant and brutal, a king, the perfect man. Aaron the Marked is disturbed and dark, riddled in self-doubt, emotional, trembling on the verge of control. I'd like to test him. I'd like to set this broken soul against the greatest warrior ever written. If he could stand his own, I think it might heal him.
Have you ever gotten an idea for a story from something really bizarre? Tell us about it.
I had a twisted movie night. I'm bipolar. I have a rapid cycling form of bipolar that allows me to be up and giddy one moment, dark and angsty the next. So, one day, I watched A Midsummer Night's Dream, the one with Michelle Pfeiffer and Stanley Tucci. It was bright and cheery, frolicky and funny. It was exactly what I needed at that moment. I walked away from the TV for five minutes, after the movie was over. When I came back, I needed to see something bleed. My mood had plummeted, and I threw in Die Hard 3, because nobody bleeds better than John McClane. It was beautiful in another way, exactly what I needed at that moment. When I was done, my head was swirling with fairies and cynical, out-of-control protectors that just needed to punch something, and boom, pop, Gentry Mandrake, my warrior fairy, was created.
Do you have any advice for other authors?
Write all the time. The more you write, the more you train yourself to write. I heard once that a habit takes 21 days to form. I was quitting smoking. I was trying to form the habit of not dragging on a cigarette. First 21 days were horrible. If any of you have been there, you know. After that, it was easier. It's the same thing with any activity. Writing's just a habit you have to form. The more you do it, the more you train yourself to do it. When I'm done with this interview, I'll go to my office and write 3,000 words. I won't stop until every word has been written. It's a habit now. When I hear the clack of my super-loud keyboard, my brain says, "Oh, we're doing this now," and it takes off. So, form the habit. Train yourself to write every day. Pablo Picasso said, "Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working."
Do you have anything specific you'd like to say to your readers?
To my readers, I'd like to say, stay tuned. Liefdom is a strong beginning, but it is by no means an end. So far, I have written rough drafts for 17 other books. I write a few books a year, and have plans for enough books to publish two a year until 2050. I've got a lot more to say. You're going to hear more from me.