Chat with Jean Gill

 

I recently fell in love with audio books and the 2nd one I listened to was Song at Dawn: 1150 in Provence (The Troubadours Quartet) by Welsh author Jean Gill. To say I was enthralled wouldn’t do it justice. Once I accustomed by ear to the narrator’s thick brogue (Scottish/Irish?) I was pulled into a world so totally foreign to me I hung on every word, wondering how much was history and how much was fiction. I still don’t know, but it doesn’t matter. I believed every word.

 

Jean—tell us a little about yourself

I’m a Welsh writer and photographer now living in the south of France with two scruffy dogs, a Nikon D750, a beehive called Endeavour and a man. We escaped the rain in 2003 when my husband retired and I took the chance to write full-time. My claim to fame is that I was the first woman to be a secondary headteacher in Wales and I loved my work. If only you could lead 10,000 lives! I’m also mother or stepmother to five children so life was very hectic.

Five? Wow—I had trouble keeping up with one. Now I have two grown steps and two grandkids, so there are times my house is overflowing.

What genre(s) do you write in? Is there one you’d like to try?

I started as a poet (traditionally published) then turned to prose when I was forty. I had an idea for a second-chance romantic novel and was determined to complete it. That same year I decided to give up sugar, which was harder than writing the novel. No Bed of Roses was not only completed but published by Gomer, which motivated me to continue writing novels.

Since then I’ve written historical fiction, a dog book, YA fiction, memoir, military history and a cookbook. I’ve also translated dog training books and a biography of Edith Piaf from French to English.

I love that you follow your heart.

Not to mention the time I won a place on a HTV course in writing for television and spent a couple of years writing scripts and submitting them to various theatres and television companies. I reached the second round for a job as an Eastenders scriptwriter. The British TV soap was the highest-paying job in script writing but thank goodness I didn’t get it – I’d have had to watch an episode 😊

Although I know that commercially it’s better to stick with one or two genres, stories find me and insist on being written, in whatever form suits them best, so I follow my capricious muses into whatever adventures they lead me.

I totally understand. Reading or writing only one type of story would get boring. Like you, for me, the muse wants what the muse wants. When I try to force her to stay on the path, she sits in the corner and sulks, saying, “No words for you.” When I give her the lead, magic happens.

Perhaps you wouldn’t be surprised to know that after nineteen books in different genres, I do have ideas for other genres and might surprise my fans in the next couple of years. I’ve been asking my readers what they would like me to write next and a frequent reply is ‘fantasy’. They will get their wish! As fantasy is my favorite genre as a reader, I think the move is what one reader called ‘a natural sidestep’ from The Troubadours Quartet, which has been described as ‘Game of thrones with real history’.

I’m a huge GoT fan, and yes, I think your reader is correct. I often thought of that series while listening to Song at Dawn.

Do you write to music/create play lists?

I often listen to music when I write, a wide variety, from Metallica to 12th century troubadour songs. As the troubadours have been described as ‘the rock stars of the middle ages’ I think my penchant for heavy rock sets the atmosphere for writing just as well as my much-loved collection of medieval music.

That’s interesting. I find I can’t write if music with words is playing. The lyrics create story ideas and it’s hard to focus on what I’m already writing. I have an entire novel plotted out based on a song I heard one day. In a flash, the story appeared.

If you travel, what was your best (or worst) experience?

In the last few years I have been privileged to learn from several professional photographers as I improve (I hope!) in my own work. Thanks to my contributions to Getty and istock collections, I’ve met fellow-contributors online and some of us have managed to meet up and shoot together. These meet-ups have been amazing for my professional development and fun for the friendships formed. There are so many photographers I admire, and have worked with, that all these occasions have been special, from my first shoot led by brilliant lifestyle photographer Nils Kahle, in Bad Aussee, Austria to one I organized in Paris.

The shoot in Paris was special because of a previous disappointment. I’d set up a shoot in Malta for a dozen photographers, with top fashion photographer Kurt Paris. Two days before we were due to travel, my husband was rushed into hospital for an emergency appendectomy, so I had to cancel. Obviously I missed the shoot.

Oh no. I’m so glad it wasn’t more serious, but still…an emergency is just that.

When Getty Images set up an event in Paris (which is only a three-hour train ride from home) I asked Kurt if he would come so I could achieve my ambition and watch him at work. Three other photographer friends said they’d join us, so we had our own shoot the day before the Getty event. I hired four models for the day, chose the location (under the Pont Neuf) and we had a great time. I finally got to watch Kurt work and, what’s more, a photographer friend from Wales was with me to celebrate her birthday in Paris. That is what I call fun!

Sounds delightful. I’ve often thought I would enjoy travel writing and photography, but then I go on a long trip (the last was Africa—Tanzania and Rwanda in 2017) and realize I’m a homebody at heart. I love to travel, but couldn’t do it all the time.

Tell us about your latest work

The Troubadours Quartet is now complete. The story begins in Song at Dawn, Book 1. Here’s what reviewers have said:

‘One of the best historical novels I’ve read in a long time.’ Paul Trembling, Dragonslayer

‘Believable, page-turning and memorable.’ Lela Michael, S.P. Review

Historical Novel Society Editor’s Choice Book 1 of the award-winning Historical Fiction series The Troubadours Quartet
Winner of the Global Ebooks Award for Best Historical Fiction
Finalist in the Wishing Shelf Awards and the Chaucer Awards


1150: Provence
On the run from abuse, Estela wakes in a ditch with only her lute, her amazing voice, and a dagger hidden in her underskirt. Her talent finds a patron in Aliénor of Aquitaine and more than a music tutor in the Queen’s finest troubadour and Commander of the Guard, Dragonetz los Pros.

Weary of war, Dragonetz uses Jewish money and Moorish expertise to build that most modern of inventions, a papermill, arousing the wrath of the Church. Their enemies gather, ready to light the political and religious powder-keg of medieval Narbonne.

Set in the period following the Second Crusade, Jean Gill’s spellbinding romantic thrillers evoke medieval France with breathtaking accuracy. The characters leap off the page and include amazing women like Eleanor of Aquitaine and Ermengarda of Narbonne, who shaped history in battles and in bedchambers.

What inspired The Troubadours Quartet?

I was reading medieval troubadour poetry, which was composed in the area of France where I live, and I came across this sentence in an introduction. ‘Rumour says that there was a female troubadour touring the south of France with a big white dog.’ As a poet and fan of Great Pyrenees dogs, how could I not write this woman’s story?!

I’ve seen pictures of your dogs—they are amazing and mystical in themselves. So, do you think the rumor was true?

Tell us about your two main characters? Were they inspired by real-life?

Dragonetz is a master troubadour and a master swordsman, a born leader who has honed his talents through experience and hard work, but who is afraid of his own effect on others.

Like his Damascene sword, Dragonetz was forged in the Holy Land. In the disastrous Second Crusade, he was Commander and troubadour to Eleanor of Aquitaine, and his idealism died in the war although he did not. Racked by guilt, he tries to keep others at a distance, for their own sake.

And then he forgets, driven by his own passions; for the invention of a watermill, for a crazy tournament against a Viking Prince; for a woman.

Like Estela, I am fascinated by this complex man and I want to keep up with him, be his partner in song and in love. Like the men who ride with him, I would follow him without question. He is that rare being; a charismatic leader who never loses his sense of responsibility, his quest for what is right and honourable. He lied to himself. His idealism never died; he just learned to hide it.

Estela is a girl on the run from an abusive family, who is determined to become a troubadour. She is young and unformed when she sings to save her life at the start of Song at Dawn but her beautiful voice and musical talent affect anyone who listens.

It was a joy to watch Estela grow in the four books, from an awkward girl into a woman I admire tremendously. As a girl, she is unaware of her beauty, finding fault with her unfashionable olive skin and curves, and she is unaware of her effect on men. Her discovery of what it means to be a (medieval) woman is a journey that faces her with challenges and questions and her choices are inspiring.

I spent a year on research before writing each book and was both amazed and angry at what fulfilling professional lives many medieval women pursued in Occitania (now southern France). They inherited titles in their own right (Eleanor was the ruler of Aquitaine, a duchy bigger than the kingdom of France) were doctors, philosophers, bakers – and troubadours. This made me angry because I’d accepted the notion of medieval women as submissive wives, whose sole purpose was childbearing, and it’s just not true. There were such roles for women but there were also daring, talented, powerful figures in history. In The Troubadours Quartet you’ll meet Ermengarda of Narbonne, The Queen of Jerusalem, and Stephania of Les Baux – all rulers in their own right.

Estela’s character remains true to my research and everything she does was possible in that time and place – and brings history to life!

I love that you spent so much time researching. It really bugs me when authors don’t take the time to get the details accurate. Yes, we write fiction, but all fiction holds a kernel of truth. Getting those kernels right makes the entire story believable.

What is the most special thing a reader has said about The Troubadours Quartet?

I have to mention two readers who have gone far beyond most fan activities. Writer Anita Kovacevic is a big Troubadours fan and as well as reviewing the books on her blog.  https://anitashaven.wordpress.com/?s=song+at+dawn&submit=Go

She has created beautiful adverts with quotes from the books, which she has tweeted while she was reading each book. She’s in the middle of reading the last book so my fingers are crossed that she likes it! Here are a couple.

 

 

 

 

Another keen supporter is author and blogger Brian Wilkerson, of Trickster Eric Blog. He created a page for Song at Dawn on TV Tropes. I was touched that somebody would put in so much work for my book and I think writers can get interesting ideas from the way that the TV Tropes site analyses books.

 What are you working on now?

I was invited to write a short story on the theme of the Black Death for an anthology by ten historical novelists and I have just finished my contribution. I chose Venice in 1567 and the death of a very famous painter. I was determined not to make it miserable, despite the plague background. We’ll see what readers think when the book comes out and I can’t wait to read the others’ stories!

 

 Questions of interest to other authors

 What is the best author resource you can recommend?

For Indie authors I highly recommend Alli membership, which not only offers trustworthy information on publishing and services, but also gives discounts with recommended partners, editors, cover designers and marketing services. The Facebook forum is a closed group where you get answers immediately to all the tricky questions that can arise, from experts.

 

I second that. I love Alli and have been a member for about two years. I’m still learning and they are still helping. Truth be told, they are even a good resource for traditionally published authors. Even they have to do a lot of book promotion and marketing and some of the info Alli provides crosses publishing choices.

 Do you hide secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

Yes 😊

Hahaha—so now I’m wondering what I might have missed.

How do you select names for your characters?

I have written a whole blog post on the subject of names in The Troubadours and didn’t even cover how Nici the dog gained his name. For real characters I still have choices to make between the different spellings and versions in different languages. In Song at Dawn four of the real historical characters were all called Raymond, so I used their titles and nicknames to distinguish between them, as well as the different possibilities of Raymond – English; Raimon – Occitan and Ramon – Catalan. For the audiobook, I asked the narrator to pronounce them all differently.

Ah, NOW I understand. At first I was confused, wondering why the difference. I realized quickly that they were different characters, so the narrator did a great job on that.

Eleanor of Aquitaine was born and raised as Aliénor and, as my book is set in what is now France, I kept to the French name for her.

For fictional names, I use online suggestions for medieval names but I also search by nationality/region and by faith background. Lord Dragonetz los Pros is an Occitan name Dragon, which has pleasing fantasy vibes, with the suffix etz, meaning ‘little’, like the French ette or the American Junior. Los Pros is ‘the Brave’ in Occitan and such a nickname was a common medieval device, useful when there were so few given names!

Thank you for clearing that up. Not being French, I made an assumption (a correct one) that it must be like Junior.

A medieval Jew living in Provence would have had a Jewish name and the Moors would have had Arabic ones, so I checked the structure of these names and languages. Every character name has a historical background.

I absolutely loved the Moorish character (his name escapes me, but I recall it being perfect for him) and was totally surprised by his role.

And the dog is called after the Occitan word for ‘useless, stupid’ because Estela, his mistress, is taking out her feelings about herself on the dog when she names him. When she ran away from her abusive family, Nici followed. He’s a Great Pyrenees who was ‘useless’ at his job of guarding sheep, and who follows Estela as her great protector. Neither of them are useless, far from it.

Jean, I’ve enjoyed our little chat. It’s so great to have another author to add to my favorites list.

 

Bonus! The Troubadours Quartet Boxset was just published on kobo only.

https://jeangill.com/books/the-troubadours-quartet-boxset/

 

 

Where can people find you?

Contact jean.gill@wanadoo.fr

Sign up for Jean’s Newsletter http://eepurl.com/AGvy5

Youtube Channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPvXZBW-VLBibveKhXA-QZQ

IPPY Award-winning ‘Best Author Website’ www.jeangill.com

Blog www.jeangill.blogspot.com

Twitter   https://twitter.com/writerjeangill

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/writerjeangill

The Troubadours Page https://www.facebook.com/jeangilltroubadours

Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4619468.Jean_Gill

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/writerjeangill/

Interview with Joseph Y. Roberts

Today, I’m interviewing Joseph Y. Roberts. Joseph has written a series of short stories and novellas that revolve around a single, central character—Jacob Vanderhoek. I find them fascinating because they take place in South Africa in the 1970’s, during a time of great racial turbulence. Jacob is a new Selous Scout—a shadowy Special Ops regiment of the Rhodesian military. The setting and character arc keeps me reading as Jacob grows from a young, and decidedly racist recruit, to a changed man tortured by his life as a Scout.

The first story in that series is Bright Light, Dark Heart.

Joseph—tell us about yourself.

I was born in the late fifties in San Pedro, the harbor suburb of Los Angeles. I grew up there in the sixties when it had a small town feel despite being a part of the L.A. metropolis. Because of that, I like to call myself a “small town boy from a big city.”

I spent many years working as a newspaper graphic artist building display ads. When you work at a newspaper, you learn the ins and outs of human behavior, especially those of your coworkers. My hobby of tabletop role-playing games honed my understanding and drafting of character backstory and portrayal. (Yes, I am a reformed gaming geek. I know what a D20 is.) Through those years, I also wrote and shared opinion essays on LiveJournal. These experiences and interests paved the way to becoming a writer, something I suspect may be common among writers.

About two years ago, I relocated to the Pacific Northwest to be closer to family. I’ve always loved forested land and rain, so I believe I was born for this region. By moving here, I feel I fixed some kind of cosmic mistake. In short, I have arrived where I need to be… for now.

I love that area, but I’d be a statistic—not enough sun for me. But it sure is beautiful.

 

How long have you been writing seriously?

Going on four years. When I became permanently disabled and was forced into early retirement I no longer had anything constructive to do. To pass the time, I found myself daydreaming to songs on the radio. One song in particular, Africa by Toto, became a recurring daydream that grew in detail every time I indulged in it. I came to love visiting it and became attached to its central character, an adventurer from South Africa. So obsessed, I decided to write the daydream down. Thus, I wrote my first Jacob story, the novella “Zimbabwe.” More ideas followed based on Jacob and I was hooked. I’d always wanted to be a writer. With this turn of events, I decided to make a go of it.

 

What do you like to do for fun?

Well, on Sunday nights I like to listen to “Floydian Slip” on the radio while indulging in a craft beer or a cider. (Highlight of my week.) Overall, cruise Pinterest, listen to music on Pandora, and toy around with my role-paying games (even though I don’t have any players at the present). Once the weather warms up a tad more, I’ll start taking walks again.

 

Do you write to music/create play lists?

Since my current writing career was born from daydreaming to music, absolutely yes! I’ll either pick a playlist that reflects the mood or genre of the story I’m working on, or I will select a theme song for the story. For example, for the novella “Mozambique,” it’s “Brothers In Arms” by Dire Straits. For the novelette “Scars,” it’s “Get Together” by The Youngbloods. I often listen to Pink Floyd songs to get deeply in touch with my emotions for writing purposes.

I’ve found I can’t write with music on if it has words. I tend to sing along.

 

Who are your favorite authors? Have they influenced your style?

Mostly the Sci-Fi writers I enjoyed reading back in the Seventies: Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, Larry Niven, Frank Herbert, and George R.R. Martin. Later, I became a fan of Robert E. Howard, Richard Brautigan, and Clive Barker. Now, not all have influenced my style, but they do inspire me in other ways. They all taught me things.

Misters Bradbury and Martin taught me to imbue my tales with hearts and souls. Mr. Martin also taught me that a powerful story does not require a happy ending. Niven and Clarke inspired me to write SF and that, no matter how advanced technology becomes, humans will still have flaws. Mr. Howard taught me the joys of a rollicking adventure and that a writer need not be chained to one genre. Mr. Brautigan taught me not to take this all too seriously and that it’s okay to cut loose once in a while and be the madcap.

I haven’t yet expressed all these influences, but they are there, lying in wait in my head.

 

What inspired “Dragonfly?”

Like some of my other Jacob stories, it was born of my interest to follow up on characters that appeared in earlier stories. In this case, to explore what became of the helicopter pilot in “Scars.” It was also my way of addressing the issue of homeless veterans and the struggle with drug addiction. The latter topic gained a personal dimension when a family member passed away, possibly due to an overdose, during the writing. The story has a greater meaning for me than it did when I first conceived it.

Really good stories have a way of doing that. I appreciate you tackling that topic as I also lost a loved one to addiction last year.

 

Tell us about your two main characters? Were they inspired by real-life?

That’s easy, Dragonfly has only two main characters. The protagonist, Jacob Vanderhoek, is my prime recurring main character, the star of the series. He’s my flawed hero: noble in intent, but faulty in execution. A man raised in a hyper-masculine environment, who proves to be too empathetic to remain that way. As for inspiration from real life, I gave him some of my own traits, but far from all. He’s not my alter ego, by a long shot.

Adrian “Dragonfly” Thackerey, the title character, isn’t based on any one real person. But his statements about drug addiction, and about heroin in specific, are drawn from things friends who were addicts have said to me.

Their banter was inspired by similar exchanges between myself and my male friends.

 

What is the most special thing a reader has said about Dragonfly?

Pamela Murray said: “Very well constructed, the characters jump off the page, they are so real. I hope to have a chance later today to finish it, SO intriguing!” I suspect I can count her as a fan, eh?

 

What are you working on now?

My historic novel about the Second Boer War. It’s been in progress for the last three years, and I’ve entered the final stages for release (editing to be specific). When it is, it will be my first novel.

 

Dragonfly Book Blurb:

Johannesburg 1999. Not all battles are fought in the field between armies arrayed side to side. Some are fought inside, where no one can see, a war of the soul. Every conflict has a victor, but it must also have its vanquished.

Jacob must help an old friend from long ago find his way. Does he have the resources to succeed? Can he defeat an enemy he neither sees nor understands?

Where can readers find out more?

Facebook author page

Amazon author page

Smashwords author page

Joseph, thank you for your time and for sharing with us. I look forward to your future efforts.

Interview with Lisa Hofmann

Today, I’m interviewing Lisa Hofmann, who lives and writes in Germany. I got the surprise of my life this past fall when I read the first two books in her Medieval Fantasy Dies Irae series – Stealing the Light (which won an Honorable Mention in the 2016 Writer’s Digest Self-Published E-Book Awards) and Into the Dark. Surprised because I haven’t read much in this genre and I was truly blown away at Lisa’s story-telling abilities. I’m normally a slow reader and I flew right through both. I can’t wait for book three and after our interview, I’m anxiously looking forward to Trading Darkness.

Lisa, Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m 41 years old and a summer person, who loves traveling, art, music, and cats. I’m an independent writer, which means that I don’t sell my work to a publishing house, but instead market directly to my readers.

I don’t do this because my manuscripts were ever rejected by a publisher. I just never submitted anything to an agent or publisher simply because I don’t believe this would work for me at this point in my life. I’m basically a very stubborn person, and I feel a strong need to retain my independence in my creative expression. Holding all rights to my work and having full control of what I do with it is very important to me, and I love that what was unthinkable twenty years ago is actually possible nowadays with e-books and print-on-demand.

Going it alone is hard work, but luckily, I have a wonderful, supportive family who can live with the fact that I chose to handle it this way. They are the kind of people who will tiptoe around me while I’m editing, and sometimes even throw food at me when I’m sitting at my desk in front of my laptop drafting new material. I sit there a lot because I’ve always been a workaholic, and I treat both of my professions with a lot of dedication.

As an Indie Author myself, I completely understand. Thank you for sharing that with our readers.

 

You said both professions? So you don’t write full-time? What kind of job do you have, and does it play any role in your stories?

In all honesty, I wish I could write full-time, but I’m afraid I have to work long hours in my day job to ensure my cat can continue to lead her decadent life of luxury…

No, seriously, most independent writers can’t live on what they earn from their books. Many, many authors who write for publishing houses can’t, either, for that matter. But, since I’m my own publisher, I also have costs to cover that non-Indies don’t have, such as editing, cover art, and formatting, and unless I sell a certain number of books, I have to live with the fact that those costs may exceed the earnings from the works I produce. Until I can manage to achieve a steady income from my books, I’ll just have to work in two jobs, really. That can be tough, sometimes, but did I mention I’m a stubborn person…?

Whether or not my day job has ever played a role in my stories, I can’t really say. I don’t think it has, at least not directly. But I work in a social profession, so I’m always around people during the day, and I believe that has some influence on how I look at things and the way I write, as opposed to if I lived in seclusion or worked in an office job as an accountant or whatever with little or no customer contact. I actually worked in an office job in my early twenties for a time, and soon realized that’s not for me. I was bored to death.

Life is about achieving a balance, and although I often find myself having to meticulously organize my days around my family and those two jobs, I also think it makes me go about my writing extremely consciously. I use the time I spend on it well, I think, and I can’t say I’ve ever sat in front a blank screen for hours, wondering what to write – I sit there for just under a minute, wondering what to write first before I start typing like the devil was at my heels.

Why do you write, and how long have you been writing seriously?

I’ve been writing seriously for about three years now. I always dreamed about writing, and I was that kid in school who was always asked to read her essays aloud, but it wasn’t until a friend started encouraging me a few years ago that I considered actually publishing something of mine. It started out as a hobby to help me to cope a little better with the stress of my day job, but I soon found myself communicating with other writers. Somehow, one thing just led to another, and here I am.

I published my first two novels and several short stories in 2016, and my new book is coming out this summer.

Who are your favorite authors? Have they influenced your style?

I read a lot of different things. What and how I read has changed over the years since audio books have become more affordable, e-books are easy to take along anywhere on my phone, and works by Indie authors have become readily available. But I still try not to miss anything new by Dean Koontz, Stephen King… and… here goes: Cornelia Funke. A children’s book author, I hear you say in bewilderment. How does that fit in? Well, it does. She has evolved in the most interesting way as a writer, and I love her most recent YA series. The writing as such is superb, and the story is rich and intriguing.

I’m sure most authors are shaped in some way by the words they read. It would be strange if it were otherwise. However, I think it’s always wise to read a LOT to make sure you’re not influenced too much by the voice of any other individual author. You have to make sure you don’t surrender your own voice to someone else’s style. As a new author, it’s not just important to find your own voice – you have to be able to keep it, and develop it, and listen back to it so you never forget to take what you’re doing to the next level and keep evolving positively.

 

What are you currently reading?

I have this habit of reading three or four books in parallel. Right now, I’m reading an as yet unpublished work by an Indie writer friend. I’ve got Amanojaku by Damien Lutz on my phone’s Kindle. I’m also revisiting an older book I read years ago, as an audio book version this time, since I spend so many hours a week in my car: Lightening by Dean Koontz.

 

About your latest work that’s coming in summer, Trading Darkness: What inspired it?

A true story did. Some of the characters in Trading Darkness are loosely based on people who lived during the final wave of the local Witch Trials in the 17th century. While researching a paper for a college class I took twenty years ago, I came across an event that was never explained, and that was when the initial idea to this book started taking shape in my head. The story I spun around this event is purely fictional, of course, but it’s been stewing in me this long, which was why I finally decided to give it priority over the series I’m also working on at the moment. I’ve always been fascinated by local history, myths and legends. I think this is generally what influences and inspires my writing most.

 

Tell us about the characters who were inspired by real-life.

That would be Agnes Smith, for one, a secondary character inspired by the real-life Agnes Schmidt, who lived near Wildenburg around the year 1650. She was a mother of six who was “tried”, which really means she was tortured, and sentenced to death for being a witch. On the eve of her execution, she was imprisoned in a barn near Friesenhagen, which is the village I modeled Oakwood on. The “witch tower” at Wildenburg Castle was full, so there wasn’t any room for her there. A guard was posted outside that barn to make sure she couldn’t escape. She’d been tortured, so no one really would have assumed she’d actually be in any state to flee. But despite the locked door, and despite the guard, she did. I found that remarkable. She must have been a very strong woman. No one could explain how it happened, and that was what got me thinking. Maybe the guard took pity, or there was another way out of the barn, but again: she’d been tortured, willfully broken, though through it all, she never confessed, so… when they found her a few days later, she was with one of her children. She was asked why she’d fled. Silly question, really, but they did ask, and her response was noted for the record. She said she hadn’t intended to escape her sentence, but that she’d merely wanted to see her children one last time to say goodbye.

Another character who is loosely based on a real person is Hermann Heistermann. He was the bailiff at that time, an exceptionally greedy and cruel man who took great pleasure in having people tortured. He was a real villain, and that’s how I depicted him in the book as well, though something good came from his existence in my story. I won’t say what.

 

Can you tell us anything about the fictional characters without giving too much away?

Yes, of course! There’s a really dark demon with a deep longing for vengeance. There’s a character I modeled on Ricdin-Ricdon, better known as Rumpelstiltskin, but he doesn’t spin straw into gold. And, we have a heroine, who falls in love with a knight in shining armor. I loved writing all of them. Finishing the final chapter was awful, because I knew I’d miss them.

 

What are you working on right now?

I’m working on the third book of my current series. It’s titled Fair of Souls, and I’m having a lot of fun getting back into that. Lorcan will be traveling to many interesting places, trying to find his son, and later, he will be faced with having to find a way to keep The Fair safe from the dangers that have arisen with Catherine’s ascent to power. We’ll be seeing a very angry, power-hungry Catherine establishing her rule in Trondenburgh and beyond, while Dean is in deep trouble. I’m very excited about writing this.

 

Where can readers find out more?

My Amazon page

Readers can follow me on Facebook

My Author website

And I’m on Goodreads

Lisa, thank you for your time and for sharing with us. I’m looking forward to both Trading Darkness and Fair of Souls 

Interview with Damien Lutz

Today, I’m interviewing Damien Lutz, who lives and writes in Australia. I must admit that I don’t read much sci-fi, but I met Damien in a writer’s workshop so I read Amanojaku and became an instant fan of his writing. His style so easily blends the technical aspects of sci-fi with the human elements that make a story worth reading. He writes about the human condition and wraps it inside a futuristic world. Bravo!

 

Damien – tell us about yourself.

I’m a writer and web designer living in Sydney. When I’m not working at my full-time job or writing in my spare time, I like to swim, or do some digital illustration. I couldn’t live without my laptop. If the power ever goes out for too long, there’ll be no more Mr. Nice Guy.

I hear you on the laptop thing, but I’m going to have to try this summer when I spend two weeks in Africa.

What would you like readers to know about your book, Amanojaku? And what the heck does that mean anyway?

Amanojaku (天邪鬼), n : a demon-like creature in Japanese folklore, able to provoke a person into perpetrating evil deeds.

Andre Cross keeps his volatile temper on a sturdy leash—an implant auto-medicating him to subdue his violent impulses.

Dreaming of leaving his dark past behind, he slaves away on Brulle’s perilous vertical farms, and peddles the drug Neura, to fund his escape to a distant ocean city called Anchora.

But when he meets the beautiful, self-aware android Mo Da, he discovers the implant not only sedates his aggression, it also subdues his ability to love. Andre’s desires unravel his carefully controlled plans, delivering him to a place where even his implant may not contain his rising emotions, or the madness of Amanojaku determined to consume him.

I know you don’t yet write full-time… what kind of job do you have and does it play any role in your stories?

I’m a User Experience Designer for digital products (apps, websites, etc.), so I research how humans interact with technology, and design apps and websites based on those findings. The work gives me insight into the relationship between humans and technology, and the UX processes have similarities and parallels with the writing and storytelling processes. So, my job both inspires and financially supports my writing. But it also steals my writing time.

The way you write it wouldn’t surprise me if you suddenly become famous.

How long have you been writing seriously?

I started writing seriously at the beginning of 2014. I had an epiphany, that I was single, childless and had plenty of spare time, something many people would love to have, and I wasn’t utilizing that. I figured it was time to make the most of that luxury of spare time, to pursue a dream. The fear of failure makes us put a lot of expectation on ourselves, so much that we don’t even try to chase a dream. I told myself I was testing the dream of writing, and if I didn’t like it or do well, it was okay to give it up. At least then I had tried and knew it wasn’t for me, and I’d be free to move onto something else. But I loved it, and I have many stories inside I’d love to articulate and share.

That was right about the time we met. How fortuitous for me, and of course for your readers.  🙂

Who are your favorite authors? Have they influenced your style?

I read Stephen King constantly, as his style and creativity inspire me. I take notes while I read his books—on structure, technique and style. His writing breaks rules, but his style feels like someone very real is telling you the story, which is what I’m hoping to develop in my own style. Also, I love Tom Robbins. His stories are crazy, funny, poignant romps through metaphorical stories that turn preconceived notions, about all things, inside out. He’s changed the way I view life. I’m hoping develop a style that is a Robbins/ King hybrid.

Good to see you shooting for the top, and you’ve sure got the writing chops to succeed.

In your wildest dreams, Amanojaku is made into a movie. Who plays the lead roles? Why?

Yes, that is my wildest dream! I don’t have anyone in particular in mind, but Andre, the main character, is non-Caucasian, and the cast has a mix of ethnicities, religions, sexualities, etc. to reflect diversity, so I’d like to see that kept true.

What is the most special thing a reader has said about your writing?

There are two most special comments. The first is from a San Francisco Book Review, which likened Amanojaku to Blade Runner, such a compliment, especially considering that BR is a film. The other is from a reader of Android’s Orchid (the short story that Amanojaku was born out of), which said “The story of the android Ki Po is beautiful and soulful.” The fact that the spirit of the story shone through the sci-fi made me very happy, as it’s a goal of mine to give my stories insight into the human condition as much as how technology might affect us.

 What can readers look forward to next from you?

I’m working on the four sequels to Amanojaku, which is a big job and will take a while. While I’m ticking those over, I’m also writing shorts stories for an anthology, one of which, The Motherhood Effect, will be printed and illustrated in the April 2017 issue of Popshots Magazine

I’m hoping to publish my next stand-alone book, Dismantling Henry, later this year, which follows the attempts of an unreliable, out-of-work actor trying to reclaim his career, and fighting the effects of signing over the rights to his digital image.

I can’t wait to read the next one.

 Where can readers find out more?

Check out artwork, explore Brulle and more: http://www.damienlutz.com.au/author/

Buy Amanojaku on Amazon

Damien, thank you for your time and for sharing with us. Good luck on your next book.