I have to say Tamora Pierce is probably one of my biggest inspirations for being one of the earliest – I sometimes see people complaining about there not being enough high fantasy novels with female protagonists, and hers is still the first name I bring up.
Aurora Thornton – 29 June 2017
The Back Flap
Allaha is a knight of the Order of Aisha, Fallen of the Mountain. She – like her fellows – is stoic and reserved, trained to fight against demons and their ilk. When she triggers a vision that kills a renown oracle, she is set on a quest to complete the prophecy.
She becomes the protector of those mentioned in the prophecy.
Tamara is a young woman of the Menori – a migrant people that travel in caravans. She is also a hamalakh, able to sense the emotions of others as well as sense falsehoods. She is sometimes wise beyond her years, but at other times her youth can cause her to draw incorrect conclusions.
Hibu, a sorcerer, is from the country of Jeongwon – a land where the nobility are worshipped as gods. He was the personal sorcerer of Prince Ji – a testament to the strength of his powers. He is ever curious and seeking new knowledge, questioning all the people they meet on their journey. He is joined by his demon familiar, Goric.
Karejakal was orphaned by the death of his entire clan – but his mastak powers gave him the ability to keep their spirits close. Still a child, Karej is a Tibu – a race of cat people that walk upright. Learning of his people from the spirits of his clan, the child has adopted Allaha as his mother.
Together, they travel the land of Magdra, seeking answers to a broken prophecy wherein they only know two things – that a darkness is coming, and that they are meant to stop it. All they need to discover now is how to do it.
About the book
What is the book about?
Wildflowers, Part I: Allaha of the Mountain is about a monastic knight on a quest to save a fantasy world called Magdra. I know the premise doesn’t sound very original – which is something I’m trying to say less, since it seems like I’m discounting my own work. But here I have a little more time to explain what I mean – I don’t think my work is entirely unoriginal. If I did, I wouldn’t have published it – but I won’t pretend that the premise doesn’t sound generic. As an avid fantasy fan, that would make me oblivious or in denial.
It’s hard to get into what my story is about past the more generic premise without spoiling a lot of the future plot. I love high fantasy, and have been told that having 15 books planned in the Wildflowers series puts it in the epic category as well (the global scale of the main conflict is enough for me to release my reservations of saying so myself). However, I’ll quote my beta reader Gerald Pourlavie in saying that “the story is not so much a heroic quest as a leisurely trip through various kingdoms.” At this stage, being the first book in a long series, it is rather expositional – but I hope I’ve constructed an interesting enough story to keep my readers entertained regardless.
When did you start writing the book?
This particular story, I started in 2015. It was right after my cat Zane died – he was the first pet I owned on my own, and his death hit me pretty hard. (He had feline leukemia, so he was only around two years old.) I dedicated the book to him as my motivation to complete it. I was pretty depressed at the time, which I think is the main reason for the sombre tone most of the story takes.
How long did it take you to write it?
It only took me a couple of months to write the rough draft – it was around 50k words and written in an episodic format. Ultimately, my boyfriend pointed out that this didn’t work, as the reader didn’t spend a long enough time with the characters to get to know them. The rewrite took the greater part of three years – I added about 100k more words and changed quite a few things as a result.
Where did you get the idea from?
I’ve pretty much always been writing this story – not this one in particular, but the narrative of a heroine battling against the odds in a fantasy world. It started with me imagining myself going on trips to magical worlds – the very first one is a story I never wrote, and likely never will since it has continued in my head to this day. Eventually I started writing main characters that weren’t me, and weren’t whisked away from our world. I’m never sure where I get my inspiration from – I kind of just write and see what happens. That’s mostly where this story came from.
Were there any parts of the book where you struggled?
The chapter titled The Maiden of Thorns – it’s the longest chapter in the book (nearly 200 pages!) and it felt like whenever I had to do something with it. Mainly editing. But the reason it’s twice as long as the next longest chapter is actually really simple – I named each chapter by the location the characters where at to complete their quest, and they stayed in Mer de Rose – a duchy in the fictional country of Rurauk – for the longest period of time. While this is only two weeks, most of the other places they visit only take a day or two. There is also a significant amount of character development in this chapter, which also adds to the length.
What came easily?
Dialogue – I’ve always found dialogue comes most easily to me. I love the interplay between characters.
Are your characters entirely fictitious or have you borrowed from real world people you know?
While I strive to never purposefully have a carbon copy of real people in my stories, I do occasionally borrow traits from people I know to make my characters more believable – but mostly I give them all a piece of me. I don’t think there’s any one character I would call a self-insert, but you can find something of me in most of them – Allaha, the main character, is an extension of the depression I felt when I was writing the story. Hibu’s curiosity is something we share, and Tamara’s empathy is another connection. Goric’s enjoyment of puns is something borrowed from me as well. I won’t mention others for the sake of their privacy, but it has been pointed out to me when my characters share traits with people I know. This is usually subconscious, rather than deliberate.
We all know how important it is for writers to read. Are there any particular authors that have influenced how you write and, if so, how have they influenced you?
I have a lot of authors that inspire me, but I’ve always wanted to have my own voice as an author, so I never aim to emulate any particular author’s style. However, there are a few authors I would like to be able to match in certain regards – I would love to write as entertainingly as J. R. R. Tolkien, use foreshadowing as well as Brandon Sanderson, portray relationships as well as Tamora Pierce, and write dialogue as well as Isaac Asimov. If I had to pick one author to emulate the most, I would pick Asimov – after reading the first book in the Foundation series, I realized he wrote the way I strove to. Telling stories with dialogue and character interactions being the driving force – I mainly wish I was as succinct as Asimov as well, but I usually seem to get a little caught up.
I have to say Tamora Pierce is probably one of my biggest inspirations for being one of the earliest – I sometimes see people complaining about there not being enough high fantasy novels with female protagonists, and hers is still the first name I bring up. She has such a great variety of heroines, and they all face their own struggles, so I never had the misconception that women didn’t belong in fantasy in their own right. It’s a very subtle kind of encouragement that I only realized later in life reading the experiences of other female fantasy fans.
Do you have a target reader?
Anyone that enjoys a good story – particularly fantasy.
Do you have a writing process? If so can you please describe it?
In the gardener vs architect argument, I’m a definite gardener. I usually come up with an idea and just see where it goes – whether it’s a character, a setting, a cool magic idea, or a made up race. Sometimes I come up with one and have to fill in the others, or figure out a story to use them in – Allaha of the Mountain actually pulls a few characters I made for other ideas. Commander Scorun originated through a friend’s original RPG as a “virus” race in a cyber world – I actually built the country of Jasper in the story around the fantasy version of him. (It was also named after him.) Sometimes characters don’t react on paper the way I thought they would in my head – my hands will just refuse to write what I had planned because it feels wrong, and I end up changing the story to better suit the character’s reaction.
Do you outline? If so, do you do so extensively or just chapter headings and a couple of sentences?
I didn’t used to, but it would lead to me forgetting what I had planned by the time I got to the middle/end of a story. So I started writing outlines, which started with a chapter title and an abstract. When that also led to some forgetfulness, I added some fragments/sentences that broke the chapter down into parts, and that’s generally what I go with. Enough to remember where I was going, but not so much to box me into a particular idea if something goes in a different direction.
Do you edit as you go or wait until you’ve finished?
If I get stuck, I’ll sometimes read my previous writing to see if I can work out what happens next – otherwise, I try to save editing for after I’ve finished. I’m not very good at editing my own work – I’m usually too close to see what’s wrong.
Did you hire a professional editor?
I did hire an editor after having my work read by a beta reader – J. D. Cunegan was my editor. I was waiting for some critical friends to finish reading, but they ended up busy with their own lives, so I hired a professional to make sure my work was ready to be published – no major plot holes or developmental issues.
Do you listen to music while you write? If yes, what gets the fingers tapping?
I usually listen to music, and it depends on my mood and what I’m writing. Usually it’s Panic! At the Disco and Fall Out Boy, but then I’ll switch it up with Marina and the Diamonds, The Correspondents, or Florence+the Machine. Mainly, I turn to alternative and rock music.
Did you submit your work to Agents?
I submitted other books to editors – I won the Silver Key in the Scholastic Arts and Writing Awards, and went to workshop while I was at the ceremony in New York about submitting to publishers. However, I did not submit this work to anyone because I have a better understanding of the publishing world – fantasy is an over saturated genre, and most publishers won’t take a chance on a new author, so I figured that self-publishing was a better way to go, especially with how much more accessible it is today.
What made you decide to go Indie, whether self-publishing or with an indie publisher? Was it a particular event or a gradual process?
As I said above, my decision to self-publish was based on the accessibility of self-publishing tools and an understanding of the publishing market – it wasn’t a very long decision, though I did think it over for a time beforehand.
Did you get your book cover professionally done or did you do it yourself?
I hired Claudiu Limbassan and Jesse Heagy on deviantArt to create the illustration on the cover, but the formatting and rest of the design was done by me. I wanted something reminiscent of older hardbacks, with a medieval feeling to it.
Do you have a marketing plan for the book or are you just winging it?
I’m pretty much just winging it – I knew to use social media and book review sites, but I feel I haven’t used them very effectively. I’m currently in a college course that should help me create a better marketing plan for the future.
Any advice that you would like to give to other newbies considering becoming Indie authors?
Have a marketing strategy, and make sure multiple people have read your work before you publish. Look into all your options to decide what’s best for you – don’t just blindly go with a plan that worked for someone else.
End of Interview: