Marion: What was the first book you ever read that really blew your mind, that you couldn’t stop thinking about after you’d finished?
Marguerite Henry’s books: Misty of Chincoteague, King of the Wind, Justin Morgan had a Horse and all the others
Marion: How do you start thinking about a book? Is it the characters that first pop to mind, or the setting, or the plot? Where do you usually start?
I’m not sure. Probably characters. Once I get a little glimmer of an idea I sit down and start writing.
Marion: If you could invite five writers, living or dead, to dinner, who would they be?
Bryan Davis, Marguerite Henry, Terry Goodkind, J.R.R Tolkein, C.S. Lewis
Marion: Have you ever tried to shake up your writing routine? Writing at a different time? Writing in new places? Writing nude? *waggles eyebrows*
I really don’t have a set routine, but do like it when I can get to the local Starbucks and either alone or with a group of writer buddies and just write with no other distractions.
Marion: What is your absolute favorite sentence--just one sentence--from your book? Why?
An elephantine sound arose from the gathered troops as they cheered their new king. “All hail Asha and King Joachim! The phoenix has arisen!”
This is probably the one line that has survived the first draft written over six years ago. I was so excited when I wrote the line. I was doing NANO that year for the first time. And that line just felt so powerful. I remember running around the house sharing it with anyone who would listen, not that a toddler got too much out of it. But I really felt like I was a writer at that moment. Besides I liked the word elephantine.
Marion: What’s your worst writing habit? Something you know you shouldn’t do, but just can’t seem to stop?
Cruising the internet and checking email. I remember when I got my first computer that was all mine, I said I just wanted it for writing. I didn’t see any need for using the internet except for maybe some research. Obviously that didn’t last very long.
Marion: What’s the one thing you wish you were good at, but just can’t seem to master?
Drawing my characters, especially my dragons. I took some art classes in college, but the writing is what I do best. I have to leave the drawing to fellow artists like Marion.
Marion: How do you ‘get into character’? Are their certain characters you find it harder to write than others?
When I first started writing I didn’t think I did that very well. I thought other writers were crazy when they said their characters were telling them what to do. When I began writing the second book in the trilogy I knew how the book needed to start and thought I knew the ending and even wrote an outline to fill in the middle. That’s when my characters staged a revolt right at the beginning of another November NANO. The second week in and they wouldn’t let me write anything that was on the outline. When I finally put the outline away at the end of the week, they took over. My hardest character at least in this book has been Prince/King Brandan. So much happens to both of the princes, but Brandan is in territory that I haven’t lived. Trying to keep him evil and yet still have a nugget of love and compassion for his brother has been a hard balance to maintain. Things happen to him in the third book that he really fought me on. One chapter near the end was particularly hard to decide how things would play out.
Marion: What project are you currently working on?
Palace of Three Crosses; the second book in the Palace of the Twelve Pillars trilogy has just gone under contract, so I’m editing that along with finishing revision and edits on the third book so I can submit it. So edits take up a lot of my time right now. I have a couple of other projects one from the Civil War period and one taking place during the birth of Christianity. Both are heavy in the research department so even though they will be fantasy like my other books they are requiring a lot more leg work to get things right.
Marion: About how long does it take you to get from first draft to polished manuscript? What does that process look like?
For me that’s a hard thing to quantify. Palace of the Twelve Pillars has probably taken ten years. Palace of Three Crosses and Sanctuary of Nine Dragons have been closer to a year, a year and a half or at the most two years. My books usually start in November and if the mojo is right and the momentum is there continue till finished. Then I take it to my critique group and start the revision process. When it is through with them and I have made all the revisions they and I have caught then I pay a copy editor to go through and check content grammar. When her and I finish then I start submitting it to publishers.
An excerpt from Palace of the Twelve Pillars:
The High Wisdom raised the crown from its golden case. A loud scream tore the silence in the tent. Joachim turned to look at the entrance. A soldier fell through the opening, blood spurting from a slit stretched across his throat.
As he bounded off the dais, Waldrom screamed, “What’s going on here?”
A wild rush of wind ripped the tent flaps open, and a horse and rider burst through. Joachim gaped at the body of the dead soldier. His heart raced and leapt to his throat. His gaze traveled up the horse’s legs. A man’s black boots. A scream caught in his throat, and tears filled his eyes. He stared into blue eyes.
The horse pawed the ground and snorted. The rider dismounted and stood next to the dead guard.
Wriggling free of Waldrom, Lilia ran to the rider. She threw her arms around him. “Brandan, you’re here. You’ve come to free us.”
The prince pushed her aside. “Brother, I see you are trying to usurp me again. It appears I got here just in time.”
“No, you’re wrong. I have no desire to take anything rightfully belonging to you.” Joachim stepped toward his brother and reached out a hand to him. “I want to help you and see what we can accomplish together.”
Swatting his hand away, Brandan laughed. “Help me? You’re the one who needs help. Anything you have to offer is worthless to me. Now out of my way. The king and I have business.”
“No, listen to me. You can’t do this.” Joachim spun him around.
He clouted Joachim, knocking him down. “King Waldrom, we need to talk. He’s deceiving you.” He spat at Joachim then turned and bowed to Waldrom. “I’m at your service, My King.”
Regaining his feet, Joachim pushed Brandan into the guard standing behind him. The guard wrapped his muscular arms around Brandan. “What should I do with him, Sire?”
Brandan flipped the soldier to the ground and put his black booted foot on the man’s chest. “The one you should be detaining is standing there, you fool.” He pointed at Joachim.
“What are you doing?” Lilia grabbed Brandan by the arm. “Stop this, or Waldrom will imprison us all. Why are you jeopardizing our lives?”
He looked at his mother. “Don’t worry, Mother. The only one in any danger here is the traitor you see standing before of you. First, he betrays me, next he kills Father, and now he would betray you and Waldrom. Guards, seize him!”
The king stepped forward and raised his hands to stop the guards. “What do you mean a traitor, and how do you know this?”
“Because I know my brother, and that’s the way he thinks. He’ll lie, cheat, and kill to achieve his own ends, and his goal is to have both countries under his to rule at any cost.”
“Why should I trust you over him?”
“Because I’m just like you,” Brandan responded.
Walking around the twins, Waldrom rubbed his goatee thoughtfully. “My boy, you present an interesting dilemma. How do I choose one over the other? How do I know which one to believe? Guards seize both of them.” Two guards stepped forward, and each grabbed a twin.
“You’re wrong.” Joachim struggled to break free. “This is wrong. I’m not a liar. I only want what’s best, and that’s for us to be together.”
“You’re the one who’s wrong.” Brandan pulled his arm free. “I’ve no use for you.” He turned to Waldrom. “Get him out of here, so we can finish.”
Joachim broke loose, stepped across the gap and grasped his brother by the tunic. Brandan jerked around and punched him. He rubbed his jaw and shoved Brandan, who fell to the ground “What happened to you? You’re not the brother I know.”
Standing up, the black prince pulled his sword. “Nothing is wrong with me. I just realized who I am and who truly cares about me...and it’s not you.” He rested the point of the sword on the cut Waldrom had given Joachim. As Brandan pushed the tip in the scratch, he re-opened the partially scabbed wound. Joa laid his hand on the side of the sword and pushed it away. Guards grabbed Joachim’s arms.
“Enough! I can see you two will not make this easy. I put before you a challenge, which will determine my choice. You will travel to the Cave of Njori and extinguish the flame of Asha. Melvane will accompany you and testify to its completion.”
Brandan replaced his sword and walked over to his horse. “I don’t see the need for this. It’s obvious I am the one, but I’ll go along if that is what you want.” He remounted his horse and reined it around to exit.
Still in the grasp of the soldier, Joachim yelled, “No, Brandan, stop! You can’t do this. We can’t. It’s the light of Asha, never to be extinguished. If you do this, you’ll destroy all hope and any chance we have of defeating this evil.”
Brandan laughed and kicked his horse. “All the more reason to get this done quickly. Guards, find a mount for my brother.”
“No, I won’t go. I can’t do it.”
The king raised his hand. “The choice is made. Guards, take Joachim to the prison tent. Brandan, we will deal with this inconsequential flame later. Right now, we have more important business to attend to.”
He signaled two of the guards to remove Joachim and then, as if it were his own idea, said, “I knew all along he was a traitor. I was only crowning him to draw out the true Prince of Sidramah. Brandan, thank you for arriving so soon and before these Wisdoms regretted what they did here today.”
As the guards dragged him from the tent, Joachim struggled and screamed, “No, he’s lying! Brandan, why are you doing this?” His cries echoed through the camp as Waldrom returned his attentions to those remaining in the tent.
Marion: Wow, thank you, Christina! For dropping by and for giving us a look at your story!