Monday, 1 April 2013

#OBSpringFling - Author Interview – Christine Frost



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#OBSpringFling



What is your favorite food? I don’t have one favorite food in particular, but it is very important to my writing because I use it as a means to help the reader relate to the time period and the culture. Studying the history of cooking has become a hobby. I started a food in historical fiction series on my blog, where I provide recipes with excerpts of my fiction and share interesting things I’ve learned about the history of cooking. As far as what I like, though, I’d have to say my favorite types of food are Mexican and Middle Eastern.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated? When I was in elementary school, I used to staple lined and plain paper together to make my own books, which I would write and illustrate. I had stacks of them in my desk. Unfortunately, my second-grade teacher was not amused and told me it was a waste of paper. It didn’t squelch my creative spirit, though. I’ve never stopped writing stories.

What inspires you to write and why? I’m especially inspired by medieval and Middle Eastern history. I didn’t set out with this goal in mind, but what happened was that as I read history books was that I kept finding real women marginalized by history, and I wanted to give them a voice and let them tell their story. Over the years, I’ve discovered so many strong and amazing women to write about—I want to break through old perceptions about the supposedly passive role women played in history—there are many powerful women who have become mere footnotes in books. I know I’ll never make it through my whole list, but I hope to tell as many of these stories as I can.

What genre are you most comfortable writing? Historical fiction is the basis for all my writing, even for the novels that will be part of other genres. I’m currently working on a speculative fiction novel which has deep roots in Ancient Near Eastern history, and I’ve done extensive research for it. I love reading history books and am always finding true stories that inspire me to fictionalize them. My current works in progress list keeps growing!

What do you consider the most challenging about writing a novel, or about writing in general? I have no problem writing every day. It’s a discipline that I love to hone. The most challenging thing about writing a novel is sticking to the particular one I’ve chosen to focus on. I have so many stories I want to write, it’s hard to stay focused! I used to call it the fifty-page curse. I’d write fifty pages into a story, and then switch to another one. I started Dark Lady of Doona in 2005, and didn’t get back to it until 2010 after sharing an excerpt with my writer’s group. And I think revising and editing is a great process. I love to dig in and refine the language, add new scenes and the like, but getting to the end of that first draft is always the hardest part for me.

Have you ever had writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it? I used to struggle with writer’s block by toiling over every sentence. That only added to the block. What I learned from participating in NaNoWriMo is that you need to keep going and not get sidetracked by self-editing. Revising comes later. I wish I had learned that lesson sooner; it would have saved me years of agonizing! Whenever I feel stuck now, I write endlessly—I let the characters interview each other so that I can discover what hidden motivations that may have, or go into detailed descriptions about the setting—anything that feels like a gap or a question that needs to be explored. What’s cool about this process is that you learn to write so fast and so intuitively that when you go back and review all of it, you’ll be amazed at the unpolished gems you find that you may not have otherwise come upon if you had been overthinking every little word in each sentence.

How did you come up with the title? Granía O’Malley had a lover by the name of Hugh deLacy. He was murdered by a rival clan, and when Granía sought revenge, she captured Doona Castle, which she later used as a garrison. Many of the biographies and history books I read as I prepared to write the novel referred to her as Dark Lady of Doona. Hugh was the love of her life in my story, which made the idea of using that as the title all the more poignant.

Can you tell us about your main character? Granía O’Malley was born in 1530, and learned seafaring from her father at an early age. She eventually led her own fleet of ships and became known as the Pirate Queen and “nurse to all rebellions,” according to the chronicles of the time. I think it’s fascinating to read the background of a woman who served as a formidable leader in a very rough environment, and by all accounts, she was a successful pirate. In my novel, I start with her story in midlife, with her youthful glory days behind her, and she’s facing the most problems in terms of English incursions and trying to secure a lasting legacy for her family, particularly her youngest son, whom she names her “heir to the seas.”

How did you develop your plot and characters? The first scene I wrote was about members of her crew, who had a playful rivalry with each other. They all adore Granía as their captain, but have very different personalities. The gunner is a smart aleck, the first mate is a serious and deeply philosophical person (though he’s quiet about his beliefs, but there’s a certain presence about him where this can be felt by others), and the quartermaster, who is very protective of the crew, and can be a bit of a brawler. Then there was Granía’s second husband, Richard, an important chieftain in Irish history. After reading about their first year of marriage, when Granía barred the gates of their castle, stood at the ramparts, and told him to get lost because she was done with him, I saw something playful in their relationship. They have terrible fights at times, but are truly devoted to each other and there’s quite a bit of humor that lights up the story.

Who is your publisher? I actually formed my own imprint when I started self-publishing in 2010. The imprint is called Her Raven Domain, and the name is based on a title of a novel I began writing in 1994 after my brother died. It’s a way of paying tribute to his memory.

Did you learn anything from writing this book and what was it? When I first started writing Dark Lady of Doona, I had only read two biographies about Granía O’Malley and a couple of books on Irish history. The first draft lacked all the complexity of actual history because it was too limited in scope. There was an imbalance because the lines of the heroes and the villains were drawn simplistically. In order to tell the whole story, I had to study the Tudors because I needed to know how they made their decisions about their empire. I needed to incorporate the impact of England’s war with Spain, and what happened when Spain’s ships wrecked on the Irish coast. It became more interesting when I found a way of making her life difficult because she was trying to preserve her way of life, yet had to become a spy for her enemy in order to do so. Every time I went to the library, I kept finding more books essential to developing the novel. Sometimes I thought I’d never be done with the research, but I loved having all these resources. I hadn’t had much interest in the Tudor era, and originally thought it was sufficient to just read biographies about Granía O’Malley. I’m glad I expanded the scope of the work!

Will you write others in this same genre? I definitely have plans to write more historical fiction, even though I am taking a break to work on some speculative fiction and fantasy. When I return to historical fiction, I will be working on a range of eras and places, including 1880s Algeria, ancient Mesopotamia in the years leading up the rule of Sargon the Great, medieval Baghdad, and Tombstone, Arizona, in the wake of the gunfight at OK Corral.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp? I hope that my novels bring an interest in history to readers. There is no limit to the amount of inspiration that can be found by studying it. Not just in terms of creating stories, but discovering all the different people and events that have shaped the world. Too much has been destroyed and forgotten—the Library of Alexandria, Baghdad’s House of Wisdom, the codices burned by conquistadors in Central America, and even today with the attack on the library where ancient manuscripts were stored in Mali—I mourn each loss and wonder what stories have never been told because they weren’t preserved. History informs current events, and I wish that connection was made more often. My stories, I hope, play a small part in keeping interesting people of the past alive.

How much of the book is realistic? Since verisimilitude is so important in historical fiction, I do extensive research for my novels to avoid anachronisms. I work hard to ensure the settings are accurate, down to the food and the everyday items people used. For my first two novels, I carried around huge stacks of notes detailing timelines of events and people down to minute details. That said, though, I did take some artistic license with Dark Lady of Doona. While doing research on the Elizabethan Era, I learned about the legend of Arthur Dudley, who was rumored to be Queen Elizabeth’s illegitimate son. Because Doona is an old sailor’s yarn at heart, I spun the rumor even further, not only making him real, but also involving him in Granía O’Malley’s life.

How important do you think villains are in a story? I tend to avoid using the word villain specifically, because I think it’s a term that can paint a character too simplistically. I want evil or negative forces to be complex and have motives that influence the villains on multiple levels, so that if the reader has a chance to view and maybe even relate to the other side, a more detailed and interesting portrait of the story is presented. When I was writing Dark Lady of Doona, I wanted to avoid demonizing the forces that Granía struggled against. I wanted to show some humanity, and that’s why I made Sir Francis Walsingham into a character who had great respect for Granía, even though ultimately, he worked for the system that was oppressing Ireland. The real villain in the story was Governor Bingham, though, and from the accounts that are in the books, he was incredibly vindictive and brutal, and I wanted to also show what kind of violence and oppression was happening. So it’s really a delicate balance. You need conflict to drive a story, but it needs to have numerous dimensions to be truly compelling.

What books have most influenced your life? I was a bit reclusive growing up, so there are many books I can list as strong influencers which helped shape me as a writer. The most important among them are the works of Tolkien (especially Lord of the Rings and Silmarillion), Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast Trilogy, Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series, and Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. In terms of nonfiction, I’d have to name Hunter S. Thompson as my favorite author. His political and cultural commentary was amazing, and I wish he were still around to write about today’s political arena.

Who is your favorite author and why? There are so many authors on my favorites list, but if there is one author I follow closely, it’s Neil Gaiman. Not only are his books wonderful, but his presence on social media is incredibly innovative and warm. American Gods stands on a special shelf of books that will remain on my all-time favorites list forever (though the Graveyard Book is on the shelf just below!).

Where do you see yourself in five years? I keep a production schedule for myself, in which I detail my works in progress and the estimated timeline to have each one written, edited, and published. If all goes according to plan, in 2018 I will be up to my seventh novel. If I don’t get distracted by Muses from other stories, that is!

What are your current writing projects now? I recently signed with Grit City Publications and they’ll publish an illustrated novelette called Captured Possessions later this year. It’s a historical romance that came out of research I did on Dark Lady of DoonaCaptured Possessions is a story about a woman who disguised herself as a young man to travel with Spain’s armada as they went to war with England in 1588. I’m also working on my third novel, which is a departure from my usual historical fiction. It’s a work of speculative fiction, set in a world where ancient Mesopotamian civilizations never collapsed, but grew into modern, space age societies. There is a dystopian element to it, in that it’s told from the perspective of repressed people trying to instigate a revolution.

Are you reading any interesting books at the moment? For fiction, I’m reading Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy. His approach is great—it’s a story where the forces of evil have already won and the hero of a prophecy fails, and how a group struggles to overcome and establish a new society. He’s created a really vivid and unique world, and I love the story. For nonfiction, I’m reading a massive tome called The Oxford Handbook of Cuneiform Culture. It’s research for an upcoming novel. :)

Are there any new authors that have sparked your interest and why? One of the great aspects of the growing indie publishing movement is the diversity of literature that’s now available. I’ve always been a fan of epic fantasy, and since I began exploring the works of other indie authors, I’ve discovered some wonderful novels. One of my current favorites is Melissa McPhail, author of Cepharael’s Hand and The Dagger of Adendigaeth. I’m also a fan of Terry Simpson’s work, who wrote the Aegis of the Gods series.

What are some of the best tools available today for writers, especially those just starting out? For an online community, I recommend Scribophile. It’s not only the best critiquing interface I’ve ever used, but also a wonderful group of writers who take critiquing seriously. For software, I think Scrivener is great. It’s inexpensive and easy to use, and it’s created so that it adapts to you, and not the other way around. You can organize your writing and notes however you wish. I tried a demo version when participating in NaNoWriMo, and it changed my whole writing process.

Buy at Amazon
Genre – Historical Fiction (R)
Connect with Christine Frost on Facebook & Twitter
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Books Sold - 6 Nov 2011 to 31 May 2012

Some of you have asked me for my total number of books sold to evaluate KDP Select so here it is. Bear in mind, that results will vary based on genre and author. Good luck and remember, Keep Moving Forward.

Total - 120,836

1. Excuse Me, My Brains Have Stepped Out
Amazon Kindle - 42,559
Paperback -
Smashwords -

2. Frequent Traveller
Amazon Kindle - 35277
Paperback -
Smashwords -

3. Dora's Essentials - Books, Blogs & Smiles 1
Amazon Kindle - 462
Smashwords -

4. Mirror Me Martha (Short Story)
Amazon Kindle - 281
Smashwords -

5. Drive On Hope (Short Story)
Amazon Kindle - 190
Smashwords -

6. Blog-A-Licious Directory 2012
Amazon Kindle - 1
Smashwords -

7. Pandora's Reading Room 1
Amazon Kindle -
Paperback - N/A

8. The Cat That Barked (Short Story)
Amazon Kindle -

9. Dora's Essentials - Examining Anxiety
Amazon Kindle -

10. Dora's Essentials - Books, Blogs & Smiles 2
Amazon Kindle -

11. Elevenses from Around the World
Amazon Kindle -

12. Genetically Modified Foods vs. Sustainability
Amazon Kindle -

Blog-A-Licius - Sherbet Blossom

SherbetBlossom

Blog-A-Licious

Dealightfully Frugal

Blog-A-Licious - The Few, The Proud, The Wife

Blog-A-Licious

My Soul Slippers

Blog-A-Licous - Textbook Mommy

Blog-A-Licious - Blue Frogs Legs

Blog-A-Licious - Pretty All True

Pretty All True

Blog-A-Licious - tbaoo

tbaoo

Blog-A-Licious

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Blog-A-Licious - The Invisible Art

Blog-A-Licious - Rediscovering Domesticity

Rediscovering Domesticity

Blog-A-Licious - Quiver Full

Blog-A-Licious - Cori's Big Mouth

Blog-A-Licious - Great Fun

Greatfun4kids

Blog-A-Licious - Busy Wife

Blog-A-Licious - Steps To Happiness

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Blog-A-Licious - Toby & Max


Blog-A-Licious - Amelie

Raising Amelie

Blog-A-Licious - Peas In A Pod

Blog-A-Licious - Riley

Blognostics - Poetry

BlogNostics

My Awards - September 2010

My Awards - September 2010
Awarded By Jo Frances

My Awards - May 2011

My Awards - May 2011
Awarded By Alejandro Guzman

My Awards - May 2011

My Awards - May 2011
Awarded by Kriti Mukherjee

My Awards - April 2011

My Awards - April 2011
Awarded By Roy Durham

My Awards - June 2011

My Awards - June 2011
Awarded By Sulekha Rawat

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