Monday, 5 August 2013

Author Interview - Anne Elisabeth Stengl

Dragonwitch
A New Tale Is Added to this Christy Award-Winning Fantasy Saga!
Submissive to her father’s will, Lady Leta of Aiven travels far to meet a prospective husband she neither knows nor loves–Lord Alistair, future king of the North Country.
But within the walls of Gaheris Castle, all is not right. Vicious night terrors plague Lord Alistair to the brink of insanity. Whispers rise from the family crypt. The reclusive castle Chronicler, Leta’s tutor and friend, possesses a secret so dangerous it could cost his life and topple the North Country into civil war.
And far away in a hidden kingdom, a fire burns atop the Temple of the Sacred Flame. Acolytes and priestesses serve their goddess to the limits of their lives and deaths. No one is safe while the Dragonwitch searches for the sword that slew her twice…and for the one person who can wield it.
Anne Elisabeth Stengl makes her home in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she lives with her husband, Rohan, a passel of cats, and one long-suffering dog. When she’s not writing, she enjoys Shakespeare, opera, and tea, and studies piano, painting, and pastry baking. She studied illustration at Grace College and English literature at Campbell University. She is the author of HEARTLESS, VEILED ROSE, MOONBLOOD, STARFLOWER and DRAGONWITCH. HEARTLESS and VEILED ROSE have each been honored with a Christy Award.


What is your favorite quote, by whom? “Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, Or what's a heaven for?” – Robert Browning

What’s your favorite place in the entire world? Wherever my husband, Rohan, is—that’s my home. And home is my favorite place in the entire world.

What do you consider the most challenging about writing a novel, or about writing in general? 
For me, the most challenging aspect of writing a novel is always getting it started. Every time I sit down to a new story, I have to deal with the near-crippling fear of “Can I do it again?” I usually have to write a good 40- or 50,000 words into a new novel before I am able to move past that fear.

That being said, everyone’s challenge is different. I have a writer friend who can crank out an entire draft of a novel in a matter of weeks. But she finds the revision stage quite a difficult slog. Everyone has a different process, and everyone faces slightly different challenges.

What did you learn while writing this book? 
I learned that I must take time to outline.  With my first four novels, I was careful to outline the plots and important character threads before sitting down to write. But with this novel, I thought I’d try to write it seat-of-the-pants, creating storyline as I went.

For me, that spelled disaster.

At least four times, I wrote 40,000 words worth of beginning before having to admit it wasn’t working and toss it out. By the fourth time, with a deadline hanging over my head like the sword of Damocles, tossing out all that work was like cutting off a limb. 

So I learned an important lesson: I need an outline. I need to know what I’m doing and where I’m going with all of the characters. I need those guideline parameters in order to be truly creative. 

Have you developed a specific writing style? I write in the omniscient narrative, which is a classic style of storytelling that was most popular among the Victorian novelists. It was also the style of narrative used by fantasy powerhouse writers J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. It is the perfect voice for fairy tale novels since so many of the classic fairy tales were written originally in the omniscient narrative. But famous novelists of our day—such as Neil Gaiman and Sir Terry Pratchett—have also paved the way for writing the omniscient narrative for modern readers.

Because omniscient narrative is not a commonly used voice nowadays, my stories have a distinct sound and mood to them which has delighted some readers (and seriously displeased others! LOL). Reviewers frequently comment on the “old fashioned” or “classic” style of these stories.  

Have you ever had writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it? I have had writer’s block more times than I like to remember. When I face it, I use the weapon I call the “500-Word Knife.” I faced the worst writer’s block of my life while working on Dragonwitch, but with a nearing deadline, I dared not step away from the manuscript. So I would sit down and tell myself, “You only have to write 500 words.” They didn’t even have to be 500 good words. Just 500 words that generally moved the story forward. After those 500 words were written, I would take a break, do something else, clean the kitchen, etc. Then I would sit down and write 500 more. It was a slog, but I could usually get 1,500 or 2,000 words written a day this way. (My normal is between 3,000 and 4,000.)

Can you share a little of your current work with us? I am currently working on Book 7 in the Tales of Goldstone Wood, which has the working title Golden Daughter. It deals with characters hinted at in previous books, but also features a whole new, charismatic cast of protagonists. (And, yes, a certain fluffy Faerie cat has made a prominent role for himself as well.) Here’s a tiny glimpse from the work-in-progress:

The cat hopped down from his stone and fell into pace beside Sairu, his shoulder blades moving up and down with his sauntering tread. After a few paces, he glanced back a little nervously. “Where are the hedge-pigs?”
Lady Hariawan rode upon her donkey, quiet and unobtrusive as was her practice. The little lion dogs surrounded her, resting in their baskets strung from the donkey’s creaking saddle. They dozed and had not yet caught the cat’s scent.
“I’ll have you know that Dumpling, Rice Cake, and Sticky Bun are the noble offspring of the great Bright Mane,” Sairu said, “descended in a long line of royal canines bred from the deified lineage of the Lordly Sun’s own watchdogs.”
The cat gave her a look. “Really?”
“Well, they come from the same kennels as the emperor’s dogs, so that’s close enough.”
“Useless little yapping things, hardly what you’d call proper dogs. What’s the point of them?”
“They ward off devils.”
“Yet I’m still here. What else?”
“They’re fluffy.”
I’m fluffy,” said the cat.
“You’re a monster,” said Sairu.

Have you included a lot of your life experiences, even friends, in the plot? I do draw from my own life experiences and acquaintances because these always prove the best, most interesting reference material. All the history books and mythologies in the world won’t help me to write a real, compelling character. But if I take a little aspect of me—take it and twist it and put it into a new context—then a real character will emerge. And if I’m not basing a character on a piece of myself, then I base her or him on someone I know. Or rather, on my perspective of someone I know, which is ultimately still a piece of me.

How important do you think villains are in a story? 
A strong villain is vital to a strong plot. A solid antagonist thrown against your protagonist provides contrast. Or sometimes, more interestingly, your antagonist can serve as a mirror, reflecting aspects of the protagonist back on himself. The more compelling your villain is, the more compelling your hero will become. Therefore, you must not stint on your villain. You must understand his motivations and give him desires and longings as powerful as anything experienced by the hero.

This is why Dragonwitch is ultimately the title character’s story. She may be the villainess, but her motivations drive everything before her. And, in a strange way, you come to love her, to feel for her, even to weep for her. As a result, I like to think that you care for the protagonists that much more as well.

Are you reading any interesting books at the moment? 
I am reading a fascinating book called Kingdom of the Waves: Octavian Nothing, book 2 in the Octavian Nothing series, which began with The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation. Oh, my word! I have never read anything like it before, and I don’t expect to read anything like it again. I highly recommend it to everyone I meet. While it is shelved as a YA or children’s book, it really doesn’t fit that category. Yes, Octavian begins his adventures as a young man, but by the very nature of his upbringing, he is utterly unlike all other children.


But I hate to say anything more! I read it without knowing anything about it at first. My best friend pressed it into my hands and said, “You must read this,” but refused to say what it was about. And I’m so glad she did! I started reading and was shocked, surprised, horrified, delighted, charmed, and disgusted all in quick succession. It’s an amazing story. Do yourself a favor and find a copy!
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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

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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

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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

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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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