Welcome today to Kristen Walker, the author of the novel A Flight of Marewings!
After you read her interview, be sure to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway!
Thank you to Margo for your thought-provoking question and for agreeing to host me today!
1. What do you write about? Tell us a little about your previously published works.
I only have one book that I’ve released before this one, also in the Fantasy genre. Magic is one of my favorite themes to work with because I like the possibilities it opens up for anything to happen, and also to add mystery to the world. In my mind, magic can’t be explained or understood easily by science or other means. But I use Fantasy as a vehicle to explore human psychology and relationships, so there is an element of realism in my stories as well. In my first book, Small Town Witch, those relationships were intimate, about growing up in a controlling family. In this book, A Flight of Marewings, there is a larger scale to the action, but it still boils down to those human relationships: how Korinna and Galenos learn to accept each other as equal partners in both their marriage and leadership, how a governing body must balance helping the people they know personally with the needs of people who are different from them, how every society has diversity and people have to learn to overcome their biases.
2. Tell us a little about your work in progress.
Right now, I’m writing a sequel to Small Town Witch. It picks up with the conflict between the mother and daughter where the first book left off. In addition to continuing the story, I want this story to do two things. First, the major question that I got from readers of the first book was, “Is the mom really evil?” So I wanted to show that she’s a person
3. Any advice for aspiring writers?
The most important thing that I’ve learned is to write what I truly love. I struggled for years with my stories because I wasn’t having fun with my writing. I took creative writing classes, read books about writing, and joined critique groups that put a lot of emphasis on avoiding certain cliches and being “better” than bestselling mainstream works. But eventually I realized that my focus was all wrong, because I spent all of my time trying to make my stories more “clever” or “original” than anyone else—and they were boring and depressing.
So I took a break and stopped writing completely for a few years. Then I started writing fan fiction and stories about my characters in a video game called The Sims 2. I wasn’t serious at all—I broke just about every “rule” I’d been taught and came up with crazy scenarios and characters that no one would ever believe. I didn’t share these stories with a very wide audience (some of them were online under screen names, hopefully faded into obscurity, but most stayed on my computer), and practically no one read or talked to me about them, but I had so much fun. I rediscovered why I wanted to write in the first place. That led me back to writing the stories that I wanted to tell.
The point of the story is that writing should be fun. Write what you love first and foremost. Later, you can worry about if other people might like it or if it could sell.
4. What is your personal writing process?
I tend to be an over-planner when it comes to things like outlines and world building. I’ve tried to cut back on this, or at least not to plan anything that will constrain me too much while I’m writing, but I at least do a minimal synopsis of the plot, a list of locations, and basic profiles for the characters. Then I write the first draft, which is all about keeping up momentum, because if I slow down, then I tend to crash. I write until I hit a wall, then I think through what’s stopping me, and go write back to writing. (I’m getting better at this, so the process is only getting faster.) Revision is the harder part, but I work from the biggest problems down to the smallest, evaluating the flow of the story, the characterization, the mood—making sure that the story is consistent from start to finish. Then I usually have to consolidate or cut sub-plots and think about if I have too many characters. Finally, I give the book to my beta readers and then talk through the book with them to solve the problems that I’ve missed.
5. Who are a few authors you look up to?
My absolute favorite author is Ursula K. Le Guin. I love that her writing can cross genres, from fantasy and science fiction to literary fiction and into works that defy genre, from poetry to non-fiction essays and children’s books to teen to adults. Her stories and especially her characters speak to me on a deeply personal level because she tends to write about introverts: creative types, genius mathematicians, lone mages. Sometimes they find ways to connect with other people through different kinds of love, but sometimes they stay alone, and they each find their own kind of peace. I found her first when I was twelve, through A Wizard of Earthsea, and since then I’ve tried to get my hands on every out-of-print work in her back catalog. I don’t think I’ll ever achieve the beauty of her writing but I’m okay with that and I will continue to admire her.
The author that I actually identify with the most is Robin McKinley. She (mostly) writes high fantasy, with strong women characters who slay dragons and find love as equals. She also does fairy tale retellings, which I adore. Her character voices are smart and funny without being too snarky. Her books tend to have animals in them, too, which have just as much personality as the people. One of my childhood cats was named Narknon after the hunting cat in The Blue Sword.
The third author that I look up to is Tamora Pierce, author of the Tortall series. I started with Alanna when I was young and grew up with all of her girls over the years. I love how she continues to push the boundaries of what a female character can do in a medieval-themed fantasy as her ideas change over the years. She runs an active blog discussing current events from a feminist perspective, so I’ve seen how her current beliefs influence her stories. Beka Cooper, her most recent heroine of the Terrier novels, is totally different from Alanna in The Song of the Lioness. While many people may stick to their views as they get older, Tamora Pierce is constantly re-evaluating what she believes and why. I hope I can continue to grow and learn the way that she does.
6. What book are you reading now?
I just started reading Blue Rabbit, a YA Urban Fantasy by my author friend Jimena Novaro. I’ve been hearing about this book for almost a year now, so I was very excited to finally get my hands on it. So far, it’s living up to my expectations and more, because Jimena has created a rich and detailed fantasy world that draws me in, and it’s not like anything else I’ve seen before. I also love the friendships between the main characters.
This is an answer that changes quickly for me, though, because I tend to devour books in a matter of days and move on fast. My TBR pile is all the taller right now from Christmas presents. I’m looking forward to Neil Gaiman’s Unnatural Creatures, George RR Martin’s Dangerous Women, and Naomi Novik’s Blood of Tyrants.
7. What inspired you to write your first book?
My first book was inspired by my stories about my Sims characters. I had one family in particular that I played a lot and I made up all kinds of details about their lives. Originally they were vampires, but I like witches better, so I thought I could switch it up and rewrite their story in a little more detail without some of the constraints of the Sims. I just kept adding things that I liked. It was a writing exercise at first, something that I was doing for fun, but after I shared the first draft with a few people who liked it, I thought that it was the first novel I’d ever written that I was really proud of and happy about. So then I started working on revising it, learned a lot in the process, and ended up with my first published book.
8. What do you find particularly challenging about writing?
I have a hard time focusing and picking one direction in my writing. I tend to have a lot of ideas and characters bouncing around in my head at one time. I try to list all of them so I don’t forget any, and then narrow down to what I want for just the single story I’m working on right now. But when I get caught up in writing, I can still get pulled off on tangents as I get new ideas. Later I realize that I’m making the story too confusing, so I have to cut back on some of my sub-plots and put the focus back on the main story. I have to think about the book I’m writing now, not the ten other books that I also want to write.
9. Have you ever used characteristics from someone you know in one of your books?
Of course I’ve borrowed from real life for my stories. I try to disguise them or combine different people into one character so they’re not immediately recognizable, and also sometimes I have to change things to fit the story better. The only person that I’ve copied completely is a minor character in my first book, Small Town Witch. The main character’s teacher is directly based on my own middle school English teacher, as a tribute, because she taught me a lot about writing and she was one of the first people who believed in my stories.
10. Where can readers find you and your work?
I keep a blog on my website, along with a list of my current and upcoming books. You can find it at http://www.KristenWalker.Net
Korinna’s life gets turned upside down when the ghost of her father suddenly appears. Her father was duke of Kyratia City and he wanted Korinna to marry his warlord, the foreign mercenary Galenos, and inherit his title–but the city’s Council has other plans. When the Council denies Korinna’s right to rule, she decides to join Galenos’s mercenary company and tame a wild marewing in order to take the city by force. But people whisper that the late duke’s untimely death was murder, an induced madness that forced him to dance himself to death–and now that madness is spreading. Can Korinna become a marewing rider and conquer Kyratia in time to save everyone?
Fantasy author Kristen S. Walker dreams of being a pirate mermaid who can talk to sharks, but she settles for writing stories for teens and adults. Her new novel, A Flight of Marewings, tells the adventure of a duke’s illegitimate daughter who must stop her father’s murderers–by taming a dangerous monster. A Flight of Marewings is now available in print from Amazon and digitally from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords and other ebook retailers. To read a sample chapter or check out Kristen’s pirate pictures, please visit kristenwalker.net. You can talk good books, cats, or medieval cooking with Kristen anytime on Twitter (@KristenSWalker) or Facebook.
Tour Link: http://www.kristenwalker.net/marewings-book-tour/
Enter the giveaway for a print copy or one of 5 ebook copies!
[…] We’re kicking off week 2 of the Marewings Book Tour with Margo Bond Collins! Click here to see what questions she asked me about my writing, my favorite authors, and advice: Interview with Margo Bond Collins […]
Thanks for hosting me, Margo!
Thanks so much for agreeing to be interviewed! 🙂
Great interview on both sides (interviewer and interviewee!) Kristen, I love your answer to the third question. It’s excellent advice, and I struggled (and struggle) to follow it, too. I wanted to write “good” fiction and ended up writing pretentious slush–when I read it now, I can barely get through a few pages.
It’s so funny that we both find inspiration in the Sims! I’ve posted Sims fanfiction, too. Haha!
Also… woohoo! Currently reading Blue Rabbit! 😀