Which five people would you invite to dinner and why?
1) Sherlock Holmes ,as portrayed by Jeremy Brett.I am fascinated by the character’s intellect and his disregard of social convention with a contrasting overlay of Victorian gentlemanliness. If nothing else, it could never be a dull evening with Holmes at the table
2) The novelist Jane Austen. I think she’d make a great conversationalist. I love the sense of humor that comes through her writing— intelligent and subtle, slightly snarky but never cruel. I’d love to watch her interact with Holmes. I’m sure that, like Irene Adler in the original canon, she would force him to rethink his assumptions about women.
3) The Tenth Doctor from Doctor Who. I have to throw one of the Doctors in there, because who would have better travel stories? I picked Ten for his quirkiness and manic energy. And ,yes, it doesn’t hurt that he’s easy on the eyes. I’d love to have some of the other Doctors as well, especially the fourth Doctor, the one with the hat and the long scarf (he was my first Doctor and, to my mind, the most iconic),. But crossing personal timelines is always dangerous. Besides, if I invited multiple Doctors, they’d probably just argue among themselves all evening.
4) The novelist Laurie R King. She’s brilliant and well-educated, and anyone who writes the way she does has got to be interesting to talk to.
5) The actor Richard Armitage. He happens to be my silly celebrity crush (Don’t we all have one if we’re being honest?). Not only is he handsome and possessed of a voice I could listen to all night, but in interviews he seems intelligent and well-read. His approach to developing characters as an actor is similar to my approach to developing characters as a writer, and I think it would be intriguing to compare and contrast our respective arts.
What’s your favorite vacation? Do you mean my Someday dream vacation, or my favorite have-actually-been-able-to-afford-to-go vacation?
I really want to travel Ireland, Scotland and England. I feel deeply drawn to Bru na Boinne (AKA Newgrange, a beautiful and mystical Neolithic site that predates the Egyptian pyramids). Every time I think it’s absolutely impractical to think of ever going there, some odd little coincidence happens to push me toward going.
While in that area, of course I would have to check out the live music scene in Dublin, as I’m crazy about Irish music. If I’m especially lucky, I might stumble into an opportunity to do a bit of dancing. I love Irish social dance.
There are some castles in Scotland I want to tour, both to research a novel I have on the back burner and because I like castles and history.
Then of course in England there’s Stonehenge and Glastonbury, plus I’d want to make a pilgrimage to the Sherlock Holmes pub in London.
But that’s all a bit out of reach right now.
My favorite vacation that I’ve done semi-regularly in the past is catching some of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon. It’s so inspiring to see practically and entire town so devoted to a playwright who lived hundreds of years ago. Even the wait staff at the late-night diners will offer informed opinions about the season’s plays and actors.
The productions themselves are incredible. They do Shakespeare, of course, and some modern plays as well.
Lithia Park is right behind the theaters, so between plays you can walk under these huge, ancient trees or sit and listen to the music of the stream and feel like Tatiana or Puck could step out behind you at any moment.
I’ve never been in Ashland without having at least one fascinating and unexpected conversation with a random stranger. It truly is a magical place.
What’s surprised you most about being a published author? The sense of responsibility I feel to my readers. When I realized that there are people waiting for my next work, suddenly I felt a tremendous pressure to produce, and to produce the best thing I could. It’s done wonders for my work ethic.
Do you do a lot of research for your books? I think that every writer’s motto should be ‘we research because we care.’ The amount of research required, depends on the book.
For Ravensblood, I got off light, since it’s mostly set in an alternate-universe version of Portland, Oregon, where I used to live, and which is not too far from where I live now. I really didn’t have to research the locale, beyond a little fact-checking to make sure things were as I remembered them to be. But even then, I couldn’t escape research entirely.
For example, at one point in the story, Raven nearly bleeds to death. I had to look into the after-effects of such an experience from a medical standpoint. It was important to get it right, so that the trauma felt real to the reader. It can’t be like one of the old dice-driven role-playing games, where the character makes his saving throw and is back up and fighting like nothing happened.
In the same novel, I have a scene where I needed to know how long a character could remain conscious with a knife in his heart. I am lucky to have a friend who was an ER nurse with some background as a first responder. I took her estimate and then actually timed the dialogue to make sure it could take place in that window of time. The secret is leaving the knife in— when the knife is pulled, the wounded person dies pretty quick.
Little things count. I checked with jewelers on the time it would take to counterfeit an antique crown and looked at airline timetables to see how long it would take the counterfeiter to get the counterfeit from Australia to the Pacific Northwest.
My previous novel, The Stolen Luck, required a bit more research, since my protagonist is a vintner and I started out knowing very little about wines and winemaking. Fortunately, I live in the heart of Oregon’s wine country, a perfect place to do the necessary research. I signed up for Wineology 101, a long weekend of wine tastings, winery tours and classes. Not only did I come away with the practical information I needed, I also got a sense of the passion winemakers have for their art and their vineyards, a passion which aided me in developing the character of Lord James Dupree.
I also came home with about half a case of assorted wines from different vineyards. Just because research is painstaking doesn’t mean it has to be painful.
My biggest research challenge came with my steampunk/Victorian detective novel (recently completed and currently making the marketing rounds). I put a lot of research time into that one, not only reading about Victorian London, its crime and its police force, but also pouring over original source material written in that era in order to get a real feel for the language and the attitudes of the time.
In the same novel, my werewolf clandestinely acts as a tracker dog for my Scotland Yard detective. I needed to learn something about scent tracking works. Along the way, I made friends with some nice people who train tracking dogs.
There are definitely perks to this research thing.
Have you ever used an incident from real life in one of your books? Lifting incidents whole-cloth from real life can cause problems that range from flabby writing (‘but that’s how it really happened’ is not an excuse!) to writing-as-therapy (may be helpful to you, but will bore the reader to tears) to, in extreme cases, lawsuits.
Picking up details from real life incidents and painting them onto the new canvas of your story is another thing entirely. For example, I wouldn’t bore my readers with a chapter of slogging through half-frozen mud to feed horses pastured on Chehalem Mountain. However, in The Stolen Luck, when I needed to make my characters really miserable on their journey I used the memory of wind blowing slushy rain into my face, my clothing already soaked through and the horrible knowledge that it’s only going to get colder when the sun goes down.
Music on repeat: The exact CD varies, but it’s almost always something Celtic, usually an indie release and often by one of my friends.
Favorite move: Thunderheart. Not only for the subject matter— indigenous rights with a side of environmentalism. Not only because of its deftly handled hints of the spiritual and the supernatural blending with the world-as-we-think-it-is. Thunderheart is a writer’s movie: beautifully intertwined character and story arcs, masterful use of technique. If you haven’t seen it yet, go watch it.
Favorite flower: Red heirloom roses, the old-fashioned kind with scent.
Tea or coffee?: In general, tea. Unless I really need the extra caffeine from the coffee. Or there’s doughnuts. Doughnuts require coffee. Also, if the choice is between mediocre coffee and mediocre tea, I’ll take mediocre coffee because it’s less of an affront.
What’s next for you? I have two finished novels currently making the marketing rounds, trying to find a home with traditional publishers. One is a medieval fantasy set in a world similar to England about three generations past the Norman Conquest. (Two enemies discover that they share a father. Can they join together as brothers to save the land from tyranny?).
The other is that steampunk/Victorian detective novel I’ve been talking about, intended as the first in a series of stand-alones. (Think Sherlock Holmes if Holmes was a reluctantly-involved werewolf, Watson was a woman alchemist with attitude and Lestrade wasn’t an idiot.)
The sequel to Ravensblood is outlined, and I will be starting on the writing soon. I’m hoping to have it out in a year or so.
Because there’s been so many people asking for another book along the lines of The Stolen Luck, I’m also working on a high fantasy with a male/male romance woven into the plotline.
For those clamoring for an actual sequel to The Stolen Luck, and especially for more of Ashe, I can only say I have some ideas. Be patient, I’ll get there.
What one question do you want to ask your Readers? I always want to know from my readers what affects them emotionally. Where did I have them laughing? Where did they cry? Where did they give a sigh of satisfaction?
And if you want to see more of a particular character or place, by all means let me know! I can’t make any promises, but after several people asking to see a relatively minor character in a sequel, sometimes plot bunnies start hopping.
In a life of impossible choices when sometimes death magic is the lesser of the evils, can a dark mage save the world and his own soul?
Corwyn Ravenscroft. Raven. The last heir of an ancient family of dark mages, he holds the secret to recreating the Ravensblood, a legendary magical artifact of immense power.
Cassandra Greensdowne is a Guardian. Magical law enforcement for the elected council— and Raven’s former apprentice and lover. She is trying to live down her past. And then her past comes to the door, asking for her help.
As a youth, Raven wanted to be a Guardian but was rejected because of his ancestry. In his pride and his anger, he had turned to William, the darkest and most powerful mage of their time. William wants a return to the old ways, where the most powerful mage was ruler absolute. But William would not be a True King from the fairy tales. He would reign in blood and terror and darkest magic.
Raven discovers that he does have a conscience. It’s rather inconvenient.
He becomes a spy for the council that William wants to overthrow, with Cassandra as his contact.
Cass and Raven have a plan to trap William outside his warded sanctuary. But William is one step ahead of the game, with Raven’s life, his soul, and the Ravensblood all in danger.
Where you can find Shawna online:
Amazon author page