Sands has some similarities to the famous science fiction book Dune by Frank Herbert. What type of book were you trying to create with Sands? What type of book would you classify it as in terms of genre?
Sands does have some certain similarities to Herbert’s Dune, though more in the environment than the scope of the novel. Dune has a far richer level of complexity and mysticism than does Sands.
When I started writing Sands, my intent was to create a new, exciting epic fantasy world, but geared more toward the current YA audience rather than just an adult readership. I think I was able to pull that off. I would classify it as YA epic fantasy, especially since it was intended to be a five book series.
Throughout Sands, Lhaurel and other women in the clans are discriminated against because of their gender. Is there a message you are trying to send with Lhaurel’s subsequent actions in the book?
There are certainly messages I’m trying to send. All books, even and sometimes especially children’s books, have some sort of message they are trying to convey. However, I will leave it up to the readers to determine what that message (or messages) is. As an author, my intent is more to ask questions and present possible answers rather than to give you “the” or “a” right answer. So through the Sharani Series readers will see lots of scenarios that would defy initial stereotypes and see some that fall well within them. Each are there for a reason and have a purpose in helping the reader to find their own answers.
There are a lot of awesome butt-kicking characters in Sands. Which character is your favorite and why? What or who is the inspiration behind him or her?
Well, that’s a tough question. All the characters in Sands, even the “bad guys” are special to me in their own way. They all have their own stories to tell and I’ve enjoyed experiencing those stories with them.
However, that’s not the question. The question is “who is my favorite,” yes? Well, my real favorite character is no longer in the book in her original form. In the first draft Khari played a much smaller role in book. She wasn’t even a mystic. She had a niece, Kharienerah, who was and who ended up being the one who taught Lhaurel both how to use the sword and how to recognize and understand her powers. Throughout the course of edits, however, that character ended up having to merge with the “then Khari” to form the hybrid character which is the Khari in the published manuscript. While I still like her, there were bits of Khari’s personality which weren’t my favorite and changed the character of both women enough to create a new person. I still have a certain fondness for that original character though.
I guess my favorite character from the published book would have to be Gavin, though. He’s a representation of everything I’m not, in some regards. He’s optimistic, naïve, quick to judge, and a little rash. Yet there’s an enduring earnestness to him that resonates with me too. You’ll see throughout the series where he goes and understand his vital role in this world as it progresses.
What is the point of the aevians in the book? Are they just cool magical creatures that you thought would’ve made the book more interesting or do they represent something more?
The aevians are both cool creatures and represent something more. They are a representation of balance. The genesauri monsters needed to have an enemy, something that would hunt and feed off them in some regard. Also, the Roterralar needed some way to travel the Sharani Desert. I combined the two to create the falcon-like aevians.
There are other reasons, of course, but I’ll have to give you a “read and find out” (RAFO) on those as the rest of the books in the series come out.
In Sands, the three kinds of mystics are very important to the Roterralar. However, as the book proceeds, we realize that Lhaurel is something entirely different. Is there a reason you chose what you chose for her magical ability?
Short answer, yes – there’s a very specific reason why Lhaurel has the ability she has. Long answer – you’ll need to read the rest of the series. Lhaurel’s abilities are at the core of the series and the world in which she lives. I’ll give you a hint though, Lhaurel is not the only one you’ve seen who has abilities greater than what she should – and there’s a reason for both of them.
At the end of the Sands, there are a series of revelations that come to life. Can you give us an idea of what characters will be playing big roles in the second book?
Well, pay attention to Lhaurel, Gavin, and Khari – the three main ones you see in the epilogue of Sands. There are some minor characters from Sands who will take on larger roles in Storms (the sequel to Sands). You’ll also be introduced to some new characters – one of whom is the most complication character I’ve ever created. Storms comes out on January 7th so hopefully you’re looking forward to that with as much anticipation as I am. Trust me, it’s even better than Sands.
Resurgent Shadows is part of a series that you developed. What is Resurgent about? How does it differ from Sands?
Resurgent Shadows is the first book of the Successive Harmony Series. It is the story of how two different groups of people face great evil and confusion and figure out a way to battle through it and find the good anyway. To make it fun, those groups are thrown into a world where modern life has been decimated by a merging with the fantasy world and dragons and creatures of myth now walk among man. Electricity no longer works and humanity itself is on the brink of destruction.
It is different from Sands and the Sharani Series in that it has male protagonists and it has a much simpler tie-in to modern society and life since the book is set in our current time period, but with a twist. Sands is an epic fantasy set in its own world and with its own rules, culture and expectations that are unique to that society. Resurgent Shadows is based on modern culture and ideas, but juxtaposed with the mythic and magical.
What can we expect to come from your Successive Harmony series?
The Successive Harmony series will be interesting. It deals with several different themes throughout the series, most notably perseverance, death, enduring love, and the over-arching theme of harmony and balance. There is also some underlying themes and elements that will remain unspoken for now, but which will be awesome. Basically what you can expect is a lot of character development, awesome fight scenes between dragons and magic users, and several different questions that will give you food for thought.
What do you find exciting about writing SciFi/Fantasy novels?
The most exciting part of writing SciFi/Fantasy novels is world building. For me, world building is one of the most important aspects of any story, but especially in speculative fiction because – in many cases – these novels are set in unique worlds that aren’t always earth analogues. The setting and world have a direct influence on the characters and the culture within them. The plot and conflict derive directly from the way the world affects the setting which, in turn, affects the culture and characters and how they interact.
Where do you think the SciFi/Fantasy genres are heading?
The SciFi/Fantasy genres are growing rapidly, mostly due to the popularity of many of the film/TV adaptations of fantasy and science fiction novels. I think that the genre and the industry as a whole is going to gear toward novels that are easily adaptable to cinematography. As part of that, I foresee a large influx of products entering the market and it will become harder and harder to stand out and get read. But, there will also be a larger demand so it may still end being positive for everyone involved.
We are starting to see that the general population buys, and respects the SciFi/Fantasy as literary genres. Do you think the establishment will accept the SciFi/Fantasy genres as literary fiction eventually?
Hmmm – good question. We saw both sides of this question in the recent HUGO Award decisions. There is certainly a line between literary fiction and some of the more popular science fiction and fantasy. I think that as the science fiction and fantasy genres continue to grow, so too will their ability to be respected and seen as more than just “speculative” fiction. Will there always be some that prefer their fiction a certain way – more action, more fun, and more entertainment OR more literary, more deepness of subtext, and more effluent prose – yes there will always be that divide, but I think it will lessen as the genres become more and more popular.
How do you feel about Scifi/Fantasy spilling into the literary fiction genre? Frankly, it’s a long time coming but what is your take on the cross-pollination of these genres?
Well, there is always a certain ability to cross-pollinate between genres and that is a good thing. Just like in flowers, sometimes great things can bloom from that infusion. Honestly, it depends on what I’m wanting out of the novel. There are some great literary techniques being used in fantasy today that weren’t being used earlier. However, some of the less literary have elements which are more entertaining and sometimes more fun. That being said, I think it is good to take the positive aspects from whatever genre you can and add it to your own work in order to heighten it. As long as the cross-pollination makes the end product better, it is worth doing.
Was Science Fiction/Fantasy always your chosen genres?
Yes – Science Fiction and Fantasy were always my chosen genres. I write what I enjoy reading and those are the sorts of books which always drew me as a reader. I also love reading westerns and other types of adventure fiction, though I’ve never strayed into writing either. Perhaps later in my writing journey I may.
You’ve stated in interviews that you are not an outliner writer. Do you develop the worlds of novels entirely in your mind before beginning to write? As you write do you visualize the worlds?
I’m actually what I like to call a hybrid writer. I figure out as many details as I can about the world first (generally in moleskine pocket notebooks) and then I visualize a couple of key plot points I want in the story. The rest of it evolves from there. The characters, culture, and plot are all (in part) derivatives of the world and what it forces them to do. So I have to visualize the world as I write in order to determine what the characters would do as they react to the situations thrust upon them.
As we all know writers have habits, routines, schedules, and superstitions which are part of their writing process. And, their novels can have their own processes taking on a life of their own at times. As the creative development of the plot/characters/narratives evolves for your stories what are some of the tools of the trade that you used to carve out your series?
I’m still developing a lot of those. Most of my tools involve pocket notebooks and a pen, jotting down what notes I can and then compiling them in my head. Now, with two different series going, it is getting harder to keep track of everything, especially with the other book ideas bouncing around in my head (just see my current writing projects page). As I write, I try and keep a characters document opened with key character points that I’ll add as I go along. Mostly though, it just goes back to my notebooks. Each series has its own notebook that has all my thoughts/ideas.
We know that the Illiad was one of your greatest inspirations that set off your writing career in the 6th grade. Can you expand upon that?
It was more a series of events than one in particular. My sixth-grade teacher was one of those rare finds when it comes to teachers. He not only taught well, but he knew how to inspire also. He challenged me to read the Illiad before the end of the year after the school library ran out of books I hadn’t read yet. The school librarian also challenged me to write my own book until there was more money in the budget to buy more books. Those two events combined with a voracious appetite for reading lead me to start writing books from then. Granted, they were all complete garbage, but they laid the foundation.
What are your favorite Science Fiction movies?
Hmmm – I like both of the new Star Trek movies, and any post-apocalypse/end of the world type movie. I’m also a Star Wars fan as well. Also, the animated movie, Home, is awesome.
How do you feel about Fantasy novels?
In short, I love them. Sands is 100% epic fantasy and it is the genre I most love. Resurgent Shadows seems more SciFi because of the post-apocalypse elements to it, but I still (personally) consider it more of a fantasy novel. I am a big fan of epic fantasy series (Wheel of Time, The Stormlight Archive, Belgariad, Riftwar Saga).
How has having critique partners/beta readers online greatly benefited your literary career?
My writing group has been a large part of what’s allowed me to have published books. They’re a great support system. In my group, we have two epic fantasy guys (myself and the other guy, who is the soul of our group(Beau)), a middle grade western fantasy guy (Luke), a middle grade fantasy lady of awesomeness (Amy), and a YA near future scifi lady (Beth) who helped create the name of our group (more on that later). They all have different takes on it, which allow all of us the opportunity to take lots of opinions and thoughts. Luke generally suggests I cut things. Beau wants to know more about the setting and world. Amy is the plot queen and always trying to guess what’s coming next. Beth wants to know about the relationships and for me not to break her brain with free modifiers and poor comma usage. It really helps me to learn and progress as a writer.
Can you provide an example of a time when your writing team helped you develop and grow as a writer?
In the original draft of Sands, there were several chapters in the beginning which detailed a specific aspect of Lhaurel’s life as she transitioned between who she was and who she is becoming (Spoiler – I’m referring to the eyrie scene where she’s taking care of the aevians). When my writing group got the original draft, they insisted helped me trim it down from four chapters to 2, and then my editors had me trim it down to a single chapter. It really helped the flow, though I do miss some of the richness of detail that was in those original chapters.
Lastly, what is the name of your writing team? It’s a cool name. Please share.
The name of my writing group is “Team Unleashed.” Why? Well, let’s just say that people are different really late at night and are sleep deprived. Or when you hit someone’s specific pet peeves and they go off, we say they’ve been “Unleashed.” We have all been “unleashed” at least once.