Saturday, 11 October 2014

Jennifer Williams interview


Today Jennifer Williams dropped in to talk about here writing.

Jennifer is a writer from London who writes character driven fantasy books, often with lots of peril and banter. She also have an unhealthy obsession with Bioware games, enjoys a glass of mead, and writes the occasional film review. Her first book, THE COPPER PROMISE, is out now from Headline books, with the sequel, THE IRON GHOST, to follow in February 2015.

Find her on twitter- @sennydreadful & at her website: http://sennydreadful.co.uk/


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For anyone that hasn’t read them can you tell us a bit about your books

THE COPPER PROMISE, and its sequel, THE IRON GHOST, are epic fantasy books with a strong leaning towards sword and sorcery: there’s definitely a world-threatening disaster looming here, but my sellsword characters aren’t sure they’re being paid enough to deal with it.

The blurb for THE COPPER PROMISE

There are some tall stories about the caverns beneath the Citadel - about magic and mages and monsters and gods.

Wydrin of Crosshaven has heard them all, but she's spent long enough trawling caverns and taverns with her companion Sir Sebastian to learn that there's no money to be made in chasing rumours. But then a crippled nobleman with a dead man's name offers them a job: exploring the Citadel's darkest depths. It sounds like just another quest with gold and adventure ... if they're lucky, they might even have a tale of their own to tell once it's over.

These reckless adventurers will soon learn that sometimes there is truth in rumour. Sometimes a story can save your life.

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Tell us a bit more about the last book you wrote

The last book I wrote was THE IRON GHOST, which follows on from the end of THE COPPER PROMISE, so without getting into spoilers, expect more adventure, mayhem, and angry gods.

The blurb for THE IRON GHOST

Beware the dawning of a new mage...

Wydrin of Crosshaven, Sir Sebastian and Lord Aaron Frith are experienced in the perils of stirring up the old gods. They are also familiar with defeating them, and the heroes of Baneswatch are now enjoying the perks of suddenly being very much in demand for their services.

When a job comes up in the distant city of Skaldshollow, it looks like easy coin - retrieve a stolen item, admire the views, get paid. But in a place twisted and haunted by ancient magic, with the most infamous mage of them all, Joah Demonsworn, making a reappearance, our heroes soon find themselves threatened by enemies on all sides, old and new. And in the frozen mountains, the stones are walking...

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What did you learn about writing whilst writing the last book you wrote?

Writing THE IRON GHOST was a new experience. Books I’d written previously, including THE COPPER PROMISE, were written to my own schedule in the cosy assumption that I’d probably be the only person to ever read them. Now, I was writing to a deadline for a real publisher, with a contract and everything. Suddenly the whole process was a lot scarier, and a lot more pressurised. “Ye gods,” I thought to myself, “people will actually read this. People will be paying money for it.” There followed a short period of panic and stress-eating, where I threw out notes repeatedly and started the book from scratch twice. Thankfully I got over that reasonably quickly and threw myself back in. I think every book is a learning experience, and perhaps the first one you write entirely under contract is a learning experience in a very specific way – I learnt that you have to be brave, and you can’t be afraid of the blank page.


Do you have a set writing process, if so what is it?


When I write a book I use a mixture of plotting and “making it up as you go along”. So usually I will start with characters – all of my books are very character driven – and I will make lots of notes on who they are and what makes them tick. Then I will get my corkboard out and start pinning up different odds and ends: what do I want to see in this book? What relationships will change and move forward? What sort of monsters/what sort of magic? The story emerges out of that, and once I have the basic framework I will refine it a few times, usually getting the whole thing down to a handful of notecards, and then we’re off. I don’t like to have everything set in stone at that stage, because I want the freedom to be able to follow where the book takes me as the story evolves.

The actual physical writing tends to happen in the evening, after work, or in big chunks at the weekend. I try to have my head in the book at least once a day, every day.


Do you write a lot of short stories?


The truthful answer to this is that I used to! These days I don’t have as much time, but a few years ago I went through a period of writing lots of short stories – mainly horror or dark fantasy. I was the editor of Dark Fiction Magazine for a while too, and was pleased to give a few great short stories an audio home.


Do you prefer the long or short form? How do you feel about Flash Fiction?

I think a well-written short story is a particularly delicious treat, and writing them well requires a special kind of discipline and skill. I suspect that these days my heart belongs to the novel, but one of the proudest moments in my writing career was seeing my flash fiction short THE PRICE published in Black Static magazine.


Which character in your books do you most identify with and why?

Ah, this is tough. I see tiny bits of myself in all three of my main characters; Wydrin and I share a sense of humour and a fear of responsibility, while Sebastian’s somewhat unyielding moral core is something I identify with strongly (when all my school friends were skipping train fares, I was the one who insisted on buying a ticket). I also have a bad temper, so writing Lord Frith’s angrier moments are a lot of fun.

Which bit of your writing are you most proud of?


To be honest, I’m proud to have a book out there at all – it always felt like such a wild dream, and it’s still difficult to comprehend that THE COPPER PROMISE is out in the world, in bookshops and in reader’s hands. In terms of specific writing, there is a subplot in the first book that started off as a throwaway idea and became something very important to the series as a whole. The big bad Dragon god Y’Ruen has an army of dragon-daughters, a bunch of minions to do her dirty work on the ground while she deals death and destruction elsewhere. It was when I started to ask myself questions about these minions – are they inherently evil? What would happen if something caused them to start acting like individuals? – that a big portion of the series’ soul was revealed to me. I’m quite proud of how that turned out.


Tell us a bit about how you got published? Did you go via a slush pile? Get an agent before a publisher?

My path to being published was a little odd, I suppose. Originally I wrote a short novella called THE COPPER PROMISE: GHOSTS OF THE CITADEL, which I self-published as a bit of an experiment. It had some favourable feedback, and a few people asked to see the complete manuscript. In the end, GHOSTS OF THE CITADEL became the opening section of a much larger book, and luckily for me the wonderful agent (and karaoke demon) Julie Mushens signed me up. Shortly after that the book was picked up by Headline, and I spent the next couple of months in shock.


In one sentence what is your best piece of advice for new writers?


Don’t listen too closely to writing advice.

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Many Thanks to Jen for providing interesting answers to our Bristol Book Blog questions!

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