Charlotte is a lovely lady I met on Twitter, and I was instantly drawn to her blog because she often discusses tropes and ideas in fantasy fiction such as – my favourite – warrior women. Charlotte is another expat… I seem to be collecting them… except that she’s an English lady living in the Netherlands with her formerly long-distance partner, another thing we have in common! Charlotte recently published her fantasy novel, Draykon, on Smashwords, Amazon US and Amazon UK.
You can follow Charlotte on Twitter here or check out her website here.
How old were you when you first took up writing as a hobby?
I started scribbling bits and pieces of fiction in my early teens. I don’t think I really thought about what I was doing at the time; it was just an impulse that I had. I rarely finished anything, but then again I kept it up year after year.
When did you realise you wanted to write a book?
I didn’t have any kind of epiphany about that. At the age of 17 I was bored, lonely and unhappy and I drifted into world-building and planning for a fantasy novel. It was done as escapism rather than out of any ambition, but I took to it pretty quickly. I never finished that piece, but I’ve still got all the notes and plans I did then. After a while it simply became habit to have a long fiction project on the go somewhere.
Tell us more about Draykon.
Draykon utilises some of the ideas I had for my first novel project, but overall it’s a wholly new piece of work. It combines some of my favourite features in fantasy fiction – eccentric and quirky gadgetry and world-building, colourful characters (some of which are animals), mystery, humour and romance. The story follows two heroines: shy Llandry Sanfaer, a jeweller who makes a remarkable and dangerous discovery, and Lady Evastany Glostrum, a powerful and wealthy peer whose life is turned upside down when she is drawn into the chaos surrounding Llandry’s mesmerising new gemstone. It’s the first in a series; I’m hoping to release the second book in early 2012.
Tell us about your creative process.
I’m not much of a planner. I get my best ideas when I actually get stuck in and write, so that’s mostly the way that I work. It’s exciting to see the story unfold on the page. I keep fairly loose chapter outlines to keep me on track, and I usually have an end goal in mind, but much of the action in a story is created spontaneously as I go.
As a reader, compelling characters is almost always the most important feature of a book to me. I tend to approach writing with that in mind. A lot of the story is drawn from the characters that populate it.
Do you remember the details of the first story you ever finished? Will you share it with us?
I don’t know if it was absolutely the first, but I remember discovering story-writing at age 10 or 11 (I don’t exactly remember) as a result of a school project. Set to produce a story, I actually produced two: one was a version of Theseus and the Minotaur (I was enthralled by Greek myths at the time) and the other was a ghost story about an abused terrier. I turned in about five times as many pages as I was actually required to. What I clearly remember about that time, though, was the sheer fun I had creating those tales. Fortunately I still get that feeling.
Will you tell us what you’ve learned on your literary journey?
Hm. To trust my instincts. I went through a phase of trying desperately hard to be a close planner. That was my academic background muddying the waters – good essay-writing practice involves creating a detailed plan first. It took me some time to realise that I just couldn’t write productively that way, and even longer to realise that this was okay.
I’ve also frequently stalled projects by second-guessing myself as I go. Self-doubt is a real killer if you’re trying to actually finish something. It wasn’t until I accepted that it won’t be perfect that I was able to finish a full novel. And that’s hard for a perfectionist, but it was an important lesson to learn.
Who would you say your biggest literary influences are?
I’ve read so extremely voraciously throughout my life that it’s hard to pick a few influences. And it’s difficult to pinpoint where those influences are coming from. But let’s give it a go.
Tamora Pierce was the first fantasy author I really loved, and I still read everything she publishes. I don’t write young adult fiction, but I think my love of strong female heroines owes something to her, as well as my fondness for animal characters.
Jane Austen. I’ve been reading her novels regularly since I was about fourteen, and there’s still something new to be found in them. What fascinates me about her work (among other things) is the way her characters interact with each other. I also love her sharp wit and excellent dialogue. I can probably point to her as a source of some of my fondness for writing dialogue and character relationships now.
If you could spend some time in any novel, which novel would you choose to jump in to?
I used to want to be a character in Tamora Pierce’s series The Immortals. I would have been a mage. I think I even made up a character for myself at one point.
Other than that, I’d enjoy spending some time in The Anvil of the World by Kage Baker. Kage’s wry humour is really appealing to me; I feel that my character would get to do plenty of eccentric and crazy things and she’d get some brilliant lines too.
If you were offered the thing you most desire in exchange for never writing another word, what would be your desire and would you take the offer?
I had to think pretty hard about this question because for many years now there were two things I most wanted in the world: to live with my long-distance partner at last, and to publish a novel. I’ve achieved both of those things in the last couple of months. Actually the prospect of giving up writing forever is completely chilling – I fear I’d pretty quickly go mad – so let’s move on.
If Hollywood made a movie out of your novel, who would you like to see cast?
I actually had Rachel Weisz’s face and voice in mind when I created Lady Glostrum. She’s perfect for the degree of poise, confidence and refinement (and beauty) that I envisage for Eva.
For Llandry I would cast Ruth Wilson, the young actress who played Jane Eyre in the TV adaptation of a few years back. She’d be perfect for Llan’s slightly unconventional appearance, her intensity and her endearing awkwardness.
As for Tren, I’d probably cast Ben Barnes. He’s good at that youthful exuberance and good cheer that’s characteristically Tren.
The age old question: self-publishing or traditional?
I’m not completely closed to traditional publishing if the circumstances were right, but it’s not a goal of mine anymore. That’s because I detest having to wait for other people to grant me opportunities; I prefer to create my own. I’ve also really enjoyed being in control of each area of production in producing an e-book. I’ve learned a lot from the process and it’s been thrilling all the way, so I have every intention of continuing with self-publishing for the foreseeable future!
Thanks so much for your time, Charlotte, and good luck with Draykon!
- Guest Interview: Suzanne Korb of Bang Out The Prose (lissawrites.wordpress.com)