Interview with Fantasy Author Karen Tomlinson
First off, Happy Holidays!
I’ve been spending time with family, including a Christmas Eve showing of Rogue One with my two nephews! I can’t tell you how cool that was. The entire visit has been great and even though I’ve snuck in time to work on writing and edits, I didn’t worry about posting much. Because, well, the holidays are busy enough. You didn’t need more posts, right?
To get us back on track, I have a great interview lined up with the awesome fantasy author Karen Tomlinson!
I helped Karen with a post on the release of her first novel, A Bond of Venom and Magic, a few months back. Now she has returned for an interview and has TWO wonderful excerpts to share! Hey, it is the day after Christmas so we wanted to give you something.
Without further ado, meet author Karen Tomlinson and get a taste of her writing…
A few icebreaker questions to get to know Karen:
What animal best describes your personality?
Oh, good question. I would suspect, like my birth sign, a Lion or lioness would suit me best. I am fairly laid back, unless I’m hungry, then I’m quick to temper. I’m fiercely protective of the people I care about, I like to be in the company of my family and friends but am also content to have my own space. The only trouble is I dislike eating meat so I guess I’d starve, I doubt there are many vegetarian Lionesses out there!
So you are a lioness, a very rare vegetarian one, but does that make you a cat or dog person?
Oh my goodness, there is no contest, absolutely a dog person. I have a Dalmatian called poppy and I love her to bits. Cats don’t like me and I’m not keen either….(bit of an issue if I am a lioness in spirit though!!
Maybe your lioness spirit scares the cats away! How about your favorite transportation: trains, planes, automobiles, or boats?
I love steam trains…I love to watch TV programmes on great railway journeys. I find the engineering of the train lines and where they ventured amazing. I think steam trains are fabulous to look at, even if they are smelly and noisy. It all adds to their charm.
My dad is a steam train buff too, which has lead to some amazing trips which involve hot cinders flying into our faces. Hehe. What are the most important traits you look for in a friend?
I don’t actively look for people to befriend but I think you can tell reasonably quickly if someone is genuine. I am an introvert by nature and love to watch people. I have to admit to weighing people up before I decide whether to trust them or not…All of my friends are gorgeous people (well I think so) they are kind, trustworthy and honest. I also think that if you wish to make and keep friends you have to accept people for their individual personality traits…none of us are perfect. A lot depends on how much you value their friendship…
I think your answer holds true to a scientific truth that readers and writers tend to be more empathetic (despite what we do to our characters!). Now how about what music soothes your soul?
I adore singing lullabies with my girls. I don’t know why but Eva Cassidy’s Fields of goals I find soothing, and I love listening to Israel Kamakawiwo’ole – Over The Rainbow & What A Wonderful World.
And what simple pleasure makes you smile?
Walking in the hills near my home. I love to be out in the fresh air and feel the sun on my face or the biting cold of snow or frost stinging my cheeks and nose. I love to look at the stars and wonder what is out in space but the thing that always makes me happy and love my life is to cuddle my twin girls…
I think we’d get along well, Karen. I have Kamakawiwo’ole’s Over the Rainbow on my iPod and listen to it often while roaming hill and dale, often with my dog. lol. But we can’t stop here because the interview isn’t done.
On to the writing questions!
Is your recent book part of a series?
Yes. A Bond of Venom and Magic is book one in The Goddess and the Guardians series. There will be four books in the series and Book 2 A Bond of Blood and Fire is currently at Beta read stage and is due for release in April 2017. Jonas Jodicke did the cover art for book one and has agreed to work on book 2 as well which I am really excited about.
Your next book this spring! How exciting! What do you think are the special challenges in writing a series?
I would say the biggest challenge I am facing at the present time is ensuring that I tie up the many plot points. I have a ‘questions to answer’ list for books three and four. I am also hoping that my Beta readers will give me some feedback on the plot points I have covered in book 2. As a reader I hate it if I have unanswered questions at the end of a series, so want to make sure I tie everything up neatly at the end of book four.
What else have you written?
I haven’t written any other full works yet. In addition to The Goddess and the Guardians series, I am writing a pre-quel. My hope is that this will add to the world building and explain some of the characters from the series in more depth. I hope to have it finished by spring and released by early summer next year. I also have at least two additional works planned for this world and a completely different genre manuscript that I can’t wait to start work on. It is currently in the planning stage.
You have a lot of writing ahead of you! Some authors, like me, always write scenes in order. But I know some people write scenes out of order. How about you?
I do like to write scenes in order, although I do have ideas that reach me at all hours of the day and night, and I will write them down wherever I am. I keep a notebook in the car. I have my phone with me and makes notes on that (even in the early hours of the morning if I suddenly have an idea for a character or plot point whilst I am in that strange place where your brain works over time between wakefulness and sleep) and I take my computer just about everywhere with me. But although I write these ideas down I find I get too confused with the story line if I write out of order.
Capturing those ideas is so important to keeping a story idea flowing and alive. Though after working for a very long time on a novel, many authors get to a point where they lose their objectivity and feel unable to judge their own work. Has this ever happened to you? If so, what have you done about it?
Oh yes! It took me four years to write the first book, mainly because I was discovering my own style and writing process. I had to discard a huge amount of my story due to my immense word count. After I had rewritten and edited…and edited…and edited, I really had lost perspective, not only that, I had no idea if anyone would truly like to read it. To counter this I canvassed for fantasy readers at work. Some of them I knew, some I did not. Their feedback, both good and bad, was useful in how I edited the story…again.
My sister has also been invaluable in reading, and re-reading my manuscripts. When I have lost my enthusiasm or confidence, she has boosted my morale and got me back on track. It is easy to lose perspective when you are so totally focused on one thing, and I personally feel you need a writing buddy…or maybe a sister… to bounce your writing off, to get that perspective and joy in your story, back.
Your sister sounds like an amazing, supportive asset with your writing. What do you like best about the books you read? What do you like least?
I absolutely love books of any genre. I go through phases of reading different genres. I love books with brilliant world building and strong characters. It doesn’t matter if the characters are weak, or annoying or evil, so long as they are writen well and consistently enough to give me an idea about their personalities.
If I dislike a character or get cross at them for being weak etc., I never mark a book down in my review for that. If anything it shows brilliant writing because the author has made me feel and understand that character as they should be. I love that kind of skill in an author. I love romantic tension in the books I read and conflict that might have devastating results to the world of the characters.
Books and authors are wonderful things and reading is a great passion of mine (as you can probably tell!). What I dislike about some books is writing that doesn’t engage me, weak portrayal of characters and unfinished, or ignored, plot points. I also dislike it immensely when authors lead their readers to invest and care about characters and then decide they have too many plot points and back story lines so kill people off to make it neater… There is one particular big fantasy series that has done that and I have totally lost interest now.
I think I know the fantasy series of which you speak… and I admit to having fallen off that wagon myself. Brilliant writing, but I have no desire to invest time losing favorite character after favorite character. You are a fantasy author but if you were to write a non-fiction book, what might it be about?
Ooh, I work in adult education, in the medical profession. I am a nurse by back ground and currently work as a resuscitation and clinical skills trainer. A major part of my job is delivering critical feedback and reviews, for my students and also my colleagues. I found getting good, critical feedback on my manuscript hard. I think this is because delivering critical but constructive feedback is a difficult skill. I would love to write a book on critical reviewing (and beta reading)…not just for fiction writers and reviewers but for anyone; educators, teachers etc too.
I think we need that book to exist! I hope you write it. 🙂 Do you miss spending time with your characters when you finish writing them?
I absolutely do. Since I sent book 2 manuscripts out to beta readers I have been itching to continue with book 3 to see where Diamond and Hugo go next. However the pre-quel characters are also demanding I write their story so I am trying my best to keep them happy too.
Your current series is fantasy but what genre have you never written in that you’d like to try?
I’d really like to write a dystopian/ sci fi. I have an idea in my head that took root about eighteen months ago and will not go away. I have a beginning, a setting and a reason for conflict. Interestingly I don’t have an ending yet, which is completely the opposite to The Goddess and the Guardians series. The ending for that has been in my head for years. I have a great battle scene swimming around my thoughts that needs to come out and an ultimate demise for some of my characters….
Eeep! Just kidding, I can handle a few characters dying. Just a few! 😉 Have you ever started out to write one book and ended up with something completely different?
Absolutely! My current series started off as an attempt at a children’s fantasy adventure. However, I soon discovered that the children’s genre did not fit my ‘voice’. I realised I needed to write in more romantic conflict and fight scenes to find writing it exciting. I also found wording and sentence structure difficult to write for a younger age group, in a way that would express the emotion and describe the world in the way I wanted.
Once I realised this, and became comfortable with my ‘voice’ by changing it for an older age group, I found I didn’t stop writing until I typed ‘The End’. It wasn’t until then that I paid attention to my word count and realised I had written 250000 words. I then went back and had to cut lots of the story and some characters from the manuscript. So yes, I started one book and ended up with something entirely different. My characters changed immensely and my story changed reader age as I settled into my writing style.
I’m so glad you found your voice and flow with your story. It is always said to write the story the way it wants to be told and you did! What do you know now that you wish you’d known five years ago?
I wish that I had known more about marketing and planned the launch of my first book when I already had the series almost done. It may not have made any difference to the visibility of my first book but, perhaps, I would have been more comfortable with the whole self-publishing process if I had planned it more in depth and had more prior knowledge. I think when you are writing your first book, that is essentially your focus and achieving publication of said book is usually the main goal. You don’t realise until after, how writing the book is the easy bit. Marketing, selling and organising your time and finances is where you have to sink your efforts, afterwards writing essentially takes a back seat…
It is a sad truth to writing. So few of us are just writers; this is a business with a lot of other aspects! Thank you so much for your time, Karen.
Now it is time for some excerpts from A Bond of Venom and Magic!
An excerpt from a scene with the red warrior
The window warrior spun swiftly in front of the door, facing Hugo with his sword drawn. Clearly, he wanted to give his lord time to escape, even if that meant his own death. Before the door banged shut downstairs, Hugo stormed forward. The warrior flicked his wrist. Diamond gasped. Red magic. No Avalonian had red magic anymore. It rippled across the room like a wave of shimmering heat. Hugo roared, but not in pain.
Leaning into the onslaught of power he grinned with fiendish delight, darkness rippling around him. A shroud of silver-flamed shadow devoured the red wave, even as his powerful body charged forwards.
The warrior swore, desperately raising his sword in defence. Clearly he had expected a different reaction to his magical attack. Hugo’s wrathful bellow filled the room as he drove his sword down. Metal jarred and sparked.
“You took her from me! I can smell her blood. Now you will die!” he promised, his voice nothing like his own. It was more animalistic than Diamond had ever heard.
The warrior blocked Hugo’s blade with skill and precision. Red magic meant the ability to control heat and fire. Hugo’s blade began to glow as the other fae heated it like it had come out of a furnace. Hugo grunted but did not let go. The white-hot metal did not burn him through the glove of darkness rippling around his hand.
“Stop this, commander! We are not your enemy,” the warrior panted, blocking and spinning away from Hugo’s blades with utter confidence and no small amount of skill.
Hugo did not answer, his only response was to blast the red magic away with a veil of darkness, parrying a strike and bringing his other blade down with such force the window warrior stumbled, almost driven to his knees. Hugo blocked the warrior’s sweeping sword strike and stabbed him through the shoulder, before mercilessly slashing across the male’s thigh. A move meant to incapacitate. The warrior dropped to one knee but somehow still managed to block Hugo’s killing blow.
“Commander! Stop! She will be safer with us. If you take her back to the palace, the Queen will kill her! You know she will! We need Diamond to live! All of us do!” he panted, desperation in his voice now.
Diamond gasped as she saw the warrior’s hand drop to his boot and grasp the handle of a small concealed knife.
“Hugo!” she yelled, fighting her bonds with all her might. Pain screeched through Diamond’s wrists as the silk tightened. She screamed. It was going to cut off her hands!
Instead of killing the warrior, Hugo kicked his assailant in the chest sending him sprawling. There was a solid thud as the warrior’s head smacked into the wall and he stilled. Hugo immediately twisted to Diamond, dropping to his knees in front of her. Blood ran from her wounds, dripping down the chair arms.
“Keep still,” he ordered, pulling a dagger and slicing through the silken rope.
Sobbing with relief, she sagged against him before the pain started in earnest. Her fingers burned as blood rushed back in. Diamond whimpered, not sure what to do with herself.
Thoughts of the window warrior escaped them both. Hugo quickly slashed strips of material off his tunic. Dropping his blades he firmly bound her wrists, trying to staunch the heavy flow of blood. For a moment he leaned his forehead against hers and gripped each wrist as she fought to control her panicked sobs.
“Shh. It’s alright. You’ll be fine now. Breathe, Diamond. In…out…with me. That’s it.”
Slowly her mind returned to her. With her head leaning against Hugo’s, they shared the same warm breath. She closed her eyes, her body responding to his. Her breathing slowed until it mirrored his own and she could swear she heard the distant beat of his heart.
The scuff of boots on the wooden floor had Hugo on his feet in front of her, blades ready. Diamond looked on as he faced the bleeding warrior, his face icy and calm.
“We are not your enemy,” the warrior panted. Equally calm and with slow intent he sheathed his own blades.
“Kill me if you must. But you know if you take her back to the palace, the Queen will destroy her. Let her come with me, commander. Please. I give you my word I will keep her safe,” the warrior appealed, holding his bloodied hands out to Diamond.
Hugo looked down at her, his brow bunched. Diamond shook her head frantically and grabbed at his tunic. He couldn’t be considering it.
A scene from the quarry
Exhausted, she wandered over to a flat rock and lay down, letting her aching limbs rest. Dry sticks cracked underfoot as Hugo returned clutching a handful of what looked like sponge. A large knife dangled from his other fist. He sheathed it with practised ease and precision. Nervous as ever when he was near, Diamond chose to look at his boots, not his face.
“Here,” he said sitting down next to her.
Forcing herself upright she blinked and changed her vision. The silver strands of his energy only wavered around him now, looking depleted. She swallowed her sharp intake of breath. It frightened her to know he was getting weaker.
“Chew this. It has moisture in it. It will help sooth your throat, just don’t swallow the sponge,” he rumbled quietly.
Diamond took the piece of yellowish, spongy-looking plant, eyeing it suspiciously before deciding to trust him to put it in her mouth and chew. The juice was sweet and gloriously cool as it ran down her throat. She swallowed and groaned with pleasure, sensing his energy stir as he smiled a little.
“Thank you so much,” she whispered gratefully. Warmth caressed her skin for a moment before withdrawing. It was the same feeling of belonging and security that bloomed through her chest every time he was near. Suddenly shy, she twisted a loose strand of hair around her fingers.
Hugo turned and cocked his head to one side, a small frown creasing his brow as he watched that outward sign of her agitation. “Are you okay?” she blurted, not really knowing what else to say. They had not really spoken since he had found them, only the occasional word.
His eyes widened in surprise. Belatedly she realised he probably didn’t get asked about his well-being much—if ever. The corners of his mouth tilted into a smile. “Yes—thank you, Diamond.” Her name rumbled across his tongue, soft and gentle.
Her throat dried out, and she squirmed a little under his gaze. Every single word she knew disappeared from her head. After a moment he reached out, slowly and carefully, and caught her overworked fingers.
“You will have to cut that bit of hair off if you keep twisting it into knots,” he chastised gently, pushing her hand into her lap. “And that would be a real shame.” His hand lingered against hers.
Her magic stirred at his touch. A spark of heat deep inside her flared to life. She tried shuffling her position a bit to distract herself, but his energy pulsed against her exposed skin, magnifying her feelings, inciting her magic further. Diamond pulled away. If she never released her magic again it would be fine by her.
“You, on the other hand, look completely exhausted. Why don’t you lie down? Try and sleep,” Hugo suggested, turning and gently pushing her down.
Diamond sank onto the hard cold rock, her eyes not leaving his. Exhaustion washed over her in waves. As she drifted off to sleep Diamond was dimly aware Hugo stayed by her side. A guardian, silently watching the stars.
What great excerpts! If you enjoyed them as much as I did, check out a Bond of Venom and Magic on Karen’s blog.
A Bit About Karen
Karen has always been an avid reader. Her taste in books is eclectic but she likes nothing better than an exciting fantasy, set in a new and magical world. She lives in Derbyshire, England, with her husband, twin girls, and her dalmatian, Poppy.
Karen trained as a nurse and currently works as a resuscitation and clinical skills trainer, this involves training a wide variety of health care professionals and medical students in acute patient care. In addition to writing, and reading whenever she can, Karen likes to keep active. She has been training at Shotokan karate since thirteen, likes walking, mountain biking and (for something completely different) cake decorating. She is currently working on book three in The Goddess and the Guardians series. Book two: A Bond of Blood and Fire releases April 2017.
Find Karen at:
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