It’s what I fell in love with. Ever since I read Lord of the Rings, almost all I have read is fantasy. It’s so imaginative. You can have almost anything happen in them. You can create outlandish worlds that could never exist. It’s creative.
Who are your fantasy author heroes?
Robert Jordan, R. Scott Bakker, and Brandon Sanderson.
How do you plan a series like the Jewels of Illumination or The Storm Below?
They are very different origins. The Storm Below was my first. I intended it to be a light-hearted adventure with flying ships and sky pirates and then, in my world building, I discovered a secret of the world that changed it into epic fantasy. I only have a book ahead planned writing that series. I knew what I was writing and the next book was shaping up in my head. I felt 5 books was what I needed even if I wasn’t sure how I would get there.
Jewels of Illumination, I had a much more concrete ending and what would happen. I knew the major events of the books. And even though it deviated a lot from my outline, the general gist didn’t change.
What do you feel are the key points in fantasy stories?
Great characters. That’s the key point of any book. But great characters who are exploring and unveiling and discovering a world that is fantastical.
Can you tell us a little about the new series Masks of Illumination?
It’s a companion series to Jewels of Illumination. They are separate series that can each stand-alone, but they compliment each other. It follows Foonauri, a noblewoman exiled from her home and tired of being just a pretty bauble on a man’s arm. When she is invited to join a thief group and steal an artifact, she might just find what she’s searching for.
How does constructing a standalone novel differ in the writing process?
It doesn’t. Its just a shorter story. You don’t have to worry about setting up future events, I suppose, but it’s merely the scale that’s different.
Is poetry a new venture for you?
I dabble from time to time.
What characteristics have changed in your main protagonists from the first to last book?
It depends on the characters, but it’s usually about going from weakness to strength. Not necessarily physically, but in understanding who they are, in overcoming flaws, in accepting their place.
Do you have plans for other books in the two series?
Not for the Storm Below, but Assassins of Illumination is a sequel to Jewels of Illumination.
How long have you been writing?
Seriously since 2013 but I started back in 1993 or so in Junior High.
How do you juggle your own writing with client’s projects?
I have a schedule. I spend X time on their stuff and X time on mine. I use timers and have my work day scheduled.
Do you have a dedicated writing space? Can you describe it?
Since I moved back in August, I do. No more writing in the living room! I have an office. It has my desk, some book shelves, and my recliner that I write on with a laptop. I have some posters for decoration.
JMD Reid has been a long-time fan of Fantasy ever since he read The Hobbit way back in the fourth grade. His head has always been filled with fantastical tales, and he is eager to share the worlds dwelling in his dreams with you. Reid is long-time resident of the Pacific Northwest in and around the City of Tacoma. The rainy, gloomy atmosphere of Western Washington, combined with the natural beauty of the evergreen forests and the looming Mount Rainier, provides the perfect climate to brew creative worlds and exciting stories! When he’s not writing, Reid enjoys playing video games, playing D&D and listening to amazing music.
JMD Reid is also a ghostwriter, which gives him a great deal of freedom to work on his own fantasy. It is his passion, that shines through his stories. JMD Reid has a lot of stories in his head and is looking forward to sharing them with his readers.
1.You describe your stories as epic fantasies with dark undertones. What drew you to this genre and type of story?
I have always been drawn to dark and gritty genres in all types of entertainment – horror films, true crime shows, certain types of music, etc., so I believe a touch of this will always show through in my writing. Part of the darkness I mention is also due to subject matter. I delve into the human mind and look at how psychological aspects might affect people and the choices they make. However, my books are mainly influenced by more classic fantasy with a medieval world, swords and bows, and a bit of magic. This comes from reading other books of this genre (such as those written by David Gemmell), but also from playing plenty of video games growing up, as well as watching animes and reading mangas.
Furthermore, I tend to add a third genre into the mix – romance. I’ve always loved a bit of romance, especially the slow burns and classy steamy scenes. The best of both (or all?) worlds! In my own opinion, anyway!
2.When you were creating the background world to The Light of Darkness series, did you have a specific place in mine?
Not really, other than I wanted a world where the characters would see all the different season. I think it adds a certain beauty, with the budding flowers in spring, the light and heat of summer, the shifting colours of autumn, and the snow and darkness of winter. I suppose it is not too dissimilar from where I live myself. I would say the Midlands (where most of the series takes place) is probably a north- to mid-European climate. However, the expanded world has everything from swamps, mountains, lowlands, steppes, deserts, and so on, and the reader does get to meet people from plenty of these places as the series progresses.
3.How did the characters develop as you wrote the novels? Were you surprised at any changes to their personalities?
I usually design my characters quite meticulously ahead of writing, but since I’m a pantser, they do tend to do their own thing in the end. Some end up as a love interest, where they weren’t initially cast for such a role, whereas others change in ways the reader might not expect, depending on how their motivations and actions are portrayed.
The one character who really took his sweet time to settle into a groove was Edric. He is part of the main cast, and is the main character of one of my prequels (The Redeemed). He is rude at times, obnoxious at others, and suffers from a snappy attitude, but as the reader gets to know him, you get the feeling there is more to him than meets the eye. There is a reason behind his abrasive personality and why he acts like he does. As I finally wrote his complete backstory, I mainly changed some of the ways he spoke. I didn’t soften him, as such, but I streamlined his outward communication and interaction with others.
4.Do you see yourself in the stories?
The one character I based the most on myself is probably the main character – Anaya. Like me, she tends to do things with conviction. We’re like a dog with a bone, and won’t relent until we have given something our all. She is fiercely loyal and tries to help others whenever possible; also traits I can see in myself. Oh, and we always burn food while cooking. Don’t even get me started on this one.
5.What made you write the prequels?
As a new author, I’ve had (and still have) a lot to learn! One of those things was how to build a newsletter successfully. When delving into this subject, I researched the most popular sites to do build a following, and I found myself needing a reader magnet to join in on all the fun. I tried to think of a story that would be short, but meaningful, to really complement the series. And thus spawned the idea for my first prequel – the origin story, Righteous Dawn. It takes place 4 decades before the series, and offers a glimpse into how the Priesthood was initially formed.
My second prequel, The Redeemed, I wrote because a dear friend of mine wanted to read Edric’s story. I felt it was a good idea because he has an immensely heavy backstory which I thought should be told. Not that the reader doesn’t get to experience some of this through the series, but it’s much more touching and heartfelt in the way I fleshed out his backstory through The Redeemed. Edric is also a favourite character of mine, so it felt right.
6.Do you have a regular writing routine?
With 3 kids, aged 5, 3, and 0 (9 months)? That’d be a no, I’m afraid. Although it is regular to the point of me literally writing whenever I’m allowed, pretty much every day, after the kids have gone to bed and until I near fall asleep on my keyboard!
7.Where do you prefer to write?
In the best of worlds: on my own, using my laptop while listening to some nice music.
In reality? On my phone, while feeding the baby and taking her to bed… You know – mom life! To be honest, I’m happy as long as no one is screaming while I’m trying to write. That’s a win in my book.
8.Has any aspect of your traveling enabled your writing?
The biggest enabler of my writing is my husband, and what I mean by that is not purely because he supports me, but because he has fed me a lot of the English language. Expressions – and words – which I previously didn’t know what they were. Our relationship and, subsequently, my travels to England has enriched my language immensely, and my books are definitely the better for it.
9.When did you start writing?
*Drumroll* to ready you all for the most common answer known to man!
I have been writing since forever. But I started doing it more seriously with a close friend and neighbour in my preteens. We wrote A LOT, and it was absolutely atrocious, but we had so much fun! And I was hooked. I’ve been writing ever since, but mainly little snippets here and there, and I never really finished anything to the point where I would even have someone else read it… Well, until now, that is!
I finished my first book in 2019, The Power of Conviction, which is currently being released by Fallbrandt Press. It is also my first complete novel in English, and I’m super happy with how it came out!
10. Tell us about your latest novel.
The Power of Conviction (release date January 27th) is the first book of The Light of Darkness series, and it centers around the priestess Anaya. She is skilled wielding the Light and thus highly ranked, battling alongside her spiritual brothers and sisters. As part of the Priesthood, they attempt to put an end to the demonic incursion, paving their way through blood and gore on an almost daily basis.
But things are not always what they seem, and Anaya’s beliefs are challenged through the story. She is forced to choose between heart and duty as fate, prophecies and an impossible love will blur the very line between good and evil.
Now, go read it!! There are another 5 of these bad boys coming!
11.Where do you see your writing career going in the next five years?
The absolute dream would be to write full-time. But if I at least manage to be a part-time writer, I think I will be pretty proud of myself. My recent signing with Fallbrandt Press has really given me the confidence that this is a career I can pursue and I’m like that dog with a bone now! I won’t let it go!
12.Do you have a specific message for your readers?
Feel like some medieval action, fighting, magic, blood, and gore, but still sweet romance, steam, and heartache? I’ve got something I think you might enjoy! Check out my series, The Light of Darkness!!
And sign up to my newsletter and receive my two prequels for free! The link can be found under question 14!
Also, don’t hesitate to follow me or send a message on social media. I love to connect with readers and all kinds of bookish people!
13.Who are your favorite authors?
My absolute favourites have to be David Gemmell, Lois McMaster Bujold, and Janny Wurts! They are my primary sources of inspiration, and I absolutely love their work!
14.Please share your social media sites and website link.
Visit my website for more information, and sign up to my newsletter for those freebies!
Catrin Russell is a Fantasy and Romance author from northern Sweden. Her books are all written in English and are mainly part of the Epic and High Fantasy Genre. However, she does use influences from Dark Fantasy, and a touch of Fantasy Romance. Growing up outside a small town, basically in the middle of nowhere, Catrin eventually moved to Stockholm, where she studied computer game development and design. Meeting her soon-to-become husband online, she lived outside of London for the best parts of a year, before finally settling down in Piteå, back in Sweden. Since then, two children and two dogs have joined the family. With a background in design and holding a degree as a registered nurse, she writes novels in medieval settings, with plenty of action and romance. She often brings moral struggles, or highlights issues in society, into her writing. Another subject that is often highlighted is mental health. Catrin also creates concept art, bringing her characters to life on the screen, and her own cover designs, much of which can be seen on her social media pages!
As we come to terms with the increases in COVID19 cases, a resurgence that was inevitable unfortunately. We can still find solace in reading stories. Our choices can be a variety depending on our state of mind. These are some of the benefits of reading.
Reading as an escape – we can forget the ‘real’ world and ‘live’ in a fantasy, a thriller, a romance. Or we can plunge into a ‘end of world’ tale, that is far worse than what we are experiencing. It is personal choice.
Reading helps you sleep better – to be immersed in a story – preferably with no backlight to activate our brains – the act of reading settles our mind, gives us focus on a make believe world. It also rests our minds and contributes to a relaxation that enables us to sleep.
Reading makes us more compassionate to others as well as ourselves. A new perspective on the world makes us empathetic and give us new understanding of those around us. Perception of how others react to the social situation increases our awareness.
Reading for stress relief – to have our minds concentrating on something other than the constant flood of ‘news’, we are able to physically and mentally relax. This in turn has a physical consequence of lowering our blood pressure and heart rate and reducing the ‘fear’ hormone.
What have you found to be your genre of choice during COVID19?
As I am participating in National Novel Writing Month my reading time will be reduced. However, I am enjoying this novel. It is a clever device to inform the reader of the consequences of current decisions in the ‘management’ of water sources. Set in the future by way of diary entries, we come to see what may happen.
I also bought a couple of books that will be research for my NaNo project, which is a detective trilogy.
1. Can you tell us why you chose science fiction & fantasy as a genre?
I think it kind of chose me. I have two older brothers, both of whom read it, so those were the books that were around the house. The first one I remember is Robert Silverberg’s Revolt on Alpha C, his first novel, written when he was nineteen. I was hooked, and read everything I could get my hands on. When I was eleven, I wrote my first complete short story, “Kastra Glazz: Hypership Test Pilot.” My course was clearly set.
What has always appealed to me about science fiction and fantasy is the unlimited opportunity it provides to give your imagination free reign. Every other genre seems sadly limited once you’ve experienced that freedom.
2. You have a series called The Worldshaper Series. Can you tell us how you got the initial idea?
I wanted a book series that could be open ended and that would allow me to tell any kind of story I wanted, in any kind of world, but with the same characters. My inspiration was Doctor Who, the greatest storytelling conceit ever: you can tell any story within that framework, anywhere in time or space.
My version: a series of worlds which are consciously Shaped by individuals who then live within those worlds, rather like authors living inside the books they’ve written. The worlds can run the gamut from fantasy-inspired to science fictional to historical to purely whimsical. So far, I’ve had a world much like ours, one inspired by Jules Verne, and one featuring werewolves and vampires!
3. Will there be another book in the series?
I hope so. If DAW Books decides not to continue the series, I’ll likely continue it myself and publish it through my own Shadowpaw Press. Book 4 is sketched out, so I’m ready to go!
4. Which character(s) do you like the best in this series?
Shawna Keys. She’s the first-person narrator of the bulk of the story, and she’s my opportunity to indulge in my own geeky sense of humour. She’s great fun to write.
5. Where can we purchase these books?
Everywhere! DAW Books is distributed by Penguin Random House, so anyone who sells books will either have or can order the Worldshapers novels. For autographed copies, you can go to my online store, www.edwardwillettshop.com. (I don’t have The Moonlit World yet, though, because of distribution issues related to Covid-19.)
6. Do you think the cover art plays a important role?
Absolutely. DAW books always have great covers, and the Worldshapers books are no exception. The artist, Juliana Kolesova, has used the same model on each cover. Since she’s based in Toronto, I wonder if the next time I’m there I might see Shawna Keys walking down the street!
8. You also write short stories, how is the process difference from writing a novel for you?
Short stories are typically more limited in time and space—but not necessarily. Really, the difference is the length, and in the amount of worldbuilding detail you can cram in. I’ve written relatively few short stories. I think I’m much more a novelist at heart.
9. How many books have you written?
Something over twenty novels and more than sixty in total, counting non-fiction.
10. How many anthologies have you contributed to?
A half-dozen or so.
11. You also write non-fiction – how is the process different from writing fiction?
I don’t get to make up stuff. Or, at least, not as much stuff. More research. Less dialogue. More footnotes.
12. How do you chose your non-fiction topics?
I usually don’t. Publishers or clients looking for a writer approach me and ask if I’d be willing to take on a specific topic. I almost always say yes!
13. You have also written under the name E.C. Blake and Lee Arthur Chane – can you share why?
Marketing reasons. My first books for DAW were science fiction (Lost in Translation, and the two books of what was later called The Helix War: Marseguro and Terra Insegura). They wanted me to try my hand at fantasy, which was selling better at the time, and suggested I use a new name because of the genre change and to attract new readers. So, for Magebane, a fat stand-alone fantasy, I became Lee Arthur Chane (the middle names of my two older brothers, Jimmy Lee Willett and Dwight Arthur Willett, and myself, Edward Chane Willett). Then I kind of switched genres again: the Masks of Aygrima trilogy was essentially YA fantasy, with a fifteen-year-old female protagonist. E.C. Blake wrote those. Then I returned to science fiction and to my own name with The Cityborn and the Worldshapers books. I’ve only used the pseudonyms with DAW so far—my novels with other publishers are all under my own name—but E.C. Blake may have a new one coming out soon from my own Shadowpaw Press, called Blue Fire.
14. Where can readers find your books?
As noted earlier, my DAW Books are readily available through any bookstore. Check out my page on Amazon, as well.
You can also find the books I’ve published through Shadowpaw Press at shadowpawpress.com. You can order print books directly from there, and download ebooks directly from there, as well.
Speaking of Shadowpaw Press, it’s just released the ebook of a major new anthology that I edited, with the print version to follow in mid-November.
Shapers of Worlds features short fiction by authors who were guests during the first year of my Aurora Award-winning podcast, The Worldshapers, where I interview other science fiction and fantasy authors about the creative process.
I Kickstarted the anthology earlier this year. It features new fiction from Seanan McGuire, Tanya Huff, David Weber, L.E. Modesitt, Jr., D.J. Butler, Christopher Ruocchio, John C. Wright, Shelley Adina, and me, plus reprints from John Scalzi, David Brin, Joe Haldeman, Julie E. Czerneda, Fonda Lee, Dr. Charles E. Gannon, Gareth L. Powell, Derek Künsken, and Thoraiya Dyer. That list includes international bestsellers, plus winners of and nominees for every major award in science fiction and fantasy, so I’m very excited about it!
15. How can readers connect with you online?
I’m on Twitter @ewillett, on Facebook @edward.willett, and on Instagram @edwardwillettauthor.
Short stories have always been a way for me to test the waters of genres and styles that I’m interested in but may not necessarily be ready to write a full novel in. I’ve used it to release things like pure science fiction or perfect prose-style writing, and I’ve had a lot of fun doing it. It really lets me stretch my legs.
2. Does writing short stories need a separate kind of skill set than full length manuscripts? What is the difference?
For sure. The biggest and most obvious difference is that you as a writer have very little time to get the entire message of the story across. Whereas a novel will let you build characters and settings, you need to be quick and to the point with what you’re telling in a short story. I started with micro-fiction, and studying things like Twitter for ideas on how to slam a story home in a small number of words. I’m still not an expert, but the experience has been invaluable.
3. Have any of your ‘shorts’ become full length novels?
No, nothing like that. I’ve actually had the opposite problem where I take a story idea I’ve had and convert it to a short story in order to tell the tale I wanted to tell as quickly and succinctly as possible.
The first story in my new book is called ‘A Conversation: Alive Again’, and it tells the origins of Nixon Ash, the imposing Scottish phoenix-man first introduced in my ‘Catching Hell’ duology. Originally I wanted Nixon’s origins to be its own book. I had it plotted out and ready to get started on. However, as I started writing the stories that went into this collection I realized that Alive Again fit so well into the style and structure I had laid out, so I converted it and came up with a way to tell that same story in significantly less pages. Nixon is interesting enough that he can carry that kind of story and tell what needs to be told without a hundred thousand words.
Between Conversations: Tales From the World of Ryuujin is live! Coming September 25th
4. What drew you to fantasy & science fiction writing?
It was the ability to create whatever I wanted. The freedom to tell a story and the only limits were my imagination. I don’t consider myself skilled enough to write the kind of deep, intriguing stories that win Pulitzers, and I’m totally alright with that as well. It’s not who I am. But I can just jump right into an epic fantasy with magic flying around everywhere, or the endless possibilities of technology or the universe, or both combined! I’m not limited, and that is a very satisfying way to write.
5. When writing the Catching Hell series did you plan the two books prior to writing, or did they emerge later?
It came after it was finished. When I pulled my head up from my keyboard and looked at what I had created, it was 225k words long. Impressive, but wholly impractical when it comes to marketing or trying to get picked up by a publisher or agent. Someone early on said I should consider making it a duology. I resisted the idea for a while, but realized they were right. I found a very natural split about half way through, tweaked some of the story, and added the prologue to Part 2, and that’s how it was born. One day I may rejig it again and make it one big book, but that’s the kind of thing we dream about and likely never do.
6. Do you have a favorite character – and why?
Although I think Nixon has the most potential as a character, who can shapeshift and summon fire and have a sense of humor, (not to mention the masochistic joy I get from trying to write a Scottish brogue) my favorite will always be Crystal Kokouo, who is a main character in Catching Hell but who has circulated through my ideas since I was a teenager. She’s an infinitely powerful woman who was one of the first people born into a damaged and destroyed world. Her father was a great man and hero to millions, and she has always tried to achieve the goals he never had the chance to complete and that pressure has molded her into what she is now. There’s a level of complexity with her that the casual reader misses because they only know her from the one story. There’s a depth there that I can’t wait to let the world see, but it will take time.
7. Where is your favorite place to write?
At my desk in my office at work. I write best surrounded by the low thrum of business and work going on all around me. I can’t work at home because there’s a million things I’d rather be doing if I’m there. At lunch, at my desk in my little cubicle there’s nothing to distract me, and I can spend 45 minutes to an hour just off in my own little world.
8. What is your usual writing procedure – planner or panster?
Pants! Pants pants pants, all day long.
I don’t go through the steps I know some authors do, where they lay out pages of plot details and character sheets and all of that. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I let a story grow organically. I start with an idea of who everyone is, and I always know where I’m going, but I don’t always know how I’ll get there. It’s worked to my detriment, as shown with my 225k epic that was so large it needed to be cut in half, but its work to my advantage as well. My debut novel Death Dresses Poorly was smashed out very quickly because I had that general idea in my head right away, but when the comedy and heart started popping up unexpectedly I was just as surprised as anyone else. I still like to go back and re-read parts of it just to get that feeling back that I had when I first wrote it. I see a line and I remember coming up with it and the happiness I felt at making something I personally enjoyed so much.
9. Can you tell us about your new release(s)?
I would love to! My newest book is called ‘Between Conversations: Tales From the World of Ryuujin’. It is a collection of nine short stories (though calling some of them ‘short’ is a bit of a stretch. There’s some whoppers in there I admit) that take place in the same world as Catching Hell, however those books are in no way required reading to enjoy this collection. They all stand on their own.
The stories are a wide range of genres, going back to what I was saying about trying new things. There’s a pure-horror story, a YA-style adventure, a bar scene I like to call Tarentino-esque, a historical fantasy. It’s just all over the place, held together by the collective structure of the world. The stories are told chronologically, from the 1600s up to thousands of years into the future. I really want the reader to see the amount of fun I had putting this together.
10. Do you have a message for your readers?
I sure do: this is a crazy time where we are constantly inundated with news and scenes and images that shake our collective mental health. I don’t say this to sell my books or the work of my contemporaries, but when this world has you worse for wear, pick up a book and read. Escape for 5 minutes to someplace, or learn about something that interests you. Escape, and don’t feel bad about doing it.
Or, forget the book and garden, or go for a hike, or find your zen away from the things that are getting to you. Separating ourselves from the cacophony has never been more important than it is today. My motto is “Be a hero”, and that doesn’t just mean to other people. Be a hero to yourself as well.
Marc Watson is an author of genre fiction (primarily Fantasy and Science Fiction of all lengths). He began writing at the age of 15 with a pen and paper, and has never really stopped, even though until recently it was more of a background to him than his defining trait. He has been published on flash fiction site www.101words.org, as well as comedy site www.thecorrectness.com. Marc has been a student of the excellent writing classes at Athabasca University for a number of years.
Marc lives in Calgary, Alberta, and was spawned out of the depths of Southern Ontario. A husband, proud father of two, and can be sometimes found at an actual job. Marc is an avid outdoorsman, martial artist of some high repute, baseball player of very little repute, and lover of all Mexican foods. One day ‘World Famous Poutine Aficionado’ will be on his business cards.
You can also find Marc on Facebook at www.facebook.com/marcwroteabook, and on twitter at @writewatson. For public appearances and interviews, he is proudly represented by Creative Edge Publicity.