How did you know you should become an author?
This is a very interesting question, because it suggests that there is a before and after point.
I have been writing as long as I have been reading, since I was four years old. I have many half-finished novels and even more story ideas. I always hoped to be an author, but there is not a path to publication the way there is a path to become a doctor or a lawyer. You pass the bar, or make it through internship and then you know you are a lawyer or a doctor. Someone presents you with a certificate to prove it. This does not happen so neatly and cleanly with writers.
How do you react to a bad review?
Fortunately I have not received a really bad review; though I have had two gentlemen readers give my book lukewarm reviews. At least they itemized their reasons, and I can accept that they were expecting something different from Historical Fantasy, which is a separate kind of criticism. Both said the book was well-written, but was, in effect, not their cup of tea. I feel a little sad when I hear that, but I also know that readers of genre fiction expect a pattern to their stories, and sometimes if there is some deviation they feel disappointed. I do not react with violent emotion because I know that no writer can please every reader, and I can see that even my favorite authors get bad reviews sometimes. That is why there are so many genres in fiction, so everyone can enjoy what they prefer to read. Genres are like flavors of ice cream. Everyone has a favorite.
What drew you to writing in this genre?
I always enjoyed historical fiction because while the fiction aspect was entertaining, I craved the time-travel feeling you get when you are reading about something that happened to real people a long time ago. The framework of history gives the stories a realism that makes the fiction more intense. I have branched out into Historical Fantasy because the history books ignore the very real beliefs of the people when it comes to what is now labeled as superstition. Back in the day, the spirit-world was right there side-by-side with peasants and soldiers and kings. The mystical realms shaped their ideas and behavior, and magicians were the men and women who risked their lives to delve into the unknown and know it. Some were successful, others were destroyed. The events that shaped the differences between success and failure are what interests me, and what I am inspired to research and write about.
How long do you let a story marinate in your brain before you start the book?
This varies by how excited I am about the idea. I write down a couple of sentences with the general plot and characters and save it to my idea file. Then I move on. If I can’t seem to get the characters out of my mind, then I will think about them for a few days longer. This is not something I have to force myself to do; it is something that just stays with me. After a while I forget that I am making it all up and I get the urge to sit down and “read the book” to see what happens next. Then I remember that what has been going around in my mind for three days is not a book I am reading, but a book I have not written yet. That is when I know it is time to sit down and write.
Where do you write?
I am conditioned to write on a loveseat in the living room with my laptop on my lap. I don’t get the flow of ideas in any other place as easily, though I could write anywhere. I like to be comfortable so I put my feet up and lean back in the soft cushions. Physical discomfort knocks me out of the “groove” and it takes time and effort to get back in again. When I am really revved up, I can write continuously for as long as 4 hours at a time. I look up at the clock and am amazed. It had seemed like just a few minutes.
Do you have any weird or interesting rituals you do to get into writing mode?
Absolutely. In fact, once I tried to ignore the ritual when I was short on time and found I messed everything up. First, I have to have a cup of coffee. Then I have to set the music just right. Parts of the novels require different sound tracks, so I have a playlist for love scenes, fight scenes, conversation scenes and travel scenes. I have to set that up. Then I have to make sure the cats are settled down. If they see me on the writing couch they want to come over and sit on the keyboard. They have to either be out of the room or sleeping by my feet or stretched out on the back of the loveseat. I check my mail and read Facebook first, so that I am not distracted by thinking, “What is going on out there in the real world?” and then finally, I read the previous chapter to start up the story in the place I left off on the day before.
Who or what inspired your last book?
The last book, The Necromancer’s Grimoire, was inspired by all the wonderful adventure stories I have ever read. I love the feeling of setting off into the unknown. There is a thrill when a character is confronted with a serious obstacle that must be overcome if she is to continue. I love helping her solve the puzzles that bring everything into a clear understanding. I love to travel, and will spend the hours with my face pressed against the window of the train, or car, or plane. I try to bring that excitement of new places and times to my books. It is the delight of discovery of what had been unseen and unknown that inspires my novels.
What is your biggest challenge as a writer?
Finding the time. Most writers do not make a living with their words. I am one of them. I have a full-time job and a family to care for. I have carved out the hours of 3AM to 6AM every day to write, but this means I go to bed at 8PM or else I am a wilted mess in the mornings. I sometimes go to bed at 6:30, right after dinner.
Which of your characters is a portrayal of you?
All of them! The Elysium Texts is a series of books recounting the adventures of a group of companions on a quest. Each of the companions has his or her own unique qualities of strength and weaknesses that make them interesting as well as valuable to the mission. As I created each character, I imbued them with aspects of what is common in each of us, as well as specialties that can be considered aspirations for each of us as well. We all have secret fears. I have given each character one secret fear that he or she must face and overcome. I possessed those fears myself, and as I struggled to overcome them, I was given the insight necessary to write about the process. This means I feel comfortable developing the character in an honest and painfully real fashion.
What is your favorite scene in the book?
I have read The Necromancer’s Grimoire many times before publication as part of the editing and proofing processes. I found that there is a scene that I look forward to and sometimes read over and over again because it is so much fun. It is a pivotal scene in the novel and so contains too many spoilers to discuss here, but it is an action scene where Nadira discovers that reality is even more mind-blowing than what she thought was the truth. There is leaping and sword-thrusting and powerful jabs and frightening near misses, all the while something magical and mysterious is pulsing in the background. Nadira must hold it all together or her friends will lose the physical battle if she loses the mystical one.
I think I will go read it again right now.
Annmarie Banks, March 25, 2013