Today, I welcome Elizabeth Hull, otherwise known by the pen-name, C.N. Lesley, fantasy and sci-fi author whose new book, Shadow over Avalon was released at Halloween. I’ve been fortunate enough to read Elizabeth’s first novel, Darkspire Reaches and I am excited to have her here on my blog to talk about her craft and works. Thanks Elizabeth for taking the time to answer some of my questions.
author Elizabeth Hull a.k.a C.N. Lesley
Can you tell us a little bit about your writing history and how you came to be interested in the genre you write?
I suppose a person writes what the read and I started off devouring fairy stories as soon as I was old enough to join a library. As for writing, I first got the bug from a very good English teacher when I was about twelve. It wasn’t all about the mechanics, it was also about the importance of things like setting and how to use words to bring this alive.
I had graduated to fantasy and science fiction by sixteen and had read Frank Herbert’s Dune and J.R.R Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Oh, and it was all one book way back then. I still have both copies, although they are rather fragile with time and usage.
Writing came later, when the kids were little and I was enduring their favourite T.V show, Barney the dinosaur. It was a reflex against brain death by Barney that made me reach for a notebook. Of course, I hadn’t a clue how to write a book and that first effort was doomed to be littered with every sin known to writers and then some I invented. I still have the typed out pages sitting in my basement somewhere and yes, it will stay dead.
Learning the craft came when Del Rey set up their free online writer’s site called the Online Writing Workshop for Science Fiction and Fantasy. I stayed a member when it became independent of Del Rey and a paying site as I had so many good writer friends there.
Your first novel, Darkspire Reaches was published earlier this year by Kristell Ink. Can you give a quick synopsis of the novel and how it has been working with your publisher?
Synopsis? I think I would rather have a filling at the dentist office. In a few words it is about learning to accept what is and growth through adversity and love.
I love working with Kristell Ink. It is so nice to be able to have an input into what my covers will be like and I love, love, love what I got. I also know I can ask questions and will get a prompt response. In other words, I am not sitting in my little corner, on my own. I am part of a wonderful team of fellow authors signed to Kristell Ink and Tenebris , which are imprints of Grimbold books.
Your new novel, Shadow over Avalon takes Athurian legend and turns it on its head. When did the idea for the novel come to mind?
All my stories seem to begin their lives as dreams and this was no different. It started out as a simple fantasy story and grew branches as the ideas kept coming in. I didn’t deliberately set out to write an Arthur story, or a science fantasy. This is how it developed in the process of writing. Oh, and I don’t outline as I can never stick to one.
Can you tell us what the novel is about and whether you will continue it as a series?
Shadow Over Avalon is about what happens when the king returns to fulfil the vow he swore on his sword to fight for his people at the time of their greatest need. In the far distant future, there is a very great need for a champion, but nothing is quite as it seems. Arthur has to fight for his own life before he can fight for his people.
Yes, this is the first book of a series. Kristell Ink already has the second book, The Sword of Shadows and will publish it in 2014. The third book is more than halfway done.
Was there a lot of research involved or did you use a lot of artistic license?
Yes, there was a lot of pure research. I had to be familiar with the settings in the book where feasible. The Arthurian Legend is something I went right back to the earliest sources to debunk the medieval additions. I had always thought Arthur was a bigger man than to have had a relationship with his sister and I was right. This is pure artistic license from a monk dude called Geoffrey of Monmouth, who was intent on discrediting women of power in history. The original legends cite Morgan le Fey as a priestess of the old religion. Great, so now I can utilize the characters without any squinky bits smearing their characters in my mind.
The science part of the book is where I have an unfair advantage as I can run them by my husband, a physicist. I also took Botany and Zoology, so genetics and embryology were subjects studied with far more intensity than if I had simply taken Biology. So yes, I do also understand about the flora and fauna of my settings and what is feasible where.
Are you currently working on any other works, and if so, can you give us a little insight into what you are working on?
Oh my word. Um yes. Let’s see, I am currently working on four books as I like to flitter from one to the other as the muse strikes. There is the sequel to Darkspire Reaches, which is going to be another dark fantasy. Wildenwold is an urban fantasy with an Arthurian twist. Widdershins is a cross between an urban fantasy and a paranormal romance. Greylings Deep is a fantasy set on a different world.
On the backburner is book three in the Shadow series. I am not sure what the title will be, but it will feature the word ‘Chalice’. Also on the backburner is a science fiction book, set on a far distant world and in space, called ‘Angelus’.
What do you do when you sit down to write, do you follow a plan or do you let the story come to you as you write?
I usually go through my mail first thing in the morning. Given that I am so far west, it means that if I want a real time conversation with anyone, it has to be then. This usually involves consuming two cups of coffee. After that, I will open up Dropbox and pick the files I am going to be working with that day. Once a chapter is completed I load it on to Scrivener for the editing process to begin. I don’t start doing this until I have completed a book as things might change.
Is there anything about the writing process you find difficult? Do you find you have strengths and weaknesses?
In the beginning, with that first book, it was character names. As I said, the thing was a disaster and will never see the light of day, but one of the huge errs was exotic made-up names. Why? Make a name difficult to say and the reader will not remember it and get in a muddle with the introduction of other characters with peculiar names. This is called book fatigue and results in the reader’s attention wandering right out of the window. The cure is to pick easy, sensible names that suit the characters. I think I now do that.
Maybe what I would consider one of my biggest assets is my memory. I can bring up the contents of any of my books in my mind so I know what has gone before as I am adding to it. This is how and why I can work on more than one book at once.
For anyone out there with the dream of becoming a published author, what advice would you give them?
There are fifty million people out there who all think they have written a book that is the next best thing since sliced bread. Make sure that your book is the very best it can be before you start making the rounds with it. I would suggest enrolling in a writer’s workshop, not only to hone skills, but also to develop the think skin you will need. The Online Writing Workshop for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror is a great place to get in depth help for a small yearly fee. I think it is just under fifty bucks. There is also Critters, which I believe is still free. I also heard that Stephen King runs his books through here under another name. I wouldn’t know for sure as I have not been on that site.
I would also suggest reading a lot of books in your chosen genre. The more you read, the better you will get at the art of story crafting. It is also useful to see where the trends of theme are going and what is hot right now.
Finally, keep knocking on the doors. It only takes one to open and that won’t happen if you don’t keep going.
Elizabeth, thank you for taking the time to stop by and answers some of my questions! I wish you every success with your writing, and I can’t wait to finish reading Shadow Over Avalon.
Thanks so much for guesting me, Gilly. It has been a blast.
Here are links to Elizabeth’s blog:
SHADOW OVER AVALON –
Fortune twists in the strongest hands. This is no repeat; this is what happens
A man, once a legend who bound his soul to his sword as he lay
dying, is now all but a boy nearing the end of his acolyte training. Stifled by
life in the undersea city of Avalon, Arthur wants to fight side by side with the
air-breathing Terrans, not spend his life as servant to the incorporeal sentient
known as the Archive. Despite the restrictions put on him by Sanctuary, he is
determined to help the surface-dwellers defeat predators whose sole purpose is
to ensure their own survival, no matter the cost.
Ashira, War Maid and
princess of the surface-world, is ready to sacrifice her life to defend her kin,
but when she is betrayed and cast out of the life chosen for her, she must
choose whether to die with honor or become one of the creatures her kinsmen fear
Following two threads of time, C.N. Lesley’s new incarnation
of the Arthurian tales of old delivers the perfect blend of science fiction and
DARKSPIRE REACHES –
The wyvern has hunted for the young outcast all her life; a day will come when,
after being rejected by civilisation and the tribes, she must at last face him.
Abandoned as a sacrifice to the wyvern, a young girl is raised to fear the
beast her adoptive clan believes meant to kill her. When the Emperor outlaws all
magic, Raven is forced to flee from her home with her foster mother, for both
are judged as witches. Now an outcast, she lives at the mercy of others, forever
pursued by the wyvern. Soon her life will change forever.
A unique and
unsettling romantic adventure about rejection and belonging.