This month's blog is an interview with fantasy novelist, Lela Markham whose novel The Willow Branch is the first in a series set in a mythical kingdom.
Her novel is available from Amazon:
Tell us about yourself.
Thanks, for having me, Kristin. I was raised in Alaska, which is also my home now. It's a grand adventure that gives me a unique perspective on the world. We spend our summers risking our lives walking in the woods with major predators and unmarked trails and the winters following creative pursuits like writing.
I tried to be a journalist once, but objected to the politics of it, so then I went into administration. I work with road engineers these days, but I had a long period working in the social work field.
I've got a daredevil husband and two fearless offspring and we share our lives with a sentient husky who keeps a yellow Lab as a pet.
Tell us about your book, The Willow Branch.
The Willow Branch is an epic fantasy, first in the Daermad Cycle. It explores the magical world of Daermad by focusing on the kingdom of Celdrya, which has a mysterious connection with the Celts of Europe. It occurs in two time lines. The past time line follows the destruction of the royal family by a vengeful Celtic goddess and black mages, while the current time line follows Padraig and his friends as they seek the One's True King who is meant to restore Celdrya and unite them with their ancient enemy the Kin before the Svard overwhelm them.
What inspired you to write the book?
It started with research into a family name we wanted to give our daughter. It's a very unusual name (which works great for her as a professional blue-grass musician). In learning that it was a Celtic name, I also picked up some information that I found intriguing.
My stories are always character driven, so I really didn't do anything with that kernel of an idea until Padraig presented himself a couple of years later. He was clearly a Celtic character, so I went back to that research and combined it with reading I'd done in political science, history, etc. in a genre I loved to read.
Is there any one character that you love the most in your book or one that you find you dislike?
I enjoy writing Ryanna, the half-elven woman with the good sword skills who talks to dragons. I hope she's still alive at the end of the series because I do enjoy how she thinks and conducts herself.
I hate Sawyll, one of the black mages. He's totally evil and even his redeeming qualities annoy me. I hope he comes to a bad and bloody end.
What is it about fantasy that appeals to you?
The world building. It is such a fun process to create a world that has never existed before. I enjoy writing in the real world too, but that is what I love about writing a fantasy.
There is a definite Celtic thread through your book—do you have any Celts in your background?
I hit almost all of my ethnic parts in writing The Willow Branch. My dad was Swedish and the Svard are based on Norsemen. My mother was Irish/Welsh and American Indian. I don't know if I can work the Indian into the story – no character has presented itself yet – but it was the Indian part of the family who brought a French name with ancient Celtic roots into the family which inspired The Daermad Cycle. My husband's family are very Irish. There is a thriving community of Irish immigrants here in Fairbanks and I grew up listening to their stories, music and especially their accents. My daughter studied highland dance (which is Scottish) when she was a dancer. While we're definitely American Celts, we do have some influences.
Do you plot out your books before you write them?
Yes and no. No first! I am a discovery writer initially. A character comes and wants to tell me his/her story. I play around with different ideas until something clicks. I can be halfway through a draft before I know where I want it to end. Sometimes I plot at that point, sometimes I just free-write to the ending. But when I go back for the second draft, I have a clear idea of my plot and the major points I want to hit and I mostly stick to that, but I do believe in following the creative muse in directions that I might not have considered first. An outline is a helpful road map, but just as in the real world, there are often multiple ways to get to the same location, sometimes diverging from your outline is where creativity lives.
Is volume 2 in the works yet? When can we expect to see it?
The Willow Branch was originally a huge manuscript that needed to be broken up, so Murklin Wood is about half written and I am working on the parts of the story that were not written before. That said, I am a firm believer in taking breaks from a story from time to time, so I am currently working on Life As We Knew It, an apocalyptic thriller based in a small town dealing with the aftermath of a remote terrorist attack. That will come out this spring, I think. Murklin Wood should be ready for publication late 2015/early 2016.
How did you end up becoming a writer?
I think I was born a writer. My parents were huge readers. My mother's family had a number of literary folks in it – my grandmother was second-cousin to Edwin Markham, the poet. My parents said I told tales from the time I could talk and I used to get in trouble with other kids' parents for “telling lies”. My parents actually encouraged me, so long as I told them the truth. I wrote down my first story in the 5th grade. I hated the process because the teacher had a very strict idea of what I should be doing, but it ignited something that has followed me for the rest of my life.
What books are on your bedside table?
Currently, Martin's Dance with Dragons and Sherlock Holmes and that's typical for me. I usually trade between two books both in my reading and in my writing. It keeps me from getting bored.
Kristin Gleeson is a writer, artist and musician who lives in the west of Ireland in the Gaeltacht.
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