Friday, 4 September 2009

Freda Warrington - Author Interview

Novels: Elfland (recent publication through TOR in the US/Canada)
A Midsummer Night (forthcoming)

Freda Warrington has several other novels (too many to list here) available in the UK, check out her website for more information!

website: www.fredawarrington.com

> Pitch your latest novel OR the first novel of your series.

ELFLAND is my first novel for Tor, the first of several ‘Aetherial Tales’. The title is a little tongue-in-cheek as it’s not truly about Elfland at all! Although my characters venture into the Otherworld in the course of the drama, it’s a contemporary fantasy about the entanglements of Aetherial families who happen to live alongside humans. Auberon Fox is the warm heart of the English village of Cloudcroft and father of a happy family including his daughter, Rosie. But on the hill lives the mysterious, sinister Lawrence Wilder, Gatekeeper to the inner realms of the Spiral. Lawrence is beset by personal demons; his wife has left him and his sons, Jon and Sam, are angry and damaged. When he bars the Great Gates, preventing access to the Otherworld, the Aetherial community is outraged. What will become of them, deprived of their magical home realms?

Against this background, Rosie grows up and becomes entangled with the dangerous Wilder family, learning harsh lessons about life and love as she does so. Although there’s a big supernatural conflict building, the characters also struggle with real-world concerns and family secrets.

I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of glamorous beings who appear human but aren’t; angels, demons, elves, vampires, demi-gods and so on. My Aetherials evolved as my interpretation of such a race. They can perceive other realities and change into other, disturbing forms. At its heart, though, the story is about Rosie Fox, who suffers the anguish of unrequited love, and becomes caught in a classic dilemma between trying to live a ‘normal’, hard-working human life, or surrendering to her wild Aetherial instincts. As a result, she will make a disastrous choice that has tragic consequences…

In a sense, ELFLAND is a coming-of-age novel, about making mistakes by trying to do things that seem to be expected of you by other people, instead of being true to your authentic self. Almost nothing Rosie believes turns out to be true.

I’ve had some really nice, enthusiastic reactions to Elfland already – Melanie Rawn called it ‘Sensuous and intense!’ (You can read more about the novel on my website, www.fredawarrington.com)

> What are your favourite three books?

It’s difficult to choose just three, but in terms of enduring influence on the sort of themes I still enjoy writing about, I would have to say TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES by Thomas Hardy, THE LORD OF THE RINGS by J.R.R. Tolkien and DRACULA by Bram Stoker.

> What made you want to be a writer?

As an only child, I wasn’t used to the rough-and-tumble of other children. I preferred to read, to be carried away into imaginative worlds. Almost as soon as I could hold a pen, aged five, I started writing. It just seemed a natural extension of daydreaming. If I read something I loved, I would try to carry on the magic by writing something similar of my own, especially as this meant I could introduce characters, events and endings that were more pleasing to me! The process has simply carried on. As many of my friends are writers, writing doesn’t seem a strange activity. It’s just what we do.

> In the books you’ve written, who is your favourite character and why? If you could, would you change places with any of your characters?

My favourite character is usually the one I’ve just been writing about, so at the moment it would be a toss-up between Rosie Fox, and Juliana Flagg – a magnificent, glamorous sixty-something sculptor who features in my next novel, MIDSUMMER NIGHT. Rosie’s very real to me – she’s down-to-earth, makes mistakes, gets frustrated with herself, but is very spirited, loyal and passionate. On the other hand, Sam Wilder is a lot of fun too… he’s a bit of a sexy bad boy who speaks before he thinks and really doesn’t care who he upsets!

I’m not sure I’d want to change places. My protagonists have some enviable experiences, but also some extremely gruelling ones that I, being a wimp, would prefer to avoid. I don’t know. Would it be better to be someone passionate and vulnerable like Rosie, who gets hurt, or someone cool, confident and beyond morality, such as Sebastian or Violette (vampires from my novel THE DARK BLOOD OF POPPIES)? It’s tempting, but then you’d be stuck in the one existence and not get to meet the next set of characters!

> What was the first novel (published or unpublished) that you wrote and how long did it take to write it?

A BLACKBIRD IN SILVER wasn’t the first novel I’d started, but it was the first one I finished. I’d made many false starts on sub-Tolkienian fantasy stories that fizzled out because I didn’t know where they were going. What made ‘BLACKBIRD’ different was that I thought of the story’s climactic scene first, and was so fired up by it that I had to keep going, in order to reach that goal! I started it when I was sixteen and still at school, and mostly wrote it in my spare time while I was at art college. It took about three years, plus a lot of rewriting when I eventually found an agent and a publisher. The novel has recently been re-issued as A BLACKBIRD IN SILVER DARKNESS by Immanion Press – it was quite strange re-editing my earliest novel and my most recent (ELFLAND) at the same time.

> Share an interesting fan story.

Some years ago, I had a letter from an American lady called Freda Warrington who is also a writer! Her teenage children were travelling in Europe and came across one of my vampire novels, A TASTE OF BLOOD WINE. They thought their mother had had a book published without telling them. So they took it home to her, and she thought they had had the book mocked-up as a joke! Anyway, she wrote to me and we became good friends – my husband Mike and I have visited her family several times in the US. She has a great sense of fun and it gives her a kick to introduce me to her friends as ‘the other Freda’. I also heard from another Freda Warrington in Vancouver, so there are at least three of us. Any more, and we are going to hold our own convention!

> What is your university degree in?

When I was leaving school, ‘being a novelist’ wasn’t a career option so I studied graphic design, and worked in graphics and medical art for some years. I think I made the right choice – if I were to give up writing and return to full-time work, I can’t think of anything I’d want to do except something art-based. I’m trying to teach myself web design, and I love crafts such as stained glass, jewellery-making and sewing. Putting words together or putting colours together is all I’m good at!

> Do you think it is easier to write fantasy or science fiction?

I think it’s easiest to write what fires your imagination. Good science fiction explores the consequences of technology on human society, which isn’t my area of knowledge. I’m not for a moment suggesting that SF can’t examine human relationships, and I know that the boundaries between some kinds of SF and fantasy can be very blurred indeed, but my interests lie in the hearts and minds of my characters. I’ve got nothing original to say about future technology, interplanetary travel or whatever, therefore I wouldn’t even try! I’m more comfortable in my fantastical or real-world settings. Someone with a scientific background might feel just the opposite. I would say, though, that if you want to write science fiction or techno-thrillers, make sure you understand the technology you’re writing about. You have to be one step ahead of your very smart readers, and that’s not easy at all!

> What’s the best/worst thing about writing?

The best thing is the excitement of becoming completely caught up in your invented world, so involved with your characters that you can’t stop writing. It’s a wonderful feeling when it flows. And then revising your passionately-worked scene or chapter to make it even better – knowing you’ve created something inspired. That is so fulfilling – probably even better than holding the published book in your hands! The worst thing… the isolation of working alone in your study for months, hearing nothing from agent or editor, wondering if everyone’s forgotten you exist! That can cause drops in self-confidence which are difficult to cope with. However, things are much better now we have the Internet. It’s easier to keep in touch with the outside world these days.

> Do you have any advice for hopeful authors?

The most important thing is simply to WRITE! Some people say they want to write, yet they don’t. It’s as if they’re waiting for outside permission to begin, or saving up to buy the right laptop… when all a serious writer needs is a notebook and a burnt stick! If you want to be an author, you need to start writing, and then keep at it. Join a writers’ group for mutual support and feedback, or start one of your own. Read lots of books, good and bad. If you are writing specific real-world stuff, make sure you do your research – you can let your imagination run wild more convincingly if you know what the facts are first! There is lots of advice on the net which you can take or ignore as it suits you. Don’t reject criticism without giving it careful consideration first – it’s rare that anyone’s work can’t be improved. Don’t be precious; resign yourself to working through at least three drafts, then more when you find an editor. Read and follow meticulously the submission guidelines of publishers and agents before you submit your work to them. And be prepared for rejection, however good you are. Finding a publisher has always been hard and it’s only becoming harder. However, self-publication is much less frowned-upon than it used to be – there are many more opportunities to make your work available, as long as you don’t expect much financial reward.

Above all, you need to love writing for its own sake. The best advice I ever heard was that you cannot write as if there’s a critic hovering over your shoulder. You must write first of all to please yourself. (That way, you’ll have one fan at least!)

> Any tips against writer’s block?

The most prolific author will say that sometimes, it’s all too easy to make coffee, clean the loo or go shopping – anything rather than sit down and face a blank screen! I think writer’s block really boils down to fear, a lack of confidence about the validity of what you’re trying to say. Some days I struggle quite a lot to psych myself up to get started – I used to feel bad about this, until I realised it’s actually quite a common experience! I envy writers who can get up at 6 and rattle off 2000 words before breakfast… I just don’t have that sort of energy. So when it’s hard, I think you have to play tricks or bribe yourself. Set small targets – instead of telling yourself you must write ten pages, make it two, or even a single paragraph. Sitting at a blank PC screen for any length of time can be tiring – don’t start surfing the net, but go into another room and read a few pages of your favourite author, just to remind yourself how exciting good writing can be. Sit somewhere different and hand-write instead. Or work on a different bit of the book that’s easier. Keep a notebook handy – typing up your notes the next day is a good way to kick-start creativity. If you’re stuck on plot or ‘what happens next’, sometimes it’s best to go right away and do something mindless – walk the dog, weed the garden or whatever. You may find that inspiration manifests spontaneously in the void!

Also, see the advice above, about trying to please an invisible critic. Don’t. It’s impossible. Nothing’s more inhibiting than wondering if what you’re writing is any good. Write anything. It doesn’t matter if it’s bad; you’ll improve it later. It’s much easier to edit bad writing than it is to edit a blank screen!

And now I shall go away and take my own advice! Thank you. I hope you will enjoy ELFLAND.

1 comment:

Kelly said...

I like how she incorporated the different types of characters in her novel. I look forward to reading it. I am a young writer myself and I couldn't agree more that the more your write the better you get!