The Raven Dane Interview

Raven Dane is an award-winning author of steampunk, dark fantasy, alternative history and horror fiction. Her first novels were in the critically acclaimed Legacy of the Dark Kind series;
Blood Tears, Blood Lament, Blood Alliance. These are dark fantasy/alternative history/SF novels about a non human race of vampires who most definitely do not sparkle!

In 2009, Endaxi Press launched The Unwise Woman of Fuggis Mire, Raven’s scurrilous and most definitely adult spoof of all things High Fantasy. A fairy tale for grown ups with a sense of humour.        

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/287640.Raven_Dane

Described as The Gothmother, Raven Dane is all things Gothic. With a ‘taste’ for vampire’s and ghosts, poison and dark fantasy, she has entertained readers of all ages with creations from her inky quill (I’m absolutely convinced she uses a real quill and ink!). She also enjoys dressing up in Victorian Gothic clothing for Steampunk conventions, and has a wicked sense of humour.

 

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Hi Raven, Welcome, and thanks for agreeing to be interviewed for my blog; Flailing Through Life…

 

  1. And talking about flailing; do you ever find yourself ‘flailing through life’?

Flailing?  Sounds very energetic …lol!   I used to find myself frantically plate-spinning, trying to balance work, bringing up my son, looking after my mares and writing. These days, I sort of crawl between time spent writing and  the necessities of real life and my ever welcome duvet. Wish I had the energy for flailing now!

 

  1. Raven, you’re well-known for writing supernatural stories. There is the Cyrus Darian series and Legacy of the Dark Kind series, plus many more. What draws you to this genre and what kind of horror do you prefer to read (or watch) yourself?

I have always loved SF and dark fantasy.   I was a precocious early reader as a child and devoured books at a fast rate. I used to sit on the floor by my parent’s book case and read works by Edgar Allen Poe, Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde, especially the Canterville Ghost.  That story terrified me; it wasn’t until I re-read it as an adult that I realised what a poignant, sweet story it really was. In those early days I was definitely drawn to the dark side. My brother and I used to sneak downstairs late at night and peak through a gap in the living room door and frighten ourselves with Quatermas, SF and old horror films. Later when we were older and could watch what we wanted, we loved the old black and white Twilight Zone and Outer Limits as well as Hammer horror  and old SF films like The Trollenberg Terror. And of course, Doctor Who which I have watched since the very first episode, usually from behind a cushion.   Today my love affair with horror and dark fantasy has not dimmed. I am not a fan of gory fiction (unless it is something by Sam Stone, who adds style and great characters to the genre). The same goes for torture porn like the Saw films and  the growing in popularity extreme horror books, they are not for me.  I do enjoy creepy ghost stories; I am a huge fan of Susan Hill and M R James novels and their film adaptations. Ghost stories in a Victorian setting are a favourite for me to write. Other favourites include dark fantasy like Guillermo Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth, his two Hellboy films and Clive Barker’s Nightbreed.

 

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  1. As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal? And why?

That’s a tough one. I have a special affinity with horses and love cats, wolves and ravens.  I would have to choose a dragon though, for its magical nature, grandeur, its ability to soar to distant, exotic realms and to incinerate anything and anyone who gets in its way.

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Editors beware!

 

  1. What was the best money you ever spent as a writer? What did you do with your first advance?

Did you splash out on something exotic with your first pay cheque?

Not my first pay cheque or advance. My other half has supported my writing all our married life and allowed me to work as full time writer for many years. It has been a struggle and we have gone without the material things that many people have thought essential in life, like holidays, big, new TVs and modern cars.  So anything I have earned has gone straight into the household running costs. I did however, treat myself to a huge golden velvet dragon made by a lovely lady in the US.  Total extravagance though!

Oh, and after a successful morning’s book sales at an Asylum weekend, I treated myself to a gorgeous black pirate ship hat, very steamgoth, very me. I have had so much fun and use out of that hat, it was worth every penny.

 

  1. What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

I was blessed to be taught English literature by a lovely lady called Miss Curry. She was not far off retirement when she had the tough job getting our lively class through the GCE’s for O and A levels but she introduced us to wonderful things. The powerful emotional impact of the War Poets like Rupert Brook and  Siegfried Sassoon, the ravishing beauty of the English language from  poetry by Gerard Manley Hopkins.  I think the most powerful moment for me personally was the first book that made me cry, to really weep as if for a person I actually knew…and that was The Ship Who Sang by Anne MacCaffrey. If the fate of fictional characters can move me to mourn, than what better proof of the power of language?

 

  1. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

Research is vitally important to me, whatever I am writing. I tend to research as I write as I never plan a book in advance. Some writers are planners, others fly by the seat of their pants and get straight to work with no idea of where the story will go. I am a definite pantser. Research can take me more time than writing sometimes but I think it is essential.  I spent all afternoon recently researching a historical find that I mentioned in just one line of a book. Even in the most fantastical setting, research can give a depth and believability to a story , anything less is cheating the reader with shallow, implausible storytelling.

 

  1. Cyrus Darian is a rather unusual name, how do you select the names of your characters?

Some come to me instantly as if been channelled from another dimension. Others can be a nightmare and get changed many times throughout the writing process. Thank goodness for my friend, the search and replace thingie on Microsoft Word.  Cyrus Darian was a bit of a blend between the two. I decided he was Persian, so being named after a great Persian king of antiquity suited his vanity. Darian came into my head as a nice sounding name. I used my other friend, Google to see if it meant anything and discovered it was a town in Iran. Perfect. Mind you, it might not be his real name, Cyrus lies all the time and uses many aliases.

 

  1. To date, what has been your hardest scene to write?

The hardest was also the easiest…if that makes any sense.  The end of a story arc for one of my favourite characters was always going to end badly for him. He had become more than someone fictional but a very real presence in my life, so knowing how it had to end was deeply emotional for me. But the scene wrote itself, confirming it was the right plot thread for the culmination of a trilogy. Not saying any more…Spoilers!

 

  1. If you were not a writer, and you could be anything else in the world, what career/vocation would you choose?

I love any form of creativity so always drawn to arts and crafts but I have no talent and anything I do is just for the pleasure of making things.  I was always a good actor as a teenager, I was the annoying little madam who always got the main female role in all the school drama productions which were almost always Shakespeare. I was the only child for years that was encouraged by the teachers to go into acting much to the ongoing annoyance of my younger sister who was at the same school and  did become an actress. Her teachers suggested a career as a secretary for her.  A mixture of a sense of family duty and the need to earn regular money took me on another path, journalism and later fiction writing. I take part in amateur dramatics now and thoroughly enjoy being on stage…I love to make people laugh… or boo, when playing the baddie in Panto.

Or be one of those smiling ladies in sparkly clothes riding a dancing pure white Spanish stallion in a circus….

 

  1. Have you ever had what one might call, a supernatural experience or event occur in your life? If so, would you care to share it with us? If not, which figure from history would you like to receive a visit from?

So many!  I am very attuned to the presence of earth bound spirits since a child. I wish I wasn’t to be honest. It is not something I can switch off and has led to many uncomfortable times in the past. My present home is totally spirit free which is so relaxing!  The worse one was an encounter with an angry, aggressive spirit in an old farmhouse where I worked. Young students at the riding school lived there and though we never told them about it to avoid hysteria, he was always targeting the youngest females, trying to frighten them. One day, when the house was empty for a couple of hours, I went in and ended up being pushed down the stairs. I could feel the imprint of strong fingers digging into my shoulders.  In 1995, there was a big fire there, no one was hurt but the oldest part of the house was burnt down. All the spirit activity stopped and never returned.

 

11 And finally, what is your favourite childhood book?

Oooh….a tough one, I have so many. The first one that sprang to mind was  the fantasy novel, Elidor by Alan Garner. I loved it and he is an early influence on my writing.

RD elidor

Thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed Raven.

 

 

RD

 

Raven’s most recent work is included in, Trumpocalypse; an anthology of satirical horror from authors on both sides of ‘the pond’.

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You can find Raven at   http://ravendane.blogspot.co.uk/  and her books to order from all good bookshops, on Amazon or direct from Telos Publishing. At the moment her books published by Endaxi Press are only available as eBooks.

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The Jonathan Green Interview

Good morning to you readers!And I have another Monday Interview for your delectation.

Today, I am very pleased to have bagged Jonathan Green, ridiculously prolific writer who is well-known and well-regarded in the Fighting Fantasy and Steampunk worlds. After conducting this interview, I had to wonder if Mr Green is himself a Time Lord, for all the things he manages to fit into his life. He has over 60 published works, he is a family man, he attends conventions; meeting fans and signing books, he edits work for anthologies produced by Snowbooks AND he still finds time to do interviews!! What a guy, read on, some of his energy might rub off on you…

Jonathan Green is a freelance writer. He writes science fiction and fantasy novels for adults (Pax Britannia), adventure gamebooks for children (Fighting Fantasy), and non-fiction books for all ages. He has written for various franchises, from Sonic the Hedgehog and Doctor Who (The Horror of Howling Hill), to books set within Games Workshop‘s Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 game universes.

https://en.wikipedia.org

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Hi Jonathan, Welcome, and thanks for agreeing to be interviewed for my blog; Flailing Through Life…

 

  1. And talking about flailing; do you ever find yourself ‘flailing through life’?

 All the time! There always seems to be too much to do and never enough time to do it in. I have children, so a fair amount of my time seems to involve feeding them, cleaning up after them, or ferrying them to one place or another. I also have a conventional part-time job. The rest of the time is spent writing, promoting my writing, crowdfunding my writing, or coming up with ideas for things to write about.

Not that I have any trouble coming up with ideas – I already have more ideas than I’ll ever have time to write, I am sure – the trouble is that there’s always a new, shiny idea demanding my attention while I’m trying to finish off something else I’m already committed to. For example, at the moment I’m writing a book about the history of Fighting Fantasy gamebooks but my brain’s decided now would be the perfect time to throw up an idea for a new anthology, another gamebook, and a series of short stories.

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  1. What were you like as a child?

Bookish, creative, artistic. I’m an only child and so I grew up making my own entertainment. I can remember making little books, at age 6, and even before that drawing simple comic strips. But I think from the moment I realised someone actually had to write the stories in the books I enjoyed reading, I knew that was what I wanted to do with my life.

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  1. To me, and many others, you are successful as a writer, would you agree? What does literary success look like to you?

That’s very kind of you to say so and I can’t deny that I have enjoyed some level of success as an author – just in terms of the number of books I’ve had published and the properties I’ve worked on, including Doctor Who, Robin of Sherwood and Star Wars – but there is still so much more to be achieved.

I’ve never made much money from my writing, so literary success to me would mean financial security, signing a significant deal with a large publishing house, having a title in the Sunday Times or New York Times best-seller lists, and maybe having one of my books made into a movie. But ultimately, at the moment I’m successful enough to keep doing what I’m doing, which is writing, which is what I love.

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  1. You have written a huge number of books and contributions to collections, including the Pax Britannia series and the Fighting Fantasy adventure gamebooks. Does writing energize or exhaust you?

Both! When it’s going well writing gives you the greatest buzz, along with that satisfaction of seeing your book in print, thumbing through the pages and pointing it out to friends and family in bookshops. However, after a really good writing day I’m also useless the next.

Because of the nature of my working life at the moment, having a part-time job to go to in the afternoon, I rarely having amazing writing days as I have at times in the past (because I’m not able to work long enough for that to happen) but equally I don’t find myself wiped out the next day. I just keep plodding along, from one day to the next.

 

  1. Ulysses Quicksilver is dashing dandy, defender of ‘this green and pleasant land’, heroic, handsome (well I think so) from the Pax Britannia books; did anyone in the real world (apart from you) influence his formation and, if/when they get around to making the film, who would you like to play him?

Oh yes, he’s definitely handsome! But that’s funny that you should mention that I’m one of the character’s influences, because, intentionally or not, I think that’s true. It’s an occupational hazard for writers, imbuing their characters with their own qualities, and it’s almost inevitable when you develop one character over so many books. (I recently read a book by a friend, and I could see aspects of her in both the main protagonists in the story.)

I sometimes describe Ulysses Quicksilver as being a cross between Sherlock Holmes, James Bond and Oscar Wilde, but there’s probably a little bit of Doctor Who in there too. In terms of who would play him in a film, I could envisage someone like Julian Rhind-Tutt or Paul Bettany being a good fit, although they’re getting a little old to play him now, as Ulysses is in his late thirties. I started writing the character when I was in my thirties, so he was about the same age as I was at the time of writing the first Pax Britannia novel. However, ten years have passed since then but only about two years have passed in the Pax Britannia universe.

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  1. Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

I have a bad habit of including all sorts of pop culture references in my books. For example, in the Pax Britannia novel Anno Frankenstein, a missing German zeppelin had the serial number NCC-1701, which is the registration number of the USS Enterprise from Star Trek.

Another reference that I’m not sure if anyone has spotted appears in the Warhammer Path to Victory gamebook Shadows Over Sylvania, where a vampire queen quotes Sean Connery’s opening words from the movie Highlander.

 

  1. How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

I’m not sure that it changed it, but it definitely crystallised it. I hadn’t written a full-length book before I was actually commissioned to do so. After leaving school, and while I was at universe, I tried out for the Fighting Fantasy series. Two years, two completely different ideas and three re-writes later, I was commissioned to write Spellbreaker.

Thanks to the way the commissioning process worked, when you sent in a pitch for an FF book, you had to write the first quarter and outline the rest in detail. As a result, I have always planned my stories and books before I start writing them. I still do it, even if it’s for a short story that I am writing for myself.

 

  1. You write gamebooks, Doctor Who adventures, Christmas ‘infotainment’, colouring books, Speculative/Science Fiction, Fantasy. How do you balance making demands on the reader with taking care of the reader?

 I remember an editor telling me once to trust the reader; you don’t have to spell everything out for them – let them do some of the heavy-lifting. However, when world-building you want to make sure you give your readers enough information so that know what’s going on, or where the action is taking place, but you don’t need to do that in the form of a massive info-dump. Reveal bits and pieces of information as necessary, maybe not explaining everything straight away, but expand upon it later.

You don’t actually need very much information to let the reader know where a scene is taking place, who the people involved are and what they’re like, what it is they need to do or what it is they’re after. But ultimately I feel that it’s better for a reader to be confused than bored; if they’re confused they’ll keep reading to find out what’s going on, but if they’re bored they’ll stop reading.

When it comes to adventure gamebooks, these days at least, I try hard to make sure that the game part of the book is fair, so that it one way I do try to take care of the reader.

 

  1. What can we expect next from your busy pen?

As I’ve already said, I’m currently writing YOU ARE THE HERO Part 2, which is a supplement to YOU ARE THE HERO – A History of Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks, but out in May/June is my new gamebook, The Wicked Wizard of Oz. I also have short stories appearing in several anthologies later this year – Clockwork Cairo, Further Associate of Sherlock Holmes and Tales of the Lost Isles – and I’ve contributed to another Doctor Who book which will out by Christmas.

JG10    JGClockwork Cairo

  1. And finally, what is your favourite childhood book?

That’s a tricky one. I don’t like ‘favourites’ style questions, because I like so many different things for so many reasons, and my answer can change depending on my mood. However, up there would have to be A Dictionary of Monsters and Mysterious Beasts (a non-fiction book by Carey Miller), the Fighting Fantasy gamebook Deathtrap Dungeon (by Ian Livingstone), Where the Wild Things Are (by Maurice Sendak), and Farmer Giles of Ham (by J R R Tolkien).

 

Thank you to Jonathan for ‘taking part’ today (You won a cuddly toy!) and if Mr Rhind-Tutt or Mr Bettany (or younger versions!) are available, someone get Ulysses Quicksilver onto the big screen please.

To find out more about his current projects visit http://www.JonathanGreenAuthor.com and follow him on Twitter @jonathangreen.

 

 

 

 

Join me next time for Sam Stone ‘Horror Queen’.