I haven’t been on this blogosphere for very long–two months, give or take? During this time I’ve had the good fortune to get to know quite the charismatic and compelling writer. Given tomorrow (11/13/14) she will have her very first novel (Aurian and Jin: A Love Story) available for purchase, I decided it’d be nice to get to know her a little better VIA A GAUNTLET OF FLAMING SWORDS.
Oh. Didn’t pay gas last month. I guess this questionnaire will have to do.
First off, I think she’s awesome. She writes my brand of conflict, my brand of fantasy. Anyway. Onward.
?) Before we get down to serious business, tell us a little about yourself. I’d love to hear about hobbies, passions, foci outside the book writing business. Anything you want to share.
!) For one, I’m Batman.
But you’re not supposed to know that, so.
I’m your average poor young American girl, so mostly what I do outside writing is work. On the rare occasions when I’m not doing that, I draw and paint a little–thinking, actually, of embarrassing myself by doing a week of sketches on The Blog before my book comes out–reading, of course, and cooking. I love to cook, and my waistline has suffered for it. I love words, and I keep a notebook with me to write down interesting ones when I come across them. I walk everywhere when I can, read actual paper books, and am in general in favor of a slower and less technologically entwined life. I like strange things like paper money and having conversations with people I meet on the street.
?) What is the title of your book?
!) Aurian and Jin: A Love Story.
?) Tell us a little about it?
!) Love. No, really.
On the outside, it’s a story about an unevenly matched husband and wife duo, and all the trouble you can get into when you let your past come and bite you in the ass, instead of rising to the challenge and biting it. But for me, what it’s really about is the different kinds of love people can have for each other, and how those ties can be twisted and mangled and still remain love-ties. My heroine, Jin, who is not your average fantasy-genre ‘warrior woman’ in that her hair is not shining, her eyes (well, eye) don’t sparkle, and she at no point in the story appears cleaned up in a beautiful dress, hasn’t ever really loved anybody. She slowly discovers that this, of all things, might be the difference between a heroine and a scruffy bitch who does things with a sword.
We do the bravest things we do because it matters to somebody that we do them. It’s a story–a funny story, I promise–about two people who have to learn precisely that.
?) Why did you want to write it?
!) It’s a pretty classic story arc–gal comes up as a hero, gal loses hero powers, gal has to find her own way, gal marries handsome man several years her junior and proceeds to cheerfully and necessarily fuck up his life. But I wanted to write a story about real people–people who aren’t necessarily the smartest or the best people–in a heroic/epic fantasy setting. I read a LOT of fantasy growing up, and I got pretty tired of noble kings and beautiful queens who never took a dump or got drunk at a party. No matter how much you like those people, you can’t relate to them. Aurian and Jin are lost people, confused people, relatable people. They’re the sort of people who, when they finally get pissed off enough to do something, might actually save the world.
?) Who/what inspired you to write it?
!) If I said ‘my mom’ here, she would kill me. Nobody wants to hear Jin was inspired by them.
It’s a story I’ve had in my head for a while–a classic fantasy arc about skill given by what is essentially divine right, and how someone (Jin) reacts when this skill is taken away. I wrote the first version of Aurian and Jin when I was about nineteen, and hoo boy, if you think the characters seem young now, you should’ve seen that first draft. We were still pretending we’d read Nietschze and cared about it.
I guess a lot of the fantasy trappings came from a dream I had when I was eighteen or so, which I can still remember a little about: I killed a creature that looked like a man until it died, when it turned into a mass of cables and blade-thin wires. Are you supposed to talk about it when you kill something in your dreams? It probably means I need a psychologist.
?) Is there something you absolutely MUST have for writing?
!) Coffee, cigarettes, and air. Really, you need air. Not a lot gets said about it.
I do write on my Kindle Fire–I have a little keyboard and case for easy transportation–and I suppose this is the place to mention that I have destroyed five Bluetooth keyboards this year, and, from cold hard experience, can state that this is something I need as well.
?) What are your future plans? More book babies on the way?
!) Well, I was supposed to be a famous writer by this point, but it’s funny how that doesn’t happen.
The sequel to Aurian and Jin, called Little Bird, is first-draft finished and waiting to be edited. Its sequel, Death–Dealer, is about seventy pages in on the first draft. I recently started an untitled Southern Gothic-type horror thing based loosely on the story of the House of Atreus which I’m enjoying blithely, but recognize will probably never make it past first draft. I might post the first chapter up on my blog to see what you guys think.
?) Who is your favorite author, and why?
!) This is like asking someone who their favorite band is.
I’m a big fan of the late Iain M. Banks. Also Margaret Atwood’s Maddaddam books, Ursula K Leguin’s anything, Dan Simmons’ first two Hyperion books (his kid Messiah, however, annoyed the piss out of me). When I was a kid I really enjoyed Stephen King’s Dark Tower books, and I still read anything by Terry Pratchett I can get my hands on. Outside of genre, I’m a big fan of Russell Banks, Salman Rushdie, and A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. I like anything that takes me to a different world, whether or not that world actually exists.
Recent people in fantasy who’ve impressed me utterly are Lev Grossman and Joe Abercrombie. Mr. Abercrombie’s kings take a shit every once in a while, and he has my undying respect for that.
?) Why this genre? Why this story arc?
!) I’m not a big fan of allegory in fantasy–actually, I loathe it– but I think fantasy does give you the chance to just tell a story without directly relating it to any culture or situation currently on Earth. It gives you a broad range of motion, and allows you to sculpt a world that works for your story and not the other way around. This is no small gift, especially if the story you want to tell, like mine, has some minor gender role-reversal implied. To be honest, I didn’t really realize it until my boyfriend mentioned it one day (‘y’know, Jin’s really more the man in this story than Aurian is,’) which probably said something about me. I’m not too keen on the whole ‘your actions label you ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine” thing, and especially not when those actions imply core values for both sexes, such as bravery or stupidity, so it was nice to work in a world where people wouldn’t be (out loud, at least) gender-judging my characters for their swordsmanship or lack thereof.
?) If you had one favorite drink, what would it be?
!) That’d be beer, sir.
?) Any advice you’d give to an aspiring writer?
!) Don’t wind up like me.
Seriously, if I could shout out to every kid in college who likes to write in a genre, I would. And I would say something like this:
“Just because every other bastard in this room wants to be Charles Bukowski doesn’t mean you have to be. Write what you want, not what’s cool or what’s ‘literary’. Kick a rock over and you’ll find four ‘literary’ writers struggling for happiness and recognition in the dark loam. It might take them years to realize they’re not writing from their hearts, or they might never realize it at all. Writing isn’t something you do for recognition or for glory, or for what limited cool points it still gets you in this day and age. You’re a writer. You’re automatically a flaming nerd. Go out and do what you want with it.”
?) Favorite super hero. Go!
We’re going boring and going with Batman. I like a man with a can-do attitude.
Ms. Russell can be found in various states on the internet;
(Reposting her book page on createspace for posterity: https://www.createspace.com/5082996)