This is the beginning of a new feature on Archer’s Aim – Fantasy Authors Unplugged. I hope to frequently share an interview with a fantasy author. If you have authors to suggest and/or questions you’d like to see answered then leave a comment or send me an email. If you are a fantasy author and would like an interview please let me know and we’ll plan one that fits your schedule.
Today’s feature fantasy author is Autumn M. Birt who has several fantasy novel to her name.
1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your books?
I am a conservationist, adventure traveler, and writer who lives in Maine in a small cabin I built along with my husband. It’s located in a woodlot and is a quiet and inspiring place to be… especially when I’m stuck next to the fire during a snow storm!
I love writing and have written off and on throughout periods of my life, but only started taking it seriously about four years ago when I self-published my first book, Born of Water. I made a lot of mistakes! Which is one of the reasons I blog about writing and the lessons I’ve learned. Everything from editing, that you need an editor, to methods of using POV to build tension.
Now writing is very much a part of my life. I have dedicated daily writing time and this summer signed on with a small indie publisher, Creativia. And in June of 2014, I published my fifth book, which was also the final book in my epic fantasy series the Rise of the Fifth Order. Finishing a series felt as big, if not bigger, than finding a publisher.
Born of Water, Rule of Fire, and Spirit of Life make the Rise of the Fifth Order trilogy. It is an epic fantasy adventure series on elemental magic aimed toward young adults, though I’m a young-at-heart adult and very much love them!
The description for book 1, Born of Water is: In the buried archives of the Temple of Dust may lie the secret to defeating the Curse, a creature which seeks to destroy 16-year old Ria for the forbidden gifts she possesses. But it is from among the ranks of those who control the Curse where Ria will find her best chance of success.
Only the Priestess Niri can save Ria from the forces that hunt her, if Niri doesn’t betray the girl first. Along with Ria comes Ty and his sister, Lavinia, both bound to defend Ria from the Church of Four Orders. However, Ty has been living a life less than honest and keeping it from his sister. To survive a journey that takes them across the breadth of their world, the four must learn to trust each other before pursuit from the Church and Ty’s troubled past find them.
Welcome to the mythical world of Myrrah, ruled by the Church of Four Orders – Fire, Earth, Water, and Air.
Born of Water is perma-free on Amazon too, which is a great way to introduce readers to the series and my writing.
2. Is there an inspiration for the book?
Absolutely, though it is a little odd! Two ideas combined to create the foundation idea to Born of Water. The first was a short story idea bouncing around in my head about an executive, who was also an earth elemental, attending a conference. She sees a girl with abilities like hers but different. It was set in the modern world and I never wrote a word of it. I had no idea what happened after that brief description and no motivation to find out.
While I was pondering what to do with that, I was also frequently staring at a massive painting of a mediterranean city that hung in the bathroom, of all places, at my work. Wondering what life was like in that city was easier than worrying about deadlines. And one day, I wondered what the characters from the short story would be like if that was where they lived. That is how the city of Mirocyne and the characters of Niri and Ria were created.
3. What draws you to this genre?
I’ve read epic fantasy since I stumbled upon a short story of Pern written by Anne McCaffery. I love the genre for its magic and adventure. I love to travel in real life and see new cultures while learning about past civilizations. Now I pour that interest into my writing, trying to balance creating a realistic world and civilizations with the action – along with a frequent touch of romance.
For those reasons, epic fantasy became the first genre in which I wrote, but it is hardly the last. I’m also very attracted to dark fantasy and dystopian. I’ve read sci fi for a long time too, and have a few ideas for stories along those lines too.
4. What do you think of “trailers” for books?
I have a love/hate relationship with book trailers. I don’t spend much time perusing the internet, Facebook, or YouTube. But I know some potential readers do. So I’ve contemplated doing a series trailer.
But researching options and seeing so many trailers with static images set to music along with a few lines of text… I’m just not excited by them. I’ve only seen one or two exceptional book trailers, and they were amazing videos that really drew you in. And they took some time. And possibly some money. But there were amazing.
So I’ve set the bar pretty high to what I would want to see if I did a book trailer. And right now it is out of my budget for both dollars and time. But I play around with notes on a script and maybe, maybe I’ll do one at some point.
5. How long on average does it take you to write a book?
Born of Water took me three years. Seriously. I wrote it, took a few novel writing/creative writing courses, joined a writer’s group, re-wrote it, re-edited it, and then self-published it. Eventually, I edited it again even after that!
The next two books in the series took around seven months, but there were a lot of breaks too (I was building the house!) and then editing took a few more. But as I agonized over finishing the last book in the series and saying goodbye to the characters, I started writing the series that is my current WIP.
This had two great advantages: I was excited to keep writing as the series ended (so it was less painful letting go), and I found that writing two books at once actually increased my pace! When I’m stuck on one, I switch to the other.
I now keep a main WIP in which I write at least three chapters a week, a side WIP that usually sees a half chapter a week, and edit a finished book at the same time. Plus I blog. And have a job. And husband, hobbies… really, I have no idea how it all works! Somehow the chaos that is my life continues and is really productive (hence the no surfing the internet!).
Right now my pace is to finish the first draft of a main WIP in four months or less (not counting lots of pondering, world building, and character development that comes way before I start writing!). I’m about two weeks from finishing a book that I started writing in early October, and a vacation and the holidays slowed me down. After that, editing can still be another three months. But since I have a small backlog of finished work that is being handled by my publisher, I think I’ll see the complete series I’m writing now published in 2015, which will be four books. Plus, potentially, the first of a new epic fantasy series.
Trust me, I think that sounds crazy too and would never set that as a goal for myself. It will double the number of my currently published books. BUT… I’m about to finish writing book 2 and it is only January. The first book, which is a prequel to the trilogy and consists of a series of short stories, is already with my publisher. And I’m about to finish the edits to book 1. As for the epic fantasy, I’m on chapter 12 out of around 40, and stuck at the moment as I finish edits. I think it might be ready to go by the fall, since it will become my primary WIP once I finish book 3 of my new series… which might be sometime around May? And I should be half done with it then, so… maybe an early fall release?? Five books, I don’t believe it so don’t hold me to it, but I’m keeping my toes crossed (can’t cross my fingers – I need them to type!)
6. Do you ever get writer’s block?
I definitely have periods where I get stuck or my writing slows, but I have yet to ever suffer from a prolonged lack of ideas and no writing (thank goodness!). Usually problems come from realizing I need to do more world building or understand the history involved with the story I’m writing, sometimes it stems from not liking the previous chapter or thinking that something is missing in the plot, and sometimes simply from not being able to think of a name for a place or person that fits. Seriously, the name thing screws me up a lot. But that is part of why I write two manuscripts (of different story lines) at once and edit a third. One of those three will not be stalled. And if it is… I’ll go read a book!
7. How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
Now that is a tough question and so much harder to pick out. Everything about my writing style and method has evolved since I first wrote, and then rewrote, Born of Water. I went from full out pantser to a complete plotter with notes about EVERYTHING, to having a general plot and chapter outline and I pants what actually happens in each chapter.
But creativity is so much more than the method of how I write. That speaks to ideas and how I manifest them. And though I know I have grown as a writer, it is hard to describe how. I can say that as I started writing Spirit of Life, I itched to write a more ‘mature’ novel, one with harsher language, less optimism, and more serious consequences: basically a dark fantasy novel. I don’t think I could have tackled the maturity of my current WIP if I’d written it before the epic fantasy series, and I definitely know the events that take place in book 2 would have been beyond me even six months ago. This is very much a book I would have thought beyond my abilities. And now I’m nearly finished writing it. And that gives me a personal sense of accomplishment as well as enthusiasm to see where I’ll be in as little as a year. I’ve not even dreamed of the novels I’ll be writing three years from now. Goodness knows what they’ll be like!
8. What is the hardest thing about writing?
How consuming it can feel to want to take an idea that is in my mind and put it on paper (well, electronic letters). There are times I want to write like it is a drug. And as it does release endorphins, I’m sure it definitely does provide a kick! Fortunately, that drive isn’t there all the time or I’d never leave my desk, resulting in a job loss, failed marriage, and missing out on life in general. I love to write, but I also love to go camping, canoeing, hiking, cooking, spend time with family. Just every once in awhile I have to be reminded that I love those things too… And lets not talk about my recent vacation and the debate of leaving behind all of my writing for over two weeks. Talk about separation anxiety!
So the hardest thing about writing is that it is very much my passion. And that is a good thing, but it can be too much too. Especially when I’m trying to fit it in around a full time job, family, and other hobbies. Hopefully some day I’ll have more time to write. Until then, I try to keep perspective and everything balanced!
9. What’s your next project?
I’ve been hinting at this throughout the questions, lol! My current WIP is a trilogy titled Friends of my Enemy. It is dystopian/dark fantasy set in the years 2055 to 2069. The first release, Stories from the War, will be a set of eleven interrelated short stories that lead up to, and through, a world war that really alters living conditions and the politics of the planet. Book 1, After the War, takes place after the war has officially ended.
What I love about the story is that the foundation is about the friendships and relationships of a small group of people. A plot that sweeps the world along is pulled and twisted by love, hate, and expectations based on lovers, friends, family, and perceived enemies. And real enemies too! The story is easy to write because the intensity and passion of the characters keep everything moving. Which is good because the story is very complex, tacking everything from corrupt governments, flawed heroes, military battles, and strategic enemies. I’m writing the final chapters of book 2, Battle for Europe, now and am as happy as I’m surprised at where the story has taken me. I can’t wait to start book 3, The Fight for Peace!
And my side project is a new epic fantasy trilogy based in the same world, and with many of the same characters, as Rise of the Fifth Order. But how the characters convinced me to write that series is another post!
Thanks to Autumn for being first in this feature.
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