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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host J. Tullos Hennig here today. Welcome, J. and thank you for sharing something about yourself and your writing!
~Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Interview with J Tullos Hennig ~
Does research play a role into choosing which genre you write? Do you enjoy research or prefer making up your worlds and cultures?
Research has a role in every genre. It has to; nothing can be created in a vacuum. We need some verisimilitude to latch onto, be it with our own cobbled-together universes or a world with a firmer attachment to ‘reality’. We’re all beholden to some sort of history, however intrinsically flawed or truthful. And living life can be its own research, as much as perusing a library’s closed stacks.
So what can you say but yes!—and embrace it?
Has your choice of childhood or teenage reading genres carried into your own choices for writing?
Genre was a LOT less specific when I was young, but it was a factor. I loved other worlds and times, history and anthropology, devoured mythic tales and legends, preferred stories where animals were individuals (because in a lifetime of working with them, they are), and was an nerdy Speculative Fiction fan way before it was pop culture cool.
Do you read romances, as a teenager and as an adult?
No, though I had a very short stint of romance reading as a teenager. As I said above, I’m a Historical and Speculative reader to the bone. I do enjoy epic stories that include romantic themes. And write them, natch!
Who do you think is your major influence as a writer? Now and growing up?
I always offer sage to the three Marys: Mary Stewart, Mary Renault, and Mary O’Hara. And especially recognise the Chickasaw storyteller known as Te Ata.
Have you ever had to put an ‘in progress’ story aside because of the emotional ties with it? You were hurting with the characters or didn’t know how to proceed?
For me, as a writer, if I’m not immersed then the writing isn’t working. And of course it hurts. Again, what can you say but yes? Amazing things are winnowed from pain AND joy.
Do you feel there’s a tight line between Mary Sue or should I say Gary Stu and using your own experiences to create a character?
Hmm. This question alone has spawned tomes of rhetoric—not an easy thing to answer in a few sentences. I was around when the “Mary Sue” thing got started, and one thing seems plain in that experience: “Mary Sue” has become a fannish pejorative that has gone wildly off its original course. As a result, women are often the ones feeling the brunt of the harshest judgments. All this, when the original plaint had as its source a complaint about lazy writing and juvenile characterisation.
The thing is, in any well-crafted story a writer has to mine one’s own experience to inform their characters. But well-rounded characterisation, whatever its source, is a skill learned over time and practice. So baby writers often fail… should fail, because if we don’t, we don’t learn. But when you put something out for public consumption before it or you are ready…? Well. Consequences. And everyone seems to be getting less, not more, tolerant of what doesn’t fall into their own set of expectations.
Do you like HFN or HEA? And why?
Neither, really. I prefer to read and write what I term a “satisfactory” ending. I want the immersive experience, both for my readers and when I read. If I’m lucky enough to experience that immersion, I don’t get terribly picky about what those feelings are. To quote James Joyce: “First you feel… then you fall.”
How do you feel about the ebook format and where do you see it going?
Living in a small house, it’s space-wise and convenient to have a e-reader filled with titles. But I don’t prefer it. I like the feel and smell of paper books. The idea that someone can whisk my books away and into the ether on a whim, or that my reading relies solely on a source of external power—well, its worrisome. And unappealing. But convenient, no question! And I can markup files in an e-reader, where I refuse to mark in my books.
Where the technology goes from here, I wouldn’t dare to guess, save that I imagine audio will play a bigger role than ever.
How do you choose your covers? (curious on my part)
I think about the cover artist and whether their style speaks to the story. I do consider myself blessed in that I’m able to have input on my covers through DSP Publications. My former experience with publishing houses serves to remind me that not all authors are so fortunate.
What’s next for you as an author?
I’ve a lot of projects in the wings. The main one I’m shopping now is culturally based more on my grandmother’s Choctaw/Chickasaw people than my grandfather’s U.K. heritage; a different voice, to be sure, but one underserved and vital.
But as to ‘thisnow’, as the denizens of the Wode say, I’m amidst SUMMERWODE’s release, and working on the final book in the series, WYLDINGWODE. All of the Books of the Wode are dense, character-driven, and immersive. If you’re quite strict about your Romance tropes, they mightn’t be your cuppa. But if you’re up for a good old-fashioned, epic Historical Fantasy with a goodly dose of magical realism, then the Wode might be for you!
Thanks for hosting me on your blog!
COVER BLURB for SUMMERWODE
The Summer King has come to the Wode…
Yet to which oath, head or heart, shall he hold?
Once known as the Templar assassin Guy de Gisbourne, dispossessed noble Gamelyn Boundys has come to Sherwood Forest with conflicted oaths. One is of duty: demanding he tame the forest’s druidic secrets and bring them back to his Templar Masters. The other oath is of heat and heart: given to the outlaw Robyn Hood, avatar of the Horned Lord, and the Maiden Marion, embodiment of the Lady Huntress. The three of them—Summerlord, Winter King, and Maiden of the Spring—are bound by yet another promise, that of fate: to wield the covenant of the Shire Wode and the power of the Ceugant, the magical trine of all worlds. In this last, also, is Gamelyn conflicted; spectres of sacrifice and death haunt him.
Uneasy oaths begin a collision course when not only Gamelyn, but Robyn and Marion are summoned to the siege of Nottingham by the Queen. Her promise is that Gamelyn will regain his noble family’s honour of Tickhill, and the outlaws of the Shire Wode will have a royal pardon.
But King Richard has returned to England, and the price of his mercy might well be more than any of them can afford…
~ ~ ~ ~
EXCERPT from SUMMERWODE:
“You look proper fetching in those breeks.” This from Much, behind Robyn and just inside the drawn-back pavilion entry.
“I wish I could say the same for you in that Templar’s tabard.” Marion had lingered with him.
Then, “Why didn’t you say anything?” If the wretched tone in Marion’s voice set a crack in Robyn’s heart, Much’s answer shivered it into anger.
“Marion, you knew it was temporary, me being banished, like—”
“It must run in your bloody Order,” Robyn growled, just loud enough and with a glare toward the pulled-back pavilion flap. “Bein’ so reticent, like, with sommun as shares your bed.”
Within the entry, Much had his mouth open, about to make some retort. He thought better of it and shut it with an audible pop.
Marion let out a curse that could have scorched the pavilion’s fabric.
“You’d best start talking, man, and keep on,” Robyn muttered, though to which Templar, he was uncertain.
Another silence, then more conversation—this low, unintelligible. Robyn grinned—no pleasant expression—and crept closer, ready to lob another volley should it be necessary.
He halted. Frowned. Cocked his head and snuffed the air, turned sharp eyes upon the drifting smoke; previously aimless, it sucked backward, then curled forth.
The soldiers began to appear, then, silent and armed to the teeth, akin to phantoms in the wisps of murk and sun. Despite any impulse to duck back into the pavilion and hide, a dull fascination kept Robyn there, watching the men pass with ranks doubling, tripling, all parting like water around the surrounding pavilions.
The odd lull receded and filled itself with a singular rhythm; Robyn realized it was the dull tap… tap… of sword against shield, timing the tread of heavy boots, the clink and thap of chainmail against leather, the heat and menace of determination.
Some of them were Templars.
They were converging upon the gatehouse. Just a stone’s throw away, the army—and it was one, no question there—stopped.
There was a grind and clank from the main gate. A small door revealed itself, creaking outward from the great one’s leftmost corner. The waiting army angled forward—slight, but there—and a shaky voice issued from the three-sided gap. A rich baritone echoed in answer, bouncing off the gatehouse door.
Robyn knew that last voice. With a tiny skip and step forward, he confirmed said recognition: the tall, white-clad Commander of Temple Hirst with—of course—his most trusted bodyguard. Both of them standing in the bloody front of the battle line. Hubert was speaking to the one who was hiding behind the little door, and Gamelyn stood beside him, holding the Templar’s banner, with shoulders squared and russet-gold head bared beneath an abrupt shaft of the inconstant sun.
That same bit of sun spilled upon the gatehouse tower. It illuminated, through a tall and bloody narrow opening, a figure lurking behind the thick, curved wall. The odd combination of sun, smoke, and shadows betrayed a glint, here and there, wielded within. Likely a crossbow.
Eyes narrowing, Robyn kept his gaze upon the arrow loop, shrugged the longbow from its place athwart his shoulders, and fingered a flax string from its pouch at his belt.
Whatever Hubert was saying, the man at the door wasn’t having it, not a bit.
The sun making its play for Gamelyn’s bright hair slid behind a bit of smoke, and the gatehouse went dark.
Robyn stepped his bow with a soft grunt of effort, slipping string over horn tip, and kept eyeing that arrow loop. The sun crept back; one shaft of light in particular kept dancing, above and behind, to backlight the crossbowman in the upper gatehouse. Pulling a quintet of arrows from his quiver, Robyn set to knotting three in his hair.
“What is it?” Marion came up beside; he spared a swift glance. Much was nowhere in sight, and her eyes were swollen, but the look in those eyes dared Robyn to so much as mention it. And—he smiled—she carried her own bow, strung and ready.
“Hearken where our Summerlord bides.”
Marion’s eyes widened, and her pale eyebrows did a dance, one up and the other down. But all she said was “Aye, well, no wonder Much lit out like he were afire” and drew several arrows from the quiver at her hip.
Robyn loved his sister.
“Y’ canna chain t’ wind,” he quipped. “Such wishes are for Christians and rich men.”
“There’s more’n one bloody crossbow sighting our lovely Templars. Two there on the hoarding, one… nay, two”—he could see another now, moving into position behind the second loop—“in t’ loops, and… bloody damn!”
This as the smoke stalled upon a breeze and the gatehouse went into shadow.
With a breathy paean to the wind, Robyn drew several arrows from his quiver, slow and sure. “You’ve the lighter bow, Mari. Best cover the ones up top.” He pushed, light and ready, into his grandda’s longbow as she nocked and fisted her own arrows. “I’ve marked those buggers behind the loops; do they so much as twitch, I’ll have ’em.”
“Who let this…?” A cry rose from within the walls and garbled into more shouting. The man at the door whirled angrily, then lurched sideways with a yip and disappeared. Several of the front-line soldiers leapt after as the door was heaved shut—one ran into it with a curse.
More shouts, with one from behind the wall that left no doubt. “Shoot!”
And everything went to hell.
Crossbows discharged. Lances flew. The ground troops dove left and right, wrenching their shields atop them like turtles ducking into their shells. The Templar banner alone remained upright, sprouting from a ceiling of shields as, from the wall-walk—and more, from those damned dark arrow loops—the bolts kept coming.
Marion loosed once, then again. With a shout, a man fell from the hoarding and crashed into a brace of the waiting shields, an arrow in his throat. Robyn danced sideways, watching another quarrel spring from the loop; he loosed a desperate shot, chance and trajectory alone. It slid between the narrow lintels as if greased, and there was a yelp. Had he hit? No way to tell; instead he took aim at the other loop. Whoever was stuck in up there—they weren’t the normal dusted-off clot handed a crossbow—kept loosing bolts with unerring efficiency into the soldiers below….
And still no sign of Gamelyn, though the piebald banner flew, obdurate. The shields below it were beginning to resemble hedgehogs. Robyn’s heart clenched to quivering in his breast, forced tight his breath.
Surely he’d know, if….
The throaty bellow made Robyn start; indeed, ’twould have brought the cows in from a hundred-acre field. Save that all the cattle here were English, and that was definitely Frankish talk.
More shouts resounded against the high bailey walls. A burly, bright-haired man fair exploded from the fancy crimson pavilion a stone’s throw west, still spewing Frankish.
It was answered by a round of cries—“Pour le roi!” “Du roi!”—and a mass of crossbowmen poured from behind the pavilions, rushing the gatehouse.
Roi? That was their talk for a king…. Robyn fisted two more arrows, all the while eying the man who still bellowed like some Frank bull. King Richard? Nay, that was unlikely. His tent was big and fancy, but the man wasn’t dressed to match. His fair hair bore no crown, was tied back all haphazard, its gingery cast picked out by a shaft of breakthrough sun. He’d an even ruddier complexion, with cheeks and nose that seemed more too much wine than too much sun, and a bit too much around the belly, as well, for some warrior king.
Something in him required pause; a pure vitality slapping at Robyn’s face like sand in a whirlwind. And the man’s bellow would stir an army from sloth to ambition, at that.
Robyn shook it off with a curse, aimed another arrow for that far loop, and hissed the wind-breath from entreaty into desperate command. Marion too was waiting, arrow to string, for another of the topmost bowmen to show themselves….
Sun rippled over the gatehouse, backlight and satisfaction and, as if similarly conjured, a rush of crossbow- and pikemen converged from behind the crimson pavilion. One of them was yelling, in Anglic: “Archers! We need more crossbows!”
Marion picked off the last of the wall crossbowmen.
But Robyn saw only the two forms, backlit behind those arrow loops. With a half-breathed snarl, he loosed; one, then immediately another.
And just like that, no more arrows came from the loops.
About the Author
J Tullos Hennig has always possessed inveterate fascination in the myths and histories of other worlds and times. Despite having maintained a few professions in this world—equestrian, dancer, teacher, artist—Jen has never successfully managed to not be a writer. Ever.
Her most recent work is a darkly magical & award-winning historical fantasy series re-imagining the legends of Robin Hood, in which both pagan and queer viewpoints are given respectful voice.
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