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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Lou Hoffman here today talking about the latest release from Harmony Ink Press. Welcome, Lou.
~ Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Interview with Lou Hoffmann ~
*How much of yourself goes into a character?
Every character is me. That’s a cliché, but I think there’s a fair-sized chunk of truth at its core. We can’t write what we can’t imagine, and our imaginings are made up of everything we’ve experienced, whether through life, reading, observation, even dreaming. Every writer does things differently, so I’m speaking only for myself. With that in mind, for main characters, if I tried to make them up piece by piece—filling out a character sheet, or the like—they’d feel less authentic to me, and so probably to the reader. There are some fantastical characters in The Sun Child Chronicles, but they came more or less whole cloth to the story, and it was in writing the story that the characters were more fully revealed.
The first time I imagined the wizard Thurlock, for instance, he was old, and cantankerous, and simultaneously awesomely powerful and a bit bumbling. In my mind, he looked and acted pretty much exactly then as he does now. Is Thurlock me? Well, I’m certainly no wizard and I’m not a thousand years old, but I do know what it’s like to be the one who has to figure things out, the one who has to pull the proverbial rabbit out of the hat and save the day. And, like Thurlock, I know what it’s like to succeed at that, I know what it’s like to fail, and I know what it’s like to have salvation come from an unexpected source. He’s not me, but he’s made out of parts of me, with a bunch of wonderment and imagination in the mix, and I know him in the same way I know myself—in one long journey of discovery.
One more word about characters being revealed through story, though. It’s not one-sided. The character also reveals the story. The more I know about the story, the more I see the character acting within it. The more I know about the character, the more they show me the story.
*Does research play a role into choosing which genre you write? Do you enjoy research or prefer making up your worlds and cultures?
Short answers all in a row: 1) no, it doesn’t play a role in which genre I write, 2) yes I enjoy research, but also 3) yes I like making up worlds and cultures.
I can’t choose between research and making things up, and in my thinking the difference isn’t exactly crystal. Anytime a writer makes fiction, they are making up a world. It doesn’t matter how closely it resembles the mundane world we all live in. The minute you impose fictional characters and fictional events upon that world, it becomes fictional, and will have to be bent and shaped in places to accommodate the story and characters. So even with contemporary fiction, the writer is imagining a world that doesn’t exist.
Also, for me at least, it’s never proven true that fantasy requires less research than contemporary settings. In non-fantasy genres, if the setting you want is a contemporary or historical city, you research where things are and what they look like, what the weather is like, perhaps what people have lived there, major events or cultural facts, etc. To write a fantasy city, you might have to research what kinds of weather patterns might exist in a geography such as the one you’re writing, what kind of building material might be suited to the environment, what kinds of transportation might be available in a pre-mechanized society. Sure, you’re going to embellish that, but for readers to relate to the story it needs to be grounded in human experience, in what feels possible, even if it isn’t.
In creating the Sun Child Chronicles, I’ve had an interesting situation, in that the Earth in the story and the second world, Ethra, have a lot in common, because they came from the same root—a world in which the seeds of cultural and technological evolution had already begun to grow before it split into two worlds. The new worlds developed at different rates—time actually moves differently too, and unpredictably. In many ways, Ethra resembles a historical, pre-industrial earth. So a lot of research goes into creating the trappings—clothing, occupations, means of transportation, activities, food, facilities. homes, streets, arts—basically everything, just as if I was writing a historical. The result doesn’t match a historical earth, exactly, but it feels familiar in the same way history does.
Then an added layer of research has to do with making the magic itself credible within the story. One item on that agenda, for instance, had to do with the “twin blades” which are first introduced in Key of Behliseth, and gain importance throughout the story, as the title Ciarrah’s Light might indicate. The origin story about these sentient daggers is pure fancy. The research came into play especially when I was determining what kind of stone might realistically be expected to produce the kind of “personality” each of these weapons have. I settled on obsidian for Ciarrah, the black blade—sharp, dark, strong, reflective. The other blade, Niamh, is amber, a smooth stone with a silky surface, soft, often preserving the stuff of life within it.
Has your choice of childhood or teenage reading genres carried into your own choices for writing?
I don’t know if I’ve ever thought of it that way, but now that I do, I think the answer is an obvious yes. I read a lot as a child and teen—cleaned out the library at my middle school, for instance—so naturally my reading included all sorts of genres. My favorites were often fantastical—like Wind in the Willows, the Borrowers, and A Wrinkle in Time in elementary school. And at that age my “real world” was so small that often stories that were not fantasy felt fantastical anyway. When I was a teen, I read Lord of the Rings, Gormenghast, Earthsea, as well as a good deal of sci-fi. Most of that wasn’t from the school library—my older brother passed his books down to me. In retrospect, those early literary loves certainly must have had a hand in creating my love of writing fantasy.
What’s next for you as an author?
The Sun Child Chronicles has three more books coming in the series proper: Dragon’s Rise, which is written and contracted for Summer 2019, and Kaynenh’s Triad and Suth Chiell’s Conquest in progress. I’m excited about the idea of some shorter, standalone stories that delve into the back story of the Sun Child, perhaps starring Zhevi, a young soldier, or L’Aria, a very exceptional magical girl, or maybe the story of a younger Han Shieth—gay man, perfect uncle, and fantastic warrior that he is in the series books. I’m right now putting together a synopsis for a brand-new series featuring a young woman as the central character, but with a wide cast of characters. Temporarily, I’m calling the series The Ashvale. We’ll see if that sticks.
Thank you for having me on STARW!
Readers, I hope you’ll check out Ciarrah’s Light, and enter the giveaway more than once. Several ways to enter, including the “Why I love fantasy…” poll. Thanks for reading!
Sequel to Wraith Queen’s Veil
The Sun Child Chronicles: Book Three
Luccan, future Suth Chiell of the Ethran Sunlands, also known as Lucky, has reached the end of a months-long adventure and gained much. Now he wants nothing more than to relax and recover at home. His mother’s apparition has other ideas, and dark dreams drag Lucky further and further into unconsciousness until he’s nearly dead. With help from Lucky’s sentient obsidian blade, Ciarrah, he makes it back to the light, only to find his country is in deep distress, and it’s getting deeper.
The wizard Thurlock, Lucky’s dragon-kin uncle Han, and other friends help him muddle through as he becomes the channel for prophecy. War erupts in the Sunlands, and in a battle against wraiths created by the advanced science of a dying world, Lucky plays a key role. Physical weapons can’t stop the enemy, but Ciarrah’s light can, and only Lucky can wield it. With the help of his winged horse, his boyfriend, and Thurlock, Lucky sets out to prevent his mother’s shade from wreaking any more havoc. But will stopping her end the horrors facing his world?
The path from the valley floor up to the top of the ridge wasn’t at all horse-friendly, so he left Zef to graze at the bottom. He enjoyed the physical exertion of climbing. It pushed worries further toward the back of his mind, and by the time he got to the top he was feeling more lighthearted than he had at any time since leaving Morrow’s farm—which had been either weeks or months ago, depending on whose time you counted by.
Lucky walked along the ridge toward the northern end. The ridge was bare of tall trees there except for the single oak that gave it its name. Probably the upthrust granite that formed most of the upland on this end, coupled with constant crosswinds sluicing down from the hills on all sides, kept all but the strongest of trees to a low, aromatic scrub. Once there had been more tall, broad trees, though, or at least one more. A long-ago fallen log made a perfect bench for someone who wanted to enjoy those breezes, take in the panoramic view, and be alone with his thoughts.
Lucky settled onto the log and looked out over the Behlvale, which stretched miles across, and many more miles long in both directions. It seemed vast, and the solitude of it peaceful. But after a few minutes of gratefully breathing air he didn’t have to share with anyone, he admitted that honestly, he didn’t want to be alone. He wanted to be with Rio.
Rio, the youngest of Stable Master Morrow’s seven sons, was the only real boyfriend Lucky had ever had, and he hoped it would stay that way. He was young, and who could know what would happen? He could have lots of boyfriends before it was all over. But he loved Rio—loved for real—and Rio loved him back, and Lucky didn’t want to move on. If keeping what he and Rio had meant missing him and being lonely, he was willing to do it.
That didn’t mean he had to like it, though. He remembered running his hands through Rio’s thick black curls, caressing his cheek with its maturing black beard, kissing him. He thought about looking into Rio’s eyes, putting an I love you into real words, walking with him and holding hands. When he imagined these things, he thought he felt an echoing ping against his heart, and he decided to believe Rio was thinking of him too.
It wasn’t more than seconds before the sweet joy of that thought turned into blue loneliness, but minutes passed before he realized that the darkness creeping into the corner of his vision to the northwest wasn’t the product of his sorrowful reverie. Peering into the distance, he saw several men moving about in a place where a series of tall, narrow stones stood in no discernible pattern. One man wore white robes, and magic disturbed the air around him like a vaguely purple heat mirage. Where the man faced and gestured, pillars and curtains of shadow were taking shape, anchored in or suspended from the stones, billowing and blossoming like fountains from the ground.
And they looked hauntingly, alarmingly familiar.
“Uncle Han? Can you hear me? It’s important!
Cursed and exiled to Earth by a witch, Lucky has only his name, a pocketful of strange items, and the destiny to become the Sun Child and lead his world through its darkest time. In an epic adventure full of dragons, shifters, talismans, magic, alien enemies, shifting time, and wars waged for survival, humanity’s only hope is one young man’s unquenchable strength, spirit, and heart.
About the Author
Lou Hoffmann, a mother and grandmother now, has carried on her love affair with books for more than half a century, and she hasn’t even made a dent in the list of books she’d love to read—partly because the list keeps growing. She reads factual things—books about physics and history and fractal chaos, but when she wants truth, she looks for it in quality fiction. She loves all sorts of wonderful things: music and silence, laughter and tears, youth and age, sunshine and storms, forests and fields, flora and fauna, rivers and seas. Even good movies and popcorn! Those things help her breathe, and everyone she knows helps her write. (Special mention goes to (1) George the Lady Cat and (2) readers.) Proud to be a bisexual, biracial woman (of European and Native American descent), Lou considers every person a treasure not to be taken for granted. In her life, she’s seen the world’s willingness to embrace differences change, change back, and change again in dozens of ways, but she has great hope for the world the youth of today will create. She writes for readers who find themselves anywhere on the spectrums of age, sexuality, and gender, aiming to create characters that live not only in their stories, but always in your imagination and your heart.
Visit her on her blog: http://www.queerlyya.rainbow-gate.com
Like her page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LouHoffmannBooks/
Follow her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Lou_Hoffmann
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