Rowena Cory Daniells Interview
A few months ago, I was in Waterstones and a book caught my attention: The King’s Bastard. There were thousands of books in the fantasy/sci-fi section of that particular shop, but this one was in the featured section and for some reason just jumped out at me. The name The King’s Bastard perhaps appealed to my darker side, the picture on the front cover of a rugged man with multiple weapons – obviously to be used for brutal combat – the power of the word King! To me as a male fantasy fan this book simply said “pick me up.” I picked up the book and gave it a read. The blurb was equally dark and I could tell that this book would feature everything I’d been looking for. Now being an e-book reader, I got home, jumped online and added the title to my wish list. It was only at this point that I noticed the name of the author, Rowena Cory Daniells. I did a double take at this point. Now, without injecting any sexism into this post (at least intentionally) I had presumed the book was written by a male.
By pure coincidence I got an e-mail about three weeks later from Rowena Cory Daniells asking if I would like to review a copy of her book. Seeing an opportunity to repent and confess my rude assumptions, I of course agreed to review the book but got cheeky and asked for an interview too. Rowena, as you will see is a busy lady, however she agreed and the result was a really fantastic interview where we touch upon a number of notable topics. These include her latest release The King’s Bastard, her other on-going projects, the increase in moving picture based advertisements for books, and of course female fantasy authors. I also get a little bit of a telling off for my incorrect assumptions, as you will see!
Firstly, could you tell us a bit about yourself and what it was that led Rowena Cory Daniells to release an epic fantasy tale in 2010?
I was a fantasy and science fiction fan from way back, even before I knew what genre meant. I remember watching the movie Forbidden Planet when I was nine or ten and being fascinated by the concept that a person’s subconscious could produce a monster they had no control over.
For me, SF offers the reader a new perspective on their own world. By holding up a distorted mirror (the invented world), we can see our world more clearly. Terry Pratchett does this beautifully in his Discworld series. You’ll be reading one of his books and laughing away, but you’re laughing because what he writes is so true that if you didn’t laugh, you’d weep.
Fantasy is often treated as the poor cousin of SF because it isn’t asking the question where will human beings be when… But it does ask another question. It asks what are our core values are and what’s important to us. Every day, we’re bombarded with negative news – corrupt politicians, big companies that put profit ahead of people and extremists who kill the innocent. We feel disempowered. One of the things that fantasy does is it empowers us. It says that a little person can make a difference. And it says the values that are no longer fashionable like honour and doing what is right, are still important. Fantasy gives us the strength to go on, doing our best in a morally ambiguous world. Fantasy is freeing for a writer. We can invent a world just to put our characters through tests that make them question themselves and how they perceive other human beings. (See my In Praise of Fantasy post).
Great! So in your own words, what can readers expect from The Chronicles of King Rolen’s Kin?
When I wrote the KRK trilogy I set out to tell a rollicking fantasy story like the ones we used to read. I wanted it to lift you up and sweep you away. Imagine you’ve worked hard all week and now it’s Saturday afternoon and you’re going to reward yourself with a book. Reach for my book!
Could you tell us a bit about how the idea for the story came about?
My frustration with prophecies. LOL. So often in books, there’s a prophecy about some hero who will return to save their people. He will be recognised by signs and he turns out to be the main character.
In KRK there’s a prophecy, but no one wants to hear it, because it’s about things going wrong. No one writes it down and no one turns it into a song. In fact, they spend their time trying to avoid it.
The trilogy also plays around with the idea that you can set out with one goal, but as you grow and learn, you realise that this thing is not really what you want, but something deeper.
On another level, I have four sons and I wanted to write something they’d enjoy. There’s lots of battles and ‘daring deeds’. The story is about three brothers and their younger sister. It is about the brothers’ relationships with each other and themselves. It’s about how a youth grows into being a man. It’s about being true to yourself (even if you are a female in a male dominated society).
It seems in fantasy, at the moment, the darker stories are really selling to publishers and being picked up by readers. How would you say your book is different to what is out there already?
I’ve been enjoying the more morally ambiguous fantasies like the ones Joe Abercrombie writes. I like the way Guy Gavriel Kay raises moral questions in his books. The KRK trilogy offers a rollicking read, which will sweep you away, but underneath I’m raising all sorts of questions. Rob Will Review examined them when he named my trilogy as one of his top reads for 2010.
Do you believe writing is a skill or a talent? Do you have any suggestions for want to be writers that will help them on their path to getting published?
Writing is hard work. LOL. I work with developing writers all the time. (I’m a developing writer. Hopefully I’ll never stop learning!).
The best way to improve your writing craft is to join a writing group where everyone is dedicated to improving their craft. Every time you critique someone else’s stories, you are exercising your analytical writing muscles.
I’ve belonged to several writing groups. Marianne de Pierres, Adrianne Fitzpatrick and I started the VISION writers group many years ago and it is still going strong.
Then to keep us challenged, Marianne and I started ROR. We are a small group of published writers who meet once a year to critique each other’s manuscripts.
You know the Galaxy Quest quote, “Never give up, Never surrender.” That’s how I feel about writing.
Please excuse me for saying this – but after a recent topic in our forum entitled “Female Fantasy Authors” we concluded there are very few of you out there. Even more so, there are less who write darker fantasy. Why do you think this is?
Funny you should say that, in Australia the majority of fantasy writers are female. Yet, at World Con 2010 I heard a fantasy writer from the US saying that it’s a boys’ club. I guess it depends on where you come from.
I think the fantasy genre is maturing and becoming more challenging. There will always be a place for the Quest trilogy, but many readers are looking for more layers, and more realistic fantasies (if that isn’t a contradiction).
Since you brought up this perception that fantasy is a ‘boys’ club’ I’ve contacted my female friends who write fantasy and I’ll be doing a series of interviews on my website. So far, over 20 have agreed to be interviewed. I have several New York Best Sellers and a four time World Fantasy Award winner on the list.
You have been involved in writing for a long time. Before having your own work published you ran workshops and worked within publishing. What kind of effect did this have on you whilst writing you own book? Did it give you a positive insight or did the harsh environment of publishing make you nervous, etc?
I became involved in Indy Press publishing when I was 18 and opened a secondhand bookstore that specialised in SF and F when I was 19. In my mid twenties, I worked as a graphic artist illustrating children’s books. I’ve had friends who were comic artists and others who belonged to bands. I can categorically say that anyone who works in a creative field struggles to make ends meet.
A very small number of creative people receive the accolades and money for their work, while the majority of us do it because we love it and we can’t help ourselves. Writing/art/music is a compulsion. It is the way we make sense of the world.
When I was involved in Indy Press, we used a typesetter and pasted up the books by hand. (That’s where ‘cut and paste’ comes from). Technology has changed so much that now a writer can create an ebook and release it through their webpage. Like everyone else in the publishing industry, I’m watching the way the industry is evolving and just trying to keep my head above water.
You co-run R&D Studios, a company that specialises in producing video advertisements for novels. You have an awesome video advertising your series for example! This is a fairly new phenomenon. Could you tell us a bit about what it has to offer readers, authors and the publishing industry?
Thank you for your vote of confidence in R&D Studios and our Book Trailers!
We’ve done a couple of book trailers for friends to show what we can do, but honestly, we’re just starting out on this venture. Daryl (he’s the D part of R&D) has retired now so he can concentrate on doing what he loves, which is 3D animation.
(We have six children. When they were little, I stayed home and wrote and illustrated to bring in a bit of extra cash. Now that he’s retired I’ve gone out to work as a UNI lecturer and Daryl gets to sit at home and do what he loves. I think he got the better part of the bargain. He doesn’t have to run after toddlers and make six school lunches every day!).
Here’s the KRK trailer and a link to where Daryl talks about creating the trailer.
And here’s the trailer we did for Death Most Definite, written by one of my ROR compatriots; Trent Jamieson:
Here’s Diamond Eyes:
Hopefully, we’ll get to do more!
Your trilogy, is of course, now concluded, which frees you up! For people who check out and enjoy The Chronicles of King Rolen’s Kin series, what can they expect from Rowena Cory Daniells in the years to come? Are you currently working on anything?
I’m neck deep in The Outcast Chronicles which I have to deliver to my publishers in May. This is the tale of a tribe of mystics who are persecuted by people who resent their gifts. I tell the story through four ordinary individuals, who get caught up in extraordinary events. There’s lashings of adventure, love and betrayal. I’m having lots of fun writing it.
Meanwhile, I keep getting emails from people wanting to know where book four of KRK is, so I’ve been making notes for a new KRK trilogy.
Finally, our readers will no doubt be excited to find out more about you and your work. Could you tell us about your online life and where they can find out more?
I also have a husband and six kids who are mostly studying at UNI so I spend my spare time reading their assignments. I teach story, script, storyboard and animatics. I’m trying to write and bring the best of myself to my books every single day. Plus we are renovating. Some days I feel like I’m running on the stop, just to keep from going backwards!