These Gentle Wounds releases in less than ONE WEEK. I couldn't be happier to be sharing my book birthday with the fabulous Kathryn Rose, author of CAMELOT BURNING. To celebrate we're interviewing each other and offering some amazing prize packages from our publisher Flux as well. First a little about Kathryn's book:
By day, Vivienne is Guinevere's lady-in-waiting. By night, she's Merlin's secret apprentice, indulging in the new mechanical arts and science of alchemy. It's a preferred distraction from Camelot’s gossipy nobility, roguish knights, and Lancelot’s athletic new squire, Marcus, who will follow in all knights’ footsteps by taking a rather inconvenient vow of chastity.
More than anything, Vivienne longs to escape Camelot for a future that wouldn't include needlework or marriage to a boorish lord or dandy. But when King Arthur's sorceress sister, Morgan le Fay, threatens Camelot, Vivienne must stay to help Merlin build a steam-powered weapon to defeat the dark magic machine Morgan will set upon the castle. Because if Camelot falls, Morgan would be that much closer to finding the elusive Holy Grail. Time is running out and Morgan draws near, and if Vivienne doesn't have Merlin's weapon ready soon, lives would pay the price, including that of Marcus, the only one fast enough to activate it on the battlefield.
Awesome, right? So, in celebration of our joint book birthdays, Kathryn and I grilled each other about our writing processes, our books, and what comes next. Go visit her blog to read her interview with me.
Q: So....how do you go about writing a steampunk Camelot novel?
A: I'm a plotter, so I spent time getting to know my characters and researching Arthurian canonical elements. I explored who Vivienne and Marcus were, and then I drafted. I write first drafts quickly with a very detailed outline and got it done in a few months before I got some beta reader feedback. I did a lot of wash, rinse, repeat when it came to revising, and breaking a clear newbie rule really helped me shape book one: I wrote the sequel right away. I'd heard a lot that you're "not supposed to do that," because it could be a huge waste of a writer's time if the first book doesn't sell, (and your efforts might be put to better use writing a different first book) but writing the sequel helped me find out more about my characters and approach the first story with new and more complex information.
Q: Were Vivienne and Marcus real people? Is that easier for you or more difficult than to create characters from scratch? How do your characters differ from the historical ones? (And by historical, I mean in legend, of course).
A: No, Vivienne and Marcus are not Arthurian characters--they're all mine! I think it depended on the characters as to whether they were easy to write or not. For example, Merlin was one of the easiest characters to write. His voice was just so strong and patient and knowing and, yes, grumpy. It felt oddly natural to write his scenes. Guinevere, on the other hand, was more of a challenge. She is very enigmatic! As for Vivienne and Marcus, there was a lot of freedom in bringing my own characters into a well-known legend, but at the same time, they were very set in their voices and personalities, and that helped shape the story, the plot, and the ending.
Q: Did you have a favorite scene to write? I have to say that the Vivienne/Marcus scenes are pretty amazing….
A: The barn scene with Vivienne and Marcus was one of my favorites to write, because, obviously. :) Other than that, I loved writing the Merlin scenes, particularly the third chapter where Merlin introduces jaseemat to Vivienne and shows her how it brings Caldor (and other things) to life. It was a lot of fun and let me be creative with alchemy, and I got to explore Merlin's clock tower, which is a fun setting for me since it's so full of secrets Vivienne will soon find out about. And going into the catacombs the first time was a lot of fun.
Q: How do you approach a character like Merlin who has appeared in so many books and movies. Did you set out to actively avoid characterization as they’d been done before or were there a few that influenced you? Your Merlin struck me as a bit of a smart ass – more than most of the others.
A: I honestly don't know where Merlin comes from. I know I imagined him to look like Joseph Fiennes as he played Merlin in CAMELOT, but a little more punk-y. He's definitely a bit of a smart ass, and to be honest, I'm pleasantly surprised by how much I've heard readers love him. I didn't want him to be pious or all-knowing or lovably absent-minded or good. He has a lot of darkness in his past, and it was important for me to keep his loyalty to Camelot or to magical thievery ambiguous. I think the first scene in CAMELOT BURNING (where Merlin teaches Vivienne about jaseemat) is important in establishing his character as a mentor, a trouble-maker, and an outcast. He holds a special place in my heart. :)
Q: Where did the idea of steampunk Camelot even come from? It seems like such a strange mash-up, but you do such a wonderful job of it. I used to be a huge fan of all things Camelot and I’m amazed that you managed to find a new twist on it.
A: A very strange mashup! I was reading a lot of Gail Carriger a few years ago, and I was dying to try steampunk for my next project, but I didn't know how to make it unique. Then I rewatched KNIGHTS OF THE ROUND TABLE, which is this old, 1950s sweeping epic film, and I thought to myself that Merlin would make a badass steampunk character. That night, I started outlining the story about a secret apprentice to Merlin who works as Guinevere's lady-in-waiting during the day.
Q: So what are your other favorite Camelot stories? And YES, he is a “badass steampunk character”.
A: I studied "Le Morte d'Arthur" by Thomas Malory, which I loved, at university, along with "The Faerie Queene" by Edmund Spenser, in which King Arthur makes an appearance. "Mists of Avalon" is also phenomenal. As for films, Eva Green played Morgan in BBC's CAMELOT (with aforementioned Joseph Fiennes and Jamie Campbell Bower as a young Arthur) for one season, and I LOVED it. It's currently on hiatus, and I don't know if they're going to continue with it, but so good. And whenever I needed a break from heavy revising or moments of "OMG I can't make this work," I would turn on FIRST KNIGHT, in which Richard Gere (horribly) plays Lancelot, Julia Ormond plays Guinevere, and Sean Connery plays Arthur. It's so bad it's good. OH. And "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," which is just all-around perfect.
Q: What are you working on now?