Hello, everybody. How’s spring treating you? Well, I hope, and lushly! I’ve been moving about things I’ve got to get done rather…slower than they ought to be getting done. Some would accuse me of procrastination, but I stand firmly on the grounds that I’m a victim of unrighteous circumstance. Why, just recently, within the last couple weeks, goodreads.com had a bug go through that, out of all the millions of users on there, affected my account adversely! (It also might have sort of kinda affected a few other authors as well, but let’s talk about me, shall we?) This insidious BUG, kept reposting one of my old blog posts from a year ago over and over and over again for all the world to see! Not a thing I could do about it, and my followers, dear me, they must all hate me with a passion…
But, enough about me. You’ll never guess what I’ve got for you today! No, don’t even guess, I’m going to tell you. Today, we get to discover the path and ways of a great author of fantasy. I had the vast pleasure of interviewing the talented Grace Crandall, and I couldn’t wait to share that interview with you all! Are you ready?
Grace Crandall is a writer of short stories and planner of novels, currently at work on her first full-length book. When she’s not playing the hermit and poring over her writing projects, she can be found at her day job taking pictures for a local newspaper, or roaming the woods around her Wisconsin home and dreaming up adventures. Her debut work, Ashes, can be found on Amazon.
Can you tell us a bit about your book, Ashes?
Most certainly! Ashes begins at the end of a long-running rebellion--a failed rebellion, thanks to the machinations of the protagonist, Fendin. The rebellion’s failure is a tragedy, leaving a tyrant comfortably in power and a lot of good men and women dead. Employed by the tyrant as a spy, Fendin was technically just doing his job. The devastating betrayal of the rebels still plagues him though, the guilt eventually driving him to seek redemption.
Fendin was inspired by my general frustration with traitor characters in other stories. They were always just that--traitors. Usually they would be exposed, reviled, and chased away with curses, never to be heard from again. I was always annoyed by that; I wanted to know more about them--what drove them to do what they did? Were they smug, or sorry? Did they want to forget, or want to be forgiven? And the question I most wanted to answer with Ashes--what if the traitor decided to be the hero?
Are any of the characters in your book based on you or someone you know?
I actually didn’t realize this before this interview, but almost all the characters in Ashes are based on me to some extent. There’s a little piece of my soul in each of them.
Although no one character is directly inspired by someone I know, the warmth I pictured Risil and his family sharing is heavily based on my own parents and siblings.
Tell us about your writing process! Are you the strict regimen type, or do you prefer a more laid-back approach?
I’ve attempted the regimen route, but strict schedules and I have never been the best of friends. I tend to write late at night, since it’s quiet and I can think more clearly. Of all the writing methods I’ve tried, the one that works best for me is simply writing for a certain about of time each day. I started ‘Ashes’ doing ten minutes of writing every night, and since then I’ve worked up to forty minutes of writing a day. So far, it’s the best method I’ve found for staying on track and actually finishing writing projects, and it’s pretty flexible, which is always a plus. When the desire to procrastinate hits hard, though, I write the very first thing in the morning, focusing more on how many scenes I need to finish than how long I take to do it.
What is your favorite genre (to read as well as write), and why?
Fantasy! Especially medieval fantasy. I also like historical fiction, science fiction and modern-day adventure stories, but I keep coming back to fantasy--it just feels like home. There’s a kind of honesty about life and people in it that’s harder to find in other genres.
Are there any specific authors or books that you aspire to?
Quite a few, but the author who impacted me most was Lloyd Alexander. I discovered his books when I was about nine, and they were all I read for some years afterwards. His stories were very light-hearted in tone, but they dealt deeply with problems of human nature, good and evil and all the shades of grey in between. Though I strive towards the standards set by other authors in matters of world-building, imagery, or prose, I write in hopes that my books will be for others what his books were for me--an escape from reality that helps one to understand it.
Do you have a favorite character amongst those you’ve created? (don’t worry, we won’t tell any of them your answer.)
Haha! That’s good, because I’m sure Lord Esgor would be extremely peeved if I didn’t pick him. To be completely honest I don’t have one yet. They’ve all worked their way into my heart in one way or another. I do feel most connected to Jissi, though, simply because she reminds me of myself.
Does Ashes contain any sort of message for readers?
It does, though I’m not certain it’s a message I could put into so many words--at the heart of it, I suppose it’s a story about a man trying to run from his demons, and the message of the story would be that sometimes, running isn’t an option. Some demons have to be faced.
What have you learned about yourself through writing Ashes?
Ashes was an interesting journey for me. While I’d like to say it showed me a lot of new things about myself, instead it seemed to throw into relief the things I already knew. There was one striking revelation, though, albeit not a very complementary one; like Fendin, I have a tendency to let apathy get in the way of doing the right thing, and that in turn can result in people getting hurt.
What are three pieces of advice you would give to other aspiring authors?
I think the best thing any writer can do is to talk to people--or perhaps more to the point, listen to people. Other people, both online and off it, are the only really unpredictable things the world contains, and In a job like writing that requires a constant sense of wonder, they’re rather indispensable.
I’d also suggest spending some time and energy looking into different avenues of the book-publishing, author-platform-building world. I published with no clue about how complex and time-consuming marketing really was, and I’ve been playing catch-up ever since; I can’t help but think how much smoother everything would have gone if I’d known a little about it first. There are times when marketing can seem a little maudlin, but it helps to remember that it’s only a conduit for telling people stories--which, after all, is the writer’s job in the first place.
And somewhat paradoxically, I’d advise to be careful of advice. Every writer has a method and an opinion, different ideas of what ‘good’ writing is or what merits success. And to some extent, it’s good to listen to all these differing opinions; but I think it’s good to remember, too, that writing is a very individual thing. Holding yourself up to someone else’s standards--especially to the point of abandoning your own--is rarely a healthy practice.
Do you have any future novels planned?
Ah, dangerous question. I have about fifty titles in the works, and it’s a growing list! But the one I’m most serious about at the moment is a time-travel adventure called Nightshade--I’m hoping to finish the first draft of it this year.
And lastly, would you mind sharing a teaser with us?
Not in the least! Here’s a bit from the beginning of Chapter Two:
“ “Hob!” someone shouted. Fendin froze. No one knew him by that name anymore. No one who was still alive. He turned around, halfexpecting to see the ghost of Risil standing in the motley crowd. Instead, he saw a tall yellowhaired man reaching out to clap another upon the shoulder. “Hob!” he said. “I haven’t seen you in ages. How have you been?”
Fendin breathed a sigh of relief, letting the two men fade away into the throng.He was in Angras, a place where noise and chaos reigned unchallenged. The smell of dead fish and live cat permeated the air, salted over with the tang of seawater. Smalltime traders and enterprising sailors hawked their wares on every corner, their voices mingling with the cries of seagulls. The wives of merchants and of fishermen crowded the pier, small children clinging to their skirts as they cried farewell to departing ships or watched eagerly for incoming ones. Not even the greyclad soldiers attempted to control the myriads of seafaring men that choked every street and filled every alehouse. Halflost in the mad scramble, Fendin felt at home. After the long days spent inland with only his own thoughts for company, there was a kind of refuge in the all enveloping cacophony that surrounded him. He closed his eyes, taking a deep breath of the pungent air.
He was still choking on it when the flying shadow assaulted him. Something small and dark slammed against him, latching on to him with a deathlike grip. Startled into panic, Fendin tried vainly to disengage himself from its hold, but the thing only burrowed further into his side, clutching his cloak with small, pale hands--
It was a boy."
Thanks for your time and advice, Grace! All the best to you!
Places to Find Grace: