Monday, October 17, 2016

"Flames of Nevyana," by Edward Willett: Guest Post and Giveaway

Flames of Nevyana by Edward Willett
Publication Date: August 1, 2016
Publisher: Rebelight Publishing

Blue Fire is both blessing and curse. A gift from the gods, its mystical light and energy powers and protects the land of Nevyana, but it also divides her people into three distinct groups. In the wrong hands, it becomes a formidable weapon. When sacred objects for channelling Blue Fire are stolen, sworn enemies Petra, Amlinn, and Jin set out to find them, and their paths converge on a collision course with the truth. Can they bridge the centuries-old divide between their communities? Or will their search for the truth and the explosive power of Blue Fire signal the end of Nevyana?

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Guest Post: An Interview with the Author

You’ve written more than 50 books! How do you find the time to be so prolific? What is your writing schedule like?

It’s funny, people think I’m prolific, but to myself I feel lazy—I always think I could be really prolific if I tried.

The truth is, there are two elements to my prolificity. The first is simply the fact that I’m a full-time writer, and have been for...let’s see...23 years as of this writing. All I do is write, so naturally I have more time to do it. The second element is speediness. I’ve written a 100,000-word novel in a month (Shadows, second in my fantasy trilogy The Masks of Aygrima, written as E.C. Blake and published by DAW Books), and earlier this year I wrote a 60,000-word novel in two and a half weeks (Door into Faerie, the fifth and final book in my YA fantasy series The Shards of Excalibur, published by Coteau Books). When all is going well, I write about 1,500 to 2,000 words an hour. That adds up in a hurry.

My writing schedule depends on what I’m working on. I’m not always writing. I write a lot of non-fiction as well as fiction, so often I’m researching instead of writing. When I do get into the writing, I usually put in about four hours a day, in a couple of sessions. I like to write on my laptop out of my office—in a coffee shop or (ahem) bar—when I’m working on fiction. When I’m working on non-fiction, I’m more likely to work at home because I need to spread out reference materials on my desk.

The rest of my day is taken up with email, driving my daughter to and from school/dance/musical rehearsals, playing with the cat (very important), posting to social media, reading, etc.

How did you get the idea for this book?

I was driving from my home town of Regina, Saskatchewan, to Meadow Lake, about 500 kilometres further north, to do a reading at the library. Whenever I’m on my own in the car on a long trip I do a lot of thinking about writing, and on this occasion I deliberately set myself the task of coming up with a new idea for a YA fantasy novel. I got to thinking about Arthur C. Clarke’s famous dictum that “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” and that led me to think that our mastery of electricity would certainly seem like magic to someone from the Middle Ages. From there it was a short leap to the idea of a magic system based on electricity. In my book, Blue Fire is definitely magic, and is controlled through magical means, but it’s clearly electricity, too. With that idea in mind, I began my usual process of asking myself questions about the world: how would Blue Fire be used? How did the people learn to harness it? Who might be harmed or benefit from it? By the time I got to Meadow Lake, I had the broad outlines of the story sketched out in my head. I think I even talked about it in my presentation that night.

You also write and perform in plays. How does playwriting differ from novel writing?

The biggest difference is that plays are told almost entirely through dialogue. There’s no opportunity to explain what’s going on through paragraphs of exposition; anything you want the audience to know has to somehow be worked into dialogue, without falling into the trap of characters explaining to each other things they already know as denizens of the world of the stage. There are also technical limits. In a novel, I can write, “The sky turned black and began to rain fire.” Nine words, and a vivid mental image. Yet on stage, that effect is nigh impossible to achieve. Special effects of any kind on stage are difficult, expensive, and prone to not working. You end up, again, depending on dialogue: one character telling another how she felt when the sky turned black and began to rain fire.

As an actor and director, when I write plays I’m always conscious of how it can be staged. The simpler you can make the staging and set, the more likely you can find a company to produce the play. That said, if your characters and dialogue are fascinating enough, and your actors skilled enough, they can perform on an empty stage and still make the play a success. As a friend of mine who directs musicals likes to say, “Nobody ever left the theatre humming the scenery.”

To flip things around, though, I think that being an actor and director helps my novel-writing. When I critique or edit, a common problem I encounter is a scene where characters seem to “float”—you’re never sure exactly where they are within their setting. This can be disconcerting if, say, a character is looking out a window one second, and the next is staring into the fire—but there’s been no description of him transitioning from the one location to the next. In my mind, as I write scenes, I’ve always got a firm idea of where each character is in relation to all the others, and I think that useful skill has been honed through directing plays, where the positioning of actors on the stage is vital to the success of a scene.

Which is your first love: writing or performing?

Performing is more fun, but writing is ultimately more rewarding. The reward of performing is immediate, and wrapped up in the joy of the craft itself: of inhabiting another character’s skin for a while, of singing a song beautifully, of moving an audience to laughter or tears and, hopefully, applause. That’s all wonderful, but it’s ephemeral. The play is done, the audience goes home, the moment is gone.

The reward of writing is more subtle, but far more enduring. As a writer, I still inhabit the skin of other characters. If I write a scene beautifully, I may still move my audience to laughter or tears. In that way it’s similar to performing. On the down side, I am seldom made aware of my success: the occasional review, the occasional email from a satisfied reader. But on the up side, and the reason I say writing is more rewarding, a book may last, essentially, forever. William Shakespeare was an actor as well as a playwright, but it is his words that have endured, not his acting. Nobody will remember me as an actor in fifty years (the art of a stage actor is seldom recorded for posterity; movie and TV actors have a better chance of being remembered), but my books will still be around, still finding new audiences, and still moving them to laughter or tears.

Why do you find the science fiction and fantasy genres particularly appealing as a writer?

I write what I love to read. I have two older brothers, and they both read science fiction when I was growing up. I wanted to be like them, so I started reading it too—and I was immediately hooked, as is evident from the title of my first science fiction story, written when I was 11 years old: “KastraGlazz, Hypership Test Pilot.”

For me, writing fiction strictly about the here and now, or the recent past, seems incredibly limiting, like typing while wearing a straitjacket. Science fiction and fantasy allow my imagination free rein; any time in the past, the present or the distant future and any place in this universe or any other are available to me as settings; creatures both human and non-human are at my beck and call to serve as characters; and there is no idea so outré that it cannot be couched in science fiction or fantasy terms and turned into a story.

For me, the question, “Why do you write science fiction and fantasy?” has never made much sense. The obvious question to me is, “Why doesn’t everyone?”

Petra stepped through the gap in the Curtain with his sword raised.

The moan came again, close by. There! A flicker of blue from the Temple spire illuminated a long, pale shape on the ground. He hurried over and pointed his blade at it. “Don’t move!”

The shape remained motionless. As Petra’s eyes adjusted to the dark, he realized it was a girl about his age lying bound and gagged in the wet grass. She wore a short skirt, colour uncertain in the darkness. The cloth that gagged her and bound her bare arms and legs was apparently torn from its ragged hem. Silver bracelets encircled her wrists and ankles. Silver coins

hung from the band of cloth covering her breasts. More coins glinted in her dark hair. A jewel winked from her exposed navel. Wide eyes stared at him.

A Freefolk girl! Had the Freefolk somehow opened that hole in the Curtain? Petra drove his sword into the mud, squished to his knees, reached for the gag and pulled it free.

“Thank you,” she gasped. “My legs....”

“You’re Freefolk,” Petra snapped. “Why are you here? Are there more of you?”

“I’m alone. I followed a thief—”

“Another of your kind?” Petra scrambled to his feet, reaching for the hilt of his sword.

“No!” Her eyes rolled, white in the dim light.

Petra tugged his blade free and stared around into the darkness, heart pounding, expecting attack at any moment.

The girl twisted her head toward the dark gap in the Curtain. “Listen to me! He’s inside the Temple! He’ll be back any minute. He’ll kill you. He’ll kill us both. Cut me free.”

Petra looked down at her again, hesitating. She was of the Freefolk -- heretics and thieves, the lot of them -- but she was also a girl in trouble. And as a Priest-Apprentice of Vekrin, he had vowed to help the helpless. He swore. Then he shoved his sword back into the muck, knelt again, pulled the Freefolk girl into a sitting position, drew his dagger from its sheath, and cut the twisted cloth tied around her ankles. As he reached for her wrists she screamed, “He’s coming!”

Petra jumped up, dagger in hand, and spun toward the Curtain. A dark figure burst through the gap. The intruder held a long staff topped with a glass sphere that suddenly blazed bright blue. Petra barely had time to recognize the staff as a Firelance before the intruder pointed it at him and—

Blue Fire flashed.

Agony blazed through Petra’s body. His muscles snapped rigid. Clutching his useless knife, unable to release it, unable to move, unable to breathe, he toppled like a felled tree.

The black mud swallowed him whole.

About the Author:
Edward Willett is the award-winning author of more than fifty books of fiction and non-fiction for children, young adults, and adults. He lives in Regina with his wife, Margaret Anne; their teenage daughter, Alice; and their Siberian cat, Shadowpaw.

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Giveaway Information: Contest ends November 4, 2016

* Two (2) winners will received a physical copy of Flames of Nevyana by Edward Willett (US/Canada)
* Five (5) winners will receive a digital copy of Flames of Nevyana by Edward Willett (INT)

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