It’s Day 4 of the Romancing September World Tour where authors get a double chance to talk about their books and writing. First there is an interview here and in a few hours time there is a discussion on writing romance in today’s society over in Georgia with Stephanie Hurt.
Please give a warm welcome for today’s our author, Erica Dakin.
1) Where is your home town?
If you mean the town where I was born, it’s Dordrecht in the Netherlands. I lived there for 25 years, then I upped sticks and moved to England because I’d met this lovely guy from over there, and I wanted to live with him. Now I live in a small village about midway between Nottingham and Derby.
2) How long have you been writing? Has it always been romance?
I started writing in my late teens, and at the time it was probably more fantasy than romance. The romance element always crept into it though, whether I wanted it to or not, so I eventually decided that romance was just what I was meant to write and I stopped fighting it.
3) What made you choose the romance/ fantasy genre?
It’s pretty much a case of writing what you know. I first read The Lord of the Rings when I was about 12 or 13, and even before then all the children’s books I read were quite fantastical. There was this Dutch writer, Paul Biegel, who wrote marvellous stories of weird countries and strange magic, and I drank it all in. Then once I hit fifteen or sixteen I found lots of Mills & Boon romances (Harlequin for US readers) lying around in the house, and started devouring those as well. The result is a mixture of the two which just represents my two favourite genres.
4) “The Conspiracy” is a fantasy tale what inspired you to write this book?
I was in the middle of writing The Ritual, which is the book that precedes it, and at the time I didn’t think I’d have anything else in me. Then we were going to visit friends, who live an hour away, and whilst in the car I couldn’t write, so my mind was churning away at plot points instead. About halfway through the trip I suddenly got an idea for a sequel to The Ritual, and spent the rest of the trip frantically scribbling away on a scrap of paper to make sure I remembered the names and the concepts. I don’t even know what triggered it, certainly not the riveting countryside by the motorway, but it all went from there.
5) You have some interesting character names such as; “Zash, Queen Timaniel and Veysita” How do you choose these names?
It’s mostly just a case of combining sounds that I like, though I do have an overarching theme to my names. All male names end in either -er or -ev, and all female names end in either -in or -iel, or occasionally -a. I like the coherence it gives the world, though I sometimes feel I’ve backed myself into a corner with it as well, since I’ve limited myself so severely, and there’s the chance that everything starts sounding very similar. However, most people in my world use the shortened version of their names, which then gives a bit more freedom again. I do also like the general freedom you have with names in Fantasy, since you can pick pretty much anything you like, rather than having to stick with names like Bob or Kate or Steve or something.
6) This book follows on from your first, but takes place 60 years later, was it always your intension to write a sequel?
Well, as you’ve probably gathered from question 4, no! However, once I had the idea for the second book I pretty much decided there and then that I might as well make it a trilogy. It’s not a trilogy in the sense of one story over three books though; it’s three separate stories which are interlinked.
7) How easy is it to make the elements of “Magic” realistic?
It’s not something I really think about much, I just go with the flow. I’m very much a pantser rather than a plotter, so I tend to resolve issues as I come across them. My magic system is fairly limited, in that you can’t do everything with magic. There are a few basic things sorcerers can do, like illusions and fire magic, and anything else is somehow derived from that. If I can’t somehow work it into those basic things, it can’t be done. Apart from that I’ve added in the fact that using magic drains the user, which gives the realism of sorcerers not being omnipotent – they’ll run out of power at some point, and when that happens they simply fall asleep. Magic-users must have weaknesses, otherwise they get boring.
8) Your book is over 600 pages long, I nearly keel over trying to edit a 200 page book! How on earth did you survive the editing stage?
Two ways really. Firstly I have the advantage of being a very good proof-reader myself (my colleagues at work always ask me to proofread stuff too), so I read, reread, then reread again, and then read it another time for good measure. That takes care of annoying things like spelling mistakes, though I do still miss a few. Secondly, I have a good friend who is also an author, whose proofreading skills are as good (if not better) than mine, and who is a damn good editor to boot. I give her stuff a chapter at a time, and then she points out any plot holes in my stories, nit-picks at things that don’t work and generally keeps me on the straight and narrow. Apart from that I also have a few beta readers who are not afraid to tell me where they think something doesn’t work.
9) I recently read that some readers of fantasy, try too hard to compare the places, people and actions in a fantasy book to real life, would you agree?
I can’t really speak for other people, but for me it depends a lot on which fantasy series I’m reading. When I read Terry Pratchett, it’s virtually impossible not to compare it with the real world, but that is very much the intention of his books as well. For most other series though, I simply immerse myself into the world and live along with heroes and villains for a while. If you try too hard to compare it to real life, I think you lose the whole point of reading Fantasy. Personally I feel it would be a shame to try too hard to compare it to real life, but I can’t say I’ve come across that much – at least not with fans of the genre.
10) “The Conspiracy” does contain strong language, did you ever consider using a made up “Fantasy” word in place of the swear words you did use?
I did, but I never found anything I liked enough to use it. I’ve already got some different swear words from having Fantasy Gods, but I just couldn’t think of anything for more generic swearing. Apart from that, even though I speak it fluently, English is still a foreign language to me, and the words that really bother some people don’t bother me nearly as much.
11) This book also contains sex scenes, some writers are really uncomfortable writing about this, how do you make it easy for yourself?
I wish I could reveal some sort of trick here, but the simple truth is that I enjoy writing sex scenes, just as I enjoy reading them. I know it can be a pretty divisive issue, and there are certainly many books where the ‘fade before the action’ is more appropriate, but I write Romance, and to me that needs sex. I know it can be hard, and that some books have sex scenes which do nothing more than make you giggle, but I think the trick is in not going over the top with silly euphemisms for the, um, ‘equipment’, so to speak, and to just try and keep it real. But without the unromantic bits like cramp in your leg, of course. That just wouldn’t be sexy!
12) I see you’ve tickled the taste buds of your fans, when will the third book be available? Do you have a title for it yet?
The title will be The Coup, but unfortunately I have no idea yet when it’ll be finished. Right now I’ve barely started it (I’m in the first draft of chapter 2), and it’s still giving me a bit of trouble, but hopefully it’ll get easier once I get further into it. Still, I don’t want to rush it. So far my process has been to do the first draft, get initial comments from the friend I mentioned above, then do a full side-by-side rewrite which she’ll nit-pick apart and edit, then it goes to my beta-readers, who will give me further edits to do. I’ll be very surprised if I get it all done before the end of the year, but hopefully the first half of 2014 is possible.
I’d like to thank Erica for joining us today and providing some very interesting insights in to her world of writing.