I am absolutely sure, most of you read my review here not long ago for “Empire’s Daughter”. If not, then go have a peek. I loved this book!
Marian was kind enough to take time and answer some of my questions… Get ready for some seriously interesting and intellectual read!
How did the idea form for “Empire’s Daughter”? What was your inspiration?
Probably my deepest passion in life next to writing is what is called ‘deep mapping’ in North America and more often ‘a search for the spirit of place’ in the UK; a multi-disciplinary, layered approach to understanding how the ecology, natural history, and human culture of a locale interact and influence each other. I am a dual UK/Canadian citizen and a large part of my heart is in the UK. Empire’s Daughter is a fictional exploration of what might have happened in an almost- Britain after the fall of the Roman Empire, if the message to recall the troops had never made it to Britain, and it is informed and shaped by my lifelong study of the landscape, ecology, history and myths of Britain. Really – like JRR Tolkien (and I am not comparing myself to him in any other way!) -I wrote the story to give life to the world I was creating in my mind.
What does your usual writing process look like? Do you always have the specific place you write, specific music you listen to, or food you like to have ready for nibbles?
These days I write in one of three or four places. In Canada, I write either at the university library, at the same study carrel I wrote my M.Sc. thesis at a very long time ago; there is an environment of work and discipline there that I benefit from. At home I mostly write at my desk although sometimes I move into our sunroom and watch the birds at the same time. In our UK cottage, I usually write in the tiny conservatory. I need silence to write, so no music, but lots of coffee! Generally I read over what I wrote last, make a few changes, and keep going.
Who was your favorite character to write about in Empire’s Daughter and why?
Turlo. He’s almost entirely based on my Celtic History professor, Ted Cowan, (I audited two courses in this for pleasure while in grad school), and so he was very easy to write; all I had to do was translate Ted’s personality to a different setting. (Note from Liis: Fantastic! Turlo was my fav as well!)
What was the most difficult part about writing Empire’s Daughter?
Other than finding time to write while holding down a demanding job? Not giving in to cliche, I think; staying true to a coming-of-age story that really doesn’t have a lot of physical action, but examines questions of love and loyalty and their meaning in a rapidly changing world.
How and when did you decide to become a writer?
Oh, heavens, that’s a hard question. I don’t remember ever not wanting to be a writer. I wrote from a very early age and never really stopped…sometimes there were several years between spurts of concerted effort, and I began several novels I never finished. And then I started Empire’s Daughter, which was the first novel I actually finished.
What kind of books do you prefer to read? Have they helped you become a better writer?
When I was younger I would read anything, and I mean anything, from Dickens to Harlequin Romances, from Tolkien to Asimov, and just about anything in-between. I have become more discriminating as I’ve grown older, although I still read a wide range of books: literary fiction, some fantasy and science fiction, historical and mystery novels. And a lot of non-fiction, both for research and for pleasure. All this reading has definitely made me a better writer; over the years, I think I’ve absorbed the cadences and structures of good writing, or what I consider good writing.
Is there a topic, plot, a character that you will never write about because you find it too cliche, or too boring?
You are unlikely to find me writing about vampires.
Any writing/editing/publishing tips for the fledglings?
Read a lot, and not just what is popular. Read the classics in your genre as well as what’s being published now. Find a good editor, and listen to what he or she has to say; I review books too, and there are just far too many grammatical and spelling errors in many indie books. Read your work out loud and listen to how it sounds. Find good, critical beta-readers and listen to them too: your friends and family are not likely to provide sufficient criticism. Don’t follow the crowd; forge your own world, your own characters, your own dilemmas.
What can we expect from you next?
I’m working on two things right now: the sequel to Empire’s Daughter, Empire’s Hostage, which will take Lena further from home and present her with further challenges in understanding history, truth, and choice. At the same time, I’m working on a non-fiction book called Reverse Migration: A Discourse on the Spirit of Place, which is a personal look at ‘deep mapping’ a small section of west Norfolk in the UK, the place my father left to come to Canada and I return to for part of each year.
When not writing, what are your favorite past-times?
Currently I’m finishing an on-line course on landscape archaeology from the University of Exeter in the UK and will begin the second one in March. My husband and I are birders, so you will find us out hiking and birding most days, and (more in the past now) travelling the world to do so. I also create digital art, mostly of wildlife. I like to cook, and we see a lot of films. I also review books and provide editorial services, so between all this it keeps me busy. Supposedly I’m retired, but it doesn’t feel that way most days!