Darkspire Reaches – C.N. Lesley
“Her birth mother left her as a sacrifice to the Wyvern, believing a second
born twin had no soul.
Her foster mother thought Raven possessed the magic of the First born. She believed she raised a slave.
The emperor of all the lands believed she knew the secret of his birth and
that he must silence her.
Her tribe thought they could trade her for safe passage out of the
The Wyvern knows better. He is coming for her. His fury has no limits.”
Where did your fascination with fantasy/sci-fi begin? Was there one particular book/author that set you off on this road?
There was one particular year I came across both Frank Herbert and J.R.R. Tolkien. There was something so captivating about Dune and Lord of the Rings, although they were both the biggest books I had ever read. I still have the original copies, although they are rather fragile from many re-reads.
The Wyvern : of all the mythical beasts, was there a special reason you chose this one?
I suppose I have always liked the concept of dragons/wyverns and somewhere along the line, they always seem to get the bad reputation. I guess I wanted to explore a story from the creature’s point of view.
Can you share your favourite myth or legend with us?
This has to be Perseus rescuing Andromeda. It has all the elements of the best stories with sacrificial victim, a hero, people making bad decisions through selfishness or mistrust and the monster. Actually, I feel rather sorry for the sea monster as it was only doing what it was compelled to do by Poseidon.
The theme of Darkspire Reaches could suggest a classic fantasy adventure novel – yet readers have also found it to be a journey of self-discovery; what, for you, sets it apart? Was it your intention to narrate a life-journey (as opposed to quest/adventure) from the start ?
Grins. I am not an outliner. I had no idea what would happen when I started writing. In any case, the book was intended to be a short story. It just got completely out of hand. There was always Raven, with the old woman in the shack, and then there were the villagers driving them out. The Wyvern jumped into the story at that point and it took off.
Do you have a favourite working/writing place or cubby hole?
I have a room in my home that is a dedicated office. Aside from computers, printers, scanners, routers, etc, it also has my research books and some of my artwork. This is where I work during the day, but I have a laptop and migrate down to the family room in the evenings to be with my husband.
Can you remember your first complete piece of writing and what inspired it ?
Yes, it is currently mouldering in an envelope somewhere in my basement. After reading a less than stellar fantasy book I imagined I could do better. I believe I committed every sin know to writing and invented a few new ones along the way. There is nothing in that manuscript that could ever be salvaged and I keep it as a lesson in humility. Not long after I finished this book and was discovering its badness, I came across the newly opened Online Writer’s Workshop for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror. I was working on another book by this time and I joined. This is where I learned to write.
Do you have a favourite method of working? i.e.: do you jot down in notebooks first, do you type straight to computer, or other ?
I used to work with notebooks, but now I just type straight into the computer. I tend to work on more than one story at a time and it is much easier to have a divided screen than it is to have multiple notebooks.
What is your favourite /least favourite part about writing?
I like it when a story is coming together and talking to me. I do not like when I have to wade in to cut something down to size. Yes, I have darlings and even knowing what they are still makes it difficult for me to kill them, but it must be done.
Do you have a favourite fictional fantasy character?
I think that would have to be Aragorn from Lord of the Rings.
What other fiction genres interest you ?
It is easier to list what I do not like. I can’t get into chick lit as there doesn’t seem to be a deep enough story for me. I am also not keen on fan fiction, preferring the real thing. Some Paranormal Romance is good, but there seems to be a tendency to dip down into erotica and I find this repetitive and boring. A good love scene needs lots of sexual tension and this has to be built in layers prior to the encounter IMO.
Yes, I have had some pieces published. I also used to be the Managing Editor for FlashMe Magazine and this one had an eight year run. I like to think we were at the forefront of bringing flash fiction credence. Now I am Assistant Editor of Flash Fiction at Abyss and Apex.
Is there a classical, fantasy or sci-fi author you feel closest too when writing in those genres?
I think everyone tends to write in the style they most admire, however, I would never dream of writing in omni, like Tolkien. I think it is more of an accumulation of various things from various sources that I really like. I am conscious of world building, particularly as my locations might not be Earth, or Earth as we know it. I need to get a deep point of view access with my characters for them to express themselves. I am also aware that no one is wholly good, or wholly bad, so there will be flaws and virtues in all. Plot, of course, is everything and must be unique.
Is there an author, from past or present, who has left a lasting impression?
You mention on your blog your thoughts on genres and what the difference is between Romantic Fantasy and Paranormal Romance. Have you something you would like to add here?
I guess on the other end of the spectrum, Romantic Fantasy can be just dipping a toenail into fantasy and heavy on romance. Paranormal Romance can plummet into erotica, which is sad.
Would you say there were big differences between fantasy and sci-fi in structure, plot and character development ? What appeals to you as a reader or writer about these?
It would be untrue to say there is less and thought needed for fantasy. Both genre deal with things that are not real, but if done correctly, will allow a reader to suspend disbelief for the duration. If it is science, then it must be plausible and not contradict the known laws of the discipline. If it is fantasy, then there must be a plausible reason for what happens. If magic is involved, where does it come from?
What did you most enjoy about writing the book?
When something unexpected happens. I wasn’t anticipating my little firedrake, or his part in the story.
What was the original inspiration for the theme of the book(s)?
Sometimes I get inspired by a song and I was in this case. It was called Veshengro by the Incredible String Band. I wish I still had a copy, but I can’t find it anywhere. The lyrics are available, but the music was super spookie.
Do you have any favourite quotes from it?
Raven tasted the waves of hatred seething in this room. Not one person looked as if they wanted to be here or that they enjoyed their tasks. How could they live in a place run by threats? Why did they think a fat man was a god? He looked no different from any other except a lack of muscle tone. She had imagined the Angressi emperor to be at least seven feet tall and glowing with an inner light.
Is there anything you can share about your character(s) that doesn’t appear in the book?
I guess I left some threads open on purpose. There is where the Drakken race came from and why. Then there is the Shangrove and what powers it and the Samara Maidens. I never answered the question of why the half-breeds are all male, either, but those gaps will be addressed in the next book.
You also mention on your blog a WIP called Shadow over Avalon, due out later this year; is there anything more you can share about this, any updates on the writing or characters? (A brief excerpt below):
“Breath scorched through labored lungs. Heartbeats thudded louder than footfalls. Darkness pressed around with wolves close behind. The mournful wail of a hunter’s horn set the pack howling.
The faint light of a fire shone through dense forest. In the mouth of a cavern, a robed figure sat cross-legged beside the blaze. Within the depths of a cowl were eyes so black they reflected none of the flames, a predator’s hypnotic link with cornered prey.
The dank smell of stagnant water mingled with wood smoke and lupine odor. The pack closed in for the kill, but the figure gestured, sending them slinking away into the night.”
The book is finished and is a cross genre mix between science fiction and fantasy with a handful of myth thrown in. This is not a story of what happened in prehistory, or that prehistory repeating itself. This story is about what happens next and why.
Can you remember the first time you heard of the legend of Avalon, and could you say how, if at all, it may have influenced your writing?
First awareness? Um this would have to be from Disney’s Sword in the Stone, adapted from T.E White’s book. I guess that got me reading about the subject, particularly after the seeds of a story popped into my head. Getting back to a previous question regarding genres, there was a lot of research went into this book. Sir Thomas Malory’s le morte d’arthur was taken from the Historia Regum Britanniae by Geoffrey of Monmoth and some European sources. Digging deeper, there are Welsh legends and therein lies the difference. In the original stories, Mordred was not the son Arthur fathered on his own sister, Morgan le Fey. There was a time of transition in the religion of the island and Christianity was busy squashing all hints of paganism. Morgan le Fey was a wise woman in her own right, and a person of power under the old religion. This made her a threat, so the story was altered to present her in a terrible light and to put women firmly in their place as subservient. The changes are absolutely fascinating.
The future of publishing :
Digital, print, audio – which do you think is going to be most prominent ?
There is something about the look and the feel of a real book that will never grow stale. Maybe there will be a greater demand for digital in next few decades. There is a whole new readership growing up. A tablet is very convenient and a whole lot lighter than books, particularly when travelling.
Audio is subjective. It depends on the speaker and then does a publisher get one lot of actors from one country and another lot from another so the accent is right for each country? Also, what sort of accent? Some British accents, the ones where they leave out the consonants, are difficult to understand. I would also have a hard time with a deep Southern American accent. I also find earplugs uncomfortable, but that is a personal quirk.
What would you like to see happen in publishing, in particular with regard to sci-fi/fantasy fiction?
In a word, change. I would like to see some stretching of boundaries and some thinking outside the box of the set plotlines.
What for you has been the most invaluable aspect of working with Kristell Ink a publisher as opposed self-publishing ?
Having someone else do all the prep work, the editing and the launching, not to mention the support. I have good friends who are successfully self-published and I am fully aware of the amount of time, effort and funds this requires. It is also very nice to work with a group of supportive other authors.
Finally, as an editor, is there any advice you’d like to offer new writers.
Keep writing. It is important for each writer to establish their own individual brand that the readers can recognise. This means getting more products out there and it means keep writing and submitting until someone wants to acquire the work. It is also about the quality of the work and honing it to as near perfection as possible. Short stories are a means of getting street creds when trying to get attention for a book. They are worth constructing. Flash fiction is difficult to write, but it is worth persisting as it teaches a writer how to put together tight prose, without it dripping in fat.
K.N.Lesley is Under the Spotlight for the whole of May.