Hi all! This is an interview given by Courtney Wells, founder of Fringe Fiction, my favorite group on Goodreads. If you’re a Goodreads member, come on by and say hello, or check out Courtney’s blog, Libra Obscura, for her indie book recommendations!
PS – Sorry for the radio silence of late. A lot going on. I’ll be posting an update soon. Cheers!
Hello all! Just a quick status to share some fantastic news. I received word late last night that The Butterfly Crest has been selected as a finalist in the Readers’ Favorite International Book Award Contest! It made the cut in three categories (Fiction – Fantasy, Fiction – Paranormal, and Fiction – Supernatural), so please keep your fingers crossed for me and the little beasties!!
Oh, and if you happened to miss yesterday’s interview of the immodest Mr. Muse, you can take a quick look here.
Hi all!Patrick Wong, author of Balancer, invited me to participate in The Writing Process Blog Tour. For those unfamiliar with a blog tour, they are chained posts where authors answer a few questions and then tag other authors to keep up the chain the next week. For those unfamiliar with Patrick, he writes Young Adult fiction with a paranormal twist. His debut novel, Balancer is about a teenager who has the power to balance Life. You can find Balancer on Amazon here.
And with that… here we go.
What am I working on?
I’m currently working on the follow-up to The Butterfly Crest. This will be the second book in The Protogenoi Series. It has a title already, but I’m going to wait a little while longer before revealing it (just in case). I’m three chapters into Book Two (as we’ll affectionately call it for now), and I’m waking up early in the mornings to get a few hours of writing in before I have to go into the office.
How does my work differ from others in its genre?
The Butterfly Crest is an epic fantasy set in modern times. Its storyline is heavy on mythology; different world mythologies in particular. What sets it apart from other works in the fantasy genre is its treatment of those mythologies. The story follows Elena, a human woman who suddenly finds herself in the middle of a Greek myth, in a world where human belief can create or alter the divine. It is a world where all faiths (past and present) are real, and their mythologies are weaved into one mythos.
My plan (and I sometimes deviate from plans, so please don’t hold me to this later) is to include at least three major mythologies in each book. In The Butterfly Crest, you meet the yōkai of Japanese myth, post-modern Greek deities, and the Tuatha Dé Danann. The appearance of yōkai in American fiction is pretty sparse, so including them as a major part of the story was one of the most enjoyable aspects of writing the book.
Why do I write what I do?
My characters compel me to.
How does my writing process work?
This one is a loaded question for the obvious reasons, but also because my writing process has changed from Book One to Book Two. I wrote The ButterflyCrestwhile I was on hiatus from my legal career. After doing the initial research and preparing a pretty detailed outline, I started to write. I would wake up every morning, dress comfortably, prepare my writing nook and make myself a pot of tea. I would then write for at least 8 hours. If I was having trouble, if Mr. Muse abandoned me, I would sit and stare at the screen until it came. I did this every day of the week. I took the weekends off in the beginning, but towards the end the writing started bleeding into my weekends.
Writing Book Two has been completely different. I’m juggling writing with managing my own law practice, so I can’t dedicate 8 hours a day, 5+ days a week to writing. Now, I wake up every morning at 5 a.m. and write until 7:30 a.m. I have an outline, but not nearly as detailed as the one I had for Book One. The process is much looser this time around, since all the groundwork has already been laid, but the allotted time slots bring their own brand of problems (you can read about my disgruntled writing elves here). Being “in the mood” to write wasn’t an issue before because I had the luxury of time, but now, if Mr. Muse acts up and his mood lasts more than two and a half hours, there goes my writing for the day. Stopping mid-scene (because of the allotted time) has taken some getting used to. The process is slow going, but I’m having a ball with it (when the writing elves are happy).
And with that, I’m passing the torch to author Ben Starling, an Oxford grad who is passionate about marine conservation and boxing, both of which are central themes in his upcoming novel. He is currently Writer in Residence for Mirthquake Ltd., a production company that advocates for ocean health and welfare. Check out Ben’s blog next Monday, July 7th!
This week’s image is “Bullfinch on Flowering Plum” by Ohara Koson. Ohara was a Japanese painter and printmaker of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and part of the shin-hanga (“new prints”) movement.
Sometime last week, somewhere in the middle of My Adventures Post-Publishing, I read a blog post by Tracy Cembor that’s stuck with me ever since. In her post, Geek Week: How Real Is Fiction?, Tracy asks: Do fictional characters really exist?
In Tracy’s own words: “If readers know who characters are, what attributes and desires they have, and feel the emotions from their experiences, then how can we say in the way that our mind perceives things, that they aren’t just a little bit ‘real’?”
Tracy’s post stuck with me for two reasons: (1) my past experiences with literary characters (those created by other authors, as well as my own), and (2) it reminded me of something my Philosophy 101 professor said 16 years ago that would ultimately be the catalyst for my own creations.
Now, I’m going to paraphrase here, but my professor’s sentiment was something like this:
The question ‘Does God really exist?’ is misguided. The fact that people believe in something, live their lives in accordance with it, makes that *something* real.
That sentiment stuck with me. It hovered in the back of my mind as I finished college and went on through my professional education. It gave birth to a premise that would ultimately become the foundation of my fictional writing. In Elena’s world, human belief alters the divine; what begins as abstract can have very physical manifestations.
I think the same can be said about characters. They may not be corporeal, may not exist in the physical sense, but their influence can be substantial. All I have to do is point to Atticus Finch to demonstrate just how powerful an influence a literary character can have. He is literally the epitome of a good lawyer. He is the standard to hold yourself to, and yet he does not physically exist. His influence is so strong that when I took the bar exam in 2004, you were not allowed to use his name as your chosen exam name (I’m presuming the reason was because that many people would choose it).
Tracy is spot on when she says: “The characters in our favorite stories are not two-dimensional paper cutouts; they are fully formed personas with hopes and dreams, wants and desires, strengths and weaknesses… When circumstances (and authors) conspire against them and the you-know-what hits the fan, readers worry for their safety. And when they experience the loss of friends and family, we are grieving right there beside them.”
I was working as a prosecutor when Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince was released. Several of my co-workers and I were reading it at the same time. One morning, everyone arrived at work with red swollen eyes and dressed in black. Without a word, we knew; we had all finished the book and were grieving for Harry’s loss. I have no problem admitting I was also grieving for my own loss.
So, do fictional characters really exist?
To me, 100%. I hold many of them in close esteem. Atticus Finch influenced my choice in career. Jane Eyre my view of passion and independence. Elizabeth Bennet my appreciation for integrity and wit. Simon from Lord of The Flies the importance of being comfortable in your own skin. Those characters might not exist in the physical sense, but their influence can be quantified and seen. They teach us lessons we might not otherwise learn, and inspire us the way historical figures might.
As for my own characters, the more I write about them the clearer they become. I know them as well as I know myself; can verbalize, in Tracy’s words, their “hopes and dreams, wants and desires, strengths and weaknesses”. A thought popped into my head last night while I was going to sleep. I saw the book sitting on my nightstand (Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations), and wondered what books, if any, my characters would have on their own nightstands. The answers came so fast that all I could do was laugh about it:
One glance at any of my Pinterest boards and you’ll be able to get a clear image of their personalities; their likes and dislikes in ways I can’t expound on in my books. The more I explore those personalities, the more excited I get about sharing their stories with you.
I’ll be exploring those personalities further on July 14th, when I participate in a Meet My Character Blog Tour and answer questions as one of my characters. On June 30th, I’ll also be participating in a Blog Hop, which are chained posts where authors answer questions; this particular one is about our writing process. So please stay tuned!
Last but not least, this week’s image is “Beauties Under an Umbrella“ by Utamaro Kitagawa. Utamaro was an Edo period ukiyo-e artist, famous for his portraits of female beauties known as bijin-ga. I love the richness in color and detail of this particular piece.
The Butterfly Crest (The Protogenoi Series Book 1)
by Eva Vanrell
Between the shadows of the human world, a war as old as time is being fought. Ageless pantheons scheme to obtain or keep control, provoked by the weight of human belief which has altered the realm of the divine.
An ancient prophecy speaks of a human woman who will alter the course of this divine war, a descendant of a Great House mired in misfortune and blood, whose history was shaped by the cruelty of the gods.
On a day as unremarkable as any other, Elena Vicens, a young woman living a seemingly ordinary life, receives a letter about a deposit box belonging to her mother, nineteen years after her mother’s death. When this letter sends her on a journey halfway across the world from New Orleans to Japan, Elena unknowingly comes into possession of a cursed…
This week continues to be a whirlwind of activity, but I wanted to take a second to share with everyone the first editorial review of The Butterfly Crest. Hope you find it helpful! It certainly put a smile on my face. What I found most encouraging about Ms. Madhavan’s words was that she was able to hear Elena’s voice over the demands of her supporting cast (deities can be a handful, trust me). And now, without further ado, here’s the review:
Reviewed By Mamta Madhavan for Readers’ Favorite – 5 stars
The Butterfly Crest by Eva Vanrell is a fantasy filled fiction that is contemporary and exotic. Elena Vicens’ life takes a turn when she receives a letter one day regarding a deposit box belonging to her mother. This letter comes to her nineteen years after her mother’s death and the letter sends her from New Orleans to Japan. She finds herself in possession of a cursed inheritance and the story takes off from there. Readers find themselves in the midst of legends and myths, the strangeness of everyday life, a human woman who will shape the outcome of the divine war and, amid all this, Elena must choose her own destiny.
It is an intriguing, imaginative and very original story with many layers and that makes it a compelling read. It moves between the tangible and intangible, giving the story a surreal feel and keeping readers guessing about the outcome. The narration is descriptive and gives more clarity to the plot. It is an exceptional read. Elena is an interesting character that has been portrayed vividly and wonderfully. Her presence dominates the story throughout, holding the plot together. There is a mysterious vibe in the theme, enhanced by the description of Elena’s character.
The shifts in the story that occur between the two locations and the afterlife give it a new dimension and make it an even more attractive and exceptional book to read.
Truth be told, I don’t even know where to begin. My mind is a jumble of too many thoughts. That said, I’m just going to jot them down and hope they come out coherently. If they don’t, my apologies.
Moving onto the first thought…
After much toil and four proofs, it’s official — The Butterfly Crest is now published. It’s been distributed to the various eBook retailers and should be available at all of them within the next four weeks. It is available now through iBooks/iTunes, Amazon Kindle and the Bookshop. Barnes & Noble should have it listed in 2 to 4 weeks. It will also be available through Kobo, Oyster, Copia, Scribd, Gardners, Flipkart, Baker & Taylor, and eSentral. Keep an eye out for the Goodreads listing, which should be up soon!
If you’ve heard that announcement before, I apologize for the repetition, but I wanted to put it up as a regular post (not just a status).
Moving onto my second thought…
For the past 14 years, my cast of characters has existed in the aether. Their world was limited to the mind of the author and a single reader. That audience has expanded slowly these past 3 years, to include a few brave souls who took a leap of faith and believed me when I told them I could write (they knew my passion for it, but passion and ability are two very different things). Now, Pandora’s box is wide open. My cast of beasties (and trust me, you’ll understand why I call them that once you read) has gone public and there’s no turning back. They have shaped and colored my life these past 14 years, and if they can do a fraction of that for you, bring you the smallest bit of joy, then this journey was well worth it.
Which brings me to my third thought… how much we, as authors, put of ourselves into our books.
I never thought publishing would make me feel vulnerable, but I have to admit it did so immediately. A click of a button and suddenly (relatively speaking), your work is out there for the world to see. Yes, you expect and try to prepare yourself for criticism, but that isn’t really the flavor of vulnerable I’m experiencing right now. I poured my heart and soul into this book, and left a large part of myself in it. As you read, you’ll experience the obvious things, like my passion for mythology, my awe for Japanese culture, and my obsession with ancient Greece; but what about the not-so-obvious things? It was Plato who said, “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” In my case, you can substitute play with my writing. Just an hour of reading, and you’ll know more about me than you would have working beside me for five years. Of course, you won’t know which parts are me, exactly, but that doesn’t make the experience any less intimate. That intimacy might be almost entirely one-sided, but the act of sharing it is deeply personal, and a little terrifying.
What makes that deeply personal and intimate act worth sharing brings me to my fourth and final thought…
I love to be affected by what I read, and in writing I aim to do the same for my readers. As long as my words reach you, I’m satisfied. If you are able to escape, to laugh, to cry, to feel and connect with my characters, then my hope has been realized. Sales, numbers, platform—those things are necessary, but they aren’t the reason I write. The reason I write is made clear when my mother calls me defiant, refusing to read on because she can’t differentiate between me and a character; or when a friend calls to tell me he thinks of my book now every time he drives by the New Orleans Museum of Art; or when another friend uses my own characters to encourage me (“Cataline would approve,” indeed!). That is the reason I write, and those moments will be how I measure my success moving forward.
As a final note, today’s image is Kitagawa Utamaro’s “The Courtesan Ichikawa of the Matsuba Establishment.” Utamaro was an Edo period ukiyo-e artist, famous for his portraits of female beauties known as bijin-ga. His work reached Europe in the mid-ninteeth century, and even influenced the Impressionists. The reason I chose this image, other than the obvious fact that it’s quite lovely, was because of the detail in the fabric (it reminded me of a fusuma door I describe in my book).