Rowena Cory Daniells is an Australian fantasy author, whose most recent series, The Chronicles of King Rolen's Kin, is seeing a successive release of its three volumes throughout the summer. The first novel, The King's Bastard, has already been released and I've had the chance to read and review it (find the review here). I can safely say that it's a very enjoyable book and is sure to garner plenty more praise and attention, on top of what it already has. When I contacted her, Rowena Cory Daniells enthusiastically accepted my invitation to answer a few questions I had for her here on the blog. So below you'll find just that, the questions along with their gracious answers from Rowena. Enjoy.
LEC Book Reviews: If you had to recount one analogy or story from your life that best describes you what would it be?
Rowena Cory Daniells: Gah. I hate talking about myself. (Maybe that describes me).
LBR: Different authors do it in different ways, how do you approach act of writing?
RCD: Jack London said - Don’t wait for creativity to come to you, go after it with a club!
Sigh. I wish I’d met him.
Seriously, I sit down at the computer and write. The rest of the time, my mind is circling stories, teasing out plot points and devising ways to make characters suffer. Sometimes, when I drive somewhere, I find myself arriving with no memory of how I got there. This is normal for a writer.
LBR: What, as a person and as a writer, drew you to the fantasy genre?
RCD: Isn’t the whole world a fantasy? We create it in our minds and when our created world doesn’t mesh with other people’s this is the source of social and national conflict?
Genre fantasy offers readers a world where one person can make a difference. It offers worlds where good triumphs over evil (in the end). In our real world terrorists, corrupt politicians and corporations put profit ahead of people - no wonder the fantasy genre is so popular.
LBR: For such a relatively small market, Australia has a very strong offering of science fiction and fantasy authors, yourself amongst them. Why do you think that is?
RCD: I really have no idea. I was thinking about this just the other day. It seems everyone I know is a writer or an aspiring writer. But when I told my skin specialist this, he said everyone he knew was a skin specialist. So it made me think that maybe my world view was skewed.
Your profile is rather cryptic so I can’t tell where you come from. I gather you are US or UK based and your observation- for a country with a population of 20 million, Australia bats above its weight in the speculative fiction genres – backs up mine. This brings me back to the question, why does Australia have so many writers of speculative fiction?
Maybe it is because we are a young country with just over 200 years of European settlement, so we feel displaced from our roots. At the same time the continent is one of the oldest and our Indigenous people have been here 50,000 years, so there is the great sense of time and unwritten history. Perhaps we feel the need to tell stories to explore this dichotomy and speculative fiction is the most freeing of all genres. By denaturalizing the everyday world we free ourselves from the constraints of culture and time and can explore the human condition. (We can tell lies to explore inner truths. I plan to do a blog post about this soon. It’s been on my mind).
LBR: What were your intentions when you first began to work on the King’s Bastard and The Chronicles of King Rolen’s Kin?
RCD: An easy question at last!
I set out to write the kind of books that I love, rollicking fantasy reads. I set out to write books that you reward yourself with on a Saturday afternoon, when you’ve had a tough week at work.
LBR: What made you decide to make The King’s Bastard and its sequels about a single family, as singular and captivating as it may be?
RCD: The characters just came to me and I went along for the ride. I was telling my students this (I teach narrative) and one of them put up his hand and said ‘Ah, Miss, you know they’re not real’. But the characters are real to me while I’m writing them.
The Chronicles of King Rolen’s Kin trilogy explores relationships, how everyone has blind spots and how, sometimes, even when you try to do the right thing everything can still go wrong, That makes it sound very emo. Forget I said it. The books are rollicking read.
LBR: What real-world inspiration is there for the characters in The King’s Bastard or any of the book’s elements?
RCD: Everything has real world inspiration - it is just not that easy to see. I did a post about the inspiration for the book’s Affinity Seeps. Here is the gist of it:
Some things stay with you. When I was about 10 my family went to play tennis at a set of courts in the back blocks of the Gold Coast. This was in the days when the holiday strip was not as gaudy and glitzy as it is now. My parents loved to play tennis and they told me to watch my little brothers, 8 and 5 and my sister 3. Behind the courts was a stretch of land backing onto a creek. There were white sand dunes, scrubby trees and it was the perfect place for us to play (in those far off days when kids ran wild most of the time).
As the eldest I was used to organising the games and I always saw myself as a sort of hero character so we'd play these long involved games with my younger siblings as my army, following orders, fighting great battles against enemy foes.
While running down one high white sand hill through the hollow into the next we left my little sister behind. Halfway up the next dune I turned around to find she'd run through the deepest part of the hollow and the sand, which appeared to be solid, had given way. She was knee deep in some sort of sticky sand-clay mix and couldn't get out. Having seen plenty of Tarzan movies, I immediately thought of quicksand.
A real emergency! I told my brothers to stay back, afraid that they'd get trapped too, and edged forward. The sand's surface broke up under my feet. It was cold and smooth and wet, and I didn't know what was under there. My eight year-old brother took my arm to pull me out and we managed to grab our little sister's arm and hauled her out of the sticky sand-clay which did not give her up easily. Meanwhile my five year-old brother danced on the edge of the danger zone, desperate to help and likely to get himself into trouble.
End of story, she was fine and we kept on playing. I don't think we even told our parents about it because, by the time they finished playing tennis, our game had moved on and that was old news. But I will always remember that sense of something under the ground opening up and proving dangerous.
In King Rolen's Kin power seeps up from the land's heart, infecting people and animals. Only those trained to contain this power go near Affinity Seeps. Now you see how a childhood adventure can be the inspiration for something in a story many years later. (These days I don't order my younger brothers and sister around to play out my great battles, I have a cast of characters and they play out the battles in my books).
I only put this together when I started to write the blog post about inspiration. So our life experiences colour what we write, even when we don’t realise it.
LBR: The next volume in The Chronicles of King Rolen’s Kin is due to be published shortly. What can you tell us about what’s coming our way?
RCD: It is lots of fun. (I thought I’d better give a short answer after the others).
LBR: How much do you personally value involvement in the online genre community (blogs, twitter, etc.)?
RCD: Since I was 18 and discovered fandom, I’ve been a part of it. The online community just makes it easier to find like-minded readers.
A friend told me a story about a family of academics he’d met years ago. They introduced one crusty old chap in his 60s as ‘so and so who was slightly odd’. My friend sat next to this person at dinner and discovered he was a science fiction and fantasy fan and that was why his family thought he was odd. All his life he had never been in contact with other fans of the genre. All his life he had been an outsider.
With the internet we don’t have to suffer this isolation. We can find others who share our love of the genre and ‘get it’.
LBR: Thank you for your gracious participation. Any parting words?
RCD: I’ve probably said enough.
Rowena Cory Daniells' Website: http://www.corydaniells.com/
For those interested, a trailer for The Chronicles of King Rolen's Kin can be found here