So I’m back! The reason for no new posts was due to me being away on vacation in Edinburgh for the weekend. It was a great trip but editing and blogs beckon to me. Today I bring you yet another SPFBO interview with Joyce Reynolds-Ward, author of the Goddess’s Honor series.
First of all, tell me about yourself! What do you write?
I write speculative fiction from the wide open spaces. I have a completed science fiction series, The Netwalk Sequence, and will be completing a fantasy series, Goddess’s Honor, this year. My SPFBO entry, Pledges of Honor, is the first full book in that series. Additionally, I have a contemporary fantasy series I’m starting, the Stronghold, and at least two Weird West series on deck.
How do you develop your plots and characters?
It really depends on the idea. My most recent book, Klone’s Stronghold, originally came from spotting a small road called Klone Lane in an isolated stretch of Northeastern Oregon’s Blue Mountains. Wheels started turning…and I ended up with the story of a special education teacher working with cryptid construct children who discovers that her background is not as mundane as she thought it was. Sometimes an odd little idea just pops in my head. Other times, my stories arise from things I see and extrapolate from my original observation. I get a lot of inspiration from the outdoors—particularly mountains.
Pledges of Honor, a 2018 SPFBO semifinalist, is based in a world I’ve been fiddling with for over forty years. I had problems working with the story until I focused on who I thought was a minor character, Katerin Healer—and she kind of took things over. Turns out she had a deeper backstory that I realized. Again, Pledges is very heavily influenced by outdoor settings, primarily Northeastern Oregon and the Columbia River Plateau.
Tell us about your current project.
I am currently rewriting a previously published apocalyptic climate fiction novella—expanding it to be at least twice its original size for standard novel length, adding two more viewpoint characters, and changing the original fates of a couple of characters. It’s complicated because of continuity issues.
Who would you say is the main character of your novels? And tell me a little bit about them!
For the Goddess’s Honor series, I have several main characters. Katerin Healer was a wandering healer with a mother who allowed herself to be used by two Gods to defeat a third God and was destroyed in the process. Her father is unknown to her until midway through Pledges, when she discovers she is not who she thought she is. She sought out a routine life hoping to be ignored by the Gods—and ran right into a problem in the village of Wickmasa—which has a long and storied history of her own. In that process she learns that the Gods have a role for her that she didn’t anticipate. Her cousin Rekaré struggles with the fate the Gods want to force her into, and eventually creates her own path independent of what the Gods would have her do.
And then there are the horses of Goddess’s Honor. We meet Katerin’s daranval Mira (a magic breed of horse) early on, and right away we find out that she has opinions and a mind of her own. Mira’s replacement, Rainin, is not as magically powerful but she still supports Katerin—just in a different way from Mira. Katerin’s daughter Witmara bonds early to Rainin’s son, Daro—we’ll see more from this pair in the last book of Goddess’s Honor. And there are other daranvelii, all of whom are influenced by my many years around horses.
What advice would you give new writers on how to delve into creative fiction?
Focus on writing the stories that you want to read. What stories entice you? What tales do you want to tell? Remember that you can write all the pretty language you want, but, basically—you are telling a story, and it needs to be a story that you want to share.
What real-life inspirations did you draw from for the worldbuilding within your book?
For Pledges of Honor I did a lot of Native America, pioneer, and settlement research. It is not a Western book or even a Weird Western, it is a high fantasy with a Pacific Northwest setting as opposed to a European setting. I’m much more familiar with that background than I am medieval, and it resonates much better with me than any quasi-European worlds. My world has high sagebrush deserts, desert mountains, a mountain range that divides the wet side of the land of Varen from the dry, and big rivers that carve deep canyons.
Additionally, I have some magic-driven technology. You see more of this in the second volume of the series, Challenges of Honor, where steamboats/paddlewheelers run regular routes on the Chellana River. I researched early settlement technology in the Pacific Northwest for that. Magic also is reliant on cooperation with the power within the land—this particularly comes into play during Challenges and will be a greater factor in the third and final book of the series, Choices of Honor. But much of the style, the housing, the villages—all are influenced by early settlement period Pacific Northwest.
All of the horses of Goddess’s Honor are based on horses I’ve known.
What inspires you to write?
I love telling stories.
What was the hardest part of writing this book?
Flailing around until I got Katerin into focus.
What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
The passages where Katerin and her beloved Metkyi get to know each other during daily life in Wickmasa. It is a very short period for them, but thinking through the daily setup, daily life, and watching how the Gods set Katerin up to shake her out of her very quiet, circumscribed life really worked well for me.
My other favorites were the scenes with the horses, especially Mira.
Did you learn anything from writing this book and what was it?
I always learn something from a book! Whether it’s a technique I’m playing with, or worldbuilding skills, or even research details, I learn something every time I write a book. Pledges was more challenging in some ways than writing my science fiction stories, because I had to think about the mechanics of things like travel time on horseback. What land-based magic might look like.
It’s sometimes difficult to get into understanding the characters we write. How do you go about it?
If a character or situation is difficult in a book, often I spend time working on an outtake short story. I’ll throw the character into a situation and see how they respond. The story doesn’t have to be relevant to the book I’m working on. If anything, it’s either backstory or else a future event that doesn’t fit into the book, but helps me understand the character better.
What are your future project(s)?
I have a lot of future projects, but three primary ones for 2019. First, finishing the climate fiction apocalypse rewrite I’m currently working on, Beating the Apocalypse. In this world, highly sensitive enhanced people known as Canaries measure environmental contamination by toxic Clouds so that they can warn non-Canaries when a Cloud is forming. However, a superevent that will impact the entire North American continent is impending—and my characters Rianna, Bobby, and LeBrand must fight against powerful malign forces to save a small, independent group from the Clouds.
The next project is finishing the Goddess’s Honor series, where I try to tie up all the ends involving Katerin, Rekaré, and their children while minimizing the meddling of the Gods.
If you couldn’t be an author, what ideal job would you like to do?
What is your preferred method to have readers get in touch with or follow you (i.e., website, personal blog, Facebook page, here on Goodreads, etc.) and link(s)?
Joyce’s main website (which goes directly to her blog): http://www.joycereynoldsward.com
Joyce’s secondary blog site: https://jreynoldsward.dreamwidth.org/
Joyce’s Amazon page: https://www.amazon.com/Joyce-Reynolds-Ward/e/B00HIP821Y
Joyce’s author Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pg/authorjoycerw/posts
Joyce’s Newsletter signup: http://tinyletter.com/JoyceReynolds-Ward
Joyce’s Ko-Fi link: https://ko-fi.com/I2I69R9Z
Recent podcast: Fantasy Fiends https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GCVs9dYrYnQ