Back with another interview! Today’s interview is with L. L. Thomsen, first-time entrant to SPFBO. Here is a link to her book down below.
First of all, tell me about yourself! What do you write?
Hi my name is Linda. I am originally from Denmark but now live in the UK with my husband, two kids, two cats & one dog. We live in the North of England not far from Sherwood Forest. I have a rather peculiar fascination with swords, and I go all geeky in the knees when there’s jousting to be enjoyed.
I write high fantasy, but with an epic twist that brings in lots of world building, deep characters, darkness, magic, mystery, monsters, friendship, etc. My books are a little unique, quite wordy as I like to vax lyrical, lol. I like to tell it how it is so my writing will always carry a hint reality as I like to explore my characters and that which makes them tick.
How do you develop your plots and characters?
I’m not actually sure I have a method as such. It kinda just comes to me. Occasionally I will get inspired by a name or a snippet of conversation or a headline or a sight. Other times it can be something less tangible – like the feeling that leaps from song, or the sensation of a thunderstorm in the atmosphere. I mostly just sit down and write. And it usually works a lot like peeling an onion in reverse: adding layers and complexity. I am fond of daydreaming – it almost like meditation when you just let your mind float, but this is often where the more detailed aspects of my plots will emerge.
Tell us about your current project.
I am writing The Missing Shield. It was originally one epic tome of a book – sort of in the spirit of the GoT volumes or LoTR, for example. But I got to a point where people kept asking if I was ever going to publish anything. Then I was advised to split the book into smaller sections to suit the market better – and since that made sense at the time I came up with the slightly ‘concept’ idea of releasing the book in ‘episodes’. This means that you can read each book and treat it almost like an episode of a TV series. That actually means The Missing Shield is the equivalent to a ‘season’, with each book/episode also carrying a title to hint of the contents of that specific part. The first episode is titled, ‘A Change of Rules’ and it very much begins at the beginning, where there’s a lot of world building and setting of the scene going on, but there’s also the individual dilemma of the main Character Solancei, who is dealing with some personal issues, whilst also trying to win an illegal duel. Each episode rounds off a specific set of events and it also introduces a cliff-hanger to lead you on to the next book where intrigue, plots and deeper issues then continue to weave together.
Is this your first entry into SPFBO? If not, how many times have you entered?
Yes, this is my first entry. (read: what the heck was I thinking, lol).
Who would you say is the main character of your novels? And tell me a little bit about them!
I like epic, and so the whole thing is EPIC, which means that I have got quite an array of characters. However, my main ‘cast’ consists of:
- Solancei (Cousin, friend & secret body guard to Princess Iambre). She is sharp-tongued, feisty and unapologetic, but also fiercely loyal. She is haunted by her past and has a real issue with the idea of letting herself grow close to anyone because those somehow have a tendency to die.
- Princess Iambre (Cousin of Solancei & the sole heiress to the Realm of Ostravah). Diplomat, accomplished, well-loved, but also naïve and bad tempered. She is painfully at odds with her need to ‘do the right thing’ versus her lack of enthusiasm to become the next ruler. The latter has somewhat to do with her unfortunate fascination with would-be beau and lover, Bilan. She and Solancei have currently fallen out over this much contested issue.
- Bilan (Former knife-fighter and thief, risen to better times. He is now Captain of the King’s Lancers and currently also on loan to Iambre as commanding officer of her travelling retinue). Struggles with his attraction to Iambre and the duty owed the King.
- Malandar (Spell-Weaver of the highest Tier & also reborn Commanding Guardian of the 9 Realms). Fueled by the promise of Vengeance, but jaded from a war that never ends, he fights to uphold the oaths made to the creator, but a recent betrayal has left him and his fellow Guardians at a sore disadvantage. This is forcing him to rethink everything.
- Simaro (Knights Commander of Zanzier and 2nd Sword of Iambre’s father, King Kaimar). Egocentric, celebrated noble who plots to set right an ancient wrong. Of a province that adheres to strict archaic protocols and laws, he believes himself utterly justified in everything he does and he will not be turned from his righteous path even though it means bringing war and chaos to the realm of Ostravah.
What advice would you give new writers on how to delve into creative fiction?
Please do not ask other people to write it for you.
You want to write, but don’t yet know what? That’s cool – you’re on the right track – but only you can decide what you fancy doing so take a moment to find out. If you lack any ideas at this point you might not be quite ready to write. Or (sorry) it could also just be that you are more in love with the idea of writing than the idea of actually sitting down and physically doing it.
To get inspired you do need input, though, so ask questions of other writers, get advice, research. Basically, read lots. And write lots. Study the language, the sentences, the prose, the flows, the plots of other writers. Brainstorm a lot too. Write down everything on a sheet of paper or better still – keep a notebook or a file, for just thoughts and ideas. Look at photos or images on places like Google or Pinterest. What story inspires you to write? What genre? Do not copy the work of others but use it to spin your own ideas into life. I am unfortunately not keen on writing to market – it’s great if you can do it – but imho it often drains a book of originality. For this reason, please try to find your own voice and put that into your WIP. It might take more work but it will also be so much better for it. It takes time. Just be patient and never give up.
What real-life inspirations did you draw from for the worldbuilding within your book?
I am a bit fascinated with the political world of deals and negotiations. I like the idea that things may look very glossy on the surface but then something happens and the seedy crap suddenly hits the proverbial fan. Former heroes are suddenly villains – but who do we believe? The victors tell the story – but what of the other side? Can things change? Is peace an illusion?
Sometimes what we see is not the truth – think glossy magazines and news – and I’ve use that to turn things a bit upside-down sometimes. Power is gained and lost, just like in life. I have roughly based the Realm of Ostravah on the Roman Empire: it’s decadent, rich, luxurious, enlightened – but with cracks growing underneath.
What inspires you to write?
The muse in my head that will not be ignored. I have these weird and wonderful ideas: characters, stories, events, scenes, lines… all begging me to get written and until I clear my head they can be very distractive. I will often watch something on telly as well and think… ‘hey wouldn’t it be awesome if instead of this, that had happened’.
What was the hardest part of writing this book?
The need to perfect the art and my own lack of compromise. Writing the first draft is fun, the second is exciting as things begin to come together, the third you think you can see the end and then… nope.
At the end of the entire process, I almost hate my own stories as much as I love them. Persevering is the hardest. Followed closely by a good dose of self-doubt.
What is your routine when writing, if any? If you don’t follow a routine, why not?
My routine is actually almost as much about what I do before and in-between as it is about what happens once I sit down in front of my computer. I am a slow starter in the morning so once I get going I am hard pushed to let up. Essentially, however, I need to write in the same space and without anyone trying to work next to me. I try to simply pick up from where I left it the day before, but occasionally I forget where I was (i.e. if I’m swopping between POVs or events) so if needed I also like to have a quick skim through older chapters as well. I usually also need to have a full mug of coffee next to me before I’m ready to crack on.
What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
I really like the first draft of anything. It’s fresh and the idea is seeing light for the first time. For that reason I really enjoyed one of the very first scenes I wrote for The Missing Shield where Solancei is facing her opponant in the illegal duel she’d been roped into attending. When I first wrote that, I had no idea that this was a duel, let alone what her name was going to be. It was just a kick-a** woman, sword fighting with a guy in the pouring rain. I figured perhaps they were both soldiers and that it was some kind of friendly training, but the story didn’t want to stay confined within those narrow perimeters. Suddenly they were not so friendly; it was about more than the fight. Furthermore, they were sparring in a narrow backyard in the poor quarter of a foreign city, with spectators heckling and Solancei being in a bad mood. Other than that, I also rather enjoyed writing the destruction of an entire city and how Malandar uses a clever, but unsanctioned trick, to steal magic to protect those he must – but all that doesn’t happen until episode 11.
Did you learn anything from writing this book and what was it?
I learnt to persevere and trust my gut feeling. I also learnt to look at a manuscript in a completely different way so that I was eventually able to treat feedback objectively and take what I needed from it. I realized that it’s important to understand that you cannot please every reader in this world and that’s perfectly okay. Writing a book is such a lengthy process, and yet this is only half of it. I knew this already but I don’t think I really appreciated it until I was in the middle of it. You don’t do this unless you’re really hooked.
Are you a plotter or a pantser? A gardener or an architect?
In my heart I’m a pantser and I garden here and there, but looking in the rear view mirror, I have tried to become more of a plotter with a proper plan and a scaffold in place. I have never worried too much about the word count, but if you do, I think you need to be an architect. For me, the beauty about pantsing, however, is that I often just write some random stuff that’s heading in the general direction of where I want to be – and in doing so this is then often the thing that actually fires up my inspiration to lock the finer points in place.
It’s sometimes difficult to get into understanding the characters we write. How do you go about it?
I just try to think about where they’ve been, what they’ve experienced, and what drives them (fears/hopes/aspirations/etc). Then I imagine how they would be/act if taking these things into consideration, and this is how I get to know them and develop the small things.
What are your future project(s)?
I would really like to write Malandar’s story in a Bernard Cornwell kind-of style similar to how The Last Kingdom is written. It’s a very different style from my current writing, but I’d like to do something simpler and it would suit Malandar voice, I think. However, though I’ve written some of it I cannot really pursue it for now as it would give away crucial plot lines that are yet to happen to him in this story. We’ll see…
What is your favorite book ever written? Who are your favorite authors?
I like too many books to pick a favorite. I do stand in awe of the Malazan Books by Steven Erikson – it’s like a fireworks of talent. I also really love the old school stuff by Janny Wurts and Raymond E. Feist. I enjoy discovering new authors though, and I mostly only read indie stuff these days. I really like C. N. Lesley, Yvette Bostic, Beth Hodgson & Alexzander Christion.
What makes a good villain?
The villain that does things for the wrong-right reasons. The type of person who you can understand and perhaps even agree with though you ultimately condemn his/her actions. Or the person who starts out with the best intentions, but then gets led astray by circumstances and life.
Here are a few links
https://www.amazon.com/L.-L.-Thomsen/e/B07B8K4J6S (books 1, 2 & 3 are currently reduced to 99c each)