Its been a bit of a lull, I’ve been very busy lately.
Today I bring you an interview with the awesome Aiki Flinthart (An awesome name too I might add!)
As always, I have a list of my current interviews for SPFBO(5) down below. Check out whichever you like!
And now, onto the interview!
Hey, great to be here. Thanks for having me.
First of all, tell me about yourself! What do you write?
I live in Australia (which tells you I’m brave, because everything really is trying to kill you, here). And I write mostly YA fantasy, urban fantasy (not paranormal romance), and sci-fantasy. Although I’m also writing a set of sci-fi short stories with a fellow author at the moment, so that’s a fun challenge.
How do you develop your plots and characters?
So far I’ve been lucky enough to have either (or both) plot and characters, and theme all leap into my head pretty much fully formed. Not all the details, of course, but the key aspects. Once I have the basics and I know how the story ends, then it’s just a matter of writing my way toward that epic set-piece ending. And I always make sure to have a balance of character personalities so every reader will have someone they identify with.
Tell us about your current project.
I’ve not long finished writing my favourite book so far. A huge challenge to myself, more than anything. It’s historical fantasy, set in 1486 London. Lots of research! But it’s not a novel so much as a mosaic novel – a set of 25 short stories, each from a different female character’s point of view. Bakers, nuns, whores, musicians, business owners, healers, midwives, washerwomen. All sorts.
Each story has its own plot, but each one ALSO advances an overall narrative – an attempt by a disgruntled lord to kill the new Tudor kind, Henry VII.
It was a (successful, I think) attempt to teach myself to write 25 unique character voices. Lots of fun.
I’m also now halfway through writing 8 short sci-fi stories to go in an anthology set in a shared-world space station bar called “the Zoo.” I have a feeling it’s one of those worlds we’ll keep coming back to because the four central characters are such fun and it’s a buzz to write with a fantastic fellow spec-fic author, Pamela Jeffs.
Is this your first entry into SPFBO? If not, how many times have you entered?
It is my first entry. I’m quite daunted by the quality of work in the field. But also thrilled to be part of it. Such a great community of authors, all helping to lift each other up and get good self-published books recognised.
Who would you say is the main character of your novels? And tell me a little bit about them!
IRON – which is the SPFBO entry – is the first of a trilogy in the Kalima Chronicles. FIRE is already out and STEEL is out on the 21st of July 2019.
Alere Connor is the main character. Her whole life has been about training to be a telepath-diplomat. One of the elite xintou (telepathic) women of Xintou House. But she’s failed as she has no telepathic gift. T
he House Mistress has made her also train as a martial artist and a courtesan in an attempt to ease the disappointment for Alere. But, although she’s a gifted swordswoman, she feels incredibly unworthy because she failed at what she was born to be. And she deeply resents being forced down a path chosen for her by Mistress Li.
Alere’s main focus is on how she can find her own path, but she’s duty-bound to obey Mistress Li. Needless to say she’s pretty pissed off by her lot in life and just wants to be free.
What advice would you give new writers on how to delve into creative fiction?
Write from the heart. Write the things that make you feel, because the chances are they will resonate with others. Not everyone, because not everyone thinks and feels like you do. So don’t try to please everyone. Learn the ‘rules’ of how to write well, but don’t try to write what others do. Don’t write to the market unless you want writing to be a job.
Just write because you have something important and meaningful to share with people. Forget the money and the fame. Chasing those will just lead you into angst and worry.
Write yourself onto the page. Your heart. Your truths. Your soul.
And, in doing so, you will touch others.
What real-life inspirations did you draw from for the worldbuilding within your book?
I’m a geologist by training, so the worldbuilding was a lot of fun for IRON. Kalima is a colony-world settled by idealists escaping environmental destruction and religious zealotism on Earth.
But when they terraformed the planet, they didn’t really take into account how important a history of life was on Earth to the availability of resources. Earth’s 3.5 billion+ year history of life lead to the formation of banded ironstones (our main source of iron ore), as well as chalk, lime, flint, marble, calcium carbonates, coals, oils, methane etc. All the stuff that’s allowed industrialisation (and destruction). Without all of those, once Earth stopped communicating, the colony was stuck in a semi-bronze age with minimal tech. But they are still aware of tech.
So it was hugely challenging to come up with alternatives for some things. How do you make concrete without the ingredients (lime, calcium etc). How do you make body armour without iron? How do you light fires without flint-and-tinder? How do you build buildings without steel frames? Or ships without iron nails? What do you make your cutlery out of without iron?
Every single thing you touch on a daily basis exists because we have all of those resources. Makes you think!
What inspires you to write?
Usually, I’m just bloody-minded and I’ll write irrespective of inspiration. If I wait, I get distracted by work and stress stuff. There’s no lack of stories, but there’s often a lack of energy or belief in myself.
When I’m feeling really down and unmotivated, I’ll remember the readers who have contacted me to let me know they loved my books. They went out of their way to find me to say I’d moved them. That makes my stories important to more than just me.
That makes it worth opening the laptop again.
What was the hardest part of writing this book?
Getting back the first lot of edits. It’s always slightly depressing to open the word file and see all the red and comments. I’ll usually go away for a day to process it all, then come back and get stuck in.
Deciding what to stand my ground on and actually keep when the editor said it should go – that was tricky, too, as I’m always second-guessing myself. Who am I to know whether it’s good or not?
But sometimes you have to keep your story’s vision firmly in mind and hit Reject on the suggested change. Other times you have to suck it up and go, Accept and lose some precious words you loved. It’s being grown-up and that always sucks.
What is your routine when writing, if any? If you don’t follow a routine, why not?
I work full time running my own business, so I write after hours and on weekends. I’ll usually unwind for an hour, have a cup of tea and chat with my husband. Then get stuck into a couple of hours of either writing or editing. I can’t do both, unfortunately.
What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
I LOVED writing the end of IRON. It was the big fight scene the whole book had been building to. I’m a martial artist and I also do archery and knife-throwing. So the fight scenes are always my favourite in each book I write.
And that payoff moment at the end of a book with the climax scene is always so damned satisfying.
Did you learn anything from writing this book and what was it?
IRON just kind of poured out of my fingers. Which is great, but also bad. It meant I had to go back and make sure it fit accepted narrative structure for a sci-fantasy novel. Which meant an XL spreadsheet with each scene listed and its wordcount. And I had to make sure every scene was in the right spot to hit the right structural beats. So I learned a lot about story structure and weaving in subplots and themes by working on IRON after I’d written it.
I’m more of a planner now than I was at the time.
Are you a plotter or a pantser? A gardener or an architect?
I wrote my first five books (the 80AD YA portal fantasy series) as a complete pantser. They were easy and fun and I fluked the structure of each book and the series. I guess I’d done so much reading that the structure came out by osmosis.
Since writing them and realising that some 400 000 people had read them (that was humbling) I figured I should learn more. So after I wrote IRON I learned about structure.
Now I’m half-half. I know the big story beats to hit and I definitely know the ending. But the bits in the middle I make up along the way. Which means there’s always some rewriting to do, but I enjoy that because it lets me do extra layering of worldbuilding and character depth and thematic underscoring that wasn’t there in the first draft.
It’s sometimes difficult to get into understanding the characters we write. How do you go about it?
I have a big XL spreadsheet with lots of columns. Full of things like their personality type, family, spiritual beliefs, ethics, favourite swear word, dialogue tics, body language habits, secrets, personal beliefs about themselves and their friends etc.
To start with, though, I usually only know their personality and their driving focus – the thing they want most. And I try to balance a team of characters so you get a cross-section of personalities. Leads to great conflict and co-operation.
What are your future project(s)?
I’m partway through a prequel to IRON, set 200 years earlier during a massive rebellion against the governing body. It’s mentioned a few times in IRON, FIRE, and STEEL, so I figured I should write it.
Then there’s a prequel to 80AD people have been nagging me for.
AND an ongoing series of urban fantasy novels set both before and after my Shadows trilogy of urban fantasy stories.
Not running out of things to do, that’s for sure!
What is your favorite book ever written? Who are your favorite authors?
Ooooh – I hate this question. Can one have a favourite book? I like several for various reasons. And ones I LOVED as a teenager would probably make me cringe now if I had to read them for the first time. I grew up on the classic sci-fi and fantasy novels, so I love the Asimov, Heinlin, Clarke stories. I have a soft spot for the Stainless Steel Rat series, too. But I also loved fantasy (Feist, Tolkein). And Sara J Maas stuff is good, too.
Then, I used to read cross-genre – Agatha Christie, Dick Francis, various cold-war thrillers/spy novels. And a heap of classic literature. Love Shakespeare. And Georgette Heyer. She’s my go-to relax read when my brain is full.
What makes a good villain?
I always like the idea that the villain is the hero of his own narrative. He has to want something important. Respect, love, control. And his actions should be as true to his underlying motivations as the protagonist’s are. Evil villains who just want power are a bit dull. WHY do they want power? Because their father was a demanding, critical bastard who never praised them? Because they had an older sibling they could never beat? Give us a true, human motivation that’s gone a bit skewy. Way more interesting than “mwahahaha, pat my white cat.”
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Spare time? What is this of which you speak? Alright. I do manage to squeeze a few things in. Mostly fantasy-approved hobbies. Martial arts (18 years now). Knife-throwing, archery, lute-playing, and occasionally belly-dancing.
It’s all fun and fodder for stories.
If you couldn’t be an author, what ideal job would you like to do?
Meh – a job is something you do to earn money to support the things you truly love. If you turn your creativity into a job it stops being wonderful and starts being horribly stressful.
I quite liked being a geologist, but I gave that up to spend more time with my family. Now I run a small business with reasonable hours and that gives me time to write and do the other fun stuff. That’s ideal, if you ask me. (unless, of course, I won millions in the lottery and could stop working completely).
Having said all that, if I could have a big property out bush, and invite people to come and learn archery, martial arts, writing, blacksmithing (my husband does this) etc, that would be pretty fun, too.
You can travel to any planet or moon in the Solar System. Where would you go, why and what would you do there?
Many years ago I wanted to be the first geologist on Mars. At the moment, though, I’d wait until someone’s invented radiation shielding. Otherwise it’s a long trip to my chosen planet and a very short life thereafter.
If there was decent shielding, though, definitely Mars to start with. I’d go just to be there. Just to stare up at the pink sky in wonder and touch the rocks and see if they are similar to Earth’s.
Pick any three characters from a fiction novel. These are now your roadtrip crew. Where do you go and what do you do?
Ah – I’d be having a fun criminal adventure with Slippery Jim DiGriz and his family from the Stainless Steel Rat series. I expect we’d rob banks and generally cause mayhem for governments and badguys alike. Get caught. Get out of jail. Explode things. Kill badguys. Fly in spaceships. That sort of thing.
Finally, 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)?
I’m generally on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/aiki.flinthart
But you can also find out more on
Also on Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5232750.Aiki_Flinthart
And Instagram @AikiFlinthart
And Twitter @@AikiFlinthart