My guest today is Amelia Faulkner, writer of historicals and paranormals, who today has provided us with a totally irrelevant but extremely delightful bonus corgi!
Welcome Amelia, and your corgi, and thanks for answering my questions.
Can you tell me a little about yourself? For instance, do you have to have a day job as well as being a writer?
I don’t! I’m a full-time writer. I used to work in I.T. but I eventually sidestepped into technical authoring, and from there into freelancing and self-publishing. I’ve been full-time self-employed for about six years now.
When you aren’t writing, is there any other creative activity you enjoy? Have you ever written about it?
I like to travel a lot, and have written many freelance travel articles (it’s not as exciting as it sounds). I also enjoy photography, but I haven’t written about that so much. It’s been useful in supplying images to accompany articles, though!
What are you reading? Can you recommend something that you wished you’d written yourself?
I’m currently reading KJ Charles’ A Fashionable Indulgence, and I absolutely wish I could have written her Magpie Lord series. It’s got all the things I love: horror, magic, and brilliant characters! If you haven’t read it (what the hell?) go, go go!
In that crucial inspiration stage of a new story which comes first? Plot, situation or character?
Character. I come up with the absolute bare bones of a character – two or three words at most. I pick at it and see how to make life hell for the poor bastard even though he or she is only a couple of words so far. For example, Ellis O’Neill began life as nothing more than “blind vampire”, and then he became “blind vampire art dealer” out of the kindness of my heart (cough). From there came a full background, tons of research, world-building… and then I had to start all over again with Randall 😉
Do your characters arrive fully fledged and ready to fly or do they develop as you work with them? Do you have a crisp mental picture of them or are they more a thought and a feeling than an image?
I spend days developing characters, fleshing them out, giving them histories and siblings and life experiences. I want to know who they are and how they might react in a given situation before I set foot on the outline. Ideas sprout from character research that wouldn’t have occurred to me if I’d leaped in with both feet, and knowing characters well prevents getting written into a corner halfway through the book.
I was a pantster once. It was horrible. I never finished anything.
Is there any genre you would love to write, ditto one you would avoid like a rattlesnake? What inspired you to write about vampires and werewolves?
I’d quite like to write Billionaire. In my old I.T. life I worked first-hand with multi-millionaires and a couple of billionaires, as well as old money British Aristocracy, and it was a very interesting insight into a very different world. I think the potential for stories which cross between that world of ultra-rich and normal life is limitless. I’m also working on the characters for a Police Procedural series.
I’m not sure that I could produce an especially realistic story featuring Cowboys. All the Arts of Hurting was as much research into horses as I could bear, I think, and even then my extremely horse-savvy editor had to steer me several times!
Paranormal has long been my cup of tea, though. I’ve always loved stories with a touch of horror to them, and I love delving into legends and mythology for inspiration. Vampires have been one of my main interests in this field for something like three decades. I love how they are essentially tailor-made for exploring the question of what makes a person a monster. At what point do you accept that you feed off people to survive? How far will you go to retain immortality once it becomes an option? Does it become easier to justify increasingly horrific decisions the longer you survive? What happens to a person who remains eternally young after everyone they loved has died? Like all good speculative fiction devices, the vampire is a superb lens through which to question humanity. And the most perfect contrast to the hidden monstrosity of a vampire is the outward monster of the werewolf, who has to cope with the things he’s done when he regains control and is left with blood and memories.
Do you find there to be a lot of structural differences between a relationship driven story and one where the romance is a sub plot?
At the most abstract level, not at all. But when you narrow down the focus things suddenly become very different. When romance is a sub-plot you can paint it in very broad strokes, but doing so often leads to the bland “and then he gets the girl” chestnut Hollywood has given us for decades. It reduces the heroine to nothing more than a prize, and there seems to be an expectation nowadays that a female character must absolutely be in the possession of a man by the end if she isn’t already at the start. It’s my main gripe about the otherwise great Star Trek reboot: Uhura was changed from a woman who had a highly skilled job on a starship to a woman who frequently has to wrangle her boyfriend to get ahead in her career. At first Spock derails her career (illogical, eh?), and then he restores her career by putting her on the ship she deserves to be on. A genre once renowned and acclaimed for its progressive thinking took a step back fifty years.
To have a romance be the primary driver of a story requires that the characters themselves are their own obstacles. Characters cannot be flawless; they can’t be perfect little Gary Stu’s. There’s no story if the most challenging interpersonal barrier is whether or not the hero can only get the girl (or, in my case, the other guy) if he wins a race, shoots a bad guy, or otherwise receives ’em as some kind of raffle prize.
The ultimate goal is still a structure with your chosen number of acts (five. Five is good. I like five) though, so from a distance it all looks like Kurt Vonnegut’s Shape of Stories chart.
When writing series, what measures do you take to keep track of those annoying little details – eye colour, car type, name of ex-spouse’s dog – that are so easy to drop into text and so easy to forget about?
It all goes into my character notes right at the start. Oh yeah. My character sheets are a work of sheer terror!
Put together your ideal team of men/women – drawing from all and any walks of life, fictional or non-fictional – who you would want to come to your rescue if menaced by muggers/alligators/fundamentalists?
I would totally want Whyborne and Griffin to leap in and rescue me from all of those things! I’d pay good money to see Whyborne burn some fundie faces off.
I’m not a violent person, honest.
Villains are incredibly important in fiction since they challenge the main protagonists and give them something to contend with beyond the tension of a developing relationship. The cruel sea. The serial killer. The society itself. Your hero’s inner demons. What sort of villains do you prize?
I like my villains to be people. I like them to have their reasons for what they do, you know? And it doesn’t always have to be the case that they believe they’re doing good, either, but they must believe they’re right. If they’re willing to fight so hard for what they want, they have got to believe in it. “I’m so evil I kill my own men” is only amusing in cheesy Eighties Hong Kong action movies.
I also like them to show the kind of person the hero could be with the right nudge. The old “Bwa ha ha, we are alike, you and I!” does actually have sound roots. A villain is most interesting when he is, to some extent, the dark mirror to your protagonist.
What are you working on at the moment? Can you discuss it or do you prefer to keep it a secret until it’s finished.
I’m currently working on Book Three of the Tooth & Claw series, Balance of Power. It picks up a couple of months after the fallout of Blood Moon Rising (spoilers, gosh), and this time it’s Randall who takes a back seat while Ellis gets up to his neck in poop… and takes another step toward losing his humanity…
Could we please have an excerpt of something?
Through Adversity – Historical, LoveLight Press.
“Help me down,” Krämer said.
Val shook himself free of his memories and turned his attention back to the man at his side. He took Krämer by the arm and helped the enemy pilot lower himself until he sat in the water, whereupon Krämer let out more uncomplimentary-sounding words in German and shivered as the water lapped around his waist.
“I told you it was bloody cold,” Val huffed.
“I think my, ah. What is the word? Sausage and eggs-”
Val stared at him as Krämer gestured idly down between his thighs, and felt his entire face grow hot as his eyes naturally followed for a moment.
Krämer laughed. “Yes, those. I think they have perhaps retreated into my body!”
“I’m not bloody surprised,” Val stammered as he searched for something else to lay eyes upon. He decided on a tree.
“Go,” Krämer said amid the light splashes of his bathing. “The water is not strong here, and I will call when I need your help to stand.”
“Are you absolutely certain?” Val glanced down in time to catch Krämer dipping his head into the water, and had to wait until the German resurfaced.
“Yes. Go. Besides-” Krämer grinned up at him, eyes alight with mischief “-I think in a minute or two you do not wish to stand downriver of me. I have not had use of a bathroom since this morning, and so much water is… inspiring.”
Val gaped in horror. “You- Well, I-” He huffed. “I swear, Leutnant Krämer, you are the most infuriating man I have ever met!”
“You may as well call me Siegfried,” Krämer answered. “Only my mother calls me Leutnant Krämer, and I wouldn’t like to be reminded of her while I piss.”
Val, spurred on by the thought of urine soaking his boots, waded as quickly as he could back to shore, to the sound of Krämer’s ridiculous, cheerful laughter at his back.
Tortured German fighter ace, Lt. Siegfried Krämer has a terrible secret which could ruin him: he prefers men. Hurried, loveless encounters have armed him with a sardonic wit and a bleak outlook, and he faces a life in which his only companion is his dog, Eike.
The young and talented Lt. Valentine Westbrook should be considered an ace, but most of his victories are unconfirmed, and now that his squadron is relegated to bombing missions the chances of him ever reaching the magic number are dwindling. When he encounters an equally-skilled enemy pilot during a terrible storm, Valentine is unable to resist the hunt.
Both men soon abandon all common sense and – with a protracted dogfight at their backs – crash-land in the midst of the German Empire’s last great offensive push. Injured, stranded, and with no idea which side of the Line they are on, they must work together if they are to survive. One of them will become the other’s prisoner just as soon as they figure out where they are, but until then they are stuck with no food and no shelter in storms which don’t seem ready to end. But worse still, their mutual respect blossoms into something dangerously intimate, and their lives are about to become forever intertwined…
Amelia’s latest release, Balance of Power, is available NOW.
A blind man who won’t die. A new Alpha learning to lead. And London’s oldest vampire has had enough of them both…
Tooth & Claw, Book 3.
The vampire Ellis O’Neill has weathered more attempts on his life in a year than most people suffer in a lifetime. His continued survival is down to a collection of facts he prefers to keep closely-guarded secrets: his lover is a werewolf; he’ll break whatever laws he has to; and he’s willing to become a monster to protect those he loves.
Werewolf Randall Carter is settling into his new role as Alpha. For a man used to a lifetime of bullying and abuse this is a terrifying change, and it’s taking everything he has to work out how to do his best without it all falling down around his ears.
Ellis’ world is about to fall apart. His best friends harbour a secret which could ruin them all. His brother is headed to London to recover their father’s loan. Barb wants him for her revolution. And Charles Devitt wants him destroyed once and for all.
Christmas is coming, but peace and goodwill are nowhere to be found…
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