Shona Kinsella is the author of fantasy novel Ashael Rising, which was published this year through crowdfunded press Unbound. Find out what makes her tick in this rapid-fire interview.
Read Shona's guest post on the world (or worlds) of speculative fiction here.
1. Tell me a bit about yourself
I live in the west of Scotland with my husband and three children. I love spending time in nature and much of my writing is inspired by that. I love music and used to play the violin. I daydream about having a library in my house.
2. Tell me about Ashael Rising (include a quote if you like)
Ashael is an apprentice medicine woman in a hunter-gatherer society. Her people are threatened by the return of the Zanthar, invaders from another world who extend their own lives by stealing the life-force from others. When the Zanthar kidnap her friends and demand that Ashael exchange herself for them, she must discover who and what she really is to save her people and all of [her homeworld of] KalaDene.
3. Where did the idea for the novel come from? How long did it take you to write?
The idea came from a dream I had about nine years ago. I was a warrior fairy, fighting in a war against evil magicians who were enslaving my people. None of that actually made it into the book but the final image – flying above a desolate and war-torn land – stuck in my mind and formed the seed which eventually became Ashael Rising. It took me about a year and a half to write the first draft, three months to write the second and then four months or so of edits back and forth with [publisher] Unbound.
4. What's on the cards next?
I currently have three projects lined up. Over the next several months, I’ll be writing for and editing an anthology of short stories by Unbound authors. All the stories will be in some way linked to a library. In between bouts of working on that, I’ll be finishing a novella I started writing in November, called The Longest Night. It’s about a tribe living in the arctic equivalent in their world when the sun does not rise after mid-winter. After that, I’ll be starting on the sequel to Ashael Rising.
5. Tell me about your creative process. How do you approach your writing?
My usual glib answer is that I sit down at the keyboard and wait to see what words fall out. I am the very definition of a "pantser" [one who flies by the seat of their pants. I confess, I had to look this up — ed], sometimes having only the vaguest of ideas about what I’m going to write next. The first draft of most things feel like I’m channeling the story from somewhere else. It’s not until I begin editing that I feel as though I start to shape the work.
6. How long have you been writing fiction? Have you always had a novel waiting to get out? What other kinds of writing do you do?
I started writing fiction as a child and dabbled with it on and off through my teens. Eventually life got in the way and I stopped for a long time, only going back to it in 2014. I have always had a great love of books and writing one has been on my bucket list for as long as I’ve had a list. As well as the novel, I blog, write reviews and write flash fiction.
7. How do you balance your family life with your creative life?
I’ll let you know if I ever figure it out! Honestly, I can’t say that I’ve found the perfect balance yet. Sometimes I’m really focused on the writing and I feel like I’m neglecting my family, and other times, my focus is on them and my work takes a back seat. I try to work when the kids are asleep or otherwise engaged and fit my writing into little pockets of time when no one needs me. I haven’t found a new routine yet since I had my baby eight weeks ago.
8. What made you decide to write a fantasy novel?
I actually think this was inevitable. Although I read widely, fantasy has always been my favourite genre, so it seemed natural that I would write that. I don’t think I made a conscious decision.
9. What are you reading at the moment? What's next on your list?
I am reading The Fireman, by Joe Hill, and Asian Monsters, an anthology edited by Margret Helgadottir. Both are excellent books – I have to tear myself away from them to get any work done! I highly recommend them. Next, I expect to read Bellica, by Katje Van Loon.
10. Which writer(s) do you most strive to emulate? Why?
Stephen King, for his character building. He is a master of writing well-rounded, meaningful characters.
George RR Martin, for his complexity of story.
Brandon Sanderson, for his world-building. Even his short stories are totally immersive.
If you could combine all those things, I think you would have the best genre writer ever.
11. What's your favourite book of all time? Why?
I have to cheat, because it’s The Dark Tower series by Stephen King. I love it. I love the characters, the fact that it’s an epic fantasy in a western setting, the way it sits over all of King’s other work. I love the themes of ka-et and ka as a wheel. The whole thing. I’ve read all of the books several times and I enjoy them more each time. I’m sure I’ll continue to go back to them.
12. How have you found the crowdfunding process with Unbound? Would you do it again, or go down the "traditional" route?
Crowdfunding was like nothing I’ve ever done before. It was incredibly stressful and exhilarating and overwhelming. I do intend to submit the rest of the KalaDene books to Unbound, as well as the anthology I mentioned above, so, unless they don’t want me, I will be doing it again. I’m hoping it’ll get a little easier as people get invested in the series.
Having said that, I do have other ideas (such as the novella) that I would consider taking elsewhere, or even self-publishing. I think it’s a good idea for authors to have more than one income stream. I can see myself being a hybrid author, doing a bit of indie and a bit of trad publishing.
13. Where do you find inspiration?
Everywhere. In nature, in funny things my kids say, in pictures I see on the internet, in laundry, in music… I could go on and on.
14. What helps you get out of a creative slump?
Often, switching what I’m working on will help. So when I was writing Ashael Rising, if I was struggling, I would write a flash piece or a short story. If that doesn’t work, then stepping away altogether does. Doing something physical is best — going for a walk or getting stuck into the housework. Sometimes I put music on and dance about the house with my kids. That type of thing always refreshes me so that the next time I turn on the computer I’m ready to write again.
15. And lastly, just for fun, if you could have dinner with any writer, living or dead, who would it be?
Stephen King – but then I’d probably be too star-struck to speak to him!
Find out more about Shona, and buy Ashael Rising (The Vessel of KalaDene: Book One):
Ashael Rising is available for purchase at: http://bit.ly/ashaelrising
You can also buy the book at Unbound: https://unbound.com/books/ashael-rising