May I introduce Leona Henry in this interview!
1. What genre are your books?
Dark fantasy, which is also known as grimdark.
2. What draws you to this genre?
I have fallen in love with it after reading A Song of Ice and Fire by George Martin. Though it really started with Tolkien’s masterpiece, The Silmarillion, which is quite dark and grim.
3. What project are you working on at the moment?
I am working on the first book of a trilogy, I’m halfway through the first draft and hoping to finish it before the end of spring 2015.
4. What’s it about?
The most powerful empire of the civilized world is on the brink of falling apart. The heroic emperor Thalios goes on a battle campaign to drive back the savage enemies raiding his eastern realm. But a much greater war is brewing and threatening the entire world, eventually drawing in the elemental races who had been living isolated from the humans for eons.
5. Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is special?
The main character of the WIP book is Liberius, a veteran general whose loyalty to the emperor is stuff of legend. He is dedicated to justice -his own twisted version of it. The truly special thing he did: I wrote him as a minor character, but he literally came alive and took over the whole story, becoming the main character. He pretty much wrote the story and changed the book into something entirely different from what I originally planned. That was a magical experience. The special things he does in the story I cannot tell, for it would be a major spoiler.
The actual main character of the entire series is an unpredictable, trollish chaos deity.
6. Have you written anything else?
I’ve written a bunch of speculative fiction short stories in Turkish language when I was much younger and one of them -a horror suspense- won an award from a radio station contest. I’ve also written a series of essays on Byzantine history, also in Turkish language. They were academic in nature with citations and all, but written like stories. These essay-stories received a surprising amount of feedback.
7. What are your ambitions for your writing career?
Write a lot of books and eventually become a full time writer. My greatest ambition is to inspire fan fiction and fan art featuring my characters.
8. Which writers inspire you?
Chekhov, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Kafka, Francois Rabeleis (which is a medieval French writer, whose masterpiece Gargantua and Pantagruel has inspired many, including Aleister Crowley), Homer, Shakespeare, Tolkien, George Martin, R. Scott Bakker.
9. When did you decide to become a writer? Why do you write?
I always enjoyed writing, but I decided to pursue a writing career in early 2014. I write mainly cause I want to write fantasy from a non-western perspective. Almost all fantasy fiction is based on medieval European culture or elements of the Viking lore, and the eastern cultures have such a vast amount of unexplored myth screaming to be explored. I want to show the readers of fantasy fiction the things they had never seen before.
10. Do you have a special time or place to write?
Oh yes! Crowded and noisy places, mainly pubs and cafes.
11. Where do you get your inspiration?
Byzantine and Turkish history, mythology and folklore of the Near Eastern and Central Asian cultures, Turkic and Mongolian shamanism, sufi mysticism, Ancient Egyptian mysticism and occult teachings.
12. Do you work on an outline or do you prefer to see where the idea takes you?
I prepare a crude outline, then I let the characters write the story. They take it to rather interesting places.
13. Do you ever get writer’s block? How do you overcome it?
I believe writer’s block is a myth. When I figured out I can only write in crowded and noisy places, I gave up trying to write at home, and the writer’s block became a thing of the past. Now I exclusively write at public places with cozy couches and the words keep pouring out of the keyboard.
14. What is the hardest thing for you about writing?
I am a naturalized American citizen but I was born and raised in Turkey with eastern culture and I keep forgetting I’m writing for the western readers who are used to the medieval European setting. For example in the Eastern Roman Empire, the nobility was far more down to earth compared to medieval European nobility. I didn’t even realize the cultural gap until my American alpha readers pointed out to certain things in the story. What was normal in the medieval Eastern Roman and Armenian cultures would be considered unacceptable in medieval Europe and vice versa. Remembering to stop and clarify the cultural differences is difficult when I’m on a writing spree.
15. How do you market your books? Why did you choose this route?
The very first thing was telling all of my fantasy and role playing gamer geek friends about my writing. Hopefully they will promote my books if I manage to impress them. I am very active in the blogging scene and the social media, so these are the most obvious marketing avenues for me. I am working very hard to grow the traffic of my blog, and I have seen great results in just 2 months. Networking and becoming an a contributing member of the book reviewer community definitely makes a huge difference and helps you get reviews. Good reviews from the reputable book bloggers bring sales.
I am also planning to become active on fantasy genre forums and reaching out to the people who are tired of waiting for George Martin to release The Winds of Winter, since my book is in the same sub-genre. I really don’t like directly promoting my own books, but I mention little things about the story or the historical events that inspire me here and there, which gets people curious and they end up asking questions. They get even more curious when I answer their questions, this is how I lined up a number of alpha and beta readers. I am also planning to promote my books at the local SFF conventions.
16. How much research do you do?
An insane amount. I started by reading a Wikipedia article, and after 2 months of in depth research I found myself correcting and adding citations to the Wikipedia articles about the topics I had been researching.
I have read the major Byzantine and Armenian history chronicles circa 11-12th century, quite a number of academic research papers and theses covering a myriad of subjects like the military strategies and warfare, cuisine, medicine, shipbuilding, theology, political structure, social structure, legal code, trade, architecture, status of the foreign refugees, the relations between the church and the state, currency debasing, economy, financial crises, relations with allies and enemies and of course the glorious battles. I have acquired a lot of academic papers on Turkic/Mongolian shamanism and the nomadic cultures in the Mongolian and Siberian steppes. I have a heap of academic books about the Eastern Roman history, Turkic shamanism and ancient Turkish mythology. I am quite familiar with some of them due to my heritage but I wanted to gain expert knowledge. This is kind of crazy, like going quail hunting with a tank, but the particular period I was researching was so fascinating, I couldn’t stop digging deeper and deeper. I ended up becoming an amateur medieval historian on the side.
17. Do you write on a typewriter, computer, dictate or longhand?
Laptop all the way. Find-Replace is my friend and the automatic spellchecker is a life saver. I use Evernote on my phone to take notes when I have the Eureka! moments of inspiration.
18. What are some of your favorite books/authors?
J.R.R. Tolkien, Anton Chekhov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Franz Kafka, J.R.R. Tolkien, George R.R. Martin, R. Scott Bakker, J.K. Rowling, Patrick Rothfuss, Raymond E. Feist, R.A. Salvatore, Janny Wurts, Tracy Hickman, Margaret Weis, Mark Lawrence, Arthur C. Clarke, Wiliam Gibson, Neal Stephenson to name a few.
As for books, they are too many to name but I can say Tolkien’s entire Legendarium, A Song of Ice and Fire, Harry Potter, Russian classics, French classics (especially Gargantua and Pantagruel!), The Prince of Nothing trilogy, Dragonlance, Riftwar Saga, Forgotten Realms, The Kingkiller Chronicle and The Broken Empire.
19. Are you currently reading any books?
Right now I’m reading King of Thorns by Mark Lawrence and The Works of Procopius: The Secret History and the Wars of Justinian.
20. How can readers discover more about you and your work?
My blog would be the best source. I am quite active on Twitter, too.