HURRAH! PARTY TIME! We’re very excited to welcome Sophie to the team. Her Darkling Chronicles novels are a perfect blend of YA and adult fantasy, with exceptional world-building and a deep, passionate story. Having read the first book some time ago and loved it, when Sophie approached Kristell Ink, we were thrilled!
More to come on the books (so we can iron out some creases), but for now, here’s an interview with Soph.
A life-changing 4 month trip to New Zealand back in 1997/1998. It was several years before Peter Jackson started filming the LOTR, but we were clearly inspired by the same landscapes. I was literally standing on the roof of the world, high up on a pristine snow field above the Franz Josef glacier, with startling white crystals beneath my boots and nothing but blue above me. It was electrifying. As I stared at the hundreds of mountain peaks stretching away below me, the story suddenly came to me – White Mountain, home of an eccentric scholarly old wizard and his dragon companion. I knew I wanted the story to be set now, amongst our modern world, not in some distant past or other world. The juxtaposition of a modern technological society and ancient sorcery intrigued me. How would we react to suddenly finding out that we share our planet with a far older race of people that pre-date our own, some of whom want their Earth back and the plague of humanity scourged from the globe or enslaved? How would modern technology, no matter how advanced, hold up against millennia old magic? Over the next few weeks as I travelled around, the story developed in my mind until I found myself writing the first very rough draft on the 29 hour journey home.
I then took the next several years researching, writing and re-writing…it was quite a journey!
Sounds wonderful! What books have most influenced your life the most?
I love Joseph Conrad’s ‘Heart Of Darkness’ for its unsettling moodiness. That book, despite being a slender tome, absolutely drips with atmosphere! I also adore Tolkien’s ‘The Lord Of The Rings’ & ‘Silmarillion’, C.S Lewis ‘Chronicles of Narnia’, Neil Gaiman ‘Stardust’ & ‘Neverwhere’, Philip K Dick’s ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep’ & ‘A Scanner Darkly’, Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’, Anne McCaffrey’s ‘Pern’ series, David Gemmell’s ‘Waylander’, GRR Martin ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ series, Suzanne Collins ‘Hunger Games’ trilogy and fellow Bristolian done good, Mark Lawrence and his ‘Broken Empire’ series, I’ve read ‘Prince of Thorns’ and am now on number two ‘King of Thorns’!
Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Wow, I learnt loads of things! Firstly, the research was pretty exhaustive as I wanted the book to feel as real as possible despite the fantastical elements. So I know all about the geology and botany of the Congo, the Russian taiga, the Amazon, the Himalayas. I researched ancient history, cultures and civilisations like the Sumerians, Gilgamesh, the Indus Valley civilisation, Siberian indigenous tribes, the Ba’Aka forest people of the Congolese Basin. I know the African Bantu word for witch is Undokki, one of my characters names. Everything has a reference and a meaning. Some of that comes from my love of etymology and the derivation of words, some of it from the Anglo-Saxon place names I grew up around. Greenhill near to my family home, was exactly that, a green hill, Bodyce Orchard, is where bodies were buried during the English Civil War…I love word meanings.
But the biggest thing I learnt, was simply how to plot, how to pull story elements and sub-plots and bring them all together. Lol, I was also watching BSG a lot when I was writing my battle scenes so I think that helped!
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Daft really, as it’s so obvious, but don’t give up…EVER. Writing is damn hard, even when things are flowing well and you’re ‘in the zone’, being a writer is both the best and worst job in the world. There will be so many times when you just want to throw in the towel, so many times where you feel as if you’re banging your head against a brick wall that’s about twenty feet high. But, if writing was easy, I guess everyone would be doing it…lol, even though it sometimes feels like everyone is!
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Yes…my appalling typing! My spelling is actually very good but you’d never know it as my typing is SO bad. I swear I have sausages strapped to my fingers sometimes!
The most challenging thing about writing, really, is just the writing. It’s finding a quiet place without interruptions where you can really settle down and let the creative juices flow…finding that in modern life, with busy jobs, pets, family etc., is very hard sometimes.
Who’s your favourite character in your first Darkling Chronicles book?
Yikes, it changes all the time! It was Mr. Agyk because I always saw him as my hero, David Attenborough and I just wanted to pick his brain. No matter what mistakes he makes, as he’s far from perfect, his heart is always in the right place. Then I plumped for Gralen, who is so like me it’s scary…we even share the same table manners! But at the moment, it’s Wendya Undokki. I love her mixture of fragility, someone who has been through a lot and has hidden herself away from the world (I’m a bit of a hermit too), but someone who is also capable of great strength and resourcefulness.
What are you reading at the moment?
I have two books on the go at the moment, I’ve just started ‘King of Thorns’ and I am reading my dear friend, Lindsey J Parson’s ‘Wicked Game’ that she published only a few months before she sadly passed. It’s a wonderful tribute to her talents.
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Yes, quite a few. Mark Lawrence is the most notable as not only are his books great reads, but he’s doing so damn well! I like Joe Abercrombie and am beginning to get into Patrick Rothfuss too.
When looking for a publisher, what did you look for?
Firstly, terrific books on their…er…books. You look for a publisher with a great range of titles, professional looking covers and a vibrant feel to them. You want a publisher who is proactive, supportive of their authors and who loves books as much as you do. But for me, as silly and simplistic as it sounds, you want a publisher who is honest, open, friendly, approachable, trustworthy and who is just a cool dude or dudette! Grimbold are ALL of those things and much much more. Sadly, not all publishers are like that and can take advantage of unwary authors. I genuinely feel so lucky and thrilled to be signed with Grimbold.
With today’s book market changing, and brick stores closing, how do you as an author feel about that?
It is both an exciting and scary time. Authors and publishers have to constantly change their approach to marketing and promoting as it is definitely a much harder market to break into. A lot of that has to do with the sheer quantity of books out there, it is a saturated marketplace, which makes it very difficult to stand out from the crowd, so it forces you to think ‘outside of the box’ and be creative in your approach to reaching readers and widening your audience. Luckily, despite the huge surge in ebooks, I don’t think we’ll ever completely lose our brick and mortar bookshops.
Any words of wisdom to close on?
Always try to follow your dreams and make friends with your local independent bookshop. As the big chain bookstores continue to be tricky to get into, it makes it even more important to support your local bookshops, then they’ll support you.