Since Kristen Britain's Firebrand (Canada, USA, Europe) has just been released, the timing was perfect to have a chat with the author.
Here's the blurb:
Green Rider Karigan G’ladheon, not yet recovered in heart or mind from her unexpected trip through time, is assigned a new mission. She must seek out the legendary creatures called p’ehdrosian to renew an alliance of old in the face of dire threats from enemies who seek to destroy Sacoridia using dark magic. Each step on her journey northward grows more perilous as she faces attacks from groundmites, encounters with ghosts, and, ultimately, the threat of the necromancer and leader of Second Empire, Grandmother, as they approach the enemy encampment in the Lone Forest. Meanwhile, King Zachary of Sacoridia has been kidnapped by an ice elemental who is allied with Second Empire. Can Karigan free her king from captivity with just two allies by her side?
- Without giving anything away, can you give readers a taste of the tale that is FIREBRAND and the Green Rider series?
FIREBRAND is the latest installment in the Green Rider series, which follows the adventures of king's messenger (Green Rider) Karigan G'ladheon. Karigan is constantly challenged on a personal, as well as larger, level and some of her trials in the new book will be quite difficult for her to overcome. I've also drawn the character of King Zachary more into this latest book which should make for an interesting dynamic. In the previous books he has had only two very small point of view scenes.
- Are you happy with the advance praise garnered by FIREBRAND thus far?
To be honest I have not seen a lot of it since I have been very busy around release, but I am gratified that the response seems positive so far.
- Will you be touring during the course of the spring to promote FIREBRAND? If so, are there any specific convention dates that have been confirmed as of yet?
I won't be doing any formal touring, but do have some events lined up. I've just returned from Emerald City Comic Con which was overwhelming but fun, and will be doing signings at the Las Cruces, NM Barnes & Nobel 3/25, and the El Paso, TX Public Library (main branch) 3/26. I'll be a guest of honor at Ad Astra in Toronto 5/5-5/7. Then onward to the Jesup Memorial Library in Bar Harbor, ME for an event 5/12.
- Is the release of a new book always stressful, or does the feeling fades to a lesser extent now that you have gained a wider readership?
For me personally, book release is a little stressful every time. Maybe because it has happened to me fewer times than other authors and I am not as accustomed to it. There is suddenly a lot of activity on social media, requests for interviews, essays, blogs, etc. I am introverted and the sudden scrutiney can be a little intimidating. But, it is also a pleasure to get one's book out into the world to share with others.
- What can readers expect from the upcoming sequels? Any tentative titles and release dates?
I am under contract for at least two more Green Rider books, titles and dates TBA.
- Now that you've made it to the New York Times Bestseller list, is there added pressure when the time comes to release something new? Readers likely have higher expectations with each new work you publish. Do you ever think about that, or about the fact that publishers now expect you to move a certain amount of units every time something with your name on it hits the shelves?
Yes, I do feel a little more pressure to perform with each book, which adds to the stress addressed above, however I am not sure how much of the pressure is actually extermal or internal. I think we tend to be harder on ourselves. Of course, it's better not to bomb, because that can precipitate a downward spiral in one's career.
- What do you feel is your strength as a writer/storyteller?
Characters. At least that's what I am told. I like to meddle in the affairs of my characters, and they are the ones who dictate how the story goes.
- What comes first for you when it comes time to consider your next novel: themes you wish to explore, a setting you're interested in, or characters you want to write about?
All of the above, really, though characters, and what is to become of them, really drives a given book.
- Were there any perceived conventions of the fantasy genre which you wanted to twist or break when you set out to write the Green Rider series?
One was landscape. I grew up reading fantasy in the late '70s and '80s and it seemed that many books were set in a sort of pseudo-European landscape, perhaps because of Tolkien. When I started the first book, I was living in Maine, which is really the landscape of my heart, and thought it would make a wonderful backdrop for a fantasy novel, which I thought would also break the mold of the generic or pseudo-European landscape.
- Characters often take a life of their own. Which of your characters did you find the most unpredictable to write about?
Xandis Amberhill. He was supposed to be a no-name walk on character, but he sort of stole the show in THE HIGH KING'S TOMB.
- GREEN RIDER was originally published 19 years ago. I know it doesn't make you feel any younger, but how special is it to see the book still selling after nearly two decades? Are you surprised by your debut's longevity?
I am actually surprised and delighted by GREEN RIDER's longevity, especially knowing that some books barely see the light of day before vanishing into the mists. We gave out a lot of copies at Emerald City Comic Con and I hope it will find new readers. And no, acknowledging the 19 years doesn't make me feel any younger...aaaaaahhhhh!!
- Cover art has become a very hot topic of late. What are your thoughts pertaining to that facet of a novel, and what do you think of the covers that grace your books?
As mentioned above, I grew up reading fantasy novels in the late '70s and '80s. The Brothers Hildebrandt were very hot. I absolutely loved their Tolkien calenders and their paintings really seemed to catch some ambiance of The Lord of the Rings and carry on the story in some way. So, maybe I'm a little old fashioned in liking highly illustrative covers. I feel very fortunate in my covers, first illustrated by Keith Parkinson, then carried on by Donato after Keith's premature death. I own some of the original art, if that is any indication of how much I love the covers.
- Have the plotlines diverged much since you began writing the series, or did you have the entire plot more or less figured out from the very beginning? Were any characters added or further fleshed out beyond your original intention? Have you made any changes to your initial plans during the course of the writing of the series?
My "plans" are very general. When I wrote GREEN RIDER, I had no idea if anyone would want it, much less a sequel. Unlike JK Rowling, I have been mostly flying by the seat of my pants.
- According to George R. R. Martin, most authors are either architects, who write novels based on detailed outlines, or gardeners, who have a general idea of where the storylines are going but prefer to watch things grow as they go along. Which type of writer are you and why do you prefer that approach?
I tend to be more of a "gardener". I am not much of a planner in any aspect of my life.
- Some writers admit having a favorite book among those they've written previously, others say that their favorite is their current work in progress, and others still say it's always the next book that hasn't been written yet. How about you?
I am fond of all the books for one reason or another. In each I try to challenge myself and my abilities, and I think that is a key to continued creativity, plus increasing skill.
- Neil Gaiman said of Lord Dunsany’s THE KING OF ELFLAND’S DAUGHTER, “...It’s a rich red wine, which may come as a shock if all one has had so far has been cola.” If FIREBRAND was a drink, which one would it be? Would you recommend downing it in one shot or sipping it slowly...?
I don't know. Depends what kind of drinker the reader is ;-). From what I gather from readers I hear from, it is a fast shot.
- If your readers could only take one thing away from having read FIREBRAND (apart from enjoying the read) what would you want that thing to be?
That as much as there can be terrible things that happen, there is also humor and delight.
- You have been writing novels for nearly two decades. What has changed the most in the speculative fiction genre since you began your career? How about you as a writer?
I think, and it's not necessarily genre-centric, the biggest changes have been in technology and markets, as well as in the diversity of voices being published. Since I started writing GREEN RIDER, the internet became a thing and personal computers have proliferated. Amazon became a giant and old standbys such as Borders and B. Dalton and others failed. Independent publishing has become popular as have ebooks. As far as diversity, fantasy publishing no longer belongs to one single culture or race, which enriches the genre. It will be interesting to see what the future holds.
- If you could go back in time and offer some advice to Kristen Britain at the start of her career, what would it be?