Distant Worlds – Welcomes Ellen Crosháin!

This is the ninth post of a new blog series, as I dip my toes into the mysterious waters of author interviews!

Having watched so many fantastic interviewers (Tricia Drammeh and her Authors to Watch, AFE Smith (see below), Katrina Jack and her New Authors section and Susan Finlay’s Meet the Author to name a few of the best – please check out their wonderful blogs), I’ve always been a little reluctant to throw my hat into the ring…but here goes!

One of my all-time favourite worldbuilding PC games, is Sid Meier’s ‘Alpha Centauri’. So, in homage to that (and a shameless rip off of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Desert Island Discs’ and AFE Smith’s brilliant blog series Barren Island Books), here is my own author interview series – Distant Worlds.

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To kick off the Distant Worlds strand, over the last few weeks I’ve been focusing on fellow fantasy and sci-fi authors from ultra-cool UK publishing house, Grimbold Books and their imprints, Kristell Ink and Tenebris Books – a bunch of uber talented and whacky characters who I am also proud to call friends.

Grimbold Books were also doing a fabulous ‘Summer Promotion’ from 31st July – 4th August, where ALL of its wonderful titles were priced at only 99p/99c across Amazon platforms. Now, although the promotion is now over, there are still great bargains to be had, so grab yourself something special before the prices go back to normal! Awesome fiction at awesome prices!!!! hyperurl.co/GrimboldBooks 

Right, now to our ninth author interview…wonderful paranormal fantasy writer, the galactically awesome…

Ellen Crosháin

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Ellen, YOU find yourself cast adrift in deep space, your colony pod’s life support is failing, your only chance of survival is a distant habitable world…

What 5 essentials would you choose to help you survive?

Knowing my luck, I’ll have crash-landed on a planet with blistering sunshine. Being Irish, and paler than a vampire, I’d need a sun hat. I’d need a notebook and a pen to record my last piece of artistic genius (giggles), a big bottle of grapefruit squash and some turkey jerky.

What 5 personal items would you salvage from your crashed ship before it explodes?

My favourite wedding photo, a photo of my daughter, a photo of my guinea pigs, my current WIP and Pickle, the teddy bear I made for my little girl.

Would you seek life-forms for help or go it alone?

I’d like to say I’d seek out other life-forms for help but given what I’ve been researching and writing for my current WIP I’d be afraid they might eat me!

What 5 fantasy/sci-fi books would you have to keep with you and why?

  1. Jim Butcher – Ghost Story (The Dresden Files) as I am currently listening to this. I have fallen a little in love with Harry Dresden during my pregnancy. He is a wizard detective and is a really interesting character. He is also a huge nerd and loves things like Star Wars and LOTR.
  2. Neil Gaiman – American Gods. I love, love, love mythology and this novel is just amazing. It takes the traditions of loads of different mythologies and does something new and exciting with them.
  3. J.R.R Tolkien – The Lord of the Rings simply because it tells us that ordinary people can achieve extraordinary things no matter how scary the enemy is.
  4. Jim Butcher – Blood Rites (The Dresden Files). This is probably my favourite of the series. Poor Harry, who is still quite young at this stage, is very easily embarrassed and hasn’t had sex in a while, is asked to investigate some spooky murders on the set of an adult film. This a typical example of Butcher’s ability to balance humour, drama and pathos.
  5. Derek Landy – Skullduggery Pleasant. A skeleton detective, a powerful female protagonist, magic and set in Ireland. Enough said.

What 5 songs or albums could you not live without?

Oh, this is a hard one as I have such eclectic taste. At the moment I am loving Kelly Clarkson’s ‘Invincible’ as it fits Áine my main female character from my current WIP. It’s on repeat as I write. I am a massive fan of musicals as well and my favourite is ‘Phantom of the Opera’ so I’d need that sound track. I love Classical/Baroque music so I’d need my disc that has Vivaldi’s ‘Four seasons’, Pachebel’s ‘Canon in D’ and Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight Sonata’. I love Bon Jovi, especially the 90s stuff so I’d need them and finally my Edith Piaf CD ‘La vie en Rose.’

You are all alone on a distant world with little chance of being rescued…do you choose water, vodka or coca-cola to drown your sorrows?

VODKA…ahem. Sorry, I haven’t had a drink in 9 months. Also vodka is good for cleaning wounds and I am very clumsy so would need to clean wounds.

Random comet question: Ellen, as well as being a phenomenally talented writer, you are also an English teacher and a new mum. How have your experiences of being an English teacher, reading and commenting on so many stories from your pupils as well as being a mum, influenced your own writing? 

I adore teaching English and unsurprisingly creative writing is my favourite thing to do. But there are some issues with teaching it. First off, basic literacy can be a nightmare. Top tip: read to your children. If they cannot read or write they are going to spend their whole school career, and beyond, struggling and having their natural curiosity and joy slowly eroded. Kids also really struggle with being free in their writing. They always ask how long should it be or if they are allowed to have vampires or monkeys or whatever in their story. I always smile and say ‘Do what you want. It’s your story. As long as you follow the basics of literacy, I’m happy.’ Once they get that they can be free with their words (and oy vey, do they need constant reassurance that they are allowed to be, that what they are doing is ok) amazing things happen. Kids have incredible imaginations and are naturally curious and their ideas for stories are often so much better than anything I could come up with. They see things from a new angle that I would not have seen and they have incredible ideas. For example, one year 11 who was struggling to rewrite a fairy story, asked if it had to follow the happily ever after pattern. I said it could be whatever he wanted. He turned Goldilocks and the three bears into a story about a jewel heist. When I see stuff like that, I am inspired to take risks with my own writing and just to try it. For example, Faroust in the sequel to ‘Cruelty’ is radically different to the creature we met in the first book. It might work, it might not but it’s fun seeing where it goes.

As for being a new mum, wow. I am in awe of the little creature who is sleeping in my living room as I type. I never want to stop looking at her, but I really should nap when she does. When I found out I was having a daughter, Áine, my female protagonist, took on a new meaning. I am unashamedly a Feminist, one that believes that Feminism allows a woman to be whatever she wants, from a pageant contestant to a neurologist and I want my daughter to live in a world where fiction represents that you can be both strong and gentle, frightened and protective, angry and powerful, unafraid of emotion and aware of limitations. Hopefully, Áine will be able to balance all of this.

You have 30 seconds (max 100 words) to tell the alien approaching you about your latest book. Remember this is more pressurised than an elevator pitch – screw up and he’ll eat your brains! Go!

Ooh, right. I’m writing the sequel to ’Cruelty’. It’s about 25 years later and Eliza and Cornelius have two children, Áine and Caolán. Life seems pretty good until the Veil tears open and the two children are stolen by the Fae. Why, you ask? Hah, spoilers. But we see the return of Faroust and we wander into the Otherworlds, where we meet the Queens of the two Faerie courts, changelings and a few disgraced High Lords and Ladies of Sidhé along the way. It’s on a much larger scale than ‘Cruelty’ but it fits.

How would you choose to spend your time on this distant world?

I would explore, gathering inspiration, and if the residents are nice and not likely to eat me, I would find out about their experience of life, their traditions and histories.

What 5 things would you miss most about Earth?

My daughter, my husband, my guinea pigs, chocolate, tea.

What 5 things would you NOT miss about Earth?

Rudeness, green peppers, housework, bills, bananas.

Time-traveller questions (for Dr. Who fans): What is the one thing you wish you could turn back time and change?

There is one thing but it would depend on the other person.

If you had the chance again to go on this deep space adventure, would you take it?

Oh yeah. You have to take risks and chances.

What 5 indie authors and books you would recommend to any carbon based lifeform – and why?

All of the Grimboldians! Because we’re doing fantasy our way. We’re an eclectic bunch of talented people who have a wide range of interests and experiences which makes for new and exciting fiction. Here’s my top 5 of our catalogue:

  1. Sammy HK Smith – In Search of Gods and Heroes.
  2. Joanne Hall – The Art of Forgetting
  3. Joanne Hall – The Art of Forgetting: Nomad
  4. Sophie E Tallis – White Mountain
  5. A.J Dalton – Book of Orm

What advice can you give to fellow space travellers (writers and readers) out there?

You have to read. There are so many adventures to be had and things to experience. You can live a thousand lives, experience things you never would do otherwise. Reading makes you a better writer. And don’t stick to just one genre; be brave and jump into something new. You never know how much fun you’ll have!

Before we leave you and blast into another parallel universe, please tell us about yourself, your inspirations and your publishers!

profile-300x300Ellen Crosháin in her own words…

My inspirations are really varied: from Irish mythology to romance novels, horror films to metal music, walking by the sea to lazy Sunday afternoons, I find inspiration in mostly everything in my life. I am interested in everything. I have a really lively imagination and it needs to be fed.

My book, ‘Cruelty’, is published by Kristell Ink, an imprint of Grimbold Books. We really are like a family. Not only are Sammy and Zoe publishers but they are writers too. They are really good at spotting a good idea and nurturing it into something amazing. Their advice is always designed to be helpful. The other Grimbold writers are really supportive as well; we read each other’s books, post reviews, share blogs and work together to get the word about Grimbold out there.

Well, I’m from Northern Ireland but I live in Wales. I teach English for a living at an amazing secondary school but am currently on maternity leave. I live with my lovely husband and my 6 guinea pigs, all of whom are girls. Poor husband is overrun by ladies.

Bio:

Ellen Crosháin grew up in Northern Ireland but despite the fact she has a proper Irish Mammy hailing from Dublin and a Northern Irish father, her accent is so slight, it can only be caught in snatches. She says it makes her work as a spy much easier as no one actually knows where she’s from.

Her love for story telling was cultivated by both her parents as they would spend hours most days reading to her and her three younger siblings. She would spend hours herself entertaining them on the long trips they had to take when her father joined the army and they moved from place to place.

Waterstones

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Cruelty

Book Blurb:

Once a year, in the caves deep below the house, the Family gathers to perform a ritual to appease their god. But Faroust only accepts payment in blood. Eliza MacTir, youngest daughter of a powerful Irish family, was born into fae gentry without the magical gifts that have coursed through the Family’s veins for millennia; she was an outcast from her first breath. Desperate for freedom, Eliza’s flight from rural Ireland is thwarted by the Family’s head of security. The only weapon she has to fight her captor is her own awakening sexuality. Drawn into the world of magic and gods, Eliza must find a way to break free, even if it means breaking the hearts of those she loves, and letting her own turn to stone. Cruelty, it runs in the Family.

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Thank you, Ellen. Congratulations, you are survivor! A passing science frigate has honed in on your distress beacon, you’re going home!!!

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Happy Horizons! 😀 xx

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Winter haze, snow days…life goes on!

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It’s been a little while since I last posted, sorry folks for the delay, just a few unforeseen bumps along the road of life, but hey, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?

SAM_2173Just over a couple of weeks ago I was staring out of my window at a scene of almost indescribable beauty.

SAM_2120Everything lay shrouded under a mantle of magical white. Landscapes I knew so well, were suddenly alien. Formless lumps and bumps smothered beneath snow. The trees and thickets, so stark and mournful in winter, had grown frosty fruits of their own over night. Icicles adorned gutters and everywhere lay a stillness and silence so strange to behold in a garden which usually resembles an aviary. SAM_2181

Little three-pronged footprints skitted across the lawn, looking this way and that in the hope of food. Deeper imprints from the various wild creatures that frequent our wooded garden, could be seen gathering round the feeders we put out.

SAM_2269The pond had frozen solid and there, as reminder of the beauty and cruelty of life, was a track, leading from the edge of the pond across the frozen water to the little island where the moorhens live. A mink.

A creature never intended to be on this little sceptred isle of ours, not indigenous but introduced, brought over here for the cruelest of reasons, to farm them not for meat, for us to live from, but for the vanity of fashion – for fur to adorn the wealthy and arrogant. And why was this mink suddenly roaming our countryside? Because it’s freedom had been given by those who oppose the fur trade. A noble endeavour, but of course a short-sighted one, and our indigenous wildlife has paid the price. Much like our poor English crayfish, on the brink of extinction from introduced foreign invaders, our otters struggle against the competition and our birds fall prey.SAM_2258

And so, in this scene of snowy loveliness I was reminded of the arrogance of man, the ‘great interferer’, who has through ignorance, apathy or intention caused the suffering of so much of our planet’s wildlife – species that were here long before us but whose lives now hang in the balance on the most tenuous of threads because of us.

041The moorhens, a breeding pair who had mated for life, had been living on the little island in my pond for longer than I have been living in this house. Last year with utter delight, we saw them raise three broods of chicks – little black balls of fluff with outsized feet, 18 chicks in total! We put out corn for them daily in addition to the wild bird seed mixes, peanut feeders, vegetable suet and dried fruit we put out daily for all the garden birds. Helping nature where we can. Anyway, there was the track of this mink, heading straight for where the moorhens have their permanent home. No, I didn’t see any blood, just a few brown black feathers. But unmistakably, there will be no moorhen chicks this year.  Only a single moorhen remains, the male, left alone nervously swimming the pond as it thawed, running and flying at the first sign of danger, seeming to look for its lost partner.

SAM_2145A sad tale to be sure…but it got me thinking about life, about all those calamities that befall us, those obstacles we have to overcome, those hoops we jump through, those times of strife.

Certainly for me, tough times are when I “go to the mattresses”, I’ve been through enough really tough times to recognise when something truly qualifies as a major disaster or simply another pot hole in the journey we all find ourselves on. That’s not to minimise anyone’s ‘bad time’, we all have days even weeks when we just shouldn’t have crept out from under the duvet, when everything we touch turns to pig slop, but you do find a perspective in life when you’ve really had struggles. As a result, you are able to deal with the odd crisis or recognise simply when things aren’t as bad as they seem – a lucky escape wrapped in a drama!

SAM_2135For me, everything is a matter of perspective. Everything I have and have achieved has been through damn hard work, sweat, blood, tears and persistence – no fickle luck, no easy hand outs or rich family members, just slog, but that does build character. SAM_2179

So, when the dust settles and you’ve picked yourself up. Look around. Smell the air, breathe deep and realise that things always happen for a reason. That you may just have had a lucky escape from a bad situation that could, and probably would, have become a lot worse. See those silver linings? They’re for you.

SAM_2235So, the next time something ‘bad’ or unexpected happens to you, take the time to reflect, look up from your duvet and simply breathe and you may just find that a new door opens up for you and a new horizon brighter than any you could have imagined! SAM_2104

SAM_2294As for my lonely moorhen, I cannot promise that he will find another partner, that life will get any easier for him, despite my efforts, but life does go on. Within days a pair of wild ducks arrived and a couple of pheasant have been taking up residence…life goes on. SAM_2232

So good luck to you all, my friends, my supporters, my family, life IS a wondrous and beautiful trip, make sure you don’t miss it!  😀 xx

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