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.

space-stars-planets-1920x1200[1]

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

outer_space_planets_fantasy_art_m45267[1]

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.

***

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

solar-system-mars-free-space-planets-and-the-wallpaper[1]

Happy Horizons! 😀 xx

Advertisements

Great days are made of Hay!

Firstly, apologies for the length of this blog post…but I had so much to share…!

On Sunday 24th May I had the great fortune to visit my beloved Hay-on-Wye again, nestled deep in the Welsh and Herefordshire countryside (it straddles the border between England & Wales), for their world-famous literary festival, The Hay Festival.

SAM_7010

It was a truly wonderful and exhausting day, tinged with great delights and just a little bittersweet sorrow. For it was almost exactly three years ago that I last visited the Hay Festival, as I did on Sunday, with my good friend and fellow fantasy writer, Will Macmillan Jones, and it was on this occasion, three years ago, that we saw the wonderful Sir Terry Pratchett on what turned out to be his very last appearance at Hay and one if not the, last public appearance before his untimely and sad passing earlier this year. I remember the event well, Will being a truly gifted comic fantasy writer akin in many ways to Terry Pratchett, his hero, was particularly excited to see the great man as was I. Sir Terry was witty, erudite, bracingly honest and, quite understandably given the nature of his condition and imminent demise, more than a little wistful and reflective. We noted that trademark and cutting sense of humour which was so prevalent in his work, but was now tinged with a grimness, a reality of the brevity of life perhaps. And so, coming back to Hay for the first time since that auspicious visit, brought the enormity of losing such a literary giant into clear focus. He was a man of many talents and his legacy will outlive us all.

SAM_7062

For this year’s visit, despite the sad memories of three years ago, I was very excited to see one of my favourite writers, Kazuo Ishiguro. I had read ‘Remains of the Day’ and ‘Never Let Me Go’, some time ago, and yes, saw the ubiquitous movies, and loved them. I was not to be disappointed. Kazuo Ishiguro proved to not only be an extraordinarily talented writer, but a genuinely lovely human being. Honest, warm, and completely open, he seemed amazed and genuinely humbled by his own success and quite baffled about how he has arrived where he has. Not a hint of complacency or arrogance.

SAM_7052He spoke in the main Tata Tent on stage to TV & radio presenter, Martha Kearney, a woman I knew well from various arts programmes and the whole conversation was televised. I was pleased to be sitting at the back behind the whirling TV cameras, and despite being so far away from the stage, we had a great view!

SAM_7054Kazuo Ishiguro spoke about his newest book, ‘The Buried Giant’, and the elements which permeate his work, the quietness, stillness with emotions bubbling under the surface, which is the trademark of his writing. He spoke about things unsaid, how we all have such buried giants in our lives, and whether we should speak about such experiences openly, good and bad, or self-censor ourselves, a kind of collective amnesia to allow us to continue in our daily lives rather than be caught up in the pains of the past. Should we remember everything regardless of the consequences? It’s a powerful notion. After all, although ‘The Buried Giant’ is not an overtly allegorical tale, none the less, the author spoke about conflicts such as the Rwandan Genocide and the Yugoslavian War, where neighbours had lived in relative peace despite their religious or cultural differences for years until suddenly a catalyst, a memory, an event had sparked hostility long harboured but buried, and the outcome of that Buried Giant was the slaughter of thousands and the disintegration of the country.

SAM_7056Is it good to remember or better to forget?

Interesting notions to be sure. I found myself conflicted over it. Certainly I have witnessed and been a part of a very traumatic past, full of personal tragedies and barbarity, things that scar, things that are best forgotten in order to try to move on and form some semblance of a future, of a future happiness. Churning up such painful memories for me, are not entirely helpful. I lived those events that made me who I am, I survived them and talked about them infinitum afterwards, but at some point a form of amnesia is helpful, a means of wiping the slate clean and starting again. In my case, new home, new location, new name. But certainly I found it a mesmeric and remarkably personal talk.

SAM_7069

Another of Kazuo’s wonderful observations and one which most of my fellow fantasy writers will wearily nod their heads in agreement at, was the acute prejudice Kazuo Ishiguro faced when he told people that his next novel was going to be a fantasy book! He injected the conversation with humour, saying how unprepared he had been for the sheer level of prejudice he found against ogres. He talked about the inherent dangers in people being pigeon-holed into only writing in a certain genre, and how freeing it was and necessary to cross those invisible genre boundaries. Quite rightly, he talked about how people took the ‘rules’ of their chosen genre far too seriously and that he didn’t want to adhere to any restrictive and creative constrictive rules. Good for him! Yes, I see myself as primarily a fantasy writer, but I also write sci-fi, literary, children’s and poetry, and I hate some of the rigid made up ‘rules’ which others always want to adhere to those of us who write in those genres. I love the freedom of Ishiguro, that he defies such constrictions and instead writes about themes which inspire him, whether it falls into the category of literary, historical or sci-fi fiction. These genre boundaries are primarily there for marketing purposes by publishers after all.

SAM_7048It was refreshing and enlightening to hear. But yes, myself and Will certainly pricked our ears up when Kazuo described the snobbery and prejudice against the fantasy genre, as of course, most fantasy writers have experienced this, how somehow the fantasy genre is frowned upon as being a lesser form of writing than crime, sci-fi, historical etc., that somehow it is only the domain of the childish and illiterate.

SAM_7071

SAM_7002After the event, Will and I raced to the festival bookshop to meet Kazuo in person. While he was graciously signing my books, I asked him the question again and he elaborated, that yes, he had been hugely taken aback by the level of prejudice in the book industry against the fantasy genre and fantasy writers, that so many people had been surprised by his wanting to write in that genre! In fact, Kazuo went on to say that he was actually writing a newspaper article about it along with a prominent fantasy writer! SO great to have a light shone on this subject at last. SAM_7075

Great writing is great writing, regardless of genre!

Lol, anyway, I digress. It was fantastic meeting Kazuo and being able to chat to him for a little while, a real gentleman and such a genuinely lovely person. I marvel at his talent, and certainly hope to achieve even a little of his quality and success in my own writing.

Another funny moment, was Ishiguro talking about how he had always thought that writers peaked at 45 (so I only have a few years left!), and that all their greatest work, their seminal pieces had been written before this time…he then went on to say, that as he had now passed 60 yrs, he was rethinking this! 😀

SAM_7015

After our fabulous Kazuo Ishiguro event, we continued to wander around the Hay Festival. So many events going on, the whole place was buzzing. Musicians on tom-tom drums, SAM_7023Romany caravans, fluttering flags that gave the whole place a Tibetan feel, bohemian artists around every corner and to suit every taste, from street art to posh galleries, children events to the most intellectual fair. A heady mix of art & culture under canopies of white. The sky threatened rain, but the rains held off and in dazzling moments of perfect sunshine, I defy anyone not to think they had risen to Elysium!

SAM_7007Just before we left, to take the shuttle bus into the town itself and ensconce ourselves in their beautiful bookshops, I took a photo which for me perfectly encapsulated the Hay Festival experience – a woman fast asleep in a deck chair in the blustery sunshine, surrounded by bibliophiles of every age, total heady exhaustion!

SAM_7081

We headed into Hay-on-Wye. The first sight was a little dismaying though, for amongst the plethora of bookshops which over the years I have visited so many times, there were noticeable gaps. Yes, even in a book heaven and haven like Hay, at least two bookshops had closed, replaced by clothes and odds & ends shops. We’ve all heard the disturbing news of bookshops closing around the country, but to have at least two (I suspect three) independent and antiquarian bookshops close in Hay-on-Wye of all places, filled me with dread. I ask all of my friends out there, by all means by your kindle editions from Amazon, but please, PLEASE support your local independent bookshop! If you don’t support your local bookshop, frankly, it may not be there for many more years and what a poorer world we would have as a result!

SAM_7095

We wandered in and out of the bookshops, the posh expensive one, the cheap as chips one, the Hay castle one (on a wonderful honesty basis), and my favourite, The Hay-on-Wye Booksellers! Yes, I totally blew my book budget and bought loads! I couldn’t help it. Although my feet were aching with a dull persistence, the nooks and crannies of this shop held me in sway, around every corner was a little gem, a little undiscovered beauty…ah! I wish you could see and smell the pages, the leather bindings, gold leaved embossing, the parchments, the buckram coverings, the slightly imperfect spines, the whole experience….sheer book bliss!

SAM_7094

What a thoroughly lovely day….I must mention that we popped into Shepherds, the most gorgeous ice-cream parlour, something straight out of a Neapolitan street, all rounded art deco glass front, high lacquered countertops and mosaic tiled floors, with the scent of espresso in the air! It was, without doubt, the best ice-cream I have ever tasted outside of Italy itself, only later did I find out that this family firm was venerated by many others (besides my taste-buds) and made their delicious ice-creams from sheep’s milk! Wow and yummy! SAM_7096

All in all, it was one of those magical days that come along so seldom. Great company and great culture colliding into one utopian day that left me utterly exhausted but on a high all the way home. Thank you, Hay, I SHALL be seeing you again, very soon! Next year, I have my sights on the wonderfully talented, Neil Gaiman (appearing at Hay this Friday 29th May). SAM_7084

See you all next year, and the year after that, and the year after that, and the year after… 😀 xxx

P.S. For other Hay Festival experiences, including the amazing Sir Terry Pratchett event, see previous posts: https://sophieetallis.wordpress.com/2012/06/08/make-hay-not-war-a-tribute-to-hay-ray-and-sir-terry/

and

https://sophieetallis.wordpress.com/2012/06/03/make-hay-while-the-sun-er-shines/

SAM_7026SAM_7030