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Author Interview: Will Hahn

When I asked Will to describe himself as a writer, he replied: I write epic fantasy in about the same way as someone repairs a broken pot; with occasional layers of glue so thin you can hardly see the progress until I’m done. It is with pleasure that I introduce you to author Will Hahn, here on No Wasted Ink.

Author Will HahnBorn in Vermont among five sisters, Will Hahn was thus plunged into epic struggles at an early age. Surviving them, he studied Ancient History, later teaching it until he began to resemble an eyewitness. Along the way to a new and very different career, he unaccountably found himself both a husband and father, an adventure that quite simply drowns all others in its joyous din. So his newfound vocation to write epic fantasy, which would normally have confused the life out of him, now seems quite natural. Will wears as much grey as possible, as often as he can.

When and why did you begin writing?

I was blessed with a very literate and passionate family life, and was always writing something. Comedy sketches, class skits, radio plays and some of the longest and most torturous love-letters ever to meet the alphabet; but I never composed tales of any kind until June of 2008. For any being as old as I am, that’s very recently!

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

OK, now we arrive at the tricky part. I still don’t. Fantasy writers are incredible people who make things up. With all the encouragement in the world I never “wrote” one word about the Lands of Hope. Only when I gave up trying to DIS-believe that world, and accepted that it was completely real to me, could I recognize that I am in fact a chronicler. And I have been chronicling like a madman since that day almost seven years ago.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

I’ll try! {for epic fantasy, “a little” is hard} Judgement’s Tale is a novel unfolding in four books. Part Four, entitled Clash of Wills is due at the end of March 2015. It’s the tale of how the Lands of Hope descended from centuries of peace and stability into grim challenges. The year 1995 ADR marks the beginning of the Age of Adventure; among educated folk, the word “adventure” is not used in a complimentary fashion! And it’s often not the nobility, or the leadership of the settled kingdoms that provides the spark to meet these tests, laid down by an ancient liche and an Earth Demon who are trying to return the Lands to their former thralldom under Despair. Instead there are a scattered few—too young, too ignorant and too far apart—who must play the heroes if the Lands are to survive.

What inspired you to write this book?

He did. Solemn Judgement, for whom the tale is named, was the first person I ever saw from the Lands of Hope; but it was some time before I realized he was a part of that world (which I’ve been studying for over thirty years). That’s how far apart from everyone he usually is. If you start to read of him you’ll see, he’s relentlessly driven and serious, and he aimed that same determination my way, hounding me to try even though I thought the job was impossible. Maybe a little of Solemn rubbed off on me; here the tale is nearing completion and I would never have thought that was going to happen.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I call myself a chronicler and a day-job dilettante. I am very fortunate to have a great full-time job and of course there’s always plenty going on with family. When I get a half-hour in the morning (between feeding the cats and the ladies rising for the day), or perhaps an hour of an evening (when the email queue is cleared and the ladies are watching a cooking show), I can squeeze in a few more paragraphs. What emerges from the keyboard tends to be fairly polished material: I have the advantage of extensive notes taken from my decades of study and a lot of familiarity with the events themselves. And since there are such long pauses between writing, it’s always on my mind and tends to “set”, like a casserole before you put it in the oven.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

So here’s the thing. Solemn Judgement, called by most The Man in Grey, has often been nearby when the great deeds of heroes happen in this age. But I tended to follow the groups, and Judgement was always, always alone. Even other adventurers can’t accept him! Then I realized something; by the time of the deeds I was chronicling (as late as 2001-2002 ADR), The Man in Grey was already known (and disliked) everywhere. But he kept acting like he hadn’t come from the Lands originally. I finally noticed, whatever his outward maturity, Judgement was not very old. So I became interested in his beginnings, and started to trace them in my research. The result was quite literally Judgement’s Tale.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Aside from “wow, everything this guy publishes is probably pure gold”? Honestly, I don’t think epic fantasy is where you would go for an extraordinary new philosophy or take on the Alleged Real World. We read of these incredible new places and situations in order to learn again the eternal truths. In the Lands of Hope I can promise you, Hope is the side you want to be on, crime does not pay, and those who sacrifice for the ones they love are heroes. In “Judgement’s Tale”, we see the difference between the word “noble” used as an adjective, as opposed to a noun. There are big changes afoot here.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Emphatically, no. I will admit that my experience studying and teaching Ancient History suited me to understand some of the limitations of a customary and hereditary society like that I observe in the Lands. And one thing my love of history showed me was that human life never changes. Once you understand what a person was dealing with—perhaps being a second class citizen, maybe a strong need to go into the same trade as the father—then you can clearly see the choices they made and empathize with them. I spend a lot of time following heroes around, and I believe their virtues are the same here in the Alleged Real World.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

I would have to list Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Ursula LeGuin and Stephen Donaldson as the acknowledged masters of this genre; I’m a big re-reader, and their tales all figure highly. The heroic fiction of pulp authors like Robert E. Howard and the golden age of Comics resonate with me as well, for the economy of prose (which I lack) and the commitment to action (which I think I carry). More recently, Tad Williams and G.R.R. Martin have of course shown me a lot about scene-setting, character-hopping and the way to build a world view through the lens of many individuals.

If you had to choose, is there a writer you would consider a mentor? Why?

Fellow indie author and my current micro-publisher Katharina Kolata is an absolute inspiration for her boundless energy, many projects, unflagging support and a constant can-do attitude whatever the changes brought into this market. Without her I’d still be a chronicler, but probably with half the output I have now.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

I left this important job in the hands of my publisher and good friend Katharina, who has given all my titles a make-over that I think really establishes a consistent tone.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Please continue writing, the actual tales I mean, because that’s the most important thing. If you feel up to publishing yourself, that’s great—it was crucial for me to give myself deadlines for publication and then meet them and I hope that works for you too. If you want to test the waters and market yourself, that’s great too: lots of fabulous people and great advice out there. But write. Never stop thinking about what to write next. That more than anything has brought me a deep joy and great satisfaction.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Two things. First, that e-books make excellent gifts! And more seriously, I cannot adequately express my jubilation and gratitude to those who have shared such strong, positive feedback on my previous Tales of Hope. To see someone I have never met take the time to read the book, and write such a detailed and authentic review as those I have seen, is priceless and a great encouragement to continue. Please don’t hesitate to review an author’s book if you have the time, it’s the most important way you can support them after buying it in the first place. Thanks!

Book Cover Reunion of SoulsWill Hahn
Newark, Delaware

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Clash of Wills, Part Four of Judgement’s Tale

Cover Artist: Katharina Kolata
Publisher: http://www.independentbookworm.de

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BARNES & NOBLE

No Wasted Ink Writer’s Links

It is Monday morning and time for another batch of No Wasted Ink Writer’s Links. Mixed in with the general writing tips are articles about review swaps, using twitter as an author and how longhand can be of benefit to writers. Enjoy!

A bit on Literary Techniques

9 Things You Need To Know About Review Swaps

3 Secrets of Writing Longhand

Types, Archetypes, and the Occasional Human Being

A QUICK GUIDE TO TWITTER FOR NEWBY AUTHORS

WHY WORDINESS KILLS YOUR WRITING

The Secret to Writing a Protagonist Who’s Both Unique and Universal

Describing Setting: An Exercise

Despite Tough Guys, Life Is Not the Only School for Real Novelists

Layers and Layers of Plot, Oh My!

Author Interview: R.A. Baker

R.A. Baker is a science fiction and fantasy author. His books include: The Beast at the Gate and Two Merchants and a Thief. Please welcome him to No Wasted Ink.

Author RA BakerHello, I’m R.A. Baker and I’m a speculative fiction author for JK Publishing. I live in the great state of Virginia and I’ve written science fiction, fantasy, paranormal short stories, and several books. I’ve been writing stories since the age of seven and I’ve been writing professionally as a published author for about 15 years. During this time I’ve also juggled the responsibilities of being a dad to two great kids, and a computer analyst for a day job that pays the bills between royalty checks.

When and why did you begin writing?

For me, writing was a bit of self-discovery—a long, meandering process that eventually made me the person I am today. In grade school (third or fourth grade, I believe), I loved writing stories. After one of my teachers had gone over Aesop’s Fables, there was something about those stories that connected with me on a deeply creative level. I proceeded to write my own fables, patterned in a similar Aesop style. My stories so impressed my teacher, she entered one of my fables in a local short story contest. I became a finalist and got my story published by the school. That was my first taste of what it was like to be a writer, and I liked it! At the time, I didn’t realize what I was writing was dancing on the edges of what would be considered speculative fiction or fantasy; to me, they were just expressions of my imagination. Soon after that, I would discover the Richmond Public Library with its rich assortment of science fiction and fantasy authors. Reading these authors’ books made me hungry to create my own characters and fantastic worlds…and rest is history. I was officially hooked.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

To be honest with you—at the risk of sounding cliché—in my heart, I was a writer for as long as I can remember. As soon as my small, clumsy fingers first learned how to put words together on paper to form sentences and eventually paragraphs, I somehow knew that writing would always be a critical part of my life. However, it was on a subconscious level at first. It took a while before I affirmed in my mind, ‘hey I am a writer—that’s my true calling’. I think that’s probably true of many professions, whether it be athletics, or art, or religion. It’s intuitive. It’s instinct. And yet, it draws you in slowly, assimilating you over time, from childhood to adulthood. For me, it wasn’t one defining moment, but rather a series of events that told me I always was and will always be a writer.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

I’m currently working on the second book in an epic scif-fi/fantasy trilogy; the first book is titled, The Beast at the Gate. In a nutshell, it’s about a young, modern-day woman, Rayna Powell, who suddenly finds herself in a strange pre-industrial society called Taren. It’s a land divided by war, years of mistrust and social prejudice. Needless to say, Taren is a bit of a shock for Rayna. Part of the reason for this is that some Tareners possess magic-like mental powers they call “psi-magic”. To add to the problem, Taren is currently ruled by Nephredom—a bitter, cruel man with a questionable grip on sanity. Nephredom commands many forces, most notably the Red Robes. They are an elite unit of psi-mages who increase their powers greatly by combining their thoughts—allowing them to think and act as one. Using the Red Robes, Nephredom has systematically bent the people of Taren to his will—or at least most of them. This takes us to Princess Keris. She was the rightful heir to the Taren throne, but was framed for murder by Nephredom’s aide, and forced into hiding. Soon after Rayna arrives in Taren, she meets the princess and they agree to join forces in an attempt to overthrow Nephredom. In exchange for this help, the princess says she will take Rayna to see a group of “scientists”, who may know how to return Rayna back to her world. In the The Beast at the Gate, I address a variety of topics such as unrequited love, social prejudice, and the moral dilemma of human cloning.

What inspired you to write this book?

I always wanted to write an epic sci-fi/fantasy series, and after reading a few great examples I decided to take the plunge myself.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I’ve been told I have a very descriptive, fast-paced style. I just try to write in a way that pulls my readers into my world and not let them go until the last page is read.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

The original title for the book was Rayna of Nightwind, and that was the title it was published as, under my own imprint, when I self-published. Rayna Powell was the protagonist of the story, so it made sense to me to include her in the title. However, when I was picked up by a traditional publisher (JK Publishing), they decided to re-publish the first novel as The Beast at the Gate.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Yes: welcome to my world—have fun!

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Not really. Granted, every author brings something unique to their writing based on their culture and how they grew up. But I think the whole appeal of writing science fiction and fantasy is the ability to escape reality for a while. So you will see very little of my personal life in my books, which—if you read my work—you will find extremely reassuring.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

So many authors have influenced me, it would take me forever going through the list. I will say most of my favorite authors are science fiction and fantasy authors.

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

I consider almost every speculative fiction author I’ve read a mentor, because I learn something new in my craft whenever I read a book by a new writer. However, Steven Barnes, Terry Brooks, and Stephen Donaldson stand out in my mind. Sorry, I can’t narrow it down further than that.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

Jess Buffett is an illustrator who works for my publisher. She designs most of the book covers and does a great job.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

It’s popular to say, ‘don’t write for yourself, write for your audience’ or ‘write for the market.’ I beg to differ. If you write for yourself, your passion and love for what you are writing will shine through. That’s the best way to gain and keep readers, in my opinion.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

I would like to thank all my readers for their support. I have a modest but dedicated fan base that has consistently encouraged me over the years. And yes—book two in my Taren trilogy is nearly complete!

Book Cover The Beast at the GateR.A. Baker
Chester, Virginia

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COVER ARTIST: Jess Buffett
PUBLISHER: JK Publishing

The Beast at the Gate
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BARNES & NOBLE
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No Wasted Ink Writer’s Links

writers-linksWelcome back to another Monday of No Wasted Ink Writer’s Links. This weeks articles are general writing tip articles that will hopefully inspire you into better writing habits. Enjoy!

Why You Should be Writing Short Fiction

Plan Your Book Content to Write Quickly and Easily

10 Editorial Steps From the Agent “Call” to Published Book

Reviews and the Art of Ethics

Why Men Opt Out of the Fiction World

5 Distraction-Free Writing Tips and Tools

How to Write a Novel

How to improve your writing skills with writing exercises

The Art of Math

What Fiction Writers Can Learn from Comedy

Book Review: The Crystal Gryphon

Book Name: The Crystal Gryphon
Author: Andre Norton
First Published: 1972

Alice Mary Norton was born in Cleveland, Ohio. Her first writing experience began as editor of a literary page in the school’s paper called The Collinwood Spotlight. During this time, she wrote her first book, Ralestone Luck, which was eventually published as her second novel. She dreamed of becoming a teacher, but due to the Great Depression, she took a job working at the Cleveland Library System, in whose employ she remained for 18 years. She kept writing at this time and in 1934, she published her first novel. At this time she legally changed her name to Andre Alice Norton. Andre Norton is the pen name she adopted for marketing reasons. At this time boys were the main audience for fantasy tales and it was thought that they would not read stories written by a woman. Andre is a Norwegian male name, but obscure enough in the United States that had a more androgynous feel.

Andre Norton remained working for the Cleveland Public Library until 1950 when she retired due to her health. She took a job as a reader for publisher and editor Martin Greenberg at Gnome Press, a science fiction small press. She remained there for eight years until she shifted into becoming a full-time writer. At that point she had twenty one novels published. She would go on to write hundreds of novels, some of which are still being published today after her death in 2005 of congestive heart failure.

Her first science fiction novel was Star Man’s Son, 2250 A.D. published in 1952. She was a prolific novelist in the 50’s, many of her books selling in the juvenile market. She wrote over a dozen speculative fiction series, but her longest and most popular was the Witch World series, of which The Crystal Gryphon is a part of. Norton was nominated twice for the Hugo Award, for the novel Witch World in 1964 and for the novella Wizard’s World in 1967. She has been nominated three times for the World Fantasy Award for lifetime achievement and won the award in 1998.

Andre Norton was a founding member of the Swordsmen and Sorcerer’s Guild of America (SAGA). They were a group of fantasy authors led by Lin Carter and whose work appeared in her anthologies, Flashing Swords!. She was the only woman of the original eight members.

Known as the Grand Dame of Science Fiction and Fantasy, Andre Norton wrote novels for over 70 years. She has had a huge influence on the entire genre, having published well over 300 titles and having inspired at least four generations of science fiction and fantasy writers. Notable authors who cite her as an influence include, Greg Bear, C.J. Cherryh, Mercedes Lackey, A.C. Crispin, Charles de Lint, Joan D. Vinge and many others.

“Be yourself, not ruled by the belief that one man must be like another.” Andre Norton, The Crystal Gryphon. Neevor’s advice to Kerovan.

The Crystal Gryphon is the first book of the Gryphon Trilogy. It is one of the first fantasy romances and follows what is now a standard format, of writing the story via duo viewpoints, that of Lord Kerovan of Ulmsdale and his promised bride Lady Joisan of the Dales of High Hallack.

When Kerovan’s mother was to give birth, she was forced to shelter in the mysterious ruins of the Old Ones. Due to this, or perhaps the rumor that she had blood of the old race herself, her son was born with small cloven hooves instead of feet and his eyes were the color of butter amber. His father decides to name him heir despite his unusual features, and to prove his intentions, he “ax-weds” his ten year old son to an eight year old girl of good connections. Young Joisan remains with her family, to be sent for when she comes of age.

When Kerovan becomes a man, there is danger afoot as the Hounds of Alizon attack the mountains of High Hallack and Kerovan joins the Dale armies to represent Ulmsdale. Before he leaves, he sends Joisan a beautiful crystal gryphon encased in a globe, an object of power that he had found, almost as an after thought. Soon, Kerovan’s father dies and his mother rejects Kerovan’s claim to Ulmsdale, wishing to pass it on to her daughter and her new betrothed. Ulmsdale is betrayed to the enemy and falls, leaving Kerovan to depart and travel across the war-torn lands of High Hallack to Joisen’s Dale.

As she has grown, young Joisen learned how to wear armor and to fight with a light sword. She wears the tiny gryphon under her mail as a keepsake from her unknown fiance, a man she has never met in person. When Kerovan finds her, she mistakes him for one of the Old Ones due to his cloven feet and reserved manner.

The two set off into the wilderness as the Dales fall to the invaders, seeking the lands of the Old Ones and learning about the power of the gryphon and of each other. They hope to save their people from enslavement and destruction.

I confess that I have not read the entire Witch World saga, there are many books to the series and they interact in a way that can be confusing if you don’t know where the books fit. However, the two books in the series that I consider to be my favorites is the original Witch World and The Crystal Gryphon. The story about Kerovan and Joisen has stuck in my mind for decades. The romantic duo point of view of the writing that allows you to understand the characters emotions during their growing relationship created a chemistry that was hard to forget. Much of fantasy and science fiction during the time when this book was written was geared toward boys and therefore romance was an element that proved missing in many books and there were few female protagonists. Joisen, while still having an old-fashioned “stay by your man” outlook, was a strong female lead in her day. As a young girl reading this novel, that held a certain appeal to me. I consider Andre Norton to be one of my influnces in my own writing style. Most of my stories also have elements of romance and strong female characters. How else would I write after growing up reading Andre Norton?

The Crystal Gryphon is out of print, but you can find a kindle version on Amazon and used paperbacks. While this trilogy has become a little more obscure these days, it is one that I can recommend.

The Crystal Gryphon Book CoverThe Gryphon Trilogy is part of the High Hallack Cycle of the Witch World Series.

Gryphon Trilogy:

The Crystal Gryphon (1972)
Gryphon in Glory (1981)
Gryphon’s Eyrie (1984) with A. C. Crispin